Christmas Eve 2019:

It’s almost time for the Big Man to arrive…there’s a cake left to marzipan and ice, shopping to be done, presents to wrap, cards to hang…what there is absolutely no time whatsoever for is illness. So you can imagine my utter delight when I dialled 111 on my way home from my last shift before Christmas on Thursday – expecting they’d advise me to go to my GP the next day – and I was informed I had to pull over, as a matter of urgency, as there was an ambulance on its way.

Yet again I found myself in an A&E department with a nurse desperately fishing around for a vein. My car abandoned in a pub car park.

After a swift blood test I was told my heart was perfectly fit and fine but there was a blood clot on my lung.

Cue: uncontrollable bawling! Maybe I’d been overdoing it, going to too many Christmas parties – including the 80s one with my good friends Amy and Cat, stressing about all the festive stuff there was left to do…

It’s alright though because like a true Brit after a nice cup of tea and a couple of slices of toast I’d absorbed the news.

I had literally felt fine…really good actually. Well, apart from the fact that for nine hours before I made the phone call I’d experienced excruciating pain in my left breast and shoulder blade – shooting pains that made me wince every time I breathed in. I’d tried shallow breathing and ignoring it. It’s probably indigestion I thought…(I think we’ve been here before!)

Luckily, my colleague Dave convinced me I needed to get checked. Why do I still have such an aversion to getting checked? Note to self: you are not invincible, Sue!

Anyway, after being told I had a clot, once again I felt that overwhelming disgust for my own body. How the hell could it do this to me? Again! But I was tired, it was 03:00am. I’m over reacting, I thought.

Turns out we all were because a CT scan found no clot.

Instead the levels of an enzyme in my blood that detect clots were raised, but this happened because of my lung disease, sarcoidosis. Apparently.

The only thing that is really clear is that no-one really knows much about this auto-immune inflammation that is having a right bloody good go at me.

After some emergency anti-coagulant drugs – I didn’t need – a couple of hospital meals that were actually pretty decent and 24 hours of listening to the confused old lady in the bed opposite, asking repeatedly why she couldn’t go home and if someone would turn the telly up, I was discharged and finally made it to Center Parcs for the surprise holiday we had planned for the kids, albeit a day late. They’ve had a blast!

I’ve been referred back to the Royal Brompton in London where I’m due to get all my sarcoidosis results in January…though I’m starting to get the feeling they won’t answer all my questions. Having a rare disease sucks but at least there was no clot. Small mercies.

Right then. Let’s get on with it! Merry Christmas to you, have a magical time and I’ll speak to you on the other side…let’s all try to avoid any drama and stay out of hospital!


PET scan prep

Thursday 7th November 2019:

I’ve got a last minute PET scan (positron-emission tomography) and cardiac echo at London’s Royal Brompton tomorrow.

The PET is apparently perfect for discovering exactly where in the body sarcoidosis is lurking.

The downside is in preparation I haven’t been able to eat any carbohydrates at all today, or it’ll render the tests useless. And as if eating just meat, eggs and fat wasn’t torture enough (my colleagues have certainly been wary about sitting too close) nothing other than water is allowed to pass my salivating lips for the 18-hours prior to the tests on Friday afternoon, which will probably be the precise moment I go past the point of feeling hungry.

However, as I said to the receptionist who booked my appointment: “At least I’ll start the weekend feeling thin!”


‘Definitive answers’…

Thursday 10th October 2019 (continued):

…are apparently what I’m going to get!

London was London…someone almost lost a limb on the Tube because he couldn’t wait just two minutes for the next train. However, my first cardiac sarcoidosis appointment was fairly short and sweet but seemingly successful.

The cardiologist took down notes as I rattled on about all my recent significant illnesses (his pen actually ran out halfway through) – my heart, ongoing UTIs, kidney stones, previous neurological shit – and he reckons there’s a good chance they’re all linked. BUT only PET scans, which detect inflammation, and probably further MRI and CT scans will absolutely nail it. And they will be looked at by sarcoidosis specialists who only deal with that one disease…day in, day out.

