My Mantra for 2018

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What would I change about me?

(This post has been inspired by something I read on whenwomeninspire.com)

I don’t think I have ever really liked myself.

Abandoned by my mother, bullied at school, a wallflower at every gathering, I was always in trouble of one kind or another.

At least that’s how it seemed to me.

Of course, all of those things just reinforced my idea that I had to be the most unwanted person on the planet, and this served to make me a loner in every sense of the word and funnily enough, I came to like it that way.

People either ignored me or nagged me to death, so I couldn’t wait to be old enough to live my own life, my way. Little did I know then that I was already earmarked to make more mistakes than the average bear. This led me to wish I could be different so many times.

I must have said the same thing repeatedly. If I were only shorter/thinner/prettier/smarter/braver, my life would miraculously change overnight.

Even now, at 74, there are more things I would change if I could. Admittedly, some I could manage if I were more determined, but everything else I must put up with, as old age is not being kind.

I have always been remarkably healthy, despite being prone to catching everything that was doing the rounds. (and a few that weren’t!)

So why have I never been happy with myself?

I have long wondered about this, for it didn’t seem that difficult to achieve, judging by the people around me. It doesn’t depress me too much but seems to reflect on everything I do. Anything I create is never quite how I imagined it would be, and this can depress me.

I try so hard to get things right and just when I think I have succeeded, doubts begin to gather and creep in, knocking my confidence.

DRUM ROLL!

All of this is going to change in 2018.

Depression, doubt and dissatisfaction have been given notice to leave the building.  I am not being morbid when I say this could be the last chance to get my act together, for I can feel the grim reaper creeping up behind me. I can’t tell how fast he is creeping, but I suspect I can keep ahead of him for a while longer!

At the moment, parts of me are in fierce competition to see which bit breaks down first, or simply stops working. So the pressure is on and the challenge has been accepted.

This year I will be more efficient with my time.

I will not waste my time or my patience on the unnecessary or futile.

I will seek out and find the fun in everything, and enjoy life a bit more…

My mantra for 2018  “If it aint fun, don’t do it!”

My Date with the Dentist…

 

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image by Pixabay

 

 

The day I had been long waiting and dreading in equal measure had finally arrived… and I had the flu…

Suspecting some kind of conspiracy, I knew I had to keep this appointment, even if it meant I crawled there on my hands and knees. I had been patient, endured endless days of torment, wondering if the outcome would ever be worth the wait.

Today I would find out.

I felt like death warmed over, my throat raw and my body wracked with pain. I couldn’t stop coughing, my head was splitting and befuddled with copious amounts of paracetamol. My voice had been reduced to a croak and I had trouble walking a straight line in my weakened condition. I was in no fit state to keep this appointment and I knew it. Fate had decided to throw one last spoke in my wheel and yet I knew that if I gave up now, I would never have the strength to fight it again.

As the time of my appointment drew near, I argued all the pros and cons.

  1. My Dentist would probably take one look at me and send me home. That’s if I could even get there in the first place. I could give up now and go back to bed.
  2. If anything was wrong, I wouldn’t be able to voice my opinion with anything approaching conviction. It might be better to go back to bed.
  3. There was always the possibility that this appointment would be a waste of time, the teeth would be a disaster or not be ready. None of the previous fittings had ended well, so my fears had foundation. My bed was looking better with every passing minute.
  4. Maybe the Dentist would fail to turn up. He could have the flu too or have flown the country to avoid my arrival. Maybe a sinkhole had opened up in the high street, consuming the building I headed for? I should really go back to bed…

 

I was clutching at straws by this time, trying to justify the state of me with what might happen if I managed to stagger down the road. But I knew myself far too well. I would stagger down the road and defy him to send me home… my new teeth would fit… and the fresh air would do me good. I could pull this off, hell, I had done worse in my time and none the worse for it.

If it all goes pear-shaped, at least I can lie on my deathbed and smile at the world with a brand new set of pearly white teeth!

 

Later that day…

I walked slowly into town, and with every step, convinced I was mad and about to reap the results of my insanity. Not only was the building where I had last seen it, the dentist had turned up too. Two out of three is not bad, so I waited for the sword of Damocles to claim the last one. This was not to be, for the new teeth had turned up too.

To cut a long story short, and after much pushing, prodding and various bits were smoothed off, I walked home, still feeling like crap, but grinning at everyone I met with a set of teeth that didn’t feel like my own.

