Six Days of Hospitalisation Hell

Monday, April 30, 2012

I have just endured the most shockingly brutal experience of my journey so far, at the hands of Royal Glamorgan Hospital, Talbot Green. I am struggling to put down in words the week I’ve just been through. I will attempt to do it in a diary format as it’s easier to see how the days unfold. I had my third cycle of chemo on Thursday 19th. The dose I was given was a 20% stronger dose than last time so I felt pretty wiped out pretty quickly.

Saturday April 21st

I woke up in the morning feeling unwell. My stomach tube was playing up and discharging at an abnormal rate. It looked infected. I didn’t want to risk putting any food down the tube. My wife rang Velindre Cancer Centre up to ask for advice about what to do with some of the post-chemo medicine which needed to be taken with food. My wife explained what had happened with the stomach PEG and Velindre contacted the on call GP. They wanted me to be checked over as I was already taking antibiotics for an infection in the PEG. The GP came, did a few spot checks and came to the conclusion that, for safety’s sake, I should be admitted to hospital as there may be an infection that the antibiotics taken to date weren’t dealing with. My heart stopped. These days the mere word hospital alerts all my defense systems and I instinctively put up a barrier that stops me being admitted. “There’s no way I’m going into hospital” I said. After what seemed like hours of cajoling by the GP he finally persuaded me that hospital would be the best place for me. I went under duress and arrived early afternoon.

I was admitted to the Medical Assessment Unit, who were apparently expecting me but put someone from A&E into my trolley bed. I had to sit in chairs for around half an hour until a bay and bed were free for me. I had my blood pressure checked which was OK. I was then hooked up to various machines; a venflon was inserted in my arm. These get more difficult as my veins are ruined from endless chemo and I find the whole process very distressing. I was put on fluids and monitored. After a few hours I was told I was being transferred to Ward 6. They would do their best to get me a side room as I was on chemo and my white cell count was compromised. This wasn’t to be though. I was placed in a general bay with five other people. This was the beginning of the road to hell. I slept for approximately two hours. Cathy had been in touch with my ENT consultant who was not on call that weekend and one of his team was sent to keep a check on my progress in the assessment unit.

Sunday April 22nd

They decided the only way to treat the infection was by stopping all food intake and gave me some very strong antibiotics via an IV line. I was already beginning to feel weak from lack of nutrition and the chemo beginning to hit home. By the evening my venflon failed in my arm and another was inserted in my left hand by my knuckles. It was all bandaged up so I had no hand movement at all. I fell into sleep when I could but was constantly woken up with machines and lights going on and off.

Monday April 23rd

My third day without food was beginning to take its toll. A combination of sleep and food shortage was making me irritable, washed out and very tired. There was no sign of the infection going. I was told today the swab of the site was clear and there was no infection present. I didn’t understand. Why was I in hospital in that case? I felt confused and depressed about the whole situation and wanted to go home. A patient left the ward and another was admitted. I felt envious. I wished it was me. I sleep poorly with so many thoughts running through my head. Cathy rang our hospital key worker and left a message asking if she could arrange for someone from ENT to come and see me and to try and get me moved to a side room as I was at such a critical point of my chemo cycle.

Tuesday April 24th

Was very tired this morning. Lack of sleep, food and constant movement in the ward was making me ill. The chemo was taking its toll and there was no sign of the stomach tube healing. I’ve was told that even though the swab was clear, my bloods showed there was something not quite right. Eh? I didn’t understand and was too tired to ask any further questions. The patient next to me was moved out and another brought in. My nightmare began in earnest as I found the new patient is incontinent and regularly soiled in the bed and on the floor. He was abusive to staff and and I felt sorry for them. Very slowly the smell of urine and faeces permeated the air. This smell then stayed around my bed constantly. The patient was a mere three feet away from me. I had to have the window open behind me even though it was cold. My joints ached constantly. I took five shots of morphine through the night to get me through. A consultant came in and told me I needed to stay on antibiotics for seven days. The horror of staying in hospital that long slowly dawned on me. I slept poorly again, this time with the constant changing of the bed next door. No sooner did the staff change his bed sheets than he soiled them again. They had no time for other patients as it seemed it was all taken up by this one abusive patient. My venflon failed in my hand during the night. All the IV fluid leaked into my hand and arm. By the morning it was up like a balloon. I felt like crying as I was finding it difficult to cope with all this.

