Edging towards Chemotherapy

After the ileostomy operation, I spent six days in hospital recuperating.

Just as I was on the verge of being discharged, my colorectal surgeon paid me a visit and announced that he was going to give me a couple of enemas to fully evacuate the bowel to isolate it further and reduce the risk of infection.

So one morning an nurse squirted some lukewarm liquid up inside my bottom. I asked ‘How long before this will take effect as I’m going for a shower ? Will it be minutes or hours ?’ ‘Oh – it could be quick or it could take a while. Just leave the shower for a bit’.

As she left the room and asked whether I wanted the door open or shut, I felt something moving and had to rapidly hoist myself off the bed and make haste to the toilet.

I sat there and opened my bowels for the first time in a week. It wasn’t clear to me whether this was simply the same liquid she’d just squirted but it seemed like gallons.

Simultaneously, I noted that the ‘stoma was working’ (discharging into the colostomy bag) and gratifyingly, I was also urinating. I grabbed a cotton wool bud and wiggled it around in my ear. I later submitted an entry to the Guinness Book of World Records for ‘The Most Concurrent Outputs From The Human Body’. Unfortunately, Mr. Norris McWhirter kindly replied to inform me that I had been pipped by a Mr. Henry Rollins from Arkansas who had matched my superb effort back in 2008 but, in addition, also managed to force a simultaneous nose bleed.

The day before I went home, I had another infection flare up in my backside and my friendly colorectal surgeon said he would quickly drain the abscess to relieve the pain. Unfortunately, that meant another general anesthetic and another night in hospital.

I finally got home and the following week saw my first consultation with my oncologist from the Royal Marsden Hospital. He recommended a PET scan to gather more information about the state of my tumour before the treatment plan was finally confirmed.

The PET scan involves the injection of radioactive material that attaches itself to cancer cells and was quite amusing. The male nurse entered the room with a metal box clearly marked with the classic radioactive symbol. My wife looked a little nervous and asked whether she should leave the room. The scan was pretty similar to the MRI scan and took about 45 minutes. The nurse told me I was ‘radioactive and I should avoid contact with children under 5 and pregnant women for 24 hours’.

The results of the PET scan confirmed what the oncologist already knew. There was ‘signs of spread to the adjacent lymph nodes’ which, to be frank, frightened the hell out of me as I viewed the lymph nodes as the ‘gateway to all the other organs in the body’ but the specialist reassured me (sort of) but telling me that these lymph nodes were ‘going to be removed anyway’ and ‘any spread to the distant lymph nodes would be sorted out by the chemotherapy’.

The treatment plan was changed slightly – originally I was going to have 6 weeks intensive radiotherapy followed by surgery but now we were going to embark on six cycles of chemotherapy (fortnightly) followed by the radiotherapy at the Royal Marsden Hospital in Sutton.