Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Disgruntled

Nelly, one of my cats from days of old, who specialised in being grumpy
Today I saw the ophthalmologist, or as I like to call him (for reasons of my inability to pronounce any word with more than two syllables) the eye doctor.  This was after alarm bells were set ringing a few weeks ago when an optician spotted that my pupils didn't match.  Anyway I'm glad to say that the doctor could find nothing sinister and that, coupled with the good results from the recent MRI, means that I can draw a line under that particular experience.
 
The doctor was lovely but ...  Look, I keep toying with the idea of saying nothing that isn't true, kind and helpful (or whatever the saying is) but if I did that I'd never open my mouth.  So out with it.  The doctor was lovely but, bearing in mind he spends a good part of the day getting very close to his patients' faces, I think a good gargle with Listerine wouldn't go amiss.  Luckily my eyes were already watering due to the drops they used as part of the examination so I don't think he guessed that the fumes were close to making me pass out.

Talking of passing out, some old pals from down south visited over the weekend which was lovely.  We went out on Saturday night and although I didn't mix the grape and the grain, I still drank an awful lot of grain.  The highlights of the evening were
  • giving a taxi driver a rousing chorus of Those were the days (oh the shame)
  • Laughing uproariously when my friend fell down a flight of steps while other people ran to help (she was fine)
  • Getting out the felt pens and drawing, yes again, on said friends face when she fell asleep (including one very rude drawing).
I've had worse hangovers but it was enough to be going on with.

And now my final moan.  Because I've been coughing a lot I had a chest x-ray over a week ago.  I still  haven't had the results, and yes I have chased.  I've got to ring the hospital again on Friday.  This will be two weeks to get x-ray results.  I'm used to waiting an age for CT scan results but x-rays?  It would've been quicker to just open my mouth extra wide and get someone to do a sketch.  I'm having a CT scan in just over a week anyway so the x-ray is beginning to seem a bit pointless.  

I'm not optimistic about what's going on with my lungs at the mo which is a complete bugger for all the obvious reasons plus it's been so lovely being on a non-chemo treatment.  The thought of returning to the chemo unit and all it's subsequent delights does not fill me with glee.  Still, all will be revealed after the scan - so going by the time it takes them to report on a x-ray that'll probably be around Christmas.  Happy new year.


Thursday, 31 March 2016

No place like gnome

I went to see the oncologist's (very nice) underling today.  She was a bit concerned that I hadn't yet been given an appointment to see an ophthalmologist (after all the hoo-ha when an optician spotted a variation in my pupil size a few weeks ago).  Bugger.  I'd been feeling fairly relaxed about the whole thing since the CT and MRI scans of my brain came back clear.  It seems there may still be cause for concern. 

I'm also going to have a chest x-ray next week (in addition to the scheduled CT scan at the end of the month) as I'm coughing quite a bit.  Hey ho.  Luckily I'm still suffering from jet lag after my Easter trip and that means I'm too knackered to get worked up about anything at the moment.

'Jet lag' I hear you cry in uncontrollable excitement, 'oh what wondrous foreign climes have you been exploring Disco Del'.  Well, let me tell you.  Pembrokeshire.  And going by how I feel today I can caterogically state that it is possible to suffer jet lag after a three and a bit hour drive from South Wales to Shropshire, so don't try to tell me otherwise.

Pembrokeshire was lovely.  Look:

Atmosphere in bucket loads
Spring time arrived (just)

Sunny Solva
We went with friends and their little boy.  So there were Easter egg hunts, football on the beach (although I was more of a spectator for this due to my lack of puff) and colouring in as well as the usual booze and sight-seeing.  So it was a brill holiday.  And lest you think I've gone soft in my old age ... if it's wrong to laugh at a six year old falling over and getting a proper drenching in a very cold sea then I don't want to be right.  Oh don't look at me like that, he was fine, if a little soggy round the edges.

True to form I kept an eye open for cats and found a humdinger up at the local church

Hiya Handsome
Then we returned home to an intriguing mystery.  A three foot tall plastic gnome has appeared in the back garden.  I've composed a short list of possible culprits which I'll be passing to CSI Shrewsbury shortly.  Here he is - I'm just hoping he doesn't invite any mates round.

