The woman with three breasts

I am a freak. I now have a choice of breasts to wear. Well, in truth, I have had one silicone prosthesis AND a swimming prosthesis since last Spring so the three breasts bit, written to lure you in, is not strictly true. I have 2 silicone and the swimming breast and none of them seems to be me. Obviously they are not me in actuality but they don’t seem to look like me. It surprised me how much a breast is supposed to weigh. They are not light and delicate things. There is also something strange about going into a room with someone who is trying to match you up so that your frontage doesn’t look lopsided. Janine, my fitter, is very nice and agrees my current prosthesis is not doing the job and tries me with several before she is happy. I have to quietly confess that I don’t see much difference but she is thorough and is pleased with the result. She also finds me a bra which seems to fit better than some of the others I have experimented with so I buy that and then take away a phone number which I can ring and order them at a discount if I quote her name. Bras for prostheses are pretty dire, though, and do nothing for my shape. In the room there is a cupboard full of boxes of breasts. Quite surreal. I am reminded to treat my breast like my own. I shower with it and if it gets a scratch, a plaster will help stop the silicone from leaking out. I am also supposed to put it away in its box at night, as though I am putting it to bed. This, I think, is a step too far and it will have to take its chances on the top of my chest of drawers. Toughen up, silicone breast. This is the real world.

In other news, I am going to go to Bangkok to see Miss Mason and Mr Safaie so I can pretend to help out with wedding arrangements whilst having a nice holiday. Miss Mason has had a few setbacks in the wedding dress department. A svelte size 10, she has gone to a few bridal shops in Bangkok thinking she will try on styles of dress before having one made, only to be met with cries of “No! No! We don’t do fat dresses!” Thai women are so slight that even a slim European size 10 is considered fat and, being Thai and straight talking, they have no hesitation in telling her she is fat. Stuffing herself into tiny size 4 and 6 dresses is a depressing task so she has been looking at styles on the internet and they have been pinging back and forth between us as she chooses the final design. No wonder she is drinking pints of gin and tonic. It is not until I have booked my flight that I consider what I have done and I think it demonstrates that I truly am an optimist. Or else I am impulsive. One of the two. I book my flight with excitement and think about all the things we will do together. Later on, it occurs to me that I have booked a flight to a country which is in a state of turmoil at present. Just last week someone threw a grenade into a shopping centre and some children were killed. They were not the first child casualties of the political turmoil, either. I do not consider the possibility of being blown up or shot when I book. Just a thought.

And finally, we are not speaking to Dog. He has been a very bad dog and is consequently sent to Coventry which is a severe punishment for a pack animal. Mr Mason drops me off at Charing Cross Hospital on Wednesday so I can go to my weekly Maggie’s meeting. After this, he drives to Tesco to buy a few essentials such as cat and dog food. Dog is not allowed out to do his customary wee there. Dog always likes to get out at Tesco and wee in a corner of the car park. It does not matter if he only had a wee five minutes before. Weeing in Tesco’s car park is an essential component of the Dog experience and on this occasion, he is denied it. This, we think, enrages him, together with the fact that there are no squirrels to chase in the park. Dog thinks he has been hard done by and will not come back to have his lead on. He decides the best thing to do is run out of the park, crossing the busy road and prance about with a massive adrenalin surge telling him to run in and out of the traffic coming to a halt in the middle of the road. Mr Mason follows him in a sort of  stoic rage and eventually lures him so he can put his lead on. I suspect at this point there may have been some swearing but I was not there so cannot comment. You must fill in the dots yourself.

