Saturday 28 April 2012

Workers Memorial Day - spread the word and raise awareness

Today is Workers Memorial Day - a time to remember and pay tribute to all those who lost their lives as a result of negligence in the workplace. For every life that has been lost, the ripples of that loss spread out through families and friends, over time and through space, all over the world.  

In our family, Steve's father died from mesothelioma after being exposed to asbestos whilst working in the shipyards of Bristol. The loss of one man deprived the surviving family of a husband, a brother, a father and a grandfather.  

27 years ago today Linda and Alan Reinstein started their married life together in America, only to have it stolen by mesothelioma in 2006 when Alan died after a battle lasting almost three years.  

Alan was a former president of the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO). Today the ADAO continues to act as a voice for the victims of all asbestos-related diseases.  The ADAO's latest event is "See for Yourself" Photographic Education Campaign.  You can see it here:

Our small contribution to raising awareness of the risks associated with asbestos is this blog in which we share our experience of living with mesothelioma since June 2009 when Steve was diagnosed with this incurable cancer.  I hope that what we have written will have already brought hope to some who find themselves faced with this diagnosis, and will continue to do so for years to come.  

I also hope that reading the blog has raised your awareness of the risks posed by the presence of asbestos in our homes, schools and places of work.  If as a result, just one person who might otherwise have breathed in these deadly fibres takes the precautions necessary to protect their health, then it will be worthwhile. 

Please spread the word to others who might be at risk to raise awareness of the dangers of asbestos, and to those who might take some comfort from our experience to date. Thank you.  

Friday 27 April 2012

whether /weather forecast

As well as hail, thunder, rain and bright sunny weather during April, there has been a bit of emotional cloud hanging over Henry Road for the last couple of weeks.  Being recalled by the hospital for a follow-up appointment with a doctor to discuss gynae scans seemed rather ominous and we didn't know whether it would affect plans to celebrate our imminent ruby wedding anniversary next week.

After a 45 minute wait that seemed like hours, I was eventually called in to the diagnostic suite to meet the doctor, leaving Steve in the waiting area. To my delight and relief, the doctor was smiling.  She had reviewed the scans and was unable to detect any abnormalities.  However, as there was no obvious cause for last month's happening which triggered this chain of events, she thought it best to take a biopsy for testing to rule out endometrial cancer for certain.

I'm not going into details (just the thought of it makes me wince...)  However, ten minutes later I was back with Steve, who looked relieved to see me smiling. The biopsy results take 6-8 weeks to process so I won't know whether I've been given the final all clear until then.  However, the doctor's attitude was positive, I'm asymptomatic and think it just a body blip.  Blipping body!

Best of all, we have no need to change our plans for next week.  Full steam ahead!  It may be raining outside here and now, but the weather forecast for our anniversary is sunny and we are both feeling good!   

You'll have to wait to find out how we celebrated this special milestone...but thank you for the cards which have already started arriving!

Monday 23 April 2012


In contrast to the previous weekend when we travelled many miles by car helping our daughter move to London, this weekend's journeys have been close to home, by bus and on foot, dodging April showers (and hail and thunderstorms).

We spent Saturday evening with Charlie and Vickie, friends we met through primary school when the children were little. We were so engrossed catching up on each others news from a period when life had taken us in different directions, that we didn't say our goodbyes until the early hours of Sunday morning.  Later that day we were out again, this time for lunch with Jon and Sally, dear friends who go back even further, pre-children.  As always, conversation flowed freely over delicious food and drink, with lunch blending into afternoon and then evening.  

