Kath is confused about her mental state, has just had a whole load more drugs, and is trying hard to deal with using the Oxford comma :/

Having an unusually chipper few days – first time in a long while I have both thought about updating blog and then followed it up with settling down with laptop. A little bit of this I am attributing to the cheesiest radio station ever – Tom found it whilst doing the first layer of painting at my new house!! Mega 90’s/early 00’s tunes!! Smidge cheesetastic… It is the kind of stuff I was dancing my arse off to when at Uni/writing essays/would lose my mind if someone snuck into a dj set 😀 I should probably be ashamed, but I’m not.

A few weeks ago, I was prepping (as much as one can!) for the formal meeting decision; the outcome was a warning on my file and five days to appeal it. I was imminently due to go back up home for Mum’s birthday… I got the train home for her birthday, which was technically successful, but only really with Fave giving me a lift to the station and a very nice gap between trains at Lancaster, enabling a few metre stagger into waiting room and the next train arriving in the same place over 45 mins later. The looming appeal overshadowed it a lot and made me have weird anxiety dreams. My current repeating one has been creepy old men with long white beards looming at the bottom of my bed and making me wake up screaming (at least in my head :/ Not sure if I am actually screaming out loud…) and with my heart going like the clappers. This means I then stay awake for ages wondering if my body is waking me up through the medium of dreams because I am a) having a heart attack b) have a clot flying around somewhere c) kicked an ischaemic digit off the wall (THIS one has happened before!). Anyhoo, last time I was at home, I was putting together points for an appeal and fretting about it a lot whilst procrastinating massively and stewing about the deadline for handing it back in… Mum ended up making me stash my laptop away and CHILL OUT, as I was probably doing her nut in 😉

I have now come full cycle and am BACK in Scotland for a few days post-hospital (standard craic). Both times the cat was obviously delighted to see me. That should go without saying… First time first though. I had a few days of just myself and parents, then picked up Little Broo and his lady. It is those two who are running soon in the Edinburgh Marathon for Vasculitis UK. DRESSED AS UNICORNS!!! DONATE FOR KATH POINTS! Seeing them was awesome, even if they did have a little bit too much joy in their faces at the thought of a ten mile run in the rain, up a hill.

JustGiving link for Toetally Awesome!

Fester was being a bit of a git, so the day after getting home I ended up getting some email advice from my consultant and GP, and getting a course of antibiotics from local Scotland GP.

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Local GP has an AWESOME sunny waiting room!!

This ended up being x3/day for 13 days, because typically it didn’t clear up within a reasonable period. That would have been so surprising and unusual that I wouldn’t have believed it anyway, so 13 days was always going to be the case! The nice news is Fester is currently not oozing and I have so far got away with having an active local infection WITHOUT BEING HOSPITALISED!!! *high five, high five, high five* – I have had nervous moments galore since then and have now got a ten day stash of co-amoxiclav (same one) to start if he kicks off again. Voldetoe also being a dweeb. Constantly sore and ischaemic now for over 15 months but never really yet gone properly mental. Freaked out the other morning as he was being rather sore and noticed large black spot on the end in the shower. Black on my toes means necrosis, which means heart sinking and life flashing before my eyes and assuming the rest of my life in hospital;8 I essentially managed to talk myself into a complete state within the duration of one shower… My will was getting amendments made, I was working out how to self-amputate if my Doctors refused… Get out of the shower and line up all of the antiseptic wash, gauze for cleaning, medi-grade manuka honey… Turns out it was some black fluff that had resisted the shower 😀 It was both funny and a bit alarming to see how quickly I lost the plot over a bit of fluff :/ My toes are getting a ridiculous level of attention anyway. Checked at least once a week by practice nurse at local GP and twice a day I am checking them, cleaning and smothering in manuka. It is quite weird putting honey on your own toes all the time. It smells bloody good, but by the time I manage to get downstairs, I keep forgetting to have honey for breakfast. Ooo and Kevin remains fine and dandy – a lot of sensation in the end of the stumpy bit, actually more than the ends of my other toes given how much damage they have accumulated!! Maybe all round amputations is the way to go and just have ten stumpy bits!!

This radio station is awesome… Its the kind of music that I get excited at every single song and everyone else winces at and makes cut-throat gestures to whoever is in charge of the tunes. I miss music so much!! Its like that weird feeling where you feel alone even when you are with other people; I feel like I don’t have music in my life at the moment, even though it has always remained to hand. I think a massive part of that is not being able to dance, even just that casual dancing round the kitchen that was always a standard part of my day! I got out of the habit of having radio etc. on when in hospital for so long and when my old laptop died I lost a LOT of music that I had accumulated over many years. Only just now rebuilding my youtube faves lists and being awake long enough to bother turning anything on. Also finding I am ever so slowly getting over the sulking from missing SO MANY parties and events over the last seven or so months. Even just going out and getting some live music used to be a very regular thing for me and got steadily more and more impossible as the literally five minute walk to my fave pubs became an insurmountable obstacle!

Anyway… For Momma’s birthday, some Aunts/Uncles/baby cousin etc. all gathered for extended partying and food – and! Exceedingly Tall Broo came home 😀 😀 Little Broo went for some carrots or something and came back in with a really tall, really smelly and very tanned older younger brother! The little gits had been planning it for MONTHS to coordinate him coming back from the US as a surprise. He had even gone to the extent of ‘going off grid’ in case Mum used the whatsapp locator function to make sure we didn’t realise he wasn’t in Washington State but actually nearing New York for a plane home! He had a helluva faff sorting planes and trains back but arrived eventually and some of us maybe cried a teensy weensy bit… He has since come down to my house with Dad and spent a few days painting my NEW house – freshly plastered almost everywhere, so needs a LOT of layers of boring white base coat. He is doing well so far, earning his packed lunch each day but wanted talking to… :/

Mum’s actual birthday was pretty awesome! She had a pretty good idea she was getting a party by that point, as Dad had wanted to do it as a surprise, but I made him confess as anything else would have resulted in a divorce due to the unready state of the house for many houseguests and many many visitors on the Saturday night. A huge amount of food was made and brought and it was all AMAZING – I did that thing where you eat so much you go into a coma, which tied in nicely with the energy floop. I had to fall asleep flat on my face a few times over the few days; talking to people and being constantly excited and enthusiastic is draining! It was also quite emotional as well, with Big Little Broo being home, baby cousin being utterly edible and some very thoughtful and lovely words from my parents’ friends regarding how ill I have been. It was something I had been dreading a little, knowing everyone would know to a certain extent and that they would be happy and curious to see me semi-recovered and have questions… and knowing how knackering I find talking and sustained ‘human-ing’ right now. But it was actually just very nice – no one said anything that made me think they were being ignorant or thoughtless, several of them were talking about having read this blog and had lovely supportive things to say about particular things I had experienced, or shared stories of them being in hospital or having chemo etc. It made me very proud of my parents in a roundabout way for being the kind of people who attract such lovely friends 😛  🙂  SMUG KATH!!! Also went to see Beauty and the Beast whilst up in Scotland – didn’t fall asleep, cried a lot and got all dreamy at the size of his bookcase!

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Once on the floor, easier to stay on floor. Knees NOT happy right now!!

One of the nice things about being back out of hospital and on slightly fewer drugs is being able to read again without the words going all swimmy in front of me. Being awake for longer than half an hour helps, as I can get a good uninterrupted stretch to get properly sucked into a story. I missed it so much – it has always been a huge part of my life, being so deep in a book that I don’t hear people talking to me and getting violently angry if someone (usually a brother) even thinks about touching my book… Probably because they used to chew them, or deliberately lose my place to enrage me. Gits. My newest fave author (also Fave’s!) is Laini Taylor, creator of the magnificent Daughter of Smoke & Bone Trilogy. Reading Dreamdark at present and it is absolutely beautiful. Teeming with sentences with real depth and a … I don’t know how to describe other than a tasty texture… When I am reading, the way the words sound in my mind has a flavour and tangible quality to them that books of a less fantastic quality just don’t manage! I knew it was amazing from the very first page; I like to think I can tell from one page whether or not someone has that particular trick I love. E.g. First line on a random page – “Daylight twinkled into twilight as the last slanting rays of sunset withdrew from the treetops.” MMMMMFFF! The downside to reading again is that for some reason it tends to give my depressive side a nudge. Or maybe I read more because I feel a bit more gloomy? Maybe introspective is a better word; I don’t know. I had a bit of a spell of worrying about all the work meetings and getting pissed off that even though I am out of hospital, I still can’t do anything like as much as I want to physically – even when I would have thought I have already massively lowered my expectations 😦 Some days I am shattered by the time I have had breakfast, which is a bit ridiculous… I keep getting cheesed off as well at still feeling stiff and achy all the time. I think I am focusing on that more without dying toes being the dominating pain, but less morphine maybe also not helpful 😀 Sadly staying on stupid levels of morphine not an option, as not only does it make my brain mushy and isn’t safe to be on longer term, but it also will be masking all sorts at that level, and I need to know when things are kicking off to identify what this stupid twatty disease is up to.

