pollygoshmumandme

Letters 3

So back with a bump from my sunny, sunny orange grove. I’ve the post holiday blues. Well actually it’s more than that. I meet the Chemo people tomorrow, it’s just a meeting but it’s the first step of the next marathon (as A. says “it’s a marathon you didn’t even sign up for though!”). I’m scared, really scared of this next bit. I’m sure I’ll be pithy and cheery soon, even about being scared but all I’ve got at the moment is this two line non-sentence. I’m scared.

 
I’m counting all the stars in my sky because I have people to help me forget these fears for stretches at a time but A. says he can still see it in my jaw, so I’m not fooling anyone.
 
Until tomorrow, when I can turn the light on and see that this Chemo Monster is really just a coat in the corner (fingers crossed), I leave you with my Mother’s wisdom.
 
I keep finding her letters at opportune moments, I was meant to be tidying when I found this one – let’s not tell A.
 
I like the bit about making friends, I’ve heard it can get chatty in the Chemo wing. Presently, I’m not very good at making friends in the C-Club, it reminds me I’m going through cancer (if that isn’t the silliest reason) but I think I need to get over myself and learn from their wisdom. I’m very grateful to Miss B, my FB C-club friend, she’s a little life line – thank you Miss B! 
 
For the record 1) Yes I was really that unhappy for a whole month my first term at uni – I am a big scardy cat, I got over the homesickness and then Mum was diagnosed the first time, 2) can we forgive my Mum for thinking that I am awesome, I think that’s a Mother’s duty and it works better for a pep talk, 3) Sappy as it sounds -parents write to your kids, actual letters, they will find them useful someday, 4) Kids keep those letters, they will come in useful someday…….
 
 
 

Dearest P

 

Well darling I hope you’ve recovered from the bout of homesickness you had on the phone last night and that your lectures were a bit interesting. 

As I said just take one day at a time, look your best, smile a lot and I’m sure friendship will come your way. Being a lively member of the group (any group) is always attractive – your natural bubbliness and sense of fun will pull you through and your sensitivity to others will keep you interested and interesting…. No situation is ever perfect for long – that’s what keeps us all striving and no bad situation stays that way – that’s what gives us all hope. 

Remember that ‘prayer’ ( I don’t think its a particularly christian one) – “may I have the strength to accept what can’t be changed, the courage to change what can be and the wisdom to know the difference” I don’t know if it’s relevant right now, but it’s a good maxim to know.

 

Eat well, exercise your body and mind and relax before sleeping. And for goodness sake – go to a counsellor and tell them your fears.

 

As I said everyone has fears at this stage – it’s a learning stairway – you’re discovering it early in life and you’ll learn to recognise it and accept it and control your terror very soon. Good for you. 

 

Nothing worth knowing is easily learnt. Nothing worth having is easily acquired – at least, not in adulthood, I’ve found – I sometimes think walking was the only thing I learned easily – the rest is struggle!

 

M is having a hard time enduring the music of the Whitebear. Dad is busy with lectures and tutorials and I’m like a headless chicken already – no fun here!

 

Love you very much
Mum 

 

X

pollygosh_musings

Musing on My Mother, from an Orange Grove

I’m writing this sitting with A in a hammock in an orange grove in the South of Spain. It is as idlic as it sounds, not a cloud in the sky.  A is reading a book about science, it is my lovely lot in life to be surrounded by men, with a love of science. Every few pages, A looks up with a ‘huh’ waits expectantly for me to ask ‘what?’  He then reads me a section. I feel I am reading the book as well, which works out nicely because I always meant to.

Until it occurred to me a minute ago that this is probably one of those moment I’ll want to remember, I was reading also.  My book is an autobiography about a woman who hikes the Pacific Coast Trail, alone, after her mother dies (no I did it know that fact when I bought the book).

I’ve just read a line where she’s scared on the trail, though she knows she’ll always be safe because her mother has died and that was the very worst that could happen. It made me smile and think about Miss E, my fellow motherless duckling and taker of wonderful photos. Quite soon after I was diagnosed, she had shared how shaken she had felt – “I mean, I thought we were bullet proof.”

I understood the sentiment but somehow my brushes with mortality had the opposite effect. I saw potential hazards everywhere. I became fearful for all my loved ones, practically driving A away with my constant worrying. I never worried about myself however.

I’ve switched locations, I’m now under an umbrella by a lovely turquoise pool, still surrounded by orange trees. The air has that scorched land smell and we have fresh squeezed juice for breakfast. Perhaps because I’m in a place this lovely, perhaps because I feel so warm and safe, or because of the book I’m reading, or maybe because it was inevitable but I’m allowing myself to think about my mother.

When my Mum died, I slowly and painfully became aware of the life events she wouldn’t be around for, the solicited or unsolicited advice I’d not receive, the fights, the love. I’d never get to fully understand what made such a complex woman tick. We’d never ‘do’ weddings or babies – I just never thought that cancer would be another thing on that never ‘do’  list.

