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Rachel Coleman
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21st-Oct-2016 12:27 pm - Fitbit goal update: floors
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21st-Oct-2016 09:27 am - Coldridden
The children have had a day each off school this week due to getting a cold - in both cases a day of rest at home has been more than enough to get them recovered.  Tony seems untouched.

I've been ill since Tuesday night, no improvement in sight, and as of this morning I've lost my voice.  The children found that a lot funnier than I did.

One of my friends from work, who had a similar leukaemia to me several years earlier, told me that she still finds colds hit harder and take longer to recover from than before the cancer.  So maybe it's not surprising.  But so so tedious.  And I keep having to talk down the bit of my brain that panics when I get breathless climbing the stairs, because honestly brain it's much more likely that I'm breathless because I have a stinking cold than because the cancer has come back, and I wasn't breathless climbing the stairs before I caught this cold.

It's not flu and I'm not running a temperature, I'm just bunged up and stupid and fed up.

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20th-Oct-2016 09:20 pm - Engaging smug mode again
I was expecting results for the last set of OU modules I took to come in at the end of next week but two modules came back this evening.  And I am very pleased.  (The rest is behind a cut for boasting.)
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14th-Oct-2016 10:08 pm - Fitbit goal update: steps
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8th-Oct-2016 08:53 pm - Fatigue - still lurking
Seeing In The Heights was amazing a couple of weeks ago (see babble in previous entry), but it also left me completely shattered the next day.  It was both frustrating and kind-of encouraging because I haven't felt that bad in a while. It did make me realise how far I've come that my current "normal" is so much better than e.g. the "normal" of my holiday in May.

This week I caught a cold and had to take two days off work because I had No Brain.  I went back Friday but I was s o  s l o w.  Again, much more like me-several-months-ago rather than me-now.   I have survived helping to run Charles's birthday party today but I've managed little else, and soon I'll have to go to bed if I don't want to feel deathly tomorrow.

Getting enough sleep is really really boring and really really essential.

One practical consequence is that the best day for me to go see In The Heights again is a Sunday.  The show is at 6pm so if I cycle to the station rather than taxi I could be home by 10:30pm.  Of course, that's a school night so not entirely ideal, but more so than the Tuesday matinee, which finishes bang in the middle of rush hour.

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8th-Oct-2016 08:25 pm - In The Heights
I went to see this a fortnight ago in London. The short version: I really, really loved it; the dancing and staging are both amazing; the music has been taking over my brain nearly as much as a certain other musical by Lin-Manuel Miranda; I will definitely be going to see it again in the next few months. (If you want to come see it with me, let me know; it's taking bookings until 8th January)

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6th-Oct-2016 10:22 am - On this day
Twenty years ago, I arrived in Cambridge with a carload of belongings to begin my (first) university degree.  I remember that partway down the M4 Mum & I realised that although we'd carefully put the bike rack on the car, we'd failed to also add my bike, which languished in Wiltshire for at least another year.[1]   I also managed to leave behind the welcome leaflet from the College with helpful driving directions, so we navigated through Cambridge on my optimism and hazy memory of walking around the place on two previous visits.  In retrospect I'm quite impressed Mum didn't drown me in the Cam.

Ten years ago I gave birth to Charles in the Rosie Maternity Hospital at Addenbrookes', by unplanned c-section after a day and a night in labour.

Today, shortly after 6am, Charles informed me he was ready for school and could he start opening his presents now?

[1] I ended up spending £65 with Chris the bike man on a 3-speed sit-up-and-beg bike with a good basket which I used for at least a year.  I can't remember what I did with it when I finally retrieved my own bike from home - my guess is I sold it back to Chris the bike man?

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Last August, I arbitrarily declared every day after 1st October 2015 "a win, a gift of medical science and care". What have I been doing with that gift in the last year?
  • I successfully completed chemotherapy!  I've had three follow-up tests, which continue to show me clear of leukaemia.
  • I returned to work, and have been working 4-4.5 days a week since April thanks to judicious use of accumulated annual leave. I am about to start working 5-day weeks routinely, and feel reasonably confident about it.
  • [livejournal.com profile] fanf and I did a short course of couples therapy with a Maggies Wallace counsellor, by way of preventative maintenance.
  • I completed a year of Open University study at nearly full-time load, and enrolled on another full-time year to complete my degree.
  • I have recovered a lot of the fitness lost through 5 months of chemotherapy: by no means all of it, but steadily improving week on week and month on month.  For the past few months I've made deliberate, targeted use of my fancy fitbit (ironically, bought less than a month before I began chemo) to measure and motivate myself.
  • I've recently got much better at getting enough sleep, also through use of my fitbit.
  • I've done the necessary admin to get our children into the school and childcare we wanted for them, and the extra scheduled activities each of them wanted.
  • I've just about kept our finances under control, and spotted a pattern of overspending in time for both of us to stop it being a disaster.
  • [livejournal.com profile] fanf and I have kept the children's routines going steadily, and the house just about under control.
  • I've built up a good set of reminders on Regularly to keep most of the plates spinning approximately at the right frequency.
  • I've fallen in love with two musicals, been to the theatre multiple times and taken my children to the ballet twice.

