Chemo Round Two

8th Jan 2005:
Progress report

Dear everybody,

Yesterday's chemo went fine and again I'm hyper with the massive doses of steroids which you have to take before treatment with taxol, and in lesser amounts for 3 days after. This is much less disconcerting second time around and I have managed to have two reasonably relaxing nights with even 2 or 3 hours sleep despite the steroids - I think leaving go of consciousness for even that short amount of time makes all the difference to one's state of mind. And I'm much less fearful of carrying on as normal straight away than I was first time, so I'll be getting out for decent walks as from today.

I had no 4 hours wait this time, in fact really no wait at all, and I was in a nice room with interesting other patients to talk to. One of them is 28, had a baby on Aug 31st last year and was delivered a lung cancer diagnosis on 1st September - she is an asthmatic non-smoker. The year before her successful pregnancy she had had a miscarriage and for 6 months her doctor put down her complaints about pain and breathlessness to anxiety as a result of this. At one point she went 3 times in a week to try and impress upon him that there was something badly seriously wrong, to no avail - he couldn't hear anything in her lungs and felt that should be enough to assure her there was nothing wrong. The woman on the other side of me, who had ovarian cancer had also experienced great difficulty in convincing her doctor that her symptoms were anything other than a combination of the menopause and virus-related symptoms, which was precisely how docs reacted to me.

Which set me thinking an interesting thought ... it would be a very clearcut piece of research to look at whether there is a significantly higher rate of missed diagnoses for women patients than for men - i.e. do GPs take men more seriously than they take women? It seems such an obvious question to ask. Us poor women are of course off our heads for hormonal reasons for so much of our lives - pregnancy, postnatal, premenstrual tension, menopause. So naturally we shouldn't be expected to be taken as seriously as the chaps?

I wished I'd been sitting next to the Asian woman who was opposite, too far away to talk but when she wasn't praying with her beads she was looking towards me in a very friendly way and judging from how clearly she understood the nurses I think we could have had a meaningful conversation. Which I would probably have started by saying that I hadn't realised that Moslems used beads in the same way that Catholics do...

Right through all this it has been a fantastic bonus relating to the other patients. In NGH they were almost all elderly, and I've always loved getting old people to tell me their life stories. This interest seemed to be welcomed and I heard wonderful tales of greatly spirited lives, including one who was a dancer at the Lyceum (where she had been part of a trapeze dancing troupe) and in 30s films. When I was in for the biopsy it was most salutary to be next to Pearl, who vomited all day and had dreadful attacks of diarrhoea in the night which of course was hard to be adjacent to. But she was the most wonderful Coronation Street character with one of those turbans on her head, absolutely stone deaf and shouted even louder than me when she spoke (with an excuse which of course I lack), but entirely compos mentis, wholly calm and determined to be as independent and in control as she could possibly be. Never once did she vomit without trying to make it her first priority to draw the curtain between us, and never once did she complain about her situation. We couldn't have a two-way conversation but she still managed to exude a fantastic warmth and good nature.

At the appointment with the consultant the day before chemo, some important points were clarified. First and foremost, the standard rough and ready chemo likelihoods in lung cancer/unknown primary cases are seen as being a) 30% that the mass will actually diminish in size, b) 30% that it will not have increased in size, and c) 30% that it will have continued to increase in size. Unless there are strong reasons for doing otherwise in terms of how I react to 2nd round of chemo, or (c) applies, they will continue with chemo for a total of 4 sessions. It was very clearly spelt out to me that chemo was seen as a means of buying me more time without any realistic hope of a remission. And also that given the size and location of the mass, death from heart failure or obstruction to the artery which carries the blood supply to my head is not unlikely to be how I go. [Retrospectively I was reading more into this than they were actually saying - see July diary.] Which I consider to be a lot better than the stereotypical long-drawn-out cancer death, especially now that I feel that my affairs have been left sufficiently in order to not cause too many nightmares for family.