Not being a mother myself, I’m not sure how it feels when your child is ill. I’m not sure if I’ll ever be a mother, so perhaps I’ll never know. Either way,  I’ll never be able to phone her up exhausted and apologise for everything I put her through. However, I never banked on knowing how it feels to live  with cancer or what it takes to get through Chemo either.

There have been times recently, when I’ve been cut to the core at how little I understood about all this, how draining it is emotionally and physically. How all encompassing and how white knuckle scary it is. How sick you can feel (and this is before chemo, fertility treatment and my Ops have been enough). She must have hid a lot, I thought I knew it all, I was 19 and I thought I’d seen all her illness. But I see now that I was still her child and she hid things.

Sometimes I hide things, A always makes me promise that’ll wake him if I wake in the night. I never do and then he’s mad the next day. I always point out, there’s is very little point Us both being awake, he can’t physically do anything and it’s best he’s rested, to deal with everything he deals with in the day. Besides just having him near is soothing, asleep or awake.

Quite soon after her death I went through a phase of worrying. If something else horrendous happened, how could I believe my mother was watching over us, protecting us, as everyone had been at pains to tell me. I reasoned if something bad ever happened, I’d feel like she deserted me twice.

I eventually mentioned this to Da, who kindly and softly reminded me that this is not what we believed. No matter what a comforting image it was, she was not on a cloud, margarita in hand stomping out all mountains in our way. The only way she watched over us, remained with us, was through the love we had for her – the conversations we shared, the life we had all lived together. I am lucky, I have emails, letters and birthday cards too.

Ma taught me a lot about how to deal and some times not deal with cancer. Her dramatic personality, coupled with pretty hardcore steroids, occasionally had explosive consequences. It was her grace, I admired most.

Grace, was the first word I thought of,  when I was trying to imagine how to plough on with all this. My Mother was also the founding designer of Cancer Chic, she rocked Cancer Chic hard. Unless it was a really bad day, she was always up and dressed, she always put on a little makeup too. Even in hospital, she requested I come and help ‘put her face on’. These may sound like small achievements to some but trust me, some days they are huge.

Ma kept a journal, hers was a lot more private than mine, but I think it helped keep her sane. She started on a path towards a Masters degree too. Gosh she was strong and smart to boot.

Like animal species the world over (A’s book rubbing off on me) I watched My Mother, to learn the Art of Survival. It was just, at the time, didn’t know I was doing it.

PS there’s now a traditional Spanish trumpeter playing in village below, his music drifting up to us. Oh, I’m wearing a coral red on my toes called ‘Macbeth’ too. Today is a good day.

pollygosh_funnyorinteersting

Truth Speaking aka Golden Rules Vol. 2 – The Grumpy Edit.

Yup, I feel sick, hormonal and bloated (darn you fertility treatment, should I ever use these eggs, my future children had better be; sweet-tempered, genius, rock-god, bastions of love, peace, the environment and live in the worlds of Science and Art or I’m sending them back to the freezer).

I thought this would be a perfect time to reveal more golden truths…. A lot of these revolve around social media, ick. I know I could just not look but a) where is the fun in that? b) some days, it’s my only view to the outside world, please don’t blame me for wanting to make the view better or out another window….

  1. Nobody can tell from just looking at you: your mood, your idiot-tolerance level, or how you are feeling mentally and physically. This means you may have to tell them, try and do so politely. I should really get a t-shirt.
  2.  

  3. Only A. can get away with calling you Eric Bana, even he will need to tread carefully.
  4.  

  5. Incidentally, you will now totally get the line in Avengers Assemble, when Mr Bana reveals the secret of controlling the Hulk.  “I’m always angry”. I can only control the ‘Pulk’ for so long, try and read the signs people, save yourselves.…
  6.  

  7. Signs include: one word answers, growling, overly sarcastic comments, no signs of humour – at all, actively ignoring you and lastly, actually walking away – ps. don’t follow.
  8.  

  9. It is truly eye-opening just how many ways the universe will conspire to piss you off.
  10.  

  11. It feels really good when you bite your tongue, you generally like people – there have been no rage induced incidents yet. This feels akin to winning the Noble Peace Prize, I am often surprised I’m not thrown more parades.
  12.  

  13. You are so competitive you will compete with anyone for the title of best patient – it is a self given award, nurses won’t pick sides (you’ve tried) …
  14.  

  15. …You will spend many hours wondering how insecure you have to be, to need this level of love from everyone treating you.
  16.  

  17. Dad and A. are titans, saints and wonders. Try to remember not to push them too far, especially not just because you are in a bad mood.
  18.  

  19. Remember your P’s and Q’s, you are not the soul owner of the difficult day.
  20.  

  21. That being said: Please, please, please, reader, think before you write on Twitter or Facebook about your bad day / worst news ever. Really, REALLY? You are STRESSED about a meal are you? Train late, is it? You have a COLD!! – I going out on a limb here but there are worse things happening to people and I don’t even mean me particularly. I repeat – I can only hold back ‘Pulk’ for so long…
  22.  

  23. You will sometimes write things on your Blog that will make people concerned that they will say / do the wrong thing. When they tell you this, it will make your heart melt because those who are worried, they are probably not the person it was aimed at.
  24.  

