I hope your Christmas was better than mine. Dr Karmen was worried about further complications from my catheter and wanted to remove it. We agreed this was for the best, although it meant all further treatments would have to be done intravenously - more needles.
Consultations with her cardio-vascular colleagues raised concerns that my blood clot could dislodge during the procedure. I would need to kept under close observation near the emergency room for 2 hours incase it slid down into my right lung. When I asked what symptoms I should expect, she said 'you don't want to know' and advised that I just sit still. The stitches were cut, and the pipe waggled before my eyes before being bagged for bacterial analysis. The various chemicals are now administered via a 3-way tap into my arm, or the back of my hand if they can't find a suitable vein.
I finished 5 days of chemo on Christmas eve, and went directly to bed expecting a rough detox. I underestimated how bad it would get. My body had been poisoned to the absolute limit and, for the subsequent 3 days, it felt like I was inhabiting a corpse. The Dutch enjoy Christmas dinner on the night of the 24th. Moniek and Ilse cooked a gorgeous traditional meal which resembled my family's fare, plus some weird sauces. I gratefully joined the table and ate well, but had to retire as soon as I put my cutlery down.
Time zones gifted me 7 hours to build myself up for a call to my family on the 25th, but it wasn't enough. My horizontal 'merry Christmas' greeting was utterly exhausting, and I felt depressed and ashamed at my weakness. The 26th combined extreme lethargy with anxiety about getting to the hospital for more tests on the 27th.
I'm a regular at the blood test lab and have become friendly with the staff. Their previous chirpy welcomes have been replaced by compassion bordering on pity. The analysis was prepared for my penultimate B-chemo on the 28th. It was only a 2 hour session, but I had reached my threshold. I wanted to rip the tubes from my arm and just walk out.
Dr Karmen had given me 'every reason to celebrate' Christmas with the news that my cancer appears to be on the retreat. Words cannot describe how relieved and grateful I am, but I can barely raise my head to smile. My condition also cast a gloomy shadow over Moniek's birthday celebrations on the 29th. It's now new year's eve and I'm slowly recovering. The girls have organised sushi and some alcohol-free beer. Things are looking up.
I realise this blog is all me, me, me. Here's an aria from the opera Carmen by Georges Bizet. It's dedicated to Dr Karmen Wong and her staff, with 'happy new year' wishes for everyone from the Swedish tenor ... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jXKUb5A1auM
There are upsides to spending all day in bed. I've spent endless hours educating myself musically in Beethoven http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xpcUxwpOQ_A ... jazz classics http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lf3BNRF9ICc ... and, as a tribute to my dad, Irish folk songs http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OCbuRA_D3KU. Close the office door.