Hi Ho, Hi Ho, it’s off to work I go

Thursday was my first day back in the office since 14th October 2014, I’m doing a phased return, my hours for this week and next are 10 am to 2 pm. I have been looking forward to getting back to work, and getting back to a near normal routine.

I have been surprised by how happy I am at being back at work, like everything in life, some of it I could do without, but I mostly enjoy my job, and I work with some great people. I have been really happy to be there these two half days.

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Tiredness has got the better of me though, on both days I have felt tired towards the end of the four hours and have had a sleep when I got home. My colleagues have been welcoming, much as I love my family, it is good to see some different faces during the day. Getting up the stairs has been a struggle, there are more steps than at home and I am out of breath by the time I’ve walked from the car park and up to the office, makes me feel old! I will have to find excuses to go up and down the stairs so I get used to them again.

We are a small team and my absence has impacted the workload for everyone, some of my tasks have not been looked at whilst I have been away but I will get through it bit by bit.

My eye has coped reasonably well with looking at a PC monitor for up to four hours, it has got uncomfortable towards the end of my time at work but not unbearably so. I think the biggest impact has been on my arms and shoulders, they are stiff and sore this evening and have been objecting to being laid on in the night.

The HOPE Course this week was about physical activity and I resolved to go for a walk with Shadow over the weekend, judging by my lack of stamina it will have to be a short walk. But then I have an excuse, poor Shadow has a limp on his front left leg this evening, he must have strained it on his walk with Ray this morning, so it will be restricted walks with no games of ‘fetch’ for a few days.

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I have been getting used to wearing a bra again, some days it is not too bad and other days it just has to come off. We were all watching TV one evening this week and that point had come, I did the undo hooks, straps down inside my sleeves, and pull off through the neckline trick. My daughter noticed and said in a shocked tone ‘Mum, did you just take your bra off?’ I had to giggle to myself, she is 24 but is easily offended bless her.

Bra and Shopping

I have had a few sharp pains in my left breast today, the healing process is ongoing, I still have obvious seroma in my right breast, the left is more deep seated so is less noticeable. Apparently the seroma can take many months to be re-absorbed so I have to wait until it is all cleared to find out what my shape will settle to.

I’m feeling tired again now so it is time for bed, tomorrow is Art Journalling for Megan and I, looking forward to that, we will be making collages, such fun!

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Time to get back to writing

I have had a short break from blogging to give my eye a chance to heal, it has been two weeks since my operation and I will be having a check-up tomorrow morning.

It may seem strange to say that these two weeks have somehow been worse to deal with than the preceding three months. I think the reason for this is that this time the recovery was for a minor operation, I have not needed the same level of focus on doing the best for my recovery since there has been less impact on my day – to – day life. Also, the possibility of having further problems with the detached retina does not register with me as being as serious as the risk of having a reocurrence of breast cancer. So, if it were a worst case scenario choice between the possibility of losing the sight in one eye, or the risk of having a high grade cancer, I really do not know which is worse.

I seem to be feeling glum today, truth is I was expecting to be back at work today but I have contracted a rather nasty cold which has been making me cough, and my throat sting to the point of getting teary eyes. And the constant nose blowing has made me look like Rudolph. I’m feeling very sorry for myself, and have spent the day hibernating.

I have recently been giving a lot of thought to what my ‘new normal’ might be, what I would like to accomplish, how can I reach a balance between necessity and desire? There are so many experiences and activities that appeal to me, selecting what I would like on my ‘Bucket List’ is a challenge in itself.

For many years I have been searching for a Spiritual path which ‘fits’ for me, after many years of Christian faith, I found that it lost its meaning, there was something missing, I didn’t ‘feel’ it in my soul. Through my searching, a strong belief in both Goddess and God has cemented for me, but I have yet to find a path which appeals, how I express my faith does not fit with established belief systems.

