An Overdue Explanation, part 3

Me with a walking frame and one leg
Me, shortly after leaving the hospital

Part 1 of this explanation is here

Part 2 of this explanation is here

I woke up from my operation with one leg. The anaesthetist told me that the two surgeons tried from 8:30 am to 3:30 pm to save my right leg, but the tumour was too far advanced. So then they had to spend another three hours to amputate at the hip. I later found that I have a stump, but there’s no bone in it. I will eventually have a prosthetic that fits over the stump and ties around the waist.

I stayed on the recovery ward until 13:30 the next day. When I finally got back to the regular ward I found out that some bastard in the USA had gone on a spree using my credit card while I was under anaesthetic. It took several calls to the bank to sort that out, which was absolutely what I didn’t need just then. Bastard.

I spent two weeks in hospital, slowly getting stronger, slowly coming to terms with the amputation. Then I was allowed home, or rather to the apartment on Tenerife with my husband looking after me. Obviously, I needed support to stand, but I gradually got better at hopping around with a walker. The nasty surprise was that initially, it was really hard to sit. After a couple of days, we worked out an arrangement of cushions that allowed me to sit long enough to eat a meal without too much pain.

I spent four weeks in the apartment with my husband, who did everything: shopping, cooking, laundry and helping me to wash. He took me to the hospital weekly for wound care. We kept trying various arrangements of cushions around the stump. A nurse suggested getting either a small, circular cushion for my stump, or a neck pillow, the sort people use on aeroplanes, and that helped a lot, but I still couldn’t sit for long. No sitting meant no laptop or knitting. I spent most of my time lying down and found that after a while a book gets heavy. I did keep a diary on my phone. We wondered about escaping to La Palma for a weekend since it’s only a 30-minute flight, but I’d board first and disembark last, so 45 minutes sitting on the plane, plus an hour in the wheelchair before the flight, plus, say, 25 minutes to get home. No, I couldn’t do that yet.

The initial pathology results didn’t look good. Not only had the tumour grown into the bone, it had also grown into a blood vessel. Final pathology results were worse; the tumour had become more aggressive. It would have started shedding cancer cells into my bloodstream, and they were now floating around, looking for a place to set up home. In short, I needed chemotherapy.

The oncologist arranged for that to happen on La Palma. At the end of February, the surgeon agreed I could go home and the hospital in La Palma would look after me. By that time I could sit for long enough to travel. I got my covid booster, and we finally flew home on March 1st, six weeks after we’d left.

So here I am back on La Palma. I’ve had my first two rounds of chemotherapy. I go in at 8 am on Monday and stay in hospital until Thursday morning. I’m in oncology outpatients from 8 or 9 in the morning until about 4 pm, then down to the ward overnight where they can keep an eye on me. The side effects haven’t been too bad although I’ve lost most of my hair and been very tired sometimes.

My next and final round starts Monday. Once I’m through that the worst will be over. I hope to start physio soon to get ready for my bionic leg. Here in Spain, the health service will provide a basic prosthetic. If I want any bells and whistles, then I pay the extra myself. Luckily I have savings so this is thinkable.

I made myself a cushion with a hollow for my stump, and that’s a great improvement. I can still only sit for about an hour at a time, then I have to go and lie down for a bit, and then I can sit for another hour. I have to be pretty intentional about how I use my limited sitting time, but I’ve started writing again. Not just this blog, but also fiction and non-fiction articles.

It’s still a wild ride, but I’m still smiling. And practising for when I’m old.

Me in a red hat and wearing purple and a big smile
Me, still smiling.

Posted by sheila

Sheila came to La Palma with a six month contract and has stayed 24 years so far. She used to work as a software engineer at the observatory, but now she's a writer and Starlight guide.

This article has 2 Comments

  1. I’m so sorry for the loss of your leg, but at the same time very happy that you’re free of cancer now. It was very nice meeting you today, and I just realized that I have already read a book of yours, “The Seer’s Stone.”

    I hope we can cross paths again next time I am on the island; I will bring my new Celestron 8SE Telescope along. Have a nice and healthy time,


  2. It was nice to meet you too, and I hope we meet again.
    Next year I hope to publish my thriller set in the observatory, “Murder by Starlight.” I hope you’ll read that too.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.