Getting plastered, no wrestling

So, today was THE day. The day I get my chest encased in plaster for all to gape and wonder at. A bit of a first in our household as no-one has been encased in plaster except Master Mason and then it was because he fell foul of a car. And we all know that was really down to Billy and his malign influence :-).  I seem to recall Miss Mason was temporarily enased in some plaster when we thought she’d broken her arm hitting someone much bigger and older at her martial arts club but in the end it all turned out to be a false alarm. OK, so it’s not much of a first in our household except I have never been encased in plaster of any shape or form. And I don’t believe Mr Mason has even been the subject of a drive-by plastering, either. Actually, Miss Mason believes she was the subject of a drive-by prank by a monk. She lives in Bangkok and was walking blameless back from the supermarket when a truck went past with a huge statue of Buddha, supported by a monk who, on seeing her, flicked water at her with some large twigs. She hopes it was a blessing but rather feels she will be on the monks’ version of ‘You’ve been framed’.

But I digress. As you know, a real skill of mine. I ask Mr Mason nicely if he will give me a lift to Fulham where I am to get plastered. He acquiesces, not knowing the traffic on the way back will be outrageous. Alas, Serena, she of the Sat Nav, gives us advice which is confusing and we end up in the wrong road but close enough to where I have to be so I jump out of the car (well, heave myself out if you’re going to be pedantic) and high tail it to my appointment.

Jane, the woman who will be plastering me, is very nice and has just finished plastering another lady. The floor is covered in plastic and sheeting and Jane herself is in shorts and vest and a liberal covering of plaster. First, I have to be covered in baby oil and I enquire if we are first going to wrestle but no-one seems inclined to take me on. Perhaps I look invincible. I stand with my hands on my head in a hopeless attempt to make my outline look more svelte. Clearly, this does not work and Jane needs an awful lot of plaster strips to get me covered. We chat while she covers me and I find out she was diagnosed with breast cancer a while ago and, like me, has been through chemotherapy and radiotherapy with just a lumpectomy in terms of surgery. She decided to form a charity to help younger women so I feel a bit of a fraud standing in front of her but she reassures me she thinks I am quite young. She plasters and squirts me with a water bottle (but not in the form of a blessing, like the drive-by monk) and after 45 minutes or so, we are done. Cleaning myself up takes almost as long as getting plastered. While I clean up, Jane tidies my bust up, adding plaster strips along the edge and smoothing me out generally. Compared to the woman who was plastered before me, I look like an amorphous blob. But hey, that’s life.

We say our farewells and I leave, thinking I will walk down North End Road which is one of my new favourite places with great food stalls and shops and a really good atmosphere. I buy pasties from the Lebanese bakers, chorizo from the butchers and some fruit and veg from the stalls along the side of the road. After a bit of wandering, I decide to get a bus which will take me to Chiswick and from where I can get a bus home. The idea really appeals. I can get a seat and sit and read my book or stare out of the window, indulging in more people watching. At the bus stop I am viewed suspiciously by an elderly black lady with enormous sunglasses. After a while, she mutters something to me. I apologise and ask her to repeat herself. She does and I still don’t know what she is saying except she looks really cross. I guess it is the fact that the bus is taking so long to arrive. Buses come and go but not the one the black lady and I want. I try and engage her in conversation but she mutters about being at home and 4-o-clock and I am none the wiser so I try and sympathise about the lack of our bus and leave it at that. Another lady tries to pick up the loose conversational thread as she is waiting for the same bus. She was originally from the area but emigrated to Australia in 1958 and has returned to visit her sisters. Amazingly, she still remembers the numbers of the buses and suggests that we could go around the corner and get another bus which would get us somewhere else from where we could reach our separate destinations. After yet more wrong buses arrive, we decide to leave and say goodbye to the elderly lady who is still looking like it is our fault the bus hasn’t arrived. Around the corner, the bus stop is empty which we take as a good sign. Of course, our bus doesn’t arrive proving there is an almighty snarl-up somewhere in the Hammersmith region which is having an effect on buses all around the area. I give up and decide to take any bus that will get me anywhere near a tube station. A bus arrives and I jump on, even getting a seat. The bus moves about 10 feet from the stop and then sits there, ensnared in the steadily growing traffic snarl-up. After 20 minutes of shuffling forward slowly, I ask the bus driver if he will kindly open the doors and let me off. London bus drivers are not allowed to do this, presumably in case you are promptly mown down by something large and fast-moving but this bus driver is sensible and says “Watch out for the traffic” before opening his doors. I start to make the trek down Fulham Palace Road, past the hospital, past Maggie’s and eventually get to Hammersmith station. I am tired by this point, very, very tired, and my shopping bag is heavy and I’m not supposed to be carrying heavy things because of my stupid lymphoedema. As the tube pulls in, I climb on, wondering if anyone will give me a seat. Resigning myself to standing all the way home, I move into the middle of the carriage where I spy an empty seat. Unless you have spent years travelling on the London Underground you may possibly not comprehend quite what a marvellous, stupendous thing of beauty this is. Even better, no-one is hurtling down the carriage in the opposite direction trying to beat me to it. I would like to say I sank gracefully into the seat when, in reality, I dropped into it like a sack of spuds. Oh, the relief.