I've said before that my big revelation from serious illness was that the life I'd built was bloody good thanks and I wanted it back.  I think I'm doing a good job of getting there!  Two smaller revelations/reminders were the importance to me of music, and of learning.  In hospital there was a period where I got through each day with a specific playlist and as much Duolingo as my brain would take; even now I try to spend some time every day listening to music, and some time every day learning.

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29th-Sep-2016 09:11 pm - I'm trying to finish an essay
Have a trio of musical videos on a Lin-Manuel Miranda theme:

"Alexander Hamilton" (opening track to the musical Hamilton) in American Sign Language: absolutely riveting, brilliant use of rhythm, I accidentally fell down a rabbithole of ASL-signed Hamilton tracks of varying skill and production quality after this.  If only I understood ASL, or even BSL (funnily enough searching for BSL-signed Hamilton stuff gets me nowhere, I don't think there's a big enough fanbase here yet). 

"What the Heck I Gotta Do" - opening track to 21 Chump Street: a 14-minute musical about an undercover drugs officer and the high school student who fell in love with her.  The full video used to be on youtube and vimeo but I failed to find it again; also the cast album is available from the usual digital marketplaces.  It's ridiculously earwormy,, which means I find myself singing songs ALL DAY LONG that remind me how much I disagree with the War on Drugs, and I'm Not Doing Politics for at least another year, damnit.

"Usnavi's KX rap" - a promotional video for In The Heights at the King's Cross Theatre, which I saw last Saturday and will write more about when this dratted essay is done.  (Short version: I really, really liked it, and that video gives you something of a feel for it.)

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21st-Sep-2016 12:29 pm - First day of school
In which I discovered that the size 3-4 trousers are still too long, but Nico insisted he would rather wear trousers with the cuffs rolled up than the dark leggings that also meet the school "dress code". Why do I forget that my children are short in the leg for their height?

A frantic online shop later, all the supermarkets start at 3-4, but M&S had some 2-3 school trousers, so they are on their way. (What this says about customer demographics and expected-age-of-first-uniform I leave as an exercise to the reader.)

Anyway, have two pictures (second behind the cut). And if you want to compare, here are the ones I shared of Charles 5 years ago.

First day of school

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16th-Sep-2016 12:28 pm - A goodbye and a hello
It's Nico's last day at nursery today, so I've made my last commute run there this morning and said goodbye to the staff I've got to know well over the last nearly-four years.  Nico now has a long weekend before starting school next Wednesday - one day with me and one with Tony to do Fun Stuff before the big day.  I'm looking forward to walking both legs of my commute instead of cycling nearly 3 times as far on one of them.

Mid-morning I had a text from my brother-in-law to say that his wife had gone into labour and they were headed for unplanned c-section as baby was breech.  Less than an hour later I had photos of my newest nibling and two happy parents, and found myself having a wee emotional moment in the office.

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14th-Sep-2016 11:19 pm - Fitbit goal update: floors
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12th-Sep-2016 05:10 pm - How not to prepare for an exam
  • Go away the weekend before the exam.
  • Have your train journey in both directions disrupted by cancellations and delays, so that instead of a smooth progression between sets of reserved seats at a table, both journeys are longer and punctuated with stressful searches for enough seats for your small group. 
  • Exhaust yourself talking with people at a party.  (Lovely people! Worth being tired for!)
  • Do approximately 25% of the revision you planned to do on the train.
  • Get woken multiple times the night before the exam by a small child, and then both of you oversleep.
  • Ruthlessly hand over the morning nursery run to the child's other parent and cycle off just in time to take it at a non-sweaty pace rather than a frantically-late one.

The cycle ride was pleasant though! The exam itself went well enough: I don't seem to find exams very stressful compared to twenty years ago, so it was just a matter of reading through the questions and deciding (where I had a choice) which ones to answer.  I would undoubtedly have done better if I had revised my management and economics units a bit harder, but I don't think I've embarrassed myself. 

I spent some time last week (when perhaps I should have been revising ...) working out my schedule for the next year, starting now.  I have one last assignment to do this week and this weekend I plan to make a start on the work for my October-starting courses.  My last exam is no more than a year away.  April & May will be a bit grim due to overlapping courses but June-September should be alright.  (Good, because we're going to Helsinki in the middle of it.)

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6th-Sep-2016 09:59 pm - My life in numbers
0.5 days of the new school year, before Charles was sent home with a stomach bug.
36 more hours before he can go back (fingers-crossed he seems to be over it now).
12 hours today before my own stomach settled enough to eat something resembling a meal.
1 OU assignment submitted, 6 days before the deadline.
5.5 days to go until the exam in the other module.
1 day before the websites for the next two modules open. 
14 days before Nico also starts school.

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3rd-Sep-2016 09:10 pm - My life in bulletpoints
Things achieved today:
  • evicting half a dozen wasps from the living room
  • soothing child terrified (but unstung) by wasps
  • getting fanf to locate wasp nest</user>
  • booking wasp extermination for tomorrow
  • taking child to gymnastics, with bonus social time for me
  • booking child's birthday party sufficiently in advance to get desired date (unlike last year)
  • 4.5 hours of OU study

Things not achieved today:
  • attending OU tutorial
  • eating any vegetables at all

Things to do in the next nine days:
  • complete and submit final assessment for intro-to-engineering module
  • revise for and take exam for management accounting module
  • take N for visit 1 of 2 to school & after-school club
  • visit my mum and stepdad before their epic trip around the world (we will next see each other in Helsinki next year)

Also, fanf wrote about his rather-too-exciting trip to the supermarket last weekend, with bonus beard photos.

