Covid 19 Swab and Blood Test

Well I am off to London today, to UCLH for a Covid 19 test. It’s actually a bit of a pain as I need to go all the way to London just for a test before coming up on Wednesday for an Outpatients Appointment and Zoledronic Acid treatment.

It has been a while since I have been on a train so it will be a useful recce for Wednesday.

The train arriving at Bishops Stortford

I am also hoping to get a blood test today as they couldn’t get blood out last time. I have spent the morning drinking water and have had at least 2 pints on top of tea and coffee. I hope the extra fluids will make it a little easier to draw blood?

The train was quiet and so it was easy to maintain social distancing, the tube however is a little different and is slowly filling up. As you can expect there are still those who feel they don’t need to wear a mask or wear it correctly!

Soon I was walking down Tottenham Court Road, they were arrows on the ground to help with distancing but clearly they were invisible to some!

I arrived at the Macmillan Cancer Centre and was pleased to find out that the Covid Testing was being done where they do the blood tests 😀.

I checked in and took a ticket, I was number 8 and the counter was on 7, I had hardly say down when I was called in. It was to be a blood test first.

There were two plebotomists in the booth, one to take the blood and another to record my details.

Once more they struggled to get blood out despite all the extra fluids I had drunk. But she was very good and it was painless although watching her wiggle the needle around made me wince.

Second attempt was in my left hand where she struck blood and soon it was flowing, albeit slowly.

Blood taken I was moved into another booth for the Covid Swab, I was pleased someone was going to do the swabbing, it’s better than doing it yourself.

And then I was done, I must have only been in the hospital for 10 minutes or so. I bet it won’t be so slick on Wednesday!

And then it was time for my journey home. Around 2 hours of travel time for 10 minutes in the hospital!

Just need to wait for the results and the all clear which I should get tomorrow 🤞.

Flu Injection 28th September 2020

I normally get a flu injection but have had to organise it myself but this year has been different due to Covid and to my mind it has actually been better.

I received a letter a few weeks ago with the appointment time on it and scheduled it into my diary. Then a few days ago I got a text reminding me of the appointment.

The appointment was to be at Bishops Stortford Football Club and not at the GP Surgery.

The football club is only a few minutes drive away and so I arrived about 5 minutes before my allocated time.

I was met by a man who gave me some simple instructions to follow and soon I was parked up and someone came to my car and told me where to go.

I headed into the building and was guided to a desk where my details were checked and then into a short queue for the injection.

I didn’t wait long before I was sat down, my name was checked again and the injection painlessly administered.

And then I was on my way out and back home.

Overall I have found this to be very well organised and very quick and simple.

Well done to all those involved for making it so easy.

Lutetium Treatment No 6 and a Swab up my nose!

So I was up bright and early today for my ride into London and my appointment at the London Clinic near Regents Park. The roads did seemed a little bit busier to me with more traffic on the roads and definitely more pedestrians in London although the journey was much quicker than normal the city did feel busier.

My room showing the screens to protect staff from radiation.

I arrived at the hospital just before 9 a.m. and went inside to see that all the Covid precautions were still in place, with hand sanitation stations near the door and screens around the reception staff. I was soon checked in and directed upstairs to my room although before heading up I headed off to the coffee shop for a flat white, a nice treat for me to have and a decent coffee made by someone else.

Coffee and a Pain au Raisin

I got to my room and settled in and soon the nurses turned up to do my observations, my blood pressure, temperature and weight.

Two different blood pressure results, it amazes me how it can change so quickly.

Another nurse came in and fitted the cannula and she also took some blood for the blood test. Things were going quick this morning as she was followed by the catering lady who took my breakfast order.

The nurse did a good job of getting the cannula in my arm.
Breakfast

And then it was time for something new, it was time for the Covid 19 Test. The nurse that was doing it was not a fully qualified nurse but a nursing assistant although I was happy for that person to do the test as they need to get the practice in.

The Covid Swabs ready to be sent off.

The test consists of putting in a swab up and to the back of your nose and another swab into the back of your throat, not a very pleasant experience but very necessary. Hopefully the results will be back shortly and will tell whether I have coronavirus or not.

