The second of two posts for today. Please scroll down to see my latest Florabunda card collection – worth seeing as the Perfect Pearls are just gorgeous!
I have posted an edited entry from my Cancer Diary page into the main blog because it is such an important event, and I know that not everybody visits the Cancer Diary. Edit: I have been experiencing problems with Blogger (again…) and am unable to post from Blogger’s editor so my latest Cancer Diary page has not yet been updated. Unfortunately I cannot post to any page except the Home Page on my blog from Windows Live Writer, which is my preferred blog editor. Further edit: I have now discovered that this is a problem with Firefox. I can successfully publish posts to my Cancer Diary page if I use Chrome – not my preferred browser, so I am hoping Firefox will resolve this issue in double quick time!
I keep being quite overwhelmed by the fact that today I had my final chemo session! I wonder when I am going to wake up and find that it is not true and that I still have loads to get through... Recently I got really fed up with feeling ill all the time, and wondered if I'd ever get through it but the time has simply raced away, and suddenly I was facing the final session.
I had to wait for nearly an hour before being seen, but in the end this was a blessing in disguise (more later). I was taken in and prepared for the chemo as usual, and then went into the treatment bay. I began by eating the lovely packed lunch my hubby had so kindly made for me, and continued through the afternoon with a combination of a bit of colouring for my Florabunda card project, reading my book, and doing part of a puzzle, and chatting with some really lovely people. One lady told me she’d recently had a colostomy and wasn’t dealing well with it. I had a chat with her and said that how she felt did not alter the fact of it being part of her life, and that a change of attitude would really help her. I shared my story, and also gave her quite a few hints that I have learnt along the way. I got some nice feedback from one of the nurses later, that this lady had found the conversation very helpful. I shall be very happy if any of my experiences over the past year can be used to help others even in a small way.
The atmosphere is so friendly on the unit and even people whose cancer is terminal have the most amazing upbeat attitude and are full of smiles, and the resolution to make the absolute best of whatever life remains to them, and everyone emphasises the importance of family, of love, of appreciating each and every day, of counting one's blessings - all those things that money cannot buy, and which are of infinite worth. All attitudes and thoughts I have been cultivating over the past months! The nurses are also all amazing, and the clerical staff too - there is a lot of laughter in what is a happy place, despite the seriousness of its raison d'etre. Logically, it should be a place of doom and gloom and depression, but the resilience of the human spirit, and love and caring, make it quite otherwise.
My hubby arrived while I still had about a quarter of an hour of chemo infusion to go, and then I saw the machine count down from one minute to zero, and my final beeps began, and I raised all my imaginary flags! The nurse who had been looking after me today, came and did all the necessaries to finish my treatment, and I was free to go.
By this time, because of the delay at the start, all the other patients had gone, and the nurses were not all rushing around being ultra-busy, so I got my phone out and said I wanted some photos of me with them all. They were all very enthusiastic about the idea, apart from one who wailed, "I haven't got any makeup on!!" in very good humour, and was instantly shouted down, in equally good humour and a lot of laughter ("We haven't got time to wait two hours..." "I've got some permanent markers in my locker..." etc. etc.!!) We called Emma, my favourite desk clerk of the team who work on reception, and she came and joined in the photo shoot too.
Here are the photos I took of the Ricky Grant Day unit (looking very strange with no patients!) - you will see what a lovely place it is, and how they have gone to a lot of trouble to introduce restful pastel shades, and a lot of pale wood panelling, to make it look less "hospitally." The first photo shows the corner of the reception desk, looking down the further corridor, which has doors off to the right with separate treatment rooms, some of which have couches in them for people to rest on while they have their chemo. You can see the drip trolleys on the left, which are used for the treatments.
Looking back the other way from reception, you can see the wide corridor that also serves as the waiting area. As usual in every hospital waiting room I have ever been in, there are NO spaces to park wheelchairs, with the result that I ALWAYS feel as if I'm in the way! I have written this on numerous feedback sheets but so far nothing has happened to remedy this - considering how many disabled people attend hospitals, I think this is quite an oversight. On the far right of the foreground of this photo you can see the large rubbish bin, the space in front of which has become my favoured parking place! (Make of that what you will, lol!)