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30th-Aug-2016 10:00 pm - Fitbit goal check
(Because I know I'm not meeting any of my goals any time soon, but if I take the time to look up the earliest possible date I could, it stops my brain running in circles and me obsessively checking the fitbit history.)
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I am reaching feeling-overstretched again, and I really need to buckle down and be a study-hermit. (Exam in 13 days, EMA for a different course due in the same day, new course books arriving any minute for the officially-starting-1st-October courses.) I've had three migraines in 16 days, and it's a mixture of overdoing things, struggling in the summer heat, and the perennial favourite of Not Getting Enough Sleep.

The fitbit number I am paying most attention to at the moment is the hours of sleep. It's still too low.

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28th-Aug-2016 09:02 am - Be prepared
We are away for the long weekend, and I packed in something of a hurry yesterday, in the last hour before we left. Things I have so far discovered I unintentionally left behind:
  • The key to our accommodation
  • My laptop charger
  • My paperback copy of Watership Down
  • My hairbrush
  • The birthday gift for the party we are going to today
However, unlike a trip away earlier this year, I did remember underwear for both children.

(We sorted out the accommodation thanks to helpful landlord and very helpful family, but there may have been some swearing on the train when I realised. I can get a replacement gift and repurpose the original. I suppose at least I'm grateful to have enough hair again to need a hairbrush, and I can probably get a spare fairly easily.)

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I literally cannot remember the last time that happened, probably a Dr Who special from before I got fed up with Dr Who.  Years, anyway.

The occasion was the Great British Bake Off, which I have got sucked into because of a work sweepstake. There are 24 of us in it, 2 of us drawn for each GBBO contestant yesterday morning.  Each week after a contestant goes out, the two unlucky colleagues have to cook something on the week's theme and bring it in for everyone else to taste and fill out a scoresheet for a mini-contest.   (All the invention of one of my colleagues who likes to organise this kind of thing.)

Literally everyone signed up has made disclaimers about how they are not very good cooks and not to expect much, although in my case this is completely true.  Charles has volunteered to help me, and he is already a better cook than I am, so I won't turn it down!

Anyway, having signed up, I felt I should at least try an episode to see what the fuss is about ... and I can completely see why it's such a popular show.   Tony got sucked in too, and I might actually try to make a habit of this.  I have Val, so I was getting a bit worried last night, but thankfully I've been spared my cooking ordeal for another week.  (On the other hand, it might be nice to get it out of the way early, before expectations have been set too high.)

GBBO was followed by The Chronicles of Nadiya.  I had picked up on the wonderfulness of Nadiya Hussein, last year's GBBO winner, through fannish osmosis, and I really enjoyed this show following her from her home in Luton to the village her parents came from in Bangladesh, with a great deal of food and family interactions.  I completely see why everyone was enthusing about how lovely Nadiya is.  I think the Explaining My Culture To The Presumed-Ignorant Viewer was done with a great deal of grace and straightforwardness.  This week of all weeks I really appreciated the segment where two young articulate women (Nadiya and her cousin) talked about the importance to them of wearing hijab.

There is a second part next week after the GBBO.  I'm looking forward to it very much, if I can pull off being free to watch them both in time again.

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20th-Aug-2016 10:59 pm - Facebook and its uses
I joined Facebook a bit over a year ago, because there were two new babies in my extended family and that's where the baby photos were going to be.  I then mostly ignored it for months because of leukaemia but I've been cautiously getting the hang of it during this year.  I still don't much like it, but it is where a bunch of my family and friends talk about their lives (and share their baby family photos).  I don't friend people on it very much or very often, and am very unlikely to do so if I have any other way at all of keeping up with them that works better for me.

This morning I was feeling sad about having lost touch with all my friends from school.  I went to a friend's birthday party when Charles was a baby, and that was literally the last time I saw any of them and I don't even know if I've still got the right email addresses for the very few I managed to keep in touch with after university, and it's been so many years etc etc.  So after wallowing in feeling sad and useless for a bit, I thought to myself "you could at least try looking on Facebook, as you're there" ... and after some false starts I did indeed find several of them, and that has made me much happier.  

(Also I was doing the thing of looking through a friend's list of facebook friends and saw one of them flagged with "1 mutual friend" and I was a bit surprised because I knew I hadn't added anyone from school yet, how small can this world be!  But then I realised it was one of my brother's friends and we all grew up in the same village so it wasn't actually very surprising.)

I'm not expecting some great and grand reunion, especially as I'm about to turn back into a hermit for most of the next year.  Just to be in a bit better (any!) contact with my oldest friends, and with what's important in their lives.