It's times like this that brings home to us how fortunate we are that life's journey has brought us close to such wonderful people.  
"A journey is best measured in friends, rather than miles" 
Tim Cahill 

All being well, we'll be off on another journey next weekend to celebrate a special milestone of our own. But before then, we must return to hospital for the follow up appointment to discuss the results of scans. Not Steve's. Mine. Such a strange feeling to be changing places on this occasion.....Life's journey is so unpredictable.  
"A journey is like marriage.  The certain way to be wrong is to think that you control it"
John Steinbeck 

However, there are plenty of other things that need our attention in the meantime - Wride and Company business matters; finishing work for Guernsey; preparations for our anniversary celebration; an Artweeks exhibition in May.  It would be lovely to find time to get out and about with the camera again, but that will probably have to wait until next week. With all these balls to keep up in the air, I'm hoping that we won't have time to get too stressed about what might or might not happen on Thursday, or where life's journey will take us next.  
"Focus on the journey, not the destination.  Joy is found not in finishing an activity but doing it"
Greg Anderson 

Well done to all the London marathon runners, especially those who managed to finish the course and fundraise for good causes - one journey I bet they won't forget in a hurry!  
"To get through the hardest journey, we need to take only one step at a time, but we must keep stepping"
Chinese Proverb 

So why all the quotes in today's blog?  I'm having a literary moment!  Happy birthday to William Shakespeare who was born, and died, on this day.  Thank you for the words you wrote on the journey in between.  All's well that ends well. Enough said :-)

Tuesday 17 April 2012

moving on

It's been a busy couple of days for us - no time to ponder on last week's scans or next week's follow up appointment.  

On Sunday, we packed the car with various things we had been storing for our daughter Katie and set off late morning from Oxford to Manchester on the first leg of a two day round trip of 450 miles or so. Extra pairs of hands are always welcome when moving home, so that's what we became on Sunday afternoon, helping to shift odd bits of furniture around in the soon-to-be old flat, before reaping the reward of a pleasant stroll along the canal into the city centre for a farewell Manchester meal with Katie and her partner Ed.  

Everything was sorted and packed by the time the removal men arrived on Monday morning, and we followed soon after on leg 2 of the journey from Manchester to London, where Katie will be living from now on.  After admiring the new flat over a cup of tea, we repacked the car with a different set of things to bring back here until such time as they are needed in future, including a double mattress which between the four of us, we somehow managed to squeeze into a space much too small to accommodate it comfortably.  

Late Monday afternoon and we were back on the road again, traveling from London to Oxford on the last leg of the journey home.  With a bit of effort, Steve and I managed to prise the mattress out of the car and unpack the rest of the things before collapsing with drinks and tapas in front of the TV for what was left of the evening.

We moved on again this morning.  This time, a small journey into town to meet the bank's business advisor, but a big step for Wride and Company as we came home with a business bank account and all the stuff that goes with it.

If you had told me back in June 2009 when Steve was diagnosed with mesothelioma that almost three years later we would be starting up a new business together, I would have thought you completely mad.  Perhaps we are!  

However, life goes on and we are going on too, together, for as long as possible......It was only this morning, when checking the calendar, that I realized we have just passed another mini-milestone, 16 April, which means that it now two years and 10 months since Steve was diagnosed with mesothelioma and he's still going strong. The next big milestone is our 40th wedding anniversary, just two weeks away as I write. Another precious milestone almost within our grasp!  

We know that this state of affairs won't last forever and times will get very tough indeed at some point in the future.  However, when that day comes, we will have some wonderful experiences in the memory bank to look back on and enjoy.  We also know there is a community of real and virtual friends who will be there for us, whenever we need them, just like the meso warriors have been rallying round Janelle in America and Tess in Kent, who have been struggling recently.  We send love and positive thoughts to both of you.  

Saturday 14 April 2012

how to pick a winner (and find distraction)

How to pick a winner:

Take son's birthday, add daughter's first name and the initial of your surname, and think of last night's meal......Puzzled?

Since placing a winning bet on the Grand National last year, Steve has indulged in the occasional flutter on some of the classic races over the horse racing calendar. Looking through the runners and riders in this year's Grand National, his eye was caught by No 13, a horse called Sea Bass, ridden by Katie Walsh. Now does the puzzle make sense? An irresistible choice from our point of view! The horse seemed too have good form and he placed a small bet before the odds shortened and it had became favourite in the run up to the start of the race.  

