Ow it hurts…

Since Tuesday I’ve had what I think is a trapped nerve in my shoulder. I’ve been taking various painkillers which dull the pain, but don’t take it away, but because it hurts I’m now a bit twisted as I try to relieve it, and other bits of me are starting to hurt too.

A massage from Mr FD and 30 minutes with a TENS machine – and a Diclonofec tablet – helped me sleep for about 6 hours, but then I woke up in pain again. The NHS site suggests seeing a doctor if the pain hasn’t gone after two weeks. Aargh. It might be before that!

It’s not debilitating – unlike lower back pain, which seems to stop you from moving at all! – but it’s there and it hurts!!

Hey-ho.

I was also sick yesterday

– I guess it was something I ate at lunch, as progressively through the afternoon, I felt sicker and sicker. I cancelled my final lesson by phone, and drove home…but on the way, almost 6 hours exactly after lunch, I had to stop the car to vomit. That 6 hours is telling me it was something I ate, and I suspect the culprit was the handful of Mexican Mix (peanuts, corn, little biscuits in a spicy coating) which I bought in Grand Frais, but which weren’t in a sealed pack, but rather scooped out of an open container…they could have been infected by someone else with grubby hands. The other things I had for lunch – cheese and ham sandwich and banana – were all fresh ingredients so very unlikely to have been the cause.

After I got home I sat with a hot water bottle and a lemon-and-ginger tea. When I felt better I had some plain pasta – I needed to eat if I was taking a Diclonofac. I feel fine today, so I am sure it was just a reaction to food.

But I’m still feeling sorry for myself.

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Ladies only glow…

As my mother used to say: Horses sweat, men perspire, but ladies only glow…

I’m definitely glowing… My whole top right torso is now really rather tender – that feeling of when you’ve had too much sun, with the occasional yelp of pain when you stretch the sensitive skin too far, or catch it on the rough edge of a bra. It’s the effects of the radiotherapy. I have only three sessions to go, but yesterday was the cstart of a new regime, which saw a very directed set of rays towards the scar where the initial lump was. I suspect that within three days it may be quite a painful area.

About a fortnight into my radiotherapy I went to see Yvette, on the advice of several people. Yvette is a Charmeur de feu (I think that’s right) – basically a faith healer, but seemingly with a propensity to heal (or relieve) the symptoms of radiotherapy. Hence the “feu” bit (fire) Sometimes they’re known as Coupeur de feu (“cutter of fire”) This article, in French, explains it a bit more. I actually wasn’t having any problems at the time, but she laid her hands on me and prayed. As I said to Mr FD, “I was happy to hear her using the word Seigneur (Lord) so it wasn’t just mumbo jumbo” He raised an eyebrow at me and sniggered, believing that it was mumbo jumbo!

I’m actually not totally convinced but I went back to see her on Tuesday, because by then there was a lot of redness. And some discomfort. I was given a thorough telling off by her – “Oh look how red it is…why didn’t you come back before, you silly girl…Oh, it must be painful…You shouldn’t worry about disturbing me…Oh, you silly, silly girl….” and so on….

After I was suitably shame faced, and apologised, she laid hands on me, and prayed (breaking off from time to time to say “Oh you silly girl…!”)  – and, I do have to admit that there was some relief from the discomfort…I’m going back again this afternoon, in an attempt to relieve the painful glowing that’s going on.

Yvette refuses all payment (unlike the Magnetiseur I went to see before the chemo, who took 40€ from me) so I made some biscuits and took them along. I suspect many of you know Anzac biscuits, but if you don’t, let me tell you that they are very simple-to-make and delicious! Here is the recipe:

Ingredients

100g plain flour, sifted
 85g rolled oats
75g caster sugar
85g desiccated coconut
100g unsalted butter, chopped
1 tablespoons golden syrup or treacle
2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon bicarb

Method

  1. Heat oven to 180C/fan 160C/gas 4. Put the oats, coconut, flour and sugar in a bowl. Melt the butter in a small pan and stir in the golden syrup. Add the bicarbonate of soda to 2 tbsp boiling water, then stir into the golden syrup and butter mixture.
  2. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and pour in the butter and golden syrup mixture. Stir gently to incorporate the dry ingredients.
  3. Put dessertspoonfuls of the mixture on to buttered baking sheets, about 2.5cm/1in apart to allow room for spreading. Bake in batches

I thought they were very similar to British HobNob biscuits, but a bit chewier. I really liked them, and I’m going to bake a batch on Sunday to take along to the Radiotherapy team on Monday for my last session. I thought I might try adding some chocolate chips or some dried cranberries.

