Happy Shopping

I was on my way back from the dentists when I saw a strange sight.  I live in a rural area so really shouldn’t be surprised by these things but they do make me laugh.  I’m not sure if this fella is going in to buy some stamps, collect his pension or check his Euromillions lottery numbers.  I think he’ll fit through the doorway (but there won’t be much room with him inside!)

Let me in

In other news, the visit to Dr C. today was positive.  He says I’m on ‘maintenance herceptin’ from here on so it’s more a preventative kind of approach rather than treating any malingering disease – chemo should’ve taken care of that.  It’s the best outcome I could have expected from today and now I just have to be vigilant and look out for any signs of changes or things that feel different.  When you have a replacement boob made of silicon sitting beneath a layer of pig intestine covered by a couple of millimetres of your own flesh, things feel different every day. Apparently I will notice if there’s any change and I suspect having been on the breast cancer merry-go-round once, I’ll be even more aware of strange dimples, bumps or lumps. It’s hard not to be completely paranoid about every tiny thing but hopefully with time that feeling will pass.

I may be off-line for a few days.  Tomorrow my son moves into his new flat.  Compared to his 6ft x 9ft student hovel in a shared house that really ought to be gutted and thoroughly overhauled, the flat will seem like the Palace of Versailles.  The carpet won’t be sticky either. I’ve never been a fan of sticky carpets… how is it possible to make a carpet stickier than Krazy Glue and worse still, why leave it that way and expect the tenant to put up with it?  Bizarre.    This weekend I’ll be turning my hand to home furnishings and the wonders of flat-pack furniture instructions.  My son has also asked me to take him shopping  in between his 11 a-side football match and his futsal match.  With so much going on I just hope I can still keep up with the pace!


Please Empower A Compassionate Earth


This month’s peace challenge courtesy of Kozo at Everyday Gurus is to construct an advertisement for peace – a video, slogan, billboard poster, song, poem, short story or screen play.  Something that could become the ‘Imagine’ or ‘WAR IS OVER If You Want It’ for our generation.

Join us, be part of B4Peace and

Please Empower A Compassionate Earth 🙂


You can find more Bloggers for Peace here

Special Thank You’s

I have some special thank you’s to say and I confess some are long overdue.

I have no excuses, I am simply disorganised from time to time.  I confess if my head was not so firmly attached to my shoulders it’s possible I would leave it lying around somewhere.  That prospect would be unpleasant because anyone happening across my head would discover a pasty, cone-shaped, lightly peach-fuzzed, eyelashes-less and eyebrow-less scary thing gazing back at them. A secure head-shoulder interface (aka my neck) is therefore something else I’m grateful for.

Thank You’s

First to Ajaytao for the One Lovely Blog +Very Inspiring Blogger Award.

Ajaytao, I’m sorry I’ve taken so long to accept this award.  I ran out of words and wanted to find some that express my gratitude.’ Thank you’ didn’t seem sufficient.  This is what I really want to say to you… “Dearest Ajaytao, you are an inspiration to me. You’ve shared information about yourself, about the challenges you’ve had to overcome, about your life and your dear Mum that connect us as true friends even though we are miles apart. You shine a light on every inch of beauty in this world and show us that the most magnificent views are here in plain sight. Your blog is a reflection of your wise, kind soul and warm, generous heart.  Thank you for giving me this award, I am honoured.”


Tuttacronaca.  I believe this means “all news” and at Tuttacronaca that’s exactly what you’ll find.  We’ve been following each other for a while now, I very much appreciate your support and regular visits to FEC-THis.  The richness of news you share, especially the human interest stories, is amazing. There is always something to make me smile (when so much news is bad, sad or both these days). Thank you for nominating me for the Versatile Blogger Award!


Some more overdue Thank You’s….

Silverback ~ thank you so much for sticking by me through the tempest that was 2012 and into the minor weather front I’m skipping over in 2013.   Thank you for helping keep my spirits up everyday, being wise and understanding, making me laugh, talking politics with me (I don’t do that with anyone else) and being my biggest Twitteratti because I am by far the worst Twitterer in the world. Most of all, thank you for loving me unconditionally every day of my life and for bringing me up to be an ethical person.   I really am sorry for bringing this darkness back into your life, I promise to wield the feisty-stick and thrash it out forever.

