Friday, 18 April 2014

Optimism

Hello everyone,

On Tuesday I had a long day of appointments up at the hospital in London- NHNN. Here's how it all went:


It started with an MRI scan with contrast- this all went as well as could be as I have to admit I was a tad anxious due to the fact that I've always either been semi unconscious when I've had contrast or I've already had a cannula in my hand e.g post op so I was curious as to how it is administered- I think I'm a control freak and just wanted to know how everything works- some may find that bizarre but being such a needle scardeycat I like to at least know (and if anyone is reading this and is worried I'm hoping this will reassure you) Essentially all that happened was similar to having your bloods taken in that crook of your arm so nothing massive being placed in my hand as my over active mind was dreaming up! All very simple, straight forward and no discomfort.

 

Once I was ready to go on the scanner they laid me down and tried to put the contrast in- now we weren't sure if the vein had collapsed or what was happening but they had to go with this a few times as it wasn't going in (I think my vein was just thinking "Sod off with that!") anyways it did eventually go in and away we went! All in all it was so quick this time but before I went in the lovely nurse said that I would be "10 minutes" maximum but because of some delays with the person in front of me and then the above contrast issues, I ended up being in there for over an hour- hence when I came out of the imaging centre and back into the reception my Mum and Carl were nearly having kittens wondering where I had been (See, it's not just me who has the over active imagination!)
 

After a lunch break it was time to see my new Neuropsychologist.  I wasn't at all worried about this in fact I thought it was a great service to be offered and I was keen to talk through some of my fears and anxieties which I think a lot of patients can relate to post diagnosis. The appointment went really well and I would recommend this type of service to anyone who feels they need to talk things through with someone. Now because I don't live in London it may be the case that I need to access services a little closer to me but the Neuropsychologist was very lovely and said that he would be happy to see me when I am in London for other appointments or to get in contact. I appreciate that not all hospitals will offer this service so it may be worth speaking to a GP to see if you have anything within your local area that you can access or if you have one speak with the Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) who may be able to advocate with your GP to advise them about supporting you - I know for example where I am in the Berkshire area that Talking Therapies is our local NHS service who offer CBT style counselling and additional services.
 

So the main appointment of the day was the one with my Neurologist at 4:30pm. We started off just talking about how I am feeling and how everything is going. I was then waiting to hear about a couple of things but unfortunately my scans from the day were not available to him even though we thought they would be- I of course became a bit distressed by this but he was very reassuring and said firstly he felt that there would be no changes but also that these newer scans are really now giving my new 'baseline' and it will be the next scan which I will have in another 6 months (October time) that will tell him if there are any changes etc, however he feels because I have had a maximal resection that it is unlikely anything will have happened this quickly, so I still felt a little frustrated not to be able to see anything in black and white but also reassured.
 

The next part of our conversation turned to gene markers. These seem to be something that a lot of other patients I know either in my community or via the blogging world and online communities have become very interested in. I know I am IDH1 positive that is what makes me low grade or slower growing etc but I thought we would hear if I have a 1p19q deletion but unfortunately I still seem to be 'status pending'. Now he said this may be an administrative error and we should know soon but also he talked me through all of this in a mini oncology style session. Firstly he said he appreciates why patients may become engrossed with what they have or don't have but that also it still is not as clear cut as one may hope- our bodies are all different and things such as age and general health also denote how we will all respond to the type of tumour we have and the treatments. 

In essence what he meant is there are always options no matter what you have and we should not concern ourselves with what we do and don't have as this will only lead to more distress in what is already a difficult time. This left me with a feeling of hope, upbeat and an optimism about things- live for the now, don't delay and don't worry if there are things you do not have because it's not always indicative of how your life will plan out.
 

