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.