Posted in Living with cancer

I’m still standing

24 weeks have passed since my diagnosis – winter has been and gone and already spring is starting to make way for the summer. It’s mind-blowing (to me at least) to think that nearly half a year has passed. Time didn’t stop as I thought it might – and while some things have changed beyond recognition just as many have stayed exactly the same.

Perhaps in years gone by I might have felt sad that another six months had disappeared and allowed myself a moment of melancholy reflection about getting older. But since my diagnosis, I take every single day as a victory. There’s no good being sad about getting older when something like cancer comes along – you soon realise that getting older is the one thing on your to-do list that you’re not prepared to give up on just yet.

NUMBER CRUNCHING

Since my diagnosis I’ve had about three million* blood tests,  two million** mouth ulcers, 82 steroids tablets, 30 stem cell injections, 21 blood thinning injections, 11 infusions of chemotherapy, 8 meetings with the oncologist, 3 infections, 3 mad dashes to the acute oncology assessment unit, 2 ultrasounds, 2 CT scans, one trip to accident and emergency, one hospital admission, one PICC line in, one (same) PICC line out, and a blood clot.

STILL STANDING

Whichever way I look at it, it’s been quite an adventure. And here’s the thing – I’m still standing!

source
Yeah, yeah, yeah…

THE FINAL COUNTDOWN

The good news is that as of Friday, I’ve had the first six of my ‘weekly’ taxol/carbo infusions – this really is the home straight.

6 left A69F4BFD-D278-4B5A-8043-641B36C4ACC7
My chemo number six face

In an ideal world, I’d have six infusions over six weeks left to go, but in reality, and given my reaction to the Paclitaxel, I’m expecting a few more delays along the way. Either way, I’ve got six more chemos left to go. Whether it’s over six weeks or over more weeks is no matter. In fact, the only thing that really matters is that we are entering THE FINAL {CHEMO} COUNTDOWN.

final countdown 2c49bc9f0e11fe96dc07248eae6df635

MEANWHILE IN OTHER NEWS

Meanwhile in other news, we’re having another bank holiday in the UK so if anybody needs me I’ll be doing bank holiday stuffs like buying books:

books CFD4A9B6-411E-4829-8957-22F485D3502C
I bought all these books today for less than TWELVE GREAT BRITISH POUNDS from the Oxfam book shop in Harborough. Huzzah!

And mowing lawns:

Chores E4A885B8-50C8-41F3-B440-480F645E298C
Does Monty Don have to mow his own lawn?

And chasing a reluctant and oh-so-wise-to-every-trick-in-the-book cat around the place trying to administer flea drops…..

Cat 5B4C5044-1803-460F-83CD-1B7C65BBB822
This is the face of a cat who has not yet forgiven me.

Nothing else from me today other than to say I’ve got a couple of meaty posts planned for the next week or so. Stay tuned for my hot takes on fake cancer cures and the ghoulish ghouls who peddle them,  whether breast cancer fundraising campaigns are too pink and fluffy, and how it feels to have a chemically induced menopause ON STEROIDS***

I’ll leave you, as always, with a little song and a promise to catch you laters, alligators….

Love you all lots like jelly tots xoxox

WeeGee xoxox

 

*Numbers are accurate at time of publication

** Ditto

***Spoiler alert. The answer is shit. It feels SHIT.

Posted in Book reviews

Goodreads book review – The Alchemist

The AlchemistThe Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

It seems that everybody has read the Alchemist and it seems also, that everybody loves it. For my part, I can at least say that I have read it now.

When I started reading this book I thought I was going to love it. It seemed sweet and simple and quite enchanting but as I continued reading the sweetness became a bit sickly and the simplicity a bit insulting.

Perhaps it’s me, but I can’t accept the idea that everybody has a destiny and that to achieve it all you need to do is listen to your heart. For a start, it’s all well and good if your destiny is love or happiness or untold treasures but what if your destiny is to be always hungry, or always in pain, or, for example, to be raped and murdered during a civil war or to be tortured to death by your government….. Should you also follow your heart towards these things? Or is the idea that terrible things only happen to people because they didn’t listen to their hearts? As far as I can see fate and destiny just don’t stack up when you start to think about them logically.

Aside from having a problem with the premise of the book, I also found the Alchemist a bit flat: the characters are flat, the scenery is flat and the narrative is flat; the ending is one of the flattest, laziest and most disappointing I’ve ever come across. I wanted to love this novel – I really did – but in the end it left me feeling a bit irritated and underwhelmed.

In conclusion, I suppose I’m just too cynical for fate, destiny and the Alchemist.

A note on book reviews

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Posted in Book reviews

Goodreads book review – The good man Jesus and the scoundrel Christ*

The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel ChristThe Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ by Philip Pullman

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I came to The good man Jesus and the scoundrel Christ having read the His dark materials trilogy but found none of the withering and thought provoking criticism of the power afforded to organised religion in those works here. In fact, Pullman’s retelling of the story of Christ felt a little juvenile and little lazy. It added nothing salient to the weary debate about the value and nature of religion, and at times seemed like an unnecessary and cheap point scoring exercise.

