Thoughts on Cancer

Being diagnosed with terminal cancer is a funny old thing –  and I mean that in the funny peculiar, rather than funny ha-ha sense.

When I was first diagnosed someone I knew said ‘Well – Life is terminal anyway!”  Which at the time felt not particularly helpful.  We all know our years of life are finite, but we tend to tuck this thought away in the back of our minds.  Even though anyone who has ever attended a church funeral will know that – Man born of woman has but a short time to live……  etc. – And of course that applies equally to woman born of woman.  According to the internet, the current statistic for the disease says that one in two men and one in three women will be diagnosed with cancer during their lifetimes.

Each and every human being wakes in the morning unaware if they will see the next day, but we happily live our lives totally unconscious of this thought.  And of course that is the only way to live.

But, much as I fight against it,  I have found my diagnosis has changed my life – not only in the obvious ways, but in subtle ways.  For a start it colours all one’s decisions.  Without it one carries on as normal, but with something serious hanging over the head, like a sword Damocles, each and every decision has to be re-thought.

Before last year I had intended to travel as far as I could, and was on my way to Morocco – driving  down through France and Spain to join a guided tour which would have involved my driving Thebus over the Atlas Mountains, camping in the Sahara Desert, visiting local villages and souks, seeing Marakesh, Casablanca and lots of other places over a period of about eight weeks.

I had also joined a group called The Silk Route, and another The Overlanders, intending to see how far East I could get.  To my mind the name Samarkand is so evocative!  But now?   The doctors seem so very doom-laden that I worry what would happen if I was ill whilst travelling, not only for me, but for Phoebe.

Many years ago I could not imagine I would ever have cancer – (and why would I think of such a thing when no-one in my family had ever suffered with this)

I would comment that the very diagnosis of ‘cancer’ is like a Ju-Ju man of some ancient tribe putting on a curse – and because the curse had been uttered that person just faded away. If I cut my finger,  without a second thought I just expect it to heal – and the opposite when the diagnosis of cancer looms.

In my case it not just a diagnosis of cancer, but I have been made to understand that any and all treatments I might be given are purely palliative and I have (in medical opinion) no chance of surviving to five years (the official time-scale for having been ‘cured’)

I have so enjoyed travelling and really don’t want to stop, but what about Phoebe if I am taken ill on the road? Even in Europe?  And outside Europe what hope would I have of getting medical insurance for myself to cover any trip?

I try to stay positive – but it is not always easy.  As I say – just the diagnosis changes everything.

But perhaps the very changes I am being forced to make may ultimately be for the best.  As I have said in the past –  If you hold a glass of water tight up against your face between your eyes you cannot easily recognise what it is, even though it is in front of your eyes.  But viewed from more of a distance it is easy to focus clearly, understand, and quite literally, get things in perspective.  So for the moment I just go with the flow and make the best of what I can have and enjoy, and wait to see what life will bring.

Bu***r It !

Bu***r It – (and that is not Butter It)

I was all set to start out on Sunday, Dave was working away to get the final repairs done on Thebus and had even arranged to come in on Saturday to finish everything off, then Saturday morning I could hardly get out of bed my right knee was so very bad.  I could barely manage to limp through to make myself a cup of tea, and even then only by holding on to anything nearby.

Plus the post operation infection, which started up a couple of weeks after I had been discharged, was winding up again.

Boo!

I told Dave not to worry about putting me to the head of the queue for repairs as there was no way I would be leaving on Sunday as planned.

I had spent the last few days planning a bit of a tour of the West Country going down as far as Dorchester, and seeing a couple of teams of Morris Dancers performing traditional ceremonies on St. George’s Day and a Dawn May Day dance, plus slotting a few more places of interest on the way – ending up on Exmoor where a group of Great Dane owners were getting together for a weekend on a campsite where all their big babies could walk and play together.

But none of that seems in the offing now

With my knee so very bad, but the infection still there brother Mike had to come over to collect me, then ferry me to Ombersley, where more antibiotics were prescribed.  Once again we had lunch at The Venture Inn, and  once again I couldn’t resist the mushroom and white truffle soup.  It is so good I really think I must see it I can get to Italy to give white truffles a thorough taste test.

I hadn’t had to walk with crutches for over a couple of years now, but the current knee situation demanded far more than a walking stick as a means of support.  When I was able I rummaged around and found one crutch, but even that gave no-where near enough support, and always seemed to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.  So it was online to trusty Amazon to get a pair of them delivered.

Phoebe simply had to be let out to rampage around by herself and in fact I didn’t make it down Thebus’ steps for over a week.

Still these things must be meant to be, and this morning – which is May 1st – was ushered in by a thunderous downpour of heavy rain from about Midnight to nearly Midday.  Looking on the internet the weather appears to have been the same in Dorchester.  So maybe going about a mile on my scooter an hour before daybreak, then staying outside in the pouring wet for a few hours, watching a torchlight procession (assuming the torches were not completely doused my the down-pour) before returning to Thebus with a thoroughly sodden Phoebe, with a not very well knee and incipient infection was not my best ever plan.

I try to always look for the positives wherever I can !!

Back to Thebus and Phoebe

Mike came to Malvern early and we breakfasted together – I think he was getting into having a ‘Full English’ start to the day – then we headed off down (or is it up) the motorway system to Cannock where Thebus was still at the motorhome repairers.

Although Dave’s workshops are situated right next to the motorway system, with all the noise that produces, the buildings are sited on farmland with open fields, fishing lakes, and lots of off-road country walks for Phoebe, so (other than the incessant drone of traffic – which only slows down between midnight and about three in the morning) it is a pleasant spot to be parked.

Dave and his work-force are lovely, and as he specialises in the larger American motorhomes there are lots and lots of like-minded folk calling by for ‘fixes’ on their various ‘rigs’

In fact probably slightly tooooo many!  Which meant that although he had managed to get some of the jobs on Thebus finished there were a few half finished, and some not started.  I knew I wouldn’t be able to drive for the next few weeks, so was really in no particular rush and just decided to relax and let things take their course.

Jack’s mum and grandad (who together with the family) had been looking after Phoebe for me over the last couple of weeks brought her over to Cannock and she was very pleased to see me – though somewhat boisterous from her stay with three teenaged boys and two border collies – but after a rampacious greeting and wanting to meet up with Charlie (the resident beagle) she settled down.  After everyone had left she was actually quite tired and couldn’t wait to get her head down in her own bed again.

As I mentioned before I felt I was doing well after my operation, and the (rather large) scar seemed to be healing nicely – BUT after a a few more days it became apparent that there was something going on internally and eventually I needed to phone the nurse attached to my consultant.  She suggested I came in so the consultant could have a look at it.  Apart from an obvious swelling I hadn’t realised I was developing an infection, but by the time the consultant examined me the scar site was red and angry looking, and antibiotics were prescribed with instructions that, should they not work, I may need to visit my doctor.

Kind brother Mike had driven me from Cannock to Worcester, waited for me, and then taken me back again.  So back in Thebus I took my antibiotics and waited for things to improve.  I had visited the consultant on Thursday and waited until the weekend hoping for an improvement but by Sunday it was looking worse, and of course no doctors open.  I phoned 111 NHS health care-line, assuming they would send someone out to me, but of course no such luck.  A doctor did phone back eventually, but said if he did visit he would only refer me to the local A&E – as I would need blood tests and intravenous antibiotics.  So I phoned for a taxi, then waited the obligatory couple of hours at A&E, and without blood tests was simply given different course of antibiotic tablet by the somewhat laconic doctor.  Having waited a further half an hour or so for my tablets I phoned for another taxi and returned, feeling less well than when I started, though thankfully I didn’t catch anything else whilst I was there despite the incessant coughing and sneezing of the other patients.  I wonder if that is how the word ‘patient’ arises, in that one has to ‘be patient’ in order to get treatment.

Over the ensuing days here seemed little improvement – but it wasn’t getting worse either, and eventually the pressure was released and the swelling began to reduce.

I had sent off to Ainsworth’s for anything homeopathic which might assist and gradually, gradually I began to feel less anxious about things.  After my operation I had been been given an appointment to see the consultant for a post-op check up – so I left that to run.  Still not being able to drive brother Mike kindly came all the way over to Cannock to ferry me about.

Though I think I did make up for things slightly by taking him out for a nice lunch at The Venture Inn at Ombersley before my late afternoon appointment with the consultant.  And I have to say for a first course we had home made bread – and the very nicest Wild Mushroom and Cep Soup with Truffle Oil Foam that I have ever tasted!

Getting over the Op.

I intended to stay in Malvern for at least a couple of weeks if not longer, and various friends had said they would pop by and see me.  Another Sue was coming over that very evening after work and together we tried out the restaurant and it was excellent.  I had one of their superb gin and tonics whilst I was waiting her arrival, then as she was driving I had to finish more than my share of the wine, so once again I slept very soundly.

Some old friends popped by for coffee which we enjoyed in the lounge (the Bishop’s drawing room) again with its lovely full length bay windows. lounge-seating_gallery

And they bought me a most beautiful bunch of spring flowers, the colour and scent of which gave much pleasure in my bedroom throughout my stay.

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That evening there was some sort of blip and it seemed the hotel restaurant was fully booked. Although I had spoken with the owners who were happy to give room service, the young girl on duty that evening told me the chef had been taken suddenly ill – I think we had got our lines crossed somehow.  But it was a pleasant evening and I was happy to walk up into the town to an interesting looking cafe/bar I had spotted the previous evening right by the old Abbey Gatehouse where I mingled in with the buzz of the pre-theatre crowd and enjoyed a very pleasant meal and glass of wine.

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Then strolled back down though the now dark Abbey grounds

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For some reason Netflix had been emailing me with an offer of a free month’s trial, and as I had been wanting to see ‘The Crown’ I subscribed and have to say throughly enjoyed it, though there was little else of interest on offer, and I made a mental note to cancel before any payments became due.  But it filled in the odd hours at the hotel most pleasantly.

Wednesday was a bit grey and showery, so I relaxed and did nothing much, though when the weather brightened in the afternoon I took another walk up into the town.  I had half intended to have something at the charming old coaching inn now – as so many are – owned by Wetherspoons, but in the end opted for tea and home made cake a little further along the road

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Thursday was another wonderful early spring day and more friends called for coffee, which, as the day was so warm we enjoyed on the upper terrace of the hotel gardens, admiring the flowers and listening to the early spring birds and bumble bees.  That afternoon I was booked in for a couple of hours massage and reiki with a lovely lady at a nice health and relaxation centre just a short walk from the hotel.  If I ever move back to the area I think I may become a regular – and on my way back passed a beauty salon: so I booked for the next day for reflexology on my hands and feet, followed by a full manicure and pedicure – and by the weekend I was feeling throughly relaxed and pampered.

Brother Mike had called over on Thursday evening and we enjoyed an excellent meal together in the hotel restaurant, but he had forgotten some important papers that needed to be signed, so returned the following morning to join me for breakfast.

Though I had originally intended to spend at least two or even three weeks in Malvern recuperating I had surprised myself with how well I was feeling and how quickly I seemed to be healing.  Not only was I sure I was well enough to look after myself, but was beginning to miss those little things one always has at hand when one is ‘at home’ – plus of course my darling Phoebe.  So decided I was well enough to return and Mike was kind enough to offer to call for me and drive me and my cases back.

But before then on Sunday I was collected by friends to attend their lively and thriving local church for the morning family service, and afterwards back to their house for a home cooked Sunday lunch.  And as soon as they had returned me to the hotel there was a message to say that Sally and Mark were up in the town centre and wanted to know if I would like to come for a drink.

As I was still feeling good I walked on up to meet them.  They had been there so long waiting to hear back from me they had consumed more lager than they intended, and had decided to stay the night at one of the other hotels I had initially considered, and so we headed up the street to check it out.  Of course Sally and Mark needed to eat, as usual having had nothing much for most of the day so we all had a meal, though I could not do justice to my food after my excellent lunch.  Afterwards Mark was all for driving me back to my hotel, but I felt that would be an unnecessary risk, especially as it was not that long a walk and all downhill. So we all walked back together our footsteps and voices echoing through the otherwise silent Malvern streets.

