Saturday, December 22, 2018


Amaia decided to edit this photo I took of her so you could only see the blue shades around her. I really like the final effect so am bookmarking it here so I can find it in the future.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018


Today's posts are quite TV-oriented, for someone who rarely watches TV, and never watches terrestrial!

So after my week in the jungle, I developed an infection and was readmitted to the Royal, but this time, it was post-pathology so I was put in the non-oncology gynaecology ward for Glasgow's east end. My 'catchment' hospital (when I don't have suspected cancer) is the Queen Elizabeth, but given my consultant works out of the oncology unit, I was sent back there.

My first day was spent alone, but Marcel came through from Edinburgh to visit so that was nice.

Later that afternoon two young girls were admitted. One said she was 23, the other 19. They were typical salt-of-the-earth east end girls. 23 had three kids who were 1, 2 and 3. 19 had two kids who were 1 and 3. Both were in with suspected ectopic pregnancies.

23 looked shocked and asked the nurses not to mention to any of her visitors why she was in, 19 hadn't a clue what it meant and said she wasn't that bothered as long as she was still allowed out for a fag break!

After my fifth birthday, the only places I have lived (in Scotland at least) are Newton Mearns and Dowanhill (Glasgow's West end). Broad Scots was something my grandparents spoke, and to a lesser extent my parents, but it was entirely alive and going as strong as ever over there, just 9 miles from my sheltered existence. I definitely live in a strange and alien bubble down here. I've lived abroad, so know you need to tone down your Scottish accent for foreigners, these girls had obviously never experienced anything of the sort and spoke to a succession of foreign consultants without the slightest attempt to make themselves easier to understand. As someone who works with Scots from time to time, this was a fascinating opportunity to watch Scotland in action.

Visiting hour came. There was a strict two to a bed policy... or so it said on signs up everywhere. No one was coming in for me that night so again I was left people-watching. 19 had her boyfriend and three friends around her. 23 had her sister and a child. At that point a noticeably drunk man staggered in, stinking of booze and fags, he stood in front of my bed eyeing up both 23 and 19, who were similar medium-build brunettes. He sidled over to 23 and said 'hello, hen'. 19, raging, eyed him back and shouted at the top of her voice 'that's no me, ya daft cunt!' and he then staggered to her instead. There were hissed words in hushed tones for the next ten minutes then the drunk man left again. 'Thon fucker didnae even know his own wean!' she exclaimed. It transpired that he'd not seen his daughter in six years and had heard she was unwell so had dropped by to visit and accidentally sat down at the other girl's bed as he didn't recognize her! She ranted and raved for the next few hours about him being useless, other than the fact that he'd been so embarrassed he'd left her his pack of cigarettes.

We had some fun chats - when 23 told me she'd done all her Xmas shopping already in her local pub, where a guy sells stuff like Xboxes for £20. Hmmmm 樂 And 19 told me she only ever got pregnant when she got high on cannabis, so she was going to stick to booze in the future!

Every morning, both were taken to be scanned as they needed the foetuses to grow to find where they were hiding. On day three, 19's was found and she was operated on and ended up in a fist fight with a nurse when she said she wasn't allowed out for a fag break until she could actually stand up after the anaesthetic. (She apologized later once she'd calmed down!) On day four, 23's was found too, but it wasn't ectopic after all! The pregnancy was completely normal so she was allowed home. As she was leaving, I wished her well. She replied that she was going home to tell her partner she was pregnant. She looked vaguely concerned. I asked if she thought he was going to find it daunting to have a fourth kid in four years and she laughed and said, 'it's no that that's worrying me, it's telling him it isnae his, it's his best pal's!' GULP!

It was a very entertaining week; they were lovely girls, in their own way, so refreshingly honest and transparent, just not very similar to the ones I come across in my usual day-to-day. I guessed I learned there's a bigger world out there, than I remembered.

I'm a celebrity (but in the east end, not the jungle)

I've never been in hospital before, not really. I had the five babies, but with the first two I had so little clue what I was doing I spent my hospital stay engrossed in them and didn't notice anyone else in the ward and for the last three I left hospital within 24 hours of the birth so had no time to befriend anyone. When the purpose of your hospital stay is childbirth, by definition you have a companion throughout your stay!

So, at the ripe old age of 50, I went in for my first operation. There were a number of stress factors: I'd never had surgery, I'd never had an anaesthetic, I'd never been in hospital, they had told me they weren't sure what they'd find but whatever was cut out would be sent to pathology for cancer screening, I'd been given high odds it was cancer (60%), my family were in pieces and I wasn't exactly looking forward to leaving them having to step up to doing all my jobs as well as their own and visiting me at the same time.

