Wednesday, 30 December 2009

One step forward, two steps back

Since we had that week up north looking after mam and dad in early December, we thought it was going to be a smooth run-in to Christmas, chemotherapy notwithstanding. How wrong can you be?

Friday 18 December got a call from my sis who's up north for the festive period, saying mam's back in the Royal. She'd had a routine blood sample taken a few days earlier, and the doc wasn't happy with the results - she was worried that it meant mam's kidneys weren't working 100%. So they took her in on the Friday afternoon (ironically mam had woken up that day saying how well she felt) and the plan was to run tests on her over the weekend (whether or not they did, I don't know...hospitals don't seem to do much over a weekend and it's not long since they kept mam nil by mouth for a whole weekend for no apparent reason). By Tuesday 22nd we heard that one of her kidneys wasn't working well, as suspected, so she needed an operation. was starting to look like she wouldn't be home for Christmas.

Wednesday 23rd and we were driving up north ourselves for Christmas - sis phoned en route to say this "operation" was actually more of a "procedure" - done by a radiologist under local anaesthetic, it's just to insert a tube through the back, into the kidney, then fluids drain externally into a little bag. She was having the procedure right then, and all being well would be home Christmas Eve.

So Christmas Eve arrived and the hospital said yes, mam can go home - but it's classed as "weekend leave" and she needs to go back on Mon 28th. Just the movement of the car made her feel queasy on the short journey home but we made it, but it'd tired mam out and she spent the rest of the day in bed. We checked her regularly, woke her at 6pm but she just kept dozing off on the sofa, so by about 8pm she was back in bed. The hospital, in their wisdom, decided to leave her catheter attached so that was a faff on, especially when it leaked because we'd done exactly what I thought the hospital had said to do...

Christmas Day was subdued - mainly because mam was still v fragile and tired. Me and sis cooked Christmas dinner, mam only managed literally a couple of mouthfuls. She's got a new top on that Karen bought her, but she looks SO ill and frail....such a change from Christmas Day last year. Was the cancer there then, lurking? Who knows.

By Boxing Day we could see slight improvements, mam had a little more energy, and again on Sunday 27th when we saw her for a few hours before travelling back south. She'd even got herself up without help, made her own breakfast and had a shower - on her own! And since then, having kept in touch with sis, we know that mam's appetite and energy is continuing to come back. She reported back on hospital on Mon 28th as planned and they discharged her same day, more than happy with her progress.

Next step is another attempt at both kidney ultrasounds and chemo registration on 4th Jan, when hopefully my brother will be up there to support her.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Home and dry

Rubbish night's sleep last night, mam on my mind all night.....hubby had a rubbish night too, tossing and turning - and when he surfaced this morning dad said HE'D also had a rubbish night!

Gave up at 9am and got stuck into a housework frenzy - you name it, if it wasn't fixed down (and sometimes if it was) it got cleaned or put into the washing machine. Just wanted everything to be hunky dory for mam coming home, whenever it happened.

Mam gets this 'thing' every year about having the carpets cleaned before Christmas. Thought it'd be a nice surprise to get it sorted for her, so we went in search of a carpet cleaning machine. B&Q had one you could hire on presentation of the right ID docs....which being away from home we didn't have, and they wouldn't compromise. Had already researched HSS Hire across the river, so went there and 5 minutes and no fuss later, emerged with a carpet cleaning gizmo. Went to get a bit of lunch, Malc bought a new curtain rail for mam's room, popped to Morrisons for yet MORE shopping for the folks, and back to no 10.

Got back and dad was in a panic: the hospital had phoned but he didnt understand why they'd phoned (he's (a) very hard of hearing and (b) very easily confused). So I phoned them - they said mam had had the much awaited scan 30 mins ago and they were waiting for a quack to say if she could go home.

