Saturday 30 December 2017

Living in Interesting Times

Harpenden in the Snow (pic. Alison Woodley)

We live in interesting times, as the saying goes. For some of us, the times are slightly more interesting that we'd like. Last week, a few days before Christmas, FIVE letters arrived from the two hospitals who are dealing with the aftermath of my cancer operation. Cancermin gone mad.

Before we go there, a piece of advice: Do Not Research Cancer Causing Symptoms on the Internet. Apparently my cancer could have been caused by: cigarettes/weight/age/coffee/alcohol/salt/red meat/smoked food/air pollution/stress. No mention of the current government, but I'm pretty convinced they must be part of it.

Briefly, I shall be spending most of January shuttling between the Luton & Dunstable Hospital (checkups, follow on checkups, bone scan etc) and Mount Vernon Hospital, where I am slowly going to morph into Radioactive Woman. Stand next to me at bus stops at your peril. In preparation for this, I have now been CT scanned and Marked In Indelible Pen. After a while, you just withdraw into your head and let them get on with it.

To add to the fun, the dumbphone has packed up. It started a while ago when it kept locking me out. Then it refused point blank to send any texts. Cue taking it into a local EE shop, where a pair of twelve year olds in blue overalls with the yellow EE logo took it apart, re-assembled it, and informed me that there was nothing more they could do.

Thus acquisition of New Phone. Luckily, the other Grumpy Old Sod is a big fan of Classic FM and knew immediately that the right phone for the non-techie-with-tendency-to-shout-at-and-break-phones was the one they've been pushing as the ideal Xmas gift for the over 80s. So while he has a brand new white Apple iPhone with gold edges, I have a black one with BIG keys and SIMPLE instructions. Happy? Yep, though I'd have preferred a red one.

Life is all about survival in one form or another, isn't it? Sometimes this means adopting a different strategy, sometimes it means adapting to a new one. As the days lurch unsteadily downhill towards the gate of 2018, I'd like to wish all the readers of this blog a Happy New Year. Resolutions? I don't make them. Let's just say that if I and the mobile phone haven't packed up by December 31st, 2018, I shall chalk it up as a success! Cheers!

Sunday 24 December 2017

It's Party Time!

What is Christmas without a P*A*R*T*Y? So step inside the writing garret, gentle reader, and help yourself to a party hat, a handful of poppers and a tinsel wreath. This party is for all of you - 2017 has been a momentous year for many reasons, and it is time to celebrate!


Ah, you found the box of crackers. No, I don't know what Vampires sing on New Year's Eve..... ''Auld Fang's Syne''. Haha - love it. OK, while you're attacking the sausage rolls, grabbing a drink and introducing yourself to the other guests, I'll just run through some of the events that made this year so special for me. Please share your special events later.

In May I started minding Little G and Small when my daughter returned to work. We have had a lot of fun and adventures and in honour of their dual presence, I re-started The Adventures of L-Plate Gran to tell you all about them.  Here's the first *new* post

The PINK SOFA has played host to some lovely writing guests over the year, including: Jonathon Fletcher, Jan Ruth, Kelly Florentia, Shelley Wilson, Ian Wilfred, Amanda James and Jo Carroll.

The MOST popular blog post, with nearly 6 thousand views so far was this one.

All the Victorian Detectives books were re-issued with brand new covers, designed by Gina Dickerson (@GinaDWriter ). The fifth Victorian Detectives book, Wonders & Wickedness was published in September and has been on several eminent book bloggers' Best of 2017 Book Lists including @CathyRy  and @MrsBloggsReader  @TerryTyler4  Thank you ladies. I am honoured.

I'd also like to thank everybody who reads and comments on my blogs, and chats to me on Facebook and Twitter. You know who you are. I know who you are. In the dark times when staring at a blank computer screen and wondering why I have the effrontery to call myself a writer, YOU have encouraged and cheered me on. Especial affection for all my mad fellow #thearchers Tweetalong mates.

I see someone has opened the PROSECCO! Excellent! And if one of you can sort the play-list, let's start celebrating!

On behalf of the SOFA and myself: A Very Happy Christmas to One and All!!

Sunday 17 December 2017

Cheek to Cheek (Adventures of L-Plate Gran)

Christmas preparations are underway at You must be mad's house. Little G and Small  have helped to lug home a very big tree which looked a lot smaller in the market, and then helped decorate it. Small's contribution has been to pull off all the decorations within reach on the lower boughs, so the tree now has a rather lopsided look.

Little G keeps dropping hints about my present in a 'not-telling-you' sort of way, eg:

Little G: What is your favourite colour?
Me:        Orange.
Little G: That's the colour of your present!

Meanwhile, Small is starting to push the boundaries, as those books on child-rearing put it. The pushing involves things like dropping food off his highchair/being told to stop/doing his sad 'lip' gesture/ then dropping more food .... slowly and deliberately .... while staring at you. He has also mastered the art of reaching out behind his back to touch something that he has been told not to touch. He is turning into a cheeky little monkey, as the books on child-rearing don't put it.

You must be mad and I are the discipline duo. We absolutely refuse to be defeated by an under-two on a wind-up mission. Small, on the other hand, clearly sees our reactions as part of the game. Neither of us have any experience in raising boys, and the sort of brisk telling-off that would reduce Little G to floods of tears, washes off Small like water off a seal. Frankly, my dear, he simply couldn't give a damn.

We are both hoping it is a phase. Like Little G's phase of ritual burping. She rarely does it now. Meanwhile we continue to admonish Small, and he continues to run rings round us. You can see him sizing us up behind his innocent 'what, me?' face, while L-Plate Grandad (Small's favourite person out of the two of us) tries not to laugh.

