Wednesday, 30 January 2008

Tomorrow I will... But for now...

It is heartening to know that I am not the only one struggling to get my writing done (have been visiting the novel racers here and there).

Ha! (Sorry - that sounds soooo mean!)

As an apology for above gloating - have a blueberry. No really. Do!

Blueberries are good for your brain apparently, so am eating lots of them. Obviously it will be impossible to eat too many!

The keen eyed amongst you will see that Mslexia has arrived too. It arrived ages ago but only got around to reading through last night (Christ, I must be ill!). I do love that little mag dropping through the letter box and reminding me to keep on going. And looking at the state of the manuscript (I use the term loosely) beneath the blueberries, you will see that I do, indeed, need to keep going!


Today I am going to sit by the fire for a bit again, (Yes, I know it's not that cold old but my counts are hitting their low so I am cold and tired today), and then I'm going for some acupuncture later - now that will be a new experience! Not sure whether to be afraid, excited, or both?!!!

I did have two other things to talk about, despite feeling so tired and dizzy...

Firstly - a big public thank you to Nic who came round for a chat on Monday and ended up a) cooking dinner and b) de-lousing youngest child! What fun. It seems they are spreading Lane!!! The two of them were upstairs combing away with the conditioner saying, "Nope, nothing so far," and then there was a loud gasp followed by, "EW!!!" I crawled up the stairs and lay across the threshold of the bathroom giving instructions:

Helpful stuff like;

"If it has legs and you can count them, it's a louse."
"Crack it between your nails!"
"No, they can't jump."
"Yes, that's an egg."
"Yes, you do have to kill them all!"

Little one is now bug free, and Nic has earned herself a parenting badge. Well Done!

Thing two, like the manuscript, will have to wait until tomorrow!

Bye xxx

Monday, 28 January 2008

I did ride horsie! And I did drive car! (And I did er... chuck guts up... but only a wee bit...)

Henry and Me - off for a spot of exercise

Gosh what a busy day - which is good because yesterday was a crappie, horrid, miserable day in which poor NeeNee had to come and cook my organic chicken for me because I was fit for nothing but tearful heaving. I kept thinking I am 38 and I everyone is having to take care of me. How crap is this?! After NeeNee left, dad had to come down to help with the little one because hubby and big one were out. I'd have been crying Oh Woe is Me if I hadn't been so knackered and nauseous!!!

But there's ups and downs, and if yesterday had downs, then today had ups...

Firstly, this morning I went to the hospital for Day 8 of Chemo. And I drove myself - hurrah! (although Mum and Dad came with me just in case I couldn't drive home again...) So, the Bloods were good and am not dead yet; apparently this exhaustion is normal, and my body is being a brave little mite and coping marvellously with the onslaught of Cisplatin and Vinorelbine. So much so, I was able to have the next dose of Vinorelbine, and am visualising it working hard on smashing all those cancer cells to smithereens. It's in tablet form, so left hospital feeling really up and together. So much so I booked a riding lesson for the afternoon...

The riding school are being fab with me - letting me take it easy and all that. I got to ride Henry, and as he hadn't done too much for a few days, he was very excited despite the fact that I told him he'd have to take it easy with me.

Slow Down!!!

But Henry thought we'd both benefit from a good blast, so we set off at top speed up (and down and up) the school (again). He was right though, and I was so pleased when I a) didn't come off, b) managed to get him round the corner before we ran out of ground, and c) subsequently beat him to it, and stayed in control (okay - mostly in control!).

This is how I look when I've been riding. I look like this for about a week.

I normally do a 45 min lesson, or a 2 hour hack, but after 25 minutes I was totally knackered and had to call it a day. I managed to take Henry back to his stable though, and get his saddle off, before I hit the deck and hurled for Britain!!! Poor dad kept saying, "I'll drive," but I was bloody determined to make it home, and did. Albeit with a couple of chucking-up stops!

Knackered Old Boy?! I am!

Phew. Now I could sleep for a week! I have to be careful over the next few days with the old blood counts falling and stuff, but at least the chemo-brain fog has abated for the time being, and the ginger really is marvellous stuff!

Tomorrow's plan is to edit that short story, keep smiling, and to get through the day without too many tears, tantrums, or puking sessions!

And remember... Life is good, and even when it is being difficult and testy, it is a damn site better than the alternative!

Saturday, 26 January 2008

Sailing through on a rough-ish sea...

I said I would sail through this chemotherapy lark, but so far I haven't been able to book a riding lesson.

Or drive my car.

Or even edit that blinkin' story!

