Don’t do drugs, kids

Sometimes it takes me ages to write the next blog. It is usually because life gets in the way in some guise or another and, in this case, it’s because I’m feeling unwell in various ways. No sooner than we get the good CT scan, the rib pain comes on and doesn’t give up. It stops me from sleeping and I can actually point to the areas where it hurts. “It hurts when I press here” I tell Mr Mason. “Don’t press it, then” he says, with the age-old family joke. He speaks to the GP who says he will ask for an ultrasound of my liver. A couple of days later, I go to see a different GP from the practice. They are all nice, accommodating and listen to me but I am struggling to get someone to actually examine me. The second GP doubles my morphine so that we can get on top of the pain. He also writes to my oncologist to ask for a bone scan. Bone scans are my least favourite thing as they so claustrophobic. This GP tentatively examines me but really is interested in pain so that’s what his goal is. With this amount of morphine in my system, I am really off my head. I go to see another GP a day or so later (the exact chrononology is a bit muddled, unsurprisingly) to check his opinion of my  medication which he concedes is a little high but as long as it’s got on top of my pain, that’s fine. I can also take a sleeping tablet should I wish to. He also feels around the painful area on my ribs and can’t find anything untoward. He is quite reassurring.

The difficulty in taking lots of morphine is that there are side effects. I am in the car with Mr Mason when I can quite clearly see Mr Mason jnr sitting in front of me on the seat at the front of the bus carrying a big log and wearing fawn trousers. I text him to see if he will turn round but receive a text back saying “No, I’m not”. I know it’s pantomime season but I don’t get into the “Oh yes you are” repartee. He probably wouldn’t respond, either. I have conversations with people I know and people I don’t know, often deep and interesting but I find it a little concerting when Mr Mason breaks in with some real live conversation and I realise I’ve been off in my drug fuelled world again. I decide to cut down the amount I am taking gradually to see whether the pain returns or not and manage to get back to my normal level in 2 weeks which actually impresses the oncologist. He thinks that as the pain has subsided, it is probably musculo-skeletal and that it will flare up occasionally but that’s about it. He’s arranging for a bone scan which he says won’t be before Christmas and smiles with me as I realise I will get a week off chemotherapy over Christmas.

In between all this muddle, my friend, Mrs Jones, comes to visit me from Nottingham and we take her to see the seals. Ever since I open my eyes I don’t feel right. Can’t put my finger on it but I just feel a bit icky. As we are leaving to pass the last of the seals, we see a small chap who has found some water channels and is busy swimming up and down them. In one lane, he finds it blocked by a bull seal and his little fins go twenty to the dozen to get out of there. All the while he calls for his mum who ignores him and he seems to get further and further away from her. He starts to scramble up the grassy bank towards us, calling and puffing for all he’s worth. When he gets to the top he does the one thing I suspect will kill him. He puts his head through the fence and we jump away as though burned. If you take a look at him you’ll see why someone with less self-control might just have put a hand down to stroke his head, unwittingly meaning his mother will reject him and he will die. After a few moments calling us all Mum, he flapped his way off again towards another cow with her pups but he wasn’t well received. I could never be a wildlife photographer or journalist. The plight of this one little seal pup has stayed with me.

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As we leave Donna Nook, I begin to feel worse but we haven’t eaten so maybe that will make me feel better. It doesn’t. It just makes me want to urge the tea lady to hurry up with her food and then for my companions to eat faster. I am rapidly feeling so ill I don’t even feel I can speak. I signal I need to go home. Urgently. We arrive home, I dash to the bathroom, show Mrs Jones my trumpet lights and then say that I have to go to bed. She is great about it and has a good old natter with Mr Mason downstairs while I crash out. My temperature goes up and down, I feel a bit chilly and then OK so I tough it out. Over the next few days I am in bed with aching limbs and headaches but determined not to go to hospital. One one day, Mr Mason also feels a bit yucky (or “a bit umpty” as his parents say) so I am convinced it is a virus. Gradually the symptoms subside and, due to the reduction of my morphine, I stop seeing things and having conversations whether I don’t know if I’m awake or asleep. On our wedding anniversary – 36 years this year – I write Mr Mason a card but get confused with Valentine’s Day and our anniversary. I end up writing a lot of hallucinatory stuff which will no doubt make its way through the family annals as to “This is when Granny went mad and we have it in writing”. Actually, should the day occur when I am a grandparent, I am going to be Babcia in honour of my lovely friend, Ms Baranska, who very sadly died on 22nd November 2015, another victim of cancer, this time of cancer of an unknown origin. She was just 32.

