Bloody Scotland (the event, not the country), and more broken bits and bobs


It’s been an eventful couple of months.  The broken foot has healed nicely although still a bit swollen and sore – I’m making sure I keep my physio exercises going.  I can start swimming again, although to be honest, I’m a little less enthusiastic about that now it’s getting colder and darker.  The broken foot has now been replaced by a broken tooth and a broken toe.  The tooth will have to wait until after I’ve been back to see my oncologist – NHS dentists won’t do extractions or invasive work on areas that have been damaged by radiotherapy.  The toe (although colourful) is not too painful!  The one benefit I’ve discovered from having peripheral neuropathy – numbness – in my feet (post chemo side effect).

The appointment with Pam (oncologist) in August was not one I was looking forward to.  But a late cancellation meant I could have an hour with Kirsty (clinical psychologist) beforehand.  Tumours have grown by about 30% in a few months so staying off drugs was not an option on the table.  We agreed I could go back on Anastrazole – it worked keeping the cancer at bay 15 years ago with relatively few side effects.  So far, so good.  Some side effects but soooo much better than Tamoxifen.  No guarantee it’ll work again, but as Pam said, we’ve got time to give it a go – ‘it’s not life threatening’ – and we’ll see what the next scan reveals.  Contrast CT scan in November (oh joy) and back for results December 8th.



Jo’s been a busy author appearing at the York Festival of Writing, the Bloody Scotland festival in Stirling, Humbermouth in Hull and Ashbourne Library (and probably others that I’ve forgotten!)  Bloody Scotland was bloody brilliant.  A packed ballroom at the Golden Lion Hotel and Jo did so well, much more that ‘holding her own’ on a panel with two hugely sucessful and prolific authors – a vociferous American, Alexander Sokoloff, and the lovely witty Sophie Hannah


Taking full advantage of having Guillaume at Rose Cottage, me and sister Dottie pulled in 2 days of visiting Glasgow before joining Jo in Stirling.  What a fab city! Free museums, cathedral, friendly folk, cheap trains that run on time and free parking.  Too much to see and too little time.  Definitely going back and we’ll stay in the same excellent  Kincaid House Hotel    It was so nice that Dottie got to meet the team behind Jo – her editor Jade, agent Imogen, and press officer Mia.  An unexpected and unplanned brucie-bonus was the chance for the 3 of us to have a rare night together at Dottie’s home, sharing an 80th birthday present of a bottle of Moet & Chandon Rose Imperial.

Autumn is the time to call in the chimney sweep – this year it was a new guy recommended by the Grimsthorpe estate, who rocked up in his van sporting Sooty and Sweep puppets strapped to the bumper. After much tut-tutting and ‘who ever did your chimney last didn’t do a good job’,  he looked at the crumbling fireback …… and ‘condemned’ it.  No fires until it’s replaced.  Merv from the estate came to measure up, and no surprises, it’s not a standard size.  Nothing at Rose Cottage is standard.  But a replacement has been found and, fingers crossed, it should be fitted next week. Merv’s anticipating that ‘it won’t be a simple job’.  Nothing at Rose Cottage is simple.

Then yesterday the central heating boiler packed in.  It does it at least twice a year, unsurprising at it is ….. years old.  How Chris the engineer manages to keep it running is a miracle.

Highs and lows of the last couple of months.  Where do I start??????

The day of my friend Frederique’s arrival for a holiday was emotional.  I hadn’t seen her since Tony’s funeral and was really looking forward to meeting up again.  An hour before she arrived, Baldrick took me to a place under the hedge where I found my beautiful puss Meecha, dead.  Meecha had struggled a lot this year with feline asthma, and I think that’s what killed her.  Known affectionately by some as ‘Tripod’, she was more like a dog than a cat, coming on walks with Baldrick and Coco no matter what the weather was like.  She was the speediest cat on 3 legs. I miss her so much.


A highlight of Fred’s visit was going to see ‘The School for Scandal’ at Tollethorpe Hall.  Well staged, fantastic costumes in a beautiful setting.  Yummy picnic in the grounds before hand with friend Johnny.  Definitely booking tickets for next year to see ‘Blithe Spirit’.  Anyone up for it?

I’ve got a new ‘job’ ….. in August I was appointed as a Patient Rep to the NCRI CSG for Psychosocial Oncology and Survivorship.  To try and put it simply, National Cancer Research Institute is the umbrella that sits over those organisations that fund cancer research.  Most of the Clinical Studies Groups focus on specific types of cancer.  The one I’m on doesn’t.  It has 3 workstreams: Understanding and measuring consequences of cancer and its treatment; Lifestyle and behavioural change; and Interventions to improve outcomes in people affected by cancer.  I’m off to Glasgow again in November to the NCRI International Conference – using Guillaume’s as a dog/cat/cottage sitter again!

Guillaume is a highlight.  Having got his degree from King’s College London in Politics Philosophy and Economics (well done that young man), he’s back again, this time to do his Masters!  So down to London again and back here most weekends.  A special mention has to go to sister-in-law Jan who has given her VW Polo to Guillaume to use.  Generous lady; lucky Guillaume.



