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Thursday, 19 March 2015

At last, spring is in the air

I heard the first Chiffchaff singing on Tuesday, always a welcome sound in the garden at the end of winter. Every time the sun comes out now there are busy Brimstone butterflies flitting about, flying strongly but never seeming to settle to feed. My front garden is more of an early spring garden than round the back, so as I'm not outside as much as usual, I take delight in watching buzzy things through the window, and seeing the bright colours of the first daffs and the zingy green of the euphorbias.

The only gardening I've done has been of the supervisory kind, but my OH has managed to tidy up most of what I didn't get to do before my surgery. Of course what really needs doing and is not going to get done, is redefining the edges of what is flower bed or border, and what is lawn. This is mostly thanks to the chickens scratching, but at least they had fun, and the garden will have to put up with being more 'rustic' than usual this year.

Out in the wild areas, as I walk around carefully watching my feet, I see little things scuttling around in the leaf litter, which I know are wolf spiders. There are more frequent sightings of honey bees and bumble bees, and a few hoverflies buzzing around the euphorbias. I can't capture any of this, as the only photography I can do is upright and even the weight of my DSLR with a regular lens on it seems quite heavy. The macro lens will have to wait a while. So will getting down and dirty, close up or anything that I'm used to doing when taking shots. But in the spirit of keeping up my garden records, here are a few pictures I've taken.

Health report at the end.

Japonica or Flowering Quince and the ducks.

Wiggly Hazel catkins, always slower to flower than the wild Hazels.

Mirabelle plum in my woodland - we don't get fruit from them
but the early blossom is always welcome!

Celandine walk, not that they show up very well
if I can't get down at their level!

And the Goosegrass/Cleavers are growing already - these are our leaf mould bins, we have 3.
The pallet bin on the left is 2 years old and ready to use, the middle bin is 1 year old
and the other bin is last autumn's leaves.

Hoorah - because I've been slack about pruning my Photinia 'Pink Marble',
I finally have some flower buds on it!

Euphorbia characias and some daffies around the front.

Unfortunately I never got to prune back my Thyme bank after flowering last year so it's a bit
scruffy (the brown mess in the foreground). It should be looking like little green mounds by now.
Oh well.

Euphorbia myrsinitis, flowering already where it's against the wall for shelter.
The stump is the remains of our Acacia which kept getting frosted so had to be taken out. 

Forsythia! There are a few more flowers than this further down.

Oriental Hellebore still going strong after more than a month.

Now this is an oddity. This is the mound with the filter bed in it, but the grass that we sowed has
just sulked and is yellow, short and sparse over the filter bed, yet lush and green elsewhere.
The bigger clumps are self seeded paddock grass, which we didn't mind as the rest of the lawn
is hardly bowling green so it looks better this way.

Probably the worst butterfly photo I've put on my blog, but I didn't have the right camera nor
could I get down lower. But it's a Small White, and wasn't interested in laying eggs on
my brassicas at this time, but feeding on the Dead Nettle and other weeds wildflowers
in the veg patch.

Mr Great Spotted Woodpecker again.

I've been happy to see quite a few Greenfinches recently, as although they were always
common birds in previous gardens of ours, I don't see them here very often!

Healthwise, I guess I'm recovering but it's very slow so doesn't feel like I've improved much, although my OH says I'm walking much better now, which I guess I am. However no chance to moan about my apres surgery as it's straight onto Phase 3 unfortunately. I've got to have six months of chemo. Apparently there were still cancer cells in the two previously infected lymph nodes. The surgeon removed these, along with about 15 lymph nodes in total, and the rest were clear, as was the fried tumour. But to be on the safe side (and he says, because I am YOUNG, haha) they want me to have the standard after surgery chemo in case there are any cancer cells floating about somewhere. They wouldn't show up on a scan as they'd be too small.

So this afternoon I have to go and see an anaesthetist (third bloody time since Sept!), because on Monday I'll be having a quick general anaesthetic to insert a catheter/port thingy through which they'll do the chemo drips. The treatment will be on two consecutive days (about 3 hours each) at the hospital every two weeks, plus on day 2 I have to bring 'a pump thingy attached to the drip' home with me and it gets removed on day 3 by a local nurse (you can see I'm not quite up on the lingo yet). This is all going to start early April. However, much as I hate the idea of another sickly summer, the Oncologist said my survival chances without chemo are about 50-60%, with chemo about 80-90% (presumably that's if there are still cancer cells in me somewhere). So it's a no brainer. Also I need to see a urologist because my bladder is not quite right despite the antibiotics, so might be nerve damage. 

As for the bag and stoma, I've seen the stoma nurse and all is well there and probably the least of my concerns! I have to say my stoma is still a source of endless fascination. Am I weird or what?! Must be a lifetime of British toilet humour that's to blame. :-) Oh yeah, and I've tested PSB and I had no adverse effects or extreme gas, so PSB it is for dinner now. Thank god for that!

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Home at last and photos of me in hospital

Home sweet home! I actually didn't get out until Saturday because I have a urinary tract infection, so I had to wait for the lab analysis and get the right kind of antibiotics for it. It was disappointing, but I knew I wouldn't have been comfortable back home until it was at least semi sorted, and was just glad it wasn't caused by something more sinister. It's quite common after this kind of surgery and/or having a catheter in place, apparently.

