Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Starch - or not?

It's certainly not fashionable. I don't think that my daughters ever do it. My hubby certainly never does it. But I actually like ironing. There's something about taking a piece of fabric which is unkempt, creased and rather sad, then rendering it beautifully straight, smooth and crisp. So it is without regret that I plug in my iron and set about the pile of very very damp (because that's the only way to do them) tablecloths and napkins.

I do remember having very vivid almost-asleep dreams when I was a child and teenager. They were of a vast open space of nothingness, a veritable infinity of deep-coloured dark space without limit. Into this space would come a stream of ribbon moving horizontally - quite flat and smooth. But then there would be a kink in the ribbon and I would have to will the entire length to crumple up and go to bottom right hand corner of the space so that the another stream of completely unkinked and smooth ribbon could take its place. But there was always a kink in the ribbon. I always had to crumple it up and move it to what I now recognize as a "recycle bin"! Could it be that from this dream I get my love of tablecloth ironing I wonder?

The big question is: to starch or not to starch? Starch makes for messy ironing as the iron has a habit of sticking. I gave up washing the tablecloths and napkins when the children were small and turned instead to a commercial laundry. But though it appeared the items had been starched, they'd all been badly folded before ironing. I ended up having to dampen everything down and re-iron it all, which was a bit much when I'd paid a very large bill for the service.

Since then I've occasionally used spray-on starch but mainly I've relied on what has been left in the fabric. Now everything's getting quite floppy again. I guess I can leave it for now, but next time I think I'm going to have to do the job properly. The last time I tried to find starch I don't think I could but thank goodness for the internet; there's even a web site for it Starch Supplies.

Sunday, 25 December 2011

For which much thanks

Here's wishing you all as wonderful a Christmas as I'm going to have. My family is about to gather and with neighbours and extended family members, we'll be sitting down to lunch with seventeen people around the table. I'm well; I even sang descants at last night's midnight mass.

I'm so incredibly grateful to everyone who has helped me get to where I now am: to all the medical staff - nurses, doctors, oncologists, radiologists, registrars, surgeons, the people who bring round magazines, the catering staff, the cleaning staff, my hubby, all my family - by birth or by marriage, my friends - close and distant, my alternative therapy practitioners, my nutritionist, the hundreds of contributors to online information, and to all my blog readers for your support and messages of encouragement. It's been a difficult year but not a bad one, for it is the year in which I've conquered cancer. On 25th of December 2010 I never imagined that I'd be where I am now - bright, bubbly, slim and incredibly well and adorned in my new purple velvet dress (bought new!) and preparing for a wonderful Christmas day.

Happy Christmas everyone!

Thursday, 22 December 2011


I've just completed my patient exit survey - that's the second one I've done in a week. One of the things on which I fed back on was the notice behind my bed in the ambulatory care unit where I was looked after following my surgery. I'll tell you the whole story because you couldn't really make it up. This is what happened.

On Monday morning I entered the hospital via a ward in which there were no beds, just chairs. I was seen by a nurse; I was asked all the usual questions; I was seen by an anaesthetist (some of the same questions repeated!) and in that same ward I changed into a gown, dressing gown and slippers. Everything else I'd brought with me was left in my overnight bag to be conveyed to the ward in which I would be recovering.

I walked down to the theatre, was anaesthetised and came round in a special ward for that purpose. I was then transferred (if I remember rightly and I don't remember much about this bit) into the ambulatory care unit to be nursed for the following 24 hours.

I could see that behind my bed in this ward there was a notice. It was headed: "After your operation". I could at least read that much from across the ward. I could see that the same notice was behind all of the beds but I couldn't read any more of it as it was too far away. What important message was this, I wondered? I was sure it was important and that I should know but having had surgery to my neck I wasn't about to turn sideways, hang over the side and crane my sore neck to find out. The only way to have read the notice safely would have been to have got out of the bed to do so. So instead I asked the nurse for the content.

Yup, you've probably guessed. It told me I shouldn't get out of bed until a nurse had given me permission!!

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Just one of a crowd

Can you believe it? There were three other people I knew in the ACU (Ambulatory Care Unit - which means you can walk in and out) yesterday at the local hospital. So once I'd come round and had lunch I went visiting. Our next door neighbour was actually on the other side of the wall from me in the men's section of the same bay and opposite him someone else I knew. I popped round the corner to see them at just the time the consultant was doing his post surgery rounds so had my consultation standing in the middle of the gent's bay! A very old friend occupied a single room over the other side. I was so long gossiping with her at the end of the ward that they missed me when it was time for obs. I should have left a note!

As usual I had an enormous high after the anaesthetic. That is now wearing off so I expect to be feeling a little less hyper tomorrow. Stitches come out at a clinic at the hospital on Boxing Day and then there's a consultation with histology results in a couple of weeks. The surgeon said that it looked like a normal thyroid gland, but that tells you nothing. However he said the nodule was quite large - I wonder which one; there were two. "Could that have affected my singing voice?" I asked. "Hm, possibly."

Anyway the speech is fine if a little hoarse. I have a slight sore throat and when I swallow I'm aware that someone has done something to my throat. But as is my norm, I feel no pain. I wasn't going to take any pain relief but have decided to take the Ibuprofen three times as day as prescribed because it will reduce swelling. I do tend to swell when injured and bearing in mind it's my throat that could swell, taking something to alleviate that seems a sensible thing to do.

I asked the surgeon if a little singing around Christmas would be OK and he saw no reason why not. I reckon I might be able to join the choir for midnight mass after all.

Sunday, 18 December 2011

All prepared and ready

Tomorrow's procedure should be relatively quick and I would have thought, not particularly painful. The surgery I've had so far has been so incredibly well managed that I've had no pain, so I'm not banking on any this time. I wonder if it's because I rarely take painkillers? I have this theory that if your body doesn't get used to drugs then when you really need them they are much more effective. I don't know if I delude myself or whether it's really true - but it does seem to be the case with me anyway.

Remember my endorphins and how the chemo had affected the rate at which they kicked in when I stubbed my toes? My body appears to have reverted to the normal timescale again; about ten seconds after I've done an injury they simply take away the pain. It's nice to be back to normal.

The peripheral neuropathy - the lack of feeling in the fingers and toes - that's improving daily. The fingers are almost back to normal, well at least I've stopped dropping things like pins and needles when I'm sewing. And the lack of sensation which started at the toe tips and had reached as far as the middle of the soles of my feet, is receding.

Apart from that I'm right back to rude health taking nothing more toxic that the synthethic thyroxine which I've been on for years. This is just how I wanted it in preparation for surgery - to have my body in the best possible order. Even the old digestive system has slipped back to normal after the challenges of chemo, anaesthetics, anti-biotics, beta-blockers - all of which took their effect - and just in time for it all to be mucked up again! Never mind, I have stocked up with active bacterial food supplements ready to mitigate the toxic intrusions.

Everything is ready for Christmas and today all I have to do it pack my bag and prepare to be at the hospital tomorrow by 7.15 am. What a time! I've re-read every leaflet - four of them, several duplicating advice, some of it conflicting. The good old NHS eh. I suppose it's better to have more advice than you want than none at all.

It's interesting to note the differences in the way things are done between our local hospital and the one where I had the lung op. Soap had to be liquid there, no towels or flannels permitted. Everything was provided by the hospital and bathing before the op was done at the hospital - not at home - with NHS-provided anti-bacterial liquid soap. I remember chosing not to use my hair-brush after washing my hair on the basis that it would probably just reintroduce bacteria to my tresses. I combed it with my fingers before plaiting my hair to make it easy for the theatre staff. I shall follow that practice at home early tomorrow morning on the basis that it's in my own interest to present myself as clinical clean as I possibly can.

I'm anticipating being incommunicado for a day or so. One of the leaflets says no mobile phones though I gather everyone tends to ignore such instructions these days. I'll take my old Nokia and if my stay is any longer than 24 hours I'll get hubby to bring my smartphone in so that I can update you myself. Normal service on this blog will be resumed as soon as possible.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

All OK

My follow-up appointment with the respiratory consultant that I saw right at the beginning of my lung cancer episode took place this morning. I had a list of questions for him.

I wanted to know if the whole shadow on my lung had been cancerous, as opposed to some of it being scar tissue from infection. The answer was 100% cancer, which means that if only 5% cancer remained then the chemo was 95% effective. Impressive eh?!

I told him the tale of my disobedience regarding the beta blocker; he listened to my heart and agreed with me that I didn't need them. Phew - much relief there as I didn't want the surgery delayed.

He was quite impressed with my appearance, weight loss and attitude - and had the presence of mind to thank my hubby for his support which I thought was a nice touch. The Macmillan nurse said several times how wonderful I looked - she was clearly quite surprised at the outcome also. I told him that I'd given up sugar and alcohol and I got the impression he was pleased with that. But apart from discussion about my weight there were no other questions about what I'd done and whether or not that had helped my case. Incredible. If it were me (being the consultant that is) I'd be so incredibly curious. I don't think I'd be able to stop myself from asking even if it wasn't the norm to do so.

I will undergo a chest Xray every six months for the next three years and he'll review it each time. And basically that's it - as far as the lung is concerned.

Monday, 12 December 2011

A week to go

I'll admit to being jittery about the prospect of more surgery. It's not really the whole surgery thing, it's the build up that's stressful. However the good news is that my withdrawal from the beta blockers and asprins seems to have gone to plan.

I'm not sure if I explained it all, but I've been on beta blockers since the hospital gave them to me, with asprin, in order to discharge me after the lung surgery. They said that palpitations (atrial fibrilation - or AF as it's known) are common after my sort of surgery and it does make sense. They were operating very close to my heart after all - just a few centimetres.

