Mathew was discharged from the hospital on Friday, 31 January 2014 around 9:30 pm. He couldn’t leave until his final Mesna medication was put through his iv.
His week went so well; he ate the whole week, felt fine and continued watching tv, shows on the laptop and checking out Facebook on his iPad mini. Family visited – at his request! He thoroughly enjoyed the company.
Part way through the week Mathew had to change rooms. His first room was needed by a radiation patient – someone receiving radiation internally, as opposed to Mathew, who gets his externally. That first room has special precautions built in for just such a patient; specially-built walls (maybe lined with lead, not positive though) to protect caregivers and others of the radiation.
So Mathew transferred to a much smaller room. Probably the smallest private room in that wing. We were so thankful to still have a private room but had to laugh at the tight quarters. The cot actually fit between the wall and the end of his bed, with a small corridor to pass. If I sat up however, I’d hit the computer attached to the wall. The door to the room couldn’t open all the way when the cot was opened. You couldn’t get in or out of the bathroom if a nurse was checking Mathew’s vitals or changing medication on the iv pole. On the other side of his bed there was just enough room for a rocking chair. He even had a small fridge in there ~ what a luxury! I had to climb over his luggage to access it but what the heck, the drinks were cold. Mathew’s bathroom had a tub and he gazed at it longingly every time he went in there – which was at least once an hour, remember? It had grips bars but he still couldn’t bathe with his port accessed.
I learned a couple of new things this week. First, the radiation is zapping the tumour 360 degrees around his lower waist area. Both John and I thought radiation was travelling up through the bottom of the table and just through his back to the tumour. I watched the process on the tv monitors during treatment and noticed the machine was activated for the full circle around Mathew’s body. The technologists told me that the radiation is targeting the tumour at all angles. The beam zaps all the way around and concentrates in the centre of the tumour. The computer and machine are programmed for radiation to hit the tumour AND for tiny shields to continually change position to prevent any radiation from hitting tissue, muscles, etc that are not affected by cancer. Every time I see the intricate work and design I’m further awed at the wonders of modern technology.
Second, Mathew won’t be getting neupogen shots during radiation. Neupogen stimulates the growth of white blood cells if you recall from an earlier post. The radiation destroys the drug so there is no point in him receiving it. Yeah, he cried his eyes out hearing he wouldn’t be getting that injection for a while (…NOT). We don’t know how a low white cell count is handled during the next 4-1/2 weeks but will surely find out when Mathew’s count crashes.
Third, and last, I learned why the outpatient chemo and radiation are not given together. One of the chemo drugs, Doxyrubicon, is hard on the heart. Radiation is also hard on the heart. The two combined is too dangerous to receive at the same time. Mathew had a heart checkup, like all other chemo patients, prior to treatment to ensure it is healthy enough to endure treatment. I didn’t think radiation going to a lower spine would affect the heart but will follow this up when Mathew starts his next chemotherapy in 2 weeks.
It is Sunday night as I write this and Mathew is still feeling pretty good. He is trying more foods and likes everything so far. That will make his Oncologist happy. She didn’t like him eating chicken strips and fries every day at lunch while in the hospital. We didn’t care what he ate while there because we were so happy he ATE! Now that he is home he’s getting the variety that will please her and his nutritionist.
Meanwhile the G-tube is still there should it be needed again. The dressing is changed twice daily to keep it clean and free of the regular discharge. It is also flushed once a day with 60 mL of water. It will probably get a little infected whenever his blood counts drop very low because any little nick on him turns red and inflamed when that happens. The tube itself doesn’t bother him like the tape does. Any bandage on his skin reddens the affected area and makes it itchy. I constantly change the type, size and location of tape on the area to keep skin irritation to a minimum.
Tomorrow starts week 2 of Radiation… Monday through Friday. Mathew complained of a sunburn-type pain on his back after the last couple of treatments so this might be the start of side effects. The Radiology Oncology staff advised me that side effects start to manifest towards the end of the second week and we’re not looking forward to that. They mentioned nausea, sunburn type of skin irritation and diarrhea as possible complications to expect.
I purchased a 30 day parking pass at the hospital for $45 to save on parking fees. We usually buy a weekly pass for $15 when Mathew is admitted for his 5-day inpatient chemo but with radiation lasting 4-1/2 more weeks plus another chemo cycle we are going to be there a LOT. The only problem now will be finding a parking spot reasonably close to the stairs down to the hospital! With this winter’s wild weather of rain, freezing rain and flash freezes that parking lot is hazardous on a good day. Mathew gets dropped off at the hospital entrance and he waits inside, sitting in a wheelchair, until I park and penguin-walk my way back to him. The stairs scare me the most as sometimes they are coated in ice. I don’t know if that groundhog saw his shadow or not but if he did, I’m ready to run.him.over.
Here’s to an early spring!