Today I went without the slap, without a head covering and without much care. It was Just Too Hot. My appointment was for 9 o’clock so I had rush hour traffic to contend with. Rush hour traffic, 26 degree heat and a car with quirky air conditioning – it does not work in stationary traffic. This is where always being early stands me in good stead. Under normal conditions I would have been early. In these circumstances I was on time. You cannot know how much this pleases me.
That I am rapidly learning the clinic never runs on time is something I am untroubled by. The Doc is a man of grace and sensitivity. He gives time to his patients. I have been, and will no doubt be so again, the recipient of this kindness. Once aware of this, it is easy to plan for. I went armed with a large book. Last visit my book ran out. This was a crisis of epic proportions as I was forced to watch the video. Played on a loop is a compilation DVD of 1980s Top of the Pops. Initially this is quite entertaining. After a short while it is excruciating.
Today’s visit involved more blood letting. No compliments were forthcoming but this was fair enough. I had not made the effort. However, my veins played ball. Which was a huge relief. This cycle they have been getting more and more sore. This is not unexpected. Chemo burns veins. Nice. I have been doing all I can to keep them working. I have been rubbing them several times a day with a potion concocted for me by the aromatherapists of Complementary Therapy. I am using a stress ball to exercise with hand squeezes. I say stress ball, I actually mean a ball of socks. It seems to work. I continue to drink the equivalent of a small lake each day and increase this to a medium sized lake the day before chemo. And I am wrapping a hot water bottle and damp tea towels around my forearm each day which in this heat is, indeed, dedication to the cause. The Doc is prescribing me some stuff to rub on too. I am pretty sure Stuff was its actual name.
Seeing him was, as always, a joy. Not the reason for being there, I just always feel better having seen him. He was very pleased with the effect from my new drugs. Possibly not nearly as pleased as I was. We spent most of my appointment discussing my family history as some new information has come to light. As a result, I am being referred to the Genetic Screening Department to see whether this would be a good plan for me. This could take some time. But that is not a problem. There is no rush.
This could be me in a few days. Seriously. I have signed up for a Cancer & Yoga class. I do not think we take our cancer out and contort it into implausible positions but it is a thought. No. Rather it is billed more as a Gentle Stretching for The Incapable Among Us. Or something like that. I am quite looking forward to it. I have long been told I need to do yoga or pilates or some such thing as I have no balance and little core stability. For example, I cannot stand one leg. Or rather, I can only stand one leg while leaning against something. The days of giving my impersonation of standard lamp have lapsed. I did revive this performance only yesterday for a one woman audience but it was a sad shadow of its former self.
The Cancer & Yoga class is happening at my local Cancer Support Centre. Who knew such a place existed? I have only recently discovered it. For a small fee I enrol and am entitled to all manner of classes and whatnot. I also get access to even more complementary therapies than I am already currently in receipt of. I suspect the yoga class is the only thing I will do regularly as everything does involve a further fee. My hope is that the stretching will help with the very taut muscles left in my back following my surgery. Periodically they become quite uncomfortable and I really need to do something about them. The class meets on a Wednesday which is theoretically my best day of the week. I am hoping to be back from seeing The Doc in time for me to start this week.
Meanwhile, I have been a tad busy. Hence the silence. My Mum came down for a few days which was lovely. She has been itching to get her hands on me since I started chemo and finally all things came together. As always she was a whirling dervish of maternal care and energy. I have also been relishing my ‘good week’. I visited a friend in Shrewsbury yesterday (bliss!) and the Captain & I celebrated our wedding anniversary a week early. I shall be somewhat in disposed come the actual day so we had a fabulous lunch together on Friday while I was still able – carpe diem and all. What has struck me this time around is how much tireder I am getting. After a day of activity I have been too tired to do anything. Even write. And that is so not like me!
Who would have thought it? There is a magical group of women who provide the most amazing and generous service to any and all who have had one or both breasts removed. They are Knitted Knockers UK and really are a fabulous group who should be trumpeted from the rooftops.
