Friday, 30 December 2011

An early Christmas present and he only weighed 5lb 1 oz!

It is a few months since I last updated my blog and some tremendous events have occurred since then - well one tremendous event really.  I became a grandmother.  Sarah (and Tim) produced a tiny baby boy in the evening of December 19th.  I have never been renowned for my time keeping, but child birth was the one exception, I produced Sarah the day she was due.  Sarah henceforth has been punctual with everything - a little too punctual sometimes, and clearly child birth was going to be one of those times. At 36 weeks last Monday, just when I thought I had at least a month to finish all the baby sewing projects I had started, but not finished (due to too much holidaying and curtain making), Sarah phoned me to say she was possibly in labour.   Her husband, Tim, sent me a text at 3 in the afternoon to say that the contractions were coming every 5 minutes or so and Sarah and he were staying put at the hospital.  I stopped cleaning the car and scrubbing the kitchen floor (clearly I was doing the nesting instinct for Sarah. Before you give birth you have a surge of energy, it is said, and start cleaning things that you never did before,  When I asked Sarah if she was doing any unusual cleaning that morning, she said she was not and not likely to either thank-you.)  Strange how I felt the need then to clean the car and the house!  However all was abandoned after Tim's text.  Fabric, pattern and sewing machine were taken out in order to finish at least one item promised for the baby's birth.  The baby was born just after 8 in the evening and the baby sleeping bag was finished at 4 a.m. in the morning!!!  A very sleepy grandmother went to see a very sleepy new grandchild at Epsom General the following day to present said gift and do some serious bonding.

Proud grandparents or what?

I was quite unprepared for the amazing surge of emotion one gets on seeing and holding a child created by your own child.  Needless to say Ralph is adorable (I would say that wouldn't I.) Both David and I are really looking forward  to our grandparent duties when he has put on a bit more weight - Ralph not David, he's already done that.  We had to decide on names for ourselves - there are two grandparents called Dave which would have been confusing and I, of course, am far too young to be known as granny. So I decided on Nonna (Italian for granny) with Anita tacked on the end which makes Nonnanita.  However I keep forgetting that and slip into grandma, so I am renamed Gramanita which sounds a bit like a nutty cereal bar, but what the heck.  Just hope I am around long enough for him to pronounce my name anyway he can.  Dave is going to be Poppadave - not quite an Indian crisp served with curry, but close.  The other grandpa Dave is going to be Umpadave and Tim's mum is sensibly sticking to Grandma Sarah.  Do all families have this naming difficulty?
Baby Ralph a few days' old 

Well enough grandparent chatter - boring I know to those who aren't grandparents, the other good news this month was the results of the latest scans.  I was (and still am) getting lots more back pain again after having none for over a year.  I thought it was best to get another scan in case the bone metastasis had progressed again.  Thankfully my bones can be checked with a bone scan so I didn't need a CT scan.  I had the scan done at the beginning of December and I received the result on 23rd December, just in time for Christmas.  The scan showed absolutely no progression in the cancer.  So two good Christmas presents!  To get rid of the back ache before - when I was first diagnosed in June of last year -  I underwent radiotherapy on my back and ribs.  I don't know how it stops the pain, but it did and I expect the effect of that has now worn off so I might have to have more of that.

I have been grounded for a few months and have not planned any more holidays until next February or possibly March at least, but hope to travel to somewhere with a different culture  - Dave is keen to go orienteering in Wales.  I keep telling him that the cultural abnormalities of the Welsh was not what I meant when I suggested a different cultural experience.  Now where did I put that world adventures brochure ...........?

Happy New Year to everyone reading this.  Look forward to seeing lots of you in the new year.

(Gram)Anita xx

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

I'm still going strong!

Finally I have got back to blogging and many apologies to those that  thought the break in transmission was due to ill health.  It is amazing when you don't go to work any more how much more you tend to fit in to the day. How did I ever find time to go to work!

We have done rather a lot since the last blog, but first the health thing.  I finished the last series of chemo in July (over three months ago now) and have had monthly blood tests and reviews since then and more recently a full CT scan. The blood tests are to check on my liver function as well as everything else and two items on the list are important with regards to whether the secondaries are progressing in my liver.  One is the bilirubin level and the other something called Aspartate Transamin (AST).  Bilirubin should be less than 21 and AST should be between 4 and 37.  My bilirubin has always been normal, but AST has at times been over 130.  Immediately after my last chemo, all biochemistry results looked good and then two months later the dreaded AST had risen again.  I was told that if the next blood test showed a rise I would need another CT scan to see what was happening and possibly more chemo.  As this was in August and I was about to go to Italy on holiday, I didn't really want the news that I would need another dose of Chemo.  However the next blood test showed the AST level had dropped and was now close to normal again so the sword of Damocles was lifted thank goodness.  I was scheduled for the normal three monthly CT scan at the beginning of October with a review last week - hence leaving writing the blog till now.

CT scans are always a bit of an issue for me as one needs to drink 2 litres of water an hour before the Scan - bad enough for a middle aged bladder, but worse is to come.  A contrast is needed to enhance various bits of  the anatomy so that any abnormalities can be seen on the scan. The contrast is injected into the vein via a cannula - a thin tube threaded into the vein via  a syringe type set up.  Now if you have fat juicy veins that is not a problem, but if, like me, you have whimpy thin wriggly ones, it is a pain in the ass!  The poor nurses try hard to get the thing in with 'just a sharp scratch'. (How I wish they would still say 'just a little prick' like they used to so we could all have a good laugh.) However, despite many attempts either they can't find a vein where the tube stays in or - like the last time -  the tube stays in but when the contrast is flushed through the vein 'blows' and the liquid is then sub-cutaneous rather than venous - not to mention it bloody hurts! The result is that I have an 'unenhanced' scan which does not give as much information.  I was waiting therefore to hear that I would need another CT scan when I went for the review last week.

