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Tuesday, 14 April 2015

These are a few of my favourite things

Life's not all bad at the moment. I've added a health update at the end to keep it separate so if you are interested to read it, you will see that I've had a rough time lately, but I'm still getting out in the garden as much as possible because the weather is just so lovely. I've been really enjoying listening to the bird song and seeing butterflies, bees and hoverflies, more and more flowers opening up and just generally everything coming to life. I've seen my first Holly Blue butterfly but no photos of it yet. 

Blossom is going crazy here with the warm weather and now my eating plums are covered in flowers, the wild cherries and now also the eating cherries are covered in blossom too, as well as the ornamental cherry trees by the pond. Leaves are appearing on some of the trees and every day that I look out of the window something has changed. This is the month with the most change in the year so I don't want to miss any of it! P.S. Are you old enough to notice the title of my post is a lyric from the Sound of Music? My favourite film of all time. :-)

Enjoying sitting by the pond on my special cushions,
although it didn't take long for Bertie to jump up on my lap!

I'll start with some bird photos but also wanted to mention that my OH heard the first Cuckoo a few days ago - I haven't heard it yet myself, but they normally arrive around the first or second week of April.

Male Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs).
 
The Chiffchaffs (Phylloscopus collybita) are very vocal and loud at the moment and
the Blackcaps (Sylvia atricapilla) are back. The photo bottom right is a poor one of Mrs Blackcap,
but as both these birds are Warblers which means they are very flitty,
I was pleased that I even managed these pics! Best clicked on to view large.

Dunnock (Prunella modularis).

This one is my favourite - a very fluffy looking Blue Tit (Cyanistes caeruleus) in my Greengage tree!

Mustn't forget the two remaining ducks! Dirk the Saxony is on the left in
the top photo with Rachel the Rouen on the right. I dread another one dying
as I don't want to be left with a lonely duck or drake.

Male Orange Tip (Anthocharis cardamines).

Male Orange Tip (Anthocharis cardamines) butterfly.
I was pleased with these shots as they don't often settle and they show
that when they close up their wings they are quite hard to spot,
although leaving a bit of orange showing is still a tell tale sign!

Comma (Polygonia c-album) butterfly - one with tatty wings, and another
with fresh looking wings. This is the best I can do zooming in.

Moo! Cows are back in the fields around the garden.

Remember the sand filter bed where the grass looked yellow and sickly? My OH applied some
fertiliser specially for newly sown lawns and suddenly it's greened up and the grass is growing!

Chickens having fun digging where the Dahlias have been left in situ for the first time ever,
covered in a protective layer of leaves.... which are now chucked all over the lawn!

First leaves opening from the 'sticky buds' of the Horse Chestnut.

My OH has taken over the veggie patch chores as I can't do anything in there!

Here he is planting my seed potatoes and he's also sown parsnip and carrot seeds.

I managed to get an insect photo! A fly of some sort on a plum blossom.

My front bed again, Daffs and species Tulips.

Rosemary on left, Pulmonaria top right and a Rhodo bottom right.

Tulips and Greengage blossom.


Health update
I'm keeping these updates separate from the rest of the blog posts so those who don't want to read this kind of thing can just ignore them. There's possibly TMI (Too Much Information) for some (particularly guys!) in the following..... I  really had no idea it would be so up and down after my surgery, with one thing leading to another, but I'm finding it quite cathartic to write about it, and if it helps anyone who reads this who may be suffering from something similar, then that's a good thing.

I had my 6 week post surgery appointment with my surgeon and wasn't happy with the way it went. I get the impression I won't be seeing him again, as as far as he's concerned his job is done. Never mind that I am left with residual problems directly relating to it! He even seemed surprised that I had not yet seen a urologist, so I had to remind him that he'd said he would arrange this back when I was in the hospital, and again two weeks ago when I also mentioned a gynaecogical problem I'd had for some while too. This time at least he said when we saw his secretary after the appt she'd arrange appts with the two specialists for me.