But I am getting out of bed everyday. I am off the anti-nausea tabs (today) and not hurling, or peeing myself, or falling over (although I do feel as though I've downed a bottle of vodka). And people have been coming and taking me out of the house which is fabulous. And I put a wash on - hurrah!

Chemo is a hard business I've decided, and am still trying to find a good acupuncture therapist (5 elements you say, zinnia?) because I think my Chi needs some serious re-alignment! I feel physically drained; a kind of deep wipe-outedness rather like being pregnant (oddly?!) Little one made me toast this morning, and then hurtled up the stairs so fast she crashed into the wall. I could hear the tears but could do nothing about it, but all was well. The toast was perfect and even dust free, and she had the biggest smile on her face at having managed what had seemed to her to be an impossible task.

So we are all growing through this experience. The universe doesn't send us stuff to deal with that we can't handle. I have known this throughout my life. When I was a single parent in Spain with a toddler and no hope of staying, I threw myself into the ether and knew the universe would provide. And it did. I met Desiree and she rented us all an apartment, and then 2 days later I got a job. I've been blessed like that. Truly. And I still am being blessed. Everyday. Remember that, you lot, when you get fed up and lost in the misery of the every day - YOU CAN DO IT!

I tried to do some Yoga today, and managed 15 mins before lying down for another 15. For someone who's been hyperactive for years, this is quite disturbing to say the least. So I walked into the village to buy a tv guide and some chocolate - or rather floated into the village on slightly wobbly legs. And I never made it all in one go either, having to call in on a neighbour for a brew half way back! Bugger bugger bugger!

I spoke to my new friend, S, last night, and she said she feels equally spaced out. Given that most of our meds are identical, it is a relief to discover that I'm not the only one feeling like this. We are both going nuts wanting to drive and carry on as normal, but equally being patient and accepting that we'll just have to wait a bit. Ho hum. She's had to shave her hair off last night, so my heart goes out to her - (I bet you look gorgeous cariña!). We know these things will happen but it is still a shock no less, when it comes to getting the clippers out.

I still appear to have hair, but wonder for how much longer. They said mine mightn't fall out because my drugs are slightly different, (which will be a relief for Amanda, who rather stupidly promised to shave her hair off when I do?!). How is that for courage, friendship and support, eh!

Oh well. Think I'll try to go to the movies today. Do something normal, you know. I have a deadline for this story, and am visualising getting it done so that it will be so. Even writing this higgeldy-piggeldy blog entry is helping to clear my mind up a little more.

Hope everyone out there is well! Am gonna go, cos not making an awful lot of sense I don't think! :)

Thursday, 24 January 2008

Retail Therapy

I went out! Hurrah! I rang a friend and arranged to meet for coffee, and then realised that I was in no fit state to drive, so had to ring NeeNee to come get me. Bless her cotton socks!

I also spent a bit of cash - which I really shouldn't because I only get 3 weeks sick pay as an Associate Tutor (for 24 wks contracted work - humph!) but you know, I don't really spend that much and it did cheer me up. I got lots of meds (not pictured cos boring), lovely shoes (like Julie's! Sorry hum but couldn't resist 'em), some Lavender bath stuff to help calm and soothe etc., and some Elizabeth Arden lip balm as lips have already started cracking. The Monsoon stuff is for my girls - couldn't find any treats for me in there, but no matter - I did very well as it was!

The book is on Taoism, and is from another friend. Am getting all spiritual don't ya know - but the more I read and study, the more I realise it is a positive attitude that's going to get me through this - and all the love and stuff from everyone. And I've been thinking, when I'm well I want to do the Duke of Edinburgh on horse back across Wales for Cancer Research! That's an exciting thought. I'm also focusing on getting a horse and visualising growing old with it, with grandchildren having a sit on in the field next to the house...)

What else...

Also went to see an acupuncture practitioner, and will look more into that. Sort me Chi out and all that - them Meridian lines. At least my head is in a good place now, so the sitting down and being calm, thinking calm thoughts, and trying to heal from within is certainly having a beneficial effect!

This is lucky because the little things can get to you. Like this morning. I woke at 3 am, and went to the loo, and was awake till 6 am. Not wanting to get out of bed because the nausea would hit me too hard, I waited till 8 am to take anti-sickness tablets, drinking ginger beer. Only I got up, started heaving, and wet myself. Fabulous, thought I. Talk about reduced dignity, but I suppose we'll just have to deal with it, eh.

I did get home to find a HUGE bouquet of flowers at the front door too - thank you Ann xxx - they look gorgeous on top of the piano.

So. All in all the Chemo is not so bad, so far. I still have hair, and the shoulder pain still greatly reduced. Am on the mend - I feel it!

