Sam Keers from Dromore was diagnosed with prostate cancer last year. He underwent chemotherapy and was given a helpline number to ring, in case he developed serious side effects. Sam says he saw this as his ‘guarantee card’ because it guaranteed him specialist care, when he needed it most.
When I was diagnosed with prostate cancer last year, I was told it was at an advanced stage. My consultant explained that there was no cure, but that chemotherapy could extend my life expectancy and buy me time.
I knew that, if I could get to enjoy another two years of life, I had to try. I was determined to spend as much time with my wonderful grandchildren as possible.
So, even though I was worried about the possible side effects of chemotherapy, I said yes to the treatment.
I didn’t go into it blind. Staff at the Mandeville unit at Craigavon Area Hospital explained the effect chemotherapy might have and what could go wrong. I knew my life was on the line because of my cancer and also because of the treatment.
Luckily for me, the Southern Health and Social Care Trust had already established an Acute Oncology Service – the first of its kind in Northern Ireland.
I was given a helpline number to call and I saw this as my ‘guarantee card’.
I spent most of my working life in the commercial sector, where guarantees are key. And where, if you make a promise, you have to deliver on that promise.
After one session of chemotherapy, I went home but suddenly became very unwell. I developed a very high temperature and so, instead of heading for the Emergency Department, I phoned the Acute Oncology helpline.
Staff on the end of the line were reassuring and, above all, caring.
I went to hospital and, within thirty minutes, I was on a drip in the chemotherapy unit and admitted to hospital with neutropenic sepsis. Chemotherapy can cause your white blood cell count to drop, making you more prone to infection. And that’s what had happened to me.
I was discharged and allowed home after four days because I had been treated so quickly. Thanks to the Acute Oncology team, made up of Macmillan Clinical Nurse Specialists, together with a doctor, my care was well coordinated.
When you are receiving chemotherapy, it can be very frightening if you develop side effects, but knowing this service was in place gave me the reassurance and confidence I needed to continue with my treatment.
Not only was I grateful for the specialist care I received but I was overwhelmed by the manner and spirit in which it was delivered.
It really is a magnificent service.