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19th-Aug-2016 10:21 pm - Holiday things
We've been holidaying in York this week, just the four of us.  At some point I may post photos but right now I never want to move again.  What we did:
  • visited York's Chocolate Story
  • found a local playground for the children
  • found a man blowing enormous bubbles near the Minster
  • had lunch in the basement cafe of the Treasurer's House
  • found our way to Rowntree Park, and back again via the Millennium Bridge
  • took an evening boat tour
  • visited the National Railway Museum
  • took the bus to Castle Howard and spent a lovely day wandering the grounds
  • had a delicious meal at Mason's with an incredibly nice server
  • visited all three of the Barley Hall, Richard III Experience & Henry VII Experience, and walked around a large portion of the city walls
I couldn't help comparing with Bristol a year and two weeks earlier: short version is I was much less breathless, but much more easily tired.  However, I did at least have more stamina than in Llandudno 2.5 months ago.  I did crash one day mid-week and had to spend most of an afternoon and evening zonked out on the hotel bed.  Sadly that was the day we went to the NRM: I left early and got very little out of the time I did spend there, so I think I will need to go back again sometime.

I think that was the last time I will ever book all four of us into a single family room for more than one night; we all need more alone time than was possible to achieve, and I'm giving up on all but essential plans for the weekend as a result, plus it gets ever harder to get the children to sleep when we are still awake in the same room. (And they still wake up at least an hour before I want to.)  I think either adjoining hotel rooms or holiday cottages / apartments are the way to go, even if it does cost more.

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19th-Aug-2016 09:30 pm - Fitbit goal update: steps
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13th-Aug-2016 10:44 pm - Fitbit goal update: floors
(I have decided to stop keeping these updates private and DW-only, in case seeing how I use my fitbit to manage the rebuilding of my fitness helps anyone else. But numbers behind a cut so others can avoid if they prefer.)

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9th-Aug-2016 02:07 pm - Still clear
Today's appointment with my consultant went well: my blood counts are apparently "perfect" and the marrow samples show nothing under microscope. (They are still waiting for the specialist unit in London that does the DNA test to return results.) My next appointment with her will be in four months, a little upgrade from the three-monthly pattern we've followed since I finished treatment.

I cycled to hospital and then on to work, and I stopped at the M&S in the hospital to buy nice things to share with my colleagues, as tweeted:

I still get overheated when exercising and am finding it actively unpleasant when the temperature rises above 25°C (I used to like the heat once, when I was a lot less fat). I've taken to carrying wipes so I can literally mop my brow when I finish walking or cycling. But at least these are problems of being active and mobile!

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7th-Aug-2016 09:28 am - Seven things
These probably all deserve their own post, but it's highly unlikely they're going to get them.
  1. I loved the new Ghostbusters, which we finally saw last night. It is made of joy and friendship, and I was highly amused by the villain's motivation and the response to his monologue of justification. Chris Hemsworth was clearly having the time of his life.
  2. I am enjoying being sociable and enabling the children's social life so much that I have slightly overscheduled myself and had to ask Tony to take over something for me this afternoon so I can remember the pacing myself part of recovery.
  3. In October I am going to get very busy indeed with studying (it eases up in June next year) and expect to have essentially no spare time outside work, study, and family commitments.  I am currently in the glorious summer break between being a hermit for cancer & recovery reasons and being a hermit for study reasons.  (Some of the children's social life comes with social life for me, and I am declaring date night with Tony and a monthly pub visit as also essential family commitments.  So not a complete hermit, but a lot more hermit-y than the last couple of months.)
  4. I lost patience with trying to work out how to upgrade my cheap spare phone from Jelly Bean for purposes of enabling C's desire to play Pokemon Go, so I have an even cheaper PAYG smartphone preinstalled with Marshmallow arriving today.  I don't think I need two spare phones, so if anyone is more keen on navigating the thrilling world of rooting phones than I am (or just could use a phone and are willing to use an older android version) then let me know and you can have the older one for cost of postage. (Old phone now claimed.)
  5. My dad came for a short visit and I managed to schedule him most of a day each with each of his grandchildren, and they all seem to have enjoyed the experience. 
  6. Adventures in smoothie consumption continue: I have discovered that I do actually prefer yogurt + milk with my veggies, rather to my surprise. I have built up a little collection of frozen veg and fruit in the freezer to make prep easier / avoid wasting fresh veg that goes off before I eat it.  The little blender does struggle if more than half the content is frozen, so I've taken to making up a bottle of ingredients in advance and leaving it in the fridge to defrost overnight.
  7. I've managed to get my fitbit goal up to 7,900 steps; we walked both ways to the cinema yesterday (with a stop at Mee and I for dinner on the way out) as well as me taking children around earlier, so I hit double that.  My legs are letting me know this morning that they are Not Impressed.
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5th-Aug-2016 02:03 pm - Booking exciting things
Tomorrow I will finally see the new Ghostbusters, for a date with fanf .

Next month I am going to see In The Heights at the King's Cross theatre London (the other Tony-award-winning musical by Lin-Manuel Miranda, and considerably cheaper and more accessible to me than Hamilton). I am pretty excited about it, and am deliberately avoiding listening to the music in advance, so I can see what it's like completely unspoiled.  And if I love it as much as I think likely, then I can listen to it obsessively/plan another trip to see it.

