Blood Test

Today I have been over to the GPs surgery for a blood test and I have to say that it went very well.

The doctor was very good and got into the vein first time and got the blood out and the vacutainers full. I was also quick to be seen, I barely had time to sit down.

This blood test is roughly at the 6 week point between my last appointment at UCLH where they are now seeing me every 3 months when I have my Zoledronic Acid treatment for my bones and the next one at the start of January.

Fingers crossed that the results will come back and show no major increase to my PSA and also nothing else to worry about.

Overall I feel fit and well and am getting around a lot better although I still use a walking stick when I go out walking.

I have tried to reduce the amount of morphine I take for the pain in my back, I now take 10mg in the morning and 5mg at night.  The are slow release tablets and cover me all day.  I did try stopping the nighttime dose but found it a little painful in bed and it interrupted my sleep so I have started to take them again.

I also take 10mg of Amitriptyline at night and wonder if I could get away with not taking this any longer. I think I will discuss it with my Oncologist in January in case there are side effects coming off it.

The Acupuncture that I had has been going well but I think it was more effective when I was having 3 sessions a week rather than one a month. So I am thinking of stopping them.

As I say I am feeling a lot better and what I really need to do is continue to build up my strength and endurance by walking more. I still need to be very careful with my back and in particular with bending and lifting as the vertebrae above and below T12, the one which partially collapsed and I had cement put in are both very vulnerable to collapse as well although I hope the Zoledronic Acid is helping to strengthen them 🤞.

X-Ray showing my damaged vertebrae.

So I am hoping the results for the blood test come back soon and show good news.

Acupuncture

Today I am off on a mini adventure!

It’s an adventure in two ways, firstly because it’s a trip out and secondly becsuse Acupuncture is something new to me. So looking forward to the drive to Harlow and to the experience of Acupuncture.

The reason for going is that I am still experiencing back pain from my fracture last year that gets worse as each day progresses i.e. I start not too bad but by the end of the day I am in pain, and I had been speaking to a neighbour who had had success with Acupuncture for easing her back pain.

And so I had been in contact with the Acupuncture Therapist and she thought she could help and so the appointment was made.

The drive to Harlow is only about 20 minutes and it was good to be behind the wheel and to see what was going on in the big wide world. The M11 was fairly quiet so I was surprised at how busy Harlow was, where was everyone going?

Anyway before long we arrived at the business park where the therapist is based and as part of the avoidance strategy she had suggested that I use the Fire Escape to enter the building to avoid bumping into anyone.  This I did, although it felt like I was sneaking into the building for some more nefarious purpose!

The therapist was waiting at the top of the stairs, we said our hello’s and she showed me to her consulting room which was close to the fire exit so it made sense to enter the building this way. I was masked up and wearing gloves as was she.

We had done a video call on Friday which covered all the questions she needed to ask and so it was straight down to the acupuncture. I stripped off my t-shirt and was asked to lie facedown on the consulting bed.

I made myself comfortable and she was quick to start sticking the acupuncture needles in me. She placed needles in my back, my ankles, my wrists and two in my head. I never felt a thing apart from the touch of her hands as she positioned the needles. She used a total of 18 needles.

Six needles in my back.
Three in each ankle.
Two in my head, I hope you can see them.

And remaining 4 were in my wrists.

And now there was nothing else to do apart from lie there and trying to relax. I was still wearing a facemask and so my face felt really hot but apart from that I closed my eyes and enjoyed the time of enforced relaxation.

One other thing happened and that was she cut my ear to let it bleed a little, she said this would help with controlling my body temperature and so help with the hot flushes that I experience.

One observation she made was that my back looked quite red, she asked if I had had the heated seat on in the car which I hadn’t. The picture below shows the redness around my lower spine. I can only assume that this is caused by the Lutetium treatment I have had or the Vertebroplasty procedure, perhaps it’s some kind of bruising. You may also be able to see a reddish square in the middle of my back, I think this is where I have had radiotherapy in the past, although that is nearly a year ago now do surprised it is still there.

The blue square shows the faint red outline of the radiotherapy square, you do need to look carefully!

Then soon it was time for the needles to come out and once more I never felt a thing.

A quick chat about my bowels followed and a warning that I might feel tired and I was ready to go. I booked another appointment for the following Saturday and I was off. I felt relaxed and at ease, my back felt less tense and only time would tell if the acupuncture has brought any benefits.