I was to come in for 7-30 on the day of the op, fasted and ready to go. Although I wasn't scheduled to be on the table till 14-30, they wanted a standby in case the 9-00 didn't show. I was shown into a ward and made to sit on a bed with the curtain drawn. There was someone else in the next bed, but I couldn't see her. A student nurse came to check us in. I was asked loads of questions - was I on any regular meds, had I ever had an anaesthetic, did I take drugs, was I an alcoholic, was I allergic to anything, did I know why I was there that day etc, etc.

Then they moved on to my neighbour. I worked out from the date of birth she gave that we were the same age. This put me at ease already as I had only been to one group meeting before the op, where the procedure and post-op physio was explained. In the group there were about fifteen women and even the youngest was old enough to be my mother. I had come home with the distinct impression that I didn't belong there and fate was taking the piss.

My neighbour was asked all the same questions and gave similar answers to me... similar until they asked if she knew what she was in for, when her reply was 'well, I'm hoping it's a boob job!', the student nurse sounded flustered, started leafing through her notes and trying to find the simplest way to explain it was actually a hysterectomy. She was so busy trying to do her job well, she hadn't noted the cheeky tone in my neighbour's voice. She burst out laughing and explained she was pulling her leg but added that if they could see a way to fix her boobs while she was under anaesthetic anyway, she'd slip her a cheque!

The nurse left and we sat behind our curtains, quiet for a few minutes. It was 8 in the morning, we were both hungry and thirsty (we weren't even allowed water) and we had at least six hours ahead of us. I went to the loo and keeked round her curtain to say hello. A beautiful, and much younger-looking than me Pakistani woman was sitting on the bed, her long hair in pigtails. We started to chat and the next six hours, that I had been dreading, passed too fast and in fits of laughter and camaraderie. She'd had operations before so could put my mind at ease, she told me she'd negotiated holding on to one of her ovaries (I couldn't as both had tumours on them) as she remembered her mum being so unhinged during menopause, she'd often thrown plates of curry at her dad and she'd had to try to scrape the turmeric stains off the walls! She told me her parents had arranged her marriage at 16 and she'd had three boys by 19. She told me her husband was a lovely friend but she didn't fancy him at all so she used to make up gynae issues and tell him her doc had told her to avoid sex for six months, when in reality he'd said a week! She told me the secret to her youthful looks was some dodgy Botox cream her sister bought on holiday in Turkey and since she'd started using it her wrinkles had all gone! She mentioned the boyfriend she had had since her divorce who asks her to marry him every year at the bells, so she's started avoiding him at New Year to save the embarrassment of saying no again cos she just wasn't into him enough for that! She had me in fits of laughter and I felt I'd known her my whole life. It's weird to think we were both there terrified we might be dying and having what felt like a ladies' spa day. I can honestly say I enjoyed that morning more than most social occasions I've had for years!

After the operation we came round to find ourselves in a ward of five. Interestingly, the ages were much better than at the pre-op - well, from a social point of view, at least. I am 50, so was my new friend. There was a 40, a 56 and a 76 too. It was the dreaded oncology post-op ward. We all knew that but a snooty older woman in the end bed hadn't quite sussed it. We were all post-operative and fairly helpless for the first twelve hours. A nurse came round carrying cloths and a basin and asked who'd like to be freshened up first. Mrs Snooty on the end actually came out with 'Well, I deserve to be washed first as I am having to deal with the fact I have cancer, unlike you young things!' The youngest of us all calmly replied 'This is the oncology ward, we are all waiting on pathology reports, so you're no different to the rest of us!' That was met by a tut and a 'Well, it's harder at my time of life, my husband is in a terrible state and so is my daughter and her kids' to which the youngest again replied, ever so calmly 'I realize, it's not what anyone wants at any age, but your child is fifty, mine is ten'. Silence fell and as my pre-op friend and I bonded with 40, and 56, 76 sat chewing a wasp in the end bed!

It really was a strange experience. I was thrown in with a group of people I would never normally have met - a teacher from Ayrshire, an NHS administrator, my pre-op friend who ran her own letting agency, and the grumpy granny on the end. We shared a highly intimate experience, both of post-op pain and of whiling away the waiting time till the pathology reports came in. We sat in hospital gowns and no make-up, showing our true selves in a way you never do with strangers and bonded in the best and worst of circumstances. We laughed our selves silly every night trying to identify what the food was, we cried together in fear for our futures. It was a truly incredible experience and one I'll never forget, obviously. We even got to the stage where we could hug grumpy gran as she left and genuinely wish her well.

