Sunday, 28 February 2010

family bonding

We had planned a trip to Bristol yesterday to visit Jack, and to enjoy a bit of father and son (and to a lesser extent, mother!) bonding while watching the England-Ireland Six Nations rugby match.  

But we couldn't resist the opportunity to say hello to our new great niece, Esme, and congratulate Nick and Kate in person for the new addition to the Wride here she is!  

As it happened, other family members had the same idea.  Our unplanned visit soon turned into an impromptu family bonding session with the proud grandparents, new auntie and uncle and ourselves, ooohing and ahhhing at every tiny movement and squeak coming from the Moses basket.  Esme is an absolute delight...she even tempted "uncle" Matt to pick her up - his first experience of holding a new baby.   

More family bonding to enjoy next weekend, when Katie and George visit Oxford on Friday and stay over, and we all get behind Jack on Sunday when he runs in the Bath Half Marathon on Sunday to fundraise for Cancer Research UK.

But there are a few other things happening in between.....

Thursday, 25 February 2010

It's the time of the season...

For some reason, the old Zombies' song, Time Of The Season keeps going round and round in my head so, perhaps not surprisingly, it's the theme for today's blog.

The birthday season
Earlier this week Esme, our new great niece, made her appearance.  Any minute now, our neighbours Derek and Marie will become grandparents for the first time (thinking of you Hollie, up there in Glasgow!)  Next week it will be Steve's turn. The period between Valentine's Day and Steve's birthday always seems to fly by, and this year is no exception.  Back last June when Steve was diagnosed with mesothelioma, it crossed my mind that he might not be here for this birthday.  But the thought was quickly set aside, and quite rightly so as it turns out. The birthday cake has been chosen, the fizz is ready to go on ice and in the next few days we'll decide what to do on 2 March, and where to do it. Mmmmm, better get a present sorted :-)

The silly season
The Daily Mail has featured an article under the headline "The Great Asbestos Hysteria: How one man claims the BBC, profiteering firms and politicians have exaggerated the dangers of asbestos"  When will people learn?  There is no known safe level of exposure to asbestos fibres in the atmosphere, regardless of whether its white, blue or brown. Disturb the stuff at your peril, Mr Booker.  

The hospital season
It's almost three months since Steve's last visit to hospital, but we'll be back again next week (thankfully not on Steve's birthday) for another scan and X-ray, the results of which will be discussed with the consultant the week after. Must write the list of options to discuss.....

The season of red tape
Today's post brought two letters - one from the solicitor giving us a progress update on the work they are doing on Steve's compensation claim and asking for clarification of a note in his medical records which refers to two occasions when he was exposed to asbestos "at work" in 1969, possibly in Bristol.  We have no idea where that information came from (he was a student back then) so will need to dig a bit deeper.  The other letter was from the Inland Revenue enclosing a second notice of coding - still incorrect, even though I spent a small fortune on the phone earlier this week trying to sort out ....Here we go again....

The awards season
Well done Jack for reaching and EXCEEDING your fundraising target for cancer research by running in the Bath Half Marathon on 7 March.  Many, many thanks to all of you who have sponsored him. There's still time to sign up - details under fundraising on the right hand side of the page. The weather has not been good for training runs, so Jack is not as well prepared as he hoped to be, but he will do it, of that you can be sure, and we will be there to cheer him on!

Not really an award, but hard on the heels of success in the RHS photography competition and IGPOTY (blog archive for 12 January and 18 February), a couple of my photos have been selected for publication in a photography magazine. More of that another time. 

Spreading the word
Steve's story and a link to the blog is now on the Mesothelioma Info website, along with others who are sharing their experiences. To read about these brave people, click on the link on the right, then on the link to "Mesothelioma Stories".

A busy week lies ahead - more on the birthday boy soon!

Tuesday, 23 February 2010


You may be asking yourself, who on earth is Esme and why has she suddenly taken pride of place on the blog, out of nowhere?  Let me shed some light on this mystery!  Esme is the daughter of our nephew Nick and his partner Kate.  She made her debut on this earth yesterday evening, rather later than expected, but well and perfect. Congratulations to the proud parents, and welcome little one :-))

Esme is the reason we felt justified opening a bottle of wine this evening, to wet the baby's head. No walk today or yesterday, but I'll take a long lunch break tomorrow so we can go into town and choose a birth day present for the newest member of the Wride clan. A good way to catch up on our activity deficit!

Miraculously, my temperature which peaked at 39.5C yesterday is now on its way back down, and the cough that woke me up with this morning seems to have disappeared. Perhaps the swine flu/seasonal flu jabs are working (or perhaps it's the wine, who knows?)  At least now, I'm less worried about passing something nasty on to Steve...we live in fear of him developing a cough so bad that it splits apart the two layers of pleura that were successfully stuck back together with sterilized talc last June, after the fluid was drained from his lung. 

