Saturday, 27 September 2008

something to be aware of

I thought it would be good for everyone to see this article here, it has new information about talcum powder which could be relevant to some women.

we need to see more of the TEAL ribbon please!

anyone who wants a copy of this, let me know, it's a high resolution .eps file, or I can send it as a .tiff / .gif / .PDF or a .jpeg.

And any suggestions for improvements on it will be welcome.

I am going to start plastering it on everything! ;o)

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

nine weeks to the day...

Tuesday 23rd September

It’s so hard to believe that it’s 9 weeks to the day since the last chemo session. Only 6 weeks since the end of the last cycle, and yet I already have 2mm of hair, eyebrows like I never had in my life and even my eyelashes are growing back. The worst thing is thinking about WHY I have such short hair - so, I shan’t. I have travelled to Portugal and managed to work a week there without letting anyone down [I hope], survived Passport Control and meeting all the people who knew and last saw me before all this happened. When I seemingly had not a care in the world compared to now, and when I had a great mass of curly hair.

My stamina is building thanks to Julie and my own perseverance; I can do most everyday things like hanging out the washing, making the beds, cleaning the floor etc. as if nothing has happened. Yes, I am much more tired after doing all those things than I usually would be [back in the 'World Before Cancer'], BUT I can now DO them! It’s amazing the small things you don’t appreciate until they aren’t possible.

I understand that the majority of people take about 6 months off whilst they are going through surgery and chemo. Then when they start back to work, it’s on a part time basis, half days etc. in order to allow them to get back into things gradually. And to be honest, I would have been so grateful if I could have done that. But as a self employed freelancer, it wasn’t possible. No work, no pay.

I have worked every day this year, as per usual [all be it a little eccentrically, as I was sometimes at work at 5 in the morning, and asleep at lunch time!]. I used my paid holiday for the days I had surgery and the days I had chemo [contractors do not have 'sick leave'] – I was very grateful to the manager of marketing when she allowed me to ‘work in’ some of the days – that is , instead of working the Tuesday I had the chemo, I would work the following Saturday. A day ‘in lieu’. That has allowed me to have a bit of holiday time left over to take at Christmas. The reason I mention this is because I would say to anyone who is going through this; it is better to try to work if you possibly can. I am lucky, as I have been able to work from home until last month, as all my colleagues were very supportive of me. And the amazing thing is, they didn’t need to be. I am a contractor - they could have simply ended the contract. Yes, sure, everyone is going 'horror of horrors, why would anyone do that', but this is business. Business doesn’t have a conscience. But...

Working, even when you are slower than usual and every small thing seems a challenge, even getting UP seems hard some days, keeps you in touch with reality. It FORCES you to think about something other than the cancer. You have to talk to people on the phone, reply to emails, achieve deadlines. With the support of those around you, it’s possible. Obviously without that support it wouldn’t be.

I honestly think that if I’d had all this time off I would have been quite miserable. No normal communications with people who knew nothing about what I was going through, no pressure to think or stretch myself. No challenge – the crux of the matter I believe. If there are no challenges in your everyday life, then what? Yes, sure, cancer is a challenge in itself, but it can’t be the 'be all and end all' of everyday existence – if it were, well I think I’d go crazy. How can you feel satisfied at the days end if you haven’t achieved anything worthwhile?

gibbering away

Tuesday 23rd September

With 14 days to go until the first 3 monthly check up, my mind is still gibbering away and affecting the Rest Of Me [and probably those around me, long suffering souls that they are]. The Rest Of Me is unfortunately unable to escape it’s evil blathering. I think it would be rather nice to be able to remove one’s head every so often, check it in like a hat, take a break and collect it later. Thanks, yes, Head No 14, the one with the Grade 1 haircut, just pass it over and I’ll dust it off and reattach.

Just to have a break to think about nice things, not THINK or TALK about cancer, and try to remember that other people have things going on too - I find this very hard at the moment. I have become rather a thoughtless person lately I am sure. Even when I try to be thoughtful, half way through I forget what it was I was trying to be thoughtful ABOUT...can’t win eh?

But today has been good - I have been waiting for A to get her results, she had a CT scan last week, and has been chewing her nails ever since, and today was the Big Day. This is where the communications between all we girls who are battling OC becomes a blessing I think. I was so worried about her, and trying to cheer her up while she waited that I forgot about me - great! Finally got her results, and she is clear! What a relief, and I can’t imagine why it should be so, but the fact that she is clear makes me feel more confident that I will be too.

