4 years on

Over these past few years I have attended appointments with radiology for mammograms and bone density scans, with my surgeon, and now his successor, and with the oncologist at their various places of business. I have religiously taken the medication I have been advised to have, despite some side effects I could really do without. And I take the medication that is supposed to reduce those side effects. It does, a little.

I have had all good reports from the medical people thus far despite a bit of worry about my bone density. Next month I have appointments with the bone scanning machine and the surgeon. But I have now reached a state of mind where, after a few hiccups along the way, I am finally reaching a point where life is really good again and I just want to live it and not be defined by being a breast cancer survivor. I must admit that that has been the way I have seen myself through these past 4 years since my radiotherapy ended. The reports next month and next year will be fine. I can get along with life, and almost pretend the cancer didn’t happen.

I was almost right back to square one when a routine colonoscopy in December 2014 showed a reasonably large tumour growing in my bowel. After consulting with another surgeon I was booked to have the tumour removed in March 2015. I turned up at the hospital at the appointed time and date. The next morning I was wheeled in to theatre at 8am. At 8.10am I was dead. But it’s great that I can be here now writing to you that I am still here. I was brought back to the living with the normal TV type drama of CPR by hand and with paddles, and put into an induced coma while they investigated the cause of my death. At first a heart attack was suspected but after a workover by Wellington’s premier heart surgeon my heart was found to be healthy. I had, instead, suffered a huge anaphylactic reaction to the anaesthetic.

When I was brought out of the coma I was amazed to learn that I wasn’t waking up after the expected operation, but many more hours later in the ICU having not been touched by a scalpel. Later the anaesthetist told me I was the first such case he had had in 35 years of practice. I’d made history at Wakefield Hospital apparently, a Medical Journal article in the making.

Recovering from that CPR was the most painful time of my life, apart maybe from childbirth. It hurt to breathe, to laugh, to cough, to wash myself in the shower, hanging clothes on the clothesline – a joke.

Eight weeks later I had allergy tests at Wellington Hospital which revealed which ingredient of the anaesthetic I had reacted to, and one other as well.

I was then cleared to have the surgery again. The tumour was actually growing on my appendix and had pierced my bowel to find more room to grow. The appendix and tumour were removed along with a small section of my bowel. A lucky escape as it happens as the tumour was pre-cancerous.

Since that episode I have had a number of much more minor incidents mainly resulting from falls where I have been taken to hospital for checkovers for more serious injuries but, fortunately, there were none. I have broken one small toe, three times in about four months last year. But that is all behind me now.

Since I moved to the Wairarapa I have have been cultivating a new hobby of card making. My hobby kept me sane during those long weeks of radiotherapy when I spent my time at Margaret Stewart House in Wellington. It still does. I become wonderfully lost in it and at the end have the sense of achievement having made something aesthetically pleasing. My art teacher at school told me I didn’t have an artistic bone in my body. I was a lost cause. I still can’t draw, but I can create a pleasing card or two.

So I am going to end this blog now, and start a new chapter in my life and try to make a bit of pocket money from my hobby. New Chapters in my blog life will be about life only on occasions, but mostly about my card making, Sylvia Stamps Up – Crafting is the best medicine.

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