Sunday, March 27, 2011

What Was That?

My last post reached somewhat of a momentous milestone - it was number 100.
No matter which way you look at it, I have a lot of things to be thankful for - not least being actually still here able to write this blog.

So, how am I going to start the next century?, well it is unfortunately going to be somewhat of a gripe.  I've praised the public health system throughout my battle and, despite what I'm about to say, the treatment and compassion I've received has been faultless.

My issue/problem revolves around my hearing.  Given the results of my two hearing tests clearly show a significant loss (which can only be contributed to my treatment given the relatively short period of time between them), I'm struggling to get any traction with regards a resolution.  

I'm finding it increasingly frustrating to have to concentrate as hard as I need to  in order to understand what people are saying to me in certain environments.  It is worse in some situations than others and is normally more of an issue when the person is speaking quietly and/or not talking directly at me.

I've rung the audiology clinic at the hospital and asked what is going on and they said they'd retrieve my file, take a look at it and give me a call to discuss.  That was a couple of months ago now.  At my last appointment, I left under the impression my file was being referred back to medical oncology (it was their treatment that has this side effect) and expected some delay given they had effectively discharged me.  I now feel like I've fallen through one of those oft talked about holes in the system.

There is no doubt a fine line that can be crossed if you continue to hound people, but this is by far the biggest "disability" to come out of my treatment.  I'm learning to find workarounds for my eating issues, and in reality don't go hungry, so that is more of a minor inconvenience than struggling to hear.

I know I'm lucky to be able to hear as well as I can - there are a lot of people who would no doubt happily cut off a limb to be able to hear as well as me - and perhaps given how well I've recovered in other areas, I should consider the bigger picture and just be thankful full-stop.

The problem is, I've come out the other side from my battle with the cancer, but it is like there is this secondary battle over my hearing that I feel can be won, but nobody is putting their hand up to give me the necessary weapons.

I suppose one option is to wait for my gang of 7 appointment and see if they can rattle some cages.  That is only a few weeks away and given how long I've waited, I can no doubt survive until then.  But, can I resist the temptation to ring audiology again before then though, now that I've "purged" myself (or is that wound myself up) via this posting?

Bugger, another dilemma to think about.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Oops - Body Reasserts Control

OK, so of late I've been feeling pretty good and starting to behave like days of old.  I've also taken it a step further and started to partake in some former favourite food treats as well.

Latest treat was to sample the joy that is marshmallow Easter eggs.  While my ability to eat chocolate is now largely governed by the saliva condition (and tends to mean minimal quantities), last night I managed, over a couple of hours, to eat 2 of the aforementioned eggs.

Well, the joy ended up being relatively short-lived as when I went to bed, I started to feel sick.  It is the first time since I've resumed eating that I've felt like that, and it was not pleasant and not something I want to experience again any time soon.

With the body clearly reasserting its control, the night was one of broken sleep and a slightly elevated sleeping position, along with some out of the norm trips to the loo.  Today I've felt pretty much washed out, although the stomach seems to have settled back nicely.

So, lesson learnt, and it is one my Mum would have told me probably many times as I was growing up - too much of a good thing is bad for you.  Last night proved that to me.

On the upside, this little wake-up call does mean that Easter will last longer for me this year as the chocolate will be effectively rationed.  

And of course, I've been reminded that things aren't what they were and I still need to take things a little more cautiously than I may think I do. 

Now, where are the jet planes?

Monday, March 21, 2011

The Toad Still Rocks

Some good news, Toad In The Hole is still a viable meal alternative.  Sure, it requires some contribution from gravy, but that is an acceptable situation.

Interestingly, some other foods are becoming less effort as well over time.  For example, potatoes of the non-mashed variety (roasted, fried chunks) are certainly less of a challenge than they were a month or so ago.  The processed potato (chips, wedges) are still very much hit and miss.  Seems if they are "natural", they offer less resistance.

Had a full on week at work last week, and it took its toll over the weekend when I finally "stopped".  The last couple of weekends have seen me returning to "normal" type activities - sorting out the shed, lawns, washing car, housework, etc.  This weekend, I did some of those things on Saturday, but crashed on Sunday.  I just had no energy and "wasted" a reasonable day weather wise.

Despite saying I'm going to pace myself, it has been really hard to do that lately with the workload.  I still see it as a positive thing that I acknowledge the issue and I'm not letting it go, but just have to keep chipping away at it to get it more under my control again.

I'm walking with Ruth S and her new puppy (Jethro) a couple of times a week now as well, and normally an hour at a time, so that is helping the rebuilding of energy levels.

All in all, things are continuing to improve.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Burger Debate

Well, I've been and done it.  I've now sat down with a KFC burger combo, a Junior Whopper combo from Burger King and a Quarter Pounder combo from the golden arches.

I've already expressed my disappointment with the KFC combo and now realise that it is as much to do with the hit and miss moistness of the chicken as much as it is about the lack-of- saliva induced bread issues.  I've experienced the same moistness issues with a 2 piece quarter pack meal - one was absolutely edible because the chicken was moist (a fresh batch or just good luck?), while the other (from the same store) was an absolute effort because the chicken was dry.