  25. Some people will surprise you in the worst possible way. You will be better about dealing with it for you. ‘Pulk’ will be roaring on A. and Dad’s behalf.
  26.  

  27. To follow up, A, Dad and I are the same people we always were. Please treat us as such, if you count us as honest to goodness friends, don’t get weird on us now. It’s more hurtful than you could ever possibly know.
  28.  

  29. Naps, naps, naps are the elixir of life. Take them often.
  30.  

  31. Sometimes you are just too tired to do everything you want to do, learn to say No.
  32.  

  33. Just because you are reading this doesn’t mean you can’t ring me too. As my friend Miss H says, “I can read your blog or I can ring and ask you how you are, I will always prefer to ring.” This is why she is your friend.
  34.  

  35. You will need to work harder to feel grateful and lucky but you still are, so jolly-well work harder.
  36.  

  37. The sentence “if you get through this, you will be a stronger than ever” is only ever going to extract a long expletive heavy response along the lines of “ How much stronger do you want me to be?”
  38.  

  39. Also FYI not cool to use ‘IF’, you may think it shows your cool, “I’m not going to sugar coat or mollycoddle you” credentials, I will only hear “I am a moron”.
  40.  

  41. Please don’t feel the need to reference everything thus:  “it’s not nearly as bad as what you are going through” or “sorry to rant about something so trivial”. I do want to hear your news, and what’s important in your world but I reserve the right to call bullshit if it really is a storm in a teacup / easily solvable.
  42.  

  43. I am getting bossier and bossier the more restricted I become. It’s like Hitchcock’s Rear Window, but instead of murders – I’m solving people’s lives.
  44.  

  45. A certain type of selfie really annoys me at the moment. Take a picture of something amazing instead or a person you really love. I don’t care if the pout or toplessness is ‘ironic’ – you look like a chump.
  46.  

  47. The round-robin “post if you know someone with cancer” status up-dates, are weird. They say a lot more about your need for drama than about any cancer sufferer’s plight.
  48.  

  49. FYI if we do meet, I am not as grumpy as I seem here, I do not have to talk about it constantly, I will not cry.
  50.  

  51. This summer is meant to be a hot one (yay) – don’t come anywhere near me if you have sunburn. I will beat you. YOU NEED TO APPLY SUN PROTECTOR (Factor 20 or above, yes even in the UK), often several times a day- shock, horror! It works, if it doesn’t, it is user error. Do you really want to be the loser who can’t even put lotion on themselves? I mean that’s pretty remedial stuff right there. I will beat you and then tell you all about my cancer treatments as punishment.
  52.  

  53. Reader, please, don’t let life drag you down. Do just one thing to change whatever it is that makes you feel despondent. I wish I’d done more of this. IF you get sick, you will have plenty of time to think about what you’d have changed and feel grumpy about it.
  54.  

  55. Remember, approx. 98% of the time, it is how uncomfortable you are feeling that makes you grumpy and short tempered. People are not willfully trying to vex you. Perhaps yelling will help but then they will grumpy and yell at someone else – it’s the snowball affect. Breathe Deeply and Walk Away.
  56.  

 

pollygosh_uncoupling

Conscious Uncoupling

‘It is with mixed emotions that Little Blog announces that the Conscious Uncoupling of PollyGosh and Burt, the tumour formal known as Benign. Which took place on April 1st 2014. 
 

In an operation lasting one and a half hours. A team of dedicated professionals literally cut away all ties between the two parties. 

 

Burt then spent a month in Analysis, while PollyGosh recuperated quietly at home under the watchful eye of her ever patient Papa.

 

In a statement, given exclusively to Little Blog, PollyGosh wished to thank her friends and loved ones for their on going support. 

 

She is also quoted as saying; “I knew the relationship was going down hill when Burt started growing a little too big for his boots, he was multiplying recklessly and since conformation of his tumour status, I could no longer bear to touch him. This separation is right for both of us. Well, mostly for me.”

 

PollyGosh is so keen to totally purge Burt from her life, to which end, she will be seeking a chemical intervention too.’

 
 

It doesn’t sound all that amicable really, does it? I think amicable would be stretching it, after all, Burt never wrote or sang me a song about the colour Yellow.

 

That being said, in a weird way, I miss him. Only very occasionally. Like animals bred for eating, racoons and annoying co-workers, you should never nickname your tumour, that way trouble leads. 

 

Still, I grew him. For a long time, if I woke up scared and alone (which, even if there is someone lying next to you, or across the hall, you do feel)- it was Burt who was there. Perhaps I am experiencing my own form of Stockholm Syndrome. 

 

Perhaps too, I know if he was still here, the rest that is to follow would still be that bit further off. I’ve had experience of surgery and so that, for me, wasn’t so scary.

 

My lumpectomy went incredibly smoothly – I believe, I mean, I slept through it – so what do I know? From my end, it was smooth, flat out, horizontal stylee. 

 

My Anaesthetist (an amazing NZ women) gave me good drugs, a derivative of morphine. I woke up in a glorious mood. 

 

To quote Dad – in a conversation he had over my head, with a rather worried looking Brother, who I was trying to comfort at the time, with witty banter and a chipper attitude.

