Chemo Club

Yesterday morning I had session Three of chemotherapy and the cannula went straight in, all positives, so I wanted to do a quick blog. The only hiccup was something going on in the hospital pharmacy and they neglected to tell any of the staff on the ward that there would be delays so they could phone us all to come in later. We all had to wait for our drugs. But the four of us were so busy chatting from our socially distanced chairs that time flew. Three ladies with more problems than me and all different cancers ( though I did have the trump card of being widowed ) and great senses of humour. We talked about everything including the after life. I am part of a real club! And I should add that we all agreed the medical staff are great.

How did you all manage without Facebook etc yesterday! Of course I thought it was technical problems Chez Tidalscribe till I tuned in to that much older medium the radio and The News!

It is a good while since I was working on a novel, with all that’s been happening, though I have never stopped writing short stories. I keep wondering how on earth I managed to write forgetting that I have written five novels. I think Three Ages of Man remains my personal favourite, it is the second of the trilogy, but can also be read as a stand alone novel. It is about ordinary folk, but they do tend to have extraordinary experiences and you may find out how we are going to manage the planet and our health in two centuries’ time…

Needles

Week Three after my first chemotherapy session included an appointment to oncology outpatients to see a nurse. I told her how fit I was feeling and she reassured me the fatigue would get worse each time  ( perhaps she said slightly worse )  and it was amazing how fitness levels dropped. She also said this was the week when hair thins… but she did order me mouth wash for next time; sore mouth and food tasting like mashed cardboard is probably the worst part. But like the fatigue it had suddenly got better and food tasted wonderful.

Sure enough, two days later my hair did start falling out; yay, no need to bother with the cold cap next time and I could get out my collection of colourful scarf/hat Chemo Chic wear, mostly ordered from Hannah Bandanna. It didn’t all fall out and I look rather like my grandmother, who even when I was young had very sparse wispy white hair. We just took this as being what a grandmother looked like, along with the large pink plastic whistling NHS hearing aid box that hung on her chest. Now I wonder if the hair loss was upsetting for her and was it the stress of bringing up three children while Granddad was away in World War Two ( away in Southport with the civil service, not on the front, he had already done that in WW1) or perhaps genetic, her sister was completely bald and hung her wig on the bed post overnight.

May not be accurate representation of Tidalscribe

UK Stylish Chemo Hats And Headwear For Cancer Patients. (annabandana.co.uk)https://www.annabandana.co.uk/

Sunday ‘chemo eve’ I went with my son to the beach hut and we had a swim in the sea. He probably got more than he bargained for; walking along the cliff top we met a couple I know, who hadn’t heard about the big BC. He has lung cancer so lots to chat about!  On the way home, walking along the promenade, we met more friends at their beach hut and she recalled her bowel cancer   treatment…  You’re never alone with cancer!

In the ward on Monday was the young lady from last time with a full head of hair and about to put on the cold cap, proof it can work. The lady opposite me was sitting quite happily with her bald head uncovered. They were trying to put in her canula, while she repeated she didn’t usually have any trouble. At the chemo group chat the sister had said they can always find a vein. I gather putting a canula in is a nerve wracking rite of passage for medical students and I would certainly not like to try putting a needle into and not straight through a thin or even invisible vein.

Smugly I assumed mine would go smoothly, but my nurse also had trouble. I have only one arm they can use – the arm of the lymph node removal is apparently out of bounds for everything including doing blood pressure. Inevitably the desperate tapping of veins etc has to be performed with the patient looking on, which can’t help, but third time lucky. Meanwhile it was about fourth person lucky, a nursing assistant, who managed to get into the vein of the lady opposite.

The ‘red poison’ is put in slowly by syringe; it is so strong they must keep a close eye to make sure it doesn’t go into surrounding tissue. The second drug just goes in by drip and was only supposed to take fifteen minutes, but no sooner had I messaged my lift that I wouldn’t be long than the alarm beeped. The drip had come to a halt; much tapping of the tube and fiddling with the box the tubes feed through between the bag and the arm. In the end the nurse removed the yards of plastic tube, dumped it all in the bin and started with a new length of tube; an idea I had been tempted to suggest myself. All was well until just two minutes left when it stopped again, luckily she was able to restart.

