Wednesday, 31 December 2008

31st Dec 'New Year's Eve'

My best night for two weeks. Still experiencing the night sweats, plus I had a bad headache, but I did at least sleep. I will rest up today so that hopefully I can go to the New Year Party in my Sigourney Weaver 'Alien' outfit.

New Year Party! Well as you can see we made it and I did manage to stay until Big Ben chimed. The food was fantastic as usual and there were some good costumes. I will suffer tomorrow, but I reckon it was worth it and it gave our kids a laugh. Graham could definitely earn money from being a Sean Connery look a like don't you think.

30th Dec 2008 'need air'

Hurray, a decent night barring the three or four times I woke up wondering if it was raining in the bedroom, or I'd wet the bed (really excessive sweats). Felt much better and decided I needed some fresh air, so we tootled off to York to see if my new glasses were ready. Bumped into our friend Alan and went for a coffee. Alan didn't make it on Christmas Day as he's had some nasty 'flu like' virus too. I couldn't manage to walk round the town, but I did manage to eat lunch at the Ate O'clock where Graham sings.

Lit the fire when we got home and played scrabble on my Nintendo DS, other than that nothing much to report. Joannie rang me and we talked about hitting the shops when they return I'll look forward to that my friend and hearing about your adventures.

Scarily it's only a week to my next treatment and I am dreading it this time, even though I know the germs are what made it three times as bad.

Monday, 29 December 2008

29th Dec 2008

Spoke too soon, last night was bad again, I think I had approx 2hrs altogether and that was accompanied by shaking, sweating and feeling sick, to name a few annoyances. Anyway, I'm up and showered hoping for a better day.

I've just had a couple of nice e-mails, one from my friend and colleague Anne who was telling me about a toaster they have which also poaches or boils an egg too! and one from my lovely friend Joan. Joan and Gerry are about to set off on a cruise, so I won't see them till March which makes me feel sad, but thankfully we'll be able to keep in touch through the wonders of modern technology. When we visited back in October, we went through Joan's 'cruise' wardrobe and chose the dresses/outfits we thought would look the best and could be teamed with other stuff. We're like Trinny and Suzanna, except out taste is better. Anyway I would like to say a heartfelt thank you to both for being more than just friends - I love you lots.

We did something really random this morning. I told Graham that I'd been craving some spicy sausage in the night (the sort you have with pasta and peppers - much to Grahams disappointment). As we were both feeling fed up and rather emotionally unstable, we decided to go for a drive to 'Frankie & Benny's' where I had Spicy Sausage Pasta and enjoyed every bite. We then went and bought ourselves an iPod, something we've been threatening to do for a while.

Sunday, 28 December 2008

28th Dec 2008

Yippee, did actually sleep a little last night, it wasn't brilliant but it's a start. Oddly though each time I woke it felt as though someone had turned on a tap and I poured with sweat.

Did I mention earlier that Daisy has been really distressed by my coughing? Daisy normally sleeps at the end of our bed and once curled up there is reluctant to move even when we're up and dressed. She has, for some reason, always reacted to me clearing my throat or coughing, nobody else, just me, but over the last week or so it's really been a pain for her. Not only that, it's made it more difficult for me on a night as I'm conscious that when I do have a coughing fit she's going to start doing figure of eights up and down the bed. Anyway, a couple of nights ago, we made our way up to bed. Daisy was curled up on the settee and instead of dutifully following us up, she just raised an eyebrow as if to say 'seeya!' We thought she would follow eventually, but no, she stayed in the same spot all night until Graham went down and let her out. The same last night, except that this morning she came up at 7.30a.m. doing her Lassie impression, with a look that said 'for Gods sake I need a pee'. Such a clever dog I don't give her enough credit really, but she'll be happy when she reads this - ha!

I have to say that Daisy probably isn't the only one who's been driven to distraction by my coughing. Graham has not only put up with it, he's been there during the crappy nights and has brought me drinks, made me laugh and just been generally wonderful. I know that things are tough for him right now, not just because of me and I have to say Graham ('cos I know you'll read this as soon as I've written it) I Love You more than words can ever say.

Saturday, 27 December 2008

Boxing Day 2008

Another sleepless night, coughing, feeling sick, drinking cold water, staring into the dark and wondering when I'll feel better. My hands and feet are burning, my mouth tastes like I've eaten polish or something obnoxious. I can't lay down because that makes me cough HELP! (this info is in the interest of monitoring side effects and not meant to be self pitying - well maybe a little). Actually while I'm talking side effects, have I mentioned the fact that all peripheral nerve sensors don't seem to work, for example my scalp and feet feel dead, it's a weird one to describe.

I was so grateful when 6a.m. came and I heard Joseph moving around downstairs (he has to work today, it's crazy). I felt like pooh, but I got up and helped him get ready. We shared a few Mum and Son hugs before he left. Everyone else eventually got up and we enjoyed the morning, especially as we had a surprise visit from Joan and Gerry. Joan brought me some beautiful silver earrings and I was sad to see them go.

By lunch time Roo and Gor, Louis and Colleen had left too and the house seemed really quiet. It looked like a bomb had dropped, but I didn't really care, it had been well worth it.

Christmas Day 2008

A very slow start after a really lousy night, still feeling like 'death' but determined to make the most of the day. With help the dinner came together really well and I think (as I couldn't taste it), was probably one of the nicest.

We spent about three hours opening presents, one at a time, it was great fun. By evening though I was so shattered and feeling so unwell. I dread the night times, they're so long when you're not well and I clock watch longing for morning. I know that it's the extra bugs that have made this chemo so awful, but honestly if I had to go another week like this I would say don't bother, that's how rough it's been.

That's it really, I could and probably will expand on this at some later date, but right now I don't have much enthusiasm.

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

24th Dec 2008 'Christmas Evil'

Oh dear, not what I wanted at all. A really terrible night coughing and feeling lousy, no better this morning and feeling increasingly unwell. A phone call to the oncology department and we're on our way for an emergency blood test. I am extremely lucky though as Professor Dodwell is there, so once the cannula is in place, the bloods can go straight for testing.

I feel bad because it's Christmas Eve, but my nurse reassures me that it's best not to take chances, a neutropenia (low cell count) and an infection could be life threatening. Thankfully I don't have a neutropenia, so I won't have to spend Christmas in hospital, but I do need some antibiotics to prevent any further problems.

Back home and all I can do is take the pills, cough, sleep and hope I feel better tomorrow - woopee!

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

23rd Dec.2008 'Christmas Eve Eve!

Well I did do the mince pies and they seem to be ok, they've had the seal of approval from Graham, but I must confess I started them and couldn't remember how on earth Jamie did them, so there had to be some improvisation. That's another side effect, the brain just doesn't work properly and I'm just hoping we don't end up with custard on the turkey.

It was probably my lowest day yesterday, physically and mentally, but I put this down largely to the fact that I've been trying to cope with a cough and the constant 'snot' (sorry if you're eating), which is bad enough without the chemotherapy. I can see why an infection could be so critical.

Anyway, the good news is I did sleep marginally better, with just a hot chocolate drink at 3a.m. Took a flask with me (tip from my friend Hilz who has been through this - thanks Hilz).

Still coughing well this morning, but definitely improved and hoping to go put a wreath on Mum and Dad's grave today, pick up the veg and generally tidy up. Well, most of this will be done by Graham under my watchful eye. Onwards and upwards!