It's a battle, that's for sure. But we all love Small too much to let him win. On the plus side though, I am mentally stocking up on a lot of 'when you were very little' stories to use as embarrassing ammo when Small turns into a teenager. My day may not have arrived yet, but it will surely come.
Oh yes.

Saturday 9 December 2017

Spreading Myself Thinly

WARNING: This blog post contains strong language and scenes of a surgical nature that some readers may well find distasteful. Don't say you weren't told.

It is Saturday, and I am back home recovering. Partly from the mastectomy itself, but mainly from 48 hours in hospital. Do not get me wrong: The Luton & Dunstable Hospital is brilliant. The NHS is the greatest invention since sliced bread. But.

They keep waking me up. The first night, they come round every hour to see how I am. Sometimes I am asleep, in which case they wake me up to check if I was asleep. When I  am not, they stick things in various orifices, on various fingers, and mutter to each other. I've been given a nice green buzzer attached to a morphine drip. Somewhere in the course of that long dark first night, I lose all sense of reality, and just empty it. Which kind of accounts for the next day.

I am labelled. My left leg has a label, as does my right arm. Presumably on the basis that if they go missing, they can be reunited with the rest of me. My left hand also has a large blue arrow pointing upwards, allegedly indicating where the sentient bit is. Every time anyone enters my room, they ask me my name and date of birth. After a while, I stop waiting to be asked, and tell them anyway. This means the cleaner, the menu lady and the patient next door who forgot where her room was know who I am and when to send birthday cards.

Hospital time is different from everywhere else. There seems to be an awful lot of 4 am and most of the time it is Thursday. Little G and Small come for a visit the day after the operation and instantly manage to locate the device that raises and lowers the bed. So there is a great deal of 'bed UP - bed DOWN.' They get plied with biscuits and cooed over by the nursing team, which they thoroughly enjoy.

The thing with the drainage bottle honestly wasn't my fault. (The drainage bottle, which contained  me in liquid form, follows me round in a nice green bag.) Look, I just stood up and it somehow became unattached and ended up on the floor, so that there I was, briefly, spread thinly over a wide area.

They load you up with pain relief in hospital. Unfortunately, even though all the drugs say they may cause drowsiness, the staff don't like you lying around in bed, so I spend a lot of time sitting up fast asleep. I have to say, however painful the operation was, the most painful event occurred when they removed the surgical tape attaching the cannula to the back of my hand. Words of an unladylike nature were shouted and I had to apologise.

I have now been sent home with something called Tramadol, which I gather is one of the opiate based pain-killers currently responsible for the majority of drug-addicted deaths in the US. Luckily, this isn't the US, so I reckon I might be OK.

But at the end of the day, whatever day it is, it's great to be home. I have drugs, I have an exercise chart, I have a cat who missed sleeping on me and is now making up for lost time. And, as I keep reminding myself, in Victorian times, my operation would have been performed minus anaesthetics, and my survival rate would be practically nil. Plus I'd have had to pay for it. I could make a political point here, but I won't. You know what it is. I'll just keep taking the Tramadol.

Saturday 2 December 2017

The Big C & Me

As regular readers of this blog know, 4 years ago, I was diagnosed, via a routine screening, with ductile cancer, and underwent an operation to remove it. You can read about it HERE.
Unfortunately, it appears that me and the Big C have not finished our relationship. I now have Grade 2 breast cancer, and in 4 days' time (Wednesday 6th) will be going into the wonderful Luton & Dunstable Hospital to have some more of me chopped off.

It is quite a major op, and like most major ops, it has generated an incredible amount of paperwork (known, rather wearily, to us sufferers & survivors as Cancermin).This week alone I have received:

* A BIG booklet on primary breast care
* Results of my biopsy
* A letter explaining about my healthcheck, pre-op
* A report of my 2 meetings with my Macmillan nurse
* Letter from the Photography Dept re appointment to take pics
* A form for the Implant Registry
* Info about the above
* A questionnaire to fill in post op
* A survey to fill in about Breast cancer and 'older women' (optional)
* A report on my initial diagnosis and meeting with consultant, sent to my GP cc. to me
* Information about my Outpatient Department appt. post-op
* A treatment plan outline sent to my GOP cc. me
* Various leaflets about stuff

Worried about the operation? Heck, I don't have time. Too much reading and box-ticking to do!

Last time I was chopped, I noticed a few people backing away into the undergrowth. They have not re-appeared. So, in the interests of being helpful, here are some things to say/not say when a friend/family member or work colleague announces they have breast (or any other) cancer.

* 'Aren't you lucky you don't need chemo': yes, probably I am, but I'm not feeling lucky right now. Why not ask me about my treatment instead?

* 'Let me know if I can do anything' (I had a text that said this). Translation: Don't let me know, please. Better to say: 'Can I cook you a meal? When shall I bring it round? Can I hoover the house for you? What would be a good day?' Most treatment involves being unable to lift anything lighter than a feather for weeks, so cooking/cleaning is a bit of an no-no.

*  How are you? If you can add 'today' it helps us respond. Today, I am feeling tearful. Yesterday, I was fine.

* But PLEASE PLEASE ... at the end of the day, the worse thing that one can do is to ignore. I have been told several sad stories of women taking cakes into work, to get colleagues to speak to them. If all else fails, drop round a card. With a nice Boots/Space NK/MS voucher inside ... 'to treat yourself when you are better'.

And finally, coz I want to leave room for other far wiser people to pile in with their words of wisdom: to my fellow cancer friends: Whatever your deeply held beliefs, if someone offers to: pray, light candles, send blessings, plant a tree, or ritually sacrifice a politician, be grateful (especially the last one). It shows they care. xx