Sitting at Heathrow airport after a couple of months back in London. What should have been a joyous time of moving back into our old house, happily renovated and divided into two flats, has been a nightmare of gruelling proportion, admittedly interspersed with some high spots. Best of all was spending so much time with beloved Tommy. Continue reading
Tag Archives: cats
Stop-press: clear chest and MRI scans – 18 months #cancerfree
An update on my health for my loyal followers.
On the morning of the book launch, I went and had my quarterly chest x-ray and annual MRI on the remains of the leg. Then I promptly forgot about it – I feel so well – until yesterday. Continue reading
Tiger tracking and leopard spotting in Satpura, India
A few days ago I outstared a tiger and gazed into the blue eyes of a leopard. For the past seven years my friend Cindy and I have been trying to find the mythical blue-eyed leopard of Mana Pools, Zimbabwe, only to find he has moved to India. Seriously, the blue-eyed leopard is extremely rare and seems to be found only in India, which is where we came across Nilu (blue in Hindu) and his yellow-eyed twin, Pilu. Continue reading
Speedo – 5 days in Bangkok & on the Burma Railway
Five days in Bangkok leave me breathless, yet full of energy! We are here to meet up with Dr Fi and her family, and also to catch up with another old uni chum, Patrick Brooks, who has been living a Somerset Maugham-type of existence for the past 30 years or so (actually an ex-dip and now consulting for the EU, trying to teach them diplomacy – the EU that is, rather than the Vietnamese or the Thais, who seem perfectly good at people skills if you ask me). Continue reading
in which I complete radiotherapy and have a surprise
The radiotherapy is complete! Six and a half weeks or 33 sessions, 8 concentrated at the end. To quote Dr Miah: ‘She has tolerated treatment extremely well. She demonstrates stage 1 erythema [common side effect of radiotherapy treatment due to patient exposure to ionizing radiation] and no evidence of skin breakdown…no evidence of lymphoedema. In fact, she continues to improve her muscle tone and strength…causing hypertrophy in the residual posterior compartment muscles’. We formally named my new muscle Victorious.
My leg is nevertheless very burned and covered in raised blisters (see photo); puffy round the knee joint and stiff. Exercise and stretching does help.
Tommy came round to celebrate the end, and we had a glass of champagne, it was about 6pm. ‘I’m very hungry’, he kept saying, ‘shall we go eat now?’ But I was tired and he couldn’t get me moving, also I felt it was too early. Having studied the menu at The Hill, his chosen venue, I found little I could eat, so was making other suggestions. No, no, let’s go the Hill. Eventually at 7, a decent time for supper, we stagger down to the pub; I push open the heavy door and first thing I see are Louise’s friends Dot and Daz. Funny coincidence, think I, smiling at them, then I hear people shouting surprise! surprise!
I look around, and assembled are a mixture of my friends, Louise’s and Tommy’s – family friends you could say – all waiting anxiously for me to appear. They had been waiting since 6.15 but Tommy couldn’t get me moving! Wonderful, warm feeling, I was too happy to cry, but felt close to tears. As Tommy said in his FB event ‘She’s not the kind of person who would organise a party for herself, and we think that quite frankly she deserves one for everything she’s had to deal with!’ So a huge thank you to him, Dot and Lulu, who invited everybody. It was a moving moment for me, a special milestone in my journey, one of the love and affection that we all need to get us through the tough times.
I am now signed off with Prof Thomas (thrilled with my new muscle growth) and MRI scans booked for June. At my final debrief with Dr Miah I had urgent questions regarding my planned visit to Japan early April to see the cherry blossoms; several people have questioned whether it’s safe or not after the Fukishima disaster, but she says its fine for such a short period.
Another pressing question concerns flying: need a ‘fit to fly’ note for insurance, and worry about the stockings and my leg. Got to wear the stockings, she says. But how am I going to get it over my sore leg? Just slather your leg with aqueous cream and put it on. I try hard not to giggle as I have visions of rolling it on, durex-like, over my engorged organ, and hope she isn’t thinking the same. I am almost tempted to crack a joke, but think better of it.