I also looked at my notes and have asked for a copy of the biopsy report. For those interested in cells and suchlike, mine is a "high-grade non-small cell carcinoma". If the "unknown primary" is as the doctors are inclined to think my lungs (which are still functioning perfectly - all the sense of constriction is from the mass which is outside them), then there is an oddity. A standard lung cancer indicator is that the cells are "TTF1 positive" - "The thyroid transcription factor-1 (TTF-1) is a highly specific immunohistochemical marker for the identification of pulmonary adenocarcinomas and non-neuroendocrine large cell carcinomas, especially in patients presenting with metastatic carcinomas of unknown primary site." (

The cells in my mass are TTF1 negative, hence the uncertainty. Needless to say my questing analytical mind is deeply fascinated by this and I have a little lifestyle-related theory which I am researching....

Having started writing I could no doubt continue all day driven on by steroids but my lunch is beckoning (again no nausea and thoroughly enjoying the wholesome food I eat) and the rain has stopped so hopefully a walk will be possible this afternoon.

PS: please note - I still don't feel I can manage with visits from any but a very few closest and/or oldest friends! Personally I don't see what all the fuss is about seeing people in the flesh. Anyway this is likely to remain the situation right through chemo and quite probably until I depart this world, so please please accept this. Telephone calls can also be difficult - for me in my situation email is by far the best way of communicating so really it's tough if that doesn't suit you I'm afraid.

9th Jan 2005

Hair fell out exactly on cue - 2-3 weeks after first chemo. It varies depending on what chemo drug you're on but this is the norm for Taxol. Still a few strands left but basically bald. After the initial shock of casting my shiny chestnutty brown locks into the compost bin and realising that it was actually rather nice hair having never gone grey and its only fault was me not getting it well cut often enough ... and after the initial shock of seeing myself hairless, now when I go past a mirror I just think the me I see is me and I rather like her eyes.

Here is a picture of me in my favoured headwear which is a slightly stretchy seamless head tube called the "Buff" that can be worn in many ways and can just be pulled on with no need to faff about tying knots. They produce whole fucking folders about how to tie your headscarf. Not for me. The nurses got very excited about it when they saw me in it at Friday's chemo as they'd never seen one before. The key thing about headgear is that it should be OK for inside and outside so no, I doubt that I'd make use of the numerous hats offered by friends. These buffs are extortionate at £11 each but I think would be difficult to make oneself despite just being a tube, because any seam would probably be uncomfortable.

You'll also see from pic that I'm maintaining my weight very well, not like the gaunt stereotypes of terminal cancer sufferer am I? And as indicated in progress report it's quite likely that sudden death will mean I won't have to go through that...

The more I think about it, the more cross I feel with the Macmillan nurse at the hospital, and her irritating presence when I was reading through my medical records.

11th Jan 2005

I email a Buddhist friend in the Hope Valley Peace Group: "I keep on wanting to say things like "God willing" when I don't believe in God. I see myself as part of nature, a speck in the universe, whatever happens to me the birds will sing tomorrow etc but .... I am at this moment wishing I could comfortably appeal to something I can personalise. I go for the spirits of Highlow but I can't seriously believe they have divine power in the way a God-believer can think. Have such thoughts been meaningfully dealt with by the incisive Buddhist minds of your household?!"

I don't like this hyper steroids stage of the taxol chemo cycle at all - I feel as if it's bringing out the family manic depressive tendency (brother got diagnosed (when 45) as such as well as middle sister all her adult life, altho' he has no probs at all keeping it under control with lithium). Friday - Sunday the sense of body being in mega-overdrive was making me feel actively scared of the imminence of sudden death, and I found myself in a ghastly pre-menstrual type state, my mind insistently homing in on things to get wound up about. The prime one I can't get out of my head is feeling very angry with my youngest sister over how she relates to me. She unburdens me at some length with her angst at "not knowing how to deal with the situation" and her disagreements with me, and at the moment I feel she's just not listening carefully to me or make any attempt to quietly understand how I'm dealing with it.