It’s not normal to be thinking about your Life this much. But gone are the days of blithely expecting to live to a hundred, making long term plans has been put on hold for a while, apart from short term things like next weeks little holiday [for which I am eternally grateful I might add! a holiday, at LAST]. One half of my brain is merrily carrying on with life as if nothing horrible has happened, or will happen. The other half is saying 'don’t be stupid, expect the worst at least you’re prepared'. In the middle there’s me, going: "Will You All Kindly Shut Up!?".

The day we go on holiday I am leaving my brain here. It can cogitate away to itself and leave me out of it for a week! I shall be in bimbo mode and Aj can do all the thinking.

In the meantime my hair is growing with a vengeance - good old hair, mine's always been like a mad plant and cost me a fortune in hairdressers bills. Now I can’t wait until I can take the Aforementioned Head to the hairdressers. Just to decide what to do with it? Someone did suggest I dye it green and print ‘Dunlop’ across the back - I am a bit tempted I must say! Tennis Ball Jones, here we come. I have stopped wearing the wig, and just wear a cap or scarf, as I am sure my hair doesn’t want to be flattened all day long. I am hoping it’ll be like a weed and grow quickly toward the light!

And by the way, people don't really seem to notice such short hair. Of course you get the odd one that'll give you an scary look - but eventually my hair will grow back and I'll look normal, and sadly they'll still be rude and thoughtless, so who cares?

The odd thing about the re-growth of all the other hair is that my skin is rough wherever it’s growing back. Not very pleasant, and I am hoping it’s a phase that’ll pass. Plus the teeny weeny hairs that grow on my face have grown in quite a lot more noticeably than they used to be - a bit worrying! Hello, a new complex to add to the face is like a peach. But, there’s always lasers so I don’t care. I will wait and see what happens, as it seems that it’s quite common for quite a bit of hair that comes back to fall out again, change colour or do sundry other mad things.

Hmm - that’s something to look forward to isn’t it? I suppose variety is the Spice of Life, and that’s certainly been true this year - variety that is. Certainly can’t complain that it’s been boring. And having met such a great bunch of girls along the way has been a real blessing too. I now know I am not the only person in the world who can Talk for England heh heh.

And, today I had more flowers from P across the road - he sent them round this evening with his daughter. The others were only just finished, so now I have another lovely vase of Dahlias next to me on my desk. I tell you what, he certainly grows superb Dahlias! So sweet...and so cheering!

Sunday, 21 September 2008


chemo effects linger on

Saturday 20th September

Ah chemo – 'the gift that keeps on giving'...since the last nuking session was over, I keep thinking I am fine. Because I do feel so much better. But then my poor battered body gets cross and reminds me that I am NOT fine, I AM still recovering.

Today was a classic example of this - first I was clipping the hedge this morning, full of beans, and I bumped my head on a branch - not the normal 'just bumped it' thing – the 'chemo style' bumped it thing - blood everywhere. So now, as well as looking rather butch due to my Grade 1 hair style, I have a nice scabby bit on my forehead! I ask you...spraying iodine on THAT was rather eye watering! ouch! Roll on the day when I am healing properly again. At least by this point I am not getting a big bruise there as well. People would think Aj is battering me! Scabs and scars everywhere at the moment.

So, Vicky, Grace and I went up to the town [today has been glorious! sunny and hot - perfect sandpit weather] and wandered around window shopping etc. We caught the bus up, had a sausage roll thingy sort of like a hotdog as we were starved, checked out the shoes and clothes which we couldn’t afford, met up with Jen and Martin, then had a fabulous pair of balloon butterfly wings made for Grace and afterward, wandered down the hill to the real McCoy vintage clothing shop – this used to be a doddle for me. But this time, by the time we reached the McCoy, I was shaking, having palpitations [is that the word for your heart beating really fast?] feeling faint, cold and generally panicking. Andrew was meeting us after work, and all I could think was "hurry up! I have a bad feeling about this!". Thankfully after a cup of coffee and a huge lump of coconut cake [and some of Grace’s carrot cake too], I started to get myself together. By now Aj had arrived [sigh of relief...] and I could relax knowing that if I did fall head first into a rail of clothing, he would rescue me. and also look after everyone else.

