Thursday, April 18, 2013

This Week's Activities

I've had a really busy week this week and will write more about our adventures in Wales last weekend shortly.

However, in the meantime, here's an account of my mother's activities.

On Monday she did a lot of gardening.

On Tuesday she helped her gentleman friend clean out the pond, so the frog spawn would have nice clean water to hatch out in.

Yesterday she did some gardening during the day and went to see a play in the evening.

Today she's done some gardening and now she's gone to the pub quiz with her gentleman friend.

Tomorrow, Friday, my mother will go for her blood test prior to her fifth lot of chemotherapy, which will be next Monday.

On Saturday it will be her eighty-ninth birthday and my brother's coming over from Amsterdam to join us.

If you ask her how she is, she looks at you as though you're a bit daft and says "I'm fine, of course."  She was six and a half stone in December.  Now she's eight stone.

Did I think, back in December, that I'd be writing such a blog post in April?  No I jolly well didn't.  Amazing.

Sunday, April 07, 2013

A Bit Poorly

All winter I've been expecting to get some illness - some kind of cold virus-type-thing -  and all winter I've been worrying about it, because of my mother.

Because my Mum is having chemotherapy for peritoneal cancer, this makes her more vulnerable to infections.

I work with student doctors of course and they work with ILL PEOPLE!  Also, because they are young and working in lots of new environments, they tend to pick up lots of infections.

So all winter I've been in front of groups of students who have been coughing and sneezing.  There's usually one in the corner, deathly pale and huddled up in a coat, shivering.

"Emma, are you okay?"

"I've just got a cold.  ATISHOO!  I don't feel very well."

Anyway, I had triumphed!  All the Autumn term, all the Christmas holidays, all the Spring term and no nasty germs had got me!  I was beginning to feel rather proud, and remembering my Grandma, my mother's mother, who simply never got a cold no matter how much you sneezed over her.

"Don't worry, I won't get it.  I don't ever get colds."  And she never did, ever, and she died age 93.  (I'm convinced she only died when she did as a gesture of defiance against the old people's home where she lived, where they were trying to make her eat salad, which she had always regarded as entirely pointless.)

Anyway.   I think I managed to resist all these student germs because of having built up a good immune system during years of teaching sniffling adolescents who were infected with vile germs.

Now then, colds with me usually start with either sneezing a lot or a sore throat.  The sneezing type of cold tends to progress very fast into the runny-nosed type, but at least it doesn't last long.  The sore throat type, however, makes me feel dreadful for days before exploding into the twenty-tissues-an-hour kind and then turning into a hideous cough and bunging up my ears.  Bah.

So there I was, in the Easter holidays, feeling rather smug at having avoided all these infections - - and then I started coughing.  This virus is a whole new and exciting thing.  No sore throat or sneezing for me, oh no.  It went from a standing start into "hey, I think I'm going to COUGH COUGH COUGH COUGH COUGH COUGH COUGH COUGH COUGH COUGH COUGH COUGH" - - - and so on.

It makes it very hard to sleep and also makes my stomach hurt from all the coughing.  Worst of all - and I know everyone will be VERY sorry to hear this - I am losing my voice.  Heartrending!

Of course, I'm worried that my mother will get it and so have tried to keep some distance from her, but she's not having any of it.  Every time I go near her house (and she lives next door) I explain and ask her to keep back, but she won't.  She's too worried about me.  When I didn't go over to see her, she simply came over to see me.  "Anything I can do?  Can I make you something to eat?"  I keep telling her that it sounds a lot worse than it is, but she's not having it.

She's making ten times more fuss about my cough than she ever did about her cancer.  The over-eighties are made of stern stuff.

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Behind the Clock

We have been sent a copy of the letter that my mother's cancer consultant has sent to her GP.  It is full of such phrases as "excellent response to treatment." The cancer marker has "plummeted".  They are going to continue with the two remaining lots of chemotherapy and then do a CT scan to see what's going on - - though the letter makes it clear that they are both amazed and delighted by her progress.

Meanwhile, the snow has almost - though not quite - melted.

So my mother's gentleman friend has been out painting benches in the garden and Mum, wrapped up warmly in trousers, coat and hat has been out digging in the garden for much of the day.

"The soil's really not too difficult to turn over at all," she said.  "Of course I'm slower with the spade than I used to be but I still got quite a lot done."

She'd been thinking about it.  Not about the cancer:  she's been thinking about the garden.

"The thing is," she said, "I've been thinking what a boon a garden is.  It always gives you something to do.  Always makes you think of new ideas.  I've left the spade out there for tomorrow."

One of my Mum's foibles has always been that she never likes to pay bills. It isn't that she can't afford to pay them - it's simply that it's not a job she considers a priority.

So, when I was a child, she always just put the bills behind the clock on the mantelpiece and then waited until red versions arrived and then, finally, paid them.

Now I have all her bills paid by direct debit so she doesn't have to do that any more.  But with anything she doesn't like, she puts it behind a metaphorical clock and refuses to pay it any attention.

At the moment, my mother is out in the garden.  Her cancer is behind the clock.  Long may it remain there.

Monday, April 01, 2013

A Walk in the Land of Eternal Winter

It has been winter in Britain for ever.  It started last October, when my Mum got ill, and it's been winter ever since.  There is still snow in our garden.  Is this some kind of April Fool?

Anyway, this morning we woke early and the sun was shining so we thought hey, let us laugh in the face of winter and head for Potteric Carr Nature Reserve .  I've been wanting to visit this for a while.  It's a large area of wetland in a rather unprepossessing-sounding location - near Doncaster, for a start (sorry, Doncaster) and jammed in between railway tracks and the motorway, the M18.

It's an easy drive from Leeds (it was especially easy for me, since I wasn't driving) and the visitor centre was well-equipped and friendly.  Then we entered the reserve and it's a strangely beautiful landscape with a little touch of melancholy, which I love!

So off we went along the well-laid footpaths around marsh and field and across railway tracks and by tunnels and through woodland.  

There were quite a few trains - some on branch lines, some on main lines - but their hooting didn't seem to bother the wildlife at all and actually I rather liked it.

We walked for five and a half miles, stopping to have lunch in the excellent, unpretentious cafe which is sensibly positioned in the middle.

We saw lots and lots of birds from the many hides on the route, from the common garden birds - blackbirds, bluetits - to ones I know but don't visit our garden - willow tit, chaffinch - to ones I haven't seen so often - lapwings and redshanks.  I have only mentioned a few kinds - - we saw dozens.  It was great.

Although the numbers of visitors increased during the day, it was never crowded and always delightful - - though still very cold.

"It's freezing," I said to Stephen, (actually it was about two degrees centigrade but that's still jolly cold) "and I still haven't seen any coltsfoot yet this year."

By pure chance, we walked a few yards further and there they were.  A small glimmer of hope that there may one day be a proper Spring.

Sometimes at this time of year the daffodils are almost done flowering.  This year they are still in bud, shivering.

However, when we were nearly back at the visitor centre, we saw another hopeful sign.

Yes, green leaves!  I want to go back there in a few weeks' time and see the wintry landscape transformed into early-summer green.  And about time too.