Jumping Dragonfruit!

I have been somewhat under the radar the past couple of weeks.  A combo deluxe of lurgey (a bronchial bleurgh), intense work schedule and travel.  This evening I am peeking out of the void gently and gingerly.

Last Friday evening I arrived home, shook my sleeping travel bag and hastily threw in the essentials I would need to be away for 11 days. I am becoming so blasé about travel, I really do fear that I will land in Bangkok one of these days without the essentials.  Particularly bank cards which I do not use in Yangon.  I have even had nightmares about this, and have no idea how on earth I was deal with the situation if it did arise, so I send myself text messages and emails to remind me!

Early Saturday morning, I again sipped my departure cup of tea, zipped and closed the travel bag, checked ticket, passport and those essential bank cards, and waved goodbye to hubby and doglets.  This time I was to transit Bangkok and travel onwards to Vientiane, Laos. The distance is not great, but connections are not great either so it takes the best part of a day to get to Vientiane, so I was very glad to reach safely and without any interference in the form of storm clouds this time.

This is the first time I have been back to Vientiane since my first visit 12 years ago so I have been looking forward to the trip.  Unfortunately, some reprise or new lurgey descended not long after I arrived and all of my energy has gone into the day work and I have not yet had the strength or energy to visit the city and see how much it has changed.  So the photo below is not one of mine! It is a Lao tourism pic, just to give a flavour while I regroup enough to venture out and about.

Vientiane, Lao

While I have been ploughing on and trying to banish feeling rough, I have received something very exciting.  Something which made me squeal with excitement and not quite jump, but at least animate me!  The Dragonfruit Anthology is getting more real!  Our editor, Shannon Young, has received a REAL copy of the book, with REAL PAPER PAGES.  How exciting is that?! Our contributor copies will arrive soon, and then be sent on to us and then I will be able to hold the book in my own hands!

This is what it looks like!

The BOOK! Dragonfruit Angthology

The BOOK!
Dragonfruit Anthology

It is now only 11 days until 10 June, when our Dragonfruit Anthology (as we affectionately call our book) will be published!

I am not sure how many images I will be able to take of Vientiane, but I can guarantee one thing – I will be unbearable when I have my own copy in my hands and there will be MANY images of Dragonfruit!

Always on my mind

This blog started life very much as a breast cancer blog, in its own discrete space.  Gradually it has morphed into a “life and work in Asia with the cancer thing thrown in” blog with more talk about life and moments here than previously.  I realise that the past few posts have in fact contained “no talk about cancer” since the last round of checks in late March.  And that has to be a good thing.  It shows that cancer has a space in my life (unwanted obviously) but that it is not “my life”.  Life on the blog has been about Water Festival, changing seasons and the very exciting Dragonfruit news. But that does not mean that cancer is not in my mind and recently I read an article which really resonated.

The writer articulates how she thinks of cancer every day, more than three years since diagnosis. It is a wonderfully balanced article and sets out the ways in which cancer filters through, and not necessarily in a “gloom and doom” way. And that is why it resonated so clearly with me. If we think about cancer, it is not necessarily about fear but it is also about change, adjustment and loss. But there is a perception that to think of cancer frequently is unhealthy and negative and I realise that it is important to emphasise that is not necessarily so.

Similarly to the writer, I am reminded of cancer as soon as I wake. Firstly I lean over to take my synthetic thyroid before I get up to go and put on my swimsuit, stuffing my prosthesis in the left side. That’s my routine. I am not filled with fear or grief, but it is a nuisance and uncomfortable. How can I not be reminded of cancer? Even the act of swimming and cycling in the morning is motivated by the knowledge that I improve my odds with regular exercise. So before I start my day, there are Big Cancer Reminders right in front of my nose.

Cancer is somewhere in my mind when I make plans, particularly holidays or visits. I find it extremely difficult to commit to anything around the time of the six monthly checks and once I pass those milestones, my diary and planner suddenly spring to life. I was diagnosed in 2009 and dates far into the future felt beyond my own lifetime. I didn’t even realise that I thought to myself “well, I probably won’t be here to see that” when the announcement came that Rio would host the 2016 Olympics. But I did, with a pang of something akin to mild regret. By some cruel quirk of fate, that announcement was made the very day I met my surgeon for the first time and he told me that the masses were highly suspicious of cancer. Now as time moves on, even the Tokyo 2020 Olympics do not feel quite so unreachable.  Yet still I take nothing for granted. There are a lot of milestones on the cancer side of things, never mind other ways that I can be felled.

