Saturday, September 27, 2014

Hearing the 'R' word for the first time

At times during my treatment for Multiple Myeloma (cancer of the plasma cells in the bone marrow), I wondered if I would live to see my next birthday, never mind living to hear the 'R' word (Remission) but here I am on Friday 26 September 2014 celebrating seven years of remission.

It's a feeling of indescribable joy really to still be here and to be mostly fighting fit. 

I was reading through my 2007 journal last night and this is what was happening seven years ago:

Wednesday 26 September 2007

A couple of weeks earlier I had a bone marrow biopsy (ouch) to see if my stem cell transplant had worked and to see if the myeloma was gone. I attended the haematology day ward in Tallagh hospital for results. This diary entry was written at the end of that day seven years ago.

I can't describe how in bits I was this morning. I was wide awake at 5.30am walking around the house, pacing up and down. Sleep didn't come to easily last night either. I got very emotional with the kids this morning - I know they didn't really understand why. I was uptight, nervous and it was very difficult to speak any words that made sense.

I had decided to go to the hospital by myself and I know my family members weren't that happy but that's the way I decided to do it today. If it was bad news I would have time to absorb it myself before I had to break the news to anyone else. People knew I was getting my results today so my phone was hopping with texts all morning with good wishes and offers of prayers.

I dropped the kids to school and delayed a bit chatting to people - all the time prolonging the journey to Tallaght Hospital.

When I got to the hospital I had to have my regular bloods done so I headed straight to phlebotomy. Then it was up to haematology. I had a fair idea that some of the nurses knew my results but they couldn't say anything. I had to hear whatever the news was from my consultant Dr Slaby.

In fairness they all knew how nervous I was and they got me into a side room to wait for Dr Slaby almost as soon as they saw me. He arrived and was a bit concerned about the cough I have. I was sitting beside him and I could see the computer screen. I was afraid to look at it as he pulled up my results. My left hand was shaking so much that I had to sit on it to stop it. I glanced at him and then glanced at the screen and lots of numbers and words blurred in front of me but then I thought I saw the words 'no myeloma present in the bone marrow sample'. I thought I was seeing things so I closed my eyes and then he said the words: "We've done it. The Myeloma is gone'. I punched the air with both fists. I wanted to scream the place down but I somehow composed myself. I don't know how or why.

I honestly didn't hear a word he said to me after that - something about maintenance treatment. Then he realised I wasn't hearing him and he said - that's for another day. He said he was concerned about my cough so he insisted I hang around for an Xray. I was bursting to get out of the office and he eventually said that's it and we shook hands.

I ran out into the day ward and ran straight into one of the nurses who had taken care of me and I said 'I'm in remission' and she said 'I know' with a huge smile on her face. She hugged me and realised how badly I was shaking from shock so she put me into a side office and told me to dial 9 for a line out and not to come out or attempt to leave the hospital until I was a bit more settled. She said well done and left with a huge smile on her face.

Pic of me taken in Autumn 2013 

I dialled 9 and called my hubby Bryan but there was no answer. Then I dialled my mother and just as she was about to talk to me I cut her off. I couldn't work my mobile as I was all fingers and thumbs. Bryan rang me back and it was one of the most emotional moments of my life and I could hardly get the words out. I'm in remission I said and started to cry - tears of happiness. He said 'you deserve champagne tonight so that's what we will do'. It was just a moment of amazement I will never forget.

I called other friends and then my work colleagues as I knew people were waiting and there was such joy and love coming at me down the phone lines from family, friends, colleagues. My phone went into overdrive.

I switched the phone off and just sat by myself for a while taking it all in. I did it. I was in remission. All the awfulness, all the suffering and trauma, all the worry - I had done it. I was in remission.

End of diary entry 

I remember leaving the room and meeting the other nurses - they were all thrilled as they had all been willing me to be well. I owe my life to this team of amazing men and women in the day ward in Tallaght. There was no way to ever repay them for giving me my life back but I am determined to try by staying well for as long as I possibly can.