Steve's numbness and tingles continue, but it doesn't seem to be getting any worse. He says its less noticeable after a good night's sleep, before we get up in the morning. That's his excuse for staying in bed as long as possible.  I have no excuse, but for the fact that I like to keep him company....

Monday, 22 February 2010

one step forward, two steps back

I knew it would be a risky strategy to write on the blog about our good intentions to be more active.  After a positive start yesterday with an enjoyable walk in the sunshine, circumstances today are conspiring against us.  

Step back 1: We have woken up to a blanket of snow - again - and it's still coming down quite thickly, in a driving wind. However, as someone once said, there's no such thing as bad weather, only the wrong clothes.  A bit of snow on its own is no reason to stay indoors.  

Step back 2: I woke up this morning with a temperature of 39 C - a significant fever.  No wonder I had a restless night, feeling hot and bothered.  Time to take it easy and reach for the paracetamol, I think.  The good news is that Steve's temperature is normal.

The combination of snowstorm and fever looks likely to keep us inside for the time being.  However, if my temperature drops, the outside temperature rises and the snow stops later today, we may yet get out for our walk.....

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Dealing with "bigger"

Last weekend Steve treated himself to a new pair of cut off trousers in anticipation of spring arriving at some point in the not too distant future.  He bought his usual size without bothering to try them on in the shop, only to find that they were much too tight....So yesterday we walked back into town to change them for a larger size.  I had a similar problems over the last three weeks when I had to wear a business suit to work in London - jacket reluctant to do up and trousers a tight fit.  So it's official - we are both bigger than we should be.

The hours spent sitting around in hospital over a period of five months last year while Steve had his chemotherapy, and driving there and back, has taken its toll.  The change in eating regime from three meals a day to "little and often" which we adopted to help Steve minimize the feelings of nausea, has probably contributed to the problem in my case. No doubt, our ability to find something to celebrate, and thereby justify opening a bottle of wine most evenings, has had an effect on our expanding waistlines.  Not to mention all those cakes in NT tearooms in Steve's rest weeks!

So how will we deal with "bigger"?  I think I will have to decline the biscuit or cereal bar which now tends to come with morning coffee or afternoon tea and will try not to drink alcohol except at the weekends, unless there is something really special to celebrate.  The key, I think, is more exercise.  So we will aim to take a brisk walk of at least 30 minutes every day, and maybe even a gentle jog from time to time if/when Steve feels up to it.  

It won't be the proverbial "walk in the park", as Steve is still experiencing numbness and tingles in his feet which can make it uncomfortable to walk long distances.  However, we both agree that we would benefit from being more active. Now the days are getting longer and green shoots are appearing in the garden, it seems like a good time to get moving again.  Watch out Leo, we want to stop getting bigger.  You will be in for a bit of a jolt!

Thursday, 18 February 2010

little rays of virtual sunshine on a grey day

It's been cold, grey and wet all day, making it hard to feel dynamic and positive.  Although it's still over two weeks away, Steve is already beginning to get just a little bit anxious about the prospect of his next CT scan and X ray, which will tell us what Leo has been up to these last three months.  I think he needs a distraction.  Time to write the birthday list, perhaps?

Any bit of good news is seized upon in such it's nice to have some little things to cheer us up!

This month's RPS Journal included a small piece about the RHS Photography Competition and reproduced my winning image.  On the back of that, the journal has asked me to review a book on garden photography - not paid, but I do get to keep the book afterwards, so I hope it's a good one!  

I discovered today that another image Potting Shed has been commended in the International Garden Photographer of the Year Competition.  I knew it had been shortlisted, but am delighted that it made the final cut this time round

Lastly, it seems that I've had work selected for a mixed media art show being held at the Jam Factory as part of the Oxford International Women's Festival. Here's the poster. That's one of mine in the middle

If you are around this way, I hope you can find time to drop in! 

It's still raining heavily as I write.  I'm sure we will both feel uplifted when there's a break in the clouds and a bit of sunshine manages to squeeze through.  When spring finally arrives, it should be spectacular - the early flowers held up by the harsh weather will be in bloom at the same time as those which normally come after.  We're looking forward to dusting off the NT card and getting out and about again......

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Eight months on.......

It's now eight months since Steve was diagnosed with mesothelioma.  We were home from London in time to celebrate that he is still here, alive and kicking, by tossing a few pancakes in the time-honoured tradition (i.e. messily!)

If you read the blog regularly, you will know that in the last 6-8 weeks, Steve has been troubled by numbness and tingling in his hands and feet - a side effect of the chemotherapy.  It had reached the point where it was starting to affect his driving - when his feet were very numb, he couldn't feel the pedals properly.  On a few occasions, he had ended up covering both the brake and the accelerator when coming to a halt - not dangerous when in neutral, but very noisy with the engine racing, and enough to startle people nearby (not to mention passengers!)  

