Friday, 21 March 2008

Herceptin at Home

Yesterday, my treatment came to me. I have always been wary of having it at home, thinking this must be the thin end of the wedge, the slippery slide to the hereafter that no one with cancer wants to get onto; but it didn't feel like that at all. In fact, my only regret now is not taking up Duncan's (my consultant's) offer to 'have it at home' in the first place.

The nurse, Sarah, was uniformly charming. The equipment came in a discreet black suitcase on wheels - thanks to the weight of the oxygen cylinder inside and the foldaway chrome drip stand. We set up straight away, me soaking my hands in my kitchen sink while Sarah moved the chair around. She found a vein within seconds and was in it even faster. I have never before had a 'flashback' (haemorrage) into the valve as fast and furious as that. Then we sat and chatted while the drug dripped in under its own pressure. The electronic pumps they use at the hospital are apparently only for monitoring. 'So they can go off and see to other people,' Sarah said. 'But you have me - my undivided attention, for the next two hours.'

It passed really quickly. I was warm, holding my hot water bottle, and completely stress-free in my own armchair with my feet up on the plastic cube. Sarah went out to look at my garden and said she was booking some time out there in the summer months, which made me visualise having my treatment under the trees, with the parasol protecting me from dripping sap.

Sara works for a private company that provides outreach nursing services to both the NHS and private sector - and I felt like a private patient in her care. The Herceptin bag came by overnight courier from Burton on Trent, and I was presented with my own smart blue file, containing the usual protocols, an emergency on-call contacts list, and a copy of Duncan's prescription. Sarah had a hand held gadget that printed out the treatment notes onto a label she stuck into the file. Cannulation attempts: 1, etc, etc. Tolerating it well.

If this is all I have to tolerate from now on, I can live with that.

I am living with that!

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