Thursday, December 28, 2006

Boxing Day and Serenity

The first 3 or 4 days after chemo is like having a dreadful bout of flu for 4 days which knocks you so much for six that you can hardly lift your arm off the duvet, plus you feel nauseous and have a nasty taste in the mouth, but then, unlike flu, it suddenly lifts as the poison leaves your body and you are once again let out of prison - the sky is blue and life is precious and sparkling again.

It’s Boxing Day, and I’m on the upswing! Still very tired as yesterday was day three, and therefore, quite a strain. I had to push myself through it on adrenaline, but I did manage to, and to stay up from 11.00am onwards and join in the fun.

We had a very happy Christmas Day with our motley crew! A magnificent meal of turkey and goose with all the trimmings served hot and moist and cooked to perfection was served up by Aimi and Mass in the kitchen at my house. They really surpassed themselves and the table was groaning with good food, candles and crackers, and even though eleven of us were a bit squashed in, everyone said they had a lovely time and there were no rows!

Mia’s squeaks of delight as she opened a mountain of presents added to thepleasure. She got all the presents she wanted on her fairly modest list for Santa and a few others she hadn’t thought of. Potts had sent her a disguisekit complete with huge pink ears, a bald head cap (!), selection of moustaches, hideous teeth and glasses with nose attached and she put the lot on and ran around startling everyone. There was an alka seltzer bomb thing for Massimo; a grow your own sheep by adding water thing for Aimi, and for me, a purple teeshirt on the front of which the words “Approaching Magnificence” were printed, which I will probably wear for the next session at the Marsden!

At the risk of making a few people jealous, I can honestly say that I have never had such a “joyful” Christmas Day. It’s not the one I would have chosen. That would have included His Naughtiness, of course - Christmas on duty in Intensive Care put paid to that dream! However, in spite of everything, it was still wonderful.

If I didn’t truly believe that I have already beaten this very curable illness, and that the odds are truly excellent against its return, I would be feeling quite anxious that those around me know something that I don’t. Instead of the normal pile of pot pourri, bars of soap and the odd book I usually find myself, slightly resentfully, left with from under the tree, after I have spent a fortune on everyone else - this year I have been deluged with thoughtful and/or expensive gifts which include... a 14” carved wooden owl from Christopher and Lisa to add to my owl collection; a very smart working girl’s go cup for tea and hot drinks to take in the car; a pashmina scarf from Barry; a very pretty jewellery box and a large white candle of carved roses from Avril and Winston; a really beautiful purple wild silk Lavender bag with silk violets on it to make a room smell nice from Deborah; a very stylish silver pepper and salt set from Mass’s brother Aldo; a flowered all in one hammer with a set of screwdrivers in the handle from Jenny; cashmere bed socks from Maureen; 3 moleskine ruled journal books for my midnight scriblings; a Dalai Lama calendar/notepad and a “therapist in a box” kit with stress buster toy which “won’t go away in August” from Mary and Allan; DVD of the film ‘Amelie’ from my young tenant Flavien; set of three white candles in pretty pots from Sue, several boxes of chocs, and two books - ‘The Polar Bear Waltz’ of photographs, and a book by Lesley Garner called ‘Everything I’ve Ever Learned About Love’ signed by the author. WOW!!!!

I said quietly to Aimi, after opening this lot “I’ve got a funny feeling that some people may not be expecting to see me around next year”!

In addition to this bounty, I have also had tender loving phone calls from no less than 5 old beau’s over the last 3 days! One is offering to fly me to Nantucket in June, another to take me on a cruise to speed my recovery and a third has offered his apartment in Marbella for some sunshine in the Spring, and today my Polish 87 year old, older man has invited me for our annual lunch. 2007 should be a fun year with plenty of travel by the sounds of it. The only trouble with all this is that my heart is firmly entrenched in Aberdeen! Is all this sudden attention because I am now viewed as vulnerable, I wonder? My oldest friend, Annie, used to say that I had “vulnerable” tattooed on my forehead, but I have certainly toughened up under the slings and arrows over the past few years.

