Wednesday, March 31, 2010


Stewart has been shown how to clean my PICC line and flush it out; it's really not rocket science or cutting edge care but I suppose it marks another milestone in our relationship. If I think about the changes he has had to endure in me over the years they far outweigh the greying, growing and slight sagging that has been his metamorphosis. He must look over at me these mornings and see the same greying, growing and sagging but topped with a bald head, a body riddled in deep scars, a fat leg and now an arm with contraptions on; not to mention the ravages of four pregnancies and about three years of breast feeding.

He sees the me beyond all of this thank goodness just as I don't count the white hairs or the reductions in his thunder thighs but look for the twinkle in his eye and the twist of his humour. It's been pretty clear in this blog that it's the thought of leaving my kids that brings the quickest tear to my eye; it just does. I try to think about leaving Stewart behind but I can't formulate it in my mind. I think he will be coming with me and that is just daft. Certainly the he that is he that is us will but he will be left and shattered and forever different. But I still can't conceive of it.

There is a beautiful place near our French house called Limeuil, we go there for picnics by the river and for the annual pottery fair where we always buy something even though we have no bloody room in either house. If you walk up the hill it's one of les plus belles villages de France but the wonder of it is the river or rivers, I should say, as it's where the Vezere meets the Dordogne and they become one river. They are both massive and brown and godlike; they rumble and bicker together as they meet then merge with little flurries over rocks and banks. Just a way up from the picnic site there would be no way of separating one from the other, their weeds are each others, the fish can't tell the difference. If one were to dry up there would still be all the life from the other from before that would be impossible to disentwine. So is that like us; yes and no; no because rivers can't feel and miss and want; yes because we are one troublesome, mucky thing, sometimes out of control and sometimes deep and beautiful; but, it has proved, always feeling the pull to be together.

Saturday, March 27, 2010


I have had a mixed history when it comes to shrinking; I have never managed to shrink myself permanently down to the size I ought to be but have had a few dramatic reductions followed by inevitable disappointing expansions on the way. Give me an expensive jumper, a very special tee-shirt or a much loved silk dress however and I am your woman I will shrink it as quick as you like and turn it bright red if I manage to add the right sock or pair of knickers.

So now I have to turn all this talent into shrinking my blobs. It is good news that they look smaller on the xray but it's the scan that matters and I have that in 10 days time. I am encouraged however that all that training with my poor kids' favourite clothes will come good and Leio will share the fate of Luke's Nirvana tee-shirt (mind you I had to darn the "f**ks" off that too in order to take him out in company. I would happily do the same to Leio and his blobs if required I imagine they are covered in them).

For the rest I still haven't been sick which is a good job as Harry and Danny walked out with my hospital sick bowls last night, sporting them as hats; Danny looked even more like Pete Docherty than usual which was a tad disturbing but his hat is going to be dressed up with eggs and daffs for his nursey Easter bonnet so the unfortunate resemblence will fade we hope.

I do feel a bit like a rag doll with half of its stuffing knocked out but I suppose you have to expect that if you have major shrinkage going on deep inside you; I know how my washing machine feels now.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Good news I think so far

Good news so far.I haven't been sick and the x-ray they took on Tuesday showed that the blobs they could see had shrunk, the doctor made optimistic noises about the scan I will have next week which will also show what is happening in my operated on lung, hopefully not very much. So the baldness and badness may not have been in vain and I can look forward to three more of these little holidays.Very short stop press today as have to crane my neck to type, back home this afternoon to the new normality.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

being piccy

I got a bed and graduated up to Edbaston ward, it's for women having breast surgery and it's much less frenetic. Women seem to come in, have a lump removed then dance out that evening.I had the usual 30 minutes of lovely, highly trained nurses trying to find veins in my arm, I am a great gritter of teeth and smile while they poke and grind away but as luck would have it after four abortive quite painful attempts one of the nurses owned up to being trained to put picc lines in, that is a peripherally inserted central catheter to you friends. Well it's wonderful, it stays in and sends stuff all round your body without fear of rupturing into your skin. Stewart will have to learn how to flush it out and I will have to wrap it in clingfilm when I have a bath but no more Tom and Jerry pink needles it can all go in bags on a drip. In passing this super duper specialist nurse told me my blood counts were getting quite low which explains the chemo collapses but I have insisted on early doses of the anti emetic beginning with O and so far no vomiting hooray