I got a lift back down after the birthday weekend and got my appeal letter submitted, then got an invite for a meeting to discuss/present my case. Thankfully my brill Union rep was free to come with me to this one, as it is horribly stressy anyway, but knowing my tendency to run out of brain mid-sentence, the thought of a formal meeting solo has become pretty nasty. Meeting is over anyway and now just waiting for a result of some sort, once it has all been looked over. The weather has turned much more spring-like – and I have now had actual proper sunshine AND ice cream!! I had a crazy good day one day (maybe took too much pred or morphine??) and went for a wander at two and a half year old/very pregnant Aunt pace through the Priory woods. Was very very bad the next few days, but it was kinda worth it to get some fresh air, and to see genuine flowers and all the wild garlic down there. I have been a bit grumpy about the boom/bust cycle – with all the treatment and new things happening drug/pain wise, I have no idea how something will impact me at the moment a few days ahead. I am trying to be careful but also wanting to take advantage of the good days.

I did this one day and went to the big Tesco for the first time since September, but it was a bad idea. I took my disabled parking badge and used it, anticipating that even having a good day, I would be knackered after a shop. Not something I have done very often at all, for the simple reason that it arrived once I was already in hospital and since then I have barely ventured outside/been able to drive. Driving is a pretty new thing for me again! I parked just round the corner from the door, got out and was making my way in and a old man sitting in the passenger seat of a car in a different disabled space started shaking his head at me, glaring and waving his finger and pointing at my car and then me. My first reaction on catching sight of him had been to smile at making random eye contact, because I am that rather creepy person 😉 Then when I realised what he was on about, I firstly decided I was imagining it, then thought I would shrug it off and pantomime asked him “CAN I HELP YOU WITH SOMETHING?” He glared away and down when he realised I was staring back at him and had stopped… Not sure if I really looked threatening, but that was essentially how he reacted 😀 Anyway. I got into Tesco aaaaaand promptly burst into tears. Howled my way around the entire upstairs level. Whole point had been to get a printer to finally sort out all of my doc notes and emails, but ended up taking a lot longer… I called Fave and was crying so hard she couldn’t really work out what the problem was, but I was also kinda laughing at myself at the same time, as I knew I was being a little bit dramatic. It reminded me of the scene in Anchorman when Baxter has been punted off the bridge, and Ron is on the phone… In his “glass case of emotion” 😀

Classic scene! I was basically saying the words “mean man” and snotting a lot. This obviously made for a massive emotional wallop and by the time I got out of Tesco (lovely lady helped get the stupid printer to the car), I was a complete mess. I then cleverly didn’t go home and rest straight away, OH NO. I went and stress-bought (as opposed to stress-eating) more fish :/ I have very weird stress reactions. This is maybe the third time I have reacted to stress by buying fish or plants for my aquarium. Yes, I am a bit unhinged. But aye. It was horrible knowing that I was letting someone get to me so much about it; I think I have a level of underlying ‘guilt’ or a fear of being a fraud still. That is despite many many people reassuring me about this many times. The most hateful thing about it was the fact that I hardly ever use the bloody thing, even when other people are driving and before I dared drive myself again, particularly because I am always worried about whether or not I am in some way ‘taking the piss’ or ‘faking it’!!! The last thing I needed was some mouldy old bastard making me feel shit about it. It is hard enough as it is feeling crappy all the time, constantly trying to walk as normally as possible so you a) don’t look weird and b) don’t do even more damage to your joints/muscles. Oh yes, was not using a stick as PHYSIO HAD TOLD ME NOT TO IF I COULD AVOID IT. No stick, under the age of 80 and not in a wheelchair… So clearly not disabled yep? Crusty git. I have since had to deliberately make myself suck it up and do a cost-risk analysis based SOLELY on how I am feeling/distance involved etc. each time I have left the house/needed to park.

Other fun moments of anxiety/depression surfacing lately have included isolating myself in the house for a few days, as I was too scared to take the first one of my new daily MMF aka mycophenolate pills (I think of them as ‘chemo-lite’ when compared to the cyclophosphamide…). Reasoning for that being I didn’t know what the side-effects would be :/ Even though the most likely one was puking or stomach cramps, I essentially convinced myself that the world was going to end and stayed in sulking and avoiding making eye contact with the box. Ahhh the joys.

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Evil box…

I am a few weeks down now and nothing particularly exciting has happened. The only stomach cramping was nature being a git. Oh yes. TWICE IN ONE FRIGGIN MONTH. Nearly. I ate an entire bag of mini eggs for breakfast one day. That was a significant clue. Recently had my first physio app and the woman was really lovely; really good grasp on what it has all meant for me, regardless of the unknowns for me re specific diagnosis. I did a little walk up and down for her and she agreed that my foot muscles have gone a bit strange from trying to keep my toes up (sub-conciously) so I don’t touch them off the floor… Also that yes, using a stick is helpful when I am very bad on one side or having an unpredictable shhhlumpy day or super tired… But longer term, thinking about muscle wastage and damage from being lopsided etc., handier to not use it where possible, even if that means I am a bit slower. More important to try and walk ‘normally’ again, although she did confirm that most of what I was instinctively doing when I was learning to walk again post-amputation was exactly what she would have been advising. I already do a lot of foot flexing etc., but the thing I hadn’t appreciated was that when my knees are being horrific, you can’t strengthen a joint… You need to basically make the muscles in upper leg stronger to support the movement of the knee. That is maybe not technical jargon, but yep, even if I am having a naff day, I need to try and do even very basic movements each day, preferably several times a day. They aren’t exercises as such, more like making specific muscles work, which thankfully I have found I can do without putting much strain at all on my back or knees. The worst bit is actually getting up again when I have been lying down haha 😀 It is seriously hard; involves a kind of three point, three directional manoeuvre with swearing and hauling on end of the bed/sofa/chair etc. Really not my most elegant moments!!

Still got many, many doc appointments each week. Earlier this week I had some nice news re blood results (bone chem profile, full blood count, LFT’s, long term sugar check, cholesterol etc. – everything!!!); nothing new to be alarmed about and my LFTs are currently only approx. 1.5 – 2x normal adult range ‘max value’ instead of the 3 – 4x that they were in Dec when they peaked! As a comparison, since early last year when I started to get worse, those results started to climb from usually being at the low end of the normal range to the December high when I was exceedingly not well 😏 They have fallen very slowly but consistently downwards since then, getting checked every couple of weeks. As a reminder for those who maybe doesn’t already know, blood tests are definitely not a reliable marker for everyone – and I personally don’t tend to have very reliable results in terms of reacting when I am very flared or infected – or showing ANCA or raised CRP or any of the other NORMAL bloody indicators of the disease I have!!! – but I spent a long time being told that my blood tests showed NO signs of me being ill, only to find that that was absolute garbage. To have a visual marker of something improving month by month is so nice amidst all the crap. For this to be happening despite dropping pred slowly since I left hospital is very nice as shows that it is genuine improvement; maybe a tentative sign that the rituximab and the cyclophosphamide are doing something??

The other nice medically type news is that my hip biopsy site is now healing slowly (month and a half on!) with no sign of infection at present!! This is likely to be vastly sped up by the recent removal of four so-called DISSOLVABLE STITCHES… For whatever reason, my body just does NOT dissolve them. Doc thinks it is one of those interesting quirks that make me a medical weirdo/maybe something to do with my immune cell reactions to foreign objects being compromised… Same thing happened with the Hickman’s Line stitches – I ended up pulling them out myself, when the wound had basically healed around them. Left with a flippin HUGE scar 😦 The problem with biopsy site was neither myself nor practice nurse (until the other day at least) had realised there WERE any dissolvable stitches involved!! Given the 10m (approx.) of normal stitching removed over a month ago, having anything else involved smacks of overkill. So yep. Drugs slowly reducing a little/balanced by the new MMF… Doing the upcoming fortnight looks like this + paracetamol + warfarin 😛 Still takes over an hour, but economies of scale in having purchased second weeks worth of boxes!

Have just come full circle; back in Scotland having just had my third ritux infusion – featuring overnight stay – in Carlisle hospital, and heading back down tomorrow. It was very nice to see staff I know and like again, and I didn’t have any interesting allergic reactions. Yet. I have at least a month’s worth chlorophenamine on standby in case I get that fecking itchy rash all over my arms/face/back/chest again. Watch this space… 😛

Kath gets up close and personal with the sofa; being home is exhausting and being ill is both very frustrating and incredibly complicated to organise. ***Lots of sweary ranting… and a beautiful pic of Death Toe remnants***

I haven’t really been getting the urge to do an update because I’ve been rather busy doing… Not a lot… What follows is a rather epic rant, so many of you may not really be too arsed about reading this, but frankly I am rather furious at the world, and my options are vent in writing or break things and I am not strong enough to break much more than a tissue at the moment 😀

I got home – e.g. back down from Scotland, from my parents’ house, a wee while back. End of Feb to be exact! Since then, I have had… Seven Doctors appointments in eight days. Two dressing checks, a GP appointment, full bloods for cyclophosphamide monitoring (which amounted to many many vials, including INR) and another three appointments solely for INR bloods. It is insanely confusing trying to remember all of these, even when they are all written down in my diary religiously. Which may sound ridiculous, but please remember I am utterly shattered and have for about six months been in hospital sticking my arm out at least once every four hours for a blood sucker or cannula or someone taking my bp. So when I cancelled an appointment a while ago WITH A FEW DAYS NOTICE – not even the one I thought I was in trouble for missing earlier on when all this was “kicking off” (my definition of kicking off has become decidedly more medical haha) – and added a note on the system saying ‘still in Scotland, INR test being done here’, I didn’t realise it was another strike against me at the local GP centre, as it was apparently a VERY IMPORTANT APPOINTMENT where you get set up on the stupid special INR system.

