Friday Flash Fiction Five Hundred – Harry H

 ‘…well not exactly sore, my tongue is sort of tingling… and when I took my temperature this morning it was 36.9 and then thirty minutes later it was 37…’

‘Okay Harry, it sounds as if there is nothing to worry about, just let us know if…’

‘…and I didn’t go this morning  do you think I should take the laxative?’

Harry the hypochondriac had never been so happy since being diagnosed with cancer; after forty years at last somebody believed he was ill. He was no longer worried he might have cancer now he actually had it. Now he had started chemotherapy he even had his own hot line to call anytime, twenty four hours a day, if he had any symptoms. That was lucky because he had a lot of symptoms.

At the group chat for chemo beginners he had been the star pupil, it was rather like being back at school only with tea and cake. The nurse praised him for asking plenty of questions, though his classmates kept looking at their watches. She emphasised they must ring the hot line, even if they did not think their symptoms were important.

At home Harry checked his home made charts. He had a good collection of lateral flow tests which he did daily, one could not be too careful with Covid. He took his temperature every hour after the nice chap on the hot line said there was no need to take it every thirty minutes. But he was still worried when he thought of all those white blood cells that had been destroyed.  When he had told Pam across the road all about his diagnosis, treatable and curable, she had patted his arm…

‘That’s what they said about my John, but his immunity was shot to pieces and it was the pneumonia that carried him off.’

He liked Pam, she understood his worries.

‘Now Harry, you be careful that district nurse gives you the right injection, our Julie went into that anaphallic shock…’

The district nurse came every day to give Harry an injection to boost his white blood cells. They were very nice and listened sympathetically when he updated them on all his symptoms, though he seemed to get a different nurse each time, so he would have to tell the story of his diagnosis right from the beginning… If they were not there by one o’clock he would ring to check they had not forgotten.

He was quite sad when the seven day course was complete, but at least he would see them again after his next chemo session. He kept the yellow plastic ‘sharps’ tub on the mantlepiece so visitors would appreciate the seriousness of his condition.

Harry began to worry again… supposing they had got his diagnosis wrong. Surely they should have operated first, those scanners might have missed something, perhaps he had another tumour of a different sort…  

Week Three

It turns out to be true. Week Three of chemotherapy you feel back to normal. Perhaps even halfway through Week Two; watering the garden and a little light dead heading turned into a pile of branches in the middle of the lawn grass as I attacked the buddleia ( common or garden variety, well known for colonising railway banks and derelict buildings ) that was taking over the garden.

Even going over to the letter box seemed an adventure, then a walk round the block to confirm I was back in the land of the living…walk to a friend’s house and by Wednesday it was time for a proper walk across the River Stour to meet some writer friends for coffee then back by ferry… 6Km circular walk according to my phone. The weather has been hot and sunny so come along

We missed the Tuesday bargain…

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In The Yellow Zone

The group chat on chemotherapy for beginners I saw as a last chance to be out and about. I had been to a similar thing with Cyberspouse in autumn 2018. In those pre Covid times we all sat round a big table in a small classroom and it was a very jolly affair, with our English compulsion to make jokes in medical situations. Most people brought their spouses and there was tea and cake in the middle. This time we were in a church centre opposite the hospital in a large hall with spaced out chairs in rows. Everyone was heading for the back rows so I thought I would be helpful and choose the second row. A mistake as I couldn’t see everybody else properly. We were all given a home work pack and a cup of tea.

All you need to know from this chat is that chemotherapy kills fast growing cells, if it killed all cells we would be dead presumably. Fast growing cells include not only malignant ones, but those we need, such as white and red blood cells, also those we like such as our hair. All chemotherapy is different, a variety of chemicals depending on which part of you they are targeting and every patient can react differently.  What is for certain is we all lose our immunity and get fatigue, a variety of available drugs and vast medical experience should prevent nausea and vomiting these days. The Big message was Ring the Hot Line, the number on the Red Card, the number written on every piece of paper and leaflet issued. Any symptom that you normally ignore Ring the hotline from toothache to temperature.

