Tuesday, April 15, 2008

A satisfying letter

I remember St George's asking me once whether I wanted copies of the letters they send to my GP every now and then. I said yes, thinking they might be interesting, and it proved to be a good decision. Here's the last one I had, which I've been meaning to put up because it's quite a satisfying one...

How nice!

(Real-life update: one term and an essay over the summer remaining of my Journalism MA... Looking for jobs)

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

In case anyone's still out there...

You might be interested to hear that I'm hopefully going to be finishing my Maintenance treatment very soon indeed. I'm seeing my consultant on 7th February, and I think she'll declare that the end, or let me run on until the end of February. The end of Maintenance, of course, means the end of chemo, and the end of treatment!


They'll have to keep checking up on me fairly regularly (with bone marrow biopsies BOOOOO) but finishing treatment is great! Even though it probably won't make much difference to me day to day - psychologically it's a big thing.

PS This is what I look like these days; photo taken at the White Knights Ball on 5th January (a grand success):

Monday, September 10, 2007

Harriet's Ball for Leukaemia Research!

PS I'm very well! 2 more weeks of work at Training For Life, then I start my Masters at Goldsmiths on 1st October. I have a bone marrow biopsy on Wednesday (booooooo) but otherwise all is fine medically! Still on chemo tablets, and one more lot of intravenous and intrathecal, but still hoping to finish Maintenance in February. I'll believe it when it happens, though. Anyway, come to this Ball and invite everyone you know who might be able to come!

Monday, July 09, 2007

Great cause; great party

Well, my birthday celebrations are all over, and it's time to wonder where the next party is...

And I'll tell you! It's for a GREAT cause, and it will be a GREAT night. This is what it is:

The Three Peaks Party
Party the night away in Infernos and raise money for the NfA at the same time...

Start Time: Friday, July 20, 2007 at 8:30pm
End Time: Saturday, July 21, 2007 at 2:00am
Location: The Flame Bar, Infernos
Street: 146 Clapham High Street

A night in Infernos that helps raise money for charity - what more could you want?! We've booked out the Flame Bar area of Infernos to celebrate our return from the peaks so please come and help us dance the night away...
Robyn needs to provide Infernos with a guest list (we only get money for people who are on the list and get ticked off on arrival) so please let her know the names of everyone you're bringing asap.(p.s. It is over twenty-ones and they have said they will enforce that)

This is the cause:

Robyn, Jenn, Charlotte, Charlotte, Emily, Jules, Jo, Ali, Becky, Sophie, Jenn, Nick, Nick, Mike, Dan, John, Eric and Alex are doing the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge to raise money for the Neurofibromatosis Association. Please sponsor us for huffing and puffing our way round a twenty six mile route that involves climbing three massive hills! xxxx

Come, come! It'll be fun, fun! But TELL ME ASAP so I can tell Robyn who's coming (particularly as Inferno's need to know numbers and names). Or tell Robyn, of course, if you are in contact with her.

Monday, July 02, 2007

25, employed, housed and healthy

Happy birthday to me! This birthday is a little different from last year's (scroll down), not just because I'm turning 25 instead of 24.

The job's still great - and they got me cake! Not as many balloons as last year, admittedly, but I have various celebrations planned this year. It's wonderful to be celebrating my birthday like a normal person (not that I didn't appreciate enormously last year's effort).

Mariacristina even took me out to lunch at the 28th-floor restaurant at the Park Lane Hilton, which was fantastic. Gorgeous food, wonderful location, beautiful company...

Other brilliant recent news is that my bone marrow biopsy (which was the first I'd had for ages) showed no sign of residual disease, so I officially don't have any trace of leukaemia in me at the moment. It's quite possibly that's been the case for a while, and even if I did, it wouldn't be terrible, but it's still of course lovely to know the bone marrow's clear.

Roll on the next 25 years!

Monday, June 11, 2007

Back to life?