5pm my mobile rang....and it was mam - basically saying 'come and get me'. Whizzed through rush hour traffic, popped her in a wheelchair pushed by a lovely young nurse. She was desperate for fresh air after nearly two weeks in a stifling, stuffy ward and enjoyed having the window open. The drive down Sheriff Hill away from the office gives a really panoramic view north over Newcastle and surrounding areas, and as it was dark all you could see for miles and miles were twinkly streetlights - I knew mam would love that, and she did :)

Got her home and she had a few hugged her and she just said how happy she was to be home. A cup of her favourite Earl Grey and a ginger biscuit didn't touch the sides and I left her with dad while I went to phone family and say she was back with us. Literally within minutes she looked a million per cent better.

Younger sister phoned but she'd already nodded off for a few minutes kip. She woke later and even though she'd said the tea and biscuit would be her lot for the night, she'd stolen half of dad's teacake and was washing it down with a coffee!!

Got to 10pm in a flash and she'd long since decided 10pm was bedtime. Helped her upstairs and to get undressed - bless she showed me her stitches right down her tum....they've made a very neat job of it, looks like they've used a ruler then stapled her up afterwards. Dad turned in at the same time then me and hubs got on with the much anticipated (!) cleaning the kitchen carpet.

Tomorrow: taking it gently and the wait begins until her chemo registration next Tuesday. Got to drop a letter from the consultant in to her docs, otherwise just enjoying putting Christmas decs up and being with her and dad - enjoying it while we're here, as we're back off down south on Saturday.

Glad she's home :)

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Finally moving forward

Went to see mam today and the good news is they're finally talking about discharging her - yay! Initially she'd been hoping to be out last Friday or Saturday (4/5 Dec) but they were concerned about a possible blockage in her intestines. Poor mam went nil by mouth all weekend with a view to her having a scan, then didn't have one. We saw her on Monday (7 Dec) and they'd let her start to eat and drink again and boy was she enjoying it!! She had a cup of tea while we were there - her 5th of the day and it was only 2pm...!

Today - Tuesday 8th - we went to see her again to take a supply of fresh 'smalls' and nightgowns, and it looks like things are finally moving forward: firstly lets say things have 'happened' with her bowels (!) so they're now thinking about discharging her, probably Wednesday 9th. Secondly they've given her a printout with info about the chemo regime they'll use to treat her - paclitaxel and carboplatin. So whilst we've still got to remember that yes, she has cancer and it's started to spread, they now know what they want to do about it.

It's supposed to be her chemo registration session today, which has been put back to Tues 15th and they're talking about her first dose of chemo before Christmas. Tues 15th is BAD news though - they suggest a family member goes with you to help remember all the info they'll fire at you; but I can't stay up here that long, my brother is already booked work-wise so can't swing a few days 'on location' and my older sister doesn't get up here til the following day. So tomorrow, with mam's permission, we'll ask them to put that session back at least a day or two.

But it finally feels like we can begin to move forward and deal with the cancer now.

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Back home

Hubs and I are back in the north east for a few days. This was based on the fact that after not having had the hysterectomy, mam was initially supposed to be discharged on Friday 4th Dec so we travelled up the night before. But as it turned out she wasn't well enough, so we went to visit her that evening; she seemed in good spirits and had plenty of colour in her cheeks and chatty enough - to all intents and purposes, she seemed like normal mam! Only problem is the sickness has started again, she was ill after breakfast on Friday morning. So from Friday morning she was 'nil by mouth' - not even so much as a sip of water - with a view to doing a scan of her stomach/intestines on Saturday morning to see what's going on (in addition to what they already know of the cancer in that area).

Saturday 5th: my auntie visited mum in the afternoon and phoned to say that she hasn't had the scan yet, and is still nil by mouth - otherwise okay. She can't go home until she's had a bowel movement though.