That done I walked down to the shopping centre in the sunshine and headed for Beales’ department store, ironically still open, though its flagship store in Bournemouth closed down even before Covid. The new very bright café upstairs is quite spaced out and quiet, people are still asked to wear masks in shops, even though Boris says we don’t have to and I did not want to catch anything before my Covid test in a few days.  The top floor had turned into a clearance section and I bought a few little things plus my fabulous bargain of lined curtains, intended for interior decors, but ideal for my beach hut… once I have made a very big hem. Curtains are actually very heavy and I had to ask for a carrier bag which fortunately was environmentally friendly and edible.  The bus driver said how nice it was to see a Beales’ bag again. I felt like I had had quite an exciting day!

Isolating or not isolating for chemo in covid times is still rather vague, urged to be very careful, but told to carry on with normal life as much as possible. Friday saw me back at the hospital for a Covid test; this time I went straight home. Saturday night I cooked a roast chicken for the four of us, my daughter had a long weekend pass and Sunday we walked to the beach hut and went swimming. At this point I was feeling very fit, I have been walking more than five kilometres and doing loads of gardening…

Monday was chemo day at the cancer centre in the Yellow Zone of the hospital. My daughter took me. In pre covid days you could bring a friend for company. Now no extras set foot past the front desk. Having been told I would be there for four or five hours on the first visit and to bring things to do and lots of layers to keep warm with the cold cap, I was the only patient there with a large overnight bag. Our little ward had four reclining chairs and one young woman had a cold cap on, looking like something out of a brain transfer in a science fiction film. I asked if it was her first time and she said no and you get used to it.

As I had to have an anti nausea tablet which takes one hour to work, but lasts for five days, it seemed worth filling in the waiting time by at least trying the cold cap, which has to start forty five minutes before chemo. First your hair is sprayed with water, then a rubber cap on, then the metal helmet which must be tight fitting. Cotton pads are put on your forehead to stop it rubbing, but the water and pads made me think of the electric chair… The weight was probably worse than the cold in giving a bit of a headache, it turned out I could have brought my own paracetamol. You are allowed to stop if you don’t like it…

I was the only new person, one old / older lady said she enjoyed the day out and we had all chosen a hot lunch from the menu. My chemo actually only took seven minutes for red stuff in a syringe into the canula and then a drip for twenty minutes, but followed by another ninety minutes of cold cap. I was allowed to go straight away; three hours and ten minutes and I had only looked at my newspaper and phone, puzzle books and kindle untouched.

Back home I thought I would recline on the sofa with a cup of coffee and heard my daughter on the phone telling her brother and husband I was asleep on the sofa, no I wasn’t… later on I thought I would get up and get the washing off the line and water the garden, but I only took one thing off the line and felt wobbly…

In the days that followed I had seven daily injections given by the district nurse, these boost your white blood cell production. On the first visit she took my temperature and it was too high, so I did have to phone the hot line; fortunately it was borderline and I had no symptoms, so I was told to keep checking my temperature. In the following days I did virtually nothing and my mouth got more sore, another side effect, but I was still eating. So this was the famous fatigue; just like when you feel wobbly recovering after an illness only more so, wondering if you will ever leave the house again or how you could possibly have thought it would be easy to post blogs while you were stuck at home. This is just a tiny insight into what it must be like for people with long term chronic conditions and those who now have Long Covid. Apart from that there was nothing else to complain about and low and behold I was back pottering in the garden on Friday and walked round the block this morning. Tomorrow, two weeks after chemo,  is a visit to oncology outpatients to see the nurse, then Friday will be another Covid test and blood test to see if I’m ready for the next round…

In The Pink Zone

If you are squeamish or do not like dark humour read no further.

One of the leaflets I received, produced by Breast Cancer Care is called Understanding Your Pathology Results, but most of us can only glean the meaning of some of the main terms. After all, the surgeon, oncologist and anonymous people in the laboratories have spent years studying human cells and what can happen to them.

