Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Tell me It's Not True


There's a song in the musical Blood Brothers, called 'Tell Me It's Not True'.  In case you haven't seen it, I won't spoil the plot for you - suffice to say, this song comes from near the end of the play.  For some reason, it's been popping into my head a lot in the last week or so. 

Tell me it's not true,
Say I only dreamed it,
And morning will come soon.
Say you didn't mean it,
Tell me it's not true,
Say it's just pretend,
Say it's just the end,
Of an old movie from years ago,
From an old movie of Marilyn Monroe.

You know, I thought it would get easier.  (Or did I?  Was I really that naive?)  I mean, initially, when I was first diagnosed back in Nov/Dec last year, I drove home in shock.  For a brief, fleeting moment I imagined ploughing into a lamp post.  I thought I'd never be able to stop crying.  I thought the panic, and the sheer terror of it all would kill me before the tumour did, but it passed.  I started treatment and still cried, only now it was because of the clear toxic fluid being piped into my veins. 

I was positive and hopeful throughout chemo hell, looked forward to the days when I could ride, and revelled in those rare moments of bodily comfort - like the 'old days' when I only experienced pain and nausea on the odd occasions.  I cried less, and genuinely felt everything just might be okay.  But then came the news that there'd been no change - the chemo had perhaps kept it stable, but now we'd move on to radio-therapy. 

Anyway, to cut a long story short, it's been a really tough time.  The travelling and sickness, the burns both inside and outside, the time stolen by 'recuperation'.  It affected me severely.  I finished treatment the first week of June and it's not the end of August!  I only stopped taking anti-nausea tabs last week, and I'm now being referred to a stomach specialist to find out why I've got abdominal pain and cramping every evening, and increasingly, in the day time too.  It's frightening me.  The very thought of more tests.  I've got a scan booked for Sept 16th, and get the results Oct 1st.  I don't mind telling you that I'm absolutely crapping myself and almost don't want to hear the results.

So I need to stop crying, and re-balance.  My eldest said I'd lost my positive spirit 'a bit' in the last month or so, and I owe it to them, and to myself, to find it again.  Miracles do happen.  So what if the tumour is inoperable, pressing against/interfering with/attached to/without a clear line between it and the chest wall, and brachial plexus.  So what if  'cyberknife' treatment is unsuitable for my case.  It was 3cm.  It was small-cell, slow growing (just noticed my subconscious use of the past tense there).  I just need to keep going until they do develop something that will keep me alive.  And I really do want to write my novel, and finish my PhD.  And own a horse one day... This situation is like a bereavement in many ways, as I feel the physical heart-wrenching pain of loss, and the possible loss of my own life.  I look at the kids sometimes and cry for their loss, and my poor husband, parents... it affects so many people, and I never realised how important I was to them.  It is also frightening, not knowing what the future holds, and realism is probably not the best way forward here.

What I need is an unabashed, forthright belief that everything is going to be just fine, and in 5 years time, as I sit with my little novel all published and sitting in it's jacket on my shelf, we'll all laugh about that dreadful couple of years when we all went through hell, but learned to support each other, and found our strengths.  So if you know where I can get such a belief, please let me know!

On A Lighter Note!

I couldn't ride yesterday (tummy ache yet again), but forced myself to take K for her part of the lesson.  She wore her jodhpurs (from S) proudly, and had a great lesson.  She's almost sussed out rising trot, and did her first trot without holding on to the saddle! She's going  to have  one more, with me, before school starts again.

I did do a bit with the horses though.  Henry was all tacked up and waiting for me, so I took it all off  and put it away, noting how light a saddle is before a 45 min riding lesson.  K got to meet Ivor too, and being so friendly she was able to stroke his nose and scratch his chin.  Aha!  My plan is working!  At least one of them will fall in love with horses, and then 50% of the family will want one, and we'll be able to go for hacks on the beach together!  Ha ha ha ha ha (evil laugh)!!! 

Better start doing the lottery or something, then eh?!

Monday, 25 August 2008

Another Week already? Really?! Can't be!