Then on Monday brother Mike came over again and we breakfasted together before he took and my cases  over to Cannock where Thebus was currently parked.

And all this in less than a week since a major operation – I think I must be a tough old bird!

 

 

The Cotford Hotel

Next day, refreshed and re-showered I headed off to the dining room for breakfast, and a very nice breakfast it was too, with a good variety of fresh fruit and cereals plus a real range of hot cooked food from ‘full English’ to kippers.  The food at The Cotford was a treat, especially after the hospital menu.  In my short hospital stay I tried various things and discovered that they could not toast bread, the coffee made in the morning was excellent, then kept warm throughout the day gradually becoming more and more stewed until, as at the day wore on, it was untenable.  Their best efforts were stewed meats or dishes involving mince, and though  I had high hopes of the battered fish and chips with mushy peas on Friday in the event I think ‘assaulted and battered’ might have been a more accurate description – but that is much the same of canteen food anywhere.

But now I could relax and be pampered.  So after enjoying hearty Cotford breakfast, and having had a look at the papers (a rather limited selection of The Daily Mail or weekly Malvern Gazette)  I strolled in the pretty gardens on the slopes of The Malvern Hills and sat on various benches in the sun.

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exterior-garden-2_gallery As it was such a lovely sunny day decided I might try a short walk along the flat road leading towards the town.  When I had booked I imagined the hotel to be further out from the centre, but in the event it was a reasonably short walk – even for me in my post-operative state.  The physiotherapist at the hospital said walking was positively encouraged, even up hills and steps, and Great Malvern is short of neither of those.  So feeling still pretty well I walked on, then decided I might as well try going on up the hill towards the upper level of the town.  I have to say I surprised myself and was soon there, though feeling a break and a sit down might be in order and as it was by now mid-morning decided to re-visit The Blue Bird Tearooms
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I had last visited these tea rooms with my mother and brothers, probably after being fitted for  school shoes at Elt’s Shoe Shop – brown Startrite sandals for summer with white ankle socks, or black leather lace-ups for winter, worn with great woollen knee-socks and flashes.  Elt’s shoe shop is on the  ground floor and has been in business in Worcestershire for 140 years, and the Bluebird Tearooms occupy the first floor and have possibly been there a similar length of time.  They were certainly not a new addition to the town even in the 1950’s.

I have to say they had changed a little in all that time.  There was now carpet on the floor, cheerful flowery wallpaper on the walls and chintz cotton tablecloths on the little individual tables, but in essence it was much the same and I chose what I had probably had last time I called – a pot of tea and a toasted tea-cake, both costing well under £2 each and the tea in a nice pot and china cups with a large teacake and plenty of butter.  All very good, especially the sit down.

And of course I couldn’t resist a look inside Elt’s Shoe Shop on the way out and came away with a pair of brown leather shoes.

But it was not a week since my operation – should I head back to the hotel?  Well I was still feeling fairly perky so decided to head back via the Abbey and maybe have a mooch round inside.  I had been there before but not for quite a while and it was interesting to take a good look round.  Wonderful stained glass windows, and medieval floor tiles (now safely re-sited on the walls, plus an interesting selection of medieval and later misericords.

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Prayers in the early medieval church took place every four hours throughout the day and night and were long and chanted standing with uplifted hands. As time went on, misericords (literally “act of mercy”) were constructed, so that when each seat was turned up the underside had a small shelf allowing the user to rest their bottom on it.  Often these had strange and sometimes humous carvings, presumably not exposed to general view as when the seats were down they were not visible, and when the seats were up someone was leaning against them.  Nowadays of course we are less coy  – though some of the carvings are surprising even to today’s eyes.

img_4660Misericords with seats up and later, rather innocuous, carvings

But what on earth is going on here – the official interpretation is that it is a man blowing away a demon!!! img_4689 img_4686And what is that man doing to that pig !?!  We are told he is shaving it !?!

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As I walked on down through the churchyard I noticed a sign for the winter gardens and thought this might be a good place to take another break, though having got inside the views and sunshine though the windows beckoned me and I took my break on some outside benches – it was a truly warm day out of the breeze.

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Then on, over the bridge for another rest and gaze out up at the hill behind the pond, and watch fond grandparents bringing children for the time honoured ritual of feeding the ducks.

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A meander through the parkland, and then slowly back to the hotel, still feeling surprisingly well.

Booking in at Malvern

I had booked in to stay at The Cotford, which although not as central as say The Abbey Hotel, had a lovely garden, and I felt walking round the hotel and grounds might be as much as I wanted to do for the first week anyway: not being exactly sure how I might feel having left the cocoon one inhabits whilst in hospital.

But, surprisingly I coped with the journey to Malvern well and checked into the hotel, where, sadly, afternoon tea was only available by prior arrangement.  So having left my cases we drove to The Abbey Hotel for tea.  I have to say though I felt the price quite high they made a good job of both the food and the presentation, and there was so much of it, that between us we could not finish all the sandwiches and cakes.  The Abbey Hotel was one that I had considered for my stay, but having revisited I was pleased I had chosen The Cotford.  Although the Abbey staff were friendly and helpful (and all, I think, Polish) it had the faded, worn air of many older hotels.  Not unpleasant, but not faded enough to be interesting and not modern enough to be grand.

Still, as I said the afternoon tea was good and we sat in the lounge/bar enjoying lovely views out over the Severn Valley and with the picturesque Malvern Abbey and gardens right at its side. the_abbey_hotel

Back at The Cotford Nick got me settled, then set of for his long journey home and I was free to have a look at my room.  I have an idea it was either called The Snug, or The Cosy – either epithet would have been equally suitable.  It was a single room, and it did have a lovely large shower, and nicely fitted bathroom with lots of fluffy towels, but it was on the ground floor and at the back of the hotel, so no views and seemed a rather dark sort of room.  Fine if one was staying for a single night on business, but not ideal for a week.

After the first night I asked if they was anything more suitable, not minding if I paid the extra for a double room – though hopefully with a view and a bath tub.  And although it meant changing rooms after three nights I was given a lovely bright room with big windows overlooking the Severn plain, then mid-week was changed to an equally pleasant room but with views of the pretty gardens and the Malvern Hills.

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After such a large and late tea at The Abbey I didn’t want to bother with dinner, plus I was rather tired after the day, so having had a lovely shower went straight to bed.  And it was nice to have such a quiet and peaceful night’s sleep after the hurly burly of a post-operative ward at night time.

Whilst I had been in hospital two of the ladies in beds close to mine had suffered night time emergencies: and sadly another patient I had never met died – though I was not aware of that at the time, only the rush of doctors, nurses and orderlies passing and re-passing.  Over the corridor, in the men’s ward section, an elderly man, probably suffering from some sort of dementia as well as his illness, continually called for a nurse – insistently and loudly for most of each night time. Add to that the changing of day-time to night-time staff and the bright overhead lights, not doused until nearly 11pm, making sleeping nigh on impossible.  Though with the amount of nights I have spent in various hospitals over the last year I have now mastered the trick of how to sleep moderately comfortably hospital beds.

But in my little single room at The Cotford, tucked in between the hotel and the lee of the Malvern Hills peace reigned supreme, and I enjoyed a lovely night’s sleep in the comfortable bed with its luxurious bed linen.

Making Arrangements

To say I felt flustered would be to put it mildly.

I only had the operation late in the day on Tuesday, and to be told on Friday morning they could be discharging me that afternoon gave no time at all.  Fine if one was living in Cheltenham and all one needed to do was phone home and ask someone to collect you.  But they all knew that was not the case in my circumstances.

I needed more time to make some arrangements.  As soon as the doctors left I got straight onto the laptop –  I hadn’t even had time to decide on which hotel let alone book it, and I still needed to arrange a lift from Cheltenham to Malvern.

I wasn’t sure whether to go for one of the larger hotels right in the centre of Malvern – such as the Abbey Hotel, or choose a smaller boutique type hotel where the food was likely to be better.  In the event I chose a lovely little hotel just a short distance from the centre, though because I was booking at the last minute nothing was available for the weekend.   Monday was the earliest date I could find if I wanted to stay for even a week, and that was not a room I would have normally chosen.  But I had little time to waste and the decision was made.

Fortunately my brother Nick had already said he intended to call over and visit me – an epic journey from Norfolk to Cheltenham, so I contacted him to ask if could he come on Monday and ferry me from Cheltenham to Malvern: then made his journey even longer by asking him to call at brother Mike’s house and collect the extra clothes I had packed ready for when I left hospital.

It was as well that I had not gone with leaving on Friday afternoon, as it took till nearly lunchtime on Monday to get the medicines I needed for my discharge, and even then everything had not been included.  But they had managed to include a three week course of anticoagulant injections which – to add insult to my needle phobia – I was going to have to self-administer.

On the Monday I was up, showered, dressed and packed early.  My medications were brought and the physiotherapist paid me another visit, though gave little useful information other than to say it was alright to shower and dress myself, which I had been doing since Wednesday.  And to tell me not to lift anything heavy.  When I queried how heavy was too heavy, she indicated the bags I had packed that morning and had lifted onto the bed – saying ‘nothing like that’.  But as no-one had offered any help I had just thought I had better get on with it!

It was a long journey for Nick and he didn’t arrive until after lunch.   But then sorted things out, getting my cases and me down to the car which he had parked close to the exit, and we set off for Malvern.

NHS Convalescence in the 21st Century

The reason I needed my laptop so desperately was that I urgently needed to research where I would be going when I was discharged from the hospital.

My grandmother had a hysterectomy back in the 1980’s and after being discharged she spent some six weeks at a convalescent home, and I foolishly imagined that some such help would be available to me; as I was not sure how I would cope living in Thebus after such major surgery as a radical hysterectomy.

Knowing the operation was booked I had started asking what options might be available to me when I had been unexpectedly admitted after my visit to the consultant in January.  I have to say in hindsight the answers to my questions were evasive; saying that nothing could be done until my operation was over and I had been given a discharge date.

But now my operation was over.  I seemed to be recovering well and I expected to be discharged fairly soon, so began to renew my enquires.  That was why I desperately needed my laptop.

Basically there seemed to be no convalescence available and, as far as I was informed, few other options available.  I was asked if I was computer literate and advised that my best option would be to search on the internet myself, and given a gateway site – which in fact seemed to contain little relevant information.   A social worker called and gave me a piece of paper with some pencilled suggestions, including a bed and breakfast address in Gloucester Docks and the local Travelodge.  But one thing did emerge from our conversation and that was that, if I had funds, I would be required to contribute to the costs of any care.  When I pressed to know to what extent, it transpired that I would be required to pay any costs in full.

I phoned a few care homes.  The cheapest was £450 a week but that was sharing a room with a dementia patient, and the dearest was £2,350 a week plus extras!  And I must say I felt neither was suitable!

Thinking it through I felt my best option would be a comfortable hotel in a smallish town and having some knowledge of the area decided on Malvern as a good place as any to spent the next few weeks. But of course I still hadn’t been given a discharge date, so could do nothing about booking up.

On Friday morning the doctors visited the ward on their rounds, examined me and said everything was looking okay and I would be discharged later in the day!!!

Brother Mike having only delivered my laptop the evening before I had not had time to do any research and was hardly in a position to book, pack and arrange to get from Cheltenham to Malvern, and as yet had no idea where I would be staying when I got there!

 

Hospital

Soon they came to wheel me down to the operating theatre, and then, before I knew it, I was being wheeled back up again and put into a bed in the ward where I was to spend the next few days

I have to say what with the pre-op anaesthetic, the epidural, the post-op painkillers, the morphine and the oxygen, when I did ‘come round’ not only was I in no pain, I think I felt better than I had for a few months.

