Saturday, 25 April 2015

Recovery and reflection

Wow, I just saw on Lynn's blog that my last post was 3 months ago! Time flies, hey?

So, what has been happening? Well, a lot! I'm going to start with the bad news and try to end well.

The bad news is, well, as bad as I have ever had in my life. My dad went back for his post chemo scan. It was supposed to be a formality, a final to check before moving on with life. It wasn't. The first week after finding out I cried a lot in the evenings, and in the car on the way to work. At work I kept myself busy and just about coped - though I only told the other team leads about it as I couldn't cope with people asking if I was OK. I wasn't. I'm not.

On top of my grief over it there is the higher grief of him not getting to see his grandson grow up. And the bigger one of his grandson is never going to remember his granddad. We do not know how long he has, but we are pretty sure that it won't be long enough for the little guy to form any lasting memories.

I had all 4 of my grandparents until I was in my early twenties. I thankfully still have 3. And it hurts to think that he won't have that. Maybe the loss is more mine than his, but it hurts, A lot.

I have now just about accepted it though. And am really trying to concentrate on making the remaining time as great as possible. Trips to them, lots of trips of them to us (we have already been asked if we mind them coming more often - of course not!).

And I am going to stop now, because I am getting upset again.

My recovery is going. there have been setbacks and emergency appointments at the hospital, but nothing too bad and all just about solved. The surgeons are happy with the results, and that means that I am too.

There is still a road to go. I have still not sat on a push bike since the operation. I have sat on the motorbike. Small trips are fine (and it feels great to release my inner biker hooligan occasionally) but when I went to work this week I realised after 40 minutes that it was too early. Just a shame that there was still 10 minutes left, and a whole trip home. That has put me back a bit - the bruising has made itself felt again and sitting has been less comfortable since - though it is getting better. I'm going to keep up the small trips, but the next commute to work can wait until June I think!

I'm busy learning new coding skills - AngularJS and .Net MVC 5. These are technologies we will be using over the coming years in the office. And whilst I do not code that much any more, I do want to have a working knowledge still. And it helped my confidence doing the training. I may not have the most up to date knowledge about our current code base, but when everyone was on the new stuff I was able to help others again - I'm not as rusty as I thought! I'm busy trying to get more  knowledge at home (not easy with a full time job again and a child of 14 months old!), and am building my own online application as a training exercise. Once I have something I may even post a link here and you can all laugh at my efforts :)

Speaking of the little guy, he is wonderful! We celebrated his birthday in February and bought him too many presents. Way too many presents. That many that we didn't even give them all to him and he was still that tired of opening them on the day that the last one he got he ignored almost completely!

He is about to start walking too - walking along the table, walking holding our hands (in his first real shoes - which for such tiny things are not cheap! They cost more  than some of my shoes!) and just today actually took his first step unaided. From my arms, letting go an going a couple of inches to his mama. It's going to be interesting when he really gets going!

He still loves his books (and is currently very interested in my old .Net 2.0 text book!) and can't sleep without a story. I just hope that stays :)

And he is starting to talk :) It's just amazing to watch him grow!

And finally... I'm busy working on my confidence right now. That is something I really miss for my job and I am trying to challenge myself more and more. Both with participation, feedback and just being me.

The most visible part of this is my clothes. I have spent the last few years being very worried that people are judging my clothes with thoughts of 'is she trying to hard?' And before I buy anything, or even wear anything this is a question I ask myself. Well, I'm stopping. I now have a couple of dresses from British Retro (really awesome dresses!). Full circle, below the knee swing dresses. With a full petticoat. I think they are awesome! They really, really stand out (though still pass Jenny's Tesco test - I shop in them!) and I feel great in them. I feel that this may be the staple of my wardrobe for the coming couple of years and plan to enjoy it!

Right, time to get back to another mini project - a window application that compares two folders organised differently and lets you know what the differences are. I'm sure I could download a tool to do it, but really, making your own is just so much more satisfying!

Saturday, 3 January 2015

2014 - what a mixed bag!

It's been a couple of months since I posted anything here. There is a good reason for that (and for me being so quite in the comment sections of others blogs!), but I'll come to that later.

