In The Yellow Zone

The group chat on chemotherapy for beginners I saw as a last chance to be out and about. I had been to a similar thing with Cyberspouse in autumn 2018. In those pre Covid times we all sat round a big table in a small classroom and it was a very jolly affair, with our English compulsion to make jokes in medical situations. Most people brought their spouses and there was tea and cake in the middle. This time we were in a church centre opposite the hospital in a large hall with spaced out chairs in rows. Everyone was heading for the back rows so I thought I would be helpful and choose the second row. A mistake as I couldn’t see everybody else properly. We were all given a home work pack and a cup of tea.

All you need to know from this chat is that chemotherapy kills fast growing cells, if it killed all cells we would be dead presumably. Fast growing cells include not only malignant ones, but those we need, such as white and red blood cells, also those we like such as our hair. All chemotherapy is different, a variety of chemicals depending on which part of you they are targeting and every patient can react differently.  What is for certain is we all lose our immunity and get fatigue, a variety of available drugs and vast medical experience should prevent nausea and vomiting these days. The Big message was Ring the Hot Line, the number on the Red Card, the number written on every piece of paper and leaflet issued. Any symptom that you normally ignore Ring the hotline from toothache to temperature.

That done I walked down to the shopping centre in the sunshine and headed for Beales’ department store, ironically still open, though its flagship store in Bournemouth closed down even before Covid. The new very bright café upstairs is quite spaced out and quiet, people are still asked to wear masks in shops, even though Boris says we don’t have to and I did not want to catch anything before my Covid test in a few days.  The top floor had turned into a clearance section and I bought a few little things plus my fabulous bargain of lined curtains, intended for interior decors, but ideal for my beach hut… once I have made a very big hem. Curtains are actually very heavy and I had to ask for a carrier bag which fortunately was environmentally friendly and edible.  The bus driver said how nice it was to see a Beales’ bag again. I felt like I had had quite an exciting day!

Isolating or not isolating for chemo in covid times is still rather vague, urged to be very careful, but told to carry on with normal life as much as possible. Friday saw me back at the hospital for a Covid test; this time I went straight home. Saturday night I cooked a roast chicken for the four of us, my daughter had a long weekend pass and Sunday we walked to the beach hut and went swimming. At this point I was feeling very fit, I have been walking more than five kilometres and doing loads of gardening…

Monday was chemo day at the cancer centre in the Yellow Zone of the hospital. My daughter took me. In pre covid days you could bring a friend for company. Now no extras set foot past the front desk. Having been told I would be there for four or five hours on the first visit and to bring things to do and lots of layers to keep warm with the cold cap, I was the only patient there with a large overnight bag. Our little ward had four reclining chairs and one young woman had a cold cap on, looking like something out of a brain transfer in a science fiction film. I asked if it was her first time and she said no and you get used to it.

As I had to have an anti nausea tablet which takes one hour to work, but lasts for five days, it seemed worth filling in the waiting time by at least trying the cold cap, which has to start forty five minutes before chemo. First your hair is sprayed with water, then a rubber cap on, then the metal helmet which must be tight fitting. Cotton pads are put on your forehead to stop it rubbing, but the water and pads made me think of the electric chair… The weight was probably worse than the cold in giving a bit of a headache, it turned out I could have brought my own paracetamol. You are allowed to stop if you don’t like it…

I was the only new person, one old / older lady said she enjoyed the day out and we had all chosen a hot lunch from the menu. My chemo actually only took seven minutes for red stuff in a syringe into the canula and then a drip for twenty minutes, but followed by another ninety minutes of cold cap. I was allowed to go straight away; three hours and ten minutes and I had only looked at my newspaper and phone, puzzle books and kindle untouched.

Back home I thought I would recline on the sofa with a cup of coffee and heard my daughter on the phone telling her brother and husband I was asleep on the sofa, no I wasn’t… later on I thought I would get up and get the washing off the line and water the garden, but I only took one thing off the line and felt wobbly…

In the days that followed I had seven daily injections given by the district nurse, these boost your white blood cell production. On the first visit she took my temperature and it was too high, so I did have to phone the hot line; fortunately it was borderline and I had no symptoms, so I was told to keep checking my temperature. In the following days I did virtually nothing and my mouth got more sore, another side effect, but I was still eating. So this was the famous fatigue; just like when you feel wobbly recovering after an illness only more so, wondering if you will ever leave the house again or how you could possibly have thought it would be easy to post blogs while you were stuck at home. This is just a tiny insight into what it must be like for people with long term chronic conditions and those who now have Long Covid. Apart from that there was nothing else to complain about and low and behold I was back pottering in the garden on Friday and walked round the block this morning. Tomorrow, two weeks after chemo,  is a visit to oncology outpatients to see the nurse, then Friday will be another Covid test and blood test to see if I’m ready for the next round…

In The Pink Zone

If you are squeamish or do not like dark humour read no further.

One of the leaflets I received, produced by Breast Cancer Care is called Understanding Your Pathology Results, but most of us can only glean the meaning of some of the main terms. After all, the surgeon, oncologist and anonymous people in the laboratories have spent years studying human cells and what can happen to them.

When we went back to the Ladybird Suite ( pink zone ) to see the surgeon three weeks after my operation, the first item on the agenda was an examination. She pronounced the work of her colleague to be excellent; she was hardly likely to say ‘Oh my God, what on earth has he done!’ The whole area felt like a water bed, but this is normal, all those lymph fluids that were going into the wound drain bottle had nowhere to go, but eventually are absorbed – unless you are unlucky and have to have a bit of plumbing work done!

Then through the magic door into the consulting room where my daughter-in-law joined me as another pair of ears and moral support. The consultant said ‘We made the right decision to take everything away’ – she did not word it exactly like that. In layman’s terms there were lots of bits including quite a few lymph nodes.   ‘So all the cancer is gone BUT you Must / Need / We Recommend  chemotherapy followed by radiotherapy and then hormone treatment.’ WHAT!

Just because your aunt had a mastectomy years ago followed merely by tamoxifen for five years and your friend is just having radiotherapy, does not mean you will get away with it. Everyone is different and there are all sorts of tumours and grades. Basically our useful lymph nodes are also good at spreading cancer anywhere so the chemotherapy is a preventative attack. Next on the agenda was a CT scan of everything except my arms and legs to check if any cancer cells had turned up elsewhere.

No problems finding the CT place; I had already been to the blue zone for my MRI, not far from Costa Coffee and the main entrance. But somehow I couldn’t find CT. I asked at the MRI reception and she said We’re minus 1 you need to be on zero. Follow the green wall and turn left at the end, then go up in the lift. LIFT! I don’t do lifts, but luckily there was a set of stairs. There is not much drama for the CT, except you have to drink lots of water and have a canula put in your arm so dye can be injected. The scan doesn’t take long fortunately after all that water.

By the time the oncologist appointment came round it was the school holidays and Team H came to stay for the first part of their summer holiday, so my daughter could come with me. We went to town early so we could go to Marks and Spencer, actually try clothes on in the new ‘post Covid’ freedoms, though still wearing masks. Lunch out, still a novelty for me, then a stroll up the road to the hospital and back to pink zone. Oncology outpatients is down on Minus Two Floor, but strangely we were on ground level with a pleasant courtyard outside.

Our temperatures were taken ( Covid reasons ) and I was weighed and my height measured.

Warning  cancer jokes…

When my aunt was receiving treatment for secondary cancer ( yes it came back years later ) she joked to the nurse ‘Well I have discovered one thing, if you don’t eat you lose weight’ then realised the nurse was a very big girl.

The waiting room was quite nice with the usual relaxing seascapes; I thought it would liven things up if they had darker paintings like Edvard Munch’s The Scream or a few Hieronymus Bosch paintings of hell.

 We didn’t have to wait long to see the oncologist and my breast care nurse was also there for support. No one can force you to have treatment of any sort; it’s at this stage celebrities go off to live on a diet of raw vegetables and try alternate therapies. The rest of us do our best to make an informed choice and writer me likes asking questions.

The CT scan was clear, excellent news. But chemotherapy was still recommended. I asked about the base line of doing nothing; fifty fifty chance of cancer returning in the next ten years, the odds only going up by 8% with chemo. That didn’t sound much, but radiotherapy added another 7% and the five years of hormone treatment another something or other. Cancer could spread to the lymph nodes in the neck, which is exactly what happened to my aunt, though she had made it well into the new century and her eighties by then… My daughter was trying to read the indecipherable charts on the screen … Statistics don’t mean a lot, they could say forty % of patients who had no chemo died within five years, though some were in their nineties, others had heart attacks, a few got run over by a bus and one fell in a volcano doing his bucket list.

