Posted by: glenswatman | July 21, 2012

20120711-20 Visit to Penny Brohn cancer centre in Bristol

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WEDNESDAY 11 JULY – Steve drives me to the train station where I get an early train in order to do a bit of shopping in Leeds before my 11.30am dental appointment. I am frustrated to find the clinic have me down for an assessment and not to replace the temporary filling. In spite of my pleas there is nothing they can do today and it will be weeks before I get an appointment for the filling although they assure me the temporary one will last 3 months. I phone my friend Jane who works there and she will try to get me a cancellation appointment. When Steve picks me up he tells me he has been to the scrap metal merchants to take a bag of old iron we found at the bungalow and has got £10.40 for it. Makes him wonder how much people got for our old bacon slicer when we gave that away from the shop as it weighed a ton. I cash in on the sunny windy day and get the washing out before we go for a walk around the tarn. It’s quite unpleasant there so we just do one circuit then a short walk up into the attractive Braithwaite village where almost all the homes are converted barns. Back home I give Mum’s car a wash and wax and it looks excellent. At the Doctors my blood pressure is exactly the same on the patient use machine but in the surgery the Doctor clocks it at 138/86 and says under present circumstances it is nothing to worry about but they will have me back for another check before I go into hospital to get some baseline figures. She gives me phone numbers of District Nurses and Social Services who may be able to offer help should I need the full op – the difficulty being that we have no idea how Steve is going to be at that time in view of his lack of treatment plan.

THURSDAY 12 JULY – Like Claire I have been up half the night waiting for her exam results and to pass time we have both been reading the 50 shades of Grey series books. She finally gets news at work and has easily passed so we are proud to have a Chartered Accountant as a daughter. At Mom & Dads they are just completing the purchase of a mobility scooter for Mum after a demonstration at Farish House. Steve stays with them whilst I go round town. Claire arrives for tea, her favourite sea bass so a perfect celebratory meal. As she leaves she drops us off at the top of the road for Steve to stroll down.

FRIDAY 13 JULY – We get quite a rude awakening with the grass cutters by our window. I’ve just gone in the kitchen and got the washing under way when the carpenter arrives to deal with a couple of doors that are so swollen they won’t shut. It’s like a mad house so there is no wonder I leave a pan of oil on the stove whilst pegging out the washing so at least the alarm system gets another testing.

SATURDAY 14 JULY – We call in to Prestwich to spend an hour visiting David and Donna who are both well. Arrive in Market Drayton early afternoon and pick up fish and chips for lunch. Mum seems to be doing really well after having a couple of teeth out although her new hearing aids as not as efficient as we hoped. I walk up town in the afternoon and manage to buy some things I can’t get in Keighley. In the evening we pop round to Netty’s for a nice chat.

SUNDAY 15 JULY – Whilst Mum is at church Bobby & Steph call round saving their good news until Mum returns, they are expecting a baby. We take Mum out to The Talbot for lunch where they do a really nice roast and serve a huge bowl of potatoes and veg for you to help yourself. The orange and cointreau ice cream is so huge that I end up eating about 2/3’s or Mums. In Madeley Netty & Mark have a garden full of people with Lauren and Macca visiting along with Aidan and new baby Ruby who looks just like Lauren. We chat to Macca about his hearing aid which seems smaller and more efficient than Mum’s and finally establish that his friend who supplied him is the same person who is dealing with Mum. We follow Lauren and Macca to see their new home, a huge 3 storey show house which is very nice. Our next stop is to visit Steve’s old school friend Dave Heath and his wife Zena. Needless to say there is not only a lot of catching up to do but much reminiscing.

MONDAY 16 JULY – I take Mum shopping up to Morrisons and give her time to wander at leisure, although this doesn’t really help as she gets confused as to which aisles she has already been down. In the afternoon Steve begins the drive down to Bristol before I take over. The Penny Bohn cancer centre evolved about 30 years ago when Penny got breast cancer and to increase her chances of survival added complimentary therapies to the treatment and lived an extra 20 years. Today they offer lots of help and advice. It’s much like a modern hotel except we are given 2 adjoining double rooms as they know cancer patients often don’t sleep well and need the bathroom more often! Isobel takes us on a tour around the new building with therapy rooms and the old one with huge rooms for seminars. They all have loads of leather reclining arm chairs with footstools placed in a circle around a central candle and water feature and look very calm and relaxing. The food here is mainly vegetarian and with anti cancer properties and we both enjoy our Thai coconut curry with tofu followed by pineapple lemon grass ice cream on a coconut biscuit. They have lots of different health teas, coffee and milk substitutes for you to try and later buy if the shop if you wish. The evening ends with a relaxation session which causes Steve to fall asleep making it difficult for him to sleep later.

