Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Singing

Now Wednesdays are currently a bit sad for me. Because usually on Wednesdays I sing in an acapella group. And at the moment church hall chairs are my nemesis.

My best friend and I decided some time ago that it was time to explore the world of song. It had been a while for both of us. About twenty years.

We started with a bang by trying a massive, female dominated, matching t-shirt wearing choir. Did you know that singing makes you happy? The women who went were very happy. I was less so.

I don't think I have ever felt so out of my depth. Firstly we were singing "Proud" by M-People. Secondly we had turned up on the last week of term (they had been learning it for weeks) and we had no clue what was going on.

The woman running it was incredible. A musical marvel switching between keyboard playing and singing different parts like a demon. We muddled through but it was beyond hard. Eventually it felt like it were coming to an end. Just as we were about to breathe a sigh of relief we were instructed to incorporate...the actions. I was only hanging onto the "ooo"s and "aaaah"s by a thread at this point. Turning sideways and raising my arms did nothing to help things along.

As if this wasn't toe curling enough the newbies were then asked to stand at the front so we could be performed to. I have never felt so self conscious in all my life. What is the correct way to stand when watching about 150 people perform "Proud" complete with side turns and arm waving? Do you clap at the end? They certainly deserved clapping, it was astonishing. So we did. There were three of us. It was awkward.

We were determined to find the choir for us and moved on.

Our next try was Jacapella - an acapella singing group in Nether Edge.

We arrived and quickly began chatting to another new girl, regaling her with our tale from the previous week. She told us things could have been worse and that she had tried a choir where the members had no tune to sing to and just expressed themselves by making whatever noise they fancied. Think barks and squeaks. I'm still confused even now and I've seen them on You Tube.

It was with some trepidation that we wondered what was Jacqui going to throw at us? Well there is no barking or quacking. No choreographed moves or matching t-shirts. I had a brief moment of concern the first time we did a warm up exercise (and even now can't quite get used to the shimmying), but the group could not be further removed from what we'd experienced the previous week.

It's acapella. No accompaniment, no music to read from, just the lovely Jacqui who is mind bogglingly brilliant at switching between parts while teaching and exudes enthusiasm and positivity. She would probably describe it as a singing workshop rather than a choir.

On the first week I worried I couldn't do it. I tried to close my ears when the other parts were being worked on as I desperately tried to fix my part in my head. But now it's opened up an area of my brain that was long since covered in dust. Some of the songs are fairly straightforward. Some are a challenge. All of it leaves me with a sense of achievement.

People always ask me what we sing and it's only occasionally things you'd have heard of like "Moon River." More often it's songs from around the world. Or amusing songs with great tunes. And there was one from Scotland about a half woman half seal...but I'd rather have that than M-People or John Farnham any day.

And who goes? Mostly women at the moment, although men are very welcome. We are different ages and backgrounds. I overheard one of the ladies say it was nice that some young people now came. I don't think she can have meant me.

Some can sing high. I can't. All of us like a laugh and chocolate biscuits. I can't rate it highly enough and now missing my third week I am genuinely quite sad.

So choirs in Sheffield are nothing if not eclectic. Look on Sheffield Help Yourself and you will find over 55 listed, and they are all different in one way or another. With my love of journey books I toyed briefly with the idea of trying out every one and writing a book about it. I still think it has legs. But since I've found my singing destination the idea is shelved for now.

Once I'm off this flaming sofa I will be back at Jacapella singing my head off after half term. You have to find the things in life that make you happy and this is one of mine.

Sick Note

So it's been two weeks. I'm a lot better but based on my trip into school for parents evening clearly not ready to go back to work. I feel incredibly guilty.

I've never had a sick note from a doctor before. Strange since I've processed quite a few in my line of work. The hospital gave me two weeks. My consultant wanted me to have four weeks. Never having done this before I assumed someone would need to see me to decide what more time I needed.

I thought I'd need an appointment. Apparently not, just a phone call.

I'm genuinely incapable of sitting up all day, of driving and of walking too far. So I genuinely can't be back at work. And yet the idea of a phone call proving my situation filled me with dread. My default position of feeling guilty about everything isn't helping.

So I braced myself for the call. Worried what to say. The phone rang:

"Hi, this is reception from your GP. The doctor has asked me to call you to say she's written you another three week sick note. You can pick it up this afternoon".

"Er, ok, I don't want three weeks. I saw my consultant yesterday and she thinks another two, and to see how I get on."

"Ok, I'll talk to her and ask her to change it".

