Blue skies and new horizons

good good good

Life is filled with unexpected events, beginnings and ends, doldrums and dog days.

This summer solstice I’m able to celebrate that the doldrums have all but passed. Herceptin is almost concluded which means it’s just over a year since I discovered my body had become a serious biohazard. With luck all should be well now and I will soon return to the drug-free life I’m more familiar and altogether more comfortable with.

The densely populated dog-eat-dog hyper-drive that forms our capital city and the robotic (non)-life that streams relentlessly like human army ants on a perpetual march to who knows where is also behind me, at least for the foreseeable future.  For the first time in over twenty years dog days are here and the seeds of exciting new ventures have started to germinate.  This summer I’m not commuting, rushing from meeting to meeting or refereeing political sparring matches.  This summer I’m spending each day doing the things I want to do.

My Dad and I had lunch together last week. It’s the first time for a very long time that we’ve had the chance to do so.  Even when we lived in the same city the clockwork reality of work, work and more work stole the opportunity away from us. We have both been slaves to work for far too long because we come from a family where working hard and doing a good job is the only appropriate approach.  We both still believe in doing a good job and my Dad works exceptionally hard, but my decision to take a break is already creating possibilities that wouldn’t otherwise have existed. For me an afternoon spent with my Dad is more precious than any material possession.

Most days I get outside, work on the garden and tend to my flowers and vegetables. There are strawberries, embryonic tomatoes, courgettes and vigorous pea plants filling a space previously clogged with bindweed because in every other summer the scant periods when I wasn’t at work were rapidly consumed by a mountain of domestic activities – cleaning, cooking, ironing… and out of hours work. Now I have time to sit  under the cherry trees while adult goldfinches teach scruffy-looking fledglings to take sunflower seeds just a few feet away from me.  I have space to truly appreciate life’s wonders and miracles instead of winding my way through bureaucratic, often preposterous scenarios rife with petty politics and bereft of any commitment to achieve shared goals in service of the greater good.

Having time has given me chance to think about what I really want to do, how I’d like to contribute to society and where I want to make a difference. I’m coaching other people which is hugely rewarding; helping others achieve their dreams is one of the best ways I can think to spend my time.  I also dreamt that in future I’d work somewhere totally aligned with my beliefs and values, somewhere that makes a positive and lasting difference to people’s lives.  I sensed that I would find an environment where people strive to achieve, to continuously develop and grow irrespective of age, background, creed or colour. Now I know that once in a while such dreams come true; blue skies and new horizons beckon.

Before I take up my new job my summer will be filled with travel, friends and family.  Houses by the sea and nights so dark that the Milky Way will stretch out before me like a diamond encrusted pool of indigo-black ink. I don’t care if the days are bright or overcast; if its sunny I’ll be walking on harbour walls, stony cliff tops or sandy beaches.  If its raining I’ll be watching the waves through rain-spattered windows while drawing, painting or learning about the new technologies I’ll encounter and how my new team can harness them to create a world-class learning environment.

I’m all too aware that there are no promises in this realm, my life may still be shorter than the current average. It’s no big deal. I knew from the age of five that however long my life might be it would never be long enough to experience all the things I’d like to experience, learn all the things I’d like to learn or give all the things I’d like to give.  My new job offers the opportunity to give more, to use technology in a way that helps create future generations who are equipped to do great things, to make a positive contribution to society and the international community. For me that’s an amazing prospect – some of life’s unexpected events are changes for the better.

At the moment I’m happy to enjoy my summer days doing whatever I want when I want. I wrote about 2013 being a good year in spite of all the superstition and it looks like my prediction was correct 🙂

Two steps forward

After much deliberation I finally got around to writing my side effects page.  I held off from doing this for several reasons. I wanted to make sure nothing else was going to happen a few weeks out from the final chemo, I needed some time to get my head around what had just happened and I wanted to ensure I could give as accurate a reflection as possible of all the things I had encountered.


Writing about the side effects has been a cathartic experience; placing them on the screen means they no longer have to linger in my mind. They are out here, separate from me instead of rattling around in my head and part of me.  I can put some distance between me and them and bring some small element of closure to this part of the journey.   Of course it isn’t over and this is not the end. A cancer diagnosis is never over, it never really goes away but at least I feel I can start to move on from it and regain some semblance of ordinariness.   I still look far from ordinary, I stand out like a sore thumb because I have that cancer patient hairlessness, puffiness and pallor but I know this will disappear in time. Or I can just slap on loads of make-up, get an orange spray tan and pretend I’m an extra from ‘The Only Way is Essex.’

At this point last year I was embarking on a very exciting phase of my life, so many things were going well.  Just a few months later everything turned upside down and backwards; life became one long series of tests, investigations, surgeries and treatments.  Today it feels like I’ve taken two steps forward. The chemo really is over and its effects – physical and psychological – are starting to fade away.  I won’t be swinging from the chandeliers any time soon but dancing the cha cha cha might be a possibility 🙂


(Photo credit: Wikipedia)



We are living in truly remarkable times

Horse watching

Horse watching (Photo credit: @Doug88888)

Three news items struck me yesterday so much so that they inspired a mention because they show we are living in truly remarkable times.

