My current medical routine is in 3 week cycles at the end of which, I visit the hospital to :
1. See the doctor to talk about how I have been and get examined.
2. Go to the Oncology Outpatients ward to have blood taken (via my port) and get it flushed.
3. Go to the hospital pharmacy and collect my tablets for the next 3 weeks.
This set of tasks can take anything from 3 - 6 hours, and sometimes split across days, depending on how (in)efficient the departments are at the time.
According to the protocol of the Lapatinib trial, I am required to have a CT Scan after every 2 cycles. So at appointment 2 and 4, we had some results to talk about too. This I have already reported back to you as having been quite positive on both occasions.
Cycle 5 came to and end 2 weeks ago and I trundled off to Bart's to complete the above list. Being a 'between scans' cycle, I wasn't expecting anything out of the ordinary, however, ended up coming away delighted with some unexpected news.
All started well when I checked in and the receptionist told me I could go upstairs to the waiting room. On a bad day, one is directed to the ground floor waiting area, which appears to be a 'holding pen' for the overflow when the 1st floor waiting room is full.
I got comfortable and pulled out my knitting (last month this part took 2 hours) so was a little shocked when I was called by a nurse within 20 mins! I hadn't even done 1 row before I had to pack it away quickly and follow her to a (different) consultation room, where she left me saying "The doctor will be here in a minute". It was all very confusing as I was not in the normal room and the sign on the door read 'Dr Propper', whereas I was expecting to enter a door with the signage "Dr Gallagher" (aka Dr Onco II)....
I was all in a tizz
Two or three minutes passed, then five, and then getting close to ten, a very nice "Dr Propper" bundled in through the doorway wiping biscuit crumbs away from his mouth. He looked just as surprised at seeing me as I did him... "oh, sorry, I didn't know you were here, I've been round the corner eating biscuits with the nurses...." bloody great! I thought...
As it turned out Dr Onco II was away so Dr Propper was taking my appointment. It's amazing how different a standard appointment can be between one doctor and another. The biscuit eating sawbones ended up being the most informative physician I have seen yet, showing me all my blood test results since the beginning of the trial and explaining how fantastic each result was....
The one which was quite significant was the Cancer Marker titled 'Serum CA 15-3' which started at 353 and was down to 53 after cycle 4...
A tumour marker is a substance in the blood which indicates activity of the cancer. The more active the cancer the bigger the number, in this case.
I therefore asked if a cancer free person's 'CA 15-3' is rated as zero, and he said "no, it's between 1 - 30", which my friends, makes me almost 'normal'..... - yeah yeah, I know... there ain't no way I'll ever be described as normal....!!!
Nevertheless, I was extremely pleased with the hard evidence that I previously hadn't been shown, and thought I should see if a 'hard copy' could be made available to me, I knew this was pushing it, with no printer in the room, but hey, could they actually have a network printer installed somewhere in the depths of Bart's....? It seems I was in luck, as my slightly scary nurse, appeared at the desk with said print out as I was leaving - hoorah!
Score: Tash 1 - Bart's 653 and counting.
I am now on the 2nd from last day of my chemo for Cycle 6. Technically, that would be the end of the trial however, the plan is to carry on taking the Lapatinib tablets every day without chemo, and monitor my progress. I had hoped that I would be able to do this back at Harley St with The Slev but to no avail yet, he had his secretary phone up Glaxo Smith-Klein *while I was speaking with him* and they found out that it won't be licensed in Europe until Jan-Mar 08. So, Bart's it is, until then. Unless of course I fancy forking out £2500 per 3 weeks for this wonder drug. I've decided to put up with the long waits and start selling some of my tablets on the black market.....
I am ok now, Tash has made me turn off the funky tunes. A tao post is nether a post without pictures, usually they are of Tash partaking in some form of social frivolity, but I thought this month we could go for something completely different.
It has taken me a while to work out how to present these to you, medical imaginging systems are rarely user friendly, but seeing as I got over any jealousy issues with Tash quite a while ago, after all just about every consultaion I attend with her involves showing off her "tartars" to the doctor (no we don't take turkish invading hordes in to Harley Street, it is too expensive with the congestion charge - but it is a colloquialism of Tash's friends for boobs.), so I see no problem with showing you.
Tash as you won't normally see her: