Wednesday 22 October…very embarrassed!

That I have neglected the blog for nearly twelve months :(. I suppose on one side it demonstrates how much I have moved on from the original reason for the blog, to keep me occupied and to chart my progress through long periods of hospital treatment and the subsequent trial, tribulations during the recovery phase.

So, the last twelve months has been busy. I have photos for many of the events, but too many to put up in one post, so I’ll do a series over the next couple of weeks.

However in summary, Christmas came and went, with a trip to Switzerland. I went on a dive trip to the Red Sea in April, and a camping/diveing trip to Devon in May. I have been up to stay with friends in Lancashire, and caught up with old school friends. I also have a new project in the offing – more of that in a later post. I had solar cells fitted to my house, and a few other things! so I have been busy. On the health side, I am on more or less annual check-ups, although I seemed to get booked into the wrong clinic, and the appointment frequency went up for a while! My eyes are still a bit dry, but the cataract operations were a great success, and my distance eyesight is very good.

So very much upwards and onwards – and watch this space for some updates coming up soon!

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Thursday…Autumn upon us…

Oh dear, I really have ignored the blog for the last few months.

Graduation I guess the highlights of the summer were the Graduation of Rachael from Cardiff University, and me (a day later) with my Master’s degree from Cranfield University. Both days were warm and sunny, and for both of us the culmination of a lot of hard work.

The summer has been fairly uneventful. I am adjusting to my new life, I did a little bit of diving, this one taken at SwanageDiving on Swanage Pier on another lovely sunny day.

Garden wise I had another lovely crop of runner beans, although again I was late planting them, the last flush will be picked in the next few days. I have already put away the garden furniture.

I have made progress in sorting out the stuff in the garage, some items have gone to a new home (middle daughter Katie has just bought a house) and that gave me space to move in there, which meant I could unearth more things for recycling! Still a way to go though!

The nights are drawing in though, and there is a definite chill in the air. Still there are things to look forward to, holidays next year for example.

On the health front, things have been good. The cataract operations have been very successful, and my general health has been good – well, at least up until last week, when I caught the first winter cold. I have also decided to get myself a bit fitter, partly because it is a good thing in itself, and partly because to continue diving with military personnel on expeditions, I need a Health and Safety diving medical, so I need to get fit to pass that. So I have joined a gum, and until this week I have been going there for about an hour a day, 5 days a week, with a varied fitness programme. It is beginning to show results!

What else? Oh yes, a quick trip to Amsterdam to a trade show where I was operating a video camera for a friend while he was conducting interviews with some of the exhibitors. This may generate a little bit of income, which will be a bonus, as there hasn’t been a lot of paid work about.

But all in all, it has been a good and busy summer – and so.. Onwards and Upwards!

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Thursday…damp, damp, damp!

SalvosI have just realised it has been over six weeks since I wrote the blog (although I do wonder who is still reading it?)

So just after my bit of DIY, I headed north up the St Annes to stay with Martin and Stephanie, friends from University. We headed over to Headingley in Leeds to a Pizza restaurant we used to frequent as students, where we met up with our other two house-mates from those days (Jon and Elaine, and Tom and Carol) The photo shows the four of us outside Salvos.

In a burst of nostalgia, we headed off to our former home Canterbury Drive photographed here when we actually lived there! It hadn’t changed much, but we posed outside for another photo! Martin, Stephanie and I headed back to St Annes in the afternoon. Next day, after a walk along the Blackpool Promenade, Martin and I went sailing on the Ribble estuary before I headed back home, via my parents, after a very enjoyable weekend.Canterbury Drive

On the home front, I have been doing some baking! I started off with cake – this is a coffee and walnut cake I baked a few weeks ago. This skill also came in useful when I went to my sister’s for her Birthday. On this occasion I baked a chocolate cake, shown in this picture (together with her family!)Cake

Moving on from cake, I have also been trying my hand at bread making. I do have a bread maker, which I use for making the dough, but I have found that turning out the dough, knocking it back and proving it outside the machine, before baking it a conventional oven, gives best results. as I hope the picture shows!Cake

I have also been experimenting with flavoured savoury breads. So far olive (with Mozzarella and oregano) and sun-dried tomato (with Parmesan and basil) The tomato needs more practice, but they were made for when David and Frances (and their daughter) came to visit two weeks ago. The sun smiled on us and we ate outside in the garden. You may remember that I stayed with David and Frances for a week while I was homeless last December!Bread

The sun has been welcome in the garden, where the runner beans have reached the top of their poles and are producing flowers. The pots have also looked good, and this photo shows the two hanging baskets. There are some more garden photographs in the gallery!.

On the health front, I had a visit to the eye clinic at St Thomas’s about a month ago. I still have dry eyes, but I have a new medication for night use which is certainly soothing, and I hope will eventually solve the problem. I am expecting a referral to the cataract clinic, as these are slowly getting worse. However the visit to London was an opportunity to see my youngest daughter, Rachael, who is doing a three month internship during her summer vacation. We had a very good evening at a restaurant in Borough Market!Garden

I had also been planning to go diving, but the last two planned dives were cancelled because of bad weather, and the expedition to Devon has had to be cancelled for other reasons. That was very disappointing as I was looking forward to doing some camping (no accommodation) but I hope that we will get a couple of dives in the local area next week.

So a busy few weeks! There will be a few stressful moments in the next few weeks as the divorce rumbles on, but I need say no more about that at the moment.

But despite that, it is very much ‘Onwards and Upwards’! 🙂

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Thursday… Good news!

Yesterday saw me getting the train up to Kings College Hospital for my four monthly haematology check up. This was the second time I have been to Kings since the Bone Marrow Transplant unit co-located there. There was a little more organisation, although blood samples (a regular armful!) are taken elsewhere in the hospital first.

I saw Dr Kazmi, the consultant, and we had a long chat. He confirmed that the after five years in remission, although there is always some risk of relapse, the statistcs take a sharp turn in my favour! He confirmed that my blood counts were good, and although my immunoglobulin levels are still slightly low, they are not that far outside the normal ranges. There were no physical abnormalities, so I am now on annual check-ups! We had a chat about the GvHd, and how good the ECP treatment was in improving my quality of life.

Good news! Next check up is at the eye clinic when I need to discuss getting my cataract operation done.

I have an old friend, Melinda, who is a consultant at King’s, so we were able to meet up for lunch (thank you!) before hand, and catch up on things, and I also saw one of the nurses (Debbie) who looked after me during my various stays on Samaritan ward at Guy’s! Small world!

I got home safely, ready go to sub-aqua club, when I received an e-mail about my dissertation result. Not completely good news as I didn’t quite get the required marks, but not a complete failure as I can revise and re-submit. I am waiting for a list of things that I need to address for the re-submission. A bit disappointing, as it means I won’t graduate until next year, but not a total disaster.

So onwards and upwards! (even though I am going diving this weekend!) 🙂

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Saturday… The sun shines!

I’m afraid I haven’t been in the right frame of mind for blogging in the last month or so. The background activities to the divorce have kept me busy too – I am amazed by the mountain of paperwork that it generates. The bad weather doesn’t do much to lift the spirits either.

BUT – today the sun is shining, a court hearing on Tuesday went fairly well, and not as daunting as I feared, and there are a few things to report!

After my Birthday weekend, things settled down a bit, but the highlight of April was a week of diving down on the Lizard peninsula in Cornwall. The weather wasn’t particularly kind to us (I was with my diving club) in that there were gales which gave a high sea state, but in the five days we were there, I did six dives. These were the first real and prolonged ocean dives I have done for nearly seven years, (discounting a 2 minute dive last year when my suit leaked) so it was quite an achievement. I was a little apprehensive, but once in the water I settled down and really enjoyed it. The training and practice sessions I had done in sheltered water had helped immensely, but it was great to be in the sea again. Another step in getting my life back.

Health wise, little seems to have changed. I had a clinic last week for one of the side effects of GvHd, but that has stabilised and I was discharged from it. The next major check up at the haematology department is next Wednesday, so another trip up to London and out to King’s College Hospital. The only caiuse for concern is my eyesight and the cataract problem. My next visit to St Thomas’s is approaching, and I think the time has come to ask about getting this sorted before it gets any worse.

The house is gradually getting into shape. My parents visited last weekend whichs good, and today I have been cutting the grass (I bought a lawn mower three weeks ago) and pricking out some germinating seeds, and setting some runner beans to germinate. I am fairly sure where I am going to put the beans, but I need to cut out some lawn (less to mow!) to make a bed for them.

So all things considered, not too bad, and justifying “Onwards and Upwards”!

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Tuesday… end of August!

Time has flown by, at the end of August already. Nothing much to report on the health front, all seems to be ticking along OK, with my next haematology check up in September. Much of my time has been taken up with my MSc dissertation, and helping out fellow blogmaster Mark with his new venture ttfntv. Go and have a look! I have also been playing with twitter, so I may end up having a twitter account linking to this blog. Maybe more next time, but the idea is to be able to press a button to tweet the content or to follow it. Still working twitter out!

I went diving again a few weeks ago – a much better experience and I think I have got my weighting about right. Still one or two kit problems (leak round the neck seal of my dry suit) but they are easily remedied.

So still busy and very much onwards and upwards!

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Saturday…mid July!

Yes, still here, but a lot going on at the moment! However I had one of my infrequent check ups last week, at the eye department at St Thomas’s. All seem to be OK, and there seems to have been an improvement in the dryness of my eyes, although they have not recovered sufficiently to let me resume wearing contact lenses. Slightly worrying is evidence of a small cataract on one eye, but the opinion is that it was caused by the past use of topical steroids, and therefore not likely to progress. That said, the radiotherapy and chemotherapy I have had in the past does increase the likelihood of developing cataracts in future, and is something to be aware of.

That apart, I have done a little more diving, including some practice dives at an inland site. Not the best of dives as I think I over-estimated my capabilities and ended up doing a faster than normal ascent, fortunately without coming to any harm, but I am planning to go back next week to do some more training to regain my skills.

Not much else to report at the moment. My dissertation is taking up quite a lot of time, as is job searching, but I do intend to continue blogging!

On the subject of blogs, it was great to hear from John’s Mum. John, you may remember, was another cancer patient blogger, and he was inspirational to me. He also suffered from GvHd which ultimately contributed to his death three years ago, and it was his experiences that swayed my decision to undergo ECP. Not forgotten John!

The last few weeks have also seen the passage of a year since my friend Jane died after a long and courageous fight against bowel and secondary liver cancer, and Simon from lung and secondary brain cancer. All missed but not forgotten, and remain an important part of my life.

Onwards and upwards!

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Saturday… a long gap

CottageIt has been a long gap since my last post, mainly because there has been a lot going on!

I started my contract in March but for two weeks I stayed in a holiday cottage not far from where I was working. It was set in lovely surroundings and I was fortunate enough to be there at the start of Spring with the emerging daffodils. It was lovely to be self contained rather than staying in a B&B.Daffodils

Sadly the contract ended at the start of April, and while there is the possibility of more work later in the year, there is nothing much (apart from a little private client work) in the offing. However that has enabled me to start my MSc dissertation, which has slipped by a couple of months.

Old tankI have been doing a little plumbing too. The hot water cylinder started leaking a few weeks ago, not a lot, but enough to know that it wouldn’t get better on its own! The tank is quite tall, but small diameter to fit in a confined space, so I had to find one the same size. That was no problem… except that the insulation standards have improved, so while the tank dimensions and capacities are the same, the external dimensions are bigger. The various connectors are in different places too. However it was all done, apart from the replacement of a tiny valve on the hot water outlet fitting which draws water for the shower from a lower level. I was fitting it – when it slipped and fell to the bottom of the tank! So it all had to be drained, removed and refitted! Much quicker second time round! The pictures show the top of the tank before and after. The fitting at the top (removed in the first picture) is where the little valve fitted! Next job is to box it in again!New tank

I also had a day out in the dive boat last week Note the words carefully! It was a day out to test the boat and equipment, rather than a spectacular sight seeing dive (yes, there are some in The Solent!) The boat performed well, and we kitted up, me in my newly serviced and refurbished dry suit. Into the water, and after 30 seconds my buddy commented that his suit was leaking, so out we came. Twenty minutes later, back in the water with another buddy. We descended to the bottom (only about four metres – it was a check dive) when I noticed a wet and soggy feeling, so up we went after three minutes. It seems that the neck seal is too large for my neck, so the suit will have to go back to have that changed! Very irritating! However, I was supposed to be on an expedition this week, (it was postponed) so I would have been even more annoyed if I had gone away with it! What was pleasing though was that my upper body strength was sufficient to allow me to get out of the water into the boat (it is a RIB) with little difficulty.

