05 February 2009

My cancer diary - part 16

After a night in the Hospice, some morphine, and an appearance by Henry VIII, Lynn is back home.


After a night in the Hospice, some morphine, and an appearance by Henry VIII, Lynn is back home. Andre fills us in on the last few weeks.

He sent the following email on February 4, 2009. It had the subject line "Lynn's anatomy episode 16: Through the valley".

By now I'm sure you are all wondering what's going on in the "anatomy" household. Some bits of news regarding hospices, morphine and odd visions of Henry VIII abound, so I thought it was time to send out an update.

First of all, thank you very sincerely to everyone who has called, mailed, Facebooked, SMSed, sent carrier pigeons or generally got in touch some way or another. I know often one doesn't know what to say at times like these, but just the knowledge that you are thinking and praying for us helps.

So, what's being going on? Well, last time Lynn wrote it was just before Christmas and we had received the (not unexpected) news that the Big C had diversified its investment portfolio and taken up a few more tracts of Lynn's insides. Prognosis was given as weeks into months, so we kind of knew where we were.

Lynn was still surprisingly healthy and showing minimal signs of what was happening on the inside. We had decided against the suggested chemo route and had found some anti-nausea meds that seemed to work rather well. Life was good.

What about Mexico, I hear you ask? Well we did a whole lot of praying about Mexico and alternate treatments in general. We asked others to pray for guidance and we waited. The message that came back was quite clear and unambiguous. We were to have faith in the Lord and only in him.

I know this may be difficult for some people to understand, but for us it was a massive relief. It's a bit hard to explain, but we have both had an incredible supernatural peace following our first group prayer session back in December 2007. This peace had never left us completely, but we were feeling unsettled when the Mexico discussion came up. Once we decided to follow the Lord's guidance again, we both immediately felt completely at peace again. We are discovering that it's actually quite easy to keep to the right path as the guidance we get is very clear.

Anyway, Christmas came and was enjoyed by all. New year passed in its usual high-speed manner and we were heading boldly into 2009.

Then the pain arrived. Up until this time (and ignoring the whole gall bladder thingy) Lynn had been essentially totally pain free. A small miracle in its own right, given the state of her liver with the multi-site construction project being developed by the Big C.

We had by this time made contact with the amazing and incredible people at the Hospice, and they sprang into action, arriving on our doorstep with a little brown bottle of clear liquid. It was morphine time. We discussed the pros and cons of this kind of medication, and duly started off on a fairly low dose.

Morphine is one of the oldest drugs known to man and is still very effective for pain management. So, within hours Lynn was pain free again.

So the days passed. Lynn was still struggling with nausea which made eating a bit of an issue, but was otherwise doing well. She was slowly losing weight and finally reached the goal weight that she'd been striving towards for so many years.

Penny (and Lauren) arrived from Dubai in the second week of Jan to spend some quality time with her sister, and I headed off to Oudtshoorn to go push my mountain bike up a diabolically steep and rocky hill otherwise known as the Attakwas mountain bike race.

I arrived home on Sunday to meet the hospice sister just leaving. She informed me that Lynn had had a sudden sharp pain, and they had decided to change from liquid morphine to a nifty little gadget called a syringe driver.

This device is a battery-powered gizmo that slowly injects the contents of a syringe into a person over a period of 24 hours. It gives a much better delivery of morphine, and is very convenient for adding additional drugs if needed.

The real question was: what had caused the sudden increase in pain? A blood INR (clotting factor) test provided the answer. Lynn was still on Warfarin at this point to keep her blood thin because of the blood clots she had suffered early last year. However, because the liver was more construction site and less drug metaboliser, it was not doing the correct things with the Warfarin. Her INR was up to 10+ again (it should be between 2 and 3 - normal levels being less than 1).

Now, we had been here before. Recall the gall bladder episode. The super-thin blood causes the tumours to bleed and the liver to swell which causes lots of pain. Boosts in morphine dose followed to get things under control, but Lynn steadily deteriorated.

