Thursday, 22 October 2015

Back from the UK

I'm a bit naughty because we have been back from the UK for about 10 days now and I've only just got round to telling you all about it!

For some reason, I found the traffic and crowds particularly bad this time but the best part of going back is always being able to spend time with family and friends.  While I'm very happy to be back in the peace, quiet and beauty of our corner of France, it took me a while to adjust to not being able to see those we love.  Plus, I'm always reminded of the availability and choice over there and we did make the most of the shops when we could!

We travelled overnight from Caen to Portsmouth then drove in to Kent to meet up with our friends Andy and Yuliya, who stayed with us earlier in the year.  That evening, they took us to a fabulous restaurant in Sandwich.  If ever you have the chance, I recommend you visit it and in the meantime you can check it out by clicking this link The Fisherman's Wharf

The following day, we went on into Essex, stopping for some retail therapy at the Lakeside shopping mall!  Later we met up for dinner with all of Danny's sons, their wives/partners and children.  During the next couple of days Danny and I each spent time with "special friends" and before we knew it, Saturday - and the day of Mark and Kelly's wedding - arrived.  It was a lovely wedding but I'm afraid I don't have many photos to share with you.  Nonetheless, here are the happy couple.....

....and here's one of us with Mark, Kelly and Danny's cousin and his wife.....

Having had to tie in our travel dates with the lovely lady who house-sat for us, we set off back to France the very next day, again travelling overnight but to Saint Malo this time.


One of the things we bought in the UK were some throws for our sofas, the purpose being to reduce the amount of dog hair removal we have to do.  Now, when anyone comes round, we can quickly whip off the throw to reveal a hair-free sofa!  So this is what the lounge looks like now....

Well, that's about all the news I have for you this time.  Other than the following update on my health for those who want to read it.


The day after our return to France I had to go and have a CT scan.  Danny and I were both very nervous, I think because this would be the first scan since before I was diagnosed.  Since then, the oncologist has relied on whatever the blood test results show, so the CT scan would tell him (and us) exactly what is happening.  It would also show whether the cancer has spread to other organs.  Over here, having been scanned, you wait to see a doctor and he goes through the results with you.  Also here, you keep the pictures and the doctor's written report. Luckily the doctor spoke very good English as I hadn't taken a translator with me! He had the good - and very unexpected - news for us that, while the tumour has not decreased in size from the previous scan, the cancerous cells within it are dying.  And there is no cancer in any other organ.  This was confirmed by the oncologist who I saw yesterday.  We asked him if the tumour itself would eventually shrink and he said it would do so but that it could take "several months".  We also finally asked the question as to why it couldn't be operated on (several people have asked us that question so we thought we'd get a definitive answer!)  We were shocked to learn that the reason is the sheer size of the tumour which is 60% of the liver.  

The upshot of these two visits is that I will continue to take the same drug and I will probably have another scan in a few months' time.

I told you about side effects last time, one of the worst being the soreness of my feet.  Well!  Our house-sitter, who has a problem with her heels, which makes walking difficult and painful, had discovered some shoes that had eased her problems considerably.  She recommended them to me and, to cut a long story short, I found a stockist in Essex and bought a pair for myself.  Every time I tell this story, it seems that everyone but me had heard of this brand of shoe - they are Skechers.  And what a difference they have made!  I can walk about easily and free of pain now.

One thing I didn't mention last time was my loss of appetite which has been getting worse as the weeks go on.  This, of course, affects my weight and I have now lost over 3 kg since going on the drug in July.  The tablets have to be taken morning and evening and 12 hours apart.  You can't eat for two hours before and an hour after taking them.  The times that I've been taking them up to now has meant that after dinner I couldn't eat all evening.  While my appetite for "proper"  meals has all but disappeared, I believe I could quite easily nibble on snacks while watching TV.  I checked with the oncologist yesterday and he agreed I could change the times when I take the pills.  So now, from today, I'm hoping that being able to eat bits and pieces during the evening will provide enough sustenance to stop the weight loss.  I think this is the first time in my life when I've actually wanted to gain weight!


The weather here is cooling right off now although we are still getting sunny days.  The central heating has been turned on and Danny's back to his wood-burning duties!  I still have quite a lot of work to do in the garden but can only do little bits and pieces at a time.  With the nights drawing in and November around the corner, we have turned our minds towards our winter "projects".  The first of these is going to be redoing Danny's hobby room (or "cave" as he calls it!) to enable him to have more space to do his models.  Naturally, this cannot be done in isolation so my little study is also in for some rearranging!  

Till next time then, à bientôt!

Sunday, 4 October 2015

A brief catch-up (and a bit about my health!)

This is brief only because there's not a great deal to tell you! We are off to the UK tomorrow for a week (for Danny's son Mark's wedding) and I didn't want to leave it that long before updating the blog.

So, what is there to tell you?  Well, to start with, we had a large delivery of logs a couple of weeks ago.  We now get them from a local farmer who delivered them in a large trailer on his big red tractor.....

Normally, Danny and I put away the logs together but this year, unfortunately, it is a bit too much for me, especially as it was a larger load than usual.  Danny did some of it himself and luckily friends of ours, Donna & Dave, came round and helped too meaning that over half of it was put away pretty quickly.

