Sunday 1 July 2012

What happened on the first admission?

When I was admitted on to the Haematology ward, I didn't know a great deal about what exactly would be happening or how long it would take, as due to the circumstances the hospital hadn't really had an opportunity to properly discuss things with me yet; Essentially, what I knew was that the Hodgkin's Lymphoma had relapsed and there would need to be some more tests done before starting treatment.  So, the plan was for a doctor to explain everything to me, so that the "fun" could begin.

After a discussion with a doctor, I knew the first step was for me to go straight for a kind of heart scan (an electrocardiogram and echocardiogram), as the CT scan from earlier that week showed what looked like a worrying amount of fluid around my heart, hence a closer look was needed to see whether that would need to be drained, and if so how that would be best achieved.  A PET scan had also been booked for the next day, which would go ahead as long as a drain wasn't required, otherwise it would be cancelled/postponed; the PET scan is used to determine where the active cancer cells are currently located, hence by doing a PET scan before treatment and another midway through treatment the two PET scans can be compared to check whether the treatment is working.  Next up was starting chemotherapy, which in this case was a regimen called IVE, of which I'd need three sessions each starting three weeks apart, then finally, provided that I responded to the chemotherapy, a stem cell transplant (from a donor).  The preparation for the stem cell transplant also requires a session of another chemotherapy regimen, possibly followed by radiotherapy (total body irradiation).  If everything goes to plan, then the treatment should be all over in about five months.

Anyway, I went for the heart scan, and shortly after getting back a doctor informed me that the fluid did need to be drained, so the PET scan was cancelled, and I was moved from the Haematology ward to the Cardiac Monitoring Unit (CMU).  At the CMU, the drain was inserted, left in for around twenty-four hours, and removed once all of the excess fluid was gone.  With the excess fluid drained, I was then moved back to the Haematology ward, where the next day I could start the chemotherapy.  The surprise I got the next morning though was that they needed to do a bone marrow biopsy before starting the chemotherapy - I was secretly hoping I wouldn't have to have one, as they can be quite an unpleasant experience.  Next up was the chemotherapy, which took place over about four or five days.  I also had to have an x-ray shortly after starting the chemotherapy, as the doctors wanted to check that the pleural effusion (fluid around the lungs) on my right side (about two litres worth) had not got any worse, as if it had or it began causing me to feel out of breath, then it would need to be drained; The hope was that once the chemotherapy started to work its magic that my body would naturally sort out the excess fluid.  I finally then got to go home for what would be about two weeks to recover enough from the chemotherapy to start the next round - I just had to come back in to the hospital in a few days for a quick check-up to make sure my blood counts etc were fine.

So, that was a quick overview of my first admission for this round of treatment, and the next series of posts will cover in more detail what the tests, drain and chemotherapy were actually like, otherwise this post would turn in to a book!

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