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)

Advertisements

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.

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.

Some people have got no taste…

In fact, for me, that baby foods taste of nothing…

It’s an odd sensation,eating food that looks delicious, has a faint (but tempting) aroma, and yet tastes of zilch. Nada. Nuttin’ at all.

For the first couple of days after this happened I went off the idea of eating. I existed on porridge and bread (not so good for the bowels!) but Mr FD and I decided that this was no good. Different sites gave different advice, but many said to try strong flavours, such as curry, chilli and so on. However, although I couldn’t really taste these flavours, they still burned my mouth, which is quite sensitive. I’m lucky enough not to have developed ulcers (yet!) but strong flavours hurt – including mint. I find that toothpaste is too strong a mintiness, so I only have a tiny smear. And extra-strong mints have me whimpering “the pain…the pain…”

Working on the fact that I was enjoying a warm hard-boiled-egg sandwich for lunch, with iceberg lettuce and a few crisps, we thought that a way I might – at least partially – enjoy food was if we worked on a variety of textures and sensations. The sandwich was giving me warm/cold, plus crisp/soft/crunchy. A chocolate chip cookie gave an interesting mix of crunchy plus melty (and a tiny hint of chocolate at the very end).

Mr FD’s chilli was a success on Saturday, with the softness which didn’t hurt, a tiny edge of chilli (just enough!), the different textures of beans, mince, rice and so on. Yesterday he made this salmon-and-asparagus-pastafrom my newest “go to” site for recipes

Oh, it looked lovely! It smelt delicious! It tasted of – nothing! BUT at least it had an interesting mix of textures and mouth-feel: soft salmon, slippery pasta, crunchy asparagus. Happily, it also includes 2 of my 5-a-day (which I’m not keeping to, by any means!)

We’ve planned a vegetable/chicken stir fry tonight – carrot, beansprouts, mushrooms, cabbage, noodles – these will all help make it a bit more interesting to eat. And, if it’s a particularly “umami” sauce, I may get a slight taste of that too.

I thought I’d try a different breakfast, and was really looking forward to this Bircher Meusli, that I made yesterday evening, from the same site:

I thought that there would be a variety of textures in this. When I looked at it, I couldn’t help but imagine the deliciousness of the berries, and honey, and creamy yoghurt…digging my spoon in, I took a big mouthful…and nearly gagged! The creaminess combined with the tastelessness just didn’t work! I’m determined to try it again, when I get my taste back, because I think it is probably very nice, but sans taste? – no, thank you! Back to banana sandwich, or honey-on-bread!

What is very bizarre though is the fact that I can still taste drinks – fainter than before, but I can still taste them. So I enjoy my apple juice/ orange & cranberry juice drinks – but I am right off coffee. Very bitter!! I am watering the juice down though, 75% water, 25% juice, which is better for me, but drinking about 2 litres a day. I know 500 ml of juice isn’t great, but I’m letting myself off that for the duration.

I’m slowly losing weight at the moment, mostly because snacks and alcohol hold little, or no, appeal! There’s no point having a biscuit with your mid-morning drink, if you can’t taste it! There’s no sense of “I like something sweet in the evening” if you can’t distinguish sweet from anything else! There’s no “Oh, I really enjoyed that, so even if I’m full I’ll have a bit more!” There’s no “Let’s have an apèro, and a few snacks and nibbles” when the drinks taste bitter, and the nibbles are crisp enough to hurt my mouth and taste of nothing! I’m down about 2 or 3 kg from my last weigh in, but I’m still way too heavy. So, I’m aware that when things are back to as normal as possible, things need to change…

Knowing that we need to up our vegetable intake, and reduce our red meat intake, I think this site will be useful. These are some of the recipes we’ll be trying:

There are lots, and lots, and LOTS of recipes. I also like the way you can see (on some ) how many portions of fruit/veg they provide. I’m also going to be going back to my copy of “River Cottage Veg Every Day”, which I used a lot when I first got it. Here is a link to my old blog pages, with the tag “River Cottage” should you be ionterested in finding out more. I’m enjoying Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s series on BBC1 at the moment “Britain’s Fat Fight”…

I also really, seriously, need to think about exercise. But that’s for another day…

But, over to you, dear ones: do you have any suggestions for meals which would tempt me on the texture front, and Mr FD on the taste front?

 

The worst is over…

These are the words that one of the nurses said to me (if I understood her correctly) as she hooked me up to the new doses of poison on Thursday.

“Huzzah”, I thought, as the first FEC100 treatments had been perfectly bearable.

“Liar! Liar! Pants on fire!” I thought as on Saturday my legs started to feel like someone was simultaneously pressing hard on bruises, pushing red hot skewers into my knees and ankles, joyously pricking me with pins & needles, and occasionally tapping my bones with a toffee hammer. This spread to my wrists, hands and forearms too, while my shoulders, ribs and neck were feeling as stiff and painful as a very stiff and painful thing. (Sorry, I’ve run out of metaphors)

I was writhing in pain on my sick bed, whimpering like a puppy. Searching on the internet suggested taking Claritin, and moving. Which I didn’t feel like doing, but I did – and it helped. I also had Tramadol to take for the muscle pain in my shoulders – which is most likely caused by the injection to boost the white blood cells.

On Sunday, during the day, things went fine, but overnight I was woken every couple of hours by the pain; the same on Monday, and then on Tuesday night it became every 15 minutes or so. I was SO tired. It seemed that lying down, and not moving very much made the pains worse. I was really dopey, through tiredness, and burst into tears a few times, just from the sheer relentlessness of it. The pain had decreased by now, but was still there with a shooting pain, or a quick toffee-hammer thud, or a dull ache, just to remind me.

Yesterday Mr FD made an appointment with the doctor, but she basically said there wasn’t much to be done, except increase the pain killers. So I did…and last night I had a reasonable night’s sleep. I still woke up with pain, but about 3.00 am I took more medication, which enabled me to sleep through until 8.00. Millie gave me a lovely snuggle in the hour it took for the painkillers to kick in.

Today, the pain is still there, but it’s in the background. Thank goodness.

The other side effect is that I’ve almost completely lost my sense of taste. There’s still the periphery of sweet or spicy, but it’s hardly there. So you can imagine food doesn’t hold much allure – and my mouth hurts when I eat. AND it feels like it’s full of cotton wool – a bizarre dry feeling.

Yesterday I managed a cheese and pickle sandwich and half a bowl of porridge. The day before, was another sandwich and a piece of fish-and-rice (with a strong sauce) Mr FD is a tad worried, and so is going to “force” me to eat more – I had bread-and-honey for breakfast, and I could taste the honeyness of that. We’ll see about lunch. I haven’t lost a sense of smell though – his omelette last night smelled good, and I can definitely smell when Pomme has been in her litter tray!!

Finally, my nails are being affected too – I have a very greasy ointment to put on twice a day, and I wore ice-mittens while having the chemo, but they are starting to feel weakened, and a little hurty too. Sigh.

I’m not telling you this for sympathy (though that’s always nice) but partly as a record for myself, and partly for others who might come across this while searching for info. It does pass (though I’ve read of people still getting this neuropathy a year after chemo has ended. Please, God, no…) and painkillers are a wonderful thing.

Hey, ho. I hope to continue with a more cheerful post tomorrow.