Happy 50th Birthday to my sister, Julie

It’s actually 22nd June but this post is going to be really hard to write and to post up for the world to see. So I’m starting it now so that I can work on it for the next 8 days to get it just right.

My sister would have been 50 today. She was sadly taken from us on 19th February 1991. I will go into that later but first our earlier years.

Julie was 2 years older than me. Early memories were of us growing up where my mom still lives today in Rangeways Road, in the West Midlands. We were a very happy family of four, not special but just normal and like so many families. We were both given bikes one Christmas, blue as I remember them and due to our love of horses we used to ride them in the street pretending they were horses, doing rising trot on them and the curbs were jumps. We also used to use the banister upstairs, we’d place a pillow on it as a saddle and ride the banister, thank god there weren’t any mobile phones then to record that! It was our dream to have our own horse. We would tease each other over the years at Christmas and Birthday’s. Whoever was up first would wake the other one up by saying that there was a horse outside waiting for us.

Early years, with my sister
Early years, with my sister

Julie was just like my mom, quiet, shy, hard to talk to and if you didn’t know her you would think that she was a snob but that wasn’t the case. Julie was not like me at all, she was a ‘goodie two shoes’! I was just like my dad. She was so good that one day she was given money to go to the shops to buy a paper, she brought a Curly Wurly instead and told mom and dad that she had dropped the money down the drain. Unable to live with the deceit, she soon owned up to it as she couldn’t live with the shame of lying. Apart from that incident I don’t remember her ever being naughty, I made up for that and brought my poor parents enough problems to make up for Julie’s short comings. Our love of horses lasted years and we spent so many hours working all weekend at a local riding stables for free. We were lucky to share in one of our dreams together, we had our own horse, Bonnie first and then later, Czar. Thank you mom and dad for making that dream come true for us.

Julie jumping our first pony, Bonnie.
Julie jumping our first pony, Bonnie.
Julie on Czar
Julie on Czar

We used to fight a lot and we didn’t like each other much at times. I look back and regret every argument and fight we ever had. I was the stronger one, both physically and mentally. I’m not proud of taking her soft, loving and gentle personality for granted. She didn’t have loads of friends but the ones she had were real friendships that should or would have lasted a lifetime. Julie was jealous of the friendship I had with my best mate Nicky. She said to me once “you two are always together” and we were. This meant there was no time for my serious, goodie goodie sister. I do remember going to a nightclub with her once. Now my sister never drank or smoked (see I said she was nothing like me) but this night she had cocktails! Within an hour she was under the table, pissed and it was just so funny as I think this was the first time she had ever really drank and I never remember her drinking like that again. She was hiding under the table saying “they’re all looking at me” it was fun getting her home that night!

Julie with Ant at one of many happy family parties.
Julie with Ant at one of many happy family parties.

Julie was not very brave at all and squeamish at most things. When she announced that she wanted to be a midwife we all laughed. We thought she was joking but she was deadly serious. So after studying in Hotel Management at Halesowen College and getting a steady job she packed it all in to start to train as a nurse first. This meant that she had to move out of the family home. She moved into the nursing training block and had a taste of independence. She found friends and started to grow in confidence. I was happy as I got the bigger bedroom but the family home wasn’t the same without her. I visited her and attended parties in the halls of residence which are precious memories but again pre modern technology of cameras in phones and Facebook, there are sadly no photo’s of those happy times spent together. She met Rachel during these years, a friendship through the studying years and someone, like many others that liked Julie for who she really was. By now we had sold Czar and she brought Amber, a Red Setter which lived with mom and dad.

She met Anthony and he made her come alive. She shared with him the activities that he was into and she loved them. Motorbikes, caravan holidays in Wales, water skiing and motocross.  My sister used to say to me that when we are born we are half of an orange and when we meet the right person we become whole. She had found her other half of her orange.

Their courtship lasted and the wedding date was planned for 30th June 1990, Julie’s birthday. It was the happiest and best day of our families’ lives so far. A dream wedding day full of fun, love and happiness.  I have a video of that day but I don’t watch it very often, it makes me too sad. Hearing their voices and seeing the people alive that you have lost, is heartbreaking. Their first dance of the evening was to Eric Clapton’s ‘Wonderful Tonight,’ a song that took me years to be able to listen to without crying.  The memories of them dancing, so much in love, so happy, full of hopes and dreams of what the future held for them but was never to come to fruition. This made that song impossible to listen too. It was at their Wedding that I first saw Steve, he was going out with Dawn who grew up over the road from us and I had known her since I was 3 years of age.

The Wedding Day at the church where she now rests. The car in the photo was the car she died in 8 months later.
The Wedding Day at the church where she now rests. The car in the photo was the car she died in 8 months later.
My dad, Rachel and I at the Wedding.
My dad, with the Bridesmaids

Life continued as normal for us all, They had their honeymoon and then married life began for them and Amber, her dog. I visited their home often as we had both grown up in terms of stupid sibling fights and I was happy that she was married to Ant, who had become a dear friend. We shared lots of happy times together in the years before the wedding. We both had boyfriends into motorbikes. We would go down the local bikers pub at weekends. I stayed with them in Ant’s family caravan in Wales for long weekends. I shared in their circle of friends and we had some fantastic times just doing normal stuff that we all do, not thinking for one moment that life would ever be cut short. Death or my experience of death was limited. Uncle Fred had died, a friend of my Dad’s mom. My granddad had died (my mom’s Dad) in 1988 when I was 20 and my other grandad, but I was too young when he died and I can’t remember him at all really, but that was it.

I remember Christmas Day 1990, together in our family home. We had all put together and brought my dad a flying lesson and mom had brought him a new pigeon clock. He was so happy. Another great family Christmas, we had no idea that it was to be our last.

My Dad Christmas 1990 opening his present, a flying lesson
My Dad Christmas 1990 opening his present, a flying lesson

Julie had been studying for years and after Christmas she shared with us the fantastic news that she had passed and was now a qualified midwife. To celebrate this she wanted to go on holiday with Rachel. Her study partner and friend. The gulf war had just started and Anthony didn’t want to risk her going abroad at this time so they agreed that they would go to Scotland and that they would share the driving. So a week of fun to celebrate the end of years of studying and exams was organised. Anthony ran his own business and couldn’t take the time off.  I think he knew that their friendship through the years, studying together and becoming qualified was the celebration, girlie time and men were not allowed.

My dad had a recurring dream for over 20 years that someone would go away on holiday and never return. So strong and frequent was this dream that my mom and dad never went abroad since the dreams started.

I had moved to Gatwick with my job and hadn’t lived at home since I was 19. One night in February 1990, I woke up and a feeling of grief washed over me from my head down right down through my body, I woke crying, I just knew that my sister was dead. The next day at work I shared my dream with Carole from HR and the only other person I told was Julie. We spoke on the phone before her holiday and after telling her of my dream I finished the call saying “I love you.” I think that was the only time that I remember ever telling her. Early years growing up were full of either our love of horses or arguments and fights over stupid things.

Julie wrote to me on 15th January 1991. I have selected some lines of that letter for you and a photo of the last page.

Hi Wend, Thought I’d start to write to you as I won’t be seeing much of you now. As soon as we start to be friends again, you disappear.

Now don’t forget if you want to chat ring me and I’ll phone you back ok don’t leave me out I quite miss you and we can’t quarrel on the phone! can we?

The last page of her letter to me.
The last page of her letter to me.

My mom and Julie had helped me take all my stuff down to my new room in a shared flat to start my new job. I was happy and making friends. The first night that I had been invited out had been a fabulous evening spent at a pub called ‘The Gamebird’ in Horley. I had a great night and I returned to the flat happy. I’d sang and laughed so much I’d almost lost my voice. The phone rang, I answered it, it was my mom, she said “it’s Julie” and I dropped the phone to the floor instantly and started to cry, I just knew she was dead. The dream the other night, my dad’s dream for years. I eventually managed to speak to my mom for the details that she knew at that time.

I phoned Nicky and then Daz (old boyfriend) I told them both what mom had told me. I didn’t get the response I wanted from them. I thought, hoped, prayed that they would say “no, no, no Wendy that’s not right, I saw her today and she is fine” but neither of them did, I had shocked them both. They both replied “what!” Nicky was always there for me and has been since we meet. She was there for my whole family through the difficult times to come, thank you Nicky.

I phoned my manager, Patsy. The next train out of London Euston was at 6 am the next morning. She arranged to meet me at Gatwick, she stayed with me all night, she arranged for a taxi to take me to the train station and sat with me whilst I cried in the chapel of rest at the airport. God sends us angels sometimes and she was mine that night. I arrived at Birmingham New Street running into the arms of my mom, sobbing. Other commuters must have been puzzled at the scene but I was not aware of them around us at all.

We know that there has been a car crash, it’s Anthony’s car. Two girls, one unconscious and one dead, and two handbags and so someone had to go and identify the body. Dad and Anthony set off to Scotland. My dad asked before he went into the room to identify her “is she in a bad way?” “No” the policeman replied. Apparently my dad had the policeman pinned up against the wall after he had been in to see her. I always wanted to ask my dad about what he saw, but I never did.

