What’s going on?

I am so fed up today.

Don’t really know why but just cross with everyone and wish I could get spirited away somewhere on my own just for a few days.

I suppose if I try and work it out, it could just be to do with lockdown and being fed up of how it is affecting us all. And my foot is still so painful…probably because I’m doing so much around the house and garden in an attempt to not go mad!

We still don’t know how long this is for. I appreciate no-one does at the moment. But with talk of the ‘extremely vulnerable’ having to stay isolated till the end of August, at the moment there is no real end in sight.

I think I’m quite stressed despite trying not to be. I’m worried about my treatment and when that will happen. Will it be too early? Too late? Will it impact my ongoing heath? I’m worried about what to do with the kids when it’s time for them to go back to school. The decision not to send Rebecca back in June wasn’t too bad but god knows what we should do in September. I’m worried about the kids in general and them not really being able to join in with friends over the summer. And those are just the things that I can share on here.

And then I feel guilty as people are going through much worse things and I’m just whining….again

Maybe I’m just tired. I’m not sleeping brilliantly because of my foot and my wrist. But in reality I think I need to get out. I think I need variety in life and the one thing I haven’t had in the past three months of lockdown is variety!! (I know….nor has anyone else!). But I think that’s what’s getting me down.

Daratumumab: results, side effects and the impact of Covid

I’ve been thinking quite a lot about my treatment in the last few days for a few different reasons so I thought I’d get it all down in a blog post.

I was back at hospital last Monday for my latest dara infusion. Slightly less worrying than the previous visits as the hospital seemed totally on top of everything covid related….and I suppose after my visits to two other hospitals for my broken foot, I’ve had to relax a little about it all (please see previous post if this means nothing….for some reason, I don’t think it posted properly). Anyway, I got my results on bank holiday Friday, and they were at 7.2. So up a tiny bit but pretty much stable for now. A lovely start to the weekend and another excuse for a glass of wine (hmmm, who actually needs an excuse in lockdown??)

Stability has to be a good thing while the world is such a precarious place, but with cancer treatment opening up now that the initial crisis has calmed a little, it is probably sensible that I keep on top of what my options are and the questions I should be asking of my consultant next time I am in touch with him. It seems unlikely now that my numbers are going to go down dramatically now so I need to find out:

  1. Are my numbers low enough that they would consider harvesting my stem cells without further treatment, and if so, would they be prepared to do that now? As far as I remember, and because the QE don’t give me chemo for this process (unlike when I had the process at the Marsden), the process wouldn’t lower my immune system and so doing it while covid is around, might not be an issue. It is a day treatment too.
  2. If my numbers aren’t low enough, what will be the next treatment that I am put onto and would that change depending on how covid-19 is impacting on life? I don’t think they would now put me on the DT-Pace that I was so worried about originally because it impacts the immune system too much and there are other options that are being allowed due to coronovirus. So, if they think I need to have additional treatment, I think I would rather have it now while Nick is at home and the kids are off school, than have it later down the line when they might decide DT-Pace is the answer after all! I’m also potentially having more side effects from the dara than before which I’ll mention later.
  3. Are Stem Cell Transplants on the agenda to come back? For a while, transplants have been seen as less favourable as ongoing treatment regimes due to the fact they are hugely intensive, make patients very ill for around 2 months, and can’t be guaranteed to work for everyone. Last time I had mine though I was lucky enough to get 8 years remission (for many, two is considered good!), and effectively be treatment free – whilst I had maintenance therapy, after the first year, it didn’t impact my life at all! So I’m interested to be clear that they will be used again. I’ll be absolutely gutted if this takes them off the table as I don’t want to be on chemo indefinitely.

The other main reason I’ve been thinking about my treatment is because I’ve had a lot of wrist pain for the last 6-8 weeks. At first I just thought that I’d been doing too much and that it would ease off. Unfortunately, that hasn’t happened and not only has it got worse, but my other wrist has also started to show symptoms too. It could be something like tendonitis or carpel tunnel syndrome, but when I looked up the side effects of dara, joint pain is one of them. And when I asked the myeloma forum that I’m on, a number of people who are at the same stage as me for the treatment, are having a similar issue. It’s pretty painful when it does hurt, so if I am going to be asked to change treatment, I’m wondering if now wouldn’t be a good time with the hope that this side effect might diminish. Along with my eye cysts. Bowel Issues. Bone weakness. And all the other things that can really get you down on a bad day!!!

