Tuesday, 17 January 2012

So there was this big mountain........

It's now four days since I last blogged about my great day out and then my not so great visit to hospital. Lots to report since then!

On Friday evening, Neil and I talked about what had happened at hospital that day and the reality that it's entirely possible that this nasty disease could make a return at some point. We needed to have a talk about it. I think I said before that it's the big elephant in the room, which we have been knowingly, casually, ignoring for some months. We acknowledged the elephant and what impact it might have...only in vague, tearful terms, but at least we did. I think it did us good to recognise the possibility, although we both obviously hope and pray that it remains a possibility, not a reality.

We had a big weekend planned, starting with a trip to Glasgow on Saturday to visit my mum, who had moved into her (permanent) care home three days before. She was diagnosed with dementia late last year and had been in hospital for a couple of months, so we wanted to see her in her new surroundings. It was the first time she would have seen me since my surgery and, given that the last time I saw her, she didn't recognise me (and that was before my face changed!), I was none too hopeful about her reaction. In the event, she was much better than I expected. She struggled with names (including my brother who died a couple of years ago, whom she looked after for about 13 years on her own and whom she used to talk about all the time, so that was an indication of how much she struggles with some aspects), but realised I had been ill and asked how I was and said, when we left her, that she hoped it all went well for me. Yes, it was a bit vague and non-specific, but at least I felt that she had some interest in my health. We had taken Adam with us, as we were dropping him off in Carlisle for his new uni term, so my mum got to see him too. I felt very relieved that she was better than I had expected her to be - less frail than I thought (although still very thin), but with a bit of a spark that I thought might have been missing. Put it this way, she has a healthy paranoia about being in residential care!

We had arranged to spend the night with a very dear running friend of mine, Karen, who lives about 40 minutes outside Glasgow and I had managed to arrange to call in on another very dear friend (known her for over 40 years!), Morag, who lives 20 minutes outside Glasgow and fortuitously en route to Karen's! There were four of us who were a really tight little group at school and Fiona, who lives in Newcastle, was also up in Glasgow at the weekend, so she arranged to call in at Mo's at the same time as we did, so a happy little reunion took place. Our fourth member, Lindsey, lives in Canada, so it was a bit short notice for her to get over! We had a good old blether (Adam, of course, was totally bored by our chatter until Mo got out some (very!) old photos of us from SU camp and school days, when he was able to scoff at our clothes and hairstyles. Truly, the 70s is the decade that taste forgot!). It was great for Neil to meet my old friends - he had met Fi once, but many years ago and both of them had pretty much forgotten about it and he had never met Mo.

After a few cups of tea and pieces of cake, we made our way to Karen's, where an equally warm welcome from Karen and her lovely girls Eleanor and Gwen awaited us. Another running friend was there too and we had a fantastic, relaxed evening, chatting over dinner and then relaxing next to a roaring log fire. We were pretty tired after such an early start, so it wasn't very long before Neil, Adam and I took ourselves off to bed. Neil, being a lovely, kind husband, had done all the driving so I could be fresh for seeing my mum and my friends. I know he realised that I was a bit apprehensive about seeing my mum and how she might react and also that I would have some low-level anxiety about seeing my friends with my new face, so he made it as easy as possible for me to be relaxed. I know my friends don't give a fig what I look like, but it's hard to banish the anxiety altogether. I think, in the end, that Mo, Fi, Karen and David thought I looked better than I had led them to expect!

Sunday now, and we set off from Karen's to drop Adam off in Carlisle, via a trip to Tesco to stock up his fridge and cupboards! All parents reading this will be familiar with this procedure, I'm sure.....It was easier, although still difficult, to say goodbye to Adam this time. In September, I was a bit of a tearful wreck, leaving my "baby" in a place so far from home, worrying about how he would settle in, whether he would make friends, whether he would work hard enough! Perhaps, also, there was an extra dimension to my tears because Adam had been through all the stages of my illness, from my finding the lumps in the first place, through the diagnosis, treatment, the very low points and the gradual, slow recovery. This time, it wasn't so bad, although of course the timing wasn't so great, given the slight upset at hospital on Friday - another of life's little ironies, eh? At least this time, I left him with people who are now friends (we were even allowed to meet his best mate, Kirsty!)and with enough food to last at least a fortnight.