I look back over the past weeks. They went quite fast in the end. I had a good little routine going, wake early, do my emails, film reviews, blog writing etc, nice cuppa from Mandy (latest one is green tea with toasted rice); cook up witches’ brew for the day and make veg juice; breakfast of home-made granola, blueberries and soya yoghurt; 45 minutes of yoga, free weights and mediation, once a week Priti (thanks for the Ayurveda cookbook!) comes here to do proper yoga with me; shower and dress; taxi to Marsden, sometimes with a companion, most often not; have treatment; meet friend; go to lunch (increasingly difficult recently as eating out is a nightmare: everything seems to have cheese, tomatoes, shellfish, or chilli in it, and a piece of fish is too much at midday!). Go home via organic shop to pick up supplies; rest; twice a week go to Dr Deng for one and half hours in the torture chamber; once a week to Pilates; and the evening either receiving guests, cooking or going out. Bed as early as I can – Dr Deng says I must be in bed by 9, but I’ve only managed that once. As you can see, it’s hard work living with cancer.
My visits to Dr Deng have their own routine. I sit down and she checks my pulses. Encouragingly over the weeks my kidney yin is much improved, due to the various tablets and cleansing teas I have been downing religiously. I am –almost – getting used to them. Then she invariably says:
‘Show me your tongue? Good, brighter, much better, but still not perfect, should be white covering. What you eat? Dairy? Meat? Alcohol? Chilli?… ‘No, no, no, I’m being very good.’ I daren’t tell her about my occasional weekend glass of champagne; anyway I think I’m doing brilliantly on the no alcohol front. ‘Got to be very strict with diet, maybe for many years [this is bad news]. Energy yang still weak’. A special needle in the stomach for that one!
This is not unexpected due to the radiotherapy but requires many needles to unblock the channels; she tells me that I have to have frequent treatment because of the radiotherapy, and the fact that my whole body is so much hotter now than normal. Also that, as a result, the needles hurt much more than usual. I had wondered why the needles seemed to get progressively more painful as they are pinged into my poor old body. The kidney area is obviously sore, but the bony areas on the top of the foot, the collar-bone, and the ones at the base of the neck are particularly irksome. Once she put half a dozen needles into my head! And then I had to turn over and lie on my back while they were still in!
Dr Fi, who has a professional interest in all of this, asked me how I feel while I am being treated, how do I cope, as it is painful. It’s a question I ask myself as I gaily jump on the bed and say, ‘Bring on the torture!’ Dr Deng laughs, ‘You very brave, very strong’. I try to relax the muscles as she deftly passes her hand over my back and pinpoints the meridian she wishes to unblock. The thing is, you never quite know where its going to be; I listen for the rustle of plastic as she opens each needle; it’s the only way I can tell when it’s about to stop! Another pointer is when she checks the pulse, but sometimes she still does a few more!
‘Rest now,’ is the sign of closure as she dims the lights. I feel like a giant butterfly, on a collector’s board, pinioned and unable to move. Each tiny movement – once I tried to see my watch – and a shooting pain travels down the channel, like an electric shock. It is a form of paralysis. So I close my eyes and try to meditate, breathe deeply, think of nothing…and sometimes I doze off. However, sometimes the channel unblocking and the needles cause a sharp pain; similarly the cupping, while not exactly painful – apart from the time she cupped my lower bad leg (ouch!) to try and get the circulation going, and thus the healing, is uncomfortable. The massaging of my leg is, however, excruciating, especially the soles of the feet. ‘You try reflexology in Singapore, very good’ she says gaily. I am not so sure!