So, next off the rank was the BK offering.  And, I'd have to say I was pleasantly surprised.  My only change to the standard menu order was no onion, no pickle and I duly sat down with some anticipation.  The chips were so so - not overly hot - and given the need to try the burger at it's hottest, by the time I got to the remaining chips, they were pretty much cold and not overly pleasant.  The burger was nice and moist and the salad made things a little easier to handle, helping to keep things moist.  I ate it all bar about a finger width of bun.  Overall didn't require too much effort and even at the end the thing was still warm enough to be pleasant.

After that experience, I was looking forward to the McD experience.  You'd think I would have known better, but it's been a year since my last sampling, so I thought they might have improved.  They haven't.  I ordered with the same exclusions and the chips were definitely superior to BK - they were hotter and crispier, so easier on my throat.  The burger was however an unmitigated disaster.  From the first bite it was an effort - a gluggy mess.  What an effort to get through every single mouthful.  After a couple of bites, I removed one of the pieces of "cheese" (given the sorry state of the melted mess, I am perhaps wrongly assuming it was cheese) to see if that made a difference.  It did, making it easier to realise the meat pattie was pretty much textureless and the major cause of the problem.  The other noticeable thing was the lack of any lettuce, tomato etc which had been an added bonus with the BK burger.  Whereas the BK burger was almost totally consumed, I gave up with only 1/2 the quarter pounder eaten.

Now, it would be fair to say this is probably a good thing - too much fast food is bad for you, and I'm not going to deny that.  I'm guilty in my "past life" of eating too much junk food and I've already said I have no intention of falling back into these sorts of bad ways on a routine basis, but I needed to establish what options are available to me - consider it a food science experiment if you must.

So, my totally unscientific experiment has a clear winner - for me, in my circumstances, the undisputed champion is Burger King.  It was easy to "process" and I came away feeling quite satisfied.  The inconsistency of the chicken at KFC rules it out as being too risky / not worth the effort, but I'd still give it second place.  The McD offering was just plain unpalatable and I wouldn't even consider it as an option again, and I was still hungry after eating it!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Some Things Are Just Frustrating

I'll get this off my chest now.  This saliva thing continues to throw out curve balls, and the latest was one I would never have thought about in years.

I had reason to post something at work the other day, and the envelope was of the non-self seal variety.  Have you ever tried to lick the sealing strip when you don't have saliva?  Well I started the task oblivious to the pending problem and quickly got to the "what the" stage.  OK, so what next?  Hmm. trying to tip drops of water out of the water bottle to substitute for saliva wasn't exactly a) easy or b) successful.  For the record, water doesn't work as well as saliva.  Thank goodness for cellotape.  Note to self, only buy self-seal envelopes for home.

And, I'm going to dispel an urban myth today as well.  Pantyhose are not an effective temporary fix for a broken fan belt.  On the way home on Thursday night, the fan belt in the car sucked the kumara and caused some serious overheating (unknown at this time if there is any long term damage to the motor - fingers crossed answer is no).  Service stations these days don't stock such life saving items, so the pantyhose idea sprung to mind.  Well, that was a waste of money.  Seemed to work for maybe 30 seconds before it all turned to custard.  Another note to self - when fan belt on 31 year old car starts looking a  bit dodgy, replace the sucker.

So, what about the recovery, etc?  Well, by in large, things are going really well.  I'm told I'm looking pretty good - my colour is back and I'm not looking so gaunt apparently.  I'm certainly feeling a lot better, but still struggle with energy levels, etc.

Case in point, the boys and I went out last Friday night (25th Feb) and started by going to the driving range to hit a bucket of 50 balls each.  Obviously, this sort of activity didn't feature much during last year, but I was surprised how little strength I had in my arms.  I know technique is more important that brute strength, but my golf abilities are purely social, so technique doesn't really exist.  So, sore arms were the order of the day on the weekend.  

On Sunday, Sharon & Phil came up to remove the remainder of the cursed bamboo and I'd got up early to finally sort out the garden shed.  By the end of the day, with both tasks duly tackled, I was knackered.  Yet, in a perverse sort of way, I was really happy about it.  At last I was getting back into doing things, and despite the discomfort, I know I have to keep pushing the boundaries to get my energy/stamina levels back.

Work has been really quite hectic this week and, again, by pushing myself a little too hard, I "suffer" when I get home by falling asleep in the chair early in the evening.  Despite all my banter about pacing myself, etc regarding work, the reality is I'm buzzing with the current challenges and forget myself at times.  It is so great to be doing this stuff again that I'm somewhat torn between the buzz and looking after myself.

I know the latter has to win through in the end and this week's challenge will be to start balancing/controlling that workload a bit better.

Eating wise, things are still ticking along nicely.  Got back into adding gravy to some of the meals this week and that certainly meant things like chips became more manageable.  Still don't see me having gravy with fish and chips though.  Had this random thought during the week as well regarding, of all things, toad in the hole.  Given it is basically sausage in a dough/yorkshire pudding "base", and given my inability to eat buns, etc (which have a similar texture), does this spell the end of this tasty treat from my food choices?  Moira has agreed to knock one up, so time will tell.  

Also going to try a hamburger at some stage over the weekend, so watch this space on that one.

Have my next appointment with the gang of seven now confirmed - Wed 13th April - so not long to go.  That is only a couple of weeks before the anniversary of the initial confirmed diagnosis, and I see it as another important step on my path forward.