DD, KW, SM, MG, NT, NN, PK, PM, MD, GM, HB, JH, GM, HJ, GL ~ you’ve kept in touch with me throughout my exile, you’ve sent me messages of encouragement, hope and love, given gifts, written songs, shared funny stories from your everyday lives, kept me up to date with “the madness.” You’ve researched things for me, taken a stand against injustice, made me cry with laughter and brightened some very dark days. Thank you for being truly wonderful people and great friends, I am lucky to know you all.

AG, LS, AP, AJ, J – it doesn’t matter if we’re in different towns or on different continents, geography is irrelevant because you’ve been here for me. Some people complain about their families, my only complaint is that locations mean we don’t get to see each other as much as I’d like.  Your love is without borders and you are always in my heart. Thank you for being the best family I could ever wish for.

My fellow bloggers – whether you visit every day or once in a while, I notice you’re here and I value your support more than you know. The power of a like or a comment can never be underestimated, especially when you’re climbing Everest in flip-flops and a sarong! Thank you for reading my ramblings, for taking time from your lives to help me with mine and for sharing an amazing array of blogs with me that teach me so much every day.

In accepting these blogging awards I’m meant to say some things about myself and make some nominations for fellow bloggers.  I normally follow the rules but on this occasion I’m going to bend them a little.  You can find my ‘potted history’ in the ‘A woman who…’ page. I’m a person who believes in small kindnesses, the power of positive thought and smiling in the face of adversity.  I’ve done a lot of smiling, a smile a day keeps the Dr at bay…. it’s a shame it doesn’t work on the tax collector  🙂

I’d like to nominate the following folks for One Lovely Blog +Very Inspiring Blogger



Scriptor Obscura Writes

Professions for PEACE

Plays Well With Words

And these folks for Versatile Blogger

Every Day Another Story

K M Huber’s Blog


EL Appleby: Short Stories

Duck? Starfish? but… 23

I will have missed many people from my thank you’s and it’s not deliberate. Please know that I am so grateful for your kindness, love and support. I’ve also missed many bloggers from my award nominations and again it’s not deliberate. Please know that every blog I read is a work of art, you all deserve thank you’s for sharing and many, many awards.

Winter sunshine and awakenings


This is a photo from a couple of weeks ago, prior to our recent heavy snowfall.  The snow lasted about ten days before being washed away and now we have more weather warnings, this time for gale force winds and torrential rain.   I can hear the wind howling around outside and blowing down the chimney – no doubt when I wake up tomorrow there will be fallen trees and broken branches.

In spite of the inclement weather we are gradually beginning to see the shoots of new life.  The little Snowdrops below are growing at the base of a very old grave in my local churchyard.


I love Snowdrops, their tiny nodding flowers hang above tufts of small sword-like leaves and over time they form banks of pristine loveliness along the hedgerows, at the bottom of tress and through the woods.  I also love the churchyard because it’s peaceful and there are 180° views for as far as the eye can see.

Although the church is pretty, it’s seldom used.  The graves in the graveyard commemorate the lives of people who died at the beginning of the last century; they are all well tended but no one goes to visit them any more.  I often wonder what stories those people would be able to tell me from their lives during the Romantic Era. I also wonder what they would make of me with my none too lady-like hiking boots, jeans, sweater and raincoat.  It’s so rural here the chances are they would think I’m a witch and cart me off to the local dunking pond.  If they found out I was reviewing a report on the progression of antibiotic resistant infections and cytokine storm first thing this morning followed by a day of conference calls about technology, budgets and globalisation I would be building my own bonfire by now!

Suffice to say just like the Snowdrops breaking out from hibernation, I am starting to feel a little more alive and awake.  I may look like some demented science experiment where the mad professor (Bunsen Honeydew strikes again) decided to make a new kind of animal by taking bits of human, armadillo, snake, naked mole rat and pig but at least I’m beginning to feel like a person once more.

