Stepping back

Right now I feel as though I have stepped back two years to when I was ill for 4 months. I have very little appetite, it is an effort to eat even a slice of bread. Consequently my energy levels have plummeted. I find myself feeling cold particularly my upper body and spend hours in bed sleeping fully dressed with the duvet tucked under my chin.

Not so long ago I was prescribed some tablets from the hospital to help with my bladder problems. I didn’t know if it was a coincidence but at the same time that I started taking them I started getting the painful shivery flu like symptoms that I used to get when I had  kidney infections. After a few days I stopped taking the tablets to see if that helped.

I went to see the Dr, she confirmed that no infection was present. I was advised to wait until I felt better then start taking the tablets again. At this point I had also been struggling to eat properly for maybe a month or so. Some days have been better than others.

On Sunday 31st March I took one of the tablets again as I was feeling better just a little on the weak side. By the evening I was feeling not right, by about 9pm I was having the painful shivery symptoms again. Luckily I wasn’t working on Monday but felt so bad that I again spent most of the day in bed. By Tuesday it had worn off a little. I went to work as usual (Tuesday is normally the quietest day of the week). I loaded up my car then went home or an hour to rest before doing the first part of my round. After an hour I had to go home again for a break. What I would do in 2 hours took me 4.

On Wednesday I went off to do my work knowing that I would have to keep going home as I had done the previous day. Because of my feeble state I left about 18 parcels behind I knew I didn’t have the energy levels needed. Again I went home had a rest before setting out again. After an hour I went home. I repeated this pattern, apart from my sorry state my car decided to play up. Each time I tried to restart the engine it was getting harder and harder until it decided not to start at all. I still had an hour’s worth of parcels to deliver. I phoned RAC and was told it could be upto 3 hours as the rush hour was about to start shortly. After waiting about half an hour I tried the engine again and it did start although reluctantly. I managed to limp my car home. I wasn’t going to risk it stopping.

I thought it only fair to let my field manager know what was going on. I wasn’t due to work the following day, plus my car was booked in to the garage for a safety recall. Funny how in the days leading up to going into the garage my car had started playing up, overheating light flashing, If I turned the heater up I was suddenly plunged into fog.

Anyway I decided that I needed to take Friday and Saturday off so that would give me Thursday through to Tuesday to build up my strength again. The stress this gave me in trying to find someone, anyone to cover my round for a couple of days was more than I needed. I told my field manager that because of my health I had decided to give up my round. We had a chat later in the day and I will not be doing any more parcels until I feel fit enough. When I feel up to it I can go back and do one or two days when I want to. For now my priority is to get better.

In this past week I have done nothing for my Avon business I am a week behind with putting out my books and I have a few boxes that I have yet to unpack and sort for my customers. Now that I am not doing the parcels for the moment, I am determined to catch up with my Avon.

I think that when I was ill 2 years ago I just let myself get swallowed up in it. This time I am adamant that I will fight it and get my strength back sooner rather than later. I have to be strong enough to make the journey to see my son and grandson next weekend and again on 27th for his first birthday.

I took my car out for a run to try to clear the fuel blockage. It was really noisy today, I was just starting to think about pulling into a layby. Just then the oil light came on. followed quickly by a clunk, there was a cloud of smoke and the car cut out just as I reached a slip road. (my first and only piece of luck). It took an hour and a half for my rescuer to arrive with his RAC van. It took him less than a minute to decide it was the Cam belt. So my car was towed home. He wasn’t able to get it near our home so he left it in a car park further up the road. This looks like it will be an expensive problem. By the time I had staggered home from where my car now is I was as white as a sheet according to my Mum. The poor RAC man had to put up with me retching all the way back.

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Dark cloud on a sunny day

I’m looking out onto a sunny day and not feeling the joy this would usually bring. Anyone who knows me would say that I am a naturally happy and positive person. Throughout my life I have suffered from depression although not so much in recent years. I have mostly managed to keep it at bay.

