'If you have a dog, you will most likely outlive it; to get a dog is to open yourself to profound joy and, prospectively, to equally profound sadness.' Marjorie Garber

Wednesday, 28 February 2018

Me...Art School and beyond.

After failing to graduate in Law in the 1980s, as touched upon in my last blog. I always thought I would one day return to Higher Education and complete a degree as a mature student.
Art, I wanted to do Art. As a child, I was known as the family 'artist'. Not just by my immediate family, but extended family too. In fact, each generation had it's artist, usually a child from the next generation, nurturing... I was my parents', my girls, are my generation's...whether they like it or not! I did pretty pictures in those childhood 'artist' days. Portraits and animals...for family to take away. Art school don't do 'Pretty' pictures...can't handle them, you won't get an art degree 'doing' pretty pictures!
When I was in my thirties, 1998 to be precise, my eldest daughter established and happy in the local infant school, I had a bit more time to myself. I started a local course called Women - job or career? Just twice a week, in a side room at the playgroup where I already volunteered and my youngest daughter attended. These kind of community courses, in my case, during my daughter's playgoup hours anyway, are so good for Mums. Long may they continue. The course was aimed at giving women the confidence to go back in the work force. Instead of it pointing me personally, towards employment, I felt it had given me drive to go back into higher or further education. I had a small, but reliable network of friends as 'fall-back' childcare if Mum couldn't look after the girls. They would be at school all day anyway. My youngest daughter was due to start reception class in the September. I enrolled at a local Access to Communicating Arts course, the college has since amalgamated or closed, not sure which.  Access courses were to give people the tools to return to education after a long break from the system. There were two women on my course, unfortunately it soon came about, that I was the only woman - always a minority. I befriended a particularly outspoken lesbian feminist, one of my lecturers. During my course, I applied to study Fine Art, via UCCA, and other local art degrees. I could only apply to local universities because I had a family - no Slade School for me! Graphics among the courses. I wasn't really interested in design, but it is nice to earn something. Both UWE and Bath Spa have good reputations for Art, and were quite near my home. I could drop the girls off at school and still make 9 o'clocks at either establishment without having to put my foot down, too much. Actually, I hadn't passed my driving test yet, so was having to rely on the local bus service.

I had an interview at UWE for Graphics. Off I go to the Arty Bower Ashton Campus, with my portfolio and some photos from my Access Course. The interview starts really well. A one to one with a softly spoken lady who seemed genuinely interested. Then in walks Black T-shirt Man.  He asked, would I have a problem selling certain things, acting for the client? With the Lecturer Lesbian Feminist whispering in my ear 'Be true to yourself', I admitted that yes, some advertising disturbed me. It had nothing to do with being a feminist and everything to do with being the Mother of Daughters. The objectifying of women, the use of the female body and unobtainable sexual gratification to sell products, well, mainly, to men, the body-shaming of girls. I hoped to change attitudes from the inside. I had been Women's Officer at the college for my Access Course. No one else wanted to do it. My Lesbian Feminist friend persuaded me to fill the post. Black T-Shirt Man didn't like me, softly spoken lady had physically and spiritually, taken a back seat in the interview. 'Let me look at your photos...' He said. He found a particular image of my daughter playing with a toy gun and a doll...we had been looking at gender in lectures and yes, it was obvious. But not posed, I had literally given my daughter a toy gun and a doll and snapped away. I had the image with me, because I had developed the photo myself in the dark room. It was a good finished product, showing my ability to develop an image from negative to final print. He went to town. 'What is this supposed to represent?' He said pointing at the gun. I gave him the facts as above, unposed, developing, etc. He would not back down. 'What is it?' I had no idea what he was getting at. He kept tapping the image, tapping the toy gun. Anyone who knows me, knows that if you back me into a corner, I start to get smart and sassy. Sometimes I lash out. Here goes...'What do you think it represents?' Oh NO! I'd blown it! I thought that was a good critical art response. He was puce. 'It's obvious, isn't it?' He glanced at softly-spoken for moral support. I thought, is it? I said nothing. 'It's quite obviously a penis!' He finally said. Ha! I could hear Lesbian Feminist falling off her chair in laughter...the old 'penis envy'!
'I hadn't thought about it like that.' I said. I genuinely hadn't. It was a toy gun, the model was my daughter, penises had never entered the conversation before. My daughter told me she was pretending to be James Bond...the plot thickens.
'Ok, I think we've seen enough...' said Black T-shirt man. I started to pack my work away. Eighteen years to get here, dismissed by a toy gun. If he had come to that interview ready to belittle me and put me in my place, he had succeeded. Bravo!
When I relayed the conversation to my Feminist lecturer. she was sad. 'I thought Freud had largely been discredited.' She said.
Obviously, I would not be studying Graphics at UWE anytime soon.
Now this goes back to the last blog, this is the truth. I can't remember that man's name, and I don't care. I never want to see him again.
Ok, looking at this now, I can see what he is saying, but I hadn't thought of it before, honestly. I guess daughter is the one to ask, not me, she said she was being James Bond, she was 6. I don't think she was mimicking having a penis! But there were ways of addressing this without sounding so misogynistic.

