My First Blog Post

Have I really agreed to this?

So this is my very first blog and, my first venture into the world of blogging so if I ramble on or don’t say enough – please tell me!

As all good stories go, I had better start at the beginning…..

In 2004 I was diagnosed with malignant melanoma on my left leg, located just on my knee. It was a mole on my leg that had always been there and then one summer’s day in 2003, after a holiday in Greece, I noticed it had started to bleed.

I can’t say I rushed to the GP or that I was immediately terrified – I’m not sure I actually do ‘terrified’. But I did take my self off to my GP who referred me through to a plastic surgeon in St Vincent’s Hospital in Dublin. This was August 2003. The letter arrived from the hospital pretty swiftly but the consultant appointment was for September 2004!

The 2019 me would have picked up the phone and started creating a noise about the waiting time, but 2003 me just thought that if they weren’t in a hurry, then I shouldn’t worry.

When September 2004 actually did roll around, things moved pretty swiftly. The consultant diagnosed the mole visually but obviously a biopsy was required. This was done within a week. Again, completely oblivious to the seriousness of the situation, I headed over to the UK on a girl’s weekend. Only when I received a call from a nurse in St Vincent’s telling me that the bed was ready for me in the ward and I needed to be back that night, did a small light bulb go off in my head that maybe this was not panning out so great for me.

The melanoma was 3mm under my skin which was extremely serious at the time. My sentinel node was removed in my groin to check where else the melanoma had spread. Not if, but where.

Times were different and there was less of a rush to move patients back home then. I was bandaged completely on both legs as a skin graft had been taken from my right thigh for the wound site. I stayed in hospital for three weeks. I was blessed with incredible friends who crossed the city to visit me every day.

Finally the oncologist came to see me in the ward. As he pulled the curtain around my bed, it finally sunk in that I was in deep trouble – I know, I can be slow on the uptake!

However, as it turned out the oncologist announced I was the luckiest person he had ever met. The melanoma had not spread. Whilst I would be monitored for the next five years, I would require no further treatment. When he left the ward, the nurses crowded around me and said they thought I hadn’t understood the consequences of malignant melanoma – they were probably right.

I spent the next month on crutches due to the location of the wound site, but I was home and I was cancer free!

During the next five years, I never once expected any of my follow up appointments to be anything other than routine and once that last appointment was done I can truly say it never occurred to me that the melanoma might return.

And yet, here I am in 2019. I will continue on my next blog……..

Waterville, Co Kerry. The Wild Atlantic Way

12 months on and scan results

You know when you come back from your holiday (not this year obviously) and you sit at work for at least a week saying ‘this time yesterday’ and ‘this time last week’? Well, this time last year I was just coming round from my operation in CUH, having had the offending lymph nodes removed.

The melanoma had spread through them and was on a fast track of destruction like a Keanu Reeves film.

Thankfully, the incredible team in CUH removed them all and all I had to do was just go through a bit of pain, a bit of treatment and all would be well…….

It’s been a hell of a 12 months. I remember the incredible relief when they told me I wouldn’t have to have chemotherapy. I wouldn’t lose my hair. I’d have this new fabulous treatment called immunotherapy.

I still feel incredibly lucky that I didn’t have to have chemo, but there has been times in the last year that immunotherapy has not felt that fabulous. I’ve wanted to ignore Mr M and Mr T. when I’ve missed out on important events and had a cry on my own.

Let’s be honest, having OH have to help me in the shower has not been one of the highest points in our relationship. For the record, his hair washing skills are not that great.

But here’s the thing. If you are reading this and just starting out on this journey – always try to find the humour, not the misery. Play that damn cancer card if you want to watch a film that OH is literally going to hate – you deserve it.

The other thing is – be good to yourself. Have fun when you can, but also do the right things. Eat the fruit and veg and get yourself out walking in the fresh air. It’s been a hard slog, but most days I walk 11,000 steps now which is about 5 miles. If that seems unreachable to you, just break it up into a few shorter walks throughout the day. And trampoline! I’m telling you – it’s the future! However, always do this without the aid of two ginger kittens – more on them later. Don’t get me wrong – my new found love of pink gin is still very much on the menu!

So that brings us up to last week where I had my CT scan. There is a word amongst cancer patients – scanxiety. I’m a pretty optimistic person, but as you’re sitting in the X Ray department, drinking that weird squash before your scan, all kinds of thoughts race through your head. And that’s not even mentioning what you can imagine in the middle of the night while you’re waiting for the results.