The long awaited review came around last Monday.  I was delighted to hear that the scan had enough information to show that the cancer is not spreading and showed in the words of my consultant 'stable disease compared to the previous scan'. Together with stable liver function tests, I am excused from any more treatment for at least three months - the next scan and review.  Also will be having Ultrasound scans rather than CT scans as venous access is so difficult with me - phew, what a relief.  Apparently for liver reviews ultrasound is fine.

So it is full speed ahead to the next holiday - We are going to Spain next Tuesday 1st November for a week. Becky's lovely boyfriend Tom has similarly lovely parents who have a property in the Mercia region of Spain (Calispari - I think it is called).  They are letting us use it for a week of chill-out and discovery.  The weather will be warmer than here - although in Kent here the sun is still shining.  This will be the fourth holiday for me since July - well need to pack a few in now.

We went to Oban on the West coast of Scotland at the end of July for about 10 days.  We were competing (yes you guessed it) in a multi-day orienteering event.  Six days and I managed to compete in all competitions and did not come last in any.  The last day nearly killed me though with almost 1,000 metre climb to get to the start.  Views were fantastic from the kiddy heights of Ardchattan overlooking Loch Etive.We did some lovely sight seeing whilst there and indulged grandly on local crab and scallops.  We were back for a week and then did the fund raising cycle I organised, Coast to Coast along Hadrian's Wall.  We cycled 174 miles in 4 days. and raised over £1,000 for Hospice in the Weald.  It was a wonderful experience - even more so on my 'speed assisted' bike with all the family for support. Sarah - oldest daughter, with her little bump at that time (now a much bigger bump), Tim her husband, Becky and Tom are all old hands at long distance cycling - they have all done various cycles across the breath (and length for Becky) of England before.  Dave and I have cycled across Umbria several years ago, but that was pre the last lot of disease and treatment, so I was a bit worried I would not keep up.  With my 'speed assisted' - okay electric then - bike I managed to keep going and even overtake the odd family member.  The Pennine watershed was a bit of a challenge though - big hills they have up there.  We stopped at B & B's en-route and visited Roman forts and artefacts - I will post some photos to prove we did it.  Thanks everyone for supporting the charity by donating through Just giving.  I think the site is still active for those that want to see the photos on the website.  The web address is

All six of us wearing Hospice T Shirts on Day 3 not far from Birdoswald  Roman Fort

A photocall at the highest point on the cycle, Day 3 Just after Bardon Mill

Can you see the bump - on Sarah not me!

Holiday in Sorento -  Me in wig
Holiday in Sorento - Me without wig

Bit of shopping in Sorento  - No wig, just hat.  It was sooo hot!
Another rather major event in the Kingdon calendar was the house move.  Reading back at the blogs, I can see that the last time I blogged we were due to move to Wadhurst.  We had seen a house we really liked in Brenchley, but lost it to higher bidders.  These unlucky people however, had to drop out as they had a problem with their chain, so we dropped the purchase at Wadhurst and bid again for the lovely house in Brenchley.  The offer was accepted and we moved in on July 21st.  For those that don't know it, our new address is Bournes, High Street, Brenchley, Kent TN12 7NQ and the phone number is 01892 724986.  We have only moved 2 miles west of our other house so it wasn't too much of an upheaval.  We love the house.  It is really bright, light and cheerful.  It is right in the centre of this lovely Kentish village.  I can now walk to the butchers, post office and general stores.  We have a lovely posh tea shop and deli in front of the house which also sells rather good wine and local brews.  We are a short walk from two very Kentish pubs and next door to a forge.  We have sort of down sized as the house is two story and not three and has one room less than the old house. The original structure of the house is very old.  It was created out of the wine and cheese store from the original shop - an excellent abode for wine and cheese lovers like us. We have spare rooms for quests so please come and visit.  I am trying to organise a house warming as soon as I can so hopefully many people reading this will come and visit us then.  If you are still reading this well done!  I have been typing for quite a while and have probably bored you all to tears so will sign off till my next blog.  Before I go I will add a few more pics from the last holiday -I went to Italy with friend Teresa as we both wanted to see the Roman ruins of Pompei and Herculaneum, not to mention the Island of Capri and the Amalfi Coast.  We packed it all in but it was a bit rushed and very warm there - 36 degrees at the beginning of the week. (We went in the first week of September).  I finally decided to go public with the new hairstyle - sort of trendy lesbian again and discarded the wig which was sooooooooo hot to wear in such heat.  Teresa was really good company.  She giggles as much as me and is similarly into a glass of wine and good retail therapy.  However as we are both past our prime getting out of the door for the day seems to take longer and longer - checking and rechecking that you have everything, then forgetting most of it anyway, seems to be the way of things now.  Now where is the button to press 'publish this post' ...........

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Continuation of Exciting news - i published before I finished!

I pressed publish as I was dozing off last night and hadn't quite finished so here is the rest of my blog!

As I was blogging .... I have done quite a few Saunders Mountain Marathons in the past,so was a bit disappointed I was not going along to this one but have accepted now that climbing mountains might be a bit too much at present.  There is always next year though!

I can now see that with lots of time off from chemo I will start to feel better and have just planned a coast to coast type cycle along Hadrian's way in mid August with all the family (husbands and partners), and am competing at a multi day event in Scotland (orienteering) in about 3 weeks time - shame I didn't get the chemo on time for this cycle as I would have felt better for the Scottish event.  The Hadrian's Wall cycle which starts in Ravenglass, Cumbria on the west coast and takes you 174 miles north and then east to Tyne and Wear should be fun.  It will be the last time we can do a family thing together before Sarah gets rather too rotund for cycling and then after January next year we will be needing a baby buggy on the back of her bike!

We are also moving house very shortly.  Reading back over my blogs I can see the last time I wrote we were buying the Wadhurst house with big garden and large, large water feature in the garden - house was nice too.  However since then the house we really wanted up the road in Brenchley came back onto the market and we bid for that one again and hopefully will be exchanging contracts any day now.  I love this area and Brenchley means all my friends will still be close by and can drop in any time.    We will be right in the middle of Brenchley which will be lovely and convenient.  Can't wait to move now.  These last few days before exchange are nail bitingly stressful!

So really exciting time ahead, new grandchild, new house, at least two holidays booked and more to plan and no more more chemo for a while now I hope.