When I arrive home, Dog rushes to meet me but with slightly less fervour than usual. I do not greet him. I do not say “It’s the incredible jumping Dog!” as I usually do as he launches himself at me on just two feet (Dog is on just two feet – I am always on two feet unless something has toppled me). I go to the postbox without saying “See you in a little while” which is the signal I am coming back. He worries and frets and casts covert glances at me. Mr Mason goes out on the town to see the band of a friend’s daughter. Oh, how old that makes us sound! He leaves without saying “Goodbye” to Dog. Dog sleeps in his basket quietly and when I tell him to come and have a wee before I go to bed, he does so quietly and without fuss. I go to bed and leave him on his own. In the morning we don’t greet him. I don’t say “Good morning” which is the signal that he can come and see me in bed. He skulks about, disconsolate. The door into the breakfast room which can be a source of terror for him if it is not fully open becomes one he can easily slip through, so desperate is he to please us and have amicable relations restored. Mr Mason and I go out to the shops and Dog stares with his prize-winning sad eyes at us through the window. As soon as he has successfully come back to the lead on his walk, we can be friends again. The risks of him getting killed outweigh the distress the temporary withdrawal of contact makes. Many moons ago, when Dog was quite a bit younger, he failed to come back to the lead. I think I may have told this story already but I really feel it is worth repeating. Mr Mason, after trying many times to capture the very speedy Dog, lay down on the path in the park and whimpered, feigning illness. Dog, being curious, came up to see what was the matter whereupon he was caught and Mr Mason was able to stand up and cough a few times whilst ignoring the stares of astounded onlookers. He has not repeated this obviously successful technique, no matter how many times I ask him. Spoilsport.

The one where my hat blows off

Oh, blast karma and all its repercussions. Having been very bad last week, I make amends by Doing Good Things but it doesn’t seem to help. My good deed is to rescue someone’s phone as it lies forlornly in the middle of the road. Luckily it hasn’t been squashed and I slip it into my pocket with the intention of going through its contacts in order to locate the owner. When I get home I find that it is sensibly password protected which means I will have to take it to the police station in the morning. Sometime in the afternoon, the lost phone rings and I find I am speaking to its owner. She agrees to come to the house the following day to collect it. In the evening, we go to meet friends at a local Indian restaurant. We used to throw lavish dinners for friends on the Saturday before Christmas with every course specially sourced, from the smoked salmon at the beginning to the specialist chocolates at the end. Sometimes they were vegetarian extravaganzas, sometimes they were carnivorous feasts and sometimes it was a bit of both. After last year’s trials, we did not throw a dinner as I was just getting over my final chemotherapy treatment. This year we decide to go out with friends and very lovely it is, too. The restaurant is bustling and we receive very good service and excellent food amongst some of our most beloved friends. The waiter even gives us a Christmas card each and no-one says Bah Humbug!

On Sunday, the lady of the phone comes to the door and I hand it over with a smile while she is extremely grateful and insists on giving me chocolates to say thanks. I am just glad to reunite them as I know if I lost my phone, I would feel bereft as it contains so much information. Having done A Good Thing, I am hopeful that karmic balance will have been restored, but no. The parcel we sent to Miss Mason in Thailand has not arrived. Mr Mason calls the Post Office who are tracking it internationally and to whom he has paid an extravagant amount. I am Skyping with Miss Mason when I hear him swear loudly and slam the phone down. It appears our parcel has been sitting in Belfast for the last week, neither going to Bangkok nor coming back to London. I now have to go and get a special form. We are not sure whether we will get the parcel back or whether we have to claim insurance for its contents and start all over again. This is very bad news as we know it is already difficult to have Christmas in a hot country while the rest of the family sits by the fire opening Christmas presents. I gear myself to go to the Post Office and get the said form. To quote, the weather outside is frightful. It rains hard and the wind blows so that it whistles through the front door but I have to go out. I get soaked and the wind blows so hard it blows my hat off. Luckily I catch it before it blows away. At this point, Miss Mason will be sorry as she thinks the said rain hat makes me look mad but I am glad I caught it.

At what point will Karma be satisfied? How many more bad things will happen before things become equal again? I shall obviously have to be on my very best behaviour rather than my usual Minnie the Minx persona as my friend Ms Marsden calls it. With this in mind, here is a festive photo to warm your hearts.


Dog is rather unhappy with the placing of the tree as in order to put it in the bay, we have to move his bed a few inches to the left which is not good, according to Dog rules. It does allow him, however, to take full advantage of the fire when it is lit.


Leaving you with that image, I would like to wish you all a very happy Christmas, no matter which corner of the globe you find yourselves in and I look forward to sharing more exploits with you in the new year.

