A month of F ‘n G’s. And a plea for a well deserved vote

via A month of F ‘n G’s. And a plea for a well deserved vote


A month of F ‘n G’s. And a plea for a well deserved vote

After a pretty rotten start to the year, things just had to get better.  And they flippin’ well did.

Starting off with a very exciting G.  Jo’s first book, Sticks and Stones, has been shortlisted for an award! The winner will be announced at the Harrogate Crime Writing Festival on July 19th.  She’s in ”The Dish Served Cold Best Revenge Thriller’ category.  It would be fab publicity for her second book, Safe House, which will be published on 31st October.  I’m having the boys that weekend and we’ll be anxiously waiting by the phone.  Please vote for her at Dead Good Reader Awards

F is for fjords and a Fred Olsen cruise.  Me and my sis started the month with a week cruising up the fjords of Norway.  So relaxing and beautiful, sitting on the balcony (sipping wine, of course), as we sailed from one destination to another.  A huge ‘thank you’ has to go to Dottie for upgrading us – a lot of money but worth every penny.  The food was fabulous.  I took my swimming cossie with every intention of working off some of the calories I was consuming ….. but I wasn’t brave enough to venture into the on-deck pool!  G is for glaciers – an awesome sight but so sad that they are shrinking due to climate change.  I knew Norway was going to be expensive, but ….. 899 Krona (about £83) per kilo for lobster!!!!!!

F number 2 is for Fleetwood Mac.  A legendayr band and a brilliant performance from the moment they came on stage and struck the first chords of ‘The Chain’.  In a 52 year career there was never going to be time to play everyone’s favourites.  But they did play a few of mine and acknowledged founder member Peter Green and played ‘Oh, Well’ and ‘Black Magic Woman’.  He left in 1970 after they fell out over his wish to give the band’s earnings to charity.  I won’t go to see another gig at Wembley Stadium again – the staging was not good.  Sound quality not the best and it was like watching ants on stage …. even the screens at the sides were small.  And £6.50 for a mankey hot dog?  Really?  A brucie bonus was getting to see Jo and Grace (step-daughters) who, amazingly, had seats close to mine!

G is for Grandsons.  Grannie’s pride and joy.  They finish at the junior school soon. Danny is head boy and Alex head of sport.  Danny came 2nd in the Derby Arts Festival playing a piece of music he hated and hardly practised – ‘In the Hall of the Mountain King’.  This year Derby House won the school’s sport cup for the first time in 13 years.  And Alex scored a conversion in a Legends v Derby rugby match.  Looking forward to the school play next week; Danny is playing a princess!  It’ll be emotional, tissues required.

Gooseberries – a bumper crop this year and still more to pick.  Gin, curd, jam, jelly, chutney, gooseberry and ginger cordial …. running out of recipes.  More gin, I think.  It’s rather good shaken with fresh mint and ice then mixed with tonic, soda or, even better, prosecco.  Gooseberry fool for pudding today


Another G  …. Grimsthorpe Castle.  It’s been busy with new events being added to the calendar meaning more visitors.  As well as hosting it’s first ever Forbidden Forest rave, we had the Great British Food Festival and, this weekend, it’s the Baston Car & Bike Show.

A quick family health update.  I’m doing absolutely fine!  The breast cancer hasn’t grown at all in the last 6 months – phew, what a relief.  Tooth finally extracted and no healing complications – luckily Guillaume was on hand to drive me home from the hospital.  Just waiting to hear back from the Head and Neck department about the ‘hot-spot’ on my thyroid.  I’ve been appointed to the NHS England Radiotherapy Clinical Reference Group – delighted!  I’m now going to stop applying for stuff ….. I think that plus NHS England PPV Cancer Forum, NCRI CTRad and NCRI CSG Late Consequences is enough.

Jo’s been having more tests following her mini stroke.  Contrast MRI and contrast Echocardiogram done and now waiting for a consultant appointment.  She’s still not fully recovered, but will she slow down?

And a final F for a family of house martins who’ve built a nest in the studio.  They have 5 babies, not a brilliant photo but I didn’t want to startle them with a flash.

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Another update soon, after the Harrogate Crime Writing Festival.  Fingers crossed|

2019 ….. rewind and start again please!

The family has not had the best start to the year ….. things can only get better.  We’ve a lot to thank our wonderful NHS for.  Loads of scans – MRIs, CTs, PET/CT, mammogram – plus ECG and echocardiogram.  But there’s definitely some good stuff to look forward to.

So, a health update first, starting with Christmas.