So why do I keep going back? Well, I sincerely believe it’s doing me good, that my lack of side-effects from the RT is at least partly attributable to the holistic TCM approach. It is also a scientifically proven phenomenon, The Common Sense Approach, pioneered by Professor Howard Leventhal, where ‘patients’ perceptions and interpretations of symptoms and function affect treatment choices and self-management for chronic conditions’ (Wikipedia). In other words, it’s about taking control of your illness and making your own choices in management. People like me have the best survival rates, and that’s a fact!
It does take dogged determination though. Pony-tailed Joseph tells me he admires me for the tea ‘You very brave, how can you keep taking it?’ He says I am the bravest person he knows, as only three patients take it, and few continue as I have done!
Meanwhile, I am preparing myself for the off. Friday will find me aboard Malaysian Airlines – oh yes, I will be eyeballing the pilots and crew to make sure they are not fanatical types – and Saturday back in Singapore. I have already booked an appointment to see Professor T T Ang. This link not only shows how eminent he is, but is also a succinct explanation of TCM http://www.unspecial.org/UNS680/t21.html. I also have a yoga teacher coming Tuesday and am debating which Pilates studio to sign up to, there are so many.
The journey will continue, on another continent and, this time, with some real travel. The cherry trees of Kyoto beckon.
in which we attempt to encounter two types of ray
Cyprus sojourn a great success from the moment I was wheeled off the plane. Despite the weather being less than kind – only two out five days sunny and warm – we had a lovely time. One day we went up into the mountains and found an eccentric tavern hidden down a side street which had a huge display of whisky bottles and where we feasted on delicious moussaka, watched by a funny little dog.
On another we braved the inappropriately-named Malindi Beach Bar for oysters and the grilled squid with the Chief of Staff of the Cyprus Peackeeping Forces, an old chum of Penny and Mike’s. A rainy day even found us in Zara buying sweaters!
Penny and Mike are perfect hosts, from the kettle in room and four varieties of tea, healthy breakfasts and lunches made from the freshest of Cyprus fruit and veg, the roaring fire and a fine array of champagne and wine. Their house is set in the hills, just outside Limassol, which is a grey and messy sea-side strip of a town, rather down-at-heel at this time of year. The Russians are all gone, apart from in the Four Seasons, where we went for dinner one night. Friends Roma and Mariana had stayed there a few years back – was reminded of this as they cooked me a wonderful supper the night before I left. The girlfriends are rallying round!
Before I left, we celebrated two other significant events, Tommy’s 26th birthday in the heavenly Singapore Gardens, and a visit to Little Lou’s Bench with her dear friend Cara.
The week was full of coincidences: on the way out at Terminal 5 I bumped into an old friend Roger Hooper, a wildlife photographer who had been with us to Mana Pools. He was a useful and charming bag-carrier. On the return flight I sat next to a woman and we got chatting, as you do. Turns out she was half Chinese, brought up in Malaysia, had lived in Barbados, now lives in Cyprus, but had worked in Deloitte, her daughter had worked for the previous Black Rod (as was Mike), her husband and family are Jewish but, most strangely of all, she was in recovery from lymphoma and as going to London for treatment. We had a lot to discuss! To cap it all, yesterday as I waited for my abortive – yes, see below – radiotherapy treatment, the man next to me had a brother living in Pyrgos, which is the very same village in Cyprus where Penny and Mike live.
I come back refreshed and revived and ready for the start of the six-and-a-half week slog. To take my mind off it, and because my juicer and Riverford veg boxes had arrived the previous day, complete with Seville oranges, I spent the morning making marmalade. I had only just bottled the last jar when the taxi came…
As usual everyone at the Marsden nice and kind. After my start-of-treatment briefing, I waited and waited (hence the conversation with my neighbour, also waiting. The most common question seems to be ‘what time is your appointment?’ I was asked this three times…I have decided I am going to fill this time profitably: I have re-ordered my daily Guardian to be home–delivered; and I am going to suss out who all the people are being treated. Very little English was being spoken, which I thought was interesting, as this is the NHS, not a private hospital. Although there are one or two private patients – not the norm – such as myself.