Soon I was ready with my bag of prescriptions to take home, the large bottle of mouth wash making it deceptively heavy. I followed the WAY OUT signs, but luckily paused at the entrance to rearrange my stuff and glancing in the prescription bag realised the seven day course of injections ( which stimulate white cell growth ) was missing. The centre is actually in temporary accommodation in a large ward while the regular place is being upgraded; I had great difficulty finding my way back through the maze of desks, little rooms and other bays till I found Bay Three. My needles were still in their fridge.

At home three days later I was waiting for the district nurse to come and do my first injection, they can call any time between 8am and 5pm, but I had this funny feeling the hospital may not have contacted them and phoned up before noon to make sure. No they did not have me down and did I have the prescription form? NO, I had not thought to look in the bag and check. They cannot do injections without the oncologist’s prescription form on which they have to stick a tiny label peeled with difficulty from the syringe and write the date. What number to ring? After searching through my bundles of information I had no idea, but actually phoning the main hospital number and working through the options is the easiest approach and I did end up in the right place. The nurse said notification should have ‘gone to the hub’ and then out to the district nurse. I was home alone and no I couldn’t send anyone to fetch the forgotten prescription. Fortunately she agreed to phone the district nurse and email them the form…  I wasn’t totally convinced and had almost given up hope when the nurse turned up at 4.55pm.

Now my aim was to learn to do injections myself, it looked quite easy. In the stomach is not as bad as it sounds, subcutaneous, under the skin, just a matter of taking a fold of fat skin. I’m sure there are many people out there used to doing injections on themselves for various conditions, but this was my first time. The next day I did it under supervision, no problems, yes I would manage fine by myself tomorrow.

The nurse said the cap on the needle point is very stiff so you have to grip tightly and pull hard. Next morning I did exactly that… the plunger came out and liquid sprayed into the air. I had broken it. I took out another syringe and made sure I gripped the right part, success. Perhaps I would keep quiet and not tell anyone about the broken one…

Friday Flash Fiction – 369 – Trapped

So this was it, what I had always dreaded; this was what it felt like to be paralysed, trapped in a useless body completely at the mercy of others. I wanted to say ‘Well I’ll be off then‘, but I was going nowhere. I could move my head and arms, I could speak, but I was flat on my back and the rest of my body felt like a trussed oven-ready chicken. No amount of concentration could make my leg move or my body lean over. How dreadful for those left totally paralysed or struck down by a stroke; unable to speak, left to listen fully aware while doctors discuss whether you are a vegetable, alive or dead. I tried to cast these dark thoughts from my mind and concentrate on my own predicament. I had such plans for this year, only this morning I had been strolling in the sunshine, but after tonight my life would never be the same.

I breathed slowly, taking it all in; bright lights, murmuring voices, figures in green moving calmly around, equipment with buttons and red numbers. Perhaps I was experiencing the ultimate human nightmare; the figures all wore masks, everything felt unreal – I could be on an alien spaceship. Had I lost minutes, hours, days of my life?

One of the figures was talking to me. ‘Can you feel that?’

 ‘Feel what?’ I replied, relieved that he sounded human.

He turned to speak to another figure. ‘No sensation in lower body, blood pressure okay.’ He turned back to me. ‘This is Doctor Campbell, we’re ready to proceed, how are you feeling?’

My surroundings closed in on me. A screen went up, there was only my head which the masked face was talking to, my arms which he was poking things into and a machine above me with its bleeping and flashing numbers. I tried to make intelligent replies, hoping to be seen as an individual not a lump of meat strapped to the table.

The murmurs beyond the screen were getting louder and more excited. Another masked face spoke to me ‘Nearly there now.’

 There was a general sigh of relief and satisfaction. ‘Here we are, it’s a Boy!’