This sort of leads me to another link I would like to share with people who are following this blog as either a patient or partner, family or care giver of someone who has a brain tumour. I discovered a great book by a fellow blogger who I have followed for a while now called Gideon Burrows- Gideon has written a book called 'Living Low Grade' and I just finished this book on Wednesday. It was great for me as it's optimistic, honest but also it meets halfway between medical and Gideon's own personal experiences of living with a brain tumour and other individuals who have contributed to the book. I liked how he summarised and helped me to understand some of the more complex terms- even if it was not his intention to write a medical book it was still extremely helpful. Now some of you might feel you're not ready to read it but for me being 8 months into this journey it was the right time. You can use other sources but I downloaded the kindle version from amazon: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Brain-Tumours-Living-low-grade/dp/0955369576 

Gideon recently hosted a Google hangout meeting that he had with three other experts (including a fellow patient) discussing living low grade and again I found this really interesting. I will add the direct link here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fe1UG-ISNFM 

If you are interested to read Gideon's blog you can view this here: http://www.ngomedia.org.uk/tumourist/ 

The above links may not be for everyone but I know I found the book extremely helpful and I have urged my immediate family and close friends to read the book as it summarises things in a clear and concise manner. I think sometimes I may expect others to be brain tumour experts when they ask me how I am doing etc (this is something I liked about the book and Gideon covers this) but how can they be when before this touched my life I knew nothing about living life with a brain tumour. 


Slowly but surely everyone I am close to is finding their own way of dealing with everything but also life is starting to return to what I knew before and is almost back to 'normal' but in a new way. 




So I leave this post with optimism...


It'll be 6 months now of living my life and forgetting unless I have any new symptoms of course but if not we'll just see where life takes us. The sun is shining and I can't wait to get my natural vitamin D over this Easter weekend.

Wishing you all a very Happy Easter break and I'll be back soon...


With lots of love

Gem xx 


Sunday, 13 April 2014

Second Time Lucky

Hello BB Followers, Friends and Family,

A quick post just to say hello and to also let you know that I am off to my Mum's in Surrey tomorrow evening and then on to hospital on Tuesday.

Tuesday will be MRI scan day (with contrast this time as kidney function is all good so we're all systems go!). This will be followed by a quick break and then a psychology appointment- not something I am too familiar with as yet because this is a new person I will be seeing who is an addition to my vocational rehabilitation team who are helping me back to work. And then, like a day at the races, the all important 4:30pm race, no on a more serious note I mean my appointment, where I will have the MRI scan results and meet with my Neurologist. I hope he's ready as my little black book now consists of a ton of questions related to everything I've been experiencing with Bertie Tickle stuff, medications and epilepsy.

I started back at work around 2 weeks ago. I'm currently doing very reduced hours and duties so I am not being pushed too much at the moment but I continue to experience fatigue which can be very difficult to deal with as I want to keep going but the body says no! Anyways as a way to remedy some of this I have returned to my local gym and I have a program in place to hopefully help me build a bit more stamina as until now I haven't felt ready, mainly due to the fear I live with about having a seizure but I figured as things have been relatively stable now for 7 months in the seizure department that I am good to go and can at least try- I have to admit it feels good to be back in the rhythm of going to the gym as I find when I am there that I just sort of stop thinking about anything and it feels like I'm looking after my body (and soul!) so that's all good for me.

I will post again in the next few days following my appointments. 

With loads of love,

Gem xx  

p.s my current favourite quote...








Thursday, 27 March 2014

Scancelled...

Trying to be clever with my title today!

Hello all my BB followers, family and friends.

So last week was scheduled to be my 6 month post op MRI scan...it kind of went like this:

Nurse: "Have you had your bloods tested for renal function?"

Me: "Er, No?!"


Nurse: "Well in that case we can't give you the contrast injection"

Me: :*(

So yes the above did happen. I had a partial MRI scan without contrast and during this scan the lovely nurses made contact with my doctor who would not give out blood information over the phone but did fax through my most recent blood results but unfortunately she hadn't tested for renal function (kidneys) and this has to have been done within the last 4 months to be valid. 

Although I had all of my blood tests at the hospital in October 2013 unfortunately they are now out of date. The frustrating part was that I had only had a blood test the week before as I have been experiencing a lot of flare ups with my tummy and my doctor wanted to rule out things such as coeliac disease. Preferably I wanted to have a sigmoidoscopy as my family have a history of Ulcertaive Colitis and other bowel conditions but I think what I am experiencing is the "you're only allowed one condition" style treatment. 

