‘R Force One

My support team that carries me (sometimes quite literally) is immense. I’ve specifically mentioned the three wise flunkies* in a previous post. They are the heart and soul of the operation. No words could describe how much it means to have the Triumverate** here at Base Camp.

There are various other kind people who are providing “on the ground” assistance. Such help regularly includes bringing food and helping with baby- or yours-truly-sitting. Some of those are geographically close to us and some are further afield but their willingness to do all that they can (and often at short notice) is overwhelming. It means a lot to me and the Triumverate that we can call on them.

The number of messages, letters, telephone calls and visitors we’ve received has also been overwhelming. This includes many people from pretty much every stage of our lives: my family; friends of my family, including some of whom I’ve known since I was born; my friends from school, university, law school, previous and current jobs, and, of course, the Stockton Massive; friends of my brother’s; our current and former friends and neighbours; former and current colleagues of me, Graeme, Graham, Ma and Pa; Graham’s extended family (which is “yuge”); staff at J and L’s nursery and J’s pre-school; vicars; friends and family of the above, some of whom we haven’t even met; and, other groups that I’ve no doubt forgotten to mention!

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: we appreciate all the love and support we’ve had. It has been, and continues to be, a source of inspiration and positivity to us at a pretty hectic and difficult time.

Who Needs Anemones?

A special mention must go to those who have embraced my tumour humour and ran with it. Here are two recent examples of things that have tickled my black funny bone. Here is a suggestion from a friend of a solution for my overheating problem: brain-shaped Ice-Cube moulds. If we could somehow adapt the moulds to reflect the Squatter inside the resulting Ice-cubes, I think we’d be onto a winner. From both a black humour and practicality point of view, this has achieved a high score.

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Secondly, here is a screen shot taken on a friend’s phone of a previous post setting out details of my hair loss. Notice the targeted advert underneath for laser hair removal!

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NB Hair removal is currently available free of charge on the NHS if you need radiotherapy and/or certain chemotherapy treatments. Of course, the hair removed might not be the hair that one wants to be removed but, for free, one mustn’t grumble!

Housekeeping

Since Squattergate began nearly five months ago, I haven’t even been into our house let alone slept there. I was carted out to the ambulance in a contraption that bore a striking resemblance to the upright trolley used to move Dr Lecter around, a portentous sign if ever there was one!

The strength and mobility in my right hand side has never fully recovered, particularly in my foot and leg, as I’ve previously set out on this blog ad nauseam. I am therefore unable to get in and out of our house in the first place. If that small issue could be resolved, there is no current or potential way for there to be accessible downstairs living given the layout of our house and garden.

Since 1 September, I have therefore either slept in one of two local hospitals (43 nights at the last count) or here at my folks’ house. My mobility is almost certainly not going to improve any further than it has already. Although ultimately caused by the tumour, the ongoing effects on my mobility have been caused by the seizures, a permanent version of Todd’s Paresis perhaps.

In light of all that, and as some of you are already aware, we decided a few months ago that we will sell our house. Graham had been popping up of an evening to prepare the house ready for sale. With all the other jobs he has to do, he had simply not had the time or the energy to move things forward as he would have liked.

Gill Force Wins

It takes a village to raise a child and it took a village (Rowlands Gill) to sort out our house for sale. It started with a tentative message from me a couple of weeks ago to a neighbour (who had previously offered to help with anything). I asked if she could help as part of a team we were hoping to gather to tidy our garden.

Within a day of me sending that message, said neighbour had asked if we minded her getting other neighbours, friends and friends of friends involved. She suggested they could help out not only with the garden but with packing up everything into boxes, addressing minor snagging issues that we had never quite made time for and cleaning the house from top to bottom. Within a day of us “allowing” her to move on with the plan, over 30 recruits were enlisted for a military-precision operation last week/weekend. I believe that over 40 people were involved in some way or other in the end.

It was, and still is, a mind-blowing display of generosity of spirit, time, energy and resources. It has really boosted our spirits that such a monumental effort was made on our behalf by people around us, most of whom we don’t know well or indeed at all!

Lest We Forget

I couldn’t let today (Holocaust Memorial Day) pass without noting that the reason for this post (the overwhelmingly kind and generous display from those around us) contrasts starkly with the evil atrocities that humans are capable of inflicting on each other.

Today marks 72 years since the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, one of many “Death” camps where the Nazis systematically mass-murdered millions of “others”, including Jews, Roma Gypsies, homosexuals and physically and/or mentally incapacitated people. Hitler and the Nazi party had made no secret of his/their hatred for, and scapegoating of, these “others”. That they could be elected with even the hint of it reflecting the will of the people*** and wreak such devastation on the world is frightening.

