Friday, November 30, 2007

Coming home

Mum rang me at 9.30 am yesterday to say she can come home today. She'd been given the choice between today and tomorrow, but felt ready enough to come home today. So last night when I went to see her, I came away with a box full of flowers and plants, so we don't have to bring those today along with everything else she's collected over the last 11 days. We still haven't got the results from the biopsy, apparently she's got to come back for them so I've told them I'm over from Britain and would like to get them before I go back. It's been put on her file, so with a bit of luck they can fit us in early next week.

Yesterday was a grey, dreary day, with lots of rain and not a hint of sunshine. It started getting dark at about 2. When I drove the hospital at 4.30 pm, I drove through little old village with beautiful houses. Most of them had their lights on and everywhere there were candles lit. And though it was cold and grey and wet outside, those little lights were just heartwarming.

It will be a very different drive to the hospital today from the drive we took 11 days ago. It is great to go and pick her up while she's looking and feeling so much better and back to her old self. At the back of my mind is the inevitable question though: what next? Her recovery from the operation has been the most important aspect the last week and a half, but we're both aware she might not be out of the woods yet.

Today though I'm just going to feel relieved that she can finally come home!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Let me out

Someone's sooo ready to come home.... but no mention of a coming home day yet! So frustrating!
She's hungry, she looks back to her old self, she's pain free, she walks around, she gets into bed easily, o and she's getting bored - now if only someone would tell her she can go home! Hopefully this Friday...

I found Radio 4 on the radio while driving home tonight. I'd forgotten the feeling of not wanting to get out of the car when you arrive but you're in the middle of an interesting programme, hilarious comedy or riveting play. And when dad said I might be back home the middle of next week, it sounded appealing too. Not quite homesick yet but something is niggling inside me...

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

what a difference a day makes

Like she was a different person!
I rang her this morning at midday to see how she was. They'd shortened the drain and she can now empty the bag herself. They'd taken the 'stitches' (staples) out, all 24 of them - yikes! Her diabetes seems to be behaving itself, no insuline shots at all today. And she'd had her first shower and washed her hair, and she'd had a coffee - first one in three months! She said she didn't really enjoy it, but with skimmed milk and probably rather bitter coffee, I can't blame her. Think a visit to Starbucks is in order ;-) She's got her appetite back (was eyeing up her neighbour's food and swapped her kiwi for my satsuma) and was just full of energy when I went in at 5. She was talking about doing things when I'm still here and she's recovering, she'd been reading all day, she was talking about gardening - the old mum had been missing for a couple of days, but she's back for sure! No mention of a going home date, but we're hoping Thursday, although it could well be Friday. She'd asked the surgeon about the results of the biopsy and he's chasing them up - we'd rather have them before she comes out.

Now that the worst worry seems to be over, for now at least, I'm beginning to miss the kids and B. I speak to all three of them every evening, but it's not the same as being with them. I want to give them a cuddle and go to the park with them again, and I want to see what B.'s done to the house and cook him a meal and have a glass of wine with him. It'll be hard to leave Holland, but slowly there's beginning to be room in my head for my other life again.

Retail therapy

Stripes + Hema = irresistible combination

Monday, November 26, 2007

Two steps forward, one big step back

No chance of mum coming home this Wednesday :-(
Her drain had been leaking a lot overnight and she's suffered quite a bit of pain with it - the first time she's really been in pain. When the surgeon came to see her this morning, he put her on a fat free diet (apparently this helps to stop the wound fluid) and told her she won't be leaving till the end of the week at the earliest. They took out the last drip tonight, which means the big one from her neck has now gone and she should be much more mobile, were it not for the fact that everything feels bruised and aches, and she can barely move. She has trouble getting back into bed - I put the bed on the lowest setting and it took her five minutes to get back in, as everything inside her tummy seems to hurt. We went for a brief walk but she only made it to the end of the ward and back, and walked ever so slowly - she's less mobile than she was straight after the operation. Still no news on the biopsy.

On the positive side, she prefers the room she's in now over the old one. There's only two of them and the man in the bed next to her is very quiet. I rang her this morning and got him on the phone, and tonight when I went to see her he winked at me in recognition, so he seems nice.