It is SO frustrating. The sudden attacks of total exhaustion, the other odd things that happen like unexpected and unexplained nausea, a stabbing pain in the groin, the horrid hot flashes, sudden tears and being upset about something that is actually quite nice...grr! Not that I am complaining about the chemo - that would be foolish as it probably and hopefully has saved my life by eradicating the tiniest bit of cancer that may have lingered after the radical surgery. BUT, when you are trying to get back to 'normal' it’s a right bugger to keep encountering these effects – the problem being that because I WISH they were gone, I THINK they are gone – but they’re not. Eventually they will be, I am just too impatient I think.

Just thought I’d let you know that 'being better after chemo' takes a much longer time than one might think.

Saturday, 20 September 2008


Friday 19th September

This weekend we have the girls down – my step daughters, Jenny and Vicky, and wee grand daughter, Grace. Oh and poor beleaguered Martin, Jenny’s fiancĂ© [he is very worried about their cat, as its missing – I can understand this totally – my cats were like my children!].

I always stress so much when they are coming [I can’t imagine why, as all they care about is ‘doing stuff’ with Dad]. Run around cleaning the house etc But this time I am far more chilled [for me anyway!!] oh shit, am I happy or something?? YES! I love it when they come down, it fills the house with voices and apart from that, they are SO supportive – at their age this is unusual. They can’t possibly get their heads round all this crap that’s happened to me. And yet both the girls did the Race for Life almost as if this was a normal thing for them to do – for me it was amazing. It really touched my heart that they did it – Vick especially, as she is not ‘Sporty Spice’ like Jen she took Gracey – not exactly running material at 4!! But they all made it, and I was SO proud of them. I can’t thank them, as it would be embarrassing, but on here I can say what I like, so I say: THANK YOU girls!! You have no idea how much that meant to me. Love you!!

Friday, 19 September 2008

the flowers


Friday 19th September

I want to say thank you to my nice neighbours. I met our neighbour G on the weekend while I was sweeping the driveway. He and I had a chat and he hadn't realised what was happening to me, just assumed I was away in Portugal a lot more than usual because I haven't been out and about much doing the garden etc.

We had a chat and he was very encouraging and off he went. But he obviously told HIS friend all about it. This man, P, who I have never met before, lives across the road from us. On a day this week that I was feeling pretty low, P appeared at my door with a glorious bunch of Dahlias tied with string from his allotment. He doesn’t know, me, but he said he thought they would cheer me up. Cheer me up? I was so touched - small things can make a huge difference. A beautiful gesture.

Our other neighbour replaced our fence on his own when it was blown over early in the year [normally this would be a team effort, as it’s a shared fence], and offered to help pay when I had a gardener in to have OUR trees trimmed. These seem like silly things, but they aren’t. They make a huge difference to day to day living.

On the opposite side of the coin, we have neighbours at the back of our house who appear to be constantly drunk. They smoke outside in their garden rather rowdily all hours and days of the week. Last night I went to draw the curtains in the bedroom which overlooks their garden [unfortunately!], and they obviously found it hilarious that I have no hair [I had nothing on my head at the time, not thinking that people would be looking in the window]. They started making catcalls and laughing at me. I was so startled I just stood there gaping at them! I must have looked a right twit with my mouth hanging open in shock. All of them are young women, all of them should know better. That made me VERY angry. Absolutely furious. I think I was supposed to be upset, but I wasn’t - I wanted to go round there and explain to them in no uncertain terms exactly WHY I have no hair, how totally NOT funny it is, and that it could happen to ANY of them. Oh, and perhaps cut all their hair off at the same time hehe.

I wonder if they would be quite so 'brave' and mouthy if we were actually face to face. I am sure they are just normal young women when they are sober, and can’t imagine that they wouldn’t have felt embarrassed by their behaviour. But then again, perhaps it’s normal for them. Who knows?

Amazing how the little things can affect you - some days the big things seem easier to deal with.

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

the NOTES - beware those of a queasy nature!

Thursday 18th September

Ninth week after last chemo and I am starting to feel as if I am getting back to normal. After not posting for ages I think my brain has gone into overdrive and I need to put loads of stuff on here! I forgot to mention that I requested a copy of all my medical notes [or did I? oh well].

This is a bit of a palaver, as they don’t just let you read them, you have to get permission from your doctor, then pay a tenner for the photocopying. I was a bit incensed by this at first, as they are, after all, MY notes. But upon a little thought [and especially since reading them] I now understand why. Usually you have to read them in the presence of your doctor; this is so that anything that distresses you can be explained properly. I also wonder if it’s due to the fact that doctors seem to have the most abominable handwriting in the world! For such a brainy bunch, you’d think they’d be able to write clearly? Apparently not.

