my journey to health and well being via exotic destinations


In which my leg improves slowly but sorely

Champery is as pretty as a picture in the snow!

Champery is as pretty as a picture in the snow!

 Woke on Christmas morning to the sound of torrential rain! Not what the doctor ordered in a ski resort…

I had spent the majority of xmas eve chopping veg, preparing stuffing, making the cabbage, prepping the bread and apple sauces, and balefully eyeing our rather small goose. The boys go off skiing and narrowly avoid getting stuck on the French side – brings back memories of that terrible day I was waiting for Louise on her third attempt to leave London [her last xmas, 2010] and they got stuck in France and were not there to calm my nerves…had I known what a narrow squeak Tommy had getting here this year, with the English storms raging, I think I would have been beside myself. Sometimes ignorance is bliss.

Spent a very nice xmas eve chez cousins Christine, Diego and their boys, oysters and empanadas, their Chilean tradition. We did a rather fun Stealing Santa where you can steal someone else’s secret Santa when it is your turn! Tempers got rather frayed at one point…

Tommy on xmas day

Tommy on xmas day

Christmas morning itself is always a big reminder of Louise’s absence: she adored opening her stocking at the end of our bed, just as I adored finding silly things for her. The best present in 2010 was the burka I got in Oman, which she wore at lunch in France, just after they had been banned. We were doubled up with laughter at lunch and, later, when she skied down the mountain wearing it!

Louise in her burka on xmas day

Louise in her burka on xmas day

Tommy is just as big a child and he is thrilled with the contents of his stocking. As ever we gather on our bed and open our stockings in turn. I had some lovely extravagant gifts, Jo Malone, Molton Brown, edibles – felt very spoiled. All the smellies a girl could wish for and perfect for the pampering phase of my life.

The master chef!

The master chef!

After lunch – there was plenty of everything, even the goose – with Tommy playing sous chef to shouted instructions from the sofa, charades were called for and I remembered we had a box game. When I opened it I discovered scoring sheets in Louise’s handwriting, evidence of past fun. The shock of seeing her childish, teenage scrawl brought her absence into a palpable reality and my mood never really recovered.

Ross and me exhausted by xmas; the charade box is in the foreground

Ross and me exhausted by xmas; the charade box is in the foreground

In fact I had spent most of the day feeling queasy – a mixture of grieving and reaction to drugs – and so much food and drink make me feel worse, an unusual situation for me. On top of which my leg is hurting like crazy. In the end I leave the merriment and go to bed, but cannot sleep. Feel very anxious and vulnerable; the unspoken thought which I had been trying to banish all day now creeps into my head: is this my last Christmas? I wonder if others are thinking this as well; I try to gauge the meaning of those kind words and looks.

xmas lunch with brother Sasha, George and Beth, Hannah and Charlie

xmas lunch with brother Sasha, George and Beth, Hannah and Charlie

I have been trying not to think morbidly but what with my leg swollen and throbbing, it is hard not to imagine the worst. And all this terrible tiredness; and no matter how much I eat, I am still getting thinner… Is it just the price of healing or something more sinister? Only time will tell…

*                     *                    *

Wake up at 5 am on Boxing Day to the sound of the snow plough. The rain has turned to snow and there is at least 4-6 inches outside, and it is still snowing. Good news for the skiers and I can thus spend the day in bed writing and reading with my leg up. Which is now back to normal, thank goodness. They always say things are better in the morning.

Tommy enjoying the powder on boxing day

Tommy enjoying the powder on boxing day

I am pleasantly surprised that I do not feel envy as they kit up to go skiing, even on a gorgeous day with deep powder in the offing. Instead I feel a great sense of relief that I can snuggle up at home with a good book (The Luminaries), a jigsaw and Radio 4 for company. It makes me realise how much energy it takes to heal my wounds, both mental and physical. At least six weeks…

My latest worry is whether my leg will be healed enough to start the radiotherapy in January. Despite the sudden improvement in walking – I can now flex my foot with each step rather than advance with a fixed, stiff knee joint – the pain comes winging back, a dull ache combined with a terrible tenderness where my calf used to be. I suppose this is how an amputee feels. But it’s difficult to rest the back of my leg on anything as it is so sore. And by the end of the day, my lower leg is tight and throbbing despite being elevated most of the time.