I didn't get on a course at the first stage of university applications. I had to go through clearing.
Bath Spa had vacancies on its Creative Arts Degree. You had to do two different areas from the Arts. The options were Art, Dance, Music, Drama, Textiles and Creative writing. I had English Literature A Level, and had dabbled a bit in creative writing, stories, poems, just privately, so I applied to study Art and Creative Writing.
I had an interview. Two black t-shirt Men this time. An art lecturer, the then head of department, in fact, and the photography lecturer. Is this black t-shirt thing an unspoken uniform? They were very pleasant. 'Did they want to see my poetry?' 'Nah, not their department and the Creative writing people hadn't sent anyone to interview me.' As far as they were concerned, I fitted the criteria and was I sure I was good to go in September? Good to go? 'Yes, you have young children, don't you?' 'Will childcare be an issue?' ' Um, no that was all sorted. Were they offering me a place?' 'Well that is the general idea of this interview, do you want it?' The head of department had a good sense of humour.
I was ecstatic, beside myself. I was going to study Art. I was going to be an Artist. My husband and family were really pleased for me.

The course on the art side was mainly made up of women in a similar position to me. Missed out on art straight from school, had families, not all but most, and now doing something for themselves. I felt safe. The course wasn't perfect but I liked it.

The creative writing element had young people too. Excellent, some fresh blood. As well as two Arts subjects, I had to take an additional module for the first two years...Cultural studies.

I started in September 2000, and passed my driving test in November. This gave me more time after the school drop. I could drive comfortably to campus, from school gate to art studio in twenty minutes. 

I will talk about my Art experience in more detail in another blog.  

Sunday, 25 February 2018

The Funny Thing About Truth!

THis morning's 'Midnight-Oil Meal' - natural greek yoghurt, black pepper, simple, cheap, delicious!
Funny thing, truth...I was brought up believing that as long as you told the truth, you had nothing to worry about.

No, no, no, truth is far more complicated than that...you also need PERMISSION!
Names, facts, you can't just use them willy-nilly! You need to ask. So you can't just use a person's real name, or maybe you can...any armchair lawyers out there who can tell me??
Let me stress here, no-one yet is threatening a lawsuit (an Americanism we Brits now embrace!), but just recently this blog and my Instagram account have taken on a bit of a life of their own, and I always use real names except for my nearest and dearest where I use euphemisms (love that word!)
COPYRIGHT ...another beauty. I own the copyright on this stuff, that I know. I borrow from time to time, I try to always say where I've borrowed from.

ALLEGEDLY, I studied Law over a period of several years...that is true. Never really known why, something to do with TRUTH, don't kid yourself, law and truth, they are not the same thing!

I should know all these things, but I gave up on law, and it on me, back in the 1980s, when all law was really about was the MONEY...still is.

Anyway, I digress... It occurred to me in the wee hours that my best friends never met Beverley, she was part of my truth before we met. And I'm not sure, if I ever talked about her to them. It seems odd that two women who are like Sisters to me, should not know someone who was so fundamental to the makeup of my character, to the true me. There will be lots of these TRUTH posts...you will be bored. That's all for now and some irrelevant images. because a good blog, (Self evaluation!) has to have images too...see you soon
Bristol Bier Keller...does it still exist???German bier swilling to music, early eighties stuff.

