Wednesday 28 October 2015

Chemo Brain

I was recently asked if I'd like to write a blog post about Chemo Brain. I would, I said. How many pages of examples of the ridiculous memory gaffs that have blighted my life since Chemo Brain took hold would you like?

Shall I stop at ten?

You'll be relieved to know that I haven't listed every example, in fact, I've only elaborated on one. I have written about the frustrations of Chemo Brain however, but also, that it does get better – honest.

I wrote the post for the Young Women's Breast Cancer Blog and you can read it here 

The blog was set up by the tirelessly grafting Sarah Perry who was diagnosed with breast cancer at the desperately young age of 32, eighteen months ago – not that she's let anything as trivial as cancer put a dent in her stride. It's a place for bloggers and particularly people who've never blogged before to post a piece. If you'd fancy writing something cancer related for the site, check out the site here. And you can contact Sarah here - she'd be delighted to hear from you.

On the subject of Chemo Brain, have I mentioned I have a book coming out soon? I *can't* remember (you see, it has its uses). The publication date for Tea & Chemo is Monday 16 November and it can be pre-ordered from Amazon  or direct from the wonderful UrbanePublications.

Exciting times! Thank you, as ever, to my wonderful readers. You know, you are where Tea & Chemo started :)

Friday 9 October 2015

Inspirational Age

I don’t wake up every morning rejoicing at being 40 winks closer to old age as I adjust my hairnet (no need for curlers, have you seen my hair?) and sip the tea brought to me via the Teasmaid. But I’ll take the lines that could fill an A4 ruled notebook and accept these legs won’t run forever, or that one day I’ll lock up my bike for the last time (just as long as it’s when I’m a hundred plus a few years, please) in exchange for a touch of longevity with a few of my marbles, friends and family by my side.

As well as a positive, go-getting outlook.

For that is what I have decided really keeps you ‘young’. This is what I’ve learnt from the people who I think ‘do old age really well’. There’s my 83 year old neighbour who is, to all intents and purposes, the church manager. Regularly she walks the mile to church at sun rise, to open up, sort out flowers, hymn books and harvest festivals, and then she stays to do the clearing up afterwards. The secret to happy ageing she says?

Have something to do.

Then there are the ‘widowed shoppers’ I met in Leeds. I wrote [here]  about their shopping list of red knee length leather boots and their disdain for the idea of a new man in their lives because ‘he’d be old,’ stated with an appropriate grimace. And their advice for happy old age?

Get out of the house.

Today I’d like you to meet Ruby. This 86 year old lady is a member of a group of writers who are all quite inspirational in themselves. The eight members met on a course years ago, set up their own group and have been meeting once a fortnight ever since. They’re written screen plays and short stories, some of which they’ve published in two anthologies. The second would make a great stocking filler and you can buy it here

The group have now decided that they shall each write a novel – in a year – and that’s where I come in as tutor.

Ruby is the oldest of the group by quite a few years but only in a cellular way. Her mind is as flexible and vibrant as the rest of them, and is certainly no less energetic than mine. And thus she doesn’t seem a moment ‘older’. In the latest session we were talking about character and I’d decided to do a personality questionnaire with the group. I asked them to answer the questions first for themselves and then ask the same of their characters. It’s a light-hearted way of ascertaining whether our characters are sufficiently different in personality and behaviour to the rest of the cast and, just as importantly, sufficiently different in character to the author because it’s easy to fall into the trap of creating a cast of, ‘mini me-s’. I’d been in two minds whether to conduct the session in this way. Personality quizzes and psychology are really the stuff of my generation and younger, something of an alien concept to some older than me. But I forged ahead – with an escape route if necessary.

There were no tears, an element of bemusement at times, perhaps, but no crossed arms and head shaking. Still, I asked how everyone felt about the session. Ruby said that she'd found it fascinating and admitted that at the beginning she hadn't thought she'd get to grips with any of it but she had, and more's the point, she'd enjoyed it. 

More’s the point, it never occurred to her not to give it a go. She wanted to see what it was all about.

And then she gave me some flowers, sweet peas, smelling wonderful, hand-picked from her garden, which she opens up to visitors a few times a year. She caters for them, too, three course lunches apparently. Of course she does!

Ruby is an inspiration to me. It isn’t her health so much, even though I’m sure she looks after herself but there’s also a huge element of luck and genetics involved in that, it’s more her drive, energy and can-do attitude. She, too, gets out the house and she, too, has something to do.  Forget surgery and hair dye, a sunny, can-do, not going to be beaten kind of outlook is how you defy ‘old age’, I reckon.