Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Still alive and Kicking - but only with the right leg!

I can hardly believe it is 7 months since I  wrote my last blog.  So apologies to those who thought I may have kicked the bucket.  Actually not much kicking possible at the moment as I have had my left knee replaced four weeks ago today.  (I like to get my money's worth out of all the tax I paid over the years to keep the national health service in business!).  My right knee was replaced three years ago.  Very shortly after I learned that the aches and pains in my back and my general feeling of ill-health were not due to the effects of the knee operation, but to rather more sinister causes.  Therefore recovery following the replaced knee was somewhat hampered by a year's worth of chemo.  This time I am hoping for better things.  Already I can bend this new metal knee joint far more after four weeks than I could my right knee.  Whilst in hospital following the operation (would recommend the Horder Centre to anyone needing a joint replacement), we had twice daily sessions with the physiotherapist showing us what exercises to do to improve recovery.  The amount of flexion was measured each day (bend in the knee) to see how you were doing.  I managed a flexion of 108 degrees (the bigger the number the better the flexion).  Not that I am competitive or anything, but when one of the other ladies got her bend to 102 degrees, I was seriously worried and worked at my knee bends all evening ready for the next day's measurement.  The poor lady in question never made the next day's physio session as she was feeling sick, so I did leave hospital with the greatest degree of flexion of my cohort that week.  Maybe I take this competitive spirit a bit too far sometimes! Frustratingly though, I can't walk fast or far or cycle yet and am unlikely to get back to any real exercise for weeks.

At least I kept my £40 toe-nail extensions, beautifully and discretely painted a caramel pinky colour.  Usually for any operation they require you to remove nail varnish on hands and feet so they can see if you are turning blue under your nail beds.  I rarely wear nail varnish on my fingernails, but never ever bare the horrid nails on my toes damaged by runners toenail.  Since the invention, recently, of nail extensions for the toes, I have been known to sit for two hours whilst some young thing called a nail technician does creative things to the periphery of my toes.  This involves building, bonding and drying an acrylic substance to the bit of toenail you might have left.  Unlike stick on toenails, these things do not come off at the slightest knock (see previous blogs about the time I tried doing a mountain marathon with stick on toenails some years ago!)  I was therefore horrified when the nurse asked me to remove the said objects beautifully displayed at the end of my feet.  I appealed to her better nature - thank goodness it was a female, not male nurse as she completely understood my dilemma.  Had she suggested an enema or full body wax, I would have agreed, but remove my toenails, no.  So I was allowed to keep them. Not sure if anyone would really have noticed though as the scar left by a knee replacement is something to behold.  As the skin is held together with large metal staples and the gash is about 8" (20cm) long running over the middle of the knee, it looks something like a body part of the monster created by Frankenstein until the staples are removed.  Well, at least both knees have the same scar now.  Just need to get out in the sun for it to fade.

So it is back to the sewing machine and computer for sedentary jobs most of the time.  I still manage a bit of gardening and am getting very good at directing David on where to wield the spade and how deep to dig holes for things that now need replanting.  In fact I could quite get used to this method of gardening.  He is hoping normal service will resume soon.

Greatest news for this blog is ........................I will be a grandmother (again) in March and a mother-in-law (again) on New year's Eve.  Sarah is expecting a sibling for Ralph and the due date is March 9th.  If she is a week early I could have a lovely 60th birthday present.  (I will be 60 on March 1st 2014).  Becky and Tom are getting married on New Year's Eve so there is lots to look forward to.  What better excuse to splash out on some new clothes, shoes, bags, bling etc.  They are getting married in the Cotswolds (Tom's parents live up there and although Becky wanted a Kentish wedding in a large barn, we couldn't find one that was large enough and available on NYE. Fortunately Tom's parents live very near a large property with a barn that fits the bill, so it will be New Year in the Cotswolds.  At least it solves the problem of what to do on New Year's Eve.  A lovely thing about your children getting married is that a set of friends of your own age usually comes as part of the package in the form of parents of the future child-in-law.  Tom's parents, like Tom, are lovely people as are Sarah's husbands family and when we all get together at times I realise how lucky we are that both girls have chosen such lovely partners.  I have heard of a few horror stories from friends and am so glad that I don't have to 'try and get on with him for the sake of my daughter'.

Health, cancer wise, is still stable.  Last scan about a month ago, showed no progression. Remission has lasted over two years now and although the 5 year average life span after diagnosis, still hangs over me, I try not to think about it.  I try not to be average about anything.

I am pinning up a few photos to decorate this blog - none of my knee I promise, but a few of the growing Ralph and a few of our time earlier in the year at the Portuguese Orienteering event (POM) I mentioned in my last blog..

Until the next blog .........
 Ralph playing in the lavender fields (photo taken by his dad).  Mine never come out this good.
 Ralph and gramanita at the Hampton Court flower show - floral dresses are a must for the day.
 A few orienteers on our rest day on top of a hill near Pena Garcia (I think)
 A good caption is required!
 In O kit after the race.  Note the blue sky!

Think Dave took this one - hope to jettison the stick now I have had my knee replaced.

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

It was only Flu after all!!!