My bust will be decorated by an artist of some repute before it goes on tour, as I mentioned before. We have a stint in an art gallery in Brick Lane before our table-tennis tournament on 20th October in Holborn. Open to all, it should be entertaining and, as I have so many competetive friends, I am hopeful some will enter the competition. Come on, you know who you are and you know you want to. My bust will then do a small tour of the UK, residing in galleries and hospitals before it returns to the bosom of my family- sorry, I couldn’t resist it. It really will be a feat to decide where to display it. It is, after all, lifesize and, therefore, quite big. Still, we have a year to decide and in the meantime, I’m going to brush up on my table tennis skills.

No, it’s not Cynthia Albritton

OK, so tomorrow is going to be a bit weird. What you have to understand is that once you enter the world of cancer and beyond, all sorts of things, good and bad, happen to you. Some are outside of your control, some are new opportunities which present themselves and are to be grabbed, albeit with a modicum of ‘am I really doing this?’ thrown in for good measure. We all know about the dragon boat racing, the racing at Goodwood, the Maggie’s choir, going to the House of Lords and appearing on tv but this latest escapade beats them all in just sheer derring do. Oh, I do like an old-fashioned phrase.

You know how in life you might have a friend who is just a bad influence, or the one who always is there if you’re getting into scrapes of some kind? Well, sometimes I AM that friend but this time it is my friend Suzannah who got me into this one. It started with an innocent email and has snowballed into a scary, public airing of my chest.

I am going to have a plaster cast made of my remaining breast and the other, empty, side. It’s a collaboration of people including Keep a Breast, The Breast Movement and Hello Love Studio. I will be cast tomorrow by a lovely lady called Jane who will have an enormous supply of plaster strips and an equally big sense of humour, I hope. Once I am cast, I will be tidied up and an artist will decorate me. The range of potential artists is quite long and includes the usual suspects who might contribute to the RCA Secret sale. I am then going to be on tour for maybe a year. There will be fundraising events, including, somewhat bizarrely, a table tennis tournament, and I will be there, looking down on everyone in my artistically decorated state. At the end of my tour (a bit like my Royal Progress, I suspect), I will be able to take myself home and find somewhere suitable to display myself. It’s all a bit strange, really. Last year they cast Katy Perry amongst others and then sold the busts for charity. Clearly they either think no-one will want the mis-shapen and non-celeb or they are just being kind in letting us have them back. I think the latter.

The first thing I think of when I think of plaster casting is the infamous Cynthia Albritton who cast the -er- appendages of rock stars from the late 1960’s onwards. Apparently you can still buy limited editions of the casts with Jimi Hendrix’ being the most expensive. I guess it’s a good pension for an ageing groupie but not something I’d want decorating my home. Come to think of it, where will I put ME when I’m done touring?

