Going with the chemo flow

Maurice and his bag of equipment from audiology, handed over by a very shy nurse.

Maurice and his bag of equipment from audiology, handed over by a very shy nurse. - Credit: Maurice Gray

Over the last few months north Norfolk photojournalist Maurice Gray has been sharing his cancer diary with us.

In this latest instalment he writes from his latest chemotherapy appointment. 

New equipment for infusions

New equipment for infusions. - Credit: Maurice Gray

I have just arrived at the Colney Centre, at the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital and been greeted by the very kind staff.

I'm now sat in my selected chair, in the Weybourne Day Unit, to have my fifth treatment in the first year of my two year maintenance programme.

Firstly my weight is taken, then all observations (temperature, blood pressure, oxygen level and pulse) and lastly my blood test results, cannula in and infusion dripping slowly, so I thought I would start this instalment right here at the heart of it all.

The canula in and ready to go

The canula in and ready to go! - Credit: Maurice Gray

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Previously I mentioned a ‘mini volcano’ near my thumb which was removed quite quickly because the consultant dermatologist thought it may be a skin cancer.

Anyway, the stitches dissolved and the site healed and concern about the skin cancer came back from the laboratory as negative. It was a benign papillary keratosis! Another big thank you.

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However, I’m going back for a moment to when I started the chemotherapy and one of the side effects was that my ears started clicking (strange it may sound), but it was fact and when swallowing liquid or food there seemed a ‘doorbell chime’ sound and I thought I was going bonkers. (I’m called that quite often!).

So, an appointment was made to have my hearing checked, although the consultant did say that the chemotherapy was nothing to do with my hearing problem.

Back to my treatment, which has now finished for the day, and I am feeling tired and very heady waiting for my wife Margaret to collect me.

Getting back to form, after a couple of days' rest, I was eventually given an appointment at Cromer Hospital Audiology Department for a hearing test, done by a lovely lady, Jade.

Jade in audiology at Cromer Hospital

Jade in audiology at Cromer Hospital - Credit: Maurice Gray

I was very grateful because private hearing tests and aids can be very expensive.

Jade took details before popping on some head gear and gave me a thumb button and placed me in a cubicle.

She told me to listen and when I heard something to press the button each time.

I heard quite a few before Jade placed another gadget which looked like a small TV aerial (I could do with one of those).

She said to press the button again if I heard, which I did.

Jade explained that all the data then goes straight to the ENT (Ear, Nose and Throat) consultant where I had another appointment booked the same afternoon in another part of the hospital.

The consultant was asking questions and said, while getting some equipment ready: “Well, you definitely need some hearing aids”, as he then pushed the end of the gadget into my ear.: mmmmm that’s clear, I can see right through," he laughed.

He continued: “I can see everything and we now know your brain is okay”. (Did he mean he had checked my brain?) "Thank goodness", I thought, but I wouldn’t say my wife would always agree with that statement!

With his hands on his hips he grinned and said: “You should have come to me five years ago”.

Why five years ago, I am not sure how I coped, I should have learned sign language!

I did explain again about having more problems with my hearing since having chemotherapy as well as what I called a ‘jumbled brain’, commonly known as ‘scrambled chemo brain’.

And I couldn’t always remember names and got confused, sometimes, communicating and getting only some words right, particularly during interviews etc. And often getting a doorbell sound in my ears – creepy!

The happy ENT consultant said: “Well, we will sort you out and arrange to have a set of hearing aids”. I was told an appointment would be sorted and in the meantime a colleague will contact me. And, off we trotted.

This was very helpful because other parts of the body have to put up with hurdles and bits and pieces. Now it’s my ears…what next?

I must say here, as things go along, it's three years since my Non Hodgkin Follicular Lymphoma Stage 3, Grade 2 cancer diagnosis and I have heard many depressed patients saying: “All this time wasted”.

Totally wrong.

To be on this planet even though I am in a bit of a shambles, but having strong devoted medical staff and much more looking after me is keeping me going 24/7, and we are both so very grateful, again.

Finally an appointment arrived for my hearing aid fitting at Cromer hospital where I was greeted by a young nurse. My wife was not allowed in with me due to lack of seating, but waited in the waiting room for 35 minutes.

In the meantime, the nurse encouraged me to sit down while she organised her computer having asked a few questions, including: "Do you have any heart problems?" I said, "No". She put a large looking pendulum round my neck, saying, "I’ll check a few details in a moment" before explaining about the hearing aids, suitable for you."

She then explained the procedure of wearing these ‘half-moon’ hearing aids, with little aerials, saying, "The batteries last about a week".

Once she had fitted them, she gave me a little bag containing the batteries for a year and plenty of literature, saying: “we will contact you in four weeks”, and we left.

Equipment for checking Maurice's observations at home

Equipment for checking Maurice's observations at home - Credit: Maurice Gray

Wow, did I hear things when I went outside back to the car! Everything was loud! I could hear everything including chirping birds and other people having a chat, running water sounded like a fireworks display.

The literature explained the loud sounds would calm down! Now I'm trying to get used to my new aids.

Don’t forget to keep humming!

Caring Thoughts, a book by Margarett Luckett-Gray

Margaret's book, Caring Thoughts - Credit: Maurice Gray

Margaret’s poetry book, raising funds for equipment for the Weybourne Day Unit, is still available at £2 including postage by contacting us on 07720 657918. The books are usually on sale only at the Colney Centre reception, but due to Covid-19 restrictions they have bene suspended, but hopefully will return soon.

Next time: We will be getting up to date, plus more facts and figures, patients and families and their experiences. 

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