I’ve been busy these last few months. I know it’s a lame excuse for my lack of activity on the blogging front but as some of you have been asking for more updates, here goes. You’ve only yourself to blame for the following unconnected ramblings!
Last month, I had my pre-op. It’s a bit like going through check in. Body weighed instead of bags. Blood extracted instead of cash. And questions. Loads and loads of questions. And a serious amount of form filling. So to distract me I decided to approach it as if I was ordering from an inflight menu and ticked enthusiastically;
No to CJD, Hepatitus or MRSA
Yes to ever having a serious illness
No to recreational drugs
Yes to not being shy on the legal ones
All fairly reassuring so far, until I came to one question which got me a little jittery;
“Is there anything else the surgeon or anaesthetist should know?”
Well, I can confess to having done a fair bit of swotting on abdominal surgery and watched entire episodes of Holby City, but I wouldn’t yet consider myself qualified to fill in any gaps in their knowledge. How flattering. Or worrying.
Anyway all this activity is the precursor for a procedure called the Hartmann reversal. Procedure; an innocent enough word you might say, but one which nonetheless takes on sinister connotations when mentioned in the same breath as hospital. But, if you allow me strip away the veil of medical mystery; what we have here ladies and gentlemen is a procedure for a new working bum.
Yes, you did read that right. I am getting a new bum for my birthday this year. You might want to read this next bit on an empty stomach or at the very least take your hand out of that biscuit jar. Think of it as your “going on a new year’s diet with Rachel” resolution. Other diets are available, but my idea of a diet is to go and get myself some major bowel surgery and reverse all this good work that some chap called Hartmann invented.
I don’t know if you were expecting this degree of medical over-share when you opened up this blog, but since I assume you didn’t tune in to read all about the latest animal flavoured cocktails on the market (if I am wrong, please accept my sincere apologies for having mislead you so far) you can always scan a bit further down or just run with this one.
You may remember, my surgeon kindly removed part of my recto-sigmoid colon where the tumour was and capped the remaining rectal remnant inside me and re-routed the rest of my bowel to form a colostomy. He is now promising to try and locate the forgotten bit leading to my bum and join it back together with the other bit. With a staple gun. He plans to do this by keyhole surgery, but this will depend on how much scar tissue (or marshmallow fluff) I have created. If he can’t see what’s going on, he will slice me open and that will be a bit of a pain as so far bits of liver, gall bladder and bowel have all made their exits through tiny incisions. So it would be a shame to mess up the dot to dot patterns now. We will have to wait and see.
Still with me? Jolly good, the next bit is easier I promise. A few missing weeks and months of medical shenanigans and then we’re done.
I have had a couple of CT scans. First one unscheduled and brought about by my thankfully overzealous surgeon who wanted to check out in his words “if the cancer had spread to my lungs or rib bones” after an uncomfortable few weeks which turned out to be costochondritis (inflammation of the bits that join your ribs to your sternum). Some things however you just can’t un-hear and so naturally the 7 days waiting for results were a bit unnerving. Not to say uncomfortable as my surgeon decided to also throw in a mammogram for fun.
Having gotten away with a clear on both fronts he launched straight into my annual colonoscopy. The man was on a mission. And as I still hadn’t erased the shock from my last and only one, I begged him to shovel as many sedatives as he could into me and to my relief he obliged and administered a dose that would have rendered Michael Jackson catatonic. It was nice though. And even nicer to hear my bowel was still clear and in good enough working order for him to consider a reversal operation.
And the clincher was my 6 month CT scan a couple of weeks ago which also came back “no evidence of disease!”. So I am delighted (under statement) to be still in remission and intend to keep it that way.
I even risked getting my teeth checked out and buffed up. So my dear readers; this body is as good as it now gets! Or it will be in a few days.
In-between trips to hospitals, I somehow managed 3 months back at work and plenty of knees up with dear friends old and new. One such outing started out as a virtual party on Twitter one Friday night and ended up with a promise to go ‘retro’ and meet in the flesh resulting in a 2 day bender in October. I believe they call it a ‘Tweetup’.
We were all curious to know what would happen once we stepped out from behind our avatars and confronted the real life versions. Would we instinctively reach for a hashtag after each sentence? Or perhaps try to “favourite” someone, or retweet a comment? One of our friends did try to do the finger and thumb push out thing on the printed menu, but other than that we spent the time doing flesh and blood things like hugging and laughing.
Over the past year and more, we have all formed extraordinary bonds on twitter and it’s been truly wonderful meeting people we would never normally come into contact with.
One of these encounters was with a new dear friend, Dr Robin Hesketh (a research scientist in the field of cancer and a member of staff at the Biochemistry Department in Cambridge and a Fellow of Selwyn College) who answered my original plea for distractions during chemo with a request to be his reviewing editor on his blog www.cancerforall.wordpress.com. We kept each other amused and distracted and eventually met up a few weeks ago in Cambridge. I left with an orchid, a book on understanding genes and a few extra IQ points. Whereas Robin left empty handed with a look somewhere between shock and bewilderment and no doubt a deep desire to be the owner of a time machine allowing him to reverse fast and erase his question “So tell me more about yourself. Why are you single? Have you ever been married?” So please repay his patience by checking out his excellent book on cancer for novices called Betrayed by Nature http://www.amazon.co.uk/Betrayed-Nature-Cancer-MacSci-ebook/dp/B0074H8IXS/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1357056461&sr=8-1.
Anyway that’s enough nonsense from me for a while. None of this good news would be possible without the enduring support and love from my dearest family and friends who have spent the last year walking each step with me and have a further few weeks to get through before I let them off the hook! My Son seemed upset last night when I mentioned I was going back into hospital for this operation and told me to make sure I didn’t overdo it and to look after myself and stay in for the whole day or maybe a night. I will leave you to picture the expression on his face when I reminded him I will be in hospital for about a week.
Righto, I’ll be off then. Tomorrow I will again put on those paper knickers, tight socks and the gaping back gown, sign the victim consent form, hear the long litany of things that could go wrong and pray my surgeon still has steady hands and is hangover free!
A happy, healthy and compassionate new year to you all x