Tag Archives: Macmillan

Day -1

As I had long anticipated.Yesterday proved to be a busy, tiring and emotional day. Fortunately, as I had long anticipated, the majority of my emotions were overtaken by the sheer practicality of all the needles, waiting and consenting. It was a day of work, if your work is displaying super human strength and kindness whilst under duress.

Day – 1 is the day popularly know as the day one receives their Megatron chemotherapy. It could be Day – 2 if one was unwell and the transplant is postponed by a day, but my title is one of hope. I will be getting my transplant today, providing the nausea behaves itself. 

Whilst I was too busy yesterday to write another blog, I was able to make a note in my Notes of the key timings and events that made up Day – 1. It was no party.

06:30hrs: Awoke feeling refreshed and rejuvenated, if those things meant I awoke feel anxious, unable to sleep but eager to get things going… I then did the things we all do as part of the morning routine of getting ready to leave the house/flat.

08:36hrs: I had said my brave goodbyes, largely ignoring my dear Bruce and at this point, I was sitting in a taxi driving down my street. The driver took the bumpy roads.

09:00hrs: I arrived at the hospital, greeted by my mother who had arrived nearly an hour luggage. The first priority was to unload all our stupid luggage, dumb luggage. I really do have a great deal of luggage. I packed four books for light toilet reading.

09:12hrs: We walked down the stairs to Reception 2 on the Lower Ground Flood, and booked in for my PICC line appointment three minutes later. I also discovered a concealed toilet.

09:15hrs: Surprise, surprise, a Medically Trained Person called out my name and with that, I was led to a room I had visited once before. It was the first point in the day I felt Deja Vu, and Deja Vu it was. For legal reasons, I had to listen again, despite remembering, to what they were about to do to me, the risks involved with the procedure and then I signed a yellow form to say I understood it all. 

I then removed my shoes and jacket and lay on a hospital bed under blue surgical sheets whilst another Medically Trained Person pushed a tube through a hole in my left arm, whilst he looked at a screen and a lady looked at my ECG results. At some point, I was told off for contaminating a scanning device with my right hand. 

  


10:13hrs: The line was in and off we went to Ambulatory Care on the Second Floor, via Costa Coffee. On arrival, I introduced myself as ‘Emma Jones, arriving for the first day of transplant stuff’. I was told it was one hell of an introduction.

10:30hrs: Alternatively known as Observation Time, meaning I had my bloods, blood pressure and temperature taken, I got weighed and apparently I am 5ft 7″; I remember being taller.

Shortly after this, I was advised that I was going to be seen by the doctor shortly and I would hopefully have the Melphalan (Megatron for you and me), around 13:00hrs. I would have to wait until then because the drug would need to be prescribed by the Doctor and then ordered from the pharmacy.

At some point, I did see a pharmacist.

12:15hrs: The Doctor finally made an appearance, to be fair, he had made several appearances on the floor, but it was at this point he introduced himself and took me to room 2.6, for a quick chat and another yellow form. I would have mentioned this before the last one, but I was told that this procedure is not curative and there was a 2-3% chance that I would not leave the hospital after it. The rest of the risks involved infections and talk of intensive care. So, I signed the yellow form quoting something I or somebody else said last week and that was “if I did not sign it, the result would definitely be negative”. 

The Doctor, who was Medically Trained also told me that given the amount of treatment I had had, my heart and kidneys were in “great” condition. Mamma Jones said “good stock”, I thought, a pat on the back for obese people everywhere.

I then wandered back to Mamma Jones and the nurses, and I was told  not to come back until 15:45hrs, at which point, I would have the Melphalan at 16:00hrs. Great, I thought, food.
12:38hrs: Before food however, we collected our luggage and checked into the hotel. Also known as the Cotton Rooms. The Cotton Rooms looks just as it did before. We are in a twin room over looking the beautiful sight that is, the Macmillan Cancer Centre. Just like before. I also made sure I got a DVD player, which is also, just like before.
A lunch then filled the gap, along with very practical trips to Boots and Sainsbury’s for fizzy water whilst I can drink it and popcorn whilst I can eat it.
14:51hrs: We returned to the cancer centre with giddy excitment ahead of the chemotherapy. In addition to my mother, I was accompanied by eight ice lollies from Sainsbury’s. 
  