I had hardly any of the risk factors for breast cancer, so we can never make assumptions and you can never know for sure the alternative outcome. Nor can they tell you how the chemotherapy will affect you as everyone is different, except, annoyingly a guarantee your hair will fall out! What would you decide?

Yes, might as well give it a go. After I signed the consent form we went into another little room with seascapes to chat with the nurse about all the downsides and I had to decide if I wanted to book the cold cap, which may or may not stop your hair falling out.

Next on the agenda is the ‘group chat’ in the church hall opposite the hospital; learning about chemotherapy. Also a home visit by the community oncology support nurse and then start treatment on 23rd August. Everything is very efficient.

In the meantime I have been swimming in the sea and gardening and walking.

https://breastcancernow.org/

Twenty Four Hours

When I woke up there was a strange man in blue standing by my bed, then I remembered I was not at home. He spoke.

‘The operation went well.’

I felt a sensation of total relaxation, the sort of calm people spend hours doing yoga or meditation to achieve. I looked at the clock, it was 5.45pm. I had not woken up during the operation and it was all over, a quick feel revealed that the right side had been operated on. Now I need do nothing except lie there and relax.

It’s only now that my writer’s mind brings forth alternative scenarios, what might be said to you when you wake up…

‘I’m very sorry, the operation went wrong…’

‘You’re in hospital, you had a massive stroke when you were in the operating theatre six months ago…’

Do you understand, you have dreamt the past thirty years, you are not a writer, you are in a high security mental institution…’

Fortunately it was still Friday evening and I was soon down/along/up? on the surgical ward. The four bed bay was devoid of other patients, I was not by the dusty window, but sitting up had a view of the harbour. Dinner was not an option. I had been amused when my friend told me she managed to eat quarter of an egg sandwich over three hours after her operation and the walk to the bathroom made her sick.  A cup of tea and a nibble of ham sandwich was welcome. Getting out of bed is encouraged, a relief not to be involved with bed pans, but the walk to the bathroom did make me sick.

In the lead up to the hospital visit there had been much discussion on what I would take in with me. There were numerous leaflets written pre and post Covid and pre and post our three local hospitals suddenly deciding to call themselves University Hospitals Dorset NHS Foundation Trust and changing the phone numbers.

The main message seemed to be Don’t bring too much stuff, Don’t bring valuables. I was certainly not going to bring my brand new iPhone, which according to my younger son who looked it up after my older son bought it for me is very expensive! And I had managed to lose WiFi on it. I had brought my old phone which still had its sim card, but I couldn’t log in to NHS Wi-Fi in the pre op waiting room, because you had to confirm when they sent you an email and I didn’t get the email as I didn’t have any Wi-Fi… Nor was I going to bring any bank cards to log in to the bedside television, wifi etc which I was sure I would not be able to work; the leaflet said just bring small change. My Kindle would be enough entertainment, though it would be a shame to miss Gardener’s World...

I couldn’t imagine they expected every patient, however old or unconscious, to leap out of bed and rummage around in the locker for their smart phone to contact their family as soon as they arrived on the ward. Patient notes have next of kin and a phone number and you only want two messages sent to someone responsible ‘still alive after operation’ and ‘come and fetch me.’

It turned out they did try and ring the hospital but there was confusion over phone numbers and they weren’t to know how late I had gone down to the operating theatre…

A closer view of Poole Harbour

The nurse did ring my daughter so I sat back and relaxed for an evening of blood pressure and pain tablets, each time asked my date of birth, presumably to check I was still alive or still the same patient. One more patient arrived in the opposite bed. The nurse said she would be back at 11.30pm with the anti blood clotting injection so I didn’t bother turning off the light or tying to sleep. At 12.30am she still had not arrived and I wondered at what time my blood would start clotting.

At 1am I had the injection and presumably went to sleep because a cheery voice said ‘Good Morning’ and checked my blood pressure. I was looking forward to breakfast, but it looked very dark for a summer morning. When I asked the time the nurse said quarter to four! After a wander to the bathroom I asked the nursing assistant what time breakfast was – 8am. Then asked if I would like a cup of tea and a biscuit. YES

Custard creams, yuk, bourbon, no..  or  digestives. Yes please. When the mug of tea arrived there was a packet of three Crawfords digestives, I refrained from saying ‘Haven’t you got Macvities? and it turned out to be the best tea and biscuits ever.