And if anyone has any information on who placed him in the garden I'd be delighted to hear it.  Once I discover the identity of  the evil genuis behind this crime I will have my revenge.

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Stabby

Which one is best?  Helpful clue: I made the brown one

Despite the indisputable evidence that I'm rubbish at all forms of craft (remember the dress that didn't fit and my foray into crochet?), I recklessly bought a felting kit from a lovely shop in Bishops Castle.  The kit sat ignored for months and months in the land that time forgot, otherwise known as the cupboard under the stairs.  Then motivation arrived, in the scary shape of sis no 3, and hey presto I give you two felted cats.  I didn't have a clue what felting involved before I started.  The kit basically contained wool and some scarily sharp needles with which to repeatedly stab the yarn.  It was unreassuring to say the least to find that the kit also included a plaster (or band aid for any American readers) for any needle related mishaps.  Thankfully I didn't need the plaster but then I was already feeling pretty stabby due to an eye test a few days earlier.

During a routine examination the optometrist spotted that I have one pupil bigger than the other.  This is not a good sign.  In fact, according to my consultation with Dr Google it means instant death.  I informed my oncology team who gave me the once over and then sent me for urgent CT and MRI brain scans.  The most common places for breast cancer to spread are liver, lungs (got the t shirt for those two), bones and brain.  So it was a scary wait for results. Luckily for me the scans were clear.  I still have to see a ophthalmologist but I'm feeling pretty relieved for the time being at least.

I've had lots of CT scans but the MRI was a new experience.  It was nowhere near as claustrophobic as I feared but it was just as noisy as everyone says it is.  To mask the clanging and banging I was given headphones to wear during the scan.  But I wasn't impressed the music selection pumped into my ears.  Given that they were looking for a brain tumour I think the first song 'Crazy' was a bit of a poor choice, then as the machine rattled and whirred I had 'Good Vibrations' piped through.  Do you think they were taking the piss?  I tried to give the radiographer one of my hard stares (via the mirror contraption above my head in the machine) but he was unabashed.  Git.

If the whole pupil thing wasn't worrying enough I also developed another very frightening symptom.  I've had a couple of sudden attacks of not being able to breathe.  During the attacks I can't speak and make horrible gasping noises.  The second attack happened when I was out for Sunday dinner with the other-half and two of my sisters.  It's not a subtle attack and my poor family didn't know if I was choking on food, going to throw up or what was going on.  I staggered outside and after a few minutes my breathing gradually returned to normal.  Thankfully my GP is sure this is a harmless spasm of the larynx.  It hasn't happened since and I'm not putting my name down for it again.  I don't recommend the experience.

I think I love my GP as not only did he calm my fevered brow over the breathing thing he also completed the form I had from the government querying my right to receive state benefit.  I'm waiting for the official response from the powers-that-be but am hoping the GP's input will make them wave the white flag, the bastards.

On a happier (but no saner) note a few days ago the other-half and I got up at the crack of dawn on a frosty morning to go hare spotting.  We did see a couple leaping about but they were too far away for a photo.  But just to prove that I was out and about bright and early on a very cold morning:





Now here's hoping for warmer weather and a happy, peaceful Easter for everyone.

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

Avoidance tactics

Here are some things I should be doing:
  • Finding out about what will happen when the Cancer Drugs Fund (CDF) comes to an end next month.  I know it will be bad news and I haven't got the heart to read it.  (The CDF allowed patients in England to access some cancer drugs which were not otherwise available.)
  • Starting an online course I registered for about immunotherapy.  But it looks like it might require thought.  Besides, the dog ate my homework.
  • Looking at the scary form I've received questioning my right to receive Employment and Support Allowance (a state benefit) and asking lots of questions about my ability to work.  I don't have the mental stamina necessary to complete the form let alone hold down a job.
  • Completing the skirt I started making last year.  But I'm at the stage where I have to do things with interfacing and attempt a button hole.  Cue an attack of the vapours.  The pattern says 'only one hours sewing time'.  Ha ha bloody ha
The material is now even more 'vintage' than it was last summer when I bought it

 Anyway, here's what I've been doing instead of all the boring stuff above.

