Monday, December 27, 2010

Wishing and waiting

Waiting at the Eurotunnel, arrived 2 hours early and there is a two hour delay. What joy but the wait will be worth it as we will see Max and Charlie once we get over there. Christmas was good, turkey delicious but still a little dry despite the 9 hours in a salt bath looking just like a Damion Hurst installation, and the pound of butter shoved under its breast skin and slathered over its capacious frame. Fourteen people scoffed it down however and then played silly games and sang to the karioke machine. My superwoman status - home made everything - was slightly shaken when Stewart was searching for the tablecloth for the big table only to find it at the bottom of the ironing basket where it had mouldered since last Christmas. A ladybird had made its home in its creases. I looked as fit as a butcher's curly haired pup and I had to dish up 14 dinners so there was no time or reason for maudelling last Christmas fears, thank goodness.

So here's to Christmas future and to the Eurotunnel getting a move on.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Two special presents


At last they are here, born at 15.00 and 15.10, one just over 3kg and one just under. Max and Charlie, no longer foetus A and B but bona fide little boys dying to see their nanny Jean I am sure. But there is too much snow for us to jump straight into our car and head over there. We would get stuck on the M40 and my fat leg would freeze up and we would be no good to man, beast or lovely little twins. We will go after Christmas, en famille to see our new famille and give them the shock of their very short lives.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Deck the halls

Jess bought me a Christmas tree on Sunday; that was thoughtful and kind of course but the kindness was really to the Christmas tree. It is to trees as those runty puppies with one lame leg, a bashed in eye and mangy fur are to the canine population. The sort of puppy they use in adverts for Dog's Homes. They do it to try to tug at your heart strings, please very kind person give this mutt, that no-one could possibly want, a home. How could my lovely humane daughter resist and how could we? So we have lopped bits off, propped it up and filled the yawning gaps with our biggest baubles. I scoff now at the forests of perfectly shaped trees that adorn our neighbours' windows, how boring, how obvious; not the sort of tree for us at all.

Ours matches perfectly the slightly wonky cake I made, the very tipsy puddings and no doubt the oozing mince pies that are on today's festive factoring agenda. I am, as you will have gathered, something of a Christmas hero, especially this year and no, fear not I am not going to turn into one of those teary Grannies that weep through their turkey and trimmings because this may be the last chance they get to do so. Even though I have been a bit prone to the miseries recently, it's this bloody cold and my cricked leg. They make me feel old and tired and ill and I begin to wonder if I am going to feel better or is this the slide downwards. So the Christmas cheer is just what I need and filling my days with Yuletide fiddle faddling.

Today I am planning the meal and making sure I have everything ordered from the two or three supermarkets chains that are, as we speak, searching the highways and bye-ways with the sole purpose of provisioning our groaning table. I am even going to desert Delia and her turkey under a foil tent that has stood me in good stead for the last 10 years or so and which I always think about when I am sleeping under the roof of our bedroom in Maumont; the previous owner thought it a good idea to line the very highly pitched ceiling with silver insulation materials and like our tree, we have learned to live with it. This year I will try Heston Blumenthal's method which entails soaking the bird in a salt bath for 10 hours (well it worked for the Romans), then tenderly stroking its breast(s?)underneath the skin with thick swathes of butter and gently heating it up until it is just begging us to tear into its eager flesh.

Of course ours will probably have one leg shorter than the other and be even uglier than the average, ugliest bird in the world, turkey; but I will love it just the same and after all that salt soaking how could I possibly add to its burden by weeping and wailing over its beautiful, tender, butter crisped skin.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Trust me I'm a doctor

Things are looking slightly brighter: Stewart is out of hospital and OK he did do his back in sorting out the futility room, home of the ashamed washing machine still sitting on its sopping carpet, but at least we are moaning and groaning together. He looks like the crooked man, walking his crooked mile.

My lergy turned into a cold and cough so not too life threatening and yesterday I went to see the oncologist. Frankly I was in no mood to fire loads of questions at him but basically he said my leg tumour was the same size, ie stable which believe you me is good news, and the Xray of my lungs was OK. A tad vague that you might think for a man of science but I have no trust in Xrays to show anything anyway. He has ordered a CT scan for mid January and I will see him again a week later. That gets me over Christmas so I made a speedy exit in case he changed his mind and tried to convince me that sea squid poison (main ingredient of next lot of chemo) was the just the thing to accompany turkey and mince pies.

Meanwhile back in Northern France, Julie continues to grow and incubate our twins. Her doctor is just watching and waiting too, you would think that with all that training they could be a bit more proactive and maybe work the odd miracle or two. We have all fingers and limbs crossed that the two little boys will arrive next week so that we can whistle over there, albeit crookedly, go gaga over their beauty and fill the car up with fat duck livers and cheap champagne. Beats sea squids any day.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

What else can go wrong?

OK God I know my last post suggested I didn't believe in you and I still don't. But just in case I am completely wrong will you just get off my case. If you are out there and this is some sort of divine retribution I don't want to be in your gang anyway and I certainly don't want to live with you for ever; not even if you let me torture a few folk who really deserve it and who funnily enough believe in you up to the hilt.

This is enough who ever you are. I have Stewart my poor old husband in hospital. He is fine really, he has the flu or some such virus. But because he has Chronic Lymphocytic Leukaemia (symptom free for 20 odd years) they go into a panic. They panic and then do sod all. He is in Birmingham's supposedly sooper dooper new hospital. It is very pretty once you get on the wards. But he was in what is laughingly called the Clinical Decision Unit on Sunday, very soon renamed by me to the Clinical Indecision Unit. Staffed mostly by junior doctors under terrible strain, you are surrounded and within a hair's breadth of people with all sorts of things wrong with them. Presumably it did them no good to be near Stewart and his virus, it certainly did me no good to listen to an old chap screaming in agony from pneumonia for literally hours. The ward he is on now is light and bright but chronically understaffed and unable to make speedy clinical decisions hence he is blocking his bed and complaining that he wants to go home on an hourly basis. It is also a long way from the car park and although I am now the proud owner of a blue badge, by the time I reach his ward I am ready to be admitted myself. Not that I would show it I would rather they shoot me.

And yes I now have symptoms of Stewart's lergy, I have a raised temperature, my cough has come back and I feel as if I have done ten rounds with Mike Tyson.

And finally about 30 minutes ago Joe discovered that our washing machine that I had struggled to put on this morning, had flooded and water was pouring through the kitchen ceiling, on examination we found that the central heating boiler was also dripping. The kitchen is now carpeted with towels soaking up the wet and I fear the ceiling is bulging.

So leave me alone will you, my phlegmatism does have its limits.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Frightened to death

I have been ruminating (as we cow like types will) on fear and what makes me afraid. It's an easy one, spiders number one and, as of last year, bikes number two. Not dying you will have picked up and more of that later. Clearly my fears are all irrational but that does not stop the grinding panic, the rush of blood to somewhere where it is terrifying. I have a large nature book that I can't touch because it has the most gruesome picture of a spider's face, I can hardly bear to type the words. Every time the last episode of the Lord of the Rings film comes on I tell myself that it is just that, a film, that I have read the book a hundred times, that I am safe at home and all is well. No good as soon as the intrepid travellers enter that mountainside into Shelob's lair, I have my head buried in a cushion and nothing will get me to look up.

And why bikes? I used to live on my bike when I was about ten. I could ride with no hands and on one wheel, I could pelt down our hill with my feet off the pedals. Then last year, nearly 50 years on, I decided to get myself a new bike, I hadn't ridden since I was about thirteen. I didn't get just any old bike but a £2000 beauty that gave you power assistance as you pedalled (remember the fat leg problem). I proved the old adage wrong you can forget how to ride a bike. Oh I could still just about keep upright but I went into a flat spin literally if I had to stop, turn round or go near another human being or form of transport. In the end I fell off so often I was driven rigid with fear and now can't even bear to pedal on the straight.

