It was – well – one of those days…

Somewhat to the amazement of all concerned, my blood tests on Monday were done so quickly that I was able to take pretty much the first appointment in the van at Stowmarket. Which suited everyone, including me. (Apart from a mild concern about the weather – which we needn’t have worried about.) I’d had some minor digestive issues in the night but nothing to write home about. Or at least, so I thought.

So we rolled up bright and early, I had the usual checks (which, as usual, were nominal) and Rosemary drove home while I settled in for my sixth and final chemo session in this cycle. My nurse, Kerry, was on her own (apart, of course, from driver Anthony, to whom I have good reason to be grateful) and we had a delightful chat while she got everything set up.

So far, so good.

I’ve had the occasional mild stomach cramps from my first infusion before. but about an hour and a half in I got a level of pain I’ve never previously experienced. Kerry was on it right away with an injection that should, in theory, have dealt with it immediately.

It didn’t, so Kerry paused the infusion to give me a chance to recover.

We debated getting some tablets from the pharmacy in nearby Tescos but the pain did finally start to die down. At which point, and in response to the fun and games in my digestive system, my stoma decided enough was enough.

There’s a good reason why I call it ‘Hekla’. (For those not in the know, it’s Iceland’s largest and deadliest volcano, and according to legend it’s also the mouth of Hell. Though normally, like my stoma, it’s as peaceful as it appears in the picture above.)

Hekla lived up to her name. I was suddenly aware of intense activity, checked my bag for leaks, and thought I’d found none – though a couple of marks on the outside of it should have warned me something was up. A few seconds later it wasn’t just up, it was out and flowing freely. What my mate Jasper would call ‘poomageddon’ and I’d call a poonami.

Kerry – and the indefatigable Anthony – to the rescue. Fortunately Kerry had spent a lot of time in care homes, and was all too familiar with stomas and their little ways. And at least she wasn’t dealing with a dementia patient who was trying to either assault her or rip the bag off at the same time. Nonetheless, off it had to come to be followed by a major cleanup operation. I was going to need a new stoma bag and – very definitely – a new t-shirt.

One fringe benefit of this minor disaster was that Kerry got a close-up look at my stoma – which I’ve been worrying about. We lost a good friend to bowel cancer during the pandemic, and her stoma became herniated – which made life even less pleasant for her than it already was. I was worried mine might be going the same way, but Kerry assured me it looked normal, healthy, and well healed. As it happens I’m seeing the stoma team today, but at least I can approach that meeting without a sense of dread.

While Rosemary was on her way with the necessary I showed Kerry the pictures of my custom t-shirts. Like every other NHS nurse who’s seen it, she doubled up with laughter at my ‘Boris’ t-shirt – and got the chance to see it in action when Rosemary arrived.

Thank you so much, Kerry and Anthony, for dealing with my poonami so efficiently and considerately, and giving me some much-desired reassurance into the bargain. You are both superstars.