Friday, 28 October 2011

one day to go – thank you very much!

I can't believe it! It's tomorrow!! We have had a last minute change of itinerary, [the last night is now in a rather spiffy hotel overlooking the National Park – cool!] but that's it – we're REALLY REALLY going…I feel mildly hysterical at the thought! Breathe…
And as I probably won't be in touch whilst I am in Kenya [not much Wi-Fi available there], I just want to say a HUGE thank  you to everyone who has helped me to get to this point and raise so much money for these brilliant charities. £4850.00! Imagine…I was worried about raising the minimum £2800.

Everyone I know or have come into contact with during this past year, family, friends – even complete strangers have helped and supported me. It's been an amazing eye opener. People's kindness has brought me to tears on more than one occasion.

So thank you to everyone who has donated their time, their money, everyone who has encouraged me, everyone who has sent cards, called me to wish me luck and sent me quirky gifts, tweets, blog comments – you name it, it's all helped. I have my fab OAKLEYS [woop!] and THE most hilarious chrome Bugle bicycle hooter ever – it makes an unholy racket, so any lions will run away! What more could a girl need when cycling across the African veldt?


And of course, the BIGGEST thank you has to go to the FH for all the support through training, fund raising and random attacks of hysteria. Thank you for not beating me over the head with my bike helmet!

And I am taking my girls with me on the back of my hoody for some help up the hills ;)

Now just to pack the saddle, helmet and padded [and very elegant!] shorts and off we go. Feeling extremely trepidatious! Wish me luck, and thanks again!! I couldn't have done it without you all!

I imagine I'll have an interesting story to tell when we come home ;) Watch this space!

Sunday, 23 October 2011


Today my friend Jo died. She had cervical cancer – a recurrence killed her. I have lost it completely, and can not stop crying. Her husband kindly took time out of his own grief to let me know this evening. So I should get a grip – he did. Why can't I?

This is a photo of Paul and Jo, taken by Karen. For me it says everything – it's 'Just Jo'…that sweet personality shines through, that happy confidence. I just love it.

JO Jo was a really lovely person. I met her through this blog. She commented on one of my posts ages ago, when I was still in 'omg I am going to die' mode. She told me not to worry, she had been in remission for years and I would be ok. And it helped me. A LOT. We chatted back and forth and eventually became friends on Facebook. There's a limit to how much conversation you can have in the 'comments' box…

She had a Fairy garden on FB. She would play it on her iPhone under the bedcovers when she couldn't sleep [insomnia seems part and parcel of cancer treatment – we 'watered' plants at 3.30 in the morning…]. Her favourite films were Jesus of Nazareth, Enemy of the State and Conan the Barbarian?? heh heh – get on Conan!

Then, on the 31 December 2009 she told me she had worrying symptoms and was waiting for results. It seemed like a urinary tract infection.  But sadly, it wasn't. After that we were more closely in touch, as I added her to the group on FB..Jo was our 'Honourary Member'. The only woman in the group NOT to have ovarian cancer – but not the only one who has had cervical.

Jo commented on a blog post I did [it was a special post for LIVESTRONG day.]

"I have been here for certain and I think it is an inevitable part of the process of coming to terms with how fragile, brittle and frightening life can be. When you get cancer you stare into the abyss. But I have gradually come to terms with it and feel less daunted about life these days. For me it was less about me dying, and more about what and who I was leaving behind. Frightened by how I would die, but not about actually dying itself. It all has to be sorted out in your head, and it can be lonely. No - it IS lonely. Without my faith and my family I don't think I would still have my mental health to be honest. With their love and support, I am stronger for going through it now despite all the darkness. Hugs X "

It says a lot – her comment. Even then, she was calmly accepting the inevitable. Jo was a very inspiring woman – not just because of the way she dealt with her cancer – her life was inspiring. She ran a business, she ran a household with a wonderful Son [has to be capitalised :) ] and husband [I know they are wonderful because she told me] and she had her Faith. But it was always her two men that she referred to first when she spoke of love and support.

Jo even managed her death well. "Frightened by how I would die, but not about actually dying itself."  Her main worry was leaving her husband and her beloved Son. Happily, Jo died peacefully. I am so grateful for that. For her husband and son, and for her. And [selfishly] for me too – I feel relieved that she fell asleep on Thursday 20th October and moved gracefully towards peace over Friday and Saturday before passing over at 5:30am this morning.

So. Goodbye to yet another friend. Rant? Yes, probably should. But I can't. I am so exhausted with death. So. No. No rant. Just a heartfelt plea to Someone, Somewhere to find a cure.


