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  • Writer's pictureA. Murphy

Cats and hospitalisation

As soon as I'd gotten my line, it was time to move into my room. I was on the Teenage and Young Adult Unit which was composed of six rooms and a social space with a kitchenette. It was very, very, nice. The social space was separated into two parts and a kitchenette. There was a tv in both sections and each one had games consoles. Comfy chairs, a pool table, and an area for crafts and things. It was a great shame that I wasn't allowed in there much, as there was a risk of me catching an illness. Disappointing, but there was a PlayStation 4 underneath the television in my room. I'd also brought my Nintendo Switch with me so I wasn't starved for video games. I loved my room so not being allowed in the social space, or out of my room at all, wasn't much of a hardship. It didn't feel like a hospital room at all.

Television, PlayStation 4, fridge, microwave, on suite bathroom, desk, and sofa area (and a fake fireplace for some reason). Very nice indeed. It was like I'd moved into my own little flat except food was brought to me and I ate it in bed. I was quite the pampered little cancer patient. Sure the circumstances in which I was there weren't great, but one might as well make the best of it.

As it was my first time, I was learning the ropes. I had to get used to the way things were such as Obs (which I assume stands for observations) which included the nurses taking my heart rate, temperature, and blood pressure. If any of those were weird they knew something was wrong and I needed to see a doctor. This became quite interesting due to the fact that whilst I was there I had a very high heart rate. There was nothing wrong with me, I had multiple ECG tests that showed that it was simply high, nearly always over a hundred. I also have a very low blood pressure as a result of my athletic lifestyle. As high and low as these were so long as they didn't change significantly I was okay. They only took a few minutes but I wasn't thrilled with the fact that they had to be done roughly every four/five hours, which included a visit at two in the morning and again at seven.

Indeed the first five or so nights of my treatment meant very interrupted sleep for me. Not only was this because of the Obs but also because I was attached to a bag of fluids. This wasn't because I was dehydrated but rather because it helped when I was receiving bags of chemo, which happened for the first three days. One bag of chemo a day and the fluid meant it wasn't so harsh on my system. It also meant I needed to go to the loo every hour. This was why my sleep was so disturbed and I was so incredibly tired. Imagine, waking up, looking over at the clock and realising only an hour has passed. Plus you had to get back to sleep after getting up, so really it was less than an hour. On the fourth day, there was no chemo but I was still on fluids. This was because I had to flush my system of the chemo before they could give me back my stem cells that they had harvested all those months ago. The stem cells were to help my immune system struggle back to working order after the chemo had done so much to wipe it out. Yet they could not give me them straight away because any remaining chemo would attack and destroy them.

For those who don't really understand chemo the basic explanation is this: chemo attacks any fast growing cells such as cancer cells, which is why it's so effective. Unfortunately this includes white blood cells which are basically your immune system (also hair, which is why so many cancer patients are bald.) The cells they gave back to me would become white blood cells that would build up my immune system again. That's what stem cells are; produced in the bone marrow they can become any other kind of cell depending on what the body needs.

It was very cool getting my cells back. They were stored in liquid nitrogen, in a metal container that looked a bit like R2-D2. The nurses wheeled it into my room, opened it up and loads of smoke poured out. It was very sci-fi. They were then warmed and hung up beside me. I could actually see the cells passing through the transparent tube. Though it smelled like sweetcorn (as did I apparently) and left the taste of watery ketchup in my mouth, it marked the end of my first dose. All I had to do after that was wait for my immune system to start working again. My neutrophils (which as far as I know are a type of white blood cell) needed to reach a certain level before I could go home.

Meanwhile, I was confined to my room. Not only because my lack of immune system meant catching a bug could be devastating for me, but also because it seemed I'd already caught something and couldn't risk giving it to anyone else. I had caught the dreaded rhino virus a.k.a a cold. Why they call it that I do not know but it was very unnerving to have a nurse in full gown, mask, and gloves come in and tell you that you have the rhino virus. I panicked at first not knowing what that meant, it wasn't exactly the most reassuring way to tell someone they have a cold. It meant all the nurses had to wear protective clothing when they came into my room because they couldn't risk passing it on to other patients. Even my poor friend had to have the full get-up when she came to visit me. I did find a way to make it up to her though.

As I have mentioned them in the title, you may be wondering how cats fit into all this. Well, you cannot see in the picture above but my room was decorated with a repeating image of little windows, in some of which were cats. Previous inhabitants of the room had actually named some of them, such as Cosmo or Lily. I really wanted to name one of the cats but a nurse had told me that you're not really supposed to do that, it is technically vandalism. That didn't stop me though. I rationalised that it wasn't particularly bad vandalism, it was quite nice to walk around the room finding cats and learning their names, which were written fairly small anyway. My friend who had visited me earlier is a big fan of cats, loves them. So, I decided on my very last day to name the cat right behind my bed after one of hers.

She also drew a very lovely cat whilst she was visiting me, that I kept throughout the rest of my stay.

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Mar 25, 2020

Meow, you little vandal you !

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