Another memory of those early days after she died was the need to be in church, the church where she married Ant just months before. It was late at night and dark, I had no idea if the church would even be open but I went anyway. I walked through the fields of my childhood which I had shared with Julie and school friends, I was on my own, it’s dark but I know every path. The church was open but empty and dimly lit. I was sat in the pews, crying. The next thing I know the Vicar is with me, trying to understand why I was there. I could hardly speak for crying but I do remember saying when trying to apologise for me being there so late was “oh God I’m sorry” Then I realised what I’d said, I’d used the Lords name in vain, in a church, in front of a Vicar. I was ashamed and the tears just kept falling. The next thing I knew was that Daz was beside me. I have no idea how he knew I was there, I hadn’t told anyone I was going. Daz dropped me back home that night. Church didn’t help that night, nothing helped, nothing took the pain away, nothing could.

Back at home over the coming days, family and friends came to offer comfort. We knew that it was Julie who had died by now and all hope of it being Rachel had gone. Isn’t it awful that we would wish that grief on another family? Dad and Anthony returned. I spent a few nights with Anthony to comfort him. I could hear him pacing upstairs for hours, wailing and crying for his lost love. I couldn’t comfort him, myself or anyone else.

The day after they returned everyone got postcards from Julie. Anthony’s started with “Hi Ant, don’t worry your car is still in one piece,” this was awful for us all. The postmark on the postcards we all received was 19th February, the day she died. The Valentines cards they had given each other just 4 days before were still on display in their home. I had to sort through her stuff for Ant. I found odd things really hard to deal with like her hair brush, I could touch her hair and her sanitary towels ready for her next period. I still have a pair of her jeans in my wardrobe today, I don’t wear them but I can’t part them either as I can still see her in them. The need to hold onto anything after someone has died is or can be unhealthy. Julie had baked profiteroles and they were in mom’s freezer, I think it took her over 5 years to throw them anyway.

My postcard, which arrived after she died.

My postcard, which arrived after she died.

Turns out from the autopsy that the last contents of her stomach were Coke (the drink) and cough medicine. Being a nurse she didn’t measure cough mixture but just took a gulp. My sister was too sensible to fall asleep at the wheel, as this is what they were saying happened. I believe that she became unconscious due to the cough mixture and coke mixing together. She was driving and Rachel was asleep, she was going around a bend on the A9 and coming the other way was an articulated lorry. He flashed his lights at her as he could see the car was out of control and swerved to miss her but she hit the back wheels of the lorry and her life ended. I felt sorry for this lorry driver, the impact on him of what he saw that day must have been horrific. We understand that they had to be cut out of the car to get them free.

Mom and I had to go to my Nan’s (my mom’s mom) and tell her that Julie had died, that was hard. I suddenly remembered my dream whilst I was there, I asked my mom if I had told her about my dream but she didn’t know what I was talking about.

I remember one night most of the family coming round. Mom being an only child it was my dad’s side of the family, his sister’s my Aunty Cynthia and Aunty Shelia. My dad’s mom who wore a hearing aid started crying as she just couldn’t hear or take in what was being said. Can you imagine outliving your daughter or granddaughter? Her death was announced in the local papers and the next night both my Nan and Ant’s houses were burgled. They took all of my sisters jewellery, wedding ring, the lot. There are some sick scum in this world. An appeal in the local paper sadly didn’t bring the jewellery back.

I received a call from Carole in HR at Gatwick to say how sorry they all were to hear about Julie. I remembered my dream “Carole, did I tell you about my dream? I asked as I knew I had told Julie but I couldn’t remember who else I told. She said “oh Wendy, I’ve just gone all cold”. After Julie’s death my dad never had that reoccurring dream again that he had had for over 20 years, that someone went on holiday and never came back.

As Julie was on holiday she had a camera with her. This is one of the last photo’s ever taken of her with Rachel. I’m glad that she was happy. They had managed to go horse riding and it seems comforting that horse riding, the one thing that we both loved and shared together was one of the last things she did.

One of the last photos of Julie
One of the last photos of Julie

The funeral day arrived and my mom said that I had to write a card for the flowers as these were the last words I’d ever say to her. But I had said mine that night on the phone, they were “I love you” and although I didn’t want to, I had to write the card. Anthony was in a terrible state. The hearse drew up and he was physically sick. We travelled to the Crematorium and it was like there was a football match on, so many people and cars. There were so many people that not everyone got in, there was about 100 people left outside. The aisle was full and people stood at the sides too. It was so strange because some of the people there I hadn’t seen since their Wedding just 8 months earlier. Ant couldn’t walk into the Crematorium, he was draped over two of his friends shoulders. I just couldn’t cope with it all. I like the rest of my family was living a nightmare. Julie wore her wedding dress again that day.

Ant wasn’t the first to be told about Julie, my mom was, as the details in her handbag were still in her maiden name, King. The police turned up but my mom was out having a pizza with a friend, I can’t remember where my dad was or who told him. With no one at home, by some stroke of luck they went to nanny Jan’s house (a neighbour over the road). Mom returned from the meal, the police and Jan were waiting. She was told about the accident and very calmly she offered them a cup of tea. No tears, as these took a while to come out. Mom called Ant and asked him to come round and told him that it was urgent and to bring a friend with him. She then had to tell him that his wife of 8 months, her daughter was dead. They never even had the time to have their first argument, she was taken before even a year had passed. They were still just so happily married, this was not supposed to happen.

After the funeral life was so hard. My dad was a wreck, he drank whisky all day without any effect on him and cried. Amber (Julie’s dog) return to live with my mom and dad. My rock, my world was falling apart and I couldn’t cope with it. I stayed with them for only one week and then I returned to work. The week that I stayed with them was shared between mom and dads’ and Ant’s house. On the third day after Julie died I woke up at my mom’s. I was in the bedroom Julie and I had shared together on and off throughout our early years, and I knew she was gone, I couldn’t feel her with me anymore.

My job at Gatwick was 140 miles away, far enough away to be able to hide from the pain that I saw in my parents, I could pretend it hadn’t happened, that I could call her to talk to her if I wanted too. Seeing my parents grief was too heavy a burden for me.

I then became angry and this anger grew as time passed. I would see drug addicts on the streets or the homeless, rapist or murderers in the paper and think why did God take my sister and leave this scum to live? I started to hate God, resent his power and for taking my sister away from us.

Julie having passed her midwifery course was invited to a presentation of her certificate at Brierley Hill Town Hall. I attended with my mom and dad. They went up to receive her’s along with all the other midwives that passed that year. I sat in the hall, in the audience with all the other adoring families watching my parents collect what she had worked so hard for, one of her dreams. It should have been her up there that day, being happy and proud of what she had achieved. I could feel the sense of pity from the audience as my mom and dad accepted the certificate. It was hard to watch them on that stage. She should have had this moment, it should have been her that day, on that stage.

My anger turned into depression and I remember coming up to the first year anniversary of her death, my feelings grew darker. I didn’t want anything, not light or dark, not sound or silence, I just wanted the pain to stop. Raw grief is dangerous, an empty feeling in your heart that just can’t be filled. I started collecting painkillers with the intention of taking my own life. I just didn’t want anything anymore, I didn’t want life. I never took those pills, how could I do that to my mom and dad? One of the hardest things that happens when you lose a sibling, if there was only two of you to start with, is that you are never enough. Every occasion, Christmas, Birthdays and especially Mother’s & Father’s Days were just so hard. She was always missing and I couldn’t replace that gap. The missing card on the shelf. No card was good enough, no present cost enough. Even now I spend more money on my mom at Christmas than on my kids as I can’t ever make up for Julie not being there, I never could nor could any card or present. I have never admitted that, the pain of never being enough. I’ve carried that around inside for years.

I have had to learn to be an only child. Which is not easy as for 23 years I had someone to share memories with of fun times with mom and dad. My mom struggles with meeting new people as the usual questions are asked when getting to know someone. Most ask “do you have any children?” Now what does my mom say? “yes, two but my oldest daughter died at the age of 25?” and risk the awkward silence and then seeing the look in that persons eyes who wants to just get away from her? Does she say “yes just one” and deny Julie ever lived and live with that guilt of pretending she never lived? It’s a hard one to answer. I however if asked always just tell the truth but hope that the question doesn’t really come up at all. I answer factually without emotion ever. This may make me seem cold and it is but I’ve learned to just say it without feeling what I’m saying.

I started to fear loving anyone, getting too close as I never wanted to feel hurt and pain like that again. I started to build a wall around myself to protect the inner me. I stopped feeling deeply and preferred to appear happy, as that’s what people want. Smile and the world smiles with you, cry and you cry alone.

I travelled back when the ashes were ready to be laid. Now I wasn’t prepared for this, I hadn’t thought what it would be like. It’s awful as a big funeral car arrives and they bring out a small box. The person that you are grieving for is reduced to a small box of ashes.

Every year on 30th June and 19th February my mom and I light a candle, in love and remembrance of my beautiful sister. I always exchange a text message of “thinking of you” with Ant. He has never missed a Valentines Day yet at the church yard in all these years that have passed. He takes flowers, 12 red roses usually, where they married and where she is now laid to rest. My dad has now also joined her in the same plot, in the church grounds where he gave her away to marry Ant just 8 months before she died.

