Sunday, June 29, 2008

28 June

A week and a half into goat phase.

Saw the surgeon on Wednesday - it will be a mastectomy, with lymph node clearance. It's what we were expecting, but I was still upset afterwards. I think I had parked it all, decided to concentrate on the chemo, and suddenly had to face it. 

They gave me a leaflet on prostheses. Full of pictures of OLD WOMEN. Not very aspirational and nothing that I could identify with at all. "I can wear most things", but all the pictures showed necklines up at the neck. It really upset me. I cried that night and the next night. 

I just got the Amoena catalogue, which is much better. Quite nice underwear. I will go into Marks next week and get myself measured up, and then do some shopping...but I am absolutely certain I will have a reconstruction next year. 

I look at myself in the mirror and I can't imagine what it will look like. 

1 F was kneeling in front of the telly waiting to turn it off, and his feet were under him. Dirty little feet because he's been running around outside with no shoes on. I always like to see them with dirty feet in the summer.

2 The radishes have gone mad and it's so nice to pick them. They pop out of the earth like shocking pink torpedoes.

3 Picked my first sweet peas today. Pink and purple. They smell delicious.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

22 June - Wild and windy

Aaron came over with Rollo,  the grumpiest dog in the world. The kids are delighted to see him, giving him biscuits, dragging him round on a lead. I suppose he can't be THAT grumpy.

Took the kids taking the dog for  a walk down the lane. It was lovely - wildflowers everywhere. We picked a little mixed bunch which F presented to Aaron. S demonstrated her nectar sucking technique on the honeysuckle. 

So here are my 3BT

  1. Honeysuckle - smells so good. Looks like tiny angel trumpets
  2. Dropping daisies off the bridge into the stream and then watching for them coming out the other side - and S not minding that none of her stuff ever did. 
  3. F working out how to make a  pulley out of a skipping rope and a bucket for holding pens, and being so proud of it he had to show everybody.
Patio wall nearly finished - thank goodness. 

Saturday, June 21, 2008

21 June - the longest day.

So they decided to give me more chemo on the 19th. My wedding anniversary. My first chemo was on Valentine's Day, so there's some kind of cosmic irony going on there...

This is the hard day, when the steroids drop out and I'm left just feeling flat and low and wanting to be left alone. Hard for all of us. And it's rained all day. Still, that means I don't have to go and water the garden tonight.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Friday in the park

  1. F, S and Alex running round the paddling pool in the park. They all looked so fit and healthy, and were having such a good time.
  2. Strawberries, warm from the sun, picked straight from the plant and popped in your mouth. Not many things are nicer than that.
  3. I love the way S prefers peaches and F prefers nectarines. She likes the fact that they are furry. They both feel around in the fruit bowl until they find what they want.
It was a lovely day today. I woke around 6.15 and then fell back to sleep until F came in at 7.20. In our house that is a serious lie-in. A took S to school so I didn't have to rush, so F and I just pottered round the house, hung the washing out, mooched.

We headed over to Barnstaple to see Alex B, F's best friend. S is fascinated by the fact that she is a girl. "Are you going to marry Alex?" "I might and I might not". F says he wants to marry Joanna. "I will have to choose".

Had lunch in Alex B's new house. Three storey Victorian, not unlike our Bristol house. Needs a LOT of work, but they say they enjoy that. Then to Bideford park, where the kids had a great time in the playground and then Ann looked after F, Alex and Amelia while I went and picked up S from school. They splashed around in the paddling pool, got cold, warmed up, ran around, laughed a lot, fell over a few times, Amelia lolled around in the sun looking like a kid about to fall asleep, and then we headed home via Mr Hocking's van. We are so lucky to have them as our local ice cream providers. And my taste buds are back to normal, so everything tastes fantastic.

S did a few blasts on the trumpet when we got back. I really hope she gets into it. We agreed this morning that we would both try and be extra nice and good at bedtime, and it worked - though I don't think she is asleep yet...