Update - Didn't go out in the end as I feel dreadful, just rested and watched telly. I did have a nice visit from an old colleague and friend in the afternoon. Pippa is a wonderful Mum to her two children and they're a real credit to her. She is also a brilliant seamstress and cook and came bearing a little basket, that looked like something from Red Riding Hood, bearing a home made Christmas Pudding, Ginger cake and Strawberry Jam. Thanks Pip.

Monday, 22 December 2008

22nd Dec.2008 'Help throw me a life belt'

It's somewhere between 3 and 4a.m. I'm swimming again, not pleasant, plus when the cold air outside the covers hits the dampness of your nightwear, it's really cold. Anyway I've decided to get up and make myself a warm drink, for which I will be duly chastised later in the morning when Graham finds out (I don't like to wake him unless I really need to). Ahh, the kettle has boiled, so I'm off till later.

Later - Did eventually manage to sleep on and off, it's strange how you always sleep better as the dawn comes up. Suddenly it was 7.30a.m. and I needed something to eat and drink, not feeling good at all initially. It's a beautiful morning, sunny and dry and I feel frustrated at not being able to get up and get on with the general housework. Graham is always eager and willing to do anything, but there's that need to at least try, maybe tomorrow.

Poor Daisy is definitely depressed, she doesn't seem to want to be in the house and her posture is really low, I wish I could make her feel better, I guess she just senses things are different. Anyway, on the positive side Christmas is only two days away and I am so looking forward to seeing all my family, it'll be great. I'm going to try and make some of Jamie Oliver's mince pies if I can raise the energy, the ones with filo and puff pastry, yummy! Let you know how they come out.

Sunday, 21 December 2008

21st Dec. 2008 'Day 3 post chemo'

I'd like to say I had a better night, but that would be lying. Apart from a tickly cough, I woke three times absolutely swimming, with my nightgown stuck to me. I'm assuming this is something to do with hormones, nothing menopausal though as I've been through that at least 15yrs ago. Was awake on and off till around 6a.m and sat talking to Graham for a while before attempting to nod off again. I actually did then sleep will just after 9a.m., but of course my body was wanting it's anti-emetics and steroids, so I felt really rubbish for a while.

Anyway, showered and up now, so should get better by early afternoon. Nothing else to report at the moment, so things can't be that bad. Oh yes, nearly forgot, my daughter has worked some magic on the photo's and hopefully the posting times, which looked as though I was posting at some unearthly hours in the morning. That does happen occasionally, but I'm not not an insomniac honest.

Saturday, 20 December 2008

20th Dec. 2008 'Another Day'

Not a particularly good night, but thankfully Graham did seem to sleep. I was awake at 4a.m. and as I laid there I sorted out the Christmas sleeping arrangements, the order of the Christmas Dinner. I had about an hours worth of potential discussions/harsh words with Nan and then thought about next year and work. So the brain was rather busy and a bit of a 'mush' by the time I dropped off to sleep again, which was about 6.30a.m.

Woke up at 7.30a.m. and needed my tablets. didn't really give myself much time to get up and had rather wobbly legs as we set off to Sainsbury's (my request) to get the last few bits I want for the day. Just before we set off Graham was looking out the back window and commented that my 'Easter Island plant pot' looked as though it was on chemotherapy too as I've cut the grass plant right back on top - it made us laugh, something we both need at the moment.

Looking forward to seeing Roo and Gor tonight, we're having a 'Strictly Final Party' and maybe a Christmas feel good film if I can stay awake.

Friday, 19 December 2008

19th Dec. 2008 'Like a peach'

OK, needs a bit more cleavage perhaps, but not bad!

Not a good night as you've already gathered. We were both awake really early, me because my head was still bad and I felt sick. Graham because he has the unenviable task of taking his Mother to a Nursing Home this morning and she's not exactly being co-operative.

I had my porridge and pills and allowed them time to take effect before getting up. I got Graham to razor the rest of my hair off, even though its down to the bark, there's still a rough feel when I run my hands over it which can be annoying when trying to put woolly hats on or at night when it acts like Velcro and sticks to the pillow - ouch! Also the bits get everywhere, like when you've had a haircut. Graham found it really bizarre shaving my head and he was wincing all the time, bless.

So I'm definitely a Sigourney 'look-alike' now, which has it's advantages as we're invited to a New Years Eve party which is fancy dress and the theme is 'Films'. I just need some dirt on my face and I'll be ready.

Later - Pat and Michael came over and we had pancakes courtesy of Mike. Graham arrived around 5p.m. him and Barry have had a dreadful day but mission accomplished. He looked shattered and we persuaded him not to go to work (sings at the 'Ate O'clock' on Fridays).

Thursday, 18 December 2008

18th Dec. 2008 'Ding ding round two'

Had a really disturbed night last night, mostly due to a very dry, tickly sore throat, but also due to some anxieties about the treatment. I was dreading a delay, which could have happened if my cell count was decreased due to infection. I think there was also a part of me thinking that's it now for a week or so, back to feeling sickly, wobbly and generally unwell.

However, we were up early and off to York for 9a.m. My oncology nurse this morning was Claire, a very young, really lovely nurse who hails for Huddersfield, but now lives in York. We soaked my hand in hot water for a while so she could find a 'juicy' vein (we're sad us nurses, the strangest things make us really happy). I was more interested in the fact that they've changed the design of the cannula's so that the needle, which is withdrawn once it's in the vein, comes out like a concertina and not a rigid piece, which reduces the chance of a needle stick injury - fascinating.

A quick flush through then on with the anti-emetic and steroid solution (prickly hedgehog effect again, very strange). Epirubicin, followed by cyclophosphamide, another quick flush through and we're finished. We discussed the side effects from last time and Claire told me the steroids were the cause of my heartburn and along with my usual tablets to take home she gave me some Lansoprazole. My next treatment date is January 8th.

Straight home for a rest, well that was the plan, but the little glimmer of sunshine drew me into the garden. Initiallly I was just dead-heading, but you know how one thing leads to another and before very long I was raking leaves, clipping here, tidying there. I really enjoyed it until I suddenly realised my legs were feeling very jelly like, time to stop me thinks!

So I'm updating this from my bed having had a sleep and feeling much better, that'll teach me. I've just had some lovely Christmas cards and Graham brought me cheese and biscuits, it doesn't get much better. Oh yes, by the way, we can kiss again now and he doesn't feel like a leper, but I did draw the line at him climbing in with me this afternoon (too much information, sorry).

Later - Well spoke too soon, what a terrible evening and as for sleeping, no chance. This posting is at 4.50 a.m. Joan! I've been much worse than before which is disappointing. My head still aches and the waves of nausea are quite disturbing and followed by a cold sweat. I'm sure this will ease by tomorrow, sorry later today, when I've had my tablets. Just thought I'd try a dry biscuit and a few minutes blogging to see if it helps. Night night for now (she says hopefully).

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

My Great Fortune!

No, I haven't won the Lottery (see the followers drop from 2,000 to 5 again). I'm just 'counting my chickens' so to speak. Let me explain:

After more than six years at Nestle and latterly as Manager of the department, I decided it was time to move on and gain some more experience. Initially I made a dreadful decision and joined the York OH team, in what I later named the 'Shoe Box Zoo' due to the appalling environment we were expected to work in. I was promised a really, autonomous role with with chance to develop and really make a name for myself. Sounded great, but the reality was very different and without going into detail, the whole thing was 'pants' (excuse the expression) and it taught me some valuable lessons. Within a few weeks I was miserable and looking for another job.

After a few months I began to get really depressed, then suddenly a job came up, working for British Oxygen Company, based at Rotherham, but being responsible for the North East sites. It looked like a real challenge, not least because it meant driving up and down motorways, something I hadn't done before. I was offered an interview which went great and I was honest about my reasons for moving on so quickly.

