Thursday, 15 June 2017

Six years since, dogfish and polystyrene

I was reminded by Facebook (thanks Facebook) of the date of some surprise news. I couldn't be sure exactly what the news was, so I had to go back through this blog to find out. It was the date of the appointment at which my consultant told me that I was being offered surgery. That was six years ago. The time has flown by since and it all seems a very distant memory now.

It was that reminder, dear reader, and also some conversations I've been having lately, which have caused me to put fingers to keyboard in a rare update of this blog.

The conversations were about soap and smells and memory. This got me thinking about the soap they had in the washrooms at my grammar school which in turn led me to recall the dissection of dogfish. I studied Biology at O Level - and in fact I got it twice because they awarded me an O for my failed A level two years later. Part of the course was dissection and we pulled apart frogs' brains and also dogfish. I hated the dogfish in particular because of the smell of the fish mixed with the formaldehyde. Formaldehyde is a preservative and it's what our dogfish were kept in. Without gloves we had to take up scapels and dissect these smelly fish.

It is only now that I realise there are significant health indications about formaldehyde. Thanks Wikipedia for: "In view of its widespread use, toxicity, and volatility, formaldehyde poses a significant danger to human health."
After this horrible experience, we washed out hands in very cheap soap, which obviously the school bought wholesale.  Such was my hatred of the smell of the formaldehyde and the dead dogfish that in time I began to hate the smell of that soap just as much. Imagine my horror a year later when I realised that all soap in my best beloved's parents' house was the same stuff. Every time I went to see my in-laws, I found my hands smelling of that horrible soap and hence pictures of disintegrating dogfish entered my thoughts.

Formaldehyde wasn't the only toxic substance to which my grammar school exposed me.  There was also danger in the art room where we took polystyrene tiles and, using a hot-wire contraption, we were encouraged to create sculptures. "Research has shown that when styrofoam is burnt it releases toxic chemicals and smoke that can damage the nervous system and lungs."

I'm not about to sue the education authority responsible for both the formaldehyde and the burning polystyrene but I just thought it worth recording these two exposures to toxic chemicals which occurred earlier in my life, just in case anyone researching such things ever stumbles on these ramblings.

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

New year, new life

These days I have joined the reflective brigade when it comes to Christmas.  I suppose, because I have now experienced 67 of them, I have many to remember. But it's strange that the predominant thought that comes into my head just before Christmas is "this is the time I started chemo". Don't get me wrong, I'm not morbid about it; not in the least. Without the chemo I wouldn't be writing this now. It's just a thought I have and it tends to predominate in the days before the festivities.

With those thoughts this year comes a new one and that is that this is the first Christmas and new year I've had since the consultant said I was cured.  So in a way I am approaching the new year with a new envigorated feeling. True I was sure I'd beaten it some years ago; but hearing the specialist say the word made it official. And officially I'm now just like the rest of you again - living my life with a peculiar derrangement of logic which makes me feel immortal.

So what I shall I do in this new year? Well, I will sort out more of the contents of this house.  I will renew my vow of buying as much as I possibly can from charity shops or at least secondhand. I will continue to help and serve those of my friends and family who need me. Is there any big project that I want to undertake? Is there anywhere I want to go? Is there any experience I want to have? No, I am quite content. Life is good just as it is.  It's so nice to be able to say that.

Here's to your new year too and I sincerely hope you can be peaceful, fulfilled and content too.

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Cured of lung cancer

So today was the day, following one final CT scan, that my consultant said he regarded me as cured.

If anyone has found this blog by chance and wants to know the story, then please read the posts from early on to see what happened to me and what I did to aid my chances. 

But, just to summarise: I had a diagnosis of inoperable lung cancer back in November 2010. I was put on palliative chemo. After four doses I was given the option, or not, for another two. That all went so well  that I was offered surgery after all.  Minus two lung lobes with no residual cancer in my lymph nodes, I have been on a regular check up routine which ended today.  I have now survived over the five years which are used in cancer stats.

My gratitude to my thoracic consultant, my oncologist, my surgeon and the very many hospital and medical staff I encountered is profound. I must also thank my Journey Therapist, the hundreds of people who either prayed or aimed their positive thoughts in my direction, my friends and family for their support, my Reiki practitioner, my naturopathic nutritionist and particularly one special friend who pointed me in the right direction for research into diet and lifestyle. 

My case seemed hopeless at the start but I didn't feel hopeless. It was difficult at times but I managed to stay positive all the way through and now, almost unbelievably, I can look forward to a long life. Oh happy day!