The other strikes against me having been because of the first time I was taken off the warfarin (in December) because I needed an operation to remove the hickmans line and my old genius Doctor (so much sarcasm. So so so much) had started me on warfarin a week beforehand: STRIKE ONE. Next, due to begin warfarin again in the New Year and got taken into hospital – urgent admission through A&E, cancelled online with a few days notice: STRIKE TWO. The next time it was discussed, I was flatly told that the local GP practice refused to monitor me and it had to be done at the hospital. Then the hospital said they wanted epic amounts of detail about my condition and why I was to be started on it and yadah yadah. A letter from my consultants at Addenbrookes was not deemed sufficient… So there was much bickering ongoing to sort this out and in the meantime, I was admitted urgently again and sent up to Carlisle… and my new genius Doctor (no sarcasm) was kind enough to finally get me cracking on the anti-coagulation juice in mid-Feb.

This went perfectly dandy, including me being tested to death and monitored in Scotland, until I got STRIKE THREE which was missing this VERY IMPORTANT APPOINTMENT. So I have had all these millions of blood tests in the past eight days and no one has actually been in charge of monitoring me. My GP is actually very wonderful and has essentially arm-twisted the practice nurses, who are all also individually wonderful, into setting me up on the system, probably helped by the fact they have been taking my bloods for the past few days and were seeing me attending appointments and diligently filling in my stupid twatting yellow book. I now have been told I have a new VERY IMPORTANT APPOINTMENT and that I absolutely cannot miss it as it is the last one available this month and if I miss it I have to go to CARLISLE!! to get set up on their INR twatting system and have all my blood tests sent up there… WHAAAAT??????? [To clarify, I am the one keeping track of the strikes… No one has actually bollocked me using the word ‘strike’ for a while, but I am aware fully of the incidents they are remembering and feel very aggrieved!!!]

Bahhhh. I have a trip back up north planned soon for Mother dearest’s birthday and it has basically turned the travelling for that into a bit of a complicated git, needing to be back down and rearranging all of the stuff I had arranged already with the GP practice in Scotland. My diary is disorganised chaos and everyone thinks I am horribly unorganised (I just googled the difference: DISorganised means thrown into disorder and UNorganised means not organised!!). I am in a shitty mood about it all and had an angry cry in the middle of a shop haha – Ooo! I actually saw humans – in real life – in the town!!!! For the first time since SEPTEMBER! – I drove, although admittedly literally two minutes – and went and did adult things like the Co-op for a bottle of milk and Costa for a chai latte (mmmmmm) with a friend I haven’t seen in months. It was lovely and the stupid INR crap has dimmed its brilliance 😦 Also starting to get fretty about Friday as I have the formal meeting reconvenement at work and I have to drive or pay £20 for taxis – that is basically the main reason for wanting to get a practice drive in today (and likely a slightly longer one tomorrow). It is a stupid mix of being happy for a chance to see my work colleagues and being upset about the whole being off work and formal meetings and having to essentially have yet another aspect of my life crapped on by being ill.

Being home has been nice for having my own bed back… and seeing my fish!! My shrimp is a handsome little dude. Most importantly, seeing my friends. I have had only a few weeks at the most since September actually being in my own house, as most of the recuperation time when I haven’t been in hospital (maybe five weeks in five months?!) has been spent up in Scotland! When not in the twatting GP surgery getting blood sucked out of me, I have been either sleeping or taking drugs. In the middle of all this I have finally managed to get some catch-up time in, including Giant Hound time 😀 I also (against the strong hintings of both Mother dearest and the accompanying friends…) went to the Vasculitis UK symposium in Manchester last weekend. This was amazing, partly for things like seeing that cars still existed – and tall buildings always excite me, as I am a country bumpkin 😉 But the singing in the car – mmmm! – and the hotel room with the giant tv and the kettle!!!

I managed the whole Saturday conference part, with some pretty informative and emotional presentations. I cried quite a lot and I wasn’t the only one. Meeting people I have been talking to online for so long was incredible and it was also a very useful chance to learn more about other people’s experiences and types of vasculitis. It covers so so much – essentially any blood vessel network in the body can be affected; lungs, heart, brain, skin, kidneys… Some very inspiring and motivational stories, particularly from the youngsters that shared their experiences. I didn’t manage the ball in the evening: I got all dressed up with Inside Friend and Fave, who had accompanied me and were equally as giddy about hotel room shenanigans 😉 and we ate a magnificent feast with a bit of serenading, and then I crashed and was asleep within about half an hour 😀 I did manage to get my pjs on and brush my teeth though 😉

*****UP CLOSE PICTURE BELOW OF WHAT AN AMPUTATED TOE GAP LOOKS LIKE – NOT AS GORY AS YOU WILL BE EXPECTING AND HE HAS A SMILEY FACE WHICH MAY AMUSE YOU, BUT STILL CONSIDER YOURSELF WARNED*****

As much as the pain I am dealing with day to day is so much less due to Death Toe being a goner, I am now having to deal with the rest of the condition being noticeable again, which has remained largely unchanged for over two years now. I first was aware of being unwell in December 2014 and that is about when my toes started to try and die. I have had daily joint pain, muscle aches, fatigue and brain fog since then, although to a certain extent it wasn’t so bad that it was impacting my day to day life and mobility until early 2015. So yes, Death Toe is gone. Speaking of, he has been replaced by Kevin Spacey (as named by Dad), who looks suspiciously like a vampire smiley face… Apologies for how close up Kevin is. I can’t make it any smaller and wordpress is not being cooperative. Kevin has at least healed well. Basically the only thing that has gone as planned in the last two years was that amputation!! The biopsy I had two days later… Not so well. Still a huge gaping wound in my hip and still requiring dressings and getting suspicious glares from the practice nurses, a month after being gouged at. Being ill is super fabulous in case anyone had missed the hinting earlier.

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Now Voldetoe has taken over as being a painful twat that is threatening to be infected. I remain off work six months on, on the advice of my Doctor, as I need yet more toxic crap thrown at me and get to start new drugs with new exciting potential side effects. Woopee. This is a very grumpy post. Kath is in a shitty mood. I am very chuffed to not be in hospital and to have my friends close to hand, but really… I am minus a toe and have precious little going for me day to day at present except taking drugs at regular intervals and attending appointment for people to suck my blood and get told off/sanctioned/isolated from society and have my stupid hair falling out at a stupid twatty rate, all for being medically weird.

Regarding hair falling out, one of my fabulous friends came and lopped about 50% of the remainder off for me a few days ago, as when it is long and straggly and falling out in handfuls it is even more depressing than short and falling out in handfuls. I thought I would be bawling my eyes out, but having a few of my buddies round making me giggle and making moustache faces on the floor with the choppings was sufficiently distracting and I managed the whole event without howling. Yes, I have a huge amount of hair left, but trust me when I say I am having handfuls coming out each day. Anyone who wants to get offended about me discussing this, because I have fabulously thick hair still and shouldn’t be complaining – or who thinks chemo is just for cancer – can come round and I will cram my moultings down their ignorant necks. Oooo agressive angry Kath !! I’ve dropped to 9mg of pred this week, I should be getting progressively more sweet-tempered – how confusing!!! 😀 Also about to get more toxic sludge in the next few weeks, although as not cyclophosphamide, not AS bad on the hair fally-outty front… But I am still only about six weeks from dose ONE and it says three to six weeks for hair loss to START on all the cancer websites 😦 Mine began after about ten days!!!

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I also get to go up to Carlisle again soon and get incarcerated for more rituximab because I got that nasty itchy rash all over me last time and may have an even more exciting reaction this time… At least Death Toe gave me a very specific focus for the hatred and the anger. Now I am hating Voldetoe; everyone is welcome to jump on board the hating-wagon.

Ahhh – the good news? I get pumped full of chemo drugs that are very likely to have made it impossible for me to ever get pregnant safely – and what happens? My shitting periods have started again, after taking a few months off and worrying the crap out of me. Thanks body. Very sensitive timing.

