returnee…

Dear friends 

I’ve returned to my blog – it’s been a while, I know.  After the surgery I was signed off work until Christmas Eve and then I already had annual leave booked for the last week in 2016.  Then a wait for the biopsy results – all OK for which I am grateful to Father 🙂  So, unexpectedly, I was not at work for the whole of December 2016.

I returned to work on 3 January 2017, as many people.  And due to the transfer of the property business, I returned to my former and first ever employer, the city council.

I returned to my desk, with various trade literature and unopened post – after two days it’s still in my in box, unopened.

I returned to my projects – a little model completed for the feasibility study and several outstanding technical queries on the construction project (with a contractor stating the delay is due to ‘us’).

I returned to discover that such was the concern for me that they had approached a local company for costs to deliver the feasibility study!  I’ve had several colleagues welcome me back.  Since they are all predominantly male colleagues my stock answer is I’m fine – no point getting into a conversation about recovery after laparascopic surgery of a gynaecological nature! – and I swiftly move the conversation on to QS resources, retaining walls or the return to local government.

Back in the home, we’ve also been looking into returnees to Africa.  There’s lots on YouTube.  As the house in Africa is becomes bigger and our mortgage here becomes smaller (can something grow smaller?…) the prospect of going to Africa long term becomes more real.  It will be an adventure for me; it will be returning home for my dear husband. Some would say for me too, clearly, as my ancestry will include slaves taken from Africa to the plantations of the Caribbean islands.  I have many deeper thoughts on this.  I am grateful to Father to know that somewhere in my family, ancestors survived the ridiculous barbaric cruelty of slavery to have offspring and become free.  Free to grow and return. 

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it’s the day after yesterday…

Dear friends

So yesterday was the long awaited diagnostic day surgery – hysteroscopy and laparoscopy and polypectomy and… 

attractive and comfortable flight socks, pyjamas and boot slippers

It was an early start – I, unintentionally, woke at 0329h! I lay in bed listening to Mormon Channel Talk trying to go back to sleep – sounds bad but owing to Daur1 breaking my headphones and I can’t receive FM radio without them the BBC World Service was not an option and the talk helps me stay sleepy!!  I, intentionally, got up at 0605h, forgot to fill urine sample, eeekk – drank loads of water before 0630h, showered again with the anti-microbacterial soap – paying special attention to nose, underarms and groin – prepared five packed lunches, scraped the car (frosty) and my dear husband and I set off. Admission time 0745h – toilet trip, urine sample! – strip off to underwear, don designer gown (nurse C tells me as I say it feels a bit breezy on the back!), and wait.

First the consultant who will be doing the procedure.  Young Dr D (does everyone look young to me!?) accompanied by a fourth year student F (are you even my son’s age!!).  Dr D explains they feel it can be resolved by a hormone system being inserted – which will last for 5 years and by then you’ll be 52 so should be into the menopause – and that’s what they plan to do, taking biopsy samples of the womb lining, remove the polyp, take cervix sample, remove any endometriosis found, take sample.  Some discussion about possibly removing the right ovary if it’s stuck to the pelvis. I explain our travel plans for next week, Dr D doesn’t think it would be a problem, it’s not a long haul flight. Student F returns to ask if he can feel me while I’m unconscious.  Mmmmm… no!!  I know students have to gain experience but I’m in no mood for additional feeling! 
Bloods taken again (I’d already been to my surgery earlier in the week but apparently they labeled the sample wrong so it wasn’t acceptable).  So that ruled out left arm which still has bruising. Nurse C tried right arm – no luck and doesn’t want to make me a human pin cushion so calls a doctor, he tries twice in wrists! Seriously, make sure this is their last option – so painful!  Right wrist unsuccessful.  Left wrist he use a syringe to draw blood out!!  Not pleasant.  I’m convinced it’s because I’ve not eaten since the night before and it’s my body’s natural way of protecting itself – I’m not able to give blood either, after a few minutes my veins seem to shrink up.  I tried several times when I was younger and the last time they told me not to bother volunteering again!! 

Anyway,a young Dr A female anaesthetist entered during this painful process.  (Female important because Daur1 wants to be one).  Dr A goes through everything and I explained that my only other experience of general anaesthetic left me vomiting until night. That noted I mentioned my dear daughter and Dr A was very encouraging, she can make it, hardest part is getting into medical school. 

