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Cycle 3 week 1 update

What an interesting week! Definitely not straightforward at all. It started with a late entry into hospital for the 3rd cycle, continued with a lovely week of visits with friends and a weekend away, and ended with another unexpected visit to hospital.

The 3rd cycle start itself was uneventful, except that it was the first time I was able to use the 3G dongle I had bought earlier. What a pleasure to get online while in hospital! I found that I was spending many hours online — most of them waiting for downloads and reading — but I was well occupied while all the drips were going through. As ever, the people were extremely convivial, which is part of what makes the chemotherapy visits such a pleasure. Everything seemed to go as planned, and I was home again on Tuesday afternoon.

On Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday I had three different “dates”; one with an old school friend; another with a friend from University; and the third with a group of former colleagues. We ate very well as a consequence. The old school friend brought along a famous chocolate cake, billed as Good Housekeeping’s best chocolate cake in the world! It was wonderful. Dense, rich, thick, and chocolatey, and the best bit is that it is still going strong. The friend from University and I had been swapping biscuit recipes, and she brought a beautiful selection of flavoured shortbreads. They are also delicious. I’m afraid she got the shorter end of the deal as I was only able to give her a single batch of ginger oat biscuits, affectionately known by us as “Cat Biscuits”. (That’s a story for another day, I think.) The third meal was a lunch out at a local pub with a gang of about nine of us, three escapees and six current employees. The food there is very good, but we could have done a bit better if we hadn’t just turned up on spec on a Friday lunchtime. As ever there was far too little time to talk to everyone, but I did manage a bit of a chat with each person, which was great.

On Friday evening we took the train to Stoke-on-Trent, where we were going to stay in a hotel overnight, so that we could get up bright and early to queue for the Staffordshire Hoard. This is a hoard of treasure that was found locally by a metal detectorist, was declared treasure and valued at £3.285M, and was put on display in Birmingham first, and then Stoke-on-Trent. There is a campaign to raise enough money to keep the Hoard in the region and to have it properly conserved and examined. As of yesterday, they seemed well on the way to achieving their donation targets, and so they should! The museum where the temporary display was put on has been inundated with three-and-a-half-hour queues of people to see the treasure, which, of course, is why we went up on the Friday night so that we could join the queue as early as possible. In the event we queued for slightly under two hours, and it was a very jolly occasion all  round. The other people queueing were determined to enjoy themselves, and the queue itself wound around the rest of the museum, so we always had things to look at. Moreover, the museum staff and volunteers exerted themselves mightily to keep us all entertained. One volunteer stood out in particular, as he was dressed as Redwald, the king who was buried at Sutton Hoo in a boat burial. He was wearing a replica of the full Sutton Hoo armour, and looked magnificent. And didn’t he know it too! Another subject for a later post, I think.

After the visit we felt a little anti-climactic, but we wandered around and found a good Italian restaurant that I remembered had positive reviews on TripAdvisor. They let us in early and fed us well, and in the afternoon we staggered back to the hotel for a rest. After another nice meal in the evening we had an early night ready for departure back home in the morning.

All was going well until just before the taxi arrived, when I started feeling a little peculiar. The rough taxi ride can’t have helped, and I threw up all my breakfast on Stoke station concourse. In fact most of it went into a sick bag, with just a little missing it, unfortunately. I think the sight of a man being sick on a match-day morning excited the attention of one of the local policemen, but he soon realized that there aren’t many drunk football hooligans who carry a sick bag, and went to summon cleaning help. I felt a little better, and got onto the train to Birmingham in some relief, but was soon fainting repeatedly, even while sitting down totally relaxed. I think Gillian was quite worried, as she kept insisting that I wake up and lie down on the floor of the train. At Birmingham I was subjected to the indignity of a wheelchair. I say “indignity”, but I couldn’t possibly have walked, so it was a huge relief. We caught a (horrendously expensive) taxi back home and put me to bed while Gillian phoned the hospital.

After checking me over for about six hours, they released me into the care of the Richard’s parents, who have a flat in Cheltenham, and who took in Gillian and me without a moment’s thought. They fed and watered us, put us to bed in a much more comfortable room and bed than the hotel’s and generally took exceptionally good care of us. I’m to go back tomorrow to be checked out again by the consultant, but I think the way I feel now (pretty well, actually) will probably be the clincher in sending me home later today.

I think the kindness of people is what has characterized this week for me. My friends who came to visit, bearing gifts of food (always welcome to me, as I’m sure you know by now!); strangers in Stoke, Birmingham, and on the train who looked after me and Gillian while I was in trouble; friends’ parents who offered room and board; all done with extreme good humour and kindness. It has been an utterly heartwarming week, and in spite of its difficulties, I am profoundly grateful for the experience.