Chapter One – Part Two, Geoffrey’s Back-story.

It is over a month since I last wrote, there has been a lot happening at home, our son was offered, and has started a new job, this is his first full time employment contract since leaving school. His other jobs have been zero hour contracts and agency work. We are delighted for him and he is enjoying it, he has spent the last few weeks training, working in all the sections of the factory and will be working in the quality control department once he has completed his familiarisation training.

Our daughter has moved out, she has lived away from home before and has returned but she says that at 26, she thinks that this will now be permanent. She is sharing a flat in North Greenwich, it is a purpose built 1970’s flat, the views from their second floor windows are fabulous. They can see Greenwich Observatory to the left, Greenwich Power Station (almost identical to Battersea Power Station) directly in front, and the Shard to the right. The flat is 5 minutes walk to the Thames and the Cutty Sark. We spent a busy and tiring day transporting all her things from our home to her new one.

I also have job news, I have a new job and will be starting in just over a week to work for a UK charity that changes young lives through taking children with a serious illness or disability, without their parents, on the holiday of a lifetime to Orlando, Florida. I am delighted! During my first week, their offices are moving to the town where I live and it will take me 17 minutes to walk there (according to Google Maps). I feel privileged to be able to contribute to such a worthwhile cause and the staff are all lovely.

I am prompted to write today as I saw a post at lunch-time by ‘Mind’ on Facebook that Sally Brampton has died. I read her book ‘Shoot the Damn Dog’ earlier this year when I was at a particularly low point, it was immensely helpful. I am so sad to hear this news, thinking of Sally’s family. I must admit the news shook me, I am not one to cry but today I did, I suppose I thought that as Sally was well enough to have written the book and had also written others, that she was managing well and was unlikely to relapse to such a severe degree, but it seems the ‘Black Dog’ returned to nip at her heals and it is this which scares me.

I have been doing really well since the dark days earlier this year, and with the supervision of my GP have come off the anti-depressants. I have also received the diagnosis of having an under-active thyroid, something which I have long suspected so it didn’t come a surprise, and am two weeks in to taking the initial dose of thyroxine. Low thyroid levels can be a factor in low mood and depression, I wonder if this may have been a contributory factor in my problems this winter.

What happened to Sally scares me because it reminds me that we are all vulnerable to relapse, I worry that it will happen to me too. But I am aware that to some extent, I can take charge of my mental health, there may be times when things get out of control but I hope that I have the strength to get through the bad times. I am practising self help as much as I possibly can, my new job will give me a new challenge, which may be stressful to start with but will I feel be offset by working for such a worthwhile cause and with such lovely colleagues. Being able to walk to and from work will give me more exercise which I really need, and will get me out in the fresh air, also a benefit. So I am hopeful that these things will be a positive contribution to maintaining good mental health. I am continuing with crafting and have several fairs over the next few weeks.

Although over recent weeks I have been unable to meet up with friends due to work commitments, this will settle down soon and I will make time for coffees and catch ups.

So having spent most of today in the garden working on restyling various things and making a large size dreamcatcher for my stall, I have enjoyed a tasty dinner cooked by my husband, and am now enjoying a glass of red wine before toddling off to bed. Here is the next instalment of my life story:

Chapter One – Part Two, Geoffrey’s Back-story.

My Paternal Grandfather, Robert, was born in Vienna, Austria, in 1897, he and his family moved to the UK at some point before his youngest brother was born in Camberwell in 1899. My Paternal Grandmother, Elsie, was born in Dartford, Kent in 1898, she was a secretary before they married in 1924.

Granddad Saunders second from left, Nana Saunders third from left:

Nana & Granddad Saunders Wedding.jpg

My Grandfather served in the Army during the First World War and sustained a severe head wound but was able to return to the front after recovery. During the Second World War he served with the Kent Fire Service.

Granddad was an accountant in business with his brothers but they all fell out at some stage, after which he worked for a company called Patchell & Boobyer until his retirement. My grandad made news in the local paper a few times for having car accidents, after having so many crashes, no one would give him insurance. I think he was a bit of a daredevil!

Dad was born on 10 March 1929, his oldest brother, Donald, was born in 1925, then came Brian and Patricia (Twins) born in 1927. Sadly Patricia was either stillborn or died as an infant, we are not sure of the exact circumstances. Then came my Dad, he was born in a nursing home on 10th March 1929. A as a young child thought him being born in a nursing home meant that he had been adopted. Finally came Doreen, born in 1932.

