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Well, internets, what a long, strange
week it's been. Last Saturday morning I woke up in hospital, post-ascitic
drain; yesterday I woke up in a hotel room in Manchester, post-Springsteen.
What a difference a day makes. Or seven. Whatever.
In between these two things, I had a
birthday. A big number, but not an important one. I'd asked people not to make
too much fuss about it since, without wanting to sound like a self-righteous
Facebook meme, all I really want is to not have cancer, and you
can't gift-wrap that. But I got lots of books just the same, and several pairs
of pyjamas (pyjama bottoms v useful for hospital, you can wear them under the
hospital gown if you need to, and they're the best thing when you're having a
drain, it looks stupid having a tube poking out the bottom of your nightie),
and Lush stuff, and things; things including a
Moomintroll tote bag (from lovely friend Joan) and a Troll bead and two
rosebushes (from Judy, who is lovely by default). Equally lovely friend Nairne dropped
by in the afternoon, fresh from a holiday in the Dominican Republic and, oh,
yes, getting engaged, and showed off her absolutely-perfect amethyst ring; she
brought some Gü choklit
cake bars, too, so I even had birthday cake in manageable-sized chunks. And so
everything in the garden was wonderful. (Everything in the garden actually is
wonderful, as a matter of fact, and I would upload photos to prove it, only one
of the side-effects of being ill, or possibly just of taking so many DRUGZ, is
that I'm permanently shaky, so any photographs I take are seriously Dopplered.)
Because I am a girl
who knows how to have fun, on Monday we were back at the Churchill again to get
a PICC line inserted in my arm. That took an unconscionably long time; we were
booked in for 10 in the morning, but it turns out they book everyone in for 10,
and then take them one at a time. I was last, that probably goes without
saying. It went okay, although I had some last-minute qualms about whether I
really wanted it done just before I went miles and miles away for two nights -
but the line nurse assured me it would be fine, which it was. The only slight
hitch was that she inserted slightly too much line, and they had to pull it
back 4 cm or so. I'm told this is not unusual. Maybe it's just me, but I feel
it should be. Anyway, PICC line: sorted, and they even
christened it by taking my pre-chemo bloods through it.
Tuesday - surprise,
surprise - back to the Churchill again, this time for an afternoon chemo
session, and I have to say that the PICC line really did save a lot of time,
and a lot of painful jabbing. Other than that, the whole thing was pretty much
unremarkable. The pre-chemo Piriton sent me to sleep, which it always does and
which, on the whole, I think is a good thing, else I'd have to stay awake and
read the hospital magazines, some of which date back to 2005 and all of which
are still to this day obsessed by Princess Di.
wandered into Bicester; Judy got her nails done, and I pottered around and did
a few useful bits and pieces. I didn't get my hair cut off, there was a huge,
long wait, but I established that the walk-in salon will do it without making
"Eww, icky cancer!" noises. So one would hope, but you never
Lynn arrived on
Wednesday evening, to house- and cat-sit for us while we were away, and we set
out for Manchester late Thursday morning. I was vaguely worried/annoyed to find
that, for the second week in a row, my ankles had swollen up - which I suppose
must be a chemo side-effect - but since they had un-swollen again the previous
week without too much bother I decided not to stress about it.
The drive went
smoothly and without undue incident, and we got to the hotel mid-afternoon.
Checked in. Discovered, to my distinct lack of amusement, that, whilst Premier
Inn are happy to advertise hotel rooms "from £27 per night", ours was
going to cost us £50 for the Thursday and £100 for the Friday. We could've
booked a proper hotel for that, or near enough. It was a
horrid room, too; small enough that I was afraid it would trigger my
claustrophobia, and absolutely boiling hot. It was 23 degrees
when we checked in, and only got hotter. That meant having to leave the window
open - as much as it would open - all night, which meant
constant traffic noise, which meant goodbye to the hotel's "good night's
Friday morning I
pretty much insisted we go out, because I couldn't stay in that room all day.
I'm afraid that I shall never love Manchester (I've just noticed that I've
typed 'Birmingham' for 'Manchester' throughout this blog, and have just had to
go back and change it. All these places are alike to me) - as I was saying,
never love Manchester as perhaps its natives love it. It was absolutely pissing
down with rain, and didn't stop all the time we were there, and nothing looks
its best under those circumstances, but I'm not entirely certain Manchester has
a best to look. No doubt I'm wrong. We didn't do much except stagger round the Arndale
Centre and pick up a few bits and pieces, but that was more than enough for me,
I had to keep finding excuses to sit down as it was. Then we got a taxi back to
the hotel, and got lost. We got found again pretty fast, but still.
There were rather a
lot of taxis involved in our flying visit. It's not my usual mode of transport,
but when you're in a completely strange town, not very well, and it is, as I
said before, pissing down, you don't really want to be standing around waiting
for a bus to who-knows-where.
So, back to the
hotel, to doss about in the nasty, hot, stuffy room until such time as we could
reasonably get changed and make a move stadium-wards. On the whole, it's as
well we didn't leave it too late, since the reception staff had made a total
hash of ordering cabs for people going to the concert, and the lobby was in
chaos. We just grabbed the first taxi we saw, on the grounds that if it wasn't
ours then it ought to be, and took another stray couple along with us as a
proffering to the taxi-gazumping gods, if there are any. Horribly congested
roads all the way to the stadium, but we got there in the end; avoided getting
our bags searched, not that there was really anything in there that could be
objected to - I had, for once, remembered to take out my Swiss Army knife;
climbed up, and up, and up, and up to level 3, which is about
20 miles in the air (I may, perhaps, exaggerate just ever so slightly); found
our seats, and settled in for the duration.
There is no point my
trying to talk about the concert; you've either been there and get it, or you
don't. There's a setlist and some linkies here: http://brucetapes.com/2012/06/23/bruce-springsteen-2012-06-22-etihad-stadium-manchester-uk/. It's enough to say
that for three and a half hours I almost completely forgot about being ill, and
jumped around and danced (okay, jiggled from foot to foot) and waved my arms
about - it is v annoying my PICC line having to be in my right arm, that's my
air-punching arm - like an idiot. The woman next to me was doing the same, but
rather more so, so I didn't dare sit down too much for fear I might lose an
eye. (The woman next to Judy clearly hated the whole thing. There's no pleasing
And then it was all over, and there
was nothing left but to pick up and go back to the hotel. Or try to.
I'll draw a veil over the sheer awfulness of that experience. The authorities
had decided that the best way to get rid of however many thousand people was to
round up all the city centre buses they could and ferry them out that way.
Which meant a bus queue ... I don't know, it must've been about a mile long, it
took us a good 40 minutes to get to the end of it. And then the slow shuffle
forward, eventually squeezing onto a bus with no seats left (that's when I
really wished I'd had my head shaved so that I'd look properly cancery so someone would give me their seat). The
bus itself only moved at a crawl, even once it got away from the stadium. And
then it dropped us somewhere in Manchester - allegedly close to Piccadilly
Station, but we never saw it. It was 1.00 in the morning, we were lost, and the
nightlife of Manchester was just picking up steam ...
It could have been quite nasty, but,
for once, the guardian angel was on duty and doing his job; a cab dropped off a
fare just where we were standing, and we grabbed him before he could get away,
although this involved having to crawl through a pavement barrier. Back to the
hotel room, now hotter and stuffier than ever; undress, attempt to unwind, and
At least we got some sleep that
Saturday morning we
waved a thankful goodbye to all points north and headed back down the motorway
again. I would never have thought I would be so grateful to see the county sign
for Oxfordshire ...
So, basically -
everything pretty much sucked except for Bruce; but Bruce made up for
everything else sucking. I have decided that I shall give up conventional
cancer treatment and instead buy a camper van and some garments fashioned of
patchwork and untreated leather and just follow Bruce around the country for
the rest of my life, since he clearly has miraculous healing powers that have
hitherto been untapped.
Not really. I can't
drive, for a kick-off. Or sew, so so much for the patchwork. Eh, well; it was a
To cheer me up, now
that BruceDay has been and gone and I have nothing else to look forward to
until The Hobbit comes out in December, I had an excellent
stack of mail waiting for me: my discount voucher from work, which apparently I
can still use, despite having been off sick for over a year; two £2 vouchers
from the Co-op (hey, it all helps!); a bank statement that showed that the
JobCentre's paid the back payment they reckoned they owed me, which is worth
having; and confirmation from my hospital insurance company that they'll pay me
for all my recent stays in the Churchill, which is also worth having. (I know
it's not polite to talk about money, but it is such a worry.)
And Lynn was well,
and had even cut the lawn for us, and the cats had been good, and everything in
the garden ... oh, I already said that. Well, it was. And it is.
And today the sun
has come out.
Hilary, that's an absolutely brilliant piece of writing and you MUST, I beseech you, send it to a magazine for publication. I recommend The Oldie (well I would, wouldn't I?), not because you (what is the matter with this blasted website that I can't escape from italic)
are old (phew) but because having been reading it since January (daughter gave us a subscription as a Christmas pressie) I can recognise good writing when I read it , and their multitudinous contributors are Good. You would be Perfect.
Anyway, I'll never believe Premier Inns' adverts again even with Lenny Henry's engaging Black Country spiel - they were really cashing in on the Bruce-effect, and a room that tiny & hot cannot have been good for either of you. I'm sorry you kept typing Birmingham by mistake, there is no comparison, Brum is wonderful. Well to someone who endured Croydon for 21 years it is.
I'm so pleased you got to see him and you both enjoyed 3 hours of absence from the daily toil and moil in total bliss apart from the lady who might have given you a thick ear on one side and the lady who Hated It on the other.
And that you got home and slept and shopped and got nails done and vouchers and back pay from The Authorities. By and large, a great weekend. Thank you for a wonderful blog.
With hive and logs to you both,
I am very very pleased that you got to see Bruce even in the middle of chemo.. quite a feat.
Premier are not premier and next time you ever go anywhere use booking.com and find a nice place with free wifif and rooms that are nice to stay in...
I am still intending on getting you a birthday pressie. Working full time and cancer don't see to mix in as far as having any energy or time left to actually get things, but you will get something (possibly a present from Viking land now) Something to look forward to now Bruce is done.
Hoorah for happy cats and everyhting being rosy in the garden and that you escaped Manchester unscathed. 1am, you dirty stop out! The last time I was up at 1 am....it actually was when I was having treatment and didn't sleep. Oh. Oh and hoorah for picc lines being ok too. No playing golf now!
Anyway, a jolly good read and glad you are home safe and sound.
if you ever decide to get in the Camper van, let me know. I can sew very well and would be delighted to make you a patchwork garment worthy of following Bruce around.
All the hugs
Little My xxxxx
Hilary, your blog sounds like The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse, only in reverse!
All I can think of to say is, Hallelujah! After all the angst and uncertainty, Cinderella finally got to the ball. Well done to you and Judy for surviving your excursion into the heart of darkness. (I quite like Manchester, though I was last there in 1991 for a Pavarotti concert). It is still my heartfelt desire to see Bruce. Maybe some day, if I've been extra good...
Big hugs x x x
Eh oop, lass ! It always rains in Manchester ( well, it seems like it ) a brolly is usually near to hand if ever we take the A34 up to the metropolis ........ well, Didsbury actually. That was the location of my last ' hotel ' stay there nearly four years ago - Ward 4 in The Christie, to be precise. It was probably a lot better than the Premier Inn though ....... at least it was relatively quiet at night.
Any road up, I am so glad that you both enjoyed Bruce's concert in spite of the various hassles involved ! I think that both yourself and Judy deserved the break from the hospital routine - even if it was in rainy Manchester. Could have been worse though because the Isle of Wight concert ground looked very wet indeed - a veritable quagmire, even ........ and they don't have an Arndale Centre.
Enjoy being back in the comfort of your own home with the cats and lovely garden.
Love and hugs, Joycee xxx
They would never have been able to fit Lenny Henry into our hotel room. But at least we got a surprise!refund. So Premier Inns are off the hook, although we're certainly never going to stay in that one again. Not that it's likely we'll need to.
It was so wonderful to see Bruce again. I don't know how I survived the concert, let alone the getting back after, but I'm putting it down to miraculous healing powers. Pity they don't last a bit longer. I'm sure that sending people to Bruce concerts would be cheaper for the NHS than hospital treatment.
Be careful what you wish for from the NHS;
with the cuts you could get Barbara!
No idea why I missed this! But a fun and fabulous read for all the good bits, and sorry about the damp boring bits!
I agree about doing stuff we love = feeling better... I went to 40th parties and NYE parties etc and it does you the world of good :))
Big love and Huge to you honey xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
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