Friday, August 27, 2010

Fuck’s sake.

Maybe I'm in a minority -- and certainly I can't speak from a smoker's point of view, because I have never been a smoker -- but what the fuck possible reason can there be for someone diagnosed with brain cancer continuing to smoke?

When my mum was in hospital, she was there for just over three weeks, and for the majority of that time she didn't smoke. Towards the end of her stay, however, she had a craving for a ciggie, and a nurse told her, "Well, one won't do you any harm." (This from a medical professional; don't even get me started...)

That one turned into a few a day for the last few days of her hospital stay.

And she has continued to smoke several cigarettes a day since being discharged on 29 July.

We -- those family members who don't smoke -- suggested she should stop. Stop now before she becomes addicted again, undoing all the good work of not smoking for almost three weeks. Some other family members -- the smokers -- suggested, well, it's not going to make much difference.

And, of course, the smoking will help with the stress.

It's hard to argue that latter point, sure. And nobody wants to argue with someone who has just been diagnosed with cancer, getting them all upset and shit.

But we did manage to get her to agree to stop smoking once the radiotherapy started. She said she would stop then. Her husband said he would stop, too, to make it easier for her to quit.

You know where this is going, don't you?

I've just spoken to her. She is four fifths of the way through her radiotherapy. Just one appointment left.

"How's the non-smoking going?" I asked.

Silence; then: "The what?"

I said, "I suspect by that answer you're still smoking."

"Well, yes. Nobody has told me I should stop or has even asked if I'm smoking. I'll ask about it when I next speak to a doctor."

Aside: I know this will be in three weeks' time. Ergo, she is gonna keep fucking smoking for another three fucking weeks. Despite the promises. Despite the fact (perhaps unknown to her, but nevertheless) that radiotherapy is less effective in those patients who continue to smoke throughout the course.

What fucking part of a cancer victim's brain shuts down when it comes to smoking? Can you tell me?

Like I said in the title: fuck's sake...

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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Between work and a hard place

With work being mad at the moment and us being in the process of selling one house and buying another, as well as processing/dealing with my mum's illness, it's a fucking crazy time right now.

No more so, necessarily, than millions of people go through every day, so I'm not getting all "woe is me" on anyone, y'know. If anyone should be woeful right now, it should probably be my mum more than me.

But she's pretty upbeat. Inappropriately upbeat? Maybe. In denial? Maybe. Who can say? And who am I to deny her that?

She's heading off for her first dose of radiotherapy today (not yesterday as we had thought previously). She's probably getting it pretty much as I type this, actually.

She texts family and friends every morning, letting us know how she slept and how she's feeling. This is the text she sent out this morning:

"Well this is it then, the next 5 [days] will decide my future but i know it will be alright and I will come bouncing back feeling better and fitter than I have for months xx"

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Saturday, August 21, 2010

Word from Birmingham

Yesterday afternoon we finally received word back from Birmingham. The doctors there agreed with the original diagnosis of metastatic brain cancer.

Before the day was out, a phone call was then placed to my mum, inviting her to a "planning appointment" on Monday, which will be followed by her first session of radiotherapy.

Subsequent sessions will take place over the following days of the week -- that is, she will receive treatment Monday to Friday next week.

This is not really the news I/we were hoping for. But it is at least some sort of forward movement. Something is finally happening beyond simply waiting.

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Sunday, August 15, 2010

There’s always hope. But beware false security.

Thanks for all your comments to my previous posts, folks. I know it's hard to know what to say. Equally, there's not much I can say in response other than thank you. Your thoughts and well wishes are appreciated.

I was up visiting my mum Thursday to Saturday, and the latest info is this.

Oddly, she seems much, much better than she was two weeks or so ago. I know this might be down to the huge number of drugs she is on. But equally, she is walking better and the numbness she had in a full half of her face is retreating somewhat.