Let me cut to the chase. My results came through and they are completely clear!!!! The oncologist rang to say he knew I’d been worried about the scan – you will recall I wanted the scan in June – so wanted to give me the results as quickly as possible. When the call was over, I sat and had a cry. Over all the bad news, I barely cried. Here was some amazing news and I was sobbing.

As I said to my friend later, I don’t think I’d realised how long I had been holding my breath.

Of course, as I started to text my family & friends, I sobbed some more, just reading their reactions.

Losing Rog, the Ginger Prince, earlier this year hurt so much and I really didn’t know if I would love a new kitty as much. But the house has been empty without him. It wasn’t an easy decision but when two baby gingers became available for adoption, it was basically fate in action.

When we first got Rog, the vet told us having a ginger cat was not like any other cat. She was right. So of course, it made total sense to double that madness this time round! Please meet Butch and Sundance.

They have brought joy back into the house and the scan results have sealed that joy today.

I have to see the meds through to the end, which is a few weeks yet. I will see the oncologist in September who will hand me back over to the wonderful surgical team. They will then monitor me for the next five years.

I will still blog about my ongoing scans and tests but I want to say thank you to everyone who has sent me such fabulous messages in the last twelve months. Every single message has helped me beat this damn thing.

Finally let me tell you that sea swimming has become a regular fixture in my life and each swim still makes me feel so alive and exhilarated. If you’re in any way able to try it – give it a go. OH goes as well now and we roar with laughter. It’s an amazing release where you forget all your troubles just for a while.

A hospital visit during a pandemic and when good news is a bit confusing

Living in a pretty remote part of Ireland means that lockdown and general pandemic chaos really hasn’t been so bad. Truth be told, it’s been very peaceful. The beach has been empty, so safe for me to venture out and OH has done all the shopping. Of course, there’s been down sides – yet more missed visits with friends I’ve already missed from last year & I’ve not seen the rest of the family since Christmas. But we’ve not experienced the empty shelves or the queuing outside of supermarkets and, more importantly, we’ve not had anyone close to us contract Covid.

I tell you this so that you will take pity on me as I appear to have become incapable of reading large yellow signs on windows & doors.

As you know, I don’t allow OH to accompany me to CUH as I prefer a little concert in the car instead. So obstacle number one on the way to my first face to face appointment since February was the petrol station. Having not experienced any shops since lockdown I wasn’t aware I might have to wait outside depending on how many people were already in there. In fact the two gents by the door, did give me a strange look as I sailed past them, but I assumed it was because I was wearing a mask. I did hear someone shout something from the cash desk, but it couldn’t be at me, could it? I then wondered round the shop to look for sweets. Did I notice the yellow arrows on the floor? Errrm, no. Only once I realised I was corralled & couldn’t reach the cash desk, did it occur to me there might be a problem. Having retraced my steps, the cashier gave me a stern talking to and hadn’t I read the sign on the door? I paid up and hurried on my way. Did I learn my lesson?

Well I wish I could say yes. I had two appointments in CUH, the lymphedema clinic and the oncology consultant. They were both being held in the Orchid Centre which is off the main hospital entrance so I wouldn’t have to go into any other departments. I’m an old hand at these appointments now so I just waltzed on in to the lady at the desk. She stared at me like I was from another planet. Did you not see the large sign on the door? I know, you see the pattern. She dispatched me back to the outer door of the clinic to wait for a nurse. The nurse took my temperature, ensured I’d not been poorly in the last week etc and showed me how to use hand sanitiser. I was then allowed in where the lady at the desk ignored me for a while. In truth, it’s what I would’ve done as well.

The lymphedema clinic was a big success. I’ve lost a couple of inches on my leg and she was delighted to hear about my sea swimming and trampolining.

The next appointment was supposed to be with the oncology consultant but I was called in by one of his team. He examined me – checked over where any scary lumps might be – all good. He then said that he would book my scan for August. Hang on a minute! August? I wasn’t happy. I had been told July. This might seem like a matter of weeks, but when you’re waiting for a certain reassurance, another 4/6 weeks is a long time.

I think this is where my mask came in handy. He could only see my eyes, no accompanying smile. He decided he wasn’t prepared to argue the point with me and trundled off to get the consultant.

I’m a pretty optimistic person and I know that outlook has got me through all of this, but I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t the occasional dark thought. Any strange pain can be imagined into all kinds of things at 4 in the morning.

