Posted by: glenswatman | October 1, 2013

20130921-30 Another inspirational visit to Penny Brohn

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SATURDAY 21 SEPTEMBER – It’s after 11am by the time we tear ourselves away from interesting conversations.  Cutting across country we arrive at Tyntesfield National Trust property near Bristol.  Unusually this one was lived in by an elderly man until he died in 2001.  His will stated that his gothic revival mansion was to be sold and the money spread between his ancestors.  National Trust had just 3 days to go around the property and figure out whether they could afford to buy it by auctioning certain items through Christies.  They went ahead and to this day are still restoring it and sorting through furniture as many of Richard Gibb’s relatives moved in over the years along with their stuff.  Interestingly the family fortune was made by selling fertiliser made of bird poo.  Just across the river lives Helen whom we met at Penny Brohn.  Her son Matt greets us and shows us round their lovely home.  Helen arrives back with dog Alf who is really cute.  We settle in and catch up on health and other news and in reality get to know her; although we already knew we would get along well from our previous brief encounter and her offer for us to visit.  She has a vegetable garden and at the moment is using all the produce from there which is delicious.


SUNDAY 22 SEPTEMBER – After breakfast I join Helen to walk their Spanish waterdog Alf.  Nearby is the lovely “Blaise castle estate” park with stream, hills and a cliff top castle folly.  Arf is really funny racing off into the woods to sit at the bottom of a tree and bark at a squirrel then the barking stops and seconds later he comes hurtling past us.  Lunch is delicious homemade soup, bread and smoked trout pate – can see I am going to have my work cut out when we get home.  Helen drives us into Bristol first taking a detour to the Down with fabulous views over the Avon gorge and of the Clifton Suspension Bridge.  We park by the floating harbour and enjoy the waterfront walk with many attractions. M Shed is a huge building with 3 floors of museums and exhibitions mainly telling the history of Bristol.  Bristol cream sherry, Wills tobacco, Fry’s chocolate are some of the famous companies that began here.  Helen has been a great tour guide and made us want to return and see more of Bristol in the future


MONDAY 23 SEPTEMBER – We meet Helen’s partner Martin who arrived back in the night from a golfing break in Portugal.  After Helen has done her first phone consultation as a coach we head off into Bristol.  The city museum is not as interesting to us as the M shed but still passes an hour or so.  In the suburb of Clifton we get a last fix of junk food by way of award winning fish and chips followed by a cream cake.  At Penny Brohn Cancer Centre we are booked on the 3 day “Approach” course and get to meet our companions.  They are all women and there are no other carers.  We make brief introductions as to who we are and where we are from.  The evening relaxation settles us in for the night.


TUESDAY 24 SEPTEMBER – The programme starts at 8am with some stretching exercises.  We know to breakfast like a king as the meals throughout the day seem to come with fewer things that we like!  Our first session involves people saying why they have come back and it seems we all need a top up of the good feeling and information that comes from here.  Split into two groups we talk about our cancer journeys and there are some really sad tales and again a terminal patient in our group.  Feel so lucky that we have each other to lean on as many of the women have been going through it alone.  The afternoon healthy diet session highlights a number of things where we have been going wrong, mainly re-using oil for deep frying and also cooking things in oil above 180C.  However the most important diet change to make is not to eat anything burnt as the carcinogenic have been proven to aggravate cancer.  Overall the moderation, variety and colour combination provide the best basis but if you want to have ice cream it should be organic full cream, chocolate should be dark over 70% and eaten in conjunction with nuts, cheese should be either from Jersey/Guernsey cows or goats, sheep, buffalo and cream should be clotted cream from the channel islands – can live with that one!  Other topics covered throughout the day include holistic medicine, imagery and meditation.


WEDNESDAY 25 SEPTEMBER – Today we all have 3 individual consultations with a heeler, Doctor and nutritionist, mine in the morning and Steve’s in the afternoon.  Everyone is so kind here and multi skilled so even before my heeling the therapist manages to have me in tears by asking me leading questions.  Funnily enough whilst she is doing the heeling I get a strange feeling that I can focus on my gall stones and sludge and they have turned to liquid gold and are starting to flow – the CT scan in the future will confirm whether this is wishful thinking or not.  The Doctor is brilliant and again manages to bring me to tears but gets me to consider things in that we are trapped in a country we don’t want to be in but our visa application is having a few problems and to cap it all we speak a different language so can’t partake in all the activities that the normal habitants enjoy.  Seeing it this way I realise that we have always got over visa issues before but need to be patient and find whatever we can to entertain ourselves in the meantime.  The nutritionalist is also good and could have easily brought me to tears by saying I really shouldn’t have my chocolate binges!  In reality she suggests an alternative of nuts or fruits coated in yoghurt or chocolate.  She thinks my chocolate cravings are worsened by trying not to eat many fats or oils until my gall stone is sorted.  In the afternoon I have free time so go out walking and discover a lovely huge old oak tree and a community orchard where they invite you to take a few apples to eat.   Steve has had a really good chat with his Doctor and even over ran on time but felt his nutritionalist (a Russian lady) was too strict in highlighting what he shouldn’t have rather than giving alternatives for all the “bad” things.  He got the same message as me that we really must try to buy organic stuff whenever possible regardless of price and also that lamb and venison are good meats as the animals have only eaten natural products.   In the evening we have a “biodanza” session.  Steve drops out he doesn’t like it, his shoulder aches and he thinks he can get the Liverpool match on the radio.  His loss as it is a brilliant session combining dance with therapeutic workouts that leaves the whole group laughing and smiling.