He then picked up my file, stood up and started walking to the door as if that was it. I piped up and told him that we were not finished as I had questions to ask to which he seemed surprised. Well given he had not brought up the important point of when I may be allowed to start doing things around the house and garden, I had to ask, as up to now the only thing I had been doing was walking to get exercise! His reply was basically yes, I could start getting my life back to normal by doing housework and cooking etc. I then asked about doing light gardening jobs to which he replied, of course! Huh? This is the man who told me pre surgery that I couldn't do any gardening for three months!!!

I know my limitations so I will only be doing little jobs so there is no risk of me overdoing anything, but at least I've got the go ahead. But I shouldn't have had to ask. He should have told me this sort of thing as standard, don't you think? Bloody ridiculous.

In other news, I was lucky that the next day I got a call from the gynae in the morning saying she could see me that afternoon. Seems like I have thrush, which is not surprising given I've taken antibiotics twice within the last five weeks. The physical exam was painful, but the lady doc I saw was gentle and kind, although she only looked about 20, which makes me feel so old! :-) I've never had thrush before, so didn't recognise the symptoms, but anyway, everything 'down there' has been jiggled about with during surgery as it's all so close to the anus and rectum, so it's hard to know what's just normal discomfort after this kind of surgery. Thank goodness really for the itching which alerted me to the fact that there may be a separate issue here. My bladder problems (it still just doesn't feel right) might even be due to the thrush - well I've taken the one off treatment so I'll find out soon enough, but if not, I've an appt for early May with a urologist.

And then. Yes it goes on. Sigh. Whilst the abscess is healing up nicely, the other little hole in my butt wound suddenly started hurting worse and bleeding on Saturday morning. The nurses who come round daily to change my dressing say this one has turned into an abscess too. It seems that just as I start feeling better, start walking normally and bending easier and becoming more supple, along comes another thing to knock me back. After talking to the Stoma Nurse who I have been dealing with mostly regarding the other abscess, she said she'd come and see me on Thursday when I'm back at the hospital having round 2 of my chemo. But it's been getting worse and the home nurse who came around this morning told me to go and see my regular doctor, which I did this afternoon. He also thinks I should lay off the ABs but other than say to also flush out the abscess hole with hydrogen peroxide as well as the serum physiologique (a sterile saline solution) which the nurses have been doing, and keep putting the wadding with silver in it (meches in France, no idea what it's called in English), I don't know what else they can do to aid healing. Of course this is horribly painful trying to stuff something into a hole that is barely 1mm diameter, but I just grin and bear it.

It could be easy to start getting really depressed by it all, so I thank goodness for the sunshine and spring which cheers me up immensely. The other good thing is that it takes my mind off dwelling over the chemo, or even the cancer! In fact I didn't suffer much from this first round of chemo. The tingling in my hands when they were cold (peripheral neuropathy) only lasted about five days. I had a couple of days of on and off nausea and a couple more with little appetite. Now I'm eating reasonably OK and whilst not 100%, it went better than I'd imagined. The last few days I've felt quite tired but that may have been due to infection from the new abscess, or the thrush, as both are infections of different kinds. My next round of chemo is Thursday and Friday this week. Just wish these other problems could just *insert expletive* off and go away!!!

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Recent photos of the garden

This post is full of photos taken in the last few days, and as my last post contained lots of text and only one photo which I hate doing, without further ado I will shut up and show you the pics! I'll just caption them first though..... :-)

Round the front whilst I was doing some supervisory gardening,
actually these photos were taken about a week ago.

Unfortunately using leaf mould as a soil conditioner meant that goosegrass seeds
in it had germinated and were swamping many plants.

Front bed.

Rosemary, Daffies, Euphorbias, and Hallie.

Aubretia starting into flower, growing through a Lavender.

A variegated Pieris.

These are from a week or so ago - Green Woodpecker at the top,
with Mr Chaffinch below, both taken through the kitchen window.

First hints of green on the willow trees.

First Speckled Wood (Pararge aegeria) butterfly of the year feeding on a dandelion.

This is when my superzoom PowerShot SX50 comes in handy!
I can still get half reasonable butterfly photos.

Forsythia, Peach blossom, Weeping Willow and Harry's bum.

Pretty in pink - Peach blossom.

Celandine and a black cat silhouette!

Hallie and Bertie accompanying me through the woodland paths.

Blossom in the woodland - a Prunus of some sort.

