Friday, June 22, 2007

May is my favourite month

May is my favourite month, but it came early this year and April took it's place. It's now mid June and it’s a year since I started this journal. A year in my life of extraordinary happenings. I sit in the sunshine on my blue bench in my patio garden. The broken slat still holds and the scar on it, similar in many ways to the one that I proudly wear on my chest, Reminds me that “things can be fixed”!.

The treatment I am having now is giving me some unpleasant side effects but the outcome will be worth it. Herceptin causes fatique and the withdrawal of oestrogen plus the addition of the anti- oestrogen drug Arimidex which I have been taking for 2 months now has given me painful ligaments. I have gone for help to the Haven and have been given medicinal herbs and acupuncture to help these symptons. In additon I am to take Omega 3.6.&9 and 3 fish oils per day plus glucosamine to combat it. It will wear off in time and I just have to be patient for at least another six months. I still haven't had a day of depression thanks to the support I've had - anything else is just a detail and I feel emotionally strong and very grateful.

Above my head is a small plaque that reads “There’s nothing worth the wear of winning, but laughter and the love of friends” H.. Belloc, and as I sit under it and feel the warmth of the sun on my head and my new crop of hair, I ponder on how very true that is and has become though the quotation has always been with me. I found it on the service sheet of my youngest cousin Mikey who tragically died from a burst appendix at St George’s Hospital – now the Lanesborough Hotel where we held Aimi’s wedding. He was an extraordinary young person. Brilliant scholar and spiritual being. He embraced Sufiism in his teenage years and attracted 200 people from all walks of life to attend his funeral at St Pauls in 1960 aged only 21 years old..

This was one of his favourite quotes and came from the old soul he was and in it’s entirety it reads “From quiet homes and small beginnings, unto the world’s remotest ends, there’s nothing worth the wear of winning, save laughter and the love of friends”.

Laughter and the love of friends is what has carried me through this year and I am humbled by the amount of love and attention I have been given.

Highlights of this month include four baby blackbirds learning to fly in my patio for several days. I fed them black and blueberries and had purple poops all over the place and on the blue bench where they practiced leaping off in

to the flower pots. The mother now comes and calls me for attention and food at the open kitchen door. Photos of the month include Mia and co in my wigs on the blue bench; flower from Bishops Park. Connie's mum Rose will be 100 on 30th June. Unfortunately I am not able to attend the very special party she is having - Happy

birthday Rose and many more!, as I am off to America on Sunday, thanks to the kindness of Michael Vaughan - another old friend who has sent me a ticket and will pay all expenses. All that is expected of me is to rest and have a good time. I am going to Nantucket via New York. Playground of the rich and famous and an island of beauty to stay with a group of friends from the days when I lived in America.

Au revoir mes amis. Will try and send a blog postcard!

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

"You Fill up my Senses Like a Night on the Ocean" John Denver

10th May 2007

My senses are filling up as I relax here on the beach at Calla St Vincente in Mallorca. Gentle breezes and the sound of waves wash over me as I lie contentedly in the warm sun with a book.

I can see a yacht moored a little way out in the bay and memories of “nights on the ocean” flood back. Nights at the helm alone with the moon on the midnight to 4am watch on Dad’s boat crossing from Malta to Sicily. The sense of being at one with the boat and the mysterious dark sea and sky with only moonlight and the neon flecks of phosphorous dancing in the wash from the stern and the swish of the boat surging through the water – onwards, under sail.

Other memories of mornings moored at Gozo and buying fresh mackerel, sleepily at dawn, from the local fishing boats just coming in from sea, and frying it with butter on the little paraffin grill for breakfast with crusty and gooey Maltese bread after Russell had gutted the fish with a sharp knife in a bucket of water on deck.

Nights being rocked to sleep in my bunk by the waves. I miss my Dad. I miss those days. I miss the sense of having a home and parents to go to - just fleetingly.

I have my own home now and I am my own parents - or I can borrow others to stand in and I parent others.

The sun and the sea and the “now” is the same. There is just a different cast list that I will no doubt feel nostalgia for in 20 years time if I am still privileged to be experiencing it all.

I have come here to rest and eat healthily. There is no pressure or work or family and no computer. Very little telly (Eastenders and the News excepted) just clear, clean air, beautiful scenery and colours. Fresh delicious food and some good books and company. What more can a girl ask for?