My terror therefore is of scraging (Brummie term means scraping) my knee or seeing ghastly images of spiders but not of this vile cancer that is invading my body and doing me real harm. I simply cannot get the adrenalin flowing on its behalf. Sometimes when I feel dreadful, I have recently had a cold and a cough and I fell over in the snow and ricked my bad leg; I feel a glimmer of something but it's more like irritation. I used to be frightened of dying, I could get myself to this place where my scalp tingled as I made myself think about what not existing might be like, but it is much easier not to do that and frankly now I can't be arsed. Of course I am frightened of being very ill, but am comforted by the fact that when this has happened in the past, dreadful flu or last winter's cold, I really haven't cared whether I lived or died so when the time comes I will be looking for relief. Also I get claustrophobic so I am frightened of coffins. I'll have one of those whicker jobbies please, they seem less closed in, idiot that I am!

People say that believing in the after life stops the fear of dying and gives comfort. It seems for me it is entirely the opposite. I would be absolutely pissing myself if I thought I had to go somewhere else. What if I didn't like it, didn't fit in? What about those terrible judgements they say will be made about you? I haven't done much that is really sinful but I am no goody goody. I tell lies, I have chocolate and eat it all by myself, I am anti-social and I used to be a flirt. I covet my neighbours clean house. And what if all that sent me to hell, I know it would be filled with spiders and bikes. So thank goodness I know that I will be going nowhere but into the collective memories of my friends and family. To me that is the great comfort and probably the reason I am not afraid.

Of course I might die in the street after seeing a spider and falling off my bike in which case be assured that, as I breathe my last, I will be shaking in my boots.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The emperor has no clothes on

Just back from Bournemouth where the NHS Alliance were holding their 13th conference and my old organisation were helping to make it all happen. I was only there for the beer and to see old friends, but in the end I helped with the stage management, managed to dance a few dances and found myself on the reality check panel able to tell the Chief Executive of the whole NHS, the head of NICE and the Chief Executive of the Care Quality Commission what it felt like for patients these days.

It was the emperor has no clothes on time for me and I told them in no uncertain terms that he didn't and that what we received, in secondary care in particular, was far too frequently substandard and at times downright unsafe. I put in a plea for us poor buggers with rare conditions who could easily be pushed into a cruel postcode lottery if there isn't a national scheme to fund our treatment. I asked them to ask themselves how 26 miles across the channel our continental neighbours were receiving a far better, higher quality service that had much better results, when they didn't have a zillion quality standards, or huge organisations to monitor what is going on, or wave after wave of new policies, strategies and management models; just simple, easy, good quality.

I was asked what I wanted from my GP, I said I wanted him/her to be able to send me directly for imaging or other diagnostics not to have to go via secondary care, that I wanted that to happen very quickly. I asked them to make sure that when they referred their patients on to secondary care they made sure that they saw someone with at least as much expertise and experience as they had themselves, and to be aware that this does not happen now; far too much diagnosis and ongoing care is left to Senior House Officers who simply are not senior enough to be able to pick up the exceptions to the rule.

It was amazing how many of the delegates, mostly GPs themselves came up to me afterwards and gave me chapter and verse about the poor care they and their families had received in hospitals etc and they all seemed to still be smiling at me so perhaps I have kept a few friends and maybe together we can start to reclothe our beloved emperor even though times are tough and we might have to make do with M & S rather than Yves Saint Lauren .

Sunday, November 14, 2010

A lump in the throat

Well the pain in the shoulder blade that nearly finished me off has faded to a whisper but the radiotherapy soldiers are still creating havoc as they follow their scorched earth tactics on my lungs and gullet. I am on a diet of scrambled eggs, risotto and for today's Sunday blowout I am making my melt in the mouth steak and kidney pie in the hope I can get it down, and would you believe it a milk jelly made with evap.

There is this lump in my throat or around the top of my rib cage actually, that means it hurts to swallow. I have always been a fan of swallowing, you get nice tastes on the way. All through the dreaded chemo I was fearing a loss of taste as other poor victims have fallen prey to this, but no I was saved and gorging my way through the best restaurants of Britain, France and Italy has been my way of making the best of this bloody nightmare,

Now my gorge is not so gorgeous, but they say it will abate and yes I will enjoy a bacon sarnie again until then.. well there was that fantastic fois gras brulee I had in Perigueux that had nary a lump, and rice pudding and Stewart's wondrous watercress soup and endless cups of tea.

However, you will forgive me, I hope if I say that despite the wonders of tasty slops, this most recent turn of the screw by the cruel and ruthless Leio is a bit hard for this fat foodie to swallow.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

No pats on the back

OK I know I am a brave little thing at times and yes I have scored my 100 on Scramble but please don't pat me on the back or give me a hug. They said it would get worse before it got better and they were right with Round 1, hopefully the second prediction will be just as accurate.

It's been agony but I am discovering the wonders of morphine, even if it does turn you into a Zombie. Danny was a Zombie for Halloween so while I know nothing about Zombie genetics, it is only right that his Nan shows some of the characteristics I suppose. The drugs have also put a strange smile onto my face which beats the grimace of yesterday.

Typing hurts so that's it for blogging for today.

Friday, October 29, 2010


I knew it was bad news when the phone rang and it was David Peake, my oncologist at about 10 o'clock this morning. Oh hello how are you I say, as you do and he asks the same of me and then says that the radiology doctor had alerted him because one of the blobs in my right lung that neither the Germans or the chemo got is wrapping itself around my spine and this is not good news as it will bugger up my nerves and my legs and maybe make me poo my pants. Well I didn't thank goodness despite the lurch in my stomach, and rushed off to the hospital to start immediate radiotherapy thinking that I have been going on about the pain in my shoulder by my spine for some time. In fact I had stopped going on about it and put it down to RSI from my new obsession with Scramble on my Iphone - my score is 98 and if I don't get it to a 100 I will not die a happy woman.

When I say immediately have radiotherapy I got to the hospital by about 11.30, waited to see himself, saw the pictures of the snake around my spine, had a natter, signed my life away and then had to wait for the processes to unfold. Number One was an IV jab of steroids. This may make you feel as if you are sitting on nettles she said and yes it did. Two days before, the jab in the scan had gone straight to my rude bits and being a bit weird I quite enjoyed it, this was slightly more disarming, is this a pleasant or downright horrible, sado masochistic type experience. It went straight down there and was like being beaten by razor wire, not that I ever have been of course.

Then eventually up for another scan to get the target just right, and tattoo me. Just a ragged blob, no Girl with the Dragon Tattoo for me, well I am not that good on motor bikes or computer hacking or indeed sado masochism, so what can I expect? That was over at 2ish and then we had the long wait till about 5.00pm when I had my two second blast under the machine. I must go back tomorrow, round the back, because it's closed really and for the next nine days. This is a pre-emptive strike says David but we don't talk about what will happen if it doesn't work or only works for a while.

So spine tingling stuff, we drop a bit in the morale stakes but have just been out for a curry and half a bottle of wine and tomorrow I will get that magic 100 despite all of it being a bit of a pain in the neck.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Keep smiling through

It's going from bad to worse on the hair front, a few weeks ago friends told me I looked like Julie Driscoll once my hair started to grow back on but now I have all these grey curls, Jess ruffles my head and tells me I look like Melanie Phillips. Now the only good thing about Melanie Phillips is her hair but that is not saying much as she is a peculiarly unpleasant, Zionist, gender betraying, misanthropic scumbag. Ok Julie D was a bit of an airhead and wore too much makeup but she didn't turn your stomach. I plan a visit to the hairdressers to tidy it all up and maybe dye it purple. Desperate times call for desperate measures.

The journey back was uneventful, we met a nice bloke called Thierry who at 1.45am in a pretty depressing service station was cheerful and jokey, perhaps he was on drugs but he managed to make us smile and sold us some Diesel. We were all knackered, me mainly because every time I dropped off we went round one of the zillion roundabouts on the road up through Normandy or I had to be nudged awake to pay a toll. Right hand driving has many downsides. Since then we have been catching up on creche duties and falling in love with our grandsons all over again, Danny has been transformed into a talking, biddable, beaming boy while we have been away. Which with my curls means we have a lot to smile about. You know smiling Melanie, it's when you feel good about things or something makes you laugh and your mouth turns up. And it's infectious .. try it sometime.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Don't panic, don't panic

Sarkozy, aka Sarcoma, says don't panic so of course we are. Tonight we will make a mercy dash with our precious full tank of Diesel in the dark to the Eurotunnel, booked for 6.45 tomorrow morning because Sarcoma aka Sarkosy, is going to bring in the special forces and that is bound to cause more trouble, the French lorry drivers will love the challenge. My scan is next Wednesday and although I don't really want to know what Sarcoma, (this time not aka Sarcozy but I wouldn't be surprised if he and his like were resposible for that too) is up to with its wicked devices, I suppose I have to face up to it and rally my forces against it to block its progress and cut off its fuel.