16:24hrs: I was hooked up to a drip and the Melphalan, started my first ice lolly, and with that, it all started. 
16:31hrs: Ice lolly 2
16:38hrs: Ice lolly 3
16:48hrs: Ice lolly 4
16:56hrs: Ice lolly 5, an ice lolly that was accompanied not by chemotherapy, but with a flush. After a bit of faffing, all was done and I was released until 09:15hrs today. 
17:25hrs: Bed and pyjamas. Bed and pyjamas in the hotel. Needless to say, I was very tired, but not tired enough to sleep, and so I watched High Society and half of Pretty Woman.
Aren’t transplants just a hoot?
As for this morning? I woke up with nausea, fatigue and swollen feet. I still had bacon mind. 
EJB x 

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The Do-Gooder

Many people can be forgiven for being under the impression that I spend all of my time, idle, lying on my sofa neglecting my looks and my blog, whilst wallowing in self pity. The truth is, that only accounts for 80 percent of my time. The rest of my sick leave is spent doing a myriad of exciting things that one day, I will find the time and brain function to tell you about. In the last week however, I have managed to devout approximately 10 percent of my energy to altruism. That’s right, altruism, for I, Emma Jane Jones am altruistic. I definitely did not do the things I am about to tell you about, so that I had something interesting to tell you about. I did them because at my very core, I am good and, I am selfless.

You have all heard the saying charity begins at home. Well in the last week, charity for me has actually meant thinking about me and only me. That’s home right? There has been a great deal of reflecting and delving into my personal world of myeloma, producing 2666 written words, one bout of insomnia, a photo shoot and the ability to speak to a room of medically trained people whilst wearing leather and having a hot flush.

I am yet to conclude whether these exercises have been healthy for me, but that is how I know that I am really an altruistic bunny rabbit requiring praise and awe. I have done two things for charity that you could say were difficult for me to do. They were difficult for me to do. On here, I only really talk about my current feelings. I rarely attempt to see a bigger picture. However, in two different ways, for two different charities, I have done just that. I have recounted and explored my journey from when I first felt a tinge of pain in my back to where I am now, which in case you were wondering, is called limbo. I rarely look back at my treatment, because my focus has to be going forward, and getting through the day when I do not know what forward looks like.

Looking back, firstly in words for Myeloma UK’s newsletter, was overwhelming. I did not expect to be overwhelmed, but I was. I don’t need to recount my considerably over the word limit story for you now (for that will indeed come), to say that it invoked some emotions that I would rather not have felt. It was one thing for me to recognise my stoicism and I do, it is quite another to see perhaps the mistakes I have made since I was diagnosed and to relive some of the nastiness I have encountered along the way.

The activity was accompanied this morning by something else that I would describe as ‘challenging’, but challenging on the most superficial level. This morning, in my flat, I, along with the dog, was the subject of a photo shoot. Not just any old mobile phone photo shoot after a few brewskis; this one featured an actual tripod.

When 80 percent of my time is spent being idle, the physical expansion of the my body is no surprise and being the main subject of any photograph, is now, not what I would describe as fun. It’s the end product that puts me off. Housemate however, seemed to find my posing quite funny, especially when I did so in front of some meringues. That’s right, meringues in a tin.

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It’s fine though, I think the difficulty I had in producing a genuine smile, will just be interrupted as constipation. That would be no lie in any tale about myeloma treatment.

The second of my endeavours this week, was for the little known charity fond of a coffee morning, called Macmillan Cancer Support. Some weeks ago, I was asked if I would be willing to share my story with some of their helpline staff, who were travelling to London to do some specialist training on myeloma. Maybe this is not that altruistic, but I was so pleased to be asked, I could not say no. In fact, I think I almost looked forward to it.

On Wednesday afternoon, I made my way to Huntley Street and sat through one presentation by a Medically Trained Person on myeloma treatment and escaped before a second person delivered one on stem cell transplants. I did not think my mind was strong enough for that, when an hour later I was to address the room on my many side effects from before diagnosis to my present. And address them I did, warts and all. Beforehand, I had discussed what I was going to say and I thought about it many times over and I almost remembered everything I had planned to mention. I did forget to say how my forgetfulness causes much frustration and difficulty in my everyday life. Go figure. I did not forget to talk about depression, isolation, friends, fertility and faeces. As you can imagine, it was a barrel of laughs. It was also very honest.

The person who planned the training said that I provided a human face to all the technical jargon they had sat through earlier in the afternoon… I am not one to toot my own horn [often], but I think my comments were well received, that, or they just felt sorry for me.

It’s Friday night now, and I have decided that now is the time to revert back to looking out for Number 1. Número Uno. Me. I am tired now.

Who knew that talking about oneself could be so selfless?