The Kenya Cycle seems more relevant every day – these women would all still be here IF we had a cure! I would not be breaking my heart over Jo. And Gaynor. And Sweet Jane…my friends…

And yes Jo. You're right - it IS lonely.

A list in loving memory of my friends:

Jo McGowan
Gaynor Hall
Diane Davis Waller
Sweet Jayne Armstrong
Bj Gallagher
Patty Higgins
Thelma Huggett
Kelli Godfrey
Annie Prouse

We won't forget you! And don't worry girls – we WILL find a cure…

Saturday, 22 October 2011


I woke up this morning and realised that this time next week, I will [no doubt!] be frantically stuffing things into a bag last minute and wondering what I've forgotten. THUD goes the heart! There are 50 things I should have already done, but time just disappears, and half of them will remain un-done.

NEXT SATURDAY is CKA-Day – the Cycle Kenya Adventure begins!! Here's the itinerary and below is the [approximate] scary map of the ride…but it takes ages to load…

But today I am trundling off to the Salt Mine, then coming home to complete a logo design and try to get some drawings of egg cups done [with animals heads – cool], then out again this evening to wait tables. Then at last I'll be able to pay the £290.00 air and fuel taxes on Monday. I am beginning to rather look forward to the cycle as a rest. At least I'll have just ONE thing to do…get from Nyeri to Lake Vic…alive!

NERVOUS puts it mildly, but also excited – only one way to go, and that's FORWARDS!

You can still
donate here if you would like to help make a difference to research into ovarian, breast and cervical cancer. Thank you EVERYONE who has donated and helped me raise an amazing £4805.00!

Friday, 21 October 2011

7 days 21 hours and 52 minutes to go!

What happened?? This cycle was AGES away…now it's next week! I don't feel ready at all, and yet I feel I can't wait to get there and get to it. I am going with a great bunch of women – they really are something. So we will support one another, and of course, it's always easier to achieve something as a team than it is to do it alone. That's the theory anyway!
cycle kenya 005

I HAVE trained. The FH has been a Godsend, in that he has been forcing me out, and because he's faster [grr!] I am always pushed to keep up with my short little legs. He gets little breaks to drink water and rest while he waits for me to huff and puff my way to wherever he is. I get to try [and fail mostly] to guzzle water and speak [complain] whilst not being able to breathe…then off we go again.

To be honest, I am astounded at myself. I am NOT a person who has ever done charity stuff. And I am certainly not a person who has ever been sporty.  I think the most extreme sport I ever did was ice hockey – and it seemed easy because I was on skates! A bike is a totally different thing – one has to actually put a 'whole body' effort in…but I'm doing it. And enjoying it.

Recently, we  [the cycle group] have been wondering precisely how much of the money we've raised actually goes to the three charities we are supporting. Obviously the Action for Charity peeps have to make something, so we are interested in what is left after they take their cut.

I was interested [and shocked] to read the way that Cancer Research UK use THEIR funds for research. See below – ovarian cancer, which has the WORST survival rate in the UK [compared to the rest of Europe] seems very low on the scale. 

So – now we know why we have the worst survival rate!!

Ovarian cancer is the second leading cancer in women (affecting about 1/70) and the leading cause of death from gynaecological cancer, and the deadliest (1% of all women die of it). It is the 5th leading cause of cancer-related deaths in women, causing an estimated 15,000 deaths in 2008. Incidence is higher in developed countries.

Here is what Cancer Research UK say [and - where does the other 20 pence in a pound go??]:

"For every £1 donated, 80 pence is available to spend on our work to beat cancer. We receive no government funding for our research.

"We spent £332 million on our annual research activity in 2010/11. In almost every type of cancer, we fund more research than any other organisation in the UK.

We need to make sure nothing slows down the tremendous progress we’re making. Whilst we make the best use of every pound we raise, each year we receive a growing number of outstanding research proposals that we cannot afford to fund."

WebThis image is from Cancer Research UK. They are patently quite pleased with themselves. I am just confused – why not have an even distribution of funds?

WHY is the funding for Ovarian cancer research A QUARTER of the amount spent on Breast Cancer research?? Ovarian cancer is the second most common gynaecologic cancer and the deadliest in terms of absolute figure. It's insane – any research into ovarian cancer benefits breast cancer research. The reverse is not true.

Ovarian cancer is the second most common cancer in women - around 6,500 cases are diagnosed annually in the UK. Around one woman in 70 in the general population is at risk of developing ovarian cancer. Ovarian cancer often develops without any clear symptoms and many women only discover they have it once it has spread. Surely this warrants the self same amount of funding as breast cancer?