At around age 7, Donald contracted Measles and suffered complications, we do not know which, but it was most likely meningitis – an infection of the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord, or encephalitis – an infection of the brain itself. As a result he suffered epilepsy, development delay & violent episodes. The family had a Nursery Nurse or ‘help’ for some time to assist with the care of the children and the home.

I remember hearing that there was an incident where Donald had an aggressive eposode and injured Brian, after this he went to live at The Stoke Park Colony for Mentally Defective Children, near Stapleton, Bristol:

http://www.childrenshomes.org.uk/BristolStokePark/

The family lived in a detached bungalow, Glendon, 17, York Road, Dartford, Kent. The children attended St Albans Infants School and then York Road Primary School which was next door to their home, so no excuses for being late!

They seem to have had a quite privileged childhood, there were tales of building sailing boats to sail on ponds, go-karts and several holidays to the coast.

A holiday snap:Dad Aunt Doreen Uncle Brian & Cousins.jpg

 

My Dad was apprenticed (maybe at age 14?) to Everards at Greenhithe, working on Thames Sailing Barges.

Dad and my Uncle Brian played basketball for Dartford, Basil Fanshawe Jagger (known to everybody as Joe) – Mick Jagger’s dad, was his coach. Dad remembered Mick going along to watch the team training and to matches.

Between age 17-21 (another unknown), Dad was called up to do his two years National Service. He worked as a mechanical engineer in the RAF for some of this time, based at Brize Norton in Oxfordshire.

Dad in RAF Uniform

 

Mum & Dad met at a fun-fair, they were engaged while Dad was still doing his National Service and after Dad was demobbed he returned to work for Everards.

Mum & Dad were married on 4th June 1952. Their first home was in Stone, near Dartford, they then moved to 10 Starboard Avenue, Greenhithe, in housing built for Everards employees and naval staff.

Wedding Smiles 1.jpg

My eldest sister Sharon was born on 3rd September 1953 and middle sister Nicola on 31st January 1958.

Mum was ambitious for my Dad and encouraged him when he decided to study to become a Building Control Officer. When Dad was studying the dining room, my mum would lock the door so that my sisters couldn’t disturb him. He achieved his ONC in Building Control, progressing to HNC and then HND.

 

 

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Chapter 2 – Easter 2016 – Don’t Treat it Like a Stigma.

I will be writing more about my early years in a later chapter, today I am reflecting on more recent thoughts and feelings.

I recently read: 19 Things People Wish Their Friends Knew About Depression

http://www.buzzfeed.com/jamiejones/things-people-wish-their-friends-knew-about-depression#.qpKO6bGp5

Today I am considering the first of the nineteen:

Dont treat it like a Stigma

I have a few friend with whom I will talk about how I am feeling, my husband Ray is my person of choice to talk to with about it. My children are both in their twenties, but I still resist being honest with them, I don’t want them worrying about me. My mothering ‘protection instincts’ kick in, I just don’t go there. This may be counter-productive, they can probably see that I’m not doing great, but it is not easy for me to talk to them about it, so in a way I’m treating depression like a stigma too.

But what about others? If you ask me how I am in a polite, conversation starter sort of way, my response will not be genuine. I, along with many depressives, will respond that I am fine, I am unwilling to bare my true self to people who are acquaintances, or to work colleagues. I would not want to risk the possibility of a true and frank conversation about the state of my mental health for fear of their reaction. I am an expert at deception when it comes to my mental health, most people I meet are probably totally unaware of my depression.

There are many people who I have begun a conversation with, who just don’t ‘get it’, they have no real conception of what depression is, and that it often does not happen for a definable reason. I have had experience of being advised to see a Psychiatrist (tried that), getting Psychotherapy (tried that too), Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (doesn’t do much for me), and various holistic/alternative treatments, none of which have ‘cured’ me.

If depression were an illness for which one ‘outbreak’ produced antibodies to prevent it happening again, like Chicken Pox, or one which had an available vaccine like Measles, then yes, once you have recovered/had the jab, chances are it would never affect you again. Sadly this is far from the fact. For those of you that have suffered depression just once, or for those of you for whom it is almost a permanent state of being, the truth is that it is an individual illness, the range of suffering both in terms of severity and duration is enormous. It is as unique as your personality, which is what depression can mess with, temporarily or otherwise.

So how am I feeling? Over the past four weeks I have, under supervision from my GP, been reducing the dose of my medication. I have been taking 200 mg (the maximum allowed), for the past two years. It had been working for me until very recently. I will be on week five of gradual withdrawal tomorrow, down to 50 mg for the next two weeks and then back to my GP to discuss what to do next. Either try a different drug or see how I get on without.

January and February are always risky months for me, by the end of February phases of low mood were becoming more frequent and prolonged.

I knew I needed to see my doctor on the day I had the worst ‘black dog’ moment ever. In the past I have had thoughts of having ‘just a little accident’, some mishap that would mean I was confined to the house, giving me a justifiable reason to escape from the effort of trying to function normally, and making this effort is exhausting, really exhausting. I have never carried this through, preferring to take sick leave instead. But on this day, my thoughts were more extreme, they came out of nowhere, and were scaring me.

I thought about tablets, no, I’m too cowardly for this, what if I didn’t take enough? Using a kitchen knife, I hate the sight of blood, it makes my legs go wobbly and I get light headed and in danger of passing out, also I am seriously knife-phobic. I’m OK using a sharp knife myself, but if I’m in the room when someone is using knives or when Ray is sharpening our kitchen knives, I have to get out of there, it gives me the jitters.

I was home alone, working in my craft shed so what caused me to feel this way? I certainly didn’t choose these thoughts, I was in the middle of doing something I enjoy, but still the bad thoughts rose up and made their presence felt. I considered my options, I really had no wish to end my life despite what the depressive thoughts were trying to suggest. So, should I phone Ray (he was over an hour’s drive away), go and knock on a neighbour’s door, phone 111 or the Samaritans. I sat doing nothing for a long time, immobilised by my thoughts, eventually I decided to pick a physical task to immerse myself in. I had a mirror frame, one of the first things I had decorated, that I had never been entirely satisfied with, so dug this out to work on. I spent over an hour stripping off the decoupage and paint, I was able to totally focus on the task to the exclusion of all other thoughts. 

When I had stripped the frame back to bare wood, I had got over it, the suicidal thoughts had retreated. To pick myself back up, I looked through ‘Pinterest’ for inspiration and began working on a completely different design. By the time I had completed the new design, it was as if the destructive thoughts had never happened. This is it:

Mirror Frame Hand Painted

 

Overdue Blogging

It has been months since I wrote and the reason I have been prompted to write today is that both my nieces have started their own blogs this month and reading what they have written has motivated me to write.

So, an update – I had the first of my five annual Mammogram screenings and check-up appointment in November. I am delighted to announce that the result of my mammogram shows NED – No Evidence of Disease. So I am now officially in remission, fabulous news!

However, despite being pleased, I admit that I wasn’t as excited about the news as you might expect, not because I am not grateful, for I certainly am. It is more that it felt more like the next step along the way to healing both physically and emotionally.

Looking back, my last proper blog was written on 2nd May 2015, it had just been agreed that I could reduce my working hours and I have been working three days a week since then, this has been significant in me feeling well enough to keep working, both at my paid employment and craft work.

Pretending OK

There have been days recently where I have felt very low, the feelings were very familiar, anxiety and low mood hit me unexpectedly in early January, there were days I so wanted to stay home with a soft, fleecy blanket to snuggle under and my kindle. But I managed to grit my teeth and get myself to work, it took a lot of effort and at times I sat at my desk, anxiety twisting in my stomach and tears threatening when I would have picked up my things and walked out of the office. January has been a difficult month for me for many years, I probably have Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), but having not been formally diagnosed, I can only suppose this to be the case. I have a Light box on my desk at work and have started using it again, I think it is helping, I am beginning to feel more ‘me’.

On the 12th January, I posted on Facebook: ‘Two years ago today I was at the beginnings of another occurrence of depression. Today I am fearful because despite still being on maximum dose anti-depressants, I am heading downwards again. Those familiar feelings of despair and panic are re-surfacing. The wish to hide away somewhere warm and dark with a blanket and my kindle is just about all I feel I want to do. A re-assessment of life might be worth considering, perhaps it is time to make changes?’ I understand that some may not approve of putting such personal and negative sentiments on to social media, but I am blessed with some wise and caring friends who have supported me through this medium for many years and their comments and good wishes pick me up.

A dear friend commented:-

“”The wish to hide away somewhere warm and dark with a blanket and my kindle is just about all I feel I want to do.”

I understand those sentiments Dee, I’ve been somewhere similar myself. I am not sure what to say to you, as everyone’s situation is very different. If I could find a positive uplifting message that would make a difference, I’d write it, but the part of your post that did give me a lift was “A re-assessment of life might be worth considering, perhaps it is time to make changes?”

Quite possibly yes. I would caution you not to make them all at once, as that too can be overwhelming. One step at a time Dee. You and your family have had a lot going on in the last couple of years.

I know you’ll also have heard this, a lot, but please make sure you speak to someone in person about this – whether it’s Ray, a counsellor, your GP, someone.

I won’t say “it’ll be alright”, I don’t know that, and can’t say, but what I can say is that I hope and pray that you can follow through on the final words in your post, and take first steps in clearing your way through the miasma of depression ❤

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For her words I am thankful, this lady can be relied upon to give advice is relevant and thoughtful and for that I am grateful. Yes, the last few years have had many challenges, I wonder whether staying strong through it all has left me emotionally exhausted with depression as the resultant fall-out.

So, one year on from the traumas Ray and I experienced at the hands of Bi-lateral Breast Cancer and Transient Ischaemic Attack (TIA) do still affect our day to day lives. Ray has days where he struggles to make it through work and will go to lay down when he gets home, just last week he went to do the grocery shopping and had to call me to go and pick him up as he felt too ill to drive home safely.

I have radiation damage to my left shoulder and upper arm, I am learning to live with nagging aches and on bad days, noticeable pain. It is better to keep the area warm but the hot flushes get so bad some days I need to put a fan on, which makes it cold and painful.

But I am grateful to be alive and well, to have my family around me, and for all the good things I am blessed with. Life has sent challenges, but I’m still standing!

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A Scare for Ray, Interesting Time in Endoscopy, and a Grand Day out at the Boot Fair.

On his way home from work on Wednesday, Ray had a blow out on the front drivers side tyre on his car, fortunately, he kept control of the car and was able to get across to the slow lane and as far on to the grass verge as possible, however, he was still in a dangerous position on the A41, a fast dual carriageway. I was really worried about Ray after he called to tell me what had happened, Josh dashed out with a trolley jack hoping to be able to change the wheel for Ray, but we had both forgotten that not all modern cars have a spare wheel, as it happens, Ray’s car doesn’t, so Ray sent him home rather than have two cars at the side of the road. Ray had phoned the RAC and put out two warning triangles, but after a short time the Police arrived to safeguard Ray, and to make drivers aware by their presence that there was a hazard on the road. Because of the potential for accidents, the Police called their own breakdown service, the truck arrived within half an hour so Ray was soon home. Although unhurt, Ray was shaken up by the blow out, it took a few hours for his heart rate to slow down to resting rate. But he slept well and felt much better the next morning, I am so grateful, all we have to worry about is replacing a tyre, it could have been so much worse, I get butterflies in my tummy when I think about Ray having that happen to him.

Someone who matters to you

Thursday was Endoscopy Day, Ray drove me to Wycombe Hospital (in my car as we didn’t have time to get the tyre replaced) and stayed until I was taken through to the waiting area. I was feeling a bit light headed and very hungry after numerous, and rather prolonged visits to the bathroom yesterday afternoon and evening, so it was just as well that I was going to be having a relaxing morning waiting for my turn in theatre. I read for a while before feeling a little sleepy, after the nurse put a cannula in my hand, I had a snooze.

Then it was time to go to have the endoscopy, I was given sedation but I didn’t feel at all sedated and was worried that the procedure was going to be painful and unpleasant. After a little initial discomfort, it really wasn’t too bad, there was a big screen where the doctor can see the images from the camera, I found it really fascinating getting the chance to see some of the inside of my own body. And to be able to see that it all looked health, no sign of anything to worry about, which was so reassuring, I was very happy!

