29 September 2023

Fine line

Living alone, as I do, and now over 13 and a half years as a widow, I have increasingly tried to fill up my time, so that I am not always on my own with lonely thoughts or watching too much television. But there is a fine line between being unoccupied and having no time to fit things in. I was much reminded of this today when an old friend I was supposed to meet for coffee this morning, cried off at the last minute as she had gone down with a dreadful cold that had rendered her bedbound. She asked when we could arrange another meeting. She can only do certain days and looking at my diary, the next available date is in a month's time. 

I volunteer at a foodbank once a week, then at the foodbank charity shop once a week, as well as the local park information centre. I go to two choirs and try to get to the gym at least twice a week. That leaves very little time to fit other stuff like housework, shopping, gardening, medical/dental appointments and meetings with friends. Not to mention fitting in my annual flu and covid injections. I suppose I should be thankful I am fit enough to have a busy life, but it can be quite stressful sometimes, when I can't fit things in. I wish I could decide what to drop, but I enjoy all of those things equally. Well, maybe not the covid and flu injections!! 

Additionally, at the moment, Kay is busy trying to find THE wedding dress for her wedding next summer, so I am also busy visiting bridal shops with her. We've been to a few over the last month, but so far nothing has jumped out at her as being THE ONE. We've got another visit at the weekend. As I am going to be the one to give her away, I am also trying to find time to write the first draft of the "Father of the Bride" speech.  Yet another thing to fit in.

19 September 2023

Medical matters

The last few months have been spent sorting out a medical problem I have. Following an operation I had back in 2016 to have a stomach tumour removed, I now have a funny-shaped stomach which can cause me problems from time to time.

The diagram above shows the oesophagus tube at the top coming from the throat into the stomach. The tube at the bottom is the beginning of the intestines (duodenum) leading from the stomach. The little lines at top and bottom of the stomach are the valves or sphincters that keep the food inside the stomach for digestion. The red dot marks the spot where the tumour was growing into the stomach wall and the black line round that red dot is where they cut to remove the tumour. Instead of being bag-shaped my stomach is more like a crescent. I have titanium staples to close off the stomach wall where the tumour was excised.  I have as a result what they call a sliding hiatus hernia, where the top pointy bit of my stomach pokes through my diaphragm and gets stuck there. This can occasionally cause a bit of discomfort, but is bearable. 

My biggest problem is that I suffer from acid reflux, where the stomach acid rises up into the throat and can burn it. I have to watch how late I eat (usually not after 7pm) as I need the food to digest before I lay down to sleep. Also I have to avoid spicy or fried food. It is quite annoying that most restaurants these days seem to add chilli or curry to just about everything, so that it can be a nightmare what to choose when eating out. Alternatives are often deep fried too or doused in onions, which are also to be avoided, so I wish there were more options in restaurants for those requiring a blander diet. I have been on permanent medication (omeprazole) since the operation to reduce acid production, but in latter years  I often wake in the middle of the night choking on acid, as it rises up in my sleep. It is like vomiting while asleep. Usually in my half-sleepiness, I can grab a glass of water to neutralise the acid, but a few months ago, that did not seem to help and my throat and oesophagus were badly burnt and ulcerated. This resulted in a long series of tests to see if the tumour had returned but thankfully the good news was.... it hadn't. 

However the gastroscopy revealed the presence of the hiatus hernia, some polyps caused by long-term use of omeprazole and thirdly that, despite fasting 6 hours prior to the gastroscopy I still had food in my stomach. The consultant changed my medication from omeprazole to an orodispersible lansoprazole and decided to order a second gastroscopy for last Friday. The purpose of that was to stretch the pyloric sphincter - the valve  at the exit of the stomach that closes off the stomach from the duodenum. The consultant explained that when they had removed the tumour, they had cut through nerves in the stomach wall that tell that sphincter to open and release food. That was now a little compromised, which meant that food stays in my stomach longer than it should, as it takes too long to get through that sphincter. By stretching the sphincter, it would encourage it to open better. 