I took the dressing off yesterday, and Ross removed and replaced some of the steri-strips. Pleased to see the bruising has gone down a lot and the wound is looking good. So good I am showing it to you!

the much improved leg!

the much improved leg!

Last tummy jab administered yesterday too, thank God. Stomach a patchwork of blue, yellow and grey bruises with long lumps marking the needles’ length! Think this is a reflection not so much of my lack of skill but my loss of tummy fat, resulting in the injections going into the muscle rather than subcutaneous fat. Wah! Only wearing the DVT stocking at night now.

Another week of rest before coming back, so I am hoping that these small improvements will gain pace. Meanwhile, fret not, I love being on my own; the day is punctuated with visitors, the evenings alternate with meals in and out, Tommy’s girlfriend Olivia has arrived and the family feels complete again.

Louise, xmas 2010

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in which we finally arrive in Champéry for Christmas

The Dents du Midi on the day we arrive - glorious!

The Dents du Midi on the day we arrive – glorious!

We made it! Here I am with my boys in the mountains, getting ready for Christmas: the goose is collected, we smuggled the chipolatas and bacon through customs, the champagne is chilling, presents wrapped and last-minute instructions for shopping issued! It’s Christmas Eve and Ross and Tommy are off skiing while I am left to some retrospective musings.

The first one is of a practical nature: even if the weather is gorgeous, the snow is terrible so I don’t feel I am missing out. I had been dreading the feeling of unadulterated jealousy, listening to tales of knee-high powder and virgin slopes, instead it’s a litany of overcrowded, muddy pistes and closed runs. Sigh of relief!

This is always a very sad time for our trio: the last Christmas we spent with Louise was here in Champéry, and the memories are still so vivid: the tension and heartache when she nearly didn’t make it due to the British weather – it took four days, three cancelled planes and a £65 taxi before I scooped her up from Aigle station, her presents and possessions spilling out of broken bags (so Louise!); her garish New Look jumper; the delicious goose; the fairy-tale weather; the company of good friends – in other words, a perfect family Christmas.

Louise in her New Look jumper on Christmas Day 2010

Louise in her New Look jumper on Christmas Day 2010

Being on crutches up here evokes the time when I broke my hip three and a half years ago. Despite all the obvious downsides to such an injury (nine weeks no weight bearing followed by a further 12 on crutches), it also brought Louise and I very close. She came to look after me in Geneva while Ross was away and we had a riotous time with her wheeling me round the park and to restaurants, she so little she could barely control the chair! We then went to Barbados together for a fabulous 10 days recuperation with friends Heather and JP in their beachfront villa,  and we had a very bonding and girly time sharing a room, fuelled by fine dining and drinking. I feel so privileged to have these memories. And now Tommy is manfully filling this gap by looking after me, both here and in London, in a similar fashion. It is very special.

Putting on the Ritz in Barbados, summer 2010

Putting on the Ritz in Barbados, summer 2010. I wear Louise’s necklace every day

My lovely GP happily prescribed the forgotten painkillers – don’t know how I’d do without them…tramadol, paracetamol and anti-inflammatories. The pain is constant and aching.

My not-so-lovely leg post clip removal

My not-so-lovely leg post clip removal

I had a pedicure to cheer me up! After all my feet are on constant display!

I had a pedicure to cheer me up! After all my feet are on constant display!

The rest of my clips were painlessly removed by one of my nurses. She took a photo of the wound – not for the squeamish. It has been bleeding a bit behind the knee and it is quite bruised there. But everyday it feels a little better, though I foolishly keep forgetting to ask how long the pain will go on…perhaps not so dumb as it might only add to the vague air of anticlimactic depression that has descended. I apologise to you all, but I’m afraid it is not possible to be superwoman all the time.

A kind friend sent me a link to a book about cancer, obviously meant to give hope. However it only served to send me into deep angst about secondaries. Not knowing the histology yet (I know I said I was going to forget this for two weeks, but…) and the mitotic rate of the various tumour cells that were found, there is this faint niggle which can only be assuaged by quarterly scans for two years, and then six-monthly ones for a further three years. So it’s a long haul. I guess my status remains ‘living with cancer’.

