Sunday, 28 April 2013

Eyelash glue sounds messy to me.



Having finally finished all my “post cancer surgery follow up risk reduction treatment”....5 months of chemotherapy and 6 sessions of bracytherapy radiotherapy....I am trying to get back to life without hospital appointments dominating everything.
I expected to feel elated as I approached the last few sessions of radiotherapy, and was surprised that I didn’t. In fact, I felt quite low, which certainly surprised me. When I finished the chemo, I was delighted, and practically cartwheeled out of the hospital after my last session. Everyone was asking me how good I felt as the last treatment approached. I sort of just agreed with everyone, that it was good to be seeing the end of the tunnel, and various other clich├ęs . I didn’t disagree...it did feel good, but not as wonderful as I had expected.

I realised quite quickly that it was because ending the treatment that would hopefully keep me cancer free for ever was actually quite scary. I felt as if I wanted some treatment to carry on...just to make sure !
I also realised that having been the focus of so much medical attention, so many consultants, registrars, SHOs, specialist nurses, gynaey nurses, oncology nurses, chemo specialists, radiographers, radiologists, phlebotomists, auxiliary nurses, secretaries, and volunteer tea ladies.....I was going to be on my own.

I know this is not really the case. I’m not on my own... apart from incredible family and friends, the follow up support from the NHS is going to be there for me. In fact I have an appointment with the chemo consultant next week...to start the monitoring regime. I have also spoken to my specialist nurse who is putting me in touch with a Macmillan nurse who is a counsellor, to help me with the next stage.....recovery.
I am not back to “normal” yet.

I have no hair, which I hate. The final straw was when my eyelashes and eyebrows, which lasted well into the 4th chemo session, fell out. Drawing my eyes onto my face takes a good 20 minutes every day . I considered buying some false eyelashes this week, but decided against, as I know I would make a dreadful mess of fixing them on.
I was pleased to finally get back into my size 12 jeans 2 weeks ago...but the radiotherapy has meant I have swollen up a bit again....so the jeans are back in the wardrobe for another couple of weeks.

My feet are very numb....I am sure I am walking in an odd duck like flat footed way. I have had to buy a pair of what I think of as “very old lady shoes”. I used to wear outrageously high heels, but life as an auxiliary nurse and life on the ward taught me about sensible shoes.....but there is sensible......and there are very old lady shoes......I do not like them.
I am very tired, although I don’t mind this too much, it is so much better than being so wired due to the steroids taken to alleviate the chemo effects. However, having more energy would be good.

I have very little strength....walking up very minor hills turns my legs to jelly, and I can’t carry anything heavier than a bag with a phone, a purse and a packet of tissues.
However.......since I finished the radiotherapy, 3 days ago.....only 3 days ago...... I have :

celebrated by going out to dinner with Mark, which included drinking 2 glasses of wine;
sitting in our local, The Stubbings Wharf, drinking my first of 2 glasses of wine

celebrated by visiting the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, for a walk and a lovely lunch overlooking the fabulous Henry Moores and Barbara Hepworths and the gorgeous Yorkshire landscape;


visited a friend in Huddersfield, on my own, in my own car, for a few hours, without phoning Mark to let him know I was ok;

been for a couple of drives, checking out the new borns in various nearby fields;
 
tidied the garden;
planned a few visits to friends for next week.....and, best of all,

Mark booked flights to France, for a 7 week visit to our house in Caunes.....with no Drs or hospital visits to think about. We go in 2 weeks time.
us, last summer in Caunes....can't wait to be back
So, on balance.........it feels amazing.
Thank you to everyone who has helped me through the last 6 months. Blogging friends have given me so much encouragement. I have made new friends due to the cancer connexion, and have found so much support from people all over the world who have entered into dialogue with me, whether I have been blogging about the cancer journey, or blogging about avoiding it. I am now looking forward to getting back to following everyone’s posts properly, exploring more blogs and to blogging about a really normal life again, in Caunes and in Yorkshire.
Gorgeous flowers,bought by Mark, to help celebrate the end of this part of the journey
 

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Film stars and toilets

Deborah Williamson's depiction of Kohler......all the buildings are those she remembered from her youth....most are still there.....just not quite like this. You cannot see Lake Michigan or the Sheboygan lighthouse from Kohler.

One of my favourite places in the world is a village called Kohler. It is famous for engines and bathrooms.....and toilets. It is also the home of what was once, and probably still is, Wisconsin’s only 5 star hotel......and these things are all connected.
The Kohler Factory...office building.
 
It was a model village, built to provide homes for the workers in the Kohler factory. What is now the beautiful American Club 5 star hotel was originally a boarding house for immigrant workers in the factory.
Darlyn, longtime Kohler resident, sitting on the wall outside the 5 star American Club.
 The factory began in 1873, on a site about 4 miles east of Sheboygan which is on the shores of Lake Michigan. John Michael Kohler founded the Kohler Company in what was then a small farming hamlet known as Riverside. ( It was in a bend of the Sheboygan River ). The factory made engine driven generators and later became plumbing producers. Descendents of J.M.Kohler built up the factory and decided to build the village.
 