When I came home, the kids were watching I'm a celebrity - a group of people who knew nothing of each other thrown into the jungle, make-up free and eating the oddest of meals and I thought to myself - I've actually just been through exactly the same experience - well, I didn't need to eat worms or spiders but the rest was fairly similar.

Since I've come home, I've heard from the others that I was the only one whose pathology came back negative so their stories will all continue, but we've kept in touch so I'll be there if they need a chat.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

A real live Chuggy

I have found my Xmas present, if anyone is still looking...

This has been restored with so much love! I could definitely look after it well! 😏

Or even this one if you're feeling really adventurous...

Glasgow, Xmas 2018

Here's a pretty wee video of Glasgow this Xmas - probably worth archiving in case we have power shortages and feral children roaming the streets here by this time next year, given the current government...

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Just a thought

For all the last nearly three months have been difficult, I have had access to care when I needed it and it has saved my life. Everything they cut out of me, they cut out of me on time, when it was still at the pre-cancerous stage. There are women, wives, mums, fifty year olds all around this world suffering from exactly the same issues as me, but they find themselves in Syria, in Gaza, or in the Yemen. They are displaced Rohingya people, or refugees fleeing other crises, of which there are too many to mention. Those women are the same as me, but their fate won't be, and that is not right. We need to be acutely aware that it is simply a fluke of birth that sees my situation end differently to theirs and we need to think of a way to start righting that wrong.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Day 75 takes the biscuit


It's been another interesting few days on my 'death bed' - I thought the latest update might give you all a laugh...

As I said last week, I spent most of the week waiting on a scan that never happened, and having no treatment in hospital other than the odd paracetamol so I got sent home to free up a bed. 

This morning the phone went and it was my GP. I have never actually met my GP, despite being with the practice more than four years. It's a big medical centre with nearly a dozen (lovely and helpful) doctors, but today my own GP decided to chase up my case... He seems very nice!

It was an interesting conversation. He said he'd seen on my notes that after my visit to the GP in a lot of pain last Thursday, they had sent me to hospital for a scan but couldn't see the scan results so was ringing to ask me what they found! I filled him in on that one and got a sigh or two. He then asked if they'd discharged me with a course of strong antibiotics. I said they had discharged me without so much as a paracetamol. I asked if the antibiotics he was suggesting were to treat the intra-abdominal abscess that I think I have and the GPs at my practice think I have but the QEUH registrar thinks I might not have. He replied that they might of course help with that but he meant them to deal with my wound infection. I wasn't aware I had a wound infection, especially given no one looked at it in the hospital other than to acknowledge I had a hole in my front and suggest I take a shower to keep it clean! Oh, he replied, shocked again - it's just that when you were here on Thursday, we swabbed it and you have three different infections going on in there, the most concerning of which is E. Coli.

Well, whoopdefuckingdoo. ♪♩♫♬♫All I want for Christmas is E.Coli...♪♩♫♬♫ Has a certain ring to it, doesn't it? 

The doc hopes he hasn't wrecked my Xmas but he'll have to prescribe some antibiotics you can't drink alcohol with! Seriously, I'd happily forego my weekend glass of wine forever if they could just get me back on my feet!

Saturday, December 08, 2018

The saga continues

So... They couldn't fit in a scan as an emergency outpatient on Tuesday, so they sent me home, they couldn't fit in a scan as an outpatient on Thursday so they admitted me to do it on Friday, they couldn't fit it in on Friday so they called over to the main building today to be told they can't do them at the weekend so I'm being discharged to come back for a scan next week as an outpatient. This is getting tedious 🙄

Friday, December 07, 2018

56 days, plus 13, plus 2

It looks like I might have spoken too soon on Tuesday. My attempt at an NHS-free week didn't even reach the 48 hour milestone.

The day had started stressfully as I had pre-booked a taxi to take the kids to school as Thomas wasn't home. The taxi had not turned up and when I rang to complain they'd blamed the O2 network outage. The upshot was that I paid over a tenner to have my kids delivered to school late. I was not amused.