I have always wanted to be a do-gooder. If I was not superstitious of having a bucket list, I could tick that right off. Um, I do not have a bucket list, so I will just say that it feels so much better than a monthly direct debit… Hang on, does that make it just a little bit selfish?

EJB x

P.S. Did you know that the people on the Macmillan helpline are trained nurses? It’s true.

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The Thursday Clinic Appointment

Every four weeks, I make my way with much trepidation to the Macmillan Cancer Centre on a Thursday morning for my myeloma clinic appointment. I doubt there will ever be such an appointment now, even if the lapse between them lengthens, when I do not experience some level of apprehension.

My unease is always somewhat lessened by the routine that exists when I finally arrive in the big glass building. In spite of the anxiety, these trips almost always exist on the duller side of dull. And that is a dullness that needs to be shared! Yesterday then, the routine went a little something like this:

07:45hrs:
Housemate woke me up like he does almost every weekday morning since I was diagnosed and reminded me that I had to get up for my appointment. The appointment, was at 10:50hrs. I got up half an hour later. It was difficult.

10:10hrs – Transport
I left the flat via the cheap means of travel that is the taxi ten minutes later than I had planned. Unfortunately, this is very normal for me. I was impressed that it was only ten minutes. I applied the lipstick in my hallway before I left. I also grabbed the full sharps box I had placed by the front door the night before, with the hope that I would remember to replace it with an empty one at some point whilst at the centre.

10:45hrs – Bloods
I arrived at the hospital, where I immediately made my way downstairs to the lower ground floor to have blood removed from my arm. I still continue to lack the confidence in being able to safely make my way down the stairs, so I got the lift. Laziness has nothing to do with this decision whatsoever, yet, embarrassment that this can be perceived as laziness always exists when I turn right away from the stairs towards the lift.

For late on a Thursday morning, I was surprised to see only three people in front of me in the queue. I was number 22 by the way. I would have preferred number 24, but I did not have the time to wait for two other people to go ahead of me. The receptionist on the phlebotomy reception always refers to me as ‘Myeloma’. I imagine that this is something he does to all frequent myeloma patients because our blood forms are in one pile, and he is does not hurl it at me as a form of an insult. I will not lie, I kind of like it. And you know, he might not do it to all the patients, so I can momentarily pretend that I am special or just memorable. As always, I made some light, wise cracking conversation about my weak veins the minute the tourniquet was placed on the top of my left arm.

11:05hrs – The Waiting
Yesterday, I skipped purchasing a cup of tea and instead headed straight up to the fourth floor for my appointment. I sensed that being 15 minutes late for my appointment was acceptable but 20 minutes was not. Plus, I really am not a fan of the Tetley tea.

First things first, I had to check in. I checked in and then the nursing assistant did what she does to me every month, which is something that is known as pure torture. She weighed me. Thank goodness I managed to do something, adding to my late departure earlier in the morning. As soon as I stood off the scales I got a bottle of water out of my bag and started drinking it to make sure I had the goods for my pregnancy test.

Myeloma patients are required to wait on a set of chairs in a corridor on a Thursday due to the transplant patients in the actual waiting area. In that corridor, there were five people waiting, all of whom could not raise a smile. At least, they did not in the 25 minutes I sat there. It’s a depressing wait. Nobody talks, even the ones accompanied by other people. One man who I sat next to at first, but he quickly moved one seat away from me spilt a drink on his trousers. I offered him a tissue and he just shook his head without making a sound. I smiled, he did not. I deduced that they suffer from the same apprehension that I do, they just prefer not to shout about it. So, I just sat and continued hydrating myself.

A sixth patient made an appearance, one who I had seen downstairs but failed, maybe on purpose, to make contact with. We were on a PADIMAC together and despite him being a friendly sort of chap, our conversations would occasional upset me. I suffer greatly from myeloma treatment envy and on that particular course of treatment, I had the envy. Anyway, he said he missed me and had been trying to find out how I was. He could not wait to get home and tell his wife about my curly hair. The conversation made me feel a slight twang of guilt about my behaviour on the lower ground floor when I first saw him.

11:30hrs – My Appointment
Shockingly, my wait was incredibly brief yesterday, something that I could not help but vocalise. The Medically Trained Person called my name, she had not seen me for two months, and I was pleased that she immediately noticed my movement was less strained then it was when we last met. I believe she said that I was “positively speedy”. As I continue to be in pain everyday, it is very difficult for me to notice any improvements in my mobility. I do not think my memory works that way. She saw it, at least, I hope improvement is what she saw.

