Lady Sketch – i’m a mixed media, chalkboard and mural artist, based in north cornwall.
(Portfolio available to view HERE…)
I am also the author of Straight talking blog ‘Life after lymphoma – an irreverent look at remission and commissions.’
For more about Lady Sketch, you can check out my other posts HERE.
Pre Non Hodgkin’s Lymphoma Diagnosis…
In November 2011 my second son PJ was born, to myself (Wenna) and my partner (Sketch).
Arriving via C-Section at The Royal Cornwall Hospital Treliske (RCH), PJ was welcomed into the world a week early. A complicated and difficult pregnancy had seen me endure escalating (and unexplained) pain, limited mobility and chronic insomnia. It had been a shit time for all concerned, and we were ecstatic to finally meet the little dude. A Non Hodgkin’s Lymphoma diagnosis could not have been further from my mind.
Baby PJ thrived in the weeks that followed, but my health deteriorated rapidly. Excruciating back pain, loss of appetite, night sweats and bouts of uncontrollable shivering left us fearing something bad was afoot.
Multiple Tests, Pokes and Prods
Cue countless visits to our GP, multiple blood tests and three courses of strong antibiotics for a suspected infection. Round the clock pain relief barely touched the searing agony in my spine, and I was starting to lose my shit.
Then my milk dried up, and PJ had to be unceremoniously dumped from the booby bar. Enough was enough. With Christmas gallivanting towards us and two boys to look after, I could barely function. The baby was blissfully oblivious, but big bro Al was acutely aware that Mummy wasn’t right. At this point, barely firing on 1, let alone the full 4 cylinders required to ‘do’ Christmas, we decamped to the health park.
On 23rd December 2011 I broke down in terrified tears to my GP and begged him to help me. He promptly dispatched me to the Acute GP at A&E. Non Hodgkin’s Lymphoma Diagnosis minus 5 weeks…
To quote my Dad, ‘christmas fell over from this point forwards…’
The Chemo Diaries
The Lady Sketch Chemo Diaries are an open and honest account of the ensuing 2 years and beyond. Told through Facebook, Emails, Texts, Cards, Letters and Diary Entries.
Read on to find out more about my Non Hodgkin’s Lymphoma Diagnosis…
Pregnancy And Me
My first pregnancy aged 25 was an absolute breeze. Glowing skin, serene attitude, cute little bump – the works. Al was such an adorably easy baby, that it didn’t take much persuasion to provide him with a sibling 7 years later.
‘LOVE being pregnant,’ I enthused to Sketch as we cooed over the pink lines on the pee stick. ‘No hormonal harridans here – this is going to be awesome…’
Wenna – 13 Jun 2011 at 16:14 – Via Facebook
Just heard baby’s heartbeat for the first time – strong & loud and brought a little tear to my eye 🙂
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Wenna – 8 July 2011 at 21:42 – Via Facebook
If I play music into my belly, the baby dances!
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I’d Rather Crap Into My Hand And Clap!
It was during my 4th month of pregnancy when things started to get shitty. As is often the case with subsequent pregnancies, the belly popped out early. Only this time it just kept on growing. By my 5th month I was vast enough to attract commentary from passing strangers, and by the 6th? Put it this way, Sketch and I had a genuine fear there was an extra stowaway on board.
Having never been what you might call skinny, this extra weight took its toll. Back ache, leg ache, hip pain, heartburn, sciatica, swollen ankles… I entered my 7th month of pregnancy unable to sleep, barely able to walk and pretty hacked off with life.
It was my existing in this permanent zombie state that prompted a very dear (childless) friend to state:
‘I’d rather crap into my hand and clap than be where you are right now!’
She had a valid point.
Non Hodgkin’s Lymphoma Diagnosis Minus 5 Months
Wenna – 4 Aug 2011 at 18:40 – Via Facebook
Mildly concerned by how long it took us to plod home from Rosedale today, complete with little rest on petrol station wall to ease the aching back! Surely shouldn’t be this hard going at only 6 months?
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Wenna – 12 Sep 2011 at 14:29 – Via Facebook
Enjoying a bloody good pregnancy RANT with my friend T… it’s over messenger so no chance the baby will hear me!!
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Wenna – 14 Oct 2011 at 04:13 – Via Facebook
Sleep, sleep, my kingdom for some sleep 🙁
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By this point, I was unable to get out of chairs unaided. I could walk pathetically short distances and the only footwear flexible enough to accommodate my pasty shaped feet was knitted!
‘Wow! You’re having such a big baby!’
These words prompted much gritting of teeth and fake smiling at the numerous people stating the bleeding obvious on a daily basis.
