Advent 1: Charity

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Charity shop gifts and cards © Southampton Old Lady
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Christmas cards in aid of Cancer Research UK © Southampton Old Lady
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Charity Donations © Southampton Old Lady
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Cancer Blanket Tree

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Rows and rows of stitches – a repetitive exercise for the brain
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Tree wrapped in a Cancer blanket

I have always been a bad knitter and hate repetitive tasks; I have always been envious of yarn-bombers.

To help recover from gaps in my memory ‘chemo brain’, I was advised to keep doing repetitive tasks, until I had mastered them, then take up another task as a way of re-training my brain.

I bought wool oddments and decided to knit a blanket while watching television. I had to relearn from scratch. I cannot tell you how many stitches I dropped and how much unravelling I needed to do. But it worked – I got it right and can knit better now than before my chemo treatment. I had visions of my ‘Cancer Blanket’ becoming some sort of heir-loom.

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I got the idea from this little warmer in Vienna when I visited in January this year.

I loved the blanket and felt a great sense of achievement, but alas, everyone else in my family hated it. So, as part of the dejunking, when deciding whether to donate it to the charity shop or put it straight in the bin, I recalled a blanket that I took a snap of in Vienna. It wasn’t your usual yarnstormer – it was  as if the crafter wanted to warm up a cold building by wrapping a blanket around a thigh of one of its columns.

But it gave me the idea. I took my blanket and wrapped it around a sad tree I knew of near a corner shop where passers-by continually dump their rubbish – cigarette packets, beer and wine bottles, unwanted take-aways, broken umbrellas and the occasional mattress.

Oddly enough the area was recently cleaned, but the blanket was left. Since then people have stopped throwing their rubbish there.

I am now on sailing knots.

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Dumped mattress and square of hardboard and naked tree

UPDATE 28th October 2016:

The blanket has now been removed. People have been dumping their rubbish again including a mattress.

 

 

Confessions of a Yellow Sticker Shopper

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Sweet and Crunchy Stir Fry tonight, reduced from £1.27 to just 9 pence. © Southampton Old Lady
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Supermarket own brand essentials are cheap. Many products these days taste almost as good and sometimes even better than high-brand labelled foods.

I am a yellow sticker shopper. I haven’t always been. I have been almost rich; I have been almost poor. When I am on a limited budget, I become a strict Budgetarian, surviving on very little money, but eating quite well on a mixture of in-season vegetables and supermarket brand basics, coupled with reduced-price meal packs with yellow stickers because they are at the sell-by or best-before date.

When I was a student, I worked as a waitress for Southampton’s Top Rank Bannister Ballroom in the evenings which included a free burger each shift and weekly cinema tickets.

My College provided cheap lunches during the week; On Saturdays, I would take it turns with five other students to cook a meal for all six of us. I would always look for these yellow-stickerred food packs on the day to decide what we were having and shop late at the vegetable market (Kingsland Square), buying bruised fruit and veg. The menu each weekend was interesting.

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Chicken, chargrilled peppers with Moroccan Style Cous Cous. A healthy take-away Snack Pot reduced from £1.60 to 15 pence. And you don’t even need to do the washing up after.

 

One pot stews and curries were common because they were easy, and anything could be put it them. There was an Italian student who cooked delicious pasta sauces, and once someone made a pie using a tin of dog food (Pedigree Chum) as the filling – which was awful – but I could taste the beneficial added vitamins!

Those were very happy, memorable times and very different to today whereby students seem to live on expensive take-aways delivered to the door.

I hope that with these days of student loans, I can offer this article as advice – “Throw away those pizza delivery leaflets, that bombard your letter-boxes, immediately”.

Once I had a full-time job, I ate whatever I wanted and ate out at restaurants quite often, sometimes three times a week.

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A year after my chemo I went back to work, but after a year or two, chemo brain (which is slang for a cognitive problem following certain types of Cancer and its treatment) came knocking and I was forced to give up working. So I currently have no income. My husband is paying off a £12,000 debt due to a mistake made by the DWP (pensions department) in 2007. So we are currently back to living a thrifty lifestyle.

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My husband often makes our own bread, but we often take advantage of reduced priced bread when we need extra.
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One pint of beer each at The Cowherds pub on Southampton Common – a treat not taken for granted.

We are back to yellow stickers, shopping coupons and free entertainments other than television. By free entertainments, I mean free festivals and walks – local seniors were allowed in free to Southampton Boat Show.  So we went to that last week.

Because we are careful, we are able to treat ourselves to little luxuries, such one pint of beer in a pub or perhaps a discount meal at a restaurant once a month.

My husband was brought up on war rationing, which was really difficult, so he learned many budget cooking skills and how to grow our own vegetables.

Do you have any food shopping confessions?

Unto Cowes and Come Home

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From Shamrock Quay along the River Itchen and under its bridge into Southampton Water

Regular readers will know that I am going to live on a sailing boat  with my husband as we have to move soon. We are selling or giving away worldly goods and doing up an old Maxi 95 sloop.

As it has been 15 years or so since I did any sailing, and pre-cancer/chemo, I thought it best to go on a refresher sailing course with a Royal Yachting Association (RYA) instructor.

