Hello out there in isolation sphere, how are you holding up? I hope very much you can find hope in these dark times no matter what you are facing. And if it feels that you can’t go on, know that there is someone out there who sends you her blessings. Please hang in there. We need you!
I have to admit that I can bear the rising numbers of COVID-19 deaths in the UK and around the world less and less. Of course, I know I can’t do anything and that it is not my job to save everybody. But I see the human beings behind the numbers. I see the families left behind, griefing in such difficult circumstances and the doctors, nurses, carers… who have to deal with this enormous task too. That is why I am not hiding my sadness anymore, and I let the tears come when necessary. Maybe that is the only way through something like this.
Today I dedicate a song to all those who have lost someone (or a pet) may it be because of COVID-19 or any other reason. I am so so sorry for your loss. My thoughts and prayers are with you.
And I also dedicate another song to all doctors, nurses, carers, cleaners, shopworkers, binmen and women, streetcleaners, farmworkers, policemen and women, firefighters, food producers, bus drivers, lorry drivers, teachers and all others who are out there working to keep our lives going. Thank you so much!
I know since Wednesday how my cancer treatment will unfold. Well, the first steps at least. In two weeks 6 cycles of chemotherapy will start. I had hoped I could get tablets and take them at home, but that’s not possible in my case. So we will venture for four and a half months every three weeks to a hospital in the city. It’s about 45 minutes each way and slightly spooky in these COVID-19 times. When we went on Wednesday there were hardly any cars on the roads. We saw many vans and lorries, but it felt more like a Sunday on the streets and not like a school day Wednesday morning.
We decided I would only go into the hospital, and the best husband (Jeremy Clarkson voice) in the world did grocery shopping close by and then waited in the car. I was apprehensive about the state of one of my scars so the breast care nurse asked me to come in before the oncologist appointment. The breast care nurses are in another part of the NNUH than the cancer treatment area. It’s the surgical outpatients I had to go to. I’ve been there many times before, and it was always heaving with people. This time I was greeted by a young nurse who apologized she had to ask me if I had shown any signs of COVID-19, took my temperature, and gave me some sanitiser to put on my hands. I had donned some gloves but no facemask. She said though I should sanitise the gloves too. Before I went in, I had put some lavender oil on my scarf, and I was holding it up every five minutes to inhale it. Calming anxiety in any way I can 🙂
The waiting area that usually is full with at least 50 patients and family or friends was nearly empty. There were only three or four other patients besides me and two receptionists. It was utterly utterly unreal. I thought of all those films about pandemics in which the hospital floors were covered with patients everywhere and nearly laughed. Of course, it makes more sense to keep people apart to avoid any spread. The breast care nurse came along and lead me along a hallway always adhering to social distancing while still trying to have a calming conversation. On the floors of the corridors in the whole hospital where lines taped asking everybody to keep to the left for social distancing. It felt very strange but at the same time reassuring that the hospital took these measures.
By the time we entered the examination room, I was a little shaking and needed to keep sniffing my good old lavender. The nurse was a different one than my usual. She explained something came up, so she had to step in which was fine by me. I explained my problem while she stood at the other end of the room as she wasn’t wearing a mask yet. That changed when she examined my scars. She put on a mask as well as a plastic apron but again mainly had a look from further away. She apologised for having to wear the gear but I didn’t mind anyway. Better safe than sorry is my motto and I said so too. She had a little feel, but to my relief, she said all is well and it is healing wonderfully. The feeling of having a metal pipe under my arm is normal and part of the healing of the lymph nodes that were taken out. My light rash is an aftermath of having to wear the dressings for such a long time.
That was such a relief. I have started to become somewhat paranoid about any light redness in that area, and now I am much calmer about it. Unfortunately, some nerves had to be damaged with the operation, which also causes some swelling and a loss of feeling. But if I can manage to not use it for any heavy lifting, that should sort itself out soon. Before I left, I let the nurse know that I appreciated her time/work and asked to say hello to my usual nurse from me. We both got a little emotional at that point, which shows under how much strain everybody working in the NHS is currenlty.
My anxiety rose again because I had to get to the other end of the hospital, where I haven’t been yet. It felt still so strange to keep to the left and basically avoiding everybody. I made it in the end, but my anxiety was rather high by then despite the lavender. The oncology area had closed doors, and for the life of me, I could not figure out how to open that darn door. After about five minutes, one of the nurses inside took pity on me and opened the door, but I felt rather stupid. You are now supposed to wait in the car, call a number, and they call you back when you can come in but this, of course, didn’t apply to me because I was already here and I was about 30 minutes early. They told the doctor I was supposed to see, gave me a mask to wear and asked me to sit down. Again a nearly empty waiting room. Most of the seats had taped crosses on telling us to sit down according to social distancing.
My mind though was still on my way from one end of the hospital to the other. I had to go along some of the operation wards. Some of them had huge green signs on telling everybody that there were suspected COVID cases. Others, however, had yellow signs saying that there were confirmed cases. I wanted to take a deep breath when I went along but then thought better of it just in case.