I am reading a book about the Power Within and have been practising being in the 'Now'. That’s all we ever have - the presence now. We can attempt to control and manipulate our lives but they will unfold as they are meant to anyway. Better to sit back and enjoy the ride having done the best I can a day at a time. How to make God laugh? Tell him your plans!

Chris’s villa is spacious and comfortable and I have emerged from a great bone weary tiredness of the first two days. I had had my Herceptin treatment on the morning before the flight which left Gatwick at 6am. Winston gallantly offered to drive me to the airport. He being the king of the night owls arrived at 3am prompt in his silver Mitsubishi STO Sports Coupe and put my suitcase in the boot. We drove at breakneck speed on (thankfully) deserted roads and motorways under a saffron and rather eerie full moon. Narrowly avoiding hitting a fox that had decided to cross the four lane motorway; its eyes glittered like the cats eyes on the road as it darted in front of us looking in our direction.

My flight left on time but there was about a half hour walk to the gate and I was carrying a heavy carry on bag. Last minute bits and pieces and arrangements plus packing meant that I had not slept all night, but it was a joy to link up with Christopher and Lisa both waving madly in the arrivals hall at Palma after the two hour flight.

For two days I felt ill with exhaustion. My bones and joints ached and I felt cold and listless but slowly after resting and sleeping well I am being restored to about 75% me and am now enjoying myself and my new eyebrows!!!!

Here are some holiday pix of this magical Island full of beauty and wonderful surprises.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Herceptin - the wonder drug

3rd May 2007

I’m back at the Marsden for my 3rd session of Herceptin. Everyone seems pleased to see me. It seems they have been reading the blog and have suggested I put the Cancer Card web details on the bulletin board.

The waiting room was chocker block today and only the odd chair free in between other bodies. I chose one next to a person I intuitively felt I would feel comfortable with; sat down and politely said “Hello? How are you today?” She was wearing a headscarf but there was something very familiar about her face as she said “Not bad thanks”. “I know you” I said, “I know you too” she said looking at my North End Road Market hat with the glittery black rose pinned on with safety pin, “What’s your name?” I said “……..” she said. “….. It’s me, Sylvan” I said and we hugged each other laughing.

My West End hairdresser from days ago when I could afford the top Salons was sitting next to me and neither of us had recognised each other due the big change of matter on the head from our previous blonde locks.

It made the day for me and we compared notes for 20 minutes and tried to blot out the
conversation next to us in which one woman was telling another about what dying might be like or entail!

The usually good vein on my left wrist got canny today and refused entry to the needle for the drip, but another one in my hand accepted it smoothly with “only a little prick” and I am now waiting for the Saline drip to be attached so that I can settle down with a book and a cuppa for the next one and a half hours.

Herceptin - the wonder drug that women went to court to fight for not long ago, has been freely given to me by the National Health at a cost of £25,000 for a year's supply. It is administered at 3 weekly intervals by way of a drip from a plastic bag containing a clear liquid and it is believed that it will cut down any risk of the return of my cancer by 50%, and giving me a 94% chance of non return and being alive and well in 10 years time. Gratefully, I receive today's £1,400 worth of medication and settle down with my book.

I am reading “A Short History of Tractors in Ukranian” It’s nothing to do with tractors, in fact, but a very funny book about an 84 year old Ukranian widower long resident in in Britain who falls for a flamboyantly busty Russian gold digger in search of a passport and prosperity and he is in complete denial as to her motives to the great consternation of his children.

My lovely nurse, Lorna, has now inserted the drip and I am beginning to relax except for the fact that I should have had a wee before & I know I will probably have to go in about ten minutes and will have to take the drip stand with me - should be interesting!

The Friends of Royal Marsden trolley has arrived and I have selected an apple juice and a packet of cheese and onion crisps to keep me going till lunch time. Everyone around me seems cheerful and chatty, I have a good book, a comfortable arm chair with my feet up on a stool. Time to write and to read without interruption or any feelings of guilt that I should be doing something other than what I am doing. My cup runneth over.

The weather in Uk has been unusually glorious for about 3 weeks now beating Southern Europe hands down.

Last weekend Aimi and co and I drove down to see my late cousin Digby’s daughter Kinny and her sweet little family in Berkshire.

She has two adorable littlies - Isabella and Marina and we had a delicious cup of tea and cake on the patio together playing pass the baby between us.

