Wednesday, 7 December 2011

New boobs, new home, new job!


So lots has happened to me over the last few years. After I went back to work Ash and I had a chat about what he wanted to do for work as he had gone back to the hospital when I was sick and was portering, which he hated.

After some discussion, which really centered around us leaving the country together and what skills were needed abroad (Aus/NZ), and may have been influenced by the quantity of 'Wanted Down Under' that I had been watching on daytime television, Ash decided to go to college to study Horticulture.

Yes, this did mean that he would not be earning. At first we thought he would be eligible for a grant but that turned out not to be the case and his Dad was instrumental in helping us out.

This did mean that we had another two years of not having a lot of money although as I was able to go to work and do extra shifts, things weren't too bad. Having said that, now he's working I've really noticed the difference in our income. Yay! Ash spent two years at Hadlow college in Kent which is a land based studies college and graduated this summer - I am super proud of him because for two years running he won prizes...
This big plate was for being the best practical student in Horticulture. He didn't get to keep it though, there were some official photos then it was whipped away to put back in the trophy cabinet - his name is on it though :). Earlier this year I decided that it was probably time to move jobs. It was difficult to get any training or top up to my degree, the Trust had let me down on what was promised when I joined as I hadn't been able to move into other areas and so I was feeling a bit stuck and I was sick to death of not being able to work efficiently or effectively for my patients because of ridiculous protocols and lack of resources. I was starting to look around for other jobs but nothing really grabbed me, I thought about going to work on a "normal" ward but the way things are at the moment for nurses, I didn't really want the stress and I think I would struggle to do long days and night shifts. I was already struggling with long days (12 hour shift, even though I only did one a week) because I do not have the stamina that I used to have. An advert appeared on the Trust intranet for training to be a Health Visitor (which I shall now abbreviate to HV). The London Strategic Health Authority was offering to pay for training and the benefits were that I would be able to top up my diploma to a degree within one year, qualify as a higher grade and they would pay me while I was studying. I had thought about Health Visiting when I was a student nurse but then it meant another year's training without pay and I was eager to get out there and work. The Government published a new paper earlier this year which was a call to recruit 4,200 new HVs as there was a real drop in numbers and it was something that really excited me - the new way of working, especially involving dads more etc was really progressive and hopeful. I applied, I had an assessment centre for maths and english skills, I had an interview and I was offered a place! I started in September. It's been a weird year at work because I applied back in February for this so I knew that even if I didn't get it I would probably leave work anyway. I have not really been at work a lot this year as I have had three lots of surgery and been off work for about 3 months although not all at the same time. The tissue expander that I had in my right boob was removed as I was having problems with infection. Then I had my right boob reconstructed using muscle from my back (6 hours in theatre!!!!!!!), then I had my left boob lifted and the nipple relocated. The first and last operations were done at the Day Surgery Unit where I worked and it was lovely to be looked after by my friends. In fact, one of the times I took in some homemade scones, clotted cream and homemade greengage jam. Best cream tea EVER. It may be that having had an anaesthetic it tasted better than it normally would. Also my two visits to DSU I had my ops alongside other members of staff which was really nice - someone to chat to whilst waiting! I always use waiting for surgery as a really good time to catch up with my sewing - it's been good getting back into cross-stitching whilst I've been off sick. It is proving a little more difficult now I'm working full-time(ish) hours, especially as I said I would do a runner for Mum for her birthday (20th Dec) for Christmas and it's proving to be quite time consuming. OK I'm leaving it there for today - I will update you on the new job next time..... bet you can't wait! Liz xxx

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Back online.....who knows where this will go..but first a MAJOR catch-up of events.

