Cross your fingers while touching wood

March 19, 2012 § 5 Comments

I’ve never considered myself to be a superstitious person. All that about umbrellas being put up indoors or smashed mirrors and seven years – clearly nonsense. My mum will never put new shoes on a table. What an earth can that be about?

But that was before. Nowadays, I am highly superstitious. It’s way too risky to say, “Yes, I feel better.” That’s like tempting all the illness, bad luck fates that ever were. If I were religious, it would be different. I could say something like, “Yes, I feel better, thanks be to God”. Instead, I have to say, “Yes, fingers crossed, I’m continuing to improve,” or, more pathetically still, “Hopefully, I will be feeling better by then.” I’m not above touching wood, for goodness sake. There have to be some words or a gesture to support the feeling better/things might be alright line. (See, I can’t even comfortable say that things “will” be alright; they only “might” be alright – hopefully, fingers crossed, please God, etc. [the “please God” isn’t really something I can use but I’m more than happy for anyone else to have a go with that.])

The difficulty becomes more acute when planning for the future. Doing anything that involves assuming I might be fit and well in a month, in the summer, beyond, seems like taunting those same illness fates. I haven’t bought any new clothes, for example, and I’m finding it hard to think about getting fit again – that’s a huge investment in the future, after all. Today, I couldn’t bring myself to post the deposit for our summer holiday (Russell offered to do it, bless him). I even hesitated to renew the Family Railcard.

Is this all a sign that I am slowly going bonkers? If the cancer is coming back, I think medical opinion would suggest that it’s doing so regardless of whether we have an up to date Family Railcard. And I’m not proud of behaving with no more enlightenment than a medieval peasant, thinking I can control this by not buying a new pair of jeans (or whatever the medieval equivalent was, a new long frock, presumably). I suppose it’s about control. None of this is in my control, after all or the bits I could control, I’ve done. So now, after all the science, it is rather down to luck, which is just superstition in another guise.

So fingers cross people, fingers crossed.

In case that was a bit too bleak…

March 10, 2012 § 3 Comments

… here is our work to bring the ancient and long disappeared Motte and Bailey castle at Thetford back to life. We are particularly proud of the church and forest details. (When I say “we” I mean Arthur of course. It would be madness to think that a parent would sit alone in their kitchen, making small cardboard houses and sticking cocktail sticks together to make an authentic palisade.)


Using Homer to mark recovery

March 10, 2012 § 5 Comments


Well, a month and a bit after the last post, here I am. The operation is all done. I have new boobs – or to be more precise, newly filled boobs – and a big scar across my stomach to mark where the new filling came from. (Too much detail? Apologies if so.) Towards the end of the day, I walk like Julie Walters’ Mrs Overall, but mostly I’m upright. It all feels a tad weird and not quite me yet but I can sleep on my side and load a dishwasher so we’re almost there.

Here are some things to note if you ever need to get your breasts replaced by your tummy.

1. Spend time finding a soft bra you can actually get yourself into post surgery. No one would let me sit up until I had one and by day three, sitting up is pretty much all you can think about. They talk of a soft, front fastening bra but it turns out this isn’t so easy to get hold of. In the end, I could raise my arms and get a Sloggi top over my head but if you can’t, the Cotton Comfy Bra (advertised in Sunday papers) might be a good place to start. I haven’t seen one of these but the picture in the advert looks appropriate. Or you could try here.

2. Don’t necessarily believe your surgeons when they tell you ten hours. My surgery took 17 hours – yes, people, really. Apparently, nothing went wrong, but they couldn’t all get round the table. Not so bad for me, but horrible for Russell and my mum who were at the end of the phone, wondering why it was all taking an extra seven hours.

3. Be ready for the hideous hot blanket. After four days wrapped an air-heated cover, with the noise of the pump and liberal quantities of morphine for the pain – well, let’s just say I wasn’t in my usual mind. The heated blanket is to keep the blood vessels as warm and wide as possible in order to give the blood supply to the transplanted tissue the best chance of working. It all makes sense now but at the time I wasn’t quite so rational.

4. You might swell up. I could only really see my arms and feet, which were enormous, like the limbs of the people in Wall-e. My head was huge too only my visitors were too kind to say so. I think this is to do with fluid retention but in my arm, it also felt like my veins were saying, “Enough, no more.” And fair enough.

5. Take something with you that smells nice. My friend brought me some Jo Malone perfume and lovely it was too.

6. NHS hospital food – ok, not so bad except you really have to get to grips with the ordering. Order every individual thing you want. Don’t assume anything comes with anything else. My example: I asked for a jacket potato, and that’s what I got. A single potato – no filling, no nothing, just a potato.

7. Take in audio books. You won’t have the energy to read or even watch anything, but listening is possible. They helped me to sleep too.

8. Coming home is good, but be prepared to feel awful. No one really warned me about post-operative depression, which I now realise is pretty common. And for me, this was on top of finishing chemo and trying to come to terms with “getting on with life.” So, fair to say that getting over the operation has been harder than I thought, which is one of the reasons I haven’t been writing.

Actually, it’s not so much been the surgery as the whole damn business. Being stuck in hospital and then largely stuck on the sofa gives a girl way too much time to brood on the “what ifs” – what if I’ve been through all this and still it isn’t enough? Of course, this way madness lies. Hopefully (how weak that word sounds), it is enough and, if it isn’t, well I don’t want to have spent the intervening time behaving like a crazy person. I know this in the sensible bit of me, but not so much in the other “bloody hell, what the hell!” bit of me.

However, today I have been building a motte and bailey castle with my son and haven’t been thinking about cancer every minute, so I’m seeing all that as progress. I’m looking to moving from this:

through a bit of this:

to end up like this:

Where Am I?

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