As I said to Nick this morning, I try really hard to be positive most of the time and see things as being good at the moment where my treatment is concerned. But it can be really hard when I look in the mirror and see a fat, broken lady with cysts on my eyes and a feeling that there is little I can do about any of it. I think my eyes really depress me as they were the only thing I actually used to like about my appearance anyway. Anyway, I’m not too miserable at the moment but really need to sort out these side effects!

I can’t see them making any final decisions on anything until they have my next lot of results, but we’ve asked for the opportunity to talk through the questions above and see where we stand. In the meantime, I’ll keep busy doing work on the house and homeschooling (if that’s what you can call it!) the kids.

Thankfully Nick working at home means he can help with the numerous things I now have to bow out of with a broken foot and painful hands – he’s a gem as always. We actually celebrated our 18th Wedding Anniversary the other day which was lovely. We cooked together, sent the kids to the other room and had some quality time just the two of us which was fab. Oooh….and there might have been a bit of champagne and fine wine involved too – thought I’d share a couple of pics!

Broken Again

Last time I wrote I was 7 days into an isolation period. One that we’d chosen to take to try to keep Nick and the children safe from the risk of corona virus, after I’d been to hospital for treatment. I was feeling pretty low at the time, but thankfully managed to pull myself out of that and get myself together for when I came out of isolation on day 12 – last Saturday. How nice was that….lots of hugs and family time!

A consequence of the steroids I take, being in isolation, and being under ‘lockdown’….and a total lack of willpower when it comes to being stuck inside with cupboards containing anything edible, have meant that I have put on a HUGE amount of weight since July when I started my chemo. So last week, I had decided to start running with my son…to help him with his #15B415 challenge of running 15km in 2 days, and also to help with a challenge I’ve set up to get friends and family to walk/run 50,000km by the end of the year.

And it was great. He was so motivating when we ran and was really trying to help me improve as he knew how important it was to me. But unfortunately, on Monday while I was running, there was a sudden crack and my foot went. Those of you who have known me for a while, know this isn’t a sound that is unknown to me as I think I’ve broken my foot five times now in the past seven years! This was the second time I’ve broken my fifth metatarsal though and it seems to hurt far more than every other time.

It’s been a strange decision as to what to do though. With Covid-19 on the scene, and the fact we’ve been isolating so carefully for the past 7 weeks now, it wasn’t an automatic decision to go to hospital. In fact, if I’d had to go to A&E I wouldn’t have risked it. In the end Nick took me to the minor injuries fully masked and gloved, and with hand gel.

We also made the decision that we would NOT isolate this time round. It would have involved 3 weeks and, with Nick having to take me to hospital three times in one week, felt like it wouldn’t have made sense. I’ve also been finding things emotionally hard in the past few days (not helped by watching series 2 of After Life – brilliantly funny but also terribly sad and too close to home for me on many levels). The idea of spending 3 weeks pretty much on my own, filled me with dread, so I was really pleased when Nick (and the kids) agreed that they didn’t want me to go into isolation again. So keep your fingers crossed that I don’t pick anything up!

So for the time being, I am sat here with my foot up and making the most of children being around to make cups of tea (inbetween home schooling of course!). However, I’d like to stress I’m also trying to keep doing things as much as I can – even made a fruit crumble cake today! Hopefully six weeks will fly by and my foot will heal quickly!!

Broken again

Day 8 but losing the will

I’ve now been in isolation from the family for nearly 8 days. Until tonight it hasn’t felt too bad, but then I started to see posts on a myeloma forum talking about the lockdown for myeloma patients.

The first that got me disillusioned (and slightly angry if I’m honest), was a post that suggested that as people in the highly vulnerable category were as bad as those going into parks during lockdown, if they went for a walk. For starters, I have never had my letter detailing what I should and shouldn’t do, but even if I had, going for a 30 minute walk, in a rural area where I don’t come within 2 metres of someone, is not the same as walking down a main road or stairway where I might have to get close to someone, or may have to touch something that is contaminated. The thought of people judging me, whilst I’m in the middle of giving up most of my life at the moment, just makes me so angry. I genuinely believe that whilst we should all be following the rules to protect the NHS, that I am sensible enough to only do what is safe.