Thursday, June 12, 2008


  1. Chickpea salad for lunch, with chillis and lime juice and a bit of onion. Lime and chilli is a great kick.
  2. Tea tastes good this week. There's nothing like a nice cup of tea.
  3. There are the first tiny baby green tomatoes on the biggest tomato plant.

I didn't water the vegetable patch last night, but it rained in the night, so that was OK. We ate salad leaves last night - some from the batch my Dad donated, some from the hearting mix and the first of the chard. Chard is so brilliant - it looks fantastic, tastes great and just keeps on going. What more could you ask for?

I had to clear some caterpillars off the cabbage plants yesterday, so that needs to be a regular job for a bit. But this time of year is wonderful - everything is growing so quickly. The patch looks really good at the moment, much better than last year.

A poem by my friend Siobhan


Call me crazy, if you like,
but I have decided
to save the world
and there’s a lot to do.
I’m in good company too.

There’s Tom, the gardener
in the park close by
rubbing his cold hands together,
carefully planting snow drops,
digging small holes in the rich Autumn soil
dark clay beneath his fingertips.
So that when Edith
takes a shaky walk around the park
she’ll see their brave heads
pushing their way
through the heavy snow -
and smile - properly
for the first time
since her husband died.

Perhaps Tom is saving the world.

And Mike from the ‘community service scheme’
paying back society for his sins
down by the neglected river bank,
pulling out old condoms
and half torn pages
of used up porn.
So that when Dave
takes his kids for a walk
(to give their Mum a break)
they can splash in the clear water,
dance for delight, clapping their hands
in amazement
at this world of ours.

Perhaps Mike is saving the world.

And Andy on the computer
late at night and far from home,
back aching and eyes sore
from squinting at the screen,
tired and missing the comfort
of his warm bed.
Putting the last touches to his paper –
‘Prevention of world blindness
a way forward’

Perhaps Andy is saving the world
as a really special gift
for Maria Abalooha,
blind for twenty years,
so that she can see
her grandson born
and the sun rise -
all on the same day.

So I have decided
to save the world
in the only way I can;
I will take the tattered scraps
of impossible dreams
and stitch them into poems,
piece by careful piece
I will place together
their coloured edges
to make a patchwork song.

And I’ll sing it right out-loud,
in the middle of the street
and you can call me crazy if you like,
but I have decided
to save the world.

Which is just as well really
as there’s an awful lot to do.

How to live life

I'm going back to some thoughts I had earlier about how to live life. There are a few influences I want to mention. Here goes:

  1. Enough by John Naish. We all live in superabundance. I do, anyway. This book is about how to stop over-ing. Overspending, overworking, overeating. I found 3BT from here. The message I got from it was that we have enough, we just have to learn how to appreciate that.
  2. (Which brings me neatly on to Terry Pratchett and the Wee Free Men, who believe that we have already died and gone to heaven - this wonderful, beautiful place that has everything we need. Their philosophical struggle is what happens when we die in heaven...)
  3. Siobhan M. My friend. Came down a few weeks ago and we had some good conversation, and a couple of things she said have really stuck with me. She talked about "eating mindfully" and "accepting the bouquet". I have kind of extrapolated from those images, but they really capture an essence for me.
  4. Doing the 29 day Giving Challenge. Interestingly what I have noticed doing this is much more about how much I am given by others than about how much I am giving. Gratitude again.
  5. CBT. Feelings, thoughts, behaviours, all influencing each other. As my daughter says "The things you do look after you." I don't want to nauseate people, but you can appreciate the good things in life even when there are bad things going on.

There is something important about living mindfully. When you concentrate on what you are doing and think about the consequences it is supposed to become a meditation in itself. I am sure there is truth in that. Relishing the moment. Relishing the small things, because it's not often that you have a perfect, fantastic, wonderful day, let alone a week, a month, a year. But if you relish a moment here, 5 minutes there, then you will find that they all add up.

I know none of this is new, but for me it is as if a number of things are coming together in a really productive way.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

It's shrinking!

