Friday, 31 July 2009

Friday Shoot Out - Food Outside

This was a challenging topic for me, living in Wet & Wild Wales! Food outside? Not really! Anyway, it forced me to go out and about and see the world around me in a different light. Thoroughly enjoyed myself! This shot is of a wild blackberry bush in Erddig. There is the first ripend one too, can you spot it?
This is a corn field again at Erddig

My town of Wrexham is a market town and has been for centuries. The beast market was closed around 20 years ago and the site of the old markets has been built on. The original location was also the place where public executions took place. Famously the martyr Richard Gwyn who was matyred for his Catholic faith during the reformation. The van above is selling meat.

The new location of the market is Queens Square. This lady is selling welsh cakes, scones and breads.

Shoppers enjoy a cup of tea and maybe a hot dog at the market.
This man was selling all sorts of fresh food

Fruit and Veg stall at the market. Can you see the man on the elevated chair in the background? He shouts out the fruit he has for sale and the prices, really reall fast and loud!

This is a green grocers shop in Wrexham town

Fig tree and herbs growing in Erddig Hall

Apples and bees in Erddig Hall kitchen gardens

Figs, not yet ripe at Erddig Hall

This is my front door and can you see the Hedgehog food and water left for my nocturnal visitors?

My hanging basket of cherry tomatoes

The orchard at Speke Hall, Liverpool

A bee collecting nectar from flowers at Speke Hall, Liverpool

Thursday, 30 July 2009

TODAY...... I am mostly NOT coping! At All!

Above: My mum and Joseff wearing a silly hat
Above: Harry aged 2 with his daddy in his first big boy bed (not that he ever used it!)

Above: Jason and Harry in the garden, how it has changed!
As the title suggests, today, I am not coping with cancer at all!!!
I sat in the bath this morning and cried and cried. Harry asked "are you being sick mummy?" "No, I am crying" "why?" said Harry, "oh, because I am sad, I am too shouty these days". At which point, Harry broke into the bathroom and stroked my head. He then produced Penny his dwarf hamster who sniffed me, then washed his face because one of my tears contaminated him.
I am an emotional wreck today. I don't know why. Last night a new cancer advert really upset me. Lots of different survivors giving one liners at how they felt being diagnosed etc etc etc. OK if you are removed from cancer but when you are in the middle of a fight... I found it hard.
I hide my feelings both physical and emotional really really well because I don't believe in self pity. To summarise though and spell it out in writing;
- I am sick of having dry, gritty, itchy, firey eyes
- I am sick of having nose bleeds, hurting nose
- I am sick of sore gums and aching teeth
- I am sick of having an upset tummy to varying degrees 24/7
- I am sick of aching at night so much that it wakes me up
- I am sick of having a dry mouth with a foul taste to it
- I am sick of flaking nails
-I am sick sick sick sick sick sick sick of having no hair
- I am sick and tired of being tired
- I am sickend by the fact that a simple, happy day makes me so exhausted I feel sick
- I am fed up with the way I look, weight gain and no hair
- I am fed up of crying for no reason and hiding it
- I am fed up with no life
There, I have said it all now and given myself a headache.
So sorry to be wallowing but I really am not coping today!
When I look at my wedding photos, a perfect day almost 15 years ago we had such dreams for the future and cancer never featured in them, neither did sub fertility and a fight to have our boys, neither did having children with speech and language difficulties, neither did having an autistic child, neither did my struggle with depression.........

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Over did things AGAIN!

I over did things yesterday and am paying for it today. Either that or I am fighting off a bug. I know that my allegies are really bad at the moment, my nose is on fire and bleeds alot, my eyes feel like they are on fire too. Mind you, it did us good to get out in the pouring rain with the dogs this afternoon. We went to "Nains River" which is really Erddig Park. The photo above is of Joe venturing down into what is called "the Cup and Saucer" an amazing invention which powered the water from the river to the big hall! Sometimes you can hear the mechanics and feel the vibatrion on the ground.

The above pictures are not in order I am afraid and I can't quite master the way to shuffle them around! So the story begins from the bottom up. The dogs had been wanting to swim but not quite wanting to jump in so I said to the boys, "we need a stick to throw in" at which point, Jason produced the rather large "stick" above. The dogs loved it as you can see, Poppy and Pickles are having a great time attacking.

