WARNING: In this Blog I talk a great deal about my bowel function or lack of it.
I’ve just found out that I’ve got a campylobacter bacterial infection in my gut. More commonly known as food poisoning this little bastard lives in at least half of all raw chicken. And is most common in late spring/early summer for some reason.
It’s a massive relief because I’ve been wondering whether I was in the early stages of dying. In the last week my bowels have been out of control and I’ve been vomiting all the time. I have been reduced to wearing adult nappies such is my incontinence. I thought my symptoms were side effects of chemotherapy and the growing tumours and have been stoically trying to sleep through it. On Sunday I got taken to hospital in an ambulance.
In hospital they managed to keep my nausea at bay, but my bowel movements have been uncontrollable. I have never experienced anything like this in my life. I get about 1- or 2-seconds notice till I need to be on the toilet. Usually this is not enough.
I shat myself whilst in transit from the ground floor A&E to my ward on the 11th floor. I apologised profusely to the porter (this was before I discovered adult nappies) but he was very nice about it.
“These things happen” he said gently and didn’t mention it again.
That was perhaps my lowest point. I felt really otherworldly and started thinking he was very like the ferryman who carries the souls of the newly deceased over to the world of the dead. Fortunately he delivered me not to Hades but to my room at the top of the hospital where I’ve been all week.
It took microbiology here at the hospital 3 days to grow a bug and tell me the welcome news that my condition can be fixed with antibiotics.
And it’s like a switch from night to day. Even though I still feel rotten all of a sudden this is all ok and bearable and temporary. It is not the cancer!
My kids visited me last night and were very interested in all the limbless people on this ward. This is also a vascular ward so lots of amputees.
“He definitely should be in hospital!” shouts Christy excitedly when he sees the legless man in the room next to me.
“You are very lucky you haven’t had your leg chopped off mum” he tells me solemnly.
“What does the beast inside you look like?” I show him the picture in the information leaflet. Indy makes me open my mouth so she can try to see it.
“But how did it get there?” Good question. Liam suspects my mother has inadvertently given me food poisoning. She thinks he is number one suspect by not cleaning worktops assiduously.
The kids have all piled onto my bed and I explain how a suspiciously green looking stain on the sheets has germs. Christy soon moves to a chair. He is a bit freaked out by germs. But the remote-controlled bed eventually proves more of a lure and he is back. Mora is a bit quiet. I think she is starting to worry about me. She has friends whose grandparents have died of cancer and she wonders quietly if this might happen to me. I’ve told her that I’m not old and that dying is not my intention. I don’t want her to worry.
I’ve been here for 4 days now getting antibiotics and fluids intravenously.
I’m starting to feel much better. But oh, my word it has been so grim! I am kept quarantined in a room that I’m not allowed to leave in case I spread my germs or other people give me their germs. I’ve also got neutropenic sepsis thanks to the chemotherapy which has reduced my immune cells to below the safe threshold. The staff that enter my room have to wear apron and gloves and wash their hands before they enter and after they leave.
The doctors have got me keeping a poo chart which serves as a good a diary of the last few days as well as having helpful diagrams to categorise the health of my poop. So on Monday I had 16 bowel movements. On Tuesday it was 22. Wednesday was 19. Today the antibiotics have kicked in and so far so good, only 9 movements.
Fascinating as this is to me, I’ve just found out from one of the nurses that this chart could actually keep me imprisoned in hospital. My poop needs to be of a particular consistency for 48 hours before I get released.
And this is it. I need to be having type 4 on the Bristol stool scale: like a sausage or snake smooth and soft.
Originating at Bristol Royal infirmary in the 90’s the Bristol tool scale is now used across the world to assess continence. Apparently number 3 is the perfect poop. I’ve been having number 7s most of the week.
I really want to get out for the weekend so here’s hoping tomorrow brings me number 4s! Or else I may have to get creative with my children’s play dough. (I joke)
POSTSCRIPT FRIDAY AFTERNOON:
They have let me out and I didn’t need to resort to playdough! The more I think about this week the luckier I feel. But I must be more vigilant against germs. My father died from neutropenic sepsis when he was undergoing treatment for cancer. He contracted a streptococcus bacteria which turned into meningitis because his immune system was compromised by chemotherapy. His oncologist gave him oral antibiotics and sent him home with flu like symptoms and instructions to take a painkiller and go to bed. He dutifully obeyed doctors instructions but never woke up again. That was 20 years ago and times and protocols with vulnerable patients have changed. These days patients like me are admitted and put on intravenous broad spectrum antibiotics. Once again I have a great deal to be thankful for that I’ve got cancer in these days and times. Although ideally I’d have it in another 10 years when it will have become a chronic condition…