Sunday 28 March 2010

Children's Version of Things

Photo Copyright: Maggie May

After six days I have just managed to get out for a little walk and saw these lovely daffodils growing a long a path. It was a lovely day, in fact there have been some lovely days all week but I haven't felt well enough to go out.
Chemo 5 has not been easy for me and I have felt excessively tired and my skin reacted horribly to it and it will take a good while for the scratches to heal.
I have not felt anywhere near normal and was worried about the effects this is having on my family, not least my granddaughters.

Not long ago, my seven year old granddaughter, Amber came rushing in and said, "I know what your illness is called. Its cancer." That remark went through me like a knife but I didn't let her see that.
As it wasn't a word I have used in front of the children, I thought someone else must have filled her in so I asked her how she knew.
Apparently, there was a programme on Children's TV about a dinner lady who had to miss school for a very long time because she had an illness called cancer. The programme even showed the dinner lady coming back to school in a wig because she had lost her hair.
I was quite impressed by that programme that could have been written about me.

The other day, I was feeling quite miserable with my symptoms and was sitting watching TV, when my five year old granddaughter, Millie, sat on the arm of the chair and snuggled up to me saying, "Grannie, how are you feeling?"
I explained that I was tired & itchy and she told me that I would be better if I went to bed.
She asked me if the good medicine was still fighting the bad things in my body and she asked me if I had been ill for nine years.
It must seem endless to this little child.
She then went on about my hair and told me that she couldn't remember how I had looked before.
I did feel sad for her and hoped she would remember that I hadn't always been like this. I was once energetic and took them out and was a much more interesting Grannie.
She has always been a caring little child and some of the things she said made me feel like weeping.

Wednesday 24 March 2010

Teacher's Gift

Photo copyrigh: Maggie May

These are the lovely flowers that were brought round to me when tightly in bud, in a stone pot by a very kind teacher who took the time to come and visit me a few weeks back. I guess they are at their best right now.
I have other hyacinth and tulip bulbs that are going to open up soon.

I had chemo 5 yesterday. It went without incident. I met some interesting, chatty people who helped to while away the time. If any one wants pictures of what it is like to undergo chemotherapy then they can go to my last session here.

So how am I feeling this time?
Well you can see that I don't have chemo brain, as I am managing to put in links etc.
I am itching like fury. I am on strong antihistamines that don't seem to be doing anything other than make me feel very sleepy. I look bright red. It would scare people if I went out like this.

This is the first morning that I couldn't face getting dressed. I need to be able to get at the places and scratch. It is all over my body and is due to the chemotherapy. Its nearly unbearable trying not to itch and I am damaging my skin.
I get into the shower and feel like laughing with delight of it and crying at the pain of it.
I was told it is no use putting anything on the skin as it wouldn't make any difference and might aggregate the condition.
By Sunday it will be going....... but it is a long time till Sunday.

Some of the people on the ward having chemotherapy yesterday were quite ill. There was a lady who looked so thin and old and she was extremely ill with a chest infection. She went in with a man in his late thirties and a very young boy.
I thought that the father of the little boy was the son of the much older lady.
Doctors buzzed around this lady and eventually I heard them say that there was a bed for her in the ward above and that she had to be admitted.
Then the *son* kissed her goodbye and the little boy aged about three years old said, "Goodbye Mummy."
That is what this blasted disease does to people and I had to choke down the tears.

Saturday 20 March 2010

A Stroll Along the Waterfront

Photos copyright: Maggie May

On Friday I felt a bit in need of a walk so Harry and I decided to go to visit our lovely waterfront, just off the city centre. It was not particularly warm when we got there and I realised that it might have been better to wear a hat rather than a bit of net with rats' tails false hair all over it as my wig isn't very warm. However, too late for that so I had to grin and bear it.
We had got that far by bus and it didn't seem as chilly when we set off.

We started walking from the centre and noticed all the little boats moored in groups and I must confess that I was looking for one named Maggie May so that I could snap it and pretend it was mine but not even a Maggie of any description could be found. However, there was one called Isabella May........ a bit remote.
Not much to look at.

We walked as far as we could possibly go and this is the view at the end of the walkway towards the right showing a very old shell of a building waiting to be renovated right next to modern flats that must cost the earth to buy or rent.
In the underneath photo, on the lefthand side of the water, is Bristol's beloved Matthew. The reproduction of a tiny ship that bravely sailed across the Atlantic Ocean looking for a new land and don't forget the majority of people then, thought the world was flat.
I believe this replica has sailed across the Atlantic but the original was sailed by John Cabot in 1497 and he probably sailed to Newfoundland and that was without emergency engines and a radio that the replica had fitted for safety reasons.