Breakfast was a nice bowl of porridge and toast, all I could imagine facing when I ordered it the evening before. The elderly lady opposite was bed bound and mouthed something, I realised she was whispering I’ve had half my bowel removed. I got out of bed and searched for her lost pen unsuccessfully, then lent her mine so she could fill in her menu. Also I had a good look through the dusty window at the views and took photos, my old phone had come in handy for something.

Another view of the outside world

A doctor came round and said I could go home after lunch, so I went and had a wash, dispensed with the hospital gown and put on my new nightie. Any moving around involved lugging the wound drain bottle and the long length of tube I would be attached to for the next week or so.

I had just got back into bed and a different doctor came by and said I could go home right now. The nurse asked if I wanted to ring home. I tried to explain the phone situation and asked if she could ring. A sensible request as she knew the system and I didn’t. Getting from a ward to the ground floor and then endless corridors to the multi storey car park had seemed a logistical nightmare, but my daughter was told to park in one of the few bays near the main entrance and ring the moment she arrived and the nurse would wheel me down. A better exit than my arrival in my son’s builder’s van. On the way from the ward we passed the machine for purchasing access to the television which had remained perched up by the ceiling above my bed. I hadn’t even needed the small change as in Covid times no one comes round with trolleys and newspapers etc

My departure was exactly 24 hours since we had arrived thirty minutes early the day before and about 21 hours since I had gone to the theatre. Sunday would bring the district nurse on the first of the daily visits...

The Long Corridor

If you are purposely going into hospital for an operation, perhaps purposefully, elective, not elected… you will probably be filtered through the system with all the operations for that morning, afternoon or day; so make sure you get the right operation and don’t assume the time on your letter has anything to do with the actual time you meet your doom go to the theatre.

The basic procedures are much the same for all of us and after our many lockdowns and isolations at least we get to talk to lots of people and answer lots of questions, again, from nurses, anaesthetists and surgeons. This is your opportunity to remind the surgeon which side they are doing. You can also mention to the anaesthetist that documentary you saw thirty years ago about patients who wake up during their operation, but can’t alert anyone because their eyes are taped over and they are paralysed. Point out this is in the notes on general anaesthetic under Rare Risks AWARENESS, just above Very Rare Risks DEATH. Anaesthetist reassures you that there is only a very slight possibility of waking up, just wave your arm if you do. You have more chance of being involved in a road accident on the way home… reminding you of something else to worry about. Of course, there is also a very good chance of waking up at the right time in the recovery room.

In this long corridor of waiting rooms and little consulting rooms and long waits, at some stage you will have to change into a hospital gown, tight black stockings which are hard to pull on ( ladies, you needn’t have worried about shaving your legs after all ) and your dressing gown and slippers, which hopefully you haven’t forgotten to bring. Then you realise the overnight bag you brought isn’t big enough for all your street clothes.

When I went for my interview with the breast care nurse the week before, she produced the consent form for me to sign and it said mastectomy left hand side ‘NOoo, it’s the Right side’

‘That’s funny, only the second time that’s happened to me in twenty years, I’ll do a new form.’

Because I was slotted in at an earlier date I hadn’t met the surgeon who was going to do my operation. He asked if I was happy for him to examine me or did I want a nurse present. I thought hmm, not worried about being molested at my age, but I just said ‘No, that’s fine.’ I was tempted to add ‘well you will certainly be the last chap to play with that breast… ‘ I did add ‘…as long as you know which is the right side, which is the right side…’ He did some drawing with his felt tip pen, saying don’t worry, it will come off.

The worst part was being back in the waiting room in the middle of the afternoon with no food since 7.30am and no water since 11am and more waiting; there were not many patients, but they all seemed to go before me...

