Have you ever had the experience of coming up for air after working hard on something for a long time, and being surprised to find that other people have been going about life as normal?
That’s what it’s been like finishing chemo.
During chemo, the thought of taking Asa to a nursery, or on a train (crowded environments where he could pick up an infection) would have made us giddy.
Now, we can go out like normal families do, and there's rarely a day when we don't take Asa on an excursion by car, bus, or train.
|On an outing in Frinton|
Before the memories fade, we'd like to share a few things that might be useful for other families with children going through chemo.
In no particular order, these were things we found useful for keeping Asa clean or safe:
- a play pen, to keep him in a
- grapeseed oil & cotton
balls for wiping his bottom during nappy changes (much less likely to irritate
skin than wet-wipes)
- an in-ear thermometer to
check temperature (quicker and more convenient than oral or under-arm
- clorhexadine mouthwash,
applied with a foam 'lollipop' (to stop mouth ulcers from turning ugly)
- hand sanitizer for your hands
and baby’s – plus his toys, the floor, etc. … (a supplement to frequent
- maintaining a “no shoes” policy
in the room/s where baby spends most time
- vitamin syrup (even if baby's not eating well, you can at least ensure he's getting vitamins and minerals this way)*
Some other things helped keep us sane during the months when we were more or less under quarantine:
- watching movies, especially
ones that could be easily interrupted and returned to without losing the plot
(nature documentaries were good for this)
- taking up new hobbies
– crosswords, crochet, sudoku, jigsaw puzzles, guitar, etc. (to while away time
indoors / in hospital).
- getting counseling. We were connected to a counselor through the Retinoblastoma Service at the Royal London. This was a tremendous help in terms of emotional support, dealing with the depression and uncertainty that followed the diagnosis and the stress of chemo.
We also had to stay on top of a complicated and intense set of duties. At one point, we were giving 5 different medicines per day – anti-nausea, anti-pain, antibiotics, mineral supplements, and so on – each on a different schedule. Keeping a notebook for recording doses of medicines we were giving was crucial – especially since the times when the drugs were most needed were the times when we were most likely to be sleep deprived and stressed out.
These days Asa’s making great progress – he eats, romps around, laughs heartily when we laugh, cries when he's feeling neglected, and generally acts like an ordinary toddler.
But the job (or battle, or game – choose your own metaphor!) is not over yet.
Today he had cryotherapy in London, and the news is that he will undergo IAM (intra-arterial melphalan – a procedure that will deliver chemotherapy directly to the right eye) next month.
More on that later.
We're grateful, at least, to have made it through this stage.
* certain vitamin / mineral supplements are contraindicated for children taking chemo drugs for leukaemia, so check with your doctor before using them if this applies to you.
Please let us know if you have suggestions for other things that could be useful for getting children through tough times like this!