Monday, 15 March 2021

I'm here again

 Decided that the time was right to make another post here. 

If you took the time to read through all of my last offering and contact me - either directly or by commenting here - thank you. I did not intend to make anyone cry - it just helped me at that point in time to set it all down. Now onwards and upwards! 

My stitching over the last 2 to 3 years has been varied. I created things to hang in my caravan, things for home or gifts and embarked on 2 very large Heaven and Earth designs. Today I'll concentrate on some of the smaller pieces.

A friend got me hooked on the Hootie collections of owls. I bought several patterns and have been stitching them in between other things - they were often what I took to hospital for appointments! To date I have finished 4 nautical Hooties (which are hanging in my caravan) and several of their Christmas Jumper Hooties. When I have done all of these I intend to sew them into a Christmas lap quilt. 

Nautical Hooties stuck to a cupboard door above the sink in the caravan. 
These I stitched onto plastic canvas instead of fabric.

The finished Christmas ones to date!

Also hanging in my caravan is a canvas with a Rosina Wachmeister cat design on it. This is taken from an artist who designs these peculiar shaped cats. I have a collection of some of her small designs and a few other pieces. 
  These are some of my miniatures
and this is the finished piece before I stretched it

Frog Pile - a Design Works kit I finished during our first national lockdown last year. I have to admit that I haven't yet got round to finishing this (I'm thinking maybe a cushion?)!! But the bright cheerful colours were just what I needed during those initial days when I was told to isolate because I was clinically vulnerable.

Yet another piece which was definitely destined for my caravan was Emma Congden's Beside the Sea design. I found the perfect frame to match my crossword piece, then spent some time looking for things to add to the framed picture. I made paper bunting for the top and bought some shells for the base. 

The last piece I'll add today is my Ying Yang design which again was completed during lockdown (before I started making thousands of masks like every other crafter!)

    This piece now hangs in my hallway at home, reminding me of our obligation to the environment.

Anyway enough of my waffling for today. I'd best get on and actually do something! Somehow the screen on my Samsung tablet has gone black. I've tried the recommended "fix" but still nothing. So I've located someone who will look at it and see if it can be replaced. As the shop is only about half a mile away from me, I should be alright to go there. I've had my first vaccination and always wear a mask, so precautions are still in place!

Until next time - take care, and keep safe everyone.

Tuesday, 2 March 2021

Long time - no see!

First of all I must apologise to any of you who are still trying to follow this blog! Life kind of got in the way of normal thinking as you will see if you read further! I must warn you however that it contains mentions of death and grief, so if you wish to turn away now - I won't be offended!

When I last wrote, I was about to find out what was going to happen to me post mastectomy - what further treatments I'd be given etc. Well, I had to have 6 rounds of chemotherapy followed by 15 sessions of radiotherapy. I made it through all of the chemo sessions (including a brief stay in hospital after the first round) and came out the other side. Meanwhile I had to become the pivot of Mike's world - I was not only his carer (in effect), but his nurse too and I'm sad to say that our relationship suffered. 

But LIFE had decided that I didn't have enough to deal with, so it threw me a real curveball and Mike died on March 2nd 2019 from his bowel cancer (which had also spread to his stomach and liver). He died 5 days before I was due to start my radiotherapy sessions, so I had that to cope with too - all the side effects, plus dealing with registering a death etc! Life was definitely throwing rotten tomatoes at me at that point. 

I made it through that year, with the help of family, friends and a wonderful counsellor from Macmillan, all of whom told me how strong I was being - but the truth is I'm not strong - I just had to get on and deal with it - there was no-one else. Later that same year I made the decision to also remove my other breast - I wanted to be flat not lopsided. And luckily my counsellor and surgeon both agreed, so in November I went back into hospital for a second mastectomy. And I was relieved to be told that there was no evidence of cancer cells present in any tissue. 

