The only way is up

Posted on April 29th, 2008 by Cam.
Categories: Let's talk.

We received good news yesterday. Cam’s blood counts have turned the corner and started to increase. Our specialist was relieved to be able report this after admitting to recently having sleepless nights thinking about Cam. He stressed that “this is very good news”, or to quote one of our first haematologists who put it more aptly “this is bloody brilliant”.

We did end up commencing the new drug to treat Cam’s pneumonia. We got to discuss this at length with our doctor and, having heard the pros and cons, we were happy with this decision. This drug is needed to treat Cam’s pneumonia, now that we know its not a bacterial or viral pneumonia (apologies for the “nursey” talk).

Cam still has a temperature and had a bit of a rough night last night. This should hopefully improve soon. Once his temp has returned to normal over a few days, he will be allowed home.

Cam and I procrastinated all afternoon, delaying shaving his head- but after accepting that there now was enough hair on the hosp floor to knit a sweater, we agreed it was time. Carmel and I turned Cam’s room into a make-shift hairdresser’s, improvising using plastic bin bags as the cape and a shower chair. So expect to see a variety of headwear being modelled when you next see Cam.


Hair we go

Posted on April 28th, 2008 by Cam.
Categories: Let's talk.

Last night we were told that Cam has pneumonia. If Cam’s temperature remains high today, his specialist is considering starting him on an anti-fungal drug to try to clear up the infection. This drug carries the risk of kidney damage so he has been reluctant to give it before now. So, depending on Cam’s temperatures, a final decision will be made this afternoon about how to proceed. Cam’s temperature this morning was still 38.6C.

Despite the news of pneumonia, his blood counts still being low (Cam has needed multiple blood transfusions over the weekend), his high temperatures and the beginning side effects of the chemo- Cam is feeling a lot better. He is less short of breath and has more energy to sit out of bed and go for short walks on the ward. And he’s singing again, which is always a good sign.

Yesterday Cam’s hair began to fall out. His pillow and jumper were sprinkled with hair and small clumps would come out when he ran his fingers through his hair. This morning there is more hair on the pillow so we’re planning on doing the “big shave” this afternoon. Pictures to follow….


Resting & healing

Posted on April 26th, 2008 by Cam.
Categories: Let's talk.

Yesterday a single room became available on the actual Haematology/Oncology ward so Cam was able to be moved. We feel happy about this as these ward staff are more familiar with Cam’s condition and what is required (eg sterile drinking water, low bacterial diet etc). The nurses have been fantastic and Cam’s specialist has visited him every day- so we feel very confident in the care he is getting. We’ve bumped into a number of nurses who I’ve worked with in the past, so its been good to have some familiar faces caring for us too.

Cam’s blood counts have dropped further so he was given an infusion of platelets yesterday. He was also due to have a blood transfusion but they weren’t able to give it as his temperature was too high. However this morning his temp has dropped for the first time so he should be able to have the transfusion today. Cam has had more samples taken (blood, sputum) for testing. The results of the original samples should be back tomorrow, and then the antibiotics can be adjusted, if needed, to more specifically target the source of infection.

Cam continues to feel quite tired. As he put it yesterday ‘staring at the blank hosp room wall is enough stimulation for his mind at the moment’. Despite this we’ve still organised to have the TV connected, more for my benefit and so I can watch the final of ‘So you think you can dance’ tomorrow (go Jack!). Oh, for the simple things in life…..


Hospital Happenings

Posted on April 24th, 2008 by Cam.
Categories: Let's talk.

An inaugural entry from Libby (Cam’s wife and blog proxy) ….

Yesterday afternoon Cam and I were advised to go into the Emergency Dept after Cam developed a temperature (called febrile neutropenia). Cam had previously been given a “VIP/medic alert” card in the event that this situation occurred. This card proved invaluable as Cam was triaged, sent straight through and given a bed in an isolation room. We were especially grateful for this as the hosp and ED had been full and one other patient we spoke to had already being waiting 6hrs to be seen. We’re now considering selling this card on ebay when we’re finished with it.

Cam was promptly seen by the ED and haematology doctors and they decided that Cam needed to be admitted to hosp. Cam spent the next 18hrs in ED until a single room became available this afternoon on the ward.

