Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Once bittern...

One consequence of having cancer is that you never quite know what is going to happen next. Katie and I still find ourselves caught out by the ability of the disease to surprise, something that was most recently illustrated when I got my last scan result (see my post "Scan results" from 14th February).
I was reminded last week that my hobby, wildlife photography, shares this propensity for the unexpected. I visited the Wildfowl and Wetland Trust reserve at Slimbridge with the intention of photographing some of the common woodland birds that visit a feeding station there. On the way to the feeding station I decided to quickly pop into one of the hides where, from time to time, a bittern is sometimes seen. Bitterns were once extinct in the UK but are gradually making a recovery thanks to conservation efforts. The population is still small, with just 104 male birds recorded in the country in 2011 and so seeing a bittern is still difficult especially as they spend the majority of their time hidden deep in the reeds and because they are superbly well camouflaged.
As soon as I entered the hide I knew that the bittern was around because of the gaggle of photographers all staring intently into the reed bed at one end of the hide. It took me several minutes to locate the bird in the reeds - only the third time I've ever seen one of these elusive members of the heron family. Initially the bittern was obscured by too much undergrowth to provide any photo opportunities, but over the next two and half hours it engaged in a game of "now you see me, now you don't" - very occasionally emerging into more open patches of reed where it could be photographed. Getting some shots of such a rare bird was certainly unexpected and made for a very enjoyable morning.
On Thursday and Friday last week I had my 11th Trabectedin infusion. As usual the process went smoothly. So far the side effects have been pretty much the same as previous cycles and hopefully there will be no surprises as this cycle progresses.

Friday, 1 March 2013

Heart update

Following on from my last post and the discovery that I have heart problems I've now had an ECG, an echocardiogram and seen a cardiologist. The cardiologist is happy for me to go ahead with my next cycle of chemotherapy which is scheduled for the 7th March. This is very positive news and was the most immediate issue we needed to clarify.
In terms of what is wrong with my heart the situation is still quite uncertain. The cardiologist said that analysing my echocardiogram results is complicated because of the pre-existing VSD ('hole in the heart') condition that I have (I was born with this, it was partially fixed by surgery when I was around four years old but the hole was not completely closed). He wants to get some of his colleagues who specialise in patients with this type of condition to look at the scan as they will be better placed to interpret the results.
Despite the complications he was able to tell that there are some problems with the valves on the right side of my heart, both of these are leaking slightly. He said that this can contribute to fluid retention in the abdomen and legs, something I've been suffering from increasingly of late. I will see the cardiologist in six weeks for a follow up but he will also write to me once he has the opinion of his colleagues.
I've continued to have problems with the skin on my arm which has developed an allergic reaction to the PICC line dressing. This has been sufficiently irritating for me to have to go to the hospital twice in the last week or so. I've now got some steroid cream that seems to be helping but that I can only apply to those parts of the skin that are not covered by various parts of the dressing. The skin that is not reachable continues to be irritated although taking antihistamines has helped a little. I have a feeling I'll have to see a dermatologist about this problem as the PICC line needs to stay in whilst I'm having treatment with chemotherapy.
This year has got off to a very slow start in terms of wildlife photography but I did get a few shots the other week at Pensthorpe in Norfolk. Here's a Coal Tit, there not as colourful as Blue or Great Tits but are still quite smart little characters: