Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Halfway through :D

Well thats number 3 treatment out of the way and Rich is now half way through the chemo. We are starting to see the "regulars" on the chemo day unit. Yesterday we got chatting to a couple in the bay next to us, she was in for tests in-between her chemo. She mentioned about her wig and I have to say how amazed I was that it was a wig! Wow things have certainly changed.
We saw the same couple again today and it was lovely to have a real life chat with people who "understand". Her treatment sounded very harsh and I felt quite sorry for her especially when she explained that they had planned to go to New Zealand to see their new grandaughter for xmas but were now unable to go.
This treatment had made him sick again, he seemed to get away with it last time. It really is horrible watching him go through all this, I wouldnt wish it on anyone. You feel so helpless and at a total loss as to what to do to make him better. I really cant wait for all this to be over and done with and we can go back to being a "normal" family.

Monday, 29 November 2010

16 years ago today...

I started going out with THE most amazing man!!
Purely by chance we met, perhaps it was fate? In our school we had an internal email system where you could send emails to friends and teachers. One morning I went to check my emails and there was a message from someone called Richard Ballard, never heard of him before, didnt know who he was or anything about him. I opened the email and it said I LOVE YOU! Wow i thought, thats very forward!! I then noticed that the email had been sent to everyone in the whole school, including the head master!
I replied and said "Why thank you very much but who are you?" It turns out that one of his friends had gone onto the computer when Rich wasnt looking and sent the email to everyone as a joke!
We started sending regular emails to each other but still had no clue who each other was.

One day i was sat in the study area on the computer when an email popped up in my inbox from Rich, i replied and noticed that the computer next to me beeped, I watched and the boy next to me was typing away and the next thing my email came and computer beeped. I replied asking if he had dark brown hair and a certain jacket and bag and he said yes so i said i was sat next to him. He promptly ran away!!!!

In the weeks to come we started chatting in real life and got to know each other better (I was actually going out with someone else at the time!!) Anyway I was so smitten by this gorgeous dark haired boy that i dumped my current boyfriend and on the 29th November 1994 I asked him out and he said yes!!

Rich was not by any means one of the "popular" crowd in school, infact he had never had a girlfriend before me and I remember being picked on by the horrid prissy popular girls for going out with him but I didnt care, I knew he was the one for me and thats all that mattered.

I didnt think that 16 years later we would have 3 beautiful children, be building our dream house and have been to hell and back several times just to get where we are today.

I cant begin to tell you how much I love him, there are no words that describe it. We have a unique bond that grows stronger every day.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

What is Lymphoma?

Did you know that Lymphoma was the most common cause of cancer in the under 30's? No? neither did i!
The Take a Pitstop website was set up to raise awareness of Lymphoma. It says

You might not have heard of lymphoma, a.k.a lymphatic cancer before. In fact, the first time that most people do is when they’re directly affected by it. And that can be pretty frightening. In a nutshell, lymphoma is a cancer that starts in the lymphatic system (part of the immune system, your body’s defence against infection).

The main symptoms of lymphoma are:

  • Persistent lumps: a painless lump or swelling commonly appearing in your neck, armpit or groin area
  • Itching: bad enough that it interferes with your daily routine
  • Tiredness: you feel completely exhausted and can barely function
  • Sweating: your sheets are drenched at night, to the point where you have to change them
  • Other symptoms include unexplained loss of weight, cough or breathlessness, abdominal pain or diarrhoea and fevers.

Fortunately, like most cancers, lymphoma is treatable if it’s caught early enough. So if you notice some or all of these symptoms, don’t wait. Contact your GP or call the Lymphoma Association’s freephone helpline on 0808 808 5555.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Reality kicks in

Up until now Cancer has just been a word, not a nice word i grant you and not a word people like to say, they skirt around it asking about his "illness".
When you hear a diagnosis i dont think it really sinks in until you "see" it.
We got the diagnosis almost 6 weeks ago now and up until this week it was a word, a word that needed drugs. Now he has lost all his hair I can see that Cancer is here, and suddenly it all becomes a reality.
Our eldest daughter can now "see" that there is an actual illness and is not really comfortable with daddy's new hair (or rather lack of it) I guess when you are 8 it is your parents job to embarrass you but I think she feels unsure about it all. I remember my grandad having cancer when I was about the same age and not really "knowing" what it all meant so i guess i can see from her point of view.
The reality of the situation is harsh though. My man has Cancer, not just a word, a real life thing and it sucks big time!