On top of all this TLC, I had been ordered to do zilch towards the holiday preparations and to just “sit there and rest” throughout the entire festivities, thought I did manage to put up some decorations and a tree and have the children decorate it.

Today, I have been back on the sofa 'recovering' with a rug and a cuppa and am watching a hysterically funny cooking programme with Anthony Worrall and Oz someody – both suffering from the most unimaginable and visual hangovers. They looked absolutely dreadful and could hardly string words together at the beginning of the show; got all the ingredients wrong and dropped things, but have now had a Bloody Mary each with at least 50% Vodka and some other “left over booze” cocktails and are picking up and getting silly and quite tetchy with each other.

If I get the energy by lunchtime I am going to use their recipe for a turkey curry risotto, which looks delicious, and feed Aimi and Co when they arrive to dismantle the tables as they are a bit jaded today having been to the pub till late last night This will be my little offering for the day.

There have been several phone calls from friends who are disappointed with their Christmas in some way. The general theme seemed to be that loved ones had not done enough or shown enough love, appreciation, helpfulness, etc., and that they were now exhausted and resentful towards their ungrateful kin.

Not so for me!. My cup runneth over with gratitude and I am in danger of getting used to this and becoming a smug b….h! However, I don't expect that Christmas will ever be like this again! (If it is I will be very worried!)

I am strangely and inexplicably happy today. I don’t have “what I want” but I “accept and am content with “what I have” with a grateful heart, and believe that I am indeed getting “what I need” from Good Orderly Direction, and that yet another exciting chapter in my life lies ahead next year.

“I read this passage this morning”

Words to Consider

“Although all men share a common destiny, each individual also has to work out his personal salvation for himself. We can help each other find the meaning of life, but in the last analysis, each is responsible for finding himself.” (Thomas Merton)

One of the great spiritual truths is that each person must work out his or her own personal salvation. When a person you care about is in trouble, you can reach out to support his or her healing, but past a certain point you can do no more. No matter now much you love, you cannot carry another person’s burdens.

What can you do when someone you love is in pain? First, affirm that there is a purpose behind the experience. Know that the soul has some important lesson to learn that will be of great value to him or her.

Second, although you cannot directly intervene, you’re positive thoughts and prayers do make a difference. Visualize your friend surrounded by light and love. This type of healing acts directly on the soul level and does not encounter resistance from the conscious mind.

Finally, know that Divine protection is present. The forces of light are always available to the person who requests help. Ultimately, no soul can be lost; as all who ask will be guided to the safety of their spiritual home.”

Nice eh?

Tonight I’m going over to Aimi’s to play Monopoly and listen to Mia singing with her new Karaoke machine (I think she has an eye on the X Factor – Heaven help us!!!), tomorrow night we are going Ice Skating at Somerset House – or rather they are going skating and I am going to watch! A broken wrist or leg would not be a sensible thing to accommodate under present circumstances, and on Thursday we are all off to inspect my cousin Christopher’s new love nest in Kenilworth and stay the night with a visit to my lovely ancient Auntie Amy in Oxford en route, and now for another mince pie!!!

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Christmas Eve - 3 Down - 3 To Go


Its Christmas Eve. I had my third chemo yesterday so I’m nearly half way through the 6 cycles. Frances Topp collected me at 9.00 and spent the morning with me at the Marsden whilst I had blood tests taken, was weighed and saw the Doctor to be pronounced fit enough to be nuked again. The chemicals are then made up according to your bodyweight and there is then at least an hour's a wait for them to be made up so that they are fresh.

Frances is someone I have known since my "Music Week" days. Her husband Rodney Burbeck, used to be the Editor and she is a brilliant picture researcher who was working at the BBC when I ran into her again in 1994 just before she was diagnosed herself with the same ductile type of cancer and was successfully treated with the same FEC chemo that I am being zapped with. That was nine years ago and she looked a picture of health and energy yesterday which was most encouraging. It is so helpful to compare notes with someone who has trod this path before and it seems that the side effects have been improved greatly in the years since she had treatment.