In the morning another venflon was inserted in my right arm. Not too painful this time but I’d gotten to the stage of not caring.

My ENT consultant sent his registrar to see me as he had a heavy cold and didn’t want to risk passing it on. My keyworker was with him too. I had a lot of pain under my right ear and it was swollen and the right side of my face was aching and not moving properly. He thought I could have Bell’s Palsey so put me on steroids and spoke to the senior staff nurse about moving me to a side room.

Cathy came to see me in the evening, I was so low that I kept telling her to go home and was very irritable with her. I got quite tearful too so Cathy pulled the curtains around us, got onto the bed with me and gave me a cuddle until visiting was over. I could only have visitors for three hours a day which made time crawl by. I really missed my home and my family. Cathy appealed to the senior staff nurse again on her way out about getting me moved to a side room anywhere in the hospital. She was sympathetic and promised to speak to the bed manager to try and get me moved.

Wednesday April 25th

I tried a few sips of tea during breakfast but the stench of urine permeated my nostrils so much that I gave up and tried to sit as far away as possible from him. This was the first day I attempted some nutrition. I managed 100 calories. I had a long way to go. My chemo drug Taxol is now really hitting home and my body is wracked in pain. I take morphine regularly to try and combat this. It manages to work so it’s just a dull ache. I am never pain free. I am constantly weak and tired. When Cathy visits me I am almost beside myself. I simply don’t want to stay another day.

An infection had been identified in a patient on the ward. The person with the infection was moved to a side room. The ward was closed to further admissions. All visitors to the ward had to wear gloves and aprons to visit me, and I couldn’t even hold my wife’s hand when she came to see me. I was in a situation where I was suffering with chemo, my white cell count was low, my immune system was compromised and I was stuck in a ward which had been closed due to an infection. This was completely nuts. I could have died If I caught an infection now. Why couldn’t they move me to a side room? They couldn’t as they were full of people with infections. This was crazy and I began to feel that I would be far better off at home than here.

Cathy, her brother and his wife visited in the evening and couldn’t believe the stench coming from the bed next to me - we tried to make light of it but it had gone beyond a joke. I didn’t sleep at all. The usual bed wetting and changing next door put paid to that.

Thursday April 26th

I’d had enough. I started telling people that I was going to discharge myself on the Friday as I simply could not face another weekend here. All I managed to taste and smell over the last few days were urine and faeces. It was like a bloody farmyard. I was weak from lack of nutrition. I was in constant pain from the Taxol and constant morphine use was also beginning to take its toll. My bowel movements had changed so it looked as if I’d caught some sort of infection or the antibiotics had affected me. The concoction of drugs I was taking didn't help and my stomach was shredded from all this. I simply could not take any more. I’d had enough. The ward was still closed due to the infection. Two friends from Tenovus came to visit in the afternoon as well as Cathy. They were shocked and dismayed that I was in this type of environment. I told them that I would be discharging myself the next day whatever the medical advice.

My children visited in the evening. They could see that I was struggling. My daughter broke down in floods of tears and hugged me on the bed. At this time they decided to pull all the partition curtains down around every bed in the ward to change them. Why now? Where’s the dignity and privacy in all this? It was bloody disgusting. I felt so sorry for her.

Friday April 27th

I decided to go home no matter what. The doctors came round to visit. Everyone was in agreement that this wasn’t the place for me to be. I could come off the antibiotics as the wound site looked a little better. I feel that the week cost me dearly. I lost so much weight through not eating for four days. I felt sick from the morphine and all the drugs I’d been having. I was sick of constantly smelling urine all the time. I immediately sent a text Cathy to tell her to come and get me at 1:30, she wanted to come straight away but I told her to leave it till then so the parking was a bit easier. Cathy received a call from the ward to say to come and pick me up at 3pm to give time for my prescription to be ready. She told the nurses that she was picking me up at 1:30pm, and that if the prescriptions weren’t ready she’d arrange to pick them up later she just wanted to get me home too.