By lunchtime eating had become a trial as sitting at a 90 degree angle was becoming increasingly difficult. Something was burning deep inside me on the left of my wound and something was making the surface of my skin so sensitive, I could barely brush the back of my hand against my abdomen. I googled again, desperate not to end up 'back inside'. I couldn't work out what it could be. An infection seemed unlikely given I was on my 12th straight day on antibiotics. Had they left the scalpel in there by mistake? 

I had been booked in with the nurse once again to change my dressing on the Thursday at 3. 

I found sitting in the car almost impossible so had to recline the seat on my trip to the medical centre. I couldn't sit in the waiting room because I basically couldn't sit. The nurse took one look at me and called the doctor in. She'd seen me on Tuesday and saw a difference. After a poke and a prod, he decided I needed admitted for a suspected abscess deep inside on my left hand side. The weans were dumped on Charlotte though asked to be in charge of making some sort of meal as she had a university economics exam the next day so was studying in her room. I texted Thomas who had braved going to his office in Edinburgh rather than working from home for the first time in weeks to say mum was driving me to hospital though this time the GP opted for QEUH, and I wasn't going to argue.

On arrival, I became aware myself of how taxing even walking was becoming. They brought the Registrar in who examined me and helpfully suggested that maybe during the original operation, they'd cut the supply to or from my left kidney and that was potentially the problem. My blood and urine tests were all fine and infection free but that could be explained by the fact that as a reasonably young (!) and healthy (till 11 weeks ago) person, my other kidney would simply have taken over all function.

To ascertain if this is the issue there are two problems. Firstly, I need transferred to the actual main 'Death Star' building for a renal CT scan (I'm currently in the maternity and gynaecology block) but no appointments have become free over there today. And secondly, my veins have all thrown in the towel after nearly a month of abuse and they can't CT scan me until they can get the dye into me through a cannula. All attempts at putting one in yesterday failed ☹️

So I'm stuck here thumb-twiddling once again, missing my normality and my family life. I have well and truly had enough now. And that's before anyone tells me how to fix my kidney, if it turns out to be that, or what hypothesis B is, if it isn't that. 

I feel autumn was only just beginning when my life spun off into some parallel and unpleasant universe. I missed all of autumn, the beginning of winter and the whole Christmas season. Santa still hasn't done any real shopping, I haven't heard a single Christmas record or seen any Christmas lights or markets and I'm missing the whole build-up with the kids. I've missed the school Christmas gala, the open classroom day, the p7 Christmas assembly. The Santa Dash on Sunday is out both as a participant and as a photographer 😭 And our annual trip to IKEA'S party has been cancelled too. Next week the girls are carol singing in Silverburn - is there any hope? 

I'm going to get to January bypassing Christmas altogether at this rate and that's not nice when you have a young family.

I'm sooooo feed up.

Wednesday, December 05, 2018

56 days, plus 13

So, let's update the saga.

I had psyched myself up to being fighting fit and running round the shops doing Xmas shopping by post-op day 20.

Ok, so I hadn't factored in that once they opened me up, they'd perform a sigmoid colectomy, on top of the full hysterectomy and the fix of the umbilical hernia. The fact that each of these three operations has a predicted minimum six week recovery time estimate didn't faze me. Surely it's like sticking three pies in the oven to cook at the same time instead of one - you just do your six weeks simultaneously, reducing the timings by half as I'm younger than the average person undergoing these procedures and I'm never ill. If I can go shopping within 24 hours of giving birth, how hard can it be?

Well, that doesn't seem to be exactly the path I'm travelling, strangely. Having got home on day four after the original op, everything went ok for the first two days. I checked the instructions on how to get well sooner and even went on the prescribed five minute walk twice a day. The others from my ward, who I'd kept in touch with, weren't even out their pyjamas yet so I was feeling well-smug.

The slight redness above my belly button only really started to worry me on day seven when I noticed my skin was becoming hard. By day eight it had crept across my stomach and by day nine I could no longer sit at the dining table. My entire stomach was red, hard and nipping like mad. I called NHS 24 who decided it sounded bad enough to send an out-of-hours GP to my house. I haven't had a GP come to me since I was four years old. Christ, I thought, I must be at death's door! I was told to ring back on day ten if it hadn't improved. It hadn't worsened, but it hadn't improved. A second GP came out to me in the middle of the night. (I'm definitely dead!) She looked at the wound, the red, my blood pressure and temperature and phoned me an ambulance. I was going to need IV antibiotics as I'd developed cellulitis...

