Sunday, May 22, 2011

Sunday 22 May

After a turbulent and busy week, I'm back on the ferry home. And it feels very odd. All day I've had a knot in my stomach about going. It's the right time to go - mum is managing well, is back to driving again and cooked me a meal tonight, so she's pretty much back to normal, or as much as is possible. I've done what I came to do - give her some practical help and moral support - now it's time to go back home to the children and B., to work and to my life.

But it feels like I'm leaving behind an unclosed chapter. I know that is the nature of this disease, you can't make any long-term predictions, but it is difficult nonetheless. Last time when she was ill and when I went back home after having spent nearly a month in Holland, it felt right to go back home. I'd been with her during her stay in hospital and then afterwards while she was recovering, and we'd been back to the hospital together for the results, which were very optimistic and there was nothing else left to do except wait and hope. This time round, we're waiting and hoping again, but just because she's had her operation, doesn't mean that we can't get any more bad news. It's hard to explain, but last time I felt we had a sense of closure that is missing this time.

I left dad's place about 3 this afternoon and then spent a few more hours with mum before setting out to Hoek van Holland. I still have that knot in my stomach and I think I'll have to swallow a very big lump in my throat when the ferry leaves. I'm going back home but I'm leaving home behind just as much. And that is hard.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Friday 20 May

I had intended to post an update sooner than this, but the last three or four days have been such a whirlwind of emotions, that I have just been too tired. Things are slowly returning to normal now, thank goodness.

Mum had her operation on Tuesday. It was a very odd day. We had to be at the main hospital early in the morning where they did a series of 'gamma scans'. All together those took about 2.5 hours and unusually I was allowed to stay with her. She doesn't like scans very much, specially being enclosed in tunnels, and with this one the camera which was hidden in a sort of plate, came down really low - there can't have been more than half an inch between the end of her nose and the camera. The scans lasted 5 minutes each and she had to lie perfectly still, I could see the timer counting down but didn't dare tell her how much time was left in case I made her jump or more nervous. I felt so nervous on her behalf - I noticed after a while that my whole body was tensed up.
By 11.30 am we were finished and had to go on to the next hospital where they'd do the operation. Very old hospital which is due for demolition in the next couple of years, much smaller than the main hospital which is very modern and patient-friendly, this one's from the sixties and a bit the worse for wear. When we got to reception her surgeon was already there but totally got my back up by not introducing himself to me. We'd seen so many medical staff that day and everybody introduced themselves to both mum and me, and he just ignored me. I realised I was not in the right frame of mind to say anything so I swallowed what I wanted to say - after all, I did want him to do a good job on mum! but it didn't make for a very good first impression.
We had another ultrasound which was fascinating to see, then some Xrays and then finally she was taken to theatre. That was the hardest bit, specially as by then she'd been given a strong painkiller and she'd become a bit confused and suddenly looked really old and even ill.
The odd thing as well was that because breast cancer is so common, it's almost like people don't take it as 'seriously' as you feel it is. It is still cancer, it is still frightening, but for the hospital it's such a routine operation that for them it's quite a common situation. Also all the emotions from last time surfaced - the insecurity, the worry - and not everybody knew we'd been in a similar situation before.
A very long 2 hour wait and she was back on the ward, looking very grey and tired and in pain, but awake enough to realise she'd had the operation. By 7 she claimed she was ready to come home. I wish I'd put my foot down and said no, but she was quite adamant and we walked outside half an hour later - mum very wobbly on her feet and green around the gills with nausea from the anaesthetic. We had an hour in the car to get home - I've never driven so carefully!
Since then, she has recovered very well. She's up and about, she has an afternoon sleep still and she gets tired a bit more easily, but every day you can see her being able to do more and more. I'm probably returning to Britain on the overnight ferry on Sunday night. It's going to be odd to be going back, we've spent quite a lot of time together and the future is far from clear still. Lots of people say to her 'right, that's it, you've had your operation, now you're fine aren't you?' but we don't really know. They took out three lymph nodes and it depends on what they find in those what the treatment plan is. I wish I could go back home and feel that it was all dealt with and sorted, but once again I don't know when I'll have to go back next. I'm keeping my fingers very firmly crossed that the next time I go over, it'll be for fun and not for a hospital visit...

Sorry for another photo-less post, I took lots of photos of mum's home town when we went for a long walk with the dogs the other day, but haven't had the time (or the energy) to upload them just yet. Hopefully in the next post!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Monday 16 May

So. Here we are again. Very much the same again and yet so different.

Three and a half years ago on an early, dark November morning I took my mum to hospital to have the first operation she'd ever had. Two months before she had first rung me to say she was suffering from jaundice. I remember that phone call so well - and I also remember so well thinking 'jaundice? right. A few weeks of rest and you'll be as right as rain'. Little did I realise that we would be going through a series of tests in the next few weeks with increasingly bad news and that the jaundice was a symptom of a tumor in her pancreas. By the time she went into hospital, she was as yellow as mustard, had practically stopped eating and didn't do much more than sleep. I'll never forget either that the first time I saw her when she'd developed the jaundice, I thought 'you are dying'. It was a very frightening feeling.
But, she was in good hands, the surgeons did a fantastic job and three and a half years down the line, you would never know that she once was so ill that the doctors were worried they wouldn't even be able to operate.