On Thursday we decided we should pay a visit to the Hospice. The sister tending us was quite concerned and we thought it would be good to make personal contact with the folks there, check out the scene and formally meet the doctor that was helping out behind the scenes. So on Friday morning we trundled off down to the Hospice and booked in for what was supposed to be a weekend stay.

The folks at the hospice are incredible. There is no real way to describe the kind of people they are and the service they perform. They are, to the person, the most incredible, sensitive and empathetic people I have ever met. The world needs lots more like them.

We met the amazing Dr Rene who evaluated Lynn and made some changes to the syringe drive-dose and contents. The pain was under control now, but Lynn was suffering from the side effects of the drugs and a rather embattled liver. As night fell she was given a sedative to ensure she slept well.

Now, we are talking about Lynn here, so predictably she experienced some of the rare and lesser known side effects of the sedative, and started to hallucinate. What followed was possibly the darkest night of my life. The hallucinations were mildly amusing at times, especially when King Henry VIII made an appearance. I did manage to determine that the Henry we were talking about here was the Rhys Meyers version and not the historic version. I'm not sure I really appreciated the competition, think I would have preferred the balding, overweight, limping historic version to be honest.

However, the rest of the night was pretty grim. Lynn at this point was barely conscious and breathing really slowly - both signs of an imminent departure. I spent the night on the blue comfy chair (now there's a description that is really contrary to the actual device) provided in the room. I woke up every couple of hours expecting Lynn to be gone, but it was not to be. I did, however, decide that I was taking Lynn home the following day, even if King Henry had to come too.

The hospice is an amazing place, don't get me wrong, but I just wanted Lynn to be at home around things and people she knew. Hospice were absolutely fine with our decision and supported us in every way, even lending us drip-stands and the other bits and bobs we needed.

Lynn, being ever dramatic, required an ambulance to get home, but by Saturday afternoon she was comfortably snoozing in her own bed. Luckily, by this time, the sedative had worked through her system and we managed to leave King H behind.

Dr Rene was still very concerned about Lynn and made a house call later the afternoon to administer a vitamin K injection in an attempt to get the blood to thicken. It surely worked because by the next morning Lynn's INR was down to 1.3! It was still a bit touch and go with Lynn's liver quite swollen and her becoming very jaundiced.

We had a good long chat on Sunday. We were still at absolute peace and she was ready to go.

Clearly the Lord has other plans. As I write this she is sitting in her comfy chair in the lounge chatting to her sister who is doing her nails. She has steadily got stronger and less jaundiced over the past few weeks, and is now able to spend a few hours out of bed each day. She is still exceptionally weak and not eating anything, but when she is awake she is all vintage Lynn.

So that's where we are at the moment. We spend as much time as we can with her and thank the Lord for every precious moment together. Barring a healing miracle (which is always possible) she will eventually leave us, but until the Lord calls her we will revel and rejoice in the time we have.

(Andre Ferreira, 4 February, 2008)

Read more:
My cancer diary - part 1
My cancer diary - part 2
My cancer diary - part 3
My cancer diary - part 4
My cancer diary - part 5
My cancer diary - part 6
My cancer diary - part 7
My cancer diary - part 8
My cancer diary - part 9
My cancer diary - part 10
My cancer diary - part 11
My cancer diary - part 12
My cancer diary - part 13
My cancer diary - part 14
My cancer diary - part 15

Cancer Centre

Updates are also being posted on Lynn's blog.


Read Health24’s Comments Policy

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Ask the Expert

Cancer expert

CANSA’s purpose is to lead the fight against cancer in South Africa. Its mission is to be the preferred non-profit organisation that enables research, educates the public and provides support to all people affected by cancer. Questions are answered by CANSA’s Head of Health Professor Michael Herbst and Head of Advocacy Magdalene Seguin. For more information, visit

Still have a question?

Get free advice from our panel of experts

The information provided does not constitute a diagnosis of your condition. You should consult a medical practitioner or other appropriate health care professional for a physical exmanication, diagnosis and formal advice. Health24 and the expert accept no responsibility or liability for any damage or personal harm you may suffer resulting from making use of this content.

* You must accept our condition

Forum Rules