Friday, 24 July 2015

Normal service, part two.....July so far

The month of July started with my initial appointment with the oncologist - literally, as it was the first day of July!  I have nothing but praise for the French healthcare system.  As well as the oncologist, in the room with Danny and I were a junior doctor, a nurse and the lady who had come with me to help translate.  Yet I didn't feel overwhelmed by that; they made me feel like they had no other patients to see, giving me all the time I needed to go through the long list of questions I had without making me feel like I was taking away their valuable time.

Anyway, the next few days were spent in a flurry of visitor preparation as our first guests of the summer were coming on the 5th!  The guests were a friend of Danny's and his wife, neither of whom I'd met before.  That is so hard to believe now because we parted a week later with me feeling like they'd been my friends for years!  They had planned a road trip holiday, staying with us for a while then travelling on to the South of France.  Obviously this had been planned some time ago before I was ill but they had been prepared to change plans at the last minute if necessary.  Of course, after my visit to the oncologist, knowing that I would be taking tablets at home, we were able, luckily, to go ahead with the original plans.

For the first evening that any guests are here, I usually prepare a meal that I can just stick in the oven and serve whenever they are ready.  This time I made a slow roasted shoulder of lamb, with roasted vegetables, served with hunks of fresh baguette.  The weather was glorious so we ate outside; the food was set out on plates for everyone to dig in and help themselves.  When we were all stuffed to the gills, Danny and Andy set up this photo to make it look as if Andy had had the lamb dish all to himself!

We had a fabulous week during which I started to feel as if were on holiday as Andy and his wife, Yuliya, made life incredibly easy for me!  The animals thoroughly enjoyed their visit too as they were given a lot of attention!  As you can see here, Finn has made a new friend....

Andy & Yuliya's last night with us happened also to be our wedding anniversary so I think we can be forgiven for going out for a slap up meal at our favourite restaurant, À La Bonne Vie!  Andy took this fabulous photo of Danny and I....

And here's one of the four of us, outside the restaurant....

With an interval of about four weeks until our next guests are due to arrive, we thought it was time to knuckle down and try to get on with some of the jobs we've neglected.  High on that list is, of course, redecorating the lounge.  But even that had to take a back seat as some new shutters, made by our friend Les, had to be painted to stop any potential warping (although we've barely seen a drop of rain in the last four or five weeks!)  We do intend to change the colour of all of our shutters to this beautiful blue, but the kitchen door shutters are a great start....

While I'm talking about the kitchen door, some of you may remember that I'd intended to have a herb garden in the old trough that was moved into position last year.  I did eventually sow some herb seeds and here is the herb garden flourishing.......

I have to admit, I love just popping outside to cut fresh herbs and I think it makes a big difference to the taste of a meal.

But back to the lounge, Danny had already managed to get some of the woodwork painted but that had still to be finished.  Then, at last, it was on to the walls!  Here he is, just starting on the undercoat...notice the tiny grey onlooker by his side!

I'll let you know how it's progressed in the next update!

Finally, I should have mentioned that a few months ago, my friend Anne and I joined a Patchwork Group.  We were both interested in doing patchwork projects as a hobby so we went along, liked it and decided to join.  We meet a couple of times a month and it's always a good excuse for Anne and I to go out for lunch first!  But the reason I'm telling you this is that last week I completed my first patchwork project.  It's not perfect but I'm happy with it.  The lady who taught us how to do it is called Edith - a lovely lady, who seems to have a limitless amount of patience!  But her name led me to calling the bag an "Edith Bag".  What do you think of it?

That's about it for now but I'll be back with more news soon.

À bientôt

Sunday, 19 July 2015

As promised.....normal service resumes!

I don't think it would be right to start this post without saying a huge Thank You to all of you - and there were so many - who have left comments, sent messages, emails, cards and so on.  I can't tell you how much it has meant to me - and to Danny - to know just how much love, prayers, thoughts and support are being sent our way.

But let's get on with what we did manage to do during the "missing" months.  I mean, besides going back and forth to various doctors, clinics and hospitals!

There's actually quite a bit to say!  So in this update I'll keep it to what happened during May and June then follow it up in a day or so with July!

Well, of course the worst of those two months was the waiting for the results of each test and neither Danny nor I could settle to anything major.  So work on the lounge was abandoned; Danny couldn't focus on the painting and I couldn't muster up the concentration to start making the curtains.  In those early weeks we just about kept on top of what had to be done.  But for some reason, I was able to lose myself in some smaller sewing projects, perhaps because they weren't too daunting or even 'important'. Now when I look at the following two photos, I am pleasantly surprised at the results. The first photo is of the curtains I made for our bedroom.

Knowing that when it came to doing the lounge curtains they would have to look pretty good, I made the bedroom ones as a kind of prototype!  I have never made these eyelet headed curtains before and I am rather pleased with the outcome.

The second photo is of "curtains" I made to go round the vanity unit in the bathroom.  There was a lot of fabric left from what Sarah used to make the Roman blind in there (actually, there is still a lot left over - my measurements couldn't have been very accurate!) so I decided to make these..

