Week of 11 September

If you are a fan of the GBBO, then you may remember Christine Wallace from Didcot who was a Quarterfinalist from the first series.  She opened my first craft fair back in 2014.  Well she does ‘bake with me’ workshops from her kitchen.  So Sue (who lives round the corner from her) and I made macarons: a scrumptiously scrumptious salted caramel with a gooey caramel filling and a deliciously delicious raspberry with white chocolate ganache filling:)  Here’s Sue with the orange coloured salted caramel ones.  YUM! Sue managed to keep her apron immaculate unlike me.  I just get food colouring everywhere…

         

A top tip we learnt was to limit use of wooden spoons as they could harbour fatty deposits and are definitely no good for meringue making nor for stirring caramel ingredients; use a metal spoon for these. 

I did a second workshop this week: wired jewellery making.  It was a lovely couple of hours and I have mastered the art of using pliers to make round loops which are key to wired jewellery making. So I went away with some dangly earrings and a couple of bracelets.  Dead easy when you know how!

Jeremy, Mum and I popped into the Yew Tree garden centre and we had a coffee with a little star shaped shortbread biscuit.  A nice idea for a little something sweet to go with the coffee. Jeremy and I were back at Basingstoke Hospital this week and, in the Blue Café, I had a super chocolaty chocolate brownie before our meeting with Mr Cecil.  The Arc Centre was preparing for an auction that evening of all the painted bookbenches – part of the ‘Sitting with Jane’ idea celebrating Jane Austen – in aid of their cancer charity.

Mum and I had a coffee and shared (a term used loosely as I had the lion’s share) a slice of Victoria Sponge at Angelina’s.  It was a lovely golden colour and very moist with just the right balance of jam and buttercream filling.  It spurred us on to look at their range of carpets for her hall and stairs…

The cake highlight though was at my favourite place in Newbury: The Tea Cosy.  Here is my slice of the very decadent Chocolate Bar Cake. 

Thank you Penny. I’m sure it was my turn to pay.  The cake was constructed with Kit Kat bars decorating the top and bigger one propped up all round the sides of a fabulous chocolate sponge with caramel.  It was scrumptious!

There’s certainly nothing wrong with my energy levels, which shows my immune system is functioning perfectly well.  In addition to the above, I had yoga, tap dancing, 2 aqua aerobics classes, an aqua zumba class, aromatherapy, reflexology and reiki this week! My current lifestyle is all about feeding and nurturing my immune system.  As soon as I start to get periods of tiredness, I’ll know that my immune system is struggling to cope with the growing cancer.  But on that note, mulling over Mr Cecil’s conversation (see last blog entry) Jeremy had asked him about the original tumour (Dr Jackson had reported it as being of ‘no worry’ and ‘it’s stable’).  Mr Cecil, who as a surgeon uses CT scans all the time, said in a long reply, that ‘the CT scan doesn’t give enough detail’ ….and in another sentence, ‘cancer can just disappear’….  Looking back, was he saying that the original tumour had shrunk/gone?  As a medic, he’s hardly likely to admit it as it means the complementary therapies have worked…  Interestingly, CT scans give enough detail that someone can be declared as ‘’all clear’’.  I’ll question it more when I have the next quarterly scan which is actually due in 4 weeks.

Must go and pack now for the next adventure…

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Mr Cecil says….

So today we saw Mr Cecil the surgeon to better understand his comment, following my recent scan, to Dr Jackson: ‘as I am in such good health then more chemo would be best’.  It didn’t make sense to me and also it didn’t seem to fit with the last conversation we had with him in May.

We now understand Mr Cecil’s thinking about extending life and reducing the chance of new cancer growth. A second round of chemo now is, we agree, the better option.  The door is not closed to surgery but when the right ovary (which has grown 2cm since the January scan) becomes a really pesky pain, then surgery will be appropriate.  The original tumour is stable.

I could still have the whole schbang (hysterectomy, bowel section and stoma) but it’s the recovery time that will set me back and affect my mental and physical wellbeing. So my views on not having that because it won’t cure me haven’t changed. So we would be looking at the removal of the ovaries once they become an annoying nuisance!  But of course by then it won’t be keyhole surgery!!