Those first anniversaries are the real pits - birthdays, Christmas, wedding anniversary - everything set me off, but by the time the 2nd March 2020 came around, I felt I could just grieve his loss, and with all that has happened subsequently with the pandemic I am glad in a way that Mike didn't have to cope with that as well, as I know he'd have been classed as extremely clinically vulnerable. With my treatment finished too, and suddenly no hospital appointments or check ups - it felt like I'd stepped out of a plane without a parachute - there was no-one who had my back to tell me that I'd be ok and get through this in those early morning hours when I couldn't sleep. 

So when we were placed into the first lockdown - here I was - alone - my daughter and her family were miles way, I was told that I was vulnerable and must shield, so my four walls became my entire world much like many others across the world. All I can say is that my crafts took an upturn in production, but I'll talk about those in a later post! 

Now, three lockdowns later, I am going to post this on March 2nd 2021. It will be two years since Mike died, and finally I feel that I have some of my old self back. 

For many months after Mike died, I felt resentful - I had cared for him during all of his treatments, but there was no-one here for me - no-one to make a cup of tea when the fatigue or pain hit me. No-one to tell me to stay in bed when I felt so bad - to bring me a sandwich for lunch or even heat a bowl of soup. Now, in lockdown, I had no-one to organise shopping - I either had to go myself or organise a home delivery. No-one apart from my daughter or friends to talk to - and that had to be by phone or text. No-one to hug! No-one to even say good night to. I have never felt so alone as I did during these two years, especially initially. I also came to the conclusion that while I still loved him (and always will), I did not like the person that cancer had turned him into - and perhaps that had been the basis of my resentfulness. 

But today I feel that I can finally be grateful for the years we had together - we met in June 1973 and were married in Feb 1975, moving in to the house I still live in. We both retired in 2007 and were able to go to lots of the places we had always wanted to visit. So for the last few years we were together almost 24/7 and knew each other inside out. And now finally I can get out the photos and scrapbooks of our life together and not cry too much - remembering all the happy times we had. I have learned to be happy with my own company and the ability to eat or sleep when I want to! 

For anyone who has lost a loved one during these awful times, whether through Covid or any other reason - you have my deepest sympathy. It may not sound like much, but I now know that although Mike has gone, he is still here with me - in the home we built together and in my heart. I hope you may be able to feel that same comfort when your grief finally passes. 

And I promise to be more upbeat and try to keep this blog going more regularly again! Until then - stay home, stay safe.

Wednesday, 26 September 2018

I AM here ... Somewhere!!

Well the unforseen fairy struck again! I'll make this a short "lifestyle" blog, and come back later to do a crafty one. Hopefully I can keep my brain intact long enough to do that!

So many months have elapsed, but the good news is that I have had my mastectomy and my surgeon told me that he is confident he has removed everything. However he discovered 7 tumours ranging in size from 4mm to 22mm as well as 3 out of 13 lymph nodes being tested positive for cancer. Having got over the shock of that quantity, we talked over next steps, and decided that their recommended course of progress was in my best interests. So I had an appointment with an oncologist to discuss those next steps.

As a result I have a pre chemo chat due on 1st October to be followed by my first session of chemo the next day. I have been told of all the possible side effects, but probably the worst one for most breast cancer patients is the loss of hair. So I have been busy researching how to make chemo hats and caps, I've found a few patterns and hopefully today I can make a start on that.

There have been so many friends and people who have backed me in this journey - both real and virtual friends. I have been sent cards, emails, Facebook messages, heart shaped cushions (to pop under your arm when sleeping), and and knitted knockers. I even made myself a couple of those too! They look a bit like knitted pyramids, stuffed with fibrefill. And they are so comfy to wear. Then today I received a card from a friend, which mirrors the strapline from my email. "When Life gives you Rain - put on your Wellies and Play in the Puddles"

He certainly lifted my spirits this morning when he arrived.

So I shall end this short update, and hopefully be back soon with a post about my "normal" crafts!
Until then - take care and hug the ones you love
Sandie XXX

Friday, 13 April 2018

One step forward and HOW MANY back??