So the week was spent on dissertation, and corporation tax returns – deep joy!

Last weekend we had a visitor, Melinda, who I have known for a long time, but haven’t seem since my transplant five years ago. It was good to catch up on news and stuff.

And that leads me onto health, which seems OK! I have a dermatology check up on Tuesday, to see how I am getting on without ECP, and then towards the end of May I have a haematology check up, a lung function test, a bone density scan and a few other clinics monitoring the after effects of GvHd! I am glad that they are all on the same day! A busy day, but only one trip to London. And in between times, I have another trip to Lausanne booked.

The only other thing I need to get done is a little bit of outstanding dentistry (another crown).

So on that note I will end with the customary “Onwards and Upwards”

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Saturday… Yes, I am still here!

But not been in blogging mode I fear – partly because there has been a lot going on.

I returned from my break in Lausanne for a few days to get myself prepared to start work back at Corsham, where I was working last year. I had a trip up to London to see the opthalmic department at St Thomas’s – the good news is that my eyes are getting slightly better, the bad is that I still can’t wear contact lenses – very frustrating!

After some fairly swift contract stuff, I was able to go up to Corsham, for an induction (!) and get passes and so on sorted out, ready to start work on the 28th. But before then I had a dentist visit to have the root canal work (started in January) completed and a crown fitted. I have to say I was impressed. The crown was made in the surgery after being machined out of a block of ceramic material, using Computer Aided Design/Computer Aided Manufacture (CAD/CAM) techniques. Basically the tooth is prepared, photographed to produce a 3D image which is then adjusted by the dentist, digitised and sent to the machine.

After machining it is glazed (in the surgery) and fitted. One afternoon’s work. Not cheap but very effective. There is a little more dental work to be done. One item is a crown I had fitted when I was 16 (following an unfortunate incident on a bike!). It has served me well, but as my gums have receded slightly (age and chemo) it probably needs replacing, so I think I shall have that done with the same technique.

The weekend was spent on coursework, and then I was off on Monday morning to start work. It felt strange living in a B&B again, but it was a busy week, getting back into the project, some visits and so on. At the moment it is only until the end of the month, but there is a possibility that it might be extended, and as yet I have heard nothing about the Belgian job that my CV has been submitted for. But it was good to be back at work, and in a brand new building!

So while it has been busy, and a while since I posted, I’m still very much around!

Onwards and upwards!

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Saturday…Chilly Dip

No, not the sort that you eat with Nachos, but another major milestone in “getting my life back” – my first open water dive for over five years!

The dive was proposed last week at a sheltered site close to Portsmouth Harbour, and I spent some time getting my kit ready last night. It has been carefully stored, and I had checked it earlier, but it was still a little painstaking simply because I haven’t had to prepare it for a long time.

It was very cold this morning – air temperature at about 1C, and the water at an estimated 4C, so it was drysuits and a good assortment of thermal clothing.

There were one or two kit problems, but I eventually jumped in, together with buddy Dave. It was very strange at first. In some respects it was like being a novice diver again, worrying about the techniques of buoyancy, and controlling breathing, and remembering where all the bits were, but after about 15 minutes, everything settled down and I started to relax as earlier training came back to me.

I was in the water for about 30 minutes, 27 of which were submerged. On exit, my hands were blue under the wet gloves, and I used a lot of air (a function of the cold water and my nervousness) even though the deepest we went was 6 metres but… it was great to be back in the water.

I still need to do some pool self training to refresh the drills, but I think if I can get back in under challenging (in terms of the cold) conditions, I should be OK to progress to deeper dives this summer.

And a big thank you to all at the dive club for their encouragement and patience!

Onwards, and upwards (and downwards!)

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