Then at last yet another nurse comes to collect me, my bags are confiscated secured and tagged. Now the long walk to the theatre, the walk down long corridors, this is why you bring your slippers. It was a relief to get moving and stretch my legs and interesting seeing all the secret parts of the hospital. Everything is blue; corridors, doors, uniforms, scrubs…

These days patients wear masks as well as the medical staff, so naturally I was wearing my favourite mask to get Brownie points. My last general anaesthetic was in 1978 and most of those involved tonsils or teeth. I had all my caesareans with epidurals and some hand surgery under local anaesthetic, so I didn’t miss out on what was going on…

Destination anaesthetic room, next door to Theatre Number One; the nurse let me peer through the porthole where people in blue scrubs were getting everything ready; all that just for me! My elderly neighbour who had the same operation a year ago had reassured me that being an anaesthetist is an actual job, an important job and my friend who watches all the hospital programmes said they look after you all the way through the operation!

Everyone who has an operation will tell you that they put the canula in, put an oxygen mask on and tell you to take some deep breaths, next thing you know you wake up in the recovery room. I kept taking the deep breaths and I was still wide awake, it wasn’t working! Then the anaesthetist said ‘Okay, I’m going to start putting the drugs in now, first the pain killer, tell me when you feel funny.’

It was a lovely warm glowing feeling and then…

Unfolding the Roadmap

Monday marked the penultimate stage on the English roadmap out of Covid and like the real paper road maps of old, there are lots of creases and you can’t read the parts where the folds are. Most of us are convinced the roadmap will be folded up again, but in the meantime…

I didn’t go anywhere exciting on Monday as I had a hospital appointment, but there was the hope of rounding it off with a treat. The hospital destination was the furthest away in our conurbation, but the easiest to get to. The journey encompasses almost the whole of the bus route and takes an hour, but stops right outside the hospital. Every seat has a phone charger so I could catch up with blogs and emails – if anyone reads any strange comments from me that is because it’s not easy tapping on a phone jolting along. I had a pocket full of coins as it was too early to use my bus pass – easily accessible coat pocket as I didn’t want to be fumbling around in my purse and exasperating the driver. I still exasperated him as he could not hear what I was saying with my mask on and behind his plexiglass screen. When he did grasp my destination I could not hear how much he said with his mask on.

The hospital is built halfway up a hill, a delight for hospital architects whose main aim is to make it impossible for anyone to find their way around. They now have different colour routes, plus instructions on your hospital letters. I had been this way before so no problem, upstairs, follow purple route, out the back door and down a long ramp then off to a totally separate building. When I was in the waiting room a lady came to the reception desk and said ‘I am completely lost, I can’t find the car park. ‘ She was advised to ‘go back upstairs to the Ladybird Suite and start all over again.’ After my appointment was finished the receptionist asked if I could find my way back. I smugly assured her I could as I had done it before, forgetting that last time I mysteriously ended up at the north entrance, which fortunately came back out onto the main road. This time I was aiming for Costa Coffee near the main entrance, but I did not pass any familiar landmarks such as shops, glass dome, information desk. Luckily a person pushing a trolley asked if I was lost and directed me to the nearest stairs. Of course, if you go upstairs on the outward route it helps to go down on the return route. At last I reached my destination.

Not an accurate representation of Costa.

I am not a Costa addict, preferring to visit independent places and I don’t like takeaway cups, but even though the coffee was lukewarm by the time I had checked in with my NHS app and realised you had to ask for sugar, it tasted wonderful. At last I was actually sitting inside on the first day coffee shops and cafes were open properly again. I nearly forgot to take my mask off, that felt strange and I exchanged remarks with the lady at the next table at how excited we were to be in a coffee shop.

The Game Of Life- Covid 19 Edition

Essays submitted to BBC Radio 4’s PM programme detailing its listeners’ coronavirus experiences are to be archived by the British Library.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-52487414

The Covid Chronicles were launched in March when presenter Evan Davis asked his audience to write in with personal accounts of life during lockdown. Perhaps this is what I would write, though I have exceeded the suggested 400 words.

The last day life was normal for us was Burns’ Night, 25th January 2020. Friends came round for dinner, my husband cooked. The day before, his birthday outing of choice was a trip to Ikea, our last outing.

