You may or may not have noticed but posts about my garden have been a little thin on the ground just recently. I could tell you that this is due to the fact that we are in winter but the more observant of you would no doubt realise that this hasn’t stopped me in previous years, as I’ve shared the garden clearing and preparation work that usually takes place in the autumn/ early winter, ready for spring. The fact is that areas of my garden (including one of the greenhouses) still need clearing and the garden enrichment that should have happened back in October/November, still hasn’t happened and bags of manure are still stacked, unopened, awaiting distribution.
I love my vegetable patch and though it may take me a while to work up the enthusiasm to venture out on cold, damp and drizzly days during autumn and winter, the essential jobs do usually get done and I always find that once I’m outside digging over the beds, pulling out the bamboo supports and consigning the last few, spent plants to the compost bin, my sense of well-being is boosted and my equilibrium equalised. I come back in from hours in the garden, energised in a sleepily tired but satisfied way and I inevitably sleep much better that night.
So, you may be wondering, what has gone wrong this autumn/winter?
Back in October/November, I noticed that my get up and go was disappearing out of the door, faster than an F1 car at Silverstone. I put this down to some sort of virus and carried on as normal, albeit at a much reduced pace and minus the essential hard graft in either garden. By Christmas, however, I still wasn’t feeling right, in fact, if anything, I was feeling worse and I noticed that after even some relatively minor exercise, my heart would feel like it was trying to pound its’ way out of my chest. In addition, I had been having dizzy spells every time I stood up and I felt fatigued – not tired due to lack of sleep (although insomnia had become a bit of an issue) but fatigued, as in no energy, weary.
I had every intention of going to the doctor that first week of the Christmas holiday but, as is often the way, preparations for Christmas and general, every day life, got in the way and then Christmas was here, Mud got a bad flu which lasted weeks and before I knew it, it was nearly the end of January and I still hadn’t made an appointment. Things came to a head the day I began to feel dizzy as I sat on the settee, doing nothing more strenuous than knitting and later the same day when a short trip upstairs left me feeling breathless, with pounding heart and legs muscles which felt heavy, like they had just finished running a marathon.
“You are anemic!” the doctor stated, as I sat in her consulting room the next day and continued with, “Very anemic! I can tell just by looking at you but we had better have some blood tests to see just how bad it is. You may need a transfusion”
Blood samples were taken, iron tablets prescribed and then it was a case of waiting 24 hours for the results to come back.
I have suffered from anemia, on and off my entire adult life and so, to be fair, I wasn’t that surprised by the doctors’ diagnosis but the results were dreadfully low, even for me (iron 3.8 and hemoglobin 7.7), and the practice nurse who had phoned with the results, booked me in to see the doctor first thing the following morning. Transfusion had suddenly become a very real possibility.
Fast forward a few hours and I’m sitting in the consulting room with a different doctor, with a smile pinned to my face as the bottom of my world drops out from under me. I can hear myself being totally British with my spoken responses to the doctor, politely saying “absolutely doctor, I couldn’t agree more.” Smiling inanely. Stiff upper lip and all that……. yet inside I’m screaming, fighting back tears, terrified and wanting to get to the privacy of home before I crumble with the enormity of what he’s just said to me.
I had expected to be told that I was being admitted for an immediate transfusion but that wasn’t what had happened, I could have handled that. But no, what this doctor had said was that he was writing out a two week referral for Upper GI cancer tests!!!
“I don’t like to sugar coat things,” he had begun, before dropping his bombshell. Even as I heard him saying the words I remember thinking ‘but I have a sweet tooth! The more sugar coating the better! I love sugar coating! Please sugar coat this!’
Shaking like a leaf and hoping not to meet anyone I knew because that would really finish me off, I left the surgery. One thing I knew for certain was that I was in no fit state to drive at that point and so I had no choice but to wonder through town as I tried to deal with this news. Thankfully it was a very, very blustery day and no-one seemed to notice me wiping tears from my face, and if anyone did notice they no doubt assumed the wind was the culprit. I got what little shopping I needed and over an hour after leaving the surgery, I headed for home.
Mud was working from home that day and as I walked into the kitchen he asked what was up and finally, in the privacy of my own home, I was able to crumble into a million pieces. There then followed 10 of the longest days of my life, as I waited for the appointment with the consultant to come through. Mud and I told ourselves that this was just a precautionary thing and that there wasn’t much likelihood that cancer would be found but then the thought that I wouldn’t have been sent for a two week referral, if the doctor hadn’t thought there was a chance, albeit a small one, of this being the underlying cause of my anemia, would pop into my head and I found myself having to sneak off to find a place to have a brief meltdown. It was essential that the Mudlets didn’t realise something more serious than the anemia itself, was potentially on the cards.
Finally, after 10 long days, the hospital phoned to say that I had an appointment for the next day.
As I walked into the Consultants room the next day, I felt sick to my stomach. I sat down and the Consultant reach her hand across and gave mine a gentle squeeze: “I don’t know what you’re doing here, ” she said in the most gentle of voices, “because you do not have cancer!”
In that split second, the huge weight that had been resting on my shoulders since the moment the GP had opened his mouth, lifted and I was able to breath again. Tears once again coursed down my cheeks but these were tears of relief and as I wiped them away with a hurriedly proffered tissue, the Consultant explained that she felt my GP had over reacted and that the presence of iron deficiency anemia was not in itself, enough to warrant the referral. She went on to explain that she could see from my records that I had had a bout of anemia in 2011 when my levels had been low but not as low as they are now but what she couldn’t see, was a follow up blood test to check my levels after the course of iron tablets I was prescribed at that time. She believed that my levels hadn’t return to normal and that they had continued to steadily drop since then, something I wouldn’t have noticed because the body can compensate for a steady drop and show no discernible symptoms until it reaches crisis point which I had obviously reached the back end of last year.
Unfortunately because of the nature of the referral, her hands were tied and she had no choice but to proceed with both a Gastroscopy and Colonoscopy to 100% confirm what she was 99.9% certain was the case and that was that Upper GI cancer was not the problem. And so yesterday afternoon I was admitted for the tests which were both unpleasant and uncomfortable but they did indeed confirm that whatever it is that is causing my anemia, it certainly isn’t Upper GI Cancer!!!
So there you have it and whilst I can’t exactly draw the line under this chapter of my life just yet, I can at least now concentrate on getting my health back on track and can start that all important and long over due work on my tired and very neglected looking garden.