Monthly Archives: December 2014

Do as you would be done by

“Do as you would be done by” seems an appropriate thought for the end of this year from Hell and the start of a new chapter (albeit calendrical !)

My health seems stable – which is as good as it gets. I have not passed out again recently (although I do seem to have an unexplained lump, cut and bruise over left eyebrow – with absolutely no idea of its provenance.) Hair is well and truly back – full-on and curly. Leprosy has gone – hurrah! Eyes not great – but they never were! Diabetes – OKish…Back – holding up for the moment (despite the likelihood of surgery in 2015) BUT no medical appointments for another fortnight.

So I am letting 2014 finally tumble into a deep abyss along with an overspilling magnum of  lost hopes, lost dreams, lost friendships, despair and tears and I will slip into 2015 glad that we are all unaware of what lurks round the corner…How on earth would you get up in the morning if you knew?

I still have a lot to be grateful for and a lot to get up for in the mornings.  Who knew how wonderful people could be (and often totally unexpected people) when cancer struck and when the follow-up Judas Kiss wave of sh** hit the fan this year? Without you I wouldn’t have reached this point and, whilst living still feels tenuous..I am doing it…hey I’m doing it!


Fancy Santa coming to Oxford

Christmas ain’t what it used to be…

Christmas Eve saw me and friend in the garden at 5:20pm (as instructed by Radio 4) to watch…ah! well that is what we had forgotten…Fast moving star? Santa? Eclipse of some sort? – We did see something moving quickly but couldn’t be sure it wasn’t a plane but it looked like something significant and boy was it cold…and now well past 5:20. So we assumed we had seen the something of significance and went indoors. (This is from someone who genuinely has no interest at all in space or even the night sky other than enjoying twinkly stars…) So was it the space station? was it a “sign” that my luck (hah!) is about to change –

…or was it really Santa?

Meantime, as I spent the evening working my way through the bubbly in the fridge…the 20 somethings were upstairs drinking tea…Modern family life eh?

What could possibly be left to go wrong?

I only have half a Christmas dinner to prepare so that should make life easier, I thought. Unfortunately I forgot my tendency towards breakages….Yesterday was epic….

  1. I began the day breaking a mirror – 7 years bad luck…..really? REALLY?
  2. Then I started to assemble my Christmas trifle in the brand new cut-glass trifle bowl my lovely mum bought me last year to replace my make do and mend approach to trifle. Well…it started well and first wave of trifling was in fridge. It all started to go wrong when I got it out to add the custard and the whole base and half the pedestal splintered (or did I clumsily bash it against the worktop? – jury is still out…). Good news – no glass in the trifle. Bad news – how to you support a heavy trifle dish with shards of pedestal hanging off? Hmmmm…yet to resolve that is currently suspended over a plastic jug (aha!…back to make do and mend!), but I’m not giving up just yet as there is only the cream now to add…What would Mary Berry do?
  3. As if this wasn’t enough…whilst emptying dishwasher I dropped (and, naturally smashed to smithereens) 2 wine glasses…

This was all morning activity – no alcohol of any sort had passed my lips…I revert back to my standard response of “Is this a sign?” – A sign of bloody what else?

The shortest day…the longest night

At last, it is the shortest day of the year. Up until now I have always greeted this day with joy, as the year’s cycle only starts improving (from my perspective) at this point as the days start extending again. Much though I would like to “celebrate”, my sense of optimism has truly flown the coop this year.

I continue to wonder why life can’t wait until I have attempted to absorb recent insidious heavy blows before throwing out yet more…and more?

A poignant day today – it is the anniversary of the death of a colleague/friend back in 2006 and this year I remember him (as always) whilst girding my loins for another loss…

“And other strains of woe, which now seem woe,
Compared with loss of thee, will not seem so.”  (Shakespeare – Sonnet 90)

BUT…side by side with the tear stained cheeks is still a clenched fist grasping every flicker of hope and joy….

