Sunday 16 September 2012

Boobie's Big Night Out

Me and my new tit went out to party last night and, my God, we did it in style!

Elaine and I show off our nice
new post-cancer surgery boobs
It was the 50th anniversary of our theatre group, the Beaufort Players. I know I talk about the BPs a lot on this blog but they have been such a support to both me and Mr P during the course of my treatment.

Of course, we have many other friends and supporters too - love to you all! - but not least my twin sister, Clare, and Mr P's parents who also came along to celebrate the 'BP Jubilee'.

My sister was even roped into playing me in a comedy sketch, reminiscing about the history of the group and remembering so many of the colourful characters that have made it what it is.

Habeas Corpus by Alan Bennett
(April 2008)
Mr P. and I first got to know each other in Spring 2008, when we played opposite each other in a farce called Habeas Corpus; he played a vicar called Canon Throbbing and I was a flat-chested spinster called Connie. The Canon wanted Connie, while Connie wanted new breasts ... It's funny how life comes to imitate art!
It was such good fun to get out last night because for the last few days, and probably more than during any part of my treatment, I have been feeling very tearful.

I know why, of course. It's the emotional release in knowing that I don't have to keep on 'keeping on' anymore. It's been a long time coming after trudging relentlessly for nine months along a gruelling and uncertain path.

I had been warned that it's after the treatment ends that the enormity of everything you've been through starts to hit home. That's very definitely true. I'm still recovering from my operation (and I know I still have further reconstructive procedures) but I do feel that I can finally 'let go'.
I feel I can finally relax and say: "God, that was shit. Thank f*ck that's over!"

But, of course, I wouldn't.

What kind of 'potty-mouth' do you think I am? ;-)

Thursday 13 September 2012

So long, sucker!

Yes, indeedy – it seems that cancer has finally f*cked off! If I didn’t still have stitches, I would attempt a little cartwheel.

Mr P. and I went and got the results of my mastectomy this afternoon. In short, while there were further cancerous cells present in the breast tissue removed, they weren’t yet the invasive sort that could have spread to my lymph nodes. (Meaning all the dangerous invasive cells had been removed during my earlier lumpectomy)

Consequently, I don’t need to have radiotherapy. Woohoo!

In essence then, my treatment for cancer has ended. Of course, I do still need to complete the reconstruction process and decide if/when I start taking Tamoxifen (the drug to keep my hormone levels down), but the intensive slog of hospital appointments does seem to be slowing right down. I do have a couple of counselling sessions booked, and an ultra-sound scan, but I don’t need to see another consultant for a month.

Which means I can now just concentrate on resting, healing and getting my strength back post surgery. To say that Mr P. and I are relieved, would be an understatement.

Tuesday 11 September 2012

"Hanging on the telephone ..."

Just when I thought that I might not have much more to do with hospitals, people have started phoning my home thinking that it is one!

It first happened a few weeks ago, when a very croaky man phoned up. I started chatting, thinking that was it was Mr P:

Me: “Hello”
Caller: (croaky) “Urgh ...”
Me: (laughing) “Oh, hello”
Caller: “Urgh ... hello”
Me: (still laughing) “What’s the matter with you?”
Caller: (indignant) “I’ve got a sore throat ... *cough, cough* [long pause] ... Is that the hospital?”
Me: “Er. No.”

But it’s happened again and I arrived home last night after my extended stay at Mr P’s to a number of answer phone messages. You’d think that hearing a casual “Hi, this is Kate ...” might alert them to the fact that I’m not Barnet Hospital, but apparently not.

Anyway, after two more calls today, I’ve looked into it and my home phone number is only one digit different from the hospital’s day surgery. Fair enough, easy mistake to make. But ... the reason why this has rattled me so much is that I have had EXACTLY the same problem with my mobile phone number!