This makes me quite frustrated because as a lot of you will know I fought hard for a second opinion and also I went to my doctors around 7 times before I had my first (and only so far thank goodness) grand mal seizures and then my diagnosis- in between the diagnosis I was told "At very worst you have epilepsy" so to then be told it was a brain tumour (after grand mal seizure number 4) was a big shock to say the least. 

If early diagnosis is the prevention (and possibly the cure) I want to know why some doctors feel they won't take people's health complaints seriously. Ok I appreciate perhaps some patients may border on the more hypochondria side but when a young person repeatedly sees their doctor, or for that matter is admitted with a first time seizure (or set of seizures) a CT and MRI scan should be ordered. I have been told that the above is basic 'guidelines' but for me it didn't happen that way, it took x 4 grand mal seizures and 2 hospital admissions before they finally decided to do a CT and MRI scan. 

Between my family and I we have also found that an MRI scan costs approximately the same as x 2 standard '5-10 minute' doctors appointments- so why not let people be scanned for peace of mind?? All the adverts on TV say 'Be Clear On Cancer' and 'See Your GP' but as a general consensus amongst my family and friends, living across three counties, this has not always been our experiences. I cannot generalise here as I have had outstanding care from previous doctor's, and I am aware the good ones are out there (after my Mum's recent experience with 111 and spending a good proportion of time with the doctor!) Anyways this is all past now but I just wanted to have my say. (Getting down from my soapbox!) 




I watched a very good documentary last night on BBC3 called 'Dying To Live' about a girl named Kris who was diagnosed with Stage 4 terminal breast cancer aged 23. Kris has gone on to start the well known charity Coppafeel http://coppafeel.org/ Although there were parts of the documentary that were hard to watch and made me feel very sad, it was also uplifting and inspiring to see a young lady, fighting for her life, against the odds. She has survived 5 years post diagnosis and she continues to fight- she is working currently to persuade the government to introduce cancer awareness into the curriculum- I think this is a fantastic idea and I support this too. For anyone interested in watching the documentary please see this link http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b03zf3tg (apologies to my international followers if this does not work) 

So after my above MRI scan I met my friend Andrew for a long overdue catch up- thank you Andrew for being my saviour that day- it was all very impromptu as my Mum put her back out on the Monday and was not well enough to travel with me on the Wednesday and unfortunately there was not enough time for anyone else to arrange to come with me, but all was fine and I enjoyed catching up with my good friend. 

I had bloods taken last week at the outpatients department to ensure that when I go again in April, I can have the contrast MRI scan in the morning followed by my outpatient appointments and then the results of the scan as it will be fast tracked that day. I am positive that all will be fine as expected so of course I will update you all as soon as I can. Thank you to everyone for the positive vibes :) 

So before I sign off there is one more important thing I wanted to share which I was going to mention before but I didn't want to talk about things previously that I felt I was not so well educated in.

Diet- I started out using the 'David Servan-Schreiber- Anti Cancer: A New Way Of Life' book as a guide for me- Thank you to Sally for this! This has been a fantastic read to help educate me all about foods, environmental factors and lifestyle. David has first hand experience living with brain tumours and defied median survival by implementing a healthy, Mediterranean based diet (no processed foods), exercise, avoiding unnecessary chemicals and leading a peaceful, relaxed lifestyle implementing things such as meditation. You can see and read more about this book here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Anticancer-A-New-Way-Life/dp/0718154290

Some people adapt the 'Anti Cancer' diet to suit them or add in/take things away depending on how they want to or from looking at perhaps more recent research. There are also supplements or other things you could add into your diet- currently I am not taking any supplements but I may introduce a multi vitamin (mostly for vitamins B and Omega/Fish Oils) but I like to get my vitamins where I can naturally. 

Other types of diet I have studied include 'The Rainbow Diet' and 'Ketogenic Diet'. Overall I personally aim for wheat free, dairy free, meat free and gluten free where I can and occasionally go egg free too depending on what I am making as I often need eggs to bind when I make my healthy cakes- I am always happy to share recipes! 

What works for some may not work for others but I believe it is worth exploring for a holistic and complimentary approach. I would advise always seeking the advice of your Health Professional and/or Nutritionist before embarking on any dietary changes. When I say the word diet I essentially mean a more healthy approach as opposed to the traditional concept of a 'diet'. 