I am really beginning to enjoy these two hour – fairly uninterrupted chats with friends whilst sitting in the cheerful waiting room at the Marsden. I have got to know a lot more about them and it is a very bonding experience that they seem to enjoy too.

Mary Morris arrived at 12 noon to spend the afternoon session with me.
The Staff had organised a little Christmas treat for us with a trolly full of wine (last thing that would have been good for me but Frances enjoyed a tipple) sandwiches and crisps and biscuits and sweets. Then the freezing cold cap was put on and the six syringes of chemicals went in, and Mary and I had a good long chat too. The canula went in smoothly first time, but the only thing I was slightly nervous about was that the nurses were clearly suffering from lack of sleep due to their Christmas party taking place the evening before and most of them had had only three hours sleep. They would not admit to hangovers, but when I got to see the doctor another patient’s notes had been brought in by mistake, however, due to the extremely careful checking system “What is your date of birth”, the error was rectified immediately. I am getting to know a few faces in the room who are on the same three week schedule as me and we wished each other a Happy Christmas as I left with Mary.

Since then I have been feeling pretty well and have been able to complete my last minute shopping and errands fairly easily. Wrapped up the last presents this evening and then the tired grey cloud descended and I have been asleep on the sofa since the final of Strictly Come Dancing which I just missed the result of but expect that Mark and partner won.

A big load of cards arrived this morning – all with especially loving messages this year. A funny cartoon one from my ex, and there was even one from Roger – my last disastrous experiment with hope over experience. He was sorry to hear I have a serious illness and said that in spite of our acrimonious break up six years ago, he had been very fond of me, which was really nice of him and any left over resentment has now gone. He also apologised for his part in things. I hope I never forget how powerful a sincere apology can be and I shall now return the compliment and we can at least be on nodding terms again if we bump into each other one day

This was a funny message on another card that came today:

There have been many, many times in 2006 when I may have
Disturbed you …
Troubled you …
Pestered you …
Irritated you …
Bugged you …

But today I just want to tell you that in 2007


Brilliant!!! I might put that on mine next year!

It’s now 2.31am on Christmas Ever and I shall go to bed in a minute and expect to be pretty out of it tomorrow and Monday I but don’t have to and am not expected do a thing, thank goodness. Aimi and co will come over and prepare the Christmas table for about 12 now – two more lonely souls have been added, so it’s time to wish everyone a very Happy Christmas and a Healthy New Year and hit the sack.

3 down – 3 to go!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Christmas & Chemo Looms

Two days left of feeling good. And I really do feel good. Plenty of energy and happy today especially as Naughtiness called this morning. He is to be transferred to Aberdeen Royal Infirmary – Gynaecology department - and will be working over the Christmas period but will try and phone when he can.

Got all my cards done today and went to Sue’s for a massage. Deborah joined us to exchange Christmas presents and stayed for a cuppa. Then Sue and I to Mia’s school carol concert at St John’s. Mrs M, the headmistress very kindly rushed to give me her chair and I accepted politely though I am probably fitter than most in the church. I wore my aubergine turban with a glittering brooch at the side and after when we gathered for coffee and mince pies, everyone said it was most fetching and I kept hearing the words ‘Diva’ and ‘Norma Desmond’!!! Supper with Chris and Lisa at home and a fairly early night.