The rest is history, I was offered the job and not only that, I was offered more than I'd said I was willing to accept - hmmm, could it be a company that actually valued it's OH. Well, I can tell you that it was and three years down the line, I cannot begin to say how much I enjoy my job. It has been a real learning curve right from the start and without my trusted 'Tom Tom' I would probably still be lost on the M1 somewhere.

I am part of a small team, led by probably, no definitely, the best Manager I have ever had the pleasure to work for (make the cheque payable to me Margaret). I want to mention each by name as they have been like family over the last few years, despite the fact that we are spread very thinly over the UK.

Anne - my 'agony aunt', known as the 'chatter box', we have much in common as regards family life and general opinions on the world and work. Thanks for our weekly outpourings Anne.

Stephanie - A really lovely person, mum of two small children, Stephanie has hidden depths and we share our thoughts on life, both acknowledging it's spiritual aspects. Thanks for your prayers and the crafty G&Ts prior to Team Meetings, I look forward to more!

Sally - My colleague at Worsley. Sally also has hidden depths, appearing initially to be quiet, even timid, but believe me, beneath the exterior is a very accomplished OH Adviser, who takes no prisoners and I admire her forthright approach. Sally is also lots of fun, especially in strange hotels, with even stranger staff who try to take the bottle of wine away!

Nic - Always look fragile, but I know you're anything but and if a job needs doing, you're the one to ask. Thanks Nic for all your help, you've been such a breath of fresh air to our team and I think you should be my personal assistant as part of my rehab. I'm looking forward to hearing more about your wedding plans.

Margaret - I could write a chapter on my Manager alone, but I don't want to embarrass her and I do want to come back to work eventually. Suffice to say that I admire Margaret tremendously, her energy and knowledge seem boundless and I really appreciate the support and encouragement she has given me, especially now as I know how difficult it must be trying to fill the gap and keep all the plates spinning. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to work as part of your team. In the words of Arnie 'I'll be back'.

Occupational Health Nestle

I remember very clearly my first night at Nestle York. Jackie, one of the OH team, had agreed to meet me outside under the clock. It was absolutely pouring down that night and I stood trying to keep the driving rain off with my useless umbrella, wondering where Jackie was. Eventually I walked up the road, only to discover there were two clocks. We both laughed about that once we were dry. Jackie was a real down to earth lady, very smart, very caring and I liked her instantly.

The rest of the team were great too and I ended up doing some day shifts and getting to know everyone in the department and what Occupational Health was about. As luck would have it, a full time position became vacant in the department and I was encouraged to apply. So began my time at Nestle and my journey into a very rewarding profession.

I loved my time at Nestle, I learnt so much and gained some truly wonderful friends who have been and remain a source of great comfort and support. My thanks to you all.

The Road to my Occupational Health profession

I haven't mentioned it very much in my previous blog pages, but my profession, how I got here, my current job and my team colleagues definitely deserve a mention, so here goes.

I entered nursing as a mature student - 32 if I remember rightly. We had returned from Swaziland with the intention of gaining some qualifications and then going back. I had a desire to go into nursing, but only had two O'levels and some RSAs from college. So I applied for an auxiliary post at York and was successful. I absolutely loved it, Matron was strict, but really helped me to get a feel of nursing. Every Christmas I would work the main shift and Graham would bring the children onto the ward and we sang and played for the patients, in return for Christmas dinner.

After a year I applied to take the 'direct entry' exam, a route that is no longer available and I was successful. My three year training was at the York Hospital and Graham took on the role of 'house husband', something that didn't go down well with his Mum who felt that it was the man's job to go out to work. I loved the training as it was then, two weeks in school and six weeks out on the wards, where you were counted as a number and got stuck in with the basic cares, as well as watching relevant procedures.

The three years went quickly and I passed the final with flying colours. I'll never forget the day the postman came to our humble council house with my results. We all screamed so loudly and jumped up and down, Graham ran after the postman and gave him £5, I bet he's still wondering what he did to deserve it. It was the best feeling in the world.

I worked at York for quite few years on various wards, mostly elderly which I really enjoyed and it gave me a real all round knowledge of medicine and surgery. At some point I decided I needed to exercise my brain again and I applied for a BSc in 'Special Nursing Studies' at Hull. York NHS agreed to fund this and I started a four year course, part time. Unfortunately a year into this my Dad developed some strange symptoms and within a few months died from a brain tumor. This had a profound effect on me and I struggled through the remainder of the course. But, at least I did finish it and again I can only say how fantastic it felt at the Graduation, especially having my Mum and family there to share the day.

The next few years I'm going to miss, partly because I don't want to send you to sleep, but partly because they're not years I care to think about too deeply. Suffice to say that I went into private care, first as a Deputy Matron and then as Matron. I put my heart and soul into the latter, but greedy, dishonest owners made this part of my life a nightmare.

Having been made redundant I registered with an agency in York and accepted work whenever or wherever it happened to be. I even helped out in the office a few times, and it was on one of these occasions that a call came in from Nestle Rowntree York. They needed a nurse for night time cover, emergencies, audios etc. I volunteered my services, not really knowing what to expect and this was the start of my road into Occupational Health.

17th Dec. 2008 'Getting prepared'

I didn't blog yesterday because there was little to say, other than I've finished Christmas shopping - hurray! Just as well really, as it's 'ding ding, seconds out, round 2' tomorrow.

I've been for my pre-chemo bloods this morning at Selby War Memorial. The phlebotomist was really sweet, she told me I don't need to make appointments in the future, I can just take my blood slip with me and they'll fit me due to the importance of my results. She also said they would get to know me, which I found really kind and reassuring. I was going to say that I don't want to be treated any differently to others, but that's not strictly true, in all honesty it's those little 'perks' if you can call them that, that are really appreciated.

Unfortunately I have developed a dry itchy throat, despite our best efforts, so I rang the oncology nurse this morning and they will check my results. In the meantime, I have to keep a close eye on my temperature and let them know if I feel ill in any way. Apparently, even a run of the mill cold can rapidly develop into something nasty. So fingers crossed that I stay ok and can have my second chemotherapy tomorrow.

Monday, 15 December 2008

15th Dec. 2008

Not a great deal to report. Sunday I managed to get some more shopping done and had a visit from my niece and family. Today, although I didn't really feel like it, we went to York and met Graham's brother Barry and Sue. It wasn't just a social meeting, it was also an opportunity to discuss the problems we're having with their Mum, Nan, or Grandma as we all know her. It's a difficult time for them as she needs care but is stubbornly refusing to accept anything. Everyone is stressed with the situation, which has been made worse by Social Services inability to come up with anything useful - Care in The Community - I don't think so!

Well, we'll get through yet another 'muddy field' one way or another. The day ended nicely though as we met up with Joe and Louis (our boys) and we all had a laugh over lunch.

The only other downside over the last few days is Graham's 'snotty' cold. Unbelievable as he never gets colds, plus he's been taking Echinacea. I'm terrified I'll pick something up, but there's little we can do, other than be really careful with hand-washing etc.

Saturday, 13 December 2008

12/13th Dec. 2008 'I hope you Dance'

The last two days have been a breath of fresh air, I've felt quite normal with only a few mouth ulcers to contend with. Last night I even had a little dancing session, only for fun, but also I'm feeling the need to keep some muscle tone. I love dancing and I'm hoping to take it up again when I feel able.