But today I must make the bread and apple sauces, the red cabbage and do my physio. Tonight we will feast on empanadas and oysters with cousins Christine and Diego and tomorrow morning we will open our stockings, have a light but jolly lunch with friends, before tackling the goose with my brother Sasha and more friends. Tommy is donning the head chef cap.

I will enjoy this Christmas and be thankful for being with loving family and friends: three years ago it was Louise’s last, how could we have known?

Pickle enjoying the Simon's Cat video xmas card

Pickle enjoying the Simon’s Cat video xmas card

So Bonne Fête as we say here! I will raise a glass of Christmas bubbly to you all and those less fortunate than ourselves. I will especially be thinking of my friend Brigid, who is trapped in Juba having evacuated her team from Bor, the heartland of Sudan’s civil war. Just a week before this she had told me how much she was enjoying her work there…see how life is constantly balanced on a knife-edge.

Carpe diem!

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in which I have my ‘stitches’ out

my Indian amulet from sculptor Jake Harvey

my Indian amulet from sculptor Jake Harvey

I have been quiet the past few days – nothing much to report. Leg has been aching and tingly all at the same time. I am told this is all the nerve endings waving around madly trying to re-attach themselves. I am walking round the house unaided, but take crutches when I venture out, more to keep people away from me!

As well as receiving welcome visitors, I have been active: two trips to the movies (see for my reviews of The Hobbit and The Hunger Games); two visits to the physio – I am doing a form of Pilates to pinpoint the glutes and the thigh muscles (so painful that one exercise made me bleed behind the knee); some Christmas parties locally; and one at Art First, where the Patrons and Artists had put together a wonderful Christmas Stocking full of loving messages, original paintings, poems, an African necklace, knick-knacks,  and even a bottle of organic apple juice. All have contributed enormously to my spiritual and mental well-being.

my Xmas stocking courtesy of Art First

my Xmas stocking courtesy of Art First

However as the time draws near for my appointment with the Prof to cut the clips, I begin to feel nervous; the night before I sleep badly, worrying about the histology and whether they will find something new which might require different treatment – heaven forbid! Also about confirmation of the clearance – whether he managed to get a good margin round the tumour. Sadly there is no-one beside me to poke awake at 3 am and confide these anxieties, only Pickle as a comfort blanket.

my guardian angel

my guardian angel

As Ross is on a plane,  chum Hilary accompanies me as scribe and ears.

Disappointingly the histology is not back yet – apparently it takes longer from the Marsden but Prof is not unduly worried. He is very pleased with his handiwork – lovely, clean ‘perfect scar’ and no sign of any infection or swelling. He picks out every other clip – not quite as painless as people lead you to believe: I emit an ‘ouch’ every now and then. ‘It doesnt hurt, at all’, says he, to which I reply ‘You’re not the one having your leg attacked!’.

There are only two things that are important, he opines. One is your leg and two is my reputation. I correctly hazard a guess as to which he thinks is more important…we laugh.

On the clearance issue, he admits that, while the tumour was self-contained, it was very close to the neuro-vascular bundle and he cut as close to the surface of it as he could without damaging it and my leg permanently, thank goodness. He confirms that the gastrocnemius and soleus are completely removed and the Achilles is only attached at the bottom and not at the top. It is therefore quite remarkable that I have as much up and down flex in my foot as I have. But I must exercise this movement more if I am to walk properly. As he seems unconcerned by the histology – or lack of it – I decide I must follow his example and forget about it until January.

But the best news of all is that, once the rest of the clips are removed on Saturday, I am clear to fly. I am so thrilled I forget to ask for more painkillers –  only realise as I am floating away in a cab – and have to  try and get to the GP instead!

I will post a picture of my leg once it is restored to its pristine self.

Vicky at the movies!

Vicky at the movies! NB 3-D glasses….


in which I receive gifts

photo 2-1Thank you visitors for keeping me cheerful.