Another hang over from cancer treatment is the dire state of my nails. OK, so it’s a bit of a change of subject but still something which is painful and vexing. My right thumb nail is so short it has shorn off waaaay below the normal level. It hurts! The nail bed is hot and puffy and I tried to take a photo of it to gain maximum sympathy but I am right-handed and couldn’t take a non-fuzzy shot so you’ll just have to imagine it. And feel sorry for me. Please.

Sleep, where art thou?

Sleep, where art thou? In my eyes, for sure. The lids that want to close, close, close. The eyes that blur and ache. You are not in my bed, not on the expensive memory foam mattress with additional box springs for extra comfort. You are not on the Egyptian cotton sheets, so soft and inviting. You are not beneath the summer-weight duck down duvet, so light yet cosy. You are not on the duck down pillows, so soft and yeidling to a tired head. You are not to be found on the firmer mattress of Master Mason’s bed, nor beneath an all-seasons duvet with a view of the night sky if I lie with my eyes open. But they want to close. My limbs hurt. The left side where I had surgery hurts. It hurts to lie on it as though it is bruised. My left arm has lymphoedema and aches, right down into my palm. My right arm is complaining, too, as it dragged a shopping trolley probably over-filled home yesterday as my left arm is banned from doing such things. Normally they would share the chores but the pulling, lifting and carrying is definitely right arm’s job these days.

Sleep is not in the first sleeping pill I take. It laughs in the face of my insomnia and sneers at my tossing and turning. An hour or so later I take another pill and retreat to Master Mason’s bed with my V-shaped pillow. I just want to SLEEP. Sometime in the night, Dog comes upstairs to do what he likes best – stand on Master Mason’s bed and look out of the window to see if any infringements are taking place. He is sometimes known as Police Community Support Officer Dog. He takes his protection duties very seriously. He jumps onto the bed, all 26kg of him and walks towards the head when he realises I am in the bed and he has just committed a major faux pas. He high-tails it out of there and runs downstairs, embarrassed and contrite.

Sleep eventually reveals itself around 3am. It teases for a little while then allows me to settle my tired body comfortably on my V-shaped pillow and gradually fall asleep. It prods me awake a couple of times after that but I go back to sleep.

Apparently sleeplessness is very common after treatment for cancer. At a time when the body and, more importantly perhaps, the mind needs to heal itself, sleeping well becomes the unattainable. I am not one for taking sleeping tablets unless strictly necessary. I do not want to rely on drugs unless I have to. When talking to my GP a while ago about taking sleeping pills and the possibility of addiction she said, probably quite wisely, “At the moment that’s the least of your worries”.

So tonight, what do I do? Climb in confidently and wait to slip into a gentle sleep or take drugs beforehand? I don’t want sleeping to become a battleground. I need 9 hours a night and always have done so at the moment I’m feeling seriously sleep deprived. On nights I sleep well, I tend to continue well on into the following day which I don’t like. Time is precious. Conscious time, as well as sleep time.

I guess this is a battle which will go on for a while yet. And if anyone mentions the phrase ‘sleep hygiene’, I will name and shame you. Don’t get me started.

The mystery of the avocado

There is an avocado in the fruit bowl, nestling between some bananas in an effort to make itself softer and more alluring. I don’t remember how it got there. I ask Mr Mason. He says ‘you bought it when you went out yesterday and I found it in the bottom of the shopping trolley’. Oh, I have amnesia when it comes to the purchase of avocados. Actually, I have amnesia when it comes to a lot of things these days and it shows no signs of abating. Looking up information on the internet, it seems that memory loss and impairment of mental function often returns. Meaning sometimes it doesn’t. Memory loss or not, it still reminds me of the Bill Bryson book where he walks part of the Appalachian trail and reads a book on bear attacks. He was not really comforted to read ‘Bears rarely attack’ because in Bryson speak, it meant ‘Sometimes – they do!’ And that’s how I am viewing my mental impairment at the moment.