Sunday 6th: younger sister is due to visit mam this afternoon so called in to pick up some batteries I bought to keep mam's CD walkman going. Sis had phoned the hospital this morning and they said mam *might* be well enough to go home on Monday (which cheered me up a lot but why wasn't I prepared for the kick in the teeth that's followed every single bit of good news ever since mam was first ill?) Later, sis phoned to say mam had been sick again - despite being nil by mouth since Friday morning and she still hasn't had a bowel movement, so it's looking unlikely she'll be home on Monday after all :(

In the meantime I'm quite enjoying looking after dad and keeping him happy. We went to get some shopping in for him this morning as the fridge was looking bare, put a turkey joint in to roast then cracked on with some cleaning. Hubs and I had our Sunday lunch and dad had his a couple of hours later, but he said he enjoyed it. He says he feels a lot more relaxed having us around the house and here overnight, so he's sleeping better - if nothing else, THAT is good news!

Thursday, 3 December 2009


So I'm just about to leave work for a week to go and look after mam - be there to bring her home from hospital, and go to her first chemo clinic... And bossman comes out with the pearl of wisdom that it might be the case in the future that if I ask for leave and work is really busy, that they have to say no. They'll try and avoid it wherever possible and he knows I won't take the p*** with leave etc, but he doesn't want me to take it the wrong way if I'm feeling emotional and he says no to a leave request.

Complete bastard (scuse language). Hearing that was the last thing I needed today. Sorry I'm not sitting at my desk permanently snivelling....apologies if it *looked* like I'm 'back to normal'. It's called getting on with things as best you can - it doesn't mean I'm not worried about mam any more.

I actually think he's just done it to flex the managerial muscles and let me know who's boss, because he's like that. He'll say it purely because he can.


Wednesday, 2 December 2009

First next steps

I knew today at work was going to be hard, because my two female colleagues ask regularly if I've had any more news, and I knew I'd have to tell them. And I'd have to tell my boss what was going on, and ask for Friday off work, to go to hubby's gran's funeral, and take mum home from hospital.

Got to work and sure enough I was asked if there was any more news. Started explaining, and crumbled. But that got it out of my system, and I managed to explain it to my boss, who gave me Friday off with only a second or so's hesitation. It's been a strange day - early on felt really distracted, but as the day went on felt more 'with it' and the banter within the team really helped.

My aunt phoned tonight; she'd seen mam, who'd explained what the latest was. Mam had her epidural removed today but she's in a bit of pain from the op, so she's now on morphine but the nurses are keen to get her up and around. She now thinks it's more likely to be Saturday before she's out. Apparently the cancer is also in her bladder, as well as stomach and colon. Does that mean it's agressive - or it's just been undetected and spreading for a while? But she'd asked her consultant how long she can expect to live - and the consultant reckons another couple of years, possibly longer if the chemo works well. Brave question to ask.

But that prognosis of the possibility of another couple of years at least gives us hope - temporarily. I'd been mulling over the possibility of losing her within a few months - she's been so tired and ill that it makes me wonder if the cancer has spread even further than we already know. I guess we'll find out on Tuesday at her chemo registration session when they'll have her blood test results.

At the same time I've decided that I can't really face hubby's gran's funeral. Feel emotionally wrung out, and don't know if I can cope with a funeral - especially not one where so many family fueds are simmering. I'll go to the wake with hubby afterwards but I don't know if I can face the full thing. Broached the subject with hubs and bless, he said he understands and was surprised I said I'll go at all.

So the next stage...get up north and get through the weekend.


Phoned the hospital tonight to see if they could tell us anything. When the ward sister said that the consultant wanted to speak to us all together on Friday, I guessed it wasn't good news. I explained that only one of us lived up north and the rest of us 200 miles away, ward sister said she'd pass the phone to mam for her to speak to me.

Mam sounded so matter-of-fact: she hadn't had the planned hysterectomy, they'd only removed one ovary with the cancerous cyst. They discovered that it isn't just a tiny bit of mam's colon that has cancer - the cancer "runs right through it like a necklace", plus there's "quite a bit" in her stomach too. Mam said she was "disappointed" with the news.......understatement of the century. So it's going to be one hell of a blast of chemo apparently. Mam now thinks she'll be well enough to come home at the weekend rather than next Mon or Tues. She wants me to tell my brother and older sister the news, but not dad or my younger sister - she wants to tell them herself.