Monday I then got really low and weepy which poor old Sarah had to handle - it's the first time that any of them have had to cope with me being anything other than positive-spirited.

Last "tail-down" dose of steroids was yesterday night, and altho' I didn't sleep well and restlessness brought me to the computer at 7.30 a.m. I think I'm calming down now and should be able to meditate again in a couple of hours or so. However, I do fear that I cannot feel any rational optimism that the size of this mass is diminishing or even halted - I think the sense of constriction on my chest is greater rather than less than it was three weeks ago, and I've had some big-time sweating bouts which I think may be a sign of ongoing cancerous activity. Because of this, my original assumption that hope would figure strongly as a driving force at least for another 3 weeks until they compare x-rays, is proving to be not quite that simple.

However it could be said that this has just forced me to go a bit further in the preparation process which has to come sooner or later. I've decided that it consists of moving from valuing and being thankful for every extra day I am still able to enjoy, to valuing and being thankful for every extra hour and minute and even every breath I take and enjoy. (If it is a lung cancer, then the absence of primary activity really is a bonus, since I can still breathe completely comfortably when meditating and walking, including steep climbing.) This sense of having to prepare for an imminence of death which I desperately don't want to believe is going to happen has tears rolling down my cheeks as I type. But, good to get it out of the way while lazy Sarah lies in her bed...

My youngest sister asks me: Are you really keeping as positive and chipper as you sound?. I paste her the paragraphs above in reply, which I've just written to a friend. I add: Anyway, the point is that I don't want to spend my remaining time being miserable do I? So, stands to reason I don't want to put much time into writing or talking about the struggles on the way when I could be enjoying reflecting on the positive bits...

I feel that I have been very tactful. I have been irritated by the question coming from her - I just can't think of her as somebody I would want to confide in. I feel she's made it clear all our adult life how little she wants to relate to me and how fundamentally different our values are. All the same I'm pleased to have her tell me that "you can pat yourself on the back because amongst many other things of course you have got the rest of us siblings talking much more than we have in the last few years."

It's a real big problem of the steroids hyper that I can't get focussed on meditating, and meditation is definitely the most important element in my coping strategies. Vastly more than cannabis, although given my lack of nausea or unmanageable pain and given the fairly convincing research evidence that cannabis could be a bit of a "hero" in this respect, I don't intend at this point in time to leave the cannabis out altogether.

13th Jan 2005

Great relief that stage of the chemo cycle is over and done with - last steroids dose was Monday. It's been a beautiful day, and Sarah and I have just been for a lovely couple of miles circuit - am still OK on steep climbs and walking at a fairly brisk pace. Fearful of the infection risks posed by being sociable but it's also a good excuse for keeping visitors away.

14th Jan 2005

I'm back to feeling pretty good again now. Still walking merrily and have been gardening this afternoon. Again no nausea beyond what peppermint tea can handle and enjoying my very wholesome nosh.

15th Jan 2005

A lot of responses in my mailbox on the issue of missed diagnoses. I am slightly inclined to thinking that it may well have been for the best that I wasn't diagnosed and chemo commenced 6 months earlier. In particular I had two fantastic holidays this summer, one cycling in Suffolk with my old chum Roy and one walking on Exmoor with John which I probably wouldn't have got, or would have been different if I had known just how serious my health problem was. But if it had been Hodgkin's, which on my symptoms of sweats, repeated flu-like bouts with high temperatures, and dramatic loss of energy, it equally well could have been, then I would not be pleased that it hadn't been diagnosed until the mass was as big and potentially life-threatening as it is now.

I have been simmering for a couple of weeks over an email sent to me by my oldest sister on the topic of my request to friends and family for support by making a donation to Medical Aid for Palestinians. She says: "While you are alive I will rejoice for that, and give however I please. For me charity is a private thing and I don’t want to be judged by anyone – even you in extremis! – for what, when or how I give. When you die, I do promise you, however, that I will give to your chosen charity in memory of you – or if you outlive me I’ll make sure there is something “for you” in my will. I hope that’s ok and won’t come between us."