I first started dancing aged four and a half at the Jeanette Herman School of Dancing in York. I think my mum must have taken me because she used to dance and perform in pantomimes as the 'principle boy'. I really wish I had some pictures of her then, I know she was a stunning looking lady. Anyway, I joined the School only a few weeks before they performed a Christmas Show at the Theatre Royal and I remember the actual night. We were all dressed in small white tutus and we had a three pointed hat and diagonal belt both in red with big white spots. I remember being ushered onto the stage in a line.

Everyone but me seemed to know what they were doing and I just copied. At the end of our little soldier like routine, two ladies came on with some sweets or something for each dancer, but guess who didn't get any - yep, it was me and that was the last straw, I bawled and the audience made sympathetic 'awwwww' noises.

Well it didn't put me off, I continued going to Miss Herman's dance class and eventually began to take Graded Examinations. I did well too getting 'Commended' and 'Highly Commended' certificates. I can't remember when I changed Dance Schools, but at some point I started attending Isobel Dunn's Ballet School. She was very strict, but well known and respected in the York area, especially for her annual 'Dance Flash' shows. I remember one in particular when I was a cat. This required an emerald green tutu and a matching head piece with ears and whiskers. My poor Mum spent hours on her old Pfaff sewing machine and I was so proud when I wore it in the show.

I did eventually go back to Miss Herman's Classes as they were nearer. I progressed to 'points' and even took some of the smaller classes when Miss Herman was away. Sadly my parents couldn't afford to keep up my expensive hobby and despite attempts to pay for them with 'paper round' money I eventually gave up my dream of being able to go to the 'Royal Ballet School'. Also, I had grown quite tall and at that time you had to be no taller than 5'4".

I've loved dance ever since and discovering 'Belly Dance' some years ago has given me another opportunity to express my more extrovert side. I will dance again next year!

Friday, 12 December 2008

11th Dec.2008 - Dawn's sacrifice.

Today was great, apart from feeling really well, it was a the day Dawn chose to carry out her 'sponsored head shave'. Pat, Mike, Dawn and her two girls (Charlotte & Felicity) arrived just before ten. We wasted no time in setting up the make shift hair dressing salon and after a cup of tea the cutting began.

Dawn had really thick quite long hair, so I needed to cut it with scissors before shaving it with a No3. Thankfully Dawn decided to leave some hair and actually it looked great because she has a 'pixie like' face and very beautiful eyes. Charlotte giggled throughout and quite enjoyed the whole process, Felicity just said 'mummy looks funny'. We took lots of photographs, some of which will appear on my blog. I know Dawn has already raised over £500 for the oncology unit at York and there is more to come. My heartfelt thanks go out to Dawn for her relentless enthusiasm and personal sacrifice.

Later that day we were invited to Alan's new apartment where he cooked me a wonderful 'Gumbo' in response to my desire for spicy food. It was fab, so tasty and apart from lots of other spices, contained two whole bulbs of garlic - mmmm, lovely.

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

10th Dec. 2008 - Sigourney Day!

Roo and Gor arrived early and after a quick breakfast we set up the hairdressing equipment and took some final photo's. To keep the event as light as possible I decided that Roo should try out her hidden styling talents. We started with an ear length bob, which looked really good, must bear that in mind when I grow it back. We then progressed to a more adventurous undercut - groovy!

I sensed by this point that Roo felt she'd missed her vocation. Within a few moments I was sporting a very chic cut, short at the back, long at the front. Next came Roo's revenge - long at one side short on the other, very sixties I thought. What was next, oh yes, something Roo called a 'seagull', I hope that's right - short all over except for a long strip hanging from each temple.

So, having got this far it was down to business and a number 3 all over. At this point I instructed Roo to carry out 'Louis revenge'. Remember that Louis? I was cutting your hair, alternating from a No2, to a zero when Ruth distracted me and you ended up with the 'M1' running from your forehead upwards, right down to the skin. I am really sorry, but at least you got the day off school. I wonder if that's why you have it so long these days?

Surprisingly my hair is still quite dark at the roots and Roo couldn't resist shaving a 'smiley face' on top before finishing the job completely. I was glad at this point that Graham was out for the day, think this might have freaked him out.

So we had lots of laughs and took lots of photographs, some of which will appear on my blog eventually. After a shower I tried my first 'new look', a sparkly long scarf around my head with a black trilby hat on top. It looked great, especially when I'd put some make up on and I would recommend the look to anyone struggling with the usual 'do rags' or woolly hats. I also have a pink peaked cap (thanks Julia), which will look good on top of a nice pink scarf. Anyway, there will be pictures and I'm sort of relieved that it's over so I can concentrate on looking good again.

Thanks to all concerned.

P.S - The anti sickness pills must work as I made a Balti curry last night and had no after effects at all. Also the Grimethorpe Colliery Band were absolutely amazing last night. Thanks Dad for introducing me to Brass Band music, I remember very clearly the night you took me to the Minster and I think this was the first time music really moved me. I remember looking up at you that night and feeling real warmth and love.

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

9th Dec 2008 - Happy Birthday Louis!

Happy Birthday my Louis, it doesn't seem five minutes since you were toddling around in Swaziland. You were born at the Raleigh Fitkin Hospital in Manzini, same place the current and King and his father were born I believe. I interrupted a film Dad was watching when my waters broke and we drove up the dirt roads to the hospital.

Everything was done in slow motion there, and the fact that I was leaving a trail of fluid didn't seem to matter. 'I'm having my baby' - 'Ooooh, I see Madam, rrrrright, just wait a moment....'.

Well we were put in a small room with just a bed and several mosquito's and I just gone on with it. The Midwife was a lovely lady, she was on her own and delivering babies left, right and centre from mothers who were on trolleys in the corridor and she thought I was great because I didn't scream like them - oh yes, they could scream!

You were born with your hand over your head, which did make things a little tougher. I think it was your 'here I come' pose.

We did nearly lose you a few weeks later with a stomach bug, but thank god, you made it through and I love you very much. Happy Birthday!

As for me today, I'm doing OK after a night of heart burn, which I understand is also due to the chemotherapy. Nothing would shift it, yogurt, milk, gaviscon, warm water, you name it, I tried it. Then Graham found an article on line which talked about anti sickness tablets, so I checked my emergency sickness pills (Metoclopramide) and sure enough they can help with heart burn. It was a bit late in the evening, but eventually I did drop off to sleep.

Going to see the Grimethorpe Brass Band tonight with Pat and Mike, can't wait.

Monday, 8 December 2008

8th Dec. 2008 - Onwards & Upwards

Just had two really good days without feeling shaky and short of breath. My appetite has certainly improved, in fact I find myself thinking of crispy bacon, spicy curries and generally savoury foods. Unfortunately they don't always taste as I imagined, but it doesn't stop me dreaming. I do find I have to eat regularly to prevent a drop in energy levels, but I'm also aware that it's easy to put weight on during chemotherapy, it's called 'the munchies'.

Yesterday was a lazy day. We walked to the market garden (Ruth, Graham & Daisy dog) for some fresh vegetables. We bumped into Annie & John there, so they came for coffee and a mince pie. After Ruth & Gordon left we brought down the Christmas decorations and I managed to get the tree and lights sorted, just a few bits left to do.

This morning I was awake early again and hungry! For some reason now though I'm feeling a bit sickly and anxious. It might be the impending hair loss milestone. I ran my hands through my hair this morning and found I had more than the usual two or three strands, so I'm conscious of a new phase. It'll be fine though and my Niece can plan her 'fund raising' shave.

