A Shortish Catch Up.

Last time I wrote, I was about to go for an Ultrasound scan, physically, it was bearable, I did have an aspiration of the fluid, it was a little painful but not too bad. The fluid was sent for analysis and I heard today that it is nothing to worry about, apparently, the right side lumpiness at the excision site is caused by a thick-walled cyst and the fluid is as would be expected, so nothing to worry about. The area of discomfort away from the operation site showed nothing abnormal and is most likely a side effect of healing from Radiotherapy.

The emotional effects of having the ultrasound were further reaching, and this is why I have taken so long to write another blog. This is the only appointment I have gone to alone, as it was such short notice, Ray wasn’t able to get the time off to go with me.

Sitting waiting to be called, I looked around the busy waiting area, it was fairly easy to speculate by the expressions on their and their companions’ faces whether the women waiting were on their first call back, waiting to get biopsy results, for post-op or post treatment check-ups,. There was only one other woman on her own, I didn’t mind being alone, I kind of felt like a senior student observing the ‘newbies’ and more experienced students on the first day of the academic year.

I did not anticipate how I would feel having the ultrasound. I was totally fixated on the screen trying to see if the images were anything like those I saw when I went for the biopsies last September. The nursing staff assured me that there was nothing suspicious to see, but would aspirate the fluid to relieve the pressure. It was a little painful, rather like having a blood test, the nursing staff are so kind and compassionate, and they really took care to treat me kindly.

During the afternoon and evening I could feel myself sinking, having the ultrasound brought back all those feelings from when I was tested and diagnosed with Bi-Lateral Breast Cancer. It really knocked me sideways for the rest of last week.

The low mood was pervasive, I could not seem to shake it off and it made me doubt and question decisions I have made recently and unusually for me, to regret one of them in particular.

Josh’s girlfriend Liza, passed her driving test on Thursday, I was so pleased for her, we took them out for dinner to celebrate, I kicked myself up the bum and put on a happy attitude for the evening. But on Friday I felt just as low.

The weekend was good, Megan and I went to art journaling class on Saturday, I put all my feelings in to my journal, it was very therapeutic. On Sunday Ray cut the grass for the first time this year, the garden looks lovely now. I did some weeding between the patio stones and cleaned out and re-filled the bird feeders, something which I have been meaning to do for weeks. Being outside in the sunshine did me the power of good and I am feeling better now.

I have started to make a list each day of what I am grateful for after reading this post on Sue Fitzmaurice’s Facebook page: 

The Blues

Today I am grateful for a beautiful warm day, for a productive short-day at work, the colours of daffodils ranging from white to deep yellow and the tree blossom from white to cerise, for it being warm enough to have all my car windows open on the drive home, the smell of a bonfire, bringing back good memories of times in the garden where I grew up tending a fire of garden waste with my Dad, and also the scent of fresh mown grass, one of my most favourite smells and guaranteed to raise my mood.

Gratitude

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Business at Work, More Hospital Visits and Possibly Too Much Information!

I’ve been very busy at work over the last two weeks as our financial year ends on 31st March and there is a lot to be done. Working 22 1/2 hours over four days is working out well for me, I would really like to continue with these hours and move to working a three day week as soon as possible. I have suggested job-share but my employers are unwilling to consider this whilst we have so much work to get through.

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I have been concerned about lumpiness in my right breast where the tumour was taken, and also some pain and lumpiness in a different area of the breast. I spoke to the Breast Care Nurses about it last week and was booked in for a check-up at the breast unit on Monday. I was seen by the Nurse Practitioner, we discussed having genetic testing, and went through a computerised risk assessment which came out below the level at which I could be referred for this. I am happy with the outcome, I didn’t feel there was a genetic risk behind my Bi-lateral Breast Cancer as there is no history of it in my family, I am one of the ‘bad luck’ cases. The Nurse examined me and decided to refer me for an ultrasound scan to check my right breast. Where the tumour was taken, the lumps are probably a Seroma, if this is the case, they will drain the fluid off for me. But it might be that this is scar tissue, in which case nothing can be done, and the thickening and discomfort beyond the tumour site may be hardening of breast tissue caused by the radiotherapy. I’m just waiting for the appointment now, it should be in around three weeks.

