Books

One good side effect of cancer is that you get to read more.

I’ve just finished a book called ‘What to do with lobsters in a place like Klippiesfontein‘ by Colette Victor.

I spotted it in the bookshop and knew immediately that it was a book set in South Africa, from the front cover and title. I don’t read books set in SA very often (although the last novel I read was set in Tanzania) but this one appealed to me, mostly for it’s quirky title. It is a good, light-hearted read, but there is simmering racial tension – almost a prerequisite for any book set in my old home country. I was pleased to see that I can still remember a fair amount of Afrikaans (there are several quotes in the language.) Lekker. I can confirm that it did not make me want to go back to SA, at all.

One thing I didn’t like about the book is that the main character’s wife gets cancer. Ever since my diagnosis, cancer seems to be almost everywhere – I expect it in the medical dramas on TV but it’s also in the soaps and in the news and even in George Clarke’s The Resoration Man, for goodness sake (one of the people renovating an old building died of cancer aged 33 – great.) I guess that I should be grateful that cancer has a high profile – at least people know what it is, unlike so many rare diseases.

I have started reading ‘A survival guide for life‘ by Bear Grylls. It’s a self-help book with lots of encouraging quotations. For those who don’t know, Bear is a Christian survival expert who presents lots of survival programmes on TV. He is also the UK’s chief scout, and has written many kids’ and adults’ books. The best thing about Bear is his amazing positive attitude. It’s what sets him ahead of the pack. It’s an easy to read book that makes you question your real motivations, and what is setting you back in life. I don’t usually do self-help books, but this one is different.

Have a guess what the difference is between a £1 million racehorse and a £100 racehorse. Well, obviously the £1000000 one is 10000 times faster than the £100 one. Right? That’s clearly ridiculous… At best the difference is only ever going to be a few seconds. There is often just a nose between first and forth place in a horse race.

And it’s the same in life.

(Grylls, B (2012))

Well, that makes you think, doesn’t it?

So if you feel that you are losing at life or at work or wherever, it’s not because you are really slow or much stupider or worse off than everyone else who seems to be succeeding and happy. You are only a few seconds behind. And what will help you to catch up? I believe that the vital ingredient is a positive attitude. A ‘yes this will be really hard and sometimes I will want to quit and people might laugh at me but I am going to keep going anyway’ approach . It’s worth so much more than a good education or rich parents or good looks.

And the great thing about a good attitude, is that it’s free. And you can choose to have it – or you can choose to let circumstances get you down – your choice. Not your parent’s choice. Not your teacher’s choice. Not your boss’ choice. Your choice.

I have come that they may have life, and life to the full.” Jesus.

John 10:10

Bear Grylls bookKlippiesfontein book

I love books.

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Chemo #3

I had my third round of chemo this morning. Everything went well and there are no side-effects so far.

It’s like a time-warp when you get into the day therapy room: time seems to fly but it drags as well. Also it makes me feel dopey as soon as I get in there, before I have any drugs. I wonder what it’s like working there.

I had a nice long chat with my nurse as she was giving me the red chemo that needs to be done in four syringes into my PICC line – so she was a captive audience for a few minutes, poor thing. We chatted about the NHS; immigration; how Connor is coping with my being ill; hair. A wide variety of topics.

I told her that my oncologist couldn’t find either lump when I saw him on Monday. I said how it had shrunk when I prayed for it. Bless her, she was diplomatic; saying that it was good that my faith would get me through this. I could almost see her thought process: ‘Uh oh, we have an odd one here. Just smile and nod.’ Anyway, I’m not going to hide what happened to me, and I don’t care if that makes people uncomfortable. 😉

It’s Mike’s birthday today. I don’t think that spending half the day in hospital was his idea of fun, but oh well. When you say ‘in sickness and in health’ in the marriage vows, it’s no joke is it?  It’s so easy to love someone when they are young and healthy and there are no worries. Not so easy when real life comes visiting. Thankfully, Mike is a pretty awesome husband. Some people would really struggle with having a spouse with cancer, but it’s only made our marriage stronger. I’m not trying to boast – just chuffed that God has blessed me with just the right person to share my life with.

