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Archive for June, 2012

Visited the Breast Unit on Monday.  They were trying to give me a date for the op, but didn’t know when which plastic people were going on holiday.  They think sometime during the first two weeks of August.  They assured me that they only have experienced doctors in their department, even in August.  Mr Farouhi, the surgeon, is very softly spoken.  He was glad that chemo was going well.  When I mentioned my Healer he didn’t say anything, just shook my hand and left.

Saw Ferdinandos on Thursday.  He asked how the chemo was going.  ‘Well, I had no symptoms at all with the last lot, but then I had been to a Spiritual Healer,’ I said.  I do like to tease them.

He did not answer.  He let it go.  Obviously they both think it’s best not to encourage one.

Had my last chemo yesterday.  My sister came with me.  The woman next to me, Linda, had a great head scarf.  It had words in varying sizes all over it:  Bravery, Courage, Strength.  I told her it was a great scarf.  She said ‘Well, it’s good that it says what I’ve got.’  She was having Docetaxyl and Herceptin.  She has to phone the pharmacy when she is on her way, as the Herceptin is so expensive (like £700 a pop) that they don’t want to be making it up if it’s to be wasted due to people not turning up.  I told her about the Cancer Centre.

We had to wait for an hour and a half for the drugs to arrive from the pharmacy.  The nurses were really on the ball this time.  They slowed down the drip several times as my wrist and arm got painfully cold.  They always say ‘It’s a darn shame we don’t have heat pads for your wrist but the microwave doesn’t work.’

I have been six times at three weekly intervals.  You would think that somebody would have gone and bought a new microwave by now.  Maybe it is not detailed in anybody’s job description.  I should have twigged earlier and taken those heat pads that you crack to get heat.

By the time four hours were up I had had enough.  Cried with relief on my way out.  Had to hold my sister’s hand.  She drove me home and made soup.  We went to gin.  Will never never miss gin, and last chemo is worth celebrating.  (Only had one little gin promise.)

Threw up in the night.  Had to get up and let Huggi out three times as Fred refused.  (Huggi gets a dodgy tummy if he manages to steal any food that is not his special dog food.)

Husband’s level of cancer patient support has dwindled massively.  It’s not like he has to get up for work in the morning.  He did agree surprisingly willingly to go down to the cashpoint to put twenty quid on Chloe’s phone as she is in Greece and we want to be able to phone her.  My sister said ‘Aah, you see, he does help out sometimes.’

I said, ‘Yes, it’s probably because on the way up the hill he will go into the pub to play Space Invaders for a couple of hours.’

She was saddened by my cynicism, but it turned out that I was right.  It’s just as well Fred is going off to Greece again with Tabby, Alfie and Bashi.  Maybe he will feel refreshed after that and won’t need the escapism of video games.

On my third midnight trip to the garden with the Dog and Vom Bucket (sounds like a dodgy fenland pub I once knew) I blew out the candles that Fred and Alfie had left flickering outside in the loggia.  Honestly, they will burn the house down, the fools.

I washed off all the vom and cleaned my teeth.  I got back into bed muttering darkly ‘I will put you in the blog.  I will tell it as it is.’

I need to see Dennis.  I only have to think of Dennis and I feel better.  I only have to picture the Cancer Centre and I feel calmed.  I have an appointment on Tuesday.  Thank God and thank the angels.

Something else really really fabbily good:  I have hair growing in!  (on my head!)  I have got FUZZ.  Hot fuzz.  Even Fred thinks this is Dennis’ doing.  I showed everyone at gin.  They exclaimed in delight.  Also, it’s not even that grey.  It’s pretty dark.  Claire’s is really getting long now.  She has even had it cut.

News Flash:  We have our gin club outing today:  junk shops and charity shops in Saffron Walden.  He he, maybe I can aim to replace all the stuff my friends made me throw away.  Life with only one whisk has been depressingly minimalist.

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Peace, Love and Joy

Well.  Gosh.  Such a lot has gone on.  Can’t even tell you.

So sorry I haven’t blogged.  I have been too happy.  When you are this happy it is hard to blog because blogging is kind of about the ego, and when you are happy you are outward-looking and can’t be bothered with all that self-centred crap.

The sofa/quilt/fire/nausea plan never worked out.  I just didn’t need it.  The Monday I went for Chemo.  The very next day I went for more Healing.  Healing has now been afforded a Capital Letter in my world.  You will see why.

The thing is, people will say, ‘oh, yeah, well, she had a downer, thought she was gonna die, had a crisis, found religion, blah de blah, what could be more obvious….’

Well, I don’t care about what people say.  I won’t deny what has happened to me, and it is kind of phenomenal.

The Healing on the Tuesday was wonderful.  I felt very peaceful and protected.  Near the end of the session I felt as if something in me or around me was being gently tugged, pulled towards the area diagonally away from my left foot.   I had my eyes shut, so I could not see what Dennis was doing.  The feeling became stronger, like a silent hoover, tugging, tugging, but a good one, a Miele.  It was almost too powerful.  I nearly sat up to say, ‘Hey, that’s too strong.’  Afterwards, I asked Dennis what he had been doing over there.  ‘I pull the things that have hurt you away, the negative, sad things, and direct them into the earth,’ he said.  ‘I let them go into the earth and be cleaned.  Then I replace the energy with clean, good energy.’

I sang all the way home again.  I felt light, strong, alert, full of cheer.