Writing: Oh dear. Oh well. Am on the case! I haven't forgotten! Am just not going to be too hard on myself anymore - ha ha ha!

Wednesday, 23 January 2008

Day 3...

Hello All.

Still here. Bit sickie but coping, and not in bed or anything, but equally not having that riding lesson I'd fancied!!!

I was tearful most of yesterday - no idea why - but think mainly it was tears of amazement at how wonderful you are all being. Keep the calls coming!

Jane has kept me in Lilies since the initial diagnosis and came over last night with more, and little cards have been turning up. It's just wonderful. I owe you all and as soon as I'm better I'll be a blinkin' saint trying to pay everyone back! Hope no one has to go through this mind - tis really crap!

My little one was upset last night - she said, "Cancer makes people die," and started crying, so I had a long chat to her about the fact that cancer only kills some people, and it's usually because they catch it late. Mine's been caught really early and I have no intentions of letting it win. I told her to think positive thoughts and to imagine me all healthy and strong when she goes to sleep. It may have been wrong to tell the kids, but I think watching mum crying all over Christmas and not knowing why would have been more upsetting?

Well. Bit tired so going to go now. Will keep you posted. Riding tomorrow?!!!

Tuesday, 22 January 2008



Well. I survived the first chemotherapy session and am home again. Home and trying to feel normal.

Sunday night I was fine. Pain in shoulder etc., but calm.

Monday morning. Calm.

Arrived at hospital. PANIC!!!

Legs turned to jelly and eyes began leaking. Oh dear. And I had so intended to be brave. It got worse when I got onto the ward and saw all the other patients - the no hair, the lying down looking in agony (later realised that this was just sheer boredom), the wheelie things with the IV bags on 'em.

PANIC PANIC PANIC despite the mind saying DO NOT PANIC!!!

So they took my bloods and the woman screwed it up so I have a massive sore bruise now on right arm. I cried some more. The women across the way looked on sympathetically. "A newbie... awww!" Their eyes said.

And then a young girl was brought in, and she really did look awful. 18 yrs old. She had a infection, high temp, sickness, the works and I thought I'd better grow up really.

Hubby had to leave before they put the IV in so felt quite scared and alone, and desperately wanted to run run run away. Can entirely understand how some people get these diagnosis and refuse treatment to travel the world to die. Only my arm hurts so much that I wouldn't get to enjoy it, so chemo and fight the bastard till I win is the option I've gone for!

Now the rest of the day is a bit of a blur because in with the anti-nausea tabs was a conspicuous looking little blue pill. Hmmm, I thought. What's that? But being a good girl I took it. Half an hour later I felt really weird.

No really. Really weird. A kind of LSD type weird.

I thought a range of things: Is this the chemo?! Has it got Absinthe in it? Why are the letters in my story flying around? Where did the floor go?

You get the picture.

Turns out they gave me some sort of sedative but didn't think it necessary to tell me - or rather give me the option. I'd have been furious if I wasn't so high!

So off I went with me wheelie trolley - IV line not hurting at all as nurse was very good - and almost tried to go down the stairs before I saw the lift. The I took pics of myself on my phone and texted it to people to say look at me, I'm okay, when really the pics say, look at me, I'm totally out of my tree!!! I had a walk round the coffee bar and the Cancer Info Centre, called my dad but can't remember what I said, and then floated back to the ward.

Where you get to sit, and sit, and sit, and sit.

Dinner was awful. Sorry - I know the care is fab and all that, but I would've thought food was like, a bit important for sick people?!!! I had to have salad and a baked potato because there was nothing else low fat (gallstones and all that!). The salad (and I use the term in its loosest sense) consisted of 'see through' ice-berg lettuce (like on a dodgy burger) and three cherry tomatoes. That was one main course. The baked potato (again, using terms loosely) came in a potato skin but that was about the only resemblance to one. It had been scraped out and filled ...

oh oh - 4pm - hang on while I down more anti-nausea stuff...

Where was I? Oh yes. Food was shite!

And as for sedatives: In the evening I told the night nurse I didn't want the sedative and she stared at me, perplexed. And why not?! I said I wanted to be straight. She said MOST people want to be out of it. I said how am I supposed to do my healing meditations and visualisations if I'm off my head on drugs?! She said suit yourself. I told her I would.

Other interesting things:

- You have to wee in a measuring jug and then write down the quantity while on IV. The jugs are at the end of the ward and the loo at the other. This must be for exercise purposes. My worst effort was 210ml and my best was 600ml (that required a stop and measure, and restart as jug only 500ml big).

- They don't do herbal tea. (But you guessed that from above catering story, eh).