I think my whole life has been one long struggle. Poverty, living with not one but two alcoholic husbands. (yes I know one is unfortunate, two is foolish).

18 years ago I was starting the journey into treatment for stage 3 cancer. I was given the all clear in September 2001 a few days before 19/11. it was still another couple of months before I returned to my part time work. It took time to build back the strength to do more than just the basic requirements of family life. I remember very clearly the words of my Macmillan nurse telling me that a very few people have long term bowel/bladder problems following the treatment I had undergone.

I think that after all these years it is safe to say that I am one of these few people. I wasn’t aware until two years ago when I was so ill that I was literally housebound in agony with no appetite. My cancer treatment had made me prone to kidney infections. I had suffered repeated bouts of flu like symptoms, pain in every part of my body and a shivering fever. What scared me the most was the drastic weight loss and the frequent passing of blood in my urine. After many blood tests, ultra sound scans, CT scan it was decided that the cause of all these symptoms was a severe kidney infection.  A course of strong antibiotics and forcing myself to eat again I began to get better. The next year and a half I have managed to stay reasonably healthy.

The last few weeks I have felt unwell, I was getting those flu like symptoms again. I have been struggling to force myself to eat for a few weeks and the blood in my urine has increased from being once or twice a week to multiple times a day.  I never know when the blood will come but I always know when it does because passing water becomes very painful. (it makes me want to cry). I don’t have thrush or cystitis both very unpleasant but luckily not problems that I have had to deal with for years. However as I sit here now I have a pain in my urethera. I don’t know how to describe it other than a feeling that I have a holly leaf wedged inside me. I have been to see the Dr, I don’t have an infection at the moment. The flu symptoms have subsided. On Friday I had to take a day off work as I had a severe stomach upset which left me on the loo for hours. When not on the loo I was sleeping.

I was trying to force myself to eat to get back my energy but scared to eat because my bowels were playing up. Ever since my cancer treatment I have suffered with bowel problems. I can never be confident that my bowels won’t erupt with little or no notice. It makes being out of the house very dangerous for me. Yes I really chose the right job for me. Being in my car for hours on end delivering parcels. There have been days when I have had to make a mad dash home for the loo. I don’t always make it.  It has been bad enough for all these years but now that I my bladder problems have increased over recent years it is getting me down. Following a recent urodynamics test (which wasn’t very successful) the registrar tells me that my bladder has damage from my radiotherapy back in 2001. Cheers I had worked that out.

This has been my life for so many years now that I don’t remember what it was like to have normal toilet functions. I find it both physically and mentally distressing every time I need the toilet. It must be wonderful not to have any worries or distress when sitting on the toilet. I just don’t remember.

All this added to my recent bout of being unwell has led me into a dark place. I don’t usually allow myself to wallow for long but this time I feel myself being dragged under. I know I have things to do and people to talk to but it all seems as though my life is too much effort. I have my estranged husband calling me with messages saying that he needs my help. I can’t help him I have my own demons to deal with. If it wasn’t for my four sons and their growing families/partnerships I just wouldn’t bother getting up each day. I just want to give in to oblivion. I know I won’t, I have my grandson and another grandchild on the way to think about.  If I am honest though I am fed up with my life.

To make life even better within minutes of posting this I fell. I missed the bottom step of our stairs, flinging myself and my laundry into a heap on the floor. Surprisingly my ankles were fine. However I did have incredible pain in my feet. I later discovered the my left big toe is bruised and I had some painful swelling on the side of my right foot. Having wrapped my foot in a towel and some frozen sweetcorn, the swelling subsided. Now three days later my right foot is only painful when knocked but my left big toe is still painful but I am able to walk on it fairly well now.