A dilemma…

I am in the process of applying for a Titre de Sejour – a document giving me the right to live & work in France. Citizens of the EU do not need a Titre de Sejour, but thanks to the catastrophe that is Brexit (no need to ask which way I voted!) the advice coming from the Foreign Office is that it might be a good idea to have one of these before Britain crashes out of Europe and into a chasm of confusion and chaos.

So I have to supply 3 passport photos with my application.

The dilemma?

Do I have photos where I’m bald…

or where I’m wearing my wig…

or where I’m wearing a scarf…?

None of them are actually what I look like normally, so I won’t resemble the photo on my titre de sejour when my hair grows back! (Which it is doing – I’m starting to look like a greying skinhead! Yes, it’s coming back grey!)

Another cancer related post.

Sorry there’s been so many book reviews on the blog at the moment. I have found myself reading a lot – always a good thing! – and because most of these books have been free-of-charge from Net Galley in return for a review, I have had to keep up-to-date with the reviews.

So (for a change!) I’ll keep you up to speed with the treatment:

Because of continuing fatigue, I do spend quite a lot of time either in bed (if I don’t have a shower immediately after I get up for the toilet in the morning, I can stay in bed until 10.30, being too unwilling to make the effort to get up!), or sitting on the sofa reading. I manage my little walk, usually round about 8.00 in the evening, when it’s cooler (and the football is on TV!) and I am drawing. But that’s about it.

On Tuesday I went to the hospital to be “marked up” for the radiotherapy, so they know where to aim the lasers (or whatever they use). It appears that most hospitals in France will do this with some delicately placed tattooed dots, like these:

Not Roanne hospital. Instead they painted me up like a Picasso painting, using two colours of ink. I have lines, targets and splodges all over my torso, under both arms, and have been told not to shower my top half,  nor use deodorant or perfume, and to be extremely careful when washing the top half, in case I wash anything off. Of course, this has to be during a hot spell of weather! Mr FD has been instructed to tell me as soon as I start smelling a bit “funky”!!

I actually start treatment next Wednesday. Another big unknown. While looking for the above image I also came across horrific pictures of burning that some women suffered during radiotherapy. I hope that won’t happen to me – I know I’ve been remarkably lucky so far, with very few terrible side effects from the chemo. I will make an appointment with the Magnetiseur ASAP. I’m not convinced it does any good, but I certainly had no nausea or tummy troubles after he’d stroked my stomach before chemo, when many people suffer terribly, so I can’t rule it out completely…

Otherwise, tout va bien, as they say. Everything’s fine.

Especially with a LOL Cat!

A post about chemo

This is a chemo & side effects post. Don’t feel you have to read it.

I’ve had a fairly grim couple of days – more mentally than physically. It’s interesting how this new chemo regime has had different effects to the first three “cures”. With the FEC100 I had a “lost weekend” when I was really tired, then slowly, over the following week I got my energy back, until I was almost back to normal, unless I tried to do too much. I lost my appetite for about 5 days, but then it was fine. Yes, I lost my hair, and had a touch of nausea, but it was (almost) a breeze.

This has been a harder regime… about a week after the first dose I started losing my taste buds, and salivary glands. Now there’s still the vestiges of sweetness that I can taste, but not much else.

The neuropathy – pains in the extremes (hands, feet, lower legs) + joints, caused by damage to these peripheral nerves – comes on about 4 days after, and lasts for another 3/4 days. This hasn’t been as bad this time round, as the doctor reduced the dose a little. It’s been bearable.

Interestingly, I haven’t had the same fatigue at the beginning – witness my Royal Wedding excursion! – but again, 4/5 days later it has hit me like a ton of bricks. Today I could barely walk the 500 metres to the podiatrist’s surgery, and I’m needing a 2 hour nap after lunch. And, although this does get slightly better as time goes on, I don’t think I could contemplate the 3 km walk I did back in March in my third week.