The second post got me even more disillusioned and sad. Someone was asking whether they had been right in hearing that as the highly vulnerable category, we might have to stay in isolation until next year. Yes that’s right. 2021.

I. just. can’t. do. it.

I really strongly feel that the reason that I have gone through treatment and everything else over the years, was so that I could live a normal life for as long as possible. It is why I risked a transplant once, and why I am going to risk it a second time. Because it gives me drug free time that I can be myself as much as possible. What is the point of me putting myself through all of that, if at the end of it all, I have to stay in my house and am not allowed out. Don’t get me wrong, I love our home and I love our garden, but at no point did I ever think that would be my life.

Even more than that, with two youngish children, we can’t limit contact within the house indefinitely. So, what does that mean? That I have to send the kids to school, and Nick to work, and just not go within 2 metres of any of them for the next eight plus months? Being away from them all this last 8 days has been super hard and I’ve missed their affection and love. I can’t, for one minute, imagine not being able to be near them for months at a time once they go back to work and school. And they can’t stay at home for an unlimited period – it would send them insane and impact their growth, academically, socially and possibly physically. But I think my mental health will go to rock bottom if I can’t be with them.

Up until now, I’d been so good at not worrying until we knew the facts but for some reason, tonight it has really got to me. I am so worried that after everything that we have been through, this damned coronavirus is going to bloody ruin everything. I find it hard enough being limited by my myeloma, but the idea that in conjunction with covid-19, I might end up housebound, or worse still, dead, just doesn’t bear thought….hmmm, the irony given that I can’t stop thinking about it.

Hopefully tomorrow will be a new day, but I know that there is likely to be news in the next few days about an extended lockdown. And realistically, I know that us vulnerable ones, are likely to be in lockdown for an extra 4+ weeks. I can cope with that. I could probably even do a bit more than that if I had to, I’m just not sure about months more. And I probably sound like a petulant little pipsqueak (as my dad used to call me!) moaning, but unless you have walked in shoes like mine, you’ll never understand.

And talking of my dad, that’s another thing. When will I ever get to see him again? Will I ever get to see him again? The home he is in won’t even reply to my emails asking to try to facetime him, and whilst I know they will be run off their feet, I worry that he will be feeling lonely and wondering where we all are. And I miss him, dementia and all. I miss his lovely smiley face when you can see him suddenly work out that we’re someone he loves. And I miss my friends too 😦

So yes. Tonight I am feeling really sad and fed up. And really worried about what the future holds. More than any treatment I was facing into…at least that had an end point.

F*cking covid. I really hate it at the moment.

Myeloma and Covid-19 – this strange world

So a few weeks ago I wrote a post in a time that felt so surreal. Nothing has changed, if anything it all gets weirder. Covid-19 is changing the world by the day and I honestly don’t think much will go back to the old ‘normal’.

For us as a family, once the rest of the UK went into lockdown, things have stayed largely the same as they are for others. Until today.

I have to say, that whilst I found the first two weeks really, really hard, the last two have become easier. I think I was so scared about how myeloma and coronavirus would mix, whereas now I have learnt to let that go….most of the time. Perhaps it got easier when it wasn’t just us doing the isolation piece – is that really selfish?

We are lucky that we have a spacious house and garden that has meant that our 3.5 weeks of isolation hasn’t felt cooped up. The children have home schooled well and we’re trying to help them to mix it up with dog walks, cycle rides, card games, and other things…anything to keep their mental health stronger…and ours! The same goes for us. We’re trying to make the most of our time with the kids, with each other and in the house. Lots of gardening (it has never looked so good!), decorating (lockdown hit before we could get the decorator in!), walking and cycling. Two meals a day all together, family boxsets and more facetiming than ever before. Oh, and courtesy of Nick, Sam is now sporting this wonderful haircut….he’ll never be allowed it again….and to be fair, he only did it to try and add to his fundraising total for Myeloma UK (pls sponsor if you haven’t – even a pound would be great!)

This week things are changing again though. I am currently writing this whilst I’m sat in hospital waiting for my monthly dartumumab infusion.

Mask, gloves and glasses all in place to try and reduce the risk of picking anything up while I’m in. I can’t believe when you’ve isolated for nearly a month, how scary it has felt having to come somewhere public again. Especially when I knew that staff on the team have had the virus! I’m just pleased I’m here this week and not last week, when apparently, staff weren’t wearing masks or anything. I’d even brought in masks for them, (thanks to my sister kindly donating them!), but thank god they weren’t needed. I didn’t want to look fussy asking them to wear them, even though I knew it was a fair request. Despite my fear of being out and about, there is an element of relief at seeing people. Of a gladness for human interaction, face to face. Even the car journey to the hospital felt like a blessing of some kind. It’s another reason to hope that we will all find something to be grateful for at the end of this viral pandemic.

So the downside of my hospital visit…We’ve decided that I will self-isolate at at the end of this. I don’t think I could forgive myself if I took anything home and the kids got ill. Not when I have a choice unlike so many of the amazing people out there who are still working to keep the country running. So, I will be going straight to my room when I get back – do not touch anything, do not pass go. I had big hugs with Nick and the kids as I left for hospital, and they will be the last ones for 12 days. I’m not quite sure how hard this will be. I think I’ll get lonely but imagine there’ll be lots of facetime and zoom catch ups with friends and family. I’ve got a couple of jigsaws, lots of books lined up, and we’ve moved the TV to our bedroom! I actually think it might be harder for Nick who is now not only working fulltime, but having to manage the kids over the Easter holidays, cook, clean and keep on top of everything! I’m very lucky to have such a capable and lovely husband (and yes he reads this blog 😉 )

But this period of time is affecting so many people. I have family (and friends) who are about to have a baby, others who have businesses that are up in the air at such a tough time, and others who have been separated from their families. And others who choose to put themselves out there to try to resolve this strange and terrifying virus – nurses, teachers, civil service staff plus many more. The whole world is worried – we are no exception. This blog feels slightly self-indulgent as I get further through writing it. But perhaps one day I will look back and it will be a record that will help.

To everyone, please stay safe….and stay at home. With much love.

xxxx

Bleurgh – bored and fed up now!

So I’ve now been on treatment for 6 months and I am ridiculously fed up with feeling exhausted and good for nothing for 3/4 of the week. What is worse, is that my figures for the last 2 months haven’t improved, if anything, they’ve gone up ever so slightly. We’re still hoping that’s a blip but it does make you wonder why you put yourself through the grimness of chemo if it doesn’t do what it’s meant to do.

I shouldn’t moan. (But I will).

Other people have it far worse than me. Their side effects are worse (or they say they are!), they suffer with bone issues on top of all of the chemo treatment, they have other significant side effects or additional complications that make it worse.

But I just hate not being able to do the things I normally take for granted. Some days, I haven’t even had the energy to walk Marley. Others, I can’t make dinner for the kids and they have to do it themselves while I’m asleep on the sofa. The ironing piles up to the point the MIL offers to do it. I can’t really work now as I can’t focus on it and I don’t know when my bad days will happen sometimes, and working, even in my job, can take it out of me. Sport, and especially netball has had to be paused. I can’t go out more than one day at the weekend and even that, exhausts me the next day. And then when I do feel well, I do silly things like wallpaper stripping that totally wipe me out afterwards! That’ll teach us for continuing the house renovations right up to transplant date!

Basically, my whole life has pretty much gone on hold, and its a total drag if I’m honest. I’ve gone from feeling (even if I wasn’t ‘myelomawise’), 100% fine to feeling like I’m about 50% most of the time. It’s a strange concept taking drugs that make you much worse before they make you better. I know when I get to the transplant I’ll feel like 0% for a while, but it feels like the journey moves homeward at that stage. At this moment in time it still feels like I’m touring with no idea of what direction I’m going. Maybe I’ll feel better once I have a transplant date in the diary.

Anyway, I’m ok so this really isn’t a call for sympathy. Last week I was REALLY fed up, this week only semi fed up (at the moment). Today I feel ok – I normally do on a Monday until late evening…that’ll be the devil steroids (although they seem more under control now and the sleeping tablets help counteract that side of them too). Wednesday and Thursday are my worst days normally. And I just have to make the most of the weeks where I don’t feel bad on a Tuesday or Friday….I never quite know. Perhaps I need to avoid that wallpaper stripping in the house….but I get so bored if I don’t do anything!

Enough of the wingeing though. On a positive, my friends in Belbroughton arranged a brilliant ‘no frills’ disco for my #50KB450 at the weekend. It worked brilliantly, hopefully wasn’t tooooooo much work for them all, and raised £500 for Myeloma UK and my target. And it was loads of fun!!

