Cycle Six – September 30th

Cycle Six – September 30th

Before I report on how cycle six has gone I felt I could not do so without giving you a rabbit up date. Poor Ned woke several times the night of Smudges death wailing ‘why did she have to die?’. He was desperately distressed about the idea of burying her and wanted to know why we could not just keep her in the garage. If we were to bury her he would never be able to stroke her again. I said if we leave her in the garage she would rot and become filled with maggots – but he reckoned that that was going to happen underground so what was the difference? We left the conversation for Daddy to come home and anyway I needed to get them to school so they stroked her one more time – washed hands – and left for school. With Ned so teary I wrote a note to his teacher to explain why which he took in with a picture of Smudge.

I was slightly concerned that Smudge might actually start smelling so rang my Aunt, who worked as an A&E nurse for most of her working life, for advice. She agreed that there was a chance that might happen and we agreed it would be wise to put her somewhere cold. Of course the only cold place in the house is the fridge. I bagged her up multiple times to be sure there would be no contamination, cleared a shelf in the fridge, and placed her inside. I then set my alarm to remind me to remove her before anyone got home and to give her time to warm up to room temperature.

The children all arrived home from school. Each of them wrote a little note to Smudge. Tom’s apologising to her for not playing with her as much as he could have. Ella’s remembered the day we got her (we were only off to get a guinea pig but Smudge and Gizmo would only be sold as a pair) and Williams saying thank you for being such a nice rabbit. Ned had already copied a little prayer out of a children’s prayer book. This was in fact rather an exaggeration. She was pretty aggressive and while she was nice and furry she did not particularly like to be stroked and thumped angrily if we invaded her personal space. Ned was the only one who was actually brave enough to pick her up – and often climbed right inside the cage to do so – usually when we needed to box them up to take them to their holiday home when we were away.

Ned had clearly had a very distressed day. He had sat in the special chair all day and had told the class about Smudge. He had drawn a picture of her and attached an envelope into which children in the class deposited little notes they had written to Smudge. I spoke briefly to his teacher at the end of the school day and it had clearly been traumatic for not only Ned but for the class. So much so that one of his friends, an animal lover who had been due to come and meet Smudge, had got so distressed at the thought of Smudge dying that she had to be taken out of class. The teacher called her mother, a friend of mine, who when she heard the teachers voice, calling her on her mobile, imagined something dreadful must have happened. The teacher started the call in somber mood ‘We have had some very sad news’. My friends heart jumped – Who could have died? Has a teacher left? Is someone ill?. ‘Ned’s rabbit Smudge died yesterday and everyone is rather upset’. I since had calls from other of his friends mothers who had heard the story from their little darlings. Smudges death had become a community affair.

The Burial

Ned sobbed through the afternoon. When Rupert arrived home we revisited the burial idea which was just too much for him. Rupert snuck into the garden to dig a deep hole and we went and chose some items to accompany Smudge to the afterlife. Some small plastic toys. A carrot and some beans. A picture of Gizmo and Smudge and the letters from the children. We wanted to keep these but they refused. We considered digging it all up afterwards to retrieve them as they were so sweet – but decided against it as it was dark and cold by that time. We stood round in a circle with a candle and with Gizmo and the children read their letters and we each shared a memory of Smudge. We put the lid on the box and lowered it into the ground – Rupert then covered it up. By this time Ned was hysterical – he threw himself on the grave bawling.

That night we stuck some more pictures of her by his bed and told him how happy she was now bouncing around in Rabbit Heaven with all the other rabbits. This has begun long protracted discussions about what happens when someone dies. I am not sure I am very good at answering this question. ‘What happens if you have no body?’ ‘Daddy is the oldest so he will die first and then I wont see him for ages.’ And on and on.

Since then things have calmed down and now we worry that Gizmo is a bit lonely – so the kids are playing with him a bit more often than they used to.

Cycle Six

This was booked for Tuesday 28th September. Rupert was away in the States for 10 days and was not due back until the 30th – but we had discussed this and had decided that with Justyna (our aupair) and my Mum on the day we would be OK. I had also been quite perky through the 5th cycle – particularly the last week – and had even gone into work twice that week. Justyna went home to Poland on Friday early for 4 days and Rupert was in America so I had 4 days, including over the weekend, on my own. Rupert had been badgering me to sort out some help but I didn’t get round to it and also had been feeling good so thought I would manage fine – but by Monday I was pretty shattered.

Mum arrived early the next day and was pretty fantastic. She rustled up a lasagne for the evening and drove me for my bloods. I did feel very tired and so a bit weepy as my oncology nurse Catherine flushed my port and took my bloods. She gave me the very expensive anti nausea pill and said she would call me to tell me when to take it. We left for an hour or so while the bloods were processed. By 12.20pm I had still not heard from Catherine and we were driving back to the hospital. I thought perhaps she had forgotten to call me and so took the very expensive pill. Two minutes later she called to say my neutrophils and white blood cells were too low to give me chemo that day. My neutrophils were 1.17 but they needed to be at least 1.5 (unless my white cell count was 3 or above – but this was 2.4). I confessed I had taken the very expensive pill and we continued to drive to the hospital as I needed the needle and wire attached to my port removed. I was sent home until Thursday with orders to rest.

Mum made sure I put on my PJs and got into bed, she left instructions for the children and Justyna that I was not to get out of bed until Thursday morning and that all children had to be on their best behaviour. She then ran a number of errands and taxi duties taking children to and from after school clubs before she left (having also done my ironing).

I left my bed only once on Wednesday to walk up to my favourite local restaurant to order a steak and chips. I received many concerned phone calls and texts from people who were waiting to congratulate me that it was all over. All undeserved as, apart from feeling tired, I had no particular aches or pains and had just been given permission to lie in bed and do nothing. On Wednesday a friend, who is also a top chef, dropped by one of her delicious meals – so I had a ready home cooked meal for that evening.

Rupert was due to land from Washington at 10am and we worked out that if all went to plan he would be home before 12 and so could drive me to my new chemo appointment if my bloods had come up. I was pretty pessimistic that they would have. I was going to drive myself to my blood appointment – but decided I better go with someone and called a friend who dropped what she was doing and came and picked me up and took me. Rupert texted at 10 from the plane to say that he had just landed. I waited for him and for the call from the hospital to let me know my blood results. He arrived in time. We heard nothing from the hospital for ages and I imagined it must be because they were back and the nurses were trying to contact my oncologist for advice. Nothing so complicated – they had simply been so busy and had not called the results up from the lab. They had just increased just enough for chemo to go ahead – the neutrophils were 1.51 (0.01 above where they needed to be) and the white cell count 2.8. I was so pleased to be finally ending this horrible treatment that I bounded into to the hospital. It was lovely to have Rupert be there for my last cycle – I felt things had conspired this way just so he could be there. He held my hand and talked to me all the way through to distract me.

Lynette came by and we discussed next steps. It looks as if I can get my port removed in 4 weeks which I am so pleased about. It is a constant reminder, it is uncomfortable, visible (it sticks out of my chest), it aches if I carry bags on my shoulder on that side and I cannot lie in certain positions in bed. My radiotherapy is being booked for the week 15th November – I will have to go in before then to have a CT scan so they can work out where to position the radiotherapy. At some point, probably then, I get given two not very tasteful permanent blue tattoo dots to help them position the equipment in exactly the same place each time. One of them is right in between the breasts, visible if wearing even a pretty modest low cut t-shirt.

On Tuesday I had bought a box of cream cakes for the oncology team, a thank you card and small presents for my 2 main oncology nurses. I had to leave the cream cakes even though I left with no treatment. But this time I could leave the card and small presents and say a welcome goodbye – and a genuine hope never to have to see them in that setting again. There was a woman next door to me who was there for her first treatment. She looked so miserable and was very sick during it. I could not bear to go back to the beginning again. My brave Aunt has gone through an additional two treatments to me.

I am in bed two days on. I should feel over the moon but feel rather wobbly – it is never a good time to think too deeply when you are not feeling well so I am distracting myself with audiobooks, writing my blog, my blackberry, phone and of course the children. Rupert is here to look after me and the children (jet lagged and with a sore back – so not top of the world).

With the change in weather two of them (Will and Tom) have coughs and colds so we talk to each other through the door. I just need to get through the next 2- 3 weeks and not catch anything and I will have come out the other end having had, what I think, has not been a bad run for such a horrible treatment. Apart from a few lows we have all done pretty well. Rupert is the real the unsung hero. He has had to keep things together, take on all the extra work at home when I have been under the weather, bear the emotional strain, keep his perpetually stressful job going having broken his foot. Since removing the boot that was used to help mend the foot he has clearly damaged his back and he is in constant pain. But we are a household full of love – so it has all been very bearable.

How long before my hair grows back? I have read I cannot dye it for 6 months, so I will not only have uncharacteristically short hair but it will also be dark (gasp).

That’s it for now. X