Friday, 31 July 2015

Head Shaving Day

This is a hard hitting photograph. I make no apologies for it. I am aware that its unflattering, shows my double chin, not glamorous, blah blah blah, but it depicts a pivotal moment, I now look like I have cancer, I now have a universally recognised badge, whether I want it or not.

However my real reason for showing this photo is that it is a perfect capture of that exquisite moment of pain which results in total relief. A bit like ripping off an irritating plaster, you know it will hurt, but it will be worth it. If you wondered why Breast Cancer Club members shave their heads, not only is it to stop hair falling out all over the place, it is to prevent the pain. For me the pain can be described as each hair having turned into a bristle, think scrubbing brush, each bristle was buried an inch deep into my scalp and whenever my hair moved or was touched, it hurt. Serious hurt. This is because the hair follicles die. My darling husband was prepared to shave my head. His emotions were more fraught than mine, I was eliminating pain, he was eliminating a part of his wife's femininity, he had already seen my breast be altered to a less rounded shape and now it was down to him to remove the hair that he enjoyed running his fingers though or sweeping to one side so he could kiss my neck. What a strong man he is to be able to get those clippers out and remove the last of his wife's hair. Which he did. You see him doing so in this photo. You can see pain in my face, but it was temporary, as soon as the hair was shaved off, the pain was gone. This very emotive picture was taken by my talented son Stuart Murray. This was not easy for him either. Documenting your mother's journey through cancer is not something you ever think will happen to you. He was concerned about showing the photo to me, but he knew he had caught a captivating moment. I think so too.

My Husband shaving my head due to Breast cancer treatment

Saturday, 25 July 2015

My Hair is Falling Out

My hair is falling out
I would really like to clout
The person who decided
My follicles would be divided
Between my pillow and the drain
And why does it involve such pain?

No more elegant flicking and curling of hair
No running fingers through tresses with flare
To do such things makes my scalp so ache
And increases the need for hair that’s fake

So as I approach coiffure by Mitchell Bros
My head will soon shine, but who gives a toss
I’ve wigs and scarves and hats to please
I’ll rock the bald, I know I can tease

So here’s to styling all a new
Let’s hope I won’t need any glue

Monday, 20 July 2015

A Simple CT Scan

A simple CT Scan

At the end of week one I went for a CT Scan, to check if all my organs are OK. I was still rather trippy at this point and was not at all looking forward to having to stay upright and awake in the waiting room. Neither was I looking forward to drinking 1.5 litres within 40 minutes, as my relationship with liquid was not overly friendly, having to ensure I drink a good 2.5 litres every day. Especially if I was going to have to hang on to that liquid and not be allowed to visit the loo. Serious stuff as I’ve had three children and am in my fifties. We arrive at the CT waiting room. It is filled with patient looking patients and their companions, with a suspicious looking hospital water jug placed in front of each. A smiley Radiographer with a jug in hand, calls my name, walks over and places a jug and a cup in front of me, “drink this within the next 40 minutes, it’s only water, the toilets are round the corner”, he says. Oh thank the Lord, I can wee. My bladder is smiling. Also it’s just water, no nasty sickly yucky stuff to have to force down. I can do this. Lee dutifully fills my cup and off we go, glug it down. I join the others in a weird enforced non-race to reach the bottom of my jug. I sip, I lean against Lee, upright is so hard and I so want to close my eyes, I sip, I lean. First cup done. Lee refills it, off we go again. Rinse and repeat until done. The silence is broken by a lovely water swigging lady in her sixties doing an enormous belch, giggling and apologising. We all nod and smile at her, we understand, we are united. Smiley Radiographer guy reappears with another jug, he gives it to Mrs Belch and says “This is your last one, when finished change into a gown”. What? More to drink? A second jug? They snuck that in. In between my sips and leans I start to observe, everyone gets a second jug which is only half full, so not as bad as it could be. Fast forward to the bottom of my jug. Here he is, Smiley Radiographer with the second one. Sip 1, lean 1, knit 1, purl 1, turn, repeat. The end of the jug has arrived. Walking like a drunk pretending not to be drunk, I concentrate hard and collect my gown and plastic bag for clothes. Oh now a conundrum, how undressed should I get? I try to remember other scans I’ve had in the past, but brain won’t focus, I decide on completely undressed as I don’t want to lean on the CT Scanner trying to delicately whip my knickers off. At least I brought my dressing gown with me, so I can hang on to a bit of modesty. After a dizzy visit to the loo, with my plastic bag full of clothes, I stare hard at the patients’ legs and feet as I negotiate getting past them back to my seat without falling over. If only I’d had the fun beforehand to warrant such a hungover state. It’s my turn. In the scanning room, I take off my dressing gown and two girl Radiographers smile at me, the one offers to do my gown up at the back, oh dear, my arse was hanging out, but I’m too spaced out to care. I bend down to get on the scanner and fart. Yes a loud unmistakable, unstoppable, uncontrollable, no warning fart. I choose to ignore it. A thought brushes past that I should apologise, phaff, who cares, these girls will have seen and heard it all before. Carefree chemo induced flatulence. Radiographer no 2 inserts a cannula and informs me that the dye going in can make me feel like I’ve wet myself. Really? Oh come on, I’ve just drunk litres of water, farted uncontrollably and now I will feel like I’ve wet myself? Chemo Calm kicks in. So what, who cares if I pee myself too, they’ll mop it up. Such liberation from one brought up in well-mannered leafy suburban Surrey! The scanner talks to me, instructing me to breathe in, hold it, and breathe out. A couple of rounds of this and there it is, I’ve wet myself. Have I? It feels very very warm and wet down there. No, no, the feelings gone, Halleluiah my body didn’t let me down. One more round of breaths and I’m being slid back out. Cannula out and I can get up. I get to my feet and fart. Oh my good God, why? My body once so in tune with my brain now has its own agenda. Once again it wasn’t a small little phhit, no it was a rip rawing son trying to out-fart other son, type of fart, my boys would have been proud of me. The struggle to put on my dressing gown and stay upright, doesn’t allow me to verbalise any kind of apology, I just smile weakly and leave the room. I get changed in a different cubicle which contains a big poster explaining what to do, I note it says to leave your knickers on. Oh God, I went in there knickerless and I farted, twice.

