Saturday, 31 December 2011

Looking back on 2011

Our plan to have a grown-up intermittent "gap year" traveling when both children left home ended abruptly when Steve was diagnosed with mesothelioma in June 2009 and our lives were turned upside down.  However, in 2011 we have been fortunate to be able to pick up where we left off two years ago.  

There have been several trips to europe, including Venice, Bilbao, Paris and a tour of south west France.  We've travelled extensively in the UK often meeting up with family and friends, including trips to Edinburgh, Bristol, Bath, Bury St Edmunds, Manchester and London, and short breaks in the Cotswolds, the Peak District, Yorkshire and around the Devon/Cornwall borders.

We've packed in experiences which are new to one or both of us - hot air ballooning; clay pigeon shooting; skimming the waves in a RIB (rigid inflatable boat); a day at the Derby, Epsom; a production at Stratford and visiting sites and buildings not normally open to the public when opportunities have arisen.

We were delighted to become Associates of the Royal Photographic Society; have our photography selected for exhibitions in the UK, France, Holland, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina; featured on photography websites and published in magazines, picking up a few awards along the way.  

However, it doesn't get any easier, living on the emotional roller coaster of three-monthly hospital visits, never knowing what news the next assessment will bring. The deaths of several friends this year has reminded us how precious life is and how important it is to make the most of the good times. 

We have been fortunate to be able to do that over the last 12 months, as each assessment has brought the good news that there is no significant change in Steve's condition, some two and a half years post-diagnosis. Although others have been less fortunate, the courage and determination shown by other meso-warriors when faced with less good news remains inspirational.  

While a cure for mesothelioma still seems some way off, there are several promising lines of research targeting the mechanisms of cancer cell growth and ways to harness the body's own immune system to destroy cancer cells. Who knows what will happen in the next 12 months?

Tomorrow it will be time to look forward.

We wish you and your loved ones a happy, healthy and fulfilling New Year :-)

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Flames of Hope and Courage

The Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO) invites you to be part of the “Light a Candle” community. 

As we honor our loved ones fighting asbestos-related diseases or in loving memory of those who have lost their courageous battles, there are few symbols that offer more comfort than a candle blazing in the dark. 

We invite you to light a candle and reflect, remember, and renew your inner strength. We cannot ignore our pain and grief, but we can find comfort in our memories and love. The message you write after you light your candle may serve as a beacon of hope and inspiration to someone in your shoes halfway around the globe. Your candle will remain lit for 48 hours, so please light a candle today and feel free to return to light other candles of hope and courage….Just follow the Light a Candle link on the right under "Show your support"

On December 28th, light four candles, in loving memory of our Mesothelioma Warriors who have lost their courageous battle. “As we light these four candles in honor of you, we light one for our grief, one for our courage, one for our memories, and one for our love.”
LIGHT THE FIRST CANDLE:  ‘The light of this first candle represents our grief. The pain of losing you is intense. It reminds us of the depth of our love for you.”
LIGHT THE SECOND CANDLE: “The light of this second candle represents the courage it takes to confront our sorrow, to comfort each other, to change our lives.”
LIGHT THE THIRD CANDLE: “This third candle is a light to all of our memories of you. To the times we laughed, the times we cried, the times we were angry with each other, the silly things you did, the caring and the joy you gave us.”
LIGHT THE FOURTH CANDLE: “This fourth candle is the light of our love. As we go forward, day by day we cherish the special place in our hearts that will always be reserved for you. We thank you for the gift your life brought to each of us. We love you always.”

Thank you for your support.

a family Christmas

It started with just two of us, dressing the tree, decorating the house and wrapping presents to get ready for Steve's third Christmas since diagnosis. On Friday evening we were joined by our son, Jack, and then we were three. 

After some last minute shopping on the morning of Christmas Eve, we spent the afternoon with our dear friends, Jonathan, Sally and Gabby, where we toasted the festive season with Prosecco, were tempted by delicious nibbles, caught up on each other's news and exchanged presents - the perfect start to the holiday weekend!  We collected our daughter Katie from the station on the way back and then we were four for the Christmas Eve meal at home.

Christmas Day was relaxed - opening our "stockings' before a late breakfast (that nice Father Christmas remembered the grown-ups again this year to our delight!) followed by the presents under the tree later.  

