For a review of my art during 2016, please see the next post.
Warning: long post, picture-rich.
It’s been quite a busy year. Since being given my cancer all-clear towards the end of 2015, this year I have felt quite a lot better than I have felt for years, and as a result, have done a lot more. However, this meant that I also had rather less studio time than I’d hoped because I was so busy with other things, but I managed to work on a few projects.
New Year Resolutions for 2016
First things first. Let’s see how I did!
Not too well! My filing tray is still overflowing. My office is slightly tidier than it was, but I still need to do a major blitz on it. I have managed to read my Bible more, and this year I started up my Bible study group again – our numbers are small, but numbers aren’t everything! It is so great to be doing it again, and to feel well enough to pick up the threads of various things that I thought were gone for ever, including playing the guitar and singing.
I managed to finish off most of the left-over bits of decorating from when the builders were in, so I’m happy about that.
Going to bed earlier. Well, some success here for quite a few months but lately my ME internal clock weirdness has come back and things have slipped again, but I’m determined to get it back on track!
I’ve definitely managed to do a fair bit of art even if not in the studio. I’ve done quite a bit of Zentangle and Florabunda Zentangle and continued colouring in the print-outs of my designs. More on my next Review Post.
Definitely procrastinated less, too. I feel as if I’ve got on with things a bit better this year. Perhaps I was a bit hard on myself last year – after all, I was far from healthy and needed to give myself a break!
As for spending money… well, I haven’t spent so much on art stuff, but I did buy a MacBook (2nd hand on Ebay) and an iPad Pro (reconditioned on Ebay)! Does that count? Lol! We have also spent quite a lot of money on the kitties and their health problems but I don’t begrudge that – anything for our girlies.
As for my diet, I have continued with this. After last year when I only lost 1 lb (everything was upset with being ill and having to put the diet on hold for a while) I am back on track with the weight loss and lost a further
So… what was new in 2016?
Getting my life back after cancer, and along with it, a love of cake (!) I have been doing quite a bit of baking this year, and have taken cakes in to the chemo unit where I had my treatment, because I know how horrible chemo is, and how much people need a bit of pampering and spoiling!
I hosted a tea party for the two friends I made while in hospital last year. We really pigged out on cake!
Other baking throughout the year:
This year I got my bread maker going again and now make all our bread. This was my first loaf.
I now put in sunflower and pumpkin seeds as I always used to – I am so happy that I can again eat all the foods I used to enjoy before my stoma surgery.
Because I was doing so much baking, and entertaining more people for afternoon tea, I decided to treat myself to a new tea service. I found this beautiful vintage one on Ebay, and later, the cake stand below, which matches the set.
In March, Kermit, my stoma, celebrated his first birthday so I made him a cake with a selfie on top. He’s been a little trooper and as well as saving my life, he’s made my life so much easier, now that I am in control of things and not constantly being at the mercy of my ulcerative colitis.
During the year I made several lots of little stoma cakes, including these that I entered in the Ileostomy Association’s 60th anniversary meeting’s cake competition – no prize forthcoming but they did raise a laugh!
It is just great to feel so much better this year, and to take back all kitchen duties from my wonderful hubby who cared for me so well last year, and to start looking after him again for a change.
Here are a few of the things I’ve cooked for us recently.
If I have the energy I like to cook a lot of stuff at once, when the oven is on, and stock up the freezer.
This year, now that we no longer have Mum living with us and needing so much of my hubby’s attention, and I am also not so dependent on him, he has been free to pursue his own interests and is at last able to enjoy his well-earned retirement. One of the things he’s really enjoyed is working in our small garden. A major project was to clear the overgrown bank outside the kitchen window and get the water feature going again.
Sitting Room Redecoration
We didn’t have as many outings as we’d planned to do this year because we were both pretty busy, but the ones we had were lovely. There was the Mamhead woods one:
which I am celebrating with my current art project, a mini-album, and we also went to Montacute House:
and also the Devon County Show (always a firm favourite with me!) – this time made all the better because we had my new lightweight buggy that goes in the car.
We went with the local Ileostomy Association on a special visit to the Met Office in Exeter:
Also, a visit to a Victorian Gothic Revival church full of amazing wall paintings:
This year I got my bus pass and have been enjoying my new-found independence when weather and health have permitted.
Our two grey tabby girlies are now getting on in years – Beatrice is 16 and Phoebe is 13. They can now be classed as High Maintenance. Beatrice continues to be quite well on her special Hill’s Prescription Diet (she has food intolerances and is sick if she eats normal cat food) and daily antibiotics to stave off her chronic UTIs. Phoebe suddenly developed epilepsy this year (very distressing for us all) and is now on phenobarbital twice a day. Because of their differing food needs and medications they have to be fed separately and neither will eat it all at once so it’s little and often, which takes a lot of our time! Phoebe went in to the vet’s all day recently to have five teeth extracted under general anaesthetic. They monitor her carefully with regular bloods to check therapeutic levels vs. side effects of her medication (poss. liver/kidney damage). Despite all this, they are both remarkably well and being well maintained. Both have gained weight after getting too thin, and Beatrice has grown back most of the fur she lost when I was having my chemo. We love them dearly and want to keep them going for as long as possible!
My health throughout the year
Generally speaking I’ve been much better through the year than I’ve been for many years. Having made a good recovery from my bowel cancer surgery and chemo, and becoming well adjusted to life with Kermit, my stoma, I no longer suffer the problems associated with ulcerative colitis and my health has improved. At the end of November I celebrated the first anniversary of being declared cancer-free. I’ve had regular scheduled appointments with both my surgeon and my onclogist and have seen the stoma nurses a couple of times, although I no longer need regular appointments with them because I am managing so well. Everyone is very pleased with my progress.