Anyway, got permission from Dr Hong [I think she is used to me by now and knows that I need to know everything] and filled in a few forms, and they arrived in the post while I was in Portugal. Having quickly learned to read what appears to be a mad persons scribble, I ploughed through the notes. The Jones Rosetta Stone!

In January I had about 4 pages in my file - now I have a file about an inch thick! Incredible. At first I didn’t want to read them, and they sat on the desk for a few days until I got into the right frame of mind. You never know what you might discover by being curious. You know what they say about the cat... Finally read through them, and I am absolutely amazed at how many people are involved in this type of thing. It’s a miracle how they all coordinate with one another. I also now understand why it takes them 3 weeks to get organised to do surgery. AND I know a lot more about my operation and the cancer than I did. This is a good thing as far as I am concerned, but I certainly wouldn’t recommend it to everyone.

There are pictures in there from the initial sound scan. Quite odd to be looking at my own insides. And I didn’t realise this all kicked off as far as the hospital etc was concerned, on 30th of January. The time has flown by this year. At that point my CA 125 was 566. By the time I’d had the CT scan and all the other commotions, it had risen to 1149 by the 29th of Feb. That’s fast, and it seems to have been of concern to everyone that the tumour was growing so quickly too. At the time everyone seemed so chilled out.

It cracked me up to read that this was "elective" surgery. What? As if anyone in their right mind would choose NOT to have a huge malignant thing removed from their body? I suppose it’s possible, but NOT on Planet Sandhy that’s for sure. Then came the Total Abdominal Hysterectomy and Bilateral Salpingo-oophorectomy, with the Infracolic Omentectomy...good heavens, how do doctors have a quick chat at tea break? All these humungous words. Enough to make you choke on your ginger biscuit.

3rd of March was the surgery - it seems that after they chop you open [the polite term appears to be: Lower Midline Routine Entry – 'routine' for them maybe!] they wash out your pelvic cavity at the start of surgery. They send that fluid for cytological examination [they check out the cells]. I had images of the Fairy advert – "Use Fairy, for soft hands and a nice clean pelvic cavity". The immediate post surgical 'impression' was that I had Stage II Ovarian cancer, but that obviously changed once they’d done the biopsy, as a few pages later, I was a Stage IIIb. Renninson removed everything, but I didn’t realise that the other ovary was also abnormal, and there were tumours elsewhere as well. For my peace of mind I am glad to see that everything was removed. Good riddance to that then!

3rd of March they did the histology report on all the bits that had been sent over. What a job - yuck. Imagine dissecting someone else’s innards? The words 'sliced' and 'dissected' don’t exactly leave a lot to the imagination either, reminds me of biology classes....all this washing, slicing and dicing...shriek! So, I have a few questions for Dr Hong on the 7th October, but nothing very urgent. Good for me that we have the never ending info on the internet. One site actually explains HOW to do this kind of stuff - just in case you forgot to go to medical school?

So, ask for your notes ONLY if you’re quite sure your stomach can stand it! Ah, the adventures of The Ordinary Woman...just think! If this hadn’t happened I would NEVER have known where the Pouch of Douglas is!! [well, WAS now]. Wow...what a loss that would have been...

only [?] 19 days to go

Thursday 18th September

After our holiday, the next ‘event’ to deal with is the first of the years’ four 3 monthly check ups. It may be that it’s only [or not ‘only’...depending on the point of view] 19 days until the first one, but it is doing my head in a bit. One minute I don’t think about it at all, the next I can’t think about anything else. I wish I could stop thinking at all some days. It seems AGES to wait, yet seems to be approaching at speed. Whereas the holiday seems to be taking ages to arrive – how is this possible eh? Two time zones in one head? Although after this year, nothing seems impossible any more!

A friend put this really well: "the big picture vs. the day to day". One minute I am serene as a Zen master [in the day to day bit], the next I am wondering what my body is up to now and trying to prepare myself for the worst [the big picture bit], whilst also trying to be positive and concentrate on the fact that I will be 100% clear. And saying that, I feel better than I have felt for ages [over a year I’d reckon, not including this one] so I don’t know what I am worrying about. Which might be the problem actually...

Better to be prepared for the worst? The underlying worry being that the cancer had spread onto my bowel. Niggle, niggle in the back of my mind. Or is it better to hope for the best? The positive aspect being that I have now read all my medical notes, and they say without deviation that the 'debulking' surgery [eww! thanks for that Mr Renninson - makes one feel like a cow] was extremely successful. Bah! I will just do both - multi tasking is becoming a lot easier now that the chemo is finally starting to clear out of my system heh heh. Probably the best plan is to just colour my hair and forget about it!