Snow-way!! O yeah, it snows properly in Scotland ;) In which Kath hits up the hospital for some more toxic sludge, builds a snowman and has managed – da da daaa!! – to get TWO SHOES ON!! – for the first time in at least five months :D

…although to be fair they were Dad’s shoes 😉 😄

So as per the plan, last Monday I was scheduled in for a full day back at the hospital for dressing checks and dose two of cyclophosphamide – along with the various other bags of stuff you need at the same time to stop you projectile vomiting and protect your bladder from the chemo.  I woke up horribly early (5.30am… So genuinely, horribly early!) and then as NOT PER THE PLAN, the car windscreen wipers were not working, despite two return visits from autoglass to fix them previously, after an accidental breakage during a routine windscreen replacement… So given I was still not feeling mega swish post-hospital anyway, Mum’s stress levels went through the roof as she was faced with a two hour journey on the motorway, in the rain, without a properly working car and a whiny delicate passenger, with a lot of people waiting to put drugs into the passenger… After a very nice polite conversation with customer services (using the calm voice that probably came across as very reasonable, but would have had myself and my two brothers peeing ourselves) we hopped (literally haha) into the rather erm… interesting… Landrover and went and got a hire car for the motorway bit and got down only a few hours late! I say interesting; now Dad is very fond of the Landrover, but it has a roll of duct tape in the front for a reason and it rains inside when you go round corners 😀 It also isn’t very easy to get into, but with making some epic huffing noises I have been managing to do some sort of scrambly “HUP!!!” type thing that a week or two previously would have been completely impossible. Autoglass are in trouble 😉

All the drug stuff went very well, although I am fed up of having knackered veins 😦 The inside of ones wrist is NOT a nice place to have a cannula in for hours. Bruising up like a peach still, several days later! Got a whole load of bloods taken and they were all spot on target, so I was allowed to proceed with all of the litres and litres of drugs – saline, something called mensa to protect my bladder and kidneys… Some anti-sickness thingy (ondansetron in liquidy form maybe?) and the cyclophosphamide itself. I was absolutely awash. Mum did little bits of nipping into the town centre, exploring hospital and nattering to keep me from dying of boredom. Dressing changes also went nicely – stitches out of both Toe Gap and The Wound – getting them out nipped like stink and The Wound is so epic it has needed steri-stripped and further dressing checks since and looks like it is probably going to leave a fairly fabulous crater type scar…

Hats off once again to the ward staff, they were very sympathetic and understanding about us being a teeny bit late – especially the wonderful lady who had already come in on what had been booked as a holiday to administer the drugs for me, as only a tiny handful of staff are allowed to handle the chemo until they have had a few supervised training sessions. The other car still isn’t fixed, but thankfully the only use the Landrover has been required for whilst Dad was away has been local trips to GP five minutes away to do my INR checks (every bloody two days) and dressing pokings. Warfarin is going well!! I am so far alllllmost managing to stabalise at about 5mg a day, so just tweaking a smidge to get me slightly higher into the 2-3 target range and then I might be able to get stabbed a little less often!!

Other than regular INR stabbings, I have managed to spend most of this week on the sofa getting rather worryingly addicted to Criminal Minds and NCIS – and have nearly finished the trilogy Fave lent me!! Also being at Scotland home, I have had a chance to eye up some books to take back down with me. Not that I am in any way short of books down at England home, but the heart wants what the heart wants 😉  Mog continues to thrive under the attentive love and care she receives when there are witnesses and other feeders…

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The precious angel is SO deprived; she was ecstatic with glee about being presented with a box of her very own and has spent the best part of the last 24 hours in said box, so that no one can take it off her. Poor baby. I had a wobbly few days post-chemo – Tuesday in particular I spent the whole day on the sofa trying not to puke. Only salt and vinegar pringles made me feel any better! Mum is a very wonderful Mum indeed, but her rather scary response to me whining about feeling sick  was to threaten me with immediate eviction if I puked on the carpet 😀 Since then I have been getting more ‘tiggerish’ as Mum puts it; just slowly getting back to feeling a bit more like myself. I have been trying to use my stick a lot less and pottering around the kitchen playing football with the cat has helped! I also had a very fun day washing a bath full of giant lego we picked up from a charity shop for my baby cousin… SO MUCH FUN 😀

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…and then as is probably obvious from the main pic and title, it snowed one day for hours and hours and because it is bloody freezing up here, it settled and I went OUTSIDE and made a snowman 😀 Yes, that is genuinely a snowman. It may be small and its eye and grass scarf may have fallen off in the time I went to grab my phone to take a picture, but it was too bloody cold to fix it and I have to be very careful with the cold so my fingers and more toes don’t fall off. Stop being mean and don’t bother with the comments about it looking like a turd, I’ve heard them all already. IT’S A SNOWMAN. The other exciting bit about that was that when I went outside, I grabbed Dad’s shoes and had two shoes on for the first time since… At least the start of October!!

Plan is currently to head back down on this coming Monday I think… “About bloody time!” Said Mum… Yeah, yeah, yeah… Pretty excited to see friends again 😀 In the meantime, the dressing on The Gap (which was a token bit of gauze for the last two weeks anyway) came off this morning! I now have two socks on and no foot dressings needed, so for the first time since JUNE – and I am not even slightly exaggerating!! – had a shower WITHOUT A WATERPROOF GIANT SOCK THINGY ON!!!! This went very well and although I was wondering how weird it would be, it was very much taken in my stride, as the more interesting/distracting bit of the shower was how much of my sodding hair is coming out 😦 The info on cyclophosphamide said it tends to cause hair loss in at least 30% of people and I had already had a bit of an impact off the rituximab from December… With ritux being a lot less toxic. So I was sort of already braced for it to be honest. It said it takes three to six weeks to start falling out if it is going to; I am now getting to about three weeks since dose one and the last couple of days it has been coming out at quite an alarming rate, every sodding time I touch my head. So showering was quite amusing! I genuinely do mean amusing, because for whatever mentally certifiable reason, my reaction was to giggle :/ I  guess it is better than me having stood in the shower bawling my eyes out, but I don’t really understand why I am finding it quite so funny!! I don’t exactly put a lot of effort into my hair – it never gets straightened or blow dried or dyed etc. and as mentioned before, I don’t even use a hair brush or dry it after a shower, but I am going to have to have a serious think about what to do now!! I don’t want to scalp it all off immediately, as it really could just thin out a lot and settle there… But it definitely needs a lop – question is, how short?? If I was a delicate little waif – and having naturally curly hair, I would obviously go for a crop of ruffled ringlets that would make me look like a pixie… But if I am brutally honest with myself, I would struggle to look very pixie like and it would likely instead make my face look rather horrendously round 😀 If anyone wants to volunteer to attack my hair, be my guest as it very well may all fall out a few days later anyway 😉

To round things off for this post, amuse yourselves with my Dad’s reaction to the news of my hair falling out this morning… “Ohh, that’s not good. You will be careful to look after the shower drains, won’t you?!” Ahhhh Dad priorities 😀  He has also suggested more recently, whilst watching a former school rugby legend (two years above me, so I sadly can’t claim friendship :D) captain Scotland to DESTROY Wales earlier hehe (stop crying Maria), that I should get a prosthetic toe to smuggle drugs in. It is an absolute wonder to myself and everyone else after reading this, that I have turned out SO WELL ADJUSTED. Or will at least explain to the sceptical scoffers, quite why I am a little bit weird…

In which Kath got to go home, the cat is DELIGHTED as no one else ever feeds her (apparently) and so far not been infected for over a week!! (Voldetoe is threatening it, but doesn’t have the balls just yet, as in the hospital again on Monday…)

So last post I was expecting to maybe be allowed to go home for a bit… That then got delayed a smidge, as I had a pretty bad weekend. I had a biopsy taken on the 9th, the day after the amputation and it hardly hurt at all to begin with and I was feeling pretty smug… and then it started to hurt like crap and get pretty bruised and inflamed. I’d share a picture, but that zoomed in, its pretty icky seeing my hip haha 😀 Weird, I can deal with the actual wound no problemo, but seeing my skin that close up grosses me out for some reason. Maybe I just have really gross flesh? Any ex-boyfriends care to weigh in?? I AM expecting to have a fairly exceptional scar, as it is a good 5cm long slice with quite a few stitches along it! If it were to heal without being fabulous, I think I will feel rather cheated. The bugger has been more painful than The Gap! More stitches… Easier place for me to pull them… So understandable, but I would have assumed an amputated digit would be more sore than having a chunk scooped out of you :/

 

Anyway, massive tangent there. I was feeling naff and what I was vaguely describing to ward staff and Docs as ‘infectedy’ so they gave me a few more days of observation until I was perked up again. It could very well have been all of the drugs from anaesthetic and chemo etc. still in my system walloping me; by Tuesday, my bloods were looking rather fabulous (although white count etc. royally flattened post chemo) and I got the all clear to go home Wednesday 😀 My appetite had come back as well, so I was managing to eat actual normal (some would say excessive) amounts of food again and blood pressure started behaving again… Although a single coffee managed to knock it from approx. 130/85 to 165/110!!! No coffee for me for a while then 😉 Mum did her SuperMum act again and came down to get me (so much driving!!!) and we road-tripped back up and I got to see my special little friend Mog again 😉 She cried she was so happy to see me. (She actually did, but probably because she was hungry).

Home meant checking still temp registered at local GP as being on warfarin now means very regular blood tests (three times a week until stabilised) to check how dodgy my blood is. The thought is currently that I have a coagulation problem as well as what is being dubbed livedoid vasculitis of some description. That in itself isn’t technically a diagnosis, it is more a description of what is going on with me. A bit of casual research reading medical papers and journal articles etc. (as I am prone to doing sometimes… Uni left me with serious dweeby research tendancies!) has resulted in me deciding I have the most mottled purple zebra markings in the universe. Of all the people in the world saying they have livedo reticularis (the fancy name for the mottling I get) no one has it quite so fantastically as I do 😀 Maybe shouldn’t be feeling smug about it, but it does explain why all of the Docs were calling me medically interesting (I laughed, said “you mean weird” and no one corrected me…) and one of the junior Docs came to see ‘me’ *my mottled skin* and said she had printed off some articles about it, which is always nice as it shows she still has curiosity about things she hasn’t encountered before 😀 The warfarin is GOING TO WORK anyway, so it is likely I won’t have quite so exciting mottling in future and it should also hopefully mean that my blood is thin enough to get down to my toes and fingers a little more effectively… So they will STOP GETTING ISCHAEMIC and therefore STOP TRYING TO DIE. Fester, Voldetoe… Stupid Finger… Are you listening??? I had an INR test on Friday anyway and by Friday afternoon everyone had had a chat and I got my next few doses, so the system worked 😉

Hmm… This is a largely cat based blog post haha – I have spent a very large chunk of time whilst at home feeling twitchy because I hadn’t updated this blog for a few days, reading (on the last of the Daughter of Smoke and Bone Trilogy – AWESOME!!) and talking to Mog.

