Return of Cancer Christmas Letter Dec15

December 2015
Christmas Letter 2015

Another year has passed quickly, and much of it has been a happy and with many good times, shared with family and friends, the kind of enjoyment the majority of us appreciate the most, storing up lovely memories for the future!

In June we took a holiday in Jersey. I had never been there before, though Phil had, he was in his early twenties, when he was a bachelor free and young, and he didn`t know me! 
We travelled on a brand new ferry, which was in mint condition, a stable and easy crossing was had, it seemed more like the inside of a luxury plane to me – but then most of my holiday expeditions have pulled me back to lovely Cornwall always, so I haven`t seen much of the world nor the inside of luxury planes!  

Jersey was warm, balmy and golden with a lovely sunlit atmosphere every day. It was peaceful, sedate and seemed to be cast in a glorious time gone by. It was unspoiled and had superb golden beaches, spacious and never ending in parts, but yet everywhere was unhurried and appeared to carry along at its own natural easy pace.

The main shopping centre was made up of immaculate streets, many pedestrianised to give safe and easy access to the amalgamation of high class establishments with perfumeries, high-end fashion, high-class jewellers and scattered amongst them, busy cafes and restaurants. There was certainly a continental flavour there. 

Shoppers and workers all appeared to enjoy stylish dressing as the norm and I don`t believe that I have ever seen so many immaculately suited men (and women) all in such a small space. It was a pleasure to see really, a very different world! It was a good place to “people watch”! 

I believe that Jersey has a lot of millionaires and well-heeled residents, hence the lovely shops.
Earlier in the year in the children`s school break in February, we took the grandchildren along with my brother, for a week in a holiday house right on the cliff tops on the Lizard. 
The house had spectacular views of the wild ocean, awe inspiring cliff tops and the lighthouse. The weather was not at all bad and we wrapped up and went on little expeditions each day to favourite haunts, stretching over the lovely West Penwith Peninsula, the lovely harbour at Porthleven, with its cluster of gift and craft shops, good pubs, now even with a “Rick Stein” restaurant and a selection too, of good quality eating places, and tiny Cadgwith with its neat little harbour and working fishing boats, the quaint and sturdy thatched cottages with cottage gardens overflowing with shrubbery, sea shells, floats and seaside regalia. Penzance with its range of interesting shops, Marazion, with its beautiful beaches and the mystical St Michael`s Mount, Cape Cornwall with spectacle views to Land`s End, and Botallack, with its giant engine houses still over hanging the precarious cliff edges, and also the area where the Poldark television series has been partly filmed, then on to Zennor and St Ives. What a huge variety of interesting and lovely places all within a few miles of each other.

Sometimes we made a picnic lunch or had a pub lunch, other times we cooked a meal in the evening. 

We played Scrabble and the competition became quite fierce at times, then to bed in comfortable warm beds, knowing the mighty ocean was just a stone`s throw away, and that we would wake in the morning, drawing the thick curtains and blinds back, to reveal the ever changing sea views, with mighty tankers, fishing boats and great grey naval ships passing by.   
In July we took Joyce, Phil`s mum away, it was her 90th birthday this year, and she is in amazing fine fettle for a lady of such a grand age. 

We rented a very nice holiday barn conversion in Warwickshire. It was set in a farm land situation, with huge glass patio doors opening up, to a field full of sheep, who would file in a meticulous line past the doors every day, casting an inquisitive eye over us humans.
We could not hear or see the sound of traffic or commerce. It was a real idyllic setting with the sound of skylarks high above the fields surrounding the barn. We sat and rested in the warm balmy breezes, watching the swaying long grasses, sheep bleating and rubbing up fences, one by one.
One day we even had a swallow visiting the interior of the barn, twittering on inside ledges where it should not be! We spent twenty minutes trying to encourage it to escape.   
So we spent a good deal of the week on visiting friends and family. It turned out to be the hottest week of the summer, indeed the heat was tremendous on some days that we had to have siesta times! 

We covered several counties on this visit, amongst them Warwickshire, Gloucestershire, Worcestershire, Herefordshire and Staffordshire. We always run out of time in trying to visit as many friends and family as possible, but it is an important part of Phil and my lives. It is all too easy to lose touch or go for years without meeting, especially when great distances are involved. 
I am sorry to say that in August this year, my bowel cancer came back and I am having another course of chemotherapy. 
I had been clear for 3 years since the last liver operation in July 2012 and had clear scans up until October last year. 

I did not have a scan in April 2015 as the oncologist said that too many scans can be detrimental. I had been having them every 6 months.
In August, I suddenly became ill with jaundice. My skin became very yellow and I became very tired and itched all over, the signs of jaundice. I really did not know what was happening, but was referred to hospital for scans and tests right away. 
Eventually, I went into, hospital (quite quickly) and I had a drain fitted in the bile duct, which is in the liver. 

What had happened, was that a tumour had grown around the bile duct, inside the liver and it was stopping the liver and bile from functioning properly, hence the jaundice.
I went on to have two metal stents placed inside the bile duct, to allow the bile, an essential gastric juice, to continue to function properly again.

I had to wait a few weeks before chemotherapy could begin, as you cannot have chemotherapy whilst suffering with jaundice.  

I have had five treatments of chemotherapy, one every two weeks, so far, and the final one will be after the New Year. 

The usual thing then, is to have a scan to see how well the chemo has worked. It usually works well with me, but I don`t know what the plan is after that.

You can be sure that I am fighting this latest occurrence with the utmost vigour, tenacity, courage and hope that anyone can muster.

There are many treatments now that have been devised to combat cancer, and the proof is with me, that I have lived for six years since being diagnosed in the advanced stages of cancer in 2009, and was given six months to live, that I am still here.

