When will it end?

What with all my poor health of late. I just wonder what life has in store.

I have numerous friends dealing with horrific health problems. No I’m not the only one.

Then last week my gorgeous, smart, loving daughter in law had surgery last week for an ectopic pregnancy. That would be bad enough but this was the second in under a year. Making this not only a tradgedy in itself but life changing for her and her little family. She so wanted a second child.

Several months ago I learnt that my best friend from school had lung cancer. If that wasn’t bad enough her brother died of covid at the start of the year. My friend and I had lost touch for a number of years when our children were young. In those days there were no mobile phones and no internet. I found her again through Facebook about 8 years ago.

We both had busy lives and always promised we would meet up again at some point. I had moved away from the area 33 years ago. Our communication was intermittent but we were still in each others thoughts. During one of our more recent communications I had promised that providing I was well enough I would make the effort to go and see her this summer.

Unfortunately it is now too late. My dear friend passed away peacefully yesterday morning.

Why is it that the good people in this life have to suffer so much.

Is it hot in here?

Women of a certain age suffer from hot flushes. In theory this shouldn’t be a problem for me. I kind of went through an early menopause when I was a mere 39. I had hormone therapy at the time so I think all in all I got away lightly. For many years after this I was always warmer than everyone else. Prior to my cancer treatment I always felt the cold. Then suddenly I was in shorts and a t-shirt when everyone else was in jeans and jumpers. My palms were sweaty. I would say that I had an internal heating system after my radiotherapy. Over the years I came across other cancer survivors who also experienced this feeling of being hotter than everyone else.

I couldn’t stand to have hot feet so rarely wore socks even in winter. I would get into a panic if my feet or even my hands became overheated. My work colleagues would ask me weren’t my feet cold when I was wandering around in sandals and bare feet. Then gradually over the last few years that over heating wore off. I started to feel the cold again. Get this I have even started wearing socks everyday unless the weather is hot.

In the last few months I have found myself taking my jumper/cardigan off at various times through out the day. By mid evening I am beside myself tearing off my outer layer if clothing. Then comes bed time. I am so so glad that I sleep alone these days. Who would want to share a bed with me right now. Only a mad man! One minute I’m under the duvet, then I have to stick one leg out (something I have done for years). That doesn’t work my body is in panic mode so I have to completely remove the duvet. My shoulders get cold so I pull the duvet back but my legs are still hot. My head is sweating. Even though its winter I am putting on my desk fan to cool me down. I have a cool pad for my head. Boy that thing is cold but after a while even that becomes warm. All night I am duvet on duvet off, fan on fan off. Cool pad under my head, cool pad removed.

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A few weeks ago it occurred to me that this situation has been worse in the last six months. In the middle of the night when I was having a difficult time I posed the question to the appropriate facebook group I belong to for other ladies in my situation. The answers came flooding back, yes this is a side effect of the surgery I had back in the summer. From what I can gather, this goes on and on and on for years. The surgery has caused a hormone imbalance. As if I didn’t have enough to contend with.

Girls are doing it for themselves

This is a topic that I am passionate about but I am really in two minds about this item that was on the news this morning.

Researchers at Queen Mary University of London have developed a home smear DIY kit for cervical cancer tests. The kit allows women to take a vaginal swab or urine sample at home and send it into a lab, where it will be tested for chemical changes. The NHS aims to get around 80% of women tested, but last year only 70% of people attended their cervical cancer smear tests last year.

If successful the kits will be available in three years time.

I have been very passionate over the years

You may or may not be aware that in early 2001 I was diagnosed with stage III cervical cancer. I was very conscientious about always having a smear/pap test whenever I was called for it. In those days in UK that would be every 5 years. It was also routine to have a smear test during a 6 week post natal check up. My youngest son was born in December 1995. I had my post natal examination in January 1996. I was then due for my next test in January 2001. In April 2000 I began to have bladder leakage. I was reluctant to go to the doctor about this. After several months of this (I blame Tena Lady adverts for the idea that it is normal for women to develope leakage). Finally in late 2000 I had an appointment with our doctor who referred me to see a Urologist at our local hospital.

I had my appointment but was told that he couldn’t examine me properly as there was a blockage. A week later I saw a Gynaecologist who also attempted to examine me. He attempted to perform a smear test. This didn’t work as I was bleeding to much. Next I attended day surgery for a biopsy. Weeks later (9th March 2001) I never forget that date. I was given the news that I had a tumour the size of an orange. I later discovered that it was 7cm x 8cm x7cm. I was too large to be removed by surgery.

The next few weeks were take up with a variety of tests and measurements and 3 tattoo dots on my back ( for radiotherapy purposes). The treatment I received over the following months did the trick. The tumour dissolved and in September 2001 I was given the all clear. The treatment I received saved my life. I am very grateful that I went through it but it is not something I would want anyone to go through if it could be avoided. I know without a doubt that if I didn’t have treatment when I did I wouldn’t have made it to the end of 2001. For me now every day, month and year are a bonus.

