I sit here, feeling a bit funny, not feeling myself, feeling funny in an emotional way, rather than comedic or physical way. There is news of milestones, anniversaries and celebrations, plus the nights are drawing in, combined with some post-holiday blues no doubt. We approach the Earth’s population being seven billion, which I understand is forecast for 31st October, Halloween, a spooky, massive milestone for our Planet . I haven’t got a clue what one billion people looks, or sound like, and how much they need to eat, let alone seven billion people. Congratulations to the parents and welcome to the babe who gets the “I’m 7 billionth” badge as they arrive. There was the celebration of the 40th Birthday of my big brother, Iain. Then there’s the anniversary of what would have been by paternal Grandma’s 101st birthday (if she were still here), on the same day as the one year anniversary of my brain surgery. So my anniversary is less news-worthy than the arrival of number seven billion, but definitely worthy of a celebration. Blimey, in some ways the longest year of my life, and others it has flown by.
I’ve been unintentionally re-living the days and memories of the preceding few days this time last year, which has evoked all kinds of emotions in me. I was staying with my parents on Skye when I was diagnosed. I remember my chat on the phone with my rugby friend Niki who is a Consultant specialising in stroke medicine, who didn’t like the sound of my “depression” symptoms and advised me to “push for a head scan”. Then Monday 25th October 2010, it was my visit to the GP I had temporarily registered with, who I went to see with my symptoms of persisting debilitating headaches and nausea and vomiting. I’m really pleased that following my nomination, Dr Chris James has been recognised and won the Person Centred Care Award by NHS Highland.
Dr James arranged a diagnostic CT scan in Fort William the following day, which resulted in my admission to Broadford Hospital on Skye that day after being told the results. The following day I had my helicopter flight from Skye to Glasgow’s Southern General Hospital, where I had more scans and tests the next day, and met my Neuro Surgeon, Mr Nigel Suttner, the lovely chap who would find a way to get through my thick skull and suck out the tuna, leaving me with a yellow handbag, red handbag and 27 surgical staples. It’s an amazing anniversary, and I keep being told to think about what I have done in the last year… and that does make me feel proud and pleased. Mind you I’d far rather have been without tuna if I had the choice, but we have to make the most of what we have, don’t we? There’s no point in being a moany, grumpy old goat all of the time is there?
So, the timing of my anniversary links perfectly with the launch of International Brain Tumour Awareness week, which runs from 30th October until 5th November 2011. I know it’s always a National Day or Awareness month of some kind, but this is one close to my heart, and head, and if you want to know more, take a look at this website http://www.theibta.org/. Please do all you can to raise awareness with your nearest and dearest.
Whilst on the subject of brain tumours, my next scan, that is, my first scan since the end of chemotherapy, is in November. I wait patiently, with some trepidation. Please do keep your fingers, toes, arms, legs, eyes and ears all crossed for me that it’s the good news I am hoping for.
Life’s Rosie at the moment, as I have a new significant other in my life. I’ve not changed my “persuasion”, or “the team I bat for” or any other euphemism about sexuality. It’s a Lab Trial, in a canine rather than a scientific way. Rosie is a middle-aged Labrador. I’m looking after her for Mum and Dad for a bit. Her gentle snoring is endearing, though her perpetual moulting less so. The enrichment she has given me definitely outweighs duties of dog poo pick-ups. She’s been a great excuse to get out for some walks and kick some fallen leaves.
It’s good to go away, but it’s certainly good to be home too. Being away makes you appreciate even more so, what you have at home. It’s good to be back, crisp autumn mornings, leaves to kick, and acorns to collect. It already seems a long time since my return from the Southern Hemisphere, and as the nights draw in, and log fires are needed for cosiness, it’s good to reflect on my Australia leg of my trip to the southern hemisphere, the sunshine and short-sleeve wearing. I hear that our Queenie Liz and Prince Phil have followed me there, and Liz is looking as spritely as ever, mind you she must be a bit warm in those dress coats and fancy hats. As she chats to her Commonwealth friends, the conversations about future Kings and Queens of England and their gender seem somewhat hypothetical, as surely Liz will keep going for another sixty years or so? It’s good that the suffragette movement and Pankhurst sisters has had an impact on gender equality for our monarchy too, albeit after a century or so. I must admit, I don’t think that the gender of the next in-line will make much difference to me and my reproductive activities, Will seems happy enough with Kate and I hope they don’t feel the pressure from Granny Liz just yet, given that there are soon to be seven billion of us on the planet.
I heard that Liz went to Perth, W.A., where I was staying with my family just a few weeks prior. I hope she went for a dip in the Indian Ocean, as I did, it’s good for your health so they say. Mind you, twenty-four hours after my swim, there was tragic news, as an elderly gentleman had been taken by a shark from the very same place where I had swum, on the very same beach. I am assuming that either I was the bait that drew the shark in, I smelled tasty, but alas I was out of the water before the shark could get me, or perhaps that sharks don’t like brain tuna, who knows?