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I get no comfort from going to the grave, so I don’t go very often. My mom used to go every Friday evening after work with fresh flowers. She did this for 6 years until my dad become ill. I had just managed to get her to stop going and then dad died. She doesn’t go every week now but she has to drive past the church regularly. A constant visual reminder of where her loved ones are.

I met my first husband Andy at this time. He had a normal happy family and I was able to hide in them. I had been told that it would be very doubtful that I would ever be able to get pregnant but two years later to the month Julie died, Rebecca was born on 7th February 1993. She gave us all a reason to live again. 16 months later Richard was born, on 8th June 1994, my mom and dad’s wedding anniversary. he was born in Wordsley Hospital where Julie studied and worked in the delivery ward.

Anthony has had to move on. For years he used to take my dad for a pint on a Sunday night but these evenings faded away over the years. He has a partner and they now have two children. I am so happy that he has found peace and happiness, but he never got married again. When my dad died in 1997 Ant was in the main funeral car with Mom and I as he was and always will be considered part of our family from years before. It saddens me that Richard and Rebecca don’t know their Uncle Ant. If Julie were still alive today all of our lives would be so different to the life we lead today without her.

I found it hard to cope when her 40th birthday came along and now another 10 years have passed and she would have been 50 today! I hope my new friend, ‘my blog’ that holds some of my innermost thoughts and feelings can help me again in easing the pain that I have carried around for all these years, by sharing this  with you all. As it has done through my journey with cancer so far.

Now my mom can’t think about me not being alive, nor can Steve, it’s just not an option for either of them that death may come knocking at our door once more.

The awful things that we see and read about everyday in the news of things that happen to others, but can never happen to us, or so I thought. I couldn’t believe that death had come to our family and taken my sister who was good and kind. She was only 25, I was 23 at that time and then my dad died who was only 57. As each year passes I mourn for my sister, I think of her everyday as I do my dad. I stopped being angry with God and I am thankful for each day I have. I decided that I wouldn’t be a victim but instead I would embrace life, but life isn’t fair. I hate causing my mom pain with constant bad news on the cancer front. I think that losing a daughter, a husband, a mom and a dad is enough for anyone and it’s surely someone else’s turn for grief.  But ‘fair is for children’ as they say and who knows what lies ahead of us all, life just isn’t fair at all sometimes. My first milestone is to outlive my dad who died at 57 but I have learned to enjoy each day as it comes and sometimes you are better off not knowing what is around the next corner.

So the moral of the story is – live life, don’t let it pass you by. As Patsy once said to me when I asked her about whether I should go out with Steve or not, “my dear, run down the road and wave your knickers in the air as life is too short.” What wise words they were and they made me laugh.

Steve has made me the person I am today through his love and support. Listening to my life stories. Some of which I am not proud of. He loves me for who I am and what has made me, me.

I wrote this poem to express my pain after she left us and I’d like to share it with you.

As I look at past photo’s, I can count up to four
I look even closer, do you know what I saw?
A Mommy, a Daddy, a unit, one team
I look at our faces, how happy we seem.

A  fills my eyes, I ache in my heart
our family of four is broken apart.
The future it holds for us only three
One Mommy, one Daddy and only one me.

No one could replace her, no one would fit
into our unit, the close family we’ve knit
and if she could see into our hearts
I know she’d be proud of how together we are.

But still we can never replace the fact
for us now there’s only looking back.
Forever young, beautiful and free
in our memories always to be.

In future days when looking at snaps
We shed a tear as there’s always a gap
as I count myself a Mrs and Mr
there should be another, my beautiful sister.

I know that this is my story about my grief in losing Julie and about those around my family at the time. I also know that those of you who have sadly lost loved ones will read my post and maybe moved by memories of your own personal pain of people you may have lost. I’m so sorry for your pain and that I may have made you feel emotions that you like I choose to hide away from the world. This post was written out of respect and love for my sister and all those who know the pain of raw grief. If you have experienced that raw grief, you are not alone and sometimes it’s good to remember and feel that pain. People are only dead when we stop remembering them and stop talking about them.

If memories are all we have then I had to share mine for my Mr Wonderful (hubby) my children and all who know me, as in this post are the details of which I have never really shared with them or you, but I have now.

So tonight I will be lighting a candle as will my mom. We do this every year on her birthday and death day. I have been given a candle holder for this year by my much loved Aunty Shelia, thank you. This year she would have been 50 years old and married for 25 years. Instead of family celebrations for us there are memories and a candle of remembrance.

Finally thoughts: If the price we pay for loving each other is the pain that we feel if we lose our loved ones. I’d rather have loved and lost then to never have loved at all.

 

 

Sobering thoughts!

Going through and dealing with cancer can make you feel very lonely and scared. That’s why I started this blog to help others. I just wanted to share some statistics with you from the Cancer Research UK Website. A website I trust and have used often. All statistics are from England only.

In 2012, 161, 823 people died from cancer

440 people a day die of cancer, one person every 4 minutes!

Cancer accounted for one in every four deaths in 2011

Common cancers making up 46% of all deaths are from lung, bowel, breast and prostate, these are in no order.

One in every 30 of us in the UK are either living with cancer or in remission

There are more than 200 different types of cancer. By 2016 1,000 people a day will have cancer, that’s an estimated 361,000.

Death rates have fallen by 10% over the last decade. The expectation is however that cancer rates will rise again as we are all living longer. Cancer is worse in deprived areas in Britain today.

 

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Those are sadly some of the cold true facts about cancer, the point is you are not alone. I do also worry for the loved ones, family and friends of the person going through cancer. I can see the effects on my family and friends and I feel helpless as I can’t help them with how they feel. Here is a sad but true story for you:

I was at our local park, not long post operation and Steve had to return home quickly for something. So I was left with Molly. I couldn’t stand for long and had to sit on a railing outside the gym until he returned (which wasn’t long). A woman noticed me, she was young and looked physically very fit in her gym outfit.  She stopped to talk to me, I must have looked very odd struggling to play with Molly.

She knew all about cancer, her sister had suffered with breast cancer and sadly had to have one breast removed. She herself had breast cancer too but still had both her breasts. She told me about the volunteering work that she did at our local hospital to support suffers of cancer. What I found most distressing was when she told me how many men leave their wives soon after cancer is diagnosised.  I was shocked, really shocked but having thought about it, it is an interesting debate for you to have with yourself.

If you were diagnosed with cancer and you weren’t happy with your partner would you leave to find happiness for yourself, or stay. A worse dilemma would be if you were unhappy with your partner and they were diagnosed would you leave them? Or would you stay hoping they would be cured or die and then leave them or be free with a house paid for hopefully out of the insurance money? It’s so sad, but examples of which are so hard to even contemplate but happen every day for lots of people.

I have an old school friend who doesn’t do Facebook but emails me with encouraging words and humour to help me. She has had to have both breasts removed and makes jokes of travelling to work on her bike with her chicken fillets in her ruck sack. She has been married now for 27 years, she has been one of the lucky ones, like me who has a wonderful husband. She has become an expert lingerie shopper and makes the most of what she has or hasn’t got.

Bowel cancer isn’t sexy but I can’t imagine what it must be like to not have my breasts. I know the answer to that actually, you would just have to cope, to just get on with it as best you can because cancer takes away every choice you have.

I like my friend am very lucky as Steve is a devoted husband to me and I know he means it. Unlike other illnesses we are not talking about a few months of disruption we now have cancer with us forever. 90% of people do not die from the original tumour but of when or if the cancer goes secondary or metastasizes . If we are lucky in terms of chemo treatment killing my ‘Harribabes’ including the ones in my neck and gut lymph nodes, we then can move into remission but then face the dreaded continual tests, check up and results.

Today has been hard again for me with side effects. Still awake until 3 am, slept until 6.30 am and then feel so weak for the rest of the day. I have managed to do some project work for work so that I feel that I’m playing my part. I can focus for about an hour, then sleep and then go back to it. The usual side effects that I’ve already spoken about, just stuff that just brings you down. My taste buds have gone now too but I know they will return instead of this chemical taste in my mouth, fresh pineapple can help with this. Chemo slows your body right down, I did get my period but it was 3 days late so no HRT nymphomaniac for Steve yet, poor Steve.

So the moral behind today’s post is if you are blessed with having a good relationship, then you’re lucky. If however you are just putting up with what you have got then don’t wait for disease or old age to come into your life to make you see that we only come this way but once, make the most of what you have. Now I don’t want to be blamed for an increase in divorce rates but I just want you to think about your life.

It’s going to be a strange week for me as I’m looking forward to visitors tomorrow. I have a funeral on Wednesday, my friend who lost her child and Karen starts her chemo cycle number 2 on Thursday. I can’t express how much I worry for my friend, I want us both to beat this and live our life’s again as survivors.

Now tomorrow is going to be a very difficult day for me, my mom and my family. If you read my blog regularly, I’m grateful to you. I am just warning you that you will need a good cup of coffee or tea, at least 2 biscuits and some tissues. It’s a long post for you to get through as I have been working on it for the last 8 days.

If you have never read my blog and you are a first time viewer then you will find out more about me tomorrow then I’ve ever told people, so start at the beginning of my journey with cancer to catch up and then tomorrows post and my daily ramblings will make more sense.

 

 

Love who you are!

Sitting in my now new ‘Pimped Chemo Gazebo’ last night. It’s been pimped (as in that old reality show, Pimp My Ride) as Steve has decided that my outdoor home needs improving. He heads off to John Lewis and returns with a baby Bose Sound System and LED lights. They are very posh as they have 9 different settings. They remind me of Christmas Tree lights. They remember what time you put them on the day before and automatically turn themselves on at the same time the next day. Plus after 6 hours they turn themselves off! How cool is that? Only at John Lewis hey. We have so many speakers in our house, as Steve loves his music to sound good. We could have just used the Bose speakers from upstairs out of Richards room when he is not at home but their not portable or Bluetooth and apparently Richard, Steve says that he thought we had given them to you! Happy days hey Richard.

So after a meal we are sitting in our new improved chemo gazebo, it’s getting dark and the Bose system is playing some of our favourite music from the newly created Gazebo playlist. Chilled with a beer we just chat away as normal. Now I have decided that I have reached a point in my life that finally I’m at peace with myself.

How often do we say to ourselves that we are happy but life we will be better when…….. then I’ll be really happy, whatever your thing is. We say negative things to ourselves like, I’m too fat, too tall, too skinny, too small, not attractive enough, boobs are too big, boobs are too small, hair too thick, hair too fine. Am I kind enough, a good enough mom, good enough at my job, good enough at everything I do and so it goes on and on and on.

Then if that’s not enough we move on material things to attack ourselves with, my house isn’t big enough, my car isn’t new enough, I need new carpet, need to redecorate, need to improve the garden, need that perfect holiday. My life will be truly happy when I’ve achieved these things.

In Ben Elton’s book ‘Stark’ (which I started on a beach holiday but haven’t finished yet) there is a piece in it where he says “A man only has one dick and one belly.” Now obviously if you are a woman you will have to bear with me on this one. So if you don’t have a car and you get a car, it’s fabulous and you have freedom. So why are we not happy with that? Why do we need to get two cars, a bigger more powerful one or a more luxurious model? We can only consume so much. A man can only drive one car at a time, eat one meal and have sex with one woman at any time. Why is it that we feel the need to improve, improve our status, prove that we have succeeded, are getting better in the rat race, proving self worth?

Cancer has taught me that I’m actually finally happy, happy with my life, who I am and what I’ve achieved. The bits I’m not proud of I can’t change so instead of beating myself up about them. I just have to finally accept them as the shit bits. Life is about learning and in life it teach us things about ourselves too. I don’t now think that ‘I will be happier when…….. whatever self destructive thought I was having at the time. Steve’s need to pimp out my gazebo is the need to show love. Our home is turning into a chemo friendly house. He even brought me a special adapter to put on the end of the watering hose so that I can water the plants in the garden. His need to show love, so he buys more stuff. I understand that need in him.

Today Alison ran for me in the ‘Race of Life’ in our local park, we call the Rye. I can hear the build up from the back door. Paula, Alison’s daughter sends me a photo of her mom supporting me and promoting my blog. Tears stung in the back of my eyes. I was so touched. Then the rain started and I stood at the back door feeling sorry for them doing it in the rain. There are some wonderful people out there who try to do there bit for cancer research. When my dad died in 1997, there wasn’t even a CT scanner in the hospital. How far have we come in support and our love of our NHS. By the people like Alison who runs in the rain and raises £200. Scanners and modern equipment are available due to fund raising and as they say ‘together one day we will beat cancer,’ but only through people like Alison, many thanks Alison, you made my day cos you cared enough to make a difference.

IMG_3761

Thank you Alison xxx
Thank you Alison xxx

It’s been a tough day today with side effects. I tried to clear the breakfast things away but I sneezed (now don’t laugh) your face feels like you have been hit in the face with a cricket bat. Your bones have turned to dust. I stops you in your tracks, you can’t move. My hands have moved from pins and needles into someone is stabbing them all over with a red hot knife, I’m dizzy and feel so tired. Steve is out, Rebecca is ironing. I lie down, I need to be still. I wake and it’s 3 pm. Where did the afternoon go! I go in the kitchen to find Rebecca has gone out and brought me another lovely bunch of flowers, bless her. I awake feeling better, thankfully. The first 5 days are rough on your body but it will soon get better and that’s a comfort. So I don’t want more stuff, I’m happy and my only wish is that I can join in with life again after my treatment. This time with a sense of ‘it’s okay, I’m happy and I’m here to just enjoy being with you all’.

Earlier I was looking forward to a phone call today from Brenda, I told her to text me when she was free. She texted but I just felt so ill, I couldn’t talk. I managed to reply that I’d have to try later but was so sad to have to put this call off. I did talk to her later. I am forever moved and blessed by people who have been so touched by my blog enough to contact me. I consider myself so lucky through friends reaching out to other people who may need help. It was so lovely chatting to Brenda. She has also shared my blog to her friends. I check my stats everyday and when you lovely supporting people share it my stats go up. I have between 300 and 600 hits a day and around 40 people who log on for a read everyday (don’t worry I can’t tell who you are, big brother isn’t watching you that closely) but it encourages me to keep writing. So thank you Brenda and Alison for making my day.

 

 

I’m not going to win any prizes :-(

Before I explain that title in detail. I will update you on chemo hell. It was 1.40 am in the morning and I have to try to sleep. The chemo upsets your sleep pattern so ‘it’s all perfectly normal’ as my dear sister in law Sarah would say. Brushing your teeth is a nightmare, so you have to rinse quickly under the hot tap before the water gets too hot. Colder water running down onto your hand starts the pins and needles off again and once they start it’s awful cos you can’t use your hands. Then undressing becomes a problem as you now struggle to get undressed. I get into bed as quietly as I can so I don’t wake Steve. I lie down but then the shooting pain starts in my head on the left hand side. I’m holding my head, my body aches, my arm is sore where the chemo went in and you just feel so alone in this, scared and trapped. Unlike last time I at least know that it will fade as the days go by. That’s why seeing Karen yesterday meant so much to me as no one, unless you have been through it can really empathise.

Karen was so ill on cycle one that she didn’t complete it. She said to me yesterday that it was hard to describe how bad she was. I said that she didn’t need too. I reminded her of the text she sent me. She said that she felt so ill that she just wanted to die. I should think myself lucky and I do. I can cope, if you can call it that with the drugs. 40% of people who start chemo drop out, a shocking statistic.

I wake it 6.30, everyone still asleep. I manage feeding the animals and get coffee, my usual 1/2 biscuit starts of the jaw ache off. Pins and needles in my hands, ‘there my bloody gloves gone’, now I feel angry as I didn’t clear away from tea properly last night, no nice cups left, dishwasher not put on and I can’t find my glove :-( after a while a manage to get a coffee and a fag and sit in the chemo gazebo.

I receive a lovely message from someone in the Midlands who reads my blog who is also 47 and attended the Buckpool School. This school can be seen from the back of my moms house. We exchange familiar names from our past childhood days. It always makes me my feel good to know that my ramblings are read by others and I’m actually helping people. I also get messages left on my blog itself. Now this really excites me as it’s a power thing, let me explain. I get an email if someone leaves a comment. I have to approve the comment first before it goes into the blog. Once I approve you then you can post up anytime and it goes up there instantly. I get a lovely message from Liz, someone from BHS who is a first time message leaver so has to be approved, thanks for the power trip Liz :-) Karen and the lovely Rita also leave lovely comments. Rita is my angel who burns down the church in candles every Sunday for me.

I also receive a message from Dawn. I ask her for help. Calling my cancer Harry seems wrong now as he is gone, along with a 3rd of my bowel. Harry was called Harry because he was in my Cecum. That’s why it’s ‘Harry’ after Harry Seycombe, now you have to be of a certain age to know who Harry Seycombe was. It’s actually Harry’s offspring who are trying to take over my body in any organ they can get to. We decide a play on words is a good idea and now my cancer is going to be called ‘Harribabes’ after the sweets Harribos, sorted and happy with that.

Steve and Rebecca wake and I need my drug lord to leap into action as I’m not feeling so good. 6 chemo tablets later and toast for me. I try to walk up stairs to get dressed but my legs are so sore it’s a real struggle but no one see’s me so that’s okay.  I do try hard to hide the pain from them as much as I can as I see that look in their eyes. Hard to describe it really, just despair I think. Mom has called from her holiday, she has read the blog and tells me off for not being honest with her about how I’m feeling. She also was nosy enough to read the rude post from the other day, mom’s hey! I knew she would but I didn’t expect her to be reading it out loud to all her friends on holiday with her. Apologies to the ‘Scilly Six’ but she was warned.

So why is my post called ‘No prizes for me’ – It goes back to Thursday when I was working with my boss. He said “how are your kids coping with all this?” I must have looked blank “I don’t know is the real answer”. I felt awful. I worry about Steve, my mom and Richard and Rebecca of course I do. I think that because they are young they don’t really know how serious this could be. I haven’t asked them how they’re coping, how bad is that?

