It’s a beautiful morning in the mountains and our Canadian guests are easily dissuaded from leaving until after a gentle stroll. The chosen route is a steep climb up through the woods to Sous la Dent and then doubling back to Signal de Bonavau and down to Chez Christine’s for lunch. A couple of hours plus lunch should do it, Ross reckons. At first all goes well, gorgeous views down to Champery… Continue reading
Christmas was Louise’s favourite time of year and, after my mother died, all four of us would decamp to the mountains to ski and enjoy ourselves. My main job – after cooking – has always been to ‘do’ the stocking for my three dependents…then in the early hours Santa delivers them to the foot of the respective beds. Continue reading
Talk about an Indian summer! Mid-October in Champery and temperatures are over 20 C. Determined to make the most of it we have two good walks, but stupidly I left my walking shoes in London, post-Zimbabwe, and had to buy a very smart new pair, half price in the sale (check them out in the photograph below).
With the prospect of a wet Bank Holiday weekend in London I thought it would be a good idea to chase the sun for a few days in Switzerland where the weather has been glorious. Continue reading
An escape to the hills! Continue reading
I received a text this morning from a friend enquiring if I was still alive. ‘How are you and where are you? No blogging’. So I realised I had been remiss. I think it must have been dry January rendering me speechless! Thank God that’s over… Continue reading
New Year’s Day
I greet 2014 with renewed hope and vigour! 2013 played a very curved ball in injury time as up until November it had been a great year for us with the move to Singapore and all the travelling to exotic oriental places.
Only a few days left of mountain magic and then back to London, histology results and radiotherapy. Wah! And Ross departs for Singapore so I will throw myself on the mercy of all my dear friends to accompany me to physio and radio. A roster has been suggested. Volunteers please!
On the plus side the wound looks good. New Year’s eve saw me tackling the cable car and lunch at the restaurant panoramique at the top with the Mitchell family; not only great to see them but to get two consultations for the price of one: David is one of Britain’s top vascular surgeons and knows the Prof, while Anne is a GP, so lots of comfort about how the pain will be bad, it’s normal, and then healing will take up to two months. A peek at my leg in full view of the sunbathing crowds causes some raised eyebrows!
However, this little expedition knocked me out and I had to retire to bed for a couple of hours; so exhausted that was fearful that I would not see in the New Year, which kicked off with apero for 25 or so chez nous…champagne and canapés, foie gras and sauternes, all brought by friends – Fenwicks, Poolers, Serikoffs, Huguette et al. My brother and his girlfriend who is having a little boy in May, are also here, and it has been wonderful getting to know Melanie and see how happy they are. New life for a new year.
We tottered up to cousin Christine’s for main course: Diego and Diane have prepared hams, and Tommy and Olivia have made sweetcorn and courgette gratins, all delicious. It is a beautiful clear night and we stream out on to the balcony on the chimes of midnight as the sky explodes in a flurry of brilliant fireworks, which illuminate the Dents and rain down green, purple and red over the village. The beacons atop the peaks are lit and dominate the skyline as red dots. The sky is full of lanterns bobbing upwards.
Then Ross, Tommy and Tom Pooler light our own Chinese lanterns, which soar up, up and away in an orange glow to meet Louise whose spirit is with us this night, in the mountain air and in the effervescent glow that lights up the sky. The stars twinkle down on us as we stand, me in my bare feet (kills the pain I say when told I’m mad), and exchange New Year hugs, kisses and warm embraces of dear friends willing this to be the year that I regain my health. If the power of positive thinking and vibes could cure cancer then I would be clear! So much love is humbling and I thank you, all my friends, for it and the support over the past couple of months and for those yet to come.
I am sorry that the last blog sounded so bleak, but writing is part of my therapy, and like an exorcism…once captured in black and white the negativity is out of my system, leaving room for happier thoughts.
Let’s hope that 2014 is a year of health and healing for all of us, filled with the love of friends and family.
6 January – Histology Day
Finally the dreaded day arrives, and Dr Fi and I assemble to see the Prof. The past few weeks have been rather unnerving, not quite knowing, yet fearing, today’s meeting.
Dr Fi is in fine form: the Prof has been busy writing for the Daily Mail on why he believes the NHS should stop training women doctors (they go part-time and it results in fewer doctors etc etc). Red rag to a bull, but she promises to zip up as the meeting is about me…
The good news is that the Prof got the clearance, as in margin, on the tumours, ie better than he expected. However, he confirms what both Fi and I already suspected, that it is a stage 3 and – here he brings his chair round the table and sits next to me, boy this IS serious – they found the tumour within a ‘large vein’.
