“Normal” service is resumed…

April 14, 2016

…to the degree that I’m capable of normal, at least.  I’m back at work after a long phased return, walking the dog, running – all the usual.

I’m still getting very tired very easily, sleeping soundly all night every night.  I wish I could always sleep this well, it’s impressively refreshing! But I know that sooner or later it’ll wear off and I’ll be restless again.

In a few weeks, May 8th, I’ll be running in a 5km superhero fun run, to raise money for the Great Western Hospital (Swindon)’s radiotherapy appeal.  If enough money can be raised, Swindon will have its own radiotherapy centre for treating cancer, and that’s really important to me.  I don’t enjoy running, although the good feeling when I finish a run is rewarding, but this is a cause I just have to support.  

I’m also sure that my speedy recovery from surgery, and smooth return to work and life, has a lot to do with the added fitness thanks to running last year, so if I can get back in the habit and keep it up I’ll be healthier in the long term.  Seems obvious I suppose, but it’s more meaningful when you have felt the proof.

So, I’m back to 20 mins running, about 2/3 of my target and I’m hopeful that I’ll make the 5km by the day of the run.  And I’ll be dressed as Supergirl…what could go wrong?!

Low

February 21, 2016

It has been a challenging week, all up-and-down and now I’m exhausted.

A couple of times I’ve overdone it, or tried something I shouldn’t have.  A couple of times I’ve eaten the wrong thing and kicked off an IBS reaction.  I haven’t slept well, but when I have slept it has been much more comfortable than previously…in my bed all night, even turning and sleeping on my side without pain.  

There has been bad news (the dog next door had to be put to sleep unexpectedly, and a former colleague of A’s passed away).  I probably can’t go straight back to work when I want as I have to wait for HR to agree, which they won’t even start until the point that I wanted to be back at my desk. 

I had hoped to be driving again by today, and I wanted to have started the long slow buildup to running regularly again.  But I just haven’t felt up to it.  

However, I’m not going to wallow in self pity, tempting as at is, so here are some reasons to be cheerful:

  1. I am still recovering, and have to allow myself time.  Setbacks are normal and I know this.  I will feel better if I think positive.
  2. I still have the best husband ever, never grumbling when I wake him in the night because I’m so clumsy I trip over my own feet when I get up.
  3. I can drive when I’m ready, the car is sat waiting for me, and I’ll have a whole lot if freedom when I get to that point.
  4. I can get out and about on foot by myself pretty well now, at least to town and back when we need shopping.
  5. I have some lovely friends, people who have gone out if their way to stay in touch, to visit, to bring/send me gifts and flowers and cards.
  6. We have a cleaner who comes in every week so I don’t even have to think about housework – a luxury that I’m still marvelling at.
  7. I have chocolate.

Recovery

February 15, 2016

So, it’s all over.  My op went ahead as planned in early January and now, not quite six weeks later, I’m well on the way to full recovery.

I won’t lie, the first week in hospital was thoroughly miserable.  I felt very poorly, with lots of pain at times.  I was very sick as a result of the anaesthetic and the painkillers, and that lasted most of that week.  It was difficult to move, impossible to sleep but hard to stay awake and generally uncomfortable.  My hero of a husband caught the train to Oxford every single day and turned up with a big bag of treats to try to tempt me into eating.  All I wanted was fresh fruit, not a bad thing to crave if it’s the only thing you’re eating.  Apart from the fruit, all I really ate was tiny bites of Danish pastry. 

Although the journey home was traumatic (just think about where a seatbelt crosses your body…I had wounds pretty much everywhere it touched), I started feeling better as soon as I walked through the door.  I believe it has been said before – there’s no place like home!

My first meal at home was pie and chips from the local chip shop, and I’ve never eaten anything so delicious. Although I couldn’t eat much of it, I knew that I’d start to feel better from then on. 

Since that has just been a slow plod towards being really well again.  Milestones include having the remaining drains and dressings removed, being able to walk into town for lunch, having a shower then getting dried and dressed without having to lay down and rest in between, visiting the office to catch up with my friends and colleagues, going for a walk in the park without feeling exhausted.

My targets for the next few weeks are:

  • Starting the couch-to-5k training programme so I’ll be able to run again
  • Driving
  • Walking the dog
  • Returning to work
  • Catching a train to Bath for a bra fitting in the big M&S

The return to work plan is a four week phased return, starting very slowly and building up until I’m there full time again. I think I’ll be capable of starting it by early March, which is four weeks sooner than predicted.