The sense of relief to get out of that living nightmare was overwhelming. No cancer patient should ever have to go through what I’ve been through. It’s scandalous in this day and age that this happened. There is no way on earth I’m going into hospital again for whatever reason. I would rather die at home.

Yoga For Breast Cancer "Cobra Boat"

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Yoga For Breast Cancer "Cobra Boat"


Great pose to strengthen the spine when placing shoulder blades squarely onto the back.  Opens up the chest and expands ribs.  Helps to de-rotate the spine.


Brings acute awareness to the breath into restricted areas
Create traction by extended from both ends (arms and legs)
Lengthens and integrates the spine
Stretches pectoral muscles and stimulate lymph flow
Expands chest, and broadens back
Encourages strength in the deep back muscles
Opens lower back and the circulation of energy
Allows for deep relaxation & calms the nervous system

Visit Breast Cancer Yoga Website

Grant Writing Workshop Free to NCFCCC Members and Friends

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Members of the North Central Florida Cancer Control Collaborative (NCFCCC) are invited to attend a grant writing workshop with Jeannette Peters. As a grant writer, Jeannette Peters has been responsible for more than $21 million of federal, state and private foundation funding to community-based nonprofit organizations since 1995. Jeannette frequently serves in Washington, DC as a reviewer for grant programs in the Administration for Children and Families, the Department of Education and the Corporation for National and Community Service. She works with nonprofit organizations nationwide to improve organizational effectiveness, sustainability and impact.

The event will be held Wednesday, May 16, from 2:00 – 4:00pm at Santa Fe College, Center for Innovation and Economic Development, located at 530 West University Ave. in Gainesville.
The event is free of charge and is open to NCFCCC members and friends of members.

Space is limited to 60 attendees. Register early by emailing

Learning About Mesothelioma Cancer and its Causes

With only one state – California – ranking higher than Florida in incidence of mesothelioma and asbestosis deaths, it is important for Floridians to understand the realities of this serious asbestos-related disease.
What is Mesothelioma?
Mesothelioma is rare — diagnosed in approximately 3,000 people in the United States each year — but the cancer is still a very serious threat. It typically affects the lining of the lungs, abdomen or heart. The two most common types of mesothelioma – differentiated by the location of the original tumor – include pleural and peritoneal mesothelioma. Pleural mesothelioma is by far the most common, making up around 75 percent of diagnoses. Peritoneal mesothelioma makes up about 10 to 20 percent of mesothelioma cases.
Patients often experience a number of serious symptoms, including chest pain, coughing and shortness of breath. These symptoms typically increase in severity as the cancer progresses.
Mesothelioma is difficult to treat, but several drugs have been approved for mesothelioma therapy. The most common treatment approach involves surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy, which can extend life expectancy for approximately a year from the time of diagnosis.
What Causes Mesothelioma?
Mesothelioma is almost exclusively caused by asbestos exposure, which occurred most frequently in industrial occupations such as:
·       Construction work
·       Power generation or maintenance work
·       Auto repairs
·       Insulation work
People can also be exposed to asbestos through the environment or through a secondhand source. There are no naturally occurring asbestos deposits in Florida, but there are numerous jobsites where the fibers were used, including the Atlantic Dry Dock, the Pensacola Naval Air Station and NASA stations on the Space Coast. Public buildings, schools, construction sites and homes built before the 1980s are also potential sources of asbestos exposure.
When asbestos is inhaled, the fibers are easily trapped within the mesothelium. Because the body has a hard time expelling the fibers, once they have become lodged inside the body, they can remain there and trigger cancerous changes until mesothelioma develops. However, it is important to note that not everybody who is exposed to asbestos will develop an asbestos-related disease. It generally takes years of heavy exposure in an occupational setting for a person to be at risk of asbestos-related diseases.
Non-Asbestos Related Causes of Mesothelioma
Although cases of non-asbestos related mesothelioma are the definite minority, other causes of the cancer include:
·       Radiation exposure
·       Exposure to non-asbestos fibers like erionite
Asbestos exposure is responsible for more than 80 percent of mesothelioma cases, with some studies reporting even higher percentages of causation. Avoiding asbestos exposure remains the primary method of mesothelioma prevention.
Author bio: Faith Franz is a writer for the Mesothelioma Center. She combines her interests in whole-body health and medical research to educate the mesothelioma community about the newest developments in cancer care.

