Thursday, 4 October 2012

New Granny - Just Running in

Thought I better do another blog as I have just had another review at the oncology clinic and I know lots of friends are too polite to ask how things are going. So here is an update.

Cancer-wiser things are okay .  I am, as they say, in 'stable disease mode'.  However my back problems are far worse.  I have a bony spur - due to arthritis - sticking into my sciatic nerve radiating from my spine which is causing me no end of pain most of the time.  I have now been referred to Kings College Hospital for a surgical review.  Hopefully the surgeon will agree to operate and the spur will be removed.  Thankfully it is not a lesion (metastatic change), just a result of calcification due to spinal arthritis.  I have all the luck with my chosen diseases!

Still getting around a bit though and on Monday I am taking Bex - youngest daughter, on a cycling holiday in Italy.  I did the same with Sarah before she got married.  As Bex and her boyfriend are buying a house and moving in together, I best get this last holiday with single daughter and mum in.  We are cycling about 50 K per day south from Bolzano to Trento, then to Lake Garda, Then east to Verona, then to Vincenze and finally Padova.  I have it all organised now.  Booked hotels, flights, bikes etc.  It is not a tour but something I planned looking at the itinerary of an organised tour.  We therefore have to carry our own luggage.... I have to get everything into two small bike panniers.  No jewellery, minimal make-up and only one or two changes of clothes.  That is the harder bit for me.  The cycling is a breeze compared to trying to pack minimally! 

I did my first granny sitting for Sarah on Tuesday - she has started back at work for three days a week and we are child minding one day every fortnight alternating with Tim's parents.  So not too onerous.  Tuesday however, Dave was working so I did the day alone.  All was going well until I needed to take him out.  I, as instructed, had booked an appointment at the local GP practice to have Ralph checked over (he has had a cough and cold for a long time).  I arranged the appointment whilst he was down for a short nap,  Started clearing breakfast things, pegging washing etc, etc.  Then thought best set up the pram system (chassis and attachments are separate).  I managed to get the push chair bit down from its hook - hung at a height of about 6 foot on the hall wall) both son-in-law and daughter are virtual Amazonians in height, compared to me, who stands 5 foot 2 in my stockinged feet!  After leaping up several times, balancing on the first stair and using a long handled broom, I managed to pull the hook out of the wall and get the push chair to come crashing down on my head.  That achieved I searched around for the chassis  (pushchair/prams are all modular systems now).  The said object was nowhere to be seen.  It is usually kept in the boot of daughter's car.  I thought I better check there.  Yes I could see it in the boot, but you guessed, it was locked.  I thought they would have a spare key in the house (this assumption was based on the fact that the previous week Sarah had managed to close the car to go back in the house, having securely attached her son to the car seat, only to find when she returned a few seconds later to the car, that she had locked both her son and her keys in the car.  After calling her husband back from London - he had just started his new job  the previous day, the fretful Ralph was finally released over an hour later and a not very happy husband returned to work.  After such an incident, I felt sure that domestic bliss would have been improved by a spare car key kept securely at home.)  I rang Sarah's mobile hoping that she wasn't in the middle of a session (she is a speech and language therapist working in paediatrics). The phone starting ringing as a dial tone and simultaneously ringing loud and clear in the sitting room. Sarah had left her mobile phone at home!  So no way of getting a pushchair sorted and no way of ringing her until I found out her phone number.  I knew she was working quite close and I could perhaps find out where the spare key was kept.  By this time Young Ralph had woken up.  I scooped him up and decided to ring Tim.  Tim was in a meeting but whispered ...there is no spare key!  He promised to ring back when his meeting finished.  I told him no probs. - (displaying more confidence than I felt)  I would sort it - you like to look in command with your son-in-law.  I had two options.  Drive to the  doctor's surgery- not too far away, or sort out how to put on the very complicated baby carrier and walk to the surgery.  As my back is bad, I opted for the former.  I got Ralph into the car seat, he was all smiles and didn't look as if he needed to go to the Doctor's at this point.  Fortunately Sarah had left the car seat in the house.  Whilst Ralph was in the car seat, I thought I would work out how to put the baby carrier on.  It is a mass of canvas, straps, slots and buckles.  I managed to work it all out and preceded to remove it.  This proved impossible.  I then had to get Ralph into the car with carrier strapped to my body - already sweating and hot. As I was driving into the surgery car park - which was of course full, Tim rang me back.  I pulled in answered the phone and my first question was how to remove the carrier.  He was able to explain with scientific accuracy (he is a scientist).  I removed the carrier and he said he would text information about Sarah's workplace to me.  I then had to reverse back into another section of car park - if I continued I would have to go around the one way system, so I annoyed the odd person in the car park by sticking to the one way system but reversing having seen a space I could get into.  Grandmother on mission was not going to let a few angry patients in the car park get in her way.  By this time and with only 3 minutes to go to the planned appointment, Ralph was asleep in his car seat.  There was nothing for it, but to take the car seat out of the car and sort of drag it along the floor to the surgery on the other side of the car park.  Ralph in his seat is too heavy for me to carry.  I arrived at the receptionists desk on time, but rather sweaty and flustered looking.  She took one look at me dragging the car seat along the waiting room floor and said 