Then my mind wandered to my further treatment. I already knew I had to go through chemo and radiotherapy but I didn’t know in which form I would get it and how long it would take. All while one of the nurses told the others her whole life story rather loudly. 🙂 . Wearing the mask felt extraordinarily strange. I suddenly started to become cross-eyed and when I had my glasses on they steamed up. Oops. My admiration for any medical or care staff using these on a daily basis went up at least ten notches. How can they bear it?
Eventually, another nurse came to get me this time already wearing a mask, gloves and apron. Again an apology for their appearances. I now wonder if that’s more for their benefit than the patients. It must be so difficult to work under these circumstances. My doctor introduced himself and asked how much I was aware of what the operation entailed and which treatment I was expecting. He also asked how I became aware of something not being ok. So I told him I had trouble with my lymph nodes since 2017 but was told by the radiologist at my mammogram appointment in that year no to worry. That made my doctor look rather concerned. He asked about my bone scan, which was clear as well as the CT, so I think I am a rather lucky girl.
He also asked about my family history, and he looked again rather concerned when I told him about my mother’s breast cancer as well as all the other cancer cases in my family. He asked me if I was ever offered a DNA test. Uhm no… at this point I started to wonder if he was from a private hospital because I had never seen any NHS doctor being too concerned about my cancer family history. But on the other hand, it made me trust him instantly, which is a good thing considering the journey I have ahead of me.
So he went ahead explaining that I would have six cycles of chemo but would have to come to the hospital for it. It won’t be at the NNUH, though, but at a private hospital close by. In the UK all hospitals, no matter if private or not are currently working together to enable the health service to deal with COVID. As chemo patients are more susceptible to it ,they keep us somewhere else for safety. He explained side effects, which I am aware of anyway, and we discussed for a little while when to start, but I said the earlier ,the better. That virus won’t go anytime soon, so I better get on with it and get it done and dusted. We settled for a start in two weeks.
I signed the consent form and he examined the breast and scars. Same opinion as to the breast care nurse: all heals well. After that, he left me in the care of the specialist nurse to figure out the ins and outs of having chemo.
These nurses are so well trained and care so much, even in these difficult circumstances. It is such a tremendous help to have someone like this around when your life is going to be turned upside down. And that it will. I won’t go into any more detail of the treatment. I think you were already very patient with me and my story. She first asked me if there is anything that I am worried about. Well, obviously the whole virus sh.. but what I expect will bother me the most is losing my hair. She explained that because of the virus no free wigs are offered at the moment which doesn’t bother me too much because I already decided that I am going to work with scarves. I am sure I wrote about this already. If you are observant, you might have seen that I added “future pirate” on my profile. Yes, in secret I am already practising my “errs” and “arrrs” that I can play the part fully when I don the scarves 😉
She was so kind as to explain that I could have something called “scalp cooling”. Yes, it is exactly what it says: You get a cap on your head that cools your scalp down to
friggin 4C/39.4F. YUCK! No way, Jose!!!! If it comes to it I will wear my bald head with pride and have a “Talk Like a Pirate Day” every day until I am done with Chemo!!!! In fact, I might even shave off my hair before I start Chemo because that way, it’s my decision and not that of cancer treatment.
We talked about a couple of things more, but I won’t bother you with the details. I hope this report of my day at the hospital hasn’t bored you to death, but I feel I needed to tell this story because it happened in such strange times. When I left, I let her know how much we appreciate her work and that I feel this country has let their health workers down severely. Also, I wish I could do more. She also became rather emotional and me too. I pray they all stay safe.
I also needed to write this report for my own sake. It seems when I blog about my experiences, I can transform my fear and anger into determination to get through this as well as I can. Yesterday was a bad evening ( I am writing this on Thursday). Everything brought tears to my eyes. Anxiety was creeping up my spine like a too well-known snake. But throughout this morning many of my family and friends had kind, caring and supporting words for me and I am incredibly grateful for all their help. I wouldn’t feel I could do this without all of you 🙂
This song is dedicated to all of you who are so kind to me. You rock!!!!
Why am I writing about my cancer day at the hospital?
Linda over at “Life in Progress” has started the “What day is it anyway” blog event. She invites us all to share a little of our new daily routines, struggles and successes. She writes: “
Why I’m writing this post:
Because if you’re like me and stuck at home already, or if you’re going to be like me soon, the days of the week are going to be hell to keep track of. We have a wonderful community here on WordPress and all over the Internet as well, and I’m sure many people are feeling nervous and/or isolated. I want to make sure every one of us has somewhere to congregate and someone to talk to.
I want everyone to know that you can start discussions with each other in the comments, and if you’d like to write your own “What Day is it Anyway?” post, you can link to this one. Hashtag #WDIIA.
Let’s keep in touch!
Thanks Linda, your rock!
Just one more thing before you go: The hospital that is treating me is fundraising for a dedicated breast cancer unit which would allow same-day diagnosis and better premises for patients and staff.
Please, if you can spare a little money hop over to their Just Giving Page and give as little or much as you can. Or share the page on your social media. Your support means a lot to me! Thank you very much.
Thanks my dears, for staying with me until the end. I appreciate your presence. Please stay safe, stay kind and remember that you rock!