Thursday, December 3, 2015

Cycle 5 - getting the hang of chemotherapy

Chapter 13 - Starting to get the hang of chemotherapy [Friday 4 December]
At the start of each cycle, my infusions of "E" and "C" are accompanied by loads of steroids, which produce various side-effects including Hmmm, maybe this isn't a nice topic to open a blog post with... Let's skip over the details and just say that after five rounds of experimentation, I've figured out how to take preemptive Senna and Movicol to manage this one.

In cycle 5, my chemotherapy doses have been reduced for the second time. Apparently this is normal: they start off with doses that they think are likely to be too big for the patient, then watch for side-effects and reduce the doses by roughly 20% at a time. My dose of capecitabine (the toxin I take daily in pill form) was 1300 mg twice daily in cycle 1 and is now 800 mg twice daily.

Whereas in cycle 4 I felt washed out for almost the whole cycle, in cycle 5, I perked up from last Saturday (day 10) to today (day 16), which is great. Ramesh and I spent a day at Torrin's primary school (day 9) helping out with "Maths day". You can see Torrin enjoyed having his parents in school! I went down to London last Wednesday (day 7) for a meeting at Google Deep Mind about using machine learning to enhance climate science and to see Book of Mormon; and then again this Wednesday to give a talk about Why Making Good Energy Policy is Difficult in the House of Lords.

Here is a graph of my haemoglobin and white blood cell measurements. The green and blue lines delimit the "normal range" for each indicator. The brown line at the bottom indicates infusion days that begin each 3-week cycle. The yellow line shows whether I was taking capecitabine.

The interesting features are: (1) the low haemoglobin [June] that kicked off the investigations that led to my cancer being diagnosed; (2) bouts of neutropenia (low white blood counts) at the end of most of the chemo cycles; (3) monocytes are baby neutrophils, so high monocyte counts are a good sign of (temporary) recovery.

What else is going on?

The Huntingdon Road safety campaign #EddingtonSafety has not produced any positive results yet, but we haven't given up hope.

The children have been ill a lot recently; Eriska has followed up a lengthy snotty cold by contracting hand, foot and mouth disease. The doctors tell me to avoid contact if possible, which is sad, because it's nice to cuddle her.

Last night we had an evening out at a new Thai restaurant, Thaikhun, in Cambridge. Yum. Tonight we are planning a night out - thanks very much to Nanny for the babysitting! - to see Bridge of Spies at the cinema.