But gradually everything began to wear off, and I became aware that a radical hysterectomy is a pretty major operation.  Then they took away the oxygen as well, but the nurses were very good and one didn’t have to stay in pain – only ask for help.

Next day, was spent mostly in bed, my lovely surgeon came to check on me and tell me a little about the operation.  It was as I had thought, and things had worsened, but the operation had been a success in that they had removed my womb which was the seat of the cancer, and although there were some adhesions to the colon they had managed to peel things apart.

After the doctor’s rounds a lovely nurse came along to ask if I would like to be accompanied to one of the shower rooms to freshen up and change my gown, and of course I was longing to do just that.  So together we wheeled the stand festooned with bags and i.v. drips, and negotiated our way to the shower.  My experience of these stands is that they behave rather like errant supermarket trollies and have a mind of their own as to which direction they will take – but with two of us to control it we soon had the upper hand, and feeling cleaner and happier I was escorted back to bed.

In the shower I was surprised to find my rather large scar, though neatly stitched up, had been left without any dressing.  It was felt that it would heal more quickly that way and I was advised to keep everything clean, so it was good to be able to shower each day, and as usual I took lots of homoeopathy to help with the healing process.

Over the next days the drips and bags were removed one by one, and finally the two canulas on the back of my hand – which seemed to want to snag on everything. I could shower and dress myself and asked to see a physiotherapist as I was keen to make progress, and she duly called – though simply gave me a walking stick, and walked with me along the hallway – which I had already accomplished alone.  Though she did check I could cope with the stairs.

Sally and Mark called in to see me on their way to collect a lorry, and brother Mike drove down on Thursday evening with extra bits and bobs – as one is only allowed to take a single small case when admitted, and I desperately needed my laptop.

Pre-Op Permissions

I mentioned before that over the months since the September scan which showed such an improvement, for some reason I felt I was going backwards.  Was it too much chemo I wondered?  Something I may ask about when I re-visit the hospital, though I expect they will discount it.

I had felt an immediate improvement with ten days or less of my first chemo, which lasted past the third session, then gradually I seemed to drop back.  By the time my operation was due I was really getting into trouble, and had it not been scheduled  for that very day I think I would have had to attend hospital in any case.

As I said the pain had been getting worse, and was back to the pre-chemo levels, plus once again it was getting more and more difficult to pass water.  I supposed something was pressing on something else somewhere inside me.  Anyway on the day Mike took me to Cheltenham we arrived before 7am – they having asked me to arrive by 7.30 (though in fact they then decided to put me to the end of the operating list for the day)  No matter.

The first thing I said to the nurse who welcomed us to the ward was ‘Could I have a catheter fitted now please – I haven’t been able to pee since yesterday, and I am really in trouble’  –  Sorry to be a bit graphic, but that’s how it was.

She said that was fine as one would need to be fitted before the operation anyway and another nurse was duly sent for.  But it wasn’t to prove that easy, and in the end my surgeon’s assistant arrived and even she had quite a lot of difficulty.  I prayed that they wouldn’t now cancel the operation, and thankfully they didn’t – but later she came back to ask me to sign an amendment to the operating permissions stating, that should it be necessary, they would perform a colostomy as well.

Taken by surprise like that one tends to acquiesce, and in my pre-op gown and with my pre-op nerves that is exactly what I did.  But then of course, as my operation was not to be until later in the day I had time to sit and think.  Plus I had my iPhone with me, which gave me the opportunity to google for more information.

Apparently when something like this is planned one generally sees a specialist colostomy nurse who explains everything and various decisions are made and agreed.  Of course non of this had happened and so I asked if I could speak with someone.  Eventually the surgeon must have been told I was unhappy and her assistant returned and somewhat peremptorily struck though my previous extended permission and asked me to initial it – saying that should it turn out to be imperative it would involve me undergoing another serious operation.  I explained that though I fully understood I felt I couldn’t go under the anaesthetic without knowing what to expect when I came round.

I think what really decided me against just signing was remembering my mother’s experiences of many years before.  Having visited her doctor’s for a routine smear test the doctor said –  ‘ I see you have a little problem with your waterworks – we can fix that for you – it’s a very simple operation ‘  So Mum of course said yes.

She along with many other women in their sixties felt that this was just one of the problems experienced by those who had given birth during the middle of the last century, but to be told that nowadays there was a simple fix made her happily agree.

Once at the hospital and having previously signed the permission papers they called in at the eleventh hour to ask her to give her permission to perform a hysterectomy should it seem necessary once the operation was underway.  She was nervous and flustered as anyone is facing an operation, and of course signed.  And when she regained consciousness was told that they had removed her womb, but she would be pleased to know it was totally healthy.  Perhaps it was for the best – but following the operation she got a severe infection, resulting in weeks at the hospital in pain, and when everything finally healed up her ‘little water problem’ was slightly worse than at the beginning.

All of this also had its impact on me at the time.  I had expected her out after a minor operation, instead she was now told not to do anything for several months, and I ended up visiting her daily to help with chores and see she was alright.  At the time she lived a distance of 32 miles from me door to door, and over the next year I got the travelling time down to 32 minutes along country roads and through the suburbs of Hereford.  It was a wonder I did not end up in hospital myself!  After a whole year of this to the day I felt she was now safe to resume normal life.  So to celebrate she polished her wooden stairs and fell top to bottom breaking several bones in her back, resulting, as you might imagine in more travelling for me to the extent I decided to move house to be nearer.

No wonder I was worried about last minute hospital decisions.

Cannock – then Hospital

I meanwhile was in Cannock.

Dave’s motorhome repair shop is situated in vast buildings which were once the stock buildings of a farm.  The farmer still works the surrounding arable fields  as well as some managing some store cattle, a shooting range and farm shop.  It is all sited hard by the motorway system, which does make it a little noisy; but one soon gets used to, and switches off from the incessant drone of traffic; and the view from Thebus’ front window – out over a fishing lake to the fields and copse beyond is really very pleasant.

There is a small network of tracks and footpaths leading off from the old abandoned farmhouse, some of which are accessible to the scooter; and all are safe from any traffic so it is fine for exercising Phoebe.  Also there is a resident Beagle – Charlie.  Whom Phoebe loves, and who, in return tolerates Phoebe.  Well most of the time anyway.

They first met when she was only a few months old, and, though already bigger than Charlie, she was gangly and unsure of her footing – and also her place in canine society.  Charlie pretty soon explained all of that to her and they got along just fine.

Of course when we returned this time Phoebe, at rising two years old is massively bigger than Charlie, but still wanted to play by the rules established back  2015 – which I have to say resulted in a very, very cross Charlie.  But of course the crosser he got about everything the more Phoebe thought it a very good game; charging around and keeping just out of reach of his very cross teeth.

Also Charlie has the typical Beagle attitude to food of any description: which is, if I can smell it its mine and I am going to eat it.  It didn’t take long for Phoebe to work this out, and endless tease him by discovering his hidden bones, buried long ago in odd places.  Then, having searched them out, running around in front of him showing him it was she who was now in possession of his lost treasures thus encouraging him to run after her.  She, thinking it was a great game, and Charlie taking it all very seriously.

If he could catch up with her he bit her legs – being the only part of her he could reasonably reach: and worked out that if he could get her to stop running he could position himself squarely beneath her belly and from there bite at her elbows with impunity.  Turning round every time she did, and keeping her elbows at a suitable biting position.

I have to say Phoebe thought it was great, and as long as it didn’t go on for too long, I am pretty sure Charlie thought it was okay too.  If he had enough he retreated to one of his many hiding places in the vast workshops, out of reach of Phoebe who normally couldn’t find him anyway.  So all in all she was having a great time.

But my operation was drawing closer and I had arranged to her to stay over with Jack from Sally’s office, with whom she had stayed on the times I had to go to hospital, or gone on holiday.  She loved it there – I only had to say ‘You are going to stay with Jack’ and she would be at the door looking for him, and I think he and his family loved her too.  Jack has an older and a younger brother – so with three teenage boys to play with plus two Welsh Border Collies she was in her element – though she did come back a little on the rough side, and took a bit of retraining before she would calm down.  Still at her age a little rough and tumble is good for them, and it’s something I can’t offer.

So she was delivered to Jack, and I arranged to spend the weekend prior to my operation with my brother Mike and his family, then Mike would drive me down to the hospital at Cheltenham where my hysterectomy was to be performed.

Not only had Sally’s business pace been ‘hotting-up’ over the months since I arrived in July of 2016, but so had the ‘romance’ between Sally and Mark (or as I first knew him – Tibbo)

This romance had been in its very early days back in the summer of last year, with Sally blowing hot and cold, but Tibbo determinedly in pursuit, and it finally paid off and I could see her falling in love with him.

I think they will be very well suited.  Sally is a strong-minded girl, and Tibbo loves her very deeply.  They both often talked of marriage and children, buying a house, even what any offspring might be named, what sort of wedding they wanted and so many other things that I was surprised it took him so long to ask her.  But finally after many hints and stutterings he did and she accepted.

The two of them are from similar backgrounds.  Both being third generation offspring of transport business grandparents.  Tibbo runs a small fleet of trucks for the family firm.  It was for his grandfather when I first met him, who at 82 still went into work daily, driving himself there to oversee everything and keeping his hands firmly on the reins.  But he sadly died this year, though I am sure having led a full and satisfying life.

So they both understand the way of life involved with this sort of business; and the trials and commitment to the job which is needed to make a success of things.  They are around the same age and with so many interests in common I feel they have a better than average chance of making a go of things in our uncertain modern world.

So Tibbo having been given the green light went off for the day with Sally’s Mum to choose the engagement ring in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter and came back with an elegant solitaire diamond.  I think he had intended to take Sally out for a special meal on Valentines day to officially ‘Pop the Question’ and slip the ring on her finger.  But Sally’s Mum, excited to see them together encouraged him to do the deed whilst the family were around to help celebrate, having spent the day at the Marina over the road watching the Rugby, being keen supported of Wales – Sally’s grandparents on both sides having come from Wales, which with a name like Jones is hardly surpising.

I, of course, by now was in Cannock, so missed out on the celebrations but Tibbo finally went down on one knee if front of everyone to ask, and to be officially accepted.

And what a fortuitous place to have proposed, as within a couple of weeks the Landlord of the Marina decided to give up the lease.  And Sally as impetuous as ever has taken it on, in addition to the small-holding and the transport firm.  I do hope she doesn’t burn herself out trying to do too much, but she is a determined girl, and if anyone can make a success of running three businesses at the same time it will be her.

I remember some time ago someone saying to me – ‘ I don’t know what it is that gives her the energy, but if anyone could bottle it and sell it they would make their fortune! ‘.

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First one of Tibbo, and yes, they are both for Sally

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Early days just after a friend’s wedding summer 2016.
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A reluctant Tibbo ready for the Rocky Horror Show


IMG_3013 Off to Venice with Sally asleep on his shoulder before the plane had even taxied to the runway

 

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Kissing on a Venetian Gondola

 

img_3870Ready to leave Venice

14563472_10209881244163690_2302524898285237694_nLooking happy at The Marina

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And another one

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Tibbo’s first ever DJ and bow tie ready for the Christmas Bash

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15380485_10210553255403551_4407170708032580762_nLooking happy together at the Boxing Match

 

15732088_10211105370372233_1833824175917929861_oMuffled up  in Switzerland

 

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The Ring

16711793_1645719148788491_1267320385917533505_n Engaged – I can’t say at last, as it is only 6 months.  But many congratulations and all the very best for your joint futures xxx

 

Moving On

As I mentioned Sally’s business had been expanding and increasing at an exponential pace, and the yard, which had once held the five lorries and ten trailers, was now expected to hold ten lorries and fifteen trailers, plus three other lorries with trailers which parked there overnight and at the weekends.  Sally, now Mark was there full time, had needed more living space so another larger caravan had been purchased which also needed siting; plus some problems up at the farm meant a large static caravan, and an RV as big as Thebus now needed to be housed.