Our exciting news is that not only is Mrs Safaie snr coming to spend Christmas with us but it also looks as though Mr and Mrs Mason are also coming. This news is absolutely epic given that Mrs Mason snr hasn’t stepped outside the back door for several years and I’m not sure even owns a pair of shoes any more. In between high temperatures, headaches and exhaustion, I have been ordering a new bed and bedding, re-arranging the bedrooms and making sure the annexe is up to scratch, getting a wardrobe dismantled (not the Mr Shaya jnr way), Christmas shopping and planning work for the new year. The physical work is not mine, of course, but that of Mr Mason and our gardener, Gavin.

I was almost on the point of declaring blog bankruptcy given that it has been so long since my last episode but I enjoy writing and although it’s frustrating when I can’t write chronologically, I suppose that level of control also has to be let go. I know there have been messages on Facebook and via email that I have not answered but if the choice is between a quick nap or writing, the quick nap will often win. So just sit back and imagine how the last great storm whipped through the village making it sound as though we were on a beach and shaking the ancient trees to their foundations (none felled, though, that I saw). The owls were quiet that night but are now back with a vengeance. And at the weekend we went to the Horncastle Christmas Market which is low key but entertaining and  I got to hold a barn owl which was incredible. I wish I could sign off with Too Wit, Too Woo but alas, that’s the Tawny owl so until the next time, Eeeeek eek eeeeeek!

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An update on the good news

As most of you will know, my last scan comes back pretty clear with no lesions to be seen and no fluid in my lungs. This is amazing and brilliant and certainly adds time onto my life. I know we’re not all cancer experts here so it seems worth a moment of clarity. I still have cancer. I will always have cancer and will need to have chemotherapy every 3 weeks until something else happens. Another story in the press today says Kadcyla is NOT going to be approved for the Cancer Drugs Fund which means I am OK until April 2016 when something else will happen.

At the moment I have pain in my ribs which triggers a doubling of my morphine and prospective tests to have a look to see what is going on. After the CT scan good news, we go out and buy a really nice new Egyptian Cotton duvet cover and sheets in duck egg blue. Once the rib pain really gets going, it seems as though we’ve brought it on by celebrating with new bedding. It’s the start of our week off – a week with no appointments or work. We think about going away for a few days and then decide to have a staycation – visiting the places we don’t know around us. The rib pain comes on gradually during the week and I have to seek more pain relief although it makes me slur and feel out of it. On the final day, I have an appointment with the optician who is a lovely young man from Manchester and we chat about all sorts of things as he has a sense of humour which matches mine. He quickly discovers my left eye has deteriorated more than my right and when he puts a correcting lens in, I can see properly and realise why I have been feeling so unsteady when walking around. I am now longing for my new, very expensive glasses when I shall see the world right again!

Without my diary to hand, I can’t say what day we do what but it doesn’t matter and I’m not going to argue with myself on a point of when we were somewhere. We go to Donna Nook to see the seals again as there are more there now. The carpark is overflowing and I know there are Disabled spaces so get out of the car to have a look. Now at this point, I must confess that Mr Mason and I call them Selfish spaces. Now I have a blue card, they come in jolly handy but the ‘Selfish’ tag came long ago when, in a car park, we found lotso of Disabled spaces empty. “Look” said Mr Mason, “The Disabled people can’t even be bothered to come and use their special parking spaces. How selfish”. Of course, he said it with tongue firmly wedged in cheek and now we have a blue badge, we call it our own Selfish badge. So, I set off round the car park, stick and selfish badge in hand, to see if there was a space available. Indeed there was but a car was just about to reverse into it. I approached the driver and said “Did you know this is a disabled space?” He didn’t like being approached at all and I should have taken a sharp, pointy stick with me but alas, my stick has a flat, rubber bit on the bottom. I might have to modify it…… Anyway, he tried to ignore me so I spoke to him again. “No, it’s not” he said. I pointed out the Disabled signs. “I can’t see them” he said, which made me think he may be blind and, therefore in need of a Selfish spot but equally should not be driving. I pointed out that there was a bay or 4 or 5 parking spaces. His wife was looking more uncomfortable by the moment. “Well,” he said, still not looking at me “I’ll take my chances” and reversed back into the space. I stood nearby, thinking I was not going to make this a comfortable experience for him but his wife couldn’t stand the strain and got out of the car, looking at the signs all along the fence, clearly showing it was a Selfish bay. She went quite red and got back into the car, gesticulating wildly and made him drive off. Not before his parting shot which, had Oscar Wilde still been alive, would have envied it. “Have you been here this week?” I thought about it. “No” I said, and away he drove, thinking ‘Take that, you selfish disabled person’.