Saturday, 6 December 2008

6th Dec 2008

Wow - A totally different day today. Enough energy to get up and go out to town for a coffee and a bit of Christmas shopping. Actually I woke up at 4a.m. feeling really hungry and by 5.30a.m. needed to make toast. After only a short time in York I was longing for something to eat and we had lunch at the 'Ate O'clock' a fab little restaurant owned by Kenny Noble and his lovely family. Graham has been singing there most Fridays for several years now and we do tend to make a regular Saturday visit, but this is the first time for a while. Kenny's food is second to none and today was no exception - words cannot describe how much I enjoyed it.

Back home and I get a visit from Pat,Mike, Julia, Dave & Emily. Dave has spent the morning cooking various dishes - fish pie, corned beef hash & other yummy combinations, all neatly packaged in foil dishes, ready to freeze and be eaten at my whim. I'm gobsmacked yet again at my family's thoughtfulness and generosity. Huge thanks to all.

Lastly, got Ruth & Gordon staying over. Ruth brought me some superb head wear ideas and we tried them with various earrings - cool.

Friday, 5 December 2008

5th Dec.2008 'Hair today gone tomorrow'

Was thinking about my hair this morning as I showered. That might seem strange, so let me explain. My hair is getting very thin, I think due to the effects of the chemotherapy toxins attacking vulnerable DNA (must look that one up). Anyway, I do know that in about three to four days it's going to start falling out, so each time I shower, I wonder if it will be the last time I see it long.

You might think there is little that could be said about my hair, but actually you'd be wrong. Here's a little potted history in remembrance!

1970's - My hair was very long and straight, parted in the middle and I often wore it in two plaits, especially during the 'flower power' era. I remember having a very trendy perm at some point, but the dates are hazy, however when Graham and I married in 1975 it was long and I wore it in ringlets under a large hat.

1980's - My hair went through several transformations, from a female mullet through to a medium length corkscrew perm. Initially in Swaziland it was long and I wore head squares, but I guess the heat got to me when I was pregnant with Louis and off it came again.

1990's - Although I did manage to grow my hair to shoulder length a couple of times, it never quite made it back to being long. Now in nursing, it was easier to keep it reasonably short. Unfortunately though I still dreamed about growing it and over a period of several months I would try different ways of styling, shaping and colouring my hair to keep my interest going, trying to avoid a sudden impulse cut when my hormones got the better of me. It was a plan that never worked and my family, friends and work colleagues got used to my sudden changes.

Probably my most ambitious change came while we were living at Crayke. With Graham's approval I went for an Annie Lennox look - very short and white blonde. I loved it, but it was hard keeping the roots highlighted. It was like this when I started Nestle, but apart from the time involved it was very expensive to keep up, so I started growing it out again for a while, delighting everyone with my frequent changes.

During the 1990's I met up with an old friend who was teaching Belly Dance. It was to be the start of a hobby which I've followed until very recently. Of course long hair enhances the dancing image and I was envious of those with natural flowing locks. I had to be content with a hot, heavy wig.

2005 - The year I started working for British Oxygen (BOC) and a turning point in my life. A job where I felt I was using my potential, where people really valued my input and most of all a job which gave me a salary in line with my qualifications and abilities. Yes, my hair still mattered, but for the first time I didn't feel I needed to keep changing my image in order to boost my confidence and it began to grow quite happily. It also began to go pretty grey, but even that didn't bother me. Now people began to comment on how much it had grown and that spurred me on.

Aug. 2008 - My hair is long and I love it, twisting it into a french roll or leaving it in clips all night so that it's all kinked and groovy the following day (a trick Ruth taught me). At long last I'm belly dancing with my own hair and it feels good.

December 2008 - So here we are, I'm about to lose my lovely locks and yes, I'm dreading it, but I'm already thinking about some of the trendy styles I can try when it starts growing back and who knows eh!

Thank you to my hair for putting up with me!

Thursday, 4 December 2008

4th Dec.2008 - Deeper thoughts!

When I first spoke to my oncology nurse some weeks ago, she said 'you know alot of people go on a real journey through their cancer treatment and most say that they grow tremendously'. That's not a real surprise to me as I think I am, and have been, quite a spiritually aware person from a young age. When I was around ten or eleven I had a couple of Jesus pictures on my bedroom wall, you know, the handsome, long dark haired version with bright blue eyes. I'm not really sure where that came from, maybe my auntie Min(my godmother).

Later on when things weren't good between Mum and Dad I used to do my homework in the home of our local vicar and I always felt safe and protected in their home. My spiritual leanings didn't really surface then until after I was married and we had Ruth and Joseph to care for. Times were hard (here's the violin bit), no really, they were. At one time I can remember Graham going out down the country roads and carefully sawing off the tops of the wood fences so we had something to burn on the fire.

Anyway, to cut a very long story short, quite by chance we met a chap who was a Baha'i. It wasn't a religion we'd heard of either, but Graham was fascinated by it's concepts and belief's about the world, which seemed very much in line with his. I was more cautious, but read after some research and questioning I couldn't deny that it made sense. It wasn't a cult, it wasn't asking me to leave my current belief's behind or carry out strange rituals. Mostly it wanted families to be together and the world to be together as one. That's a REALLY simplistic explanation, but I don't want you blog followers to glaze over.

We found a whole new meaning in our everyday lives and I guess on reflection it scared some of our friends. Anyway, it was our new found resolve that gave us a feeling of adventure and the courage to 'up sticks' and 'pioneer' as Baha'is to Swaziland in Southern Africa.

The period in Africa and our subsequent return are a story in themselves, but my point is that I think it's all now helping me to rationalise my situation and to find as many positives from the experience as possible. We're not actually active Baha'i at the moment but it's still a strong basis for our lives and has left us with a rich tapestry of friends and memories.

Well it's been a cold snowy day today. I've been wobbly, felt sick and had stomach ache, but on the plus side I've discovered HP sauce makes my meals taste a whole lot better. Thanks Graham for pandering to my sudden strange cravings and cooking whatever takes my fancy!

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

3rd Dec. 2008

Oh dear, the morning after the night before maybe. I slept really well and felt reasonable when I first got up, which encouraged me to run a very indulgent bath, full of Neil's Yard products. Unfortunately this wiped me out in terms of energy and I'm still struggling several hours later - so frustrating. I've been trying to do a few more Christmas cards, but my brain is also on a go slow.

I am going to record all my strange feelings, side effects etc. as I'm hoping it will help me as well as others going through breast cancer and chemotherapy. What I don't want to do is moan because I actually feel extremely lucky to have the care and treatment available. I often think that if I lived elsewhere in the world I would just have to get on with it and die.

So, today is not a good day. My taste has now changed altogether, drinks food, either taste of nothing or make me feel ill. I am however craving things like bacon, curry and sauces - yum!

A special evening! 2nd Dec. 2008

Made a supremeo effort last night and went to David Batman's retirement bash (my old boss from OH Nestle). I was absolutely thrilled to be invited even before all this cropped up and I really wanted to make the effort as I have a great deal of respect for him. Also it was the job that set me on my current path, so I'm eternally grateful for that. I hadn't intended to stay longer than a drink, but they kindly included Graham and adapted the meal to suit me. It was a super night and I was able to catch up with old friends and colleagues.

I'm going to take this opportunity in my blog to say a huge thanks to my Nestle friends, too many to name and I'd need a separate blog to expand. We've all been through alot together and they're such a wonderful bunch of people who have kept in touch and were there immediately they knew about my diagnosis.

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

2nd December 2008

Yeah! Up to the present day, it'll probably be boring from here on, but for me it's a useful reminder of my progress, visits, thoughts etc., so I hope you'll indulge me.