Not sure if it is Damson, Bullace or Blackthorn, although it doesn't have thorns.
It has never had fruit so no way to ID it that way. 

This next photo requires some explanation. We are missing a white duck and this looks like the kill zone, although I don't see any blood. What's surprising is that there is no trail of feathers, nor any body anywhere. We strongly suspect a fouine (stone marten), for several reasons. One, because one was seen a few months ago, and if you remember, we found Doris' headless corpse around the same time. My OH also found the end of a seep hose that had been around some raspberries and blackberries, out on the lawn, in two pieces. He said he couldn't remember leaving the end on the grass after removing two blackberry plants, as it looked like he'd mowed over it. However the next day the seep hose was discovered in many pieces, with tooth marks around the ends. Fouines have a tendency to chew through things like this, particularly wires and cables they can get at under cars!

We have to assume that Freckles, the last of our original ducks bought in March 2007, was ailing or died, and the opportunist fouine got her. So far we've only lost weak or sick ducks, as given the ducks never stray more than a leap from the water now, it's fairly easy for them to escape predators by swimming off on the water. It's a bit sad and a shame and I hope she didn't suffer, but as they refuse to come into the shed to safety at night, we can't do much about it. Poor old Freckles, she lasted a good old time. The last time I saw her she was bathing and splashing in the water looking happy. I think Dirk had just given her a seeing to! :-)

RIP Freckles.

Rubbish zoomed in Roe Deer photo, but we were really pleased to see two of them briefly
in the field next to the veg patch.

Expect plenty more photos, as apart from supervisory gardening, there's not a lot I can do outside at the moment except walk around to get exercise and fresh air..... and take photos! And the weather is at last warm and wonderful. :-)

Friday, 3 April 2015

Notes from the chemo chair

It's been two weeks since I blogged, but I haven't been able to take photos until just recently, and I can't sit at all, so they'll be staying on the camera a while longer. My chemo port was implanted ten days ago which prevented me from taking photos because, whilst not really painful, I had a stiff arm and shoulder for a while. I felt quite groggy and a little sick coming round from the short anaesthetic for that. You'd think the effects would be less from a relatively short time under (I was told 25 minutes) but this was also the first time I felt myself getting drowsy from the anaesthetic and it took about four breaths worrying about not closing my eyes in case they thought I was under but I wasn't before I zonked out. Usually one just zonks out without noticing!

None of this was as bad as the fact that I was two hours late going down to theatre, due to an emergency, which meant that at the time I should have been leaving the hospital, I was still in the recovery room, and when my OH called to find out what was going on, there was nobody left manning the desk at the day hospital, as they'd all gone home! By the time the nurse called him to let him know when I could leave, he'd already got in the car and was en route to kick some ass to find out what the hell was going on, as not surprisingly he was worried sick. I left the hospital at 9pm feeling still quite weak. I'd been given a tray full of snack food which I couldn't face at that time so took it all home with me to eat later. I'm rather cross with the hospital staff for not warning my husband that my surgery was running late - and having no one answering the phone is crazy.

Worse was to come when my butt area wound started hurting and I noticed a place where it looked like there was a split in the just healed skin, which looked a bit pink. As I was going back to the hospital to see a chemo nurse I told her my problem and she arranged for me to see the stoma nurse after our appointment. I then spent an uncomfortable time sitting on my ring cushions wanting her to shut up so I could get my butt seen to! The chemo side all explained, I went to see my stoma nurse who took one look and proclaimed that I had an abscess! Oh joy! Luckily my surgeon was free so he came for a look and said it was unusual a month after surgery to get problems like that, as it was more usual in the two weeks after.

Well I got prodded and poked and squeezed - just what you want with an abscess in the place where the sun didn't use to shine! I came home with a huge box full of dressings and a prescription for yet more antibiotics. I now need a nurse coming round every day to change my dressings - they put wadding up inside the hole - it's not as painful as it sounds, but overall I'm in pain and have gone back on the stronger codeine/paracetamol and back to eating lying on my side again.... Oh memories of bum burn after the radiotherapy is coming back, though there is one good thing - this time I don't have to poo through the butt pain!!! I can't tell you how disappointed and frustrated I am at this set back in my healing though.