I'm normally not one for that was the year that was, but this year I want to do something. It has been amazing, heart rending, emotional and painful in more ways that one. Let's see where this goes...

January started with the broken boiler a week or two before my son was due to be born. Stress and very likely an overpriced boiler later we had heating (and no CO) again!

February was the mixed bag of the year. On valentines day my son was born after a traumatic week for both Mrs Stace and I. A difficult birth, in a room full of doctors and nurses working hard to make sure he came into the world safely (as opposed to a mid wife and normal delivery) had me totally petrified.

I managed three weeks with him before I was called back to the office due to another team lead needing to leave the country for a family emergency. Those weeks were simply amazing!

We saw my parents who came for a week to see him, though dad was not well, the doctors though that he had a vitamin deficiency and would need three monthly injections for the rest of his life.

Sadly, this was not the case. At the start of March he was diagnosed as having bowel cancer and needed an operation urgently as the surgeon thought that they had caught it early enough.

Scottish NHS however had different ideas and it was nearly two months later (after several screw ups from the hospital) before he actually had the operation. By this time it had burst out of the bowel and there were three external cancers that the surgeon also had to remove whilst on the operating table. On the bright side, he could not see more damage, and dad did not need a stoma as a result of the surgery.

The fact that the cancer had spread though moved him from a low risk patient to a high risk, and so chemo was considered necessary. And very harsh preventative chemo too, something that we were not warned about.

His first course was fine, he coped well. The second saw him get very poorly, and the third put him in hospital for 10 days or so with complications and infections.

Over the summer I got a call from the VU (hospital) about surgery (woot!). They expected it to be in August, or at the latest September.

We saw our son grow, start to get a personality, and start to take a very real interest in his surroundings. Watching someone grow up in front of you, from a tiny and helpless baby to someone with a personality and wanting to do things with you is such a magical experience.

He has also been ill a few times, and I have never been so scared in all of my life.

But come September still no operation. Quite the opposite, when I called for an update I was told not September, maybe October. Great.

October came and I finally got the call from the VU. 10th or 11th November for my operation. Holy crap! All of a sudden everything became really... Real. Time to start lots of handovers at work, and time to start preparing!

Only, it wasn't the 10th or the 11th. A few weeks after the first call it was changed to 18th November, and I started to get scared that it would be cancelled. I was refusing to believe that it was going to happen until it actually did...

For the next few weeks I was a bit of a wreck, and then came to my last week. It was really quite boring - which I took as a good sign, better than a busy one with lots of last minute questions!

And then, in hospital! Which is kind of a chapter all to itself (which I am trying to write before I forget it!).

December has been recovery, scares and parties where I could not join in anywhere near as much as I wanted to! And a lot of support from people, for which I am deeply grateful! That support got me through some very tough times over the last weeks.

The little guy has seen his first Sinterklaas, and his first Christmas - which we spent in a holiday home with the in laws and had a great time.

On Christmas Eve dad took his last tablet - and as long as the next scan is clear, as the last was, then he has the same chance of remission as someone who never had it in the first place.

New year was spent at home with the little guy (thankfully) sleeping through the fireworks and Mrs Stace and I staying up till midnight to see the new year in.

2014 was a mixed bag. It was the year I thought I was going to lose my dad, but it was also the year that I finally had my operation and most importantly of all, the year that we got our son. And for that it will always be special!

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Still here

Just not had much time to get a post actually finished! I have started a couple. One still to come, and another that has just been deleted. I was on far too much of a downer when writing it and it was too much.

The downer is caused by issues in the office at the moment. I have just started emergency coaching as when in the office I feel about 2 seconds away from a complete breakdown (and have been on the edge of tears too often in the last few weeks). The coaching is going well, but there is a long way to go or recovery.

The good side is that except for the complete and total lack of energy (and falling asleep on the sofa too much) it is limited to just the office, it is not something I am bringing home with me!

This week has been really tiring though. The little guy, after trying it out when he was two months old, decided that he wanted anothe taste of 5th disease this week. On Monday he had high temperatue and was taken to the doctors (btw 240bhp and hearing that are not a good combination! Waiting to see if any tickets come in). The doctor originally thought it was a bad cold as he had a running nose, was coughing and wheezing a little.