I have met and made many new friends since finding and joining a bowel cancer support group in Cornwall. We have our own dedicated face book website and we have regular social meetings throughout the year. It is a very successful group and we all help and support each other through the trials of diagnosis, prognosis and treatment.

Cancer is still a hard subject to talk about, but in the past year or so we have had several friends and acquaintances become diagnosed. Once you have cancer and have dealt with it for a number of years, to a great extent, the fear diminishes and often one cancer sufferer has the wisdom and ability to engage easily with others new to their difficult and frightening situation, and become a ready and welcome source of support.

I have a lot to do with a “sister site” which we have on the “world wide web”, which gives and offers bowel cancer information. I am very involved with this and if you wish take a look, you will see a photo of Phil and I, along with my story. I also provide the site with ongoing news about cancer, and the ways patients and patients with bowel cancer symptoms, can receive more help, advice and support in many different ways. 
This site is called “”. Anyone can access this site. 

Tomorrow we`re off to our local Christmas tree farm to buy the tree, we always have a real one. I like the smell of pine and love dressing the tree. We have a few new ornaments and some chocolate baubles to hang, along with an assortment of really ancient tree decorations which come out year after year and are lovingly hung every year!

 We took mother in law out for lunch last week, a weekly occasion, normally. She is 90 years old and lives on her own and is as bright as a button. Over jacket potatoes and various fillings and a large glass of wine, we got to talking about Christmas-time in years gone by. We were talking about food. We agreed that there was always a sixpence (in old money) in the Christmas pudding. Mother in law said they had a silver three penny piece in theirs. Then there was the wishbone, always fought over in a chicken or turkey meal! We commented how things had changed. We never had "starters" then, just a turkey dinner and Christmas pudding with brandy sauce afterwards. Then there was cold turkey sandwiches and home-made pickled onions, red cabbage and piccalilli, tinned fruit and evaporated milk for tea, and mince pies. 
I was born in 1950 and the years between then and the early sixties, remain cemented in my mind. We never had alcohol in the house, apart from Christmas, then it was sherry, either Old English Sherry, VP or QC sherry. Over the years it transformed into Advocaat, Snowball, Babycham, Cherry B and Teachers whisky. That was just for adults. 

I remember on Christmas Eve, the thrill of placing a pillowcase at the bottom of the double bed, which I shared with my sister and brother. On Christmas morning I still can remember the thrill and excitement of waking to find that "He" had been and left something! Presents usually consisted early of on, a dressed doll, a tin of toffees, the tin`s lid decorated with a picture of a child with a dog, or suchlike. Then there might have been a pack of cards, Old Maid or Happy Families. Then there might have been a jigsaw, usually with a Disney theme, Snow White, Pinocchio or The Lady and the Tramp or Bambi. A pink or white sugar mouse with white string tail, was standard. As we grew older, other presents appeared, a Mr. Potato Head with interchangeable eyes, noses and mouths, a bag of marbles, a cut-out paper doll with indoor and outdoor clothes, plus hats. 

There were stamp albums, Beanos, Dandys, or an Enid Blyton story book.  Plastercine in a pack - corrugated strips on a cardboard backing. A tin of perfect paints in small oblongs, and small brush, the tin with a colorful design on the front. Snakes and ladders, Ludo, tiddlywinks and draughts.
I remember a tray of shiny colored balls, set in a flat cardboard box with holes in it. You could make your own designs and patterns with these balls, I think it was called Chinese Mosaics, but I`m not sure. I also had a tin kaleidoscope and fuzzy felt set. Then there were the wooden Crochet Dollies.

Then there was a set of cotton hankies, with each day of the week embroidered on. There were jack in the boxes, tin humming tops, story books with stand up scenes of castles and fairy princesses. There were miniature tea sets, post offices, and sweet shops, and "Sooty" hand puppets. Tin money boxes in the shape of a post box and miniature chocolate "Neapolitans" in a toy vending machine which you had to put a penny in to receive a chocolate.

At Christmas, strange and exotic foods would appear, like pomegranates. We would sit quietly for hours picking the little gems out with a pin. There were tangerines, and dates in a solid block all pressed together, or later in an "Eat Me" oblong box with a plastic fork. There were dried figs and fresh nuts with their shells on. The Brazils and Almonds were always left till last, as they were difficult to crack open. Turkish delight and Newberry Fruits were common.
Then chestnuts placed in the cinder tray of the open fire, toasted till ready, then peeled and eaten carefully, tossing them side to side as they were too hot to hold! In the run up to Christmas, mother bought packets of colored paper strips from Woolworths, and we three children would sit for hour licking and sticking them in a chain form together. Mother would hang them up around the living room arranged in loops and to the centre light fitting in the middle and place silver "Lamenta" over the chains to look like frost or snow. In later years there were tissue paper festive ornaments, expanding bell and globes, and crepe paper garlands twisted for special effect and pinned around the room in festive garlands. Holly and Ivy was placed over pictures and put in vases and jugs around the house. There was no other time like it really. The Christmas tree was always a real one usually dug up from the garden each year, and dressed with glass balls from Woolworths, with holly and skiers and snowmen set on them, in bright designs and glitter. There were feathered birds, and chocolate balls in colored tin foil and small chocolate "Father Christmas`s" and golden, foiled chocolate money. There were clip on candle holders with miniature wax candles and all was covered with Lamenta and sometimes cotton wool balls, to look like snow. As we grew older, we became more adventurous and pasted "gloy" glue on the holly and ivy leaves and sprinkled silver and gold glitter on. There were no Christmas tree lights early on but it all looked magical. In fact it was a magical part of my childhood.

Sending love and best wishes,
Hoping all is well with you,
From Pat and Phil. xxxx
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