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 around...it'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)...you'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?