A great website my Mum discovered recently was called 'Deliciously Ella'- Ella has some great recipes and you can also download her app too so I would recommend checking out this website here: http://deliciouslyella.com/ Ella doesn't write necessarily from a cancer perspective but she is motivated by her own diagnosis of a chronic condition and also to prevent other diseases which in turn keep her body strong. 

Other things which I am into at the moment include finding more natural products as 60-70% of what we put on our bodies (make up, face cream, body cream, deodorants etc) are absorbed- more so under the armpit so I am currently trying to find a aluminum free deodorant which also gives good protection! When I have found one I will let you know. The next few sites are mainly American research but you can try typing in your current products that you use and see how harmful they may be on the scale when using longer term:

http://www.ewg.org/skindeep/


I am also loving oil burning with essential oils and purchased a book from 'Holland and Barrett' today entitled 'Aromatherapy- A Guide For Home Use' by Christine Westwood. I think it cost around £1.99 but you can purchase it here slightly cheaper: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Aromatherapy-A-Guide-Home-Use/dp/0951772309/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1395945594&sr=8-1&keywords=aromatherapy+christine+westwood



As mentioned previously I am going to keep promoting my good friend Mark's Just Giving Page as he will be running the Berlin Marathon in aid of my hospital's charity 'The National Brain Appeal' this September- I have added a widget to the top right hand side of this page if viewing the full website- if not you can check it out here: http://www.justgiving.com/Mark-Gilmartin1

We are so near the halfway point so thank you to everyone who has donated so far and many thanks to those who have pledged or will be pledging shortly. 

Much Love As Always,

Gem xx






 







Wednesday, 19 March 2014

6 Month Post Op Scan

This will probably be one of the briefest of posts I have ever written but here we go. 

Tomorrow is my 6 month post op scan-wow how that time flies. I am very anxious but mainly I just want to get it out the way, I also can't remember how it feels to have contrast injected as most times I have had a hospital stay afterwards and been very sleepy and sedated but tomorrow I'm a day patient- I'm sure all will be fine.


Mum was due to be coming along with me but she's really hurt her back so it looks like it may just be me- no worries it's got to be done and I'm just hoping to get in and out and move forward. 


I won't get my results for around 4 weeks as it just happened that my Neurologist appointment was booked before my scan was however I like to think they will let me know if anything has changed beforehand, although I am hoping this is not the case but life has taught me don't take things for granted, live in the now and above all keep smiling and positive, even when life feels hard. 


I have so much more to say but it's late and I wanted to keep this short and sweet. 


Hello to all my BB followers, family and friends. Loads of love to you all and wishing you the best of health. 


For all my future posts (and until the big day in September this year) I will keep adding the website for my friend Mark who I have mentioned is running the Berlin Marathon in aid of The National Brain Appeal, the charity who fund my hospital. Please see his link for more details, we would be more than grateful if any of you would kindly like to sponsor him and this great cause: https://www.justgiving.com/Mark-Gilmartin1/


I'll be back soon with a lot more to say, 


Lots of love,


Gem xx


Tuesday, 11 February 2014

In Need Of Some Sponsors

Hi Everyone,

Today's post is short and sweet.

My lovely friend Mark kindly applied and was given a place to run in this years Berlin Marathon!! 

Mark will be running for The National Brain Appeal- the charity who fund my hospital- The National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery. 

Please give what you can to this very deserving cause. Mark's link can be found here: https://www.justgiving.com/Mark-Gilmartin1/

Here's a picture of Mark and Me when he played another one of his 'infamous' practical jokes when we met up and he pretended to the restaurant staff that it was my birthday!! 


Mark we all love you and thank you so much for doing this! 

For more information about The National Brain Appeal please see: http://www.nationalbrainappeal.org

Gem Xx 

Friday, 31 January 2014

Oli and Me

Hello to my Family, Friends and BB Followers, 

So here's an update of what happened last week and where I am with everything :)

NB- Mum has asked that I increase the font so we're going Large from now on guys! 

