Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The Water of Life

When I found out I had cancer the oncologist said it first…

Drink plenty of water.

Then the nurses in the chemotherapy unit repeated the message as they dripped the red and yellow drugs into my vein…

Drink plenty of water.  So I drunk more

When the nutritionist reinforced the water mantra that comes with cancer, I swapped my small glasses to pints…

But then I discovered drinking plenty of water helps with fatigue

            Now I drink a reservoir every day.

But did you know that Water of Life is also used to describe distilled alcohol especially whiskey.  The ancient term Uisge beatha which is Gaelic for the Latin Aqua Vitae or “water of life” was altered in the 18th Century to Usky and later to Whiskey.

Mr H and I don’t drink the other “water of life” It never passes our lips. I haven’t drunk a drop since 2008. I can’t say I am a tee total as I rarely drink tea. The occasional sparkling water with a slice of lemon fizzing at the bottom is our champagne.

I am back where I started. As a young adult the only alcohol I would lift to my lips was a snowball at Christmas. I liked the creamy, sweetness. But when I started working and going to pubs with friends and clubbing with the girls; I trained myself to like the taste of lager, and cider…it was the thing to do.

I recently read a page turning book The 12 Step Warrior, which kept me so riveted I finished it in 2 days. It is about a life almost ruined by alcohol and circumstance. But not only did Peter Skillen free himself from the grasp of alcohol; Peter is now a published author, accomplished film maker and Martial Arts expert.

I have seen the damage that alcohol can do. Seen it wrap it arms around People I know. Some find it easy to walk away from the warm alcohol induced hug. Others cannot. And as the grip of alcohol tightens, I watch it squeeze out life as the malignant dependency grows. 

I feel lucky that my health stopped alcohol fizzing up my nose or passing my lips and dulling my mind.

I prefer hugs from Mr H.

Be drink aware
"There is a sliding scale of drinking too much but it starts at a much lower volume than most would expect. Understand your drinking by clicking here

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Who am I now?

One of the most common questions asked when I meet someone new is What do you do?

I used to reply I am a nurse

I knew who I was, I had been that person for over thirty years, I grew into that role. I would drop everything for someone in need. I was a carer. A leader. A finisher.

But now I am split in two, maybe three, possibly four...

Nowadays approaching the crossroads is Dawn the nurse who still wants to step in when someone is ill. She wants to lead projects. She wants to work in a charity, helping others...

On the opposite track is Dawn the explorer. She starts projects; crocheting flowers, knitting a cardigan, researching all sorts of ideas before leaving them unfinished in a corner. Onto something new...

Then there is Dawn who wants to forget that cancer or brain tumours exist, concentrate on living life; socialise as much as my energy allows, plan holiday after holiday, drink coffee and eat cake (home made of course!)

After my brain tumour I had settled on a route. But now after breast cancer I am a Blogger in transition. Questions whir like a tornado in my mind. Do I need a role any more? Does it matter that I am not finishing projects? Am I Shackleton but without the ice and snow?

One thing I am sure about is that this new curly haired Dawn will enjoy exploring who I am now!

Difficulties are just things to overcome, after all
Ernest Shackleton

Friday, March 6, 2015

Raising Awareness of Bandanas for Brain Tumours

Today is Bandanas for Brain Tumours Awareness Day

As I wait for the results of my 6th annual brain scan to check all is well, I reflect on how a brain tumour changed my world. 

In 2008 the shock diagnosis of a brain tumour catapulted me into emotional shut down.  When I asked the Neurosurgery registrar to give me the hard facts he looked me in the eye and said if the tumour is malignant you will have about 18 months to live; if it is benign you will live but it will be a different life.

My overriding thoughts were; benign that’s good isn't it? 

Get in there, get it out and I will get on with my life! 

The words you will live a different life were but a background murmur.

I had no idea what a meningioma was.
I learnt that it was a tumour growing in the meninges; the layers protecting the brain and spinal cord.  Meningiomas usually grow inwards putting pressure on the brain. The majority of Meningiomas are low grade (benign).

In my opinion the words benign and brain tumour are not comfortable bed partners. Benign is defined in the Oxford Dictionary as: 1.gentle, mild, kindly 2.fortunate, salutary. 3. (of the climate, soil) mild, favourable. 4. In medical terms not malignant.

Other than not malignant; I would never associate these definitions with ‘brain tumour’. In the brain tumour world, the term low grade and benign are used interchangeably; low grade seems more apt. Brain tumours are Graded between 1 and 4 depending on the degree of malignancy/speed of growth. Mine was Grade 1.

Any growth inside the closed skull can cause damage as the tumour grows. In the case of slow growing meningiomas, the brain accommodates gradual growth like a bulb expanding in soil and the tumours can become quite large before obvious symptoms arise. 

My parasagittal tumour (arising across the middle - between the two hemispheres of the brain) had spread like icing across my head before it caused problems.

Brain Tumour Research is chronically underfunded in the UK, receiving less than 2% of all cancer research funding. Yet research is vital to improve the treatments and diagnosis for the thousands of people diagnosed with a brain tumour each year, ultimately saving lives and improving quality of life.

Three important Charities which fill some of the gaps in Research, information and ongoing psychological support for patients and carers are 

The Brain Tumour Charity http://www.thebraintumourcharity.org

Brain Tumour Support http://www.braintumoursupport.co.uk

If you fancy doing a spot of fund raising I make a plea for these organisations.

March is Brain Tumour Month and Wearing a Bandana for Brain Tumours will give fund-raising a head start.