There was such joy in the dayward but we all had to mindful of people around me who were not receiving good news on the day I got my life back. I went off for my Xray and skipped out the door of the hospital. I wanted to stop everyone I met and tell them that I had done it! I am in remission.

I remember heading home down the N7 singing along to the radio. My daughter Emma who was 9 at the time knew that I was getting results on that day. I remember her school bus pulling up and seeing her walking across the green outside our house so I ran over to her and we just stood in the middle of the green hugging after I had told her the news. She was so happy for me.

It was such an incredible moment. At the time I had no idea that my neighbour was watching - she knew I was getting results that day and she dropped in a card later that day telling me that she had stood at her window watching this beautiful moment between mother and daughter unfold before her eyes. She said it was impossible not to cry!

That was seven year's ago today and there have been so many more beautiful moments that have unfolded in my life and I so grateful for every one of them. 

We all take things in our lives for granted - time being one of them.

I've watched my daughter grow into the most wonderful 17 year old girl. 

I've watched my baby boy grow into a charming and witty 10 year old. 

I'm getting to grow older with my hubby of 19 years. 

Time is the thing I find myself most grateful for. It's wonderful. 

Here's to continuing to kick cancer's butt and to savouring time. 



Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Sins of the Children by Emma Tobin

The mute, mothball shrieks of children dying under mother’s hands
And the fractal bursts of fractured light that hit
As the world tumbles over itself, leaving vague moments...
Like fingernails between the stones

While we, like disapproving books on dusty shelves
Clasp coffee cups against the precious beating of our hearts
Toss cynicism between one another, each drop of sweat a privilege
Each breath a human right

Stuffed straw mouths and shining hair
Religious freedom weighs more than dead children
Leaving corpses littered like cigarettes
Colours in a twisted dream of heaven

Matchstick ribs jutting, but we stood on the moon
How fragile have we made our one,
short and common life? How easily
our complacency is bought.

And in the dull light of big- mooned skies
Ragged lines of blood stutter down, rough
touches underneath a fluorescent fire. Severed
heads belching, toddlers left for flies.

In empty houses seashells wait for pudgy fingers
now bludgeoned shades of navy blue. And
our tots writhe on the warehouse floor, unable
to comprehend a world without Lego.

These shells will not creak in a gruff wind
Stretched lopsided over an imagined territory
An imagined safety, an imagined,
tender world.

Copyright: Emma Tobin (age 17)
September 2014

Sunday, September 7, 2014

To Autum and Flu Season

To Autum and Flu Season by Brenda Drumm 

SEASON of mists and mellow flueyness 
Coughs, colds and sore throats 
Conspiring to make me bark and sneeze
  Despite lemsip, paracetamol and dissolvable disprin 
Despite flu jabs, vitamin c and Manuka honey 
Despite old wives' remedies and flat 7up 
    You swell my glands and plump up my nose 
You dry my skin 
And block my bronchial tubes
Make my eyes stream and tear up 
Create mountains of Mucus and swollen nasal membranes  
 Until I think my dripping nose will never cease 
  Oh yes the flu has o'er-brimm'd my clammy cells.  
Who hath not seen this strand of flu coming? 
Where is my immunity? 
 I am drowsy from the fumes of Vicks vapour rub 
Semi unconscious from the odour of Olbas oil 
    You sit and watch my oozings hour by hour. 
Where are the songs of Spring?
Where is our Indian Summer? 
Am I now at the mercy of Autumnal change and Winter weariness? 

Hot water bottle and heat pads to keep me warm 
Ice packs and cold drinks five minutes later 
I'm overheating 
Do I stuff this cold? 
Should I starve my fever? 

Must have lots of fluids
Must eat a little of what I fancy 
Must have Lucozade and multivitamins 
Mustn't have lemsip as well as paracetamol 
Must sleep 

I'm sinking into a duvet day 
Dosed up 
Choked up 
Blocked up 
Chest and nose are whistling 
Not really a lullabye
But I finally
Drift off
Into another season of mist and not so mellow flueyness 

Copyright: Brenda Drumm 
7 September 2014