Afternoon everyone. Finally our weather looks like it's beginning to think it might be time to warm up a bit. The daffodils and primroses on our front garden are beginning to look quite pretty, so I'll show you a photo - actually it's a photo from last year!!
We (or rather I) decided to start with a gardener this year as I knew I wouldn't be able to keep on top of it with hospital appointments etc. So we now have a lady gardener who comes for a couple of hours once a fortnight. She came last week and made a start on the front, so next week I hope she'll get that finished. Then I might be able to see what needs to be replaced as the frost killed it!

Health wise? Well, I'm doing okay on the medications I was given, except for my night sweats and aching joints. Reminds me how I felt going through the menopause! Thought I'd finished with all that but apparently not! The extra MRI they took of my spine revealed nothing more than a degenerated spot. So my cancelled operation was really cancelled over nothing, but if the meds I am taking helps to shrink the cancer, then I'm happy to continue taking them. My next appointment will be in the beginning of June, so we shall see what the specialists suggest then. 

Mike had quite a few issues over the Easter period with keeping food down, so we asked for another gastroscopy. Because of the Easter holidays that didn't happen until this week. Also this week he had an assessment for the chemotherapy cycle. We have been told it will be over 6 months, with sessions of about 2 hours every 2 weeks. And we've also been told that it's not quite as bad as some regimes, so hopefully he shouldn't suffer from it too much. He was due to start that yesterday, but because his bloods showed an issue with his kidneys, it was cancelled, with repeat bloods being taken next week to check on it again. Hopefully if they show an increase in kidney function, then the chemo will start a few days later.

Cross stitch wise? Well I decided to make a cushion for my granddaughter. She managed to fracture her arm just before Easter - not a bad break, but enough to mean it had to be put into a cast. BUT being a 7 year old, she managed to crack the cast 3 times and on the third occasion, they redid the x-rays, decided that it was in the correct position so she could just wear a tubigrip bandage. So to cheer her up I stitched a unicorn for her. 
I found some unicorn fabric, so that's the next job - to finally finish it off for her. My HAED Storykeep was rather unloved for a few weeks, so it's not much further on that last time, although I have picked it back up again. Here's where I am now. 
Sorry about the quality of the photo there, but it's under artificial light now! He's finally finished his face, and the claws, so all the rest is stocking (red) and background (brown)! So it might be slow going now!!

I also made a picture from Scrabble letters to take down to our van, to personalise it. It took ages to work out the placing of the letters! I don't think I have a future as a crossword designer!
It took ages to find small things to add to it. The mermaids were cut from a sheet of scrapbook paper, the mini shells and starfish were also scrapbook embellishments - so not real ones. The "plant life" is actually a plastic floristry product, and I found a few mini bottles with cork lids, so added one of those. I must admit it's not perfect, so I'm quite pleased with it overall. 

Well I'd better get on and sort out some dinner for tonight. 
Until next time - everybody please take care

Sandie XX

Monday, 5 March 2018

The BEAST from the EAST in Essex

After a week of awful weather (see photos below) today we woke up to normal weather for the time of year. Essex is normally one of the driest areas in the country - we hardly ever have sustained snow and what we get is usually turned to slush in a matter of hours because it is a wet snow. But NOT this year!!
This was Day One of the "Beast from the East".

And Day Two! It got deeper and deeper!
I never did get round to covering the patio furniture last winter! OOPS!
My Bill (or is it Ben?) acting as part of the Queen's Guard in his busby!

Finally (after 3 days of snowfall) the snow was beginning to clear. "Weed" and my small Tete a Tete narcissus pot have survived being buried under 6-8" of snow! Spring is coming after all!

The snow arrived on Tuesday evening/Wednesday morning. Typical! Mike was due to go for his gastroscopy that afternoon. But about 9.30am the hospital rang to see if he was still aiming to come. He said yes - provided we could move the car!! So after telling us that several people had cancelled because of the weather, they told him to get in and he'd be seen earlier. So we dressed for the weather - boots, scarves, gloves, hats etc took mobile phones, wallet and a broom and headed out to the car. Since we bought the Yeti we cannot get it into the garage (won't fit under the roll-up door!) so after brushing off enough to open a door, Mike sat inside with the blowers working to help clear the ice from the windscreen, while I used the broom to sweep all the snow off the rest of the vehicle! We got him to hospital about 10am, and he was there until just after 3.30pm. They discovered a second stricture just above the stent, but have dilated that and since then he has begun to eat properly again. He even had his first roast dinner yesterday in two months! This week he has an appointment with the stoma nurse on Wednesday (and we have to get blood tests done), and then on Friday we have another appointment with the oncology team. Maybe we will find out when they intend to start any chemotherapy.