Hello everyone,I have decided I should start blogging again as I have things to say and Ashley is getting bored of me spouting off to him when I get home. About things that he is not interested in. Well, interested to a point let's say. I am going to use my original blog title as I feel that this is just an extension of where I am in life. OK, so here's a quick update from where I left off....My last post was written as I was being discharged from the Oncology service. I wasn't really supposed to be discharged - the stupid doctor that I saw that day is an idiot. I see the oncologists about once every 6 months and just make sure that all is well. I'm part of a clinical study so they take blood for that and ask me questions etc.I have new boobs! This is quite exciting. I have had a total reconstruction of my right breast which was totally removed with my original mastectomy and the left side has been lifted. This means that due to my weight loss (oh yeah, better tell you all about that) that I now have 34D breasts. Not bloody bad! Anyway, yeah, weight loss. Well Mr D referred me to a plastic surgeon at Queen Victoria Hospital in East Grinstead (it's where they pioneered plastic surgery for burns during the Second World War - absolutely lovely hospital). When I saw him he said there was no way that they could do the sort of surgery that they wanted to do (tummy tuck reconstruction) because my BMI was over 40 (I think it was about 42) and that because of this I would definitely end up back in hospital with complications, especially from the tummy wound which I was not happy about. Tummy tuck is in NO WAY an easy option - please everyone take note - the wound stretches from hip to hip. It is HUGE and because of where it is (along the line of your trousers/knickers etc) it is subject to slow healing, coming open, infection etc.I was about 18st7lb at this point. Due to a year of inactivity and illness and because I was on Tamoxifen (hormone medication to stop the cancer from coming back by lowering my oestrogen levels) I was unable to lose weight easily (or at all despite Slimming World and loads of exercise). So I went back to Mr D for something or other and he said to me had I thought about weight loss surgery. Actually he might have mentioned this at work one day. I think I need to catch you up to something else that has happened. Whilst I was off sick Mr D started doing breast surgery in the Day Surgery. That's right. I came back to work (Jan 2009) and every Friday Mr D and his team were there doing lumpectomies and mastectomies (sometimes). It was a bit weird at first. Especially sitting in the coffee room next to the man that had told me I had cancer. It was strange to say the least. But I got to look after these ladies quite a lot and it was a hugely rewarding experience. Many of them came back for little tidying up operations. I was able to look after a friend's mother on more than one occasional and that was lovely. I got to chat with the ladies and share my experiences sometimes, I was able to encourage and reassure when it was hard for them and all in all I really enjoyed it.So we're at work, booking the patients in etc and Mr D suggests weight loss surgery to me. I dismiss it but it stays in the back of my head. Later at an appointment he says do you want me to refer you to the general surgeon to chat about it and I say yes. This means a referral to Mr El-Hasani. He also works in the Day Surgery and I am scared of him. He shouted at me once when I was newly qualified and three of his patients ended up being admitted (through no fault of my own I must say - just bad luck).In about October of 2009 I go to see him and in a very brief but comprehensive clinic appointment he recommends me for a gastic bypass. This is the gold standard he says, a gastric band will not be sufficient for the weight loss you need and may not work.OK I say. I'll go on the waiting list. He said it's about a year. I said that's fine, gives me time to think about it.Myself and Mr D and Mr E-H's Nurse Practitioner, Starlene joked at work about moving me up the waiting list. I was gradually preparing myself emotionally for the op by eating whatever I liked.At the end of January of 2010 I got a phone call to say that my op would be happening on the 4th February 2010 and that I had to start the pre-op diet in a week's time. PANIC!!!!!!!I went in, it all went extremely smoothly, I spent about 4 days in hospital. Came out liquids for two weeks, soft food for two weeks, back to normal food. OK it was in no way that easy. There was: the liver-shrinking two week pre-op diet (the only one I have ever stuck to so religiously because I knew when they did the op that Mr E-H would know whether I had stuck to it or not and I was still scared of him); afterwards there was about 3 days of no food just sips of water and painkillers; then there were the weeks and weeks of vomiting anything if I ate too fast or something too stodgy; there were the diet supplements that I still have to take but liquid iron is the most disgusting thing you can imagine; then there was the dumping. Dumping is when I have too much sugar and I can't absorb it so it stays in my bloodstream. It's like being diabetic (I have it on good authority from an actual diabetic). I feel like poo. I feel sick. I start to sweat. Sometimes I need to sleep. What I need to do is run around and burn some of it off. After that I have a sugar low so I feel very shaky, I can't see properly because my eyes are all wobbly, I need to sleep. If I don't have some sugar I could fit/go into a diabetic coma. I tested my sugar when it was feeling a little bit low once at work - it was 1.3mmol/L. This is bad. It should be between 4mmol/L & 7mmol/L all the time and if I had a patient with a reading of 1.3mmol/L I would be VERY concerned and calling doctors and getting medication etc. Anyway, I feel OK most of the time now.I've just reviewed everything above which I wrote yesterday - wow - it's a lot. There's still so much to update. Er, I think I got as far as explaining why I ended up having bariatric surgery and how well it went. Well it has gone well because within a year I had lost 7st7lb. Not bad! I now weigh 11st which is still a BMI of 25, the top limit for my height but since my weight has levelled out I'm happy, this is obviously where I was supposed to be. And I can fit into a 12-14 (sometimes a 10!!!) and this makes me feel A-M-A-Z-I-N-G. It is so good that I had to spread all the letters out and use CAPS and Bold. I'm not sure Ash is too pleased as there are less wobbly bits for him to squidge but he still manages to find them. I must just mention that one of my best friends, one of my most loyal supporters when I was ill and an all round fabulous person is soon to have a gastric bypass and I can't wait until she is able to feel like I do. Honey, you deserve it and you will be able to reconcile how you feel about how you look with what a wonderful person you are. I hope this helps you to realise how beautiful you already are.I am going to publish this now as I have written loads and I will catch you all up with reconstruction etc as soon as I have a chance to write again.Much loveLizxxx