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Feast and famine

Sitting here waiting for the call from the hospital to say yes or no to a hospital bed today. Yesterday we took ourselves off to London to have our this time final day of freedom. You will know by now that any such trip will involve me searching for a good place to eat; I did and we found it and managed to keep to the prix fixe menu which was absolutely no hardship. We went to Galvin La Chapelle in the City (for foreign readers this is the bit of London that is full of bankers and hedge fund managers if you will excuse the bad language). The restaurant is the latest enterprise by the Galvin brothers who have other fancy and less fancy eateries spread over our capital city. Giles Coren has chosen it for his wedding reception so I thought it might be worth the £25 for the fixed price menu. We had to walk past the HQ of Royal Bank of Scotland to get there, which seems to take up almost all of Bishopgate, a formerly ancient and venerable London street. It is humungously large and had we not been running a little late for our meal we would have gone in and demanded to see their accounts or at least used their toilets as we are, like the rest of our countryfolk, very reluctant but very major share holders.

The ratpack were out in strength once we got to La Chapelle as most tables were full of chaps in very expensive suits looking smug and not in the least ashamed that they were eating out, not on the Prix Fixe, but using taxpayers', ie my hard earned, money.

The food was superb, the veloute of watercress to start arrived with a tiny display of duck eggs, fresh cress and strips of smoked duck, for a moment I thought that was it and thought that was why they were only charging £25 for it all but then they came and poured over the greenest looking soup I have ever seen. Can you imagine all those anti-oxidants? It was probably the best soup I have ever eaten and don't forget that I am married to Mr Soup whose own watercress takes a bit of beating. I then had a cod thing with artichokes and the tastiest aioli ever, Stewart had calves liver and caramelised onions; we had chosen the cheapest bottle of wine on the menu at £18 and if you ever go there do the same thing because it was a fantastic Tempranillo and why pay more (didn't stop our subsidised fellow diners however). We made lots of orgasmic noises and so the purpose of filling our this time last day of freedom was well met and I am satisfied that Giles has chosen well for his wedding; for the food at least, can't speak for the bride.

On then to the Tate Modern to see the Arshile Gorky exhibition. Unfortunately I had a bout of chemo collapse on the way and found I simply could not put one foot in front of the other. It's a lesson to me as I start to feel better each time and think I can just go back to my old energetic self. Anyway we jumped in a taxi (well I sort of fell into it!) and I kept sitting down round the exhibition ostensibly to gaze admiringly at the pictures. In fact I was gazing admiringly, his stuff is wonderful. The studies of himself and his mother were my favourites and incredibly moving. His Mom had died of starvation in Armenia when he was twelve and before the family could join his father in the US. She was an amazingly beautiful woman and I couldn't but think about the contrast with the meal we had just eaten and her terrible fate. We may have hit on hard times thanks to those f***ing bankers and their like and we know that there are lean times ahead but we have no idea, do we, what real want is like.

Talking of want, I know I really don't want to go in today and have the dreaded pink needle again and feel all that stomach churning but like Mrs Gorky I have little choice but to meet my destiny; some of her son's work had the look of pink needles and the contents of stomachs so I will wonder if I too may inspire great art and anyway I'll just bite the bullet and go and get on with it.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Deserting this island discs episode 2

I am listening to Duncan Bannatine's Desert Island Discs as I write this; I can only presume that he is choosing them so that he will have to escape his island very quickly and get back to making millions.

You probably feel the same about mine but onwards and upwards. I have given up trying to download videos, I will be dead before I get eight records up so am going to add the youtube reference instead in the hope that you can just click on it if not you will have to cut and paste into google - sorry!

Me and Stewart had a long courtship with lots of separations while he was at college, we wrote every day and the letters are upstairs somewhere in the attic. This record sums up all those distant longings and it is great to sing along to; Louis Armstrong and Give me a kiss to buld a dream on

Then we got married and I love this song from Juno which I saw with Jess a year or so ago so this makes me think of young marriage and also my friendship with my daughter.