The rest of the day seemed to revolve around preparing, eating and clearing away after the main meal....

....After a lazy Christmas Day, we were eager for some fresh air.  Steve, Katie and I went out for a walk late in the morning on Boxing Day to blow the cobwebs away. Later that day, we were joined by Katie's boyfriend Ed so there were five of us sitting down to the Boxing Day meal that evening....

The house seems very quiet now by comparison!  

Katie and Ed left yesterday afternoon, heading north. Steve, Jack and I went to see Grimm and Grimmer at the theatre last night - a wonderful combination of slapstick, fantasy, magic and audience participation!  Jack returned to Bristol this morning and, once again, we are temporarily back to just the two of us with a little bit of time to catch up on the blog, read about what other people have been up to, make arrangements to see other friends in the coming days and reflect on how fortunate we have been to enjoy another family Christmas together!

At the back of our minds lurk thoughts about what next Christmas will bring, but such thoughts will stay at the back of our minds I hope, while we get on and enjoy the here and now and make the most of life before Steve's next assessment - and maybe even allow ourselves to look a little further ahead in 2012?  As Jack pointed out, no one knows for sure what the future holds.  However, that doesn't stop most people thinking about and making plans to do things beyond the next three months.  As the New Year approaches, perhaps we should look a little beyond the self-imposed time horizons of the quarterly hospital assessments when we think about 2012 and what we hope to do in the spring and summer.....

Wherever you are and whatever you are doing, we hope you are having a wonderful festive season!  Stay positive :-)

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

The Christmas get together

Although Steve was born in Bristol, the Wride family moved around a lot as he was growing up. When his parents decided to move back to Bristol in 1981, it was a bit like a home-coming.  Since then we have had a big family get together in Bristol at some point during the year. 

In the spring of 1981, there were eight of us and a ninth on the way. Here we are, three generations grouped together for a special occasion.

Spring Bank Holiday 1981

Over the succeeding years, the numbers and participants at the get together have varied, with one death (Steve's dad from mesothelioma nearly 20 years ago now); some changes in partners and new babies.  

By 2008, we numbered thirteen over four generations.  We had no idea that back then that Steve would be diagnosed with mesothelioma six months later.

Christmas 2008 

This year we celebrated Steve's third Christmas since diagnosis. The family gathering in Bristol was on Sunday and we were able to enjoy the festivities knowing that his condition is still stable - the best Christmas present we could have wished for. 

We have been fortunate again this year. Today's blog is dedicated to all those families less fortunate than ourselves.  

Friday, 16 December 2011

Two and a half years on and we're still celebrating.....

It's two and a half years since Steve was diagnosed with mesothelioma and if you read yesterday's blog you will understand why we are still celebrating.....

.....Normal service will be resumed shortly :-)

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Christmas comes early!

I won't beat about the bush - just want to share the good news....No sign of any change in Steve's condition; disease still stable!  Next hospital visit not until mid-March, unless there are any problems in the meantime.

Christmas has come early in the Wride household and we've had the best present we could have hoped for. There will be celebrations here tonight!

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Countdown: 1

After getting well and truly wound up about Steve's assessment this time round, support from friends and the Meso Warriors things have helped get things back on a more even keel today. In fact, it's been like the lull before the storm (apart from the foul weather...)  

We kept calm and carried on - food shopping; present buying, wrapping and posting; menu sorted for the family festive get together in Bristol; tightening up the kitchen tap which was beginning to work itself loose....just another day, really - but ticking off more things on the "to do" list.  We even spotted some Red Kites flying low over our part of Oxford on the way to the supermarket - a wonderful sight. Let's hope they will visit more often!

Early start tomorrow, to beat the rush for X-rays then on to the Oncology Day Centre.  By the time we have walked between the departments and Steve has checked in and been weighed, Dr T will be looking at the X-ray and comparing it to the one from three months ago and the one taken back in 2009 to assess what's been happening inside. And then we'll be called in to hear the news.  

I'll let you know the outcome tomorrow.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Countdown: 2

I am a wuss.  I've been getting more and more stressed as the week goes on, worrying about something that hasn't happened yet. Then I look at other Meso Warriors' blogs and I feel such an idiot.  

