Friday, 18 November 2011


On reflection, the way I have seen my life over the few of months while going through chemo is a series of mini skirmishes to get through while fighting my cancer (which is the major battle) with some angles on my side, and demons in the mix.  Some have been angels in disguise briefly popping into my life, but quoting from a book I recently read I felt that I had “so many worries that it was like having no worries at all”. Of course not being well, problems and issues seemed much bigger than they really are and at the time I did feel stressed, but I tried to be as calm as possible and tackled each one issue, one at a time – even the unexpected ones.

PC World battle of wills
The first major disaster for me was the day after my first chemo, feeling dizzy I dropped my laptop and smashed the screen!  We had insurance with PC World so with some relief we rang them to arrange a repair. There were a few other minor problems reported; the sound jack was broken, the mouse wasn’t responding as fast it could and had problems connecting to others Wi-Fi  remotely -  this bit was particularly important to my 13 year old son because he was trying to set up his own web design business.  My entrepreneurial son had set up his own website, gone to lots of small businesses around the area  asking if they wanted help setting up websites for a nominal price, and offered free websites to charity groups.  He had sat down with discussed their needs, done some designs and was about to get his first commission.  For Daniel this was something that he could do that would firstly give him some much needed pocket money, something to become entrenched in to help cope with my cancer, and also a good learning curve to learn more about websites and design.  He had spoken to a local website design businesses who had given advice and practical assistance on hosting. Not having the laptop was a real issue for him – and he did lose business, has to now start again and lost confidence.    The first problem we had was that the screen was so bad we could not back up data from home on to our external hard disc so we had to go to PC World just out of town to do this and let them handle the repair from there.  The fun and games started (not)!

We had been assured that the repair would be done within 28 weeks.  Not having heard anything for about three weeks, on a different journey my son popped into the store to pick up his backed up data and was told that the laptop was being sent back to store unrepaired as some coffee residue had been found in the laptop and that they would be I touch, but would need some kind of a letter from me.  Again not hearing anything we followed up;  I was told I had to go back to the store with a letter explaining how the coffee residue had got into the machine and book it back in for repair.  By now I had just gone through my second chemo and a trip to the store would be a little bit of a challenge (I don’t drive).  My son explained this to a rather obnoxious lady who was very insistent that this is what I had to do.  My son rang them again and spoke to someone who was much more sympathetic.  We explained we were not quite sure how the coffee residue had got in the laptop as it was working OK before we reported it out but could think of several ways it could have got in.  He rang his head office, who apparently agreed that the laptop could be booked back in under its original call-out and a letter and visit to store was not necessary.  He seemed liked an angel at the time but really he was a demon in disguise as he never put this on my case notes!  However the laptop was sent back for repair with a promise it should be back in a week.  Huh!!
Lots of promised calls from them that didn’t come, lots of calls from my son and myself, the laptop going back to store again unrepaired twice more, some tears of frustration from me, and my aunt (my angel) managing to speak to a manager to say how could they treat me like this especially with cancer (and yes I had told them this countless times and how my laptop was my lifeline while recovering from chemo stuck at home),  I was eventually given an address to write to the Claims and Investigations department!  Not only did I write to them (handwritten of course) but I wrote to the CEO as well – no reply from him.  To be fair things did move quite quickly from there – they wrote off my old laptop and gave me vouchers for a new one (as per their insurance policy).  But even on the day I was given the go ahead to go to store and pick up the new laptop I was called in the morning by a PC World investigator asking for someone of a different name initially (!) as to why the wires in my laptop had been cut – I had to explain again how the damage arose and had to become insistent that no way had any wires had been cut in the laptop!  When my son rang this guy back up he apologised - the repair team had clipped the wrong notes to my claim!

 I am extremely upset with PC World – the countless calls, the countless explanations, the wrong information given to me, the lack of communication and compassion, missing notes - and yes I am going to write a formal complaint very soon.  9 weeks without a laptop – 9 weeks of being unable to blog!!  I guess you know who the Demon is here.

