Saturday, 26 November 2011


I'm not strong. Not at all – I just do things as they come along. And I deal with things the same way. As they come. Once they're done – that's it. They're done.

Why is that not the case with cancer? Is it because we are constantly TOLD we are at risk of recurrence? If I had never been told that, I am sure my life would be [if not simpler] at least happier. IF I didn't KNOW that ovarian cancer has a very high incidence of recurrence, would I worry quite so much? Perhaps not. Perhaps. Who knows? It's now a moot point. I KNOW it can recur. I KNOW the incidence is high. I KNOW I am at risk.

It's exhausting.

I did the Kenya cycle – as best I could. I am so pleased I did it – the women I met were and are unbelievable. I loved it! Imagine…3 years ago I couldn't cycle to the Exeter Quay!! [that's about 1 mile from my house!]. My life is different now because of that. Ann Frampton is amazing – she sets up the rides – her mother died of ovarian cancer and she survived cervical cancer – get on girl! She does wonderful things for awareness and fund raising. I would love to be her assistant….

Here we are at Faraja – me, Shaira and Ann.


This week though, I am getting into the 'Fright Zone'. My reminder popped up in outlook – 'get the bloods done'. Next week. O.F.F.S! So I rang and made the appointment. Today. That in itself is an effort – it's like if I ignore it, it may go away. Well, it doesn't. It's taken me 3 days of reminders [grr] to get my butt in gear to phone.
So many times I have rung up at the last moment and had to have a mini cadenza to get fitted in [always my fault; but I always make the surgery appointment woman feel bad…and she always manages to fit me in. yay her]
Look at this – I look [and felt!] as fit as a fiddle! [fit as a fiddle? what is that anyway?] But, I do and did. WHY am I worried??

me 01

and here I am [alive!] at the end of the cycle with Vicky. Must admit, we both look rather scrumptious ;) NOT! But we ARE triumphant! As we should be.

FB03 So. What? I stood in the garden this evening. Looking at the sky – it's so cold. And so black. And so BIG.  We are so little. I wished for my life without recurrence EVER – I wished for some normality. I wished for my life without bloody cancer at all. I cried. A lot. But I am not alone in this – I have the FH, friends, family. I have the girls on the face book group. But actually – we ARE all alone in this. Aren't we?

All alone…not just us – the cancery types, but the people who love us too. They are also alone – with their worries, their thoughts….no matter who tries to understand. No matter what anyone says – we are still awake at 3.30 on the morning…alone with thoughts of a horrible death…alone with thoughts of our loved ones deaths…it's hard.

But. And it's a big but. We have support. We have friends. We have understanding from some, if not all.

I am so grateful for that.

Here I am – with Lake Victoria! Amazing…


Sunday, 20 November 2011

a moment


thank you for this photo Delyth……it brought back the memory of that moment.

And that moment is truly memorable for me. I had been talking to Michelle Shoulder. Sitting on the edge of a ravine. As you do – another 'survivor'. We had our moment there – we made Bronze!  We survived cancer, and we bloody well made bronze!

3 years ago I wouldn't have made it to the Quay….so. Chuffed to bits!!

the 400km cycle – entry 6

well, that was a hard day! after the chaos of being stuck in sundry rivers, we eventually got down to the cycling. Bearing in mind the 5.15 wake up…and the major stone throwing to escape the flood that put us back rather a lot time wise. On this challenge, time always seemed to be very tight!


Like my chest. I was suffering from altitude and lack of smoking…I know. Sounds insane, but the less you smoke, the more you cough and I was smoking about 5 or 6 a day – amazing!

Last post from the Moleskine :

"I have a constant hacking cough and shortness of breath.The girls have rallied round and supplied cough sweets and Chest Eze [the latter didn't help at all]. The doctors are about as useful as a third buttock – to be honest, I am [at this moment, in my distress] not impressed. They must have realised we would suffer from chest / lung complaints due to the altitude, but they are rather blasé and I feel that they think that because I smoke, it is not serious. I KNOW it is, as I never cough from smoking. Ever. I don't draw the smoke into my lungs -  so I am quite worried about my breathing. But the other girls have the same problem, even Vicky is coughing – so I let it ride. Oh stupid decision!

The problem started when we were riding amongst the Matatus – we were literally stuck in a traffic jam – one that gouted diesel fumes at random intervals. I now appreciate the UK obsession with MOT's! Anyway, once we arrived at our hotel, we were both [Vick and I] coughing our guts up. I was given an inhaler by one of the girls [thank you!] but that didn't help. And because it didn't, I knew I had a chest infection – I sat waiting for the Chest Eze to work. It didn't [even though I took a double dose, against the manufacturers advice!]. I sound like an asthmatic. And feel like one.

