Hannah, Dad and I were in Bristol by 10.30am on Tuesday 1st September to begin round 3 of chemotherapy. We lugged all our bags out of the car in just 5 trips (that’s a record as we take so much stuff in now to keep us entertained) and unloaded it all in our room. Our day didn’t start well when we were told the chemotherapy poison still wasn’t ready and wouldn’t be ready until late afternoon. This meant they would be changing bags well into the night and Hannah would have even less sleep than usual, plus we had got there far too early and could have had way more time at home that morning. Having said that, we had the most incredible morning; Hannah had not only ridden in a dressage saddle for the very first time and coped with it on the wonderful Thomas, she had jumped too. Yes JUMPED! Tom was absolutely perfect, he just cantered quietly to the cross pole and popped it as small as he could as if he knew that Hannah couldn’t be jolted on top and the squeal Hannah gave as he took off for the first time… well, I think the whole village of Hemington heard it. She was absolutely over the moon but also slightly cross when Dad said the jump couldn’t go any bigger (though I must say I agreed with him as I had my hooves over my eyes most of the time)! What a boost before starting chemo that day and how it would make her want to get through it even more so she could get home and jump again. Tick! That’s another thing off of her list, two things actually! Anyway, back in hospital we went to radiotherapy for our last ever treatment, session number 30, my god is she relieved to finish. No more lying on a hard metal board. No more early morning daily trips to Bristol. No more excruciatingly painful burns on her back and tummy. No more severe stomach pains or burnt bowels. It was over. BUT despite all this nearly all of Hannah’s hip and leg pain had gone. Since starting radiotherapy Hannah has been able to ride for the first time since April. Has the radiotherapy worked? Has it helped treat the cancer? We won’t know for a while as they cannot scan her until 4 weeks after treatment has finished as the tumour will look swollen and blurred due to the radiotherapy. All we can do for now is be happy that she is finally more comfortable and back doing the thing she loves most. A bit of normality has returned to her life. After radiotherapy we went to costa for some lunch but the main lift had broken so Hannah had to climb down 4 flights of stairs, that was 84 steps, a huge number of steps for somebody on crutches and a distinct lack of balance! She was not going to climb back up them again, no way! So after our paninis and hot chocolates we walked all the way up round the road back to the oncology. Now anyone that has been to Bristol and been near the hospital knows just how steep those hills are and they are EVERYWHERE. Poor Hannah had to walk for miles on her crutches all uphill and bless her she only stopped for a break once - even Dad said he was impressed! When we got back onto the TYA unit we were told that the doctors wanted to take some blood to see what her platelet count was. When the count came back it was too low to start chemotherapy. Bugger. Turns out the doctors had known this since yesterday but failed to mention it to us (grrrr). So back we went with all our bags to the car, Dad laden down like a cart horse, he was so unimpressed.
Wednesday morning Hannah headed to Mells to teach Millie on Tom first thing. They had a really productive lesson and there were smiles all round. Hannah really enjoys teaching and it gives her such a boost seeing Millie progressing on Hannah’s bestest pony ever. It gives me a boost to see Hannah happy, so different from any time she is in hospital and as much as she tries to keep a smile on her face for her Mum and Dad it’s just never the same. Afterwards Hannah hacked Chesney with Granny on Bertie. Bertie was surprisingly well behaved considering his lack of work but Hannah has made it her goal to get Granny back riding more as like Hannah she truly loves it. However since Hannah became poorly Granny has taken on looking after Chesney and Mavis so that’s two more to add to her already very large collection and even more time spent looking after and less time in the saddle. I know Hannah feels bad having dumped them on Granny, giving her even more work to do but she is so very grateful for everything she is doing and has done for her, even when she was well and competing. Granny is by far the best groom in the world and if Hannah could explain just how much she appreciates what Granny is doing for her she would. So thank you Granny (I know you will read this!). They had a lovely ride and it was nice to spend some one on one time with her. Hannah and Mum went to Grandma’s for tea but were a bit late as they’d stopped on the way to buy Hannah a pair of jodhpurs. I don’t think anyone realised just how very exciting this was for Hannah as she had made do with leggings until now because she no longer fitted in her old ones due to the chemotherapy and steroids making her stomach very swollen, hard and bloated. For the first time ever she went for a bit of bling with diamantes on the pockets – very snazzy! When we showed Granny on return home we were a little worried she wouldn’t approve but actually she wanted some for herself (cheeky!)!