I picked up Rebecca from work on Thursday and we took Molly out for a walk, so I asked her how she is coping. She says that she doesn’t sleep well, she worries about me and she listens to music which makes her sad. She gets over emotional and cries when she doesn’t need to cry. She talks to people at work and her boyfriend Josh but she doesn’t talk to me. She reads my blog and of course I have written ‘warts and all’ in there, stuff that us moms would normally never share with our kids. She was upset when she read the post about what would happen if I didn’t survive, what would happen to her, as she lives with us. It was good to talk to her but I haven’t appreciated how sad and lonely she feels. She buys me flowers every week and thinks about practical ways in which to help. She has just brought me a plastic cup with a straw as I find drinking from a glass a problem. She had to cut my food for me last night at dinner. She does the ironing when my mom isn’t here and kisses me on the cheek whenever she goes out now. I asked if Richard had ever spoken to her about it? “No’ was the reply and she looked so sad but then again she admitted that she hadn’t tried to speak to him either. Why can’t we talk to each other I wonder, really talk?

So I brought Rebecca a hoody, well Steve had to go and get it, to say thank you and I’m sorry for not being the mom I should be sometimes. Here is Rebecca getting the hoody and she will kill me for posting this up, but hey that’s what mom are for, maximum embarrassment :-)

Love you Rebecca xx
Love you Rebecca xx

Richard is like me in personality. I think he hides emotion away. He doesn’t live with us due to being in the Army so he doesn’t see the day to day stuff that Rebecca does. I text him everyday wherever he is, even if I don’t get a reply. Yesterday I was so consumed with it being chemo day that I forgot he was taking his motorbike test, for the 4th time as he failed the previous 3, for being an idiot as he can ride a bike. I hadn’t remembered he was taking it and when he phoned to tell me he had passed, I just felt awful that I had forgotten, sorry Richard.

So I’m not going to win any mommy awards this year for one and the other award I won’t win is ‘The Times Literary Award’. As moms away Steve has been promoted to Chief Editor. To be fair to him, he never changes what I write, he just improves it with the grammar and spelling (this can take a while). He realises that whilst I won’t win any awards for literary content, this blog has to be from my heart, and it is.

I get another message from a friend in Cyprus who says that my blog really touches her. So you maybe wrong Mr Guy after all lol. These words of encouragement from you all means so much to me, you have no idea how much, so thank you all.

Richard texted me the other day to say he was round a friends house and his wife said “I read your moms blog everyday” Another old school and football friend of his apparently reads it too. Now I think he secretly likes this.

I talked the other day about stuff I had done at work for fun. Our parody of Gangnam Style, we renamed  ‘Retail Style’ was recorded for charity to raise money for the NSPCC. Richard and Rebecca sang it and it was so funny, I actually wet myself laughing at them singing it. I was heart broken when I received a letter from Head Office to say I couldn’t put it on the internet, ever. So I can’t ever show you that to make you smile. However in October last year we did a parody of Michael Jackson’s Thriller, called Thriller Christmas. Now this was made just for fun at the time and I couldn’t ever show it as I don’t think that our previous owner would have liked it, but he sold us for £1 and therefore I’m sure he wouldn’t mind now. So I’ll attach it for you to enjoy. Plus it’s only 25 weeks and 6 days until Christmas, just saying guys!

My step daughter loved our ‘Harlem Shake’ video so I hope you all enjoy our ‘Thriller Christmas’ shared fun and memories with a great team. I have had to edit the orginal video to remove anything that may cause offence ;-). The purpose of sharing this video is that we did it just for fun and as a team building exercise.

Now I’m thinking what else can I embarrass them with ha ha. I have many more where the last two came from. So I won’t win ‘Mom of the Year’ or The Times Literary Award’ but I may win the ‘Oh god what has she posted up now award’ lol Be afraid Richard as I still have the ‘Lucky pants dance’ lol lol lol

Muffin Top

It’s chemo day, cycle number 2 of 8. They say cycle 2 or 3 can be the worst. I don’t understand this, as if it’s a build up of the chemicals then surely cycle 7 or 8 would be the worst?  I’ve set my alarm for 8 am but I’m awake by 6.30. Usual routine of feeding Molly and Tia followed by 1/2 biscuit, coffee and a fag. I sit and think about what the day will have in store for me.

Facebook messages and texts of ‘good luck’ start to arrive (thank you to you all). Mom calls from her holiday to say “happy chemo day” She has to walk to the beach to get a signal and there’s limited signal and internet there. You would think she was on the moon but she’s only on the Isles of Scilly, some 50 miles off Penzance!

This blog was intended to help others going through chemo and their loved ones. So saying ‘good luck’ prior to chemo is an odd phrase, it implies like a exam, I may fail. So talking this through with my mom, it’s either a happy day in terms of killing the cancer (happy is probably the wrong word) or just change the message to ‘thinking of you’ is better. I need to change my mindset about chemo and learn to embrace it but that’s hard. Without it to kill the cancer cells within me I won’t survive. So I should want the drugs, look forward to it, but it’s so hard. Today however I just focus on the fact that I may see chemo/cancer friend Karen again. What if she can’t make if she is ill or just changes her mind? I would be so disappointed but I’d have to just understand if that’s the case. What if we don’t recognise each other? The last time we saw each other back in March, we looked very different and as we hugged each other to say goodbye, I couldn’t see for tears and neither could she.

Steve drops me off at the front doors of the hospital, a quick kiss and “love you” exchanged, he heads off home. He has organised to start work late and was going to sit with me until Karen’s text yesterday. I didn’t want him to sit with me anyway. Not in a nasty way but because he would ask me every 30 minutes if I was okay, ask every 20 minutes if I needed anything and every 10 minutes he’d want to go for a fag, all of which would drive me mad.

I’m always the youngest there. I talk to an old lady who is on maintenance chemo and another old lady who is on cycle number 3. I choose the window seat and settle in.

Then she is there, walking towards me, armed with Costa coffee and muffins.

Our chemo picnic of muffins
Our chemo picnic of muffins

Now I don’t need muffins. They weigh you every time you have chemo and I wasn’t surprised at all that I had again but on weight. I’m now 62 kg, that’s 9 stone 11 ‘in old money’ as they say. I said to the nurse that I must be the only person to get cancer and put on weight. She said that years ago people lost weight normally 2-3 stone but it’s not common now due to the steroids. I am still in my size 8 clothes but for how long? I may need a whole new wardrobe soon! Karen just laughs at my muffin top belly as it isn’t that large, as I am tall and can carry the weight off easier if I stand up all the time, but it is a big muffin top for me.

When we first saw each other, we both just cried and hugged each other. The nurses are also moved to tears when they hear our story too. We are bonded by cancer and our brief time together in Ward 12. We know each others’ pains and fears but we don’t know what each other likes to drink. Karen has brought me a Latte which as I don’t take milk is a ‘no go’ but the nurses enjoyed sharing it and Karen drinks tea. Karen goes to get me a black coffee and whilst she is gone I sit and cry overwhelmed that she has come to see me. We catch up with as much as we can but she has an appointment at the hospital with a counselling cancer nurse so she is gone all too soon. Thank you Karen for being there with me today.

She did manage to return to me after her meeting and walk with me until Steve arrived to pick me up. She said the best thing ever to Steve as a greeting, “hi there Steve, how many condoms are still in the packet?” Eight he replied and we all laughed. All too soon she was gone, walking away after a hug and blowing kisses.

We're in it together, cancer/chemo friends
We’re in it together, cancer/chemo friends

I also met a lady who was there for the first time. The nurses introduce her to me (I have no idea why, for encouragement I think) I am just honest with her as she tries not to cry. No one can change the way the first treatment feels so I don’t even try. I just tell her that is how it feels and it’s normal to be scared. After I was cooked I went to say goodbye to her as she was in another bay. Turns out her husband died of cancer 8 years ago, she used to sit with him when he had his chemo. She has bowel cancer, stage 4 as it’s spread to her liver and lungs. Ain’t life just shit sometimes hey?

Now Steve says I should try to explain how it feels to have chemo, so here goes.

You know when you go on a roller coaster ride and they strap you in? The fear and realisation that there is no turning back, that’s what it’s like. The cannula goes in. Flush first, steroids and ‘space dust sweets’ up your bum feeling for 2 minutes, then flush again, i think. Then the bag of chemo. The nurse presents it like she is offering you a good bottle of wine. There you go Mrs Guy, an infusion of herbs and spices, check the use by date and that your details are correct. The chemicals burn through your veins, the burning builds. Peaking at the last 1/2 hour when you have to ask for a heat pad. This helps to open up your vein. Last flush through for 8 minutes and then the best feeling as the cannula comes out.

Having chemo feels like your body is pissed and you have fallen into a bed of stinging nettles. Your arm aches, your bones ache when you use them like chewing, your jaw is so sore. You have random pain in your eyes, pins and needles in your hands and feet. You can’t even cut a piece of bread as you can’t bear any pressure on your hands. You curse every metal object in your house as you can’t touch metal, at all. But the worst thing is the the lump in your throat. This feels tight, like you can’t breath. It’s odd but you can’t eat or drink anything cold due to the lump in your throat, it’s scary.  I lay down to rest in the garden but even your own saliva feels cold and you feel like your throat will go into a spasm. I try to relax my throat and stay calm, as that’s what they tell you to do. I walk like I’m an old woman bent double with the aching in my body. Chemo slows your body down so talking is slow and Steve has to help dress me. If you ask me how I am, I’ll say “I’m fine” cos if I answered with what I’ve just written you would be bored.

