Showing posts with label Royal Marsden. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Royal Marsden. Show all posts

Monday, 21 January 2013

Hospital 1, hospital 2 and hospital 3...

As I write this, there's snow on the ground. Not a lot of snow, but enough to disrupt the transport system, it would seem. I don't remember my school closing because of snow when I was growing up (in a place much colder and with harsher winters than the South-East of England) - am I viewing the past through the rosy lenses of nostalgia? Were the summers endlessly long, always sunny and full of laughter? Maybe not, but perhaps my old school friends might remember if our school stayed open whatever the weather - I seem to recall the only days the school was closed was when the teachers went on strike!!

The snow started falling on Friday, as I was driving to the Marsden for my three-monthly check-up. Anxious enough about the check-up, as always, the anticipation of poor weather and difficult driving conditions heightened my nerves. The hospital car park was pretty empty and I did wonder if my check-up would go ahead or whether the doctors would have struggled to get in and I might be told to return another day - not a prospect I relished, as I still have to psyche myself up before the appointment and I would have to go through that process all over again. Luckily for me, however, the Head and Neck clinic doctors had managed to get in, although a lot of patients were phoning in to say they couldn't travel to hospital and the waiting room was much emptier than usual!

Of course, the important thing is how the check-up went, not whether the waiting room was empty. After the usual physical examination of  my head and neck and a look inside my mouth, the registrar pronounced that everything is fine - phew! All it means is that I remain in remission and there is no sign of the cancer returning in that area, but to be honest, that's as good as I can expect and hope for at this stage. It doesn't mean the medics are prepared to give me an all clear and state categorically that I am free of cancer, but it means that I am now a year in remission - pretty bloody good when I think of how I felt for most of 2011 and the thought of being alive in 2013 seemed like an impossible dream.  I can't stop cancer by willpower - if we could, how wonderful would that be? - but I can give myself the best possible chance of remaining healthy by taking responsibility for my health and eating sensibly, exercising, resting and avoiding risk factors. That doesn't mean I don't enjoy life - quite the reverse. It just means I am giving myself the best chance of being able to deal with any health problems that come my way.

The other side of my cancer coin is the facial palsy. On January 3rd, I went to the Queen Victoria Hospital in East Grinstead to have my gold weight (aka "eyelid bling") repositioned and my eyelid lift. I had to be there for half seven in the moring, which meant waking my lovely children in time to drive me there (neither of them was working that day, so they volunteered to take me - good children!). The surgeon came to talk to me before the operation and - to my pleasure - he said he thought I didn't need the gold weight any more and was going to remove it. Yay! He also thought I was a bit allergic to the gold (oh, I am so precious!) so it made sense to remove it. The important thing was whether I would be able to close my eye fully after the weight was removed and if I couldn't, then the next stage would be a platimun chain inserted into the eyelid - rising up the precious metal scale!

Now, nearly three weeks after the surgery, my eye looks much more like it used to BC. While it's not exactly as it was, and not exactly like my unaffected eye, it is far less noticeably different. This is progress. This helps me feel that I look more like everyone else and a bit more like I used to look. It also reminds me that it doesn't have to be all about oncology. A part of me also thinks that the NHS wouldn't be investing all this time and money in addressing my facial palsy if they thought that I was going to be ill again - perhaps this is naive, but it makes me feel better anyway :-) In a flurry of January medical appointment, I also had some Botox around my mouth, so I am all procedured-up.

Part of me feels a bit sad that my year has started with so many medical appointments, all of them necessary because of having had cancer. What a nasty, far-reaching disease it is! But another part of me rejoices that I am still here and enjoying life, that I have so many wonderful, supportive friends around me, that my family continues to be a constant joy to me and that the world contunues to turn. There's much to be thankful for. I am thankful.



Thursday, 19 July 2012

It's going to be an eye-opener....literally!

Quick update to share some breaking news with you all - you may remember that, during my original surgery in May 2011, the outer corner of my left eye was sewn to reduce the amount of cornea exposed. This was because blinking is very often compromised when the facial nerve is severed and reducing the eye surface reduces the risk of debris damaging the eye. However, my blinking is good and so my eye surgeon agreed to reopen the eye.

This was scheduled to happen in December 2012 (the surgeon has a loooooong waiting list!) but yesterday I had a phone call from the Queen Victoria Hospital to say that my surgeon has had a cancellation and I can have my surgery on Monday next week. Did I want it? Hell, yeah!