At least the rush to pack and clear will take my mind off leaving this lovely place. Next time we come to France it will be to see our new twins. I fear they will have to work till they are very old but if they are chips off the old block, they will be blocking the roads and telling the future Sarcozys where to get off just as I hope their Nan can tell Monsieur Sarcoma next week.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Talking about my generation

The Who famously sang "hope I die before I get old", I am part of that generation but never signed up to that hell cat sort of sentiment and while I am still far too young to die, I fear I have missed the " hope I die before I get old" boat already. Let's look at the facts. I am collecting my pension although these days you don't have to queue up at the post office but just watch as it glides, almost unnoticed it's so teeny weeny, into your account. I have hardly any clothes that don't have dinner dropped down them, parts of my body that once had skin so smooth it made men go weak at the knees would now only set a rhinoceros or other pachyderm atremble. I am half deaf, I have to have the subtitles on and in conversation find myself guessing words ridiculously wrongly like my Mom who was convinced our friend Chris was called Fritz. Last time I had my eyes tested they had to point me at the chart because I could hardly make out the top line and try as I may I can't get up out of a chair without a sort of strangulated bellow erupting from my lips, if lips you can still call them.

I suppose I should be thankful that I may be saved from sinking further into dotage to the point where I start peeing myself and muttering things about the younger generation or even worse start trying to look the same as I did when the Who were around. We had Roger Daltrey speaking at one of our conferences a couple of years ago, alongside the Prince of Wales would you believe, I didn't notice whether he had gravy stains down his shirt or was beginning to dribble but sure enough he was older and like me, can probably now pop his clogs without those immortal, dying before he gets old, words leaving his lips, if lips you can still call them.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

It don't rain but it pours

There is a Brummie saying: just cos yer house burns down, it don't mean yer old lady wont run off with the milkman. Well it's less PC than that but I have my reputation to think of. So I find that having cancer doesn't mean other things stop going wrong. I don't just mean my dodgy knees and the repetitive strain injury in my shoulder caused by too much Monopoly on the laptop but the trials of parenthood are catching up with us again. When young folks moan about their babies not sleeping etc we joke and say " It's the first 37 years that have been the worst". Well that is coming back to bite us as we have a very unhappy Joe staying with us. We had to go and fetch him from Sam's who had fetched him from Lille right up in the North. I find you can't put being a Mom on hold, we are weaving the family magic on him and feeding him up. Luckily he can keep working from here and we have got him fixing a satellite on the side of the house. Not sure of the aesthetics on our lovely mellow limestone, but it is bringing a smile to his face and that is all the aesthetics I need.

It seems we may be marooned here as the French are up in arms about Scarcozy ( ha ha spellcheck offers me Sarcoma or scarcity for that) wanting to raise the pension age to the dizzy heights of 62. While the world lets the bankers get off the hook I am with them all the way. The petrol refiners and deliverers are on strike and there are queues at the petrol stations, maybe the ferries wont be working and they may blockade the roads. No hardship for us of course, I can get a scan done here if I have to and we can enjoy more of the wonderful sunshine and autumnal colours, and no rain or milkmen in sight.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Happy Birthday

Google tells me that today is John Lennon's birthday, they seem to have missed the fact that it is also the birthday of my soul mate and daughter, Jess. She is 29 today, so the last year of her roaring twenties is about to start. And they have certainly roared, but then so did her teens and her pre-teens, in fact she sort of roared at me as we eyed each other up for the first time, when she was about 29 seconds old. Her look said "and who do you think you are". I'm still asking that question myself but she got used to me and her Dad and loved her brothers as long as they kept to their places ie did what they were told. If you were watching Question Time on Thursday she made the second comment from the audience ( I haven't seen it yet, we can't get the telly here in France) something which suggested that maybe David Cameron's multi millionaire family might not feel the loss of child benefit quite as much as the average single Mom who has struggled to get her salary up to £36K or whatever the limit is. So we are bursting with pride for her of course.

This is the first second family occasion since I was told I might only see one more birthday, one more Christmas etc. It's a weird feeling. My Mom lived almost another 29 years after I was 29; OK the last five or so were not worth the candle but if I think what has happened over the last 29 years since Jess was born it feels like almost all of my life. I know I couldn't have expected the next 29 to be quite so momentous career and personal experience wise; life is slowing down and gets a bit repetitive but I can't begin to imagine all that I might miss that I should be seeing happening. Some perhaps that I would rather miss!

I do know that Jess will carry my flag, remember everyone's birthday and cook the Christmas puds and she will keep on roaring.. because ..that's my girl.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Curly tops

My hair definitely has a wave in it. Not waving goodbye anymore but waving hello to a new curly me. It has always been dead straight. I didn't need to iron it when it fell down to my waist in the 60s; my Mom had it razor cut for a couple of years, whatever that is, in the hope that this might make a wave happen. She used to curl it round a few grips and even the odd roller in the hope of getting her dream daughter to materialise. Nothing would make it curl. Even I tried to get the Farrah Forcett look in the 70s and had a perm, but I could only afford the local salon where the old ladies went and ended up looking like a Brillo Pad.

But now the curls have finally arrived, I am really not sure what to do with them, how to live with them. Luckily it's still very short so it's not going wild, I don't have ringlets or kiss curls but wonder if it's just a matter of time. It's like getting a baby or a pet late in life when you have lived without one for ever. I may need to go to curly hair classes or consult a few of my wavy friends.

I am wondering if anything else is growing back kinked, maybe my politics and I'll start thinking Nick Clegg is a good thing or my atheism, I might start lighting candles or muttering the rosary. If you see either of those things happening dear friends, I think it will be clear that in fact I am not waving but drowning and for goodness sake, pull me back and lock me up.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

My old man

There are things that irritate me about my husband. Currently:

* He drives at a million miles an hour if someone is behind us on bendy French roads because" they get annoyed if you don't"

* He can't go a day without visiting a do-it-yourself shop and standing for hours fondling various screws and brackets

* He has always just read the greatest book ever and goes on about it to everyone

* He worries about everything, the fosse (septic tank), the boiler, Rupert Murdoch, the attention span of today's kids.


He makes me laugh, we love the same things and people, we agree about all the important things like politics and religion and since the very worst he could imagine ever happening, happened, he has been fantastic about it. About leio and how he now shares my life and might in fact run off with me sooner rather than later. He has played along religiously with my let's not let it ruin what time we do have philosophy, he has become fonder, he never let's me see him feeling sad even if we both know just how much he is; he makes me tea in bed.

I cannot conceive of what it will be like, no comfortable silence, no quirky shared smiles, no punch on the arm on waking. It's too much for him to lose. Which is why when he read out this poem chosen by our friends, Chris and Denise, at their recent wedding (after 26 years together!) I wept, like them, but for different reasons I hope:

For What Binds Us
by Jane Hirshfield

There are names for what binds us:
strong forces, weak forces.
Look around, you can see them:
the skin that forms in a half-empty cup,
nails rusting into the places they join,
joints dovetailed on their own weight.
The way things stay so solidly
wherever they've been set down—
and gravity, scientists say, is weak.
And see how the flesh grows back
across a wound, with a great vehemence,
more strong
than the simple, untested surface before.
There's a name for it on horses,
when it comes back darker and raised: proud flesh,
as all flesh,
is proud of its wounds, wears them
as honors given out after battle,
small triumphs pinned to the chest—
And when two people have loved each other
see how it is like a
scar between their bodies,
stronger, darker, and proud;
how the black cord makes of them a single fabric
that nothing can tear or mend.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The bearded lady

In yesterday's Guardian there was an article telling us we should learn to love our facial hair. Apparently there is a group called Hairey Awarey that is proposing that we embrace our beards and flaunt our hirsute extremities. I have always quite liked my facial hair because frankly I didn't have much, certainly not enough to get into a clinch with. But of late I am becoming more hairey aware, you see the hair is not just coming back onto my head but also onto my chin in soft, pale, but really quite long, sort of down. I am pleased that this might now be the height of chic but still shudder as I see it glowing and waving as I pass the mirror. So this morning, not wishing to be a slavish follower of fashion, I got Stewart to give it a quick clip with his beard trimmer.