Snuggled up in bed this morning, browsing through Facebook, on one of the pages “The Goddess Circle” I came across this:

“”My child,” The Goddess said.  “It doesn’t matter what you call me. Throughout the ages of time I have been called a million names, and I shall be called a million more. Goddess, Divine Mother, Sacred Feminine, Maiden, Mother, Crone, Shaman, Priestess. Just as you have so many incarnations within your own flesh each with its own deep divine thread, so do I.

We have the ability to be blossoming and re-emerging constantly in this and every life we have. The flow of what we are called is the same. Ever evolving, each one a part of the vibrant thread that makes up our own vivid tapestry” ~Ara “

Wow! These words really resonated with me, does it matter that I have no ‘label’ for my belief? No, it doesn’t. And is it necessary for me to dash about adding and ticking off things on my ‘Bucket List? And do I have to decide now what the plan is for the rest of my life, who I want to be? No, I don’t.

Maybe I can embody all the parts of me that hide within, and still be ‘me’, maybe I don’t need to be just one person. Maybe I can just celebrate all the different aspects of what makes me who I am with acceptance, and gratitude. And if next year, or the year after, I find a different way of being, and then after the passing of more time, my path leads in another direction, then so be it. Life is all about learning, growth, embracing our experiences both good and bad, these things touch our hearts and enrich our souls. Good night and Goddess Bless.

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Eye Surgery and Female Bonding

Well, it was okay, the worst thing was the long wait, I had to be on the ward for 7:30 am, Ray was able to stay with me until he had to leave for his appointment in High Wycombe with Dr Jackson. Ray visited a friend after seeing Dr Jackson and still arrived back at the hospital before I had been for surgery. Ray had a good discussion with Dr Jackson, it appears that the MRI was so important as they needed to be sure that Ray’s symptoms were not being caused by a brain tumour. I’ll admit that this never occurred to me, and I’m glad about that as things were bad enough at the time without that to worry about as well.

For some of the time, I chatted with a lady whose husband had gone for surgery, she was jolly and cheerful, her sense of humour was great, and she did a good job of keeping my mind off the operation. We had quite a laugh together, talking about failing memories and the joys of getting older, Glennis is over twenty years older than me and had been single until marrying her husband Mike 17 years ago. They were able to leave soon after Mike had returned from his operation so I spent the remaining time reading.

When my turn for surgery came, Ray had just arrived, so he went off in search of some lunch. The surgeon was great, he covered my right eye for me as I didn’t want to see what was going on and answered my questions before and during the surgery. With all the various drops I had put in my left eye, I wasn’t able to make out much of what was happening, all I could feel was pressure as the surgeon worked to remove the Scleral Buckle. When it was all done, the eye was covered with a dressing, the cover was removed from my right eye and I was walked back to the ward. After coffee and toast I was allowed to go home. When we got home, I went straight to bed and slept off the stress.

The next morning my eye was uncomfortable but bearable, I had to take the dressing off so that I could start with the antibiotic/anti-inflammatory eye drops the hospital had given me. It was much better than when the Scleral Buckle had been inserted 18 months ago, although it was puffy, my eyelid opened and the eye was only red to the bottom left and underneath the iris where the buckle had been.

This is how it looked 18 months ago, day one and three days post-op

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And this is Wednesday before and after taking off the patch 

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Fortunately, I was recovered enough to go to the HOPE Course on Wednesday, Josh drove me as my eyesight wasn’t legal, after all the years of ferrying your children about, it’s fabulous when they reach the stage of passing their driving test and being available for chauffeuring duties!

This week at HOPE, we talked about body image, and sexuality and intimacy. Other than the hot flushes, one other distressing side effect of the Tamoxifen is vaginal dryness. The lady I sit with told me she had the same problem and was prescribed hormonal pessaries which she finds do the trick, so it’s now on my list to ask about next time I see my GP. Being able to talk so openly with other women about the impact of cancer on relationships, emotions and life in general is so therapeutic, we have so much to offer each other in sharing our feelings and experiences. I recommend it to any of you reading this who are having or have had treatment for cancer.