Jason threw the "stick" in the river but Harry decided to retrieve it to use again much to the dogs delight! Poppy especially liked the "stick". Harry throws the stick in the river with a big splash and I like this photo because you can see the impact of the splash! Then the dogs watch sadly as the stick is taken by the river.
We had a nice time but I came home exhausted. I spent 2 1/2 hours in bed and had to haul myself out of bed for tea.
My gums hurt and so do my teeth. I don't know if it is an infection but I am taking the necessary precautions but I did have a dream last night about losing a tooth. I also dreamt that my nasty neighbour was pregnant with twins and had to move away to a bigger house!! Funny dreams!
I had a lovely long chat with my friend who is going through the same thing! We share the same surgeons, oncologist and care centre. She has had two doses of FEC to date and is coping well. She has the third dose when I see the dreaded oncologist to fight the fact that I do not want to be involved in the herceptin trial - I want 12 months of herceptin NOT 6!!!!!!

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

My Fukitol Has Arrived!

Regular readers know that my veins are really suffering because of chemo and canulas, I was advised to do hand exercises so decided to purchase a stress ball. I couldn't resist this stress ball which arrived from Amazon UK today. I can do my "vein" exercises with a smile on my face!!!

Mike Peters The Stand
I had to share this video of Mike Peters performing "The Stand" in New York the other day. Amazing. The Stand is based on the book of the same name by Stephen King. This guy is a Cancer Survivor a Cancer Fighter - he never ceases to amaze me! His strength, courage, determination - my rock!
Last night I watched "Haunting in Connecticut" - mistake in my current situation!
I thought it was a good old horror movie, which I love and it was but I didn't bargain for the main heroes being cancer fighters. It portrayed cancer and its treatment in its worst way. For me, I had mixed emotions as the reverand in the film told the boy "we are walking in the shadow of death" and "we are on the edge of death" - I have never thought of this in my cancer fight, I don't feel as though I am "walking in the valley of death", I don't feel as though my life is under attack! Should I? Am I fooling myself? Or is it a safety mechanisim kicking in and the reality will hit me when my treatment is over? Who knows? Who cares? Fukitol, I am enjoying life!
On a final note; the post man who delivers my post every day is funny. A young, fit and healthy lad, he runs his rounds! I used to run past him, now I just answer the door in my dressing gown and with my bald head. He has his hair graded really short and its the same colour as mine so when I answered to door to get my FUKITOL, I asked him "have I got more than you then?" and we both had a genuine laugh!

Monday, 27 July 2009

I am having a Fat Day

Today, I am mostly having a fat day! I am feeling fat, bloated and down right ugly!
My hand and arm are still bruised from the canulas, I have been taking arnica and rubbing arnica cream into the area and that does seem to have helped. I have ordered a stress ball from Amazon UK called fukitol - quite funny really. I am going to use that to exercise my left arm and try to get some decent veins for my next round of chemo in 10 days time.
I had a nice day today though. Spent some time blogging and face booking then shot off into Wrexham town to take some photographs for Fridays Shoot Out - Outside Food. A bit difficult in our country because it always seems to rain but I have taken some interesting photos.
My Olympus camara is quite old for a digital these days so on my birthday / christmas list I am going to ask for an updated version. I would like one that can zoom in so that I can get closer shots if I desire. My camara is adequate for now and I am pleased with the pictures taken.
Had a cup of tea with my friends Fran and Ceri which was really pleasant. Frans son Oliver is 3 years old and is a real handful, reminded me what Harry was like 5 years ago! He pretended to be a tortoise and then transformed into a friendly cat. I love Oliver, he is really entertaining and just a lovely little boy.
So, still feeling fat, thoroughly hating my reflection and praying for each day to pass taking me ever nearer to the end of my treatment. I am always told not to wish my life away but that is what I seem to be doing these days..... September 10th cannot come quick enough..... last chemo session and 19 years to when my brother died - what an emotional day that will be.
Was a bit sad because I thought my neighbours had gone away for a few weeks but it seems it was a long weekend. Ding Dong the Witch is Back, Ding Dong the wicked Witch is back.... Really shouldn't sing that but the person in question has been so mean to me, even posted a photo on face book wearing a scarf and pulling a face...... I leave you to draw your own conclusions my friends.....

Love Hope Strength

This is a 10 min video clip about the Everest Rocks - the record breaking, highest gig in the world! All to raise money to fight cancer on a global basis.

The Love Hope Strength Foundation is close to my heart because I have been an avid fan of Mike Peters and the Alarm for over 25 years. Also, I believe in the healing and empowering effect of music.

The LHSF strive to put cancer fighting resources in each country of the world.

I am lucky to be living in Great Britain where our resources are the best, others are not so lucky and its not fair.

The foundation has increased the bone marrow donor list, provided the first ever mammogram in Nepal.

If you want to consider a charity, consider LHSF.