The Sound of Silence

I realise I was so tired when I last blogged that I didn’t even think of a title. Sigh. But today is all about being mindful. A whole day of it. I cannot think what a whole day will be like but Mr Mason and I duly set off, allowing just over an hour to get to the venue. Alas, the tube station is closed and myriad underground lines are not running, meaning getting to our mindfulness class is a lot more bother than we have anticipated. After 3 buses, we arrive at the aptly named Haven and stumble through the doors to find 30 or so people lying all over the floor, all in various stages of mindful relaxation. We pick our way nimbly (ha ha) through the assorted masses, trying not to step on anyone’s tail, and find ourselves a couple of chairs to begin our practice. Once the initial session is over, we are able to find ourselves a small space each on the floor where we lie cheek by jowl with our fellow students, some of whom find it easier than others to heave themselves vertical. We are told our day is to be spent in silence as far as possible which is something I had not expected. I quite like the idea although I also like the idea of chatting with my co-conspirators.

We practise being mindful whilst lying down, sitting in chairs, sitting on the floor, standing, stretching and, finally, walking. At first, we walk slowly, measuring each step carefully and concentrating on every small movement whilst simultaneously trying not to crash into each other. Gradually, we are to increase our pace whilst trying to maintain our mindfulness. The faster I go, the less mindful I feel I am as I become more and more aware of my environment. It is also quite difficult to walk with any speed as there are so many of us. After quite a bit of walking about, we break for our silent lunch. We have been asked not to read, text or look anyone in the eye during the day, all of which is really quite demanding. Once I have mindfully eaten my lunch, I feel like a fractious teenager forbidden to go to see the latest popular music combo. I wriggle around on the sofa, sighing and resting my chin on my hand. Being silent for any length of time is so difficult. Without access to books or other stimulation, I feel so bored so I attempt sleep but it does not really work. Thinking back to interesting conference stories – an injection given by the light of the patient’s mobile phone – helps a little.

After lunch – well, perhaps we should run a competition to get the answer but I think you and I both know that we do more mindfulness practice. We finish our day just before 4pm and Mr Mason and I hare out of there attempting to make our bus journeys home as swift as possible in order to let Dog out who will be positively crossing his legs by this point.

And there this blog post will end. I have something much more exciting to write about… Keep watching!

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?

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.

My week – the one in which my plans go awry

Today I have plans. Or rather, I have plans for today. Today itself isn’t shaping up in the way I would like. My plans include being a superwoman and sweeping floors, scrubbing the stairs, doing loads of washing, planting seedlings and making a start on dinner. This is before I go for my penultimate dose of Herceptin this afternoon. It may also have included a quick wash of the front windows where Dog likes to rub his wet nose in anticipation of guests or – much, much worse – foxes.

How it actually shapes up is like this. I wake around 8.30 feeling so tired, I don’t even want to get out of bed. I check my phone, drink a cup of coffee, kindly supplied by my resident butler, and read a bit of my book until 9.20. Then I think I really must get up. So I do, dressing carefully so my portacath will be accessible this afternoon and rueing the fact that I don’t have my resident chauffeur today and will make my way to hospital by tube. This isn’t because I don’t have wonderful people I can call on to take me in. It’s just that when I feel this tired, I find conversation exhausting and actively shy away from it. I don’t want to talk on the phone, I don’t want to see anyone, I just want to be left in peace. So then the dilemma is to tolerate physical exhaustion over mental exhaustion. It’s a tough one.

It’s been a good week, though. I have to refer back to my diary for the details because I only have the feeling it’s been a good week rather than the detail of what I did. On Monday, it was the 5th birthday of Maggie’s London. If you don’t know them, take a look because they are a fine charity and have been an absolute blessing to us since I was diagnosed with cancer last March. So, the Maggie’s Choir had its first performance. We are a ramshackle lot. Various ages, various states of decay vying with glamour. Some of us can hold a note, some of us aim to one day. We have a terrific build up and introduction given by Sam, our choirmaster. He gets the audience doing warm-up exercises and everyone is smiling and joining in. We start with Here Comes the Sun, appropriate given that the garden at Maggie’s was sponsored by the family of George Harrison. A spirited rendition of Oo La Ley with audience participation and then we are into the showstopper of Let’s Face the Music and Dance. I’d like to say we brought the house down but people are appreciative and applaud, stamp their feet and whistle. It’s good enough. We eat cake – lots of it – and then drift away in clumps to talk and get to know each other better. A good day.

