Posted in Family, Medical, Miscarriage, Women's Issues

Snow Angel

I wrote this on Facebook, almost a year ago:

❄️Snow Angel❄️

In the middle of Thursday night, during intermittent bouts of sleep in an unfamiliar room watching a blizzard through a large window overlooking an unfamiliar town, a hundred thoughts running through my head, one thought settled. A memory, reminding me of one of my favourite ‘Read it Yourself’ books from when I was about 6. It was “Heidi”. Heidi had a friend, called Clara. I had thought for some time after that, that one day, I’d have a daughter named Clara.

Through the mists of time, I forgot about this. (The name, in fact, was even discounted from the ‘maybe girls’ list when we were expecting F in 2013, purely because of disliking the character with that name on Doctor Who.)

As soon as I had recalled the memory from reading Heidi, I suddenly knew after the weeks of um-ing and ah-ing, that the baby in my womb was a girl.

To everyone else, Thursday morning was their first Snow day, where schools had been pre-emptively closed due to possible snow, and everyone was warned to stay home unless your journey was necessary. Richie had even been sent home from work.

When I noticed bleeding some time between 9am & 1130, and phoning the midwives, our journey to A&E became necessary.

During Triage, and waiting, and minor injuries, and even being taken up to Emergency Pregnancy Assessment Unit, everyone right up to the Consultant, were saying it was probably a UTI.

Until they tracked someone down who could effectively use the ancient ultrasound. She couldn’t find a heartbeat.

After a blur, I was given the first pill to begin a medically assisted miscarriage, but by all accounts, the bleeding and the pains meant by body had already begun the process of its own accord.

Usually, someone given this pill, would then be sent home for 48 hours and then brought back in for further treatment to encourage the process.

However, due to the weather and the distance home, they weren’t willing to let me go honme, in case I couldn’t get back after 48 hours. So I was admitted.

After an arduous first night of little sleep, crazy over-active brain waves; a lonely Friday of watching more blizzards and idiots trying to push each others cars down a side Street, and trying to distract my brain by reading a detective novel on my Kindle, Friday night came with stronger pains, and various forms of pain medication before I could get some rest. And I slept pretty soundly from 9.30pm through till about 3am, when pain returned and woke me. I went to the toilet, and by the time I got back to my bed the pains were getting worse. My moans woke hubby, who although grieving too, has been a rock, sleeping on the floor next to me, called the nurses, and I immediately got put back on a painkiller drip and various injections. The severe pain started to subside so I could feel slightly lucid again. It was then that I could feel movement without being distracted by pain, & knew she was coming.

At 3.30 Saturday morning, 3rd March 2018, we became parents to a tiny girl, who we named Clara Elizabeth. We got to spend some time with her. At 17 weeks she was pretty much fully formed. She was brought in in a small covered basket with tiny handmade blankets and a yellow handmade teddy. I could see the image of the boys in her tiny facial features.

I never needed the second treatment. I was kept in all day Saturday so they could monitor my bleeding, but after a chat with my lovely nurse about ‘arrangements’ for Clara, I was collected by hubby & our boys around 5pm. I had been very much looking forward to going home. Now I’m home, without my little girl.

It is painful to talk about. And think about. And live with in general. At the moment it’s very raw. This past 3 days has felt like a week. But I don’t want to pussyfoot around and not tell anyone.

Many of you knew I was pregnant so it’s only fair to update you that I’m no longer pregnant, and of course you’d then be curious as to the circumstances.

Those who already know and have sent messages, thank you. Each one has started us crying again, but it’s far more comforting to know that you care. ”

 

There was more. But I edited it for publication to friends on Facebook.

I had messages in the comments, and yet more messages in private.  Most of the private messages were from people who’d been through the same thing, or it had affected them in some way (dads, grandparents).

What struck me was the number of people I knew who had had it happen to them.  And I never knew.

Some of the lonliest moments in that hospital bed staring out at the snow was how lonely I felt.  How was I ever going to be able to talk about this; when no one I knew had been through it?

And then I found out how many HAD and would have an idea of how I felt.

And despite still crying; and still feeling a twinge when I meet another baby or pregnant person – knowing full well it’s not their fault that I feel bad; I know that I’m not alone.

