Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Sunday 16th January

After four years, I can read my physical self and my moods rather well and know that without doing something positive each day, involving the outside world, I become quickly oversettled with being at home all day, in my safe zone, where no one can see me. However, by tea time, I’m desperate for change and mood swings aren’t pretty. So I shall venture out to Magna with my little ones while A works another Saturday thanks to the financial mess my illness has left us in. When I become the next JK Rowling, I’ll look back on all this and laugh :)

Saturday 15th January

NOTE TO SELF: No more Friday hydrotherapy sessions – still suffering this morning with two excited boys ready for fun and games and a husband keen to decorate. Not at my best to say the least.
The biggest obstacle for me, and for many recovering from surgery, is the low moods. I’ve taken medication for it before and while it helped considerably at the time, it became just more cotton wool to wrap myself up in, rather than facing each day sober and realistic. While the last two years have passed in a haze of Tramadol, I had carried on as best I could and sacrificed exercise for speed (“I’ll just use my wheelchair”) and pain for painkillers. I know chronic pain must be managed with sufficient meds – to keep on top of the pain – but it is a fine line between aching while improving mobility and knocking yourself out . The physioterrorist’s motto – “The more you do the more you can do, while the less you do the less you’ll be able to” rings true.
I have to take control this year, and my operation – pelvic realignment with bells on – was just the beginning,. The more I do, the more I will be able to do after all– even if taking less codeine slows the pace and walking more on my crutches slows me down even more! As my dear mum has often whispered in my ear: “Remember - The Tortoise and the Hare, Kate, The Tortoise and the Hare”. I hated it as a child and I hate that story even more now. Who wants to be a tortoise?!

Friday 14th January

9.00am Hydrotherapy session with Jackie again – I ached when I got in the water today so knew I’d suffer afterwards. She was quite pleased with my activity this week although agreed I’d perhaps overdone it a little on my two good days. The exercises hurt and I spent ten minutes afterwards doing gentle stretches to ease the cramps in my thighs and bum – ouch! My skinny cappuccino afterwards brought me round slightly but I spent the rest of the day in a haze tidying round at home and resting with a hot water bottle when I could.

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Thursday 13th January

This last week has left me feeling calmer and more coherent generally, and while the hot flushes and the afternoon knockouts remain, I realise now the fog I’ve lived in for the past two years is steadily lifting. Sheer bloody-mindedness on my part and equal measure from those supporting me has got me to this point. Giving up, as someone once said, is not an option.
After shopping yesterday, today was like wading through treacle and cleaning the bathroom and kitchen nearly reduced me to tears. Yes, I know it has that effect on most people, but the sheer amount of time and energy it takes me is not funny!!! Well, maybe a little bit.
A’s mum popped over to catch up and pick up the boys for me. Being without her husband of 45 years and complete soulmate is obviously taking its toll, but she seems to be handling it as she always has handled major life changes – she rolls up her sleeves and gets on with it. A very strong woman.
A came home with fish ‘n’ chips for his mum and the boys and once the house smelled comfortingly of salt and vinegar, A and I skipped off for a little retail therapy - twice in two weeks we've been out together. It's unheard of! I had promised him Wagamamas, and had dressed for dinner in giddy anticipation, but time was of the essence as his mum would need to be home a couple of hours later and there were bargains to be had.
With a heavy heart, I watched as he shopped, changed in to a range of bottom-hugging jeans (phew – those changing rooms get a bit hot! ;) )and rewarded my wifely support with two pairs of shoes in the Clarks 70% Sale.
Times are hard, the government’s screwed up big time, but a girl can’t grumble at red patent shoes!

