Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Sleep at last!

7.30!!!!  Wow managed to sleep from 1 am till 7.30 a.m..  Things are definitely getting better.  Have now finished the steriods, but was having dreadful problems with night cramps.  Apparently not part of chemo, but never had them before.  I am inpossible to sleep with, as during the night I jump out of bed Banshee style screaming and stamping the floor as the painful knot in my calf will not undo.  Clearly this is not conducive to Dave's beauty sleep and he has found refuge in the guest room upstairs where he says he can still hear my night time antics.

I read that night cramps are due to a lack of various minerals, potassium, calcium etc.  I already take calcium tablets as the treatment for the bone cancer - zoldonic acid takes a lot of the calcium out of the system and you have to take calcium tablets to put some back.  With a view to improving the potassium, I have taken to eating a lot of bananas - or rather bananas fried in butter and tossed in rum and sugar - yummy, but doesn't seem to help the night cramps.  In desperation therefore I asked the doctor for quinine tablets which are meant to help - At least I won't get malaria this summer!   I had the first tablet last night and like magic the cramps have gone.  Bliss.  I am a new woman.

House buying and selling is proving a wee bit troublesome.  We were out-bid on the house we wanted - gazzumping still goes on, although I suppose we didn't offer anywhere near the asking prize for the house that we wanted.  We also lowered the price of ours to ensure we secured a buyer in rented accommodation as the people who were going to buy our house were in a chain and the people at the bottom of the chain pulled out.
Now we have the buyers, we don't have a house to move to.  However tomorrow I am off again to look for a Dez Res with lovely garden, big kitchen and not a lick of paint needed.  Have about four to look at.  House hunting is a bit voyeuristic.  It is an insight into the different ways people live.  The house inhabiting public is made up of clutterists and minimalists I think with shades in between.  However, when trying to sell a house, one would assume that the clutterists clear up a bit.  Not at all and we have seen some very cluttered houses.  The idea I think is to look beyond what is in a house, but I am not very good at that.  I am definitely good at knowing which house I like though - usually within the first 5 minutes.  If I feel coming home to a house would not make me think - oh I am glad to be here, I don't even want to go on.  That discounts most non-period houses and houses on estates where there are lots of houses that look the same.  Hope I don't sound a snob - oh what the hell, I probably am.

I have finally organised our 30th Wedding  anniversary week-end. Last August Dave and I should have celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary.  However I was half way into my first lot of chemo and the momentous day was marked with a quick head shave (Dave decided my hair needed a bit of a tidy up) and a celebratory drink of tap water.  In discussion with the hospice physio I saw yesterday - we were working on improving my breathing and she is a native of Holland -  somehow we started talking about flowers, perhaps even having enough breath to smell flowers. She told me that this weekend is the famous Dutch Bloemencorso - flower festival which takes place between Noordwijk and Haarlem (not far from Amsterdam). One can watch the procession and then cycle along the coast to see the wonderful flowers in bloom.  We abandoned any pretence at a physio session, got on the computer and planned it all - her notes will surely mention 'suggest practice breathing techniques in practical session this week-end!'  So it is off to Holland via the car ferry from Harwich to Hook of Holland and two nights in posh hotel.  We can take my electric bike so I will be able to cycle as easily as the next person.  Who says all stops when you have chemo!

Sunday, 3 April 2011

The next step, Reviews, steroids and moving house.

Okay its 5 in the morning on Monday 4th April  I have been awake since 3 a.m.  Have now given up trying to get back to sleep and have a cup of Ovaltine by the side of the computer.

The reason for the insomnia is quite obvious.  I had to take 16 mg of steroids yesterday ready for 2nd chemo cycle today.  These wonderful little happy pills have helped enormously whilst feeling ill - giving me back my appetite and stopping pain.  The side effect is being slightly euphoric all the time - even more loquacious than I normally am and far too wakeful at night.  That however was on a maintenance dose of 2 mg a day - one tablet. Yesterday and for the next three days I have to take 8 tablets.  I am now bouncing off the walls!  I managed to get three and a half hours sleep by adding to this 16 mg of happy pills half a bottle of Baileys.  This did the trick from 11.30 p.m. till 3 a.m.