Main point of this blog is to say

1) I am fine but leg is a bit sore as the anaesthetic wears off

2) all our mail is being forwarded to Singapore so PLEASE DONT SEND ANYTHING TO PARKHILL ROAD!

3) Physio starts today!

new necklace & earrings form Kenya and delicious meringuey things. Pickle liked them as you can see!

new necklace & earrings form Kenya and delicious meringuey things. Pickle liked them as you can see!


in which I go home


Here I am at home with my little friend Pickle, who has not left my side.

I am walking well, can manage stairs, but have to rest/elevate the leg until staples come out Thursday week. We are planning on leaving for Champery on Sunday 22 and staying through the New Year. Radiotherapy will begin mid Jan.

For those who keep asking me about what I will do about the hole in my leg, I cannot even contemplate anyone cutting my leg open again. If there is no therapeutic gain then cosmetic pain is a waste of time. I wouldn’t cut my face open for the same reason.

Ready for visitors and may need help next week with getting to/from physio as Ross is going to Beijing Mon -Thursday. Volunteers? It’s only round the corner in Heath Hurst Road.

Thank you so far for the visits and the thoughtful gifts. I have a nice leg cushion,courtesy Marion, a magenta cashmere blanket  (Tommy), which I can tuck up under and lots of reading materials, flowers and tempting morsels. The chicken soup is arriving on Thursday, thank you Judy in advance!  Under my pillow I find my worry family, which is a comfort.

I am feeling very upbeat, just in case you are wondering! As far as I am concerned the tumour is excised and with it any future issues. Of course I will have to have quarterly scans to check the other soft tissues for hot spots; after two years the stats say I am 50% clear, and after five, 100%. But I don’t think like that. Now all that matters is for the leg to heal and for me to get on skis again. Not this Christmas, I hasten to add, but certainly next year. And those trips to Mana in July and Raja Ampat in October look very tenable. Carpe diem!

my Mayan worry family, given to me by Oliva

my Mayan worry family, given to me by Olivia; anxieties are transferred to them while I sleep


in which I take one step at a time

Cartoonist Annie Tempest draws me my own personal cartoon. What an honour! more too the point, how funny. That's what it feels like when id do my tummy jabs....

Cartoonist Annie Tempest draws me my own personal cartoon. What an honour! more too the point, how funny. That’s what it feels like when id do my tummy jabs….

It is now exactly 48 hours since I went into surgery. The first 24 hours passed in a morphine-fuelled haze, interspersed with doses of paracetamol and anti-inflammatories. I recall texting like a maniac at hourly intervals as I was coming round – apologies, probably all gibberish! Then deleting all sorts of posts from well-wishers on FB as my fingers were just too fat and disobedient. I would wake from a doze and find a half finished text with random letters in the text box…as yet unsent (I hope).

Tommy and Olivia trying to cheer me up!

Tommy and Olivia trying to cheer me up!

After 24 hours of fasting a good English breakfast sets me up, but the pain is omnipresent and there are tubes sprouting from all orifices including a couple of holes in my leg. Private hospitals seem as short-staffed the NHS as I seem to wait for all sorts of things – for instance the drain removal is eventually carried out 3 hours later than scheduled and today the physio has not come at all! This is rather annoying as I have been dosing myself up with morphine in preparation for the former and so by the time it happens I am off the planet!

Tommy to greet me as I come round

Tommy to greet me as I come round

I am both fascinated and frightened when they remove the bandages prior to unplugging the drains. “This might be painful. First I will cut a couple of stitches, then count to three, and you take a deep breath and out it comes!” I breathe deeply, and feel nothing. “Is it out yet?” Happily both are removed painlessly. And when I am brave enough to admire my leg with fresh dressing on, I am amazed, despite the fact a large chunk is missing, it is neat and virtually unscathed.

my neat little leg

my neat little leg

Today, day 2, we decide to try and walk to avoid the risk of an embolism. The first attempt is terrible, the pain excruciating. However I cannot lose the catheter until I can walk to the loo, so its a vicious circle. When Tommy and Ross come in we try again and its much better. Soon I am unplugged, have made a reacquaintance with the loo, and am having a lovely shower and a clean nightie (thanks Hilary)

A few visitors pop in and out, I sleep, but the real progress is in the almost total diminution of the pain; only a slight pulling of the stitches when I walk but I think that’s to be expected. And I even took some steps on my own.