I’m measured for and fitted with flight socks -to help prevent clotting – I need to wear them for two days. I’m third in line and I hear patient 1 and 2 go in – both laparoscopic hysterectomy – I can’t help hearing, the curtains aren’t acoustic buffers!  I should’ve taken a book but I read some scriptures and a LDS conference talk on my phone. Daur1 messages me and suggests an eBook – even if I knew how to download one, I’m sure I don’t have enough phone memory!  I asked the nurse for the literature about the Miruna IUS (intra uterine system) of which I will be a recipient.

Around 1155h, wrapped in my dressing gown, in my new boot slippers, now naked under the blue designer gown, I’m walked down to the pre-op theatre room. By 12h two cannulas are in the back of my left hand and another nurse, while sticking on little paddles to my chest and back to set up the heart monitor, begins asking me about work.  Ooooh, long study, my son studied architecture and went to Japan on an exchange as a student, he practices in London as part of his training, when you’re young London is great, my daughter recently moved out of London.  Are you distracting me?  Dr A does another check of the consent paperwork and that I am me.  I can hear the beep machine – is that what my heart is doing?…  my left arm starts feeling cold, or is it warm?…  the beeps are going faster… 

It’s 1505h.  That must be a big clock, I think, I can see it with no glasses on.  And is that my heart beat beeping away… And…. no pain in my pelvis but… tummy pains…. and, oh, I am so cold, I need blankets, I need to sleep….  I’m wheeled back to the ward.

It’s about 1630h when I wake properly.  Dr D comes over and explains it all went well.  Ovaries were very mobile; small area of endometriosis on left ovary, nothing on right; biopsies taken; IUS fitted; abnormal cells to cervix weren’t very much but biopsy taken; some bleeding when polyp removed; no polyp to womb but adenomyosis confirmed so protestogen hormone should help with that.  Biopsy results will take a few weeks.  Dr D was happy with procedure and will sign fit note for 7 days, that is, I should be fit for work in 7 days.

Then came the awkward process of moving.  Once I was awake they gave me a jug of water.  My throat was, and still is, hoarse and they offered toast or biscuits. I opted for biscuits – on the advice of a friend who suggested you could soften them in a warm drink – but I could only face water.  I was very dizzy, but they wheeled me to toilet and back.  Then I dressed, my dear husband arrived and they let him bring the car round to the front, wheel chair to the door and my hospital day was done.

Back home I had omelette, with cheese and mushrooms, and toast, half a slice.  I was not tempted by the chicken and rice that everyone else was eating – I think my dear husband was disappointed by my choice.  I was not feeling very mobile and was still very dizzy.  I’m grateful for balustrading and walls!! 

So today is the day after.  I feel a lot better – there are four incisions and I recall the nurse saying two of them have stitches which will need removing in a few days.  This morning, Daur1 popped her head round the door and said in a serious tone:

I don’t think we were prepared for this!

😦 I don’t think they were prepared for their mother being out of action for a bit. I heard my dear husband preparing five packed lunches this morning with a warning – nobody should waste this food!!  

So, I was very anxious about it all; I won’t feel completely comfortable until the biopsy results are back and hopefully clear.  I still don’t understand the right ovary situation, maybe it was lodged somewhere but no lesions holding it in place.  But it is a relief to no longer have that pain and to feel I’ll be able to get back exercising.  I’m not sure what affect the hormone will have – but it seems to be very low dose, in the right place, so we’ll see. Dr D suggested I’ll need to give it 3 to 6 months.  

I’m sure I’m going to feel better everyday – I’m feeling better already 🙂  I needed to write this quickly before I forget the sentiment. Thanks for reading and hopefully my experience can help someone else – sharing is caring! 🙂  

poised…

Dear friends

Autumn leaves poised, waiting to fall

Sometimes in life it feels that things are poised, waiting to happen.  Like the leaves on this small tree that I saw this morning.  They’re changing, virtually imperceptibly, from green to yellow to red, poised, waiting for a wind to blow and take them to another stage in their life, away from the tree.  I really must develop more patience, from Mosiah 24 v15, and be peaceful like these leaves!

the Lord did strengthen them that they could bear up their burdens with ease, and they did submit cheerfully and with patience to all the will of the Lord.

