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Twists and turns

Every good story has its plot twists, going off at unexpected tangents. It’s the way of things. Life does the same. It’s that unexpected promotion, the accidental pregnancy, the gift that makes a difference to your days and so on. The twists can go either way, but, in the end, they end happily (or have a really good moral).

Ok, waffling over. I’ve been asked what this is about me moving yet again after swearing that I’d be in my little flat for a good few years. I loved that flat. It just wasn’t to be in the end. I’ll start the plot twist chapter with a recap for some (sorry to bore you) for the benefit of those who are truly perplexed.

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Yep. That’s my zimmer frame. Because of the pain walking caused and the weakness in my right leg, I resigned from my job at Age UK. It was the kind of job that needed mobility… something I was losing more and more of as time passed. The morning after my last day at work, I turned from taking down my laundry and tripped. I found myself lying on the floor unable to get up at all and in terrible pain. I called Tat who came over with Ste and lifted me into a chair. She called an ambulance and my latest hospital saga started. At first, they wanted to give me anti-inflammatories for a torn muscle and send me home, as they couldn’t find a problem in my hip and knee x-rays. One doctor came around and asked why my femur hadn’t been x-rayed and a good thing too. It turned out that 9cm of my thigh bone was a spongy mess. It was a miracle that I hadn’t had a serious fracture yet. The decision was made there and then to operate. They put a titanium pin down my femur secured with screws in the hip and knee. That sorted the fracture possibility out.

The follow-up MRI showed no further cancer in any of my organs. A bone scan was done, but I’ll only have the results for that tomorrow. So far, it only appears to be in my femur. What does this mean for me? Firstly, the orthopaedic surgeon said that bone won’t regrow and I’ll never be able to put weight on it. I am determined to prove him wrong. Of course bone regrows! Thus the need of a zimmer/walking frame. I’ve graduated to crutches now, which give me a lot more freedom of movement and I have a rented wheelchair for outings.

I loved my flat, but not being able to do stairs, living on the second floor was somewhat impractical. To go to my hospital visits, I needed a 4-man specialised ambulance team to get me downstairs and back up again. I sadly made the decision to move. Poor Tat was being run ragged between her flat, my flat, and work, spending her spare time caring for me. It’s so frustrating not to be able to do anything without help. It is also a time of firsts, much like a baby. My whoop of joy when I finally managed to put my own socks on was something to behold… if I curl my toes up just ‘so’, I can just reach the enough to slip the opening of the sock over them. It’s the little things. Still, those four flights of stairs were prohibitive, so we made the decision for me to move back in with Tat and Ste, which will make it so much easier on my poor carer – at the very least, it cuts down on the amount of back and forth travel she had to do. They’ve gone out of their way to make me feel at home, though much of my stuff is stored in their loft. I have my name down for a ground floor flat or a single-level house, but that could take a while to come through, as they’re in demand.

Tomorrow, I have my first post-surgery oncologist appointment. I can’t say much about it, as I’m in the dark as well. I know they’re planning radiation, but that’s all I know so far. A lot depends on the bone scan, though my gut tells me the rest of my bones are clear.

It has been a scary, frustrating month. I don’t know how I would have gotten through it without the help of friends and family, especially Tatiana, who’s put her own life on hold to care for me. Thanks to Ste for his support and playing taxi, to his parents and brother for help with the move and their support as well and to Anne who rushed to my side to help and be my shoulder to cry on and bring much-needed laughter to our world when we needed it most. There are so many more thank you’s. Everyone has been wonderful from the hospital staff (from cleaners to surgeons), the ambulance guys (who each need a medal) who kept me laughing through awkward and often painful trips to the hospital, all the support staff who’ve kept the neighbours wondering, the lovely neighbours themselves who kept everyone smiling and would send up treats and flowers. I could go on, but you get the picture. My support system is still strong and help has come from all sides, often unexpected too.

On to the next chapter….  :)

 
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Posted by on February 28, 2016 in cancer, healing

 

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A picture of grief

grief

As many know, I work in a charity shop. It goes without saying, that we get many very interesting donations coming in needing to be checked for quality and pricing. Just before Christmas, a bag of books came in. As I was checking the books for resale value, this note fell out. It had me choking back the tears. Such heartbreak! To me, it came as a grim reminder that not all who are alone have comfort, that loneliness is very real. Not all are as lucky as I am to have people who care enough to call. It’s a call to reach out to those who are alone and hurting.