Alex started feeling poorly on Christmas eve after we got back from the annual feudal (James’s wording)  carols, mulled wine and mince pies hosted by Lady Willoughby de Eresby at Grimsthorpe Castle.  We were all up at 4.00am, not through excitement in anticipation of ripping open presents, but Alex in pain with parotitis …. again … poor lad.  An out of hours appointment arranged at Stamford Hospital – (hurrah for our NHS) – a massive rib of beef was hastily ensconced in the oven.  Getting that appointment proved a lot easier than finding an open pharmacy.  Then he got shingles closely followed by mumps.  Both twins have had their MMR vaccinations – Danny was protected but Alex was one of the 22% who aren’t.   My generous grandson passed his shingles onto me!  Thanks, Alex.

A real shocker was Jo being ambulanced into hospital.  She’d been under a lot of stress meeting the deadline to have edits finished for book number two, Safe House, and two days later she had a TIA (mini stroke).  Her blog tells the story How a ‘Year of Yes’ backfired  She’s doing OK and is being kinder to herself. Not easy …. she’s a perfectionist with her work and does so many rewrites, never being 100% satisfied!  And a bit of a control freak.  Having to let go and allow other people in to help is alien to her.  But a lesson we should all learn from.

Both me and Jo have had head MRI scans …… and 2 totally different experiences.  Hers was post TIA.  Mine was to investigate weird sensations and aches in my face – long term effects of previous cancer treatment?  Or something else?  The question needs an answer……  We both had our MRIs on a Saturday – no problems with parking or waiting times!  I know I don’t cope well with the MRI scanner.  I don’t suffer from claustrophobia but the first time I was slid into the tube it felt like being put in a coffin.  Panic button pressed and a second scan appointment made, this time accompanied by Valium.  So, I was prepared this time, took 2 Valium, changed into NHS ‘pyjamas’ and hopped onto the scanner bed.  Panicked again!  Luckily, I had 2 more Valium in my bag.  I mentioned to the team I wish I’d brought an eye mask with me.  ‘Oh, we have one if you want’.  Eye mask put on.  I mentioned that I’d had music played before to help counteract the noise.  ‘Oh, we can play some music if you want’.  Music put on ….. and then it stopped.  Horrible, long experience.  But job done.  Jo went in to her MRI expecting it to be difficult.  But what a difference a team makes.  She was given ear defenders (I wasn’t) AND told there was a mirror inside the scanner, angled so that she could see her feet at the bottom of the tube (helps to relieve feelings of claustrophobia).  Why didn’t I know that?  Something else to put in the book me and Sian are writing – ‘For cancer patients, by cancer patients’.

Results are back.  Jo’s was clear.  Mine showed a ‘post pharyngeal suspicious mass’.  Head and Neck appointment arranged which was a bit of a waste of time.    The registrar was very nice but hadn’t read my notes.  I must admit I didn’t feel like making it easy for her.  ‘You have a problem with your teeth’.  Yes, due to radiotherapy damage, teeth have to be removed at the hospital.  Still waiting for an extraction date.  The CNS was sent off to find out about the delay.  The chair they use has been broken for 3 weeks and they don’t know when it will be fixed.  ‘You’ve been having problems with feelings in your face’.  Yes, that is why I was referred for an MRI.  So, then we finally get to the scan results.  After a feel around my neck, she goes to get the consultant.  Mr Laugharne discussed options – but it was rather disappointing that as I hadn’t yet been discussed at the MDT, nothing had been decided.  Mmmm.  Booking the next clinic appointment was hilarious.  The receptionist only spoke to Jo … it was a bit like ‘does she take sugar?’ …. as if I wasn’t there.  Communication skills training required, I think.  Anyway, I phoned after the next MDT as instructed and was told I’d have an ultrasound and FNA (fine needle aspiration).  A bit surprised as that was one of the options I’d thought we’d dismissed – ultrasound by itself doesn’t show if it’s cancer and an FNA doesn’t always hit the right spot.  I was expecting either a PET/CT or regular MRIs to monitor growth.  But I got a letter from Nottingham PET/CT Centre – that’s what I wanted – and had that done yesterday.  I was late – there is no signage at Nottingham City Hospital for the centre.  It’s tucked away separate from the hospital …. the receptionist came out to find me.  The patient information on their website ‘Reducing Patient Anxiety’ is fab ….. if only they’d included a map of how to find them!  Excellent facilities, lovely staff, on time, vein for injecting radioactive fluid found first time.  InHealth are a private company, you can tell the difference.  The scan not too harrowing, better than an MRI, worse than a CT.  But no Valium needed.  Apart from being radioactive for a while, feeling headachy and wobbly (partly because I had to fast) and the stress of being late, it all went smoothly.  I’ll get the results at clinic on Monday.  An anxious wait – it could be breast cancer metastasis (possible), linked to previous Parotid cancer (unlikely), a 3rd primary (really unlucky!) or …. just a lump.  Fingers crossed!

It’s a bit of a long update (sorry) but I’ve been waiting for a gap in rotten stuff happening which hasn’t appeared.  But there have been some good bits! 