I hope this doesn't mean I will have to start shaving on a regular basis because I couldn't even keep up with my legs before the chemo and fuzz is starting to grow back there too. But luckily I will have no need for a Brazilian or other exotic trims on my rude bits, the radiotherapy did for them in more ways than one.

I was right wasn't I? Cancer treatments do have a great deal of the absurd and bizarre about them; in fact it's all quite hairy as you will observe.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Read any good books lately

I was reading A Fair Balance by Rohinton Mistry on the way here. It's the book I stole or swapped, in fact, from the German hospital where I had my lung zapped. I had abandoned it, gathering dust next to my bed, because the print was very small and I kept nodding off as I screwed up my eyes to try to make out the blurry bits. Armed with my new glasses I picked it up again and got hooked. It's a happy tale of castration, amputation, hanging, starvation and slums but it manages to have its funny moments.

Even so as light relief after polishing it off I turned to Adrian Mole's latest diary The Prostrate(sic) Years. What do you know it's all about cancer, poor old Adrian; and of course it's a hoot. It doesn't quite wring out the full absurdity of radiotherapy and chemo and what it does to you but my smile kept wrying. And that Sue Townsend, they say that blind people have better hearing than the rest of us, it must be so, she must have heard, all the way from Leicester, my husband muttering about the impossibility of finding a proper sandwich and not one slathered in mayonnaise; words put into the mouth of the hapless Adrian. Perhaps my husband is Adrian Mole, he keeps threatening to write to the Prime Minister too, he is 25 years older of course and has a much better prostate and taste in women but ..there is the cardigan.

I'm now reading a book by a woman called Fred about murders that mimic the Black Death, that should be a laugh a minute too.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

A Maumont

'A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For the journey, and such a long journey
The ways deep and the weather sharp"

Well it's only September, but the boat was delayed because of a south westerly gale and then it drizzled for 500 miles through France. We kept seeing blue skies ahead but they were mysteriously always ahead until, that is, we reached Maumont and it was warm and sunny and we felt welcomed back.

This morning we have been to the market, we saw wild boar and a red squirrel on the way and they saw us and knew we were back or so I like to think. In Bethune we felt baby bumps or maybe bums and Julie introduced us to Bill and Ben or whatever they will be called.

A lot of hellos therefore and so far, so good, no goodbyes.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Beating the odds

It was exactly a year ago today if you go by the days not the date, when I asked how long he said an average of a year. So if I make it to tomorrow I am beating the odds. I feel fine except on Tuesday morning I slipped on the stair of an inn that has certainly beaten the odds and made it to 500 years old. So now I have a bruised bum and jarred operation bits.

It's a funny old life when you have a death sentence hanging over you. I think I will make it to 02/11 and so my credit card will expire before I do. Not sure about the passport though 2015 for that one. The really good thing is I can take on long contracts for stuff and not let them know I may run out before they do.

The latest is an IPhone, not the new version I am not posh enough for that, but the one before that. Each of my friends and family who have one of these little beauties has assured me, separately, that it is going to change my life (but perhaps not my life expectancy). So far it's just meant that I feel really old as I struggle with syncing, or sinking in my case, and that I have spent this morning retyping in my contacts because I couldn't work out how to sync those with my old phone or my PC. I have also forgotten the password to our wireless connection so can't put that in either.

Yesterday when it came in its wrapping and today as I cocked up most of the names I was typing in on the super sensitive touch screen, I realised yet again how useful fingernails are and how, literally, ham-fisted you feel without them. Earlier I had actually wept as I tried to put on my brand new compression stocking, I had to keep lying down between lunges at the unrelenting fabric with my soft shell fingertips.

So my days over the odds have so far been hampered by the shock of the new but I will get Jess round and get her to prove to me how the dratted phone is going to change my life and later on today either by IPhone or by my old and trusty laptop I will book our crossing to France and from next Tuesday we will live out a few more bonus and, hopefully, IPhone transformed days in Gallic peace and tranquility.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Money, money, money

I find that this on/off dying malarkey pays havoc with budgeting. Not that I was ever that good at it and am definitely of the any excuse for a splurge, let's close our eyes to the consequences, school of economics. I was quite enjoying the pensioner's plight of living off a daily pittance, well about £40 to be exact which should be manageable even with my psyche. I kept a daily tally and loved the days when we only reached about £2.45. And then the cancer man said you might only have a year, go and have a good time. So off we went and blasted about £6K of our savings on hedonism Italian style and then we thought better hold off, and then they found the lumps in my leg, liver and lymphs and so off we went again, eating our way around the Dordogne and buying the odd small library and another few thousand went the way of all flesh. Now the xray has come up trumps and so it's back to watching the pennies. Boom and bust Trainor style; I may start taking lessons from the heartless Messrs Osborne and Armstrong and cut, cut, cut; but frankly I prefer to spend, spend, spend and do my small bit to boost the economy, and my morale, while I can still taste, walk and wonder.

Friday, August 27, 2010


Well it was no fun coming back, well not after leaving Sam and Julie's it wasn't. Our friends Julie and Harry, who also have a house in France, stopped over as well and we had feasting and lots of very cheeky conversation. I saw the latest scans of the twins including a very super willy on Foetus A, I think it was, both are boys we now know and that is no surprise as girls are very few and far between in our family. I am beginning to feel sorry for Foetus B, he is smaller and more hidden and I love him to bits.

England was cold, wet, noisy, crowded and traffic riddled and if it hadn't been quite nice to snuggle under the duvet last night and to see Harry and Danny earlier I would be ready to sink the whole place.

Today saw sunshine, if a lot weaker than in the Dordogne, and good news from the oncologist. It was only an xray, not a scan which shows up the full story, but on the xray you couldn't see any blobs at all and he was pleased and said I could have another two months off- repreive! - till the end of October when we will have a proper scan. So I am pleased too, of course, even though in my heart I know an xray can't really see enough of me, the bits it saw looked a lot better for now.

We will probably go back to lovely Maumont quite soon, once I have had my family fix and tidied up the garden. You don't need a scan there to see massive growth of unwanted items and I will be pulling them up with renewed enthusiasm.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Back to reality

The last of our visitors has gone and we are now into the last week of our stay here. Next Wednesday I have to go back to Britain, see my oncologist on Friday after he has looked at my chest via an xray and we will then find out how leio is behaving. I feel Ok, my leg is no worse but neither is it any better. I have a bit of a cough but not as bad as it has been, I am eating like a horse but then I always did. One of my big toe nails is hanging off and that is the worst of my problems at the moment. That and the worry that this might be the best summer I will ever have now, we always knew this might be the case which is why we have worked so hard to make sure it was fantastic. And it has been, I have read a lot of amazing books and a couple of duds. Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver is my favourite read of 2010 so far, I enjoyed One Day by David Nicholls, The Help by Kathryn Stockett and A Gate at the Stairs by Lorrie Moore. Others have not made their mark and I still have a small shelf to get through. I have eaten some fantastic meals cooked by Michelin chefs and some by bigger stars in my own family, even a few cooked by myself and we have lazed, laughed, sung and danced in glorious sunshine and drizzly rain. My hair is growing back and friends say I look like Julie Driscoll (well she must be getting on a bit now too!)

