Thursday, 30 October 2008

Dark thoughts...

I guess we all have them - those horrible dark thoughts that keep you awake in the middle of the night. Usually you can push them to one side, ignore them and think of something nicer. But sometimes they keep creeping back in, intensifying and magnifying, making sleep impossible.

The last few nights have been particularly bad. Its always the nights isnt it? The cold light of dawn chases these thoughts away like the demons they are.

Recently my demons have consisted of thinking what it will be like for my family when Im no longer here. What will it be like for Martin going into our bedroom, opening my wardrobe and seeing the clothes I will never wear again? I cant quite imagine it, well I can - I just dont want to.

I dont want to think of my family with a big 'Jane sized' hole in it.

Maybe this is a bit self indulgent - after all, I wont be here. I have the easy part of this deal, its Martin and the children who will have to handle the fallout.

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Hello Blogger !

Well here I am in my new home, Blogger. The migration process was much easier than I expected - in fact it was simple. Not too sure about the font though, but I suppose I'll get used to it. In fact Blogger has quite a few extra features, which when I have worked out how to use them, should prove very useful.

Mary, my MacMillan nurse, managed to hunt me down this week after me avoiding her for a couple of months. Its not that I dont like her, she's lovely, it's just that Im not ready for the whole MacMillan/Hospice thing yet - especially whilst Im still feeling so well. Martin has recently completed a 'carers course' at the Hospice which he says he found very useful. Mainly because he knows that the support is there, both emotional and practical, when the need should arise. Personally I think he enjoyed the home made cake and company of the nurses !
Anyway, Mary and I had a lovely chat and decided that I would contact her if and when I need her and she would phone every couple of months to make sure Im ok.
I know the time is going to come when I do need her and its comforting to know she is there, ready.

No two cycles on Sutent are the same, side effects wise, so it's no real surprise that whilst last month was easy, this month is already proving to be quite difficult. Week 2 of cycle 7 (seven already !) and my hands are falling to pieces, my mouth is sore, Im running to the loo regularly and suffering the most awful cramps. I get cramp in the strangest places - along my shins, in my hands and in my stomach and its so painful for a few moments it literally doubles me up. But it doesnt last long. And its just a side effect of the drug that is keeping me alive. However it can be a bit embarrassing when it hits me in the middle of Tescos and Im bent over the frozen food counter groaning !

One 'side effect' Im trying to ignore at the moment is the amount of weight I put on during our cruise. Despite all the exercise I put on 7 lbs - and Martin 10 lbs ! I defy anyone not to put on weight with all the fabulous food that was on offer. It will come off slowly Im sure - just in time for the next one !

I know Ive only been back from our cruise just over a week but Ive got itchy feet again. There are so many places I want to see and although the 'panic' I felt until recently to try and do everything at once has passed, I still feel the need to not waste a single moment. At the end of this month Martin and I are going to Biarritz for a long weekend. Years ago, before we married, we drove to the South of France, camped, and loved it. We have always promised ourselves we would return and now seems a really good time to go. This time, with only 4 days, we are flying there - and staying in the loveliest little French hotel. I'll be in the fourth week of Sutent then so I hope there are plenty of loos handy !

Martin is already worrying about what I may be planning next - he is running out of leave from work !

Friday, 17 October 2008

Tea and Gossip

Tia and Chris

Mike and Kath.

Once again we found ourselves very much the 'younger' set on board - by a long shot in some cases.  Shortly after leaving Messina the ship had to turn round and return so an elderly passenger who had been taken ill could be transfered to hospital.  And the following day sadly we had someone die after suffering a heart attack in one of the restaurants.  These incidents, combined with several injuries - gashed leg, broken arm -ensured the ships doctor was kept busy that week.  Fortunately I was very well all week with just minor side effects from Sutent so I didnt need to call on his services.

We made some lovely new friends - Tia and Chris - and Mike and Kath - all of them with the same great sense of humour which meant I spent an awful lot of time laughing - definitely the best medicine.  Which is more than can be said for the ships 'comedian'.  We had all looked forward to this night, a break from Bingo and Play your Cards Right, so it was a HUGE disappointment.  He was awful.  Truly truly awful.  Old stale jokes, inappropriate political comments looking for the audiences approval and constantly looking at his watch.  He wasnt the only one - I couldnt wait till his act was over either.