But both the first time, and this time, I have had a couple of days of depression, again at the same time – 4/5 days after the chemo. Because this has happened twice at the same time, I am assuming this is another side effect… I’ve tried very hard not to utter the words “it’s not fair”, but last night I had a good old moan, and weep to God. Especially about the taste bud issue. I reminded him of “my” verse and demanded that he kept his promise…and, do you know, I think he did.

I felt he was telling me to think about why this was happening – so I read some articles on the internet, that explained the reasons, and that gave some suggestions. I also felt he was telling me to think about how I coud learn to live with it better, and so gradually, I was able to calm down and make plans.

The biggest thing is that I haven’t been eating properly – which has probably affected my mood too. My mouth is now more sensitive than before, so all suggestions like “eat mints”, “spicy food” etc are no good, because they hurt! Textured food is still okay, but I’m going off too crunchy, again for the slight pain factor. So because of this, I’ve been eating badly. For example, yesterday I had a slice of bread and butter and a little madeleine cake for breakfast, lots of watered down fruit juice, and egg sandwich for lunch (2 slices of bread, one egg), and a small bowl of pasta, mince & aubergine for dinner.  Not exactly full of goodness!!

So, putting my plan into action today, I started the day with a banana/raspberry/strawberry smoothie, made with some ice cream. That helped get some vitamins into me, and, because of the sweetness, I actually enjoyed it.

The next part of the plan was a veggie soup for lunch – carrot, tomato, sweet potato & lentil. The best laid plans… I was too tired to make it today, & as Mr FD had cleared 8 litter trays, and had a meeting for the Cycle Club, I didn’t want to ask him to make it. Tomorrow, then!! But I did have a goats cheese & lettuce sandwich, with some cherry tomatoes, plus a piece of pannetonne. Not sure what dinner will be, but I’ll make sure it has veggies. If I drink, and drink, and drink, the salivary glands are a little better and food is (slightly) less cardboard-and-cotton-woolley!

So I’m going down the smoothies for breakfast, and veggie soup for lunch, plus a good meal in the evening. Plus DRINK, drink, drink!! That way I will get the good things I need to help me face up to this bastard cancer.

I don’t want to ever use that phrase “it’s not fair” – getting breast cancer is just life. The statistics are stacked high:, with 1 in 8 women contracting it. I don’t know what the repeat statistics are (& those are the ones that frighten me) but I ask those of you of a praying bent to remember K. She had a mastectomy in December 2016, and chemo & radiotherapy. She has just learned that the cancer has returned to both sets of lymph glands, and it has been diagnosed as Stage 4, that is, it has spread further, and is incurable. The shock for K has been enormous. A year after getting the all clear from her initial breast cancer she is facing this. Now, somehow, that IS “not fair”.  Please pray for her. I don’t know what to pray, but something…

A right Royal event.

I was very busy last Wednesday writing scheduled posts, as I thought I’d be wiped out until at least Tuesday of next week. However, this dose of chemo has affected me differently – I guess the leg pains will start in earnest tomorrow, which I think was the pattern last time, but at least I have a better idea about how to manage them this time round. On Friday, I stayed in bed until after lunch, and then got up; I watched TV most of the afternoon, but I did go for a tiny stroll. Then yesterday, (I’m writing this on Sunday, but scheduling it to publish tomorrow, Monday) I felt great – I’d slept well on Friday night, so I felt up to accepting the invitation of Friend Richard to go to watch the Royal Wedding at his place, together with Friend Cathy. Mr FD turned down the invitation, preferring to stay at home to watch the Giro d’Italia, the rugby, and the FA Cup Final.

I’m not a Monarchist, but nor am I a Republican. I think the role of the Monarchy needs to change – and I think, very slowly, it is – but I think that generally the Royal family probably bring in revenue to the country. I don’t really know much about it though. Whether the reported £ 30 million  spent on security for this wedding should have come from the tax payers’ pockets I don’t know – but presumably, for other public events (concerts, FA Cup Finals etc) the public purse pays, so why not for this.

ANYWAY – I probably wouldn’t have bothered to watch it had I been at home by myself, but with a couple of friends, it seemed like a fun idea. So, in the morning, I made an elderflower cordial and lemon cake, just like Meghan and Harry’s wedding cake.

