Saturday, April 30, 2011

Happy Birthesary

Today is my Birthday.  It is also exactly one year since they put me on the operating table to confirm the cancer diagnosis.  Today is a good day.

Firstly, because I'm still here.  Secondly, because they aren't operating on me on my birthday again. Thirdly, and arguably most importantly, I'm healthy again - we beat the sucker!

So much has happened in the last year, that it is quite easy to overlook  and/or perhaps trivialise what I've been through.  Some of that is selective amnesia - I don't want to remember the real scary bits.  Other bits are merely because they were like collateral damage and seem like incidental to the overall journey, although they did in fact play a major part in the overall scheme of things.

I do have to acknowledge that however you look at it, the last 12 months have been tough.  Not just for me, but also for those who effectively put their own lives on a holding pattern to support me through the treatment and recovery.  I can't thank you enough for doing that for me.

It is also appropriate to once again thank the army of medical people who have been in my corner, and still continue to be there to ensure there are no nasty surprises still lurking.  Tatiana could almost be considered my guardian angel - I am extremely lucky she picked up the lesion so early and got the ball rolling so quickly.  The specialists, blood & cancer unit team, district nurses, et al have all been absolutely top notch.  They definitely got me through some scary bits and theirs is a job I don't think I'm strong enough to do.  Dealing with people on a daily basis who are facing the totally indiscriminate, uncaring, many faced disease that is cancer, takes a very special type of person.  You guys & girls rock.

Today is a good day, and to keep the positive mood, I have decided to merely look at the major affects of the last 12 months, instead of dwelling on the journey.

On the negative side: Saliva gland and hearing losses, ongoing anxieties.
On the positive side: Hard not to consider the weight loss here, I have a new appreciation of the importance of both life and family, I now understand the need to and importance of putting yourself first sometimes, I got my wisdom teeth removed free of charge, I know that morphine is really as good as they say, I've got some cool "war" stories, I'm one of the lucky ones to get a second chance and did I mention, we beat the bugger!

So a resounding win to the positives.  Although some might argue the merits of some of the positives I raise, it's my list, so my decision is final.

While I have no desire to go through any of this again, in it's own way it has been a very worthwhile journey because I know I'm a better person now than I was before, both mentally and physically.

They say some events change our life.  Well, I've had my life changing event and it's all uphill from here.

Today is actually better than good, it's a great day and signals the start of a new year with a much brighter future than the last.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Tight Isn't Always Good

For the last few weeks I've been going to an osteopath to try and get my body loosened up.  

As a result of so many months of inactivity and having to sleep in a semi-upright position, the muscles in my neck and shoulders became super tight and a source of frequent discomfort and/or pain.

I already knew the body has some wonderful defence mechanisms and on occasion I've been really happy about that, but this is a case where these defences have contributed to and continue to add to the overall problem.

Seems the body doesn't really like foreign objects being inserted.  No surprises there.  My brain was obviously forgiving of Jake - for the greater good and all that - but, it seems the message either didn't get through to other parts of my body that it was OK, or it was ignored.  Either way, with Melissa's help, we're now trying to loosen things up, but are struggling to make significant headway.  

It seems that as one area is targeted, there is always some other complicating factor just waiting to negate any benefits I should be getting.

As an example, it seems as a result of the stomach peg and sleeping position, my organs have been "moved around" a tad around the diaphragm area and we need to try and release some of the tension, etc around there before the other muscles "directly" looking after the neck and shoulders will respond.  Seems this "relocation" is partially to blame for my slightly stooped posture - everything is pulling me into that slightly hunched position.

Great.  This isn't going to be a quick fix and despite buying into the exercises Melissa has me doing, the relief tends to be reasonably short-lived at the moment.  Making things more frustrating/challenging is she is having to continually reassess what needs to be attacked first.

And to round it all off, it seems that as my impaired immune system works on getting rid of my sniffles, the natural defences react by (you guessed it) tightening muscles up in the chest area. 