Since then, I have experienced no symptoms from the FEC.  No nausea, no weakness, no depression, nothing.  I have done lessons, ponies, dogs, RDA, cooking, shopping, everything.  The quilts and sofas did not get a look-in.  I only used them for watching the football, to which I am newly addicted.    I love watching Greece play.  They are so Greek.  So anarchic and wild against the clinical Russians.  And so disproportionately happy when they win, in contrast to the cautious and self-critical English.  I love annoying Alfie by doing a running commentary like this:  ‘Ooh, he’s lovely isn’t he?  Gorgeous!  What a big Swede.  Mmm.  Ooh, why do they pull each other’s shirts like that?  It shouldn’t be allowed….That little squitty one has a nice face…why’s that one wearing bright pink boots?  looks daft…Oh, GO ON, SHOOOOT, GO ON!  NOOOO TOSSER!’ and suchlike.

Every day I have been having horse therapy:

On Sunday I had a phonecall.  Marina along the road said that Claire wanted to see me.  Claire is her mother who is quite elderly and brought up her four children in this house fifty or so years ago.  I went along and had a good chat with her.  She seemed in fine fettle.  You know, she was the youngest of nine siblings.  I know all their names.  Sadly all her siblings have died.  Told her about Healing.  She would like to be healed too.  I said I would ask Dennis if he can come to her house.

At RDA on Monday they were short of helpers so Chloe came with me.  She came downstairs dressed in these multicoloured dungarees, green wellies and developing dreadlocks.  I said, ‘Wow, are you really going dressed like that?’

‘I thought this was very normal,’ she replied, a bit crestfallen.  ‘Isn’t it?’

‘Mmm not really,’ I said, but let it go, seeing as her other look is ravaged pop-star which would not work well at the riding school.  The little boy on the pony she was leading could not speak, but he could laugh.  He kept pointing at Chloe’s trousers and laughing. He would then point at her hair and laugh.  At the end Chloe said ‘Pat the pony.’  He patted the pony, then Chloe patted him, and he patted her.  We all patted each other.  He pointed at her trousers some more laughing all the while.  He had brought some apple and kept signing that he wanted to give the apple to the pony.  We explained that if you keep giving them apple they start biting people who do not give them apple.  He still wanted to give the pony the apple.  He was allowed to put the apple on the ground for the pony.  For someone who could not speak he was incredibly communicative.

Claire and little Agnes came for flute.  I loved the baby while her mummy played Debussy’s L’Apres-midi d’un Faune and Bach. Agnes’ little features are imprinted on my mind now.  If I shut my eyes I can see them.  The baby loves Debussy but does not like Beethoven’s Eroica: too spiky and sharp.

I have been popping in at Mattie’s house as she has her first flute exam on Friday.  She has to do some pieces off by heart.  ‘You can use the music just once if you like, to remind you how they go,’ I said.

‘No, Hester.  I like a challenge,’ she replied.  Yeah, it really will be a challenge if you can’t remember how they go, Mattie!  However, I like to let my pupils develop their own methods.  If that involves making up the pieces, so be it.  God help the examiner, lol.  He’s in for a treat.  She’ll probably stop halfway through a piece to tell him all about her school play and her friends and what parts they are and how she got the part of the dog.

‘I don’t need the music. I like a challenge.’

So a week bowled by, with lovely windy weather, Bloody Marys out in the garden with Fred and Barney, and Tabby going off to Italy to be a drama teacher.  It is her very very sweet Italian teacher Michaela who invited her to go.  If you ever want a big laugh, ask Tabby to do her Michaela impression.  It is so funny honestly, it makes you die.  She has a very deep voice and really draws out each syllable:  ‘Taaaaaaaaa-byyyyyyyyyyyyyy….’

Anyway, so Tuesday came around again and it was time for more Healing.  At the Chemo I had bumped into a friend from my yoga class, Martha. She is a really pretty, little person.  She was at Oncology for a follow-up appointment, having had her operation and radiotherapy a few months back.  She said she was terrified to see the doctors, that they would say it had come back.  Her face was not like I knew it;  she looked afraid.

‘You need to come for Healing!’ I told her.

So Martha picked me up and we went together.  I had booked her a meeting with Dennis.  I read the books in the library while she was in there.  She came out emotional but beaming.

I went in.  I lay down on the table and shut my eyes.  Dennis set to work.  Instant visuals started up.  I got a black spot which started small and grew to engulf a lighter spot within it, which grew again to engulf again, lovely.  Fred has told me that visuals are a tempting distraction from the real business of getting down to serious meditation, so I tried not to give them too much encouragement.  This just set them off all the more, but I seemed to be going deeper and deeper into that black spot and felt myself falling with a kind of crunch into a comfort so pure that I could not detect my body.  I felt tranquil but alert behind my eyes.  And as if I had all the time in the world.  I realised that I wanted to give thanks.  Firstly to Dennis, for helping me.  I tried to send some healing energy back towards him and thanked him, repeatedly.  Then I gave thanks for my friends, visiting them one by one, right to left, seeing them almost in a line standing by the main door of the Cancer Centre, approaching them to touch them lightly, my friend Meg-over-the-road, Arulesh, Claire and baby Agnes, all my friends who have been so kind, my cousins, my pupils.  Gently, gently, I continued to give thanks.  Then I reached my mum and my dad. I gave thanks for them.  Then my Aunty Lindesay.  I gave thanks for her.  Then, in a pool of yellow light, Ferg.  Suddenly, unexpectedly, he was with me.  I was sitting with my brother, within touching distance, smiling, in easy comfort and absolute happiness.  I realised that in some worlds there is no need for time.  I had a strong feeling of peace and wholeness.  It was a wondrous shock.  I started to cry.  Crying with your eyes shut is odd.  You feel like your eyes are going to explode, then the tears squeeze themselves out.