I want to come back very soon, I don't want to have to start being injected with poison again, to have my energy sapped and my enjoyment prospects dimmed. Leio get on your bike will you and let me make this summer just the first of many boozy, basky, beautiful ones to come.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Unwelcome visitors

No it's not you or you two; humanoid visitors this summer to our little French house have all been charming and have lifted my spirits. But we have a very sweet and very unwelcome visitor. A chubby, and extremely pretty mouse. I saw her/him a few weeks ago and fell instantly in love, don't know why. So we left well alone, but then Stewart saw him/her and found that he/she had been eating our flour and crapping on our furniture. I utilised my newly returned energy levels and cleaned out the food cupboards yesterday, only to find a nest in an opened packet of popping corn that Jess thought was a good idea to buy maybe last year or the year before. I chucked out all the old half eaten packets and washed the cans and bottles, bleached the round roundy thing that the previous owner had put in the kitchen units to store food on and then stood back and admired my shiny clean world. BUT quelle horreur this morning more mouse droppings on the carousel so we have been off to buy poison to kill my new love and his/her family and friends.

What that will do to my karma I can ony imagine.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

All done and dusted

A few months ago when the idea of the family helping Sam and Julie to move was mooted, I said yes great if I feel well enough and here we are now back in home number 2 in South West France having successfully moved them lock, stock and barrel, although the barrel was empty by the time we left. I felt perfectly fit, relatively perfectly fit that is. And while I can't say I did that much to contribute to the move, on Day 2 when I got up and straightened a few books, plumped a few cushions and picked up a scrap of paper, Joe got the vac out and voila the room was transformed into a thing of beauty. It is a beautiful house, all wood panelling and Minton tiled floors, ceiling roses and those enormous double doors you see in bourgeois French houses.

Harry and Danny tazzed around it with great joi de vivre making us all imagine the twins doing the same thing in a couple of years time. Although two years seems an enormous stretch for poor time limited me. As Jess and Julie filled the bookcases on Saturday night to much banter and hilarity, and as my boys who used to spend hours talking about the relative merits of amps or cry baby wa wa pedals discussed drill bits with their father with equal enthusiasm, I imagined this all going on without me there. After all what did I contribute? - very little other than the odd quip or giggle so maybe it will all continue and not be ripped apart. And maybe, just maybe I will be well enough to go and help Julie when the twins arrive and be there when they career around the lovely hall and through the gorgeous doors and send all our hearts to our collective mouths as they make their attempt on the summit of the two sets of stairs.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

A moving experience

It has been said that our family will make any excuse for a party and I am beginning to believe it. The weekend before last my superwoman daughter helped to organise a massive Big Lunch party in her road, what was the excuse - someone had firebombed cars along the road a few months earlier - there you go. And this weekend coming the family Trainor, except Luke and Aleks as Luke is starting his new job - yippee, are all congregating at Sam and Julie's to help them move to a bigger twin friendly house. This may not sound much but they live in Northern France and Joe and his dog, Scoobie are travelling from Amsterdam; Jess, Tom and Harry, 5 and Danny not quite 2 are coming from Birmingham; and me and Stewart are driving 500 miles from South West France bearing travel cots, wine and other essentials to a house move.

We are all very excited about it. I try not to remember what moving house was like and what bedlam it might be with two small boys and a dog in tow, not to mention the fifty odd tumours I carry with me everywhere and the two little to-be Trainors that Julie has inside her - but they are only moving their millions of books, hundreds of tins of fois gras and all the new beds and kitchen furniture they have just bought, around the corner from where they live now, so how hard can it be?

If the sun shines and we are all finished by Sunday we will go to the seaside and have our own version of the Big Lunch, if not you can be assured that their new house will be well and truely warmed and we will have found our excuse for a party.

Pictured is aforementioned Scoobie (whisper it softly but I am almost as excited about seeing him as the two grandsons.. and that is very excited I can tell you).

Saturday, July 24, 2010

It's getting hairy

Today I had to pluck a hair from the mole on my neck; also I did not brush stuff on my eyebrows and they look almost like they used to. That could be because I have put so much on over the last few weeks it's soaked into my skin permanently but also it could be because my hair is growing back and I am beginning to feel normal.

I still wear the headwraps but when I don't there is a shadow all over my head, darkish in some lights, grey in others so we are still not sure if I will get all I deserve for being 61 or return with my hair still brown: Jeanie with the light brown hair, except it was always dark brown.

And I am feeling the benefit of a month in this idyllic place with not a doctor or nurse in sight. Today I just felt irritated when Stewart spent what felt like an hour deciding not to buy the bracket or piece of wood he had been musing over in Bricomarche; two weeks ago it was exhaustion that sent me back to the car. I know I am an ungrateful cow because he is spending ages making mosquito nets for the windows so I don't get bitten but for goodness sake how long does it take to decide which bracket to buy!

I am clearly feeling better and more my old cantakerous self, I do not let it kid me however, I know it's not going to last for ever and thinking it might would be just too cruel. But Sufficient unto the day is the evil therof so I enjoy the relief and try to appreciate even a morning in Bricomarche.

Sunday, July 18, 2010


Apparently this week is Sarcoma Awareness week. I remember when I was in the events world I used to get regular updates on these sort of weeks and the events associated with them. There are millions of the things; did you know that there was a chocolate week for example? I decided that as I couldn't remember which week it was I would have to celebrate it every week, every day in fact.

Same with Sarcoma really although I do not celebrate it, and how aware of it am I? Mostly it's the chemo and its effects I am aware of, no hair (although it's starting to grow back and I don't think it is all grey), runny nose, ghostly nausea and seascape nails. Then there are the scars from the surgery which strangely have kicked off again soreness wise; but the sarcoma itself well it's just the lump at the back of my leg really and that just gets lost with all the other lumps lurking on that particular limb.

There is something I am supposed to do to my Facebook page to alert people to Sarcoma Awareness week but I couldn't work out what it was from the instructions and so apart from this blog my contribution will be nil. So folks please be aware and make your friends and family aware that Sarcoma sucks, it's rare so there's no money in it and that to my certain knowledge there is a group of people suffering from it who must be the bravest and best in the world. These are the Mimis, Amys, Shirleys, Kathryns, Karens, Christophers, Dots, Peters, Rogers and loads of others who through their pain and fear research, and fight and share and cheerfully survive despite having bits lopped off themselves and poison pumped into their veins. In America there was a Dr Dee who finally didn't survive but whose memory lingers on and who it would seem did more for Sarcoma awareness and research than any of the professionals who are paid to help us out.

Sarcoma needs more money, more interest, more notice because there are things out there that can help us, there is a right way and a wrong way to tackle the bastard, it's not good enough to say we are too rare and expensive or leave us to the lottery of insurance or the passing interest of a few devotees.

Be aware, it's Sarcoma Awareness Week and for some of us, and our families and friends, Sarcoma Awareness life.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Dying happy

You know that phrase, now I can die happy or I suppose it should be happily; well I don't think I've got there yet and I have absolutely no idea whether I will be in the slightest bit happy when I die, I can't imagine that I will. I do imagine it from time to time and shake myself and say now don't go there. Somehow making the beds for our visitors brings it on, maybe it's pulling up the sheet, ugh no do not let us go there.

But today is one of those days when the phrase now I can die happy might pass my lips as number three son Luke got the job he desperately wanted and it puts him on the right course for the future whatever that is. He has not had an easy ride, and hence neither have we, but the last couple of years or so he has dragged himself back into normality, again whatever that is and today is the start of payback time for us all.

Of course that nice multi millionaire George Osborne - "we are all in this together and must all expect to suffer because my friends the bankers wrecked our economy but I wont because I am rich, rich rich" - will be getting his cutting shears out to jobs like Luke's and also Jessie's and he might even have a go at Stewart's pension which is probably brings in about as much as Georgie boy pays for suits every year.

It is painful to watch it unfold and to see yesterday, for example, that loads of my ex-colleagues in PCTs and SHAs in the health service will now be worrying like mad about their jobs and their mortgages. So will I die happy? Well when the time comes part of me will be happy to get away from this sort of brutality and the inevitable consequences of being helplessly in the hands of people whose philosophy and morality are the polar opposite to my own and, in my view, downright wicked and wrong.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

It's a wonderful world

Just got back from another lovely market, this time in Terrason, bought apricots, veal escalopes and girolle mushrooms which tomorrow I will whiz up into a bonne repas, I hope. We had breakfast, croissants and pain au raisin in a little pavement cafe where a hurdy gurdy man or chanteur was playing and singing, he played parlez moi d'amour which is one of my all time favourites and I thought: well life can't get much better than this. OK it may not happen next year but then maybe the hurdy gurdy man will go somewhere else and the boulangerie may mess up its croissants and the sun may not shine; so we enjoy the moment and let it rest at that.

