Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Work, Hat and chemo talk.

Today I had my interview with Occupational Health. I was very sceptical about it, as the literature they had requested I read, had focused very much on stress related long term absence from work. As you all know my absence has solely been down to a huge operation and adjuvant chemotherapy. The woman who interviewed me was actually quite fair and was perfectly happy with my return to work plans. It appears that my line manager just wanted reassurance that the plan was feasible. I was pretty sure it was as I had researched what was acceptable before I wrote my plan.

Flushed with success, Mr G and I headed into town to look round the shops. After we parked the car, I had a narrow escape as two men lost control of a trolley loaded with packs of paper. Fortunately most of the paper had fallen off before the trolley hit me on my calf. The men were very apologetic and looked horrified at nearly injuring a bald headed woman. I've got a bit of a bruise but as I bruise if you look at me just now, no real harm done. I KNOW they will be more careful in future.
We had almost finished our tour of the shops when I spotted yet another sale. I went in looking for a bag. As I scanned the racks, what should I spot but an off white, chiffon and georgette ruffled flower confection in the sale. It is made of soft and gentle material for a softly fuzzy scalp. I reached it down and nearly trembling with excitement tried it on. It fitted beautifully and will look amazing with my frock. I shall still take the little crochet cap in case it is windy, as I can't use hatpins yet!

We headed back to the car and set off for petrol and food fuel for us. Now Mr G and I have some games we play when on car journeys. They consist either of finding cars in all the colours of the rainbow or by scoring points for colours of vehicle spotted. I believe it began as Red Lorry, Yellow Lorry many moons ago. Pink rates very highly and the bigger the vehicle the more points. As we came out of the car park and drew up at traffic lights I saw a bright pink stretch limousine - in my chemo head excitement at outstripping Mr G,
I squealed ' Mine, pink, my points there!' To his credit, he completely understood that my chemo brain could not at that moment find the words stretch limo, or even car, but could shout pink and mine!

This is a perfect example of one of the invisible side effects of chemo - word loss!
Today has been a good day. Cancer was put in its place.

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Hair and tears...

My hair has been growing for three weeks now and my head is covered with down. My eyebrows are starting to grow back too. Now, when I shower, I have to gently pat my head dry so I don't damage the baby hair.

I'm told that this baby hair will be replaced in time by proper hair. To properly care for my new hair I quickly realised that the hair care implements from before, would not do. I have those brushes with plastic spikes for blowdrying, these would simply cut my scalp to ribbons.
So yesterday, I went and bought some more suitable hair care tools.

Aren't they lovely! The brush is really soft and is gentle on fluff and scalp. The comb will need to wait until the hair has enough length to lie down.

I have often said how much I appreciate Mr G. I would certainly have struggled to cope on my own. Ever since I first became ill, remember this saga began on 7th January, he has supported me, held me, hugged me and cared for me. He has been very tired recently with the pressures of end of year work in a large and busy school technology department as well as looking after me. Things came to a head this morning. The house has suffered with me in the dark side and Mr G tired out from work. We started straightening up this morning and exchanged some uncharacteristically sharp words over the jobs. The upshot was that poor Mr G went into meltdown. I have rarely seen anyone sob so hard. This of course set me off and we huddled on the stairs weeping in each others arms. It really brought it home to me what an immense burden cancer puts on everyone involved in it. As Mr G so rightly says, there seems no end to it all. Although my treatment ends soon with my final chemo, this does not remove the spectre of cancer from our lives. We still have to live with it day in, day out. We have to learn to live in spite of it. None of this has been helped with my Local Authority sending me letters saying that my sick pay was being halved next month because I 'am unable' to return to work! I can't work , work is closed!! I have sent in my Fit to work certificate. Fortunately our School Bursar is not a jobsworth and is going to sort it out for me during her school holiday. Mr G knows I am blogging about this. We are fine, if tired from the meltdown. Mr G had internalised all his pain and worry for months and months, I'm not surprised he crashed. We will continue to love and care for each other like we always do.
We are strong, cancer won't break us.

Friday, 22 July 2011

Oh no! I'm stuck...

Having survived my CT scan yesterday, I spent today occupying the sofa, as has become my habit. Our sofa is a dual recliner, the seats recline manually. This is important information. In order to sit up, the foot part of the sofa needs to be pressed down by one's legs and pushed into place and clicked locked.