I feel that things are poised for me a little.  The pre-assessment – before any type of surgery – went very routinely  MRSA swabs, blood test, blood pressure – but when the nurse checked my admission appointment it wasn’t there!  It’s been rescheduled for next week.  Same consultant – a gynaecological oncologist. So I’m back to waiting. I’ve tried to not use too many pain killers, especially at night.  This means I’m in a cycle of a few rough nights followed by a long night when I’m literally so exhausted I have to sleep.  The appointment time has changed – once – from afternoon to morning admission.  Not sure if that has any significance.  And I’ve already decided to not consent to anything other than the hysteroscopy and laparoscopy – we’ve already booked flights to Manchester eight days later!!

Things at work are equally at a poised state.  Our business is being transferred (back) to the local authority, so we are going through the TUPE process.  However the local authority is also having a restructure and the draft structure shows architecture under development (we’ve already heard our new director refer to the architects as the ones delivering concepts), and not within construction management, which we do via our contract administration role.  We are all keen not to be pushed into a discrete role of design and illustration alone.  That is how some practices work, but our small team has built on the fact that we’re all quite rounded as architects. In our favour is that the lead for construction management is old school and believes in the lead consultant delivery of a construction contract.  From January we will be working for our new employer and it feels like everything has been in a state of transition for far too long!  We are poised!! 

next appointments…

Dear friends

The next appointments arrived at the weekend – pre-assessment and then an admissions appointment for surgery.  The latter under the care of Dr R, not the same consultant, and the procedures are not listed.  

I looked up Dr R.  He’s a gynaecological oncologist.

At least it’s only a few days to wait now.  I called to confirm the admission appointment, a week after the pre-assessment.  

I’m trying hard to not be anxious.  I’ve told my boss what’s happening – I don’t know if I’ll be in work towards the end of the month! And I’ve told a colleague I’m working with – our youngest son’s were born within days of each other. His son was diagnosed with retinal cancer months later.  We can talk.  He did say to me you’re religious, that will be a great help.  It is.  He understood that it’s the waiting for now; the not knowing what, if anything, is wrong; the silence from every health professional – we agreed that they must be trained not to mention cancer unless they’re fairly certain. The first medical professional to say it with their son was when they sat in Great Ormond Street hospital!  

So I’m hoping that next week they’ll be able to give some answers, let me know what will happen the week after, and what happens from there.  I’ll let you know 🙂

for the ladies… update

Dear friends

Not long after the last post about this, I received two appointments in the post; one for December and one more urgent one, for last Friday, for a hysteroscopy to rule out any more serious condition, such as cancer.

(I decided not to post about my feelings leading up to this appointment, in an effort to reduce anxiety and not appear alarmist. We all have different ways of dealing with anxiety and stress!. The idea is to help someone with my posts, not to create more stress!)

I went to the appointment on my own, my dear husband was working and the younger children needed picking up from school.  I’d met with my Mummy at lunchtime – hot chocolate (with a couple of ibuprofen for me!) – who was very pragmatic about everything – oh, there used to be a very nice gynaecologist at that hospital a few years ago…  it’s probably just a polyp or cyst or something…

A few minutes before my appointment time, Dr M called me into his office where I met Dr H and medical student G. After some banter on comparing lengths of training for doctors versus architects, and the salaries, I was asked to explain everything, in my own words, the situation, everything, and I mean everything.  It was like opening up the bedroom door when my dear husband and I are together.  I knew the consultant needed to understand but still… awkward!  Dr M did a hand drawing of a womb and lining – clearly he had done this many times – and explained the procedure and what he thought, from the ultrasound, the problem was, a 16mm polyp on the womb.  They would remove that during the hysteroscopy.