Last night our good friend Verena Wilson treated the family to a performance of The Wintershall (real experience) Nativity Play at Wintershall Hall in Bramley near Guildford. It was a magical experience. We wrapped up warmly and took sandwiches and a flask of hot chocolate and drove for an hour in the dark. We arrived at the big house which had one of those drives that takes half an hour to get anywhere, over cattle grids and through a forest, and parked in a muddy field. From the car park there was a 200 yard climb up a steep path through the roots of huge trees lit by flaming torches and with speakers playing gentle carols all the way. I saw Verena talking in to a chap in that confidential way that I have come to recognise, and shortly after, a motorised cart was produced to take us up the hill. “You have pulled the cancer card haven’t you” I said. “Yes” she said. “I’d beat any of you up that hill you know” I said, getting in the front of this funny contraption with a handsome young man. Aimi, Verena and Mia sat in the three seats which faced outwards at the back of the uncovered cart and Mass climbed into the box part which looked like it was used for hay or leaves or grass etc. and we all bounced up the hill. At the top we alighted outside a huge barn. The straw clad path was now illuminated for us by bearded characters in robes and headgear with bare feet in sandals (Jesus creepers) holding oil filled lanterns. “Welcome to Bethlehem”, they said quietly and undramatically and we filed past a field of donkeys into the barn and took out seats on tiered benches.

At the far end of the barn there was a raised stage on which was a real manger filled with straw. To one side was a straw filled pen with a mother sheep and young lamb grazing. Behind that we could see a large black cow, and further left was the choir and an organist hidden by a rush screen.

Mary and Joseph made their entrance through the central aisle of the seats – the grown up and saintly looking Mary riding on a real donkey and went up to the manger and the Nativity was played out with the most beautiful choir and popular carols. A real baby was produced which squeaked a bit but not hysterically and was laid in the manger in between bouncing it up and down to pacify it. The Shepherds arrived to adore, and one of them lifted the baby lamb out of the pen and carried to the children’s area in the front to let them stroke it. The mother sheep was very concerned about this and complained pitifully and was visually relieved when it was taken back to her.

The three Kings arrived down the same aisle riding on horseback with beautiful robes and saddle cloths. The not unpleasant smell of straw and cow and horse manure added to the authenticity of the scene.
Herod arrived on a magnificent black steed and his henchmen were quite terrifying and after decreeing that all children under two must be killed, went to look in the children’s area to see if they could find any under two which caused quite a bit of consternation amongst the young ones and giggles from us!

After it was over we filed out of the barn past all the actors who were lined up as if in a Royal Variety Performance, and who wished us a Merry Christmas in a quite delightful way. Mia held my hand and I said to Joseph who was standing with Mary and her baby (It really was Mary’s baby – a little girl with blue eyes) “Are you the father?” “No he said” “Oh, silly me, of course not I said and pointed to the heavens”. “Boooooooo” we said to the nasty Herod, then left the barn and made our way down the hill again – this time on foot because I wanted to walk! And sat in the car eating our sandwiches before driving home to London.

It was a truly wonderful and spiritual evening and I have come away with some new ideas for interesting headgear!! The only small criticism I have in all that back-in-time reality and other world feeling was that the tiny baby Jesus was dressed in a Mothercare white boiler suit with a furry hood. I know it was very very cold, but surely three lots of swaddling shawls and a small concealed hot water bottle would have done the job a bit more realistically!

Anyway, if you want a delightful and magical Christmassy evening, I cannot recommend it highly enough and it is well worth the drive.

Monday, December 18, 2006

“Hair, There and Everywhere”

My hair is definitely disappearing! During the first week of this 2nd chemo cycle it thinned to approximately half its previous crowning glory volume and for the first time ever, I now have ”thin” hair instead of a thick mane.

There are hairs all over my bedroom. It has blown on to my pillow via the hairdryer and there are hairs on my white dressing table. There are hairs on my laptop keyboard. My pressurized canister of air normally reserved for cleaning my cameras has come in handy here.

Everybody, but everybody assures me that my hair will return quickly, even thicker and possibly wavy after treatment ends so I am not unduly worried about this experience (hopefully! – of course I could just be the only one that it doesn’t come back for!) and looking forward to trying some new hairstyles as it grows back.