I have just been reading about PRD Pelvic Radiation Disease Pelvic Radiation Disease

This is new information for me. I had no idea that what I have been dealing with for the last 17 years is a common condition for those of us who have had radiation treatment for Cervical Cancer. Had I known about this sooner I would have made more noise about it with my GP. Instead I have lived with it believing that nothing could be done.  Over the last couple of years I have had various tests and screenings for my bladder problems but never for my bowel problems.

Yes, I am grateful for the treatment that I had which has enabled me to  continue with my life and watch my sons grow up. However I would certainly say that these apparently not so rare side effects of radiation treatment have affected my quality of life.

Relationships

Since leaving my second alcoholic husband a year ago I have been living with my mother. I have gone from being in a large 4 bedroom house where I ran everything from the cooking cleaning, finances etc. I have been running a home for over 30 years (my eldest son is now 31). Over that time I have accumulated a collection of kitchen things.

Moving in with my mother I left the majority of my things behind. I have one medium bedroom plus I have taken over the two seater sofa. The kitchen is about a quarter of the size of the one I left behind. I never thought I would miss doing the weekly shop, but I find myself walking around a supermarket thinking about what I could buy/make. There is very little room in the cupboards or fridge ad freezer for me to add the things I would buy. It has been a challenge going back to live with my mother after all these years of running my own home.

I love my mum to bits and we have always been very close. I am very grateful to her for allowing me to move in with her when I left my husband. In the last year it has become apparent that her need for my help (in small ways) has increased. I don’t now feel I could leave her on her own again.

It would have been easy to become stuck in a way of working and caring but not living. However last summer I joined my friend in her Avon team. I didn’t want to do catalogues, my plan was to work solely online which I could do from the comfort of home. I very quickly gained about 50 customers (not online). After a couple of campaigns I also decided to become a Sales Leader and build a team of my own. Before Christmas I had recruited 12 people into my team (with varying success).  I am now on a mission to recruit more team members. I am keen to help others enjoy the benefits I have found from being in this Avon family. Not only am I earning extra money, I am making new friends, loving all the products. I have never had so many perfumes. Designer handbags, jewellery.

Joining Avon was a great decision for me. I has given me a life outside of my work and living with my mum.luck for her gift set

http://www.earnwithbeauty.me.uk

My Decision

Around 10 years ago I wrote this piece about my decision to divorce the other parent. How I felt 2 years after the event.

It has been a couple of years now and I don’t have any regrets. Some time ago, I think it was the middle of last summer my mother asked the question.

‘If you had known how hard it was going to be would you still have done it?’

I consider this carefully before replying. I am not sure why as I knew the answer, there was never any doubt in my mind.

‘Yes most definitely, it was the best thing I could have done.’

Indeed it was the only thing I could have done. I had given it my best shot. 19 years of my life I had given to that man.   But the day had come when I realised that enough was enough. He couldn’t understand it when I told him I didn’t want to continue living with him. He couldn’t work out what was wrong with me. We had a good marriage didn’t we, we never argued did we?

He was right in a way, as until the last few months we had very rarely had a row. Firstly he was never around to have a row with as he was always either at work, pub or asleep. (the perfect marriage in some ways).

Secondly we never rowed because, when he was around he made me feel so useless and weak that I never dared to argue with him and on the occasions when I tried to vent my anger on him he would turn it around to be my fault. Like the many Saturday mornings when he came home from shopping. (I wasn’t allowed to shop I spent too much, whereas he always bought bargains – you know the deals where if you buy this you get that free or the end of date things).  We had a freezer full of things we would never use and a fridge full of things that had to be eaten in one day but nothing for the rest of the week.

He often came in with a mood on, this would make me grumpy, (no one likes to be moaned at for no reason). Because I was now grumpy he would complain about my mood and stomp off to the pub.