The beach at Donna Nook is fantastic and has hundreds more seals than on our last visit. We walk up and down, listening to the pups crying for their mothers with an eerie “Mum! Mum!” call. I am sure one seal is due to give birth at any time and, of course, while we walk off, she does. But really, they are dropping them like crazy. I take a film of two mothers having fisticuffs over the ownership of a pup with Mr Mason talking in the background about how he is going to buy a sausage bap and a coffee. I’m sure it wasn’t this hard for David Attenbrough. There is also a video of a pup struggling through grass, not its natural medium, calling for its Mum. They sound incredibly like small children. Anyway, I’d like you to know that in downloading the baby seal video to this blog has almost made me give up the will to live. It is INCREDIBLY SLOW and we can do nothing else on the computers but sit around and sigh, poking a key or two every so often. It’s now at 96.6% and the excitement is overwhelming. If it doesn’t work (you can’t add video directly to a WordPress blog – it can only be through a link) you will hear me yelling and carrying on for miles.

But it takes me ages to write this blog because I am so, so tired. Whether it is the medication or I am just going through a tired phase, I don’t know but it means I have to finish this post here. Mr Mason is so patient while I try to write with my eyes closing and I’m not sure it all makes sense but he deserves a lot of credit for this one. A few nights’ good sleep and some fresh air will help enormously and this is why I am going to post without spell checking or anything else. Just hit the button and switch out the light. Good night.

 

Lark’s Diary X

I’ve been poorly. My mum took me to see Dr Bum and they were all very friendly and patted me and tickled me which was nice. But then SHE LEFT ME THERE! I wanted to go and jump right back in the car but Mum and Mark drove away. That surprised me and made me a bit sad. The lady took me into another room and then they stuck this sharp thing in me and I went to sleep. When I woke up, I still had my jumper on but I also had this big sticky thing on my tummy and it hurt. And I felt sooooo sleepy. Mum came and collected me and I couldn’t jump into the car because my tummy hurt so Mark had to pick me up and put me in. When we got home, Archie sniffed me all over because I smelt funny. Mark had to carry me upstairs because it hurt to climb up and then, when I wanted to go down again, I felt all funny and had to lean on Mum but she said “Slow and steady” to remind me not to hurtle, which is what I usually do. Normally I start off quite quickly at the top of the stairs and then get faster and faster until I get to the bottom. It’s very exciting but I didn’t want to do it with my poorly tummy. Every morning, Mum gave me some medicine which helped my tummy but I still don’t like running round the garden with Archie as my tummy feels tight and strange. I hope it stops soon as I’ve had to stop being in the Pigeon Catchers Club for a while in case I hurt myself. Archie keeps putting my head in his mouth to try and make me play so he’s been told off a bit for doing that. I’m still not sure what happened at Dr Bum’s but I don’t think I’d like to go there again.

But more exciting is that we’ve got more animals in the pack. We went off in the car and Mum and Mark put some wooden boxes inside that were really stinky. I looked at Archie and he looked at me but it was worse than any smell we’d ever made. Mum says they are hedgehogs and I haven’t seen them but you can smell them all over the garden. They have special food which is not really special because it’s dog food but they also have biscuits which are supposed to be for hedgehogs but they taste just like cat biscuits to me. Not that I really know what cat biscuits taste like because I’m not allowed to steal the cats’ food. Ahem. Anyway, the lady who gave Mum the hedgehogs liked dogs too and she spent ages stroking us. I didn’t get out of the car because I’m not well but she stroked my ears and scratched my head a lot which was very nice.

Then, the pack increased even more (but just for a little while)! Mark went out in the car and it was a huge surprise when he came back with Ollie and Becky! I think they must live a long way away as they don’t come here every week. Ollie is Mum and Mark’s son and Becky is his girlfriend (hee hee). Becky has pink hair. I wish I had pink hair because I would look even prettier and everyone would know I am a girl. But I got some new pyjamas with pirates on and everyone asked if it was for Halloween but I don’t think you have pirates at Halloween. I thought it was all ghosts and stuff. Anyway, I looked very smart and now Mum can wash my red jumper because she said it’s stinky.

Archie and I put new bandanas on this week. They are a burgundy red, Mum says. Mine came off twice and Mum put it back on for me and then it came off in the night and when she went to change my jumper, she let me run around nude in the garden! I didn’t have a collar on or anything and it felt all tickly and funny but then I got cold so she put my new jumper on which is very soft and Mum says it’s tartan.There are some funny things growing in our garden which Mum says I’m not to eat or I’ll go all peculiar. They just look so tasty, though.