I’ve been able to start studying again now, just an hour or so at a time, slow and steady.  The good news is that I passed my December exam…but the bad news is I’m already two months behind on the next few modules.  Never mind, I’ll catch it up. 

So for now…study, television, knitting, cross-stitch…and longer walks each day.

I’m scared now

December 27, 2015

I have a surgery date and it’s now less than two weeks away. I’m pleased that there’s no more waiting, but also terrified because it’s a massive operation, with a miserably long, hard recovery time and that’s nothing to look forward to. 

It’s still the right, and only, thing to do…but it’s still daunting. 

Two weeks time and I’ll be starting my recovery, working hard to get well enough to come home from the hospital. 

In the meantime, somehow Christmas almost passed me by.  We went out for lunch with my dad and A’s mum, opened a few presents, but that was largely it. I didn’t even put up all the decorations this year, just the tree and the knitted pretties. I think it may have been because I had an exam just a week before, and with surgery so soon after it almost seemed like an inconvenience.  Still, it was something of a distraction. 

I have no idea how the exam went, by the way. I answered every question to some degree, even the bits that should balance did balance.  There was only one section of one question which I had no answer for, but I manage to babble on for a paragraph anyway. I’ll get the result in a few weeks time.  

So I suppose I’d better get some knitting projects lined up for recovery, plan some television/films, work out plenty of distractions. Luckily I have some fabulous friends and family, so I should have plenty of help.  

Meltdown

October 31, 2015

This week I lost it. After yet another update from the surgeon’s secretary with nothing to say but that my healthcare provider is still squabbling over details, I broke down.

I suppose I’ve been repressing all of the stress, trauma, angst about the brca2 confirmation, the fear of cancer and the worry about surgery, since March.  Or even February when I had the test. It all boiled over on Wednesday and I just couldn’t stop crying. 

Luckily my boss spotted my state without me having to explain and he sent me home at lunchtime.  I cried for an hour or so, slept for an hour or so, then ate chocolate.  That helped.

It has taken the rest of the week to get my emotions under control again, but now I feel better.  And I’ve started fighting.  As it’s a company healthcare policy, HR are chasing it for me and I’ve asked the surgeon’s secretary to follow it up more frequently as well.  My boss is adding some pressure internally too.

I thought I’d got away with my crying fits on Wednesday at work, then on Thursday one of my colleagues asked me if I was alright as she’d heard me crying in the toilets.  Oops! I just said I obviously wasn’t ok, but I would be. 

So, despite the distress I need to revert to my old habit of listing reasons to be happy:

  • My boss is understanding and supportive
  • I have the best husband in the world, he loves me and hugs me
  • My colleagues are also my friends, they all look out for me. Even those I am not close to offer support when they see I need it
  • The Muffin-dog is still the cutest ever, she cuddles in and kisses me when I cry (which is surprisingly comforting)
  • I will still get the surgery, even if it is taking longer than I hoped

Now, this is Saturday, the man is at work and I need to get on with some studying. More soon.

Dear Angelina Jolie,

May 18, 2015

Dear Angelina,

I would like to thank you. By openly speaking about your decisions to have surgery following confirmation of a defective BRCA gene, you have helped to make it easier to face a similar situation ‘out loud’.  

Living in the public eye as you do, it can’t have been easy to invite the world into your private life so honestly, but by doing so you have made it more acceptable for others to talk. 

I myself have recently been confirmed as having the defective BRCA2 gene, so I’m a high risk for breast and ovarian cancer.  My mother has the same defective gene, and has already breast cancer twice.  Mum is now recovering from the first of two planned operations, a mastectomy, and is on the waiting list to have her ovaries removed.

I am talking to surgeons about my options.  I have already had both ovaries removed, with a hysterectomy, as treatment for a previous condition, so that is one less concern, but I will probably have a bilateral mastectomy with reconstruction in the next year or so.

Thankfully, after mammogram and MRI scans, I have no immediate signs of cancer so there is no urgency and I can plan the operation in my own time.  

I have already had several conversations with my manager at work.  Despite being an unmarried man in his 50s, I have been able to talk openly about the issue because he immediately related it to your recent news stories.  That’s one less stressful situation!  

Most of my family are supportive of each other, we have had to work together to help Mum through chemo so there are few barriers there, but others are more understanding because it isn’t a taboo subject any more.

Once again, thank you.  Once the surgeries are all over with I’m going to do something to raise money.  I’ll try to find a specific cause, but at least I can contribute to cancer research generally.  