So, I should get a date in a couple of weeks for when I will have to go back for a whole day of tests and possibly an overnight stay…I’m sure my boss will be thrilled! Possibly even as much as I am at the prospect of a dried out, curled up hospital meal.

One thing the specialist did say was that my “heart attack” was unique…not like any other…and probably only got given that terminology as there is no other current medical term for it.

I’ll be in the bloody Lancet yet! Either that or some “crazy hairstyles of the decade” journal given three folk asked if they could photograph my mop today. Seriously, you’re in London. I live the sticks. You really ought to get out more!


Cardiac sarcoidosis appointment

Thursday 10th October 2019:

I’m channelling my inner Wonder Woman again today as I’ve got a cardiac sarcoidosis appointment at London’s Royal Brompton Hospital. They’re like gold dust and I only got told about it last week so it’s either a cancellation or they’re concerned. I’m wearing matching underwear and my will is written so I guess I’m all good to check out…but only if I really have to, and frankly I’ve not tried nearly enough cake in my lifetime yet!

I jest but I have increasingly found myself short of breath these last few weeks. Again, there is the conundrum of whether it’s my lungs or my heart that’s at fault…or possibly neither. I am, as we know, slightly more prone to panic attacks these days. Need I remind you of my sports shop debacle not long after my heart attack? I won’t be lying down on any floors today to calm myself though as there’s not nearly enough time. I’m already on a train to the big smoke from Birmingham and afterwards I’m meeting my best mate Lucie back in Brum for dinner.

Life is busy but fun. I’m six weeks in to the temporary job on the sub editors’ desk. It’s flown and I love it…even if it has taken until now to get my staff pass to actually let me in. I’ve only worked for the BBC for a mere 20-odd years.

Anyway, right now I must try to live up to my new nickname “Super Paz”, as dubbed by my Brum colleagues. Though if I fail, as one of them (Jay) quickly pointed out: “We will just use it ironically.”


I got the job!

Friday 9th August 2019:

On the five-month anniversary of the day I was told I had suffered a minor heart attack, I am happy to report I got the job!!!

I’m moving to Birmingham part-time for three months from September to work on the sub editors’ desk, with the colleagues who have possibly (most likely) been silently correcting my copy since I started this blog! You know who you are…

I’ll learn so much. It’s exciting…and just a little bit terrifying…but most of all it’s a challenge. You can either feel hard done by or you can just bloody well get on with it. To be honest ill health has brought far more positives than negatives so crack on life…bring it on.

My heart is normal and I’ve now been off all my cardiac medication for a couple of weeks. The cardiologist didn’t seem convinced it was the right move at first as I’m a bit of a special case but hey, I’ve not dropped dead so that’s surely hopeful.

My sprained ankle is healing well and so I’m back running almost every day which is frankly as good for the mind as it is for the heart and waistline.

I’ve been enjoying the hamster wheel of work, more days out, I’ve even been on holiday with the family to “posh Butlins” as someone put it…I still haven’t been able to bring myself to tackle the pain in the neck that is travel insurance so staycations it is…AND I completed the Crystal Maze for my best friend Lucie’s 40th in Manchester. A weekend of being very northern and retro. Perfect!

Oh, and I almost forgot…I sold the warts I’d helpfully developed on my hand to my Dad for a penny…he honestly asked for them…but that old wive’s tale was utter bunkham and I resorted to the over-the-counter ointment I should have used in the first place as they were banished in a few days.

It appears the only thing wrong with me…and I appreciate this is subjective…is the 12th damned UTI I have recently developed after the long course of low-dose antibiotics the urologist put me on, and felt confident would cure me, came to an end. Sigh!

I’ve got another appointment with him next week where he’s likely to suggest a camera might be the best way to see what’s going on. Gulp!

The good thing is, if he wants to blast the kidney stones he now can as I’m no longer at risk of bleeding to death because of the blood thinners. Silver linings and all that.