 

“Yes, she’s been rabbiting on like this for hours”. It could be that my mind is playing tricks but it came out a little weary when he said it.

 

I was vaguely aware, from Brother’s widening eyes, that the more I tried to reassure him, the worse job I was doing.

 

I think Dad had the most ‘interesting’ time, the day of the operation was April First,  so I kept on trying to play funny jokes. I’d then get a little peeved when his concern stopped him from laughing.

 

Anaesthetic can make me melancholy, feel rather vulnerable and nauseous. I’m not sure if this is universal or just me. My advice, that I really must take myself, don’t be a hero. Take the painkillers they will prescribe on a regular basis. It’s easier on your system to keep the level constant than yo-yo up and down. Sleep your way through it too. Sleep is the best cure all. Give yourself time.

 

For me, the pain was manageable. On a sliding scale I am not a Marvel Superhero, (it doesn’t seem to matter how many suspect laboratories I hang out at, or how many buttons I press while there) but I’ve got some game. It was standard workaday pain levels but you shouldn’t have to feel uncomfortable. That is what the drugs are for. The more pain you suffer through the longer it takes to heal. So I repeat, don’t be a hero, or a martyr – the is no prize for that.

 

My biggest ambition was to leave hospital the same day. FYI – lumpectomies are considered day cases so this was not the macho achievement it may sound. 

 

I hate hospitals. Kind of an obvious one really but never the less true. I always want to leave as soon as possible. You need to pass certain tests before they will allow you to vamoose: eating, peeing, walking, dressing – no vomiting. 

 

I had nearly been caught out after an ear operation a few years back. Like I said, I am affected by anaesthetic rather badly. I always feel nauseous. 

 

That time round, I did not want to move, or eat. I was down to the wire and nearly had to stay in – it’s with thanks to Dad and A, that I didn’t. It was a bit grim. All I’m willing to say is, what happens on Woodlands Ward, stays on Woodlands Ward (but if you direct mail me I will tell you).

 

This time I was determined to get going quickly. Thanks to the morphine substitute, I got right on task. Dad discovered, that the least you had to eat to be OK’d to leave was biscuits. I ripped open the packet of especially bought Rich Teas, one handed. Pretty much as soon as I was back on the ward. Every time a nurse came anywhere near I shoved a biscuit in my face – I ate about half the packet, I am not a huge biscuit fan. I drank enough fluid to accomplish other tasks…… I got dressed, on my own. I tried to be a star patient, basically (this has a bit to do with wanting to leave and a lot to do with needing to be loved)

 

It worked. I got in and out in a day. I don’t think I’m at all special – the lumpectomy was really ok (Burt was small and in an easy to reach place, other tumours may be different). Possibly the weirdest part being the blue nipple – which I know I’ve still not fully explained but it makes A. nervous, like I’ll post evidence or something. As if I would……

 

So Burt and I are separated, It’s been over a month now. I wish that was the end of the story but it seldom is with Cancer. It was a major step though, it means that I am tumour free, which is a very comforting feeling.

pollygosh_eggs

How do you like your eggs in the morning?

I am swimming in hormones at the moment. That sort of statement normally sets my teeth on edge, I hate how flippantly the phrase “hormones” gets bandied about, normally to the detriment of womankind. However, at the moment, it is a fact – I’m injecting them all myself.

So, fertility treatment, another fun off-shoot of getting cancer ‘young’.

What to say, what to say?

Well, I lasted the first week, no side effects at all, that I was aware of. Day 8 found me in tears for no real reason (I’ve been on the verge of a sob-fest ever since), I coupled this with eating, scratch that, inhaling a box of chocolates, in a sitting. I did not share those bad-boys, no sir.

It is PMS on crack. Made worse because I have an awareness of what is causing it all. I can’t be all indignant when A. gently points out, that the problem is hormones and not the fact that the world secretly hates me. This takes the wind out of my ‘right to be emotional’ girl-power sails, because it so IS. I am not emotional, I am OVER emotional, the awareness factor really is no fun for me. It’s probably better for those around me, I am trying to curb my stroppiness, some what.

I’m also really, really tired. My month of freedom and busy social whirliness is having to be punctuated by naps, a lot of naps. I can sleep all afternoon and then sleep some more – I’ve become a Sloth or a Koala or something. Hence why I’m actually writing Little Blog more at the moment. If this blog serves as nothing else, it is at least record of how changeable this whole Cancer thing is – like we didn’t know already.

I am also relearning basic biology. I tried to bluff my way through the first 2 appointments and then needed to admit, I have very little memory on how my body works. It’s so shameful to admit you don’t know, yet relearning is so fascinating at the same time – plus none of the boys in my class are punctuting the lesson with gagging sounds.

I am presently growing 19 egg follicles, 19!  The average (after fertility treatment) is between 9-13. I was proud of over-achieving until it became obvious that, I am dangerously close to Hyper-stimulation. 1 more follicle and I’ll be needing blood tests. I feel, for some reason, like a octopus with lots of egg sacks. Sexy.

