My Dad

Dad Portrait 2

Geoffrey A Saunders 10th March 1929 – 8th August 1982

It has been a while since I wrote, and there is a lot I could write about, but today I have written about my Dad, it was 33 years last Saturday that he passed away and I felt the need to talk about him.

In October 1977, my family and I had our last holiday together, my Mum, Rosemary, age 47, Dad, Geoff, age 48,  Nana Rose, age 76, my eldest sister Sharon, age 24, then my sister Nicola, age 19 and lastly me age 14.  We went to the Cotswolds, Nicola was to be married the following July, I remember we spent what felt like ages wandering around Bath looking for a Wedding Dress for her. On one of the mornings, my Dad and I were in the kitchen eating toast for breakfast, Dad started to cough, and was then choking, I panicked and ran to find my Mum. I can’t remember what happened next but Dad was fine so he must have managed to clear the toast from his throat. We were all completely unaware that the reason Dad had choked was that his oesophagus was narrowing.

Then in January 1978, when I was almost fifteen years old, having finishing school for the day, my friend Lorraine and I were chatting at the end of the drive to my home.  My neighbour, came out to tell me that I had better go in as he could hear someone was being sick in my house.  I thought it was probably my Mum as she was always getting ill and I was fed up that I had to go and help out again.

When I got inside, my Mum was fine, it was my Dad being sick, he had put his car in the garage which was why I didn’t know he was at home.

Over the next few days, Dad didn’t get any better so Mum called the doctor.  When he came, the doctor phoned for an ambulance to take my Dad to hospital as his heart wasn’t beating normally.  My Dad had some tests done in the hospital and they found he had Endocarditis – inflammation of the heart valves and he also had Septicaemia – a blood infection.  My Dad was put on intra-venous antibiotics to clear the infection in his blood and drugs to reduce the swelling in his heart.

Whilst he was in hospital, the doctors did more tests as it was not normal for a healthy 48 year old man to have his immune system depleted enough for him to be so vulnerable to these infections and they wanted to find the cause.  They discovered that my Dad had a tumour in his lower oesophagus and upper stomach.  My Dad needed an operation to remove the growth, which he had within a few days. On the day of the operation, Mum stayed at the hospital with Dad and Sharon and I went to visit him that evening, on the way there, she told me that the doctors had confirmed that the growth was cancerous, but she didn’t need to tell me, I had already worked that out for myself.

My Dad had an L shaped wound which went down from his breast bone towards his abdomen and then turned across his chest to just behind his back.  The doctors said that this type of cancer normally only occurred in old men who smoked pipes, my Dad had started smoking when he left school at 14 and had later swapped cigarettes for a pipe.  These were the days when smoking at work was commonplace, although Dad’s job took him outside to inspect building work, the time spent in the office was probably smoke filled.

He was very ill, I don’t remember how long it was until he was well enough to come home.  When he did come home, he could only eat liquefied food but even then he struggled to keep anything down partly because of the operation but also because of the chemotherapy.  He looked awful and his hair began to fall out.

I feel that I lost my Dad the day he got ill, he was never the same person again, the Dad I loved had ‘died’ for me then.  I remember the happy times, silly things, like Dad making my sisters and I laugh by telling us fairy stories in a funny voice and with his own silly bits added in, or details changed. And the times Dad would fall asleep in the armchair when he got home from work, my sisters and I would torment him by throwing cushions at him to wake him up.  And there was the time he and I were messing around on the way to buying my new PE kit for Secondary School, I was trying to walk along the kerb stones and Dad was trying to pull me off, I fell and twisted my ankle so badly Dad had to take me to casualty and I started at my new school on crutches.  I could go on, there are so many happy memories.

Dad had always been a strong capable person, just the week before he got ill he had been playing football with his work team.  Dad did his national service in the RAF, he was a mechanic.  Mum and Dad were married on 7th July 1952, they lived in Kent, near Dartford, I was born at Starboard Avenue, Greenhithe, Kent. Dad worked as a shipwright at the dockyards, working on the London Barges.  My Dad was ambitious, he wanted more than this, so in the evenings he studied to be a building surveyor.  He would sit in the dining room studying, my Mum would lock the door so that my sisters and I couldn’t disturb him.  I don’t remember this as I was a toddler at the time.  My Dad achieved his qualifications and got a job working in the Building Control Department in Chelmsford, Essex, this is when we moved to Brook Lane, Galleywood.  This is the first home I can remember, I was two years old.