Didn't feel that 'hit by a lorry' feeling from a few weeks ago, I just felt numb - shocked. Had a few tears, went to explain it to our boy and got tearful again but he was very grown up and kept hugging me.

Monday, 30 November 2009

Running up to the hurdle

So then today it's here - the first really major hurdle for mam (and the rest of us, by proxy) to get past: her hysterectomy operation.

Spoke to her on Saturday evening and she sounded more tired than ever - I think for all of us, it'll be a relief to get past this 'hurdle' of her op so we all know what's needed to move forward.

She went to hospital on Sunday morning - the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Gateshead. My bro and his wife took her there - I think he'll be a very calming influence; being ex Army and having done time in Northern Ireland and with the UN, he's very 'no nonsense' and thinks before he speaks. I know she takes a lot of comfort from him being around, and that in turn makes me feel better for her.

She arrived at 10.40 on Sunday and was waiting for a couple of hours before she was admitted, apparently. All we knew was that the op will be sometime in the afternoon of Monday 30th November.

So Monday arrives. Work is frantic anyway, lots to do and it helps keep my mind occupied. Monday afternoon and my mind starts wandering. Still busy but still wondering how it's going. I keep thinking about my mate Paul's words - try not to worry, there's nothing you can do now.

Phoned the hospital early evening - 6.30pm ish - and they said she's only just arrived in the High Dependency Unit, if I phone back in 15 minutes or so then they'll be able to tell us more. I texted my brother and sister to tell them that snippet, and told that my brother will ring the hospital for more news. Feel a bit helpless, waiting for someone else to update me.

Eventually my sister in law calls - brother spoke to the hospital, mam's been settled into the high dependency unit and the ward sister says from mam's notes, there's "nothing to worry about". My sister works at Guys Hospital and says from her experience, that really DOES mean there's nothing to worry about...probably means the op went as expected, the surgeon found what he expected to. She reckons if they'd said "you'll have to wait to speak to the consultant", THEN there'd be grounds to be concerned.

But at least twice now, we've had our hopes raised, only to be kicked in the stomach later with bad news. So while I'm moderately cheered, I'll reserve judgement til I know more.

Friday, 13 November 2009

What if...

Just watching a prog on TV involving a Christmas song. Normally I love Christmas and then some. Happy memories from being a kid, and even now Christmas Eve is the one night of the year that I don't sleep well, as I can't wait to get up and get into it all - giving pressies out, drinking proper eggnog, Christmas lunch, her maj on telly, falling asleep after Christmas tea...

And for some reason, watching this programme, it suddenly hit me - what if - just IF - this is mam's last Christmas? I know it may well be FAR from her last...she has as much chance as anyone to beat this and live to see lots more Christmas mornings. But there's that tiny little pessimistic side of me that says what if after the hysterectomy they tell us it's spread? What if it's inoperable? Okay she's not ancient but she's 73, what if her age means she's just not fit enough to fight it? What if this IS her last Christmas?

For the first time ever a litte bit of me is dreading Christmas because I know that tiny pessimistic side of me will occasionally look at mam on Christmas eve and Christmas day and think , what if this is the last time?

Wednesday, 11 November 2009


Been back in touch with my older brother - well my only brother, never mind 'older'! He went up to see mam for a couple of days last week and took her for her first cancer clinic appointment, and it sounded afterwards like she took a huge amount of comfort from having him there.

He only lives an hour or so away from me, but we just don't seem to be in touch very often. It's not that we're "not talking" or anything, we just 'exist in different worlds'. He doesn't really go up to see mam and dad very often in general, but to his eternal credit he's already been up twice, since mam's diagnosis.

