In two days’ time Isita finishes her differentiation therapy. This is the vitamin A supplement (originally an anti-acne treatment apparently) which somehow triggers any remaining potential cancer cells to ‘differentiate’ – in other words to develop normally rather than malignantly. Just over one week ago, she reached the end of the immunotherapy, which we were so lucky that she could get at all.
Wonderfully, she was able to complete the final five days of the course at home. The drug was given to her through a Baxter pump, which is a plastic bottle containing a rubber balloon with the medicine in a vial inside. Marta and Jamie were in Mallorca and we had only just moved everything into the new house. So it was a precious few days for me and incredibly exciting for her. There were still mountains of boxes everywhere. Isita spent (and still spends) a lot of time observing the Ukrainian carpenters and painters, and the Polish landscape gardener who even now are finishing things off. We weighed the pump morning and evening to check it was getting lighter, the only way to be sure the medicine was going in.
As we settle into our new light and space-filled existence in Shepherds Bush, we are also moving into what we hope will be the penultimate phase of Isita’s treatment. The first thing we have to get through is a barrage of tests with all the usual tension and suspense. On Friday, she had the radioactive dye MIBG test, which involved lying still on the scanner bed for three hours. If there are any active tumours in her body, they will absorb the radioactive dye and show up as dark spots on the scan. The last time she had this test was January and then there was only limited uptake of dye from the main tumour and nothing else. We are hoping for the result to be better or at least no worse.
Then in just over a week, she will have another bone marrow aspirate and trephines. It doesn’t seem long since she had the last one, which was fine. In about two weeks, she is scheduled for an MRI and then – a few days after that – she could go in for surgery. Until she is safely through all this, there is no way that Marta and I can truly relax.
That doesn’t mean we are sitting around biting our nails. There is too much going on to dwell on the many things that could still go wrong. Jamie and Isita spend their days alternately playing and bickering. We struggle to get them to tidy their new bedrooms. The turf in the new garden is still too new for them to run about on it but they scamper down the street to play in Hammersmith Park. With some small happy improvements, this could be the way things are going to be for the next while and that would be OK.