Tuesday 30 August 2011

Seeing Double

Photo Copyright: Maggie May

Last week, I had a very pleasant surprise.
Harry was on his way back from a bit of shopping and he noticed something sticking out from behind our bin in the front garden.
It was a package from across the pond.
I had been expecting it, and couldn't understand why the postman had left it outside when we were all in the house. Luckily it was not raining.

This beautiful painting from one of my blogging pals, who happens to be an artist..... was taken with my permission from a photo I put in an earlier post.
I am talking about Clare Dunn.

At the time that I received the package, I had all my family here, daughter and grandsons, son and granddaughters and they all thought the painting is extremely good and sooner or later I will get a little frame and hang it in a very special place.
I am over joyed to receive such a lovely piece of work and very much appreciate this kindness and generosity.

I would be interested to hear what colour frame/border you think would be best?

Thursday 25 August 2011

The Gift Voucher

Photo Copyright: Maggie May

When I was forced to give up work last month, through ill health, the team at the After School Club gave me a gift voucher that could be used at any Garden Centre. I can remember at the time I received it (very ungratefully, looking back) thinking that I wished I had the stamina and the energy to even do gardening.
However, on one of my daughter's recent visits, she took me to a very large garden centre that I seldom get to, these days.
It was one of those garden centres that sells many other things....... crafts, books, gadgets to name but a few, as well as thousands of indoor and outdoor plants and things to do with gardening. There were also small pets, but although I enjoyed looking at all the rabbits and equipment, I left that department hurriedly.

I decided on a gadget to help people to be able to weed and do gardening on their knees. There are huge handles on the sides of this low stool so that I can lever myself up. It means I can now get up without great discomfort.

If its turned the other way, it is a sturdy garden seat.
And when it is not being used at all, it folds down flat.
This little stool has given me a new lease of life.
I have also used it to do things like washing the kitchen/ bathroom floor.
It seems to have been the perfect gift, so I am really grateful to the after School Club.

Friday 19 August 2011

Overheard Conversations

Photo copyright: Maggie May

I can't believe that another week has gone by so quickly.
I have caught the bus to oncology at various times of the day, all this week and my treatment seems to have gone well. I am feeling alright.
I could catch the hospital bus if I wanted, from the city shopping centre. They seem to run every 30 minutes or so and stop at all the major hospitals. However, so far, I have felt the need to walk the short distance to oncology from the main shopping centre and again on the return journey. It is the only exercise I seem to be getting these days, so I feel it must do me good.

While on the bus, I have overheard some strange conversations.
One man who obviously had some degree of learning disability, plonked himself down in the seat behind me, next to another man and immediately struck up a conversation with him.
He asked the stranger if he'd ever been abroad and he replied he'd been to Spain. This was met by a very excited response and the conversation got louder and louder and he wanted to know what food they ate in Spain and what the driving was like etc. The other man was very patient with him and must have known that the whole bus was hanging onto his every word.
"Are you going again?" he asked the man.
"Yes in September," was the reply.
The excited man then asked for how long and the long suffering man answered "One week."
"Only for one week?" Replied the excited man, "Whats the matter with you, couldn't you afford more than that?"
Unfortunately, I had to get off then and I was wondering what the reply would have been. I'm sure he'd have been very polite and had a very good reply.

Another journey going into town, nearly brought tears into my eyes and I wish I'd have had the nerve to say something.
I noticed a very rough and ready grandmother who was sitting next to a little girl who must have been about 4 yrs old. They were sitting directly in front of me
Her granddaughter was repeating a word over and over again. I think it was *Anyway.* She wasn't shouting the word but it was obviously getting the grandmother down. She put a fist to the little girl's chin and said in a very gruff and menacing voice, "Will you just shut up and stop saying that word." She then went on to say the word over and over again in a very sarcastic and mimicking kind of way.
"Now you know what it sounds like. Just shut up."
I couldn't believe it when the man who was sitting next to me, started to poke her through the seat and also tell her to shut up and listen to Nan.
She turned round and said, "Don't Daddy." She was doing her best not to cry.
I made a point of moving after that. I hope they realised why, though I doubt it.
What rotten luck to have two grown ups looking after her who were behaving in such a barbaric way. Her father and her grand mother.

It is the end of the week now and I probably won't be getting into another bus until Monday.

You might be wondering why I chose a wet ornamental grass to illustrate this post.
Well, in truth....... I have no idea.
Not sure if there could be any psychological reason.
Any guesses?