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

The Best Christmas Present.... EVER!

Hi everyone,

This will be a quick one but I had to let you all know (if I haven't spoken to you already!) that I went to see the Oncologists on the 24th December and I have been discharged from their service meaning that I am officially CANCER FREE!!!!!

I asked the doctor if I was in remission and she said no, I am cured! Hurrah!

I still have to have the rest of the reconstruction finished and I am still recovering from the Radiotherapy as I have a rash under my arm and the skin is still a bit raw but otherwise it's just getting back to normal now.

Hopefully I will be back at work next week (I am off sick this week with the lurgy). I am seeing Occupational Health tomorrow who will make the decision about whether I can work clinically again or not.

Thank you all so much for your support over the last year, I appreciate all of it.

With lots of love

xxx :) :) :)

Monday, 8 December 2008



I am in my last week of Radiotherapy now. I have had 10 sessions which means only 5 more to go. Yay! It is pretty boring, I am having it at either Guy's or St Thomas' up in London and it is a pain doing the travelling.
When my appointments first came through they were great, about 11:30am or so every day and all at the same place. The first day when Ash and I went up there they gave me a revised schedule and the appointments were all over the place. Times and location. I whinged a bit and they changed it for me but it was still not great and now it seems like every time I go up there they change another appointment. To be fair, they have been fairly accommodating but it means I have had to pay more for my travel as some of the appointments are before 9:30am which means getting full priced travel. It's a bit annoying and especially before Christmas when I'd rather be spending money on presents for people!
In terms of money, we are doing OK. I have just learnt not to look at things any more. An example of this was this weekend when we were in the Cotswolds (fab weekend) and were looking round the shops, some of them I didn't even bother going in and some I went in but didn't really look at anything. There's just no point when you know you can't afford it. Luckily for me Ash bought me a fab sheepswool scarf and some really funky glove/mittens this weekend - I needed them - it was FREEZING!

We went to Boughton-on-the-Water with Ash's mum and her husband and his sister, her partner and their baby. We stayed in a really lovely (and reasonable) B&B. They were very welcoming at the B&B and left a bottle of sherry and one of port in the lounge for the guests. There was just us lot and one other couple staying there and between us we managed to polish off the bottle of port in one evening! The sherry stayed - yuk! It's horrible stuff!

Sunday morning it was -2!


The B&B (It was called Strathspey)

I've been pretty tired with all the travelling up and down to London. It's a shame the appointments weren't the same time every day as that would have been a nice routine. I have managed to catch up with some people though and had some fab days out. I've done:
The National Gallery & Lunch with Nicky
The V&A & Breakfast with Mum
The London Dungeons & Lunch with Lindsay and Hazeley
and there's more next week.....!

I am planning on going back to work just before Christmas for four days then it is two weeks off (have to take holiday for that) over the festive season and back to work on the 5th January.

I think I won't be having surgery until probably late January/early February as it will take some time for my skin to recover from the Radio. It is already starting to turn a little red and be a bit painful (like sunburn). According to the Radiologists it is still looking pretty good although I will be 'cooking' for another month or so after I've finished the treatment.

