Showing blog posts tagged with: pill popping

The origin of things

by Hilla Duka - View comments


Everything begins somewhere, though it’s very often not too clear where that is.


For me, I could say that it began with a phone call  on my way to lunch. That phone call, where an unknown doctor told me to get myself to the emergency room to get a blood transfusion, certainly did change everything.


Or I can go back a day or so, to the meeting with another doctor, whom I asked, after having gone through all my symptoms, “How much of this would be explained, if the breast is cancerous?” and who looked at me with those sad, kind of empathic-but-not-really eyes that doctors save for bad news, and answered very simply “Everything”. That shook me, and it was by any standard, the start of things.


But I can go back even further, to an evening in Berlin on a work-trip, where I slipped on a patch of ice, tore of a ligament and dislocated my knee. That was the start of my downfall, physically, though I already had the cancer in my body, unknowingly. The adjustments I had to make because of my knee allowed the symptoms to hide for a while longer. Just a few months, but no one knows what difference finding it a few months early could have made. Perhaps nothing, but perhaps something. We’ll never know, and though it’s pointless to wonder about it, that doesn’t seem to stop me.


And even further back, at some unknown point, when in my breast a cell or two broke loose and started forming the beginning of a tumour. I have very little of an idea when that was, the doctor tells me most likely it happened somewhere around three years ago. I think back, trying to picture what I was doing three years ago, wondering when it happened. Again, pointless, but sometimes I find myself pondering on it as if obsessed, quite unable to stop.


It’s so hard to understand, that it is in my breasts, which nurtured my children from the day they were born, that the events that will one day take my life started. I think that’s one of the hardest things to take in with breast cancer: how can the very parts of me that gave life to my children be the same thing that threatens my own? That threatens those very same childrens right to their mother?


What I’ve learnt is that these thoughts and questions, unhelpful as they may be, demand space. They demand to be thought. The only way I can put a smile on my face, and enjoy the day that is given, is by also making time to feel the sadness, think the horrible thoughts, have a good cry and admit to myself my fears and worries. Then I can leave it behind. That way, anxiety doesn’t consume me, the panic attacks stay away, and (by the help of a sleeping pill), I can sleep through the night. That way, I can enjoy what I have, and be grateful for it.


Everything begins somewhere, even gratitude, joy, and the ability to appreciate each day have to come from something. For me, they come from making time to accept all the things that aren’t perfect.


Chemo no 2 and good news!

by Hilla Duka - View comments


In the middle of all of this, we're still trying to have some kind of a summer holiday for the kids, thank goodness I bought the car so that we can go to the beach and I can come with! Milo's looking particularly grumpy in this one as he thought he'd been in enough pictures already....


Yesterday I went in for my second chemo treatment (2 out of 10). So far I feel better than the first time, that sort of inner vibrating feeling hasn't showed up (yet, at least) and I'm not really nauseous. The last treatment I got away with taking only the prescribed medications for side effects, and not rely on any of the in-case-meds, which I was quite happy about. I feel today, 24 hours in, that it will hopefully be the same this time. I'm quite tired, which is only to be expected in the first week, as the chemo is actually toxic and harmful not only to the cancer cells, but to all of the cells in my body, but as of yet, that's about it. Well, that and chemo-brain. Chemo brain is sort of like having the brain of someone half drunk, or at least slightly more than tipsy, but without any of the nicer effects that come with drinking, which makes it slightly unsettling. Making decisions, I'll tell you, is about as bad an idea now as when you've given birth and are high on hormones... 


The day before yesterday, I had my doctor's appointment, and she was more than thrilled with the results of the first treatment. It took me a while to get into my head what she was saying, I was so afraid the scintigraphy I did ten days ago (basically they filled me up with radioactive something, left it in me for a few hours and then used a huge camera to photograph every aspects of my insides to find out more about the extents of the metastases) would have shown new metastases, or something would show up that would render treatment impossible. But my doctor was thrilled that the side effects had been so slight, and couldn't feel any of the infected lymph nodes in my neck (I had two that could be felt by hand). When she examined my breast, she concluded that the tumour had been reduced from about 6cm to 4.5cm, approximately. I will have to wait until the half time exam to tell for sure, but at least this means that the chemo is working and my body is responding to it. In her words, it was the best possible outcome so far! And I started thinking, since I grieve all the bad news, I must cherish and celebrate the good news too!