Read more flash fiction and longer stories of all sorts in SOMEONE SOMEWHERE essential for your coffee break reading, on Kindle or in paperback.

Life in the Third Decade.

Whether you consider it started at the twelfth stroke of midnight, first of January 2020, or a year later, I think we can all agree the third decade of the Twenty First Century has not started well. But even if we have lost loved ones, friends or fellow bloggers, life inevitably goes on, though ‘normal life’ still seems a long way off. My life took an unexpected turn a few weeks ago when I was diagnosed with breast cancer; treatable and curable, so at my age ( not that I’m that old… ) can’t complain! It IS tragic when young mothers get the more aggressive forms of breast cancer, it is tragic when any young person or child has cancer, life is not fair and none of us know the rules of the game…

In the space of a few weeks I have entered the system, had all sorts of tests and my operation brought forward. The NHS has come up trumps, but it is true that breast cancer has had a lot more attention and research devoted to it than other cancers. It is also true that if you have other undiagnosed chronic conditions you are not funnelled so swiftly and kindly onto a pathway.

Many of us have tests of various sorts over the years with all the wonderful magic waves, magnetism, ultra sound that exist these days, then feel a bit guilty when it turns out nothing is wrong, you were just anaemic or it was just a pain, nothing serious.  Then one day the atomic super scanner does find something; to say it’s unexpected is not true. I have lived with cancer all my life, brought up on the stories of my grandmother, who died of bowel cancer at 56 when I was little; the only grandchild she would get to meet. My grandfather had died suddenly the year before, also 56. A short time before, he had been saying how good life was, with lovely little me and my grandmother returning from hospital after a ‘successful’ operation. Family legend has it that Grandma ‘gave up’ after losing her husband; the reality was that there was no cure for bowel cancer then. But it is true that my mother walked into her mother’s bedroom one day when she was undressing and saw lumps on her body. She was shocked that her mother had not told them or gone back to the doctor. I seem to have always known this story with its vivid image of cancer bursting out all over the place.

 Few modern women can be unaware of cancer, expecting or fearing our wombs, ovaries or breasts to be invaded at any moment, not to mention all the other parts of our bodies. I am not a doctor or scientist, but the simplest explanation I have read is that it would be a surprise if people and other creatures did not get cancer; our bodies are a mass of living cells designed to constantly reproduce, sometimes they go awry. When my aunt in her seventies sailed through her mastectomy I said I would never be afraid of having one; my mother had a mastectomy in her nineties and took it in her stride, living long enough to die of old age. With my father dying of leukaemia and my sister surviving cancer a long time ago I have glibly assumed it was just a matter of when, not if I would get cancer. Humans are living long enough to increase our chances of succumbing; there are no magic bullets because there are a multitude of cancers, lots of people get better or have a long remission, others don’t. I have no more right to survival than anyone else, only to not cause my family any more stress after losing their father nine months ago. The Game of Life is strange; a local friend has just had a mastectomy and my old school friend was having breast surgery the day before I got my diagnosis, I am certainly not alone.

Warning Cancer Joke

Doctor: ‘I’m sorry to have to tell you the tumour is malignant.

Patient: ‘Oh thank goodness, I was worried it was cancer.’

And more irreverent thoughts…

Daughter on phone trying to sort out my iPhone account…   Me:  ‘Just tell him I can’t sort out my phone cos I’m a widow and I’ve got cancer’–  Yay, now I have two reasons for not doing things…

Yes there are plenty of positives. I can’t go to the camera club AGM as I’m isolating ready to go into hospital on Friday – oh hang on, roadmap delayed, AGM will be on Zoom, I can go…

Our family has a tradition of feeling guilty, about pretty much everything and now a weight of guilt has been lifted off my shoulders. I can hold my head up high and look others in the eye. No longer feeling guilty for going around being healthy while others have so many medical burdens to bear.

How lucky that my younger son and his fiancée have given up their rented home and are moving in with me this week as part of their plan to be in a better situation to buy their own place. Their planned seaside break next week has turned into being carers, not so lucky for them…

My NHS daughter will be organising her brothers and the NHS as she did last year; as she is a physiotherapist she will make sure I do my exercises.  

