A grand day out at Newhailes House

It was the bank holiday weekend and the sun was shining. For more than a year I could only fantasise of meeting up with friends or going out to events with fairly large numbers. The run up to the weekend was fairly difficult, my gastrostomy site was leaking, the pain set in and my skin became red raw. By Wednesday, treatment day with my nurses I was needing a swab taken and had a bit of a temperature. GP phoned me at 7.45am on Thursday morning to let me know antibiotics were ready for me. Woo hoo, what kind of person gets excited about antibiotics. One that wants to feel better. This weekend would normally be TITG® – our annual bike rally hosted by The Dunedin Chapter in Aviemore however it was cancelled due to Covid. Fortunately there was still time for fun and an alternative weekend in store for us down here in East Lothian. It still included some time with some Chapter members and the Harley – on Sunday I had a grand day out at Newhailes House.

As Alexandra and I arrived at Musselburgh the honest toon was looking very busy. Families walking in the direction of the estate of Newhailes House. This Sunday was a special day, there was an open day inviting members of the public. It was mainly a classic car event, with other super side lines. Dunedin had the Harley-Davidson® motorcycles, there were some sports bikes too, the fire brigade were there, the police, a fantastic array of stalls, and of course amazing classic cars. Plenty to keep us occupied.

Alexandra loves this tractor

As we walked into the grounds of the estate we could hear a very familiar sound. The roar of her Grandfather’s Fatboy. Parked in a line – the Dunedin Chapter Members and their Harley Davidson® Motorcycles. There was an eager bunch of kids waiting to sit on the bikes, lots of smiling faces. As we walked up towards Fattie we saw Steve giving a demonstration to a happy lad.

Alex and I walked round, thoroughly enjoyed the sights. Totally loved the cars, bikes, stalls, etc. Soaked in the atmosphere. Sat on motorbikes, looked at beautiful classic cars, clambered on tractors, enthusiastically stood in the long queue for the sit in the fire engine. We had a fabulous day all on our doorstep. I’m sure the Dunedin members enjoyed their day.



London, the city that keeps me alive more ways than one

My first memory of London; I am 11 years of age and in London with my Mum and Dad, we are passing a lamppost with ER printed on. Dad says “Biscuits look at that Elizabeth Reigns, you work hard sweetheart and you can be a boss too” My folks always gave me the encouragement and love needed to go forward in life. They helped me feel safe and secure. In 2012 I took the train with my hubby to London, this time not for a holiday but to see the expert Professor Caplin at The Royal Free. Despite needing diagnostic tests and treatment for incurable stage 4 neuroendocrine cancer and carcinoid syndrome Steve and I found time to explore new avenues. See museums, art galleries, The Tower, take in a show. One thing I am most certain of London, the city that keeps me alive more ways than one is my most favourite city.

Since 2012 I have been and continue to travel up and down the train tracks between Edinburgh and London. Had countless appointments with the Prof, attending clinics, grateful for but not particularly enjoying gallium pet scans, various treatments, glowing like the Readybrek kid, setting of alarms here there and everywhere, and many many blood samples on ice and some taken in special light conditions and immediately put in a Black bag. So tired that when I escape from the delightful cancer team we go to the West End show – We Will Rock You. A musical I have wanted to see for some time, the first half I sit, smile and sing along, the second I sleep right through, with the audience loving the show, singing at the top of their voices. The staff at the UCL Hospital and The Royal Free in London have been outstanding and for that I thank them from the bottom of my heart.

The last year we have had a year of corona, crisis and challenges. But let us not forget that the breakthrough of the vaccine has allowed us to start to come out of lockdown and find some sort of normality, try our best to get back to work, start socialising and enjoy life.

