3rd Cycle of Chemotherapy and Cancer Remission

20th May, 2019

Waited all morning for the call from hospital saying a room is vacant and available. Last time one had to go to hospital and wait there for a couple of hours in the lobby for the room to get ready.

But this waiting business is something I am just not comfortable with. I wish there was a way the hospital could work out the times of discharge of patients and have a schedule for new ones to get admitted.

I understand it’s not the easiest thing, but the waiting does get irritating. And then for someone in my situation, the fear is, will I get to the room in time enough for them to start my chemo treatment today?

Finally, the call came and it was well past 3.00 pm by the time I got to my room. To the credit of the doctors and nurses, my blood tests, etc, were done fairly quickly and by 7.00 pm they started infusing the drugs to prepare me for chemo. Hopefully this one will go smoothly.

21st May, 2019

As we had started late, the infusion of chemo drugs went on till late last night, finishing just past midnight. Once again the insertion of the Huber-Point needle, into the port implanted in my chest took some time. First one chemo nurse tried, but she could not match the needle with the port. Then a senior nurse was called, who did it quite easily.

I am realizing that while we have many new technologies and medical aids and machines, the number of technicians who know how to operate them is limited. And this is true in many other fields too, India now has got advanced technology, but we are lacking in skilled technicians.

The infusion of chemo drugs started a bit earlier today and now they will pull back the time every day to ensure I start having them by mid-day in the next day or so, which would enable a timely discharge for me on the 6th day (25 May) of this cycle.

Chemo Cycle 3
Back in hospital for round 3 of chemo
Chemo Cycle 3
View from my hospital bed
My room has 7 windows and an airy atmosphere that I love

22nd May, 2019

Slept fairly well and woke up fresh and rested. This room also has a panoramic view of the sea and gets very good sunlight. Fortunately, all the rooms I have had during my various sessions of hospitalization have been airy with lots of natural light and a good view.

It’s something I have requested for as I like that feeling of openness, and the Hinduja Hospital has been kind enough to oblige. I think this has not only helped increase my comfort levels, but also aided in my recovery.

Strangely the one time I had to go for a day to a higher grade and far more expensive Deluxe room, as the Special one was not available, I found the Deluxe one to be disappointing. Yes, it was appointed with more fancy furniture and flooring and instead of blankets it even had quilts, super soft mattresses, etc.

But the windows were smaller and fewer, and there was more artificial lighting than the ambient one. I was not at all happy there, but sadly it seems that the Deluxe rooms despite being more expensive, are proving to be more popular and in time to come, the Special rooms shall be upgraded to Deluxe too.

It appears I am in a minority when it comes to preferring simplicity in design and functionality in layout with the emphasis being on outside view and natural lighting and of course a feeling of spaciousness. Unfortunately, I am told most of us Indians now prefer to have fancy five-star like rooms, even in hospitals

Chemo Cycle 3
View of the beach behind Hinduja Hospital

23rd May, 2019

Woke up earlier than normal, to catch the national election results news. And the day went by quickly learning how our nation has voted. I will not comment on the results as I want this chronicle to be strictly about my cancer treatment and anything related to it. But one thing I cannot resist saying, “I strongly hope we have not voted our freedom away”.

While the hospital was buzzing with the election result news, my chemo treatment continued alongside all the excitement of the biggest elections in the world.

24th May, 2019

The last infusion of the dose of drugs in this chemo cycle three of mine, started today, and all going well, I should be discharged tomorrow. And I am obviously eagerly looking forward to spending the weekend at home.

There is little more for me to add other than the fact that our country seems to be completely caught up in the ‘Modi Mania’.

The world is not black and white.

Chemo Cycle 3
The world is not black and white

25th May, 2019

Today was a horrible day and one of the worst during this treatment. Actually all was going fairly well and I completed my chemo cycle three as scheduled. The doctors checked me in the morning and decided I could be discharged and sent home.

Due to some glitches in the computer system at my insurance company, the papers got delayed and it was almost 2.00 pm by the time my formal discharge was completed.

Accompanied by my wife Madhu and personal assistant Raja, who is more than a family member, I walked into the elevator to leave for home. Hardly had we gone down a few floors that I felt a little dizzy. The liftman suggested I sit on his stool. And that is the last I remember.

Apparently just a few moments later I completely blacked out. My wife saw me losing consciousness and screamed that the elevator be taken back up. A nurse and doctor who were also in the same lift, paged emergency and just a minute or two later, I was wheeled back into the room I had just been discharged from.

Personally I have no recall of those two minutes. When I regained my senses I was in the room with about half a dozen doctors and nurses attending to me. The emergency team from ICU had arrived within two minutes itself, which is really very impressive. They had an IV line inside me in no time and all lifesaving and revival machines were on hand.