Of course Philip Pullman is no stranger to religious controversy and perhaps, given a certain inclination of faith The good man Jesus and the scoundrel Christ is a deeply controversial work. For my part – not being of that particular inclination – I can only set aside the apparent controversy and conclude that without it this is little more than a story about the nature of stories. I’ve read plenty of stories about stories before; the blurred lines between fact, fiction, truth, history and memory have been explored time and again elsewhere and sadly this book didn’t feel anything like a stand out example of an over familiar post-modern genre.

It’s disappointing not to find something positive to say about a novel, so I suppose it’s fair to say that there is some charm in the fable like nature of this one – although perhaps this owes more to the gospels themselves than to Pullman’s rendering of them.

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* A note on book reviews

Posted in Book reviews

A note on book reviews

In some ways it must  seem a little odd to include a book review in a blog about battling depression, so I thought I’d write a little note to let readers know (and more importantly remind myself) why I have decided to include these.

I was quite determined when I started writing that this blog would only be about depression insofar as it would be about my efforts to manage the condition; I was quite clear that I wanted to use it to focus on the positives and to record my progress and successes…. And, in my mind reading and reviewing fiction is most definitely progress for me!

When I’m not well reading becomes a lonely and solitary activity that I can’t seem to manage but when I’m doing better fiction is a huge part of my life – in some ways I see it as my first and last love. It’s important that I’m able to read and to engage with what I’m reading, and including the reviews here is yet another of the checks I am putting in place to keep myself on the right path. If the reading and reviewing starts drying up, it’ll be a little warning sign that things are taking a downward trajectory and an indication I need to take some action.

That’s the plan, anyway…

Posted in Book reviews

Goodreads book review – Death at intervals

Death at Intervals

Death at Intervals by José Saramago
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The central premise of José Saramago’s Death at intervals is simple, if impossible – one day, without warning, people stop dying…. And so ensures a fascinating exploration of some fundamental and enduring human concerns –our relationship with mortality, our reliance on governance, the morality of euthanasia, the roles of state and religion, and (not least) the nature of love and the meaning of life.

I loved this book in so many ways and the story itself is mischievous, thought provoking and challenging. Whilst Saramago’s rendering of the conventional sentence feels a little meandering and difficult at first it is well worth the effort and perseverance, particularly when it comes to the perfectly drawn plot twist – the anticipation of which runs to more than ten pages and feels like a sentence spilled into a paragraph spilled into a chapter. (Incidentally, if you want to get the full effect of this book I’d recommend reading it without first reading the publisher’s blurb on the back cover). For me, the stand out thing about Death at intervals is the ambiguity of the narrative voice – at times it is difficult to determine where speech ends and the narrative voice resumes. Unreliable narrators are something of a favourite of mine, because, as Saramago himself puts it ‘one cannot be too careful with words. Words change their minds just as people do’.

In summary I think this is a brilliant novel by a brilliant writer and I’m looking forward to reading more of his work.

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Posted in The small things lists

All the small things

I’m conscious that the lists I mentioned in my earlier post must seem rather small to a ‘normal person’ (it’s okay, I’m the one with mental health issues – I’m allowed to indulge in a little bleak humour if I feel like it) and to be honest, they’d probably seem quite small to me if I were feeling a little better. But I’m not feeling a little better quite yet and they’re about as big as I can get. For now.

Depression brings with it all kinds of negative thinking  – paralysing feelings of hopelessness, an overall sense of dread and rather distressing thoughts of self harm to name a few – but none are more damaging that the guilt and shame that you somehow end up heaping upon yourself during a low period. The smallest of ‘failures’ is turned into a major catastrophe in the blink of an eye and the guilt and shame that you feel in light of this self imposed fail mark is enough to render you utterly defeated and send you yet deeper into the mire.

With this in mind, it important that, as I try to reach in a pull myself out of my pit, I don’t set myself unrealistic targets. What I’m actually  trying to do is build achievements little by little without the prospect of guilt looming large and challenging my progress.  So yes, the things on my lists (from here on in to be known as the ‘small things’ lists) seem fairly insignificant in the main scheme of things but I refer you to the wise words of Vincent Van Gogh:

‘Great things are done by a series of small things brought together’

So my take on it all is…. what he said.

Is seems like a good time to review my progress with the small things lists. It’s not looking too bad really (note the things I’d like to do are a little longer term so nothing to report just yet):

Three things I need to do:

  1. Visit my friend and her new baby: In the diary.
  2. Get a haircut: Well no, not yet. But then I haven’t decided what I want to do with it yet.
  3. Make a new Spotify playlist: Most definitely in progress. It’s going to be a masterpiece so may take a while to complete.

Three things I like doing:

  1. Walking in pretty places: Did you see the weather this weekend?!
  2. Wii Fit: Check. Three sessions under my belt.
  3. Reading: Finally got around to starting José Saramango’s Death at intervals.

I think that’s looking pretty good, no? Go me!