In these appointments, I tend to just tell them what has happened to me in the four weeks since my last one. I had a lot to say, but had a CNS been in with me, they would have known it already, for I feel like I have been overly needy since my radiotherapy finished. I mentioned A&E, the vomiting and nausea, the diarrhoea and the increased fatigue over my last week. We also discussed my forthcoming holiday and the need for me to be cautious. I said that with Mamma Jones, I would have no option to be anything but cautious.

The Medical Trained Person told me that at my last paraprotein test, taken on 28 August, my paraprotein had fallen to 16. The folks at UCLH continue to be pleased with my progress. Myeloma treatment is not that simple, and what followed was a conversation about my low neutrophils and what would happen to my medication if they continued to be low. Unfortunately, my Full Blood Count results had not been returned and I was sent off to see the pharmacist to collect my pile of drugs.

En route, I had to interrupt a conversation a Medical Trained Person was having with another patient to say that I had to do my pregnancy test. As she said, it could have been something of a Carry On moment. The urine sample I did, not without spilling it all over my hands and the floor. It happens every single month.

12:00hrs – The Pharmacist
My visit to the pharmacist normally lasts no longer than 10 minutes; not yesterday. My FCB was back and my neutrophil count had fallen further to 0.47, and my white blood count to 1.38. As a lot of you do not need to know what this means, it is very low and the WBC result definitely explains my recent increased fatigue. And so, I had to wait as the pharmacist went to ask for some further educated advice. Any anxiety that had gone when I left my previous appointment quickly returned as I sat in that room by myself.

The decision was made that for one cycle, I would be given a cyclophosphamide reprieve and the Revlimid dose has been halved. Apparently, my body needs to a wee break from the drugs. I see positives and negatives in this latest drug development. To help the infection magnet that is my body, my G-CSF injections have also been upped from one a week to two. I now have to return to the hospital on Monday to have my bloods done again. I hope that these bloods will not stop me from getting on a plane next Wednesday.

12:40hrs – The Dispensary
I was done, and in possession of a lot of publicly funded medications bar my morphine. So, I made my way back down to the ground floor to collect the controlled substance from the dispensary. It was not ready. I was not surprised.

12:45hrs – Macmillan Cancer Support
I took it upon myself to pop into the Macmillan Support Centre to have a brief chat with my favourite ladies. I think they needed to know that I had an uncontrollable desire for sushi followed by a rare steak followed by raw cake batter. I was told that given the current 0.47, such a meal would be unwise. As if I needed to be told that.

To avoid getting angry at the snails pace of the dispensary, I spent the next hour catching up with a friend over a cup of tea. I then ran a few errands on the worse road in London Town.

14:30hrs – The Dispensary
I returned confident that my MST would be ready to collect. By this point, having been on my feet for more four hours, I was more than ready to go home. I handed in my ticket and after ten minutes of the gentleman trying to find it and telling me it was not there, and me reassuring him that it was, another person told him that it was in the floor, a mere 5 metres from where I stood. I was not pleased, nor were the six people behind me waiting to collect their drugs. I handed over my driving license and signed the form to say it was for my personal use. I must not forget that immediately before that I put pen to paper, I had to confirm that I was not allergic to any drugs and I had taken MST before. 772 days before in fact.

15:10hrs – Home
I opened the door and made my way immediately to the sofa where I stayed until 20:00hrs, at which point, I dragged myself off to bed.

So, you think all of this sounded monotonous? You can only imagine the thoughts and discussions I omitted from the experience for your pleasure. Well, just think, I get to do it all over again in four weeks time. And the four weeks after that and most probably, the four weeks after that.

This is my life.

EJB x

P.S. I remembered to replace the sharps box.

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Patent

Wanted – Somebody Who Is Good With Their Hands

Ever wondered why you never see a person walking with a walking stick and an umbrella? Even seen somebody walking with a walking stick getting absolutely drenched in the rain and thought, that’s sad, it’s unfortunate they do not have an umbrella? Or have you ever seen somebody with or without a stick, struggle to hold their umbrella for a period of time and pointed them out to your companion, as a pathetic weakling who does not have the strength to hold an umbrella upright?

Rain brings a multitude of dilemmas for the crippled. Going outside can be like Sophie’s Choice. City living really can be traumatic. Something needs to be done to protect the needy from excessive moisture.

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The time thus, is a time for action. Action and innovation.

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Have you ever wanted to help the disableds and did not know what you could do? Do you always feel like you could be more charitable? Are you handy with some tools? Do you have an overwhelming need to show off your skills? Can you weld? Can you smell titanium?