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I am getting better with my house training. Now, when Mum takes me out in the back garden, I know what she wants me to do! Once or twice I’ve remembered to tell her I want to go outside but she says I have to tell Mark, too. If I have to run around telling everyone in the house I need a wee, I’ll have wet myself before I get outside! I think she really means ‘tell the nearest person’ because mostly when I’ve told her, she’s been upstairs and has to come all the way down to let me out. I’m still not keen on ringing the bell, though, but Mum says I have to learn. She’s been leaving me and Archie on our own a bit more, too. I don’t like it. When she goes out, I have to bark and go “Ooooo oooo oooooooooo”. I don’t know why. It just starts bubbling up in my throat and I have to let it out. And as soon as she goes out, I always need a wee. I can ring my bells all I like but there is no-one to let me out then. She never tells me off if I have an accident. She just says “Oh, Lark” in a special voice and I think I’ve disappointed her but when I get it right, she shouts “Good girl, Lark!” and waves her arms around which makes me all excited. Then she rubs my ears and gives me a treat. The very best times, though, are when we snuggle in bed or on the sofa. She strokes my head and my belly and it makes me feel all nice. I feel all warm and fuzzy inside. It’s the best feeling in the world.

Hedgehog heaven

We go to see the oncologist who is as cheerful as ever. He tells me that my tumour markers have risen slightly but that is over a 3 month period so he doesn’t know if they’ve jumped quickly or just gradually increased. More blood tests to find out. He also orders a CT scan so we can see what’s happening inside. My biggest problem, as ever is fatigue and the idea that I can do everything I want to without consequences. It’s like I forget every time and then spend a few days in bed recovering and dealing with the pain. My sleep has been weird, too, and I’m often awake for 4 hours or more in the night. It’s a good time to do Christmas shopping but I really would rather be asleep. I finish a couple of books, that way, too.

Chemo on Monday is a little different as Mr Mason is away at a  meeting in London. I have booked transport to the hospital which turns out to be a man in a car with casual racism and a dislike of anyone moving into the area. We find things to talk about on the journey although it does feel strange to be without Mr Mason, even though he is not allowed in the chemo suite. I am called in quite quickly which is a novelty and am soon plugged into my portacath. The woman next to me starts to feel unwell and goes red in the face. Her heart is hammering away, she says, so we call a nurse over. She is having a new treatment which I guess is Herceptin as it can have those effects, but I’m wrong. We fall into conversation and I tell her we have only recently moved to the area. She says she lived in London until 13 years ago. “Aren’t you glad to get away from all those ethnics?” she asks. I’m a bit taken back and explain that I think that’s the one thing Lincolnshire lacks. She says angrily that she was mugged and burgled before she moved away but she didn’t say the kind of people who did it. I agree that’s a horrible thing to happen to anyone but my experience had been quite different. It wasn’t all sunshine and roses but how we loved the diversity of food shops, being able to buy ingredients for pretty much any nationality and the great international community. Then I drop the bomb. “My son in law is Iranian” I say, “and here it’s more difficult to find ingredients to cook Iranian food whereas that wasn’t a problem in London”. She goes a funny colour and ends the conversation. I just like saying “My son in law” anyway.

There is a bit of kerfuffle about giving me Domperidone, the anti-sickness drug. It’s not been prescribed but I am used to asking for more when I need it and here, things are obviously done differently. The staff scurry around and come back from the pharmacy with the medication but unfortunately it’s been made out in a name similar to mine but not mine, therefore I cannot have it. I wait outside for the car driver who tells me he can’t leave until 2 other patients are ready. Eventually we depart at 3.15 and I sit in the back with a lady who, the driver tells me, “don’t speak any English”. Luckily I get dropped off first as the dogs have been on their own since 9am and will be going ballistic. They are mightily excited when I get in, jumping up as if they haven’t seen me for years and Lark has disgraced herself on the kitchen floor whilst Archie has held on. He does have an amazing bladder capacity, similar to that of Austin Powers.