I’m Me having chemo no 3 half-way through my chemo now, yay.

Good news

On Saturday night I was praying and felt God say to me that I have been too accepting of the cancer – not that I wanted it, but ‘It’s ok, the chemo and surgery will sort it.’ Etc. I realised that I had been a bit too blasé about it all. Not that I should be really angry or anxious or anything like that, but that I should not just accept being ill.
I put my hand on the bigger lump (2.5 cm in size and very easy to find) and prayed ‘Cancer, I cast you out in Jesus’ name – shrink and go.’ Or words to that effect. As I prayed, I felt the lump shrink. A few minutes later, I checked and could not find the big lump at all. I could feel a strange sort of thickening, which I thought must be the smaller lump, but moved to a different part of the breast (much closer to my armpit.)
This morning, I had an oncologist appointment. I said that I was sure the lump had shrunk. He examined me and said ‘You are responding very well to the chemotherapy.’ I asked what he had actually felt, and he said that he could not find either lump! There is some thickening near my armpit, which is the lymph nodes shrinking. This is a good thing as it means that they are healing.
This is such great news, really the best that we could have hoped for. 🙂
I asked when I would be having another scan, for confirmation. He said that often there is a scan after every 2 or 3 chemo sessions, but there is no need for one in my case. The only way to see if there is any cancer left, is during/ soon after surgery as the surgeon will take samples which will be examined under the microscope to check for any cancer cells. A scan would not pick these up. The reason for this is that it’s like a bath, where the water has been let out but there is scum left on the bath. So even though the lumps have gone, there may be some cancer cells lurking.
I will be continuing with my planned chemo, and obviously the surgery so we can see for sure what’s happening. I am very grateful to the medical profession for all their expertise and will not risk the cancer returning/ completely going by not having the chemo or surgery. Yes I have faith that God has healed me, but there is no need to take unnecessary risks.
I could see that my oncologist was really chuffed, and so am I!
Thank you so much for all of your prayers, messages, food parcels, meals, gifts and friendship. It means so much to us, and we can feel the love. 🙂

You lot are awesome. God is good.

Mummy owl is poorly

Betty Owl lived in the old oak tree in the woods with her Mummy and Daddy. Betty loved her family very much.
She went to nursery at the lagoon, and Mrs Duck was her teacher. Betty’s best friend was Sam Sparrow. Betty and Sam loved making sand castles, and painting pictures.

1

One night, after dinner, Mummy and Daddy owl looked sad.
‘We have something to tell you, Betty.’ Said Daddy. ‘Mummy is poorly. The doctors are helping her to get better, but for a while she won’t be able to do very much.’
‘Oh no!’ cried Betty, and gave her Mummy a big cuddle.
‘Sometimes I won’t be able to cook dinner, or play with you.’ Explained Mummy. ‘And some of my feathers on my head will fall out.’
Betty didn’t know what to say. She loved Mummy’s bright green feathers.

2

‘It will be hard for a while, but Mummy will get better.’
‘Is there anything that you would like to ask?’ Said Mummy.
‘What is wrong with Mummy? Does she have the flu?’ Asked Betty.
‘No darling, she has something called cancer.’ Daddy explained.
‘Oh. Will Mummy go to hospital?’ Worried Betty.
‘Sometimes. But mostly Mummy will stay at home, resting.’ Answered Daddy.
‘Ok,’ said Betty, ‘can I have some ice-cream now please?’
‘Of course!’ laughed Daddy. He went to the kitchen to fetch her some of her favourite ice-cream: mint choc-chip.
Betty loves ice-cream.