And that I had previously dismissed babyloss as something that would never happen to me; or most people I knew.  I had miscarried some 13 years ago but at something like 4 weeks, very early, without even knowing I’d been pregnant anyway.  I’d managed to dismiss that and had since felt that’s what it was like for everyone. Now I know it’s not and that once you are expecting, that baby is real; and any loss is as painful as losing any other child of yours x

We hadn’t been trying for a baby.  We hadn’t been planning any more.  I was 17 weeks gone when I lost Clara.  She had been around long enough to condition us into expecting a baby.  We had begun to plan and check what baby stuff we still had and what we needed to get.  We began looking out for bargains.  And yes, I had bought a few small things in sales.

When I had recovered a little more we decided to try again.

By August I was pregnant again. This time…I started bleeding again at 9 weeks. Brown, old blood.  My GP referred me to gynae.  They checked and said it was old blood from somewhere.  It was ok.  They did a scan, and although measuring a week or so less than I thought; my cervix was closed and the sac was there.  I was sent home to rest.

The next morning I got up and large blood clots the size of golf balls were gushing out.  I couldn’t stand for more than a few minutes without soaking a pad.  By  the time I had to go and get the boys from school I couldn’t leave the bathroom; so called my mother in tears.  She rushed to get the children and brought them home.  As soon as she saw the blood, she called an ambulance.

They rushed me to hospital, straight to gynae again rather than a&e while I fainted in the back.

I was admitted and put on fluids.  By 2am the consultant on duty decided she couldn’t leave me continuing to bleed as much as I was; so I was taken down for an emergency D&C.

And yet, no-one will investigate causes of miscarriages until I’ve had at least 3 in a row…

And that’s the story of most of my 2018.

HAVE YOU BEEN AFFECTED BY MISCARRIAGE OR BABY LOSS? GET HELP:

https://babyloss-awareness.org/

https://www.miscarriageassociation.org.uk

https://www.sands.org.uk

 

 

Posted in Family, Healthy, Home, Life, Medical, Miscarriage, Women's Issues

The Baby Room.

Today, I cleared out the baby room.

We hadn’t been trying for children.  We have children.  They’re fab and amazing.  I was 30 when I gave birth to the first one. I’m almost 40. I never said never again, mind you; we had baby stuff from the younget gathering dust in the attic; I hadn’t quite decided whether to get rid of it yet.

Having said that, it was still a bit of a shock to discover just before Christmas that I was pregnant.  It took me a couple of weeks of worry and consideration before I actually started getting excited about it.  We wouldn’t have told anyone until much later except that my dad was visiting – he lives a long way away and we don’t see him often.  We considered for a while but realised it might be nicer to tell him in person, rather than wait until the ‘safe’ 12 week mark – where the chances of miscarriage drop dramatically; and then tell him over the phone. And of course, telling him meant having to tell other people, so word got around.

Of course, I tried not to get *too* excited until the 12 week mark. But we got some of the stuff down from the aattic.  Well, we were up there anyway putting the Christmas decorartions away. We had baby stuff ‘donated’ to us immediately by family as soon as they found out. The magic 12-week mark came and went and all was fine.  And the smallest bedroom – too small even for a single bed – became ‘the baby room’.  Not neccessarily a nursery; just where we were putting all the baby stuff for now, as I went through it; checking if it was usable; cleaning stuff; preparing, as much as was possible.  It wasn’t neccessarily a room for *this* baby.  It was just a room to keep the baby stuff in; that we intended to fashion into some kind of nursery; when the time came.

Well, the time isn’t coming.   At 17 weeks, I suffered what’s known as a ‘late miscarriage’.  This is because it happened in the second trimester.  Had she made it to the third trimester it would have been counted as stillbirth.

Either way, She won’t be joining our family.

When I was in hospital, hubby asked if there was anything he should do, like sort out the baby stuff and clear the room away. I said no.

It didn’t upset me at the time. I had other stuff upsetting me enough than random baby stuff.

Because that’s all it is.  It didn’t upset me when I came home.  And even since, going in to that room and seeing baby stuff is still not  a trigger for me.  Not like the small teddy they brought in with her when they’d cleaned her up for me to spend time with; or the tiny urn that now contains her ashes; or the rose bush in her name that some friends very thoughfully sent us.

It’s just a room with baby items in it.  Crib, Cot, pram, clothes, toys, nappies (no, I didn’t ”stock up”…I use cloth one. They’ve been passed down from the others.)

