PTSD; survivor angst

I can’t believe I’m still alive 4 years after the diagnosis that my breast cancer had come back in my bones, liver and pancreas. I’m not only still alive, but actually ‘well’. I suffer the tiniest bit of back ache from time to time. This is an absolute miracle created by monthly ‘denosumab’ injections. I call it a miracle, because in 2012 I was described as having ‘extensive boney metastases in spine and pelvis’; I never imagined they could become sufficiently mended to give almost no pain at all.

The only thing I do suffer is an antsy anxiety that it will all come back. I’ve phrased that wrongly – it WILL come back. The only question is ‘when?’ Six months, six years, sixteen years… It’s quite difficult to live with that hanging over you, and sometimes I feel my skin is crawling all over with anxiety. I feel so tired I can’t hold my body up, but so ‘antsy’ laying down is like lying on a bed of nails (with ants crawling all over it!)

In many ways, I’m no different to any other human being on the planet at this moment. Death can come at any moment to any of us, and tomorrow isn’t promised. It’s just having your face rammed into your mortality by a cancer diagnosis is quite tricky…


Outside and inside my head

I’ve got no idea what’s happening round the back of my head. We don’t have the right set up of mirrors in my house to see round the back. This morning I decided to take a photo to see how fetching my hair regrowth is, and what colour it is.

Regrowth of hair after chemo

Hmm. Not too bad. I’m hoping I can be hatless on Christmas day without scaring everybody.

Inside my head is an entirely different matter. Treatment has now finished, and I’ve entered a plateau of wilderness. I don’t know if it’s worked, and I don’t know what will happen if it hasn’t.

Reading fellow bloggers’ words I see that we all go through similar emotions; disbelief, fear and anger at first, followed by a burgeoning of hope as we start treatment, then this empty plateau.

In common with so many others, I’m entirely fed up with the way cancer has hijacked my head. There’s not many minutes of the day when dealing with it isn’t in my thoughts. There’s a few minutes on waking where it’s forgotten, possibly, if I haven’t managed to dream about it. Where’s the rest of my personality gone? Where’s the creativity? The big thoughts?

My brows and lashes are getting ready to jump ship…

…the bastards. I was really hoping to hang on to those.

They’re not going quietly, either. They are mutinously rearing up and sticking out all over the place.

Eyebrows and lashes affected by chemo

I noticed it a couple of days ago when I was out for a walk. I had a bizarre vertical line in the vision in my left eye. The world for me was as if viewed from the window of a VW split screen campervan. It was still there the next day. First thoughts, was it a scratch on my contact lens? Naaah! Wouldn’t be in the same place both days. Worse still, had my age-related eye floaters finally got so bad that they were all holding hands in a stalactite/stalagmite arrangement? Grim thought. But not as grim as thought number three. Perhaps I had now got a brain tumour as well as all my other problems, and my sight was going to geometrically fragment so I ended up with the vision of a housefly.

Woman, get a grip! Eyelashes were the likely answer, and on close inspection there was the offending lash, breaking ranks with its colleagues and sticking down like a pig’s bristle. No matter how much I wet it, warmed it and bent it, it would not get back into line, so eventually I tugged it out.

This morning I noticed that my eyebrows had started to behave in the same way. I’d brushed aside a couple of ‘Dennis Healey’* comments without much thought, but, indeed, they have become as irrepressible as my lashes.

I don’t mind the bald head, but I’m really going to miss my lashes. So much, in fact, that I may have to try false ones. This is going to be one big learning curve for me, useless as I am at all feminine arts. They’ll be all over the place, especially now with my old people’s eyesight.

I’ll keep you posted.

*for non UK readers, Dennis Healey was a British politician with notoriously bushy eyebrows


What if the car breaks down? What if a deluge of snow blocks Telegraph Hill? What if a car transporter tips over and blocks all carriageways at Exeter? What if all traffic is halted because someone is threatening to jump from a footbridge over the M5? So, taking into account all my ‘what ifs?’, we arrive at the airport with 3 hours to spare.

A couple of rounds of sandwiches and drinks cost us £30.

Having taken all these precautions how do we still end up being the last on the plane?

Choosing the fastest queue through security, we make good progress, or so it seemed. Then everything grinds to a halt with the chap in front.

He has waited in the queue blithely ignoring the huge posters and looping video on big screens telling us about all the prohibited items. He’s got the lot. Scissors in his hand baggage, that has to be indecorously unpacked (I hope he’s on the return journey. Either that or he habitually dresses like Worzel Gummidge.) Then he’s got a studded belt that has to come off with great difficulty. Great laced boots that take an age to unravel and heave off. Large bottles of liquids and gels that all have to be argued about and confiscated…

By the time we get through, a lady with a clipboard is calling for the last two passengers for the flight. That’s us. We are escorted rapidly across the tarmac. I glance at the pilots in the cockpit, angrily tapping their watches, and rush up the steps into the plane, now full of angry holidaymakers, all tapping their watches in unison. (OK, I made all the watch tapping bit up. No one really noticed. It’s just how I felt.)