I had finished with my seemingly endless rounds of chemo, and was recuperating and waiting for the hysterectomy promised to me at the end of February.  So I decided that if someone would drive there it would be sensible for Thebus Phobe and Me to move onto the piece of riverside land I purchased last year; and which was sited just along the river, less than ten minutes from Sally and half an hour from my brother in Pedmore.

.The little plot of land is in very pretty countryside, bordering right onto the River Severn and has its own pontoon and moorings, though I have little intention of using them.  I had already paid for a borehole to be sunk and some hardstanding for Thebus and any visitors, so it is a good place to park up as and when I need to. Its only drawback being the approach to it (and of course exit) is very tight and steep for most vehicles, let along something as large as Thebus.

My original intention (before I was diagnosed) had been to travel to warmer foreign climes during the winter months, then return to the UK when the weather got too hot for me (and the summer tourist traffic was building up) to spend the summer catching up with friends and family in the UK.

So as soon as Thebus could be extricated from within the tangle of lorries and trailers Sally drove us down, and Phoebe and I soon settled down to our new surroundings.

The view out is lovely – looking across the river to the open fields and countryside.  My plot is within yards of a riverside walk through beautiful hanging woods growing on the steep river cliff, and leading through to Stourport town centre, though sadly impassable for me on my scooter.  Considering it is the Severn Way and quite a major walking route I would have thought there might have been more maintenance – I have to say France takes far more pride in their surroundings; but as always, perhaps the grass appears greener on unreachable fields!

Still speaking of grass Phoebe was in her element.  Having spent so much time cooped up on the tarmac yard since last July it was the first time, other than a the few Christmas days at my brother’s house where she had enjoyed the freedom of his lawn, that she had a chance to feel grass under her feet, and as always it gave her ‘The Zoomies’  –  A phrase that all the Great Dane owner’s understand; namely, when, feeling the softness of the ground under their pads, they feel an irresistible urge to ‘zoom’ round in large circles, tails tucked underneath them and backs hunched.  So funny to watch.  She is so quick and the circles so very large it was impossible for me to film, so I will add some of the photos taken at Christmas where she had less acreage to ‘let fly’ but even then filming was impossible for me.

Not exactly ‘The Zoomies’ but Phoebe enjoying the feeling of grass rather than gravel under her feet.

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We pootled around – taking the occasional walk along the towpath, seeing the slots of the local woodland deer in the muddy path, watching the water birds, and listening to the early spring songs of the birds, and the hooting of owls at night.  All very peaceful and soothing.  But the aforementioned mud was soon to cause a problem.

Knowing I had the operation coming up, but not knowing how long I might have to spend in hospital or recuperating somewhere, I felt that the time was opportune to sort out those jobs inevitably needed on Thebus, as it would give Dave, at the Motorhome Repairer’s, free access to Thebus with both Phoebe and myself elsewhere.  But there was a bit of a problem.

The spot I was parked in, though idyllic, was situated at the bottom of a steep river cliff, adjacent to a major river, consequently the land was subject to waterlogging.  When I decided to move there the weather had been dry and sunny for quite a while, and everywhere conditions underfoot were drying out.  But I might have foreseen that ‘February Fill-dyke’ would catch me out – and he did.

After a couple of glorious spring days full of sunshine, sparkling water and bird song the weather changed and it began to rain.  Then rain some more, then rain quite a lot more, with the result that when I decided I needed to drive over to Cannock I instantly got ‘stuck in the mud’.

I knew Mike was coming over to see me that morning and thought it was a good idea to try moving before he arrived, as if I got stuck he might be able to help, but in fact the ground was so wet and Thebus so heavy that as soon as one of the back wheels was off the only bit of hardcore I was well and truly stuck.

Sally was called for, and lovely girl that she is, came down with a four-wheel drive pick-up and re-inforcements to see what could be done.  With lots of bricks under the wheels, some digging out, and a tow-rope on the front axle (why don’t they fit a towing eye to RV’s?) We finally made it out of the mud – only to be confronted with another problem.

The trackway which links all the riverside plots back to the track up to the lane, has wisely been sited about two-thirds of the way back from the river towards the river cliff, which is good, but does mean that the track camber slopes at quite an angle river-wards.  Not a problem if the track is dry, and not too much of a problem when the bus is moving …….   But…… (why is there so often a but when driving Thebus)

This particular ‘but’ is that part way along the track is a field gate, situated at the top of a small incline and just about wide enough for Thebus to squeeze through.  And the  ‘but’ arises because (a) you need to go slowly to negotiate the gate (b) you are on an upwards incline and (c) the camber of the road towards the river is at its sharpest just at the approach to the gateway.  With the result that each time Thebus approached – I have to say by now with Sally at the wheel (I having chickened out long before) Thebus’ back-end began to slide at an angle downhill meaning inevitable collision with the metal gatepost.

Two or three attempts at various speeds had the same result, though with the added effect of churning up even more mud on the already slippery track.  In the end the power of prayer seems to have prevailed and with a steady pulling from the tow-vehicle at the front, plus some pushing uphill from the side (and a wing and a prayer ! ) he cleared the gate-post with millimetres to spare.

Then along the reasonable part of the track, before the sharp left hand hairpin-bend, where the incline and the track camber are both against you.  Plus of course the narrowness of the track and the overhanging untrimmed tree-lined hedge.

Sally had to have two or three goes before which – with wheels spinning and the smell of burning rubber  – we triumphed and made it to the junction of track with the lane.

Sally needed a cigarette break as soon as she got to a wide enough section of the track, and with frazzled nerves bade me a shaky farewell to return to the fray at work.  Mike stayed behind to clear up the debris and general mayhem we had left in our trail, and I took over at the wheel, down the narrow lane with hedges brushing our sides to the roads which would lead me to the motorway.

I had half thought I would need to park up and get someone to drive me along the M5, M6 and M54, as it had been almost a year since I had been out in Thebus alone, but in fact I soon settled back into driving him.

So we joined the motorway network and with very little trouble arrived at our destination

Back to Britain

On our last night it snowed and this was my view before bed.,img_4231

When the morning dawned it was on a white world and this was my balcony view whilst I was packing to leave.  It was a lovely hotel and I shall certainly return if I can.img_4505 img_4499

By the time we had packed and sorted everything out we all felt it best to get nearer to Zurich, just in case the snow got any worse, and in fact within less than a week it had snowed so much that all the ski slopes where shut, though I suspect the efficient Swiss trains would have still been running.

Some last photos of  Wengen and views from the train journey down to the valley.15895288_10211128718715927_8676122207359548962_n
Outside our Hotel door

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Last view of Wengen with our hotel and the church in the background

 

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Lauterbrunnen in the valley with the waterfall from the cliff showing just below the cloud line
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So back in Zurich we boarded our flight and before long our plane was landing at Birmingham airport.

Next morning it was back to reality with a bang for us all.  Sally and Mark were busy catching up with work, and I had an appointment for chemo.

I have to say chemo number five had taken a heavy toll on me, and I was feeling weak and weepy before the inevitable blood sampling and vein prodding even started.  But it had to be done, and eventually we got there.  But number six had some bad after effects for me.  I ran a high temperature and had to visit A&E.  Then took to my bed for about 5 days; neither wanting to eat or even drink anything.  But the appointment to see my consultant had been booked quite some time ago, and I felt if I missed it they may well decide against the operation which had been promised.  So I hauled myself out of bed, though feeling far too ill to get dressed, and in pyjamas and a thick dressing gown my brother drove over to take me into the hospital.  Sally being far too rushed to have spared the time – her business commitments having increased dramatically over the time I had been back in England.

Having arrived at the hospital there was no way I would have made it down all the hospital corridors, so Mike went off to find a wheelchair and with him pushing we trundled though to see the consultant.

I have to say she was surprised and dismayed to see how I looked, and of course I still felt very weak and tearful, so she decided it would be safer to admit me for further observation, and the operation was to be delayed – though – thank goodness, not cancelled.

I think one knows one’s own body, and I had felt that for some reason things had been going down hill for me since my last encouraging scan. I was in far more pain again, and was now up to the maximum dose of regular painkillers.  Perhaps naughtily I didn’t mention this as I felt that the operation might be cancelled, and that if I said nothing and was put on the list it would probably just go ahead.  And in fact I just about managed to hold on until the 28th of the month – the day scheduled for the operation, though getting a little worse each day.

007 Revolving Restaurant

Before Christmas, when we had visited Go Outdoors in Kidderminster to buy some suitable winter clothing for our forthcoming trip, Sally and I bumped into someone who had lived in Wengen.  She had said – ‘You really must visit the Rotating Restaurant at Shilthorn where they filmed the James Bond movie’  and as the day dawned bright and sunny we decided to give it a try.  Well that is Sally and I decided – Mark was less than keen.

Sally had persuaded him up the mountain in the cable car yesterday and he found the whole experience somewhat disturbing.  But Sally said cheerfully (and untruthfully)  ‘Its okay we go by train’ – and suitably reassured he agreed.

Well I suppose there was a small amount of truth there – in that we started from Wengen train station going down hill to the valley bottom, then took another train before embarking on a long and steep cable car ride to the ski-ing village of Stechelberg, full of charming wooden chalets and very, very Swiss.

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Above are photos of the pretty village of Strechelberg, and below the cable trip upwards towards Birg, which is part way up the mountain

 

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This cable car took us as far as Birg where there was a lovely terrace with far reaching views and outdoor seating for the restaurants, which being a gloriously sunny day, were warm enough for us to sit out on even in January to await the cable car for the onward (and upwards) leg of our journey.  Sally and I took photos from the viewing platform with its glass and grid floor, but Mark stayed firmly on the solid flooring.

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Sally standing fearlessly on the glass floor over the abyss – the stock photo below show the glass floor projecting out, and the Fear Walk clinging to the mountain side beneath14723212_1113177735463731_1947683289808502784_n

But we then had to go onwards and upwards on the steepest part of the cable-car climb up the Shilthorn to the Piz Gloria Skyline Restaurant which rotates around its own axis every 45 minutes, gliding past more than two hundred mountain peaks, which on  such a glorious sunny day made for a superb place to sit and eat lunch.

Below are some photos of the cable car ride to the top

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And these are the view we enjoyed when we got there

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And this one is of Mark enjoying the stunning viewing platform surrounding the revolving restaurant 15823207_10211117128786186_356503735753858300_n

We were lucky enough to find a table next to the window and Sally decided on a 007 Beefburger and 007 Martini Cocktail, which (even sans ice in the cocktail) came in at a cool forty euros – I have to admit being shaken – if not stirred – but it was worth it for the experience of seeing the wonderful scenery.

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As the James Bond film used this as a location there were lots of photos opportunities to be had as well as the wonderful views.15780933_10211115741151496_1532721869202996755_n

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Door to the Loos

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Then we retraced our steps as that evening we were booked into the charming little chalet in the hotel grounds for Raclette which is a Swiss dish of melted cheese, and a barbecue.

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As there were only three of us, and the hut needed to be booked for an entire party, we had been lucky enough to be able to tag onto a lovely group of folk from the north of Britain, who knew the hotel and area well visiting often – this year for the birthday of one of the ladies and it was her Birthday evening treat.  Needless to say a convivial time was had by all round the open fire in the centre of the hut where we were able to grill cheese or meats to enjoy with our drinks.  A most unusual and atmospheric experience.

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I was whacked by the time we left at gone midnight so it was off to bed for me, but I think Sally and Mark were up till nearly four o’clock for a last night of lagers – well, a last Swiss night of lagers anyway!

First Trip up the Mountains by Cable Car

Of course next morning Sally and Mark missed breakfast – Mark not finally surfacing until gone midday when the room maids insisted they needed to sort out the bedding and clean the room.

So I went off to enjoy the spa and when Sally came down she joined me, then we two went off to explore a little and visited the pretty little church which we could see from our balconies.

