Friday 30 April 2010

Bandana or Wig?

Photos copyright: Maggie May

After the terrible itchiness and skin rashes that I endured following the last few sessions of chemotherapy, I find my skin is still extra sensitive, so I have been wearing colourful bandanas rather than my itchy wig, which I save for Church and then immediately take off when I get home. Why ever do I do this?

I find that I can endure a false fringe if I pad it with tissue under the base of it to stop itchiness and that fits under the scarf and keeps in place.
I think this arrangement suits my personality better too as I feel more artistic when wearing a bandana. I can colour co ordinate my clothes and ring the changes.

I asked myself recently, "Why do I feel I have to wear a wig anyway?"
The answer seems to be because other people think its more normal to wear one.
I have come to the conclusion that next time someone remarks about it again, I will say,"OK then, YOU wear it!"

I am really enjoying the prospect of not having to have any more chemo for the next 3 months. I think that is why I have got over the after effects of my last one so quickly, because I don't want to waste any of this time feeling ill.

I have a CT scan booked for the second week in May. This is for staging purposes and I have been assured by Oncology that they are not expecting to find anything bad on the next scan. After the three months are up, I will have another CT scan. I might allow my self to be worried about that one....... but not yet. I am enjoying my newfound freedom too much.

However...... I am not going to get too obsessed by hair..... just in case I have to have more chemo some time in the future.

Tuesday 27 April 2010

Sand, Sea and Family

Photos Copyright: Maggie May

Last Saturday, I had an action packed day. In the morning I went on a sponsored walk at Church. I had opted for the one mile walk rather than the three or five mile walk as I wasn't sure how I would feel when I first arranged it. As it happened, my energy levels would have let me do the five mile walk, so the short one was *easy peasy lemon squeezy.*


After I arrived home, we had a phone call from Sam, asking if Harry and I would like to go to Sand Bay with him and the girls, so with energy to spare, we jumped at the idea and into his car.

When we got there, some of us looked at driftwood and imagined it looked like an animal. Can you see that this one is definitely a fossilised kangaroo?

Sam and Millie went off in search of the sea.
This is not a good idea unless you really know what you are doing as the sea goes out for miles and leaves very deep mud in places. They didn't really go out as far as it looks in the photo and they certainly didn't walk on mud.

I thought the lug worm casts were worth zooming in on. They were everywhere we looked on the wet sand.
Sam had already dug through the sand to find out what lug worms looked like. A bit disappointing, I thought, as they seemed insignificant little things, compared to the large, lovely casts that they leave all over the beach.

Amber liked splashing about in the wet sand. Maybe she was off to find Daddy.

Poor Granddad had to run about a mile, to fetch a beach ball that had been taken up by the wind and carried off into the distance. I really didn't think he would ever catch it, but he did.

And Granddad was quite happy building sand castles which were immediately jumped on as soon as the children saw his model fortress.
So altogether, he used up a good deal of his energy.

I was seriously tired too, after my action packed day and slept well that night. We both did.

Saturday 24 April 2010

The Curious Incident

I read this book several years ago and can remember thinking then, that it was a good choice.

As Rick, my fourteen year old grandson is on the autistic spectrum and was very late being diagnosed, the book was recommended along with many others, in the hope that I would understand the condition better.
I thought the book was so brilliant that I lent it to my daughter and eventually to my son. As so much time had passed, I had forgotten all about it until the book was unexpectedly returned to me a couple of weeks ago.

I was recovering from my last chemo when I found myself reading it again.
The book was finished within a couple of days because I found I had forgotten the exact story line and it is the type of book I like ....... one that I just cannot put down once I start reading. I thought it was so funny and my husband would walk in the room and find me creased up with loud laughter.

It is about a fictitious
15 year old boy.... with Asperger's.
I was not laughing at people who have this syndrome but about the very funny things that happened in the book (though the storyline was far from funny when I come to think of it). The way the boy takes everything so literally is a real feature of this condition and it caused all sorts of complications in the lives of everyone who became involved with him.
Mark Haddon must have an intimate knowledge of Asperger's because no one could possibly write a book of this kind without understanding the condition extremely well.
I thoroughly recommend this book, especially to anyone who has an autistic person in their household or wider circle of friends, because it really does help one to understand the condition better.

Tuesday 20 April 2010

The Scent of Violas

Photo Copyright: Maggie May

What could be more heavenly than the scent of violas wafting around me on a warm Spring day?
It now seems well worth the effort of planting them on in containers before the winter started.

The skies continue to be silent and it seems strange not to see any vapour trails slicing through the blue sky.
I ought to be grateful that I have no family trapped in Japan.
We take air travel for granted. It is all part and parcel of our modern life.
All it takes is for a volcano and a cloud of ash to change our whole life pattern and to cause absolute chaos everywhere.