I was already up and about the other day, when my cousin Christopher brought me my now customary 9am cuppa and breakfast tray (Oh how I love it!). “Look at this”, I said and showed him my hair brush from which I was pulling out a handful of hair. “I get two of these handfuls a day now”! After a slight awkward silence whilst, I imagine, Chris was searching for something positive to say, he said quietly and gently “Would you like to make a little cushion out of it?” “Definitely not!” I said and we both burst into peals of laughter.

On Thursday I had it cut shorter which helped a bit but, at this rate, I’ll be lucky to see the other side of Christmas with a decent amount.

So now I am preparing for the next challenge – the “Follicle Challenge!” After the overcoming of this, I shall be in the home straight for bursting out of this cocoon, and starting to bloom again in the Spring of 2007 – double 007 – a fitting year to bring out Robert Sellers’ book “The Battle for Bond” on the story of my Dad’s involvement with Thunderball which is gaining much interest already and may involve Book tours and signings with Robert – another new experience.

Yesterday Sue came with me to Notting Hill Gate, and after a delicious Italian lunch in Hillgate Place, we went to Trendco – the trendy wig and hairpiece specialists at the top of Church Street, for a fitting. The first wig I saw was the one for me, and is very realistic indeed. It is now sitting on my dressing table on a white polystyrene head waiting for me” I shall wear it when I am working or don’t want to have to explain it all to strangers. I also bought a pink lacy ‘sleep cap’. But the thing I will feel most comfortable in is a rather glamorous turban in a browny aubergine colour which is my winter colour, and which is reminiscent of old movie divas who are having a bad hair day. I remember seeing Debbie Reynolds in one in the Hilton coffee bar (or perhaps she was going through chemo – who knows), and I am going to add some glittery brooches or silk flowers at the side to tart it up a bit, and if the whole barnet goes, I have also bought a little fringe which can be stuck under a scarf or turban with Velcro.

My old friend Bill Potts from the NBC Sports Wimbledon days, has sent me 6 fluorescent wigs – shocking pink, purple, lime green, electric blue, orange and yellow which, we are planning to don tomorrow morning if everyone gets up in time for a slightly different family Christmas photo! Mia has chosen the electric blue – Aimi the green, Mass - orange and I am in the shocking pink one! May have left it a bit late for sending cards out before this Christmas though, so they may have to be the first ones for next year!

Several people have had fun trying them on for me. In fact, I have yet to have a visitor, who, on spying the box of wigs & hats blonde and vari-coloured, has not had a go!

Potts has also sent me a cutting from a New York paper on a revolutionary new cure for baldness entitled:

“Ever Seen a Bald Dog?”

from which I include excerpts:

“Exciting scientific correspondence comes from William B Yancey, M.D., a medical Doctor. He has written about an observation that he made regarding his Labrador retriever, who is named Refrigerator. Refrigerator recently underwent hip surgery; in preparation for the operation, the veterinarian shaved his hindquarters and Refrigerator thus had all the hair removed from his rear end.

If you know anything about dogs, you know how Refrigerator spent his recuperation period: He licked himself pretty much full time. Dogs are very big believers in the healing power of “licking”. If dogs operated a hospital here’s how it would work: A patient would arrive in the Emergency Room, and a team of doctor dogs would gather around to conduct an examination, which would consist of thoroughly sniffing the patient. Then the doctor dogs would hold a conference, and whatever the patient’s symptoms were – coughing, lack of pulse, a spear passing all the way through the patient’s head – the doctor dogs would agree that the best course of treatment was: licking! And we’re talking about a LOT of licking. Not just the patient licking himself; but also the doctors licking the patient, licking themselves, and licking the other doctors. This is state-of-the-art medical care for dogs. Their equivalent of a CAT scan machine would be a big tube filled with tongues.

So anyway, after his operation, Refrigerator was performing medical care on himself, and Dr Yancey made a scientific observation: namely, that Refrigerator’s hair “has grown fastest in the areas where he has spent significant time licking himself.