Dennis said ‘Ok, that’s about it,’ and went out to fetch water.  I just lay, savouring the light and peace and the fact my eyes had not exploded.

‘Gosh, Dennis,’ I said when he returned.  ‘I met my brother.’

‘Well, yes.  Near the end I do invoke the angels,’ he replied.

We went to the appointments book to make another appointment for Martha for next week.  My name is down there for Dennis.  I tried to give my appointment to Martha, since that lovely Christine gave me hers the other day, but he said he would fit us both in.  I said ‘Dennis, are you sure?’

He said, ‘You should come again.’

Of course I really do want to have more, but I want other people to experience this.  I feel like I am being over-indulged.  How much healing can one person take?  My cup runneth over.  I don’t think that cancer could possibly survive in such an environment, in a breast so blessed.  This space is full of light and love and health.

My only worry:  that Dennis will become exhausted with this work.  He says, no, it does not exhaust him.  Once he did five people in a row, and that was a bit too much, he said.  He has given me a book he wrote, of his spiritual experiences.  It is really fascinating.  I am going to edit it and help him to self-publish.

Gin Claire told me that her cousin Becky who is a week ahead of me with the FEC wants to meet Dennis!  (Unfortunately she lives in Manchester.)  She has had a worse time the second time.  I will have a queue of people waiting to see him when he gets to Bishops Stortford.  Claire says she is too much of a cynic to have healing herself, but even so, she is tempted.  I think she should.  I think Fred should too.  But he said, ‘Don’t go bringing any bloody healers into the house.’  LOL TIPS.  Even he can’t deny I’m healed though.  Would he rather be bringing me vom buckets, muesli (with a grape if I’m lucky) and cups of green tea, or have me bounding about in singing mode, making smoothies, sweet potato mash, ratatouille, bringing him cups of tea and indulging in my rather marvellous commentary on the football?  It’s a no-brainer, Fred.  Unless he actually prefers me incapacitated….it’s a thought.  I did used to annoy my friend George quite a lot by being too enthusiastic about the coming of Spring I remember.  I used to be able to smell Spring in about January and she thought that was taking the piss.  (I actually could though.) (Just for the record.) (It’s the sap rising deep inside the trees and the earth starting to breathe again. Mmm.)

OMG, forgot to tell you about the injections!  Tabby was very professional about it, flicking the needle and reading the instructions.  Before the needle got anywhere near my fat, I screamed a long scream.  It seemed to help.  The parrots looked very interested.  Chloe and Fred watched to learn how to do it.  Tabby unfortunately has gone away, so Fred did it yesterday.  I screamed even harder even though it really doesn’t hurt even a tiny bit.  If I keep this up, by sometime next week the parrots will be screaming.  He he.  At least they’ve forgotten how to do Chloe’s rape alarm which is a relief.  Although as soon as someone opens the drawer and accidentally sets it off they will remember.

The best scream I ever did was when I went to the loo in the middle of the night and Fattipus came in and let a mouse drop out of his mouth.  It ran straight towards me.  I climbed onto the loo seat and screamed my arse off.  Fred bless im did come running for once in his life as he thought it was an axe murderer.  He was really cross that it was only a mouse.  But I reminded him about the bollocks and he had to agree that mice really are terrifying.

Guess what?   Dennis is coming round tomorrow!  I know, I’m so excited about this.  I hope all the ghosts in the house don’t swarm him.  He is going to heal Chloe and maybe Fred and maybe Cynic Gin Claire, maybe Arulesh if she summons up the courage.  Haven’t asked Fred yet if he wants to be healed. Wouldn’t it be funny if he became a born-again?  What a lol would that be right enough.  He’s watching the football.  I am going down now to do some insightful commentary on the Czech-Portugal game and check out the talent.  Fwhooooarrr.  Gorgeous!

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Puke

Chloe accompanied me to have Bloods at seven in the morning.  She normally goes to bed about then so for the first two hours she was comatose.  Still, better a sleeping companion than none.  My neutrophils were fine, so chemo was scheduled for the first available slot. We waited in the Mary Wallace centre.  I read a book about blood type diets and cancer.  As a blood type O, I should eat zillions of broad beans apparently.

Sanjay was not available. I had a female chemo nurse.  She did not introduce herself so I don’t know her name.  She passed me four steroid pills.

‘Last time I only had two of these,’ I said.

‘They’re only 2mg,’ she replied.  She did not go and check in response to my doubt.

It hurt when she put the needle in.  She couldn’t get the needle into the vein and in trying, spiked a nerve.  I leapt about 5 foot off the bed involuntarily.

She laughed.  ‘Whoops! That’s the second person I’ve made jump today.’  She did not apologise.

Unfortunately, I tensed up badly.  I need to have trust in my chemo nurse.  Neither Chloe nor I felt that trust.  Whereas last time Sanjay never took his eyes off the vein, this nurse never looked at it once.  She chatted away mindlessly while the red epirubycin was going in. I attempted to chat but was cramped up with fear.  I clutched my warrior in my right hand.  When the fourth syringe went on, she disappeared.  Another nurse had to help change over to the saline.  The saline stopped and the first nurse was still nowhere to be seen. We waited and waited with the drip beeping annoyingly.  We could see Sanjay, busy with other luckier patients, curling his lip with annoyance.  He notices everything.  Chloe went off to find our nurse.  She was eating a chicken salad.  She had not told us that she was going off for lunch, nor handed me over to anyone else.