  • My food shop is imminent. My fridge yawns –  more than ready to be filled again
  • My true friends and family continue to rally round me and continue to keep me standing each and every time I try to fall
  • My Christmas will be packed full of people I love and who love me – as well as a groaning table and, dare I hope…laughter
  • My cats remain steadfast and true!
  • And hey…I am still alive…

The holiday season is upon us

A “seasonal” poem courtesy of my New Yorker friend Heather
© Heather Ebner 2014

The First Night of Chanukkah
By Heather L Ebner

‘Twas the first night of Chanukah, here in New York
And the family, all seated, had just grabbed their forks.
The table was laid with a wonderous feast,
Roast chicken and latkes for 20 at least.
Oh the scents, as they wafted throughout the whole house
Made every mouth water, including the mouse.

With Dad at the head, and I, left of him
Our plates piled high, just about to dig in,
When, “WAIT!” Bubbe scolded, “Oy vey, what a scandal.”
“You can’t all eat yet, we must first light the candles!”

“She does have a point,” Dad begrudgingly grumbled.
“But let’s make this quick,” to the front room he mumbled.
The rest of us followed him falsely with zeal,
In the hopes that we’d sooner get back to our meal.

Around the menorah, we all reassembled
And watched as the Shamas flame flickered and trembled.
Inspired to reverence by Bubbe’s stern stare,
I offered to read all the Channukah prayers
But as I began to “Baruch Adonai….”
A thunderous sound seemed to come from the sky.

Away to the front door, we made a mad dash
Threw on the porch lights and heard the loud crash.
There in the yard, to our wondr’ing surprise,
was a man – and eight pairs of small, bright blinking eyes

He had a thick beard and a blue velvet coat
And a warm silver scarf wrapped snug round his throat.
He wore fur-topped boots and the cap on his head
embroidered in Hebrew with fine silver thread.

I looked and I counted – in the wintery freeze –
Hitched up to his sled were eight camels – on skis?!
With a great swirl of sparkle and dust from the East
Pulled the reins, and he called to each Magical beast.

“Whoa! Moishe, Whoa! Mitzvah, Whoa! Bupkes and Shmutz
Shlemiel and Shmegeggi, Matzoh and Putz!”

They slid to a halt as their names were called out,
Then the great man stepped down, stretched his back, looked about:
“What a shlep!” said this stranger, as Bubbe looked wary,
but I knew it at once: This was Hanukkah Harry!

He was fatter than Santa
And surprisingly taller,
But the gifts in his bag were a little bit smaller.

For our family of nine
There were seventy two
Each brilliantly wrapped up in silver and blue
Eight presents each,
for eight crazy nights
to delight and remind us of miracle lights.

He gathered our presents with a cough and a wheeze
Nearly blew out the candles with his trumpeting sneeze
He thumbed toward the camels all snacking away,
“Asthma” he shrugged, “I’m allergic to hay.”

Then he set to his work, leaving Channukah gelt,
Only pausing to snack on the chocolates himself.
Til at last, he seemed pleased that each little box
(Inevitably filled up with pencils or socks)
Was displayed with a gift card, ribbon and bow
All waiting there, neatly aligned in a row.

Then he placed a long finger inside of his ear
And he rumbled the back of his throat to clear it
Then he called to each Camel as he took up his seat
Programmed the SATNAV, not skipping a beat.

“I’m starving,” Dad whispered “Is he finished, you think?”
And I’m sure the man heard him, I swear that he winked.
Then he backed up his sleigh and he started to shout,
“Go ahead eat, I don’t want I should put you out!”

Then the camels on skis, zipped aloft, out of sight
And our candles they glowed a bit longer that night.
But before he was gone, he waved with his yarmulke
“Merry Maccabee Miracle and to all… a good Channukah!”



So, a pre-Christmas “jaunt” to the hospital this morning. It seems a while since I was there…or at that particular hospital anyway. More herceptin treatment on Monday – pre-loading for the festive period? I hope this round will go smoothly as, against the odds, I did manage to get an appointment for an echocardiogram and have had that done. (I have no idea about the results but it is done!) Hopefully, all relevant boxes will be able to be ticked and I won’t have to face delays and the inevitable Bank Holiday issues.

I feel as if I am on a conveyor belt for some horrible initiation rite or test…Is there an obvious “lesson” that I am just not learning?