Using this observation, Dr Yancey was able to form a scientific hypothesis which is this: Dog spit grows hair! The important implication is that dog spit could be a revolutionary new hair-growth treatment for balding men (or women on chemotherapy), and I believe that it is time to go past the research phase and go directly to the phase where we unleash the power of this amazing discovery to benefit humanity, to make the world a better place, and most importantly – to make money!

Specifically, what I am thinking of is a franchised line of hair-growth salons with a sophisticated name such as ’La Spitte du Chien’. Upon arriving at a salon, a client would undergo a pre-treatment interview, during which he would be asked a series of scientific questions such as “Do you have money?” and “How much?” The client would then be ushered into the Preparation Area, where his scalp would be coated with a scientifically-designed, nutrition-enhanced, precision-balanced formulation consisting of Skippy brand peanut butter.

Finally the client would enter the Treatment Area, where he would be instructed to lie down on the floor with his arms at his sides. A door would then be opened, and a professional 'Hair Growth Technician', barking loudly, would sprint into the room at upwards of 400 miles per hour, skid to a stop, and begin enthusiastically treating the client’s scalp. All of the technicians at ‘La Spitte Du Chien’ would be carefully selected on the basis of friendliness, professionalism, and not peeing on the clients.

I grant you that this procedure has a few wrinkles that need to be worked out, such as the issue of smooth versus chunky, but basically I think it makes as much sense as the baldness cures you see in the magazines. If any government agencies such as the Food and Drug Administration have any questions, well they can send their inspectors over to meet with our Board of Directors, Big Boy and Fang. They LOVE inspectors. It’s their favourite meal!”

Thanks Potts – most helpful! Hmnnnn!!!!!!!

Five days to go to the next chemo which will be three days before Christmas Day. As days 2 and 3 are the days I am polaxed and pretty unable to even sit up, it does not bode well for a jolly Christmas lunch, however, on Christmas Day I am planning to take the first cycle medication – the demomethasine which is a stimulant and gives me a lift but stops me sleeping so that I can totter downstairs and sit upright at the table for 10 that my darling Aimi is organising at my house.

Five days left of feeling well; to pack everything into that I want to get done, and to enjoy life.

Yesterday I went ice skating with Mia and we joined Ruth Gledhill and my five year old Godson Arthur at the Kew Gardens rink. It was a beautiful sunny wintry day and we had a great time skating and drinking hot chocolate and feeding the real Reindeers in the gardens. A joint birthday tea afterwards back at Ruth’s (we are both Saggitarians) with poetry from her very talented husband Alan and songs and harmonies on his guitar in their cosy home.

Today my friend Willy is coming over to supervise Mia and her friends Megan and AnnaMay decorating my Christmas tree.

Tomorrow we are all going to a Nativity Play in the country where a real Mary on a real donkey and Joseph walk up the hill to a real stable with real animals, Shepherds and Wise Men and produce a real baby Jesus by candlelight.

On Tuesday there is another Carol Service at Mia’s School Church. On Wednesday I am photographing a one year old. On Thursday a party thrown by Lesley McCormack Gathy, the late Mark McCormack’s daughter, in Barnes, and on Friday ZAP! – they will hit me again with the third dose of chemo after which I will be half way through the treatment.

Bring it on!!!! Sock it to me baby!!! Hair today – gone tomorrow. Anyone got a dog I can borrow for a few days?

Thursday, December 14, 2006

The Muse Returns

The muse is back and it’s time to write again. I have been spurred on by an email I received from a teacher saying how grateful he was because, having read my blog, he was able to help a young student who’s mother was going through chemo.

My phone line has been down for a few days and so I’ve been offline. It’s been quite nice to have a break from phone calls and the addictive pull of the computer. I get about ten phone calls a day from friends wanting up-to-date bulletins, and although I love to hear from people, it has, in fact, been quite peaceful and I actually managed to read a book which I haven’t had time to do for a while!

Note to friends of chemo patients – If you are not immediate family or very closely involved, one call a week is plenty and very much appreciated!