By the time I am invited into the room, we are running 40 minutes late. I put my leg in the cast and Kirsty and Anisha explain that they will align everything, test the machine’s movement radius (it has to go round and under my leg to zap it from several angles) take some photos and then ping! The treatment itself is 7-10 minutes. Sounds OK, think I. How wrong could I be? After admiring my pedicure, we make small talk including, Me: ‘How many leg sarcomas do you see?’ Answer: ‘This unit only deal with limb sarcomas so we see many, from all over the country’.
So an hour later, I am wondering if they have ever seen anyone with two legs before, as they cannot work out what to do with my good leg – we try the spongey mats (no good as they can’t align the machines through them properly), next two different stirrups, which remind me of visiting the gynaecologist, and then senior radiographer supervisor Mary is called into consult. Whisper, whisper, whisper…meanwhile my leg is firmly clamped into the vice-like cast and I am trying every variety of yogic breathing I can recall: ‘observe your breath’ I keep saying to myself, ‘in 1,2,3,4,5; out 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10’. To no avail. My leg is on fire. Glad I took the tramadol, even though it doesn’t seem to have worked!
Finally they admit defeat and I am asked to wait outside while they consider the options, while not lessening the efficacy. This includes re-planning the whole treatment. ‘How long will that take? I’m booked to go to Singapore on 21 MArch,’ I wail. Nadir.
Mary re-appears after 15 minutes, having seen Dr Aisha, who said ‘She has a flight to Singapore’. Phew – we are on the same page! It is now 5.15, two hours after my appointment time. In fact the treatment plan does have a Plan B (why they couldn’t find it on the system is a mystery), which involves zapping me from a different trajectory so the good leg is avoided. They will do this tomorrow at 3pm in order to get time to re-calculate everything. So bang goes physio and probably my weekend pre rush-hour escape from London to Doctor Fi’s for the weekend.
All I can think of in my frustration and misery is the large G&T waiting for me when I get home. But joy of joys, there is the added bonus of a gorgeous bouquet from friends Anthony and Carrie – she has had radiotherapy too (and the rest) – but now well and happy, and knows what a girl needs to cheer her up! The evening only gets better; other friend Philly and Sandra arrive with a four-course meal: home-made soup and smoked salmon, followed by cod with spicy lentils and a Pavlova! They announce a competition to see what you need to do to get a blog mention. Well done Ladies!
in which I get measured up for my cast and try to look on the bright side
The past 10 days have been rather depressing, waiting for things to happen. I feel like I’m in a waiting room – for death. Morbid I know but limbo land is no fun. Two weeks for radiotherapy to start and another three months until the first scan, which will indicate whether the cancer has spread. And in trying to maintain a brave and smiling outward face while struggling with inner fears, the bigger things can be put in perspective but it’s the little things that get blown out of proportion and are very upsetting. So if I ever explode at something minor, it’s not that thing that is the problem, it’s the wider challenges I am facing.
On the plus side, I have been doing some nutritious cooking (Tom Yam soup, steamed chicken, fish curry, and now about to go Japanese) and have been to the movies twice (12 Years a Slave and The Railway Man – see what I thought on http://www.vickyatthemovies.net). I also had a moment of inspiration and exchanged my lovely red-hot mini for a slightly newer, automatic mini cooper. But black and not so dashing. Today I drove to the hairdressers at the O2 centre, where I had some good therapy: thank you Joe and Eli! Mani/pedi next week!
My friend Cindy in Mumbai has sent me a book on yoga for cancer, and I am determined to learn how to meditate and do some simple poses. I think it will help. My physiotherapy – Pilates – is energising and I now have my own wobble board and special exercises to add to my sit-ups and weights. It’s quite hard work though; Tommy was most amused when he took this picture.
