Tats and tatty-bye

Been back to the reconstruction clinic for the finishing touches and the tattoo team were very attentive. Preparation is everything, apparently, and I sat on the couch for some time bare-chested while Paul, the male of the duo sized me up and his female colleague used my ‘good’ breast as a colour palette.

The actual tattooing took just minutes and I must say the result is a pretty good match and – thanks to the anaesthetic cream they gave me – the procedure was painless. I asked if there was anything they could do to erase the permanent tattoos put on before radiotherapy (two dots visible when wearing swimwear or summer tops) and they kindly offered to ‘turn them into moles’, but I declined.

Now I’m fully re-constructed I think it’s time to wind this blog up. It has been about recovery, and although I don’t think there is ever a specific moment when I’ve felt ‘I am recovered’ there are times when I realise I haven’t thought about cancer for days, even weeks, and moments when the whole experience feels like something that happened to someone else.

As life has returned to ‘normal’ the need to write about myself – that I found so therapeutic at first – has lessened, and I know have been slack about keeping this blog up to date, so thank you to anyone who has stuck with it.

So all that remains for me to say to regular followers, occasional visitors or anyone who’s stumbled across this is cheerio for now and thank you for sharing this journey with me.

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Bra battles

There’s a woman in South Derbyshire apparently who has persuaded Ann Summers to stock mastectomy bras in their lingerie lines.

Not before time.  I hear many a breast cancer survivor bemoaning the fact that you can’t get surgery-friendly sexy underwear anywhere for love nor money.

In theory, having had a reconstruction, I could wear any bra, but in reality anything underwired is bloody uncomfortable so I stick to the mastectomy models, of which there are few.

Marks and Spencers is about the best, but I had a mini strop in there the other day because although they do have some quite pretty post-surgery bras with, it’s claimed, knickers to match, they never seem to have my size or if they do the rest of the range is kept half way across the shop floor so you have to traipse miles only to discover they don’t in fact have the pants to match which is, well, pants.

Still, you do get let off VAT on mastectomy bras…. there has to be an upside!

‘Have faith and try to change the world.’

This was the message from political strategist and terminal cancer sufferer Phillip Gould speaking on the Andrew Marr show this morning. He talked candidly about his illness, having been given just three months to live. He described the intensity of  ‘living in the death zone’ and described how cancer had made him a better person.

Of all the recent political memoirs written about the Labour years, his – newly updated – is the one I most want to read, not for any further revelations about Brown/Blair differences but for his insight into how to deal with such a prognosis.

We are going to download it onto John’s iPad so I can read it on holiday. Now I never thought I would read a book on an electronic device, but recently read Return of the Goon Squad on the iPad and found reading on screen tolerable, if a little strange. Possibly not the best book to read electronically – it’s a novel that jumps around a lot, each chapter introducing new groups of interconnecting characters, and I wanted to flick back and remind myself of who the people were and what had gone before, but couldn’t – although there’s probably some techie way of doing so.

So I wouldn’t say I’m a convert, although less of a luddite than I used to be. John on the other hand always embraces new technology and devours e-books by the hundred. I can see the advantages, particularly when heading off on holiday which we are due to do soon. Greece this time – wonder if their economy will withstand our visit?

The road to Santiago

Last night I watched The Way, a film about someone who walks the 800 km trail to Santiago de Compostela in northern Spain, scattering his son’s ashes as he goes. The Camino (Spanish for ‘way’) is an ancient pilgrimage route still trekked by hundreds of thousands of people each year. It takes a month to do the whole thing.

It’s a beautiful film, sad in parts with a nice smattering of understated humour. And significant for me because about 15 years ago Rob, Cathy and I walked the last 100 miles of the trail.  Rob, new to backpacking, struggled through the first few days, complaining his rucksack was hurting.  When Cathy and I tried to adjust it for him we realised it was weighed down by at least ten books!

Walking the trail you enter into  different mindset, where the minutae of daily life slips away. You encounter all sorts of characters along the way, all sharing a common goal – to reach Santiago. People do it for different reasons, be they social, spiritual, cultural or health related. It attracts a fair number of religious zealots; some people do the last little bit on their knees! To me that’s just unnecessary. 

Back in Medieval times, pilgrims were likely to encounter bears and bandits. Our main obstacle was blisters. And the weather; we discovered the rain in Spain falls mainly in Santiago.

Watching the film last night made me want to tackle the whole route some time.

Hidden treasure

We’ve got decorators in who are keeping odd hours. Last night one of them was here till midnight! They are awash with work apparently, so flitting between jobs to fit everything in. Painting and decorating must be one of those trades that’s bucked the trend. People can’t afford to move so into homes improvements instead.

While they’ve been painting our bedroom we’ve been camping out in odd places, including on the boat. While there we decided to clear out some of the many storage spaces – some of which we’d never looked in before. We found a real treasure trove of stuff, including this rather tasteful branded knitwear!

Talking of boats, we are thinking of taking White Lancer down to the riverside festival later if the weather holds. I fancy watching the fireworks from the water.

You can live your life!

That’s what the surgeon said to me today after giving the reconstructed breast a good pummelling. All fine and dandy, apparently, and I can resume normal activities – whatever they are.

Only remaining bit of work is to get the nipple tattooed in a few months time. When I’d first had the op the new nipple was HUGE – but it shrinks, and will, I’m told,  continue to do so.

The surgeon (the Brilliant Miss Bello) said I had done remarkably well, and I said the same about her, so we parted in an atmosphere of mutual appreciation.

Doesn’t seem that long ago that I was crying in her clinic …

Where in the world

Mexico, Puerto Rico, Australia, Japan, the US and Oldham – that’s where recent visitors to this blog have come from. It’s fascinating looking at the stats.

‘Cartoon teeth’ has now dropped off the list of search engine terms leading them here; instead, people have googled ‘El Greco paintings’, ‘Venetian ballroom masks’, ‘odd bras’ and ‘fuddle Nottingham’. Hope these random readers are not too disappointed.

Been a bit weak and woozy these past few days and the wound is starting to sting a bit. Being well looked after by JP and the Lodger.

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