The temperature dropped over the following day, but then the spots arrived...  I called the doctors again and they said 5th disease, normally he would have had immunity seeing as he had it in the past but apparently that immunity only comes after a certain age. At 2 months he didn't get it. Hopefully he will at 8!

When he started to recover though we had something that we have never had before (except the first few days). He just would not go to bed one night. He moaned when in our arms and screamed when in his bed. After spending 4 hours trying to get him to sleep we decided to give him a bottle (something he has never needed). Before it was finished he was asleep. We guess that he was starting to recover and got his appitite back. I now have even more sympathy for anyone who has a child that won't sleep at night. One night was enough to completely wipe us out!

He is doing fine now BTW. The spots have gone (expect for the ones that went hard - they are going to take some time to dissapear), he is eating, and playing on his own again. Though when he gets tired he hangs on to our ankles until we pick him up :)

So what else???  Well, a month ago I treated myself to a Sonos Connect to listen to streaming music in the living room. We've tried a few options in the past, but there was nothing that really worked well. I must admit I wasn't overly hopefull about this either (I only bought it after making sure I could return it even after unpacking if it wasn't any good).

Well, I was quite wrong! 5 minutes after unpacking it I had streaming FLACs coming from the server upstairs and it sounded so good that we moved the CDs out of the room that weekend (MP3s are fine for background music, but awful for when you actually want to listen to something).

With that and very good Spotify support connected to the amplifier via a digital link so that the DAC used to make the audio signal is the best it can be I am very, very impressed!

Of course it meant even more cables in the living room and eith that and making it as safe as possible for the little guy (we have not baby proofed the room, he just needs to learn what he can and cannot play with - but the dangerous things to him have been hidden) meant that I had to re-organise all of the equipment. That was a lotmore work than I was expecting, There were cables all over the living room and 7 years of dust bunnys from underneath the furniture that needed moving!

I worked it out that there must be about 200m (about 220yrds) of cable underneath the cabinet! 24m of just power cables! Then there are the network cables. We bought an unmanaged switch a year or so ago. I wanted a 5 port but the 8 port was only a few euros more. Good job that I did! We now have only one of the 8 ports free (if a connection can be wired then I use it wired - better signal and less traffic over the wireless link). And that is used for when we need to transfer huge volumes of data from the laptop to the server (even with a 200Mbps wireless connection a 1Gbps connection is much, much faster!).

All in all taking everything apart, cleaning everything that has been hidden, laying the cables for each bit of kit and then putting the kit back together cost me about 4 or 5 hours. Far longer than I had hoped for!

Worth it though!

Right, looking at the time I should get the little guy up and organise some breakfast for him!

Monday, 8 September 2014

An update, casual misogyny and no more compact discs

Well, after the post last week I thought an update was in order.

First of all I would like to say thanks to all of you for your kind words. I tried to answer them, but the text just wasn't coming so I thought I'd do one big update.

Dad is still in hospital, though as of yesterday he is allowed out of his room and he is walking around. The nurses have told him that he can leave the ward now, the door is open and he is allowed to go further than just the day room!

Where he went to watch F1 yesterday and today (he is where I get my interest in the sport from), but hasn't gone further as he is still too tired.

Which isn't surprising - he has lost more than 2 stone in two weeks (24 pounds / 13KG). But, the infection has gone and he is not in pain anymore and can start to eat again. All of which is great news!

He has to stay in for a few more days as they want him to start building himself up before coming home.

About the future - that has to be discussed on Tuesday with the oncologist. She agrees with the diagnosis that there is nothing to see on the scans and that he is probably free of the disease. But... She would prefer that he goes onto a somewhat lower (though how much lower we don't know) dose for as long as he can take it / mid November to make sure. He has said he is gong to try as they have removed one part of the chemo that was causing the most problems.

We'll see on Tuesday where or not he is home, but at least it's a positive update today, and for the last few days, from my mum.

How am I doing? Exhausted, though nowhere near as much as my mum is. She looks shattered, but also a lot better than 7 days ago.