I think I have been lucky.  I haven’t lost any finger or toe nails, my hair seems to be coming back the same colour as before, I don’t have permanent peripheral neuropathy and as far as I know my heart is still OK.  There’s a chance I might get an A for effort when I see Dr C this week and an E for compliant behaviour… I still encourage all the other patients to speak up about their side-effects instead of suffering in silence and to carefully check the expiry dates and dosages on their drugs.

Kind of Fuzzy

I’m feeling kind of fuzzy-headed, probably a combination of insomnia, the steroid come-down and having a good deal to think about at the moment.  One of the things on my mind is this week’s visit to Dr C the oncologist.  My mission to make him laugh continues and I have some ideas on how to achieve it but beyond that I’m wondering whether I should have a list of questions for him now that chemo is through.

The two most obvious questions are:

  • How successful was the treatment?
  • How do we know for sure it was that successful?

The challenge with these questions is that the answers are going to be kind of fuzzy.  Something along the lines of ‘it was the best regime available, you completed it so we assume it was successful. We find out for sure by following you up over the next 5 years.’  I realise that for some people the lack of definitive answers would cause chaos and possibly leave them feeling quite depressed, but no-one can give me absolute answers so kind of fuzzy ones will have to do.

Being naturally unstructured (prone to spontaneity and bouts of randomness) I quite enjoy chaos so the challenge of an amorphous, kind of fuzzy future is exactly that – a challenge to be played flat-out. This feels like it could be an opportunity to act in my own psychological thriller, except the cliff-hanger scene goes on for years, not minutes.  Hitchcock might be proud!   Then again, some of the most wonderful things in life are kind of fuzzy – little chicks, kiwi fruit, dandelion clocks, woolly bear caterpillars and some of our most endearing experiences make us feel kind of fuzzy inside – love, friendship, fealty.

It may not be perfect, precise or predictable but the kind of fuzzy life I live includes more marvels than I ever imagined – a wonderful family, dear friends, my faithful cats… and it’s full of million reasons to be thankful every single day even if the suspense will never be entirely suspended.

art shot

English: Fuzzy caterpillar.

English: Fuzzy caterpillar. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)





Kiwifruit (Photo credit: Broken Piggy Bank)

Waxing and waning like the moon

Moon outside the window

Moon outside the window

I’m tired. Drugs, drugs and more drugs take a toll.  I’ll be pleased to see the back of them, to feel  fresh and clean and vibrant again.

When I’m tired, this kind of cancer-treatment tired,  my writing tends to suffer. My life-long friends vocabulary and meaning abandon me, my speech suffers too.  Fortunately none of you can hear me talking, listen to my words jumbling together or catch the sigh on my breath as I stumble over a sentence yet again.

It would be easy to succumb to this kind of tiredness, to let it wrap its arms around me and drag me down into a deep, dark tomb of perpetual nothingness.  I refuse to let that happen because I know my brain is still here and physically there’s nothing wrong with it.  With a little encouragement it  has the ability to function and like it or not, I’m unwilling for it to slouch off into retirement just yet.  In spite of the fatigue I prompt it do something and today’s something is a poem. I hope you will all enjoy it.

The moon looks through my window, a shimmering glassy gaze,

She shines bright, cold and restless and dreams of summer days.

The moon turns back the darkness, a deep black-purple night,

She creeps across the heavens, a passing satellite.

The moon observes Earth’s trials, ancient, mystic, awed,

She casts a beam for lost ones, their spirits often laud.

The moon looks through my window, she sees me here today,

I smile another welcome, she’ll watch me fade away.


The sloth is not cute anymore.

Three-toed-sloth, picture taken in the Cahuita...

Three-toed-sloth, picture taken in the Cahuita National Park in the southeast of Costa Rica (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I like sloths of the animal kind. Their strange looks, long claws, big eyes and heavy fur have a certain kind of appeal. Slow and sleepy, sloths of the animal kind have a good reason for their languor – their diet is very low in calories so their bodies have adapted accordingly.  They have significantly less muscle than comparable animals and move sluggishly to conserve what little energy they glean from nutritionally deficient, almost indigestible leaves.