They’re not small either (well comparatively), is it a surprise to anyone else, that they will be ‘harvested’ (yuck) at 17mm? That’s nearly 2cm, and there are 19 of them! Where am I finding the room? No wonder I feel fat at the moment……

I need to salute those out there, who inject themselves daily, often for long periods of time. I was full of admiration before, but I know exactly what it takes now and I am a chicken. It doesn’t help that my belly looks like a pin cushion.

The needles I use are the finest, thinnest kind but I’m still finding it counterintuitive to push one into my skin. It’s that puncturing sensation that I don’t like. It doesn’t hurt, hurt – but it stings a bit, the level of discomfort changes day to day with little or no reason, that I can find,

A is in charge of prep, neither he nor Dad could really stomach (boom boom) the actual injecting. I’d also feel, irrationally, resentful of them sticking me with a needle twice a day. Better just get annoyed with myself.

A and I run through almost the same script every time, it resolves around me hovering with a syringe millimetres above my abdomen and A. attempting to bribe me to take the plunge.

A: Ok, you can do this, there’s a cotton ball in it for you….

PG: I don’t want a cotton ball.

A: There’s a cup of tea too.

PG: I don’t want a cup of tea.

A: A pony?

(A will bribe me with anything but not a puppy….. proving these are empty promises – I’d have a field of ponies by this point if they weren’t. I do always get the cotton ball and the tea though)

PG: I don’t want a Pony, I don’t even want children. Let’s stop all this.

A: I know it’s not easy, but you can do it, you’re getting so good!

PG: I am not. We’ve been sitting here for 3 minutes.

A: Come on now, it will be over quicker than you know. Do you want me to hold you?

PG: NO

A: I’ll dance for you.

PG: Please don’t make me laugh, I can’t use my stomach muscles.

A: Ok, I’m going to get the cotton ball (exits)

PG in the meantime injects herself….. Can’t remember how to hold the needle and push the syringe at the same time.

A. returns to find PG with a needle in her belly and an exasperated look.

A: Do you want me to push the syringe in?

PG: I can’t remember how to do this.

A: Slowly!

PG finally sorts herself out, administers the injection. A hands over the cotton ball.

There’s really not any blood or anything from the punctured skin, but we still do this every. single. time. It’s our new tradition, I prefer our cocktail traditions, or movie night traditions more…..

Hopefully though, by Friday, my little octopus eggs (imagine if they actually were, there’s a shock 2-3 years down the line!) will be chillin’ in a freezer somewhere and I can go back to normal, well, normal-ish.

ma-2526me2

Letter 2

                   

Today would have been my Mama’s Birthday. It’s horrid to admit it but for the first time in 3 years this wasn’t my first thought when I woke up today.

I wanted to mark it though. My Mum’s advice filled letters punctuated my life until she died. I miss them. I’ve been realising how bossy Little Blog can get and this note, from my early Uni days, sheds light on where that tendency comes from….. Often I didn’t realise it, especially in my youth and when the advice ran contrary to what I wanted to hear, but my Mum’s advice, as mine does now, came from a place of love – whether you want it or not.

Sunday
Dearest
Well, we arrived home at 10.30 having stopped at a supermarket nearish Bath to shop! Felt very virtuous. It was lovely to see you, but hard to leave. I’m so very glad S. came when he did – what an easy – going chap! I’m sorry to ‘get’ at you to introduce us  but it should start to be a habit now that you are moving in your own circles – there has to be a moment of just saying who everyone is to make everyone fell included and comfortable. You can have all sorts of different ways of saying it but “hey everybody – this is E. ” isn’t actually very comfortable making for E. E. will need to know ‘everybody’ too – you can make a joke of the big group loads of names thing but you really must do it or it leads to people feeling not quite sure and lonely and isolated or not good enough. It’s very simple. costs you nothing (in fact it makes you feel good to bring people together – and in control) and really, truly makes a HUGE difference. Believe your old Ma. Oh yes, and if anybody forgets to introduce you to a new person or group (or whatever) you can just say “hello I’m Polly…I didn’t quite catch your name…” or (after a while) – “oh, by the way, I’m Polly – how do you do!” (joke, joke – cos now you are half way to the cinema)
OK lecture on introductions over.
When I was a girl…. there used to be a comic called Girl (like Eagle) and on the back pages it used to have a drawn comic strip about social skills and things like that – it was really good. I guess there are somethings that don’t change- or that it would be silly to drop without replacing them with equally comfortable -making devices. That’s what social skills and good manners are about, making other people feel included, acknowledged (if they invite you somewhere or send a present etc) and appreciated. Social skills go a v-e-r-y l-o-n-g w-a-y and actually make the biggest difference to first impressions. a lot of this you know about, of course, and a lot comes naturally to you (and that’s a blessing to count) but there are still many/much that we all have to learn and continually learn. When people go to work in Japan they have to go to special classes because social intercourse is so different there – a;; the signals are entirely different and sometimes opposite – and they are very complex and super important. Americans find it especially hard because they have fewer ‘rules’ than the English and can’t quite get to grips with all the bowing and self effacement! Did you ever see “Shall We Dance?”
Well – I’ve rambled on and not said anything yet about how impressed we were at how incredibly well you’re settling in – I know you still feel terribly torn ( and believe me, so do I darling) but I think you are doing a brilliant job of making friends and being a friend – and also hand washing you smalls and signing up for getting involved! All these are achievements for you Polly and should make you feel really good about yourself! You really do seem to be setting out on a very positive road to adulthood and independence – or rather inter-dependence. I really feel that is the right word – more co-operative sounding and it also make me think you aren’t cutting yourself off from us just because you spend important time away in your own sphere.
And it was brave to let us go last night. The door is always open, you know that and it is your choice, but I hope you begin to see now why we encouraged you to take the opportunity to go to College this year. Next year, you’d be miserable going away after a year at home but at 19 going on 20 you’d have had fewer people to share your sadness with – you’d have to be horribly brave. Of course, I hope that the courses cheer up for you – that’s a BIG part of it. Can you hear OK in lectures? Have you told them about your ear? Can you get a seat close to the “teacher” and on the right side? I forgot to ask all these questions.
Well M’s just returned (1pm) so I’d better get going and get lunch. Dad’s at work – I’m starting when I’ve had lunch – then I have to go to Bath tonight. Yesterday was a lovely treat and a good break for both of us. M will have to start at the White Bear tomorrow 11am – 7pm – 4 days a week. Actually not bad hours but not great money (£3.30/hour!) – but something to get up for and it’ll be pocket money to tide him over.
How did your friends like “….Mary” I’ve heard it is outrageous – but fun. I’d like to see it.
I’ve put a pencil mark in for Oct 26th by the way – we might have to leave early so I can be back for 7.30pm – a dance thing in Bath that I long to see.
Love you so much and miss you loads
Mama (and Pa)
pollygosh_ernie