He's going this weekend with his wife, my sister-in-law. She had a hysterectomy during the summer, so they're going to help mam understand what she's going to go through when she has her op in a fortnight, and what it'll be like afterwards. It made me think that as me and hubs will be looking after mam for her first week out of hospital, maybe WE need to understand what it'll be like too - so me and sister in law have set a date for the four of us to meet up before mam's op, have a gigantic catch-up session and chew the fat.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Making progress?

Well mam had her much anticipated visit with the oncologist at the QE hospital in Gateshead this week. We thought that blood tests last time around would reveal this time if the cancer had spread, so I was quietly dreading Tuesday as I guess mam and the rest of the family were too.

As ever, work kept me VERY busy and at 4pm came an email from my older sister, who'd had a phone call from our brother - who'd gone with mam to her appointment.

Basically they hadn't done the tests we thought to see if there's been any spread. There's a slight suspicion that it may have spread to her colon - but from what I've read of ovarian cancer, it's not unusual for that to happen. She'll have her hysterectomy on Mon 30 November and stay in for a full week. When they do the hysterectomy they'll also see what cancer 'hotspots' if any they can see and remove what they can. If it HAS spread to the colon they'll remove the affected section if they can, she might need a colostomy bag temporarily until they can repair the 'break', but apparently that's the absolute worst case might not even come to that, fingers crossed.

Bro said mam coped well with it but is more bothered by the thought of a colostomy bag than the thought of the cancer, apparently!

So in a way I was relieved to hear all that - my approach is to expect the worst and anything else is a bonus, so I'd kind of braced myself for much, much worse. I think personally I'd rather take that approach than hope for the best then have to deal with bad news - I've had enough kicks in the stomach with this so far, it's been a bit of a rollercoaster. Everyone has their own way of dealing with things and that's mine.

So now we know the date of the op, we can start planning ahead. As it's not for almost a month, as a family I guess we can have a few weeks of relative 'normality' and we should probably make the most of that, because who knows what 30th November and the weeks and months after it will bring. Hubs and I have long been booked into a hotel in Chester for the weekend immediately before the op, which obviously we'd have been prepared to take a loss on, if we were needed up north.

Next target? Work out with my siblings how we dovetail our post-op visits up north...

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Technology is wonderful...

...and horrible all at the same time.

Have just been reading up on Cancer Research's website about ovarian cancer symptoms, outlook, treatment etc. Then there was a treatment on advanced ovarian cancer. As there's apparently a doubt in mam's consultant's mind about the cancer possibly having spread (which we'll have confirmed either way on Tuesday) I thought it would be informative to read up on it.

And it covered an area which seems almost identical to what's happened to mam. Apparently if the cancer has spread, it can 'squeeze' the uretha which can cause a back-up of fluid to the kidneys, and that in turn can be treated by inserting 'stents' to widen the uretha and relieve the pressure. But in mams case, it is the cyst that's been doing the squeezing...or cancer? Either way to read all that about advanced cancer and connect it so closely to what mam's gone through is pretty awful stuff. That 'hit by a lorry' feeling is back after a couple of weeks away.

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

More waiting, more worrying

Phoned mam on Sunday evening to see how she was - bless her she answered but explained that she was in the middle of being sick, so I said I'd call her later. Called an hour or so afterwards and she still sounded rough, explaining that she'd barely eaten but felt very sick. I said she should phone the ward, as she'd been encouraged to do if she had any problems, so off she went.

The following day I thought I'd try again - and the same thing happened, I called as she was being sick! But later on, before I could call her back, she beat me to it - and sounded more upbeat. She's not afraid to talk about her illness and we didn't avoid it - but that's my mam, incredibly pragmatic. Apparently when the consultant confirmed it was cancer and she'd need a hysterectomy, she said it didn't bother her as she wasn't exactly going to need her reproductive bits again...

But yes, she sounded just like 'normal mam' and in a lot of ways I came off the phone feeling quite relieved - in some ways it was like the previous two weeks or so had never happened. But in other ways I'm more worried. Why's she getting all this nausea? Has the cancer maybe spread to/from her stomach or digestive organs? Apparently the nurse told her that as long as she keeps drinking it doesn't matter so much that she's not eating a lot. But she was really frail when she left hospital, it can't be good for her to lose more weight...