"Err forgive me for mentioning this, but don't know if you are aware,  those things come with a bottom bit that turns them into prams - bit different from our day.  It is much easier with the bottom bit attached."

So there you have it.  Perfect day with grandson.  Ralph turned out to have a slight fever and probably viral ear infection. Calpol and or infant Nurofen would do the trick.  Wonderful friend Teresa, who lives in Dorking not far from Ewell, was free to meet for lunch and we would share carrying Ralph in the baby carrier whilst lunching and shopping in Epsom.  So I contacted Sarah, informed her we were having a wonderful time, might collect car keys if needed or will see her when she finishes work. Lunch went well.  Ralph was a happy smiley baby - even tolerated his grandmother and friend trying to work out the high chair harness system without causing him mortal damage with the tray - having worked out the strapping system we had to try and get the tray over his head.  No end of squeezing and pushing would work, so we had to start again.  He took this in his stride, but it really amused the other diners.  Think I need to create a badge to wear - New grandmother, please pass, just running in.

Back at home now and making very short list of things to take on cycling holiday in a few days time.

My next blog may even have a few pictures from Italy.  As I have been learning Italian for the last year, I am hoping I will be able to order the odd pizza and coffee in Italian not to mention 'where can I buy an new inner tube please!'  


Sunday, 1 July 2012

Fitter and Fatter, but not necessarily Wiser

I started writing my blog whilst in Vietnam several weeks ago.  I had great plans to enlighten you all with snippets of my days there, but best laid plans as they say ....
My attempt at saving a document whilst in Vietnam on the net book clearly came to nothing so I will start all over again!

I have always wanted to go to Asia and see a different culture and Vietnam was definitely a different culture.  It was a fantastic holiday, complete with temples, pagodas boat rides along the Mekong Delta, walks and cycle rides through paddy fields in the shadow of towering limestone
outcrops, beautiful palaces and gardens
full of lotus flowers, flame trees and the 
incredibly fragrant frangipane, museums and propaganda, tropical rainstorms, and blood curdling heat and humidity.  I never thought whilst I was undergoing chemo, that I would ever again have the energy to go on such a holiday.  Thankfully I was wrong and the only problems I had were related to my back problems - not being able to walk as far as I wanted to without a lot of pain.  We ate masses of noodles and rice or rather Dave did.  It was soooo hot that I lost my appetite and came back half a stone lighter. (I have put it all back on again unfortunately)

I bought a large extra light  roomy suitcase for the holiday just in case we wanted to bring anything large back.  I easily managed to fill it,  as Vietnam is famous for its dressmakers and tailors. (I didn't of course pack them into my suitcase). Unfortunately Dave was a wee bit poorly with holiday tummy on the day we were in Hoi Ann  which as luck would have it was not only a lovely beach resort, but also the best place to have clothes made.  The hotel we were staying in had bikes available for guests.  So naturally I got on my bike, cycled to the town and spent many happy hours in the shops and dressmakers.  All items were delivered to the hotel the next morning - thank goodness for the big red suitcase! Here are a few photos of our holidiay there.


Now we are back in rainy, but wonderfully cool and less humid England and planning (well I am planning) another trip away.

On the medical front I have had some injections into the nerves in my back which has relieved some of the back pain.  Can't say it was a pleasant procedure, but it seems to have done the trick and am enjoying walking again without pain.

Best of all I had another scan with contrast which shows, together with my blood tests, that the cancer is stable.  This is apparently something of a record as normally chemo is needed every 6 months as the disease spreads quite quickly when one has stage 4 (there is no stage 5 for those who were too polite to ask).  I have now had just over a year's remission and am hoping for lots more.