The following day we take Lark to be spayed. She is wearing her new red jumper to keep her warm and walks into the vet’s surgery without a care in the world. They make a big fuss of her but when we leave her, she’s confused that she’s not coming with us and I spend the day worrying if she’ll be all right. Anaesthetising a sight hound is a different game to other types of dog due to their large chests (or so I’ve been told). We ring at 2pm and she is fine, lying on her back asking for her belly to be tickled and ready to come home. We go to collect her and she is clearly spaced out. Mr Mason has to pick her up to put her in the car and to get her out again. She goes straight to her crate and sleeps and sleeps, just waking to have tepid scrambled egg spooned into her little mouth. What a princess! Archie spends the day fretting over where his little sister is and gives her a good sniff when she comes home. It’s difficult for him because she can’t run around or wrestle with him and the first time she goes down stairs on her own she is hesitant and gives a little “Oooh” when she gets to the bottom, gravity getting the better of her. For the first couple of days she is clearly in pain but she soon starts to heal up. She doesn’t show much inclination to race around the garden yet. I suspect it feels tight where her stitches are but they come out this week so that should feel better and then they can have a celebratory race around the garden.

My new appointment with the speech therapist comes around and we head off to Lincoln County Hospital. When we get there, we just can’t find the right place so ask at reception. They point out that my appointment is at Louth Hospital. Sigh. I cannot be trusted these days to get anything right. I phone Louth and they say they will tell the therapist so we hit the road again and arrive at a hospital which is clearly old (for anyone in Ealing, think the original St Bernard’s) and therefore confusing in its layout. We ask a random woman at a clinic reception desk and she says “It’s by the entrance” which is rather unhelpful as there are lots of buildings clustered around the entrance. We rush off and eventually find the place which I am sure is in the same building as a clinic entitled Sexual Diseases. Luckily our therapist is in reception at the same time as us and ushers us into her office, even though we are 40 minutes late. She is brilliant, taking notes and giving me tips on how not to choke when I am eating and drinking. We make another appointment for a couple of weeks’ time in Horncastle which is much nearer to us. She thinks I should be seeing an ENT specialist, too, so she asks my GP to refer me to one and will be working on my voice, my swallowing and eating.

The following day we go off to collect our hedgehogs. I didn’t think we’d be able to home any this year as we left it rather late to offer but the hedgehog lady called and has a mum and 3 babies for us. When we get there, she also has a lone hedgehog called Linda who tried to hibernate in a pub cellar. The rescue centre is a warren of buildings with washing lines full of towels drying. And it smells! We once had a hedgehog who came into the conservatory back in Ealing. It hid away and every time we went into the conservatory, it defecated in fear. We had forgotten the smell! The woman who helps us is clearly devoted to hedgehogs and dogs. She brings the mum and babies out first, telling us the mum was savaged by a badger. She was with them for 3 weeks and when they went to clean her out one morning, found she had 3 baby hedgehogs with her. Clearly uninhibited, she would lie on her back suckling her babies and didn’t mind who came to have a look. I suddenly think, stupidly, that we haven’t brought anything to put the hedgehogs in but we are given a little wooden house with 2 rooms, one with mum and babies snuggled into a towel and the other with a messy white towel where the entrance is. We are told the hedgehogs like the smell so they don’t get cleaned out, as such, but poo is removed and that’s that. Mr Mason will clearly be on poo duty yet again. We are also given Linda in a separate house and told she will likely leave us quickly. The babies might also go as they have been born in captivity and don’t know what the world is like but will probably be very curious. We put them into the car, hoping they won’t prove curious as we are driving home and the dogs look aghast as the smell hits them. They look at each other, silently blaming the other. Back at home we put them in the hedgehog hotel we have built and provide food and water and leave them to it, not before taking a quick peek, though.

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So these are the latest members of the Mason household; Linda, Hilde, Athelstan, Wulfrun and Ethelfrida, all good Viking names (apart from Linda, obviously), in honour of the Viking heritage here.

Finally, if you have spare time on your hands, you might like to make this delightful mobile I saw in a magazine at the Hospital. It will amaze your friends and make them green with envy. All you need is a plastic basket lid and the lids from air fresheners, apparently. It is truly unique.

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Insomniac Identifies Owls

I am back on the sleepless cycle of chemo. Lately it seems to be going like this. First few days feeling achey and tired. Next few days feeling pretty OK. Next few days feeling really tired, eyes heavy, body feeling like lead but unable to sleep for more than 2 hours at a time. For the first couple of nights, this is OK. I read my book, catch up on emails and think about Christmas shopping. OK, I’m a planner. So shoot me. Last week before chemo is a mix of first two weeks with random nausea, headaches and pain. I get pain from fibromyalgia and then pain from cancer. A new pain is in the site of where my breast was removed. It feels like the muscles are tired, just like the rest of me. Then it all starts again. If that all sounds a bit gloomy, I’m not complaining. My drug of choice, Kadcyla, has been removed from the Cancer Drugs Fund so I consider myself lucky to be receiving it every 3 weeks unlike some other women who need it but cannot have it. If I were in their position, yes, I would be complaining, loud and long. The trouble is, I don’t think anyone would be too interested, outside the cancer charities and cancer patients and families. My oncologist thinks I should drop the final dose of Oramorph I have in the evening by taking my night time dose later. This can be achieved, he posits, by setting an alarm to wake myself up. I give him a look which I hope is withering. Telling someone with sleep problems that once they are asleep they should wake themselves up is just madness, and dangerous (for the teller). The nurse at the Hospice thinks I should take what I want, when I want it and stuff the oncologist. I like her attitude.