The music that I liked in the 60s and 70s and that has stayed with me through the subsequent decades revolves mostly around the folk scene which I was vaguely a part of. I visited the Jug o Punch Folk Club every Thursday and at last got close to the black polo necked bearded bohemians I lusted after; typically as soon as they started lusting after me I tired of them but I did love a lot of the music and even though I sing like a corncrake and was instructed by teachers at school to mime in assembly, I did and still do love bellowing out the choruses. I have wracked my brains for the song I liked best; I found this video and it will do: Wild Mountain Thyme by The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem.

The 70s for me wasn't a time of dancing in discos or singing in folk clubs, well not after 1972 when I had Sam it wasn't; it is just a blur of child rearing and endeavouring not to go bankrupt on one very low salary. I did find time to run a national campaign about drug side effects however and politics were and still are big part of my life. One singer that I loved and still love was Carole King and Natural woman has resonance. I even had a perm a bit like Carole's except I could only afford the pensioners' special at the local salon and guess what it made me look exactly as it said on the tin.

The politics involved lots of marching against things especially into the early 80s, the bomb, the poll tax, unemployment, lots of Maggie, Maggie, Maggie out, out out; years of pounding the streets, leafletting and canvassing. To mark that part of my life and my lifelong feminism, here is Dame Ethel Smyth's The March of the women

My working years from the mid 80s to last year were all about the NHS, going on radio and television to defend the indefensible and running white water conferences. I loved nearly every minute and made some real friends along the way. Every conference meant a dinner and a dance and I am afraid I was famous for my enthusiastic dancing. To mark that how about Dancing queen by Abba

And then there was cancer and you know all about that if you have been reading this blog - a song for that - here you go: Always look on the bright side of life from Life of Brian

Friendship has come to the fore since my diagnosis. I have never been one for loads of friends but we have a few very very good ones and they have been with me every step of the way since September - in my back pocket awaiting the call from Kirsty I always had the Duet from the Pearl Fishers by Bizet as my music of friendship. Here it is sung by Jussi Bjorling, one of Stewart's favourites

OK so I now I have 8 already here and two yesterday but I am allowed to cheat a bit. One last one then - the tear jerker to end on; well how could I leave a dry eye

Billy Holliday singing I'll be seeing you

At this point on the programme Kirsty would turn to me and ask me what book I want to read before I die. The answer is the one I am reading now because if you think about it that confounds the fates and means that I will live forever. If Kirsty catches onto that then my answer would be Sam's book as I really do want to read it but it taxes all my lazy genes. It's The Birmingham Quaen by Sam Trainor and it's an epic poem, a novel, a commentary and about three other things all rolled into one. It's also very long so again it serves the purpose of life extension.

My luxury, not sure- either a daily massage or The Milkmaid by Vermeer.

What place do I want to visit? L'Esperance in St Pere sur Vezelay please , a long lovely lunch with all of my family around me

Finally will I try to escape my fate - you bet I will. So thank you Kirsty and sort the video technology will you.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Desert Island Discs

I suppose it's too late now; I am never going to be asked onto Desert Island Discs so the list I have kept in my back pocket all these years will not be needed. I have, however, thought of writing to Kirsty Young (who I think is great at it by the way) to suggest a new version of the programme for us terminally illers; it could be called Dead End Discs and you would have to change the details a bit; so you would choose records that you feel represent bits of your life as most people do now but have in mind that that they will probably get played at your funeral - so unfortunately I would have to drop Tutti Frutti and You're a pink toothbrush I'm a blue toothbrush from my back pocket list; the book would be the one you want to read before you die; the luxury what you want while you can still enjoy it and maybe we should throw in a new one - the place you want to visit while you still can. So to set the ball rolling I have made my own selection and who know's it might just catch on. (I find that I can only download a few videos at a time so I am going to do this is in installments; today will be the 1950s and one from the 1960s)