Pat, Mike and Dawn called this morning despite a layer of snow on the ground. Dawn already has lots of sponsors for her 'head shave' (mad woman) and we're hoping to co-ordinate it with mine, which will probably be sometime next week.

1st December 2008

Good grief, December all ready!
A good nights sleep thank goodness, following an evening of 'reduced power', no not me, the electric supply. It seems to happen quite often here and it's a real pain in the bum. Last time it was off for three days.

I've noticed today that my hair is getting really thin and my face is slightly flushed when I first get up, which is odd for me as I'm generally pale on a morning. My temperature remains ok though, so I'm not worried. Apparently I have to notify an emergency number if my temp goes up or I feel unwell at all. This is due to my immune system being slightly compromised during the treatment, so any infection has to be dealt with immediately. My resistance will be at it's lowest by the end of this week, so I have to be sensible about visitors with colds etc.

Graham went to see his Mum this morning, so I spent some time with my Sissy. Pat is really clever at knitting figures and other novelty stuff, so we spent time messing around with that.

Once again the power was down low for several hours this evening. Drax is only a few fields away from us and I'm thinking of running an extension across!

30th Nov. 2008

Sunday - Hey - getting up to date now!
A slow start after a better night, only woke once around 4a.m. but didn't get back to sleep till about 6a.m. Had breakfast in bed plus pills and then headed for the shower, which was great but meant I required a further hour or more to build up my strength again.

So, up very late following a call from Annie. Annie ad John are really good friends from our old folk club days and they live just down the road. John is a really talented guitarist and a sound person to know, very quiet and unassuming, not to mention a 'red hot' accountant. We've know their two children Martyn and Rosie since they were babies and they're such great kids. Family values and togetherness that are really hard to find these days. Annie is the Mum all children should have, lots of sound traditional love and advice, a great sense of humour and a really good listener. We've had lots of super evenings together since we moved into the village, playing and listening to music and sharing Jamie Oliver recipes! Thanks for your friendship and support through the ups and downs of everyday life.

More family mentions

Talking about my brother's retirement, I should just introduce you to my brother Alan and his lovely wife Tina. We've never been in each others pockets over the years, but there has always been a great respect and a deep connection. The unfortunate demise of our dear Mum a couple of years ago really brought us all together and I can never thank Alan enough for the amount of work he put into sorting everything out.

Alan is retiring from his Headmasters post at Pocklington and plans to move to their beautiful place in the South of France. I would like to thank him and Tina for pushing us into a 'snap' decision to go there last October. It was a magical week and it relaxes me thinking of the lovely tree lined roads and quaint French villages. Thanks for that, I hope we can do it again sometime soon!

Barry & Sue - My brother and sister-in-law - I forgot to mention right at the beginning of my blog. On my last day at work ?27th October they were both at Brough, near Hull with Graham trying to sort out care for 'Grandma'. I'd had a very busy morning and was frantically trying to tie up bits and pieces before I left. My boss left the office and I made a few calls, then Oh My God, I was having a major vertigo attack. It was a really bad one and my poor friend Joan from the office carried out duties above and beyond the call of duty until help arrived.

To their credit, Barry and Sue dropped everything and came all the way from Brough to Rotherham to rescue me. I was so grateful to just be back in my own home that day and I can't thank them enough for that. I know they both found my illness very hard to deal with at first, but after an evening together and some well placed 'dark humour' (we're quite good at that), I hope they are much more relaxed about it.

29th Nov. 2008 - York

It's Saturday, Ruth and Gordon stayed last night and we watched 'Mamma Mia' - great, cheesy, bazaar, funny and altogether just what I needed. Saturday is our regular trip to York and being aware that the Christmas Fair was on, I was determined to make the journey. To be honest, I managed better than I thought, the only worrying factor was a distinct shortness of breath and some discomfort in my sternum, which went away if I rested.

We had coffee with our pal Allen, then headed off to pick up some retirement cards, one for my brother and one for my old boss from Nestle Occupational Health. By the time we got back to the stalls it was impossible to move, let alone get near to them, so we decided to call it a day.

Sunday, 30 November 2008

Company & comfort - Friday 28th Nov. 2008

Feeling much better by mid morning and Graham is cooking lunch for my Sissy Pat and brother-in-law Michael (Mike).

I shall expand a little - I have two sisters and a brother. Pat is the eldest, she is very special and loved by many including me. We laugh a lot and share each others problems, sometimes even sensing that something is wrong before we even know it - quite spooky at times. We often remember our childhood and Pat likes to remind me of the hours she had to spend tickling my back and singing silly songs. Also the time I walloped her on the shin with a poka, sorry Pat. Her favorite story though is the one involving my love for making dolls clothes and the time I cut a piece of red leather from the lining of Mums beautiful coat. Funnily enough I don't remember the telling off, maybe i was unconscious.

Pat has always been a 'mother figure' and her and Mike have a lovely family - three girls and two boys, Julia, Andrew, Helen, Dawn and Adam. All my nieces and nephews deserve a big thank you, they have all come up trumps for me since diagnosis, each one supporting me in their own special way. Currently their is a sponsored 'head shaving' to take place on New Years Eve. Thanks Dawn, and thanks to James (hubby) for allowing her to cut off her beautiful hair. Helen is the craft queen and has been busy making things to sell, including some super little knitted 'Breast Cancer Ribbons' - fab!

Julie - Oh lovely lady, it only seems like yesterday since you toddled around the farm at North Duffield delighting in the new lambs. You now have a great family, Dave with his natural ability to cook superb meals and Emily who is a real credit to you both. I like many others love being with you, especially when you've baked (is that cupboard love).

Andrew and Adam = Can't leave you boys out of course. I've been equally impressed by your kind words and thoughts. I know how difficult it is for you boys to relate to this kind of thing, but you've been really great and I've appreciated your communications, even if most of them have revolved around my appearance in the next 'Alien' film.

Chemotherapy Number One - 27th Nov. 2008

The day has arrived, i am nervous but also relieved. My appointment is 13.40p.m. but I decide to go earlier so I can look at some hats and scarves provided on a voluntary basis. I've been told that my hair will be falling out in two weeks, so I'm going to need something to keep my head and ears warm. To be honest, they're not really me, but I chose two or three and made a donation. I think I'm more of a statement sort of person, so I'll probably experiment at home. Ruth and Gordon confirmed my reservations, Gordon said I may as well wear a big sign saying 'cancer patient', so that kind of made my mind up.

I was made comfortable in the unit while my nurse prepared the line and several very large syringes containing my EC 90 treatment. A cannula is inserted into the back of my hand, the only brief bit of pain I had to endure really. My nurse then pushes a small amount of very expensive Granisetron (anti sickness med) into the line, followed by a steroid. As she does this, she carefully informs me of the minor, but weird side effects of each one. 'The Hedgehog effect' that's a good one. Suffice to say that these involve prickling in the nether regions and fizzing around the nose and head, very strange.

Now she explains that the first three and a bit syringes are the Epirubicin which she will push through the line very, very slowly. I must tell her if I feel any tingling or burning around the entry site as this aggressive cancer treatment eats healthy tissue and turns it necrotic (dead). Okerly dokerly I'm thinking! Also I must drink at least 3 litres of fluid to avoid bladder irritation or worse. Well, the procedure goes without incident and both cancer treatments (Epirubicin and cyclophosphamide) are given over a period of an hour straight from the syringes into the line. A quick flush and the line is removed, we plan my next visit (18th Dec) and I'm instructed on the importance of my medication. I have to have breakfast in bed, take my pills and wait at least half an hour to avoid a day of nausea and general unpleasantness. Home to rest and inform everyone that I'm ok, I've survived.

