A cautionary tale.
Cancer surgery often means big wounds. Wherever they might be, that also gives a lot of opportunities for infection. At one point, I had two huge wounds in my groin which were not fully healed. I had an open wound where my drain pipe fed into my drain bottle too.
I always made a huge effort to be really careful, changing my dressings and making sure they’d been looked after, keeping everything clean – but I still managed to get an infection, and things escalated very quickly!
The night before I was due to go back to St Georges for a robotic operation, I’d had a restless night. In the morning I woke up feeling groggy and a bit sick but I got up and ready to go to hospital regardless.
I jumped on the train and tube and walked from Tooting Broadway to the hospital, but felt terrible. I was dizzy and felt incredibly nauseous. By the time I had finally reached the surgical admissions lounge, I felt like death.
After I had thrown up neon green vomit a few times and met my consultants, I knew I wouldn’t be having an operation that day. My thighs had turned purple and everything was red hot and tingling.
My legs were burning hot. It didn’t take long for the doctors to realise how serious my situation was, and admitted me as an emergency. I had to spend three days in hospital.
More than anything else, it just gave me the opportunity to get some rest and focus on nothing more than getting better. But I was really seriously ill, I don’t think I’ve never felt so close to death. I had a temperature of 41c, my skin looked grey and I needed regular fluids and antibiotics intravenously.
My drain bottle filled up with the pus that was being drawn out of my legs. My heart rate was all over the place and my blood pressure wasn’t healthy. It took me two nights just to start to feel normal again!
It’s so important to take good care of your wounds. If you don’t, it might not be the cancer that kills you, it could so easily be the sepsis!
In November 2020, the cellulitis came back. I’d noticed over a couple of weeks that my legs were getting stiff, and really starting to ache. One morning, I woke up at 2am with a temperature of 40c, and was (not so) promptly admitted.
I spent another couple of nights in hospital, this time at the Lister in Hertfordshire. If lymphatic fluid is allowed to collect, there’s a much higher chance of infection. I’ve started to take lymphedema much more seriously as a result. I even kept a log of how I dealt with the swelling in my right leg, and how compression helped me.