The next morning the nurse was here first thing to take bloods. Miles dropped Tommy off at ours at 9.30 and Hannah schooled Chesney before Minty came for pizza at lunch time (tradition you may have noticed!) Afterwards Millie came at 3.30 to go for a hack on Chesney whilst Han rode Tom. It was so much fun and they had a really lovely time. The following day she was up early once again to ride Tommy before Miles collected him as chemotherapy was finally able to start today. Han rode in the dressage saddle again and is really starting to get the hang of wrapping her legs down and around, it’s just so lovely to see such a big smile on her face every time she gets to be back on board. Even after we had another cheeky little jump just to make sure we were totally pumped for chemotherapy, well as much as we could be… bring it on we say!
So day 2 of chemotherapy and to busy ourselves, Mum, Hannah and I tried to make cards. Well we ‘tried’! It was soon determined however that card making was by no means our forte as we only lasted 30 minutes but hey ho at least we tried and managed to get some thank you letters out to all the lovely people who have been supporting us lately. Miles and Millie kindly came to visit with a really lovely lunch including my favourite – potato salad – as well as a huge bag of Willberry’s which had been sent to me by our absolute favourite horsey shop Wadswick from the lovely Carolyn. That evening Dad came to visit us and that really did put a smile on her face as I know just how much she misses him and home every time we have to face this dreadful chemotherapy.
On Sunday Grandma and Grampy brought a Sunday lunch up to the hospital for Hannah and Mum. It was really nice to see them both, especially Grampy as it is hard not seeing him with all the work that he does but of course it’s the biggest thanks that goes to our meals on wheels superstar that is Grandma as I know Hannah really could not survive on hospital food. No way! Hannah was thrilled to discover that Burghley Horse Trials was being shown on the TV so everyone stayed to watch this too. It was lovely to have some company for the afternoon especially as Dad is particularly busy combining so cannot come and see us tonight – it’s going to be a lonely evening. I could see just how disappointed Hannah was to find out that her Dad wouldn’t be coming to see her. I know it’s the highlight of her day. It’s not that she doesn’t enjoy spending time with Mum at all, she couldn’t possibly cope without Mum there day in day out supporting her through her awful treatment that quite frankly just makes her feel totally crap. But Dad’s smile is just so uplifting and I suppose as he is not there 24/7 during chemo he is less likely to be dragged into the depressing dooms of what is chemotherapy; something that kills every part of you to kill the cancer except for your brain… I wonder if it is better to be aware or totally unaware of the horrors that are occurring to you? Although the evening was set to be miserable it was soon made better by an offer of a movie and some company from Hannah’s chemo buddy Will. The Hunger Games was great and we’ve made plans to watch the next one tomorrow.
The next morning Hannah and Mum managed to complete just a few more thank you cards much to Hannah’s disgust. Once Homes under the Hammer had been and gone they went for a little walk with our best friend the machine stand (we are attached to this all of the time no matter what) to find the picnic benches where they had some lunch before visiting radiotherapy to spread yet more Willberry love by thanking the staff that worked there with Willberry chocolates. Hannah honestly could not have made it through all that pain and suffering without their support so we are immensely grateful. We managed to find Collette too on our way back to TYA and had to make sure she had a Willberry chocolate also. Without the support of the pain team Hannah would not be smiling or riding as she is today because it just would not have been possible when she was suffering from the amount of pain that she was in. So lots of thank yous done today! Pretty cool evening too when we had the best visitors. Not only did Dad and Sam come up for the evening but Jayne (who found me many moons ago for Hannah) and her son and daughter, Will and Emily, came to visit too. It was just so fantastic to see Hannah’s face light up at the talk of horses, jumping and the plan of a lesson with her favourite SJ instructor! How much Hannah had missed her.