Wednesday 12th January

Cinema with Mum – well almost.
My Mum and I had promised ourselves a date with Colin Firth as 'The Kings Speech' is currently gracing our big screens. With that and the news that Wagamamas have opened a restaurant at Meadowhall, we awarded ourselves an official day off. Since Mum has retired and I’ve been blessed with a dodgy pelvis, we have been able to spend more time together and tick many mutual ‘things to do’ off an ever growing list. While travelling the world in a campervan will have to wait for now, we are regular cinema/ art gallery/ theatre/ ballet goers and ensure that one day a week we break from the mundane to give ourselves a treat.  We even tried life drawing once - once and once only. The drawing was fine, the people were lovely, but my end result was a shock to the system. Mum's a really good artist, but won't endure the weekly comparisons with the art lesson lifers who insist on sharing their amazing efforts at the end over coffee.
Today, energised by the promises of the Marks & Spencer sale, I walked on crutches for thirty minutes around the store then stopped for coffee. My undoing was repeating my ordeal for another thirty minutes while refusing the offer of my wheelchair (now full of shopping bags) – too proud to accept my ‘Get out of Jail Free’ card. Accepting my limitations has never been one of my strong points.
Colin Firth will have to wait. Shoe shopping and noodles were far too tempting.

Tuesday 11th January

Why am I writing? I’ve always written – diaries from nine to eighteen years which I’d planned to publish and lovingly squirreled away in a River Island carrier bag, to short stories, poetry, articles for education mags and a children’s novel and now a new novel, script and blog which I tend to like a new child. New material is everywhere and I’ve taken to carrying colourful notebooks with me at all times, which reside in a very small study groaning under the strain. Some material goes by the wayside as have most of my belongings as we’ve moved from house to house over the last fifteen years. Moving to London, I saved everything I could, but tried to be ruthless, lightening my load of old Christmas cards, books, and faded soft toys I had carted around with me since I’d left home. Even all the face and fabric paints I’d ever owned, tied up in a River Island carrier bag, were left out for the charity van the day we left for London. Many keepsakes too treasured to part with still remain in boxes, gathering dusty layers in the garage as I write. It was only when unpacking my diaries some years later, in a bid to write up my memoirs, that I realised while being a writer requires creativity and good research, discipline and organisation are the bench mark of many successful writers. As I gazed down through my tears at the rusting tubes of fabric paint in the faded carrier bag, I learned a valuable lesson. Although material is important to a writer, good organisation is vital.

Monday 10th January

Today’s Challenge: To take boys to school – across the road then round the corner. Sad but true.
¯Jumped up, got out of bed, dragged a comb across my head ¯– got the boys fed and watered, washed and dressed, teeth clean etc etc etc. That Paul McCartney led a charmed life - bet his mornings are rarely like mine!
When we were good to go, I realised I was almost hyperventilating at the thought of taking the boys to school. Life is so different now, but with a little grim determination I hope it will one day be better. I still have to whizz my little red scooter to school, but today parked it a good twenty steps away from the entrance and used my crutches the rest of the way. The endorphins pumping, I managed to watch Max write about his weekend (three sentences with wow words – he’s diarising his life already) then take Harry down to class where he announced he was having a packed lunch (not school dinner as he has done since September) and proudly revealed his Ben 10 lunchbag  containing four packets of Hula Hoops, two cartons of apple juice and a Dairy Milk bar. What could I do?
My physio session was a struggle so I'm ashamed to say I was a little less enthusiastic and just got through it today. No real achievement there, as I'm sure I'd run out of steam after the school run. Tragic.
After Hydrotherapy, I popped in to school and adjusted Harry’s lunch to include a ham sandwich, cheesy dipper and Frube yoghurt tube (Shrek – his favourite) and lightened him of his chocolate and Hula Hoop stash. Not quite the lunch he planned, but I’ll give him full marks for effort!