THURSDAY 26 SEPTEMBER – In the morning we learn more about meditation and I now understand that it is more achievable than I thought in so far as you are basically trying to stop the chattering monkeys in your head.  Relaxing ourselves into our chairs I do manage to do this for short spells.  It’s another emotional time when we wind up our course and all stand up to say something we hope to take away and something to leave behind.  Steve gets up and is about to say something about how everyone has “opened up” and shared when he realises he is losing his trousers.  He unbuttoned them for the meditation and forgot and was in grave danger of sharing a whole lot more than he intended!  Of course this breaks the pensive mood and has everyone cracking up laughing.  We all head off after lunch intending to keep in touch with group E-mails.  In Newport we visit the cottage and meet David the property maintenance man and pay our bill for over £700 – hurts even more knowing we still haven’t got tenants in.  Stop for a drink and chat with Paul & Elaine and after bouncing off them I call the agents and ask them to come up with a plan and price to get the cottage let as soon as possible.  Miss Pete but manage a 5 minute chat with Carol.  It’s getting quite late so in Market Drayton we park up at Mum’s have a quick chat then walk over to Wetherspoons for their curry night – so much for all our resolutions to eat well but I do have the vegetarian version.


FRIDAY 27 SEPTEMBER – We walk up town and stop off at the health food shop where we invest heavily in organic pulses, fruit and nuts etc.  At Mums I get stuck into the paperwork and also figuring out her new all singing dancing washing machine and tumble dryer.  It’s brilliant as it weighs the load and then figures the best programme although I do make a mistake in the first choice of programme as it takes over 3 hours.  Mum wants us to go out to lunch together so it’s back over the Wetherspoons for a bite to eat.  Back at Mum’s we do a bit more sorting out of things.  Netty is taking early retirement from the prison service and today is her last day so we join her and Ian for a meal at the Four All’s to celebrate and then return to Mum’s bungalow to sit in the conservatory chatting by candle light.


SATURDAY 28 SEPTEMBER- Determined to improve out diet we head up town but only manage to find a few organic vegetables.  Steve loads the car with as much of our stuff from Mum’s cellar as we can take.  Back home in Keighley half a rainforest has fallen on our doorstep including letter with loads of medical appointments for us both starting on Monday.  Steve’s got 8 appointments and I have 6 during the next 3 weeks, madness.  David’s staying in the studio this weekend and pops up to see us both.  I plough my way through unpacking but it’s getting harder and harder to find a proper place for things and I detest having clutter around the house so I’m going to have to make choices and get rid of some of our things to make room.  We pop down to see Mom & Dad; they are both looking well after Dad’s recent scare visit to hospital.


SUNDAY 29 SEPTEMBER – The weather has improved so I manage to get a couple of loads of washing done and out.  David and his friend Mick call round for bacon and egg sandwiches before they head off to Sunderland for the Liverpool match.  At the Penny Brohn centre I pledged to make at least 4 lots of healthy homemade soup this week so begin with an organic courgette soup.  We ran the freezer down in readiness for going away to Spain for the winter so I now have the challenge of filling it with homemade food.  It’s our friend Nancy’s 60th birthday today and we have been invited to a party on a canal boat in Leeds.  Her daughters have done a really good job decorating the boat and getting it all organised.  We’re really pleased to see our friends Angela and Martin, who we haven’t seen for about 20 years, have been invited.  The boat heads off up the canal through the centre of Leeds then through a lock and out onto the river.  At a small island they stop for us all to have a stretch.  There’s some really tasty buffet food and entertainment by way of a quiz through the decades with a personal question about Nancy in each section.  Think Angela & Martin are looking for a bit of inspiration as they attempted to retire before but had to come back with family problems but are teetering on the edge of doing it again and they have picked the perfect mentors in us.


MONDAY 30 SEPTEMBER – Before breakfast I have done a batch of tomato and lentil soup.  With a massive back up of paperwork I get on the laptop and realise that half the stuff I am doing I have done before but not had a response to – so tiresome.  We call down to Mom & Dad’s where I try to resolve a few more things by phone.  I’ve looked on line and can’t find anywhere that sells organic food in Keighley so we make a slow shop at ASDA picking up as much as possible although their choices are limited.  Must figure out where we can drive to and do proper organic shops.  At least we have enough to be going on with including some organic meat and goat’s butter.  Mid afternoon Steve’s friend Richard arrives and we enjoy a really good game of Scrabble with him just taking the lead in the last round.  I drive over to Airedale for my CT scan to check out an abnormality in my spleen found on the ultrasound for my gall bladder!   I have to drink a litre of lemon flavoured contrast water within an hour; most people seem to be struggling with this but I have to pace myself not to drink it too quickly.  The CT scan is pretty quick, a test run through the machine then another couple with dye being fed into me.  I should be able to get the results at my Doctors a week on Thursday.  Really have to give thumbs up to the NHS.



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