Firstly I need to say I think in my 'Results' post I was clear but (and probably due to all the lovely drugs I was on at the time) I thought my tumour was what they call an 'Oligodendroglioma' in actual fact although I was right about my cells (stating that I have a mixed glioma so oligodendrocytes and astrocytoma) my tumour is officially called an Oligoastrocytoma. As mentioned before also I am a Grade 2.

I just wanted to clear that up for anyone who's following and is interested to know- of course you're welcome to google away but I wouldn't because as we know Dr Google can be totally unreliable and down right scary...and as for stats- don't get me started, median survival times are just that, the middle of where people start and sadly end this journey. The truth for me (and many other BT tumour peeps) is that sometimes they get it wrong as all our bodies are different and despite having the same diagnosis they just don't know. All I know is that right now I'm here and I'm living!!!

Also as mentioned before for me I have markers- I can now confirm the first one is called 'IDH1'- and I am IDH1 positive- what this means in layman terms is that I have a cell in the tumour which shows delayed growth (again going back to the Results post this is the part where I talked about the tumour not necessarily growing back). 

I am awaiting the report (long time I know!) to tell me if I also have 1p and19q deletions as this will then indicate if my tumour more long term (and if needed) will respond well to chemo and radiation treatments. My Neurologist was fairly positive that because I have IDH1 that the 1p and 19q should come back positive so for now I still feel that this is all good news in what can sometimes feel like a sea of misery (if you read what Dr Google says that is!)

So last week was my post op follow up appointment- I've officially reached the 3 month post op part. We sadly didn't get to see my actual Neurosurgeon as he's a very busy man but I did see someone within his team who was able to talk me through the op and also confirm a few things such as I do have metal plates and screws in my head- he asked me whether I heard the drill during the op and I was like "Erm No" but actually upon reflection I did and it was literally a millisecond if that- also they are tiny plates and screws but he said this is a technique that they have learnt in the last 5 years or so is a much more effective way of putting us back together again (insert Humpty Dumpty jokes here!)

I was glad to have the above confirmed as it has calmed me in the sense of why I am still numb at the top of my head. Again he said these things will take a long time to fully recover. It was at this point that he said "That's not the prettiest scar I've ever seen"- First reaction in my head was "Gee thanks Mr!" But actually he explained that some peoples scars recover better and some don't do quite as well. My dodgy 'allergic to elastoplast skin' I think probably is what has contributed to the scar not healing as well but it's getting there. He said that the hair won't grow back over the incision part of the wound/scar area but I have got some tufts peaking through around it and also for most of you that know me you know I have enough hair to go around and decorate in a way which will conceal, unless you are birdseye viewing me and then maybe you will win!

Anyways I have another MRI ordered for mid March 2014 and this will give us a clear indication of what Bertie's been not up to (hopefully nothing) but the Neurosurgeon said in a very small percentage of cases sometimes additional surgery is needed but if not I will just continue to see my Neurologist for results and ongoing monitoring. Of course I already have what is commonly known in the BT and Cancer world as 'scanxiety' but it's gotta be done and I envisage the whole MRI thing as just one of those huge walls that you can't climb over, you can't go around but instead you just have to smash straight through!

After my London appointment Mum and I had another one of our dates (we've agreed each time I have a hospital appointment in London to try and do a dinner or theatre show, or both afterwards as a little treat!) In this instance it was both :) We went to Sophie's Steakhouse for a lovely dinner- I would totally recommend this place as it had a great atmosphere and the pre/post theatre menu is such great value! It's also right near Drury Lane so really close for Theatreland!  

Afterwards we went to see the musical 'Once'. I loved it as I have seen the film and I just really appreciated how the actors put their heart and soul into acting, singing and dancing. For people who prefer more visual effects (Mum!) this is not a show for you. But those who appreciate great performance and plays etc this is the one for you! Mum felt the mics were a bit low and she couldn't hear as much so just be aware of this too but if you know the film or book you will probably have no problem in understanding what's going on! 




By confirmation from my wound nurse who I saw the following day the over granulation part is actually now healing (YAY!) the magic Haelan Cream is working and as of today I can say it's only about 1 millimetre (see picture- if we compare this to the last one where its a bit yellowy- gross I know, it's doing so well!)




