Wednesday, 25 November 2015


Oh dear.  I had hoped to go to Birmingham today to have a mooch around the shops before they get too relentlessly busy but instead I'm taking a leaf out of the cat's book and lounging around on the sofa doing a lot of this

I'm not sure if today's lethargy is chemo related or due to me having a flu jab yesterday.  All I know is I'm not firing on all cylinders.  In reality, compared to what some people suffer on chemo, I'm having a pretty easy time of it on Eribulin (so far).  But it does make me tired and also sends my temperature a bit haywire at times.  As a result I've had to bail out of a few recent social events, which makes me grumpy.  I hate being an unreliable friend but when I'm tired and grumpy it's probably best for everyone if I go into hermit mode.  The good news is that I've got a week off chemo at Christmas time (I wrote a begging email to my oncologist and laid it on with a trowel) so I'm hoping to be full of beans for the festivities, especially as a big family getaway is planned.  All I can say is watch out Hampshire.  You have been warned.  

The other-half and I have risked divorce and done some cooking together in preparation.  You wouldn't believe the blood, sweat and tears (and booze) that have gone into this cake.

We've yet to ice and decorate the cake - so the story continues

Anyway, unreliable as I am, constantly failing to turn up to planned shindigs, I cannot compare with my paternal grandfather.  Sis no 3 has been doing lots of work on the family tree but until recently my grandad was a bit of a mystery.  

The last known picture of my grandad (picture from here)

He walked out on his wife and four children (including my dad) in the early 1920s and was never heard of again.  I had tried to give him the benefit of the doubt over this behaviour (which caused a lot of hardship to his wife and kids) but my sister has finally managed to find out what happened and it's not particularly edifying.  Apparently he ran off to Coventry, Coventry I ask you, (apologies to any Coventry bods reading this).  Other highlights of his life include
  • Entering into a bigamous marriage and having another family
  • Somehow getting his name on a war memorial in Cardiff as having been killed in action in 1918
  • Claiming (and receiving)  the old age pension two years earlier than he should have
  • Being convicted of bypassing the electricity meter in his house and thereby defrauding the electricity company
What a total ratbag.  The other-half is dismayed at what sort of family he has married into.  

To finish on a brighter note, the other-half's six year old godson was chatting to us the other day and informed us that he was going to be an indicator in the school play.  Much confusion followed.  Turns out he's playing the innkeeper.

Sunday, 8 November 2015

Cheers and jeers

Well what an up and down couple of weeks it's been.

The biggest jeer should be reserved for Alistair Burt, a Conservative Health Minister, who scuppered the passing of a law which would have seen off-patent drugs (for conditions including cancer) made available to the National Health Service (NHS) at low prices.  Not only did Mr Burt filibuster the proposed legislation he also accused his opponents of "shroud waving".  Classy.  You can read more about it by clicking here or just take my word for it that the man is a total and utter shit.

The other crappy thing that happened was of a more personal nature.  I discovered a lump on my chest.  I only had a week or so to wait for the results of my recent CT scan so I knew I'd get answers fairly quickly but it certainly made the days approaching my oncology appointment even more stressful than usual.  Given the appearance of this lump I was convinced that my current chemo, Eribulin, wasn't working.  So imagine my surprise and delight when I was told that the cancer is currently stable.  The oncologist also had a good poke around my chest and said that she thought the lump was bone.  She's getting the radiologist to double check my scan but is fairly confident that the lump is nothing to worry about.  So the plan is now for me to continue on Eribulin and have another CT scan in January.  What a relief. 

Honestly, it was like the sun breaking through the cloud
There was more good news.  You may remember that a while back I was on a drug trial for a chemo called TDM1 (trade name Kadcyla).  This drug worked really well for me for 18 months with very limited side effects.  There has been a lot of hoo-ha about kadcyla due to its cost and there was a very real threat that it would be removed from the Cancer Drugs Fund (CDF) meaning that it wouldn't be available to NHS patients.  However, a decision has been made to keep kadcyla on the CDF. Hallelujah.

Also on the plus side I have been diverted by having all three sisters in the UK and plaguing spending time with me. 

