Wednesday, 23 April 2014


Little did I know ... !
I thought I’d keep it simple. It’s a while since I wrote anything here, or anywhere else online, as I was unsure of what I should say.

On 29 January, just four days after I posted my piece on Australia, the shock of diagnosis was huge. Following a colonoscopy and CT scan, with no serious inkling that anything was seriously wrong, my husband and I were suddenly being told that I had bowel cancer requiring surgery fast. In addition, there is a secondary tumour in the liver so it had already spread. More scans confirmed this but no others that could be detected. It all seemed quite surreal.
Recovery from the bowel surgery was good. I have just had the second session of my first 3 months chemo which is given in a fortnightly cycle. Liver surgery will follow after a brief break from chemo; then following recovery from that there will be a further 3 months chemo. So that’s 2014 taken care of!
Those are the bare facts and the prognosis is good, but when I first got the diagnosis it threw our world upside down; we could not help thinking the worst. Now I feel extremely hopeful that in a year from now I will be as fit as a flea and in the pink, and it is all the positives that I want to convey, perhaps to help others.
The love and support I’ve had from friends and family means so much. Thank you!

Early on I was thoroughly spoiled with over a dozen bunches of flowers or floral arrangements, plants, books, magazines, chocolates and more besides; dozens of cards, emails and phone calls; friends visiting almost daily, sometimes two in a day when I was home from hospital.  To feel all these connections from friends, both old and new, was so uplifting and will continue to help me with the emotional and psychological side of this whole process. We all know that happiness helps healing.
Seeing people for a chat will mean a great deal for the months ahead, as I realise now that to mix with the general public, or large groups, with potential coughs and sneezes, is risky. Your immune system becomes weak so to get a nasty cold or other infection could break the continuity of the chemo programme.  As with any life-saving treatment, it becomes a top priority and other tempting activities like shopping or the cinema are going on the back burner. My husband had the soul-destroying task of unpicking all our holidays he had organised for the year!
A bookish event I was really looking forward to will have to go by the wayside – as far as I am concerned.  Surrey Heath Book Festival 2014 invited me to run a creative writing workshop, Writing from Life, on 11 May and I had thought that this would be doable. Now I realise that because of the high susceptibility to picking up bugs mid-way through what is called the fortnightly ‘cycle’, I cannot risk it. There I was in the line-up with Prunella Scales and Lady Antonia Fraser et al. Such a disappointment, as I was fully prepared for this and anticipated a fun morning.

Sorry this is getting negative … but you see these things are not the end of the world. Your priorities shift.
One thing for which I shall break the rules is the birth of a grandchild in May. No way shall I miss seeing her or him as soon as possible after the birth, even if I cannot do much to be helpful – another frustration. Never mind, knitting needles have been clicking!
The medical teams at nearby Frimley Park Hospital, and now at St Luke’s Cancer Centre, part of the Surrey Royal County Hospital in Guildford, have been wonderful, efficient and caring. When things are serious and urgent you see the NHS at its best and initially I was fast-tracked at every turn.
It was wise to wait before writing this, I think, or the shock and horror would have given a false and gloomy picture. Like lovely George Alagiah who has recently come out about his bowel cancer, it is now just a question of getting through the treatment, keeping well and looking forward to recovery and a bright future.

I have learned to appreciate simple pleasures, realizing that in Buddhist fashion every moment of life should be treasured. Birdsong and sunshine; the smell and feel of fresh air when you come out of hospital; simply feeling well; hearing from friends; Facetime with my grandchild, the love and support I have from my husband and children – all these things and many more take on a new dimension.
The thought of taking a holiday, or eating out somewhere special, trips to the theatre and activities with friends – these are things to dream about and work towards.
Plus - there is the fourth novel I must finish. I am about three-quarters of the way through, then many revisions to do but I am very excited about this one and hope to publish it one way or the other before the end of this very unusual and interesting year. I will keep in touch.