Once the first chemo triple session was finished, on Thursday December 8, I was discharged. I was going back home and was feeling a bit weak and swollen -I still hadn’t managed to get rid of the extra 5 kg-. I had lost appetite and was feeling the poison effects for the first time. I was so feeble that couldn’t even leave the bed. That was one of these days to forget.
Friday 9 began in a quite peculiar way. I got up to urinate and after that, I washed my hands, face, rinsed the mouth and suddenly had an attack of retching. I vomited nothing because my stomach was empty, but was quite unpleasant. Later I sat on a stool that Nathália brought in and, after a sudden explosion of cold sweat, my body said enough and reset. Since then everything went better: I started eating a little bit more, I recovered some of the strength, I was willing to do things, etc.
After a couple of wonderful days in which my only worries were the change in food flavor and constipation, we went out for a walk, taking advantage of good weather on Monday December 12. I was feeling good, strong, and we went shopping to some bio shops in L’Hospitalet, to begin the familiarization with the portfolio of bio products. A little while after I suffered a terrible stomach cramp and had to come back home as fast as possible. But as I’m using crutches and I can’t run, it took me longer than usual.
I got home and the constipation turned quickly into diarrhea. The stomach cramps were so strong that I was forced to lay on the bed the rest of the day. I only got some relief with my mother’s heating blanket. Besides that, in the night time my body temperature raised a little bit and we had to control and hydrate myself hourly. Luckily I didn’t exceed 38º C, so we avoided a night in the hospital. Despite that, that was another day to forget.
Tuesday December 13, I visited the hospital to remove the port-a-cath stitches, and well, it was much less impressive than what I expected -I had already told you that lately I’ve become a chicken-, indeed it was nothing. Up to this moment, everything was alright, but at ICO’s exit, right in front of the elevators, I started feeling weak and I collapsed down -I almost fainted. That was quite a show: I was lying on the ground, the crutches by my side looking in different directions, but luckily a group of nurses aided me ipso facto. Even a very kind man made himself available for buying a bottle of water.
–It may have happened because of apprehension while removing the stitches -murmured one of them-.
-No, no! It’s been nothing! – I hastened to deny that-.
-Well, well, now you don’t have to pretend to be a macho man -said a nurse while laughing-. It’s likely a drop in blood pressure or an hypoglycemia.
When one of the nurses measured my vital signs, the levels were normal. Since I spent more than half of the previous day with a fever, diarrhea and stomach ache, most likely I had an energetic shortage -I had hardly eaten-. This, together with heat in the hospital and that I was forced to wear a jacket, beanie and neck gaiter covering my nose and mouth -fundamentalist style-, can justify why I fell down like a house of cards.
I take the opportunity to thank nurse Olimpia and the rest of nurses and assistants that came help me after my wife’s alert. What a good service! And I also thank the spontaneous spectator, for his generosity and altruism.
But after a little while I was already OK. This is all about falling and getting up again. Don’t hesitate to sign me up if you want to make a big mess!
That same day, in the night I wasn’t happy with my performance at ICO, and I almost fainted when going out of the shower. I need to rehearse at home in order to aim for one of the Oscars of the Academy, hahaha. Both Nathália and my parents reacted very fast to rescue me. Otherwise I would have crumpled and I could have hurt myself badly.
December 14 by night was another unforgettable moment. After a very quiet day, I was writing a blog post about the port-a-cath at 8 pm. Less than one hour later, I started having shivers and a low-grade fever, namely lower than 38º C. Thereafter, this turned into a 38º C fever and had to call to emergencies. Luckily for me, the only prescription wasn’t more cowbell. The doctor that answered the phone didn’t say anything new: I should go to emergencies at the hospital because my body was fighting against an infection, and my immune system was highly damaged after the first chemo cycle. I asked her if I could wait 5 minutes to see if the temperature diminished and she answered me no way. She explicitly said that my time is money. And this is what I kept in mind: I got dressed and we left in my father’s taxi in a rush. We left my intact dinner on the table and even jumped some lights, given the matter of urgency.