Whilst mentioning Jan, I can’t let the opportunity pass without welcoming an addition to the Wolfarth clan.  August saw the arrival of Finn Martin, Jan and Pete’s first grandchild.  Huge congratulations to parents Jo and Eoin. He is gorgeous!

As well as visiting Scotland in September, a notable stop over en-route was Chorley.  Not on everyone’s list of must visit places.  But notable for being the home of long time friend and wedding cake maker Karen, my god-daughter Eleanor and sister Sarah.  I cannot believe how grown up Eleanor is!  A beautiful young woman.  And Head Girl of her school.  Can’t wait for her coming to stay in 2019.


And while we’re taking about Heads of schools ……. grandson Danny is Head Boy of Derby Grammar School and grandson Alex is Sports Prefect.  How marvellous is that?  I acknowledge that I may be a little bit biased but what excellent choices the school has made.

Jo’s book was released in USA and Canada on September 11th under a different title ‘The Exes’ Revenge’.  Brilliant reviews!

There are only a few negatives ……. Rose Cottage disappearing off the radar as far as bin collections are concerned (rants to the council and formal written complaints ongoing)  …… upsetting, unkind and unjustified posts …… and of course the loss of Meecha.

There are so many people out there who continue to be brilliant at helping me in one way or another.  Family and friends, Church, Grimsthorpe, fellow cancer people.  Apologies that I don’t keep in contact with you all as often as I would like (I’m rubbish). Thank you!  God bless.





Sticks and stones and broken bones……..



July has been both an exciting and painful month.

Thursday 12th …..  Jo’s book launch at Waterstones.  It went off without a hitch.  Loads of lovely people turned up – Jo’s agent, editor and publicist ….. old uni girls …. friends and family.  Alex and Danny were charming,  doing a fab job handing round nibbles (in between playing in the Harry Potter cupboard under the stairs).  A HUGE ‘thank you’ to everyone who made the evening so special.  I almost didn’t make it.  Ready to head off to Derby, I fell downstairs.  And before you ask, no, I hadn’t been drinking.  High on excitement and anticipation mixed with peripheral neuropathy (thanks chemo).  There was no way I was going to A & E and risk not making it to the launch.  As luck would have it, I’d arranged to go to the launch with a friend who picked me up, bundled me in his car and got me to the launch and home again.  Thank you, Johnny Martin!  Painkillers, Prossecco, Arnica and a comfy chair meant I could sit back and enjoy the celebrations.  And I had to try the red wine too….. 01566751dd3bd1f3ff9293640841412808d149b0ba

Friday the 13th ….. I woke up with a swollen, painful foot (I’ll spare you the photos) and just knew I had to get to hospital.  Five stars awarded to Stamford Minor Injuries unit and my taxi driver, Helen Martin.  An hour and a quarter after arrival, I was on my way back home with a diagnosis of a fractured 5th metatarsal and fitted with a cumbersome big black boot.  But whoever ordered the new wheelchairs deserves the sack!  Even NHS staff find them difficult to push …. and the only way to ‘drive’ them is backwards!

My movements have been severely curtailed.  What a buggerance.  A big benefit of living at Rose Cottage is that the dogs can walk themselves.  The downside is no transport links, so friends are vitally important.  Big thanks to Gill, Ru, Caroline and Terri for helping with shopping, trips to the hospital, ferrying to Grimsthorpe Castle and Church.

July’s highs and lows.

Obviously, Jo’s book charts at Number One.  Following the launch, ‘Sticks and Stones’ has been reviewed in The Sunday Times, The Guardian, The Mail on Sunday, Take a Break ….. How marvellous is that!  Looking out for the article in Derbyshire Life.

At Number Two, it’s the Paul Simon ‘Homeward Bound-Farewell Tour’ in Manchester.  Both me and Ru thought it was even better than The Stones gig last month.  The final encore with Paul standing alone in the spotlight with his guitar, singing ‘Sound of Silence’ and ‘Homeward Bound’ made hairs stand up on the back of the neck.

Number Three equals good food and good friends. The support of friends ….. as well as those already mentioned – Dave and Jenny, Lucille and Andrew (all food connected!)  The Six Bells deserves a link and mention for excellent food and service.  And catching up with Stephan, an old lodger from my days with Roll-Royce, who appeared with Dutch gifts of chocolate and waffles was special. Finally, big thanks to Wai Lup Wong and members of the Cancer Clinical Imaging CRG for the beautiful flowers and chocolates.


Fitting in somewhere between highs and lows is Mary (Maz) Mazonowicz’s funeral.  Tony’s sister.  Once again it made us think about the Wolfarth family meeting up for something other than a funeral!  Great to celebrate the ‘nutter’ that Mary was, question her ability to keep a secret (a little worrying for work colleagues at GCHQ), and sob our socks off whilst attempting to sing ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’.

And the lows.