It has rained a great deal, summer solstice was a wash out, but at least my garden won’t need watering for a little while because…

As I am having lymph nodes taken out as well there will be lots of things I can’t do with my right side like gardening, cooking, housework… More importantly maybe I won’t be able to type much – good excuse for blogging being erratic, though perhaps I’ll post lots of pictures.

To go with my garden pictures here’s my favourite happy garden tune ‘English Country Gardens’, an old folk song arranged for the piano by Australian Percy Grainger and played with gusto in this original recording.

Percy Grainger & Eugene List play Grainger “Country Gardens” – YouTubehttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T8cBGRiQwlU

Friday Flash Fiction – Back Home

I got back from the greengrocers’, dumped the shopping in the kitchen, put the kettle on and went in the front room to fetch the vase for the bunch of daffodils. Geoff was lounging on the sofa watching the news channel.

‘I’ll have a cup of tea if you’ve got the kettle on.’

‘Okay, I’ll just put the daffs in water.’

Back in the kitchen I put the vase under the tap and turned it on too fast, splashing my face and soaking my sleeves, but the cold water shock was nothing to the cold realisation that paralysed me and left me incapable of turning off the tap. Geoff couldn’t be sitting on the sofa, he had been dead for five months.

Shakily turning off the tap and clutching a towel to my face I turned to the kitchen door. It must have been an hallucination. Since Geoff died I had not had any funny feelings, no sense of his presence. Not like my friend, whose late husband seemed to have turned into some sort of household god, steering her to the right drawers and cupboards to find things, being ‘present’ when she watched their favourite programmes. If Geoff was a manifestation it served me right for thinking she was going out of her mind…

I forced myself to go back to the front room, but even before I lowered the towel and opened my eyes I could hear that familiar heavy breathing and humming as he did the crossword and followed the news updates.

Cathy, what’s the matter, you look like you’ve seen a ghost.’

‘I have, I mean I know you’re not real, perhaps I should have gone for counselling. I told everyone I was fine, after all there are families in this pandemic who have suffered far worse and lots of wives have lost husbands.’

Cathy, what are you talking about, you’re not going down with dementia are you?’

‘Geoff, there’s no easy way to say this, you died five months ago.’

‘Ha ha, very funny, I know it was scary, me being carted off in the ambulance yesterday. Hey lucky me, it was only one of my asthma attacks, negative for covid.’

Six months ago he had been carted off in an ambulance. It was covid, but he was lucky, no intensive care though I couldn’t go and see him. They let him come home, needed the bed no doubt, to isolate and continue recuperating; me to dial 999 if there were any problems.

That’s how I knew for sure he had died, not unrecognisable in hospital covered in tubes, me trying to talk to him via Facetime on my ipad… he was at home when it happened.

We had just had dinner. Geoff was catching up with the news and telling the politicians what they should be doing. I went in the kitchen to tidy up and make coffee, when I came back in I sensed the silence straight away. There he was, crossword still in hand, head back, silent, switched off.

Instinctively I turned off the television, thinking he would not want to be watching it now. Geoff had said when he came out of hospital, so relieved just to be home ‘Now don’t you worry if I die in my sleep, you know what they said about my heart, it’s a good way to go, better than those poor buggers on machines in intensive care. And I don’t want you trying CPR on me, you couldn’t do it right on that dummy when we did our first aid course.’

So I didn’t do anything.

‘Geoff, you did die, right there, five months ago, do you remember?’

Silly question, how could he remember if he was dead and why was I talking to a figment of my imagination… why was he talking back?

‘Cathy, if you think I am a ghost, come and feel me, solid as ever, too solid you were always telling me.’

He held out his hand and for the first time I moved close to him. His hand was warm and firm. Tentatively I put my hand on his chest, he felt real and his chest was moving, he was breathing. Five months ago I would have given anything to have him back irritating me with his breathing and humming as I tried to read my book. If he had walked back in the door then I would have hugged him… But now I needed to get away, this was the laws of nature turned upside down or I was going insane. I pulled my hands away and retreated to the doorway.