And with that it was done.

I work in HR. It feels all kinds of wrong.

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Stuff I like #2

6. Watching comedy panel shows with my husband. Ideally those including David Mitchell and excluding Jimmy Carr.

7. Autobiographies. Apart from the one by Ant and Dec which was truly terrible. And probably others about people I don't like. Not that I don't like Ant and Dec. I have no opinion either way. Which is weird because I usually have an opinion on celebrities.

8. Journey books. You know the kind when someone does something like goes on a walk, does up a house in the country, rises to a particularly stupid challenge that kind of thing, then writes a book about it. Although the one about narrow boats was a stretch.

9. Notebooks. And pencil cases. Any stationery really. But mostly notebooks.

10. Old style British advertising. Especially with characters. I am currently slightly obsessed with getting hold of a Homepride flour man.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Downbeat update

I am simply writing this one from a record point of view. Just in case anyone ever wants to know how long it took to recover and to remind myself.

It's been exactly a week since I was discharged and I thought I was getting much better. I woke two mornings ago with very little pain. But every day since has been worse again. It's not agony by any means - I have reduced my painkillers considerably - but I have pretty much constant discomfort in my lower abdomen - so much so that I stoop forward when I walk. I know it is better than it was and am not being negative, I simply want to write this all down.

I am also completely knackered. I have napped at some point every day so far and I have very little energy. I could go to sleep again now if it were't for the fact I have already "rested my eyes" for an hour this morning and to do it again seems like a bad idea.

At the same time I'm grumpy because I'm frigging useless. I can't help and it's driving me a bit nuts.

I can also feel my stitches - not all the time but sometimes and it makes sitting upright a challenge.

But worse than all these things is that I can't be with the kids enough. We did Lego together yesterday but I couldn't help find the pieces or put models together because I couldn't get down on the floor. On Sunday I missed watching Tilly sing in a church service. And tonight she gets an award from Sheffield Children's University and I can't go. Her dad and Grandad will but I can't. And that's the stuff I most definitely usually do. Even on school photo day on Friday I feel like I'm letting them down by not waiting with them in line for their sibling shot. My Mum will do it I'm sure, but I'd rather it was me.

So there you go. It's a bit of a downbeat post. I was going to write about daytime television but I'll save that for a day when I'm feeling more amusing. Maybe I will have another little sleep...

Monday, 14 October 2013

The Op

The anaesthetist was bizarre. He introduced himself by saying "Hello I'm the gas man". He then asked me questions at quite some speed about how sickly I get and said as a parting comment "we'll have fun". I wasn't amused or entirely reassured.

I haven't had general anaesthetic since I was 13. I haven't had a hospital experience, apart from babies, since then either. And I am a bit of a wuss. So I wasn't exactly looking forward to the experience.

To be honest it was fine. With hindsight of course. I cried before I went to sleep - that's what I do.

The operation? Well I was well and truly asleep thank goodness. If you fancy reading the details it was this.

When I woke, I know it sounds trite, but I was overwhelmed with a thankful feeling. That I was ok, and for my girls and Paul. And as I began to hear the lady in the bed next to me crying in pain, thankful that my procedure was so minor and straightforward.

I had morphine. Then anti-sickness drugs that I might have been intolerant to as pins and needles arrived in my legs and hands. My body hurt. Which wasn't a great surprise.

And then the night happened. A bit of sleep punctuated by hourly visits to check blood pressure, pulse and to give me medication. I ate a sandwich with some difficulty at about 11 o'clock at night and fended off sickness with a pill and mind over matter since I was terrified of stomach cramps.

In the morning I had a chronic bad back due to being too frightened to move. The nurse asked me why. Really?

Everything is better in the daylight. My consultant arrived early sweeping in like a highly intelligent smiley bird of some sort. She perched long enough to say the operation "went beautifully". She must be committed. I can't imagine anything about bladders being beautiful. There was a list of don'ts and then she flew out of my room again.

The catheter was removed. It wasn't nice.

After that I had to prove I could empty my bladder. Each time I weed a nurse appeared and scanned my tummy. That is once she'd worked out that she needed to press the "woman" button on the machine to make it work properly.

I left a little confused. I have wounds either side of my groin, as it was keyhole surgery, and some internal stitches. I didn't really have the first idea what I was supposed to do, only what not to do. Don't shower for 48 hours (yum), don't bath, don't use tampons, don't lift anything, don't hoover. Obviously the hoovering was going to be a major problem.