It wasn’t ever ‘HER’ room….until the miscarriage we didn’t even know if she was a boy or a girl; so that made it hard to marry up the posessions with the coming baby.   She never spent a night in it, so that didn’t make it ‘HER’ room, either.

It hasn’t been left untouched.  The airing cupboard is in there, so I am in and out regularly getting clean towels and putting some away.

I’ve not been avoiding it.  Sometimes I’ve gone in just to sit quietly in the rocking chair. And it doesn’t upset me.  For one thing, they’re all items that we’ve used before for the other three. So nothing in there was bought exclusively for this baby anyway.

So when I went in there to clear away some space to use as storage space for some of the camping gear that’s coming out to hand ready for the summer; it was just like tidying any other room.

Now, the baby stuff is still there; but instead of laid out carefully organised, the cot and crib have been folded away and clothes and baby blankets folded up and stored, and the new tent is in there waiting for the summer camping trip.

Now, of course it would make more sense to put the baby things away completely – to put them back up in the attic or start giving them away or taking to second-hand shops and so on; but her surprise existence, although a shock initially, has got us into the expectation that there might actually be another addition to the family.  We’d got used to the idea, purely because of her existence; when we hadn’t even been planning her or trying for her.  So for now, they’re staying in the baby room.  And we may pay a little more attention to trying.

At first, I was scared to say anything about trying again.  It seemed to me that people would think another one would be a replacement for the one we lost.  It’s not.  She wasn’t planned, nor was she expected.  But a new baby now would be her legacy.  A new baby now wouldn’t have existed if she hadn’t forced her existence upon us.

So today, I’ve sorted out the baby room.  The smallest room.  I’ve not cleared it.  It’s a store room.  Full of things ready for when they’re needed.

Posted in Cooking, Healthy, Life, Medical, Women's Issues

FINALLY! A diet that REALLY works!

I don’t really know what else to call it.  It has no name.  It’s basically a sensible eating plan. Which is what I shrugged and said to my midwife not long after I’d been given it.

OK, let’s rewind.

I’ve never been skinny.  Well, maybe when I was little.  although when I was little, I remember people (my grandparents and their friends, mainly, I think) telling me ‘She’s going to be a heartbreaker’.  I think they meant I was pretty.  But I really couldn’t understand why ANYONE would want to purposefully break other people’s hearts?  So what possible incentive did that have for me to grow up beautiful?  I could go off on one long tangent here but suffice to say, remaning slim for aesthetic purposes has never been something that remotely interested me.  I’m not bashing those who do…it’s just not for me.  I look the way I look, and I’m fine with that.

And the other reason that’s always banded about?  ‘Health’? well, I’m quite proud to say that I have, pretty much, a clean bill of health.  No chronic health issues.  Very proud of it and prize it highly since I’ve had the opportunity to emigrate…twice…and anyone who understands the types of paperwork that entails will know that a health check and fitness certificate from a doctor.  Just to be sure, the first time round, I did try one of those crappy milkshake diets before applying for my first visa, which lost me a few kilos but I hardly felt any different within myself to be honest.

When I fell pregnant with #1 in 2008, about half way through the pregnancy I was diagnosed with ‘Gestational Diabetes‘; which means I wasn’t producing enough insulin for both myself and the growing baby.  They were quite scary.  ‘They’ being the medical ‘professionals’ who told me I’d be taking pills and injecting myself with goodness knows what.  There was no way, I told myself, that I’d be doing that.  I am cautious and generally avoid taking any medications if I don’t have to.  I mean, I’d rather suffer with headaches and period pain than take paracetamol.  So when they followed up their threats with “…if you can’t control it with diet…” I thought, well, then, I’ll have to control it with diet then, won’t I?  So I did.

Anyway, that’s enough rambling.  All I was given in a brief meeting witht he ‘nutritionist’ at the hospital after that fateful day was the sheet you see pictured below.  Well, the one you see pictured is actually a titdied up, revamped, clearer version I retyped as what I was handed was a sheet that seemed like it was a photocopy of a photocopy of a photocopy of something someone had created on an ancient room-sized computer in 1988. It was blurred and skewiff and had black marks all over it.

What you see here is a result of me retyping the text and scanning in the plate diagram and repositioning it on the page I newly typed.

