Week of 25 September

Someone asked me, ”Do you pray?”.  Well, not for myself. I feel more comfortable with a random dialogue throughout the day thanking God and my Guardian Angel for this and that; the last parking space, good news or a lovely view, etc.  On a workshop earlier this year, they called it Gratitude Therapy (unbeknown to be I have been practising this for a long time). Research does show it boosts the immune system along with many other health benefits. On the workshop, another cancer patient really didn’t get it and said ”what have I got to be grateful for?”.  Errrr, for being able to get out of bed? For being invited to the workshop?. There’s always something… Anyway, there are people who do pray for me and I am very grateful for that.  In October, I will achieve the first Milestone; it will be 18 months ago that I was told I had 18 – 24 months to live!  Pass me the bubbly!

This week was the monthly Esseborne Ladies Lunch and 8 of us fitted perfectly around a table: Val, Norma, Helen, Sandra, Margaret, Carole and Elaine and myself.  The speaker, on women artists gave an interesting slant and the food was fab as usual but no macarons with the coffee.  What is going on? Carole asked the waitress who said, ”not today”. Well, actually it’s not been the last time nor the time before.  So to get my macaron fix I went to Paul’s this week while  out shopping.  Here is a lush pistachio macaron – a week’s worth of sugar I wonder!  The other Paul’s I frequent is one at the Green Park.  Which links nicely to my day out to Green Park and the Royal Academy exhibition on Matisse and afternoon tea at Fortnum and Masons.  I met Fiona under the clock at Waterloo Station and we went off for a jolly time reviewing Matisse’s masterpieces along with the actual props he used in his artworks. We shuffled around the packed exhibition and I think because we saw the props it gave a different dynamic to other exhibitions we’d been to.  Did you know it is no longer PC to quote BC or AD and that one should use CE and BCE?  We are living in the Common Era and apparently according to Wiki this is not a fad, back in the 17th century it was known as the Vulgar Era….Anyway, here we are in Fortnum’s – there’s nothing vulgar about The Parlour – where we enjoyed scones and a large slice of cake…  I chose Victoria Sponge and Fiona the carrot cake. Delicious.  Unusually, there was almond (love almonds) in one of the layers.

Also this week, I had my four-weekly trip to Alan the hypnotherapist for a ‘top up’ and whilst there, I popped in Sefton’s Café in the stud.  I tiptoed up the wooden stairs adhering to the notice to be quiet only to find no one training in the ring and no one in the café. I chose  a triple decker Victoria sponge from under a dome – the others were all in a chiller unit and I recall last time the cake was quite solid – but this one had been chilled too; it was very tasty but, guess what, solid. What would Mary Berry say? So anyway, Alan and I concentrated on further visualisations to eliminate cancer from the abdomen area.  I do feel that working with one’s body, embracing the condition, taking responsibility for one’s own wellbeing is the way to go.  The next quarterly scan is due next month and Dr Jackson has opted to see the results of that  before the second round of chemo. He keeps asking ”how are you feeling?” and ”have you any physical symptoms?” ”I feel great and no I don’t”.   He said he’s normally prescribing treatments to relieve people of their physical symptoms.  I take this as a positive and that unusually the re-growth is slow. After the last chemo in December, he had said expect it to start growing again in 4-6 months…We’re now 9 months…

Marion, Janet, Judy and I went to see St Mary’s flower festival and it was beautifully decked out by many local people and organisations.  The Mayor and Mayoress were was there. Gosh they must get to eat a lot of cake during  their tenure! They were having refreshments with the vicar when we arrived.  I chose a piece of gluten free chocolate cake with a chocolate and banana filling.  I wonder if it was made with rice flour.  The sponge was very light.

I must add that I have been exercising this week as usual and I was pleased with myself for completing a demanding aqua aerobics session one morning  followed by a 7 mile Hackpen White Horse Walk with Jeremy in the afternoon.  Looking forward to doing the Pewsey White Horse Walk with Tina and Kelvin.  Another walk this week was a Wolf Walk with Liz at the Wolf Conservation Trust in Beenham.  We walked the local fields and footpaths with two wolves who enjoyed howling back to the others and then stayed for feeding time.  I understand where the phrase ‘to wolf it down’ comes from.  My goodness, they can crunch through chicken bones like we may chomp our way through crisps or mints….

We got our first Christmas card this week….

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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.  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 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 3 July

We’ve been to Russia visiting Moscow and St Petersburg this week!  We had a great trip organised by the Russian Tourist Board with just one blip – we arrived in Moscow and our driver wasn’t there to take us onward.  Luckily the couple standing with us in the hour long customs throng were also staying at our hotel – The Best Western Vega – but on a different tour!  So we shared their taxi!  How lucky were we!