Unfortunately, later that day my med nurse (the one who gives me the chemo) called to say that my blood count had dropped back to 95, despite the two bags of blood I received during my first chemo treatment. They don't know why, but gave me another two bags of blood this time. I feel like I'm doing fairly ok with an HB of 95, but the lowest acceptable number is around 120, and I really don't want to drop back to 70 as I had when I had to to hospital the first time, I was terribly tired and my head was spinning like mad. So once again, thank you to all the blood donors who make it possible for me to continue! It's easy I think, when pondering giving blood, to reconsider as the red tape is taxing and annoying (having to state who you've slept with, when, gender and such can feel quite invasive), but ultimately, giving blood saves lives. I know many are not permitted to do so, but if you're allowed to give blood, please at least consider it.


I shaved my head about a week ago, or the day after the last post, as that dramatic scene from any movie featuring a cancer patient (you know the one, in the shower when the woman stands holding out her hands covered with hair and breaks down in tears) turned out to be true. I've had quite a few people looking/ staring at my port-a-cath since I got that (basically, it's a small round, slightly heightened disc that sits under my collarbone, and is connected to a blood vessel in my neck, which is where I get the chemo and blood transfusions), and it's inevitably more staring now that I also wear a scarf all the time. I want to make a difference here between the looks that come from understanding that you're watching a person going through a really hard time and being sympathetic to that, and the looks that come from that same feeling that makes people gossip or tell tales. Those looks I loath, but the others I don't mind. I said from beginning that I would never consent to wearing a wig to make healthy people feel more ok around me, and I won't, but there are times I want to go up to those people and give them a piece of my mind. Like the mother in one of my kids class, who came up to me asking, her daughter had said my son had said in class that I have cancer, and was that true? Yes, I said, I do. Oh, she said, dumbstruck, and is it serious? Yes, I said, it's serious. Oh, she said again, then excused herself and went back to her little group of blathering mums to share the juicy piece of gossip. I was fuming, but tried very hard not to be as rude as she had been, thinking our kids do go to the same class no matter how much I despise her...


But there are positives as well. The day before yesterday, as I sat in the waiting room to see my doctor, another woman there struck up conversation with me (I'll just assume you all know how good I am at making small talk? That is, not at all.) and it was easy and non offensive and it really brightened my day. She was in her seventies, had been diagnosed 20 years past, and had lived until recently before it came back. She was a miracle patient of 20 years ago, when any stage of breast cancer was equal to having only a few years to live, just as I will be a miracle patient in 20 years to come. She was so positive, and sympathetic as she asked about my own situation. Living with breast cancer herself, I didn't have to explain how bad the situation is, I just said I had stage 4, was diagnosed 2 1/2 months ago, and it had spread to the skeleton. And she was sweet and sympathetic without it making me cringe - we were just both in this hell together. 


by Hilla Duka - View comments


I've kind of put off writing a new post since my last rant, thinking that I'd wait until I could do a more positive life's-all-good post. In hindsight, that means I should have written it last Friday lunch. I woke up Friday morning, aching everywhere and feeling as if I was about ninety. And finally felt like enough is enough. Full of motivation, I got my yoga mat out, went through the parts of my normal routine that didn't mean I had to bend my knee very much (ok, so basically I went through about four poses, but still). Then I did all the exercises that I've figured out how to do with an aching knee and an ankle that can't really manage pressure. And did them again. And again, until I was sweaty and breathing hard and hating myself and loving it all at the same time. In my head, I was Rocky. You know, when he's all out of shape, and then decides that he's going to get so fit he can fight the scary blonde guy? That Rocky. I could see my way forward, and it would be rough and I would have to learn to walk further than 600 meters in one go but dammit, I'd do it! And when I got to work, I could feel my muscles complaining from my morning-rocky-attack on them, and man that made me proud! And this is when I should have written this post, because then it would have been all upbeat. 