2013 Annus horribilis
Cancer diagnosed
2014 Annus horriblier
Enough said previously about my marriage car crash and the destruction of friendships. (Being “in love” with my husband is just no excuse for the betrayals done to me on the back of this). But hey…obviously that wasn’t horrible enough for me and I now face the looming death of very bestest of friends.

I have (to date) survived this – albeit with loss of breast, 20 kilos, my job, faith in much of humanity, trust and life as it was…

2015 ? Annus horribliest

My First Haircut

jackson 5

So…a year after the end of chemo I had my first haircut. I no longer look like one of the Jackson Five – “hairwise” that is (of course)…
Hair that has grown back is less grey than the hair I lost, fancy that – me bucking the trend….Guess it must be the lack of stress & worry over the past 12 months! Yeah..right!

Adulterous husband
Cheating friends
Dying friend
Divorce process
Reduced income
Unexpected passing out
Metastatic cancer

but hey…I have hair again…

Ground Zero

After a cluster of great days with some absolutely amazing random acts of kindness (for which I can hardly express enough gratitude), I am back to ground zero. There was a minor blip in the good days – my confusing Richard Dawkins with Stephen Hawking was not my best moment. OK, I had imbibed several glasses of wine but how embarrassing is that? (especially whilst trying to appear an intelligent member of the local community). Oh well..I have been uncovered for what I am…again!

Went to have my echo today in a brand new area of the hospital and had a very lively sonographer (?) performing the test, who kept me entertained with her passion for Bette Midler as a performer. I now know the plot of several of her films that I had not previously encountered. There are always new learning opportunities to be grasped within the NHS! I am assuming that I was OK as nothing alarming was imparted.

The bad news is not about me but somebody very close who has been dealt a really tough hand today. Can’t absorb it and can’t imagine my life without her in it…stealing my cancer thunder? Hmmm…that’s a truly shitty move to make on me….But I will support as best I can as we have shared so much of life and especially over the past year or so knowing that we were likely to be sharing a similar endgame.

Meantime (just to throw the cat among the pigeons)  my sciatic pain is back in full-flow. I thought I had conquered the pain of spondylolisthesis but it appears not – so back I trudge/limp/roll to orthopaedics again…

Isn’t it time for someone else to have the bad news fairy?


It’s already a white Christmas

So change on every front washes over me – no bah-humbug for me this year – I have just taken delivery of the most perfectly dressed, all singing, all dancing white Christmas tree, “gifted” to me by my lovely Swedish neighbour (and novelist) who was a window-dresser in a former life (so has a far better eye for design than I will ever have).  Not only do I get this wonderful creation but it was “installed” (with 8 options for the lights) and set up by her Jewish husband arriving with children bearing home made mince pies. How fab is that? It seems I CAN do Christmas, Hannukah – the whole shebang! Can I? Really?

Catch 22

I am supposed to have echocardiograms every three months because Herceptin (my regular three-weekly drug of choice) may damage the workings of my heart so I need a constant check on its health. I was due to have my last echo in early November but didn’t receive an appointment. I phoned up and was told that they “knew about me” but were really busy, so…not to phone again, I should wait until I heard from them. In a compliant patient attitude  very unlike me…that’s what I did…Big mistake, it appears my echo appointments were discontinued because “usually” Herceptin is used for a shorter period than I am having it for and so the wrong assumptions were made on the appointments system which caused me to be removed.

So…nurse arrives to administer Herceptin yesterday but reluctant because I am “out of date” with my echo. She spends about  half an hour phoning around until some kind soul in oncology takes the problem on. It is agreed that I could have yesterday’s dose of Herceptin but would not be “allowed” more until I have an echo. They will phone me when they can squeeze an appointment out of cardiology for me.

I have since received a call giving me an appointment, the ONLY one available before my next Herceptin infusion which is at the one time (sod’s law) that it is really difficult/impossible for me to manage as I have other treatment then. If I don’t have echo in that pre-Christmas week then I can’t have Herceptin in that pre-Christmas week either and then we lurch into a bank holiday nightmare. I am told that there is absolutely no chance of having any other slot – this is one that has been “especially created for me”. Ha! – I thought…I will phone myself and see if I can get any joy…but what do you know..the phone is “un-manned” with no message facility or it is permanently engaged…or at least it has been for the past 4 hours…and people wonder how I fill my days!