Sunday, 11 December 2011

Missing inaction

The Hood, an Elvis jumpsuit,
and Elaine's wedding karaoke
on the horizon ... hmmmm.
Last time I wrote, we were preparing for the start of my second 6-day cycle. That was two long weeks ago. Things didn’t go quite according to plan. Cancer doesn’t take much notice of plans.
Before I started chemotherapy, when Dr Wong first found the tumours in my lungs, I was wheezing with only 89% of my expected lung capacity. Bleomycin, the B in my PEB cocktail, has dangerous side-effects including pulmonary fibrosis (scarring of the lungs).
I had caught bronchitis during my first chemo cycle, but shook it off with antibiotics. However, I still had a cough/cold and was struggling for breath so Dr Wong postponed my treatment. More blood samples were examined. A chest x-ray showed no signs of fibrosis, so I was back on schedule after just a couple of hours delay.
Chemo days 1 & 2 passed without incident. We had a lovely Thai meal in the evening, and waved thanks and goodbyes to Elaine as she returned London. Day 3 brought my cold under control. Day 4’s blood results ruled out various chest infections and my Chorio count had remained ‘less than 2’. Day 5, a Saturday, I shuffled into the taxi home and collapsed into bed exhausted. I would rest Sunday & Monday, and planned to finish the cycle the following Tuesday.
Cold turkey is far less amusing
I don’t find the actual chemotherapy too bad. It’s the 'cold turkey' de-tox afterwards that hits me hard. Sunday was an anxious, sweaty, hallucinogenic, nosebleed nightmare. I can’t account for Monday. I kind of knew what to expect this time round but, my God, it’s rough. Dr Wong said that I was doing exceptionally well, and that she’d never seen a patient with such a strong tolerance to PEB. If I’m doing well, I dread to think what others must be going through. More on the psychological effects of cancer and chemotherapy later ...
Monday I was back at the hospital for a scrotum check-up and a lung test. Dr Jimmy was really pleased with my progress, but the lung doctor was less impressed. I had semi-blackouts in the waiting room and almost fainted during the test. I was in a mess, so we went straight to Dr Wong. My lung capacity had plummeted to 72% and my blood pressure was low. The previous day’s Niagra sweating had caused serious dehydration and I was immediately put on a saline drip. Day 6 was cancelled until further notice.
Dr Wong would not give me Bleomycin while I was lacking a quarter of my lung capacity, and risk leaving me a ‘respiratory cripple’. I felt OK after the drip, and asked for another go at the lung test. I really wanted to continue with the chemotherapy, and was nervous that Chorio might re-strengthen during the down time. I gave it everything I had but, although Mo and I were confident of better results, I failed to reach 73%. I was absolutely devastated. It felt like the side-effects of chemotherapy were killing me quicker than cancer. I spent a couple of depressing fish-out-of-water days on the sofa thinking about future life without oxygen.
Thunderbirds are go
- but  George Michael?
The clear x-rays had led Dr Wong to suspect that my lung condition was due to something quite different from Bleomycin, and asked a respiratory specialist to investigate. My full name is George Richard Magill. The doctor shouted into his busy waiting room for ‘George Michael’ and everyone looked around for the singing/cottaging superstar. I stood up, and there was a lot of giggling. The doctor got stuck in a mental rut, and kept calling me George Michael during the consultation.

It took him about 30 minutes and 2 tests to reach his firm conclusion - I have had ‘chronic moderate persistent athsma’ since birth. I found this incomprehensible. I can’t be athsmatic. I run around drunk above 4000m in the Himalayas while hardened trekkers are collapsing from altitude sickness.

4km up the Himalayas? In January?
With chronic asthsma? You gotta be joking!
He called Dr Wong directly with his diagnosis and recommended treatment. They agreed that my chemotherapy should resume immediately. In Singapore, this really means immediately. Moniek and Ilse were elated. I was knocked sideways. I had to sit down and collect my thoughts outside the elevator before being attached to the Bleomycin bottle.

Wow, that was a tough fortnight. I’ve just emerged from the B-detox. I can breathe again, Chorio is on the ropes, and I’ve got a few days to get fighting fit for the 3rd cycle.


  1. Good to see you on-line. What an inspiration!
    Your sister did a good job as a fill-in but no radio-gaga play list?

  2. So so pleased to see the photos and hear you are kicking Chorio butt. We are all thinking of you Rick. Best wishes to you, Moniek and your family. Helen E. x

  3. I've known you for 40 odd years and have never even considered a likeness between you and George Michael... didn't he grow up in Shepherds Bush? Not quite as posh as Ruislip I don't think. haha

    Chronic Asthma - Seriously?

    So, next time you are hallucinating - think of this;
    Elaine is coming at you with a gigantic beer in her hand. You know you can't drink it but she is coming at you all the same. You try to run but as always, your shuffling feet won't move. In front of your eyes the beer bottle is getting bigger and bigger. Elaine has an evil look her eye. You can make up the rest and even when you are hallucinating you will know its not real because the chances of Elaine giving up a beer is zero.

    Keep fighting, and remember, when next Christmas comes around, you will be looking back on all this thinking wow, that was a year ago already and I'm all clear.


  4. I must say you're looking more and more like Ming The Merciless from Flash Gordon than George Michael. All you needed to do was grow a tash for Movember and you'd be his doppleganger. Then you'd have been able to use the quote " prepare the earth woman for my pleasure". No offence Moniek.

  5. We always knew you had Chronic Asthma Rick. We just didn't say anything out of politeness.

  6. I am now picturing you prancing like the man with a coustic and your new haircut.....George Michael, now that's just priceless!!

  7. Rick: I'm a dyed-in-the-wool atheist and I've been praying for you. Seems that George was right all along: "You've Got To Have Faith..." ;)

    Keep up the good work buddy - another 5kg and you'll finally have the gut that your copious beer consumption fully deserves!

  8. What a crazy roller coaster fortnight, but glad to see you are back on schedule. Europe seems to be imploading whilst you've been away, so probably best to stay out East for a while yet. Like the Enfield photo (I can crop the bit on the right).

    Jason, I'm with you on the Ming looky-likey (others just can't see it), and to be fair I'm sure he's used the Earth Women quote before. The George Michael reference does however bring up a whole new world of possibilities!

    Matt, you have hit the nail on the head with the 'gut bucket' quote.

  9. Rick, even with your lungs at 75% i recon you'd still beat all of us up the Ulleri steps...hang in there mate!