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31st-Jul-2016 04:50 pm - Anniversaries
This week has been full of them: the first day I realised something was definitely wrong with my breathing during/after exercise, the first time I saw a doctor about it and had a suite of blood tests ordered, my first ECG (which came back normal).

This weekend last year I packed to go on our family holiday to Bristol, knowing something was wrong with me; but also knowing that blood test results would take a while to come back, my blood pressure and ECG were fine, and anyway Bristol has a large hospital if I got suddenly worse. 

I'm really glad I made that decision to go: we had a great time, we visited the zoo and Clifton Suspension Bridge and @Bristol and the SS Great Britain; we found lots of Shaun-the-Sheep models and followed various trails around the city to find them, and although I kept getting weirdly out of breath, it just slowed me down a bit, it didn't stop us. 

We made a lot of memories of having fun together as a family that week. I never got round to posting here about Bristol, because I ended up in hospital a couple of days after we got back, but the holiday memories were a comfort then and now, the last golden days before I got really ill.

It's nearly another fortnight to the anniversary of my diagnosis.  I see my consultant a few days before then, to get the latest bone marrow test results.  I'm glad it's that way around.  I'm pretty confident about the results: I still feel like I am getting continually, if slowly, better.   Today I cycled Nico to a party over in Fulbourn, 10km each way, which I'd have found mildly challenging before I got ill.  I might have to spend the rest of the day in bed, but it was worth it.

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29th-Jul-2016 09:40 pm - MCU Rolling Remix is live
This collection was telephone game with fanfic: one source story and three parallel streams of remixes; within each stream each fic remixed the one before.  There are 22 stories and one of them is mine; authors and writing order are currently anonymised but will be revealed on the 5th August.

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18th-Jul-2016 08:36 pm - Recovery update - last few weeks
w/b 13/6 - planned day off 16th
w/b 20/6 - planned day off 23rd for election, off sick with migraine 21st-22nd
w/b 27/6 - planned day off 28th for my birthday
w/b 03/7 - planned day off 6th & 9th
w/b 10/7 - planned as a full week, off sick with migraine afternoon of 14th & all of 15th

Two migraines in less than a month is a bit concerning, although the first was blatantly stress-related and the second almost certainly so. I've been having trouble sleeping the last couple of weeks, which won't have helped. I have acquired a prescription for sumatriptan which should at least make them more manageable, and promised my doctor to work on my sleep and my stress-management.

I have been social! As mentioned previously I went to a party and saw lovely people on the 18th. On the 26th I ventured to London to meet up with [personal profile] kaberett AND [personal profile] recessional which was just wonderful (both the company, and the strangely giddy feeling of travelling around London alone, responsible only for myself). On the 2nd I had birthday drinks in the Carlton which was pleasingly well-attended and delightful, if also an exercise in pacing myself and presenting a good front. On the weekend of the 8th-10th the four of us trekked over to High Wycombe for my brother-in-law's 40th, taking in a ballet for children on the way there, and a related ballet workshop for tinies on the way back.

I've also been ferrying my children around for their social lives and engagements (there are a lot of summer birthdays) and the next couple of months are pretty booked up with one thing or another.

I've changed my fitbit daily steps target from the default 10,000 to something I'm actually achieving most of the time (currently 6,000) so I get the positive feedback of hitting that target most days rather than hardly any. I then worked out a nice nerdy systematic approach to increasing the target so I can work back up to 10,000 in a sensible way. (No more than 10% increase a week, no more than 3 weeks out of 4, and no increase unless achieving the step target on average over 28d AND on at least 23 of those 28 days).

Tomorrow is my next bone marrow sample, and I will see my consultant for the results in a few weeks. This time a year ago, I was just beginning to notice an odd shortness of breath after running up the stairs, and had had a mysterious run of migraines. I still can't run up the stairs.

Today's bird: Hen Harrier

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9th-Jul-2016 09:51 am - Eleven years
to have and to hold from this day forward;
for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer,
in sickness and in health,
to love and to cherish, till death us do part;

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8th-Jul-2016 08:06 am - Engaging smug mode
I just got the result for my OU business studies module - this is the one I deferred two years ago because toddlers are demanding, rebooked last summer, and decided to continue with anyway last autumn to give me something to focus on other than cancer and chemo.


I did not expect that.  I expected to get a solidly good result but I didn't think I'd been working well enough to get a Distinction.  That has absolutely made my day.  Go me.

Bird of the day: Grey Wagtail

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5th-Jul-2016 09:38 pm - Smoothies and nine a day
When I did the nutrition course with Maggie's Wallace, we covered smoothies and juicing, and my takeaway was that fruit or vegetable smoothies which retain the fibre are better than not eating the veg/fruit at all but probably no better than eating them in the normal way.  Not retaining the fibre increases the GI, and is almost always worse unless you are in a situation where digesting fibre is hard.  We were also told to aim for 9 portions of fruit/veg a day rather than just 5. 

Recently I've been struggling even to get to 5, so I have caved and bought a "family blender" from Breville today.  It helpfully converts the blending container into a flip-top bottle, and provides 4 of them.

I am now consuming a rather chewy and slightly dubious-looking green smoothie, which makes me think of Tony Stark in Iron Man 2.  It tastes good though, and I am definitely hitting my nine portions today, for the first time in ages.

