Tag Archives: breast cancer

Ten years

Ten years ago today Sarah and I got up worried and early to begin one of the longest days of our lives. We travelled to the Royal Hospital here in Liverpool, to the Rapid Diagnosis Clinic, to find out what we found out.

And ten years later part of me finds it hard to travel back to what Sarah has written here. But most of me is immensely relieved, and grateful, that she is alive to write it. And that the years have in no way dimmed her fire and passion for our National Health Service, or her determination to keep it safe from officious predators, as you’ll see when you read on.

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22nd February 2007

This is me on the 22nd of February 2007. It is the day after I was diagnosed with breast cancer, age 43.

So today, the 21st of February 2017, marks ten years from that diagnosis. There is no whoop of delight, no fist pumps here. No, this is not a celebration. It is a mere observation of a fact, a fact that I am still here to observe. And of all the questions I asked that day ten years ago during the hours in the hospital, the main question, the one I remember the most, was when I said, ‘Will I die?’

But thanks to modern medicine and surgery, some great doctors and surgeons, a hefty dose of luck and some of my own tenacity, I did not die of breast cancer. At least, I haven’t so far. Continue reading

The “Missing Years” and the importance of sea kayaking

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Those of you who remember and treasure the post on here where Sarah, the expert shopper, began gathering her kayaking kit, will rejoice in the opening statements in what follows about ‘my kayaking needs.’ Yes, she’s still shopping. But there still isn’t a pointy boat hanging up in our hallway. Not yet anyway.

But do read on. She’s having a great time out on the ocean waves. After her “missing years” she’s having the time of her life, at last x

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My latest visit to Anglesey at the end of September is for two days sea kayaking with James Stevenson of Outdoor Adventures. I spent two days with James in August when we met the friendliest seals (amongst other adventures), the post about that is here.

I enjoyed the one to one coaching with James, in fact, so much that I’m back already for some more! I arrive in Anglesey on the Sunday afternoon and go up to a shop called Summit to Sea in Valley, up near Holyhead. It’s a treasure trove for those with ‘kayaking needs’ and my birthday present this year is a pair of dry trousers. We’ll hear more about them later.

Having dealt with my kayaking needs, I then head down to Penmon Point on the far south east corner of Anglesey. The Penmon lighthouse is the distinctive black and white tower, and the red marker is Perch Rock, and Puffin Island is off this coast. James and I paddled here last time, and paddled round Puffin Island which is where we found the friendly seals.

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It’s a beautiful place. And it’s interesting to me to observe the water and the eddies, having been paddling in it.

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Today the light is strong and the sky fills up with rain clouds. I’ve chosen to come here to observe the ritual of eating the first slice of my birthday cake, given to me by my friend Jayne Lawless. Thank you Jayne. I get a cup of tea from the café and sit on the beach in peace. Continue reading

I remember you: For Rachel

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Rachel

Today a very personal post from my partner Sarah about her best friend Rachel, who died three years ago.

When Sarah was diagnosed with breast cancer eight years ago now, she fairly soon wanted to find her sisters. Other women who’d shared some of her experiences and ‘been in some of the same rooms’ as we always described those places and days of rapid diagnosis, treatment decisions and prognosis. Other women she could really talk to.

Well finding these sisters took a while, a great while. But eventually, through social media, into her life they came. Americans for the most part, and an Australian living in the States in one very particular, opinionated and lovable case. Rachel from New Jersey.

Their friendship was brief, as you’ll hear, but deep and intensely joyous. Their regular Skypes changed the sound of our house. And Rachel’s love brought the sparkle back into Sarah’s eyes. A spark and a sparkle the eventually ebbing grief of these past three years has never subsequently extinguished.

And of course Rachel and these years since changed my life too. Made me value the living of it more than ever before. But you’ll know about that already if you’ve read my ‘Year to live’ posts.

So here is Sarah, remembering Rachel. Continue reading

Real Bread Matters

Bread Matters01Yes, this is a post about bread and why it matters.

Bread like this Moss Lake Sourdough from Baltic Bakehouse in Liverpool.

Bread like this Moss Lake Sourdough from Baltic Bakehouse in Liverpool. We’ll be hearing more about them later.