If I am deemed fit on Monday when I have my pre-assessment, I will be having chemo 5 on Tuesday. However this can all change right until the last moment. Can't really tell until the day comes.

It seems all my blood tests were satisfactory this time round, so chemo 5 is to start tomorrow morning.

Wednesday 17 March 2010

Hidden Nesting and Washing Machines

Photo copyright: Maggie May

These past few days, I have noticed that a pair of blackbirds have been taking bits of nesting materials into my garden shrub. It is a very tall Elaeagnus Pungens and borders my next door neighbour's garden too, with a bit of an overhang, especially at the top.
I am quite excited that they seem to have chosen my shrub, as they usually nest in another neighbours tall Eucalyptus tree, along the terrace.
For young birds to survive here, they will have to evade my next door neighbour's four cats on the other side and my other neighbour's tendency to suddenly chop down everything in sight without any rhyme or reason.
I also get a regular pair of dunnocks, wrens, great tits and blue tits but no house sparrows anywhere in sight.
When I was young, the house sparrows where in such profusion that their chattering could be heard all the time and they would swoop down into the garden constantly. Even when my children were young they were a very common sight. So I wonder where they have gone? I suspect it is because of modern buildings regulations giving no room for little nooks and crannies in roof spaces for the sparrows to nest in.

Some of you have remarked that you are worried about the state of my mangy fox and wondered whether I could do anything to help it. I think the answer is no. If it got so that it couldn't jump the wall and could be trapped by a box, then I suppose that I could call the RSPCA and they would despatch it but it is still too fast and would bite me if I tried to trap it now.

I know that I have had to lower my horizons a great deal....... I no longer work and go to wonderful places or have the same access to the grandchildren, so you will see that I have had to concentrate on much simpler things so you will probably groan when I say that I am quite excited today because I have ordered a new washing machine. I decided to buy locally and that paid off as the company promised that they would deliver the next day and take the old one away as well as reconnecting the new model and getting it ready for its first wash.
The old machine was still working but it jumped about all over the place and some one had to sit on it to stop it travelling round the kitchen.
Can you imagine having to leave a guest mid speech to go and sit on a washing machine in the next room? Or having to stay in until the washing was taken out?
It was one extra burden when I wasn't feeling well having to wrestle with it.
So I hope they do come this afternoon with the new one as I have a good pile of washing to try out in it.
You know what they say about simple things pleasing.......... simple minds?

Sunday 14 March 2010

Mothering Sunday

Photo copyright: Maggie May

Since I wrote my last post, the weather has turned much warmer and this coincided with an energy surge in me. Over the last two days, I was able to get out in the garden and prune things back, tidy the debris from the winter winds and do some jobs in the house that I normally would have done before, if I had felt able to.

In England we have Mother's Day completely out of sync with the rest of the world. It is really Mothering Sunday and was to do with the Church originally and it still is, though most people call it Mother's Day.
After we went to church in the morning, my son and granddaughters called round with cards and a present. My daughter had already sent hers in the post.
The day was lovely and sunny and pleasant.
I am so relieved not to be shivering and to be feeling stronger again on this special day.
The tub of narcissi and hyacinths that I received from the teacher last week is responding to the sunshine and the bulbs are opening up.
I have seen two wrens eying up the little pouches underneath the kitchen roof over hang. I hope they decide to nest there. I believe that they build three different nests and the female selects just one. I bet my husband is glad he isn't a wren. Having to provide one home was difficult enough.
The fox who visits our garden has very bad mange. It is pitiful to see the scabs completely covering his back. He looks so ill. One day when I was itching all over and tearing at my skin to the point of injuring myself due to chemo 4, the fox flopped under a shrub in the garden and tried to sleep in the watery sun. However, he was tearing at himself the whole time and had no peace from the irritation. I thought that we had something very much in common, except I don't have mange.
Lets hope that this change in the weather is here to stay.

Thursday 11 March 2010

Spring Things

Photos copyright: Maggie May

I have been a bit set back by excessive tiredness caused by chemo and fighting off a cough/cold. However I think I definitely feel like blogging more today.
I have been trying to do other jobs though, rather than spend all my time on the computer because obviously my house now seems to be suffering from neglect.

I think that the thing that upsets me most about my recent struggle with illness is my lack of independence. I have to see a sick husband struggling to open a gift of flowers, struggling to find the right vase, not knowing about cutting the stems, removing leaves from the lower stems and putting in the plant food. My frustration in being too ill to do it myself. Feeling so helpless.
I have always done things without thinking. I have always had my health.
I have never given a thought that there is no one else to do it if I am laid low.

I looked round the garden the other day and noticed that the snowdrops are not quite as profuse as usual.
They too, have been set back by the hard winter and I have never felt so cold.
Today looks sunny and I hope that I can get out and about without knocking myself back.