When I went on a fitness freak challenge when living in a very beach-orientated culture which meant spending a lot of time in a swimsuit, I almost had a fit when I couldn’t find the page I had printed; and then couldn’t find it anywhere on my laptop either…can you imagine?!  I was then, very very surprised that a simple eating plan (OK, diet…) such as this was NOWHERE to be found on the internet.  Not even after searching methodically in the way that helped me re-discover my Brownie Recipe that I had once lost.  Anyway, I finally did find a copy I had sent someone in the annals of my neverending-storage Gmail account and to my relief, re-downloaded it, printed it, and laminated it.  It is now permanently magnetised to my fridge door.

Sample Meal Plan
(Don’t worry, you can download this as a PDF at the bottom of the page x )

Seriously?  This is a basic, healthy eating cheat-sheet, given to me by a nutritionist/dietitian in a major hospital, that has worked for me to both control diabetes (of the gestational kind, but I’m pretty sure that works the same way as other forms, Type 2 for example?) and, when I actually did want to be skinny on a whim, lose about 50lbs (OK, I was doing a 2 hours work out every single day in addition to running after toddlers and teaching them to swim…but hey, the eating habits didn’t harm the efforts…).

That doesn’t mean I’ve followed it permanently…I have for at least the past two years, smiled sadly at it while opening the door to retrieve various items that are NOT sanctioned on the list. (yes, those 50lbs have crept in somewhere….)

However, in the last fortnight, a personal tragedy has forced me into a rethink and so I have re-started following this plan with a vengeance.  dietegAnd in the first week of not starving myself but just checking this sheet before I decide whet to eat and what time, I’ve lost 2lbs and an inch and a half. Without the extreme excersising. And I know this because I’ve gone back to my trusty little note book in which I would once a week record my weight and waist size, along with any notes as to what might have been happening that week, how much excersize I did or didn’t do and so on…

And Viola…it’s like running a slimming world right from your own bedroom.  Apparently.  But I’ve never been to slimming world or weightwatchers because I’ve nver had the money to spare…

Please feel free to download the PDF of the Sample Meal Plan <– here.   I have it laminated and stuck on the fridge door, with a felt pen in one of those magnet holders they use for shopping lists next to it (you know the kind I mean, right?) , so each meal/snack time I can tick off with the felt pen what I’ve had, to help keep track of the variety and, on some days, that I’ve actually bothered to have something at that time! (I’ve found it handy, in my advancing years and my filling schedule, to set a reminder on my phone.  I have had funny looks when my phone goes off telling me it’s ‘Lunch Time’…)

Basically, all I do is tick off the ingredients as I get them out of the fridge/cupboard, then cook them however I like.  I let myself a little leeway and have some raisins and a tiny drizzle of natural honey in my porridge, or some marmite as well on my toast; I cook veggies in a quick stir fry with some olive oil, worcester sauce, soy sauce and so on;  or start a stew-pot in the morning with a variety of veggies, some split peas and some couscous or noodles; and that will see me through lunch and dinner.  I make my own curry so sometimes that’s cheating as it has both chicken AND yoghurt in so I suppose that’s two from the protein section, but there’s veg and herbs and spices in it too and I always have hlf-veg and half-rice instead of all rice with it.  (My hubby likes this one as he loves my curry.  Although he doesn’t do veggies…)

What I’m saying is, I use it as a guide.  Be creative using the ingredients suggested on the page. Every now and again I think outside the box and stretch the limits of what I’m supposed to have; but generally, after a few days on it, I tend to not crave biscuits, cakes, chocolates; and the smell when hubby brought lunch for him and the children in today (it’s Saturday and a rugby -international-on-the-telly day) actually didn’t appeal to me at all and I was very much preferring my salmon, savoy cabbage and broccoli stir-fry I had prepared for myself, followed by tinned peaches! (and black decaf coffee, because I’m weaning myself off caffeine too…)

Someone I spoke to about this once said it does remind them of the Slimming world plan; but I’ve never done it so I don’t know.  I don’t generally ‘do’ a following-recipies type plan, it’s too much faff for me, I’d rather be given the basic ingredients and be creative.  But, if it helps, my aunty who’s a district nurse runs This Blog about Slimming-World friendly recipies.

Also, here’s the Diet Record Sheet now that I’ve figured out how to upload PDFs for other people to use 😉   I keep my little note book in the same place, near a tape measure, so I know where to go every wednesday (also set as a reminder on my phone…) morning, to weight and measure and note it down.