My blood pressure and pulse had fallen very low. An ECG was done almost instantaneously, but fortunately my heart was working fine. In a matter of just minutes, I had been stabilized and started feeling better. My wife finally relaxed a bit and so did the doctors. But they were very clear. Though I had been discharged, I was to be readmitted immediately and kept under observation. And no after what had happened, I could certainly not go home today.

Some more tests like a 2D Echo to further check heart function were done, but fortunately this was also clear. The blood test showed my electrolytes were again dangerously low, including sodium, magnesium, potassium, etc and I would have to take a lot more of these in the form of fluids intravenously. I was also still too weak and though the blood pressure and pulse were better, they were not yet normal.

Like the second one, the third chemo had also thrown a strong punch and this time, literally knocked me out. But I am still in the fight and all set to ‘rise up to the challenge of the rival’.

26th May, 2019

The wife and doctors want to me to eat as much as I can, but the stomach is just not ready to accept food and I have to force feed myself. Almost all taste in my mouth is gone and there is just no appetite. And I also throw up occasionally.

The medicines and liquids being given intravenously are ensuring the body has all for it vital needs, but the doctors keep emphasizing that the more I take in orally, the better it is for me.

All through the morning I struggle to eat and drink and the only things going in somewhat smoothly are ice-creams and juice. The doctors come check me and after a consultation it is mutually decided I need to stay for another day in hospital. They will be happier sending me home when I am eating more and have built some strength.

So through the day I am constantly given small meals. In the evening I again throw it all up so an injection to curb the nausea and vomiting is administered. It proves to be effective and I rest and also sleep a bit.

27th May, 2019

Woke up feeling much better and got the nurse to disconnect all the intravenous pipes. A hot shower revived me even more and then a walk around the floor gave me the confidence to ask the doctors for a discharge. Their examination also revealed I am better and ready to go home. But I will have to eat properly, stay hydrated and also take a lot of medicines.

So for the second time in three days, my wife initiates the discharge process and this time everything is done by 11.00 am. Almost all the floor doctors and nursing staff come to see me off and while wishing me well, make it clear that now they only want to meet me next month, at the time of my fourth and last chemo cycle.

Yes, on day 50 of this diary, which I began writing exactly one day before I started the first cycle of chemotherapy treatment, I am delighted to say, “Now its three down, and one to go”.

28th May, 2019

It feels so good to be back at home. Last night I slept with the windows open and really enjoyed the sea breeze and sound of waves lapping gently against the rocks in the distance. My room at Hinduja Hospital may have had a sea view too, but unfortunately, the hospital is centrally air-conditioned and all windows are locked and sealed tight. So you do not get any fresh air or sounds from outside.

The primary focus now is on resting and eating and regaining my strength. After the 2nd chemo cycle I lost some 5 kgs and now again after the 3rd one, I have shed a similiar amount.

So my wife Madhu and eldest sister Shaku, who keeps coming over to stay with us during every chemo cycle, are very kindly feeding me small meals every 2/3 hours. “God Bless Them”, and all those who have taken so much good care of me. I also want to express my appreciation and gratitude to everyone who has been concerned about my well-being – “Thank You”.

29th May, 2019

The appetite has improved. I am eating better and more often and the strength is also gradually coming back. After a gap of almost 10 days, I attended to some work, which really felt good.

30th May, 2019

Went back to Hinduja Hospital for some blood tests, and consultation with Dr. Asha Kapadia and her team. My reports have improved, but Dr. Kapadia is still not fully satisfied with the levels of my electrolytes. I need to monitor these and keep eating and drinking well at home. The date of admission for my 4th and last chemo cycle is also given, 10th June.

31st May, 2019

After a peaceful night’s sleep I woke up to find all my facial muscles twitching and tense. The cheeks felt stiff too and the wife sensed I was having difficulty opening my mouth fully. Spoke with the doctors who prescribed some medicines. When after a few hour things did not improve, Dr. Asha Kapadia asked me to come see her and we reached her consultation room at Hinduja Hospital around 1.00 pm.

After examining me she said my magnesium levels appeared to have dropped. She gave some oral medication but insisted I leave my blood samples for examination before returning home.

Around 4.30 pm, Dr. Suparna from Dr. Kapadia’s team called and said they had my latest blood reports. My magnesium had actually dropped to worryingly low levels and I needed to be admitted to hospital and given some intravenous medicine to correct this immediately.

So back I went and this is my second unscheduled admission to hospital in the last 7 days! Honestly, it’s really very upsetting and something I am increasingly finding difficult to cope with. All these strong chemo medicines are truly playing havoc with my normal body systems. Just hope they are also succeeding in their mission of killing the cancer cells.

1st June, 2019

All through the day I was connected to the drug infusion machine and got magnesium, etc, intravenously. Being in hospital is really boring and is beginning to get to me. I really wish all this ends soon.