Having been concerned the baby was small-for-dates, my obstetrician did a complete about turn. Now the worries were that he was going to be too big, plus the knock on effect on my physical and emotional wellbeing.
There is a very good reason why some cultures use sleep deprivation as a form of torture. By 8 months I was ready to crack. My reprieve came at 39 weeks when PJ was delivered safe, well and not the gargantuan I’d begun to imagine. The misery was over and our little family was complete at last.
Wenna – 18 Nov 2011 at 19:22 – Via Facebook
Baby PJ arrived safely at 11:30 am weighing 7lb 11 oz. We are so very lucky xx
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The growing Realisation…
Wenna – 29 Nov 2011 at 18:39 – Via Facebook
It has been 12 days and every single bit of my body still aches and throbs… feel like I’ve been hit by a bus.
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Wenna – 30 Nov 2011 at 20:11 – Via Facebook
So in love with my boys. Still aching all over tho. WTF is up with my body and when will it realise I’m too busy for this nonsense?!
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Wenna – 3 Dec 2011 at 08:23 – Via Facebook
Wondering if it’s normal to get worse before you get better after a C Section? Certainly didn’t feel this horrific 7 days ago 🙁
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Wenna – 8 Dec 2011 at 10:11 – Via Facebook
PJ is 3 weeks old now. It’s time to rejoin the land of the living but still feel like hammered shite. Antibiotics not working. WTF is wrong with me? 🙁
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Wenna – 9 Dec 2011 at 20:18 – Via Facebook
V sad the breastfeeding stopped before we had planned. At least PJ is still thriving. Gutted tho.
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Wenna – 14 Dec 2011 at 10:12 – Via Facebook
Anyone on here ever seen an Osteopath and if so did it work? OUCHY 🙁 Pain killers not touching it today.
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Wenna – 17 Dec 2011 at 23:06 – Via Facebook
Completely fed up with feeling rubbish… it’s been over 4 weeks now, christmas is coming, I have 2 children and not enough time to be ill.
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Wenna – 20 Dec 2011 at 12:51 – Via Facebook
Please let this set of blood tests turn something up before I go crazy… taking so many pills I nearly rattle. God bless my gorgeously well behaved boys.
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Christmas At RCH Treliske
Wenna – 23 Dec 2011 at 13:58 – Via Facebook
Less than thrilled at the prospect of going into hospital this aft but fingers crossed I’ll be out and better in time for Crimbo. Really don’t want to miss my bigger boy opening all of his pressies. Hoping for a christmas miracle!
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Wenna – 23 Dec 2011 at 20:11 – Via Facebook
Breaks my heart to be separated from my baby and the prospect of not being with Al on christmas day. Stuck in hospital while they figure out wtf is wrong with me 🙁
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Wenna – 24 Dec 2011 at 10:13 – Via Facebook
Awaiting MRI scan to confirm infection in spine. May need surgery. A bit frightened 🙁
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Text to Dad. Christmas Eve 10:05 am
‘In same place. Awaiting MRI. May need to go to Derriford Hosp for surgery on spine. Very frightened: not supposed to use mobile, but pls can you call RCH and ask for Medical Admissions 1? Mum is written down as next of kin. Love you X’
High Level Infection
So things were looking pretty bleak by this point. Nobody wants spinal surgery for Christmas. It soon became clear that going home wasn’t going to be happening any time soon.
A large part of my Christmas day was spent persuading nurses as to how much pain I was in. This was met with only varying degrees of success and it felt like the agony was never going to end. I drifted in and out of consciousness and tried to eavesdrop on what was discussed at the nurse’s station. Words like ‘sepsis’ and ‘dangerously high level infection’ were bandied around, but by this point my head wasn’t able to leave the pillow.
My Non Hodgkin’s Lymphoma Diagnosis
The days and nights became a blur, but I am reliably informed that it took 5 weeks from admission to diagnosis. Evidently it was such a backwards presentation, I had some of the brightest minds in the hospital scratching their heads.
I moved ward 6 times, had my phone stolen, screamed in 2012 in excruciating pain, had 2 blood transfusions and slept around 18 hours a day. There were 3 biopsies, another MRI, a CT and an ultrasound. Finally they got to the bottom of it, and a meeting was set up with my parents and me, on Friday 13th January.
A notable date for the superstitious among us, and the irony was not lost on me that this should be the day my world tilted forever on its axis.
‘You have stage 4B Non Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. It has likely been lying dormant, and was activated by the pregnancy. This can only be a good thing, as it has not invaded your T cells, which might have happened otherwise. It is highly likely that your son has saved your life!’