Author Archives: Susan

Heartsore: Overwriting memories

That’s what it feels like – overwriting memories – and that’s what so saddens me.
Since last September I have been preparing to rent out my flat in Edinburgh. That coincided with my cancer diagnosis so undertaking the project at the same time as undergoing surgery and chemotherapy, was not the brightest of ideas I’ve come up with, but such is life.
At first it was really daunting, nay utterly overwhelming, to attempt to sort through the treasures and detritus of memories of my life there since 1986 but, with the help and encouragement of my partner, hard decisions were made for stuff to be moved to my new home with him, put into storage, donated to charity or chucked.
It was still looking like my flat, my home, albeit with many fewer items in it, but then we came to the bit where it had to be redecorated and it ceased to look like or feel like my place any longer.

That process turned out to be one of the worst things to happen to me in many years. I have no intention of “washing dirty linen in public” but my goodness, what a hard lesson it has been.  The  job was done by someone who I had known very well since she was a young teenager and had done other work for me extremely satisfactorily, so there was no official contract or estimated cost of job or guarantee of standard of work;  then, because of my hospital admissions and treatment, I was not able to oversee matters closely enough.  The job was to be paid at an hourly rate – but I had not calculated for   1) a slow rate of work,  2) a refusal to provide any note of arrival and departure for an informal record hours worked.  (That apparently was totally unreasonable of me to expect) and 3) work of such poor standard as to need redoing.   I have been charged, and paid for, 100 hours work, despite our having to repaint two full walls and three doors and do all the clearing up and finishing off ourselves.

Here I need to digress slightly:  My upstairs neighbours had been doing some work recently as well, and my decorating friend had brought into my flat a tall piece of coated plywood which she thought might come in handy for me.   I was aware of this but was not sure where it had been stored.   Anyway, last week I noticed a damaged part of a wall near the main bedroom window and, a few moments later, in the corner of the other bedroom I was delighted to come across what I took to be the ‘to-be-handy’ plywood, so I had it cut and used to patch the damaged wall, which worked well.

What has this to do with overwriting memories?  Well you see, all my time this last week has been taken up with spotting yet more examples of substandard work so that my happy memories of the place are being replaced by those filled with frustration and disappointment.   For instance, matt emulsion paint was used to touch up areas and in some cases, complete  the painting of walls which had been started with silk paint, with the result that the patches and stretches of differently painted sections showed up clearly.   There were many other irritating aspects of poor work, such as gaps left around light fittings and paint marks on wooden furniture, but today I had the final straw.   We were preparing a detailed inventory of the flat contents and opened up one of the double wardrobes in my spare bedroom only to find a panel missing from the back of it.   The remaining panel was coated plywood – identical to the piece “found again” the other day !

The (now ex) friend doing the redecorating had broken the back of the wardrobe when moving it to paint the wall behind it, and just moved the piece to one side without bothering to  tell me.  I am heartily sick!   I had already cut all contact with the person concerned after she and her partner became abusive and threatening last week, so I don’t intend to complain or otherwise do anything about this, despite my fury about it.  I am putting it down to experience and lessons learned the hard way, because in my present state I cannot take the additional stress of it,  but it and the other calamities have almost destroyed the love and pleasant memories  of my home of 30odd years.  These are pics of some of the things that have caused  such intense  dischuffment.   No doubt I will mellow as the trauma of the friendship’s souring gradually subsides, but for now my heart is sore.

ReDecDiffPaintEtcBLOG-1 ReDecDiffPaintEtcBLOG-2 ReDecDiffPaintEtcBLOG-3 ReDecDiffPaintEtcBLOG-4 ReDecDiffPaintEtcBLOG-5


When needs must…..

This is the first time I have resorted to blogging in lieu of sleep, or maybe to promote it, but needs must, and I did warn at the beginning of this cancer business that I might have a moan.
It’s my fourth cycle of chemo and in all of them I have been ever so lucky only having minor side-effects of some loss of energy and some aches, twinges, and tingles – however – minor as they are, they have stopped me sleeping tonight so I have got up again.
I often find it hard to drop off but can usually put up with it – this time it defeated me. It could be because I had a nap in the late afternoon when my energy levels dropped, maybe I should learn from that.
Anyway, this gives me a chance to say that in the past few days I have been very aware of the alleged ‘chemo brain’ state. It could just be me having my (already established) senior moments of course, but it does seem more noticeable since my treatment.  It shows itself by all the ‘senior’ type things such as forgetting the simplest of words or losing what I am going to say slap bang in the middle of it, but the noticeable difference is a kind of fuzziness around actually understanding what is being said to me.  It’s as though my brain freezes like a PC ‘not responding’ – a failure to compute.
I have had a couple of recent emergencies relating to my flat when I found that I just couldn’t think what course of action I needed to take, in circumstances when I’m sure I would normally have known what to do right away. I feel as though I need a grown-up to take my hand, and this is me who is normally the control freak, always thinking she’s in charge. I am told that it’ll ease off as I recover from the poisons in my veins – huh, I blinkingwell hope so.
Another slightly disturbing aspect of the chemo is the effect on my temper. I remember an advisor at Maggie’s Centre saying that it was hard for companions because of the emotional changes in patients, and another friend who has been through it also warned me, but I have been surprised by it nevertheless. I generally feel irritable the vast majority of the time. Not sad, not sorry for myself, not angry – just much shorter tempered and very quick to respond when I would normally ‘count to ten’.  It is such a shame for those around me, especially for my very long-suffering partner, and I do try to keep a hold on it, but sometimes I just cannae be bothered.
Finally, I am increasingly aware that I don’t really know any more who I am and what I’m doing. I am almost in a Limbo world. My general umph and enthusiasm has taken a massive dive. The driech weather doesn’t help there , which accompanied by my not wanting to risk mixing in crowds, means I am so often confined indoors. This would at one time have driven me crazy but, although I do have some cabin fever, I am finding I am not as eager to DO anything about it.
Ah well, the aches and twinges have really subsided since I have been distracted by typing so maybe I can get some sleep now.