So eventually I went home and didn't do anything. I did shower eventually though if it was putting you off coming to see me.

My consultant says I need four weeks off work and since I came home I have done an awful lot of sitting on my arse. Maybe now is the time I will finish that children's story.

You'll probably be pleased to hear that I've reached the end of my operation blog entries now. I can switch back to an entry about tropical fish I've been mulling over. I imagine my number of hits will drop through the floor...

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Five Days is Too Long

Today is really the first day that things have got properly tricky. Phoebe has been in tears several times, about specific things like the suggestion she had school dinners, and in general including a fight over the bouncy horse. She's tired and fed up.

I've fallen asleep on the sofa twice and had a funny turn when I took painkillers and evidently hadn't eaten enough. It's not normal for me to lie about and fall asleep so the kids feel weird.

I'm starting to get irritated. I want to move about but I can't stand up for long, or sit upright before it's pretty uncomfortable. My lack of mobility is affecting everyone.

This whole process has made me thankful. And made me think hard about the trials some people, including several of my friends, are going through juggling their ill health and family life.

I've never been out of action before. It's frustrating but I know it will end fairly quickly. Others aren't so lucky. So there are no laughs in this post. But if you are going through pain, physical or mental, I would raise my hat to you if I were wearing one, and raise my glass if I were drinking. You are amazing.

For all those suffering with the help of Macmillan Cancer nurses, you could give just a little and sponsor me.

Stuff I like #1 - in no particular order

1. Salt and vinegar flavour. On anything really. Apart from chipsticks. Because they get stuck in your teeth and it's vile.

2. Biscuits, chocolate and cheese. Not all at the same time.

3. Bags. I have lots.

4. Well written children's books. This does not include books about magic puppies, rainbow fairies and magic mermaids. Or Horrid Henry.

5. Sleep. Weird really because my children don't seem to like it at all. And are trying to corrupt me by waking me up all the time.


Urodynamics

Ok so this test (urodynamics) is not for the faint hearted. It's worse than the surgery in my opinion. Because you can feel it all, it's uncomfortable and for those of an easily embarrassed nature, mortifying.

The good thing about it is simply this. It proves beyond all doubt whether you have a problem.

So the first bit is straight forward. You drink a lot, you wee into a special toilet that measures your wee while the consultant and nurse leave the room for discretion. This is about as ridiculous as the idea of a modesty sheet during a internal examination.

After that it gets unpleasant. Essentially they fill your bladder from the other end than usual. It's quite the oddest sensation I've ever had the misfortune to endure. Throughout the process my consultant asked me how desperate for the loo I was at regular intervals and tried to distract me by discussing her holiday to Cannes and whether or not to neuter her son's male rabbit.

I told her I was desperate for the loo almost straight away. She told me she hadn't started filling my bladder yet.

So it went on. Until my bladder was full and I burst into tears. (You probably wouldn't, it's just my default reaction to stress).

Just when I thought things couldn't get worse she asked me to get off the bed and stand up. This was a significant challenge.

Then she asked me to cough. Sufficed to say it didn't go well.

After what seemed like an eternity she said I could go to the loo and asked if I wanted them to leave the room while I did it. Because clearly them watching me wee on the loo is way worse than watching me involuntarily wee on the floor.

I muttered something along the lines of, "I don't care". They were lucky I didn't garde past them shouting "get out of the sodding way".

So it proved three things. That I don't have an overactive bladder. That my body is failing me in the pelvic floor department. And that I can easily wee in front of strangers, especially if desperate enough.

Afterwards we talked at length about the procedure and there was a lot to think about. My consultant explained that she was hesitant only because of my age. The operation lasts about ten years and I would need it doing again several times in my remaining life. Each time it would be less effective than the last.

But (while I don't feel it) I am young. I am 38. With two young children. Now is the time to be able to run, and giggle, and climb, and dance, and chase.

So onwards to surgery at least with the confidence to know I needed to try and get it fixed.

You can breathe out now. That was the worst entry I promise.




In case you have forgotten, please do your pelvic floor exercises.

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Exercises

Ok so I went to physiotherapy. We'll skim over the examinations. Sufficed to say my "muscle bulk" ain't great. And men don't know they are born.

I was given exercises. Some for my pelvic floor muscles, some for the weakness in my back which means I don't sit or stand up using the right muscles. Me and most of the laptop using UK I suspect.

I had to engage my muscles when I went through doorways. I had stickers all over the house: on the stairs, the bin, everywhere. When I did routine tasks I was the engage my core. I tried. Despite Paul and the kids not realising about the stickers and removing them when I wasn't paying attention.