It just goes to show you, things are never as simple as they seem.  I honestly thought sorting out this muscle tightness would be quite a quick fix, but I certainly appreciate, yet again, just what a complex engineering marvel the body is and you can't rush things.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Wanted: Off Switch

It's been just over a week since my last clinic visit, and it's only a week or so until I have my next appointment with the dental guys to take a nitrous oxide assisted look at things.

While out walking today, one thought came to mind almost instantly when thinking about both situations - I need an anxiety off switch.

No matter how much good news I get about the outcome of my battle, the reality is I get a spontaneous feeling of anxiety for a couple of days before each appointment.  The truth is I still worry about what could be about to happen news wise.  That might be a perfectly normal reaction in the circumstance, but with the first anniversary of the confirmed diagnosis also only a week away, I would have hoped I'd be starting to feel more self-reassured that I really have dodged a bullet and things will only continue to get better.

And, to some degree, that is indeed true - until that period just before the next appointment.  On a "normal" daily basis, I'm happy to just get on with it and I strive to make the most of the second chance I'm currently living.  But, when those appointments come into view, it all goes out the door and the anxiety kicks back in.  All a good dose of PMA does is dull the anxiety, it can't make it go away.

To make things worse, I now have a new anxiety catalyst, lucky me.  In my medically induced isolation last year, I didn't have to worry about colds and flus.  If anybody had the slightest sniffle, they stayed away from me.  Last week, the "joy" returned and I got what I thought was a dose of the sniffles.  After chasing a runny nose all weekend, I stayed at home on Monday, but just couldn't get warm.  Even now, the sniffles haven't fully gone away.  So what is the anxiety trigger?  Just what is the state of my immune system now -has it recovered, will it ever fully recover, just how careful do I need to be?

Usually, I'd shake a cold in a day or two, very rarely did a more severe winter ailment keep me away from the office for more than the same period.  Yet, this seemingly trivial bout of the sniffles just won't go away.  Needless to say I'm now taking medication to try and dry up my runny nose, but is this just symptomatic of what is going to be an ongoing issue and how will I cope with a real good dose of a proper flu?

I know I'm potentially feeding my own anxiety, but the reality is after what I've been through, I'm inclined to take health matters somewhat more seriously than I used to.  For instance, I feel the cold more now than I used to and tend to be rugged up more so than others around me, but I don't care, I need to keep my body temperature where I'm comfortable.  So, I already sort of know things aren't quite right yet, but all that doesn't make it any easier.

I suppose, when you cut to the chase, I'm still learning about the new normal and some of it isn't as easy to cope with as I'd first thought.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Another Tick In The Box

Today was Gang of 7 day and it provided another tick in the box as far as my recovery goes.

Mr Hamilton is still happy with things and he even managed to get a look at my tonsils - a first for him.  He was a tad concerned I had not put on any weight since the last clinic (I think I've actually lost a little, but now stabilised), but once I explained I was eating properly, doing exercise ,regaining strength and feeling pretty damn good overall, he was OK.

And, the real kicker - he is going into battle to get my hearing sorted.  He doesn't understand the delays and was quite vocal about they should just get the hearing aid(s) sorted to overcome the nerve damage done by the treatment.  They can't undo the damage, but they can at least do something to mitigate it as much as possible and make it more tolerable for me.

Good result all round.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

17cm is a lot

6.7 inches in the old lingo actually, but what has that got to do with this blog?

Well, I got my suit out of the closet the other day and decided to try it on.  The jacket still fits quite well, perhaps a tad loose, but still an acceptable fit.  The trousers, however, were quite another issue.  You see, the 17 cm is the difference in waist size between the suit pants and my current "apparel" - I'm that much smaller around the waist than I used to be.

While there was no disputing I'd lost weight and am now wearing smaller sized pants, the full impact has been masked somewhat as it has been somewhat of a gradual progression - I'd buy new jeans along the way that didn't fall off me and it was just a case of them being a size or so smaller than the last ones.

The full 17cm difference as such a visual exercise was a bit of a shock - but also rather pleasing to be fair.

So, the mission for this weekend is to journey off to the suit shop and see if I can get a pair of correctly sized trousers to match the jacket.  I'd hate to have to buy a whole new suit, but if I had to, it would be another outward symbol of how much my life (and body) has changed as a result of my little battle.