The coffee and biscuits brought to me after leaving the Endoscopy theatre were really welcome, the nurse left the biscuit tin on the table next to the bed and I confess to having more than one serving. My normal blood pressure is low, and with sedation it was below my normal, the advantage was that I got to have an extra coffee to get my fluids up and help bring the pressure higher. When it had recovered enough, the nurse removed the cannula and I was able to get dressed and go to the lounge area to wait for Ray to pick me up. The nursing staff and doctor were all lovely, but it was great to go home at midday, it was the shortest visit to have a procedure that I have had since September last year. The procedure was a doddle when compared to having the wires pushed in to both breasts for the breast cancer operation last October, although not the most painful thing to ever happen to me, I think this was the most distressing.

I had only been home a short time when I had a call from the Breast Unit to offer me an appointment for my Ultrasound on Tuesday morning, so after a break for Easter, it is back to the hospital for me. The rest of the afternoon and evening were spent relaxing, drinking plenty to top up my fluid levels, and sleeping.

On Good Friday, Ray had a round of golf booked so after he had set off, I picked a project to work on, chose the decoupage images and paint colours and set to. I so enjoy letting out my creative side, starting with a plain, blank object, adding colour and images to bring it to life is very satisfying. Of all the hobbies I have tried, this is the one which has sparked my imagination and given me the motivation to stick with it, whereas with other things I have tried, I have soon lost interest. My project was an Ikea Malm mirror which I bought in a charity shop, it had already been painted green, so I coated it in PVA and then painted over this with pale blue, with the aid of a hair-dryer, I dried it to a crackle painted finish. I had chosen Victorian style decoupage images of children on the beach for two of the corners, and butterflies for the other two corners. The glue and paint needed time to dry completely before varnishing so I set the picture frame aside and picked out a wooden box to start on. I didn’t have much time left so chose a floral frame and added a watercolour of a young girl from the same book, the floral frame fits perfectly on the box, I couldn’t decide about the colour scheme so packed up for the day.

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On Saturday, there was a one day ‘pop-up-shop’ for Artworks at the town hall. Artworks is a group of local artists and craftspeople who took a short term lease on an empty shop unit in town from which they sold their work, the lease ended, and they had to move out but decided to try holding a one day event in the town hall. I went along to see how they had set up their stalls, to try to get some idea of pricing and also to enquire about the possibility of joining the group and selling my products with them. I took along one of my trays, the one with a bird decoupage and stamped and hand painted flowers around the outside, he said it was unusual, and I hope that meant in a good way! I now have his contact details and will send him photos of my other work in the hope that they will accept me, fingers crossed!

Megan has been clearing out her wardrobe and has a lot of clothes to dispose of, we talked about doing a boot fare and decided to go for it on Easter Sunday. So Saturday afternoon I went through my wardrobe and drawers, there are quite a few things which no longer fit, I have gained quite a few pounds since being diagnosed with breast cancer, now far too many of my clothes are too tight. I have been eBay shopping for things which fit and needed to make some space. I filled two large laundry bags, plus a few carrier bags, I also found a few bits of brick-a-brack to take along. Liza had some clothes she wanted to sell too, so with Ray’s help, we loaded up his car, Megan drove her and Liza and also Shadow so he could have a day out with us rather than leaving him home on his own.

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We set off very early, I had done some research to find a boot fare locally, but it turned out that the information was out of date, we had a magical mystery tour around Bucks, and many I had found on the internet were no longer running. We found two which began at mid-day, as we had some time on our hands, we went in to a Harvester and had a cooked breakfast.

Suitably refuelled and refreshed we headed off to set up our stall at the boot fair. It took a while getting everything laid out on bits of carpet, or hung up, and after a chance to have a quick scoot round to look at the other stalls, the customers began to arrive. Business varied from no one at our stall to several people at once. We sold lots of our things, the day was dry, warm and occasionally sunny and we made back our table money and more, so all in all a successful expedition. I was selling my clothes at £1.50 each and one lady bought over £20.00 worth! She had two lovely twin daughters, I guess they were around 6 – 7 years old, one of them told me that her mum already has lots of clothes at home, I told her that I do too, and that ladies like to have lots of clothes to choose from 🙂

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We had packed up quickly at the end of the boot fair, so when we got home I counted the takings and distributed the money between us, as we had been more successful than we had expected, we decided we would do another in a few weeks. We didn’t take anything from the loft or from the stash of children’s toys that we have stored behind the shed, so would have no trouble stocking another stall.