Deciding between a rock and a hard place.

“Only you can decide” they say – oh sure, only me because it’s my body, but how the blazes are patients like me supposed to make these kind of choices? If we ‘google’ the conditions we are likely to be faced with so much contradictory information and opinion as to make it useless, and just going from what we are told doesn’t really help that much.
As I understand it the position is this. When the chemo finishes I will be expected to decide whether to follow it with radiotherapy and if so, which kind. Apparently the choice is between treating the full pelvic area, which is likely to be most effective for eliminating the chance of cancer cells reoccurring BUT can cause damage to the abdominal organs, or just vaginal radiation which by being more limited, is potentially not as damaging but is only effective for treating that restricted area. However, apparently it can cause scarring in the vagina which may cause it to close up (!!) though one can be taught how to use a dilator to prevent this happening. Additionally, because the womb has been removed, some of the bowel may get into that space and be damaged by the radiation anyway. Talk about ‘between a rock and a hard place’!
The other option is not to have any further treatment and to take the risk of the cancer reoccurring. This is my preferred choice at the moment. My reason being because as they reckoned they had removed the cancer cells with the hysterectomy, and the chemo is ‘just’ an extra precaution, I think the risk of damage to organs is greater than the risk of cancer. In any case, if cancer did happen again surely it could be irradiated or whatever then?
The risk of damage being done during surgery was quite low but it still happened to me, and the problems with the kidney drain which kept me in hospital were not common, but I was unlucky.
I have another three months of chemotherapy and I still have more surgery to undergo to have the stent removed, so quite frankly, I think I have had enough thanks very much.      I am loathe to chance my luck again.

Nothing To Report Sir, (but then again….)

I started writing a blog after being diagnosed with uterine cancer, primarily as a record of my own ‘journey’ but also as away of possibly helping others faced with the same life event.
Initially there was quite a bit to post. From my own and others reactions to the news, frustration about waiting, feeding my soul in general, mishaps in surgery, then first chemo. (See my other blogs.)  BUT since then there really has not been much to report/comment/moan/laugh about.  Nowt, zilch, not-a-hing, nutting, zero, sod-all – but then again…..
My second chemo cycle was more or less uneventful, but my enforced extra time indoors meant that in addition to doing the usual SCDA admin for the One-Act festival, and apart from  incorporating my scalp moles in a drawing cherries on my bald headMe being daft - so what's new! larking about at Christmas……….      I was able eventually to re-visit books I wrote many years ago for my grandchildren and publish two of them on Kindle.

My beloved Rainbow Dragon

My beloved Rainbow Dragon

‘The Rainbow Dragon’ was written after we took my four year old granddaughter to our bothy in Glencoe, and she was so delighted to go to the river to fetch water. The Rainbow Dragon character became very real to me over the years. As we drive in Glencoe I am wont to point out the wee bridge across the river as “that’s where Cherise met the Rainbow Dragon” almost believing it to have really happened, and it has always been  on my ToDo list to have it published.  I had the text of the book on e-file and a copy of it that I produced myself, so I finally got time to scan in the illustrations and tick my list . This is the link to the Kindle book

Connor and his sad friend Trevor the Tractor

Connor and his sad friend Trevor the Tractor

‘A Good Idea For Trevor The Tractor’ was written for my grandson at about the same age (or possibly a bit younger). He loved tractors – it was as simple as that – and the calling of “taktooor” when one is spotted has become part of tradition (well for me anyway) . The original book has been lost and I never kept a copy of it, but luckily when I was moving paperwork to Livingston, I came across a draft and some uncoloured illustrations, so I set about retyping it and colouring the drawings on the PC in ‘Paint’.   link to Kindle book here 

Today – Hogmanay – was my third chemo session and it went totally smoothly.  All traffic lights were at green, and there was hardly any traffic, so we drove there in a third of the usual time. Even the car park at the treatment centre had immediate entry (we waited 20 mins for a place last time).  Consequently I booked in an hour early and  was called minutes after.  Indeed all was so hunky-dory that I started getting my first drug infused at 11am – instead of 2pm both previous times.  I was finished by 3.45pm instead of 7.30 pm last time!
However – one thing that did happen was quite cathartic and worthy of note. An ex-work colleague who I had not seen for eight years, arrived to have (yet another) chemo session so came to sit next to me.  She is only in her mid 40s and has a young child, yet has been dealing with many cancers over a seven year period.  Every time she gets clear in one area of her body, the bloody disease appears somewhere else.  She started with breast cancer, then bile duct, liver and now bone, but she is not afraid and displays a wonderfully positive, yet utterly realistic, attitude to her sad prognosis of very short probable survival.  Discussing matters with her has reinforced my strong feeling that we have to live our lives in the present and very near future. We must squeeze every iota of  value out of our lives because we never know what is around the corner, in the skies, on the rails, across the road or flowing towards us for that matter – in flooded rivers or our own veins.   So maybe there was somat to report after all.