That has only one digit different to the out-of-hours number for a Homecare facility in south London. As you can imagine, Christmas and Bank Holidays are a particular joy: old ladies asking when someone is coming round with their milk; old guys asking me to change their dressings ... I do seem to have extraordinarily bad luck!

But, yes, it is also quite funny. (Although, not sure I thought that as I nearly bust a stitch to get to the phone this morning!) I have now got those hospital and care numbers on standby, should distressed callers contact me again for medical assistance.

And as for me, I’m doing OK. I’m still popping the painkillers but am up and about and trying to get back to normal. My torso muscles are, obviously, very bruised and strained and that limits my arm strength and movement, but every day it is improving.

I’ll be back at the hospital on Thursday to see my surgeon but judging from the immediate reactions last week post-surgery, they did seem pretty happy with the way it had gone. The main thing now is to find out if I’ll need radiotherapy and that depends on the histology report - that is, the analysis of the breast tissue that they removed.

Whatever the outcome, I still have lots to feel positive about. My boob is looking good and, while I have yet to see it ‘sans nipple’, the shape under my clothes – after what is just the first stage of reconstruction - has come as a pleasant surprise.

I’ve also got my sister coming to stay. She’s coming down for the weekend and, together with many wonderful friends, we will be celebrating the 50th anniversary of the theatre group to which Mr P and I belong - The Beaufort Players.

They really are a fantastic bunch and Mr P and I are so enormously grateful for all the love and support that we’ve received over the last eight months. It really is like having a big extended family.

And as with all good family gatherings, I’m looking forward to a nice piece of cake, a few drinks and a bit of embarrassing dancing. They’re even letting me DJ and play some 80s tunes. I’ve already picked my first (Blondie) song ...

“Call me!”  ;-)

Friday 7 September 2012

The great escape

Mr P. went out this morning and left me home alone. So I made a break for it ...

I hadn't intended to go out but my surgical drain was ready to be removed and when I phoned my GPs they said the only time the nurse could see me was 9.30am. So I hoofed it up there in a cab, with the plastic tubing and beaker tucked in a tote bag under my t-shirt.

In theory, the drain removal should be straightforward - if uncomfortable. However, after several sturdy yanks on the pipe it became clear that the nurse was not going to be able to get it out of my chest. She wasn't sure if it was kinked or caught, but it wasn't budging.

My options were to get another cab home or a cab to the 'Marsden. So I went to the hospital, where I sat nervously waiting in the clinical assessment unit petrified that I was facing another painful procedure.

Anyway, thankfully I wasn't. It did hurt a little bit but apparently the vacuum seal had not been fully released and that was why it wouldn't come out. So after a cup of tea and a biscuit, to steady my frayed nerves, I set off back home ... on public transport.

Yes, I know that was a bit naughty. But it was so nice to be out and about in the sunshine. I'm still very sore but am so much more mobile without a metre of plastic pipe sticking out of my ribs. It's nice to feel like myself again.

I've also managed to get a bra on and, even allowing for swelling and the need for further inflation, there is already a pretty good balance between the sides with my clothes on.

So all in all, I've got every reason to feel chipper - and Mr P. and I will be receiving visitors from this evening. I'm looking forward to seeing everyone. :-)

Thursday 6 September 2012

Home sweet home

Well, Mr P's home anyway. I was so ill at the hospital yesterday afternoon, that I decided to get myself discharged!

I know that seems a strange move but hospital wards, with their 24- hour 'comings and goings', are just not conducive to any kind of rest. I was completely and utterly exhausted and clearly suffering from the DTs post anaesthetic. Physical shakes, fainting and vomiting all left me feeling absolutely dreadful, when all I wanted was some peace and quiet and a little uninterrupted sleep.

I could tell the nurses weren't sure about me leaving because my blood pressure kept falling but, after giving me an ECG and making me promise to drink loads of water, they did let me go at about 7pm.

I was so shattered that I could barely keep my eyes open in the cab and, the minute we got in, I lay down and fell fast asleep for several hours.