See you all at the house warming!

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Exciting News!

I am going to be a grandma in January!  Can now reveal - although have known for a while that Sarah is pregnant.  Tim, her husband and Sarah wanted to wait until the end of the first trimester and the scan to announce it to all.  This has meant I have had to keep this exciting news to myself for a while,  So now I have finally been given permission to blog it.  I better get on and finish the cot quilt I started 28 years ago before Sarah was born.  I still have all the material cut out and appliquéd ready to sew on.  Also need some lessons on how to be a grandma or will it be nanny or gran or granny - Don't of course feel old enough to be any of those names.

I have now finally finished the chemo - more exciting news.  In my last blog I think I wrote that the plan was to do 8 sessions.  However, when my scan was assessed, it revealed that although the cancer metastases are stable and have not progressed, they have not shrunk so it is not worth putting me through the rigours of two more cycles as they are unlikely to shrink the cancer more.  However my liver function biochemistry looks much better.  By the end of week three I am feeling a lot better, so I am sure it has done some good.  

After the review two weeks ago  it was decided to go through with Chemo 6 and then finish.  When I arrived last Tuesday for my chemo and the bone acid infusion, only the latter was administered.  There was not doctor's note to say prescribe the docetaxel (chemo cycle 6 of the programme). Some sort of communication error had occurred The onclologist Dr Rema had told the pharmacy and the treatment clinic to cancel the next lot of chemo - she meant 7 and 8, but I was arriving last week for number 6.  In the end I had to go home and sort it out by ringing the oncologist.  She was most embarrassed she had not been more specific.  The letter she sent me was very specific, but the chemo nurses needed authorisation from the oncologist and she was in a different hospital.  I did get another appointment for this week.  So between cycles this time I have had 4 weeks respite and finally started feeling much better in week 4, did more walking and cycling than I have done for ages and at a more normal pace.  I was staying in Surrey near the Surrey Hills this weekend as the rest of the family had gone to do the Saunders Mountain Marathon in the lake district.  I have done quite a few of the Saunders Mountain Marathons in the past so

Friday, 3 June 2011

A New String to my bow, or is it Syringe to my bow?

Time to do an up date having now had 4 cycles of chemo.  I was thinking quite happily that I had passed the half way mark, only to find that I will be having 8, not 6 six cycles of this nasty stuff.  This means that I won't be finished until August but luckily we had not planned our big holiday until October.

Several of the side effects have caught up with me though.  One is the neuropathy one gets in the fingers and toes which is irreversible.  It is the sort of sensation you get when your hands or feet are cold and then start to thaw out.  Th next doses will have to be reduced so that I tolerate the drug better.

One of the other side effects is oedema in the leg.  I thought this would go away and was maybe only affecting  my leg because of the knee operation.  However, the swelling in my right leg this cycle did not go down and when I discussed this with the oncologist's registrar this week, he ordered an urgent ultrasound which I had today.  This revealed that I have a thrombosis in my calf (DVT) for which I have to have heparin injected daily.  Fortunately I can do this myself.  I was given another lesson in how to get the syringe in a suitable fatty bit of skin (I have lots of possible sites to inject!) and sent home with an enormous bag of syringes and a bright yellow sharps bin for the disposal of said articles.

The ultrasound procedure was slightly embarrassing as I am extremely ticklish around the knee area (not sure if I am the only one who has ticklish knees - David drives me mad trying to grab my knees to see the response.)  As the radiographer got closer to my knee, I took a sharp intake of breath.  she apologised as she thought she had hurt me but I then had to explain between giggles that my knees where extremely ticklish and I would try not to whack her hand away.
"Strange" she said "I haven't come across anyone with ticklish knees before,"  it's usually the armpits that make people giggle".  I have always known I was joined up wrongly.

I was advised not to do any competitive exercise for at least a fortnight.  Just as well then that I did the multi-day orienteering event last week-end in Shropshire. Although the swelling was bad then and according to the Registrar I was rather lucky that the exercise hadn't forced the blood clot towards my lungs. I was told to be very sensible for a week or more and only do gentle walking.  Advice which of course I will follow to the letter!

The oncologist is also planning a CT scan for me to check that the chemotherapy is reducing the metastases and to find out why I am still having breathing problems.  As it was impossible to get a cannula in to infuse the contrast fluid last time, I may have to have a pic line inserted this time.  This is a permanent 'port' inserted into a more major vein in the arm into which can be plugged a variety of tubes to push things in and get things out of one's body.  Sounds like fun as it is not done under anaesthetic.  The registrar assured me it was a painless procedure.  (Although that is what the dentist said when he was filing my teeth down this week!  I have had toothache to add to the various bits of my anatomy to cause problems).

The good news is that my biochemistry looks very good.  The result of blood tests show that all levels are now almost normal again.  So hopefully the chemo (horrid though it is) is doing the trick.

The house moving is going ahead nicely.  We have sold our house and found another one near Wadhurst.  If all goes according to plan we are hoping to exchange and complete before the end of July.  The new house has a fantastic garden complete with large pond, steps, decking and lots of interesting nooks and crannies.  The house has lots of querky bits too and needs hardly any changes.  I will have to start clearing the shed now.  I have been waiting to plant all the vegetable plants that have arrived from the seed company.  At present they are in big pots - so hopefully I may get them into the garden of the new house.  I am hoping lots of people will come and see us when we move and  plan a big house warming sometime in Autumn.

Until the next blog ................. Anita

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Sleep at last!

7.30!!!!  Wow managed to sleep from 1 am till 7.30 a.m..  Things are definitely getting better.  Have now finished the steriods, but was having dreadful problems with night cramps.  Apparently not part of chemo, but never had them before.  I am inpossible to sleep with, as during the night I jump out of bed Banshee style screaming and stamping the floor as the painful knot in my calf will not undo.  Clearly this is not conducive to Dave's beauty sleep and he has found refuge in the guest room upstairs where he says he can still hear my night time antics.