- They have two tv rooms, but only one tv works. Also, only have 5 channels, and if more than 3 of us are in there, we run out of plugs for the IV units, and the battery only lasts a short while before the alarm goes off.

- The IV alarms go off all through the night. This doesn't disturb sleep though, as you can't sleep due to constant weeing. I went 16 times in total.

I did meet a lovely lady who was born in Chile (hello if you read this when you get home!!!). We met in the TV room, and had a good old chat about alternative meds and approaches, about meditation and self-healing. That was a real life because I think a lot of people just go for the western meds and think the rest is for crack-pots. I think throw the lot at it mate. Chile lady is 35 and has two gorgeous babes. She is soooo brave and smiley, muy cariñoso we'd say in Spanish. We have swapped numbers and I hope we keep in touch.

Nicky came to collect me (thank you honey!!) so I had my own personal paramedic escort to the door, and she even made me ginger and lemon tea. And Desi rang me from Spain. And dad called in. I am sooo lucky.

Can't wait for hubby to get home from work, and the kids from school. I've only been away a day but it feels like years. Time is so drawn out on those wards!

One down, three to go. *Repeats I CAN DO THIS until believes it!*

Also got a lovely email from one of my students - Andrew, you're a little star mate - thank you!

Will keep you updated as ever. Going riding tomorrow if body feels up to it!

Sunday, 20 January 2008

Grrrr.... just spent ages trying to get into Blogger because it keeps saying I have cookies blocked on I.E. (the settings are exactly as recommended!). Good job I got Mozilla Firefox - this browser seems to be working fine!

So. What's up world?!

On Friday I went to Uni and met up with my colleagues for a catch up which was lovely. Nath bought me lunch (thank you Nath!!!), and no one seemed to mind that I was clutching my left breast the entire time, or that I had one of those heat packs that react to the air, but look like a sanitary towel, sticking out of my jumper! (Perhaps I should explain that the pain I get is in the left chest, shoulder, and arm!!)

Told the PhD people that I'll be taking some time off, so the pressure will be off there and I can tinker around with it behind the scenes as it were. I hadn't wanted to do that, but thinking about it, tis probably a sensible decision. It was PJ's idea actually, and she is always sensible!

Yesterday I went to see the baby horsie again. Ahhh! And I got to stroke her in the field! And help out with the other horses. Bliss! Shovelling poo and stuffing haynets, and spending time outside doing some work - not too much though - they wouldn't let me! The farm was a tad flooded out yesterday, so hubby helped to dig some ditches out with little 'un. We all got wet and muddy, and you know, I had a fantastic time!!! It was just so good to be OUT and DOING something useful! Just look at her! She's gorgeous! I soooo want her!

I want her!!!


No idea what to do today!!!

Edit that story, perhaps? Get my little hospital bag ready? Figure out how to boil a chicken carcass down to make risotto?! Gosh - the possibilities are endless!

Thursday, 17 January 2008

What was that? Low fat diet you say?!

Where do I start?!

Amanda arrived with baby and I cried.

And then I cheered up and we laughed, had a good old chat, and then dinner...

And guess who forgot all about her gallstones? I bet you had too?!

Exactly an hour and a half after dinner my gallbladder started to contract and wouldn't stop. I couldn't think what on earth had done it and then it hit me, quite literally; it was the cauliflower-cheese!!!

I tried not to scream, but it helped me to keep breathing.

I tried to pass out but my body wasn't having any of it.

It came in waves, and I cried like a baby - no, more than that - the pain was incredible - worse than bloody labour. In fact I never cried like that during either birth and I had both girls naturally (i.e. no pain relief).

So poor Amanda and poor hubby had to watch (and stroke back, and hand hold) as I writhed around screaming in agony for a good 2 hours, although after 30 mins, hubby started looking concerned and talking about hospitals. I looked up to the heavens and shook my fists, and er... swore a lot. Bloody unfair! said I. Too much! said I. Now this really is taking the piss! I cried.

I didn't want to take me to casualty in case they took the gallbladder out, and then I couldn't have chemo etc., etc., but hubby insisted that something had to be done, so he started making phone calls and eventually a lovely doctor came to the house and gave me an injection for the pain. Hubby said, "Are you having it in your bum?" and I said, "No love, I always take my pants off when the doctor arrives!" so we did manage a bit of a giggle.

The pain-killer kicked in pretty sharpish and calmed it down enough for me to breath normally again and stop crying, but f*** me what a to do!!! Bollocks is the only word suitable to describe the entire affair. Utter Bollocks. I will never eat cauliflower-cheese again unless I make it myself with low-fat everything!!!