The weeks went by and the trip we'd booked months previously to go camping at a VW show in the UK came around.  The timing was tricky as I was waiting for the crucial result of the biopsy.  But, we made the decision to go ahead with the trip for a number of reasons, not least that it would be a good distraction.  We made it knowing that good news would wait and bad news wouldn't improve with waiting!

We spent an afternoon getting the camper and all the paraphernalia we take cleaned and ready.   I was trusted to use the pressure washer to get things clean....

 ......while Danny did important things like making sure we had enough drinks for the weekend.....!

We set off in the camper for Caen, leaving our home and animals in the good care of friends who are also house-sitters. The journey, in beautiful sunshine, was uneventful, unlike last year's debacle! Getting to Caen early for our overnight crossing, we were able to check in and park the camper in a queue and go off to have dinner.

Danny quickly got into the holiday mood as we sat and enjoyed a meal - and a beer - in the beautiful early evening sunshine...

But.... no sooner had we gone back to the ferry terminal, the sky darkened over and the biggest thunderstorm started.  And continued for hours with torrential rain pouring down!  (It was quite scary!  So much so that I bought some travel sickness pills, just in case...!)  I'm not sure if this photo really captures how bad it was but hopefully you'll get some idea....

Fortunately, the crossing was fine and we got to Portsmouth without incident.  Unfortunately, the same can't be said of our journey from Portsmouth into Essex where we were meeting up with Danny's sons, Paul and Joe and all the rest of our camping party!  I have to shoulder some of the blame because I dozed off and Danny, left to navigate on his own, missed the turn off for the M25!  When I awoke after a pleasant snooze, Danny told me something had gone wrong and we were 'somehow' in South London! Eventually, with the help of Joe and our SatNav we made it successfully to Joe's house and then on to Jimmy's Farm just outside Ipswich, where the VW Show was held.

This year, in our convoy, we had not just Joe's Beetle but Paul now has one too.  Here are the Cleavely family classic VWs on show...!

We had a good time but the weekend was a wee bit spoilt by the weather - at best it drizzled and at worst it rained for most of the weekend!  But there are lots of good things about these weekends, things the weather can't spoil.  Like seeing all the little 'uns in our group enjoying themselves, being able to sit around just chatting and enjoying each other's company and making new friends.  I think these few photos sum it up....

We only stayed in the UK for a couple of days after the weekend, long enough to have the camper checked over and see a few more people.  Unfortunately, there is never enough time to see everyone we'd like to see.

Shortly after we got back, we got two kittens to add to our menagerie!  We had arranged to have them before my health nightmare started but, as we are determined to live life as normally as possible, changing as little as possible, we decided not to change our plans.  So Micky, a pale ginger and white tomcat and Smoggy, a grey female are now part of our family.  It was the right decision because they have been a delight and a distraction!  It's hard not to laugh when you have kittens in the house! Already we have dozens of photos of them but just so those of you who haven't seen them yet can do so, here's what they looked like when we first had them....

 They just love Danny's laptop!

Now, I'm going to leave you with another addition to the Cleavely household.  Meet Robert the Robot (as named by Danny - honest!).  

He's a labour saving device which, in the absence of a hunky pool-boy, cleans the pool for us! He sometimes needs a little shove to get him moving again but otherwise is a great gadget!

I hope you've enjoyed reading this update and I will be back in a few days to let you know what's been happening so far in July!

À bientôt

Saturday, 11 July 2015

An unfortunate reason for not having updated the blog......

Some of you may have wondered why I've not been updating the blog. The last time I updated the blog was on 2nd May.

Two days after that, I went to our GP to check out a lump I thought I could feel in my stomach.

Since then, our lives have been in a kind of limbo, if you can call it that, while simultaneously being on a roller coaster of emotion.  In the two months since that visit to the GP I have had ultrasound, a colonoscopy, an endoscopy, a biopsy and a CT scan - not to mention a couple of visits to a gastro-enterologist.

The end result was the devastating news that I have cancer of the liver.  You know, you can try to prepare yourself for the worst but nothing can really prepare you for that sort of news!

But wait, because it is not all doom and gloom.  For one thing, a lot of the tests I underwent were to determine if there was cancer elsewhere in my body.  And there isn't.  And because it is confined to the liver, they can treat it with tablets which are designed to shrink "the blighter" as my ex-boss called it (up to that point, I had called it another word beginning with 'b' but I won't stoop to that sort of language here!).  The drug aims to cut the blood supply to the tumour and once it has shrunk, the plan is to stabilise it.

Those of you who know me personally, know that I am a pretty strong, upbeat and positive sort of person.  I have had the most amazing support from family and friends who already know the situation.  This is the biggest thing I have ever had to deal with, but I am determined to live as normal a life as possible. Anything less would feel like defeat!

Although we haven't done very much in the last couple of months, besides hospital visits, I will resume updating the blog, probably in the next few days.  Well, it's what I normally do, isn't it!!!

Watch this space....I'll be back soon. xx