Behind the seats in the waiting area are two wide gaps giving access into the two treatment bays. The next picture shows the first one, where I have always gone. On the right, between the windows, you can see a low dividing wall which separates the two areas. The second area has a wide-screen TV on the wall. It looks very odd with no patients sitting in the chairs (you can see one of the recliners in the corner - my preferred seating as they are very comfortable, and the other chairs certainly are not - at least for me!), and the occasional tables which have jars of sweets for people to suck to take away the horrible taste of the chemo. Along the wall, on the white strip, are numerous power points to plug in the drip machines.
Here is Emma, my favourite reception clerk, at the desk. If you look carefully it looks as if she's got three arms. This is because one of the nurses was hiding behing her, unbeknownst to her, and raising two fingers above her head, which you can just see if you look very carefully! Lol!
Finally, here is the group shot my hubby took. I am leaning back with my arms around the two nearest to me, and I look so FAT!!! (OK, I AM fat, but not as fat as I used to be!) You can see how happy everybody looks.
I was sorry that several of the lovely nurses who have looked after me over the past six months were not present today. I shall be emailing one of them with the photo so that she can pass it on to the others. They were all exceptional people, so friendly and encouraging and helpful, and efficient in their work - so sad that they are so busy because there is so much cancer about. They are unfailingly cheerful, remember our names, and give us the very best treatment. As we were leaving, Emma gave me a questionnaire to fill in about what I felt about my treatment, and I gave them a five-star rating on every count, and in the comments section, said that if chemo could ever be considered to be fun, it would be, given the nature of the truly wonderful staff on the unit, and that they all deserved a gold medal with diamonds on it. When I started writing, they all started chipping in with remarks like, "I (Emma) am the most efficient clerk on the unit," and "I am the best nurse," and "I am the most beautiful nurse" etc. etc.!!! Eventually I cried out "Stop! If I start writing that I'll forget someone and they will get upset" lol! We had such a good laugh.
Although I am absolutely 100 percent delighted that my chemo is now finished, I am going to miss going to Ricky Grant and receiving such loving and caring treatment. I shall be going back, though - I have an appointment in six weeks' time for port flushing and bloods, and will probably be returning in the future for further blood tests until I am guaranteed clear of the cancer, so I shall be seeing them all periodically, just not on such a regular basis.
I also want to make more things for the chemo people. I have been thinking about this, and while I simply love to give things away, and would be happy to continue to do this, it occurred to me that if I charged a token amount for each item, the gift would be a double wammy, because the recipient would have something nice to treasure without breaking the bank, and the unit would benefit from more much needed funds, so that they can continue to give others the excellent care that I have received. There is a box on the reception desk with cards in it that people have made, and I could certainly do some for them in my own style, and I could make other items too. I have gained so much from my six months' attendance on the unit and it would be a nice way to put something back, and also an opportunity to call in every now and then and catch up with everybody.
My hubby took me home after this, and I really wasn't feeling too bad. I managed to eat a nice evening meal, and while I do feel slightly peculiar, and have had a little peripheral neuropathy in my hands after touching something cold, it is not there in a big way and I haven't resorted to my gloves. Like last time, I may find that week 1 is pretty good, and I may crash again in week 2, but we shall see.
I think that already, the effects are less severe because my whole attitude has changed now that the treatment has finished. I am feeling so good that phase 3 of my journey is now at an end (phase 1 being preparation for surgery and then the actual operation and hospital stay; phase 2 being learning to manage Kermit, my stoma, and phase 3 being the chemo). Phase 4 can now be called "the recovery phase" when I can really concentrate on getting well. I am convinced that I am going to be OK now; they are all very optimistic at the hospital that all the cancer has gone. I shall do my best with eating the right foods to help my body expell the residue of toxic chemicals from my system, and my positive attitude and determination will also help me along the way.
What a journey this has been! Phase 4 will include the CT scan and further blood tests in the next 4-6 weeks, and then ongoing for the next five years. At some point I shall have to go in to have the port removed, but they will most likely leave it in for a while until they are sure it won't be needed any more, and this means I shall have to return to the Ricky Grant unit for it to be flushed every six weeks if it has not been used. However, during phase 4, I shall be concentrating on getting my life back on track at home, and gradually taking on my previous roles on the domestic front, relying on my hubby on the days when I am feeling not so good - he has had plenty of practice and I am sure he won't mind stepping into the breach when necessary. I am not intending to rush into doing too much and setting myself back, but I shall be sensible and continue to listen to my body.
Amazingly, today, the "Daily Blessing" in my side bar has come up with this:
Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.