Sunday, 26 July 2009

Wet days and horses

I have woken up to a wet and very soggy Sunday! So... I am catching up with my blogging friends, cried buckets over Daria's video and am thinking about what a lovely Saturday I had.

The above photo was taken yesterday at Lisa and Abi's Equestrian Centre where my little Harry rides each week. They shared a hilarious video of Jason doing "around the worlds" on Gemma and falling off..... lots!!!

In the picture above, the children had been playing out of site in Abi's secret den! They had to be rounded up for home time. The bay mare in the picture is Abi's horse Tash. Abi is in the turquoise t-shirt and Harry is just behind her in the grey top.

This set of pictures really makes me smile. They are like something out of "Brave Heart" having been discovered they are walking towards us all in one line.
Lisa riding Gemma. She had to go and round up the troop because they were too far away. It was nice to see all of the children having good old fashioned fun; playing on the muck heap and slinging water over each other. They were going home dirty, mucky, smelly but happy!

This is Archie. He is 14hh roan gelding and I don't know why but I find myself "drawn" to him. I find this alot with people and animals; some repel me and others I feel a magnatism drawing me in. This is how I feel about Archie.

I don't like this picture of me.... bald, fat, old and ugly! Anyway, its a nice picture of Gemma. This picture is me now in 2009 and it is a picture of me going through a huge blip in my life. Watch this space when I finish treatment and my hair grows back and I shed the weight!

By the way my sweat shirt says "Cymraeg: probably the oldest language in Europe" and was bought from Cowbois in Bala who provide great welsh tee-shirts, sweatshirts and hats.

On a final note, this is my hair this week.

You can see it growing back quite fast and its black (apart from a few grey hairs!).

I used to suffer with sty's on my lower eye lids as a teen and as a result, my lower eye lashes were patchy. Nobody noticed but I did. Following chemo, they are growing back much thicker and NO BALD PATCHES. Here again is evidence of the "Polly Anna Syndrome" good always comes from bad, you just have to look for it!

Saturday, 25 July 2009

Books, Reading and Amazon Vine

I am lucky to be part of the Amazon Vine programme. Each month, I am emailed a newsletter and I am able to select two books from it. They are sent to me free of charge, some are uncorrected proofs and others are published, all I have to do is read them and create a review.

Since I began my fight against Breast Cancer, I have taken refuge in my books and reading so the Amazon Vine programme has been a life saver for me.

I enjoy reading very much and the programme enables me to read books I would not normally have chosen. I have read young adult fiction, childrens books, poetry and fiction. I noticed the book shelf option on one of my friends blogs and I thought "what a wonderful way to share my experience and passion". So, the gadget has been added!

The only book I would really recommend to all those fighting cancer is by Debora Hutton and is called "What Can I Do to Help?". It is written by a person who is terminal and is packed full of wonderful and very useful ideas for those caring for loved ones with cancer. Contributions have been made by Sir Elton John, Ruby Wax, Hugh Grant to name but a few.... I bought the book myself, and loaned it to family and friends with great results.
I have made my own notes on the book. Here are some of the gifts I have found useful;
Eye drops - soothing for chemo eyes
Fruit smoothies - great for when you really dont want to eat
Diet Ginger Beer - satisfies the thirst and settles the tummy
Luxury face & eye cream - for that chemo skin
Talc - really nice ones, I found this useful when I lost my body hair
Scarves - a necessity when you lose your hair
Warm and soft socks - for cold chemo feet
Fleece blankets - to combat that chemo cold
Pretty PJ's - helps lift your spirits when you feel rubbish
Boiled sweets - to suck when your mouth is dry and has a horrible taste
Bone China Mug - to really enjoy your cups of tea
Smoothie Maker - so that you can make your own smoothies when you dont feel like eating
Relaxing CDs - self explanitory really
Soups - great for slurping when you dont fancy food
Pretty jewellry, makeup and nail polish - all helps to make you feel nice
Here's my list of things people have done to help me;
Collecting kids from school
A cup of tea in bed
Prayers - lots of them
Messages of support and kind words
Friday Shoot Out
Face book
Somebody to do the ironing
Somebody to make meals
Help with my animals

Friday, 24 July 2009

Friday Shoot Out - Reflections!

I do apologise in advance, I am not a good photographer and my camara is very basic but I try my best because this is such a fun project.
Warning over! The above photograph was taken at Speke Hall, Liverpool. The building is the Engine room, adjacent to the stable block. The puddle holds the reflection of the Engine Room.
This is one of my favourite places. Darland Woods. It is about 5 minutes walk from my house and I take my dogs there most days. The lake is natural and home to many ducks, moorhens and frogs! Once I was privelaged to find a whole colony of frogs mating - I counted 100 of them all looking at me and croaking.