So anyway, I’m not quite sure what to do with myself now I have very few ailments to whinge about. Answers on a postcard…


‘Entirely normal’

Monday 15th July 2019:

It’s been a while so let me bring you up to speed…

It’s just over four months since my heart attack, I’ve been back at work for six weeks – full-time for five, my heart is now “entirely normal” according to an echo scan and MRI, my lungs are also functioning as they should despite the sarcoidosis and I’ve not had a UTI for longer than I care to remember. Plus, I’m being referred to London’s Royal Brompton Hospital to try and get to the bottom of the sarc and avoid any further complications. I think I’ve had enough of those.

Aside from that I’ve done a spot of raving, misbehaving and DJ-ing, watched fabulous sunsets, been reunited with family, old chums like Rocky and Tanya, celebrated friends’ 30ths, 50ths and my Dad’s 70th.

In other news, I applied for a promotion – got an interview, was then shortlisted but didn’t get it. It’s a bit disappointing but as I was reminded, more than once, 16 short weeks ago I was in a hospital bed. Ah yes…

I think I’m ok. Do you know what? It’s almost like it never happened. Except I’m a very different person now. Me and the kids made it to school drop by the skin of our teeth the other morning (one wouldn’t get dressed and was jiggling around the living room naked) and I only had a slight sweat on! If it’s out of your control, let it go…

Easier said than done though when you’ve been told (by your fabulous personal physio friends – thanks Cat and Liam) not to run for eight weeks after rolling your ankle at netball. I really do love Yeovil hospital…and a drama by the look of it. Due to my blood-thinning meds I was whizzed through and seen in 45 minutes despite a general four-hour wait. I’ll have my own wing next.

So anyway, I also retired from netball earlier this month…and then reinstated my position as captain after realising I may have been a little rash.

Of course having a heart attack doesn’t get you out of PTA chair duties (I partly organised the bloody Easter bingo from my hospital bed) and now my job application has been unsuccessful and I won’t be changing my four, 10-hour shifts to five, eight-hour shifts “their loss is the school’s gain” as the headteacher put it. I swear there’s a “you have to already be mega busy” prerequisite to volunteer work. Though I do seem to thrive on it…oddly.

Other than that I’m very much looking forward to celebrating my best friend Lucie’s 40th in style this weekend in Manchester with Jenny, Lydia, Louisa, Faye, Aimee and Vicky (non of whom I have seen since I decided to have a ticker-wobble). Though I’m not sure the city is ready for us.

What would be excellent though is if I could rid my hand of the warts I’ve recently developed as a result of a low immune system…just fucking marvellous…along with the nickname my kids came up with – “witchy toad finger”.

Yes…I love you too.


I survived…

Friday 7th June 2019:

I’ve been back at work for a week, joined the gym, bossed my longest run post heart attack…and survived!

No-one made a massive fuss as I returned to the grindstone, which was lovely as I was able to hold it together emotionally. That’s not to say they were an uncaring bunch…far from it. I got flowers, a card and many hugs as I visited colleagues in both the Southampton and Dorchester offices. But I was able to remain in control. It’s also like I was never away. I feel more “me” than I have ever felt. And that’s the thing about life-changing shit…it makes you reassess! Clears your head.

Ok…so next week might be more of a shock to the system as I go back to full time hours as opposed to half days…I’m such a skiver!

Anyway, that’s back to work done and I am exactly 13 weeks post heart attack. WOWZERS!

Now I just need to see all of my family and the long-serving friends in Preston I’ve not already caught up with….you remember…the ones I was first to text when I went into hospital, despite them being 300 miles away…Lucie, Jenny, Kate, Andy, Dan, Emma, Laura, Liam, Leanne…

However, my gran…my only remaining grandparent…the one with dementia…she’s the one I miss the most. But I missed her long before my heart attack. Thank God she has no idea! I wonder what she had for tea tonight…and if she remembers me at all?

Enough of that maudlin nonsense though…my thespian daughter is in her first proper play this weekend – Annie Jr. There’s so much to be thankful for!