Today I had my fiftieth appointment at the hospital! I had to go in to the Ricky Grant (chemo) Unit to have my port flushed – if a port is not being used, it has to be flushed every six weeks. While I was there, I saw Dr. Lo, my oncologist, briefly as she rushed through, and I had a quick word about the port and she said she would chase up the radiologist, Dr. Isaacs, who had installed it for me, to see when it could be removed
When I arrived at the unit I was greeted with smiles, whoops of joy, hugs, lots of “How are you’s” and “You look so WELL!” from everybody, which was just great! They were all so pleased to see me, and I’d been looking forward very much to going back, as they are such a great crowd. This time I went armed with a big box of the buns I’d made, and also a dozen cards for them to sell. I said to Emma, the receptionist, that the buns were first and foremost for the chemo-ites but if there were a few left, she and the nurses could fight over them, and she said that she wouldn’t tell them but would scoff the lot, haha! The nurses within earshot responded as one would expect! As it happened, there were enough left for the afternoon intake of people having treatment, so Emma found a plate to put them on so I could take the box home. The staff were delighted with the buns and the cards.
I wasn’t kept waiting long, and had Trisha, a lovely nurse, to flush the port, and we had a good laugh. Liz, another nurse, was on duty, which was great, because I hadn’t seen her for ages, and she took my mind off the needle going into my port, by showing me some photos of her first grandchild, a little boy, now three weeks old – I said she should win the glamorous granny award because she looks about 30!! I simply couldn’t believe she was a granny!
After this, we made a quick dash up to Hutchings Ward, the colo-rectal and stoma outpatient department, and I dropped off the print-out of the Bristol Ileostomy Output chart that someone on the stoma forum had come up with – she said it was all very well having the Bristol Stool Chart but it didn’t quite cover what we ileostomates have to deal with! (I first heard of the Bristol Stool Chart while I was in hospital, from one of the nurses, and I thought it was a joke – but no, it’s real… Someone has actually poked around in people’s poo and graded it according to its appearance!) I had tweaked it a bit because the person who did it originally, just put new pictures over the old ones and it needed a bit of tidying up, and I added the famous quote that someone else on the forum came up with, which caused a huge amount of amusement! I also gave the stoma nurse a CD with the jpg of the chart on it, so they can print out further copies if they want. She said it was a very good idea. (Look away at this point if you are squeamish lol!!)
We then went down to the hospital restaurant for a light lunch. It is called the “Bay View” restaurant but I call it the “Bay Glimpse” because all you see of the Bay is a tiny little triangle, and I think “Bay View” is overplaying it somewhat! We sat with a friend from where we used to live, who had been in having a further scan for her cancer – she was amazingly cheerful and philosophical over a cancer which is probably going to kill her, although the chemo she has had, has stopped it growing any larger for now. It was so lovely to see her again, and she was another one who remarked on how well I was looking.
Actually, I am continually surprised by the cheerfulness of people with cancer, and the amazing strength of the human spirit. I feel very privileged to have entered their world and met so many amazing people.
After lunch we made a quick dash down to the Lodge (the cancer drop-in and info centre run by Macmillan’s) to arrive in time for the monthly relaxation session they run. It was a lovely session, and for the first time, two gentlemen joined us – they weren’t sure what to expect, but found us to be a friendly lot, and they were soon at ease, because once cancer people get together, they don’t feel so alone, but realise that we are all in the same boat, and they don’t have to feel that what they have to say might be silly or upsetting, because we all share the same feelings and fears, and we all understand. I suppose because I’d had such a busy week and was tired, I was so relaxed during the session that I did doze off a bit! The lady who leads it has such a soothing voice, and we have a relaxation music disc playing softly, and the lights are dimmed. It is a lovely experience.
For the first time for ages, all of the Allerton Three were there – myself and the two friends I made when we were on Allerton Ward after our bowel cancer surgery. Afterwards we sat in the lounge downstairs, with another lady who had been at the session, chatting over coffee, until my hubby came to collect me. It was sooo good to catch up again and have a good laugh! At one point I mentioned my recent procedure to clean out my rectal stump, and one of them said, “That sounds like something to do with car engines” and I said “rectal STUMP, not SUMP!” and we all fell about laughing! We always have such a good laugh together, and of course, the conversation was dominated by the subject of poo. What else.
We talked about how the cancer had impacted our lives, and we all agreed that it had changed us and how we look at life – a change for the better, I have to say. Being the only one who ended up with a stoma, I also said that from a physical point of view I was now much better than previously – without the cancer, I’d still have been struggling with life with ulcerative colitis, and now that my colon has been removed, I am in control of my body, and much prefer having Kermit and his bag than being a butt-crapper – they all laughed like anything when I called them that!!!
We have made a date for a girls’ lunch out, at the beginning of February. This is going to be such fun!
After this we went home, and I was so tired after our busy day, and what has turned out to be a very busy week, so I went to sleep for an hour of so before having to get up and get the evening meal.
It might seem strange to have had such an enjoyable time at the hospital, but it’s the people that count! One of the Allerton Three said to me that it sounds funny, but she actually enjoyed being in hospital with us two! I know exactly what she meant. Today I was back in the happy atmosphere of the Ricky Grant Unit, chatting with the nurses, and giving out buns to the people receiving their treatment, and I had lovely conversations with a couple of them, and one of them knew several people that I knew, in the world of embroidery. She was working on a small sampler piece while having her treatment and this was the way into the conversation. I am planning on going in on an irregular basis, when time and energy and lifts from my hubby permit, and when the spring weather comes, if I can manage to get there on my buggy, so much the better. Small gifts and treats are so appreciated and brighten people’s day – I was surprised how many people thought they had to pay for the buns but I said no, they were just a little treat to be enjoyed. It is so lovely to be able to bring a smile to someone’s face and it costs so little to do it, and make someone’s day – the whole experience of today has “made my day” in an amazing way. I never thought getting cancer could bring so much happiness!