Normal service not quite resumed!

First of all apologies for the prolonged silence over the past six months. The reason is that since the beginning of February my life has been turned upside down. I was diagnosed with myeloma, a rare form of bone marrow cancer and since then I've been in hospital for three months, rehab for six weeks, then finally the happy day arrived when I came home. What started as something I thought was sciatica ended up being a much more serious issue and after radio and chemo therapy I'm now trying to learn to walk again. Cancer is no fun I can tell you.

The tests were unremitting and daunting, especially the nerve reaction tests which I found to be complete torture and hard to bear. This is the first time I've been able to face writing anything on my blog, but I'm hoping that in the coming weeks I'll be able to write more.
The garden is a haven and it's great to be outside again
Since I've been home it's been good to be outside in the garden getting some fresh air, for the first time since it all kicked off.  The chemo stopped about two months ago but I still feel like utter shit, food tastes different, tingling and burning feet, frequent diarrhoea, and I'm easy meat for any passing infection, so have to be careful who I see and make sure they're not suffering from colds or something worse. All annoying as it would be so nice to see more people - I can't tell you how much it lifts my spirits.
This is the scarf that took months to finish made out of two
different types of merino sent to me by friends in US and Canada

Still my life seems to be gradually kickstarting itself. In hospital, I found I couldn't knit very well and had to resort to good old garter and even then the resulting fabric looked much more uneven than I'd have liked it to. I couldn't knit for more than a few rows at a time, so the scarf that I was making using the lovely yarn that some kind knitters sent to me, seemed to take forever to complete - four months in fact. My brain is still not functioning as well as it might and I can't seem to decide on a follow-up project, mainly because I don't like the result of my much less than perfect craft skills at the moment.

However, there's better news in the music department. When I woke up initially from the seizure, I couldn't contemplate playing guitar or even singing and although I had my guitar standing by in the corner of my room in rehab, the sheer weight of it meant I could barely hold it, let alone play it. Since I've got home though, I seem to be getting stronger and I'm once again able to play. Not at all like I used to, but still it's doing me a world of good in the confidence department - my sense of self is slowly returning. I quickly realised I couldn't remember anything I'd learnt in the past year, but things I'd been playing for years were still there, if slightly rusty. It was still difficult for me to lift the guitar from my wheelchair and I couldn't play for long, but at least I was making some music again. 
Learning to play the ukulele has been a lifesaver

After I'd been home for a few weeks my friend Susie, whose husband is a luthier, brought round a lovely little ukulele that he had just finished. She told me that when she was suffering from a rotator cuff injury in her shoulder, it was the only instrument she could contemplate playing. She said Dave would like me to have this one on loan and play it in.

Well. I'd never played a ukulele before and didn't even know how it was tuned, but that was soon sorted with an app on my phone. Susie taught me a few chords, then we played a few tunes together and I found I rather enjoyed it. As she left she told me to make sure I play it and those words rang in my ears a lot in the coming weeks. The more I played it the more I enjoyed it, plus it was so much lighter and manouvrable than my guitar that I didn't have to wrestle with it in the wheelchair or feel weak from the weight of it. It got to the point where I looked forward to my uke practice every morning after breakfast and the more I played it, the better I got and the better it sounded. I'm still no virtuoso, but I can pick out a tune and my repertoire is expanding by the day.

My songwriting is still in the latent phase, but last week I wrote a poem for a local online mag. York Mix had invited readers to send in poems relating to summer and although my entry missed the deadline for publication, the editor, York's own poet, Carole Bromley, said she liked the poem and would have published it.  Yay, there's life in the young dog yet! :)  Have a read and let me know what you think:

Seeds to sow and water, on a sunny window sill
Woods filled with starry ransoms and nodding bluebells
Hearing the first cuckoo, collecting elderflowers for wine
Coffee in the garden tastes much better than inside
... in early summer

Grit under wheels on mud-cracked track
Hollow in flower bed where cat hit the sack
House martins chatter on telephone wire
Finger food shared aound the campfire
... in high summer

