Friday, 10 October 2008

It's been a while.....

Some violas in pots in my garden. I love their diminutive faces

I have been a bit mute lately, tiredness is to blame. The infection last week floored me and I took to my bed. If sleeping were an Olympic sport, I think I stand a reasonable chance of winning a time trial. Come Sunday we were supposed to be in celebratory mood, it was my iGit's birthday. Unfortunately I wasn't up to doing much more than directing everyone else how to make Roast Beef and Yorkshire Pud, followed by an Apple crumble. Cooking by committee may catch on, I even ate a little. I hadn't made a birthday cake, so No1Son kindly brought one home, only to discover that LittleBird had to be kept at a safe distance from it; it's carton carried the ubiquitous nut allergy disclaimer.

On Friday despite feeling pretty grotty still, the swelling had subsided significantly, and I was given the go ahead to start Radiotherapy treatment in Southampton. On Tuesday I duly waited as I had been instructed for a hospital car to arrive, I waited and waited. My appointment was at 2.30, and it was well past 2pm by the time a car arrived, after a few phone calls to the hospital. They told me a car had been dispatched some time ago. To where I wondered, were the hoards in Outer Mongolia now being approached by a man in a Mondeo? The receptionist at the Oncology centre told me, they were a law unto themselves, and there had been some speculation that they in fact resided in an alternative time dimension. I nodded my agreement, just concerned that I would be seriously late, and that this would somehow effect my treatment. I was reassured that they were used to the flexible attitude towards time of the hospital cars, and that I would be treated regardless of what time I got there. The best way to deal with this was to forget the time, and just be ready each day at the appointed time. They would arrive; eventually.

So I am now 4 days into my treatment, and killing time waiting for a car to collect me; any time after 12 0'clock, so far its been 2.15 , 12.55 and 13.30. Sometimes there are other patients in the car, and we do a detour around parts of Hampshire I haven't visited before, it's not unlike a magical mystery tour, getting in a strange vehicle with various persons unknown, the only thing I can be sure of is my destination, how we get there, and who I get there with is kismet!

The system of checking in for appointments is very clever, we are issued with a barcode specific to us as a patient, I worried I might loose mine, I am prone to loosing bits of paper. It had occurred to me that they could have tattooed me with it when they tattooed my dots, and then all I would need to do is scan my belly. There wouldnt be any risk of loosing that, and believe me, I have tried!

Each day the radiographers ask how you are, they have some very strict do's and dont's about skin care, especially in the area you are being treated. No soap except Simple Soap. No Deodorants or Antiperspirants . No Perfume, no make up, no baths, no bras, you get the picture. Cool showers are allowed, but you are not allowed to scratch or drag the skin, and must try and pat yourself completely dry after. They are also keen that you cover the area being treated in Aqueous cream once or twice a each day. They give these instructions to try and ameliorate the long list of side effects Radiotherapy has. It ranges from skin irritation and burns to Lymphodema, and several unpleasant things in between.

Each day they ask you how you feel , any swelling, any soreness. Yesterday I had to answer, 'Yes'. When I had been drying myself after a shower that morning, I had noticed that my right breast was considerably larger than usual. I showed my iGit, he just smiled that inane smile men do when presented with a naked body, and agreed, yes it was larger. I mentioned this to the radiographers, and that the area was again tender and sore. Initially they said, not to worry about it, and settled me into the position I need to be in on the couch for the treatment. They zapped me as per usual, but when they returned told me they had called an Oncology Registrar, they thought I should be given the once over. I toddled off to find said Dr. and was examined again. The verdict? More antibiotics; deep joy, I have only just finished a course on Wednesday, and they aren't exactly gentle on the stomach.

So by the end of today, I will have completed 4 treatments, and have 21 more to go. Good news is, they agreed to let me have my 50th birthday off, lets hope the weather is as good and I can go for a nice walk somewhere beautiful! Yay!


Pipany said...

Hello Zoe. I think it is geat that you are keeping this journal; how many people must be going through similar experiences and would be helped by reading it? It is hte unknown which frightens, not the truth however grim that may sometimes be.

Bad luck on the need for more intibiotics, but great that you can have your birthday off - when is it? Hope it is a perfect day for you xx

Frances said...

Hello to you, Zoe,

Pipany has already expressed what I was planning on writing!

May I add that I love how you've called the car rides magical mystery tours. I probably would have been a bit (a lot) agitated the first time, but then with the re-assurance from the hospital folks, would have found it sort of strangely okay to go with that particular flow. As you wrote ... see new places!

Sorry about your having to have more antibiotics, but if they help, well ... so be it.