So for the 1950s and all those childhood bits I have written about earler in this blog I am going for You are my sunshine by Elizabeth Mitchell. My Mom sang this to me, I sang it to all my kids and now I sing it to Harry and Danny and they don't seem to mind

Moving onto my teenage years, that Chanel Suit and the early boy chasing times; it had a lot to do with the Beatles of course and I actually got to see them or at least scream at them when they came to Birmingham in 1963. This video features my lovely son, Joe on bass; he is the one bobbing around a lot just as his Mom does whenever she hears this music. So it's The Accoustic Beatles with Joe Trainor and his stage wife Charlotte on vocals, playing Things we said today

OK that's all for today and there will be more tomorrow, hopefully I will get all 8 in before I go back into hospital for Chemo 3 next Tuesday.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Things left unsaid

Stewart had sortingoutitis, he is in the garden now sorting out the plants having earlier sorted out the garage and yes actually thrown some stuff away. Last week he was sorting out what we laughingly call our office at the top of the house; once one of our kids' bedrooms it is painted from floor to ceiling in Gandalf and hobbits, a masterpiece of my Dad's that I am forbidden ever to touch by aforementioned kids. While doing this he found an old school diary of mine which we had found this time last year while sorting out my Mom's house, or my house really; it's where I was brought up.

It is the precursor of my blog; an almost daily record of what Jean aged 8 did next. I hope my literary skills have developed somewhat since then as despite being perfectly accurate in grammar and spelling, it's little more than, got home from school, played out with my friends, came in for my tea, played out some more (a social history there, all this playing out on roads with no cars and seemingly no fear of kidnap or worse) went in and went to bed. I fear I may have been playing to an audience a little, as I often mention helping my Mom but I was famously bad at that and going to church on Sundays. This may have been partly true as I did join the Girls' Life Brigade when I was 8 and you had to go to the church it was attached to or they threw you out. I mention my friends Anne, Lynda and Frieda a lot but there is another girl called Christine and try as I might I cannot remember who she was; the diary gives no clues as it just mentions she doesn't have a bike, maybe I made her up.

It also made me think about all the things I didn't mention in my diary that I now remember or have since been told. These include:

* I had been moved from my school the year before because my old school was going to be made into all secondary and I had to go to a new school a bus ride away; while writing this diary I was actually terribly unhappy at the new school because I was put into a class of second years when I was only a first year; also they were the B stream when I had been A stream and I felt I may never make my way back to where I was supposed to be; also the big girls bullied me which made my Dad rush up to the playground and tell them directly that if they didn't stop he would etc etc; he was no man for using official channels; my teacher was called Mr Hague and Dad use to write Don't be vague ask for Hague (a current advertising slogan for a blend of whiskey much beloved by my Dad) on the bottom of my school notes; you just had to learn to live with his idiosyncrasies.

* My Dad would at this time have been "seeing someone else" probably Margaret who later became a policewoman; he later told me they used to "see" each other behind the hoardings around the bomb sites next to the Blues football ground. She has unfortunately morphed into Princess Margaret in my memory as she too was dark and attractive and clearly a bit of a girl.

* I used to come home for my dinner (lunch to you poshies) even though Mom was not there as she was working as a dinner lady at my old school; so dinner was only sandwiches but better than risking the big girls in the playground; I was still not safe, however, as my brother's friend from over the road who was a big boy, ie about 13 used to come over to teach me how to kiss, his hand used to wander too. I suppose it was sexual abuse, I certainly didn't feel comfortable about it and soon drifted back to having school dinners. His lessons stood me in good stead however in those supposedly innocent playground games like kiss chase, and true, dare, kiss or promise that I excelled at as soon as I was returned to a class with my own age group and made some new friends. So much so in fact that when I left that schoool three years later, my teacher penned the following immortal lines in my honour:

An elegant schoolgirl named Jean
The love of Church Road boys had been
But no cupid's arrow
At Harrison Barrow
Only girls to be found on the scene

* Then there were the revelations that Aunty Vi over the road was having it off with the bloke who used to visit on a motorbike and sidecar; her husband, Uncle Charlie was after my Mom as was one of the teachers at my old school. No worries there my Mom was a bastion of virtue and anyway thought the whole thing was terribly overrated which probably explains, but does not excuse, the Margarets of our world.