We waited at the pharmacy for the steroids, anti-sickness, antibiotics and the syringes to boost neutrophils.  Realised the nurse never told us how or when to inject these, so the pharmacy told us to go back to the Day Unit.  Have to inject from day 7, in the thigh or tummy.  In all, we were at the hospital from 8am till 3pm.  Could think ‘Shit a day of my life.’  Could think, ‘Thank God I live in a place where I can receive the best treatment.’  Thought both.

I went to bed.  Chloe did the ponies and dogs.  Fred watched the football.  I taught Ella.  Dance of the Blessed Spirits, wicked tune.  Went back to bed. Felt weird so I took the steroids, the new anti-sickness (taking the place of the Domperidone as it maybe had something to do with the depression) and the old anti-sickness.  Too late!  Fred brought me a bowl just in time.

Feel much better now I’ve thrown up.  Got some Domperidone down me, as it really seems to be the only one that works.  Don’t know what to do about the fact I’ve thrown up the steroids.  Hard to know. Feel like I should ask permission before taking two more.

We had a look at the blog stats today.  You will laugh at the list of countries participating in my boob lump story:

All Time

Country Views
United Kingdom FlagUnited Kingdom 15,160
Canada FlagCanada 713
United States FlagUnited States 645
France FlagFrance 489
Ireland FlagIreland 208
Hong Kong FlagHong Kong 109
Indonesia FlagIndonesia 106
Germany FlagGermany 91
Australia FlagAustralia 77
Greece FlagGreece 72
India FlagIndia 68
United Arab Emirates FlagUnited Arab Emirates 62
Poland FlagPoland 60
Austria FlagAustria 36
Spain FlagSpain 30
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Italy FlagItaly 20
Netherlands FlagNetherlands 18
Switzerland FlagSwitzerland 14
Russian Federation FlagRussian Federation 11
Japan FlagJapan 10
Pakistan FlagPakistan 9
Norway FlagNorway 8
Luxembourg FlagLuxembourg 6
New Zealand FlagNew Zealand 6
Singapore FlagSingapore 5
Bolivia FlagBolivia 4
Turkey FlagTurkey 4
Portugal FlagPortugal 3
Peru FlagPeru 3
Belgium FlagBelgium 3
Serbia FlagSerbia 2
Qatar FlagQatar 2
Denmark FlagDenmark 2
Afghanistan FlagAfghanistan 2
Brazil FlagBrazil 2
Taiwan, Province of China FlagTaiwan 1
Philippines FlagPhilippines 1
Slovenia FlagSlovenia 1
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Croatia FlagCroatia 1
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Israel FlagIsrael 1
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Czech Republic FlagCzech Republic 1
Lebanon FlagLebanon 1
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Thailand FlagThailand 1
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We also had a laugh looking up the Search Engine Terms for finding the blog.  It’s a fascinating insight into how Google works:

All Time

Search Views
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hester tingey blog 171
breast blog in the world 155
hester tingey breast cancer blog 47
breast blog 28
breastblog in the world 27
https://hestertingey.wordpress.com/ 23
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I love that people seeking  ‘gan gan room strip club’ and ‘measure of Pimms to Lemonade’ ended up on my sorry tale.
The camera is back from its holiday so I will get on some photos soon.

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Went to have blood taken.  No Ferdinandos today.  A very clever-looking woman doctor called Dr Elizabeth Cox came in.  She asked me how chemo was going.  I told her about the frightening depression.  She explained that FEC causes oestrogen levels to plummet and of course it’s oestrogen wot keeps you up, as we women know:  PMT is caused by oestrogen levels falling before a period.  A nurse popped her head round the door to pass my blood results in.

‘Hmm,’ said the doctor, looking at them.  ‘You are neutropenic.’

Ooh, sounded a bit rude.  I felt like saying ‘I am not that!  Are you disrespecting me? Are you calling me a pikey?’

To my affronted look she continued:  ‘Some of the white blood cells which fight infection are called neutrophils.  Your neutrophil count is very low.  You don’t have enough of these for us to give you chemo tomorrow.’

I felt a mixture of relief and worry at the delay.  ‘Don’t worry,’ she said.  ‘It is quite common for the chemo to cause this.  It might explain why you were feeling so low.  Basically the FEC gave you a big knock.’

‘Does that mean it also gave the cancer a big knock?’ I asked.

‘Yes, absolutely, it does,’ she reassured me.  ‘You can come back in on Monday morning.  With any luck, by then the count will be higher and you can have chemo the same day.’

Hooray, the weekend I had written off is mine for the taking.  She explained that cycle 6 (the last one!) will still happen as scheduled in three weeks time, all being well.

‘Is there anything I can do, or eat, to help the neutrophil count improve?’  I asked.

‘No,’ she replied.  ‘There is nothing you can do.’

As you have already predicted I am sure, I didn’t believe this for a second.  I will find ways to raise the count, ha ha, see, my fighting spirit is back!

‘But when you have the next chemo, we will give you Neutrogen which will boost neutrophil production.  You’ll have to inject it into your thigh each day for 6 days.’

Oh shizzle on my dizzle thank God I live with a diabetic.  Tabby can inject me.  Phew.