Whilst staying with family and friends in Perth, Melbourne and Sydney, I had a wonderful time, doing a number of “firsts”, testing my luck as shark-bait, being one of them. I went to see Western Australia Symphony Orchestra’s performance of Elgar’s Cello Concerto. It was my first ever full orchestra concert, and given my musical upbringing, I was delighted to be in the Choir Stalls, being able to look over the shoulders and music stands of the musicians, and hum along. Do try it… not the humming necessarily, but going to a Symphony Orchestra concert if you’ve not been to one, it certainly beats an iPod for atmosphere and sound quality. My Auntie Chris and I cycled around Rottnest Island,
and chatted and marvelled at the stunning scenery, and were tempted to have another dip in the ocean, but didn’t manage more than a paddle, which in hind-sight is probably not a bad thing, as there was another shark attack there a week or so later. We also saw, and stroked, a few the little quokkas. Quokkas are little marsupials that are only found on Rottnest Island, they are about the size of a rabbit, with the curiosity of a meerkat, and confidence of a rhino. Another first for me was my cousin Claire, Chris and I had a go at ceramic painting, and loved it.
It has been wonderful to spend time with my far-flung Aunts, Uncles and Cousins, and meet baby Amelia. It was lovely meeting old and new friends, some of whom had been involved in fundraising last year, and some of whom said they’d like to be involved in half marathons and the like, after a bit of arm twisting. It was fantastic to catch up with former work colleagues, Mark and Julie, and Scotland Women’s Rugby team-mate Figi, in my final few days in Melbourne and Syndey. It was fun being able to partake in some cultural treats, including a spectacle of a Japanese dinner, and drinkies at the Sydney Opera Bar, and my final lunch on the beach, watching the waves.
Of course I watched the closing stages of the Rugby World Cup tournament, and although I was saddened to see my fellow Celts exiting the competition, and getting on their plans back home, I think the Irish, Welshies and French did themselves proud, and in fairness, the team that played the best rugby, most consistently are now the World Champions. I watched the final having a beer with my breakfast at home with my neighbour Vince. To quote him, as we were working out the mixed up kit colour schemes, he said “we won’t mistake the French for the English even with them wearing white jerseys”. Indeed the French put on a fine display and played some rugby that was far more entertaining and courageous than anything I’ve seen from the England team for some time. The final whistle of the RWC tournament and well done to the Kiwis, I hope it was worth the 24 years of waiting. I am looking forward to the 2015 RWC already, which is in England to save me a few quid on travel insurance.
I should let you know about a massive step for Vicky, and a totally insignificant step for mankind: I have just had my second proper hair cut in the last twelve months. By “proper”, I mean that I paid-for it and didn’t do it myself with hair clippers. I think that the amount of scissor snipping was disproportionate to the number of hairs that were cut, but the performance was good, and I do like the short crop style even more as it’s so quick and easy each morning.
Fundraising continues and great strides have been taken by a number of my friends who have felt the need to don their running shoes.
Orla Meade, my friend who lives in the flat above the one I was renting in Glasgow when I was on treatment, is undertaking her first ever Marathon in Dublin on 31st October, in aid of Brain Tumour UK. If you would like to support her and this worthy charity, here’s the link: https://www.justgiving.com/Orla-O-Mahony
Greg Trevelyan, my friend and colleague for over a decade at Roche, took part in the Loch Ness Marathon on 2nd October, wearing a fantastic fancy dress costume, that he somewhat regretted after a bit. Greg ran to raise funds for Maggie’s Cancer Caring Centres and Isabel Hospice. If you would like to support him, you are only a few clicks of the mouse away.
Greg’s description of his day will be something that those of you who have taken part in a race will appreciate, and those of you who haven’t yet, don’t let it put you off….
“05.00 wake up, eat porridge, flap-jack; 07.00h arrive at the finish line at the top of Loch Ness, get on a coach with fancy dress in bag; 07.45h depart from finish to start line at the bottom of Loch Ness; 07.47h realised I left the fancy dress mask on back of car seat; 07.50h attempt to draw granny face on blank inflatable face in biro (poor effort); 09.30 arrive at start line, cold, it’s raining and I’m busting, just like 100 others on the coach; 09.40h blow up fancy dress suit on side of road and put on suit with help of two other runners; 09.50h I’m drenched, cold and frustrated as I realise that inflatable legs are on wrong way round; 09.55h I take off the suit, inflate it, put legs on right way, with help of two other runners; 09.58h jostle my way up the front, suit deflating, colder and wetter; 10.00h start the run, suit looking sorry for itself and safety pins sticking into my chest; 12.00h suit has given up the ghost. I am regretting fancy dress, and feel heavy and wet, legs seizing; 13.00h I stopped smiling; 13.02h My left leg has given up. I sit for 10 minutes in St John’s Ambulance getting strapped up; 13.25h ‘shuffle’ across finish line, manage a forced smile / grimace for the camera.”
Alison Gower, my friend and next-door neighbour, undertook her first ever Half Marathon “Run the Beat” around the streets of London in aid of Highlands Hospice http://www.justgiving.de/alison-gower0. If you would like to support her, many thanks indeed, as she’s my exercise buddy as I try and shed the on-chemo pounds I gained!
I’ve signed up for 2012 Dingle Half Marathon & Blenheim Triathlon, and hopefully will manage a few more if there are keen volunteers to keep me company. Do join in, it’s not the winning, it’s the taking part. You won’t come last as I’ll let you beat me.
I went and saw these fantastic ladies in St Albans recently. They are very proud of their “Cheap flights” song having so many hits on You Tube, and they are hoping to achieve the same with this song… probably not one to watch in the workplace without headphones: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MXzaVOk_Ydk
Enjoy feeling autumnal and make some home-made mincemeat… once you’ve done it once you will never look back. http://www.deliaonline.com/recipes/main-ingredient/mincemeat/home-made-christmas-mincemeat.html
Living, Loving and Laughing, with big kisses and bone-crunching hugs