Saturday, 10 February 2018


Today is my Birthday. I'm 56 years old. For the past two years, fifteen weeks and four days, I have been in a passive aggressive relationship with 'incurable' Stage 4 Ovarian Cancer. Next Friday, February 16th, I will undergo surgery for removal of a 3.5cm tumour in my left cerebellum, which may or may not be a metastasis from the Ovarian Cancer.

Occasionally in life, people are given a 'wake-up call' - an incident, or event, so catastrophic, so shocking, that we are made to take 'stock', to slow down and say 'Hey, wait a minute...' 
If we are lucky, we see it for what it is and we start to make changes...
The British Royal Family had it with the tragic death of Princess Diana, the world had it with the surreal unfolding of the Twin Towers. Some people take note, some don't...

I am lucky, I have been given two chances, this is my second...

Some souls never get to say those things they really wanted to say, do those things that they really wanted, had, to do...

In 1973, I started at a local mixed sex Comprehensive school in Bath, UK, The Ralph Allen School. I had come from a tiny C. of E. village school, with only six children in my year. We had been split 50/50 between two tutor groups at Ralph Allen, I was in Mrs. Dear's group with two 'best buddies' from my school, Debbie and Ruth, and my best friend from Primary, Andrea, had been put in the other group with Chris, and  my cousin, Paul. I was out on my own, vulnerable, without my older friend to mother me. We were only in these groups for registration and assembly and then we were split into classes. Ralph Allen was a comprehensive but it did use some academic streaming. I was in the 'top' stream, which had two classes. I was in the lower class, 1P, of the stream, the top class was 1H. After a few weeks it was clear that the streaming needed some rejigging - 1P and H were to be merged into two new classes - 1PH and 1HP, naturally!

The stage was set. I didn't have to move, the seat next to me was empty. Into the classroom came maybe 15 new kids, the 'top' 'H-ers', all bright and bouncy and smiling, and out filed the exiled old 'P's.
A blonde girl, maybe two three inches taller than me, came rushing to my desk. She was warm and vibrant and happy. 'Hi, I'm Beverley, you're Sue. My Mum knows your Mum. We were born on the same ward. I'm a day older than you!'

That was it! Friends, inseparable.  

Beverley Rowe - blonde, confident, warm - my best friend.

I had never known anyone like Beverley before. 
Very soon we we're having sleepovers at her house.
Her Mum and Dad had their own modern house on the Wells Road.
She had her own bedroom, tiny, but it had it's own fitted white furniture, with lots of drawers and mirrors and secret compartments and make-up. I shared my bedroom with my two sisters.
My Mum and Dad were proud, strict, Working Class, who wouldn't accept charity.
Her Mum and Dad were middle class, aspirational, office types - with a drinks cabinet!
I spent so much time with her. Just growing up. I loved her mum, so laid back and warm and stylish. Her Dad, on the other hand, always seemed uptight, in a hurry, out to prove something and really skinny! (Perhaps, I'm being unfair with hindsight.)

Beverley knew everything about life. She was a rebel, a free spirit.We would go shopping on Saturdays together. We had a Saturday job, together. We went roller skating, together, wearing our 'wonderbras' and 'airforceblue' jeans, and tartan Bay City Roller Scarves (pretending they were for Rod Stewart, of course, more street cred!) We shared clothes and stories, and dreams and the occasional casual boyfriend, Dave!

We went to the Odd Down Youth Club and snuck out to get chips! My Dad would have been so angry!
She told me about periods, about tampons, about french kissing, pop music - we were a soul or 50s rock music home. She told me about smoking, drugs, sex...boys. How she knew all these things? I will never know, but she did, and she had less than 24 hours on me!

Beverley was my constant, always there, always dependable, like the core of my left cerebellum, my left arm. We never fought, ever! She never criticised me, even  when I didn't return her make-up, or was late, or didn't turn up at all, or didn't stand up for her when I should have. She only ever supported and encouraged me. 
Beverley had a lisp. When she was younger, she used to worry about it. By the time she was in her mid-teens, she just didn't care anymore. I never really thought about it much.