Lying awake in the wee small hours allows me to home in on owl sounds and I can now identify 3 different types of owl we have here. The barn owl, the tawny owl and the little owl. The barn owl shrieks loudly whilst the tawny owl is the one that goes toowit toowoo. Is that how you spell it? Any owls reading this, please feel free to let me know. The little owls are, not surprisingly, a little quieter. This morning, just before 5am, a barn owl is doing a real number outside our window and when I get up to look, I am lucky enough to see him swooping around in front of the house. It’s a bit different from the foxes who used to shriek at us when we were in London and infinitely more pleasurable. I haven’t been able to identify the bats yet.

Following on from my last post when I was definitely not feeling great, I am certainly feeling better. Just as suddenly as the gloom hit me, the sunnier side of my nature comes forth and I feel relaxed and back to my old self. What has shifted? I really don’t know. I wake up on Saturday and decide we will have a day out. We take the dogs to the woods to collect kindling, have lunch at a brilliant pub and then stock up on meat at our favourite farm shop. Finally, we go to Horncastle to look at an antique shop where we think our upcycling man has moved to. Not only are his things there but so is he so I am able to show him photos of his trumpet wall lights which we have had installed in our bedroom. We absolutely love them and I have an idea he could make us a central light with 3 or 4 trumpets on it to finish the room off. He is keen and we talk about the possibility of sourcing the trumpets and design. I also mention a friend who is planning something special for her husband’s birthday next year and is sensibly thinking ahead. Finally, I buy a euphonium which has been made into a floor light and which is fabulous. He gives us a very good price (as his wife did when we bought the trumpet lights) and Mr Mason carries it out of the shop to much interest. We come home and I have a snooze during which time Mr Mason puts the euphonium light where I suggest it would look best and it looks great. I love the idea of recycling and upcycling, too. Making something new and fresh out of old stuff. He shows us in the shop an old farm implement he has made into a floor lamp. Now it is rescued and in use rather than just rotting away after years of service so he has an interest in protecting our heritage of lots of old things, from farm implements to cylinder vacuum cleaners (which also make spectacular floor lights).

Heading off to my long awaited appointment with the Speech Therapist on Tuesday so she can help with my voice, I receive a call to say the therapist is not at work that day. We are almost at Lincoln by the time we get the phone call having left the house at 8am to make a 9.15 appointment. To say I am disappointed is an understatement. I have had a different voice for over a year. It’s higher pitched and has a lot less intensity. I can’t sing. Sometimes I speak in what I call two-tone – two notes at once come out and it sounds really weird. People in shops can’t hear me, people on the phone can’t hear me. They ask if I have a sore throat or blame it on a bad line but I don’t have the breath to project my voice. It is very frustrating so my disappointment at a second cancellation is great. Instead we go to the woods really early, surprising the dogs who are thinking they are in for a day in the car. They love it until they meet an un-neutered Husky running at full pelt around a corner. Dog immediately gets protective over his un-spayed sister and shows his teeth, a rare occurrence but when he does it, he means it. All dogs are put on leads and owners stand around talking sensibly about dog behaviour. I am unsure exactly why Dog takes such offence until Mr Mason explains to me the other dog has a huge erection. Aah, that explains it!

I now have another appointment with the therapist on 8th October so not too long to wait now. If she can’t help with exercises, I will probably have to have an injection in my vocal chord to plump it up a little. Although the other side has been taking on the work of both, some days I sound like my voice is going to give out altogether. How will I sing Christmas Carols around the tree in the village? There are not that many of us so miming is out of the question. In a Midsomer village such as ours, there are bound to be a few singers of the entertaining type; those with an operatic bent, perhaps. If we’re lucky. I could stand behind him/her although I am usually ushered to the front of any event like this due to my stature. Hmmm. Something to work on, unless the therapist works her magic quickly. We like to indulge in village activities (although we will draw a veil over the Mediaeval Bolinbroke event when I was sent sprawling at the feet of complete strangers by Dog) and tomorrow is Macmillan’s Coffee Morning in the Village Hall so we will go to that. Already a couple of our neighbours have said they are going so it should be an opportunity for cake and gossip and meeting up with my Macmillan trainer, Aaron, who decides this is the perfect day to visit me.

