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.