  •  Getting out and about in the winter sunshine


  •  Going on two, yes two, snowdrop walks.  Never let it be said I don't know how to live on the edge.  In case you're interested, or even if you aren't, one walk was the annual one in support of a local cancer charity, (many thanks to all the family members who turned out in support of this, once again you warmed my cockles) the other was at Rode Hall.

  •  Going to Cambridge for the weekend.  It was very chilly and I walked my legs off


 
Trinity College (I think).  My brain had frozen by this point.


 
Punting?  In that temperature?  Silly sausages!

  •  Stopping off at Ely Cathedral on the way home.  Truly my middle name is Culture (or possibly Louise, you guess).


  •  Getting excited about finding a local shop (Whitchurch) bearing the family name
 
What can I tell you?  I'm easily pleased

  •  Gazing soppily at a happy Cyril (the three legged monster cat).  Also taking him to the vet again after he got into yet another fight That's 53 quid on antibiotics thank you very much.
Bless his furry little chops


  •  Purchasing (for reasons too complicated to explain) a Playmobil Elvis.  I'm pleased to say he was well received.



Now before you start tutting and shaking your heads about my avoiding all the things I should be doing, the reason is not, as you might have thought, cowardice, laziness or excruciating hangovers.  No, the truth is I have been traumatised and the shock has rendered me quite incapable of anything except the most frivolous activities.  One of my sisters discovered (I know not how) that our old family home is now used for this.  And to think I thought finding out I had incurable cancer was a shock.  What did I know!

Monday, 1 February 2016

Bugs

January.  Cor.  It went on a bit, didn't it?  I started and ended the month with the lurgy.  Not a serious lurgy, just the common or garden lurgy that everyone gets but even so.  What with that and the usual chemo stuff it seems like I spent most of January feeling moderately crap.  This is, of course, light weight crap compared to what lots of other people are going through but I'm not going to let something like that stop me from whinging.

And the weather.  The sodding, sodding weather.  Grey, miserable, windy, rainy.  Precious few of those sunny, chilly, crisp days that make winter bearable, even enjoyable.  In fact I think we've only had one frost this winter.  Which is probably why bugs, of all varieties, abound.  I'm full of germs, the garden is full of slugs and the cat is full of fleas.  Here he is, like me, feeling sulky.


I had my latest CT results toward the end of January.  Dear God I was scared.  I'm always frightened going for results but this was worse than usual.  I suppose it's because I know I'm running out of treatments.  There are a couple of chemos left for me to try but once all possibilities are exhausted there is nothing left but palliative care.  Of course, I knew this all along since day one of being diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer, but as the time comes nearer it all gets scarier and scarier.  My pal Kath has put it a million times better than I ever could.  Read what she has to say here

Anyway, this time I was lucky.  The CT showed stable disease.  Also, more good news, the medical bods are pretty sure that the stabbing pains I get in my chest and side are nerve related (from the surgery).  However, as I have now had 54 cycles of chemo the time has come, according to my onc, to give the chemo a rest and try a hormonal treatment, exemestane.   While I will be delighted to have a break from chemo, cannulas and all the associated palaver, I am a bit concerned about stopping a treatment that seems to be working.  I've checked this with the onc but she's definite that I need a rest and I assume she knows her onions.  I'll have another scan in three months time to see how things are going.

Although this has been a bit of a mega-moan January hasn't been all doom and gloom.  There's been the trip to see the other-half's nephew in panto (oh yes there has), my hair finally getting long enough to discard hats and scarves and, above all, sister no 2's latest foray into crochet.  A Death Star.  I kid you not.

 

Saturday, 2 January 2016

The Lurgy


I’m starting the New Year in the traditional way, by feeling like a bag of bollocks.  I’ve been fighting off the lurgy for a few days but overnight my immune system waved the white flag and I’ve woken up with a streaming nose, hacking cough and total and utter grumpiness.  

To make matters worse I think they’ve changed the recipe for Lemsip.  I used to love Lemsip.  It almost made having a cold worthwhile but now, due to an ingredient change, or the state of my chemo-altered taste buds, it tastes like a menthol/antiseptic cocktail that’s been mixed in a disintegrating hot water bottle, only worse.

The lurgy does have some consolations though.  I’ve got up early (to spare the other-half having to listen to me cough) and draped myself on the sofa while watching the 1953 version of The War of the Worlds on the telly and, best of all, am snuggled up under a really wonderful present.  This picture doesn’t do it justice, but look what a friend made me, a completely gorgeous quilt.  