1. The Pope resigns.

I’m agnostic so have no affiliation to any particular religion, however today’s news that the Pope has resigned came as a surprise. This is history in the making.  The Pope was appointed in his late seventies and has decided after c. 8 years that as an octogenarian he no longer has the strength or energy required to fulfil his duties as effectively as he would wish. I’m sure this news was a shock to the Catholic Church and as our news has reported, it breaks with the tradition of a Pope holding office until his death. I respect the Pope for his decision; acknowledging that his age and health were impinging on his ability to fulfil his duties and dealing with it by going against the expectations of so many people must call for a lot of soul-searching. Whether you like him or not and irrespective of your personal beliefs, seeing someone who is courageous enough to go against centuries of tradition to do what he believes is right for the greater good of his organisation is pleasantly refreshing.

2. We’ve been eating horse meat.

I know this is common practice in many parts of the world but in the UK horse meat isn’t typically sold or eaten.  In the last week a new and growing scandal has emerged since the discovery that food sold in many of our major supermarkets as beef, e.g. Burgers, mince,  etc has been constituted of horse meat to a greater or lesser extent. One particular brand of ready-made lasagne was found to be almost entirely horse meat. Most people I’ve spoken to aren’t overly concerned that they’ve eaten horse products. What’s irritated them is that the practice took so long to uncover and supermarkets and food manufacturers failed to identify problems in their supply chain or manufacturing processes. The question many people are asking is if horse meat can be passed off as beef, can meat that is unfit for human consumption also be slipped into our food?

3. One in Four have no support

Recent research by MacMillan Cancer Support has identified that one in four people in the UK go through cancer diagnosis and treatment alone. Many have been abandoned by friends and family following diagnosis, for some the cost of travel prevents people visiting and for others they simply have no-one in their lives to offer assistance or friendship.  Medical staff involved in the research state that a significant number of those who are unsupported refuse treatment or are unable to get to hospital appointments. Many have gone without meals as they’ve been too unwell to cater for themselves. In a country that is densely populated, it’s remarkable that 25% of cancer patients have no support. What is even more remarkable is that this country is supposed to be an exemplar of human rights yet it is failing this section of society, leaving them to fend for themselves and, lets not beat around the bush here, die a horrible death if they’re unable to attend for treatment or refuse it because they cannot cope on their own.

Some of our politicians ought to consider taking a leaf from the Pope’s book. The horse meat in our food is a scandal no doubt driven by greed and the desire to make a fast buck.  The MacMillan 1 in 4 research is a truly shameful reflection on our modern-day society, a failing welfare system and people who just don’t care as long as they’re seen to be managing a national debt all their parties were in no small part responsible for creating.  Not so long ago people with no friends or family to care for them would’ve received state funded help at home, now they have to be at deaths door before they qualify for any assistance. (I know because I’ve looked at the Disability Living Allowance criteria).

We live in truly remarkable times where money drives greed, dishonesty and despair in equal measure. Welcome to the 21st Century Britain you won’t hear about in tourist information publications.

United Kingdom: stamp


Omne trium perfectum – Very Inspiring Blogger Award no. 3 :-)

Gratitude bestows reverence, allowing us to encounter everyday epiphanies, those transcendent moments of awe that change forever how we experience life and the world John Milton

Ajaytao has nominated me for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award. This is my third nomination and superstition has it that good things come in threes – this award shows that’s true 🙂


There are some rules for accepting the award and I think, completely unintentionally, I fell foul of them once before… this time I’m going to accept freestyle. I’ve never been good with rules!

Some information about me:

My favourite TV Cook is the late Keith Floyd – during a programme in Vietnam  people were cooking cobra.  Eating things that have no legs doesn’t appeal to me so snakes, eels and worms will never form part of my diet. I don’t believe in eating higher mammals, in particular whales and dolphins, because I have a strong suspicion they may be as intelligent as we are.  We assess intelligence based on our model of the world  – how do we know that’s the  right model?

My nominees for this award are:

Just Breathe    The Truth Ache      Hira Nazir   My Thoughts On The Subject Are As Follows

Vicky Nanjappa     Friend Nature   Breathing Space      Excursions into Imagination




Bah Humbug to Triskaidekaphobia. 2013 will be a lucky year :-)

Many in the West consider thirteen to be an unlucky number but there’s evidence to suggest 13 is in fact lucky.  2013 will be a lucky year.

A number of people I know deserve much better fortune and I feel our world as a whole could do with a bit of a lift.  So here I offer 13 random examples designed to inspire and illuminate us as we approach 2013.  I apologise for any factual inaccuracies, this is a bit of trivia inspired by a dear friend because we’re aiming to cast off pesky Triskaidekaphobia together and will attempt to do it for anyone else who’d like better luck in future too!