Jo’s book ‘Sticks and Stones’ was released in paperback 2nd May – I bought yet another copy in Sainsbury’s and proudly paraded up and down the aisles with it in my trolley!

New additions to the family!  Welcome to the world, babies Finn and Rosie – and congratulations to Jo and Libby.

I did my bit helping to raise cash for Marie Curie (not the most flattering outfit I’ve ever worn).  We raised over £800!

Me and Guillaume went to see John Fairhurst – an amazing guitarist and singer/songwriter, the son of  two of Tony’s oldest friends.  Plug – his new album ‘The Divided Kingdom’ is out now.  He’s been called the British Jimi Hendrix and son of Eric Clapton.  If you’re off to Glastonbury, he’s performing there again this year.

Danny came 2nd in the Derby Arts competition, despite hating the piece he had to play – In the Hall of the Mountain King – and having done minimal practice.

A big thank you to Robbie for MC’ing our Burn’s Night supper – fab job and he still looks good in his kilt.  The haggis received lots of praise – ‘the best I’ve had’, ‘I didn’t think I liked haggis but ….’.   A big thank you Manthorpe butchers.   The St Patricks’s supper was a great sucess too …. though it took some time for me and Mary to recover from cooking Irish stew for 50+ people.

Lots of visitors and meals out.  A few special mentions for a few special folk  – Fran, Gill, Dave and Jenny, Ruth and Johnny, Fr Pat and Sue, Pete and Jan, and the girls (Heidi, Nat and Char).

I’ve taken on a couple of new roles:   I’ve been appointed to the NHS England PPV (Public and Patient Voices) Cancer Forum and the NCRI CTRad Group.  Mental note: must take heed of Jo’s advice on not doing too much!

Good things on the horizon!  Looking forward to cruising up the fjords with sister Dottie in a couple of weeks.  And off to see Fleetwood Mac in June.

Apologies for the long blog …. next one will be shorter


A Happy Christmas and a look back at 2018


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Christmas greetings to everyone!  Rose Cottage is waiting for Alex and Danny’s arrival on Christmas Eve before the tree goes up …. Tony would definitely approve.  To accommodate Jo’s current fascination with rose gold, there will be a theme, but the boys’ decision is final.  Christmas carols at Grimsthorpe Castle (Alex may or may not accept a balloon from Lady Willoughby this year) and roast rib of beef for Christmas dinner.  Sooo looking forward to it.


This year has seen arrivals and departures.  A new Wolfarth joined the clan, Finn Martin.  And we’ve lost some irreplaceable members of our families.  Maz (Tony’s sister), Meecha and Ellie.

On the cancer front, I had really good news this month.  The Anastazole is working and the cancer has only grown by 2mm in 3 months.  So the plan is to carry on with the drugs, 3 monthly check ups with oncologist Pam, and …. even better ….. CT contrast scans 6 monthly.  As good as Gary in the chemo suite is, it took 5 attempts to insert the canula this time, one of which hit a nerve  so I now have pain in my right hand and middle finger. Obviously knowing that the cancer was growing and remaining drug-free was not a realistic option was a bit of a blow.  But the future is looking good!

The highlight of the year has to be the release of Jo’s first book, Sticks and Stones AND the signing of a further 2 book deal with Penguin Random House UK and Canada.  USA have signed up for a second book.  The book launch at Waterstones Derby.  Numerous book festivals in England and Scotland.  And with book number 1 due to be released in France, Italy, Poland, Greece, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary (I think I’ve covered them all), life is exciting.  Jo’s been working her socks off getting the second book written and edited (not quite finished yet) – she deserves a well-earned break over Christmas and New Year.  And then onto book number 3!  I have to give son-in-law James a huge pat on the back.  A fabulous supportive husband and father.  For all sorts of reasons, it had been a stressful time and not an easy ride.

I have lots of happy memories to bank for 2018.  Catching up with old friends at Rose Cottage… Stephan (my  Rolls-Royce Dutch lodger), Frederique (Anglophiles Academic organiser).  A weekend in Glasgow with sister Dottie and seeing Jo perform at the Bloody Scotland book festival.  Catching up with Josephine and Grace (step daughters) and walks with Baldrick, Coco and Ariah on Crantock Beach in Cornwall. Seeing the Rolling Stones and Paul Simon with Ruanne.  Successful Church events – the most fantastic haggis for the Burn’s Night supper and marvellous Irish stew and music for St Patrick’s celebrations (hard work but so worth it).  Maz’s funeral – both a sad and joyous occasion catching up with the Wolfarths, sobbing at the crem singing ‘You’ll never walk alone’.  And so many friends have been here for me, too many to mention, but thanks to you all!

Let’s hope 2019 will be a good year!  Already booked is a cruise up the fjords with my sis, Fleetwood Mac in June ……




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?