During all these years he would tell me that I was

‘fat, ugly, useless with a brain like a sieve’

Now after so many years of being told this it becomes hard to believe otherwise. I believe that if you get married you should try to make the marriage work. I was not going to give up easily. I had to try to make it work. Besides I had nowhere to go and 4 children to consider. Because I had done such a good job of trying to make our marriage work he had no idea that it wasn’t working. The end of our marriage came as a big shock to him. For me it never really was a marriage. I had never been in love with him. We had never courted as such, just fell into a relationship as when we met we were both getting over broken hearts and needed someone to turn to. If I hadn’t got pregnant the marriage would never have happened.

Now, though we are divorced and I have never been happier. Financially we were never really solvent as a couple. Does anyone know a solvent alcoholic?  But we did have two wages coming in, his full time wage and my part time wage (part time!! I worked longer hours than he did for half the money).

Now it is just me and the boys, I am the only one bringing any money into the home. It has been a struggle and there are days when we have to keep our coats on because it’s too darn cold and I don’t have any spare cash to buy gas. (Yes I have had to get a key meter for both the gas and electricity). There are days when we have just 2 slices of bread and no milk. But we manage, I have not killed any of them off yet.

Are we better off now? Financially no we are worse off but I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, it isn’t going to be like this forever and now that I have a full time job that I enjoy things can only get better.

However we as a family unit are much happier. Gone are the days of dreading the door opening, wondering if he is in one of his soppy drunk moods or in a nasty bad tempered mood that has everyone either cowering behind a cushion or hiding away in the bedrooms. Gone are the days where everyone had to be silent or risk his bellow of

‘Stop that noise’ or ‘be quiet’

In the past two years there has very rarely been a cross word spoke between any of the five of us. It took me a few months to realise that he was never going to be here again chastising me for staying up late or reading when I should be doing something else. I can have friends here if I choose. (visitors were forbidden when he was here).

Our house rings with the sound of music (not always to my taste, teenagers!!) and laughter where before there was only silence broken by shouts of ‘silence’.

There is an air of confidence about us all that was not there before. I have learnt that I am worth so much more than I ever knew. I am happy, I laugh, I joke, I feel sexy, I feel worthy, I have finally come to love the person I am.

As I said at the start this was around 10 years ago. The first few years after our divorce were challenging to say the least.  Harassment charges, death threats, an injunction to keep him away. Things have moved on. We are now able to be civil, we share a grandchild and communicate far more frequently than in the past. We are even able to be in the same room with our offspring. The next big challenge will be when we both attend our son’s wedding later this year. I’m sure it will be fine. I couldn’t have imagined this 10 years ago.

Owning my cancer -part three

Ages ago now, I emailed all my female colleagues the open letter I had written back in October 2001. This resulted in a discussion between myself and my colleague, who was very forceful in stating that some people just don’t like Drs and should be left alone, she says that if she suspected that she had cancer she would rather not be treated but be left alone to die. I happen to disagree, we all have at times to do things we don’t like. I don’t like needles in any way shape or form but I put up with them because I have to. As I have said before cancer affects not just the patient but all the family. I can not even begin to contemplate what life would have been like for my four boys if I had not had treatment for my cancer.

Talking of treatment that is what I want to talk about this time. On looking back now I guess when I was told I had cancer and would need chemotherapy every week and radiotherapy daily I thought it would be simple. I would lead a fairly normal life except that I would go to the hospital every day for 5 minutes of radiotherapy. But on Tuesdays I would be there for hours for the chemo treatment which I did realise would make me feel ill. But I could cope with feeling ill once a week for a month if it was going to get rid of this growth.

What I hadn’t expected was the weeks of tests before my treatment could be started. There were chest x-rays, nuclear x-rays to test my kidneys, MRI scans to check for cancerous cells in other parts of my body most importantly to make sure my lymph glands were clear. There was the measuring to make a personalised stencil for the radiotherapy machine. Three tattoos to mark the spot so that the stencil could be lined up accurately for each treatment. All the time I felt as though I was fading away I was becoming weaker and paler by the day, the pain was increasing, but I was not going to let this get the better of me.

