Tuesday, 28 April 2015

I'm not quite dead yet!

I really need to catch up on my posting and fill you in on stuff that happened last year.  The main stuff that happened was that we went on holiday twice (I know!  How lucky am I?!) and then I fell ill (which is still sort of ongoing).  In a nutshell, the illness hasn't been resolved and might well have been a cascade of things falling apart starting with a bout of surprise!mastitis in August that saw me heading off to A&E as it could have been septicaemia or cellulitis or an abcess, and it was 8pm so I had no choice.  They loaded me up with an antibiotic - Clindomyacin - and it cleared up within 3 days.  I understand now that Clindomyacin is a brutal drug, and I had to take one every six hours for 10 days straight.  That meant setting my alarm for 5am every morning, so I could take them at 5 and 11.  It made me feel a bit sick while I was taking them, and then my innards didn't feel that brilliant throughout September, but everything was okay after that.  Or so I thought.

On 21 November (so about 3 months after taking the antibiotics), I came home from art class with an absolutely wicked pain in my side, just under my left ribcage, and feeling as tired as if I'd been up all night.  I went to bed that afternoon and slept for 3 hours.

To cut a very, very long story short - I visited the doctor's and was initially diagnosed with Gastritis.  Had a blood test to check for anemia and a poo test for Helicobacter Pylori.  They both came back negative, which meant I didn't have a stomach ulcer.  I was put on Omeprazole and then Ranitidine for suppression of stomach acid in order to control my acid reflux.  Which they did but gave me really awful bowel disruption which resulted in me having to add Buscopan and Immodium into the mix.  I put myself on the BRAT diet for a couple of weeks (Banana, Rice, Apple sauce, Toast - all acid neutral foods that are easy to digest) and cut out all caffeine (no coffee, tea or chocolate) and alcohol, and then really started watching my fat intake and portion size.  I managed to lose a stone in weight (which is a good thing).

I came off the Omeprazole and Ranitidine because I couldn't face having to spend every single damn morning within running distance of the bathroom and I wasn't sure it was doing any good when the side effects were outweighing the supposed benefits.

Very, very slowly the stomach pains (which moved about, from side to side and around my belly button, and up and down my back) got less disabling which was good, because I spent the whole of November and half of December basically just sitting on the sofa, watching crappy telly, clutching a hot water bottle to my left hand side.  I didn't leave the house because I just felt too shitty.  It was awful.

Things started looking up by about February but then I had a flare-up so went back to the doctor's and asked for an endoscopy referral so we could see what was going on.  I had more blood taken to check for inflammatory markers and also Coeliac disease.  We also arranged to have a trans-vaginal ultrasound done to check there wasn't anything nasty happening with my ovaries that could be causing problems.

I had the endoscopy done on 16 March and they found no sign of Gastritis at all.  A biopsy of my stomach lining was taken to test for H Pylori (which I knew I didn't have) and that also came back negative.  What they DID find though was that I had a 5cm (which is medium-sized, apparently) hiatus hernia which, frankly, I think I've had for at least 20 years and most probably much longer than that.  So that was no help really.

The blood tests were negative (or, at least, the doctor hasn't called me back in to discuss them so I'm pretty safe to assume they found nothing), and the trans-vaginal ultrasound showed perfectly normal ovaries for an ancient crone of my age.  So I'm flummoxed really.

The discomfort is still there, even now, 5 months after it started but it changes throughout the day.  Some days it's barely there at all, others are more uncomfortable.  Fortunately it doesn't seem to bother me at night which is a blessing.  I've found that exercise helps a great deal so am walking for between 30-45 minutes every day (which is also good for keeping the weight off).  I've started doing mindfulness meditation that has definitely helped with the stress and managing the pain.  I'm drinking almost 3 pints of water a day, as well as herbal tea.  I'm taking various supplements which I think help, and Paracetamol when the discomfort gets tedious.  I'm staying away from Ibuprofen because that may have caused all this when I was taking it for its anti-inflammatory properties back when I had Mastitis, but I can't help thinking now that if it was the Ibuprofen, the fact that I've not touched any for 5 months would mean the problems would go away, and they haven't yet. 

I keep looking for the positive side of things which, trust me, is pretty hard to do when a medical condition turns out to be chronic and the doctors can't seem to find anything wrong.  At least I'm better than I was back in November and can now pretty much eat normally.  At least my bowels have finally settled back to normal (although the Buscopan still comes in handy every now and then).  At least I never once vomited (or even vomited blood, or pooed blood, which would have been terrifying).  I can now go out and socialise again, within reason (I had to miss several events in December that we'd had booked because I just didn't feel up to leaving the house), and I can probably start thinking about going on holiday somewhere (we had to cancel a week's holiday in Marrakech in December).

The fact that all these tests are negative are both a good and bad thing - good because if it was something as awful as cancer, then something would have been found by now, and I probably wouldn't be improving like I am, albeit glacially slowly - but bad because I still don't know what's going on.  At the moment all I can do is just trust that improvements will continue, possibly with occasional flare-ups or setbacks.  I can say I have been to some very dark places in the middle of the night, that have all ended up with a wooden box in a hole in the ground - it's been extremely stressful.

But I'm still here, I still wake up every morning if not with a song in my heart then with gratitude that I am still buggering on and with hope that I can do so for at least another 30 years or so.

And that's where I am at the moment.  I'm still painting and need to catch you up with that, and I will do a couple of posts about the holidays we had last year, before I fell ill, as they were brilliant.

Monday, 27 April 2015

Swifts arrive!


Long term readers of this frankly sporadic blog will know that I keep an eye out throughout the latter half of every April for the return of the Swifts, and they finally arrived this morning.  I saw two, very high up.  It made my heart soar!

I love these birds with a passion, their sheer exuberance as they chase each other across the sky, squealing with delight is something I look forward to every year without fail.

Although I didn't do a blog post about it (sorry), The Lovely Husband and I went to Florence for a week last summer and the whole place completely blew me away (I burst into tears the first time I saw the Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral it was so overwhelming) but the thing I was absolutely not expecting and made my jaw hit the floor was the sheer number of Swifts tearing around the sky.  Hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of them - in the distance over the rooftops there was so many it was almost like watching a swirling tornado forming!  There were literally too many to count, and up until then, I thought the 50 or so we get here where I live was a lot!

I took video from our hotel window - they're tricky buggers to film but hopefully you get an idea of what it sounded like (check out the atmospheric Sunday morning bell-tolling) as well as seeing the gorgeous terracotta roofs and the blue, blue sky (sorry the quality's not that great!) -


video