Other Mog activities include apologising to her because I am not allowed to feed her as much as she needs, meowing at her constantly (which REALLY REALLY ANNOYS MUM hehehe), brushing her with the comb taped to a stick so she can’t eat me and playing ‘football’ with her with various colourful, sparkly, jingly ping pong balls. That largely involves someone kicking one to her whilst she then bats it back (almost always to your feet!) again and again and again… She is pretty fab at it (I said proudly, sounding like a demented cat owner…) and it is pretty good ‘physio’ for me, as it has meant moving around the kitchen without using my stick and giving everything a bit of a stretch. I was already managing a bit more walking (with stick) before I left the hospital, but my general strength is coming back pretty well in terms of energy as well. Somewhere I am comfy with, like the kitchen space here, I am happy enough moving around without my stick as I don’t feel nervous about falling, but I am still trying hard to walk ‘normally’ and failing as I keep automatically keeping my toes off the ground and all of my muscles and joints are still being generally sore and stiff ANYWAY which doesn’t help :/  Every couple of mornings (today being one) I have a really bad one and can barely move when I wake up, because my back feels like someone has pretzled it into a twist; but once I have stopped tensing at the pain, wanged down some drugs and loosened off a bit, I am normally a bit better by midday! Re drugs, I have managed to cut down a smidge on some of the painkillers and have my very own holiday drug box 😀 The rest are getting rescued when Dad next is down in Cumbria, as I will still be up here for a bit, so might as well use the time to sort out the ones I no longer have to take.

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So yep. I am here for a good few days. Monday I have to be back in hospital for a long day of reviews from various departments and a delicious bag of chemo… The second dose of cyclophosphamide. Kind of hoping to have at least the cryoglobulin result back by then, but the biopsy results will take AGES as I am pretty sure the chunk of Kath flesh was sent off to Newcastle for immunoflourescence tagging…?! Something fun like that. I think they tag the immunoglobulins so they can see what is happening, as well as investigating the damage to various layers of the blood vessel walls etc. Will find out more, as that is probably a load of nonsense 😀

Mum and Dad have both jumped on the ‘toe gap’ game wholeheartedly; Dad’s latest is that Death Toe has gone on his gap year… Mum and I spent a good few minutes deciding which piggy it was – the ‘stayed at home’ piggy, which sadly doesn’t lend itself as well to jokes as if it was the ‘gone to market’ piggy. Very mature. Mum also just pretended to be a hoover before, so that we could chase the cat out of the kitchen and open the door into the rest of the house, as the woodburner had the temp SO HIGH in the kitchen, I was nearly being sick 😀 She makes a spectacular hoover. MUM’S favourite toe/or lack of joke, is suggesting that I can now play that weird knife finger stabbing game thing you always see scary guys doing in shifty underground pubs… Or prisons… (In films I should add, I haven’t actually ever seen anyone other than a few drunk silly friends even NEARLY attempt it!). Only, I am to do it with a sock on and ‘miss’ to obvious general alarm and outcry. This discussed to the point where I was ‘planning’ it this morning whilst lying all pretzled up on morphine, trying to decide how much to scream when I stabbed the gap and what socks to wear 😀 😀

Speaking of socks, I can actually wear them again without them leaving an imprint in my ankles, as the ridiculous level of swelling/water retention has FINALLY gone down 😀 I have normal sized ankles again and you can once more see the general shape and tendons in my feet 😀 Assuming all goes well and I manage to stay out of hospital for longer than a week (not done very well at that in the last six months :/ ) I am going to TRY and go to a symposium conference event organised by Vasculitis UK at the start of March. It will involve a careful balance of getting there and back in one piece and NOT OVERDOING IT, but I am very excited to get to meet some more of the support group – AND – there is a formal dinner/ball in the evening so I am going to have a shower and wear a dress and feel like a human being for a change!! The last time I tried anything that involved socialising anywhere but a sofa will have been Solfest, which I spent a lot of crying because I couldn’t handle the pain from Death Toe… Even prior to that I had largely given up leaving the house, so this will be interesting to see how my energy levels manage, as talking to people etc. has also become something that saps my energy pretty bloody fast, let alone coordinating all of the getting there, hotel room and the physical staying awake/pain side of things 😀 A challenge that will hopefully not backfire. Wanting to start phasing work hours back in soon and it will be a pretty poor bloody start if I can’t manage a day sat in a seat and talking to people :/

Ahhh so much cat chat. As a final point, please once again have a think about being a good egg and donating some pennies to Leetle Broo and his team for the Edinburgh Marathon. They are fundraising on behalf of Vasculitis UK and are POSSIBLY going to do the run dressed as unicorns haha – I have endorsed that plan. Waiting to see if it happens 😉 Mega thanks to everyone who has already donated. Massively appreciated xxx

Leetle Bro running for Vasculitis UK – JustGiving link!

 

Toe Death do us part! (Credit to Dad for the title… He started badgering me to get that one used over five months ago! Not so optimistic were you Dad ehh?!) *****NOT AS MANKY AS DEATH TOE BUT PIC OF DEATH SPACE? DEATH GAP? GHOST OF DEATH TOE??????******

Ok, so as you may be able to tell from my title, I don’t really know what to call the new void in my life 😀

******Personally, I don’t find this as difficult to look at as the infected and necrotic Death Toe we have all come to hate and loathe, but fair warning, I have wanged in a picture of the fairly fresh amputation wound a bit further down! It is all clean and tidy, but may make some of you feel a bit icked!!******

I would firstly like to tip my hat to the surgeons at Cumberland Infirmary, who stepped up and lopped off the toe that quite a few Docs had previously shied away from amputating… That being due to the seriously poor circulation in said toe and the rather frequent infections I end up with :/ It basically got to the point where it was looking pretty likely I had osteomyelitis and when the amount of pain I had been in for a YEAR was factored in, everyone agreed to just get rid of the little git!

I had literally JUST had five days of plasma exchange followed by the first dose of cyclophosphamide and was then advised it was chop day… Which meant no painkillers :/ It was a mixed blessing that Mum managed to see me before the operation – obviously lovely to see her! – but I had not had any painkillers that morning and was NOT a happy bunny. Death Toe was being a proper little git and I was curled up in a ball whimpering when she came in and had to sort my self out to have a chat with her! She did get to see the fab arrow moment below though 😀

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I was feeling pretty grim that morning anyway, so the actual pre-surgery prep/chat is a bit of a blur. I do remember getting the hideous – I mean FETCHING – hospital gown on, being wheeled down on my bed and being in a sort of pre-surgery waiting area… I mentioned how bad my circulation got when I was cold (getting a bit jittery about turning blue on the table!!) and was given a fabulous heated blanket which felt divine! Then I was wheeled in, and had an mask over my nose and mouth and was breathing in slowly whilst something was injected into the cannula already in my wrist… and then next moment I was waking up rather slowly and fuzzily in the recovery room! I had some totally crazy dreams that I cannot sort out if they came before, during or after… Very vivid and lucid, with incredibly detailed plots that felt like they went on for days!!  General anaesthetic from that point is pretty flippin neat!! But I really felt pretty shocking for at least 48 hours afterwards…

By that I mean when I came round, I remember seeing one of the ward nurses I knew and trying to smile at her, hearing something about my temp being 35 degrees again and realising I was absolutely frozen!! Then someone said something about heated blankets, one got laid over me and I must have grinned through the O2 mask, as she (the nurse) said “That’s cheered you up, hasn’t it!” and I dozed back off! Then I was zoning back in to being up on the ward again and realised quite how shocking my breathing was and feeling horribly feverish for what felt like a long time. I was very, very breathless, it was horrible. Reminded me of when I had pneumonia many years ago and I was getting tired just sitting up. I thankfully didn’t feel massively sick at all, but was asleep the vast majority of 48 hours, had no appetite at all and was utterly exhausted talking for more than a few seconds. Getting the five metres to the toilet (I was DETERMINED not to use a commode!!) was enough to absolutely wipe me out and someone was walking with me – NOT because of the amputation!! – but because I was so tired and dizzy I felt like I was going to fall over!

My first look at the toe was to take a bandaged pic and text parents to say all was ok before I zonked out again. I wasn’t sure how much of it was whatever local painkiller they popped in me before I came round at first, but was walking on it (with stick) pretty much straight away to the toilet and INSTANTLY was telling everyone it was less painful than before!