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Charming Little Church with Detached Bell Tower
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Stange Rock Formation on one of the Mountain Tops
Several Photos of the Church Interior, simple but charming img_4298 img_4282 img_4301 img_4281img_4303
View from Church back towards the town and our Hotel

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Old Wooden Chalet Style Hotel

img_4309 Village Street with old Stable Building

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Wooden Chalet with Cones and Carvings

Then we wandered round a bit more of the town ending up at the bottom of the lift taking skiers and walkers up to the mountain top.

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ki Lift Station taking Skiers and Walkers up to the top of the Mountainside

So when we got back to the hotel and finally got Mark back into the world of the living Sally persuaded him to come with us on the lift up to the mountain – and it really took quite a bit of persuading, and some more lager for courage, but eventually we embarked.

The views out were stunning, and at one point far beneath us we saw a wild mountain goat browsing, though once again my camera was being awkward.

As neither of the others had eaten we stopped in one of the mountain restaurants for food.  My take on this was that it was wholesome food to warm and fill hungry skiers, but of course at Swiss prices, which are not the best value in the world, especially given the current exchange rates. 15747813_10211108655174351_7816957193330047820_n
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ountain Top Restaurant 

We were now a little distance from the mountain lift station, and as I was still a bit tired and weak from the exertions the day before I decided to walk on ahead slowly so I did not need to rush – we had been told at the bottom that the last trip back down the mountain was at 4.30pm

img_4328Children learning to Ski

Taking my time, and being careful of the slippery ice and snow, I made my way back; thankful for the wonderful pair of walking boots and ski jacket which had been my christmas present from Sally – and also grateful for the child’s ski stick I had borrowed from the hotel stick stand which served to keep me upright on the worst bits.  I enjoyed the beautiful views and the warmth of the sun reflected from the sparkling snow and having arrived at the depot sat down to await the arrival of the others.

Time ticked by – I tried not to worry but finally I had to phone to remind them of the deadline and check they were on their way.  It transpired they had asked a waitress at the restaurant the time of the last lift down and been told 5pm, so they finally rushed up, wildly out of breath and with not much time to spare before the final car left for the night.

Back at the hotel we all three took advantage of the wonderful spa – Mark now quite confident even at the deep end (mind you his head was still clear of the water when he stood up)  –  and we were lucky enough to once again have it entirely to ourselves.

Welcoming in the New Year 2017 – Wengen Style

Coming up to midnight we made our way down to the village square to welcome in the New Year, and it is certainly a New Year I shall never forget…..  The hotel manager had said there would be fireworks; and part of the square was cordoned off and a sign reading Happy New Year 2017 in fireworks was waiting to be lit; so we assumed that the official fireworks display would be held in the large open space behind.   Not a bit of it.

There was a crowd of a few thousand people I would guess, gathered in roped off section in front, which looked a bit too packed for me, so we found a bench by the Tourist Information office and shops just overlooking it.  Mark got another bottle of champagne and some plastic cups and we thought we had a good spot to see the action.

And there certainly was action!

Firstly folk in the crowd started letting off fireworks of their own in a random fashion, not sparklers you understand, or even squibs, but rockets and roman candles complete with stars and bangers.  It all looked a bit on the dangerous side.  One guy near to us and just on the edge of the crowd within the roped section decided he would let off a rocket.  So…….. Holding it in his bare hands, he lit it and waited for it to take off.  Doooohhhhh……..

Of course before the rocket could even think about ascending it got far too hot for him to hold, so he just dropped it and it shot off at a series of angles into the crowd – intermittently exploding with bangs and sparks; clearing a path through the crowd and making everyone run and shriek. By the shops people were lighting fireworks which regularly fell over and exploded in our direction; and together with the low flying rockets coming from the crowded square we retreated as closely as possibly to our shop front, instinctively ducking every time we heard a nearby whizz or bang.  I must say from the mountains all around beautiful rockets were going up which exploded with myriads of stars and sparkles; lighting up the sky at intervals, and presumably let off from the various chalets and hotels dotted around on the slopes above us.

Not far from our bench  were a couple of policemen and a policewoman standing just inside the officially cordoned off area, and I took the opportunity (trusting she spoke English – which she did) to ask when the official firework display started.

‘Oh there is no firework display!’ was the laconic reply.  ‘Fireworks are banned in Wengen’

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The only ‘Official” Firework of the evening.  Which was just lit at midnight and then just slowly burnt itself out

At about five minutes to midnight we heard sirens and saw the two local fire-engines departing the town.  I said later that they probably thought they were best off out of it when midnight struck!  And yes – they were probably right, with fire-works going off in every direction it felt somewhat like a war zone.  Even the people trying to be careful – like the guy who found a clear space next to us and carefully put his empty champagne bottle on the ground – placed in his rocket – lit blue touch paper (though with a lighter) and retired – found his bottle promptly fell over on the hard, rough ground and the rocket tried to propel itself forwards horizontally towards a young couple with a babe in arms and a toddler.  He manfully stepped forwards and stood on the stick for a bit, but when the stars started to explode he stepped back and let it fly, but which time the young couple had just about cleared the area of its predicted trajectory.img_4223 img_4227

Eventually we left them to it and returned to our hotel, me to sleep and Sally and Tibbo to the bar.

Up the Jungfraujoch

Next day I was, of course, was up earlier than the others and tried out the breakfast which was a wonderful selection of hot and cold foods – serve yourself from the extensive buffet , or order other items from the chefs.

Our first full day had dawned sunny and stayed that way, and as one of the places we wanted to visit – The Jungfraujoch – was better to visit on a sunny day in order to enjoy the wonderful views we decided to go up – in case the weather should change for the worse.

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Train at the Village Street Station ready to climb up The Jungfraujoch

I have to say it was wonderful, but in hindsight a bit too much for me in my current state of health.  I had just had my fifth course of chemo a week or two before, and the station we arrived at after a tortuous climb on the cog railway is officially at the highest train station in Europe, at an elevation of 11,333 feet (3,454 meters)

We rode the cog rail train up (green), and hiked down (yellow)

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I was pleased that I ventured up there, and would have been cross with myself had I chickened out and stayed at the hotel lazing in the spa, but the thinness of the air up there, and the long walks to get from one place to another really took its toll on me that day.

But I did get up there!  And I did see it! and we saw some fabulous views.  The photo below shows the view from the Observation Tower, and if you look closely at the winding track through the snowfield below you can just make out the minuscule figures trudging up the bank.  It would have been nice to walk between the ice banks on the crisp, squeaky snow, but the 45 minute uphill walk would have been far beyond my capabilities at present.

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img_4195Surrounding Mountain Peaks

Ice Sculpture of Penguins in the (for me very long) Ice Tunnel
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It was wonderful up there and the views exhilarating, but I was truly thankful when we arrived back at our hotel.  But when we got back down again we were just in time to get changed into fancy dress for the Gala New Year’s Eve at the hotel!

Sally and Mark looked excellent as a pair of Mexicans in their sombreros and ponchos, and quite a few of the other guests had made and effort plus all of the hotel staff.

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And caught out in the bar Facebooking
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At The Gala Dinner, with our waiter for the evening15825968_10211098382077530_3035020218050987098_n

Just before we went into dinner the Bell Ringers of Wengen visited carrying THE MOST ENORMOUS set of cow bells, nearly as big as the ringers.  And they sang and played for us.  I think they were on a tour of the whole village, and we and heard them again later when we visited the village to see the New Year in. baeren

Wengen and Our Hotel

We arrived in Wengen, and it was indeed a pretty village, very Swiss and full of wooden chalets and old hotels with pitched rooves in the true local vernacular – I would guess that this village was developed quite soon after the British invented ‘ski-ing’ as we know it now, and in fact there is a big winter ski championships held there each year just a week or two after New Year.  After writing this I did a bit of internet research and came up with this

Link to History of Wengen –  http://www.wengen.com/sighis.html

No tourists are allowed to bring vehicles to the village, though there were some there, presumably owned by locals with permits, but most were electric and used to ferry luggage from the little railwaystation, and a few very noisy little mopeds appeared in the mornings – again I would guess owned by residents.

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Wengen Main Street

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V
iew from the Front Door of The Sunstar Hotel

But Wengen was small enough to walk around easily, even for me, though of course some of the streets were pretty steep.  Our hotel – The Sunstar was right on the main street and only a short walk even with the cases, though the hotel had offered to collect us and our luggage if we wished.  The hotel staff were all very friendly and helpful, speaking excellent English, and made our stay as comfortable as possible. ( And I did enjoy my stay there, and noticed that not only were there lots of dogs in the resort and travelling on the various trains and mountain lifts, but that dogs were welcome as guests in the hotel, other than in the restaurant and spa.  Maybe if I parked Thebus down in Interlaken Phoebe and I could come up for a few days sometime in the future)

But speaking of spa, what a lovely spa the Sunstar had.

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The Hotel Spa – and me enjoying it the next day
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I would guess it had not been built all that long and was on the lower level at the back of the hotel, easily accessed direct from the lift just opposite my bedroom door; so it was great to just go down in one’s slippers and robe (supplied by the hotel) to the sauna, steam rooms, showers, and wonderful pool with views outside to the snow capped mountains.  The water temperature was perfect and if one visited in the morning you had the facitiles to yourself, and in the evening after seven pm it was adults only and lit by candles for a truly relaxing experience.  There were various treatments available as well, but with such a short visit there was not time to try these out.

The rooms, as one might expect in Switzerland were absolutely spotless, with fresh white linen covers and masses of fluffy towels and robes.  Below are the views from my balcony

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Views from my bedroom balconyimg_4135

And the view from Mark and Sally’s balcony, whilst tasting the first of many lagers

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So having booked in and eaten our evening meal at the hotel, plus had a few drinks in the lovely bar it was time for bed  –  Sally as normal, having had no sleep other than a few winks on the various plane and train journeys.
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Hotel Lounge and Bar

 

Switzerland in the Snow

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Many years ago on one of my rare holidays before my travels in Thebus started, I visited Switzerland in the summer, but I had never seen Switzerland in the snow  So when I spotted a snowy photograph of a pretty Swiss village called Wengen I got a hankering to visit and knowing that Sally and Mark would have a few days off around the Christmas period I thought this would be a good opportunity to visit Switzerland in the snow.

The holiday was booked and the flights would arrive so we could travel across quite a section of Switzerland: from the vast Zurich International Airport, then skirting some of the beautiful Swiss lakes, through Interlaken and up to the Bernese Oberland, where Wengen was situated as the cog railway line climbed steeply up from the valley up towards The Jungfraujoch – known as The Top of Europe – and where Europe’s highest railway station is situated at 3,454 m above sea level.

The flight to Switzerland was quick and easy, I booked assisted travel for me and that meant we had a lovely Swiss lady who knew exactly where we were going, and guided us expertly through the massive complex of Zurich airport to the integral railway station where we got the tickets for our onward train journey.

We had arrived on a very damp and foggy day – at least it was down in the Swiss flatlands where we started our journey.  I have to say the Swiss travellers we met on our way were very friendly and helpful, and seemed genuinely interested in us and where we were headed, offering advice as to where to change trains and which platforms we should use.

When I had booked up for our previous trip to Venice I was aware that Mark (aka Tibbo) had a bit of phobia about swimming in water when out of his depth – what I hadn’t realised was that he was worried about water in general – and boats.  So Venice had not been an ideal choice as a holiday destination .

l had checked with Sally before booking this holiday in Switzerland, and as we were well away from  the watery Swiss lakes, plus I had phoned the hotel to check that the swimming pool in the spa was shallow enough for Mark to stand up even at the deep end, I thought all would be well.

What I hadn’t realised until we boarded the first train in Zurich was that Mark didn’t like trains either. He had only been on one – once – from Dudley to Worcester – and had taken a taxi back  – so that was a bit of a problem.  He didn’t like the motion, he hated the interconnecting carriages, the toilets, the tunnels, and just about everything really, so a train journey of several hours was not an ideal introduction to Switzerland.  Having skirted the lakes, thankfully for Mark’s peace of mind, not too close to the train lines, we reached Lauterbraunen (which looks a wonderful place and well worth revisiting should I get the chance).