I guess Number One has to be the latest CT scan results. I’ve enjoyed 8 months of being cancer drug free and felt so well.  Unfortunately, the tumours in my shoulder are growing.  So discussions on options will be had late August.  Poo.  But on the positive side, no new metastases.

Number Two is the fractured foot. Aside from the discomfort: being on your own, unable to do normal stuff, and living in an isolated cottage is not easy!  Hoping that after my Fracture Clinic appointment on Friday I’ll be able to drive again.  Fingers crossed.



Sticks and Rolling Stones

June has been an absolutely fabulous month.  Mostly.

1st June rocked up with Jo having the ‘Debut Author’ slot on the opening day of the Derby Book Festival.  She was on BBC East Midlands News and did an amazing job – unfortunately the link to the interview was only there for a day so don’t try looking for it.  Although she was convinced that few people would be interested in coming to see her on Friday evening, the studio was packed!  Seeing the book in print at last and Jo being a proper author signing them was a goose-bumps moment.  One proud mum fit to burst.  Made even more special with Uncle Mick and Aunty Mary Jakeman being there, my mum’s sole surviving sibling.


19th June was the much-anticipated Rolling Stones gig at Twickenham.  Never having seen them before (I’d always been more of a Beatles fan), the opportunity to see them in the future might not be an option!  Me, Ruanne and Marge were mere youngsters compared to some in the audience …… and those on stage.  James Bay was the support act, a bit of a disappointment.  But it must be a hard job performing whilst 55,000 people are waiting for the Stones.  And the wait was well worth it.  Mick Jagger’s voice is as good as ever – and so are the moves and the energy.  You forget what great guitarists Keith Richards and Ronnie Woods are, but then they have had more than 50 years of practice to get it right.  Charlie Watts has the smallest drum kit in the business and his dead-pan expression never changes.  The sound of 55,000 people belting out ‘I can’t get no satisfaction’ – the last song of the night – would have lifted the roof off Twickers (if it had one).  The journey back was a nightmare.  Problems at Waterloo meant Twickenham station was closed.  Major delays with so many people trying to get on shuttle buses or walking to other stations.  Finally got home at 3.20 am.   But a truly a-maz-ing night.


20th June saw Jo sharing the bill with Anton du Beke at a book event in London.  She thinks she’s peaked.  A-maz-ing!


June has been a month of bites, stings and ‘sharp scratches’.  I shouldn’t have ignored the unmistakable high pitched whine of a mosquito in the middle of the night. In the morning I had 9 big bites …. which became infected.  So a course of antibiotics prescribed.  Then I was bitten by a neighbour’s Rottweiler!  Normally a friendly girl.  It was a nasty one, so back to the doctors for a tetanus injection.  I learned something new – if you’ve had 5 tetanus jabs, you’re covered for life.  My 3 monthly CT contrast scan was booked for last week.  As no one could find a suitable vein to inject the contrast dye on my previous appointment, I was booked into the chemo suite to have an expert fit the canula.  Hmmmm.  That didn’t work; 4 nurses, 1 doctor, 2 hours and 7 failed attempts.  No scan.  The receptionist couldn’t reschedule my scan ( I had attended my appointment, so another referral was required!)  So I was impressed to get a call the next morning with a new appointment for 4th July.  Less impressed that I would go through the same palaver again.  Chemo suite, various staff trying to insert a canula etc etc.  Well, not exactly the same again – this time with different staff who would hopefully have more success!!!!!  Preparing to ring my oncologist and have a rant, I got another call.  I’d been beaten to it and Pam had agreed to a consultant being on standby should I need to have an ultrasound to guide the canula in.  Bracing myself for more ‘sharp scratches’.

It’s been a while since I last ‘blogged’.   Having exhausted the therapies St Barnabas had on offer, I started Tai-chi.  Unfortunately, due to my numb feet, I was concentrating so much on not falling over that  I wasn’t learning the moves.  Frustrating.  So I tried yoga.  That only lasted for a couple of weeks.  My back pain got worse.  So I thought I’d try swimming and joined Bourne leisure centre.  Unlimited access to pool, sauna, gym and classes.  I had to miss a week while my mossie bites healed – I think I would have been thrown out of the pool.  Now back on track and the pain is easing.

Pros and Cons – Highs and lows – Endings and Reconnections. 

Getting older isn’t much fun but …..

I used my Senior Railcard for the first time this month – £26.00 to see the Stones, £16.50 to meet Joy in Birmingham for lunch.  Bargain!

Senior Membership at Bourne Leisure Centre £20.65 per month.  Bargain!

Since I ditched the cancer drugs and antidepressants, I’m sleeping better,  have more energy and feel so much sharper and positive.  Kirsty, my Clinical Psychologist, has been brill (although every time I see her I tend to end up in floods of tears!)

After 14 years, our Peer Review patient group has been closed down …… we did not fit with NHS England Patient Public Voice processes and structure.  The thing we were most proud of was the ‘My Cancer Treatment’ website, developed with Macmillan funding and supported by cancer charities.  It didn’t fit with NHS Choices …… and it was removed.  No notice.  No consultation.  Me and Sian Hallewell (co-chairs of the national group) remember 2 former members – Keith Foster and Steve Brothwell.  They put so much energy and passion into the website.  Sadly they, like the website, are no longer with us.