I now have hair growing as you can see...I can’t explain how this has helped my self esteem. I am still trying to sort out the weight gain and the scar problem. The scar will never go away, but it can definitely be improved upon. Having no muscle tone in your middle is not very attractive at the best of times.

As you know, I have my Personal Trainer [Julie] come every week. Until last week I hadn’t bothered much with that except when she was here. But last Wednesday I suddenly realised that it was me that had to do something. No-one else can help me and the fitter I can get, the better my body will be able to cope with anything [the big picture again! have to think about the old bones now that I have the menopause]. Oops how unfortunate; I have to actually get off my lazy butt. Oh, and I really don’t feel like it I can assure you - I am NOT a great fan of exercise.

But having made the decision [yes, I know...again!] I am now behaving myself and do something active every day. If I don’t do anything I feel guilty. If my diabetic friend can take up kick boxing, then I am sure I can do this circuit training! And it definitely helps to have Julie come round, as I know I wouldn’t do anything at all if she wasn't due every week. Surprisingly, I am already at the point where I can do things I couldn’t do when we started. Building up my 'core strength' apparently...groan. And it’s a far cry from when I’d had the surgery and didn’t think I’d ever be able to do anything properly again.

oh blah de blah [blimey I can’t half waffle on!]

Wednesday 17th September

upieeeeeeeeeeeeee!! soon we will be on holiday! OMG – the very first time in this revolting, hideous year that we will actually have a WHOLE week off! To do nothing! No mobiles, no pc’s, no WORK! Working 365 day a year is NOT GOOD!! For anyone. Let alone people on chemo. Merde!!! I am SURE it makes you either ill that you may not notice, or eventually you just explode like I did [perhaps not quite so violently!]....eee! Not a good plan!! So inconvenient to have to be chopped in half I can assure you! This is a bad idea!

Bloody hell, I am becoming what I hate – a tyrannical, overbearing twit. Hmmm. Sorry about that!

To recant this year. I have been having mainly surgery, then chemo – oh, and a bit of dementia in the meantime....what a year! Horrible – but I have found a lot of good things, and [sadly] quite a bit of bad. Mainly good though, so I can’t complain!! And I won’t! Mostly the friends I thought were brilliant and I could depend on for anything – well, they have [nearly] all been amazing. Then you get the friends who you think you can count on 100% - ho, ho – forget that peeps! It doesn’t work quite like that at all; when you really need friends, some of them really startle you. Some of them are not really friends at all. But you can’t tell them can you? Nooo – best to be nice. Isn’t it? Hmmmm.

BUT I have some great new friends – supportive and strong – amazing in this context where you would expect people to be needy – ha!! These girls are strong. They are motivated to live, like I am – being told that ovarian cancer kills most women, well it can really do your head in you know? BUT – we are NOT going to be one of those stupid statistics...oh no. Not chance in hell. Not a chance!!! WE will all be here in time to see Em’s 5 kids grow up – of this I am sure. Completely.

check it out!! the best bit....HAAAIR!!!

Wednesday 17th September

ok this is the hair; 6 weeks after the last chemo cycle - not too bad girls! oh, and notice I have eyebrows too! amazing!! the body that attacks you [grr] suddenly gets with the program and grows hair - why doesn't it understand about cancer and kill it eh? ridiculous...but not something we can control. So far.
And yes, I am in stitches here - Jones could NOT get a good pic of me....

once I got home...

Wednesday 17th September

yay!! Home again home again jiggety jig... Blimey – I never knew a 10 day trip to last so long. Although everyone was amazing [and I say this with restraint – they were bloody brilliant!! such good mates – eish!!] it was so, so good to see Aj at Bristol airport – it was like my heart was lifted. I knew that I could just be me, exhausted or not, grumpy, happy, slow, fast – whatever; Andrew just deals with me, and I was so relieved to be back and in his capable hands.