Monday 15 August 2011

Chicken and Flowers

Photo Copyright: Maggie May

Last week I went for the first two of my 30 sessions of radiotherapy.
I didn't really know what to expect but it seems that I just have to lie very still on my stomach, after being lined up by humans .... then the machine takes over. It moves over my head and turns round and sometimes it seems dark and sometimes not. I have no idea what is going on, and can only hear the different noises that the machine makes as it goes its own way. Nothing hurts and there is no feeling when this beam of radiation is being shot into precise parts of my body. As long as I keep still all is well. If I need them to stop, then I can raise my hand and then they will interrupt the cycle. There is someone watching me all the time and obviously someone must be in control of the machine, behind the glass screen.

Before the first session, I waited half an hour in the waiting room, but last time I was kept waiting a good deal longer than that, so it does take a chunk out of the day and its best to take a book.
The department is 2 stories down in the basement so there is no daylight coming in or fresh air and whatever they use instead of this, makes me very sleepy.

When I came home from the very first session, my husband told me that I'd had flowers delivered by hand while I was away.
I had no idea who they could have been from until I opened the little card. It was from Denise Nesbitt. Some time ago, before I knew about my tumour on the coccyx........ Denise told me that one of her chickens was leaving home and heading for Bristol and could she stay with me?
I had no idea why she'd want to leave the beautiful countryside where she'd been living........ but was very pleased to receive Chicken Nesbit into my home. You can catch up with her arrival, HERE.
Chicken Nesbitt has been looking out of my dining room window since then. Occasionally she falls down onto the netting on the rabbit run and I have to untangle her feet.
Anyway...... she seemed to sense that the flowers were from Denise and her other chickens and she had to go and have a look and sniff them!
They are beautiful flowers, Denise, and I was truly overwhelmed by your kindness.
Thank you so much.
Just proves that blogging friends, however virtual they may seem to be, can be really supportive and kind and break through the ether, occasionally.

I have had another visit from my daughter and grandsons over the weekend, which was really lovely. I don't usually see them as often as this because they live nearly 200 miles away. I must have really scared my daughter when she came two weeks ago and I was in such pain. However, she can see that things have really improved since she was last here and that must have been a relief.
As it was the Balloon Fiesta in Bristol and the weather was not that brilliant, we didn't think that we stood much chance of seeing many hot air balloons over this way. However, on several occasions we looked into the sky from our road and saw great clusters of them floating slowly in the distance and we could hear the burners as they boosted their height. Radio Bristol announced that 62 took off together.
It was naturally on our local television news and we were dismayed to see that one unfortunate lady who was sleeping in her bedroom at the time, heard a noise like an explosion and found that a balloon had crashed into the side of her house. No one was hurt and you can read about it and see the picture here.

I wonder what this week will bring?

Wednesday 10 August 2011

The First of Many

Photo Copyright: Maggie May

A dear blogging friend has just disclosed that she's faced lots of tests, surgery and hospital visits and she never mentioned it to anybody because she felt that every one would think that she was always moaning about illness.
That left all her followers and blogging friends wondering why she'd disappeared from Blogland for so long.

I personally would prefer that people told me about their experiences of ill health rather than leave me wondering what has happened.
However, I hope that whoever reads my blog does not think that all I can talk about is illness.
I have tried to write about things that are really happening in my life, whatever that might be and if ill health comes into it then please accept it as a phase that most probably will pass to something better. I just feel that I have to be true to myself and everything that is happening right now.

Yesterday, I had to go to Oncology to have my *dummy run* through the radiation scanner (or whatever the real name is for that procedure,)
There was I, lying face down on a really hard surface with my head balanced on my arms and my bare bottom exposed to all who wished to see it and I can assure you that its not a pretty sight.
As luck would have it, the machine went wrong, so an engineer had to be called and he came pretty quickly to the scene. I expect he had seen some funny sights during his working day and my bottom could now be added to his list.
By then I was getting an itchy nose and really wanted to scratch it but I'd been told to stay still and not move and this took quite a lot of my will power.
The engineer fixed the machine and I then had to continue with lying still for what must have been half an hour and my nose was getting itchier by the moment. I wonder why these itches happen when it is not at all convenient. I'm sure I'm not scratching my nose all day long
I had more tattoos put on my hips for future guidance and by the time I was told I could get up, my hands were numb and my wrists were aching through the effort of lying in one position for so long.
Tomorrow is the *real thing* when the radiation starts to attack the beast on my coccyx.
I will be having a daily visit to this hospital, apart from weekends, for the next six weeks.
I feel now that the challenge is beginning.
My pain is being very well managed too. This makes me feel that all the down times do eventually come to an end with better times following.