Happy Earth Day...Start saving your planet!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

"Healthy & Hopeful Lifestyle"
Breast Cancer Yoga Supports Healthy & Hopeful Lifestyle
Happy Earth Day...Start saving your planet!

Life on a PEG


Following over two months of being fed through a stomach tube, I feel I can pass on what life is like not being able to eat food. In a word - crap. It’s a massive life changer that has huge implications on your daily world, the effect of which is difficult to pass on in words.

As a family it has always been a tradition to eat around a table. We’ve never eaten in front of a TV. Having always lead extremely busy lives, it was a breath of fresh air to end the day sitting eating good food, and chatting about the day’s events. I used to look forward to it immensely. Now, whilst the rest of the family is eating I’m hooked to a machine which dispenses magnolia colour paint through a thin tube into my stomach over a period of hours. I’ve gotten use to it - finally. There have been times when I’ve felt so down I could gladly have pulled the tube out of my stomach and been done with life. I’ve had an infection in the entry site for virtually the whole time and that has also been difficult to deal with. It’s not pleasant watching stomach acid leak out of the pipe when trying to hook various implements up.

Having a PEG has changed our social life completely. We simply cannot go out for a meal anymore for obvious reasons. You can just picture the next romantic meal I have with Cathy. Candles lit, bottle of wine open and the starter course comes. Cathy tucks in with fancy fork and knife whilst I put a mouthful in, savour the taste and spit the contents out into a plastic bag. The look of horror on the waiters and customers’ faces would be a moment to savour. “Food not to your liking Sir?” “Oh no, it was delicious thanks, can’t wait for the main course.” He brings me a few more bags for the later plates, and therein lies my romantic meal for two.

I need to get 2000 calories of food down me a day and ideally around 2.5 litres of water. This is almost impossible unless I’m strapped to a machine all day. Quality of life? Don’t think so. We have been out to a few tea houses for a cuppa which has been nice but it simply isn’t the same anymore. I miss the social interaction of a meal with a group of people. As if cancer isn’t enough of a social spoiler already.

Our house looks like a pharmacy inside, bottles of food and tubes everywhere. The previous chemist we used were a nightmare to deal with, refusing to give me anything but vanilla flavoured bottles and shouting at Cathy down the phone at the slightest thing. It was run by the wicked witch of the East. We could easily compete and use our medical supplies for a rival pharmacy with better customer services.

They say you can get used to anything in life and that’s possibly true. The fact of the matter is that it’s getting harder every time for me and I wonder what’s next.


Hywel’s gradual loss of the ability to swallow anything other than liquid has been really hard for us all. I’ve always enjoyed cooking for my family. It’s about the only creative skill I have and I’ve always insisted we have a family evening meal together. When we were both working full time and Adam and Elliott were at school we would always do this so that we could have family catch up time and chat in a relaxed atmosphere. Carly and Luke would regularly join us for meals when they were younger and even since they have grown up and started working themselves a few times a month they would come and eat with us. Two of my brothers have restaurants and we would often go to them for big family get togethers where the wider family would eat and drink together. My Mum’s second husband was Italian and they opened the first Italian restaurant in Cardiff back in the 70’s. As a result, eating together has been a big part of our family dynamic.

As Hywel’s swallowing deteriorated he tried to sit with us and have some soup or some mashed food and gravy, but he found it frustrating that he couldn’t eat what the rest of us were eating, plus it was a painfully slow process for him, he would regularly cough and struggle to get food down. Elliott constantly worried that his Dad was choking and we felt terribly guilty that we could eat and Hywel couldn’t. I stopped proper cooking as it was just me and Elliott and he doesn’t enjoy the same kind of foods that Hywel and I do apart from a few meals. So a lot of the time I have been making Elliott something quick from the freezer after school and I just have toast or sandwiches or a ready meal, something I can prepare and eat quickly when Hywel is resting or having a feed through his tube.  Adam came home four weeks ago from University so he has tried out some of his new cooking skills on me and Elliott. Luke has been spending a fair bit of time with us too so it has given me the impetus to do a bit of cooking again with a few more people around to enjoy it.  I can’t shake the feeling of guilt though when I eat a proper meal and I expect I’ll revert back to ready meals and sandwiches when Adam is back at Uni and Elliott is back in school after the Easter break.

