Monday 26 August 2013

on the tiles, getting plastered and a garden party

When Steve was diagnosed with mesothelioma in 2009, it seemed almost inevitable - to me at least - that I would be the first in our circle of friends to become a widow/widower, even if Steve was one of the fortunate 10% of victims still alive five years post-diagnosis.  Steve thought otherwise. In the event, he proved to be right.  

Andrew, a friend from our student days, died unexpectedly in May 2011A few weeks later, we gathered together with our friends for a wake in Andrew's garden together with his wife Jan and their children Susie and Charlie, all still stunned by his untimely and unexpected death.  

We were all back there again in Reading yesterday but, I'm pleased to say, in very different circumstances: a party to celebrate a newly created garden incorporating many of Andrew's "treasures" (often salvaged from skips or found in the street) in the design.  And jolly wonderful it looks too!  

There were other things to celebrate too. Andrew and Jan's daughter Susie is expecting her first child; their son Charlie had married since Andrew's death and was there with his wife; there was even a new baby to enliven the proceedings, the latest grandchild of our friends Bob and Gill.  Not to mention the superb tea laid on by Jan, washed down by prosecco....and the sun shone. Who could ask for anything more?

It was a lovely way to finish a very busy week spent helping to lay more floor tiles in our son's kitchen in Bristol and getting plastered at home in Oxford, where the soon-to-be guest room's skim coat of new plaster has now dried out ready for painting.  No guesses as to what we've been doing today and what will probably keep us busy for the rest of the week, in between other commitments. 

Less than a week to the start of September and less than a fortnight to Steve's next hospital assessment.  Hopefully, the distraction of decorating, carpeting and furnishing the spare room will keep our mind's off the outcome of the assessment which, as usual, will shape our lives for the next three months at least.  

Sunday 18 August 2013

Visitors and visiting

The last week seems to have been dominated by visitors coming to our house and us visiting other people - a mix of "business" and pleasure...

Two of our visitors were plasterers coming to give estimates for the cost of skim coating the walls of what will eventually be the guest room.  Other visitors last week were much more sociable. Our friend Prue stayed overnight on Tuesday and we had a lovely evening catching up on news and putting the world to rights over a meal and some wine.  We did the same again later in the week with another friend, Murray.  Ironically, although he only lives around the corner our lives have very different patterns so we have to make an effort to meet up, rather than bumping into each other in the street.  But it's worth it!

Our trips out have also been a mix of business and pleasure - several visits to the paint shop to buy samples, order and collect paint, and to the carpet store to look at samples and eventually order carpet.  I'd forgotten how long it takes to research and pull together all this interior design stuff!  In between, the big clear out has continued and we have been taking more bags of donations to the charity shop and more bags of junk to the recycling centre.  But there's still a mountain of stuff to go through....

Our hard work on the home front was rewarded by a very enjoyable meal out with friends Ruth (host and cook extraordinaire) Anne and Colin, visiting Oxford from Chichester.  One of those lovely lunches that lingers on past tea time.

All our friends remarked on how well Steve is looking at the moment.  And he's still feeling good, which we hope bodes well for the next hospital assessment in early September (although we never take the outcome for granted, so as always most plans beyond that date are very fluid or only lightly pencilled in...) Ironically, it's me that's coughing (still) after picking up an infection in France late in June.  If it hasn't cleared up completely by the first week in September, I have to contact the GP again to follow up.  

Without wishing to sound like a hypochondriac, when one member of the family develops mesothelioma as a result of asbestos exposure, lurking in a dark recess at the back of the mind is the niggling thought that others in the family may have been exposed at the same time by the same source, or by secondary exposure from dust on clothes - especially if you have lived, studied and/or worked together in the same environment for many years as we have.  In such circumstances, any prolonged chest problems needs to be properly investigated to rule out asbestos-related disease.  However, I'm sure my cough is just a stubborn foreign virus rather than anything more sinister.

But I digress....Next week there will be more comings and goings, visiting and visitors and hard work topped off by more socialising, which we are looking forward to very much.  And it all kicks off again tomorrow, so we must get ourselves sorted out now.

As always, we send our love to all the meso warriors around the world who are at various stages in their journey.  In particular, to Jan who is feeling particularly low at the moment and Lou in Australia, who is back on chemo but still managing to be very positive as she waits for news of the birth of her next grandchild, due shortly.  