My GP has been persistently relunctant to take me off these drugs. He always has a rather non-specific reason for not doing so. "Let's leave it until you've seen the surgeon and oncologist"; then "let's leave it a bit longer"; "let's leave it until after you've seen the ENT consultant". The side effects were getting me down - I worked out I had at least six of them, albeit most mildly. In any case, the beta blocker didn't stop the AF as I had two tiny incidents after I'd got home and been put on them. So given that the medication didn't stop AF, that it hadn't happened for three months, the GP hadn't referred me to a cardiac specialist, I decided to wean myself off them.

I have a friend who knows a lot about the particularly beta blocker I'm on and she said it should be done slowly. So I started on half a dose and gave that ten days; then I stopped taking them, nearly a week ago. Since that time I've taken been very aware of my heart and it's behaved perfectly. I've taken my pulse on many occasions and it's steady as a rock.

Of course none of this has gone down well with the medical profession. I informed my doctor what I was doing and he said it wasn't the best time. When I went for my preassessment for surgery last week, the admissions nurse said it wasn't the best time. So I said: "well I've only not taken them for the first time this morning; I could easily go back on half a dose if that makes things easier for you and the anaesthetist". But she wouldn't recommend that - I suppose because if she did she could be interpreted to have prescribed for me. She's spoken to the anaesthetist who wants me to get the opinion of the chest physician, the consultant I first started with since he'll know more about the surgery I've had, who I will be seeing on Wednesday. Talk about pass the buck!

I can well see how people end up with a portfolio of medication much of which they don't need. My rule is, if you don't need it don't take it. Mother nature in her infinite wisdom has balanced life so finely that any messing with it is going to cause problems even if they are tiny changes.

Have I noticed any difference since coming off the beta blockers? Well I think I have; it's very subtle but it's more that I notice what's not happening more than what is. I feel a little bit more alive and by that I mean alive to emotional sensations which I suppose makes a lot of sense because beta blockers do what it says on the tin. They block something. I'm not sniffing now like I have a coke habit and the occasional dizzyness that used to put the wind up me has gone.(I had vestibular neuritis where you feel all dizzy a few years back and that was horrid.) I'm sleeping like a baby and having no more of the horrendously confused and memorable dreams that were making me depressed. So it's all good news. Fingers crossed that the thoracic physician agrees with me that I've done the right thing otherwise I'll be back on them on Wednesday and surgery could potentially be delayed.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Grazing in the sunshine

The sun shone in a cloudless sky until about 10 minutes ago and although it was blowing a gale at the back of the house, my bench at the front was the perfect place to catch a few rays. Sunshine is not the enemy that we've been brought up to believe; indeed science is now showing that Vitamin D is a defence from many ailments, including cancer!

Being seated there at that time of day is a good place to catch not only the sun, but the postman. And hooray! Today he brought my Graze box. I discovered Graze a few months ago and for the life of me I can't remember if I told you all about it then. If I have I apologise and if not, here goes.

Graze is a very expensive way of buying nuts and dried fruit as well as other nibbles. The reason I want to mention it is that as an example of marketing brilliance, it ticks all the boxes and I'm fascinated by the way they do things.

It's incredibly viral because every Graze box recipient gets tokens or a web link which if used by a friend to order a freee Graze box, gives tokens to the existing member. Its presentation is immaculate. A lovely cardboard box in recycled materials contains four little containers of mixtures of nuts, dried fruit, seeds, even chocolate drops, or olives or savoury snacks. When mine arrives it feels as if I've received a wonderfully presented gift - even though I've paid for it and ordered it; it gladdens my heart.

Once your box has arrived you receive an email asking you to rate the contents. So, for instance, I can say what mixtures I like or want occasionally, or hate. That way I don't receive things I don't like or want (I abstain for instance from anything containing glucose) while receiving more of what I do want. It's just terribly clever and I so much admire the people who dreamed it up.

So today I got quite excited when the postman arrived with my Graze box because it meant I could nibble through a portion while soaking up the sun. Inside this box was a lovely little pop out and construct - though I haven't done it yet - snowman. Just made from one sheet of (no doubt recycled) thin card; but such a nice thing to pop in the box. Graze boxes are ideal for people at work. I think that's the real concept they had in mind. And I can imagine that their will be loads of little card snowmen on desks all over the country, all bearing their little Graze boxes; so the marketing continues. Here I shall place my snowman on the window cill where the sun's rays will catch it every day.

P.S. I braved the GP's surgery today; told him I'd reduced my beta blockers by half for the past ten days and that I was quitting altogether from today. I have my pre-assessment for surgery this afternoon.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

That was quick

I've spent the rest of the day - since the news of the thyroid surgery - with my hubby, collecting Christmas trees and unloading logs, basically to take my mind off it.

We arrived home, I put the kettle on and the phone rang. It was the consultant's secretary telling me that they would do a pre-assessment of me tomorrow afternoon and then surgery on 19th December. It should necessitate merely an overnight stay, sometimes two she said. This will all take place at the hospital just 10 minutes away from us.

Singing carols this Christmas might be a bit of a tall order, and yes, there's a risk to my vocal chords, but hey, I'll be shot of whatever it is or is not by the big day itself and able to enjoy the festive season with all the family and with no worries. Hip hip hurray!

As expected

Just got back from the ENT consultant. The biopsy on my thyroid was inconclusive and he thinks the evidence for the possibility of cancer in the right lobe of my thyoid is such that it should come out. I don't know when yet but if it's before Christmas I'll go for it on the basis that it's best not to have cancerous cells running round your body for any longer than necessary.

Nice consultant - very amenable. Said that he reckons all the nice people get cancer so he's taking steps to avoid it!

I know that this outcome has been hanging over me for a year, but like the death of someone who you are waiting to die, when the eventuality comes, it's still a shock. A bit of hyperventilating and a glassy eye manifest themselves this morning. Never mind - I have to take the view that once this is over, that's it. And even if it doesn't turn out to be cancer after all, I have removed that possibility which is far better than waiting around to see what happens.

Monday, 5 December 2011

Being alive

I've realised from the reactions of several people that I haven't seen for months, or a year in some cases, that they are really shocked by my appearance. It's not that they aren't delighted to see me looking so well; it's just that with the diagnosis I had, they anticipate that I will now be well on my way to meet my maker - to use one of the many euphemisms for death, all of which I rather dislike. Have you noticed these are getting far more common; even the BBC has difficulty with the word "died" sometimes.

My father in particular hated the dumbing down of death. He never said "passed away" instead of "died". In fact, because of that the day that he died I committed a faux pas. I'd gone over to my parents' house and a friend of his knocked at the door to enquire how he was. My father had been fine up until he'd tried to shovel snow earlier in the day. I responded, without a thought for the friend's wellbeing, with: "he's dead". As you can imagine, the friend was so shocked that I thought he was going to collapse too. I learnt then that a precusor to bad news is always a good idea.

Anyway, back to death and seeing people I haven't seen for a long time. I can tell that the question on their minds when they see me is along the lines of: "goodness, aren't you nearly dead yet?" It's quite clear that I'm nowhere near dying, hence the slight confusion until they get used to the idea that I've been spared (this time round anyway).

News of cancer spreads like a cancer itself. My bad news went spinning round in no time at all. What hasn't happened is the dissemination of the good news that I've beaten the lung cancer. So if you do know anyone who knows me and you told about my original diagnosis, I'd be really grateful if you could let them know that I'm hale and hearty. I've been spared; I'm not dead yet, I'm not even dying (well, not any more than we all are every day) at the moment. Thanks.

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Should have read the small print

Feeling great today - I've definitely bounced back as I suspected I would. Thanks for all those message of support. I had a wonderful day meeting lots of fab friends and seeing the Christmas lights turned on.

And I've got to thinking quite a lot about what's been happening physically to me recently. I'm not talking about the recovery from major surgery or the poisoning of the chemo. No, I'm talking about the beta blocker and asprin which were administered in order to get me out of the surgical bed that I was blocking after my lung operation. If you recall I had a couple of incidents of heart gymnastics while I was still in hospital, and I've had a couple since but none in the last three months. This tells me that I really don't need the drugs.

So today I sat down and read the small print that went with the beta blocker. I see that side effects can be, amongst a load of other things, dizzyness, depression, sleep disturbance and (rarer) runny nose (you'd think I had a coke habit at the moment), and reduced tear flow. Well I have all of those - and the most upsetting are the bad dreams which hitherto I've been unable to explain but which I'm pretty sure I can attribute entirely to the medication.

My GP was reluctant to take me off the beta blocker; I think he rather wanted me to see a cardiologist so he couldn't be blamed for anything. Well that would be a ridiculous waste of resources since there's nothing wrong with my heart that wasn't caused by the surgery. What happened is very common after you've been digging around in someone's thorax apparently. So I am resolved to wean myself off this unnecessary beta blocker in the next couple of weeks and thereby stop all these side effects. It just goes to show, you should always read the small print.

Friday, 25 November 2011

OK, I'll tell you now

I'd resolved to tell you, but not until I was better. It didn't take long.

That encounter with the radiographer really knocked me for six. I think it was the certainty with which he delivered his verdict. Don't get me wrong. I'm the sort of cancer patient who wants to know the news so I was delighted to get some information on a day that I expected none.

I suppose I've been bouncing along so happily because no-one else was worried about my thyroid, and I'd argued to myself that if the chemo had been so effective on the lung, it must have been similarly effective on my thyroid. The oncologist this time last year said that would be the effect. The fact that no-one even mentioned my thyroid all the way through the lung episode meant I almost forgot it; it just wasn't discussed unless I brought it up. I'd been lulled into a false sense of security. Even my GP wasn't bothered (and no, his face wasn't bovered eiver!)

So I had argued myself into a position when I anticipated being given reassuring news and told not to worry. It's pretty much the same routine as exactly the same time last year. You keep telling yourself that if it's bad news you can deal with it, but the chances are it won't be (bad news that is).