The Sunday I got home I literally slept the rest of the day – hello Mrs Boring! But I was totally shattered. We didn’t even look at photo until Monday! This is not normal for us. Anyway, Andrew dealt with everything, and I just acted like a block – well, what?? I felt like a bloody block!!

well, well, well! the Portugal work trip

Wednesday 17th September

The trip to Portugal; amazing. In many ways. Horrible in a few ways. I was totally horrified that I had to go - I really didn’t want to - the whole idea terrified me. Out of my ‘comfort zone’, not having Andrew with me, feeling totally exhausted and with no hair! Jesus! Pretty horrible, and not something that would normally be required of a person who had recently finished chemo. But as a freelancer - well, no choice. When you are told to go, you sort of have to. I got a letter from Dr Hong for the passport control people, and that seemed to work, although at one point I had to take off my baseball cap - but to be fair, the chaps were very, very kind – it was almost as if they didn’t want to ask me to take it off. So, of course that made it easier, and I went through with no problems. That didn’t really help my confidence though, even thought they were so nice. It’s crap to stand out like that. I didn’t wear the wig, as it boils my head and actually makes me feel more strange than wearing the cap. So.

I arrived at Porto airport and was collected by Clara and her husband - we argued about this for a week and finally she wore me down [stubborn girl is our Clara] - I was concerned about the petrol, she was not to be deterred! And actually I was so grateful that they came to get me - although I think poor Alvarito didn’t recognize me - hardly surprising! Anyway, arrived in Espinho in one calm piece [well, after chucking water all over their lovely leather upholstery - oops]. I went off to get supplies from the Pingo Doce, and when I arrived back at the apartment, they had left me 2 bottles of Planalto and a charming message card - I read the card, cried my eyes out [being exhausted anyway didn’t help] and had to go to bed! Slept for 3 hours and then made tracks to the Barco.

Spent Sunday afternoon there [feet up on a chair in the street! yeah!] reading and talking to everyone - great! Bella made me feel so at home, I almost forgot what a weirdo I looked like. She is a very special person. Isabelle and her husband walked down to see me with their son Luca - so nice!! And after that I just sat and chilled out - the sunset was fabulous, especially after the monstrous weather in the UK, and the company even better. What a pleasure to be warm and with friends at the same time!! Bloody A!!

Work was another thing entirely - I was up every day at 5.30, as it makes me nervous to be late at the best of times, and these certainly weren’t. But saying that, Pat collected me and we had breakfast at the cafe a few days - so nice to sit in the sun and eat cake, drink coffee and have good company - that early in the morning I am extremely picky about who I talk to!! Work was complicated - I am quite happy working 8 or 10 hours a day, but it’s different when you have to deal with people in that time. Talking to everyone, going out to lunch - it’s all quite odd - I have gotten used to working at odd hours, with no-one at all. Seeing such a lot of people was very tiring - not their fault, but honestly, I was constantly on edge, worrying that I didn’t seem 'normal', wasn’t 'fitting in' - even though they made so much effort, it can’t get rid of the ghouls in your head, which tell you all the time that you are ‘different’ now. Bah - so stupid, but difficult to avoid. It’s like I have a glass wall around me, looking out at all the ‘normal’ people. I think [hope] this may pass once I have passed through the first 3 month check and KNOW for sure that the cancer is gone. Bloody stupid disease – it’s like a monkey on your back.

The week went well even though I didn’t think it would - I have the very best type of friends there. People who feel nothing to put themselves out on my behalf, who have no qualms about spending their own precious time off looking out for me / spending time with me – people who can’t do enough for me. I was amazed at how much it upset me that everyone was so kind – some days I was quite literally overcome, just because of a small remark over coffee etc. Everyone at Cinca knew what had happened to me [ah, the jolly old grape vine!], and a lot of people who didn’t need to, made an effort and came to talk with me. Some just a little remark in passing, some a good old chat [mostly the smokers, as we are all stuck outside together heh heh] - it was a real eye opener to how kind people can be, and how they will go out of their way to do it. I have nothing but good things to say about the people in Portugal – they have an old fashioned way of dealing with things – and it’s the best way.

Dinners at the homes of my friends; so carefully prepared so that I would feel special – mad evenings at the Barco, which is almost my second home anyway! Lots of encouragement from everyone. By the way Julia, those were the best prawns I’ve had for years!! And, oh it was so GREAT to have my sopa de peixe!

So, regarding tiredness [which we all dread as chemo patients] - it was bad. But not as bad as I thought it would be. I only had one day where I was outside crying in the shrubbery! Pretty good going really, considering that I had only finished the last cycle 3 weeks before I went. I would advise anyone to wait at least 6 weeks after the last cycle before trying this kind of thing - it’s very tiring, no matter how hard everyone tries to be helpful. It’s too much; too many people, too much emotional uproar, too much physical interaction with other people - all in all, if my friends there weren’t so great, I wouldn’t have managed at all. So thank you girls!! From the heart!