I have not been in the habit of reclining my part of the sofa. However my feet have been swelling badly lately so I have been resting with them up.
The CT scan yesterday was ok, I had one before but was ill at the time and I do not remember it clearly. The main problem was that I had to stretch my arms above my head, pulling my tummy down, and then hold my breath. Something did not like that - I have a tweak in my abdomen. I won't dwell on the injection that makes your mouth taste of metal cleaner and gives the sensation of wetting one's pants. My pants were and are completely dry I hasten to add!
Anyway - the tweak!
The tweak became obvious when I turned over in bed, but was not too much of an issue as I warmed up moving through the morning. It was fine as I pottered down to the Doctors with my prescription request. The tweak was fine when I had lunch and hung out some washing. The tweak was fine as I had a cup of coffee. The tweak struck after Mr G got home. Flushed with success, happy that Mr G was home, I reclined the recliner. The customary jerk backwards was overcome - I reclined happily. All was well until I decided to unrecline myself. I deployed my legs. I did not unrecline. The tweak hurt! I tried pushing my legs down once more.. I was stuck! My legs out in front of me, I was cast. Mr G was laughing.
I was getting hot and bothered. I managed to shift my weight forward into my legs. With herculean effort, and gritting my teeth through the tweak, I extricated myself from the clutches of the sofa. Free at last!
I am writing this sitting squarely on the sofa - no more reclining until the tweak has healed.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

All the bad stuff...

Today I'm fed up - sooooo here goes...

Yup, in all their glory - the BAD BITS.

Losing and growing hair hurts - nasty tender scalp.
Your skin does not fit anymore - it peels or becomes tight.
You can't rely on your digestion at all, crippling constipation or raging runs.
Your favourite foods taste horrid.
There is no let up - there are no holidays from treatment.
Everything is exhausting - sitting down, standing up, all of it.
Everything is confusing. It takes enormous effort to understand what is going on (see above).
It makes me cry - I hate uncertainty. I have nothing but uncertainty.
It hurts - treatment hurts, it makes you sick and sore, in ways you never imagined.

... and yet, through all this, my friends, my family and the much and always beloved Mr G, see in grumpy, snotty, tear stained me, someone that they love, and they carry me...

Thank you xxxx

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Full steam ahead...

Today is the day before Chemo number Five. This 'good week' I have had a fabulous time doing lots of living. The first thing was a Wedding Party in Essex. The success of my previous head decoration led me to put fake tattoos on my head once more.

What I hadn't known was that the Wedding had a butterfly theme so I was spot on. I had a brilliant time busting some shapes on the dance floor but alas had to leave before the clock struck twelve as I had hit the wall.
Sunday saw us up at six to head out to join the Tube to the Car Show. Lots of Smart cars travelling together = Tube of Smarties, get it? I had a wonderful day, lots of friends, chat and laughter.
Yesterday I had a long anticipated day at school. I had prepared a back to work plan in consultation with my Macmillan Nurse, my GP and my Head teacher. This day was about keeping in touch and looking forward to September. It was a profoundly moving day. Without exception every single child I saw said 'Hello'. Most expressed pleasure at seeing me. Many asked with happy faces if I was REALLY back now? It was with real sadness that I had to say, not yet, I still need more strong medicine. Despite this sadness, it was a joy to be back with much missed children,  friends and colleagues. I've never had so many hugs.
I spent the day separating my belongings from school resources and packed them up ready to be moved for me next week. I won't be well enough to go in and help as I will be deep in chemo week.
I have had such a good time recently that I am quite apprehensive about this next chemo. I have felt well, vigourous, and energised. Yes, I was tired after packing up my room, but as I told myself with the voice of sense that I would have been tired doing that when I am well! What will keep me going tomorrow is this vision of life after chemo I have had. I know going back to work will be a challenge, but I've never baulked at a challenge in my life. I have been reassured that I will be supported and allowed any flexibility I need to help me cope.
Two more chemo's, then full steam ahead!

Friday, 8 July 2011

Back to the future...

Recently I have been giving some thought to the future, The end of chemo is in sight. I have two more, so not out of the dark side yet. When I went to watch my two younger sisters and two nieces run the Race for Life (well, they walked but quite fast) I was an emotional mess. My sister H, was diagnosed with breast cancer four years ago, and has, since then been a tireless campaigner for Cancer Research UK. She and the others all ran with my name on their backs, the other sister and the nieces had H on their backs too. H and I have never hugged each other so tight in our lives. I was profoundly moved by their public support and by the 7496 other women who were running in support of cancer sufferers. I intend to work as an Ovarian Cancer Action Voice, in the future, raising awareness of this particularly sneaky variant of cancer. I really enjoyed the day. We had strawberries and cream and ate jelly sweets. One of my nieces decided that I should have a 55th birthday party. This would not only celebrate my birthday but the fact that I will be there to see it! While we were chatting purple artificial flowers were handed out, I chose to wear mine this way.