I see Mavis and Ray getting on with life and having fun, even though Mavis is due to start chemo in the New Year. Jan is saying how lucky she is still to be at her desk, some 12 years after being literally struck down by the first symptoms of mesothelioma. Debbie is out and about, as always, even though she has to decide whether to go on chemotherapy depending on the results of her next scan in February. Amanda and Ray are looking forward to a drug-free Christmas, after beating pneumonia (not the best illness to come down with when you have meso!)  Tess has been hitting her "Targets" with a great weekend away in London and a shopping trip to France, even after three cycles on a drug trial and one cycle of chemotherapy.  

Then I look back at the blog and remind myself that life went on through Steve's first chemotherapy treatment and we still enjoyed ourselves. We just learned how to live with it and adapt. If the news is not good on Thursday, the world won't end. If treatment is necessary, I doubt very much whether it will start before Christmas and even if it does, we can work round it.  

I am going to stop feeling sorry for myself and just get on with it.  Do something positive woman, instead of getting wound up! 

Monday, 12 December 2011

Countdown: 4.....3.......

Sunday morning saw us folding and writing more Christmas cards, ready for posting today and sorting out some more presents online. Sunday afternoon, I returned to photography to take my mind of the forthcoming hospital assessment and spent a couple of hours finding out about photo books and how to produce them (another creative form of distraction for future reference!)

Today, it's back to Christmas preparations - putting together little gifts for our friends, ready to post in town later on....

I must confess, there are times I think I'm cracking on and making progress, then realize I've been on auto-pilot and really my mind is preparing for the news at the hospital on Thursday and rehearsing how to respond to different scenarios.  Steve says he's little less stressed than me, but when he absent-mindedly cleaned his teeth with stuff from the soap dispenser rather than toothpaste last night, I begin to wonder whether that's the case. Or perhaps he's just having a senior moment!

There's still the tree to bring inside and dress, the house to decorate, the  Christmas menu to plan, along with food for the family get together next weekend, so plenty to keep us occupied, not forgetting those last few presents.....Why do we always leave the difficult ones until last?

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Countdown: 5

If you have dropped by the blog for the first time in a week or two, you may think I've gone into a parallel universe where Christmas is coming in five days time.  In fact the countdown relates to Steve's next hospital assessment on 15 December and what we have been doing to distract ourselves and avoid getting too stressed about what will happen next Thursday.  

In some ways it helps that Christmas is just around the corner - lots to keep us occupied. Today we have been printing and writing Christmas cards, and managed to post the first batch to friends in the UK.  Still lots to do, but at least it's a step in the right direction....I also enjoyed meeting up for a festive lunch with friends that I used to work with at the City Council, some 10 years ago - lovely to see you all and catch up with your news!  

In other ways, it brings home to me that another year has passed since Steve was diagnosed with mesothelioma and I find myself wondering how much longer will Steve's stable condition continue?  Such thoughts are not conducive to the festive spirit, so I try to put them out of my mind and focus on the positive even though it can be hard at times.  Need more distractions!

Friday, 9 December 2011

Countdown: 6

With six days to go to Steve's next hospital assessment, retail therapy really came into its own today as a way of distracting ourselves from the stress of waiting to know what's going on inside his body. And it help us make a big step forward on the festive preparations.

We found the perfect presents for some of the family as well some little somethings for a number of friends.  As a result, we are feeling rather pleased with ourselves even though there's still a long way to go before we can relax, knowing that everything is under control.  Is it ever?

The Christmas wreath went on the front door this evening to welcome visitors over the festive season.  More cards have been printed and, with a bit of luck, some might be written tomorrow morning in time to catch the lunchtime post.  

The mantlepiece is now full of cards and we have enjoyed reading the first few letters to arrive and catching up with friend's news from the last 12 months.  What will tomorrow's post bring, I wonder?

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Countdown 7

This time next week, we will know the outcome of Steve's next hospital assessment, so we will either be celebrating or gearing ourselves up for more treatment.  To take our minds off things today, we tried a bit of retail therapy. Well, the weekly food shop to be precise and an unsuccessful present shopping trip, so more stress than therapy as it turned out.  

However, we did manage to print Christmas cards and letters this afternoon.  Maybe by the end of tomorrow we will have written and posted all the cards to our friends in the UK and moved a step further forward on festive preparations...