The good news is that he drove me to London yesterday and home again today without a problem, in spite of the congestion caused by bridge closures in Hammersmith and Chelsea which meant lots of stopping and starting. Indeed, by this evening, the numbness in his left foot was hardly noticeable. Let's hope it stays that way!  

As the last of my hearing sessions is now over, I'll be based at home again.  Tomorrow will be a sorting out day.  Time to unpack the document boxes, put papers in order, catch up with what's been going on "at the office" in my absence and catch up on all the admin.  Then there's the washing, home e-mails to read/respond to, some family matters to sort out - it's amazing how it has built up in just two and a half weeks. 

Time too to start listing all the things we want to discuss with the consultant at Steve's next hospital appointment and give him a bit of a grilling about future treatment options. Back in December when Steve had his last review, six cycles of chemo had left us too exhausted to think about/explore what happens next.  However, afterwards - with no further treatment pencilled in - it felt horribly like we had been cast adrift. 

Next time we are determined to find out more about Steve's options - pros and cons - so that he can make an informed choice about when/whether to take the standard NHS treatment - more Cisplatin but with permatrexed (Alimta); look for another drug trial; find out more about surgery; talk about chemoembolization with Prof Vogl in Frankfurt and other less well known treatments which we have learnt about online. Having that knowledge will help Steve feel that he has some degree of control over the management of his condition, rather than drifting.  A much more positive attitude/frame of mind :-)

Sunday, 14 February 2010

happy gourmet valentine new year!

Xin Nian Kuai Le, 新年快乐

I was born in the Chinese Year of the Tiger, so it's good to see it come round again :-)

Our Valentine celebration started early this year, with a gourmet candle-lit meal at The Nut Tree Inn, Murcott - a gift from Maralyn, my friend from school days at Godolphin and Latymer.  We chose the menu "en surprise", a selection from the main menu, but in taster size portions.  By the time we had eaten our way through seven courses and three different wines, I was beginning to wonder if I would be able to stand up at the end of the meal - quite an exceptional experience!

..Still full of food but undeterred, we treated ourselves to another gourmet meal this evening - this time a little more down to earth: three courses, plus pink fizz and chocolates courtesy of M & S.  I could only manage it by skipping lunch, but we couldn't let Valentines day pass without a celebration!  Steve's card to me was a brilliant Lego heart design in plan, elevation and bird's eye view (he's still a little boy underneath it all!). I gave him a living Valentine of red, dark and light pink tulips (one of his favourite flowers) set in a heart shape arrangement.  Still picking up the tiny bits of forists' oasis from the floor, but it looked fine after surviving a night hidden in the loft!

The passing of Valentine's Day means we are fast approaching our wedding anniversary - we got together on 29 February 1972 and decided to make it official not long after.  Wanting a memorable date for a wedding, we decided against 1 April, which seemed a bit of a joke.  In the end,  we settled on 1 May, a wonderful event in Oxford if you can get up early enough to see (and if you are lucky, hear) the choir sing a hymn from the top of Magdalen College tower, followed by general revelry and festivities including Morris dancing, impromtu music...and the pubs are open too.  We didn't get to May morning that year, but we did get married! 

We're looking forward to this year's anniversary.  Not sure what we'll do yet, but it will be special for us.  Last year we were in Florence, which was when Steve first started feeling ill. My goodness - it seems like another lifetime.  Nevertheless, almost eight months post-diagnosis, he's still going strong, notwithstanding the tingles in his hands and feet, which come and go like tidal waves...just when we think he's getting better, it starts getting worse again.  Very frustrating....

...I'm back in London tomorrow, but will be home for pancakes on Shrove Tuesday :-)  Happy tossing!

Friday, 12 February 2010

small steps forward....

I returned home yesterday from another four days working in London to find Steve in good form.  The numbness and tingling in his hands and feet is no worse and maybe, just maybe, it does not feel quite so bad in his left foot....a small glimmer of hope that this may not be a long term side effect of chemotherapy.

Steve has also received a letter from the solicitor advising him that they will take on his case and pursue a claim for compensation on his behalf.  Until now they have been gathering evidence to assess whether there are sufficient grounds to make such a claim.  It's only the start of what is likely to be a long drawn out process, with no guarantee that the claim will succeed.  But at least it's a step in the right direction, and something that others can move forward on our behalf while we get on with our lives.

In just over four weeks time, our son Jack will be running in the Bath Half Marathon to raise funds for cancer research. He has now raised 77% of his target.  Many, many thanks to all those who have sponsored him so far.  You can find details of how to support him via his Just Giving page in the link on the right hand side, under Fundraising.