By evening I have a severe headache, this is apparently called the 'Hangover Effect', not that I can remember that far back - ha! Anyway it keeps me awake most of the night and when I do wake from a slumber, I'm in a cold sweat and feeling sickly. The headache persists into the morning, but I actually get up feeling pretty good.

Lake District - 24th - 26th Nov.

It's difficult writing a 'blog', much harder than I expected, mainly because I wake up in the night and worry that I haven't mentioned someone, or that others may be upset if I don't. Well, Joan and Gerry do deserve a special thanks, not only because they are a super couple, down to earth, very caring and easy to be with, but also because they really pulled out the stops for us during this week. 'A visit, no problem' said Joan, 'even if I have to re-arrange someone else'.

Joan & Gerry live just outside Keswick, overlooking Blencathra, how lucky is that. More to the point, how lucky were we to be able to spend a couple of days with them. Joan's cooking is perrrfect! Gerry is great fun and loves a discussion on current affairs. Fortunately me and Joan love the 'Dancing' programmes and the 'property programmes' so that was our evenings planned. We did however spend time in Keswick sampling the pretty shops as well as the charity shops, where Graham bought a super CD, only to discover the disc was missing when we got back that night (a cause of great hilarity). On Tuesday morning, the sun was bright and every peak was visible for miles as we tootled off to Kendall for the day. It was brilliant and we had some quality shopping time, lunch at Booth's and plenty of laughs. I was really sad to leave on Wednesday, but it was a great tonic. Thanks Joan & Gerry (P.S. I am tempted to put Gerry's picture on the 'blog' - you know, the one where he's wearing your pink filly pants on his head, for 'Breast Cancer Day'. Ok, maybe not, I want to remain friends.

Two Weeks and counting - 14th Nov, 2008

Ok, so now I know I potentially have some little cancer guys escaping to wherever takes their fancy and they could be setting up home over the next two weeks. Not much I can do, but try and fill the time doing nice things and being organised for Christmas. Fortunately I am well in front with this (sad, you may be thinking), but I love having my family and friends over. We don't spend a fortune, it's just good fun, silly gifts and good food (hopefully).

First Monday, we took Daisy May (the dog) for her first grooming to a little village called Reedness. We went into Goole while she was made beautiful on the premise of looking around and having some lunch. Not quite the experience we'd hoped, it's very run down and Tesco's was the most celubrious lunch venue we could find. Believe me, trying to spend three hours in Goole was extremely tedious. However, we went back for Daisy and were delighted at our brand new little girlie (yeah, that's sad too I know).

Tuesday and Wednesday we just chilled, Thursday I can't really remember. Friday was my pre-assessment day at the hospital. This went smoothly and gave us chance to speak to my oncology nurse and ask any appropriate questions. I asked the run of the mill stuff while having some more bloods taken, but couldn't resist asking if it was compulsory to go to Florida when you have cancer, as I don't like flying. Fortunately my nurse does have a good sense of humour and assured me it was not!

Sat. 22nd - we had our usual trip to York, where we meet up with a really good friend of ours Alan. I first met Alan while working with Christine and we became really close friends, soon arranging a joint trip to Skye (my heaven on earth). They had never been to Skye before, so we were able to introduce them to it's wild beauty. Unfortunately Chris and Alan were coping with a re-occurrence of her previously treated breast cancer and bravely facing the future, looking at ways to beat the disease and remaining positive. A more sincere, loving couple I have yet to meet and their love for each other was obvious. Unfortunately despite their best efforts, Chris lost her battle in April 2005 and last year Alan joined us in Skye again and we took Christine's ashes down to the Coral Beach, near Dunvegan, where with a few words and flower petals, we scattered them, illuminated by a fantastic ray of sunlight.

Alan has remained a good friend to us and my children. I value his advice and his words of wisdom, he doesn't trivialise or patronise and despite the still raw memories of Christine's loss, he is a real rock. He also provides me with great books - 'Dear Fatty' by Dawn French and Alan Bennett's 'The Uncommon Reader'. Thanks Alan.

Saturday, 29 November 2008

Results Day! 13th Nov. 2008

For me this was the scariest day since diagnosis, probably because of my ability to read between the lines of medical speak. Unfortunately I failed to prepare Graham for this, although I did say several times 'We'll know what we're looking at when I go back for the results'. I think Graham was convinced that the necessary had been done and we would just go on with radiotherapy.

I'm not saying that I was being negative, far from, I really hoped for the same, but those doubts were there and when MJ sat down and gave that knowing sigh, I knew once again that this wasn't what we wanted to hear. Good news first - the lymph nodes were clear. The bad news - my cancer was bigger than anticipated and he couldn't get clear margins. I have a Ductal Carcinoma in situ (DCIS), it's a Grade 3 (the more aggressive type) and there is some lymphovascular involvement. Because the DCIS is at the margins, MJ wants to start chemotherapy, just in case any of the little devils have escaped. This will be followed by Mastectomy. Bloody hell, that's a lot to take in and my first thought is 'how do I tell my lovely children, sister, brother, friends etc. Graham stays calm, but I know he's in pieces inside as he wasn't expecting this at all.

I can't remember exactly what I was feeling and I just nodded and accepted any reassurance or explanations. My cancer support nurse arranged for us to see my Oncologist straight away and he explained further the implications of chemotherapy and in particular my specific treatment EC 90. (mentally noted for further research at home). Prof. D said it wouldn't be pleasant, but he felt that the benefits of three months chemotherapy would maintain my chances of survival, holy crap. So my first date is set for Thursday 27th Nov., another wait and time to resign ourselves to a 'bumpier ride' than expected.

Discharge and the wait for results

Discharge was delayed due to an over enthusiastic drain. I waved my room mates goodbye on Saturday morning and apart from a sweet little old lady who didn't speak, I was alone. I did get to watch 'Strictly Come Dancing' and had my very welcome visitors. Unfortunately I had one unwelcome room companion. A young girl and her boyfriend, both with an attitude and more concerned about when they could have a 'fag' than the advice and help staff were trying to give them. The young lady had a real sinus problem and kept me awake most of the night with her adenoidal snoring. Fortunately she persuaded the Doctors to let her go home on Sunday and come back Monday for further tests. Sunday came, hopes were raised and dashed. MJ said another night just to be sure, oh okay then, who am I to argue.

Monday morning MJ finally visits in his usual cheery, whirlwind style. He says I can go home, but his comment on my surgery leave me with doubts - it had been 'technically successful' he said, but he couldn't guarantee that they had managed to get clear margins and he had removed four or five nodes for examination. I now had ten days to wait for the results.

Graham picked me up around 11a.m. and I was grateful to be back in my own surroundings and eat some delicious Graham cooked food.

I was overwhelmed by the cards, gifts and flowers which arrived constantly over the following week from ex-colleagues, family, friends, not to mention the visits and words of support. Thanks to everyone, you know who you are.

Family & Friends - My thanks

I think this is a good point to introduce my family and friends , a wonderful bunch of people with big hearts, not to mention big feet (only joking).

Graham Hodge - my hubby of 33yrs, my god I am so lucky to have him. We met at a little Folk Club in Bubwith, or at least I first saw him there, his hair was long and in natural ringlets and when he sat on stage playing 'And I Love You So' I knew I was smitten, such a voice, such a style and such a presence. Thanks God, he noticed me too, I think I was reasonable looking, very long hair, short skirt, you get the picture. Well, he made enquiries and then plucked up courage to ask me out. We agreed he could take me home the following week. Good plan, with one flaw, I had forgotten that I was doing the Lyke Wake Walk (18hr endurance over the North Yorks Moors).