You can see the sun reflecting on the water and the trees reflecting too.

Not such a clear photo but you can just make out the trees reflecting in the water.
Darland Woods changes constantly from season to season and I never cease to be amazed by it. I love the creatures who live there; badgers, foxes, owls, sparrow hawkes, grass snakes, frogs, toads, jays, woodpeckers, robins, rabbits and not to mention the wild flowers. Spring brings a blue hue of bluebells which are simply breathtaking, the wild garlic aroma is a joy to smell.

A garden shot....... again! This is the sun reflecting the shape of our pegola and Ivy.
We have a south facing garden so the pegola made by my husband gives us welcome shade. He even made some canopies! I grow honeysuckle, ivy and jasmine and the bees are very welcome!

This is a bit of a weird idea. My two dogs, Pickles and Wilbur, both miniature schnauzers. People always get them mixed up so here they are on the golf course walk a kind of reflection of each other.

Wilbur just had to get in on this shot! Mind you, he is like my shadow so he could be a reflection in himself ..... or is that cheating? Anyway, another reflection of my pegola and Ivy.
A challenging shoot out but great fun!

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Today We Went to Speke Hall, Liverpool

Speke Hall is owned by the National Trust and is only a short drive away from our home. However, we have never been there until today. Sadly, Liverpool Airport is attached to the property so Ryan Air flies over the house regularly and drowns out any conversation.

The Hall was built around 1495 at the time of the reformation, Tudor times. The owner was a staunch Catholic and although working for the crown, continued with his beliefs. I was amazed to find a "Priest Hole" which was used to hide the priests if the crown came calling. You could actually see the ladder which they would climb up and hide in a small cavity. Apparently no priests were caught at Speke Hall although the designer of the Priests Holes was found and executed: Hung, Drawn and Quartered.
It was a beautiful hall and had been lived in as a home up until 1920's. This was a time when most properties went into dis-service due to deaths during the wars and death tax which crippled land owners.

The gardens were lovely too, further enhanced by a lovely summers day.

The building is made from wattle and daub which is a mixture of dung, wood and hay. Up until victorian times it would have been brown, it was during this time that the Victorian fashion was to paint such buildings black and white. There was even a hole in the eaves of the main door so that servants could scutinize callers, hence the term "Eaves Dropping". Also, the beds all had "roofs" and this was to protect the occupants from the insects coming out of the wattle and daub ceiling.

The lady here is in period dress of the time the house was built. She is actually corsetted in the tradional way and both the fabric and colour are true to those times. Apparently, Queen Elizabeth I set standards and protocal for landed gentry and the colour of the fabric reflected your social status. Red and Black being colours of high rank.

This is Joe on the lawn of Speke Hall. Dig the different coloured socks! Joe is always complaining that his socks go missing and this is his way of rebelling. I think it is quite cute!

Jason and Harry walking around the side of the house. Harry didn't want his photo taken so you can just see him trying to avoid the camara.

This was a side entrance into the gardens from the front part of the house.

Joe and Harry in the gardens.

We had a nice ride on a golfing type buggy up to the house. It wasn't far but the old man offered us a lift and the boys were thrilled by the experience.

We had lunch in the cafe which was part of the old stable block and it was very nice. The boys then played in the rustic park while I lay on the grass listening to the sound of children and Swallows chipping away and flying over head. It was blissful. The sun was hot on my skin and I was so relaxed just chilling and enjoying the scene.

When we got home I received a visit from my vicar. We chatted in the garden over a cup of tea and he has offered to bless my new and temporary wedding ring for me either in a special service or as part of the normal service, he is also putting my name on the prayer list. Before he left he prayed for me and my family with the laying of hands on my head. It was a very moving experience and I am so grateful for this as my faith is something I hold dear.
A very good day. I am tired now and my tummy is playing up but it is still a good day.

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

I Count My Blessing Every Day

This is Joe aged 5 standing at the entrance of the Rose Garden leading into the main garden of Erddig Hall.

Awake at 5am, Harry had just joined us in bed so I lay there for an hour thinking about "things". I looked at Harry sleeping in the middle of us and was in awe of how perfect he is. His pale skin with a scattering of freckles, his little nose and mouth just like mine and how soft his skin is.
I am so lucky to be a mum. We tried for years and tests revealed that I have/had policystic ovary syndrome. It was a relief to know that there was a reason for our lack of children but it was still a harrowing time. I remember month after month of building up my hopes then having them dashed. The tears, the grief....

