Monday, 30 November 2009

Bad Bruce!

With Nick gone my days seem vaguely pointless. On Saturday I slept until six in the evening. I hauled my bum out of bed just in time to get over to Marylebone for a slap-up thanksgiving dinner courtesy of Ted, who is a native of San Francisco. Chilli greets me at the door with Iris hot on her heels. Unlike me, Iris is not Nick’s biggest fan so I haven’t seen much of her in the past few weeks. Well every cloud has a deep purple lining, I hope that Iris and Chilli will reappear in my social windscreen between now and Christmas.

Dinners at Mayhem Mansions are nothing if not eclectic. The food is ever a hotchpotch and the guests seem to be hand picked with the sole criterion being that they must have absolutely nothing in common. Saturday night ran true to form. A bunch of assorted strangers sat down to the traditional American Thanksgiving dinner of roast turkey, mashed sweet potato and gravy along with Muttiah’s Malaysian cabbage avec chilli and anchovies. Amongst the gang was a very old friend of mine, Esmond, an elderly actor. It turned out that he is the brother of Ted’s boss. Ain’t this world a small place? Esmond and I are now facebook friends. I couldn’t help feeling strangely lonely in the crowd. My heart lifted when I received a text from Nick letting me know that he had landed in Hong Kong.

On Sunday I had morning tea with Flossie. “How’re you doing?” she asked. I took this as an invitation to let rip with a mudslide of whingeing... from “I’m so tired,” to “I’m worried about not having any work, how am I going to afford to be away in Australia for so long?” to “I don’t know what to do about Tamoxifen.” As a professional psychotherapist Flossie is able to let all that kind of nonsense wash over her. But the decent thing to do would be to fork over £45 for the 30 minutes she endured. Instead, Flossie told me that I shouldn't be thinking about working whilst I'm recuperating from cancer treatment, then paid for my tea.

After that I retreated to the couch. I slept through Everton v Liverpool, Arsenal v Manchester United and some other football match, woke up, Skyped Nick and then went to bed. I awoke at ten this morning to the phone ringing. It was Ben.

“I feel so bad for sleeping all the time,” I moan, “how am I going to get my life back together?” Ben suggested that I stop worrying, sleep as much as I like but get some exercise. “Put on those crazy walking shoes and get out of the flat,” he said. I pull on my red beret, buckle up my MBTs and stride out into the rain lashed streets of NoGo, as Flossie long ago christened the area North of Golborne Road. I stride on as far as the Oporto café and then break for mint tea and a custard nata. “Got to build my strength up gradually,” I sensibly advise myself.

The walk definitely perks me up though. I decide to revert to my tried and proven Modus Operandi of time commitment. That is to say small actions taken on a daily basis. I have a daunting list of things to do before I leave for Australia. Just looking at the list is enough to propel me straight onto the couch. But if I commit myself to doing just two things a day, then I will easily have it all completed in time.

After my walk I feel mentally strong enough to broach the latest bit of lunacy from the Department of Work and Pensions: a fifty page form that they have sent me to fill in. I’m getting smart about this now. I know better than to tackle the DWP myself. That usually ends with me sobbing hysterically in a heap after being given the run-around for half a day or so by at least three different people who each present a different version of reality.

I call the MacMillan Benefits Helpline and speak to Kerry. She is mystified as to why the DWP would send me such a form. She agrees to call them on my behalf. Half and hour later she calls me back to say that she has spoken to a chap at the DWP who did not know why they sent me the form. She is now awaiting a call from someone else and will let me know just as soon as they contact her. Needless to say I do not hear from her again for the rest of the day.

It’s Monday so it’s back to Harley Street for me. Now, here’s a clothing tip for those currently going under the zap. I have found that I really only want to wear clothes that are soft, loose and easy to take off and put on again. I made the mistake of wearing a bra last week. “It’s soft lace with no underwires’” I thought, “so it will be fine.” Two hours later it felt as though a hedgehog was snuggling up to the underneath of my left breast. I had to pop into a public loo, remove the bra and stash it in my handbag. I spent the rest of the day trying to be sure not to pull my bra out of my bag and blow my nose on it. Right now I’m in love with a soft grey jersey dress I got from Me & Em. It’s lined, so it’s warm and soft on my irradiated skin. I wear it with leggings so I can just peel off the dress and still be half decent when lying on the bench. If I had two, I would never be seen in anything else. For days when the grey dress is in the wash I have an orange jersey trapeze dress from H&M. It looks fab with purple or teal blue thick tights.

Today I am ushered into the presence of Bruce II. I strip to the waist and in a trice I am on the bench with my arms aloft. It is the thirteenth session so I’m more than half-way through the treatment. To celebrate, radiographers Laura and Susie are going to take an x-ray of my chest.