And I've been a right old culture vulture.  On the day before seeing my oncologist I took my mind off things by leaving the sticks and heading to London to see the British Museum's exhibition on the Celts.  Then, just a few days later, I went to Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery to check out the pre-Raphaelites and the Staffordshire Hoard.  While I was in Birmingham I also took the opportunity to visit the new shopping centre but, you will be relieved to hear, I didn't let this sully my pure and academic soul.  Please ignore any malicious rumours that I had to be dragged away sobbing from the cashmere jumpers in John Lewis.

Talking of shopping, it's not long until Christmas you know.  Don't hate me.  I'm trying to help.  You could order some beautiful cards from Ebay.   All proceeds will go to Second Hope (the new and only UK charity specifically for people with metastatic breast cancer).  Go on, you know you want to.


Monday, 26 October 2015

Lyme time

So the October pinkfest (also known as Breast Cancer Awareness month)  is nearly at an end.  Hurrah.  Don't worry, I'm not about to burst into another mega-rant, but would just like to sum up my feelings with 

a) this picture (nicked from the excellent Sarcastic Boob's Facebook page) 

and b) this on the last person finally made aware of breast cancer, which made me smile.

OK, that's enough of that.  Let's move on.

I've been to the seaside.  Yes again.  This time I went to the Lyme Regis area for a few days.

 We had lots of lovely autumn sunshine so we mooched about in picturesque towns,

I resisted going inside as I'm currently operating a ruthless one in one out book policy

visited quaint villages and strolled on beaches.  As it was out-of-season it wasn't horribly busy. 

See what I mean?

 This part of England is known as the Jurassic Coast and there are, apparently, loads of fossils to be found.  Not by me there weren't.  Here's the other half searching, unsuccessfully, for pre-historic remains

He keeps telling people it doesn't matter that he didn't find anything as he already lives with an old fossil.  Oh how I laugh.  He also keeps getting confused and tells people we've been to Jurassic Park.  Idiot. 

Of course, there were cats around, some floppy and affectionate,

 others mildly irritated

Sadly we did find there to be a bit of a gang problem in Lyme Regis.  Here are some of the more intimidating characters

However, we managed to stay out of trouble.  Well that is if you a draw a veil over the evening I spilt red wine over a friend's white fabric sofa.  Oh the horror! (Although my friend was very gracious about it.)  The following day I also managed to get the contents of an egg mayonnaise sandwich up my jacket sleeve.  I shouldn't be allowed out.

Talking of trouble, no sooner had I come back from Dorset than I found myself in hospital for a CT scan.  Yep, it's scan time again.  I get the results next week.  The usual anxiety abounds.  Still I'm planning some diversionary activities including having all three sisters in the UK at once.  Let's get ready to rumble!

Sunday, 4 October 2015


We’re only 4 days into October and already I want to go to bed, pull the covers over my head and stay there until November. 

Why the despair?  More fool you for asking.  It’s October or, as it’s known in breast cancer patient circles, Pinktober.  Its ‘official’ title is ‘Breast Cancer Awareness Month’.  Not a bad thing in itself I suppose, although I think everyone is aware of it by now and what we really  need is more research.  What really gets my goat is the stupid, inane and downright insulting crap that appears in the name of ‘awareness’ every sodding year.

This year in addition to the usual mindless pink fluffiness (Tickled Pink? yeah Asda what a brilliant name for a laugh-a-minute disease), we have the tremendously badly thought out and completely undignified ‘show your strap’ campaign from Marks and Spencers (google it if you’re interested, I’m buggered if I’m supplying a link to it).  And far, far worse is the ‘set the tatas free’ nonsense appearing all over Facebook.  To add insult to injury the ‘tatas’ thing doesn’t appear to be linked to any charity or to raise funds at all.  It’s just a tasteless bandwagon jumping meme. 

I won’t go on.  A mega rant is not an interesting read nor does it do my blood pressure any favours.  Anyway my pal Kath puts it a million times better than I ever could. 

Enjoy your October.  I'm off to stick my head in a bucket of lager until it's all over.

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Second Hope

So here it is, the exciting news I've been hinting at (with all the delicacy of a drunken hippo) for the past few weeks.

Second Hope is a brand new charity that I'm absolutely chuffed about.  It's the only charity in the UK specifically for people with metastatic breast cancer (also known as advanced, secondary or Stage IV breast cancer).  It aims to raise awareness, provide support, campaign and also fund research.

