The dog formerly known as Bun

IMG_2701“Bun Bun! Come!”

I attempt a whistle, and for the first time in weeks manage to make a fairly piercing sound (thanks again roids). You’d never know, however, since Bun continues to hoover up rabbit poo on the far side of the field and betrays no sign of having heard me whatsoever. I try again.

Oblivious.

I pull the bag of sausage slices from my coat, and shout:

“Sausage!”

Bun comes bouldering towards me, 300m at full sprint, a polar bear after a seal. She skids to a halt and sits, head and ears perked and tail straight back, so I can drop the sausage into her mouth.

Honey Bun came to me aged 3 1/2 as the victim of a family breakup, loved but largely untrained and with little in the way of socialisation with other dogs. She’s now 9, and is well-behaved, loving and generally gorgeous, funny, tolerant of other dogs, but with a sniff and food obsession and high intelligence commensurate with her labrador and standard poodle ancestry. She sometimes needs a firm hand, as in this case, where usually I would go to her and make her come to me, then run through a few commands just to remind her who’s boss (?). She is trained through constantly reinforcing wanted behaviours, and then tailing off the treats so that the dog is never quite sure whether she will get one but thinks it’s worth a punt.

I have mentioned our worries about her during the period since December where she was clearly upset by the changes in atmosphere and the moving of things from one house to another, and over which I now know I was unwell. The result of this is that she’s been fed more treats and generally overindulged.  Yes she’s spoiled (another memory is coming to stay here for a night and telling Mum I didn’t need clean bedding to which she replied: “But that’s Honey’s bedding”; Mum had been making up the bed in the spare room for her with her own duvet, cover and blanket, each time she stayed which was often then, when I was working shifts).

When we discuss dinner, Mum will say “Honey and I are having liver”, or “I’ll get a pheasant out of the freezer for Honey”.  That’s partly  because we love our dogs, and partly because my farmers’ daughter mother considers dogs who live in veggie homes to be nutritionally and emotionally deprived. Yet Bun is still expected to behave and knows her boundaries.

M and M arrive and Bun is in the garden. M calls her to say hello.

“Bun!”

She blanks M completely. I tell M about the sausage call.

“Sausage!” she says.

Bun screams into the kitchen, cornering like Guy Martin, and sits by the fridge.

So, as an unintended consequence of my illness, the dog formerly known as Bun now answers only to Sausage.

I imagine similar stories relating to kids.

Beds and blurring

I’d tried to rationalise the blurred vision, and was still unsure about what to do by the morning yesterday. An optometrist I know had contacted me to say she’s never heard of cataracts developing that rapidly, and to get my visual field checked by an optician as the tumour could be affecting that so I felt quite reassured.

I decided on the GP, partly from knowing that Derriford would be in full Monday morning chaos sorting mode, and partly because while I want them to know I’ve developed this new symptom, it felt more appropriate to get the other possibilities checked out locally. Also, the only thing that would stop it if it is Hunt-related, is removal of the tumour which they are doing their utmost to arrange in the fallout from £4.5billion of cuts to social care to the acute setting.

I was given a duty doctor appointment for 1130, where I saw another excellent doctor I know mostly in a professional capacity from his work for Devon Docs. He worked through my concerns starting with the breathlessness and checked my chest (clear as I thought) and general obs. My eyes looked good, and I was able to see at the peripheries.

We talked about the situation, and I explained that I’m half thinking these symptoms are in my head in more ways than one, as I continue to circle with the two top choices between a primary brain tumour and mets.

He ran over the very many side effects of dexamethasone, and mine are there. So the doc’s conclusion is that side-effects are top of the list, but that we’ll exclude a few other causes so he takes some bloods to check for various other problems including anaemia which is another cause of breathlessness.

I ask him about the blurring and  its specific cause. He’s not sure, but suspects that it has to do with changes to the pressure in the eyes, which are filled with jelly-like substances called the vitreous humour and the aqueous humour. Seeing the shifts in fluid in my body, it’s easy to translate into small changes within the eye that begin to distort the vision so that made total sense.

The bad news there of course is that I need the steroids. All medications have unwanted side-effects and risks. They are given on the basis that the benefits in a specific situation outweigh those negatives. In my case there’s no question in my mind that being a bit bleary-eyed is preferable to the problems I was having over the past few weeks and even months. So I am going to have to deal with the blurriness, potentially for a prolonged period. Already it varies, but I’ve only had a few hours of being unable to read completely. Otherwise it’s like the period an hour or so after you’ve applied viscous ointment to an eye and there’s a thin film over the lens. It’s only really noticeable if I try to watch tv which I haven’t been doing much of in any case, though I did desperately want to watch Raised by Wolves. I have Radio 4 podcasts, a cd book from my friend L, and my music. M has set up my laptop to read text (while other M shaved my legs, though I probably won’t notice the hair now).

I called Tony my nurse late afternoon and left a message, but it’s feeling pretty bleak in terms of bed prospects. While the neurosurgery department have been wonderful in so many ways, I do have this one criticism about information. I understand absolutely the situation they are in, the frustrations, and no doubt the many other people who are in the same boat, or who have had their less urgent surgeries cancelled due to events beyond the control of the department. Magnify the way I’m feeling by all those people, and it’s a whole lot of stress. Might it be possible to provide some kind of regular update for those of us strung up and swinging in the winds of this bed crisis? Perhaps a daily phone call, or a message board on line, or an email, even giving a simple message of we still don’t know? That would make a huge difference to me.

One other momentous event happened yesterday, which was an overwhelming day all round. More on that later. Now I’m off to give Sausage her breakfast.

 

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Sick

One of the more subtle symptoms of my brain tumour is a vague, intermittent nausea. It’s one of those feelings I’ve been able to ignore perhaps because it’s not that troubling, and I’m used to GI symptoms.

The nausea worsened with steroids which are pretty irritating to the gut and my GP Dr H prescribed domperidone to help alleviate it a couple of days after the diagnosis. That helped, and enabled me to eat more which in turn made me feel better, certainly later in the day once the steroid doses were done.

But in the past two or three days the nausea has worsened considerably, from a slight annoyance to something more; for most of the day I’ve grown an acid gremlin that sits in the pit of my stomach and threatens to shoot. It’s not reflux, and eating doesn’t help. This afternoon I thought I might actually vomit if I laid down.

The duty GP at my surgery is Dr E, a man I know and like very much, partly because I’ve seen him a few times in recent months with my various troubles during which he has been excellent; he also works for the out of hours GP service locally. On the occasions when I’ve called him regarding a patient – one of which was especially complex and and involved an extremely upsetting mental health crisis where as ever we had no access to specialist resources – he has been unfailing in his willingness and ability to sort the most intractable situations.

Dr E had called me within 20 minutes, at 4.45 on a Friday, which was the point where I realised the domperidone was no longer working and that I have another weekend to get through. We discussed the options. His solution is to hit it with the big guns, because as he says, the point is to alleviate the symptoms for this period until I undergo surgery. So, within an hour my brother Dave has collected Ondansetron from the pharmacy.

It’s the first truly effective, multi-purpose anti-emetic that paramedics here were authorised to administer, and I have used it in a number of situations to great effect. I’m to take it prophylactically – with the aim of preventing nausea rather than treating it – starting with 4mg twice a day, with the option to double either or both doses.

Another  big up for our NHS.