Saturday 10 August 2013

Physical and fun

This last week has been a mixture of being physical and having fun.  

The physical bit started in Oxford on Monday, when we dismantled a timber platform in the spare bedroom.  

Designed by Steve and built by both of us over 20 years ago, the structure originally provided extra play space for son Jack, then a sleeping platform for daughter Katie.  In recent years, it has become a storage area for picture frames, mounted prints, spare bedding and cushions.  It has also been the source of many bumped heads for our visitors sleeping on the sofa bed below.  

It was a testament to the strength of the space frame design and quality of the construction that it took us all day to dismantle and remove, but it's done now. It feels like the end of an era, but life goes on....And it's high time the room had a makeover!

The physical bit continued later in the week in Bristol where we have been helping our son tile the floor of his kitchen. Still a work in progress when we left, but the progress is significant.

In between we had fun!  

We went to the seaside, had ice creams on the promenade at Western-Super-Mare and strolled along the beach and under the pier.  

We crossed the River Seven into Wales and visited Castle Coch, a Victorian Castle built on medieval remains 

and then on to see The Guardian, a huge sculpture of a miner to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Six Bells colliery disaster in 1960, when 45 men lost their lives in a gas explosion.  Designed by Sebastian Boyesen, the statue is made of fabricated ribbons of steel and stands 20m tall on its plinth.  

Our visit coincided with the Bristol Balloon Fiesta.  As we returned to Jack's house on Thursday evening, the sky was full of hot air balloons including some special shapes, skimming the rooftops to land at the park close by.  

We also fitted in a visit to Steve's mum in her care home and dropped off some games and toys to our great niece Esme, where we enjoyed a cup of tea and caught up with family news from our nephew's partner Kate.

After all this work and play, we are catching up on some rest this weekend and news from the meso community before another busy week begins on Monday. 

Sunday 4 August 2013

more celebrations, some sorting out and one month to go before the next assessment

The extended birthday celebrations started the Friday before last with a day out at the Silverstone Classic event and finished today, waving goodbye to daughter Katie and partner Ed as they headed back to London after spending the weekend with us.  

In between, Steve and I had a day out on our own in London on Monday (my actual birthday) going to exhibitions at Tate Britain before returning home for birthday cake and prosecco; lunch with our friend Ruth on Tuesday; a second "birthday" meal out with Katie and Ed on Saturday evening and a visit to Oxford Castle, playing at being tourists in our own city.  

However, it hasn't been all play...In between the celebrations, the big "spare room" clear out has started and we now have many bags ready to donate at Oxford's new Cancer Research supershop which is due to open on 12 August, not far from where we live. One large item of furniture has gone to a new home via Freecycle, giving us much more room to manoeuvre in what will eventually be the guest room.  But there's still a long way to go....

Although Steve has been generally well, a couple of times over the last week he has felt a bit light headed.  We wonder whether the recent very sultry weather conditions have played a part.  He seems to be OK now, thank goodness. I have been unable to fully shake off the cough that started in France nearly seven weeks ago, so I think its about time to get it checked out - always assuming the GP can fit me in before we go off on our travels again.  

Our little health annoyances pale into insignificance when compared with the pain and suffering of other members of the meso community.  Pain management seems to be a very difficult thing for the medical profession to get right - too little and there is breakthrough pain; too much and the sufferer is constantly drowsy, sleeping or groggy.  What a horrible dilemma....

June and July seem to have flown by.  It's now just a calender month before Steve's next hospital assessment in September, so it's important that we keep busy rather than get distracted by thoughts of what may or may not happen when we next speak to the medics.  I wonder whether we can finish the guest room before then as well as make time for some sociable and pleasurable things.  Time to set some targets, like fellow meso blogger Tess...

Sending much love to the meso warriors, especially Jan who is still having a really tough time; Ray who is back on painkillers; Ernie who is in a hospice while they try to find the right balance/combination of painkillers; Barry also in a hospice, after the local hospital failed to spot a DVT, even though his wife had pointed out the obvious symptoms, and to Lou in Australia who hears the result of her PET scan tomorrow....also to Linda Reinstein in the States, whose home was robbed and precious things taken, including gifts from her husband Alan (who died of mesothelioma) and their wedding devastating is that? 

On the good news front, Tess has finished her chemo, had a good response and is now enjoying summer, and Mavis is managing well with her chemo even though appointments don't always go to plan....