Sunday, December 23, 2007

Time to Eat, Drink and Re-Marry!

Its the night before the night before Christmas Day. It'll soon be all over. Why am I never ready on time? As usual there are dozens more things to do tomorrow than I can fit in the day and I'm exhausted before it all begins!

Having said that, I do love the run up to Christmas. The glitter, excitement and warm fuzzy feelings towards family and friends.

I have not had the time or energy to write for a while, but to anyone who is concerned, I am doing fine. Cheerful again, and getting better every day. It has taken a while to get over the havoc the hormones created - my muscles are still very stiff and achy and I have trigger thumbs, but I am told this will disappear in time and I should be able to get back to work eventually without having to ask my son in law to change films for me and having to lie down for two days after I do!

It's so good to look back to this time last year when I was in the middle of chemo. I practically had to be propped up at the Christmas Dinner table with weepy eyes and feeling like a bag of cement.

We are all off to Mass's mum's as we take it in turns each year.

Here I am with my darling Auntie Amy - 6 months away from her telegram from the Queen! Last year I wasn't well enough to attend her carol service at St Luke's - the old people's home, where she lives, but today just got there in time in spite of the thick fog most of the way to Oxford.
I rushed in and found a seat waiting for me next to Amy. Her blue eyes lit up when she saw me, and, after engulfing her in a huge hug and returning the dental plate with several teeth on it to its owner in the next seat, I sat down and joined in the carols with gusto. Whenever I think I'm getting old I remind myself that Auntie Amy is 35 years older than me and happier than when she was 18. She is cheerful, grateful and never complains and everyone adores her.

There have been three new diagnosis of breast cancer in my immediate circle. Anyone who is brave enough to look at my early writings - you have to go back to earlier posts as this journal runs backwards. may find it helpful. There's no need to be afraid to look, and I hope you will find my journey comforting and the great experience that I have. Apart from the 10 day terror at the beginning when I was diagnosed, I have found a way through it all with love and support from all sorts of directions.

Wintershall Nativity was as magical as ever. The tiny foundling baby who was born in prison, about 6 weeks ago, was wrapped in swaddling clothes this year - unlike last year when the baby wore a white Mothercare all in one with a hood!

Below are photos of Mia's dancing school production - as an orphan in Little Annie. With the Bishop of London at her confirmation and Ruth and co skating at Kew Gardens.

Not going to say much more or I will be even later for Christmas. Just want to wish you a wonderful time - Spread as much love around as you can . Eat, Drink and Re-marry! I leave you with a few pics which have accumulated since last writing . Happy Christmas and God bless all.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

The Quest

"And this is my quest, to follow that star, no matter how hopeless, no matter how far".

The Quest is to be who we are with all our madness”.

My ‘quest’ as a young girl was to simply appear normal to others. My background though privileged was not what I perceived as normal due to my naive expectations that it should be. On the surface, I'm sure my life appeared enviable to others, but below the surface lay the dragons that had to be hidden. My parents’ alcoholism, my feeling of inadequacy and worthlessness and my great fear of people; their expectations and their view of me. I lived in a state of self-centered fear and anxiety which for several years I medicated with alcohol and pills

Along the way, most of the dragons have been confronted. Along the way I shed most of the feelings of inadequacy when I shed the notion of a punishing God. It is not a virtue any more to beat myself up for not being perfect or even ‘good’. I don’t any more believe whatever Higher Power is up there or in us all, cares whether I am ‘good’ or not though I do believe that I shall take from the Universe exactly what I put in and that I am expected to 'try' and to do my best. I am still capable of feeling guilty about my actions but now I just observe the feeling, take what action is necessary - or not, and don’t wallow in the bog. In fact my life has improved enormously since I gave up guilt and there seems to have been no 'punishment' for doing so.

Along the way I learn’t that “MY FEELINGS ARE VALID” This was a big key to self acceptance. I learned that if I say I like blue and you say you prefer green, that doesn’t mean that my love of blue is wrong! It doesn’t mean that you probably have a degree in colour and what do I know about it anyway as I never went to university and only got 5 “O” levels. It means that we each like different colours and that is VALID – not right or wrong.