Then it is bad. Yes, I took a downturn last year too. I remember hubby and I both sat and shed a few tears, understandably and unsurprisingly. So it was this year - almost to the exact day. In fact tomorrow is the anniversary of finding out for sure that I had lung cancer.

Anyway, I digress. This time I also took a psychological tumble and true to form, about four days later, I've bounced back. My usual joie de vivre has returned. I didn't want to tell you that I was down, because I know it will upset quite a few who read this, and I knew I'd resurface very soon. And so I have. It's just interesting to note that it does happen from time to time to me; I'm not completely invincible or perfect. I'm almost perfect though!

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

A node of concern

Hospital visits have become commonplace to me and today was just another. It was the day of the ultrasound scan of my thyroid. I expected this to follow the normal pattern of scans where you undergo the procedure but the radiographer tells you absolutely nothing; indeed your letter of instruction or explanation sometimes indicates that the professionals are not allowed to tell you anything.

A charming radiographer, who introduced himself as a doctor, held an ultrasound probe against my throat and, facilitated by some jelly-like substance, guided it up and down and round the area while I gave him my potted medical history. He then turned the screen to me so that he could show me what he'd found and he explained the images for me.

An area of calcification in the left side of my thyroid gland gives no cause for concern, and neither does a node in my right. He showed me the blood vessels around that node - all to be as expected. However another node on the right hand side has rather too much blood supply in its centre for comfort. While he said that it may not be cancerous, he felt that, regardless of the biopsy result, it should come - out even though subsequently it could be found to be non-cancerous. However, he was merely the radiographer, so it wasn't his place to recommend anything. But that makes two professionals - an oncologist and a radiographer - both of whom deal regularly with cancer, who have expressed the same opinion.

My view of the whole thing has changed somewhat in the light of that knowledge. I am going back to my austere diet for the time being in case it is cancer; I'd been relaxing that somewhat recently. And I suspect that I am now on the road to another debilitated Christmas. Hey, ho, that's the way life goes.

Monday, 21 November 2011

What a weekend

Nine extra for the night on Saturday; brief tidy up and then a tea party yesterday afternoon. Dinner out tonight. What a wonderful weekend I've had.

Over the past few days I've met lots of people who haven't seen me for ages, six months, some over a year or even more. News of my cancer had reached them. So I've been explaining countless times just where I am in the grand scheme of things and how I feel about it. I thought I'd share with you the same information.

I describe this latest investigation of my thyroid gland as just a bit of an irritant to my day to day activites; I regard it as something akin to the importance of an ingrowing toenail (although that would be painful, whereas I am blissful free of any discomfort anywhere on my body.) Yes, I know you're thinking: she can't be serious. But I am. It just doesn't bother me because I know that if it is cancer then it's easily sorted.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Here we go again

My sixty days are over and today I attended the Outpatients' ENT clinic where I saw a charming ENT registrar. He looked at the PET scan done in June (the one that was so spectactularly good that it led to my lung surgery)and decided to do, there and then, a small needle biopsy. This involved plunging a needle into my neck which wasn't unpleasant, although the subsequent jigging up and down of the needle wasn't very nice. He sent me for blood tests and said he'd schedule an ultrasound scan. Then I'm to return in three weeks when he'll have a much better idea of what's going out.

You may well not have realised, because this blog didn't start until I had my diagnosis, that I've already suffered a thyroid biopsy. Because the first PET scan I had done - in October last year - showed a glowing thyroid as well as a section of my lung, the chest physician first scheduled me in for a thyroid biopsy. However this didn't take the form of a quick needle in the neck as today. No, it involved a hospital admission the night before, a procedure the following day under a local anaesthetic (but I presume a much larger needle), and then a second night's stay. The protocol for such biopsies instructs 24 hour observation of the patient, in case of haemorrhaging. So that's a total of three days in an NHS bed.

That biopsy told the doctors nothing - it was "inconclusive". I then went on to another hospital where I was investigated for lung cancer, which did prove conclusive. The query over the thyroid was left hanging - unresolved - presumably because in all eventuality, as I wasn't going to live that long, it wasn't considered important enough.

And so the lung episode over and done with, I have chosem myself to continue to pursue the thyroid issue. This hasn't been automatic. In fact there was no procedure whatsoever it would seen for dealing with it. When asked the oncologist he said I had to go back to my GP and ask him to refer me to the ENT guy. So here I am with the obvious question on my lips:

"Why last year did I spend three days in hospital having a biopsy which proved nothing and wasn't followed up, when a simple fine needle biopsy in the clinic might have provided the same - or maybe a more conclusive - answer?"

Mr ENT Registrar did not answer nor comment. I still want to know though I wonder who to ask next. I have a follow up appointment with the chest physician in December - I'll ask him then.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Shifting of the sands maybe?

I really can't work out what the anti capitalism camp is about although I do admire the spirit of those involved. If one of the campers could tell me what should be in the place of capitalism, then I'd think the protest had some legs. As it is, it just seems to be against something, when what the world needs is people to be for things - we need positive words and actions for good.

I know in our dreams we'd all like to rob rich bankers and financial institution CEOs of their millions and hand it out to the poor. But that would achieve very little. What is needed is a climate of responsibility. You wouldn't light up a fag in a church. No-one needs to explain why. We all know it's just not done. It's indecent, it's disrepectful. So wouldn't it be wonderful if, once a salary had reached, let's say, £100K (to be on the generous side) the recipient knew that not to give away - to those less fortunate - anything over and above that sum would be an act of gross indecency, an act of disrespect for fellow human beings. Now that would be a far better solution.

It's not so much of a daydream you know. A couple of centuries ago there were lots of philanthropists - many of them Quakers - who did just that.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011


My restrictive diet is now proving to be quite difficult. I still avoid sugar like the plague because I'm convinced it's at the root of many evils, but dairy is still a big temptation. I find I'm powerless to resist as I like cheese.

The alternative is goats cheese which I do like. There's quite a lot in the freezer. And I've managed to locate some sheeps' milk yoghurt. We used to have a local supplier and I can remember consuming large amounts of it back in the 1980s. The difficulty now is that there isn't a supplier in our locality who stocks the stuff. I've checked with the manufacturer about freezing and they don't recommend it as it changes the texture, so buying a large amount online (to make the carriage costs worth it) isn't an option. However a small alternative health food shop has kindly offered to order some in for me. Let's hope it's as good as it was the last time I had it.

Friday, 4 November 2011

Just a bad dream

It's lovely to go away and we've only been gone two days but it feels like weeks. I've eaten far to much of all the wrong things I know and if I'm not careful all the clothes I've carefully accummulated recently won't fit me and I'll have to start again.

While we were there I had a lovely email from one of my old clients asking how I was. We haven't spoken for almost a year. Given my diagnosis and the average survival time - everyone knows that lung cancer's not a good one to have - that was a bold thing to do I reckon. So I was delighted to be able to tell him how I'd been "spared."

And there's a strange thing about all this. Even though it's just over three months since the surgery I keep forgetting completely what's happened in the last year, and have to remind myself. It's almost as if it happened to someone else or that it was just last night's bad dream.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011


I've just realised tbat I missed a trick. I should have put a bet on my surviving my lung cancer. It's only just occurred to me. Shame it's too late now. Dohhhhh!

Monday, 31 October 2011

Gossip while you serve

My little shopping spree today has not gone well. I've just realised that a rather splendid black top purchased in a charity shop has been left behind; I need to go back and get it this afternoon. But that's not the only item I left behind today.

On a search for cork tiles I visited a DIY outlet, one in a well-known chain and for which coincidentally our two daughters work in head office. I found the tiles and made my way to the checkout where the assistant proceeded with her conversation with another assistant standing nearby. She had the good grace to acknowledge that I wanted to pay for the item but there was no way she was going to look at me, smile or interrupt what was obviously an exceptionally important conversation all about who was unhappy about what. I duly paid and then said, not in anger, but with a kindly helpful tone: "You know you really ought to be paying attention to the customer when you're serving them." Both assistants realised their error immediately and, looking shame-faced, one apologised as I turned on my heel and left. The moment of triumph was completely ruined by the fact that I left the tiles on the counter and they had to call me back to pick them up! Dohhhhhhhhhhhhh.

Saturday, 29 October 2011


I never did tell you about last Saturday did I. The day dawned very bright so instead of cleaning the house we went to a nearby town where we sat in the sunshine for two hours or more, beside a market selling all manner of French goodies. Friends came and went, family gathered, and all in all it was a splendid morning. I felt euphoric.

It being lunch time I suggested to the assembled company that we make our way to a nearby hostelry for lunch. Our lunch party of eight people continued into the early afternoon. The evening was also spent in great company with some fantastic music being played.

I was as happy as I could possibly have been all through last Saturday; I was carried along by an unfamiliar wave of euphoria. Now don't get me wrong; I'm not a miserable person. It's just that sometimes I get moments when I'm just as happy as happy can be and the moment on that day lasted right through, right until I went to bed.

It was the Journey practitioner (you will recall I saw her for another session just six days before that Saturday) who pointed out to me that unbridled happiness is a feature of Journey therapy. She rang to follow up on my appointment and was not in the least surprised to hear of my happy day. Apparently sometimes it happens immediately; sometimes it happens days or weeks after. But it often happens.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Dental discussions

My visit to the dentist (the one that I promised to spend an inordinate amount of money with, should I be spared) was more about Reiki, the Journey and (a new one for me) geopathic stress, than teeth. Despite that a large bill for a crown is now looming.

Back to geopathic stress. Could it be that our house is not the most healthy space to be living in? Has it always been thus or could something have changed? Living on a spring line of greensand over clay fits the bill for underground streams and we also have a mast which seems to be growing by the year not far away.