Then I took Mia and Isabella to see the chickens. We went right inside the run and I was able to pick up an old but friendly brown hen for them which was a great hit. Not sure they’ll have any eggs for a few days but it was touching to see the children’s faces as they
touched the feathers.

Chris and Lisa came to stay on Tuesday night. It has been a while since we saw each other so we had a grand reunion with champagne (for them - any excuse!!!) and a diet coke for me as it was Lisa’s birthday followed by a slap up meal at the Blue Elephant to celebrate, kindly paid for by Christopher as he has again lost the dieting competition, with more champagne and a cranberry juice and soda for me.

Yesterday I went round the corner with Chris to The Hair Garden, local hairdressers and we both had a short back and sides with Yvonne and Maxine - best hairdressers in Fulham. My hair is about an inch long now and just beginning to look acceptable without a hat. Christopher, who always has the right thing to say says I look like Jean Seberg who had her hair cropped for the movie of “Joan of Arc” a million years ago, but I’m still not ready to put a hatless photo on the blog yet!

11.55 The tea trolley has just arrived with another cuppa and I have to decide whether drink or trundle to the loo first. Decisions decisions. I have decided to go now and have the tea after.


The first requisite for a peaceful mind is an empty bladder” Winston Churchill.

Made it! That’s better! Now for that cuppa.

Russell is never far from my thoughts. He is up to his ears with work in Kentucky but I have had the odd phone call which is always a joy and a delight, and I can feel his presence even though he is so far away.

I’m taking off for Majorca at 6.00am tomorrow morning to stay with Christopher and Lisa. Lisa’s family are visiting also. I’m looking forward to meeting them and to having a good rest hopefully in the glorious sort of weather we have just been experiencing in the Uk. We are hoping to go and see my dear old friend Leapy Lee in cabaret at one of the islands’ top spots one evening.

Leapy, who could be seen recently on BBC's new series of "Never Mind the Buzzcocks" has been a much beloved entertainer, award winning journalist and disc jockey with his own 3 hour show in Mallorca for the past 23 years.

His 60’s chart career was revived with the BBC TV series of Passport To The Sun which ran for four seasons. I’m sure he has lost count of how many times he has sung “Little Arrows” but it is always a thrill to hear it again and to rememberwhen he borrowed Charlie Boston’s guitar and sang it personally and just for Aimi and Mass at their wedding reception. If you are going to Majorca, a trip to see Leapy in cabaret is a must. Details to be found on his website -

Winston Mason is to collect and take me to Gatwick at the unearthly hour of 3am! Well he did volunteer and as he is usually up most of the night, I have graciously accepted and will enjoy the ride with him.

12.40 The lunch trolley has arrived and I’m tucking into an egg sandwich, glass of apple juice and a banana (also courtesy National Health) and chatting to the man next to me who is having hormone treatment for prostate cancer which has been successfully treated although it had been an aggressive one involving 90% of his prostate. He too looks well and jolly.

Having had a further pot of tea and two apple juices, not to mention the litre of expensive liquid chemicals that have been inserted into me, I urgently need another trip to the loo but will wait until treatment finishes in about 10 mins.

1.50pm Time to go home

My old hairdresser friend arrived in the oncology room as I was about to leave, her face aglow and bright blue eyes glistening with the joyful news that today’s result of a recent scan showed that her lung cancer has receded almost completely, and that the oncoming course of radiotherapy should, God willing, remove the rest. To look in someone’s eyes and see and share the relief that they are feeling at that precise moment is truly magical; a privilege, and went straight into my heart and tear glands.

On the way out I was delighted to find an 'owl' on the coat of arms on the 1st floor wall and took it as a good omen. I then spied two ladies head to toe in black sitting side by side awaiting their treatment.

I smiled warmly into the small slits in their face panels and the brown eyes responded to me and they both nodded an acknowledgement. I presumed they were smiling back. That’s my bit for this sad world and world peace today.

That’s all I am able to do. I wonder what would happen if everybody did it?

Providing my ex hasn’t taken a contract out on me due to our recent spat, I am looking forward to arriving at Palma airport courtesy Easy Jet safely at 9.20 tomorrow morning, there to await Chris and Lisa’s arrival 20 minutes later from Coventry. The rented car will whisk us to the villa and peace - wonderful!!!

I’m taking a break from the laptop too, so will report back on the hol on my return circa 12th May.

Au revoir mes cher amis xxx