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Secondary Breast Cancer: Treatment Roller Coaster – Part three

Ismena Clout

bowel cancer 300x199 Secondary Breast Cancer: Treatment Roller Coaster – Part three

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Welcome to part three of the ‘Ismena treatment catch up’. I arrive at the Royal Marsden with a smile on my face ready for round three of chemotherapy. I go to have my bloods checked first (for those who don’t know, this is to ensure that my blood cell count is within safe limits) and then wait to see the doctor.

I’m waiting to see the phlebotomist when I see on Facebook that a gorgeous man I used to work with, Ben, has passed away from bowel cancer at just 28. He was such a great spirit and a true example of a gentleman. He had only been diagnosed seven months earlier and his treatment had been aggressive and tough.

It just broke my heart into tiny pieces and made me so angry. He had to see three doctors before his symptoms were taken seriously and he was referred to a specialist. That time he lost, every time he was misdiagnosed, led us to this horrific and tragic moment where the world has lost a special person. Bowel cancer UK have a campaign called ‘never too young’ I just wish those doctors had seen it and maybe his girlfriend Tamsin would still have her soul mate.

I have my bloods taken and sit quietly crying on the poor phlebotomist, I know they’ve seen everything but I’m still a bit embarrassed. I try and distract myself while I wait an hour and half to see my doctor. It’s that long as we have to wait for the blood results to come back as they are our guide to what to do. I walk into the office to see my doctor feeling a bit battered and blue, but confident that it will all be fine and I’ll soon be upstairs being blasted with the good stuff.

If only… instead it appears my platelets have crashed, my red bloods are down again and overall my bone marrow is not coping with this kind of chemo. The disease is ‘strongest’ in the bones, which really means the bone marrow. With so much cancer in there already it is struggling to make all the components my blood needs to keep me healthy.

Throw the wrong chemotherapy on top of that and the bone marrow just decides to down tools and go on strike. Time for action says the doctor, time for a change to a new drug. Reflecting on it now that I’m out of the room, it’s just so impressive how the doctor took this new information and acted. It is what makes him one of the top doctors in the world. He knew I wasn’t well enough to have the next dose of chemo that week and would have to delay it, so instead he changes me to a new chemotherapy. How many oncologists out there would just have kept me on the same chemotherapy? I will never know but I do know that this is why I’m happy to trust my life in the hands of this great man.

However, this moment is when I simply just break down. I can’t cope with the fact my treatment is being changed. This has never happened to me before; I’m the girl that treatment works on and has normal standard stuff during her chemotherapy. I’m not the girl that is in and out of hospital, suffering from neutropenic sepsis, having blood transfusions, chemo delay… but this time I am and the horrible thought grips me as if by the neck: what if this is the beginning of the end? We’ve just lost the amazing Ben, maybe this is the start of my time being up too.

I’m an absolute wreck at this point and the poor doctor just has to sit and wait while I try and get myself together enough to take in the facts. The chemo is given once every week for three weeks and then I have a week off.

I get upstairs in the hospital and just fall apart. For the first time ever I do an SOS on Facebook for company. I’m sat with the curtain pulled round me sobbing my heart out. I’m shaking and I need distraction, I’m broken and can’t cope. Thankfully a friend Sara comes and rescues me. She sits with me and has chocolate, gossip magazines and a big smile. It’s a long old afternoon with an emergency return to hospital as on the way home I start swelling up, but I take some anti-histamine and I’m fine.

So far on this new chemo I’m doing okay, the side effects are minimal but I’m very weak and tired. I keep needing to top the blood up, so making sure I take it easy and rest a lot. There is a long way to go on this treatment before we can find out if its really working so I’m just holding on and hoping things have now calmed down. The theft drama rolls on and on but hopefully we are at the start of the end game on it and I’ll finally see my money back for all the jewellery stolen.

There are more twists and turns that have gone on but I think I would be up to part seven and eight if I put it all down! So for now that’s all, and the final word has to be to Ben, rest in peace, you may be gone to us now but you will never be forgotten.

For more information on secondary breast cancer visit www.breastcancercare.org.uk/secondary


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