If you have said ‘yes’ to one or more of the questions above, then maybe two can become one, to create something rather special. Not a baby you fool. Despite having a wealth of creative imagination, I have little skill, it pains me to say in manufacture, crafts and neatness. I am seeking somebody to execute my creation of the walking stick/umbrella combo. The Walking Stick/Umbrella Combo (working title only). The device appears to be a standard walking stick, but the handle either stores an umbrella or holds a weightless umbrella attachment, allowing the unfortunate to protect themselves from the rain, without having to sacrifice their walking support or changing the position of their hand. It’s ingenious. I know, you don’t have to tell me.

Artist’s impression on graph paper

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So, if you think you can assist and we can make millions, do seek out contact.

If like me, you have no talent in this area, or simply, if you have no desire to take time out of your physically enabled life, then that is fine. There is no issue. No issue at all. You cannot help me. That’s fine. Just fine. I don’t care.

Emma Jane Jones
Designer

P.S. If you are feeling thankful right now that you can go out in the rain and hold an umbrella, and this sorry for those who cannot, but you cannot help my entrepreneurial ambitions, maybe just help out some cancer patients or something. Paul tells me he is going for a jog of some sort, in the east, it’s not quite welding metal, but it’s something. Here’s the link https://www.justgiving.com/PaulTompsett/
If you cannot shower my scheme with money, shower Macmillan via him.

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Share and Care

The land post autograft transplant, when one went into it with a paraprotein level of 20, is a strange, uncomfortable and rather traumatic one. I doubt that unless you have gone through it yourself, you are never going to really understand what it is like. I know, beyond any shadow of a doubt, that unless you are me, which is scientifically impossible, you would truly know what this period is like for me.

I spent eleven months working towards my transplant. Living within each cycle of treatment and managing my new treatment after the Bad Day, because I was working towards my transplant. The transplant was the goal, and prior to it, I had to get through my treatments, week by week. Now, in the post transplant haze, I am left waiting for something and I am not sure yet, what that something is. I have until November to wait. In November I will find out whether my next step is to do nothing, go back on to VDT/VTD or have another transplant involving a donor stem cell. I do not know what will influence which.

Right now, I do not have an outlook post November. I do not know what my life is going to look like post November. I still cannot plan a bloody holiday. Working towards my transplant, I expected normality after it, but reality says that this might not be the case. I knew it would not be a magic plaster, but it has not stopped me from being disappointed with the reality. I have known this for a while, but right now, it is finally sinking in that this still might not be over, this volume is going to be a tomb and there is a chance that this will go on and on and on, until I stop. When anybody tells me something different, like all will be well in a year, I want to scream at them and say that we don’t know that yet and let’s face it, I want them to shut up. I don’t do that of course, I put on a brave face and carry on until I am alone.

This period that I am in, feels different to anything I have felt before. I am acutely aware of everything that is bad about myeloma, not that there is anything good about it mind. I want to say so many things about how I feel, about my fears, but within My Network, with the exception of my family, I have not said anything because all the way through this marvellous journey, I have been strong and I have been stoic. I may have had the occasional blip, but, mostly, I have carried on with what I had to do at the time and I have never broken down. I have been told by the people employed by a charity to support people like me, that it is usual at this time, that people begin to struggle with the status quo and fret about the future. I am doing all of that, but it is isolating because nobody understands it. I am expected to be stronger. I am expected to be rational. Somebody said to me the other day that I am a victim of my own positivity, perhaps that is paying to much credit to me, but at times I do feel like that. My behaviour up until now, I suspect, makes it difficult for people to comprehend the struggle I am in. Not everybody wants to hear it. I had counselling the other day, and in these things I tend to have the occasional epiphany because I am not in conversation with myself, and I said that I am frequently being asked how I am, but I think few people actually want to hear how I am. They want me to be better and well. It’s too difficult to hear anything else and anything else goes so strongly against my character. What I feel hardly fits into a text message.

How much should I share anyway? I have lost an ability to know how much information is too much information? What are the costs of sharing? Big Sister pointed out that whilst My Myeloma is my own, it also belongs to others too, and she got me thinking whether my approach can be selfish? Is sharing selfish? I do not know how people feel about my diagnosis. Is saying I feel down enough? When does sharing personal thoughts become too much?

