Sunday, February 20, 2011

Where Does The Time Go

Good grief, it's been nearly two weeks since my last post and it's taken me a bit of time to think about what has happened in that time.  Sorry, but this blog will therefore be another biggie as I purge so to speak.

The march back to normality continues apace and my energy levels continue to improve.  So as a one-liner, that's pretty good.

I've found that if I do stay at work beyond my self-imposed 4pm "curfew", while I can stay alert at work (and on the drive home), I suffer when I get home, invariably evidenced by falling asleep in the chair before 8pm.  On the plus side, when I do stir again, the 'nap' doesn't impede my overnight sleep.  Hopefully over the coming weeks, things will continue to improve stamina wise.

The current spell of fine weather comes with an unexpected sting in it's tail too.  The heat means my throat dries out more quickly than normal, thus I need to drink more and I've found that I can't afford to go walking down town to get lunch without taking my water bottle with me.  I've tried it on a couple of occasions and the gagging sensation from the dry mouth is simply very unpleasant.  As with most such situations, when it gets dry and you know you don't have the water, you seem to try to swallow more and make the whole situation worse. It's a lot easier to take the bottle with me and if I don't need it, that's a bonus.  But wait, there's more.  Sometimes water just doesn't cut it, so I need a soft drink instead.  No big issues with that, except yet again there is a balance to be struck.  Just as water doesn't always work, too much soft drink sends things back the other way.  The juggling act required loses it's novelty pretty quickly.

I'm also continually frustrated by the frequent toilet stops necessary as a result of the liquid  intake.  I'm not sure if the benefit I'd like most from some working saliva glands is the ability to eat those foods I still can't, or the ability to reduce the liquid intake.  

Speaking of food, the menu options continue the now expected see-saw.  I'd really love to chomp into a Burgelfuel burger, but two things hinder that.  Firstly, the jaw isn't opening as far as it used too pre-treatment, so getting one of their fine creations into the mouth is slightly more than just a challenge.  Secondly, the bread issue continues to haunt me.  While sandwiches are back on the menu - crusts included (with some limitations regarding thickness of bread and filling), an attempt to eat a KFC burger last week was an unmitigated disaster.  OK, so other burger buns might be different and I'll indeed continue to experiment, but this is looking like a long term issue.  Never say never - and cutting back on such fast foods isn't a bad diet outcome anyway.  Would just be nice to have the choice.

While on the subject of bread, toast in the morning (or anytime for that matter) only stretches to a single piece before the "gluginess' arrives.

So what about other foods?  Kebabs - I'm up to maybe 2/3 of one, but still trying to find a consistent source where the meat is moist enough to compensate for my slow eating rate.  Curry is still subject to the chef actually providing the mild sauce as ordered.  When they get that right, a curry is manageable and enjoyable.  Biscuits are another case of make the right choice.  I'm not sure how you differentiate the different textures, but the soft biscuits can be eaten, but tend to glug quite quickly, whereas the crisper biscuits take longer to glug and aren't as much effort to eat.  Sausages are back on the menu, but quantity is lower and texture remains critical.  Fish and chips still pretty much a no go.  The chips are so inconsistent that I don't bother now.  Tend to have a sausage and potato fritters as that can be managed.  Did however have a fish and chip meal at one of the bars in Wellington and the fish was lovely - nice and thick and moist.  Chips were marginal though.  At least I got to eat fish again though.  The cuts I've been buying from the  butcher (as opposed to from the supermarket) seem to be passing the test as well. Have had only a couple of "failures" with the majority being enjoyable, moist cuts.  Pizza is a treat as opposed to a meal, chicken nuggets need to be battered not crumbed.  Pies are basically limited to home-made bacon & egg (thanks Patty) because the pastry isn't as gluggy and the filling not supplemented with artificial fillers. 

The weight seems to have settled down and I've had to buy some more jeans in a smaller size to compensate.

In closing, I'm enjoying my routine settling down and now have numerous occasions where I can actually make a choice as to what I do.  For so long now, there has been little in the way of choice, but now I'm actually asserting some control over my actions and it is a wonderful feeling.  I'm being more sociable and feeling more confident in myself, and it is great.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Dental Dilemma

Like most people, I don't really like going to the dentist.  The trauma of the "un-necessary" work performed by the school dental nurse still haunts/annoys me, and initial dealings with the "grown-up" dentist weren't really much better.