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Posted by on January 3, 2016 in people

 

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Muddy waters

As I face the New Year, I feel I’m ready for a new beginning. I know that each new day is a new beginning, but, with what’s gone by this past year or two, I’m thinking that a Big new start is in order. I want to reconnect with all my friends I’ve neglected in my year-long slump and infuse energy into my work and play. This involves a lot of deep work for me. One thing that keeps popping up is the subject of forgiveness. I’m fairly sure there are a slew of people needing to forgive me for wrongs and perceived wrongs. I hope they’ll have the courage to confront me, so that I can apologise and make amends. From my side, there is one huge forgiveness challenge that I know is going to hold me back, but I don’t know if I’m big enough to let it go. Yes, I know forgiveness isn’t about approving of someone’s behaviour, but I’m afraid that forgiving will open me up to more of what the person is capable of handing out.

Jurgis was very involved in doing family research in Lithuania while we were volunteering in Ireland. This was costly, but he considered it well worthwhile. The payback for us was huge and life-changing, but it was also done for other close relatives who had asked for the information. Jurgis, at the time, was desperately trying to rebuild bridges with the relatives in question, as we hadn’t had contact for so many years. One day, he broached the subject of all the bureaucratic costs relating to the research he was doing and suggested the relatives contribute to those costs, as they were also benefitting and we weren’t earning at the time. One relative replied scathingly calling Jurgis a beggar and many other nasty things. Anyone who knew him, knew he’d give the shirt off his back for you. He was heartbroken and confused at her words. My feisty, caring daughter took up defense of her father and got a similar tongue lashing from this relative. I still have those messages saved. Yes… I know…. I shouldn’t, but I do. My suggestion to my little family unit at the time was that we just distance ourselves, which we did, though Jurgis still made weekly international calls to his relative. No one ever called him.

Jurgis died. Funny how death affects people. It wasn’t long after his death when the relative that slung abuse at him added me on Facebook. I have spent this past year ignoring that add. As I’m facing my New Beginning, I’m having to face forgiveness, but I don’t know if I can forgive. I know it’s the right thing to do, but I’m clearly a holder of grudges – not happy to admit that! Oh what to do… what to do?? I know what to do, but am I big enough?

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Posted by on December 28, 2015 in family

 

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A window into the darkness

g fa - alone

Some days I don’t need to try and life is good. Some days, it’s all I can do to just get out of bed and feed myself. Other days, with a little effort, I manage just fine and feel better for it. One of my biggest challenges is words. They are swirling in my mind constantly and keep me awake for hours at night, but the moment I try to put pen to paper or keyboard… it’s all gone. Blank. For someone who was a prolific writer and blogger, I now never write. Putting out one sentence for something like Facebook takes monumental effort, so I’m grateful to others who write.

A while ago, I stumbled on a poem by Hannah Nicole that very eloquently describes what I know many are feeling and experiencing.

Depression does not always mean
Beautiful girls shattering at the wrists
A glorified, heroic battle for your sanity
Or mothers that never got the chance to say good-bye

Sometimes depression means
Not getting out of bed for three days
Because your feet refuse to believe
That they will not shatter upon impact with the floor

Sometimes depression means
That summoning the willpower
To go downstairs and do the laundry
Is the most impressive thing you accomplish that week

Sometimes depression means
Lying on the floor staring at the ceiling for hours
Because you cannot convince your body
That it is capable of movement

Sometimes depression means
Not being able to write for weeks
Because the only words you have to offer the world
Are trapped and drowning and I swear to God I’m trying

Sometimes depression means
That every single bone in your body aches
But you have to keep going through the motions
Because you are not allowed to call in to work depressed

Sometimes depression means
Ignoring every phone call for an entire month
Because yes, they have the right number
But you’re not the person they’re looking for, not anymore

And yes, I have been guilty of avoiding answering the phone. I don’t do that anymore, but I’ve been there… when my heart was too full and my mind was dark with no windows to the outside.

 
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Posted by on September 10, 2015 in life, poetry, thought

 

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Hummingbird

hummingbird bluegreen

The hummingbird goes way back for me. One of the delights of Brazil was our garden that seemed alive with these industrious little birds. Jurgis was particularly taken with them. It became almost an obsession for him to be able to capture a hummingbird in a photo. We moved away from that first house with its lush garden. Our next home was the turn of the bem-te-vi, a bird that also gave us a great deal of pleasure. We saw few hummingbirds after that. We tried putting out feeders, but weren’t in the right area for them. Still, whenever we spotted one while out, Jurgis would be captivated all over again.

