Thursday, 10 March 2011

High dose chemo : take two

Hi there - Mairead's mum Helen here. I've been instructed to update you as Mairead doesn't feel up to it today. I'm also going to explain why we're here having this horrible chemo and what exactly is involved.

We had hoped there would be no more chemo after the operation in October, but tests showed it was possible some cancer cells could have escaped and the only way to get rid of them is giving much higher doses of chemo than usual. Because the chemo is so strong the side effects are worse than normal. Of most serious concern is the effect on your bone marrow which is suppressed to the extent it stops producing cells - including those which help your body fight infection.

This kind of chemo is given at the Beatson, but their regime involves only two drugs. Prof Seckl recommended this 4 drug regime - CarboPEC-Taxol - so we are in London.

The stem cells went in fine on Tuesday - the rest of Mairead's stem cells collected in November were defrosted before our eyes and put in via a drip. The preservative causes a very distinctive smell - the nurses say it smells like popcorn - which seems to stay in the room for a couple of days. Although these cells apparently make a beeline for your bone marrow it takes them some time to start producing all the cells that normally come from there - the most important being the neutrophils which fight infection. Last time it took 10 days before they appeared. In the meantime, Mairead (neutrophil count 0.0) is stuck in her room which has a cold draft all the time as the air is continually sucked out to get rid of germs.  Both men in the family are now excluded - Iain has a cold so went back home today and James has a sore throat so his visit has been cancelled. Rona, Teenie and Grace (last minute substitute) are on their way for the weekend - hopefully germ-free.

Yesterday the tummy pain, which was problematic last time, flared up again necessitating a trip to the X-ray dept on a bed with a mask on - X-rays were OK. Knowing what medication works and agrees with Mai means it has been controlled a bit quicker this time. Today she has had good spells and bad spells. The dietician has sent up jellies and high calorie drinks as her mouth is too sore for any solid food.

We are in Weston ward this time - bit older so bigger rooms. Thanks to Ruth's posters (nurses love Zac), Stef's flowers, Mary, Iain and Alex's balloon and all your cards it is getting a bit more welcoming. Thanks for all the e-mails, txts etc which are such an encouragement. Also thanks to Daphne for bringing me an air bed as there are no chair/beds here. Felt I could not leave Mai alone after her keeling over episodes. Hopefully Mairead can do the next blog herself!


  1. Praying for you all,

    The Laings in Aberdeen ( Cat's bigs sis!)


  2. I miss you guys :( but know now you will be home before we know it. I can't wait, fingers crossed for more of the good spells from now on. Love to all xxxx

  3. Thanks so much for the update Mama Mac!

    Sorry to hear that the boys are at bay- I hope you're all able to be together again very soon but have a good girlie gathering this weekend in the meantime.

    Much love to you all and lots of hugs and kisses to Mairead.

  4. Thanks for the update Helen! We're continuing to pray for you all. And that Mairead's room stays germ free.

  5. God is always near...
    Get well soon Mairead
    Thinking of you every day
    Love and prayers Liz