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Life hadn’t been completely normal since his cancer diagnosis in autumn 2018, but chemotherapy had gone well and 2019 was filled with what was normal for most of us last year, holiday breaks, long walks, family visits, going out with friends…

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By February this year things had gone off at an unexpected tangent and downhill. Family were flying over, driving down, coming in shifts and helping out with stays in three different hospitals. We were aware of the virus, but the main defence was hand gel; how ridiculous that seems now. The main entrance of Southampton Hospital, where his major operation took place on 2nd March, was like an airport; twenty four hour Costa Coffee, shops, cafes and people, lots of people. The intensive care unit was a quiet little bubble away from all this; you had to phone from the waiting room to be let in, but that was the only restriction.
On two occasions we were called into a little room to talk to a doctor, but after a few days my husband was on a ward. In the background to our little lives hospitals were planning for the virus to get worse, suddenly he was transferred to our local hospital and we were wondering how this Coronavirus was going to pan out. Our physiotherapist daughter had already been organising the NHS and her brothers and now she made sure our house was ready, persuading the ‘social care team’ I would cope fine in my new role as carer. I don’t drive, but I’m fit, we have great local shops, family would continue to come and stay at regular intervals and friends would be dropping in for coffee and jigsaws, what could possibly go wrong? The reluctance to let my husband go suddenly changed to a flurry of Covid 19 bed emptying activity on his ward.

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At home things went as planned, some friends were already voluntarily isolating, but others came round for coffee. Our last family visitors left the evening after Mothering Sunday, by the time they were on their way home, on Monday 23rd March, the Prime Minister was telling everyone to stay home and close everything. We were already confined to home, now everybody would be at home; though I certainly wouldn’t have wished for a world wide pandemic just to feel we were all in the same boat.
My husband soon got The Letter – the most vulnerable people to stay at home for twelve weeks; I was now a shielder as well as a carer. By now we all understood the theory, it was a duty for everyone not to get Covid 19. My humble Covid Challenge, my contribution to the NHS was to keep my husband out of hospital and not get the virus myself as I am his sole carer.

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So here we are in our cosy little bubble, thanks to our kind next door neighbours and the local greengrocers, butcher and Co Op doing home deliveries, I don’t go near any shops. I only venture out for a walk and to our doctors’ little pharmacy; one customer at a time, the staff wear masks and shields. The amazingly fine weather and the garden have given lockdown a holiday feel. As a retired couple with lots of interests we’re used to having relaxing days at home; now every day is a relaxing day at home. Real carers are people who look after severely disabled children or partners or parents with dementia, for year after year. Apart from having to think what to have for dinner and cook every single day, life is easy and there is time for gardening, writing and blogging.

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In the Game of Life, Covid 19 Edition, over 35,000 people have died in the UK.

We have been given another extra turn and got some bonus points; loved ones and friends have been safe so far. Lucky to have a garden, not have to worry about losing a job or trying to home school children. Lucky that what happened to us came just before lockdown.

Have you written a Covid Chronicle or kept a journal?

The NHS

I was going to write about The NHS weeks ago, but events kept overtaking me and the subject.

‘The National Health Service is the publicly funded healthcare system of the United Kingdom. It is made up of four separate systems that serve each part of the UK: The National Health Service in England, NHS Scotland, NHS Wales and Health and Social Care in Northern Ireland. They were established together in 1948 as one of the major social reforms following the Second World War. The founding principles were that services should be comprehensive, universal and free at the point of delivery. Each service provides a comprehensive range of health services, free at the point of use for people ordinarily resident in the United Kingdom, apart from dental treatment and optical care. The English NHS also requires patients to pay prescription charges with a range of exemptions from these charges.’

https://www.nhs.uk/

Often the NHS is only in our thoughts when we are having our own personal dramas. Sometimes it is in the news for the wrong reasons, when things go drastically wrong. At present it is in the news all the time, it IS The News. The system that has cared for most of us from before we were born until we take our last breath is now responsible for steering the UK through the world wide pandemic. Whilst many people have been told not to go to work and stay at home, NHS staff are hardly seeing their homes. Government quickly forgets all the cut backs, poor pay for some, meddling, outsourcing and attempts to sell bits off that put the NHS at risk and expect all the staff to rise to the challenge… and they have. Perhaps when or if this is over those in power will do the right thing, instead of the public having to continually sign petitions pleading for our national treasure to be protected.
I recently finished reading Adam Kay’s Book This Is Going to Hurt: Secret Diaries of a Junior Doctor and reviewed it on Goodreads.

