Count Your Blessings

We all get so wrapped up in our lives, that until something happens to stop us in our tracks, we just carry on in our little bubble

There’s so much suffering, poverty, hardship happening  in  the world today that some days it just seems ‘the norm’ in newspapers and on TV, and perhaps we occasionally become a little blasé. So it’s not until things actually affect us do we stop.

Recently a few things have happened,  within the family and to friends, which have made realise how much I have to be thankful for.

A couple of weeks ago Son 2 (Master Chef) was driving home from work around midnight. He works about 26 miles away from home, and is usually returning late at night after long days in the kitchen.  And because he knows he’s tired he’s conscious of keeping his speed down in case his reactions aren’t as quick as others may be. And thank god he was this night. He  was driving around a bend, only about 3 miles from home, only to be met by a car coming at him at about 60 mph….. On the his side of the road.  MC swerved to try and avoid him, but not enough and he was hit head on.The driver of the other car abandoned  his vehicle and “legged it” The car is a complete write off. Luckily, and goodness know how, he escaped with relatively minor injuries. Back, fractured ribs, sprained knee. And thumb. Though they are likely to keep him off work for a month at least. The emergency crews were fantastic. (Right down to the fireman who took charge of his chef’s knives and ensured they were returned to me the following morning.)  As were the staff in A&E the next day… Including the doctors, who despite what Jeremy Hunt would like us to believe, were there in abundance, and working hard.

Shock affects people in different ways. I’m not sure whether MC has been hit by it properly yet. Me? Tears flowed in the privacy of the bathroom. Tears of shock and fear that I could have lost him, tears of relief that I didn’t.  MC had a photo of his car, but wouldn’t let me see as he didn’t want me having nightmares. However they came on the Monday night after I’d taken him to collect the rest of his belongings. There was no front left on his car at all, and how he ever got out in one piece I do not know.  His guardian angel was definitely working overtime that night, and he’s lost another of his 9 lives. He’s got 7 left!  A car can be replaced…even though it was his pride and joy.

More importantly he is (along with his sister and brother) my pride and joy. And alive.

There are 2 other things which have had an effect  on me.

The first concerns a lovely girl I know, have known since she was in her teens. The daughter of a very good friend of mine. A beautiful, talented, funny young lady, heading towards her 30th year, with the world at her feet. We’ve done stuff on stage together, and partied together. I’m always amazed when the  ‘youngsters ‘ want to spend their Saturday nights with us ‘oldies’!!

She’s had some niggles health-wise over the years, which frustrated her, but didn’t stop her. Then last year a number of strange symptoms and ‘happenings’ meant several visits to her GP. He referred her on to a consultant… And after a number of tests, including lumbar punctures and MRI scans she was diagnosed with MS, with a number of active lesions showing in her brain. MS is one of those ‘invisible illnesses’ Sufferers can be well for long periods, then have an acute phase where their mobility is severely affected, and the extreme fatigue means they can struggle to even get out of bed. But since her diagnosis she has been determined not to be ‘defined’ by the MS.  She has to inject herself daily, but hopes she may fit criteria for a newer drug which doesn’t have to be daily. When she is well she carries on and lives and enjoys life to the full. When she is poorly she quietly gets on with it. She carried on with  her college course, completed her assignments and theses, and qualified as a counsellor.  And does fantastic work with young people with mental health issues. But there are so many issues and hurdles she faces… And i’m sure she will do this with grace and dignity, as she does now. Loved and supported by her family, her friends, and her wonderful boyfriend.

And finally, there’s T. A former colleague, and a friend. I first met her when she came to interview for a post in one of the teams I managed. A vivacious redhead, who knocked the socks off all the other candidates with her knowledge and passion.  We appointed her, and all looked forward to her starting with the team. One her first day in post I didn’t recognise her! Her brilliant red hair was now blonde… And she told me that she had dyed her hair red for the interview as it made her feel more confident.. She didn’t want anyone to think she was a dizzy blonde, but whispered “I am really”and I whispered back “so am I”That kind of sealed our relationship.  We didn’t always see eye to eye professionally but were always able to sit and discuss things, and usually come to an amicable agreement. And our friendship was never affected. She was a breath of fresh air in the team, well liked and respected. We were professional but also had great fun. If you could see some of the memos that went between us you wouldn’t believe we were senior members of the service. I still have some of them, and I still cry with laughter when I read them.

Her  mum had early dementia and died young. It was always her  fear she would develop dementia as well. And used to laugh and joke when we were both sat there struggling to find the words we wanted, that we were both destined to be sufferers.

As happens so often, when you leave a post, you do lose touch with people.. No matter how determined you are not to. We kept in touch, but not as much as either would have liked. Then we worked together again for a while, but due to reorganisation of services she left to take up a post in another unit, and lost touch with most of her old team.

We heard she had been unwell and away from work, but no one really knew what was going on. Then last year we heard that her worst fears had come true.

In her late 40’s she had been diagnosed with early onset dementia. A particularly cruel type associated with a condition called Pick’s disease.

And now she is unable to work, doesn’t really know who anyone is, and has to have someone to care for her 24/7. she has no family so a friend has taken on this mantle, even though she more often than not doesn’t  recognise her.

And I feel awful that, for a number of reasons on both our parts,  I haven’t seen her for nearly 2 years now. If I do go to see her she won’t know me, and although I am able to cope with that professionally, and deliver training on dementia awareness, I’m not sure I will cope personally. (I’ve not had to yet, have been lucky enough not to have to. No one in the family has been afflicted with dementia) The thought breaks my heart. Does that make me an awful person?