I’m taking more time to re-connect with friends who I haven’t seen for ages; Karen, Catherine, Cherylyn.  There are others on the to-see list!  And the last couple of months have been busy for meeting and eating – Heidi, Nat, Joy, Caroline, Helen, Pete and Jan.  Great company, great food.

Another blog coming soon ……. after Sticks and Stones is officially launched on July 12th






It’s a new year, it’s a new day, it’s a new life ……. and I’m feeling good!

Well, not exactly a new life, but a new attitude towards life.

Before moving on to a new year, time to say goodbye to friends that we’ve lost and remember the love they gave us.  Ellie, Bramble and Hastings.  So sad to have to let them go.


Despite reservations (mainly from my daughter) I’ve kicked the Tamoxifen into touch.  Too many debilitating side effects.  Severe hot flushes, day and night …… relentless.  Difficulty in sleeping and tiredness …… unsurprising considering the hot flushes.  Anxiety and depression ……… resulting in drinking too much!   After 3 weeks of being Tamoxifen free, I started to feel so much better.  So then I made the decision to gradually wean myself off the Sertraline.  This antidepressant drug has similar side effects to Tamoxifen and in addition, can make you feel suicidal.  I experienced that last year.  But now I cannot believe how much better I feel – and realise how unwell I have been over the last 18 months.  I actually feel more like my old self again ……. albeit with high levels of fatigue and low energy levels.

But I’m working on it.  I need to be as well as I can be, because 2018 is set to be a fabulously exciting year.  Sticks and Stones, Jo’s first book, will be released as an e-book on 12th May, a full 3 months before the hardback release on 12th July.  She has book deals in 8 countries world-wide, whoop whoop!!!!!  The Penguin marketing team see Jo as ‘the complete package’  – sorry to embarrass you Jo, but that made me blub…..  I am so proud of you as a woman, for being who you are, never mind being an author.  Enough said.  So Grannie needs to gird her loins, boost energy levels and be ready to spring into action should grandsons require attention, taxi services and feeding whilst Jo is on the road promoting her book. Sticks and Sones – read the first chapter. I haven’t yet, I want to read the whole book in one sitting!  And check out  Jo’s blog

I had been looking forward to Christmas for the first time since Tony died.  It was scuppered a bit by me coming down with the rotten cold that has been doing the rounds.  But we managed to fit a lot in as a family. The week before Christmas,we had a lovely lunch with Rosemary in Nuneaton.  She was gobsmacked at just how much food the boys can pack away.  Then a Christmas meet up with members of the Jakeman family (Jo is publishing under my mum’s maiden name of Jakeman).  Seeing cousins who I had not seen for almost 60 years (that makes me feel sooooo old).  Thank you Uncle Mick and Auntie Mary for organising it.  What a fabulous pair.


Christmas Eve at Grimsthorpe Castle was ‘feudal’ (to use a son-in-law James quote).  Invitees were estate tenants, workers and our family members. I qualify on 2 counts!  A proper carol service in the Vanbrugh Hall delivered by Andrew the local vicar (his church is part of the Grimsthorpe estate).  A HUGE Christmas tree, mulled wine, mince pies, chocolates and Lady Willoughby de Eresby giving out balloons.  Graciously accepted by Danny.  Politely refused by Alex.


And a picture of Rose Cottage’s more modest Christmas tree, decorated by Guillaume


Back home for supper in front of a roaring fire, the opening of a couple of presents and an evening of Trivial Pursuit, Harry Potter version ……loved it!


Unfortunately, I then came down with a rotten cold.  Struggled down to Mass on Christmas Day with Dottie, James and Danny – I was reading the lessons and bidding prayers and managed to get through without sneezing or coughing.  Jo and Alex were left at home in charge of the turkey.  Lovely lunch accompanied by a bottle of Bollie, a wedding present from Becks and Amy, which had been put on ice waiting for an appropriate celebratory event.  So a toast to Jo’s book.  And a glass raised to Tony.  The Bunts went home early, and I went to bed.

New Year passed by uncelebrated as I spent most of the time feeling rough and in bed.  Poor Dottie went back to Cumbria with my cold, I guess there was no way that she could escape the germs.

I don’t do New Year resolutions, but ……

I AM going to do something nice with family and friends once a week.

Birthday lunch at The Six Bells  at Witham-on-the-Hill with Joy and Steve on Jan 5th.  A belated birthday lunch at The Queen’s Head Sleaford with Helen and Caroline Friday 12th.  There seems to be a theme developing here ……  Star Trek on 16th with Ruanne.  And a Burn’s night supper at the church on 25th January.

And I’m raising a finger or two to people and things that wind me up, draining the limited energy that I have!  That may seem selfish.  But hey ho.

A ‘good stuff’ round up of 2017:  

A call out to Heidi, Nat and Char – a once a year meet up is just not enough!  So good to meet up with the old team before Christmas.