It was hot and sultry when we arrived but the Russian weather then became un-seasonally wet and chilly….We saw all the key sites  of Moscow by coach and had walking and metro tours.  The latter is very easy to use actually and artistically fascinating.  I  enjoyed walking in Red Square, the Impressionist collection in the Puskin Museum and I enjoyed sheltering from the rain listening to the high standard of licensed buskers in one of the underpasses. The rain was torrential at one point, so inside the Kremlin we were very glad to get into its cathedrals and armoury with its magnificent collection of valuables which were even more interesting knowing it was torrential rain outside!  There are no drains so the pavements are just running rivers.  Never been so wet!

We took the Sapsan (”high speed”) train to St Petersburg and in the day light we saw the endless forests and waste land punctuated by hamlets of woodern houses of varying levels of dilapidation.  Some hamlets had great mobile masts but not all had street lights nor tarmacked roads.  Even in the sunlight the stations we glided through belonged to towns that looked grim. But then we got to St Petersburg.  We came out of the station and thought we had arrived in Paris!  The BA check-in lady said to us ‘are you going to see the White Nights? – pop group? armoured horsemen? No, she meant the long daylight hours.  And yes we saw the sun still shining at 10pm in St P.

St P looks and feels European.  There are endless roads of beautiful buildings of the early 18th century built by French and Italians for Peter the Great.  The canals add to the attractiveness of the place.  It is magnificent.  The sights are stunning.  In our free time, we walked lots and soaked (different context this time) the place up returning back to our hotel, the Demetra Art Hotel, some 10 hours later….

Included were tours of the Winter Palace and Summer Palace (1 hour drive away)  which if you are familiar with them are sumptuously decorated and not to be missed. We chose to go to the Faberge museum.  Also, we did a canal cruise and we queued to see inside the Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood – another amazing interior.  Nearly saw spilled blood in the throng trying to buy tickets to go in…

So to food,  we ate at a range of places.  The hotel buffet in Moscow, a canteen restaurant inside a supermarket with the locals, at a window in a wall where the locals order hot dog which came with a really, really nice cup of coffee – the best I’d had for ages actually. In St P we ate in local family run kebab restaurants, in a Russian Italian chain restaurant and snacked at open air snackeries trying cheese bread (bread with cheese inside) and potato pie (bread with potato inside).  However, there were few opportunities to eat cake.  In the Moscow hotel buffet they served little squares of traybakes for desert.  In the supermarkets there were more biscuits than cake on offer.  But I did spot this selection of special cakes in a supermarket (left) and at breakfast in St P we could choose a little traybake or even scrumptious macarons…. heaven……

    

Week of 5 June

This week started on the Isle of Wight! Julia and I wanted to see Osborne House and grounds – Queen Victoria’s estate.

We spent a few hours there exploring, reviving ourselves with tea in the garden, (no, the lady behind has not collapsed…..) before heading to our hotel, the devine Albert Cottage Hotel which was once a royal residence.  We supped on delicious blanc-de-blanc and dined on fine food, walking it off along the prom at Cowes the following day until the wind was too much and we turned tail.  We visited Whippingham and Victoria’s finely decorated church and can recommend the Folly Inn too, situated on the River there.  The rain arrived as predicted as we drove up to the Brading Roman Villa and we dived in doors to look at the well preserved mosaic flooring and enjoyed the homemade cake and scones!

I’m posting this from Sandbanks Hotel as the last couple of days have been spent in Dorset.  It is a strong on-shore wind and the grey sky has kept the tourists off the beach…I spent the last 2 nights with Sue in her new holiday home at Burton Bradstock, a sleepy town near the coast at Hive Beach where the National Trust have a wonderful café.  Another windy spot….We explored Bridport and in West Bay we identified key Broadchurch (the ITV drama) locations; we stopped there for tea and Dorset Apple Cake at Sladers Yard an interesting art gallery, returning to West Bay to have  dinner at the infamous fish restaurant – Riverside.