Went for my mammogram today and they ultrasounded me too. Fantastic - the biggest malignant lesion has shrunk from 42mm diameter to 14mm. I cried a few tears. I don't seem to realise how tense I am about things until I am relieved of them.

Beautiful things:

1 Ann Tat and two of her friends, who I've met but don't know very well, took me out last night to see SATC. We ate beforehand, nothing fancy, but Ann and Sue paid for everything, just because they wanted me to have a good night out...

2 And Kate, who is having a shit time at the moment, her business has gone under, said if I ever needed help with childcare to give her a shout

3 and when I got home the stars were amazing.


1 The roses over the arch have come out - baby pink and smelling so good

2 Had a nice lunch with Mum and Dad, at the New Inn, picture postcard thatched inn, with a lovely garden and nice food.

3 The ultrasound, the ultrasound, the ultrasound....

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Karla's wedding

We went to Karla's wedding on Saturday. What a lovely day. The weather was lovely - just as June should be - the food was great - hog roast and salads - the bride was radiant.
S was a bridesmaid and took it very seriously. A guy from work, Mark, did the photographs, so I just had a sneak preview and S looks very serious through the whole service. F was just gorgeous and kept running over and kissing the bride. At one point he popped up from under the table, climbed onto her lap and gave her loads of kisses.

The team were all there. I dreamed I was sleeping at the office that night. Lovely to see everyone giving it heaps on the dance floor and great seeing them out of context.

We had planned to go to the beach on Sunday, but everyone was tired and grumpy, so we just went home and got out the paddling pool. What a good decision. We spend all this time, effort and money on living somewhere lovely and we don't spend enough time there.
some bts:

Karla's face coming up the aisle (to Zippadeedoodah)

The light in the field and F running across it.

S in her gold dress, delighted with herself.

Sitting under the elder bush, the smell of the blossom all round, dropping a few flowers in S's hair.

Avocado and bacon. Made for each other.

Thursday, June 5, 2008


Feeling better and better. I'm not really drinking enough because everything tastes disgusting, but I am eating better. Better quality - big salad tonight - manage good amounts all the time, but week 1 after chemo involves more sweets, because I need to get rid of that horrible taste in my mouth.

Today's 3BT:

1 As I was coming home over the bridge I saw an older couple hand in hand, in beige and cream: him in  beige top and cream trousers, her in a cream top and beige skirt. They looked so hilariously well coordinated.

2 At the Stretchacott turn there is a reddy-goldy-peachy snapdragon growing out of the wall all by itself.

3 S and F playing shoot and save football in the garden - the agony and the ecstasy - totally over the top goal celebrations and collapsing in despair, and both of them knowing it and finding it so funny.

The other thing about 3BT is that I find myself more conscious of beautiful moments through the day - I clock them and file them away for later.

Took F into the health centre with me today. Hilary did my dressing. I gave her a plant - a chilli or perhaps a pepper. I planted in a bit of a chemo haze and have no idea what anything is. I don't suppose it matters too much. F had to go and do a poo and came back in to have his bottom checked. It all feels very chaotic, but she doesn't seem to mind. Then took him to nursery. He said he didn't want to go, and I thought he would be fine when he got there, but apparently he had moments of sadness all day. I went into town and shopped for a dress for the wedding, but everything looks horrible. I think I like the dress I bought, though I have nothing to go with it, so I will look a bit undercoordinated, but there you go. 

I think I am coming to a philosophy of life. That sounds very grand, and I don't mean it to, but there are a few strands coming together that seem to be linked. I have been struggling with the idea of "battling with cancer". You hear it everywhere, and I feel uncomfortable with it. God knows I would love to battle with cancer, but how? What does it actually entail? If there was something positive that I could do and had faith in, I would do it. What I feel is something like Tony Blair said about the war on terror - and I can't believe that I am quoting him on that, but I think it was him who talked about the importance of continuing every day life as a protest against terrorism that would try to disrupt and destroy that. So I am trying to live my everyday life as well as possible as a protest  against the cancer that would disrupt and destroy it.