This comment has resulted from indignation at the concept of "upfront" giving of online donations via my webpage Today, when I receive in the post from oldest sister a most unwanted brand-new hat I finally get the bit between my teeth about what people think it is and isn't OK to do with their dosh.

I tell her (copying my reply to youngest sister):

I am very happy indeed with the headwear I have available and do not wish to be given any more however suitable *you* may consider it to be! I'm afraid the hat sent was absolutely and completely not my style (I'm surprised really that you didn't see that) and now I'm rather embarrassed as to what to do with it. Please advise as to whether you want it posted back or whether I should give it to the next fundraising event for a worthy cause.

Whilst on the topic, and as it relates to other differences of outlook which I don't feel I can just gloss over, can I say that I have been a vegetarian for over 5 years and as with most vegetarians have over that period ceased to use toiletries tested on animals. I'm sorry but why is it OK to spend £20-£30 on sending somebody toiletries when it would only have taken a little reflection on your part to realise that this could well be an unwelcome gift? Are you not aware of animal testing issues? The fact that I think animal testing is probably acceptable in relation to medical research doesn't mean that I want to use luxuries like toiletries which animals were subjected to pain in the making of.

I go on: This relates closely in my head to what you said "plainly and without finesse" in your email of 29th December: " For me charity is a private thing and I don’t want to be judged by anyone – even you in extremis! – for what, when or how I give."

The fact is that I do judge you for choosing to spend your money on sending me things, or doing things (e.g. big journeys to visit me), which I don't want in preference to giving to a cause which I do want those who care about me to give to. I'm sorry, but I can't see anything in the least bit laudable about the stand you're taking. "Charity is a private thing" has been a getout clause used by the rich for many a long year. It's not something I'm going to change my mind about before I die and I don't want to waste my precious time arguing the toss with either of you on this fundamental difference. I'm sending this mail to both of you so that if either of you feel that you must have an outburst of righteous indignation because my beliefs don't suit you, then you have one another to do it with and will kindly keep me (and preferably mother) out of your weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth!

I'm sorry that this is a hard thing to say but it's a relief to me to have said it to both of you as I felt it was inevitable I would have to do so before the end.

Today's walk was 3-4 miles including a steep climb up the valley between the Abney Road and the Leam road. It's a lovely quiet little valley with a very pretty old bridge over the brook.

16th Jan 2005

Poor oldest sister (who I am truly very fond of) mails me saying: "I can't get anything right, can I?"

I reply: don't be silly you get lots of things right. Don't ever imagine that I don't enormously respect and appreciate the hospitality and generosity which you have extended to our family ... Anyway I'm glad you've emailed and not gone into silent mode.

Have been for a splendid walk up to the old paper mill - where they used to make brown paper to pack the needles which were made at the needlemills lower down the brook, including the one whose chimney you see from my house. Then over to North Lees which (despite claims to the contrary from the other side of the Pennines) was the inspiration for Thornfield in Jane Eyre, and from there back to the village. 4 miles with some climbing so pretty good I think. Talking more tiring than walking - I think because I do all the work from very low down - hips and diaphragm - when walking. Weather is beautiful here at the moment - mild and sunny with just the occasional shower.

17th Jan 2005

A friend writes: "dont bother with a reply as I dont need one". I say: I hope that doesn't mean you don't want a reply because replying to emails is really the focus of my social life and most enjoyable it is too!

I have been thinking back to the steroids phase of this round of chemo, how it makes me feel very hyper and body in overdrive and my mind seeking about for things to get wound up over. The process of going very low and weepy and getting very angry with John vis-a-vis serious long-term resentments towards him, has such a familiar ring to it. Very like the worst pre-menstrual experience - big and real issues coming out in a ghastly way. These thoughts have made me deeply concerned that sudden death or a "catastrophic event" during the steroids stage when in overdrive, is a possible and highly undesirable scenario.