This week I am off of work, not to go anywhere, but just to stay at home and do nothing. Friday 11am I finished my time for the week and that was that! We are going to buy a book tomorrow that has arrived at the bookshop and I plan to read it whilst the little guy is sleeping, or keeping himself busy.

Friday was also a party for the company where I work, it has existed for 15 years now and it was celebrated with current and past employees with a Robin Hood theme. A hog roast, archery buts set up in the school yard and most people dressed for the period. And, yes, the witch got anoher outing! No doubt there will be pictures coming as the professional photographer that we hired seemed to like my costume!

It was a great evening catching up with people that I haven't seen for a while, and some people I haven't seen before, say, December 2011... One guy was great - he came to the table where we were eating and asked if he could join. Then he introduced himself to me. I helped him remove his stereo from his lease car when he left :) I introduced myself but pointed out that he knew me, albiet a little differently. A wonderful look of shock mixed with realisation as he apologised for not recognising me (not a problem, I can't recognise me from the wedding photo on our piano either) and then a chat about it. There was someone else who almost didn't recognise me, but she has seen me since I transitioned. She came up to me whilst I was eating and tapped me on the shoulder, 'Stacy, it is Stacy isn't it? You look amazing!" Which when you consider I'm there wearing a raggedy cheap witches costume, and green eye shadow was a stretch :) But I'll take the compliment anyway!

The only problem was that the casual misogyny was also with the archery and hog roast. I was waiting to shoot with a couple of the guys that I work with, I got the bow in my hand (after being totally blanked by the guy running it a couple of time) and then he actually took it out of my hand to give to one of the other guys who were behind us. If it wasn't for the fact that raising a scene in the middle of the party wasn't my intention I would have said something.

And when I did get the bow the guy still totally blanked me and left me to it whilst he chatted to the other guys giving them tips and helping them use the bow.

The other was the hog roast, the guys in front of me got a nice slice of hog, then I came and got two tiny slithers, and then the guys behind got a nice slice again. I know I'm not the thinest person in the world, but really!

But, that aside I had a far better evening that I was expecting - I was really nauseated when I got there, as I am for any party without Mrs Stace. Self confidence is still not my thing!

And lastly, gadget news. I was going to be a complete geek for my birthday. Get a Raspberry Pi, with a HiBerry Digi+ sound card on it and download PiMusicBox to play Spotify from the net and FLAC files from our server. I've been wanting to get rid of the CDs in the living room for a while, but not whilst I could only listen to MP3s via the TV. Both a pain to use, and not the best sound quality - great for the background music but not to great for when you actually want to listen to something.

Until I was reading news about Sonos this week, removing the need for their bridge to work over WiFi. I'm not a fan of Sonos speakers as they seem really expensive and sound just about OK for a kitchen. But, their little Connect box has a coax digital out that can go straight into the back of our stereo and use the decent DAC that it has and my nice speakers for the music.

So... Wait for the Pi, fight it and struggle with setup but have the geek factor. Or buy the more expensive Connect and have it set up in minutes with a much more user friendly app to control it.

Hmm, I'm 38 now and I have to admit that sometimes the consumer option is just so much more appealing as long as it does the job. So after an amount of deliberation the Connect it was. And, yes, it really was 5 minutes from unpacking to listening to great music from the network!

So, a table full of CDs to take to the attic, and two days ripping the 20 CDs that we didn't have as FLAC yet (whilst annoying the little guy as he loves the computers and we would not let him near them :p ) and we are now CD free in the living room - and have listened to more music in the last two days than we have in the last 6 months, I think. It really is that simple!

Oh, and of course the little guy - he is doing really well still. He wasn't sure about mum the witch - I got some strange looks, Playing, crawling and desperately wanting to play with gadgets!

And being very nice to his parents - as I said, we have a week off of work, and I have woken up twice before him so far! May it continue for the rest of the week!

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Still here

(Excuse typos this is not going to be much proof readong)

Without looking at the date of the last post I know that it has been a couple of months since I last posted. There are a few reasons, trying to cut down on what I am doing and spend time not looking at a couple of million liquid crystals (not really working), being exhausted and just really not in a place to write.

The last is strange really, it should be a good way of releasinhg the tension and yet everytime I have sat down...  Nothing, staring at a screen or looking at words that have been written and just thinking they are nowhere close to how I am feeling and what I need to say.