Please have a look at the Second Hope website where there is loads of information including practical advice, more about the charity's aims, founder, trustees etc  (and even a little bit by me).  

I've mentioned time and again in this blog how isolated and hopeless a diagnosis of metastatic breast cancer can make people feel.  This charity is a real light in the darkness.  

Sadly the founder of Second Hope, Julie Phillips, died on Saturday, missing the launch of her brainchild by just a few days.  This heart-breaking news has rocked the online metastatic breast cancer group of which I'm a member, but we are united in our determination that Second Hope will go from strength to strength and be a lasting and fitting legacy for a remarkable woman.  

I cannot overstate how much the launch of this charity means to me.  Please, please take a look at the website, like the Facebook page and maybe even consider making a donation.

Thank you.

Saturday, 26 September 2015

Making hay

So it seems that Eribulin (my latest chemo) is something of a mixed bag.  It frequently gives me high temperatures in the days after infusion which means me having to make trips to hospital to make sure my white blood count is OK and that there are no infections about to run rampant in my system.  The chemo also seems to give me headaches and make me feel a bit blergh, but on the week I don't have to have swamp juice (two weeks on, one week off) I feel pretty good.  I've just had one of those good weeks and so I made hay while the sun shone.

I've had a trip to Shugborough, an historic house about an hour away from home 

It was OK, but to be honest I've been to better stately homes - the whole Patrick Lichfield thing was a bit of a pain (he used to live there and they make a big deal of it).  Much as I love an historic house, I'm not really into royalty and their relatives (to put it mildly).  Anyway don't let me put you off if you fancy a trip there.  One huge plus point ... it's got a cat monument, no home should be without one.

A couple of days later we ventured out again to another historic house, well a castle actually, Powis Castle.  It's only about a half hour drive from home and I just can't believe we hadn't visited before because it's absolutely stunning.  I loved it.  Bear in mind we are well into Autumn now and it was still beautifully colourful, look:

Stunning views
Borders to salivate over
And I do love a lumpy hedge (the other-half included for scale)

Not bad eh?
There was, sadly, a distinct lack of monuments to cats.  However they did have dragons, and that's the next best thing

Then, to round the week off, we went to the seaside (West Wales).  The weather was glorious and I walked my legs off

 And also succumbed to a seaside selfie

Ah well, back to the swamp juice next week and, no doubt, a lot less gadding about and a lot more moaning.  

I won't know if this chemo is working until the end of October (having a CT scan in the middle of the month).  I have my doubts to be honest, as I'm still coughing like mad and have to stop for breath if I encounter even a slight slope never mind a hill.  The worrying thing is that I seem to be running out of chemo options (although there are a couple to try yet).  I may not yet be in the last-chance saloon but I do feel I'm clunking up the steps to the bar door getting ready to order my two fingers of red-eye.  Still, it's hard to differentiate between what the disease is doing and the side-effects of chemo, so I'll just have to wait and see. 

I haven't entirely lost my optimism though.  I'm going to attempt sewing again.  After the last dressmaking disaster I'd say that makes me incredibly stoic!  I am going to attempt a skirt with a button hole, zip and darts, so stand by for swearing.  I will report back with details of my amazing prowess as a seamstress, in the meantime admire the lovely second-hand fabric before I destroy it begin work.

At least something is coming up roses
Talking of stoic, the other-half has just assembled our new bed.  This has been something of a trial with an oily salesman, late delivery, missing parts and general grumpiness.  However, it is now done and we can now sleep easy.

To end on a positive note, I will have something very exciting to announce in the next couple of days.  I know I've tormented you with this before but the day is nearly nigh.  Stay tuned.

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Pick 'n' mix

I've been a busy little beaver lately, so here are various bits and bobs I've been up to.  Do try to stay awake.