Ernie

I’m really not sure about the logical thought process behind this, it is apparently more common than you might imagine. On being given a pretty scary piece of health news, I obviously took the only natural course of action and became a hypochondriac.
I would have hoped, much as I hoped for enlightenment, that Cancer might have liberated me from all other worries, especially those surrounding health. It seemed only fair, frankly. 
To put it in to perspective I was probably a 2-3 on the scale prior to Burt. I have a pretty vivid imagination but generally I worry about other peoples health (sadly a fallout of my Mother’s death) – can you be a hypochondriac by proxy?
In the days after Burt, I would be kept awake at night worrying about every single twitch or ache. I was convinced that I was riddled with cancer, hundreds of little Ernies, if you will. I felt so guilty, how could I have not known something so major was going on inside my own body? What else had I missed?
I became hyper sensitive to every sensation after that. Even after being reassured that we’d caught Burt incredibly early, I still worried it had somehow gone everywhere. This shows my ignorance about my own cancer (even when you are listening, sometimes shock hears something very different) and was probably exacerbated about my ‘knowledge’ of cancer via my Mum and Grandma. A little bit of knowledge, coupled with a hyperactive imagination, is sometimes worse than ignorance.
I’ve always been very jealous of those who seem to have heightened awareness of their own inner ecosystem. A., is one of these, when we first met it used to fascinate me how attune he was to a body clock, that I just couldn’t hear. I assumed it was down to the amount of exercise one does. As I was doing close to none at the time this made sense. I had also had a few brushes with punishing my body, withholding food and the like – I would have been pretty surprised if my body is speaking to me at all.
I am the type, who at the end of the day looks down and realises they are covered in bruises but has no recollection of walking into the wall and then falling down the stairs. I was not careful with my limbs and because of this, I usually had something that ached, so tended to ignore it. I felt sure I was paying for it now.
My Breast Care Nurse recently pointed out that I may have noticed in the run up to finding Burt that, looking back, I had probably felt “a bit run down”.
I’ve been racking my brains over this but 2013 had been a pretty crappy year – I spent quite a bit of it feeling like I’d been hit by a bus anyway. I’d fought back, gaining my mental health and starting to exercise more. I remembered to feel grateful and not to take so much for granted (ha! I realise now there was still a hell of a lot I took for granted). I honestly felt better, much better, than I had in years.
By Christmas, I was incredibly chipper. I don’t think I even got a cold. Any tiredness would have been put down to the Festive Season. I guess, if you’d been feeling ‘run down’ for 3 years and were now feeling a city mile better than you ever have before, you simply wouldn’t notice.
It was also blowing my mind that even after finding Burt – how fine I felt, better than fine really. I had gone to the medical professionals with a lump and no other symptoms. In fact, and i think this is a huge cliche of the Cancer world, it wasn’t until we started the process of ‘getting better’ that I felt anything other than my new normal self, health-wise. 
So what cured me of this dabble with Hypochondria? Having spent a few days terrified of my body and being reassured that it was just the one tumour. Dad and I had to spend an afternoon getting used to the idea, of perhaps, another Burt, an actual Ernie, this time in my sternum. 
Luckily, more tests put paid to that nightmare scenario but it was one hell of a week. MBCS had pushed on my chest and ask if it was painful. It hadn’t been, it honestly hadn’t, but in that moment it began to ache, a ripping feeling – like being stabbed over and over. It didn’t stop until I officially got given the all clear, when miraculously it went away as quickly as it had started. 
Funny how the brain works – MBCS had made it clear that he thought the chance of another tumour was minimal, but Burt had been 98% not a tumour and I’d been told he couldn’t have spread. All of a sudden, I knew, in my bones, that Ernie existed. I would have put money on the fact. My silly, susceptible, little grey cells.
So it was non-existent Ernie, a brush, with even worse news, that caused me to let go of my hypochondria ways. Well Ernie and the fact that, my entire body has been scanned in incredible detail and from every angle imaginable, I do mean every angle.
Conclusion being, I have enough on my plate – I shouldn’t go looking for more.
Side Note: I realise this might be another of my unintentionally scary posts, I don’t want to create an army of hypochondriacs.
Learn from me – act now to be more in tune with yourself, both mentally and physically. What is ‘right’ for you? Be comfortable in your own skin and don’t take good health for granted.
Check your Bits and Bobs and if in doubt don’t be too stubborn to go to the doctor -Dad drives me mad with this one. What’s 15 minutes of embarrassment in the face of a long and healthy life? Embrace being wrong about being ill – what an amazing feeling to be told you’re not sick.
 