The oncologist arrived, no doubt having been told some awkward bird was waiting for him. He was, as ever, kind and charming. He explained the scan would be in August as then there would only be one more month of treatment left. I told him how it was hanging over my head. Of course, what can he say? Only that the treatment is going well & that because I am lucky enough to get this treatment I am 50% less likely that the melanoma will return. There is no arguing with that, so August it is. He said that all my bloods are excellent so he wasn’t worried at all. As a friend said to me later – if there’s nothing to worry about, why have the scan at all??

Here’s the good news that messed with my head a little. Come the end of September my meds will finish. Mr T & Mr M will be no more. So having bombarded my body with this poison – life saving & incredibly expensive, clever poison – for 12 months, one day I just stop. No weaning off them, no bells, lights & whistles, just stop. Having lived this regulated life around them – drugs that you can over dose on – that’s it, last tablet done, it’s over.

I know that this is MASSIVELY good news. Don’t get me wrong. I know that, yet again, I have been blessed to have been in Ireland and to have all the right things fall into place that I could get this treatment. I just feel so weird about it finishing. Our lives have changed so much around the operation and the treatment. Actually the nurse at my GPs described it as similar to a bereavement. That you are almost grieving for the person you were before all of this happened.

Come September, I will be handed back to the surgical team who will start with regular check ups – pretty much back where I was in 2009 when I merrily rang my friend in Dublin to say my check ups were over, I was cancer free.

Sometimes when I start to write my blog, I surprise myself at what comes out. This was one of those days! Life is good, OH swims in the sea with me, I’m walking 5 miles a day and I can venture into the village shop (masked up obv) to choose my own wine!!

How could you not swim in that? Bliss!

Me and the Ocean on World Ocean Day

Today is World Ocean Day. Those of you that have the dubious pleasure of working with me will know I love to mark a specific day – my fave still being International Women’s Day. But I’m quite happy to celebrate Pie Day, St David’s Day and Yorkshire Day – I’d merrily celebrate Martini Day but it doesn’t exist…yet.

My family have all been drawn to the coast in various parts of the world so I guess it must’ve been in our blood somewhere along the line.

Over the years I’ve had various tangles with the sea, probably the most notable was the incident I alluded to previously when on holiday in Portugal.

It was my first foreign holiday with OH back in 1998. We already lived together so it wasn’t as if he didn’t know I was a bit of a wuss when it came to outdoor activities, but he was Mr Super Fit so I may have exaggerated my swimming skills to make it look like I at least did some form of exercise.

We stayed in Montechoro which was a pretty new resort at the time, just down the coast from Alvor and Albufeira. It was late September so the weather was perfect for my pale skin but also meant the sea could be quite rough.

I had swum in the sea most days so my confidence was high. The tide was erratic and often a big wave would hit the beach unexpectedly, sending sun worshipers scurrying for all their belongings before they got swept away.

This particular day we were both in the sea but OH was actually further in than me. We were jumping the waves as they came in. Suddenly a huge wave came out of nowhere and over OH’s head. He is 6ft. I remember him turning towards me and in that split second I decided, stupidly, that I would try to leap the wave!!

Of course, that meant my feet were no longer on the ground and I was part of the wave. I would love to tell you I looked like I was surfing the wave. Actually the wave picked me up, smashed me onto the sea bed, picked me back up and deposited me back on the beach.

It was over in seconds. OH ran out of the sea to find me sitting on the beach, covered in shingle, legs bleeding and bikini half off. I also couldn’t hear a damn thing in one ear. I wanted to cry – OH probably wanted to laugh looking at the state of me. We hobbled up the beach, packed up and went back to the apartment.

It soon became apparent – when my ear started to bleed – that all was not well and a few cocktails was not actually the cure. We found a doctor who prescribed Tramal. I figured I’d had Tramil before so it would be fine. Wrong! He advised me to take them straight away with some water and get some sleep. We headed back to our pool, got into a shady spot under a parasol and I went to sleep.

As if the day had not already been mortifying enough, there was more to come. I had a VERY bad reaction to the drugs. We were still poolside and I needed to throw up quickly. I knew I couldn’t make it to our apartment so I had to go to the pool bar toilets. In I went only to discover two girls in there touching up their already perfect make up. I was pouring with sweat and probably green. They stared at me with outright disgust. I rushed into the loo and threw up a weeks worth of Portuguese dinners.