On another positive note, all the travelling and trying to fit in work was getting to me a bit. I had a long chat with dad about it last night, and decided to change my visiting schedule. I worked for most of the day today at home, then did a bit of shopping and sorted out the cats and drove over to the hospital for 5 pm, which is official visiting time. With her being in a shared room, I didn't feel happy about staying all day either. It worked much better - I didn't have to worry about not getting my work done, the traffic was much better as it queues in the other direction, and she was more relaxed too as she'd obviously been worrying about my work too. So tomorrow I'm doing the same thing.

Shame not to have her back just yet, but in a way I'm relieved she's still in capable hands. It just feels safer.

O and I'm getting quite a lot of knitting done - must post photos of N's finished scarf, some socks, and I'm now knitting a pair of socks for myself and a dish cloth. And this morning I spoke to a friend who said she wanted to get back into knitting and could I get her started when we meet up - it's contagious!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Not much longer now

She might be coming home on Wednesday! The surgeon who did the ward visits today, said they're still very pleased with her progress and tomorrow the drip with nutrition is coming out. This should make her a lot more mobile - when she's out and about now, she's walking around with a mobile drip which isn't particularly easy. Once that's out, there's only the drain from the wound left. She still gets tired very easily, we went for two walks today and by the end of the day she was shattered. She's also had to move rooms and is now on a ward with 2 other people, which isn't quite as 'relaxing' as having a room to yourself. Especially if you lie next to someone who sleeps most of the day and snores ;-) She also still eats tiny amounts and only very light food, everything else is just too heavy and doesn't agree with her. At least the blood sugar had come down a lot and no insuline shots today. Hopefully that's a sign of things to come.

It's a scary thought, her going home and not being within reach of the alarm bell and someone comes to see you, but it'll be nice not to have to drive to the hospital every day and having her a bit nearer.
I told her it was very inconsiderate of her to come home on a Wednesday - it's the fabric market in Wageningen which I really wanted to visit, and I'd already missed out on the fabric market in Utrecht last Saturday... But she wasn't too keen on my suggestion on leaving her for one more day ;-)

Saturday, November 24, 2007

One step back, two steps forward

After yesterday's little relapse mum's doing much better again today. As dad and I were out today (I've got blisters on my feet from all the walking!!) I didn't get to see her till about 5 pm today, but she looks better again and was just in better spirits than yesterday. She'd spent most of the day reading James Herriott - a week ago you could give her a magazine or book and she'd put it down after a minute, not being able to concentrate and not really being interested either.

The hospital was eerily quiet tonight - all the clinics were closed for the weekend which made it much quieter, and during the weekend they have extended visiting hours too, which means the arrival of visitors is much more spread out over the day.

I'm going over for most of the day tomorrow - much as I enjoyed being out today, I couldn't help but think about her a lot of the time, and the only things I bought today, were two presents for her!

PS She's still not keen on having visitors, but loves receiving post. She has a pinboard at the end of her bed which has been slowly filling up and is beginning to look very cheerful. If anybody wants her address, give me a shout.

Friday, November 23, 2007


Isn't yellow the colour of new life? These are brightening up mum's room:

Backlash happened today. She was fine in the morning, but it was a chaotic morning due to having to move rooms because someone had died in another room, and they needed her room for privacy for the relatives. A few hours later she was moved back again, and in the afternoon she was shattered. She'd been for a walk in the morning and the physiotherapist said she could go without him if she wanted to later this afternoon. There's a little restaurant around the corner from the ward so I said we'd go there, but halfway through the day I realised it was far too tiring and she didn't even make it out of bed anymore. There was still progress though, she now only has a drip for nutrition and the drain for her wound, and she's eating 'proper', easily digested food, although she's eating very small amounts still. The tiredness can probably also be attributed to having the epidural taken away - she's still having painkillers but they're not as effective as the epidural.

Dad's taking me out of the house tomorrow for a day of relaxation, so I'm not seeing her till much later in the day. Hopefully she'll feel a bit better tomorrow. They're still very pleased with her progress and the words going home were mentioned. Still have a little way to go though, but when she started tidying up her little trolley this morning, I knew we'd taken another step on the road of recovery.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Nothing much to report

Everything still going well. Dad and I went to see her at 11 this morning and she'd just got back into bed after an hour of 'activity': a bit of walking around. She sounded really tired but perked up a lot after an hour or so.
The gastro-nasal tube had been taken out as her stomach seems to be coping fine, and this afternoon she had a glass of yoghurt with a rusk crumbled into it, which she really enjoyed.

