Tag Archives: infusion

Ding Dong – Campath, Round Three …

campathMy third course of Campath (Alemtuzumab) is over and I am now back home from hospital. Yay!

The last three days have been a humbling, bonkers, strange experience. Third time around, you kind of know what to expect. And yet, I didn’t. Not really.

When I checked in on Monday morning, I felt like an Experienced Patient as I was shown to my bed. I unpacked my two pillows (essential), my blankie (a must-have), a selection of healthy snacks (mostly left uneaten once the steroids kicked in), a pile of paperbacks (overly ambitious), two towels, an array of miniature toiletries and a pen and notepad. Sorted.

The first surprise was being sent for an MRI before the first infusion. Ah. Right. Didn’t see that one coming. No time to go through my deep-breathing-yogic-anti-claustrophobia exercises, so I happily accepted half a Diazepam.

I therefore floated down in the lift, through the MRI waiting room and gently bobbed towards the hard plastic tray, humming to myself. Then afterwards, floated back up again, ready to be hooked up for the first lot of steroids and then, after being flushed through (really), the Campath.

So far, so good. Then, the same thing happened as before; that all-consuming, incredibly painful, every nerve ending on fire sensation, when the Campath first hits your system. I crawled into a ball and held my hand out for anti-nausea tablets and painkillers, whimpering ‘this too shall pass‘ to myself.

It passed. I ate a lot, read not a lot and dozed on and off. Luckily I had a steady stream of visitors who kept my chin up and brought me even more carb-laden snacks to feast upon. At the end of the first day, I was flushed out once more with saline and unhooked. It was 7.30 pm. Gah.

The second day was pretty much the same, although without the painful Campath-Hit thank goodness, but then the steroids did their job and kicked in. So I spent the second night wandering the corridors, eating toast with a nurse at 4am and offering to help clean some tables. I had a crazy amount of energy and had already packed and unpacked my bag twice.

This morning, after two hours sleep, I went bleary-eyed to the hospital Starbucks before my infusion and started hallucinating. I could have sworn I saw The Boss moving determinedly towards Starbucks at exactly the same pace as me. I stopped and stared. The vision stopped and stared. I waved. It waved. Gah. It really was my boss. He’d done a pit-stop to buy me a coffee and muffin before heading to Screwfix. As you do. It was lovely and we had a good old catch up, slurping away on our lattes, just as if I was back in work.

Third infusion and I realised, not just how lucky I am to have access to such an incredible treatment, but that I no longer have that same level of fear. If that makes sense. The first two rounds, I was fearful of the future, of everything. Now, I feel much more in control. Which is odd as it is my re-activated MS which sent me back here.

Anyway, now I am home and I have used up the rest of the steroid energy by sorting the house out, ready for the inevitable crash.

Tomorrow is another day. But at least the fridge is stocked, the bins are emptied and I have a huge pile of paperbacks to get through. Result.

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Third Time Lucky …

campathMy MS has been slowly getting worse again, so I’m booked in for a third course of Campath (Alemtuzumab) next month.

I had a sneaky relapse earlier this year and another one just the other week.

First off, I know how lucky I am to be eligible for the treatment; the earlier two courses put a stop to the relentless grind of relapse after relapse.

I got my (so-called) life back on track. Things were good. Until they weren’t.

So now, at the busiest time in our work’s history, ever, I’m frantically sorting out details:

The Teenager – he will (hopefully) be embarking upon his A Levels (all will be revealed on Thursday). I want to make sure he’s settled and happy before the Campath. My wonderful friend, who lives just down the road, will be having him for two nights.

The Cat – she has a reserved place at a cattery ‘overlooking beautiful Welsh countryside’ and her cat basket is safely stashed in my car boot. With her favourite blankie.

The University – which starts two weeks after hospital. Gah. I’m booked in to sort out a scribe, in case I’m not well enough to attend that all-important first lecture.

The Book Club – a week after Campath. I have diligently started reading ‘A Suitable Boy’, all 1500 pages of  it.

And as for the hospital trip, after the last two times, I’m feeling more than prepared. I will bake a batch of chia-seed energy bars to take with me, should the snacking compulsion overwhelm me. No more Jelly Babies and Maltesers. My mum has offered to bring in fresh salads and tempting-yet-healthy treats.

No books this time, certainly not ‘A Suitable Boy’. ‘Erm, excuse me, would you please stop screaming through your lumbar puncture, I’m losing my place. Ta.’

Pillows, natch. Favourite blankie (it’s not just the cat). Stash of magazines, from which I will snip out a pile of ‘must-buys’ before binning them. Ear-plugs, notebook to scratch down my very important musings upon hospital life, mobile phone, herbal tea bags, a few tea lights to brighten up the ward in the evenings.

It will all be fine. What could possibly go wrong?

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Last Year A Neuro Saved My Life

last year a neuro saved my lifeI’ve had quite a few emails and comments asking about the Campath (Alemtuzumab) treatment I had and how it works.

It is an experimental drug treatment (originally licensed for leukaemia and in organ transplantation) for rapidly-evolving or highly-active relapsing remitting MS and acts by suppressing the immune system and killing T-cells which are involved in the MS immune system response.

