Last week, shortly after chemo, I went for a walk at Bethells Beach in order to clear my head from cabin fever, and to just get some fresh air.
arrgghhh… what a round this one has been!
The three days leading up to the round involved me taking sick days, getting fevers and generally feeling very viral. All the classical symptoms of a cold, except perhaps twice the intensity. I found out shortly after coming down sick that 5 patients on the ward next to mine had come down with influenza A, so that was a possible source for my suffering.
The decision to go ahead with chemo on Friday was a bit hit and miss at the time, and I seemed to be getting a little bit better, so we decided to go for it. In retrospect, that was probably not the best decision. Whilst the round of chemo was no worse than usual, actually possibly a little bit better, by the time Tuesday came round, my cold and flu symptoms hit me like brick wall.
Unrelenting paroxysms of coughing, headaches, a throat that simulated balls of sandpaper every time I swallowed. The result ended up with myself heading into the oncology acute department today to get reviewed and make sure I wasn’t neutropenic or that anything else was going on. Fortunately I wasn’t neutropenic, and our conclusion was that it is a particularly nasty virus compounded by the chemo.
So today, ten days after initially getting sick, I continue to cough up my lungs and generally feel miserable. I have also lost my voice which doesn’t help. Hopefully I will be back at work on Monday, and then ready for the next round of chemotherapy.
Until next round…
Three days after I got back from Peru, I had a CT scan. It was actually booked whilst I was away, despite repeated requests and information about my absence for the month of August, so the original appointment was rescheduled to the Thursday after getting back in NZ.
Essentially, this CT showed exactly what we suspected it would. The cancer is still growing, but at a slow rate. The lymph node that began growing on the last CT scan (para-aortic) now measures 41 x 37mm in size, previously measured at 40 x 31mm. One of the other three nodes has increased by 1mm across its shortest axis, whilst the remaining 2 nodes are the same size.
This progress in growth still satisfies the criteria for stable disease. The cancer is growing, but its growing slow enough to be considered still responding to the chemotherapy. This basically means, that for the next 3 months or so, until the next CT scan, chemo will continue as per the existing fortnightly regime.
Interestingly I was booked into another oncologist’s clinic last week, and this one (who I had not met before) was astounded at how many rounds of chemo I had done. Nice to see I’m breaking ground on that front, I think I’ll buy the nurses all cake on round 40 :-).
Until next time…
Our final leg of the journey found us visiting the Amazon. The Amazon actually accounts for about 50% of Peru’s land area, but only about 5-10% of its population because it is so inaccessible. We went to a place called Puerto Maldonado (by plane) and spend three nights in a VERY different climate and environment compared with the alpine Andes. Monkeys, oversized insects, and crazy sounding birds met us for 24hrs of the day.
This was easily the most spectacular part of our journey. We spent some time in Cusco, then went trekking in the Andes for 3 days before getting to Machu Pichu. The scenery was on a super sized scale, with amazing vistas after every pass. We got as high as 4500m on the trek starting at around 3200m. Then Machu Pichu was a sensational finish. If it wasn’t for the 2,500 people a day that are allowed up to visit, it really would have felt like something out of an Indiana Jones movie.
Sitting at 3800 meters in altitude, Lake Titicaca is the highest navigable lake in the world. We spend a night out in the home of a family in one of the communities around the lake, and visited Uros, the famous floating islands. We found the floating islands to be interesting, but not authentic. The local people who have lived there for hundred of years no longer make their living off their environment, but off tourism, so the experience was a somewhat manufactured one for the tourist dollar. Having said that, it is still fascinating to see how people live in such different parts of the world.
From Lima we went to Arequipa, the second largest city in Peru, and then on to trek in the colca canyon, which is the deepest canyon in the world. This severely tested my lack of fitness, so after 2 days trekking, the 3rd day involved me hiring a mule to get back out of the canyon. The photos are unfortunately not in chronological order.