Monday 8 March 2010

The Unexpected Gift

Photo copyright: Maggie May

I was so surprised when one of the teachers from the school where I work came quite unexpectedly to visit me last week. She had planted this lovely stone tub with narcissi and hyacinths herself and she stayed to chat for a good while.
It was her own present to me and nothing at all to do with the school. I was so delighted with it and the tub is on the patio outside and I will be able to really enjoy it from the back room where I sit.
Wasn't that kind?
It is good to see the sun although it is very cold here. I have all sorts of jobs lined up for when I get stronger.
The sunshine seems to give out strength.
Hope many of you ae enjoying sunshine too.

Friday 5 March 2010

By The Skin Of My Teeth

Photos copyright: Maggie May

I feel that I only got to chemo four by the skin of my teeth.
It was delayed by one week and I also felt that I was being dissuaded from carrying on. When I asked a ward nurse about this, she said that they were trying to give me a way out if I felt I had had enough, as I was suffering a bit because of my white blood cells being depleted and my digestive tract being so upset following chemo 3. However, they didn't reckon on my stamina and my belief that I am a fighter and that I won't give in.
You might well be getting heartily fed up with me writing about cancer related things all the time but I feel that as one in three of us will get cancer at some time in our lives, that I want to somehow or other, help take away the stigma from a once feared word and let everyone know that they can talk about it and that hiding behind fear, or avoiding it, will not make it go away.

I went in to Oncology early morning last Tuesday and had a full blood count taken straight away and found out quite soon that my white cells had perked up to a very good reading. I then had to wait for liver and kidney function tests that would take an hour and a half.
I chose a good vein to have the cannula put in to, one that hadn't been violated before because it does cause pain for weeks afterwards and theres no way that I would let them use the same vein twice. I had my pre chemo drugs put in right away.
The liver test reading came back and proved to be a bit low, but the doctor said that I could go ahead with chemo as long as I get another reading at my doctors in a week. I cannot get my head round that as surely this chemo will make it worse, but never mind perhaps there would be some treatment I could have. Anyway you can see that I did get into chemo four by the skin of my teeth.

I knew that if I took photos on the ward that might upset everyone, so I decided that I would take pictures for you to see when I went to the toilet. Reading that back I realise that statement could be taken the wrong way and I want to make it perfectly clear that I was NOT going to take a picture of me on the toilet but I wanted to take photos of the chemo bag and pump. The chemo is pumped in by electricity and when I go to the toilet, I have to pull out the wire that connect to the main socket, from the back of the pump and cancel the ensuing alarm. The pump then continues to work using a stored battery.
I have to then try not to tangle the long drip tube that trails everywhere or yank out the cannula in my right hand. That would definitely start the alarm up into action. Everything I do is with my left hand and seems very clumsy.
We are encouraged to drink masses of water throughout the sessions of chemo so we all seem to trundle to the toilet many times. I am on the ward for about six hours and I do find it a puzzle that I come back from several toilet trips and find the alarm is quiet and that no tubes have tangled up, and yet when I am sitting quietly reading a book, the alarm goes into spasms sending nurses scurrying to deal with it even though I don't feel I have done anything to upset it.
The time seemed to pass OK. Felt sleepy and had lots of naps. I really hope that I didn't snore at any stage.
The one depressing thing that I found this time round was that I saw more quite young people having chemo and some were only in their teens or early twenties.
That is something that I am grateful for....... this disease did not hit me while I was young.

I am at present, feeling tired and weary, itchier than I have ever been in my life...... to the point of pain and my digestion is all upset. No sign of chemo brain so there's always something to be thankful for. I had a few visitors today and it was sunny. Good to look at through the window.

I promise you that I will write a different kind of post next time. Something that will be fitting to Spring.

Tuesday 2 March 2010

Bridging A Difficult Week

Photo copyright: Maggie May

Once again it is time for me to have a little break from you all while chemo 4 takes its toll.
I went to oncology this morning, early and had to wait till nearly lunch time to get the results of my blood count before I could start with the drip. The white cells have picked up but my liver needs to be checked out at the doctors next week because the levels of something or other are a bit high. They say this does happen as time goes on with chemo and should right itself.

I just want to take this opportunity to thank all those who have been praying for me while I have been having treatment and I know that I am being greatly helped by prayer while I find it really hard to pray for myself (except of course to say thank you.) Sometimes I just feel so overwhelmed by what is happening to me that I feel I wouldn't really know where to start.
I am so grateful for everyone who has been sending positive thoughts my way. You may never know just how much.
I hope I will feel like commenting again really soon. I wonder what this session will bring?Each one seems a bit different.