When I was four, we moved to Beehive Lane.  The house was a 1930’s semi, it was in a poor state, very little had been done to it since it had been built, but it meant that it was cheap enough for my parents to afford to buy.  The wiring was so dangerous, Mum got an electric shock when she had been cleaning the house ready for us to move in. So, as soon as the money was scraped together, Dad re-wired the whole house. My Dad could turn his hand to every job needed to renovate our home, it seemed that nothing was beyond him.  We had very little money at that time, after paying the mortgage, bills, groceries and essential clothing, what little remained went on modernising our home.

For the first few winters of living there, when it was frosty outside, the house was so cold we would wake to beautiful frost patterns on the inside of our bedroom windows. ‘Jack Frost’ visiting to draw on the window panes was very exciting for a young child!  When my parents had saved enough money, Dad installed gas central heating, there was a lot of mess and upheaval with fitting all the radiators and laying the pipes under the floorboards but it was worth it, we were lovely and cosy when it was finished.

To earn extra money, at weekends and after work, Dad would use his surveying and draughting skills, drawing up building plans for his clients to submit when applying for planning permission.  After a few years, we were a bit better off, the renovations on our home had been completed, so the money from this would pay for a family holiday each year and Nana Rose Billing would come along too.  This was years before computers and CAD packages, Dad would draw up the plans by hand using technical drawing instruments on a huge draughting board. Once completed, Dad got them copied, these copies then needed to be hand coloured to a specific scheme indicating the building materials to be used etc. I am good at colouring in and enjoy it, so would sometimes help Dad with this and in return he would give me a bit of extra pocket money. I recall many evenings spent with Dad at the dining room table, Dad drawing and me colouring, in companionable silence.

My Dad slowly got better and started to go back to work part time at first and then full time, life almost got back to normal but the cancer hadn’t finished with him yet.  I can’t remember the exact sequence of events and time scales, these things happened, but I may not have got them in the right order.

The scar from my Dad’s first operation developed a small growth on the left side on his abdomen.  It looked like a lumpy boil and it started to discharge but it wasn’t puss coming out it was cancerous matter.  The growth got bigger and bigger eating away under the skin.

My Dad’s case was referred to London as he needed more specialist treatment.  He went to Hackney Hospital in East London to have the second growth removed, it was a cancerous cyst.  He had to have more chemotherapy but the growth came back again.

By the time the doctors decided to operate on the cyst a second time, it was the size of a melon, the cystic cavity would fill with cancerous matter which when it had nowhere else to go, would discharge, it was horrific, you could see it when Dad’s dressings were being changed, I can’t imagine how it made him feel.  Dad was referred to an even more specialist hospital, St. Bartholomew’s Hospital in central London.  Mum, Sharon & I spent the day of the operation sitting waiting at the hospital in the corridor outside the operating theatre, the operation lasted all day, it was about 8 ½ hours by the time Dad went to recovery.  I believe that my Dad died and was revived during this operation, I have no proof of this, but I just felt it at the time, I have no logical explanation for my certainty that this had happened to him, it is a feeling which stays with me to this day.

My Dad was critically ill after the operation.  He had had a massive amount of skin removed from his abdomen along with the cyst and this had been replaced by skin from his thighs.  His abdomen looked like a patchwork quilt.  Some of the skin graft didn’t take well, it started to go dark but fortunately recovered and began to grow normally.  I think my Dad had to have more chemotherapy and was able to come home when he was sufficiently recovered.  The operation had done nothing to prolong his life expectancy, it was only ‘to improve the quality of remaining life’ the cancer was now widespread in his body.  When my Dad first got ill, he was given six years to live, he didn’t quite manage this and I would question whether towards the end it was a life worth living, he was ill and in pain for most of it, but he never gave up hope that he could beat the cancer until near to the end.  I remember an awful day when the doctors had to put in a line for my Dad’s drip for his medication. Dad had already had so many needles in the veins in his arms and legs that they had collapsed and couldn’t be used again, so his neck was the only place left to successfully get the needed in properly.  Most of the time my Dad spent in hospital, which was a lot, he had needed a drip for fluids and the chemotherapy and other drugs.

My Dad was having trouble managing the stairs at home as he was getting so weak, in the New Year of 1982, we moved from Beehive Lane to a bungalow.  During the last few months, my Dad was increasingly ill, he couldn’t do much at all, he looked awful, his face and body had hollowed out, he was skin and bone, except where the cancer was growing, the cancer was eating him away.