My first pregnancy ended when the baby was 9 weeks. I had only just found out that I was pregnant and I immediately began to miscarry. The doctor at the hospital left me traumatised and it took me six months to even admit that I had been pregnant and I had miscarried.
I found out I was pregnant with Joe when I was about to give up on the idea of children. As soon as I discovered that I was pregnant, I had a threat of miscarriage again. I took myself to the Catholic church in Wrexham and I sat there and prayed and prayed. My prayers were answered and in October 1998 my little sunshine boy was born! Exactly a year to when the first baby was due. I always think that the first baby was Joe trying to jump the queue and get born a year early!
This is Joe aged 5 in the gardens of Chirk Castle.

Every night when I watch my children sleep, I leave their rooms with tears in my eyes and as I walk downstairs, I thank God for my children because I am so lucky.

Harry aged 2 in his new "big boy" bed snuggling with his dad
My children haven't been easy. "no child is" I hear you say but mine had problems in their development. They both have had/ have Speech, Language and Communication difficulties. Joe used to have fits of frustration because nobody apart from me could understand him until he was about five. He had speech therapy from the age of 2 1/2 but this lack of development has left him with a language problem which is only now being addressed. I can't rule out autism although his tests indicate that he is not.... He does have autistic tendancies but with time and training on my part, he copes with these very well. Until he was 9 years old he could not eat mixed up food so it was a major achievement for him to eat pizza. He has sensory issues relating to taste, hearing and feeling. This means that he finds it hard to filter out noise, the taste of food is more intense for him and clothes are a problem...... At one point in his life, he was eating so little that he was physically sick. I over came this by introducing a "marble" reward system: he got a marble for each "good" piece of food he ate, an extra one for trying a food but none for any "bad" foods such as biscuits etc. We overcame this period but it was a desperate time for me because all any mum wants to do is nourish their child.
He was also obsessive. His major fear was germs and dirt. He would become obsessed with a mark of dirt the size of a pin prick on his clothes and then he would be distressed because the clothes would have to be washed and that meant change which he found it hard to cope with. It has taken me years and years to de-sensitize him and now his compulsions are managable in that they don't affect his or our lives anymore.
Imagine; the children went pond dipping in school. All of the parents were warned to take their children home straight away because they all got wet...... all .... apart from Joe. This was his fear of dirt and germs affecting his life, that doesn't happen any more.
Harry aged around 15 months at my mums house

Harry never slept from day 1. I went for 3 years without sleep and was in a permanent state of exhaustion. He was riddled with pain as he suffered severe colic and couldn't lie flat. I noticed straight away that he had speech problems and from the age of 18 months embarked on a battle to get him the help he needed.
I used to take Sunday school classes and did this with a doctor. It was by chance at the school BBQ that I got into converation with this person and he revealed that he was a paediatrician and specialised in the Autistic spectrum. He had known Harry from day one and he carried out an autism screening. As soon as this diagnosis was given, people sat up and listened and I actually got him the school help he so desperately needed which is a classroom support worker for him specifically in school.
For years I had to drag Harry to school, every day I would be called into school to be told what a naughty boy he was, he became a scape goat at school and still is but we are coping now because of the extra help. It took us years to get him to do "good talking". It broke my heart when he told me he couldn't do work because "I havent got a big enough brain"

Mother hood has not been easy for me. However, I truly believe with all of my heart that my children were given to me because God knew that I could cope and I could bring them up to over come their difficulties. I am glad I was given this opportunity because it has grown me as a person. I am less judgemental, I do not take anything for granted, I am more understanding and I am just down right grateful for what I have got.

I had a period of mourning in my life, mourning for the babies and toddlers I didn't have. However, I have accepted this now and I would not change anything for the world.
My boys are my boys, warts and all. It is harder to parent them because I have to work twice as hard on the things that "normal" children learn automatically but that just forges our bond and makes my children more special. I am in constant awe of them, even when they are naughty. Yes Harry did tip 2 litres of water on his brothers bed because he was annoyed at him, he did squirt anti chew spray all over his brothers hamsters cage including the hamster because he thought he was helping, he does write on the walls and then blame the dog..... hard work but I wouldnt have it any other way.
For those who have not had the blessing of children for one reason or another, I am not gloating. My blessings are fragile and may never have happened so I am not smug I just count my blessings each and every day.
My children have helped me deal with breast cancer and the associated side effects. Without them I would not have coped as well as I have. They love me whether I am bald or not, they care for me as I have cared for them. I am the luckiest person in the world!