Eventually and it did feel as though it had been a life time although in reality only a couple of weeks, my treatment was to begin. I think I even felt a little excitement mixed in with the anxiety. This was after all the start of getting better. I had always been a fairly patient person (laid back) but these weeks were when I really learnt to be a patient patient. There were two radiotherapy machines in use in the clinic, often one or both would break down causing a backlog of patients to be treated. It became more the norm than not to have to sit for two hours waiting for my turn. But going back again to that first treatment day. Having waited an hour or more among the other people who were very ill some terminal I was called into a cubicle. Here I was given a leaflet listing the foods I wouldn’t be able to eat during the weeks of my treatment. I hadn’t been prepared for this. Because my tumour was situated so close to my bladder and bowels I would need to be careful not to eat any foodstuffs that consisted of fibre. That meant a blanket veto on fruit or vegetables, brown bread, potato skins, baked beans and very many more. There were times it was difficult to find much that I could eat. It seemed that any food deemed to be healthy would be unhealthy for me. So I began a diet of stodge, eating lots of pastries and pies, things I would normally try to avoid. Now in 2019 I am still not able to eat much food that contains fibre. I can only eat small amounts of fruit and vegetables. I love nuts but have t be careful how much and when I eat them.

But it wasn’t just the food issue, there were other rules too. No hot showers or baths, no bubbles in my bath, nothing on my skin that could react. I had to learn to have daily luke warm baths of plain water using only the minimum of things like shampoo. It was during these baths that I made the awful discovery. Because I wasn’t having chemo I wasn’t in danger of my hair falling out of my head, I wasn’t about to go bald. But to my horror I was finding that with no bubbles in my bath I could find hair floating in the water. As the weeks passed this was becoming more and more irksome, I couldn’t understand it but put it down to being normal but I wouldn’t normally notice, it was only because the water was clear. But then one day I realised why I was finding hair. My pubic hair was falling out, so much so that on one occasion my husband asked if I had been shaved, I hadn’t.

We fell into a routine where each day my husband would head off to work early, then return mid morning to take me to the hospital on alternate days. My mum did the other days, we worked it out so that one week my husband did three days and mum two then the following week they swapped. Both had incredibly understanding bosses who allowed them the time to do this for me. Each Friday my appointment was earlier so that I could attend clinic afterwards to check my progress. More opportunity to practice being patient. There were blood tests and more x-rays. I was still weak but the pain had begun to ease. I was very anaemic and required a blood transfusion the day before my 39th birthday. I did suggest they choose the blood of someone who had been partaking of gin or vodka.

Weeks passed and I knew I was beginning to feel better. My six weeks of daily treatment were coming to an end and my consultant told me that they wanted me to have a few weeks break then I would be admitted for a few days while I was given a dose of internal radiation treatment. I wanted them to forget giving me a break and just get on with it, lets get this out of the way. They wouldn’t do this, my body had taken a real battering even if I didn’t realise it. My body needed time to get stronger before the next stage of my treatment. It wasn’t long before I realised the wisdom of this.

Even now I don’t understand this but my treatment had made me so sore down below that each time I passed water it burnt so badly as though I had an open wound. One of the worst experiences there are. Then weeks later I was admitted onto one of the oncology wards. I had a single ground floor room with a tree outside my window. My room was very basic but I did have a tv although as I was to discover the remote didn’t work which meant every time I wanted to watch something I had to get a member of staff to do this for me as I was near enough immobile on my bed. The next three days were possibly the worst of my life. I was taken into theatre where three nuclear rods were inserted into my vagina whilst I was under general anaesthetic. With these rods inside me I couldn’t move much as their presence caused me a great deal of pain. For the duration of this treatment I was effectively radioactive. Visitors were at a minimum and those who could come in had to stand behind a large lead screen so I could just about see their head above it for the allotted 5 minutes. My boys were not allowed on the ward. Staff could only be in my room for a maximum of 10 minutes during any one shift. The constant sickness caused by the anaesthetic didn’t help this situation.