Our GP visited regularly to check Dad’s drugs and monitor the progress of the cancer.  In August 1982 he told us that Dad had probably only a few days left to live, he was only 53 years old.  I took compassionate leave from work, Sharon, her husband Mike and baby Andrew came over and Mum got in touch with Nicola for her to come from her home in Nottingham.  We spent the next day sitting by my Dad’s beside, he was asleep most of the time, his breathing was laboured and there were long gaps between each breath.  The next day my Dad stopped breathing, we knew this was going to happen but it doesn’t make any difference to the amount of pain we felt at losing him.  I had lost a parent and if I’m honest, he was straightforward, uncomplicated and reliable, he was always there, a solid, steady presence in my childhood.  Of course there were times when we disagreed, he was quite old fashioned in his moral beliefs and this caused some conflict between us in the last few years of his life.  But I always knew where I was with him, I didn’t have to worry about what sort of mood he might be in, if he was having a bad day then we would know it, but once he had had a bit of a moan, he was OK and in all the time he was ill, he never took his pain, discomfort and feelings about the cancer out on us.

I loved him and I had lost him, I was 19½ years old, I have now been without my father for 33 years, I still miss him, the thing with the death of a parent or indeed any person you dearly love, is that the pain never quite goes away, it gets easier to live with over time, but there are still occasions when the sadness bubbles up to the surface.  For all the biggest events of my adult life, I haven’t been able to share my joy with my Dad, Ray and I were engaged before Dad died but he never saw us get married, he hasn’t met our children.

At times when I have needed him I haven’t had the benefit and comfort of having him to talk to, I haven’t had the reassurance of his love.

I really need him now, but he’s not here.


Tuesday 12th May

Tuesday 12th May, Today’s gratefulnesses, the concrete base for my woman cave (well, shed) is down and the shed is ordered, yay!!! After a rainy start, the skies cleared and I got two loads of washing done, dried and put away. I have two meet ups with friends organised, have done some crafting today and have been snipping out roses for decoupage this evening, all in all a very good day!

It’s been too long!

I have been neglecting my blog writing for too long, the last few weeks have been busy and stressful, and I have been concentrating my literary efforts on posting a daily gratitude diary on my Facebook page in an effort to look for all that is good in my life.

Two weeks ago I had an emotional crisis regarding work, I was tired, very tired and even though still only working 22 ½ hours each week, was too weary to do anything constructive after work. It was getting me down, our house has been getting more and more messy through my lack of energy and enthusiasm to do anything other than look at it and get more fed up that I wasn’t able to do anything to rectify the situation.

I talked with Ray about all that was bothering me, we discussed me giving up work or carrying on working part-time with an advisory certificate from my doctor. I resolved to speak to my Director and did so two weeks ago, I explained how I was feeling and that as I have no idea if, or when, I might feel that I have enough stamina to go back to full time hours, asked formally for consideration to be given to allowing me to permanently reduce my hours to three days each week.

Thankfully, he agreed to think about it and would let me know as soon as possible what had been decided. I am absolutely delighted to report that it has been agreed for me to reduce my working week to three days, and with effect from 1st May, I will work Monday’s, Wednesday’s and Friday’s.  I cannot properly put in to words just how relieved I am about this, it feels like a massive weight has been lifted from my shoulders, money will be tight, but at least I will not have the constant stress of worrying about being fit to return to full time working hours.

This news gave me a real boost, so much so that I actually decided to do some housework on Saturday afternoon. I am happy to report that I cleaned our bathroom for the first time since before my operation last October. Now wait!! It has been cleaned since then, just not by me!! The lovely Megan has been taking care of it 🙂

When that was all done, I set to putting together a new cupboard for the bathroom, I got fed up with buying cheap second hand storage which doesn’t quite do the job so I splashed out on a new unit. I managed to build it all by myself, and it stores loads more than any of the other previous unsatisfactory cupboards and looks good too! All in all a productive afternoon 🙂

Bathroom 1

This week, work started on preparing the base for my Summer House/Craft Studio, in a few weeks I will be able to move all my equipment in there and we will have our dining room back! 

On Thursday, for the first time since surgery for Bi-lateral Breast Cancer, I have took Shadow for a walk to Captains Wood. I particularly wanted to go there to see the Bluebells, and it was worth the effort, simply beautiful! Then I had Liza’s company on a trip to Homebase and Sainsburys. In the afternoon I sorted through a massive amount of books my dear friend Jan had given me, and also went through our bookshelves. I managed to clear some space on our bookshelves which were getting rather full and to pack up the books I didn’t want to keep ready to try to sell to a second hand book dealer and get them loaded in to the boot of my car, they were a bit too heavy really but I managed it! In the evening, Ray and I have taken our first trip to Ikea since we have been ill, the restaurant now has Lamb Shanks on the menu, and they were delicious! We got the storage boxes and replacement loo seat we went for plus some other bits and bobs. We were both very tired when we got home and pleased to get to bed.