I do sometimes wonder though if the fates are conspiring against us, one of our favourite restaurants the Belle Etoile in beautiful La Roque Gageac is closed at the moment. I rang the first week we were here to reserve a table using my best French which is just a little better than hopeless. The man said they were closed because of a problem, that was as much as I could understand but I have since learnt that a 320 ton piece of rock is threatening to fall onto the village exactly above said favourite restaurant. Now come on fates, it's fantastic food, it's cheap and it has a view to die for literally it would seem. I do not have endless opportunities to enjoy all of this, so come on sort your act out.

Thanks for all the nail advice by the way, I am soaking and stroking my finger ends regularly and Amazon are whistling over silica tablets as I type. I will soon be able to scratch my itches again and if the rock pinners work hard enough I can do so discreetly while answering the itch to eat at the Belle Etoile.

Monday, July 5, 2010

For want of a nail

OK friends so you were brilliant with eyebrow advice a couple of weeks ago, now I need you to turn your mind to nails. Again I have never been one to fiddle much with my nails unless you count biting them and the cuticles around them with great satisfaction but the last month or so they have gone manky in the extreme, another side effect of the chemo apparently. It seems I should have clutched some ice or a packet of frozen peas while I was having my treatments but as my infusions went on for about 48 hours each time that was beyond the call of duty and anyway I didn't know. Also I should have worn gloves when doing all that housework I do, oh yes of course. As ever I did none of these things and so have bendy, soft peeling nails each broken down to the quick; they are covered in pretty wavy patterns and ridges a bit like you used to draw for the sea when you were little.

It's amazing how much you need your nails, Stewart asked me to scratch his back in the car the other day and I had to flail around doing the best I could with my soft little pinkies. I can't get the tea caddy open, or when the need arises pick my nose and if some French floozy ogles my other half (yes it's possible!) I will not be able to scratch her eyes out and will have to resort to a knee in the groin or ready wit and repartee.

I have googled and find I should be eating gelatine so have just bought two strawberry jellies from the shaming English shelves at the Intermarche, I prefer raspberry or lemon but beggers can't be choosers. There was little more advice apart from - and Jess over the road from my Jess will like this - soaking your nails in squashed blue iris flowers, trouble is irises are not flowering over here at the moment. So come on friends what should I do, what can I put on them to give them a bit more oomph?

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Hot headed

This morning to the market at Exideuil and try to pronounce that if you can. Bought luscious cherries and four different sorts of pork from the black bummed pork butcher: belly which I will try to do slowly a la Heston; pâte de campagne which is the best in the country, tongues cooked in a slice, more delicious than it sounds and common old pork chops. Also bought an ancien baguette which dipped in the melting butter at lunch time was probablly the best bread I have ever eaten.

And why was the butter melting? Because reader it is hot hot hot here. It means I have to keep taking off my headwrap even though it's made of lovely natural silk; believe you me your head gets hotter without hair, wrapped up it does anyway. It sweats like mad so now I know why my Dad used to wear that fetching knotted handkerchief in the summer, the accompaniment to his string vest and rolled up trousers. So I have pulled out an old straw hat that flops all over my face to plonk on when I move outside but I fear that the populace of Maumont, all eleven of them, are seeing more of my bald head than I, and most definitely they, would prefer. I am hoping however that the sun will encourage growth and that the very boiled and currently steaming egg look will gradually become a thing of the past.

Monday, June 28, 2010


Living deep in the French countryside is wonderful, it's peace and quiet and green and rolly; it's gooey cheese, crusty bread and meaty meat BUT it's buggy as well. Apologies to readers in Australia who have bugs and spiders the size of houses, but us temporate climate townies just aren't used to it. Mostly the spiders are just those spindly ghosty ones that are not too bad except they spread their pesky webs all over my maison; and don't tell me they eat all the insects because clearly they do not, because there are hundreds of them of varying sizes and colours, flying and otherwise moving their families into live with us. Spiders clearly have a good PR agency working for them but I don't believe a word of it and because they are no damn good at their job I vac them up with a woosh or bash them with my shoe if I can bear to get that close. Stewart has designed a fly catching method with the Dyson too, he creeps up behind them where their compound eyes can't see and sucks them right up, whether they then become a meal for the ghostly spiders I don't know.

I am worried about the bad karma though, a few vile specimens with antennae far too long for their bodies take some bashing and keep on struggling to live, I apologise profusely as I bash them again and again but I am sure I am playing with fire, fates wise. Despite this am hoping that the other blight of the region the dreaded mosquito is going to leave me alone this summer, usually I am to them as egg and chips or fois gras entier is to me but I have filled my blood with very nasty chemicals and maybe I don't taste so good anymore. For that reason I am risking venturing outside at night without benefit of anti-moustique, worrying of course that the insect world will rise up as one in vengeance for their squashed cousins and eat me alive.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Glad to be here

I am glad to be here full stop but especially glad to be in France at our little house. Mind you it has felt très grande over the last couple of days as I have had to clean every bit of it. We had some building work done and on top of that we haven't been here for five months if you dont count our abortive trip in May when all I did was notice the dirt and add it mournfully to my chapter of woes. This time I have at least found the energy to wash all the bits and pieces we have spread about the place and trail around the supermarche getting delicious French goodies so I am getting better. Or at least I am recovering from the chemo, all I hope is that the cancer cells aren't feeling energised and going on their travels too.

We stopped at Giverny on the way down and visited Monet's house and garden. The main bit of the garden which claimed to be in the English style, frankly needed to try harder but oh the bit over the road, the water lily ponds that he painted so often, were breathtaking, I could have sat their all day losing my breath without help from shrunken mets or post-operative scarring. I liked his house too and noticed that everything was gleaming, methinks Monsieur Monet didn't do any of the scrubbing and probably not Madame either. This probably explains why I have not become a great master to date or indeed a great mistress, too much scrubbing to do.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Smaller by half

The blobs have shrunk! funny one in the abdomen by about a half and liver and lung ones all looking smaller. The oncologist seemed pleased and he has given me two months off before I see him again; the chemo will still be working for a few weeks apparently and then we need to leave a space to see what happens. This suits us perfectly and so we are off to France like a shot and will stay there till the end of August all being well. I am so relieved that all that nasty smelly, sicky, knackering chemo has shown some results. I know I still have the little buggers inside me and they are not going to disappear but they are littler now and maybe stalled for a bit in their tracks.

More good news is that we don't have a telly in France so I won't have to put up with the drone of the vuvuzelas or the even worse drone of the dreaded football commentary. England are about to play, I expect less from that than I did from the scans so who knows what might happen; we might even stop throwing the ball into our own goal.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

scans with a difference

Scans can be a good thing, they don't always show up ugly blobs that are taking over your body, sometimes they show beautiful blobs that are taking over your body and so it is with us. Julie and Sam (No 1 son) are expecting twins and they now measure 8cm each and yesterday's scan showed that they were hanging on in there and looking very well, tres bien, thank you. So now I can tell the world. It is truly wonderful news, Julie has been on a parallel track to me for the last few weeks, taking the medicine, talking to the experts (and not just me and her Mom), watching her blobs change and feeling sick and knackered. But hers we have willed to grow whereas mine we want to shrivel; even if we only get one out of two of those results it is a very happy outcome; and we get double joy anyway, two babies to add to our crew.

All I have to do now is stay alive and kicking so I can help them when they have these two babies plonked in their arms and dish out a bit of my nah don't listen to that rubbish type advice while I can.

They will be Anglo-French babies of course, born and bred in France but brought up Brummie and Bergercoises: faggots (apologies American readers over here a faggot is a savoury food item made from animal innards!)and fois gras. For now they are lovely 8cm active shapes on a scan; tomorrow I hope to see something much smaller and slower on mine. But till then all I can say is vive la difference and sorry Julie I can't do accents in this programme.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Raised eyebrows

Despite spending £20 on special stuff that was supposed to save them, my eyebrows have deserted me. It's amazing what a difference it makes to your face so I am attempting to draw new ones on each morning. If only my A level art education had covered face painting and if only I had been one of those women who learnt how to do such things by trial and error in her youth. I only ever plucked my eyebrows once because everyone else seemed to be doing it and it was such an eyewateringly painful experience that I have never tried since; anyway I now find that my brow was quite nice. As the song said - you don't know what you've got till it's gone.

