Patience is a virtue. Today I’m not feeling particular virtuous. The erratic and unpredictable bowel movements are getting worse. I have had a whole week of ‘taking it easy’ which basically means no sport. Apart from a quick game of table tennis and a run around at Inverleith park I have been limiting my after work duties to recharging my batteries. On Tuesday I was back in the confines of our loo. It is on days like those where I welcome a colonoscopy! The familiar view below is one I have come to hate:
I can’t complain however. The frustration of not doing sport was compensated yesterday when I got to play proud Auntie. Conor and Ryan, along with their cousins, competed in their first organised sporting event: the Vale of Leven toddler fun run! Between them they have surpassed any records in the Williams’ household by being the youngest to wear a running number.
Following the fun run the spotlight was on my older brother Owain who took to compete in the Vale of Leven 10k. I must admit I had slight envy and regret for not signing up. However those feelings quickly disappeared when Owain revealed his shirt which proudly boasted a Welsh Dragon and Saltire on either sleeve with a bold #FUCancer on the back.
Monday marked my 9 month check up. In contrast to the last one which loomed over me for weeks this appointment snuck up on my calendar – it felt as though it had come around too quick.
In the past few weeks I have returned to frequent visits on the porcelain throne which is reeking havoc on my socialising. It appears my grumpy bowels and bloating belly, although predictable following treatment, require a more thorough inspection. I am now awaiting the invitation to attend a colonoscopy and another MRI scan. I am assured there is nothing to worry about and I have great confidence in my doctor. I don’t see this as a setback. It’s merely an opportunity for peace of mind.
That being said it is is difficult not to get anxious when you are faced with the prospect of having a camera rooting around your rear! On the whole (excuse the pun) it’ll make a change from where I am used to being poked and prodded… Giggidy!
I was warned in advance of the side effects associated to the treatment. As per my previous blogs the biggest inconvenience had been the ongoing battle in my bowels. Constipation versus diarrhoea. What would your preference be? Constipation is a welcome relief in comparison to the latter. In addition to this I am learning to accept the change in my body’s appearance. The steroids are causing me to gain weight and the constipation guarantees a bulbous belly. This has caused a few girly tantrums as I moan about turning from Heather into a heifer! However in the grand scheme of things I have bigger fish to fry! What’s more the Funny Boy assures me I am still beautiful. Silly sod!
At the weekend I started suffering from cystitis. Like most unlucky women I have experienced cystitis before. It is a common side effect associated to radiotherapy however on a much more severe scale. Following chemotherapy on Tuesday night I was in a great deal of discomfort and pain which kept me up for the majority of the night. Unfortunately this followed into Wednesday where the pain was beyond inconvenient – it was unbearable. I didn’t want to leave the bathroom, let alone the house. For the first time I found myself not wanting to go to the hospital for my daily treatment. Upon returning home the only relief I found was sitting in a luke warm bath. I spent over two hours in the tub watching movies whilst the Funny Boy brought me cranberry juice and ice lollies (did I say the Funny Boy is my knight in shining armour?) When I eventually brought myself to leave the comfort of the tub I was left with no alternative but to call the Cancer help line. I was in agony. The Johnny Cash song ‘Ring of Fire’ has a whole no meaning to me now. Within 20 minutes of being on the phone I was back in the hospital. With daily visits I am sure you can appreciate the last place I want to go voluntarily is the hospital however I felt a sense of relief upon arrival. Once again I was impressed with the excellent staff who greeted me and assured my complaints were justified. I get the fear I am over reacting sometimes and worry that I am wasting people’s time. However the staff comforted me and within three hours I was discharged with pain killers and antibiotics. This led to a reasonable night sleep – the best I have had in ages. As I write this now I am still in mild discomfort but it is merely an inconvenience opposed to the debilitating pain I was in yesterday. Tomorrow brings the first operation to prepare me for two subsequent doses of brachytherapy. Following a successful series of pre op tests today it looks like I am ready and raring to go!