I was then informed that treatment would not start until after both the blood test and the Covid test came back from the lab which takes about 90 minutes. I kind of understand waiting for the blood test although I did have one only a week ago. But the Covid test seems slightly out of sequence, surely part of the reason for doing that is to protect staff and I have already seen a number of those and even more if you include reception staff and those at the coffee shop?

Only one thing for it, I will have a snooze 💤💤!

And then suddenly everything changed and it was all systems go, the nurse was in to hook me up to the drip and start introducing the saline solution, I also had add a visit from the radiography consultant who asked me a few questions before saying we could go ahead with the treatment.

Treatment only takes about 30-minutes but today it took three people although one of them was just here to see what happened and you can see a picture of the trolley with all the equipment on it it although they were visiting another patient after me.

Once the treatment was over I had a chat with the consultant about future steps. The feeling is is that the next step is to have a PSMA PET scan in a couple of months time to see how things are inside. Because the PSA is continuing to drop she is confident that the treatment is working well but the scan will help to clarify that so we just need to wait and do it at the right time for this latest treatment to have had time to take effect.

She is effectively handing me back to UCLH who will continue to manage my treatment going forward and make decisions as to what the further treatment will be. Typically lutetium treatment consists of six treatments and this was my 6th treatment. Although in some countries and institutions further treatments have been given but they may be held back until they are needed .

So now it’s a bit of a waiting game while we just let time pass, they will continue to do blood tests and monitor my PSA. I am due to have my next oncology outpatients appointment in about 6 weeks time and I guess by then we will have had another blood test and know where the PSA is at.

One piece of good news from today is that the Covid-19 test came back negative so I know that today I do not have Coronavirus which is nice to know.

So is this my last visit to the London Clinic in the short-term in that I will not be back here for at least a couple of months. I suspect I will be back for treatments 7 and 8 at somepoint.

That said I need to have a good chat with my consultant at UCLH and discuss what other possible treatments may be available.

Next Lutetium Treatment

My next Lutetium Treatment is scheduled for the 5th of June and is due to take place at the London Clinic.

This afternoon I have had a phone call from one of the radiology team to tell me that they have updated their Therapy Pathway and that I needed to go into isolation for 14 days prior to the treatment!

Fortunately I am already in isolation and so this should be no big issue.

She said that I would need to have a Covid 19 test done 48 hours prior to treatment.

Which again shouldn’t really be a problem!

She then asked about when my last blood test was and when the next one would be. Luckily I had just been sorting this out (see my post ‘A Right Palaver‘).

And so I told her.

She said she would write to my Oncology Consultants and ask them to write to my GP to ask them to do the Covid test.

This all sounds simple but you can see where this is going!

She said she would copy me in on the email to the consultants so I would be kept in the loop.

She then recapped what I needed to do.

I then asked a question and as the words came out of my mouth I was regretting it.

I said that I could stay in isolation but would need to go out for the Covid test.

There was silence!

I could hear the brain whirring as this was worked out! Clearly a new problem had been presented.

And so she uttered those words.

‘I will call you back!’

And so now I wait to hear how the GP’s Surgery will handle the Covid test request when they get it and I wait to hear how The London Clinic think Covid testing can be done while staying isolated?

Watch this space!

A Right Palaver

So two simple things need to happen, I need my three monthly hormone injection and I need to have a blood test in time for my next Oncology Outpatients Appointment on the 3rd June.

It would make sense to have them both at same time and have them both done by the GP’s Surgery. After all I normally have my Hormone Injection done by them and I had recently had a blood test done at the surgery.

So last week I started making enquiries about getting this done.

First of all I had to convince them that this was the best plan!

Then they couldn’t access the nurses diaries as they only release appointments 2 weeks in advance.

The person I was speaking to said she would speak to the practice manager and get back to me.

And true to her word she called me back and said that the practice manager had said that I should be referred to the District Nurses who would come to my house and do both the Hormone Injection and the Blood Test.

What a result I thought, I was happy with this outcome.

A few days passed and then I got a call from one of the District Nurses who asked if I was housebound. I said I was as I was classed as Extremely Vulnerable. She asked if I was housebound prior to the virus and I said no.

She said then I wasn’t technically housebound and that they couldn’t visit and I would be referred back to the GP.

Great?

So I messaged the surgery who got back to me the next day, it was the same person that I had previously spoken too!

We discussed the problem and she tried to book me in. She managed to book me in for the hormone injection but couldn’t access the calendar for booking the blood test.