I know it’s Pinktober coming up and there seem to be very mixed feelings about it. Charities have to adopt a dual approach. They support their client group, whoever it is and they have to raise funds to do it. Fundraising has to be fun and popular as otherwise, people would not do it.Client groups, on the other hand, often hate these initiatives with a passion as they don’t educate. Having worked in charities and now a cancer patient, I feel for both sides. Yes, the pinking of everything does nothing for me. I almost feel it is completely removed from me and my experience and yet if it wasn’t there at all, I wonder what would replace it? Playing silly games does not encourage you to check your breasts, testicles or any other parts of the body and in that sense, seems pointless and a little offensive. But I have to admit, I can’t get over excited over it. I understand my role to be to educate and work with the charities so they understand my point of view and so I can share my experience with both their staff and any other cancer patients who are interested to hear it. Smaller, less well-known charities than Macmillan (Bliss, for example, a charity that works with familes who have sick or premature babies) use any opportunity to raise their profile be it a buggy walk or baking cakes. Baking cakes doesn’t have much to do with the distress of bringing a baby into the world 10 weeks early but it does increase knowledge about where to go if you need that kind of information and also to raise funds for such a worthy cause. So I cheer on the people raising funds in October, want to educate those playing online games and keep  my head down. Most people in the village know I have cancer and ask openly about how I’m getting on. That’s my opportunity to do a little education right there and then and then they are on their way, hopefully asking themselves questions and better informed. We can’t do everything in one sweep but we are moving forward. I’ve been asked by a project working with Macmillan to speak to GPs about my experience, especially that of being reassured I did not have cancer when, in fact, I had one of the most aggressive breast cancers. That’s definitely in my skill set and I look forward to doing it.

Lark’s Diary IX

According to my mum, I have 2 speeds – slow and steady and hurtle! I must admit that hurtle is my favourite as it allows me to run around the garden like a mad thing although she doesn’t like it when I do it on the stairs, especially when I’m behind her. The other day, Mum was up late because she wasn’t feeling very well so I took 2 cans of San Pellegrino, which I know she likes, and left them on the stairs in case she needed a drink on the way down. After thinking about it, I realise I could have killed her and feel a little ashamed although it won’t last long. And you never know, she might have been thirsty.

We have been to the woods this week which I really like. Archie and I run around sniffing and chasing each other. I surprised him by running underneath him when he was having a wee and he nearly fell over because he always wees standing with one leg up which is a bit weird but I didn’t even get wet.  There is a ditch at one side of the path and it was full of water and Mum just shouted “Don’t go in the ditch!” when suddenly I was! And it was full of yucky stinky water which Mum doesn’t like but I secretly do as the smell lasts for ages. Anyway, Archie was chasing me so I couldn’t stop and we both went through the water about 23 times, which is quite a lot. And then I was out of breath so we went for lunch and Mum gave me some of her meat and Mark gave me a chip. Even then we didn’t go home but went to the farm shop where there are lots of dogs (but no tigers – they are scary) and they always bark at us but I was tired so I didn’t answer back. Then we went into town and Archie and I sat in the car while Mum and Mark went into the Co-op which is not a food shop but Mum says it sells everything and would send someone with OCD demented. Even though it sells everything, it didn’t sell the thing Mum wanted so she’s not really right. We still didn’t go home but went to another shop and Mark came out carrying the strangest thing. It’s big and shiny and all coiled up and apparently it’s called a euphonium which is a very long word and a musical instrument, too. I thought Mark was going to play it but instead, he switched it on and it has a light in it! It’s very strange but I quite like it although I have to be careful not to knock it over. Then we went home.

While Mum was resting today, I was looking around the bedroom to see if there was anything I could play with in the bin or if anything needed rearranging when I heard a funny noise. I’ve heard it before and it goes bzzzzzzzzz. Then I saw a black and yellow thing crawling on the floor so I went to investigate. It was quite small but also quite noisy so I thought I’d just rub my head on it to see what it feels like. I quite like rubbing my head on things and that sometimes turns into me rolling on things, especially if it’s smelly. I usually get told off for that, especially when I rolled in poo when I had my new Union Jack bandana on. Mum said the Queen would be cross, whoever she is. Anyway, I rubbed the buzzy thing once and I was just about to do it again because it didn’t smell very much when Mum shouted “Leave it!” When I say she shouts, I just mean her voice gets a teeny bit louder as she has something wrong with her throat. She got up and put the buzzy thing on a card and then she threw it out of the window! I was shocked and I hope it didn’t hurt itself as it’s a long way to fall.

