Saturday, 24 March 2012

Home, Home

a warm welcome
When C was a girl – when C was P, in fact – she used to go on the train to visit her granny in Lancing, in Sussex. The train stopped at Hove, where the guard, or the station master, would announce the fact in a two-note descant, 'Hove, Hove,' a chime we have adopted when referring to home: and home, home never seemed more melodious than it did today, with C emerging yesterday from eight days of Hogarthian horror in a hospital showing the strain of Tory depredations into a weekend of such confirmed Springiness that it bounced our souls skyward.

garden, dog, bench, Sun, beloved... smiling on

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Just for clarification

Nothing has actually changed with today's news, except that we have more information. Plan A is still in place, the plants still grow, the sun still rises and C is still here, confounding medical expectations and filling rooms with her particular light.

good news and not so good news

The endoscopy was a success, opening the stent again, and C will be home tomorrow.

Sadly, a CT scan revealed secondaries in her liver, so the prospect of C having 'a year or two' dangled by the consultant if she proved to be free of other tumours has been removed: they are equivocal about her seeing out the summer, and the most likely outcome is that she will get progressively weaker and her life more circumscribed, so it's back to plan A and wringing the last drop of juice from life.

Ever since I had to tell my mother that my father was dead, and saw the light go out in her eyes, I've hated to be the bearer of bad tidings, but it seems to be my lot.

Anyone who wants to talk to me, feel free to ring. I'll be glad to hear from you

Monday, 19 March 2012

waiting game

C has yet to have her endoscopy: it may happen tomorrow, but probably Wednesday, with a view to getting her home on Friday. She is in reasonable good spirits, eating a bit, and is now in a much better ward with views of the sky and distant hills and a nice group of women.

Over the last few days, our friend Phil has given up his study leave and weekend to come down from Wales and ferry me around, which has allowed C to have a daily commune with her darling dog K in the car park: this was yesterday

apologies for the blurs: a few drops of moisture condensed on the lens

Saturday, 17 March 2012


The hospital has established that there are no secondary cancers apparent, which is great, and also that she has septicaemia, rooted in an infection in the liver caused by a blockage of the bile duct.

They are currently treating her with IV antibiotics (she is still inclined to throw up anything she swallows unless she gets a shot of a powerful anti-emetic first), and she will have an endoscopy on Monday to see exactly what's causing it and to remedy it: it might be the stent is blocked internally with tiny pieces of gall-stone or other detritus, in which case they will attempt to clear it, or it might be that the tumour has closed it beyond the stent, in which case they will attempt to fit a third or adjust the current one.

Thanks to everyone for their concern: I'll post again on Monday when I hope to know a little more

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Bulletin: Back in the Jug Agane

C was well enough yesterday: we had visitors, she went out to Big Cred to do some shopping, Then, suddenly, around 8 pm when I was getting dinner, she had a serious shivering fit – rigours I think they call it – that went on for about an hour: then she was too hot, and then she started to throw up. We got her warm and stabilized, and she slept for a while, with me dozing in the armchair for a couple of hours, until about 1.30, when the fool dog decided he had to go out for a pee and a crap. As C was sleeping soundly, I kept him downstairs with me while I cleaned up the kitchen and dithered around until about 2.15, when I delivered him back to the bedroom, had a few words with C, who was barely conscious, then went to bed in the guest room. By this time, I had woken up, so I read for a while. I turned the light out at three, then almost immediately heard the unmistakeable sounds of vomiting on the baby monitor we use as a one way intercom. 

She could not keep down water, pills, anything, so I phoned the night medical service, got dressed, and waited. They came at four, and the doc gave C a shot to quieten her stomach. I went back to bed at 5 (setting the alarm for 7.30 so I could wake up C in time for here morning pill regime – so many of the various pills she takes have sedative effects that she cannot rely on an alarm clock to wake her), and slept until 7, when the baby monitor woke me again – fool dog needed out. So I took him downstairs and let him into the garden and made C, who was awake and stirring, another cup of weak Earl Grey tea, current tipple of choice. At this point it was 7.30 or so: C had her pills and ran a bath, while I got into our bed and got my head down for two more hours, interrupted only by going down to the kitchen a couple of times to make C - who had acquired a raging thirst, the symptoms just kept on coming – more tea.