I’m now half way through my 2nd Chemo cycle and, in many ways, it has been an easier ride than the first one. Due to several factors, I believe.

1. Change of medication for nausea

Having told the doctors at the Marsden about the 3 day high I got on dexymethasone causing insomnia and upset stomach etc followed by an exhausted crash on the fifth day, they have changed the prescription for the three days of nausea. This new drug does not have the stimulant effect and is much easier on the stomach.

2. I have been taking the Medicinal Herbs

Two lots of 4 tablets and capsules twice a day and a pot of herb tea which were made up specially to suit my FEC chemo by the Haven’s Alex Haig who assured me that these healing and detoxifying herbs would help my body heal and get rid of the chemicals and I believe that has happened as my tongue is now nice and pink again after a week on them this time.

This has resulted in a different but better sequence of events in that without the previous chemical “high” I felt pretty ghastly on days two and three after the injections this time. Sort of like a ton of grey concrete has been poured into you. Pinning you to the bed with its weight causing nausea and coating your mouth with unpleasant saliva and great thirst. I also slept and slept and slept as there was no stimulant effect. But by day four, was well enough to totter out to lunch with my friend Diana and have a jolly time with 6 others. I was also able on day 1 to go out with the family to celebrate my birthday and eat well at our favourite Thai restaurant, the Blue Elephant at Fulham Broadway before the chemo cloud descended.

Since then I have had a very enjoyable few days feeling pretty well.

In addition to the change of medication and the continuing love & support of my family and friends, His Naughtiness has poured some loving midnight oil on my wounds via phone calls from the hospital. His total acceptance of me in this condition is so very healing and helpful.

The ongoing outpouring of love from just about everyone I know, continues to amaze me. I was trying to explain this to my friend Sue before the Carol concert in the beautiful chapel at the newly renovated Fulham Palace last night. She couldn’t understand why I was so surprised. I guess, as usual, the misconception that I am unlovable unless I am healthy; looking attractive and being successful originated in childhood.

My parents, God bless them both, did the very best they could and were as loving as they were able to be, however, the damage incurred by two albeit glamorous and charismatic alcoholic parents vis a vis lack of support, trust, being there emotionally and the total absorption in each others’s “bad” behaviour does not instill confidence and self worth in children, and has taken a lifetime to shift. I don’t ever remember witnessing much care for other’s welfare. I don’t remember my parents ever visiting someone ill in hospital; People were rarely invited for supper at my house – only to grand parties once in a while . If I complained of feeling nervous or anxious, I was immediately medicated. I was given valium to take my driving test! And speed to keep me awake at the theatre. Brandy was the favourite for shock. We didn’t talk about or explore our feelings, and my mother’s mental illnesses were kept behind closed doors and hidden. Acceptable, to me meant you had to be viewed as beautiful or talented – preferably both – and rich and successful to boot. But the fact is that even though I was born to beautiful, rich, successful parents who managed to christen me in Westminster Abbey, and who lived a life that most people would envy alongside the likes of Ian Fleming and movie stars of the day, never gave me an iota of self worth, in fact the opposite applied because I could not seem to live up to the ideal

The paradox and gift that I am receiving now, is that even minus one boob, not working and with hair that is half its normal volume (which is leaving the scene as we speak), I have never felt so loved, accepted and needed by the people around me and this is treasure indeed! Gifts and cards continue to arrive on a daily basis from friends who have just heard and messages come from people like Florence, my dentists’ lovely receptionist and the girls at the beauty shop in Munster Road. Today I was taken to my 12th step meeting by Mary and then to lunch at the Baker and Oven off Walton Street with Mary and Deborah, and yet again, was firmly not allowed to pay!

I did pull out the cancer card last night. There were drinks and nibbles in the new great hall at Fulham Palace for an hour before the concert and not a chair in sight. “Would it be possible to have a chair please – I’m not very well and can’t stand for long?” I said to the lady organiser who was whizzing about in a stressed sort of way. “We don’t really have any extra chairs” she started to say “Only I’m on chemotherapy” I continued. A chair was produced in 30 seconds flat!!

