“It ain’t over till the fat lady sings” – English proverb
This saying summarizes the way I feel today. Now you’ll see why. Before starting I’d like to show you a video I’ve made (original voice in Spanish, English subtitles), since after the first chemo cycle I’ve discovered a new interpretative skill in me:
The second cycle was similar to the first one. I started on Monday January 2 (again around 6 pm) to make a 2017 debut and I finished on Thursday 5. A fever on December 26 had forced me to put off my plans by one week 😦 This time only a couple of little modifications were made: etoposide’s dose was reduced by 20% to avoid neutropenia and the growth factor’s dose was extended up to 7 days (before it was just 5). I also retained fluids, but only 3 kg this time :p
When I was discharged I also got rid of my crutches, which made me extremely happy. Despite the fact that the recovery was in the beginning as awful as last time -sickness, tiredness, burning when urinating, etc.-, this time the recruitment of white cops having golden star in the chest seemed to be working. Or at least that’s what I thought: the “public examinations” had been fat too easy and lots of candidates had succeeded. The Austro-Hungarian fronts had spread so much – and I was losing so much hair on the pillow – that I decided to rub a wet sponge on my head and therefore create the Antarctica. Being able to walk better every day and the lack of pain, apart from some sporadic pinches was great. Even the so feared shower -because of fainting- had become a run-of-the-mill activity.
However, on Thursday January 12, day 57, exactly one week after leaving the hospital, I had to go back to emergencies because of a fever. Not for anything in the world I wanted to go back there, but there was no other choice. Before that seizure I felt great -as I already told you- and I had even gone for a walk, not without my protecting mask. But there was something we were missing: some kind of unnoticed mistake was happening after each chemo cycle.
Just a glance at Bellvitge’s hospital emergencies was heartbreaking: people were crowding together in the corridors because there were no more free stretchers/beds. They even ran out of free chairs from the offices, so some patients had to remain standing. The service was totally saturated, like in the Third-World. At a certain moment I looked at my wife, I told her I loved her and couldn’t help breaking in tears… As usual, I got a shot for a blood test and for a culture, but this time on the arm because of the lack of free boxes to prick on the port-a-cath. One nurse said to us that the reason of such saturation wasn’t related to the seasonal flu. As is becoming the custom, I got an intravenous paracetamol and then they left me on the corridor 4 hours waiting for the results.
At 8 pm, after a 4 hour wait in the corridor they put me in a box and at around 9 pm I was given the bad news: inevitably neutropenia! The white cops with golden star on the chest were gone again on strike. A crazy woman screaming continuously made my dreams not that sweet as I expected. At around 1:30 am I woke up thinking that it was already morning time… There wasn’t a single window in the box, but nurses and assistants were shouting at each other and it was so noisy out there (hits, screeching chariots, etc.) that it looked more like a flea market rather than a hospital. My legs were burning but the inner ear temperature was only 37.1 ºC. Shortly before 3 am I had my temperature measured again: 37.2 ºC… I asked to have it measured in the armpit and… kaboom! 38.2 ºC and another paracetamol bag.
I had to wait about 28 hours in total to have a free bed at ICO -the girl in the next box had to wait 48 hours- and be transferred there in ambulance.
After 2 cycles and more than 60 days from the diagnostic, my illness facts and figures are:
- 4 emergency visits (1 because of pain, 3 owing to post-chemo fever)
- 4 admissions (2 because of the cycles, 2 due to neutropenia)
- 1 blood transfer (due to anemia)
- 2 collapses (no loss of conscience)
- 1 PET-CT scan
- 2 CT scan
- 1 Bone scintigraphy
- 3 Radiographs (X-Rays)
- 1 Echocardiography