She would call me back!

And she did, to tell me there were no available slots for blood tests and so I would need to go to The Rivers Hospital and have a blood test done there!

The surgery would post me a blood test form to take with me.

I was straight on the phone to The Rivers and managed to get booked in.

So I now have my Hormone Injection on the 27th and the Blood Test on the 28th! One woth the GP and one at The Rivers!

What should have been fairly simple seemed to become very complicated. It’s a good job I am pretty robust and can work through these situations but I can see a lot of people finding this very stressful.

I feel more needs to be done to make these things simpler and less of a palaver!

Fingers crossed🤞

34 plus days in lockdown

So I am currently on Day 34 of Lock-down, I think the actual Lock-down started 2 days before that but this is refers to the day (23rd March) I received the text saying that I had been classified as Extremely Vulnerable.  I did write a post about it which you can read here.

So since the 23rd of March I have been confined to the house with 2 exceptions and these are the two days that I went to London for my Lutetium treatment.

We have been so lucky to have friends and family close at hand and I want to say a big thank to all those people who are helping us out.  My sister in law and her husband have been doing the shopping for us including a main weekly shop and top ups and visit to the bakery at other times.   They are also keeping us supplied with home made cakes which are yummy.

Our neighbour’s have been helping with walking Teddy twice a day, we have a rota going so he gets out and about and plenty of exercise.  It is a good job he was used to going for walks with other people.

So these little events are the only interactions we really have with other people and the outside world and they are really special moments as we see other smiley faces and get to catch up on local news and gossip and what it’s like to go shopping in Tesco’s!  All minor details but oh so important to us.

When I found out I was going to be in isolation for 12 weeks I decided that I would stop shaving and grow a beard, a bit like Robinson Crusoe I suppose.  I have gone a month without shaving before but never for 3 months or longer.  The beard is coming along but after a quick start seems to have slowed down a bit, still plenty of time left.

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Both Barbara and I are both in effect confined to the house as Barbara has to shield me from the virus she cannot go out either although she will go back to walking Teddy once she is well enough.

We get up at a reasonable time everyday, OK about 8 a.m. for a cup of tea. And then we have a daily routine of meals and people coming round to walk Teddy.

We then try and break our day into small chunks and do different things throughout the day, I feel it better to do lot’s of things for a short time than fewer things for a longer time. So time in the garden, time doing household things, times doing hobbies and so on.

We are both on light duties me for my back and Barbara following her op and so short activities stop us from getting too fatigued, in particular if we are doing things in the garden.

We are so lucky to have a garden and so lucky to have the glorious weather in which to enjoy the garden.  I had to give up my allotment due to my back and so have thrown myself full on, well mentally at least, into the garden where we have embarked on a transformation project to change the garden into a jungle themed garden.  We need to do things slowly and so they take a few days to do what might have taken the afternoon previously.  I have ordered some young plants to get us going and some seeds from which I hope to grow more, there are larger tropical plants out there but there are expensive and so starting small seems to be the way forward.  The garden probably won’t look like a jungle until next year but it will be worth waiting for.

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We also break up our days by doing some more creative cooking, we have made a Pineapple Upside-down Cake and some Bread-pudding, we tend to share these with friends and family as a way of saying thank you, we also enjoy them as well and it add’s to the variety of the day.

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I have also became expert in the use of Zoom video conferencing as we are now doing a number of quizzes.  We do one with our extended family who are mostly local but does include one from Australia who gets up in the middle of the night to take part.  And it includes a couple in Leeds.  It’s great fun with different people being quiz master each week.

We also organise a quiz for the village which similar to above and a great way of getting to know our neighbours better.

My list of hobbies has grown, I set myself a goal of improving my handwriting and have been writing letters to friends and family as a way of practicing my handwriting and it also keeps us all in touch and a letter from a friend is better than the normal bills and things that come through the post!

This has now developed into calligraphy as I got a set for my birthday.  And believe me it is harder than it looks but surprisingly relaxing as I concentrate on how to write the letters and use the different pens!

Physically and medically we are both fairly well, Barbara is on the mend with the wounds healing nicely, she still has some pain and it will take a few more weeks before she is back to normal.  I feel pretty good, my back is a lot better although I need to be very careful with what I do and I try and pace myself in the garden.  If something is heavy we need to look at ways to reduce the weight so we can move it more easily.

