Fingers Crossed – Facing Chemo Again!
No-one was more surprised than myself! I’d been gardening madly to get my huge garden (pictured below) tidy enough to open to raise money for the brilliant Marie Curie Cancer Charity. Then one morning I was putting on some sun cream and felt a knobbly lump on my Collar-Bone (Clavicle to medical buffs). Hence the title “Fingers Crossed – Facing Chemo Again”.
I also had a very achy arm and shoulder, so, being a fairly sensible person, I took myself off to our brilliant MIU unit in Hornsea, (which the NHS, in their wisdom, are about to close) to see a very helpful nurse. It went like this:
Me: “I think that I’ve damaged my collar-bone with too much hectic gardening.”
Nurse: “Do these exercises. Yes, that’s fine, you can move everything about. I don’t think you’ve damaged your collar-bone, and I’d like you to see the doctor next door, at the surgery, straight away, just to make sure.”
Me to Doctor: “I think that I’ve damaged my collar-bone with too much hectic gardening, but the Nurse just wants you to have a look, because of my recent history of fighting Breast Cancer.”
Doctor after looking at my notes on screen: “Yes, I don’t think you have damaged your collar-bone, and we ought to look into this further. I’m going to arrange some x-rays and maybe scans for you, just to make sure. And meanwhile, because you are now 70, please don’t do too much hectic gardening!” And, being a lovely doctor, he told me that he was going to keep his fingers crossed for me as he showed me out into the surgery waiting room.
If you want to see what our garden was like 4 years ago, when we moved in, here is a link.
How thorough my doctor was. X-Rays at the rather swish Beverley Hospital, followed up by a CT Scan at Hull Royal Infirmary, then a trip back to the brilliant Castle Hill Hospital Breast Cancer Unit to have an ultra-sound scan, and to have 2 biopsies (with a local anaesthetic so that I felt nothing when the needle (or whatever they use – I daren’t look) went into my ‘lump’.
Because it was holiday time and bank holidays, I had to wait almost 3 weeks before I could go back to Castle Hill for the results of the biopsies. Finger nails, already wrecked by my garden, were nibbled to minimal. I tried to lose myself in my wonderland filled with friendly blackbirds, who came out to play with me when weeding, and who pinched whatever worms I turned over in the soil. Believe me, I apologised to those worms, and couldn’t bear to watch as the blackbirds devoured them greedily. I planted carrots, radishes, beetroot, garlic, shallots and broad beans. I weeded around my apple, pear, damson and Mirabelle plum trees, then watered, fed and mulched them, feeling like ‘Earth Mother’ again. It took my mind off less pleasant thoughts and the sun shone, and I smiled a lot.
My Hornsea doctor, meanwhile, called me in, to tell me that the results from the CT Scan were very, very good apart from just one little bit, the ‘lump’, which they weren’t sure about! From the tips of my toes up to my collar bone, every single organ, bone, muscle or whatever was good, with no sign of damage, so that was promising.
Feeling fairly cheerful, as I had only just been given my second year of “All Clear” after examination in January of 2017, and I felt fitter than I had done in the last 4 years, still convinced that they were all wrong, we (Erik and myself) returned to Castle Hill Breast Cancer Unit, to be told by a friendly Asian lady doctor that, unfortunately, a tiny bit of the previous cancer must have escaped and swum upwards into my Lymph gland under my collar-bone. Apparently the body realised something was wrong, and it built up this hard bony mass around the ‘lump’, which I had thought was a fractured clavicle!
As we walked out of the Breast Cancer Unit double doors, I looked at Erik, breathed a very heavy sigh and uttered a very unladylike couple of words!! Erik understood.
That was on the Thursday, and they had made an appointment for me the very next day, Friday, at 9.20am, with a specialist doctor in the incredible Oncology unit down the little slope at Castle Hill. How lucky I am to be in their hands. It was this same Oncology unit that I had come to be so ‘at home’ with in 2014, when undergoing my first taste of Chemotherapy and Radiotherapy. I didn’t feel so scared this time – weirdly it was almost like ‘coming home’.
A mixture of the Specialist doctors had talked about the best way to treat my ‘lump’, now a ‘Secondary’ from a Hormone-driven cancer, so Erik and myself sat down as Dr. Joseph proceeded to tell us what was going to happen to me. A fantastic support nurse and come on over from the Breast Cancer unit to help us to understand what was happening, and arrange appointments.
Most important – apparently ‘Secondaries’ can’t be got rid of, totally removed, they just need managing! Sounds a bit scary to me, but I’m not going to dwell on that, much. Chemo first, a different drug from the ones I had before, a slightly ‘kinder’ drug than I had for the Breast Cancer, to shrink the tumour as much as possible, and to contain it. Maybe followed by a bout of Radiotherapy.
Me to self – with fingers crossed: “Been there, done that all before – holds no real terror for me this time – I hope!”
The doctor was charming and so friendly, and listened to all our concerns. He said that I should be around for a few more years, which is what I wanted to hear – to be there for Erik, my sons and all five of my gorgeous grandchildren.
And I want to see the fruits of all my hard labours in the garden – apples, pears, damsons, sloes, berries of all colours and the fruit trees bursting into blossom in late spring. What was a jungle of a garden now being tamed by me and Erik into a bulb and flower-filled little paradise for us and the birds and the bees, not forgetting our expanding Kitchen Garden, which should be overflowing with tasty, fantastic salads, vegetables and all things good to eat. This garden is giving me strength and peace, and tranquility, as well as keeping me fit.
So, eight weeks after me, at my age, doing a very stupid five-hour stint, on my hands and knees, to weed a large area of our garden, and wondering why my arm and shoulder ached so much, I now know why.
I don’t like it, but I’m not going to waste energy thinking bad thoughts about “Why me – again,” all my energy is going towards, hopefully, me just ‘going with the flow’, staying as healthy and calm as possible and looking forward to some fairly gentle gardening, lots of book reading and very healthy eating. Lots of lovely, tasty recipes to write up on the blog as well. And, not forgetting, the odd glass of Prosecco!
Just to say that I hope that this Fingers Crossed – Facing Chemo Again may help anyone going through the same or similar predicament, and, to be honest, none of the things I have had done over the last few years has caused pain to my body – the odd prick to get the cannula in my hand when having the Chemo drugs administered is all I ever felt. The way I got through it last time, and how I will this time, is for me to just embrace the warm feeling that I am being looked after by such good, knowledgeable doctors and nurses, and I’m in very good hands. But, being me and a little selfish, I hope that some of you will keep your fingers crossed for me as well.