Trawling the web it's difficult to find independent information or a site that isn't peddling a product or a service but for those of you who are also curious this will enlighten you. This is something I now have to investige and maybe I should be taking steps to mitigate the dangers. That could mean purchasing some gadget of undefined functionality or maybe sleeping with cork under the bed (I kid you not!) The latter would be cheaper I must say.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

At last

I have today finally managed to extricate all the remaining large clothes from wardrobes and black plastic bags and sort them into categories: animal charity shop or Ebay. The Ebay lot went online earlier this evening and some have already sold. I've packaged up three items ready for despatch tomorrow.

The really good news is that my purple outfit ("When I am an old woman I shall wear purple) which I put on Ebay a week or so ago has just sold for about the price it cost me several years ago. I have already purchased a purple dress for about the same amount. Bingo!

And there's been more good news from the deep recesses of my bottom drawer. In it I keep strange items of clothing; things that I might want if someone insists that I dress as a hippy or a witch. I had several long black skirts which I'd made over the years and couldn't bear to part with. On Saturday I was able to wear the smallest of them again; now that's something I never ever thought possible.

Saturday, 22 October 2011


"Steam what?" I can hear you exclaim. Well I was similarly puzzled when I first came across the word earlier this week. In my trawls around ebay looking for purple tops and jackets (I've just put two of my purple very-much-loved garments up for sale as they are too big) I came across a rather lovely black crushed velvet jacket with purple frills and a bustle. Steampunk was part of the description which led me to look up the word.

Steampunk is a style based on a time where steam power is still widely used, typically Victorian Britain - but with elements of science fiction or fantasy. I think that steampunk probably sums up the way I would like to dress all the time if I dared. Floor-length skirts, tailored jackets with a peplum - that sort of thing - or tight leggings, high boots and a frock coat.

I can't quite believe I've missed this word steampunk for so long - it's been around since the late 1980s apparently. Well, you live and learn.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

The journey continues

On Monday I re-visited the Journey practitioner and had another session with her. It was really interesting going through the process again as this time I knew the ropes. We concentrated on my thyroid this time and I imagined myself inside it. I envisaged it white with a texture like tapioca - goodness knows why.

My brain has continued to work on the issues that were uncovered, after the event. Every now and then I find myself thinking about them - not in any distressed way, but calmly and rationally, which is what it's all about.

Do I really believe that I can heal myself just with the power of thought? I'm still a sceptic but after the escape I've had from cancer, I'd be a fool if I didn't think that maybe, just maybe there's something in it. Google Journey therapy if you want to know more.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Something else to make your mind boggle

Someone's just posted on Facebook a link to this incredible piece of animation and I just have to share it with you. I quite like the music too.

Monday, 17 October 2011

You can't necessarily believe all of it but ...

Someone I know has just posted this link on Facebook. It's worth a read.

So much of what I've gone through in the past year ties in with this. For instance, it makes sense of Journey Therapy and the concept that we can store bad thoughts, resentments, grief and negativity in specific cells. It also makes sense of prayer or positive thoughts having an effect and more than anything it gives credence to the power of positivity when life is threatened.

Friday, 14 October 2011

Season of mists (I wonder if I used that title last year too?)

It was the first day of condensation on the inside of the window of my office - or condescension as I often like to call it. It's similarly unpleasant and unwelcome. This means that autumn is really here and soon I shall be double glazing one or two windows with cling film again no doubt.*

We've had the harvest festival and now after the auction at the start of the week we're eating our way through abundant apples, bags of beetroot and copious cabbages.

I've been terribly busy the last few days and have lists of uncompleted tasks spread around the house. When I went out to work there was at least some distinction between personal jobs and work jobs. Now I find I'm in a bit of a muddle; I must learn to distinguish.

My earnings have been absolutely miniscule and my pile of expense receipts grows larger every day so I'm obviously doing something right. What's more I heard from the accountant that Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs Office will be repaying me a sizeable sum any day now. What joy eh!

But back to the season. I am poised to place all my recently acquired summer garments in a plastic bag for storage until next year. But given the temperature today and the fact that the cat and I almost got sunburnt when we took our tea break, I'm not so sure that's a good idea. The other thing I can't decide upon yet is whether or not to cut my toe nails right down to their winter length, so that they don't chafe in Wellingtons. Or will I need to display them again in sandals? These quandries are what concern me these days. That's the blessing of semi-retirement.

*Yes, clingfilm does the job. It's best if you can get a more or less airtight seal but I don't like to risk taking the paint off the windows, so I use little bits of Selotape (you can't see them) and it just provides another layer of air for insulation. No, seriously, it really works a treat.

Monday, 10 October 2011

Glowing in the dark?

I've just been looking through my blog from the beginning back in November last year (which is actually listed under January, because that's when I transferred the content to Blogger) to try and calculate just how many X-rays I've had.

What I particularly noticed was what I wrote back at the start when I was keeping a private diary and the chest consultant told me the worst: "Adenocarcinoma of the lung - that is the verdict - but possibly also of the thyroid. It could have started in the thyroid and moved to the lung - or just be in the lung and not in the thyroid at all." Then when I saw the oncologist: "He explained that he thought the lung was primary – if it’s not then it’s curtains much sooner because the only thing they can do is take out the thyroid and hope the secondaries in the lung shrink – well I think that’s what he meant. So he’s going to treat the lung as primary."

You'd assume from that sort of diagnosis that as the thyroid was part of their consideration it would be taken into account all through the process. No, because the NHS specialists appear to work in unconnected silos, they sorted out the lung and then I've had to go right back down the chain to the GP and start all over again. This means a 60 day wait to see the ENT guy. I'm not particularly bothered because I take the view that even if I did have cancer in my thyroid, the chemo - if it hasn't completely knocked it on the head already - will have rendered the cancer activity minimal and sufficient that a wait will do absolutely no harm.

But that's not the point. We're back to the whole topic of holistic treatment and what's wrong with the NHS. This aspect certainly is.

Hence my search for radiation exposure details; I'm just wondering if anyone keeps tabs on patients' X-rays because I've had them in three different NHS locations so far. By my calculations that adds up to at least 5 (and maybe 7 but I can't remember exactly) ordinary chest X-rays, 5 CT scans and 2 PET scans within the past year. I'm just about to start consultation with another specialist working in another silo. That could well mean more X-rays. Should I be concerned? I'm not sure.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Never forgotten

"We lay you down" we all responded as our little grandson was lowered into the earth. The moment I had so much dreaded was indeed heartbreaking but somehow sharing that heartbreak with so many lovely people went just a little way towards its mitigation.

My son-in-not-yet-but-one-day-soon-I-expect-law had written a charming poem about his son; about his aspirations for the future, about the loss of losing him and about the sadness and the disappointment. It was beautiful, poignant and a wonderful tribute and delivered without falter by the author. How he managed that I don't know, but he did.

We had organised a willow coffin made from the finest Somerset willow and finely crafted by a local basket maker. Upon it rested a tiny posy of white and blue flowers and the sun shone upon us in our village graveyard as we lay the little lad down.

We'll never forget.

Friday, 30 September 2011

An internal view

Today the postman came bearing a package marked private and confidential. I should have guessed what it was but the contents still took me by surprise. The CT scans and my final Xray came on three separate disks which also carries the viewing system allowing me to see sections of my body and move through it. Of course it's all in black and white and I haven't a clue what I'm looking at - but I'm impressed.

The final Xray I thought I'd share with you - probably quite against the rules and infringing copyright. But hey, it's my body so what the hell!

You can see the tremendous effort the remaining upper lung lobe is going to to occupy the available space and you can also see the staples - titanium I understand - which were used to staple up the various bronchial tubes which of course are now surplus to requirement.

Monday, 26 September 2011

A little white one

Well I was not wrong. Though my energy level is as high as ever, my Reiki practitioner explained that all but one of my chakras was blocked. I suspect that our whole family is suffering post-traumatic stress. It's going to take a long time and many tears before the loss of our lovely grandson ceases to be at the forefront of all our lives.

Yesterday we eat a family dinner all together and it's moments like that which are very important to all of us I think. It had its lighter moments, one of them being around deception. Earlier in the day four of us - three generations - had gone shopping. It's strange but I still don't feel right shopping on a Sunday; it's just that when I grew up you couldn't. Being in a rural area there simply were no shops whatsoever open on a Sunday.

Anyway, my crime yesterday was even worse than shopping on the Lord's Day - it was shopping at a certain supermarket that we love to hate. When the matter of what we had bought and where was raised later at dinner, the question was put to our seven year old granddaughter. Most amazingly she lied with the ease of a true professional con-woman. Not only that, but upon further quizzing by her mother (who was enjoying the joke enormously) as to which section the cream might have been located in that particular supermarket, the little star of dissemblance said quick as a flash: "milk and dairy".

Such accomplishment at such a young age. We did laugh. I remember a wise man telling me once that children are not civilised until they have learnt to lie politely, as in: "And how are you?" - "Very well, thank you."

Friday, 23 September 2011

Blocked channel maybe?

I remember hearing something on Radio 4 about dreams a while back; that you dream and work things out in your head about seven days after the event. I've been dreaming massively, not just last thing before I get up, but waking during the night due to cranial disturbance.

Maybe I'm slightly traumatised by recent events - it would be unsurprising if I wasn't - and yesterday I had an unmistakeable feeling of something not being right with me. At first I thought I might be sickening for another bout of vestibular neuritis where my balance is affected. It's something to do with the semi circular canals and the little hairs therein going awry. I used to suffer from it before I discovered my thyroid was playing up. But no, I don't think it's that. It's not anything I can really put my finger on; it's far more abstract, a sort of spiritual not-rightness - the antithesis of my usual (these days) right as rain and zooming along feeling.

