Friday 25th April
As the summer term at school begins, I must come to terms with the fact that I am unemployed! For the first time in nineteen years!
I had to take ‘sick leave’ last May when my surgeries began: I was on full pay for six months, followed by six months of half pay. That has now finished. Arghhhh.
But all is not lost. The head teacher has been very understanding of my situation, and I return in September, albeit on a much reduced timetable, teaching only mathematics.
I could not end my teaching career with a sick-note. I love my job, enjoy being with the students, helping them to achieve their potential.
“I’ll be back”.
Thursday 24th April
For the last three months I have been going to see my lymphoedema nurse on a weekly basis. At first I hated it. To admit that one of my legs was fat, swollen and heavy was not an easy thing to do. To be fitted with a surgical garment that I must wear every day is even less appealing. To know that it is probable that I will have lymphoedema for the rest of my life takes an awful lot of getting used to.
To begin the session, the nurse uses manual lymphatic drainage massage, followed by zipping my leg into a full length inflating wader type contraption. The machine inflates and deflates, moving section by section up my leg. Intermittent, pneumatic compression! It feels very therapeutic, and hopefully the lymph fluid is being encouraged up my leg, to find new nodes into which to drain. Following a thirty minute session on this machine, the nurse then uses Kinesio taping from the top of my leg, around my hip to my lower back. This is another way of trying to channel the lymph fluid away from collecting in my leg, and finding a new drainage route.
Back in January when the nurse measured my leg for the support stocking, my left leg was found to be carrying 800mls more fluid than the right. In February it had dropped to 266mls, so I felt really good about that. However, today, upon a new set of measurements, my left leg is heavier by 1100mls. What on earth is going on? Yes, I have been trying to exercise by taking walks around the town, probably lasting between thirty and fifty minutes. Most afternoons I have rested up my leg by lying on the sofa in the lounge. Not very exciting, but it’s all I can manage at the moment.
Tuesday 8th April
After the two days of tests at Exeter hospital, we decided to take a break and drive on to London for a few days to visit relatives and partake in a bit of sightseeing and retail therapy. There’s nothing like a bit of distraction to take one’s mind off all the hospital tests, especially the CT scan. This is the one that really scares me, for it is this that may show progression of the disease.
Following a lovely four day break, we are on our way home, when my trials nurse phones me. She has the paperwork from the scan. My oncologist has yet to see it, but one of the senior registrars has given her the go ahead to tell me that all is fine. It shows “nothing of any medical significance”. My heart skips a beat, I feel so relieved and tension leaves my shoulders. Everything is good for another three months!
Thursday 3rd April
On the third of April 2013 I had an appointment with my GP to check out a dodgy mole on my left foot. The Alien Blob. I think he knew what it was straightaway. And so began my melanoma journey.
Here I am today, in Exeter, undergoing two days of tests for my three-month review as part of the Combi-Ad clinical drugs trial.
I began yesterday with the dermatologist, still keeping an eye on a small mole on my left ankle. I then moved on to bloods and obs with the trials nurse. My next stop was down to Medical Outpatients for an ECG, then a bit of a wait for the final stop of the day: a CT scan. Oh joy!
Thursday began with an ECHO, followed by an eye exam, then the consultation with the oncologist and the handing over of my next month’s worth of tablets.
So here I am, a year after I visited my doctor, and already three months down the road with GlaxoSmithKline. Am I doing the right thing? Do I have any other choice?