I read that night cramps are due to a lack of various minerals, potassium, calcium etc.  I already take calcium tablets as the treatment for the bone cancer - zoldonic acid takes a lot of the calcium out of the system and you have to take calcium tablets to put some back.  With a view to improving the potassium, I have taken to eating a lot of bananas - or rather bananas fried in butter and tossed in rum and sugar - yummy, but doesn't seem to help the night cramps.  In desperation therefore I asked the doctor for quinine tablets which are meant to help - At least I won't get malaria this summer!   I had the first tablet last night and like magic the cramps have gone.  Bliss.  I am a new woman.

House buying and selling is proving a wee bit troublesome.  We were out-bid on the house we wanted - gazzumping still goes on, although I suppose we didn't offer anywhere near the asking prize for the house that we wanted.  We also lowered the price of ours to ensure we secured a buyer in rented accommodation as the people who were going to buy our house were in a chain and the people at the bottom of the chain pulled out.
Now we have the buyers, we don't have a house to move to.  However tomorrow I am off again to look for a Dez Res with lovely garden, big kitchen and not a lick of paint needed.  Have about four to look at.  House hunting is a bit voyeuristic.  It is an insight into the different ways people live.  The house inhabiting public is made up of clutterists and minimalists I think with shades in between.  However, when trying to sell a house, one would assume that the clutterists clear up a bit.  Not at all and we have seen some very cluttered houses.  The idea I think is to look beyond what is in a house, but I am not very good at that.  I am definitely good at knowing which house I like though - usually within the first 5 minutes.  If I feel coming home to a house would not make me think - oh I am glad to be here, I don't even want to go on.  That discounts most non-period houses and houses on estates where there are lots of houses that look the same.  Hope I don't sound a snob - oh what the hell, I probably am.

I have finally organised our 30th Wedding  anniversary week-end. Last August Dave and I should have celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary.  However I was half way into my first lot of chemo and the momentous day was marked with a quick head shave (Dave decided my hair needed a bit of a tidy up) and a celebratory drink of tap water.  In discussion with the hospice physio I saw yesterday - we were working on improving my breathing and she is a native of Holland -  somehow we started talking about flowers, perhaps even having enough breath to smell flowers. She told me that this weekend is the famous Dutch Bloemencorso - flower festival which takes place between Noordwijk and Haarlem (not far from Amsterdam). One can watch the procession and then cycle along the coast to see the wonderful flowers in bloom.  We abandoned any pretence at a physio session, got on the computer and planned it all - her notes will surely mention 'suggest practice breathing techniques in practical session this week-end!'  So it is off to Holland via the car ferry from Harwich to Hook of Holland and two nights in posh hotel.  We can take my electric bike so I will be able to cycle as easily as the next person.  Who says all stops when you have chemo!

Sunday, 3 April 2011

The next step, Reviews, steroids and moving house.

Okay its 5 in the morning on Monday 4th April  I have been awake since 3 a.m.  Have now given up trying to get back to sleep and have a cup of Ovaltine by the side of the computer.

The reason for the insomnia is quite obvious.  I had to take 16 mg of steroids yesterday ready for 2nd chemo cycle today.  These wonderful little happy pills have helped enormously whilst feeling ill - giving me back my appetite and stopping pain.  The side effect is being slightly euphoric all the time - even more loquacious than I normally am and far too wakeful at night.  That however was on a maintenance dose of 2 mg a day - one tablet. Yesterday and for the next three days I have to take 8 tablets.  I am now bouncing off the walls!  I managed to get three and a half hours sleep by adding to this 16 mg of happy pills half a bottle of Baileys.  This did the trick from 11.30 p.m. till 3 a.m.

Lack of sleep is no big deal really.  I have never needed much as close friends will know.  Managed my teaching degree by doing most of work in the middle of the night.  Have always done out of hours teacher prep in the early hours of the morning and when oldest daughter was a baby (lovingly referred to as the baby-from-hell), rarely had more than two consecutive hours a night for about 2 years.  In fact if I add up my waking hours compared to rest of the population I have probably been awake for at least 10 more years that the rest of you.  So my limited shelf life isn't that bad really.  Means I have experienced more in my 57 years than some.

So now is the time to update blog before tomorrow's nasty dose of toxic drugs (docetaxel).

On Wednesday I had a review with the lovely Dr Rema, my oncologist.  She confirmed that this particular chemo regime is indeed not very nice to lots of people and my side effects were common - e.g. nasty stomach cramps and diarrhoea, breathlessness and extreme tiredness.  She was most impressed that I was still getting on the electric bike to to do 10 - 20 mile country trips in the second and third week.  The electric bike must have been the best thing I ever bought and has saved my sanity.  It is still wonderful seeing the lovely Kent countryside near us on a bike and I can now do hills with ease once I press the little button that says sport mode!  As it was Mother's day yesterday, had a wonderful cycle with aforementioned daughter (who now sleeps all through the night) and her husband.  We had a mother's day meal en route at the top of Kilndown Hill and then did rest of ride (about another 18 miles) to work off the 3 courses.  They had cycled down from London and so clocked up over 100k compared to my measly 35k.

Dr Rema also added that at the beginning of this nasty regime you have all the side effects of the toxic drugs and none of the benefits of feeling better.  By cycle three to four things should improve.

As things are going at present the first week is the worst.  By week two I am feeling better and by week three, whilst still breathless I can at least walk faster than a snail.  Sort of fit octogenarian style of walk.  So now can start planning diary again based on this knowledge.

The next item to add is that we are moving house for a variety of reasons.  Firstly we were always going to move anyway when I retired.  House is now too big for the two of us and because of knee problems and deterioration of health, this house is not  ideal.  We had thought (or rather David had) of moving out of Kent.  I have always loved this area and brought up the family in a wonderful environment which they are always happy to return to.  I get strong withdrawal symptoms if I don't see an oast or an orchard at least daily and love coming down the hill from Brenchley to see the fantastic views in the Teise valley.  However fore-bearing husband agreed that a big move away would be traumatic and we have been looking at houses in Tunbridge Wells, Wadhurst and the villages nearby.  Having seen at least 10 we have decided on a house in Brenchley.  It was the old Bournes Cheese and Wine store.  It is really in the centre of the village and just behind and up the hill a bit from the Bull - where I celebrated my 40th birthday just before the second lot of cancer. Hope to celebrate my 60th in the Bull again if possible.  They say you know within the first 5 minutes if you like a house.  This was so true of this house for me.  Not least because of its lovely light and airy set up inside, but also because it has a pretty south facing garden with views, a room downstairs just in case I have to sleep downstairs and it also has what I have always wanted a big Rayburn that I can cook on. Our one is more for decoration than use and just boosts the central heating in the winter.