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Countdown 8

The continuing story of the kitchen sink drama has provided today's distraction from Steve's impending hospital assessment in eight days time.  But I pleased to report that after a hiccup this morning, it's all up and running smoothly now.  Just the aftermath to clear up.

We've even managed to fit in printing some more Christmas cards, so...progress on the festive front!

What will we do tomorrow to avoid getting stressed about Steve's assessment on 15 December?  

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Countdown 9

To distract himself from getting stressed about his next hospital assessment in nine days time, Steve spent most of the day in the kitchen.  Not cooking you understand, but with the upper half of his body inside the cupboard under the sink and the lower half spread eagled over the floor, with tools spread out all round him. It's not a new version of hide and seek. He's been busy replacing the old kitchen tap with a snazzy new one, so we can play with the spray attachment!  

It has taken most of the day to install the new tap, with a break part way through to go and buy a new tool to help him tighten up the fittings under the sink which are otherwise almost inaccessible.  But he's just about home (and dry, I think) at last.  We now have water again in the kitchen, but re-fitting the waste pipes will have to wait until tomorrow, so nothing must go down the sink in the meantime.  I wonder which will be the first of us to forget......

Apart from playing the role of plumber's mate (which can be quite stressful!) I distracted myself by catching up with photo processing, looking at the photography websites I try to visit regularly and going through my e-mails.  With the benefit of hindsight, what I really should have done is print and write Christmas cards and come up with brilliant ideas for presents.  Ah well, that will have to wait for tomorrow I think (always assuming re-fitting the kitchen waste pipes doesn't take over our time!)  At least we are making more progress on the home front....

Monday, 5 December 2011

Countdown - 10

It's 10 days to go until Steve's next hospital assessment. We are in countdown mode, trying to keep ourselves busy and not get too stressed about what we might hear on 15 December.  So far, it seems to be working....

After a bit of discussion, arrangements are in place for the Wride family festive gathering before Christmas.  Today we posted our Christmas cards and letters to friends living abroad and bought the stamps ready to post the UK cards (yet to be printed, let alone written).  Steve has made a wreath for the front door and more cards have arrived for us, so the house is beginning to look festive.  

The Christmas decorations have been retrieved from their storage space under the loft eaves (an operation which involves crawling into a very tight space with a torch, so not something I look forward to!).  There is a fir tree sitting in the back garden, waiting for when the time feels right to bring it inside and dress it up for the festive season, which we usually do a week or so before Christmas.

The big clear out continues, with yet another trip to the recycling centre - will it never end?  Still bit by bit, we are creating more space and getting a bit better organized in the process. 

OPS studio session
In all this turmoil, photography has taken a back seat these last few weeks. However, I enjoyed trying my hand at studio work for a few hours on Sunday with a lighting and background rig set up in a local hall by one of Oxford Photographic Society members, who was on hand to initiate studio novices into the world of triggers, soft boxes, ring flash, reflectors, diffusers, gels...

And there have been more images accepted in international salons in the UK and France, so I'm a happy bunny.

OPS studio session
How shall we distract ourselves tomorrow, I wonder?  

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Recipes for an unsilent night and a chatty day

Recipe for an Unsilent Night

  • 100 + strangers with ghetto blasters, i-pads, laptops, mobile phones, MP3 players and such like, each device loaded with one of four randomly assigned threads which bind together to form one unique piece of music
  • Assemble together on a specified night in a dark corner of Radcliffe Square and countdown to a synchronized press of the "Play" button
  • As the music develops, lead the group out of the darkness into the light and wind them through the heart of Oxford, under the Bridge of Sighs, between the high walls of Queens Lane, along the cobblestones of Merton Street and back to Radcliffe Square, stopping the traffic on the High to let them cross safely, the tunes weaving in and out of each other as people pass by or move around within the group
  • Contrast the quiet Brasenose Lane with the hustle and bustle of Cornmarket and Queen Streets, where people with no idea what's going on, watch and listen in amazement as the beautiful sounds pass by
  • Let everyone gather together for a brief moment in the subway so that the music echoes amplified, then lead them on out into Castle Street, past the Christmas market and into the Castle courtyard
  • Simmer gently for the last few minutes as the music reaches a crescendo with everyone gathered together around the Christmas tree, then 
  • Strain your ears to hear the last audible note as, one by one, the sounds die away to nothing and the night is silent once more
Cooking time and Temperature:
  • About 45 minutes, in the cold
  • enchanting, spell-binding, spine-chilling magic music (and a bit of exercise by night!)
  • Unsilent Night started about 20 years ago in New York
  • The first public performance of Unsilent Night II in the UK took place in Oxford on Friday 2 December and it will visit other UK venues over the next year or so
  • if you get the chance to take part DO IT!

