Having cancer is a bit like having a rubbish job where you have meeting after meeting and no time to assimilate or get on with other work. The good thing is that there is sometimes time to see friends and skip off to a greasy spoon for a big breakfast which is what we do with my friend Ms Wengraf, milliner extraordinaire. I find she has had her hair cut into something resembling an urchin/elfin creature and looks stunning. It really suits her, as does the wonderful coat she has acquired through dubious means. We stuff our faces with bacon, black pudding and hash browns and thoroughly enjoy ourselves. But we then have to rush off to St Mary’s Hospital to see the psychologist who agrees we can stop seeing each other. Since coming out of hospital after the September Fiasco, I feel emotionally very well although physically still weak. My right hand and foot have patches of numbness and I wonder if there are other numb areas within my leg which cause the incredible weakness. Climbing stairs still presents a real challenge which I thought I would have overcome by now. Talking to the oncologist, she explains the steroids cause muscle weakness in my arms and legs which also explains why I can’t put my arms fully over my head or scratch my shoulder (such an agony, only relieved by Mr Mason under strict direction).
My voice is still weak and weird. The vocal chords are paralysed on one side (have I said this already? Blame it on the chemo brain) so I will have an operation to insert a widget (my word) into the cartiledge in my neck which will give me my full vocal range back but we are going to do this when I get back from the wedding. Operations and flights don’t seem to go well. Thinking about the possibility of draining fluid from my chest, one of the registrars mentions that surgery done recently can suddenly pop open under pressurised cabin conditions. Hmm. Not something I would like to happen so we decide to postpone it. While out recently without supervision from Mr Mason, a rare event, I receive a phone call from the estate agent and phone home to let him know. He is also out and I leave a message on the answerphone. Later on when I get home, I look at the answerphone and press play to hear the messages. The first message I can understand. The second message is quieter and rambling and appears to be left by a nutter who is incoherent and babbling. After listening to it three times and increasing the volume, Mr Mason appears at my shoulder and says “You do know that’s you, don’t you?” My voice is so unfamiliar and quiet I don’t recognise myself. It’s a bit like seeing myself in the mirror. I nearly always do a double take, so regal and Henry VIII is my face. This has caused disagreement and even disappointment for some, like Ms Frumin who visits us yesterday and feels I have over-sold my Holbein features. You just cannot please everyone.
This week has been an important one in terms of tests and staging. On Monday I have a CT scan which actually goes well. The canula goes in first time and the appointment is early which allows us to go and visit the Mason in-laws. This is a tricky visit as we are trying to persuade Mrs Mason senior to have a flu jab. She is resistant to all suggestions and there are obviously health issues which I won’t discuss here which need attending to. It is a challenge to get anything done because the default position is always NO. However, we make some progress when both Mr Masons call the GP and it appears something is going to be done so we drive home slowly through the pouring rain.
On Tuesday, I have a ‘fit to fly’ test booked at Hammersmith Hospital. I have no idea what it involves but find out I have to wear a tight mask, like a pilot’s, for 20 minutes in reduced oxygen to see if my sats are good enough. The mask is quite claustrophobic and the technician has to take arterial blood from my earlobe 3 times during the test which involves smearing it in Deep Heat and then cutting it with a scalpel. Happily, my sats don’t fall below 84 which means I will not need oxygen on the flight. This is incredibly cheering as it wasn’t long ago even making the flight was uncertain. Following this, we decide to go and get our eyes tested. Oh yes, we know how to have fun. Chemotherapy is not good for the eyes. It stiffens the retina and I have been having problems with reading and even watching tv at times. The bossy woman who was there a year ago spots me immediately. She is obsessed with designer frames while I have no real interest in who designed them as long as they look good. After my eye test, one of the assistants comes to help me. With surprising speed, the designer-obsessed assistant intercepts her and says she is going to help me as she did last year. Oh, here we go. I am looking at frames which appeal and she is straight onto the designer frames. She tells me I like designer frames while I say quite forcefully – well, as forcefully as someone whispering can – that i don’t care at all about designer frames. She clearly blocks this out and determinedly looks at all the designer stuff she can lay her hands on. She is determined to know me so well she tells me what colours I like and what sort of arms my glasses should have. Sigh. I try to plough through designs I like while she shoves endless designer pairs in front of me. Eventually, she finds a Gok Wan pair I actually like so I choose those together with another non-designer pair. Actually, everything is designer because it doesn’t just appear magically fully formed. And the idea that Gok Wan actually sat down and designed these particular frames is really quite unlikely, I think. Anyway, i like them and then have to go through the eye-watering process of seeing how much everything will cost. But at least I will be able to see.
Today I see the oncologist to get the results of the ct scan. The nurses in the clinic are lovely and I receive at least one kiss and hug. Even the receptionist seems to know my name which I find amazing with all the patients who pass through. I need to be away early as I have a meeting at the LSE at 1pm and despite my appointment not being until nearly 11, they are on board and hurry me through. The report doesn’t seem to be with the scan pictures but the oncologist looks through them and says she doesn’t think it is as bad as before. It’s hard to tell as there has been no consistent chemotherapy but as there is no increase in the fluid in my chest and my sats are good I take it all as a good sign. And I look and feel so much better than I did on oral chemotherapy it’s hard not to be optimistic. So, until anything else turns up, that is exactly what I am going to be.