Finally, I have a new thing to help remind me to go to the toilet outside. It’s a long leather strap that fits over the backdoor handle and it has big bells on it. When Mum takes me out for a wee she rings the bells first and then, if I do a wee, I get a pig’s ear as a reward. Oh, I do love pigs ears! This thing is called ‘Poochiebells’, can you believe it? I’m supposed to start ringing the bell for myself soon so Mum knows when I want to go out. Hmmm. We’ll see! Meanwhile, here is  a picture of me in my new jumper! It’s so cosy I don’t want to take it off.

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Lark’s Diary VII

Normally in the country it’s a bit quiet. When the sheep were in the field opposite they shouted at me sometimes so I barked back at them, although I don’t know what they were saying. They didn’t seem to talk Dog. At night we hear owls which I think are a bit scary but I just snuggle up to my Mum a bit closer and then I feel OK. Sometimes a car will go past although more often we have tractors and then every day we get horses. They make a funny noise and smell a bit funny, too, so I just bark from the fence in the back garden in case they try to come and get me. We also get fast planes that whizz by overhead. Sometimes they are so fast you can’t even see them. Now I’ve said it’s very quiet I have made it sound very noisy but it’s nothing compared to a town, especially somewhere like Boston where there is a big market. Whenever I hear my Mum say Boston I always think “Oh, no!” and hope I’ll get left in the car to have a good snooze. They have a bus that drives through the market very slowly making a horrible loud beeping noise and it’s always trying to run me over and then I get tangled up with Archie and Mum and Mark and they all say “Oh, Lark!” My Mum did pick me up once when I was scared and that was nice but now she says I’m a Chunky Monkey. I’m not sure what that means but she doesn’t carry me about so much these days. I do have a monkey which can fly through the air for me to catch but she never says that monkey is chunky. It also makes a funny screeching noise which is not in Dog but I expect it’s saying “Please don’t bite me, Lark” or “You are so fast and clever, Lark” or something like that.

Anyway, the other night it was quiet until all these machines started making a noise. There were lights and lots of tractors kept going past. Archie didn’t like it and he barked so, of course, I had to bark with him as it’s one of my favourite things and if Archie doesn’t like something, then I worry because he’s such a tough dog and knows so many things. Mum said it was the farmers bringing in the harvest and working overnight which I think is a bit rude, ruining my sleep. Mark brought one of my beds into the bedroom so Archie could sleep in that and I snuggled between Mum and Mark. Archie even got on the bed at one point but he stood on my head and I nearly died so he had to go back in his bed. The other bad thing is that when a field is harvested (that’s the proper word), you get all these horrible little black flies called thunder flies and they make you itch like crazy. I thought they would make a noise like thunder which would be a bit alarming but they are just silent and itchy. Very, very itchy. Hrrhhmmnph. That is a Dog noise you make when you are very itchy.

Every so often, Mark goes into the garden and takes a big machine out which cuts the grass. I don’t know why he bothers because it’s nicer when the grass is long and you can hide in it and eat it. It’s also good for hiding things in. It looks like a bit of a boring job so I thought I would make it more fun. He has green slippers and I thought they were perfect for hide and seek so I carefully took one down from the bedroom and popped it into the machine while he was taking a break. When he started it up again, it made a funny noise, and so did Mark. He made quite a lot of noise, actually, and said my name a lot so I expect he was saying what a good game it was and how clever I was to think of it. Mum says she is going to buy him a new pair which I think means we’ll have more to play with. Unfortunately his slipper now has a big hole ripped in the side of it so he won’t be able to wear it again but it was such a good game, I don’t think he minds one little bit.

I like lots of different foods but there is one thing which is yucky and that is cheese with blue stuff in it. Mum was giving me a chewy thing that she wanted me and Archie to eat. I ate one and Archie had to eat 2. I gobbled mine down quickly and Archie ate his first one but didn’t want to eat the second. I thought I would get it but my Mum took it away and wrapped it in blue cheese. She cut me a piece, too, just to be fair, but honestly, it must have been created by pigeons because it tastes so foul and only pigeons are stupid enough to make something to eat which is not nice. Archie ate his in one bite, including the bit he thought was yucky but I expect he couldn’t taste it with that horrible cheese on it. Who would have thought there would be horrible food in the world?

dolcelatte_cheese_16x9This is the yucky cheese and these are the noisy planes.