Travel is a lot harder than it used to be. Between 2013 and 2014, Lecretia, despite her various cancer treatments, was able to travel to some fairly exotic locales with me – in particular Morocco, Bermuda, USA and Argentina. That’s not to say getting around was ever simple – Lecretia has a lack of movement on her left side which makes walking more difficult than it should be – but in recent weeks that creeping paralysis has become more pronounced. Where once she could lift herself out of a chair, or a car seat, or climb a set of stairs, she now needs assistance for all those things.
This Friday we headed to Tauranga to stay with Lecretia’s family, and boarding a flight now involves a wheelchair from the check-in desk, followed by the use of a disabled passenger lift to get Lecretia on to the plane. There’s a short walk to the seat, and then waiting for the other passengers to disembark at the end of the flight which is not easy when the chemotherapy and accompanying drugs have rendered your bladder as weak as a mouse and as insistent as an alarm clock.
Lecretia is now three days into a new chemotherapy regime of carboplatin, which has about a 20% chance of working but is still worth a shot as it’s one of the last remaining chemotherapy options available to us in New Zealand. We’re currently exploring private and overseas options but there are no obvious next steps – everything is largely experimental long-shots, expensive, or both.
We’re quickly finding out that the late stage chemotherapy options can be nasty. Yesterday Lecretia spent the morning half asleep until she finally collapsed from weakness and nausea. I had a panicked call to Lecretia’s community cancer nurse who listened and gave me some advice to deal with the nausea, but once Lecretia developed a rash we were told to get to hospital so we raced to Tauranga Hospital’s Emergency Department to get it checked out.
I doubt the nurse knew exactly what was going on – but anything unusual like that you have to jump on quickly. It could be an early sign of an infection, which in Lecretia’s weakened state, could be extremely harmful. Thankfully we were put through to see a doctor relatively quickly despite being warned about ‘horrific’ waiting times due to five ambulances arriving immediately before us. Once a bed was found for Lecretia, bloods were taken, fluid given (as the nausea was a suspected result of dehydration) and Lecretia was prodded and examined to see what might be wrong with her.
In the end, the doctor didn’t know either. The rash had subsided, along with Lecretia’s nausea, and the drip had got Lecretia’s hydration back to where it needed to be. So we were sent on our way.
Because of the way the brain works – just how this tumour might affect Lecretia is a mystery – so anything unusual needs to be treated with care. A millimetre of growth in the wrong direction could cause blindness, or the loss of the ability to speak, or loss of movement, or even death. More likely she’ll experience a gradual loss of function over a long period of time. And whatever happens, it’s likely that there’ll be not much that a doctor can do except make her comfortable with whatever the cancer throws at her.
Until then, we just have to take things a day at a time. Last night after being discharged we went straight from the hospital to one of Tauranga’s better restaurants after having had to push the reservation back twice. Lecretia still had a swab taped to her arm to stem the bleeding from where her fluid line went in. We had a three-course dinner with some of her closest family and chatted late into the night.
What else can you do?