It gets worse. I heard them saying to each other ‘she’s had far too much to drink’ and ‘you think she’d know better’. Honestly, I don’t know which was worse – the fact they thought I couldn’t hold my drink or that they thought I was clearly older than them and should know better.

All of that said, I still adore the sea and the fact that I now live next to the Atlantic Ocean is a constant source of joy to me.

Our move to Ireland has not been as we had hoped. My melanoma diagnosis, the subsequent ongoing treatment, losing the Ginger Prince and then Covid. But here’s the thing, in amongst all of that I have made some wonderful new friends, reconnected with old friends, told friends how much I love them AND discovered that I am brave enough to swim in the ocean when it’s 11 degrees and chucking it down with rain.

My next step is the consultant and another scan. My blood pressure is down and, even though I am exhausted some days, my leg is less swollen, I do 10,000 steps every day and I’ve not killed myself on the trampoline.

Always find the little triumphs every day.

Words I never thought I’d say

Apologies yet again for the lack of blogs. I’d merrily write every day but I suspect you don’t want to hear about my daily TV viewing, my current crush on Boxer in White Lines, or what I’ve cooked for tea whilst trying to resist drinking wine every night.

However, I do think you want to know about THE TRAMPOLINE. Yes, said fancy trampoline arrived and OH literally could not wait to assemble it. I’m sure he was looking forward to hysterical laughing fits over the various comedy injuries I was about to sustain.

For those of you wondering why I would want to put myself through this, it is apparently incredibly good for moving fluid through your lymph system. Because so many of my lymph nodes have been removed due to the melanoma, I have developed lymphedema in my left leg. That means that my leg swells at a fairly alarming rate every day. Cast your minds back to when we were allowed to fly and sometimes your ankles would swell on the flight (or in the heat of the holiday after too much alcohol – so I hear!!). My left leg does this every day and can become really quite sore as the skin stretches. It’s also tiring as it feels so damn heavy.

So that’s the joy of lymphedema & I have basically decided I will do everything I can to alleviate it.

Just to be clear – me & exercise are not close buddies, we’re not even acquaintances. I had a brief spell of visiting a gym when I was single in my 30s. But that was more about putting on the leggings, prancing about for a while and then lounging in the sauna. I soon packed it in when OH suggested we might want to attend the gym together! There was even talk of me picking up weights! He didn’t know me back then.

Anyhoo, I digress. There are different exercises that can be done on the trampoline. You can go hell for leather, bouncing for a solid 20 minutes. I recommend this is done in private. A beetroot face and sweat pouring off you is never a good look. You can also do a more gentle exercise where you place your hands over different areas of your body – your spleen, your liver, your heart & notably your lymph system. Again this takes about 20 minutes of gentle bouncing, but you really do feel refreshed after it.

I know the answer you all want to know. Has there been any accidents – either of the injury variety OR the embarrassing type. Well I am happy to report that, other than discovering you must wear a sports bra, no injuries have been sustained and no embarrassing mishaps either.

The next thing I’m going to tell you is probably the most shocking. I have been swimming in the sea! Even though swimming is about the only vaguely sporty thing I can do, I would never have thought I would have the confidence to swim in the sea.

I mean the sea – actually it’s the Atlantic Ocean – it’s huge, it’s magnificent, it’s a little bit terrifying. But, again, I have been told it will do wonders for my lymphedema. The actual lapping of the water against your skin encourages the lymphatic fluid to move.

With that goal, we trotted off to the beach on Saturday. Here in Kerry we’ve not been blessed with the amazing weather a lot of you have been having, but I’d made up my mind I was doing this. OH had already said he wouldn’t be doing it so he was like I usually am at a funfair – left with the coats & bags. I had decided I would wear my swimming costume and a t-shirt as I only intended to go waist deep. I also thought I would freeze, turn blue, die of hypothermia- you know, nothing too dramatic.

It turned out that the minute I was in, I wished I’d left the t-shirt behind. It was AMAZING! It is so exhilarating. The waves roll at you and slap you on your body. Even though it’s loud it’s both exciting and peaceful at the same time.

When I came out, not only was I not cold or blue or hypothermic, I was buzzing. I didn’t need the thick fleece I’d brought with me. I felt alive.

The following day the sun decided to visit Co Kerry and we headed to the beach again. This time I didn’t bother with the t-shirt, straight in with just my cossie. The water was actually warm. I don’t mean just in random places where someone might have had a tinkle – come on, we’ve all done it (although OH insists he never has) – this was actually bliss on my skin.