I am ashamed to see on our news that young English thugs are smashing up their own country. It seems they are making a statement about their poor lifestyle. Some of them seem too young to be out at that time of night. Don't their parents care?
I feel that there is no excuse for the terrible things that have been happening.
They say they have nothing and thats the only way they can draw attention to themselves but we had very little and were born in a war when there wasn't even enough to eat. Our generation didn't act like that. People helped each other out and respected other people and their property. We respected the law and seemed to have a conscience. I wouldn't like to go back to the days of corporal punishment, children being put into Police cells and hanging...... but have we gone too much the other way and brought up a couple of generations who feel that the world owes them everything and that anything is theirs for the taking?
I really am ashamed to be English right now. I know that there are many people who are good and behave decently. The vast majority are like that. However, what good can come out of smashing up other peoples' homes and businesses? Isn't that just going to bring the country down to a much lower state than it is already in?

It is The Bristol Balloon Fiesta this weekend. I hope the weather conditions will enable us to see hundreds of them flying over our homes. So far it is windy....... maybe too windy but anything can happen by then.

Thursday 4 August 2011

Personalised Pain

Photo Copyright: Maggie May

How could anyone ever describe pain? It is even harder to imagine someone else's pain. It is a personal experience and surely everyones' experience of it must be different. There are different types of pain. Niggling pain, nagging pain, hot, searing pain, stabbing pain, dull, aching pain, cramping pain....... the list is endless.
My pain over the last few weeks has been almost unmentionable and almost unbearable. I put much of it down to arthritis and sciatica and ageing aches and pains. However, it soon became apparent that that there was something very bad going on as well as these other things.
Imagine having a knife rammed somewhere where the sun don't shine! Yes...... not nice. On the right side of the knife the blade is jagged and catches with every movement. A pain that makes you feel that you are being tortured nonstop.
This was the only way I could describe the pain that was coming from the tumour on the coccyx (tail bone.) There isn't much room down there anyway. Imagine having to go to the toilet and the pain that that caused me.
If you find this imaginary exercise too unsavoury, then I'm sorry but that is the only way I could describe it.

I was dreading my daughter coming to see me in this state, let alone my grandsons.
However, by the time they arrived, a few days ago, they found me rolling about like a wild animal and yelping, moaning and pleading for help.
My husband and son and my granddaughters were looking on in horror and every one thought I was not going to be here too long.
I have been backwards and forwards to different departments of different hospitals for a few weeks now and all I knew was, that I had to wait until August 11th for my radiation details to be calculated and put into the machine. This is a very delicate operation and cannot be rushed. If mistakes are made with this treatment then it couldn't be rectified later. I knew this and understood it. Every day seemed like a week, though and I was becoming convinced that I wasn't going to make it long enough to get my radiation. It seemed too far away and I knew I couldn't hang on with this pain much longer.
How much pain could anyone bear?

My daughter knew that there were certain drugs intended for the treatment of particular conditions that could beat this type of pain. It had been found out by accident over the years, so she rang up the Macmillan nurses to ask about it.
They got in touch with St Peter's Hospice which is an organisation that most people know to be a charity who help people with painful, life threatening diseases and they have charity shops all over England to support all their good work. They have hospices, where cancer patients can go for respite care and stressed relatives can receive advice and support, too. One of the great things about these nurses is that they have expert knowledge of drugs that can help people stifle the symptoms of cancer. Lets face it...... once we know we have this illness and have got the necessary treatment, we don't need to keep having to experience the pain dragging on and on relentlessly and dripping like a constant tap. Eventually pain can consume all our thinking and feeling and engulf our whole personality so that we have no energy left for anything else.

It was because of the precise description of my pain, that the nurse who came to visit me in my own home, was able to immediately recommend a very low dose of a drug for depression. The wonder drug for me turned out to be Amitriptyline. This drug can affect the messages of nerves to and from the brain to certain sites in the body that produce pain.
My doctor was asked to write out a prescription for 10mg. to be taken every night. This tiny tablet that leaves my mouth feeling like its full of cotton wool every morning, has given me a good nights sleep for the three nights that I've been taking it and I have managed to cut down on many other of my pain killers, including morphine, which I was really scared about taking.
If this hadn't worked, they were going to try a drug that prevents epilepsy. Apparently this drug can cut out this kind of pain message to the brain too.
Isn't it marvellous what these drugs can do? I haven't much patience with people who would love to go back to the *good old days*. They wouldn't have been very good for me.

It must be because of other peoples' pain that doctors found out by trial and error that sometimes the most unlikely drug could help with other types of conditions. So maybe my horrible description of my type of pain might help someone else in the future to get help.
Please, if you know anyone battling with severe pain, ask them to get some kind of advice from a specialist in pain relief and ask if they could try some of these unlikely drugs.
Ordinary GPs do not know enough about this complicated pain relief. Out of three of my doctors, only one told me this drug might help and one said it definitely would not.
I can now move forward and am within sight of my radiation date and know it is going to really happen now and in the meantime, my quality of life has improved tremendously.
We must always get a second opinion and I cannot ever thank my daughter enough for urging me to try this drug and for leaving a desperate message on their answer phone.