Steve and I in London with the Fatboy

July 2021 we decided not to go to London tandem but to go with my sister Hazel and her husband Alan. The boys rode the Harley-Davidson® motorcycles down and Hazel and I took the train first class from Edinburgh to London Kings Cross. I have always wanted to ride pillion over Tower Bridge. As well as having a fabulous 4 days Finally got my wish. Riding over Tower Bridge was as good as I expected, it was very busy, both lanes used, cyclists going as fast as us. Beautiful red double deckers travelling along with smiling faces looking over the Thames. Black cabs going no where fast. All of us sitting in the two lanes travelling along at 10 miles per hour, superb for me as a pillion taking in the view, people watching, loving the sights. Gathering my thoughts.

We crammed in what we wanted to do, Steve and I have done lots before including The Tower, The British Museum, various parks and lots more. This trip was to be relaxing, however there were a few places we wanted to tick the boxes. Namely Ace Cafe, The Bike Shed and Warrs Harley-Davidson®

Alan and Hazel

very popular arrival at Ace Cafe

Inside Ace Cafe

A selfie at Ace Cafe

Friday morning we gathered our bearings had a doddle around on foot, enjoyed some squares such as Russell and Tavistock Square, walked through St James’s Park, had lunch at The Hard Rock Cafe, Picaddily Circus, saw some of the sights on foot and then took a taxi back to the hotel looking forward to Friday night on the bikes.

We teamed up with our Sena Communication kits and rode the Harley’s up to Ace Cafe on Friday night. Friday night is bike night. Oh boy what a fabulous evening it was. There were car park Marshalls when we arrived, 20 minutes later I could see why. The entire car park was full of bikes. I’ve got to say anyone we spoke to was so welcoming and friendly. We first off hooked up with 4 young lads with Harleys. They don’t belong any Chapter, just friends riding their bikes. Went into the cafe for a cola and a scout around the shop. Came out and if possible it was busier than before. A familiar Harley fist bump came my way from Gerry; a member of The III Rivers Chapter, there were two members together, they welcomed us into their abode; great guys. Looking out onto the road there were motorcyclists doing wheelies up and down the road, burning tyres. Revving their engines, screaming up and down. So loud, vibrant and exciting. Gosh it makes a girl’s heart fair beat. One of the highlights of the evening was the calm Great Dane in the sidecar, sitting watching all going on taking in everything. What an unforgettable night.

Saturday we took the bikes for a tour of London, did what I’ve always wanted and rode over Tower Bridge, drove through Marble Arch, passed St James Park, Covent Garden. We followed our Harley-Davidson® noses to London’s Dealership Warrs. The Dealership is fabulous, as well as great bikes, superb range of accessories and clothing, they have a museum including Evel Kineval’s bike. Not to mention their very helpful outstanding staff; Holly and Edwardo. They sponsor the HOG Chapter Chelsea and Fulham. We met a lovely Chelsea and Fulham Chapter member at Warrs : Steve. He came with us for a tourist ride round London. Then the five of us went to the amazing Bike Shed, terrific experience from start to finish. As we arrived we were shown where to park, the great think is you can ride the bikes right in and ride passed tables as folks have a drink. Undercover safe parking, so secure you can leave your helmet on the seat of your bike. The staff warmly greeted us, we were an hour early, she asked if we could be fitted in would be like an earlier table – hell yes! We toddled the dozen steps to the shop, treated ourselves to a t shirt and some patches for our cuts, had a good look round, amazing bikes. There is a barber shop too.
Our table was ready and the food did not disappoint.

As always I enjoyed my time in the big city. Our final evening after packing and getting organised we ventured round to quiet Bloomsbury for a cocktail.

Steve, Hazel and Alan at London Eye

Steve and I in St James’s Park

Warrs

Fist Bump

It’s me Colin, I’ve got Huntington’s Disease. Are you listening?