Yesterday was the first time I felt properly ill. The nature of chemotherapy and the side affects of radiotherapy are gradually having their impact. It is like getting hit by a truck very slowly. My whole body is feeling the effects. My emotions are all over the place too. Trying to plan a wedding is difficult when you find yourself welling up over photos of complete strangers on their special day. However these are all things to be expected and I am nailing this. I am over half way through and as I sit here I still have a smile on my face. The past few weeks have been tough but I have been blessed by great moments shared with my wonderful family and friends. At the weekend I had a long cwtch* with Conor who agreed to my page-boy for the wedding, I brought my sister-in-law to tears by asking her to by my maid of honour and I spent Saturday in the glorious sunshine with my family at the Drymen show. Another highlight this week has been the news of two of my oldest friends welcoming a beautiful baby boy into the world on Tuesday – Jack Harvie – I can’t wait to meet you! What’s more I was I was greeted by a video of Ryan this morning as he stretched his legs and sang a song – hopefully it wasn’t his attempt at Johnny Cash though! Life is beautiful!
So as I approach the last two weeks I would say I am at mile 18 of this marathon. The 18th mile for the Loch Ness Marathon was a monster; steep incline and all uphill but I smashed that and I am going to smash this monster too! #FUCancer
So it is day 9 of treatment and in true marathon-fashion there has been a series of peaks and troughs. I feel a sense of relief having started chemotherapy and radiotherapy. The medication causes a range of side effects mostly affecting my bowels. I can often be heard going into the loo saying ‘Pray for Poop’ which the Funny Boy has found very amusing. Similarly after having my car washed at the weekend I was furious to find the local seagulls had chosen to redecorate the exterior. Not furious at the mess they had made but furious at how easily their bowels were functioning in comparison to mine! For the first time in Conor’s little life I find myself competing with him as he has recently started potty training! So yes, my bowels are not happy and overall I simply feel shattered but race day is here! The start gun has been shot and at mile 5 I have started at a steady pace and I am feeling strong!
Over the past six weeks I have had countless hospital visits involving a range of doctors, nurses, receptionists and more. Although I am becoming more accustomed with the daily ritual of radiotherapy and weekly sessions of chemo I still find myself with butterflies in my stomach as I approach my next appointment. Very little can help with the nerves. Monday night this week i was up until 5.30am analysing my appointment from the day before and trying not to worry about the day ahead. However there is something which makes each day easier and that is the people who are treating me. I have been amazed, and at times overwhelmed, at how personable and genuine the staff are. My initial diagnosis came from a straight talking Irish lady called Hilary. She was a tower of strength during those initial weeks for me and my family! Upon being referred to my Oncologist I was again pleasantly surprised at how patient she was at explaining the treatment and answering the questions posed by me, Iceberg, Buggernuts and Funny Boy. At chemo I was greeted with two lovely ‘Louises’ who not only made sure I was comfortable but took the time to ask me questions about my engagement. Across the road at radiotherapy there are a team of girls who go beyond the ‘how are you?’ to ask about plans for the wedding. At my first review meeting on Monday I met another friendly nurse who allowed me the time to ask a whole host of questions about my treatment. When I finished she took the time to ask the Funny Boy if there was anything he wanted to ask and acknowledged that this situation affects him too. All of the people above have helped me feel like Heather and not just a patient. Unfortunately this has been a stark contrast when I have had to deal with receptionist staff at my GP clinic. Wether it be over the phone or in person I have been continually disappointed at their curt manner. On one occasion at the waiting room I overhead an elderly lady sign in for her appointment. Initially the lady, who was using a walking stick, was kept standing for at least 5 minutes before one of the receptionists left their computer to come to the desk and take her details. The lady was greeted with a ‘Well, you’re 50 minutes early for your appointment!’. The elderly lady looked a little embarrassed and responded with ‘I was worried my bus wouldn’t get me here on time’. I was disgusted when the receptionist replied bluntly with ‘You won’t be seen any sooner. Take a seat.’ My personal grievances with the GP receptionists are somewhat similar – I feel like I am being an imposition whenever I call. When trying to order a repeat prescription, sick line or change of address it has been met with a series of questions in an impatient tone. I appreciate they are busy and I know they cater for a wide community but they need to remember that everyone is individual and for the majority nobody is out to waste their time. People call the GP when they NEED to – not because they want to. Everyone has their own challenges and the difference a smile can make is huge!
As previously discussed the staff beyond my GP clinic have (in my opinion) gone above and beyond the call of duty which has made the power of difference to me and my family. This is a lesson for everyone and something I am increasingly more conscious of. Everyone has their own personal battle – it could be cancer, it could be heartbreak, it could simply be a crap day at work – but sometimes all it takes to improves someone else’s day is a smile!
So my challenge for you today is:
1. I read once that the things you take for granted, someone somewhere is praying for so take the time to ask yourself: What am I thankful for?
2. Smile at a stranger! You could be the reason someone’s day is made that little bit easier, that little bit better!