So readers you will have to imagine what I might be leaving unsaid in this my latest series of daily records; how afraid I might be; how close and how often I get to saying " well I wont be around much longer so you wont have to put up with x,y or z" and who fancies who, has fancied me or whether I ever ....

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Mum's the word

It's Mothers Day in the UK today. Another day when the flower sellers and card makers expect you to buy something to show you love someone you actually love every day of your life. As a feminist I baulk at the idea, we are all parents aren't we? As a non-believer the fact that it is really Mothering Sunday and the something Sunday before Easter means nothing but the historian in me likes the idea it was the day girls in service were allowed home with their Simnel cakes and I hope they enjoyed it and today me and my Birmingham based kids will do something to celebrate the fact we love each other even though we feel it every day.

I no longer have to not by flowers for my Mom as they are a rip off but instead find some knick-knack she will like; she died five years ago. Now I am amazingly grateful that I don't have to burden her with my news. I feel for my fellow sufferers who still have Moms that are alive as I am not sure I could have borne her sorrow. She already had one child who died, my brother Johnny at aged 9 and she and I were not just mother and daughter but best friends as we grew older and I just couldn't have done it to her.

Reading back over the blog I see that my Mom comes over as rather harsh so I need to put the record straight. OK, she was harsh, harsh about rudeness, unkindness, injustice and the worst crime of all "having a bob on yourself". So yes it was her that taught me to be self-deprecating, that I wasn't pretty like Lynda ten doors down or tidy like my cousin or clever and neat like Anne over the road. It sounds terrible I know but that is the way it was; it wasn't just this horror of breeding a bighead that she had but also some deeply felt suspicion that if I got "built up" the Gods would intervene and I would disappear as my brother had done before me. Luckily I knew she loved me as it was pretty obvious but funnily enough after I had one of my own kids and she realised I wasn't going to make a complete hash of it and she could let up a bit, she got her best friend, my Aunty Vi, to tell me how proud she was of me. Mind you when about twelve years later I landed the job that doubled our income and set me on the path of my future career, she said oh good and then asked me if all the others had turned it down.

Alongside all of this placating the Gods of humility malarkey she was the kindest, funniest and bravest woman alive. She used to make plans to have a laugh and then hoot and guffaw with whoever was along for the ride. She put herself out constantly for other people. When she was in her 70s she would visit less well off relatives weekly, not just ours but Stewart's as well and still find time to come to my house, do all my ironing, pick up my kids from school and peel the spuds for our dinner, whether we wanted them or not.

She was a deeply instinctive egalitarian and brave with it. The best story, although I still shrink with fear at the idea, was when she was on the top of a bus with a fair few people, including a load of skinheads and one Asian chap who was being abused by said skinheads. For my overseas readers skinheads were a particularly nasty aberration of the 80s, people with heads like mine but by choice, ridiculous short trousers and bovver boots (Doc Martens). Their raison d'etre fell into line with the Klu Klux Clan and they had equally unpleasant attitudes and habits. Well everyone was studiously looking out of the window while these bovver boys shouted and threatened the one black person on the bus. All except my Mom who went and sat next to him and turned to this gang of racists and told them that was what they were and that this was a bad thing and didn't they have any humanity or feelings for their fellow man, how would they like it etc etc. I don't think she clipped them round the ear but the threat was probably there and miraculously they quietened down; if they hadn't she would have just carried on till they did.

And then before she was a beautiful young woman, an orphan or worse really, motherless with a father who left her to be raised by a Dickensian type aunt who just treated her like a slave; only to meet and marry my Dad who was the best Dad in the world but the worst sort of philandering husband. Thank goodness for Fred who gave her a proper marriage 30 years later.

