29 down. 1 to go.

On Monday it will be my last radiotherapy session! Huzzah!

 

On Monday evening we’re being treated to a meal out.  C and A are people we know who have a holiday home here; Mr FD does the odd techie job for them, and makes sure their internet is up and running  before they arrive for the holidays etc. They’re both getting on and have recently been ill, but would really like to visit some of their friends about 100 km north of here, in the Beaujolais. Mr FD is going to drive them, I’m going along for the ride, and C&A are going to pay for us to have a meal in a restaurant nearby to their friends. Mr FD is a bit disappointed that the insurance is too complicated and expensive to work out for their car, which is some flash Mercedes. Instead we’ll be driving our old workhorse, the PugBus (a Peugeot something-or-other)

We’re trying to choose the restaurant now – this one is looking favourite

And here’s the celebration menu we’re considering…

Mise en bouche

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Foie gras frais de canard maison cuit en terrine
Chutney de saison et pain aux figues
ou
Cocotte d’escargots de Bourgogne aux cèpes
au beurre d’ail crèmé
ou
Escalope de foie gras de canard poêlée sur Tatin de pommes
caramélisées au miel du Haut Beaujolais

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Sandre poché au Mâcon blanc
fondue de poireaux et concassé de tomates

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  Entrecôte charolaise  sauce Marchand de vin
ou
Ris de veau au jus de raisin (origine France)

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Plateau de fromages affinés
ou
Faisselle Bressane et sa crème épaisse

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Dessert maison au choix

Just call me Gourmande!!

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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.

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!

Would you like to join me?

As regular readers will know, I have a little 1 km circuit around the village, that I have endeavoured to do every day – fatigue after chemo permitting. Although I had my last chemo on 7th June it took me until Saturday 16th before I could even face trying the walk. I shuffled round, stopping every 100 metres or so to catch my breath. Every day it has become a little easier, although I have still ended up breathless. Yesterday I paused at the bank to pay in a cheque, and the assistant was obviously very concerned that I was going to collapse all over his nice clean floor. I reassured him that I just needed a moment or two, but he still eyed me with suspicion.

Today I didn’t have a stop for a sit-down – which is a first – and, although I was breathing heavily, it wasn’t quite the “give me oxygen, I’m going to die!” way of breathing that had so concerned the bank employee. But maybe the reason I didn’t need to stop was because I was pausing to take photographs to share with you. So, would you like to join me on my walk?

Say “goodbye” to Millie, who is sitting on yesterday’s junk mail and eying us up balefully…

… leave the house, turn right and right again, and follow the snicket down the back of the church…

… cross the road, and go past the old Hotel Moderne. Sadly, not looking so “moderne” now! I imagine it would be wonderful if it could be renovated! In its heyday, St Just had over 20 hotels, as people would come from Roanne, and further afield, for the fresh mountain air. There was a sanitorium as well for those needing recovery from lung illnesses. Roanne is the nearest big town, and, of course, was heavily industrialised.

We continue down the road, and come to this cottage, which I have always liked the look of

There’s often a friendly retriever pup in the front garden, who barks enthusiastically when people go past, but not today. I assume he’s only put outside when his owners are out.

Not all the houses are old fashioned, however. Although St Just was at its busiest during the 20s and 30s, building work has continued to occur around the village. Opposite the cottage there used to be an orchard, with sheep grazing, chickens scurrying around and a large aviary of various fancy birds. However, about two years ago work started on a new Parish centre and, I think, a priest’s house. I don’t quite know the state of play priest-wise, in St Just, but I imagine that if there is a permanent priest based here, he will be in charge of several parishes. At least he has a nice modern house to live in, instead of a draughty old Presbytry!

We continue along this road, saying “bonjour” to a grandfather playing in goal to his grandson (I’m not sure why grandson wasn’t in school. They haven’t broken up for summer yet)  I would have taken a photo of their amazingly neat vegetable patch, but maybe that would have been a bit intrusive as they were playing football right next to it.

The road descends, and one of my favourite views opens up

I’m not sure if you can see it (click on the photo to biggify) but nestling in the trees in the mid ground is the Chateau de Contenson, one of four chateaux in the immediate surrounds. Here is a view of Contenson

The owners are the Rochetaillé family, after whom the square in front of our house is named. This chateau was built in the 1880s, but there has been a chateau of some form on this spot since the 1300s. During WW1 it was a hospital, and in WW2 sheltered resistance fighters. The current owners breed horses, and are very into their horse racing – there are two race courses not too far from here, at Vichy and Feurs.

You can’t see it, but another of the chateaux in the area is in my photo. In the hills facing us are the ruins of the Chateau d’Urfé, which is a lovely place to take visitors, as you can see for miles from the top of the tower. But, anyway, on with our walk…

Another pleasant view of mountains, trees, green!! Well, we have had quite a lot of rain recently.

Turn right again at the junction, and start heading into the centre of the village again. From this road you can look over the “industrial” part of St Just

Here you can see a scierie or wood yard, plus the cheese factory and the velour (velvet) factory.