There you go!  A free, self-help diet without having to spend a fortune on a book!

So, here’s the disclaimer:  I’m not a fitness or healthy eating guru (But come one, healthy eating is healthy eating, right?  We all understand it, that’s not the problem…it’s the cravings and the willpower and the temptation!!) so this post, nor my posting of the diet sheet below, is not a substitute for professional advice.  However…I’m not exactly advocating extreme starvation or anything here…

Good luck people, and you’re welcome 🙂

*Before you ask, no, I’ve never been able to find out the definition of ‘Free’ vegetables…I just presume they mean veggies that don’t count as Carbs, for example potatoes, kumara, etc… I’ve just always concentrated on leafy greens (– savoy cabbage has always been a favourite), salad leaves, carrots, onions, broccoli…

 

Posted in Home, Life, Medical, Women's Issues

Six Months Later…

…I got the letter today.  I knew it was coming, it’s about 6 months since the colposcopy and biopsy and all that.  But actually receiving the letter with a date and a time, it’s made it more real. Time for another colposcopy/smear to check if what they scraped out last time has worked, gone, come back, grown, got worse… who knows?

So the doomsday thoughts and feelings have been whizzing around my head today.

And a couple of conversations going on on social media are grating on me, too; given that my mood is already on the dark side.

x

 

*Update… After a few weeks, I got an all clear letter, giving me all clear and that I’m back to regular check-ups*

Posted in Medical, Women's Issues

Yesterday’s appointment…

Just in case anyone read my last post and wondered about the outcome; this is where we are at the moment …

The lady treating me was much more palatable than the gentleman who took the biopsy.  Not sure why; whether it was  gender thing or whatever; but the whole experience seemed a little more laid back and less ominous.

She explained the biopsy actually came back clear. {Cue – wave of relief}. She went on to say they then ‘discussed my case’ at some high-level council-of-something-or-other (colposcopists I suppose?) {Cue – sense of being impressed that the state of my cervix merited being discussed at higher levels} and decided to re-check the smear test results – just in case what one person thought of as being abnormal, was something another person would see as not … um … abnormal.  It was decided {cue – further elation at the thought that my case was being discussed around a board room table by medical bigwigs} , that there was something on the smear that was abnormal, and that it was possibly further up in the cervix, since the smear went further up then the area the biopsy was taken from; so she was going ahead with the LLETZ procedure, further into the cervix in the area the smear sample would have been taken from.

Sorry if it’s TMI, but, hey, you stumbled upon this page and decided to read this far!

So that is pretty much it.  It went ahead.  If you want to know how or what it is, I’m sure you’ll find out.

As for ‘finding out’ … they’ll biopsy the stuff she scraped, and she said we should hear back in 6-8 weeks.

So, I guess it’s back to waiting, but pretending I’m not waiting, and getting on with ‘real life’.

X

 

Posted in Medical, Women's Issues

Just Saying …

I don’t want to seem like I’m making a fuss.  I don’t want the tirade of “Stay strong, hun”; “thinking of you babe” type messages that attach themselves to Facebook posts or Tweets. To be honest, not that I don’t want the sentiment; rather I’d preefer not to have the attention.

I just wanted to put it out there somewhere. So here’s a little more anonymous.  I suppose. Putting it out there gets it out of me.  To stop me mulling it over so much.

I’m off for my LLETZ appointment later today.  It’s overshadowing the whole day.  I’d like to say I’m nonchalant about it.  I’m acting it, I think.  But I’m not.

I’ll be going alone.  O/H is away working.  #1 & #2 are in school, and will stay for after-school club. #3 will be with my mother, who doesn’t drive.  Her O/H has their car up on blocks in the garage trying to sort something out.  i.e. it’s off the road.

It’s not so much the prospect of pain; or discomfort.  I think it’s more that this is another step.  Another milestone on this particular journey.  Another ‘What if…?’ moment.  After this, I’ll be waiting for another smear or check up, to check if this appointment, into which I’ve put so much effort in to wondering and worrying about has actually worked…

But it’s all good.

X

Posted in Family, Life, Medical, Women's Issues, writing

The last time I saw Paris …

I haven’t been to Paris for 20 years. And I haven’t posted here for a few days.

Last night I was reminded with a jolt why I began blogging, properly, I mean – rather than signing up, writing one post then forgetting about it.