1. The Thirteenth century was very productive for the Italian city of Florence.


Firenze (Photo credit: NivesMestrovic)

Its prosperity and peace enabled rapid economic expansion which continued at pace. Various categories of tradesmen and craftspeople increased extensively going beyond their region to other areas.

2. Thirteen is a prime number suggesting an incorruptible nature, purity and integrity.

3. Improv Everywhere organise fun missions to entertain participants, onlookers and those who watch their videos. 

Participants of No Pants Subway ride at Times ...

Participants of No Pants Subway ride at Times Square (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The No Pants Subway Ride takes place on January 13th 2013 in New York and has spread to other cities too. Participants wear winter coats, hats, scarves and gloves but no pants. The aim is to bring excitement to an otherwise humdrum setting, make people laugh, smile, or stop and notice the world around them.  Seeing this would certainly make me smile and spice up an otherwise boring subway ride 🙂

4. The thirteenth tarot card signifies death and eternal life.  The thirteenth rune ‘Eiwaz’ was the central rune around which all the others were ordered in the oldest runic alphabet.

5. When Chinese women make offerings of moon cakes, 13 will be served. Thirteen is the number of blood, fertility and lunar potency, the lucky number of the Great Goddess.


6. Thirteen was revered by the ancient Egyptians who believed life had 13 stages, the last of which was death and transition to eternal life.

7. For those seeking to purchase a property in the UK, number 13 is likely to be £6,511, or 3%, cheaper than numbers 1 -12 or 14 – 30 based on Land Registry figures!

8. Thirteen is considered lucky in China where 1 in the position of tens sounds like ‘definite’ (shi or 实) in Mandarin and Cantonese dialects. 3 sounds like life, living or birth (生) so 13 pronounced shisan in Mandarin can mean ‘definitely vibrant’

9. In the Jewish religion 13 is the numerical value of the word ahava (love, Alef-Hei-Beit-Hei) and the age of responsibility. Jewish beliefs are contained in the Thirteen Principles.

10. The Great Seal of the United States has 13 olive leaves, 13 olives, 13 arrows and 13 stars forming a triangle over the eagle. The pyramid on the reverse has 13 levels.

11. The traditional Thai New Year – Songkran Day –  is April 13th.

English: Songkran at Wat Thai in Los Angeles, ...

12. Lohri, the zenith of winter is celebrated on 13th January. For Punjabis it’s a community celebration of fertility and the spark of life, an auspicious day marking the sun’s entry in to the ‘Makar Rashi’ (northern hemisphere).



13. Jeremy Guscott, Brian O’Driscoll and Frank Bunce are deemed some of the world’s greatest outside centres – position 13 – in rugby union.

Brian O'Driscoll - Happy Day

Brian O’Driscoll – Happy Day (Photo credit: M+MD)

Happy New Year, Happy 2013 everyone ♥

Last week was very cold and frosty. I was able to capture this picture of my favourite winter visitor.  These little fellows are highly territorial so although there are several of them in the area, they regularly chase each other off.


This week it’s wet again and there are yet more flood warnings.

If the end of the world is coming it seems to be taking the form of lots and lots of mud!

All my Christmases are coming at once :-)

Yesterday I mentioned that kindly nominated me for the Versatile Blogger Award and I’m truly honoured.

I created FEC-THis to keep friends and family up to date with my journey through breast cancer and as a way to prevent myself becoming sane in the process.  I didn’t expect my writing to have meaning for others and I’m very touched.

So down to business. The rules for accepting this award are:

  • Display the award certificate on your website.
  • Announce your win with a post and include a link to whoever presented your award.
  • Present 15 awards to deserving bloggers. 
  • Create a post linking to them and drop them a comment to tip them off.
  • Post 7 interesting facts about yourself

I find it hard to nominate other blogs because there are so many versatile, creative folks out there and choosing between them is an almost impossible task.  Hopefully I will get the chance to nominate everyone over the next few years but for 2012, here are my Versatile Blogger nominations:

Letters for Michael   –   Talk about Cheesecake  –   Moms-opinions
Smell my paw  –   Live Someday  –  Efrata Denny Saputra Tunus
The Winter bites my Bones   –  Add Grain On Earth  –  Czech the Flip
A Word in Your Ear  –   Manningtree Archive  –  Chris Hampton
Lian Trowers  –  Renato Vasconcellos David  – Prettyonpurposeblog


Seven interesting things about me…. well they may or may not be interesting:


  1. My Western star sign is Leo
  2. My Chinese sign is Earth Rooster
  3. My eyelashes are growing back
  4. I helped my son with a part-time job application yesterday, today he’s been invited for interview 🙂
  5. The bruise from my last blood test (3rd December) is still there
  6. I trained as a mini and juniors rugby coach
  7. I love berries