Do not get me wrong, some of my stoicism remains. Indeed it does. I am getting out and about and smiling after all. I am not constantly wanting to break down and talk about mortality, a stolen life, and infertility, but I want to feel like I am able to should I need to, and people will not run a mile if I do. I do not always want to talk about it either. For most of the time, I absolutely do not want to talk about it. I want to be to be able to say I feel let down, abandoned or jealous, without it being an attack on my character or a reason for people not to see me. I cannot help the thoughts, they do not feel like my own and I beat myself up over it. I want people to understand that and show that understanding to me. I do not need to chin up, it is not sufficient. I need the opportunity to talk. Again, I was talking to my counsellor and I surprised myself by crying whilst recounting a message I received from a friend, which showed some understanding and crucially, patience. I need patience too. In short, I want to be cut a bit of slack.

I fully acknowledge that this whole thing might not necessarily make me a hoot to be around. I get that it could be a chore. I get that I cannot articulate it and at times I may become a passive aggressive female dog. I get that this sounds selfish. I get all of it, but I need the slack. FYI, These fears are just some of the things I think about now. I am aware that this behaviour and talk may drive people away, indeed, I was warned of this fact. I am not going to talk about it over a post work drink, but it goes back to me knowing that I could if I wanted to, and it is from there that the isolation stems. Boom. Insightful.

This is what I need now. I need understanding, patience and slack. I have been assured that this will pass, it may even pass by November, who knows, I’m a strong gal.

The truth is, I am not strong enough to go it alone.

I don’t want everybody to become my counsellor, that would just be awkward. I want an army behind me. I have an army behind me, however, in this post transplant world, I have lost sight of who does what.

EJB x

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Bureaucracy

Have you ever filled looked at a form and thought that you would rather stick a needle in your eye and eat a horse manure pie, than to complete it? Of course you have. Well, that is just the predicament I find myself in at present.

Having cancer, and a cancer that effects ones mobility so much that they once asked a stranger to tie up their shoelace, is not enough to qualify as ‘disabled’, nor does it automatically entitle you to all the money in land. The Government, it would seem, require evidence. Mountains of it. I have spent the last week finding out just how much evidence is required.

To make my life just that little bit easier, I wish to be officially classified as disabled and I would like financial assistance with my rent. I have long been a fan of the welfare state, and although I have some misgivings about taking even more of your money, I feel now is the time to cash in on your enforced generosity. I have a cancer with no cure after all.

The only snag in my planning, is that I am not eligible to your money. Well, my landlord is not anyway. During a productive meeting with the Macmillan benefits advisor last week, I discovered that I cannot receive Housing Benefit, because my half pay still means I have £71 per week to live on after rent and council tax. Please note the £71 does not include utility bills. So, with my hopes dashed of receiving an extra £5 per week, I decided to think of a glass half full and be thankful that I did not have to complete another form, which required copies of my bank statement, two pay checks, tenancy agreement, medical diagnosis, proof of identity, two utility bills and Housemate’s salary details. Tick.

The kind lady, who I eventually won over with my manners and smile forty minutes into our chat, did think I would be eligible for free healthcare services. I know what some of you not based in the land of mince pies, shortbread and Stilton, will be confused by this statement, as you may understand our wonderful NHS to be free. Well, dental care, prescriptions (except when you have cancer) and eye care are not free for all. It’s the recession. So, I was given a twenty page form to complete, which only required a pay check, a year’s bank statement, thorough breakdown of financial assets (this was brief) and a utility bill. Bar a copy of my bank statement, that bad boy was completed yesterday. Tick.

When it comes to being disabled, the bureaucratic definition is somewhat more refined than the general public’s might be, and the definition varies between central and local government. Again, I will reiterate that all of this is to make my life that little bit easier, so it may surprise you to hear that to obtain a blue badge and concessionary travel, I needed to complete and provide the following;

* A 36 page form claiming Personal Independence Payment plus three additional pages explaining my physical limitations, which if approved will mean that in some quarters, including cinemas, museums and theatres, I will be classed as ‘Disabled’
* A six page form to my local council requesting free travel, because getting national agreement does not qualify me as disabled because lyctic lesions in the spine does not an automatic disabled make
* An online form requesting a Blue Badge, I am told that my local council may not allow me this, if I have free travel
* At least one, if not two, independent physical assessments
* At least one medical professional to back up my claims
* Numerous medical documents including a list of medication

Yesterday, I spent much of my day preparing this information. It was mildy satisfying, whilst being completely frustrating at the same time. It is a well known fact that government is a well oiled machine, so it wold be no surprise that I found the forms and information confusing. I received one form in the post that came with a stamped addressed envelope to return it, but I was separately informed that the council will only accept it if I return it in person. I feel like this could be a trick. I applied for the PIP benefit over a month ago and I received the form last week, thank goodness it was not urgent. Fortunately, there is a PIP helpline, which I phoned twice and I when I asked what information would be required, I was told that the help desk person had not seen the form. So, that was useful.