In the meantime I started an exercise class and realised yet again that cardio could't be for me.

I went back every few weeks for ten sessions. My physiotherapist was wonderful. Some weeks I mucked about and made her laugh. Other weeks I burst into tears in front of her. Every week I felt terrible that I hadn't done enough.

I still feel guilty about it now. I should have done more. I don't know if it ever would have solved my problem but I could have tried harder. But I genuinely didn't find it easy. She kept telling me about my "brilliant brain" and how I could retrain it to send the messages to my muscles. I believed her -  it should be possible. But I couldn't do it and I couldn't go on as it was. It didn't make enough difference.

For you though it might. So here's suggestion number one:

Go to your GP and push for a pelvic floor physio referral. It can't hurt and they are truly brilliant people.

For me? I went back to the consultant. She told me that the next step was "Urodynamics." Brace yourself for the next bit. I'm being honest. It's not nice.

Admitting the Problem

Here goes.

So having a weak pelvic floor seems to be three things:

1. Funny. It must be because it's referenced all the time. "PMSL" for a start. And I've lost count of the number of articles or comments that reference "a bit of wee coming out" as a way to make the experience (and the writing of it) even more hilarious. Yeah I'm laughing my head off.

2. Embarrassing. Despite evidently being absolutely hilarious and referenced constantly very few people actually admit to having the problem. Because it's mortifying. Who wants to admit to smelling of wee?

3. Extremely common. So no-one admits to having the problem, and yet loads of women live with it. Especially ones who have had children. 1 in 3 women. I have about 125 female friends on Facebook at the minute. Just saying.

And alongside this there is a quiet resignation to it. "Well it's just one of those things. I put up with it."

I can hardly criticise. I put up with mine for 7 years. From mid pregnancy sneezing (oh good lord) to daily leakage. And worst of all a total inability to do Just Dance 4 on the wii or to run down a hill making that funny noise.

They tell you it's about whether it affects your quality of life. That's the key. Can you put up with it reasonably happily? The trouble is it's easier both physically and mentally to say that you can.

But I think for most women it is a way bigger issue than they admit to themselves or anyone else. I know for me it has affected my self esteem and the practicalities of day life. Not least the ability to exercise. But dealing with it is scary so I put it off. Me and millions of other women.

In hindsight I actually went to the GP about this on a number of occasions. And each time I wasn't examined and I was told to go away and do some pelvic floor exercises*. So then I put it to the back of my mind for a bit, resolved to do them and failed completely.

The last time I went to a gp she told me I had a "slight vaginal prolapse". (Ooh we are getting to the good stuff now aren't we...) I was referred to a specialist and told that that wasn't true. I don't. I can't say I rate that particular GP anymore (it seems like quite a fundamental thing to get wrong) but on the upside at least it got me to talk to someone who actually knew what they were going on about.

And what my consultant said? Pelvic floor exercises. Thats the first answer. Specifically pelvic floor physiotherapy for ten weeks. That sounds appealing doesn't it?


*I bet if you are pregnant or a mum already you are doing some pelvic floor exercises right now. Good on yer!

Internet speak

So the last post I did I put a disclaimer on. I indicated it was potentially too much information. I had more than double the amount of hits of any post I had ever written. I'm not sure what to make of this. Clearly we all love a bit of near the knuckle stuff so here we go.

_________________________________________________________________________________

You know all this internet speak? I genuinely can't bear it. I refuse point blank to write LOL if someone writes something funny. And as for ROFL don't get me started. Who has ever rolled on the floor laughing at a comment anyone has made on an online chat. If they did no-one would ever finish a conversation. And physiotherapists would be way busier than they are already.

But the one which really drives me nuts is PMSL. It's not that I don't have a sense of humour. Hopefully you know by now I do. I just don't like it. I imagine the following posts will give you an idea of why...

Monday, 7 October 2013

Week of Positives

Monday: I ticked something off on my actual housework list. Whoop. This week is all set to be a thrilling one.

Tuesday: Drying my eldest daughter's hair while she read her book.

Wednesday: My husband came back. Just from Birmingham but he came back.

Thursday: Nice positive stuff at work. I love my job.

Friday: No wine. Ok so this didn't feel like a positive but it should.

Saturday: Sight of my new papercuts of the kids. And weirdly re-watching Die Hard 4. Sometimes time mocking a film with your husband is the best kind of fun.