You may think that was enough, but it doesn’t end there. Lee has hold of me and we walk to the hospital exit, lying down is such a strong need right now. Damn we need to pay for car parking. The card taking payment machine is broken, do we have any cash? Of course not. I just want to lie down. We need to go to the shop and get some cashback, but I don’t think I can make it. Lee finds a wheelchair to plonk me in while he goes to get the cash. He pushes it out of the way, towards the row of public phones, a little thought plinks into my head, don’t leave me by the phones, but I don’t have the energy to tell him nor to have the conversation where he tells me it will be OK etc etc. I just sit down in the wheelchair hugging my handbag, feeling so way spaced out, tired, dizzy, I just want to go home and sleep. Lee goes man-hunting for money in the shop. I watch the myriad of different types of people walking through the exit, all types from all walks of life each with their own sad stories, a group of Eastern European looking gypsies go past, then they stop, turn look at the phones and look at me. They are walking towards me, I stare at my handbag, don’t make eye contact. Three of them surround me, a woman talks gobbledy-gook at me, all I see is headscarf, dirty face, eyebrows, missing teeth, gold teeth. I’m thinking please don’t have a cold or anything, I have a really low immune system. More gobbeldy-gook, more missing teeth, she’s reaching in her bag, the other two lean in, Lee where are you? Help me, help me! She pulls out a business card, it’s for a taxi firm. She points at the phone, points at me, points at the card. Seriously?? She wants me to f**king phone a taxi for her??? I’m sat in a hospital, in a wheelchair, looking like something the cat dragged home and she thinks I’m going to phone a taxi for her?? Two more join her crew, there are five surrounding me, I can’t help it, I feel unclean, in danger, scared, vulnerable. I shake my head and slur “I’m sorry, I’m really ill”. One of the men points and talks now, I shake my head. Lee, Lee where are you, I’m not liking this!!! At last they give up and go, as the man turns away his top is rucked up and his back is full of rash type spots, oh yuck yuck, am I infected now??? Irrational self protective thoughts. Finally alone again, I can’t quite believe what just happened, it was horrid. Where is Lee? I wait a bit longer, then decide I can’t wait any more and get up to go find him. Hang on, get up? Why the hell did I not just get up when all that was going on?? Why did I just sit there?? Where the hell has my brain gone?? I could have just stood up and walked away. I just sat there like a prized lemon. I find Lee, sandwiches in hand, doing battle with the cash machine. I tell him I want to go now, he hurries up. I’ll explain to him in the car what happened, once we are well away from my intimidators who are now all stood outside, just in case my fiercely protective husband decides he may want to have a conversation with them!! So that was my adventurous scan appointment. Just a routine CT Scan. Full body Bone Scan coming up next…..