When we went back to the Ladybird Suite ( pink zone ) to see the surgeon three weeks after my operation, the first item on the agenda was an examination. She pronounced the work of her colleague to be excellent; she was hardly likely to say ‘Oh my God, what on earth has he done!’ The whole area felt like a water bed, but this is normal, all those lymph fluids that were going into the wound drain bottle had nowhere to go, but eventually are absorbed – unless you are unlucky and have to have a bit of plumbing work done!

Then through the magic door into the consulting room where my daughter-in-law joined me as another pair of ears and moral support. The consultant said ‘We made the right decision to take everything away’ – she did not word it exactly like that. In layman’s terms there were lots of bits including quite a few lymph nodes.   ‘So all the cancer is gone BUT you Must / Need / We Recommend  chemotherapy followed by radiotherapy and then hormone treatment.’ WHAT!

Just because your aunt had a mastectomy years ago followed merely by tamoxifen for five years and your friend is just having radiotherapy, does not mean you will get away with it. Everyone is different and there are all sorts of tumours and grades. Basically our useful lymph nodes are also good at spreading cancer anywhere so the chemotherapy is a preventative attack. Next on the agenda was a CT scan of everything except my arms and legs to check if any cancer cells had turned up elsewhere.

No problems finding the CT place; I had already been to the blue zone for my MRI, not far from Costa Coffee and the main entrance. But somehow I couldn’t find CT. I asked at the MRI reception and she said We’re minus 1 you need to be on zero. Follow the green wall and turn left at the end, then go up in the lift. LIFT! I don’t do lifts, but luckily there was a set of stairs. There is not much drama for the CT, except you have to drink lots of water and have a canula put in your arm so dye can be injected. The scan doesn’t take long fortunately after all that water.

By the time the oncologist appointment came round it was the school holidays and Team H came to stay for the first part of their summer holiday, so my daughter could come with me. We went to town early so we could go to Marks and Spencer, actually try clothes on in the new ‘post Covid’ freedoms, though still wearing masks. Lunch out, still a novelty for me, then a stroll up the road to the hospital and back to pink zone. Oncology outpatients is down on Minus Two Floor, but strangely we were on ground level with a pleasant courtyard outside.

Our temperatures were taken ( Covid reasons ) and I was weighed and my height measured.

Warning  cancer jokes…

When my aunt was receiving treatment for secondary cancer ( yes it came back years later ) she joked to the nurse ‘Well I have discovered one thing, if you don’t eat you lose weight’ then realised the nurse was a very big girl.

The waiting room was quite nice with the usual relaxing seascapes; I thought it would liven things up if they had darker paintings like Edvard Munch’s The Scream or a few Hieronymus Bosch paintings of hell.

 We didn’t have to wait long to see the oncologist and my breast care nurse was also there for support. No one can force you to have treatment of any sort; it’s at this stage celebrities go off to live on a diet of raw vegetables and try alternate therapies. The rest of us do our best to make an informed choice and writer me likes asking questions.

The CT scan was clear, excellent news. But chemotherapy was still recommended. I asked about the base line of doing nothing; fifty fifty chance of cancer returning in the next ten years, the odds only going up by 8% with chemo. That didn’t sound much, but radiotherapy added another 7% and the five years of hormone treatment another something or other. Cancer could spread to the lymph nodes in the neck, which is exactly what happened to my aunt, though she had made it well into the new century and her eighties by then… My daughter was trying to read the indecipherable charts on the screen … Statistics don’t mean a lot, they could say forty % of patients who had no chemo died within five years, though some were in their nineties, others had heart attacks, a few got run over by a bus and one fell in a volcano doing his bucket list.

I had hardly any of the risk factors for breast cancer, so we can never make assumptions and you can never know for sure the alternative outcome. Nor can they tell you how the chemotherapy will affect you as everyone is different, except, annoyingly a guarantee your hair will fall out! What would you decide?

Yes, might as well give it a go. After I signed the consent form we went into another little room with seascapes to chat with the nurse about all the downsides and I had to decide if I wanted to book the cold cap, which may or may not stop your hair falling out.

Next on the agenda is the ‘group chat’ in the church hall opposite the hospital; learning about chemotherapy. Also a home visit by the community oncology support nurse and then start treatment on 23rd August. Everything is very efficient.