I was told to stop eating the night before the second gastroscopy, so my last meal was at 8pm on Thursday. I also had to refrain from drinking anything - even water - on the day of my procedure. Because I had opted for sedation during the procedure I had to have someone accompany me home afterwards in case I walked in front of a bus and was also supposed to have someone with me for 24 hours. Kay was working nightshifts at the hospital last week and weekend, so couldn't accompany me or sleep over. I got a choir friend to accompany me and a neighbour to be on high alert by phone if I needed her during the night.

My appointment was at 2pm on Friday.  I was less worried about not having eaten for 18 hours, but the journey by train and then bus into central London on a very hot sunny Friday was murder, as I was desperate to drink or even sip something. After I had been given a hefty whack of sedation, the gastroscopy was done, the pyloric sphincter was duly stretched by the consultant and I was given a written report to take home afterwards. Can you believe it, my stomach STILL had food in it, despite fasting for 18 hours! So hopefully that stretching procedure will help. I suppose having food sit around in my stomach that long means there is acid working on it too which makes me more prone to acid reflux especially when lying down in the night. I have had a gentle few days relaxing and on a bland diet, until the stomach recovers. 

Fingers crossed this will do the job. I see the consultant again in January for a catch-up.

05 September 2023

Well worth it

There have been many times over the last few years, when I have considered stopping my blog.  I started it 15 years ago in 2008, when I was going through a tough time, coping with a husband who was intent on killing himself with alcohol. I had stupidly believed keeping it quiet from everyone was the only way to deal with it and certainly the shame and embarrassment I felt about even telling my nearest and dearest, let alone a wider circle of family and friends, was not worth it. I had even made my daughter keep it from her friends at school as I just did not want anyone knowing. How wrong could I be?

Of course that belief could not be sustained and, as my crazy world got crazier and more like a nightmare, and, as my daughter's school work began to suffer, because of the chaos at home, something had to give and my blog was born. It was a mental release for me to type down my thoughts and frustrations and, then it began to morph into a diary and then later a guide for others going through similar alcohol-related problems. The comments I used to get helped me believe others were there for me, even if I didn't know them at all. At times, I'd get up to 70 comments per post and that buoyed me up. Attending Al-Anon (for families living with alcoholism) also made me aware that I was not the only one going through living with an alcoholic and somehow made me open up more and more first to those close to me and then eventually to others who might read the blog.

Nowadays, I often go back to those early posts to relive that nightmare and see how far I've come since,  in being brave enough to cope with a life without my husband. Having no siblings or even cousins, means I am alone in this world now, apart from my daughter Kay, and I have to forge a life alone, finding my own entertainment and making new friends and distractions. It had disheartened me somewhat to see the comments dwindle over the years, as people lost interest in the drama that was my life thirteen years or more ago. Rereading those posts has been an insight into the world I once lived in, but it just seemed it might be time to stop the blog, as the diary was getting less and less interesting, to me and probably to others as well.

Or so I thought. Until I read a comment on my blog yesterday. I had been well aware that there night be those who just read and never comment, but I had living proof of that yesterday, when someone commented out of the blue that I was the reason they had stopped drinking and that they often revisit the early years of my blog to stay sober. It made me feel incredibly humbled that I had actually helped someone. For all I know, I may have helped more than one, but if it has helped just one person re-assess their drinking and the effect on their family, it has indeed been worth it. And so, for that reason alone, I shall continue for the time being to put out the occasional post and keep the blog alive in the hopes it reaches out to someone somewhere in need of support.

For anyone who has alcohol problems or lives with an alcoholic and would like help, please refer to the USEFUL CONTACTS tab at the top of the blog page. For those who want to know what it is like to live with an alcoholic and watch them die, then read the posts between 2008 (when the blog started) and especially up to 2010 (when my husband died). You'll find these in the ARCHIVE tab.