Sunday, 20 May 2018

the best laid schemes o' mice an' men, gang aft agley





And so it began, starting with my pre op assessment this week for my spinal surgery. I was all set, I even had a wee snack packed as advised as it could take some time. I was up early and organised. But this week we’ve had a sick family with both Andrew ( complication of man flu) and Cara the dog ( complication of dog bite) on antibiotics.


 So hot drinks and cheese disguised antibiotics were delivered ( only the dog got cheese to be honest ). Much reassurance given that I could drive there myself. So blue badge in hand I set off to my car in the hope of a parking space near the door of the clinic. The car didn’t start. OK we’re a two car family and no one was well enough to be going out so back in the house, swapped car keys, tried car number two, all good except blue badge was the other car and time was slipping away. Much cursing ensued and back for the other keys.....Amazingly i arrived on time. 
First off I saw the nurse who asked loads of questions and told me things I don’t remember much about if I’m honest. But I do remember she said we plan for the very best outcome here and you’ve the team who can deliver that. That was a magical moment that flipped my pessimism and helped me focus on a good outcome. Happy day. The anaesthetist was another star. She lifted my bag ( I’m unable to travel light!) and then I saw her profile and noted her advanced pregnancy. It won’t be me for your surgery but we will look after you well she pronounced as she took me through what to expect. It was incredibly reassuring. She told me she had seven shifts left before maternity leave and I wished her well. And returned home to my own patients.
Fortunately the week ended with a sun filled trip to the East Neuk of Fife with my friend. She is the very spirit of kindness and caring and we can laugh and cry together, what more can you want in a friend. I even managed to explore the local towns in my mobility scooter! It was a special couple of days to help me prepare for the next stage.
This week I have an angiogram under local anaesthetic as a day patient. I have all the instructions. But of course just when you think everything is under control nature takes over and you get a virus. It wasn’t simply man flu after all, it seems. So now I’m a wheezy mess. Fingers crossed it doesn’t delay anything...

Sunday, 13 May 2018

" No one talks about it, till it happens"




I cried for someone I hadn’t heard of before, and certainly never met, on Friday. I expect some of you did too. Frightened Rabbit are not on my playlist but when the story unfolded of Scott Hutchison my heart ached. I’ve seen people post some painfully raw tweets today around times when they too have felt suicidal. The moment passed and they are still here and grateful for that.
And honestly I too know that place. When I first had breast cancer I went into fight mode as the language used around cancer urges us to do; you’ve got to fight it, you must battle with it, you should keep going and so you deny the impact of treatment and smile over the deepening cracks. I got through it and then came to the end of treatment, celebrated and planned a holiday a few months later. The thought of that holiday kept me going. Paris, spring...wonderful. No Gallery was left unturned but my favourite was the Musée de Rodin, I knew I could have sat in that garden forever. I returned to work and crashed. I was overwhelmed, exhausted, stressed and couldn’t see an end in sight. I was driving my car soon after returning home and felt drawn to drive it off the road. It lasted several minutes but somehow I managed to keep going on the road and when I stopped I realised I needed to get help.
 I did get help and was signed off work to give me time to recover. I spoke to a therapist and my GP but never admitted suicidal thoughts. I felt ashamed to have fought a life threatening condition, only to consider ending my life. But really I just wanted to end how I was feeling, not to die. And I imagine many people who do die by suicide felt similarly. Something stopped me, maybe it was that competing drive to live and to be there for my children. I’m fortunate, the people i turned to listened and acted on it. That made all the difference and I learned from that time. I am much better at meeting my needs now and better at asking for help. My best advice now to anyone living through cancer treatment is, carve your best path through it all with compassion for yourself. 
 I’ve recently been involved with work on Suicide Prevention and this report is our recommendations from the perspective of lived experience. The forthcoming action plan needs to be ambitious for change. A recent campaign by the Samaritans encourages all of us to reach out when we see someone we feel concern for. Just that moment of compassion can save a life. 
My dog Cara was bitten this week and has needed stitches and -especially stressfull for her- she has had to wear a cone.

We’ve had several neighbours come to ask after her, even the postie stopped to enquire and deliver dog biscuits with the mail. The compassion in our special community shown has been so very moving. The words to console dogs and their owners come more readily to us, don’t they? But what about when we fear for someone’s life? I’ve had both counselling and coaching training and even I might stumble over what to say and do. But just asking are you ok, can I help is really enough isn’t it? 
My tears this week for Scott were heartfelt, I ache for his family and friends and all those affected by his situation. May he be at peace now and I do hope he knows how much he was loved.
Perhaps his loss will encourage all of us to do what we can to notice, reach out, listen and respond when we see someone in pain. Because none of us are immune. 

The Samaritans are available for free 24/7 on 116123 and by email jo@samaritans.org