And for five blissful years, that was my life. In the mid 1970s, Ralph Allen School 'lost' funding for it's sixth form - the politics of this, I never knew, but it meant that anyone showing aspirations to study 'A' levels, had to move on. It was the age of 'equal rights', single sex schools would be a thing of the past. Beverley and I had a plan, we would go to Culverhay Boys School - near my old village so my Mum could take us. You could only go to the school of the opposite sex, if they offered subjects not offered by the equivalent girls' state school. I was going to do Law and Sociology - a 'lefty' in the making. Literally a couple of weeks before we were due to start the sixth form, after the induction, Beverley got cold feet and pulled out. I never really knew why, she was having second thoughts and thinking that maybe, nursing might be more her thing, she was dating a boy from the other school, Beechen Cliff, I think, it all got a bit muddy there - 'But Bev...All those boys!' No, she wasn't going to be convinced, but she supported me anyway and said 'You're going!'

We drifted slightly, stayed in touch, met for the occasional drink...then I went off to University.

In the early 1980s we had a couple of polite fun meet-ups, including a school reunion in The Crystal Palace, where the sleazy boys from Batheaston were still trying to get into our pants! No, they never did! She told me she had a special guy in her life. Tony, she loved him, I could tell. I told her about my boyfriend, and she seemed impressed - I may not have landed a degree but I did have a Junior Doctor!

I had crashed and burned at Uni, taken a golden opportunity and blown it! In the early eighties, I struggled to find a 'decent' job and started working part-time for Tie-Rack in Bath. One evening in my bedroom at home, I had moved into my Brother's old room at the front of the house, a tiny box room, but mine, that fronted onto the only lane in and out of my village, I couldn't sleep. There was a motorbike outside making a hell of a racket, going round and round and revving up. Only there wasn't, several times I looked, the lane was empty. I was dreaming. I spoke to my family the next day, no-one else had heard a thing. I told my boyfriend...I must have been dreaming.
 A few mornings later, cold November, I was sat in the car at the bus stop with my Mum, outside the Crossways Inn, waiting for the bus to take me to Tie-Rack. In my mid twenties and still relying on my Mum and Dad to chauffeur me everywhere. We put the radio on, unusually, the local station, we would normally listen to Radio 1. There had been a serious accident on that Road, with fatalities, the bus would be late. I knew, at that moment, like a bolt, that it was Beverley. I turned to my Mum and said 'Oh my God, I think it's Beverley...'

Beverley had visited her Mum and Dad that evening with Tony to announce their engagement. They had left on his motorbike, and had been involved in an accident with a car. There were no other witnesses. Beverley's body was found thrown some distance from the road in a field belonging to my Dad's employer. I hope she was already dead. I hope she never suffered.

When we were in English, at school, Beverley had written a story where she was being cremated. She had been in a motorbike accident and they were cremating her. But she wasn't dead. She was trying to scream out to them, but the music got louder, nobody could hear her, the casket shut and...

They cremated Beverley and scattered her ashes on Tony's grave.

Beverley's favourite record was 'Stairway to Heaven'. When we piled into my friend's car after the funeral, the first song on the radio, was Stairway to Heaven...

We went to Beverley's Mum and Dad's house. Her Mum showed us photos of when we had slept in a tent in her garden and the 'boys' from our class had gate-crashed! It felt surreal, so un-Beverley.
I never saw Beverley's Mum again after that. It hurt too much. I am deeply ashamed. I loved her Mum.

If you knew Beverly Rowe, of Ralph Allen, then you know me! 

I wonder what she would make of the past thirty or so years...still supporting me probably.

I loved you.
I always will xxx

Sunday, 31 January 2016

Sick of January's Cancer? Part 2

So cold January carries on relentlessly. The seemingly unending month after the excitement of December. Never compromising, making us pay for the excesses of the festive season and our journey so far...