He also repeated that considering my situation (stage 4) very few people respond so well to chemo… Let’s hope my luck doesn’t run out in the second round…Bring it on!

Week of 4 September

Mamma Mia! I’ve had a ball this week and with all the food and drink feel like one! Jeremy and I went to Italy and stayed at The Hotel Vu D’Or situated 4 km up in the hills above Sorrento. We had a fab view from our balcony over Sorrento, the Bay of Naples and Mount Vesuvius. We had a really interesting and varied week with many cake and non-cake highlights. The reason for booking this tour were the guided tours – Pompeii and Herculaneum both destroyed by Mount Vesuvius when it erupted in AD79. I preferred the latter as there are complete buildings giving you a real flavour of life in Roman times although actually much remains from the earlier Greek period. The best finds are at the Naples Museum which was another fascinating guided tour and well worth it. Here’s Jeremy with his Caprese Chocolate Cake after our Pompeii and Naples excursion. Our hotel waiter was very amusing. ‘’You’re incredible’’ he’d say randomly to people. After choosing from the menu he’d say: ‘’very good choice’’ and then after Jeremy had chosen ‘’ahh, not so good choice’’!  Were we in Faulty Towers?

We did enjoy going to the Island of Capri and especially up the chair lift (I can say that now) from the town of Anacapri to see the fab views from Monte Solaro. It was day 4 and we had perfect weather that day. The day after our arrival we had torrential relentless rain; the first rain for 5 months so some tours didn’t even make it to Capri. The roads are very narrow on Capri yet the cars don’t seem as dented as in Sorrento. There are some fab open air stretch taxi’s with an awning on 4 posts to keep the sun off. Meanwhile, we travelled in the group mini buses. There were so many people in Capri town it was like the first day of the Oxford Street sales! I’m glad we didn’t go it alone we could still be waiting in a queue for a bus now! For dessert that night we had Riccota Cake. Looks like someone has stuck their fork in mine already…

 

Day 6 and the tour went to Positano, Amalfi and Ravello. We sat in the front seat of the coach enroute to Amalfi and the views of the coast line were stunning. The Italians take great risks when weaving in and out of cars and that’s not just the scooters. Our coach driver did a great job while we just watched the traffic coming at us with our eyes getting wider! Bignet for dessert tonight!! An overlarge profiterole stuffed with cream – overlarge and stuffed just like us by now!

We did get free time and one morning we walked from our hotel further up the hill to a sleepy village called St Agata and stopped for a coffee at The Smoking Cat café (you didn’t misread it) where the local men were playing cards. Here’s Jeremy checking his phrase book… In the bowl on the table they had served some amoretti biscuits and mini almond madeleines with our coffees. Not homemade as I later found these ‘Playtime Madeleines’ (for a kiddie lunchbox??) at the supermarket. We then walked all the way down the rather steep, winding and knee creaking footpath into Sorrento, rewarded ourselves with some fresh pasta but got the bus back up!

On our last night the chef went crazy and there were cakes galore at the gala buffet dinner! The very large cake is the Sorrento Lemon Cake which consisted of a very light sponge. But the best was the limoncello baba. Remember rum babas but with limoncello instead!!  Mamma Mia!

                       

Well this week we did lots, saw lots and sampled lots: gelato, limoncello, bruschetta, limoncello, biscotti, limoncello – you get the picture! We had a great time!

Week of 28 August

Ever been to a tea room in a stud? I went for coffee and cake in the Sefton Tea Room prior to my appointment with Alan the hypnotherapist. I had a slice of Kay’s double decker coffee cake. She had covered the sides with coffee icing too and drizzled thin lines of chocolate all over. It looked lovely but she had kept it in the chiller cabinet so the sponge and filling was more solid than had it been displayed under a dome! I received meticulous service there. Must have thought I was an inspector! Not the first time that has happened. Then I spotted the sign on the way downstairs to the exit: ‘Please be quiet on the stairs. Horses training’. No wonder I had got a long hard stare from a rider from under his hat. I was wearing my clip clop leather soled shoes on the wooden stairs!