It will take us over the 10% mark which is great! If you want to see an update on what has been going on just pop to my #50KB450 tab at the top of this page. The next event is that Deb and Brigitte are doing a 3 hour body combat event in Stourbridge on the 29th Feb.

Finally a big 🎉🎂Happy 18th Birthday🎂🎉 to Holly for Wednesday! She has really generously asked friends to donate to her fundraising page for #15KB450 instead of presents – not many 18 year olds would be that selfless! She’s also doing the 2020 challenge and running that many miles in 2020….mental! If anyone else would like to support her, it would obviously be great!

Time for an update

I haven’t written properly for a while. Partially as I’ve been busy trying to be organised for Christmas (just in case I get ill!), but largely because there hasn’t been an awful lot to say. Which has to be good news in the world of chemo and myeloma.

So I’m sat here at the QE in Birmingham, trying to make the most of my time waiting to see my consultant. For anyone who doesn’t know, it’s my standard monthly check-up. We tend to talk about my numbers, I ask the questions that have been building up, and then I leave.

We’re getting closer to these meetings having a bit more substance to them though. Who knows….maybe even today’s will have more to say. But the idea last month was that we’d start talking about my transplant in January, with the idea that I’d be having it in March / April. I’m hoping that’s all the same, although there was a slight thought that perhaps my numbers are starting to plateau a little….i.e the drugs may not be doing quite as much now as they had been doing. That’s my main question for today….what would that actually mean if they’ve stopped working.

The idea on DVD (darathumabab, velcade and dexamethansone) was that I’d be on it until the transplant, and then after the transplant, would stay on the Darathumabab as a kind of maintenance therapy…..well I think that’s what he’d planned! But if it has stopped working, I assume that carrying on with the Dara won’t be an option and that I won’t be on any kind of maintenance. That’s slightly unnerving as I had maintenance therapy last time and felt it really helped towards my 8 years of remission. I desperately want that long again. But maybe that’s expecting too much. I must look into what the new figures are for remission after a second transplant. It used to be that they expected you to get half the time you got for your first, but I think that’s old news. I know people who’ve had far longer from their second transplants, but I would also imagine that if you have people like me who had maintenance first time round, that you could still get less time from the second if you don’t get to have maintenance.

UPDATE:

So I saw my consultant yesterday and the good news is that my numbers have decreased even further from 11.2 to 8.6 – a brilliant decrease and it means those drugs are working (and perhaps it’s worth feeling rubbish most of the week!).

The bad news is that my consultant got it wrong when he said that I could come off the velcade and dex in January. Apparently I need to stay on them until March, and after that is when I’ll need a couple of months without them before my transplant (basically, they’re pretty toxic drugs and they want them out of my system). So it now looks like my transplant is more likely to be May/ June rather than the March/April that we thought.

I can’t decide if I think this is good or bad news. It’s definitely bad that I’ve got longer on the velcade and dex…they both make me feel fuzzy, exhausted and even sick at times. I’d been hoping I only had weeks left of it. But, the longer I wait till transplant, in some ways the better. Every month we seem to see developments in the treatment of myeloma, and we just don’t know what a month here or there might offer me. Revlimid, the drug I had as maintenance therapy last time round, but on a trial, may be available from October next year. But you have to start it within 3-4 months of your transplant. So if I can postpone my transplant, just possibly, I might be eligible to give it another go! That said, I might be told I can’t have it anyway!

I suppose if I’m honest, I’m just a bit fed up of feeling so shattered. It feels harder at this time of year too when everyone is enjoying a social life and I’m asleep on the sofa by 6pm. I’m slightly dreading Christmas Day and New Year as they both fall on my worst days of the week. But I want to be excited about them and I want to organise all the things that we have done and make it special for the kids and nice for Nick. I wish the drugs could all go on hold over Christmas and that I could just feel normal again for a few days. Thank god my temper seems to have calmed a little! That’s the only positive thing. I’m at hospital on the 22nd for an MRI to check out my back, the 23rd for my infusion and chemo, the 30th again for more chemo and then on we go. It makes me feel tired just thinking about it all.

Anyway, I think I’m just tired today so hopefully I can gee myself up a bit tomorrow.

Merry Christmas 2019!