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Alone again, naturally

So that's it...after her near two weeks in hospital, me and hubs having gone up to visit for the last two weekends, and my older sis being up there for the last week, she's now on her way back down south, leaving mam and dad on their own again - for the first time since before she went into hospital. But this time with the knowledge of what's wrong with mam, which must be quite something to get your head's been bad enough for us, their children - so I wonder how mam and dad are dealing with it. Mam especially - it's her that it's happening to. So now they're on their own again, without the distraction of anyone else around.

When all's said and done they're a married couple like any other, and they'll need that time on their own now to talk about it, and each see how the other's coping with it. It must be frightening for mam but dad's now got the knowledge that his wife of 53 years is actually quite ill. He's 81 years old and I know it'll be scary for him too.

Friday, 23 October 2009

F1: it's all gone a bit mad

One of my lifelong interests is Formula One. My brother is ten years older than me and in the 70's, he was in the army. When he came home on leave he'd watch the F1 on telly and me, the adoring little sister, would go and watch it with him. I vaguely remember the likes of James Hunt, Niki Lauda, Clay Regazzoni etc - even mega-names like Senna and Mansell were still to come.

Went through a period in the early 80's when I went right off it, but when I met hubs in '85 it turned out he liked it too, and we had many happy hours where we'd eat Sunday lunch at one of our parents then fall asleep to the sound of the engines. We've been to grands prix and these days take our son - who did his work experience at an F1 team a few years ago!

But on to today's events.

1. Mad Max has been replaced at long last - but by the former head of Ferrari's F1 operations while Schumacher was at his peak...during all the cheating/bias allegations. So how's THAT supposed to dispell accusations of bias to the team in red?!

2. Donington couldn't find £135m down the back of the sofa. Surprised? Not really. PLEASE give it back to Silverstone. Okay so the supporter facilities are a bit dated but it's getting better and the drivers love the circuit because it's so fast. Give it back and lets get on with things, and Simon Gillett can find a bridge to sleep under. Will we go next year? No. Well I said that this year and I spent three days up there.

3. Jenson Button to McLaren?! Well I've heard dafter rumours. If recent rumours suggest that Hamilton doesn't want another 'top' driver at the team with him, the fact that he might be willing to drive alongside Button tells you all you need to know about what he thinks of the new champ's abilities.

4. Me and hubs are off to visit Williams F1 next week...........................can't wait :)

Telling people

Back at work. My colleagues know I was waiting for news last night so I know they'll be wondering what happened. Feel surprisingly calm telling people, then make an effort to just get on with the usual stuff. Work is manic at the moment which just for a change I'm glad of!!

But as the day goes on, it starts to play on my mind more and more. Almost had 'a moment' mid afternoon when I went to the kitchen, considered asking for a few minutes time out - but decided to just get on with it. Finished work early and went to the shops to wait for hubs finishing, had a latte and read the paper but finding it very difficult to concentrate.

Every day when I wake up, the first thing I think of is mam, and if I'm not 100% 'into' something else, my mind wanders back to thinking about her. I keep feeling like maybe I should have a good cry...then I think, well I'll just feel rubbish afterwards and nothing will have changed.

We've been up north for the last two weekends and admittedly I've missed our weekend routine. Despite the news, we don't think going back home again will achieve anything other than to focus on the awfulness of it even more, and my parents need to get back to some sort of normality until mam's hysterectomy and treatment.

