A breath of fresh air

Words are still few, as I absorb the past days and weeks.  My break was just what the body and soul had craved.

I walked for miles in sleet, hail, sunshine and blustery wind, dined on freshly caught west of Scotland seafood in “Local Hero” style settings, found myself stranded “over the sea to Skye” when the ferry broke down, wandered along the silver sands of Morar, spotted seals bobbing around in the choppy waves in the bay and got lost on the highly straightforward circular walk around Mallaig.  And weirdly Twang Arm behaved, usually it squeals when I walk any distance, yet it seemed to understand that now was not the time to cause grief.  There was enough already.

Stranded on Skye

Of course there are many photographs.  Many dreadful images as I failed to master the sophisticated functions of my fancy new camera.  Many images, ready for the delete button as I experimented with my new acquisition.  Being surrounded by such incredible natural beauty though, has ensured that there are some memorable images which I will organise and share these in the coming days.

Most significantly though, I was repeatedly made aware that I was surrounded by regrowth and renewal.  Tiny buds on the trees,  little shoots of grasses pushing through the ground, delighted white fluffy lambs appearing freshly laundered as they scampered around the hillsides, prolific spring daffodil bulbs and new wild flowers shivering in the winds.

Primrose

Reminding me of the precarious balance that is life and death.

 

Advertisements

Shifting Focus

These are strange days, ones of some kind of unseen transition.  A transition in the emotional sense. I am caught off-guard by unexpected tears, prompted by something unknown yet powerful. I feel an abrupt shift in my foundations.  The psychological rock upon which I stand has been shaken and I find myself stumbling, a little uncertain and unclear of my path. Alone yet not alone, surrounded by love and support.

So I am shifting my focus a little.  I am heading away for a couple of days of solitude and reflection to stay at the north western coast of Scotland. I will breathe in the wild blustery air, listen to the sea,  watch the birds, gaze at the wild flowers as they peep up through the ground seeking out the springtime sun and absorb the healing atmosphere.

I will also take my new camera.  I will see if I can persuade it to share its secrets and I will try and work out how to use it to capture a fair impression of what I hope to see.

This is a fitting time to change my background image, and I am replacing the previous image of the woman in Yangon with an image of Scotland’s wild west coast, looking back to the island where my father rests.

DSC_0148

Slowly looking ahead

I am attempting to reconnect slowly.  There are so many heartfelt messages to respond to, the practical tasks to take care of, the need to take time with each other and the understanding that we are moving through this grieving process.

My father has been laid to rest, and I believe he is at peace on the island which was home. The winds howled, cancelling ferries the day before, the rains hammered down, warm words of comfort were shared and tears were shed.  It was surely a day to remember, for a multitude of reasons.  Those memories evoke a complex mix of sadness, loss, love, peace and thankfulness.

I am sharing here some of the words which were spoken, and some of the images of the day.

He is Gone

You can shed tears that he is gone,
or you can smile because he has lived.
You can close your eyes and pray that he’ll come back,
or you can open your eyes and see all he’s left.
Your heart can be empty because you can’t see him,
or you can be full of the love you shared.
You can turn your back on tomorrow and live yesterday,
or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday.
You can remember him only that he is gone,
or you can cherish his memory and let it live on.
You can cry and close your mind,
be empty and turn your back.
Or you can do what he’d want:
smile, open your eyes, love and go on.”

(David Harkins)

***

 They are not dead,
Who leave us this great heritage of remembering joy.

They still live in our hearts,
In the happiness we knew, in the dreams we shared.

They still breathe,
In the lingering fragrance, windblown, from their favourite flowers.

They still smile in the moonlight’s silver,
And laugh in the sunlight’s sparking gold.

They still speak in the echoes of the words we’ve heard them say again and again.

They still move,
In the rhythm of waving grasses, in the dance of the tossing branches.

They are not dead;
Their memory is warm in our hearts, comfort in our sorrow.

They are not apart from us, but part of us,

For love is eternal,
And those we love shall be with us throughout all eternity.
Anon

***

Celtic Blessing
May the roads rise to meet you,
May the wind be always at your back,
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
The rain fall soft upon your fields
And, until we meet again,
May God hold you in the hollow of his hand.
Anon

Leaving Oban as the dawn breaks, over quieter waters than the eve

Leaving Oban as the dawn breaks, over quieter waters than the eve

DSC_0148 DSC_0149 DSC_0156

In this spirit, we are looking forward and preparing a fitting and meaningful plan in his memory.

The Malcolm Miller, of the former Sail Training Association (now Tall Ships Youth Trust) Image from http://www.orpheusweb.co.uk/bob.williams/sailtrain/1998-2001.htm

The Malcolm Miller, of the former Sail Training Association (now Tall Ships Youth Trust)
Image from http://www.orpheusweb.co.uk/bob.williams/sailtrain/1998-2001.htm

Journey

Last August I wrote about celebrating the ordinary. This is particularly pertinent and poignant right now as I have returned to Scotland, for the reasons alluded to in that post.IMG_4153

In this intense and difficult time of grief and loss words are few for the moment, but to repeat what I said at that time:

“But times are changing, my future visits to the island unsure and my long breaks there unlikely in the same way. I will have to rely on memories and the many photographs……..

Celebrate the ordinary today, because tomorrow may be different.”

IMG_4168

And indeed it is.

 

IMG_4178

Day 3, Tuesday – and celebrating the ordinary with something a little different

Last August I wrote about celebrating the ordinary. This post is particularly pertinent and poignant right now as I have returned to Scotland, for the reasons alluded to in this post.
In this intense and difficult time of grief and loss words are few for the moment, but to repeat what I said at that time:

“But times are changing, my future visits to the island unsure and my long breaks there unlikely in the same way. I will have to rely on memories and the many photographs……..
Celebrate the ordinary today, because tomorrow may be different.”