Finally the prescribed time came to an end and on the third evening I was given morphine so that I would be better able to cope with the pain as the rods and the accompanying packing materials were removed. What a relief that was to be able to turn over and sleep on my side. Next day I was told I would be able to go home providing the sickness had stopped. It had diminished but not cleared up completely but I managed to hide it from the staff so that I could be discharged.

That was the end of my treatment but not the end of the agony for me. Our life was still in limbo as we waited for more tests, more scans, another operation to examine my cervix to determine if all the cancer cells had been eradicated. Finally after months I was given the all clear on 19th September 2001. I thought this would mean that my life would no longer be affected by my cancer. I was wrong. The cancer itself was gone but now there were the Dr’s appointments, hysterectomy clinic appointments, hormone implants 3 monthly check ups at the hospital. I still couldn’t get back to a healthy diet. I couldn’t go anywhere without knowing where the nearest toilet was and that I could get to it quickly and easily. Before I could go anywhere I needed to take precautions which often left me doubled up with constipation. I was left with very little control over my body functions, when I needed to go I needed to be quick. But gradually over the months it did begin to improve. I still find that eating fruit can be unwise but I am no longer afraid of it.

The weight I had lost at the start of my treatment soon piled back as I continued my non fibre diet but lacked the energy to do much so didn’t burn off. Now all these years later I still have bladder and bowel problems. The cancer has not returned for which I am grateful. It took six years before I was officially signed off from hospital checks. There have been a couple of occasions when I have been ill and had to under go tests to make sure it wasn’t cancer back again. 

I am fully aware that I was very lucky to get the treatment I did when I did. My tumour (which at the time was described as being the size of an orange) I later learnt was 7cm x 8cm x 7cm. No wonder I was in pain. Others were not so lucky. If I had been given a smear test sooner maybe I wouldn’t have had such invasive treatment. Please please be vigilant and get any changes in your body checked out.

Owning my cancer -part two

I don’t remember whether we made a joint decision not to tell the boys that it was Cancer or if we just didn’t tell them. We told other people though, I needed to tell people. I needed people to know that I would need help with school runs, lifts to football those sort of things. To me, it felt necessary to explain to people what was wrong with me as I didn’t feel that I appeared to be ill. There were no outward signs, no wounds that people could see, it felt like an invisible illness. I didn’t want anyone thinking that I was being lazy not taking my children to school etc. Especially as my children did not attend one of the schools nearby. There were not many other pupils going to their schools who lived near to us. I drew up rotas for the school run. My husband was working in Southampton and would start working at 6am. When no one else could do it my neighbour would bring them home for me even though her own son attended another school. (During this time she moved him to the same junior school, later when I was well again I took her son and mine to school on the way to work and she picked them all up on the way home as she started and finished work earlier than I did).

I think in the beginning all we told the boys was that mummy had something wrong with her tummy. OK that’s what my mum and I told them. Their Dad told them that…….’mummy is going to die’. I can’t even begin to understand how that made them feel. Aged 13 the eldest of the four I relied on DC to help me by being here for the younger boys when I needed to sleep, or go to the shop for me when we needed something. He had other ideas, (I thought at the time that he was being a selfish teenager, but I later learnt from some of his friends that he was really worried about me and his way of coping was to avoid me as much as he could). Friends did that too. One of the things that I didn’t expect was that the people I thought would be supportive would avoid me, but other people who I didn’t know so well were really supportive.