As the UK communities secretary, Sajid Javid, said yesterday at a memorial event in Westminster, the Holocaust did not begin with the gas chambers but “it began with words, with people not standing up to hatred, and that message is as relevant today as at any time in our history”.

Justin Welby (Archbishop of Canterbury) said at the same event that:

The restoration of individuals and communities is our responsibility as a society that rightly holds to biblical Judeo-Christian injunctions to welcome the stranger in our midst and to seek the flourishing of all within our land.

The culture of alternative facts, of post-truth, of collusion needs to be challenged at every level and in every conversation and debate in this country if indeed we are to be a place of safety and healing for those fleeing tyranny and cruelty.

I echo their words and sentiments. I’ll finish on this subject with this article from a couple of years ago, which has stayed with me ever since. Lest we forget indeed.

Family “On This Day” History

Today also marks 100 years since my maternal grandma, Anne Edington Render (née Miller), was born. I never met her as she died just over 16 months after my brother was born and 18 months before I was born. I know it’s a source of sadness for my Mam that Grandma never saw us grow up. We have no doubt that she would have been as loving and devoted a Grandma to us as she was to our cousin, who is a bit older than us.

When I was pregnant with Jennifer, I read about the baby’s development each week. During the relevant week (I forget when), I read that, if the baby was a girl (which we didn’t know until she was born), all the eggs that she would develop were already inside her ovaries. Immediately it made me think of my Grandma. Although it is not (by any measure) enough, it brings me a degree of comfort to know that I had a physical connection to my Grandma: the egg that I came from was already inside my Mam when my Grandma was pregnant with her. That still blows my mind and makes me think that if Jennifer has children, I carried inside my body the tiny egg(s) that they came from too.

By all accounts, and from the photos I’ve seen, Grandma was a very stylish lady. Even more importantly, she has been described to me as, among other things, overwhelmingly generous, gentle and kind. That’s no surprise to me given that Ma Rent displays those qualities on a daily basis. Here is a photo of the lady herself:

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Today also marks 12 years since my brother’s brain surgery. He was taken down to theatre first thing in the morning so my parents and I arrived at James Cook Hospital early to see him before he went. He chose my Mam to accompany him as far as the anaesthetists’ room door. I remember all of the medical staff turning to face him, standing as if on-guard and wishing him well as he was transported in his hospital bed out of the ward. That was a very moving moment to witness.

The operation was a lengthy one and it was possibly the longest day of my life. We rang periodically throughout the day to see if there was any news but in the meantime we had hours and hours to fill (as in, maybe 10 from leaving the hospital in the morning to returning in the evening). For wont of anything better to do after sitting in the house for what felt like hours, Ma, Pa and I went to Dalton Park to get some practical things that Graeme needed. We also bought a weekend suitcase for me as I knew by then that I would be regularly travelling up and down between London and Teesside for the foreseeable future. Mam and I then went to our church for peace, quiet, reflection, tears and prayers for Graeme and the medical team performing the surgery.

We eventually got news in the early evening that he was out of theatre and stable, but it wasn’t until an hour or two later that we were allowed to see him in HDU. Although he was sleepy, and there were almost constant alerts that his blood pressure was low (it later transpired that his base blood pressure was low, so it wasn’t much lower than that, which would have been so much better to know at the time!), it was such a relief to see him come safely through his operation.

To bring those two family anniversaries together, here is a photo of my Grandma holding Graeme when he was a baby:

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Quickish Health No-News Update

I have rested and slept for most of the last two days since radiotherapy finished but I wonder if this is the post-radiotherapy equivalent of post-deal ‘flu. Yesterday, I celebrated freedom from weekday hospital visits by attending the doctors for a regular blood test to check my thyroxine levels! I have also been to Tesco for the first time since August with Dr T, Mr C and the kids, with J hitching a ride on my knee in the wheelchair.

It was lovely to be doing such normal, banal things. On the more exciting front, I read bedtime stories to Jennifer last night and drew pictures with her this evening and have been “dancing” with Leo. He stands up on our bed at the first sounds of any music and displays natural and instinctive moving and grooving skills that I’ve never had!

Seizure activity levels haven’t recently reached any higher than the Inbetweeizure stage. In summary, apart from feeling tired, I’m currently feeling ok.

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* They are so much more than this but the term “superhelpers” doesn’t work for the pun!

**Not to be confused with the iTriumverate (my iPhone, iPad and iWatch) that gives me much-appreciated technological lifelines with the outside world.

***There are debates about whether the Nazis’ share of votes cast, together with their thuggish intimidation tactics, means that they were elected “democratically”. They received more votes (nearly 11 million, I believe) than any other party in the last election before Hitler was appointed as Chancellor. From memory, that still only amounted to about 33% of the vote, falling far short of a majority in the popular vote, but it was well ahead of the 20% share of votes that the next most popular party received.

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