I will tell you something for nothing, I am constantly heading things about ‘Benefit Britain’ and people taking advantage of the system, but in order for somebody to understand these forms, they must be a frickin’ genius and deserve whatever they get. Even the ones who warrant the reminder to complete the forms in ink, with their own information and those of another.

Personally, I do not understand why there are so many hoops to jump. The system seems to be designed so that the applicant is branded a liar and then has to prove their innocence. Living with cancer is just so easy after all. It feels like a competition. My medical ailment is worse than yours… Fact.

Now, after all that form filling and ink, I have to take a trip to a photocopier, and then wait, and do a physical assessment and find out more about a mystery taxi service and try to recover from my transplant. Tick.

EJB x

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Happy Anniversary

Get ready throw paper in my general direction, for today is my first anniversary. Correction, our anniversary. Who would have thought that one year down, and my arranged marriage to myeloma is still going strong? We haven’t even needed to take a break yet. We have been entwined for 364 days. Myeloma and me.

One year ago, on that fateful Friday afternoon when I was told that they were almost certainly had myeloma, I had no way of envisaging what that would look like and what it would do to me. I don’t think anybody did, even the Medically Trained People.

Since the 17 August 2012, so much has happened, and though at times, I feel like I have absolutely no progress whatsoever. It is gone quickly and at a snail’s pace. Sure, I had a partial response (that’s officially terminology you know), but then I didn’t. I then had another course of treatment for which I had a limited response (that is not officially terminology), and then I had a transplant. What comes after that is for Year Two. I said it at my halfway mark, but it does not hurt to review what has happened to me since I was diagnosed.

Medically, it has been a total treat for me. I now have a high pain threshold, I am excited by my faeces and developed a fear of Oramorph. These things have happened because I have had two different courses of treatment, which in total involved 40 Velcade injections, 24 doses of Doxorubicin, 224 thalidomide tablets and 800 horrible Dexamethasone tablets. Lord knows how many maintenance drugs I have taken, I wager that in the tens of thousands. I have had radiotherapy on my right hip, which is involved me getting a tattoo on my lady garden. I had my heavenly Kyphoplasty. In February, I got to have a large bag of cyclophosphamide leading to a rather pleasant bladder infection and a trip to A&E. I have no idea how much bone juice (Zometa) I have had, but I know that has done some good. They have drilled into me three times, with three bone marrow biopsies. My stem cells were harvested and then after a lengthy and devastating delay, they were put back into me. If I had been scared of needles one year ago, it would have been, well, pretty buggered. In addition to the medicines and procedures, I have slowly watched and be told that my veins have become shyer and shyer, I have managed hair loss including losing all of it twice, I cracked a few ribs and I taught myself how to walk again without grimacing and dealt with the high probability that I will not be able to have children.

It’s not what I imagined for my life.

I discovered early on that myeloma is not just about the medicine. It is about me. As I have struggled with my drugs, and the lows getting lower, I have had to deal with myself and I never know if I have managed it properly. I have no idea how I have taken it all in.

Fatigue, not working, becoming disabled, accepting that my lifespan has reduced, whilst trying to block out the noise from strangers telling me that I will be dead in ten years (nine years now) for I do not plan to be. It has and continues to be an emotional roller coaster, and it would be that anyway, before we factor in the mood altering drugs. I have cried a great deal, argued with friends leading to more tears, I made certain people key players in my Support Network regardless of whether they asked for the role or not, consequentially, I have felt and continue to feel a warm fuzzy feelings of love when i look at their faces, but flip the coin and I have also felt disappointment when people have not lived up to the expectations I put upon them. I fancied myself in love and had to deal with the heartache of realising I am Glenn Close with cancer. I have been angry with everybody for not understanding how I feel and jealous at them for not having to understand. I have experienced such feelings of isolation and loneliness, on the island that is my bed that I have sobbed uncontrollably for hours. In a year, I have given up so much and yet, I have I still wake up everyday.