I am reminded of cancer as I walk gingerly, picking my way carefully with toes awkward due to residual neuropathy. Perhaps it is not cancer as such on my mind, but there is a firm link to chemo after effects and everyday mobility.

I am reminded of cancer as I prepare my weekly cocktail of medications, counting the days and making sure that the alternate doses of warfarin, 5 mg one day, 6 mg the next, are correctly calculated, looking at those innocent little Femara pills, which are so costly and which cause so many unpleasant side effects. It’s not being negative. It just is what it is.

I am even reminded of cancer when I reach into the kitchen cupboard for a tea cup and have to use my right arm because Twang Arm can only get there if I am on my tiptoes.

In fact I cannot count all of the reminders, and I do not need to. It is clear that the invasive nature of surgery, effects of treatment past and present, never mind the risk of recurrence, all contribute to visible and less visible reminders. The critical thing is to manage these and adjust. And for it to be understood that I am not being negative or tempting fate. My thoughts are valid and my fears, when they come, are valid too. And sometimes I am just really grumpy that I have to wear a prosthesis at all, fed up that it irritates my skin in a way that a natural breast never does and I just want to toss the wretched thing into the bin. Or I am frustrated that I always have to wear a high neck camisole vest to hide the scars. Everywhere I turn, it is staring me in the face.

Yes, the reminders are many and varied and essentially constant. How can cancer not be on my mind daily? But that does not mean I cannot and do not dream of being an old woman who wears purple! I have every intention of being that woman!

yangon rainy season 2

Shadow, reflection and showers

I feel as if the dry season has stretched a little this year.  Weeks and months creep past, with hardly a drop of rain.  Showers which we can mark in the calendar.  Yes, that was the week it rained, we remember. A January rainstorm and an April downpour.  Aberrations, punctuating the increasingly stifling heat building around us. We start to dream of rain, to imagine we hear drops falling.  The wind rises, whispering promises of rain soon, soon.  My heart soared two weeks ago, on a stuffy Saturday afternoon when I heard that unmistakable sound of large, bulging raindrops falling outside. Raindrops I could count, and see their mark on the ground briefly before they were swallowed by the parched ground.  There is only one thing to be done on hearing this sound, and catching the scent of fresh rain in the air.  Before I know what has happened, I am in the garden, face upturned and arms outstretched, welcoming those first delicious rains onto my face, smiling and laughing like a child.  The shower might be brief but so refreshes the mind and body and sharpens the anticipation of the rains.

The rain came again on Tuesday, hidden while I was inside the airport building and unseen until boarding.  Such a sense of disappointment and being cheated, at not being able to watch or feel the rain as it swept in.  The rain on a runway is not the rain I had been dreaming of, nor the rain streaked horizontally across the cabin windows in the aircraft. Nor the dramatic rain storms underneath while we were kept on hold above our destination. It might have been “not quite the right kind of rain” but it was a renewed promise of monsoon.

It has rained every afternoon since then.  Bulky clouds with attitude gathering in the sky, thunder rumbling and cracking, spirited breezes materialising from nowhere and rains teeming down. Alongside a renewed energy and exuberance within each of us. The frogs are wakening and critters being washed from their hiding places. The landscape will quickly change.

And so too does my image for now.  Over this dry season, I have become increasingly fascinated with the play of light, of shadows and of reflection as I struggle to get to know my camera, and try to capture glimpses of magic I see around me.

I am also a little naughty with the concept of “selfie” photography and have my own version which protects my privacy yet places me in my environment.  The “Shadow Selfie” is what I call it.  Now that the rains are moving in I am sure there will be less shadow and I have therefore chosen an image which comes from this very special time when the season starts to turn, and the trees come to life with their array of colour.  I particularly love the jacaranda and could not resist a “shadow selfie” under a blossoming jacaranda tree as I paused on my cycle home from my early morning swim.

Shadow selfie and fallen Jacaranda blossom
Shadow selfie and fallen Jacaranda blossom

The jacaranda is already shedding its colours as the season changes.

All the more reason to preserve it just a little longer.