Martina Hermanns

A passionate traveller turning into a cancer fighter

Awakening from a Dream

Saying Goodbye.. !

Again I have broken my promise on keeping you updated more frequently and I sincerely feel very bad about it!!! However, you have got forgive me, as a trip to South Africa for 5 weeks is a damn good reason not to be online.

As I had mentioned in my blog “A beacon of hope” I was on a testing phase with a multiple kinase inhibitor called Lenvatinib and I was waiting for my test result from the tumor sequencing conducted in Heidelberg. Hence, my situation was stable and stagnant at the same time.

Two weeks before my departure I noticed that I had less appetite and I started to become a little bit picky with the food, which could be a delayed side effect from the medication Lenvatinib. For that reason my doctor and I decided to suspend the intake of the Lenvatinib during the first two weeks of my holiday. The idea of being on a road trip with my mum and having eating difficulties put me off, as I simply didn’t want to be up against any issues whilst being on the road. It was the best idea ever because indeed I had an amazing culinary experience during this time, and I wouldn’t have wanted to miss out on that.

The deal however was to restart with the medication once reaching Pennington, our main final destination. Just 4 days after beginning with the medication I got badly hit with side effects: nausea, vomiting and lots of pain. It was impossible to continue the treatment and my doctor and I mutually agreed to pause the therapy. Nevertheless, I also got sick on top of that with a very bad cough, so I ended up also taking antibiotics for a week. To top all that: I even had to go into hospital one day before my dad’s and my brother’s arrival because I needed a blood transfusion. This meant another overnight stay in hospital in those extremely uncomfortable beds. The oncologist doctor requested two blood units, but in the middle of the night I only received one unit including a note saying “due to a shortage of blood type 0 positive” they can only provide one unit. So bear in mind when you travel to South Africa: blood type 0 positive is very rare, whereas A & B positive are quite common.

From there onwards things started to escalate a bit as I got the strongest pains ever at my back causing me to have no appetite at all which then resulted in the loss of a lot of weight. At this point I also need to mention that even during the first 4 weeks of holiday I had a little bit of back pain, but I thought these were just muscle aches from being active all of a sudden and that my mum was able to treat with a simple massage every night every day 24/7. 😀

Strangely my pain got worse during the nighttime and I kept my mum awake all night long. She even compared our situation with Guantanamo where the prisoners are sleep-deprived by waking them up every 15 minutes. I have to admit I was feeling very sorry for my mum. Luckily my cousin Matteo who is a physiotherapist helped out and conducted the massages during the day. When speaking to my family they say they observed a health change that rapidly worsened day by day.

My flight back home on the 22nd April 2017 turned out to be a nightmare. I was overdosed with painkillers, however the pain wouldn’t go away. On the flight the stewardess even called out a doctor who then gave me a tranquilizer making the next 4 hours a pleasant journey. Again we were not so lucky with our stop over in Istanbul, which lasted 6 hours. When we arrived at the Business Class Lounge I put up a very pity face and asked for a private sleeping room, which was given to us in less than 10 minutes. So my mum and I enjoyed a 4 hours sleep before the pain kicked back in again. We then had to call an emergency doctor who turned to be, a pretty tall, blonde, in short white skirt, and high heels accompanied by two big fat Turkish assistants. This lady doctor did not understand that I was already overdosed with painkillers and simply wanted a tranquilizer for the last set of my journey. She, however, insisted to give me more painkillers and put me on a tramadol drip, which I got 30 minutes before boarding. To be honest I have no idea how I got home but I did.

We landed in Germany on a Friday and the plan was anyway to go to hospital on Monday for several tests, also because the last days in South Africa I started having an issue at my left arm, which was feeling numb, weak and sort of paralyzed. Nevertheless, the following day (Saturday), the pain got so unbearable where apparently I was only crying and shouting of which I cannot remember anything. My family then called the ambulance that took me to hospital and where I then stayed for two weeks. Several tests where conducted to find out the reason for the pains. The outcome of the first CT scan of the brain was clear and it wasn’t the reason for my hand issue. The second scan was from the neck to pelvis, which showed a clear change of my cancer status. Basically all existing metastases have grown, plenty of new ones popped up in my lungs and liver, and my spine meaning all my vertebras are full with cancer cells, which have also grown into the spinal cord. The metastases along my spine are pressing onto the nerves, which are responsible for certain movements in my arms, and those are causing my issue on my left hand. At some point the surgeons thought they could conduct a surgery and remove some metastases from the spine, but then after an MRI scan they noticed the metastases have grown into the spinal cord and a surgery was no longer possible. The only option I had was to get some radiation done. So during my two weeks stay in hospital I also did 5 radiation sessions hoping it would reduce my pain and improve my arm movements.

My isolation room

Believe it or not – the first 4 days I was put into isolation because I had stayed in a hospital in South Africa within the last 6 months, and they had to test me if I was free of hospital germs. So every visitor (including the doctors and nurses) had to wear a lab coat and a mask before entering my room. I found it quite amusing! Furthermore, I weighed 33kilos upon my return from South Africa and I had to take parenteral nutrition just to give me some additional energy and increase weight quickly. Getting 1,400 calories extra over 10 hours in the night meant running to the loo every hour, and that was really annoying and another Guantanamo experience for us. Luckily, I got a single room and my mum was able to stay with me throughout my stay in hospital. I didn’t get bored and at the same time I got lots of help.