I am so tired I can barely write [my scrawl becomes almost illegible here] just spoke to the FH thank God, and Vick managed to speak to Ollie and Grace – so we both feel a lot better. But today was truly horrible.

Girls at Bronze

It involved a 'bronze, silver and gold' challenge. Of course we all wanted to achieve gold. But the bronze section was so difficult that we had to call it a day. But we wished we hadn't, as the girls who achieved the gold told us that the bronze was the most difficult bit! Grr. We did the bronze in the midday heat [madness!] and it was so hard. So, I don't feel bad that I didn't get to gold. I just feel disappointed – if we'd known it was easier we'd have done it – but hey ho…we did what we could at the time. And we did well.

I am so proud if us for making the bronze stage – the hills were far more suited to a Tour  France pack than a well intentioned, charity fund raising ordinary bunch of women. The climbs were steep, the shade non existent and the sun was ferocious.


BUT. The views were amazing and so was the team support.


Sunday, 13 November 2011

the 400km cycle – entry 05

OMG!! The rain came! It was amazing – sheet lightning and water everywhere. We were sitting upstairs, at the edge of the veranda, and had to run back and hide behind the bar as the rain was coming in in horizontal sheets.

Vicky and I had to be ferried back to our room by a lovely fellow with a large golf umbrella, very glad I was wearing Havaianas, as the water was inches deep. Quite exciting, as I love African storms. But of course, this caused a few little problems the next day! We were late for dinner, but not late enough that we didn't discover that we were getting up at 5.15 [what?!] with a 6.00 breakfast, then a coach trip out for an 8.30 set off on the bikes…with lunch at 2.30. Ho ho…NOT!

The dry river beds were rather wet. We got stuck, and Daniel had to give it about 4 tries before he managed to get the bus through. We were passed by some people in Safari land rovers – who merrily used our newly built stone road to go their jolly way – told off sternly by Carol for not stopping to help ;)

So that rather smashed our schedule for the day and by the time we got to lunch we were starved. But it was fun! The other rivers were flooded too, but they weren't as difficult as this one. Daniel was a star.

The cycling…well, will post later, tired of typing now!

the 400km cycle – entry 04

Back to the Moleskine…scribbled and lots of arrows which now mean absolutely nothing to me!

"This was a horrible day for me. 57 km. Doesn't sound a lot does it? That's because it isn't – unless the cycle is almost vertical. Although when I woke up, I was amazed not to be completely stiff and sore. I wasn't, but my legs did feel a bit like lead. Result! Astounded to say the least! My biggest problem has been with the adhesions, and Michelle, who has had cervical cancer [8 year survivor! go girl!] was having the same problems. Feels like one's gut is being torn in half. Pleasant! Not. Here we are [at yet another Equator sign!] looking rather jolly I must say. Check out those knees! [mine – not Michelle's!]


Yesterday was very hard, the gradients were extreme [for me anyway]. I forgot about this [that's what the arrows were trying to tell me]. After lunch was a little disturbing, as Vicky and I did the last 4 miles through the village alone. We were surrounded by trucks, matatus, motor cycles – you name it, we cycled amongst it. It appeared to be rush hour. And the trucks and matatus have those exhaust pipes that stick out to the side. Fabulous for killing cyclists! Every time they change gear, a huge cloud of black smoke gouts out – and guess who was on the receiving end of it? Yep – us. Plus giant potholes. Arrived at Nyahururu feeling a bit out of sorts.

But this was more difficult, as the altitude really started to affect us. It's not high enough to make one sick, but it's pretty high. I was wheezing, and [much to my relief – sounds awful, but true] so were most of the other girls.

We did an EXTREMELY long drag today. It was unreal! We were stopping every few hundred yards to recoup. This involved stopping, eating jelly babies, drinking water, glaring at the soon-to-be-cycled-next-incline, cursing, bucking one another up and then cracking on. The heat was killing. We mostly got Cyclists Tourette's [you had to be there…] but we cycled up that hill!

We arrived at our lunch destination on the afternoon. Rice and meat buffet with salad and beans – good, healthy food as usual. For me, any food that is prepared for me and I just have to eat it, is great. And we sat outside in the sun of course, an added bonus. Lovely.

After lunch transfer 120km to Baringo a small village next to one of Kenya’s fresh water lakes. Over night at Soi Safari Lodge.