It’s that time of the year again, and given that we’ve made the decision to donate to Myeloma UK rather than send all our local/ online friends cards, it’s time for the Christmas newsletter to come out on my blog. This is my one post of the year where I don’t actually write it – instead, Nick has the privilege of sharing our past year with friends and family! So, over to Nick…….

To our family and all our friends (I say our friends, but of course mean Debs friends – I don’t bring much to that particular party)

Unbelievably this is CNL9 from the Famille de Gascoyne. I genuinely believed in 2010 when Deb first suggested a newsletter that it was one of her passing fancies – like going to church with the kids, buying an ice-cream maker or having regular quality time with yours truly (cheeky wink emoji), but I was wrong and you don’t hear me say that often, let alone commit it to text.

So here I am, nearly a decade later, trying yet again to make the trials, tribulations and joys of an average Midlands family vaguely interesting and usually failing – but because one or two of you told Deb you found my witterings slightly humorous, I now have to do this for the rest of my life.

Thanks and Happy Christmas.

Ok, now I have set the tone please settle down with a warm cup of bleach and enjoy the next few minutes!

2019 has been a year of house renovations, family growth, evil return of Myeloma, GCSEs starting, new jobs and dog whispering – and not necessarily in that order.

Let’s address the crap bit first. As many of you know, Deb has started treatment again for myeloma following relapse and she makes the pilgrimage each Monday to QE Birmingham where they infuse her with newly approved treatments to kill as much of the cancer as possible in preparation for another stem cell transplant some time next year (something to look forward to!!).

However, true to form, Deb is not defined by her illness but rather uses it in the most positive of ways to support the charities that in turn support us and many other Myeloma patients. We are so proud that she was officially recognised this year when she was nominated for, and won, ‘Helpline Volunteer of the Year’ at the Helpline Parnership awards, which recognised both her fundraising for Myeloma UK’s Peer support network (£125k and counting – spoiler alert as you are about to see another way we can take your cash) and her active participation as a Peer Support Volunteer.

In the 132 years I have been writing these newsletters, this is the first time I can quote someone (accurately) – in this case the Chief Exec of Helplines Partnership……

 “Deb is a superb fundraiser for Myeloma UK, enabling key services to continue, an ambassador, a committed volunteer for over a decade and great at her job because she has true empathy with her peers.”

She went on to say……“and of course this can only be achieved by the support of a wonderful, attractive and super-intelligent partner.” But that bit didn’t make the paper!

As stated earlier, Deb continues to actively fundraise and is currently focused on her 50KB450 and getting as many people involved as possible (www.justgiving.com/50kb450) and Sam has got into the act with his 15b415 (www.justgiving.com/15b415). Please take a look, keep up your support and maybe Deb can push for a CBE or become a Dame……

Whilst doing this, until recently when she has had to stop, Deb has helped to look after her father (who has sadly had to move to a home after a bad fall), netballed, social media’ed, dog trained, project managed, argued with builders and generally managed the entire household and all the work that goes into running a young(ish) family. I am, as always, inspired and proud in equal measure.

For balance and accuracy I should also mention that when she is on high dose steroid she is an evil witch – but only when she is awake. They didn’t mention that in the newspaper either – fake news strikes again!

All that work on the house has meant we have had more ‘staycations’ than holidays away, but in October we did travel to the far-away land of deep fried pizza and Irn Bru on a cultural exchange to sunny Scotland. Whisky, socially educating the children with the Rocky Horror Picture Show, visiting Myeloma UK, camera obscurer and hot tubs is a good summary of our adventure. We had a great time and are starting to think about next years oddessy once treatment is over.

Moving on to the fruit of my loins…..

Rebecca is 15 and in her first year of GCSEs (wow – where did that time go?). She has gone from strength to strength this year and is super busy with a plethora (always wanted to get that word into a newsletter – it means loads but sounds far more pretentious) of activities and interests.

She has progressed from guides to Rangers after a great 3 years & completing the Baden Powel award, volunteers weekly at her local Brownies, has fundraised for a trip to Romania in 2020 where she’ll work as part of a community program (or complain regularly about the food, or both), is doing the Duke of Edinburgh challenge, learning taekwondo, studying photography & cornering the Hagley babysitting market!