At Homebase, I bought a large terracotta saucer from the garden centre, so that I can start putting bird seed out again, we used to sprinkle it on the pond patio but it kept getting in between the slabs and sprouting, so we stopped doing that. I covered the bottom of the saucer with bird seed and it was all gone when I got home on Friday afternoon, so I put more seed in it, and have enjoyed looking out, watching the wood pigeons and turtle doves feeding. We have one bossy wood pigeon who spends so much time trying to chase all the other pigeons away that he hardly gets to eat anything, it is very funny to see them chasing about on the lawn 🙂 The little birds used to be frequent visitors too, but seem to have not noticed that we have put food out yet, I’m sure they will return soon. There is one pigeon that Liza has nicknamed ‘Mr fatty’ because he is so large, this is a picture I took of him last summer.

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Today, between Ray, Megan and I, our front room is tidy and clean for the first time in months, Ray vacuumed, Megan and I dusted, I stripped the throws off the futons, and Megan put clean ones on, I took down the net curtain for a wash, cleaned the inside of the windows, and ironed the clean curtain and put it back up. It has been so satisfying to sit in our clean and tidy front room this evening, with candles lit in the hearth, and the fairy lights switched on, ah bliss!

A Shortish Catch Up.

Last time I wrote, I was about to go for an Ultrasound scan, physically, it was bearable, I did have an aspiration of the fluid, it was a little painful but not too bad. The fluid was sent for analysis and I heard today that it is nothing to worry about, apparently, the right side lumpiness at the excision site is caused by a thick-walled cyst and the fluid is as would be expected, so nothing to worry about. The area of discomfort away from the operation site showed nothing abnormal and is most likely a side effect of healing from Radiotherapy.

The emotional effects of having the ultrasound were further reaching, and this is why I have taken so long to write another blog. This is the only appointment I have gone to alone, as it was such short notice, Ray wasn’t able to get the time off to go with me.

Sitting waiting to be called, I looked around the busy waiting area, it was fairly easy to speculate by the expressions on their and their companions’ faces whether the women waiting were on their first call back, waiting to get biopsy results, for post-op or post treatment check-ups,. There was only one other woman on her own, I didn’t mind being alone, I kind of felt like a senior student observing the ‘newbies’ and more experienced students on the first day of the academic year.

I did not anticipate how I would feel having the ultrasound. I was totally fixated on the screen trying to see if the images were anything like those I saw when I went for the biopsies last September. The nursing staff assured me that there was nothing suspicious to see, but would aspirate the fluid to relieve the pressure. It was a little painful, rather like having a blood test, the nursing staff are so kind and compassionate, and they really took care to treat me kindly.

During the afternoon and evening I could feel myself sinking, having the ultrasound brought back all those feelings from when I was tested and diagnosed with Bi-Lateral Breast Cancer. It really knocked me sideways for the rest of last week.

The low mood was pervasive, I could not seem to shake it off and it made me doubt and question decisions I have made recently and unusually for me, to regret one of them in particular.

Josh’s girlfriend Liza, passed her driving test on Thursday, I was so pleased for her, we took them out for dinner to celebrate, I kicked myself up the bum and put on a happy attitude for the evening. But on Friday I felt just as low.

The weekend was good, Megan and I went to art journaling class on Saturday, I put all my feelings in to my journal, it was very therapeutic. On Sunday Ray cut the grass for the first time this year, the garden looks lovely now. I did some weeding between the patio stones and cleaned out and re-filled the bird feeders, something which I have been meaning to do for weeks. Being outside in the sunshine did me the power of good and I am feeling better now.

I have started to make a list each day of what I am grateful for after reading this post on Sue Fitzmaurice’s Facebook page: 

The Blues

Today I am grateful for a beautiful warm day, for a productive short-day at work, the colours of daffodils ranging from white to deep yellow and the tree blossom from white to cerise, for it being warm enough to have all my car windows open on the drive home, the smell of a bonfire, bringing back good memories of times in the garden where I grew up tending a fire of garden waste with my Dad, and also the scent of fresh mown grass, one of my most favourite smells and guaranteed to raise my mood.


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.

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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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