The therapist is also a herbalist and so I will be talking to her about that and where it might be able to help. She thought that it would help with my bowels which are a bit mixed up due to the steroids that I am on and she thought it a more natural approach than taking the Movicol which I take every evening.

Well it’s a few hours later and we are back home, just taken Teddy for another walk. The back certainly feels less tense and I felt less pain (or is it all in my mind?). I was puffing a bit by the end of the walk and was stooped slightly but I am so out of practice, more walks needed!

Staples Out

Today I had my staples out, those in my back from when I had the Vertebroplasty procedure earlier in the month as per the pic below.

The removal went very well and was done at my local GP surgery by one of the nurses.

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She said everything seems to be healing well and I didn’t have to wear a dressing any longer.

I still need to wear the spinal brace for another six weeks which is probably a good thing to help protect the spine.  I am also learning habits like not bending, while wearing it, and hopefully these will continue once I do not need to wear the brace.

I also got the result of the blood test I had last week, my PSA is now 409 which is good but I had hoped it would be lower given that I am three Lutetium treatments in.  My PSA back on the 19th of December was 485, so the drop to 409 is in the right direction but I had hoped for more.

Still I have my Oncology Outpatients tomorrow and so will have to see what they have to say.

I will update you all tomorrow.

Second Opinion – Second Visit

Today I have been back to The Rivers which is a private hospital for a consultation with the spinal specialist I saw on the 3rd of January.

Whole Spine

He was very good and had got hold of a copy of the MRI I had back in November and he showed us the MRI and explained what was going on, he went up and down my spine and we looked at the different vertebrae and talked about them. Overall when you look at the pictures the dark patches are not good and they show signs of cancer and the lighter ones are good and are stronger bones.

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I told him that I had the Vertebroplasty procedure last week and he thought that was a good idea and a good way forward, he thought there were lots of benefits to be had from that procedure and wholeheartedly agreed with it.

He did reiterate that going forward I will need to be very careful with what I’m doing and while the Vertebroplasty procedure will help the T12 vertebrae to some extent, other vertebrae are still at high risk.

When I see my Oncologist next week I need to ask about what can be done to strengthen the bones.  Zoledronic Acid is an option as are calcium supplements.

Post Op Update

After a very busy week last week I’m really taking it easy this week and I am very conscious of the procedure I had last week and how fragile my back is, so what I need to do now is rest and recuperate.

That said I have been taking Teddy out for short walks and doing a few things around the house, but have noticed that anything that includes bending or picking things off the floor causes pain and so I have to do everything really carefully.  I am keen to get myself back to my former self (and former strength) and do more.

My back does feel stiff at times and I noticed that the pain increases as the day goes on so it’s a warning for me not to overdo it.

In the meantime I am trying to sort out a blood test that can be done locally with my GP to save me a trip to London and also trying to get my medication rationalised so that I get prescriptions on the same day and not spread over the month.

Vertebroplasty – Discharge Day

Today I started the day early and it came as a bit of a shock as I was in a deep sleep and still a little under the effects of the anaesthetic but it was a nurse is coming round to do observations, blood pressure and so on.  I was feeling really tired after the operation the day before and the effects of the anaesthetic but I struggled and got myself awake and started to think about the day.

I dozed for a little while and started to think about when Barbara might arrive, hopefully, she would bring some tea and a light breakfast which she did.

The consultant who did the operation came around at about 08.30 for a chat and to check me out, he again said all went well and that he would like to see me in a couple of weeks.  He said they would arrange the next appointment as the one I had was for in April.  He also reiterated that I should continue to wear the brace for a further 6 weeks.

As far as he was concerned, I could be discharged but I would have to wait for the pharmacy to issue some medicine and to be discharged properly.

The hospital breakfast came late for some reason, it was served at around 09.30 which is late when you are being woken at 6 am.  I had another cup of tea and some toast.

And then we waited.

The waiting was punctuated with checks by nurses who took my blood pressure several times during the day.  I also had the dressing changed and got a chance to get a photograph of my back which shows the surgical clips that have been used although they do look like they have come straight from a staple gun!

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We also had a visit from a pharmacist who chatted through the medication I was currently on and what they would need to issue.

And we waited.

Another pharmacist turned up and when we said we had already seen her colleague she disappeared.

Barbara went out and got me a salad from Pret for lunch.

And we waited.

Finally, at around 3pm I was given a bag of medication and was told I could go.  By this time, we were packed and I was dressed, we were ready for the off.