Myself and several people have suggested that Hywel tastes food and spits it out before swallowing so that he can still get the taste and texture of food, but he has steadfastly refused to do this. After the hot dog sausage incident he is very afraid to eat anything and he just doesn’t like the idea of spitting the food out. We can go out for a cup of tea, the odd cappuccino or hot chocolate, but sadly restaurant meals together are not possible. 

We are much more practiced at using the syringes to deliver the food (bolus feeding) through the feeding tube now. The feeding pump is pretty good if we are not going out anywhere and Hywel feels like sitting and watching TV for a few hours. When he started to need to take his feed through the stomach tube Hywel didn’t want to do it himself and I would do the feeds for him, but now that we are better at it we do it as a team! I get all the syringes ready and make sure there is water, paper towels a towel and any liquid medications ready and Hywel syringes the stuff in, it’s a bit messy as the syringes only hold 50 mls of fluid at a time and each feed is 200ml (it’s a bit like milkshake and comes in varying flavours and colours) so the syringe has to be filled 4 times. I then clear everything away and wash the syringes and cups and leave them to dry ready for the next feed. Syringing the food and medicines in takes 5 to 10 minutes, the clearing up and getting stuff organised 10 minutes or so. The pump is less messy to organise as the liquid is in a 1litre bottle that gets attached to a pump and a tube called a giving set runs from the bottle of liquid through the pump and is then attached to Hywels feeding tube. Liquid is then pumped into Hywel’s stomach at a regulated speed over a few hours. We have found using a mixture of the two methods (bolus and pump) gives us a lot more flexibility. If we have a lot on in the day Hywel will have bolus feeds a couple of times and then set the pump up for a few hours in the evening. When Hywel is having chemo and has his worst days I can set up the pump so that he has food and fluid slowly through the day, and on the couple of days when he can’t manage feeds at all I can run water slowly through his feeding tube using the pump to keep him hydrated.

The downside of the PEG is that mealtimes are not the enjoyable occasions they used to be for our family, but the upside is that having the tube fitted is keeping Hywel properly nourished. It takes the pressure off him trying to swallow and eat high calorie food to stop himself becoming malnourished and less able to cope with his treatment.

April 15, Karmic Tax Day

Thursday, April 19, 2012

On my favourite food blog, Smitten Kitchen, blogger, chef, and humorist extraordinaire Deb does a quick look back at the recipes she's posted throughout the years at the end of her current post. For example, at the end of this week's recipe, "Banana Bread Crepe Cake with Buttterscotch" (I'm about ready to explode from sheer joy looking at the pictures of it), she tells her loyal, devoted fans and wannabe recipients of her creations that one year ago, she posted French Onion Soup and another recipe for Blackberry and Coconut Macaroon Tart; two years ago, it was New York Cheesecake, Shakshuka, and Easy Jam Tart; three years ago it was Chocolate Caramel Crack, Simple Potato Gratin, and Cinnamon Swirl Buns. I have to stop there because I haven't had breakfast yet, but I already know that whatever I have will pale dreadfully in comparison to what I'm fantasizing about for breakfast. I'm not trying to torture you too, but rather make a point. When April 15th rolls around, I do a similar look back, though not as delicious and savoury. April 15th is more like a bittersweet Thanksgiving dinner in my book.

Four years ago on April 15th, I had a bilateral mastectomy and TRAM-flap reconstruction. The night before, I thought I was going to die. Three years ago on April 15th, my marriage was falling apart. I wanted to die. Two years ago on April 15th, my son V�o was born and had several fatal birth defects. He died, and so did a large part of me. One year ago on April 15th, I was in tremendous pain and two weeks away from giving birth to the most perfect little baby girl. I was hoping that everyone would be okay and not die. This year on April 15th, something miraculous happened: everything was fine. I was grateful. Very.