Another little interesting snippet is that for the last eighteen months, I have been organising a big fund raising orienteering event in Canterbury for the Pilgrims Hospices there.  Dave has spent two years surveying and drawing an urban map and the event went ahead last week-end.  We managed to get some publicity in the the local newspaper by relating my interest in the hospice organisation.  The article that was written has a wonderful banner headline 'Gran battling cancer plans map challenge' Makes me sound ancient.  Following publication of the article a television production company contacted me.  They want to make a programme for Channel 4 based on 6 people with a terminal prognosis and asked me if I would be interested in taking part.  The idea is that they get 6 dying people in a room discussing death.  Sounds riveting I thought and might even require a new outfit so I jumped at the chance!  Not that I have let this bit of fame and notoriety go to my head, but when gardening late into the evening a few nights ago, Dave wanted me to come in and hit upon a wonderful way of getting me to down spade and slug pellets quickly.  He tapped on the window, whilst holding the phone and mouthed 'its the BBC on the phone for you'  Of course I rushed in immediately, only to find it was my mother on the phone and his way of getting me in to make the dinner!

Before going off to make tonight's dinner, I recently found a letter I wrote when both daughters were living at home - been clearing out cupboards.  I thought I would reproduce it here as it still makes me squirm when I think about the reason for the letter.

8th January 02

Floor Manager, Ladies Fashions
Next Retail Ltd
Victoria Centre
Tunbridge Wells

Dear Madam,

Beaded Hem Dress

It is with great embarrassment and absolute humble pie that I am writing this letter about the above dress.  You will probably remember me in your shop last Saturday 5th January (I am sorry I have lost the slip of paper with your name written on it).

You may also remember that I was returning two items I had bought in the sale on 28th December.  I was certain that the black beaded hemmed dress that had a Cherry Pie label in it was bought at Next.  As I had in fact bought a black beaded hemmed dress on that day in your shop.  However you pointed out, as did the store manager that no such dress could have been sold.  You were absolutely correct and I was absolutely wrong.  I must explain how it happened before I am carted off to a funny farm!

My 17 year old daughter wanted a posh black frock for a New Year's Eve party.  I saw something which looked suitable, although not in size 10, but thought it would be okay.  I didn't look at it too closely.  I just noted it was black and beaded.  I bought some other things in the sale and rushed home.  I left most of the goodies in the bag as I had people staying that week-end.  When my daughter arrived home, I told her to get the black dress out of the bag and to see if it was okay.  She took it upstairs to try on.  She told me it didn't fit, but didn't bring it down to put back in the bag.

On Saturday when I was able to return to Next to bring back the items that didn't fit, I asked her to find the black dress.  She told me she had left it on her bed.  I ran upstairs, grabbed the black beaded dress off her bed, put it in the bag and dashed into town.  When I got it out at your shop, I was convinced it was the same dress I bought the week before, but of course it wasn't.  When I arrived home and explained the problem I had in Next to my daughter, she took the dress out of the bag and promptly announced "but that's Sarah's dress - I tried that on too.  You were meant to take back the Next dress weren't you?"  I am sure you have guessed by now that several black evening dresses were scattered liberally about my daughter's room and the one I grabbed off the bed was not the correct dress.  I didn't even notice the others.  Anyone who has teenage daughters will probably be able to envisage the scene in the bedroom and I should really have insisted that my daughter retrieve the dress in question rather than get it myself.  It didn't occur to me that she would be trying on her sister's dresses as well.  (In my defence, my oldest daughter has been away for six months and I had forgotten she also had a few black party frocks!)

Now I have found the dress in question, I can see they are not even similar, except for colour and beaded hems - the Next dress is much nicer and when I tried in on, amazingly it fit me - so I am thinking of keeping it anyway.

I can only again apologise profusely for all the fuss I caused.  I keep getting flashbacks to my conversation insisting that I bought a Cherry Pie dress from Next and how you all managed to keep your cool and were even helpful when confronted with this mad lady who couldn't tell one evening dress from another.  If I wasn't a middle-aged teacher, who knew better, I would blame the whole thing on my untidy recalcitrant daughter, but I had better take the blame fairly and squarely like a grown up.

I look forward to shopping in Next again, but might be too embarrassed to come into the Tunbridge Wells branch for quite a while yet!

With warm regards

Anita Kingdon
(A hassled mother/shopper)

It is amazing how much I have changed over the years - or have I !!!!!

Until the next blog .....

Friday, 9 March 2012

Another Birthday celebrated and still managing to cycle up hills!

Whoopee!  I am back to cycling on a normal bike.  Now I have got some strength back, I can use a normal bike - although I still love the electric bike.  I did my first 15 miles, big hills and all, yesterday on a mountain bike at Bedgebury (local forest with cycle trails).  Whilst working out the gears, I fell off spectacularly before I really got started.  No broken bones though and I still bounce well.