All this background to explain why I can't sit at my computer to download, organise and process photos at the moment. I'm even lying down on the back seat of the car to travel!

Back to the garden and my nature notes - I know I haven't been outside as much as I usually would have, but between the two of us looking and listening, this is the first year since we've been keeping records that we have not seen the return of the Swallows in March before, nor heard the first Blackcap song. I don't think it has anything to do with the weather as it's often quite cold and frosty at this time. It's been windy recently and I haven't seen any butterflies even in the sunshine. There are plenty of queen bumble bees around looking for nesting sites, even on cloudy days. But what steals the show now are the plants, which are coming on in leaps and bounds.

I realised I was missing a lot walking round the garden carefully watching my feet, so as not to trip over the fallen twigs that I'd normally have picked up for kindling, or cats racing around or entwining themselves around my ankles. I'm aware of all the ground level plants, particularly the mix that makes up the green pathways through the wild areas here, more other plants than grass in places. But sometimes I need to stop and look up to realise that yes, there IS green appearing on the hazel trees and the hawthorn leaves are already out. The peaches are in full blossom, looking beautiful and pink. Buds are everywhere. Life is bursting forth. Birds are singing and collecting nesting material. Winged insects are flying around. I should enjoy this and stop feeling frustrated that even with camera in hand, I can't bend, kneel or squat to get the low down shots that I want to do. But you, dear reader, don't need photos to know what I'm talking about, as those of you in the northern hemisphere are all experiencing exactly the same joys of burgeoning spring as I am.

As far as the veg patch goes, we have some lettuce already germinated in a cold frame that sits directly on the soil. I've got my exercise walking up and down on the dug over areas to firm down the soil (and am spotting coriander, magenta orache, opium poppies, flat leaf parsley and lord knows what else already germinating), my OH has spread organic fertiliser, and we are nearly ready to mark out where the spud rows will go, and the blocks of flower seeds to be sown. And joy of joys, the hollyhock which my poor hubby feels so bad about hoeing off a few months back, has started sprouting!

Later that day:
Well blow me down but what did I see this morning whilst having a shower but a couple of Swallows swooping over the veg patch! We are not overlooked so don't worry about curtains... I thought it was a good omen as today was my first chemo day. Thankfully I was given a bed in a two bed room, so was able to get comfy (excuse the title of this post, I have taken liberties as I thought chair sounded better than bed, as they have both here, and I didn't know what I was going to get until I arrived). My OH decided he'd stay with me for the supposed to be 2.5 hour session. However I had a long wait before they hooked me up to my drips. Lunch was served which I hadn't been expecting but was pleased about, especially given the delay. My OH had to spend a fortune in the cafeteria though. The delay was explained as being due to having to get the necessary drugs from the hospital pharmacy, which didn't make sense. But then I thought about it, and realised that the staff had probably gone off for their typical long lunch break! Ridiculous. So we didn't get home until 5.30, having left here at 11am.

It was a nuisance as my OH could have come home if we'd known, but he did at least get to the large nearby Lidl which has an instore bakery with some very yummy bread, so that was something. And it's only two days out of every fortnight. What I hadn't realised is that I bring home a pump thingy on day 1 as well as day 2, which continues to drip more drugs into me. On day 3 it, and the needle,  will be removed by a local nurse. So far so good with no effects whatsoever. Just hope I don't feel too bad over the weekend as our weather is due to get sunnier from Sunday, so should be a semi nice Easter. :-)


I tapped out all of the above on my Kindle yesterday, so rather than go through it all editing to make it say yesterday rather than today, I'll just say that I've had my second bout of chemo today and there were no delays, in and out in just over 1.5 hours! I went for a walk in the garden this afternoon with a stiff breeze, camera in hand, and my hands went all tingly! I've dug out my fingerless gloves for photography for until the weather warms up. Tingly fingers due to cold is a known side effect of the chemo drugs I'm on, and we are advised to keep gloves beside the fridge to put them on before touching anything cold. Had a bit of nausea last night and this morning. But not everything is bad, as my abscess is starting to recede and guess what, I'm sitting at my Mac on my ring cushions typing this! Not 100% comfortable, but I never really was anyway. Onwards and upwards. :-)