             

The second day we spent in Abbotsbury at the 600 year old swannery (more Dorset Apple Cake) and the tropical gardens.  Both were thoroughly enjoyable and we whiled away a few hours at both. On the way to Sandbanks I stopped off at Monkey World to see the orang-utans – just incase I don’t get to Borneo….One of the babes was so cute and spent a lot of time doing roly pollies on the grass but then I noticed some juveniles using rolling techniques to descend from the top of their structure.  I took it to be an innate movement…

This week I got my hair analysis results from Freddie the White Witch detailing my food allergies and the food types my body craves.  What was interesting was the hair she requested from the back of my head above my neck was new growth this year, (it fell out from there if you recall) yet the results revealed I should eat more fruit, peppers and live yoghurt (which I have been this year but I didn’t historically).  Umm.  The foods to avoid were all additives and preservatives (found in processed foods I would have eaten once) plus white bread and rice which I’ve not eaten for ages…..Off to eat some yoghurt and fruit…..

Week of 22 May

Jeremy and I went to Corsica and Sardinia this week.  It was fab, fab, fab!  We started in Sardinia having flown into Olbia, an attractive town, where we stayed for 3 nights.  One day we travelled out to the beautiful Costa Smeralda, a beautiful coastline with hidden coves of turquoise water.  We stopped at costal tourist towns with marinas, designer shops, cafes and bars.  We ventured further another day to Alghero, a picturesque fishing port with its cobbled narrow streets again full of bars, cafes and this time coral shops. Here in the north of Sardinia, the arid landscape is untamed and sparsely inhabited made up of granite outcrops and wild grasses.  Some vines, olive groves and animals were spotted though.  The supermarkets had a great choice of breads, meats and cheeses predominately locally produced.  (No cake got consumed here in Sardinia but we did enjoy the Italian gelato…..)

Then we crossed a sparkling royal blue Med Sea to Bonifacio, Corsica with its Haute Ville perched on the cliffs.  After exploring we went on further to the capital Ajaccio where we stayed for 4 nights. This island appears greener as trees grow on the granite outcrops giving it a more lush and less arid look.   As we travelled it seemed more inhabited yet we still saw deserted beaches and inviting coves of turquoise sea.   No cake got consumed here either but on a half board basis we didn’t go hungry……

It was a lovely week and so nice to combine both Islands which are very similar geographically and historically but have differences to each other and to their respective motherlands…

My Decision

We saw Mr Cecil today for the results of the quarterly CT scan which shows that the cancer is stable – no growth.  Great News!  I told him that I have chosen not to have surgery.  I am feeling so well and 2 operations over a few months with around 6 months recovery will set me back big time – physically and mentally.  The laparoscopy gave me a taster of that. The operations won’t remove all the cancer cells and cure me though it is good to know there is still an opportunity for surgery in the future.  So we will review the situation in 3 months time after the next CT scan.  In the meantime I will continue with the complementary therapies and I will be telling you more once my oxygen concentrator and masticating juicer arrive……

Home Again

So very nice to be back home!  Thanks for your good wishes. I had a 10 hour wait which was very unfortunate as it meant I had arrived at hospital 7am having fasted.  But at 9.30 I was permitted a slice of toast and coffee. However,  by 4pm when the registrar and anaesthetist came to see me in my little room I was famished, weepy and wobbly.  Jeremy wasn’t permitted to stay so I had been on my own.  TV, radio and a book hadn’t helped calm my mind.  Mr Cecil did only the laparoscopy in the end – he decided he wouldn’t be able to remove the ovaries and all the cancerous tissue surrounding them.  The major surgery (earmarked for end May) would do that.  But on a positive he had a good look around – I was ‘out’ for 2.5 hours!  He found nothing that would prevent his team doing major surgery.  Naturally I’m rather sore and not venturing very far….

Week of 27 March

Shirley and I went to Milan and Lake Como for  short break this week.  We had lovely weather as you’ll see from the photos.  I was looking forward to seeing Leonardo’s Last Supper, on our walking tour, as it was on my bucket list!  I wasn’t disappointed.  Whilst there we sampled everything typically Italian: prosecco, prosecco and prosecco.  Only joking! The surprise was the salty and custard filled croissants not together, I add!  We visited the beautiful Lake Como on two days by train tearing ourselves away back to Milan each evening after visiting Varenna, Bellagio, Como Town, Moltrasio and my favourite Brunate (high above Como).Yes I’ve updated my favourite places. Our cake eating was very restrained.  We noticed Italian’s are into little pastries – just mouth size like these two here.  (But they are big on ice cream!) Just before we left Milan on the train we had a coffee and pastry in a cafe we enjoyed eating at on a previous evening: The Cat Café (direct translation) or Bar Gatto – much more romantic sounding. It’s near Loreta metro station and our hotel Adi Doria Grand which was perfectly placed for the central railway station and attractions including Milan’s canals which are worth a visit on a Saturday.

I would like to go back and take Jeremy and stay at the Bellavista in Brunate – the food, view and staff were fab!