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Monday, 30 January 2012

Hi ho, hi ho and back to work I go...

Yes, today was the day.  The official return to work with a 'phased return', which actually seems rather daft bearing in mind I've been working about 3 - 4 hours a day since the start of term, but that was working from home via the internet.  So I had an easy day being phased in - NO got there and Mandy wasn't there (got her text to say she had a dental appointment and should be in about 10.30 at 3.30pm - useful) and Hadi wasn't in so I had to dive straight into things on the front desk without even the time to make a cup of green tea.  Though that has reminded me to put my little kettle on right now for a cuppa.

Margaret bought me a bunch on tulips to welcome me back, and they are on my desk at home smiling at me.  Spring will be here soon enough, though the rain/sleet/snow this morning didn't make it feel that close.  It just couldn't make up its mind this morning as I was driving to work, just what the heck it really wanted to do {kettle's boiled} but I believe we are in for a cold snap. 

Kermit won't be pleased as he has been tucked away snuggly in the garage and now has to come out and be driven out in the cold.  This is no way to treat a car who is a frog wannabe.  He is bright green, hence the name; so he is Kermit to my Miss Piggy.

Managed to get the rest of the week sorted out, except my attendance at a Good to Great session at college.  This is when the Good (teaching and support staff) get to give ideas and discuss things with the Great of the college, which they will then only ignore because they have already made up their mind about what will happen in all likelihood.

Anyway it is good to be back, had to happen some time ...

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Running before I can walk properly

Ok, I admit it, I have over done things and I'm paying the price.  Decided to go out with one stick and my pull along shopping trolley on Friday and Saturday.  The fact that I was a bit stiff when I got back from the one-way journey on Friday (friend took me to Waitrose for a cuppa and chat and I walked back) should have taught me something, but NO - muppet in action - I decided to do more than double that in Saturday and only just made it home.  It was getting to be a real struggle and I was just determined that I was going to do it.  How can you call for help about 200 yards from home - my pride says that you can't, so I didn't.  Muppet.

Pride comes before a fall.  I didn't actually physically fall, but I am back moving around the house with the aid of one of my walking poles as the muscles across my lower back seem to have gone into panic mode.  I thought I could just start using the trolley again and it wouldn't be a problem, but I haven't been about to use it for about 3 months now as I had to give up trying to walk any distance at all before my operation.  I have recovered so well I have become arrogant and proud about what I can now do, and where I can go.

I am just annoyed with myself, and also disappointed that my body won't do what I want it to do.  It is not as though using the trolley is a bit thing, but I have failed to comprehend that still have to take things easy to be able to get back to where I once was.  Until this recent hiccup I was back to being better than I was before the operation.  I have just failed to remember how bad that was!  I have rejoiced in having a joint that isn't painful, and forgotten that the rest of the body needs to adjust to this especially as it is doing things that it has never been able to do before in its entire existence!

I go back to work tomorrow, which is embarrassing as I was doing so well, and now I am hobbling and don't feel as though I can phone up on Monday morning and say I can't come in because I have been stupid and overdone it.  There goes that pride again.

I now I have a life limiting disease, but I don't want to give an inch to this.  I can just get on with life and I feel as though I can't really ask for help.  Maybe I need to learn to be kinder to myself, but then maybe it is just the inability to accept that I will soon be 52 years old.  52 for heavens sake!  I am middle aged.  Accept it.  Live with it.  Just get on with it.  Whether or not I have a life limiting disease I am at an age when I can't do what I could 25 years ago and I need to find ways of accepting this on so many levels.  But just one question.  Where DOES the time go?

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Good reads

I came across a site where I have set myself a target for the number of books I will read in 2012.  I went for 24, and so far I am two books ahead of myself with all this time off work.  This has been inspired by two things, first that I sould renew my interest in reading fiction, and secondly that I was given a Kindle for Christmas.  I have had the Kindle app downloaded on to my desktop PC for a year or so, and also on to the Netbook that I got when I thought the desktop had given up the ghost late last winter.

Having the Kindle makes reading in bed a lot easier than holding a book and is lighter to carry around with me.  I have my six week check-up appointment tomorrow morning so it will be with me while I wait to be called to see the demi-God who I hope will at the very least give me the go ahead to start driving again.  It will be nice to be able to pull out my compact Kindle, rather than a whole heavy book which you have to choose based on size and weight when it comes to sitting in a hospital waiting room.  I probably won't get to meet the God (surgeon) himself, but any minion that will give me the go-ahead to drive will be a God to me.  At the moment the hospital say that it is up to the insurance company, and the insurance company says that it is up to the doctor, so I am no further forward.  I will instead be entrusting my life, limbs and hips, to my 17 year old learner-driver neice and my brother who will be dropping me off at the hospital on the way to college.  Lucy is learning to drive and decided to go to Bournemouth College, rather than Brockenhurst College (where I work!) and she regularly drives down there with my brother sitting in, who then brings the car home and she comes home on the train later in the day.  I haven't been driven by her yet, so I hope I don't put her off.

But I digress.

I realised a while ago that my reading matter was too heavy, too centred on cancer.  In short I was in need of some entertainment; of being transported to other times, places and experiences.  I have never been a great fiction reader, much to my Aunt's annoyance and astonishment.  She went to university in her late thirties and read English Literature.  She devours books in a day, or two, where I might be plodding through in three or four days at best.  But fiction has never really been my 'thing'.  I have always loved history and autobiography, but I have been moving further afield to historical novels and mysteries thanks to finding the books of C J Sansom and Philippa Gregory, amongst others.  So when I came across GoodReads it seemed like the perfect opportunity to expand my reading interests and to be able to see what others thought of a book.  I feel in need of a challenge, and this might just be what I need - better that playing Spider Solitaire on the computer!