I have to be very careful not to get an infection for the next four days as my white blood cells are being zapped and I would not be able to fight it, so if I do go out, I try not to touch door handles and rails and, as Connie keeps banging on “Please don’t touch your nose mouth or eyes, honey, promise me” as that and the breath are the germ vehicles. It’s a good idea to carry antiseptic wipes with you and I also put some Lavender aromatherapy oil on a hanky and hold it to my nose it I think someone looks a bit fluey.

Had a lovely conversation with my gynaecologist Mr Lyndsay McMillan this morning, who was responsible for the almost immaculate conception, although of course Robin is unmistakably the father, of the triplets born to his wife Jenny after many years of infertility. Lyndsay said that I must remember that all cases of breast cancer – at whatever stage; whether early or advanced; with or without lymph node invasion, carry an 86% chance of being healthy and well after five years.

I asked him what he thought my chances were and he said that they will probably have to take a contract out on me at 95!!! Seriously, my chances then start at 86% and rise because of no lymph node invasion. I also asked him if, because of my condition, and because I have a fibroid in my womb, whether they was an increased chance of this turning nasty and he mentioned something about Rocking Horse manure and we had a really good laugh.

Went to a beautiful carol service tonight at the Wetlands animal centre. Outdoors with candles and sheep and Mia’s school choir which she is in, singing two carols on the balcony. Feel very Christmassy this year. More so than usual, and so grateful for everything and everyone.

Friday, December 1, 2006

R.I.P Kevin McClory

Yesterday was the last day of the 1st cycle and I was feeling as well as I’m going to feel physically, but anxious because I had taken on a photographic assignment in the evening that involved 7 hours on my feet wielding cameras, and rushing about. I am 2 months out of hospital for major surgery, currently undergoing chemotherapy and a pensioner! The event was the Elior Awards of Excellence. Elior is a Catering company par magnificence. I have worked with them for nearly 20 years. First, when they were ‘High Table’, then when they were taken over by ‘Avenance’ and now as ‘Elior’. They run the in-house catering for the head offices of companies such as Deutsche Bank in the City and Marks and Spencers and a multitude of others and I didn’t want to risk losing their business and need some money for Christmas presents so I took the booking.

HN suggested that I rest all day so I put my feet up and ‘received’ several phone calls from Barry Fitzgerald (Edison Lighthouse original member of the group;) Caroline Upton; Lisa; Jenny about the triplets’ annual Christmas card, Caroline Hollingrake about her baby’s Christmas pix, Zelda about her computer (have put her on to Winston) Avril, Connie and Henry to wish me good luck for tomorrow; an invitation to Lesley McCormack’s Christmas party on 21st December; a royalty cheque from EMI for £150 for “We Don’t Belong”, and sadly, emails from Graham Rye (Double-O-Seven magazine) and Andrew Lycett (Ian Fleming biographer) announcing the news of Kevin McClory’s death on November 20th.

McCLORY, Kevin Nov. 21, 2006, (peacefully), surrounded by his family. He will be remembered for his love and larger than life presence in the lives of his family and friends. Cremation Service has taken place privately. A celebration of Kevin's life will take place at a later date. As Ned Kelly always said “Such is Life”!

It’s strange to think that Jon, my brother, and I are now the only survivors who were present when the first James Bond screenplay was being created in 1959. In spite of our differences with Kevin - he was a rogue but a charming one, and someone you couldn’t help being fond of in spite of all our grievances on behalf of Dad. May he Rest In Peace now.

Mass and I set off for the awards in a cab at 4.30 and arrived at The Tower of London an hour later. The Ceremony was in a massive marquee erected inside the Moat on the north side of the Tower. I felt a bit unsteady to begin with and my eyes were still a bit watery, but gathered speed and strength once we got going and could have gone on to the after party but, sensibly, came home at midnight to get some sleep before tomorrow when the 2nd cycle begins!