I have no idea if all of this is having the desired result. I’m only just starting out. But I do know that whilst Mr T & Mr M are still kicking my ass every now & then, I finally feel like I am taking back control of my body.

OH is being pretty smug about the whole exercise thing being good for me – he’s about a millimetre away from saying I told you so. Time is ticking on and June will be here soon when it will be scan time to make sure nothing else has spread anywhere.

I can totally see how people become addicted to sea swimming. The sea has always been a magnet for me so maybe it was just waiting for me to discover it properly.

Here are a few snaps OH took. Probably not my most glamorous look but I hope they capture my joy

As an added bonus, I won €20 on the euro millions on Saturday – put that positivity out to the Universe and it responds. Obviously, a couple of extra zeros on the end would’ve helped but a win is a win!!! Stay safe.

Good days, bad days and tribulations of the sea

Haven’t put ‘pen to paper’ for a few weeks & I thought I’d better catch up with you all. I’ve always tried to make this blog as positive and upbeat as possible but I am aware that a Pollyanna attitude can be annoying if you’re having a bad day. With that in mind I thought I’d just share a little snippet of what OH has to put up with – obviously this is EXTREMELY rare….!

As you know, since my op I have suffered with lymphedema in my left leg which means I have to wear a very attractive compression garment to keep the swelling under control and make my leg feel less like a lead weight.

As I’ve started to feel so much better in myself, I’ve equally started to resent this garment and try to go a couple of days without wearing it in the hope that all this damn exercise (more on that later) will prove a miracle cure & I can throw the damn thing away.

Anyhoo, it’s a bit of a palaver to squeeze yourself into it each morning, especially if you’ve lolled around in your pjs for a couple of hours before getting dressed – no judging please, I know you’re all doing the same in lockdown life.

Swimming, or even just being in the water, is a great help towards easing lymphedema. As pools are closed, that’s out of the question but we do happen to have the Atlantic Ocean on our doorstep. The beach – any beach – is my favourite place to be. OH isn’t that keen, he prefers woods and mountains, but he has long given up that fight.

Probably because he is sick of me moaning about ‘my fat leg’ he is keen to get me in the sea. Or he could be planning an ‘accidental’ drowning. So we have been heading down to our deserted beach for a paddle which he knows I love. In my defence, we generally go every other day and do a different walk in between (can you already tell I’m making excuses for my bad behaviour?).

We had been to the beach the previous day so this particular morning I had already squeezed myself into my garment of torture & was dressed, ready to walk. OH waltzes out in his shorts, towel under his arm, geared up for a paddle. It was a waltz too far. As I stood in my odd socks (one foot has a sock, the other a compression) and a muffin top (garment pushes everything up), ‘why couldn’t you tell me that was the plan today’ (we never really have a plan) & ‘you’re so thoughtless’ (he so isn’t) followed by ‘I’m sick of looking like this’ (he always says I look lovely). He then made the fatal mistake of ‘but you loved it yesterday’ – well that was yesterday pal (I didn’t actually say that out loud) !!

Did I climb down off my high horse and apologise? Was OH left wondering where he went wrong by offering to take me to my favourite place? What do you think? Or did OH end up apologising for something he has no power over whatsoever??

My point is, we all have bad days and days we are way too hard on ourselves which sometimes manifests itself as being bad tempered, moody and snappy with others – usually the ones we love the most. I think the important thing is, is to examine what’s brought it on and then remind yourself how much better you are than a few weeks or months ago. It’s probably to apologise as well, but hey ho…

In amongst all of that, I have paddled in the sea and dug my feet (both feet) in the sand for the first time since last July and it was absolute bliss. I am seriously considering buying a wetsuit and going all the way in! My health is improving each day and my BP has gone to a fabulous 135/78. Mr M & Mr T still make themselves known with a smash of nausea here & there for no apparent reason, maybe just to remind me not to get too complacent.

I had intended to tell you a story of an unfortunate incident in then sea in Portugal but I’ve babbled on enough, so another time! Next week is bloods and ECGs again.

Keep safe, not just from the virus but out in the sun. Please don’t burn for the sake of a tan. It is really not worth it.

First paddle since July 2019

Spreading a little joy

Today I am spreading a little joy for those of us that are feeling a bit fed up, lonely or maybe just a bit wobbly because of everything going on around us at the moment.

