rmc28: Rachel standing in front of the entrance to the London Eye pier (Default)
Last August, I arbitrarily declared every day after 1st October 2015 "a win, a gift of medical science and care". What have I been doing with that gift in the last year?
  • I successfully completed chemotherapy!  I've had three follow-up tests, which continue to show me clear of leukaemia.
  • I returned to work, and have been working 4-4.5 days a week since April thanks to judicious use of accumulated annual leave. I am about to start working 5-day weeks routinely, and feel reasonably confident about it.
  • [livejournal.com profile] fanf and I did a short course of couples therapy with a Maggies Wallace counsellor, by way of preventative maintenance.
  • I completed a year of Open University study at nearly full-time load, and enrolled on another full-time year to complete my degree.
  • I have recovered a lot of the fitness lost through 5 months of chemotherapy: by no means all of it, but steadily improving week on week and month on month.  For the past few months I've made deliberate, targeted use of my fancy fitbit (ironically, bought less than a month before I began chemo) to measure and motivate myself.
  • I've recently got much better at getting enough sleep, also through use of my fitbit.
  • I've done the necessary admin to get our children into the school and childcare we wanted for them, and the extra scheduled activities each of them wanted.
  • I've just about kept our finances under control, and spotted a pattern of overspending in time for both of us to stop it being a disaster.
  • [livejournal.com profile] fanf and I have kept the children's routines going steadily, and the house just about under control.
  • I've built up a good set of reminders on Regularly to keep most of the plates spinning approximately at the right frequency.
  • I've fallen in love with two musicals, been to the theatre multiple times and taken my children to the ballet twice.

I've said before that my big revelation from serious illness was that the life I'd built was bloody good thanks and I wanted it back.  I think I'm doing a good job of getting there!  Two smaller revelations/reminders were the importance to me of music, and of learning.  In hospital there was a period where I got through each day with a specific playlist and as much Duolingo as my brain would take; even now I try to spend some time every day listening to music, and some time every day learning.


rmc28: Rachel standing in front of the entrance to the London Eye pier (Default)
  • Go away the weekend before the exam.
  • Have your train journey in both directions disrupted by cancellations and delays, so that instead of a smooth progression between sets of reserved seats at a table, both journeys are longer and punctuated with stressful searches for enough seats for your small group. 
  • Exhaust yourself talking with people at a party.  (Lovely people! Worth being tired for!)
  • Do approximately 25% of the revision you planned to do on the train.
  • Get woken multiple times the night before the exam by a small child, and then both of you oversleep.
  • Ruthlessly hand over the morning nursery run to the child's other parent and cycle off just in time to take it at a non-sweaty pace rather than a frantically-late one.

The cycle ride was pleasant though! The exam itself went well enough: I don't seem to find exams very stressful compared to twenty years ago, so it was just a matter of reading through the questions and deciding (where I had a choice) which ones to answer.  I would undoubtedly have done better if I had revised my management and economics units a bit harder, but I don't think I've embarrassed myself. 

I spent some time last week (when perhaps I should have been revising ...) working out my schedule for the next year, starting now.  I have one last assignment to do this week and this weekend I plan to make a start on the work for my October-starting courses.  My last exam is no more than a year away.  April & May will be a bit grim due to overlapping courses but June-September should be alright.  (Good, because we're going to Helsinki in the middle of it.)

rmc28: Rachel standing in front of the entrance to the London Eye pier (Default)
Things achieved today:
  • evicting half a dozen wasps from the living room
  • soothing child terrified (but unstung) by wasps
  • getting [livejournal.com profile] fanf to locate wasp nest
  • booking wasp extermination for tomorrow
  • taking child to gymnastics, with bonus social time for me
  • booking child's birthday party sufficiently in advance to get desired date (unlike last year)
  • 4.5 hours of OU study

Things not achieved today:
  • attending OU tutorial
  • eating any vegetables at all

Things to do in the next nine days:
  • complete and submit final assessment for intro-to-engineering module
  • revise for and take exam for management accounting module
  • take N for visit 1 of 2 to school & after-school club
  • visit my mum and stepdad before their epic trip around the world (we will next see each other in Helsinki next year)

Also, [livejournal.com profile] fanf wrote about his rather-too-exciting trip to the supermarket last weekend, with bonus beard photos.



rmc28: Rachel standing in front of the entrance to the London Eye pier (Default)
Today's appointment with my consultant went well: my blood counts are apparently "perfect" and the marrow samples show nothing under microscope. (They are still waiting for the specialist unit in London that does the DNA test to return results.) My next appointment with her will be in four months, a little upgrade from the three-monthly pattern we've followed since I finished treatment.