The wait begins

Monday morning and back to work, with this *wait* hanging over me for four days. Luckily the immediate focus is taken off the weekend's events by returning to a footy mad office - I'm a Sunderland supporter, I work with (amongst others) a Liverpool supporter, and the game I was at with hubs on Saturday was the infamous 'beachball goal' game. What followed was a full day of banter based around a red spherical object that had had an immediate impact on our game. Which took my mind off home events brilliantly...but as soon as I left at 4.30, it was impossible not to think of things closer to home. Went to bed and cried for about an hour, really sobbed - the reaction I'd been determined for the family not to see, came right out. Mam had looked so frail sitting on her hospital bed, not the strong resilient mam I've always known. Why her? She wouldn't hurt a fly, she'd do anything for anyone.

I work with a brilliant bunch of people who have been totally understanding; partly because we have a shared sense of humour, partly because some of them also live away from their parents, and partly because out of an office of 11 of us, four have already lost a parent to cancer - three of them relatively recently.

Wednesday afternoon it was hard to concentrate, I kept thinking that in 24 hours time I'd know for sure what mam was facing. Every time I thought of it, the 'hit by a lorry' feeling resurfaced, but Coral (who lost her mum a year ago) tells me that's normal. I've pretty much decided that if I brace myself for the worst, anything else can only be a bonus.

Thursday - the 'big' day. I'd purposely asked not to be told what time mam's appointment was, to stop me clockwatching. But I clockwatched anyway. Was mam not calling because it was bad news and she didn't want to tell me at work? Or was it good news and she was leaving it til after 6 to call? Got home and there was still no call with news...and I was too 'scared' to make the call myself. 6.15 and the phone rang - my sister up there sounds really upbeat - is it going to be good news after all that worry?

No. Sis sounds like she's been crying, and the diagnosis was ovarian cancer. Well, "cancerous cells". Same thing? The 'hit by a lorry' feeling yet again, but only briefly. She said the consultant was very upbeat, saying he's treated ladies who were diagnosed five years ago and they're still very much with us, and there's no reason why mam shouldn't be the same. Mam is apparently okay, a little quiet but said that getting upset won't change anything...but I know what she does when she's on her own could be a different matter completely.

They've done another blood test to see if there's any spread of the cancer but won't get the result until her first cancer clinic appointment at the Queen Elizabeth hospital in Gateshead - which could be as early as this coming Tuesday, but may be a week later. The deadline to get in next Tues was midday on the day she got the biopsy results and the consultant said he didn't know where they stood but he'd had someone type and fax a letter across to them that morning.

I put the phone down and......was totally okay. No tears. Even explained to hubs without breaking down. Why on earth did I feel SO calm? Maybe all that bracing myself for the worst had done the trick. Maybe it was because I got it out of my system on Monday night. Maybe it's still to come.

Younger sister called a few hours later, and she sounded like she'd been in tears too. Few clues yet as to how dad is taking it, just that he thinks his daughters are "ganging up on him" about letting mam go to see her friends at the community centre when she wants.

I think we just all need to let the dust settle for a few days and let it sink in.

And so it begins

Don't know why but something about mam's second spell in hospital really spooked me. Went to work the following day and had 'a bit of a moment' - embarrassing when you're one of only a few women working in a predominantly male (engineering) environment. My boss had twigged that I was bothered about something, caught me on my own while making the team a brew and I got a bit girly and emotional. Agreed with hubby that maybe we should make the 200+ mile journey back up north to go see how she was getting on.

Saw mum in hospital on the Saturday and she seemed relatively perky - but still pale and more frail than I'd noticed previously. Saw her again on the Sunday and the colour had really come back to her cheeks - she seemed much more like normal healthy-looking mam and we drove back to Bucks feeling really optimistic.

One day later and another call - from my aunt, with a bombshell. The hospital said mam only had one working kidney and the other had some sort of 'mass' in it, a blockage. Put the phone down, floods of tears, felt like I'd been hit by a lorry.

Two days later, the news that both kidneys WERE working but not as well as they could be; she had an op to widen the tubes from her kidneys and relieve the pressure. Initial news was that it'd gone well and she'd be going home soon.