That comes comes to you via my favourite pair of Converse. Here they are:

Obviously they are pretty fabulous in their own right without me saying anything else. These beauties have been all over with me – Canada, Greek Islands, Spain, not to mention most of Yorkshire and County Kerry.

But their fabulousness is not the reason they are bringing joy today.

Last April I started on this melanoma journey. It was the trip to my GP who subsequently sent me off to hospital to start on the whirl of biopsies, operations and immunotherapy.

Since then, I’ve not been able to wear my favourite converse. Firstly it was too difficult to bend down to do the laces and OH refused to tie them correctly (I had to be shown a few years ago the cool way to wear converse). Then, when I could finally bend down to tie them, my foot had swollen too much to get them on.

The joy I bring you today is that, thanks to compression garments and a bit of dedication, I am proudly sporting my favourite converse. They’ve taken me for my first walk in them for nearly nine months and I loved every minute of that walk.

In the big scheme of things, I know that this may seem very small. For me this is a huge victory. I’m returning to ‘normal’.

I am seeing a lot of ‘this soon will pass’ with regard to the virus. If you’re going through a tough time with treatment, or with any problem at the moment, remember it will get better. There was genuinely times last year when I thought I’d never be back to ‘normal’ and that ‘normal’ has still been altered as I will forever be on the wheel of check ups and scans now. But always congratulate yourself on your personal victories. Write a diary if it helps you remember and compare how you felt at your worst to how you feel today.

Enjoy your weekend and remind yourself how well you are doing.

Cocooning, shielding – call it what you will

I’ve been struggling to think what to talk about, hence the lack of blogs, but I see that people are still looking back on old blogs so I thought I’d better check in.

Since my last blog, I was due to have my usual clinic appointment at CUH but, obviously, that couldn’t go ahead. But I did need my bloods to be checked. For this I would have to risk a trip to my GP.

With everything going on, I haven’t ventured further than the end of my road for weeks now and it felt really weird to even drive the car. OH has been driving it constantly and I had to do a swift switch of music. I kid you not, he had been playing a Christmas CD.

The fantastic GP receptionist had asked me to ring her when I got to the back door. She was fully masked & gloved up and ushered me into an empty office. Next thing, the nurse arrived in – obviously masked & gloved – and had that needle in my pathetic vein before it had time to argue. I was in & out in less than 15 minutes. I felt like the Man from Uncle!

I’ve not heard anything subsequently, so I have to assume all is well. More good news – my blood pressure is levelling out at 118/78. Either my body is finally getting used to Mr T & Mr M or I really liked being smuggled in & out of the doctors!

OH has become my personal shopper and, whilst he takes this mostly in good part, it does mean I have to confess when the wine/mini eggs/hobnobs have run out. It also means there is an increase in fruit, veg, gluten free bread and bizarre fruit juices in the house. I suppose he has to be given brownie points for trying.

On a serious note, I am incredibly grateful to be living with someone who can do these things for me. It must be so difficult for those living alone to have to ask for help now. It would be far too foolish to risk a supermarket. The people we are seeing in the news, not heeding Social Distancing, are being so selfish. As I said before, we might not look poorly but here is the practical truth of it. There is a triage in place and if I was to catch the virus and require hospitalisation, a lack of ventilators would mean a doctor would have to make a choice to give that ventilator to me with a much shorter life expectancy or to someone without my medical history. These are the things you need to keep in your head.

I always worry on these blogs that I will tell you the same story a second time & if I go back to read old ones I get distracted and don’t post a new one, so I’m hoping I’ve not told you this little dip into my past.

OH reminded me of this as I was trying to persuade him to buy me the newly produced Apple Jameson Whiskey. I really am quite partial to a whiskey and don’t like it mixed with anything other than a couple of ice cubes and a roaring fire.

We visited the Jameson Distillery in Dublin with a group of friends visiting us from Yorkshire. I think it’s moved venues now, but still worth a visit when we’re all out of lockdown.

At the end of the visit you go to a tasting session where you can volunteer to taste six different whiskeys & bourbons. Obviously I stuck my hand up. Myself and about 5 other tourists were selected and we sat down at a bench table with an A4 piece of paper in front of us. There was six different shot glasses. The tour guide talked us through each one and asked us to taste them.

At the end, she asked us to put our favourite into the circle in the middle of the sheet. Only when I looked around at the other ‘tasters’ did I realise that you were only supposed to taste each drink. I had drunk them all.