Health is stable at the moment, if not better than stable.  The last visit to Dr Jot. my friendly oncologist revealed that the lesion in my liver has shrunk a bit.  Blood tests all reveal normal function and bone scan still shows no progression.  I am still getting a lot of pain in my lower back and hips and so had another MRI scan as the problem may well be arthritis in the hips - I have it in the knees.  I like to spread my NHS needs across lots of specialities and haven't had a bone man to talk to for a long time.  So it might be a hip replacement on the NHS  next.

So window of opportunity for another holiday then!  Have now convinced Dave that Vietnam is the place to go for a cultural change from Wales.  (See last blog!)  It is now all but booked.  Problem is the insurance.  I have been quoted nearly £2,000 by most specialist insurers to cover the metastatic cancer.  So after talking to the Vietnamese Embassy to check that they have lots of up-to-date private hospitals, I have decided to take out cover excluding the cancer and will pay for treatment if I need it in Vietnam.
For £2,000, with one insurer,  you don't even get your baggage loss insured.

Which leads me on to the last holiday from which I have just returned.  In February, for 10 days, I went to Morocco and Spain.  It was an orienteering holiday (me obsessed, never!)  Two days of competition in Morocco and then some warm weather training in Andalusia followed by an event the following week-end.  All was going well, weather 21 degrees in the day, food cheap, forests and medinas wonderful, until one morning when in Spain, I woke up with lots of floaters, dots and lines, in front of my right eye.  Bother, it was going to be hard to see a map.  This was the Thursday morning and the true competition did not start until Saturday.  I was convinced by the people who were with me - good old Teresa, Sarah and Charlie (Dave had to stay at home for this little holiday as he has too much work to do), that I should go to a Spanish hospital.  As Spain is in the EEC  and offers us Brits. reciprocal health cover on their NHS, I agreed.  Actually anything to do with my eyes wasn't going to be related to the cancer and I had insurance for everything else, so I knew I would be okay to get treatment if needed.  Cadiz which had the nearest big hospital,  was about 40 minutes inland from where we were staying. So off we went to spend a morning being investigated and an afternoon site seeing.  It turned out I had a tear in my retina.   Not that I am competitive, but Charlie had holiday tummy, Teresa had a throat infection, so clearly I had to top those minor complaints in the cornucopia of possible holiday illnesses.  Thus giving me an even better excuse for my poor times in the orienteering event. It is always good to have a few excuses up your sleeve when, post race, fellow competitors ask why you took so long.  The tear had to be repaired by laser treatment the following morning.  This was all achieved very efficiently in the ophthalmologist's chair and I was discharged with a typed up Spanish report to take back to a specialist in the UK  Thanks goodness for google translate.  "I have lots of floaters in my eye that appear to move and have suddenly appeared this morning" was somewhat beyond my school girl Spanish.  For those interested it translates as  'Tengo un montón de manchas en mi ojo derecho, que parecen moverseAparecieron esta mañana, de repente.'  Well at least that is what I said, it could translate as 'I woke up with a goat in my bed', but as accident and emergency directed my to the eye clinic, it must have been nearly correct.  

After the treatment, I mentioned to the doctor treating me in my broken Spanish that I was in Spain for a sporting competition.  She did speak some English - well more than my Spanish and managed to get across that I was not to do anything strenuous for several days - could jogging, nay walking - up a few sand dunes with a map be called strenuous.  I decided not and did the event anyway.  Remarkably I was not last - in fact for the second race I was 4th.  Were the other competitors, dead, blind or both you may ask.? No they just can't navigate as well apparently.

So back at home again, eye checked over by Maidstone hospital Eye Specialists and all is well.  Apparently anyone can get a torn retina, especially if you are middle aged, short sited (and have an obsession with maps).  Just bad timing really.  

Finally, for those that are still awake and reading this, I celebrated another birthday last week.  Now 58 and really hoping to be planning my 60th birthday bash in two years' time.  The family celebration was conducted next door in our village's posh tea rooms.  Grandchild Ralph took centre stage in all the photos - he is still  a wee bundle of peachy skin and strong lungs.  I will post a few pictures.  My favourite is his Auntie Becky holding him whilst he looks lovingly towards his mum.

 Thought I would upload this - Bex bought me a present of a make-over with her.  We do look thoroughly made over don't you think?
 The holiday group en route to Morocco - can you spot me?  Orienteers all.
 The winning ladies team, at leisure in a Moroccan Medina.  The Medina walls are all painted blue.  It was a lovely place to visit - Chaouen, Northern Morocco.
Now what shall I take to Vietnam - sandals, sun cream, ............

Hasta la vista!