Thursday 10 January 2013

Does anyone like the dentist?

Since my previous post, the shingles has improved significantly: I can finally sit down again without feeling uncomfy.  It must have taken about three weeks from it first starting to hurt to the last scab falling off, but at times it did feel like longer.  In a couple of days it will actually have been four weeks, and I'd guess that, by then, the affected areas of the skin will start to look something like normal again, albeit with some discolouration.  Thankfully, whilst it still hasn't all fully-healed yet, there doesn't seem to be any residual pain now, or Postherpetic Neuralgia (PHN) as it is known.

It was about a week ago when the last of the blisters finally dried-out/scabbed-over, at which point I was no longer contagious, which was fortunate really as I had a dental check-up that day.  The dental check-up was at a health centre that I'd never been to previously, and, despite being in an area of Hull that has a pretty poor reputation, was actually a new/modern building that looked quite flash/nice.

The health centre is in Orchard Park, which, if you haven't heard of it, is one of those areas where people joke that if you leave your car for ten minutes, you'll come back to find it on bricks, and if you leave it for another ten minutes, the bricks will have gone too!  That reminds me, whilst the dentist was waiting for a colleague to check on the status of the x-ray equipment, the dentist commented that it was quite a dismal day outside.  Instinctively, I looked out of the window, and agreed that it seemed like it would be one of those days where it was never really going to get light.  At this point, I noticed that the windows themselves seemed slightly dark though, so I asked whether they make it look more depressing than the reality.  That was when the dentist told me that, when first starting working there, a colleague had said that the metal mesh/grate on the windows is actually bullet-proof!  For some reason, that wasn't a comforting thought.  I asked: Do people really hate their dentist that much?

The dental check-up itself went fine, and as far as I know no dentists were shot that morning.  I'd not actually been to the dentist for about thirteen years, as once I started having to pay for the pleasure I soon began questioning the value of spending £15-£20 every six months for a dentist to take a quick look at my mouth and tell me that it was fine; I guess that decision means that I saved about £500.  The dentist seemed quite enthusiastic, as I was informed that I have a "beautifully clean mouth", which apparently didn't just mean that I'd brushed my teeth that morning, but that there were no signs of any gum or teeth problems; Subsequent x-rays confirmed that there were no hidden problems too.

Four days after the dental check-up, i.e. a few days ago, I was due the sixth dose of the antibody treatment (Brentuximab Vedotin), and due to how the treatment had recently been affecting my immune system that meant I had to inject myself with Filgrastim once a day for the three days prior to then, so that my neutrophil count would hopefully be high enough by the time that the treatment date came around.  In case you're curious, this is what the Filgrastim injections look like:

Filgrastim Injection - Before Use
Filgrastim Injection - Before Use

Filgrastim Injection - After Use
Filgrastim Injection - After Use

I appreciate that you can't get a feeling for the scale from the pictures alone, but the needle that you insert into your stomach is about half an inch (or one and a quarter centimetres) long.  Essentially, you just 'pinch an inch' a little below your belly-button, and inject the Filgrastim.  It can sometimes bleed a little (and/or bruise), but you don't really feel anything; The nurses recommend that each day you alternate which side of your belly-button that you inject yourself too.  As you might imagine, some people don't like to do it themselves, so they tend to arrange a district nurse to do it instead.

As it happened, I only had two of the three Filgrastim injections, as my sixth dose of the antibody treatment was cancelled at the last minute, due to the date for the Allogeneic Stem Cell Transplant being confirmed for the 23rd of January; That meant it had moved back slightly, but only by a few days.  Between now and then, I have to: go for another appointment at the Sheffield hospital on Monday, where I'll have yet more blood tests and discuss further details about the treatment etc; and have a heart scan at my local hospital on Tuesday.  Other than that, everything is ready to go!

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