On the plus side - I'm almost completely ready for Christmas this year as I've had time to do everything - it's brilliant!

Lots of love


Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Better and Worse


I know it has been a while and I have been meaning to write for a bit. I had a planning appointment for my Radiotherapy last month.
Ash and I had to go to St Thomas’ Hospital in London (where I used to have lectures when I was training).
It is not a bad journey but it is always cold and windy there as it is right by the river. The hospital itself was really grubby and dirty in the public areas. I am assured that it is clean on the wards. The signage was really bad too and we got a bit lost but still managed to arrive in time.
We were down in the basement (lots of people have assured me that this is normal for Radiotherapy!) surrounded by old people.
They told me what was going to happen, they gave me a CT scan and tattooed me in three places, 1 under each arm and 1 in the centre of my chest. It is just a small blue dot that looks like a freckle. Hopefully when I have a boob again it will be hidden by my cleavage.

The appointment was pretty quick, I have to give them that and I got to see Dr Sawyer who I was seeing at Bromley during the chemo.

Afterwards Ash and I had a wander, got some lunch and went to the Tate Modern.

With that done I expected to be starting Radiotherapy 10 working days after the appointment (3 Nov) but I hadn’t received a letter and when I phoned them they said it would be 25 Nov. I think this is because we are going away to Centre Parcs and I had to write the dates in so that the holiday didn’t clash with the treatment. Unfortunately I didn’t put in the dates of when we are going to Boughton-on-the-Water as I thought the Radio would be over by then and now that is going to clash instead.

In the meantime I am going to be at work, I have some project work to do making documents and charts and things. At least I will be getting paid.

We have had a rough few weeks really. We have both suffered with a horrible head cold for a couple of weeks. Ash came off his bike and fell down the stairs in one day and was all bruised and achy. AND to top it all off he was told that he had the job he applied for and when he phoned up to say where is the paperwork for it, he was told that he didn’t have the job. It is all very complicated and I won’t say too much at this stage as we are probably going to challenge the decision but it was a BAD week for us. Reflected in the fact that we both gained weight that week.

We seem to have come through that a little bit. We had a mini trip away as I was bridesmaid for my friend Rachel and we had to travel to County Durham for the wedding. I have never been so far north in this country! We had a lovely time, met some fantastic people and it was great to be away from here for a while.

I have recovered well from the surgery and had the tissue expander filled up by mr D in clinic. It was a weird sensation and seeing it get bigger before my eyes was very strange! It has all healed nicely and I have asked to have the next surgery in January so that I am not recovering over Christmas again and so that I can do Crisis this year. This will be my last year I think, it is all changing and our centre will not be there next year and it is likely that there will not be a night shift so it made sense to make this the last year. It will also mean that I have been involved in Crisis for 10 years and a decade of charity work seems like a lot to me. That said, I will have to look for a new project once my involvement in Crisis is ended. I can’t imagine NOT doing some form of charity work now.

I don’t think there is much else to report right now. There are a couple of things that might come to something (a meeting tomorrow with HR about my sickness and a new job application for Ashley).

I will keep you posted

Lots of love


Monday, 6 October 2008

An Update


This is weird because I am writing this blog into a Word document before I post it. This is because I have transferred the blog to a printable document so that it can be printed and given to those people who do not have a computer (apparently there are a few out there, although how someone can cope without internet is beyond me!!!).

I came back to work (where I am now – OBVIOUSLY doing work!) last week on Thursday and Friday and had two lovely days catching up with friends and colleagues and “re-orientating” myself to the unit. That means I drank a lot of coffee and chatted to people.

There was some good things to come out of it though. I spoke to the woman in Payroll who was sorting out my sick pay etc and she was really helpful. She said that they had overpaid me to the tune of £1,200.00. Great, another debt for me to repay. What had happened is that the sick returns are all done in arrears and so they kept paying me regardless.

Basically as of the end of August I am on no pay whatsoever, just Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) (which is about £74 a week). Since I have come back to work I will get paid next month for the hours I have done and if I don’t work full time hours the rest will be made up by SSP. It’s all a bit complicated, I’m glad I don’t work in Payroll.