Our house is now under offer and there are three buyers below our buyer all desperate to move.  I do hope the chain does not break and we can then be out of here and in the new house in May.  A big house warming will follow so watch this space.  They say moving is stressful, but so far so good and I am busy sorting out clothes and crocks.  Not worn or used for more than 2 years and it is straight into the recycling bags.   I have even seen David throwing away some nuts, bolts and nails!  Does he really need 4 hammers and various drills - some of which pre-date the first world war I am sure.

On top of moving I am also retiring on ill health grounds at the end of April now, rather than June.  The new house which is more expensive than this and even more expensive if you add the £30,000 it now costs to move will be partly funded by my retirement money.  Having worked for over 30 years  with only 2 years off when I had the girls, I suppose I have done my bit as a teacher of the deaf.  It has been a fantastic career and I am really happy that I chose to work with children with hearing problems.  I feel I have helped the odd family and child over time and worked with fantastic colleagues in Kent both in education and health.  I have always been a bit of a workaholic and I still can't get used to being retired, but love not having deadlines to meet and paperwork to do, but have to admit to still missing the children I used to work with.  Giving up the job means giving up the car and I am still waiting to find the correct replacement.  Car searching is proving to be great fun too - almost as good as buying clothes in size 10.

Dawn has arrived - it is now 6.15 a.m. If I put in my hearing aids no doubt I would hear the dawn chorus so time to stop blogging and get on with the book and the breakfast.  Next blog may even be in the new house.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Next Chemo and Portugual

Really glad I went to Portugal.  Had a fantastic time, lovely  countryside with lots to see.  Weather was good and competition we entered was really worth doing.  I managed to compete in all 5 events - and not even last. We stayed in very up-marked accommodation for a fraction of English prices.

So it was back to England and straight into Chemo on Monday.  Really long session as it was a new regime - Dotaxele for those that are interested.  This one is clearly affecting me more than the other one.  I feel dire at the minute, but at least the tummy ache has gone and I just have the trotts!!!  I am sure this will be short lived and by about day 5 I should surface again.

Spending time buying smaller underwear in Marks and Spencer - has to be a must do for the new Spring wardrobe and shopping for a car.  Have to give my lease car back as am retiring, so for the first time in years I am car shopping - mustn't only concentrate on colour and storage space, but it is tempting.  Have decided on a Picasso zara or some such name in desire  - sounds the ultimate.   I like small people carriers especially ones that don't have a bridge in the middle to get all bits under.  I am looking for an automatic as knee is problem and automatics must be less strain on knees.  Any advice greatly appreciated.  Also want stay clean seats - leather maybe!
So all is not doom and gloom.  Lots more holidays to look forward to so best get back to surfing where to go when this lot of chemo comes to an end in July.

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Update from latest Scan done on Monday

As I am always short of breath and because of flying to Portugal on Friday the Consultant wanted me to have a pulmonary scan to make sure there was not fluid on the lungs.  These scans require you to have a contrast fluid passed into your veins through a cannula.  Due to my tough wriggly veins they could not cannulate me and had to do the scan without contrast - had nine attempts and after an arm like a pin cushion and 3 different medics from nurse through to doctor had tried, they threw in the towel.

I got the result today. Even without the contrast they could tell there was no fluid on the lungs - good news so okay to travel and I am packing now!  Bad news cancer has spread to lungs - they could see that without contrast so now in liver, lungs and bones, but I am sure there are lots of bits that it hasn't reached yet - toes still seem okay! Anyway the chemo I had planned for Monday 14th March is the same whether it is in lungs or not so no change to treatment plan, just got to get back and get treatment started and hope it slows down the progression.   Having found out how much of a lump sum I am getting for my retirement on ill health grounds from KCC, I need a bit of time to spend it.  Thought I would include photo of family at birthday meal recently - Nice frock don't you think!

Saturday, 26 February 2011

Orienteering still - Just

Why is daughter always a few steps ahead. On a very cold day in January, Sarah thought she would share the joy of walking an Orienteering course. I seem to be putting in a bit more effort than her!
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Friday, 25 February 2011

Results of Endoscopy

The oncologist had referred me for a Gastro endoscopy because of stomach pain.  My symptoms sounded like an ulcer, especially as I have been on Diclofenic for so long. I had the procedure performed today 25th February 2011.

The procedure involves putting a small flexible camera into the stomach via the throat and oesophagus.  You can opt to have a sedative or just local aesthetic spray.  I opted for the latter as I would have had to stay in longer if I had a sedative.  It really is not a pleasant procedure so anyone reading this that has to have one, go for the sedative!

Anyway thankfully nothing nasty found and the likely cause for the painful stomach when I was on holiday and for a while after, was a stomach upset or other unknown, but not nasty cause.  They did find a very small sliding hiatus hernia, which is very common and is probably not the cause of any problems.  This usually gives symptoms of heartburn or reflux, which I don't have.  It is where a little bit of stomach at the top end pokes through the diaphragm,  The sheet of muscle which separates your tummy from your chest.  There is an opening in the diaphragm for the oesophagus to pass through.  If this opening is too wide, a bit of stomach can herniate through it as well, especially if there is excess pressure in the abdomen (e.g. when you are pregnant or overeat). I am definitely not pregnant, and at the moment not over eating, so not sure why I have one.

I came off Diclofenic for a while (the anti-inflammatory drug that helps arthritic pain in knee).  So now I have ask doctor if I can start taking it again, as clearly I have not got an ulcer and knee is killing me!!!

