Cancer & Coronavirus: Chemotherapy

A few days after I posted my previous blog it was confirmed that Ella would need to have chemotherapy. This was something we had already prepped for. We were told she would probably need it straight after the surgery. It was tough because we got as far as having the line inserted through which the chemo would be delivered and then everything stopped. Her blood markers were decreasing at a much better rate than the consultants expected and suddenly there was a chance she might avoid it after all.

For two weeks we watched and waited. Her markers dropped to 25 (the goal was less than 10 so on the basis that we had started at over 2000 this looked very promising). We started to tentatively think about a chemo free summer. Suddenly a trip to her favourite place — where my mum lives down in the South of France — seemed possible. But then came the dreaded call. Her markers had started heading the wrong way. We had a week of almost daily blood tests but that just confirmed the decline had stopped and chemo would have to start.

As I wrote in my previous post a cancer diagnosis in the time of Covid (as opposed to before it) had its upside. Chemotherapy doesn’t. I am hugely grateful she is getting it at all don’t get me wrong. I know there are many people whose treatment is on hold and people have died because of it. I cannot imagine what it must be like to lose a family member feeling that you could have had them longer had Covid not got in the way.

On the Monday when we arrived for her first five days of inpatient treatment we discovered there was no room on the teenage ward because it was being used to housed non-cancer patients who had to be moved because their ward was now a Covid ward. To be honest though even if we had been on the teenage ward (kindly kitted out and funded by www.teenagecancertrust.org) a lot of the facilities were closed anyway so I am not sure the experience would have been hugely different. The communal spaces are roped off and out of action and if you leave your room you have to wear a mask which is really conducive to making conversation with other patients anyway.

We spoke to the consultant and I raised my concerns about the fact that one of the possible side effects of one of the drugs she is taking is infertility. As she now only has one ovary I was worried about that. Because of Covid there is far less chance of her being approved for any of the pre-emptive treatments they can do around this. Normally they would take a slice of her remaining ovary and pop it in the deep freeze to be re-implanted at a later date (amazing hey?!) but because of ongoing pressure on resources caused by Covid this isn’t really an option. In her case the chances of the chemo impacting fertility are relatively low but we just have to hope that she is not one of the unlikely ones.

There are lots of amazing organisations that provide support at this time. A shout out to CLIC Sargent (https://www.clicsargent.org.uk/) and the Little Princess Trust (https://www.littleprincesses.org.uk/) in particular. Even here though Covid has an impact. The day trips — bread making at the local bakery with other sufferers for example — all cancelled and replaced by Zoom calls. Better than nothing but not quite the opportunity to find new friends and have the kind of conversations that would help her feel less isolated and alone.

So we are 6 days into a 28 day course that is spread over the next three months or so. Each cycle is 21 days. Five days of inpatient treatment, two weeks with Monday top ups before the cycle starts again. I can’t pretend the first five days were easy. They were pretty awful. Ella really struggled with it mentally. It’s not a list side effect but chemo definitely impacts your moods. It wasn’t helped that a 12 hour stint of chemical and saline solutions didn’t start until 5pm on the first day so she wasn’t done until 5am. That is a lot of broken sleep and by day three we had a broken Ella. Even cinnamon buns and home made cookies couldn’t stop the tears. I was so pleased to get her home.

Assuming we can keep her well the next cycle starts on July 20th. We have learnt a bit and hopefully this one will be easier. Somehow, with the aid of our home made Wonder Woman calendar we will get there. My birthday is 27th September. If we can get chemo done by then it will the best birthday present I have ever had.

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Mum of two, writer, runner, vegetable grower

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Emma Sinden

Emma Sinden

Mum of two, writer, runner, vegetable grower

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