To be honest, I was moody and out of sorts in the few days leading up to April 15th, but I didn't know why. Actually, when you're moody, do you really think about why you're moody? Or do you just brood? I mostly just brood. And then on the night of April 14th, it dawned on me while I was so blah. The realization came when Mylo brought up V�o out of nowhere. He asked what it would have been like to have V�o and Moxie, if V�o hadn't died. I said it would have been great--like another pair of Chloe&Mylo--but in reality, that's not how things would have been. I told Mylo that if V�o had lived, we probably wouldn't have had Moxie because my body takes an extra beating from having had cancer and going through a pregnancy afterwards. We were all dumbfounded by that realization.

It's hard not to think of how all our trials have a purpose and a path. And I do believe that there is V�o's spirit in Moxie. After all, Moxie was conceived the month that V�o would have been born, and now, V�o and Moxie's birthdays are exactly two weeks apart. How could you not believe in such a connection, such a cyclical wholeness? And perhaps that's why she's so spunky, this one--there's all that experience, challenge, and survival contained in that tiny body. So much energy!

Like I said, pregnancy took a toll on my body. In two weeks, I'm having surgery to repair the damage that giving birth Moxie has done: my lower left abdominal wall became weakened despite the Kevlar mesh, and I have a hernia above the mesh, above my bellybutton--both areas are painful, so it will be good to get that fixed. Also, my right breast has an excessive amount of scar tissue built up from the long-term, ongoing effects of radiation and is obstructing my saline implant, causing a lot of pain and immobility in my arm, shoulder, and neck. So my surgeon is opening me up there and removing all that scar tissue. After that and an estimated one-month recovery, I should be good as new, and maybe even better than that!

I used to be so scared every time I had to go under the knife, and I still deal with some fears, which are mostly based on past experiences with fear and surgery, but this time around, I am not as scared. I know that I have a beautiful family to wake up to. The only thing I really worry about is how I'm going to have to try not to laugh because laughing fucking hurts when you have abdominal surgery. Unfortunately, we have a house full of comedians. I guess there could be worse things in the world to anticipate dealing with. :)

UF Shands Cancer Center Minority Cancer Awareness Forum

Monday, April 16, 2012

In celebration of April 15-21 as Minority Cancer Awareness Week, please join us for the inaugural Minority Cancer Awareness Forum to take place Friday, April 20. The forum is designed to connect cancer disparities scientists, community leaders and cancer advocates with each other to foster opportunities for collaboration and to share information.

When: 8:30 a.m. to noon, Friday, April 20

Where: Health Science Center Communicore Building
C1-9 Lecture Hall

RSVP: by Thursday, April 19!

A full morning of presentations and interactive panel discussions featuring UF cancer disparity clinician-scientists and their community partners is planned. Following the presentations, a cultural competency workshop for those who pre-register will take place.

RSVP by April 19 to
For more information, visit

Cancer Connections April Meeting

Please join us on April 25th !

Dr. Laurel Warwicke of Community Cancer Center of North Florida  will speak about  advancements in radiation treatment, including the use of electron therapy as an alternative to surgical treatment of skin cancer.  Dr. Warwicke will discuss traditional, external radiation and the newer, internal radiation - High Dose Rate (HDR) brachytherapy.

RSVP to Barb Thomas by Monday April 23rd if you wish to be counted for lunch.
A $3 donation or a healthful dish to share is requested.  If you are not able to RSVP in advance, feel free to bring your lunch with you.

Meeting are held in the Hope Lodge conference room from noon to 1 p.m.

For more information please email me at

Women and Wellness: Staying Healthy at Every Age and Every Stage

Saturday May 5th
Hilton University of Florida Conference Center
8 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Physicians will talk about a variety of health topics that women face today; there will be free screeings, wellness information and gifts. Topics will include common gynecologic conditions, breast and heart health, and women's cancers. Breakfast and lunch are provided. The fee is $20 per person.

For more information call 1 800 611-6913  or

sponsored by North Florida Regional Medical Center

A Tale of Tumours, Cataracts and Paper Pants.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

My latest operation, actually my thirteenth, was a mixture of seriousness and hilarity. Obviously having a tumour removed isn’t to be laughed at, but in my case I’ve had so many bodily parts removed it’s neither here nor there.

