I've been at home since my last blog so there hasn't been much to update until now, but after yesterdays visit to the hospital for a blood test and meeting with the consultant I know what the immediate future holds as far as treatment is concerned. I also have news regarding the possible conclusion to my journey.
Since leaving hospital last Tuesday I've been back for blood tests last Thursday and this Tuesday and Thursday. Each time I've been given an update on my blood counts which have been steadily improving. As mentioned yesterday's visit also consisted of a longer discussion with the consultant which confirmed that my white cells, particularly my Neutrophils, (which are the white cells which fight infection) have improved to a level which are at the lower level of normal.
My red cell counts are not growing as quickly and I'm a little anaemic at the moment, but the counts are improving nevertheless. Being anaemic means doing anything which requires exertion saps my energy quickly and I seem to feel this most in my legs. Climbing stairs or walking even a short distance soon has me out of breath and my head pounding as my weak blood pumps around my body. Whilst I'm in hospital the normal solution is a transfusion and when I return it is still a possibility, even though my own system is coming back to life.
So my bone marrow is slowly recovering which is good news, though it has taken quite some time.
The induction phase of my treatment is therefore over and as the consultant said yesterday its usually easy to get patients into remission during this stage, as they have with me. The trick is keeping them there and making sure that the Leukaemia doesn't come back.
The next phase of the treatment was therefore explained to me yesterday and I was presented with a new plan for the next 28 days of treatment. Fortunately the treatment doesn't start until next Monday so I do at least have the weekend at home.
So when I return on Monday, subject to satisfactory results from blood and urine tests I will be put on a drip to hydrate me, which is to reduce the risk of damage to my liver. After this I will be given Methatrexate, which is the chemotherapy drug that I have previously had injected into my spine. This time it will be delivered intravenously over a long period. By all accounts the possible side effects are a sore mouth, sickness and diarrhoea, so I'm hoping I don't suffer too much.
At the end of the delivery of the Methatrexate, which I seem to remember is a 24 hour period, a form of folic acid is given to counteract the effects and help settle things down.
The other procedure that was planned for Monday was the installation of a new PICC line in my arm to make administration of drugs and taking blood sample easier. I'd had one installed previously but due to an infection on the skin surrounding the entry site it was taken out about a week after installation. This was probably due to my low neutrophil count at the time. However I got a surprise call from the hospital this morning to say that the list for Monday was full but that they'd had a cancellation on the list for this afternoon and could I make it to have my line installed today. Fortunately I could, so I've been this afternoon ad now have a fresh line in my arm ready for Monday.
The indications are that if treatment is started on Monday, by Thursday I should be well enough to go home again. I'll then have a full week off without treatment and on day 15 the process with the Methatrexate and folic acid is repeated.
In effect that's it for this next phase of treatment which doesn't sound much but could potentially have two short periods of discomfort and illness after each administration of Methatrexate. All being well it will also be over in time for Christmas so that I can have a break to celebrate with my family over the holiday period.
The consultant also gave me some good news yesterday by indicating that a donor has been located for a bone marrow transplant, which will give me the best chance of cure and survival. The likelihood is that the transplant process will start early in the new year and will probably mean an extended stay (probably 2-3 months) in hospital following transplant whilst the graft hopefully occurs and my system starts to recover. I'll know more about the full process when the time gets nearer.
I'll report next week on how the treatment is progressing (providing I feel up to it).
Finally I want to give a mention to a brave (possibly mad) lady that is taking part in a gruelling 8 mile cross country run over land normally used to test army vehicles. The event is suitably titled 'The Grim Challenge' and takes place in a couple of weeks time at the beginning of December near Aldershot.
Nicole Baynton is the lady in question and is a good friend I have made through my association with Towcestrians Rugby Club, where our sons play rugby together. She contacted me whilst I was in hospital recently to ask whether she could help raise funds for my preferred charity, Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research. I'm delighted to say she has my full support and send my best wishes with her for successfully completing the run. I'll have a Guinness or two with her down at the Tows club sometime in the future to celebrate.
Nicole has a JustGiving page, so my plea is for anyone that can to join me in my support of her on this run, for which I'd be very grateful. Nicole's page can be found here (http://www.justgiving.com/Nicole-Lisa-Helen).
All the best to everybody and thanks for reading.