Then we changed trains and started to climb up into the Bernese Oberland.  A final train change took us onto the cog railway which would climb steeply up the mountainside leading towards The Jungfraujoch.  Our connecting train had arrived in plenty of time so we stayed on the platform for Sally and Mark to smoke a cigarette and the engine driver started chatting to Mark in the new age Esperanto i.e. Football !

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Mark and the Engine Driver conversing in ‘Football’

Whether there was a current football match of interest, or whether some Swiss players had moved to England I am not sure, but whatever it was there seems an instant rapport between men when they can talk about football, even when neither speaks the other’s language.  The upshot was that the engine driver wanted to continue chatting with Mark, so invited him into the driver’s compartment to continue our uphill journey.

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Mark inside the driver’s cab for the last leg of our journey with the cog railway lines showing in front

I think it was a good thing in that it took Mark’s mind off the steepness of the climb, and the sheerness of the drops to the side, plus the precarious bridges and long dark tunnels we seemed to negotiate.

But can you imagine such a thing happening in the U.K.   In the current idiom  –  NO WAY.

A Family Christmas

With Christmas fast approaching it was lovely to be invited to visit with my brother and his family, and Phoebe was included in the invite also.  She had a shower in preparation, and having now had at least four or five at the dog parlour she was far more relaxed about it all – though she had to be trapped in the lorry driver’s shower room at Sally’s yard first.

She had been washed in there once before and as soon as the door was firmly shut behind her she calmly walked over to the cubicle and sat down inside.  All went well at first until the electric shower decided to have a hiccup and turn cold.  She was having non of that.  Solemnly, but very determinedly, she slowly rose and left the shower, then proceeded to shake herself, before I could do anything about anything!

With the shower readjusted to a sensible dog-friendly temperature I finally persuaded her back inside again for a proper rinsing off, then a brisk towelling down, and I have since ordered a specially made towelling drying coat for her.

One of the jobs I will get Dave (my motorhome repairer) to do when Thebus goes in for a service and MOT will be to fit an outside shower unit in one of the underfloor lockers, so I can give Phoebe a shower outside, now I have discovered it is not the showering which she objects to, it is the cold water!

Anyway, she was ready and together with some bedding for her and some spare clothes for me we set off for an most enjoyable few Christmas days.  The food was, of course excellent, my brother being a careful and accomplished cook, and it was lovely to spend time with my niece and nephew who are growing up so very fast and will soon be leaving home for university.  Sacha is proving to be an excellent artist which she thoroughly enjoys, and I suspect Edward is going to be some sort of computer whizz.  I love them both dearly.

So having eaten far, too much food, drank much too much wine and champagne, and of course consumed an excessive amount of chocolate it was time to say farewell.

Phoebe had a terrific time as she was allowed free run of their garden – and on the grass lawn, which is rare luxury for her, and she took full advantage of it.  Playing about for ages by herself with some of the many toys I had bought her for Christmas.

She hasn’t quite got to hang of Christmas presents as yet.  All my other dogs knew exactly what was going on as soon as the Christmas decorations went up.  When the piles of presents were distributed from under the tree the dogs were always left till last – oldest first, youngest last, and as soon as they were handed their gifts carefully opened them.

I remember my very first Great Dane.  He was just over one and the family came to me when I cooked my first ever Christmas Day lunch.  I must admit that year, Jason, my Dane was given his present first, and it was an extra large and tough bouncy ball.  He loved it and rushed round the lounge bouncing and catching it everywhere.  Then my mother’s old terrier cross was given her present – a squeaky Good Boy Newspaper toy.  Until then Jason had never seen a squeaky toy.  That was it.  He immediately spat out his prized new possession and all he wanted was that fascinating squeaky delight.  Of course having eventually got hold of it he managed to de-squeak it within less than five minutes, though after that squeaky toys were a total obsession with him, to the extent he could smell that special rubbery toy smell immediately entering a different house, and would be desperate to get to it – which was a nightmare if they had young children with squeaky toy collections.

 

 

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Phoebe getting involved with the family Christmas Present opening ritual

 

And some action shots of Phoebe in the garden trying out one of her new toys
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More Chemotherapy

I haven’t said much about the ongoing course of Chemotherapy I was undertaking.

It was timed for once every three weeks.  Apparently the body’s immune system is at its very lowest some fifteen days after the treatment so they allow you about another week to get slightly more back to normal before dosing you with the next lot.  When it was all over I worked it out and reckon they had given me about a bucketful of the stuff.

I found the first three or four treatments did not affect me too badly.  At the first infusion I had nearly passed out (something I have only done once in my life – but that is another story).  After this it was decided that the Piriton, which is given to allay the effects of the chemicals used in the chemotherapy, was being given to me too quickly and when it was administered more slowly I had less reaction.

What I did hate was the endless needles.  I have always had a needle phobia, to the extent that I have to turn away if someone on the films or television is about to have an injection, and of course now I had to have a blood test prior to the treatment, then on the day the drugs for the chemo were put in via a vein in ones hand or arm.  And not only this, the chemo apparently affect the veins making it more difficult to access them or get blood out.

The second trip to the hospital involved me visiting the Blood Clinic, and the man who tried to get blood had to have three or four goes, probably not helped by the fact he was discussing when his lunch-hour was to be whilst poking about in my veins.  In the end he gave up and got another nurse to ‘have a go’  well in fact several goes, until in the end I really felt I had to call a halt to the proceedings.  Sally told me to ‘smile as it would feel better’  But I have to say I was pretty certain it wouldn’t and I was all out of smiles by then.

But I knew I had to have blood samples taken, and I suddenly remembered that when in France they had fitted something in the shoulder area of my chest.  Could this be used to take a blood sample.  Apparently yes, but the Blood Clinic said they could not do it as they ‘might introduce an infection’ ????

So off up to the Chemo Ward where the nice nurses were a bit fazed by the piece of equipment which had been fitted in my shoulder, and sent for a senior nurse who expertly, efficiently, and moderately painlessly, managed to get some blood samples.  Not only that, but it was decided that after it had been flushed they could use it for the chemo infusion next time.  So when I went in for my second appointment I was far more relaxed thinking that I wouldn’t need to have yet another thing stuck in my veins.

Its good that we can’t always see the future as it would probably be too off-putting.  As one of the other nurses had watched the procedure last time she was delegated to ‘have a go’ .  I felt reasonably relaxed until the third ‘go’  – when I suggested maybe she call in reinforcements.

And so it was, on and off over the next few months, until I became tearful at the mere thought of having to have blood taken or things inserted in my veins, and even typing this is making me feel sorry for myself and giving me a lump in my throat.  But things just have to be done, and one just has to be as brave as possible.

Sally’s business was thriving and taking up more and more of her time, and now I was used to the procedures I was quite happy getting to the appointments under my own steam.  Though she did come with me for the results of my scan and was delighted for me with the vast improvement.

At that meeting it was decided I might as well have the last two chemo infusions.  I think I would have liked to demur, but I knew I would be overruled, and who know who is right or wrong in such circumstances?  What I did notice was that the last two treatments of the six hit me a lot harder, and not only that, the pain in my abdomen and many of the original symptoms began to return.

Number five left me feeling tearfully low and depressed (one of the side effects) especially as the day after chemo I caught the most appalling cough and cold – so bad that one of the drivers who had also caught it needed to be taken from his truck by ambulance to hospital, and Sally’s Mum had to take Sally to A & E.  This horrendous sore throat, cough and cold lasted nearly until Christmas, and having gotten rid of it I promptly caught another and different variety.  So when someone came into the office with a child which had been vomiting I nearly ran out, thinking I just could not risk a third illness.

But chemo number six really, really hit me for a six.  We had gone to Switzerland after the fifth, and I found my vitality sapped and any spring which might have been in my step had been totally worn down, but I did enjoy the Swiss experience.  (more of that in the next post)

The scenery is magnificent and I have to say I found the people of the area a delight – interested, helpful and welcoming to tourists.  Wengen and that whole area is a charming place and God willing, when I am travelling again I will return for another look round taking Phoebe, as dogs seem welcome everywhere, even in the hotel !

We flew back from Switzerland on the 3rd of Jan and next morning I was due for my sixth chemo and by now I was pretty much of an emotional wreck, and was in tears before anyone really started.  I asked for the lovely nurse who had made the best job in the past of accessing the port in my chest, and although the connection went in okay for some reason when the chemicals were connected the pain was unbearable.  So that was all taken off and a vein in my arm selected.

Eventually I was hooked up and the last lot of poisons pumped into my system.

A Boxing Match

Nick – one of the many drivers and folk who work for Sally’s firm, affectionately known as Oily from when he helped out in the HGV yard repairing the trucks – had been training for some time for a Charity Boxing Match in aid of Cancer Research.  So a party was made up to support him and his family on the evening in question.

It was basically a Black Tie Event at a large local hotel, but the dress code was Super Smart.  Sally put on a ‘Little Black Dress’ , Tibbo donned a suit and tie, I did the best I could, and we set off.

We arrived just after lunchtime (sans lunch) and as it was a big hotel, and I could see tables laid with cutlery, glasses and napkins I was hopeful of something to eat.  Having queued for quite some time to buy our party a drink I enquired for food.  No – they were serving nothing at the moment, not even sandwiches but there would be food available at the fight.  So I had to be satisfied with that.

We sat in one of the lounges, by a fireplace filled with a Christmas decoration rather than a fire, and as so many were arriving the doors opening and closing made it a bit on the chilly side, and I wished I had chosen whiskey and water, rather than Prosecco.  Nick burst in wearing his fully boxing regalia and looking very bold, though I would imagine feeling rather nervous behind the bluster.  There were quite a few due to fight both men and some women, and they were all mingling with their friends and supporters.

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Eventually we were told we could go through and made our way to the very large function room with the ring set up in the centre and tables seating eight or more placed all the way round, plus of course the obligatory deafening music.  We gave our names and were escorted to our table by a very beautiful, elegant and extremely long-legged young lady, wearing a rather short skirt, and told if we called over any of the waiting staff we could order food or drinks from them.

This was easier in the idea than in the operation, but eventually someone took our order, and drinks and a ‘menu’  arrived.  The choice on offer was three different sorts of pizza and chips.  Then of course the difficulty was attracting the attention of someone to take our food order, which unsurprisingly was pizza and chips all round, but eventually this was achieved.  Before our food arrived Nick’s family joined us on the table, having sensibly purchased their drinks in the bar and carried them through, and presumably had Sunday lunch before arriving.

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I have to say when I was first asked if I wanted to go to a Boxing Match I was very much in two minds as to whether to go.  Did I really want to spend time watching people trying to hurt each other?  But on the other hand it was for a good cause, and Nick had been training conscientiously for weeks beforehand, and every experience (within reason) adds to one’s knowledge of life – so I decided to go.  And I am pleased I did.

I am not saying I would enjoy a professional fight, or even an amateur fight where prestige and possibly money are hanging on the out-come, but as fights go this was very good natured, though of course all the contestants were more than keen to win. And I was pleased to see all the fighters were wearing excellent, thickly padded head protection gear.

When each fight started the contestants came into the room from an overhead balcony accompanied by their own specially chosen theme tune.

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Nick looking tough

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Nick looking even tougher

Then they posed for various photos before climbing into the ring where there were more photo opportunities.  The referee gave the pair the obligatory talking to, and then they ‘came out’ touched gloves and were off.

Being very much amateurs there were not many hard punches landed.  But as soon as one did strike home the referee stopped the fight for an instant and checked that the recipient had not been badly hurt and was fit to go on, and until the referee was satisfied all was in order the fight was halted.  So it was nowhere near as violent and gruesome as I had worried about.  Someone did get a bloody nose, but even that was not too bad.