Today's bird: Blue Tit

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2nd-Jul-2016 09:22 pm - So. Tired.
I had birthday drinks in the pub this afternoon with many assorted lovely people.

I am so tired now, but it was utterly worth it.

*goes flop*

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1st-Jul-2016 01:32 pm - Vanity: weight and clothing
Content note: weight changes, body image
(This one is a bit more fraught for me than yesterday's, but I still want to note it.)
Read more...Collapse )

Today's bird: Shoveler Also posted at http://rmc28.dreamwidth.org/638389.html with comment count unavailable comments.
30th-Jun-2016 01:17 pm - Vanity: hair and nails
This morning I snipped off the last bit of cracked thumbnail.  Each of my rounds of chemo left a thinned, weakened strip across all my nails, which moved slowly from nailbed to tip, and when it reached the tip, it would crack very easily.  I usually keep my nails short, but that wasn't enough to prevent cracks and even small pieces snapping off under even mild pressure.  Just another tiny indignity of the whole process.

One crack, on my left thumb, kept extending itself back down the nail: I would catch it on something, and back it would go, down into the apparently-normal nail growing after all the chemo was over.  All the other weak patches were gone months ago, but that crack just kept renewing itself.  I've taken such care over that nail the last few months, trying not to catch it on anything, keeping it trimmed short, and finally, finally the very bottom of the crack has reached high enough up the nail that I've been able to cut the last of it off.  Normality restored at last.

As for my hair, I never lost it all, but it thinned out dramatically during chemo.  I estimated about 80% of it fell out. I'd leave hairs on every pillow, like a cat shedding.  I was so glad I'd had Tony clip it short in advance, it would have been unbearable to leave shoulder-length clumps in the same way.  Hair went from the rest of my body too - arms, legs etc.  Not hairless, but very thinly covered.

In January, after the last round of chemo, it started growing back.  My head felt like a dog with a winter coat growing in, two distinct lengths. I remember trimming it all back very short just to make it tidy, and then again (a little longer) when it was shaggy and unbearable.   I want to grow it out again, at least back to shoulder-length, so I've gritted my teeth and got through the shaggy stage and it's suddenly settled into something that is acceptably tidy with no effort from me.

And suddenly I've discovered that my hair is curly and springy now, instead of straight. It looks quite good (see userpic) and I don't dislike it.  It just feels unfamiliar, all the time.  I'm still waiting to feel like it's normal.

Today's bird: Merlin

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29th-Jun-2016 11:23 pm - Reading Wednesday
What I have read:
I have not been reading any books or short stories.  I have instead been reading way too much stuff about my country's current glorious political situation, mostly via Twitter and Facebook.  Have some highlights:

Happy Now pretty much covers my current emotional state (spoiler: not happy)
Brexit was a Con is a thoughtful comparison to the Scottish referendum

Things we can do:
On LJ, my friend strange_complex wrote about things to do to "[try] to make this country the best place it can possibly be, given the hand we are now holding"

Two different guides to speaking up in response to hate speech: I sincerely hope not to need this, but I also know that preparing by thinking through my possible responses is the best way to avoid being part of the bystander effect.  The Guardian last November ran "How do I ... respond when I see racial abuse in public? and UNITED for Intercultural Action provide a leaflet Who, if not you? which covers similar ground.

More general again: good advice about how to argue with people if you actually want to persuade them rather than "win".

What I'm reading next:
Charles Stross's latest, The Nightmare Stacks, where I can escape into a world where the existential threat to my country is merely an alien invasion of Leeds.  Also I have now logged out of Facebook entirely on my phone, and hidden the Twitter shortcut, in an attempt to stop the negstimming.

Today's bird: Moorhen

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27th-Jun-2016 10:00 pm - Something positive
Tomorrow is my birthday and I have set up a fundraising page for the charity Bloodwise to celebrate.

Also posted at http://rmc28.dreamwidth.org/637368.html with comment count unavailable comments.
24th-Jun-2016 06:25 am - I was really hoping for faint relief
At least I managed to sleep.

And now on with the daily routine, because work, school and nursery haven't stopped.

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23rd-Jun-2016 08:04 pm - Election day.
I did absolutely nothing for the local elections last month, apart from go and vote. 

A couple of weeks ago I decided to volunteer a very limited amount of time for today's referendum (for my local LibDems, who are campaigning for Remain) and took the day off work, as part of my ongoing "burn leave to keep effectively working part-time" plan.  So I have done two shifts of telling today: the first was in muggy but dry weather; the second was in pouring rain, including a very nearby lightning strike at which I screamed rather embarrassingly.

I am now back in bed and would rather like to sleep from now until the result is clear tomorrow.  At best tomorrow I will feel a faint sense of relief rather than anything actually positive about the whole exercise, and at worst I will feel extremely worried and miserable.  (And then I'll pick myself up and carry on because I still have Stuff To Get Done no matter what happens.)

Today's bird: Coot

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19th-Jun-2016 10:18 pm - Good things this week
I went to a short meeting at school to confirm arrangements for Nicholas's start in September.  They are being more flexible than when Charles started: for the first ten days of term, they are offering half-day drop-ins for the new starters, but leaving it up to parents which days and how many sessions to sign up for, suggesting a minimum of two.  Then they are starting the children full time, in three waves.  Nicholas is in the last wave, presumably because he's among the youngest.  So we are able to start sorting out logistics, what days off we will need, giving notice at nursery, and so on.

