Warning! This is a long read, but the ending may be just what you’re after 🙂
I remember a few occasions when I felt this ill. My mother nursed me through months of glandular fever when I was young. I couldn’t lift up my own head and needed assistance with pretty much everything. She was incredible!
Another time, was after we were rescued from the Achille Lauro (an Italian ship) after it caught fire. I ended up in Mombasa, Kenya for a couple of hours and must have picked up a small dose of malaria. When I got back to Johannesburg my boyfriend Paul had to manage a fever that was out of control and he was wonderful!
This time it feels quite different, more isolated, but still as intense. It feels like I’m doing a karmic burn of some kind. I go through moments of relentless shivering and my temperature is spiking all over the place and in between, when it finds normality, I’m able to go downstairs and make something to eat and take care of myself. I have incredible support in the house where I live. I wouldn’t have gotten through any of this without Jen and Jono (the man of the house), but I will dedicate a blog, or maybe more than one to them. They are absolute angels.
In your pre-treatment assessment meeting for chemotherapy, they give you a little booklet that is yours to bring in every time you have treatment. Attached to the front of the booklet is a small red card. On the card it says, CHEMOTHERAPY ALERT CARD! THE COMPLICATIONS OF CHEMOTHERAPY ARE POTENTIALLY LIFE THREATENING, THEY INCLUDE NEUTROPENIC SEPSIS WHICH IS A MEDICAL EMERGENCY AND MUST BE TREATED URGENTLY! Inside the card are emergency numbers to call should you be experiencing any side effects.
I wasn’t feeling great on Saturday after my second chemo that Thursday, but I monitored myself every hour or so in the night and as a result had no sleep. I kept a close eye the following day, but distracted myself until I felt it wouldn’t be wise to wait any longer. I called the number in the card, described my symptoms to an Oncology nurse and was told to go straight to A&E. I packed an overnight bag in case and Jen kindly dropped me at the hospital. The emergency room was pretty full, but I had my little chemo book so I went to the window for quick admission. I did get the evil eye from a gentleman, but I averted my eyes away from his judgement. It wasn’t long before a nurse called for me. My temperature had increased, so I was told it was a good decision.
I was taken to my own little room with a door. I felt a little more protected from all the germs flying around the ward with the door closed. A lovely nurse explained the procedure to me after we ran through my symptoms. Procedures always involve needles. I never really took to needlework as a young girl, but clearly my nurse had and she was doing a fine job on my left arm. In no time, I had a cannula needle in my left hand, she was taking bloods from a stubborn vein in the middle and was taking blood from the picc line to check for infection in my upper arm. It was all happening.
All the appropriate meds were fed through the cannula, while we waited for the all important blood test results to check for Sepsis. It was a long wait so I closed the door and attempted a nap. My bloods came back perfect. Yay!!!! I was told I could go home once the fluids were complete and I was stable. After 5 hours, I wrapped up warm, ordered an uber and made for the kettle when I got in. Tea fixes everything…not just coffee!
That night was the same incessant struggle, except I had developed a nasty cough. I stayed up with the moon, taking my temperature, shivering, barking and drinking water, but I decided to persevere and not rush back to emergency. I figured my body needed time to fight this virus and if it’s not sepsis, then I’m ok. By 10:30 the following morning I still had no grip on things, so I contacted the emergency number again, explained my circumstances and was told to go back to A&E. I picked up my overnight bag and ordered an uber. Just to explain, even though it wasn’t sepsis yesterday it could be sepsis today and any other time throughout your entire treatment. Lovely thought and one I certainly won’t be dwelling on.
This time, at reception there was an almighty queue. I didn’t hesitate. I took out my little booklet and explained to the patient who was next in line that it was protocol for chemo patients to go straight to the window for assistance. I apologized. She was calm, but unimpressed and spoke over me, telling me how much pain she was in. I persistently apologized, repeated that it was a rule that I wasn’t prepared to break as it could be serious if I’m not seen immediately. I showed her the words on the card. She relented. I’m sure I’ll be more relaxed in the weeks to come, but I was tired and shivering so when the window became available I said thank you to her and jumped in.
This took a lot for me to do. I’m one of those people pleasers, or at least I used to be. No time for that when you’re in my position. I was logged into the system straight away. This time it was a longer wait and I was very fortunate to keep company with a gentleman with a horrendous cough. I immediately wrapped my giant scarf, (my friend Julius calls it a bed spread) around my face and apologized to John for my rudeness. The wait was longer than last time and John made sure there was little space for me to think or speak so I was distracted. I know a bit of John’s life now 🙂
I was back in the same room as the day before, with more drips and blood tests and this time it was a 6 hour time slot I’d been given, but I got a cup of tea, an egg sandwich, had a little nap with the door closed and was told my bloods were good, except for the virus of course. I could go. They gave me advice on how to control my temperature so I didn’t have to rush back, but said if I did, it was normal. Normal? There’s the perspective! Huge respect to anyone who’s gone through chemo. My body now belongs to medicine. Not gonna argue with medicine NOW!
I won’t bore you with all the details, but needless to say my Monday evening at home was no different. I was getting really restless with this. I was lying in bed and had a thought. If I can jump the queue at A&E, I think I can put out a request to be first in line to get this virus out of the way so I can get back to my 100 squats a day. I had my chat with God. I said I’ve done a good job of surrendering to all of this from the start, but right now, in THIS moment, I’m asking to jump the queue. I’m now exhausted. I meant business. I had a nap to celebrate my request.
My mom called later in the day for a check in. She mentioned some meds that I’d forgotten I had, so as soon as we’d had our chat, I made up a little cocktail and went straight to sleep so it could take effect. I woke up soaked. A bikini bottom mark and a back mark were left on the sheets and my duvet felt like it had been dunked in a shallow river. Wooohooo! I was beyond happy about the sweat fest and was reminded that mother’s know best, which of course she loves to hear. Thanks my Marmie.
I persevered through more coughing and night sweats and I have to say, it may be lifting. I remain ever hopeful, ever positive. At 5:30 this morning (Thursday), I woke up with the same little happy patches of healing on the sheets and another high temperature. I put on a dry set of clothes and felt slightly strange and unfocused. Delirious would be the perfect description. I reached for my phone so I could document what had just happened. Here’s what I wrote..
“I am writing this in my notes, on my iPhone, with my head in an awkward position, as I’m balancing a cold facecloth on my forehead to get my temperature down. Before that, President Trump called me to see how I was doing and to offer his advice on my condition. He said my name clearly and then explained that his life was very busy and threw the word “nuke” somewhere into the sentence. I pretended that I knew what he was up to and that his call was in no way surprising. In his call he was trying to direct me to this village in Africa to get some rare herbs to cure my infection. I wrote the name of the village down TWICE, on brown paper, in pencil. I said how much I appreciated his time, realized I had no idea what to call him, so went with “boss.” Then he nuked the call! I’m trying to find the piece of paper with the name of the village, but I’ve settled on 2 paracetamol and a cold facecloth. I doubt he’ll call again!”
True story! Thanks for staying with me!! No chemo today!!!
PS..maybe the boss was telling me that my virus had been nuked? Fingers crossed 🙂