I finished taking Phenytoin as of last Tuesday and it's a good feeling to know that is now out of my system. I don't know if it was psychosomatic or what but every time I tapered down by 100mg I would get this intense bout of anxiety for a day or two. That was not a good feeling! 

I am now just taking Keppra (Levetiracetam) x 2 500mg tablets per day along with my usual Thyroxine 100mcg which I take to treat Hashimoto's Thyroiditis- this is an underactive thyroid condition which I have been treated for since around the age of 17. It's believed to be a hereditary condition (Both my Nan and Mum suffer with it too). My Anaesthetist was quite interested in this (not sure why but we think he may be involved in a study at the moment which looks at the links between thyroid disease and brain tumours- I will of course up date here on the blog if I hear anything more about this).  

In terms of my moods anxiety is still one of the main things I struggle with but its not necessarily everyday it's just every now and then. I take inspiration from my family, friends and other BT peeps I have met along the way to help me cope. And Carl my boy, I just want to say you are one of the strongest and most positive people I know- He has made some of the nights where I have had a spike in anxiety more bearable and come what may he's there for me...and that's why I'm marrying him...Well not just that, he's a very good egg and of course I love him lots (coupley part over now!)

I have some future posts which I think I'll collate into my 'Anxiety Survival Guide' perhaps and also I know I have mentioned this a lot but I will get around to posting about diet...I even have a wheat free, gluten free and dairy free recipe for you which came about from someone at my local BT group- Thank you Lu!xx

Before I sign off there is one last thing that was brought to my attention last night. Its an e-petition which is demanding that the UK government dedicate more money to brain tumour research and cures. Brain Tumours and Brain Cancer currently receives only around 1% of all UK government funding

I have mentioned this before but if you are unaware brain tumours are responsible for the most cancer related deaths in the UK of children and adults under 40. I know it's a horrible statistic and I hate to bring this to your attention but it would really make my day if you are reading my blog right now and reside in the UK if you can please sign the petition here: http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/55378

For my international readers you are welcome to sign but I have a feeling it's just for UK residents only- sorry! 

For more information please also see: http://www.braintumourresearch.org/

With loads of love,

Gem xxx








Sunday, 12 January 2014

Magic Sunbeams and Haelan Cream

Hi Everyone,

Today's post is an update of where I am currently.

I am pleased to say that the cold has properly gone now - yay!

Secondly my surface wound was re looked at by the wound nurse on Monday 6th Jan and she felt that the silver nitrate treatments were not really working- she has officially diagnosed the area (which is only around 2 inches or so) as what they call over granulation- what this means is the bottom layers of skin are rising above the top layer and not letting the top layer of skin heal properly. Apparently this can be quite common but where you are told by the hospitals- "Do not touch the scabs, they will leave when they want to"...this means that over granulation can be harder to spot as it sits under the scabby parts. How I knew it was not right was by the gunky look and feel and bit of a smell (sorry if TMI but just in case anyone else is dealing with this currently!) Never be worried to see a GP, Nurse or speak with your specialist nurse/team to check this. I had to have around 3-4 appointments before this was actually diagnosed and sorted as over granulation cannot heal itself purely with oral antibiotics, it almost always requires a topical type of treatment. It's not a serious condition by any means but it does require treatment.

As I am roughly 11- 12 weeks post op now the wound should have healed but as the conventional silver nitrate treatment hasn't worked I now have a topical cream called Haelan Cream to help the process. So far so good and I will see the wound nurse again in a few weeks to check if it's all worked. Just to add the rest of the wound has apparently healed very well so we just need to get this part sorted and then we're good to go!

The below picture just shows at the top the magic cream and below picture on the right hand side is the patch where I have over granulation- as I say only around an inch to two inches- the rest of the wound is all doing fine!


Something the specialist wound nurse recommended doing was washing my hair with a mild shampoo or better a baby shampoo- nobody had mentioned this to me previously so for anyone after surgery when you are allowed to wash your hair make sure you wash your hair with a baby shampoo!! This may sound like common sense but when I could wash my hair again around 2-3 weeks post op I just used standard shampoo and conditioner but baby shampoo is supposedly much better for you.