We're all OK in this house. The little guy is doing well, and still letting us sleep in a way that annoys my colleagues with children (for some reason complaing that he woke us up at 7am on a saturday morning is not appriciated by those people who count 6am as a lie in). Physically we are all in tip top shape.

My op has been delayed, yet again, for planning reasons unknown. The care given by the team at the VU is great, the planning sucks beyond belief. I have decieded that I'll beleive I am having the op when I am the table and not before - it's hopefully healthier than getting worked up (in a good way) only to be told that, nope, whilst we said August, very maybe September we are now saying very maybe October, but we don't know.

Work has settled down. I wasn't happy earlier and nothing is going to change the cause. But, I still love my job, I'm just no longer prepared to make myself ill for it. As I said to my manager great for my work life balance (I now try to work my 36 hours and not a minute more, rather than the 46 to 50 I was doin) and Christmas is going to be spent (outside of those 36 hours) with family, not firefighting major problems for 18 hours a day for 9 days in a row, as it was last year. This has also been said to my manager.

But those are not the issues either.

My dad is very sick. He was diagnosed with cancer earlier this year - about 2 weeks after the little guy was born actually.

It was caught early and should not have been a major problem. But it has been. Delays in getting the operation (more hospital planning screw ups) meant that it had spread locally before they could operate. They got everything, but it meant chemo.

And for more than a week now he has been feeling like giving up as the chemo has reacted very, very badly with him. In the words of the doctor who stopped it, it was killing him. He is now in hospital with a bad infection trying to fight both that and the remains of the chemo that has not yet flushed from his system.

And it's a rollercoaster. One day he is doing great, reading hundreds of pages of a book, and the next he is non-communicative and scaring the living daylights out of my mum.

The only good  news is that the professor at the hospital has said the emergency cat scan he had is clear. The bad news is that the oncologist still wants him to have more chemo and we don'tknow why, and dad is refusing it because of what the last lot did.

It's a very strange feeling, I look at the little guy and am so happy, and then I have this as well where I am crying on my keyboard.

Thursday, 26 June 2014


Well, after a various delays caused by my private life I have just called the hospital to say I am ready to go on the waiting list.

At the start of July I have to speak to a psychologist as you need to have spoken to one from the gender team less than 6 months before the operation and I have to have another appointment with the anesthetists as my last appointment was too long ago to be considered valid.

After that it is simply a case of waiting for an operating table. Sometime over the summer is the expectation. It could be as close as 5 weeks, or as long as 11 weeks away.

I have set this in motion now and it seems very surreal, and has freaked me out somewhat. Not as it did last year but more a 'Holy crap, this is actually happening...' way.

To be continued as the saying goes!

(PS Sorry if this makes no sense, I don't have the ability to think straight right now!)

Friday, 20 June 2014

Scary realisation

This is a bit of an emotional post, it may ramble. Sorry.

Something happened this week that has made me realise I have been answering questions a little wrong over the course of my transition.

The little guy is fine (actually, more than fine - he is wonderful :D )

And there is nothing to worry about, so please don't get too concerned.

Something happened yesterday at work that has totally thrown me. Totally. Nothing to do with the transition (I hope), but something that has made me really start to question things.

This caused me a huge amount of stress, and a few tears and a lot of anger. Not things that I am wonderful at boxing in.

I was shattered yesterday from it all,, and could barely stay awake before going to bed.

In bed was a different thing, I couldn't sleep, yoga breathing techniques were doing nothing to help and I was just in free fall.

And then I bit my finger very hard.

And then I started to think if that is a normal thing.

It's not really is it?

This morning I have done some searching and it does seem to be classed as self-harming. Which is something that I have always said I didn't do. Turns out I did - I have often done this to my arm and fingers before starting the transition as a way of coping.

Not that I wanted to punish myself, or that I felt I deserve pain, but more because it just took my mind off of everything else.

I only really thought about it last night when I did it and realised that I had not done it in years.

I'm expecting a call from my boss today (he called earlier, but I was changing the little guy and so couldn't answer the phone). We'll see what he says...

Update: had the call, made things worse :(