I’m nearly 55 years of age and the words Huntington’s Disease are heard and said without thinking. Not thought of as strange or unusual. Why because I first officially heard the actual word Huntington’s when I was approaching my teenage years. My aunt (my Dad’s sister in law) was diagnosed with it. My auntie Josie was a beautiful lady; inside and out. Anyone that knows me will know that I am a dog with a bone, when I hear something I want to know everything about it. Curiosity killed the cat but satisfaction brought it back. Thats me. In the mid to late 1970’s it wasn’t something you shouted from the roof tops. And the ‘grown ups’ discussed things behind closed doors. I heard this word ‘Huntington’s’ getting mentioned often and then started seeing a change in my beautiful aunt. As a family we all spent a lot of time together. I spent quite a lot of time with my aunt and uncle’s 4 children. One day I came out with it, I was almost 14 years of age and I felt I needed to know more, those days you just couldn’t jump on a computer and search google. My aunt was amazing, she was actually brutally honest. She told me she loved my honesty and gumption for asking. She said when the time would come that no-one would be able to understand her talking properly, in fact she may hardly not be able to be understood at all, she herself would still be able to hear and would understand everything. She said she was nervous of being a prisoner in her own body. She laid her hand on mine, my heart thumped so hard I could hear it echoing in my ears. She asked “you will still talk to me”. I took her hand with my other and said, “am I my Mother’s daughter am I not. I can talk for Scotland. Of course I will”. She said to me if any of my children get this I beg for a cure in the future. Huntington’s disease is hereditary and there is a 50% of inheriting it. Bang on in my aunts family the two younger children, Susan and Colin were diagnosed. Colin chose never to marry, however prior to getting confined to a wheelchair if Colin was still here today and was promoting awareness he would say It’s me Colin, I’ve got Huntington’s Disease. Are you listening?

Colin

So what is Huntington’s Disease? It is a devastating rare hereditary disorder of the brain. Your chances of getting diagnosed is 50% if you have a parent with the disease. It affects the nervous system of the body; the network of tissues in the brain and the spinal cord that coordinates your body’s activities. Everyone with Huntington’s through time will deteriorate physically, cognitively and emotionally. Till eventually they are fully dependent on the help of others, whether it is family, carers or nursing staff; or a mixture of all. Symptoms usually rear their ugly head between the age of 30 an 50 years of age, with symptoms getting worse over a period of 10 to 25 years until the person dies. Huntington’s affects between 1 and 10,000 and 1 in 20,000 people in the UK. Unfortunately, as yet there is no cure and very little awareness.

The Month of May is Huntington’s Disease Awareness Month. The wonderful organisation; The Huntington’s Disease Alliance UK and Ireland are running a campaign Family Matters. The Alliance consists of four independent charities throughout UK and Ireland. The four independent charities all have the same goals and strive to help those affected by the disease, promote awareness and do their best to increase the understanding of UK wide of Huntington’s Disease.

Charities like these are important to get the message out there. Also to help those living with the illness, offer support, put you in the right direction in a time of need.

My auntie Josie was such an inspiration to me. Despite her own fears and worries she brought up with her supportive husband, my uncle, 4 lovely children. In her early days she was a Sunday school teacher. A loving mum, a super aunt. My Mum said she made not just a great sister in law but a great sister. It seemed so quickly that her speech became slurred and for many they didn’t know what she was saying. Her hands and legs were turned inwards as time went on and walking went from slow, to staggering to not at all. In the early days some people would assume she maybe had a glass of wine or six. But soon it was apparent that it was much more. I always remembered the conversation we had that day, and I would blether and tell her of my day, and would not care how long it took, I would wait till she finished asking me the question. It was usually, how was my brother’s children? or or the like. One thing she never lost, despite getting this cruel debilitating condition was her caring nature. Life for my auntie Josie was difficult, but yet she had very happy times, such a loving caring devoted family surrounded by love. For my aunt her husband was her rock. He cared dutifully for her in the latter stage, with the four children rallying round as and when they could.