Early March promises to be a busy time - it will be Steve's birthday on 2 March and we hope to do something special to celebrate; Katie and George will be back in Oxford on 5 March for a friend's 21st birthday; Jack runs his half marathon in Bath on 7 March, and we will be there as the support team. Steve has a follow-up appointment at hospital the following week, when we will find out what Leo has been up to over the last three months. Let's hope he is still in hibernation.

In the meantime, we have a very special meal out to look forward to this weekend, a present from Maralyn a friend from my school days, a prequel to Valentines Day on Sunday.  I finish my hearing sessions in London on Tuesday, and we should be home in time for pancakes that evening to celebrate Steve still being alive and kicking, eight months after diagnosis.  

Happy birthdays this weekend Peter and Paula - hope to see you Monday night!

Saturday, 6 February 2010

upwardly mobile

As expected, Steve survived perfectly well without me for a few days last week with the help of a few phone calls and e-mails from family and friends, and some delicious home baking - another surprise present from our neighbours, Marie and Derek - thanks everyone for keeping an eye on him.

While I've been away Steve's tingles have changed.  The feeling has come back into most of his fingers and toes, but the tingling sensation has moved up slowly and gradually towards the centre of his body.  He's now having problems with the balls of his feet - not so good when you want to walk into town as we did earlier today...but he made it there and back again, without resorting to the bus.  The numbness in his fingers is wearing off, but his whole arm now tingles when he raises it to waist height.  Quite bizarre. I wish I could wire him up as a sustainable source of energy, with all these tingles, Steve's probably generating enough electricity to power an i-pod.....

We talked today about prognosis - not an easy subject, now that it is almost eight months since diagnosis and according to the statistics, 60% mesothelioma suffers are dead within a year of being told they have the disease.  However, Steve seems well enough in himself.  Given his current condition, we both find it hard to conceive that his health could deteriorate so rapidly that he might not be here in four months time.  Nevertheless, it has spurred us on to think hard about treatment options to discuss with the consultant when he goes back for his next review in March.  It's also an incentive to get a few more things sorted out, like finishing the latest set of Oxford Studio accounts; giving me power of attorney over his affairs; getting those maintenance jobs done around the house....not to mention driving lessons and getting that license....

Whilst I was away last week, Steve did manage to tick one of the items on the "to do" list.  At long last, he has replied to the solicitor's letter which has been sitting there since November - not that there's very much to add about possible sources of exposure to asbestos.  We're not holding our breath in expectation of a successful insurance claim, but at least the reply is now in the post so the wheels are turning again.  

The post also brought good news - three certificates from the RHS for my commended image, category winner and Photographer of the Year title, plus the prize money.  I can now order a present for the allotment association! However, there is to be no prize giving ceremony, which is a pity. What a wasted opportunity to get some free publicity for the RHS....(and they could have saved some money by putting all four bits of paper in one envelope, instead of three separate ones..)  

I'm back in London again most of next week, so if you have a moment, please drop Steve an e-mail or give him a ring so that he doesn't feel lonely while I'm away.  This is going to be a hard month work-wise, but I hope to redress the balance by getting together with friends in London on one or two evenings whilst I'm based there - much nicer than being stuck in a hotel room on my own.  

Pleae don't be alarmed by a few days silence on the blog - it's not a crisis - just me working away from base ;-)

Monday, 1 February 2010

making a comeback

We have written to each other, occasionally talked on the phone and tried, but failed, to meet up a number of times over the years.  However, if my memory serves me correctly, I think the last time we saw our friend and former next-door-but-one neighbour Rufus face to face was in October 1982, when we took Jack (then a toddler) to stay with Rufus and Susie in Edinburgh. Yesterday Rufus made a welcome return to Henry Road and we had a wonderful couple of hours catching up on mutual news before he headed back north.  I never cease to be amazed how easy it is to pick up the threads of a good friendship even after such a long period of time - but please don't leave it that long before we see you again!  

Also making a comeback to Oxford, although not a welcome one this time, is the snow.  We spotted a few large flakes drifting down yesterday, but that didn't prepare us for the sight awaiting us this coming - we awoke to a thin blanket of white covering everything, yet again.  Not the soft snow of a couple of weeks ago, more like a billion tiny beads of polystyrene - even so, not what you want to see when you have travel..

...Yes, it's time to return to London, which will be my work base Monday-Thursday this week, same again next week, and for two days the following week.  Steve will be driving me today to help transport the box of documents I'll need, but will be coming back to Oxford this evening. I couldn't have contemplated leaving him on his own for so long whilst his chemo treatment was in progress, but now what passes for "normal" life has resumed, it's not quite such a scary prospect. However it would be great if some of you could find the time to send him an e-mail while I'm away, so he doesn't feel lonely!

The good news is that tingles in his fingers and toes seems to have reached a plateau - certainly not any worse in the last few days.  That's something we definitely do not want to see making a come back!