I have just had my three monthly review and all is well.  However, thought I would do an up-date as I had been belly-aching to all and sundry that I thought my cancer had progressed.  This was due to the fact that I felt like death after a bout of the flu and thought the nasty little cancer cells had taken advantage of me whilst I was down on my luck.

To start from the beginning, I finally decided to have my back operation done privately after some worrying symptoms that had me in accident and emergency at Tunbridge Wells hospital for 2 days.  It looked as if the operation to remove the cyst would have to be done as an emergency, but there was no bed in the National Health sector at King's College Hospital and I was going to have to wait for a bed at a more local hospital. However I particularly wanted the lovely consultant whom I had seen and researched (Dr David Bell) to fiddle about in my back, so I asked if he could do it privately.  A week later all was done and dusted at the London Bridge Hotel (sorry Hospital).  Cost per night £1,108.  Following the operation all back pain ceased.  Bliss.  The reason for the pain ( and towards the end of my time before the operation, I could hardly stand up, sit or lie down without extreme agony), was a grape sized benign growth filled with fluid.  This growth meant my sciatic nerve was constantly squashed.  All the surgeon had to do was 'pop the zit' and 'Bob's your Uncle', the pain disappeared.  (He did of course have to make an incision in my back and staple it together.  So now have another distinguishing mark to add to all the others on my body.  They won't need dental records to identify me in a plane crash!).

I was only in hospital for one night.  My kind brother paid for the hospital stay and I paid for the surgeon and anesthetist.  It was worth every penny of the £7,500 it cost as  the operation on the National Health was scheduled for 29th January and Christmas would have been a misery.

I came out of hospital on the 12th December and by the 13th I was feeling lousy.  It is a long time since I had the flu and couldn't remember the symptoms.  As I felt so awful I thought the worst.  However a blood test and chest x-ray showed nothing significant and the G.P. thought it was the flu with a chest infection.  However when, a month later - 12th January I was still having difficulty getting up the stairs,  stopping every forth stair and still had a very poor appetite (I lost another half stone so looked very trim for Christmas.), I was seriously worried.  All for nothing however.  I had a scheduled CT scan for my three monthly review the second week in January and the results revealed ..................... absolutely no progression of the cancer.  The blood tests were also normal.  So all is well that ends well.  Oddly enough as soon as I got the news that my lousy symptoms were not due to the cancer, I started to feel better!

So now have to fit in more holidays.  I am writing this knowing that I should be packing to go to Portugal on Friday.  Not the sunny Algarve, but the rather cold North Eastern bit - Idanha Nova.  A group of us are going to compete in the 5 day Portugal Orienteering Meeting - well compete is not exactly what I do now as I go around at a snail's pace.  I have been two years ago and was very aware that I had to come back to another 6 months of chemotherapy at that time.  Gladly this year I can can enjoy my time there much more. I was on steroids the last time I went, was moon faced and as high as a kite.  To make matters worse my trusty Kindle broke and I had not taken any books.  I remember sitting up all night as I could not sleep and the only thing to read were old emails on my phone.  There wasn't even a Gideon Bible in the room!  This time I am going prepared.  Kindle, books and a 'tablet' with Kindle app.

Still enjoying the grandson-minding every other Friday.  Have become a seasoned minder since my last blog.  I never go to daughter's house without a pushchair and child seat in my car, not to mention enough equipment to start up my own baby shop, when I take him out.  We had a lovely outing to a children's farm near where Sarah lives a few weeks ago.  David was not with me, but Teresa a very kind and forbearing friend, stood in as Granny helper.  We decided to walk to the farm which should have taken about 35 minutes.  However great orienteers that we are, we somehow managed to go the wrong way and took a tortuous route through a country park.  An hour and a half later we arrived at said farm with a somewhat hungry baby.  I have failed miserably to stick to Ralph's routine whenever I look after him - he doesn't seem to notice too much that his lunches and naps are not at the scheduled times.  Once at the farm we seated ourselves in the cafe, fed a hungry baby and ourselves and realised that in order to get back before night-fall we had about 20 minutes in the farm.  The cafe housed an enormous soft play area complete with tunnels, slides, climbing bits and pieces and an illuminated dance floor once you worked your way to the middle of the system.  Teresa and I braved arthritic knees and aching backs to give young Ralph an exhilarating experience. (Not sure who was the most exhilarated though).  Once we reached the central dance floor, I was keen to show Teresa how young Ralphy could walk a few steps between us.  He achieved this beautifully twice and then lost his balance and fell backwards on to the hard floor.  Loud screams ensued and a very guilty grandmother decided we ought to work our way out of the soft play maze as quickly as possible.  Easier said than done, but eventually we got out alive and started getting ready to leave. By now of course it was dark and Sarah was due to return probably before we got home. I made it back just before she got in.  Still way out of schedule Ralph got his evening meal only an hour later than usual, but I don't think he will hold it against me.  So as you can see I am now really good at looking after the grandson although I don't think I will take child-minding up as a career.

Well I better start packing my long Johns and thermal underwear as well as, of course, the matching scarves, bling, shoes, and lots of electronic devices.

Till the next blog .....