Towards the end of the week we received an invite to the Captains Cocktail Party !  Wow, did we feel honoured !  And spent a lot of time gloating and waving the invite under the noses of Mike and Kath - that is until the night arrived and they waltzed in too.  They had kept quiet about their invite to see our faces when they turned up !  Actually it was a really nice evening with free champagne (ok - it was Cava) and canapes and a band playing.  I even put on a long posh frock specially.

One of my favourite times in the day was 'afternoon tea'.  This consisted of home made biscuits and cakes and sandwiches and was served on the top deck.  It was a great time to get together and gossip about the days events and what had happened to other passengers.  In Naples one unfortunate couple missed the ship sailing and had to get a train to our next destination to reboard.  I dont think they set foot ashore again after that experience !

The week simply flew past and all too soon it was our last evening - except for Tia and Chris who were staying on for a second week the lucky things !  We had a fabulous week made even more special by the company of our new friends - its something I will never forget and I hope they keep in touch.

Thank you Tia, Kath, Chris and Mike - thank you for all the laughs, for your company and for the wonderful memories.


Toulon and Barcelona

Toulons pretty harbour.

Despite being sandwiched between Marseille and Nice, Toulon has to be one of the prettiest and nicest French towns I have visited.  It is a million miles away from the harsh image of St. Tropez with little narrow French streets, a bustling fruit and vegetable market and a lovely harbour front lined with bars and restaurants serving typical Provencal food.

After a morning wandering around the town and buying bits and pieces from the market this is where we found ourselves for the afternoon.  Sitting in a restaurant packed with locals enjoying Sunday lunch, in the company of a couple of friends from the cruise - Tia and Chris.  Several happy hours were spent sitting in the sunshine gossiping and drinking lager (them) and water (me) before we staggered (them) back to the ship just before it sailed.

Las Ramblas in Barcelona.

Barcelona is simply huge.  There is simply so much to see and do there its just not possible in one day so we decided to investigate the Las Ramblas area of the city, and that is big enough in itself.  Its mainly a shopping area but includes the gothic quarter with some fabulous old Spanish architecture.  After a couple of hours walking around my legs were complaining again, I must have walked miles and miles, so we sat down in a lovely square and just peopled watched for an hour.  Im actually amazed, and I know Martin was too, at how far I walked all week.  I have to admit I did find it absolutely exhausting but I was so determined not to miss anything.  And my feet were fine - the 'corn' hasnt made a reappearance yet !



Friday, 10 October 2008

Up Pompeii

My legs ache.  In fact my calves are killing me today.  I really hadnt any idea of what Pompeii would be like but I expected a nice gentle stroll through some ruins, peering at a few pots.  Oh no, its not like that at all.  Its more like The Krypton Factor.

We docked in Naples nice and early and once again Martin and I decided to eschew the organised excursions and do our own thing.  That is - go to Pompeii on the train.  First we had to run the gauntlet of Napolitan taxi drivers.  They are a determined bunch - and they tell fibs.  All of them telling us the train would be as expensive as hiring a taxi for the day.  My maths has never been brilliant but at 100 Euros for a taxi and 2.4 Euros for a train ticket even a Labour Chancellor could work out which was the cheapest.

Naples itself is - well, to be honest, its a bit of a dump.  And the traffic is dangerous, almost on a par with Rio.  Trying to cross the road is really taking your life in your hands, the roads dont seem to have any lanes and cars and buses and mopeds come at you from all directions.  The Italian style of driving is 'if all else fails lean on your horn - and then stick your fingers out of the window'.

Eventually we made it to the station, unscathed, where we met up with another adventurous couple off our boat, Mike and Kath, who were going to Pompeii too.  Deciding it would be much more fun to get lost as a foursome we teamed up, managed to buy our tickets and even find the right platform.  The station was heaving - really really busy - packed with Italians wearing thick coats and jumpers when it was over 25 degrees outside !  I guess that must be a chilly day for them.

The entire train journey only took 30 mins and for most of that time we were in the shadow of Vesuvius.  It really dominates the sky line there, your eyes are drawn to the long extinct volcano which caused such devastation all those years ago.  Now, ofcourse, its slopes are grassy greenand a great part of it cultivated.  The beast has been tamed.

Pompeii is, quite rightly, a World Heritage site.  Work is ongoing there and some experts believe only two thirds of the town has been so far uncovered.  Which makes you wonder just how big this town was because at the moment it is massive.  Street after street after street of houses, bars, shops, spas evidence the Roman way of life.  Most of which seems to have been centred around sex.  All the beautiful frescos in the houses have naked women cavorting on them - it would be a bit like having page 3 plastered all over your living room.

