Monday, 29 June 2009

Mon. 29th June 2009 'week two'

Will be visiting my site at Rotherham this week and talking to the girl who's been keeping things ticking over for me. I think it will be a good confidence booster to see colleagues and be in my own office again. It will also feel more like I'm back at work too, although I'm really appreciating the time to read e-mails, documents and general BOC news. One bit of sad news is that my good pal Joan is taking redundancy after 35yrs and I'm gutted that she won't be there when I go back. Joan has been such a good friend and brinsworth will feel very lonely without her. Also, who's going to hold the vomit bowl if I have another vertigo attack. Thanks Joan, I wish you every good thing in life and we will keep in touch.

Physically I'm feeling a bit frustrated as things still don't look or feel very good. No pain now, but a discomfort that is hard to put into words and still restricts many of my daily activities and frequently disturbs my sleep. I'm doing exercises every day and would like to start jogging, but that really inflames the muscles, so I'll have to wait a little longer.

I bought some special bra's recently and my sister gave me some soft support tops, both of which I can wear for most of the day now. The only thing I'm conscious of now is only having one nipple! Would be ok if it was winter, but now it's really warm and I want to wear t-shirts, I think it looks a bit odd and I'm convinced people are staring at me in the street. I'm definitely going for nipple re-construction in Dec, but until then I may have to purchase a false one. Apparently they're trendy at the moment!

Should document the fact that my stomach/bowels are not good at the moment and it does worry me a little. My appetite is not as good as it used to be either and while I like being a size 14, I don't want to lose any more weight. I have my Herceptin this Thursday, so I will mention my concerns then.

Lots of people have been running and fund raising in my name and I feel very humbled by their thoughts and efforts. Thanks everyone.

Monday, 22 June 2009

Mon. 22nd June 2009 'Back to Work'

I want to start this entry by saying CONGRATULATIONS and a huge THANK YOU to my daughter Roo and Viv (Gordon's Sister)who completed the Jane Tomlinson 10k run in Leeds yesterday. I feel inspired to get fit now and who knows I may even manage a marathon myself next year.

So, back to work today, well technically anyway. I was feeling fairly relaxed when I got up this morning, I slept well which always helps and I logged onto my work lap top about 08.30a.m. Just as I feared the VPN connect wouldn't recognise my password and I had to ring the IT people in India. This actually went well, but I could feel my stress levels rising.

We had a Telecon which lasted and hour and a half, during which I felt decidedly inadequate. I feel as though I've lost four years of knowledge and experience, it's like being the new girl. However, it was good to talk to everyone and I'm looking forward to our team meeting in August. The only other problem I encountered was holding my mobile phone for 90 mins or more, it really makes my shoulder ache so I'll need a headset.

That's it for now and I'm optimistic.

Monday, 15 June 2009

Mon. 15th June 2009 '....and finally'

Very mixed feelings today. I've just been to see my GP, who is lovely by the way, to ask for a return to work certificate. I plan to start a very gradual return next Monday 22nd. It is my decision as I really need to take the next step now. However, I have to confess I'm filled with dread, mixed with excitement and a touch of raw emotion at times. Dread at the fear of failing or not coping, excitement at seeing friends and colleagues and feeling a part of a valued team. The emotion - well, I'm not sure where that comes from, maybe thoughts of what has happened since October, the wonderful love and support I've had, plus the knowledge that I have another chance at life and being with my wonderful husband and children.

I will continue to update my blog periodically as it's become a real friend and a form of therapy.

Saturday, 13 June 2009

Sat. 13th June 2009

Picture: A sunny but windy day on Skye. Tea, with jam and cream at Uig bay.

I can honestly say that I'm feeling really well at the moment. Each day is a tiny bit better than the last, though I suspect it's going to be a pretty long time before things get back to something like normal. After six weeks the bruising is just beginning to surface, which gives me some indication as to the amount of tissue affected during surgery. I bought a sports bra the other day, but unfortunately I can't wear it yet as it presses on the scar line and the swelling under my arm.

I've been doing some driving over the last couple of days, to see how I manage. It's been ok but I have trouble with fifth gear and reverse both of which require a pulling or pushing motion with my left arm, in fact reverse needs both hands as it uses the affected muscles quite alot and can send them into spasm . The only other discomfort comes with too much use of the clutch i.e. when crawling in traffic or through town as this also uses the latissimus dorsi muscle. Actually I understand that even flexing the thumb uses this muscle, so everything above is understandable.