3

The next day at nursery, Betty and Sam were making a sandcastle. Betty told Sam that her Mummy was ill with cancer.
‘What’s cancer?’ Asked Sam, adding some shells to their creation.
‘Well, Daddy said we are all made of tiny things called cells. Some of Mummy’s cells have turned bad and are hurting her. So the doctors are going to give her some special medicine to make her better.’ Said Betty.
‘Like cough medicine?’ Wondered Sam.
‘Um, not really. Mummy will have to go to hospital for it. But then she will come home. Me and Daddy will have to look after her really well.’ Said Betty. She put some coloured stones onto the castle to make it even prettier.

4

‘Will your Daddy have to cook your dinner too?’ Asked Sam.
‘Yes, I think he will. Oh dear.’ Sighed Betty.
Sam put down her shells and gave Betty a big cuddle.
Mrs Duck came over to look at the friends’ sandcastle.
‘That’s beautiful, well done girls.’ She smiled. ‘How many red stones have you used so far, Betty?’
Betty carefully counted the red stones.
‘One… two… three!’ Exclaimed Betty.
‘That’s right,’ replied Mrs Duck.

5

A couple of weeks later, Betty noticed that Mummy’s feathers were starting to fall out. She found one on the sofa after Mummy had been sitting on it.
Betty picked up the green feather and put it in the special box in her bedroom. The special box was for treasures. In it was a shiny stone; a shell that Betty and Daddy had found on the beach last Summer; a big coin and a small chocolate bar (for emergencies). Betty put the feather on top and closed the box and put it back in the drawer in her desk.
Betty was sad that Mummy was losing her feathers, but she still thought that she was beautiful.

6

One day, Betty walked home from nursery with Sam and her Mummy. When Betty got inside, she saw that Mummy was lying on the sofa. She looked poorly.
‘Are you ok Mummy?’ She asked.
Mummy opened her eyes and smiled.
‘I’m a bit tired darling. I just need to rest.’ Said Mummy.
‘Ok. Is Daddy making dinner?’ Wondered Betty.
‘That’s right,’ said Mummy, ‘Why don’t you go and ask him what he’s cooking?’ Said Mummy, closing her eyes.
Betty went to see.
‘It’s wiggly worms.’ Said Daddy.
‘Yay! My favourite!’ Laughed Betty.
She loved Wiggly worms.
But when they sat down to eat, the wiggly worms just weren’t right. Daddy didn’t know how to cook them like Mummy did. Betty ate them all, but she felt a bit sad. She preferred Mummy’s cooking.

7

One day, Mummy was very ill and had to stay in hospital.
‘Is Mummy going to be ok?’ Asked Betty as Daddy tucked her up in bed that night.
‘Yes. She just needs a bit more help from the doctors and nurses at the hospital. Would you like to visit her after nursery tomorrow?’ Dad asked.
‘Yes please.’ Said Betty.
‘Good, it’s a plan.’
Daddy kissed her good night and switched off the light.
Betty started to cry a little bit. She didn’t make a noise, but the tears rolled down her face. She missed her Mummy. Betty could see the moon through the curtains. It was very bright. She thought of Mummy in her hospital bed. looking at the moon too. Finally Betty fell asleep.

8
The next day after nursery, Daddy took Betty to see Mummy in hospital. It was very clean and the nurses were kind. Mummy was sitting up in bed and reading a book when they came in. Betty ran to give Mummy a hug – but she couldn’t quite reach as the bed was high up. Daddy helped Betty to carefully sit on the bed.
‘Hello darling,’ smiled Mummy, ‘How are you?’
‘Good. We went on a trip to the library today. I got two books out – one about a singing cat and another one with lots of big numbers that can talk!’
‘Wow, that sounds exciting. Maybe you can read them to me when I get home?’ Asked Mummy.
‘Oh yes please.’ Said Betty.
The doctor came to check on Mummy.
‘When will she be able to come home?’ Asked Daddy.
‘Hopefully tomorrow.’ Said the doctor.
‘Yay!’ Said Betty, bouncing up and down on the bed.
‘Careful! Remember that Mummy isn’t very well.’ Warned Daddy.
‘Sorry Mummy.’ Said Betty sadly.
‘That’s ok.’ Said Mummy.