I'm pretty sure I need another Reiki session and that something somewhere is blocked; some energy channel. So I've contacted my Reiki practitioner and I've booked for her to see me on Monday.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Busy, busy, busy

I'm just so busy at the moment; so much do do. We're about to fetch some damp proof membrane and four paving slabs from Travis Perkins and bed Franc the Van down in his winter quarters. It would have been lovely to have had another outing, but the weather's not so good now and we've just run out of time, so we'll tuck him up in his warm van blanket and empty all his tanks and wish him a happy winter.

Our daughter is much recovered and I see form her Facebook page that she did some retail therapy yesterday - which is a good sign.

Me? Well I'm now getting some of those strange nerve tweaks which I understand are what happens when nerves grow back. They are infrequent but just every now and then I feel a strange sharp tingle somewhere on my back or side.

I saw the GP on Monday and he has started the referral process for the ear, nose and throat consultant who will take a look at my thyroid. Using "Choose and Book" - yes, IT for the NHS really does work - I have secured myself an appointment in 60 days time. In the meantime I'm just going to forget all about it. I can't forget about the drugs though because the GP is relunctant to take me off the beta blocker and the asprin, although my heart has been in perfect order for the past month. He reckons while I'm still on track for potentially more treatment we should leave doses as they are. That's a nuisance as I think it restricts me a little, making me pause for breath when otherwise I wouldn't. Hey, ho, I'll just put up with it until November and then we'll see. It did occur to me that I could unilaterally stop taking the stuff and then I would remove from the GP the responsibility for the decision. I'm still thinking about that.

Saturday, 17 September 2011

As I suspected

I received this morning the letter which follows an oncologist appointment. It is as I have always suspected: that I didn't have much cancer. My right and middle lung lobes - the ones I had removed - showed adenocarcinoma (a type of cancer that develops in the airways and is associated with cells that make phlegm) which was "very minimal, less than 5% of the lesion completely excised".

In other words the cancer in the lung itself was very small. I always thought this was the case because by the time I was starting chemotherapy my lungs had almost completely recovered their function and my coughing had stopped. It's quite nice to be proved right.

On a pertinent topic and one which has been in the news recently, about the standard of communication in the NHS of doctors without English as their first language, the medical secretary has for the third time (even after I pointed it out to her the first time!) typed "hyperthyroid" as opposed to what I am which is "hypothyroid". And* the pentultimate sentence of the letter lacks two words, one of which is a verb. Luckily the meaning is still clear.

*My late business partner said there were occasions where using "and" at the beginning of a sentence was OK - and he should know as he had a Cambridge MA in English. On this occasion the meaning is perfectly clear and as I'm talking in a style like normal speech, I feel I am entitled to break the rule.

Friday, 16 September 2011

A small ray of sunshine

The very small room in which our daughter has been incarcerated for the past four days was beginning to get her down. There's no TV there because of course it's not designed for anyone to stay very long, being on the labour ward. The arguments over blood chemistry continued into the morning but at lunchtime the consultant instructed that she be discharged on the grounds that she was much more likely to be relaxed at home than in hospital. I suppose where blood pressue is concerned this is a valid point.

So when I last saw her she was tucked up on her very own sofa in their very own house with her older sister drying her hair. Hopefully now the real recovery can start to take place.

Everywhere I went in the town that they lived I bumped into people either asking about my health or our daughter's. People are just so very kind; I know lots of you have have sent messages of condolence and support and we're all very grateful.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Reluctant but patient patient

Our poor darling daughter is still stuck in the local hospital while her iron levels very slowly improve. There appear to be quite a lot of different opinions about what do to with her and how to treat her. One advocates further blood transfusions and maybe IV iron, but all the time it must be referred to the haematologist. So she's still stuck in the labour ward, in a private room of course.

I know you're all thinking how dreadful that must be - hearing other mothers giving birth - but I understand there was even laughter in her room last night when a women was heard being particularly loud and opinionated during labour. Even when she hears babies crying, our daughter views that as very positive: "I know they're alive OK" she says.

Hopefully she'll be home tomorrow; fingers crossed.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Iron levels rising

Our daughter's blood chemistry is slowly returning to normal. This is not helped of course by the awful diet she is being fed while in hospital: white toast and butter, baked potato and cheese, mushroom stroganoff. She doesn't like anything sweet so fruit juice or actual fruit aren't an option for her.

I've just had a text to say that she's been down to the restaurant for food and has had some sunshine into the bargain.

What she does need is a good thick steak and some green vegetables, but that will probably have to wait until she's home from hospital. I can envisage several steak dinners ahead for us, as mother and daughter strive to improve their blood counts.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Oncologist's delight

It was back to the hospital today to see our daughter who is steadily improving in general health. Also I had an appointment with the oncologist.

He was clearly delighted with the results of the histology report following the surgery and had never before seen a situation where chemotherapy alone had overcome entirely the cancer - ie. there was none residual in my lymph nodes following surgery. Radiotherapy will not be required. I enquired as to the length of his career so I could get a handle on how unusual a result this actually was. 21 years as a doctor and 15 years as an oncologist gives you some idea of the statistics. I may yet become famous - albeit anonymously - as a case study.

Back to the issue of the thyroid which, he told me, still glowed after the last PET scan. I've been unable to understand why there was initial confusion about my glowing thyroid and glowing lung when presumably the histology right at the start indicated lung cancer. What I didn't realise is that ardenocarcinoma, which is what I had, looks the same in any organ and you can't pinpoint which from the histology. That's not good news because it still raises the spectre of thyroid cancer.

I asked the oncologist what he reckoned. He said that, given a thyroidectomy is a pretty standard operation, it might be wise to remove it - especially as I already take synthetic thyroid homone to make up for the organ's inadequacies. I then expected the oncologist to refer me onward, but no, it's back to the GP. The oncologist will write to my GP who will refer me to the ENT guy and then back into the system go I.

This will all inevitably take some time but, given the spectacular results of the chemotherapy, there is of course some reason to suspect that it may have already knocked thyroid cancer on the head - if it existed there in the first place.

Update on yesterday

Never in a month of Sundays did I ever envisage that this blog would be about anyone other than me. But this morning I feel it's appropriate to give an update on our darling daughter. I have her permission to talk about her here.

I've been in to see her this morning already. She's very very sad but her health is improving. A lot of blood was lost yesterday and she had transfusions of both blood and clotting agent. Her blood chemistry is returning to normal but it's not right yet so she'll be staying at the hospital at least for today.

Monday, 12 September 2011

Unimaginable sadness

Breaking bad news is not something I'm very good at. I'm not blessed with soft introductory phrases and tend to tell it how it is - straight out. And so it is that I have to tell you of the unimaginable sadness of today.

Our next grandchild was this morning stillborn to our youngest daughter. She and her partner were told that the baby had died and I stayed with her while birth was induced. He was so lovely - a perfect baby - but one who was just not meant to be. We have all cried buckets and I'm sure there are plenty more to come.

The reason for the baby's death was abruption of the placenta - the placental lining separated from the uterus. Our daughter is doing well but has had blood transfusions and continues to be monitored very closely.

Today has been harrowing but amidst the tears, the disappointment and the tragedy of it all, I have felt terribly proud of our daughter. She behaved impeccably and made it very easy for the midwives to care for her, thanking them at all stages. Indeed I've felt proud of all my children and their ability to weather this storm. It's by no means over but as ever I know they'll pull through it together.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

What a difference a year makes

Tomorrow it will be a year to the day that I began the long journey of discovery of my lung cancer, followed by treatment and seemingly cure. The 9th of September has been stamped upon my brain ever since. It was the day that I went to see the doctor - not my doctor as he was on holiday - about my hacking cough.

I kept a personal diary right from the start and only abandoned it when I received my diagnosis and decided to share it with everybody. Here's the entry for 9th September:

Appointment with the doctor - very thorough but rather inhuman. Gave me a card and told me to go to the hospital for chest Xray which I did that afternoon. Also gave me Amoxicillin for 5 days. Shocked - because card for hospital said “smokers cough”. Attended the Xray clinic early pm - very quick - back at work in the afternoon. I felt a bit reassured - and I’d had the nightmare the night before where I was dying so anything must be better than that.

What a difference a year makes!

Monday, 5 September 2011

My wonderful surgeon

We went to see the surgeon on Thursday and this time we were all so much more relaxed. They took an Xray first and when we were in the consulting room I asked if we could both move round the desk to take a look. It was extraordinary. My upper remaining right lung lobe is doing its level best to occupy the space and my diaphragm has indeed moved up. I am kicking myself now that I didn't ask to take a snap of the Xray with my phone - it would be good to be able to share it with you.

The rearrangement of my innards does, I now realise, explain some of the odd little aches and discomfort I've had below the site of surgery and around my stomach area. With the diaphragm moving up that must leave some more space below. Connective tissue has no doubt been straining and stretching a great deal.

I asked what size the tumour had been at the point of surgery. He replied that it was difficult to say as there was so much scar tissue. Histology reports on the tissue removed confirm the lung cancer diagnosis. I do have some metal in me - titanium staples to fasten the tubes.

The surgeon asked whether I had some loss of sensation in the right side of my chest. That was a interesting question, because indeed I do. The reason he divulged is that he used some muscle tissue from between my ribs to cover stiching on the bronchus and to strengthen it. I may not regain that sensation because of course some nerve damage was inevitable, but it's a small price to pay. No cancer was detected in any of the lymph glands removed and there was no sign of tumour in the upper lung lobe. While he said the oncologist might offer me radiotherapy he, the surgeon, couldn't see the need.

That sounds to me like a great success and I did thank him effusively, saying that nothing I could say could adequately express how grateful I was to him. He responded most charmingly and so modestly by saying that it didn't matter, but I could see that he was himself very pleased with his work and satisfied with the outcome.