It will take a while, he says, before they feel normal again, due mainly to the length of time I have been without them. I could have said so much at that point, but I really didn’t have the energy…

 

The Apple Blossom…

The story of my fight, actually… What happened to me nearly two years ago, still haunts me, reminding me of how lucky I am to be here…

(An excerpt from Apple Blossom, the short story I wrote to help other people who find themselves in a similar situation)

“The lights were dimmed, giving the treatment room a spooky atmosphere. The huge machine that towered over me as I lay on that uncomfortable table seemed even more menacing in the gloom.

The only light in the room was coming from the centre ceiling panels above me, which had been replaced by translucent photographs of apple blossom which softly gleamed in the darkness. Obviously, strategically positioned to take the patients mind off what was happening to them. The panel I liked best had fluffy white clouds on a blue sky behind the blossom.

I had been stretched out and precisely positioned on the platform, all the marks on my chest lined up with the eerie green beams of light that shone down from the machine. It was almost a kind torture, what with my arms pinned above my head, waiting for the machine to start humming. All the technicians had fled, leaving me on my own. Just me and the apple blossom above my head and a machine quite capable of giving me a lethal dose of radiation if it decoded to throw a wobbly. Quite scary, if you dwelt on it, which I was trying my level best not to do.

In the silence, I hear the soft clicks, which heralded the beginning of my third session. Just twelve more to go. Twelve more 20-mile trips to the hospital for just 10 minutes under the apple blossom. And all of this, just to make sure that the aggressive tumour that was cut from my body a few weeks ago has not left any of its calling cards behind. Well worth any inconvenience, I would say.

Not that I am loving any of it at the moment. I could almost be regarded as ungrateful, for although the surgery was quick and virtually painless, the after effects are not and I have no way of knowing if any of it is normal. They say it is, but I have my doubts.
I have two scars, one for the tumour and one for the sentinel lymph node, and I know they will be tender for a while yet, but I have this huge hard lump, which hurts quite a bit at the moment. Doubtless, all will heal eventually; I am just running out of patience.”

Universal Amazon Link:  myBook.to/appleblossom

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What do you know about Gluten?

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“Gluten intolerance can affect nearly every tissue in the body, including the brain, skin, endocrine system, stomach, liver, blood vessels, smooth muscles and even the nucleus of cells. CD and NCGS are associated with an astonishing variety of diseases, from schizophrenia and epilepsy to Type 1 diabetes and osteoporosis, to dermatitis and psoriasis, to Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism to peripheral neuropathy. Because the range of symptoms associated with gluten intolerance is so broad and nonspecific (e.g., can be attributed to any number of conditions), many patients and doctors don’t suspect gluten may be the cause.”

 

When I awoke this morning, my body was racked with pain, again. My joints were screaming before I even rolled out of bed. I knew there had to be a reason for it, and resolved to find out what it was as I was really tired of feeling like an old woman.  I am an old woman, but I don’t have to feel like one, now do I?

As I staggered to the bathroom, a word arrived in my brain. My brain works best first thing in the morning, something I don’t understand but welcome gratefully. Nice that it can sometimes, eh?

This word was ‘gluten’.

I resolved to investigate and see if gluten was affecting my body. I wasn’t prepared for the long list of symptoms that I found, just about everything I complain about was on that list. The weight gain, chronic itching, migraines, joint pain, constipation, asthma and my peripheral neuropathy!

I think it is time to stop eating food containing wheat, barley and rye.

 

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Gluten Containing Foods – foods to avoid

  • Biscuits
  • Beer
  • Bread
  • Cakes
  • Cereals (except a few from the good list below)
  • Chocolate bars
  • Cookies
  • Corned beef
  • Couscous
  • Crackers
  • Donuts
  • Gravies
  • Malt beverages e.g. whisky
  • Malt vinegar
  • Monosodium glutamate
  • Muffins
  • Pasta
  • Pastries
  • Pies
  • Pretzels
  • Pizza
  • Sauces
  • Sausages
  • Salami
  • Sauces – many have wheat as a thickener
  • Soups – many have wheat as a thickener
  • Wheat flour

And replace with these…

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Meat and poultry
  • Fish and seafood
  • Dairy
  • Beans, legumes, and nuts

Read more at https://celiac.org/live-gluten-free/glutenfreediet/food-options/#0ltbAIH8aotdqp7W.99

Gluten-Free Substitutes

“Many items that usually contain gluten have gluten-free alternatives that are widely available in most grocery stores and make living gluten-free much easier. Keep in mind, however, that minimally processed fresh foods are a crucial part of a healthy gluten-free diet. It is very important to base your diet around fruits, vegetables, meats, and other healthy food groups listed above.