I didn’t think much of the hummingbird after that. I love all birds, my personal favourites being the blackbird and the robin. They played a huge part in lifting my spirits during some dark times.

I will never forget the night Jurgis died. It had been a couple of hours since we’d turned off his life support when I finally pulled myself together long enough to get in touch with his brother in Australia. It was while we were talking when he broke in with, “What the…?? A hummingbird just flew into my pc!” On my end, I went cold all over. To me, that was no co-incidence. I believe in signs and this was definitely a sign. Hummingbirds don’t just fly into pc’s.

As happens when someone dies, we began receiving cards from friends from all over the world. It meant so much to us. Each card was heartfelt and helped to wrap us in love and care. No one card meant more than the other. In saying that, however, as I write this, two cards stand out for me. One came from a dear friend in Australia. Inside was… you guessed it… a hummingbird! That little golden hummingbird now lives in my purse. Another came all the way from Nashville, Tennessee, USA.

legend of the hummingbird

Since then, the hummingbird has appeared regularly and often in the most extraordinary place, though, to be fair, never a live bird. Some believe in signs. Others don’t. I’ll take it as a sign, a sign that he’s with me and watching, a sign that “life is rich, beauty is everywhere, every personal connection has meaning and laughter is life’s sweetest creation”.

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Posted by on May 27, 2015 in animals, jorge, spiritual, symbolism

 

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Moving forward

At least, in one area of my life.

I know that there are many out there who will be thrilled (ok, that’s perhaps a rather strong word) to hear that I’ve made the decision to go for my radical mastectomy. It’s a huge thing for me, so I’ve planned it for the start of June, which gives me time to prepare physically, mentally, emotionally, and practically.

Physically, I need to work up fitness, particularly in my chest and arms. I’m also preparing myself for the possibility of lymphedema, the most frightening part of this whole deal and the main reason I’ve put surgery off for so long. Right now, I’m learning as much as I can about the prevention and management of that ghastly, incurable disease (yes, there are worse things than cancer – at least, in my book). Practically, I need to gather a front-buttoning, comfortable wardrobe. My shirts and blouses are all pullover. Not that I really need much encouragement to go shopping lately. Shopping, for me, is very much out of character. I’ve always been the Scrooge, thinking twice before spending a penny. This brings me to the mental and emotional part of all this.

This past month has been awful on so many levels. My first lone wedding anniversary was one of the toughest times I’ve had to go through. For many years, we didn’t celebrate birthdays or Christmases as a family. Our wedding anniversary was the Big Event of the year. Much was made of it. Tat and I did our level best to be out there and busy on that day, but it was still rough. The nights are the worst. I rarely sleep more than two hours at a stretch. My scans not long after Jurgis died showed a substantial shrinkage of the tumour. No surprise there. I was militant about my protocol, following it to the nth degree and he helped me, continually encouraging me in my weaker moments. After he died, I seemed to have lost all will. My protocol slid and became erratic. This has shown itself in my scan results. First there was no shrinkage. The last lot showed growth and the tumour isn’t looking ‘healthy’ anymore, so yes, I’m giving up, though not altogether…

The plan is this: Aside from my wardrobe issues, which are really minor – the joys of working in a charity shop are that clothes are easy and inexpensive to come by – there are a few more practical plans to make. I want to make pouches for the drains that I may have to wear for a couple of weeks. I’ve seen examples of these in US and Australian stores. I’ve not seen anything here, but am not worried, as I can make them. It will give me something to do during those long, sleepless nights anyway. After surgery, I’ll stay home for about two weeks before phasing in going back to work. I plan to go back to my anti-cancer protocol after the surgery, though I’ll probably cut back on the number of supplements. I do need to go back to a cleaner diet *sigh* That’s been the biggest factor in my health changes.


It’s rather hard to find a non-gory image to illustrate the surgical incision and the drain bags I plan to make holders for. The holders are to prevent them pulling out of the surgical area when sleeping or going out.

I’m sorry I disappeared. I’m sorry I shut my friends out this month. I could barely deal with myself, never mind actually having to make meaningful conversation. At work, it’s easy. Simple customer service and possible chat about the weather. My evenings and nights have been a long marathon of watching TV series and online shopping (a rather troublesome side effect of my emotional state). Having said that, I do now have a couple of purchases that give me immense delight like the little fan I bought to help cope with the brutal hot flushes at night. It’s a bright, sunny yellow and just totally cool, if you’ll pardon the pun.

Onward and upward. It’s a long road, but I’m used to long roads by now, right?

 
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Posted by on May 4, 2015 in cancer, healing, health, jorge

 

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Some days….