It was strange to me to see women fighting each other, though I would have hardly known they were female but for the fact the table next to us, entirely occupied by women came to life shouting and cheering and following through with each punch, and dancing about beside the ring to such an extent that the invigilators had to send an envoy to tell them to sit down at the table again or the fight would be stopped!

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F
ight Results due to be announced

Once the fighting was over all the contestants, showered and dressed in normal clothes came out for the results awarded on points scored. I am not sure who won, other than it was not the ladies or Nick.

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Then down to the converted cellars in the basement for more drinks and dancing.  And I have to say that I surprised myself, or should I say a gentleman surprised me and after a Conga swept me off for a ‘close dance’

Well a surprising end to an interesting night.

The Office Party

Sally’s business was started in February of this year, and she felt that a Christmas get-together for everyone would be a good way of building some team spirit, and I was invited.

Everyone was asked to put on their ‘Glad Rags’

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Mark (aka Tibbo) in his new bib and tucker with Sally

And we were to be wined and dined, plus dancing, at a local hotel.  On arrival we were handed rum punch and the table was supplied with wines and beers to accompany the traditional turkey dinner carver, followed by plum pudding.  Every one had loads to eat and to drink, especially the latter, and the dancing to the disco afterwards was pretty abandoned, in particular, Jack, the office junior gave a sterling performance – worthy of Top of the Pops I thought – if that is still going.

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Sally had thoughtfully booked taxis to take us all back, due to arrive for one a.m..  I don’t think the cars were particularly late in arriving, but the drinking, plus the excitement of the dancing, meant that one of Sally’s drivers decided it would be quicker to walk back, as we were only two or three miles from home.  Of course when ‘in one’s cups’ one’s judgement is somewhat clouded, and it would take a sober and fit person at least half and hour and maybe near an hour to cover that distance.  And when one is finding it difficult to stand or walk in a moderately straight line it is going to take quite a lot longer.

But he wasn’t to be gainsaid and set off against all advice about walking along unlit pavements at that time of night and just before Christmas when not all drivers have complied with the driving laws, and leaving about ten minutes before the taxis arrived –  his girlfriend, who had consumed nearly as much, saying to let him get on with it.

The usual mayhem followed the arrival of the taxis with different couples needing to take different directions, but eventually we were all loaded on, and as Mark, the one who had departed early, would be taking our route back we all kept our eyes peeling for him.  But he was not to be seen.

Had he taken some sort of short cut and arrived before us?  His totally unconcerned girlfriend now became a bit more interested, as not only had he not returned before us, he had locked his door and taken his keys with him, and it was a cold December night.

Sally’s Mum was called for, as the only one fit to drive.   Then Sally, and Tibbo, accompanied by Mark’s girlfriend set off with Pat driving.  They apparently drove back the way we had taken, then down and up again, round the town – just in case – then one final trip back towards the hotel by which time Mark had escaped the ditch where he had fallen and was scooped up and borne back in triumph.

Life Regression

For many years, long before I was diagnosed with cancer, I had been trying to understand myself and the inner workings of my mind and body and how they might be connected,  and after my diagnosis this seemed to take on a greater urgency.

I had found an interest in Reiki and Reflexology many years before, and had heard about NLP.  Quite a few years ago someone had lent me a series of discs and a book on NLP and though I started to read them and listen to the discs I really found it hard to get on with them and my interest drifted to a close.  So having heard about NLP and having some idea of what it entailed I was amazed to find when I took Phoebe to be washed, that the lady whose business it was, had also qualified as a practitioner in NLP.

So as well as getting Phoebe washed I had several sessions with an NLP practitioner, that is short for Neuro Linguistic Programming.

This is what Wikipedia has to say about NLP
NLP’s creators claim there is a connection between neurological processes (neuro-), language (linguistic) and behavioral patterns learned through experience (programming), and that these can be changed to achieve specific goals in life, Bandler and Grinder also claim that NLP methodology can “model” the skills of exceptional people, allowing anyone to acquire those skills.

I have to say that I find it hard to open up to people easily, possibly even to myself, so the series of questions which were put to me over the hours that I spent in therapy (is that the correct term – to me it always implies a mixture of madness and self-absorbed introspection) I found myself becoming more and more resistant, even though I was trying hard to open up.

But one of the things we touched on was past life regression, and as it was something which had caught my interest some years ago I thought I might give it a try.

Some googling on the internet produced a name of a lady in Worcester, whom I had met briefly some years before, and phoning her I made an arrangement to visit.

As I didn’t want to walk too far she explained where her consulting rooms were situated and which might be the best places to park, and I spent some time on Google Earth and Parkopedia checking things out.

Oh….. the best laid plans of mice and men!

On the day it turned out it was the annual Three Day Worcester Victorian Fair, complete with swings and roundabouts on the most suitable car park, and stalls and stands covering all the available on-street parking.

So after a few circuits of Worcester I had to settle for the multi-storey carpark opposite the Cathedral, which was full apart from the very top floor.  The lifts were all about of order and the carpark was being extensively remodelled involving long walks with no proper signage and very uneven pavements

I arrived tired, late (which I hate to be) and flustered.  Whether it was the bad beginning, or just one of those things, but once again I couldn’t settle into the therapy or relax at all, and left feeling as though I was no further forward than before.

 

**********

 

Interestingly I recently came across this poem written by Charlie Chaplin on his seventieth birthday.

As I Began to Love Myself – Self Love Poem by Charlie Chaplin

As I began to love myself I found that anguish and emotional suffering
are only warning signs that I was living against my own truth.
Today, I know, this is “AUTHENTICITY”.

As I began to love myself I understood how much it can offend somebody
As I try to force my desires on this person, even though I knew the time
was not right and the person was not ready for it, and even though this
person was me.
Today I call it “RESPECT”.

As I began to love myself I stopped craving for a different life,
and I could see that everything that surrounded me was inviting me to grow.
Today I call it “MATURITY”.

As I began to love myself I understood that at any circumstance,
I am in the right place at the right time, and everything happens
at the exactly right moment. So I could be calm.
Today I call it “SELF-CONFIDENCE”.

As I began to love myself I quit stealing my own time,
and I stopped designing huge projects for the future.
Today, I only do what brings me joy and happiness, things I love to do
and that make my heart cheer, and I do them in my own way and in
my own rhythm.
Today I call it “SIMPLICITY”.

As I began to love myself I freed myself of anything that is no good for
my health – food, people, things, situations, and everything that drew
me down and away from myself. At first I called this attitude
a healthy egoism.
Today I know it is “LOVE OF ONESELF”.

As I began to love myself I quit trying to always be right, and ever since
I was wrong less of the time.
Today I discovered that is “MODESTY”.

As I began to love myself I refused to go on living in the past and worry
about the future. Now, I only live for the moment, where EVERYTHING
is happening.
Today I live each day, day by day, and I call it “FULFILLMENT”.

As I began to love myself I recognized that my mind can disturb me
and it can make me sick. But As I connected it to my heart, my
mind became a valuable ally.
Today I call this 
connection “WISDOM OF THE HEART”.

We no longer need to fear arguments, confrontations or any kind of problems
with ourselves or others. Even stars collide, and out of their crashing
new worlds are born.
Today I know THAT IS “LIFE”!

Charlie Chaplin

 

Another Visit to Bos du Mas

Armed with my GOOD NEWS I thought again about the house in France, and remembering that I had never actually seen round all the rooms in the ‘cave’ which is the French term for the part of the house which is not quite cellar and not quite basement, I got in touch and made arrangements for another chance to look at it.

I am getting a bit better with booking flights online and got onto the Ryan Air site, and I have to say when I saw flights out advertised for £5.50 and returns for £9.90 got carried away and just booked up straight away without thinking it through or checking what the trip might clash with. So having booked it I suddenly remembered that I was due for another session of Chemo round about then, and sure enough the day for treatment was right in the middle of the days I was to be out of the country, but I got in touch with the hospital and they were very good with rearranging it all.

My brother Mike had said he would come with me, as I was still not feeling that confident about travelling by myself, and I arranged for us to stay at a nice French provincial hotel in the nearby town of Rochechouart where there is a most interesting chateau built in the 12th century apparently utilising the rock from a huge meteorite with crashed into the area some 200 million years ago leaving a 30 kilometre crater.  This meteorite was one of a series of three huge meteorites which hit almost simultaneously, and at one time were thought to have been the cause of the Triassic-Durasic extinction event.

We would have liked to take a look round the chateau, but it was closed for renovations.  Still its quite close to Champagnac so I thought I might be able to do that on a later visit.

The flight arrival time was very civilised meaning it was not an early morning start but we still had time to collect our hire car and take a leisurely drive to the hotel in plenty of time to get changed before eating.  The Hotel de France is a nice little French provincial hotel overlooking the town square, and part of the Logis chain.  We both had simple but adequate rooms, and enjoyed an excellent evening meal on the two nights we stayed in France.  We ate from the ‘menus’ each time which gave a lovely choice of quality ingredients, and plenty of them, plus we had an excellent bottle of wine to share before retiring to our respective rooms – me to enjoy the unaccustomed luxury of a long hot soak in the bath tub.

Our meeting at Bos du Mas was at 10am so there was time for a leisurely continental breakfast with coffee before heading off through the bright, clear autumn sunshine.  The night before had been cold and clear with a sharp frost, leaving the morning vehicles with a thick, crisp coating of rime – but that meant the views from the ridge-top roads overlooking the far-reaching ranges of hills were wonderful, reminding me of how I had fallen in love with this enchanting area,

The key to the locked room in the Sous Sol was available this time, though it did reveal more problems with the supporting woodwork than I had anticipated, which in turn would mean far more expense when restoring the house.  But I still liked the feel of the house so we will see what the future brings.

After out meeting we popped up to Parc Verger and shared a cup of coffee with Lisa before going across to see Andree and Jean-Claude where as usual my non-existent French let me down.  I really must do something about starting to learn again.

Then a good lunch from the Menu du Jour at the nearby converted railway station before a walk round the charming Rochechouart, another soak in the bath tub, and yet another good meal.  I think the Hotel de France will be added to my places to eat should I move to the area.

Having booked out next morning we had another bright sunny day to enjoy a drive around the area, this time going a little further than I have ventured in the past, and it was all just as quiet and delightful as we drove through miles of forest interspersed with grazing lands, and everywhere the wonderful views of the ranges of hills.

We made it back to our little local airport before the day was too dark to enjoy the scenery with plenty of time to enjoy some home made food in the airport lounge, and a few beers before leaving for the flight home.

Mission ac

A Room Without a View

Tibbo, before going out with Sally, had been a long-distance night-time truck driver, spending most of his nights out away from home and sleeping in the cab of his luxury truck.  So over the years he built up a circle of friends in all parts of the country and a group of them were based in Bognor Regis.

He obviously wanted to introduce Sally to them, especially as they started going out in July and since then he had not spent one night out in his truck – now driving only in the day and rushing back to be with Sally each evening.  So when he was invited to the weekend birthday party of one of his Bognor friends it was the ideal opportunity for him to spend time with them, and introduce them to the new girl in his life.  And very kindly, I was to be included in this outing.

Sally, as a child, had spent many happy family holidays in Bognor Regis, staying with her brother, parents and grandparents at Butlins where they enjoyed the usual family fun, so with such happy memories of course she wanted to stay there on our visit, and I must admit that a visit to Butlins was going to be another ‘first’ for me, so I was interested to see how it might compare with my preconceived ideas.

Tibbo had set off the day before, and in fact spent a night in his truck on the Thursday down in Bognor, and Sally and I set out on the Friday evening to meet up with him.  Thank goodness for Sat Navs!  It was of course dark and raining and to be fair the Sat Nav managed to get us to the correct address, though on the wrong side of a parking hammerhead so we had to retrace our route by about a quarter of a mile – following Tibbo’s telephone directions.