Have you ever seen Johnny English, the film with Rowan Atkinson? If you haven’t then treat yourself. There is a scene when he is injected with a truth drug, which is a muscle relaxant. It’s hilarious as he can’t control his body, that’s what chemo is like, muscles lock. Texting is hard cos my thumb locks up, facial muscles also lock, like you have been to the dentist and your numb all over your body and it feels so strange. It’s not all bad as I can still enjoy a coffee and a fag, I just can’t hold the cup without gloves until it warms up from the coffee.

So please realise how much effort has gone into tying this for you, one handed and partly with a glove as the keys are okay but my bloody laptop is metal :-( So thank you for reading this as it’s only taken me 4 hours to complete this post, but you’re worth it :-)

Today is a good day, Mr Grey ;-)

So I slept for 5 hours wow! Probably due to the extra beer I had. Oh well it’s chemo day tomorrow at the hospital, so I’ll enjoy it while I can, that’s what I say! I’m alone, everyone is at work and it’s early. I have a meeting with my boss this morning, I did text him to say that I promised not to cry all over him. I think he would be glad of that after our meeting in Kingston.

I like a post Dawn has put up on Facebook about today is going to be a good day. And I laugh to myself about my spelling errors from yesterday. I called my blog a bog and even spelt my blogs name wrong, sorry blog. I send ‘happy birthday’ messages to friends and I post a comment to another friend who is having an operation today. What did we all do before the internet? It’s great that I can peep into friends and families lives everyday. When you are, at times looking at life from the sidelines through illness, it’s lovely to still feel part of it all via Facebook. I’m going to proof read this post with my glasses on Dawn LOL.

I think I either need to post up rude stuff everyday or get blocked again by Facebook as my stats grew in terms of site visits due to all you wonderful people sharing my post. Thank you so much as I just want to help others and maybe let you all see and read about my world, oh and to hopefully make you all laugh. I get two lovely private messages, one from someone who is on a bus on her way to work, she had just read my blog and offered supportive words about chemo tomorrow. Another from someone who I haven’t seen for a while but it was lovely to hear from her.

It’s 8.20 and I’ve only cried once, thinking about Emma, the team and possibly her meeting today with Linda now that’s good only crying once. I suddenly hear a strange noise coming from the dining room, so loud and abnormal that I have to investigate. Turns out that Tia (Rebecca’s cat, who was a rescued kitten and Tia has never been grateful) has got a bird and she’s playing with it, feathers everywhere. I thought it was a mouse/rat at first. So Molly and I are on the stairs hiding away in case she drops it and it makes a run for us. Just kill it I thought. Oh no I just shouldn’t be left on my own, I didn’t want to deal with the dead mouse/baby rat. Then feathers flew as she continued to play with it, now I want it to live as it’s a bird. Funny how we like some animals and not others, the poor thing was still being mauled to death by Tia. Eventually she takes it outside and I leave it for Steve to deal with later, sorry Steve.

I get a call from my gay friend Steve. Now he thinks that everyone is going to get confused with all the Steve’s in my blog and wants to have a pseudonym. “Excellent idea, Steve what would you like your name to be?” He said that he wanted to be called ‘Mr Grey’ I have no idea why as I have read all 3 books and he wasn’t gay, LOL. Mr Grey and I have a special code for peoples sexuality. If you are a heterosexual then ‘you are on my bus’, if you are gay then ‘your on Mr Grey’s bus or batting for the other team’ and if you are bisexual then ‘you lick both sides of the stamp’. Fond memories of telephone calls in our cars on our way home from work, in stitches as we use these nicknames. I also think that he wants a starring role in the making of the film once a script writer gets sight of my blog (wishful thinking Mr Grey) so I threaten him with having to play the role of my husband, alongside, Sharon Stone and Meryl Streep.

The lovely Mr Grey. Visiting me post surgery. No paddle in sight!
The lovely Mr Grey. Visiting me post surgery. No paddle in sight!

I receive a text from my friend who lost her child recently with the funeral arrangements. She has been in my thoughts everyday as I can’t imagine her pain over the last few weeks.

I then get a text from my cancer/chemo friend Karen and she is actually going to come and see me tomorrow, well she is going to sit with me whilst I have cycle number 2 pumped into me. That’s really made my day as I didn’t know how long it would be until I saw her again. I was dreading tomorrow but now I’m looking forward to seeing her.

Work meeting over and I return home. Now I started this post talking about Facebook. Richard posted a memory the other day. It was from last year when he was out in Canada, with the Army. It made me remember my BHS Kingston family and the fun we have had. Just one of my many mad ideas, last year we started ‘Treats for Troops’  We got staff to adopt a soldier who was serving out there with him. We started a Facebook group. We collected gifts to send to them to make their day, we recorded birthday messages and they even had their own a ‘star of the month’ board. where their sergeant recognised achievers.

I have so many memories of the fabulous fun I’ve had in Kingston with the team and I have to let go, for them to move on. I need to stop crying and remember the great times we have had. Fond memories include: Parody’s of Gangnam Style and Thriller. Zumba day to raise money for Breast Cancer, Ready Steady Cook, Treats for Troops, the ‘Christmas Party Management Dance’, 12 Days of Christmas, Fashion Show, abseiling off Guildford Cathedral, Business Awards, quiz nights and various fund raising outside the store which included an Army jeep, face painting and always cakes. The list is endless. I can’t use my blog to make them feel sad about how much I will miss them. So I’m going to share a small moment of that fun we had. Richard reminded me of ‘Treats for Troops’ with his memory post. Whilst they were out there we had a competition on who could do the best ‘Harlem Shake’. Theirs was done inside a tank and to be fair they didn’t have anyway of editing it. I think ours was better but you can decide that. Richard is going to kill me for putting this up on my blog but you only live once and if he shouts at me I’ll have to just play the cancer card LOL.

Over 18’s only!

First the clean stuff!

I couldn’t sleep again! I gave up at 2.40, woke at 5.10 but went back to sleep and then Molly thought I would love to be woken up at 7.30, thanks Molly.

So I’m up, my head is still swimming from yesterday, and I am tired, I envy Steve and everyone else who’s mind can rest. I feel numb but at least I’m not crying. My mom texts first saying that she is so upset for me, as she, like Steve knows how much yesterday would have hurt me. She sends the wrong emoji sign for crying. The one used for laughing through tears and a fox instead of a dog. This makes me smile. I was grateful for my phone being quiet yesterday and the peace of the evening, thank you everyone. Well apart from Steve (my gay friend) but more on that in a minute. I did speak to Leanne last night as I was sad that I hadn’t seen her, I’d been looking forward to it and I’ve arranged a call with Nicky for tonight :-)

Then Dawn messages me again just to see how I was. Now I’d been alright for about an hour but I was crying again. I told Dawn that dry eyes were one of the side effects, well it’s not one of mine! I type and cry at the same time but without checking what I’m typing. Dawn said that I had to stop crying soon as it was making me dyslexic and I did laugh out loud when I reread what I’d sent her, LOL.

Another possible side effect from chemo (there are 4, A4 pages of side effects) is that it can bring on the menopause. Now I’m due on today, so that probably isn’t helping my emotions. Now Steve isn’t worried about this as he doesn’t like ‘the pants of disappointment’ and he has been told that HRT can make women into nymphomaniacs, so he doesn’t consider this a side effect but a bonus.

I’m just so tired of crying and just tired in general, yesterday was so hard. I have arranged to meet Mary for a coffee at midday :-) and I have pre chemo blood tests to have, joy! Steve wakes and after a coffee he just suggests that I close my eyes for an hour. I slept with Molly under my chemo gazebo and woke feeling much better. I had sent Karen a text as she was due to start chemo again today and I was worried about her. She has decided to delay it for another week and transfer to Dr Weaver, I was excited as I thought this would mean that we would see each other again but sadly not as her treatment won’t be in Wycombe. Will I ever see my fellow cancer friend? I do hope so.

I meet up with Mary who is lovely and we just talk and talk and talk, I look at my watch and 1 1/2 hours has past by. Mary has had her share of ‘ain’t life just shit’ moments and it’s so easy to talk to her. I get more drinks and another hour goes by in an instant. I managed to talk about yesterday and not cry, wow! Thanks Mary for being there for me today.

I go to the hospital for blood tests and as promised there is no waiting for me. As I approach the waiting room I notice that the ‘deli style cheese counter system’ is on number 50. I wave my special red blood bag marked pre chemo and I’m taken straight through. As I re appear in the waiting area and walk down the corridor I sense the jealously of those waiting. If they only knew the reason I’m seen first they wouldn’t swap with me would they?

So returning home, Molly walked I settle down to write today’s post but I have decided that I need to make you all laugh or at least smile so anyone under 18 years of age, anyone who works with me and especially my mom, stop reading now. You have been warned!

Before I move onto the rude stuff, a message for someone very special to me, as I may post funny stuff on here but I am always thinking of you. OMG I’m crying again!!