I have come to learn to change the negative voices in my head into positive’s. The ”what if the lab ruins my film” or “what if I’ve done a bad job and I have to face my clients having failed them” thoughts on the way to the lab are swiftly and now automatically – through long practice - changed to “Expect good things, Sylvan” and “Everything is a gift, a lesson or a test” therefore everything that happens to me is useful.

Along the way, I have learned to say "I'm sorry"; "I have made a mistake", and, "I don't know how to do this".

This saying is on my computer and is a truth for me. “Uncomfortable thoughts make uncomfortable feelings. Change the Thought”. That’s all I have to do. When I am in emotional pain it is because I have a negative thought or belief going on. A thought that causes pain is not the truth. When I change the painful thought “I’m not good enough” to “I am enough, I have enough, I do enough, I don’t have to be perfect or good - and neither does anyone else” the pain goes away.

That doesn’t mean to say I don’t get scared sometimes, and it’s very, very hard to be positive when you are feeling ill.

I have, in fact, just come out of quite a down period caused mainly by a bad reaction to the side effects from the hormone treatment that the Marsden, in their greatly appreciated wisdom, wanted me to continue with, and I have decided, in the interests of quality of life to discontinue it. I certainly don’t recommend that everyone follows my example and, if my prognosis for lack of return was not so good, I would not contemplate it, but 3 months of Arimidex caused me tendon stiffness and turned me into a semi-invalid. I then changed to Tamoxifan and a month later the hormones and menopausal symptoms upset my mental balance and had made me quite depressed. I returned to the Doctor and asked them to once again punch my statistics into the computer and tell me what the results would be if I didn’t take this stuff for the next five years. They came up with a 1.7% difference in the outcome ( in my case) which (for me) is not enough to risk my cheerfulness and love of life so I’ve stopped taking it. In addition, (I speak only for myself, again), I am still receiving the Herceptin drip every three weeks till next March which adds a 50% risk of non return to the statistics and that makes more sense and apart from being slightly more tired, does not cause any other side effects.

I recently learnt a new technique at the Haven Breast Cancer Clinic who give wonderful support to people going through the crisis of this illness. First I have to name my fear. One one occasion as I was commencing chemotherapy, it was, naturally, the thought of losing my hair. Gosia taught me to say out loud. “Even if I lose every hair on my head and I wake up in the morning to find the whole lot on my pillow, I love and accept myself and I AM LOOKING FORWARD TO IT". (Almost impossible to say this but once uttered a change takes place) and then, followed by “Even though I don’t lose a single hair on my head and it stays healthy and thick, I love and accept myself and I AM LOOKING FORWARD TO IT". This is such a powerfully transforming thought process. But you have to say it out loud. Try it with your worst fears and see what happens. After I had done this exercise I was surprised with the realization that I would almost miss the experience of losing my hair if it didn’t fall out. As it happened I lost most of it except my fringe, and it never bothered me at all. In actual fact I enjoyed being able to create my little hats which I wore happily.

A therapist once told me how amused she was that I kept asking her what was normal behavior. She said most of her clients were trying to be different!

I have come to learn along the way that there is no 'normal'. If anything, dysfunctional is ‘normal’. We live in chaos and it is a miracle that we survive it all. It is a great privilege just to be here.

I am part angel, part beast - just like everyone else. I am a spiritual being having a human experience. The human experience is hard for a spiritual being but if I soldier on and am able to be honest and open I will be shaped into the person I was meant to be by my life’s experiences - good and especially the (seemingly) bad.

I have had quite a bit of ‘shaping’ already!

I like this saying: “ Success is the ability to be comfortable with those around me and to want what I have”.

My quest nowadays is to be comfortable with who I am, with all my madness, and to be comfortable with and love others with all theirs, and to be content with what I have.

I have still a long way to go, but I certainly have come a long way too.