She felt OK, if a little weak and unwilling to contemplate any activity that didn't involve staying in bed, and we bumbled through the morning. Around lunchtime I phoned the GP's surgery to ask about the problems C is having with night sweats and shivering, and she, having just read the night doctor's report, decided to come out and have a look. She (the GP) thinks that the stent put in in November is failing, and feels that C should have it replaced, if possible: if it isn't possible, well, they will try and keep the infections at bay with antibiotics, and she will simply get more and more jaundiced. So, there was a great flurry of activity and packing (four bags: clothes, entertainment, drugs and food – the catering at the RD&E, in direct contrast to the medical care,  is beyond inadequate, it's an insult),  and once again, my love left in an ambulance at around 3.30. 

It's very difficult to keep things in the day when something like this happens. For months now, we've been able to forget, for long periods of virtually every day, that Chip is dying, and to concentrate on living, on the love we have for each other, our dog, our home, our garden, our lives. Neither of us had any inkling that this latest bout was anything other than a dip on the rollercoaster. It felt like a blow to the solar plexus

It may yet prove to be just another dip, and I'm sure my natural optimism will reassert itself, and probably quite soon, but right here, right now, in this moment, the house seems horribly empty, purpose and direction lacking, nothing to do but wander about, and howl my devastation at the everyday reminders of separation, and wait for news...

I'll keep you posted

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Furiously making lemonade since 1947

It's nine months to the day that a clueless klutz of a registrar made a brutal bollocks of giving C the news of her diagnosis (in an open ward, just before visiting time, naught but a curtain for privacy, no support, etc.), and according to the medical statisticians, she shouldn't really be here now. And although she has had a few bad days this week, unable to keep food or drink down and deeply, if temporarily dispirited, this morning she woke up all perk and painfree, kept her breakfast down, took Kezzy for a walk on the Millennium Green and insisted on climbing Rose & Crown Hill to the community shop to pick up my newspaper as I slugged abed. I'm pretty confident she's going to beat the epidemiologists' odds.

But then again, she should have been dead years ago, perhaps not even born: it started with the car-crash that left her pregnant mother dangling from a branch over a stream by her bra-strap; then her premature birth after her not strictly sober mother fell down stairs; then foetal alcohol syndrome; a fractured skull at three; a tonsillectomy that led to a haemorrhage so brutal that she almost drowned in her own blood; hepatitis B; pyelonephritis; and all that before she got out of her teens. People use words like gutsy, courageous, a fighter, but that doesn't cover it for me: what C has is bloody-mindedness, resilience and a long-held determination – borne out of the bitter experience of others close to her, notably her brother, who was diagnosed with cancer just as he was about to fulfill his lifetime ambition of being a photographer – to follow her dreams and to make the very best of the less arduous parts of a life which has included far more than its fair share of pain and illness (I haven't even mentioned the bulk of it), to pour out tenderness and loving kindness to any creature more helpless and tremblingly vulnerable than herself, and to inspire far more love and devotion in others than she thinks.

So here's a few relatively random pictures from a life that is still being well-lived

Beatnik phase

Leaving for the Harry Bowling Prizegiving
Researching for Up West. Honest

Pet and Bec's wedding, 1983

c. 1980 The schoolteacher years
Aged around 20

Ibiza 1970s

with Toots by the sea c. 1986

Elm Grove 1984

Cork St Vermeer, mid-1990s
Road trip in Kermit

Sweetheart Abbey

Sleeping at the Mansions
I don't know which animal is down there, but I can tell from the look that there is one
Here comes trouble...
With Marc Ennals – I always treasure the photos that showed her ear-rings in flight