Saturday 8th January

Woke up very sore, but after an hour, a strong coffee and a strategically placed Thermapad (Boots £6.99 for three – worth every penny as one lasts eight hours and can restore an otherwise creaky day) I felt almost human.
We took the boys to the cinema today. Since becoming disabled, I’ve discovered a few silver linings along the way and the CEA card is one of them. I initially treated myself to a Cineworld Film membership as a way of clawing back the odd day when my pain management was poor and I needed a distraction. This still works really well on my rough days – I love to lose myself in a good film with coffee and a Ben & Jerry’s icecream to hand! However, because I can’t drive (partly as I’ve never passed my test and partly due to the morphine I take each day makes me unfit to drive) I always need to go with someone to get me there and help me to and from my seat. The CEA card enables me to take someone with me, free of charge, to do just that.  
To apply for the card you need  to send proof that you are either in receipt of Disability Living Allowance or Attendance Allowance or that you are registered blind, a passport-sized photo with your application to appear on the card and a processing fee. It was £5.50 when I applied last year. The CEA card lasts one year at a time.
We saw Gulliver’s Travels in 3D – not the best film, more like a romcom seg-wayed into a children’s film, but the boys enjoyed it. Harry does have trouble with his 3D glasses though and we had to secure them to his head with his stripy bobble hat. Yes he looked gorgeous! Floppy the dog (previously Biscuit until Harry discovered Oxford Reading Tree books at school) wore his own 3D glasses and apparently enjoyed the film very much. A soft toy with attitude and a penchant for all things Jack Black.
Today I managed to walk on crutches to the cinema, rather than my usual transport of the dreaded wheelchair, but certainly paid for it when I got home. Hot water bottle and a whiskey and lemonade eased the pain though!

Friday 7th January

Gave myself an easy ride today, knowing I would be heading to a party later. No giddy excitement for me, just another soft play area for the boys, too much sugar and a chance to kick back and have uninterrupted coffee and trashy magazine time for an hour. Actually, much giddy excitement for me – the chance comes by very rarely these days! The party played out as expected, except for two chance meetings which gave me such a boost. Catching up with a friend’s mum, Theresa, she talked a little about her work – by day a child minder, while her evenings and weekends are spent delivering Reiki, which means universal life energies. Amanda, a Reiki practitioner I knew down south, worked her magic on my rheumatic hip so I’m familiar with the therapy which draws on the energies around us. A healer places his/her hands over parts of the body without touching and channels energy through her to support healing – this can be any kind of physical, mental or spiritual difficulty. It had proved successful a few years ago, so I’m now willing to let Theresa loose on me!
The remainder of my time was spent with a woman whose daughter played with Max and Harry and their friends. The little girl’s auburn curls were stunning and I commented on how, had I had a little girl, her hair may well have looked like that if she’d taken after her daddy. A always feels relieved that our boys are little blondies, while I’d have loved a little red head to carry one A’s red gene. She confided that her daughter’s father was a similar colouring, but had committed suicide when the girl was barely one year old.
What a strong woman. Her life changed dramatically when her partner chose to take his own life, but she feels he spared his daughter a rather difficult upbringing as his mental state became untenable after a breakdown some years before. Such a positive spirit. I’m sure these people are brought into our lives sometimes to remind us that, for many of us, our lot ain’t such a bad one.

Thursday 6th January

Hydrotherapy session 10.00am with a different ‘physioterrorist’ - Jackie. My third session proved to be a struggle but a real achievement as I completed all of my exercises. On paper they seem minute in comparison to the sets and reps gym bunnies put themselves through. But for me, they prove to exhaust for one day, then stun me in to inactivity the next.
My usual ten reps of ten were increased to two sets of six and so my exercises followed. They  included rotating to the left and right; bringing knee to the chest and slowly release, then my favourite, although the hardest, leg to the side and raise for two then down for two.
Coffee afterwards with my classmates is always enlightening and today I met Lena (64) who climbed steps today for the first time in two years after hip surgery and Tom (66) who has finally found the right fit after seven hip replacements dating back to 2000. My problems melt away when I hear such stories. Steven attends with his wife each week and today was his last session – he had fallen down three steps while out on a staff do and fractured his hip at 41 years old. He has spent three months getting from not walking at all to starting back at work next month. I hope that will be me - back teaching at the chalk face - one day soon!