Megan cooked roast lamb dinner whilst I sorted, folded, re-packed and stowed away the clothes ready for next time. We ate our dinner off our laps in the front room as I now have so much craft stuff in the dining room that we can only just get in there, there is no chance of finding room to sit five of us around the table. I’m getting fed up with this now, it has been like this for weeks, we are getting closer to organising a craft shed for me but it seems to be taking a long time.

2015-03-25 23.05.09

Today we woke to blue skies and sunshine, Josh was at work, Ray went for a round of golf, Megan, Liza and I went for a short shopping trip. I took back some clothes I had bought without trying them on – a mistake, they didn’t look good. I found a skirt, vest top and nightie to replace them, these are much better. It was a good trip, and we were home in time for lunch.

This afternoon I took a trip out to collect some chairs I had bought through eBay, I will be refinishing them to sell on my stall. When I got home, there was time to varnish the picture frame I painted and découpaged on Friday, and to choose a colour and paint the trinket box which is my next project.

So tomorrow I go for my Ultrasound scan, I am a little concerned about the possibility of there being a seroma, and that if so, then this will be aspirated, the thought of more needles in my boob is not at all welcome.

Business at Work, More Hospital Visits and Possibly Too Much Information!

I’ve been very busy at work over the last two weeks as our financial year ends on 31st March and there is a lot to be done. Working 22 1/2 hours over four days is working out well for me, I would really like to continue with these hours and move to working a three day week as soon as possible. I have suggested job-share but my employers are unwilling to consider this whilst we have so much work to get through.

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I have been concerned about lumpiness in my right breast where the tumour was taken, and also some pain and lumpiness in a different area of the breast. I spoke to the Breast Care Nurses about it last week and was booked in for a check-up at the breast unit on Monday. I was seen by the Nurse Practitioner, we discussed having genetic testing, and went through a computerised risk assessment which came out below the level at which I could be referred for this. I am happy with the outcome, I didn’t feel there was a genetic risk behind my Bi-lateral Breast Cancer as there is no history of it in my family, I am one of the ‘bad luck’ cases. The Nurse examined me and decided to refer me for an ultrasound scan to check my right breast. Where the tumour was taken, the lumps are probably a Seroma, if this is the case, they will drain the fluid off for me. But it might be that this is scar tissue, in which case nothing can be done, and the thickening and discomfort beyond the tumour site may be hardening of breast tissue caused by the radiotherapy. I’m just waiting for the appointment now, it should be in around three weeks.

Last week I had a General Surgery consultation appointment as I have had problems with my digestive tract which pre-dates my breast cancer diagnosis. The doctor referred me for a endoscopy for suspected irritable bowel syndrome, I was fortunate to get a quick appointment for this as another patient had cancelled, at least it will get it over with! So I am off work today to drink the horrible concoction that will clear out my digestive tract, it tastes just like diorite, not pleasant, and of course having the opposite effect! I started taking it at 11 am and I can feel things starting to rumble, but it’s now mid-afternoon and there is no action, yet!

At Mindfulness Meditation this week we discussed compassion for self and others. Ray and I now realise that we have been treating life’s setbacks and problems in a mindful way for all of our life together. We will make a decision and stick to it, if it doesn’t work out how we had hoped, then we accept it and move on, we have never been resentful or regretful when things go badly. We just get ourselves up and get on with life, never indulging in ‘what ifs’ or ‘maybe’s’. If we make mistakes, we accept them, there is nothing to be gained in denying matters of fact, the harder part is not continuing to recall errors, and still feel bad about them months or years after the event.

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I have been neglecting meditation, it somehow gets forgotten about until Tuesday evening when we are asked how we are getting on with it. I think I need to try a different approach, I will meditate on it!

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Last weekend being the one where we move in to British summer time, and with a desire to go swimming, was motivation enough to tackle the lawns on my legs, under arms, and lady garden. I have neglected them for months, actually, since my breast cancer op back in October. It was a mammoth operation, I started with a new blade but it was quite blunt by the time I had finished. It took so long to do, I began to smell burning as I switched off the shower, I was really worried I had blown the heating elements, luckily it wasn’t the shower at all, it was Megan burning her breakfast downstairs! It’s not a perfect job, the problem with being short sighted is that showers and glasses don’t work well together, when I put on my glasses it was apparent that more work is required, oh dear!