I thought I would get another perspective on the nodules.  I asked where they were for starters.  One is apparently in the lower left lung and the other in the mid right lung.  Better to know thine enemy.

I asked if I should phone the Breast Unit people and talk to them about booking a slot for the op as one of my little worries has been that I’ll get to the end of chemo and they’ll say ‘Oh, sorry, the next available slot is in December.’  By which time the lump will have grown again and all this shrinkage effort will have been in vain.

‘No, no,’ the doctor smiled.  ‘We will do that for you.  I’m booking you a meeting to work out a date and all the details.’

A nurse from Cancer Research UK came in as Dr Cox left.  She asked if, when I have my op, they can have some of the removed breast tissue for research.  They want to do two different studies looking at stem cells.  I said of course they can use it.  It’s not like I want to bury it in a box under a lavender bush, say a few words, have it cremated or anything.  And the results of their research could help the doctors work out the best therapy for my cancer more accurately.

So, back home, with creation of white blood cells in mind,  I have been making smoothies, using fruit that has a thick skin.  When you are neutropenic you can’t fight invading germs so you don’t want to risk eating stuff that has earth or bacteria on it.  So bananas, oranges, mangos and pawpaws are good.  You want to avoid blue or unpasteurised cheeses and the like.  I cooked some broccoli with lemon and black pepper, crispy kale in the oven, and Arulesh’s mum’s recipe of green beans with tomato and onion in garlic, chilli, fennel seeds, turmeric, cumin, curry powder and coconut milk.  We baked butternut squash and stir-fried rice with scrambled Duchy eggs stirred in.

I have formulated a plan for next chemo.  A simple strategy.  Before Monday I am going to gather the sofas at the bottom of the big room and bring in lots of fire-wood.  I’m going to make sure I have lots of lime and Volvic and ginger (and a bucket in case of the worst).   I’m going to plug the phone in down there.  (ooh fnarr fnarr sounds rude, but it’s not.)  I’ll have a laptop, a pile of music and a flute.  I’m going to get in some great films.  We will light the fire, the dogs and cats will join me on the sofa under the blankie, pupils will pop in and play lovely tunes to me, and I will just stay there for a week and see what happens.

I am bearing in mind that the simplest strategies do not always work.  My dad once decided to simplify Christmas.  He found at a jaw-dropping bargain a rather handsome black umbrella and was so chuffed with it that he bought twenty five of them to give to neighbours and friends.  He never suspected that they were a bad lot wot had fallen off the back of a lorry.  He merrily handed them all out.  Not til a week or so later did he venture out in the rain.  At the first tiny gust of wind the umbrella flipped inside out and flashed its spokes lustily at the weather.  ‘Never mind’ thought Dad, ‘this one’s probably a fluke.  Chances are the others are all fine.’

Nope.  We spotted the poor vicar struggling along Barton Road in lashing rain with what looked like a massive black flappy tulip.  Mrs-Bliss-next-door’s umbrella’s spokes pinged clean off as she stepped out onto her front doorstep.  One by one those umbrellas whoomped themselves inside out.  We received dribs and drabs of news detailing that every single one of them had died a swift death on its first outing.

My brother Pete tells a funny story about one of Ferg’s failed plans.  One day when we were away and had left the boys behind, Ferg, aged about seventeen, apparently came downstairs wearing one of Dad’s suits.  Pete, a bit alarmed, asked ‘Why are you wearing a suit?’

Ferg said ‘I am going to the bank to borrow some money.’  (You kind of have to do the voice right:  highly serious, heavily articulated, and formal, with a frown, if that helps.)  He had decided that he needed to buy body-building equipment.

He came back an hour later with no money and no body-building equipment.

‘What happened?’ asked Pete.

‘It’s Saturday.  The bank is not open,’ replied Ferg.

But anyway, my sofa/fire/film plan is a good plan.  And I’m sticking to it.  Means Fred will have to do the ponies.  That’s OK, as he lost his job a week ago.  (I know:  it never rains but it pours.)  Seriously though, if no job is forthcoming, we could sell up and live on a boat on the river Stort like Barney and Big Alf.  We’d have to be tidy then.

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Nellen posted a video on my wall about this woman who drank the juice of a whole cannabis plant every day and thus succeeded in ridding herself of terminal illnesses.  You can watch compelling youtube vids showing that cannabinoids cause cancer cells to self-destruct.

It’s wonderful that this woman found her cure, and I am tempted to give it a go, but I can’t help but be wary of the mental effects.  There came a point where I decided to steer clear of hallucinogens, partly because of my family history.  I understand that mental health is to be protected.  Thing is, once dodgy tracks are forged in your brain, they remain there, easy for thought processes to slip onto, grip onto.

My brother Ferg suffered from manic depression.  He had episodes of it over ten years, from the age of 16 til 25.  A horticultural course, psychiatric care and sheer determination helped him and he managed little by little with great effort to extricate himself from it.  Aged 25 he had an unavoidable operation for a collapsed lung and fell into the most horrendous post-operative depression.  He came home from Windsor in his Hillman Imp with all his things.  As he passed the sign into Cambridge his windscreen cracked.

A few days later I was due to go off to Greece for a year to learn Greek.  The night before the flight Fergus asked if I would come out to the pub, The Fort St George, to have a drink with his friend Andrew.

‘Ferg!’  I exclaimed.  ‘I’m leaving for Greece first thing tomorrow.  I haven’t even packed yet.  Of course I can’t go to the pub.’

