Sunday, December 16, 2018

I love rain

The simplicity of it.
The truth of it.
The way it does its job
Well done rain.
I applaud you.
Job well done... Keep it up.

Well, stop for a bit while I enjoy a bit of sun, tomorrow will do.

You've cooled and nourished us, me.
I do like the rain.

Postmum Pat

Two letters arrive at my old, old, old, old, old, old address.
They contradict the emails I've had.
They send me into the state of the unknown again and they make the evening frustrating and I feel sad and confused.
I'm now back in the doubt and so despite feeling I knew what the plan was, it's changed or has it?

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

I have cancer

And it's one of the good ones.
In the last month I've heard of two men who have prostate cancer.
Oh, one of the good ones
Kidney cancer isn't normally considered one of the good ones, but if I'm being positive, it is for me.
One day I might run out of kidney. I might run out of both.
But not yet.

Friday, December 07, 2018

Phones on a wall

I remember the phones on the wall. It was a day in March. A month, that until then held no significant to me and will now forever be, the month.
I was aware that I should tell people. I was old enough to have people of my own to tell. I don't recall how I paid, but I stood against the wall, in amongst the wall of phones and called someone.
I told the person on the other end. He's brain dead they think. He's dead they think.
And I recall being aware of the momentous event and my place in it. Small and sad.
Nothing more then.
I was surrounded by people who were leaning against that wall of phones. Some with good news, some bad, some mundane.
All with someone to tell.
Today I have a wall of people. I lean against them when I need to tell someone.

Thursday, December 06, 2018

It's always

It will always be there.
This doesn't go away and never will. Stoic and able to comfort those who need it.
It's fine
I get tumours
Shut them down
No sympathy required
Those that know a bit more, read it... I don't want to dwell
I can't
I can't
I can't
And when I do - who wants to listen?
Very few
And I included myself
I don't want to listen

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

You grow slowly

Tonight I'm out at St Andrew's night. An annual event here in Blantyre Malawi.
I saw people I haven't seen in a while.
'how are you?'
Very normal question.
Who ever really wants to hear the real answer?
This time I resisted the urge to say, oh I'm good. But I have cancer again.
And as the raffle unravels I am doing my best to be the woman I was this time last year.
But each time I know I've changed and my body has changed, not just older but more tumour. More surgery. More risk.
One day I'll run out of kidney.
But not yet.

I didn't win that raffle. 

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

I don't want to

I don't want to
I don't what to chase
I don't want to ask
I don't want to know
I don't want to stop
I don't want to carry on
I don't want to cope
I don't want to fall apart
I don't want to

Saturday, November 10, 2018

I'm nothing special

Some days I just can't believe what I'm juggling in my head. And there are people here who see and know that.
But not my husband.
When asked,  do you think I'm impressive how I cope with all this, he replied
The doctors are.

But me?

I've blocked out the exact details but the gist was no.



And I didn't know what to do with that.

Did I show weakness by asking?

Is it that his permanent ex-pat lifestyle has left him devoid of understanding.


Is he right

Nothing special about living with VHL.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

How far can you go?

The surgeon has a knife.
How far should it go?

How often can you be cut and how many times will it hurt?

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

3 years hence

Facebook tells you about memories. I'm struck by where I was three years ago. I'm in Zomba today and I climbed and walked and saw things I never imagined I would.
I did it with new friends and my little family.
I'm troubled by the next phase but not thrown by it.
I will make it through and I have such a huge amount of love and support.
Today I am aware of how blessed I am, despite my next VHL hurdle.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Party tears

I do this, this is an thing I do. I cry at parties.
I, of course, do it discreetly.
I cry because the timing is good.
Drunk friends, drunk me

I let myself feel

I let myself cry

I move on

I cope

Thursday, September 20, 2018


Lots of people around here like climbing mountains.
I don't.
I'm told you get a great sense of achievement once you get to the top. Then it's all been worth it.
I thought this was true but I've realised for me it's not achievement I feel.
It's relief, relief it's over and the easy bit is ahead of me.
That's why VHL is such a arsehole disease. There's always another mountain.

Wednesday, September 05, 2018

The news we're always waiting for.

This is a familiar feeling. I don't think it is ever different. The waiting and finding out.   

The news is:
Brain and spine stable.
 A lesion in the right kidney has grown from 13mm to 18mm and Prof D thinks it might need treatment and he is going to write to the renal team.

What's different this time as I've found out via a short email and now all my questions are left completely unanswered. Although if I had been there in person, Prof D would still have to ask the renal team.

Might need treatment.


Please say, not for a long time.

Please say, maybe never.

Please don't say you need more scans.