‘Geoff, I know you are dead, I was here when you died, Andrew has the DVD of the live streaming of your funeral at the crematorium, though I suppose that isn’t proof. Your ashes are in the cupboard in your office; I’m sorry, we haven’t been able to get together to scatter them, still in lockdown. I have your death certificate… and those clothes you’re wearing went to the charity shop months ago.’

He just laughed. ‘Well it seems I am alive and well, you obviously need a breath of fresh air to clear your head, where shall we go for our walk this afternoon?’

A walk outside, that would prove he was real, perhaps the past five months had been a nightmare; that would be easy to prove. I dashed out of the room. Geoff’s coat was not hanging on its usual peg. I stumbled upstairs and into our bedroom, his side of the wardrobe was empty. I dashed into what he used to call his office; the desk was empty. I opened the corner cabinet and the large grey cardboard tube with his ashes was still there. In the bureau was the box of sympathy cards and the neat file of paperwork Andrew had helped me sort out; inside the first plastic slip was the death certificate.  

My knees nearly gave way as I started down the stairs and Geoff sauntered out of the front room.

‘I’m just going to check my emails before lunch.’

I couldn’t let him go upstairs. Andrew had taken Geoff’s computer, I had my ipad, I didn’t want it. But the fact that Geoff couldn’t check his emails was the least of my problems. The Geoff who couldn’t be real was solid and could walk and talk. If we went strolling down the road, what on earth would the neighbours say?

Friday Flash Fiction – Home Schooling

‘Mummy, Mummy, Jason’s got his elbow on my side of the table.’
Julia gritted her teeth. Ten minutes, they had only been working for ten minutes and it had taken half an hour before that to get them settled. The twins were perfectly suited to social distancing, each intensely aware of their personal space.
‘No I didn’t, Jacintha touched my pencil and I don’t want to catch Covid.’
‘You won’t catch anything in this house Jason.’
Having a husband who was a chief administrator at a large hospital, now full of Covid 19 patients, was a mixed blessing, especially as pandemics tended to bring on his OCD. Julia may have thought his job less important and less dramatic than being a real doctor, but Jack didn’t. He had become insufferably self important after appearing on the BBC news. His administrative skills had been extended to the family and their home.
In the unlikely event of the twin’s primary school actually opening properly in June or July, Jason and Jacintha would not be attending. Her husband had done an extensive risk assessment and sent back the parent survey with some caustic comments and after all, Julia was at home to take care of home schooling.
Being made redundant from her job as head of fashion at Billings Department Store had been a bitter blow, though not unexpected. Sir Geoffrey Billings must be turning in his grave. The elegant Art Deco building was a neglected shadow of its former self. The business had been in slow decline since the beginning of the Twenty First Century. Customers who never set foot in the place gathered like vultures for the closing down sales, their grubby hands rifling through racks of garments they could never have afforded before. The empty building then stood as a foretaste of things to come. Now no one was going shopping.
Julia had just started enjoying the rest from work and pleasant days at the spa when the whole country went into lockdown. Of course her disappointments were nothing compared to other people’s problems and tragedies, her family were all safe, she didn’t have to go to a food bank and she didn’t have to worry about her mother now her brother was living there.
She sneaked a look at the Perfect Parents Facebook group on her phone.
Even if he has to wear a space suit he’s going to school on 1st June.
1st June 2021 more like. 
Anyone in Mrs. Griffiths’ class managed to do the worksheet?
Zoom and Wine tonight?