What will I do if it doesn’t come back? It’s all very well being amusing, referring to actors as ‘the one who isn’t Harry Enfield’ (and, of course, I mean Paul Whitehouse) but that will only get me so far and, to be honest, it’s not that much fun telling someone that I am reading a really good book but I can’t remember who it is by or what it is about nor, indeed, what it is called. And before you shout me down with cries of ‘it’s old age!’ – it’s not. It’s really not. Multi-tasking was a specialty of mine. I could juggle tasks with ease, remember what needed to be doing when and never forgot a birthday. Now? I am unreliable and can’t be sure to remember anything and it’s fucking annoying. That’s clearly putting it mildly but I am aware I may have some young people tuning in.

So, apart from the forgetfulness, the absence of the multi-tasking ability and the ability to buy fruit without remembering, I can’t see properly. My eyes constantly tear up. I wander along the high street looking like I am perpetually tearful which, I am, but not for reasons of sadness but because my eyes don’t know when to shut up. They go on and on, tearing away like anything, ruining my attempts to look interesting with the application of a little makeup and causing me to be hypervigilant about carrying tissues which, given the state of my memory, is a tall order. Not only do they fill with water, they also fail to see things properly. They are really letting the side down. Talking to fellow cancer survivors, I learn this is quite a common problem but not one which is widely talked about. And, let’s face it, glasses are expensive to replace but not the sort of thing you can skimp on.

I decide on a whim to visit the local opticians. They say they are doing eye tests for free which appeals to the hard-up side of me. I enquire if they can see me and they have an appointment there and then. I wheel in my shopping trolley and feel embarrassed about it. I hadn’t planned on having my eyes tested or I would never have taken the shopping trolley. I feel it marks me out as elderly, infirm or slightly bonkers. However, I can’t do anything about it so I apologise for it and then go with the young man who seriously looks like he should still be at school. I am expecting a proper optician to pop up at any moment but no, this young man is the optician and he is going to check my eyes. Now, I have a freckle/mole/birthmark – call it what you will – at the back of my eye which always excites opticians and they spend a lot of time looking at it. When I say a lot of time, I really mean it. This young man is no different. He shines lights in my eyes like an expert interrogator and contorts himself about so he can see it from every angle. I reassure him it’s been looked at and it’s fine. It’s not a lesion which is what they worry about. It’s just a birthmark/freckle/mole. He still spends ages looking at it and tells me he wants me to be seen annually ‘just in case’. We all know what he means and I am far too fed up with the whole thing to even open up that debate. He explains kindly that chemotherapy has stiffened my retina which means my sight is worse than it was a year ago and that it won’t recover. Bugger. And also boo to those who told me it was just old age. The next person who says that is going to get a sock in the mouth. Honestly.

The next stage of the torment is to go and choose glasses. I don’t think I look good in any glasses but I have a steely and determined woman with me who is going to tell me what looks good and find bargains, to boot. She is very drawn to the designer brands but I tell her I am not going to pay that much. She then searches through all the sale glasses to find designer brands heavily discounted. Personally, I don’t mind if my glasses were designed by a chimp as long as they look OK and do the job. I don’t know who Roxy or Osiris is or are and I don’t care. I tell her if I’m going to change glasses then I’d like something different. This is a mistake. She finds me pairs that make me look demented and says bizarre things like ‘you really like lime’ which I am hard pressed to understand. She is very fond of one pair which looks like an old lady might like them. Something for that woman in Murder She Wrote. But not me. I finally decide on a red pair which I’m not sure I like and a roundish pair (they are Roxy!!) which will have those lenses that go dark in the sun. Whatever they are called. Memory failure. The sum I have to pay is astronomical and I wince as I type in my PIN number. Ouch.