I had nothing to put in the middle circle! The American lady next to me supplied one of her bourbons so that I had a middle drink. Then the tour guide said ok, go ahead and drink that one…..

Dear Reader, it was only when I went to the toilet in the pub next door that I realised just how drunk I was. I pushed open the door and apologised to the lady behind the door. Except it wasn’t another person, it was a mirror and I was apologising to my reflection. Three ladies at the basins sniggered quietly at me.

That’s me done for today but let me finish by saying please don’t feel alone or afraid on your own right now. I am only sitting at home, so if you want to message me here, on Facebook or Twitter, please do. I will respond and maybe make you smile about something.

Take care & stay well. Here is a little photo for your pleasure – the wonders of Snap Chat, covers up the teenage acne!

Mother’s Day – A weird one

I always find Mother’s Day a bit weird. Our mum passed away a long time ago. I don’t say that to be vague, we’re just not the type of family that remembers dates, anniversaries and things like that. It’s not a lack of respect, it’s just how we are.

I’m the youngest of five children (they stopped when they reached perfection). We don’t speak to each other constantly, we have an occasionally used WhatsApp Group, but we know we all love each other without anything being said. I guess that’s the gift our parents gave us. We are independent, we don’t get in a huff when someone doesn’t call or forgets a birthday (lucky in my case as I can be a bit hopeless). When we do get together we have a great time.

Our parents taught us how to love life, every bit of it. They taught us how to party too!

When I think about my mum now, I realise she must’ve been quite a risk taker. She was Scottish, born & bred. My dad was Welsh.

Any other previous suitors would’ve been Forces related because of where they lived. And she opted for a Welsh bank clerk who really wanted to be a vicar. Her poor parents!

Her risks went on throughout their married life. My dad worked for the Civil Service and they lived in Scotland, England & Wales. Can you imagine hoiking your 5 children, dog and 2 cats the length of the country when you can’t drive yourself?

Then another big risk – my dad decided to take up the one thing he had always wanted to do – become an Anglican vicar. As a younger man his father wouldn’t let him join the church, he wanted him to earn a good wage.

He went off to Theological College and mum kept everything going at home. As a teenager I’m quite sure I wasn’t the least bit impressed by this. But I am now. What a woman! And what a great wife.

There were never any blazing rows in our house. Well not between mum & dad. Me and my maths homework may well have lead my dad to raise his voice more than a little.

The best thing we all learned from mum is our sense of fun (and possibly how to flirt outrageously). I think I told you before, when my brother worked abroad, she would take a huge amount of enjoyment driving his Fiat X19 around without the roof, waving at other X19 drivers – mostly young men. She loved it. The sound of her stilettos could strike fear into any young teacher’s heart on Parent’s Evening – she wasn’t to be trifled with.

As we got older, she had various office jobs. Again, unnoticed by me at the time, money must have been tight. She made friends with a fabulous group of ladies who all shared her wicked sense of humour. Their cheese and wine parties on a Sunday afternoon were the thing of legend.

She never batted an eyelid when a boyfriend might turn up for me or my sisters, only to have to cover for us as we were out with someone else. Actually, she loved to have a chat with them in the kitchen all about their lives.

So when I say I find Mother’s Day weird, it’s not that I miss her, it’s that I’m really sorry she wasn’t around long enough to see us grow up enough to realise what a great woman she was.

At this terrible time when we can’t be with our loved ones, make sure you have a chat with your mum on the phone today if you’re lucky enough to still have her around. If not, just stop and remember some great times together, not in a sad way but in a joyous celebration of their lives.

I’ve a heap of photos below. I tried to pick the ones that showed her personality and how lucky we were to have her as our mum

1948 apparently

1953 on her wedding day
Says on the back of this The Two Glamour Pusses!
1973 in Scotland – I’m the cute one obviously
There’s the twinkle in the eye!
Right in the middle of all the fun – probably just heard a rude joke
Probably the source of half of my problems melanoma wise but look how happy we are. Also the holiday I leaned I liked alcohol!
Looking gorgeous

Happy St Patrick’s Day…a very quiet one

It is indeed, a very quiet St Patrick’s Day here in Waterville and across the whole of the Republic of Ireland. This time last year Roger was being forced into his shamrock bandana and I was digging out my shamrock boppers – yes, I do have head wear for every occasion.

This year is so different. No Rog, no parade and probably only a very small amount of drinking later this evening and that will be at home.