At least the incident made me feel better about our previous trip. We had been on a plane since 9/11 so I thought we were up-to-date with airport security, but we had missed the extra ramping up of measures after the bloke with the exploding trainers. Unlike our heedless friend on this flight, I had noticed all the signs and videos, and spent my queuing time repacking. Nearly everything was wrong and had to be confiscated or bagged up.

Blooming nuisance, that man with the exploding trainers.


Another blog

I’ve changed my theme! I love the way this one makes the pics really big, and colour-schemes them according to the pic.

Stone on Berry Head

The words are from Francis Lyte's 'Abide with me', written in Brixham. This monument is on Berry Head.

This post is also to announce my new blog about my 2012 quest to self-publish. The journey had only just begun, so there’s not much in it at present!

I’m going to document things that work, and things that don’t, and hopefully build up a resource for other writers wanting to do the same thing.

Twenty-twenty foresight

I’ve been doing far too many recipes recently, and not enough musing on life, and getting older. So, here’s something non-food-related…

Twenty-twenty foresight

When I was young I looked forward to being older, and gaining wisdom. I imagined myself in the future, side-stepping problems and overcoming all obstacles with a serene calm. I would know how things went wrong, so I could engineer ways to avoid catastrophe and disappointment. Life would be a smooth voyage of satisfaction and success.

Decades later I find myself suffering as many glitches as ever. Knowing what causes things to go wrong, and how they go wrong, doesn’t stop them from going wrong. You simply have longer to agonise over them. At your leisure you can watch situations slip into the same abysses for which they were always bound.

We moved into our first modern house in the November. With superb insulation, double-glazing throughout and modern gas central heating, we looked forward to our first Christmas. We were going to be so warm and toasty throughout the festivities.

All that glowing anticipation evaporated a couple of weeks before Christmas when our boiler broke down. After a few cold days, our system was expensively fixed and we were back in the warm glow of our first exciting Christmas in our new home. We took out a maintenance contract so that we wouldn’t be at risk of a ruined Christmas again.

The next year, as winter began to bite, the gas engineer turned up at our door and we welcomed him in. Just a quick check, we thought, and he’ll be on his way, leaving us with a nice warm home for our second Christmas there.

We led him to the boiler in the kitchen and left him to it.

First there was an urgent banging as he tried to remove the front of the boiler.

Bang, bang! BANG! BANG!

Then silence, as he worked out that the cover needed delicately removing and then gently twisting out through the housing.

Work commenced in earnest, and several minutes later, pop! The main fuse blew and we were plunged into darkness.

‘It weren’t me!’ claimed the gasman.

‘Trouble is,’ he said, a few minutes later ‘it’s an electrical fault, and I don’t know anything about electrics. I can’t get the boiler going again. I’ll have to get the supervisor to come. It’ll be a few days…’

We saw him out. Several very cold days later we welcomed the supervisor. He was a tall, cheerful, capable fellow with dark, curly hair. He had the system up and running in a short time, and was on his way.

A year later…

Bang, bang! BANG! BANG!

A few minutes work, then Pop! The main fuse blew and we were plunged into darkness.

‘It weren’t me!’ claimed the gasman.

‘Trouble is,’ he said, a few minutes later ‘it’s an electrical fault, and I don’t know anything about electrics. I can’t get the boiler going again. I’ll have to get the supervisor to come. It’ll be a few days…’

Again, the curly-haired supervisor came to our rescue, and restored heating for the big Christmas break.

Moving on a further year, we were telephoned by the Gas company to make our annual maintenance appointment.

‘Look’ I snipped, ‘instead of sending the first man who always breaks the system, can you send the supervisor first off? Cut out the middleman, so to speak?’

‘I’m sorry,’ crooned the administrator, ‘we have to follow procedure.’

Our welcome was somewhat jaded for the gasman this particular year. We directed him to the boiler and left him to it.

Bang, bang! BANG! BANG!

We eyed each other dolefully, and, with a deep sigh of exasperation, hubby wearily walked across the room, knelt down and zipped his head into his sports bag.

Hubby with his head zipped into sports bag, in exasperation

A picture of exasperation.

Pop! The main fuse blew.

The gasman popped his head round the door and cheerily stated ‘It weren’t me!’

‘Trouble is, I don’t know anything about electrics…’ His voice tailed off as he absorbed the strange tableau before him. There was a man kneeling on the floor with his head zipped into a sports bag, and the lady of the house looking like Whistler’s mother.

‘Erm… I’ll get the supervisor to come round. I’ll see myself out…’ he said, reversing out of the room. He quietly gathered his tools and slipped out of the house.

Another year passed and the boiler maintenance appointment was duly made. We had resigned ourselves to the usual fiasco.

At the knock, I wearily opened the door. My face broke into a smile as I saw a cheery face, topped with a head full of dark curly hair.

‘Hello! I don’t think our engineer has been round yet, has he? Must have been some mistake. Never mind, I’ll check your system while I’m here…’

That’s what makes life worth living, isn’t it? Twenty-twenty foresight isn’t always correct. Only most of the time.