Life is remarkably 'normal' at the moment. That's probably why I haven't posted in over a month. But if you're still reading, here's a quick update, and I'll try to expand as soon as I get a moment.

  • I've moved to Balham and am living with a couple of friends from uni, and a couple of others. A lovely big house and it's a decent price, which is always a bonus.
  • I'm off to Goldsmiths in September for my Journalism MA (but you knew that already).
  • I'm working as Temporary Fundraising Manager for a charity called Training For Life. The money's decent, the people are lovely, the charity's work is very commendable, my job is interesting and satisfyingly challenging, and the office is not far from Bank, which is on the Northern Line (like Balham).
  • I am now Chairman of the OMV White Knights Ball 2008!
  • I published the Malteser and sent it out - I've had some lovely feedback. But perhaps I already told you about that.
  • I had a bone marrow biopsy (again) the other day, because the sample from the previous one was too dilute. It wasn't very nice, of course, but Girish did a fantastic job to keep the pain minimal. I didn't have sedation, either! I did get a letter from the doctor so I could skip the queues at the airport, though.
  • I went to Amsterdam for the weekend, to start planning the Ball. It was gorgeous, and just so lovely to be on holiday for the first time in ages. Hurrah!
All is well, therefore. I shall update again soon. Unless I'm writing my book, of course ;-)

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Sedation and bone marrow biopsies

Yesterday I had a bone marrow biopsy - my first for quite a while. It probably shouldn't have been so long since the last one, but I'm not the sort of person to ask for a bone marrow, as I find them horrible. Of the first four, I had 2 under sedation, and 2 not, so when I had the choice of sedation this time I was well informed as to which would be better. Considering the 2 without sedation were very painful, and the two with were fine, it was an easy decision!

What I had forgotten, though, was that it leaves me with a sore pelvis for a couple of days, but that's small beer when compared with the horrible sucky feeling encountered when not under sedation. Pain or no pain? No pain! No pain! Foolishly, I almost agreed to have it without sedation this time, in order to get seen more quickly (it's a bit more complicated with sedation, as a senior nurse needs to be there), but fortunately I held out and the actual biopsy passed without incident. I think I fell asleep, but I can't remember. I definitely had a snooze afterwards.

I'm now sat at home, putting copies of the Malteser in brown envelopes and sticking address labels on the front! It's not especially interesting work, but terribly exciting to be doing it, because I'm very pleased with how the magazine has turned out... I might take some photos of it and post them, because I like it so much. Hurrah!

Sunday, April 29, 2007

The most exciting news

I've been slowly getting through some of the more important things that I've done / been to over the past month or so, and have finally reached what might be the most exciting news...

I may have mentioned on this blog that I was going for an interview, but I was a bit coy about what it was, mainly because I didn't want to advertise what a lovely thing it would be because if I then didn't get it it would be very sad.

You'll probably have gathered by now that whatever it was, I got it, because I'm about to tell you what it was! A few people said beforehand that they were certain I'd get it, or have since told me they knew I would, but bear in mind that after a year and a half out through serious illness, my confidence wasn't as high as it might have been. Also, a year and a half out probably means a year and a half less experience studying/working than other candidates...

Having decided that my time at Literary Review was interesting, and that journalism was something that I fancied doing, I realised that I ought to have done a bit more of it, be that at uni or as work experience during holidays, for example. It's possible that, having been ill, I could have returned to Literary Review, but for various reasons I decided against that.
  1. It is a very small magazine, and naturally when I got ill somebody else took my place. As it happens (and it was pure coincidence), he's a good friend, but that's irrelevant. What is relevant, though, is that going back would have been a bit more complicated in terms of where I might fit in...
  2. Lovely and wonderful as the job and magazine was, literary journalism simply does not pay well enough. That's why most people who do it do it as a hobby, having another source of income.
  3. Having been ill, I felt that a new start would be in order. If I had just settled back into my 'old' life, it would almost have felt as though nothing had really happened. New me, new job. Or something.
So where was I? Journalism, right. Not having a huge amount of experience (though 4 months at Literary Review was excellent, particularly for the sub-editing side of things), and being a bit rusty after a year and a half not working (though this blog has hopefully kept up my writing skills), I decided early this year that a journalism course might be a good option to get me back on track. So I looked around, and discovered that a lot of deadlines were approaching very fast indeed.