I think that keeping the mind busy helps and helps to keep the body well.

Lock-down is affecting us all and we will all be coping in different ways.  I hope you are all well and making the most of your time with each other.

A Sad Farewell

Yesterday we said farewell to my mother in law, Sheila Prior, it was sad day and in many ways different due to the Corona Virus restrictions.

I am classified as Extremely Vulnerable and as such confined to the house, but we really wanted to be at the graveside to say our farewells.

So we arranged it so we could stay in the car during the service to reduce the risk of picking up the virus.

The team at the cemetery were very good and helped us get the car very close to the graveside and with a phone call we were connected to the service.

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The service was only attended by immediate members of the family due to the restrictions and even then people kept their distance.

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One of the things that was missed was the close contact that is needed as part of the grieving and consoling process, the ability to hug and comfort each other on these occasions.

Sheila’s granddaughter’s played key roles with one reading a poem and the other singer her favourite song, “Send In The Clowns”.  Both were poignant occasions.

  We were pleased that we were able to attend and say our farewells and later in the year we will have a memorial service which more people will be able to attend and be more of a celebration of her life.

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Lutetium Treatment No5 2nd Attempt.

Well here I am again back at the London Clinic for treatment Number 5 of Lutetium which is of course the second attempt after the quality control issues of last time.

Like last time I’m I got a car into London to reduce the risk of picking up the virus on the train and the tube. And once again the journey only took about an hour as the roads were pretty clear although there did seem to be a larger volume of traffic on the roads.

I arrived at the clinic and visited the hand sanitation unit and then checked in. And then as a matter of priority I got myself a coffee.

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Soon I was in my room had a cannula fitted and blood taken. I found out that the treatment was going to be early and things would be done at slightly quicker pace than normal to reduce my time at the hospital.

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So come 11 o,clock I was being injected with the Lutetium and placed behind the radioactive screens.  Where they normally keep me for a number of hours to review the radiation Decay they are going to let me go as soon as possible and so I should be leaving the clinic at about 1 p.m.

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And I am pleased to say that everything went to plan and I was home by 2 pm.  

As well as being socially isolated Barbara and I, and Teddy, need to stay 2 metres apart for the next 5 days so that they do not get exposed to the radiation.  So it’s separate bedrooms and sitting at either end of the sofa.

It’s My Birthday

Today is my birthday day and I have reached the Milestone of 60, who would have thought I would be 60, perhaps I need to start growing up 🤔😉.

What is a shame is that it may well be memorable for all the wrong reasons, what with Corona Virus casting it’s shadow over us.

That said Barbara and my family did an amazing job of making the day special.

Barbara had organised a teasure hunt with cryptic clues to where my presents were.

In the afternoon friends and family popped round to sing happy birthday and we sat on either side of the road eating cake.

Birthday Social Distancing
Eating cake at the front door.

And my car had been ballooned!

I got some great presents and this was made by a talented friend.

Everyone had put a lot of thought into the day and so I did have a memorable day for all the right reasons 😁. And I thank them all from the bottom of my heart ❤.

A sad day

Today is a sad day, we got the phone call this afternoon that Barbara’s mother had passed away in hospital, it’s an extremely emotional time for us and just adds on to all the other things we are going through.

As background information, she had dementia for a number of years and recently had been very poorly she spent her time mostly at home with some time been spent in a care home.

The care home had said that she either had to spend all her time at the care home or all her time I’m at home. It was decided that she would go full-time into the care home so there was less risk of her taking the virus into the home.

After a few days of being in the home I received a call from the care home saying that she had been admitted to hospital with a high fever, the paramedics have been called and they had decided to take her to hospital.

Within a few days we got another phone call saying that tests indicated that she had Corona Virus and that that she was approaching the end of her life.

On the 7th of April she finally succumbed to the virus and passed away. I can only hope but the she is now in a better place and at peace.

I think what this does is make the Corona Virus very real us and our family. No one was allowed to visit her in hospital and so we never got to say our goodbyes.

The funeral is planned for next week and I don’t think Barbara and I should go so we will have to find another way to say goodbye. As only 10 people can go to the funeral it is planned to hold a memorial service for her later in the year.

In the meantime we are thinking of her and remembering the good times.

Rest In Peace