I bumped into her specialist in the afternoon and said thank you for acting so swiftly. She'd had blood tests done last Thursday and he said he'd almost admitted her on the Friday (rather than Monday) as he could tell from the test results that she was deteriorating. It's only now that she's getting better that I realise how ill she really was.

The only small problem so far is that her diabetes is playing up. This is quite common with this type of operation, it could settle down again or it might be something that she's got to live with from now on. She had a few insuline shots today and it's just a matter of wait and see.

We're hoping she can come home the middle of next week. She's then coming to stay with dad and me for a few days, I might go back to Britain for a weekend and come back here, but it all depends on how well she recovers.

I'm now trying to fit in work as well as visiting her - having to travel 2 hours on the train back home tonight hasn't helped my concentration and I think I might just call it a day and veg on the sofa with the remainder of my glass of wine!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Music to my ears

When she said 'but I don't feel ill at all' this afternoon!

More excellent progress today: when I arrived at 11, she'd already been out of bed and walked to her chair and back. The drip which was attached to her hand has gone, and this afternoon they took the oxygen away. She was allowed to start drinking clear fluids other than water and they turned off the tube which goes through her nose to her stomach, so her stomach has to get used now to having contents again. If her stomach responds well, that tube will go in the morning - leaving her with just one drip in her neck and the epidural. One of the weirdest things was the complete absence of itchiness yesterday - for 2 or 3 weeks she's been incredibly itchy (caused by the jaundice) and the first thing she started doing when she came round from the anaesthetic, was scratch. Yesterday it was all gone - just like that. Today she started again, but fortunately it was something to do with the painkillers she was receiving, and when they changed it, it stopped within an hour. We've been told to expect a setback tomorrow or Friday, which is quite common, but so far, the staff are really pleased with her progress.

She's just so much better in herself though - on Tuesday morning when she was still in ICU, she told me she wanted to go to a spa place we've been before, years back, as her skin's gone very sensitive and they have lots of whirlpools with calming potions and such. It was the first time in weeks that she seemed to be thinking about the future and look forward to it. Today she wanted to read a few of the catalogues I'd brought along for her from Britain. When she spent an hour reading the seed catalogue and choosing different packets of seeds, I knew I had the old mum back. And boy, does it feel good.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Short update

I can keep it really short: she's doing really well. She's back on the ward, she's come off lots of drips, she's moving around more (in bed - she doesn't even feel much like getting out of bed) and she's drinking - which was one of the best bits today, as one of the complications can be a 'lazy' stomach which means you vomit all the time, but she's kept everything down. The other good news was that the surgeon who operated came to see us and said during the operation they sent off two lymph nodes for analysis, which came back clear. If they hadn't been clear, they wouldn't have carried out the operation (apparently it's one of the biggest operations they perform).

Because she's in a room of her own, the nurses aren't worried about visiting hours, so I stayed with her all day today, which made both of us feel better. It's tiring but I feel so powerless sitting at home - the first thing I did this morning when I woke up was ring the ICU to see how she was.

It's so great to feel so much relief after weeks of anxiety and worry....

Monday, November 19, 2007

Tired but relieved

It took until 2 pm for the call from the operating theatre to come through, but when it did, it was good news: they've removed the tissue they wanted to. It was my biggest fear that they wouldn't be able to, so needless to say I felt extremely relieved. She was taken to ICU where I saw her while she was still asleep, although rather restless (she'd been intubated and wasn't keen!). I left to get something to eat and returned an hour later to find her much more awake and they took her off the ventilator while I was there, and the first thing she said was 'that was really bothering me'. I stayed with her for about an hour and a half, she seemed fine, was recovering as well as could be expected after 6 hours in the operating theatre, and fell asleep again by about 6, so I left her to it.
I'll go back again at the end of tomorrow morning, when they'll hopefully take her back to the ward where she'll stay for about 10 days or so, depending on her recovery.