So last week I also had an appointment with the Vocational Rehabilitation team at my hospital in London. They are quite a unique service which is just starting out but they are there to help patients with the transition back to work. As this was my second appointment we agreed on a draft letter which will be sent to my employer. In the letter there are recommendations for what I need to help me return. It's all pretty standard stuff which you would expect such as making sure I have proper phased return hours (with the hope to build back up to full time but this will be assessed), fatigue monitoring, shadowing colleagues or having an assistant to help me initially and making sure I have structured breaks and an hour long lunch break within my day. I am hoping to return to work in February so I will keep you all posted as to how this goes.

My next hospital appointment is 23rd January and this is to have my post op assessment with my Neurosurgeon and to review how everything is going. It is likely then I will be released from the surgery team as I do not require any further surgery currently but I will continue to work with my Neurologist and Specialist Nurse who will monitor me. I am not having an MRI before the appointment on 23rd Jan- I thought I would be but I think they will be using the MRI I had before I left the hospital so the next MRI is likely to be at some point in the early part of this year but hopefully they will let me know more about this. 

So where I live we've had a bit of flooding (I think a lot of people living in the UK are experiencing this right now) but Wednesday was a wonderful sunny day and I took this picture in my living room- I don't know what it is but I always seem to get these great beams of light in that room and I think they look magical. I like this time of year when its a bit cold or crisp as it gives me the chance to
wear some of the hats I have in my beret collection :) I love a good hat!



Lots of love,

Gem









Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Happy New Year!

Dear BB Followers, Family and Friends,

I would like to wish you all a very HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!


Wherever you are tonight or whatever you are doing I hope you are having a great time or doing something that suits you and makes you happy. 

I have chosen to stay in this year as it feels right and not only that I feel like I want to reflect on what has happened over the past year and just basically relax. 

My plans were very up in the air until the last minute due to feeling unwell with the cold and also the infection with the wound. 

Luckily I was able to see a wound specialist at my Mum's GP surgery in Surrey who was recommended to us and she has been able to help treat me (and saved what could have been an unnecessary trip to London!) 

I am having a Silver Oxide style of treatment as it's something to do with how the skin has healed (or not healed in my case) and the only way I can describe it is like having a giant matchstick rubbed on the infected area which causes a reaction to help heal the wound in a better way and hopefully end this cycle of scab, fall off, infection, scab and round again etc. I will update on my progress as the treatments should be competed by Monday 6th January. 

My Mum and I decided that I could come back home to spend New Year with my partner and I jumped at the chance as I find it hard being away too long (and of course I miss my own space and surroundings) so I'm back for a while until the next trip to London which is another psychology appointment on Monday 6th January. 

2013 started well but it wasn't all roses (as most of you know) so I'm looking forward to a fresh start and new beginnings.

Xmas Day 2013 was very special to me this year as my lovely Carl (wait for it!!).... proposed- yay :) I feel like one lucky lady indeed and am so happy. We had a beautiful day together and he said it just felt very right to propose on that day. I will of course share more about this in the New Year!! For now I want to revel in the joy...Oh but here is my pre ring, ring for you to see: 


I love the quirkiness of this ring and I love that my partner Carl has tried to ensure when I look back over 2013 that I don't feel it's all bad- he's a keeper in my eyes.

I feel very blessed and lucky and cannot wait to share everything with you all over the coming months, although I'm not sure how quickly we'll marry, that remains to be seen as I think we'll need to save a bit first! 

What I like about the above too is that I feel like I have a focus on something now and that's a nice feeling. I think if you can become engrossed in some sort of project be it personal, work or leisure time, that it helps you to just get on and live your life as opposed to focusing too much on the distant future or wondering about the 'what ifs'.

On that note I have a quote I would like to share with you all:

"Yesterday is History, Tomorrow a Mystery, Today is a Gift, That's why it's called the Present"
I am not sure who originally wrote or said this but I think it's beautiful. 
With lots of love,
Gem xx



Monday, 23 December 2013

Merry Xmas Everyone

Just wanted to do a quick post to wish all my Family, Friends and Bertie Blog followers a very Merry Xmas! 