Happy advance birthday wishes to you!


Cait O'Connor said...

Hello Zoe, I was wondering how you were only yesterday.
I hope the antibiotics kick in and you soon start to feel a lot better, what a nuisance for you getting an infection..
I remember those magical mystey tours, I had the same experience, they were very good turning up on time wise though but a long journey to travel from here to Cardiff.
Anyway I wish you well and keep us updated, you are surely helping others in the same situation.

VP said...

Your comments re barcodes and bellies have given me a fit of the giggles!

So glad you'll have your birthday as a 'good' day

lampworkbeader said...

Hi Zoe, I found E45 cream and positive visualisation worked very well to combat the effectss of radiotherapy.
Take care love Lampie

bodran... said...

Hi zoe i'm late as usual.
Your brilliant you know i'd be a complete jelly.. thinking of you xx

mountainear said...

I think everyone has said most things I could think of not much more than good wishes from me.

Enjoy your trips through the Hampshire countryside and have a good birthday.

elizabethm said...

I have been thinking of you and thought I would drop by here before I emailed. Sounds pretty tough really but better than the alternative. Still with every treatment taken you are nearer to the end.
Hope you get a good day on your birthday and get out to remind yourself of the world out there beyond treatment.
lots of love
Elizabeth x

Mother Nature's Garden said...

Happy Birthday!
Hope you have a beautiful day.

Frances said...

Hi Zoe, it sounds as though you are being a tough soldier as you carry on with what life if throwing at you. I agree that your wonderful writing in this journal will be a help to others who are facing the same fate. Keep up with your keen sense of ironic humor, it will help get you through these trying times. Our thoughts will be with you always.
Frances at Fairegarden

Withy Brook said...

Hello Zoë. As others have said, yet others have said most of what I would have said. Once the first trauma of a late car was over, I can see that it might be quite interesting. Are you getting to know some of the other people by now?
Very best wishes for a good birthday - as someone asked, when is it? Hope you are having a 'good' day and that the weather is kind. You continue in my thoughts and prayers.

themanicgardener said...

Loved the barcode-on-belly idea. Maybe you can patent it and make millions?

As for the car--grrr, I say. It's hard to arrange not to be in the middle of anything, at any time after noon, four days a week. If you can manage that, without its making you furious, you're a better woman than I.

Patsi said...

Hi Zoe,
Your words bring back the fears I too went through last year.
You say things I only thought and never spoke of.
At the time I just started a new job and had so much fear if anyone found out that I had health issues I could lose my job. It all has to do with the cost of health insurance. Well bills have been submitted and my company knows of my illness and unfortunately as of tomorrow they will be laying off people...Hopefully I won't be one of them.

Hope you have a lovely Birthday.

Miss Penelope said...

Do have a great Birthday.

xxx Penny

Magic Cochin said...

Happy Birthday Zoe!

The sun's out here, hope it's shining in Hampshire too!

Go kick up some leaves!

WesterWitch/Headmistress said...

Hope you are having a good day Zoë at least you got the day off today treatment wise.

Love and Hugs to you.

CAMILLA said...

Hello Zoe,

Do hope the infection goes soon for you, and that you begin to feel much better once the antibiotics have kicked in.

I have put up a birthday card for you Zoe, hope you were able to celebrate your very special day, good to know that you had this important date free from hospital.

My love and hugs to you.


Esther Montgomery said...

Dear Zoe

I must be reading this in the wrong way because while everyone else's main reaction is that they are inspired . . . my predominant emotion is of anger.

I know hospital car drivers are volunteers and I know economics mandate that several people have to be collected on the way to the hospital . . . but being late / ambiguous about time in this way (I think) is cruel.

Waiting for anything raises anxieties for most people - even when expecting something nice to happen . . . like someone coming to tea.

So . . . I'm cross on your behalf, even if you are not.

It's a tough time for you and for everyone in your situation and, while arriving on the dot is unlikely to be possible on journeys which involve collecting more than one person . . . well, I think (in a huffy tone) they should be less cavalier about it.

(I like the bar-code for your tummy . . . !)

(Confession - I'm always late . . . or early . . . and can never manage to arrive anywhere at the right time . . . but that's why I'm not the right kind of person to be a hospital driver.)


(P.S. Be well . . . all the best . . . and . . . I'm inspired by you too, even if not by drivers.)

(I couldn't be like you.)

Jean Bradbury said...

I hope that your birthday was happy and that the antibiotics are treating you gently. I commented on an earlier post and suggested that you try sketching plants to pass the time...but now I see that my comment didn't post. Oh well. You have been in my thoughts.