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
It’s been over a week since the All Clear. After so much anxiety in the build up to the scans, its hard not feel the come down from the high in the following days. People say ‘You must be so happy that it’s over’ and I feel very curmudgeonly saying, ‘I am thrilled, of course, but it’s now only four and half years until I can say I’m in remission’. Continue reading
The waiting is over; the MRI and chest x-rays were done on Monday and on Wednesday, after an hour of relaxing yoga to de-stress me, I am back seeing professor Thomas. The past few days have been almost unendurable with anxiety, punctuated by treats to try and keep an even keel. So on Saturday we went to Garsington opera with Tommy and his girlfriend Olivia, who prepared a most delicious picnic which we ate while sipping champagne by the lake; Sunday we had some dear friends round for a Thai feast in the garden. Both days were glorious and bathed in sunshine. Continue reading
The waiting is the worst. As the time for the scan draws nearer, the complete ‘otherness’ of Champery and the Swiss mountain air is appealing. Ross comes up for the weekend but otherwise I am largely left to my own devices, to meditate, do yoga, work on the book, garden and read. Continue reading
11 sessions down, 22 to go. Exactly one third through. Now settling into a routine: sometimes a kind friend comes with (thanks to Janie’s rota), or I go by myself. It was a huge relief that the tube strike was called off. The only slightly iffy day was when they serviced the machine and my appointment ran 45 minutes late which meant I battled peak rush hour on the tube. Waved my stick aggressively and seats were vacated.
As for the leg, it is getting itchy and a bit red: slapping on the aqueous cream morning and night. Yukky gungy mess, but does the trick. By Friday night, after a busy day of various hospital appointments, including having various sun spots frozen off my scalp at the Royal Free and an hour’s Pilates, my leg was very swollen.
Still juicing and making soups and immunity-boosting foods. Thanks Nina, founder of http://www.platform505.com, for the gift of Anti-Cancer – A New Way of Life which has lots of useful info for health. I am now taking daily probiotic supplements as well.
Met one of the gym trainers in Tesco: ‘Whats up with your leg?’ ‘Oh I’ve got cancer – had all my leg muscles removed’. Show him my leg. ‘F*** me, I can’t believe it, you look so bloody well’. It must be all the raw veg!
The highlight of the week has been the one-day late Valentine’s gift of a returning husband on a flying visit. He’s back for 10 days next weekend – the jobs are piling up!
Also this week a trip to the Roundhouse with Tommy, Olivia and various of their friends to see Worst of Scottee. Scottee was a great friend of Louise’s – we first met on her 18th birthday when she was DJ-ing at Sin in her Pure Filth phase, and Scottee was doing cabaret in a red PVC figure-hugging dress and stilettos.
After the show – a very poignant and brave retrospective on his childhood, told from a photo booth – we sit in the bar and reminisce about the days when he and Lou went clubbing and he would throw her round the dance floor – ‘she was so tiny and I, of course, am very large’. He often sits on the bench before the show and breathes in her calming influence.
This week’s competition winner is chief medical advisor, Dr Fi, who is also Pickle’s breeder; and Marion, who brought me back these funky yoga pants from Kenya. Both achieve photo awards!
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.