This is the reason why, if you ever ask me to come to the pub with you, I am coming!

He came to the airport with my dad to see me off.  I did realise that was odd but I was too self-obsessed to question it much.  He wanted to say goodbye.  He kissed me.  Again, I should have known something was up.  As I walked away from him, I was crying.  Stupid, stupid.  Should have questioned that!  Not like me at all you see.  Going to Greece was always a cause for elation and thrill, never sadness.  My inner self with its infinite wisdom of course knew it was the last time I would see him.

Three days later he committed suicide.

It’s twenty five years later but we are still gutted.  I flew home.  I remember picking Great Granny up from the airport as she had been away, and the first thing she said was ‘We will never recover from this.  Never.’

My mum had a stack of tenners in the drawer, and would take them out and shove them at us to buy food and drink.  ‘Och, take the money, what’s money?  It’s only paper,’ she said.  We drank whisky.  Friends piled in.  We talked about Ferg solidly and cried and laughed crazily at stories people told about him.  Luckily Mum’s friend Lissi brought us food, day after day.  My dad went into his office, and the vine Fergus had grown for him from a seed had thirteen orange bells on it.  It had never flowered before.

I regretted so many things.  With a suicide everyone always feels like they could have prevented it.  We yearned to turn back the clock.  We learnt the real meaning and agony behind the word ‘Why?’   I learnt that grief is actual physical pain.  I banged my head on the wall to stop it hurting.  I had not really ‘got’ the whole love thing until then.  I did not know that I loved my brother until it was too late to tell him or show him.

So, there was a life horribly shortened due to a chemical inbalance in the brain.  This takes me back to my current point:  we must be careful of our brains.  Really, I mean, not take liberties, not play around with them.  Nor take our stability for granted.

Apparently if it is juiced raw and not heated, the psychoactive stuff  in the dope plant is not activated.  I don’t know about that.  I’m sure I had dope buns in Amsterdam once that made us think that avocados were so strange that they must be from outer space, and that water was THE ALIEN.  Although that might have been those Welsh mushrooms we had on Granchester Meadows, thinking about it.  We did go through phases of being pretty addled.  Once we nearly went up to some unsuspecting passersby on the meadows to ask them what normal people do all day, as we had forgotten.  Not the most helpful state to be in.  Reminds me of the state of the old girls in the film Saving Grace.  The scene in the shop, lol.  Take a look.

Anyway, they probably won’t listen, and why should they, but my message to the youf is simply:  don’t go there, or at least, not too often.  Because the balance in our minds is precarious and oh so precious.  It is really really handy to know where your body stops and where the rest of the universe starts.  Being at one with the universe is overrated.  And remember, just one piece of barbed wire and all its concentration camp connotations can start you off on a very nasty trip.  Coiled ropes too are particularly bad due to their uncanny snake resemblance.  And sticky chocolate toffees.  Do not eat them while under the influence.   In fact, tbh anything can set it off.  And then you’ve lost it.  It’s FML bigtime.  No way back.  Hours of hell.  The fear that the real you will never return.  The fear of sudden death and not having done half the things you wanted to do because you were too damn stoned.

It’s better to get to oneness with the universe through years and years of meditation, yoga and courage, not just be dumped there unceremoniously without a map.  Or don’t bother with the years of meditation, just be content to stay close to the earth and accept that we are animals with basic needs for food, water, friendship, a bed, (ok, maybe a telly but deffo not a playstation):  simple things.  Be content with the prosaic but pretty creations of our own unstimulated minds or get on with the job of finding zinging but unchemical stimuli.  Books are pretty good.   The thing is, if you take drugs, then your normal mind becomes boring to you.  You are tired of it.  You crave that extra stimulation and energy.  What you may not care about is that the extra energy is FAKE.  And that you have to Pay It Back.  It’s like getting a loan.  Tempting, seductive and dodgy.

You may well ask, well, why did you take any drugs?  Good question.  Well, in our defence, it was the eighties.  Whole houseloads of students I knew were doing big fat clay pipes full of pot first thing in the morning, so a few puffs in the evening didn’t seem too extreme.  Also I think the bucket-loads of steroids when I was 16 had given me a taste for artificial energy.  I longed to re-create in myself that bouncy effortless high where your synapses are firing away zip zip.  It seemed to me that most young people of our generation were indulging.  Smoky underground graffitied bars were alluring.  It was as obvious as choosing Diagon Ally and Sirius over Privet Drive and Dudley.  I felt a bit guilty about the health implications (having been cured of Lymphoma by the great effort of fantastically brainy surgeons) but didn’t see much harm in a few puffs, a few pints.

When you are out of your head, everything anyone says seems brilliant and hilarious.  The more often you get out of your head though, the more the brilliant and hilarious things start to jar a bit, the more the laughing fits fizzle out on a contortion that almost hurts.  Chirpy giggles turn to desperate spasms.  You spend evenings talking friends down from bad trips.  You start to realise you don’t enjoy it as much, and almost dread it.

Unfortunately, later in life, I saw the people who over-indulged either go mushy in the head, or really unexpectedly turn to religion, one translating the Bible into many languages in a monastery, another going from shagging three blokes a night to spending months in a mountain nunnery painting icons (true).   One suddenly needed to deny his whole life and cut off all friends from his past, and some just became very square and scarily straight.  Fred’s brother witnessed the more horrible side of the whole thing, with most if not all of his mates from his teenage years dying from drugs related suicide or overdose.  So, you know, in the end you learn it’s not funny.  It’s a big waste.  Not worth the fun and games, the skinning up in fingerless gloves in the pale dawn light, the hilarity as people discover they have been smouldering the foot of their sleeping bag in the fire, the mindless giggling and meeting of minds.  (*sigh* RIP good times?)