Many commercially available products are labelled “gluten-free,” but there will be some that are not; this is why proper label reading is important. It is also important to remember that “wheat-free” does not necessarily mean “gluten-free.” Be wary, as many products may appear to be gluten-free, but are not.

As a rule, traditional wheat products such as pasta, bread, crackers, and other baked goods are not gluten-free. However, there are many gluten-free options available that use alternative flours and grains. Often, gluten-free bread can be found in the freezer section. Additionally, there are gluten-free flours and flour blends available in the grocery aisle, allowing you to bake your own bread.”

All of this sounds like a plan, so when I have armed myself with a stack of rice cakes, I will begin to go gluten free. Losing the aches and pains will be sooo worth it!

I will report back on my progress, as soon as I get any!

 

 

 

The Heart of the Matter…

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After my heart attacks three years ago, and my subsequent brilliant behaviour since then, I didn’t think I would be having any further trouble in that direction. I can still remember every gruelling moment of that time, and how near I came to shuffling off this mortal coil.

For a while afterwards, though, I was very nervous. Every twinge of heartburn (for that is how it started before) was met with chewed fingernails and immense trepidation. Probably a good thing in the end, for it made me a model patient. I took my medication religiously, even though most of it had a dire effect on my asthma.

I gave up smoking that day, and I like to think it was because the cardiologist asked me to but the truth is, I didn’t want to die, so I stopped willingly. I have taken steps to improve my health and fitness too, and think I am in a much better shape now.

So when I began to notice something odd going on in my chest, my spirits hit the floor. I was experiencing little thumps and fluttering’s, and although this doesn’t sound too serious, I worried. When I checked my pulse, I noticed gaps in the rhythm. Every couple of minutes, my heart would skip a beat, and not a shred of romance or excitement anywhere near me!

I have my own blood pressure machine for regular check ups, and I seemed to be fine, so I was confused. I had recently stopped taking the daily aspirin and the beta-blocker, as they were making my asthma so much worse. Maybe I should start taking them again and see what happened. The other odd thing was that my ticker behaved itself during the day, but come the evening, it had a field day. Sleeping wasn’t easy either, more because I was worrying than anything else I think, for I can normally sleep through anything.

And of course, the usual question presented itself. Do I bother my doctor with this? I have a check-up soon, so I could mention it then…

I know at my age there is so much you just have to get on with, and I do seem to have more than my share in that department, but my instincts were not clear. I usually know what to do, whether it turns out to be a waste of everyone’s time or not.  My dilemma is this, apart from the funny goings on, I feel quite well. Apart from arthritis in every joint, failing eyesight, a painful neck and hip, the list is getting longer.

I decided to wait a few days and see what happens…

Two days later… I have reinstated the beta-blocker but not the aspirin, and the thumps and fluttering’s have now stopped. So far, so good. I wonder what will happen next?

Old age can be so much fun, don’t you think?

The Windows of the Soul…

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The first time it happened, I thought that my brain had just decided to quit, breakdown or crash, whatever it is brains do when they die. One minute I was perfectly fine, reading something on the computer screen and then it happened.

My brain lurched.  That is the best way I can describe what it felt like. It was as if the contents of my head twisted around in one quick movement. Instantly, I felt sick and nauseous, and when I tried to stand, the room revolved violently, and I had to sit down again.

The first time this happened, I was unable to walk or work. I wasn’t actually sick, but it felt as though I would at any minute. The following morning I opened my eyes, expecting the worst, only to discover whatever it was had gone. It didn’t happen again for what seemed like a long time, but for a few years, I had to endure these “dizzy days” every couple of months, and although I coped with it, I secretly worried about what it could mean.

Last year they began to get closer together and hang around a little bit longer than just one day. This was roughly when the optician discovered I had cataracts growing in my eyes. They were very small and didn’t need to be removed yet, and I was assured they were not the cause of my symptoms. I was prescribed with a special coating for my glasses to combat the glare from the computer screen.

Fast forward to this year and the current dizziness. This time it has lasted for nearly 3 weeks, and another visit to the opticians has confirmed that the cataracts are still small and unlikely to be causing me trouble. Again, I am not convinced. Something must be causing it?