Anyway the following week, determined not to miss my date, I went to the Folk Club and at the end we held hands and got into the car. I don't really remember much more, but Graham tells me I was snoring before we'd got more than a mile down the road and he thought he must be really boring. Actually I'd been walking all night and had no sleep. However, he was not put off and we arranged a re-run the following week. The rest as they say is history and plenty of it for us.

Since then we've had three children, lived in Swaziland for three years (where Louis was born), moved houses more times than I can remember and had a wonderful loving relationship. Graham is now a self employed musician and has played for several years at the 'Blue Bicycle Rest'. every Saturday and the 'Ate O'clock' most Fridays. He is an extremely talented guitar player and singer, with a mellow voice and an extensive repertoire.

Since my diagnosis he has been a rock and there is nothing he wouldn't do, I love you lots.

Ruth - our daughter, well what can I say, she's the eldest of our three, married to Gordon and living in Ilkley. Ruth is beautiful on many levels as well as being extremely driven in all she pursues - jobs, languages, travel and writing which is a passion she excels at. She is also a pretty wonderful daughter and together with Gordon has been a constant source of interesting DVDs, advice and support. I love Ruth because she is different to your average 30yr old and we feel like close friends as well as mum and daughter. Thanks Ruth for 'red knees' keeping me young and making life interesting. Thanks Gordon for looking after Ruth, being my researcher and great guy!

Joseph - Our eldest boy, a dead ringer for his Dad and with similar loving and deep characteristics. Joseph has many attributes, not least his giving nature, honesty and an unbelievable ability to build, connect, mend and fiddle with computers. Joseph is very deep and has much more to give than he knows yet. Thanks Joe for all the love that I know is in there and comes through in your hugs. I remember just sitting in hospital holding your hand and wishing I could say how much I love you, but of course I don't really need to tell you that. When you find your soul mate, she will be very lucky indeed. Start to believe in yourself and take some risks, everything else will fall into place and remember I/we will always be there for you.

Louis - Our youngest boy, who couldn't be more different to Joe and Ruth. Born in Swaziland (that's another story), we nearly lost you when you were a few weeks old, but you're a fighter and despite some very difficult times in your life, you have survived and turned into a beautiful boy. You remind me of me, both in looks and emotions at times. You're very sensitive like Joe and Ruth, but your sensitivity is always close to the surface and you're not afraid to show it, which takes people by surprise sometimes as you're tall with a goatee beard and very long hair. Your a grafter, loyal and loving. I love you very much and I see you growing through and growing up because of life's challenges. Coleen, your now intended wife is also beautiful and I think she's sees your beauty too, both inwardly ad outwardly.

Well I hope that sums up my immediate family, although I could write pages about all of them.

Post op continued.

Fish and chips for tea, ha, what a laugh. Actually I was feeling slightly hungry, but oddly enough as soon as the food entered my mouth it turned into cardboard, honestly I swear it did and there was no way I could swallow it without choking. So I settled for a cup of tea and another snooze. It was a long afternoon, broken only by further cups of tea, tablets, observations (BP, temp, etc.) and then thankfully visitors! yeah what a welcome sight. My family enter the ward and everyone thinks there's been an eclipse as they're all over 6ft tall.

Friday, 28 November 2008

Surgery Day - Friday 31st October 2008

Finally the day arrived, I have new pyjamas, dressing gown and slippers (funny how we do that). I arrived early as advised, only to be told I was last on the list aaagh! Oh well, never mind, we settled down to read some magazines. Eventually I was asked to go down to the imaging unit where radioactive dye is injected into specific nodes and checked. This was a fairly quick and relatively painless experience.

Back on the ward there seemed to be a hiccup with the list and I was bumped up the queue. Suddenly I was changed and checked and walking down to theatre. I have to say that I was extremely nervous, never having had a major operation and remembering my time in theatres. The only part i never like was being in the anaesthetic room when patients were put to sleep. It always made me feel faint. Now it was my turn and I'm scared. However, I needn't have worried, everyone was wonderful, the anaesthetist chatted away and the cannula was in, followed by a small amount of relaxant. A mask was put on with some oxygen and I remember thinking about each of my family in turn and saying 'make sure I come back'.

The very next thing I remember which seemed to be seconds later, was someone gently calling my name. I realised I was back and cried with relief. I did feel dizzy and sick, but this didn't seem to matter as it was over.

Back on the ward I wasn't well and my colour did give some cause for concern, my oxygen sats. were low and I felt very sick. This was probably due to some underlying Vertigo as well as the operation. It was a long afternoon drifting in and out of sleep. Incidentally, the dye they inject to locate the sentinal nodes for biopsy leaves the boob very blue and post op gradually comes out in the skin making you look a funny turquoise colour. Fortunately visitors were warned about this, which is just as well as it can be a shock.

My wonderful, talented Sean Connery look-a-like, Graham who I love dearly.

One Stop Breast Clinic York - 8th October

We arrived at the Breast Clinic at 07.45a.m and were warmly welcomed. By 8.15a.m. we had our first meeting with the Consultant who examined the offending lump and marked it for assessment. A short wait down the corridor and I was taken in for a Mammogram. A strange process where both boobs are squashed tightly between two plates, slightly uncomfortable, but ok.

Another short wait, followed by an Ultra-sound screening where my left arm was held above my head for what seemed like hours.

Back to the waiting room, it's now around 11.15 and we discussed where we could go for lunch. Next came another meeting with the Consultant, this one not so pleasant as he carried out a needle aspiration, which was painful. He asked me if I was ok with needles, I said yes, but don't let my husband see it. Graham stayed happily behind the curtains while they dug around. Following this we were advised to have some lunch and come back for the results - great what a service.

We returned at 12.15 and were ushered into the same room. My heart skipped a beat even as we walked in as the two chairs previously against the wall were now angled cosily towards the bench, in my nursing experience, set up for bad news. The Consultant came in closely followed by a Cancer Support Nurse, now I new I was in trouble. Mr MJ gave a deep sigh and then broke the results gently but firmly. It felt as though the whole world had stopped, I was frozen in time, how could this be happening. Graham's head had dropped between his knees and MJ kept glancing towards him, worried he might do a nose dive. Eventually he said 'I think you both need a cup of tea and time to think about what I've told you'.

We had to decide whether to go for Wide local excision (which MJ felt he could confidently carry out) or I could have opted for mastectomy. Both have the same survival rates, the only difference being that Lumpectomy would be followed by radiotherapy at Leeds.

We were left to talk this over with help from the Support Nurse and by the time MJ came back, I had decided to trust his judgement and go for the WLE plus radiotherpy. I have to say that MJ did stress that the area was larger than he expected and would be on the margins (clear margins are needed around the cancer). So the date for surgery was set - 31st October, it seemed a lifetime away, but here we go!

The beginning - October 2008

This is my way of recording my journey following a diagnosis of breast cancer on 8th October 2008. It is written with love and thanks to all my family and friends as well as those health professionals whose support has been nothing short of brilliant.

My diagnosis came as a huge shock, not least because I am myself a health professional and much of my time is spent advising and supporting employees through very similar situations. I did find a change in my left breast sometime around May/June, but it wasn't defined and I put it down to hormonal changes. If I am honest, by July I did have some anxieties about the thickening changes and I carried these round with me and on our holiday to Cornwall in August, by which time I was quite worried. On our return I made an appointment and saw my local GP. She was lovely and although she didn't feel it was anything to worry about, she referred me to York's 'One Stop Breast Clinic'