19. Halfway to Paradise

Apologies for the big delay in doing the new blog. I started writing this on Sunday, all full of the joys of incoming spring, whittering on about what a strange week it had been and how time is flying so fast that nobody can keep up with each other any more…then on Monday my heart kicked off and I was completely out of action for two days, as was Stephen as he had to look after me again. Same thing as before – heart goes out of rhythm and I am not only completely unable to stand up without passing out but also incredibly sick if I do make it into an upright position. I had a hospital appointment for bloods etc that day which we managed to delay until Tuesday, with the expectation that I would feel a bit better. So wrong. I woke up the next day with all of Monday’s problems and total weakness – I found it hard even to sit up enough to hold a drink as it was too heavy for my arms, so Stephen wisely got me to hospital. The nurse hooked me up to a saline drip and I used the bedside table to prop my arms and head on until the doctor came as they were just too heavy to carry. Whilst I was in that position – after about half an hour – I realised that my heart had gone back into rhythm, and by the time the doctor came back with my blood test results I was starting to feel almost perky, and I had stopped resembling a ghost. We all thought I might have been anaemic, but the battery of blood tests showed my platelets are fine (although I am neutropenic again, which is hopefully just a temporary glitch) so there was no obvious reason for the sudden debilitation except possibly dehydration. And my heart. I am happy to report that not only was I able to walk to the car to go home (having been brought in a wheelchair, much to my chagrin) but today I feel almost sprightly. So there we go. That was the short excuse for the delayed blog :-)

But I do have to catch you up on the last chemo session (last Monday/Tuesday), which was memorable for several reasons, and I know you would hate to miss it. That bit of the week went v-e-r-y slowly. I started cycle 3 (which is the same as cycle 1) on Monday morning at 11.00 and finished several litres of liquid later at 3.30 the following morning. That, in my mind, is way too long, and I shall be having words when we get to cycle 5. When I was finished with all the chemicals the nurse left me on what is called a slow flush, a drip of saline solution which keeps the lines open. This means the staff don’t have to go rummaging around in the wee small hours to make them all sterile again which is really quite a procedure. I am sure she meant well but come 6 o’clock I was still awake as I can’t seem to sleep when I’m hooked up. Then, skip this bit if you have a weak stomach, I got up to use the bathroom and was violently sick, over and over again for what seemed like ages – so I couldn’t even pull the bell for help. When I finally stopped and took a moment to splash my face with cold water I was horrified by the vision that greeted my eyes. The undersides of my throat were huge, like a hamster storing all its winter provisions in one go (I guess that is technically cheeks, but just go with me here) and my eyes had massive swollen bags under them. It was quite a shock, I can tell you. I got back to bed and buzzed for the nurse, who told me I would have to wait for the doctor to come round at 9.00. I wasn’t impressed, given what Joe has said the week before about keeping an eye on side effects. I did feel better for all the evacuation though and amazingly managed to get about an hour’s sleep before the next interruption. I was absolutely, definitely planning on going home that day, so I spent a lot of time talking myself out of being ill; the last thing I wanted on ward rounds was for them to keep me in. As it turned out, an injection of anti-histamine took most of the swelling away and I managed to escape as planned.

So what does one think about in the endless hours on a drip? If you have been following the tortuous journey so far you will know there has been a shift in my attitude, and this was a good place to test it. This is the first treatment where I have felt fully involved and positive. My emotions previously were fear and absolute hostility, but armed with my Ayurvedic remedies, the vast amount of healing being sent to me and my healing meditations on the iPod, I felt as if I was only now embracing all the options open to me to beat this cancer. And it felt good. Tiring, for all the reasons above, but a lot more positive than previously, as I visualised all the forces working together to get the chemo through my system and into every single cell that needed to be blasted into oblivion. Even the violent sickness was good in a perverse kind of way as it was a very quick method of getting some of the toxins out, although I’d prefer not to do that again too soon. That was weird too, as once it had served its  purpose it just stopped – job done. I was also aware that I am now halfway through the treatment. I’m not going straight into the stem cell transplant as I’m hoping it won’t be necessary, and it can be done at a later date if it becomes so. When all this is over and the dust has had time to settle a bit, Stephen and I are booking ourselves into a 5 star spa resort we have seen on Santorini, for some much needed rest and recovery. Long days of sunshine, sleep and good food, with not a drip or hospital meal within miles. We can’t wait!

Mercury’s retrograde journey back through Pisces has been incredibly testing for everyone, but on a personal basis it has enhanced my voyage of discovery. My Moon is ruled by Mercury so its position has a lot of bearing both on my thought processes and on my ability to articulate my emotions. A few days ago I checked to see where it was on the day of the first visit to the consultant, in December. I was amazed to see it went into Sagittarius on that exact day – which perfectly describes my path of spiritual self-examination, my need for answers from outside of myself, and my exploration of other disciplines from around the world that can help me. During its time in Pisces I have been considering and agonising about toxins and side effects of the drugs, but Stephen and I have also been slowly overhauling both our diets and the products we are exposed to in daily life. We have especially been having a lot of discussion about water, because if I am supposed to drink loads of water to flush all this through my system I don’t want to be taking in more toxins. I’m completely aware of the tap water versus mineral water debate, but whichever route we choose I want to be quite sure our water doesn’t contain everyone else’s hormone/heart/statin medications, metals, pesticides, plus whatever else ends up in the system. I have quite enough problems without that. My mum did the whole water filter jug thing way back in the eighties, so I felt a bit of new research was needed to see what has been happening since. The answer is nothing. The same old jugs are still out there. I happened to read a review of one on Amazon from a customer who said that  despite her best efforts there were always carbon particles from the filter floating in the water. Yuk. Don’t want those. Then it occurred to us  – knowing that keeping water in plastic is BAD – that we were considering buying one of those dinky jugs that stores the filtered water IN PLASTIC in the fridge, with the filter hanging in the water. That was a real ‘duh’ moment. Back to the drawing board. The upsetting thing about all this is that we are exposed to all these toxins in the course of trying to be healthy. Is it me or does life seem a bit hard work some days?