That night we had the most awful sleep. Well actually no sleep at all. Hannah constantly had to go to the toilet due to the constant hydration and fluids that are pumped through her. I don’t think people realise just how damaging broken sleep is for you and how awful it makes you feel. Mum and Han really did feel quite sh*t the following morning! Not only this to deal with, a dodgy tummy due to the toxic chemotherapy is definitely not nice have to cope with either. But it’s the last day and we are all set to go home at 8.30 tomorrow morning… or so we thought.
Disaster strikes! Poor poor Kaija, our lovely lovely nurse was so mortified when Hannah’s line burst this morning when she was giving it its final flush following the 5 days chemotherapy. We then had to wait 3 hours for the line repair lady to arrive to fix it and even then it only had a 50% chance of being successful. If it wasn’t successful Hannah’s line would have to be removed and a new one would have to be fitted. Not great when your platelets are under 50 so you will bleed to death if they were to operate… oops! Even so, we did just about manage to make it home before it became dark and managed a quick ride with Granny on Archie and Hannah on Chesney round the fields!!! The nurse would come out in a couple of days to see if it was working else a new plan would have to be made. After she had ridden we managed to drag ourselves to hill house farm to teach Millie on Tommy before they were to compete at the weekend. They were so fab and it made Hannah so happy to see the dream team in action! She even managed to have a little go once Millie had finished which was the best – although I’m not entirely sure who found it hardest to watch due to nerves, me or Dad!?
It’s Thursday morning now and we are really struggling to get Sam to school so we struck a deal that Hannah would help him with his homework that morning before we dropped him in when we went to visit Mr Williams, head teacher at Norton Hill, to discuss whether or not she would receive her AS level results. It appeared that they were fighting a losing battle and in order to get some she would need to retake year 12.
Totally out of the question for someone who worked so bloody hard and was desperate to take the exams – she did try but I’m afraid only managed two on the kitchen floor as she was unable to sit upright due to the pain! On return home we all got ready to go to Granny’s for the evening where we would be celebrating Grandpa’s 80th birthday! It was a fantastic turnout with amazing food and Hannah had a lovely time however by the end of the evening was beginning to find it quite overwhelming the sheer number of people there not only for Grandpa but to support her too and obviously seeing her Grandpa so healthy at the ripe old age of 80 makes her question whether she will ever make it to that age at all. It was quite upsetting. The highlight of the evening was definitely seeing Grandpa in his brand new Willberry Wonder Pony T-shirt which we bought him for his birthday though!
The next morning Hannah was feeling very slow and groggy so spent a little longer in bed before the CLIC nurse arrived. Fortunately her broken line didn’t leak – it was working – hooray! She seemed to perk up a little after this so managed a little ride with Charlotte on Buster before having a go at running through a dressage test down the school. Well, we only managed half of it, but it’s a start! It was a quick turnaround then as we were off to meet a very special friend, a friend Hannah didn’t actually know and had never met, but has done a huge amount for us both. Her name is Lvi Robertson! Lvi is the wonderwoman who came up with the idea of producing wristbands in the first place as Hannah had the aim of raising £800 to purchase a wig for herself but my goodness we never thought it would grow this big or raise so much money and that is all thanks to you lovely people, so thank you very very much.
In order to say thank you to Lvi, Hannah and I thought she deserved a best friend too so she can be like us and always have one another to talk to. So, we bought her Willbelina and by golly is she hot hot HOT with that pink scarf on! I love her very much. It’s the start of not one but two budding relationships, one hopefully much more intimate than the other, plus the birth of the pink Willbelina wristband! Our busy day didn’t stop there as Hannah’s friends paid her a surprise visit on return home with a Chinese (yum yum our favourite) so all in all despite the yucky start it has been a pretty good day.
Well, I think that’s enough for now, although I could keep babbling on forever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever…. But I wouldn’t do that to you, of course.
Until next time!
Lots of love from Willberry xxx