Monday, 15 November 2010

Forever my Hero, my fiance

I saw this slogan on a website selling Lymphoma awareness merchandise and I thought it was so apt cos that is what he is, my hero!
The 2nd round of chemo seems to have gone so well and im so proud of how well he is coping with it all. His strength and determination is amazing although I feel there is an aspect of sheer stubboness in there too!
Me on the other hand? Im rubbish at all this and I just want to bury my head in the sand and wish it would all go away. It was all going well until it came to the grand revealing of the newly shaved head and then its gone down hill since then, not him you understand, he is still full of humour and his usual self, it's just me. The moment he came out of that bathroom my heart was broken. It broke because I cant fix this, i cant make it better for him, im not in control. It broke because our 3 innocent, beautiful and loving children have to see their daddy like this and see him go through this horrible treatment.
I have never held him as tight as I did last night. I hate that we all have to go through this, I hate that it has to be us :0(
I dont know if I will ever get used to seeing him without his gorgeous thick dark hair but this horrible illness has taken the choice away from me.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Round 2

So Tuesday saw round 2 of chemo. So far it hasnt been as bad as the first round although his hair is now dropping out and he is getting bald patches where his head rests on the pillow.
Again the staff at the hospital were fantastic and really make you feel at ease through out the whole experience.
This time chemo was given to him on the bed after he fainted having bloods done the week before so we were in a side room instead of the day unit where he had his first session. It was very quiet and not so "social" as being in the unit with the other patients.
I am really impressed with how well he is coping with the treatment, id even go so far as to say he is coping better than me! I feel sick every time we enter the hospital and spend the whole time he is having treatment trying not to cry.
The stresses and strains are starting to show with silly little arguments but we are a good strong couple and we will be a damn site stronger coming out the other side.

The only good thing to come out of this is the time he is getting at home with his much wanted son, they are already becoming so close and it melts my heart to see them together, my 2 special men!

Monday, 8 November 2010

All set for round 2!

Today went well, his count was back up again so its all go for round two of chemo tomorrow. The consultant was pleased that the tumour had visibly shrunk and that Rich was feeling generally well.
This round should be easier on both of us as Baby Richard has settled down into a routine and also his parents were away on holiday last time so we didnt have their help with the children.

Keep your fingers crossed that tomorrow goes well!

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Happy Birthday Piggles!

Today was our middle child's birthday, she was 2. When Rich was first diagnosed I wasnt sure that he was going to be well enough to enjoy her birthday and that filled me with dread and sadness. Both our daughters are very big daddies girls and worship the ground he walks on. I have been really worried how treatment would impact on them but so far its been ok.

We call her Piggles as she was always a greedy baby and it kinda stuck! Her real name is Sofia (unless you ask her what her name is and she says "Fia") and she has a crazy personality. She is the kind of child who no matter how sad you are she will make you laugh till your tummy aches and always insists on asking for pudding after breakfast. I dont think she knew what to make of today, it was all a bit mental with pressies everywhere and of course cake :0) It was very hectic with lots of people and wrapping paper everywhere! I cant quite believe she is 2 already, only seems like yesterday that she made her very fast entry into this world (26 min labour!!)

Talking about children I have just realised that I have not introduced my other 2 anywhere. Jade, our eldest daughter, is 8 years old and lives for dancing. She is a very bright girl and does exceptionally well at school. Our youngest is rather special, he is called Richard after his daddy (family tradition) and was to be our last child and last chance of having a little boy. Rich has been desperate for a boy since I got pregnant with Jade so i kinda felt under pressure to deliver this time. At the 20 week scan I found out he was a boy. Rich was unable to attend due to work so i made the decision to keep it a secret from him. I felt kinda mean but also excited about seeing his reaction when he saw his boy being born and it did not disapoint. There were several times during the pregnancy that i came close to telling him, especially when he was diagnosed with Cancer but i kept my focus on that reaction and didnt mention a word.
I then started to panic that he would miss the birth and that really upset me. He was there for the birth of his 2 girls and to miss the birth of his son would have been devastating. I think the hospital and consultant sympathised with this secretly as the final diagnosis and treatment did not come until after the baby was born. This helped us both so much as it gave us a week of "normality" where i could concentrate solely on the baby while Rich could see to the girls, they loved it!!

Im still finding the hair loss hard and its not even happening to me! This morning his pillow was covered in hair even though he has shaved it down to a number one. I know i must be brave and strong for him because this is the worst possible thing he can be going through and the last thing he wants and needs is a quivering emotional wreck of a girlfriend so in real life i have my brave face while here I can be the real me!

Tomorrow we are back to hospital for more bloods and providing his white cells are back up then he can have round two of chemo on tuesday. Hopefully he will take it as well as he did last time. I do love him so very much!

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Catching up

Well its been a while since i made my first post so i thought id update and also try and make more of an effort to update more regularly!!

So where are we now? Well chemo has begun, he is having a regime called CHOP which is
It was given via a drip in his hand and only lasted about an hour and a half although the effects were almost immediate. By the time we got out to the car he was shivering and feeling out of it. The afternoon brought sickness and extreme tiredness so he slept the best he could with a very active 2 year old running around the house!!

Every tuesday he has had to have his blood taken and tested to see how his white blood count is doing. The first week after chemo saw him spectacularly faint which shocked the poor nurse taking his blood. Thankfully his blood was fine! The 2nd week they lay him on a bed to do his bloods which was much better. This time his count was low which meant he was susceptible to infections which was terrible timing as our 2 year old had developed a stinking cold! The Dr gave him antibiotics as a preventative and we have been monitoring his temp every morning to check for any sign of infection.