The following week, our ex-neighbours from the UK, Ron and Barbara, came for their annual visit! They always help us with jobs that need doing outside and this year was no exception.  Both have their 80th birthdays in the next couple of years but their energy and enthusiasm are to be envied.  I happened to have a hospital appointment on their second day here and they got stuck into log-shifting while we were out.  Danny and I were astounded when we saw what they had done in a little over three hours!

Such is my dedication to this blog that I have just popped outside - in the rain - to take this next couple of photos!  The first is to show you just what Ron and Barbara achieved that morning.  This then is our new log store....

Ron used several pallets to make a floor, back and sides but before he could do that, the hedge you see behind the logs, needed a brutal trimming (you can see roughly what it was like to the left of the logs).  That hedge, a very prickly pyracantha. extends to the right of the photo for about another couple of metres and Ron had trimmed all of that, both sides and the top, as well as the part behind the log store. Then he and Barbara had moved all the logs from the front garden round to this new log store!

This second photo shows the original wood store and serves to demonstrate the work that Danny, Donna and Dave achieved.  The pile on the right is double width stacked!  The green bin is full of odd bits of wood that we'll use as kindling.

There are rumours that we are in for a bad winter this year so I won't be surprised if we need more than all of this before the year's out!  Hard to believe, isn't it!

You may remember that back in August, we had our guests, Martin, Richard and Adam, cutting down the hedge between our garden and our immediate neighbours' garden. Well, between Danny, Ron and Barbara, the line of stumps has now been drilled, each filled with salt (our neighbour assures us the salt will kill the stumps!) and the area cleared of the remaining weeds and leaves.  This is what it looks like today...

I know it's not everyone's taste to have no separating hedge or solid fence but we actually like it.  We may eventually put up some sort of free-standing screen around the area where we eat  outside but other than that, we are happy with this "open-plan" look.  As you can see, our neighbour's potager (kitchen garden) is positively a work of art to behold!

Ron did a couple of other jobs for us, for example, lifting a couple of old plants and moving a pile of stones but he and Barbara did also have plenty of resting time.  Of course, we had some trips to the boulangerie for some cakes for our afternoon tea and a visit to the Vue du Chateau restaurant for an English Sunday lunch for a change!

Ron and Barbara love the dogs and as you can see, the dogs love them....oh no, wait!  Ron and Barbara have food!

I mentioned that Ron moved some stones for us.  This is ready for our next project!

Mind you, although Danny will be helping, most of the work will be done by John, who did the pool and terracing.  We now plan to improve this side of the back garden and the stones you see piled up here in the photo above, will be transformed into a barbecue.  You can see from the photo that this side of the garden is a bit tatty compared to the pool "end" of the garden!  John is expecting to start this next month so watch this space!!

We have been gradually letting the kittens go outside over the last month or so but we still keep them in at night.  At first we let them go in the back garden only but eventually gave in and let them out the front too.  To be honest, Micky (the ginger tom-kitten) had already worked out how to get around the whole perimeter of the house!  Within hours of letting them play out the front, they had discovered a great tree to climb!  Here they are up high in that tree...


Now, some of you have told me that you'd like me to include an update on my health and how I am feeling.  I have been in two minds about it because on the one hand, I didn't want to turn this blog into being about my illness while on the other hand, I know how many of you care about me and want to know.  Please feel free to let me have your views!

And here is an honest piece about how I feel!

For those who don't already know, I have been on my treatment for about three months now.  Taken orally in tablet form, the drug is designed to target the tumour by cutting its oxygen and blood supply. The oncologist told me the objective of my treatment is to shrink the tumour then maintain it. It is measured by the level of alpha fetoprotein in my blood - and I have a blood test every four weeks before seeing the oncologist. (I absolutely HATE blood tests!!!)  After the first month, the reading decreased by a third and Danny and I were elated.  However, since then it's stayed about the same.  Of course that's a good thing and I appreciate that it means the cancer is stable.  But, the drug gives me various side effects, some of which are most unpleasant!  The worst is probably the effect it has on the soles of my feet, making the simple act of walking very painful and sometimes just unbearable.  I have said that I don't care what I have to go through to get rid of the "blighter" but I can't deny that the side effects do bring me down and it's not always easy to pull myself up.

Then there's the fatigue! I have always had bags of energy and although that has decreased with age, I still had plenty!  But now, it doesn't take much to bring on awful fatigue so I have to limit myself to doing only what I think has priority on any given day.  It means that much of the time I am just sitting about - something I've never done - and that in turn makes me lethargic and apathetic. (Gosh!  I've just read that last bit back and realise how negative that sounds!  Perhaps writing it down is going to be cathartic for me!)

Anyway, going forward, the oncologist has now booked me in for a CT scan on 13 October and I will see him again on 16 October.  He has said that the treatment may be changed and he may also need to refer me to a specialist hospital.  So again, we wait and see!


All that aside, as I said at the outset, we are off to the UK tomorrow and now I need to do some packing.  With the amount of stuff I plan to take, it's as well we decided to drive back rather than fly. And just as well we have a big car!!

Take care everyone and I'll be back to let you know all about our trip before you know it!

À bientôt