Recipe for a chatty day

  • Four generations of one family
  • Christmas shoppers at Ikea
  • Place Steve and myself in a car and send us on our way to Bristol, chatting about what we hope to do during the day
  • After about an hour, add one son into the mix, start talking and stir gently while the rest of the ingredients are prepared
  • Fill one Ikea store with thousands of noisy Christmas shoppers
  • Add Steve and myself plus shopping list and heat for an hour or so until wilting gently, chatting all the time about whether this will fit in the workroom, whether to buy white or red candles, which of the seemingly endless queues to join when all the items on the shopping list are ticked off
  • Return to son to rest for a short while
  • When refreshed, set off for aging parent
  • Simmer gently for a few hours, occasionally turning up the volume when the hearing aid fails to do its job
  • Lubricate with cups of tea and add cake as necessary
  • After a few hours, bid fond farewell to aging parent and dip into the home of nephew, partner and toddler daughter
  • Sprinkle the lively conversation with delightful giggles until ready to spoon back into car and head back in the direction of Oxford, radio on to keep stimulated until thoroughly cooked
  • Remove carefully from car once back at home, unpack the shopping and collapse on the sofa with a bottle of wine until ready to consume evening meal

  • A very chatty day, with lots to discuss and ideas to follow up

Cooking time and temperature:
  • About nine hours over a slow heat, with occasional grilling
  • Not enough hours in the day to say/do everything
  • Pick up again in two weeks time when we all meet for the Wride family Christmas get-together

Friday, 2 December 2011

Progress and a retrospective

At last - progress on our festive preparations!

Steve has designed this year's Christmas card and we have printed the first batch, ready to send overseas just in time for next week's postal deadlines.

I have written the annual news letter to send to friends we don't see that often.  Looking back at the blog, we seem to have crammed in an amazing amount this year especially since I finished work at the end of March - new places; new experiences; favourite haunts revisited; old friends reunited; new friends made - especially in the cyber world; enjoying life to the full together, while we can.

Looking back at the blog also brought home to me how fortunate we have been.  Too many have succumbed to mesothelioma this last year after putting up brave battles over a prolonged period; others fight on with determination in the face of disease progression.  Not forgetting that behind every meso warrior are families and friends whose lives are also affected by this disease.... We have also lost a close friend this year, unrelated to mesothelioma.  No one can take life for granted.  Perhaps that's the underlying reason we have been cramming it all in!

The festive season is now in full swing.  In Oxford where we live, this evening is  "Christmas Light Night".  A lantern procession will wind its way through town; there is live music and entertainment on stage in St Giles to celebrate the Christmas lights being switched on, and a big screen will be set up outdoors at Gloucester Green showing locally made films.  Many of the City's venues and institutions are opening late with special events and activities, many by candle light.  One of the Light Night highlights will be "Unsilent Night" - a promenade through the City streets, with people carrying ghetto blasters, CD, cassette and MP3 players, all playing in unison the same "sound sculpture" of shimmering bells, chimes and grand chorales - the composer's words, not mine.  Sounds amazing!

We thought we would miss the event this year, but plans have changed at the last minute and, who knows, we might make it after all.  It looks like it could be quite an evening, one way or another!

Thursday, 1 December 2011

And so it begins.....

The Advent Christmas tree is on the mantlepiece in the front room, with a chocolate tucked away in every little drawer (apart from No 1 which has already been consumed).

The first Christmas card sits next to it, sent from Meso Warrior Mavis who will be having chemo over the festive season.

And so it begins, the season of festivities...We really do need to get ourselves sorted out!  

The first good news of December is that over £2,496 has been donated in memory of Ronny (Veronica White).  She would have been delighted!