Saturday, 21 May 2016

Where we are now

Well, as no doubt I told you, originally I expected a check up every six months for three years and then one each year for the next two and then I would be signed off.  I've realised - due to the enthusiasm by my consultant and his side-kick to see me every six months - that of course when they made this prediction they didn't think I'd be around to attend any appointments. So they keep seeing me.

A couple of months ago, after prolonged spell of holding my year-old grandchild on my right shoulder, with his knees drawn up because he had colic, I developed a twinge at the top of my chest on the left. It came and went and sometimes I'd get an odd twinge in my back on the left of my back. (I had my cancer in my right lung lobes) That reminded me of the only physical manifestation of my original cancer; a slight discomfort somewhere below my right shoulder.

So I duly ran along to the doctor about the twinge in my chest.  He said if it doesn't go away come back and see him. Well, around this time I was greatly stressed by several things and, although I began to realise that it was probably a pulled muscle at the front, and nothing more than a subconscious tightening of all the muscles in my left shoulder, I duly returned to the GP. He wrote "chest pain" on the notes and suggested I had the net x-ray early as it was scheduled for the next checkup in a month or so.

When I went to see my normal cheery thoracic consultant a couple of weeks ago he confirmed the x-ray was fine.  But he'd seen the "chest pain" on the notes and made up his mind I should have a CT scan. It is true that I haven't had one since 2012.  I told him the NHS had spent quite enough on me alraedy but he wouldn't be dissuaded so I'm not waiting for the results of the CT.  I see him again next week and I expect to be signed off for ever this time. Part of his motivation I think is that he's moving to work elsewhere and won't see me again.  I think he wants to be sure to be sure that when he leaves me I'm totally in the clear.

In one way it should be really reassuring; in another way, it's another one of those waits, another one of those check-ups where I hyperventilate and my blood pressure goes shooting up. But there we go - that's the system.  I anticipate it will be sunny news again and I will try to remember to up date you, dear reader. 

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

And now with a picture

I know I've written about this before but now it's with a picture.

I'm resisting trimming my hair because I don't want to lose the chemo curl. Having wanted natural curls all my life, now to have just a gentle wave right at the ends is so nice and such an unexpected benefit from a rather unpleasant episode. I've become rather fond of the twist, so much so that I have even bothered to take a picture of it.

The rest of my hair is ridiculously straight - completely straight - and always has been up until now. Just the very ends of the hairs that survived the chemo are affected.  These are the hairs which were growing before chemo started, which didn't fall out and which are still in evidence.

Here they are - chemo curls (OK, perhaps not curls, but gentle bending)  resulting from six tranches of chemotherapy for lung cancer. 

Monday, 21 December 2015

Five years and counting

It was on this date five years ago that I'd just had my first dose of chemo for lung cancer and with Christmas just round the corner, I was beginning to feel the effects. I remember sleeping for hours in the chair, dipping in and out of the many films that were showing on the TV as I entered that strange twilight world of cancer treatment. It had snowed heavily two days previously, when I'd spent the day in the chemo suite.  Winter was throwing everything it could at me. 

And yet here I am five years on - grateful to the NHS, the physician, the oncologist, the surgeon -  alive, well, looking forward to another fabulous time with my family. Who'd have thought it possible? 

Merry Christmas everyone!

Friday, 6 November 2015

Five years and counting

Well, I've made it.  I've arrived at the five year point since diagnosis of lung cancer.  This is unusual and my consultant confirmed that fact today when the word "cure" actually passed his lips.  I am unusual, not least because I had chemo before surgery, but also because the odds of surviving lung cancer for long are horrendously low.

Instead of casting me out into big wide world, he's asked to see me again in six months - because I am an odd case. He originally told me that after five years I'd be in the clear.  I sort of think he didn't really believe I'd get to this point.  But now I have he wants to keep tabs on me.  And while I get very anxious every time I see him, there is something very reassuring to be told that all is well.

He's asked me to talk to a supporters' group which he's going to set up comprising lung cancer and mesothelioma patients and I've agreed.  I warned him that I will wax lyrical about diet and lifestyle, but he has no objection to that.  As he put it jokingly, it's pay back time.  And actually he's right.  I do find myself being approach several times a month either by people who have been recently diagnosed with cancer or whose relatives or friends have.  I do what I can to share the knowledge that I have gained. 

I've been told by many people I should write a book,  but the shelves are full of books by inspirational cancer survivors and I don't really want to go back to the place I inhabited for so long during treatment.  This way, I can help without getting too heavily involved and it won't allow cancer to define my life.

Some will be shocked to know that I celebrated tonight with a good meal, a large glass of red wine and - horror of horror - icecream and chocolate sauce with sugar in it!  Well, just once in a while I'm sure it won't do too much harm. 

I shall sleep well tonight.  Goodnight all.