Human sloths seem to be an entirely different kind of animal, the kind Miguel De Cervantes might have contemplated when remarking that “sloth never arrived at the attainment of a good wish.”   Today I’ve run out of good wishes for human sloth because laziness of the wanton kind is so unnecessary.  Usually I assert that it’s for each of us to live as we please (within the bounds of common civility) but when someone’s action – or inaction – directly impacts another’s wellbeing it’s irritating. Beyond irritating it’s deeply selfish.  This kind of sloth is neither cute nor appealing.

After 5 months of chemotherapy my body is not in tip-top condition, my patience is a little frayed and my willingness to be taken for granted has all but evaporated. Coming from an extremely hard-working and diligent family sloth has never been a concept that sits well in my world. Being a cancer patient with a potentially limited lifespan has made me very aware of the need to have more balance in my life, to take care of myself instead of scrambling on all fronts like a woman possessed day-in, day-out, non-stop.

I know being irritated by someone else’s idleness solves nothing. I’m acutely aware that I’m responsible for the way I interpret and react to others behaviour. The irritation is my problem and only I can resolve it.  I will resolve it.  It’s said no-one ever steps in the same river twice: it’s not the same river and you aren’t the same person.  I hope the sloth sitting alongside the river wakes up very soon because the river has changed and in future  leisure craft will no longer be able to drift here aimlessly.


Mulled wine would be nice, the walk will do for now and next year will be another story

I managed a small walk in the snow today but couldn’t see the Shropshire Hills, visibility was poor and snowflakes were still falling to earth persistently.  I took a few pretty pictures and in spite of the low temperatures really enjoyed being outside in the cold. There was no noise – as if the snow had pressed a great big mute button making the sounds of the world disappear.

In my mind I desperately wanted to mess about, make a snowman, toboggan across the fields and finish it all off with a nice big glass of warm mulled wine. Sadly common sense caught hold of me before I could get into any mischief today so I settled for the walk followed by a bowl of hot soup.

If it snows like this next year common sense is going out the window. Messing about followed by mulled wine will be right at the top of my agenda 🙂

Hope – why I saved this one for last.

In previous entries I’ve written about the Cardinal Virtues and Heavenly Graces.  As quick recap the cardinal virtues include justice, fortitude, prudence and temperance while the heavenly graces are faith, hope and charity.

I grew up in a largely Christian country but was never pressured to adopt any specific system of religious belief. I tend to consider the virtues and graces from a philosophical standpoint rather than a sacred one although I appreciate the variety and richness of the many spiritual connotations.  I’m not faithless or heathen, far from it, but I feel the absence of any pressure to conform to an exact religion during my formative years was beneficial to me. It facilitated some soul-searching and wide consideration of the merits of many different belief systems over time.  Growing up I tried to integrate the most positive aspects of the many faiths that accorded with the development of my own values and convictions – sometimes successfully and sometimes not.  As is the case with any process of complex integration in a constantly evolving system, some things work and some don’t.  My approach might be viewed as cheating – cherry picking across centuries of deeply sacred knowledge. I saw it as a means to be open to the best of the many different cultures that exist today as well as those long since lost to the mists of time.

In its archaic form hope is a feeling of trust. I trust that in being open to others, their values and beliefs, I might in turn open the door to shared understanding, compassion and generosity of spirit. I certainly hope that’s the case.  Hope in its more modern form can mean salvation, not in strictly religious terms but in common everyday terms such as recovery, escape and rescue.

In my case hope kept me going by insulting me from too much cynicism or despair following the cancer diagnosis.  As a simple human rife with a multitude of human failings there were times when I thought things looked very bleak. The tale of Chicken-Licken came to mind on more than one occasion and during those periods I did my best to maintain an alternate stream of thought. Something good would surely happen if I could manage to stay positive and ride out the storm.

In dealing with the tempest I sought to actively adjust my expectations regarding what something good meant for me.  I’ve now accepted I will never be physically perfect. I acknowledge that I may never be as physically able as I was pre-treatment.  I could chastise myself for these terrible shortcomings or instead I can treat them as ‘what’s so.’   By adopting them as ‘what’s so’ I rediscovered what really matters. I’m here and I don’t have to be this, that or the other.  I am and that is all I need to be.