In just a few minutes we arrived to emergencies. Firstly, they measured my vital signs and left me on a stretcher in a waiting room. There I waited more than 30 minutes, and I could only thing about the value of my time. Maybe the currency wasn’t that important. Afterwards, when I got looked after, I told them first that I had a port-a-cath and they asked me if was made for a long or a short needle. This information was unknown for me, and when a nurse suggested to give me a shot on the arms I almost jump off the stretcher. No W-A-Y! Don’t even talk about it! I got this port-a-cath to avoid being pricked in the arms! It’s unbelievable that this piece of info doesn’t appear on my medical history! The time spent -two years, indeed- as consultant for HP in healthcare rose to the surface. New technologies should exist so as to improve the quality of patient services, otherwise they’re worth nothing -probably less than my time-. Let’s get back to medical histories in paper.
Eventually I was given a shot in the right place -with short needle-, they drew some blood, plugged the intravenous solution and paracetamol, and put me a kind of frozen poultice on the forefront and in the armpits. They also made some X-rays of the thorax. Fortunately, the poultices took effect and progressively my body temperature went down and the shivers disappeared.
I had been admitted around 10:15 pm and it was already 2:00 am and no doctor had already passed by. I was starving like a model. We had so much time that Nathália turned 27 in there. The celebration was slightly austere, but we’ll give it all when we can.
Even though the doctors passed by after a 4 hour wait, they spent long time with me. After auscultating me and listening carefully my recent seizures, they let my family in and told us that the leukocyte -white blood cell- count per microliter had dropped to 700 and that the normal range is 4000-11000. This is called leukopenia. Consequently, I had to be hospitalized. Here I make a little break and explain the moral of this story: do not believe exaggerations on the phone.
Later, around 6 am, I was very excited on the idea of being moved by ambulance to the ICO for first time in my life. At a certain moment, awaken by the cold hitting my face, I looked upwards and saw my reflection on the glass ceiling of the emergencies building, like one hollywood movie scene. I must admit that I couldn’t avoid think in the amount of Swiss francs I had just saved for this first experience, hahaha. To the paramedics: Great work, guys!
And in a tick I was again on the 6th floor of ICO, next to the “theater”, in a single room with nice views -you could see planes taking off from the airport- and surrounded of a great group of professionals. I was being given shots of a drug to estimulate leukocyte production in the bone marrow. In our childhood cartoon series “Once upon a time… life“, the white blood cells with golden star on the chest where the ones controlling circulation and eating bacteria and virus. For the nostalgic ones, here you have this VIDEO.
And here I was celebrating one month and one day since the fateful day in which I was diagnosed. I’d got an intermittent fever peaking at 38.8º C and happening several times a day, as I was waiting for the white cops to recruit members. Sometimes I got shiverings with teeth chatter, some other I sweated like a pig, but generally they gave me an intravenous paracetamol and cold was gone almost instantaneously.
I had also started losing body hair from some parts, but I still wanted to wait some days before shaving my head off, because I love my hair. However, I think that hair loss will happen imminently: call it masculine intuition :p
I feel very happy of always having somebody by my side, and of knowing that, as my doctor said, I could continue getting visits, as long as they are not having a cold or bring small kids 😦 These days I’ve got to the point to be forced to completely avoid physical contact with my family… something very hard for me, but also necessary during the neutropenia. Once the fever is gone and I get the normal values of neutrophils I’ll get the hospital discharge to home. You can’t imagine how much I want this to happen!
As Meri said, a primary school partner of mine who’s about to overcome her cancer, we learn to value our health, the days where we don’t suffer. This is something spectacular and we thank God for all these days. In earlier times, I didn’t appreciate this, because I had almost never fallen sick. Now I thank everybody, even for insignificant things, but this is something coming from deep inside me.
Thanks from this post go to Andrea, Judith, Laura, Isa, Lucía, Jordi, Verónica, Cristina, Conxita, Sandra and Helena. I always ask for the name of the people looking after me because I think that they deserve a special mention here. They make my stay at ICO before Christmas much easier 🙂