8 weeks after the Diep surgery I decided I was going to go abroad and visit a friend of mine who lives just outside of Split in Croatia. I had found some cheap flights from Bristol with a stopover in Venice, a place I’d always wanted to visit. Brought myself a decent pair of comfortable walking boots, knowing I would be on my feet for a while and because the toe nails still hurt. The flight was an early morning flight, so I set off around 4 a.m. in the morning, only having slept 2 hours the night before as sleep has been very poor. Got on the plane and went to lift my suitcase to find I didn’t have the strength and bent my thumb nail back in the process, which then started bleeding. I got on the taxi boat from the airport to Venice around 11am, very tired.
Google maps is great if I’m in a car but walking, not so and after walking over several bridges and through many cobbled roads I locate the hostel where I now have to carry my suitcase up several flights of stairs. Anyhow, by the time I got to Croatia, my body was literally screaming at me with exhaustion which was not really surprising given I was still recovering from surgery, but this trip sealed my future plans to travel. In discovering this new-found freedom, I decided that I was going to go travelling and see as much of the world as I possibly can before I get older and my health prevents me, but in order to do this I had to develop some level of fitness and so I hit the gym. I started swimming, doing weights and Pilates. For anyone who has never done Pilates I really recommend this after any surgery as I realised how off balance and weak my body was. During this period most people would comment on how well I looked but inside my body felt 20 years older than what it is. The bones ached, the muscles ached and added to this was lack of sleep and hot flushes, where I’m about to nod off and my heads just heats up, sweat builds up on my face and the heat descends down my body, legs and arms. I wipe myself down and then I am cold and wide awake, so I try again. This could go on all night or several times a night breaking my sleep and leaving me mentally foggy and unable to function. So, I am having to take some medication to try and resolve this so I can sleep and function in a day.
Despite all of this, before my next surgery in August, I went off to Mallorca and then in July to Switzerland, then after surgery to Paris and Ireland in September. In late August I had further surgery to correct some of the scarring and I had an implant inserted into the other breast as the right one was now considerably fuller than the left and there was a noticeable difference in clothes. The surgeon corrected what is referred to as a dog ear on the right side of my stomach, he corrected the scarring on the right breast and inserted an implant into the left one. The proceeding few weeks involved giving my son a considerable number of driving lessons so he could pass his test not the ideal way to recover from surgery, but it had to be done. I also had to pack all of my stuff and move it so that I could actually go travelling for a substantial period of time. I also organised a Charity Event with the landlady from the Whiteleaf in Princes Risborough so I could raise money for the bike ride and Cancer. I honestly could not believe the generosity of local people in Princes Risborough and I managed to raise £568 which allowed me to hit my target of £1000 before I left for my travels. I waited 6 weeks and as soon as my consultant confirmed everything was healing well I applied for a visa and booked a flight to Myanmar with a view to travel around South East Asia. If you would like to see pictures of my travels and where I am please follow my journey on Instagram, harjitg2.
It occurred to me listening to a discussion on LBC, about Danny Baker, that it seems like there is a real rise of extreme behaviours, almost as though we have forgotten how to treat people with respect. Not to say that Danny Baker’s comments were extreme, certainly stupid but extreme no and he paid the price. Then you have people like Lord Sugar who can get away with tweeting what is overtly racist and not sanctioned in any way. Politicians in recent local elections and per se are being verbally and physically abused, there’s a rise in anti-Semitic remarks, Nazi signs being painted, University students making rape threats, etc, etc…….. Not to mention protests over educating our next generations on LGBT rights. Then there’s a woman in the States who is having to pay for her own substitute at work whilst she goes through breast cancer and only recently Alabama has banned abortions!
I’m a bit concerned about the World I live in, especially having grown up with some form of prejudice. Up until recently I thought I lived in a progressive western society but now, not so much!
Is the World going backwards or what! History tells me that most Civil unrests in the World occurred as a result of inequality in society. If our governments and Judicial system continue to promote inequality, there will be a rise in extremism creating Civil unrest! But then what do I know!
I am now 10 weeks on from my DIEP surgery and I am doing well. I am officially in remission which is great. I have been swimming, cycling, Pilates, etc because I am on a mission to get fit and well, so that I can go travelling. It’s absolutely true that your perspective on life changes through this journey and for a little while I have decided to focus on my health and plan a journey of a different kind. I recently went to Venice and Croatia and realised my own limitations following all this treatment as well as how much I enjoyed travelling. Perhaps see for myself if the world really is doing a U turn. So, my next blog is about the limitations you face when traveling as a single woman whose body is weak from Chemo and having had major surgery some 12 weeks ago and what I have been doing to get fit. I have also signed up to do a 100km bike ride next year to raise money for Breast Cancer Care. Please sponsor me at https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/harjit-gill
This is now the final leg of this long journey and all I can say, “We can rebuild her. We have the can make her better than she was before: better, stronger, faster.”
I’m not sure I’m stronger or faster but I have definitely been rebuilt in the words of the bionic woman!
On my way home, driving down a country lane, a warning light appeared on the car informing me that there was a malfunction with the steering wheel. I couldn’t believe it given the car had literally just come out of the garage after a MOT and service. It was also quite scary when the steering wheel refused to turn. So, I found the nearest layby and stopped the car, at which point everything died. I had 12% battery life on my telephone and could not remember for the life of me who I had recovery with. I knew I had renewed it whilst going through Chemo but could I remember the name, no. Not to mention the fact I was conscious not to drain the battery whilst searching for the details given I would have to call the company once I found their details! Fortunately, I found the details and called them but now I needed a toilet and you know how it is when you can’t distract yourself, well I had nothing to distract myself with. I even considered going in the layby but when I got out of the car it was too cold and exposed, that I couldn’t. Every car that went by me beeped because I had no hazards on as all of the electrics had died. So, I waited, and I waited, getting colder and colder. Recovery arrived at 11pm and it took the gentleman half an hour to load the car onto the truck. It was 1pm when I arrived home freezing cold. I then had to get myself down to the garage by 8am because I needed the car to collect the kids who were both travelling to me prior to the surgery. The car was fixed some £400 later, another expense I didn’t need especially with no income coming in. The day after I spent all day at the hospital undergoing various scans but whilst at hospital I was told I had to wait for a blood thinning injection prior to surgery which meant I overstayed the time on the pay and display ticket receiving a parking charge notice of £70. Again, would it not make more sense to pay on exit rather than a pay and display system in a hospital, granted most hospital appointments are rarely on time!
The surgery itself went well. I was closely monitored, every hour the first night and then every 2 hours the following night and then every 4 hours after that. I cannot praise the nursing staff on ward 11 at High Wycombe enough for their patience and support. The consultant and the nursing staff were all brilliant and I had all the dressings removed 2 days ago. I was now allowed to use stairs and have a bath. My daughter had come over for a week and helped with food and washing which was great but there’s nothing like being able to sit in a bath and washing yourself. There is also nothing like a good night’s sleep in a bed and not a sofa. So, the last 2 nights have been in bed and I have actually slept despite the fact I have to sleep on my back with my knees bent. I am a little more mobile but given my stomach has been cut from one end to the other it is going to take time before I can do anything normal given we use our core muscles for many things.
Overall, I do feel like I have been rebuilt over the years, what with metal plates in my jaw from when I broke it in Thailand, metal screws in my knee from a football injury and now a new breast from my own fat and finally a flat stomach and new belly button. What more could a woman of my age want! Anyhow, the battle continues both physically and mentally to deal with the everyday challenges and consequences of being diagnosed with breast cancer.
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