Sunday, 27 October 2013

First cancer anniversary

It is just over a year since I was diagnosed with cancer. 

It’s not an exact anniversary – I’m rubbish at remembering anniversaries.  Anyway, which date would I have chosen?  When I saw my GP about The Lump?  8 days later when I was seen at the breast clinic and was told, yes it is cancer?  A week later when the results of my biopsies were available (but not communicated)?  Or a fortnight later when I was finally told the type, size and spread of the cancer?

All valid reasons for not being too pernickety about the date.

I’m still here and feeling pretty well.   In the past 12 months, I’ve completed 6 cycles of chemotherapy (FEC-T), one operation, 25 radiotherapy treatments, 3 months of daily Anastrozole tablets, and I’ve lost count of how many Herceptin treatments (and a partridge in a pear tree!)

Which of them was the worst aspect?  Actually none of the above. 

It was the waiting:  for the outpatient appointment, to be seen at the clinic, for further appointments, for tests and scans, for the results, and then finally waiting to start treatment.  Then there was The Fear:  of the unknown, of dying, of leaving people behind.

Once you actually start treatment, everything is a doddle by comparison.  Yes, really.

Of course chemo is crap (loss of hair, eyebrows, eyelashes, feeling and being sick, fatigue, sore toenails, food tasting strange, diarrhoea and constipation (but not at the same time).  For 4 long months.   But starting treatment means that battle has finally commenced:  you are fighting back and the tumour is shrinking.

Once you’ve done with the chemo, things start to look up.  Hair re-growth, spring arriving then summer, holidays and sunshine.  Surgery and radiotherapy are just little blips along the way.   

I’ve got a few more months of Herceptin to go, 5 years of Anastrozole (at least), and some reconstruction work ahead.  

No big deal. 

As long as this lousy cancer doesn’t not come back...

Clocks going back and comfort food

The clocks going back means we are heading into the dark.

For the next couple of months afternoons and mornings will get shorter and shorter.  The shortest morning will be in early January - sunrise at 8:06 in London.  The shortest afternoon will be around mid December - sunset 15:51pm, and, as everyone knows, the shortest day is on the 21st December: 7 hours 49 minutes.

November used to be my least favourite month - nothing but shorter and shorter days to look forward to and Spring too far distant to be real.  Keats called Autumn "The season of mists and mellow fruitfulness" which evokes more pleasant feelings.

I now think of Autumn as the time of remembering. Guy Fawkes night ("Remember, Remember the fifth of November...")  and Remembrance Sunday both take place in November.

It is also a time of personal remembering, and when I do the most cooking and baking.  A time of comfort eating.

My comfort food is hot, filling and satisfying:

cottage pie, shepherd's pie, spaghetti bolognese, lasagna, beef casserole with red wine, meat loaf, baked beans on toast, grilled cheese on toast (with a dash of worcester sauce), thick vegetable soups with crusty bread, porridge with a spoonful of jam,

And for puddings:  apple or rhubarb crumbles with custard, christmas pudding with custard, treacle sponge with custard.

It's cottage pie tonight.

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Swimming in a church.

Yesterday I spent a lovely hour swimming in an old church.  Actually it was a former church in a former hospital that has been converted to a health club.

But it was amazing.  Think of a swimming pool surrounded by pillars and looking up to the high roof with wooden beams, with the jazzucci and sauna near where you expect the altar to be.

Like swimming lengths in a mini-cathedral (except that it wasn't as large as that).

Mesmerising, relaxing and awesome.

I've now done nearly 14% of my cross channel swim in local swimming pools.

Friday, 18 October 2013

Robotic pets

I love robots, especially cleaning robots.

My oldest cleaning robot is Ron, a Roomba 520.  I've had him for nearly 2 years and he has changed my life. I hate hoovering and used to put it off until my house was pleading for it then vacuumed madly for hours until my house was clean, then the cycle would begin again.  But once Ron arrived he took all this off my hands and now the house is reasonably clean most of the time.

A month ago I got Don, a dashing Roomba 770.  He's gorgeous and takes care of my downstairs, getting up early to make sure the place is clean each morning.  Ron now has just upstairs duties, but he doesn't complain.

A few days ago, I got Sam, a cute Scooba 230 floor washing robot.  At the moment he is washing my kitchen floor, which I always put off because I hate washing floors.

I'm sitting here contentedly listening to my house robots hard at work wondering why people employ (human) cleaners who need to be paid.  Or keep animals as pets and then have to clean up after them.

But could Ron, Don and Sam be deceiving me and secretly plan to take over the world?  Maybe, but my house has never looked cleaner...

Monday, 14 October 2013

Planning Footsteps with the Snowflake Method

I'm in the planning stage for my first complete children's novel:  Footsteps.

The first 20,000 words will form the creative piece for my dissertation,  By the time the dissertation is finished, I should be deeply into the story and characters and I hope I can go on to complete the full novel without too many hitches.

We are always told that professional writers fall into 2 camps:  those who plan their novels and those who just get a rough draft down first.  The former approach can stifle creativity in some writers but the latter approach is likely to require many cycles of re-writing.  All books need huge amounts of editing and re-writing, but I can see that time spent in advance planning ought to mean fewer and less extensive re-writes.

So I've decided to have some sort of planning phase.  I can't bring myself to just sit down and work out all the scenes and chapters.  This might work for some people, but I just don't think that way.  I've heard about a method that allows you to start off with an story idea, and then expand it into a paragraph, and then do the same with the characters, and then expand the paragraph into a synopsis and then put more flesh on the characters.   And so on, until you have all the scenes set out.  I'm talking about the Randy Ingermanson's Snowflake Method.

I don't know yet whether it will work for me, but it seems a good place to start.  I am not intending to complete all the steps before I start writing the novel, but I will aim to do as many as seems sensible.  I will then write a couple of chapters, review my draft Snowflake plan, amend it and possibly complete more stages of the Snowflake, then write more chapters etc etc.  In this way I hope to get the main benefits of planning without it holding back my creativity.

I will report back in this blog on how this works out in practice.

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Swimming across the channel

I've been wanting to get back to swimming for a long long time, but it was one thing after another that kept me out the pool.  Today I had my first proper swim for over 10 years.

There were a few teething problems - I won't use that nose clip next time and I had to practice a bit before I would swim whole lengths ago.  Once I settled down to it, I gradually swam 30 lengths (with little rests after each length).  Rubbish I know, but at least I've restarted.

To keep myself motivated, I'm logging my swims on the Swimfit website and set myself a target to swim across the channel (22 miles) in my local pool.  My effort today meant that I've completed just over 2% of the distance.  So I've leaving Dover behind and I'm on my way to France.