One of the most popular establishments, then and now, was the brothel.  Situated down a little side street its presence was announced by the carving of a very large erect penis on the pavement outside the entrance - strangely there was nothing at all on the pavement outside the exit !

Adultery was illegal in Pompeii then - but in the true tradition of male skewed thinking - using a brothel was not.  A man didnt even have to converse with the women who worked in there.  Instead of telling her his 'requirements' there were pictures on the wall detailing the various positions and all he had to do was point at the one he wanted.

Most roman towns had a forum, a place where all the political wheeling and dealing was done, and the one in Pompeii is very impressive.  Bascially it looks like a football pitch but with huge columns around the outside.  Leading up to this the streets were full of small shops which sold bread, wine, olive oil etc and so were the equivalent of fast food.  It just goes to show - things havnt changed that much really.

We were exploring the town for well over 2 hours - up and down the steep streets with their ankle twisting cobbles - hence my aching calves today - but it was the most amazing experience.  Martin and I wouldnt have missed it for the world.  It was however very hot there - and I can imagine it must be stifling in the heat of mid summer.  So probablybest avoided then.

All the time we were wandering about, out of the corner of your eye, just around the corner, rising up from behind each tree was Vesuvius - looming over the town - it really made you think how catastrophic that day must have been 2000 years ago when it erupted and swallowed Pompeii up whole - to preserve it for us.


(My blog will be migrating to when I return - and have worked out how to do it!)

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

All at sea.

There is nothing quite like it - flying out of a dank and miserable and cold Birmingham and landing in a warm and sunny Palma.  And it was warm indeed - we were soon divesting ourselves of the layers of clothing needed when we left home early that morning.

The super efficient cruise organisation took over once again and very soon we found ourselves in our cabin, just along the corridor from where Caroline and I were - except we had a window !  A real proper window, not just a teeny port hole.  It made such a difference with the sunshine pouring in.  We quickly unpacked and trotted off to lunch.

Generally I would say the average age is even older this time - there are a lot of groups of older (70+) women travelling together, mostly widows we found out, and it was with such a group we were seated at lunch.  It didnt take long for Martin, the silver tongued lounge lizard, to have them giggling and twittering and fluttering their eyelashes.  So this was the start of what has been dubbed 'Martins Harem' - and its been added to greatly since then.  I think he sees the start of a new career here as ships giggalo.  They all seem to adore him for some reason, at least 4 of them have started knitting jumpers for him !

The food is as excellent as ever, Martins eyes lit up when he saw the rhubarb crumble and custard - honestly, you would think I never fed him at home the way he attacked it, greatly encouraged by his harem who love to see a man eat apparently - yes, but at this rate girls youll need to increase the size of those jumpers !

After lunch I gave him a quick tour of the ship, pointing out the gym on the way, then we settled down for a nice lazy afternoon in the sunshine.

Palma is such a pretty port with its castle on the hill and cathedral all lit up in the evening - and the boats !  Honestly, millions of pounds worth of sea going vessels moored up, although you rarely see anyone onboard.

Bingo remains the highlight of the evenings entertainment for many of the passengers but having learnt my lesson last time we steered well clear of it - I didnt want to fall foul of the 'Bingo Mafia' again.  Instead we decided to try out the casino - where Martin promptly lost 50 Euros in record time on the roulette wheel.

The first day is spent at sea - eating and sunbathing mainly.  The weather was gorgeous, not too hot but perfect for lying around reading.  Martin disappeared to the gym for a couple of hours and pronounced it adequate for his purposes, then settled down with his growing harem for afternoon tea and gossip. 

I started reading a book aptly entitled 'How to Murder your Husband'...




Saturday, 4 October 2008

SUCH a relief....

Its been a long time coming - 21 months to be exact - but at last it appears I have this bloody disease under control - officially.

I had the results of my CT scan on Thursday.

In the past 5 months one tumour has grown slightly.  All the others are the same, no growth at all.  So I have 'stability'.

Not only has Sutent slowed the growth of the cancer in my body - it has stopped it altogether.

I can hardly find the words to express how fantastic this news is.  After all the set backs and disappointments, after all the nasty vile treatments and procedures and operations, after all the pain and the tears and the worry and fear, after fighting for my very life day by day, week by week - at LAST I can relax a little.

And I intend to, starting on Tuesday when Martin and I go on our cruise.  We really DO have something to celebrate now and we can do it in style.

Ofcourse I realise Sutent could stop working at any moment - who knows how long this will last ?  But however long, or short, it is Im going to make the very best of it and enjoy every single second because I really think Ive earned it.....