Neil and I had decided to take advantage of being up in the north-west of England to spend a couple of days in the Lake District. He spent some evenings researching hotels and booked us into a fabulous hotel (the Ravenstone at Bassenthwaite, if anyone is looking for a good hotel for a walking holiday) for two nights. It was just perfect - wonderful views from our room, very friendly staff, great food, log fire in the bar and a coal fire in the lounge, the biggest selection of board, card and other games I have ever seen, snooker and pool tables...really, you needed a couple of weeks just to work through the games! We had planned to try and walk up Skiddaw, but I had reserved various rights; firstly, the right to say it might be too much, second, the right to go as slowly as a snail and third, the right to grumble and whine every step of the way :-) Of course, Neil had no problem with any of these reserved rights but in the event, I didn't need to invoke any of them because (oh yes, dear reader!) I managed it! We did a small walk on Sunday, just down to Bassenthwaite lake and back, which took a couple of hours and then on Monday, after a huge breakfast, we set off to climb Ullack Pike and then Skiddaw. It was a gloriously sunny, wintry day, with no clouds in the sky and no rain or snow forecast....unusual for the Lakes in January, I think! On the exposed ridge, the wind funnelled through between the peaks and blimey, was it cold and strong! At one point, I had to crouch down because I genuinely thought I might be blown off the mountain....well, I have lost a lot of weight, you know ;-p In all seriousness, it was a mighty strong wind but once we started the ascent of Skiddaw, we were sheltered from the wind and it was much calmer (and almost warm under the sun at times, believe it or not).

I surprised Neil and myself, I think, with how well I coped with the climb. Okay, we weren't walking at a particularly brisk pace, but we weren't dawdling and we didn't hang about eating a packed lunch (although we did stop for tea (from a flask) and Toblerone (from Santa Claus)at a couple of points. I felt very pleased with myself when we got back to the hotel - I hadn't grumbled once, my legs didn't hurt, I still felt I had something in reserve at the end and time on my feet counts as Marathon training, as far as I am concerned.

We drove home today, after brief stops in Keswick and Ambleside, where I got a pair of walking shoes, rather than boots, which I had been wanting for some time. I also saw a lovely down-filled jacket reduced from £90 to £10 - sadly, they didn't have it in my size :-(

All in all, a lovely few days and much needed after the trials of Friday. I do think things are more on the up than the down, but I also know that the MDT meets tomorrow to review my scans from last week, so I will be a bit antsy until I have my appointment with the consultant on Friday and find out their expert view about what they show. I apologise to everyone in advance for any grumpiness, short temper or generally volatile behaviour over the next few days. If you could all cross your finger, pray to whatever God you believe in and generally send positive thoughts in my direction, that would be just perfect.

Thanks to everyone, as always, for support, comments and thoughts - and especially to Amy, Adam and (my rock) Neil for looking after me so well.


  1. Absolutely fantastic to see you and have our mini reunion. And yes I thought you looked fantastic x

    1. We all looked better than in those old photos, I think! So good to see you and Fi xx

    2. You certainly did look fantastic, Ali, keep going - and best of luck with the marathon training. See you soon

    3. PS Anonymous above is me - wee Fi x :-) As if you couldn't tell :-P

  2. where would any of us be without our family and good friends, our rocks. I am very glad to hear yours are ready for you to lean on. sending kind thoughts your way x

    1. You're absolutely right - we need to have people to lean on and trust. Thank you for your kind thoughts x

  3. Really enjoyed this update but it was marred slightly

    ... by no PHOTOS!!!! C'mon we want the evidence x