The green laser beams flash, the readings are cross-checked and the radiographers leave the room. I listen as the lead lined door whooshes and clunks shut. Bruce II extends an arm with an x-ray film plate attached to it. There is a click, followed by a long silence. Nothing...

Then I hear the chunking of the heavy door mechanism disengaging. Susie rushes in. “Don’t move” she says. The x-ray arm won’t retract so I’m going to have to do it manually.” I do not move my head but out of the corner of my eye I can see that Susie is fiddling and pushing but getting nowhere. I feel an itch on my right temple. Laura comes in to assist Susie with the fiddling. The itching strikes up all along the underside of my shoulder. “Why don’t you get a big stick and give it a whack?” I suggest in a helpful fashion. “That’s exactly what I was thinking,” replies Susie.

As if to pay me out for my unkind thoughts, stabbing pains begin shooting up my left arm followed by pins and needles in my hands. I close my eyes and visualise myself walking on the beach. I hear the rhythmic swooshing of waves gently breaking. I feel the dry sand scrunching beneath my toes. Warm sunshine caresses on my shoulders. Unaccountably, I see myself dressed in a long turquoise print silk robe by the Barcelona designer Custo.I’m told that I will have to protect my breast from exposure to the sun for the rest of my life. When I get to Sydney Nick is planning to take me out shopping for a rashie. That is a ‘rash vest’ or nylon t-shirt with added something that apparently has the quality of protecting one from UV rays. I’ve looked at some rashies on the internet. The one thing that they all seem to have in common is being hideously garish and covered in logos. I silently recite my sankalpa: “I am healthy, I am happy, I am whole, I am sexy, I am prosperous, I am loving, I am loved, I am free!” It’s no good. My arm is definitely about to drop off. “Please may I put my arms down?” I squeak. “Oh, go ahead,” sighs Susie and as I do so, Bruce glides the x-ray plate back into its cavity. We start the procedure again from the beginning.


click31 said...

Hi..I've been reading your blog throughout my chemo, thanks, you make me laugh lot's. I have 2 Taxol left, it's been a long 6 months but I'm nearly there, Xmas eve is my last one!..My head resembles a fluffy peach, I have patchy eyebrows and stumpy lashes but the "Look good feel better" people taught me some tricks to help..took a while to get the hang of the eyebrow stuff, had a few scary Alice Cooper moments.. I have surgery after Xmas, mastectomy & full lymph node clearance, then R/T after that, am following your progress through it avidly and am thinking of names for my machine already.. I can also relate to your self employed issues..I am soooo skint, the DWP sent me on a "back to work" interview during my 3rd cycle of chemo even though I explained I am self employed and still have another 6/7 months of treatment..then when I'd dragged myself there in my crocs & socks and beanie hat feeling rubbish, they told me there was no need for me to be there...Grrrrr!..The tips I've picked up along the way are..paint nails a dark colour before Taxol..helps hide manky nail syndrome, pear drops, mint chocolate and pesto seem to help with the lack of taste buds..Burts Bee's aloe vera cream is great for my flaky hands..ginger beer for the sickness and my new kittens, Dave & Rita, they have kept me laughing along with an amazing partner (Dan) & friends who have been here all through bringing lovely organic treats and taking me out when the cabin fever sets in..(Sophie even bought me a t-shirt with "I cut my own hair" on it..very funny?)..I lost my Mum 3 years ago to breast cancer and although at 34 I should be a big brave girl I miss her more than ever right now. Anyway I'll stop going on now..I hope the 2nd half of R/T fly's by and you have the most amazing time in Oz..(I'm already planning the after treatment's going to be a good one) Lesley xxxxxx

canalily said...

Thanks for your kind comments. I am speechless at the antics of the DWP. I almost feel that I want to get up a campaign about it or something. But who has the energy for that? I urge you to use the advisors on the MacMillan Benefits Helpline.

Thanks for all the great tips. I will try to share them with the other readers.

Are you the lady who posted lots of great pictures on our facebook page? If so, I though you looked terrific.
Best regards to you, Dan and the kittens,

click31 said...


Yep that was me, I thought I'd have my hair cut off to make the impending baldness less of a shock..I do recommend it but I really liked my new haircut and it was really annoying to loose it..but I suppose it'll get back there quicker.

I'm quite into my bright orange wig at the mo, I'll send a snap over soon..the other pic is of my lovely Mum.

The Tamoxifen issue is also on my mind lot's...and what kind of reconstruction to have in Feb, all these things to think about while suffering a massive case of chemo brain..duh!

Look after yourself,