By far, my favourite house in Kohler....where Darlyn lived her whole life, from 1933 until 2011
The town grew as houses for the factory workers were built. By 1925, the first few streets had been completed, with 156 houses. It was modelled on the idea of an English village. Some of the houses were brick, and despite me not recognising them as such, I was informed they were supposed to look like English houses. The school, the post office, the police station, the fire station, a theatre, a park, a bandstand, and various denomination of churches were all built surrounding the growing factory complex, where engines and generators were designed and assembled.These buildings can all be seen in the Deborah Williamson print at the start of this post.

By the 1980s the luxury element of the new subdivisions that were being developed meant that the outskirts became popular with the already wealthy. Huge mansion type buildings were developed, around small natural and some man made lakes. A small upmarket mall was built, replacing the few family run shops, an elegant sports centre opened, with a floating restaurant on a lake, with a pretty artificial beach for sports centre members to enjoy.( The floating restaurant has long gone.... I used to love it ).

Bathroom fittings....and very high quality bathroom fittings were designed and built in Kohler. Now....in hotels and public buildings, offices and in homes, in many US cities, and some European cities.....check the name printed in the toilet..... A large percentage of them will have Kohler Co. printed on them. I always feel at home if the bathroom fittings are Kohler !

a Kohler sink at the JMKohler Arts centre......an interesting piece !
The Kohler family ran the company....and the village....although, of course, there is a village board. The family support and sponsor art, theatre, music, as well as continuing to run the factory. There is an excellent arts centre in Sheboygan, called the John Michael Kohler Arts centre, and the Kohler Memorial Theatre thrives in Kohler itself.

The Kohler-Andrae State park is nearby...along the coast of lake Michigan and River Wildlife is an area of 800 acres of wilderness that the company developed for the village. The Kohler family is all encompassing. It is impossible to live in the area, or even just visit the area without being aware of the Kohler family.

me....with very orange hair.....on the beach at the Kohler-Andrae state park.
I think my view of it all is as complicated as my view of 19th century British industrial philanthropy....some great things have been provided.....including amazing wealth for the Kohlers.

In the 50s there was a strike at the factory ( which of course, was not unionised at the time ). I have been told stories of splits in families, which still survive today, stemming from the strike....brothers who never spoke to each other again, as well as sons and fathers who became bitter enemies.

Herb Kohler Jnr., great grandson of J.M.K. has featured in my life. My great friend Darlyn, who lived in one of those original Kohler homes all her life, had regular run ins with him, and the village board, as they tried to do things of which she did not approve. Darlyn’s father had worked at the factory, and had bought one of the early houses to be built in the village..... at the factory end of School Street.

Darlyn, indicating that she was in residence.
A few years ago Herb provided some funding for the Kevin Costner film “ Open Range” . The film had its world premiere in Sheboygan ( it’s pretty unlikely that anything like that will ever happen again in Sheboygan’s 8th St. picture house ).
Herb Kohler jnr.
 Hollywood came to town that weekend. Herb Kohler hosted a reception in one of the stunning Kohler owned hotel areas ( it wasn’t actually at the American Club, but at a sort of Gentleman’s Club affair.... I don’t remember the name... I just know that to stay there cost an arm and a leg). Interestingly, Herb was given a bit part in the film...he was a bar tender. Clearly, putting up the money for the film gave him some interesting, and not just financial, rewards.

 
Darlyn bought Mark and I tickets to attend this reception.( I think they were $200 each..... and this must be at least 15 years ago, I was outraged at the outlay she had made, but she wanted us to have the experience, and she loved showing off “her village” ). Darlyn arranged for us to be picked up from her house in a horse drawn carriage, to be taken to said reception. I remember the carriage being directed to the entrance of the stunning residence, whilst guests who had driven their own cars, were directed to a car park and then ferried to the entrance in golf buggies.

As our carriage drew up at the house, photographers appeared, and people stared at us.... not knowing who on earth we were..... just that we were important to have arrived in better style that Kevin Costner himself.

me looking ridiculously adoringly at Kevin Costner





It was quite a night, and Kevin Costner was gorgeous.

Mark and Kevin Costner discussing something very important

Kohler is lovely. However, it has become a rich person’s playground. Golf courses, luxury spa developments, and of course the overpowering presence of the American Club itself dominates the “village”.

For me, its loveliness was sitting on Darlyn’s front porch, sipping a glass of wine with her, as we put the world to rights..... and that included the Kohlers.
A very young Jess, laughing at Darlyn and I, who were gossiping and drinking wine on the front porch.