‘When my planned caesarean for our first baby ( breech ) turned into a 1am Sunday morning dash to Queen Charlotte’s Hospital a week early, one of the staff said ‘You’re in luck, the registrar’s on tonight’ I wondered what would have happened if he hadn’t been on. They may also have said I was lucky it was a quiet night. Anyway, everything proceeded quickly. When the same early imminent arrival happened with my third caesarean the same hospital was busy with a worrying lack of progress; the surgeon told me he had another emergency caesarean to perform and he had rung the consultant – for advice, not actually to come in; consultants don’t come in during the night as you will find out when you read this book! The anaesthetist said he had been on for 24 hours, I was shocked, but this was no doubt the norm, then and now. Adam Kay’s book is very funny, but there are dark moments and to an outsider it seems a realistic portrayal of a medical career, the dedication of those who work for the NHS and the cavalier attitude of management and government to our most important and treasured institution. Many readers will find anecdotes that relate to their family’s experiences and people who enjoy medical things are bound to relish this book.’

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35235302-this-is-going-to-hurt

Adam Kay is now a writer and comedian, no longer a doctor. Is the NHS perfect? Of course not, it’s staffed by human beings, some not as caring as they should be, some arrogant and others too scared to be whistle blowers. Tales of what went wrong and what went right are for another time.
One of the sad aspects of the virus tragedy is that the seriously ill are in isolation, they are not able to see any loved ones. Nor do they have the comfort of seeing the compassionate faces of the medical staff, who in all their protective gear must look like aliens or spacemen to their patients. Those of us who have had treatment in normal times know staff come from all over the world, international cooperation at its best.

The Game of Life Goes Global

The Game of Life is being played on the biggest scale ever with the worldwide virus scare. A game of chance with good odds for most of us, but with the rules being made up as we go along and every team making up their own rules, or so we might think… But it is viruses that make the rules, mutating at will; do they have an agenda? It is not hard to believe that Gaia has her hand in this, as travelling and normal life grind to a halt it must be good for the environment and non human creatures.

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Meanwhile, if we zoom in like Google Maps to my family, even without the virus there has been drama. Our daughter has clocked up five different hospitals visited, with her younger son and father in hospital at the same time. Luckily the little one is fine. After a year and more of being well, Cyberspouse’s condition went off at an unexpected tangent and he has been in three different hospitals. Now I am officially a carer, having persuaded the discharge nurse and social care team I would manage – not mentioning that once I was back on my computer writing I would probably forget all about him! Luckily our daughter is a physiotherapist and has been organising us, her brothers and the NHS. Our aim was to get him out of hospital before it went into virus lockdown!

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Blogging and writing was put on hold and once my scheduled blogs ran out it was quite liberating to know there was no chance of writing anything or catching up with fellow bloggers. But what a fund of material I have acquired in my head; a blog about the NHS and patients and visitors…

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Latest virus update… Cyberson 1 now back in the USA has to stay home as he has been to the UK within the last 14 days. Team H are now self quarantining as our son-in-law came home from work with a sore throat and cough. Cyberson 2 can’t come down as his boss’s wife has symptoms. We are lucky all the family got together before the virus kicked in. How have you and yours been affected by the virus?

The Game of Life Continues…

Warning: Do you dare to play the game of life? If you don’t want to read about illness and death or you dislike dark humour please avoid this blog, but I hope you will continue to visit my Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday blogs. Do not seek professional advice here either!

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The Game of Life continues with no rules; it is over a year since the Game of Life started  play on Tidalscribe. Worldwide people continue to be out of the game in war and disasters – natural and man-made; even the blame for natural disasters is now laid at the feet of humans. What happens to individuals in their little lives means nothing in the bigger picture, but the bigger picture is too much for us to take in so we talk about people we know.

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A storm, a phone call and an early Christmas card.

 We had a big storm recently, not a typhoon, hurricane or flood. Out of all the people in Dorset the roll of the dice went against one older lady, a tree was blown on top of her car.

When my old school friend phoned one evening with ‘sad news’ it wasn’t hard to guess her elderly mother had died, but it had still come as a shock to her because of the circumstances and because she had been her mother’s carer for a very long time.

Just back from our little holiday in Wales, Cyberspouse  browsed through the mail and opened a Christmas card. Without actually looking to see who the card was from he started reading the brief type written slip inside describing the peaceful death at home on Good Friday of someone’s husband. From the name I guessed, we only exchanged Christmas cards, but our mothers had been best friends when we were in infant school. Chemotherapy had not worked, but he had time to see family and another grandson born, loved ones take comfort from targets achieved.

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How many things can humans have fixed?

