Wednesday, 25 September 2013

A New Term

Although it's been a while since our lives revolved around the academic year, September still feels like the start of a new term and all that entails - reunions with old friends and making new ones; revisiting a familiar place or perhaps getting to know somewhere different; starting a new challenge or going forward on a work in progress.  Fresh, new, exciting times ahead in the new term, even though it can be a bit scary at times.  

And that's how it felt for us over the last few weeks.  Our new 3 month term of life got off to a good start with copy of the letter sent by Steve's hospital consultant to our GP.  It was a bit like getting a school report at the start, rather than the end, of term - we knew from the assessment earlier this month that Steve's condition is still stable, but it was reassuring to see the confirmation in black and white:
"Status: He remains well and performance status 0 (i.e. fully active and more or less as he was before his illness).  Maintains active physical exercise.  On examination he appeared well with no palpable lymphadenopathy (i.e lymph nodes do not appear to be enlarged). Expansion of the chest was equal.  No clinical evidence of recurrent disease.   
Test Results: Chest X-ray: stable appearances  
Assessment: Stable disease"
Until a cure is found for mesothelioma (and it WILL happen) this is as good as it gets!

Since the assessment on 5 September, we've had a very sociable time.  

Our son Jack came to stay for a few days.  We really enjoyed his company, had a meal out to celebrate his birthday, watched the excellent German cult movie "Run Lola Run" and visited All Souls College which was open to the public as part of the Oxford Open Doors weekend.

Codrington Library, All Souls College

We spent a very pleasant morning over a coffee catching up with news from John, Oxford's former Conservation Officer with whom I worked for many years.  Ironically, he now finds himself on the receiving end of planning and conservation advice (from a different local planning authority) and is not very impressed by the experience...

We had a day trip to London last week to meet up with our Italian friends Giuseppe and Maria Adele.  We had last seen them in a cold, snowy Rome in February 2012 where we had been overwhelmed by their kindness and generosity.  This time round, it was our turn to play host - albeit for a few hours - with lunch at Tate Modern, followed by a stroll over the Millennium Bridge and coffee overlooking St Paul's cathedral where we said our good byes.  It was lovely to see them again and we have plans to meet up again soon.  

Maria Adele, Giuseppe and Steve at Tate Modern

There was a full house here last weekend.  Our friends Helen and Rob arrived from Leeds on Friday night, stopping off in Oxford for a wedding on Saturday before moving on to London on Sunday and flying to the States on Monday.  We were joined by more friends on Saturday - Anne and Colin up from Chichester and Ruth, just back from a visit to Croatia - so lots of mutual news to catch up with over a slap-up tea, followed by drinks and nibbles in the evening and into the wee small hours.  We burned off some of the calories after breakfast on Sunday with a walk along the Thames to the Trout Inn at Wolvercote for a pint, then home via Port Meadow for more food, eventually saying our farewells late afternoon after a very enjoyable weekend.

Steve, Rob and Helen post-pint at The Trout Inn, Wolvercote

Helen and Rob were the first people to stay in our new guest room - now carpeted and (mainly) furnished. The old sofa bed will be the last thing to go and, once the space has been cleared, there will be a proper bed for our next staying visitors.  All we have to do now is bring the rest of the house up to the same standard!

Somewhere comfortable for our guests to sleep :-)

In between all this socialising, we have been backwards and forwards to Ikea a couple of times buying smaller items for the guest room; assembling flat pack furniture; putting a few bits and pieces on e-Bay as part of the ongoing de-clutter, and progressing our plans for October (although we still don't have an appointment for Steve's next scan, so I hope there won't be a clash). Flu jabs are booked, so that's another thing crossed off the "to do" list.  

I even managed to fit in a work-related conference on Planning for an Ageing Population (a bit of enlightened self-interest there).  However, an event like that highlights the downside of our personal circumstances. While the UK population as a whole is living and staying healthier for longer, like others with mesothelioma, Steve's normal life span will be cut short by a disease which could have been avoided had asbestos fibres not been released into the air in his presence.  That said, this knowledge encourages us to live for the day and make the most of the time we do have together.  And we certainly do that!

On the photography front, I volunteered to step in as a replacement judge for the photographic section of a local village show.  We had a fun time watching others judge the fruit, flowers, vegetables and cake classes, as well as looking at the photos.  Living in the city centre, it's easy to forget that Oxford is in the heart of a very rural area. Going to a village show was a bit like walking into a real life episode of the Archers (for those of you outside the UK, that's a very long running radio programme based on the "everyday story of country folk").

Other good news on the photography front - one or more of my images will be included in Portfolio 3, published by the Royal Photographic Society this month. The complementary copy of the book has yet to arrive, so I still don't know which image has been included.  However, I do know that two of my photos (below) have been selected for the RPS International Images for the Screen exhibition which opens in London on 31 October.  

Strings and Shadows

The Finger Points

We'll be going to the launch, so that's something to look forward to next month.

We were invited to another launch this month - this time a book "On foot from Oxford Castle to St Giles", which was written and illustrated by Malcolm and Edith, friends I used to work with at the City Council. That event coincided with the last day of St Giles Fair here in Oxford - a street fair held on the first Monday and Tuesday in September in one of the city centre's most historic streets which is closed for the duration. The contrast between the fair and its surroundings couldn't be stronger!  And its very photogenic... 

While we've been enjoying life and having fun, other members of the meso community, including many of our fellow bloggers, have been having a tough time with bad news, pain and dealing with the debilitating side effects of chemotherapy.  Sending you strength and much love x

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