couple of minor setbacks

Ten days following my first chemotherapy treatment, I had suffered no side effects. Nothing. Obviously, I was pleased about this although perversely I then wondered if the chemo was actually working or I was secretly being used as a control in a clinical trial. Still, I had been told that the treatments were cumulative and side effects were more probable with each cycle.

So, Sunday 23rd October dawned and after lunch I settled down to enjoy one of the biggest football matches of the season – United versus high spending and high flying Manchester City. Mario Bolotelli opened the scoring and unveiled a T-shirt adormed with ‘Why always me ?’ I simply love quizzes so I tweeted him immediately ‘Is it because you are a complete arse ?’

Jonny Evan’s dismissal early in the second half and a second Balotelli goal failed to lighten my mood. The wife then interrupted a stony silence with ‘What’s that rash on your arm ?’ ‘Dunno – probably just a bit hot’.

My wife then attacked me with an indelible, black CD marker pen and proceeded to draw a circle around a red blotch on my upper left arm, explaining ‘I’m a bit worried about this’. When my view of the TV screen was clear, I sighed as Aguero made the score 3-0 to City.

Minutes later, the wife passed me the phone – ‘Here’s it’s your sister’. For God’s sake, why is my sister calling me, from Brisbane (near Australia) in the middle of the footy. ‘Hi Rachel  – hang on. Isn’t it 3:30 in the morning out there ?’

‘I’m sorry but this is Sister Monaghan from the Marsden hospital. You wife tells me you have developed a serious rash on your arm after chemotherapy.’

‘Oh yes – sorry.’ ‘Is is itchy ?’ ‘No’ ‘Is it getting bigger ?’ ‘Don’t know’ ‘Can you draw around it with a biro ?’ ‘Yes – we’ve done that’. ‘Are you feeling hot or unwell ?’ ‘No’. ‘OK – keep an eye on it and come in tomorrow if it gets any worse’. OK will do. Thanks’.

Inevitably, the rash got bigger and a little more red and raised so I duly went in to see the doctor. I assumed it was an allergic reaction or one of the 17 minor side effects from chemotherapy. The doctor examined the rash and said ‘You’d better get an ultrasound scan as this might be a blood clot’.

30 minutes later, an Indian lady was rubbing clear jelly onto my left arm and probing with her scanning device. She was quiet and obviously concentrating very hard. I turned my head to see the monitor and gauge when it might be appropriate to crack the old ‘Is it a boy or a girl ?’ joke.

I saw some grainy images, some things highlighted in purple and some things pulsing. Then I saw a round, grey circle of matter that looked like a tennis ball. I lay in silence as the consultant completed her diagnostics. She wiped the jelly off my arm and said ‘I think I would like the Senior Radiologist to look at this’.

Another doctor came, applied more jelly and scanned my left arm until he also found the tennis ball structure. He didn’t seem too perturbed and summarised his findings thus: ‘Yes – Mr. Brightside, you have a couple of blockages there – one under your armpit and another on your upper arm. You’ve heard of little old ladies with DVT’s in their legs after long flights. Well you’ve got two but in your arm. Go back to Doctor S. who will prescribe you some blood thinners which will sort that out for you’.

Doctor S. was not unduly concerned – ‘Yes – this is not uncommon. Cancer itself thickens the blood as does chemotherapy which increases the risk of clotting’.

I came home with a large bag of anti-coagulant injections to be administered (x2) each evening by my lovely wife. I think she was pleased that she had diagnosed a potentially serious problem, could finally get to jab me with a needle and feel useful