I am now vacillating between excitement, nervousness and apprehension, in almost equal measure! The reverse-tarsorrhaphy (to give it its unpronounceable - to me, anyway! name) will be carried out under local anaesthetic and sedation, which I am told will  mean that I will be awake during the procedure but won't remember any of it. Most people would say that this is no different to my usual modus operandi :-) I blame the radiotherapy for my shocking memory nowadays - some of my brain cells have clearly been frazzled!

Tomorrow brings my check-up at the Royal Marsden - my first since April. I have found myself getting a bit anxious over the past couple of weeks, simply because three months feels like a long time to go without the reassurance of a specialist examination. I tell myself that the doctors wouldn't have let me go three months between check-ups unless they were certain that it is safe to do so, but the niggling doubts wriggle to the surface every so often. It's just the way it is. However, I take comfort from the fact that my dentist had a good feel around my head and neck only a fortnight ago and was happy with everything (she knows my medical history) so let's hope that's the case tomorrow as well.

I still can't tell you my exciting news, to which I alluded in my previous post. I will soon, honestly! Sorry to keep you in suspense....

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Just over half of Seven Sisters....

It's been a fairly quiet week since my last blog. That's not a bad thing, actually, since I was pretty busy the previous week, with shopping, wedding, gym etc and this week is starting to get more filled, so it was probably good to have a bit of a lull.

I took my glam frock to be altered so that I don't trip over it when I am at the Olivier Awards (oh, have I mentioned I am going to those? I'm sure I must have, a few times at least.....!). The rest of the week was spent doing domestic stuff, chatting to Adam about uni and just pottering around. I have discovered a great talent for pottering around over the last few months. I can while away most of the day doing a bit of tidying here, some cleaning there, a little light dusting over there, a bit of reading, catching up with missed episodes of Corrie - it's easy to fill the time!

The only thing we had planned for Easter was to go walking on Saturday with our friend Jonathan. We have done a lot of walks with him over the years (he climbed Kili with us and has climbed various other big hills with Neil) and had arranged this a few weeks ago. We drove down to his house and then on to Seaford, where we started our walk. We did 18 miles (a bit more distance once you factor in the elevations), including four of the Seven Sisters - hence the title of this post! We had to take off our boots and socks and roll up our trouser legs to cross the river. I believe the water was what you would call "bracing" - we called it flipping freezing (one of those words may have been sanitised for public consumption....).

Our walk included a pub lunch, a cup of tea in Alfriston and coffee and a hot cross bun back at Jonathan's house, so we were in no danger of going thirsty or hungry. Back home by about 9 o'clock and both of us were pretty tired by our day. I also had a little blister on the pad of my big toe - this is officially Not Good, as I need to get rid of it before VLM day, so I had to prick it (apologies to those of you with needle phobias, but sometimes it's the only thing to be done!).

On Sunday, I was reading at church and had also arranged to make an announcement before the start of the service asking for sponsorship for VLM. People were so generous and I raised another few hundred pounds, so I am able to pass over a respectable amount of money to Macmillan Cancer Support. I am humbled and thankful for the generosity of so many people, not just in terms of financial support for Macmillan, but for practical and emotional support over the past year and continuing now, as I start to gear up for the start of work on my face, beginning with my first Botox treatment next month. I tell you, I am going to end up looking younger than my peers :-)

I arrived home from church and my baby brother had arrived - he is visiting us for a few days. We don't get many opportunities to spend time together, so it's great having some time to chat or just sit watching Who Wants to be a Millionaire, which is what we're doing right now! We had a traditional Easter roast and were joined by the young lad whom our son is working 1-2-1 with this week. He is non-verbal autistic and an absolutely beautiful, delightful boy, even if he is very tiring and demanding to care for. It was good to have our family all together again for a meal, with the addition of my baby brother and this young lad.

We didn't really do anything on Easter Monday - weather pretty shabby, so a walk or bike ride were out of the question. We called round to see our friends, played with their puppy (no, not a euphemism) and then came home for a Quiet Night In.

Today, back to exercise - I have missed it over the past couple of days and, because I hadn't done a lot last week, was feeling a bit lardy. So, today I have been to the gym, a Zumba class and Pilates this evening. I feel much better for it too.

And so to now, and we are about to watch a programme on BBC2 about the Royal Marsden Hospital, where I was so well cared for last year. I'm not sure how easy the programme will be to watch, whether it will remind me of a difficult and distressing time, but I do feel it's important to watch it. They do wonderful work and it's good that people know about them.