It’s a bit like re-booting a computer – after the immune system is taken down, it builds back up again with T-cells that don’t destroy myelin.

Before I had this treatment, I was having relapse after relapse with barely any breathing space in between. My life and health were on a downward spiral and I was struggling to hold myself and my little family together. I had a five day infusion last year and a three day one this year and hopefully, that’s it.

Campath has given me my life back. I still have most of the same symptoms I had before, but the baseline is much lower and as I haven’t had a relapse since last year, there’s been no progression in my MS. It’s as if I have been handed a miracle.

It’s not without side-effects, as in any serious medication – the possibility of an overactive or underactive thyroid gland in around a third of people (which can be treated with lifelong thyroid medication) and the risk of idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP), a blood clotting disorder, in 1-3% of people, which is why anyone having Campath must have monthly blood tests for five years after the treatment.

Genzyme, the manufacturer of Campath, submitted it for licensing in Europe last year. If a licence is granted, NICE (National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence) will appraise the drug, determining whether the cost of treatment is approved for the NHS. There is a fear the company will price the drug out of reach of the NHS.

Judging from my own experience, I can only fervently wish that anyone eligible for the treatment receives it. Financially, I am far less a drain on NHS resources now that my health has stabilised. But more importantly, I can face the future with more hope.

(Some of this information comes from the MS Trust’s excellent fact sheet –  read more here)

p.s. after today, I’m back to blogging every other day – I just really wanted to publish this post and reply to people who had asked about it.

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Weak As A Kitten

weak as a kittenCompared to last year’s Campath infusion, I am a whole lot more tired this time around.

Mind you, ‘tired’ doesn’t even begin to describe it – that’d be a bit like saying you’re a tad sleepy when in fact you’ve been poleaxed by MS fatigue. Utterly, thoroughly, totally exhausted would be more apt. Drained of energy, flat battery, squashed, deflated.

Since I got back from hospital on Wednesday afternoon, I have wobbled unsteadily between my sofa, my bed, the fridge and microwave. Right now, these are the four cornerstones of my daily life, with regular medication punctuating the long hours in between. Alongside all my usual pills, I need to take anti-histamines four times a day for a week and anti-virals twice a day for a month. If I had the energy to jump up and down, I’d rattle.

I feel nauseous and spaced out. Thoughts float through my mind on fluffy white clouds and float back out again. The world is either moving a second too slow or a second too fast. I can’t work out which. Everything is slightly fuzzy round the edges.

I have little five-minute pockets of energy,when I raise myself from the sofa and slowly pinball around the house finding little jobs to do, just so I feel I’m doing something. Only problem is, I forget halfway through what I was meant to be doing. I stand for minutes, staring at a pair of socks in my hands. What am I supposed to do with them? Or, why am I holding an empty toilet roll?

The steroids don’t seem to have left my system quite yet either, so I wake up in the middle of the night and still have a ravenous appetite. I’m like a locust, stripping food cupboards bare. Half a packet of digestives, circa last year? Yes please. Two bits of dried apricot stuck together? Nom nom.

All this to one side though, I am thankful that at least I know I will feel better very soon, unlike a relapse when it’s anyone’s guess. There is a definite end in sight.

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Campath 2, Multiple Sclerosis 0

fighting back against MSI’m back home from hospital and reunited with my sofa after my second course of Campath.

Having a combination of steroids and Campath over three days has left me exhausted but with a brain that refuses to sleep, so I’m not only a vampire with the continuing heat we’re having, but a shuffling, glazed-eyed zombie to boot.

What makes it all worth it though is that I have gone from having relapse after relapse to not having had a single one since my first course last summer. I still have the same symptoms, but there has been no progression – a bit like being frozen in time for a while, giving me breathing space to get my life back into some sort of order.

The hospital stay was brilliant, thanks to amazing staff, superb care and friendly fellow-inmates. One brave patient a few beds down from me let me test drive her swish mobility scooter one evening. Making sure I had the dial set to ‘tortoise’ speed rather than ‘hare’, I trundled up the corridor, executed a rather neat three-point-turn and reverse parked the scooter next to her bed again to a modest round of applause. After being hooked up to an infusion for most of the day, the freedom was exhilarating.

The hospital food arrived regular as clockwork and was, well, let’s just say, designed to be eaten by people with only a few, if any, teeth left. If I’d been given a straw rather than a knife and fork, I wouldn’t have been surprised. But steroids had given me a ravenous appetite and I ate it all, then ate all the food my mum brought me in afterwards, then woke up starving in the middle of the night and rummaged around in my bedside drawer for biscuits I had stashed away.

Aside from the actual treatment, probably the best thing about the last three days was being in an environment where MS was normal, and nowhere near the most serious illness being treated. It was a relief to chat openly to other patients with no need to explain anything. I think the steroids must have given me not only an uncontrollable appetite, but a bit of a motormouth too. One patient’s regular visitor quipped, ‘blimey, it’s awfully quiet in here when that Scottish girl reads her book…..’

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