We’re still not sure where the source of the infection is- so Cam has had a lot of tests, and samples taken and in the mean time has been started on three strong, broad-spectrum, IV antibiotics. He’s feeling pretty exhausted, and has been able to sleep well for most of the day. His sleep is now being aided by a fentanyl patch (like morphine) which, in keeping with Cam’s love for prescription medications, he is embracing. His temp today has been up to 39.2C- so he’s been alternating been shivering and sweats.

The length of his hospital stay will depend on where the infection is (it will take about 3 days to get the results of the cultures) and how quickly his immune blood counts increase. We’ve been told to expect anywhere from 3 days-2weeks. Stay tuned…

Thanks again to everyone for your thoughts and prayers- we feel very well supported. We’re seeing this hosp admission as part of what we were told to expect for this treatment- so we don’t feel anxious about it and feel that we are in good hands.


Heading to the hospital

Posted on April 23rd, 2008 by Cam.
Categories: Let's talk.

Heading in at 5pm. Hopefully just for some antibiotics and they may let me come home.


At this moment… (3pm, Wednesday)

Posted on April 23rd, 2008 by Cam.
Categories: Let's talk.

We only got back from the hospital about 2 hours ago. My levels of things that are meant to be dropping are now dropping rapidly. My neutrophils are closing in on 0.0 and a lot of my other levels have bottomed out.

To complicate things, it seems that I have a chest infection. This is of course what we have been trying to avoid approaching this time of no immunity. I was checked out by the doctor this morning and was sent for x-rays, but they didn’t reveal enough at that time. My temperature was okay (37C), but my blood pressure was low and my heartbeat high. I was feeling a bit worse than usual, but manageable, so we came home.

Now, at nearly 3pm, my chest congestion is getting more noticeable and my temperature has gone to 37.6C. We need to check it in an hour, but if it reaches 38C we need to rock up to ED. I am getting this info up while I am waiting for some time to pass in case we head into the hospital soon. I have no doubt I have a chest infection and need antibiotics of some description. Sooner would be better than later I assume as my body is no longer able to fight any infection on its own. I don’t want a repeat of last year when I caught pneumonia after my stint in hospital. I can’t remember a time when I have felt worse.

We’ll see how things go.


Tribute. My time in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Posted on April 22nd, 2008 by Cam.
Categories: Let's talk.


One of the great things about leading a transient lifestyle for a time was meeting people who will remain significant part of my life, even though we are separated by thousands of kilometers. It has been over 10 years since I had the privilege of working with an amazing group of people high up in the Blue Ridge Mountains on the border of North and South Carolina, USA.

The setting was at a camp called Camp Greenville, and the people that I met through this place have impacted my life in an immeasurable way.

I was living in London in 1996 and had a ticket booked for the US. I sat the interviews in London and was accepted at Camp Greenville. Out of 5000 or so camps in the US, I got sent to one that was only an hour and a half from where I used to live in Georgia when I was 15. It was like heading home.

I remember when I was 15 that things could have gone either way for me. I would have been happy to stay in the US, and happy to go home. At such a pivotal time in my life, it was like I found a place that I felt very at home in. I could talk both Australian and American. As with most kids who have this sort of experience, from the moment I landed back in Australia I realized I was no longer felt completely at home in my own culture. The affiliation that I had for my second home and its people was strong, and it still is.

Being placed at a camp in the South was perfect. Not only was the location perfect, but I also doubt there is a better run camp in the US than Camp Greenville (I know, bias). A friend sent me a gift this week including pine-scented candles. No matter where I go in this world, for the rest of my life, the smell of pine will always take me back to walking through the pine forest and meeting in the Mulligan Centre that was a wonderful building made of pine. Even when I go past a garden with pine wood chips in it, I smell it and just want to jump in there and snort the stuff.

So I am very thankful for the people who made it such a wonderful place for me and for the support I receive from you all. It is a reality that the worlds that I know will never meet in their entirety, but I feel honored to be a part of an incredible chapter of memory making history in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Here’s to you, Staff of 1996,1997,1998.
Here’s to you, scent of pine, for helping me get back there as often as I can.

1 comment.


Posted on April 21st, 2008 by Cam.
Categories: Let's talk.

Still feeling ok today, aside from a little stomach cramping and being very tired.

As nice as I like to be in regards to the job the anesthetist did inserting the central line, I conceded today that I could have done a better job and wish I had of taken over mid-procedure. When you have a tube pushed through your neck, you expect there to be a little discomfort. I was experiencing more discomfort than what I though was fair, kind of like the tube was pulling the skin even when my head was still. When I went to the hospital this morning, the nurse took the dressing off and revealed the problem. When the poor lass was stitching the tube to my neck, she had tightly tied the tube to a stitch in the skin a fair way away from the tube itself, resulting in the skin being constantly stretched.

Uncomfortable. The nurse got straight to it, cut the stitches out and immediately relieved a stress that was consuming my entire upper body. So liberating. She fixed it up very nicely and now I am a lot more comfortable.

The rest of the day was given over to resting and recovering. All my bloods seem to be good so I am happy with that. I am beginning to wonder if they gave me the chemo at all.


On Standby

Posted on April 20th, 2008 by Cam.
Categories: Let's talk.

Well, we were told that by the weekend all hell would break loose and I would be feeling quite under the weather to say the least. As it turns out, I went for a 3km walk around the park today, went to a cafe with family and have just finished watching a movie at home. I feel quite all right to be honest, relatively speaking. The new normal consists of chemo-brain (or smokey brain as I have referred to previously, when you can’t think coherently), a bit of an unstable walk (now back on the walking stick just in case) the loss of appetite and an all over ache. This is all quite manageable though. I haven’t lost my hair yet (still a bit early for this) or vomited. Overall, things are going way better than expected.

A real highlight of the day for me was watching the historical footage of the 2020 Summit held in our nation’s capital where people from all over Australia came together to collate some great ideas for the future of Australia. It was like a huge knife slicing into an ‘old-school’ mentality in respect to the way our country does things and caused a real sense of excitement for the future. I just wish I could be there in any capacity, even serving lunch. It was a huge deal that will change the direction of the way we do things in Australia, especially in the are of governance. Kev is getting it right. We may just be seeing one of the most innovative approaches to governance operating in the world today. Not to say it won’t have its hiccups, but I am looking forward to seeing some practices and attitudes dying out and some vibrant reform taking place. It is like Australia is going to go through a high-dose chemo itself and will be ‘rebooted’ with a fresh batch of blood. That’s why it is bloody brilliant.

This week will be getting into a routine. Each day we will begin at the hospital (after a satisfactory sleep-in) for my check-ups of bloods, temperature, blood pressures etc. Depending on what they find, I will be sent home or invited to stay. Each time I go in I am meant to take my teddy and toothbrush so if anything is out of whack I can be admitted straight away. If all is well, it will be back to the comforts of home and doing what we can to not get cabin fever. Happy to say I have got a lot to keep me occupied, so I am quite looking forward to this time. At the moment I feel like I have a scheduled appointment with sickness, but I am on standby.


Day +1

Posted on April 18th, 2008 by Cam.
Categories: Let's talk.

I felt a lot better today. We worked out yesterday that it was the anti-nausea tablets that were making me restless. So I came off those and am now taking a couple of different alternatives. So I slept quite well apart from having to get up about 10 times to whizz out all the hydration from yesterday. My tubes are a bit more comfortable today, but I don’t think they are ever meant to be part of me.

We were back at the hospital first up this morning as my potassium was a little low last blood test. When we got to the hospital, we were able to check yesterday’s bloods and my potassium was fine, so no infusion needed. They just took more blood and let me go. This still took about one-and-a-half hours. I can’t imagine what we would have done if we were still living 50 minutes away. Especially as I will be making these hospital trips daily for the next two weeks at least, and most of them will be whilst yearning for a bathroom or vomit bowl. It would just be too much.

We popped around to catch up with my sisters on the way home which was great- love living so close. Then it was back home to continue the isolation regime. This involves no shoes in the house, washing hands twice in the designated washroom and then just keeping the distance. I have my own bathroom now (I let Elizabeth use it from time to time). Thankfully, I am a bit of a hand-washing guru anyway so I don’t find this new way of life a significant change.

The biggest threat is sickness carried by others or an infection from myself. I would be really keen to get through this without getting sick or an infection. That is my goal. It is a good one to work toward.


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