As a family we are all very close. Close brothers and sisters, nieces, nephews, aunts and uncles and cousins. We all saw and still see each other fairly regularly. Most definitely keep in touch. I spent many a day in my summer break with my Johnston cousins. One thing we certainly all do is look out for each other. Try and help or offer advice if we can, when we can. The four children that were born and could be carrying the gene did not get treated any different. Laughter, games, studying, work, etc went on. Then came the time for the tests. The two youngest, Susan (same age as me) and Colin tested positive.

Colin, is a fun character. My punk rocker cousin in his tartan suit. Who drove stock cars. Loved classic cars. Collected them, looked and drove them. Was a fabulous boxer, with numerous trophies. An independent soul. He never married or took a partner. Lived with his Dad then moved to his own home, he loved his own house. He loved his music even more and travelled to punk rock festivals. He went on cruises. Loved his family dearly. His nieces were everything to him. When he started to struggle with walking he took his two nieces Leah and Kara on a Cruise, they loved him so much they helped care for him at times when he was less able. Colin liked a rum and a dance, and when he had to get his peg feed and was in his wheelchair, he didn’t let things get him down. He would put a little rum down his tube and he took to the floor on his wheels in his tartan suit. The sad fact is Colin had to get a peg feed because he lost his swallowing function; this was a decision he didn’t make lightly. It was probably one of the hardest decisions he had to make. And I’m not entirely sure he really wanted it. For someone that was so active and loved to sing, dance etc. This disease is so cruel to watch. To see my beautiful cousin struggle to tell me he still loves me was so hard. But at the same time it was so good to see how courageous he was, putting all his strength into a conversation, that love was still there and he definitely could still make me smile.

A very happy memory I have is a family BBQ held by Susan and Colin’s sister Karen. We had a super time. As you walked into the garden you were welcomed with smiling faces, the sound of children laughing and adults chit chatting and generally having a great time. Karen’s children, Kara and Heather and Susan’s girls, Leah and Billy would get up at any time needed and automatically fell into the role of carers without looking like a carer. Just that help with a sip cup, or cutting up the food to the correct size. A beautiful caring family that looked after each other without having to ask; the automatic care, willing ear to listen, physical help, loving unconditionally.

Family Does Matter

Colin’s symptoms worsened. It became impossible to live in the house that became his beautiful safe home and despite having carers in several times per day and family popping in the heart wrenching decision of moving swiftly came into his life. Colin needed to go into residential care, the difficulty was finding one that took a person diagnosed with Huntington’s Disease. Much to Colin’s disappointment Colin lived the last days of his life in Balhousie Rumbling Bridge Care Home. Colin was no longer a five minute drive or a 15 minute walk from his sisters and nieces and close proximity to his brother, Billy, but a drive across the Forth. He was still easy enough to visit and my sister Hazel visited on occasions too, and at times took my Dad. Colin loved to get a visitor, whether it was a sibling, cousin or friend. Rumbling Bridge Care Home did a fabulous job in looking after Colin. Sadly we lost our Colin to Huntington’s Disease. We had a funeral in Edinburgh in true punk rock fashion at Colin’s request.

Susan, Colin, their Dad Bill & Susan’s granddaughter

Susan continues to battle with Huntington’s Disease every day. I spoke to her on chat yesterday. And to her daughter Leah, we are so looking forward to the restrictions of covid getting lifted so Leah can drive her Mum down to mine for a visit. It’s a bit of an expedition, but will be worth it. Leah has room for Mum’s wheel chair in her car. I live in the country, the house is a detached, parking right at the front door. Plenty of room. And certainly no trip zones. So all good. I am so looking forward to seeing Suzie Pie, I haven’t seen her personally for a while especially due to covid restrictions. Susan’s speech is now slurred and walking worsened she needs the chair. I am so heartened she has a devoted compassionate family. Although it’s heartbreaking to see my cousin deteriorating so rapidly from the last time we met, the person I know and love is still there. Life for my beautiful cousin is like living on a knife edge. A simple meal, something most people take for granted is a terrifying ordeal. Every meal, literally any piece of food or drink that goes down is dangerous. Just recently Suzie pie aspirated into her lungs and then had to get treated for a severe chest infection. Unlike her brother Susan does not have a peg feed and is now passed the point of being able to get one. I long for our next meet up so we can have something that hasn’t been allowed for what feels like an eternity an almighty hug and we can spend some time together. We always share “cousin time” it just takes a little longer to have the conversation. But as they say Good things come to those who wait but better things come to those who are patient.

