Black Dog

My last post was a little worrying for some people – I had someone contact me to ask if my cancer had returned, and this was one of the “dark times” that I needed God for. No, dear reader, don’t worry.

I am going through a mild depression – brought on my my hormonetherapy treatment, and also, according to my doctor (although I’m not totally convinced) my morale (which was brave and courageous through my treatment) has just gone whoosh. (His words, not mine!) I find myself getting over anxious about minor things, and generally can’t feel as upbeat about stuff. Happily, I enjoy work, so I haven’t got the worry of that on top of other things. It would be awful if I hated my work.

I don’t think my “dog” is a black dog. He’s probably just grey. But for anyone who is living with depression, or living with someone with depression maybe this video will help

Hello!

I’m here! I’m fine! But just uninspired about what to post about!

But I’m fine.

Here’s a recipe I’m going to try this weekend – Mr FD is trying to lose weight but is missing biscuits and sweet treats a bit. This sounded like a reasonable substitute…

INGREDIENTS:

 

  • 175g dried apricots, chopped
  • 100g light muscovado sugar 
  • 420g tin apricot halves in juice, puréed in a blender
  • 30g low-fat spread
  • 1tsp baking powder
  • 125g wholemeal flour
  • 125g self-raising flour

METHOD:

  1. Heat the oven to 180°C/fan 160°C/gas 4. Grease and line a 2lb loaf tin with baking paper.
  2. Put the apricots, sugar, apricot purée and low-fat spread in a medium pan and bring to the boil. Set aside to cool.
  3. Add all the dry ingredients to the cooled apricot mixture, spoon into the tin and bake for 40–50 min until a skewer pushed into the middle comes out clean. Cool in the tin for 10 min, then turn out on to a wire rack to cool completely.

PICTURE:

We will see. I also have to re-boil (and maybe add pectin to) my Tomato and Chilli jam. It’s more like tomato and chilli gloopy liquid at the moment.

And if you are of the praying nature, please remember a “virtual” friend of mine, who goes by the moniker Piglet. Her husband suffered a stroke after surgery for bowel cancer, and has died. Another person who a fortnight before was reasonably fit and healthy, but who succumbed quickly to cancer and its related evils. May D rest in peace and rise in glory, and may God hold Piglet in the palm of his hand.

 

13 months ago…

…I had just finished radiotherapy, and had been on holiday to Italy with Mr FD.

My sister and mum came to stay, and this is a photo Judy took of me, sitting in the courtyard at Ambierle. The hair was just starting to grow back.

It was not something I would have chosen, but the cancer was, I think, something to be grateful for in many ways. Surprisingly. I’m still a bit bewildered by that statement, but I believe it to be true.

A year ago today…

It’s just popped up on my FB page that a year ago today was my last chemo session.

This was the photo I took before I set off to the hospital. Do you know, I think I quite suit a turban! After this, I still had 6 weeks of radiotherapy to get through, but that wasn’t quite so tiring or debilitating. If you would like to read more about my cancer “journey” just click on the “tag link” below labelled “Bastardcancer” That should take you to most of the posts I made during the treatment..

It was a difficult year, last year, but I can say that I am (almost) grateful I had cancer: I learned a lot about myself, I grew closer to God, I made a new friend, and I learned how valuable my other friends are – as well as how much of a rock Mr FD can be, and how much I love him. Unfortunately for him, he is still having to show rock-like qualities, as I am suffering from mood swings and depression, thanks to the hormone therapy, but he’s managing to do it.

I keep in my prayers Charlotte, Ana, Emma, Ross, Susan, G. – all people I’ve met or become closer to through my encounter with breast cancer. And of course, I remember too those who have lost their lives to this bastard disease.

This wasn’t the post I thopught I’d be writing today, but there you go!

The original text…

As you might know, I was asked to write a reflection for 40 Acts. I was asked to write about 300-400 words, but as you may also know I am nothing if not a bit wordy at times! So I had to be careful what I wrote! Finally, I decided to write what I wanted to say, and then to pare it down to the correct length. This is the original text:

FROM YOUR SEAT

In November 2017 I was lucky enough to go to a Vocational Discernment weekend in Budapest – the aim of which was to try to discern where God was leading us. It was led by Revd Canon Mark Oakley, who took us through some amazing poetry, and talked about what can help us hear the voice of God. I came away, sure that God was about to call me to face something big – was he going to call me to ordination? Was I going to be asked to take a larger role in my home church? Was it a new job?

