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A health scare and time to think



On the 23rd of August my life took a dramatic turn.  I had had a small mole behind my left  knee, I had it checked out a couple of times over the years but it was assessed as harmless.  Years went by with my time taken up as caregiver to Ray and then as a widow and I filled my life with busyness, trivial in itself but filling an otherwise empty life.  I ignored the little spot as it grew bigger and suddenly I realised it had really changed and so I went to my GP who referred me to the local Skin Cancer and Skin Care Clinic.   One of the doctors there took the large spot off under local anesthetic and sent it away for analysis. Four days later I was called back to the Skin Cancer Clinic and told I had appointments in one of the  major Sydney hospitals to see a surgeon, one of the best in Australia in Melanoma surgery. So a couple of days later I was in there being checked out and the following day I was in hospital.


This time I did the right thing and called my daughter Shirley.  She came down and took over, taking me down to the hospital, coming back home to get what I needed when the operation was scheduled for the next day. With the previous operation the surgery took an hour and  I was sent home with dozens of stitches which I had to care for myself.  The second operation, this time to make a large margin around the original site and to do a skin graft took much longer and was followed by six days of bed rest, antibiotics and all kinds of care. I finally came home last Wednesday.  To say I was shaken by all of this is an understatement. I had been avoiding doctors and the medical merry-go-round having had so much of it in the years I looked after Ray and now I have a ticket to ride in my own name. I had always considered myself healthy and then this small part of me proved otherwise.


Dear caregivers, let me be a warning to you, do not neglect your own health while caring for a loved one, your life is important too.  Have all your health checks as they need to be done. Believe me the pain of not doing so is not worth it.  I will be three weeks not able to drive because of the site of the graft behind my left knee and then 6-8 weeks before I can resume normal activities.  That is a lot of things to be eliminated from my usually busy life and it has given me a lot of time to think about what I need to do, not just for now but into the future. I have to return to the hospital in four months time and have four monthly reviews for two years to eliminate any other occurrences and check the activities of nearby lymph nodes.  It will be a long time to clear me of future happenings and then of course like the general community I could still have other health problems.


I am glad to be home and back on my computer thanks to my daughter Shirley who has set me up well with space to put my feet up as instructed.  She has improvised a tray table and a laptop connection. So I will able to be in contact with friends via my computer,  landline and mobile so hope to return all the good wishes that have been sent to me. It is a blow that I am not allowed to drive for a while but there will be plenty of handicraft to keep me busy. And plenty of books to read too. Thanks to all those who contacted me via Facebook and sent me their prayers and best wishes. A dear friend from my Stroke Recovery group has taken to bringing me meals and others from the group have sent flowers and cards, rang me or dropped by.  I am so pleased to be supported by so many strong women who already have their hands full caring for another loved person in their lives.  They are a good example of the saying : "If you want something done ask a busy person" and I didn't even have to ask, they knew what was needed.


My boys have been supporting me by phone and text, they are both too far away to help but they have also been in contact with Shirley to support her too. Trevor of course wanted me to go straight to Broken Hill where he said he would take me to the local hospital to have my dressing changed etc but really at this stage even the couple of hours sitting on a plane would do me in.  I do have some help coming too as a domestic worker will come twice a week to do housework and a community nurse will come three times a week to dress the wounds, essential with a graft that has to be monitored.  I will give up wearing knee length shorts and find a suitable longer pant to cover where the graft was through the summer months.  Swimming will be okay as long as I cover up as soon as I return to the beach.  Dancing as an exercise has to be postponed until full healing takes place so I will hand over my Dancing Diva trophy at the next Women's Weekend in November.


As usual the lesson learned was that so many people are worse off than we are but still we do have to be vigilant about our own health.  Not fair to burden our kids more than we need to.  I have tried to maintain my independence but this episode was a reminder that I am ageing, over 70 now, and I need to be mindful of what is ahead of me.  My daughter said she will bring her two teenage children down in the next school holiday which is only three weeks away and they will help me with the sorting out and decluttering.  I still have books and toys left over from their own growing up years and they will have a better idea of how much of that I need to keep for Alice and Shirley and I will go through drawers and cupboards.  I have been given a reminder of my own mortality and i need to take heed of that and have some contingency plans in place.


Of course this is not the end of my life, just a reminder that there is an end and this may have been a lucky escape caught just in time or it may not.  I have my faith and my church and I have so many good friends, interesting acquaintances and well wishers to keep me going.  The 8th of September would have been Ray's 75th birthday and I got a bit sad and wistful then, thinking how different it would have been if he had been with me, alive and well.  But if he had been an invalid and depended on me still that would have been an entirely different scenario.  As it is I only have myself to take care of and intend from now on to do a better job of it.


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Sue I hope you are over this ordeal at least you're not healthy bodies damn point sound advice for caregivers it is too easy to forget about yourself while caring for others my thoughts prayers are with and where with you and sending you positive healing energy be strong be well


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Sue :


I am so glad you are home & recovering well & surrounded by so much friends & family's loving support.  all we your virtual friends can do is pray  for you, & thats what I am doing right now for your speedy recovery.




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So sorry to read of your ordeal, Sue.  My thoughts and prayers are with you!  Please do as you advise; take good care of yourself.   You've done so much for others, you rightfully deserve some help now!  Lots of virtual hugs for you, and also a virtual flower....  Rose Emoticon

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I am so glad to hear that you are home.  Thank you for sharing your life.  It is too easy to ignore ourselves.  We just get too invested in our caregiving.  I too have been trying to declutter and get things more manageable.

 Take care of yourself.



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I was just popping in to see how everyone was doing and noticed your blog.  So sorry to hear you have been through so much but I'm glad you have the support and are recovering.  I can so relate as I have had two skin cancers on my face.  One was basil cell which had to have part of my right nasal area removed and then plastic surgery.  I also had a melanoma on my chin. It was a small mole that I thought nothing of but the good dermatologist I go to saw the change.  You are right to say we caregivers need to take care of ourselves.  If I don't, I may end up in the nursing home before Larry!


Take care and prayers go out to you,


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Julie, I called into Tuesday's Caregiver Chat, so glad I did, Sally is still doing Caregiver Chat, I wish a few more people would think to go there and get the support they need as we all did. A support group can make all the difference, can't it? Glad you came back onto the Blogs, we need more people who read and care enough to comment.

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I had a scare on Monday, had an infection in the graft site. Shirley came down and took me to the local hospital. Spent the day in the waiting room as you do finally got one of the surgical team to look at it. Said I'd got a little cell loss.  Just another delay but as long as it heals that is all that matters to me.

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