Watching the National on TV felt a bit like watching last week's Boat Race, with several false starts and some high drama over the course of the race.  OK, so Sea Bass didn't win, but it did come third and Katie Walsh did better than any other female jockey to date (and most males, for that matter!) Steve was a happy bunny to see his horse come home in 3rd place, but we were both saddened when we heard that two of the horses had to be put down afterwards.

The build up to the race was a welcome distraction from researching gynaecological cancer, which has I confess has pre-occupied me over the last 24 hours or so, since the hospital rang to arrange an appointment at the follow up clinic after yesterday morning's scans.  

Thank goodness we'll be too busy (and probably too tired) over the next few days to give it any thought whatsoever. By then, I hope have distance myself a little from dwelling on something that hasn't happened yet, and hopefully never will.  You'd have thought I would have learnt that lesson by now! But thanks to everyone whose been in touch since yesterday's blog - much appreciated, as always.

Friday 13 April 2012

changing places

I've lost count of how many times we visited hospital over the last three years or so....Apart from the recent trip to Bristol Dental Hospital with our son, on every other occasion as far as I can recall, it's been Steve who disappeared off for a scan or an X-Ray, leaving me waiting for his return, trying not to get too anxious.

Today we changed places.  It was me having the scans and Steve in the waiting room.  He said it was OK waiting for the first 10 minutes. However, he began to get anxious when another 10 minutes had gone by and there was no sign of me. When I emerged smiling, I thought I could sense relief.....Now he knows how I feel when I wait for him!

Afterwards, the radiographer said he couldn't see anything "exciting" on the scan, so the report would be sent to our GP.  Based on his remark and smile, I hoped that would be an end to it.  Bodies have blips after all, especially when they've been round the block a couple of times!

However, I have just had a phone call from the hospital to say they would like to see me at the follow up clinic to discuss the scans, which sounds rather ominous.  The appointment isn't for another two weeks and, as Steve says, if it was really serious I'd be booked in for a follow up session straight away.  

So now I know how he feels, waiting for news at his three monthly assessments.  

We will carry on as usual in the meantime and stay positive, probably the most important thing we've learned in the last three years.

Thursday 12 April 2012

Busy * Body!


After a brief lull over a lazy Easter weekend, we've got back into top gear and have been very active since then, ticking off lots of things on the "to do" list:

  • decisions drafted for the Guernsey Planning Panel
  • 15 images printed, mounted, packed and posted to Leeds for a photographic assessment later this month
  • a meeting with Nomads, a group of artists who invited me to join and exhibit with them during Oxford Artweeks 2012
  • Steve has collected his new specs (the upside of loosing his last pair on a recent trip to Bristol is that he now has TWO new pairs of glasses to play hide-and-seek with around the house)
  • accommodation booked, airport parking and transfers arranged for our anniversary celebration next month (all we have to do is pre-order from the menu and our dinner will be waiting for us on arrival, and get travel insurance - never easy with any sort of pre-existing medical condition, very difficult with mesothelioma.....)
  • ironing basket nearly empty (that may not sound like much to you, but its a triumph from our point of view!)
  • arrangements in place to help with daughter Katie's imminent move to London
  • a small house-warming gift ready and waiting to take to our friends tomorrow, when we join them and others for a meal
  • invitation to another house warming (only 5 years late!) accepted with delight
  • words written for the "Share Your Story" on the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization's (ADAO) website
  • new camera lens ordered as it will cost nearly as much and take twice as long to get the broken one repaired
  • plus Steve has produced some very elegant designs for a letter head.....why, you may ask?
which brings me to 


After almost 40 years of marriage, Steve and I have come together as a new body.  No longer just joined in matrimony, as of today we are officially incorporated and co-Directors of "Wride and Company" planning consultancy.  