In the meantime I have been swimming in the sea and gardening and walking.

https://breastcancernow.org/

The Game of Life Continues…

Warning: Do you dare to play the game of life? If you don’t want to read about illness and death or you dislike dark humour please avoid this blog, but I hope you will continue to visit my Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday blogs. Do not seek professional advice here either!

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The Game of Life continues with no rules; it is over a year since the Game of Life started  play on Tidalscribe. Worldwide people continue to be out of the game in war and disasters – natural and man-made; even the blame for natural disasters is now laid at the feet of humans. What happens to individuals in their little lives means nothing in the bigger picture, but the bigger picture is too much for us to take in so we talk about people we know.

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A storm, a phone call and an early Christmas card.

 We had a big storm recently, not a typhoon, hurricane or flood. Out of all the people in Dorset the roll of the dice went against one older lady, a tree was blown on top of her car.

When my old school friend phoned one evening with ‘sad news’ it wasn’t hard to guess her elderly mother had died, but it had still come as a shock to her because of the circumstances and because she had been her mother’s carer for a very long time.

Just back from our little holiday in Wales, Cyberspouse  browsed through the mail and opened a Christmas card. Without actually looking to see who the card was from he started reading the brief type written slip inside describing the peaceful death at home on Good Friday of someone’s husband. From the name I guessed, we only exchanged Christmas cards, but our mothers had been best friends when we were in infant school. Chemotherapy had not worked, but he had time to see family and another grandson born, loved ones take comfort from targets achieved.

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How many things can humans have fixed?

How many extra years does modern medicine give you? Cyberspouse met up with a friend he hadn’t seen for a while and was surprised to see him looking so well. Over a period of time he has had his rib cage opened up, heart surgery, cancer, other multiple conditions, plus various parts removed.

Death Jokes

‘Eighteen months at the most I was told’

Well seventeen, it was a month ago they told you that.

Wilko Johnson is an ageing pop star I knew little about, but a few years ago I heard him talking on the radio about being diagnosed with terminal cancer; he just made me laugh, after always suffering from bouts of depression he was feeling really cheerful, his calm acceptance of his imminent demise apparently impressed his friends and fans. He carried on with life without bothering about treatment. After doing farewell tours, circumstances led him to an oncologist who offered to operate with a 15% chance of survival. He survived.

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Appointments

Cyberspouse’s most recent scan showed everything still stable, nothing had changed since his previous scan and six months of no treatment, when we went in to see the oncologist she said ‘Oh, you’re looking well!’. Life carries on as normal; we’ve had trips away most months, north, east and west. There are no magic answers to cancer; if you are feeling okay you may as well get on with life and not waste time searching for ‘key lifestyles’ and new cures ‘overseas’.  If a diet of raw vegetables doesn’t appeal to you eat what you like. The Macmillan nurse said at the start of all this, keep moving and feed yourself up, words taken to heart by Cyberspouse. We don’t look things up, but I find Quora quite interesting or amusing when it pops up.

Quora is a question-and-answer website where questions are asked, answered, and edited by Internet users, either factually or in the form of opinion.

Cancer is understandably a popular topic and most of the answers sensible. There is no miracle cure that someone somewhere in the world is hiding so they can make money. If there were, the rich and powerful would not succumb like the rest of us. It is not one disease, cancerous cells can pop up anywhere and move round the body to anywhere, cells have their own DNA and this can alter; every patient is different as to how illness and treatment will affect them. Cancer is not a battle to be fought, if it was the young with everything to fight for would not die.

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People you don’t see, in laboratories, are busy researching, adding to the multitude of different chemotherapies and other treatments – adding new chance cards to the Game of Life.

 

 

Game of Life – An Extra Go

sunshine-blogger

Warning: Do you dare to play the game of life? If you don’t want to read about illness and death or you dislike dark humour please avoid this blog, but I hope you will continue to visit my Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday blogs.

Last week was the appointment to see the oncologist about the scan results. In the main waiting room the television was still on BBC1, ‘Doctors’ on mute with subtitles. The bad news was we got called in quickly and missed the end of Doctors, the good news was everything had stabilised so Cyberspouse could carry on with the current chemotherapy. As he is still feeling fine, life carries on as normal, we can plan a few trips between the three weekly hospital visits. Have another throw of the dice.