They will be taking £400 a month from my pay cheque to repay the overpayment. Boo! It will be tight still but we’ll manage.

All in all it was good news – in as much as I will be getting paid enough money to save us from being totally broke.

We also had some more good news because Ashley has a job interview on Thursday for a job that will be nearly twice as much as his salary now. Fingers and toes are all crossed for that one.

We had a good weekend, we’ve got a bit more of the flat sorted out although it is still a mess with stuff everywhere! We haven’t found a place for everything yet which is quite frustrating.

Winne the cat is getting on well and we are going to keep him. Him and Dora are getting on quite well now although they are not the best of friends.

On Sunday we went hiking with my whole immediate family (that makes 9 of us). It was a beautiful day and we stopped at the pub in Brasted for a crafty pint. We did 6 miles and when we got back we were so tired we were in bed by 9pm!

Fat club update – I lost another 1lb last week – slowly but surely for me! Ash lost 6lb and was Slimmer of the Week! He is like the star pupil and is doing really well. As he was the only man there last week all the women were giving him dirty looks as no-one else had lost nearly that amount hee hee. It’s OK though because the group leader loves him (he has that effect on women of a certain age!).

Best sign off now as I think I am actually going to have to do some work today.

Love to you all



Monday, 22 September 2008

Back to Work!

Hi folks,

I had surgery on Friday (19th Sept) to put in the tissue expander. It was just day case which was nice (shame they don't do it in the Day Surgery yet though, then my friends could have looked after me!). I went in at 07:30am and had to wait until 12:30pm for my op!!!!! Mr Desai came round and drew all over me and I looked like a dressmaker's doll with dotted lines everywhere. He measures across my chest, to align the boobs I guess.

As usual I didn't mind the anaesthetic bit, they gave me some Midazolam which is a lovely drug that just makes you a bit floaty before they gave me the actual 'put you to sleep' one when I totally conked out in a matter of seconds!

I went in to Surgical Admissions (the old ENT ward) and afterwards was transferred to Surgical 7. I remember waking up in recovery and Sheree from work was there which was nice - a friendly face! I struggled to keep my eyes open though.
And indeed for the rest of the day I struggled with talking/eyes open stuff! I just wanted to sleep. Ashley's Dad's wife Lynn came in to see me as she works in the hospital and then later Ash came in too and stayed with me, The nurse looking after me was a bit dippy and wasn't sure whether I was supposed to be going home or not. Well I WAS! There was no way I was staying overnight, what a waste of a bed for one thing - I was fine to go home. Mum came and picked us up although I had to get Ashley to push me in a chair to the car as I still felt a bit wobbly.

Got home - straight to bed and up late on Saturday. Felt a bit light headed still on Saturday but it wore off eventually. Actually felt a bit like a hangover - well it was - an anaesthetic hangover.

Saturday Ashley also told me some bad news - he had had a phone call from work on the Friday informing me that I have been overpaid and that I would not being getting my wages on Wednesday but would just be on Statutory Sick Pay. That means I will be getting about £250 a month. Not nearly enough to live on - not enough to even pay my HALF of the rent, let alone all the other bills. So that was a bit of a blow and a pain as there was nothing we could do about it over the weekend apart from worry.
In reality what it means it that instead of having 4-6 weeks recovery from this operation, I am going to have to go back to work this week. That's a bit pants but if that's how it's got to be then that's how it's got to be. I would have gone back the last few weeks but the unit had moved because of building works and I had no where to actually go.
Anyway, I don't mind too much but now I am going to have to work hard because every penny counts. At least I am not feeling quite so tired as before, the chemo has really worn off now.

So much so in fact that Ash and I did a six mile hike last week! We walked from Orpington all the way up to Biggin Hill to have dinner at his Dad's. It was a really good walk and I didn't stop or slow down too much so I am definitely getting better!

We also have new - we have a new cat at the moment. He is called Winnie and is OLD, anywhere from about 17-20. He needs rehoming as his present owner is moving back to New Zealand. We are trialling him out with Dora as we are not sure how they will get on. They have been hissing and growling a bit at each other but no fur flying as yet. He is pretty chilled out actually, it's just about whether she will accept him.

That's all for now, I'm going to get dressed now and then my friend Gemma is coming over for the day.

Lots of love