“Excuse me? Say that again?” The nice young doctor at A&E continued to look bemused and repeated “There’s something weird about your X-ray. The stent you had fitted has … Gone.”
I mentioned the stent last time. It’s a three inch tube of tungsten metal that had been placed in my bowel to keep it open and was fitted during my last hospital stay a few weeks ago as the pesky primary tumour had been pressing against it making bowel movement nigh on impossible and causing much pain and lack of appetite. Now I was back 3 weeks later with the same symptoms and the explanation appeared to be that at some point I had expelled the stent … That’s the as I say three inch tube of strong metal … And hadn’t noticed. I’m proud and appalled by my bowel strength in equal measure. I think it was during the unpleasantness when weeks of not “going” were condensed into 3 days and nights of putting that right, and during the eye crossing pain and confusion that caused somewhere a small metal tube found it’s freedom. Happy sailings little fella!
So now we only had one option and on Saturday I was wheeled down to theatre and came back with a stoma and a colostomy bag on my tummy. Don’t worry I’m not going to go into too much detail about either apart to say that it really could be worse. I’m still coming to terms with the appearance and the process but for someone who has steadfastly refused to change a nappy in their life I’m dealing with this new regime ok I think. This is due in no small part to the Stoma nurses whose job it is to teach you the basics in as kind, matter of fact and speedy way as possible. Mine just happened to be two of the coolest girls on the planet. They dealt with the first one while I watched carefully and a little grossed out then said “ok your turn, take that one off and put another on.” I did. Then my instructions were to change one by myself before the next morning and they’d come by and check it. I failed in this mainly because the high strength antibiotics I was on post op were causing nausea and sickness usually brought on by a much better time than I was having, the sort usually brought on by some fool saying “I’ll open that other bottle.” I didn’t want to let them down though so I lay in my hospital bed that night practicing with hand gestures like a marine practicing how to strip and resemble a rifle so that when they arrived I could ask them to guard the door (you have no idea how many people pop their head in offering breakfast or newspapers from the trolley and I didn’t want them to be faced with me mid change clutching a wet wipe while I dealt with what looks at the moment like a scene from The Qatermass Experiment on my tummy) while I prepared carefully then changed the bag. I did it! If this was a particularly gross version of The Generation Game I’d have won the round. They were pleased. I was proud … And it was a step towards going home.
If I thought I had time to rest on my laurels though I was wrong. I’m on a mission gang and here’s where the cannoli comes in. I think I’ve mentioned that I’ve dropped a couple of stone and I can’t climb stairs without stopping in the middle. This simply isn’t an option for what’s happening next. The primary tumour is also pressing against my spine and is just generally, literally being a pain. My lovely consultant had a suggestion for this – palliative chemo – and it has to been soon as that alien is active at the moment. I like to think I’m a coper but when he came in to discuss it I’m pretty sure I cried. I felt like I’d just run a marathon and he’d asked me to pop to the shops – in Outer Mongolia – on foot – in sling backs. I stammered that I wasn’t ready. Chemo takes it out of you and I didn’t have any “it” left – none. They were simply asking too much ….. I know I cried that night and yet …. It’s a character trait of mine that when I hear my whiny little voice saying “I caaaaan’t, it’s too difficult” I get irritated. I get all Drill Sergeant in Private Benjamin.
So I’m on a mission. I’ve got a couple of weeks before that Noo Yawk thug Vinnie strolls back in my life straightening his grease stained tie with clumsy pudgy fingers, grinning at me and saying “Ya ready?” (Please see previous posts about why I call chemo Vinnie) and I can’t disappoint him. I need to sit my as normal weight as I can possibly get to body in that chair in the chemo suite, roll my sleeve up, watch them attach the drip which is going to kill the rapidly dividing cells in my system and give me ulcers, nausea, hair thinning and a real shot at as normal a life as possible for a while (because it’s only this one tumour playing up so far the rest are still slow growing) and I’m going to whisper “Welcome back Vinnie – let’s do this”