 
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Posted by on January 30, 2015 in jorge

 

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Near perfect

I’ve reached a point now where I can lift my head occasionally and see something truly beautiful, perhaps even laugh a little. Here I sit at the close of a truly wonderful weekend with new, very precious memories to start filling the next chapter of my life…

On Friday, I packed my carrot juice – in retrospect, a really bad move, as it leaked all over my bag, coat and gloves – we loaded up the car and headed out to Freshfield forest following the advice of a good friend. On my trip back to Hemel Hempstead, I had something of a revelation. I realised that the one thing I was missing was my time in the woods. I needed to recharge. I love this place where hills, forest and beach meet and are within easy reach!

I saw my first ever red squirrel!! Sadly, my camera didn’t meet expectations, so I just have a blur that blended with the background, but it was there and terribly cute! Apparently they’re shy critters, but you’d never have guessed from watching this one. I suspect he was too busy taunting the crow to be bothered by our presence.

Freshfield 1

‘Dogs on leads’ is, of course, optional… It was pure doggy paradise!

freshfield 2

Cure for melancholy prescribed by an old friend… Go take a walk in the woods!

freshfield 3

This camera isn’t the best, but for capturing the day, it suffices. I loved the gnarled, weather-beaten woods.

freshfield 4

Windy grasses. It was a glorious day!

freshfield 5

… with random asparagus. Apparently these lands used to be asparagus farms. Ideal soil for it.

freshfield 6

Beautiful wood carvings were to be seen at regular intervals

freshfield 7

Where forest meets beach

freshfield 8

Three guesses as to which way the wind blows

freshfield 9

freshfield 91

Even the snails were huddled together to keep warm. The sun may have been shining, but it was very chilly!

freshfield 92

We ended at a lovely pub for dinner. Thank you to Ste and Tat for making a day with very special memories for me :)

 Yesterday, I took myself off for a treat and had a hour long reiki session, something I’ve promised myself for years. It was pleasant. If it did nothing else, it gave me an hour of much needed nothingness, a time out of the inside of my head.

Today was a day of relaxing and just doing whatever my whim leads me to, which included a box of coloured pencils, a very special and rather spectacular colouring in book, enjoying a feast cooked by the amazing Ste and cooking up a traditional Tomatie Bredie for the kids to enjoy tomorrow.

I have a lot of very important and life-altering decisions to make in the next couple of weeks. I’m grateful for the gift of this weekend.

 
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Posted by on January 18, 2015 in life, Nature

 

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I believe

reincarnation - sara broski
Art by Sara Broski. I loved her work! Very whimsical.
Do click on the image to see more.

 

This is a repost of one of my earlier blogs. I have been going through my old data on my hard drive and this post struck me as pertinent to the changes in my life right now.

Reincarnation is a belief that seems to fly in the face of creation, but then, according to many, so does the whole evolution and dinosaurs belief. There are so many varying beliefs founded on man’s desire to know why, when and how. Does it really matter? This blog isn’t on religious belief, though it is a topic I enjoy discussing on occasion. Note that I said ‘discussing’, not ranting, postulating, temper-tantruming or throwing rotten eggs over. What my beliefs are, are not the point here, though I’m inclined to say, "Who really knows?" In short, I believe it is all possible. Yes, every single last bit of it and I think that the sooner people look at each other with a desire to understand the beliefs of others, we’ll find that to be true.

But… this is about reincarnation and possibly a little evolution, possibly a dinosaur or two… and yes, creation. I’m not sure why I chose these words beyond that they seem to be appropriate to my thoughts.

As I see it, we’ve all been reincarnated in one form or another. We’re all evolving, ever-changing, growing. We came into this life as a lump of (rather cute) clay, each one of us with unique moulding properties, ready to be formed or moulded. Those who’ve worked with clay will know there are some clays which mould far easier than others, some which are prone to cracking and others which hold up rather well under adverse conditions.

As we go through life, we all encounter change. Usually, it’s an evolution or growth period. Circumstances force us to adapt and adapt we do. The human spirit is remarkably strong, usually far stronger than we think it is while going through those rough times.

Ah… then there are times when life simply whips the carpet out of under our feet and we crash. A phoenix-like rebirth is the only option open. We scrape together the ashes and pieces of our soul and drag ourselves up again – some times better than others.

There are also times we choose to reincarnate ourselves. This is what I was thinking about today. For myself, I’m at a point where I’m once again evaluating where I am and what I can do to better myself. There are so many things I want to change that it’s more of a reincarnation, rather than an evolution. I like the fact that a reincarnation seems quicker than an evolution too.