This disease changes the daily lives of everyone that is affected with it. The person that is diagnosed is eventually trapped inside their own body. Forced to get help from others, be it physical and emotional. Even the fittest and most ambitious of us, as time goes by, our bodies get consumed by HD. Families and friends do their ultimate best to help and care both physically and emotionally. However at times they feel the pressure and need reassurance; we need to remember they too are fighting their own battle. Living with Huntington’s Disease affects the daily life of the person with it, but those living around them. It can have a massive impact on those who live in the home. When symptoms start to worsen and physical symptoms begin to progress equipment starts to invade the house. Yes its a fabulous help. But at the same time, another tick of the box that the disease is progressing in the direction you were hoping would take a little longer.

I hope by reading a little about my aunt and cousins you have been able to open your eyes to Huntington’s Disease and I’ve managed to raise awareness of this crippling disease that only takes over the body of those diagnosed but can haunt the minds of all those affected.

The awareness month of May is what is needed to spread the word. Let people feel more relaxed and knowledgeable about the disease. Family Matters. Absolutely fabulous, please take a look at their website. I have also been heartened to see on the television on the BBC drama Casualty, A&E Doctor Ethan Hardy has tested positive for HD.

The Family Matters Campaign is to raise awareness of Huntington’s Disease. This can only be a good thing. They are inviting those who have experience of Huntington’s to send in any information they would like to share, in the form of pictures, words, thoughts; it can be a poem for example, a quote, a few photographs. These will be shared on a digital community space called The Living History Project – it will be shared on The Living History Wall

To help promote awareness of Huntington’s it is important to share information not only by talking about it, reading pamphlets, etc, but moving on to the digital age. Sharing on television, websites, social media, etc. As I said earlier the BBC have brought it in on the storyline on Casualty which is fabulous for raising awareness. Charities such as #FamilyMatters help so many people and work so hard especially promoting awareness of #HuntingtonsDisease during #HDAwarenessMonth of May. You can find a relevant organisation in your area:

@HDA_tweeting – England and Wales

@HDAssocNI – Northern Ireland

@HDAI_ie – Ireland

@ScottishHD – Scotland

The Scottish Huntington’s Association avidly campaigns for Huntington’s disease charities. Olympic medalist and double world champion rower, Sarah Winckless is patron. Huntington’s is in Sarah’s family on her Mum’s side. Sarah herself has tested positive for the gene.

One thing I have to say I have rarely met a person with Huntington’s that has been a complainer in life. They have such a hard deck of cards to deal with in life and yet always seem to make the most of it.

So while you may have been complaining about being trapped in your 4 walls for a few weeks or months due to Government restrictions remember the people that are fighting a battle to get out there all the time.

Talking about nutrition

Over the last year I have been missing out in meeting up with chums and support network at net cancer support meetings organised by TAECT We have however had zoom meetings. Had a chance to chat and share a story or two over the internet. Our last meeting we had a guest specialist. The zoom meeting was different this time it was a question and answer session with dietician/nutritionist, Tara Whyand specialising in net cancer and carcinoid syndrome. On a Wednesday evening we were talking about nutrition

The zoom meeting was very well attended with a great variety of questions. It was informative and interesting. Living with a peg feed you may wonder why I want to take part in the discussion. Primarily because I miss my chums and want to see familiar faces. I physically miss seeing the friends I’ve made through the group, including Barbara, Margaret, the two Alistairs, Muriel & Eric, David & Isobel. It feels like a lifetime ago that we were all together in Pencaitland bowling club at the Tea Party I pulled together and the music night. Not only raising money for Scotland’s Net Cancer Charity but promoting awareness of the cancer and making new friends. Pre Covid we would meet up physically these meetings would be called Net Natter Meetings. Things have to change slightly for now and technology is fabulous letting us all join in and natter together.