I cycled to hospital and then on to work, and I stopped at the M&S in the hospital to buy nice things to share with my colleagues, as tweeted:



I still get overheated when exercising and am finding it actively unpleasant when the temperature rises above 25°C (I used to like the heat once, when I was a lot less fat). I've taken to carrying wipes so I can literally mop my brow when I finish walking or cycling. But at least these are problems of being active and mobile!


rmc28: Rachel standing in front of the entrance to the London Eye pier (Default)
These probably all deserve their own post, but it's highly unlikely they're going to get them.
  1. I loved the new Ghostbusters, which we finally saw last night. It is made of joy and friendship, and I was highly amused by the villain's motivation and the response to his monologue of justification. Chris Hemsworth was clearly having the time of his life.
  2. I am enjoying being sociable and enabling the children's social life so much that I have slightly overscheduled myself and had to ask Tony to take over something for me this afternoon so I can remember the pacing myself part of recovery.
  3. In October I am going to get very busy indeed with studying (it eases up in June next year) and expect to have essentially no spare time outside work, study, and family commitments.  I am currently in the glorious summer break between being a hermit for cancer & recovery reasons and being a hermit for study reasons.  (Some of the children's social life comes with social life for me, and I am declaring date night with Tony and a monthly pub visit as also essential family commitments.  So not a complete hermit, but a lot more hermit-y than the last couple of months.)
  4. I lost patience with trying to work out how to upgrade my cheap spare phone from Jelly Bean for purposes of enabling C's desire to play Pokemon Go, so I have an even cheaper PAYG smartphone preinstalled with Marshmallow arriving today.  I don't think I need two spare phones, so if anyone is more keen on navigating the thrilling world of rooting phones than I am (or just could use a phone and are willing to use an older android version) then let me know and you can have the older one for cost of postage. (Old phone now claimed.)
  5. My dad came for a short visit and I managed to schedule him most of a day each with each of his grandchildren, and they all seem to have enjoyed the experience. 
  6. Adventures in smoothie consumption continue: I have discovered that I do actually prefer yogurt + milk with my veggies, rather to my surprise. I have built up a little collection of frozen veg and fruit in the freezer to make prep easier / avoid wasting fresh veg that goes off before I eat it.  The little blender does struggle if more than half the content is frozen, so I've taken to making up a bottle of ingredients in advance and leaving it in the fridge to defrost overnight.
  7. I've managed to get my fitbit goal up to 7,900 steps; we walked both ways to the cinema yesterday (with a stop at Mee and I for dinner on the way out) as well as me taking children around earlier, so I hit double that.  My legs are letting me know this morning that they are Not Impressed.
rmc28: Rachel standing in front of the entrance to the London Eye pier (Default)
I think my physical fitness is still gradually improving - my cycle and walking commutes are getting a little smoother and faster and less tiring each week, and it's perfectly reasonable to cycle to hospital and then to work.  What I'm finding though is that exercise, work, childcare, study and housework are all drawing from the same pool of energy and that seems to have stopped growing.  "Pushing through", like I did to get the essay in a few weeks back, is like going overdrawn and then having to rest even more to replenish the shortfall.  I'm still going splat at least once or twice a week.

I seriously considered requesting a formal short-term reduction in work hours, to the point of working out how much it would reduce my take-home pay.[1]  That turned out to be quite a lot.[2]  I'm pretty certain we could cut back enough to cover the gap, but that in itself becomes more work and stress, so it's not as helpful an idea as I first thought.

Instead, at least for now, Tony is going to take on rather more than half of the housework, including taking back the weekday evening meals which I've been doing since the start of the year. The pressure to get the children fed as soon as possible after 6pm seems to have eased up, so eating later (which has happened a few times recently when I've been too tired to cook) seems to be fine.  I think we'll still try to keep weekend menu planning / shopping list generation going though.