So, I told my GP that I would like a counsellor to help me handle the steroids stage at the next round of chemo (if it happens - they compare x-rays and decide whether to proceed on 27th then if continuing the next chemo is the next day - 28th.) Very promptly through the good offices of a trust which provides complementary therapy services in Hope Valley free of charge, I was telephoned by an ex-dentist hypnotherapist who was I gather a key player in formation of Cavendish - the very well-reputed complementary therapy centre in Sheffield - and who has just retired and lives up the road in Baslow.

So, he's just come for a first visit today and we'll be doing hynotherapy next Monday, which I'm greatly looking forward to. I was glad I'd done my little bit of Internet sleuthing on him (i.e. entered his name and Cavendish in Google) before he came so I knew he was a dentist and my head was ready to receive a dentist-like stereotype. Anyway we got on fine and he didn't say anything or use any stock phrases which irritated me.

Re "braveness" - The thing that has helped me most is having learnt to do traditional Buddhist mindfulness of breathing meditation a few years ago (having never fancied meditation with mantras, chants, objects of veneration etc.) Plus that thing of realising how privileged I am. Plus wholesome vegetarian diet - no nausea from chemo and really enjoy my food - OK cannabis might also help in this respect, and with the pain too but I wouldn't wish to give it excessive credit, especially as it could well bear some responsibility for my strangely atypical cancer. Plus the enhanced awareness and perceptions and hence enjoyment which this kind of situation brings of itself are a great pleasure - at least now, when pain isn't a big problem and I can breathe comfortably, and I do find I'm able to live in the present and enjoy each day, hour, minute, breath.... I do think altered states of consciousness are good fun - am really looking forward to adding hypnotherapy to my armoury of resources for handling things.

I'm definitely very into "being factual" ... I just am an analyst at heart. Whatever it is, I enjoy finding out about it. At the same time I'm buddhistical - I'm just a speck in the universe, it's not the end of the world if I die (especially as I have now got my affairs pretty well in order).

18th Jan 2005

It's very strange, I can now cross my legs quite comfortably which I haven't been able to do for years. Over the past few months I've just had none of the stiffness in my joints which usually bugs me. I'm walking loads - I can do four miles no problem. I tell a friend with suspected ME: all this might make you very jealous and wish that you too had a nice kindly terminal cancer like me. On the other hand ... I'm fully expecting you to be another case like my village friend who was in what seems a very identical state to you and it took fucking ages but she did get completely better. This is a funny one isn't it? I got so, so pissed off with my mother pre-diagnosis telling me she was absolutely certain I didn't have cancer, recounting all these stories of people who thought they had cancer but didn't etc. and me saying that to you might be me doing the same thing.

19th Jan 2005

It always seems to get convoluted when I try to make arrangements to go for walks with other people. I've definitely now gone for the strategy of seizing the time and getting out as the weather dictates. I feel OK about going out on my own especially as it's difficult for me to mix talking and walking. Yesterday I was really glad I'd gone out at 10 when the sun was shining on virgin snow, and was just getting back as the weather got nasty.

I keep thinking I must get into the habit of taking my camera out with me .... but then, on the other hand, it's easy to get obsessive about capturing just the right shot and maybe that's counter to what I get out of simply walking.

I talk to my mother on the telephone. She has something she wants to tell me about my youngest sister, who she desperately wants me to think well of. I get annoyed with her and tell her that I really don't have any interest in the details of millionaire lifestyles. I email her later to reassure her that myself and youngest sister have exchanged kindly emails. I say: Now if you had been wanting to tell me that they were selling their house, moving into a £1m house, and giving £2m to charity, then yes I would have been very interested and sorry I interrupted you on the phone!! You must accept the fundamental differences between us which for somebody of my political convictions mean that we can never be truly close to one another.