Best wishes

H

Under the weather

April 6, 2015

That is a strange phrase isn’t it?  Anyway, I’ve got a cold, it’s in my sinuses and I can’t sleep for the pain in my head. Ugh. 

Still, it’s a beautiful sunny spring day and I’ll spend the day…sat indoors revising for an exam tomorrow. Since I changed job two years ago, my role involves supporting finance systems, which I found challenging at first as I knew nothing of finance or accounting at all.  Two years later I’m partway through my second bookkeeping course and much more comfortable in my job.  I brought the technical/reporting/data skills with me, but understanding what the systems I’m supporting are actually designed to do makes a big difference.  

Tomorrow’s exam is professional ethics in accounting, not the liveliest subject but this time tomorrow it will be almost over.  

Last week was a challenging one, with a funeral, a system failure and so much going on I hardly had time to think.  

This week coming isn’t likely to be much easier, especially now I have a cold as well…

Tuesday – exam

Wednesday – essential data extract at work

Thursday – hospital appointment to discuss surgery, performance review at work, phone conference with our support team in India

Friday – several meetings

I’m tired just thinking about it!  Still, reasons to be cheerful:

  1. We’re going on holiday soon – to Cyprus ( mmm, sunny)
  2. I’ve got all day today to revise while A is at work, no distractions
  3. I tried a mock test yesterday and got over 90%
  4. I have chocolate
  5. I’ve got a new knitting/crochet challenge in my head

More on the knitting/ crochet challenge when I’ve got it going…

Anyway, I’d better get on with the studying.

Enjoying better health

March 28, 2015

So, it seems as though I mainly feel the need to write here when there’s a health problem looming on the horizon.  That’s interesting. 

First things first, the old endometriosis story is a thing of the past. I have not yet (almost five years later) stopped being thankful for my recovery. Life is easier, happier, less painful without it and I have never once been sorry I had the hysterectomy.  I have been left a few niggling issues, like the IBS from the years of painkillers along with some awkward food intolerances, but nothing life changing.  

Recently I have developed a type of migraine which causes temporary sight loss and visual disturbance, but relatively infrequent, easy to control and treat and not a big problem.  

The latest issue is the one affecting my state of mind though, and that isn’t easy to get my head around.  Because of my mother’s history of breast cancer ( twice), I have recently been tested for the defective BRCA2 cancer-causing gene, and it turns out I have it.  This does not mean I have cancer, and I have to remind myself of that from time to time, only that I am at a higher risk of developing cancer than the general population. 

I have to deal with this head-on, sitting back and waiting is just not an option.  I’m already at an advantage because I had both ovaries removed with the hysterectomy, so that improves my chances already and is one less operation to consider.  Now I have to decide about the breast cancer risk.  I’m going to see a surgeon soon, but I think my options are mastectomy, with or without reconstruction, or just long-term, annual monitoring.  

For some reason, monitoring just does not feel like enough. Imagine the dread, every year, of knowing that the tests are coming up.  The pain and stress of the tests themselves. The agonising wait for results.  No thanks, not if there’s some way to make all of that unnecessary.  

So I’m seriously considering surgery.  It’s marvellous how successful that can be now, especially as the reconstruction can be done in the same op.  I will admit quite readily that I couldn’t face the mastectomy without reconstruction so easily, perhaps that’s just vanity but it’s the truth.  

Although I’m not a big fan of the celebrity phenomenon, in this case I really admire Angelina Jolie’s bravery.  She has been through all of this and had the courage to speak out, tell her story and raise awareness. 

So, this is Saturday, there’s housework to be done, the dog needs a walk and I’ve got study to do. Maybe I’ll post more regularly again, and if so I’ll bring knitting news for a bit of light relief!  

Return?

December 22, 2014

So, hi there! It has been a while.

Do I have anything to say? Maybe…we’ll see, won’t we?!

On a break

January 7, 2012

This is surprisingly hard to write, but I’ve decided to take a break from blogging, for a while at least.

I started this while I was ill, in pain and regularly spent time spaced out on painkillers and incapable of work.  Or real life, come to that.  It was supposed to be a way of letting off steam without whining at A all the time.  Instead it turned into a way of turning my attitude around as I just couldn’t bear to press ‘publish’ on all the whingy posts and made myself list reasons to be positive instead.

Now I’m well, I don’t have so much to write about, or as much time to write it in.  This has just become a rather dull list of things I’ve done during the week, heavily filtered of all true opinions because I’m paranoid about someone I know reading it and being upset/offended/freaked out.

I might come back to you one day, but hopefully not through illness again.

For now…keep well.