I am going to use the time Tony is giving me to rest more, and to study more consistently, which will in turn make me happier and less stressed.  I would rather reduce our income than give up studying; one of the things I learned from being ill was that learning matters a lot to me.


[1] It took me a while to find a calculator that could reproduce my current payslip with the various deductions I have going out.

[2] Woe woe, the diamond shoes of my high income are pinching, I know.
rmc28: Rachel standing in front of the entrance to the London Eye pier (Default)
The ongoing return to work
Two more 4-day weeks at work have gone quite well - this is the Tue+Thu afternoons off model.  I have got quite a lot done, some of it urgent and important, without getting especially stressed.  I'm not as fast or as good as I'm "used" to being [as in, pre-cancer], but I'm being good enough, I think.   I have another two 4-day weeks booked, next week with Friday off, and the following week with Monday off.  This will let me find out which pattern is easier. 

I expect I will book another run of 4-day weeks after that though.  I'm still spending large chunks of my weekend days in bed, and rather more of my weekday evenings falling asleep early or sleepily hitting refresh on things without getting either OU study or Duolingo done, or even much reading.  I am really fed up of slow-motion OU essay crises, but I'm in the middle of another one, basically because I was too tired to study for too much of the last fortnight month.  Also, I use the app Regularly to track various self-care and housework tasks (which all need doing at some point - we're not talking make-work here) and I'm in the red on an awful lot there. 

So I'm regarding that as great honking warning signs that I'm running too close to my limits.  I plan to keep on doing 4-day weeks until I get my study hours back where they should be, and my Regularly dashboard back to mostly yellow and green.  I have enough leave left, together with things already booked, to do this until September, so I may as well take advantage.


Physical fitness
I had my second session of beginner's T'ai Chi today, and I'm really enjoying it.  It feels very gentle but focused; I've learned I can do it in a comfortable tunic and leggings, which is what I wear a lot of the time at the moment, and it's gentle enough I don't need to change.

I'm managing the cycling to work via nursery, and walking home via school okay at the moment.  I still get out of breath but no longer as boiling hot; I think I'm gradually getting faster, and it's becoming more routine.  On Monday I cycled to the hospital and back from work for an appointment, and on Wednesday from nursery to Hills Road and back on top of everything else, and wasn't completely flattened as a result.  Even so, like work, I think I'm doing enough right now, and shouldn't look to add anything else until study/Regularly tasks are under control.


Medical
Monday's test was a bone marrow sample.  It was moderately painful and I needed longer to recover before I felt able to go back to work than I would have predicted.  On the good side, they told me they got a good sample without apparently having to work too hard for it, unlike certain of the previous samples I've had taken.  I see the consultant on 10th May (it got moved back, I think because my test was later than originally planned) and as far as I know I won't hear anything before then.  All the external evidence is reassuring though.


... and this has taken me long enough to write and I need to do another chapter of study before I fall asleep.
rmc28: Rachel standing in front of the entrance to the London Eye pier (Default)
Last week: 1 Bank Holiday, 1 intended half day that I took off because of migraine, 2 half days and then a full day to finish the week.
This week: 2 half days and 3 full days.  This is the first week I have actually worked 3 full days since returning to work, and it was more bearable than I'd feared.  I could track the cumulative toll by the effect on my after-work achievements:

Monday: made supper, did my Duolingo, did lots of studying
Tuesday: made supper, did my Duolingo, did some studying
Wednesday: made supper, did my Duolingo
Thursday: made supper, wrote a blog post in bed

Today was the second half day, and I spent the afternoon resting in bed, with a pleasant interlude catching up with my mother on our ~weekly phone call, before doing the evening nursery run.  I then made supper but have returned to bed shortly afterward. I may yet manage my Duolingo. Tomorrow is busy, with multiple things for the children, and a date with [livejournal.com profile] fanf in the evening, so I am deliberately taking it easy this evening and Sunday.