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Who is sick of Cancer Chat? Here’s a Recipe instead – Blackberry, Cream and Cardamom Ice Pops!

So, as part of my research into all things Chemo, I’ve decided to make my own Ice Pops to take with me, to help keep nasty mouth sores away …. I’m working on a Rhubarb and Ginger one (ginger being good for nausea), and a Raspberry and Mint variety too -ooo my creative juices (gettit?) are flowing. If they work out I’ll post them on here too.

This recipe is one I worked on last summer and is adapted from the above book. I’m going to experiment with less sugar / sugar alternatives. I also remember from mum, that cream didn’t taste wonderful during chemo, I reckon you can remove it without to much faff or change it out for goats yogurt which has a shaper edge……

I’m going back to my wig research now…… deep, deep joy.

First we need to make a simple syrup – simple to make but oh how I love a bit of cardamom. Just pop the ingredients for the syrup in a pan. Let it simmer over a low heat until all the sugar is dissolved! Easy peasy.
Next we need to smoosh (yes smoosh) those berries, deeply satisfying and brings a wonderful colour …..
The syrup gets mixed with this berry mash up – don’t forget to remove those cardamom pods!
This mixture needs to be passed through a sieve or muslin. I recommend you do this quickly before you’re tempted to eat it as is. Be careful to catch all the liquid but retain the fleshy remnants in another bowl, we don’t want waste.
Stir the cream briskly into the rich,  juicy syrup, you can tell by the colour this will taste like summer (only icy). Now simply pour into moulds, leaving some room at the top for exspanding and freeze!

It might seem unbearable but leave for at least 8 hrs but more likely over night.

The remainder of the berry mess gets added to the lazily beaten remnants of  the tub double cream (about Cup would do it) as a truly scrummy syllabub. I found it made waiting for the pops to set slightly more tolerable.
 
The Recipe (People’s Pops Inspired – go buy the book peeps it’s totes worth it)
 
This made about 8 for me but really depends on your mould and how much you eat along the way!
 
4 Cups of Blackberries
2/3 Cup of Simple Cardamon Syrup
1/2 Cup of Double Cream
For the Simple Syrup
2/3 Cup of Cane Sugar
2/3 Cup of Water
3 or 4 Cardamon Pods
pollygosh_livin

Better Get Livin’

It has been all quiet on the Little Blog front lately, sadly there hasn’t been another Cancer Miracle*, just a combination of events that have left me a little preoccupied.

 

A. returned home from his extended work trip. I cannot tell you how wonderful it is to have him back. It was weird at first, apart from a very precious, stolen week, prior to my lumpectomy, he’s been away through most of the drama so far. We are now learning to navigate how ‘We’ as a ‘We’ do this. We laugh a lot and we are both being patient.

 

I am staring down the Barrel of a Gun marked Chemo. I really wasn’t expecting to be. That sounds weird, what with the whole cancer thing. Everyone knows these two go hand in hand, best of friends, thick as thieves. I knew this, I knew this up until the moment it looked like I’d dodged that particular bullet.

 

You see, all the way through Little Blog, I’ve said I was lucky (except when I’m in grumpy-mode, when lucky can take a running jump), I have been, I am. I shall bore you with the check-list of what has gone my way at another point. For now, trust me, I wasn’t being all Pollyanna-positive entirely due to my plucky tenacity and can-do attitude. I was backed up by science and I never disrespect science. 

 

It came down to one test, one lousy test – all I needed was a low score, which everyone expected (given everything else), I would get. A medium score, would give wiggle room but No, I aced it – too high to argue with really. A very bitter pill, considering I was never really, what one might call an academic -all I needed to do was flunk, it just wasn’t to be.

 

I should really never forgo my motto “Hope for the best but prepare for the worst.” I got a bit cocky again, the motto was totally ‘forgun’ for a while there.