I have been finding some respite by wearing sunglasses over my glasses, at the computer as well as out of doors, and may invest in new tinted glasses to avoid wearing two pairs all the time. I have been reluctant to bother my doctor again, as he didn’t have a clue last time I went. I already suspect it is probably yet another of those mysterious ailments that must be endured as part of growing old.

The thought of losing my sight, or worse, fills me with equal amounts of fear and dread. I think of all the things I love to do and might not be able to manage anymore, and don’t know how I will cope if the worst happens. Quite apart from my writing and hobbies, there are so many other things I love to do. It breaks my heart to even consider life without them all.

For a start, what would I do all day…?

Happy New Year!

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Like last year, this year didn’t start too well for me, but I think I can finally see the glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. I deliberately didn’t make any resolutions. Well, I tried not to, but they were all there in my head anyway, driving me crazy with all the possibilities.

It has been a year since they discovered a lump in my breast, a lump that turned out to be the worst kind. One year on and I wait for the results of my recent mammogram. Then two weeks ago, I tore a ligament in my knee, restricting my movements and doing little to improve the state of my mind. I am beginning to hate the sight of my local hospital!

The knee is feeling better now, after one of the most terrifying procedures I have ever been subjected to. The swelling had to be reduced they said, and out came one of the largest hypodermic needles I have ever seen. I waited for them to numb my knee first, but to my horror, this did not happen. The doctor swabbed my knee with antiseptic and plunged the 3-inch needle straight into my knee. I waited for the pain to blow my head off, but to my surprise, I couldn’t feel anything. What was this magic? Everyone had delighted in telling me just how painful it was going to be, but I honestly couldn’t feel anything.

After removing two full tubes of fluid, he injected something into the knee, saying that it would make the pain go away immediately. I was ordered to stand up, and then walk about, and he was right, the pain had gone. I could walk! I glanced at the crutches leaning against the wall, knowing I wouldn’t need them anymore.

Then it was the day of my oncology check-up. I was just two hours away from knowing if the rest of this year would be worth having. It had better be, for I’m in the middle of two books, and a ton of promoting needs to be done. Besides, I’m not ready to hang up my boots or anything else for that matter.  If I can just make these worn out old eyes go on for a bit longer, everything will be fine. (I won’t be escaping the hospital for long, as I have a cataract in progress, and it will have to come out eventually.)

Turns out that I am fine… I have a pain free knee and a clean bill of health from the breast clinic. 2017 was a bit late starting for me, but the sun has finally come out, and I feel the enthusiasm flowing through my veins once again…

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To celebrate, we have created a trailer for Anita’s book, Secrets. We argued long and hard over this one, but Anita knew what she wanted, so that’s what we did.

She would love to hear what you think!

New Year’s Eve

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Usually, as we approach this day, my head will be full of good intentions and plans for the coming year, but this time it was different. For some inexplicable reason, I had been sadly lacking on the enthusiasm front.

Maybe it was all the shocking news of the celebrity deaths, linked to my own advancing years, or the state of the world in general. Hardly conducive to positive thinking.

But some things had managed to creep in, despite my misgivings. Several new ideas were on the table, and Anita and I were starting to build new strategies. I had also begun the arduous job of sorting out my photograph storage, something that had been getting progressively out of hand for a while. Computers are clever things, but the space on them isn’t finite.

I had also decided it was time I bought a mobile phone. Never thought I would ever want one, but I keep running into things I could handle better with one, the additional opportunity to publicise and promote our books being the main one. So, after a slow start, my enthusiasm was picking up.

And then it happened.

I was cooking the evening meal on New Year’s Eve when I began to feel dizzy. I tried to ignore it, but it got worse and I began to worry, for this was exactly how my heart attack started nearly four years ago. Intense dizziness, nausea and sweating – it seemed to be all happening again.

I spent the rest of the evening tucked up on the couch, too sick and giddy to move, keeping my eyes shut in an effort to stop the room from spinning. I had a headache but no fever, so it was probably a virus as it had come on so fast.

I had nightmare visions of being blind, unable to read or write. The dream of a mobile phone began to seem like a stupid idea.

It was a miserable being that listened to the chimes of Big Ben that night. Normally such a happy occasion, but was turning out to be anything but.

The following morning wasn’t much better. Not quite so nauseous, but my eyes were having a battle of their own. They simply didn’t want to work together. If I used one at a time, the room stayed still, use them together and I was back in the washing machine again. I ended up wearing an eye patch, which did allow me to check my emails.