Rather than rush out several half-hearted applications, I made the eminently sensible decision to put all my eggs in one basket. But which basket? After some research, I decided that the MA at Goldsmiths would be the most suitable course: it's in London (New Cross, in the south-east); it's Journalism rather than Magazine Journalism or Newspaper Journalism or Broadcast Journalism or Web Journalism (and at this stage I want to keep my options open... and believe that these days there is such crossover between the different media that having cross-media skills is very useful); the course has a good mix of the theoretical and practical; it was a bit cheaper than, say, City; it seems to be very successful in terms of student awards and people finding jobs after completing the course; etc.

So I applied, in spite of the 15:1 applicants:places ratio, and to my delight was invited to interview. This was the interview in question (towards the end of March), and I was glad to feel at interview (there was a tour and Q&A session too) that I had made a good choice. The interview was tricky: I found myself having to back up a couple of throwaway lines I made; but it went on for twice as long as expected, because we were having a good debate about state school pupils getting full scholarships to go to independent schools...

Anyway, I got it! I was even in the first batch (if people turn down the offer, they send another batch), which I was absolutely delighted with. I didn't really have any reason to feel confident - I may have an Oxford degree, but my journalistic skills are relatively untested. Getting onto the course meant that someone believes I can be a good journalist, which was something I just didn't know.

Best of all, perhaps, it was the first real thing I had managed to achieve since being ill. After so long of not knowing what the future might hold, and not being able to make any plans, it's wonderful to have something definite lined up. The course starts in September, and takes a year. There are 14 students on the MA (hurrah - a student again! I'll even get a student oystercard), and all in all I'm dead excited.

One of the things the interviewer did say, though, was that I could do with a bit of newspaper experience before doing the course... Fortunately, I'd already organised a week's work experience at the Chichester Observer, which though not a huge thing, is better than nothing. I did it last week, and it was interesting to see how a local newspaper works. I did some rewriting of press releases and sports reports, and wrote a couple of pieces (one based on a couple of phone interviews, and one on research), but it didn't leave me particularly desperate to work for a local paper... What was nice, though, was that they were very impressed by what I did, and wanted me to apply for the trainee reporter position they were interviewing for that week. I declined, but was flattered that they thought I should go for it, particularly since I hadn't been putting in any special effort to get noticed!

Anyway, in just over a week's time, I'm moving to London. I'll be up from Monday 7th, but am not moving into my room in Balham (did I mention that? I've got a room lined up in Balham with a couple of uni friends and a couple of others) until Friday 11th. It's very exciting to be moving back up to London, and is another important step in me getting my life back to something like 'normal', whatever that may mean. I've probably got a job lined up (basic admin etc at a financial PR company) that should pay for my living costs, but I'm yet to finalise details and confirm that. It's not going to be the most challenging job in the world, by any means, but it's only for a few months and there aren't many places looking for someone for such a short time. Also, it'll be interesting to see how a PR company works, they seem very nice, and having been ill it might be quite nice for my first job back not to be too much of a strain!

So, everything's going pretty well at the moment! Famous last words, perhaps... but it's exciting nevertheless. Oh wait, I've got a bone marrow biopsy on Wednesday. Bugger.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

My fazher!

Following on remarkably coherently from my last post, I thought I'd encourage you to help my father raise money for the new Cancer Day Unit at St Richard's Hospital... Or, as he put it:
Excuse me emailing you with a begging bowl, but I am raising money for St Richard's Hospital Charitable Trust in recognition of the support they have given my family, and would really welcome your support.