Last week I had a General Surgery consultation appointment as I have had problems with my digestive tract which pre-dates my breast cancer diagnosis. The doctor referred me for a endoscopy for suspected irritable bowel syndrome, I was fortunate to get a quick appointment for this as another patient had cancelled, at least it will get it over with! So I am off work today to drink the horrible concoction that will clear out my digestive tract, it tastes just like diorite, not pleasant, and of course having the opposite effect! I started taking it at 11 am and I can feel things starting to rumble, but it’s now mid-afternoon and there is no action, yet!

At Mindfulness Meditation this week we discussed compassion for self and others. Ray and I now realise that we have been treating life’s setbacks and problems in a mindful way for all of our life together. We will make a decision and stick to it, if it doesn’t work out how we had hoped, then we accept it and move on, we have never been resentful or regretful when things go badly. We just get ourselves up and get on with life, never indulging in ‘what ifs’ or ‘maybe’s’. If we make mistakes, we accept them, there is nothing to be gained in denying matters of fact, the harder part is not continuing to recall errors, and still feel bad about them months or years after the event.

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I have been neglecting meditation, it somehow gets forgotten about until Tuesday evening when we are asked how we are getting on with it. I think I need to try a different approach, I will meditate on it!

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Last weekend being the one where we move in to British summer time, and with a desire to go swimming, was motivation enough to tackle the lawns on my legs, under arms, and lady garden. I have neglected them for months, actually, since my breast cancer op back in October. It was a mammoth operation, I started with a new blade but it was quite blunt by the time I had finished. It took so long to do, I began to smell burning as I switched off the shower, I was really worried I had blown the heating elements, luckily it wasn’t the shower at all, it was Megan burning her breakfast downstairs! It’s not a perfect job, the problem with being short sighted is that showers and glasses don’t work well together, when I put on my glasses it was apparent that more work is required, oh dear!

Last Saturday was to be the last Session of the Art Journalling course, but so many of us were keen to continue that there will be another four classes starting the weekend after Easter. I am really pleased about this as it is so enjoyable, both in being creative and having good company in class.

I have been thinking about getting organised for the craft stall I will be doing in May, I think I have almost definitely decided on calling my craft business ‘Elsie Rose’s Attic’, my style is mostly retro and by choosing this name it leaves options open to change and diversify what I make and sell.

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Elsie was my paternal Grandmother’s name and Rose my maternal Grandmothers name, of whom I have been thinking of a lot just lately. Both had skill in making things, be it baking, crochet or sewing, both were two of the most gentle souls I have ever met. I still have a ‘Granny Squares’ blanket which Nana Rose made for me, it is too old and fragile to use now so it is safely stored away.

I’m looking forward to Easter, having four days off will be great, and give me time to recover from tomorrow. We are planning to do a boot fair on Sunday to get rid of things which are cluttering up the place, but if it is raining we won’t bother, I don’t fancy standing out in a cold field in the rain, that just doesn’t sound at all appealing.

Have a lovely Easter!!

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Where does the time go?

It is now a week since I went back to work, I am doing half days for the remainder of this week and will be working full time from Monday. As the days go by it is getting easier, to begin with, my poorly eye suffered the most but it is now much improved and providing I remember to have frequent breaks from screen staring it does not get uncomfortable. I am tired, when I get home from work I often have an afternoon nap.

Saturday morning Megan and I went to our second Art Journalling class, this week we were working with collage, I’ve not done this since junior school and it’s not something I would think to do when I’m feeling creative. I started off with an idea in mind but as I looked through the magazines and papers, the images and words that appealed led me in a different direction. I’m not sure about the page, I didn’t enjoy it as much as the previous week.

 Art Journal 28 Feb

When we got home from Art Journalling, there was a lovely surprise waiting for me. My sister Nicola had seen an article on ‘The One Show’ about colouring for grown-ups, she decided to have a go at it and thought I might enjoy it too so ordered books for both of us. The book is called ‘Colour Me Calm’, the drawings are varied with plenty to choose from, I’m really pleased with it. When Ray went to the driving range on Sunday afternoon I sat with relaxing music on, my colouring book and pencils, this is my first completed page:

 Colouring

I came across this article on Huffington Post about colouring for grown-ups, the evidence confirms it is good for the soul!