Last Saturday was to be the last Session of the Art Journalling course, but so many of us were keen to continue that there will be another four classes starting the weekend after Easter. I am really pleased about this as it is so enjoyable, both in being creative and having good company in class.

I have been thinking about getting organised for the craft stall I will be doing in May, I think I have almost definitely decided on calling my craft business ‘Elsie Rose’s Attic’, my style is mostly retro and by choosing this name it leaves options open to change and diversify what I make and sell.

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Elsie was my paternal Grandmother’s name and Rose my maternal Grandmothers name, of whom I have been thinking of a lot just lately. Both had skill in making things, be it baking, crochet or sewing, both were two of the most gentle souls I have ever met. I still have a ‘Granny Squares’ blanket which Nana Rose made for me, it is too old and fragile to use now so it is safely stored away.

I’m looking forward to Easter, having four days off will be great, and give me time to recover from tomorrow. We are planning to do a boot fair on Sunday to get rid of things which are cluttering up the place, but if it is raining we won’t bother, I don’t fancy standing out in a cold field in the rain, that just doesn’t sound at all appealing.

Have a lovely Easter!!

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A Much Better Week

On Monday I met with my manager to discuss my working hours for the next few weeks. I explained about my difficulties with fatigue and we agreed that I would work 22 ½ hours over four days with one day being a full day and the other three being reduced hours. This has made a big difference to my energy levels, I have had more energy and enthusiasm and my mood is more stable.

I have completed the tray I started several weeks ago and am happy with the finished work. In my lunch breaks I have tried to spend time outside, only retreating indoors when I felt too cold. I have been cutting out designs for decoupage, it is very therapeutic, one of my colleagues sat with me one lunch time, and remarked that watching me cutting out the shapes is very relaxing.

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I saw my GP on Friday and have a certificate for another four weeks at reduced hours, I am hopeful that I will soon be able to increase my hours soon but will just have to see how I am feeling. I will be pressing my employers to let me work part time permanently, I really want this so will be persistent!

I have been so grateful to be feeling better this week, the previous weekend had been hard going, Ray remarked that I was very down and this was making him feel sad too. There have been some mild days this week and I have become what my sister Nicola would call ‘a fresh air freak’ by taking every opportunity to have the windows open in the office, the kitchen door open at home and the sunroof and windows open in my car driving between the two.

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Seeing the daffodils, hyacinths and crocuses opening, cherry blossom on the trees, and lots of other signs that spring is here, make my heart sing. We didn’t get to see the Eclipse as it was very cloudy and missed seeing the super-moon for the same reason, but it is the Spring Equinox, the clocks leap forward next weekend and the days are lengthening, wonderful!

This a photo my daughter Megan posted on Facebook today, taken when she was taking Shadow for his walk, lovely blue skies!

 Megans photo 22 March 15

Ray and I are having our first weekend away since June last year, we have travelled to Kent to stay with my Sister Sharon and her husband Mike in their beautiful thatched cottage. The journey was relaxed, we didn’t need to rush and the weather was dry. On Saturday evening the Lions Group which Sharon and Mike belong to were having a musically biased quiz night, the four of us were joined by friends of Sharon and Mike to make a team of six. We didn’t expect to do well but after a fun evening with lots of laughs, and a sausage and chips supper, we came third out of nine teams, an excellent result we thought!

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This was also mine and Ray’s first social night out since last September, we really enjoyed the evening but fatigue hits suddenly and hard, we were both very pleased when it was time for bed.

This morning Ray and I went to visit our Nephew Andrew, his wife Hannah and their three boys, it is many months since we saw them and the boys have all grown, the twins had their seventh birthday earlier this month, their dad says they are already getting in to adolescent defiance and argumentativeness! The ‘Baby’ is now two and four months, he was very premature and had lost of struggles and complications but has pulled through it, he has the expected developmental delays of a prem baby but is now doing well and has made leaps in progression over the last few weeks. It was lovely to see them all, especially as it we don’t get to see them often.

Ray and I left in time to meet Sharon and Mike for a pub lunch and then we all spent the afternoon reading and dozing, the perfect Sunday afternoon!