Anyone got any suggestions?

Monday, 23 January 2012

Getting drawn back to the past.

The past has always had a very strong hold on me.  It has haunted much of my more recent past and held my life hostage.  Somewhere along the line I got stuck in its quick sand and it has taken me a long time to be able to loosen that hold and find a way to get out and live in the present.

It is all very well to say that we responsible for all our experiences and that we have made our own present, but I think that is a little too simplistic.  For much of my life I have felt that there has been a large stone wall in front of me that I have just kept battering into; which I couldn't see round; which I couldn't climb or undermine.  I no longer feel that way.  The future is something that I am moving towards and the past is just that.  The past.

Ultimately I think that is was cancer that gave me the courage to find a way of being released by what went before.  When any of us gets a diagnosis of cancer at whatever Stage it might be, but certainly when you have a Stage IV diagnosis, that knowledge can either liberate us, or suck us down the plug hole of despair.  This doesn't happen overnight and for a long time I was swirling around the edge of that plug hole. 

Each of us has to deal with the grief of being considered to be incurable, but for me it is knowledge and knowledge is empowering, strengthening and enlightening.  When you can move past the despair you can begin to feel empowered by the knowledge that someone is condemning you and putting you on the scrap head of 'nothing we can do for you, mate'.  How dare they!  Have always lived with the hope that I might find a way to navigate through life if I continued putting one foot in front of another day after day.  Head down.  Keep walking.  Somewhere, although I didn't notice it at the time, I managed to plod on, one foot in front of the other and right round the side of that damned wall.  I kept going long enough.

Having Stage IV cancer is a bit like that.  It is head down every day and putting one foot in front of the other, but now I remember to look around me and not keep my eyes on the ground the whole time, and it is noticing and savouring every step along the way and making sure that today matters more than yesterday and tomorrow put together.  I kept a diary every day for over 35 years, until May last year when I just stopped.  Why bother?  No one else needs to remember my life in that sort of detail.  I don't need to remember my life in that sort of detail!  I completely accept the fact that I am not important.  I am content with that.  I have never married, or had children or any of those other things that are supposed to make you leave your mark on this planet.  I am content with that.  I do not feel the need to leave a mark behind me, quite the opposite in fact.  If I go on long enough I hope to leave behind me the warmth of my being, the scent of my soul like a warming and inspiring fragrance that can fill the memories of others with pleasure and joy.  I want to be an eco-friendly memory rather that blends into the environment rather than a toxic stain which constantly reminds others that I was once here.  I am content with that.

Sunday, 22 January 2012

I am 4 today ...

... well strictly speaking only my right hip is four years old today (yes I know the rest of me can behave like my right hip age as well, but that is another story).  Who would have thought.

On 17 January 2008 I was at the clinic for my adjuvant chemo and asked if anything ever came of the x-ray which was taken 8 weeks before.  I had been having increasing trouble walking, and although at the age of 47 I was walking with a stick my oncologist didn't think there was really anything wrong.  Even then I had to push for an x-ray and when I wasn't given the results in November I thought it really must be my imagination that I was crawling up stairs etc.  I had forgotten to ask the oncologist at the clinic in November and didn't want to bother him by going back and asking.  As it turned out at the January clinic I saw the oncologist who ordered the x-ray.  She muttered something about the report never having been written and brought it up on screen.  She then made an excuse to leave the room and left me sitting looking at the x-ray on the conputer screen on her desk.

You don't have to have medical training to know that when a femur is marbled like that there is something slightly wrong.  My mind raced while a part of me wanted to be convinced that there was nothing that wrong; after all she had gone to find out if she needed to report a split on the skin of my left forefinger as part of the trial I was on.  I had then finished my first cycle of Capecitabine (Xeloda) which is notorious for skin problems on the hands and feet.  The cancer couldn't have spread.  Only in October they had told me that it hadn't spread to the lymph nodes under my left arm when they were examined after my mastectomy.  The cancer couldn't have spread because when they asked if I had pain anywhere else and I told them about the pain deep in my right groin area and my left shoulder, the only comment was "that's interesting".  I couldn't have spread long before to have left me with a 4" x 2" tumour that had destroyed my right hip, could it?  The problem I had told the surgeon, my GP, uncle Tom Cobbly and all about, and which was making my right hip bow outwards when I walked.  Nah, it couldn't have spread.

It had.

I was sent for more x-rays and when I came back to the clinic, and was the last person sitting there waiting to see the oncologist before I went home, I was told I had to go straight up to orthopaedics.  They had a bed in the trauma ward waiting for me.  NO I couldn't go home.  I called work and asked for a message to be passed on to my line manager who hadn't answered his phone.  I phoned my brother to say they were keeping me in and could someone arrange to collect my car.

You must not put weight on that leg.  You must use crutches and not put your foot to the ground at all.  Crikey.  Over the ensuing days I had a bone scan and a CT scan.  The doctors talked to each other and discussed what to do - put a nail in the femur or total hip replacement.  It was the latter.  Tuesday 22 January 2008 my new hip was 'born'.  And now she is 4.  Who would have guessed.

So how long have I got?  Six months, possibly a year then because a year, maybe two, possibly three.  So here I am 4 years later and recovering from having my left hip replaced on 14 December 2011.  Maybe this is just a ploy to have more than one birthday a year.  Now I have three, but they are all in the winter.  The irony was that I was born with a slightly deformed left hip, it never worked properly and then slowly deteriorated with osteo arthritis, egged on by the cancer treatment.  Why couldn't the cancer have taken out the left hip which was already a problem.  All the other tumours are on the left side, but then cancer doesn't do nice things like that.

So a right Hippy Birthday to a part of me.