Last weekend I got on a run as a team of five of like-minded individuals also honing their skills. We sailed from Shamrock Quay in Southampton to the Isle of Wight, where Cowes Week brought sailing boats from all over the world.

 

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Plain sailing on the Solent

The severe treatment for my Hodgkin Lymphoma left my body and brain somewhat disorientated. I describe my brain as living in a town where a bomb has hit and roads have been blocked off. I have had to find detours and rebuild. I had been having terrible balance problems since the treatment, but following a number of NHS exercises I have not had any accidents for about a year now.

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We anchored just off Osborne House on the Isle of Wight. This was Queen Victoria’s favourite residence and this her own private beach. It opened to the public 2 years ago.

Although I was used to sailing I had been extremely nervous about going out, especially onto the Solent, which requires strength, skill and alertness due to its tides, geographical structure and the many number of different vessels using its channel.

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The marina on the Isle of Wight was busy for Cowes Week and took great skill to moor four abreast

This weekend course really helped me to regain my confidence and sort out what I could remember and what I needed to practice.

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Ready with a slip-line returning to port

I feel brilliant!

The Battle

 

Where am I?

Faced down,

It’s hot.

I’m parched.

Dusty ditch?

Roadside gutter?

Whose territory?

What war?

What uniform?

What happened?

Missile, land mine?

Shock

confusion

exhaustion

eyes closed

attached at wrist?

Gun?

Can’t feel my body

Voices nearing

don’t flinch

play dead.

 

English words

sigh with relief…

women hurry

to my aid

turn me over

place mask over mouth

I breath

They leave

I pass out

Waking later

gagging, coughing

alone

in hospital room

attached to breathing apparatus

hooked to a drip-stand

get up and fight

never give up

It’s a battle with Cancer

© Southampton Old Lady 2013

I often wondered why people referred to it as a “battle” with Cancer.  It is very much fight or flee combat. While staying in hospital and undergoing chemotherapy for Hodgkins Lymphoma,  I hallucinated that I was at war. Two nurses arrived and put a breathing apparatus on me while I was semi-conscious then left.  I heard muffled instructions but awoke hours later with the mask still on.

As you realise, I survived and lived to tell this tale.

Valentine’s Day

This is a dedication to all those who grieve over loved ones on the 14th of February.

I am fortunate that the love-of-my-life and I will be together to celebrate this day which will hopefully be a happy occasion, but I am so aware of those who find it difficult to cope on St Valentine’s Day. You might be widowed, have a a family member snatched away by Cancer or grieving for someone who is still alive but gone from you. My heart goes out to the parents of those massacred by bullets that commemorate this day.  Whatever your grief this is for you…

YouTube link to David Bowie singing Valentine’s Day: https://youtu.be/S4R8HTIgHUU

CHEMO BRAIN QUIPS No 3 – Venice

William Turner's Venice
William Turner’s Venice

chemo brain buttonMy chemo-brain quips have been improving since I have been doing this blog – I haven’t had many for a while. Mainly I get names mixed up now. I was able to correct typos about floods in Columbia instead of writing Cumbria.

I have been obsessed with Venice too for some reason lately. I actually booked a flight to Venice instead of Vienna where I will visit friends – that proved costly; I called a woman Venice instead of Veronica, and on New Year’s Day, I announced that we were having Venice pie instead of venison pie

Southampton Old Lady: Self Portrait

My DNA taken for Cancer Research UK
My DNA taken for Cancer Research UK

More about Cancer and DNA on an early post: https://southamptonoldlady.wordpress.com/2015/06/17/cancer-research-at-southampton-university/

I suppose this self portrait, like my name, is quite anonymous. I am quite an ordinary person so why the mystery?

I place great value on my privacy. More and more it is being taken away and what I have left is precious. Please do not be offended when I won’t give my email – mobile phone number (it is off most of the time). I don’t want a chat or a reminder while I watch a film; eat a meal, am out on a walk. I get annoyed during a lovely conversation when interrupted by another on the end of a phone. I am just old fashioned and not one for selfies.

In my past I have been stalked, attacked, had my identity stolen, been near to death. I am left untrusting. But I am also friendly and have good friends. I worry too much about others – I don’t want to offend while seeking truth and stating what is. If I am invisible, I can be myself. I can speak my mind – can write what I like openly. This is me!

This post was inspired by Strata of the Self – If you like self-portraits you need to visit: https://strataoftheself.wordpress.com

Amazing People 1: Tamara

1st in a new series of people that I think are amazing…

Tamara Everington is a Haematologist. She works as a doctor for the NHS and is also a researcher.
Tamara Everington is a Haematologist. She works as a doctor for the NHS and is also a researcher.

P1120527Tamara Everington. This wonderful woman saved my life. I am so grateful to her. Everything I do now even writing this blog is all thanks to her. I know she gets paid by the NHS and that there were others on my Cancer team, also dedicated to me staying alive. This was during chemotherapy for Hodgkins Lymphoma and recovery. But I still think she is special and continues to save lives  every single day. Tamara was the first to pinpoint my illness when so many others failed. She took my side when I exercised my patient’s rights. She came in to hospital to check on me at weekends, when she could have been with her family. She spent hours of her free time writing up reports on my clinical trial so that others could benefit. She listens to me, always. She is just amazing.