You might have noticed that things have gone very quiet in this corner of the world. We haven’t given up or sold Heidi … it’s just that other things have got in the way. I’ve been pondering whether to write because every now and then I take a look at the stats and I can see people popping in clearly wondering if there has been another post – so I decided to get the typing fingers out.

Not great news

I had my usual CT scan at the end of October last year. Since my radical nephrectomy (removal of left kidney) in 2020 there have been regular scans to check for any sign of a return of the cancer that had been described to me as ‘fairly aggressive’. I had been feeling fit and well, playing loads of golf and walking for miles. A three-month tour of Europe in spring and early summer had been a delight and there were no symptoms to suggest that anything was amiss. We were feeling relaxed and beginning to believe that the surgery had successfully removed all the cancer.

Two weeks after the scan I was called by the nurse specialist to tell me, very gently, that there were suspicious nodules on my lungs. “They are very small’, she said kindly. “The multidisciplinary team of specialists are looking at the scans and will be in touch.”

And so it was that we stepped on to the roller coaster that is life with cancer.

I am currently on Immunotherapy, to boost the immune system and encourage it to fight the cancer, and daily targeted cancer drugs in tablet form. This treatment is pretty harsh on the body but after three months I was told that the most worrying nodule on my lung had reduced by two thirds and the others were barely visible. At this point I realised that some nasty side effects are worth the outcome and stopped whimpering … most of the time.

I have the best possible care, not least from Shirley who manages to make sure I’ve taken all the necessary medication, encourages me when the going gets tough and persuades me to ask for assistance from the specialist team when necessary. On top of all that she makes me laugh daily – I couldn’t ask for more.

I couldn’t find a recent picture of Shirley but here she is looking after a different old goat – oh sorry, it’s a llama.

The NHS is getting a lot of bad press at the moment but I can only speak from my own experience. All the advice, care and kindness I’ve received has been outstanding.

Poppy finds her calling

If you’ve followed this blog you will know that we used to have two dogs, a miniature poodle called Boo and Poppy the cockapoo. Sadly, Boo died over a year ago and Poppy had to adjust to being the only dog. In previous years, when a family dog has died, we’ve got another one quite quickly but this time we decided against it. There is enough caring required in this household without managing the needs of a puppy as well. Incidentally, if you’re considering getting one – and you might well after you read the next bit – be aware that for the first two years of Poppy’s life we kept saying “What the hell have we done?”

Once Boo was no longer with us and Poppy had got over grieving for him, we got a wonderful surprise. She has far more character and insight than we had ever realised. She was always the underdog and allowed Boo to rule the roost. Now she has become fully attached to us and amazingly in tune with everything that is expected of her with an added flash of surprising sensitivity. Since my diagnosis she has taken extra care of me, cuddling up, sleeping as close to the bed as possible and picking up any sign of sadness. On the day after the diagnosis, I took her out for a walk as usual and at the same time practiced some mindfulness to try to stay calm. I was doing really well, taking note of the sound of the birds and the beauty of the trees when I was suddenly overcome with a huge attack of the ‘what ifs’. I felt frozen with fear at the thought of leaving this life and all the joy it holds and especially the people I love. Poppy was off her lead and walking in front when I noticed her stop in her tracks. She swung around, gazed at me with her big brown eyes and hurried back to me. She touched my knee with her nose and began to walk close beside me, looking up every now and again as if to check I was okay. I couldn’t help smiling down at her and after another couple of minutes she returned to walking a few paces in front as though she was keeping me safe. Occasionally, when Shirley and I sit close together on the sofa and hold hands while we talk through our concerns and anxieties, Poppy will jump up and lie between us, snuggling in and looking up from one to the other. She is a true therapy dog and she consistently behaves herself when out walking, returning immediately when called. A dog trainer we had when she was a pup told us that what she needed was a job. She’s got one now and she does it beautifully.

Poppy is exhausted from all her duties

Heidi of high maintenance fame

Heidi has had some electrical work including more lighting and additional power points. We had her MOT done in a garage in Tranent, about forty miles away, that specialises in large vehicles as she needed some welding on her underneath parts. We stayed the night before in one of the many pubs that offers overnight parking in exchange for eating a meal in the pub. It was surprisingly pleasant with the manager on duty inviting us back any time and taking a genuine interest in our travels. The parking was flat and we were one of five motorhomes enjoying their hospitality.

The garage was the old fashioned type with oily blokes climbing under all kinds of vehicles. Our mechanic explained what he was going to do without talking down to us and we felt happy to have found somewhere that has all the gear for a big beast and doesn’t make rude comments about her age.

Home again we set about upgrading the bathroom that had begun to look tired by painting the no longer white plastic with Plasticote and changing the vinyl background paper. Taking the circular shower doors off, we now realise with hindsight, should have been recorded on video – it was one of those events that could possibly make it on to that well known programme that makes fun of people being inept. There would have been a lot of bleeps covering the numerous four letter words when the nuts on the back of the hanging rails kept falling off and rolling away, often dangerously close to the drain.