Some time ago, well, within the last year, somebody said to me that he knew I would be fine (he was talking about my mental state, for he was not a Medically Trained Person, a first aided maybe). He said this because unlike other patients he saw, he said that when I answered questions about My Myeloma, he saw a laughter behind my eyes. I do not particularly buy into that sort of greetings card language, but I know what he meant and I felt it. I felt that my personality was still there and I felt like my glass was half full, all in spite of the wretched disease. I do not know if I feel that now, not everyday. Over the year, I have felt My Myeloma slowly suck out some of my positivity. It hasn’t gone completely. I hope it will not go completely, and I am clinging on to it for dear life. It just feels like it has depleted. I am not looking at myeloma with rose tinted glasses anymore. Big Sister says I am morbid, but I see it as realistic.

I have had few days where myeloma has not featured, and had many days where it rules. I still do not want my myeloma to define me, but I know now that it has to form part of me and my personality has changed. That is what the year has shown me. My Myeloma is omnipresent. I have dealt with it by living around it and getting on as best I can, but it is there. I know that this is all I can do.

So, one year down. The only thing for me is to continue to get out of bed everyday, and hope that I can remain strong enough not to let My Myeloma to consume me. That would just not do at all.

As for my Support Network… Thanks. Go easy on me yeah?

EJB x

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The Charity Drive

Once upon a time, I was the sort of person who was immune to the charity drive. Sorry, Charity Drive. You might have got my money if you cornered me before I was a functioning human being with my fair trade cup of tea. Okay, you may have also been fortunate if you had cornered me at my desk. Maybe. It would have very much dependent on the level of my hangover and my own induced vulnerability.

These days however, I am a sucker for charity. My circumstances make it so. Macmillan, Myeloma UK, Cancer Research UK. They are all getting my cash, I do not have a lot, but I figure they offer the minute possibility of making my life better, so, where is the price tag on that? I have the credit card for shoes.

I have always given money to charity, homeless and addiction ones specifically (and still), because I felt guilty walking through St James’ Park everyday enjoying the scenery whilst people were ruining my view by sleeping on the park benches with their bottles of White Lightening. My reason for donations to charity have always been selfish, always based on making myself feel like I was doing something without really having to do something. I am sure most of those donating last week to our BBC telethon would emphasise. Begrudgingly. Your donation came not because primarily you wanted the world to be a better place, but because you felt guilty because your life was better than what you were looking at on your TV screen.

Until My Myeloma happened, I would not have given my money readily to a cancer charity, even though I had lost people to cancer including my beloved Grandpa. Many Christmases ago, I saw the Macmillan nurses come into my house and I did not care. They were not changing anything. At the time, all I thought was that my Grandpa was dying and the ladies who were coming in to change his dressings were mere window dressing. They did not change the end result, so why did they matter? People die from cancer. I associated cancer with old people, old people like the beautifully stubborn Scottish man I was lucky enough to call my Grandpa.

These days, unfortunately, I have to pay attention. I bet if you know me, you probably pay more attention now too.

The adverts on the television, the adverts on the tube, the adverts in the paper. They are designed so that people cannot forget about cancer. Cancer, cancer, cancer, cancer. Cancer. People get it. Apparently one in three do, but I guess not many of them are 28 years old. Do you want to feel sorry for us? Well, tough luck if you don’t, because the advert on ITV3 tells you that there are many people who drew the shit stick and apparently a cure is coming. It’s only coming if you give us your money. Do it quickly though, for the next ad break is in 15 minutes.

If print could be white noise, the cancer charity advert, in all it’s guises cannot now be blanked out. At least I cannot blank it out. It is everywhere. I have cancer, so I am bound to see it, Until I got cancer, I never heard it. I definitely didn’t see it. I never heard ‘cancer’. I saw the words and my association with it was, well, distant. We all know cancer is bad, but if it is not in your life, then one does not need to worry about. It won’t effect you. We know it happens, we hear the stories, but if you can carry on going to work everyday, see your family, then the connection, the empathy, is distant.

Until….

That’s right, until it happens… Until you are lying in a hospital bed and a doctor changes your life.

I hate the adverts.

I want all the cancer charities to have all the money they need. If they need a never ending pit of dosh, then they should have it, whether it is a charity supporting those with cancer or one trying to find the cures. I just wish that you did not need the reminder. Your reminders, remind me that I am not normal. That I have cancer, and that there is no cure. Your reminders tell me that not only do I need this special support and that there is no cure, but the people I love because they love me, need support. Your reminders tell me that I cause pain.

Today, I got the tube for the first time by myself since my diagnosis and my enjoyment of that was taken away by the fact that people needed to be reminded. I saw the advert. I just wanted to rejoice in my independence, but all I got instead was a reminder that people get cancer. Including me.

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Maybe one day, such a crude interruption into one’s life will be superfluous.

Please let it be in my lifetime.

EJB x

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