If you like pepper and garlic, it’s worth seeing if you can find Gaperon cheese; this is one of our local cheeses, as is La Comtesse de Vichy, a triple-crème cheese o rival Brillat-Saverin.

The velour factory is, I believe,  the only remaining factory in France producing this material. It was constructed at the end of the 19th century, and still uses traditional techniques to create the fabric. In fact the velvet used in the Coronation robes of Elizabeth II was made here!

Turning around from this view, we can see the house of our good friends, Louis and Odette

Quite often, their dog Tim-Tim (a hunting spaniel, of some description) will bark at me as I walk past, but not today. They will often look after YoYo, their daughter’s golden retrieber, as well, so there’s quite a cachophony. But all was quiet today.

Continuing back along this road, there’s another view of the church

and we go past the bench where I often have to sit to catch my breath to where there’s one of the many crosses scattered around the area. I know France is/ was a Catholic country, but I’m often amazed at how many little crosses like this there are. I wonder why there are so many – are they relics of a time before the village expanded, and were placed at crossroads as wayside shrines, or waymarkers? This one seems too modern for that…

You can see my bench in the background of this picture, and as I sit there, I often get a whiff of a beautiful scent. I have no idea what it is, but today I tracked it down to this bush, which was humming with the noise of bees, busily collecting nectar.

 

Is it orange blossom? I am no botanist, but it smelt divine.

We turn right again, and the road rises a little. It is this part of the walk that often tires me out so much that I need another sit down at the top, but not today! At the top of the rise, heading into the centre of the village we come across the Mairie:

To help you get your bearings, the church is situated diagonally opposite the Mairie. The bench I usually collapse onto is just outside the door, beneath the flags.

On the wall of the Mairie is proudly displayed this stone plaque:

Between 1940 and 1944 numerous Jewish families found refuge in St Just en Chevalet and its environs.

Tracked and searched for by the occupying forces and the Vichy government they were saved, thanks to the goodness and courage of certain inhabitants.

The descendants of these families honour these citizens who, in full knowledge of the risk they were undertaking, welcomed and hid them, therefopre saving them from certain death.

One of the old neighbours of our friends was a member of one of these families, and told stories of how, when there were rumours of a rafle – a round-up – due to be carried out by the Nazis, the Jewish children who were being hoidden, would be spirited away into the surrounding woods and countryside.

Finally we reach the boulangerie, where I pause to buy a Petrisane, which is a type of baguette. The bakers makes two types, nature and graine (white, or granary) Both are very nice and at 1€ each, they won’t break the bank. I’m not eating them at the moment, as my mouth is still a little sensitive, but I’ll be back chewing on them soon!

In the picture you can see also pizza, sold by the slice, and petits quiches (two types: ham-and-cheese, or tuna-and-tomato) The lurid pink bun-like thing at the top of the counter is a brioche pralinée, another speciality of the area. Brioche is a sweet dough, and the praline is tooth-numbingly sweet as well. To the left of the till, there are mini-brioches pralinées, plus croissants, pains-au-chocolat and other sweet treats. I didn’t photograph the cakes on offer, but there is always a good selection, using seasonal produce – so there are a lot of fraisiers, strawberry tarts, and fruit based gateaux during the summer months. I will sometimes buy one between us for a Sunday treat.

Then it’s back home, to have a refreshing apple-and-elderflower juice drink. And have a sit-down!

I hope you enoyed joining me on my walk.

 

Don’t cry for me…

I hope Mr FD won’t end up crying tonight – he’s watching the England vs Tunisia match. I think England have already scored (there was a muted cheer) but there have also been some rather negative sounding noises too. (I’ve just checked: it is 1-0)

I, on the other hand, have been doing a huge amount of involuntary weeping. Or rather, involuntary leaking. I’ve lost almost all my eyelashes, so, of course, there’s nothing to protect my eyes from dust etc except the tears. My eyes are almost constantly wet, which means it’s quite hard seeing things, as I’m looking through a veil of tears! I’ve also lost my eyebrows, and hair from everywhere else. It’s going to be very itchy when it all starts growing back!

Well…not really…

Still very tired every day, but I’ve been able to do my 1km tour around the village. But that’s about it! I have a long rest after the walk, a long rest after lunch…Still, things continue to improve.

Just checking in

I’m here.

I’m surviving.

It’s not too terrible…but I really can’t be arsed thinking of what to post…

Looking forward to:

  • Meeting Chomeuse, Mr Chomeuse & Chou in a couple of weeks, when we go to Annecy with the Cycle Club

This is the holiday village, with a pool & spa

  • A retirement dinner for the director of the language school where I work. I’ve booked a nearby hotel room, so I don’t need to worry too much about being tired/ driving when tired/ driving when I’ve had a bit too drink. I decided to do that, rather than ask if I could stay with a colleague, as this way I can leave when I want/need to.
  • Hopefully meeting up with friends from Wales, who may (if family health problems allow) be coming over at the end of June.
  • Getting my taste buds back! The salivary glands are starting to recover, and taste should start returning in the next couple of weeks.

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…