Instead of a lovely evening chatting and catching up on old times, I was exhausted and collapsed at around midnight. I slept through till 7am and then got another hour or so, but when I looked in the mirror my eye-lids had been replaced with giant red slugs. Bitter tears indeed. I couldn't see properly until mid-day.

Amanda has gone home now. We managed to have a brief visit to the shops and she bought me one of those new-fangled thermometer in your ear thingies, so I can keep track of my temp during chemo, plus a great book on super-foods with (low-fat ha ha) recipes, and I got some Bach Rescue Remedy, some heaty up pads for hospital on Monday, and some books on self-healing and meditation.

Feeling much better now, thank god. Stomach still a little tender, but a warm bath, candles, lavender oil, and some good books methinks after dinner.

Am knackered!

Wednesday, 16 January 2008

A temporary hiccup

I wanted to be as honest as possible with you all about the ups and downs of this horrid illness.

So this is just to say that today is a difficult day.

Really difficult.

It's like you ride along on a wave of confident positive thinking, accept the situation, make decisions to evoke change, even eating spinach!!!

And then you fall off the surf-board of life and a big massive wave smashes over your head and threatens to drown your miserable little arse.

So today I am crying. A lot. I don't want to die. I don't want to have cancer. I want to wake up and find it was all a dream.

But that isn't going to happen, is it?

So I'm going to scrape myself off the floor again, and start over. My poor Dad just did his bit on the phone, and that's helped so much. And I'm waiting for my friend to visit from down south, so will try not to be sitting in a pool of tears when she arrives!

Tuesday, 15 January 2008

Free Rice: Procrastination that is fun, educational, and useful!

Have nicked this from the lovely Harriet Devine. It's a way to improve your vocabulary while feeding the world. For every word you get right, they give 20 grains of rice.

There are a few questions...

Such as who counts the grains of rice?
And how many grains in a decent sized serving?

Does anyone know?

You can give 1,000 grains in 10 mins or so, so if you do have time to waste, faff about, play, er... brush up on your vocab, pop along to Free Rice and feed someone. A bit. It all adds up!

P.S. You see this is exactly the thing to stop me writing! Don't do it! Or do it swiftly and purposefully, and then write!

*Repeat after me: Must edit this story. Must edit this story. Must edit this story!*

Monday, 14 January 2008

Today is another Good Day!!!

Riding Biko in September, Andalucia

I've been riding again today - what joy! Big old Henry starts out stiff and choppy, but we managed to settle down and have a stretch. I had a shared lesson with a friend, and at one point, as Teddy went into canter, Henry thought it was a race and took off down the long stretch of the school - all his hunting days coming back to him I guess. Most exhilarating. For an old man, he can't half go when he wants too!

What else?

Went to see a foal yesterday - less than 2 days old!!! Am sooo lucky!

Writing - am actually doing some and have a wee project in the pipeline... Maybe nothing will come of it but we'll see. I shall let you know if I have any joy after the editing is done and it is read.

You know, life is good. I've been cooking more, spending lots of quality time with people, enjoying my children. I feel healthier than I have done in years (apart from the pain in shoulder). Given that I can't change the past, and alter the diagnosis, I've decided to try to see the positive side of it, and there are lots of positives. Believe it or not!

Firstly, I've worked out what my priorities are, and what I want to do with my life. I realised that all the stuff I dabbled in over the years, in terms of Eastern philosophies and self development, are actually very important.

I am learning to sit still, and to still my mind. Trying to at least. I am visualising myself healthy and well, eating better, and trying to do some yoga (very basic - breathing and stuff). It is all helping me to think more clearly.

The best lesson in all of this is that people are fantastic. The strength of the human spirit is quite amazing and wonderful. It's when awful things happen that we learn this. I am so grateful and so blessed - whenever things have gone to pieces in my life, I have always had the right people around me to carry me over the worst of it. So I've learned to remember those times, and this current situation, and remember that people are essentially good.

And I love my life! My goodness. I've been working so hard for the past 10 years that I forgot about everything else. I did A levels, a degree, a PGCE, started lecturing and did an MA, and then straight onto a PhD. Phew! What did I expect my body to do but succumb to illness! Now, all that energy and drive I put into academic pursuits, will be ploughed into getting well again.

This whole experience has been incredible, and so many wonderful things have come out of it, I can't tell you. It's as though my life was a jar filled with layers of sediment, and then something grabbed it with both hands and shook it all up, and planted it upside-down. I think the lesson is to make sure I don't let the stuff in the jar stagnate again.