And indeed it is.

Feisty Blue Gecko - a tail of the unexpected

In the first two days of Marie’s challenge on Journeying beyond Breast Cancer, I have been struck by the enormity and complexity of celebrating the ordinary.  Already, I have had insights both visual and descriptive, into the lives of friends on the blogosphere.  The images are striking and the words underneath them tell so much.

I know that I am fortunate in having no shortage of material (well, perhaps that is the understatement of a few millennia) and  I am surrounded by amazing sights, and experience so many “oh gosh” heart stopping moments in an ordinary day, living in a place very different to my original and home culture.

So today, I want to do something a little different.  I am perhaps cheating a little in that this is not one of the images I have taken today (oh yes, of course I have already taken quite a few)…

View original post 476 more words

And the Big Man said………..

This is a little late in posting, because I found myself, as always after the checks, totally spent, emotionally and physically.  I have been really nervous about this latest round of checks.  Probably a deal more nervous than I would care to confess, particularly to myself.   On top of the anxiety, the inability to plan beyond a few weeks has brought a strain that has been constant. That anxiety has been fed both by my own health, as well as the ongoing family situation.  All in all, exhausting and wearing.

As usual, and based on the experience of recent months, I have refused to book any travel or make any plans for immediately after the checks.  I have had to rearrange or cancel travel too often and it feels as if I am tempting fate if I do book travel.

As usual, I had to fast from midnight before heading into the hospital for the blood draws and the start of the whole check process, on Thursday.  Before I left, I had a few minutes online to make sure there was no untoward news from home.  I start and end every day in that way.  There was nothing from Scotland, but I was terribly saddened to learn that yet another woman, Donna Peach, whose blog I follow, has been taken by breast cancer. As her husband told us using her own words, she had danced into the light.  The fact that she is the third person I know personally within less than three weeks to be stolen by cancer, is a stark and unneeded reminder that this disease is aggressive and unpredictable.  Seeing the sad news of Donna’s death hit me additionally hard on the morning of my own checks, as I selfishly felt myself interpreting this as a “sign”, which did not bode well for the day.

So I am very happy to report that as far as my own checks are concerned, it is good news.  And for once no little provisos it seems.  I have been dancing around NED these past months and he has been almost there but not quite.  I did not quite get the clear “we see No Evidence of Disease”.  Rather, I have had these little snippets of “hmm, it is probably not anything sinister but…” There is a huge difference between NED and not quite NED and it is very hard to communicate how different they are.  In the same way there is a huge difference between No Evidence of Disease, and Evidence of NO Disease.  And that is what would make life look very different.  That is a discussion for another day.

These checks involved the usual bloods, prods and an unseasonal bonus ultrasound which pegged out a number of little shapes.  I almost prefer not being able to see a screen as I am always compelled to look and analyse.  I even seemed to get a discount, perhaps for good behaviour, or more likely for being a frequent flyer and clocking out so many hospital miles!

My surgeon examined me thoroughly, reviewing the ultrasound and saw nothing to be concerned about, noting a number of small cysts, and sent me packing.  Not before he admired my toenail colours though.  I told him that this was my auspicious colour and therefore I had a clear expectation that the checks would go well!

auspicious toes

Then I saw the Big Man, Dr W2.  Again a lot of prodding, and questions about my fall.  I blamed Tamoxifen for my clumsy toes, to which he countered, “You’re not on Tamoxifen any more”.  I explained that I meant Taxotere and the neuropathy which has never entirely disappeared and left me with clumsy feet. As well as clear memory and confusion issues which I had just demonstrated unintentionally!

The upshot of the bloodwork is that, although my tumour markers are still a bit high, they are not rising.  One of the reasons I was especially anxious about these checks is because it would provide three tumour marker readings.  And three results will show the start of any trend rather than one result out of context, or an A to B result.  If you want details we are talking readings of 30.2 then 27.8 and now 30.  So this shows relative stability and not a rapid increase.  The fact that is above the reference range (or “normal”) is quite probably related to taking warfarin.

He also commented on the toenails!  Note to self – get the same colour next time, it seems to work!  The biggest indicator of the day came from the words of the Big Man (my oncologist) himself.  He told me that he wants to see me again in SIX months.  Not three months which I had been expecting to hear.  Which I had not even dared to hope that he might say. No he clearly said SIX months and calculated the meds I would need for that length of time. Six delicious long months.  This means that I can start to think about planning my life again.  This is a biggie, as I had already progressed onto six monthly checks nearly two years ago, and then the embolism followed by the raised tumour markers meant that I was called more often.  It felt like a huge step backwards at that time.  So this progression to six months is a Big Deal and hearing those magic words made me realise just how huge it has been in my head.

The checks were tough for another reason.  For almost as long as I can remember, my friend and I had planned our checks for the same time, so that we could support each other and be naughty cancer rebels in the waiting rooms. We have both been through unexpected extra scans, and scares and know how to be there without either dramatizing or trivialising what it is like.  She was not with me this time.  She has moved out of the region and we are both now going through these in our separate ways, still supporting each other online and equally outrageously.  I missed her far more than I had realised I would.  And when I got back to the comfort of my room later, I found myself weeping unexpectedly.

So the headline, in the words of the Big Man is “come back in six months”.  Not three months, not tomorrow, but six months. Six. Long. Months.

I now have to buy a new suitcase, to replace the one which was damaged in the return journey from Scotland.  I will make sure it is big enough to stowaway NED and keep him locked in captivity for as long as I can keep him there!

DSC_0073

And in the meantime, I can focus on the important things, especially when they are images created by and bathed in the soft light of the late afternoon sun. And particularly when they are captured by my New Camera.  And that is another happy story for another day. 🙂