 

It’s in exactly the right colours for my sitting room, so even though I’m poorly, I'm colour co-ordinated.  I'm afraid I disgraced myself a little bit and came over all emotional when I was given the quilt but, honestly, what a beautiful gift.  

Talking of wonderful things.  Christmas.  We had a real slap-up, no holds barred, rip-roaring Christmas.  I stayed in a very swanky house with lots of family and friends, including all three of my sisters.  It was a bit of a Downtown Abbey experience (only we were all very good and no-one behaved like arch-bitch Lady Mary).  Just look at where we had our Christmas dinner. 

Yes, it's a wonky picture, but alcohol had been taken


At the risk of sounding as my dad used to say, as soppy as a sack load of bottoms, it was a truly lovely Christmas.  Also, I've now got ideas above my station and won't step outside the front door unless I'm wearing a tiara. 

We took the Christmas-cake-that-nearly-caused-a-divorce-in-the-making with us.  Amazingly most of it was eaten, probably due to the industrial quantities of sherry and brandy it contained.  When it came to cake decoration we decided to go with the true meaning of Christmas and had an Ice Road Truckers theme.  And here it is (another poor photo but you get the gist)



We are now taking orders for next Christmas.  Don't all rush at once.

Since Christmas, normality has returned.  I've come back to a dose of chemo with the usual temperature spike and trip to hospital the following day (New Years Eve).  All was OK and I was released after a thorough checking over, although I could've done without the four attempts to get a cannula in to administer IV antibiotics. 



I've also had a CT scan and am waiting three weeks for the results, which is as usual, scary, scary, scary.  

But for now I'm concentrating on lying on the sofa sniffling.  If anyone wants to buy shares in a tissue factory now's the time.

(Apologies if this blog post is displaying a variety of font sizes, I think my computer has the lurgy too).

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Unreliable

Oh dear.  I had hoped to go to Birmingham today to have a mooch around the shops before they get too relentlessly busy but instead I'm taking a leaf out of the cat's book and lounging around on the sofa doing a lot of this



I'm not sure if today's lethargy is chemo related or due to me having a flu jab yesterday.  All I know is I'm not firing on all cylinders.  In reality, compared to what some people suffer on chemo, I'm having a pretty easy time of it on Eribulin (so far).  But it does make me tired and also sends my temperature a bit haywire at times.  As a result I've had to bail out of a few recent social events, which makes me grumpy.  I hate being an unreliable friend but when I'm tired and grumpy it's probably best for everyone if I go into hermit mode.  The good news is that I've got a week off chemo at Christmas time (I wrote a begging email to my oncologist and laid it on with a trowel) so I'm hoping to be full of beans for the festivities, especially as a big family getaway is planned.  All I can say is watch out Hampshire.  You have been warned.  

The other-half and I have risked divorce and done some cooking together in preparation.  You wouldn't believe the blood, sweat and tears (and booze) that have gone into this cake.


We've yet to ice and decorate the cake - so the story continues

Anyway, unreliable as I am, constantly failing to turn up to planned shindigs, I cannot compare with my paternal grandfather.  Sis no 3 has been doing lots of work on the family tree but until recently my grandad was a bit of a mystery.  

The last known picture of my grandad (picture from here)


He walked out on his wife and four children (including my dad) in the early 1920s and was never heard of again.  I had tried to give him the benefit of the doubt over this behaviour (which caused a lot of hardship to his wife and kids) but my sister has finally managed to find out what happened and it's not particularly edifying.  Apparently he ran off to Coventry, Coventry I ask you, (apologies to any Coventry bods reading this).  Other highlights of his life include
  • Entering into a bigamous marriage and having another family
  • Somehow getting his name on a war memorial in Cardiff as having been killed in action in 1918
  • Claiming (and receiving)  the old age pension two years earlier than he should have
  • Being convicted of bypassing the electricity meter in his house and thereby defrauding the electricity company
What a total ratbag.  The other-half is dismayed at what sort of family he has married into.  

To finish on a brighter note, the other-half's six year old godson was chatting to us the other day and informed us that he was going to be an indicator in the school play.  Much confusion followed.  Turns out he's playing the innkeeper.