Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Ear, nose and throat

As most of you know, I lost my voice over 2 months ago. I kept telling myself that it would come back eventually and indeed, some days it seemed stronger than others. However, more often than not, it remained not more than a husky whisper. This has had a direct impact on my ironic that just when I have access to clients, I don’t have a voice. I managed to do some coaching sessions but I found it rather difficult to inspire confidence in my clients when each time they saw me, I still had no voice and didn’t seem to have a medical reason for it (I haven’t shared my illness with my clients, for obvious reasons).

Today, I saw an ENT specialist at UCL. I was seen promptly at 14h40 (as per my appointment time) by a very friendly and extremely good doctor. Despite my apprehension of having a tube inserted through my nose into my throat, he put me at ease and I decided to trust him. After a quick nasal spray, he inserted his camera and all I felt was a tickling sensation and a slight pushing feeling. The trainee nurse got to have a look up my nose/down my throat too (why would you want to do that?). The doctor sang a note and asked me to imitate him. He was surprised to discover that it was my right vocal chord that didn’t move at all with my left vocal chord wobbling a bit and trying to move towards the one on the right. Both the ENT specialist and the oncologist had thought I had left laryngeal nerve palsy. The plan is now to operate as soon as possible, with an overnight stay in hospital. We agreed to try to get this done mid-July when I return from France, providing I can get a place at UCL. If the doctor I saw today cannot fit me into his own surgery schedule, I will have one of his colleagues perform the operation. He hopes to restore most if not all of my voice strength. This is good news as I really did not wish to remain voiceless for the remainder of my life!

This coming weekend I will realise a long-term wish: I am visiting Poland and will visit Auswitch. I have always been interested in German and European history and this will give me a closer look at that horrific example of human behaviour. My tour guide and translator will be Bart, one of my wonderful couchsurfers. I will stay with him at his parents’ home, my only concern being made to eat a lot. When I visited Vojtech’s family in Prague, the table was constantly covered in food and being a small eater but not wanting to cause offense, I have asked Bart to forewarn his mother that I won’t be eating large amounts! All in all, it is going to be a great weekend.

Sitting on the lawn in Berkley Square having lunch today with Adam, I mentioned to him that I need to set myself some objectives as I feel that I am becoming a little complacent, ill or not! I find that the day flies by and at the end of it, I haven’t achieved much. While I acknowledge my need to rest, I equally acknowledge my need to remain focussed and to set and to achieve objectives. That is the core of coaching, helping clients to set goals and to achieve them effectively. I have many things that I would like to achieve and do not need to sit on my laurels doing nothing about it. Getting my voice back will be a huge source of motivation. Until then, I am looking forward to a week in the south of France. I still have further travel plans and am particularly keen to spend some time in Paris as I have not seen my Parisian friends in absolute ages, years in fact!

Until the next blog, if you have a voice, sing, sing well, sing badly, who cares, just sing out loud, in the shower, in the car, in your lover’s ear when he or she is trying to sleep, just sing, tune in to Magic FM and croon away to love songs, sing with the birds first thing in the the coke advert used to go: “I’d like to teach the world to sing, in perfect harmony...”

Much love

Husky Goose

Sunday, 20 June 2010


Smile, though your heart is breaking
Smile, even though it's aching

When there are clouds in the sky, you'll get by
If you smile through your pain and sorrow,
Smile and maybe tomorrow,
You'll find the sun come shining through for you

Light up your face with gladness
Hide every trace of sadness
Although tears maybe ever so near
That's the time you must keep on trying
Smile, what's the use in crying
You'll find that life is still worthwhile
If you'll just smile..

That's the time you must keep on trying
Smile what's the use in crying
You'll find that life is still worthwhile
If you'll just smile.

