Its been an eventful week ! no one ever said being a cancer patient was dull. I was due for my 4th immunotherapy treatment this week and arrived at the Marsden for my regular blood tests on Tuesday as planned. I had started to feel nauseous and was losing my appetite in the few days running up to the blood tests and had reported this to the team. Arriving home from the Marsden, I had literally just walked through the door at home when the phone rang telling me to immediately pack a bag and come back to the hospital. My blood tests revealed that my liver levels had gone off the scale to dangerous levels and they needed to admit me to hospital to get this under control. I was in complete shock and felt upset as I quickly threw clothes in a bag and ordered a taxi to take me back to Chelsea.
On arrival, the doctor told me that my liver ALT levels (which is a measurement for the liver) had gone from the average person’s reading of 40 Units/litre to in excess of 1200 Units/litre, which is a very dangerous level and needed to urgently be addressed to prevent complete liver failure. This increase of over 30 x the normal level had occurred in the 3 weeks since my last blood tests & immunotherapy treatment. To decrease the liver inflammation, I was put on a course of high-level intravenous steroids to control the adverse reaction to the immunotherapy treatment, i.e. my own immune system had started to attack my own liver. As a consequence, I would also not be receiving my final immunotherapy treatment.
It all became clearer after a visit from Dr Larkin and his team who explained that this was the 2nd most common adverse side effect from the immunotherapy experienced by patients and it also demonstrated that my immune system had been kicked into action which was after all the original goal of the treatment. Unfortunately, the immune system doesn’t have a switch or trigger point, which automatically re-sets it, so each patient is unfortunately subject to an element of trial and error and effectively my own immune system had started to attack my liver.
The liver levels have started to drop but not sufficiently enough so in addition to the steroids, I am now also having infusions of antibiotics to help the situation twice a day, two hours a time. I really just thank my lucky stars that I gave up alcohol, as I would not be allowed to drink now however, I definitely am looking forward to having a glass of champagne when my liver has started behaving again.
Fortunately, I have been allowed out of the hospital during the day and the Kings Road, Chelsea is not a bad place to hang out for the day. It didn’t take long for a bit of retail therapy to take place and even although I am staying in hospital there’s no excuse for a girl not to have nice nails right! We have also been exploring the local restaurant scene, which is pretty decent with lots of “Made in Chelsea” good-looking girls and guys. If you’re single girls there is definitely plenty of eye candy walking around. On Friday eve we stopped in one open-air bar and with my mocktail and dance music when I shut my eyes I momentarily felt transported to Ibiza.
I have also had plenty of entertainment with David taking me out every day and treating me like a princess and all of the lovely friends and family who have been popping in for coffee, lunch and dinner. I even saw the lovely Fiona Cumming my gorgeous friend who was over from Hong Kong for the weekend, which was a special treat.
Back to reality, it’s back to the Marsden this evening and I will see my doctor tomorrow morning to see how things are progressing. If the levels are reducing I hope I will be discharged and can be treated as an outpatient which will be lovely to get home (much as I love the Kings Road).
The team at the Marsden looking after me are amazing and I feel so fortunate to be cared for such a top medical team. Prevention is the cure for melanoma so as temperatures soar over 30 degrees in the UK remember to slap on your factor 50, protect your kiddies and look out for changes in your moles. Stay tuned!