So then it was time for the procedure.  They were pleased I’d prepared myself with ibuprofen and then 2 nurses came in, screen pulled, strip of everything from waist down and have a seat, use the towel to cover yourself … and there I was, seated on a half chair with leg supports, in my socks (was that a hole in the toe?), when I made known I was ready and the screen was pulled back to reveal the 5 medic people.  I began to focus on ceiling as, with my legs in the supports, not a dignified position said the older nurse on my left, and Dr H began raising the seat up and tilting back (though I honestly couldn’t sense the back tilt).  Speculum….  (attempt 1) … can I have another, long speculum, gel again… (attempt 2 and I recalled a practice nurse telling me to always mention that a long speculum is needed for cervical smears) – let your knees drop down more… you have long legs… Dr M, there’s a polyp right by the cervix opening, you should come see?  So Mum was right, I think, as I hear Dr M come closer and I focus on the ceiling tiles (why are they so unattractive in hospitals when ceiling manufacturers have so many options for so many situations, it looks so dated…) OUCH!!! And I grip the hand rests.  That really felt like a needle went in!!  Ohhhh, I touched it with a cotton bud! (Dr M)  

The older nurse starts making conversation with me – were you at work? what do you do? what kind of buildings do you work on? at least you can go home after this! (Sympathetic smile!).   I join in knowing there’s a long way to go, they’ve not even given the local anaesthetic!! 

OUCH!!! That felt like a needle too!!! Ok, there’s no point continuing, we’ll do this under general anaesthetic. Said Dr M, and that was that! The screen was pulled, I could hear the room empty and when I emerged Dr M was alone, writing notes.  

Give me a minute and I’ll explain all.

Then back to his hand drawn womb to demonstrate what he saw – polyp at cervix opening and area of abnormal cells on the other side which started bleeding when I touched them. So, considering how uncomfortable you were I feel it best to do the hysteroscopy, biopsy and polypectomy under general anaesthetic. Any questions?

I had many but asked him only two.  1. Since these have to be done under general anaesthetic, can’t the right ovary situation be looked at at the same time – surely that’s more efficient? (He had explained earlier that a laparoscopy – small incision in abdomen plus camera – would be required to do investigate the right ovary).  So that’s the plan – he was a little concerned about the length of such a procedure but agreed it made sense. 2. was any of this related to age? Only the irregular, shortening of periods; not the womb thickening, bleeds in between or the pain. 

Dr M did say he’d try to get a date within the next month.  Older nurse came back with form to fill, writing the procedures as Dr M listed – she’s having an MOT – he drily said to the nurse. (MOT –Definition from the free dictionary online for my friends not familiar with UK terms. MOT. [not an acronym] (UK term for a full-body scan medical exam; derived from the Ministry of Transport test car inspection).   Pre assessment were closed that afternoon so it’ll probably be another visit before the procedure.  And then I was free to leave.  

That evening I read up on possible diagnoses (bad idea) … cancer survival rates seem to be measured in chance of living five years… in five years our youngest will be 13 years old…  I read up on how a laparoscopy is done… I also discovered that not all abnormal cells are malignant…  I think you can find anything you want to on the internet if you look hard enough!

Following a priesthood blessing a couple of days later, which my dear husband administered, I no longer feel so anxious! Heavenly Father knows me and I do trust Him that he’ll guide the doctors in all the investigations and procedures. Ultimately, I know everything will be alright.  For now, I need to learn to be patient and wait… 

for the ladies…

Dear friends

Back in the spring, you may recall if I shared it, that I started experiencing pain/ aching in my pelvis, right side, after my morning jog.  I’ve been experiencing aches on that side for a few years but it started becoming quite intense.  I’ve been to the doctor a few times, the last time the GP (after telling me to lose weight) referred me to physiotherapy (about a year ago) which helped marginally.  So about 6 months ago when the pain started increasing, I knew I should go back but was reluctant since I thought I’d be dismissed.  Then, around the same time as the upping of pain, I noticed more frequent, irregular periods.  Something was clearly happening down there!  After the mammograms, I gained a bit of courage and called the doctor’s surgery.

The surgery has started a triage system, so I had to tell the receptionist why I wanted to see a doctor.  I’ve had this pain for a few years and it’s getting worse.  Doctor will call you back.  An hour or so later a doctor calls me back and within minutes offers me an appointment for the same afternoon.  This was amazing to me, previously one would be offered an appointment the following week, or at least a couple of days later.  Clearly the triage system is clearing appointments.