One thing that does annoy me is the restriction in my right arm due to what's known in the chemotherapy unit as 'knackered veins'. I'm told it could take a year to eighteen months for these to recover - oh joy! Fortunately the Herceptin treatment doesn't affect them like chemotherapy, but it does mean a cannula every three weeks and locating a useful 'juicy' vein is not easy.

I've had some wonderful gifts over the last six months, but I was over the moon last week when our friend Alan gave me a framed poster and a photograph of my two favorite folk musicians Aly Bain and Phil Cunningham - both signed! plus several cd's and a dvd (courtesy of Aly's manager). I missed their York gig as it was the day I had my surgery, so Alan pulled some strings with his radio contacts and hey presto! Many many thanks Alan.

Thursday, 11 June 2009

Thurs. 11th June 2009 - Herceptin No2

My second Herceptin today - it went very smoothly and we only had to hang around for three hours today. I was sitting next to a young girl who has been diagnosed with a rare Thymus cancer which was discovered when she was pregnant. Her baby is six months old now and we talked openly about hopes and fears, we also laughed a lot and I really hope she does ok.

It felt strange walking out of the unit, but it's great to know I don't have to go back now for a few months. Perhaps I can begin to piece my life together slowly.

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Tues. 9th June 2009 'contemplating the future'

Picture: Daisy with Daisy Chain
I have to say that now I'm back in my own comfortable bed with my 'v' pillow I'm sleeping well, which in turn is helping me to cope with the discomfort that remains under my arm. My back still feels like concrete and there is a reasonable area of numbness which may or may not go in time. I'm doing daily exercises and I hope in a couple of weeks I can start some gentle swimming.

I am now contemplating the immediate future in relation to work. I can't deny that there have been occasions when I've wondered if I'll ever get back to my job. Although I did do a couple of weeks prior to this surgery, which went extremely well, I have lost a lot of confidence again and find I am struggling with a roller coaster of emotions. I know it must be hard for anyone who hasn't been through this to understand the complex physical and emotional issues involved, many of which pop up when you least expect them. Feelings of being physically ugly, even when covered up. Fears of being a lesser person because society puts restrictions on people who've had cancer in relation to insurances, mortgages, jobs etc. The ever present fear of secondary cancer (no matter how positive you may be).

Contemplating a return to work is no small hurdle, especially when treatment is still ongoing and both body and mind are still recovering from nine months of trauma. However, I am lucky enough to have a brilliant manager and four wonderful colleagues who have become a source of invaluable support as well as really good friends. So, providing the Herceptin goes well this week we will work out a gradual return hopefully from the 22nd June, initially from home and building up gradually.

I do think that my return to work will also benefit Graham as his daily routine has been turned upside down too and I sense that we both need to have some Independence and structure.

Monday, 8 June 2009

Mon. 8th June 2009 'Back in Circulation'

Picture: Lunch at Flodigarry Hotel, Skye.
Phew! What a week. We returned from The Isle of Skye on Saturday after a fantastic week of none stop sunshine and lots of fun. It has been a real tonic and my only regret was not being able to join Joseph and Louis on a couple of great walks across the Quirang and to the Old Man of Storr, but next time! Me and Graham did the tourist bit and because of the sunshine we were able to take Daisy dog with us on most trips.

The holiday was tinged with some sadness though as we lost our 21yr old cat 'Kitty' the day before we set off and it still seems really strange not seeing her wobble through the room. Thank you to everyone who sent kind words regarding this.

In terms of my progress, which has always been the main purpose of this blog, I am improving. Well, I am improving physically in as much as I don't have the acute pain I was experiencing before the holiday. I'm still very restricted though as the muscle down my left back or flank is rigid, which means I can't get my arm above shoulder height yet and certain movements, like trying to get my arm into or out of a sleeve send it into spasm which can be really uncomfortable.
The scar lines have healed beautifully and there is just a small amount of swelling to go now.

I have a further Hercetin this week (11th June) at the hospital. Providing this goes well, the rest will be carried out at home every three weeks for a year. Also I will probably plan a very gradual return to work which at the moment fills me with dread. I think it's more psychological than anything else. It's not like having any other illness where you get better go back to work and that's an end to it. Because my body image has changed and I'm still having treatment, it's difficult to feel as though anything will ever be normal again. A large part of my job is supporting people and right now I'm struggling to support myself at times.

I do intend to continue my blog for the foreseeable future as I think recording my gradual rehabilitation will be useful info in my profession when supporting employees in a similar situation - at least that's the plan.