And here's a peculiar factoid I discovered on Wiki:

"A Swedish study, which followed more than 61,000 women for 13 years, has found a significant link between milk consumption and ovarian cancer. According to the BBC, "[Researchers] found that milk had the strongest link with ovarian cancer—those women who drank two or more glasses a day were at double the risk of those who did not consume it at all, or only in small amounts."

Recent studies have shown that women in sunnier countries have a lower rate of ovarian cancer, which may have some kind of connection with exposure to Vitamin D.[27]

And another [rather horrible] thing I discovered on Wiki is this: Grade 3 tumours have the worst prognosis and their cells are abnormal, referred to as poorly differentiated. There are four grades indicating the likelihood of the cancer to spread and the higher the grade, the more likely for this to occur.

Oooo shit! 'Occur'. HATE that word. Although 'reoccur' is worse…I didn't realise that I have the 'worst prognosis'!! Ovarian cancer, as  any other type of cancer, is graded, as well as staged. I had a Grade 3B [IIIB - macroscopic peritoneal metastases beyond pelvis less than 2cm in size] tumour. The tumour was bigger than my womb! [revolting factoid for your horror] the metastases was in the peritoneum. And other bits. Deleted.

Here's a world map – of ovarian cancer death rates. Nice huh? NOT

2000px-Ovary_cancer_world_map_-_Death_-_WHO2004_svgEnglish: Age-standardised death rates from Ovarian cancer by country (per 100,000 inhabitants). rates

No wonder we're all trying to raise money for research! It's critical!

So all you women complaining about sore arms from inoculations and sore butts from cycling…worrying about whether we need mosquito nets and hair tongs…think about how bad it is for women who have sore arms from having an 8 hour dose of chemo…once every few weeks until there ARE no more veins to push the needle into. And no hair to use those Ever So Important hair tongs ON.
Be proud of yourselves for what you're doing – SO many women will benefit. And, God forbid, it could be you who benefits one sort of makes the sore arm less painful doesn't it?

Saturday, 15 October 2011

raised so far: £4,720.00!!

Chuffed to bits! I had to raise £2800 to qualify for the cycle Kenya  – my initial target was £3000, then I changed it to £4000…so I have surpassed my 2nd target! Incredible, and only achieved with the help of family, friends and amazingly, complete strangers!

Today, Linda Jackson [a complete stranger] donated £20.00…so unexpected and so kind. Thanks Linda, and even better in a way is that I now know that the blog DOES help some women dealing with ovarian cancer. Apparently it does give women hope. I am so happy about that. Pouring one's blood and guts into the ether can sometimes be a little nerve wracking. But just ONE woman feeling better because of my experience is a result like that makes it worthwhile.

I have 13 days to go until the cycle…I am ill – we have caught some stomach bug that makes you feel like throwing up all the time, and both of us feel exhausted. NOT a good way to feel if you need to train! Plus I have a back ache like the devil. BUT, as today was birthday celebrations for the FH [after work], we will go for a long bike ride tomorrow. Then just short rides until I go to Kenya.

I really hope I've trained enough! I'll do it no matter what, but I am hoping not to be in agony the whole five days…

Monday, 10 October 2011

no time! 18 days to go!

well – what an interesting few weeks! Cycle cycle cycle and …

steve jobsSadly, the iconic Steve Jobs died...what an amazing graduation speech he made…it's gone viral. He points out that once you accept that you are going to die, you know that you really have nothing to lose in this life, so [basically] do what you have to do and the devil take the hindmost!
Makes a difference to how we interact right? Well, it should anyway.

There's an interesting post about him here. An amazing man – innovative, humble – and a visionary. He'll be missed, but will live on through his creations. To Jobs, the computer was not a mere machine: it is a stylish, trend setting device; it communicates, entertains, and brings people together. Jobs completely changed our relationship with the computer.
Steve Jobs was a man ahead of his time who died well before his time. His finger, not just “on the pulse” but pushing it like an "app".

And on a more tedious note – I have been cycling. Quite a lot. And I just wish the 29th October would hurry up and get here! I think all of us are tired of the constant need to 'Get Out on the Bike'! *sigh* – but it's got to be done…if we don't, we'll just die in Kenya [well, maybe not actually DIE but sure as hell we'll feel like it!]
Training is very important and we have to do it…but that doesn't stop us all complaining about it! In the UK there has been a lot of wind [dislike!] and of course we need to get our lazy butts up some hills [double dislike]. Hills PLUS wind…well, no comment!! Suffice to say, we're all tired of training and want to Get To It!

BUT…crap week of cleaning etc none withstanding [seems the company I was doing graphic design for has run out of work??], I had a brilliant day yesterday – it started out with a freezing morning at the Salt Mine [gloom]…but ended up being one of those days you just can't get your head around.