Julia jumped as the ring tone sounded.
‘Mum, everything alright, you don’t usually call this early. We’re a bit busy, the children are just finishing their work sheets, then we have six BBC Bite lessons to catch up with. Yes it is half term next week that’s why we’re trying to get everything done today.’
Julia looked up as the blank worksheets slid to the floor and Jason stabbed Jacintha’s scalp with his pencil.
‘I just rang to say we saw Jack on the news last night.’
‘I’ve seen him on the news ten times, same clip… I’ve heard it on the radio six times.’
‘He must be very important… what is it he does exactly? Only Penny just Whatsapped to say she’d seen him and she was asking…’

Jack was late home again so Julia was grateful to join in Zoom and Wine.
Half Term, thank goodness, but Scarlet has really earned it, bless her. We’ve done every single BBC Bite and she’s written her own book.
Alfie has done one BBC Bite and two lines of writing this week, do you think we could swap?
Jack thinks I’ve got the twins in such a good routine that we should just carry on working over half term…

Friday Flash Fiction – Health Crisis

I looked at the list of unpronounceable names on the drugs list. They actually trusted people to administer these to their loved ones? Trusted wives, sons, nieces, the next door neighbour to hand out the right tablets in the right number at the right time? The hospital expected me to ‘do the meds’ without a key or a trolley?

Four tonight, next two days four twice a day, the following day three twice a day… take one three times a day… what a collection, what a selection of pretty sweets for Brian’s ghastly grandchildren; pity they won’t be visiting. This corona virus; good excuse for his daughter to get out of helping and Young Brian away in Spain, couldn’t get a flight back. Not so resentful of me now they have a free carer for their father. I certainly didn’t sign up for this.

Better get organised. Take with food… must be taken one hour before eating… swallow with one glass of water… box of 32 paracetamol, that’s handy, in great demand at the moment, I’m sure Brian doesn’t need those with all the other stuff. A quarter tablet, how the hell am I meant to cut up that microscopic tablet. See leaflet for possible side effects, take me all night to read this… must seek medical help immediately if you accidentally take more than the prescribed dose. Wouldn’t that be a shame, could happen easily, especially with the size of the writing on those little brown bottles… oh, I thought it said 12 not 2 tablets. Ah… ONE 3 times a day, not 3, 3 times a day? No wonder, that explains it…

sunshine-blogger

Friday Flash Fiction 369

Trapped

So this was it, what I had always dreaded; this was what it felt like to be paralysed, trapped in a useless body completely at the mercy of others. I wanted to say Well I’ll be off then, but I was going nowhere. I could move my head and arms, I could speak, but I was flat on my back and the rest of my body felt like a trussed oven-ready chicken. No amount of concentration could make my leg move or my body lean over. How dreadful for those left totally paralysed or struck down by a stroke; unable to speak, left to listen fully aware while doctors discuss whether you are a vegetable, alive or dead. I tried to cast these dark thoughts from my mind and concentrate on my own predicament. I had such plans for this year, only this morning I had been strolling in the sunshine, but after tonight my life would never be the same.

30725496_2059150754114704_8789012137260351488_n

I breathed slowly, taking it all in; bright lights, murmuring voices, figures in green moving calmly around, equipment with buttons and red numbers. Perhaps I was experiencing the ultimate human nightmare; the figures all wore masks, everything felt unreal – I could be on an alien spaceship. Had I lost minutes, hours, days of my life?

30724464_2059150537448059_2066576119229841408_n

One of the figures was talking to me. ‘Can you feel that?’

‘Feel what?’ I replied, relieved that he sounded human.

He turned to speak to another figure. ‘No sensation in lower body, blood pressure okay.’ He turned back to me. ‘This is Doctor Campbell, we’re ready to proceed, how are you feeling?’

30714240_2059150617448051_1076056923041693696_n

 

My surroundings closed in on me. A screen went up, there was only my head which the masked face was talking to, my arms which he was poking things into and a machine above me with its bleeping and flashing numbers. I tried to make intelligent replies, hoping to be seen as an individual not a lump of meat strapped to the table.

31059609_2059150424114737_5415312156566487040_n.jpg

The murmurs beyond the screen were getting louder and more excited. Another masked face spoke to me ‘Nearly there now.’

30762902_2059150577448055_5197034917787074560_n

There was a general sigh of relief and satisfaction. ‘Here we are, it’s a Boy!’