Goodbye Terry. I wasn't expecting to add you here. Honorary Brit, Sir Tel from Limerick...
Terry Wogan

I think I mentioned before, in my November post, that Hubby is in the 'trade', so after my dearest friends left us on January 14th, he explained the recent  progression of my cancer to his Brother, who has also suffered from cancer. 

I haven't told you, Blog reader, either about the December news. After my operation, but before my chemotherapy started, I had a routine CT scan of my chest. There were a few problems before the scan, because, in my usual 'nothing is ever straight forward for me' style, I had a minor reaction to the contrast dye used for my first CT scan in October. This had gone unreported from one NHS Trust to the one that was now treating me, because the former Trust had not considered it to be a serious reaction. So when I told the radiographer what had happened, he was naturally reluctant to give me the contrast in case I had a stronger reaction on my second exposure. Then followed lots of telephone discussions between the radiographer, (the technician who takes the actual scan), the radiologists, (the specialist doctors who 'read' the scan) both at my current NHS Trust and the referring one, my consultant oncologist, and my husband, (man in the 'trade'). Meanwhile, I was sat on the edge of the scan couch, swinging my legs, and contemplating my failure thus far to engage in any Christmas shopping. The radiographer asked me if I would be more comfortable waiting in the area outside the room whilst they decided my fate. So I escaped outside to the corridor to ponder whether I could have just delayed joining the Cancer train until after Christmas. It's all about the timing...

It was eventually decided to proceed with the scan without the contrast. Apparently the finer blood vessels would  not be as clear in the images but they all considered it to be sufficiently clear to see what was needed to be seen. The general consensus was that it wouldn't make any difference to my initial course of treatment if the scan revealed anything, and they weren't really expecting it to show anything sinister anyway. I lay back on the couch and let the machine do it's stuff. This was mid-November.

Following the scan, I attended my Introductory Clinic  a few days later and had my first course of Chemotherapy on 25th November. I was very nervous and convinced that I would have some kind of reaction to the drugs if my previous experiences had been anything to go by. Hubby was equally nervous and watched me like a hawk for the first hour or so. The whole course of treatment lasted seven and a half hours. I hadn't taken into account the pre-meds and the saline flushes between each drug and after the final drug. But it all passed very smoothly. I even managed a snooze and to finish reading a book that had become a millstone...

The Chemotherapy session is day one of the three week treatment cycle. So this was day one of my therapy and armed with a mountain of drugs supplied by the clinic for every conceivable home-treatable side effect, I went home expecting all sorts of awful medical problems in the days ahead.  But I was relatively free of side effects during the first chemo cycle, apart from feeling as high as a kite on the steroids for a couple of days and then coming down to earth with the shock of my hair beginning to thin. Of course, there was still the ongoing battle with trapped wind which had continued to plague me since the operation, but nothing this cycle threw at me seemed too unmanageable, with the exception of my thinning hair ~ I wasn't ready for that yet. 

Feeling lucky to have come through round one fairly unscathed, I had put all thoughts of five year survival rates out of my mind and believed I was going to be fine. I had felt fit and well, and confident that I would come out the otherside with a few scars but otherwise cured.  

I didn't get the results of November's chest scan until just before the second cycle of chemo in December. At the second pre-assessment clinic, the consultant told me the news. I wasn't expecting it at all.

