One Friday evening, Kara, her best friend, me, and Abi were enjoying an evening on the beach. It was beautiful. We mucked around in the water on inflatable kayaks before having a picnic. But just before leaving, Abi vomited.
The rest of the night continued uneventfully, although I had to give up my bed to Kara and her friend because Abi was complaining that their constant chattering was keeping her awake. So I decamped to the sofa. I must have rested quite well there, though, because I slept undisturbed, until the morning, when I heard someone in the downstairs bathroom. Unfortunately, that turned out to be Abi, who was vomiting again.
She continued to vomit all morning. Not large volumes of sick, but she was retching almost continuously. I phoned the local hospital to let them know what was going on and to warn them that we might need to come in.
Unfortunately, the vomiting continued, and around mid-afternoon, Abi started to feel very sorry for herself. She wanted to go to the hospital so they could give her antiemetics. So around 6 p.m., I phoned the hospital to let them know that we were on our way. A mad dash across town followed, bringing back horrible memories of last September when I had to do exactly the same thing. However, somehow, this didn’t feel quite so urgent. Unlike then, Abi was quite chatty in the passenger seat, and she didn’t vomit once during the journey. So when we got to the hospital, I didn’t think we’d be there long.
I was wrong. Shortly after arriving at the hospital, Abi vomited. Her temperature spiked to 39 degrees. She was given intravenous antiemetics and paracetamol to control the temperature. She was then admitted so she could be kept under close observation.
The next couple of days continued on a rhythm of vomiting, temperature, not much sleep, and no food. Before this latest episode, Abi had been doing well and had recovered some weight, reaching 21kg. But by the beginning of the week, she had lost all that, falling back down to 17kg. She looked ghostly thin once again.
However, Abi’s vomiting was less frequent by then; the doctors had tried various antiemetics and had finally arrived at a combination that seemed to work. Almost; unfortunately, Abi was sick as soon as she tried any food. Doctors starting discussing the need for a gastric tube again. I was sill reluctant to have yet another surgical procedure performed on Abi. But the way things were heading, I couldn’t see any other options.
On Tuesday 21st July, I had to run down to Somerset to put up a structure at a festival. I will admit to hoping I could stay down there, so when I phoned the hospital the morning after, I had my fingers crossed for some miraculous recovery. But the news wasn’t good; Abi had had a restless night and had vomited quite a lot. So I finished my work and jumped back in my car to return to the hospital.
That Thursday, Kara finished school for the summer holidays. I suggested to Sarah that I should take her back down to the festival to keep her away from the hospital. To my surprise, she agreed. So in the morning, I took Kara, her best friend, and two other people (who had asked for lifts on Facebook) back down to Somerset. On Saturday morning, I had a lovely phone conversation with Abi, who seemed much brighter. But on Sunday, I learned that she had vomited again. News had travelled around the site that Abi was unwell, so I had lots of people show concern over the weekend. It was lovely that people cared so much, and I felt ‘held’. I wish I could’ve passed on some good news to everyone, but it wasn’t possible.
Meanwhile, Kara and her friend were having a brilliant time. That lifted my spirits somewhat. So much so, I thought I’d have a go at “Ecstatic Dance”. That was a silly idea, though. I wasn’t feeling even remotely ecstatic, so I left after five minutes. Instead, I went and watched a band on another stage, where I could dance without having to be ecstatic about it. I did enjoy doing a fair bit of yoga over the weekend. Mainly because I felt obliged to get up for the first session at 6.30 and return the mats I borrowed to sleep on.
One small hiccup during what was otherwise, a lovely weekend, happened outside a Puja, a Buddhist ceremony, on Sunday evening. I had asked Kara to be there so she could light some incense for her sister. In fact, that had been a condition of her attending the festival in the first place, because I thought it would allow Abi to have a presence there, even if she couldn’t attend in person. But Kara failed to show on time, and I had to go hunt for her. I found her outside, playing frisbee. That upset me: “All I asked of you this whole weekend was that you be here to light some incense for Abi,” I told her, disappointed. At that point, someone else decided to intervene: “What on earth do you think you are achieving by shouting at your daughter and trying to force her into a puja?” they asked, angrily. I was parenting at the time, so the intervention wasn’t entirely welcome. Especially given the circumstances. I was about to tell them exactly that, in my typical forceful style, but Kara diffused the situation: “My dad wasn’t shouting at me,” she said to the man, matter-of-factly. However, I don’t think he heard because he had climbed so high on his throne of righteousness and had stomped off triumphantly, having made his point. Kara did eventually light the incense, albeit begrudgingly. But we were best friends again later, after we had sat down together to watch a band.
On the morning of Monday 27th, I got the news that Abi had improved a great deal and had woken wanting breakfast, which she had kept down. Sarah and I had both expressed concern about the psychological impact yet another hospital stay was having on Abi, and I think the doctors had listened because, at this first sign of improvement, they decided to discharge Abi. The festival had finished, so I quickly took down the structure I was there to take care of and zoomed home. How lovely it was to find Abi out of the hospital and looking so healthy!
Unfortunately, it seemed as though the doctors were a little hasty because I got a text the next morning to say that Abi had had a rough night. She was being readmitted. Thankfully this proved only a temporary blip. She did not vomit again over the next two days and was again discharged. Not before more discussion about gastric tubes. However, the doctors agreed with me that more surgical intervention would probably prove unhelpful. That was just in time for the week-long family retreat that we go to every year. It’s a lovely event, which both Kara and Abi adore, and it would have had quite an adverse impact on the girls had we not been able to go. But we did go, and it was just as brilliant as ever. Indeed, while there and with Abi having som much fun, both her health and humour improved visibly.
Abi continued to do well. No more vomiting and her eating improved too, along with her weight, which was back up to 19.46kg.
We have just been to see Abi’s Oncologist, who was also pleased with how well she was doing. He was busy looking at her latest scan when we entered his office: “The tumour on the hypothalamus seems to have shrunk just a little. However, the one in the surgical cavity on her cerebellum seems much smaller. In fact, I’m having trouble finding it,” he told me. That was brilliant news. May it keep coming over the next few months. Abi’s tired of hospitals and so am I.