This months happy moments include:

The news that Barry George’s innocence is to be re-evalued. Nobody in Fulham believes that he killed Jill Dando including his ex-wife. My own theory is that Jill was expecting someone for lunch, as she had bought two Dover Soles at 10am that morning in the King Street Mall. As she was due to go out for supper with her fiancee that night, it seems likely that the fish was to be consumed at lunchtime and unlikely that she would put that expensive fish in the fridge or freezer for the next day? Perhaps her lunch companion sent someone else in his or her place with a gun that had a special bullet that didn’t make too much noise. It certainly wasn’t Barry George. Anyway, I do hope he is released soon and compensated well for a terrible injustice.

Halloween - Trick or Treating with Mia, Isadora and Imogene and joined by local (on the beat again thank God) police.

Chris and Lis’s wedding was fabulous. They were driven from the ceremony in Chris's father's old Rolls 20 which had been bought by Tony Porter a few years ago in a run down state and restored to concours condition. Tony and his wife Iris very kindly lent and drove it for the day. Mia and Page made beautiful bridesmaids. Lisa looked radiant and the whole event was a tasteful and happy occasion.

Chris's best man Jerry made a hysterically funny speech; the food was superb and (watch out Russell) I caught the bouquet - or rather Lisa threw it to me!!!! (for more photos go to and click on yellow winking sun)

Claire's new arrival - little Olly. Claire Nicholls is the most brilliant refexologist and works on my feet about once a fortnight. She is a natural healer and amazingly intuitive and I'm quite sure has helped me get through the chemo as well as I did. Now that Olly is here, she has been working on my feet with him in a sling, but last time he was too big so Mia held him which was a great thrill for her. If you want the best reflexologist in town phone her on 07985 077 227.

Mia's home made biscuits. Mia is becoming a great cook and had progressed amazingly from her mud pie with tea bags and all my herbs and anything else in the cupboard concoctions when she was three to some very tasty and creative bickies. She still does not follow a recipe so they are different (and improving!) every time. Pictured is her latest offering.

Kiny & Co We had a delicious lunch with Kiny, Nick, Isobella and Marina in their work in progress house in Hurley followed by a trip to the Les Lions Polo Farm which is managed by Nick. Mia and Isobella rode the two tiny Shetland Ponies and I took pictures of the amazing tack room full of Stirrups and Saddles, Boots and Stick and Hats neatly arranged round the walls.

Weekend with Annie & Paul in Gloucestershire. Wonderful weather, walks and food in my oldest friend Annie's beautiful new home. I had the most exciting bath I have ever had (on my own that is) in her new bathroom which is stunning with its blue LED lights and candles. I was so relaxed I forgot to take a picture of it but will next time. I also enjoyed playing football with Pickles the corgi who fetches, fields and dribbles the ball just like a real player. And I just had to take a picture of Sunday lunch. I think I gained about 4 lbs in two days as the food was so good but it was worth it. Old friend Kerry and I drove down in my lovely Noddy car. He is quite immobile having broken all the bones and tendons in his foot "coming out of Annabelle's" hmnnnn!!! and is getting about on a sort of zimmer frame scooter.

This brings me to the end so I'll leave you with this sign spotted in Marsham on the way home (tou b)

Monday, October 1, 2007

Love and Happiness

“You will always have a lucky star
That shines because of what you are

Even in the deepest dark - because your aim is true

“And-if-I-could only have one wish,
Darlin’ then it would be this
Love and Happiness ….For you”

Love and Happiness – and sunshine!

That’s what we all want no matter who, where, what, we are.

It’s cold and wintry in London. A lot of people are feeling down. We haven’t had enough warm for it to get cold again.

I like many others I know around me have been feeling a bit glum this month. I don’t really know why. The aches and pains have improved. The tooth extraction has healed. The mortgage is covered this month and we are all relatively healthy, but the hole in the soul is there nevertheless and I am riding it and hoping it will go away soon. . Perhaps the wintry weather came too soon after a disappointing summer – the worst on record

The shock of returning to the cut and thrust of London life after an idyllic two and half weeks in gentle and beautiful Mallorca has something to do with it. The lack of a project or something to look forward to is another factor. Perhaps the change in my hormones is contributing. The fact that I am not grateful enough for everything I have is certain. I am also not “giving what I wish to receive” which is a most brilliant piece of wisdom. Trouble is I am not sure what I wish to receive. Anyway, I must allow the fallow field to mature and eventually put forth its fresh creation. In the meantime I can cheer myself with some love and happiness in my life recently.