So that was my Mom and I will think of her all day today as my children and their children celebrate motherhood; and we will give our old friend the elephant a piece of the pineapple upside down cake I am just about to make, because I can and want to and maybe he will let that be bribery enough to his Gods and go away and let me be and let me feel pride in what me and my Mom have achieved and keep me doing it every day for a very long time yet.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Bouncing bach

It was fantastic to feel like a human being again last night, no nausea or stomach cramps so we watched the weather forecast and decided to go to the seaside. If you live in Birmingham going to the seaside means going to Wales especially when the forecast tells you that the rain is coming from the east. It also means mixing seaside with ravishing countryside and once we had taken the Newtown Road, on the way to Machynlleth, (there is a hostelry there where we have had the odd excellent lunch or several in the past and we planned a return visit), the sun came out and everything was a vision of tiny bouncing lambs, glading snowdrops and rainbow coloured hillsides.

Aberdovey was our seaside destination and I managed a stroll on the beach while Stewart reminisced about camping on the sand dunes and being flooded by high tides, oh those were the days. He clearly listened in Geography because he was also heard eulogising about hanging valleys, screes and drowned river valleys as we wound our way through the countryside. I let this wash over me just as I had in Miss Day's class 45 years ago but I was searching in my own memory database for the first time I ever visited this neck of the woods. I was 13 and officially neither a Student or a Christian but me and my mates had found these holidays that you could go to without your parents run by the Student Christian Movement. Ours was in Dolgellau or Dolgelley as we called it and the amazing thing was we had to get ourselves there and back under our own steam, and it was steam part of the way I seem to remember; I know we had to change trains loads of times and we did it all on our own, four giggly girls who'd never been further than town before. When we got there there were new excitements like sleeping on palliases, lumps of straw to the uninitiated, and meeting a load of girls from Blackburn or somewhere who were 14, very streetwise and kept talking about finding local talent, and they weren't talking Eisteddfods I can tell you.

My Mom and Dad actually turned up to visit half way through just to check I wasn't being brainwashed I presume, which would have been OK except my Dad tried to chat up one of the "leaders" which was mortifying and looking back I suspect she was more interested in me and my mates than my embarrassing Dad; she used to stand over me and croon about how strong my wrists were as I wrung out the dishcloths (it was one of those sorts of holidays) well that was a first and I can honestly say no-one since has noticed this particular quality in my allure. We went on lots of walks and climbed Cader Idris and I expect we were shown moraines and cwms and all sorts but it was the tang of risk and wildness that we savoured and finding it by ourselves.

It's still there in Wales I am sure if you know where to look but today we risked no more than a barbary duck breast with puy lentils, a leek tart and a quick paddle in the sea. In 1962 all I got was a straw bed, a few spotty Welsh lads and wash day red hands. So this evening I say as the poet nearly said "Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive, But NOT to be young was very heaven".

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Sleeping and stitching

Still felt like a sickly rag doll yesterday but think there may be green shoots of recovery this morning, bit more get up and go. I did make it over to Hobbycraft yesterday to get some knitting patterns and wool. Julie, lovely and very determined daughter-in-law got me back into knitting while we were both in Dresden over Christmas. She had just learnt how to do it and had that very stiff, tight style beginners have and the most set jaw I have ever seen. Nothing was going to stop her learning and I felt quite benign and helpful with my 50 odd years experience of not being able to knit very well.

It's enjoyable and therapeutic and I managed to find a pattern that looked easy enough. It failed to say knit 6 rows, have a sleep, knit another 5 or so, drop off but what does it know. Hoping today to vary the pattern a little and get my tension right but whether I will be able to stay awake long enough to K1, sl 1, K1, psso (K to within 2 sts of marked st, K2tog, K marked st, sl 1, K1, psso) twice; is anybody's guess.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010


Just want to sit around and do nowt today; I find this easy in the main but have the odd little voice in my ear: shall I just get the fish out and chop a few shallots for dinner? I could easily wield the broom on that bit of fluff and the crap that's come in from the garden. So far I have resisted and dozed a lot; done the Killer Sudoko and answered a few emails - just with holding replies: I will get back to you when I can be arsed in a nutshell.

Energy will return I know along with what work ethic I still have wherever ethics reside; but for now I'll just go and have a sit down.