In early Autumn, she and I completed the Yorkshire 3 peaks as we cavorted for 12 hours over 3 gigantic mountains in Gods own country of Yorkshire. I say we cavorted. To be clear, Rebecca cavorted. I walked, stumbled, limped and then cried – but with Mrs G support we completed the task and thanks to everyone who supported and sponsored the event. Rebecca has had a great year and we are super proud of the person she is!

Sam in now 13 and well into his third year at secondary school. I have just re-read last years exciting instalment of the Gascoyne Christmas Newsletter, and to be honest I could just cut & paste my summary of the boy-child. School, football, mates and Xbox (not necessarily in that order). I mean this in a positive way because one year it might read very differently – but for now I can say we are proud parents of a bright, funny, kind boy. Football is still a big part of his life and at the end of last season he was awarded ‘Most Improved Player’ for his local team – as proud parents we applauded and after the presentation asked how he felt and he said ‘ I must be most improved cos I was shocking at the start of the season, Dad can I have some money for getting the trophy?’ A theme is starting to appear me thinks.

I asked Sam if he wanted me to say anything else about him and after a milli-second consideration he said ‘No. Can I have some money for a drink?’ – particularly strange as we’re at home!

For me 2019 has been a year of house renovation, family and starting a new job. I am now working with a team who have brought a new blood cancer treatment to the market in the form of CAR T – google it and be amazed as it is truly fascinating and of course I have a personal interest as they research potential use in myeloma. Watch this space. [Edit Deb: He has been a superb strength too to us all as a family – he does it quietly and without fuss so I need to add this as it is a huge job that he takes on without complaint after his long days in London. We couldn’t have managed the last few months on treatment without his love and support and whilst he would say it’s just his job/ life, not everyone would do it so well].

So that’s it. 2020 will bring its own challenges, highs and lows and I want to thank all of you in advance for your support and love – we do, and certainly will, benefit from it all.

Wishing you all a Happy & Healthy Christmas and 2019

With all our love

Nick, Deb, Rebecca, Sam & Marley xx

Life outside of Treatment

I’ve been a bit quiet on here the last week, largely for two reasons. We’ve been dealing with my dad after his fall last month, and also, there’s been little change or reason to write much about my treatment.

The last week has been a bit of an eye opener into the gap in care for the elderly. For those that don’t know, my dad has alzheimers (still not really sure at what level) as well as having had his fall and therefore, after a lot of thought and consideration, it was decided that he needed full time care of some sort. This is all despite the fact he’s done so well since he fell, breaking his thigh. His care in Oxford has been pretty amazing in the main. They (with our support I’d like to think!), have managed to get him to a place I didn’t think we’d reach when I saw him a month ago. I honestly thought I’d lost my dad.

But now, he is walking (albeit with sticks and a frame), can occasionally have coherent conversations, and is smiling with the twinkle in his eye that I remember as ‘my dad’.

However, it seems that there is a big gap for those people who are physically recovering, but perhaps require a bit more support to ensure that they aren’t a danger to themselves when they leave the hospital. We’ve had to start thinking about his move out of the hospital this week and were quite staggered to see that they might send him out with only one physio session a week, when he was on 7 sessions. For a man that was improving daily, it felt odd not to at least stagger the physio to try to reduce the chances of him having a serious fall once he was out.

Anyway, we’ve realised that sadly we can’t change that outcome, and luckily, as a family, we’re able to ensure that he can continue to have physio even if we have to arrange it. I just feel for those that can’t, or worse still, don’t realise that they should be. There’s definitely a big gap where those that are mentally sound, seem to slip slightly through the gap. It’s been an exhausting week, trying to work out where dad is best to go now, and how to deal with this gap in care, but hopefully we are nearly there and we can settle dad down.

I have to say that whilst it’s all been going on, I probably haven’t really been looking after myself very well, and as a consequence, I haven’t had a brilliant week with headaches and exhaustion. Treatment has all gone fine in general and my consultant is really pleased with my progress to date. We saw him on Thursday and he basically was all smiles. He did try and ready me for the fact that I may see a plateau at some point and I wonder if this was because my numbers went down less the last time than the first time. But I won’t think too much about that!