Once I’ve got the physio sorted I fully intend to be out of here…


in which we make a decision

A phone call yesterday bump starts me out of my holding pattern. ‘Professor Thomas has reviewed your scans and says there are no surprises, but can you come and see him tomorrow morning?’

I can’t help but wonder why (that sick feeling again, I said it would be the first of many last time); my instinct tells me there is a need for further discussion. The rest of the day passes in a blur of friends, a haze of chocolates, flowers and gifts, not to mention several glasses of fizz.

This morning Ross arrives at 6am, from Singapore, and we go together to the appointment.

My sixth sense is right: there is a discussion. The lovely oncologist Dr Miah and the Prof are now recommending that we consider 6 weeks of radiotherapy, followed by 6 weeks recovery, then the surgery to remove the tumour.

On cross-examination it appears the only benefit of this approach is that my leg will receive less radiation and to a smaller area.  If I have the op first, they will have to irradiate the whole area around the incision, probably the length of my calf. (The diagram here shows the soleus and the gastrocnemius muscles.)

The tumour sits across both these muscles

The tumour sits across both these muscles

The purpose is not therefore to shrink the tumour to make it easier to operate: the Prof says it makes little difference to his surgery; and indeed there is no guarantee that radiotherapy works on my kind of tumour.

For me it’s a no brainer: I really don’t think I can take this pain for another three months, nor live with the anxiety of hosting my tumour, which might spread in the interim, especially if the radiotherapy doesn’t work. I also need to capitalise on my current levels of positivity, which might get worn down with such a distant objective. My recovery will, in the end, all be down to this.

The Prof understands my thinking completely, as does Dr Miah. The pain factor cannot be underestimated. It’s a deal! And of course, it may just mean I can escape to Switzerland for Christmas and New Year, although skiing is  along way off (even walking is going to be difficult for a long time). It’s about things to look forward to….

Also my other surgeon, Prof Khong, who has been in touch, favours immediate surgery.  I am still revelling the comparison to Helen Mirren – what do you think? Perhaps it’s more about indomitable spirit rather than physical resemblance. Don’t forget she was in her 40s in this photo and I am now 56! Mind you I think I look pretty grim!

Carpe diem does mean seize the day after all, so that day is now Friday, and after that the only way is up…

LOOKALIKE (apologies to Private Eye)

Helen Mirren............Vicky Unwin (shurely shome mishtake)

Helen Mirren………………………………………………….Vicky Unwin (shurely shome mishtake?)

Administrative notes: I will be in the Royal LISTER Hopsital on Chelsea bridge Road at least until Monday; please don’t just pop in unannounced but contact Ross on 07831361190 as he will be my gatekeeper


in which I begin the long road to recovery

Me in the botanic gardens - just because I like the picture and it might be one of the last times in a summer frock!

Me in the botanic gardens – just because I like the picture and it might be one of the last times in a summer frock!

So here I am sipping champagne in BA Club Class. My leg is supported by two large blankets and I’m feeling pretty chilled.  Before I left for the airport I gave myself the second tummy jab – piece of cake! Decided that in the scheme of things why be scared of one tiny injection? Though trying to get the needle though my extremely tough epidermis is – literally – harder than I had anticipated, but pain there is none. I am a tough old boot, remember.

Ross cannot be with me today on the first part of my journey to recovery; he comes on Tuesday. Too much to do to at work before he leaves for a month or so. It’s hard saying goodbye to him, even for a few short days. But the thought of the other man in my life, son Tommy, waiting for me at the other end, is cheering.

The worst moment is going through security when, despite my wheel chair, everything is of course scanned. My syringe is nestled snugly next to the oxycontin, a controlled drug in Singapore, and my sleeping pills, aspirin and other emergency supplies. ‘Madam, we have to check your bag.’

Here we go…but the expressionless guard pulls out my jewellery bag and peruses it carefully. It is stuffed with Omani silver necklaces, beads from Bhutan and Somali gold…I surreptitiously take my handbag with its contraband onto my lap while she does this and we sail though. Phew!

