Thursday, 23 September 2010

Health, Wealth....and oh...F off!

Attention to health is life's greatest hindrance.  

I'm pissed off! Royally pissed off! So I probably shouldn't write anything and step away from the computer. 

I've been laid up with this stupid back and neck thing for nearly a week, doped up to the eyeballs on diazepam and some other tablet that sounds like a baddie from the Harry Potter TM series, volterol or voldemort or something.... I'm having to write lists of things I am supposed to be doing or else I'll forget what I'm doing or where I'm supposed to be. I haven't done any of the things on the list and that opticians appointment I was telling you about earlier....still haven't booked it yet! I hate being ill or incapacitated like this, I'm too damned busy for this.

                                                               19th Century Knackers Yard.

I've been trying to think of what to write in a blog post and was flicking through the Guardians science pages this morning attempting to digest some titbit of news before my drug-fuelled brain fog kicks in so what better topic to write about than the state of my health and the long, long, long history of health problems in my family.

Wait! Don't go! It might get interesting...or at the very least, a bit gross if you like that sort of thing!

Bad health runs in the family as I think I've said before. My attitude towards illness is influenced by two people in my life, and a recent spate of health problems and a serious health scare has made me reflect on how these people deal with their respective illness and how it affects how I deal with things.

First up is my Mum. My mother was born with a degenerative disease called Polycystic kidneys and has been on dialysis for the last 18 months. At the moment she is recovering from a nephrectomy, which is medical speak for having a kidney taken out. Nothing in our family is ever simple so what was supposed to be minor keyhole surgery turned into major open-you-up-from-your-neck-to-your-navel surgery. Her recovery time is now months instead of weeks and her entire hospital stay was a giant farce. She is on the mend now but it is a terrible patients, being used to doing everything for herself, this has been a challenge. My mother revels in the fact that she is heroic, that she soldiers on despite her illness and it is this that gets her through the day. She is having to reassess how long she can continue to work for having dialysis sessions four times a week for 6 hours at a time.

Growing up with a mother who was always ill or living with this disease in the background makes you acutely aware of health and wellbeing. My grandfather died at the age of 55 due to complications caused by the same disease and my mothers aunt died at the age of 36 from the same. Both of my paternal grandparents were dead by the time I was born due to heart disease. We had to be tested at various stages of our adolescence for the diseases and for any other genetically linked ones. As a child I had various aliments that were a major pain in the arse (...not piles though) and often wondered what an existence free from all of this would be like. I have chronic eczema, asthma, food allergies, terrible sight. As I child I had to be bathed in oil, doused in creams and bandages every night. I spent so much time in hospital at one point, I had my teacher coming into give me work to do. I often dream of 20-20 vision, perfect skin and a bigger lung capacity...

My short lived rebellion against this was to smoke for a few years and to be a bit lax with moisturiser. I really was living on the edge.

In stark contrast to the stride in which my mother takes her disease and her attitude towards living with this is my maternal grandmother. My mother and I both share the responsibility of looking after my Nana who is, in all honesty, a bit of a nightmare. Given that various ailments and diseases run through my family, the vast majority of us try to keep ourselves fit and look after our health. My Nana on the other hand is the opposite, a hypochondriac and someone who desperately wants to be ill, all for a bit of attention. I love my Nan but she's hard work. She is currently reassessing the state of her health due to a sojourn in a nursing home to give my mum some respite during her recovery...Surrounded by people far closer to the pearly gates than she, she has come back revitalised and full of energy. Sort of...

Eleven years ago, she woke up feeling what she described at the time as 'feeling a bit weird' and phoned in sick to her work. I'd just had A so I was tasked with coming out to their house (my Mum, Dad and Nan live in the same house) to look after her. After a week she still felt a bit weird and so started seeing the doctor for various tests. To cut a long story short, after three months, the doctors discovered that she had suffered a mild stroke. Three months it took to find this out, I presume because it was so minor it was virtually undetectable! But that was it, the horror! She had a stroke and so promptly gave up working (retirement was still three years away). I had escort her and my new baby to the hospital a couple of times a week for rehabilitative therapy. Everyone we would meet in the street whether she knew them or not, she would tell them that she'd had a stoke. In cafes, in Debenhams, at the Post Office, wherever we were. If we requested that she do something, or if my mother wanted some housework done seeing as now my Nan was in the house full time, she'd reply "but I've had a stroke"....While this was all going on, she still felt a bit weird and so was diagnosed with type two diabetes. Again relatively minor diabetes, that would be controlled with diet alone, no need for constant tests or insulin. So what happens now? I'll tell you....

I like sweeties, as you may have guessed from my profile picture and as a child loved to have little picnics when we stayed at my Nan's for the weekend. We would go and rent a couple of VHS's and stuff our faces until we fell asleep. When we went to the shop to stock up on supplies we would always ask my Nan if she wanted a sweetie, to join in watching the movie with us and she would always politely decline or at best, have a little bat of Fry's chocolate cream. Not a big fan of sweet things, our Nan. Well, until she was diagnosed with type two diabetes, suddenly the house was full of chocolate and not just a bar of Galaxy, it was 1KG bars of Dairy Milk. Her handbag was full of biscuits, mints, bars of chocolate as if somehow she was determined to induce a diabetic coma. If one of her grandkids bought her chocolates for a birthday or a Christmas, she was fly up the stairs and stash them in her bedroom. Not bad for someone with impaired mobility! I could have saved the NHS a fortune in physiotherapists by simply laying Mars bars at the other end of the room and watch her go!
So my Nana has spent the last ten years sitting in her chair watching True Movies slowly eating her way into a diabetic coma. About two years ago, she started to develop tremors that the doctor said were Parkinson-like tremors and nowadays she tells everyone she has Parkinsons... Aargh!


  1. Sounds a bit like my nan! Always thinking she has something wrong with her. Doesn't help that she's going a bit senile either - if she's anything like her older sister, she'll be wandering the streets with her knickers round her ankles in a year or 2, not knowing how or why she's there x

  2. This made me laugh! Do hope your back/neck gets sorted out soon.

  3. Thanks Tilly, you can see why I live in fear of being ill...

    Hazor, I think we'd all have a bit more patience with her if she was senile. x


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