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WARNING – OVER 18’s ONLY – CONTAINS STRONG LANGUAGE

DON’T GO ANY FURTHER IF YOU ARE ON THE BANNED LIST!  – MOM THAT’S YOU

So last night my gay friend Steve (we all have to have at least one gay friend us girlies) tries to cheer me up by sending photo’s of testicles. Steve and I have worked together and been friends for years now. Most people read my post last night and just left me alone but not him. He also thinks that my blog is so good that it should be made into a film. He suggests I’m played by a young Sharon Stone and my mom is played by Meryl Streep (my mom would like that).

Another dear friend just sent me this message “Fuck you Harry, JUST PISS OFF” now swearing is interesting as my mom never swears, the worst I’ve ever heard her say is “oh sod it” that’s my mom really angry. Now I like to add a little swearing occasionally into my conversations as I think it can add to how angry you are. Now the ‘fuck you harry’ message was again sent by someone who I have never heard swear, ever! so I know how angry she is. Sometimes in life you just have to swear. Now there are some words (well just one) that are on the ‘no go’ list when swearing in anger and that’s the C word and I don’t mean cancer. I don’t use this word ever in anger it’s just not right but when used in humour occasionally it can just make you laugh cos it’s just too rude. So the other day when I was buying a t-shirt for Steve for Father’s day from a website called Shotdeadinthehead.com (check it out it’s so funny) they have a mug which had Steve and I in hysterics, so I had to buy it. Here it is

I have this  on a mug lol
I have this on a mug lol

 

Now whenever you order stuff off the internet you get put on the mailing list. I have daily emails from Duracell, Park Holidays, DP’s, Airport Parking and Staples to name a few but today I had the funniest from shotdeadinthehead and I think the other companies should learn from their sales pitch as I received this…

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My final rude bit is for anyone who knows Steve. I know that some of you that work with him read this, so hello Liz and Graham :-) and thanks for your support.

We all have a drawer or a cupboard in our kitchen that contains sweets, biscuits and chocolate. Ours is a cupboard the ‘treats cupboard’. Now I’ve moved the condoms into that cupboard hoping to make Steve laugh when he goes in there. Steve likes a bit of banter and ‘if you can’t take it Steve, don’t give it’ So as proved the other day, Steve doesn’t do anything other than ‘I’m fine’ if asked but he isn’t so if you could, when you see him or speak to him on the phone, or I’ll accept a text message, just ask him how many condoms he has used out of his unopened box of 8! LOL now this I hope will make him laugh.

Mom if you are reading this then you are just too nosy, I warned you not to read the naughty bits didn’t I, LOL – Love you mom xx

 

 

Paint on a smile and crack on!

It’s 6.40 and I’m awake already. I find sleeping a problem and I didn’t go to bed until 2.30. Now I’m annoyed with myself cos I feel tired and I’m in Kingston today :-) back with my team and Emma. The last time I was in Kingston was just before I started chemo and I didn’t know when I would be back with them. I had also arranged to see my friend Leanne on the way home so today should be a happy day.

Emma had texted me last night to say she had had a meltdown at work, we agreed not to talk about it on the phone that night, but leave it until I saw her. Poor Emma as she must be struggling to know what to say to me. If she tells me how upset she is she knows it will only hurt me. If she tries to cover it up then she knows that this will also hurt me. She can’t win. I’m dreading hearing her story as I feel so guilty leaving her to run Kingston. She does 3 peoples job without me there. I worry how long she can cope for. Not because she can’t do the store manager’s role but because of the lack of resource with me being out of the business for so long.

I have spent the morning messaging Dawn, Lauren’s mom. I have known her since I was 3 years old, we grew up together as she lived over the road in Kingswinford. Due to Lauren coming down Sunday and me explaining cancer to her, Dawn and I were worried she was okay. It was nice talking to her. We had shared memories of our childhood which were lovely to remember. The beauty of texts or messages is that the other person can’t see you. Many replies I sent were through tears. Why can’t I stop crying? I think that going through this shit makes all of your emotions to anything super sensitive. I don’t cry often, it’s just not me. Steve was always worried that I would get depressed going through Chemo (a known side effect) but I think it’s cancer that depressing. Oh no am I getting depressed?, should I go to the doctors I thought? No, I’m not depressed. I’m just feeling everything at a different level and I need to feel this. I need to cry. I said in one of these messages to Dawn that I would be painting my smile on today and pretending that I was fine, how wrong you can be sometimes.

So I shower and get ready, my head is sore and I’m worried about the long day I have planned. Hearing about Emma’s meltdown and I know that I should just cancel and sleep but I can’t do that as I love being in Kingston.

I’m ready for work, Steve is on late’s working from home. He says that I’m gorgeous (he always says that whatever I’m dressed in) and I think those still unused condoms are still playing on his mind. I tell him to behave himself as he has to start work in 10 minutes, and I set off to Kingston.

I have a playlist on my phone called ‘Love Songs’ it contains some of my favourite songs. I think that I need to create a cancer playlist. It’s on shuffle all songs,  I skip most of the songs and just listen to the ones that mean so much to me at the moment. I need to listen to ‘Jar of Hearts’ and get angry with Harry. I had a touching message the other day. This person didn’t want to give her cancer a name, she said as she didn’t want to be friends with it. That made a lot of sense to me now. As I drive I cry, listening to favourite songs. ‘Stop Crying Your Heart Out’ comes on by Oasis, this was my Christmas gift from Chris and Lauren, this brings a smile through the tears.

I am dreading seeing Emma as I don’t want to cry, I want to be strong for her. I sent her a text to say could we have coffee first in Nero’s so that I could hear her meltdown story before I started work. So the plan was to cry all the way into Kingston, so that it was all out of my system. The songs kept playing, I skipped loads hoping ‘Jar of Hearts’ would always be the next song to make my strong.

I have decided that cancer is very much like being pregnant. When something is growing inside you, you get to the point when you want your body back. I want my body back, I want me back! I want to be at work, I want to be strong, I want to be able to plan fun things, I want to just be normal again and I definitely want to stop bloody crying.

As I get to Kingston bridge, just a few minutes away from the store, ‘Jar of Hearts’ comes on. I’m happy now because I can get angry and be strong for Emma.

I walk towards the store and she is there, we go to hug each other and start crying instantly. For goodness sake, this wasn’t the plan! ‘Be strong you soppy mare’ was what I was thinking to myself but the tears just wouldn’t stop. I ordered coffee through tears and thought that the others in the queue must think I’m mad. Am I going mad? Probably always was but thought it was normal lol.

We sat and talked through her meltdown. Now the next 3 hours I can’t possibly write about in detail, so I will have to just give you the details as it’s just too painful. My boss was in Kingston and the business have organised for another Store Manager to come in and run Kingston for 6 months. That I would work on projects from home or from the High Wycombe store. I cried with Emma for 3 hours. I’ve lost them. I recall the conversation in the park that day before my operation. I knew this day would come. I knew that no matter what I did I would lose my BHS Kingston family. It’s not just the whole team it’s the friendships that you build through the years, sharing moments of each others lives, you become a family and I’d lost mine.

My boss tried to get me to see the positives. That I could focus on getting well, take the whole of Christmas off and then if I’m well enough I can come back.  I don’t want bloody Christmas off, I want to live. Not living is worse, this halfway house I’m stuck in. Cancer is taking away my life, the life I had.

I knew that I had to stay away from the store for their sake. I had to just walk away and let them forge a new way of working without me. I couldn’t be part of it from the sidelines, I couldn’t undermine the new Manager. So today I walked away from Emma, my team and my world of work before cancer struck. I have been told it’s still my store for when this is all over but when will my nightmare ever end? When will I have my life back. I’m watching it slowly erode from all angles and I can’t stop it.

Emma and I leave together walking towards our cars. I don’t want any more tears, no long tearful farewells. I hug her quickly and just say “I am sorry”

So Emma and my much loved team, ‘Crack on’ as I type this through tears.

Now I like to bring humour to my posts as I document my journey through cancer. To offer hope, make people smile and sometimes make people laugh but there is no joy in the shit for me today, just tears.

After yesterday’s post and most days I get private messages of support and love. My cousin Nicky messaged me yesterday to say that she would love to see me in a ‘humour killed my tumour’ t-shirt. I love all my messages of love and support every day from you all. Today I’m exhausted, no one can make this better and sometimes you just need to be alone in your thoughts, so no messages please today as no one and no words can make this feel better.

 

 

A trip to A&E and it’s competition time!

Monday morning blues I think! Steve and Rebecca have gone off to work. I plan to go into the Wycombe store to work but I feel so flat inside. My mom has returned home to the Midlands as she goes on holiday this Wednesday. Now this leaves me with a big problem as she edits all my posts. I tend to sit in my chemo gazebo and try to focus on what I’m posting for that day. Then I ask my mom to read it through for me. She enjoys this job and now she isn’t here. So I have to cope for nearly 3 weeks by doing the corrections over the phone everyday with her.

So I’m on my own at home and it’s raining.  I quickly tidy up the kitchen, as mom’s not here to do it, bless her and I head into the Wycombe store. I say hello to everyone but Mary is day off so it’s just not the same, no coffee buddy today. I pull off the previous weeks trading figures for Kingston to analysis and I’m sad, sad because I’m on my own, no one for me to be brave in front of, no one for me to make laugh or smile. I realise that being on my own is dangerous , as I tend to only think negative thoughts and get sad. Fear always starts to creep in and my mind won’t focus on anything.