 

I bet you can’t guess which one I made!

Apparently it was delicious – I couldn’t taste it – and so I will be making it again when my taste returns. If you should be interested, I used this very easy recipe.

Friend Cathy picked me up, and we drove over to Richard’s where he had the Union flag flying outside! We had both chosen to wear patriotic clothes – I had my red trousers, white shirt and blue tunic top, and Cathy had a white skirt, red T-shirt and blue cardigan! While I was tying my blue turban/scarf round my head, I suddenly remembered I had a Union flag scarf, which I had bought for Summer School last year. I’d thought about either wearing it, or pinning it up in the classroom. Finally, I did neither, as we decided it seemed a bit “National Frontish” , but it seemed like the perfect thing to wear today!

Richard has an enormous TV, so it was a bit like being in the cinema! While he plied us with delicious nibbles – vegetarian Nems (spring rolls) and little vegetarian “sliders” (I believe they’re called) – we watched the guests arriving, and critiqued the outfits.

   

As the service started we had a cheese-and-tomato toasted sandwich. I enjoyed the service very much – Richard, a confirmed atheist, disappeared into the kitchen until Michael Curry had finished his address.

I think Bishop Michael is an inspiring speaker, and I could listen to him preaching quite happily – however I felt this address was maybe just a few minutes too long. It was, however, a great message, and I think it fitted the mood of the service very well. It was a bit tricky guaging the reaction of Her Maj, however – she did rather look as though she was sucking on a lemon some of the time!

As the married couple drove around Windsor, waving at the plebs, we enjoyed the cake, with strawberries (I can still just taste strawberries!) and then, as I was starting to flag a little, Cathy drove me home.

Here we are in our patriotically coloured outfits.

Mr FD was firmly ensconsed in front of his sporting events, so I sat and snoozed, and stroked cats. With pizza for dinner, and some recorded comedy programmes that rounded off a good day.  I was in bed by 10.30 and went to sleep about 11.30. Unfortunately there was quite a bit of cat action, with Bib giving me quite a nasty nip, so I was awake from about 4.00 am through to 6.30, listening to Kermode & Mayo’s film review – very soothing voices, which sent me to sleep.

And now, I’m up again, and trying to keep moving (although with the fatigue it does take it out of me ) because all advice seems to be that the more one moves around, the better it is for the neuropathy, as the movement gets the blood pumping to the very ends of the nervous system.

A soggy weekend in central France

It started off promisingly warm! Mr FD worked really hard on Friday in the courtyard and on the balcony, clearing pots, and sorting out the rubbish. That was A Good Thing, as I’m terrible at throwing stuff out. That old, cracked pot? It was a present from “some child at school” (but I can’t remember which child) That broken strawberry planter? It has a “rustic charm” (really?!) Those plastic pots? I could use them to plant seeds. (But I never plant seeds!!) Mr FD just took them down to the tip.

In the afternoon, I got involved in the planting  – though even that small amount of effort wore me out. I’m not sure if the fatigue is a side effect of the treatment, or due to the fact I’ve done even less exercise than usual (which is quite difficult!) and am therefore very unfit! Most probably, it’s a mixture of the two. Anyway, the balcony is now a much more pleasant place to sit. We’ve put a trellis at one end to stop Jasper eating/ scratching up/ using as a litter tray the tomato and pepper plants, and it all looks quite lovely. I’d take a photo to show you, but it’s piddling down and it wouldn’t look very attractive.

This is a picture of the balcony from a couple of years back, looking a mess!

and here it is looking slightly less-of-a-mess (again, from a different year). Note the pigeon spikes to discourage Cats from digging!!

and the courtyard.

Saturday dawned sunnily too. Which boded well for the barbecue in Clermont. Our church has been hosting Juniors Across Europe, This is an annual event for 10-13 year olds from the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe, giving these young people an opportunity to meet anglophone children their own age from other churches and other countries. It is described as “A youth weekend which includes adventures, activities, thought provoking discussions, food, and so much more.” The aim being to develop relationships between churches and to be encouraged in faith and learn more about Christ… with lots of fun thrown in.