The 3 Mobile Conflict
Literally just before being diagnosed with cancer I had two salesmen come and visit me from 3.  I needed a new mobile, and signed up with them.  One of the things the salesmen did is test the signal inside my house and said that everything was fine – by heck was it!!  Because I had problems with getting a signal, I used my old mobile phone for a little while and then I was in and out of hospital.  Eventually I found that they only thing I could do from my home was text and then they wouldn’t send until I walked out of the door.  I couldn’t take or make a call, download or anything! 3 promised to look into the signal problem and would be resolved in about two weeks.  I received a call to say the signal had been boosted and all should be ok.  Still using my old mobile at home, and using the new mobile outside the house but still paying two contracts and now dealing with more to do with my cancer I struggled on.  Eventually I rang them again to say it was ridiculous that I had a phone that could not work in my house and as I was undergoing chemo and stuck at home a lot I needed a phone that worked!  I asked them to release me from the contract as I had a product that was not fit for purpose.  They first offered me a reduced tariff – what was the point I asked?  They then said I could come out of the contract for £250!!  I argued they came back with £150 and £80.  I refused and said that I had also being paying for services that they hadn’t delivered, so after once again been offered a reduced tariff(!) they released me out the contract.  I should have got money back for all the calls I made to them let alone what I had been paying them for the contract!  Oh well hindsight and really I should have dealt with it quicker.  It’s great now I have a phone which I use from home!!  Another Demon!

Now to my Angels:
 My extra special Aunt who sends me funny little notes both by text, email and in the post, phones me regularly and generally makes me laugh, sympathises and supports me in so many ways – so loving and caring. my Aunt’s friend who has just finished her radiotherapy, came to visit me and bought me some super bras.

 My two super colleagues from work who take me out to lunch when they can, who (through work) stocked up my food cupboard and more when I was struggling a couple of months ago – and whose on-going support is so much appreciated.  Also another colleague from work who took me out shopping, who covers for when I am not at work and again whose concern and support is much appreciated.

Three of my work colleagues from my old employment who have come up from London twice now – have taken me out, cooked me dinner and cheered me up so much, and also their on-going contact. 

A special friend near to where I live who pops in constantly, and always checks out if I am fine or needs help – in fact we help each other and its nice to be able to help someone else. There is also another colleague person, who is becoming a friend, pops in now and again to cheer me up. 

My brilliant cousin, who takes me for every medical appointment and more, paitently sits with me and keeps me going, also my other cousin who pops in, texts and prays for me. 
My local hairdresser who cut my wig or free.

The prayer group from my old Church in Battersea whose prayers are such a comfort and I am sure is doing me a lot of good and all those who do pray for me - working for a Bishop does have a certain advantage in this area!
Macmillan at Essex County Hospital who have given me a lot of support and advice.  All the nurses and doctors at the Mary Baron Suite at the hospital

My HR person at work, who I know would like to do more for me, but who listens to my problems, issues and is genuinely concerned – it makes such a difference. 
My dad and his partner and sister whose on-going love and support I could just not do without even if they are not near to me.

 All my Facebook friends who keep in contact! 
My dog whose very character brings a smile and whose love is a comfort – although I can’t walk him as much as would like to.

 I am hoping I haven’t missed anyone!!!

The Angel in disguise
The Angel in disguise was a ferret!  During my first chemo while resting upstairs I heard such a howl from my dog, I rushed down to see his him peering under a cupboard and then out popped the head of a very scared and inquisitive ferret!  I was so surprised and you should have seen my face.  At a loss of what to do I tried to entice him out with milk – but it wouldn’t work so I just had to wait until my enterprising son came home from school and try and keep the dog away although to be fair they were both frightened of each other!  My son was in seventh heaven – he had always wanted a ferret and this was like an answer to his prayers! 