I visit the oncologist next week. There's just the question of my thyroid now and whether or not it glowed during my last PET scan and whether or not there is still any cause for concern there. I'm inclined to think not.

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Radio 4 this morning

There was an interesting little discussion on Radio 4 this morning, instigated by Matthew Taylor's blog about whether middle class educated people have a better change of surviving longer when diagnosed with terminal cancer. No firm conclusions were reached.

I don't think it's about education or class. I firmly believe that diet, relief of stress and anxiety and creating the climate in which the body can do much of its own healing is what really matters. You don't have to be rich to eliminate processed food and sugar from your diet; you may have to be educated to do it though.

If anything needs to be done about the way we handle cancer management, I think it should be the addition of dietary and lifestyle advice.

We're off to see the surgeon this afternoon to find out exactly what he got up to in my thorax. I'll post a full report in due course.

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Bring me sunshine

I've convinced the GP to let me continue to eat my way out of anaemia but he wouldn't concede on the beta blockers and the asprin until I've seen the surgeon (Thursday) and the oncologist (in two weeks' time). So I'll just keep popping the pills until then.

How I wish the sun would shine. It's always difficult coming back from camping. I want to rush outside again almost as soon as I've got home. If just a little blue sky might creep out from behind this thick cloud layer I'd be so much happier today - and so would the washing which dries by refuses to air sufficiently for me to bring it in. There is so much difference between dried washing and aired washing that doesn't feel cold and clammy - but not everyone understands that (she said thinking of someone very very close to her!)

Status: normality resumed

The weekend was great and I was able to dance without any worries. In fact any slight breathlessness was no greater than the same time last year when I carried those extra three stone. I've even stopped thinking about my lung when I set off across a camping field because there's very little to remind me. Hence the subject title of this posting.

I'd be prepared to put money on the likelihood that my blood count has significantly improved since the blood test which was done way back on the 9th of August. I feel as if it has and the lethargy and general lack of energy has lifted.

I'm off to see the GP tomorrow and will see if I can persuade him to take me off the beta blocker and asprin. After all I've only had one minor occurence of heart acrobatics since my last trip to see him and the chances of a post surgical blood clot I would think have diminished by now to something approaching a normal average risk.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Convalescence is a drag

I'm not cut out for this taking it gently lark. It's the sudden fatigue that gets me, although after sleeping nine hours last night I must say I'm feeling a lot better today. Little jobs that I wouldn't have thought twice about - finding something in a cupboard where everything needs pulling out first - suddenly become enormous mountains to climb and I find myself breathless.

There is however potentially another reason for the breathlessness - apart from the fact that I'm recovering from the removal of two lung lobes - and that's the fact that I'm anaemic. The blood test to check my electrolytes, the chemicals that are critical in allowing cells to function properly, revealed that my iron level is low. I've persuaded the GP (for the time being) to let me try and eat myself out of this because while he thinks the level is low (9.9) it's actually point one higher than the level at which they gave me one dose of chemotherapy!

I get the feeling that I need to take detoxing quite seriously now. My penchant for late night cheese raids has to stop. Apparently diary produce can inhibit the absorption of iron as can coffee, tea, cereals, soy and - would you believe it - oregano. You know, if you take all this diet stuff really seriously you find that there's very little left to eat. Hubby suggests grass!

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Warm again

Today, for the first time in the week, it dawned warm and sunny. Previously we had sun, yes, even in Yorkshire, but there was a raw wind which drove the temperature right down. Though we were tucked up in Franc the Van there was one night when hats were necessary!

We're back home now. The week has been very good for me I think. I can thorougly recommend camping and convalescence. Having to walk across a field to the loo meant that every few hours I had just a little exercise. There were chores to do too. For instance, washing up was more physically taxing than usual because you had to fetch a bowl of water from the boiler each time, so that provided my opportunities to flex various muscles.

I've noticed that first thing in the morning my breathing is shallower. I guess everyone breathes shallowly during the night. I have a suspicion that my steadily expanding one third of a lung contracts during my sleep but in the morning finds that it's going to have to work as hard, if not harder than the day before.

Sneezing is no longer a cause for panic. I'm almost up to the size of sneezes that I used to allow myself before surgery. Coughing is only very slightly sore. Odd tingles occur around and about my upper right chest region and I'm told by my research and by people who know that this is par for the course. Various muscles and nerves are busy putting themselves back together again.

I detected a little bit of heart acrobatics again a couple of days ago - strangely enough when I awoke after a 45 minute mid afternoon doze. This cannot have been been due to my overdoing things because I hadn't been - and as I said, I'd been having a rest period. Luckily for me a friend of the family, a cardiac nurse, was at the camp too. She said it's not uncommon and it may be that I'd experienced these sorts of incidents with no ill effects and without noticing them in the past. I might be just a little over-sensitive to it now.

But the really good news is that there is a most distinct and rather sudden improvement in my peripheral neuropathy, at least the fingers. They have quite suddenly begun to improve and feeling is coming back. I can't tell if it's the same with my toe and soles of my feet yet but I expect it will be.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Yorkshire chill

Feeling so much better that I completely forgolt that I probably should not have joined in the maypole dancing. It is so cold here that it's difficult to believe it's August.

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Hello sun

We were asked to bring the sun with us and indeed web have. Lots of lovely friends are here and, yes, I'm taking it easy.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

OK, I give in

The toxicity and effects of paracetamol in the dose that I've gone back to taking are minimal but I'm still slightly annoyed that I've had to do it. My assumption that my improvement would continue at a regular and evenly graduated rate, is obviously wrong. I now have aches and sorenesses in places where hitherto I had just a tiny feeling of abnormality. These are all internal and I can only assume it's the inside of my chest - my lung, diaphragm, and interconnecting tissue (whatever there is left of it) - coming to terms with the new spatial availability and all vying for position.

The one ache that I can't explain - and I couldn't when in hospital - is the one that's related externally to my excess belly-flesh on the right hand side. What on earth it could have to be unhappy about I have no idea. But it was unhappy in hospital and really annoyed me when I was trying to sleep and it catches me unawares now. The only explanation I can come up with is that it must be a reflected soreness that is actually happening somewhere else.

My days alternate between the sit-down-and-watch-the-videoed-episodes-of-the-Tudors-and-dose-off-to-sleep days and the I'm-feeling-so-much-better-and-have-so-much-energy-days. There is nothing very even or logical about this roller-coaster of recovery, hence I got up at 6 am and took one paracetamol.

It is essential that I have some degreee of normality in my daily routine from tomorrow onwards as that is the day we head northwards to camp in Yorkshire, with friends and some other members of the family. Of course it will be all so much easier with Franc the Van. We collected him yesterday from his temporary resting place and later on today he'll be packed and prepared.

I'm taking with me two concessions to my physical condition. One is a thirty-plus years old child's buggy - the old basic standard one. It's been in the loft for years and it will serve me very well to carry water across the camp site. The other luxury is my lightweight sun lounger in which I hope to take my early afternon naps. I'm told the field in which we are to be located is not well blessed with 3G reception, so you may not hear from me for a while.

Monday, 8 August 2011


I've said that I've been pain free and that indeed is true but I suppose it depends upon your definition of pain. Pain to me is something which is debilitating - a sharp sensation of hurt which prevents or deters me from doing things. What I'm experiencing these days is, I suppose, a soreness and it's interesting that it has changed its incarnation over the past few days. There are the sites of the two drains and the scar, both of which are to a certain extent sore. But now however I'm experiencing some new slight internal soreness which hithertoo had been absent - or maybe just masked by the residue of the various pain-killing drugs I received. For the first time I have some awarenewss of soreness in the remaining bit of my lung.

There's little advice around on what or what not I should be doing. I have a pain relief leaflet and an "after your epidural" leaflet but not a "what to do after a thoracotemy" leaflet. The University of Southern California has the most complete advice online - better than Macmillan.

One of the issues it's difficult to determine is when I can drive. I could drive now, perfectly well and very safely because it's apparent that I'm not in the sort of pain that many people obviously are (if the managing pain leaflet is to be believed) following surgery like this. In fact the doctor said I could drive when I feel like it - but he then mentioned a period of a month and said I must tell the insurance company. I asked the insurance company when I renewed last week and they said it was up to the doctor. Circle complete. So now I'm trying to ring the insurance company (that appears to be the only way they will accept communication) to notify them. Whatever, it will be well over a month when I'm back from holiday so I reckon that as long as I feel able and up to it and I've notified the insurer, then I should be OK.

Sunday, 7 August 2011

On closer examination

I received various leaflets when I was discharged from hospital, along with the clips for removing the staples and several dressings in case I should need them and a letter giving details of what they'd done to me and why. It was only today that I re-read the letter (I'm supposed to carry it with me all the time while I'm convalescing) and realised that there were several things in the letter which I hadn't noticed. Apparently I was given the oral antibiotics post operatively due to a mild chest infection - which is news to me. I believe I had antibiotics post op intravenously in any case - so maybe it's just standard procedure.

Then there were the descriptions of the surgery. "Right thorocotomy" means they opened up the right side of my chest, "right middle and lower lobectomy" refers to the two lung lobes removed, "extensive lymphadenectomy" was the removal of lymph nodes but what was a "branchotrachioplasty" I wondered?

Putting "branchotrachioplasty" into Google netted absolutely nothing. I persevered using those handy "did you mean?" prompts that Google gives. It soon dawned on me that once again we have here a medical secretary who either can't spell a procedure correctly or has made an error (two errors in one word in this case!)