So that is one more test out of the way.  Next one on Monday to see why I am having such difficulty with breathing - then off to Portugal.  Watch this space.

Thursday, 17 February 2011

What not to do after you have a breast removed! Tales of a mountain Marathon.

I wrote this article in 1997 - I was between primaries and secondaries at the time!

It was in April of last year, I think, that Anne Jago left a message on our answering machine, asking if I would be interested in doing the Saunders Mountain Marathon.  Three weeks or so before this telephone message, I had undergone surgery for breast cancer.  This I thought might be a slight setback to mountain marathon training. However, when Anne told me she had entered the walkers class - a mere 28 kilometres - I jumped at the chance (albeit rather lopsidedly at the time).  Although I didn't give Anne a definite yes.

I was competing in orienteering events three weeks after surgery and feeling pretty pleased with myself.  I had won a few gold times and was beginning to think I ought to recommend mastectomy as an aid to orienteering! I was feeling pretty fit, when I became aware of a lump in my neck.  I had the lump for a few weeks and thought it was a swollen gland following a sore throat.  I had it investigated and awaited the results.  The consultant rang me at home and told me the lump was unfortunately malignant.  The cancer had metastasised and I would need to start chemotherapy.  It was during this conversation, that I decided to definitely compete in the Saunders Mountain marathon.  I could store up memories on the event and it would also give me something positive to focus on.

So it was, that at the beginning of May in 1996 I rang Anne to give her my decision.  Anne of course was delighted and asked me about my walking boots. Competitors in the Saunders are required to carry their tent and provisions for a two day event on their back. It is a mixture of good navigational skills and fitness.  The competitors have to find tiny markers (or flagged control sites) on the fells or mountains.  On the map these are marked as a circle and route choice is everything. When I told her I didn't own walking boots as I had never been long distance walking before, she was horrified. (I was a runner, walking would be a doddle). I had also never walked or ran carrying anything heavier than a map and a compass - a distinct drawback, felt Anne.  I convinced my friend that these were not insurmountable problems.  I would buy the necessary kit and we would have a bit of practice on some nearby fells! (We live in Kent so they are a bit thin on the ground here).

Several weeks later, having successfully scaled a footpath up the North Downs, me feet shod in 'compede' blister protection pads and spanking new state-of-the-art walking boots, carrying lightweight packs stuffed with baked bean cans, we both agreed the Saunders in the Lake district would be a piece of cake.

I will not bore the non-orienteering readers of my blog with the middle bit of this article but will skip to the end  - but if you are interested to read the full version, Let me know and I will send it as an attachment.

Anne, who is a mountain leader and frightened of nothing, (almost 10 years my senior and weighing half my weight) had warned me about a tricky bit she was planning for us that would save us lots of time and perhaps win us the race in our age class.

We were climbing along the ridge of Crinkle crags and in the distance we could see a steep gully. As we got closer, I could see the end of the gully was blocked with two enormous chock stones.  The sides of the gully looked sheer and steep.  I assumed we would go around the gully.  Anne had other ideas. As we approached, I knew this was the 'tricky bit' Anne had mentioned .  In fell walking circles it is known as the  'difficult step'.  This is a euphemism.  As I approached the chock stones, I thought perhaps I could squeeze through. No chance. To scale the side of the gully, a sheer wall of rock about 15 feet high, Anne helpfully suggested I just find the foot holes and pull myself up.  There were no foot holes or so I thought.  Anne had done this countless times before and assured me it was child's play.  Octogenarians do it regularly, she told me.  After an enormous amount of fuss on my part, Anne finally thought that perhaps we should go the long way round. Feeling a real heel for letting her down, I decided I would close my eyes and have a go at scaling the gully.  I found one foot hole, pulled myself up and tried to find another, I couldn't.  So I decided to use knees, hands and one surviving breast.  Anne confided to me later that this unconventional way of climbing was extremely dangerous. (The climbers's rule book states that you should always have at least one foot in contact with rock!)  Perhaps she had bullied me into doing something beyond my meagre skill-level.  However I did eventually get over the top and felt so exhilarated at my success, that I almost broke into a run.  Anne scaled the thing in about three seconds.  The sun came out, the view from the top of the gully was indescribable, and I really started enjoying myself.  .......... We were now on the home leg.

Control three to four involved a lot of descent on scree.  At one point early on the first day when I was climbing up on scree somebody shouted "below".  As my hearing in not very good, I looked up and shouted back "Pardon?"  For those that understand mountain jargon, "below" means: protect your head, curl into a ball and await a load of falling rock which is about to come your way!  The thing you most definitely don't do , is put your face up towards the avalanche and politely say 'pardon'  Having survived despite my lack of mountaineering knowledge on the previous day, I decided to try out my new found intelligence en-route to the next control.  As I was sliding down the scree, I dislodged some rocks which looked as if they might do some damage to the pair below us.  I shouted "below" and was amazed to see the couple run for cover, curl up and wait for the rocks to stop.  This gave us time to catch up with them! The last section to the final control and finish was all downhill and we really started to speed up again.  The control was on a bridge on the Great Langdale Beck.  As we punched the final control, we had a short distance to go to the finish.  The feeling of elation as we finished was almost tangible.

The Saunders Mountain Marathon had taken us 11 hours and 30 minutes to complete; 6 hours and 20 minutes on day one and 5 hours and 10 minutes on day two.  As we arrived back in the event area, exhausted, thirsty and hungry, we were supplied with a free meal and drinks.  Time to compare routes and look at the results.  As we expected the other ladies, who were at least 20 years our junior had beaten us to the finish, but we were second ladies out of 30 other female competitors in our class.  We were also second veterans in the class.  Not bad for a first attempt, even if I did just tag along behind my mentor most of the way.  I might even do it again!

I did indeed do it again several times.  The other most memorable time was about 5 weeks after my 10 hour breast reconstruction - had promised plastic surgeon I would not jeopardise his lovely work by running for at least 6 months!  He never did find out though! Read what partner Anne remembers of the next time we did a little jaunt across mountains together below:

I thought I would just remind you about the start of our second Saunders Mountain Marathon together. As I recall, 5 weeks prior to the event, you had undergone surgery to be given a new breast. Your consultant, aware of your anxiety to get back to running, had issued strict instructions that you were not to run competitively for 6 months.