They will be ready in 10 days’ time whereupon she informs me we can meet again for another hour of torture as she fits them and waxes lyrical about spring arms and designer brands. Will they stop my eyes tearing up? I hear you cry. No, of course not. But I may be able to read subtitles a bit better which will make me slightly less grumpy. Oh, the joys of cancer. It really is the gift that goes on giving. Hmm. Maybe a good strapline for one of the charities.


How alarming!

Today I have to go to Southampton for a meeting. Luckily, it only involves 2 train journeys, a taxi with minimal walking in between and Mr Mason gives me a lift to the station. As we leave the house at 7.15 all is well and the sun is shining. We climb into the car and suddenly there is an alarm howling. We look at each other. It doesn’t sound like the car alarm and so Mr Mason switches on the ignition. Nothing. Or rather, the noise continues. Thinking it might help, he switches on the windscreen wipers which, strangely, does nothing to quell the noise. He switches the ignition off. We look at each other again. Is it coming from outside, I ask? Mr Mason gets out and gets back in again. “No”. I have to get to the station so I suggest he drives while I look in the manual. This is very much a girl thing to do, I have discovered. I cannot find anything under the index heading of ‘Noises’ nor under ‘Alarm’ which will fit the bill. We arrive at the station and I say goodbye. On getting out of the car, I can hear the alarm blasting away so tell him it is audible outside the car. Mr Mason is busy saying something else without opening the window and I have my train to catch so I wave goodbye and go to the platform. As I climb the stairs to cross the line, I can still hear the alarm and think it really is very noisy and either it is our car driving past or else there is an alarm going off in the station. An alarm going off in the station. I am in the station. I was in the car. The alarm is going off on me. I put my hand in the pocket of my jeans and there is my pedometer with the additional personal alarm which has been unexpectedly triggered. Ah. Not the car alarm, then. Mystery solved. On the train, I call him to ask if he had worked out what the noise was. “No. But it stopped when you got out” which is what he was saying through the window when he dropped me off. I explain it was my pedometer and am then glad to hear he did not take the car straight to the garage for them to dis-assemble it in order to find the now non-existent noise.

I generally enjoy train travel. I either read a book, look out of the window or listen to other people’s conversations. People watching and listening is a great thing to do and today’s journey is no exception. I learn quite quickly that of the two people sitting across the aisle from me and drinking an early afternoon glass of wine, the woman has a husband called Rob whose sister is a real menace and his boss is even worse. The sister, never named but always referred to as ‘she’, is a bit of a pain, by all accounts. They go to stay with her at a holiday home ‘she’ owns abroad and everything is fine until they get in the pool upon which she becomes a screaming banshee and yells and carries on about the mess they are making. It’s an outrage. The boss is always trying to catch him out and asking him about things that are never going to happen. I am not clear what Rob does but it sounds as though he is either a flight steward or a steward on board ship. Probably the former. He knows his stuff, though, and manages to make the boss look foolish with his ridiculous questions and safety scenario. When the tea trolley makes its way through the train they decide on another round of drinks and her complaints get louder and more outlandish. Just before we arrive back in Waterloo, she goes to the toilet and is gone some time. Coming back, we are treated to a blow-by-blow account of how she thought she was locked in the toilet. She says she is a simpleton and, having surprised someone else in the toilet before, made sure she locked the door when she went in but could then not fathom out how to unlock it. Luckily, she manages to convey all this before we pull into the station and they go on their way.

Other people’s conversations are wonderful, as is people watching. I wonder if someone is blogging about the woman who was emitting an alarm, apparently unconcerned?

Exhaustion is so tiring

It’s true. Being tired is a most tiring and tiresome thing. Yesterday I watch a small part of a tv programme about being more responsible for monitoring your own health. Part of the documentary shows several older ladies who decide to make sure they walk 10,000 steps a day and who say they felt much better for it, more energetic etc etc. They even say it wasn’t that hard. This sounds good! I decide this will be me. I will banish my exhaustion by exercise, by walking 10,000 steps a day and be bright-eyed and glossy-haired with a spring in my step in no time. Did I ever tell you what an optimist I am?