This week we were asked to set a goal related to the topic, so I have decided to get a proper bra fitting, all the bras I have are now uncomfortable or the wrong size in various directions. So on Monday I am off to M&S for a measuring and fitting appointment. I am not looking forward to the trying on part, I always seem to get sweaty in fitting rooms and with the hot flushes making a re-appearance, it could be an embarrassing event!

The last few days have been a nightmare of overheated dampness, if I make any move to do anything other than sit still I end up bathed in sweat, when this happens I get short tempered, best described as hot and bothered. I thought I had got over this but it appears not, I’m tired of it now, I hope this phase wears off again soon, I seem to spend more and more time at home with just a vest on top, it’s really not cool!

Ray ordered a small desk fan for me to have on my desk when I go back to work, I have been making use of it today, I told him I need another one to keep at home, as I type this, I can feel the heat building again.

My eye is getting better, I could see well enough to drive on Friday, and the redness is dispersing so that the white is now varying shades of red through to yellow and I am managing without pain relief during the day. By the evening, it is tired and sore so I take painkillers to help me sleep. I have a lovely plastic eye shield to put on at night so that I don’t accidentally rub or knock it in my sleep. It occurred to me yesterday that it looks a little like I am beginning to be assimilated by The Borg!

I’d like to claim to look like Jeri Ryan as ‘Seven of Nine’ after she has recovered from being severed from the Borg Collective, but it would be more honest to say I more closely resemble her when she has just been rescued, only I still can’t claim to have such an impressive physique!

 Star Trek Voyager - Seven of Nine Jeri Ryan       In Sickbay A drone no longer Seven of Nine severed from the Borg Collective

Anticipating Loneliness

Tomorrow Ray begins a phased return to work, he will be working Monday, Wednesday, Friday, 10 am to 2 or 3 pm and then all being well gradually increasing his hours.

We have been together almost continually since 20th November, that’s eleven weeks, the longest time we have been apart was when Ray stayed in hospital overnight, and we haven’t argued once. I will certainly miss him on the days he is at work, I will be lonely with just Shadow for company. I’m really not looking forward to being at home recovering from my eye operation without Ray to keep me cheerful. Knowing Ray will be at work part time makes me realise how much having him with me has kept me going, although the circumstances could have been better, at least worrying about him kept my mind off my own problems for a lot of the time.

I’ve been trying to take my mind off this next stage in our recoveries by working on upcycling a small cabinet. I finished it this afternoon and am happy with the finished product. I now have several things to work towards, recovering from eye surgery, coping without Ray being at home, going back to work myself and getting on with craft projects as I will be possibly having a stall at a Vintage Fair on Whitsun Bank Holiday weekend.

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Birthday and Countdown to Return to Work – Ah, OK, Maybe Not Just Yet Then.

Friday 30th January was my Birthday, I am happy to now be 52 years old, I am grateful to be reasonably healthy, have a wonderful Husband, Daughter, Son and Sisters, have a choice few lovely friends, an adorable Dog and all of life’s essentials. Ray and I took Shadow for a slow walk round the flat pathways at Wendover Woods, followed by a coffee each from the café in the woods, and lunch in Chesham. I opened my gifts in the evening after dinner, Ray gave me a craft light with magnifying lens, my eyesight is not what it was, so this is very welcome! and a Loreena McKennitt CD. Megan gave me a ‘Mother and Child’ and purple glass charms for my bracelet, an angel’s wing to go on my angel necklace and some Lindor chocolates. Josh and Liza gave me a Kirtsy Allsop Pyrography Kit, a different Loreena McKennitt CD and some Lindor chocolates, as you have probably guessed, these are a favourite of mine. My sister Sharon sent me a ‘Terrific Year Project’ Calendar, my friend Jenny gave me a stained glass heart hanging, and our neighbour Jacqui gave me two fresh cream choux buns which I shared with Ray. Liza made a tasty fruit salad, with lots of different fruits, really good! We delayed the birthday meal until Saturday and had a takeaway from Chesham Cottage, it was excellent, really tasty and plenty of food, I saved half of mine and had it for dinner on Sunday. It was a lovely calm, chilled out Birthday, one I will remember for a long time as it was just so enjoyable and fantastic not to have to rush about anywhere.

