Monday 15th December
Two days of tests for Month Twelve.
So this is it, the end of the ‘Drugs’ part of the clinical drugs trial, for the adjuvant treatment of stage three malignant melanoma.
For twelve months I’ve been taking pills in the morning and again at night. I do so hope they haven’t been a placebo, but the real thing, as supplied by GlaxoSmithKline for the Combi-Ad trial.
We arrive in Exeter mid-morning on the Monday, do a little shopping, then I begin the tests. A CT scan, followed by a cervical smear, finishing with an Echocardiogram.
All is completed by 5pm, whereupon I go to find my husband and son who should be waiting in the cafeteria. But no sign of them there. I phone my husband who tells me that my son has had a ‘funny turn’, and has fainted. They had been making their way down to the car to get some fresh air when my son collapsed. I caught up with them in the corridor: doctors, nurses, upset husband and a frightened son.
My son is sitting in a wheelchair, answering all sorts of questions. My husband is visibly shaken too. We are told we must go to A and E for my son to be checked out. (He is on day fourteen of his chemotherapy, and is attached to a small pump delivering bleomycin through a line in his chest. Testicular cancer with progression of tumours in his brain and lungs).
We sit and wait, with my son lying on a bed, for just over three hours. We think the collapse was due to tiredness and dehydration. Since starting chemo, my son has not enjoyed drinking his usual fruit juice or cold drinks, complaining of a nasty metallic taste in his mouth. All he can manage are infrequent cups of tea and a little water every now and again. It was rather scary for him, and for us.
After observations and an ECG are done, we are allowed to go. Arriving at the hotel just before nine at night, we make our way to the restaurant across the car park. Just before we reach the entrance, son is very sick, so we about turn, return to the hotel, order a delivered takeaway, and finally eat dinner just before 10pm. Truly a long and difficult day.
Tuesday morning, and I’m back at the hospital seeing the dermatologist first. A full body skin check and a feel of lymph nodes. All seems normal, no problems, see you in three months.
We then drive to the main hospital to meet with my trials nurse. Mini meltdown follows when she asks about my son. She has met him on a number of occasions, and has got to know him quite well. Cuddles and kind words of comfort are followed by bloods, temperature, weight and blood pressure checks.
I then move on to a different department for an ECG, somewhere else for an eye exam, finally to the oncologist for a chat and the dreaded rectal exam.
And there we have it, twelve lots of four weekly visits, numerous scans, examinations, pokes, prods, and pill pots has come to an end. What follows now are three monthly checks for the next two years. I know the intense monitoring has been worthwhile. It may have been intrusive, but at least I feel I have been proactive in trying to do something to look after my body.
We drive home from one hospital to yet another, dropping my son off in Truro for his next round of chemotherapy. We stay a while to have him settle in, then my husband drives me home only to turn around and return to the hospital to be with our son.
A very long and draining couple of days. My drugs trial is over, but my son’s chemotherapy journey has just begun.