This morning dawns bright and Mr Mason asks if I want to go out on a walk with him and Dog. Yes! I do! This is the start of the bright, energetic new me. I decide my aches, pains and exhaustion will disappear under the sun, be blown away on the breeze. It’s so simple. We set out and Dog walks nicely, not pulling and not stopping too often to sniff at something interesting. As he navigates pretty much by the smell of his own pee, it is quite an important part of his day. We get to a crossroads which is obviously of some signifigance to him and he just HAS to sniff and then pee. On a side note, I do wonder how much pee dogs actually contain. Dog has a bladder of amazing size and control. He has been known to pee continuously for up to 2 minutes and yet still find more to mark his route. Where does it all come from? But I digress. Pauses for sniffing and peeing make me more tired. Once momentum has been gained, it must be maintained or else I think I will stop and never move again. Eventually we get to the park and Dog is released from his lead and can run free with a look of bliss on his face. Periodically our offspring get obsessed with teaching Dog things. I taught him to bring his ball and to get off the sofa. Also, I believe, to sit. Ms Mason, who has since gone to live in Bangkok, so great is her embarrassment, once believed she had taught Dog to spell. This was on the basis that she would spell P-A-R-K rather than say the word. He responded to the tone of her voice and she was convinced he knew the spelling. When she started to call it ‘The Green Place’ instead, he responded to that in the same way. So, no spelling Dog, then. Before leaving for Thailand, she engaged in a campaign to teach Dog to roll over. As you will know from his photo, he is structurally unsuited to this task and we have not progressed beyond the ‘side’ command, whereupon he will lie in an awkward twisted shape in an effort to please us and be rewarded with a treat.

So, we get to the park, throw ball, tidy up after Dog and by the time we’ve gone through into the fields beyond, I am knackered. Beyond tired. We sit for a while before wandering slowly back with a stop on another bench before we leave. I am still very much focused on what might be and how good it would be to walk 10,000 steps and be all bright and bouncy. After getting home, we have lunch and then I say I am going to the shops to buy some fruit. Mr Mason doesn’t stop me. Damn. I head out and wonder if someone has stretched the road as it feels so much longer than usual. I don’t even have the heat to blame as it is quite cool so I am clearly Just Plain Exhausted. I walk to my favourite shop to find – horror of horrors! – that they have no cherries. This is just not on. I have eaten kilos of cherries this summer as they have been particularly good and to find my main supplier out of stock is just not good enough. I am a cherry addict and I need my fix. I have to go and sit down in a cafe and have a cold drink to recover from the shock and, to be honest, out and out tiredness. Once I have sat there for a while, sipping my drink and playing with my mobile, I heave myself up and go to Plan B shop. They have cherries of a lesser quality but better than nothing so I buy a bagful, throwing in some sultana grapes, limes and mint and coriander for good measure. I am thinking Mojito with the mint and limes with the golden rum I brought back from Oslo. I know, I am mixing my cocktails and my continents.

I make it home although each step feels heavier than the last and by the time I reach the front door, I could just weep. Mr Mason is on hand to bring me a cup of coffee and see me settled on the sofa. With normal tiredness, sitting or resting will improve how you feel. This doesn’t seem to work so well with Fibromyalgia and so by 5.30 I am asking if it is too early to put my pyjamas on. Luckily we are not the types who dress for dinner so pjs it is. The next question is – is it OK to drink a mojito when wearing pjs?


I am more tired than a tired thing. More exhausted, fatigued, worn-out, bone weary and any other term for tiredness you may wish to use. A short and lovely break in Oslo has left me feeling incapable of movement, working out to the millilitre how much longer I can wait before making the trek upstairs to go to the loo. Those of you who have experienced this kind of tiredness whether through chemotherapy, fibromyalgia or any other debilitating illness will recognise the calculations necessary before movement is made. For the last couple of nights, I have slept well. Apart from the nightmares, that is. The ones where you try and scream but you are rendered dumb and can’t alert someone to danger or tragedy.