Gently he explains this means it may have already travelled as tumour cells migrate via the blood. However, there is no point in doing anything until a scan in April as new sites will not show up until the cells have grown enough to be visible. As Dr Khong said, the cells are so microscopic at this stage, they are impossible to identify. So it is going to be a long haul. But I think I knew all of this even if I didn’t share the anxiety, so I don’t feel shocked, weak at the knees or nauseated. Just resigned and even more determined to live life to the full. As Prof says, we just have to hope that I will be lucky.
On the other hand, I am hugely cheered by his admiration of my mobility. Him: ‘You can start going up stairs properly now.’
Me: ‘I’ve been doing that for 2 weeks already.’ I am doing far better than he expected. But he gives me a stern talk on being too ambitious as a fall downstairs (which I can’t manage yet, one foot after the other) would be dangerous.
Him: ‘Have we finished the medical bit now?’ Cue for media discussion; we always end our sessions talking about journalism.
Him: ‘ Did you see I had two articles in the Mail last week?’
Me: ‘No – these are the ones on female doctors I assume. I bet you’ve had some interesting feedback. I’ll read them and give you mine if you like, but I am a feminist you know!’
He gets all excited and writes out how to find them online; he slides the paper towards me, then deftly removes the duplicate and gives it to Fi: ‘Would you like to read it too?’
Fi: ‘No thanks. I promised Vicky I wouldn’t say anything as I am here in friend, not doctor, capacity, but I have read them and I disagree completely.’ There follows a lively exchange of views, friendly yet feisty as only Fi can be… Finally he asks Fi, ‘Do you know Penny? (another of the monstrous regiment of fierce women…and a good mutual friend of all of ours). This confirms that the Prof likes women like us, despite what he writes. He wants to keep me on as his patient: ‘I keep the ones I like’.
And now home, cat on knee, contemplating the long road ahead of living with cancer. Next stop: radiotherapy, first appointment Friday.
Discovered a new route to Europe – via Helsinki. In fact there is a scant one-and-half hour connection compared to the new routing by Emirates and Qantas via Dubai where one is marooned for more than FIVE hours, waiting for a connection. Never been that far north before – was rather appalled to see huge pints of lager and shots being consumed at 6.30 am! And the lingo is strange….but all very efficient and I arrived in Geneva a l’heure.
Europe has been enjoying its one–week heat wave and the views from cousin Christine and Diego’s garden of Mont Blanc and the Alps in the haze, foreground of bright blue iris and magnolias reminded me of just how gorgeous Switzerland is in the summer.
A grand reunion of Swiss friends at Tim and Annie’s BBQ, which coincidentally was also their 27th wedding anniversary. Our 30th is next week! How time flies…
Then up to Champery to check up on our apartment last seen knee-deep in snow. Now the rockery we built last year is bedded in, the wild geranium, alchemilla and the domestic sedum, aubrietia and ajuga are flowering; our Montana has died again, but the three other clematis I transplanted from our Geneva terrace have all sprouted and one is even in flower – a darling little macropetala. I added to the jollity by planting up my summer tubs – but I wonder sadly who will be there to enjoy them?
In my few days in the mountains we enjoy some great food – what a change from noodles, seafood, lemongrass and chilli – new season asparagus and cafe gourmand; and manage a walk below the snow-line and by the river which, as in the rest of Europe, is flowing fast and furious. The meadows are full of wild flowers.
Great drama however in opening the post, which has been waiting 3 months for us! We have been cut off by the cable company – so no internet or phone…neither the company, the bank nor Ross is taking the blame. All I know is its not MY fault. I am livid! It’s costing me £10 per day in data roaming!
Worse than that, numerous letters from the tax authorities as Ross’s former employer (who shall remain nameless though they don’t deserve it) has not paid his tax as promised…there is even one from the police saying: Report immediately to the station; if you don’t, WE KNOW WHERE YOU LIVE! In French of course….on asking our local Aubergistes if this is a vain threat, Juliet says ‘Oh no, they come in the night and remove your car plates, so you have to go to them and get them back’. As I write this, sitting here, four hours to go until I leave for fair England, I am full of trepidation.
Oh God, there’s the doorbell… it’s Madame la Poste…with a registered letter. Ross is on the phone as I open the door. Should I sign for it? Pointing to the addressee: ‘C’est n’est pas moi‘ . She looks at me strangely and I have to admit it is ‘mon mari‘. So I sign, open it and find it is a recall for our Hyundai, some problem or other. I feel extraordinarily relieved its a simple case of mechanics and not a prison cell!