My mobility is improving daily and the pain is diminishing, so I have almost stopped taking the tramadol and paracetamol, only taking any when I feel pain. But for some reason this week I have been getting exhausted and energy levels are low. My weight seems to be going down and then regaining the 55kgs, whatever I eat. I find this worrying. Of course I am angsting about the impending radiotherapy, and now the little insidious niggle of the histology results and the mental picture of those nasty little cancer cells whizzing round my body. It’s all about keeping my immune system high so I continue with the healthy diet and exercise; I’m sure feeling down doesn’t help though. I am learning it takes (too much?) energy to be upbeat, cheerful and superwoman. My new resolution is not to let anything or anyone annoy me. Challenging!
Two appointments at the Marsden this week to make the cast for the radiotherapy and then to do the scan and make the aligning tattoo marks on my leg. The cast is necessary to keep the leg in place so that the rays can be directed to the exact sites for treatment. I go into the ‘mould room’ and lie on a flat operating table; I feel like a fakir on a bed of nails! Then my leg is elevated but only supported by the ankle, and they heat up a large sheet of plastic in a bain marie, which emerges like a giant gelatine leaf, and which the technicians then press round my leg until it is a snug fit. All sorts of adjustments are made and then a wait for it to harden. Meanwhile my leg is in agony as there is no support for it and of course I have no calf muscles so the quads are in overtime. They make a small spongey cushion to place just above the knee to help, but it’s not terribly effective. Sadly I am not allowed to photograph.
Back the next day for the scan. By the way all these appointments run on time. Another cheery bunch of staff. Back on the bed of nails, but with a large scanning machine and my instrument of torture is fitted. Oh dear, it needs adjusting! I am dreading they may have to re-make it but, no, they can heat it up and stretch it. It is then stuck down by Velcro to the plastic sheet with an outline of my measly leg drawn on it; more Velcro has been attached to hold the mould in place. Simple but clever. But all this fiddling around is taking its toll and my leg feels on fire, and we haven’t even begun the scan. By this time, I am wracking my memory for my yoga breathing (alternate nostrils) and counting and observing my breath to try and make the pain go away. It passes the time at least.
It’s not over yet though, as they have to make a couple of tattoo marks to align the cast. Blob of black ink followed by some scratches – not at all painful, although they have to re-do one of them. At last, it’s all over, 45 minutes later. I’m told that the treatment won’t be as long. I hope not, as I don’t think I could take that pain daily for 6 ½ weeks!
To add insult to my injuries I get ripped off by the cab home; and when I go on the C11 to my physio, no one gives me a seat! Wah!
On a positive note, to counter all this misery, I have booked myself to go to Cyprus for 5 days – air miles in business class – to stay with lovely friends Penny and Mike, who will pamper me and cheer me up. She has been through it all – surgery, radio and chemo – so knows where I’m coming from.
in which we talk radiotherapy
We have dates! Went to the Marsden yesterday, all by myself, armed with a stick so I look disabled and people steer well clear. Saw the lovely Dr Aisha Miah, who remembered me from the last visit. She is a tiny, but very reassuring, presence; someone you can ask all the nagging questions. Like the one about the hotspot in my groin lymph glands that the PET scan had picked up and I have been angsting about, knowing the cancer cells could have travelled. No need to worry, sarcoma cells do not become lymphatic cancers; if they do spread it is to the chest/lung and liver (not sure quite how reassuring THAT is!). So my next scan will be in April and then three-monthly thereafter.
Next Thursday (16th) I go to have my leg cast made; then Friday a localised CT scan of the leg so they can position the ray machine correctly. Then start properly 30 Jan, though I am hoping she can bring this forward a few days, so I can escape to Singapore for a couple of weeks before coming back for Easter and my first scan. Each session will take 30 mins. For the first 5 weeks they will irradiate the whole leg, and the last week and a half they will notch it up a bit to concentrate on the sarcoma area to zap any remaining tumour cells.
I have signed a consent paper, which is rather grim reading.
Intended benefits: improved survival; prevention of recurrence
Serious or frequently recurring risks:
Acute – skin reaction (redness, tenderness, breakdown…severe discomfort); tiredness, oedema (very likely)
Later – permanent skin discolouration; thickening of skin; impairment of joint/limb function (esp. knee joint) fracture risk; secondary cancers; lymphoedema.