I began to wonder about my eyesight, for I had previously been diagnosed with a cataract. Had it been on the Weetabix and grown big  enough to cause problems? I would have to see my optician as soon as possible to find out.

This was not how I envisioned beginning the New Year, and to say I wasn’t happy about it would be an understatement. Last year was a nightmare, what with the cancer and family problems, but the year had closed with the all clear after my first annual check-up.

But it would seem the fates are not finished with me yet, which is a shame, for I’m not ready to give in and go quietly just yet.

Waiting …

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At this time of year, I am usually beginning to think about next year and all the things I plan to do. But it can be a bit depressing, reminding you of all the things you meant to do this year.

So I resolved not to do it again.

I am at the ripe old age now when all forward thinking starts to slow down, and mine seems to be at a standstill.

Since my encounter with cancer this time last year, dread has been having a running battle with my optimism. Some days are more positive and dread retreats into a corner, where it sits and glowers at me. It feels a bit like waiting for a train, only to hear the message “We apologise for the delay, but the next train has been cancelled…”

Waiting has never been something I have excelled at, but I have learned to be patient over the years, but this year has  really stretched it to the limit. You see, no one has actually said that the cancer has gone. The lump has been removed, so I should be fine, but until I hear those magic words, I will remain  ‘worried, from Hampshire…’

Gradually all through the summer months, I thought I had learned to ignore the lurking shadow of doubt. The fact that I had a book to finish writing helped a lot. But other parts of my life were suffering instead and most of the time I lived like a hermit, hardly ever leaving my office. Gardening was done out of desperation, when the grass and the weeds threatened to advance on the house. I stopped caring about how I looked or what I ate.

Consequently, I ended up looking like a well-fed tramp. My hair was too long and I looked like a witch. Luckily, the day I noticed all of this was one of the good days, and I resolved to pull up my socks.

I was surprised when the letter arrived, as it wasn’t quite the Christmas present I liked getting and I wasn’t expecting anything until the new year when my check-up was due. It was an appointment to be “imaged” again by the radiography team at my local hospital.

On Monday, they will do extensive imaging to check the site of the surgery and the results of the radiotherapy, and assess the healing process. The letter also warned me that I would not be told anything at this time; presumably, I will have to wait until February and the check-up appointment.

Have they any idea what my brain will do to me in the coming weeks?

 

Interview With My Conscience…

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It was another Monday morning and I was asking myself the same old question. Why do I  bother with any of it? Anything that could possibly go wrong, usually does, and it was getting a bit wearing. Then my inner voice decided to join in the conversation.

Everyone feels like this sometimes, you are not unique you know…

Yes, I know we all have days when we think everything conspires against us, and life seems futile. Doesn’t help though.

You sound like a drama queen, one who is prone to over exaggeration…

I don’t think I have imagined the succession of near disasters that have played havoc with my life this year?

Okay, I will admit there have been one or two, but nothing to write home about…

How about my inability to successfully market anything. You have to admit I am hopeless?

Could be you’re just not smart enough, for it’s not exactly rocket science…

I can buy that one, for the results of my efforts speak for themselves.

You seem to be forgetting that you are OLD. That feeling of circling the drain is quite normal at your age you know…

There are days when I would agree, but others when I still feel competent enough for the job in hand.

But which of these days are the real ones, and not the ones that are the result of your own stupidity?

I know I have a few shortcomings, but there are also circumstances that are beyond my control.

Beyond your mental capacity, you mean…

A fine Jiminy Cricket you turned out to be, where is all the optimism, the encouragement?

I can only work with the material I have at my disposal. It’s not my fault if your grey matter isn’t up to scratch…

You know, all of this could be academic if my health gets any worse. I’m sure you have to agree that I am not imagining that?

I know it does all seem very real, but you have beaten the odds before, and will do again, I’m sure…

So, you would conduct my life differently, would you? You are coming across as a smug know-it-all, but you don’t drop any hints any more, do you? Isn’t that supposed to be part of your remit?

After a lifetime of trying my best for you, literally thousands of hints later, I have run out of ideas.  Banging my head against a wall is definitely not my scene…

So I am on my own now, you are retiring?

You still have your instincts, even though they malfunction far too often. It has brought you this far, however…

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“Some of us get to choose how we live our lives, whether to depend on our conscience, or wing it with instinct.

Heaven knows which is best, and I think it also knows what will happen to us.  I could do with a ‘heads up’ round about now…”

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