I am feeling almost *too* fit, i.e. yesterday I found myself lapsing into excessive normality and being undisciplined with myself. I decided I was going to tidy up my "htmltag" macro (a little piece of programming I developed a couple of years ago for turning Word files into "clean" html) and then put it on my website as downloadable open source. So of course I did lots of testing and found a blip (albeit very minor) and also felt that there was a lot of spaghetti in the cleaning up routines which are needed to handle the quirks of Word, which I feel a bit ashamed of. And off I went into programming mode until I realised (as happens to me in programming mode) that hours had gone by and not minutes and that I had to stop myself from being my usual me and just carrying on till I'd finished. (Which could be a couple of days work to do properly.) I'm going to have to think out a way of working in order to get it done which is much more systematic and methodical than my normal whizzy mode which involves carrying lots of stuff in my head as to what tests and try-outs I've already done etc etc. Doing it in chunks rigorously limited to a couple of hours is a whole different ballgame. An alternative is to decide that improving the program just isn't a priority.

Have decided that a great point in favour of walking on my own, is that I don't want to spend too much time with the keenest company-offerers on walks - local people who are perfectly nice but I do not want as bosom buddies and who also don't understand that me not being able to talk much on walks doesn't mean I want them to keep up an endless patter.

Primroses and some lungwort already out in my garden as well as snowdrops...

Sarah thinks Ian's not spending enough time with me and hiding behind his high-powered job and she's right that at some point chances are that he's going to need to take some of the load off her. (Although at present I'm really perfectly fine on my own except at the steroids stage.) But he's not all that good around me at the moment - he's very unrelaxed. But he and Sarah are very close and she's been giving him a good talking to, so we'll see how he is when he comes tonight.

Sarah has decided to drop out of uni for the year to be my main carer. I don't think she felt under any pressure and there are lots of reasons why it could be a very good thing. She is very undisciplined academically and was well on the way to flunking it even before my diagnosis - not buckling down to the work required to get her big batch of assignment deadlines met. The joys of being classified as terminal and the non-means-tested £100 p.w. from DLA which this brings with it! This will be going straight to Sarah and keep her income at pretty well exactly the same level as it currently is.

20th Jan 2005

I can't feel in the least bit sorry I'm not at work! In fact what a sad reflection that the past weeks of chemo have been vastly more enjoyable than any weeks of work I've had in the past five years or so. And how sad that there are so many others like me, for whom the jobs which should have brought them intellectual satisfaction and a sense of worth, have been reduced over the past 10-15 years into a stressful and unfulfilling grind. I suspect that this applies in many, many public sector jobs, not just higher education.

21st Jan 2005

Am feeling very chuffed by my middle sister, who has lived all her adult life with manic depression (a much more descriptive label than "bipolar disorder"). Last year she took the ECDL computing course and was doing excellently well at it but then when she discovered the Internet she started to get over-excited. She said it was "like being a child let loose in a sweetshop". The "sweets" in her case being information about obscure medieval women composers and such things. She went into a bit of a manic and since then has been afraid of going near computers again. This has left her feeling excluded when I'm doing all my communicating by email. So today I'm very pleased and also very proud of her when she emails me from her own address, saying: "I have been given a lesson in e-mailing, and shown how to set up an e-mail address that I can use in the library and elsewhere. So here goes!"

I tell her: Thankyou so much for overcoming your fears and doing this. I remember you comparing the internet with being a child with the free run of a sweetshop - but children do learn not to eat so much they get sick after that's happened once so the same will maybe apply to you...

I do dearly love this middle sister of mine although I have never felt capable of offering her support and hospitality during her manic phases, as my oldest sister much to my admiration has always done. But I know that she's not in a manic now, and that she'll have a chuckle at the things I say and not be in the least bit mortified.

22nd Jan 2005

My very oldest friend badly wants to visit, but she is a person with a fairly full diary. "Long-distance" visits which need to be arranged in advance are specially daunting to plan. Steroids hyper stage of the chemo cycle doesn't seem a good time. But then 7-10 days after chemo I'm apparently highly vulnerable to infection, but this doesn't mean that I feel unhealthy at this point in the cycle. So I only want visitors then if and only if they are absolutely certain when they set out that they pose nil infection risk to me. That leaves only the third (last) week of the chemo cycle, when seeing Roy is my top priority and I don't want to mix this with visits from others.