Here’s a map showing all the Episcopal churches/missions in Europe

The barbecue was to be the last hurrah of the event, and I’d persuaded Friend Cathy and Mr FD to come. I’d promised to make a dessert and a salad, so I baked my sponge, and prepped the salad on Saturday morning. The sponge was Delia’s all-in-one sponge cake, which always works for me, although this time it sank in the middle as I opened the oven at a critical moment. No matter, layered with jam, the dip filled with chopped strawberries, and served with squirty cream, no-one seemed to mind. During the day, the sky clouded over, and Mr FD started declaring doom and disaster (well, quite a lot of rain). Finally, he cried off, but Cathy & I went.

The location was the retreat centre where the kids had been staying – there was a huge covered verandah with magnificent views over Clermont Ferrand, which were very dramatic this evening, with iron-grey clouds, and a mist of rain that was swirling around, but not actually falling on us. We were able to cook and eat in relative comfort, under the shelter of the verandah, but it grew colder and colder. Finally, at about 8.30, the rain reached us, the temperature plummeted and we decided to go home. But it had been good to support the event. Although the food tasted of nothing, I did still quite enjoy it, as I chose things with texture to compliment each other.

On Sunday we awoke to rain. Steady, very wet rain. I’d committed myself to exhibiting at the little art show taking place at the Artisanat. I think the plan was to be outside under gazebos, but there was no way I could do that. Most of the artists who were working were painting actual views, so they were outside, but as I was just zentangling I installed myself at the back of the small craft shop and drew.

These photos were taken on Saturday by the secretary of the Artisanat:

Here is one of the paintings

This is the view that someone else painted of the ancient Chateau gateway…

..and here he is, painting it. The girl in the sundress and hat would have been extremely chilly, had she actually existed!

I was there all day, but didn’t do very much – a bit of chatting, giving some advice to a lady who was visiting London in a few weeks, but that’s all. However, I was accosted by a woman who obviously knew me, and whose face I recognised, but I had NO IDEA who she was. She talked, and talked and I understood the gist, finally working out that she was from the Eglise Reformée that I used to attend. At the end she asked to be remembered to a mutual friend – but I can’t do that, as I still have no idea of her name!! I sold one picture and a couple of cards, for the grand total of 13€ – I won’t be going on a world tour with that, but that wasn’t the point really. Rather like going to the barbecue, I was there to show my face, and to support the event. Which I did.

After that I had to go out to feed the Poor Cats – oh, it was wet!! The poor things were shivering and trying to hide in different, vaguely dry places. I put as many plates of food under shelter as I could, but I knew that within minutes some of the bowls would be swimming in water. At least I was able to give them some good solid nourishment, as I’d brought home a bagfull of over cooked beef burgers and some leftover chicken legs from the barbecue. Mixed with three tins of cat food, lots of cat-biscuits, and some slightly-out-of-date creme fraiche I felt they had a good meal. But it was so sad to see these poor, wet kitties, looking so miserable. I hope they all went into the shed afterwards and curled up in the duvets and blankets that are in there. We don’t really know how popular the shed is with the Poor Cats – we know Red and Bonnie used to curl up together in there, snuffling together, before they died, as we’d open up the shed and find therm there. We also know Binkie goes in, as does Cloud,  as when we open up, there’s a streak of panicked pussycat fleeing the scene, but other than those, we’re not sure. Still, cats aren’t stupid: they should be able to find a dry-ish nook or cranny to hide in – and we’ve provided the shed, a kennel and three little cat houses filled with straw. If they choose not to use them, there’s not much we can do.

I got home to Mr FD’s pulled pork, sweet potato chips and asparagus. It was, I’m sure, very nice…

Today is another rainy day. Quite chilly too. I will continue with a zentangle commission and also (maybe) make a “Just Because” card for a friend. I need to go to the pharmacy to stock up on the drugs for this round of chemo, but after Thursday it will be five down, one to go.

On 7th June it will be my last chemo! HUZZAH!!! And (hopefully) about three or four weeks after that, I may start getting some tastebuds coming back…and hair…and eyelashes!!! Believe me, you don’t realise how important eyelashes are until you don’t have them!

That may be so – but I couldn’t taste it!

(Not that I’d be licking a cat to find out…even in revenge for Bib, who comes inthe middle of the night, and licks my bald head. I can promise you, a cat’s tongue on a sensitive scalp is Not At All Comfortable!)