I should have learned all this before really, but before the threats to my life came from without, and this cancer business is most definitely within. But when my aunt who is recovering from breast cancer said to me, "Isn't it wonderful!" I struggled to see what she meant, and now I know. i understand. Sometimes we need a kick up the backside to make us see what matters, and this is my kick up the backside. My chance to improve my life and do what I'm supposed to be doing.

So. Surprisingly, happy days! Thank you to everyone who has supported me so far. I hope I can be of use to you sometime in return!

Thursday, 10 January 2008

Today is the first day of the rest of my life...

... and there's no time to waste sitting around doing nothing!

I have a massive shelving crisis. I knew this, but I tidied the office today and things are truly getting out of hand, as though my books have started breeding on their own! Add to this the newcomers (health, fighting cancer, inspirational materials etc.,) and you have chaos! Have hidden the horse books away upstairs too, so can't even blame them! So it's tidier in here, but a good sort out and cataloging is on the cards!

But not today!

The results for the PET scan were good (well no worse than expected). The cancer is in the lymph node and the tumour, but we knew that, and it isn't anywhere else which is fabulous. (I was a bit worried about that truth be told.) So onward and upwards with treatment. Even the thought of losing my hair is becoming less of a problem (although on the day itself we'll see, ha ha).

Writing! This blog is supposed to be about writing after all... Writing is happening in this house. Have completed step one: open file and look at it. Close it again. Step two: print off copy of file and look at that. Leave out on desk. Step three: ring a little birdie who said she rang it and perhaps should do something with it. Hmm. Indeed I should. 2008. This is the year I finish my novel, and send out stuff to people!

Hope everyone out there is well and over the various coughs and colds that've been flying around! Don't be givin' 'em to me either!

Rightio - off to do some writing at last - the printed pages beckon...

Tuesday, 8 January 2008

Back in the Saddle!

Am too excited!

Am sitting here in my jodhpurs!!!

After a rather dodgy start to the day, I thought I'd best scrape myself up and do something positive. So I rang the riding school, had a lovely chat, and arranged a ride.

And then the postman delivered a parcel from Spain, and I cried again. This time in a good way. Desi sent me a shoe-box full of love: a book - even found it in English for me - called The Monk who sold his Ferrari (to aid in my current quest for spiritual development in order to live better, longer, and heal myself with medical help), and a beautiful silver pouch filled with lovely little things; incense, a unicorn (I've been hooked on unicorns since birth!), and a healing charm, a letter, candles, and a photograph...

Yesterday one of the mums from school brought me a video and book on Yoga because I said I wanted to have a go at learning it, to try to restore balance and health. How lovely is that? People are lovely you know. I hadn't realised quite how lovely they can be - it's a shame it's taken this turn of events to teach me that really. But better late than never, eh.

Despite any misgivings I may have felt, this afternoon I had the most wonderful half hour riding lesson. Not only did I cope physically (although half an hour was about right), I also managed to retain all that knowledge I gained in Spain, and am improving massively! Managed to keep Murphy out into the corners, did rather round shaped circles (still some pretty crappy ones as well I must admit!), and had a lovely long canter round the school. I felt so relaxed in the saddle, and I think Murphy must have felt it too.

Oh Joy! Horses are going to heal me, I just know it. By riding and working with them, keeping the spirits lifted, the mind occupied, and the body fit and healthy I'll beat this thing. That's my plan.

What else? Have a few ideas for writing projects and am going to make a little time-table for myself to include: PhD (Writing!), Yoga (oh, yes! Going all out this time I am!), and riding. And doing the healing cd every night religiously before bed.

Printer still being rather fab too.

PET scan results tomorrow, and I am a bit nervous about it. I'm learning to stay in the day I'm in rather than mentally skipping ahead to the horrid bits to come, but it isn't easy. Not had such a great run this last few months with scan results, so fingers crossed, eh.

Sunday, 6 January 2008

Nothing like a bit of technology to lift the spirits! New HP Photosmart C7280 thingymibob

The other day, the printer broke down. I switched it on and it started making a strange grinding sound, and then like a scratched 12" (you do remember those?!) it got stuck in a mechanistic crunching loop.

And you know, I was all calm about it instead of flying of the handle and moaning about the short life of goods these days, and the fact that it's cheaper to replace stuff rather than repair it - and what about the environment and waste and recycling??!.

I was calm because the printer - an HP PSC 2110 All-in-One - has been a superb little piece of kit, and it was 3 or 4 years old. It cost around £100 so I figured I'd see what I could get for the same money...

It was my lucky day as it turned out, and I ended up getting this little baby for half price by trading in my old (and very broken) printer - to be recycled apparently so double bonus. So for £150 I got an all singing, all dancing, does everything bar make the tea printer!

