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Cycle 5 day 3 update

This week has been dominated by pain and its management, but it’s not all bad news.

On Monday and Tuesday this week my parents in law came to visit. It’s a bit difficult to put them up here at the moment, as Gillian and I are sleeping in separate rooms so that my disturbed nights don’t disturb her any more than absolutely necessary. They stayed in a nearby hotel, and on Monday we ate there, so on Tuesday I cooked for them here. My back was troubling me a little, and I hadn’t been sleeping well, so I was a little restless, and flagged quite quickly. They were very good about not staying late, which I much appreciated.

On Wednesday morning I woke up in considerable pain, which grew worse as the morning went on. Gillian drove to hospital, at my request, and I could hardly sit still during the meeting with the consultant. He suggested I took ibuprofen, which worked surprisingly well. He also said that he would arrange for a single session of radiotherapy to treat the pain, which will now take place next Tuesday.

On mature reflection the thing that reduced my pain the most on Wednesday was not the ibuprofen, but sitting slouched in one of the treatment armchairs, rather than on the standard straight backed waiting room chairs. I took inspiration from that experience and moved to the sofa from my usual chair, and spent all day Thursday there, and was much more comfortable at the end of the day. The pain returned overnight, however, as I was still sleeping in my normal position, with just a single pillow.

I had been looking forward to the start of the (delayed) cycle 5, as I knew I would get a night in a hospital bed which has a mechanism to raise the head, almost to vertical if you like. That worked really well, and I was so free of pain that I drove home from Cheltenham after the chemotherapy was over. I think another thing that helped was a transfusion of two units of blood, about which I’ll write more later.

Last night I made a wedge of five pillows, which was nearly as good as the raised head of the hospital bed, but still not quite right, as some of the lower pillows dug gently into my back. Gillian spoke about this with her mother, who kindly sent some pictures of how nurses used to make a wedge of four or five pillows back in the days before electrical hospital beds. She had learned this trick from her own mother, who had been a nurse in her day. I’ve now made up this new wedge, and briefly tested it, and it seems to be much better than my own poor invention. If things go well, I’ll describe it in more detail in a later post too.

The current theory about the pain is that the tumour is pressing on a nerve, which I perceive as pain in the muscles in my back and as a band of tightness around my chest. I understand that these are classic symptoms of a tumour pressing on a nerve, so I’m confident that the radiotherapy will help a lot. It also helped me understand how to manage my posture to prevent my body from putting more pressure on the tumour than absolutely necessary. On Wednesday morning I was almost in despair about the pain, and the thought of having to wait almost a week until the radiotherapy could make it go away. Learning how to manage the pain was a huge boost to my mood, and yet another lesson that I don’t always have to put up with a bad situation and wait for others to make it go away.

{ 4 } Comments

  1. Margaret Bennet | 26 April 2010 at 1:40 am | Permalink

    Pillows can shift – have you thought of trying an adjustable backrest? I’m sure I’ve seen them in Boots or Argos.

  2. icyjumbo | 26 April 2010 at 6:07 pm | Permalink

    Pillows do shift, although the method from my mother-in-law is fairly immune to shifting. It wasn’t as comfortable as I hoped. I don’t really want to invest in a wedge shaped pillow until after I see how effective or otherwise the radiotherapy will be. But I’ll bear the suggestions in mind.

  3. Catharine | 26 April 2010 at 5:13 am | Permalink

    Hi Chris,

    My mom had one of these wedge pillows:

    which are made of memory foam and look pretty comfortable. You can also turn it on its narrow end and have a tall wedge leaning across, e.g. the back wall or headboard.

    Good luck with the continued pain management!

  4. Sarah | 26 April 2010 at 9:27 am | Permalink

    My Mum has had one of these V shaped pillows for years and uses it conjunction with ordinary ones to achieve the most comfortable position.

    John Lewis V Shaped Quilted Pillow
    Other places do them too

    Hope you find something to help relieve the pain