We are having beautiful weather right now. It is just the correct temperature for me, neither too hot nor too cold. I would like it to stay like this all through the year.
My energy levels came back quite quickly after my last chemo and the itching stopped on the 6th day.
I have spent some time chopping shrubs back in the garden and generally tidying up.
There have been a few casualties during the hard winter. I lost my Japanese Maple and a small Cordyline, probably because they were in pots in a draughty place.
My Tamarisk shrub has been severely cut back but is slowly recovering. I thought it was dead until I saw the tiny new shoots springing to life. It is normally full of beautiful pink fronds by now.

Just before Christmas, during a visit to my friend, Squirrel, It was so cold and I was a bit dismayed when she insisted that I took three pots containing earth, but planted with bulbs, back home with me. They were wrapped up with tinsel but they were so heavy. The car was parked a long way off and it seemed a burden to carry them.
I sound so ungrateful, don't I?
Anyway, I am glad that she did give them to me, because..... look at the wonderful bulbs that emerged.

School has gone back and on picking up my granddaughters yesterday, I was asked by the After School Club, "When are you coming back? We need you."
Gulp.......I need more time to recover. To restore my body from the onslaught it has under gone during the last five months.
I want to forget about the hard times, I just want to be free to be me. I don't feel I need any pressure right now. I want to be normal again, between scans, anyway.
Is that too much to ask?

Sunday 18 April 2010

Mrs MacGrady and Me

In a recent post, I explained that Amber, my oldest granddaughter who is seven, came bounding into the house exclaiming, "I know what your illness is........ its called cancer."
At the time that remark struck through me like a knife because I hadn't mentioned that word to either of my granddaughters and I wondered if some one else had talked to Amber.
She went on to tell me that she had seen a children's programme on TV, about a school cook who was diagnosed with cancer.
Although I am not a cook, I am a dinnertime supervisor and work in an after school club, I thought it was a bit of a coincidence that I should suffer a similar fate to Mrs MacGrady and I managed to track the programme down to see what it was really about.

After viewing it, I was struck by several things. In this video the dinner lady goes through all kinds of things that I have been through. Feeling not too bad when the treatment started, then losing hair and having to wear headgear, feeling ill, needing support and eventually going back to the usual routine with still no hair after a long, long time.
I particularly like the way that cancer was explained to young children. Healthy cells being likened to flowers and cancer to the weeds that were growing among them. The medicine that killed the weeds caused the hair to fall out and made Mrs MacGrady feel ill.

There is also a mention of Lance Armstrong, who won the Tour De France, and the childrens' encounter with him.
That in itself seemed quite a coincidence because a young guy from church lent me the book, *Not About The Bike* ..... how Lance Armstrong overcame cancer and went on to win the Tour de France. He even gave me a wristband to wear to remind me how he had overcome cancer after a big struggle.

The video is in three parts but I think it is well worth watching if you can ...... because I think it is an excellent way of telling children about an illness which they will surely come across sooner or later.
I think it is a Canadian cartoon.
I am really glad I found it.
What do others think?

Thursday 15 April 2010

Aloe Vera Cream to the Rescue

Photos Copyright:Maggie May

This is the lovely celtic cross that my friend made for me and it was displayed in our church over Easter. I am waiting to decide exactly where to hang it, but in the meantime it looks good here, standing against the window. She made it herself in the class that she attends. Very clever. I just love it.

I have just opened the back door to take a photo of the Spring flowers on the patio. While I was washing up this morning, the sun was shining so intensely on them but I really don't think that the photo does the colour of them any justice at all. Some of the bulbs are over their best now.
You will see that there is a good bundle of parsley growing in the middle pot. Traditionally, in England, if a woman can grow parsley well........ it means that she wears the trousers in the household. Well I won't comment about that, because my parsley does do well.