Please don't say, soon.

Please don't end my current bubble of happy.

Holding back tears, letting them come. Fight the urge to tell everyone. I FUCKING HATE VHL. Fight the urge to get sympathy from all sources.

And into strategies, - if it's this then we'll do this. What's 18mm? How rapid is that growth? What was it last time? Which side?
We'll cope. It's fine. I'm fine. Should I tell my mum and dad before I know more? They'll only worry.
Cover it up so my daughter doesn't worry.

And then numb.



More questions without answers, more guesses.




Thursday, August 23, 2018

Life is a long game, if your (un) lucky

One whole year.
It reminded me that I'm in charge of this. This life. This journey.
I'm in a state of neutrality right now.
I've decided to be brave, to call a bluff and commit to this, this life.
I've chosen it and with all the inevitable frustrations and pleasant irritations this is my life
I've taken a stand in this anniversary.
Today my daughter asked me if I missed my brother and I knew I did. But more, I missed knowing who he could be now.
And with that I realised I'm me.

I'll forget that in due course, but right now...
I'm no body's fool.
I'm a warrior.
I fight and I win.
I've lived in fear and conquered it and I haven't ever let anyone truly get in my way.
I've let myself love with all my heart, even when there was a shield refusing to accept it. And I've stood my ground in the face of horror and pain.
I will not be sad for the sake of it. I will be sad for you. I will pity the fear that you allow to control you and I will lead by example.

I rise because I've learnt to.

I survive because I've learnt to.

I thrive because I know when to conserve and gather strength from those who love me.

Good bye.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

The gaps

I had an interesting WhatsApp chat with my dad yesterday.
I asked him the biggest gap between surgeries.
13 - 30
Not bad.

I think those who have proper cancer might call it remission.

We then remembered the other ones, how many, what they were. There e 7 or 9 he couldn't quite remember. We didn't what to count the radiotherapy as.
All very matter of fact.

He's always been cup half full when he talks to me. I don't know how real that is but it's his way of talking to me about it all.

He's on my mind often... At the moment I'm thinking of him because I've hurt my index finger on my right hand. It's stopping me from doing some things, I am finding ways around it but my husband had to cut my dinner up, I ordered something I could eat with a fork only and I keep going to do stuff and pausing, finding a way around it.
I was asked why I didn't use my left hand, I reminded them that if I wanted to guarantee it would get in my mouth. I've been good at hiding my disability. Or have I been letting myself continue to be disabled?

It's just my finger. It is temporary.
For my dad, his whole body won't behave. VHL and the subsequent treatments have caused all this.
He had years and years of normal. (VHL normal)
I want even more years of normal. Proper normal.

He'll be 70 next year.
Lots of people don't get all those years.
My brother didn't.
My finger hurts.
13-30 the biggest gap for him

0 - 17

17 - 20

21- 34

34 - 36

36 - long gap please
I don't count the eye stuff
I think my numbers are right.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

My 40th year

For those of us with VHL each year we make it to a birthday is a victory. We describe ourselves as warriors and so these victories each year matter, one step closer to winning the war.

It was less then 10 years ago that I received a letter telling me my life expectancy. 52. I have screening.
This wasn't a predictor of quality of life, just the years survived. My father will be 70 next year. He survives every day. I question how much he lives.

This my 40th is a big deal, 50 will be too. 53 is the year I intend on having the mother of all parties.

But more than that I fully intend to live my life. I intend to be, love, laugh, hold others.

Thursday, August 09, 2018


Grrr, I'm are the meeting is at the end of August.
I'm not feeling very patient

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Self preservation

Wow, we're not quite back in Blantyre but we're in Malawi. The journey has been rather epic so far, but nothing you can't handle when you have two people who love you with you, and knowing that you walk with privilege and money and ways out.
I'm sitting feeling tired but calm, another year stretching ahead of me, one that I hope is as good as the last.
It's been a while since I've been able to say that.
The stresses and joys of England and being in that place I also call home have put into sharp focus the reasons we're not in a hurry to go back to the UK.
Here is different and that's what I need.
A friend mentioned that they understood the need to be away, self preservation they called it. I agree.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

I dreamt of a spreadsheet

In my subconscious I'm getting impatient. Last night my dreams were about getting results and a fictional spreadsheet of my tumours and their growth was created.
It's not a bad idea.
I think it comes from explaining to my daughter what they do if something is growing.
They plot it, monitor it and we see.
I might make my own spreadsheet.
In one of my dreams I went to my old house. It was full of students and they were painting bits of it yellow.
Then my Dr told me the cancer was only growing slowly.
"That one?" I asked pointing at my left kidney. He confirmed.
And I knew that was that.