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Tales of Life and Death

 An elderly lady told me a story last week about her last surviving son-in-law. She was awake early expecting a sad phone call, her grandson had flown over from the USA to say goodbye. When he rushed into the hospital he found his father sitting up in bed eating  a bacon sandwich.

‘What had been wrong with him?’

Every now and then his lungs collapse and have to be re-inflated. This time they couldn’t blow them up again and there was no hope.

 Someone once told me his mother rang up and said Quick, come to the hospital, your gran’s better. After lying in a coma with everyone waiting for her to die, Granny had suddenly sat up in bed, started chatting and had a cup of tea. By the time her grandson arrived she had lapsed back and died soon after. At least she got to enjoy a last cup of tea.

In a previous incarnation, in a town far away, my friend was practice manager at our doctor’s surgery, a mutual friend’s husband was a self employed builder with heart trouble. She helped run the playgroup at a chilly scout hut near the doctors. I was also one of the helpers. Her husband was always popping in to help ( annoy ) us.

This particular morning he was doing work at the surgery. Our jolly morning with the children was interrupted by one of the receptionists from the doctors rushing in to say Bob’s having a heart attack.

In the meantime my poor friend the practice manager watched as the paramedics were trying to resuscitate Bob on her office floor. She maintained afterwards he was definitely dead.

The next morning the rest of us arrived at playgroup wondering if the news was the worst, but there was Bob sitting at one of the little tables, he hadn’t even stayed home for a bit of a lie in. Apparently at the hospital the paramedics were astonished to see him walking out of the hospital when they were on the way back to their ambulance…

 

 

The Game of Life – 42

Warning: Do you dare to play the game of life? If you don’t want to read about illness and death or you dislike dark humour please avoid this blog, but I hope you will continue to visit my Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday blogs.

The Number Game

Fans of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy will know Douglas Adams said 42 was the answer to the meaning of life, the universe, and everything. Geeks everywhere are still trying to prove that. But it is the number of our wedding anniversary last week and also a multiple of three. Three can be viewed as a significant if you want to play the number game; for Christians there is the Holy Trinity, for artists there are three primary colours and for photographers a picture of three is viewed as superior to a picture of two. Three colourful boats in a harbour are more satisfying to look at than two boats.

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My parents both came from families of three siblings, had three of us and we had three children, though our children have no intention of continuing this trend. My mother was 93 at the weekend, thus making four generations with ages in multiples of three. Mother, sister, three children, four grandchildren ( if you count 0 ), great niece and myself are all in multiples of three – for a few months at least. I’m twice the age of my youngest child, eleven times the age of my granddaughter – WHAT! My mother can’t believe she is 93 and 31 times as old as two of her great grandchildren… where is all this leading? Absolutely nowhere, I’m just leading you up the garden path…  though you could try working out my age…

There are numbers and patterns throughout nature; scientists like deciphering patterns and mathematicians love making sequences while the rest of us just get on with life.

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The Bridge Between Life and Death

The second dose of the second type of chemotherapy has not interfered much with Cyberspouse’s life, so with the weather forecast springing optimistic we ventured west to St. Ives, Cornwall – 198 miles, another multiple of three – our first away of the year, for three nights. It was thick fog all the way down, but our two full days there were fine weather. Day two was devoted to old mine and coast landscapes already visited by Cyberspouse with his photography friends. Beautiful scenery with black jagged rocks, turquoise seas and snow white surf, but he didn’t tell me about the walk of death. To him it was a wide footpath he and his mates had crossed before, to me it was a perilous bridge too far with a lethal drop either side likely to result in a major operation by the coastguard, air sea rescue ( yes the one Prince William used to fly with ) lifeboat, mountain rescue and Devon and Cornwall Police to record the major incident.