I see Alan the hypnotherapist once a month now for a ‘top up’ . Like the Heineken advert, he can reach parts (deep into the unconscious mind) that I can’t reach. This week, I also went to hear a talk about Future Life Progression from a hypnotherapist and found it very interesting and a little emotional. He did some exercises with the group and the techniques to relax us were the same as Alan but with a different planned outcome John asked our unconscious minds questions: ‘’what can you see?’’ I’ve update the hypnotherapy pages if you’re interested.

So the highlight this week was the summer clan gathering comprising 3 generations. It was a lovely day; we were able to spend it in the garden with a lovely BBQ and some games.  It’s been nice enough weather this week to sit out with a cuppa and listen to the birds twittering from the shrubs, bees humming in the Himalayan Honeysuckle along with the frenetic whining wasps.  Noticed what noisy flyers pigeons are?

Guess where I had this fab chocolate brownie? Recognise the plates yet? The Blue Café at Basingstoke hospital! The chef had added pistachio nuts – different.  Liked the chocolaty bits best!  I returned to see Dr Jackson who had discussed my case with the surgeon Mr Cecil. The result is that I am going to see Mr Cecil next month. If I don’t have surgery then Dr Jackson advises that the next round of chemo would be Irinotecan with fluorouracil and folinic acid!

Anyway I’m preparing for another adventure so I’ve more interesting things to think about right now!!

Week of 21 August

‘’C’mon Twerp!’’. Everyone at the Brixham bound bus stop turned to see who the term of endearment was aimed at. A tall grandfather figure walked passed us all with a dawdling small child. Both wearing green wellies and sucking on lollies!  I had been over on the Kingswear ferry to sunny Dartmouth for a mooch around as the town prepared for a regatta. Once back in Brixham, where I was staying with Gaynor for a couple of days, I went to Millie and Me café as recommended by Gaynor and had a Malteserlicious cake. And it was! I met up with Gaynor later after she had finished work and we went for the obligatory fish dinner when one is by the sea – at Rockfish. Very nice hake! Previously, I had been staying with Julia for a few days at her country retreat at Newton Ferras near Kingsbridge. Whilst there, Julia and I went across the estuary to see Noss Mayo (a village not a jacket filling…) and dined at The Ship. Very nice local scallops! After supper we walked along the headland there to look at the view out to sea but due to the rain we saw nothing but cloud. So we returned there another evening as the sun was setting and walked around the headland which can be seen from Julia’s and admired the view from every seat along the way. Another nice coastal walk was from South Milton Beach Café where we had lunch at a table with a view over the bay. Very nice local scallops here too!   We walked around the coast to Thurstone and found a Gastro-bus parked on the cliff top offering a really varied menu. Their seedy flapjack was probably the nicest flapjack ever! Another walk was an interesting one around the nooks and crannies of Newton Ferras and along the estuary where we enjoyed watching people messing around on the river., especially paddle boarders.On our return to Julia’s we rewarded ourselves with some of her beautifully iced homemade carrot cake!

Julia and I also had time for a trip to Plymouth and the Hoe where we saw the Beryl Cook exhibition, saw the Wave (remember the Tower of London poppies) and went up Smeaton’s tower (the lighthouse). That evening Julia, Hilary, Gaynor and I met at The Oyster Shack near Bigbury. Very nice crab soup! Very nice spider crab gratin! We said goodbye to Julia and that’s when I went with Gaynor to stay in Brixham for a couple of days. Gaynor and I saw Hilary again, after she had sailed the high seas of Torbay, for an aperitif and dinner at the Breakwater Bistro. Very nice turbot! In the morning, Gaynor and I did eat some cake when we shared a slice of raspberry ripple victoria sponge at a surprisingly empty Brixham Lido before heading off along the coast path to Berry Head (without paying as well…) Approaching Berry Head I remembered and phoned them. So we went onto St Mary’s Bay then back for lunch at the Guards Café on Berry Head. Very nice seafood chowder! Then, I popped in to settle the debt and apologise profusely. Oddly, no one else had sampled the pretty raspberry ripple cake. It had apparently been baked by ‘’a little old lady’’. I had visions of her transporting her cake in a trolley bag trolling gingerly down the steep footpath to the Lido with it….