Meanwhile I'm still taking the medication which was prescribed for me. So far the only side effect has been hot flushes! But they have been quite useful in the last few days to keep me warm in bed! I hope to hear sometime this week about the MRI they took of my spine. We have been almost like hermits over the last few weeks, spending plenty of time in PJ's, but as I seem to be severely lacking in energy, I'm not bothered too much by that! Hopefully over the next couple of weeks I'm going to interview a gardener who will keep my meagre patch under control. I never got to grips with it at the end of last year and so it needs a real good going over now. I don't have the energy to even consider doing that, so - I'm going to employ a gardener!!

We were going to head to our van in Caister for the opening weekend of the season, but the snow took care of that! Haven put some photos up on Facebook advising people not to go. Not only the roads were blocked, but the water pipes leading into each van were frozen, so no-one had water to flush toilets or use as drinking water! 
The main building this week. 

The entrance to the beach boardwalk!

Same entrance in summer! 
So hopefully we are going to try and get down there this weekend. We need to open it up and air it out after being closed up for 4 months. 

I did a happy dance as I managed to finish the first page of my HAED Storykeep - Magical Arrival by Anne Stokes. I'm stitching it on 18ct Aida and will probably finish it as a wallhanging for next Christmas. 

I got so carried away with the fact I could see the top of his head, that I carried on stitching him! I can now see the outline of almost his whole head. 

Anyway, better go and sort out a few more threads! As any stitcher will understand - there are always threads which need bobbinating and fabric which needs measuring. One day I'll get round to doing a bit more on my Hawaiian quilt top - so watch this space for that! 

Until then - take care

Saturday, 24 February 2018

Another update


Well, those scans I had to have done have been completed, and I was called back to see the doctor last Wednesday afternoon. It gets more complicated now! The bone scan revealed a spot of "something" on my spine! Because it did not show up on the CT scan they need an MRI to investigate that area further. As my cancer did not show fully until revealed on an MRI, they wish to do the same - just in case! However it does appear from the CT scan, that is the only other area causing concern as nothing else shows. Because of that the operation (due yesterday) has been cancelled for now.  However they did start me on some medication which should start to slowly starve the cancer and make it shrink. IF the spot on my spine is the same, it should have the same effect, so I have to remain on these meds for 3 months, then have repeat MRI's to see if there is a difference in size. At that point we will re-enter the surgical discussion again. So far the only side effects from these meds are hot flushes - I thought I had left those behind me! Obviously not!!

Meanwhile Mike had his stoma refashioned and has seen the surgeon and the stoma nurse who are both happy with his progress. He has to go for a gastroscopy next Wednesday, so hopefully that might let him eat again. It's been hit and miss over the last few days - some days he is fine, others not. I will just be grateful if he can put back on the weight he has lost over the last month!

Today I got a beautiful piece of fabric for my Aveline project. Eostre from Chromatic Alchemy is a beautiful soft greeny blue with a slight hint of brown. It's very like the original HAED pattern background, so should look wonderful on it. I have started to grid the fabric for my sea turtle, but haven't got very far on that!

My Magical Arrival has moved on a little bit - I think I can see where the ears are supposed to be - those two pointed bits in the centre?
I am always amazed at the unlikely colours which make up the patterns -if someone had told me that the red bow was made up from browns, corals, yellow and red (of course) I'd have said they were mad - but Michele (who makes up these charts) is a genius - and the proof when you stand back is a thoroughly realistic looking bow.

Oh well, better go ad get some lunch sorted and see if Mike feels like eating today. 

Take care everyone and look after yourselves


Saturday, 10 February 2018

So much has happened - AGAIN!

I have just looked at my blog and realised how long ago I last posted. So much has happened since then, but I will try to condense it so as not to bore you!