But since I waited, I later that day found myself in a really interesting and important meeting suddenly wondering why I was so cold.... And in about twenty minutes I went from Rocky to man-down. Serious man-cold, and basically it was all I could do just to get myself home and to bed. And for the past week, that's where I've been. Previously it has been debated whether man-colds are worse than child birth. Let me just settle that for you: Unless child birth lasts for a week (mine took 12h tops), the man-cold is worse. So my new Rocky life has been postponed. But, trying to look at it on the bright side, at least now I finally have that fighting mentality back. I'll get back on top, learn how to walk stairs like a not-two-year-old again, and get strong and fit again. I just need to pause it right now and wait for the coughing and the phlegm to stop. 


And as praise should go where praise is due, the picture is of my kids. They drive me mad at times, but this week, they've been the best caretakers in the world. They've brought me tea and blankets, they've got up by themselves, and given me hugs when I've been down (though staying well clear of the face area - I really don't want to have to have them go through the same thing). And when I'm coughing like a dog they pat me on the back. Even in their sleep. Let's just say, this week - they've made up for some of those sleepless nights they gave me as babies. Ah screw it, let's just call it even!


And to put a positive spin on it, one thing you can actually do whilst too ill to rise from the sofa, is draw little woodland creatures enjoying some of my favorite vices. Hence, this blog got a new look, with a pipe smoking rat and a coffee drinking chinchilla. 


by Hilla Duka - View comments


tl:dr - I hurt myself again and it hurts like fuck. The rest of this post will consist of nothing but me blowing off some steam and complaining of how miserable I am right now. You have officially been warned. Pic's nice though?

I'll just complain for a bit, shall I? So last week I set off for London again, which fealt really good, since I haven't been there since November, and it feels really weird not to go as often as I used to. But still, my job responsibilities have changed, and I'm no longer in charge of finding the right product fit for UK, but for all our markets. Doesn't mean the UK doesn't lie close to my heart, but it does mean I don't get to go as often as before. 


Anyway, as I made my preparations for my trip, I really did think I was being responsible - I booked a really-rubbish-hotel very close to work, and as I set up my appointments I was very clear that I needed to meet close to work and hotel, as my knee was still acting up and I couldn't jet about as much as I normally do. Said and done, first day of getting up early, dealing with airports and flying and then work, I was done for the day and headed off to meet my friend at a bar nicely positioned some 500 meters from my hotel. Only problem, the loo was one floor up. And as I came down the stairs (very nice, pretty stairs they were too, you know those really broad, industrial looking ones?) when my knee decided it had had enough of getting around and standing and walking, and gave way. Me being as I am, I didn't think much of falling down at first, it happens, and I mainly thought it was rather embarrassing and undignified, but somewhere around the second bend, I lost consciousness for a bit, and came to with the staff standing around me looking quite worried. My only save at this point was that I wasn't drunk. And being as I am, I assured them I was fine, and it was only my bogy knee that was acting up, and got back to my table and my friend. 