Hubs and I were due to go back up north on the Friday night for a long weekend and take in a football match, and it looked like she'd be home in time for us getting there. But only half an hour after leaving work, another phone call....she wasn't going home after all - she needed another op to see what was putting pressure on her kidneys.

Saw mum on the Saturday, while she was waiting to go to surgery - she seemed much like her normal self and just impatient to get it over with and go home!! My sister texted me to say mum had gone into surgery at about 2pm so we went straight from the match to visit her again - drowsy but otherwise well. We went ahead with a dinner date at a local Thai place and went to bed thinking what a good day it'd been.

Following morning we set off to visit mam in hospital before the long drive down south. En route she phoned to say she could come home, but sis tipped me off that she thought "something's wrong". The 'hit by a lorry' feeling was back, multiplied by a million. Could it be...................? Felt sick all the way to the Royal.

Mam was sitting on her bed and for a second she didn't see us - she looked smaller somehow, frail again and almost stunned or lost in thought. There was a problem - the hospital safe was locked so she couldn't get her purse out till the afternoon. Was that the problem? Is that all?!! I could've cartwheeled down ward D47! But no, that wasn't it. They hadn't been able to remove the cyst as the surgeon though it might be cancerous.

Drove home trying to make bits and pieces of 'normal' conversation instead of an overwhelming silence, and mam gingerly walked up the path and indoors. Hubs and I had arranged to meet his parents for lunch so we still did that, to give mam time to settle back in, then we went to the hospital to get mam's valuables (45 mins wait for matron to go find them!) Back to mam's, planning to stay as long as we were needed before driving back south - but it felt just like a normal Sunday afternoon, sitting chatting. The only cancer talk was a decision between me, mam and sister that we wouldn't tell dad anything until we knew for certain....he's 81, easily confused as it is, and we knew he'd assume the worst.

Drove back home to Bucks almost in silence. Now the wait begins to see what the results of the biopsy will be, on Thursday.

Never thought I'd do this...

...create a blog that is. But given the news I've had this week, it occurred to me that keeping a diary of how I feel might help me deal with how I feel about it - hence the Blog name, "Dealing with it". And the modern version of a diary is, I suppose, a blog.

Basically my mum has been diagnosed with ovarian cancer. There, I've said it - my mum has cancer. The words I hoped I'd never ever have to say but this last couple of weeks have been lurking there, waiting to be used.

She was taken ill in May with kidney problems. A shock to all of us, as she just doesn't "do" ill - prior to May this year, the last time she was in hospital was 42 years earlier when I arrived in the world! The most ill I've ever known her was last time she had flu. The kidney problem went away and the hospital discharged her without, it seemed, really getting to the bottom of the problem. Life went back to normal. We went out for a walk with her when we visited the north east in August and all climbed up Penshaw Hill (that's mam just arriving at the top, on the left)'d never have guessed she was 73, she quite literally took it all in her stride. On the way back down one bloke even did a double-take and congratulated her for managing it!

Fast forward to the end of September. She'd been feeling under the weather and the doc had diagnosed cystitis, and given her antibiotics on the Tuesday, with the instruction that if she didn't feel better by the Sunday to call the weekend doctor or go to hospital. Sunday night I got a phone call from my younger sister up there, saying mum was still ill and refusing to call the doc - would I have a word? Called her and she sounded awful - said she didn't want to call the doc unnecessarily, but I said she should let the doc decide what's "unnecessary". Ended up with her promising me if she still felt rotten in the morning, she'd do it. Sis spoke to her the following morning and she told me that mum did indeed feel better.

The following Thursday I spoke to her, and she still sounded not quite 'right', but said she was taking a tonic from Boots

A week later....and a phone call to say she was back in hospital. Sounds like dad had fancied a trip into town, pestered her to go with him and she'd given in for a quiet life. She started feeling ill in town, got home and felt worse, started being sick so dad called the doc - and he promptly called an ambulance.

Family up there seemed to be fairly sure it was just a reoccurrance of May's problem and that she'd be up and about again in a few days. How wrong can you be?