This little baby is ten times easier to use than the old one despite the fact that it's fifty times more complicated!

The photo prints are excellent, and the ink usage seems to be as good as the old one. I was stroking the box in the shop like some printer fetishist but did I care? Teenage daughter bowed head in shame, but the lad on the till laughed (at me? with me? it's laughter - who cares?!)

So I've been printing all sorts of photos - lovely to feel them in your hands rather than gazing at a screen.

I suppose you'll all be up to date in the printer department, and you'll be yawning at this post, going well of course you can just plug your phone or camera into it and it'll print out your pics with the touch of a button and of course it knows what type of photo-paper you've used just by 'sensing' it. I gave up trying to print photos on the other one because I could never get the paper the right way around, or the photos to fit, but this new printer has made it idiot proof, which is yet another stroke of luck!

So that's been my Sunday. Playing with the printer inbetween crashing my BMX on the little-un's Nintendo Wii (another very fun piece of tech to have in the house - honestly!).

And eating spinach, cabbage, kayle, and some other green leaves I can't name (it's on the packet though). It doesn't taste too bad as it turns out...

Almost did some writing today, so confident I'm getting there at last, ha ha! Feeling in very high spirits since seeing the oncologist so hoping this calm will last a while. Who knows. Today is a good day and I'm sure there'll be plenty more to follow.

Now just going to find something else I can scan/print/transfer/fax...

(Oh God - it's like the laminator all over again when we spent an entire week laminating anything flat enough to get through the machine!)

Friday, 4 January 2008

I am radioactive - but only a little bit!

Had my PET scan yesterday. That's Positron Emission Tomography. You get this stuff called 18Flourodeoxyglucose, which is, as the leaflet says, similar to sugar. Since when does sugar have a half-life and set off the alarm on a geiger-counter?!!!

The best bit, and you won't believe this, was the IV line. It didn't hurt!!! Not a bit. I couldn't believe it. I had my eyes screwed up as tight as they'd go in case I might see the needle going in, and didn't want a repeat of the passing out affair I had a few weeks ago. But although I felt a small prick (no pun intended), I didn't feel anything after that. I even opened my eyes and watched the rest of the process. Actually, she'd taken bloods to test my sugar levels, and when these showed I was suitable starved, had administered the radio-active tracer and was up to the saline before I'd focussed on the thin line coming out of the crook of my arm.

She said, "I didn't like to say before, but I am good."

Good???? She's a bloody genius! I told her she could come and stick IV lines in my anytime! Perhaps my fear of the dreaded IV has been cured. Bloody hope so cos chemo starts on the 21st of January, and the IV is going to be a major part of saving my life.

After the injection you get to lie on a couch for an hour and 'relax'. In a battle-ship grey room within a portable unit with massive yellow radio-active warning signs everywhere. Hmm. But they did put radio 4 on for me, which was cool. And then some bloke comes in and announces that he's come to take me to the toilet. A special loo for the radio-active. And while he's waiting outside (I can hear him huffing and puffing, and worse see him through a crack in the door) he shouts in, "Do you wanna take your bra off an' all while yer in there." Oh the joys of being a patient.

Back in the portable unit thingy, the same bloke told me to "get on the bed there" and then he wrapped me in blankets (it was freezing but I looked like those people you see getting air-lifted off mountains on a stretcher), and strapped me onto the bed. In case the ride was bumpy and I fell off? In case I freaked out and tried to run away?!

Another hour. On my back with shoulder screaming at me to move. So I counted in Japanese from one to ten - old martial arts trick - ichi, ni, san, shi, go, rukkyu, sichi, hachi, cu, ju and when I lost count I started again. I could hear The Archers in the background beneath the squall of the scanner, like being on a train and listening to the Tss Tss Tss noise from someone's headphones.

But all said and done, it's quite clever this scanning stuff. Basically, having starved your body of sugar, the cancer cells seize and gobble up any sugars they can find. Unfortunately for them, they eat all the radio-active stuff, and then when you go through the PET scanner, they stand out all glowing and stuff, like Homer Simpson after work.

And we can see them. Catch 'em (well not literally like catching frogs). Kill 'em (with chemo).

It kind of works like that.

It was a really long day though. Nothing but water from 11 am till 7.30 pm, no exercise, not even a long walk. And no tea!

But came home and drank loads of tea, and had a really fab night's sleep. Oh the joy of small things, eh!

Friday! Argh! Coffee morning.... right, am on my way over to Novel Racers immediately!

Wednesday, 2 January 2008

what the oncologist said...

I've just got back and read your comments so far...