It turns out it wasn't 'brancho' but 'broncho' - of the bronchi, of course - it's obvious. Similarly it wasn't 'trachioplasty' but 'tracheoplasty'. The word 'bronchotracheoplasty' - even spelt correctly - exists only twice on Google! Anyway I eventually deduced that it means that I've had restorative surgery to my bronchi and trachea. I'm presuming that this is the bit they do when they seal off the bronchi and trachea so they don't leak. Apparently they blow the remaining lung right up to a significant pressure to ensure there are no leaks. That's another mystery solved then. I must make a note to ask the surgeon when I see him if I contain any metal.

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Two days of exhaustion

Little did I realise when I wrote my Thursday morning bright and breezy blog entry the consequences of that two mile walk on Wednesday evening. The rest of Thursday and all of Friday I felt totally utterly exhaused. I dragged myself out of the chair to do a little housework and the effort was enormous. Regular bouts of sleep were the only way to cope with it.

Now I've experienced was is "too much" as in "don't do too much" I can tell you that I have absolutely no intention of doing "too much" again. It's simply not worth it.

This morning I do feel quite full of beans again, but I know it won't necessarily last. I'm going to attempt a slow ascent of the hill at midday, to sing in the choir at a wedding. Whether or not I'll be able to sing much I have not yet got a clue - I doubt it - but I'll give it my best shot. Initial attempts at song are not promising but then again it's early days yet. Don't get me wrong. I can make the notes - it's just that I haven't got the quality sorted yet and the breathing will take a bit of getting used to.

So from now on I'm going to pace myself very carefully and allow double rest time for every bit of activity that I undertake. Apart from anything else I don't want a repeat of the heart acrobatics; I'm keen to get myself off these beta blockers.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Horizontal rest

Well, that was a wonderful night's sleep spent on my side in our double bed beside my darling husband. I'm not surprised that I slept well as I'd walked at least two miles yesterday evening and probably slightly overdone it. My heart did a little bit of acrobatics as I sat relaxing in a chair last night and again this morning I'm not entirely sure that it was keeping to its normal steady beat. To be honest, I don't know what it normally does. There's an added difficulty in taking my pulse because with the slight loss of sensation in my finger tips I cannot always be sure I feel what I feel. Whatever, I'm sure it's just temporary and I'm not going to worry about it. I've had my asprin after all.

I haven't bothered to take paracetamol since the middle of yesterday and I'm in no discomfort. I can feel something - the site of the drains holes which are slightly sore and recovering from the very thick stitches. But the incision in my back causes me no trouble. My breathing is fine - in fact I'm overall pretty good. Given the peripheral neuropathy caused by the chemo and the fact that I've had an epidural and a general anaesthetic and a whole host of antibiotics, it's surprising that I feel as well as I do. Now I just need to concentrate on getting the body back into shape again. The antibiotics and apparently pain killers too both play havoc with digestion.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Staples shaped like Ms

I've been counting down to this day - and even counting hours - certainly counting nights on the sun lounger. The staples are now no more - well, that's not true. They still exist - in a little pot in which the nurse kindly put them as a souvenir for me. They're just not in my back any more and neither are the draggy drain stitches. I'm wearing a normal bra again - it feels amazing.

The staple removing scissors which I was given by the hospital - together with various post operative leaflets and some surgical dressings - were handed to the nurse. She simply hooked them under the staple, closed them, and hey presto the staple turned into a lovely little M shape - very appropriate - and just pulled clear.

As I sat waiting in the surgery my GP walked by and his face lit up and he said "Hello, how're doing?" To this I replied, "I'm coming to see you later in the day, I'll tell you all about it then." I haven't seen him since just before I started my chemo. He's a nice guy and always very cheerful with lots of people skills; unlike his colleague that I had to see over the diagnosis period, whose demeanour and general handling of the situation could so easily led to me slitting my wrists.

Anyway we have another trip in to the surgery later this afternoon - after which I will update this blog.

My GP seems very pleased with me. Oxygen count 97%, no discernable heart irregularities, chest sounded OK and I've obviously healed very well. I can drive pretty much when I feel like it but he suggests a month is a good time but I should notify my insurance company that I have had the surgery. So that's another couple of weeks but as we'll be away with Franc the Van for a week I'm very unlikely to be wanting to drive anything anyway.

I'm to be left on the beta blockers and asprin to be sure to be sure for the time being and I'll check in again with the GP when we're back from holiday. A general blood test next week will check my electrolytes just to make sure that they're all as they should be as it was imbalance which may have contributed to the heart issue in the first place.

All in all a good report I think.

Monday, 1 August 2011

Upwards and onwards

I've climbed the hill today - slowly - well to my friend's house which is about halfway to the absolute top. It felt fine. I suppose I was short of breathe, but not in any worrying way. I just realise that I have less capacity than I did. I think of that remaining lobe doing its level best to expand to fill the cavity and I strongly suspect that in three months or so I won't even be able to tell that anything is different from how it used to be.

The interesting thing was the walk back down. As I took steps going down I could feel a mild soreness in the right hand side of my chest which I took to be bits of organ bumping onto areas it had hitherto no connection with and my diagphram trying to work out where it belonged. Don't get me wrong - it was not an unpleasant or in any way worrying sensation. It was merely a sensation. And of course, I'm just amazed that that's all there is to say about my walk up the hill. Isn't the body just a wonderful thing.

Sunday, 31 July 2011

Tonight the lounger

Sleeping at night is still a problem. I take off the passion-killer front-fastening bra and try to sleep on my back, as I did in hospital, but I'm still not very good at doing that. Last night I resorted to the chair again at about 2 am. After a Marmite sandwich and half an episode of the Tudors I completed the rest of the night's sleep sitting up.

Tonight I'm going to start on the sun lounger because I suspect it's going to be even more comfortable than a chair. I reckon I'll have this cracked by Wednesday - when the staples come out and I can probably get back to sleeping on my side as I always have done.

Saturday, 30 July 2011

"We live in a culture that makes it nearly impossible to make healthy food choices. A number of food industry and political factors keep us sick and fat."

When I walk in to a supermarket these days I know that I am unlikely to purchase around 98% of the food displayed. Since I've started looking at labels I've been appalled at what I've found and I'm not alone. Various of you have sent me to web sites and articles - mainly, but not always, from the US - where impassioned advocates of healthy eating keep banging on about horrors of the food production industry.

It's tough when I eat out because I know full well that practically everything which has been manufactured as a food stuff will contain refined sugars - often several different ones. Don't make assumptions about savoury sauces as they too have sugar aplenty. And I won't mention all the other unpleasant additives and coatings, the toxins in recycled packaging and those that impregnate food stored in plastic (and that includes plastic-bottled water and other drinks). I could go on and on - and when you see me, I probably will

Let me just leave you with this simplistic piece of advance from an American medical doctor and his advice to US shoppers. I think it's so sad that someone should have to say these things. I would add "Don't shop in supermarkets" - but that's becoming increasingly difficult. When all the independent bakers, butchers and green grocers have gone we will have no choice whatsoever. Think on that next time you fall prey to the allure of Tesco.

"- Buy around perimeter of the store (that’s where the healthy stuff is)
- Don’t go down aisles (that’s where most of the junk food is)
- Don’t buy food in a box
- Or with more than 5 ingredients
- Or with ingredients you can’t pronounce
- Or with a cartoon on package"

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Home at last

It was lovely coming home. I'm frustrated somewhat by the realisation that I have not prepared adequately - I do not have the right bra to wear. I need something very soft - a sports bra - with large straps, front-fastening and no underwiring, to scoop up these droopy bits and stop the drag on the chest drain sites when I walk. I've just ordered one; it should come tomorrow. Once I have that I should be able to start on some little walks up and down the lane and gradually further afield.

My pain is controlled just with paracetomol - I find it hard to believe this to to be the case. But that's all I need. I have a long curved scar down my back with what looks like metal staples in it. I know, you just can't believe that it doesn't hurt horrendously, but it really doesn't. When I move I can just feel that there's something there - but that's all. I am to make an appointment with the surgery to have the staples removed next week - when I also need the drain site stitches out.

Sleeping at night proved a bit of a challenge. If I laid on my right side I'd be putting all my weight on the drain sites, if I laid on my left the weight of my breast would pull at the drain site. As I'd slept well, propped up on my back in hospital, that seemed the best solution and indeed it was.

I do so miss that hospital bed though. The mattress comprised different sections, so that when you put the back up, or the middle up and the feet down (so that it took on the appearance of sun lounger) the little sections could move around. It was really comfortable and made propping myself up very easy. OK, you can do it at home with pillows and a husband, but it's not quite the same as being able to press a button or two.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Home James, and don't spare the horses!

I really am to go home today. My potassium was proved to be low - the blood test illustrated that. I've been given tablets to sort it out. My heart feels completely normal now.

The bulldog clip around my chest feels less tight today and I do have every confidence that I'll be fine at home. There's no real need to cough either - the annoying post-surgical burble has gone. Sleep is something that my body requests every couple of hours so I just make myself comfortable and dose.

P.S. Another little heart flutter incident this morning - nothing terrible though. I'm to go home with a beta blocker and asprin. These are to mitigate against the chance of untoward clots in this post-surgical period.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Whoopsie daisy

Just before the ward round swarm arrived, while I sat calmly in a chair reading, my heart decided to undertake some acrobatics. It was, for about an hour, popping in the odd syncopated beat here, missing another there. Very jazzy! Apparently it is common post surgery so nothing to worry about. I'm just glad it happened when it did. I've been given potassium and magnesium; some blood tests will also be done. The heart rhythm slipped back to normal in any case, before the medication.

This time I managed to interrogate a doctor and what's more the lab results are back. The tumour which was in my two lower lobes has all been removed, as have they. The lymph nodes that were removed this time contained no cancer cells, unlike those that provided means of diagnosis last time I was here.