I was being admitted to Ward 5 which is a Day Case ward, and as soon as I arrived I could tell they were very busy. There were no beds available, the main waiting room was full and there were also people standing, but after so many admissions I have learnt what I will and will not accept. I staunchly refused to stand and demanded a chair. There was a small waiting room round the corner so at least I could sit down in some comfort to wait until a bed became free. Why the others remained standing completely bemused me. The bed never arrived and due to the level of overflowing patients, I eventually ended up on the eye section. This led me into one of the most bizarre medical worlds I have experienced.

I was told to sit in this massive chair that looked like a Lord of the Rings throne on wheels. There were about eight in the room in total and the other thrones were occupied by an elderly clientele whose faces painted a picture of I’m going to be electrocuted. All had big arrows on their foreheads pointing down at whichever eye was to be, presumably, operated on. A doctor wandered around introducing himself to everyone. I figured it had to be cataracts. He smiled at me. I smiled back whilst mumbling under my breath, “There’s no fecking way you’re going anywhere near my eyes mate.” Cathy told me to be quiet. He walked past towards another patient, pointed towards me and said “You’re next.” I shot back, “I don’t think so.”

A few minutes later he came towards me, the last of his ‘cataract patients’, with marker at the ready. He looked down his list. “You’re not Hettie are you?”  he said. Do I look like a fecking Hettie to you? I replied - Well, actually I didn’t say that aloud, I just thought that line, what I really said was “Yes.I’m Hettie Edwards.” Cathy burst out laughing as he fingered through his list, got the joke and finally realised I wasn’t to have my eye operated on after all. By now I wanted to grab a marker and paint some arrows on my own face and join in the party atmosphere. Why did I have to be different to everyone else? Arrows had gained a new appeal.

The time was 1pm and I was due in theatre in half an hour. A doctor came round for a chat. Mumble mumble blah blah is all I heard as I noticed my consent form hadn’t been filled in and my thoughts wandered to where I was supposed to change into my sexy gown and paper pants as this was an open ward. 1.15pm and still nothing. 1.30pm a man arrived from theatre to take me down. I was still fully clothed and my consent form lay blank. They decided to fetch someone from theatre to fill this in. In the meantime I was told to change. “Where?” I asked. “In the toilet” was the answer. I trundled into the toilet to change. I put on my sexy paper pants, a gown, then another gown on back to front as a makeshift dressing gown and walked back out into the room full of arrow people complete with black shoes and socks which said Thursday even though it was a Wednesday. I suddenly decided I looked a complete twat and wanted the earth to swallow me up. My surgeon (who is brilliant) came in to fill in my consent form, looked surprised to see me sitting on my throne surrounded by eye patients and must have wondered what I was doing there, then said he’d be in theatre in five minutes as the hospital appeared to have misplaced one of his patients!

I took off my shoes as I was quite happy to walk to theatre in socks. Nope, that wasn’t going to happen. Big lecture on health and safety from a nurse who said it would take hours to complete the health and safety forms if I fell and repeatedly told me ‘Nobody, but nobody falls on shift’ At the same time I was thinking…if only I could fit both shoes inside your mouth.....but I’m not a violent person so thought better of it.

I sat down on the chair to put my shoes back on and this is where the whole thing gets silly. The only way I could get my shoes on in one of those Gandalf type chairs was to lift my legs up stirrup stye. My dignity had gone out of the window completely. I said to the nurse, “Don’t you realise that everyone across the room can see my bollocks hanging out and they’ve all got a birds eye view?”  “Don’t worry” was the casual reply. “They’re all having cataract operations and can’t see three feet in front of them.” At that point we all burst out laughing. It was like a scene from a sitcom.

Off I went to theatre, which meant a quick local and forty minutes having my back sliced and the tumour removed. I actually liked the experience. As I’ve said before, the surgeon is a gifted wonderful man and we chatted throughout. When they started stitching me up outside the anaesthetised area and I yelped in pain, we talked at length about operations in the olden days before anaesthesia. I found out that the record for cutting a man’s leg off was two minutes. We chatted about astronomy (my degree subject) and I asked this poor nurse every question imaginable about what each piece of equipment did in the theatre. It went very well and before long it was goodbye tumour and back to the eye ward.