She is also much more able to retain information. By that I mean: a couple of weeks ago, if she didn't get a thought out of her head immediately, she would have forgotten it within seconds. Now she is able to have a thought and remember it while other people are talking and then say her piece a couple of minutes later, just like any of us would in a normal conversation.

Her face is getting a bit rounder because she is now eating a lot more. She's not eating that well by normal food standards, but the Macmillan nurse told her that it's important she take in high-calorie foods as and when she feels she wants to eat, rather than necessarily sticking to set mealtimes. So she's eating soups and jelly (that's like Jell-O for you American types, rather than jelly as in PB&J) and canned fruit and cream etc etc.

Most of her pain has now gone, although she does suffer with stomach cramps once a day, usually about an hour after falling asleep at night. She is taking Oramorph for this -- a low-dose morphine suspension by mouth -- and that seems to do the job.

She's also very positive, but I think that's because some of the drugs she is on are uppers... Probably no bad thing.

It was good to see her looking and feeling so much better than she was a couple of weeks back.

We are still waiting for the experts in Birmingham to get their opinions back to Mum's hospital. But right now, I don't think I'm alone in feeling cautiously optimistic. And my mum's local hospital has a terrible reputation for fuck-ups and misdiagnoses. That said, I don't want to get lulled into a false sense of security, y'know?

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Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Great way to start retirement

So, it's a crazy time right now. Not only are Red and I on the verge of moving house. And that, most people acknowledge, is one of the most stressful events in people's lives. But also, my mum has been quite ill. She's 61, she remarried three years ago, and she retired last year.

The story is this.

She was hospitalized suddenly one evening about five weeks ago with a suspected mini-stroke. At admittance she was given a CT scan as a matter of course. And this revealed some shadows on her brain.

Later tests, such as MRIs, showed shadows on her lungs and stomach. And the word came back that she probably has cancer.

In all, she stayed in hospital for 22 days, which is a pretty long stretch, I'd venture to say. And in all that time she had further tests and biopsies and whatever else could be thrown at her. Meanwhile she wasn't really eating particularly well, because hospital food is, frankly, quite shit.

Some bits of good news came through at various stages. They came back to say that the stomach was clear of cancer and, later, that the lung, too, was cancer-free.

The brain, however, is a continuing issue.

What they believe is that it is secondary cancer -- that is, cancer that has spread from elsewhere in the body. But they can't find the source, the primary cancer. That said, they have revised their thoughts on the lung somewhat, saying now that there is something at the back of it.

Now, here's the kicker. Or one of them.

Here in the UK -- or maybe simply at the hospital she's in, I don't know -- they don't or can't do biopsies of secondary (metastasized) cancer in the brain. Indeed, if it was primary cancer, it would be easier to deal with. So, because they can't do a biopsy, they can only reach a decision by consensus as to whether this is actually cancer.

We are awaiting that decision as I type. It's been two weeks now since her tests went to the experts in Birmingham to analyze and discuss, so we should hear back any day now.

And if it is cancer?

Well, here's the second kicker.

They will treat it with radiotherapy to the whole brain. This will be a series of about ten 3-minute sessions over the course of two weeks (on weekdays). This is hoped to shrink the cancer and help improve my mum's "quality of life". That's a term that never sounds good, right?

But it's not a cure.

And if the cancer comes back? Well, then there's nothing more to do but wait.

Word is that we could be looking at her having only six months.

Or perhaps it's all a big mistake, and the experts will tell us that. We can always hope, right? Denial is a wonderful thing.

Here's a picture of denial. Ooops, no, it's da Nile. See. I can still do great comedy.

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Saturday, August 07, 2010


I've been quite shite at doing my latest travel/birthday blog posts. Indeed, I haven't even finished the birthday day itself. And it's depressing that my next posts are gonna be pretty miserable stuff.

I'm probably gonna make this private for a little while, so if you want to get invited to read some personal, private stuff, drop me a mail. I don't mind that; just wanna keep it away from the wider world while it's all so recent and raw.

Drop me a line. I'd be glad of it. You know misery loves company, right?

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