I want to introduce you to my Owls. I have been collecting owls for a few years now. Night birds with large eyes; fragile and strong, and supposedly wise. I feel an infinity with owls. My father used to call me his “little wise owl” when, at the ripe old age of 18, I sat up counselling him on the state of his marriage to my mother till the wee hours as he worked his way through yet another gin and tonic and Charlie, our budgerigar, ran down his arm to sip from the glass and stagger back up to his shoulder again!

There have been three newcomers this month. The Mosaic one on the left is from Aimi and Mass who found it in the Pollensa market in Mallorca. The glass one on the right is from Mary Morris who brought it back from Italy, and the central wax candle owl is from Penny Tham who brought him back from France. She says the hair style wick reminded her of my new hairstyle!!! They will be added to my growing collection of owls who bring a smile on a day like this.

Mia is approaching her teenage years at gathering speed!

Her new fun thing to do after school is to dress up in my clothes and wigs (never worn) and pretend to be a model.

Avril and I had hysterics when Winston found himself kitted out in my blonde wig and sunglasses by Mia and her friend Issy whilst trying to sort out my laptop. These two young ladies dressed up in my clothes are 8 year olds – heaven help us in a couple of year’s time!!

In spite of the grey clouds, some good things have happened this month which I am grateful for:

Kathryn Johnson at British Library has found “Ill Wind” the manuscript of the play my father wrote about his war years spent defending Iceland which was broadcast by the BBC in 1946 and toured England with the “White Rose Players”. She will have it copied for me so that I can read it for the first time and let Arni, my recent Icelandic visitor have a copy.

John Cork, who makes all the pre film documentaries on the Bond films, has asked me for a picture of Dad for the new Special edition Casino Royale DVD due out in January. This will be the first time that Dad has been officially recognised by Eon.

I took my childhood Doctor Lytle now 87 years old out for lunch last week. It was wonderful to see him again after about 50 years. He was one of my life’s “Good Warriors” as the Native American Indians say, and we reminisced all afternoon about life in Oxshott in the 50’s and all the things that happened to my family and his, and others in the village. I have vivid memories of seeing him at his surgery where his beloved long haired Dachshund would always be lying by a cosy gas fire. John would prescribe medicine and advice along with a funny story or joke before one left always feeling better for seeing him. Or he would stride into the sickroom at home with his black Doctors bag and reassuring smile, sit on the bed and make you stick your tongue out and you knew everything was going to be alright. They don’t make them like that anymore – sadly they don’t seem to have enough time for 'Bedside Manner' nowadays .

After a good lunch at the Fairmile in Cobham I went back to his home for tea and he asked me to select a book from his bookcase to keep. I chose “The Moon is a Balloon” by David Niven which I have read in the past but don’t have a copy of, and I gave him "The Battle for Bond".

On Thursday I spent the afternoon with Caroline Hollinrake choosing pictures of her and her little Arabella. Gave her a Battle for Bond book to give to her boss Eamonn Holmes as he is a Bond fanatic and received a sweet note and two of his books and a signed note back the next day. Have started his biography and am enjoying it immensely. He is a fellow Sagittarian and I recognise his Jupiter personality and jovial good humour.

On Monday 24th Robert Sellers who wrote Battle for Bond and Graham Rye – 007 Forever magazine editor came over and took me out for supper and we had a fun evening telling Bond anecdotes till the early hours.

On Wednesday 26th

I went to a lunch held for the Rainbow Trust - a wonderful charity for children who are terminally ill, and had the great pleasure of meeting Julie Harris – costume designer extraordinaire – now a very glamorous 83 year old. Julie designed costumes for the first Casino Royale with Peter Sellers and for the first Roger Moore Bond “Live and Let Die”. She has also dressed dozens of other very well known films and won the Oscar for “Darling” with Julie Christie.

And my darling Aimi had an ah-ha hem birthday!!!

Now Christmas is hurtling towards us once more. Aimi
has booked us all to go and see the Wintershall Nativity again and we are busy deciding whose house to be in for Christmas Dinner.

Love and you