How many extra years does modern medicine give you? Cyberspouse met up with a friend he hadn’t seen for a while and was surprised to see him looking so well. Over a period of time he has had his rib cage opened up, heart surgery, cancer, other multiple conditions, plus various parts removed.

Death Jokes

‘Eighteen months at the most I was told’

Well seventeen, it was a month ago they told you that.

Wilko Johnson is an ageing pop star I knew little about, but a few years ago I heard him talking on the radio about being diagnosed with terminal cancer; he just made me laugh, after always suffering from bouts of depression he was feeling really cheerful, his calm acceptance of his imminent demise apparently impressed his friends and fans. He carried on with life without bothering about treatment. After doing farewell tours, circumstances led him to an oncologist who offered to operate with a 15% chance of survival. He survived.

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Appointments

Cyberspouse’s most recent scan showed everything still stable, nothing had changed since his previous scan and six months of no treatment, when we went in to see the oncologist she said ‘Oh, you’re looking well!’. Life carries on as normal; we’ve had trips away most months, north, east and west. There are no magic answers to cancer; if you are feeling okay you may as well get on with life and not waste time searching for ‘key lifestyles’ and new cures ‘overseas’.  If a diet of raw vegetables doesn’t appeal to you eat what you like. The Macmillan nurse said at the start of all this, keep moving and feed yourself up, words taken to heart by Cyberspouse. We don’t look things up, but I find Quora quite interesting or amusing when it pops up.

Quora is a question-and-answer website where questions are asked, answered, and edited by Internet users, either factually or in the form of opinion.

Cancer is understandably a popular topic and most of the answers sensible. There is no miracle cure that someone somewhere in the world is hiding so they can make money. If there were, the rich and powerful would not succumb like the rest of us. It is not one disease, cancerous cells can pop up anywhere and move round the body to anywhere, cells have their own DNA and this can alter; every patient is different as to how illness and treatment will affect them. Cancer is not a battle to be fought, if it was the young with everything to fight for would not die.

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People you don’t see, in laboratories, are busy researching, adding to the multitude of different chemotherapies and other treatments – adding new chance cards to the Game of Life.

 

 

Game of Life – An Extra Go

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Warning: Do you dare to play the game of life? If you don’t want to read about illness and death or you dislike dark humour please avoid this blog, but I hope you will continue to visit my Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday blogs.

Last week was the appointment to see the oncologist about the scan results. In the main waiting room the television was still on BBC1, ‘Doctors’ on mute with subtitles. The bad news was we got called in quickly and missed the end of Doctors, the good news was everything had stabilised so Cyberspouse could carry on with the current chemotherapy. As he is still feeling fine, life carries on as normal, we can plan a few trips between the three weekly hospital visits. Have another throw of the dice.

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Tales of Life and Death

 An elderly lady told me a story last week about her last surviving son-in-law. She was awake early expecting a sad phone call, her grandson had flown over from the USA to say goodbye. When he rushed into the hospital he found his father sitting up in bed eating  a bacon sandwich.

‘What had been wrong with him?’

Every now and then his lungs collapse and have to be re-inflated. This time they couldn’t blow them up again and there was no hope.

 Someone once told me his mother rang up and said Quick, come to the hospital, your gran’s better. After lying in a coma with everyone waiting for her to die, Granny had suddenly sat up in bed, started chatting and had a cup of tea. By the time her grandson arrived she had lapsed back and died soon after. At least she got to enjoy a last cup of tea.

In a previous incarnation, in a town far away, my friend was practice manager at our doctor’s surgery, a mutual friend’s husband was a self employed builder with heart trouble. She helped run the playgroup at a chilly scout hut near the doctors. I was also one of the helpers. Her husband was always popping in to help ( annoy ) us.

This particular morning he was doing work at the surgery. Our jolly morning with the children was interrupted by one of the receptionists from the doctors rushing in to say Bob’s having a heart attack.

In the meantime my poor friend the practice manager watched as the paramedics were trying to resuscitate Bob on her office floor. She maintained afterwards he was definitely dead.

The next morning the rest of us arrived at playgroup wondering if the news was the worst, but there was Bob sitting at one of the little tables, he hadn’t even stayed home for a bit of a lie in. Apparently at the hospital the paramedics were astonished to see him walking out of the hospital when they were on the way back to their ambulance…