Next four weeks:
w/b 11/4 & 18/4: Tuesday and Thursday afternoons off
w/b 25/4: Friday off
w/b 2/5: Bank Holiday off

They're all four-day weeks but I expect the 4 consecutive days to be harder.  I'm going to review again on 4/5, or sooner if I get another migraine or other indication I'm overdoing things.


Other notes
I have my first follow-up bone marrow test on 18/4 and my review with my consultant on 26/4, so I will probably be extra-twitchy between the two.  Objectively I am continuing to improve steadily, there is no plateau or reversal of progress, and I've even stopped needing to change my clothes on arrival at work.  But I'm extra-aware at the moment of every time I get out of breath when cycling or walking or climbing stairs; I am 99.9% certain it's because I'm pushing just hard enough to keep improving my fitness, but the 0.1% is fixated on "breathlessness means cancer".   Charting my progress in these posts is one way of keeping that 0.1% in check.


rmc28: Rachel standing in front of the entrance to the London Eye pier (Default)
2 half days, 2 full days and thankfully a bank holiday.

It's the first time I've worked two full days in the same week.  Monday went fine, but I was seriously struggling Wednesday afternoon and went straight to bed and splat once I got home.  I was really glad yesterday was a half day for me, and that I now have a long weekend and then a very easy week, before I try again at the multiple full days the week after. 

I found myself saying "I literally should not run before I can walk" in conversation on Wednesday about exercise and how much I miss running and how I keep looking wistfully at local fitness classes.  I am still finding it funny, because it's true.   Though I do have an exercise class starting in a few weeks: a beginners tai chi class on Friday lunchtimes.  It's local-to-work and cheap, so if I'm not up to doing it when the time comes, I won't lose much money.

One of the things we covered on the Maggies Wallace course was reminding ourselves how far we've come: because I'm back at work I'm bumping up a fair bit against my memories and established habits from before I got ill.  But if I compare myself now to how I was at the worst parts of being ill (the first week of treatment; the week back in hospital in November) I'm doing really well

I've also gone through the handout on managing fatigue from a session I missed and it's essentially stuff I already know: (sleep, pacing myself, eating well, doing enough exercise to build up strength but not enough to exhaust myself, identifying things that replenish energy and things that deplete it, etc etc).

From week after next I want to see if I can manage working 4 day weeks (using annual leave)
- which also implies a cycle ride and a walk every day
- plus keeping up my studying
- plus keeping up my share of housework

... and I shouldn't look too far beyond that for now, even if I do have longer-term goals in mind.



rmc28: Rachel standing in front of the entrance to the London Eye pier (Default)
The plan is to fan this spark into a flame
Week 4: 1x full day, 4x half day
Week 5: 3x full day, 2x half day

In practice:
Week 4: 3x half day working at home, 2 days off sick
Week 5: 3x half day, 1x full day, 1x day off to look after child

Week 6 will be 2x full day, 2x half day, 1x bank holiday.  That completes my phased return and I will officially work full time from Monday 28th March.  In practice, due to bank holidays and school holidays (leave I would have taken anyway even if fully well) I will be working:

w/b 28/3: 1x bank holiday, 3x half day, 1x full day
w/b 04/4: 3x full day, 2x half day

and we'll review at the end of *that* if I need to use more half days for the next two weeks or if I feel able to actually work full time.  I finally checked my remaining leave and I have enough left to keep up a 4-day week for several months, which definitely takes the pressure off.