The things I enjoy most don’t come with a big book of rules about how I look, how fast I can run or how quickly I can solve a puzzle. I don’t have to be an athlete, a genius or a super-model to live here. I do it just as I am, flawed, blemished and constituted of some non-human parts thanks to a skirmish with cancer, the kind donation of a pig and the wonders of silicon. Somewhere deep inside I always knew this but a busy life leads to clouded thoughts and confused priorities. I rediscovered the something good that matters most to me is very simple. Love, friendship and the beauty of nature.

It doesn’t matter how long I’m here because these things are all around me and I’m grateful to be well enough to enjoy them, in this moment and for however many moments are yet to come. Miracles are truly wonderful things and I would grant them readily if I could but in their absence I’m happy enough that my simple hopes can be realised.

This photo is courtesy of a very dear friend who continually inspires hope, gives much love and values the beauty of nature. She is an amazing lady who holds a special place in my heart.

This photo is courtesy of a very dear friend who continually inspires hope, gives much love and values the beauty of nature. She is an amazing lady who holds a special place in my heart.

Cat woman (almost) makes her return

Newton defies gravity

Newton defies gravity

In August I adopted two blue cats.  The photo above is Newton (he’s named after Sir Isaac Newton because I never got over being the gangly science-geek girl with ginger hair… except I have no hair now, just peach fuzz.)  His brother is called Casper.  My timing was bad because no sooner had we become friends than I had to stop being quite so friendly with them due to impending chemo.  Fortunately they’ve forgiven me and my standoffishness and in a few weeks I hope to have them sitting on my lap purring and cuddling-up again.  Stroking pets, cats or dogs, is meant to be a good way to alleviate stress and remain centred – some hospitals now use this approach to help people through difficult situations or as an aid to recovery.  I’m an animal lover and particularly fond of cats so if they help relieve stress or induce healing I’m all for it.

Newton and Casper were banished to the conservatory because I took a risk conscious approach to my treatment. I’d seen my mother succumb to chemo induced infections part way through 1996 and it’s a memory that hasn’t evaporated with time.  I have so many lovely recollections of my Mum yet sometimes the only ones that seem to surface are those from the dark days. Into the 17th year after her death and they still have the power to make me feel sad if I let them.

My own experience has been different and for that I am grateful because the thought of chemo initially scared me senseless. Aside from a little incident with temperature fluctuation in December I’ve only had to deal with nausea, ulcers, vein and skin issues and GI tract dysfunction. I’ll write-up a side effects page at some point in case it’s of use to others faced with a situation like this. (For everyone else, I’d avoid that page – there are some things we don’t need to know in detail unless we have to deal with them).

On the whole I consider myself to have been very lucky though I know I’m far from being ‘fit as a fiddle’ again.  Chemo takes a toll but yesterday I started self-administering GCSF injections (interesting but not painful), tomorrow I finish steroids and also begin the preventative antibiotics.  I noticed amongst other things that I’m not allowed to drive while taking antibiotics – 11 days worth. As we’re still blanketed in snow driving isn’t an option anyway but I’m hoping to be re-energised enough to take a small walk if it isn’t too cold/slippery. I’d like to capture some photos of the Shropshire hills and Welsh mountains, they look stunning at this time of year.

This morning I didn’t expect to find Newton sitting in the cherry tree outside my window.  He was in full cat-instinct mode without a cat in hells chance of capturing a passing bird.   The birds were far too wary and he couldn’t resist whipping his head around in all directions alerting them to his presence. The birds also seemed to realise cats climb up trees very easily but climbing down is far from graceful.  It made for a farcical scene. Birds having quite a party down on the ground while a not so stealthy cat perched precariously on a cold, snow-covered branch.  Eventually Newton realised what goes up must come down, possibly prompted by the fact that sitting in snow is a sure-fire way to get a very cold, very soggy backside!

Unlike Newton, Casper has taken to staying indoors as much as possible and instead occupies himself by playing with the tag on my Olive tree (currently in the conservatory because I don’t want it to freeze).  Here he is, bright-eyed and playful because he was sensible enough to avoid the perils of frozen paws and a snow encrusted rear-end!

As for me, knowing cat woman is almost back is a good thing and I’m looking forward to welcoming my furry, purring friends with open arms again 🙂

Casper considers the Olive branch

Casper considers the Olive branch