There are holiday request forms on the desk and I’m jealous, jealous of people who can plan their lives and can look forward to holidays.

I’m looking through the reports and feeling very alone when Mary texted me to say that she is sorry that she is not there and that we could meet up for coffee on Wednesday. I am so lucky that throughout my day people think of me and contact me, just when I seem to need them.

Then Rebecca calls me, she has been to the doctors that morning and has been told she has to go to A&E. I quickly pack up my stuff and head for home. I’m glad I’m going to be with her soon, glad of someone who needs me, glad of the company and glad of the detraction from my thoughts. I can now hide my fears of life and focus on her.

I won’t go into details of why we are going to A&E but it’s her girlie bits, let’s just leave it there hey LOL.

So off to A&E we go, we were waiting at the reception desk when a nurse came through the double doors and shouted “Wendy!” I’m so used to being the one being seen that I started to walk towards her, Rebecca grabbed my arm and we both giggled.

The receptionist told us to go to ward 16. That is the surgical ward where I was on 6th February this year. I’m heading to the ‘waiting room of doom’ with the hard chairs. We go around the corner and we bump into Jodie. She works for Mr Mullerat and assisted in my operation, she came to see me every day and was part of the amazing team that week that looked after me. I recognised her straight away and I was amazed that she remembered me as we hadn’t seen each other since March. It was great to see her. I told her about the cancer spreading into my lymph nodes, we spoke about Karen and I was again shocked that she seemed up to speed with Karen too and the problems she was having. I told her about my blog and she said to leave the details with Wendy the ward sister. This I did and I really hope that she reads my blog and can pass on the site details with anyone whom it may help.

I’m sat in the ‘waiting room of doom’ writing up today’s post. So the longer we are here the longer this post will be ha-ha.

I keep making Rebecca laugh by saying “all this is going in my blog you know” in fact I think everyone at home is now scared to say anything to me as it may go into my blog. I now use it as I joke saying “that’s it! Get my laptop, that’s going in”.

Before we set off from home I had to call my mom and Steve and do the “now don’t panic but I’m off to A&E.” Mom is concerned that I shouldn’t be in hospital as it’s full of sick people, she has a point but I’m not leaving my baby. Well Rebecca is 22 now but our babies are always our babies aren’t they?

The weekend was lovely, the wedding on Saturday and then Lauren visiting on Sunday. This weekend was my first rest weekend from chemo. I had thought my rest days would be good but I feel worse than I thought I would. Saturday I woke with the oddest of pains in my back of my head. I went straight to the painkillers. Sunday was draining and after Lauren had gone. Steve and I feel asleep in each others’ arms, in the chemo gazebo. Steve slept through contentment. I was happy but just exhausted but I had managed to hold it all together for everyone. Lauren sent me a lovely text when she got home and I started to read it out loud to Steve but I had to stop as I was in bits and couldn’t speak through the tears.

So back to the ‘waiting room of doom’ and Rebecca has just been called through.

As I sit and wait I see familiar faces from my time there. The nurses that took my blood’s, the man that got me to sign my operation consent papers, but I didn’t see the doctors that had to tell Steve and I that he thought we were looking at it being cancer. We called him ‘Will I am’ as he looked like him and we thought he was Mr Mullerat at the time.

Rebecca was seen quickly and we were soon on the way home. She called my mom, moms of that age (sorry mom) prefer a call rather then a text. She sent other update texts and then puts some music on and we sing all the way home, stopping off at McDonalds for a strawberry milkshake to make her feel better.

So I’m back home and I am happy that the day changed for me, that Rebecca needed me and I wasn’t on my own, sad and fearful of what’s going on inside me. The pain from the swollen lymph nodes in my neck hurt and I have to work hard at not letting it show, carrying bags is hard again and I should really get one with a strap of which I have loads but they didn’t match the shoes I was wearing today LOL.

I had wanted to write about less serious stuff today and I didn’t expect my afternoon to be spent in A&E writing this post. I have decided that as my ramblings today are not too long, and I don’t want to bore anyone. I still want to do some funny stuff. So here is my competition for you. The other day I was saying to Steve that we should design wacky T-Shirt slogans for people with cancer or people going through chemo and give the money to charity. This however has already been done (but without the money going to charity) but we had fun coming up with the ideas. Now the ones listed below are the best of what we could come up with but it’s up to you as to which one you think is the best.

My Oncologist does my hair

(This is Steve’s favourite)

I love my mom’s, which is

Chemo – Hair today, gone tomorrow

And Rebecca liked

Chemo – may the drugs be strong within you

(appealing to the Star Wars fans)

Others we liked were:

Chemo Queen

Don’t talk to me I’m on chemo

Don’t get mad, get chemo

I’m not pre menstrual I’m on chemo

Warning! Chemo at work

So I hope that my post today has left you smiling. As the final slogan I liked was:

‘humour killed my tumour’

If only life was that simple hey!

The trouble with men is……

Now with the constant battle of the sexes, us women could write a whole book alone on the trouble with men but I’ll come back to that. Firstly I have to talk about Father’s Day. Now both Steve and I like many others sadly have lost our Dad’s. So on Father’s Day it’s a day of celebration for dad’s but privately we mourn for our own. This would also apply to those who have lost their moms on Mothers Day. Posts on Facebook of happy families all saying that they have the best dad in the world are lovely and both sad to see.

Steve has had the best Father’s Day present, ever. His daughter Lauren who only passed her test a few weeks ago drove down to see him to deliver her card and present in person. Lauren and Chris both live in the Midlands (100 miles away from Wycombe) and so the frequency of visits with busy lives have not been as often as we would like. Over the past two years Steve has gone to them for visits and family days out. So for Lauren to be here under her own steam just means so much to him, and to me.

Lauren in her car, on our drive! OMG :-)
Lauren in her car, on our drive! OMG :-)

Whilst lamb was slowly roasting in the oven (Lauren’s favourite) we all went out to walk Molly. I need to talk to Lauren about what was going on with the cancer as she needs the truth and a walk in beautiful countryside. I hope being with Molly will help detract from the seriousness of the topic . As we walked and talked, the tears fell from Lauren’s eyes, she was trying to be so brave. I had brought a tissue just in case and quietly just pass it to her and carry on with the details. I was as ever just going through the facts as if I was talking about someone else, as that’s how it feels sometimes. I then said to her without being able to hold back the tears, “It just means so much to your dad that you are here today. I have told you many times that your dad needs you. I have so many people supporting me but who asks your dad how he is? Your dad is so strong for me and has not cried, but he needs you.” Then we were both crying. Steve came and gave me a hug. I quickly composed myself and we continue to walk Molly. It was just so lovely enjoying the sunshine and seeing Lauren in my world, in her dad’s world. It reminds me of my post about  ‘The meaning of life’. Sharing is what makes us complete.

The trouble with men is…… So back to the subject of today’s post. Friday’s news of baby Harry was not good. I’m outside quiet, crying at some of the messages of support and love that are coming through. Steve went straight back to work as soon as we returned from the hospital. He then played yet another game of bloody Scrabble with my mom and then starts singing the Lego movie song, if you haven’t seen the film this will mean nothing to you but the lines are ‘Everything is awesome, everything is awesome when your part of a team’. I start to worry again about him and how he is dealing with it.

I wait until mom and Rebecca have gone to bed. I try to talk to him, to understand how he is coping. He said that he doesn’t know how to handle it. That he just can’t even contemplate me not surviving. I had noticed recently that Steve had been snappy with me occasionally. Steve said that he was angry, that I was young and that it shouldn’t be happening to me. He said that he was aware that he had been snapping at people. He just tries to focus on me and my needs. That just because he doesn’t cry it doesn’t mean that he doesn’t feel it but he just tries to be strong for me. I know all of this but I did take the opportunity to say that it was hard for me sometimes when he plays Scrabble and sings ‘Everything is Awesome.’ He agrees that this was probably not the best song LOL. I have asked him a few times to consider writing my my blog for me to help other men out there, he is still thinking about doing this for me.

And that right there is the trouble with men! They try to be strong, they feel they should protect us at all costs, they become trapped in this world of how supportive and strong they should be. That’s what is expected of them. Now this is where us women win in the battle of the sexes. We can talk to each other, I mean really talk about feeling. Men talk in facts, if you ask Steve how he is, he will reply “I’m fine thanks” if you probe any deeper you may get “oh well, you know it’s a bit shit,” but you won’t get how he feels. He is not ready to let it out or to let anyone in either. My mom is the same (OMG my mom is a man!) When Steve researches about Harry it’s all facts and figures, information only and blogs are normally from women. I want to help men too and that’s why I have asked him to post on here about how he feels, but we may all have to wait for that.

So I think it’s power to the girlies on this one, we win as we can talk about facts but also really talk about feelings and we don’t consider it a sign of weakness talking or crying about how we feel. I’m glad of my friends and their love and support, thank you girls and thanks to my special step daughter who today cried for me, cried cos she cared and made her dad the happiest I have since him since Christmas. Lauren you have no idea of the power of love us parents have for our children, the immense love that your dad has for you and the joy you brought to him and me today, thank you.

A kiss from Lauren for her Dad, The best Father's Day present in the world
A kiss from Lauren for her Dad, The best Father’s Day present in the world