Anyway, our research showed that you either pay about £25.00 for a fancy plastic jug with a carbon filter, or you go the whole hog and install a five filter reverse osmosis system under the sink which guarantees to remove 95% of metals, toxins and other gunk from the water. This is more likely to cost about £250.00, so clearly a lot more thought and research needs to go into it from our end. We went back to basics and ordered a water quality tester on the basis that it is good to know what one is dealing with at the start. And I have just been having a play. There have been ‘sensitive’ moments in the past when we have offered bottled water to guests which has been turned down with comments like ‘tap water’s good enough for me’ (I have never personally subscribed to this unless you know your tap water comes from the local mountains), so I was all agog to find out which is cleaner, bottled (in glass) or tap. The purity of water is measured in the percentage of Total Dissolved Solids, which covers everything in water that shouldn’t be there as well as a few bits that probably should, if it has filtered down through green and pleasant lands. The lower the TDS level, the more able your body is to be absorb and use the water and the few toxins it will have. The higher the TDS level the more likely the water is to be contaminated and thus be less beneficial to you. The acceptable maximum level is 500 Parts Per Million. Drum roll, results time: our tap water measured 239 PPM, which on http://www.tdsmeter.co.uk/abouttds.html registers as average tap water/marginally acceptable. Our Waitrose glass bottled water from organic lands measured 125 PPM, which qualifies as acceptable water from mountain springs. So I feel ever so slightly vindicated in buying the bottled version, but for the long term maybe we will invest in the under sink mega-water filter so we can cook with the water too.

Now I am feeling better I have a lot of other things to do before I go in for cycle 4 after Easter, one of which is organising Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy at one of the local MS centres. Oxygen given under pressure can help to kill cancer cells, which flourish in a low oxygen environment. It also helps the chemo work better, improves the immune system and aids healing. Chemo destroys all the good cells in your body as well as the bad, so I am up for all the help I can get! The treatment involves taking a ‘dive’, sitting in a great big pressurised container, hooked up to a mask for about an hour, for as many times a week as I can manage it. Sounds brilliant to me – any excuse to sit for an hour and either read or meditate is incredibly attractive at the moment. The synchronicity from a previous blog comes to mind. I love the way the blogs have a life of their own and something I mention in one comes up later on in another. I’m thinking of Number 9. which was called ‘Dive Deeply into the Miracle of Life’. I didn’t know about HBO therapy then, so I love the symbolic link. While I am ‘diving’ I can also be meditating and generally pontificating on this truly mad, and hopefully miraculous metamorphosis I am undergoing.

Be well

Margaret xx


About Margaret Cahill

After diagnosis of Mantle Cell Lymphoma in 2013, I started this blog to stay in touch with friends, family, and and an ever increasing network of lovely people who sent me healing. The readership increased and I ended up blogging for all I was worth to try and stay sane through the chemotherapy and stem cell transplant. Then after I went into remission (thankfully) I was enjoying the writing so much that I have carried on, and the blog seems to have become a bit of a resource for people, which is lovely. The original year of blogs have now been made into a book, Under Cover of Darkness: How I Blogged my Way Through Mantle Cell Lymphoma. It fills in a lot of the gaps between the blogs, and the tone falls somewhere between graveyard humour and explicit details of chemo treatments. I do hope you enjoy it :-) Mxx
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7 Responses to 19. Halfway to Paradise

  1. Neil says:

    Margaret, it’s ironic reading about your various Cycles, just on the heels of our publishing a book together on astro-cycles. Here’s to surfing your way through them all, with your usual style, wit and courage. Great to get another update. Love, Neil


  2. Stephanie says:

    Happy diving. Roll on Santorini, roll on paradise. You’re doing great. Your blog is inspirational, it’s required reading as far as I’m concerned.

    Sending you love, light and healing



  3. Fei Cochrane says:

    It is wonderful to get an update from you again.


  4. Ronnie Smith says:

    I read your blog and it was wonderful to see you last Monday. I am frightened as I havent started chemo yet and on top of that, half way through I will be also having radiotherapy (I know what to expect with radiotherapy as I had that about 14 years ago but chemo is a whole different ball game). I am very lucky though as I am having spiritual healing done on me and I have a wonderful man beside me at all times. My daughter is also there for me – havent told the grandchildren yet – Bill said he will be with me when I tell them – he is very good with words. I will take each step as it comes and fight each battle one by one. God bless you Margaret and you are always in my prayers. Ronnie xxxx


  5. Iris Horsey says:

    V. interesting blogs – learning lots and wishing you lots


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