The chest scan showed enlarged lymph nodes beyond my abdominal cavity, one node in particular, near my left clavicle was huge. I had first become aware of that lymph node in my first chemo session. I could feel it, about the size of a golf ball just sticking out above my collar bone. The scan also revealed I had fluid between my lungs and chest wall and several nodules on my chest wall. I also had a small amount of fluid around my heart. All things considered, it was bad news. My consultant wanted to introduce another drug, Avastin, to my therapy. I would have this drug for sixteen sessions, every three weeks, starting with the second session of my existing drugs. Avastin is the brand name, the drug name is Bevacizumab, which I have no idea how to pronounce, so I call it Avastin. This drug targets the new blood vessels that form around cancer cells and starves them of oxygen thus shrinking existing tumours and preventing cells from forming secondary tumours. He said that it meant they were no longer looking to cure me, but to contain the cancer. I would have adjuvant therapy rather than curative. If I had seven to ten years without a secondary tumour forming, he would take that and be very happy. I'm pleased that he would be happy, but I'm not sure if I have the skill to put into words how I feel to know that I am no longer being treated to be cured of cancer, but being treated to delay the inevitable. My consultant assured me that this wasn't palliative treatment - but what's in a name? The cancer will get me eventually, unless of course, something else does.
My parents were with me at the clinic. I could feel my lovely Mum's tears roll down her cheeks as though they were my own. I could see my dear Dad's heartache and anguish in his face as he struggled to take this in. I wanted to stand up and hug them both and take away their pain, and laugh: 'Don't be silly, I'm going to be fine!" But right then I couldn't. I was trying to think of the right questions to ask, and thinking why hadn't I insisted Mum and Dad stay outside and that Hubby had come instead. At least this way, I was saved one awful job - of breaking the news to them myself. When I left the consultant's room, I turned the corner to leave the Day Unit, and for the first time since my initial diagnosis, I broke down in public. Just momentarily, I lost control. And not for the first time in my life, my wonderfully strong parents rescued me.

I called Hubby from the car and relayed as much as I had taken in from the meeting with my consultant. He decided to call the consultant to get a clearer picture. I went home, and whilst my Mum and Dad had a quiet moment to themselves, I told my daughters. I tried to stick to what the consultant had told me. First Born Darling Daughter was her usual quiet contemplative self. Youngest Darling Daughter was very tearful, just as I knew she would be. My parents tried to comfort the girls but it's hard when you need comforting too. Then about an hour later, Hubby came home and gave the girls the medical talk about the diagnosis. First Born was quiet verging on angry and Youngest was distraught. When I came into the room, I could tell they thought I was dying. 'I'm not dying now, but we do all have to die one day, I just know now what will probably kill me...' Did that comfort them, I don't think so, but it was the truth.

The most painful part of Cancer for me is having to share the bad news with the ones you love...

The Penny Brohn UK
Earlier in the month, Hubby had decided to book us into an Introductory Session at the Penny Brohn UK, a Cancer charity based near to home, which offers practical, physical and spiritual support to sufferers and their carers. Unfortunately we were booked in the day after this latest news. Hubby and I went along, both full of fear and confusion about the future, and indeed, questioning how much future we had together. Emotions were raw. We shared our day with other sufferers and carers and as the day went by I certainly managed to release some of my deepest anxieties and move toward some kind of spiritual acceptance, and I think Hubby did too. But on reflection, maybe we were still finding the journey very hard.

I came home feeling drained, sad and accepting my possible fate, although full of plans of activities I would take up at Penny Brohn, one day in the 'future', when the effects of my operation had worn off. I had to pick myself up and 'get positive'. I had my second cycle of chemo the next day, with my first session of Avastin. 

The second chemo session went well. I had decided that after receiving my news, I was actually no worse off than I had been before. In fact, I was better off because I now had more information about my condition. And physically, I was fairly fit and could feel that the 'huge' lymph node in my neck had gone down a lot since the first chemo cycle. My lovely Mum sat through the whole seven and half hours with me, only nodding off once, and keeping my drinks of water topped up, and my spirits high.

Chemo Cycle 2

We were now into mid-December and my Christmas shopping still hadn't taken off. I wanted to make this Christmas 'normal' for my family. I decided to unleash my purchasing power on the internet big time, because I did't know if I would be well enough to do any instore shopping. 

The second cycle hit me heavier than the first. For the first few days, my feet were sore and my legs were shaky. I had a constant sickly sweet taste in my mouth. I fluctuated from bouts of extremely painful blocked wind and constipation to having to go to the loo several times a day. My gums became sore and I found it difficult to eat. And my hair came out in handfuls, but suddenly losing my hair seemed a small price to pay for maybe buying a bit more time with my family and friends. Perspective was looming large. Luckily, the internet purchases started to arrive and my darling daughters bought what they could for me in the shops. I was ready for Christmas.

I had never really prepared traditional Christmas lunch for Christmas Day. We had always gone to my parents, or occassionally Hubby's parents, for the day itself, and just because I was ill, I didn't want to impose myself on everyone's day by suggesting a change now. When my girls were tiny, I had started our own tradition of having 'Christmas Lunch' at home on Christmas Eve. I wanted to carry on this year.  