But first a bit of background about bread and me. You’d kind of expect that wouldn’t you, being my blog and all?

Come late summertime four years ago I was almost completely knackered. Three years of being Sarah’s principal carer as we both worried ourselves through the landscape of breast cancer, together with continuing to run our business on my own, had nearly wiped me out.

I badly needed a complete break. So with Sarah through the toughest of her treatments I took two months off working. And for the first week I went away. Continue reading

A year to live: Why I write

Continuing my reflections on living as if I only have a year to go. And joining in on a ‘Blog Tour’ too.

A friend has contacted me this week and asked me to take part in a sort of blogging chain letter. Naturally my normal response to this kind of thing would be a firm ‘No.’ But the request was gently done. And pondering the questions asked in the chain letter, I thought my answers might  contribute to my own chain of thoughts in my ‘Year to live’ series of posts. So I’ve decided to start writing and see where my thoughts take me. Let’s go, four questions:

Q1 Why do I write what I do?

Well I didn’t start out by writing on this blog at all. My early blogging all happened to help out my partner Sarah. She was running a blog called ‘Being Sarah’ about a book she’d written and her continuing experiences as someone who had been diagnosed with breast cancer. A couple of times she’d encouraged me to contribute some of my own experiences whilst caring for her through her treatments and recoveries. And over time I became a fairly regular guest contributor, writing particularly about the walking we’d do to shake out all the hours we were spending in surgeries and waiting rooms. The walking we’d do just because we liked it.

With Sarah, on the beach at New Brighton, April 2014.

With Sarah, on the beach at New Brighton, April 2014.

In writing and generally helping with the editing of ‘Being Sarah’ I found myself in regular contact with Sarah’s friends in what they called ‘the Blogosphere.’ Women from all over the world who’d had breast cancer diagnoses. And it was several of them who began suggesting I start a blog of my own. Because I seemed to be enjoying writing and to have ‘found my voice.’ For a long time I resisted the idea. Having no common and binding subject to write about, as they all had, I thought I wouldn’t have much to say.

Well, two years in and 350 posts later I’m nowhere near running out of things I want to write about. Continue reading

2012: Friday walks, The life force

Sarah’s hands, calm and determined, St Bartholemew’s church in Thurstaston

Early March, Ronnie takes us round this week’s joint walk

Well, this was our first walk together for four weeks. Last week Sarah had a cold, the week before she was jet lagged, and the week before that she was in New Jersey, because her best friend Rachel had just died from metastatic breast cancer.

So we carefully picked our ‘home’ walk for this week. The walk we consider to be ‘the one.’ From which all of our other regular walks flow. The walk we automatically go on in times of need. We went to the Shining Shore.

The last time we went to the Shining Shore was only four weeks ago. Rachel was in hospital but, as ever, we were confident she was coming out. And so, on the walk, we made a film just for her called ‘Miss you.’ To make her laugh. It contained dancing, singing, jokes and, well, it felt like Rach was on the walk with us, looking at us through our cameras.

Rachel never got to see the film, of course. And so, setting out on the same walk four weeks later, we are very conscious that one of us has gone. And also very conscious, as we walk, that in four sad and grief stricken weeks for us, the life force in nature has been doing what it always does, renewing life.

Leucojum, ‘Spring Snowflake’ – like big snowdrops

Continue reading

2012: Friday walks, Lost Liverpool

Lost Liverpool, walking through the past

Resuming the walks reports, after last week’s walk was lost to Sarah’s jet lag. And reflecting on time’s effects on caring, friendship and mortality.

This week’s walk is now more normally done as a run. Was introduced to Sarah as a run, in fact, by her former running mates, the ones who disappeared soon after Sarah’s diagnosis. But today I’m doing it as a walk. Because running with a camera is hard. And because I want time to think.

The route was originally known as ‘Camp Hill’ – but we call it ‘Lost Liverpool.’ It’s a mostly off-road route that shows you a version of Liverpool very few people get to see. Very, very rich, eighteenth century Liverpool. We will walk along ancient lanes where elegant horse-drawn carriages once drove. And I will show you some of the houses of the slave traders. Continue reading