Please take a moment to visit my online fundraising page and make a donation. It's really easy - you can donate by credit or debit card at the following address:

He's walking somewhere nice, and it sounds very pleasant, but it's all for a good cause, so do drop some pennies in if you can.

I don't want this blog to be filled with plea after plea for charitable donations, but both this and Jess's London marathon for the Anthony Nolan Trust (you can still donate at http://www.justgiving.com/jessicaotte if you're interested) are causes pretty close to my heart (well, close to my entire blood system, really), so I wanted to mention them.

"What was that address again?" I hear you cry. Well:

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Same same, but different

I had harboured a crazy hope that I might get through the whole of the Maintenance therapy without having to spend any more time as an inpatient, and was doing pretty well on that count, my body managing to deal with any little sniffles I've had since December. However, just before Easter I developed sniffles that were a bit more than 'little', combined with a headache and a strong feeling of lethargy, and I knew my neutrophils were down at about 0.2. There was nothing for it, I decided, but to pop into St Richard's in Chichester to get myself checked out. I rang St George's and they agreed, so my father drove me in...

I still had some vague hopes that they'd just give me some nice drugs and send me home, but I had no such luck. In I went, and spent the next six days as an inpatient - moving between four different wards in total during my stay. I suppose I've managed to avoid being an inpatient in St George's during my Maintenance therapy so far, but that's not quite such an impressive record.

I should explain why I was on four different wards during my stay. It was Good Friday when I went in, so the usual day staff weren't working. I can't remember where it was I went to first, but it was like a lightweight A&E. They then sent me to an Acute Admissions Ward (Petworth Ward), not because my problem was Acute (though my leukaemia was, if you remember), but because it was the best place for me that had a spare bed. The next morning the Haematology lot were ready for me, so I moved to their ward, but as Ford Ward (their home) was being redecorated, they had moved to another ward... After a few days, however, they declared that Ford Ward was ready, so I moved again. Having said that, the rooms were all much of a muchness, though my final room was the only one with en suite bathroom.

There were some interesting differences between St Richard's and St George's. St Richard's were much less strict about confining me to my room when I was neutropaenic, and often left the door open. I could even open the windows! They didn't come and wake me up at 2 o'clock in the morning to do my observations... It did all seem a bit calmer, but that wasn't necessarily a good thing: I missed the more buzzing atmosphere of St George's. Most of all I missed the nurses, though the staff at St Richard's were very friendly.

As for the treatment, they sent me for a chest x-ray, took blood cultures and set me off on a course of antibiotics. As I don't have a line any more, that meant cannulas, which are never much fun, though I didn't have any problems with them this time (I had two, because they only last for a few days before they start getting sore). I also had to have more needles stuck into me when they wanted blood, which wasn't very pleasant, particularly when we discovered that one vein still hasn't really fully recovered from the PICC lines (which I had ages ago). When I went in, I was feeling rubbish but my temperature was actually OK; after a couple of days the temperature went up but I was feeling fine. I'm not sure that makes much scientific sense. But the antibiotics did their job, though my neutrophils were taking a long time to grow. Eventually they sent me home with several doses of G-CSF (growth factor) for me to self-inject into my belly. That did the job, helping me get my neuts up to 12 (wow! Normal is 1.8-8), and by then I was feeling absolutely fine.

Unfortunately, it did mean I missed two great events I had been looking forward to. Fortunately I'm pretty used to plans going awry these days, so it wasn't as disappointing as it might have been. The first was the Easter Retreat at Downside, which was apparently lovely as always, and the second was my trip to Italy, which would have been my first foreign trip since before I got ill. I had planned to spend a few days with Freddie and a few days with Mariacristina, but my low counts meant that I didn't want to risk flying.

Now the Maintenance therapy is running again: I'm back on the chemo tablets, though at 50% dosage. Having got away with not having a bone marrow biopsy for ages (that's the one that REALLY REALLY hurts), I now have one planned for Wednesday: my consultant sadly realised that I should really be having them every three months.

Oh well.