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.