It may seem strange that someone like myself with a gastrostomy tube attends a nutrition chat. However, I found it great. Tara mentioned one of the most bothersome symptom; diarrhea. We discussed this. Spoke about flushing. Also pellagra. We discussed taking supplements such as creon and vitamin B. All in all it was very informative and helpful. I’m sure everyone got a lot out of it.

As the covid vaccine has been rolled out and the restrictions are getting lifted I hope we will be meeting up soon and we can start to have regular Net Natter Meetings again.

A comfortable place to die

As I have grown older I have came to realise that there aren’t many guarantees in life. The only certainties in life are birth,death and change. We are born, changes take place and we die. To make things more pleasant all round and something we take for granted in the United Kingdom is that we will always have somewhere to go when we are sick. Get taken care of free of charge and when the inevitable happens are granted A comfortable place to die.

When a person is faced with a terminal illness, at some point thoughts come racing in to the mind where do you want to spend the last days. People’s answers are very personal ones. For some being at home and spending every last possible moment being cared for in the family home is their wish. Others prefer to be cared for in a hospice or hospital environment. Either way, the experience I have witnessed personally the care given has always been outstanding. The nursing staff making sure in the last weeks, days and right down to moments comfort is paramount.

There is no getting away from it making a choice where you want to end your days is far from easy. There is an awful lot to consider. However even when all the pros and cons are weighed up and it’s been decided home, hospital or hospice sometimes it just doesn’t go as smooth as you would expect.

We may choose to stay at home and be cared for by your loved ones and supported by district nursing team. Most of the time it goes well and you get your wish and you can stay at home. The district nurse team and Marie curie nurses that cared for my Father in his home gave him a caring, dignified last few days. For that we cannot thank the wonderful medical team enough and will forever be in their debt. Home nursing teams work very hard looking after the patient, ordering drugs, equipment, supplies, communicating with other health professionals. We are lucky to have such good staff working on the NHS, providing us with with amazing service. They are dedicated, take care of the patient and make sure the family are coping too. At present I have the most amazing team of District Nurses that come in to my home and give me injections, service my stoma/gastrostomy tube, change dressings, etc. They also look out for my nearest and dearest.

However for some there can be a time that everything is all set up and there is a spanner in the works and you need shipped off to hospital and you no longer get the home care you so wished for. In a snap decision one of most difficult decisions of your life has been literally taken out of your hands. What we have to remember is things happen for a reason and getting sent into hospital is most likely with best intentions.

When we make a decision to end our days in a hospice it’s a choice that certainly does not come lightly. Whilst you get fabulous care and are in a safe and secure environment, it’s not home. Although hospices have a much less clinical feel than hospitals you can’t quite move your pet in. The biggest problem at the moment is the waiting time to go in. Main reason being there just isn’t enough palliative care beds to go around. It’s heartbreaking but the practicality is that we are actually waiting on someone passing away to then offer a bed. In the UK we get used to getting our health care and this includes all our cancer treatments free of charge. All us human beans in UK take our health care for granted; go to the doctor and don’t think about the cost. Many people think more about putting money away vet bills for our pets or saving for a holiday than donating to a charity.

Hospices, such as Marie Cure and St Columba’s, home care nursing from Marie Curie and Macmillian are not NHS or big private hospitals, they are self financing. They are charities. Rely on donations and fundraising. They offer their services free to patients who need them, at times it may be respite care where a patient goes in for a few days then goes home, or the nurses go to a patient’s home and takes care of them; gives the family help with washing the patient, changing pyjamas, changing sheets, etc, and patient staying in hospice for life end care.