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On Monday, I was reminded that 2nd February was the 25th Anniversary of the day F. W. de Klerk released Nelson Mandela unconditionally and legalised all formerly banned political parties. De Klerk, the then new president of South Africa, believed that apartheid was unsustainable and unconditionally released all ANC (African National Congress) prisoners. I have always admired Nelson Mandela, he endured so much, but because of his principals was a wise and compassionate man. He made so many excellent, inspirational speeches, these are excerpts are two of my favourites:

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Our HOPE Course ‘homework’ this week was to do something mindfully, I chose to work on a craft project mindfully. So I have been taking notice of the smells of the paint and glue, which sounds slightly dodgy! To set your minds at rest it is emulsion paint and PVA glue so no noxious vapours! I have also taken notice of the textures of the painted surfaces, the sandpaper I have used to distress the edges of the small unit I am working on, the decoupage paper I will be decorating it with, and the fibres of the brushes as I clean them. I have been using my magnifying craft light to cut out some butterflies for the unit, it is perfect, so much better for my eyes and I can cut around small shapes easily. This is a much bigger project than the birdhouse, it’s not finished yet, but all that is left to do now is to varnish it. I’m going to be keeping my fingers crossed that none of the stamping and ageing mediums don’t run, here’s hoping!

Mind Full

We woke up to snow yesterday, Ray took Shadow out for his walk but didn’t take a ball as it usually gets lost when there is snow, Shadow is not good at finding his ball unless he sees exactly where it lands. Shadow lasted until they were on the way home and then decided he really couldn’t come home without a game of fetch, so he brought Ray a stick to throw instead. Shadow just loves to play fetch, he has a basket of toys at home to play with and will often tip everything out to find a favourite toy for one of us to throw for him.

In my Day

I have been getting myself psyched up to return to work part-time next Monday, but yesterday morning the postman delivered a letter from the eye hospital telling me I am booked in to have the Scleral Buckle removed from my left eye ….. on Tuesday!

So, my return to work will be delayed by around two weeks, and I have more pain to come, but as I have been through it all before when the buckle was fitted, I know what to expect. And the discomfort will not last as long as it did following last October’s Bi-lateral Wide Local Excision Breast Surgery and Sentinel Node Biopsies.

My breasts are getting on much better now, I keep forgetting to mention that I still have a slight blue tinge lingering in my left breast from the radioactive dye, and its over three months since I had the surgery. The worst of the peeling is now finished, where it was at its worst there is some secondary peeling but nothing major. The Seroma in my right armpit has now almost completely cleared up, but there is still quite a lot of fluid in the right breast, a slight dent is slowly developing as the fluid begins to drain away. Yesterday I decide it was time to try wearing a soft bra, I managed for most of the day, but by the early evening enough was enough, so bra off, vest on, and breathe! It is great that I am now able to have pain free showers, dodging about to avoid the spray falling on sore nipples can be awkward in a confined space. And, I have managed to wear a post-surgery bra all day today, yippee!

Throw my Bra

In an earlier blog, I said that I was thinking about having a tattoo to disguise the Radiotherapy dot between my breasts. I have decided not to go ahead because if the breast cancer comes back, it could cause problems with radiotherapy measurement marks. I might just get some temporary tattoos or cover the dot with a stick-on bindi if I ever wear a low cut top, do you think I could get away with that?

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And in other news, on Saturday, Ray realised that he is now able to move his tongue to the left side of his mouth, he hadn’t been able to do this since his second TIA (Transient Ischemic Attack) in November. He has muscle wastage in the left side of his tongue but will probably regain this now that he can move it about. It has made eating much easier for him, he can now chew on the left without biting his tongue and getting food stuck which is brilliant!