My doctors have been very clear and open with me and the prognosis is not good. I have basically reached the terminal stage and I have taken a palliative team on board to regulate my pain therapy. I am taking a very high dosage of morphine that is keeping my pain level very well under control, and only once in a while I need an extra dose. With a bit of luck I may have a few more months, but some doctors talk about a few weeks. It’s been now 7 weeks since I am back home and so far I have been doing very well. My family and I have been trained by an outsourced company to attach my port catheter with the intravenous food. I managed to gain a bit of weight, and then maintain it at 36kg. Additionally, I have an ambulant palliative team taking care of me so that I don’t need to stay in hospital e.g. they do all pain management. I have been doing quite well and have not been in any pain at all for the first couple of weeks. However, in the event my pain level gets worse and not manageable through pills anymore, they would be responsible to provide a pump that manages my pain much more consistent and simply better.

Writing by blog

At this point I have decided to simply enjoy life, to enjoy the time with my family and friends and receiving a lot of visitors. For example I have reconnected with people I have not seen in 25 years and most amazingly I have friends that travelled from Vietnam and Malaysia to visit me just for a weekend. These are indeed the precious moments in life. I probably didn’t realize until now how many people are actually sharing in my life and illness, which has deeply touched me. I am really trying hard to revert to all messages I am receiving from all of you, but it does get quite a lot at times, and hence, I ask for my sincerest apologies if I reply late. I feel honored and proud having such amazing friends and family!

12 Comments

  1. Cara Martina, io ho lasciato Stoccarda quando tu stavi per nascere per cui tu non mi conosci ma sono stata per tanti anni una collega della tua mamma! Nella tua vita hai fatto tante belle cose ed hai meritato di avere tanti amici e una famiglia splendida, d’altronde tu sei una ragazza meravigliosa! Purtroppo sei stata colpita da questa brutta malattia, che io ho seguito da lontano passo passo! Non ho avuto mai il coraggio di scriverti: mio figlio Matteo ha 36 anni e, a maggior ragione , sto male a veder lottare una giovane ragazza come te contro questo male! Tu lo stai facendo con grande coraggio ,nonostante il calvario che stai attraversando, trovi la forza di raccontare a chi ti vuole bene che cosa sta succedendo! Come ho detto tempo fa alla tua mamma, per te posso solo pregare che avvenga ancora un miracolo!ti mando un caro abbraccio! Continua ad essere forte così: ti prego non mollare! Un bacino da Isabella Caprino Garaventa

  2. Martina,
    My heart aches to hear you are in so much pain. I pray that you find comfort and enjoy your family and friends l! I think about you all the time. Know you are in our thoughts and prayers.

  3. Stay Strong, Martina!
    I wish you the very very best ☘️

  4. So sad to hear this . You are such a inspiration to all of us. A fighter in all sense. Enjoy every second given to you and we will pray that it will be painfree. Remember that we luv you and are praying for you everyday. Gods ways are mysterious and it is difficult not to question . But you have touched many lifes , if it is any consolation. Your strenght will be with us like the lingering scent of an rose like you are.

  5. Rossella Cavola

    June 29, 2017 at 7:01 pm

    Ciao Martina, sono Rossella., sono stata la tua tata e praticamente ti ho visto nascere e ti ho accompagnato per un breve periodo della tua vita.
    Seguo da tempo il tuo blog e provo un immenso dolore….
    Sei una persona così bella e coraggiosa!
    Non trovo le parole giuste per descrivere la rabbia che provo…
    Continua ad essere forte e non arrenderti mai!!!!
    Ti abbraccio e ti mando un mare di baci! ??
    La tua “tata” Rossella

  6. Tony Breytenbach

    June 29, 2017 at 10:01 pm

    Stay strong…..you are a winner!!!

  7. Giovanni Tebano

    June 30, 2017 at 6:26 am

    Ciao Martina,
    I often speak to GB and others about you and how strong you are!
    I am happy to know you and see your determination and strength, a good lesson for us all. From the happy days of building up Epikurean to the starting of your problem, life is just unpredictable and a different journey for each of us. Nothing last forever but at the same time nothing is lost forever, I wish you all the best and keep your strength, hope and love!
    Sending you much love
    Gianni

  8. Ich denke an dich, liebe Martina! Du bist eine echte Inspiration und eine starke Kämpferin. Keep fighting!
    Liebe Grüße, Koni

  9. Victoria Maclean

    July 1, 2017 at 1:27 am

    Thank you for sharing the past few years of your illness with all its ups and downs, triumphs and disappointments. It has been an amazing journey, and we feel honoured that you have chosen to write about it and share with your friends. You have a beautiful soul Martina, and a source of inspiration to us all. You have not shown fear, but bravery and determination every step of the way. In these last weeks, know that we are thinking of you, and you are surrounded with love around the globe. You have touched us all. Be stong, and embrace the love and light you will surely find. We will miss you. With all our love, Victoria and Frederick

  10. Martina,
    you are such an Inspiration and for sure the strongest person I’ve ever read about. There is no greater winner than you and we will all keep your words and experiences in our minds. I really look up to you.
    Probably your body will leave this world one day, but you won’t.

  11. I am so sorry. Find rest and peace.
    I express my sincere condolences to the families and friends

  12. Ich durfte Frau Hermanns während meiner Ausbildung im Klinikum Stuttgart kennenlernen und ich bin unendlich dankbar dafür, dass ich diese wundervolle Frau treffen durfte. Als ich letzte Woche erfahren habe, dass sie gestorben ist war ich tief traurig. Ihr Blog gibt mir das Gefühl, sie würde wieder gegenüber von mir sitzen und ich bin sehr dankbar, dass ich jeden Tag darin lesen kann und sehe, dass sie ihr Leben bis zum Schluss ausgekostet hat. Ich wünschte ich hätte ihr das nochmal persönlich sagen können . Ich wünsche der Familie (und vor allem den lieben Eltern, die ich auch kennen lernen durfte) viel Kraft und Beistand. Sie können stolz sein so eine wundervolle Tochter gehabt zu haben.
    Frau Hermanns, ich werde Sie nicht vergessen!

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