9 use

It took a long time for Mummy to get better, but eventually she did. When Betty graduated from nursery, Mrs Duck held a special awards ceremony for the class. Mummy was well enough to go. Everyone got to wear a graduation cap that they had made the day before, out of cardboard. Mrs Duck gave out awards to all of the children. Sam got the ‘funny’ award, that she was very happy with.
‘And now,’ said Mrs Duck, ‘the bravery award. This is given to the pupil that has done their best even though they have had a difficult year. She has stayed friendly and helpful, even when she was feeling sad about her Mum, who has been poorly. The bravery award goes to Betty!’
Everyone in the room clapped loudly as Betty stood up to collect her certificate and a trophy. She was very proud of herself. She saw Mummy in the front row, sitting next to Daddy, with a big smile on her face.

10

Mummy’s feathers started to grow back, but they were a different colour! They used to be green, but now they were blue on her head. Betty found that quite funny. Betty, Mummy and Daddy had a lovely holiday to the beach that Summer.
Betty sat on the sand, eating a mint-choc chip ice-cream cone. Daddy was building a huge sandcastle and Mummy was reading a book. Betty felt the sun on her face and felt very happy.

11

THE END

Boring!

I was thinking how boring having chemo actually is. Mostly it’s waiting around to get better and not going out too much in case I pick up a bug.

Today Mike and I went to town to get me some prescription sunglasses. Usually I don’t bother with sunglasses, especially as there are only about 10.5 sunny days most years anyway. But with being photosensitive, it’s a good excuse as any I guess. I was told that I have to have the big ones as that protects more of my eyes, not small rectangular frames that I would probably go for if I had the choice. I tried a few on, got bored and chose a pair that are huge but (hopefully) not ridiculously so. My head is quite small I have realised.

It was quite exciting being in town – I haven’t done for over a month. It was mostly the same – there is a new bakery that I wouldn’t mind trying one day. It was just nice to be out and see lots of people rushing around with their busy lives.

I wanted something from Sainsbury’s for lunch, so we went there next.

As we entered, we heard the helicopter’s angry blades as it left us in the hot, dusty field. We ran towards a safe-looking concrete hut in the meat aisle, but would it be hiding insurgents? Phew, it was clear. After a short pause to catch our breath in the 40-degree heat, we made for a dried-up river bed in the vegetable aisle. I desperately needed a tomato for my lunch, and just as the prize was in sight, BAM! An old man in front of me stepped on an IED and was hurled through the air. I fell to the ground in shock, the noise still ringing in my ears. Man, that was close. when I had recovered, I gave up the tomato for lost and ran for the bread aisle.

I spotted a lady with a child – she seemed innocent but was it a ruse? I crept up behind her, making no sudden movements, and grabbed a loaf of seeded bread. I hadn’t any time to reach for a doughnut- the risks were too high. The woman suddently turned around to eyeball me, and I saw the spilinters of a hundred broken dreams in her brown eyes. I couldn’t take it any longer. I raced for the self-checkout, closely followed by Mike.

We finally got to the check-out. Just two more minutes and we’d be safe. The sun beat down on my head as I saw a lonely hawk, circling far above. Mike operated the self-checkout like the expert he is. His hands were steady as he pressed the buttons. I held my breath in fear. I kept an eye out for trouble. Our mission complete, we ducked through the exit doors just as someone started shooting at us from behind a rock in the baking aisle. Phew, we were safe at last.

Ok, that wasn’t really how it was in Sainsbury’s. But it felt like it – Mike is so worried that I’m going to get ill that even popping to a supermarket does feel a bit like a military operation.

So yes, it’s mostly boring, with the occasional interesting flirtation with killer bugs.