The good news is all the twitching of my muscles, which is one of the symptoms of low magnesium, has subsided. My magnesium levels have returned to normal, but I will need to be under observation in hospital. The doctors want to wait and watch if my levels hold or drop again.

2nd June, 2019

The person from the path lap arrives to collect my blood samples at 5.30 am. Yes, the day begins really early in hospital and by 6.00 am the efficient nurse comes calling to check my vitals like pulse, blood pressure, body temperature, etc.

The blood test reports come in by 10.00 am. My magnesium levels have again dropped overnight after the drug infusion was stopped. But the doctor’s also feel the drop may be compensated by oral medication and on my request I am discharged from hospital. But I will have to do the blood tests almost every day and come meet the doctors too. This is certainly more acceptable than being in hospital.

3rd June, 2019

Sleeping in my own bed and being at home feels so good, that I think it also aids in recovery. In hospital you may get constant medical care, but for me the atmosphere is alien and not so cheery, and I don’t think it helps the healing process very much.

Honestly this has more to do with my state of mind, than the hospital. I am very fortunate that each time I have been admitted to hospital, I have had a well laid out single room with great views. And Hinduja is a very efficiently run hospital with an excellent medical team and facilities, so I have no cause for complaint on that account also. It’s just that in hospital, my mood is far from best.

Anyway went to hospital in the afternoon to get my blood tests done and also met Dr. Asha Kapadia. My magnesium levels have fallen again so she doubles my oral medication and asks me to return day after for another check-up.

One of the main chemotherapy drugs that I have been given is Cisplatin, which is known to be effective against my kind of seminoma cancer. But one of its side effects is that it can hamper functioning of the kidneys. Despite all the precautions taken and all the hydration given to me during the chemotherapy cycles, it appears that my kidneys have been affected and magnesium and other such minerals and electrolytes are being lost through them.

Everyone is hoping that like in most such cases, it is a temporary effect on the functioning of the kidneys, and mine will also recover soon. For now, there is nothing to do but ‘wait and watch’.

4th June, 2019

Some of the strength is returning and I am starting to feel better, so I get down to doing a bit of paperwork and clearing pending bills, etc. The chemo has not just taken its toll on my body; it has severely restricted and limited my work output too. And unfortunately, my mind is still far away from doing anything creative. Will really have to strive on setting all this right, once the chemotherapy treatment ends.

5th and 6th June, 2019

Have been going to hospital almost every day for blood tests and to meet the doctors. The good news is my magnesium levels are holding with the oral medication, though they are still far from normal. Dr. Asha Kapadia wants to watch them and is not keen to begin my 4th chemo until the levels are normal again. So my 4th chemo will be postponed.

She has also asked me to get a pet scan done to check how effective the earlier 3 chemo cycles have been. But the PET scan will have to be done without the contrast dye, as it too can affect the functioning of kidneys.

I contact Dr. Bhavin Jankharia, one of India’s leading radiologists and founder of ‘Picture This’, and get an appointment for a PET scan at his well-equipped centre. The scan is to be done on 7th June and I am starting to feel nervous, as I shall be going for what is one of the most important tests of my life.

7th & 8th June, 2019

My entire body PET scan was done on the 7th and the reports which came on the 8th say, “Overall, there is good response with near complete regression of the disease”. This is quite a positive test result and shows that the 3 chemotherapy cycles I have been through, have been working.

I shall be meeting all my doctors on the 10th with my recent scan reports (and other blood test reports) and they will advise and decide the future course of action. It’s been a tough and demanding last two months, but I am happy the report is showing that all the pain has been worth it and that the fight appears to be going in a favorable direction. Jai Ho. And ‘Thank You’ everyone for your good wishes.

9th, 10th and 11th June, 2019

Yesterday I met my super talented onco-surgeon Dr. Srinivas and Dr. Asha Kapadia (Head of Medicine and Oncology at Hinduja Hospital), under whose excellent care I have been these last few months.

After studying my scan reports closely, both were of the opinion that my body is now cleared of the cancer. Based on these findings and the fact that my kidneys are still to fully recover, Dr. Kapadia decided that I will not go for a fourth cycle of chemo as the benefits of doing it now, are far less than the risk of irreversible damage to the kidneys.

Of course I need to continue with weekly tests and oral medication, but for all practical purposes, my chemotherapy treatment is now over and done with.

And as there is no evidence of the disease now and I am in remission, I shall not be updating this blog or writing this daily diary. Only in case there is something significant to share, will I update this page. The last two months have been most difficult and demanding, but your good wishes and prayers, have encouraged me and given more strength to fight hard and complete this arduous journey. Thank you very much everybody and wish you all good health forever. Cheers and God Bless. Jai Ho.