We weren’t actually meeting at Butlins but at his friend’s ‘pub’   This turned out to be a lean-to conservatory on the back of their house, where his group of friends met regularly to share some lagers, and whatever else was on offer.  So having finally found where we were headed it was lagers all round.

After an hour or so meeting them all and sharing a convivial chat and some music we needed to book into Butlins and get some sort of takeaway for supper.

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Butlins in Bognor Regis is a huge site with beds for nearly 5000 people in various hotels and self-contained apartments.  We were in a large hotel called Waves, and once checked in we found our room.  Sally had selected a double room which had an integral room with bunk beds, so of course Sally and Tibbo had the bed, and I was happy with one of the bunks, though I did find it somewhat trying to have no window, and in fact by the third night begged to have the sliding doors open in the main room, to at least get some air.  But nature I like to sleep with the window open when possible unless it is really cold, which in large hotels it never is.

img_3891My bunk bed

img_3895The View from my ‘Window’

Having found our room Sally and Tibbo set out to find a takeaway, and it was another ‘first’ for me – Burger King!  So, well and truly full up and tired we all went to bed.

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As we had a late night and the others had consumed a fair amount of lager we were not out to breakfast early, but did actually make it before they closed.  I was a huge self service affair with several counters serving lots of different foods, though pretty well everyone seemed to be going for the ‘Full English’ and that seemed like a good option to me, though I had some sliced fruit to start off with.

Sally had a plate of fruit, cereal, a full English with toast and baked beans plus a filled omlette, and some pastries, croissants and jam to follow, and had I know we would not be eating till nearly eleven that evening I may well have eaten some more myself!

Then we went for a look round Bognor Regis, and a drive along the seafront, plus a coffee whilst we sat and watched the breakers on the pebbled shore before heading back to Butlins.  Apparently popular myth says that George V’s last words on his death bed were ‘Bugger Bognor’, when his physician suggested that as soon as he was well enough he should go to the royal residence there for some sea air.  And having sat looking out on the shelving, pebbled beach in the grey of a November morning I could see where he was coming from.

I don’t think I mentioned that the entertainment for the weekend was a 90’s revival, complete with a Spice Girls look-a-like band so we joined the general melee,  I have to say I was in my forties during their heyday, so it was maybe not as nostalgic for me as for Sally and Tibbo, who seemed to be enjoying it along with copious quantities of lager, not needing to worry about drink/driving as a taxi had been arranged for the party that evening.

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Knowing we were going to a nineties evening I had done my research as to what was ‘the thing’ then, and apparently Glow Sticks (something I had never heard of) were all the rage, so before we set out I had got online and purchased a box of one hundred.

Back at the hotel room we all got changed, and decorated with various glowsticks, though there were still plenty left to take along for the other birthday party guests.

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This time there were more lagers for most, and a little champagne for me while some of the others decked themselves out in the spare glowsticks.  Then yet another ‘first’  – a Jaegerbomb – I hope that is spelled correctly.  One for me (which I sipped and decided tasted not unlike a sweetish cough medicine) whilst the rest of the party had at least two or three each, which were of course downed in one gulp!

Then a couple of people carriers arrived to take us off to a pub where the birthday girl’s brother was the regular DJ, and a jolly evening was had by all.  Though as the time approached eleven I had to beg for someone to find me something to eat.  Sally came back with some Pizza, but the pub would not allow food to be bought in (somewhat strange as they didn’t provide any food themselves) so it was out into the rain to find a reasonably deep doorway, though the pizza was very welcome and tasty.

I think the taxis came to take us back at about one a.m. and I was taken back to the hotel and not with the others who were intent on more lager and more Jaegerbombs.

Next morning – unsurprisingly – Sally and Tibbo did not surface until late so we missed breakfast altogether and instead opted for a Sunday Roast lunch, though I think I probably did better justice to mine than they did to theirs.

Afterwards we drove over to ‘The Pub’ where some of the birthday guests had been up all night and were still drinking – though the Jaegerbombs had all gone and it was just lager.  After a few hours chatting and drinking it was back to Butlins to see what entertainment was on offer there, but being late on a Sunday most of the weekenders were packing or had already left, so a few lagers more for the others and a coffee for me, and it was back to bed.

Once again we were too late for breakfast the next morning so Sally and I followed Tibbo to his favourite service station which housed a MacDonalds – where yet another first for me – a ‘Big Mac’ and I also purchased a dozen Crispy Cremes to take back for everyone in the office.

A Long Overdue Update – And a Visit to a Psychic

As soon as I heard my GOOD NEWS I wanted to post it so everyone would know that at last things had taken a turn for the better,  But after my last cheerful and very positive post things went a bit downhill, and as a result I have not had the enthusiasm to get the blog up-to-date.  However I think I must be feeling a bit better again, as at long last I have done some more writing, though you may have to wait for all of it, and also for all the photos.

Some of the following posts might be a little out of order, but I have done my best.  The one below – A Visit to a Psychic should have been posted in September just after my first Chemo, but I hope you will understand and excuse me.

A Visit to a Psychic

I have a strong belief that there is more to this world than we are aware of, but somehow psychic readings are something I have stayed away from in the past: though many, many years ago my mother had a friend who gave readings under the name of Madame Frankaharti.   She told me I would have two children and spend seven years among only women – possibly in prison.  So far neither of these predictions have transpired so perhaps that is why I was more than a little dubious about visiting Sally’s favourite medium Diane Lazarus.

Although she is a Welsh lady and lives in Wales she also has a consulting rooms in Sutton Coldfield and that is where we made an appointment to visit her and have our fortunes read -if that is the correct way to describe it.

She is a lovely personality, warm, friendly and relaxing to be around.  After a few words of welcome, she explained that during the reading she would appear to be talking to the wall, and that once the reading was over she would have no memory of what had taken place so I would be provided with a recording, which I could take home and listen to.

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Being somewhat skeptical about the whole proceedings I decided to say as little as possible and see what she came up with.  She told me that my mother’s spirit had accompanied me into the room when I first arrived, and judging from the later comments let very few of the other spirits present get much of a word in, which does sound a fairly accurate assessment.  She was apparently happy and busy in the spirit world, and thoroughly enjoying herself there.

When I visited I had only just started my chemo, so still had some hair, which I had augmented with a pretty hairpiece, and also had all my eyebrows and eyelashes, so I was interested to see if Diane would pick up on my illness.

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Looking back I think she might have done so fairly quickly, but it must be difficult to know how to proceed in case your client is unaware of such illness.  How do you approach it?   One can’t just blurt out that someone has terminal cancer, especially if they haven’t been diagnosed.

So there was quite a lot of under the breath mutterings and she said she could see lots of blood tests, and that I should look to my health.  In the end I felt it was not fair to keep quiet, and explained the situation which made it easier for us both.

Diane did say that they were ‘not ready for me yet up there’ so that was a bit heartening.  Though when she asked if I had any specific questions and I wanted to know how long I might have the answer was pretty vague, if in fact there was an answer.  It was all a bit emotional for me, and I had managed to forget any handkerchiefs, plus Diane’s had been used up, but I had dried my tears before I left

Sally went in after me and seemed most satisfied with her reading – especially as Mark (Tibbo) got quite a few mentions – and we set off home.  There was a player in the car so we thought it would be interesting to replay the readings, starting with mine.  But try as I might it couldn’t be found.

We headed back to Sutton Coldfield thinking the disc was left at Diane’s, or dropped outside her rooms, or maybe on the road where we had stopped to turn around.  We retraced our journey, keeping our eyes peeled along the way in case it had been put on the roof of the car when we started out, and then flown off along the way.  But it was nowhere to be seen.

When Sally went in to ask Diane was delighted to see her – saying she had a gift for me and had been unsure how to get it to us.  It was a beautiful embroidered pouch, containing a few tissues she had found.  But it works even better as protection for my mobile phone.  I love it.  Thank you Diane.

Sadly we had not left the disc there, and thinking it lost we set off.  Only to find that when I rummaged in my handbag it had been tucked inside something else.

Serendipity  at work for sure!

Some Good News for a Change

So – back to the UK and to more chemotherapy.  I have to say that I am getting used to it, and think I have been lucky to escape most of the worst of the side-effects that come with it – though I do have some homeopathic tablets which certainly help alleviate the symptoms.

In general I seem to find that the day after the chemo I am pretty well okay, then start to experience some problems the following day.  Then I have a couple or three days of feeling rubbish, though not as bad as I feared.  Then (so far – thank you God)  the symptoms abate and I am reasonably okay through to the next lot.  All of which – I have to say – is far better than I imagined it would be.

I have now had my fourth of a course of six treatments and though I was scheduled for a scan after  the first three, for some reason though everything was booked up my scan was not until after the fourth treatment had been given.

Before each ‘infusion’ of chemicals they check your blood and also you get to see a doctor who asks how you are feeling, and what symptoms you have had since the last chemo – I think they then use this information to prescribe the next treatment.  Each time I have seen a different doctor – some very caring and sympathetic, and some rather cavalier.  This time I had a lovely young oriental doctor who was very caring and concerned.

I said how much better I had felt over the last few weeks and months.   I was not longer in pain, and had completely stopped the painkillers I had been on.  As well as talking to me he gave me a through external examination and declared he could no longer feel the largest of the secondary growths, which apparently had been easily palpable below my ribcage.

My fourth treatment went as well as the others had, and the scan was duly booked, though for Kidderminster rather than Worcester.

On the day I felt well enough to drive myself over, and having had this type of scan several times now knew what to expect – at least I thought I did.

The hospital was quite a small one, which was good, so only a short walk from the carpark to the reception, then only a short way along the corridors to the treatment area.  The staff, as the ones in the chemo ward in Worcester, were friendly and welcoming and after a little wait I was having the port fitted for dye which is injected during the scan.

As usual I was asked to lie down with my hands stretched out behind my head.  Now those who have followed my blog from the beginning might remember the entry entitled “My Wonky Arm”  ( http://www.theworldismylobster.org.uk/39-my-wonky-arm/4582336874  )

My right arm is not happy when stretched and turned, and of course that is exactly how it had to be on the scanner bed, but I tried not to think about this and lay there with my eyes closed.

Normally when the scan is running they talk to you through a loudspeaker in the machine, explaining what is about to happen and asking if you are okay, and every other time I have felt reasonably happy, and not had to reply, or maybe just grunt a ‘fine thanks’- but this time when they wanted to know if I was okay I replied ‘No – I need to move my arm’.  Now whether they just assume you are okay, or, if, as I have been told, I have a quiet voice, I am not sure, but they just carried on, and I just carried on lying there.  A bit of whizzing and whirring as the machine went backwards and forwards, and once more I was asked if I was okay, and once again I replied I needed to move my arm.  Once more no reply, and I stayed still.

Eventually the machine seemed to stop and the disembodied voice told my the scan was finished.  Now I am not keen on the scans, so have found the best way to tackle it is to keep my eyes firmly closed from the beginning to the end, so having been told it was over I simply thought – thank goodness for that and tried to bring my arm down, but for some reason I was not fully outside the machine, so my arm jammed halfway up and halfway down – just about the worst possible position.  The pain was excruciating, and I involuntarily yelled out.  I just couldn’t get my arm to straighten.  The three nurses in the control room rushed out, with me wailing ‘Get me out of here’

Eventually I could sit up and straighten my arm and the pain eased off, but I did feel sorry for the patients waiting outside as they must have heard my screaming and shouting “Get me out of here”  not conducive to a first experience of a scan.

But …… when I went to receive the results it was GOOD NEWS all the way!  The oncologist in charge saw me in person, and could hardly keep the smile off his face as he explained that of the four secondary growths around my abdomen three of them, including the largest had completely disappeared, and the remaining one could now be considered ‘inconsequential’.  Plus the primary problem involving the lining of my uterus had improved to such an extent that the surgeon in charge of my case had said she would consider operating in the new year after my final chemo treatment.  Something which had been off the cards since the very first diagnosis.

So GOOD NEWS all round.  Thank you God.