I’m not going to write yet another lament about Paris.  The attacks.  Those terrorists. I’m not going to speculate on who was responsible or what their cause may have been.  Yes, we all know, and have shared in countless tweets and Facebook statuses (stati???), how horrified we are; how we’ll all stand with the people of Paris; how we shouldn’t jump to conclusions.  Yes, we’re all devastated.  Yes, it’s scary and awful and should never have happened …

Last Thursday should have been my LLETZ appointment at the Colposcopy Clinic. Remember? I wrote this blog entry about being told I’d ‘failed’ my cervical smear test; and got sent for a biopsy…

I ended up having to cancel it … turns out it’s that time of the month . And the letter said to call and reschedule if that was the case.  I called twice, the day before, when it was obvious I wouldn’t make it.  I got an answermachine, and left a message.  It said “If you wish to cancel your appointment, leave your name and address; if you wish to speak to someone in the clinic, leave your name and phone number and someone will call you back”.  I left my name and number and message…hoping that I would get a call back to reschedule. I called later and got the same answer machine.  I called the next morning – the day of the appointment, and got the same message, so I left the same message, still expecting a call back.

That was two days ago.  I have resigned myself to the fact that, if they got my message, they will just send out another appointment letter.  I was hoping they wouldn’t do that.  I was hoping they would call me back and actually make an appointment with me, so I could check my diary.  Because it’s almost December.  And December this year, as I did last year, I will be living in Christmas again.

Last year, on a whim, I applied to play Mrs Claus at a large hotel.  it really, truly, was a magical, fun, happy experience.  Of course the pay was crappy and some of the people one had to work with were … well … lacking people skills, and the Christmas Spirit.  Some of the masses and masses of crowds of people jostling for their chance to see the big guy also lacked the spirit of Christmas; there were instances of nastiness and meanness from various sides that could have brought one to tears; BUT, Santa asked me, as we neared Christmas Eve, if I would consider doing it again; and I had little doubt in saying yes, almost immediately.  He agreed.  There were instances, people, occasions, that COULD have ruined Christmas for us all; but there were SO many more magical little instances that made us want to risk coming back.  The happier, smilier, most amazed of the children (and the adults, a surprisingly large number of whom displayed amazing Seasonal spirit!); the individual stories we would hear about, and from the mouths of, certain visitors … someone who had just lost a parent or grandparent; someone who wanted a nice photo with Santa because it might be their last photo; Someone who was so full of amazement and wonder because they’d never seen anything like this before; a group of school children whose class elf had disappeared a week before, then suddenly found his way into my sack of dolly-mixtures … all made the downsides of the job almost disappear.

I wanted to speak to someone and make my appointment in person, so that I could know the date, and not have to worry about another letter with another inconvenient date, dropping through the door.  Because with all the ‘not knowing’, something known and definite would be nice.  And it would be nice if they could at least let me have Christmas, without having to worry about it.

Like for a while, I’ve imagined I could feel a difference between one breast and the other.  The other morning I happened to mention it to the Other Half.  And with all this not knowing he leaped on it and immediately made an appointment at the doctors.  They had a cancellation, so I was there within 20 minutes.  The GP was reassuring, and happy – well, it was first thing in the morning, he hadn’t had the rest of the day to drag him down yet, I suppose – I apologised and explained about the abnormal smear and the waiting for the LLETZ appointment and that O/H, and me I suppose, were on heightened Cancer alert I suppose; anyway, I put it down to my right hand being a lot stronger than my left hand and it being very difficult to tell if both sides were the same; or very different; and in all honesty, I’d been breastfeeding up till a few months before; not to mention had 3 pretty close together; so couldn’t recall what ‘normal’ really was anyway.  He put my mind at ease, had a check (with a chaperone) and was pretty confident he couldn’t feel any difference in tissue on either side.  So, one minor weight, which I hadn’t really mulled over much anyway, off my mind.  But it did awaken me to the fact that it really is always there, in the background, affecting every decision I make.

Which brings me back to last night.  And this post.  And why last night made me remember to post.