Monday, March 8, 2010

March Hair

Went to Will's Wigs which is wonderfully alliterative. The woman I saw, who had a lovely knitted cardie on that I might try to whizz up for myself, had been doing wigs for 10 years; this was obvious as, although she brought in a big tower of boxes, it was the first one that she tried on that I walked away with. It's amazingly OK and I am wearing it now. It makes me look younger I would say and more like my sister-in-law Ruth (see picture) who is a super head (teacher) so she clearly knows a lot about head type things. The second one made me look uncannily like her, which started to feel weird as I like my brother-in-law a lot. So after telling me I had a very small head, not a lot to go in it you see, and doing a bit of trimming, the wig woman sent me off with my washing instructions and some spray and I am now slightly blonder and slightly bouncier.

Very bouncy in fact, I am beginning to wonder if I am pregnant, not cancer-riddled, as this morning I decided to clear out all the cupboards and chuck away all the very old stuff. I mean how many packets of Dry Toor Dhal and Gram Flour do the average pensioner couple need for a lifetime? Less than we had so the stuff from 2006 is now in the bin alongside sheets of gelatine that expired in 2001, granite like muscovado sugar and some strange Cappuccino stuff that I don't remember ever buying. I had to have lots of rests so I am probably not just about to give birth but simply basking in the steroid glow. I have stopped the course now so will no doubt be less enthusiastic tomorrow. But for today, the sun is out and and I have new hair and clean cupboards.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Post-chemo days

I am alright but not right to put it in a nutshell. I feel quite cheerful which is a good start and don't actually feel ill as such. There is no doubt though that the nasty chemicals are trying to get me down. I know that the 11 anti-nausea tablets I take each day are working away because I can feel them. It's like a skirmish going on in my stomach, the slight, sometimes more, feeling of sickness is never far away and it sort of gurgles like indigestion sending warning messages up the tubes. The tablets are winning you feel, but the chemo is there just waiting to catch you out.

It's a bit the same with the tiredness; I feel OK, I go to cut down some dead stuff in the garden, or climb up to the top floor for some reason and realise I can't do it for long. Something happens around my hips, deep inside my legs and it's no go. As this is not far from the gurgly stomach I feel there is a revolt going on below my waist (that is the bit that sticks out most between breast and hips isn't it?). It's worst if I try and bend at said waist, all hell threatens to break out then.

Finally and sadly my recorder playing is suffering and I may not make it to this year's proms after all. It's the breathing, you would think old Leio would have done his darnedest by now to get my lungs down but he is saying chuck that chemical at me and you will regret it in the pulmonary region. He is right so I am puffing and panting even more.

These are all side-effects described on the chemical warfare leaflets so I glory in being the norm. The leaflets also remind me I am toxic for seven days and that my bodily fluids are definitely a no-go area. I think I might get one of those hazardous waste signs and stick it on my new headdress it can only serve to impress.

Today the challenge is to visit my niece as it's her birthday, do the shopping and then make a proper Sunday dinner for Luke, Aleks and the girls. Luckily that just means chucking a piece of meat in the oven and peeling a few veg and even I can manage that. I will be helped by my trusty sous chef, Stewart, of course; that's him over there the one in the nice orange overalls and the protective mask.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Home again, home again, wiggety wig

Got back last night, earlier than last time due to less pump breakdowns (pesky machines that control the flow of the chemo etc going into your veins). I am feeling fine considering and am in love with the medicine beginning with O that controls your sickness. I refuse to try to learn all of the names of the drugs, life is too short and it only encourages them to come up with longer and longer and more and more ridiculous monikers.

I do prefer single rooms in hospitals as I have said before but this stay has brought new insights into the camaraderie of cancer and the amazing way that cancer patients behave. For some reason we are a ridiculously cheerful bunch; perhaps it's something to do with the cells dividing all over the place and sending us a bit scatty. If you added up the life expectancy in my six bed bay of cancer women you probably wouldn't get to the 2012 Olympics but there was nerry (Shakespearean term for "never a" but I don't know how to spell it and I am getting above myself clearly) a moan and lots of laughs and a very gung ho sort of "we may not have long but we are going to enjoy it" type attitude. My neighbour for a day was a more hopeful case and turned out to be an English teacher who had worked with Stewart; one woman had had breast cancer then got a sarcoma in her ribs, had herself all reconstructed and now has it in her bones and lungs but she looked fantastic and kept snogging her husband of 30 years, so she has got something right; another saw through at least two property deals while I was in and is rushing over to Alicante to sign them off after her biopsy on Monday - she was given 6 months, three months ago; the third was just a nice laughy woman despite asthma, diabetes and lung cancer and on the last day a German woman with five kids who wore her bald head bravely came in and brought more spice to the mix . There must be some miserable buggers amongst the cancer community but I have yet to meet one.