Ray had his check-up appointment today with Dr Burn at the Stroke Unit. Dr Burn is happy with Ray’s progress, says that he can return to work part time to start with and see how he gets on before increasing his hours. Ray will have another check-up in four months, if all is still progressing well, and he has had no more TIA’s then Dr Burn will discharge him. However, Dr Burns says Ray should not play golf for at least another month, Ray was very disappointed to hear that, he has been itching to get on the golf course.

As I wanted to be with Ray for his check-up I didn’t make the HOPE Course today, tomorrow I will be at The Lynda Jackson Centre for Relaxation class and an Aromatherapy massage. If Sue (one of the HOPE facilitators) is there, I will be able to find out what our homework is for the coming week.

Today is World Cancer Day, the news this morning said that the percentage of people having a cancer diagnosis has risen from one in three to one in two, that is not good news, but I suppose the balance for that is that more people are now surviving cancer, so lets hold on to that thought.

World Cancer Day

A Trip to the Eye Hospital

Today was Pre-Op Assessment day for the removal of the Scleral Buckle in my left eye. I had my blood pressure taken from my leg for the first time, the cuff went round my calf muscle, it was a little uncomfortable, I felt like I was about to get cramp, but it was all done quickly and as I will be having local anaesthetic there was no need for blood tests. The operation will probably be in February but I have been put on the ‘Short Notice List’ so may get to have it sooner if someone else cancels. So after a remarkably short visit Ray and I set off home.

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It was a beautiful sunny morning, we were very surprised to see Daffodils blooming on one of the grass verges! It seems very early to see Daffodils in bloom, I just checked on the RHS Website and they say that the flowering season is February to early May. So they are early, it is lovely to see the first signs that Spring is on the way. I am looking forward to seeing the lambs, they are simply lovely!

Lambs

I have been thinking that I have been rather unfair to my right boobie, in a previous post, I said that my left breast was being the ‘perfect patient’, however, its halo has slipped somewhat over the last few days. It is on this side that the blistering has been causing a problem. When I changed the dressing this morning, the skin over the first blister came away with it (sorry if this is too much information), I also noticed that there is a new blister on the Areola, ah well, only a few more weeks and it should all be healing up. Even with the twice daily moisturising regime, my right breast has started to peel, I certainly wouldn’t make it through an audition as a glamour model! Just as well I have never aspired to bearing my body for profit 🙂

Fernando Botero - Girls with Fruit

After lunch Ray and I did some tidying in our sitting room, it wasn’t that much and didn’t take long but it exhausted me. I went for a lay down and slept for three hours, when Ray brought me a coffee at 6:30 I was completely disoriented. I woke thinking it was Saturday morning and noticing Ray was dressed said to him that he was having his hair cut today! Ray looked confused, I then realised that it wasn’t morning or Saturday either! Oh dear, Ray does have a haircut booked on Saturday, so at least I got one thing right! This Radiotherapy fatigue is messing with my head, well that is my excuse, and I’m sticking to it 🙂

Today seems to be a ‘hot flush’ day, I have days like this, there doesn’t seem to be any regularity to them, it is very unpredictable. I have stripped down to my vest top (not back to wearing a bra yet, and won’t be until the Radiotherapy burning heals), but my back still feels like it is burning up. I can’t find an expected time scale for these Tamoxifen induced flushes to come to an end, it appears that everyone has a different experience, I think I will be on the hunt for one of those antique style fans to keep in my handbag for when I am ‘feeling the heat’.

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Radiotherapy Burns

After a few reasonably good days, Ray and I both had a real downer on Sunday. Megan needed to go to Hemel so Ray drove and I tagged along. Ray and I crept along like a couple of snails, we didn’t feel well enough to manage our normal walking pace and came home as soon as Megan had finished her shopping. When we got back Ray went off to bed and I followed soon after, we both felt better after a snooze. It has been a while since we both needed to rest in the afternoon, we slept well overnight too so we obviously needed it.