I think I might sleep rather well tonight!

Waiting game

It seems from when mum first became ill back at the beginning of September, that we spend most of our time waiting...

The hospital has an internet cafe where I'm writing this blog entry. We had to be here for 7.30 am which meant leaving at 6.15 am as traffic is notorious in Holland and to get here you have to drive part of the route on one of the busiest stretches of motorway. We got here in plenty of time, to find she was first on the list this morning and by 7.45 she was all prepared and being wheeled downstairs. Saying goodbye was hard - especially as she heard me burst into tears and told me to be strong in the way she used to when I was small. The staff are great; mum will have a room to herself when she's back on the ward and they told me I could stay there while she is in the operating theatre. They've also put me on the menu list so I don't have to worry about food. I can't concentrate on anything though; I thought I'd manage to while away some time checking my emails and reading some blogs but I just don't seem to take anything in. I'm anxiously watching the clock and my mobile, although I'm not really expecting to hear anything for another hour or so. In a way I wish this waiting was over, on the other hand I'm scared of what they're going to tell me.

Friday, November 16, 2007

All change again

Just as I suspected would happen, mum got the date of her operation through yesterday - the first day I was here in Holland with the kids. I was due to go back on Saturday evening with them, but she's going to be operated on on Monday, and I wasn't quite sure I would make it back on time. And even if I had taken them back myself, the travelling would wear me out so much that you would have been able to put me in a hospital bed too on Monday... So now J. is coming over on Saturday and is using my ticket for Saturday night to take the kids back to Britain, and I can stay on in Holland.

Mum's now getting quite ill, although I'm not sure part of it may be nerves - we met up with one of the nurses from the ward she'll be staying on, and had lots of info about her operation, which is more complex than either of us had anticipated.

In the meantime I'm also trying to deal with a very upset and anxious I. who's not coping well at all - I'm not sure I am coping well with her either!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

distraction techniques

I've got a hundred other things I should be getting on with, instead I'm drooling over this: Itty bitty hats, which I found via a link on Alison's blog
Just makes you want to go and knit a hat!

Monday, November 12, 2007


So much has happened in the six days since I posted I was about to go over to Holland again. Mum was referred to another hospital where we went last Wednesday, and within three days they had a diagnosis. She probably has a tumor in her pancreas. It's not certain it's malignant but in their experience it generally is. At the moment it looks like it's the only tumor and there are no secondaries, but only a biopsy will prove that for certain.
She now has to wait for an appointment for an operation, which will take place within the next two to three weeks. This is quite a major operation as they have to re-route gall bladder, pancreas, stomach exit etc. She'll be in hospital for 7 to 10 days, barring complications.
She was very down-to-earth about it herself, I think probably relieved that she finally knows why she's been feeling so unwell and that they can do something about it. I had more trouble coping, it was quite a shock even though my dad (who's a GP) had been telling me from the start that it could be serious.

At the moment I'm back in Britain, but only for a few days. I'm taking I. and N. over on Wednesday evening, mum's got a ward visit on Thursday which we'll do together, dad's taken the day off to look after I. and N. On Saturday St Nicholas arrives in Holland which I had planned to go and see with them anyway, so in a way that worked out well. We'll be back again on Sunday morning and then it's a matter of waiting to hear when she's got to come in for the operation.
Having said all that, last week we made so many plans and it all changed on a daily basis, so I wouldn't be surprised if these plans go different as well!

I'm feeling shattered, emotional, angry and powerless. She's my mum and I don't want to lose her just yet. I found it hard to leave her when I left on Saturday evening, but I've got a life here too, the kids and a job to take care off. I. was in floods of tears last night, I think it's mostly because she doesn't know when I'll have to go back again and then when I'll be back again - she hates insecurity and does fine as long as she knows what's happening. We had a long chat and she calmed down and seemed fine this morning, but it's another thing on top of everything else to cope with (read: worry about!).

Ideally I'd like to crawl under a duvet and sleep for a day, but it doesn't look like that'll be possible at the moment!