I was really looking forward to getting home a relaxing a little, it had been a long couple of days.  I was feeling a little tender in places but hopeful that the cement would do the job and that life could get back to something like normal.

I was also looking forward to seeing Teddy our dog who was probably wondering where I had been.

 

 

 

Vertebroplasty Op Day

The day started early after a rough and restless night, please see my previous post here……….

My blood pressure and observations were done at around 6 am and I was put on Nil By Mouth as the expectation was that I would go down to theatre in a couple of hours as I was first on the list for the day subject to any emergencies………

My blood pressure was a little high and while I was feeling fine I guess there was some apprehension after all, I was going to be knocked out and was going to have needles stuck in my spine, let alone the cement!

Barbara arrived at around 8 am, I was dozing a bit and was pleased to see her. She offered to get me something but I was nil by mouth and so had to decline.

The consultant arrived around 9 am and talked through the procedure, he looked quite young and seemed very confident and knowledgeable, I felt I could trust him. He had no real feel for the timings and repeated what I had been told.

It did seem that there was a mix up over whether I could have had breakfast or not, with the doctors saying I could of and the nurses saying there was nothing in the notes so they took it as nil by mouth. And while I would have appreciated some breakfast it was too late now.

By this point I was in my theatre robes and had my surgical stockings on so now there was nothing else to do but wait.

And wait.

And wait.

Lunchtime came and went.

And wait.

I was getting peckish by now!

Finally around 3 pm a porter turned up and I was transferred to a wheelchair and wheeled through the maze to the operating theatre where I was met by smiling faces, I recognised the anaesthetist and she chatted and distracted me as others put in two cannulas and did other prep. I was lying on my back but at some point I would be turned over onto my front for the procedure with only my hospital knickers to give me some dignity!

I could see drugs being injected into the cannula and soon a mask was put over my face, they were asking me questions about holidays as I faded out and before I knew it………

I was being woken up, dazed and confused, I felt surrounded by nurses and tangled in drip lines and other monitors. It took me a few moments to get orientated and understand where I was although I couldn’t talk and was very drowsy.

I was in the recovery room and there was activity going on around me, I was slowly becoming more awake and aware and I was staving!

I was told the procedure had gone well and that the consultant would see me in the morning.

I spent about an hour in the recovery room where they monitored me and while I dozed a bit I was trying to stay aware and awake. Finally a porter arrived and I was taken back up to the ward where Barbara was waiting for me, I was pleased to see her.

I didn’t know what to do first, I was staving, thirsty and needed a wee!

I grabbed a bit of a sandwich I had ordered for lunch and a swig of sweet fanta to help my thirst. I told Barbara I was staving and headed to the loo, fortunately I was able to walk although I was a little wobbly and Barbara helped me to the loo.

By the time I came out my dinner had been warmed up and I tucked into it, it was most welcome.

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I was feeling much better now, I had been fed and watered and was getting back to normal. There was some back pain but more of an ache except when I moved, then it was more painful.

The nurses had a check of the dressing and Barbara took a picture, see above.

It was a fairly compact dressing.

By now it was around 8 pm and Barbara had to head home, I was sorry to see her go. I then settled down for some rest, did a bit of reading and so on. Nurses came and did observations, blood pressure etc which was at a more normal level and goes to show I must have had some pre-op nerves.

I had a better nights sleep but it was still disturbed by all the things that go on during the night on a hospital ward and of course when you are in the deepest sleep someone wakes you up to test your blood pressure or give you some medication, still it has to be done.

I was looking forward to the morning and being discharged and getting home.

Vertebroplasty Day One

Today is admissions day for my Vertebroplasty procedure, it all feels a little rushed having just had the phone call yesterday.

I had a fairly busy morning what with walking Teddy and then getting him to the dog sitter and then before long I was picking up Barbara and heading to the train station.

A comfortable train ride and a taxi saw us arriving at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery where we made our way to the Queen Anne ward, my home for the next couple of nights.

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I was given a bed in a small section of the ward where it looked like there would be four of us.

No real instructions were given on what to do and we were left to our own devices.

Eventually I was given a hospital wrist band and found out that I would have an X-Ray and a CT Scan.

After another wait a porter arrived and I was wheeled to the imaging department, in many ways it was good to have a porter as the hospital was a rabbit warren of corridors and rooms.

We arrived to the chorus of an intermittent fire alarm, which meant stay in place, there was some confusion and fire marshal’s came and went.