I ordered a goose from Abel & Cole. It was a beauty. I was so proud of myself and I think Hubby and the girls enjoyed our feast. We ate lots, we laughed lots and we were able to forget the other big 'C' of the season.

Christmas Day was spent at my Big Sister's house, (accommodating four generations of family had made the move from my Mum and Dad's home essential). Mum still cooked the turkey, but Big Sis did the veg with help from her Hubby and my Brother and his Wife. And I cooked a Gammon for the day, a fairly recent tradition that I wasn't about to abandon so easily.

With my gorgeous girls on Christmas Day, wearing my wig.

It was a lovely day. We all had fun. I wore my wig for only its second outing so far. I had to take a little snooze around about 5 ish, (two hours actually), before continuing with the festivities, but was really pleased to be well enough to enjoy the day. And I managed to only make my Mum and Dad cry briefly when they unwrapped their present.

On Boxing Day, we headed down the motorway to my Hubby's parents. His youngest Brother and his family were visiting from France and we really wanted to catch up with them. I had another enjoyable couple of days, although had a spell of feeling poorly on the second evening.

Then it was back home to wait for the end of the year. Hubby was working New Year's Eve, so my family invited themselves over to my house and brought a New Year's Feast with them. All I had to do was be here...
Now it was January, and Cancer started to claim its notable victims. Cancer is a great leveller. Whether your a pop superstar, an award-winning actor, a fabulous entertainer, a high flying CEO or a normal housewife, it treats you all the same. Unforgiving, unrelenting. I felt helpless. I was thinking about finances and bucket lists and all the things you should sort in those closing years...if I had years.

I attended my third chemo cycle. Dad came along this time too. Everything went smoothly. I felt a little worse in the days that followed, but subsequent days were easier ~ no sore gums, no painful wind, just a little dry skin, a mild nose bleed and a brief spell of diarrhoea. Only three rounds of the big drugs to go...

But do you know what...January isn't all doom and gloom.
Less than a week after Chemo 3, my dearest friends were here. They dragged me back to the now, to life and living. Remember that third scan I said I had to go to following the cinema...you remember, way back in Part 1 of my saga!
Well, I had to have a barium drink as a contrast for the scan and I would get the results on my Dad's Birthday.

The next day, my friends left and Hubby's Brother arrived. We talked Cancer a lot, but not in a depressing way. Factually and honestly, as only two sufferers can. Shared our experiences and helped lift the spirits of Hubby and the girls by being honest. Hubby's parents visited the next day too and Hubby's Brother and Hubby's Mum prepared a lovely evening meal.

On the Saturday, they all went back to their homes and we were left to count down the days to the next chemo session. 

So the Pre-assessment clinic date arrived. Hubby came with me. I think we were both frightened to ask about the scan. Gloom had been the order of the month so far this January.

The doctor asked me about my side effects and talked about the failed port-a-cath and then broke the news of the scan...

'Well, it's good news'...was I hearing things. No, it really was good news. My lungs were clear, no nodules were still visible. Most of the lymph nodes were no longer visible, except the large one near my clavicle which had shrunk considerably and may now be just chemo scar tissue. There was negligible fluid around by heart, and that may be unrelated anyway and there was a small mass in the abdomen near the site of the operation which the radiologist believed to be scar tissue. I couldn't believe it. Hubby was amazed. Did that mean I had gone down a grade or stage. Unfortunately not apparently but, hey, who cares ~ what's in a name. The treatment was / is working!

I phoned my parents from the car park - wished my Dad a 'Happy Birthday', then broke the news to him and Mum. Ecstatic. What a Birthday gift for him. It's all about the timing. We then went to visit them in the afternoon to repeat the news in person. 

Then followed a much happier, upbeat Chemo Session 4... 

Today is my Lovely Mum and Dear Dad's Wedding Anniversary. They've been together for a very long time and I am so glad I have them both so near to me, both physically and spititually. So 'Goodbye' January and your Cancer blues and bring on February ~ I'm ready for it!