Well, we were in the Lakes together when I received the news that my partner Emily could not take part in the event. I needed to find a new partner urgently. “Preposterous!” said David when it was first suggested that you take part. Needless to say you did just that – I think we agreed that we would not run much of the course.

The only real problem occurred at 6am before we had even started the event. We were in a dormitory of Grasmere youth hostel; it was dark. You announced that you had lost the artificial nipple you had been given; the breast reconstruction hadn’t run to a new nipple! You were uncharacteristically adamant that we couldn’t possibly go without the said nipple. You had an appointment with the consultant on the following Monday and he would suspect you hadn’t been following instructions if you turned up without it.

You cannot switch the light on in a youth hostel while people are still asleep, so there was nothing for it but to get down on our hands and knees in the dark and try and locate the missing nipple by feeling for it. It seemed to take ages to find; I felt that any minute somebody would wake up and ask us just what we were doing on the floor!

You did brilliantly to complete the 2 day event of 36 km over mountainous terrain, carrying a heavy rucksack and camping out over night. The consultant asked how you were recovering from the operation on the Monday morning. He was very pleased with your response – you told him that you had been doing some gentle walking!

Orienteering with breast Cancer! Some early articles I wrote.

This  article was written several years ago when I not quite completed my last mountain marathon.  I had been in remission for at least 10 years by then.  The event is called the OMM hence the title

A cOMMody of Errors       by Anita Kingdon.

Finding the right partner for the OMM can be as difficult as the thing itself.  David, (husband of long standing and much suffering) vowed never to do it with me again after the last time.  Apparently – and only according to him of course – I did nothing but disagree with every navigational decision he made, dragged my feet and complained about the steepness of the hills, the weight of my bag, and where we should pitch for the night.  None of it true of course.

As neither daughter was available to pair up with either of us – Sarah (oldest daughter) now has a life long OMM partner-cum-fiancée and amazingly traded her parents in for this younger, smarter version.  Youngest daughter was in Australia, doing adventurous things there.  As all previous none family partners, had found other partners, the choice was do it together or not at all.  

So differences set aside, we set about training hard.  Well rather I started training hard as I knew I would be much slower than David and wanted to show him just how fit I could be.  After several 10 mile runs (and some even staggering up hills with a pack full of canned beans) I thought myself ready for the challenge. 

We had booked in at a Travelodge in Carlisle and as both of us had Friday off, we travelled up late morning.  As daughter Sarah and future son-in-law were also doing the event, but travelling up later by train and also staying at the Travelodge, Dave agreed to pick them up from Carlisle station, just before midnight. 

We were all packed and sorted out before getting to sleep at about 1 a.m. setting the alarm for 5.15.

Error number 1:  if you want to do well in the OMM, get an early night.   

The journey to Dunisdeer, a small settlement at the foot of the Lowther Hills, we estimated would take an hour from Carlisle leaving at 6 in the morning.  We left at a quarter past 6 and the journey took one hour 20 minutes.

Error number 2:  over estimate your journey time when travelling down tiny country lanes and likely to be stuck behind tractor traffic. (Clearly there was a tractor convention on the morning of the OMM and all were going to a winter ploughing match at Dunisdeer!!!).

Arriving at the event centre with less than an hour to go before our start time – and knowing there was a half hour walk to the start, we parked and started running, doing up shoes and bags as we went.  Sarah and Tim had lots of time. They were starting half an hour after us.  There were two Portaloos in the car park field and Tim had managed to get to the front of the queue almost before I had done up my shoe laces.  I did think about pulling rank, (especially as I will soon be the Mother-in-Law), suggesting he should go to the back of the queue and I take his place, but he looked fairly desperate and I thought there would be lots more toilets near registration.

Error number 3:  always play the mother-in-law card if it means you get to your start on time.

The route to registration was longer than we thought.  We weren’t too worried.  Sport Ident was being used, so there would be a punching start – wouldn’t there?  Registration was in a farm building.  The farm yard held a small scattering of Portaloos, behind which stood an enormous line of people as far as the eye could see all doing pretend stretching and stepping exercises.  Clearly they had been there for ages and were getting somewhat desperate for a pee.  Knowing this was a 25 minute loo queue, we were keen to get our start times changed.  “Not a hope!” we were told by a dour lady at registration.

Error number 4:  do not have high fibre breakfast and several cups of tea before an OMM. 

I stood in said queue for 25 minutes before finally getting to the front.  By this time we were two minutes into race time.  Maybe we could run really fast to the start (up a great big hill) and only lose 20 minutes or so.  With this in mind I left the loo and started running towards David waiting across the farm yard looking somewhat angry.

Error number 5:  never run towards an angry husband. 

In my haste I slipped in the farm yard slurry (or was it just mud)   and was quickly covered from head to foot in brown gooey liquid.  Husband looked on, whilst kind and sympathetic OMMers came to my rescue, picking me up, brushing me down and wishing me well.  We covered the said half hour route in a mere 35 minutes arriving at the start puffing like a steam train, hot and sweaty, even in the cold dank morning weather.  We were greeted by a cheery start official who looked at my muddy attire and joked “what, no time to wash last year’s kit then?”   I assured him, it was my pre-race ritual – mud rolling – to improve my aerodynamics. 

Starting about 40 minutes late!!!!! we were handed the Lowther Hill map, day one course. Twenty-five controls were scattered over the map, many of them a long way from the start.  I suggested that perhaps we should not be too adventurous in our route choice, as we were starting so late.  David felt we should pretend we had started on time to see how many controls we would have visited in 6 hours anyway.  I begged to disagree, but felt I should save our first argument till out of earshot of officials.  

Error number 6:  always disagree with partner, if agreeing means you will come last! 