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Brace yourselves, next pic is a space where there was once a Death Toe…

Now obviously at first, everyone was probably assuming I was just quite doped up and I was offered oramorph if I wanted it, which before chop I had been using a fair wee bit as a regular top-up to be able to handle Death Toe. I quite quickly convinced everyone – including the surgical team! – that I wasn’t being a tough cookie however and it was actually massively less painful 😀  I will say with absolute sincerity that getting that sodding toe amputated is one of the best things that has happened to me in the last two years. For a year at least, Death Toe was ulcered, infected almost continually, then turned necrotic and was the acute cause of three hospitalisations totalling at least eleven weeks to date in the last six months! This may seem a bit weird, but I was actually laughing with the surgeons when they first unwrapped it and I had a look, as the gap was a lot bigger than I expected – and the lead surgeon said I had a fat toe 😀 I assume they don’t normally get thanked quite so sincerely for having chopped off someones toe 😀

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My first impression was how huge the space was for one toe… Second was that it is going to permanently look like my foot is telling the world to rock on haha 😀 Other wonderful comments have included the following: “It is a serious bit of space you’ve got – make a tiny model of a guy tightrope walking across it!” (hehe) Little Broo’s tattoo suggestion for my foot: “mind the gap” (probably too serious an infection risk haha!) Other tattoo suggestions included “It was not meant toe be” and “Digitally Remastered” 😀 I think absolute fave reaction has been Em, when I sent her the above pic on whatsapp and she eloquently replied with “Fucking hell! It’s like a scene off the walking dead…..RIP death toe” 😀 I love that lass!!

A huge amount of love and support as always from the Vasculitis UK facebook group… A lot of them have been following this blog, which was started AFTER Death Toe became a git (hence the name… Obviously…), but actually before it went necrotic. They were all being fabulously happy for me, which in itself is a massive boost when you are feeling naff. I also got to meet one of the gentlemen I have talked to for a long time in person, just before surgery and then afterwards for a groggy hello again! One of the loveliest things was the below pic being sent to me! One of the ladies and her students had a fabulous toemorial supper for “Nekro dakteelo” (Greek for Death Toe) as, as she explained, in Greece both life and death are celebrated with food 😀 Fabulous idea!! She had been reading this blog with them in their breaks, so from me to them, a massive hello and lots of love and thanks for the support xxx

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Anyway! I got a new neighbour on the ward yesterday… Annoying on many levels. The following is a bit personal and obviously, this lady is VERY unwell and the fact it irritated me so much is probably due to me feeling a bit sensitive about the topic rather than her being deserving of it. Also quite likely a level of me being sensitive to both her accent and lack of enunciation (eeesssshhh) and what I cannot help but assume is a consistently present level of stupidity. Haha ok, I am totally failing to be nice about her >.< Please please believe I am very sympathetic to be being unwell and have not been mean to her, but yes. She has been driving me insane since the second she was wheeled in! Firstly, I couldn’t help overhearing that she is a diabetic, who hasn’t checked her blood sugar levels or taken insulin for WEEKS/doesn’t eat anything sensible (the list of things she doesn’t like was insane and the only thing she could offer that she DID like was chicken…) because… She didn’t feel unwell. Until she collapsed and surprise, surprise her kidneys have failed. Her doctors are a thinly veiled appalled and I would go so far as to suggest angry; apparently she is consistently shit at monitoring and been warned many, many times. For someone who is personally desperate to avoid kidney damage, given that my disease seems to be going for my smallest blood vessels, I couldn’t help but find that kinda upsetting, seeing just how upset and frustrated her husband and doctors were. Each to their own?! Can I be angry at this justifiably, or is that a bit ethically dodgy?? On a more immediately understandable level, her space is also making two types of beeping… Fair enough this was initially first being noticed seriously at 11pm but last night it went on for over three hours (I finally managed to sleep) and appeared to be necessary as no one did  anything to make it shut up!! We had high pitched and constant: bip bip bip bip bip… and then the more musical, annoyingly spaced every seven seconds: bi-di-bip!! – and tv on (quietly but… cammaaaan lass!) – and light on, curtain wouldn’t fully close between us!!! Tonight – correction ALL DAY – we have had the tv on as well… I don’t watch it ever myself (unless on the sofa with Fave and Giant Beast) and I have decided to now hate her with all my tiny rage 😑 Been a while since I had an in-patient nemesis 😄 It feels good, gives me reason to keep fighting hahaha – I’M JOKING CALM DOWN – but seriously, if she falls asleep with that tv on again tonight I will smother her. It isn’t all grim. The 90 year old lady next to me is absolutely wonderful and spent the morning bantering again with the student nurses, making me laugh a huge amount and generally being fabulous all the time 🙂  Ooo the below were a little pressie I was sent from one of the support group as well 😀 Perfect for slipping in my mittens and reuseable 😀 (Thanks again xxxx)

 

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Today was a good day all round… I had a good chat with a few docs and my consultant and have been given the go ahead to drop to 10mg pred daily, start lowering the slow release morphine I have been on for at least five months and managed a good few short walks to the nurse desk and back 😀 With my stick still, but was aiming to get my foot flat on the floor through all the padded bandaging… First time in about a year, as I have been walking with my toes up to avoid the pain of contact, as the initial ulcer was on the bottom of the toe. I did manage, but had serious muscle twinges all the way up my leg, hip and back after a very short distance, so defo need to get some physio involvement and build it up slowly :/  The actual foot itself was way less sore than the resultant twangs!! ANYWAY. Also started warfarin again FINALLY and based on me being steady for the next few days on it (ie no unplanned incidents hehe) Docs are happy enough for me to maybe go home for few days to parents’ house 😀 Would then be back here for dose two of cyclophosphamide and a review with vascular, surgical and renal staff again… But I might get to see the sky :O

Finally!! My fabulous Little Broo and his equally fabulous friends are being very good eggs and doing some fundraising for Vasculitis UK. I have been doing the happy cry thing all day and getting some beautiful messages as a result of him sharing his justgiving page and cannot thank him and the team enough 🙂 Please have a click, a read and a share and go and visit the homepage for the charity. Any pennies you can spare would be appreciated and I cannot stress enough how much myself and the other members in the support group love and value the help and support we receive, on a daily basis in many cases!

Toetally Awesome – JustGiving page

 

Kath has icy cold hands and is scared to look at Death Toe :/ EDIT: Kath just looked. It isn’t Death Toe this time. Its Fester. AGAIN. FFS!!! FURTHER EDIT: It is BOTH! Kath is incarcerated for the second time in 2017. Kath is pissed off.

 

[warning – written over several days: please turn a blind eye to tense 😉 ]

“In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer. And that makes me happy. For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me, within me, there’s something stronger… something better, pushing right back.” Albert Camus

Featured Pic is an artwork for this post: Mikhail Georgievich Abakumov – ‘Screaming Spring’ Thank you to one of the support group members for drawing my/our attention to the quote and the artwork; it has tied in nicely with me finding the below link AND with someone else in the comment chain for that post describing their disease as follows: ‘today my invincible summer is a mild temperate summer day due to bronchial inflammation 😉 ‘ – I loved this idea 😀  Mine is an unseasonable torrential downpour, as witnessed from within the bowels of a terminally ill goose who ate too many rotten cabbages… Yes, I feel wonderful and chirpy.

Arthritis – Local weather info! (some other health conditions too)

Link with weather is something I have discussed a bit with people before, but I have always found that myself and Fave (RA!) have crappy joints at roughly the same time. The last few days – or at the point of starting this post – I was musing if I had flaring joints at the moment because the weather for my local town was showing ‘risk for arthritis pain’ :/ Turns out I was flaring because, once again, I am infected to shit. AGAIN. Cannot even tell you how frustrating this is.

I’ve been signed off work for longer, by Doctors who essentially think it is a bit ridiculous that I attempt to go back at the moment, when I have new ulcers popping up constantly. Part of the reasoning being that if I attempted to go back to work now and pushed my already struggling system I was more likely to end up flaring up or needing hospital treatment, or more time off in some form or another. So I have been keeping an eye out for infection. Or at least I was telling myself I was. Have spent the last few days being exceptionally tired – that kind of blurring into one long moment tired, where I honestly can’t tell you what I have actually done. I realised something was actually WRONG again Sunday morning, when for the second night running I slept on the sofa, which does occassionally help reset the aching a bit, as I must move around differently during the night. It also means I can get up more easily to get to painkillers – I can physically GET UP more easily as getting out of my bed requires getting off the bottom of it, which isn’t always manageable and some mornings takes a long time. Sunday morning I had a lot more pain than normal in my toes (Death Toe foot) and I had spent a lot of the ‘morning’ on the sofa, knowing I needed painkillers and food but unable to make myself stay awake long enough to get to them… I was then an absolute chicken and didn’t look at my foot for as long as possible. I was first going to do it after having some food. Then after having a shower. Then after… blah. Inside Friend came round. So couldn’t do it then as she utterly hates feet. So!  😉

Lucky for the drama cats amongst you, I am currently writing this in real time awaiting a call back from the out of hours Doc on the 111 service in the middle of the night. Ooooo UPDATE: another out of hours Dr coming to the house to investigate/presumably then take me into hospital?? Not sure if it works like that. FURTHER UPDATE: It doesn’t work like that. He basically looked at the big toe (an exploded gunky mess) by delicactely moving the dressing aside (had been put on deliberately so I could look without moving it all) and told me exactly what the three people on the line for NHS 111 had already told me/discussed. That it looked like an infection and I needed iv antibiotics. I like to think I can identify an infection by now…. Although yes, I took my sweet time in doing so. More what I was ringing 111 for was to confirm how to get admitted this time, as they can basically send notes of the conversation ahead and advise if you are to go to the out of hours desk or A&E; although every time so far, I have been asked to go to A&E.