It has been perfect weatherise this week to eat and drink outside. I have fond memories of Julia’s balcony looking out to sea over the fields and tree tops and of sitting in Gaynor’s garden overlooking Brixham harbour with the Sally Brass Band playing Abba’s Dancing Queen…..

Week of 14 August

You know, you have to deal with whatever s**t life throws at you – (see last post) – and just carry on. So today I went to a cartoon drawing workshop (2 kiddies and 8 big kids) where we started by drawing animals and then on to people. Then Simon did a cartoon of me! Haha

     

It was a lovely morning and I enjoyed a fiendishly, fudgey and filling fudge cake served by the Stockcross Village Shop. Then I went clothes shopping! Very therapeutic!

This week, Jeremy and I did a walk that took in the Wittenham Clumps, a spot favoured by artists. We walked through a lovely arboretum owned by the Earth Trust which had 50 species of trees and shrubs native to Oxfordshire. There was an upright apple tree with great red baubles for apples – it positively glowed from a distance. I felt like Eve in the Garden of Eden being propelled to this inviting tree and helping myself! They were delicious (Eat Apple. Be Happy!) It was a steep climb to the top of a Clump which we did together without stopping and well worth the view. Jeremy and I also went to the Hawk Conservancy this week. Their displays are excellent and there’s much to keep you amused all day.  Our favourites are the owls.  We chose a dry day fortunately as we knew the birds of prey would not want to soar very high in the rain….

On to cake highlights. I ate rocky road twice this week! Once at the flower arranging afternoon at St Georges. Here’s a picture of Mum and I with Ann and Fenisia.  It was a random conversation that Fenisia and I once had where we found out we had both lived in Raynes Park. Her dad and brother had hairdressing salons there and Mum and I went to her father’s salon. I was a small child and it was her Aunt Rosina who cut my hair – very, very short l add. What a small world! It was a fun afternoon and I gave my arrangement to Pat my reflexologist who I saw later in the day.

Then the second rocky road (and the tastiest) was at the café in the Willis Museum with Julia and Jenny. Yes , that is a rocking horse in the corner! We went on the Jane Austen trail around central Basingstoke in the sunshine finding some quite nice parts of Basingstoke we didn’t know….

I stopped at the Blue Café when at the hospital but it was nearly closing time and  the choice of cake was limited and I  chose a shortbread to nibble on whilst reading the newpaper headlines waiting for Jeremy to arrive.  Then we went onto see Dr Jackson after.

Also, I met up with Mum this week in Angelina’s.  I went straight from my aromatherapy session (it’s my third free one and I said to Anthea that I would continue with her sessions after the last freebe) so my skin was glistening and my hair greasy. I think I looked like I’d been caught in a rain storm!  There, my eyes fell in love with the Angel Sparkle cake…

 

 

 

 

Good and Bad News

So I saw Dr Jackson, Oncologist today for the results of the latest scan.  Whilst the original tumor is stable and there is no new cancer to report there is some bad news.  The cancer that had spread to the ovaries, although reduced during chemo, has started to grow.  I fortunately have no physical evidence of this – no abdominal pains for example. So I am to be referred back to Mr Cecil to discuss surgery to remove them.  So I will see Dr J again on 31 August to hear the surgeons view.

It’s a shame, but you have to ask what would the situation be had I not followed all the complementary therapies?  Would the bowel cancer even be stable? We’ll never know.

My next move is to continue with the:

  • Complementary therapies: daily oxygen and juicing therapies, aspirin a day, weekly reiki and reflexology and monthly hypnotherapy and aromatherapy
  • Supplements: boswellia serrata, Vitamins A, D3  , K complex, hemp oil and bromelain

My next move is to introduce the following:

  • Increase Vitamin D3 to 2 a day as suggested by Cancer Options
  • Increase the hemp oil to 2 tbsp a day to be taken with the Vitamin D3
  • Take 2-3 drops of Cannabis Oil 2-3 times a day (sold legally in Holland and Barret I add!!)
  • Drink Wheatgrass juice first thing each morning

How am I feeling?  You may think this odd but I feel blessed.  I actually have a lot to be grateful for….