Having read one of my holiday posts bemoaning the weight of my fake boob, a friend got in touch asking if I had heard of Knitted Knockers. I knew it was possible to knit such things but as the cardigan I began in the 1970s for my Knitters Badge in Brownies remains unfinished to this day, I rather felt knitting a wooly bosom was beyond me. Fortunately, however, these knockers do not come in kit form. Rather, you supply your measurements, make a few choices – colour, knit/crochet, nipple – and a lovely person begins to knit. For you. Especially for you. And the whole thing is absolutely free. I am going to repeat that. The whole thing is absolutely FREE. It is ‘a gift from one woman to another’ and is ‘made will love and filled with hope’.
My order went in at an especially busy time but I still received the finished article within a month. My package arrived with not only my very own knocker but a knitted butterfly key ring fob, spare filling, a packet of love heart sweets and a small note. The whole lot was then wrapped in tissue paper and tied with ribbon. It was a delight to receive.
I have been very tardy in writing this post because it has taken me a long time to test drive my knocker. I can now reveal that it is going to be very successful. Since my lamentations of prosthesis weight, I have been almost exclusively wearing a ‘softie’ given to me by the hospital. This is a exactly what it sounds like: a soft, fabric prosthesis filled with stuffing that weighs nothing and is much more comfortable than my proper one. However, it does not have the best shape and tends to dimple as the stuffing moves about. The knitted knocker has all the advantages of the softie and gives a much better appearance. I ordered one with a nipple which, if I had my time again, I would not do. As the Captain put it, ‘I see your left breast is excited at seeing me!’ Because my real nipple is not permanently standing to attention it does rather draw attention to the other one. But this is easily addressed. I have not yet decided how, but I will do. It is also going to take a little time to sort out the correct amount of stuffing. The really good news is that once settled upon, the stuffing is not going to move about like it does in the softie.
So, all in all, this was a fabulous discovery and I am thrilled to have had my attention drawn to them. If anyone reading this fancies knitting for them, I believe they are always on the look out for knitters.
Everyone loves a competition, right? Especially if you do not have to do anything other than be nominated. Even more especially if you go on to be one of the winners. Oh yes indeedy. I am a winner! Thanks to the lovely people at Cheerfully Given and one of my fabulous Facebook friends. All I had to do was look winsome (or was it sassy?) with my bald pate and loud lippy in an attempt to perfect the I-may-be-having-chemo-but-really-I-look-fine look. And I am thrilled to the tips of my red painted tippy toes.
The competition slash give-away was organised on Cheerfully Given’s Facebook page. Every month they run Cheer a Chum and ask for nominations ‘to bless some of your dear chums with a thoughtful gift‘. I had a choice of three gifts to choose from but, despite my metal allergies, opted for the above Victor’s Crown made by the very talented (and as it turns out, local!) Bloom Jewellery. It is a black leather cord bracelet with a tiny sterling silver crown threaded onto it. Inspired by Isaiah 35:10, it comes with the bible verse printed out reading:
The people the Lord has rescued will come back singing as they enter Zion. Happiness will be a crown they will always wear. They will shout because all sorrows and worries will be gone far away.
I love this. I do not believe it is a promise that the Lord, or King Jesus (see what I did there? Another crown reference), will rescue me, or any of us, in a manner of our choosing. I do not see it necessarily as a promise of healing. I see it as a promise that ultimately, in the words of the lovely Julian, ‘All shall be well’. Or in the words of the equally lovely Teresa, ‘God alone suffices’. Whether Zion of the bible verse is here on earth or with King Jesus in Heaven, I do not know. Either way, Happiness is a crown I shall choose to wear daily. And my beautiful bracelet will be the perfect reminder of that. Instead of wearing it, I shall dangle it from my bedroom mirror where I will see it on rising.
No, I have not suddenly found the zippity part of my do-dah day. But I am feeling a little more spritely. There is nothing like watching wall to wall sport to make one feel quite perky. Actually, this is a new discovery. Sports do not greatly feature in our household. We make exception for international football and rugby but Wimbledon is when sports fever really takes hold. It says something that on realising my second chemo happened during week one of Wimbledon, I was really quite pleased. It is the perfect excuse to sit glued to the television.