Sunday, July 22, 2018


I knew coming home to Norfolk would be the hardest bit of the return trip.
I don't feel like I belong sometimes but I fit here. The place of my childhood, pointing small things and places out to my daughter.
Yesterday, fuelled by drink and sun my sister did what I knew she would... She let me know that she's angry with me, she cried, I cried, she shouted at me and found blame in me, my mum, my dad, herself. The Catholic way of dealing with whatever it is.
She shouted that I was so self centered. Recognised that she thinks It's not my fault, that that's the way I was brought up, after my brother died. And in many ways I agree, she's right, I am. I do things for me. I choose life, I choose experience. She realises too that I'm expected to live two lives, mine and my brothers, and she feels she has to stay here and be the one with mum and dad. My mum was so worried. She hates it when my sister is angry with her. My poor mum.
I could go into more detail but I think it's ok for now, until I do something else (or don't)
And in amongst all that my dad needed attention.
I'm too tired to explain it all.

Friday, July 20, 2018

Love and hate

I went to a Pilates class yesterday, the day before I felt poorly, in the class I felt oddly young and old at the same time. The women doing the class were mostly over the age of 65.
I wobbled a lot but was able to do it all. The instructor, who was very good, tweaked me as we went along. I learnt from her I don't center myself, I can adjust this to help my posture.
My body matters to me, like many woman (and men) I spend too much time worrying about what it looks like. Possibly unlike others I spend a lot of time worrying about what's going on inside it too.
This period between scan and results is so hard. This is my annual highest level of ongoing stress. Prof Chew once suggested tablets to get through this bit. I didn't say yes, I manage through distraction.
'how's your health?'
Common question. I'm glad people ask, I'm glad they know it's an issue, but I wish they would remember that I'll pretend to be fine and brush it off with 'no news is good news' or something like that. But I hate this time.
This time is also the first time I'm not going to be here to talk through the results. What if they are complicated? How many of these versions can be, oh this is 2mm bigger, but it's fine, this is new but a growth, this is the same, oh did we mention the other 8 tumours. They're basically fine. Any questions? Because they tend to be the best case scenario meetings. What's that going to feel like in a letter or email. I'm going to freak if they suggest Skype.
And how do I negotiate worse news?

And right now that would be...

We would suggest bi-annual scans


You have a new brain tumour, brain stem, inoperable... Gammer knife


Kidney cancer


Something I haven't yet realised is shit

And I catch my face in the side mirror in a changing room and I feel I look sad, the clothes I'm trying on just don't make me look good and I give up. Just for a few minutes. I relent and feel utterly depressed. I regret everything. I wish everything I have chosen is different.

Then I snap back, I go and look for school skirts for my little girl and wander back to the other shop to meet my in-laws and carry on.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

My London

I'm in my London. My London smells, it's crowded and busy, it's got lots of people, it's got fashion and noise. It's got money, poverty. It's got tubes and buses and cabs. It's got cafes, restaurants, pubs and hospitals. It's got family and friends. It's got parks and schools.
It is my London and it's home.

My London knows me and looks after me. I have love all around me, the familiarity is like a blanket on a chilly night. It gives me confidence and freedom and I love it.

I had my scan, I spent that time thinking how lucky I am. My nurse made sure I had a scan. Not in my first hospital but my other one. I was asked the list of questions, I answered them confidently, reminded them of the contrasting fluid. I asked for a blanket.
The next day I went to my hospital for bloods and I was greeted in the ward by my first name. We caught up then too. We agreed the new health secretary looked like he was going to be a big a arse hole as the last one.
That bits now done.

Sunday, July 08, 2018

As we travel home

I've experienced a decent range of emotions about coming home. My time in Malawi is in no way over and it was a reluctant choice to travel back this long holiday.
Already the wealthy world is all around me as I sit enjoying 'free' WiFi in a luxury lounge we've paid for so we can feel more comfortable for the over night airport stay.
I'm drinking and reading and I'm relaxing.

Just a short while ago I was negotiating when to sort out the best time to wash, we juggle this around when Escom is giving us power or not.
I was only just leaving jobs for our house keeper.
I was just a teacher and now, now I think I'm a holiday maker.

Now I'm...
Going home to those I truly love and miss. Unable to fit them all in (humble brag.)
Going to my other heart, Tottenham and my old heart, Gorleston-on-sea. Leaving this new heart, the warm heart of Africa.

I'll have my scan. I'll wait to know, happily distracted by the sense of déjà vu I'll no doubt experience.

I'll tell the same stories over and over again.

And then I'll come back the way we've came and hope I still love it and still feel like I belong.