My current dentist is however a really nice guy and I don't have the same dread come the time for my annual visit - that is until I'm actually walking to the chair.  No amount of PMA makes that initial fear go away.

The other thing that makes dental visits interesting is that I'm "blessed" with a really strong gag reflex.  My dentist has now learnt that he takes x-rays using the small holder and has everything pre-setup so the x-ray is taken before the gag reflex kicks in.

Along the course of my cancer diagnosis and treatment, everybody has learnt about the limitations my gag reflex introduces to the way they work and the things they want to do.

The gang of seven have been frustrated many a time as my gag reflex has stopped them actually getting a look at my tonsils, etc, so Wayne Gillingham, the dental guru in the gang, devised a plan whereby they give me nitrous oxide to dull the gag reflex.

The first attempt to do this worked well - and this was the first time they gave me something concrete as far as proof that the treatment had worked.

This morning, we had another session, and despite the success of the last one, the old fear thing came back again, albeit slightly different.  I've talked about maintaining my PMA previously, but sometimes you just can't overcome the fear that the cancer has returned.  Despite the fact I'm only really in the chair for 10-15 minutes, waiting for the confirmation there is nothing to worry about seems to take forever.

The news was all good.  In fact it was even better news than last time.  The mouth ulcer that first alerted us all to the cancer has now in fact fully healed and disappeared.

I'm starting to rethink my fear of dentists.  The last two visits have after all been nothing short of life changing, in a positive way of course.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

PMA Is An Ongoing Requirement So It Seems

I was asked the other day how long I'll keep doing this blog.  My response was until such time as they say I'm definitely clear.  With Tonsil Cancer, I understand that is two years or so.  Most cancers seem to be around five years, but for some reason, this one apparently has a shorter time frame.

So given I'm still some months away from the first anniversary (August), I got to thinking about what "abnormalities" will be in my life until that wonderful day in 2012.  I've finished with all the medical intervention stuff, so am largely being left to resume my normal life by the gang of seven, bar the regular clinic visits.

It was then it hit me.  There are days when I'm struggling to keep from falling into the old habits.  I've resumed full time work at a time of year that is really busy for us and it would be really easy to start working the long hours again to make sure everything goes to plan.  The saving grace so far has been that I still don't have the stamina to do that, so am leaving when I "should".  

I've also come home feeling tired and been tempted by some of the "treats" I've accumulated as I try to find out what I can handle food wise.  In the past I'd rip into a block of chocolate and probably have 2-3 rows at a time.  Again, I'm lucky something is holding me back, this time in the form of the saliva issues which still restricts chocolate in this format to one square at a time.  I'm finding it is easier with some other "treats" and have had to really refrain from just grazing on a mixture of things.  At least my subconscious is looking out for me.

I'm also making the effort to eat proper meals and have found by doing so I'm more than satisfied and have accordingly cut right back on what had become a norm of having a nightly dessert.  It was east to justify when the push was on to gain weight so Jake would be removed, but I didn't want it to become the norm after that.

So, in reality, I've now come to the "shocking" realisation that the need for PMA didn't end when the treatment did.  It is something I've got to keep on at through 2012 at least.  I shouldn't really be surprised because there have been so many changes in my life over the last 10 months or so and there is still some settling down to do as I return to what will become my normality.  Of course I've got to continue being positive, it isn't that surprising is it?  Then why did this realisation catch me out?

I'm lucky I suppose as so far I haven't succumbed and "fallen off the wagon", and I'm still in the stage where I feel really lucky to have got my second chance at life, so the PMA has still been flowing.  It is however a timely wake-up call that the second chance came with some" baggage" and it is up to me to ensure I remain on the straight and narrow and make the most of it.

As part of the PMA affirmation, I weighed myself today and it seems like the weight has settled down.  I'm probably just under a kilo lighter than I was for the Jake weigh-in and that seems about right given the fudging that was done on the day and my increased activity.  So what I've got to do now is actually make the effort to improve my fitness and stamina over the coming weeks.  And I've got to ensure those temptation at work and home don't derail me.