Paraprotein Results:

  • At start – 21.6
  • After 1 week: 16.6
  • After 2 weeks: 14.2

I’ve now had 4 sets of treatment, so there’s a chance that my numbers are even lower without us knowing, so that’s good. It looks like I’ve got another 6 weeks of having my infusions weekly, and then I will be able to drop them to every 3 weeks. That’ll be lovely as at the moment I only have one or two days a week where I’m not exhausted or feeling weird and wonderful…hopefully once it goes to tri-weekly, I’ll get the odd week of being able to enjoy life a bit more. At the moment I can’t even enjoy a glass of wine (which for those of you who know me, will know is a BIG deal!)

At the moment I’m not ill as such so I really shouldn’t complain. I have been having headaches for the past few days, but I think that’s been due to my dad too, so I’m hoping that these will reduce this week. I’m definitely getting the start of my neuropathy back too. This often comes from the velcade that I have as an injection and I’m getting the spongy feeling face, hands and toes – it’s hard to explain in words but so long as it doesn’t turn into the more painful form of neuropathy, I really won’t be moaning. And I’m exhausted.

The main reason is the Dex which I’ve talked about before. My consultant is happy to change it but actually, after the first week, I’ve managed it much much better. I don’t sleep on the first two nights, and the third night isn’t great, but all in all, I’ve now got my moods in check for a lot of it. The kids know I might be a bit more snappy or sad than usual, but in general, I’m trying very hard. I don’t want to change the dose unless it becomes manageable, just in case it impacts on how much the other drugs work!!

But the great news is my consultant is onside, at the moment, for us to consider going on holiday in the October half-term. It looks like it might even fall in-between one of my 3 week appointments which would be amazing. He won’t commit until our next monthly appointment at the end of September, but if things are good then, and I’m still handling the treatment well, we might be able to start looking for somewhere hot for October which would be amazing!

I’d also like to just say thank you at this point for all the lovely support and care we’ve had from family and friends over this first month. It’s hard to explain how starting on chemotherapy, and not knowing whether it will work or not, impacts you emotionally. It’s been a really hard time for Nick, me and the kids no matter how much of a grin I try to put on my face! But we’ve had so many lovely messages of support, cards, flowers and gifts, all of which help us to keep smiling along this long journey ahead of us. So thank you….you all know who you are! x

DVD – Day 15 of treatment – All starting Well!!

Well normally the first thing I do when I get into hospital is to write this blog and give an update. Today, I’ve been really tired so have only just got round to doing it….but the good news is that because of that, I’ve had a blood result in the meantime….my paraprotein levels have dropped from 21 to 16.6 (as of the 5th August). I can’t begin to tell you how relieved that makes me feel that the drugs are actually doing something!!

So, basically, the paraprotein is an indicator of what the myeloma is doing in my blood…the higher it is, the more likely it is that my myeloma is active and more prolific in my blood. So this result is a great start, especially since my bloods were taken just a week after the first dose of daratumumab…and before I’d had the second dose. God, if it keeps going down at this rate (don’t worry, I know that might not happen!), I could be down to zero by the end of September! Slightly scary, as I don’t know whether that might also mean an earlier transplant where I’d been hoping for spring next year! But I won’t complain if it means we’re kicking this bloody myeloma into touch.

Funnily, the kids asked about the transplant when I was out for a walk with them the other day. I don’t know what made me mention that it could be over the Christmas period. Maybe it was just meant to be. They were a bit sad, but we talked about how we’d make it work no matter what happened and I think they were good about it all.

They have been amazing so far. They’re giving me space when I need it but trying (as hard as 12 and 14 year olds can!) to support Nick and I. What’s been great is that the treatment hasn’t hit me as badly as I first thought it might. Even the dex rage didn’t seem to come last week which I am so relieved about. I’d even talked to my consultant via email about reducing it if it had carried on but now I won’t need to. Although interestingly, he pointed out that there is limited research on the impact of Dexamethasone, despite the awful side effects. They’re so busy researching the main drugs, they just hope that the dex supports them!

So, I’m sitting here having my drugs infused into me and feeling quite chuffed with myself if I’m honest. I’d said to Nick only this weekend, my concern about just suffering a bit of tiredness, was that perhaps the drugs weren’t doing much. I know it’s early and perhaps we need to know next weeks results, but this is a great step and I’ll take good news where I can get it.

I’m even very lightly throwing around the idea of trying netball tomorrow depending on how tired I am….I’m really missing it and my back doesn’t seem to be giving me any pain at the moment. It’ll only be practice and maybe I’ll only do 20 mins…but how cool would that be!!!