Getting there was fun – we crossed four [or five?] dry river beds. And one could see that they were flood beds…lots of stones and heaps of thorn bushes across the road. Our driver, Daniel, worked miracles [more miracles were to come the next day!] and got us there is one piece, but not without two of the women almost throwing up – the swaying, bumping and rocking in the bus was pretty radical. Lucky for me I have a strong stomach. I was just pleased the rivers weren't in flow. That would have been a tad complicated…little did I know!


We arrived at the Soi Safari Lodge. It is delightful. Loved it [although some of the women were completely horrified – no idea what they expected?]. We shot straight into the pool and had our wine pool side, even when the rains arrived. Then the usual unpack, pack, dinner, sleep…

Vicky with the Crocodile Boys at the lakeside.DSC_0177

The glorious lake view.DSC_0174

the 400km cycle – entry 03

Back to the Moleskine again where my hand writing seems to have become more indecipherable every day:

"Ye Gods…up at 5.30! To cycle 99km! Yikes. Breakfast at 6.00 [my gut did not take kindly to this at all!] – fab buffet of all sorts of cooked things, plus fruit, bread, cake and coffee + tea. The coffee was AMAZING. Here we all are, I must say we look amazingly AWAKE!

day-01Out to start warming up at 7.00. A publicity shot with Safaricom, who paid for our cycle shirts. They were lovely – most impressed with us doing the cycle. And really INTERESTED. Hoping to get the shots the chap from the newspaper took.


We cycled off at 7.30, stopping for breaks and to eat popcorn, crisps and biscuits every now and then, and most importantly to fill up with water. I've never drunk so much water in my life, and was very grateful for the Camelbak, even though it weighs a bit. Today was a rush, as the planning went slightly awry, and some of the girls were bundled into the bus to catch up to the rest. They were MOST put out about it, and un-bundled themselves as fast as they could. No-one wanted to be in the bus unless they HAD to. There were hills, and more hills. No WAY I am going to describe it other than to say it was UPward all the way. And hot. And exhausting.

Lunch was brilliant – our ground crew cooked it for us on Calor gas bottles. Then we had a visit from some cute little school kids so we could offload some of the TON of stuff we'd all brought for them. Eventually I think it was split between 4 schools instead of the original one which was planned. Thanks to everyone who donated kids things – they were delighted. They did a song and a little dance for us, everyone in wellingtons due to the rain. Here they all are shooting back to school, hopefully to get their little hands on some goodies!


Second half of the day was gruelling [the first half was too, but I started to run out of hilariousness after lunch!]. The altitude started to give us headaches [lots of delving into the drug supplies we all brought] and the exhaustion was making us all very emotional. The hills were unbelievable, long hard elevations, and HOT. Africa is drenched in our sweat and tears. But we made it! But no amount of UK training could have prepared us for those hills.

We crossed the Equator quite a few times! The FH thinks they plant those signs randomly on the landscape to trick tourists ;)

DSC_0060 Thank God I did the training I DID do, or it would have been awful. Thanks to the FH shoving me out on the bike at regular intervals, I was astounded at myself, because although it was hard, I managed. And that's all I needed to do.

Tonight we stopped at Thompsons Falls Lodge. Again, long pre-dinner chat to buck us all up, great buffet meal and early to bed. Yet more packing, unpacking, losing things, finding them – REPACKING them – shriek! Never, ever mention the words 'duffle bag' to me again. Bloody horrific piece of luggage that eats one's belongings. Put out our cycle gear for the morning and collapsed.

Another 5.30 start tomorrow! groan."

At Thompsons Falls. Me, Michelle, Lou, Vick, Nicky, Maz [the maker of hilarious animal sounds],  Anita and Helen.


The Falls before breakfast the next day.

DSC_0095 DSC_0093


the 400km cycle – entry 02

Back to the Moleskine for this one too:

"The flight was, as flights are, interminably tedious. We were lucky, and had a seat between us [Sarah and I], Vicky in front of me and Helen 2 seats to my left. We had a a palatable dinner and all TRIED to sleep. With varying degrees of success. Mine being a 1 on the 1 to 10 scale.

Breakfast was a vile 'pastry' [pfft!] like a flat undercooked Chelsea bun – filled with  plastic cheddar cheese? For breakfast?? Ugh. Gross.

We arrived at Jomo Kenyatta Airport which has grown substantially since I was last here. We had a remarkably pain free passage through passport control and no bags were lost -  result!

