Thursday, 13 November 2014

A light in the encircling gloom

Well you'll be pleased to hear that I've just had another check-up.  This time with a side-kick of the thoracic specialist's.  I shouldn't have actually been back to the hospital until May, but I told my consultant that I'd miss him and a year was a long time, so he booked me in for six months. Despite explaining this to the chap today, he has also booked me in for another check up in six months time too, to be on the safe side.

On top of this, yesterday I had a letter to say that my recent mammogram was also clear.  So even though it's looking a tad gloomy out there, it's sunshine in this household. 

And there's even more good news, the nagging muscular problem that I've had for over a year now, somewhere in the region of upper buttock is well on the mend since I've started doing 15 minutes on the rowing machine every morning.  I know what the problem is as I had it diagnosed: I don't stand or sit straight While trying to do both of those properly has alleviated it a bit, the rowing is actually proving to be just what the doctor and physio didn't order, because they didn't think of it.

Happy days!

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Life goes on

Well here I am with the extra check up creeping up on me fast.  I should be clear of hospitals until May next year but having persuaded my consultant that I'd miss him, I'm going back in a couple of weeks for another checkup.

In the meantime I've just had breast cancer screening.  It was part of the normal mammogram routine which comes round every three years.  For me the timing was just right as I've had a bit of breast tenderness recently.  A quick Google revealed that such a thing is not uncommon and in any case it seems to have gone away. But knowing that an X-ray was on the cards has made me feel a bit better and saved me an anxious trip to the GP for reassurance.

I've been quite heartened recently hearing about some of the research that is going on.  This piece of news seems particularly promising.  There's many a drug designed for one purpose that has turned out to be beneficial for another. 

I remain a devotee of Canceractive and Chris Woollams - and if you've stumbled upon this blog because you are seeking knowledge about cancer, I do recommend to take a stroll around the Canceractive web site. If nothing else, understanding what is going on when cancer is diagnosed will empower you - whether you have cancer or whether you are supporting someone else with cancer.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

What you don't see

I'm sorry dear readers; it's been a long time since I last posted. Life seems to speed up every day and I have no idea where the three years have gone. It's great looking ahead and planning the distant future again. The days of drips and appointments, of the endless waiting, seem to have happened to someone else long ago.

But what does stay with me all day, every day, is that nagging feeling that I can't quite believe I've made it. I can't quite believe that I'm going to live just like everyone else, until I get old. How this manifests itself is in little sneaky ways. The odd twinge here and there. The sinusitis is a brain tumour, of course it is. The slight constipation, the first sign of colon cancer. Slight indigestion - ah, that's the constriction of my esophagus. It's all quite illogical but it's one of the legacies of having had cancer.

Thursday, 15 May 2014

All clear again

Last night I was running on overdrive. Palpitations at one point, a headache - a sure sign of raised blood pressure - occurred and whatever I did I just couldn't find a way of overcoming the anxiousness that was accumulating in advance of my check-up today.

The good news is that the X-ray looks very much like the last one so all's well. My lovely Indian consultant informed me that he now has a professorship and will be returning at regular intervals to his home where he has a visiting teaching post. I was so worried that I'd lose him. I've begun to feel quite fond of him as he's my last connection with that horrendous period when I thought my life was drawing to a close.  It turns out that he'll still be around to see me and despite the fact that really I should now be on once a year check-ups, he says - because I asked - he'll see me again in six months.  Why I should wish to put myself through the anguish of the build up to the appointment I don't know, but I will feel much safer knowing that I don't have to wait another year to know how I'm doing.

So if you're drinking tonight, raise a glass and toast the dear old NHS and all its faults; Canceractive because it has the best possible advice on diet and lifestyle, and life itself - with all its difficulties and disappointments - because being alive is after all what it's all about.


Monday, 12 May 2014

Hello dear reader.  My abject apologies for being away so long.  I think of you often; I resolve to write to you and then the day is gone, it's 1.30 am and I really need to go to bed.  Such is life.

I'm very glad to be able to report that my mum's now fine after her pneumonia scare and that I'm still very much alive though with another checkup creeping ever nearer, just a tad twitchy - as described somewhere in an earlier post.

When I meet people they say: "How are you?"  I tell them that I'm fine and I thank them for their concern.  Then they repeat the question perhaps with a "but" as a prefix.  After having had this happen so many times I've now realised that what they mean is: "OK so you escaped the grim reaper the first time, but with your prognosis we don't really expect you to last that long, so how many little blighters do you now have growing back again?"  The answer is, I have absolutely no idea and in fact I suspect none whatsoever - but time will tell. 

For those who want more information, here's the situation.  I'm due another check-up on Thursday.  They give me an Xray, take a look at it and usually with nothing untoward visible, they book another appointment, currently at six month intervals.