Even the trip to the hospital today is a real trial. I have a follow-up appointment with my surgeon so she can survey her handiwork and possibly patronise me just a little. On the way, we start to notice how many people use their car horns at any and every opportunity. Has Mr Mason become a terrible driver? I hear you cry. No, he is his usual self, driving like a regular Londoner. People in front must know the way or they are in for a tongue-lashing with the kind of language you don’t want to repeat in front of an impressionable toddler. Which reminds me of a small child on the flight back from Oslo. Her father was very bad tempered and appeared to be travelling with his mother-in-law as well as small children and wife. And the mother-in-law had a very loud voice which grated on me in the 20 minutes I was subjected to her at the departure gate. He was faring less well having, I assume, been the recipient of her endless exclamations ‘Oh! Darling! I’ve lost my bag! Oh no, here it is’ and ‘You have been such a good girl!’ to a small child writhing and whingeing, all her words delivered at high volume. She was tall, too, and that’s never a good thing when you’re my height. Anyway, I digress. Digression is, I perhaps should mention, one of my best features. We land at lovely Stansted airport and, having retrieved my one bag, I am waiting to get off the plane. I hear a rather loud ‘Fuck!’ coming from behind a seat. ‘Don’t say that, darling. It’s not nice’. ‘Fuck! I only said ‘Fuck”. The father, he of the terrible temper through suffering his mother-in-law’s exclamations for a week or more, ignores the fact that his daughter of perhaps 3 years is swearing like a trooper and leaves it to his wife who looks a little alarmed and tries to stop her child swearing whilst giving those around her wan smiles. I leave the plane before them so do not know the outcome of this battle. I rather hope the child wins.

Back to the plot. The hooting. People are hooting in a very bizarre way today. We are hooted whilst waiting at a crossing with red lights. I cannot see the point of hooting unless someone is being a total imbecile and holding up the traffic whilst texting or being on their mobile phones. Hooting at a red light is simply the sign of a person not in control of their hands or brain. So we arrive at the hospital and wait to see the surgeon. She is on holiday from where she cannot make mildly patronising remarks and so we see her underling, probably a registrar or senior registrar. She is very nice and has clearly read my notes as she can tell me what was wrong with me and what was done about it. She surveys her boss’ handiwork and says ‘Oh, you poor thing’ which I suspect is not what she is going to report back. There is a very painful area on one of my ribs and I point it out to her. She obliging presses it and I obligingly yelp as it hurts a lot. There are 2 options. 1 is to have another bone scan to see if it is a return of the cancer but I somehow think it isn’t. 2 is that I am referred to another pain clinic who would help me manage it as neuropathic pain does not respond to usual pain relief. I ask in what way might that be done. She says ‘With perhaps Gabapentin’ and I interrupt asking if it also might include Pregabalin and Amitryptilline? She thinks I know my stuff and I explain I am on both drugs for the Fibromyalgia and that my other pain clinic is trying to get me to increase the Pregabalin to 300mg twice a day. ‘Oh, you’ll be a zombie!’ she says which I absolutely agree with. I tell her I am secretly experimenting with doses to ensure I have some quality of life. I can also have local injections to numb the pain, too, so she will discuss it with the surgeon and let me know which option they are going to follow.

I have decided I need a complete break and so Mr Mason and I are off to Greece next month for a couple of weeks. I anticipate a fortnight of sunshine, lounging around and catching up on books. As we missed our holiday last year, this is one I am particularly looking forward to. I wonder how noisy Greek drivers are?

We go racing!

My, how hectic life has been over the last couple of weeks. As always, I aim to space out activities in the hope that they will coincide with the rhythms of my energy but, as always, life seems to get in the way of any plans.Not that activities haven’t been fun or entertaining but that, as ever, planning seems to be a waste of time.