Thursday, 16 July 2015

First Week of Chemo is.....

Mid July 2015

Whirlwind tour of first week of Chemotherapy…….

See this solid steel door? I’m going to slam it in your face - now lie down and deal with it. Sleepy, so sleepy. Who slipped me 16 Gin and Tonics?? Dizzy dizzy dizzy. Nausea uh oh, friend’s Stem Ginger biscuits, blissful relief. Hangover from hell. Headache, ouch ouch. Spaced out weirdness. I’m pointing at things but words not leaving mouth. Teenage spots, really?? Can’t move, just can’t move. Open my eyes? How? Lovely sofa, my friend. I’m in the kitchen now, why? Tingly head, tingle tingle. Constipation? You are joking?! Prunes for breakfast. Shower or bed, shower or bed? Bed duh! I can’t drink anymore water, squash, juice, never want to drink again. Sorry lovely husband, didn’t mean to leave the gas ring on. Sooooo hungry, don’t want to eat, yucky thought. Eating feels so good. Lasagne, how good is Lasagne? Floaty floaty pretty things. Spangled head. I can stand up! Oh maybe not. Image of friend singing “Don’t blame it on the Moonlight, blame it on the Chemo”. Mouth……dry. Raspberry sorbet at 4am. Stop rubbing sore bit on tongue, stop it. Magic Iglu cream. Went all day without sleeping, a whole day! No hair loss. More vertical than horizontal. Dizzy is the new normal. Come on week two, it can only be an improvement. I’m ready……

Chemo Day no 1

7th July 2015

Chemo Cycle No 1......Of course it had to have a dramatic start!

Settled in my chair, lovely nurse felt my hand, said it was cold, which I replied was not unusual (am very cold blooded), but I had never ever had any problems with finding my veins. Nurse applied hotpack, left to warm up. Returned gave it a go with the canula, nothing! But suddenly all the alarms started ringing, nurse drops everything rushes over to another patient, as do lots of other staff, one goes around and closes all the curtains. Hubbie and I sit there in our curtained barricade, look at each other and mouthe "Shit!" "Oh my God" "Good start"! Lovely nurse sticks her head through curtain and says "You OK?" we nod. After 10 mins, curtains open all returns to normal. Other patient had a bad reaction, Hubbie had seen him go, but the staff got him back on track. We were a little frazzled but thought at least we know what happens if anything goes wrong!

Nurse looks at veins again, decides she is going to pass up to the Sister. I so did not want to have a port put in. While waiting for her, there is a bed in the corner with curtains drawn and docs and family coming and going, two nurses whisper to each other "Serious?" "Yes, come outside". Again a little disconcerting, but we learn the patient is an emergency brought in.

So back to my veins, hotpack has been re-hotted and replaced and I got Lee with his mega warm hands to hold mine. Super Sister gives it another go in a different place, nothing! She decides to try one more time, different place again, tourniquet tightened. Success, hurrah!! She fires up the anti-sickness bag first, then hands over to another nurse to do the next bit. Bag empty, so next nurse appears, removes bag, has shaky hands and drops things, hangs up next bag, looks at it and says "how do I get the air bubbles out of here?" Oh my good God!! Lee says something on a different subject, I shoot him a look which I hope says "can you see what's going on here??!!". We both stare at the bubbles and I stare at another nurse at the chair next to me, she comes over, tells a different nurse to get a syringe of saline, explains to new nurse to pinch the tube leading to my hand and shoot the saline back up into the bag to remove the bubbles. Hubbie and I watch without breathing or speaking as the bubbles move back up. Our feeling of safety is resumed. New nurse sits down, introduces herself and says "I'm from the agency, all the equipment here is different". She was lovely, but for a newbee like me, that was very scary!!! She pushed a syringe of lovely chemicals into me along with the saline bag and then she left and went across to another patient.

Super Sister returned to do the other 3 or 4 (lost count) syringes, thank God, thank God! The rest of it went fine. We were given nice cups of tea and really well looked after with plenty of giggles after the initial dramas! I reacted instantly by going straight into hangover mode, straight home to bed and slept! Treatment no 1 over. Move on to Cycle 2 in three weeks