Lack of sleep is no big deal really.  I have never needed much as close friends will know.  Managed my teaching degree by doing most of work in the middle of the night.  Have always done out of hours teacher prep in the early hours of the morning and when oldest daughter was a baby (lovingly referred to as the baby-from-hell), rarely had more than two consecutive hours a night for about 2 years.  In fact if I add up my waking hours compared to rest of the population I have probably been awake for at least 10 more years that the rest of you.  So my limited shelf life isn't that bad really.  Means I have experienced more in my 57 years than some.

So now is the time to update blog before tomorrow's nasty dose of toxic drugs (docetaxel).

On Wednesday I had a review with the lovely Dr Rema, my oncologist.  She confirmed that this particular chemo regime is indeed not very nice to lots of people and my side effects were common - e.g. nasty stomach cramps and diarrhoea, breathlessness and extreme tiredness.  She was most impressed that I was still getting on the electric bike to to do 10 - 20 mile country trips in the second and third week.  The electric bike must have been the best thing I ever bought and has saved my sanity.  It is still wonderful seeing the lovely Kent countryside near us on a bike and I can now do hills with ease once I press the little button that says sport mode!  As it was Mother's day yesterday, had a wonderful cycle with aforementioned daughter (who now sleeps all through the night) and her husband.  We had a mother's day meal en route at the top of Kilndown Hill and then did rest of ride (about another 18 miles) to work off the 3 courses.  They had cycled down from London and so clocked up over 100k compared to my measly 35k.

Dr Rema also added that at the beginning of this nasty regime you have all the side effects of the toxic drugs and none of the benefits of feeling better.  By cycle three to four things should improve.

As things are going at present the first week is the worst.  By week two I am feeling better and by week three, whilst still breathless I can at least walk faster than a snail.  Sort of fit octogenarian style of walk.  So now can start planning diary again based on this knowledge.

The next item to add is that we are moving house for a variety of reasons.  Firstly we were always going to move anyway when I retired.  House is now too big for the two of us and because of knee problems and deterioration of health, this house is not  ideal.  We had thought (or rather David had) of moving out of Kent.  I have always loved this area and brought up the family in a wonderful environment which they are always happy to return to.  I get strong withdrawal symptoms if I don't see an oast or an orchard at least daily and love coming down the hill from Brenchley to see the fantastic views in the Teise valley.  However fore-bearing husband agreed that a big move away would be traumatic and we have been looking at houses in Tunbridge Wells, Wadhurst and the villages nearby.  Having seen at least 10 we have decided on a house in Brenchley.  It was the old Bournes Cheese and Wine store.  It is really in the centre of the village and just behind and up the hill a bit from the Bull - where I celebrated my 40th birthday just before the second lot of cancer. Hope to celebrate my 60th in the Bull again if possible.  They say you know within the first 5 minutes if you like a house.  This was so true of this house for me.  Not least because of its lovely light and airy set up inside, but also because it has a pretty south facing garden with views, a room downstairs just in case I have to sleep downstairs and it also has what I have always wanted a big Rayburn that I can cook on. Our one is more for decoration than use and just boosts the central heating in the winter.

Our house is now under offer and there are three buyers below our buyer all desperate to move.  I do hope the chain does not break and we can then be out of here and in the new house in May.  A big house warming will follow so watch this space.  They say moving is stressful, but so far so good and I am busy sorting out clothes and crocks.  Not worn or used for more than 2 years and it is straight into the recycling bags.   I have even seen David throwing away some nuts, bolts and nails!  Does he really need 4 hammers and various drills - some of which pre-date the first world war I am sure.

On top of moving I am also retiring on ill health grounds at the end of April now, rather than June.  The new house which is more expensive than this and even more expensive if you add the £30,000 it now costs to move will be partly funded by my retirement money.  Having worked for over 30 years  with only 2 years off when I had the girls, I suppose I have done my bit as a teacher of the deaf.  It has been a fantastic career and I am really happy that I chose to work with children with hearing problems.  I feel I have helped the odd family and child over time and worked with fantastic colleagues in Kent both in education and health.  I have always been a bit of a workaholic and I still can't get used to being retired, but love not having deadlines to meet and paperwork to do, but have to admit to still missing the children I used to work with.  Giving up the job means giving up the car and I am still waiting to find the correct replacement.  Car searching is proving to be great fun too - almost as good as buying clothes in size 10.

Dawn has arrived - it is now 6.15 a.m. If I put in my hearing aids no doubt I would hear the dawn chorus so time to stop blogging and get on with the book and the breakfast.  Next blog may even be in the new house.