Argh

2016-03-16 09:59
rmc28: Rachel standing in front of the entrance to the London Eye pier (Default)
I was over the cough enough by Thursday to work from home the rest of the week, and to take Charles around some Science Week things on Saturday, and to meet up with [livejournal.com profile] beckyc for Bolshoi Ballet at the cinema on Sunday (all of which kind of deserve their own post) and I was gently cracking on going to work in the actual office this week and then ...
  • I managed to take the only set of bike keys with me to a thing at the hospital yesterday afternoon, and Tony needed them to collect Nico from nursery
  • so I tried catching a bus back to work after the thing, which in theory takes about 20 minutes, and in practice after an hour in horrible rush hour Cambridge traffic I disembarked and hoofed at speed to the nursery instead, and got there 10 minutes before closing, go me
  • and then I managed to coax a 3yo to walk nearly 2km home, go both of us
  • I have an essay crisis this week and really needed to work on it yesterday evening, and the whole bike-bus-nursery palaver didn't help.
  • and then Nico would not go to sleep 
  • and then started crying like in pain and saying his ear hurt, and we checked him over for signs of illness and injury but found none
  • so we gave him paracetamol anyway, because he was in pain
  • and he did go to sleep almost immediately after that, and though he woke up an hour later pain-crying some more, he went back to sleep fairly quickly
  • and this morning he was his usual full-of-beans happy self
  • so this morning I took him to nursery and mentioned the ear thing
  • and got sent home with him because the rule is no nursery for 24 hours after a dose of paracetamol
And argh, I appreciate the reasoning, and I want the nursery to be as minimal an infection source as is possible with large numbers of small people with no sense of personal space, and I would hate it if Nico got suddenly iller and made the other children ill, but it was a sudden and unexpected inconvenience.  Mostly I wish I'd known/remembered the rule before I cycled to nursery and back.

Working from home while in charge of a healthy and active Nico is pretty difficult at the best of times (looking after an ill Nico is actually easier because he tends to be quieter and less mobile) so I am not even trying.  I have asked for an emergency day's leave instead.

(and it might mean I get something done on my essay? who can say)

rmc28: Rachel standing in front of the entrance to the London Eye pier (Default)
I did not post a review after week 2, but I asked for and got agreement to do two more weeks at 60% time.  I had slightly more energy in week 2 than week 1, but not enough that I felt confident taking on a full extra day's work.

Weekend 1: did almost nothing

Week 2: got rather more done at work, yay. Meals and sleep went a bit better, and I started doing some studying towards the end of the week.

Weekend 2:
Saturday: attacked the studying backlog for the most immediate deadline, went to a PARTY (gasp! socialising!) in the evening.
Sunday: was ded, barely got out of bed

Week 3:
+ much more back in work routine
+ Thurs/Fri especially I was working more intensely than I have since coming back
+ coped much better with the full day on Wednesday (though this might have been because I was working from home, because of child illness, so much less physical effort involved in the day)
- complete splat Tuesday evening: I'd done a load more cycling than usual because of child-illness-logistics, and I came in, ate something, sat down "for 10 minutes" to rest, and woke up a couple of hours later.
- slightly less dramatic splat Friday evening, in that I spotted it coming, made food for me and children early, and deliberately went to sleep as soon as Tony got home.


We had planned to attend my stepmother's birthday party this weekend; on Thursday evening I made the decision to cancel the trip. It would have been 4ish hours there and 6 hours back on Sunday by public transport, or about 3 hours each way driving - but I'm the only driver in the house.  I just didn't think I could do all that, and attend the party, and still be fit to work on Monday.  So I am being sensible and spending the weekend at home (and tackling some more of the study backlog) and trying not to be too resentful.


rmc28: Rachel standing in front of the entrance to the London Eye pier (Default)
Good things:
+ went to work every day
+ did all my child drop-offs and pickups, and made supper as planned
+ did some work! answered questions! pointed out a useful tool to a colleague!
+ good meeting with Occupational Health nurse, who was happy with my plan and the flexibilities built into it

Things to improve:
- arrived late every day
- slept through my alarm Thursday morning, after the full day on Wednesday, and arrived really late
- was late with supper Thursday and Friday evenings
- was really tired Friday evening and am still tired today


I think I'm hitting a kind of uncanny valley effect the closer I get to normality, the more I notice the difference between how I am and how I was / how I feel I should be.  Back in January when a bicycle ride to nursery left me tired for the next day and a half, I didn't care about being late to work, or worry about arriving sweaty.

I still think I'm right to focus on building up the physical activity faster than the mental activity, but I'm feeling it today ...

rmc28: Rachel standing in front of the entrance to the London Eye pier (Default)
I just registered on, and paid for, the four remaining modules to complete my business degree by September 2017.

I have a plan and it is a feasible plan and it has contingencies in it if I can't hit that deadline, so here we go.

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rmc28: Rachel standing in front of the entrance to the London Eye pier (Default)
Rachel Coleman

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