On board the Singaporean steward has been charming and solicitous. I pop half a sleeping pill after a glass of champagne and sleep like a security guard, only to wake up 3 hours later. So off I toddle to the tiny cramped loo and prime my syringe for another jab, as prescribed by the doc, take the other half of the sleeper and fall asleep immediately.

I feel very strange the day I leave Singapore. I can’t help but ponder if and when I will be back. I know ‘If’ is not positive thinking, by my leg has been so painful the past 24 hours and seems to be trying to burst out of its stocking. As I give myself a mini pedicure, and slather on the Jo Malone lime and basil, I wonder if my left leg will ever receive such a treatment again.

The last picture of me with two perfect pins (Patrick Mavros eat your heart out)

The last picture of me with two perfect pins (Patrick Mavros eat your heart out)

I look around the flat for the last time, which we have made our own with favourite pictures: a Barns Graham, an Eileen Cooper, a pair of David Prices (chosen by Louise), a Margaret Hunter sculpture and our latest additions, a couple of Indian granite Buddha and Vishnu heads. We even have mementos of Mum – her favourite Arab Chest and a pair of fine Omani copper coffee pots. The words of the song pop in to my mind: ‘When will I see you again?’

As if in sympathy, two little sunbirds visit us today, male and female. We decide to change the blog header to reflect the symbol of hope and Louise that they represent. Then, in the middle of lunch, a massive storm breaks and it pours for 5 hours, so heavy our lift lobby is flooded.  ‘Singapore weeps at my departure,’ I tweet, ‘I may be some time but unlike Scott, I will be back’.

*                      *                      *

Now back in London, it’s 2 am and, despite taking a whole sleeping tablet, I can’t sleep: yesterday the mix of drugs, the long flight and general build up of stress left me feeling queasy and exhausted. I couldn’t even stay up to watch the Strictly dance-off, a treat I have anticipating in my sojourn abroad.

Dear Tommy drops in and stays all day, cooking a delicious late lunch of cod, crispy chorizo with pea and spinach puree. How spoiled! The only bad news today is watching Liverpool lose 1-3 to Hull in a lacklustre game, which has son throwing cushions around the sitting room (he’s 25!). His girlfriend has brought me a tiny bag containing Guatemalan Worry People. The Maya Indians put this woven sachet, containing 8-10 tiny figures, under their pillow at night so that the worries transfer to them. Despite the early hour I am feeling remarkably fresh and whole lot less anxious than last night, when I felt very tearful and afraid for what today has in store.

The other highlight of the day is an exchange of email with Prof Khong. He will be amused, I tell him, that I have managed to inject myself.

He replies: ‘I was very sure you would give the injections yourself given your determination and decisiveness. You remind me of Helen Mirren in Prime Suspect. If I may, I shall keep updated through your blog as well.’

So Prof Khong if you are reading this, you made my day!

*                      *                      *

Morning brings the darling Lewins at 9 am with chicken soup, guineafowl casserole, and chocolate cake! By 11.15 Dr Fi, now taking on Auntie role, has arrived and we sally forth to the Marsden in a cab, after greedily devouring the soup.

I have a really good night’s sleep with my little worry people under my pillow and feel refreshed, though still in great pain. Of course we arrive far too early so have a cup of much needed coffee opposite.


much-needed coffee while we wait anxiously

Checking in to the Private Out Patient wing of the Lister/Marsden in the Kings Road, I realise that, in order to avoid any confusion as to my identity I need to become Victoria Cattell as per my insurance. In Singapore, I was interrogated, Gestapo-style (You Unwin or Cattell? Need to change wrist-band and sign all documents again…) while on the trolley waiting to be wheeled into the operating theatre. I’m afraid I completely lost it!

Unfortunately this completely throws Professor Thomas and we spend the first 10 minutes of this precious appointment being administrative, changing my names and numbers. Whether it’s this or a bad morning in theatre, I am disappointed that he has not read the files and reports I had sent in advance. There are two terms, he says, I need to become familiar with: the ‘powerhouse plantar-flexor muscles’, which comprise the soleus and the gastrocnemius, and it appears the cancer is in all of them, putting large amounts of muscle tissue and movement at risk; and ‘clearance’: the amount of tissue they will have to cut out to prevent spread.