Mike had been to Basingstoke and we were due to return there for his op in mid December. He had to have a scan before his return, and that revealed a lot more than we had hoped for. His cancer had spread to his stomach and we were told that the liver operation was completely cancelled. It was determined to be non-operable but manageable. We have been waiting for him to put on a bit more weight before he starts his chemo (still waiting but due to start sometime in March we hope). We have also seen the surgeon who performed his original operation and she is going to operate on Friday coming (16th) to tidy up his stoma which has prolapsed badly. He is also beginning to have trouble eating and keeping food down again, so we have a clinic appointment for him with the doctor who positioned the stent for him.

As if that wasn't enough to cope with, I went for my regular mammogram mid December (on a day when we had snow too!) A week later I was recalled - something which happened before, so I wasn't unduly worried. So on the Thursday before Christmas I went back and was told there was something there. They did a biopsy on the spot, but I had to wait all over Christmas and New Year to be called back again. I was told there was lobular breast cancer on one side and they requested an MRI to double check the spread. A week later I had another appointment when I was told that it was bigger than first thought, but that a mastectomy would be recommended. After chatting over my options we decided that I would follow their advice, but accompany it with a reconstruction at the same time. My reasoning being that it would be over in a single operation - albeit a major one. That would mean that whatever happened to Mike perhaps a year down the line, I would be in a position to cope with it all.

However in our area the reconstruction would not be carried out locally, so I would have to travel to Chelmsford (about 25 miles away), so a series of appointments followed there as well as local appointments. It was decided that I would need a Sentinel Node operation to remove nodes from the armpit to discover if there was any spread. At this point everyone seemed to think there was no problem and I was told it was 95% probable that there was no spread. BUT fate strikes again. With my operation date planned for 23rd Feb, I was called back yesterday to discover that the nodes had shown cancer cells, so it is likely to have spread further. It may mean chemo before any operation to shrink any tumour. To say I am devastated is a bit of an understatement. I already had an appointment for a CT scan of my abdomen to enable the plastic surgeon to know the position of the blood vessels ready for the operation, and I was advised to have the procedure as requested.

I now have to have a full body bone scan (to take place on Tuesday morning) followed by a full body CT scan (due on Wednesday evening!) Once those results are in, they will review and discuss the best way to proceed. So all our plans are now up in the air, it has been a full-time job trying to dovetail both our appointments, and now instead of being on the home run, we have to start all over again. If it wasn't for family and friends (real and virtual) I'm not sure that I would have made it through the last couple of months - so thank you all for your support.

Meanwhile my stitching has again saved my sanity through all this. My concentration has been shot needless to say, so I have been working only for short periods as I don't want to end up having to frog whatever I do managed to achieve! I completed another cone Santa. This one came from a magazine I was given. I have to finish it off, but here is the sewn piece.
I also completed two of the Christmas Hootie designs - the rest of these will be accompanying me once I finally get the go-ahead to go to hospital as they are quite small and easily transported. They will give me a head start on Christmas 2018 too!

I have been making slow progress on my next HAED design.It is a Storykeep - Magical Arrival by Anne Stokes. 
I have tried to use my tablet for marking off the stitches on this. I use a program called Ezpdf, which lots of people from the HAED Facebook page recommend. It's been fairly simple to use instead of marking off on a hard copy, but when it comes to a larger piece I'm not sure how it will be as I don't want to stitch a page and end up with lines showing on the finished stitching. We shall see I suppose. 

I have also been busy kitting up the next couple of things I want to start. I was gifted "Sea Turtle Spirit of Serendipity" another HAED 

 - as well as "Aveline".
I am busy in the evenings gridding a piece of 18ct white Aida for the sea turtle as that is full coverage, but I have ordered a piece of hand-dyed fabric for Aveline as I ordered it with no background. I have all the threads needed for both pieces, so hopefully, I will be able to start them soon.

So I had better go and see what is on tv tonight. Not into watching the Olympics, so let's find something else to watch. I'm busy knitting while watching tv, so will try and show you that next time.
Until then try and be good to each other - you never know when something unforseen will strike.
Take care