So what are my strands?

The big things don't happen very often, so you have to have regard to the small things and really appreciate them. 

It is worth paying attention to the small things, because they accumulate.

That's from the 3BT thing.

The giving challenge? Well, the more I think about what I give, the more I notice what I receive.

So it's something about the fact that life is OK if you look for the bits that are good. It's not very original, I know, but there you go.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

29-Day Giving Challenge

I took up the 29-Day Giving Challenge - it's interesting to consciously think about giving, especially at a time when I feel I am taking so much from people in terms of physical and emotional support.

I guess I feel much more comfortable giving than receiving - and I imagine that is normal. Siobhan talked about accepting the bouquet - most people find compliments hard, but help is even harder. Asking for help. And then someone will come along and do something small and gracious and you feel so supported.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Emerging from the chrysalis

From lunchtime onwards I have felt things lifting - it is such a relief. By 11am I was absolutely whacked and would have happily laid down on the kitchen floor and gone to sleep, and now I am feeling relatively perky. Yesterday was awful, and I woke in the night aching all over and hot and uncomfortable, but I think tonight will be OK. I didn't take any zopiclone last night - maybe I should have - it's a bit ridiculous, but I don't want to be taking more meds than necessary! That IS ridiculous. In fact I lay there at 3 am thinking "If someone told me this was how it would be for ever, I don't think I'd bother with it."

Spent the morning at Granny's, wrapping china and shifting furniture. At least Aus and Paul shifted the furniture and I wrapped china. We took more stuff than we should have - I have such a problem with things, I couldn't bear to see the stuff she loved abandoned. Anyhow, we have a huge attic, it will be treasure for the kids to find in years to come.

I am still doing the 3BT. It's an interesting thing, it is really helpful to reflect on the good things in the day. I was talking to Siobhan about this - about how important it is for me to focus on the little things that make life good (better than worth living...), or else, what is it that you want to live for? All those little moments make up the whole. So it is something I want to continue with. And if you don't reflect on those things it is very easy to sink into reflecting on all the bad things (and heaven knows that would be easy enough). I can hear Aus trying to get the telly to function properly in the next room. I could easily rant  for pages about that...

1 A vermilion geranium in a terracotta pot against a white wall. It's a classic.

2 Sam doing the hedge, and almost taking a spirit level to it. Such a contrast with last year, when he whizzed along. As if he's suddenly developed perfectionism.

3 F coming home from his first full day at school with a sticker on his shirt saying "Brilliant Behaviour" - a sticker S made him because he lost his original one. 

And now I'm smiling and feeling that life is good, and I'm ready for bed.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

a little moan

I have felt so tired today. I feel like a jug of  water that is just almost too full. I just want to be very still and very quiet, and not to be jostled in any way - because if I start to spill..! I just have so little to give anybody. 

Managed to do bedtime for children, and that was OK, but I have to remind myself that they are very small and can't be expected to understand. And I feel bad that they are having to understand stuff like this at all.

And I feel like I don't know what's going on, and that's very disconcerting. There is a plan and then it changes. It's horrible. They are going to re-mammogram me before the next treatment and decide on the basis of that, so it could be surgery sooner than I was expecting. S doesn't want me to have a scar. Neither do I, much.

Sunday 1st June

I have felt so tired today, but it has been nice to hear the kids charging around the house, using their imaginations. F is an undersea knight, and this is not his usual country.

S asking questions - how much more medicine, what is wrong, will I have a scar? But she didn't want me to tell Aus that we had been talking about it. The other night she said "I do worry about you, but I don't talk about it". And that's her.

1 The children hooning around the house piling on layer upon layer of imagining. "I will plant this magic seed" "And then lots of trees will grow"

2 F directing us on how to make a triangular door with our arms, and me and Aus just laughing and laughing.

3. Just hearing the birds singing and thinking how lucky I am to live somewhere where I can take that for granted.

Jess taking S tomorrow. Star. 

I looked at myself in the mirror earlier. Look like Nosferatu.