Dr L was very nice, listened to my story and asked what I thought it was. Self diagnosis!?  I said I’d, of course, been checking the internet and figured either hernia or something with the ovaries, cyst, but, you’re the doctor!  Can you feel anything pushing out? No. Unlikely to be a hernia.  Have you heard of endometriosis?  Based on what you’ve said that’s what I think it is, it can usually be treated through hormone pills/ injection so I’m referring you for a pelvic scan.  At last!!  So the scan was last week.

My appointment letter noted that I was due both an abdominal and transvaginal ultrasound – basically both external and internal.  I’ve had both before – external ultrasound with the children and internal some time ago following an early miscarriage.  My dear husband was also in attendance. 

Same!  Hard work isn’t it?

Said Dr G as I said we had four children and continued to chat explaining what was going to happen and putting me more at ease.  I’ve decided that gynaecological sonographers (they’re still doctors) must be the customer service equivalent of the doctor world – so kind!!  Her previous appointment had cancelled so she had as much as an hour for us!

External scan – while feeling like I was going to wet myself – was relatively quick.  Right ovary looked the right size, nothing on or around it from that view – i.e. no cyst or tumou .  Quick toilet break and then the internal.  I mostly focused on a single spot on the ceiling and my breathing until pain – oh, is that tender?  Followed by a bit more prodding to firmly establish that, yes, that is tender, sore, painful.  It felt like a good 20 minutes and she said little more until I was released to get fully dressed. So the verdict? Right ovary is low down, squashed under the rectum, and could have some endometriosis behind.  And have you heard of adenomyosis?  Well, this is your womb (showing blurry black and white images on the monitor) and normally we’d expect to see a white line showing the edge of the womb about here – she indicated a grey mass – but for this stage of your cycle this is really thick. Adenomyosis is basically endometriosis in the womb muscle lining but the cells can’t shed, so the womb muscle lining gets bulky.  We’re looking for markers for adenomyosis and this is one of them.  I’m going to put you in my book of interesting cases so I can follow up.  Your doctor will refer you to the gynaecologist, and if were me, they’ll probably want a biopsy of the womb lining. 

To be honest, I’m hugely relieved that she found something abnormal – that the pain I’ve been experiencing has a reason behind it, even though it’s not quite diagnosed and I’m not sure what will be done to resolve it, I mean, can surgery raise an ovary, or is it more likely to be removed?  And yesterday I received a call from my doctor, notifying that the referral has been made.  So I’m waiting for the appointment letter and researching on how a womb lining biopsy sample is taken!  

People say things about the NHS but I’m grateful that we have it – I’ve paid national insurance and taxes so I’m glad it’s there.  It may not be perfect, mistakes can happen and things can take time, but at least it’s there for all. 

2nd stage assessment

Dear friends

A few weeks ago I received a letter in the post inviting me for mammogram, as part of a trial for screening younger women, those in the few years approaching 50y, which is the age breast cancer screening starts with the NHS.

So, I went. Ladies, if someone had only told me a fair amount of squashing was involved!  I could have mentally prepared myself 🙂  :). 

Then, less than 2 weeks later, I was called back for 2nd stage screening.  The letter didn’t explain why, I would be told on the day. So, there were several days of anxious waiting.  I tried not to think on it.  We didn’t tell the children anything; though finally Daur1 heard my dear husband ask about the ‘hospital appointment’ and spoke with me.  We had a frank but brief discussion – if there’s anything I’ll be treated and I’m in reasonable good health so I’m sure it’ll be effective 🙂  

Another two mammograms confirmed the findings of the first – an area of dense tissue on which the consultant wanted a biopsy done.  

Two hours later, an ultrasound scan plus several more mammograms – more unpleasant squashing! – and there was nothing identified to do a biopsy on!!  I was given a pink copy of a standard letter with the consultant circling her name saying, we’ll see you again in three years.