I am getting over my last chemo, which is number six. It has taken its toll on me in the form of intense red rash that causes itching. Next to tiredness, this is the most annoying and hard thing to bear.
My long suffering husband has to sit and watch me scratch like a demented animal. While I was in Oncology this last time, a lady told me that Aloe Vera cream was very good at alleviating itchy skin, so off Harry went to search for it in health shops in town.
He came back with a good sized tube for £6 and I thought it would be well worth it if it really worked.
I raced upstairs (as fast as my chemo ravaged body would let me) and proceeded to cream myself all over. It immediately produced a feeling of coolness and had a calming affect, though my bright red rash glowed through it. I found I had to apply the cream every few hours to keep up the effect and now my cream is running out. Harry will dash down to the health shop again soon.
It is now three days following the chemo and the rash is definitely fading but the itchiness will last till Saturday or Sunday. So at the rate of cream I am using, I will have to remortgage the house!
I have not torn my self to pieces this time, but the photo below will show you just the kind of damage that chemo does to the body.
It is quite sobering to be in the Oncology suite for a long time because there is always someone in a much worse state than me.
A man who was itching intensely, has cancer of the liver and he is not expected to live beyond the summer although he and I agreed that he could do better than that. However, he has no hope of a cure for his itchiness and he has it for every moment of the rest of his life. While I am scratching away, I keep thinking of this very nice man and the effect it must be having on him and his family.
The woman next to me was doing her third round of chemotherapy non stop since last October, to stop her ovarian cancer spreading. Well, if this happens to me, at least I will have a three month break from it because I will be having a scan soon and will be going back to the hospital at three monthly intervals. I will get the results of the CT scan within a week of having it. I have been assured that they are not expecting to see anything bad on it and they are also telling me they are very pleased with my progress. So I have to believe them, don't I?

Sunday 11 April 2010

MAD and Madly Knitting

I was astounded on Saturday when I learned that someone had nominated me for two of the 2010 MAD awards. *Blogger of the Year* and *Most Inspiring MAD Blogger.*
You might be forgiven for thinking that MAD means NUTS, (as I did, at first,) but it stands for Mums & Dads. It should really be GAG (Grans & Granddads) but of course I am a mum, too.
Thanks to whoever nominated me in the first place....... it has made my day..... my week....... my year..... well my life! That is a bit too mad, I think.
Now all you have to do is to nominate me, (each person who wants to) in case I get into the final stage, where the person who has been nominated the most gets to the part of the competition where you can vote........ please, please, PLEASE. I am not begging or anything.
Just click on the sidebar or the logo beneath. PLEEEEEEEAAAASE.


If I am having chemo this week, I will be kept busy because I am knitting these trauma teddies for children who have gone through hard times or illness, either in this country or in the third world. Doctors in the third world say that small children do better when they are in hospital if they have their own cuddly bear and as they take them home with them when they are discharged, the bears need to be replaced continually. Some of them are sent to countries where there is unrest and war, earthquakes, floods...... anything that causes the children to be traumatised.
I expect you remember that I recently went to Birmingham to see my grandsons' other nanny and she inspired me to take up my knitting needles again and knit for charity. She is making these teddies and also making coats and bonnets for premature babies.
The other day she posted me the patterns for all these things and I am going to post the completed items to her in small parcels as and when I finish them. I wish there was a nearer drop off point to me. The premature coats and bonnets are like tiny dolls clothes. I shall enjoy doing those.
Hopefully this project will help me to forget about the side affects of chemo. Will let you know if it does, though I also have an arthritic wrist, which hurts when I knit. Always something to put up with, isn't there?
The brown bear in the photo below has not got extra short legs, he is just sitting down.

I have just completed Chemo 6 and will now lay low for a bit.

Friday 9 April 2010

Only Eight Months Ago

Photos copyright: Maggie May

It doesn't really seem like eight months ago since I went to the Bristol Kite Festival with my son and granddaughters.
I had intended to post this account of it along with the photos ages ago but somehow or other I was taken up with other things.
There will be another Kite Festival in the summer so I had better get this one posted, even though it is a bit out of context with life right now, otherwise it really will be old hat. It is good to look at photos and you never know...... I might get to this years festival too.

I must have had this illness then without knowing it but I can remember feeling quite healthy when I went but found myself sitting down quite a lot. It is easy to put everything down to old age.

I seem to remember that everything was colourful and the day was sunny and we walked a long way from the car to get to the main area.

These little creatures caught my eye. I love anything like this blowing about in the wind.

I don't know how the kite flyers managed to keep their kites separate from one another as sometimes they got very close.

I love all these flying fish....... they were everywhere as well as the flags blowing in the breeze wherever I looked.

Oops! Quite an eyeful there!

We walked away from the main area here as the girls wanted to try out their new kites. They were very simple models that kept breaking. It kept us running about trying to rescue them.

I have had a fairly good couple of weeks since chemo wore off a bit. Energy levels a bit low but can't grumble.
I wonder if I will be all set for number six on Tuesday?

Tuesday 6 April 2010

A Slice of My Easter.

Photo Copyright: Maggie May

I had a very hectic but lovely Easter because I had all my family come to stay with me. As usual all four grand children got along fine ......... in fact we hardly saw them because they played on the wii in the loft most of the time. As they are aged 5 yrs -14 yrs this seemed remarkable.

Some of the days were really sunny but cool and I managed to walk to a hilly park with my son as I hadn't had much exercise prior to that.
Bristol is a hilly city and it isn't possible to go very far without a steep hill to climb and Brandon Hill is no exception. I was really puffed out by the time I got to the top as my cells are probably not repaired from their last onslaught of chemo. However it is possible to look out all over the city and the views are amazing. What a pity that there are alterations going on and scaffolding and builders equipment lying around.
It was lovely to see the blossom on the trees, though.