We left the airport en masse to be coached over to Nyeri [4 hour transfer] once all the bags had been flung on the top in normal African style, with a big tarp over the top. Here's Daniel and Henk the Tank sorting that little lot.


And some interesting bits of road on the outskirts of Nairobi! Yes, that IS a road…

DSC_0026 DSC_0022

We stopped at a Curio shop along the way and had a cheese sandwich [?] and some coke. And I didn't buy anything!

<SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERA>DSC_0029 We arrived at the Green Hills, Nyeri with just enough time to fling our bags into our rooms, then race out again for a bike fitting, all waving sundry bike parts [seats, pedals, hooters…]. As soon as everything had been fitted, adjusted 10 times by the brilliant mechanics and we'd had a quick practise ride up a very vicious little hill, we were able to have a shower and get ready for dinner. Pretty stressed at this point, as we all worried about the bikes being different to our own [doh!]. I was worried about the different gear system, but needn't have. Amazing how fast you get used to a new thing if you HAVE to!

Nyeri is in the Aberdare National Park and Lord Baden-Powell is buried there. Some of the girls visited Baden Powell's grave, most of us shot up and down the hill and got on to the Getting a Shower part! Dinner came soon after, but we had a talk first – we were so starving by that point I am surprised there wasn't a mass stampede on the buffet.

Food was excellent [we did all manage a little foray poolside for a glass of wine along the way], and we were all off to bed by 9.30 ready for a crack of dawn [up at 5.30!] exodus in the morning. 99km cycling approx, with lots of hills and eventually we hope to get to an elevation of 2200m and check out the views.


Here's the bed on our room – we missed the tray I think ;) There was another bed across the end of the room by the windows which I bagged. No mozzies! Yay!


Saturday, 12 November 2011

the 400km Kenya cycle – entry 01

Well. I did it it seems! I took a Moleskine with me, and for the first few days I wrote in it, then I simply gave up – exhaustion prevailed. Entries are scribbled here:

29 Oct 11 [in the plane]

"Can't believe it's here. We're going – in fact, we're gone! 4 hours into the flight and we're all very well behaved [considering there's a free bar]. I have Helen to my left across the aisle, and Vicky in front of me. So we make a little triangle.

The airport was a chaos of gibbering women, new WvC sweatshirts piled everywhere [thanks Lisa!] and a really festive air. Off to the bar with the lot of us, where we took over everyone's tables and generally caused mayhem. Then onto the plane.

Vick is in full film mode. I am in 'will I get ANY sleep?' mode, I am so tired but still buzzing away. More wine I think!

My trip up was ok – A303, a crash as usual, so a delay. But I still got to Fiona by 4.15 [this included getting lost in Slough! stress!!]. Fiona dropped me at the Virgin area at Terminal 3 [she was amazing – looked after my car while I was away, AND collected me after the trip! And she is a totally NOT stressed type, unlike myself – she actually single handed sorted out an entire traffic jam on the way home!] after some pizza and coffee at hers. Met her delightful little son too.  So – checked in, sat at the bar and took out a 2nd mortgage to buy a book at WH Smith.

Heard from the FH just as he was leaving for Spain, and we left just after – just after he called to let me know he'd arrived in Spain. Surreal. I wish I could call the Wild Things too! [more about THAT later]. Here we are at the airport – I have bags on my bags ;)


So. Flight. We are in an Airbus! Hoorah! Civilised travel for a change – polite, professional air hostesses…room to move. A free bar – dinner that is actually FOOD…yippee! Even though we are in economy this is such a treat compared to the likes of Ryan Air etc – reminds me of flying years ago. Free socks! Woop!

After the free socks, we had some wine, then our evening meal. I am completely confused about the time. It's odd, as we are in a darkened plane. But most people are awake. Some are sleeping, but not many. We had chicken for dinner – with roast potatoes, Greek salad, piquant sauce and an 'interesting' chocolate dessert. Banana and chocolate? Ugh.

Virgin do not allow the electronic cigarette!  Which is rather a bore, as I have one and was relying on that to help me avoid tearing off anyone's head [8 hour flight – no nicotine – hmm] . I asked why, and it seems that if [a very stupid] person sees one being smoked they will think they can light up a real one. Nothing to do with them being dangerous or unfriendly or hurting anyone. So I had a few puffs on mine in the WC. No harm done and less chance of mayhem.

We have films in the back of the seat! Books to read, free wine and blankets – so why am I awake?? Whatever. I am so thrilled to see all the girls again. Get on."