So now I stare at people's faces and realise that eyebrows sit much lower than you might imagine and are much thicker than the ones I have been attempting to replicate. The trouble is that you have two of the darned things so you have to try to make them look the same and of course, as clowns know so well, eyebrows give your face expression so it's easy to end up looking shocked on one side and confused on the other. That about sums me up at the moment so perhaps it's OK.

What I really need are perfect models of my old ones to just stick on, that would have been more useful than my wig which just sits unused in my bedroom getting lonelier and lonelier by the day.

The hair should start growing back on now of course as today is the day I normally would have been going back for chemo and it's finished so I am not yippee. I suppose I can expect strange thin eyebrows for a while, as well as men's type hair but I will buy restorer and perhaps as Harry (grandson aged 5) suggested yesterday as he watched my amateur eyebrow artistry, I could draw on hair all over.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Pictures galore

Back from good old Sussex by the sea; we did see the sea briefly and the rain stayed away. On the way down we had the best pub meal we have ever had and it's perhaps not surprising as it was Heston Blumenthal's pub in Bray. It seems to be where his enterprise cook top dollar proper British food as I had slow roast pork belly with a sort of mush of peas that were nothing like mushy peas and Stewart had oxtail and kidney pudding and oh yes we had his triple cooked chips even though they were £4.50 a shot; they were worth every penny.

Apart from meandering around the beautiful Sussex Weald and eating in more good pubs we visited Charleston Farmhouse where the darlings of the Bloomsbury set fetched up in the first world war to farm instead of fight. It is a delightful place and it seems they spent all of their time painting every single surface, even coal scuttles and the sides of the bath. It's the sort of painting that you think - well I could do that. A load of criss crosses down the panels of a bookcase, circles above the picture rails but then I remember my one attempt at stenciling which left a block of smudged pattern stranded in our kitchen for years and realise it's probably harder than it looks.

The rooms in the house were all in fact quite small and it made me wonder about all of the psycho drama that was going on there and how they didn't end up killing each other. You know she was in love with him but he was gay; his boyfriend lived there too; they had a daughter who didn't know she was his and who married his ex-boyfriend years later but didn't know she had and all the time her (the first her!) husband still lived with them. On top of that they were never without visitors with very famous names, no wonder they had to go off and throw paint at the walls every five minutes.

I'm back now to face the prospect of pictures of my blobs, not so pretty perhaps as the Bloomsbury ones but I have a scan on Monday and an appointment with the oncologist on Friday so we will see if they have changed at all. I hope then to go off to France for as much of the summer as I can get out there; without a menage a trois of course and hopefully as boring as hell.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Catching a train

Tomorrow as part of our throw caution to the winds let's have a bloody good time philosophy we are off to Sussex to sleep in a train some posh bloke has done up and turned into a classy B & B. Our room will be an old Pullman carriage with a king-sized bed.

It wont be the first time we have slept together on a train and I have in fact slept with thousands of men in first and second class carriages all over the country. Yes I fear readers I have snored, snorted and dribbled in the company of strangers and colleagues on many occasions and on many a train. You know that hopeless attempt to cough and cover it up when a snore wakes you up; oh the shame of it.

Stewart and I first slept together on a train crossing the Alps when I was but 17 and he had earned enough working in the summer to take me to Florence and the Italian Riviera. Then we had a very discreet single couchettes and shared with a honeymoon couple similarly innocently bedded. We had earlier stuffed ourselves with the most amazing packed lunch that Stewart's Mom had put together for us thinking no doubt that we wouldn't be eating for the next fortnight; the honeymooners had looked on in wonder and it's no wonder.

Trains featured even earlier in our relationship when at the tender age of 15 I braved my first sole journey on a train to visit Stewart in London. He was a student then and I travelled on a Sunday; the day of course when British Rail or whoever owned the trains in 1965 decided to do major repairs. I was delayed by two hours and this of course was way before the days of mobile phones in fact most people didn't own a phone of any description. Stewart being older and wiser had set up a contingency whereby if I was late he would go every half an hour and wait at the National Gallery. A good plan but when I finally got off the train, it was at a different station to the one planned and I hadn't got a clue how to get to the National Gallery or any bloody gallery. I asked a friendly looking news vendor who just said whey hey nice pair of tits love and offered no other advice. Suffice it to say by the time I finally found my way to the National Gallery and waited for the next half hour to go round it was nearly time to come back. However the vision of him striding across Trafalgar Square after all of that was the most wonderful sight in the world and, on reflection, probably sealed my fate.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

A treat a day

Everyday since I came out after the last chemo it is treat time. It's a good plan if not a tad expensive, usually it's a meal out so Saturday was excellent Thai in Moseley, Tuesday was lunch at Lasan's, very posh Indian in our trendy jewellery quarter, apparently they just won a competition on the telly in Gordon Ramsey's F word something or other, well the duck I had was F wording marvellous. Yesterday was lunch with Jess and posh dress, actually a jump suit, buying for her oldest friend's wedding next Friday and tonight we are off to the theatre to see "Noises off" and have a jolly good laugh, as long as I can hear it!

Not such a treat, I am off for an eye test this afternoon, my glasses are falling to bits because I keep treading on them, and I am peering blindly at things more; I try to kid myself I just need reading glasses but the truth will out; you have to wonder if it's worth the arm and leg they will cost but caution to the winds and who knows how long I will be around to see the world more clearly.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Things can only get...?

I suppose the difficult thing will be when it all starts to hurt; at the moment I have soreness at the top of my fat leg but it's not much and if I eat too much, sorry when I eat too much, I feel more bloated than usual. I do have an annoying cough and my right side ribs are a bit sore. In the past mostly when I have had a pain or some other symptom I have either let it run its course or taken something to get rid of it; the scary thing is now that probably wont work and I have only more of the same to look forward to; no more of the same but worse.

It still feels unknown however and I banish such thoughts, you know begone, into exile with you, leave this land; you are not worthy and don't think you can come back here with your legions and fancy ways and wheedle yourself back in to my fair domain; you are not wanted. Unfortunately sometimes my dreams have not caught up with this banishment and they will play their little games with me.

For now I feel well, relatively, and am banishing Greta Garbo and her wanting to be alone a tad. I am ready to meet the world again as long as it's germ free. Hedonism is the medicine of the moment.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Blobs galore

Well I got out yesterday, final chemo over and it was earlier than ever thanks to pump never breaking down, so Stewart whisked me off into the countryside for a wonderful lunch; to say it was better than I would have had in hospital is like comparing a clinch with say Johnny Depp and ooh I don't know .. Benny Hill. This morning I have finally unpacked my hospital bag and the case we took to France which up to now has been blocking the bedroom floor and spilling out its contents so that I could just pick out something to wear each day from the emerging layer; all is now tidily hanging up and I have even filled a bag for the charity shop full of work jackets and tops I will never squeeze into.

The reason for this small burst of activity I presume is that I am still on the steroids they give you to stop you retching every 5 minutes; it's almost working and because I was given news in the hospital. Well I suppose you could call it news more like more information and none of it that good I am afraid readers. In fact I am thinking of renaming this blog the blob blog and you will see why.

The mysterious Mr Gurevitch turned up at my bedside with Gloria the nurse. He, you will recall, is the sarcoma surgeon who had shown an interest in my thigh; well who can blame him, it used to be a thing of beauty but unfortunately now I find is just an item of medical interest. His first appearance I think was to get an idea of the sort of person I was, because when he came back a few hours later (Stewart had stayed on to be with me) he was armed with computer, surgeon assistant and a more senior nurse. It was the computer that was the most useful and he very carefully took me through my latest scans. These were taken a few weeks ago, when I had already had three lots of chemo but we don't have anything to compare them with from just before the chemo as scans weren't done then. It's almost academic because it wasn't a pretty picture. The lungs were much as I would have expected; lots of blobs but none of them growing massively; he then took me to my liver, two blobs about 1.5cm but then at the bottom a much bigger and messier one, about 4-5cm; then a bit further down a 6cm blob attached outside of my bowel, nestling against my pancreas. He moved onto the MRI scan of my leg and here was another large messy blob, again about 5cm, sitting in my thigh muscle. I had no idea that I was nursing blobs so large, or so many of them. We talked about surgery and in a nutshell he said he wouldn't operate on the bowel one; it was too risky; the leg one was more operable but really he didn't think I should put myself through any of it; it would be painful, need relatively long hospitalisation and the other blobs would still be there doing their worst. In addition at present I am relatively well if you look beyond the chemo reactions. I am inclined to agree with him.