At 4am I left for the Royal again. She almost sent me to the QEUH, my fingers were very much crossed as they have free parking and decentish food, but at the last moment she decided she wanted me back under my original consultant so off I went again to the Royal. By 10am I was on the ward with tubes in all my veins again.

In my seven days absence, ward 56 had put up two Christmas trees. The only positive moment for me that day was when they explained that I would be moved to the other half of the ward from last time. I'd been in 56B as it was the oncology gynaecology ward the previous week, but my pathology results meant I was now bumped down to 56A which is standard gynae for Glasgow's East end. And what a different experience that was, but that can be a post in its own right!

I was poked and prodded for another whole week till my veins actually started to nip with the amount of IV going in and blood coming out. The redness slowly subsided but the pus from the infection needed an outlet, so my beautiful and neat scar split to let pus, by the coffee-cup full ooze from my front. It looked not unlike that scene from Alien crossed with Vesuvius on 24/8/0079! They warned me that the three tiny holes that had opened along my scar might pop and merge to become one large grape-sized trough and what do you know, they were right! Apparently it'll heal over but it is un-sew-up-able! So having had my umbilical hernia fixed after 18 years to make my belly button look normal, I now appear to have two belly buttons! Joy! I'll spare you the photo (for now at least|).

I was finally told my infection levels were passable on Friday at 1pm so they were willing to discharge me with oral antibiotics and a nurse to care for Vesuvius. Thomas was working so mum drove in to get me. I hadn't factored in that the Royal pharmacy would actually take till 6-50pm to send up the antibiotics to let me out! FFS! They even tried to tell mum she couldn't wait as it wasn't visiting hour! I pointed out she wasn't a visitor but a taxi driver who'd been waiting five hours so we were given an uncomfortable little cupboard to wait in!

Home at last but I am actually feeling more run-over-by-a-truck than first time round. I've had to go to the GP every other day for my dressing and yesterday the pain had become so bad I was taken back into the QEUH for tests to see if I was developing a new infection, but apparently I am not, I just have a lot of bruising on the inside post-infection and post-op.

I'm still so foggy-headed I can't even do my Xmas shopping online. I was really sure I'd be fully recovered by now, other than my ability to lift things, so I'm not in the best of moods.

Hopefully I will manage a whole week without visiting the A&E department. I've manged 24 hours so far, fingers crossed.

Saturday, December 01, 2018

The Barras

Léon is very European. There's nothing he loves better than sitting at an open-air café, then wandering aimlessly round a typical southern European market. Recently he was lamenting the fact that northern Europe is much less market-y. It suddenly struck me I hadn't been to the Barras since the older two were wee so I told Léon Glasgow had a market too and although it was maybe a little different to what he was used to, I'd take him along for a look...

Off to the Barras we went one Sunday just after lunch (note to self, go much earlier next time, as most things we starting to pack up when we arrived). However, Léon's reaction was wonderful! First we passed a guy selling bootleg cds from a camping table. Everything was on display of a sheet, the corners of tightly held, ready to leg it if the police came round the corner. Léon naively asked why the covers were just poor photocopies! Lol. Then it started to rain so we moved to the undercover bit. Every stall was more peculiar than the next; a mix of items, I'd tend to bin or give to charity: books, cds, ornaments that came out of the ark, odd mismatching wine glasses and assorted plates, used bras and slippers! We moved on to furniture, obviously from house clearouts, ranging from ornate, to chuck-outable tack. The traditional Scottish sweetie stall with jars of soor plooms and cinnamon balls drew in the girls, of course. Léon's mouth fell open when we rounded a corner to a stall selling only used miscellaneous cables; there were scarts, kettle cables and all sorts of transformers that seemed of little use to anyone piled a metre high like the biggest plate of black spaghetti you ever saw! To one side was a box containing, I'd reckon, over 500 old remotes for TVs, DVD players and satellite systems. Again, I can't imagine these were flying off the shelves! Lastly, a stall selling leather belts at £2 less than he'd recently paid on Amazon was the clincher. 'Oh mum, it is just like walking through eBay!' he smiled, 'When I'm older I'm going to get a stall here and make enough to buy my first Porsche!' Nothing if not an optimist, my boy! We came home with a quality German Bierstein and an ornate Aztec/Spanish chess set.

I must take him up again to experience the magic nearer to Xmas, health permitting.

Get-well flowers

I came home from hospital yesterday after my second week-long stay.

Waiting for me were these two beautiful bunches of flowers. Big thanks to Linda and Robin for one and to the mystery sender for the other as there was no card included! Much appreciated whoever you are! 🌝