At the end of August I turned 54.  Yay me. I had a lovely birthday with a slightly  rabbity theme.  First of all there is bunny - pictured as the blog's header.  Bunny has been with me since I was three.  He is very tatty, a bit smelly and loved to distraction (indeed disintegration might be more accurate).  In the last couple of weeks bunny has been joined by:

The wooden bunny I got from the local  flower show
A bunny night light from a pal

And, from my sis, a hare from France who lives in the garden
These are all lovely.  Not so lovely is my hair (not hare - see what I did there).  This is me just a few days ago (with a slumped other-half) experiencing hysteria in Plymouth (more on that in a mo)

But this is me now

Yep, I'm a baldy bonce once more.  The swamp juice I'm on at the mo, Eribulin, causes hair loss in about 50% of patients.  I was hoping that I'd get away with it but over the weekend I started leaving a trail of peroxide tufts wherever I went, so I bit the bullet.  Thankfully one of Nev's sisters is a dab hand with clippers and she gave me a good shearing (just like she did three years ago).  I plan to spend the money I would have spent on bleach and hair cuts on scarves and hats instead.  A spending spree is a silver lining of a sort I suppose.  Oh well.

Plymouth.  The other half's uncle died recently.  Obviously this is very sad but he was well into his eighties, had a full life and was much loved.  Eighteen members of the other-half's family made the journey from the Midlands to the south west to pay their respects at his funeral.  We all stayed in the same hotel.  If I tell you that their was much running about in between bedrooms, scoffing of biscuits and general carrying on, including a telling off from a member of the hotel staff, I'm sure you'll get the picture.  The general consensus was that Nev's uncle would have totally approved of all the shenanigans.

We had a stroll around Plymouth 

where I was particularly impressed by a big fish

And yes, you are not mistaken, we had blue skies!

No sooner had we returned from Plymouth then we set off for a weekend in Yorkshire, visiting my aunt and cousins and, once again, seeing the sights.  We were treated like royalty and, if I had my way, I'd move in with my cousin tomorrow to be pampered ridiculously including being fed cake and wine at regular intervals.  And look, she has cats.  The incredibly handsome Jack

and Roger who has the life of riley but here is doing his best to look like he has a tough time of it with this paw to his fevered brow

While we were in Yorkshire we drove around the beautiful dales, taking in the Ribblehead Viaduct


Skipton Castle

East Riddlesden Hall
Where we got a special tour (courtesy of one of my cousins who's a guide there.  It's not what you know, it's who you know)

And before I bore you to tears with all my showing off about having been here, there and everywhere, here are some pictures of the Flower Pot Festival (yes you read that correctly) which was taking place in Settle 

And to bring things to a tidy end, let's end on a rabbity note with a flower pot bunny

I'm hopping off now.  See you later.

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Green eyed monster

Yay, it's time for the Annual Shrewsbury Flower Show with it's usual brilliant display of kids' veggie art.  Here's just a few examples.  I've got heaps more of these to come but will save them for future posts, after all I don't want to spoil you.

There were other displays that made me green with jealousy

and hello to the lady in the pink coat

Not to mention the fluorescent loveliness of the park itself

Do not adjust your sets, the colours really are this bright
My sisters came away with plants galore, whereas I came home with, obviously, a two foot tall wooden bunny

Every home should have one

My jealousy of all things floral continued with a visit to some friends in nearby Staffordshire who live in a lovely old cottage.  To make matters worse they have the most gorgeous garden (these photos really don't do it justice) I was positively emerald with envy.

And now on to green eyed monsters of a different sort.  The other-half has been decorating (yes again) this time the bathroom and bedroom.  Cyril, the three legged monster cat, decided to help.  Here's some of his handiwork.

Freshly painted window sills, wooden floors and a delinquent cat definitely do not mix.

OK, on to the tedious medical update.  I had the first dose of my new chemo on Wednesday.  The following day I was back at hospital as my temperature went haywire.  It was much like the time a similar thing happened in Cornwall a few months ago.  Once again, thankfully, my white blood cell count was ok, so the temperature wasn't indicative of a rampant infection.  I had some IV antibiotics and some oral ones to take home just to be on the safe side but the doctors seemed to think it was the result of new chemo on top of old chemo and my body deciding it was all a bit too much to handle.  Anyway, I'm OK now.  We shall see what happens next week when I go back for a swamp juice top up.  Let's hope it doesn't result in this:

Although frankly that would be an improvement on this, a picture of me looking truly dreadful while recuperating, truly I have no pride when it comes to seeking sympathy.

Hello beautiful!