Sunday So many positives. Sunshine, sculptures, ice cream, catching leaves, beautiful children.

A little light

Ok so this week may get a bit uncomfortable for you. I'd advise you give my blog a break for a while if you'd rather read entries about Chatsworth and the theatre. If you are feeling brave, read on...

I had a letter two weeks ago. It was that letter. The one all women dread.

How can it have been three years already? Is time accelerating? It comes round nearly as quickly as I'm a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here.

It didn't scare me so much this time. Let's just say I've been here before a few times of late.

But I'm in a ticking things off lists sort of a place. It's my operation tomorrow and seemingly going into hospital instills a maniacal sense of nesting in me. (It's not too bad though because my Dad has volunteered to clean the cooker.)

Anyway I rang the GP to book an appointment. The choice of date and time was limited, just for a change, so I thought I'd make my week even more joyful by having a smear the day before my operation (and torturing myself with a lack of wine afterwards - all sponsors gratefully accepted).

All in all the experience wasn't that bad. At least that's done for another three years. Although I do sometimes wonder if I'm actually living in a sitcom:

"Just lie on the bed and cover yourself with the modesty sheet"

"Er ok." (Modesty? Really")

"Sorry but the big light isn't working"

"Oh really?"

"Mmm. But I've been doing quite well with this torch though."

"A torch?!"

"It's a head torch actually."

I thought I ought to make it clear that she wasn't going potholing. She reassured me she wasn't going to wear it.

I kept my eyes closed throughout...

Friday, 4 October 2013

Go Sober for October

Ok well I just managed to not drink for the fourth day. This may not sound like many, indeed I have managed to not drink for four days in the past, but this time it did include a Friday. And Friday night is bottle of wine on the sofa with Paul and comedy on TV night.

It was fine actually. Although I think we may have to start playing scrabble as perhaps my links between alcohol and slumping in front of the TV are not ideal.

What is irritating me somewhat is the fact that I have woken up, as early as I always do and with a stonking headache. This is surely unfair. I can't put it down to detox can I as it's day five already?

Perhaps it's to do with the fact that I seem to have replaced evening alcohol with biscuits. Can you get a biscuit hangover? Please don't say I have to give up biscuits too. This is going to be the month from hell.

Tonight is Saturday. Which is sometimes going out but more usually wine on the sofa and a film night. I'm beginning to realise this experiment may end up in changing more than just out drinking habits. Although I can't see me giving the TV to charity any time soon.

So if you want to encourage me on my way and help with through my first weekend without booze. Or simply commiserate with my biscuit related hangover you could sponsor me by, just to rub it in, clicking on the wine glass. Gah.





Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Blogging

My blog is, I understand, quite unconventional and therefore unlikely to attract me loads of followers or make me famous. Apparently this is because:

1. My posts rarely have pictures (I just can never get round to doing any).

2. They are not short enough. I admit I do waffle on but I don't fancy editing myself.

3. Sometimes they don't even really have much of a point. Like this one probably.

4. I'm crap at all other forms of social media apart from facebook. So essentially I'm rubbish at self publicising and hence my blog remains unpromoted.

5. The key way to get people reading your blog is to read other people's. This is a bit of a problem. I want people to read and enjoy mine but I just can't read other people's (unless I know you in real life of course). It feels weird. Like standing in a pub and listening intently to what the people on the table next to you are on about at length and then shouting a comment in their direction at the end. Of course this is a bad analogy but actually the people on the next table want me to listen and make comments, but probably only positive ones. I digress.

Anyway. I've clicked "next blog" a few times as I've been thinking about this and I found the following:

Most blogs are full of: a) babies/parenting tips or b) middle aged people banging on about being middle aged and/or their attempts to get fit. You would not believe how many people are blogging about marathons and triathlons.

I stumbled across one which covered both areas called "Babies and Bikes". I might make a venn diagram.

And of course my blog isn't so far removed from these. I mention parenting (ad nauseam) and moan about being middle aged every other post. I just haven't blogged about triathlons yet (I wouldn't hold your breath).

Despite all the valuable advice on how to blog, most of those out there (in my very small evidence gathering experiment) are similar to mine. We are all just wittering out into the ether, with a greater or lesser amount of photographs.

Does it matter? I guess it depends what we all want out of it. At the moment it doesn't matter to me. It's a hobby. It helps with my writing style and makes my mum laugh. And since I've never really liked the idea of writing in the way the world suggests I should, I'll carry on.

So here ends another blog post with very little point.

Oh but here's a picture of my abseiling when I was 10.