Butterflies

I had my quarterly B12 injection in my bottom for the first time on Monday, it used to hurt when I had it in my arm but this time I didn’t feel it at all, that was a pleasant surprise! Tomorrow I have to go for the Pre-Op assessment for the operation to remove the Scleral Buckle in my left eye. That will be interesting, I expect to have to go through the whole explanation about why I can’t have blood or blood pressure taken from my arms. I wonder if I will need a cannula for the operation and if so will that have to go in my leg? The implications of having Sentinel Node Biopsies to both armpits begin to have more significance when needing medical treatment.

Ray saw his GP for a check-up, he will be off work until after seeing Dr Burn in early February, if Dr Burn is in agreement then he can go back part time to begin with. Ray and I went over to London Colney in the afternoon, I didn’t want him driving all that way on his own as he has only just started driving again. Ray dropped me off at TK Maxx and then went round to his head office. His colleagues were pleased to see him and he was able to have a chat with his Chief Exec about a return to work plan. Prior to his return, Ray will have a meeting with his Chief Exec, Heath & Safety Advisor and Occupational Health Advisor to agree the phased return plan, workload and any other issues relevant to his future working arrangements. It sounds like they have his best interests at heart which is very reassuring.

Another pleasant surprise on Monday was having my blog listed in the weekly round-up of ‘best blogs’ on the ‘Journeying Beyond Breast Cancer’ page: http://journeyingbeyondbreastcancer.com/2015/01/10/weekly-round-up-94/

I was honoured to have my blog featured, I have been following the page for a while and have read some brilliant articles there, and on the weekly round-up list, so to have mine included gave me a real boost.

I have been brought quite low by events last week and am still struggling with the implications to my future happiness. I am trying to forget about it but it is not easy to keep it out of my mind, it is night time when I should be sleeping that it really plays on my mind. I can only hope that this situation will improve with time.

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But I have had my mood lifted this week by kind friends sending supportive messages to me on Facebook, and for this I am grateful, you have kept me out of the pits dear ladies, thank you!

Today, Ray and I went for Tuesday Relaxation at the Lynda Jackson Macmillan Centre, after the session we went round to the Radiotherapy Department so that I could ask for some advice about my nipple blister. The Radiotherapy Nurse was very helpful, she gave me some lotion to use, and a medicated dressing to try as well. She also confirmed that I should not think about going back to work until the blistering and sore skin is healing well. The skin in the area which had the intensive booster treatment last week is getting more tender and red with each day, it could continue to do so up to four weeks after finishing my treatment. It isn’t quite like sunburn as the redness begins in the area in and around each skin pore and then gradually spreads out to the surrounding skin, it is beginning to itch sporadically but it is bearable.

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But I remain optimistic, the skin and physical scars will heal soon, the emotional scars will take longer, maybe even my lifetime, I’m not sure if having Cancer has changed me, maybe it is really too soon to tell. When I am back to my ‘pre-cancer treatment’ routine I may become more aware of changes in my outlook on life. Having the outlet of this blog is wonderful, I have always found it easier to express my feelings in writing, and in posting blogs I have been better able to understand and work through what has been happening to me since being called back after routine Mammogram screening for biopsies and then receiving the diagnosis.

Many years ago, when I was a babe in arms, my Nana Rose was looking after me with Great Aunt May, my Nan was one of fourteen children (twelve surviving past infancy). Great Aunt May had put me in my nightdress, one of those with a pull in tie at the neck that they no longer make because of babies being suffocated, and had laid me in my cot to sleep. Well you can probably guess what happened, my Nan came in to check on me and I was blue and not breathing, this was before mouth to mouth was common knowledge, my Nan says she undid the nightdress, took me outside, and prayed to God to save me. She used to tell us this story often, and she said that God had saved me for a reason and that I would have a special purpose in life.

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I don’t know what she was hoping for, but I’m not sure I have achieved anything special. But maybe writing this blog, sharing my experiences of Breast Cancer to help others is it? My son and daughter each have a friend with a mother recently diagnosed with Breast Cancer, they tell me that both women have been following my blog, if my words can help, then yes, I guess that I have achieved something.

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