I woke up the next day with an ankle that was larger than my thigh, a distinctly bad looking flesh injury and bruises down my back and in my head. Concussion, I hear you asking? Well, I thought it a possibility, and went to check my pupils in the mirror (told you, I'm no noob to falling over) and sure enough, my pupils were weirdly dilated. Only, I was in London, and have had my fare share of dealing with the NHS (let me tell you, not having a national insurance number doesn't help!) and I had a big ass meeting to go to (in Slough, of all places) so I decided I just needed to toughen up, and face the day. Off I went, at the amazing, and to passers-by's not very amusing pace of probably 1 km per hour (I'm not exaggerating, it took me 30 painstaking minutes to get to the tube 500 meters from my hotel) in rush hour. Thankfully, because of my knee injury (in case I didn't tell you about that, torn off ligament, disrupted kneecap, ugly story, still hurts like hell) I already had some codein pills, which I was taking like there was no tomorrow. They helped a bit, but not a great deal. Oh, and to make matters worse, I had - momentarily insanity and I blame it on the fact that it was spring in the uk at this point - only brought high heels with me. After over a month of living in wellies, I had had enough, and thought my knee could survive some heels. Only my knee didn't agree. Honestly, I have no idea how I got through the meeting, besides with pain, and no idea how I got back. I did somehow, but since then have been in constant pain. I can't really get through a full working day anymore, and yesterday, as I tried, I came home frozen to the bone, and spent the night shaking under the duvet. Actually duvets, as in plural, because I could not get warm for the life of me. Any time I walk about for a few minutes, my ankle swells up again, The scrape on my calf hurts all the fucking time, and as I can't support myself on the side where I tore a ligament, I have to support myself on the other side, where I've sprained my ankle and have the bloody scrape to the bone. I sometimes wonder what it was ever like to walk without pain, or indeed to be without pain 24/7, but the sad truth is that I can't remember. And even sadder, I don't wonder this all the time, which in my head would be a sign of normalcy, but only occasionally. I've become accustomed to being in pain all the time. I don't have more painkillers, and trying to get a new prescription feels too addicty a thing to do, so I just do without. On top of this, I'm working still. I don't have it in me to take sick leave, so I just keep working, from home and the sofa if I can't stay longer at work. 


There really isn't a happy end to this one, at least not yet. If anyone actually read my whole rant, I'm impressed and slightly worried about your mental health. I'm trying to take it easy, trying to listen to what my body's telling me and all the soft hearted bullshit I don't believe in. I think I'll get back, hopefully to normal, but at least to pretty good, in time. It just sucks ass right now.


by Hilla Duka - View comments


Rather than showing you what's really preoccupying me right now, I'll show you these little ones. They're little friendly robots, that I made for Jacob's upcoming birthday, but then decided they should have a life of their own as well. Should I be showing you what's really on my mind right now, it would be a scary image of a swollen knee, dislocated kneecap and torn ligament... Yes, I slipped on some ice in Berlin. I walk as if I'm about a hundred years old, am in constant pain, and not best used to not relying on myself for everything. You can see why I take every opportunity to doodle and distract myself.

The event itself - a Rails meetup for Berliners, went fairly well, if you don't count getting up at 4 am and then hosting an evening doo. On my way back I slipped on an icy patch on the path, and the rest of the trip is some sort of blacked-out pain haze. 

Oh, and before we left, we had our very first all employee meeting, in which the annual awards were handed out - and I snagged one! One of the employee vote based ones, Mynewsdesker of the year, was for me, and with it came a nice little iPad mini with retina display. Why, thank you! Far be it from me to question the sanity of anyone who voted for me - I'll just think on it quietly in my head instead. You can read the motivation for the award here, and if you think it may just possibly be poor taste to refer to a short, sturdy person as a rock, well we'll just keep that quiet as well, ok? Ok. I'm of course very flattered, as well as happy for my new toy!

Light at the end of the tunnel

by Hilla Duka - View comments


So, the flu that seems to have hit most of Stockholm hit us as well, and all of us where poorly all of last week...

A whole week of pill popping and coughing and fevers has come to an end, and today we could finally venture outside and enjoy the fresh air and interact with other human beings! 

So this was fun...

by Hilla Duka - View comments


After our company party on friday, half the office came down with the flu...

In my case, not just me but all the kids fell ill. Wonderful, as you can imagine, and even more so since tuesday was Jacobs birthday. Yes, this lovely boy got to start his sixth birthday quite under the weather. 

In the end, I think he was happy enough with his birthday, and the presents. Still, he repeated throughout the day "It's no fun being poorly on ones birthday!". I quite agree.