However, there have been a few ups and downs. I’ve had a filling at both 6-monthly appointments at the dentist and I don’t usually need anything done – does this bear out the theory that chemo rots your teeth, I wonder? Not pleasant, anyway!
I had my port removed in March, which I had for the infusion of my chemo. It had been part of me for so many months that I quite missed it when it was gone! There is now a small scar on my upper chest to remind me of the experience.
In the summer I was invited to attend a course entitled “Moving On After Cancer” which ran over five successive Tuesdays. You can read full details by clicking on the appropriate page tabs at the top of this blog. Of course, I took in home-baked cakes for us to snack on during our tea breaks!
I have continued to attend the monthly relaxation sessions, also held at the cancer information and support centre at the hospital. Through both groups I have made some good friends. After the Moving On course finished, several of us decided we didn’t want to stop meeting, so we’ve set up a monthly informal get-together (they let us have a room) which is basically a laughing and cake-eating session! We also discuss different aspects of our cancers (for some of us it’s past tense but for others it’s ongoing) and we all agree that it’s very easy to talk to fellow-sufferers in a way that we can’t always talk to our nearest and dearest, so it’s a great outlet, and we’ve become good friends.
At the end of last year I was worried about my hubby and his altered bowel habit, and his reluctance to seek medical advice until he saw me clear (I told him this was NOT sensible!) and eventually he caved in and went, and they put the wheels in motion very quickly indeed – I told him they don’t mess about when there’s a risk of cancer. He had his colonoscopy exactly a year on, to the day, after I had mine when my cancer was diagnosed so I was freaking out a bit about that, but he was told he was fine, and just had some diverticular disease, which has no connection with cancer, and he’s now on medication to help with that. What a relief.
Other health issues I have faced:
My CT scan in September came back showing me to be cancer-free, but it revealed numerous small clots in my lungs, so I am now on rivaroxaban, an anticoagulant. A few weeks ago I began to suffer severe nerve pain in one leg which is probably ME-related so I am now on gabapentin and I’m glad to say that this is doing the trick.
Earlier in the year I developed an extremely painful shoulder and my hubby had to do everything for me. I saw the GP who diagnosed frozen shoulder and gave me a cortisone injection into the joint which really helped, and told me to book myself a physio appointment. The physio said it was not frozen shoulder but wear and tear from bad joint positioning after years of crutch and wheelchair use – she said that many people get this simply from bad posture! She gave me exercises to do and advice on how to move my arms to prevent further damage, and I have had very little trouble since.
I had to go back to the physio again recently after seeing the GP with a very painful and inflamed knuckle joint which is apparently osteo-arthritis, and this is being treated with ibuprofen gel, keeping it moving, and strapping the two fingers together to prevent rotation of the joint, which is what causes the greatest pain. It’s a little better as long as I keep the splints on, which isn’t always very convenient when I’m busy using my hands (which is most of the time!).
In October I had appointments with the GP and with the stoma nurse, who both confirmed that I have developed a parastomal hernia (an occupational hazard for ostomates unfortunately) and I am now in the process of having bespoke support garments made. I am entitled to 3 pairs of these pants per year on prescription, and I’ve had the first pair, which have now gone back for some adjustment. Once I am happy with them, they will make up another two pairs. I am anxious to prevent the hernia getting any bigger. They won’t operate unless complications arise, as they are hard to repair and usually come back, so it’s a question of adequate support and learn to live with it.
All these things are small niggles and I concentrate on the fact that I am ALIVE and glad of it! I am so grateful for all that has been done for me, and continues to be done, and I hope that I continue to be given opportunities to support and encourage others on their journeys towards better health.
New Year Resolutions for 2017
Let’s see how many I manage this time!!
1. Continue to read my Bible more, and do more in-depth study as I used to – for the benefit of my group as well as for myself. Dust off my Hebrew studies!
2. Have a huge clear-out in the house, and especially in my office, and the stuff stored on the top shelves of my wardrobe! Motto: If you haven’t used it for two years, you won’t use it, so chuck it out. Hmmmm.
3. More office stuff – try to complete each month’s accounts by the end of the first week of each month! I hate having them hanging over me.
4. Continue with my diet. No problem with this one. I have done well and I am not going to waste all that effort by regaining all the weight I have lost!
5. Try to get back to the Ricky Grant Unit more often and share more cakes with the chemo-ites. This has fallen off a bit lately – mostly due to busy-ness and health issues, and the weather – I can’t go out in the rain in my wheelchair!
6. Work on my UFOs (UnFinished Objects) and try and finish some of them! This is a definite challenge for me. They take up too much room in my studio and I really should discipline myself to complete at least some of them before embarking on new and ambitious projects!
7. Try to do at least some art every day. This shouldn’t be hard now I’ve got the iPad so no excuse even if I’m too tired to go in the studio.
8. Clear all the rubbish off my computers and sort my music, photos, videos etc.
9. Get to grips with my video camera again, and learn how to use the video editing software better – I’ve downloaded courses on this and I need to get on with it. Also to sort all the unedited videos hanging around on the Mac. Learn GarageBand and start making my own music for videos.
10. Learn the apps I’ve downloaded on the iPad and start using this marvellous device to its full potential.
11. Eat more cake. (Do you think anyone noticed I snuck that one in?)
Happy New Year to all my loyal readers and followers!