The other part of the future I am looking to is returning to work. I am a primary school teacher and have missed work like crazy. Plans are now falling into place. Until the beginning of this week I did not know which year group I was going to teach. To my great delight I found out that I am to be working in Year 3. This is my favourite year group - challenging but fun. I am sharing my class with a student teacher all year, which is really lovely. I am working with a fab Team Leader and super teacher colleague as well. I am going to start back in September, three days a week, for two weeks, separated by a rest day in between. Then four days the next week and full time after that. I know it might seem very early to be looking in such detail but the schools close in two weeks and all this needs sorting.
All this positive looking forward has been very good for me. When in the depths of chemo treatment it is very easy to get bogged down in it and not able to see anything positive at all. The treatment cycles seem endless and the bad week feels interminable too. The good things in the future are a very bright light at the end of the chemo tunnel. I am heading towards that light with a big smile on my face.

Monday, 4 July 2011


I'm sure I'm not alone in saying that a diagnosis of cancer has far reaching consequences. It is a bit like dropping a pebble in a pool, the ripples expand outwards affecting more and more of the surface. The ripple I'm writing about today is about appearance and confidence. Although my surgery did not have the impact on my body image that breast cancer would have done, it has left a mark. I never did wear clothing that flashed my tummy (ever), but nonetheless my scar is large and my tummy has a rather lumpy appearance. I've made it clear that losing my hair bothered me less than it might others. Despite this my confidence in my appearance has taken a huge knock. I think it started before my cancer was diagnosed when my abdomen swelled so much that I looked 8 months pregnant. I had to buy clothes quickly to cover the bump and all while I was feeling really poorly.
We have a couple of weddings to attend soon and a scan of my wardrobe revealed very little that was suitable. I have my outfit from my daughter's wedding, but that was in April and the clothes may be a little warm.
So, it was with trepidation, I set off with Mr G to buy some clothes on Saturday. I had it in my mind that a maxi dress would be a good idea, but remember I wore these first time round in the 1970's. To cut a long story short, after three shops my heart was sinking. Why dress designers think an ample bosom can be contained by shoe string straps, I have no idea! Most of the dresses I saw would have caused me to frighten small children.
Then I saw it..

The Dress... has it all. Enough coverage to be decent. It is made of silk, so it is swooshy. It makes me feel like a princess. I bought it.

I was on a roll. In short order, I found a little crochet cap to which I added a silk flower to wear with the Dress.

Next, I found two tops which fit like a dream, and either of which are perfect for the evening wedding we are attending.

Lastly I found two scarves which make lovely soft head coverings for cooler days and evenings.

It is hard to describe how much the success of these purchases has raised my confidence. It is a huge step towards getting my life back.
Onwards and upwards.

Friday, 1 July 2011

Ho hum...

I've not blogged for over a week. I have just not been 'with it' enough to write. I had extra steroids immediately after my chemo. These removed the sickness and nausea, and also meant I did not have any bedbound days. This was all good. However the fuzzy muzzies seem to have gone on longer and this has made me miserable. The muzziness has probably only been an extra 24 hours but has affected me disproportionately. I am wondering if the only issue is one of perception. Without the bedbound days as contrast, maybe the fuzzy days are not worse, just do not appear so good.

This week has been one of contemplation too. I have been talking to friends about getting back to the world of work. I am desperate to be part of the world again, but I am quite terrified that my poor battered body will not hack it. The surgery is a thing of the past but the toll taken by the repeated poisonings of each chemo session cannot be denied. I intend to get back to work in September, initially part time, but full time by the third week. I don't have much choice, I run out of full time sick pay and cannot manage on half pay. Looking at life, past treatment, is scary, full of unknowns. I know life is never about certainties, but my confidence in what life might bring has taken a beating. My Oncologist, attempting to reassure me, says I will be monitored and checked. This will not stop the cancer coming back, just let me know if it has! Over the next weeks and months I need to sort out how to live in spite of having cancer. I refuse to let it blight any more of my life. I refuse to live in fear. To this end I'm not writing a bucket list. I'm just going to have a list of things I will do, when I want and because I want to do them. Cancer will not limit me living my life.