Day 21: Can I go on? (Friday 18 November)

Can I go on? Is this too much for me? Should I just give up now?

These were all the thoughts running through my head, and murmurings coming out of my mouth this morning.

I felt like hell when I woke up.  I could barely get out of bed, shower and dress. I was exhausted.

I had one fever before bed last night and another one in the wee hours this morning, so I was wet through again. I don’t feel like I am making any progress, and I think the side effects of these treatments are worse than chemo.

I showed up at the hospital for the blood test this morning and was a wreck. I had no idea how I would or could muster the energy to go through with SPDT and HiFU today. The doctors came in to see me and decided that given the state I was in I should have a day off from treatment. They hooked me up to the usual vitamins and KLT, plus some other stuff, and I just slept the day away.

The blood test revealed that I am anaemic again which at least provides me with an explanation for why I am so out of breath and out of energy at the moment. At least I’m not imagining things. All the other indicators from the blood test were normal.

It’s hard to pin down an exact cause for my anaemia but apparently it is quite a common side-effect of cancer.

What’s harder to explain is the incessant fevers that I’m dealing with. Today my temperature nudged 38 for the whole day. This evening back at the hotel room I burned up again and wet through all my clothes. It just seems like it is never ending.

The only explanation for the fever that we can come up with is that it must be a by-product of the SPDT, HiFU, or both. The HiFU zaps the tumours at between 65-85 degrees Celsius inside the body. That’s hot. Surely the excess heat has to get out somehow? Surely the process of both these therapies that cause spot-heating internally could account for my fevers? The doctors here say no. They have theorised that my fevers are as a result of the climate here, or that maybe I’m getting a cold. I have travelled to many places in my time, and I have had many colds and flus. I don’t agree with this diagnosis and, of course, I told them that. They tell me that no other SPDT or HiFU patients, even with more and bigger tumours than mine, experience fevers like I am experiencing. Maybe I’m just special?? We live in hope that the fevers are caused by the tumour cells dying and the body excreting them.

The medicos decided to stick to plan and keep tomorrow as a day off. When I go back in on Sunday I will ask for a B12 infusion and see if that helps the anaemia. Meanwhile I am going to try to eat as much meat as I can get my hands on, which isn’t too easy around here. Maybe I will have the strength to venture out tomorrow for lunch or dinner and go to one of those steak houses that Geoff suggested.

Thanks to Kylie for recommending Midnight in Paris. It was a good, relaxing Friday night movie.

A spiced up, spruced up version of my SDT treatment!


Day 20: Just the medical stuff

No vitamins or KLT. PDT was five minutes longer than usual on each side. SDT as normal. HiFU, tumour 2, 30 minutes, 650 watts.

Day 20: Brad’s undies (Thursday 17 November)

Today I had to wear Brad’s undies. The things I do.

Long story short – I ran out of clean underwear this morning. There was no time to try and wash some and dry them with the hairdryer, and going commando wasn’t an option for a day in hospital. So, boy shorts it was to be. Given that this quest is all about trying to stay alive, narrow concepts like embarrassment and shame have long been abandoned by me. Of course the girls (Allison and Julia) found this state of affairs very amusing. I couldn’t blame them for that.

A few minutes before we were due to leave the hotel I was hit with more pain. Aaaaarrrrgggghhhh!!!! That’s it. I am not going to push through it. I am turning to drugs. Beside my bed I found just one Panadol. Not enough. So then I took 10mg of oxycodone, an opiate analgesic. Niiiiicccccceeeeee.  I went off with the fairies for an hour or so, blissfully pain free.

I arrived at the hospital ready for SPDT a little vague, but basically fine. I was a good little patient and disclosed my prescription drug use, which they seemed to understand and were not too worried about. I was just about to get up to get undressed ready for the PDT treatment when out of nowhere I starting vomiting. Thank goodness for plastic lined rubbish bins. The vomiting episode delayed my treatment further. When everyone was confident that the vomiting had stopped and that I was fit for treatment I did the PDT. Then I got into the SDT bath and waited. And waited. I waited in the bath for about half an hour. Just my luck, the machine decided to pack up today. So after getting wet for nothing I got out and dried off to get ready for HiFU. Of course, just as I was dressed and my hair was dried the SDT machine started working again. Good old Murphy and his law.

We decided to relax awhile and have some lunch before HiFU rather than trying to rush to fit in SDT. Allison generously shared her grapefruit with me for lunch. It was like nothing I’ve ever tasted. Aussie grapefruits are generally quite sour, and only a bit bigger than a large orange. These Chinese grapefruits were giant, sweet and supersized. The skin was really thick, as was the pith. The fruit itself was not as sweet as an orange, but was definitely on the sweet side of things. It was almost as if the fruit had been injected with sugar during the growing process.  Although the grapefruit was very large, it wasn’t juicy. That suited me just fine. I like citrus fruit but I hate it when you get juice running down your arms and hands. This grapefruit was my kind of fruit!

At HiFU today they started zapping the second tumour around the kidney area. This one is smaller so I only had to stay under there for 30 minutes and I tolerated it easily.

After HiFU I went back to have the SDT bath which proceeded without a hitch. Given all the ups and downs of the day it was decided that we should abandon the vitamin and KLT infusion for the day and just send me ‘home.’ No arguments from me. I went back to the hotel around 5pm and went straight to bed. Of course, even resting is not going smoothly for me right now and just after I got off the phone with my Dad around 6pm I got yet another fever. It broke about three hours later and I had to go digging around for some of Brad’s clean clothes to wear to bed since all of mine were due for laundering.

Poor old Brad is having a really tough time of things at the moment. Today he was miserable and absolutely everything is making him tear his hair out. Since he is the resident administrator and trouble-shooter he bears the brunt of the day to day challenges we face. The hotel seems to be playing silly buggers with the hot water temperature, so we now have to turn it on and let it run to see whether it is going to be hot or not. If it isn’t then Brad has to have a negotiation with various hotel staff to get the thermostat turned up again. When it comes to dinner, if we order at the hotel we have come to expect that only about 50% of the things that we order from the menu will actually be available on any given day. The food isn’t delivered to the table at the same time either, so it can be frustrating to be nearing the end of the meal and then have another dish show up. Recently we were served a dessert dish right in the middle of the meal (we didn’t realise it was a dessert dish when we ordered it). As with most hotels, anywhere in the world, the air-con doesn’t work. The control panel says five degrees but the actual temperature in the bedroom is closer to 30. Brad had someone come and look at that but nothing improved. Anyway, these are just our *first world problems* so we need to suck them up and just be grateful that we’re allowed to be here in China at all, and that I can access the advanced medical technology here.

Thanks to Ellie and Pauline for organising a package of essentials for us today. I thought my request would be a lot easier than what panned out. Sorry about that!!

Banana disclosure: I admit that both today, and yesterday, I only ate half a banana and left the other half.