The Olympics is Over

... and didn't we do well?!  Bloody nora - who'd have thought it - 4th place with a fabulous 19 Gold medals, and 47 in total.  The official medal table shows that my beloved Canada only got 3 Golds and a total of 18, while dearest Spain managed 5 Gold and a total of 18 also.  Oh well.  Canada usually fares better in the Winter Olympics.  I keep hoping I'll be around still - it's only 2 years away, and it's in Vancouver, BC, my birthplace.  Cool.

Questions:  How on earth will London compete with those opening and closing ceremonies?!  What was the matter with Boris Johnson's suit?  Did anyone see the Modern Pentathlon?  Now there's a sport and a half!!!

A Good Teacher Can Make All The Difference

I had my usual riding instructor on Thursday, and to my horror, my stomach lurched when I saw she had Ivor all tacked up and waiting for me.  It seems the previous lesson had a profound effect on me, and for the first 5 minutes or so, I felt as though I was learning to ride all over again.  It didn't help much that he kept on tripping over his own feet, and it wasn't long before I was as stiff as a plank (not to mention riding like one!) with gritted teeth and a vaguely foetal position.

"He isn't going to fall over," said my instructor after watching us for a few minutes.  "Relax your wrists and your shoulders more," she went on, "He's tripping up because he's unbalanced, so you have to help him."  Eventually I relaxed and rode much better.  Ivor promptly found his feet and the rest of the lesson was great, until that is, my instructor suggested I 'pop him over' a little jump.  My stomach turned somersault at the sight of the small 2 foot uprights I'd been trotting past all lesson.  It surprised me, because it's the first time I've ever felt real fear on a horse.

My instructor was quick to identify the problem - that I'd been over-faced the previous week by starting on uprights.  "Nonsense!" she said, when I said he wouldn't jump cross poles.  "He has to learn."  Even so, I still didn't feel happy about jumping anything full stop, and what a shame because I love jumping usually.  Luckily, a good teacher can make all the difference.  She suggested we just go over some trotting poles (I.e. a pole laid flat on the ground), and see how that felt.  By the end of the lesson I was back up jumping cross poles and felt so relieved.  With a delicate mix of encouragement, understanding and empathy, my teacher managed to push me firmly but gently forward, and helped me regain confidence in my riding and Ivor.  She deserves a medal does that woman, putting up with me!

How to waste a Week

1. Send husband off to the lakes for a 5 day hike/climb with his mates. 

Day 1: Get teenager to help tidy house from top to bottom, and little one to do own bedroom.  Relax and drink tea all day.

Day 2: Have lots of intentions, I.e. the intention to read through chapter of novel, with the intention of then adding to said draft, and finishing it/to blog about feeling so low re: health/to weed the poor garden.

Day 3: Intend to list some more stuff on Ebay in order to gather funds for riding lessons. 

Day 4: Intend to visit friends (but can't due to tummy ache), and intend to catch up with phone calls.

Day 5: Have riding lesson.  Welcome husband home and tell him all about the things you meant to do, but didn't actually get around to doing!

Throughout entire week, try not to cry or be miserable, especially not at the end of riding lessons/at checkout in Tesco/while watching children play on trampoline in garden.  Spend all other spare moments engaged in most important activity of 2008 - watching the Olympics till 3 am every morning!!!

Friday, 15 August 2008

Bramble discovers the Outside...

Bramble says that Outside is very interesting. He says he likes the green carpety-stuff, and no that he's not so frightened of the strange noises and smells, he enjoys catching flies and eating them (even though it makes his poo funny). His favourite things are the furry creatures who are in a cage of some sort, (although he's quite frustrated because the humans have blocked up the hole and he can't get in anymore). The big furry thing looks like she might bite back, but the little brown and black thing looks just like dinner. Bramble also says to tell you he likes trees, although going up is much easier than coming back down again, and he was most embarrased about having to be rescued by one of the humans who live in his house.

So there you have it. Visit to doc was crap as she's worried about my stomach pains and has given me one more week to see how things progress before sending me off for investigations. Bloody brilliant. I just want to be pain free, be left alone by medics with pointy things and cameras on big long bendy tubes, and ride horses and write my novel. Am getting truly pissed off with illness now, so am going to stop talking about it and have a brew!!!

Thursday, 14 August 2008


Tummy ache seems to be settling a bit, which is lucky because I really was at the end of my tether with it all.

