Friday, 31 January 2014

Why I Did the #CanCan4PanCan

Early in December - strangely, around what would have been my dad's birthday -  after responding to a direct message on Twitter, I had an email from Pancreatic Cancer UK. ‘How would you feel,’ I was asked, ‘about getting your CanCan on for pancreatic cancer awareness?’ Pretty silly, I guess, was my initial reaction, but pancreatic cancer is the fifth leading cause of all UK cancer deaths and survival rates have not improved in forty years - and I had a personal reason to get involved.

Pancreatic cancer is known as the ‘silent’ killer because many of its symptoms reflect less serious illnesses meaning that by the time diagnosis is confirmed it’s often too late – which is what happened to my dad. Dad was troubled by the kind of vague back pain and general malaise most people dismiss as a virus and Dad – who once performed an eye-watering operation on himself with a Stanley knife - certainly wouldn’t have consulted a doctor about a ‘bug’.

The day came, however, when Dad was faced with symptoms he couldn’t ignore; jaundice so severe that even the whites of his eyes were yellow, itching, stomach problems and so on. Soon we knew the worst. And by this stage, despite the very best efforts of the consultants and surgeons at the Royal Marsden, the disease was too far advanced to save him.

One of Dad’s most endearing qualities was that he smiled readily and could see the humour in the bleakest situation. This, and his amazing capacity to endure physical pain, were characteristics which bore him through his final illness. He never complained or felt sorry for himself. In sickness and in health he was genuinely amazed and grateful for any kindness and help given to him. And we miss him every day.

So, I decided, if a few minutes squirming with embarrassment doing the cancan on the beach – to the amazement of several dogwalkers – could help at all in Pancreatic Cancer UK’s campaign to raise awareness of this disease and improve survival rates, I’d willingly take part. All the cancan clips were stitched together to make one brilliant campaign video. To view it and also find out more about how you can keep the conversation about pancreatic cancer going, please click #CanCan4PanCan

You can spot me, if you don't blink, at about 41 seconds!  (And this is what I had to do first on a public beach!)


Sunday, 12 January 2014

Tom's Big Bike Ride

Last December, we celebrated an important anniversary. It’s twenty-six years since Tom was diagnosed with testicular cancer, twenty-five years, really, after the surgery and follow-ups, of coming out the other side. Despite a glitch a few years ago, when the removal of what turned out to be an entirely harmless lump led to him being very seriously ill with an MRSA infection, Tom’s been well. To celebrate his survival and to commemorate the lives of family and friends who've been lost to cancer along the way, Tom decided to raise money for Cancer Research UK by cycling 50 miles from St David’s in Pembrokeshire and back along the coast here, to Sarnau, – a pretty, but punishing ride with some stunning views and horrendous hills. This is the story of his big bike ride.

A perfect day at St David's
The view from the support vehicle (aka The Biscuit Tin)
9.50 a.m. And he's off!
First stop Goodwick, Fishguard
Where The Support Driver sits in the sun
Bang on time, Tom arrives and refuels with coffee and cake before the next punishing hill

After five hours, fifty miles and £200 raised, Tom's home and celebrating

To see just how tough it was, you can trace Tom's ride here and see his fundraising page here

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

A View with No Loo

The Big Lorry - their motto, on the back, reads
'No.1 in No. 2s'
On Christmas Day, Tom and I settle down to our scrumptious Swansea market pork. Mm, delicious, especially the lovely crackling… until, that is, I realise that some of the crunching noise has been caused by a back tooth breaking in half.

Never mind, I think, on Boxing Day, I’ll go for a run. After heavy rain the roads are like rivers, even on the hills where I’m also pelted with so much hail that the front of my black running trousers turns white. It feels great to be out here; I run a pb and feel fabulously alive… until a searing pain in my butt makes every other step I take pure agony. Back home I do some internet research and discover something called Piriformis Syndrome. It doesn’t make for happy reading – I belatedly learn why it’s important to stretch before and after vigorous exercise.

My younger stepson arrives for the New Year – lovely! We look forwards to eating, drinking and making merry… until both loos stop working. Tom spends three hours fishing around in the drains but has to give up and call in the professionals. Two years of very heavy rain and the weight of waterlogged soil have all been too much for our system causing a pipe to collapse… so this is what happened on the last day of 2013...

The Big Digger prepares to attack...

This is the septic tank (nice!)
I've spared you the close up of what was revealed... but that's when it became evident that The Big Lorry (above) was required so that the poor man standing here could carry out the repairs... 

An unforgettable end to the year. And this pipe.

We're incredibly grateful to Geraint and Andrew Davies who worked so hard to carry out emergency repairs.  Our happiness levels have risen considerably now that our loos are flushing again and we're trying not to think about what else might need doing.  It’s a new year and my indoor bulbs – grown from a kit given to me by my lovely friend, Ann - have flowered to welcome it in.  Happy New Year!