It is at times like this that the differences in my children becomes more obvious. DC avoided me, OJ aged 10 became my number one carer, not just caring for me, making sure I was comfortable seeing if I needed anything to eat (even learning how to make me a cup of tea) but looking out for ET and JA too. ET would look at me as though I had grown a second head, I was a stranger a monster as far as he could see, he had just turned 9. But my baby JA had just started school and was struggling with that, it wasn’t fair on him to have a poorly mummy who might die. He would just say things like mummy has a ‘poorly tummy’ then go and head butt my tummy. He was too young to realise what was going on. He just wanted his mummy to be like other mummies. I told all the schools so that they were aware of what was happening so they could support the boys if it was necessary.

Something else I hadn’t expected was how it made me feel being told that I had Cancer. Until that time I had been in a lot of pain and was very embarrassed that I was often leaking from my bladder like an old woman, but apart from that I didn’t feel ill. There was nothing wrong with me that couldn’t easily be put right. But within a day or so of being told that it was Cancer I found that I went right off food, even my favourite foods I couldn’t stomach. I became very weak, I would fall asleep at the drop of a hat, one minute I was wide awake the next completely drained and asleep, it didn’t matter where I was. I don’t know it that was a physical symptom or purely psychological. It was this weakness and lack of appetite that alarmed my husband the most. Resulting in him having to get sleeping tablets to help him sleep as he was so worried about me. I always had this feeling that he wasn’t so much worried about losing me because he loved me but because he suddenly found out how much I actually did for him and the boys………’how will I cope with four children on my own’ became like a mantra for him.

I spent a lot of time with my mum, I know it was very hard for her, she hated seeing how ill I was and the worry that her beloved daughter might die was very tough for her. There were times when she had to just walk out because she wanted to cry but didn’t want me to see her cry. There were also times when she wanted to smack my husband for thinking about himself more than me or the boys. It was as if me having Cancer was to make life hard for him. Both my husband and my mum carried on working but took it in turns to take a few hours off to take me to the hospital for my treatment. Collecting me at around 11.30am to get me to hospital for my daily appointment with the radiography department. Finally getting me home again by about 2.30 -3pm and back to work while I waited for the boys to be brought home.

 

Owning my cancer part one

Since my cancer was treated I have encouraged other women to have pap tests (smear tests) and mammograms, to keep themselves healthy for the sake of their families. I have never said anything that would lead anyone to realise how I found out that I had cancer. I am sure the majority of people will think that it was through a routine smear test. This was not the case, I was one of those unlucky few who slipped through the net.

When my youngest child was 6 weeks old I had my routine post natal checks that included a smear test. The test came back with a request for a further test as there were insufficient cells to test. Apparently this is not uncommon after a birth, it takes a while for the cells to grow back. I had a further test which was normal. I was due to have my next test when my son had just turned 5. (In the UK we have routine tests every 5 years although in some places it’s every 3 yrs, I gather in the US it is every year). The reason given for the longer time period here is the lack of resources to examine the tests that are taken.

So this is my story of how I found out I had cancer and what happened next. It was over the Easter period in 2000, I began to notice that I was waking up wet, get your mind out of the gutter, not that kind of wet! I was beginning to leak for no apparent reason. I felt so embarrassed; I figured it must be due to my age and weight. I was 38 and very over weight, I had seen the adverts for Tena Lady, so I thought it must be something natural. I put up with it for a few months, wearing panty liners all the time hoping that no one at work would notice the smell. They didn’t. Eventually after months I was chatting to my mum she was also having problems and on comparing symptoms she convinced me that I might have a prolapsed womb. So I made an appointment to see a lady Dr at our surgery. She referred me to the local hospital to see an Urologist. My appointment came through for early January 2001. By this time I was in a lot of pain and my periods were becoming heavier and closer together. I was put on pain killers for this. By the time I saw the Urologist I was taking double the dose I should have been on.