Week of 7 August

The wind whispered through the wheat ears and our shoes crunched on the gravel as Jeremy and I strode out on the Cherhill White Horse walk. This part of Wiltshire has small, undulating fields of differing green and brown hues. A random beam of sunshine turned the wheat golden and gave grassy patches a lemony and limey tinges. At least behind my shades it did! We finished the day at Avebury; expensive car park! I blagged a used ticket off someone leaving as I had no change for the machine! We got to the café in time for scones and tea. Goodo! The girls behind the till looked exhausted. I can only guess they had served hundreds of tea and scones before ours!

A high point this week, haha, was going to the open air roof top spa at Thermae Bath with Shirley and Carole. The weather forecast was dubious. We met in the wet at the Holborne Museum and after looking around and having lunch we moved onto the Spa. With cloudy but dry weather predicted late afternoon we firstly tried out the indoor pool before venturing to the outdoor one. Then blue sky emerged and the sun shone on us for the remainder of our session there. What luck! No cameras allowed so I can’t show you my yummy chocolate brownie in their café. I had a hot chocolate drink too served as a glass of hot milk and a mini jug of melted chocolate on the side. Delish!

Another high point was a trip with Sue, Marion and Judy to Highgrove Gardens – yes the third time this year! We met at Lyndseys , a café in Tetbury, before the tour and I had a chilled millionaire slice. It had beads of condensation on so not fresh obviously! In Highgrove Gardens, the delphiniums were over and had been chopped back but the foliage gave structure to the beds which had varieties of pink flowering plants. Still looking good but June is best, I’ve decided. We ate there after the tour and had a Gardener’s Tea: half a sandwich plus scone with jam and clotted cream. I waddled back to the car!

Well, my MINI and I have been on an adventure this week to the coast starting at Emsworth where I visited my  ‘secret seat ‘ at the end of a road called ‘The Fishermans’, and whilst drinking my take out coffee, a lady joined me there. ‘’ It’s bait to the soul’’ she said. Bait? Must be the fisherman’s wife!! It’s her ‘hidden bench’ and she loves the view too. Then a second woman came down the steps. ‘’I’ve locked my mother in the car’’ she said dramatically ‘’so she can’t wander off’’. She plonked herself down and gazed out as we were. Another in need of feeding her soul…..

Stayed at Langstone overnight and then visited Bosham followed by the stunning mosaics at Bignor Roman Villa.  Here I have a slice of Victoria Sponge taking in the view of the Downs. It was a perfect summer day!  Then on the way home I stopped off at Chawton and popped into Jane Austen’s house.

Such a shame that the Saturday Aqua classes at the Regency Leisure Club have stopped. Most of us on off-peak have cancelled our memberships and going elsewhere. Still Marj, Anne Marie, Chris and I met for a cuppa and natter at the Discovery Centre. I had the first slice of their lemon curd cake with a white icing topping. Very nice!

How do I get on with the oxygen and juicing therapy when I’m away you may be wondering? I’ve found Bioglan Supergreens/Green Boost – dried ingredients to add to spring water as a temporary fix til I get home to juice fresh cauliflower, broccoli and beetroot. And the oxygen concentrator is too bulky to travel so I really hope that deep breathing exercises will help….

 

Week of 31 July

Ever been to a tea room inside a reclamation yard? We did – Barrs Yard in Hungerford. The outlook from our table was garden salvage – rows of plinths, statues and pots. We had a sense of being in the garden of a stately home…Luckily, Mum didn’t want to purchase anything as most was too big for my car boot and much was bigger than my mother! Honesty cookery school own it but the cakes aren’t made by the students although my Mini Matcha Cake could have been – it was a particularly unspongy sponge! I think my eyes fell in love with the pink icing!