She doesn’t do internet stuff, (a self-confessed Luddite), but my sis Dottie is an absolute brick supporting both me and the Bunts.  Looking forward to a planned trip up the Norwegian fjords in May.

So many people have been here for me and I don’t want to leave anyone out.  But special mentions to Jo and Guillaume – pruning the walnut tree, stacking logs, digging garden.  Stuff I can’t physically do.  Fr Clem, Fr Pat and Sue …. special people, special prayers and masses so appreciated.

Lucille and Andrew, Dave and Jenny, Butch and Sally …. great food shared with great friends.

A fab catch up with Karen, Eleanor and Sarah.  We will do it again … and soon.

Pete and Jan, Robbie, Johnny, Felicity, Corryn, Terri, Mark, Sharon ….. so many more people.  Thanks to you all for being there.

So, what next?

I’m back to see Pam Woodings (Oncologist) on Thursday.  Results of CT scan and a forward plan. I am totally laid back about the results,  I guess after 4 cancer diagnosis and a scary lump that turned out to be ….. just a lump …., there is no point in trying to second guess. We’ll see what other cancer drugs are on offer.  I’m running out of options but Pam did say she has another one in mind.  As I’m feeling so well at the moment,  I’m willing to give any drugs a go …..  and then assess whether they’re worth it, quality of life wise.  We’ll see.

Finally …. Thanks to St Barnabas Hospice and my Macmillan Community Nurse.   I had a Holistic Needs Assessment and was linked into loads of support.  counselling, Mindfullness, Advanced Fatigue Management,  Relaxation.  Grateful thanks to all the professionals – and those of you who have been on the end of drunken telephone calls!  You know I appreciate your non-judgemental support ….. xxx


Shrinking tumours. Sticks and Stones. October 2017….. a month to remember for fabulous news


Discovering yet another lump in my right armpit in September was not what I wanted to find.  A 3rd cancer in 18 months would just be so unfair!!!!  Did this mean the Tamoxifen isn’t working? What’s the next treatment option?  If it’s come back so quickly, has is spread?  Derby turned up trumps yet again.  A speedy appointment with a consultant whose name I can’t remember but a dead ringer for the Rev Richard Coles.  CT contrast scan booked.  I was dreading it after the last one (5 failed attempts at inserting a canula and then the vein collapsing mid-scan and contrast dye pumped into surrounding tissue).  So this time I stuck to my guns and refused to let anyone one other than an expert attempt to canulate me.  It worked.  A handsome young doctor found an elusive vein at the first attempt and all went smoothly.

The next 8 days were a long, nail-biting, painful wait for the results.  Interspersed with the church Harvest Festival Lunch and a visit from Joy and Steve (thank you Dottie for lunch ingredients – artisan prize winning Cumberland sausage and black pudding), and Lucille and Andrew bearing practical gifts for me and the dogs.  Thank you all!

Thursday 12th.  An anxious wait in Specialist Outpatients with Jo.  Feeling slightly sick.  And twitchy.  The most interesting thing to read in the waiting room was a W.I. magazine article entitled ‘Extreme Knitting’  – I kid you not.  Made me and Jo chuckle anyway.  Have never felt so pessimistic about a diagnosis.  So it was totally amazing and unexpected to hear that the lump in my armpit ….. is just a lump!  They don’t know what it is.  But it’s not cancer.  So no-one gives a diddly-squat.  But even better …. the 3 inoperable tumours in my right shoulder have shrunk.  How good is that???  I heaved a huge sigh of relief.  Jo cried.  Danny gave me the biggest hug ever.  Alex’s reaction was a little more reserved but that’s just Alex (I know he cares a lot).  And a bear hug from James.

I slept well that night, accompanied by a large glass of Jammy Red Roo, an extremely licky Baldrick, and a snoring Coco.

Friday 13th proved to be anything but unlucky.  Jo’s book was ‘revealed’ at long last.  Lots of jumping up and down with excitement.  I am NOT going to read the first chapter (although sorely tempted) but will wait until I get my hands on the published hardback next year.  There’s lots of interest out there …..  Please share with your friends and contacts.  Wouldn’t it be amazing if this becomes a world-wide best seller? Click on the link below.

Sticks and Stones

She’s publishing under my mum’s maiden name and you can follow her on Twitter and Facebook under Jo Jakeman.

It’s been a weird year for fruit, flowers and veg.  The Christmas cactus is already in full bloom. There are loads of different types of mushroom in the fields – I was tempted to pick and cook this one but decided against it.  And the tomatoes have aquired some interesting shapes ……..






Carpetright? More like Carpetwrong!

It’s been a while ….. and a lot has happened.  So this is the first of a number of posts.

I have a brand spanking new downstairs shower room!  Thank you Peter Dobson for a fab job and Grimsthorpe Castle for paying for it.  The installation has not been without it’s problems though.

