Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Not so Angelic ...

Could this be me sulking? You bet!

It's been a week since I last blogged, and I think its fair to say a few chickens have been coming home to roost. It's been difficult to maintain a positive attitude, as the pain under my arm persists and boredom sets in because of the enforced rest. Too much time and not enough to do, and I am not quite sure how to remedy it. It is a pretty destructive combination. I will admit to being weepy and feeling very low, I am not quite sure why, I suspect its just part the natural process in part as reality sinks in, and the rest maybe the Tamoxifen as it alters my hormone levels to prevent cancer cells reproducing. I saw the BCN again last Friday to check the swelling, she says in effect I need to be more realistic with myself, and that it's only 3 weeks since the surgery and I need at least 6 weeks to be anywhere near healing fully from the surgery. Ho Hum.

I was distracted soon enough though. When we got back home from the Hospital, I received a very confused call from Little Bird, she had bought a Ready-Meal from the Co-op; Chicken Tikka Masala, and was feeling unwell. My first thought was maybe food poisoning, but as she described her symptoms it became apparent it was an allergic reaction of some kind. She felt nauseous, her lips were swollen, and she said her asthma was getting worse. I told her to take an antihistamine, but she didn't have any. I then suggested she walk the short distance in to town and ask to speak to a Pharmacist in Boots, not realising just how ill and how quickly she was going to be. Thankfully the Pharmacist recognised her symptoms straight away; and called for an Ambulance. By the time she reached Boots she was struggling to breathe, the swelling on her face was very pronounced, and she was covered in a rash, that resembled large raised welts. By the time she got to hospital she was loosing consciousness, and was administered adrenalin, antihistamines and steroids. She had gone into Anaphylactic Shock. She was stabilised and came home a few hours later, I felt awful, I wasn't there for her, and initially she was all on her own. Her brother who is at the same Uni went to be with her as soon as he was able, and brought her back to her new home in a taxi, neither of them drive and it's a long walk home, especially after such a medical emergency. It wasn't until Monday that Little Bird realised what a close call she had had. Some of the drugs the hospital had sent her home with were making her feel really unwell and as if she was 'speeding'. She needed to see a GP anyway to arrange the skin tests the hospital had told her to get organised to determine exactly what she was severely allergic too; peanuts and cashews are the rogues suspected. Her part time job in Covent Garden had been giving her a pretty hard time about not working on Sunday too, she was effectively bullied into going in. She worked until lunchtime and then asked to go home, as she felt so rough. They continued to pressurise her to stay, completely dismissing what a serious thing had happened to her only 36 hours earlier. She told the GP about this and asked if it was possible to have a sick note for work so they had an official explanation of why she was ill. He was horrified and wrote a terrific letter for her, stating she had suffered a life threatening allergic reaction, and had been seriously ill, and that the drugs she was currently on are entirely likely to make her unfit for work. He has also prescribed her with an Epipen which she must carry with her at all times. He told her that next time this happens, its likely to be much more severe reaction, and she will need to stab the pen into her leg (it administers adrenalin) and get herself to a Casualty department pronto. She came home last night, poor lamb is worn out, and is sleeping it all off.

Yesterday I went to Southampton Hospital for my Radiotherapy Planning session. It has to be one of the strangest experiences I have been through. I undressed, and laid on a metal couch with a device that looked like a sleeping policeman halfway down to stop me sliding off the end when it was inclined. I had my right arm in a very awkward position jutting out from my side above my head. This was very uncomfortable, and my arm went into spasm shaking uncontrollably. One of the radiographers massaged it to calm it down, the swelling under my arm is much more pronounced today, and I think I may have to endure a fair bit of discomfort over the next 5 weeks. I laid there for some 25 minutes, various people measured my body and made marks in black ink all over my chest! Once they were happy that they had the machines and me all lined up and marked properly, they made some of the marks permenant, and did some tiny tattoos, pin-pricks that look like tiny black freckles. Only one is really visible, sat at the top of my breast in the cleavage, so will be visible with some tops, the other marks are around the sides and I can't imagine anyone will ever notice them. I start the Radiotherapy on Tuesday next week, each session takes about 12 minutes under the machine in my case, plus the length of time it takes to get you in the right position. It will take me about 3 hours or more travelling though! I can't drive myself as the swelling under my arm now resembles a lemon, and driving is painful, and quite probably dangerous and illegal too. I have opted to use a Hospital Car, as it's virtually impossible for the iGit to keep taking so much time of work for so many weeks. This will mean a lot more waiting around for me, but at least it doesn't mean we end up completely borasic. We work for ourselves, and if we don't work, we don't get paid.

So if anyone has any bright ideas that will keep me occupied over the next five weeks, please tell me them, I am fast running out of ideas myself and would be grateful to hear them!


annakarenin said...