And part of me just wants to remember the dizzy blonde laughing down the phone  to me “you know you can’t tell me anything important after 4 pm cos my brain turns off”

So I sit here and think about my life… It isn’t  all a bed of roses….But.  I thank my blessings


Mummy’s buying sugar again………

“Mummy’s bought sugar again” my darling daughter announced, laughing hysterically at her poor distraught mother.

governments-cant-ignore-the-socioeconomic-impact-of-sugar-consumption-credit-suisse-believes-taxation-is-an-option-to-fund-growing-health-costs-and-reducing-sugar-intakeAnd what’s wrong with that you may ask?

Well nothing, obviously, unless that’s all you can remember to buy when you get to the shop….and you have enough sugar at home to feed the entire third world

So why was I buying sugar like it was going out of fashion? Well it’s a long story, but I’ll try to keep it brief

Having lived through a fairly major health scare when son 1 was 6 months old, which left me  briefly wondering if I’d be around to see him or his sister grow up, unlike most people who would then be ultra health conscious, I happily ignored any signs of illness and carried on living life to the full. And, anyway by now, I had 3 children and a very demanding full-time job…which (at one stage) saw me trundling off to an important meeting complete with 3 week old baby strapped to my chest, and writing policies in the middle of the night whilst a sleepless child played happily at my feet!

Fast forward to 3 years later, where much was going on in my life, including  family bereavements and beloved ex nannies leaving to live in Australia. Throw in a workaholic boss who expected the same commitment from her senior team and you have the perfect scenario for a stress filled life. Hence the sleepless nights, weight loss, palpitations, shaky hands, irritability, and strange memory lapses had all been put down to stress for at least 18 months, if not longer..even though they were having an effect on my daily life. I remember an incident when my hands were shaking so much that I dropped an injection I was drawing up. My teams were very sweet, and never said anything.  I’m sure they thought I had a drink problem!! I asked one of my Staff Nurses after why they didn’t question anything. She replied that they could always relate it to a meeting or phone call with my boss, so thought I was stressed!

And when I couldn’t carry my youngest son up stairs without getting out completely out of breath and having to  sit down, I put it down to a chest infection, as I had been coughing. My GP agreed with me, and  gave me antibiotics without listening to my chest! Well, we did have the conversation in the ward office, and when your GP is a work colleague…..and a friend……and your son’s godfather, you tend not to visit for medical reasons if you can help it, and  if you ever did the conversation invariably turned to work or children, and by the time you’d finished those you had forgotten why you’d gone to see him in the first place!

Things finally came to a head one day when I woke and could barely move. I thought I had flu. But had to go to work!! I dragged myself to the hospital, but felt cold, shaky, and awful. someone, and I can’t remember who, (but it wasn’t me) made me an appt to see a doctor. (not my own) He took a load of bloods and sent me home to bed. The next day I had a phone call from the surgery saying the doctor needed to see me urgently and could I come in straight away. It turned out my thyroid levels were “critically high” and my “flu” was in fact a full-blown thyroid crisis. 

So began the strangest 8 months of my life!

I couldn’t work, was an emotional wreck who wept at the slightest thing. My memory was completely shot, so much that I couldn’t even remember my children’s names. I have never been very big, but by this time I weighed less than 7 stone and was wearing my 14-year-old daughter’s shorts.

And, of course, there was the shopping!! At first I couldn’t even leave the house, but when I could again I’d go out, be unable to remember where I was supposed to be going or what I was going for. Sometimes I’d make a list. but mostly couldn’t even concentrate long enough to do that, or couldn’t find it if I did manage to write one! Hence the sugar! Why sugar I have no idea! I didn’t even take it!! It became a standing joke in the house, and my lovely family thought it funny to send me into town shopping for specific items knowing I’d never remember, and would come back with some very bizarre stuff…..and, of course, sugar!

I also used to fall asleep at odd times, and in odd places. often in the Consultant’s waiting room, and once on a train on my way home from my monthly hospital appointment. I woke 3 stations and an hour away from home!!

Thank goodness we had an amazing nanny who took over, looked after the children, the house, and me!!

Then when I thought things couldn’t get any worse I lost my voice.The thyroid gland had become so enlarged it was constricting my vocal chords. The children thought it was rather wonderful as the most I could muster for weeks was a very small whisper, and some days even that disappeared. It meant I couldn’t act or sing…pretty devastating for a drama queen I can tell you! When my voice eventually returned it was a croaky husk but often wouldn’t last the whole day, and I couldn’t sing a single note. In fact, I didn’t sing for 2 years, then if I did manage to sing anything I wasn’t able to talk for hours after. I  probably would never  have sung  again if it hadn’t been for a good friend, who worked with me on both my speaking and singing voice, and gave me the confidence to give it a go again. I shall be forever grateful to him, and although it is back now it has never been the same. So my greatest achievement was to be able to sing in his rock musical productions.


But I did get loads done, I wasn’t able to sit still for very long. The house was spotless and the garden fit to be opened to the public!!

And I baked. Like a maniac. The house was full of the aroma of something bubbling a way in the oven….bread, cakes, oh, and flapjacks, which I developed a strange craving for.

And though we laugh about it now, it actually was quite scary at the time. I really did think I was going mad. It took 8 months and a few different types of medication before it became controlled enough for me to begin to feel “normal” again, and be able to return to work. And a further 18 months before I was able to stop taking medication. Luckily the Consultant I was under was a great believer in conservative treatment, whereas his colleague, who I saw on a number of occasions when the symptoms raced out of control again, was all for removing my thyroid gland, which I wasn’t keen on at all. 

It completely ruined my sleeping patterns, as many of you know I am a shocking insomniac these days…or should I say nights!

I am supposed to have my levels checked regularly but tend to forget. Still I always know if they are heading to the higher side of normal as my neck hurts, I get a husky voice….and I bake!!

So if you hear of me weeping over a kitchen full of cakes and flapjacks perhaps you could remind me to go and get my levels checked!

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