This week, Marion and I had a catchup at the Discovery Centre. We walked round the lake and saw plenty of mallards and coots but none of the less common but more interesting birds – pochards, grebes , etc – they’re either on holiday or miffed that the centre no longer sell duck food. But we were very happy with our huge slices of delicious home made coffee cake…

A high spot this week (haha), Julia and I went to the National Trust’s Vyne property to walk around the platform on the roof looking down over the chimneys as work was being undertaken to renovate the roof. The workmen below us had the hard hats presumably incase a lax visitor drops the contents of their handbag over the edge. I guess a lipstick dropped at height becomes a missile. And of course before leaving we enjoyed a cuppa and I had a scone complete with Rodda, NT jam and a delinquent wasp high on the smell of sugar. I took home a lovely bunch of dahlias fresh from their garden.  Not pilfered by the way…

     

So Shirley, Karen and I met up at the Tollgate Tea Rooms on the A46 towards Bath. It was lovely meeting up for lunch but luckily none of us had soup for our waitress was a dead ringer for the Julie Walters character in ‘Two Soups’! But it was all part of the quaintness of the place! Karen was on her ‘lunch hour’ and with the dire weather it was great to just stay and chat.

It was lovely to see Nina and Chris for coffee this week. It seems like ages since we had a natter. Nina had made some delicious flapjacks. And I got to catchup with Penny at the Christian Aid coffee morning where I was helping out. I was asked if I could help out on the cake stall (of course not!) with Sonya which meant I had first pick of the cakes and purchased a delicious coffee cake to take home. It looked very professionally done and the baker hadn’t skimped on the icing. Nice!

The lemon drizzle traybake (bottom left of the photo was very tasty too) – lots of lemon and lots of drizzle! The coffee morning raised £468! Amazing! The bric-a-crap table did exceptionally well – it was like watching bees round a honey pot. No wonder we raised so much!

You know, Jeremy and I hooked up this week 19 years ago at a curry night; we belonged to a walking/social club. It was 2 Aug 1998. The date would have been my father’s birthday but he had died the year before. I remember wondering if it was prophetic….And did you know, spiritually, the number 2 is of union…

Week of 24 July

Don’t Give Up! said the invitation to a Jehovah’s conference lying on the doormat.  I needed those 3 words; my focus has been faultering in the lead up to my second quarterly scan.  Dr Jackson’s voice has been ringing in my ears ”the cancer will grow back in 4-6 months”.  It is now 7 months.  So it felt like a  personal message to get me back on track.

Whilst at the hospital for the scan this week, I popped into the Blue Café and had the first slice of their gluten free carrot cake….Yum!

But the two high points this week were: the ‘flight’ on the Brooklands Concorde and a visit to the RA Summer Exhibition! Ron and Liz are members of Brooklands and we joined them to look around the huge number of exhibits there.  The learned volunteers make interesting listening and consequently lots to absorb.  Whilst there, we had a gander inside Mercedes Benz World next door – like everyone else.  But the best was sitting inside Concorde and experiencing the multi-sensory simulation of a take-off!  The next day, Fiona and I attended the Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy.  Another lovely day. We wandered round the rooms with a very civilised glass of sparkling wine in one hand and a guide book in the other critiquing the exhibits.  A couple of hours viewing required some sustenance in the tea room after with a delicious Gooey Chocolate Cake!

I met up with Carolyn this week for a catch up at the Yew Tree Garden Centre and had the first slice of their Lemon Drop cake.  Very moist. Very zingy!

Also this week, Mum and I continued with the Jane Austen trail and found another couple of ‘bookbenches’.  One was at the Old Basing Tythe Barn – one of the largest Tythe Barns in the UK. Then onto Viables Craft Centre where we stopped at the delightful tea rooms there and shared an enormous slice of toffee cake.  I’ve never seen so many freshly baked cakes on display. Funnily, it was empty of people when we arrived yet the waitress said, ”have you booked?” and ” I’ll just have to check if we have a table”.  Fortunately, we were squeezed into the empty tea room successfully!

         

I’ve been very lucky to get 4 free aromatherapy sessions agreed by the Newbury and District Cancer Care Trust and had my second this week.  I arrived for it already feeling very chilled from the session at the Global Retreat the day before so no surprise I floated out after the massage…