So the sun is out and I may do a bit of tweaking in the garden later, the only appointment in near future is with the wig maker; I get it free so I may as well have a go; but do I stay as me or go for a whole new look; I should have asked my cancer buddies it would have been another excuse for a laugh anyway.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010


Terribly sick last night but on stronger stuff now so feel better. I am not sure if I can trust myself to eat which by now you will all know is a big change for me. Maybe I will lose some of the zillion pounds that the Biobank folk reckoned I was out by. I felt a bit crap last night:sick, no hair and I lost my glasses in the xray dept. This morning glasses are found, I haven't been sick for 12 hours and so what if I am bald, some of my best friends are slapheads and I find I am still me underneath it all.

The young woman who sweeps the floors and brings round the tea, god love her, has a tattoo on her arm which reads ...forbidden to remember, terrified to forget. Well that has resonance for sure. There's a nice young man on today perhaps I will ask him if he has any appropriate tattoos to show me. I'll have to be prepared to keep my dinner down though.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Bed but no hair

Very quick post everyone; I have a bed today; goodness knows why I am so excited they are hardly Malmaison or even Travel Lodge. In readiness Stewart clipped my hair this morning down to number one. Yesterday I vacced it rather than washed it but today it had to go. I am afraid I look nothing like Sinead O Connor, more like that fat chap Lucien Freud used to paint, Lee Bowry was it or if I am really truthful it's Gollum I most resemble.

So I will slither around my bed muttering "my precious, my precious" and watch out for the fires of Mordar.

Monday, March 1, 2010

And the little one said roll over

I shouldn't be writing this, I certainly shouldn't have to. I should be in the hospital having had my bloods taken and be waiting for the chemo drip to be put up this afternoon but I am not. Ann the bed manager called this morning. She is lovely and we are now on first name terms. She is a nice person doing a very nasty job and she said they didn't have a single spare bed; there had been emergencies and people transferred from their other hospital, (Selly Oak for the locals). They will call me tomorrow to see if there is a bed and of course I will be a priority, and I think yes, along with the emergencies and the other people turned down this morning. I asked if this was safe as I was supposed to be on a course of treatment, so much every three weeks etc and she said this was normal and it would all just roll over; and I think yes when someone rolls over and then falls out of the bed, no doubt, just as the song says.

Now it may not matter if I miss a day or even two, although I would like to see the evidence! But does it matter that I will now probably not be able to go with Harry to see Alice in Wonderland on Saturday as I will still be feeling rough? Does it matter that my calculations about whether I will be able to meet up with my American friends on a rare visit to Paris in April are now thrown out? Does it matter that we have had to tell the garage that Stewart now can't pick up our car tomorrow morning? Does it matter that according to my doctor I can expect to live for about another 9 months on average and this is one wasted day of that nine months or 19 or whatever it is? Yes it ****ing well does matter; all of it.

Wake up people YOU DON'T HAVE ENOUGH BEDS! And don't tell me that the new hospital will sort it because I was there don't forget when the reduction in beds was announced and I asked would this affect patient care and I was fobbed off as usual by the Oh but we will manage it all better nonsense. This is happening to me and my fellow cancer sufferers now people, here, not in a third world country, not in some distant rural locality but in BIRMINGHAM, in the second city of a relatively rich country in a REGIONAL CANCER CENTRE, people!

If I had hair I would tear it out, instead this post is going off to my old gang. So Andy, David N, Cynth, Elisabeth, David C and Julie what do you say? Is this a service to be proud of? If it was your Mom etc etc...