Tag Archives: clearing

Sarah’s Hands and Gloves

A letter from Sarah, introduced by Ronnie.

Have you ever known anyone whose fingers were gradually curling up into the palms of their hands, couldn’t be fully straightened out and were getting worse over time? If you have they might have a disease called Dupuytrens Contracture. Actor Bill Nighy does, you may have noticed from his films, and so do a good many people over the age of 50, including, until recently, Sarah Horton. Here’s the story of her hands and what’s been happening to them.

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Everyone likes a happy ending and some good news. So I’m delighted to tell you that I’ve now completed treatment – on the NHS – for my Dupuytrens Contracture, or DUPS (a benign but frustrating hand problem, which is often hereditary, as it is in my case).

This week I had my follow up appointment with my NHS Consultant Dr Syndikus and we both agreed that I have had a good result. Good news. It was not so easily achieved though.

This week I’ve been here in the Linda McCartney building, the cancer treatment building in Liverpool. I spent many hours of my life here between 2007 and 2010, and a few since, but mostly in those early years when I became a breast cancer patient.

In February this year I wrote a post on here called ‘Ten Years’. Ten years since my diagnosis of breast cancer, reflecting on the anniversary, and also because I was trying to get access to treatment for my hand condition, and was meeting some substantial barriers to that.

My GP, true to his word, followed up my request to access treatment, and spoke to Liverpool’s most respected hand surgeon, Mr Brown.

(Note – this was a surgeon I couldn’t get an appointment with as an NHS patient, as the not-a-doctor ‘decision maker’ had decided I wasn’t eligible for treatment until my condition got considerably worse, and required surgery. Whereas in early cases of DUPS radiotherapy is now considered a very effective treatment, especially beneficial for the patient as it avoids having surgery, as recurrence rates of DUPS after surgery are significant – about 40% after four years.)

Anyway my GP got in touch Mr Brown, who then advised my GP him I should be referred to Dr Syndikus at Clatterbridge Hospital on the Wirral. She’s an oncologist, and one of her tools is radiotherapy.

I was at first told that I wasn’t a priority and may have to wait to see her – but Dr Syndikus and her team worked swiftly, and by mid May I’ve seen her and most of the team at the radiotherapy department in Clatterbridge. They have very expertly made moulds of both of my hands, and by the end of June I’ve had my two sets of treatment, two series of five sessions of daily radiotherapy at Clatterbridge. All of this was arranged in a most patient-centred way, and allowed me to continue my work as a self-employed funeral celebrant.

I cannot speak highly enough of the whole process and everyone in the NHS teams who looked after me. An extra bonus by the way, and in contrast to all of my years of breast cancer treatment, is they also have a free car park at Clatterbridge for all patients. Proper and caring like.

After my treatment things happens without me noticing why. Continue reading

The Clearing 3: Is this the life we really want?

Previously on The Clearing, Sarah said…

“You know the Leeds Liverpool Canal? If you had a year to live would you bother finishing it?”

“No” I unhesitatingly replied.

A third episode of getting rid of the stuff of our lives that’s lost its meaning.

So here at Clearing Central in Liverpool we’ve already made a start on the latest round of clearing what we do. We’ve cleared that supposed complete canal walk for no better reason than we couldn’t be bothered finishing it. A good sound reason.

Along with the canal walk we got started with a serious clearcut of possessions in the first of this series of posts. Next we gave the people we know, or don’t really know, some profound consideration along with a bit of unfriending in the second post. Now, to round things off? Well let’s start with some more potentially wasteful and redundant activities that might want clearing from our lives like the canal walk?

How about watching the television? How much of your precious life is that swallowing? Now perhaps you imagine you only watch serious nature documentaries, highly regarded art-house films and those marvellous music genre histories on BBC4. But that’s not true is it? Not even nearly true. Continue reading

The Clearing 2: People and true friendship

Previously on “The Clearing” as they say…

“Possessions, jobs, activities and, whisper it, even friendships don’t necessarily need to stay with you forever. And when I have the ‘year to live’ talk with people, it happens, I always view going through the clearing of redundant things as the relatively easy conversation before we arrive at the trickier “Having cleared some space then, how will you spend your time? Because with only 365 days to go you might want to think carefully about the activities and people you spend each one of them on?”

So let’s talk about people.

Continuing from last time in this light of us all having a limited number of days left in our lives.

As I said then the ‘people and activities’ element of clearing is much trickier than the relatively easier getting rid of things. You might have emotions over things but things don’t feel emotional about you, whereas people do, or might. Which makes clearing some of them tricky.

Best then to start with a fairly easy piece of people clearing, unfriending.

It’s an obvious cliché to say that all of our social media friends aren’t really our friends, but they’re not. Continue reading

The Clearing

Earlier this afternoon I carried a bag of Sarah’s books down the road to our nearest charity shop. She’d sorted them out as being ready to go while doing some clearing yesterday afternoon. They were a mixture of horticulture, kayaking and even one about how to make books. I’d bought her that one as well as a couple of the others, but they’d come to the end of their time with her and are now gone.

When I’ve done with writing this post and need a photograph to illustrate it I’ll sort out a small pile of my own books and, once photographed, they’ll be ready to follow Sarah’s down to the same charity shop.

We’ve always done this, not keeping things we don’t need. These days we’re much better than we used to be at not acquiring things in the first place. But even so, things accumulate on shelves, in corners and even in plain sight, attempting to become part of the household landscape, until they’re noticed, identified as beyond their usefulness, and cleared.

We enjoy it and we like living in a home without much stuff, so there’s room for us. Clearing, be it books, furniture, music, gadgets, clothes or old interests, always fills us with the energy and ideas to do whatever’s next. And it always has. At times when we’ve felt our lives becoming becalmed and stale a good bit of clearing has usually helped us to move on and then look back and wonder ‘what was all that stuff for?’

Which fits perfectly with the ‘year to live’ thoughts I’ve been having these past few weeks. Continue reading

A year to live? 10 things I’ve learned

The culmination of a whole year of ‘Year to live’ posts and also part of a podcast with Liam Black and Lucy Adams.

A year ago now, October 2013, I began living my life with the constant and conscious thought that this year could be my last. Questioning everything, asking ‘Would I do this work, go to this event, spend time with this person if I thought I had a year to live?’ Reasoning that one day this will be true for all of us, but that of course we mostly never know. So why not live with this consciousness for a year and see what it does?dsc05973

I decided to write about it too, and you can go back and look at the posts and discussions that followed if you want. For me though, at the end of this theoretical final year it’s time now to reflect on the main things I’ve done and learned from doing it. I don’t say what follows will turn out to be all I’ve learned, but these are the first ten things that come to mind.

1. You truly never know the day.

I began this ‘Year to live’ in good health and as a theoretical exercise. Out running several times a week and fully confident in my own body. Then within weeks I was thrown into hospital land, a place from which I am yet to emerge. Continue reading

A year to live: The Clearing

A few weeks ago I began living as if I have only a year left to live. Not thinking with any certainty that I do, but wanting to value my days and my life and see what differences it makes if I act as if I will soon be no more.DSC07285

As soon as I made the decision some things changed.

I immediately ditched the ‘Finding the work you love’ course that ‘A year to live’ had been part of, and removed it from this website. Realising that with a year left I’d want to talk with people about their lives, not simply their careers.

I re-started the Friday Walks, the ritual and the rhythm of walking and therefore never working on Fridays. And immediately started to feel calmer, less driven, quieter. Me and my friend Sarah Jones writing about this calming in ‘A quietening down of the rage to succeed.’

What I hadn’t expected was that our house would begin to empty out. Continue reading