Bit stunned taking all this in. Found you from Grouse's blog, I don't do much blog reading at the mo as it was becoming too time consuming.

Glad your daughter was sorted and hopefully it won't happen again but at least she will be prepared!

As to you what can I say, take up knitting?? I haven't a clue it must be all so frustating as well as worrying and upsetting, all totally mindless inadequate statements but I am just word struck.

Upwards on onwards???



p.s we have added to our menangerie of Bengals and now have a male silver marble kept from Lily's litter this year. He is gorgeous and purrs for Britian, deafening it is. We are getting both females neutered NOW before we turn into a cattery!!!

Milla said...

yes, Annak's idea of knitting is a good one. Debbie Abrahams does nice books of blankets - small squares so you don't get bored and can build up a pleasing pile of progress.
But what a week you've had. Your poor daughter, what a terrible shock. Her employer's attitude stinks, have never encountered the like, how thoroughly inhumane. cccxx

Pomona Belvedere said...

Zoe, it sounds as if you have every right to sulk---go to it! I'm so sorry about what happened to your daughter, but as RachelX says, now she is prepared. And also--horrible as it was, she did get through it, so in a weird way it might bolster her confidence in her ability to deal with a tough situation.

Here are things that keep me occupied for inordinate amounts of time: reading garden catalogues and imagining impossible gardens for myself, doing research online which leads to other research which leads to...selected TV series on DVD where I have to watch just one more episode, crossword puzzles, looking up word origins in the dictionary (which leads to other word origins, and so on).

Here are things that calm me down: yogic breathing exercises, listening to certain kinds of music (especially with a beautiful view in front of me), talking with friends, and mild intoxicants (maybe not possible with your medications, but if they are...well...you're not driving).

Don't know if any of those work for you. I suppose you could always write a lot of blog posts ahead, but that's so virtuous.

tillyboo said...

Hello again ! I'm sorry you are having a frightening time at the moment but writing about your feelings is probably quite a theraputic activity.
Could you keep a journal of your time and experiences - something to look back on in the future and perhaps publish to help other sufferes ?

It was fortunate that you suggested your daughter get to a pharmacist as she could have been on her own and with no help when she went into shock. Poor thing but at least she'll soon know what to avoid and know what to do about it should it happen again.

Try and get hold of this CD ' The Fairy Garden CD from Global Journey'. It's available from Ebay amongst other places (I got mine from my Garden Centre).
I can't tell you how beautiful the music is. It's soothing, uplifting and just the most beautiful melodies. My 4yo listens to it at night time. Truly magical music.

How about Geneology ? It's time consuming, fascinating and addictive and will certainly keep you busy. I've been researching my family tree for a year and still have so much to do.

I wish you all the luck in the world. My brother had testicular cancer about 9 years ago and he was extremely ill. He endured some pretty evil chemo but he came through it and has a family now. A positive outlook was key with him, he always kept his humour even in his darkest moments.

I will follow your progress and hope you find an activity to keep you busy. Please get the CD though. It's lovely to drop off to sleep to too.
Take care (sorry about the ramble)

elizabethm said...

Oh Zoe, your poor daughter! Glad she is ok and don't see at all that you weren't there for her. You might not have been able to leap in the car but you were at the end of the phone and without that what might have happened? It is also just wonderful to see your children stepping up to the plate as your son clearly did for his sister.
Knitting and genealogy both sound good ideas. I don't think I could have managed a diary at the time. Drink? Ferocious bad temper? Transcendal meditation? Have you got a blackberry?

Frances said...

Zoe, what a shock to hear of your daughter's dilemma. Glad that with lots of help from all her family and even some doctors, she is feeling better.

Now. Back to you, after that interval of your taking care of someone else.

I know how much garden expertise you have. Is there not some way that you could be answering others' questions, either on line, or in person at a garden or some such spot, about how to get one's garden ready for the winter, and how to plan for spring?

(Still also keeping my earlier suggestion about learning a new language in the pocket. Your body will heal, it is you very fine mind that I would love to give tender care to.)


Magic Cochin said...

What a terrifying experience for your daughter - I hope she's feeling better. Sometimes these things hit us when we're under stress and our resistance is low - I'm sure she must be so worried about you.

I've been nowhere near your level disvomfort or stress, but for the first week or three after my op 7 weeks ago I couldn't do much and found anything involving much thought impossible. In the end I stitched random patterns as borders around some cushion covers and watched DVDs - a friend lent me 'Wives and Daughters' which was just the ticket!