The slightly alarming bit about all of this was that the local neighbourhood watch had told my Dad that a Doctor – specifically a Doctor, not even just ‘a strange man!! – had been round in the middle of the night (about 2am?) before I had even told my Dad I was in hospital/waiting to get admitted. I find the level of neighbourhood watch knowledge frankly creepy… I always have. Something that will be very delightful about the move to my house on the other side of town… Although I am quite sure they have neighbourhood watch over there 😦 Cannot underestimate their reach… Wasn’t really aware that anything particularly noisy had happened to alert them to the Doctor; I had even unlocked the door so they could let themself in and didn’t have to knock! Does this mean the neighbourhood watch will know if I get too ill one night and can’t actually alert someone through 111 for once?

So. Hindsight is a bitch. Having just re-read my last post (the one that took me two full weeks to write), I KNEW something was going on for the past two dressing changes, so that means I was suspecting it on the Tuesday, was still concerned and very tired/in a lot of pain on the Friday and had confirmation in the form of yellow gunk on the Sunday (a technical, medical term). Woopdeedoo for hindsight once again and the serious power of being an ostrich. On Sunday I had Inside Friend round, with the plan being to have some food and watch a film – and having someone else there made it more obvious to me how much my appetite had vanished and how zonked out I was – and how sore I was!! We had an incident as well. The Garlic Bread Incident. A frozen stick shot out of the bag from the freezer and nailed me right on the infected digits. Which made me go into the loud silence of someone suppressing some serious swearing, doubled over using the sofa arm to hold me up and going inwards to my carefully calm place. That was the point where I really should have then just bloody looked at the damned thing. Instead I didn’t, using the fact that Inside Friend hates feet as an excuse to put it off for a further few hours :/

I had a bloody good cry when I first saw it. Mainly an angry cry for the fact it was happening again as by that point I had had a LOT of oramorph. Yet another thing to add to the list of indicators something wasn’t right. I had gone from hardly having any oramorph to having some almost every time I had my other meds 😦 Now at this point I WAS going to put a picture of the toes. But it is honestly too bad… which anyone familiar with this blog may be startled by as I have shared some truly vile pictures of infected digits/my ill face 😉 These toes were really bad though and not cleaned up at all, fresh from dressing removal. Not good 😦 Or maybe I am just out of practice? It has been a while since any were oozing from several places!

So yeh I called 111 to sort out what I was doing. Then made the executive decision to sleep for a few hours on the sofa. During which time I had an insane dream; it should have been a good one! I was a medieval princess who started a skills contest with a number of eligible bachelors to prove that she was better than the annoying simpering wimps… and then just when the dream was getting more dramatic (a fencing match and already two princesses who got in the way dead…) I woke up with a start because the room started becoming several different sizes all at once and was smothering me. Turned out I was falling down the back of the sofa with a pillow over my face… Got myself a taxi into A&E and was triaged through the magical divide onto the main emergency ward pretty quickly.

So a nice point for two seconds (because a rant is forthcoming!) – I had had a tesco order due for the afternoon and started having a bit of a panic as I knew I wasn’t going to be in to receive it. So I looked at the cancellation policy and it said how to cancel but I was at that point about an hour outside of their cancel time 😦 I sent them a message through the contact form asking to redirect or at the worst, cancel the order and advising it was because I was in hospital and no one in to receive it… But was astounded to get an email back by 6am advising it had been cancelled and! The full order would be refunded and hopefully I would be feeling well again soon! They continue to be bloody brilliant all round for customer service and this made a crappy day a little bit brighter 🙂

So coming in wasn’t fun in the first place obviously, but it took a wee while to get a bed… I went via the normal day unit I go to for Rheumy reviews, where bloods were taken and I was fed and looked after until a bed was found for me. Then once I was admitted onto the ward I conked out pretty hard and fast as I was absolutely shattered. Someone… no one has admitted who yet! Told the Rheumy docs I was admitted again – so they all came to see me on rounds and basically gave me a lecture on having too many consultants. No “How are you feeling?” Or “Sorry to see you in again” – it was more, “This is the danger of having too many consultants” [this presumably in response to me being infected?! Or the fact that my on the ball Doc had already contacted them to say he knew I had been admitted and asking if I could have an MRI]. Essentially summarised by “You’re a smart girl, I’m sure you can understand that having consultants all over the country is dangerous, we’re saying it because we care about your care, you need to decide what is going to happen now you are admitted.” Erm…. Pretty sure I did a straight swap 😛  I said I knew another patient with vasculitis, for whom he shared care with Addenbrookes, and that this had influenced my decision – and was replied to with a “…or so he claims…” Ehhhh no you immature git, I know the patient! And! One of them said “a young Dr is he?” Like… what the actual fuck does that mean/difference would that make?? Wasn’t a happy bunny really, neither with the way the conversation went in terms of content and tone or with the basic fact that any of it was an issue in the first place. If you get admitted through A&E to your local hospital with an acute infection and a team happen to already know you, you don’t expect to be greeted with a pissing match on who is giving who instructions. Not when you have a rare, potentially very dangerous condition and have sought second opinions elsewhere.

I entirely understand that they don’t want responsibility for treatment choices someone else is making, but there were several comments made NOT getting repeated here that had me having flashbacks to morphine limbo in Oct/Nov… Wondering if I am mishearing as why on earth would x,y,z be relevant. Yes, it is maybe immature or silly of me to repeat so much of this here. But I don’t think that this is acceptable and want to make it a little more widely known WHY I requested to go to Addenbrookes so persistently in the first place. If my consultant is asking formally for his patient to be treat in a certain manner, crack on! Comments were made within minutes of the conversation starting about transferring me. Sadly that didn’t scare me as they maybe hoped, but instead made hope blossom inside me 😉

I waited till they had gone to have an angry cry. I knew it was going to be a tough first encounter, but I just didnt think it would be so soon.

ANYWAY. Happy ward stories… A new woman came lon the second morning who had a stinking attitude problem. I did eventually confirm through a chat that she had basically never been in hospital in her life – and you could tell. The fact she had not brought in any clothes or stuff to do or wash with etc. etc. was treat like the fault of the staff. Not receiving her food or her medication when she wanted it was outrageous – regardless of whether or not she had asked anyone already or if the obviously very busy ward staff were helping someone else first. She was clearly in a bit of shock at being told she would have to stay in for a while and that she was also going to have to amend her lifestyle for a while… But both of those were short term problems. She was surrounded by very ill people, three of us being considerably younger, considerably more ill and all of us with conditions that were requiring intensive drug treatment and were lifelong. It therefore felt wonderful when she got busted smoking in the toilets 😀 she did however still complain about not being allowed to do THAT! Pretty sure that is an obvious one. Many signs for example. Usually the case, no matter what hospital you are in 😉 The bit that particularly riled myself and another younger lass though (both furious on behalf of the other) was when she told us “please can you not have such a depressing, gloomy conversation? Not all of us are familiar with all of the medication and living in hospital!” – to two young women, both clearly delighted to have someone else who was a) their age, b) familiar with medical terminology and therefore properly able to have a full conversation at a point when we were both ill and c) both in a lot of pain and expressing how hard it is being admitted with a lifelong condition but an acute episode. She skipped many people straight to the top of my ‘kill list’.

Anyhoo; emails were sent, phone calls were made and I found myself on the Wednesday night wrapped within an inch of my life in blankets, strapped to a stretcher and on my way up to consultant’s hospital in the back of an ambulance 😀 Yay!!!

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TBC!!!

 

 

In which Kath nudges a new low… (or high – depending what blood test you are talking about!) Stressed oot of her tree >.< and we have a facist cheeto as president. Wonderful!

 

If only we DID have a pipe smoking rabbit 😦  …..Or we COULD! If he would accept the job. Bunny?!

Yesterday I hit a new behavioural low; I googled ‘hogwarts grades’ and rewound the Half-Blood Prince to check what Harry got for his O.W.L’s  so that I could judge him accordingly 😀 Yes, I am disappointed in myself. This is another post I am typing over many days in small chunks, [officially at the two week point now!] I basically am sleeping too much and when I am awake have other vital things like eating or toe dressing changes that sadly have to come first 😦

Several days in early January were (as per previous posts) spent in hospital AGAIN – a Sunday night, very late, to the following Thursday afternoon. It had only been a few days since I came back down south from Scotland, before I’d managed to get myself admitted through A&E. It interrupted a planned night seeing my friends for the first time in weeks, with the film already started whilst I was waiting for the call handlers for NHS 111 to call me back. When I had spoken to someone who confirmed that yes, I did need to go to A&E and get admitted urgently and start iv antibiotics, I thanked them for their time automatically, hung up the phone and burst into tears. I had Fave and Inside Friend and a few others (including massive beast dog) with me and was consoled and petted and reminded that I had survived the last incarceration – and that going in then and getting iv antibiotics was vastly superior as a plan to going in a few days later, very ill and being kept in for years/losing a toe. It helped a little. Dad was staying so was able to drive me in and keep me company, until I had passed through the magic A&E assessment ‘admitted’ wall.

So as per the previous post, I had a few days of iv antibiotics – four bags a day, along with some different stomach protector drugs (because of the deplorable liver function tests) and finally some anti-histamines… By the time of the last post, the rash was calming, presumably as I started taking four anti-histamines a day. My skin remains dry and sore and peeling and just generally crap and making me super grumpy 😦 Not a clue anyway. It seems to be calming down… If it is the rituximab as thought, the plan will be to monitor me very closely if I get another dose of it, in case I have a more immediate reaction during infusion.