She says I will need wide trousers to prevent irritation – so a visit ot Primark in Oxford Street is called for! Help! and lots of aqueous creams…
So not much to worry about then!
We had a giggle about the Prof’s views on training women doctors: I was interested to gauge her views. She said, ‘I told him he had better wear shin pads in addition to full body armour’.
* * *
Meanwhile, to help me prepare and boost my immunity and general well-being, I have started doing free weights and sit-ups in addition to the physio. I am also working my way through a lovely Chinese cookery book of recipes especially for cancer patients. Luckily we have a TCM shop (traditional Chinese medicine) just down the road for foxglove root , hyacinth bean seed and the like.
I am also walking unaided: last night went to 12 Years a Slave – by bus! – and walked up the road to the Chinese restaurant; I can do the half-mile aller/retour to England’s Lane to do shopping, and I have just traded in my sexy red mini Cooper for a rather less glam second-hand metallic black automatic. Arrives next week. So I intend to live as normal a life as possible during my incarceration in London for treatment.
I was reminded of the fragility of life last week (as if I needed reminding). On the way to Geneva airport we saw the most terrible accident; a white van with all windows blown out, children’s toys, bikes and sledges scattering the road and bank, and the family dog – a beautiful red setter – being stroked by a paramedic. It was the only living thing left at the site, but not for long. It raised its head woefully to look right at us while the vet sent him to sleep.
I am haunted by the image of that family: one minute returning from a lovely Christmas holiday, car packed with presents; the next and their lives are forever blighted.
All the more resolved to make the most of it.
in which we finally arrive in Champéry for Christmas
We made it! Here I am with my boys in the mountains, getting ready for Christmas: the goose is collected, we smuggled the chipolatas and bacon through customs, the champagne is chilling, presents wrapped and last-minute instructions for shopping issued! It’s Christmas Eve and Ross and Tommy are off skiing while I am left to some retrospective musings.
The first one is of a practical nature: even if the weather is gorgeous, the snow is terrible so I don’t feel I am missing out. I had been dreading the feeling of unadulterated jealousy, listening to tales of knee-high powder and virgin slopes, instead it’s a litany of overcrowded, muddy pistes and closed runs. Sigh of relief!
This is always a very sad time for our trio: the last Christmas we spent with Louise was here in Champéry, and the memories are still so vivid: the tension and heartache when she nearly didn’t make it due to the British weather – it took four days, three cancelled planes and a £65 taxi before I scooped her up from Aigle station, her presents and possessions spilling out of broken bags (so Louise!); her garish New Look jumper; the delicious goose; the fairy-tale weather; the company of good friends – in other words, a perfect family Christmas.
Being on crutches up here evokes the time when I broke my hip three and a half years ago. Despite all the obvious downsides to such an injury (nine weeks no weight bearing followed by a further 12 on crutches), it also brought Louise and I very close. She came to look after me in Geneva while Ross was away and we had a riotous time with her wheeling me round the park and to restaurants, she so little she could barely control the chair! We then went to Barbados together for a fabulous 10 days recuperation with friends Heather and JP in their beachfront villa, and we had a very bonding and girly time sharing a room, fuelled by fine dining and drinking. I feel so privileged to have these memories. And now Tommy is manfully filling this gap by looking after me, both here and in London, in a similar fashion. It is very special.
My lovely GP happily prescribed the forgotten painkillers – don’t know how I’d do without them…tramadol, paracetamol and anti-inflammatories. The pain is constant and aching.
The rest of my clips were painlessly removed by one of my nurses. She took a photo of the wound – not for the squeamish. It has been bleeding a bit behind the knee and it is quite bruised there. But everyday it feels a little better, though I foolishly keep forgetting to ask how long the pain will go on…perhaps not so dumb as it might only add to the vague air of anticlimactic depression that has descended. I apologise to you all, but I’m afraid it is not possible to be superwoman all the time.
