Friday, October 31, 2014

A hill to climb...

As I wrote in my last blog, we were dealing with some potentially serious news. And I'm afraid the news was worse than we expected.

Chris had his angiogram and they found major blockage in the arteries of his heart - up to 90 percent in one of the arteries. But the doctors' bigger and more immediate concern was that Chris' red blood count was low. So, they decided to perform a colonoscopy. Chris had one last year and they thought they found a polyp, but when re-examining the colonoscopy, the polyp was less obvious. So, not much more was thought of it. Chris was scheduled to go back in for a follow-up colonoscopy in August, but his health simply made the trek to Inverness very difficult. So, it was postponed. The colonoscopy he had two weeks ago was not a matter of maybe a polyp. In fact, it was very clear. Not only was Chris bleeding from the sigmoid colon (and required three transfusions), but cancer was found. They arranged for an immediate CT scan which indicated that the cancer has spread to the liver and the lymph nodes in the region of his sigmoid colon. We are not yet clear on what happens now. But we are determined to fight it and beat it. We have to - allowing cancer to win is simply not an option.

Today (Friday, October 31), the multi-disciplinary team at the hospital is meeting and we will have word by the end of the day as to the plan of action. We hope that Chris will be re-admitted to hospital and kept there until they can (without delay, hopefully) go into the bowel and remove the cancer and resection the bowel. Then Chris will have the angioplasty, as they have decided on stents rather than a bypass.  Once that is done, we will move forward with more treatment for the cancer, be it chemo or radiotherapy. Whatever is on the cards, whatever life is going to throw at us, we are going to beat it. We are. WE ARE.

Our families and friends have rallied round. Chris' mother and brother came on Monday and left on Tuesday. And then, without Chris knowing, his daughter and son arranged to surprise him with a visit on Wednesday. They are still here - but leaving today around noon. On Monday, Caroline, Catherine, and Stuart will arrive and stay through Wednesday. It will be good to have them around to alleviate some of the stress. And our friends on Facebook and back home have been amazing. One group of wonderful friends even set up a fund-raising page because I've had to cancel all my events for the remainder of the year. (Although I am set up the GALE Centre this weekend - it is local and I can pop home if I need to.)

All of this has made us realise how very much we love each other. Chris isn't just my husband, he is my best friend and I love his family as much as I love my own family. Lucy and Olly want their dad to be there for them as they reach the various milestones of their lives - graduate school graduations, weddings, babies. Caroline wants Chris to walk her down the aisle when she and Stuart marry in 2017 (they got engaged on October 15) and Catherine wants her Abba around to watch her grow up. And I want my best friend and husband by my side for the rest of my life.

Whatever your beliefs may be, may I request all your strongest and best healing prayers and thoughts? Help us know that this is not a battle to be lost, but a battle to be won and put in the past as we move forward, happy and healthy.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The not-so-subtle reminders of ageing...

It is after 4 in the morning and I am awake for several reasons. Firstly, my leg is killing me. It feels as if it is about to burst, but looking at it, I see no swelling. Perhaps it is simply my body's reaction to the first real cold snap of Autumn. Perhaps it is stress; perhaps it is the arthritis that seems to be devouring my limbs. Perhaps it is just age. No matter how young my mind feels, my body never wastes a moment to remind me that I'm not.

The second reason I am still awake is because Chris isn't here. Chris is at Raigmore Hospital in Inverness. Last Thursday he suffered chest pains and shortness of breath on his walk home from the post office. As it is on the way, he stopped in at the doctors' surgery to let them know how he was feeling. Within 15 minutes the decision was made to call an ambulance. The cards are stacked against Chris in the family medical history stakes, so we always must err on the side of caution. The ambulance came and I followed in our car (perhaps another reason why my leg hurts - three round trip drives to Inverness totalling 460 miles). He was admitted to the acute admissions ward and was immediately hooked up (again) to an EKG machine. I was shown to the day room to wait. After a bit, I was summoned and was wheeled down to his bedside (I can't possibly handle the distances required in the hospital, so was fortunate to have a very understanding staff that helped me stay with Chris). About 9:30, it was decided Chris would stay the night and I would go home.

The next day I drove back to take Chris some clothes and toiletries. He was going to be kept for at least one more night. His time with the cardiologists determined that he would be booked in for an angiogram as soon as possible - in this case today, as it happens. He was discharged on Saturday afternoon with a diagnosis of angina and IHD (ischemic heart disease). In addition, he has sprung a leak somewhere in his body - determined by the low count of his hemoglobin, so there was an additional diagnosis of anaemia. So, in addition to the angiogram, they are fast-tracking him for a sigmoidoscopy and endoscopy to see if the leak might be in his stomach or colon. He was also told that if he suffered any chest pain or shortness of breath, it would mean a trip to the A&E (Accident & Emergency, what the Brits call the Emergency Room). So home he came. We picked up a steak at the butcher's for his dinner - hoping to help his anaemia. He slept for 11 hours that night - in the quiet and darkness that he was not afforded at the hospital. (He relayed his favourite story of being in the hospital and I'm afraid this will be lost on anyone who isn't familiar with 'Little Britain'. One of the gentlemen in the ward was suffering from dementia and kept calling out to his wife. Her name is Margaret. So, from time to time, Chris would hear 'Margaret, Margaret, Margaret.' Chris was sorely tempted to reply 'Yes' just as in the Mr Man and the oh-so-very-patient shopkeeper segments of LB.)

Over the weekend, he did suffer chest pains and shortness of breath, but kept that himself - former health care professionals do make the worse patients. But last night and this morning it couldn't be ignored any longer. A call was a made, an ambulance arrived and off he went - this time with a suitcase packed in anticipation of the angiogram and possible admission to the hospital today.

So, today I will wait. I will sit by the phone and wait to hear what the angiogram reveals. I am hoping that, should it reveal a small leak somewhere in the heart area, it can be easily repaired. Or perhaps they will find some blockage that can be taken care of with a stent or balloon. Thing is, I know that medical science has made huge strides in the care of dodgy hearts. I know they will take good care of Chris and hopefully he will be able to manage the angina. After all, given the family history, it is highly unlikely he will escape without any problems. Just as long as they are manageable problems, I don't care. I want him well and happy. Not only for me, but for himself and our family as well. We all love him so much - he brings us all such joy and laughter. I would be lost without him.