Charles's class ran an assembly for the rest of the school, showing what they've been working on.  One of those things was filming and editing montages of themselves doing sports, and Charles's montage was one of the ones selected to be shown.  I was terribly proud :-)

Tony and I began our couples counselling with Maggie's Wallace, which seemed to get off to a good start.

I went out and socialised last night with lovely people.

Although I was very tired this morning, I have managed to be sensible and pace myself and get essential things done but not exhaust myself.

Bird of the day: Lesser White-Fronted Goose
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17th-Jun-2016 12:20 am - Armour comes in many forms
Well, this has been a horrible week. The mass murder of LGBT+ people in Orlando, some unpleasantness at work, and now the murder of Jo Cox.  I'm not talking about the work stuff in public, and really it's not on the same scale, but I am tired and sad and angry with the combination of it all.  And also bloody-minded and determined to work to make things better, to plant myself by the river of truth and say "No, you move", but it's a grim exhausted kind of determination.

And just as I finished writing this, Tony came home with my Unsubtle Rainbow Jewellery as made by [personal profile] ceb and won by me in the Con or Bust auction, and I feel a tiny bit better.

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15th-Jun-2016 10:56 pm - Reading! Onna Wednesday!
I have been too tired and too busy to read much for weeks and weeks, but I did start getting back into the reading habit shortly before going on holiday.

What I've read: short fiction

Lullaby for a Lost World by Aliette de Bodard
A rather dark and potentially depressing story, but beautifully told.

Three stories by Charlotte Ashley who I discovered through the Campbell Award nominees collection organised ahead of Hugo nominations:
Sigrid Under the Mountain
Eleusinian Mysteries
The Will of Parliament

Also, way back when, I got through the rest of the serialised story, The Witch Who Came In From The Cold, and liked it very much but felt the end-of-season was a bit weak. Classic leaving things open for the next season kind of weakness that one gets in TV series.

What I've read: long fiction
  • Dragon’s Luck by Lauren Esker : lovely, charming addition to the Shifter Agents series, not reliant on reading previous books, great review by[personal profile] rachelmanija to which I don't feel I can add
  • The Beta’s Test by Dessa Lux: enjoyable addition to the gay werewolves in California series
  • House of Shattered Wings by Aliette de Bodard: I eventually got to the end of this; it was very beautifully written and had a great concept of magic and its sources, but the story and background were utterly depressing
  • Saving the CEO by Jenny Holiday: a fairly standard pleasant straight romance
  • Magic and Manners by C.E. Murphy: a delightful rewrite of Pride and Prejudice with magic; the plot is similar but diverges in appropriate ways given the presence of magic (and fixed up a couple of my biggest annoyances with the source story).  I loved this very much.
  • Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho: very enjoyable Regency magic story with non-white protagonists, matter-of-fact description of the resulting racism and inclusivity issues, plus forceful auntie figures and a lot of humour.  This review by [personal profile] skygiants covers the key points for me.

What I'm reading now
I'm kind of stuck on The Oncoming Storm by Christopher G Nuttall which is an okay-ish MilSF book I picked up for cheap as first in a series. It's very very heteronormative and predictable, but page-turny when I'm actually reading it. I suspect I might be happier leaving it unfinished and rereading something with more lesbians in.

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12th-Jun-2016 04:52 pm - Milestone: worked a full week
This is the first time I have done such a thing since I got ill last summer.

I had three days of training (in Cambridge city centre, so pretty convenient) and then two in the office.  I am not actually meeting my criteria for trying to work full-time yet: my study hours are still less than they should be and my Regularly dashboard is still mostly in the red, but I failed to organise taking a day off in good time, and decided to treat it as a learning experience.

I learned that it was survivable but pretty exhausting. I must make sure I book a day off next week.  I also decided to drop T'ai Chi for the rest of the term as I have made it to half the classes so far, but too often by Friday lunchtime I am just too tired, and it's one less thing to worry about.

I have at least been keeping up my daily Duolingo habit much better in the last two weeks.  I decided to add Swedish, because while a Finnish course does not (yet?) exist on Duolingo, Swedish is an official language in Finland, so I will at least know something when we go there next year.  I also discovered a Welsh course has been added sometime in the last few months so I failed to resist adding that too.

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4th-Jun-2016 10:25 pm - Holiday (and exam)
We just got back from a week in Llandudno, in this rather nice pair of holiday apartments, with my mum, stepdad and my younger two brothers.  It was spacious and nicely presented, a short walk from the station and almost next door to a well-equipped play area.  I know the area fairly well from many childhood visits to my grandmother, who lived in Rhos-on-Sea, and I'm enjoying introducing my own children in turn.

We originally planned and booked this holiday last July, when we were all at my mother's home for a long weekend, and not even the earliest signs of my cancer had appeared.  I've been looking forward to it ever since it became likely I would be well enough to still go.  It was a little experimental: we've not done a holiday in this mode with extended family before, and there was a bunch of admin and planning beforehand to make sure things went fairly smoothly, but I think it paid off well.  An adult:child ratio of 3:1 definitely made things easier!