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The photograph doesn’t really do justice to the danger. I don’t like heights so I stayed back to dial 999 and anticipate how I would explain to police, press and family – no he didn’t want to end it all dramatically,  he just wanted to take a photograph. There was much precarious playing around with the tripod, but no incident. I have to confess that when we walked round the cliff on a safer path the grassy ledge he had been standing on looked bigger than from the bridge view.

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You can read more about Cornwall in my Wednesday blogs.

 

https://tidalscribe.wordpress.com/2019/02/20/winter-weekend-west-part-one/

 

 

The Game of Life – 22-1-19

Warning: Do you dare to play the game of life? If you don’t want to read about illness and death or you dislike dark humour please avoid this blog, but I hope you will continue to visit my Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday blogs.

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 The Waiting Game

General outpatients is a pleasant place, light colours, sometimes quiet, today busy. Our oncologist is here and not at the Jigsaw building because she is from the other hospital. A mute television with subtitles is playing afternoon programmes and we are just in time for Doctors! We already  know one result from last week’s scan, Cyberspouse had a couple of blood clots so will have to have daily injections for six months; a choice  between a district nurse and DIY propelled him to have a go and it’s quite simple.

We progress to the chairs outside the little rooms, all the chairs are full. As he has been well and eating well we are feeling positive and prepared to be positive whatever. Results are mixed, different chemotherapy, but as his health is good he can start immediately.

At the Jigsaw it is always jolly, the reception desk has a friendly greeting for everyone and the whole place is very calm, we never seem to wait long. Each patient has their own bay with low walls, there is background music.

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The Retirement Game

Life goes on for Cyberspouse much the same as it has since he retired not that long ago, recycled teenager days. Out with the chaps or out and about with other couples ( the cosy world that not all get to enjoy ). Can you spend a whole day  at Ikea? Yes. ‘Did you get the two for one voucher for fish and chips?’ Yes…

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The Number Game

Everybody seems to be talking about the nineties, not the 1990’s but the tenth decade that some reach. My mother is the same age as The Queen, though she doesn’t get out and about as much, her mind and hearing are as sharp as Her Majesty’s. A lot of bloggers have been talking about their mothers of a similar age, my friend is a full time carer for hers. On our RVS Books on Wheels round we have four visits, five very different folk but all in their tenth decade. Mr. and Mrs are in a tiny retirement flat, different taste in books. Our next lady reads a book a day; we take twenty library books every three weeks and she only likes murder mystery. She lives by herself, has had times in hospitals, but ignored their warnings of dire consequences if she didn’t have this or that done and in her early nineties has outlived a daughter and a son-in-law.  She says she is never lonely, happy by herself. Our gentleman lives in a nursing home, the sort made of houses stuck together, where you fall down sloping corridors and trip where the houses have been joined up, but the staff are friendly, it feels homely. He is completely blind and has talking books, always has a story to tell about when he was a barrister in the House of Lords. This week one of the staff told us he had gone downhill since Christmas, not because of shingles, but because a clairvoyant once told him he would die when he was 96, his age now. For a very educated man this seems odd, but when we see him he has certainly changed.

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Ninety Seven is the age of the Duke of Edinburgh, in the news this week, knocking Brexit off the agenda for a few hours, after his miraculous escape unhurt after a car crash. Not on the Sandringham estate, but out on a busy A road. A little while back when Cyberspouse was in Windsor, strolling up the Long Walk with his camera near the castle, along came a carriage and fine black horses driven by the Duke of Edinburgh. The Duke called out ‘Can’t you find anything better to bloody photograph?’ Cyberspouse replied that he was only snapping the horses.  The girl grooms on the back laughed. When I heard the story I was surprised the duke was still carriage driving, while other people of his age are on their mobility scooters or housebound,  it seems he does not intend to stop driving of any sort yet. There has been fervoured discussion as to what age people should be compelled to give up; whatever the cause of the accident, it was every parent’s and grandparent’s nightmare as there was a baby in the back of the other car, luckily unhurt. Public indignation increased when a new Landrover was delivered the next day ( a gift perhaps, as the publicity was a gift to Landrover, how safe the vehicle must be to roll over and not harm the driver ) the duke was soon driving again and being cautioned by the police for not wearing a seat belt. For some, life goes on…

 

 

The Game of Life – Two Thousand and Nineteen

Warning: Do you dare to play the game of life? If you don’t want to read about illness and death or you dislike dark humour please avoid this blog, but I hope you will continue to visit my Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday blogs.