Here are some photos taken on my OH's phone of my posh private room. It's a newish hospital with no wards and only single or double rooms anyway, but my level of supplementary health cover meant I could have the top of the range room. I won't bore you with how the system works here, as it's rather complicated, but I was happy to have this room. Here are some pics showing it the evening before my surgery. Even tea and coffee making in the room and a fridge/mini bar! The second photo shows the other end of the room so you can see how big it was.

Several days later here's a pic of me still in intensive care, although I had lost the oxygen tube up my nose by then. Those heart monitors really stick, and I had to get my OH to remove the residual glue with white spirit when I got home. To start with I was linked to an epidural machine, heart monitors, two IV lines for drips, oxygen, a catheter, and drains from my wounds. I think that was it!

I was only without food for two days before they started giving me light meals, but I managed to lose about 5kg (11 pounds) over four days, which is quite incredible (I didn't know my arse was so heavy, haha!). Thankfully I'm slowly putting it back on again.

Three days after surgery I was back in the posh private room, but really noticed the difference in level of care between the normal part of the hospitalisation area and intensive care. But it was great not to have nurses coming in every hour through the night checking on me, cos you don't get much sleep. By this time I was on solid food and getting bigger and bigger meals which were a bit offputting to start with, but I have to say the hospital food was very good, and during my stay I saw more veggies than I've been served in 17 years of eating out or in French peoples' houses. They truly are a bizarre race of people who just don't seem to eat (or serve) vegetables, other than chips and the occasional baked tomato, or if you are lucky, my favourite, pommes de terre dauphinoise, yet all manner of veggies are sold in supermarkets and markets! I still don't know what they do with them....

My family bought me pretty flowers to brighten up my room and I had a nice visit from a virtual friend, who I met on Facebook some while back, as she and her husband were in Rennes visiting their sister in law, who was in another hospital. They brought me yummy chocs. An unlikely manner of meeting someone for the first time, but hopefully in the future we'll have a happier get together in healthier circumstances!

A few days later once I was up on my feet and after I had had a blessed shower and washed and blow dried my hair! I had no idea I was going to be allowed to shower with stitches in, but boy it felt good and I looked and felt human again! In my last four days I started venturing out into the corridors with a physio who got me climbing stairs, which wasn't as hard as I'd imagined. I also had a good walk around in the afternoons when my OH came to visit. One sunny afternoon I even ventured outside to get a few rays of much needed sun.

My Photoshopping friend, the one who did the arse tours graphic, came up with this little gem. :-)

And now back in more familiar circumstances! No I am not working outside, only walking or supervising my OH doing a few garden jobs. I really am incapable so there is no chance of me overdoing anything for the time being. The earliest PSB is sprouting really well, so I supervised cutting a bagful for some friends who are coming to visit this afternoon. We haven't eaten any yet, because all things cabbage related, along with many other veg, are on my list of things which give you gas, to be reintroduced into my diet one at a time. So I'll have a little taste soon, and see how it goes. Even if we don't eat much of it this year, it won't be really wasted, as I'm thinking ahead to when it's in full, glorious flower attracting all manner of bees..... And that's one kind of photography I can do upright, as the flowers grow tall. They are a welcome blast of colour too.

Here's one of the 'Rudolph' variety in full glory. Yes I even took a few photos yesterday, but just using my little P&S camera. I'd forgotten how difficult it is in sunshine without a viewfinder, to see what on earth you are shooting.

Now I just have to take it easy and do as much gentle walking as possible, and get myself better slowly. The only possible blot on the horizon is if I have to have further chemo, but I'm still waiting to hear back on that.

As for my bag? Well it's easy to change and won't be too big a deal, I don't think. My stoma makes some interesting noises and lets rip with some good fart noises occasionally, over which one has absolutely no control (hence being careful of the gas inducing foods), and my belly will never look pretty again and is quite lumpy and swollen at the moment, but I guess it will all settle down eventually. I wasn't going to be wearing a bikini ever again at my age, anyway! I have a special belt like a weight lifting belt to wear for the first month, making me look about five months pregnant, but which provides a good amount of support. I'm in discomfort around the perineal area where I am having my stitches out slowly this week over three sessions by the local nurses, who come out to give me an anti blood clotting jab every evening for 28 days after leaving hospital, and two blood tests a week..... all a bit of a palaver, but the best thing about my op - no pain when I poo any more!!!

By the way, how many people can say that the Mayor of their town or village has looked at their private parts? Well I can, cos guess what, our Maire's (mayor) day job is as a nurse! He's the most gentle of the lot too. No wonder they voted him in as our mayor!

Monday, 2 March 2015

Hospital is boring!

This is a quick note via my Kindle to let you know I'm on the other side and slowly healing up. I spent 3 days in intensive care, then when I was moved back to my posh private room in the normal area, I could not connect to the internet due to some WiFi problem for three whole days! The hospital were very good at their Gallic shrugging but my OH kicked arse (ho ho) and all of a sudden it's working again. I'm so fed up with French telly and being without the internet when in a dull place like hospital is the pits!

Anyway, all went well with no complications; there are photos of me to come (no, not the gruesome bits!), and hopefully I'll be home on Thursday, which is a bit earlier than I thought, so I'm very happy. Then I'll do a proper post when I can get at the photos and my netbook. No sitting except on a rubber ring for me for a while, so it'll be slow work!

Hope you are all well and I'll endeavour to catch up with you guys soon. xx