I have had a series of - probably viral - sore throats over the past few months, but I think that could be said for pretty well the whole of the UK population. I have a slightly sore muscle which manifests itself somewhere in the region of the top of my right buttock - which I had checked out; (the muscle not the buttock!)  Blood tests were done just in case it was something more sinister.  Nothing showed and my physiotherapist diagnosed crookedness - crookedness in standing and sitting. She said progress would be slow and it's been several months since but I can now report that things are improving.  Sitting straight and properly is easy.  It's the standing straight I find more difficult because the proper position feels really odd.

I suppose the reason that I was prompted to blog this morning however is something that I've noticed in my hands.  First let me say that what I thought was chemo thumbnail turns out to be (thanks to the lovely lady who stuck up a page on the net about it) simply nervous picking at thumb quicks.  I found a nervous picking at thumb-quicks buddy with exactly the same problem and that prompted me to Google again. Hey presto, a lady who diagnosed herself, stopped picking and took a series of pictures to show recovery and smooth nails when she stopped.  I can confirm she's right and my thumbnails are now in the process of straightening out.

So back to the hands. Well the last few days I have a slight odd sensation - so subtle that it's almost imperceptible - in my fingers.  I had a bit of panic because I thought it might be loss of sensation, but then when I think about my feet, I think they are more sensitive - just slightly. Now I know it's unlikely that the peripheral neuropathy will be reversed, but I'm wondering, just maybe, if my nerve damage is on the mend.  Certainly feet do feel more sensitive, there's no doubt about it.  Fingers crossed.

All other functions - as long as I don't go on a bender with sugar, fat and alcohol - are wonderfully operational. Isn't the human body just amazing? I never cease to be stunned by its ability to withstand what we throw at it.  I do continue with vitamin supplements and a blend of cottage cheese and flax oil each morning, to which I now add half an apple which makes it quite palatable. Most of all I avoid sugar though I have to admit to some recent excesses.  My only regular treat however is a small piece of very dark - as dark as I can get it - chocolate, usually daily.  It is, you understand, purely for medicinal purposes.

Exercise - ah now there's the problem. Not enough.  I resolve that I must do more.

Dear reader, I'm fine.  Do not worry and when you ask: "How are you?" rest assured, I will answer you honestly.

P.S. A steady stream of just-diagnosed cancer patients now beats a path to my door and I either buy for them or urge them to purchase Chris Woollams' Rainbow Diet. Make sure you buy from the authorised source because he updates it as knowledge is gained, and the latest edition is the one to have.

Friday, 21 March 2014

Another hospital food rant

When you are a cancer survivor people come to you for advice. It's flattering. Even thought I concocted my own survival system and I believe that because of that I'm still here,  I don't want to take responsibility for other people. I want them to do their own research and come up with their own pathway.

Apart from anything else, it illegal for me to recommend anything thanks to the 1939 Cancer Act.  Thank goodness for Canceractive - a most wonderful respository of information.  And if you're one of those who has taken photos without make-up and want to make a donation to a cancer charity, why not donate to  Canceractive instead?.

You can imagine my distress when a couple of days ago I received an email from someone whose daughter is fighting cancer. He asked me for suggestions for beneficial foods he could cook (on a tiny stove in the hospital car park!) to supplement the nutrient-deficient diet served by by the NHS. He wrote:

"I am ..... amazed/distraught at the brick wall that the NHS seem to have whenever you mention diet, or food. All emphasis is on bulking up to keep weight up, as opposed to quality of food. "just keep on eating, whatever that is." Mention diet and they all (from consultant, to specialist and nurses and dinner staff /dieticians) go into a collective shut-down, completely 'out-talking' anything you try to say or ask about!"

What is the matter with our health service staff? Why won't they consider diet, nutrients, supplements and the like? Their stance is illogical. 

Rant over.

Thursday, 6 March 2014

My ninety year old mother is in hospital.  In fact, unfortunately she became ill with pneumonia on her 90th birthday. Much of my week so far has been spent in A&E at a hospital some 45 minutes’ drive from my own home.  The deterioration from having a “bit of a cold” and staying in bed to the refusal of her organs to combat the illness was fast and furious; a matter of minutes. One moment I was fixing up a house-call from the GP and the next dialling 999.

I hate hospitals – even though I’ve spent a good amount of time in them during the last few years.  Actually that’s probably not accurate – to be more precise, I should say that  I dislike hospitals intensely.  I am scared of doing something wrong, contaminating something – I guess that comes from my OCD tendencies but I also guess that it makes me one of the right sort of visitors, because I do wash my hands and I do use the hand-gel.

So I’ve spent the last couple of days observing the NHS as its busiest, at its best, but also at its most lacking common sense.  For a start, to get to the ward – Clinical Decisions Unit – designed only for short assessment stays, the shortest distance is straight through A&E triage! Everyone appears to use the route and if you ask a porter he’ll direct you that way on the basis that CDU is part of A&E.  If you ask for directions to a toilet from the A&E-side reception, you’re directed via the waiting room into the innermost corner of the rather small space.  Even a primary school student could have designed it better.