A kind friend sent me a link to a book about cancer, obviously meant to give hope. However it only served to send me into deep angst about secondaries. Not knowing the histology yet (I know I said I was going to forget this for two weeks, but…) and the mitotic rate of the various tumour cells that were found, there is this faint niggle which can only be assuaged by quarterly scans for two years, and then six-monthly ones for a further three years. So it’s a long haul. I guess my status remains ‘living with cancer’.
But today I must make the bread and apple sauces, the red cabbage and do my physio. Tonight we will feast on empanadas and oysters with cousins Christine and Diego and tomorrow morning we will open our stockings, have a light but jolly lunch with friends, before tackling the goose with my brother Sasha and more friends. Tommy is donning the head chef cap.
I will enjoy this Christmas and be thankful for being with loving family and friends: three years ago it was Louise’s last, how could we have known?
So Bonne Fête as we say here! I will raise a glass of Christmas bubbly to you all and those less fortunate than ourselves. I will especially be thinking of my friend Brigid, who is trapped in Juba having evacuated her team from Bor, the heartland of Sudan’s civil war. Just a week before this she had told me how much she was enjoying her work there…see how life is constantly balanced on a knife-edge.
in which I have my ‘stitches’ out
I have been quiet the past few days – nothing much to report. Leg has been aching and tingly all at the same time. I am told this is all the nerve endings waving around madly trying to re-attach themselves. I am walking round the house unaided, but take crutches when I venture out, more to keep people away from me!
As well as receiving welcome visitors, I have been active: two trips to the movies (see http://www.vickyatthemovies.net for my reviews of The Hobbit and The Hunger Games); two visits to the physio – I am doing a form of Pilates to pinpoint the glutes and the thigh muscles (so painful that one exercise made me bleed behind the knee); some Christmas parties locally; and one at Art First, where the Patrons and Artists had put together a wonderful Christmas Stocking full of loving messages, original paintings, poems, an African necklace, knick-knacks, and even a bottle of organic apple juice. All have contributed enormously to my spiritual and mental well-being.
However as the time draws near for my appointment with the Prof to cut the clips, I begin to feel nervous; the night before I sleep badly, worrying about the histology and whether they will find something new which might require different treatment – heaven forbid! Also about confirmation of the clearance – whether he managed to get a good margin round the tumour. Sadly there is no-one beside me to poke awake at 3 am and confide these anxieties, only Pickle as a comfort blanket.
As Ross is on a plane, chum Hilary accompanies me as scribe and ears.
Disappointingly the histology is not back yet – apparently it takes longer from the Marsden but Prof is not unduly worried. He is very pleased with his handiwork – lovely, clean ‘perfect scar’ and no sign of any infection or swelling. He picks out every other clip – not quite as painless as people lead you to believe: I emit an ‘ouch’ every now and then. ‘It doesnt hurt, at all’, says he, to which I reply ‘You’re not the one having your leg attacked!’.
There are only two things that are important, he opines. One is your leg and two is my reputation. I correctly hazard a guess as to which he thinks is more important…we laugh.
On the clearance issue, he admits that, while the tumour was self-contained, it was very close to the neuro-vascular bundle and he cut as close to the surface of it as he could without damaging it and my leg permanently, thank goodness. He confirms that the gastrocnemius and soleus are completely removed and the Achilles is only attached at the bottom and not at the top. It is therefore quite remarkable that I have as much up and down flex in my foot as I have. But I must exercise this movement more if I am to walk properly. As he seems unconcerned by the histology – or lack of it – I decide I must follow his example and forget about it until January.
But the best news of all is that, once the rest of the clips are removed on Saturday, I am clear to fly. I am so thrilled I forget to ask for more painkillers – only realise as I am floating away in a cab – and have to try and get to the GP instead!
I will post a picture of my leg once it is restored to its pristine self.