At the beginning of December, I discovered what it was God was going to ask me to face: I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I want to state now that I am only able to talk about my cancer, my reactions, my experience. If you are dealing with cancer, or any other disease, your reactions, your emotions may well be very different. And that is OK. We are all deal with things in different ways and I have no right to tell you how you should be feeling.

From the very beginning I decided that I was never going to ask “Why me?” One could just as easily ask “Why not me?” One in eight women suffer from breast cancer – the odds are high. And cancer is, in some bizarre way, natural: it is caused when cells mutate. Mutations happen in nature; that’s how things evolve. If I believe that God created nature in all its wonder and intricacy, then, in some way, my cancer was a part of that creation. Lord knows, I don’t understand it, but I have to trust that fact. That was how I was determined to view this.

I have followed 40 Acts for about three years now and blogged about my failures and my little successes. By the time Lent rolled around in 2018 – very soon after Christmas, it seemed! – I had already had my lumpectomy and had recovered enough for chemotherapy to begin. “Why should I get involved in 40 Acts this year? “I thought. “I’ve just got to be kind to myself. I’m ill…” The first sentences in the first act reminded me why: in the most extraordinary act of generosity the world will ever know, God offered His son, Jesus, as a gift to all. We need only say thank you. 

God is good. God is loving. I believed that before my cancer diagnosis. I believed it no less after it. But how could I repay that generosity to others in my situation – going back and forth to hospital, spending a week in bed and two weeks feeling fairly lousy again before the chemo appointment rolled round?

In a beautiful coincidence, God had given me the verse from Isaiah 41:13: I am the Lord your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says “Do not fear. I will help you” This verse was – and still is – my touchstone. He used this verse throughout my treatment to remind me that he is always there, to hold my hand when I reach for him. And to help me be generous. I learned that being generous can sometimes mean not beating yourself up if you have missed an act: asking God to remind you of the challenge another day is fine – and I can assure you, he won’t forget! Being generous can mean holding others before God, even through your own pain, and being thankful for modern medicine and hospital staff. Being generous can mean placing a hand written, encouraging note in the hospital waiting room for someone to find, or passing on a bar of chocolate to the nurse who comes to change your dressings. Being generous can just mean not focussing on yourself completely and trying to ease others – even if it was only not complaining to the district nurses who found it unbelievably difficult to get any blood out of my veins for the weekly blood test!

Even from your chair, or bed, God will help you to be generous; if nothing else, holding others in prayer when you yourself feel like shit is one of the most generous gifts you can give. And he will honour that.

Changing attitudes…

It struck me, as I sat waiting for my mammogram results, how events can change attitudes. I know this is really quite obvious, when you think about it, and I suppose I knew it on an intellectual level, but I hadn’t really thought about it before.

Before November 2017, I had no problems going for my bienniel* mammograms. Being tall enough to reach the plates without standing on tippy-toes, and being (cough) large on top, I found them uncomfortable, but not painful. Waiting for the results was just a formality.

On Wednesday, I had a mammogram & ultra sound; the first since the tumour was discovered (and removed!) And my attitude was so different! Before I hadn’t considered that they might actually find anything wrong; even when the doctor said that there was something “odd” and I needed to go back for an ultrasound (sorry, they couldn’t fit me in that day, but in a fortnight would be fine!) I scarcely imagined that it might be cancer. This time, I was worried before the mammogram, I was worried during, and I was worried after! It wasn’t until – immediately after the ultrasound – the doctor said “It’s fine. It’s all clear” that I was able to relax. And even have a bit of a weep!

I can’t go back now to that carefree attitude. Every mammogram is going to be the same: holding my breath until I get the all clear. But it’s so important. Don’t hold back. If you are offered a breast check then take it! Having mine caught the cancer early enough to stop it in its tracks.

Now I need to go and have a frottis!!

* I had to look this word up. I got bi-annual (twice a year) mixed up with bienniel (once every two years)

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!!

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!