I had another riding lesson today, and it was fab, although I haven't worked so hard in a very long time. I rode a new horse called Ivor. He needs lots of help to straighten him up, and so I spent the first part of the lesson getting a feel for him, and learning how to help him 'balance' himself through the transitions. I was knackered in no time, but it was a very good experience. At the end of 30 mins, my teacher suggested I 'pop him over' some 'little' jumps, only he starts at 2 foot, and 2 foot looks very big from aboard a horse! The first time I was so terrified I let him/asked him to run out, which he did most obligingly! But I did get over it second time around. No marks for style but then that's why I have lessons rather than compete at Olympic level, ha ha ha! Teach took some mini-vids so you can have a laugh.

Sadly, she didn't get one of my 'mishap'. I came down the long side of the school and was supposed to jump 3 uprights, but what happened was I got a bit nervous over the first, let him run out at the second, then got him back in line for the third, only to realise at the last minute it was higher than the others! There wasn't enough room to run out, so we jumped the block instead of the pole, and I ended up wrapped around his neck with no reins, no stirrups, and very nearly no horse! In the 20 months or so I've been riding, it's the closest I've come to falling off! Luckily, Ivor lifts his head up on landing (hence his martingale), so he caught me with his neck (I got chinned), but my backside found the saddle, and my legs somehow wrapped round his body and refused to be budged, so in no time I was sitting upright again, re-taking the reins, and seeing stars from hitting the pommel in a very delicate place! My dad said, "Oh God, be careful, Lisa!", and I'm thinking a body protector might be prudent if I'm going to keep learning how to jump!

I don't mean to be a wuss, but I've asked for Pete next week, to work on my flat work/position/sitting trot. I need a week or so to try to get fitter before I jump on Ivor again!

Saturday, 9 August 2008

Where'd the week go?!!!

I can't believe it's Saturday already! This week has flown over. Where is the year going?! I got a letter this morning confirming my next scan date - mid Sept - and that really does mark the time.

Tuesday, I had to cancel my riding lesson on Hugo as I had so much stomach pain there was no way I could drive, let alone ride. I did manage to get there on Wednesday though, to discover that Hugo had been misbehaving the day before (bucking and generally complaining) so I rode Henry instead. I did a full 45 min lesson and we worked on position. After almost two years of riding I finally nailed it and now my transitions are much better (the changes of pace, e.g. from walk to trot etc.). I came home grinning like a mad woman!

I've had a few visitors this week too. I thought everyone had forgotten me, or were just too busy with their own lives to call. It's also summer hols so people are under enough stress trying to go to work and find something to do with their offspring! But no. I had a few phone calls, texts, and even people in person, so that's more than made up for the fact that my stomach is still being a git and causing me quite a few tears!

I don't know what it's like where you are, but today it is dull, grey, and very wet. We're all tucked up watching the first few competitions of the Olympics 2008 in China. Yesterday's Opening Ceremony was unbelievably brilliant and I still want to know how they make the 5 rings rise into the air over the stadium! I loved the giant firework foot prints that walked in the sky to the stadium too! If you missed it, you can catch it here for the next 7 days (maybe more) on the BBCi Player.

Well I'm off to do some work. No really! What do you mean I'm all talk and no words on paper?! True, there's much to be done on the novel still, but I have started looking at the chapter I'm currently working on, and have been fishing for bits of paid work I can do at home. So far I'm typing up a booklet on Comprehension and Writing Poetry for someone. It'll help keep me a) busy, b) feeling normal, and c) in riding lessons!

Sunday, 3 August 2008

What a difference an 'a' makes (and other ramblings)

Not a bad week over all (of course it's all relative - compared to my old life, it's been shite!). Any way, Thursday I went on a short hack round Formby - no beach as a) I didn't feel ready, and b) my teacher wanted to see how I managed a short outing first. It was fine. I rode a lovely little lad called Thomas for the first time, and what a chilled out mount! I can honestly say -it's the first hack I've ever been on where the horse was totally unfazed by everything - trains, trucks, traffic, wheelie bins, dogs, open gates (which Winifred hates), skips - what a revelation! I'd like a horse who is equally chilled out - but I think it's probably a long shot finding one!!!

I meant to blog about this ages ago, but better late than never! Did you see the article in the Guardian's G2 mag, about Giles Coren's e-mails to his sub-editors?! Just goes to show how irate people can get about the little old definate article, and in Coren's defence, what a difference an 'a' makes!