Still lots to do to get the show on the road properly - business bank account, website, e-mail account and book-keeping to sort out, plus informing HMRC and such like, but the foundation stone is laid.  

We won't be going out of our way to hustle for business - there are more important priorities in life!   However, it means that my role in Guernsey will now be on a professional business footing.  And at long last, the support Steve has given me freely over the years - proof-reading and editing, sorting out IT stuff, driving me everywhere, and a million other small but essential things that I almost take for granted - will be properly recognized ("and about time too" I can almost hear him mutter in the background!)  

Please raise your glasses in a  "virtual" toast this evening to celebrate with us.

Cheers, everyone!

Sunday 8 April 2012

Life's lottery

I grew up in Hammersmith, west London, within walking distance of the River Thames, so perhaps it's not surprising that the Oxford-Cambridge University Boat Race has been one of those special annual events we like to keep up with, even more so since living in Oxford.  

Who could have guessed at the start of yesterday's race that half way through, with the crews almost neck and neck, some idiot would swim out to the middle of the river and narrowly miss being decapitated by the Oxford rowers, blissfully unaware of what was going on out of sight, behind their field of view. Shortly after the race re-started, who could have anticipated the clash of oars causing one of the Oxford crew to loose a blade, effectively leaving them a man short. 

Oxford could have stopped rowing there and then, so that the record books would show "Race not finished".  However, they battled on bravely to the end the race, crossing the finish line in second place, tired and exhausted causing one member of the crew - Alexander Woods - to collapse and be taken to hospital where he's now recovering, thank goodness

As I watched the drama unfold, it struck me again (as it does from time to time) that life's a lottery.  There you are, working hard to achieve whatever it is you've set your heart on and suddenly, out of the blue, mesothelioma rears its ugly head like the man in the river, stopping you in your tracks and turning life upside down while you wait to be told by others what's going to happen next. 

The side effects of chemotherapy leave you debilitated, a bit like Oxford loosing an oar. However, you struggle on to try to finish the treatment, knowing that the chances of beating the disease or a cure being found in time to help you are one in a million, just as Oxford rowed on to the bitter end - with one blade short. Who knows?  Cambridge might have hit a bit of debris and sunk before crossing the finish line....unlikely, but not impossible.  So you keep on rowing, just in case. Just like the meso warriors keep on fighting in the hope that a cure will be found one day.  Hang on in there until it is, you wonderful brave people.  

Sometimes life's lottery works in your favour - witness what has happened to some of the British cyclists in Australia today; a door opened up in the pack and Chris Hoy was through it in a flash to win a gold medal; Victoria Pendleton took gold after her opponent in the final was disqualified for going over the red line.  Expect the unexpected and never give up hope.  One day, the gold medal might be hanging round your neck, just like a cure may be found for the incurable.

Enough of the sporting life and gambling for now!

I'm hoping that the cough that has been bothering Steve for the last few days is nothing more than an infection which will clear up soon.  After all, we have people to see and places to go - actually quite soon now!  

Enjoy the rest of the Easter break wherever you are, and whatever you are doing.

Thursday 5 April 2012

a first time for everything

It's been a week of first times - 
  • Daughter Katie passed her driving test first time!  Well done Katie :-)  
  • I opened my first Tribunal in Guernsey and everything went well  
  • We are sorting out arrangements for our first visit to Morocco - how to choose a riad with so many lovely places on offer?  
  • I know the British climate has its peculiarities, but it must have been the first time the people of Aboyne in Scotland have experienced record high temperatures and snow in the space of just one week
Other than that, life goes on as normal......

Unusually for us, we have no plans for the Easter weekend - a short breathing space in the midst of other activities to sort ourselves out.  Perhaps it's time to give the house and garden a bit of TLC and catch up on e-mails or the backlog of photos waiting to be processed.  Or answer the call of the great outdoors, if the weather is fine.  We'll have to do something to burn off the chocolate calories waiting to be consumed....

Whatever you are doing, enjoy yourselves - Happy Easter!