2015 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.  I started writing it as an aide memoire for myself to record how I was feeling, and possibly to assist anyone else who is either going through a similar experience or knows another person doing so. I hope it has achieved its aim.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,200 times in 2015. If it were a cable car, it would take about 20 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

A Roller-Coaster

There it was ...gone

There it was …gone

Phew! That was a roller-coaster of a day! Got my hair shaved off, which was a relief insofar I didn’t have to worry about it falling out all over the place any more, but still is a wee shock to the system when it’s all gone.



I felt not too bad when getting ready to go out for a Christmas meal, especially when I did my eye-make up, but I had to get ready many hours before I normally would because of needing to do something else before said meal. My scarf tying wasn’t too successful and started to slip a bit, taking with it some of my confidence. Anyway, I got it sorted and wore a hat on top to keep warmer outdoors.
We had a nice time meeting and greeting our friend Gro from Norway who is staying as my guest in my flat for a few weeks, but as we were going around Tesco’s with her to buy groceries, my eyes started playing up. Firstly I felt as though I needed to blink a lot and the vision just wasn’t quite right, then they were kinda feeling hot inside hot and Gro reckoned the whites were going pink! So to continue with the roller-coaster …. I bought eye-make remover pads and did the deed in Tesco’s loo, which resulted in my confidence plummeting, but it rose again after I did a bit more titivating back at the flat, only to duck again as I realised the scarf was becoming undone when we were on the bus. We arrived at our destination with plenty of time for me to have sorted the scarf BUT we were at the wrong venue!
Never mind the details, suffice it to say it was my stupidity, so my stress levels were mounting now. Bus back to car, then drive to correct restaurant – able to fix scarf, didn’t feel quite so bad about no eye-make up and had a lovely time with Mercators drama group – until I went to get my purse and discovered I’d not got my clutch bag containing purse with cash, bus pass and debit card! I immediately reported it to the waitress who said she would ask the manageress if anything had been handed in and that she would check the toilet . No sign. So Walter went to check the car – no sign. I decided to double check for myself and there it was, exactly where I’d put it. The waitress had checked a different toilet!  So…. my roller-coaster ended in a good place eventually.  Mercators old and new.


I suspect there are going to be a few more like this but then as long as the chemo ride stops in the right place it’ll be okay.   I hope.

Aye, always live in hope Susan.

One Of Those Days When All Goes Swimmingly? – Huh!

Do you know one of those days when all your plans come together seamlessly and your heart is filled with lovely warm satisfied feelings? Nor do I!!!
All seemed fine-n-dandy enough this morning. I got some admin done that I had overlooked earlier in the week and was quite chuffed at not forgetting it again, then it was time to do some more sorting/packing/dumping at my flat. Gee, all was going great – I had plenty of energy again after a few chemo-down-days, and everything was progressing really well as I worked in kitchen, bedrooms and living room. Then, a couple of hours later, I opened my bathroom door!

Blue stained water pouring along the ceiling wiring and everywhere else it could find a route!

Blue stained water pouring along the ceiling wiring and everywhere else it could find a route!

Argghh! The flat is on the ground floor with another flat above it. That water had been coming in for a few days by the sodden-ness of the carpet and the state of the rest – the dark blue stripe on the shower curtain is a stream of running water . I eventually got a response from ‘upstairs’ only to find that  only their teenaged daughters were home – parents having taken grandchildren to a panto. This was not even 2pm so obviously adults were not going to return for a wee while. We needed the upstairs water to be turned off but, low and behold, the teenagers had vanished only for one to return an hour layer – meanwhile every possible item I possessed that could help soak-up or contain water was pressed into service. The water had soaked the window curtains too – it had run everywhere.


Every cover, towel, bucket I had available was pressed into absorbing service

Every cover, towel, bucket I had available was pressed into absorbing service

An emergency plumber duly arrived and stopped the flow from their place – which turned out to be beneath their cistern (explains blue water) and, judging by a video he made of it, – it has been like that for a very long time. He reckoned it would take a couple of days to stop seeping down so did a couple of things to make my bathroom ceiling less likely to fall in (!) An electrician will call tomorrow to see if my power may be turned back on, and make the wiring etc., safe. Then I will have the pleasure of taking up the carpet and lord know what else to get the place dry again!

This was the last thing I needed with all that has been happening healthwise, but then they do say it never rains bur it pours! Huh!