TUESDAY 17 JULY – At breakfast we are still the only people on “The Taste of Bristol Approach” course but get talking to guests on a nature course. Adrian helps Steve with a few things that have been bothering him. The other 6 people on our course arrive for the day seminar, a couple of breast cancer women, a man who has had renal cancer and his partner and a couple from Preston – Michael had colon cancer, bad reactions to chemo and now has secondary cancers and sounds to have suffered even more than Steve. We enjoy a 2-hour seminar where they ascertain what everyone wants from the day (mainly nutritional advice) and outline the basic principles of the Bristol Approach. After an unusual lunch (cold pasta, salad, dhal and roast veg) we are lead out into the gardens and encouraged to walk around, clear our minds and live the moment. The kind of thing we often do but many probably have never had time for. The afternoon talk explains that by dealing with 4 key elements – diet, relaxation and meditation, exercise and emotional support the whole cancer experience can be improved. This makes the treatment experience easier to cope with as you are helping and taking charge of your bode and this is turn is shown to give a far better outcome. After buying a few things in the shop we leave at 3.30pm to drive to Pete & Carol’s in Newport. Pete’s cooked cauliflower cheese with pork and sausages after which we indulge in the Tiramisu I bought at Waitrose. On holiday in Sardinia Pete commented on FB that the tiramisu there was even better than the excellent one from Waitrose so it had to be done. Paul pops round later, Elaine has a cold, and brings us up to date with their news. We realise when we are speaking about our experience in Bristol just how much we have learnt.

WEDNESDAY 18 JULY – Carol is on flexi time and goes in to work a little later in order to spend time with us. Mid morning we walk to Newport and back with Pete, quite a stroll for Steve. We pick up fish and chips before I drive us to Bradford Royal Infirmary. Steve has gained about 3kg this last week and his blood pressure is dropping, all good news. At outpatients west we see Dr Lisa Newton accompanied by Helen. They ask about Steve’s well being and agree he is fit enough to begin the maintenance chemo (but without the Vincristine) and this is all tablet based. Methotrexate once a week, Prednisolone from days 1 -5 of the cycle and Mercatopurine every day, all in addition to his existing meds. Steve is still below weight so they suggest we keep the diet as it is and change to the Bristol plan later. There’s just time for me to drop Steve at home before doing a quick ASDA shop then meeting Jude who has just arrived on the train. She’s our good friend from Mildura (where we house sit) in Australia and on a whistle stop tour visiting friends and family. We’re all starving so chat along whilst I cook up a pork stir fry. Before we know it the time is after 10pm and we all settle for the night.

THURSDAY 19 JULY – Steve manages his cocktail of tablets this morning totalling over 30. Jude doesn’t know this area so we take her on a mini tour, Oakworth station, Oakworth Park and Haworth swinging by Mom & Dads for her to meet them on the way back. As we arrive home our motorhome friends Jean & Arf and Peter & Margaret are just parking up. It’s a real houseful but great fun with multiple conversations taking place. We drop Jude at the station then all go to Wetherspoons for lunch where Claire joins us. Claire heads back to work, the men head home whilst Jean & Margaret join me for a short walk around the shopping centre. There I buy a couple of vegetarian cook books to get me started. After a drink at home we all drive up to “The Tarn” for a circuit and in fact Steve says he could actually have managed a second lap. I knock up a snack for tea before Jean & Arf have to leave. It’s been great to see them as we have been concerned since they had to cut short their European tour due to Arf’s ill health. Peter & Margaret are staying the night so now time to hear more of their news including Margaret’s royal experience when the British School she volunteers in won an award that the Queen presented.

FRIDAY 20 JULY – Steve makes a bit of a sluggish start, not surprising considering we have been with people continuously since last Saturday and have done lots of travelling. He gets up in time for a chat before Peter & Margaret head off to visit Peter’s brother near Manchester. I almost don’t know where to start first with unpacking to be done, washing, the bungalow to clean and lots of things to put away but soon get on top of it all. Steve feels quite well with no obvious chemo side effects,

SATURDAY 21 JULY – Summer is here so I make haste and get the washing on the line. Steve walks to the paper shop with me and is noticeably quicker and more fluid. I potter round the garden then sit out reading. Later afternoon we drive up to the tarn and are surprised to see lots of big kids there with racing boats. We chat to one man and they come every Saturday from 2 – 5pm and race each other with boats achieving speeds around 50mph. The yellow boat used to be fastest with its British £500 engine but the new £240 Korean engines are leaving it standing. We do a couple of circuits at a fair pace.



  1. I have a friend here in Spain- visiting for weeks at a time as she finds it so soothing and restful- who regularly visits the Penny Brohn Centre in Bristol- and has found it a truly uplifting and healing place to be…and she adheres to their methods pretty loyally- especially the diet and the meditiation. She has smoothies every morning from the wonderful fruit available here, and veg. drinks made from organic vegs in between. She loves to walk with us on a friday morning along the edge of the sea-and it has had a profound effect on managing her cancer.
    Hope Steve too finds it as helpful…and for you too. Lynda’s husband is learning to ‘manage’ his life too as a result.

    We hope that things are now ‘on the up’ for both of you- and that the op goes well for you….and we are here if you ever want a change of environment and somebody to talk STOKE with!!
    A and B xxx

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