We rang the RSPCA, put posters up and my son begged me to look after the ferret while it was the on the lost list.  Before I could even think about it he rushed out and brought a hutch from a man he knew with his own pocket money!  My son researched online, rang ferret organisations to get advice on how to look after ferrets etc.  He contacted a man in our area who was considered a bit of an expert.  We called him the ferret man (or should I say an Angel as well).  The ferret man checked the ferret out giving it a good bill of health and a promise to call in a favour from a local vet to also get him checked over and check to see if there was any identification – bought us food and good advice.   So at the same time we dropped off the laptop for repair, we also brought some ferret bits and bobs (a tiring day for me that was and took a couple of days to get over!).  My son would take the ferret out for walks (not the same time as the dog), feed the ferret, clean the hutch out and most importantly play and love the ferret.  He obtained bits of pipe for it to run in and out of.  He would race home after school with excitement.  The loss of the laptop wasn’t such a big a deal as it could of have been and now again he had another thing to focus on especially now I was losing my hair as my cancer treatment was becoming more real and visible to him.  We had one call to claim the ferret but they never came round to collect.  My son was desperate to keep the ferret but unfortunately others around me were not so keen and would not come into the house while it was here.  I was told all sorts things about the ferret – it was a dirty creature, flea-ridden and dangerous, carrying disease – just like a rat – could give me a serious infection.  Although the ferret could nip (I did not handle the ferret at all), he was in fact quite cute.  The vet had given him the all clear; we gave him a flea jab and waited for him to be claimed.  Then a friend’s child got ringworm – she had stroked the ferret once and doctor blamed the ferret! All sorts of conversations were happening around me but not directly to me, and then I was given an ultimation - the ferret or the dog. 
My son was angry and heart-broken and all in all I had to deal sensitively with this.  With some persuasion, my son understood that bad feelings were brewing up on many sides, and I was not in a position to negotiate and he had to let go of the ferret.  We contacted our ferret friend who drove my son to a ferret rescue sanctuary where he ensured it was going to be safe and cared for.  I call the ferret an angel in disguise because while it was here it brought love, laughter and a focus for my son during the first weeks of my first chemo – something my son much needed at that time.

A Home of my Own
Universe, Universe please give me a gift, a lovely new home for my son, dog and self – safe and secure, happy and light, blessed future of good health and delight!  I had been told if you have a mantra, it can become true. I think perhaps I am asking for too much.

 It was during the time of the ferret that my housing situation became so much more of an issue.  The landlord (having his own financial problems) really does need more rent coming in than I can pay – particularly now when I am also earning less – and there is another bedroom available to rent out.  Truthfully I am struggling to pay the rent and all the bills, the house is too big for just me and Daniel especially to keep clean and tidy, and the ferret issue made me also realise it would be better if I could live somewhere I could have more control and security.  So the landlord issued me with an eviction letter and I went down to the council – but nothing is ever straightforward.  Without going into any details I couldn’t put myself at a high enough band (despite the health issues) to be able to get a council house, or be part of a housing association. On the band I am on it will probably take me a long time to be considered for anywhere.  So the next solution is that I  will probably need to rent somewhere else - but frankly I am too ill and lacking energy at the moment to even focus on it –just working through each day is enough. Macmillan have done some liaison with the council on this on my behalf, but to no avail and there is no easy solution.  At the moment it is planned another tenant will come in soon and that some decoration needs to be done in the house.  It’s not an ideal situation for either me, my son or the landlord (and I must point out he is a very fair landlord), but the person moving in does have to know the deal here with me, the potential difficulties (especially with a teenaged boy),the fact that I do not have the energy to do the necessary housework – some days I can’t even move - but at least I may have some help with the bills.  This is a watch this spot scenario.  

Other Demons
Demon:  The bus driver who drove straight pass the bus stop on a damp dark evening last week!

Demons:  All those calls I am currently getting asking if I want medical insurance!

Demon:  me!  I do recognise that I sometimes am not good to me – still smoking when I should give up – not being as patient with my son as I should be, withdrawing from people when I shouldn’t and not dealing with problems head on. 

 Looking back now it doesn’t really seem all too bad – but a lot of energy and stress has been expanded – and not to forget going back to work and all this happened while going through three chemo sessions.  There have been other day to day problems as well – the emotional high and lows.  I yearn for a little time of peace and relaxation rather than lurching from one thing to another. 

There have also been some really horrible things happening to my loved ones around me too and I do feel and emphasise for them and wish I could really be much more of a support – but I also recognise that my main focus has to be on myself and for a time I have to be selfish.

Well I have now caught up on my 9 weeks of absent blogging, and yes I failed to mention I burnt the milk pan while blogging this!!

No comments:

Post a Comment