Really happy with the loo, sink/vanity unit and shower unit from Victoria Plumb. Bargain half price tiles from Wickes.  You’d think a little thing like ordering  2m x 3m vinyl flooring from a national company wouldn’t be difficult.  But……

A visit to Carpetright in Stamford resulted in flooring selected, ordered and paid for, plus fitters booked.   Then it all went pear shaped.  The fitters turned up as planned to screed the floor. An appalling job!  Lumps, bumps and ridges instead of a smooth surface to lay the flooring on.  They had to come and redo it.  And then the flooring didn’t arrive.  Although the computer said ‘yes’, the flooring was out apparentlyof stock.  The suppliers couldn’t say when more would be available.  I went ever so slightly ballistic (I’m not known for being volatile).  Carpetright blamed the computer system  And the suppliers. Meanwhile my PPP (Patient Plumber Peter) couldn’t complete the job so had to work around it.  I did feel slightly sorry for Alex at Carpetright when I phoned him – he gave me 3 options.  The first was to wait for delivery of  what I’d chosen but there was no guaranteed delivery date. Number 2 was to choose a different flooring.  And number 3 was a full refund.   Unfortunately he said ‘It’s not your fault.   Of course it wasn’t!!!!  He got a right earful from me……and then I went onto ebay and ordered the same style flooring at less than half the price which was delivered free within 3 days.

Amazingly, after I’d lost the plot with Alex, Carpetright managed to ‘find‘ in stock flooring within 2 hours!!!!  Too little.  Too late.  Why oh why does it take a customer going ballistic to get anything done?



Mmm. Choices. A slow inter-muscular injection into each buttock monthly? Or back to where I started 16 years ago ….. on the old ‘gold standard’ Tamoxifen?

But at least there are options available.  I owe everyone who has left messages asking how I’ve been doing a huge apology.  Sorry chaps, haven’t had the energy to get back to everyone.

And so to continue ……

I wasn’t the only family member at Derby Hospital on 27th April.  Alex fell at school resulting in a double buckle fracture in his right wrist.

How to cheer up a poorly grandson

My post-op consultation with Mark Sibbering was mostly good.  Flying solo for this one as not even Jo can been in 2 places at once (see above).  I would urge everyone to take someone with them to clinical appointments – I couldn’t remember everything Mark said but a letter arrived a few days later spelling everything out clearly.  Tumour completely removed. Grade has moved up a notch to a Grade 3 invasive ductal carcinoma.  The results from the Fine Needle Aspirate of the ‘unusual nodes’ in the infraclavicular gave a suspicious (but not definitive) result for malignancy.

The only way to be sure is to remove the nodes.  But an operation is not possible.  The next treatment option would usually be radiotherapy.  But I can’t have any more in that area. So the MDT had agreed that the best option for me would to be referred back to Pam in Oncology and probably put on Fluvestrant.   Two slow intramuscular injections, one into each buttock, monthly.  Oh joy!!!  Lots of common side effects but one of major concern is a change to the way the liver works.  So regular blood tests required.  Not a terribly attractive option.  Finding a vein has become so painful and difficult, but if it works……

A week later, me and Jo go to see Pam in Oncology.  We all agree it’s ‘rather disappointing’ that the cancer returned so soon.  Pam’s been doing her homework – looking back over the last 16 years, how the cancer has changed and what drugs I’ve been on.  I started on Tamoxifen, changed to Anastrazole  because the side effects were too severe, then had Exemestane last year (which obviously didn’t work).  Weighing up the options, we agreed to give Tamoxifen another go with 3 monthly scans of the pesky nodes plus body scans. Hopefully the Tamoxifen will stop or slow down any malignant growths.  If not, then we will have to consider chemotherapy.  Again.  Scan appointment booked for August 10th.  But I am feeling positive and well! I have a fab relationship with my consultants and feel really confident that we are on the best path.

Highlights and lowlights.

Bob Dylan concert …. really don’t know which category to place this in.  He is an icon and maybe the last opportunity to get to see him.  But an arena really didn’t suit his set. There was no interaction with the audience – came on, performed, went off.  I’m pleased I went but couldn’t honestly recommend his ‘Never Ending Tour’.


A trip to Doddington Hall with Helen and Caroline – friends and Grimsthorpe Guides. And more days out planned.   A shared love of history, food and gossip.

Helping Danny with his Tudor history project.  He thought that being given Catherine Parr as his topic would be more boring than the other wives of Henry VIII.  But Katherine, 11th Baroness Willoughby de Eresby, was good friends with Catherine Parr. Catherine remarried following Henry’s death, had her only child – a daughter Mary – and died 8 days later.  Katherine Willoughby de Eresby brought up the baby at  Grimsthorpe Castle.  Fingers crossed that Danny wins the prize for best project.  If he doesn’t, there will be 2 very disappointed people.  Jo’s baking his teacher a birthday cake for tomorrow. Not trying to influence any decisions ……

Mindfulness – a free course at St Barnabas Hospice.  I’m into week 3 and getting a lot of benefit from it.  Jo bought me Ruby Wax’s book, ‘Mindfulness for the Frazzled’ which is a highly recommended read.  I’m persevering with the course and hoping I can be a trainer in a few months.