On Easter Monday we went to Birmingham to see the grand sons' other nanny and I really enjoyed the visit very much. I came back with a little plant for my garden and with inspiration to do some charity knitting that the other nanny is doing. Of course if I do this, then I will have to send the knitted things to her because I can't find anything similar in Bristol.

Today everyone will be going home and it will be just the two of is again. I shall miss the company and commotion very much but I shall have heaps of washing to do and it won't be long till next Tuesday when I have to have my next chemo session if I am well enough. It comes round so quickly.............. sigh.

Saturday 3 April 2010

Happy Easter Everyone

Photos Copyright: Maggie May

In my last post, I wrote that Harry and I would be going to Church on Good Friday, that is if you waded through my froggy encounter first.
I wrote about collections of miniature crosses and the fact that a friend of mine had made me a lovely model of one, hand crafted out of stained glass and held together with lead and soldering, just like the church windows of old, in a tiny sort of way.

I am writing this after just coming back from The Good Friday Service and our church was decorated with these displays, so it was no surprise to me, to learn that most of the time was spent emphasising The Cross and how Jesus died for me........ and for you too. Forgive me if you are not Christian........ I am not stuffing this down your throat, just telling you of my interpretation of the Good Friday service and the service that will be so different on Easter Sunday.
So during this morning's service, we were invited to come to the front of the church, where there were two baskets of tiny wooden crosses...... each one of them skilfully carved out of a chunk of wood by some one somewhere, unknown to me.
By taking a cross we would have a lasting reminder of the sacrifice Jesus made for us.

When I got home, I wondered if I would have enough crosses of my own to illustrate this post (as I like to use my own photos.) My glass cross will still be on display in church until Sunday when I can collect it. So off I went for a little search about the house and I found a suitable Easter card, a couple of crosses on chains, a letter opener in the shape of a sword that is still a cross, an earring, a minute bible with a cross on it, as well as the tiny wooden cross that I was given today.
I also have my celtic cross on the wall in the garden.
So I am constantly reminded of the message from this morning, but I really didn't need the reminders because the message is in my heart.
There are no bodies on our crosses because the whole point of the cross is.......... that Jesus didn't stay on it, but was put in a tomb and on the third day he rose again, so the Easter Sunday service will be a joyous affair.
There folks....... that is the whole point of Easter but we can also celebrate our rabbits and fluffy lambs and chicks and the chocolate eggs as they all are symbolic of new life.
Which leads me to say, I hope you all have a very Happy Easter, whatever your persuasion of faith or belief.
Lets hope the weather is dry and sunny and that we can all enjoy Springtime at its best.
Definitely my favourite time of the year.

Thursday 1 April 2010

Encounter with a Large Frog

Photos copyright:Maggie May

Just before I started my last treatment, I did a small amount of gardening. Mostly weeding around the patio. I usually collect all the weeds and other garden refuse in a large green container which I keep in the back garden. I went to pick this up in order to carry the garden waste to the special bin that the council empties that is kept in the front garden. As we are in a terrace we have to take it through the house.
Look what I found in the green container. At first I thought it was a toad but on further examination, I realised that it was a large, British common frog. It was obviously a female as it had left frog spawn in every container of every size that had been left about with water in.

Fortunately, I had my camera handy and the frog didn't seem to be in any hurry to move, so I had to tip it out near the little pond ( which is actually an industrial builder's bucket sunk into the earth.) This does attract quite a bit of wild life even though it is a tiny pond.

Mrs Frog didn't seem to be in any hurry to go any place and stayed looking at the water for ages. I think she really liked the green container best and seemed unfazed by the large statue.

This afternoon, I had my brother Eddie and sister in law, Maria round for lunch. It made a lovely change for them to go somewhere different and I have never known a day go so quickly. Eddie is doing so well following his hip replacement.
We all over ate and one of us fell asleep after lunch..... though I won't say who it was, Eddie!
While they were here, the toilet handle snapped off on the inside of the cistern. Isn't that always the way? We need a plumber on a Bank Holiday and these things always seem to happen when we have company.

Tomorrow being Good Friday, Harry and I will go to Church. Outside the church, there is a large wooden cross and inside the building there is a display of dozens of tiny crosses that people had made themselves the week before. One of them was made of stained glass and made by a friend (who said she had hand made it specially for me.) So when the display is over, I can take it home.
Although I haven't seen it yet, I know it will be beautiful because she is really good at this craft. I am well pleased.
In the afternoon, we will go for a walk and eat hot cross buns for tea.

What will everyone else be doing?