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!