The day of my appointment arrived and I was called in to see the specialist, we talked whilst I outlined my problems, he then asked me to lie on the couch while he examined me. He told me that he couldn’t do a thorough examination as there was a blockage, he would like me to be seen by a Gynaecologist to get his opinion. A week later I was back at the hospital being seen by a registrar, he tried to examine me but I bled so much that he was unable to examine me properly; he went off to seek advice from the consultant. It was decided that I should have a colposcopy to examine me under general anaesthetic. I was very nervous about this as I had only ever had operations when I had my children. On the day of my day surgery I was all ready to go down to theatre, I had my pre-med when the fire alarms went off. We were assured that we would not be affected by this. Time ticked by, until eventually I was advised that I would be going home without my operation as they had run out of theatre time.

A week later I was back again; there were more of us than there were beds, so we all had to wait until a bed was found for us before we could be operated on. Luckily I was one of the first to be found a bed. This time I wasn’t given the pre-med whilst still on the ward and when my time came I was walked down to theatre (that walk seemed to take for ever and my legs were feeling quite weak.) when I came round again after the operation I was very sick. My consultant (DJ calls him god) came to see me, he told me that they had found a tumour. I threw up and he scuttled off to find a nurse promising to come back. (He didn’t). Because I didn’t stop vomiting I was kept in hospital for a couple of days. During this time I was wheeled about to have various tests and chest x-rays. It is not easy keeping still for an x-ray when the vomiting won’t let up. Not surprisingly they got me seen and out of the way pretty quickly. Eventually I was well enough to go home. I think I had been there for 3 days by then.

A couple of weeks later I received a letter telling me to go to the Oncology clinic on Friday 9th March 2001. I had spent two weeks wondering about the biopsy results. But I wasn’t worried as I swear that one of the junior doctors had told me I would have a hysterectomy to remove the tumour. So even if the tumour turned out to be cancerous I would be OK as they were going to remove it. On the appointed day my mother drove me to the hospital. We sat in the waiting room with all the older women in various states of ill health. Many in wheelchairs others wearing scarves to disguise the lack of hair. After a time my name was called and I was shown into a side room with instructions to slip my clothes off from the waist down, lie on the bed with the sheet covering me. After about 10 minutes a very smart older lady entered the room introducing her self to me. I have never forgotten her name (same Christian name as mine). She asked me how I was feeling, I told her that I was in a lot of pain. She dismissed this as being normal as I had just had a very major operation. It very quickly became obvious that she had the wrong notes and thought I was someone else. She went off to find someone. I was left there for an absolute age. Finally a lady called Margaret came to see me.

I can’t at this time remember what she said only that I got dressed and we went into the office next door, my mother was invited to join us. God was there, he began talking about radiotherapy and chemotherapy. I asked if I was going to have a hysterectomy but he replied that my tumour was too big to be operated on. Margaret then took me and my mother upstairs to the Macmillan suite where we were shown into a very nice room, given tea and biscuits. Here Margaret explained about my tumour and the treatment they were proposing. I was to have chemo every Tuesday for a month plus radiotherapy every day for a month. I am glad that I had my mum with me as all that was going around in my mind was….oh no that means I have to take time off work!!
I wasn’t worried about my health or my family…..just that I needed to have a month off work.

On the drive home I rang my husband at work to tell him that I had cancer. He kept repeating ‘is it terminal?’ over and over again. He left work early to meet me at my mum’s house. The first thing he said when he saw me ‘is it terminal’ I wanted to hit him. But I told him that it would only be terminal if he continued to say that as I would be forced to get a knife and stab him. Over the next few weeks there were many tests to be done on my kidneys, chest etc. a template was created using three tiny marks tattooed on to my backside so that the radiotherapy machine could be aligned for each of my treatments. I had to have an MRI scan which was the first time I have ever had a panic attack. I felt rather ill after this. Then came the call from Margaret to arrange a hearing test. They needed to know what my hearing was like so that it could be measured as chemotherapy can cause hearing loss. I explained that I have a hearing loss already and had been wearing a hearing aid for a couple of years. It was then decided that to prevent further hearing loss I would not have chemo, but my radiotherapy would be increased to six weeks. I would also have a dose of internal radiotherapy.