One issue we have had with driving Heidi is the handbrake which is tucked tightly into the right hand side of the driving seat and is a long reach down. People like us of short stature with shorter than average arms find reaching the handbrake difficult. So we decided to buy a handbrake extender. We had to wait two months to receive this unwieldy item and I consulted Youtube to find another motorhomer who had bravely videoed fitting it. The first problem occurred when I got it ready to fit, and realised that our type of motorhome doesn’t have a door on the driver’s side. Frankly this is something I should have thought of before ordering it. We have a door on the passenger side and one into the main body of the van. No driver’s door means that the small space between the seat and the wheel arch is very tight. I tried to use the allen key supplied but it was impossible to get it into the end of the bolt to fit it. Forward 24 hours and we had bought allen keys for tight spaces and tried again. I was on my hand and knees with my head under the steering wheel and Shirley was pointing a flash light down into the murky depths of one of those vehicle spaces that have never seen the light of day. The new allen key helped but it didn’t stop those nuts falling off repeatedly. Eventually we came up with the idea of sticking sellotape over the nuts to hold them in place and starting again. By now some of the skin on my knuckles had been worn off and I looked as though I had punched a wall in frustration. At last the extension was fitted and we read the instructions on how to use it. Here is a direct quote from the instructions “The use of the handbrake when driving is self explanatory and will soon be found easy after a short trial. The operating action is of the type known in the vintage motoring era as a “Fly Off handbrake” Because of this quick release nature alway leave the vehicle in gear when parked” Quick release! We couldn’t get the damned thing off. We tried everything. The man in the video had just smacked the handle – this did nothing. Our neighbour came along and managed to take it off but when we tried again after he left we only succeeded in getting the handbrake on more and more tightly. We had no choice but to remove the extension again so that we could drive her. We are currently waiting for a friend who is a patient and very kind mechanic to come and try to find out what went wrong.

Small Trips for now

Since beginning this treatment with all its challenges, some of which involve staying close to the loo, we haven’t had any big adventures in the motorhome. We have, however, had a few short trips to nearby places including Northumberland, York because it’s fast becoming one of our favourites and Roslin near Edinburgh to catch up with family and friends. It was good to enjoy a bit of city life and a jaunt around Ikea.

Light and Sound display at York Minster

I have been told that leaving the UK while on treatment is strongly discouraged so we are having to change our plans to include UK trips. These must be fitted between the dates of treatments at the Macmillan Centre. Fortunately treatments have been recently changed to every six weeks so it shouldn’t be too challenging. Being equipped with plenty of toilet fluid and numerous loo rolls will also help. I am now even more enamoured with this “take your own loo” form of travel. More later on whether we could learn to use the handbrake and other such nonsense.

36 thoughts on “Catch up on the News

  1. J in bed 2 days with a bad cold. Corrie keeps going up to check on him and have a snuggle. Some dogs are amazingly intuitive. Others, well, are an Oscar!
    So delighted treatment doing what it should. Side effects not withstanding. Just hope no national loo roll shortage again!! Hope you’re stock piling. Hugs to you all. X

  2. Lovely to hear from you again. Oh what a journey you’ve had, and are still having. Hang in there girl! Shirley’s got you. I’m rooting for you as you cone out the other end stronger and better. Sending much love xxx

  3. Sorry to hear you e been poorly Margaret – am sure Shirley will be taking excellent care of you! Rest when you need to , sending you both warm healing hugs and thoughts x

    1. You are so right Lesley – Shirley is wonderful. She can be quite strict too! lol Lots of rest happening and good food. Hope you are well x x x

  4. Great to hear your medical treatment is working, Margaret, and that you, Shirley and Poppy are still enjoying travelling. Have a great summer!

    1. Mags, you and Shirley are the bonniest fechters I know – and it’s great to be reading your blog again, no matter where you’re writing it from! We love and salute you both, Wonder Wummen!

  5. Love reading your blogs of life and adventures. Sending much love to help during your recovery. Humans could learn much from dog affection and loyalty x

    1. Thanks Marek – very glad to know you are still following the blog. You’re so right about dogs x x

  6. How good to hear from you with the current situation and sincerely wish the very best outcome for you all. Our lovely dogs continue to surprise us with their ability to recognise when we need their intuitive love and attention,much love to you all and may you enjoy many more adventures to come.Thank you for keeping us up to date .