I can't quite believe Xmas is actually here, it seems to have come around quick this year. I wish you all a fun and peaceful Xmas. 

Unfortunately I'm still not well with a cold
  :( It's in full swing now and I also had a few nosebleeds this morning which wasn't too good as I haven't had one of these for ages but I think the pressure of the cold may have been the cause- luckily they have calmed down now but I did freak out for a minute. 

I managed to get hold of a specialist Nurse today from the London team as part of my scar may also be infected- I saw a GP yesterday and they have started me on a course of antibiotics just to be on the safe side- the nurse got through to my Neurosurgeon and I may see them next week as they don't believe it's serious as such (more a surface wound) but they want to keep an eye on it- she also reassured me that the nosebleeds are very unlikely to be related to my BT (as I sort of feared for a second-unfounded I guess but it did go thorough my mind) and said that all the medications I am currently taking could be causing some of the bleeding possibly- I guess we'll never know but I'll update on this again next week. 

The days following Xmas I'll be back with my Surrey family and friends and I hope that I feel well enough to celebrate and relax with them.

Love Gem Xx 

Sunday, 22 December 2013

8 Weeks- Post Op Observations

Hello everyone, 

I'm currently writing this from my bed as I have a sneaky cold which started last night- it literally came from nowhere! I'm trying to rest it out and extinguish it with lots of green tea, fruit and veggies! May even go for a brisk walk shortly to try and blast the darn thing!! 

A few things which have been bothering me post op recently and I'm sure some of my BT followers may be able to relate to this (warning do not read on if squeamish!) 

1. Scar- the scar now is starting to lose the crustiness/scabby bits (gross I know) and I'm able to wash my hair now without having to be so careful but some of the tufts of hair are protruding at weird angles, only around an inch or so long and I know this is just temporary but not sure how to style my hair?! I sometimes have temporary surface bleeding too where the scabby bits come away and this means I've seen my doctor a few times over the past weeks just to check there is no infection. I'm going to attempt to wash my hair again today as I don't really like having unclean hair as it tends to itch a lot more too which is equally frustrating as you can't really scratch it properly. 


There are some random short bits all over my head too where it was cut to fit the MRI discs pre op. The scar is a bit more visible now as the head underneath is quite red/pinkish too. Again I know this is trivial and the hair will grow back but I am finding having a strip which runs ear to ear can be hard to work with at times- my current solutions have included getting creative with alice bands! 

2. Fatigue- I'm having to keep a fatigue diary but I'm not sure what is normal at this stage. I'm not sleeping in the day now but I'm either rising early or late and I get very tired around the 7-9pm slot, often going to bed about 11pm. Again I'm sure this is all normal but it's something which I'm trying to adjust to as I used to have more energy.

3. Emotions- a bit more leveled but I can be up and down like a yoyo.

4. Cognition/Understanding- I can be mid sentence and forget what point I was trying to make or even the conversation I was having so in my mind I'm sort of back peddling to think about what I'm saying. Sometimes if someone gives me instructions too quickly I can't always understand straight away- I just have to take things a bit slower. 

5. Hollowing- I have noticed what I think is a slight hollowing to the top left of my face (I still have facial paralysis with the left eyebrow which we were told could be permanent as sometimes nerves rejoining can be a one in a million thing) it's not a problem as to my friends and I we joke it's like I've had Botox! Wrinkle free for me! The hollowing is something I noticed when washing my face the other night, it's just a small part but it's like the head on the left side is slightly more angular now which then at some angles looks/feels like a hollowing- again this could be temporary and my partner Carl says this is not noticeable. I think you just pick up on things more as you're constantly watching and waiting for things. Maybe that's just me?? 

I wanted to document the post op things I have noticed to keep a timeline so that I can discuss again with my team if necessary and also I hope this may help for anyone else currently experiencing post op symptoms. 

Gem xx

Quick update: Washed the hair and it's still a bit gunky and yuck so managed to get a GP appt and she has started me on a course of antibiotics as she felt it perhaps needed something to help it along- so I think I'm going to have to not wash it again for a while to dry it all out :( The joys of it all!! And my cold is in full force mode now!! Grrr...I'm determined not to let it ruin Xmas as it's one of my favorite times of the year!!