So I am planning the summer and intend to make it as wonderful as I can, in France of course once I have had the next scan, which might show some reductions who knows. How do I feel? different definitely. I knew before that I had too many blobs to make it to my three score years and ten but thought I might just get to see the 2012 Olympics; now the prospects look shorter I think and the facts are clearer. I do feel doomed and it's not pleasant. I think its all terribly unfair.. but madly I suppose, I still can't stop looking forward to the sun, to good meals, friendship and to all that the world is offering me and mine for as long as I am well enough to enjoy it all. Let's hope I can stretch it out.

Monday, May 24, 2010

A sea of lactic acid

David Coleman (for those of you who live outside the UK or are very young he was a sports commentator famous for Coleman Balls ups) used to say at the end of very long races when an athlete just couldn't go any faster and got passed by some smart arse who'd kept a bit of energy spare, "he's swimming in a sea of lactic acid". I had no idea what he meant but it was quite graphic and that is exactly how I feel but not after 10,000 metres, literally after 10 yards of very slow walking.

It's the chemo I know and what it is doing to my blood cells or maybe my lactic acid if I have any; I can only hope it's slowing leio down in the same way or maybe doing for him completely for a while.

Tomorrow I go in for my last installment of the poison, I fancy it about as much as I fancy running 10,000 metres but it has to be done. I know in my bones I will be facing new poisons further down the track so it doesn't feel like the absolute last but I will try to make it a cause for celebration and find the energy from somewhere to celebrate.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

LIfe or limb

Google is a wonderful thing; if not a little patronising. On return from the abortive trip to France there was a message on my answerphone from someone called Gloria from the hospital; never heard of her but I called and got Helen instead. It seems that a Mr Gullervitch or someone wants to talk to me about a possible operation on my leg to dig out the new sarcoma. I said yes and then tried to google him to see if he deserved to get anywhere near my thigh.

I typed in gullervitch surgeon birmingham and it came back - Did you mean: gurevitch surgeon birmingham? OK clever clogs I suppose I did but how did you know you are just an engine; a load of digital numbers, wires and circuit boards and thingies.

I told Jess about the appointment last night when I left my Greta Garbo hermitage briefly for Harry's 5th birthday and she asked if I would let them cut my leg off - she doesn't beat about the bush my daughter! She was surprised when I said No I didn't think so as for her it would be an obvious choice life or leg, she'd choose life. As I'd still have God knows how many blobs in my lungs and would be a pretty miserable unidexter, I would not.

Let's hope Mr Gurevitch, thank you google, will not be offering me the choice but just doing a bit of lipo and sarcoma reduction on my battered thigh. We will see what we will see.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Round trip

We got to our lovely little house in France and then we turned round and came back again. I was OK at Sam and Julie's in Northern France except things were a bit nightmarish in the toilet department; I slept most of the way down France; was miserable in the Aire where we stopped for lunch but I put that down to the fact that I chose lentils rather than chips with my fish and that a bloke on the table next to us felt it necessary to hand me a card that told me that God loved me or Tu est aime; Dieu a dit: Tu as du prix a mes yeux, tu comptes beaucoup pour moi et je t'aime - I must have looked bad and I didn't have the energy to ask him if my sarcomas were a love gift of said God and that merci but he could shove his card up his derriere.

Got to Maumont at about 5ish; and just wrapped myself in a blanket and shivered and slept the evening away. The next morning my temperature soared over 38 - the danger point; it was a bank holiday in France and anyway I just handed over all decision making to Stewart and he opted for driving back as quickly as possible. We left at 10 in the morning and I was in the hospital in Brum by 10 at night; having slept all the way back this time. Toilet nightmares explained by the fact that I had raging thrush; a vile set of hemorrhoids and a serious urinary infection. I can frankly say that none of my four baby births or three lots of major surgery come near the screaming agony of going to the toilet over the past few days.

I am out now after another big blood transfusion and IV antibiotics. I am still feeling dozy but discomfort (lovely euphemism that) is gradually going away. I feel a Greta Garbo moment coming on however; one of the big reasons for getting away was to wallow in the peace and quiet, not to have to put a brave face on or make any sort of effort. I want to take my hat off when my head itches and not worry that someone will turn up and see the full bald horror. So for a while I say to my best in the world family and friends, I love you to bits, you are wonderful, I wouldn't offend you for the world but can we all pretend that we made it to France and stayed there and we are not at home. We will let you know if we need help.

I find that Greta and I share something in common around the eyebrows as well as wanting to be alone, because I have to draw mine on now and clearly those beauties of Greta's are not the real thing. I have a horror however of looking like the dentist around the corner who has a full head of hair so can't have any excuse for the terrible job she does on her brows, she should stick to cosmetic teeth in my humble opinion but then I am just a nasty anti-social ne'er - do - well like the beautiful Greta so why listen to me?

I will keep blogging when I get the energy.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

It's all a mess

I feel I have a lot in common with the UK body politic today. It and the body Jean Trainor are both in an almighty mess and facing an uncertain future. Inside me cancer cells are trying to duplicate themselves at ridiculously exuberant speeds while chemo drugs try to halt them and at the same time knock for six at all my healthy cells, meanwhile leio keeps popping up and getting a grip leaving looming lumps and bumps all over the shop.

In the country we don't know who is going to be in government, what poison is being hatched up behind closed doors and who of the nasty little gremlins will be in charge in the end. And we must do it all quickly, not take a good respectable month or so as the Germans etc do because we are at the beck and call of the markets it would seem; ah yes the markets and political expediency- the cancer cells in the body politic!

Quick update: Back at home and knackered by night up watching nothing happen in the election; feeling as OK as poss and hoping to escape to France on Tuesday

Monday, May 3, 2010

On parole

Sorry for delay in posting friends, I was out on Friday but have had wall to wall visitors since then and on Saturday had a night away at my brother and sister in laws after a superb meal at a posh country house. I am back in tomorrow so it's just a short parole but they are going to inject me with some magic stuff with the next chemo to boost my white blood cells and netrophils so maybe I will be on a shorter sentence next time.

I did manage to watch the last election debate whilst in hospital and the clear winner in my view was the Great Hall at my alma mater; didn't it look superb. I happen to know however that it has the wost acoustics in the Western world so no wonder Nick looked a bit sweaty and David D had to keep repeating the questions, it must have been nigh on impossible to hear anything. And I was worried about David, the man is well over 70 and he had to stand up for the whole hour and a half and then go on and do Question Time. Having paid him for a couple of days work once which nearly bankrupted the organisation I was working for, I know he will have been paid well but really they should have given him a chair.

Stewart will have to proxy vote for me on Thursday, I think I can trust him especially as I have decided to stay with the old team despite it being a busted flush and having let me down badly. Hopefully I will be home for the night long vigil of waiting for the results and listening again to David D who will at least have a chair this time.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Still here

I feel fine but I am still here. The neutraphils were up to 0.2 yesterday and I have just had another blood test, they have to reach 1.0 and then I can escape except my temperature keeps going up and down even though I have no symptoms and look and feel perfectly OK. I just keep reading the books and doing the crosswords and wont believe I am free until I walk out of the door.

The MRI scan showed up another little leio in my thigh so the score is now about 50 in my lungs, 'a few' in my liver, one in my stomach and one in my leg, I will have to choose which to go for after the chemo is over. The good news is that yesterday I met a woman who had been hosting leio for 14 years, for 10 years she had no treatment at all. So perhaps like a fractious child I should just put him on the naughty step and ignore his attempts to get my attention. At the moment however I would give in and offer him or anyone else a lollipop if they would just let me out of here.