Highlights for me were:
  • a trip on the Ffestiniog railway to Porthmadog, where we spent a few hours with my aunt and her partner, who'd driven over from Machynlleth
  • seeing Bill Bailey at Venue Cymru
  • spending several afternoons in bed resting/sleeping, knowing there were lots of other adults to play with the children, and feeling so much better as a result
  • discovering a little model railway on the West Shore
There were a whole load of other things I would have liked to do were I fully fit, but I am working on accepting my current limits and it was really very easy to rest and relax and sit around talking with my family and all that good stuff.

One less fun thing that happened was that Charles got temporarily lost while I was on the way to the seafront with him and Nicholas one day, but he did exactly the right thing once he realised he'd got separated from us.  He went up to the sales desk in a large shop and asked to use their phone, gave them my mobile number (which he memorised some years ago), and got through to me to tell me where he was.  The shop turned out to be signed up to a lost-child protocol for the whole town, which meant shortly after I arrived at the shop, so did the local police.  They noted our details and gave me some very polite but firm advice about keeping my children close in a busy tourist town, and agreed with me that Charles had been very sensible.  I was moderately embarrassed on my own account, but very proud of Charles and made sure he knew it.

The other less fun thing was that I had an OU exam in Cambridge on Friday morning.  I came home alone on Thursday evening to get a good night's sleep, and went straight from the exam to the railway station.  I left Cambridge yesterday lunchtime in grey gloom, and arrived back in Llandudno in glorious sunshine just in time for dinner.  Nico and Tony met me halfway back to the house - I heard a small voice shouting "Mummy! Mummy!" and was then obliged to carry an armful of excited three-year-old all the way back while he told me in detail and at volume all about his day.

(I also ended up getting into a really interesting and pleasant conversation with the person sitting opposite on the train from Chester to Llandudno; I love it when that happens, and the journey flew by.)

I'm quite tired now, after the third long train journey in as many days, but hopefully I'll be fine again after a good night's sleep.

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21st-May-2016 09:55 pm - Still very fatigued
I think my physical fitness is still gradually improving - my cycle and walking commutes are getting a little smoother and faster and less tiring each week, and it's perfectly reasonable to cycle to hospital and then to work.  What I'm finding though is that exercise, work, childcare, study and housework are all drawing from the same pool of energy and that seems to have stopped growing.  "Pushing through", like I did to get the essay in a few weeks back, is like going overdrawn and then having to rest even more to replenish the shortfall.  I'm still going splat at least once or twice a week.

I seriously considered requesting a formal short-term reduction in work hours, to the point of working out how much it would reduce my take-home pay.[1]  That turned out to be quite a lot.[2]  I'm pretty certain we could cut back enough to cover the gap, but that in itself becomes more work and stress, so it's not as helpful an idea as I first thought.

Instead, at least for now, Tony is going to take on rather more than half of the housework, including taking back the weekday evening meals which I've been doing since the start of the year. The pressure to get the children fed as soon as possible after 6pm seems to have eased up, so eating later (which has happened a few times recently when I've been too tired to cook) seems to be fine.  I think we'll still try to keep weekend menu planning / shopping list generation going though.

I am going to use the time Tony is giving me to rest more, and to study more consistently, which will in turn make me happier and less stressed.  I would rather reduce our income than give up studying; one of the things I learned from being ill was that learning matters a lot to me.

[1] It took me a while to find a calculator that could reproduce my current payslip with the various deductions I have going out.

[2] Woe woe, the diamond shoes of my high income are pinching, I know. Also posted at http://rmc28.dreamwidth.org/633761.html with comment count unavailable comments.
I reached the "I hate computers" state sometime Sunday evening, and it hasn't quite lifted yet.

However, I now have a working Ubuntu laptop with my backups unpacked onto it, and I've been able to catch up the household accounts and move some money around like I wanted to Sunday morning.  I've also managed to get 1Password working under Wine, which I never managed on the older machine.

I gave up on making the thing dual boot with Windows because that was only ever a "would be nice" and Windows was extremely uncooperative.  So now it is gone.  Also I am indebted to fanf for random useful bits of equipment (USB wireless key ftw!) and advice when I got stuck.

The old laptop disintegrated further this afternoon and became unusable, thankfully just after I had finally got the new one approaching functional.

Also posted at http://rmc28.dreamwidth.org/633212.html with comment count unavailable comments.
  1. Discovering my netbook, which has been a bit ropey for a while, is now literally falling apart and intermittently failing.
  2. Shopping for a new netbook.
  3. Going to an actual shop to get a new netbook:
    • advantage - got it today
    • disadvantage - had to deal with multiple salespeople (all men) who patronised me and tried to upsell me on lots of extras I don't want.  This is why I like shopping online.
    • call me naive but if I reserve a computer online to collect from your Collection Point, I kind of expect it to be there, not to have to wander around the store being handed off between salespeople and patronised etc for a good 15 minutes before getting the computer I wanted.
  4. Setting up Windows 10, creating a backup drive, and installing Ubuntu
  5. Restoring all my files from backup onto Ubuntu
  6. Getting things back the way I like them
(Currently still on step 4)
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