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Clear the board and start a new round of the Game of Life for a new year. People are either reviewing their lives with enthusiasm or daily life has come to a halt as they are house bound with ‘flu. Ironically we have caught nothing over Christmas and New Year; luckily, as Cyberspouse is supposed to avoid ‘catching anything’ while he’s on chemotherapy. Having a few plants in your house is supposed to contribute to good health; our home is so full of plants people should be flocking here for plant therapy.

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In the news… when we hear of a public figure who has died unexpectedly followed by the words  ‘he was diagnosed 12 weeks ago with cancer of the…’ we think – How did that happen, only 12 weeks?

Death Jokes   Doctor: ‘I’m afraid you have a malignant tumour.

Patient: ‘Thank goodness, I was worried I had cancer.’

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                        One branch of the family does ‘firework events’, sometimes to farewell ocean liners at Southampton. One time they were chatting to a regular dock hand who told them ‘the first thing they bring off after docking is the bodies.’ Two couples we know were surprised to meet each other on a cruise. On their return one husband said to me ‘Don’t go on a cruise, two passengers died.’ The wife of the other couple said to me ‘If you’re going to have a heart attack, make sure you’re on an ocean liner, they had a fantastic medical suite, our friend had a heart attack and he was really well looked after.’

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Cancer Conversations  Just after we got the first ‘news’ I was sitting on the decking of a sea front cafe, when two chaps came and sat at the next table so I was unavoidably eavesdropping. One was visiting and they were catching up, but the news wasn’t good, the visitor had only three months to live –  ‘it had gone to his brain’. He didn’t look ill. Though he knew his wife was trying to do her best, he had been overcome with irrational anger and taken the car he was no longer allowed to drive to his cancer drop in centre. His furious son had to come and pick him up. The medical team told him it was the cancer causing his behaviour.

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The Games of Life It is the time of year for enjoying indoor games. A friend brought round some jigsaws, only they were sawjigs. The picture on the box was not the picture of the puzzle, you have to work that out, it could be what the people in the picture can see, or what happens next. A trivial pursuit, but fun, like Trivial Pursuit, a favourite Christmas game. Outdoors the weather has been grey and dreary except for New Year’s Day when blue sky brought everyone out to play; first move in the game of 2019.

The Game of Life – Advance to Go

Warning: Do you dare to play the game of life? If you don’t want to read about illness and death or you dislike dark humour please avoid this blog, but I hope you will continue to visit my Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday blogs.

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Christmas comes early, Advance to Go.

Christmas comes early to fit in with the traveller from abroad, not for any reason of urgency. Secret Santa for the adults.  Everyone has a good time, despite worries of germs being brought and weather descending.

Oncologist gives go ahead for next round of chemo, Cyberspouse in good health, move forward two spaces.

Someone from our club has joined the team and a third member has put she and Cyberspouse on the prayer list at her church – Roman Catholic – saying it might be a few weeks before they experience results. Cyberspouse was brought up a catholic until his mother had a row with the priest… Take another shake of the dice.

A relative’s next door neighbours have put C on the prayer list at church – Protestant – they can only use his Christian name due to data protection. Take another shake of the dice.

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Xmas Cards

After the frenetic planning of the early Christmas we can relax, just a couple of parcels and the  cards to send… but is it that simple? Play the cancer card and people in the know will not mind if you forget to send. In Australia my mother is the only relative left not on line, I post her card and start yet another Facebook messaging group; exchanging news, pictures and greetings with everyone is more fun. But what of the friends and relatives we haven’t told yet?

Christmas provides more dilemmas for everyone each year. Cards and expensive stamps or e-mailed digital moving musical cards that you can’t actually put on your mantelpiece? Who should we post to; the elderly and anyone living alone, those who don’t like social media, those who always make an effort to write a few snippets of news? Cross off those who only ever say ‘Best wishes from Bert and Betty and family’, who we are never likely to see again….