I was driving to Brighton today to collect Rob and Alex after their London to Brighton bike ride in which they participated to raise money for cancer awareness (these guys are just amazing). The radio was playing father’s day requests and someone requested the song Smile. I hadn’t heard this song for ages and I croaked along in my non-existent voice and was reminded of the need to smile. Sometimes, it’s hard to find something to smile about, or so we tell ourselves, but if we’re really honest, there are so many good memories within us that we have no excuse for not finding a reason to smile. In Africa, many black children live in abject poverty, have lost parents to HIV/AIDS, have been physically, sexually and mentally abused and yet what happens every time there is a documentary on these kids? We see smiles, smiles and more smiles. If you have never seen a fat black baby smile then go out and find one today. I know that sounds racist and generalised, but while I know that there are children of all nationalities and shades of colour who do smile, I am always struck by the African child’s ability to smile through his or her tears. Children don’t need Madonna to adopt them and surround them by multimillion dollar gadgets and media, they just need a few plastic bags to make a soccer ball, and someone to give them at least one meal a day in order to get them to smile. Why do we adults find it so difficult to smile more? Maybe it is because we know better, we know what a cruel world this world can be, but that’s all the more reason for us to show some teeth and smile. It always makes us and everyone else feel better. I love drawing smiley faces, known as “smileys” on every note I leave for of my friends once wrote: “As Angus would say, :)”...Sometimes my smileys really get that goofy look and other times they’re less successful; but, I love drawing smileys and putting them on everything. Two of my fellow housemates have started doing them too and it is not uncommon to find a smiley post-it hidden in my pocket or hidden in my laptop when I open it. It never fails to make me smile when I receive one, particularly when they are there as a surprise.

I sat through the last of my chemotherapy treatments last week Wednesday. My chemositter was Brent, a friend from Cape Town. Like all my previous chemositters, he got to see me at my worst, hating every minute of it and just wanting to get out of there. Brent has re-named me, giving me my new Xhosa name of “Patience”! Clearly, I am lacking in that department and demonstrated it by wanting to connect my own bag of flush and de-cannulise myself as I couldn’t wait any longer for the nurse. I just wanted to get out of that hospital as quickly as possible but also had a bit of a wait for my medication to come down from pharmacy. I will go back sometime this week to say a proper thank you to the nurses who looked after me as they have been truly amazing. The side effects have been at their worst but at least it was the last treatment and it can only get better, if even only for a short while. The plan is to see the ENT specialist on the 30th about my voice (been almost two months now without a voice) and then see the oncologist on the 2nd of August for a review. Insh’Allah, I will not have to have any further treatment for at least 6 months although I think I am being rather optimistic there. I have a nebuliser now and have already had requests for it to be used as a hubbly-bubbly! The nebuliser has been helping a bit with the shortness of breath so that’s another positive thing to add. All in all, I am looking forward to no more chemo in my system. I am a completely different person when not under the side effects of chemo.

My travel plans are all coming together. I am off to Nice on the 6th of July for a week, then Germany on the 2nd of August for about a week too. New York is still being planned and there will be other short trips, depending on my health. I am still able to see one or two clients from time to time but it isn’t great as I have no voice and this influences the dynamics of our coaching sessions and is not really ideal.

Someone asked me the other day, “How do you cope being at home all day? How do you stop yourself from getting bored?” I guess that I have had to find other ways of occupying myself. I write a lot, I read, I learn languages (Polish in 60 minutes!), I make scrap or “memory” books filled with photos and stories and other “stuff”, I take care of the house, I play piano and ‘cello (not much though), I write material for coaching, visit people and receive visitors, and more importantly, I prepare for the “end” in terms of trying to get everything in place. I don’t often feel bored or depressed, I somehow manage to stay busy and occupied. Having worked and studied at the same time all my adult life, the last three years have taught me to be more resourceful with my time and to set objectives and plans for the days or weeks ahead. It is a rare privilege to be able to plan your own time without the constraints of a daily job and I am well aware of that privilege and therefore make the most of it.

So, the thought I’d like to leave with you this time is: smile more and work and stress less! Create quality time for yourself and make the most of every free moment you have.

Thank you for reading

Much love

BoodaGoose (an adaptation of an Algerian footballer’s name) :)

Friday, 11 June 2010

Light up (Run)

Snow Patrol wrote a song called Run (Light up) and while I love their version, I have to admit that I love Leona Lewis’ version more. I listen to this song over and over again and I wonder what it would sound like with my niece Adela singing it? Maybe one day, we’ll all get to find out. I love the way the words in the chorus go: “light up, light up, as if you have a choice...” On a few evenings, I have sat with a couple of friends at the piano and sung this song, me mainly singing harmony. Actually, it was with Rob a few times and then with James too. And that’s the thing, sometimes we just have to lighten up, pretend that we have a choice in the matter because I suppose in the end, we do. We might not be able to choose the end result but we can choose the way that we get there or the route we take. We can choose to travel peacefully.