I had a really nice surprise whilst I was in hospital this time – not a sentence people will utter very often and honestly the last thing I expected to say! My fave med students from last time came round the ward 😀 They were hunting for people to do a practical with and upon seeing me, came over and we had a lovely catch up and then I had a break to go and get a shower and become a bit more human. You don’t really want people doing a physical exam of any sort if you haven’t had a shower for 48 hours! 😀  These were the two (minus one of their buddies) who spent quite a bit of time with me last time and ended up doing one of their presentations on my case before I was discharged – they did very well 😀 I came back all clean and shiny, their supervisor appeared and we did a practical, involving poking my face and arms with cotton wool and teeny tiny little pins to check how sensitive my skin was… Then an exam of my abdomen, prodding on various organs, presumably to check if my liver etc. was rock hard or exploding. It was all quite fun! Seeing them was the high point of my time in there; I was very upset at being incarcerated again, it felt like I had only been out for days. I really really didn’t want to get admitted, but at the same time fought my corner to be admitted, because I knew it was the only way to get the iv antibiotics I needed. It felt so weird being in that position.  The second doctor who saw me and confirmed that this was very necessary was key in making it happen and took the pressure off me feeling like I was demanding it, so after that I went back to being sad about being back in hospital. New Doc has confirmed that I will be able to get some kind of alert on the A&E system to say I have a chronic illness, am immunosuppressed, don’t present normally with infections – e.g. don’t show a temperature 😀 My toe was infected to high hell and because it wasn’t showing in my bloods and my temp was 36.4 (I think!) I was going to be discharged. Stupid temp crap stupidity….

I didn’t see my own consultant when I was discharged; I started off trying to check some details (e.g. clarify what was meant by my CRP and liver function tests reducing, as I still can’t see them online yet) but was met with alarm and bewilderment… Copy in Addenbrookes?? Who is Addenbrookes?? Ehhh… Either means my notes don’t show their involvement at at all or he hadn’t looked at my notes! [At this point in the typing, Kath fell asleep on her desk and made herself decant to the sofa for a proper nap – she had a phone call due in 20 mins with the independent medical advisers who would be putting their recommendations to work and she suspected it would be wise that she didn’t conk out mid-sentence…] [EDIT: May have been better if she HAD conked out mid-sentence… Now I am in a stupid situation where they reckon I am good to go back to work, I am feeling utterly terrible and my doctors are all saying that going back to work is a stupid idea 😦 ]

I spent the next few days feeling considerably better than before hospital admission (hence a rather too optimistic phone interview with medical advisers!!) but my friends all simultaneously managed to get some kind of horrible puking death plague or felt crappy so they were all quarantined (or at least in my case!) and I didn’t see many humans :/ I DID see my amazing baby cousin! My auntie took me to CHOC to get emergency MST as I managed to run out and didn’t fancy going into morphine withdrawal over the weekend! On the way back from the hospital, we detoured to Pets at Home so my baby cousin could see the rabbits and fish – he is two and a bit and is very fond of my own fish (see below spotty guy! Either Mario or Marcus, not sure…) so we thought he would enjoy it 😉 He said “fush! fush! fush!!” an awful lot 😀 Like a cheap version of a day out at the aquarium hehe!!

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Whilst I was feeling better, I did a massive drug sort for the next two weeks – I was discharged with a slightly different brand of my usual slow release morphine, so I got to see the super pretty pink and yellow pills again 😀

So many appointments. So so many. Between formal work things, GP appointments, toe dressing changes and doctor appointments at the hospital, I have had one or two things a day since discharged back in December, excepting the two weeks I was in Scotland, when I had a blissful period of nothing to worry about attending or missing. Being in hospital again at the start of the month was intensely frustrating, as I had to cancel and rearrange various things, with absolutely no idea how long I was going to be in there 😦 One of these was a meeting with Adult Social Care, which I still need to rearrange.  I started counselling again at MIND and THIS had to be rearranged. Currently managed to get myself an hour slot once a week and it seems to have unlocked a load of stuff I was trying not to think about or acknowledge, as I have basically spent the last week crying a lot. Unless that is just being really tired and ill and generally crap?

Fave had a properly wonderful phrase she used today, about feeling like a “non-human” – when everything is snowballing out of control and you can’t handle even basic ‘life-ing’. That basically sums up how I am feeling at the moment 😦 Pretty much all I can handle is waking up, eating, drugs and more sleeping. The appointments are so knackering and toe dressings so painful at the moment. More ulcers are appearing. Yes, more ulcers. More potential shitty infections. The blood tests from last appointment show a wonderful mix of my liver function tests still being crap – so much for them having improved when I was being discharged!! – and my kidneys now being shitty as well. GFR… ACR… Also very anaemic which I am not entirely sure how to fix, but presumably my GP will know tomorrow! Explains the horrific level of fatigue anyway. No signs of infections on the toes, although all these crappy ulcers keep appearing, but I also have raised white count and neutrophils :/ infection or inflammation?! Something… Hmmm.

Details for the ones that are a bit dodgy anyway for anyone who is interested/knows what they are looking at! HbA1c (long term average blood sugar check) was good, so they really need to accept not diabetic by now!! 😀 I am basically on constant infection stand-by now and depending on what everyone else thinks (e.g. Addenbrookes and GP) may well need to go in and get poked at anyway. Liver function tests have been crap since the start of last summer, increasingly so since September. Kidneys – I don’t know.

ACR: 60.3 mg/mmol!! (norm is <2.9) Estimated GFR: 70 mL/min (norm is 90-120) (up from 60 in September)

Good effort Kath kidneys!

ALT: 90 U/L (norm is <40) (up from 77 in Dec)

GGT: 120 U/L (norm is <45) (down from 128 in Dec)

Good effort Kath liver!

Haematocrit sorted itself out by a few percentage points, back down to within the guide limits from December…

White Cell Count: 14.6 10*9/L (norm being 4.0-11.0) (up from 10.3 at the end of September, not long before I was admitted to hospital)

Neutrophils: 13.1 10*9/L (norm being 1.8-7.5) (up from 6.5 in September)

Iron: 6 umol/L (norm is 11-29) Transferrin Saturation: 8% (norm is 15-50)

CRP down though! 5 mg/L (down from 9 in September)

So yep, blood tests are obviously not everything, but iron in particular explains possibly why quite so bloody tired at the moment. Stupid blood tests. Confirmed in writing anyway that work is a stupid plan at the moment until I stabilise. Not least because everyone is basically waiting for me to go into hospital with another exploding toe…

I got myself the below notebooks/memo pads to help me keep track of everything… They amuse me AND fulfil my need to note things down continually and obsessively. This side of things has definitely got worse; I guess it goes hand in hand with how many appointments are coming through! I can’t stop obsessing over missing something or how I am getting to each one. Although wonderfully I have had confirmation I can use the Patient Transport Service. This is sadly essential; the warfarin I need won’t get administered at the local GP surgery as I am too complex, on too many drugs, too likely to be hospitalised etc. and the INR practice nurses don’t think they can monitor me appropriately. This means I need to go to the hospital anti-coagulation clinic every two or three days!!! I can’t drive… It is during the day so everyone else is working… HOW CRAP IS THAT? 😦 Up steps Patient Transport Service and saves the day. I count as pathetic enough to qualify for help 😉 Woo hoo!

 

Newest thing the rituximab – or just generally being ill – has thrown back at me is my hair falling out again… The fact  I have always been so nice and careful with mine for my entire life, using no hair dye, straighteners, not even a haur dryer… Makes it feel like an extra kick in the teeth. We aren’t talking delicate little strands coming out, its loads everytime I wash it or even touch it now 😣

ANYway. This being the most generally shit I have felt in a long time (when you factor in emotionally, as I am a few horrific nerve stabbings away from Death Toe death point…) I thought it was a good time to re-read the below and have a think about the general message. Conserving spoons has become so horribly important. Wake up, need to take drugs, get down stairs – or off sofa… Banana or some yog as the easiest option, hot water to loosen throat and ten painkillers. Then sofa and set an alarm and collapse again. Then wake in a panic thinking missing appointment 😀 Sometimes a shower if it has been a few days… 😉 Toe dressings are twice a week at present. Most unpleasant. Not sure if I am just more tired or if there is some infection going on I have yet to see, but Death Toe is back to the point of making me cry with pain now when the dressing is being changed twice weekly 😦  I knew it was going to change a few times in the falling off process, but didn’t expect it to go back to November levels 😦

The Spoon Theory  This is something I make myself read now and then just to remind myself of that amazing moment when I first encountered a written interpretation of what I was feeling every day – a feeling I was struggling to explain to anyone. At the time it seemed like only Fave understood (dramatic much?!) and she me this as a way of helping me wrap my head around it. About two years ago now :/

Oh jeeeeeez Dumbledore just got killed… Don’t know if I can handle this in the middle of the night!!!

[FYI… Discovered the best thing in the entire universe last week. Homemade (slightly dodgy) scotch pancakes, spread with biscuit spread… (essentially brown sugar that tastes a little bit like a crunchy rich tea). It is very wonderful. I made a batch of the batter and left it in the fridge for making a pancake whenever I needed food. You are welcome in advance. Please apologise on my behalf to your dentist.]

Finally. THIS 😀 Peter Digs A Den Wonderful children’s book by two marvellous Cumbrians, coming soon!! Click and like the page pleeeeease 😀