Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Last chemo session

Tomorrow I will receive my 6th   and last bout of chemotherapy. When I went to have my blood count checked yesterday, I told the phlebotomist it was in preparation for my last chemo session.

He said “ You hope.”

I said, “No, I know.”

He said, “So you’re in remission are you ? “

I said, “’s gone”.

I added in my head....and “It’s not coming back.”
( The nurse in the above photo is not is daughter Jess, on the Emmerdale set, where she had a part as an extra, playing a nurse, earlier this week)

I know I am very lucky that my surgery was able to remove my cancer, but I also know, because of the strain and the stage it was at, that there is a chance it might come back. I have not wanted to know any statistical evidence of % rates of’s either 100%, or 0% depending on whether it comes back or not. I am determined to be in the will not return. Of course, if it does... I shall deal with that, but I don’t need to even think about that now.

Today, I am cancer free.

The radiotherapy treatment starts exactly 20 days after the last chemo. It is a high dosage braccytherapy treatment, more specifically focussed than the external beam kind, and involves 6 treatments, from Wednesday to Wednesday, with a break at the weekend. This means that in 3 weeks 6 days time all the risk reduction treatment will be over, and Mark and I will get our lives back again.

We have been on hold. Everything has revolved around me, my cancer, my treatment, the state of my immune system, what I have fancied to eat, and how I have been feeling. I cannot wait to merge into the background, pay attention to other people’s priorities, and enjoy watching and actively participating in the lives of my family and friends again.

Family and friends and blogging friends have been so supportive since that strange day just a week after Jodie’s wedding, when it seemed that my world was completely unravelling. I can never thank people enough for how cared for they have made me feel. Mark is surely a saint. I should write to the Pope immediately and get the process started.

I’m sure I will blog about my recovery again, and how the infamous “ cancer journey” has affected my life.....but for the time being....

Today I am cancer free,

and normal life is about to be resumed.
Welcome back to normal life.......according to Clark.

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Daft as a brush in Liverpool

In my last feeling good window, we went to France for a week. This time, we spent a few days in Liverpool, to coincide with daughter Jess’s last performance of her drama degree course. It seems ridiculous that her 3 years as a drama student only has a couple of months left to run. Leaving her at her halls of residence for the first time feels like about 6 months ago, not 3 years.
Jess, in her last ever play at uni..... "We Dark Horses"....she played a bank robber, here being threatened by her co bank robber.....who she eventually shoots dead.

 Jess’s ambition has been to be a drama student, and she is heartbroken that it is nearly over. However, as well as all those “transferable skills” she has developed.....( let’s not kid ourselves, a drama degree was pretty unlikely to lead to a job !) .....she has made some wonderful friends, she has come to love Liverpool with a passion, she has had amazing fun, she has learned a great deal about theatre, drama, politics, the world and society,and of course, she has grown up. She was a pretty mature 19 year old when we dropped her off there 3 years ago, having done a fair bit of independent travelling and working in a gap year after A levels. Now, she is nearly 22, daft as a brush sometimes, but with a sensible head on her, she appreciates the advantages she has in life, cares about other people and is looking forward to the next stage in her life, training to be a teacher.( Albeit with considerable regret that she can’t be a drama student for a few more years).

We combined seeing her performance with some sight seeing. Liverpool is a very exciting city. Our hotel was on Hope St. which connects the 2 cathedrals. I love the way they look at each other, sort of anchoring the city, so different, and seeming to respect each other’s magnificence, but maintaining their distance.

We went to the Catholic cathedral, having spent time at the Anglican one last time we were in Liverpool. I love the colours, the light,  and the complete turnabout in design from the  Lutyen’s cathedral originally planned for the site.

We went to a Glam rock exhibition at the Tate, on the dramatic Albert Docks.
Albert Dock, the Liverpool Tate Gallery on the far left.
We spent time discussing whether we had realised that we had lived through such an important cultural phenomenon,  as we spent our late teen age and early 20s during the 70s. Suddenly Celia Birtwell, Ossie Clark, David Bowie, Andy Warhol, the New York art scene, attitudes towards gender, and the final UK legalisation of homosexuality all linked together. The make up and clothes I wore and the music I listened to in those far off days felt far more significant than they had seemed at the time.
The Walker Gallery
 We went to the Walker Art Gallery and saw an impressive collection of 7 screen prints disseminated from 7 days of following Obama’s first presidential campaign.
An unexpected display at the entrance to the Walker Art gallery
 We saw a small collection of fabulous clothes collected by a Liverpool doctor’s wife in the first half of the 20th century. Some of the items were sheer fabulous Hollywood glamour, but were apparently never worn by the shopaholic woman, as they were considered far too glamorous for someone in her position. My heart went out to her... imagining her showing her husband her latest purchase, only to be told...."Well you’re not wearing that out in public".