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/10/13/coloring-for-stress_n_5975832.html?ir=Parents&ncid=fcbklnkushpmg00000037

Tuesday was a very busy day, I started work early as I needed to be at The Lynda Jackson Centre for an afternoon of pampering with volunteers from the charity Look Good Feel Better (http://www.lookgoodfeelbetter.co.uk/)

It was a brilliant afternoon and if any of you ladies have had or are undergoing treatment for Cancer have not yet taken part, then I recommend that you do.

There were nine women plus four volunteer make-up consultants, each of us received a bag containing enough products to start from cleansing, through to being fully made up. The volunteers demonstrated how to use the products and how to apply our make-up, they were very helpful and encouraging. When the session had finished, we all admired each other’s ‘after’ faces, it does make a difference having the full works, we were all very happy with how we looked.

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I very rarely wear wakeup, but since LGFB I have made more of an effort, it is only two days and I can’t promise to stick with it but when I do I now know how to use it properly.

In the evening Ray and I went for our first class on Zenways Mindfulness Meditation, Ray has got back in to ‘work mode’ and is having trouble relaxing again, hopefully he will overcome this with practice. We are supposed to aim for a half hour meditation each day, we didn’t manage it on Wednesday evening but I have found an App with a Body Scan Meditation which is the meditation for this week so we will be trying this out later.

Tuesday was the busiest day I have had since diagnosis and I certainly feel it, I was very tired yesterday and today I’m feeling drained.

Wednesday was our last meeting for the HOPE Course, I feel sad about this as it has been such a pleasure being able to talk with a group of women who have been through Cancer Treatment. We have found that we have similar worries and problems and throughout the six weeks have grown stronger, more positive and better able to deal with our day to day challenges. I will miss seeing the five ladies on the course and also our two facilitators, but the good news is that a monthly meeting is being arranged, so I may be able to see my HOPE friends again and also meet others who have previously done the course.

This last week has whizzed by, I have been back at work for just over a week and have done so much else that the time has gone really quickly. I hope I can battle my way through this tiredness soon.

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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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A New Start – Art Journaling and Back to Work

From a young age, I have enjoyed art, when it was time to pick my options at secondary school, Pottery was one of my ‘O’ Level choices. After trying pottery for a while, I lost interest in it and moved across to painting and drawing instead. This turned out to be a bad move, my first exam piece was a pencil drawing of a half-peeled orange, my drawing was good, and my teacher was pleased with it.

The second exam piece was to draw and paint a picture to illustrate a descriptive line from a book. This is where it all fell apart, my drawing was reasonable but as soon as I began painting I had a bad feeling about it. Turns out I was right, my painting looked like something a junior school child would have done and it brought my grade down really low. I can’t remember what the grade was, I think I have subconsciously erased it from my memory.

When Megan and Josh were both at school, there were art classes at our local community centre, they were free so I decided to have another go. These attempts were much better, I learned more about observational drawing and how to use pastels, watercolours and charcoal.

Since then I have had the odd dabble with art work and although I often feel I would like to pick up the brushes and paints, it has not come to anything.

I have been noticing on Facebook that there is a new art form, Art Journaling, it looked fascinating, and when I browsed through the topic on Pinterest, there are thousands of inspiring images of peoples work.

I noticed an advertisement in the Workaid Shop for a six week Art Journaling Course, I mentioned it to my daughter Megan and we decided we would go together. The first session was last Saturday. We were given a selection of various coloured pens, inks and a selection of stencil shapes and letters as well as water, sponges and cloths.

Isabel, our tutor showed us some techniques for using the materials and we all started to create our first journal page. Megan and I really enjoyed the class, Megan did some more pages in her journal on Sunday but I haven’t picked mine up until today.

These are the three pages I did on Saturday.

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I will be returning to work part time tomorrow (Thursday), I am really excited about it, it is another step towards normality and I am looking forward to seeing my colleagues and getting back in to the routine.

So this inspired me to get out the watercolours and brushes and paint a journal page to celebrate. This is my painting,

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