At least with all the hospital visits/waiting I'm getting a bit of knitting done - keeping my hands occupied seems to take my mind off things.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

and off again

Just had the phonecall from mum saying her appointment is through, she's seeing the specialist tomorrow afternoon for an intake consult. Some frantic organisation for an hour, but the ferry is booked for tonight. Only booked a single for now, if the next test is within a few days I'll stay, if not I'll come back to Britain and go back next week again. She was so relieved when I rang her to say I was coming over, so I'm glad I've booked it.

I'm going over so much at the moment, that tonight's trip was paid for entirely with frequent traveller's points!

Sunday, November 4, 2007

A relaxing weekend

which was just what I needed...

After the emotional upheaval of last week I was feeling shattered. I came back Thursday morning, went straight back to work that day, and into the office on Friday. By Friday night I was so tired and it suddenly hit me that things could be seriously wrong. Up till now I think I'd been convinced it'd be something simple that would be sorted with a quick operation. I knew it could be something else, but I don't think I really believed that it was.

We went to Bonfire Night on Friday night but it was the last thing I felt like doing and I ended up being terribly grumpy with B. who wasn't quite sure how to deal with it. I was so tired that I fell asleep before he did, which is very unusual, I normally lie there listening to his breathing and then fall asleep myself.
On Saturday I had the kids and they're a great distraction. We went to the park, had an icecream, laughed at the squirrels, went to the market and stocked up on lots of fruit, and then had a treat at Starbucks. I stuffed the healthy eating/diet for one visit and had the Gingerbread Latte which was lovely, with a slice of Rocky Road. Was beginning to feel vaguely human again after that. I even felt like cooking again, so I got a load of fish on the market and made my 'signature fish pie' - it's so rich, it's got heart attack written all over it but boy is it nice (two types of haddock in fullfat milk with cream, plus cheesy mashed potatoes on top - it's an Ainsley Harriott recipe). Had a soak in the double ender bath at B's, then we had the pie and half a bottle of wine and another early night and a lie-in in the morning. B. had to go to work this weekend, he's been so busy these last few weeks that he can't fit it all in during the week so ends up catching up during the weekend. He asked if I fancied coming along for the drive, it was just east of Norwich, nice drive up there, lovely house, nice people, sweet dogs. I sat and read, chatted, knitted, cuddled the dogs and just relaxed. And when we came back at 3.3o pm, I suddenly realised I hadn't worried about mum for a few hours. And now I feel so much better and ready to face the new week. At some point I'll get the phonecall to say she's got her next appointment and when I left Holland last week, I felt sort of in limbo because of the waiting. Now I seem to have found my patience again and am ready to just take it as it comes. Funny how sometimes just ordinary things are just all you need to get you back where you want to be.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Back home but for how long?

I came back this morning from taking mum to hospital. She's had her test done to check why she's been so jaundiced for the past 8 weeks (had an endoscopy). It was quite a shock seeing her, she was much more yellow than I'd imagined, and much more ill too.
The test was done at the end of the afternoon and as it was under heavy sedation, she had to stay in overnight for observation. When the blood test came back clear on Wednesday morning, she was allowed to eat again and then discharged.
In short, we still don't know what the problem is, the only thing they've ruled out now is gallstones. Which makes it more likely it's more serious, and the specialist she saw this afternoon for her follow-up appointment, said they think it's something to do with her pancreas. She's been referred to a more specialised hospital, where she'll go in the next 7 to 10 days. I'll be going back over again to go with her, especially as she'll probably have another, fairly similar test.

It was both good and frustrating to see her. Good, because I hadn't been able to see her since she'd become ill, and frustrating too as I realised how ill she really was and how little I could do - I wish I could help her out with shopping, cooking, a bit of cleaning, so she can rest. She manages pretty well on her own, but it's the one occasion where you want to help out and you can't.

There were some fun moments too. I managed a little bit of shopping before the hospital, I managed a load of knitting, and the best bit was when I arrived back at the port and checked in, to be told I'd got a free upgrade to a 'comfort class cabin'. I'd booked a standard, one person inside cabin which is absolutely fine when all you do is sleep on the ferry, but this was a very welcome surprise at the end of two very tiring, emotionally draining days - I don't normally have a telly, toiletries, fruit, crisps, wine and chocolates in my cabin, and nobody normally tells me that the fridge needs to be emptied and that if I can't finish it that evening, to put the rest in my suitcase!!