I had a wonderful trip to Spain last weekend, compliments of Morse. Actually, Morse came down with a cold so he sent John and Richard to Spain as my guardians. I think Morse just fancied staying home with the gorgeous Catherine (Richard’s sister) and deliberately pulled a sickie! Bird-flu, he claimed. Anyway, my first trip to Spain and what a wonderful place to start: Barcelona. I was truly stoked by that city. From the moment we landed I just felt great. We had a lovely hotel right in the city centre. We went out for a walk in the warm air, had dinner and drank some sangria. I loved the vibe, the buildings and that was just based on the glimpse I had at night. The next day, after a huge breakfast, we visited a nice cathedral with a garden courtyard with geese inside! We then went on the city bus tour and I loved being able to sit at the top of a bus and just look, see and smell. The sun was shining and it was a glorious day by all accounts. I managed to find a couple of lovely little colourful (read orange) treats for myself, my favourite being a little coffee cup in an odd shape (I was able to find some orange sugar sachets to go with it). Yes, I am orange-crazy. Later that day, we jumped on a train to Sitges where we stayed in this really cool modern hotel. We went out for dinner and I managed to get most our bill cancelled because I told the manager that both Richard and I could make better paella than his chef! We got a complimentary cheese cake thrown in for good measure. The next day it rained most the day in Sitges so we sat around the hotel after a wet walk-about and just chatted before I took a train back to the airport to return to London. Queasy-jet managed to only leave Barcelona well after midnight, a delay of about 2 hours but as I don’t live too far from Gatwick, I got home around 2.30. So, Spain is awesome and I want to return there some time, probably to Barcelona again. Thank you once again, Morse, John and Rochard!

On Monday (7th), I had my pre-chemo oncology appointment. I saw the registrar, someone I had actually seen before for an emergency consultation. He was very thorough and has made arrangements for me to see an ENT specialist to explore the cause of my prolonged voice-loss. He has also written to my GP asking him to organise a nebuliser for me which will certainly help with my breathing. Chemo took place on Wednesday and as usual, I managed to work myself up into a knot before the day even arrived. Kerry was my volunteer chemo-sitter this time and she got there before me and witnessed the whole fire-engine saga which resulted in all our chemo treatments being delayed by an hour and a half. I had Taj as my nurse and she only had one failed attempt at cannulising me. The old veins are not coping too well but there is only one treatment left. I have to admit, I feel absolutely rotten following this treatment. I had so much luck with cycle 5 but cycle 6 has gotten off to a terrible start. I don’t need to go into the details as it is similar to before. I can only sit and wait for this final cycle to be over. The good thing is that when it gets too tough for me to handle on my own, I can almost literally hand over to someone else. It’s a bit like running a relay, when you’ve pushed yourself to the limit and you come around the corner, there is someone waiting with his/her hand stretched out and you can just pass the baton and take some time out. I have so many friends and family members willing, ready and able to take the baton from me and I am learning to pass it on, to share the pain as much as I want to share the joy and the love. Last night, after almost 3 hours of agonising pain in my back and no more strong painkillers left, I just said “I give up” and I woke up one of my couchsurfers and said, “You’ve got to take this pain from me now, I can’t any take anymore.” And, it was pretty much what happened. We dug around to find what else I could take, sorted out some more cushions and pillows, hot drink, some encouragement, and I was able to fall asleep. However, I was up early and straight off to the Pharmacy to stock up.

In life, whatever we do, whether we choose to live alone, live with someone, have boyfriends, girlfriends, get married and breed (this always makes me smile when I say this) or just get married and not breed, we must make sure that there is someone to whom we can pass the baton when we get tired or feel we need a break. This has been one of my biggest blessings in life, always having someone who will stand by me and lift the load off my shoulders. But we also have to learn how to do this, it doesn’t always come easy to say “I am weak right now, I need your strength”. I always felt better fixing other people’s problems, helping others, being the strong one and now I have had to learn to accept that the roles have reversed. But this is a nice feeling, it is nice to help and allow oneself to be helped in return.

Once again, thank you for reading.

Your Barcelona Cathedral