It is customary for surgeons to want to do their own path and histology, and this is going to cause further delays: I had hoped that we would get on with whatever almost immediately, but no, the first offer of an operation is over a week away. Slightly horrified by the thought of further hanging around, not least because of the pain, I ask myself what DI Helen Tennison would have done, and plump for sticking my neck out at the risk of unpopularity! Fi the while has decided not to let on she is a doctor, just my PA, scribbling frantically throughout the consultation. That’s what good friends are for! As I tweeted later, she was ‘a brick’ the whole day and I don’t know what I would have done without her comforting and wise presence.

Pointing out I had hotfooted it back specially, we manage to negotiate a date for this coming Friday 6 December, provided he can get the path completed. He kindly arranges an appointment with the radiologist at the Marsden for that afternoon to speed things up, and writes a prescription for more oxycontin and anti-coagulant injections.

The prognosis is good he says. ‘What prognosis, my leg or my life?’ He laughs, ‘Oh your life should be fine, and so should the leg…that’s what I’m here for’. Although as I later learn my leg will not look the same – withered and horrid to start with – and I will always walk funny. ‘No change there then, Mum,’ quips my lovely son.

Cheered by this yet dismayed by the thought of more time-killing, we stagger out to find a stiff G&T while we wait for the radiologist. We decide to try and get the prescription in the chemist opposite the pub (the same one we went to before my father’s memorial service at the Chelsea Arts Club, just last year). Oh no, they can’t dispense oxycontin as it’s a controlled drug and he’s written it on the wrong prescription! So they suggest we try the Marsden, where we have the same problem, even though the Prof is one of their consultants. Even worse than Singapore, where they insisted Prof Khong fill in my address himself on the prescription before they gave it to me! At least that didn’t take three hours!

Dr Aisha Miah is young and petite and absolutely charming. We click immediately, and we admit that Auntie Fi is in fact Dr Fi, and we therefore have a very grown-up discussion about my leg.  She answers all the questions we forgot to ask in all the shemozzle over my split identity. Like: how long with the wound be? Several inches so they have good access; how long will I be in hospital? 4-5 days; how long in between op and radiotherapy? At least 4 weeks (Yay, maybe I can go to Champery for Christmas and New Year!); how long will the radiotherapy last? 6.5 weeks, the first five being ‘conformal’ with the last week-and-a-half being intense. This to preserve the lymphatic drainage system and prevent lymphoedema later on; how quickly will I be on my feet? He gets you up straight away – be warned! Will I need chemo? No, even if tumours elsewhere are detected later on they will be treated as localised lesions.

She also gives us some statistics: 70-80% of tumours as dealt with successfully by surgery; a further 10% respond positively to radiotherapy, leaving about 10% with a bad prognosis rate. This is very good news. She also writes out a new prescription!

However, on examining my leg, she is concerned at the position of the tumour and re-visits the advantages of radiotherapy pre-op, which means 6.5 weeks of 5 times per week. Then the burns have to heal, another 4 weeks or so before the operation. This is mainly because of the proximity to the vascular and nerve bundles, but she and Prof Thomas need to sit down together and look at all the scans properly and will tell me on Wednesday evening which route they will take.

I had hoped for more clarity by this stage and am naturally a bit frustrated I don’t know which way this is going, although I realise its crucial to get it absolutely right.

I will therefore sit at home like the Queen of Sheba, being waited on hand and foot, catching up with all the Borgen and Homeland episodes I’ve missed, and await the final decision.  The most wretched thing is that the booze and the drugs don’t go together at all – feel queasy a lot of the time – so that solace is denied. I’m not giving up that easily though…

And, horror of horrors, when I open my new pack of tummy jabs, instead of the pencil type I was expecting, I discover a whole new set of long needles to torture myself with until Friday! WAH!

those needles! they joined me in my own mile-high club!

those needles! they joined me in my own mile-high club!