Too Much Detail – Probably

January 10, 2018



5th January 2018


It’s 07.30 and I’m in Phlebotomy at Mount Vernon having my bloods done. All routine. Next stop is the chemo suite for my 08.00 appointment. Well, once my notes have been found and the blood test results are in it’s 08.45. By 09.00 I’m hooked up to the chemo.

Except there is a problem. Unknown to me I am severely dehydrated, and in two hours, just before the chemo has finished, I am very sick. The small bowl of muesli I had at 6.30 this morning returns exactly as a small bowl of muesli. Screens are hurriedly drawn around me, and I am given a painful shot of anti-emetic straight into my bicep. I am shaky and hot. The chemo and flush is complete, the nurses steadily doing what they do best around me, unlimited sick bowls and tissues proffered and sympathetic looks. I sit for another 20 minutes before I can stand, with intense and painful tingling in my arms, hands and feet.

At home I am sick again and go straight to bed. Amanda is understandably worried as this hasn’t happened before. Well, not quite like this anyway. She calls MV. After being passed around various help desks, arrives at the Acute Oncology Service where an understanding woman goes through all my symptoms and then asks if I have a temperature. Manda grapples with the unopened box of a new digital thermometer we bought months ago while the woman patiently waits. The thermometer is thrust into my ear, a button pressed, and my temperature is 38.2. She says go to A & E.

I feel like rubbish, and the last thing I want to do is go to A & E with the prospect of an overnight stay. We hastily pack a few things.

It’s Friday night and Watford A & E is jammed. I’m admitted, and told to wait in the packed waiting room, along with maybe 60 or 70 other unhappy people. Amanda asks if there is somewhere less full of coughing and sneezing as my immune system is very low. Sorry, no. We find two seats beyond the waiting room in an industrial fluorescent-lit corridor packed with very poorly people laying on trolleys, their ambulance crews waiting and chatting together until their charges can be admitted. It looks like the world’s end.

I am called, and a cheery nurse checks my blood pressure, pulse and temperature. I’m now at 36.8 degrees, my pulse is 90 bpm. It’s usually 60 bpm. The nurse goes off to consult, and I am lead to another bay where another smiley nurse says I am to have a litre of fluids intravenously, another blood pressure test, and bloods taken for analysis. The bloods that I had done at Mount Vernon this morning aren’t accessible because MV is in a different trust to Watford. Hey ho.

So I’m cannulated again, bloods taken, and I’m given a fast infusion of saline. I notice the dark lines on my red palms pale a little, and think maybe that’s indicative of dehydration. It’s not. It’s Hand-foot syndrome, also called Palmar-Plantar Erythrodysesthesia. “It is a side effect of some cancer treatments. Hand-foot syndrome causes redness, swelling, and pain on the palms of the hands and/or the soles of the feet. Sometimes blisters appear.” Yes, I have all that. I realise that I have been drinking much less than usual – everything just tastes off to me. I’m not having coffees or teas. Cordials went out of the window way back. The only drink I enjoy is the fresh juice I make each morning – but that’s only one glassful.

My blood pressure and temperature are checked every hour and are now normal. My blood tests are fine, I feel okay and just want to get home. The doctor is still worried that I could have an infection, and insists on a chest xray and urine sample. The xray is quickly done and all clear. I balk at the urine sample – weeing to order is not a strong point of mine. So we are given the all-clear anyway, and we leave A & E at one in the morning, both of us shattered.

I know the NHS is a flawed system, but it’s a system worth fighting for. I was treated with cheery kindness by every one of the five busy, busy nurses and doctor who saw to me, and didn’t pay a penny. They were more thorough than I thought necessary, but that’s them being professional and me not wanting a fuss made. We are very fortunate.

I have eighteen tablets to take each day for the next few days, ten of them to counter the side-effects of the eight Capecitabine chemo tabs. I am tired, feel sick and have diarrhoea. The fight goes on. Pass the water.



Introducing Eleanor’s lovely eight month old whippet Scout. She is named after the narrator and protagonist in ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’. Scout is a lovely calm dog, very different to the dogs that we have previously had here! Of course, she has her own Instagram page, so you can follow her adventures here.

Do click on the images to see them bigger.


David Bramley
11:44 March 5, 2018

Hi Steve, you may not remember me. I assisted Graham Hughes with Louise back in the early 80's. I know we met a few times but I didn't know you well. Your courage and great talent are off the scale and your documentary blogs match your documentary approach to photography - insightful, intuitive and deeply personal and sensitive. Not sure how to finish this other than to say our thoughts and best wishes are with you all the way. Your portfolio legacy will continue for all the wedding guests and couples for whom you've provided beautiful memories. That's an amazing achievement.

14:00 January 11, 2018

In our thoughts Steve - keep fighting, that's the only way to win!

10:25 January 11, 2018

Hi Steve, I honestly don't how you can chronicle all things happening to you in such a detached yet personal way. All i can say is carpe diem! Much love. Dad

Paul Alan Putnam
08:45 January 11, 2018

Used to have a beautiful dog very similar to Scout. She was what hunters here in Spain call a "perriglago", something like a cross between a whippet and a Spanish "galgo". She was very calm indeed. She had a soothing effect on me. Man I just wanted to tell you how strong and brave you look to my eyes. Keep fighting. Keep your eyes on the future. I'm sending you big hugs.

18:56 January 10, 2018

Our love to you and Amanda, your words are wise and wonderful even in the face of being sick on what is to make you well. Thank you for remembering the doctors and nurses who look after so many for few thanks and much hardship. Like Neale I am sending you a "manly hug" you are a hero to us all Mr S and your girls are strong and heroes too! Much love and great whippet pics too.....that Mullins man would be insanely jealous ;) xx

17:26 January 10, 2018

P.s And Scout is absolutely gorgeous! Your shot of Heidi will always be my favourite though! ;-) xx

17:25 January 10, 2018

Your blog posts are always such an honest and beautifully written account of what must one be the hardest things to go through. I know you will hate me saying it, but you are an inspiration to anyone who is in a similar situation. I can't wait to catch up for a day in London when your feeling up to it! Love and hugs, Lou xx

15:34 January 10, 2018

Whippet photos to draw in the readers...classic marketing strategy, Steve ;) . Colin sends you a big hug (and probably a lick).

Neale James
11:34 January 10, 2018

Steve I know we only spoke on the phone yesterday about this, but I just wanted to drop by and say "I hear you, again." Gawd that sounds so lame. I guess I just want you to know that your messages get out there and are read by real people, not just Google bots and so on. I have the biggest and most amazing respect for you, and I think I'm probably just one voice in MANY that is willing you to defy whatever is thrown at you. A big manly hug.

Nigel Eade
11:32 January 10, 2018

Keep fighting Steve thinking of you mate.

11:28 January 10, 2018

That's tough Steve. Sending so much love to you and Manda. (Scout is a beautiful looking beast.)


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