We chose a straight forward first control which involved an uphill path run above a stream valley, then dropping down to the stream to follow it to a bend just before its source.  The terrain was tussocky and boggy in parts so none too good for week ankles.  We had only just started and already I was feeling the training was paying dividends as I stormed up the hill.  Those that know me well know I have a bit of a hearing problem.  I never wear hearing aids when running as all I hear is my own heavy breathing – definitely a sound not worth listening to – so I completely missed various expletives and agonising cries from husband someway behind me.  When I finally turned around to check that he was keeping up with this super fit me, he was nowhere in sight…… until I looked down the hill.  Dave had fallen several feet downwards as his ankles seem to give way over tussocks. He had gone over on one ankle and carried on going over the hill side for some considerable distance.

Error number 7:   chose a partner with strong ankles. 

This problem was to dog us for the whole event, forcing us both to walk most of the way around the course.    Dave tried breaking into a run again, only to continually fall over (ankles resembling something like the bendy men from a favourite children’s television programme many years ago).   I also started having problems thinking that a blister plaster had worked its way off and was sticking painfully to the sole of my foot.  As time went on, the plaster had seemingly split into little pieces and was causing lots of little stabbing pains on my soles.  Whenever, I thought about undoing shoes and socks, the problem lessened and I could never quite be bothered to stop for a long time in the rain and fog. We soldiered bravely on attempting 8 more controls up hill and down dale.  Our progress and motivation continually hampered by Dave’s bendy ankles and my blister plaster problem.  We finally arrived some eighty two minutes after our allocated 6 hour time period, losing 164 points.  As we had only scored 155 points, we were in negative equity, achieving a grand total of 0 for day 1.   

We put on a brave face and pitched tent in a dryish area of an already rather crowed camping field.  Sarah and Tim were not back yet either – clearly they had a few problems as well.  Dave had used our flimsy very light weight and very tiny tent a year before, but had by now forgotten how to pitch it.

Error number 8:  always pitch your tent in favourable weather conditions at home, before attempting to put it up in force 10 gale situations. 

Finally the tent was pitched with me muttering something about the impossibility of either of us being able to sleep comfortably in a tent with a floor space the size of a gnome’s handkerchief.  Once inside the tent, Dave fell swiftly to sleep leaving me to collect water and make the evening meal. (So what’s new?).  Eventually I decided to take off soggy shoes and socks and investigate the problem of the blister plaster.  As I removed my socks I realised the cause of the stabbing pains 

Error number 9:  never, never wear stick-on fake toe nails to an OMM event. 

In an attempt to create a little glamour to my OMM outfit and to disguise the nasty bald toe nails (runners toenail has always been a bit of a problem with me) I had stuck on and decorated fake toenails from Superdrug – very glam and ideal for summer beach hols.  Not so sensible when they come unstuck and start sticking into the soles of your feet.  As I removed both socks 10 tiny red and perfectly formed fake toe nails came unstuck from the soles of my feet, bringing instant relief.  The blister plaster was still firmly in place!

After a six course meal, all cooked in one pot and somewhat exhausted, we both slept soundly through the night to awaken to tales of woe from other happy campers.  Tents had blown over in the very windy overnight conditions and some poor folk were forced to sleep in the Portaloos, brewing up warm drinks in the safety of the urinals!  Others had walked back to their cars (The overnight camp was not that far from where he had started, some four miles further down the road).  Clearly we could do the sleeping bit of the OMM together without major disasters.

Sarah and Tim had done reasonably well. Despite acquiring a few penalty points, they had covered much more ground than us and so did not have to start day two with nil points.

Our start for day two was some half hour again before Sarah and Tim.  At least this time we started on time – just.  We chose a first control – like many others that was steeply up for miles (well miles may be a slight exaggeration).  Dave continued to struggle, falling over every so often and refusing to pull me along on the bungie we brought but never used!  (A bungie is an elastic cord which you tie to the weaker member of the team, who is pulled along by the fittest of the team.  Although it doesn’t work terribly well, if one member of the team is always falling over.)  Needless to say Sarah and Tim caught us up before we reached the top.

Having bagged the first control and enjoying the sunshine – complete change of weather situation from day 1 which was miserable, windy and foggy – we decided just to do the minimum number of  controls, enjoy the walk and get back early for a Wilf’s lunch before it all ran out.  We in fact arrived back at the finish with almost two hours in hand and having gained only 85 points. 

Error number 10: ensure at least one member of the team has a little motivation left for day 2 to avoid coming last.

So that was the complete Omm experience over and done with for another year.  The results indicated that we were indeed somewhere down the points table, but at least we were not disqualified. As we packed up to leave , looking forward to the ten hour car journey in traffic queues along Britain’s best loved motorways on a sunny Sunday afternoon, we had the joy of knowing that only a tiny percentage of people in our age group are fit enough to spend a week-end on a Scottish mountain side in gale force winds, torrential rain and fog, carrying their tent and provisions on their back to spend a cramped night in a tiny tent, when they could be at home enjoying the extra hour in bed that the winter solstice brings at this time of year.  

Error number 11:  we’ve already started thinking about doing it again next year!                            

What has happened since last blog

Had to see specialist again for results of bone and ct scan.  The good news is that there is nothing new in the bones and no sign of ascites or peritoneal disease (tummy swelling).  Had various stomach problems so no more diclofenic for me for a while and smart little camera thing is going to be shoved down an orifice to check if any ulcers present (an upper GI endoscopy) - Now been referred to a gastrologist.

New scan being organised to check no problems in lungs before I fly off to Portugal for a week as I am having some difficulty breathing when I try and climb mountains (well just the stairs actually).

Chemo I am having next time is called Docetaxel. May affect my immune system more than the last, so only allowed to mix with ultra healthy people during the beginning of the cycles.  Had to cancel the little planned Italian week with Teresa and have rescheduled for later in the year.

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Welcome to my Blog

I decided to write a blog - not to show my brilliant make-over photo to the world - just so people could keep up with what is happening with me at the moment.  As many of you know, I recently was diagnosed with terminal cancer, and all my wonderful friends often ask, following a scan or treatment, what is happening now.  So to avoid my husband hearing the same phone conversation so many times (as most of you know I can talk for England!) my clever daughters suggested that I started a blog.  So here it is.