Mr P. was so relieved. It has been very hard for him to watch me in so much pain and distress but today I am feeling MUCH better. I'm still very sore but am alert and mobile and have managed to eat some breakfast. Things are looking positive.

Wednesday 5 September 2012

Well, I guess that's that ...

After a prompt entry to theatre at 8.30 yesterday morning, I am now recovering on the Ellis Ward at The Royal Marsden.

And very nice it is too! Beautifully decorated with feature walls, individual digital TVs suspended over each bed - it's not like any NHS ward that I've ever visited before. And don't get me started on the food; roast beef, rhubarb crumble ... I'm going to go home twice the size! (Mr P. has already serenaded me with a chorus of 'My girl muffin-top')

As for me, I'm very sore and bruised - both around the wound site and in the surrounding stomach and back muscles. They obviously had me contorted into some very 'challenging' positions during surgery.

I've also got a surgical drain attached, so am constantly carrying a little beaker of blood around with me. (Not nice). That will stay attached for up to five days, or until I lose less than 50ml a day, so it looks like I will need to go home with it.

I was asked if I wanted to leave this morning but I said that I'd rather wait until I was feeling a bit more comfortable and able to get up and about - which, in fairness, I now am - so I will go home with Mr P. tomorrow.

Much of my caution was due to a rather bad episode that I had last night. I'd had a lovely evening with some friends who came to visit but, on trying to use the bathroom before bed, had the most excruciating bout of stabbing pains in my chest and back. I've never experienced anything like it. Fortunately Mr P. was with me and was able to call a nurse, who gave me some morphine.

I am on regular painkillers too and antibiotics to prevent infection around the implant and drain. So, fingers crossed, we can keep anything too nasty or painful at bay.

It will be nice to get home and get some sleep without the incessant drone of air conditioning units or the bleep of blood pressure gauges. Last night, at around midnight, I managed to lower my bed and inadvertently pull my emergency call lead out of the wall: cue pulsating klaxon and red flashing ceiling light! I was so embarrassed. Then at 2am, I woke up to see a dark figure looming over me and gave a little shriek. Turned out it was a nurse trying to take my blood pressure but I still felt a bit of a plum ...

Anyway, today I am feeling much more confident in my movement and about the operation generally. While my chest is far from balanced, I'm certainly not flat. Some of that is swelling but it won't be too long before I am fully 'inflated'. It's the first stage of a much longer process but at least we're underway.

Monday 3 September 2012

Second time, lucky

This time tomorrow and I’m hoping to have (finally) seen the back of what is left of my tumour.

It’s a morning operation with pretty much the same preparation as my lumpectomy, eight weeks ago; no food after midnight, no water after 6 am and arrival at the hospital by 7.30 am. Unlike the lumpectomy however, I will be staying in – at least for one night but maybe for up to three.

Consequently, I’ve had a busy day: cooking and cleaning my flat because I know I won’t be able to do much post surgery and packing my bag(s) for my hospital stay and subsequent recovery at Mr. P’s.

In fact, I’ve had a busy couple of weeks. Since coming back from Italy two weeks ago, I’ve had so many hospital appointments that I’ve really lost track of what tests I’ve had where but, suffice to say, that I know I’ve had blood taken and surgical swabs up stuck up my nose at nearly every hospital in west London.

Last week, I also had to have an ECG – the first one I’ve had since before my chemotherapy started back in February. (ECG’s are a strange thing; a bit like being wired up with jump leads). But apart from having low-ish blood pressure and a mild skin infection (now treated) – they’ve declared me fit for surgery.

It does feel weird, as I look down at my chest, to think that my boob (including nipple) will soon be gone. But, as Mr P. and others remind me, it’s just the ‘filling’ they’re taking away – and with it cancer too.

However, I will still shed a tear for my errant boob even though it’s caused me nothing but trouble for the last eight months.

So, so long ‘righty’. It’s been emotional ...