Tuesday sees me up at the crack of dawn to catch a train at 6.30 to get me to Southampton in time for a 9.30 meeting with researchers looking at genetic testing for breast cancer in young women. It’s very positive to sit in a meeting with people who know Lots of Stuff really well and for them to still respect my opinion as a patient. It’s a long day and I find myself tired but mentally energised.

Wednesday I am talking to the Digital Media team of Macmillan about my experience. Some charity teams don’t get the opportunity to engage with service users much so it’s good to hear things first hand. They are having an away day at an amazing venue in Kennington. It is also home to the London Bee Keepers’ Association and the room has posters of different kinds of bees (including the Mason bee – I am proud). I talk for 45 minutes with a few slides of me with and without hair, including more recent photos of just before my friend Alison and I were told off in the National Portrait Gallery for posing in front of portraits and photographing ourselves. Image

The woman in the right of the photograph was just coming to tell us off. They seem to enjoy my talk, even applauding and I want to say “Don’t applaud cancer!” but I suppose it’s me they are applauding, not the disease. They have kindly arranged a taxi to take me to Maggie’s where we have our final choir rehearsal before trooping across to the hospital to surprise visitors by singing around the piano. One of the choir members, Pat, an older lady who makes copious small pencil notes on her word sheets about how she is supposed to sing different sections of the songs, confides she has had a strange day. She tells me she had a shower in the morning, used deodorant and put on fresh clothes but later tells me she thought it had all been ineffective. So she did the whole procedure again but still felt something had gone wrong. She thinks she smells. I tell her if it gets too strong I will move. She also confides she doesn’t know the songs really but sings what she thinks the tune might be. She is an absolute star and I love her.

After embarrassing the Choirmaster and his lovely assistant with cards and gifts to thank them for their time, energy and encouragement, we duly ascend on the cafeteria on the first floor at Charing Cross. People in Starbucks look alarmed as we swarm around the piano, pulling on t-shirts we have been given. Mine makes me look like a sausage in a skin but they don’t have a larger one left. We go through our whole performance with one additional song. A lady with a megaphone in the cafe shouts for us to do more. People join in and wave their arms. They even applaud and passers-by take photos of us on their phones. Someone at the back videos the first song on their phone. And then it’s over. We peel away from the piano, swapping numbers, delaying the end. Some people want to continue the Wednesday afternoon singing sessions without the Choirmaster. It will not happen. The course is finished and we have to accept it. And it was huge fun. We learnt a lot, met new people, smiled and laughed.

And that’s probably why I am so tired today. A good week = a tired me. The sun is shining, though, and even though that highlights Dog’s window activities, I think they will have to be left for another day.

The Lowestoft Bendys

A few weeks ago we went to Lowestoft for a weekend. It was really cold and the weather was a bit wild but our room overlooked the beautiful sandy beach and crashing sea so it didn’t really matter what the weather did. The staff at the hotel were lovely and gave us the sea view room simply because there was one available and they could.

We wandered about the town and went into shops at the same time simply because we could as we didn’t have Dog with us. Normally, one has to wait outside with Dog while the other goes rootling through charity shops or whatever. The rootling one then comes out to find a small crowd gathered around Dog cooing over him and trying to love him which he doesn’t always like. He is also an expert at putting his nose up women’s skirts and goosing them which MB says he taught him all himself. He’s not telling the truth, of course. Or at least, I don’t think so. If MB had the determination to teach such skills to Dog, he might also have taught him to do useful things and to be impeccably behaved, which he isn’t. Anyway, back to Lowestoft.

One of the fish and chip restaurants on the seafront looked appealing on the Saturday night. We thought we would eat early, just after 5pm. We went into the restaurant which wasn’t empty but the staff looked quizzically at us. ‘Can we have a table?’ I asked. ‘Sorry, we’ve stopped serving and we’re shut’. ‘It says on the door that you don’t shut until 6.30’. ‘That’s not right, we shut at 5’. Okaaaaay. Outside, I couldn’t resist taking a photo of their sign.Image

Fish and chip weddings. That’s the way to go!

I also found a sign which I thought was highly amusing. It concerns the Bendy family. Now, the Bendy family summons up all sorts of images in my mind – long dangly legs and arms made of foam and poseable in a variety of interesting ways. MB didn’t think it was amusing at all.


It still made me snigger.