  7. Hi Margaret and Shirley. Good hearing good things about Poppy. Dogs are a very caring breed. Sorry about your recent Cancer report, I hope you do well and get well I know Shirley and Poppy will keep you smiling. I just reached my 18 month remission last Saturday. However my bowel report has come back positive, and I’m waiting to be seen. Hopefully it’s not anything serious. I’ve also had Pneumonia over Christmas and again there over Easter. The things that happen when your immune system is low. Any way keep well Margaret and you Shirley. It’s good hearing your travels again. Have you done the NC500. Or the Northumberland 250. I’ve followed the latter through reading novel thrillers by LJRoss, she’s a brilliant Northumberland thriller writer, her books are great and based all around Northumberland and Newcastle. Anyway, take care. Keeping you both in my thoughts. Blessed be. Sandy

    1. Hi Sandy, Sorry to hear you have been unwell and hope you manage to avoid it again – especially at holiday time! Yes we’ve done the NC500 – when it was a new thing. I hear it’s mad busy now. The Northumberland one sounds interesting – we must investigate. … and yes I’ve read some of LJ Ross’s novels. Really good. Thanks for responding to the blog. x x x

  8. Hi Both,
    Fantastic to get a blog from you both and so sorry that the big C is back Mags. But you have wonderful support from Shirley and Poppy and we are all rooting for you. We are now back in the UK in Telford so will be doing much more UK travelling so hopefully will cross paths again. Can’t wait to see your monster truck Heidi. Great job on the bathroom! Would have loved to be a “fly on the wall” during that or the handbrake may have learned some new words.
    Thinking of you both, take good care.
    Lots of love to you both.
    Steve & Judy xxx

    1. Hi Steve and Judy, You know us too well. A lot of blue air when dealing with awkward jobs. I don’t think there are any new words to learn but always open to possibilities. Hope to catch up somewhere in the UK. x x

  9. Lovely to hear from you but sorry re the cancer! Keep fighting and stay positive – your comments re Poppy brought a tear to my eye.

    2 years in we still have issues with Linnhe (now 7) and Bodhi (our 2 year old Pattapoo). Linnhe gets very jealous and has the new name of ‘woolly bully’! But Bodhi can be the biggest wind up merchant going – running at and round Linnhe with ball/stick in mouth!

    We are here on Roundtree park until Friday – don’t suppose you are somewhere in the 100 outfits on site?
    Judy and Dave xx

    1. Hi Judy and Dave, We’re at home at the moment. A bit jealous that you are on that lovely site. Amazing dog walks over the pedestrian bridge over the river and amazing shopping and historical sites the other way. Sorry to hear Linnhe is being naughty. Our Boo was a jealous dog which is why we didn’t see the real Poppy until after he died. Great to hear from you again. M x x

  10. Both happy and sad reading your wonderful blog. Glad you’ve got a great caring team in nurses Shirley and Poppy in your corner. Keep travelling in all ways. Sending big hugs xx

  11. Hello you two + one. Your blog post was timely as often is the case. The light in my loo went out last night for some crazy reason. Not the bulb. So, if you have a spare minute today would you stick your head in a have a look at it for me, please? I’ll supply the tools – save you packing them with you.

    Quite seriously Keith and I are really sorry to hear the news of the cancer’s return but if we know anybody who’ll take it on it’s Shirley. It may sound like she’s doing a mechanical repair on the caravan but it’s really her telling the cancer what to do and where to go. If that’s not enough a couple of country tunes with a Nashville/Ayrshire accent should also do the trick to through a smile across your face and a good giggle.

    Know you’re in our prayers and for a strong outcome on the other end. You do need to get to visit over this way. We would really love to have you and, in the meantime, send you all our love.

    Douglas & Keith

  12. What a lovely reply – I seem to remember that it’s you, Douglas, who can fix broken things in bathrooms. We would love to see you both again. Lots of love to you both x x x

  13. Sorry to hear your news, but you and Shirley are one of the strongest couples I know. I know who Chris takes it from.
    Love your blogs.

  14. Dear Margaret & Shirley… was quite surreal when you posted your latest blog, Margaret as I had just been thinking that we hadn’t heard from you in a while and lo and behold this pops up. I was sorry to hear of the return of your cancer, Margaret and although each journey is different, I too am going through my own journey. I also cannot praised the NHS staff highly enough for the care and attention and good spirits. I also keep my own journal which is titled “the fart with the hat on” which I took from an old joke of my father’s (too long a joke to explain). Dogs are so discerning and although I don’t have my own, I often have Agi (Shirley will know who I mean) and her dogs up at ours (3 beautiful labs) and they are such good therapy and just seem to know that you need a wee comfort. I wish you well with your treatment, Margaret and hope you and Shirley manage many short outings over the coming months. Have always enjoyed reading your blogs and hope when you feel up to it you will do some more.

  15. Hi Ali, Thank you for your lovely message and thank you for sharing your own experience. It’s good to have companions on the way. I’ll definitely write more blogs – I love doing it and I’m always surprised when people tell me they enjoy them. We’re planning a a tour of the Highlands before extreme midge season. We might just get beyond the planning stage. Love to you and the family

  16. Hello Margaret, Shirley and Poppy,
    It‘s great to hear from you again even if not all the news is good. Your friends don’t just want to hear from you when you’re going well, we want to support you when you’re not too.

    My Mum had a kidney removed to C and then it moved to her lung. She went on living an active life for over 20 years after treatment playing tennis until a few months before she died of something unrelated. Hang in there kiddo!

    Hugs for you all xx

    1. Hi Jonathan, We were so moved by your lovely message. Thank you for that and for the encouragement. It really helps to hear of people who have gone on to lead full lives. Love to you x x

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