Yesterday we had to go to Cardiff to see his new consultant. He was very worried about this as he thought that being sent for meant there was bad news. This was not the case, his consultant just wanted to meet him and go over the info that we had been given. She explained things in a bit more detail which was useful. Seems the lymphoma started in the Scapula and spread out from there. They have suggested radiotherephy after chemo to make sure that they get rid of all of it.

I can not begin to tell you how glad I will be when this is all over and done with!

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

The story so far!

Are you sitting comfortably? Then I will begin!
My name is Ally and I live with my Fiancé Richard on a farm in rural Wales with his parents and grandmother. We met in school in November 1995 and have been inseparable ever since.
We are quite a "normal" young (ish) family, we are both in our 30's and have 2 children aged 8 and almost 2.
In October of 2009 Richard was casually feeding the fish in our pond one rainy morning when he noticed the electric fence had come off its pole so he picked up a piece of wood and tried to lift it back on the pole but being wet the fence slipped and fell onto his left arm giving him a nasty shock.
Being a typical man he didn't mention it at the time until it got progressively worse. Not long after this happened I fell pregnant with baby number 3 which was very exciting!! Sadly we lost the baby just before Christmas day which became the focus of that time. We decided to try again straight away and also booked a holiday to Disneyland Paris as a surprise for our eldest daughter.

Richard was worried about driving all the way to Paris with his bad arm which by Christmas time had more or less frozen up and was constant agony. He went to see the Dr and was told it was just muscular and would heal which thankfully, just before the holiday it did!
A few days before we were about to set off I got a familiar feeling and did a pregnancy test, sure enough I was pregnant again, a month after the miscarriage.
We had a fantastic holiday, our first one abroad as a family. His arm was fine during the long drive and he even managed a few roller coasters!

When we returned from holiday we were eager to get on and finish the house that we are currently building. The pregnancy was going well and we would need the extra room for the new baby. Whilst lifting blocks to build the garage, Richard's shoulder froze up again and he was in a lot of pain. I nagged and nagged him to go back to the Dr's until he eventually gave in. This time he saw a different Dr who referred him straight away to an orthopaedic surgeon 70 miles away. The referral came through within a few weeks and we headed off on our journey to find out exactly what was wrong with his shoulder.
The specialist decided that an MRI scan was needed to assess the damage and the appointment came through for the scan at our local hospital in early August.
A few days after the scan we received another letter requesting a 2nd scan. We apprehensively went along to the scan wondering why he needed a 2nd one only to be told that there was not a sonographer present at the first MRI so it had not been done correctly. This was a relief!

After attending the 2nd scan we spent the afternoon at our local county show. When we arrived home in the evening there was a message on the answer phone from the hospital 70 miles away saying they wanted to see him in clinic the next morning. This was a bit of a surprise to say the least and Rich was reluctant to go as he had an important job to finish on deadline the next day so the plan was to ring the hospital in the morning and make another appointment.
7am the next day the phone rang and it was the hospital checking to see if he was coming to his appointment and when we explained that we wouldn't be able to attend the nurse stressed it was very urgent. After some negotiation we agreed to first thing Monday morning.

After an anxious weekend we headed back up the motorway to the hospital where we met up with his consultant again. After months of thinking we were dealing with a frozen shoulder, suddenly the word Cancer comes along! It was the very last thing we expected and I felt as though I had been hit by a ton of bricks.

Rich was then sent up to Birmingham for tests which consisted of a bone scan, CT scan, bloods and a bone biopsy under general anaesthetic. We had to stay up there for 4 nights, him in the hospital and me in a hotel. Was a bit scary being so close to giving birth, being hundreds of miles away from home, both of us being in strange places and Rich having so many tests.

The hospital were excellent and promised a diagnosis within a few days and that is exactly what we got. They were initially testing for bone cancer but the diagnosis came back as Non Hodgkins Lymphoma. We didnt really know much about this as it wasnt what we were expecting but even so it was still bad news.
I was stunned and could not get my head around it. How can my strong, handsome, mega healthy man suddenly have this THING that kills people?
I had a million and one questions to ask anyone who would listen where as Rich was so laid back and just wanted to get on with the treatment and get better and not really want to know all the ins and outs.

We were sent to our local hospital to see a haematologist who suggested a bone marrow test and a PET scan.

So today, 5 days past my estimated due date he had to travel 200 miles to Cardiff for his PET scan. The information leaflet for the scan says he is not to be accompanied by a pregnant lady so reluctantly I had to stay home alone and pray that baby stayed put until daddy came home. Thankfully it has!

So that's the story so far! Well done if you managed to take that all in, im struggling and im the one living it!

Tomorrow we are back at the local hospital to see the haematologist again. Who knows that that will bring!