Saturday, 15 June 2013

Trials of life


Not the cheeriest post I’ve ever written coming up, so feel free to look away now. This is about a generally crappy time that the family is navigating its way through. Though not without its moments of humour, it has to be said.

The hitherto indestructible and irrepressible Granny Milner, unwitting star of a good number of these blog posts, is in a bad way.

An operation to clear a blockage in her throat recently went wrong and resulted in a punctured trachea. During the procedure an inoperable malignant growth was discovered in the same place. It became obvious that she was facing two significant battles. The first was to recover from the operation and the infections that were coursing round her body as a result of the puncture. For at least a couple of days, things were touch and go. But Granny has some hidden strengths and reserves of grit. She seems to be coming through that phase. It’s good to see flashes of cheeky humour and selfless spirit returning.

The second battle is one she may not win in the long term. But that spirit and humour will enable her to wring every last drop of pleasure and quality from the palliative care that is to come. We are anticipating Granny coming home next week - which is massive progress - ahead of a radiotherapy course. She’s now out of a private room and on to a ward with others at whom she will be talking incessantly to make up for lost time whilst in isolation. The throat may be shot to pieces as regards a feeding mechanism, but remarkably the voice is totally intact. How could it ever have been any other way? Granny’s strategy, of course, is to get as many words out as quickly as possible just in case the larynx packs up as well. The audience for, and subject of those words is largely inconsequential...

Mrs A has had a grim time. Dealing with the rumour that one’s nearest and dearest may well be mortal after all is deeply testing. Add in the daily shuttle to Oxford as if attached to the place on a length of unforgiving elastic, and then assuming the role of news filter for a waiting, concerned world makes for a tough and exhausting existence.

There are silver linings of course. The legendary Auntie Betty is over from Florida (84th birthday on Monday) and spending a lot of time with her one remaining sister. She had been concerned about Granny’s deteriorating condition for a while. In some unfathomable act of spooky premonition she booked the flight and arrived in Britain about two days before the throat procedure was confirmed for the following week. And now that things have gone wrong, there is nowhere else on the planet that she would rather be. 

But spare some pity for the nursing staff. Couped up in the Churchill Hospital with those two for about a month. One confused but chatty. The other loud but deaf.  A potent mixture.

Granny: “I’m going for an x-ray later. Or is it a scan? Or was that yesterday?”
Betty: “WHART? AN X-RAY DID YOU SAY? OH MY GARD! NOT ANOTHER ONE. OH MY GARD! WHY DOES SHE NEED ANOTHER X-RAY?  NOBODY TELLS ME ANYTHING IN THIS PLACE”.

Shuffle and repeat.

Mrs A’s sister Sue has just arrived from Tenerife too. Granny has loved seeing her. But I’m not sure it’s helping the general confusion about who is who at the hospital. Granny introduced her daughter to the duty nurse yesterday as her sister from Florida! Clearly ageing well. 84 going on 47.

Sue’s arrival was meant to be a little surprise for Auntie Betty, just to give her something to cheer her up whilst she’s here. But Granny has been trying hard to harpoon the plans.

“See these new socks, Betty? They were from Sue yesterday when she came in.”
“OH YEAH, NICE. WHART? WHO DID YOU SAY?”

We had a scream the other night when Betty was staying with us. The whole Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Frank Sinatra sing-a-long experience. The four of us were sat around the table with Betty whilst she was crooning along with Neil Diamond,

“THEY COME TO AMERICA! TODAY! TODAY!”

The girls were laughing along.

“AH, NEIL DIAMOND’, WHAT A HUNK.” Betty uttered, in that side-of-the-mouth delivery, wistful look in her eyes.

They both glanced at her and then at each other with grins that said, “Did my 84 year old Auntie just describe Neil Diamond as a hunk?” Betty caught their looks.

“OH YEAH. WITH THAT SEQUINED SHIRT OPEN ALL THE WAY TO THE NAVAL, THAT BIG BUSHY HAIRY CHEST AND TIGHT TROUSERS. WOW! I MEAN WOW! OH MY GARD, WHAT A LOOKER, RIGHT?”

Fantastic. These two positive, selfless, warm and unashamedly individual sisters are an inspiration. 

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