It really is early days, so be very patient with yourself. When my Mum had chemo/radio therapy for 8 weeks she planned to do needlepoint - in the end she had no interest for it whatsoever! She watched birds from the window – so some feeders placed so you can see them from a comfy chair and a good pair of binoculars would be my tip. You can also focus the bins on plants and seedheads in the garden. And listen to so 'brain massaging' music - Vivaldi, Mozart, Albinoni ...

Take care :)

Pipany said...

Frances is a star isn't she? Zoe, I just can't get my head around all you and your family are going through right now. Sulk away, feel down and moan here; as we have all said before, this is where blogging comes into its own by getting things out of our heads and therefore making them manageable.

As to things you can do to occupy yourself, my worry with knitting is that perhaps your arm is too uncomfortable? Would the pressure of holding needles in place make it worse? If not, it would be a good thing to do or perhaps some embroidery/cross stitch?

I love Frances' idea of something where you help others with gardening problems online (though again would using the mouse hurt?). You are such an intelligent woman who questions her world - what about some sort of study? No idea what but there is much available in that line that is designed to be undertaken at home at your own pace.

And finally, my love to your poor daughter and a big hug for you as it must have made you feel dreadful being unable to rush to her. I feel for you both, but at least now she has the epipen and will know what to do.

Thinking of you Zoe and sending much love xxx

GardenJoy4Me said...

I lost track of you and had no idea that you were going through all of this. I'm so sorry.
I just had news from my girlfriend (we had become friends when we were both posted to Holland).. she has had thyroid cancer, then breast cancer and now cancer in her liver. She is a rock through it all .. I think it is the French Canadian blood .. very stubborn ? small bits of humour here.
I hope you can find something to occupy your mind with yet rest your body. Don't be so hard on yourself .. although the type of person you are you do expect a lot of yourself, so I understand that is difficult .. you are a bit lost and not sure what to expect I would guess ?
Take care .. find some peace and relaxation.

WesterWitch/Headmistress said...

Oh Zoë I am so very sorry that you are having such a berludy tough time. That must have been terrifying with your daughter . . . thank goodness she is ok and carrying a pen - might be an idea to wear one of the SOS Alert bracelets, or necklaces incase she loses consciousness. Sorry not meaning to be scary.And yes now she is sensitised next time would be worse.

Please don't beat yourself up will you there was nothing you could have done and you did advise her to go to the pharmacy and the events that followed probably saved her life.

Hobbies . . . well your photography is brilliant maybe you could set up a very small studio in the house and play about with photographing flowers indoors when you can't go out. Join the RPS and share your creative energy and draw creative energy from other people. If your arm is troubling you then you can set up your camera on a tripod . . . just a thought . . .

shirl said...

Hi there Zoe, I too had no idea you were going through so much. You have my best wishes :-D

As for passing time - I too expect your arm could hamper many activities. A number of years ago my right arm that was useless for a few months and I found myself reading Harry Potter! My daughters, at the time, were reading it and we had a few on the shelf. I completely lost myself in these stories - and I'm really not a reader. I ended one and instanly moved on to the next. Perhaps there is a series of books that you have fancied reading or maybe some non fiction on places you would like to visit.

I know I adapted, for this short while, to using my left arm and hand more - even with the ironing.

You are a creative person so perhaps you might have fun playing around with video editing. I would guess you have some film on tape that you've done nothing with - I know I have plenty. It certainly passes the time and you might really enjoy doing this :-D

Grouse said...

Been a bit bogged down so got behind- every time I have 'clicked' on you to say hello you have just been going off! So will email.

Robin's episode sounds terrifying. Thank goodness she was level headed enough to cope.

Isuggest you approach your fav charity and ask them how they might use your IT talents.

Withy Brook said...

Lots of good ideas here Zoë. So sorry to hear about your daughter but it seems that your instruction to go to the pharmacy saved her life.
With regard to you and boredom - I think that the radio therapy will by now be having an effect on you. I think that maybe anything that requires concentration will not be on. Reading, web browsing, knitting, if it doesn't hurt, - sorry I am running out. But I do know that it will not go on for ever and you will be back to being the old Zoë before you know it. Again sorry - not any help but lots of love, thoughts etc for you at this time.

Exmoorjane said...

Oh Zoe.....just catching up and horrified by LB's experience. Poor girl - and poor you too. Her employers just beggar belief.

Some great suggestions re spending your time - but, knowing you, suspect you will have a zillion projects up your sleeve...


CAMILLA said...

Hello Zoe,

Oh my goodness, a terrible shock about your poor daughter, so relieved to know that she is alright, quite scary, as for her employers...so horrid beyond belief.

I think that photo you put up of sculpture Zoe, is really beautiful.

You have such a wonderful insight and passion for gardening Zoe, loved all your gorgeous flowers, was thinking how about crocheting some knitted items or blankets with a gardening theme incorporated into it.