Even our television has noticed the increase in viewing hours. Several times now, a notice has flashed across the screen announcing ‘This television will go into standby mode in 60 seconds. Hit any key on remote to continue watching.’ How it manages to display this while exuding condemnation is a mystery. I am being judged by a piece of audio visual equipment. It is a sanctimonious set. But I do not care. I shall wallow in my watching and gloat in my gazing. For Wimbledon is but once a year.
Today I have relished the Federer / Cilic match and exhausted myself to Murray and Tsonga. Now Wales are playing Portugal in Euro 2016 so I am embracing my one eighth Welshness and cheering them on. Perhaps if my Welsh blood were stronger they would be doing better. The score is currently Portugal 2 Wales 0.
From all this, you will gather that I am much improved on the previous couple of days. The pattern seems to be that days 4 to 6 are challenging in the energy department. This is helpful to know as forewarned is forearmed etc. etc. Today I made it out of the house. I took my wig fringe on an outing. We went first to Aldi and then to the GP’s. Such excitement. The outings may have been dull but the fringe was something of a success. Cooler than a wig but still involving hair.
Today I just feel rubbish. I have no specific symptoms other than total knackeredness and complete pole-axedness. I have been in a semi-recumbant position on the kitchen sofa watching Wimbledon pretty much all day. Apart from when I was hiding from the cleaners. I do not usually hide from them. I love them. But one had a cold so it seemed wise.
Everything just feels like hard work. Even getting off the sofa to walk to the loo. You will be pleased to know I am, however, still making the effort. One has certain standards.
I love this picture. That it depicts a woman washing a man is only a slight distortion of the facts of our household this morning. Our bath is not under the washing line either. We are posh enough to have indoor plumbing these days. However, my morning ablutions did require assistance today. And it was the Captain that came to my aid. For which both I the postman are truly grateful. Since he was the only other person who called at the house today. We may never have received post again if I had dragged him into my bathroom.
I have been steadily shedding the stubble leftover from the Great Shave and for the past three days this has stepped up a notch. It is amazing just how much one head can hold. While I do quite like the slaphead look I have been tucking my head away for two reasons: a) it has been unseasonably cold and b) it has helped to contain the fallout. This morning on waking, the contents of my sleep cap suggested things had gone up a gear. I got into the bath, gave my head a bit of a gentle rub and the amount that promptly fell out was astounding. Think herd of lemmings on speed. The more I tried to rinse the bits away, the more they fell out. The Captain ended up coming to my assistance as my arms were pathetically achy. He rinsed me off and then showered me down as I left the grey hairy bathwater in my wake.
The look I am left with is not the sassy bald pate I was hoping for. I still, temporarily, have smatterings of stubble but not enough to disguise the fact that my head is white. As in milky white. The kind of milky white that comes from radioactive cows and glows in the dark. This would not be so bad if my face matched. But thanks to my recent holiday, that now boasts a healthy glow. So I look like I have over applied a too dark foundation. My only hope lies in trying to gain a little more sun which given the summer’s recent performance could be more than a little challenging.
Yesterday’s trip for my second lot of poisoning took longer than the first. I was on the unit for about 4 hours this time. This was ok. They were very busy and I had no prior claims on my time. My cannulation was just as smooth as last time but my vein was a little more troublesome. Shy, if you will. It did co-operate in the end but it was touch and go for while.
My revised cocktail of antiemetics is certainly having an impact. The nausea is vastly improved. I am falling asleep at the drop of a hat too. Which is no bad thing. I basically feel like I have been put through a mangle so anything to escape is good. Currently the sedative properties of these drugs are in contention with the jitteriness of the steroids so I am bouncing in a very lethargic manner. Think Duracell bunny on valium and caffeine. I shall be glad when I resume comatose. Fortunately I have my ginger hamper to nibble upon and Wimbledon to watch on the tele. And I am now equipped with the knowledge that this too will pass.