Wednesday 5th January

Woke up this morning feeling rather confident – achy, but much clearer and determined to have a good day and give my husband,A,  lots of cuddles after his ordeal yesterday. He’s thrown himself back in to work which is his way.
Since stopping tramadol (in hospital on 4th November 2010) my health has been on a bit of a rollercoaster ride. I had terrible side effects at first, frightening body shakes and spasms, a very high temperature which had me placed in the window bay with a fan and open window freezing out any one who visited my bed for several days. On arrival home, these continued, with the addition of panic attacks, mood swings, and either night terrors or no sleep followed by 2-3 hour daytime naps. Great fun.
This last week has left me feeling calmer and more coherent generally, and while the hot flushes and the afternoon knockouts remain, I realise now the fog I’ve lived in for the past two years. Sheer bloody-mindedness on my part and equal measure from those supporting me has got me to this point. Giving up, as someone once said, is not an option.
Today, energised by the promises of the Marks & Spencer sale, I walked on crutches for thirty minutes around the store then stopped for coffee. My undoing was repeating my ordeal for another thirty minutes while refusing the offer of my wheelchair (now full of shopping bags) – too proud to accept my ‘Get out of Jail Free’ card. Accepting my limitations has never been one of my strong points.
Spent the evening having a little ‘us’ time with my husband, A, at the cinema. We quietly shared (rather, sucked) the inappropriate purchase of popcorn for such a film as this - a rather sombre portrayal of real-life climber trapped in a mountain crevice for 127 hours. A life affirming film although incredibly gruelling. A little like the recent years of our marriage. A few disasters rocked our otherwise solid relationship and although neither of us was trapped, we certainly affiliated with the climber crushed with no hope of getting out. Yet, without losing limbs, we could have escaped; I nearly walked out a few months ago, a year after he almost got free of me. Our paths could have gone in very different ways, for good reason, but we’re doing our best. We decided to stick this out together and that’s good enough for us, for now. A chronic illness rocks otherwise strong marriage for many reasons and ours, a love match, was nearly another statistic.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Tuesday 4th January

Today would have been my gorgeous father-in-law’s birthday had he been well and recovered from lung cancer, bone cancer et al. Bless him. This anniversary coincided with another family funeral. They have buried their third loved one in as many months – the second being this aunt’s grand daughter. Amazingly, they have found comfort to imagine that she has gone to be Granny to the little one who’s passed – and a poem was read to that effect before we turned to leave. The sun shone as the funeral ended and I drank her favourite tipple, whiskey, to toast a very sweet lady who loved leopard skin, whiskey and cigarettes and lived for her family. A sad day which only magnified my rather reflective mood. A second whiskey and lemonade toasted my father-in-law who I miss dreadfully. My man hasn’t been the same since losing his dad and even on the days when he is trying my patience somewhat, I remember what he’s lost and swallow hard. Life flies by and before you know it, you’re the one lying flowers on the ground, talking to a dappled headstone the colour of your hair.

Saturday 1st January

It has been difficult this year to scream ‘Happy New Year’ from the rooftops for a number of reasons, most of which anyone over the age of 30 will have experienced to some degree at some time. Unfortunately, last year was the worst in a series of terrible times, as every year since 2006 has knocked me off my feet either physically, mentally or psychologically. While each year has thankfully been tempered with new births, new friends and new experiences; as one of the world’s most optimistic people – think SATC’s Charlotte with rose-coloured specs on – I’ve managed to leave each year with some good memories.
I have therefore promised myself that I won’t whine on about the past – this being my NEW YEAR RESOLUTION NUMBER 1.
Many (usually those with certain negative qualities who want their sins to be forgiven and forgotten) say the past is in the past. I agree.
However, the past has made me who I am. Forgiving is very easy for me as I know I ain’t perfect and prefer my misdemeanours, although few and not particularly exciting, to be left back there. Forgetting, however, is not an option. I don’t and I won’t.  But moving on is an entirely different story.