I find myself getting very stressed indeed by trying to make arrangements such as this.

23rd Jan 2004

A friend mails to tell me of meeting somebody else who was also on my mailing list. She says: Quite a community we are, the Friends of Jos!

I tell her I like the idea of a Friends of Jos community. And I also do like, very much indeed, the number of people who are telling me that they're thinking of me. It's truly comforting and encouraging.

Climbed up to Carr Head Rocks today with old friend Debby - on plotting the route in my jolly Anquet Maps software I find we ascended 948 feet and covered 3.5 miles, or 4.2 incl hidden miles (i.e. ups and downs). Not bad for a terminal eh. Hope Valley Cement Works solidly there in front of the wonderful view. I can't imagine that people would say it adds to the scenery as they often used to with the golf balls at Fylingdales, but I don't know ... locals might say it does. We have spectacular "inversions" here in the Hope Valley, where there's a fog in the valley and a clear blue sky above ... and then, the plume of smoke from the cement works chimney rising above the inversion is a wonderful sight.

Oldest friend is now proposing different dates for her visit. I tell her proposed rearrangement is fine, then after emailing I start to get a niggly feeling that it isn't... My head is sent reeling so easily by "arrangements".

24th Jan 2005

Hypnotherapy day. I write an account of the hypnotherapy experience for my sister Susan. One think I like about doing all my writing in my mailbox, is that I find it much easier writing to a real person. From my mailbox I can just choose whoever it seems most appropriate to write to on a particular topic or at a particular time.

25th Jan 2005

I said to the hypnotherapist yesterday that I thought the work I'd done as a social historian had been a formative influence in shaping my attitude to death. i.e. Death is just part of everyday life. I'd forgotten that I thought this until I mentioned it to him as a result of a comment he made about local history. The piece of work I was particularly referring is on my website - "Life and Death in Elizabethan Norton".

My GP chum tells me that Macmillan nurses get up her nose too.

26th Jan 2005

It's been fascinating since I came back from hospital on Nov 18th (after the mass had been found but before biopsy and diagnosis) - my body has been telling me so firmly what to eat and not to eat. Much more purist vegetarian than hitherto (e.g. re fish). Absolute no-nos to alcohol, chocolate, cheese except cottage cheese, food which isn't freshly cooked ... but yoghurt (Rachel's organic Greek-style bio-live) is a very staple part of my diet and I actually drink a lot of milk, especially at the steroids stage - something I would never have dreamt of doing before. I believe I'm doing it to line my stomach and because it passes through my system loosely and easily, but I'm not driven by literature or theories or anything, just what my body tells me. I don't like soya at all.

My youngest sister has entertained me by sending me a "virtual hat". The hat of her choice is

- and she donates price of hat online to MAP via my bmycharity web page.

It's a bit of a limbo day today - tomorrow is the comparing of x-rays before and after chemo, and decision as to whether to continue with more of same (the alternative being "no more we can do").

I am feeling v. fit still - and less excessively normal - i.e. not with the same slightly manic edge as last week. Have now climbed twice up to Carr Head Rocks this week - again with Ian on Friday .

27th Jan 2005

Having concluded that hypnotherapy is no more use to me than a guided meditation, I start thinking that it would make sense to get myself some support with my meditation practice.

I mail Wildmind to say: I did your online introductory meditation and "hindrances" courses about four years ago, and thought they were brilliant. I was diagnosed at the beginning of December with a terminal cancer. Since then my meditation practice has become a very central part of my life and how I'm facing up to the prospect of death. I am positively enjoying myself at present - I'm still fit enough to climb mountains. But I do feel I could do with some guidance. Would you be able to offer this or do you have any ideas of somebody suitable? I just mean an email exchange like the course log book - I wouldn't expect myself to be unreasonably demanding (am getting a lot of support from friends and family) and can afford to offer payment for it.

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