 

When Burt was removed, so was the cancer, everything that follows is to stop the cancer (Burt’s Posse) returning**. Lucky in it’s own way, very lucky considering the alternative but not easy. To carry on the Gun analogy from earlier – where chemo is concerned, I needed to pull the trigger. I needed to decide if this treatment was happening. Ok, I would be going against medical advice if I didn’t go a head but where once that would have seemed unthinkable, it was to my mind, a real possibility. 

 

 Just as I am learning that, at first, pushing a needle into you abdomen feels counter-intuitive***, saying ‘Yes’ to four and a bit months of preventative chemo, which might not actually be preventative / might not actually be necessary – depending on the way that unknown deck of cards is stacked is, well, counter-intuitive is the very least it is…

 

As MO points out, you have to be physically and psychologically ready – I have until early June and a to-do list of epic proportions.

 

As Queen Dolly Parton croons “You better get Livin’”, and I have a lotta living to do, people to see, research to do, Chemo Chic to develop, and hopefully holidays to take. 

 

I do still love writing Little Blog, I will still write Little Blog but forgive me if I go be a bit ‘everyday’. I’ve not forgotten about all the things I want to write about for future me, for friends and maybe to help someone else. I just need to live ‘in the moment’ for a while – and now I shall roll my eyes because I just finished a blog post with that…..

*The first Cancer Miracle involved managing to extract a tiny acknowledgement from a some-time adversary. I think that’s when I knew this Cancer thing was serious… 
**we can talk about those fun statistic another
***we can talk about this another time too
pollygosh_so-vain

She’s So Vain

I’m really vain, really vain. Not the easiest thing to admit to, I didn’t really realise it until I got diagnosed. Overnight I became a Vain Hypochondriac*, no mean feat.
 
What was the first thing I did post diagnoses? It was not jump on Google and find support groups, healthy eating plans (hello, cake), I did not read up on everything ‘Breast Cancer’, I most certainly did not look at survival / reoccurrence percentages. Apart from the last one – truly a waste of energy – I have started to now, I promise.
 
No, what I did, almost straight away was to start Pinteresting cool short haircuts. Though, I suspect you may also need the face of Michelle Williams, Emma Watson or Jennifer Lawrence to actually pull these off. A point, I’m studiously trying to avoid, especially as I may well be bald soon anyway.
 
I am yet to find out about my “treatment package” – I think this term sounds suitably ‘Spa’. Some radiotherapy with your pedicure? If you insist, which you do. As I’m so young (yawn), Chemo is a very real possibility – in fact I’m very lucky that there is a slither of hope that, I may not have to have it. Oh, Cancer Roller-Coaster, you are just so fun.
 
I once managed to get two different types of infection on my nose at the same time (it’s a talent), my snout was basically a big ol’ puss filled mess. I cannot tell you how self-conscious this made me. My confidence plummeted and a became a grump, I hid behind a turquoise and pink tartan baker-boy hat (there really was no excuse for making the situation worse…) for nearly 2 weeks.
 
I know how changing from the ‘norm’ can effect me.
 
I’m concerned about the bald thing too, we are shuttling along towards Summer and there is no way I can wear a cool, slouchy beanie hat in July without boiling – which may be worth it.
 
This leaves scarves, I’m not sure if you get given scarves when you start treatment but some of the ones out there are a little too out there, if you catch my drift. I’m wondering if the budget will stretch to a little vintage Hermes (or at least something that looks like it). However, the truth is, bald head under a scarf screams “I’m Having Chemo but look how well I can hide it”.
 
I hope I will be brave enough just to rock a Bald (heavily SPF’ed) head; I worry about how cute my skull shape is though. I have a feeling due to my clumsy nature and a particularly hurtful incident, riding my tricycle on a frozen duck pond (that was not a smart plan, 5 year old self) - it may well be lumpy.
 
After fretting about all of these things, I very swiftly rang my friend Miss L -1) She is a brilliant human and we are the founder members of the Motherless Duckling Club, meaning we’ve gone through some stuff together. 2) She is one awesome photographer, she’s seriously great. I wanted to document ‘me’ before this ‘me’ was changed.
I know some of these changes may well be fleeting but some are more permanent. I just wanted a record, for my future self.
 
Miss L happily agreed and soon she, her sunny personality and her wonder camera came for a visit. Not long after lunch and cake (which possibly wasn’t the smartest move, but cake is cake), I found myself *almost* starkers posing for photos. Which is not something I thought I’d ever, ever do. My training with medical professionals came in quite handy and I wasn’t as awkward as I thought…. Miss L is also very good at her job and that really helped. We laughed mostly, and realised I’d never make it as a topless model – which I’m not that unhappy about.
 
Miss L has actually Blog about this shoot on her site, link below, don’t worry all pictures are of the of the tasteful, non-explicit variety.
 
I have battle scars already, I’ll be proud of them too, eventually I hope. I find out about the rest soon. really soon. I think, with Miss L behind the camera I’ll want to document this ‘me’ too because this is the ‘me’ of now, she may be battered and not as she was but life is too unpredictable (and hopefully long) not to try to be comfortable in this ‘me’ too.
 
*more on this later……
 

Lydia Stamps Photography