No marker arrows this time. Lots of people with half an easter egg over one eye. I chatted to a lovely lady next to me over a nice cup of tea and my afternoon was virtually complete. Clothes on, bit sore and back home by 4pm. Not too bad for a day’s work, even though I say so myself.

P.S. Unfortunately no pictures were taken that day although I was very tempted!

Shands Yoga & Meditation Schedule

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Chair Yoga for Wellness 
Mondays 4:00pm - 4:45pm
Criser Cancer Resource Center, South Tower, 1st flr
While appropriate for all, this restorative chair yoga class is dedicated to those living with health conditions who desire restorative movement, breathing exercises and guided relaxation.  Free.

Community Yoga
Mondays 5:15pm - 6:30pm
Criser Cancer Resource Center, South Tower, 1st flr
This is a longer community class that includes meditative flow, toning postures, breathing exercises and guided relaxation. Cost is $5.

Beginning Meditation
Tuesdays & Thursdays 3:30pm - 4:00pm
Sanctuaries of Silence and Peace, South Tower 2nd flr
Guided meditation to support your peace-of-mind and happiness.  Free.

Lunchtime Yoga for Staff
Thursdays 12:00pm - 1:00pm
Serenity Room, North Tower, 7th flr, rm #7502
Flow in and out of this class as time permits, and enjoy an opportunity to relax your mind, restore your body and renew your well-being. Offered to all hospital staff.  Free

Yoga for All
Thursdays 4:00pm - 5:00pm
Criser Cancer Resource Center, South Tower, 1st flr
Join us for an hour of gentle stretching, adaptive postures and breathing exercises designed to tone the body and lift the spirits. This class is suitable for patients, family, staff and members of the community.  Free.

Cancer Resource Guide

We're updating the Cancer Resource Guide for North Central Florida. The Guide is a valuable tool for cancer patients, survivors, caregivers and family members. Listings are free of charge—it is a public service of North Central Florida Cancer Control Collaborative and WellFlorida Council.

Please submit your listing by emailing by April 9, 2012. Be sure to include:
Name of organization/support group/program
Contact Name
Contact Email Address
Contact Phone Number
Website Address

The Cancer Resource Guide for North Central Florida has been in high demand by the cancer community—so much so that we've received grant funding to create an online version of it to be launched July 2012. You can see a print version of last year's Guide by visiting

Please notify other organizations that provide services to this community so that they may be listed in the Guide as well.

Feel free to call April with any questions at 352-313-6500 ext. 104.

Video Premier: WORD on Prostate Cancer

Do you love comedy? Join us in the Public Premier of the WORD on Prostate Cancer Video
Featuring Local Talents:
Mr. Gaddy
Mr. Cooper
Mr. King
Franco & Tony of "So Sharp Barbershop"

Saturday, April 21, 2012 at 6:00 pm
Greater Bethel AME Church
701 SE 43rd Street, Gainesville, FL  32641

The first 100 Black Men (age 40-70) at the event will be eligible to provide formal feedback to us on the video and receive a $10 Walmart Gift Card for feedback.

Light refreshments will be provided from 6:00-6:30PM.

We look forward to seeing you there.

Yoga of Awareness Program

Tools for living with less stress & greater ease
8 Tuesdays
May 22 - July 10, 2012
5:30 - 7:30pm

Presented by Tammy Bernard, M.Ed., RYT, Shands Arts in Medicine Yoga Practitioner
Yoga of Awareness is an evidence-based mind-body program developed at Duke University Medical Center. As Reported on CNN, Business Week and USA Today, participants experienced improved sleep, vigor, and relaxation. The course includes:
-Gentle yoga & guided relaxation
-Mindfulness practices & group sharing
-Guided meditation & breathing exercises

While the program was originally developed to support cancer survivors, it is appropriate for anyone desiring to more skillfully ride the waves of life's inevitable challenges and is approved for 16 continuing nursing education contact hours and 16 CE's for social workers.

This course is offered at a reduced rate of $85.00 and includes a manual and practice CD's.

For more information, please email: or call 352-733-0880