My first post when I began this blog was a wake-up call.  A relative had written an autobiography of sorts.  Other relatives, although still with us physically, are, for all intents and purposes of learning from them, their philosophies, their history, their lives, are all but lost to us.  And then, there are relatives, remembered fondly, with whom I wish I could still chat. Now I’m older, and have children, and have had experiences I could have shared with them, there are more things I would have liked to have asked them, and learned from them.  And it makes me sad that I won’t. And in most of those cases, it wasn’t sudden.  They were old, and ill, or we could see it coming. And I committed to writing something of my life, even if just here, in a random corner of the internet that most people will never stumble across; so if there ever was a question my children wanted answered; or wanted my opinion on; maybe they’ll find some answer from me.

Photo courtesy of Catherine Fryer
Photo courtesy of Catherine Fryer

Last night, people went out for dinner, or to a concert, or to a sports game.  And never came home.

They didn’t live in a war zone; or in a region regularly terrorized by hurricane scale weather patterns; they didn’t even live in a country under military rule or in a permanent state of civil unrest.  They lived in a country in which I have one close relative already living an idyllic lifestyle; and this week another, even closer relative, has been driving around checking out peaceful places and  properties with a view to settling there within a few years.

In 2013, a helicopter crashed into a pub full of people who had, simply, gone to the pub for a quick pint.  Even crossing the road or sitting in your car are not things people think of as being dangerous. But events like a trucks breaks failing or driver error, to the families of people who are now no longer here; have this devastating effect as a shooting, or a bombing, or a typhoon … someone dies.  And more often than not, people die, for no reason, in the middle of their lives. No matter how many times they went to the gym; how many cucumbers they ate or how many chocolate bars they didn’t. Far more people seem to die when they didn’t ‘plan’ to.

So don’t worry about trying to live forever.  Just make sure you live, while you have the chance. And take pictures, and keep a diary. Leave something.

Stay safe, readers XXX  I’m off to hug my baby.

Posted in Family, Home, Medical, Women's Issues

It is unlikely that you have cervical cancer…

It’s always nice to receive mail that’s not a bill.  Right?  Especially when it contains a line like that. How reassuring.

I’m sure that’s what their intention was when they formulated the bog-standard automated response to be sent to people who’s regular routine cervical smear test returns ‘abnormal results’.

Except, it’s not.

The ONLY reassuring answer when waiting for the results of being scraped by a nurse at your local surgery or clinic or other chosen location would be the other bog-standard automated response; namely “Your results were normal.  See you in 3 years”.

Definitely not “In some women these abnormal results can develop into cancer”; or “Only about one out of three women would develop cancer in the future”.  Or even on the most recent leaflet  “Treatment is nearly always 100% successful”.

It’s not so much the actual results, or the wording of the letters that’s the worst thing.  It’s the waiting.

I’m sure every woman, in whichever country they experience their regular screening, feel that tinge of ‘What if…’, even if just for a fleeting moment; between the run-of-the-mill appointment at their GP surgery, and waiting for that letter telling you your smear test results are normal.  And then experiencing that wave of relief you never even realised you were waiting for when you do finally receive that normal results letter.  Even the time between those two moments seem endless.  If you stop to think about it.

I’m in my mid-thirties.  I’ve had my fair share of smear tests.  First in the UK, then when we moved to New Zealand, now back in the UK again.  I’m used to waiting around for a few weeks, pushing the “What if..” to the back of my mind; then feeling weirdly elated when that letter finally drops on the mat telling me I’m fine.  Even though I’d felt that way and been living as though nothing was wrong, until they told me nothing was wrong with me, anyway.

When you're waiting for that letter ...
When you’re waiting for that letter …

But this time was different.  There was the reminder from Cervical Screening Wales to make my cervical smear test appointment.  So I did.  Then the surgery didn’t remind me about that appointment, so I missed it. (OK, OK, I know … It had skipped my mind to add it to my calendar on my phone – my usual means of organising my life these days, and hadn’t looked at the kitchen diary – the usual means of organising everyone else’s lives – in a while; and for some reason I was still in a New Zealand frame of mind when it came to GP appointments.  They used to text a reminder out.)  Sometime in November it suddenly struck me…”I’m sure I made a smear appointment for November” I said out loud to the OH one day.  I made a mental note to check.  Sure enough, there it was in the kitchen diary for about 2 weeks prior.

No biggie.  I made another mental note to call and make another appointment.

Which I, of course, forgot to do.  Until the next reminder came in the post.  This time I made the appointment, and made sure I noted it in about 3 different places. The nurse was only a little concerned that my last recorded test had been in 2005, after I said we’d been living abroad, and I was pretty sure I had one in at least 2009 after #1 was born. (I’ve since found the “You’re OK” letter from that test, it was actually dated sometime in 2010, so must have been after I had #2).