No, not RIP.  If you manage to abstain for a few weeks, you find that the giggling comes back, but it’s not quite so mindless.  You have conversations and can remember bits of them, yay.  You manage to go to plays, or films, or gigs.  You experience more good times in the morning, and a few less in the middle of the night.  OK, so I realise I am describing the process of getting older, yes, I know.  Darn it, that’s what happened, we got old, shizzle on my dizzle, how did that happen?

But I’m telling you, the visuals today in healing with Dulcie were better than any trip.  Her hands were cool; it was like peppermint in the brain.  A lovely little mauve patch swam about beguilingly.  Later I got a wide deep purple band.  It was such a lush colour I wanted to get in it, bury myself in it.  I even felt my mind detaching from my head:  a black spikey mass pulling away top right from a bright orange area and then a feeling of such supreme comfort that my body was undetectable to me.  It kind of dissolved.   OMG, maybe I was at one with the universe.  If so, I was wrong to say this feeling is overrated.  It’s fab.  But the healer gave it to me so calmly.  A much less stressful experience than all that kerfuffle with rizlas, people hogging the joint, raindrops making your spliff go soggy and friends experiencing sudden scary blindness.

I forgot Dulcie was a medium and forgot to ask her if she could see any of my dead.  Sometimes apparently she talks in the deep hoarse voice of her spirit guide.  I would have found that fascinating, not scary.  But Carole tells me the healers are not meant to do any of that strain of work at the centre.

Afterwards I felt so booming with vigour that I felt a bit guilty, that it was too self-indulgent.  I told Dulcie this.  ‘No,’ she said.  ‘You do need this.’

‘Other really ill people must need it more than me,’ I said.

She insisted again, ‘No, you should come again.  You need it.’

The feeling that she maybe knows more about me than I do, from just one encounter, disturbed me for a second.  But feeling rampantly flooded with fresh health dispelled this.  I drove off singing Edelweiss with great deep breaths and raucousness out of the car window.

Ps. no photos as Fred has gone off to Greece with the camera, Bash, Alfie and their friends BB and Alex.  Fred tried to take a photo of a frog up the mountain and slipped off a rock into the river.  His phone drowned so I have no updates.

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Well, so I was well and truly myself again.  Hallelulia.  Oh yeah, Gospel Mama, clap your hands and rejoice.  (Gee, really hard word to spell, that Hallelulia. Am not convinced I have it right.)  Back to my jolly old jokey-jokey self, ready for big lols.  Or so I thought.

It so happened that I drove Tabby to Takeley for a drama lesson.  For Takeley you have to get in the third from left lane at the big M11 roundabout.  I accidentally got in one of the A120 Colchester lanes.  I signalled right and tried to move over.  Three cars honked at me.  I swerved back into the Colchester lane.  I was forced to go towards Stansted and round the roundabout and back.  Normally, you understand, a)  I wouldn’t get in the wrong lane at all, b)  I would wave off the honkers with a ‘Oh get a life, y’ol codger,’ and have a laugh about how anal people are.  But not now.  The tears started to plop.  ‘People just shouldn’t honk at people,’ I sobbed.

Tabby held my hand.  ‘Horrible people,’ she said.  ‘They shouldn’t honk at my mummy.’

I cried all the way there and for another half hour.

So, when Carole phoned up to say it was time to visit the Cancer Centre at Scotsdales for a spot of healing, I resisted, but realised before long that I was putty in her hands.  She took me into the David Rayner building.  ‘Just look around you, Hester,’  she said.  ‘This place honestly works miracles.’

I looked.  I didn’t really understand what she meant as it all seemed fairly normal.  Quite a low ceiling.  Smiley people chatting at tables.  An animated art class going on in the corner.  A lady serving tea and biscuits.  I sat outside in dappled sun and chatted with Carole’s friends.  They are serious survivors.  They are very, very kind and mindfully welcoming.  They say things in such a way as not to jar you, because they understand vulnerability.  They really believe in and practise positive thinking.  Some were told they had only months at best yet are still here twelve years later.

The centre co-ordinator, Ann, approached to say she could fit me in for healing with Dennis.  I looked at Dennis.  He seemed like a normal chap.

I had never been for healing before so had not one jot of an idea what to expect.

I lay down on a treatment table in a little room.  I shut my eyes.  I could hear Dennis taking a deep breath.  He placed his hands on both of my shoulders.  I felt a gentle bar of heat glowing between them.  I could hear him moving around.  He held my foot which felt really good.  When he left my foot and came round up to my head I could still feel him holding my foot.  Strange.  Almost as if someone else had come into the room to help him with this enormous task that was my damaged body and spirit.  He touched my right shoulder and I felt a whoosh go across my body towards my left hip.  I realised my breathing had slowed down.  Behind my eyelids a bright lime green colour started up.  I could see one big eye, the colour of new leaves, pulsating, lined with yellow as if the sun was behind it.  In the centre was a throbbing dark greyish blue area, like the pupil of the eye.  I almost laughed as I wondered if it was my third eye opening up.  I Spy with my Massive Eye, I chuckled to myself.  It was enormous, much bigger than my normal eyes.  But you can’t normally see your own eye.  Shit, maybe it was someone else’s.  I tried to go through the pupil and see out of the other side of it.  No, that didn’t work.