Tomorrow Ray and I will be going to visit the newest member of our family who was born last September and his parents, our niece Sophie and her husband Toby. We haven’t met the baby yet as he was born just before I had my Breast Cancer Diagnosis, I’m really looking forward to meeting him, and seeing his parents too of course!

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Fatigue – Not Coping Well With Working Full Time.

After working part time for two weeks, this week I returned to working full days. Knowing that this would probably be too much for me I have booked one day each week as leave for the next few weeks.

Monday was not too bad, I managed to stay awake until bed time, Tuesday Ray and I should have gone to our Mindfulness Meditation Class but we were both feeling too weary to go out. Wednesday I went straight to bed and to sleep when I got home from work, I got up for dinner but really wasn’t up to much more than sitting in front of the TV until bedtime. Thursday was much the same.

Friday was my day off, being aware that exercise is beneficial for combating fatigue, and although still feeling rough, I made the effort to get out to the park with Shadow. We had a good walk, it was mild enough to go without a coat. When we got back home, I didn’t feel much better but gave myself a talking to and ventured out to Artys Art Shop to buy some more acrylics for my up-cycling projects. The afternoon was spent sleeping again, I did feel better for it and was lively enough to cook dinner for the first time this week.

I didn’t expect to feel this bad, I have had operations before and was able to bounce back to normal fairly quickly, last year I was off work sick for a couple of months with depression and was able to get back to work without too much trouble. This time it is very different, but then I suppose Cancer Treatment is a whole different ball game.

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Earlier this week, I read Sharon Green’s latest blog in which she discusses ‘Collateral Damage’, the untreatable side effects of Breast Cancer Treatment.

https://4timesandcounting.wordpress.com/2015/03/10/collateral-damage/

Sharon says:

“Dr. Susan Love published an interview on Medscape last week on the “collateral damage” of breast cancer treatments as reported by 3200 actual patients and not their doctors. She noted that doctors and patients often view things differently. For doctors, a living patient is the major sign of successful treatment. They don’t want to hear about treatment side effects that they can’t treat and cure, she says.

The patients and survivors are also happy to be alive but their quality of life may be severely impaired by chemo brain, depression, anxiety, fatigue, neuropathy, and hot flashes. She calls this collateral damage rather than side effects as often these symptoms are permanent, not temporary.”

In reading about the experiences of other women, I am beginning to understand that the long term effects of treatment can be with us for years or in some cases, permanently.

Although it is early days for me in terms of recovery, I am beginning to re-evaluate my life. I understand that all being well, the fatigue will improve, and my energy levels should increase, right now I feel that I am living to work, with very little energy to do much else.

I am keeping up with the post-op exercises but despite this, my shoulders and arms are getting stiffer, making some of the movements uncomfortable. I can manage the stairs at home, but there are more of them at work, my bones ache and I am short of breath when I reach the top. Weight gain is also an issue.

This weekend I have reverted to taking an afternoon nap, I have been plagued with a constant headache which may or may not be Tamoxifen related.

This blog is developing in to a moan fest, I feel that the impact of having cancer, and treatment for it has just started to hit home. As other women have found, I have been so caught up with the treatment process, now that this is complete, and my life is starting to return to what is was pre-diagnosis, I feel thrown adrift. Despite already being on anti-depressants, I am feeling low, attempts to lift my mood have not lasted. I wonder for how long this will go on.

I am fortunate to have two adult children, today I have read many posts concerning women who have not been able to have children and feel for them on this day that is so focussed on Mothers, Marie’s post ‘WHEN MOTHER’S DAY HURTS’ expresses how it is for her and for many other women.

http://journeyingbeyondbreastcancer.com/2015/03/15/when-mothers-day-hurts-2/

On a happier note, today has been better, for Mother’s Day, Megan, Josh and Liza gave me a beautiful bouquet, and three charms for my bracelet, Megan’s card was handmade and she had written lovely words inside. Today is also Ray’s birthday, we gave him a new driver and an electric golf trolley, he has just started playing golf again but is only playing nine holes, hopefully he will soon be able to manage a full round.

I had the house to myself for a few hours today, so did some more work on a tray I started two weeks ago. I have painted in flowers and glued on the decoupage design, I have still to add gold paint to the rim and then varnish it, I am pleased with how it has turned out.

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Now it is time to get organised for bed, tomorrow is a working day and I need to get up at 6 am.

Note to Self