I decided it was best to explain what was going on with my health and why I won't be able to blog as often as I have been. I left my last post with an ambiguous paragraph at the end and had a message from a friend wondering what was going on. So I may as well clear the air and then get back to posting my nature photos!
One of my blogger friends (you know who you are! xx) suggested that I may feel better in myself by mentioning my problems here, and I've already opened up on facebook to a select group of friends which has made me feel a whole lot happier - as I'm a private person I don't like talking about these things but sometimes it's better out than in.
It's hard to know where to start but I have in fact actually, unknowingly, had two things going wrong with me this summer at the same time - a total coincidence. Even the first was a shock to the system as the worst illness I can remember having was gastric flu in my early twenties, and glandular fever as a teenager; other than that sick to me means having a cold or the flu.
So I was a bit worried when I started losing weight rapidly around June. I was already on the skinny side of slim (and had been taking advantage by eating cake whenever I felt like it, as you do....) but losing half a stone (about 3.5kg/7 lbs) left me looking skeletal. During this time I started getting screwed up guts and was running to the toilet a lot. Of course I realised something was wrong so off I went to the doctor who ordered blood tests, none of which came back showing anything wrong. So he sent me off to a Gastro-enterologist who could find nothing wrong initially but suggested having a colonoscopy "because of your age" (oh, cheers) and then ordered more blood tests for things that can cause upset stomach and by this time, uncomfortable bloating. One of the tests was for thyroid function and this is the one that came back showing where the problem lay. So the colonoscopy was cancelled and I had to go back to my medecin (GP) who ordered a whole lot more blood tests related to thyroid and said to get an appointment asap with an Endocrinologist.
I should point out that this was all happening during 'les vacances' in France, July and August, where half of France including all medical staff go on holiday, so the wheels ground very, very slowly.
Eventually I got diagnosed with Graves disease (known as Basedow on this side of the channel) which is an auto-immune disease and one of the most common causes of hyperthyroidism, which is an overactive thyroid gland. At this point I was not feeling well and was often tired and my heart was racing and beating erratically. I was still bloated and running to the toilet umpteen times a day even though I had some tablets to help with the bloating. I couldn't go out anywhere unless I knew there was a loo nearby, so going out for walks was pretty much out of the question. I did (thank god) manage a few trips to the coast this summer but only because I knew there were toilets where I was going!
So I started on my medication but was warned it wouldn't start working straight away. Eventually I started to notice an improvement; however at the same time I was feeling pretty awful because of something else which was getting worse. I thought I had a bad case of piles (haemorrhoids) brought on by the constant running to the loo for several months. This got more and more painful and I decided to go and see a Proctologist. She examined me and proclaimed there was something 'up there' she didn't like the look of and booked me in for a colonoscopy a week later. I was happy about this because I'd always felt there was something else wrong.
Here in France they give you a general anaesthetic for a colonoscopy, unlike in the UK so I wasn't bothered about that, but the 3 days of low fibre diet was bloody horrible. No fruit or veg, no milk in my coffee and basically just vile dry food like grilled chicken and dry cooked pasta or rice - any more days of that and I'd have lost the will to live! (I love my food....). Yet being France I was allowed cheese.... :-)
So I had that done on the Monday a couple of weeks ago and afterwards when I was back in my room my Proctologist came to see me, starting her words with "It's not good news. You have a tumour. I've taken a biopsy and I'm rushing it through urgently so come to see me on Thursday".
I still wasn't too bothered because she'd already forewarned me about something 'up there'. And when I was home and googled anal tumours, all that came back was anal cancer. There don't seem to be benign tumours in that region. So at the next meeting starting again with the words "It's not good news" followed by "You have cancer" I was not surprised at all as I was expecting it.
Thankfully we are now out of the holiday period and things are working fast. I have been allocated a surgeon who will lead my team which as far as I understand includes the Proctologist and an Oncologist who I've yet to meet. The surgeon instilled tons of confidence in me and came across as someone who actually understands how the human body works, unlike some of these specialists who seem to only care about their one little speciality and seem to know nothing about anything else (or pretend to).
I had a PETscan on Thursday but I was not able to have iodine contrast die injected in me due to the thyroid condition (it took a week of emails and phone calls and yet more emails to get the ruddy Endocrinologist to respond to whether I could have this done, as nobody, neither the surgeon nor the doctor in charge of the PETscan could make this decision. Only the Endocrinologist. Eventually she said no).
So now I await hearing back from them as to how large the tumour is, and if it has spread, but I know I'm in for about 5 weeks of chemo and radiotherapy to try to shrink the tumour as much as possible, and then surgery after that but with a break of about 8-10 weeks in between the two. Worst case is a permanent colostomy bag but I'm not worried about that one bit. Well obviously there's a worst case worse than this but I am not going there..... :-p The tumour is an adenocarcinoma which is rare in the anus so is counted as, and treated as, rectal cancer, although from my perusings of the internet I can't actually see any difference between the two.
It's going to be tough and I want to just get on with the treatment as soon as possible, obviously!
Here's a pic of me taken with OH's phone before going in to my colonoscopy (which here they call a coloscopie) - don't you just love my paper hat and slippers? I even got given paper knickers - thank god for that as I hate hospital gowns that leave your bum on display! :-)
I'm not burying my head in the sand as I see little point - I'm feeling positive - my bum hurts a lot of the time but I have loads of pain killers and sometimes sitting at my typing chair is uncomfortable so I have asked my doc for a prescription for a rubber ring type of thingy to make it more comfy to sit. And when my body say rest, I rest and read or sleep. I have put back the weight that I lost due to the thyroid condition so I am happy about that - I have never been so happy to see my love handles return and being able to pinch an inch again. I can tell you that at 53 you really don't want or need to see your hip bones protruding like I did when I was a teenager. Bring on the middle aged spread!
So hopefully I'll get a more normal post up soon, back to the bugs and critters, because on my good days I'm still getting out there with my camera and watching the wildlife. And harvesting bloody courgettes!!! :-)