They could also have designed better the way-finding system which is the worst I have ever experienced.  I set out each time – I’ve done it seven times so far – to find CDU without taking that A&E shortcut and on only two occasions have I managed to land in the right place without asking someone to help me.  I've Googled the hospital map, but it is absolutely no help and doesn’t list CDU!

What about the care? – I hear you ask. Well, it is good but my overwhelming memory will be people in uniform walking about with pieces of paper.  Lowry would have given a very good interpretation – lots of matchstick men and women, with lanyards, badges, different uniforms, all trudging somewhat despondently – that’s the predominant stance – trudging round the place with their pieces of paper.  Of course, that’s when they’re not hanging over reception desks waiting to speak to someone at the other end of the phone.

The food? What can I say? It’s hospital food.
The illustration here passes for an evening meal. Albeit mum chose it, but tinned fruit must have the minimum of nutrition. The white break sandwich was chicken with sage and onion stuffing with mayonnaise. How on earth that could be described as a balanced meal without even a leaf of lettuce to mitigate it, I have no idea.

I would so love to change the NHS culture.  It wouldn’t cost much but I think it would bring amazing changes to the outcomes. 

  1. Fresh fruit delivered in very small packets to all patients able to eat. I saw yesterday how mum perked up after a piece of real fruit. The body absorbs fruit sugars very easily; they’re like instant pick-me-ups. 

  2. Eye shields to obscure the light which pervades even at the dead of night, and ear muffs to deaden the interminable ringing bells, banging bin lids, rolling beds, staff gossip and all the other unfortunate noises which make sleep so difficult. If you don’t get sleep you can’t heal.
  3. Vitamin D for all who spend any more than 48 hours in these airless artificially-lit rooms. You don’t see daylight when you’re in a hospital bed, but I know from my experience this winter just how essential this vitamin is and the beneficial effects I felt within days of first taking it.

  4. High dose Vitamin C - won’t do any harm and I have a strong suspicion it would do a whole lot of good for those admitted on generally poor diets.

I have no doubts that just these little changes would more than pay for themselves in more successful outcomes.

And just to top that, I would insist that everyone working for the NHS conducted themselves with a sense of purpose, a smile, picked their feet up and didn’t trudge wearily. If they did I reckon everyone would feel a great deal better.

Thursday, 6 February 2014

The devil incarnate

Happy new year everyone.  I do so hope that 2014 is full of love and laughter for you - because laughter is so very good for the body as well as the soul. 

Well, that's a surprise I must say.  At last sugar, or I think to be more exact, glucose has got the media coverage that it so richly deserves and been labelled the devil incarnate. Chris Woollams at Canceractive has been banging on about this for years. If you aren't subscribed to his newsletter I do urge you to do so. It always arrives with some wonderful nugget of information on the latest research. And don't feel you have to have cancer already to sign up for it. Prevention is to be desired.

So the big question is - now that sugar's getting the bad press: are we now to have fats reassessed in the light of this revelation?  There always has to be a baddy to aim products at. And if so, what on earth is the pharmaceutical industry going to do if the true cost, in terms of side effects, of statins ever gets out?

You see, when it comes to science at cellular level, what we know now is a dot in an ocean of what's really going on.  Forgive me if I've ever lectured you on this before, but just contemplate for a moment if you will, the sperm and egg which go to form an embryonic cuckoo. Miniscule form in single cells.  Then think that not only contained in those two microscopic entities are all the key signatures that go to form the bird itself but also the urge to fly, with no example being provided by a parent because no such influence is available, halfway across the world to Africa and back. What memory must there be stored there - what enormous quantity of information.  The mind does indeed boggle.

And then consider cellular memory in light of transplant information.  There's plenty out there on the net if you care to look, about how people with transplants are somehow different and sometimes with spooky results. The theory of cellular memory certainly makes sense of Journey Therapy which I can thoroughly recommend if you want a quick fix for emotional damage.

And last week I read an article in a magazine about proper scientific tests on water that had been so diluted (yes, we're talking homeopathy here) that the remains of the original substance it was mixed with had well and truly departed, yet it retained the signature of that substance.

This led me to ponder water from the tap.  Chlorine which my thyroid won't like.  Even if I filter my water as I do, it will have the chlorine signature within it.  I briefly contemplated collecting rainwater but then I wondered about the pollution because goodness knows what arrives via the sky from continents half a world away.

There are some things you can change about your lifestyle, there are some things that it's more difficult to change and water's a big problem.  But one of the easy wins is sugar. If you are reading this, I do so urge you to cut it out.  It won't be easy.  About 98% of the supermarket food shelves will be irrelevant to you because sugar is in pretty well everything processed. You know they even use it to cure bacon.  But if you succeed you'll feel so much better; I know I do.