For a couple of hours this morning I had no cannulas or pipes sticking out of me. Sadly it didn't last; I now have a ready connection in the crook of my arm just in case ..... and a vampire has just drained me of another batch of blood. I seem only now to be on paracetomol for pain relief, with an option to add tramadol if necessary. But all in all I'm very comfortable now.

Monday, 25 July 2011

Bulldog clip effect

I'd assumed this whole process would be extremely painful at some point. But when a couple of weeks ago I bumped into a friend whose job is as a general hospital pain care nurse and she told me it doesn't have to be, I believed her. The epidural was fantastic and it was only when I'd fallen through a hole in the routine after it ran out, that I began to feel pain.

And it wasn't pain as generally thought of, as specifc and centred. No, instead it felt as if the right hand side of my chest was gripped by an enormous bulldog clip. I only realised that I was experiencing severe pain by the fact that my breathing had shallowed and I was tightening all sorts of unlikely muscles.

The pain manager here has prescribed paracetomol and tramadol together, but for some reason the ward nurse only gave me the former. As the bulldog clip once more began its grip I asked for the rest. It looks like I'm going to have to keep my eye on this shift at least.

Not today

The ward round occurs like a sudden swarm. It buzzes through the room with the senior surgeon in the group (I've seen four different ones so far) in the lead with a crowd of gowned gentleman in attendance, possibly the odd doctor loosely appended in civies and a clip clop of (my collective noun for) nurses. Unless you're prepared with your questions the whole circus has been and gone before you've had a chance to empty your mouth of Weetabix.

One drain to come out today, the top one. I think that's the one draining the sac around my lung. So I'm not going home today; maybe tomorrow.

The Jack in a Box vicar appeared again today and said something other than 'good morning' but, as my face was covered by a nebuliser mask and its rattly sound obscured all conversation, I guess I'll never know what it was.

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Normality rating

They're very keen here on rating things - degrees of pain, amounts of cold sensation, that sort of thing. Those that know me well will therefore understand the rate of my recovery when I tell vou that today I interviewed a member of the catering management team on the topic of the fourth piece of dirty cutlery to be issued to me within the week.

Now you see him, then you don't

It's three times now that I've seen the apparition and I'm convinced it is real. It happened about this time in the morning when I first came back to the ward. A white haired gentleman suddenly popped his head round the wall which divides my space from next door's. He was wearing a dog collar. He waved cheerily, and was gone. It's happened twice since - just a fleeting smiling lurch into my room. I guess it's the church in action; very fast action.

One other thing that's funny and I must tell you is that my epidural pump operates every few minutes and makes a tiny teeny noise just like a kitten mewing.

Saturday, 23 July 2011

So what exactly was it like?

Well, I was wheeled down to theatre at about 1pm on Wednesday. Something went into the cannula in my hand and I knew no more until I came round at about 6.30pm in a recovery room. There was no pain whatsoever. All pain management is done automatically via the epidural. From the recovery room, where I felt quite able to discuss with the porter my favourite holiday, I made my way - or rather the porter made my way - to the High Dependency Unit where I spent the night.

I was then transferred back to the ward but not into my private room. The days go by in a series of routines. I guess I’ll just about get the hang of them by the time I leave here! I’m surprised how much I manage to sleep both during the day and at night.

Running from my chest are two pipes which drain a thin red liquid from my lung. They are pretty disgusting to look at but they seem to be doing the job. Somewhere in my back is an epidural block which removes sensation from the area of surgery and also my boobs!

The annoying discomfort is the itching which is I understand a side effect of the epidural. I’ve declined something to stop this; I think with all the potions and pills which have been poured into me I don’t need any for more to remove the itching! Visits to the loo are interesting and require the assistance of a staff member to carry the two little chest drain buckets and the epidural pump.

Two things have been a problem. The first was very simple. Because the admissions clerk didn’t do her job properly, I started off without identity wrist bands. In fact she didn’t even let me into her office! So the ward printer being out of action someone had to write out manual bands for me. Theatre then removed one in order to install a wrist cannula. So I still have one handwritten ID band OK, but I’m sure not it's up to standard.

The second thing is the food. Twice because now my throat is swollen, I have eaten something which has failed to progress further than the top of my oesophagus. It’s a horrible feeling. Eventually I have managed to see a dietician who prescribed puréed food.

Of course it didn’t arrive last night but due to a spot visit of catering management (who got precise feedback on the food quality and cleanliness of cutlery) there is some hope it will be there for lunchtime and this evening. I don’t care what it looks or tastes like as long as it’s nutritious.

The one discomfort I have is in my stomach and comes as a result of daily injections of a blood thinning drug. One dose of this must have been given incorrectly and has caused a small bruise and some discomfort. It’s incredible when you think what has been done, that this is my only pain.

Had a shower this morning and all my dressings changed. That was fantastic – all the little itchy bits being seen to. Simple pleasures eh?

Another new day

My days are spent in a blur of ward rounds, hot drinks, washing and cat naps. My nights comprise reading and naps. I still have two chest drains and the epidural but miraculously no pain. I can feel this morning that the itchy healing process is under way.

Friday, 22 July 2011

Ward round

Doctors have just been round and they are pleased with my progress. So much so that I could be home by Monday!

[Blog fairy]

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

All done!

I arranged for my blog fairy to update you following my operation:

In recovery. Awake. pain free. Speaking. Smiling. Doing well

Everlasting light

I cannot help wondering if patient outcomes might not be improved if we could sleep in the dark. Even though I have my own room there's a light always on. I now have a mark on me to show which side to operate and have signed the consent form. Still don't know exactly when yet.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Happy bunny!

Got my own room with en-suite. Found Radio 4 on the TV so am a happy bunny. Choosing non-processed sugar-free food on hospital menu is a bit of a challenge. CT scan, ECG and lung function tests today.

Update: Lung function test better than the normal average!

Monday, 18 July 2011

The waiting game

The letter I received with the admission form advised me to ring this morning to find out if a bed was available. I have and there's no definite answer yet. I therefore await a phone call in the next couple of hours or so. This makes the be-there-by-2pm requirement a little hard to meet. But the admissions manager said it wasn't imperative, as long as I arrive sometime in the afternoon.

Yes, OK, I admit I'm horrendously stressed about this, so much so that this morning a small cold sore appeared on my bottom lip. Once you have cold sores you always have them. They're likely to surface at low moments - hence, I guess, the title 'cold sore'. I really could have done without it but there you go. I've checked and it makes no difference to whether or not they admit me - big sigh of relief. Having come this far I don't want to be turned back by such a small thing.

I know you all think I'm incredibly resilient to the ebbs and flows of this cancer journey that I'm going through, and I guess I am to a great extent. But this one little bit of the road - the interminable waiting - is the one that has the big potholes and causes me anguish.

Once I'm there, once I've signed the forms, given my consent, it will be easy. All I'll have to do is to lie around reading novels and doing what I'm told. Not difficult. I've no problem with the surgery aspect. I'm fine with that. It's just this ruddy waiting that's a pain.

Oh well - either they haven't got a bed - in which case you'll hear from me again later today or they have, in which case watch this space again in about a week. Toodlepip! *

*A bit of a mystery this word. One guess is that the old fashioned upper class slang for 'goodbye' derives from 'toodle-oo' which in turn comes from French 'a tout a l'heure'- translated 'see you soon'.

P.S. The call came - much relief here - lunch and then we're off.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Two things

In all the excitement I've completely forgotten to tell you about the side effects of the chemo. You might recall that I'd begun to suffer a strange feeling in my toes and to a lesser extent in my fingers. Well over the past five weeks or so the toes were getting worse, the odd feeling gradually creeping up them and seemingly to the soles of my feet. It's very difficult to describe the feeling but if I say it's the same dead feeling you get if you lean on your arm and the fingers go numb. There is still some sense in them but it's an abnormal sense.

My regime of Vitamin B complex however may have helped because certainly it's getting no worse and I reckon it's getting better. This is a great relief to me because I'd begun to find I was becoming slightly clumsy which didn't bode well when I tried to pick up a needle.

The other thing - well that's the hair. A couple of weekends ago we were in the company of someone else who's had chemotherapy. In the middle of lunch she turned to me and asked if I'd looked at my hair to see the chemo bands. I hadn't so I promptly pulled out a hair to examine it. Sure enough there were six bands. I could see where the hair had become thin followed by a small bit of normal followed by a bit of thin, and so on. It does explain exactly why I lost some hair and it thinned out. I guess some folicles, having grown a strand for some years and then experiencing the chemo, decided that time was up for that strand - time to start a new one. I don't have a microscope but if anyone does and is curious about this and would like a sample, I'll be more than happy to oblige. In the meantime where my scalp looked a little thin it now looks normal, presumably due to all the new little hairs which are growing. So far they appear to be a perfectly normal muddy brown colour - another reason, though a vain one, to be joyful.

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Rain rain go away

We're sittiing in the van and its just stopped raining. It's just over an hour to go to our nephew's wedding. We've eaten bacon and eggs, both had a hot shower and I even washed my hair! Suddenly the appeal of crushed grass and wet canvas doesn't seem quite as strong as it was. I'm starting to see the real benefits of glamping.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Dorset is beautiful ....

...... wherever you go, and the rain in the summertime makes the wurzel bush grow ... etc. I think we might be about to experience some rain in the summertime for tomorrow we're off to a family wedding in Dorset. I'm really looking forward to it. Franc the Van is nearly ready; my hat is safely stowed in the van's safe (it's the only place it's not likely to get crushed).

We meet the rest of the family for a meal on Friday night, Saturday is the wedding and reception and Sunday we return just in time for me to prepare myself for Monday's trip to hospital. I expect to be able to blog one more time beforehand. During my hospital stay I've asked one of our daughters to update the right-hand side panel of this with news of my physical state and as soon as I'm able I'll be blogging again myself.

Have a great weekend everyone - I'm going to.