If at that time smear tests had been performed more frequently, it’s probable that my cancer would have been picked up sooner and treatment less invasive.

Over the years I have come across or heard of women who don’t go for their smear test. It’s free! It takes a couple of minutes. It’s a life saver. It’s a no brainer. I get very cross when women say they don’t go, it might be a question of dignity or vanity. It might be because they are scared. It could be the thought that it was uncomfortable or even hurt. Let me tell you that whichever the reason, its a darn sight worse to go through the treatment for cancer.

Back to the news segment this morning. It is being proposed that it in a few years time if trials are successful women will be able to do the tests themselves. On the one hand if this will encourage more women to go through the process that has to be a good thing. On the other hand are these kits going to be fool proof. I know that nurses and doctors are not always 100% able to get the right samples. Yes I do understand that these kits are to be more about getting a swab rather than gathering cells but is it going to be accurate enough and not give a false sense of security.

Lucky or not so lucky

I’ve noticed recently that quite a few of my friends have been mentioning the pain of living with endometriosis

Common signs and symptoms of endometriosis include:

  1. Painful periods (dysmenorrhea). Pelvic pain and cramping may begin before and extend several days into a menstrual period. …
  2. Pain with intercourse. …
  3. Pain with bowel movements or urination. …
  4. Excessive bleeding. …
  5. Infertility. …
  6. Other signs and symptoms.

When I was a teenager I was one of the last of my friends to start my periods. At the time I was ashamed but looking back I was lucky. Once my periods began so did the suffering. Pain like nothing I had ever experienced in my short life. It would begin on day one and continue until the bleeding stopped on day 9 or 10. Most of my friends were regular and knew exactly when to expect their period to begin. I didn’t realise for some time that other girls didn’t experience the same problems I did. I was very irregular so didn’t know from one day to the next when I would have a flood. I often finished a lesson and stood up to discover that both my skirt and the chair were covered in blood.

My periods were generally over a week long and sometimes I would start one only a week or two after the previous one but at other times I could go upto 2 months between. I would need to take pain relief and would spend hours curled up with a hot water bottle clutched to my abdomen.

When I was about 15 or 16 (so long ago now that I don’t remember exactly) my mother took me to see my dr. He told me that I would grow out of this and everything would settle down by the time I was 17. It didn’t.

As the years went by I would like to say that I got used to this. I didn’t. My periods were always long, always heavy from start to finish and always painful.

In my mid twenties I had my first child and a couple of years later my second. Quickly followed by my third. It was after the birth of my third child that I went almost a year without having any periods. I got into a habit of marking on the calendar how many days passed between my periods. Eventually my Gynecologist did some tests and found that I had polycystic ovaries. My ovaries were not working as they should meaning that they didn’t release oestrogen as often as they should and therefore producing eggs. Many women with this problem have difficulty with conceiving.

I feel blessed that not only did I manage to have 3 healthy sons but also had a fourth son. I was given some treatment for this, but not until after my fourth and final son was born. Among the tests I had undergone I had a bone density test which showed that due to my lack of oestrogen over the years my bone density was not what it should be. I was put on the mini pill (even though I had been sterilized by this time). This was to boost my oestrogen levels as I was even in my mid 30s a prime candidate for Osteoporosis. I couldn’t start this medication until after I had stopped breast feeding my baby.

When I was 38 I was diagnosed with stage three cervical cancer. The treatment for this was intensive resulting in what they called a non surgical hysterectomy. At this point I went through early menopause. This was in itself a blessing for me as it meant the end of all those long, heavy and painful periods. It also meant no more babies but I had already finished having my family so that was fine by me.

I know that I am not the only female in my family to have problems with their reproductive system. My daughter in law is currently in hospital having had emergency surgery for an ectopic pregnancy. She has also had two miscarriages in recent years. I myself had two miscarriages (before and after my first son). Two of my sisters in law also had problems.

My daughter in law is very passionate about supporting Tommys Charity for stillbirth and neonatal births. We both believe that the loss of a child at whichever stage shouldn’t be swept under the carpet. Women (and men) should be able to express their loss without it being a taboo topic. I also believe that other “womens problems” are not spoken about enough. Just because these problems are relating to womens reproductive system doesn’t make them shameful. They are not something that should only be spoken about in a whisper hidden from everyone.

I am unlucky that I suffered right from the beginning with endometriosis. I am lucky that this problem was cut short by my cancer treatment. I am unlucky that I had cancer. I am unlucky that I had polycystic ovaries. I am lucky that I had 4 healthy sons. My life has been one big rollercoaster of being unlucky but balancing it out with good luck.