Trees look so hot fully clothed in their leaves
Soon to be denuded by a cool September breeze
Distant drone of mowers before they're put to bed
Produce for the winter stashed away in the shed
... in late summer

I'm still having physio to get my legs going again and yesterday another milestone was reached - I was able to climb three stairs! On Friday we're going to attempt a full flight of twelve. There have been many other milestones along the way - standing up, taking the first two tentative steps, walking the length of a room with a frame, starting to walk with crutches - but nothing happens overnight. Little by little though, I feel things are moving and this is so important,  psychology plays a big part in the battle. Also I'm very lucky to have Eleanor, my lovely physio, who manages to be encouraging but never bullying.

I've looked at my blog several times over the past six months and seen the most recent page, written before I became ill, staring sadly back at me. Several times I've tried to write a post, but always felt after a couple of paragraphs that everything I had to say was rather depressing and as I had nothing really positive to write, I felt I should wait.

So in a way, rekindling my blog is a big step on my road to rekindling my health and I'm looking forward to many more posts to come.
Django waiting for his dinner!
PS The cats, Django and Arlo, are a great source of amusement for me, there's never a dull moment when they're around.


  1. Welcome back, Jean. I've been sending happy thoughts across the pond for month and am SO happy to see your progress. Enjoy the last days of summer in your garden and keep knitting. If you're getting uneven stitches, why not make something to felt? Those stitches won't show at all. : )

    1. I'll try that Merry, thanks for the suggestion xx

  2. It's so good to hear of your great progress. I never for a moment doubted your inner strength and creativity would see you through. I know you still have so much you want to achieve and step by step you will get there but please be gentle on yourself and take the time to enjoy all that there is around you. You are an amazing person.

    1. Thanks so much James, it helps a lot to have such a supportive network of friends and family.

  3. Life does have a way of flinging us of course when we least expect it…. you speak of your illness with such grace and dignity and now that you are home I wish you many many more easier steps towards full health….. sending warm wishes…. Lydia

    1. Many thanks Lydia for your lovely message. It's so amazing (not to mention healing) to realise I have so many kind and generous friends.

  4. Dear Jean, I feel so sorry for you - for what you have gone through! (Mabe you don't want me to, but I can't help it...) I admire you for your courage and ability to try to find bright spots in a demanding situation, and I'm so glad that you are making progress. All good wishes for you. Your friend always, Hilde from Norway.

    1. Dearest Hilde, Our emotions are what make us human, so please don't feel any guilt about feeling sorry for me. I know that your sorrow is because you care and not from pity, which is a different emotion and can be quite patronising. I get upset sometimes, but I try not to dwell on things and look more towards the future with brighter days to come. Hope your life is going well xx

  5. Hello Jean! Thanks for sharing your difficult circumstances so bravely, I will certainly keep your continued recovery in my thoughts and prayers. The scarf is magnificent, what a lovely pattern and your usual brilliant colors! Sending much love and all good wishes your way from the US! Pam xx

  6. Dear Jean,
    I have missed seeing your posts, and had begun to wonder what might have been the reason for the lapse. Never could I have guessed all that you have kindly told us in this post.

    Yes, you are a remarkable woman, with many talents and great strengths, many of which you are still discovering.

    I wish you a continued steady recovery. xo

    1. Good to hear from you again Frances. Many thanks for your good wishes xx

  7. Dear Jean,
    So sorry to hear what you've been through but pleased to hear that you are starting to feel ever so slighlty better and taking joy from the little things. May your recovery continue apace and your joie de vivre and spirit be renewed.
    Love and hugs,

  8. Atholie Gallagher21 November 2015 at 04:24

    Hi Jean
    I only saw this last night - it explains why I couldn't find any photos/comments about your 2015 tours. I was shocked to read of your illness - cancer (and life) is like that isn't it? - these things happen just when you don't expect it. I am glad to hear that you are making a good recovery now, but you have certainly had a rough time. My best wishes to you for your continued and speedy recovery and rehabilitation.


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