The twelve grapes are a Spanish tradition... you eat 12 grapes, one for each 'bong' as the clocks strike midnight. Our grapes were very small, and we shared them, so it was easy, but try it next New Year with properly sized Spanish mothers, and you'll get the full experience of passing into the New Year with a mouth dripping with grape-juice. Tis most amusing! :)

So. The oncologist was lovely, thank God. It is non-small cell lung cancer and we start chemotherapy on 21st January. I have to go into hospital for 24 hours to have the drugs, and then get a break for 3 weeks. That's one cycle and I'm having 4.

The lymph node is a worry because it determines the treatment in terms of whether or not I have radio-therapy as well. The PET scan tomorrow will clear up any remaining questions, but for now I'm feeling genuinely positive about it all. Surgery isn't an option at the moment because there's no definitive space between the tumour and my chest wall, so no guarantees they can get it all out. The bones look okay though, so far. We think it is localised at least.

There's not much news here, but for me, in my position, it is all news. Nigel said he thought the doctor talked a bit slowly, but I didn't find that because my poor old brain was really struggling to take it all in. They must know that and accomodate us!

Also, I met some lovely people in the waiting room and it was so good just to speak to someone else who knows exactly what you've been going through. We had a few laughs and they all looked really well. It was a pleasant surprise and a huge relief. One older woman (in her 70s) started her foray into cancer 10 years ago, lost her hair twice, and is now going strong. She waited for me to find out how I got on, and was so positive and supportive.

And we got tea again. My goodness! We've been getting spoiled.

Rightio. Off to enjoy the evening before tomorrow's scan. Hubby is cooking dinner - can't be bad!

Careful what you wish for...

A couple of things to say today...

Firstly, I lied about not the not drinking thing in previous post and got completely rat arsed on New Year's Eve. I don't actually drink very often though, and so was hammered on two minute Laphroaics (or however you write it - single malt and comes in a tube like all good whiskeys). A cheap date says my husband. Anyway, it was positive experience despite the ensuing nausea, and I was all tipsy and numb-lipped as I stuffed the requisite 12 grapes into my mouth in time with Big Ben's bonging. (It was 6 each - I forgot about the grape thing and when I looked at 10 to midnight there were only 14 grapes left in the bowl, two of which weren't really edible - so we split them. I'm hoping it will be doubly lucky due the fact that sharing is a good thing to do!).

Secondly, the little narrative voice in my head has returned. Since all these medical thingybobs, that poor old story-teller was just stunned into silence. My mind became like a theatre of war, all arguing and morose. Horrid thoughts - like being bald, or dying in a hospital bed - have had to be almost physically removed in a game of subterfuge unlike any I've ever known before. And the mind is so sneaky... the bad voices shut up for a while, replaced by thoughts of, "I'm going to beat this, I'm going to live, we caught it early, etc.," but then out of nowhere the nasty voices start whispering again, and before you know it, all the good feelings have gone out the window and you find yourself in tears again.

But anyway, now the old mind is sorting itself out, and is off narrating again, just like normal. So I've opened up the file named 'Chapter Two' and had a look at it. I think given the circumstances, that this is fine progress. No, really. I do. I've even got ideas again - picturing the novel finished, and writing a memoir about fighting, and SURVIVING cancer. I'll write that one when I'm in my 80s though, and stick to novel writing or whatever the hell it is I do until then! I'm reading Russel Brand's autobiography My Booky Wook, and it is wonderful. Truly honest and well written. Hat off to ya, Rus. I keep thinking to myself, come on mate, Russel's finished his book. Sort it out woman!

Thirdly, gotta go see the oncologist in less than an hour for the first time, and am, if truth be told, a tad terrified. I hope s/he is as nice as the lung specialist was, and that s/he is positive. I've been having night/day/morning/afternoon - mares about this appointment. Please let it be good news. I could really use some good news at the moment.

Last but not least, this means that I'll be back at coffee mornings over on Novel Racers blog spot - if they'll still have me. I'm useful I think, because everyone else can look at my progress versus theirs and feel really good about themselves - ha ha! And even when I do get my shit together and finish the novel, it'll still be positive 'cos they can get all inspired and that, a kind of Hesitant finished her novel while having Chemo, so I can do it too! Although no doubt they'll be on the 2nd and 3rd novels by then.

Oh - and the careful what you wish for thing is because it occurred to me, as I was gaining the pounds last year, that what I needed was a proper bout of illness to get the excess off. I even said it to a few people. Hmm. Someone/thing was listening and that someone/thing took me far too literally. So be careful what you wish for!

I am now wishing for my own horse, and quite fancy doing the Duke of Edinburgh on horse back award thingy... I could raise money for cancer research or something. Now there's a bloody good idea!