After my little run-in with febrile neutropaenic sepsis I had to delay my next chemo treatment by a week, to give my body a chance to get my white blood cell count up to a safe level.
At my next clinic appointment my consultant decided that after the rest of my chemo treatments I would have G-CSF injections - they are a growth factor that stimulates the bone marrow to make more white blood cells; which, of course, are one of the things that the chemo kills off, leaving you with little protection from infection. So, for five days on the week after my chemo treatment a district nurse would come to my house and give me a Neupogen/filgrastim injection. The district nursing system is a fantastic thing. I paid nothing for this; I would just telephone the DN office or the nurses from the chemosuite would send them a fax with the dates I needed the injections. I would be given the prefilled syringes to take home with me after chemo along with my pile-o-drugs - also all for free. And they would live in my fridge - they had to be kept cool for the week and I had my own sharps box for the syringes which lived under the sofa (of course!)
So, the first Monday morning after my second round of chemo, Mark turned up. Mark was a very sweet, Scottish (I'm a sucker for a Scottish accent), male (in case you hadn't noticed) district nurse. And he was a sweetie, made me feel much better. Asked about how I was feeling and did the injection for me. I point-blank refused to do them myself. Various people kept telling me I could do them myself. My reply was that if I wanted to stick needles in people I would have gone into the medical profession and that there was a reason I went into libraries. I didn't see why I should do them when there were all these people who had been trained to do it!
So I had a lovely mix of nurses over my six months - a couple of great New Zealanders; Ema who just made me feel so much better on one of the days after Taxotere when I felt like I'd been beaten black and blue with a baseball bat and was practically in tears with the pain in my back and numerous others.
I resolutely never looked when they did the injections - which went into my abdomen. They were always quite uncomfortable because they would sting as the liquid went in - the needle prick didn't bother me so much as that stinging did. It was always interesting to see who was the best at giving those injections - I definitely used to be pleased when one particular nurse turned up because she was brilliant - I don't really know what she did differently but I would barely feel a thing when it was her. I liked having the district nurses come because it made me feel a bit safer - that there were people who knew what was what seeing me at the time when I was most at risk of the neutropaenia coming back and I suppose I felt that if there was any problem then they would recognise it and send me off to the hospital.
The other outsome of the neutropaenia was the strict instructions to use Corsodyl mouthwash several times daily to prevent ulcers or cankers or other sores in my mouth. This stuff is weird, I was given the mint flavoured variety and after the first taste I just thought, mint. After I spat it out I thought, ooh, zingy and then I thought 'yuck' - It seemed to mix strangely with the vile taste I already had in my mouth and made everything taste even more peculiar - including water. So, I was really unwilling to use it: but I did. And the only time I got a mouth ulcer was when I didn't use it for a few days because I had run out. I started using it pretty sharpish after that and was very grateful not to have anything worse go on with my mouth. To be honest, the bad taste was so horrible I was glad not to have any further complications. I just felt like I was in a permanent state of feeling like I hadn't brushed my teeth for months, even if I'd just cleaned them; and nothing tasted right. Everything just tasted strange; I stopped drinking tea and coffee: I just didn't fancy them - they didn't taste good enough any more. Chocolate and sweets went - sugar seemed to leave a really horrid aftertaste in my mouth - probably why I lost weight throughout my chemo treatments. If only I hadn't put it back on again. And I stopped eating cheese because someone told me I shouldn't eat things I really liked while I was having chemo because it would put me off them. Funnily enough, I don't really eat cheese at all now and I used to eat it by the bucket-load.....well, quite often. And no, I haven't given it up because of the whole 'don't eat dairy, it gives you mucus and cancer' thing. I just got out of the habit.
Anyway, so that is the story of my lovely district nursing team - thank you, y'all!