One of the best bits of Liverpool on this trip was the liveliness of the coffee shops and tea shops where we stopped for frequent refreshments. Best of all was the cafe connected to the Catholic cathedral. It was buzzing when we entered. The food was good, the place was heaving with people chatting, and laughing. The atmosphere was amazing. Jess tells me that it is basically because people in Liverpool love talking to each other ! It is such a lively and sociable place.
view from our hotel window
The weather made the trip quite interesting too. It was very cold the whole time we were there... but the view from our hotel window changed a few times during our stay.

Our next visit to this lovely city will be for Jess’s graduation in July. We’ve booked the same hotel and are planning to spend another couple of days enjoying time here. No wonder Jess loves it so much.
 I don’t think there’s much chance of getting her to live  back in Yorkshire for a while yet !

Jess, with her daft as a brush head on, pointing to some of the photos of her most recent performances.


Monday, 4 March 2013

The week that just flew by.

We did worry it might snow all week
We are so pleased we made the decision to go to Caunes for a week before my next chemo session. We were worried about the snow forecast, about whether the house would take ages to warm up after 6 months of being locked up, whether my low immunity would cause any problems and whether the journey would just be too much for me.

There were no problems.... even though the flight was rerouted and we had to land in Perpignan instead of Carcassonne due to poor visibility and ferocious winds. The infamous Ryanair came up with the goods yet again, and we stepped off the plane, straight onto a coach which took us back to Carcassonne to our awaiting taxi.

The house was very warm... a friend had put the heating on a couple of days earlier....everything worked, and the freezer was full.....everything was wonderful.
It was cold...but the house was warm....and so is the coat. This is me, sitting on my dad's bench...known as "Mike's bench" grinning away, so pleased to be back.
On Sunday, when we arrived, it was very cold, the wind howled and the snow arrived. On Monday, it snowed most of the day, so we stayed in, did a few “house jobs” ...well Mark did, and I supervised.
1st picture shows Mark, drilling ....under my instructions, to hang a new tapestry....not French, bought last week in Hebden Bridge.
On Tuesday, the sun came out. It was still cold, but just seeing those blue skies was very uplifting. We wandered around the garden, checking out the work that has been done since we were last here. Dead trees ( killed in last year’s freeze) have been removed, a pergola and new decking have been built, a new terrace at the back of the house has been started, new wide paths created in various parts of the garden  and some very serious pruning and clearing has been done.
On Wednesday, the weather was glorious. Blue skies, a little warmer, and bright bright sunshine. We headed off for Castelnaudary, via Saissac  and then onto Mirepoix. The Black Mountains were spectacular, and the snow which had mostly melted in Caunes, was beautiful. We stopped to look at castles, churches, war memorials, panoramic views, buzzards, for coffee and for lunch......all the things we love to do when out for a mooch around.
Memorial to war widows and orphans, Castelnaudary



On Thursday we went to the Carcassonne depot du vente and bought a corner cupboard for the living room....partly as somewhere to hide the TV’s set top boxes, but also because we liked it and thought it fitted well with our other furniture.
 We also saw a pretty nouveau style bureau, that I wondered about....but left in the shop. Needless to say, we returned later....and bought that too.

On Friday, the skies were greyer, but the temperature was rising. Mark played golf, and I played with the house... made some marmalade ( no Seville oranges unfortunately...but I managed to make it a little tangy by adding more lemon), arranged various books and ornaments in and on the new pieces of furniture, read...and generally lazed around.
In the evening we had arranged to call in on a friend made when I was in Caunes, alone, last summer. I had gone to one of the village concerts, planning to miss the arranged meal, as I was on my own and felt a bit strange, not knowing anyone. However, when I got there, the meal hadn’t even started, and one of the organisers just put me on a table with some other English speakers. Erin was one of them ! Erin has lived in France for many years and in Caunes for the last 5 or 6. We have been in touch since I met her that evening last summer, and she has phoned and e-mailed and been very supportive through my illness. So, it was lovely to see her again, and to meet John, in her beautiful home in Caunes, where her impressive and dramatic art work adorns the walls, and her Irish American French hospitality was delightful.

During the week we ate at our favourite restaurant in the village twice...the only place open at this time of year.....and we wandered through the streets to see if anything had changed since we were last there.... it hasn’t.
Then on Saturday, our last day, we went to Limoux, which has to be one of my favourite spots in the whole region. Whenever we go there, something is going on. I have blogged about it a couple of times in the past. This visit was just as fascinating. The Limoux Carneval was still on... it takes place every weekend from January through to the end of March. It is a very odd celebration. Our taxi driver ( we have the same on every time we go to and from the airport... so we know him pretty well by now ) told us that no one really understands is as much a mystery to locals as it is to us. Last year there were priestly castrations observed, this year, nothing quite so dramatic....laughing cows, and sparkling wine drinking children, hippies, soldiers , firemen, farmers and several competing brass bands. This year we sat, in glorious sunshine, and ate lunch in the square, whilst it all went on around us.

Then, suddenly, our week was over. It was a huge success, and any worries we had about the trip vanished more or less as soon as we arrived. It has done us both so much good. Now, I can’t wait for my treatment to be over, so we can get back there for a few months, rather than a few days.