Coren says, in his email;

I wrote: "I can't think of a nicer place to sit this spring over a glass of rosé and watch the boys and girls in the street outside smiling gaily to each other, and wondering where to go for a nosh."

It appeared as: "I can't think of a nicer place to sit this spring over a glass of rosé and watch the boys and girls in the street outside smiling gaily to each other, and wondering where to go for nosh."

There is no length issue. This is someone thinking "I'll just remove this indefinite article because Coren is an illiterate cunt and i know best".

Well, you fucking don't.
This was shit, shit sub-editing for three reasons.
1) 'Nosh', as I'm sure you fluent Yiddish speakers know, is a noun formed from a bastardisation of the German 'naschen'. It is a verb, and can be construed into two distinct nouns. One, 'nosh', means simply 'food'. You have decided that this is what i meant and removed the 'a'. I am insulted enough that you think you have a better ear for English than me. But a better ear for Yiddish? I doubt it. Because the other noun, 'nosh' means "a session of eating" - in this sense you might think of its dual valency as being similar to that of 'scoff'. you can go for a scoff. or you can buy some scoff. the sentence you left me with is shit, and is not what i meant. Why would you change a sentnece aso that it meant something i didn't mean? I don't know, but you risk doing it every time you change something. And the way you avoid this kind of fuck up is by not changing a word of my copy without asking me, okay? it's easy. Not. A. Word. Ever.

2) I will now explain why your error is even more shit than it looks. You see, i was making a joke. I do that sometimes. I have set up the street as "sexually-charged". I have described the shenanigans across the road at G.A.Y.. I have used the word 'gaily' as a gentle nudge. And "looking for a nosh" has a secondary meaning of looking for a blowjob. Not specifically gay, for this is soho, and there are plenty of girls there who take money for noshing boys. "looking for nosh" does not have that ambiguity. the joke is gone. I only wrote that sodding paragraph to make that joke. And you've fucking stripped it out like a pissed Irish plasterer restoring a renaissance fresco and thinking jesus looks shit with a bear so plastering over it. You might as well have removed the whole paragraph. I mean, fucking christ, don't you read the copy?

3) And worst of all. Dumbest, deafest, shittest of all, you have removed the unstressed 'a' so that the stress that should have fallen on "nosh" is lost, and my piece ends on an unstressed syllable. When you're winding up a piece of prose, metre is crucial. Can't you hear? Can't you hear that it is wrong? It's not fucking rocket science. It's fucking pre-GCSE scansion. I have written 350 restaurant reviews for The Times and i have never ended on an unstressed syllable. Fuck. fuck, fuck, fuck.

Strong words indeed! You can read the rest here. I will certainly never look at the letter 'a' in quite the same light again!


And so back to life... The weekend was crap. Not because of the weather, or lack of things to do (both of which were fine), but because of this horrendous stomach pain I keep getting. I haven't talked much about my bowels because, well, it isn't something I like to even think about, much less talk, and besides, when it's all working, it isn't something we think about, is it? (I'm reminded of Eddie Murphy in Raw, where he talks about different types of bowel movement - very funny!). The amount of drugs I'm having to take makes me constipated and in agony with wind. I've gone from someone who said, "bathroom" instead of "toilet" or "loo" because of embarrassment, I now find myself talking about poo an awful lot! Family members don't help in this, as most phone calls recently have been starting with, "Have you been (to the toilet) today?" Oh well. This is my life for the time being, I guess.

I've been okay in terms of emotional/mental well-being. I find when the pains have gone on for a couple of days, I get weakened by them and end up having a good old sob. Then the negative thoughts try to slip in below the radar, and I have to forcibly boot them out again, but I do address them first, where possible. No good ignoring it all together, is it? I mean, I'm in this position - not knowing what the future holds, not feeling anywhere near back to normal, not knowing how long anything is going to last (read as deeply into that as you can cope with). I've been reading Adrian Sudbury's blog (Baldy's Blog) which is simply heartbreaking. He started blogging when he got leukemia last year, and now doctors have given him a matter of weeks. He is 25. "One in Three - why not me?" as the saying goes. If I have only one wish in this life, it's that this blog doesn't end up ending with me ending!