I have spoken to Macmillan staff on a couple of occasions. It’s just to enable staff who don’t usually have contact with their end users to watch me stumble about a stage and talk to them about my experience. I have a few PPT slides of me in various stages of baldness I share with them plus a picture showing Dog. The last time I spoke to staff I actually had a request to bring Dog with me. I can’t imagine the chaos he would cause at such an event so I declined on his behalf and they make do with photos of him.

Following on from my last talk, I receive a call from Patrick who asks if I have any engagements on 1st August. I assume he is going to ask me to speak again but I am wrong. He offers us tickets to Goodwood Races on Ladies Day as they have been given a table by one of their corporate partners. I have never been racing before and this, coupled with the lure of free food and drink on the sunniest day of the week, is irresistible. We drive to Goodwood via Mark’s parents where we drop Dog off for the day so he can be spoilt rotten and bark at anyone who comes to the door.

Some of the outfits worn by people at Goodwood are really extraordinary. It is difficult but I try to take surreptitious pictures of some of the better ones although it is hard. I decide I could never be a secret agent although perhaps I would be given a less obtrusive camera with which to photograph my targets. One of my favourites is a woman dressed in a hat of gargantuan proportions. She teeters along on high heels and stops by the rails in front of us where we see she has extraordinarily long nails. How does she live with nails that long? The most normal of tasks must seem at the very least, difficult. A young girl sitting nearby talks in stage whispers about the lady boy but we think it is a genuine woman in front of us.
We see a woman in a long red dress being led carefully and kindly from the marquee we are in. She is clearly very drunk and has to be supported although where she is being taken, I don’t know. Unlimited wine on such a hot day has a terrible effect. There are clearly several company outings taking progress and there seems a competetive element amongst some to buy champagne. The actual marquee is quite hot and humid but there are benches outside from which I have a great view of the racecourse from just behind the rails so I decide to sit there and be anti-social. And to people watch, obviously. The day is fun and the food is wonderful. It is beautiful to see the horses run and to be so close to them. I talk only briefly with other people on the table because it is so hot and I am longing to sit outside where there is a breeze. Just as we have finished lunch, tea seems to arrive. Unbelievably we are able to eat something from the plates of tiny sandwiches (with crusts removed, obviously) and the miniature cakes. It would be rude not to. We wend our way home towards the end of the afternoon so we can be back in time for Mark’s Tai Chi class. It’s been a good day, though, and another in the spirit of ‘do something different’. More please.



The Bee – Whisperer’s Wedding

We have had a lovely couple of days.

We have been to a bee-whisperer’s wedding. We drive to Chester to stay with our friends R and P and meet their daughter and granddaughters. It is a happy meeting and immediately Dog realises he has foundnew playmates who will throw a ball endlessly and adore him. We sleep in the conservatory, cosy underneath a glass roof and an amazing bougainvillea in full bloom. The wedding morning dawns and Mark, Dog and the groom leave to go and get themselves spruced up. My wedding breakfast is a pain au chocolat and a cup of coffee in my garden boudoir while small girls peep through the curtain that separates us from the house in case Dog is up and wanting to play. Of course he is but is then whisked away with the boys. The bride makes an appearance and looks simply stunning. She is radiant with happiness and absolutely beautiful.

The service is short but quite emotional. I ensure I take photos while they exchange vows and see a tear glistening in the bride’s eye as she hears her bridegroom solemnly read his vows. Later confetti is thrown around liberally and we go back to find the wonderful feast their friends have prepared in our absence. Dog sits in the car awhile to save him from being at nose height to a table groaning with amazing food. Later he re-joins us to be fed copious sausage rolls by the small girls.

During an interlude in the proceedings, P, the groom says to one of the girls “Would you like to see my bee collection?” Not an everyday phrase, I think you will agree. He tells her to open a small wooden box which we find contains the bodies of dead bees. He doesnt like to leave them lying aound and I wish I could remember or invent his exact reason for doing it but I can’t. I’m sure it honours the majorly important bee in some way. It is also very touching to see this moment between the two of them and how the child doesn’t bat an eyelid at this offer.

I wish all happiness to the bee whisperer and his wife.