We go to see the oncologist who is as cheerful as ever. He tells me that my tumour markers have risen slightly but that is over a 3 month period so he doesn’t know if they’ve jumped quickly or just gradually increased. More blood tests to find out. He also orders a CT scan so we can see what’s happening inside. My biggest problem, as ever is fatigue and the idea that I can do everything I want to without consequences. It’s like I forget every time and then spend a few days in bed recovering and dealing with the pain. My sleep has been weird, too, and I’m often awake for 4 hours or more in the night. It’s a good time to do Christmas shopping but I really would rather be asleep. I finish a couple of books, that way, too.
Chemo on Monday is a little different as Mr Mason is away at a meeting in London. I have booked transport to the hospital which turns out to be a man in a car with casual racism and a dislike of anyone moving into the area. We find things to talk about on the journey although it does feel strange to be without Mr Mason, even though he is not allowed in the chemo suite. I am called in quite quickly which is a novelty and am soon plugged into my portacath. The woman next to me starts to feel unwell and goes red in the face. Her heart is hammering away, she says, so we call a nurse over. She is having a new treatment which I guess is Herceptin as it can have those effects, but I’m wrong. We fall into conversation and I tell her we have only recently moved to the area. She says she lived in London until 13 years ago. “Aren’t you glad to get away from all those ethnics?” she asks. I’m a bit taken back and explain that I think that’s the one thing Lincolnshire lacks. She says angrily that she was mugged and burgled before she moved away but she didn’t say the kind of people who did it. I agree that’s a horrible thing to happen to anyone but my experience had been quite different. It wasn’t all sunshine and roses but how we loved the diversity of food shops, being able to buy ingredients for pretty much any nationality and the great international community. Then I drop the bomb. “My son in law is Iranian” I say, “and here it’s more difficult to find ingredients to cook Iranian food whereas that wasn’t a problem in London”. She goes a funny colour and ends the conversation. I just like saying “My son in law” anyway.
There is a bit of kerfuffle about giving me Domperidone, the anti-sickness drug. It’s not been prescribed but I am used to asking for more when I need it and here, things are obviously done differently. The staff scurry around and come back from the pharmacy with the medication but unfortunately it’s been made out in a name similar to mine but not mine, therefore I cannot have it. I wait outside for the car driver who tells me he can’t leave until 2 other patients are ready. Eventually we depart at 3.15 and I sit in the back with a lady who, the driver tells me, “don’t speak any English”. Luckily I get dropped off first as the dogs have been on their own since 9am and will be going ballistic. They are mightily excited when I get in, jumping up as if they haven’t seen me for years and Lark has disgraced herself on the kitchen floor whilst Archie has held on. He does have an amazing bladder capacity, similar to that of Austin Powers.
The following day we take Lark to be spayed. She is wearing her new red jumper to keep her warm and walks into the vet’s surgery without a care in the world. They make a big fuss of her but when we leave her, she’s confused that she’s not coming with us and I spend the day worrying if she’ll be all right. Anaesthetising a sight hound is a different game to other types of dog due to their large chests (or so I’ve been told). We ring at 2pm and she is fine, lying on her back asking for her belly to be tickled and ready to come home. We go to collect her and she is clearly spaced out. Mr Mason has to pick her up to put her in the car and to get her out again. She goes straight to her crate and sleeps and sleeps, just waking to have tepid scrambled egg spooned into her little mouth. What a princess! Archie spends the day fretting over where his little sister is and gives her a good sniff when she comes home. It’s difficult for him because she can’t run around or wrestle with him and the first time she goes down stairs on her own she is hesitant and gives a little “Oooh” when she gets to the bottom, gravity getting the better of her. For the first couple of days she is clearly in pain but she soon starts to heal up. She doesn’t show much inclination to race around the garden yet. I suspect it feels tight where her stitches are but they come out this week so that should feel better and then they can have a celebratory race around the garden.
My new appointment with the speech therapist comes around and we head off to Lincoln County Hospital. When we get there, we just can’t find the right place so ask at reception. They point out that my appointment is at Louth Hospital. Sigh. I cannot be trusted these days to get anything right. I phone Louth and they say they will tell the therapist so we hit the road again and arrive at a hospital which is clearly old (for anyone in Ealing, think the original St Bernard’s) and therefore confusing in its layout. We ask a random woman at a clinic reception desk and she says “It’s by the entrance” which is rather unhelpful as there are lots of buildings clustered around the entrance. We rush off and eventually find the place which I am sure is in the same building as a clinic entitled Sexual Diseases. Luckily our therapist is in reception at the same time as us and ushers us into her office, even though we are 40 minutes late. She is brilliant, taking notes and giving me tips on how not to choke when I am eating and drinking. We make another appointment for a couple of weeks’ time in Horncastle which is much nearer to us. She thinks I should be seeing an ENT specialist, too, so she asks my GP to refer me to one and will be working on my voice, my swallowing and eating.
The following day we go off to collect our hedgehogs. I didn’t think we’d be able to home any this year as we left it rather late to offer but the hedgehog lady called and has a mum and 3 babies for us. When we get there, she also has a lone hedgehog called Linda who tried to hibernate in a pub cellar. The rescue centre is a warren of buildings with washing lines full of towels drying. And it smells! We once had a hedgehog who came into the conservatory back in Ealing. It hid away and every time we went into the conservatory, it defecated in fear. We had forgotten the smell! The woman who helps us is clearly devoted to hedgehogs and dogs. She brings the mum and babies out first, telling us the mum was savaged by a badger. She was with them for 3 weeks and when they went to clean her out one morning, found she had 3 baby hedgehogs with her. Clearly uninhibited, she would lie on her back suckling her babies and didn’t mind who came to have a look. I suddenly think, stupidly, that we haven’t brought anything to put the hedgehogs in but we are given a little wooden house with 2 rooms, one with mum and babies snuggled into a towel and the other with a messy white towel where the entrance is. We are told the hedgehogs like the smell so they don’t get cleaned out, as such, but poo is removed and that’s that. Mr Mason will clearly be on poo duty yet again. We are also given Linda in a separate house and told she will likely leave us quickly. The babies might also go as they have been born in captivity and don’t know what the world is like but will probably be very curious. We put them into the car, hoping they won’t prove curious as we are driving home and the dogs look aghast as the smell hits them. They look at each other, silently blaming the other. Back at home we put them in the hedgehog hotel we have built and provide food and water and leave them to it, not before taking a quick peek, though.
So these are the latest members of the Mason household; Linda, Hilde, Athelstan, Wulfrun and Ethelfrida, all good Viking names (apart from Linda, obviously), in honour of the Viking heritage here.
Finally, if you have spare time on your hands, you might like to make this delightful mobile I saw in a magazine at the Hospital. It will amaze your friends and make them green with envy. All you need is a plastic basket lid and the lids from air fresheners, apparently. It is truly unique.