Fortunately the chemotherapy unit at Oxford’s Churchill Hospital isn’t as dark and dreary as the one shown in the Macmillan telly advert. Instead, it has huge reclining purple armchairs, a never ending supply of hot drinks and snacks, beds in case you really need to lie down, radio’s, dvd’s and a steady stream of friendly doctors and nurses.
Hubby made himself comfortable whilst the lab analysed his blood samples, and I was sent off to the refreshment trolley. This meant that he wasn’t there to witness my managing to throw a cup of hot chocolate over my head, down my top, and even into my bra, but sadly the rest of that ward were. Still, I’m glad that I managed to make a few people smile.
Sitting to the right of hubby was a very nice man who kindly moved his ipad so that hubby could also watch the cricket. Cricket man was having several rounds of chemo that day, and looked a little tired. Sitting to his left was an older man who’d not long had his stomach removed in his fight against stomach cancer. The cancer has spread and he’s facing 5 weeks of radiotherapy every week day, but he’s amazed his wife and doctors by continuing to eat normally, even his beloved steak, albeit with the help of enzyme tablets. He too was having several rounds of chemo that day.
Hubby is being treated with Avastin, a monoclonal antibody. He doesn’t have cancer. He has NF2 – Neurofibromatosis type 2, a rare genetic condition that causes usually benign tumours to grow on nerve endings. Although he has many tumours throughout his body, the ones in his brain and on his spine are causing concern because they’re growing quickly. If the Avastin can stop further growth, then it will mean that hubby doesn’t have to undergo invasive brain surgery again for a wee while. If the Avastin can shrink the brain tumour, then so much the better. And if it can shrink the tumour at the top of the spine, then it’ll mean that he doesn’t need surgery that risks him losing the use of part or all of his arm. At the moment though, we’ll be happy even if the Avastin just inhibits growth.
Hubby’s face was a picture when the pharmacist brought over his first medication bag. It contained anti-sickness tablets, mouthwash for possible ulcers, and what appears to be a lifetime’s supply of Immodium should he get an upset tum. Apparently he can take up to 8 of these tablets a day. In his own words though, if he did take 8, he’d “end up shitting breeze blocks…” There then followed a series of diarrhoea themed jokes and comments. Like he says, I married him partly for his sense of humour.
Having decided that in the words of the NF2 link nurse “Churchill day is chocolate day”, hubby enjoyed his bar of Dairy Milk whilst fellow patients ate their packed lunches and snacks and I people watched. All nationalities, ages, shapes, sizes and backgrounds. Cancer and tumours can hit anyone, regardless of lifestyle. Some patients come to hospital alone. Some bring more than one friend or family member to offer support. But all leave their ego at the door. Here you’re stripped back to basics, to what really matters, and when you talk to the people around you, you feel as if your soul has been touched by theirs. You can’t help but change your perspective. Top jobs, nice looking shiny things, what other people think – none of that matters. Loving others and being loved in return, very much does.