And having Josephine here.  Enough said. XX


I guess not knowing what the future holds post surgery.

Struggling to get buy in for a Grimsthorpe Castle children’s booklet.  Not giving up yet! But draining on the energy resources ….

Finally, a few images of Rose Cottage springing into life


Surgery a sprint – recovery a crawl – and a £25 car park ticket

A black and brown Baldrick and Frodo posing with tulips and bleeding heart 

I really must learn to say NO!!!

Pre-op assessment went as usual.  Long time spent doing paperwork, ECG, weight, blood pressure …… and unsuccessful, painful attempts to take blood.  Still sporting the bruises from last week’s failures, I did explain how difficult finding a suitable vein is.  Undeterred, the confident nurse said ‘I like a challenge.  Can I have a go?’  And stupidly I said ‘yes’.  I left for the next stage of pre-op clutching a Red Bag containing the form to give to the Blood Clinic.  That was always going to happen.  Chats with Physiotherapist and Breast Care Nurse, admission details and post-surgery appointments sorted, I headed off to the Blood Clinic.  Waiting room – full.  Chairs in corridor – full.  At least 20 people standing.  I took a ticket, number 179.  The displayed showed currently serving 121.  Cheerfully waving my Passport to the front of the queue, the Red Bag, I presented my ticket to the frail looking elderly lady hospital volunteer.  ‘Have you got an appointment today?’ she asked.  I explained that I was being admitted at 7 the next morning for surgery, she smiled apologetically and sent me to stand at the back of the queue.  I tried to persuade her otherwise, but she stood her ground.  There were lots of grumpy miserable folk in clinic and she’d probably had to deal with a fair bit of flack already.  Hospital volunteers deserve medals.  So I stood in the corridor.  And waited.  An hour and a half. After 2 more attempts, bloods were successfully collected by the phlebotanist and I headed off to the Pay Machine.

I stuck my ticket in and ……. amount to be paid ….. £25 !!!!!  I’d gone over the 3 hour short stay period.  NOT MY FAULT.  Storming back to Reception, it didn’t take long for them to give me a 3 hour ticket.  Still cost £4.10.  But on my way home at last.

Spent a fab evening with Becks and Amy – evening meal and bed but no breakfast. Prepared for a long wait, Becks drops me off at the hospital Wednesday morning at 7.00 am.  When she was my lodger, she’d wake up, have a brew, get showered, dressed, out the house and arrive at work all within 20 minutes.  She hasn’t changed a bit……

A swift check in:  7.20 identity checked, confirmation of procedure with nurse and wristband on; 7.45 identity checked, run through of procedure and possible complications with surgeon, skin marked up ready for surgery and consent form signed; 8.15 identity checked, discussion with anesthetist – I did warn him that my veins are a bit, well, difficult. Then it was sit back and wait.  Read my book.  Watch a bit of tele.  Dream of a bacon sandwich with brown sauce and a cup of coffee.  At last I was called through at 12.00 to get gowned up.  Identity checked with another nurse,  pre-meds taken, stuck my hand in a bowl of hot water to try to soften veins, sit back and ….. wait.   Wheeled down to the theatre area at 12.45 pm, identity checked and procedure confirmed with another nurse.  A short wait and off again.   A hop onto the operating bed, a quick hello to Mark Sibbering (surgeon) and identity checked for the 6th and final time.  I surrender my left hand to the skills of the anesthetist, clench my teeth and wish him good luck.  A vein was found at the second attempt – in the wrist, not the most comfortable place – started to count backwards from 10 and I was soon off with the fairies.

Back in bed in the Surgical Day Care ward by 2.00 pm (I’m a bit hazy about the time), obs are taken regularly and I drift in and out of sleep for a while.  After a cup of tea, 2 custard creams and a trip to the loo, I’m declared fit for discharge.  It’s only 3.10 pm! Robbie McGreggor, my taxi driver for the return journey, deposits me at Rose Cottage before 6.00 pm.  Almost pain-free, a bit woozy but feeling good.

All going swimmingly well until Friday afternoon.  Suddenly hit by a splitting headache. Followed by vomiting.  Then stomach cramps.  And lastly severe diarrhoea.  I’ll spare you the gory details – google C.difficile if you really want to know.  Sleep, water and rehydration salts for 3 days but I’m feeling much better now.  Just in time to go to my next hospital appointment!  Jo(sephine) has been a brick looking after me but now she’s not too good.  I just hope I haven’t passed this bug to her.

Tomorrow it’s back to Derby for my post-op review with Mark Sibbering.  I’ll find out what the histopathology reports are and what’s going to happen next.  Fingers crossed.