I am grateful for modern medicine and more particularly the National Health Service (NHS).  We pay into the NHS for as long as we work through national insurance contributions and taxes.  There may be lots that people moan about… Yes; I don’t particularly think it’s fair that I have to pay for eye tests and spectacles, which are not optional, I’m very short sighted… But I can’t fault that when you need help, or when investigations need doing, consultants are there and very thorough.  I’m grateful for the five women that handled me, most intimately, with care and concern.

feeling better

Dear friends
I drafted a post to you last week about the frustrations of having to customise five (excluding my own) packed lunches to ensure everyone was happy and received sufficient nourishment while at school or college or work.  As a taster here’s what I have to deal with: no crusts, no baguette, no wheat, no fruit, no butter, no tomatoes, no salad, no ham, no crisps,… you get the picture!
But then, my dear husband shared his ‘man flu’ with me;  our daughters warned me “why are you sleeping in the same bed as Daddy?”  I wondered where else they expected me to sleep,  maybe on the floor!  So the last few days I’ve had a cold.  As soon as the itchy throat began, I bought some cold relief max capsules, which meant I survived at work – going off sick is more hassle than its worth and we’re in the middle of a planning application.  I do believe in using medications,  not excessively,  but certainly when we need to – medecines are there to help us.  I am also grateful for the prayers of our children who always remember our family when someone needs help. 
So today, I didn’t teach my youth Sunday school class (my voice is still hoarse) – which includes our two eldest children – and the other teacher taught a combined class – the older and younger youth.  I asked her how it went – fearing that Son1 and Daur1 would have spent the lesson sounding off each other,  as in my lessons.  But no!!  Sister N spoke of how they had such sweet spirits and she could see what we had taught them at home.  An incredulous “Really!?” was my first reaction.  But as she mentioned it again – nothing specific – I could sense her sincerity and I realised that maybe I was missing something special in my own children. 
After that I watched as Son1 went to the church kitchen after the munch ‘n’ mingle to wash up dishes (accompanied by his sisters who dried and put away) even though the other youth had gone home.  And I think on how Daur1 played flute last week, with no accompaniment, a young women evening, though she has an exam this week, but did not let down her leaders. 
So, having bought 5 new containers for packed lunches, and feeling better, I will face the lunches in the morning and know that something good is coming from all this unique behaviour! After all we are each unique songs and daughters of a loving Father in Heaven. 🙂

road trip…

Dear friends

I’m in the back of a hire car, travelling back to the office with two (male) colleagues, having visited a school site some miles away. 

Starting to feel a little travel sick – 70+ miles per hour for much of the last hour on UK roads (bumpy) – I think my stomach is in resonance! 

Work road trips are always a  welcome break from the routine of the office but are always exhausting even though I’m not driving. 

I find it fascinating that ‘cars’ have featured much in the front conversation… and that’s why I’m writing this!!

Oh, I’m developing a headache… 

last week in summary

Dear friends,

Last week really revolved around the children. I’ll name them (for ease, in descending age order) Son1, Daur1, Daur2, Son2.

Son1 – finished his secondary school exams (GCSEs) with 3 last week – Maths (calculator), Chemistry and Physics; and yesterday I was on chauffeur duty to take him for the county athletics meeting – Son1 was called up to represent our town in the 100m; he came 3rd in his heat, and as I was filming the final, facing the sun, it looked like he came in one from last but then he was handed a letter… i knew that meant he made top 4 and then the town athletic coach is speaking with him and inviting him to the elite sprint training sessions… and that night I ordered a pair of spiked running shoes!!

Meanwhile, Daur1 and Daur2 were sick Monday overnight,  so stayed off school Tuesday.  Daur1 then had a relapse after returning to school on Wednesday and spent the rest of the week off school – Thursday with big brother Son1 and Friday with me (working from home).  I never quite know when to go to a doctor – we are, of course,  blessed to have a surgery and the NHS.  I decided if it continued into this week I would contact the doctor – but the rehydration solution and rest seems to have worked. And Daur2 landed the part of narrator in the school production = Bugsy Malone – remember that strange children’s movie!?

And Son2 had a scheduled trip to aural outpatients for microsuction – sucking the wax from his ears, which seems to have real problems finding its way out leaving Son2 a little hard of hearing, literally!  This is about the 4th visit, same specialist nurse; this time we left with one ear drum clear, the other partial… which reminds me, I must do the olive oil in the latter ear.

So, I’ve started writing a couple of times but get too tied up with things.  I’ll try to do better this week.  I  do love our little family – they are all very funny and individual 🙂