Silence.

Thankfully and it seemed the whole hospital gave a grateful sigh!

X-Ray first in the same room I had the X-Ray in December and then the CT Scan and before long we were heading back upstairs to the ward.

It would seem that there was now nothing to be done but wait until the morning so I started to settle in more.

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Barbara headed off at about 6.30 pm by which time I was in my pyjama’s and listening to music.

I had my blood pressure done a couple of times which was a little high, I felt fine but is probably down to pre-op nerves.

I also signed consent forms and so on, blood tests, ECG and there was me hoping for some “Me Time”!

Before long I was ready for bed and hoped for a good nights sleep, alas it wasn’t to be what with call alarms being pressed through the night, my neighbour snoring for England and nurses clomping about it proved to be a restless night!

Still I would get a good sleep in theatre………….

 

 

Vertebroplasty!

What is this I hear you ask?

Well this is procedure where cement is inserted into damaged vertebrae to repair and strengthen them as per the diagram below.

Image result for Vertebroplasty

My day started with a call from my Neurologist who said that my MRI from November had been compared with the X-Ray I had in December and they believed that I was developing a stoop or a hunch and so I was presented with a number of options.

  1. Do nothing
  2. Wait and have more dramatic surgery/treatment in time
  3. Have cement inserted now
  4. Have a metal plate inserted.

After a conversation with the Neurologist it would seem that option 3 was the best option as option 1 might lead to option 2 and 4. Option 4 wasn’t considered to be the best option as it was serious surgery and not really needed at this time.

I hope that makes sense?

What was surprising is that they want to admit me tomorrow afternoon with the procedure to take place on Thursday, with discharge on Friday.

The procedure sounds fairly straight forward and takes about an hour although it is done under general anaesthetic and all the risks that brings with it, although I am mostly fit and well and so the risk is low.

As I write I am now waiting for a call from the admissions team who will give me timings etc for tomorrow.

Neurologist Appointment & Scan

Today is a two hospital day, first stop is the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery to see a consultant about my back and then I am off just down the road to The London Clinic for my post treatment scan for the Lutetium treatment I had on Tuesday.

So after a train ride and a taxi I arrived at my first destination and checked in. I didn’t have to wait long and I was told to go and get an X-Ray done.

So back outside and down the road to another entrance where I sort out directions to the X-Ray department which like in a lot of hospitals was downstairs.

On arrival I wait a few minutes and was then asked to change into a hospital robe which I did.

The X-Ray was to be of my whole spine and so I would be standing for the X-Ray. After some careful positioning I was given the thumbs up and the room emptied and the machine whirled. First picture done I was then turned sideways and another image was taken.

Then it was a quick case of getting dressed again and I made my way back to the waiting room.

Two minutes later I was called and met my the consultant’s CNS (Clinical Nurse Specialist). She would be carrying out the consultation.

She started by asking lots of questions about how I was, what had happened and so on.  She showed me the X-Ray of my spine, please see picture below with the circle around the damaged (Wedge Shaped) T12 vertebrae.

Spine Close Up

I must say that it was a little scary seeing how compressed the vertebrae was and while she said it would reform it’s shape a little and that the disc’s above and below would grow to fill in the gap it still causes me great concern.  As does the fact that the vertebrae above and below are at high risk of a similar type on fracture.  I need to be very careful.

The CNS gave me an examination and a check over.

She went on to say that the approach to healing was time and rest and that I would need to wear the spinal brace for at least 3 months.  There was no surgery that could be done and to some extent I am relieved that surgery is not on the agenda.

I will just have to be patient.

After the consultation was finished I made my way over the Devonshire Place and the London Clinic for my Lutetium Post Treatment Scan.  I am getting to be an old hat at this now and knew exactly where to go.

I didn’t have to wait long to be called in.  Getting on the scanner bed was a slow process due to the pain in my back but it was nothing like getting off after 30 minutes of lying on my back.  I needed help from the staff and I asked them to move me slowly.

On my way out I bumped into my Consultant who said she had seen the blood test and was pleased with the results.  She was going to review the image from the scan.

She later text me and said that the scan image was even better than last time and that some trouble spots shown previously have disappeared completely.  Together with the fall in PSA she felt this was really encouraging.

This is of course excellent news and the best Christmas present I could get and really this is only after 2 treatments and hopefully treatments 3 and 4 will help even more.

Merry Christmas Everyone.