From my shoulder the healer went down my arm with gentle slow touches til he reached my hand.  He cupped the outside of my hand.  When he took his hand away, my hand felt like it had a protective coating all round it.  Like it had been laminated, or been given a shell.  He did the same to the other shoulder, arm and hand.  Both hands felt strong, curved, ready, protected.  I revelled in the feeling.  I was being strengthened.  This was so lovely.  I felt a profound urge to thank Dennis.  I felt a strong need to tell my friend Rachel that maybe her ill friend could come for healing with Dennis.  I felt honoured and privileged that this person whom I did not know was putting so much care and effort into making me better.

He placed his hands on my left hip and pushed slowly. He worked his way down the leg, did the other side, then held both feet.  I felt warmth and contentment.  I was alert and joyful.  Plus the visuals at this point were intense, still lime green, with pulsating black suns outlined in white light.

He said something like, ‘OK, that’s all done now’.

I opened my eyes.  ‘You have a real gift,’ I told him.  ‘You really are so good at this.’

He was pleased.  ‘I’m just channelling it,’ he replied.  ‘Anyone can do it.  Do you have children?  Well, you have done it, whenever you cuddled them after they fell over.’

I thought of when I held Tabby’s hand when she was in the Trauma room.  I had known that breathing love into her body through my hand gave her strength.  It had certainly taken it out of me!  I thought of Nanny Rene holding baby Chloe for hours, pouring love into her through her eyes and arms.  I thought of all the hours I rocked and hugged my babies with a fierce protecting love.  I remembered a concert where I suddenly understood that my Aunt Lindesay sitting at the piano had become a channel for the composer, Liszt, and that he was still alive, in the room, through the union of her interpretative skills and his work.

I thanked Dennis and came out of there beaming.  The room no longer looked normal.  It was glowing with promise and delight.  Everybody seemed to be smiling.  This happens in Greece quite often.  You head out on a pirate ship round Cephalonia, Ithaka, Meganissi.   You watch the way the boat cleaves the wine-dark sea.  The captain comes round with his barrel of ouzo.  (Not for me!)  You dive in off the boat and swim into Papanikoli’s huge cave.  The boat stops at a deserted beach for snorkeling and a barbeque with swordfish and salads.  On the way back the wake of the boat hypnotises you with its foamy whorls.   You lie back on mattresses on the deck squinting through sunlight at creaking masts and rigging above.  Dolphins leap around the boat.  Approaching Lefkada, you look around and realise that everyone on board has stopped talking.  They are just smiling and smiling.

I sat back down outside.  I told the survivors about the visuals.  ‘Beginner’s luck’ they laughed, and told me it’s best to have healing three weeks in a row for maximum benefit.

Next week the healers are all booked up, but a very kind lady came round the table to tell me that I could have her appointment.  ‘You need it more than me,’ she said.

‘Are you sure?’ I asked.  ‘Maybe you do need it.’

‘No, no, I have had lots.  I want you to have it,’ she insisted, and she went to the book and crossed out her name and put my name.  On the website for the Cancer Centre it mentions ‘an almost tangible kindness.’  I have felt it.  You can touch it.

So I am seeing Dulcie next week.  Apparently she is a medium.  Can’t wait.  There is another healer there who has angels with her.  Mad Lucy tells me this is not that uncommon.  She knows several people who have angels with them.

Have felt really positive ever since the healing.  I think about it and can re-experience the sense of calm I had, but can’t get the visuals.  I have tried, even with a light shining on my shut eyes, but I only get a blank orangey-grey dull plain.  No sign of a massive green eye.

The eye reminds me of when we used to play compound noun I-Spy in the car with the kids.  One time little Alfie had us going with W-W.  Did we ever try?  Water Works.  Wrist Watch.  Windscreen Wipers.  In the end we gave up.  He said ‘It’s Wag Wort.’

Sure enough, the passing fields were full of yellow ragwort.  How could we have missed that?  Duh, stupid.

Bash was a bit too young to play.  She would say ‘B-P’.  We would guess for ages, then she would say, ‘No, it’s Cow.’  There wouldn’t even be a cow.

That reminds me of Tabby’s first day at Northgate school in Bishops Stortford.  She came out and said ‘I have a new friend.  She’s my reading partner.’

‘That’s nice,’ I said.  ‘What’s her name?’

‘She’s called Orangerie,’ said Tabby confidently.

‘Really?’ I asked.  ‘Orangerie?’

‘Yes, Orangerie,’ repeated Tabby.

God, Orangerie must have a very odd mother, I thought to myself.  Who would call their kid Orangerie?

Before long, I met Anjani and her mother Arulesh, and discovered they were not that odd really.

It’s like when we had just moved to New York and the girls had heard us talking about excursions we could do.   They woke us up jumping on the bed one day with this:

‘Mummy, Daddy, can we go up the Plum Tyre Eight building?’

‘The what?’ we said.

‘The Plum Tyre Eight building,’ Chloe said.

‘Wh..what is it?’ we asked faintly, feeling like we were in a surreal film.

‘It’s de Plum…Tyre…Eight….building,’ repeated Tabby clearly, as if talking to two very thick foreigners.

Honestly, we so should have got it on vid and put it on Youtube (but there was no Youtube in them days).  Oh, the laughs we do ave.  They did get a trip up the Empire State building in the end, once we’d worked out what they were trying to say.

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