So… reincarnate, I will, assuming I can persuade the dinosaurs of my old belief systems, experiences and perceptions not to stomp all over my attempts.

 

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Posted by on January 2, 2015 in spiritual, thought

 

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The End

we3 Not the best photo, but the last of the three of us

2014 is drawing to a close. I sit alone and cast my thoughts, those that allow themselves to be cast – distraction has become my theme song – back over the year. In July, I cried. The job I loved and, with it, the security I had crumbled into a little heap of angst. “Not fair!” I cried. It wasn’t too hard to pick up out of that with the help of a new job and some truly great colleagues and friends. For a while there, I thought life could turn out to be ok.

It wasn’t to last though. A visit to the doctor, tests and a diagnosis later – life wasn’t done with me. Of course, I knew something was wrong, but being flung into a vortex of surgeons, scans, new foods, pills, tears, sleepy days and sleepless nights left my head spinning. I took comfort in my friends and family and had the rock-solid support of my husband.

The rock crumbled. Jurgis was the one who would coax me daily to take my pills and drink my juices. When I felt I couldn’t, he would do it for me, pushing me all along. It was never me. It was ‘we’. I remember sitting at the table with him. “We’ll nail this thing together. You’re not alone. I’m fighting with you.” He never let me give up! Not fair! Not fair! He was too young to die. He was meant to live to 112. We were meant to grow old together. We talked about it… joked about it. We had dreams, some realistic, some destined to remain in dream world. I first started dating him back in ‘81. We got married in April ‘86. That’s a fair time to get to know someone, though, after living in each other’s pockets for so long, I was still learning new things about him. He was very predictable in so many ways, but still managed to surprise me regularly. Ah yes, life is going to be different now.

Having said all that, I was thinking as I wrote this that, while the year has been a tough one on many levels, it’s also been an incredibly wonderful year. This is the year that I realised my dream of moving to live near Tatiana in England. We’ve climbed mountains and weathered many storms on that journey! I also had a job I truly loved. Not many experience that in a lifetime. I made new friends and renewed old friendships, both of which I treasure beyond measure.

I want to close this year trying, though finding the right words without ending up sounding gushy isn’t easy, to express the gratitude I feel.

I’m grateful for the 30 years I had with a wonderful man that I miss so much. I’m grateful that he was able to bring me this far. I’m grateful for the times he bullied me into taking care of myself, often to his own detriment. I’m grateful for the strength he gave me to carry on when the world appeared to be crumbling around me.

I’m grateful to my amazing daughter and her man. Tat has stepped in and taken over from her father in being my rock and my strength (and my bully). She and Ste have taken me in and made sure I had a home, so I wouldn’t be alone. What was meant to be a visit while we looked for a place of our own has become a longer-term haven where I can lick my wounds and heal.

I’m grateful for my friends. Oh how grateful! You, my friends, are what has carried us through all the drama and trauma of the past few months. I walk covered by a mantle of love and carried along by the collective caring I experience daily. My friends may be all over the world, but your presence here with me is very real. Then there are the friends who made sure that Christmas wouldn’t be a lonely tear-fest. Thank you from the bottom of my heart to the whole Williams family!! I had reason to thank them even before that for making Jurgis’ farewell a spectacular one where we cried and laughed and toasted and burnt up the night sky. I believe he enjoyed that evening too. The only frustrating part for him was not being able to drink his own toast and it wasn’t for lack of trying. I’m also grateful to all those who helped us celebrate his life, people who didn’t even know me, but came to show support and those who travelled far to be with us. Thank you!

I also want to remember the people who form the network of healing for me… my old GP who would call to see how I was and my old breast cancer nurse who still checks up on me. All the staff at the Southport hospital for caring for Jurgis and ourselves with gentle dignity (and for not being too shocked at our outbursts of either laughter or tears) and later for the way they’ve cared for me through my own treatments. When I arrive at the hospital only to find it’s the wrong hospital, they’d take it in their stride, contacting the other hospital to explain and seeing if they could fit me in at the one I’d walked into. The patience of my surgeons is just one more gratitude to add. I’m grateful, not so much for their faith in me, but for allowing me to be me and to believe in myself.

I’m off to join Tat at the club now. It’ll be odd. I’ve never done this alone before – see what you get for going straight into a long-term relationship right out of school. I can do this. Bring it on, 2015!

happy

 
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Posted by on December 31, 2014 in family, friends, gratitude, jorge, new-year

 

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