Story is: I've been shopping around for a pair of Oakley's. For weeks. I found them at their cheapest at £140 – so, I went mad and ordered them…only to get an email the next day saying they were out of stock! Argh! Rang up and cancelled the order – in the meantime, the Brother was advising me on eBay peeps that sell them. Great price, but no joy, as it would take 21 days for them to arrive – I have EIGHTEEN DAYS [omg!!] until the cycle, so couldn't rely on that. Stupid to try so late, but all my shekels have been going to the pot for the £290 air taxes.


The brother then rang me, demanding the details of the Oakley glasses that I want. He decided to buy them for me through his company as a 'charitable' donation – he already did a run and raised loads for me! So I resisted, as they are very expensive, he insisted [in a rather shouty voice! :) ] – and won. Brothers tend to do that. And it's just rude to keep arguing.

I got off the phone and I was in tears. Floods of them. It took me ages to sort out the email - isn't it strange how unexpected generosity makes one so emotional? He bought my Oakleys for me! As a donation!? Thank God? ER – no, thank the brother!! My eyeballs have been agony every time I go out on a ride. I have bought eye drops but they are just a reaction to a result, not a solution to a problem…and if I had to cycle through the Kenya dust and sand without a decent pair of glasses I'd probably  have a small fit. Er. No. A BIG fit!! And a crash or two…

So, thank you very much Bro…I am really touched…and ever so grateful . You've certainly saved my eyeballs from being frazzled to death! :)

And today another lovely thing – well, two actually. Good things come in threes right? My auntie and uncle donated to my fund – check this out…I have now raised £4,689.00!
AND my 'Auntie' Kay has sent me a lovely card with some Canadian dollars in it to 'get something for myself'…and to tell me she is proud of me. I have been eyeing running shoes for weeks, as mine are disintegrating. So, shoes, here we come :) Thanks Kay.

Plus, a friend got me some Buff headbands at cost – yay! They are fab and really do work.

Thank you, everyone who has helped me raise this money, and thank you to everyone who has helped me keep a semblance of confidence, which may be just as important. It means a lot – and it means I absolutely HAVE to do the cycle [I have been wavering, especially this week] just because of your confidence that I will.

And I will!!

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

25 days to go!

Only 25 days until we cycle 400km across Kenya? Surely not!  It doesn't seem like over a year and a half ago since I signed up for this challenge. [although some days it feels like 10 years…fund raising is a tad exhausting]

The training is going quite well, although the mental half of it has been the hardest – just getting to grips with the fact that I should be able to do it [WILL be able to!], avoiding panic and concentrating on just doing it! Unfortunately Kenya has just declared war on the Somalian militia too – but that's about 600 miles from where we are, and hopefully won't affect us. Fingers crossed. Being kidnapped really would be a bore.

The FH and I have been cycling to Budleigh and back [about 35 miles round trip with good elevations] and it's started to feel like it's too short a ride Yay! That's got to be good right? Here's the bike and me on Budleigh beach…just after being yelled at by an Old Crone for cycling down the Front…what a naughty person I am eh?

cycle kenya 001

The other thing I've been struggling with is depression – what? As you, my jolly blog followers know, I am usually a most positive person – but recently I have been waging war with PTSD.

It's insidious and subtle…it makes me lethargic and uninterested. It robs my self confidence and flattens my spirit. I am trying to find my own way of coping, but if I don't sort it out soon, I'll be calling MacMillan. But I am trying to avoid that really. It's not like I don't know WHY I am depressed – it's just that I don't know how to get rid of it. Logic doesn't seem to work. Apparently it's common. But that doesn't help either. The thing is, it's intermittent – so how can I ask for help? Mostly it's to do with work – not having any really. And death. And I am tired of not doing what I'm good at, and tired of working for the minimum wage…long and short – I am peeved  in general! It's a common theme for cancery types – we just want our normal lives back – and that's never going to happen.

And the PCCI doesn't help! So horrible to think it may last 10 years or more. It's VERY frustrating, as non cancery people don't believe that it's real. Well. Take it from me – it IS. But then again, if I live for another ten years, the irritation will be worth it ;)

But all this BS aside – I am looking forward to Kenya. It's going to be an amazing experience, and an amazing achievement if I do it.  Spent Sunday with Vicky the Step Daughter, and that helped me a lot – she has such a fabulous attitude. She has changed my outlook from worried to totally NOT worried. Gotta love that!

An ice cream stop on the way back from Budleigh…

So far, I have raised £4,613.00. Please, if you can, donate now – I would love to hit K5! Donate here.