Myself and OH disagree on many things in life – he literally could watch an episode of Only Fools & Horses, switch channels, watch the same episode and still laugh his head off at the same joke he watched an hour earlier. He would rather watch the same film over & over than risk a new one he might not like. I like new films and new programs, a new plot with a twist – yes please. He likes pineapple, I think it’s the devil’s work. I could go on forever, but the point is these are the small things. On the big stuff, we generally sing from the same hymn sheet.

Immunotherapy was a big decision and one that we really didn’t agree on. OH is a fitness, healthy type. When I first met him he used to drink raw eggs – the thought of it turns my stomach. Thankfully he didn’t stick with that for too long. But he does believe fruit & veg can cure all & it has been hard for him to watch me go through these side effects without saying I told you so. But he has done it, is doing it, and has been incredibly supportive (even if I suspect he is now sick of discussing teenage spots and annoying coughs).

The other big thing we do not agree on is the Corona Virus. Here in Ireland the schools are closed, the pubs & restaurants are closed. The roads are virtually empty as more & more people are choosing to stay at home to stop this awful thing spreading. I completely agree with this and am really shocked the UK is taking so long to act.

OH thinks we are all over reacting and being lead by the media. This has lead to several heated discussions in our house! Whilst he is happy for me to stay away from everyone, he can’t seem to grasp the enormity of the situation. Believe me when I tell you, I am a great arguer. Truthfully OH doesn’t stand a chance against me once I get going but I know he is just keeping his opinion to himself now in order to avoid my wrath.

So for those of you in the OH camp, let me say this. I don’t look poorly – well apart from the spots and I’m not great without makeup to be honest – but my immune system is compromised by Mr T & Mr M not to mention recovering from a rather major operation. I am not in the minority. So many people don’t look poorly but deal with their illnesses quietly every day.

Our immune systems cannot fight this horrible virus without hospital assistance. Much as Cork Hospital has saved my life, I have no desire to be back there any time soon.

Please think carefully about your actions. Think who you might be coming in contact with. We can all get through this just fine if we keep on thinking of others.

To get off my soap box and leave you with a smile I will tell you that I have eaten all the mini eggs OH thinks he stashed secretly – he can have his opinion in his own time, not mine. That last egg was particularly delicious.

Happy St Patrick’s Day – next year will be an enormous celebration.

The one thing I can still do is go out walking in our wonderful countryside. Here is a little photo for your pleasure. The beach & the sea is still my favourite place but this beauty is a very close second

A delayed International Women’s Day

This time last year on International Women’s Day I gave all the ladies in the office an envelope and some paper. I asked them all to write a compliment about the other ladies in the office and slip it into the envelopes on their respective desks. It was a lot of fun, the buzz around the room was like a Friday before a long weekend! Some people commented on physical things like fabulous hair or well shaped eyebrows. Other people wrote about how a smile lights up the room and how much a cheery word is so appreciated; how much a moment of support had meant to them months before. It was such a great day.

This year I found myself struggling to find the right thing to put on Facebook/Twitter to really express how much International Women’s Day really means to me. I am always in awe of the ladies who hold down a job whilst bringing up their families. How do you get children to school on time and yourself to work, with make up & hair done? I’m hard pressed to get myself there without turning up in my pyjamas!

Since starting immunotherapy my twitter has changed from following mostly dogs & cats to finding lots of people going through a similar treatment. It’s not quite as much fun as cats & dogs but it is informative sometimes and always supportive. Today I saw this and it was exactly what I wanted to say about International Women’s Day.

Sometimes friends text me with problems they’re facing and then say they’re sorry because they think what I’m going through is worse and they shouldn’t trouble me. Not so! Every problem is always easier solved when you share it with a friend. Share away, that’s what your friends are for. Besides, I have a heap of time on my hands so a real life problem is much more interesting than a binge watch of Dawson’s Creek (current guilty pleasure).

Whilst the corona virus is, indeed, very serious, it actually afforded me some very good news. Because the hospital has cases of the virus, my appointment could not go ahead and my scan results had to be given over the phone. Ready? My scan was ALL CLEAR! That means that there is no further spread and Mr T & Mr M are doing their job. It means that all these side effects are worth it.

I continue on with the treatment and regular scans to make sure Mr T & Mr M don’t start to slack in their duties.

For now this incredible news is dulled a tiny bit as fatigue is this seasons side effect and is wiping me out but I know a good thing when I see it and I may have shed one or two tears of relief when I put the phone down.