And that was that.  And eventually the letter arrived from the NHS. Ah, there we go.

You know when you open a letter you’re pretty much expecting and just scan it quickly to assure yourself it’s what you thought?  Well, that’s what I did. “Your Colonoscopy appointment?  what bloody colonoscopy appointment?” I muttered.  OH looked equally puzzled. “What?” he said, or something along the lines. “Oh, no, Colposcopy.” I corrected myself. And set about actually reading what it said.  The results of my smear test were abnormal.  An appointment had been made for me at the colposcopy clinic. Along with a leaflet explaining stuff.  sort of.

The initial screening test leaflet said something about 1 in 10 women showing abnormal results.  This one said about 1 in 20.  So me having abnormal smear results made me double abnormal as I would have been before?  Great.

I’d made the mistake of consulting Doctor Google before going.  So I read a lot of stuff and some of it kind of made sense, when viewed from a certain angle.  But there was a lot of it.  I joined a Facebook support group.  And they all seemed to chat using far more complicated and unfamiliar terminology than I’d already read about; so it appeared even more daunting.

By the time I went for this colposcopy appointment, I was expecting all kinds of things.  I was expecting the doctor to look up in alarm and check me straight in.  I’d even thrown a travel toothbrush and spare underwear into my handbag incase I went in and didn’t come out again.

But I they didn’t subject me to all the LLETZ and scrapey and pokey things the others on the Facebook group had been talking about.  They took a biopsy. Not even the scary sounding “Cone Biopsy” type I’d been reading about which would have meant going under and being kept in.  A mild (yet very sore) scrape, taking barely minutes, a bit of pain killing stuff added; then he wipes his hands and says ‘thanks very much, I’ll write to you with the results’.  And I’m left wandering aimlessly to the changing area on my own, feeling a little let down that the whole visit hadn’t seemed to reach any kind of crescendo.

The day or two following were a little uncomfortable; but nothing much to write home about in themselves.  The first two weeks, however, I was dreading the outcome.  Every day I expected THE phone call or THE letter, letting me know my days were numbered and there was nothing they could do.  Every time I picked up my phone I prayed it was the agency offering me a days work, somewhere on location or a set where I could make believe I was someone else, somewhere else.

By the third and fourth weeks, it had sort of been pushed to the back of my mind.  Although I did put together a little more of an emergency overnight kit than I normally kept in my work bag.  In quiet moments – what there are when you have three small boys running you ragged – I would ponder my rich tapestry of a life a little more; take a little more stock of what I had, where I’d been and what I’d done with my years.  And, what I hadn’t. I started a simple list of “Stuff I love” and “Stuff I hate”, in the weird little mindset of – how will they plan my funeral if I don’t leave them a list of my favourite songs and movies and colours.  How will they decide where to scatter my ashes if they don’t know where my favourite place on earth is?

Then, the waiting and the wondering seemed to drop off completely.

For a couple of weeks now, I’ve barely thought about it.  I think it goes back to a post on the Facebook group, asking how long it took everyone to hear back their results from their appointment after being told they had abnormal results.  Nearly all of them had their LLETZ (Loop Excision, AKA other things.  If you really want to know, I’m sure you’ll find out) or whatever treatment, at that first appointment.  I felt a little put out having only had a  biopsy, and having to wait for results.  But from what I could gather, it was roughly 4 weeks.

I suppose that since 4 weeks had passed, I’d figured everything was fine and when I finally got the letter, it would say I was fine after all, and they’ll just do a 12 month follow up smear instead of 3 years, just to be on the safe side.

Until this morning.  When the letter arrived.  And it appears that “the biopsy that was carried out has indicated that {I} will need loop excision of the transformation zone carried out”.

And another one of those informative (!) leaflets.
Apparently, “This can be done in the outpatient clinic using local anaesthetic. This is very much like your colposcopy and takes about 10-20 minutes.”.

I think I’ll take the emergency overnight kit.  Just in case.

But at least the waiting for that particular letter is over and done with.  Just 3 weeks until the appointment.  Followed by … whatever comes next.

waitingmail2

I’m wondering if all the waiting around in between these letters and appointments is their way of preparing you to deal with the worst possible outcome.  And making you feel all the more elated if what you actually end up with is the best news.