Dinner with Becks and Amy

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Plan A is going ahead – preparing for surgery

Figs, pear blossom and apricots.  Anticipating a good crop this year

CT scan on Tuesday went a bit awry.  Finding a vein to insert the canula was always going to be a bit tricky.  Lie back, brace yourself, wait for the ‘you’ll feel a slight scratch’,  followed by an apology.  Try again.  Then wait for the next person who asks, ‘do you mind if I have a go?’, and ‘you’ll feel a slight scratch’, followed by another apology.  The amazing Dr Chan was summoned and he managed to find a skinny vein in the back of the hand.  Suitably positioned on the gantry, off we go.  First pass through the scanner, done.  Then contrast dye is injected through the canula …… slowly as it’s a thin vein.  A strange warm feeling floods through the torso – by the time it reaches the nether regions, you start to think it might have been a good idea to have worn a Tena Lady.  The instruction comes, ‘take a deep breath in and keep very still’.  Something doesn’t feel right.  Pressure starts building up in the back of my hand.  Then my wrist.  Then my arm.  So painful.  Trying not to breath out or move my torso, I wave my free hand in a way that I hope is interpreted as ‘HELP!!!!!’.  A disembodied calming voice says ‘hold on Julie, only 10 more seconds to go, almost there, nearly finished.’  What a relief when the radiologists rushed in and removed the canula.  The vein had collapsed so some of the dye had been pumped into surrounding tissue – extavasation.  But enough dye had been pumped around the body for a successful scan.  To take the huge swelling down, I had to massage the hand and keep it warm.  Love the way the NHS improvises – I was provided with a knotted rubber glove, filled with hot water to place on the swollen area.  And a hot chocolate.  The waiting room was now filled with people whose scans were now late – it only takes an awkward patient like me to increase waiting times.  But what a fantastic service.  The staff work 12 hour shifts, 7 days a week.  Mr Hunt take note. It was a good job Jo(sephine) came with me as I couldn’t have driven myself home.

By the time I went back 2 days later to get the CT scan results, the swelling had almost disappeared.  Arrived 20 minutes early, feeling anxious.  What a relief to be called in straight away to be told there were no metastases and Plan A, surgery, will go ahead.  Yay!!!  Mark wanted to do another ultrasound, so a couple of minutes later I was up on a bed suitably disrobed.  Much discussion between Mark and the Radiographer.  I knew what was going to happen next when I heard ‘FNA’.  Poo!!!  Looking at the screen, they showed me 3 small ‘unusual nodes’ in the upper shoulder/neck area.  So a local anesthetic (another sharp scratch) and a lot of digging around to extract cells – Fine Needle Aspiration.  Uncomfortable, but the handsome young Registrar who was observing gave me his hand to squeeze.

So pre-op assessment Tuesday and surgery Wednesday.   The operation should be a doddle …… once the anaesthetist has found a suitable vein.

Secondary 2017 ….. back on the cancer carousel



Stanley, Jessie and Ellie.  My new favourite tulip and the first bluebells of 2017

So …. to bring my blog up to date.

Impressive appointment at the Royal Derby Hospital on 31 March.  Within 80 minutes I’d had a mammogram, ultrasound, discussion with Mark Sibbering (consultant surgeon) and core biopsies.  Came away knowing that the tumour – very evident on the ultrasound – was likely to be malignant.  Well done Jo on stomaching the biopsies – not easy on either the receiving or viewing ends.   We both left the hospital feeling ……. well, a bit disappointed.  Had rather hoped that I would have a longer period of respite.  But an appointment was booked for one week later to get the results, so no anxiety as not long to wait.

Thursday 6th, spent a fab night with good friend Jacci – a lot of talking, a lot of wine.   An amazing woman.  Check her campaign.  Dying to Work | Campaigning for additional employment protection for terminally ill workers   Got the biopsy results on Friday and, to quote Mark Sibbering, I have ‘a bit of cancer’.  By the time me and Jo left, we were feeling relieved.  Strange when you’ve just been told you have cancer.  For the 4th time.  But …… a full body CT scan booked for Tuesday 11th, and an appointment with Mark to get the results on Thursday 13th.  If no metasteses found, next stop is pre-op assessment on Tuesday 18th followed by surgery on Wednesday 19th.  How good is that, eh?????  If there are metasteses, we will have to go to Plan B.  But at the moment, there is no Plan B.

Me and Jo almost fell off the sofa laughing when Stacey, my CNS (Cancer Nurse Specialist) said I must contact my GP to arrange for a Community Nurse to do a home visit  post-op.  Well, I’ll try.  But, based on past experience with Lincolnshire Community Health, I don’t hold out much hope there.   I’m prepared to be amazed and will eat my hat if it happens.

Since my last blog I am feeling soooo much better.  Anti-depressants have finally settled down and alcohol consumption has reduced considerably.  And having Jo(sephine) here at Rose Cottage had helped tremendously.  She’ll stay for as long as I need her.  Huge thank you, Jo.




Grimesthorpe Castle opening for the new season.  Loving guiding again.

Seeing Ellie , Stanley and Jessie …. 3 lovely labs plus owner Catherine!

Dave and Jenny Burton coming for a  visit and a fabulous meal at The Six Bells, Witham-on-the Hill.  Highly recommend it.

Catch-up and coffee with Heidi – a lovely friend.

Five star rating for Royal Derby Hospital.

Garden blooming lovely!


Cancer diagnosis