Little did I realise too that one day, we would be in a very similar situation again. Tomorrow I am picking her up very early in the morning and we're off to that same hospital - that hospital which is so big that it felt like a factory when we first went there, but which became such a familiar and later safe place to be. At lunchtime we're setting off to another hospital where once again they will take her away to try and make her better. I know she is in good hands but I know that will be the worst part of the day, letting her go and then waiting, waiting to hear that she is out of theatre and I can go and see her again.

It is tough. On Saturday I had to drop the children off with J. and say goodbye to them and not know when I'll see them next. I drove off with tears running down my cheeks. Yesterday I got to Holland and as usual I was so happy to see Hoek van Holland - as always, it is 'coming home'. But I so wish I was here for different reasons. In the meantime I'm carrying on working as much as possible. It means I keep a sense of normality, talking to the people at the office, hearing what they've been up to, but from time to time it's hard to concentrate too.

All these emotions are so familiar from last time, and yet, it is different too. This time around she is not ill, she looks well and is living life as normal. This time, the biggest difference is that it feels unfair that we have to go through it all again. But again this time, all I want is mum to be better again. And that feeling will never change.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Sunday 8 May

A busy weekend

And not just this weekend - the rest of the week too.

There is a little bit of news about mum. So far, it looks like it is possible to do a lumpectomy. Of course this is a great relief, it's much less invasive than a mastectomy - it can even be done as a day procedure with no overnight stay. She'll probably be operated on early next week, which means I'll be off to Holland this coming weekend. I'll stay for as long as she needs help with cooking, cleaning, taking care of her animals.
Having a date for the operation makes me feel a lot less restless than I did earlier this week. A plan of action is in place, things are moving along, I know what is happening when. It's the not knowing that I find so tiring, wondering if you have to pack your bags at short notice and being uncertain of when you'll be back. I feel a lot more optimistic now that things are being done.

On Thursday, B. and I went to London for the recording of the News Quiz. The BBC often issues tickets for the recording of radio shows for free, and we've been to a few of them, but I had always wanted to go to the News Quiz. It was well worth the late night - Sandi Toksvig and Jeremy Harding were great. They're so quick witted and never laugh at their own jokes (although I have heard Sandi on the radio in fits of laughter at other people's jokes). The recording lasted an hour and a half, and they edit that down to a half hour show which is broadcast the following evening. We both listened, but neither of us could hear ourselves or the other laughing!
Well worth a listen to on BBC iPlayer.

Yesterday, B. installed a new bike computer on my bike. Years ago, his dad found an abandoned bike in a ditch next to one of their fields. When it wasn't picked up after a few days, I claimed it as mine and started exploring around their farm, going further and further afield as I became more familiar with the area. Last year, after 2000 miles together, I managed to get a shoe lace trapped in the chain and fell off the bike, and the bike computer stopped working. After that, I found it hard to summon up enthusiasm to get on the bike, still going but often returning after half an hour or so, thinking 'I've done my 30 minutes of exercise for today'. But yesterday he put a new computer on and I wanted to cycle to Bungay to get something from the local Coop supermarket there. It turned into a 22 mile bike ride which I thoroughly enjoyed. So I did another one today, but took photos along the way to show how great Norfolk is for cycling (it's mostly flat...!)

At the start of the ride, just coming out of Fritton and heading towards Hempnall, showing the grey, threatening clouds (I was lucky and only had a few drops of rain).

This road name always makes me wonder where it came from. Norfolk is good with descriptive road names - we have a Lonely Road and a Doctor's Lane nearby - but I suspect the Krons may have been a wealthy family in Hempnall.

This is the house just along from The Krons, called Krons Manor.

View towards the war memorial in Hempnall.

A barn along the way towards Saxlingham Green

On my way to Shotesham St Mary, I spotted a derelict church just yards from the current church. Very odd sight - I took a small detour to have a look but it was all roped off with warning signs all around it. According to B. they have recently cleared the ivy off, so maybe they're planning to do something with it.

Stoke Holy Cross Church

There is the odd hill in Norfolk... makes it look very pretty!

I didn't even know there was a Boudicca Way - it must be fairly well hidden as this was the only sign I saw for it!

An unusual looking gable.

I think this is Shotesham Church.

Another road name that makes you wonder!

View towards Hempnall Church

You see this style of building a lot in Norfolk. Most houses are less in need of a lick of paint though! This one sadly is a closed-down pub.

Not just hills, windmills too!

The Methodist Church in Hempnall

Shelton Church. It's one I've cycled past so often and one of my favourites. There are no houses nearby, just a primary school, and it seems strangely ornate for an area which is not very densely populated.

I had a quick look inside, it was very quiet and peaceful, and just as beautiful as the outside. Well worth a repeat visit.

Another ten minutes and I was back home. Slightly saddle sore but very much enjoyed exploring again.

Just a few quick photos of progress on the build:


Inside upstairs. This last picture was taken by B, as I don't do very well on ladders and I refuse to climb in...

After I came back home and we'd had our supper, we took our neighbour's dog for a walk. She's getting quite old and can't walk very well anymore since breaking her hip a few years ago, and isn't really able to take the dog walking. During the holidays we took it out one afternoon, which we all enjoyed, so tonight, with the nice weather still continuing, we went out for another hour. N. on the bike, I. with the dog on the lead and me with the camera.

The pargeting on the house across the road from mine - isn't it pretty?

I have been crafting as well, but nothing much to show for it and it's a picture heavy post as it is! I'll try to post more often with slightly shorter posts...