On thinking about the charities, I believe we need to try and chip in a tad if we can. Next time you are eating that McDonald’s and you are about to have a Mcflurry with it; what’s the cost for the ice cream? Couple of quid? Perhaps think about matching the couple of pounds in a donation, I definitely will.

I’m in my mid fifties and have known people very dear to me that have died by their own choosing at home, in hospital and in a hospice. All very well cared for, and I can see the benefits and down sides of all. For the person that is going to meet his Maker and for those that are left behind. Me? If I mange to get my wish I will not be at home and I will not be a burden on anyone. Let’s hope this works out.

World Cancer Day 2021

I’m pretty sure that most of us have been affected by cancer at some time in our lives, either by living with the disease, helping someone through it, or maybe its an acquaintance, but affected you more than you thought it would. Whatever your involvement with the word cancer and the illness, it impacts the lives not only of the person that physically has the diagnosis but those around them. As someone that has had the word cancer in their life for quite some time, the diagnosis in many people, although it has taken the life of such wonderful people today is a day for positivity today is World Cancer Day 2021

When many of us sit in a consultation room and gets a cancer diagnosis it can be like hitting a brick wall and your world can go in a turmoil, everything can become a blur and life may never be the same again. Some cancer journeys are fairly short and others are a long hard slog, whilst there are unfortunately some that are managed with palliative care. Wherever the road takes you its always a memorable one and easier if you have someone to share it with.

Family and friends are fabulous they listen, help you, take you to appointments, etc. And are a great shoulder to cry on. However, we have to remember they are affected to and need escapism. Sometimes its good to talk to a complete stranger. Or at least what starts of as a stranger. When you are going through a cancer journey please reach out and talk. Talk about your feelings, don’t leave them in the box and feel strangled and down. Charities such as Maggies Cancer Care, Marie Curie offer volunteer facilities where someone will chat to you, other places do this service too, ask your oncologist, consultant, doctor, GP or nurse for advice. Even if you are too unwell to go and meet up, or as we are at present in these restrictions due to covid; arrangements can be made to chat on the phone. Believe me it really helps. It certainly doesn’t have to be on the nature of how are you feeling?, but can be if you want it to be. Conversation can be light hearted. Just because you have a serious illness doesn’t mean you need to have a serious conversation; you are still allowed to laugh. Its lovely to build up a relationship with someone and have trust in them that you can talk and say things and that it will go no further. Not feel guilty for what you say. Feel good for laughing. Share stories.

Whatever the cancer journey its usually an emotional one as well as a physical one. Most certainly one we couldn’t do without the help of the wonderful oncologists, consultants, doctors, scientists, nurses, volunteers, researchers, drug companies, charities, etc. For their amazing hard work and dedication I would like to thank them. What certainly keeps me going is positivity and keeping that frown upside down by making sure I smile each and every day.

Pick up the phone – Its good to talk

Well one month into 2021 already. Its just turned February. For some its a dark month and many folks find it a lonely difficult time, with thoughts and reflections going through our minds. This year we are still in restrictions, a great deal of people have jumped from one personal crisis to another. There has been so many difficult situations for our fellow human bean to cope with over the last year; we have been tested in more ways than one. I have known a fair number of family and friends who have over the last year fought life threatening coronavirus. During this pandemic many people have faced fear, anxiety, poverty, hardship, social isolation, unemployment, etc.  Now is the time to take notice of who has been helping who, and most importantly does anyone need help. Remember when we used to pop in for a quick chat, or go out for that drink, meet up at lunch time, or a run on the bikes. That person is possibly lonely a missing seeing everyone and could do with a jolly good chat. Do yourself a favour and as the scout or girl guide leader would say do your good deed for the day; Pick up the phone – its good to talk

I think we can all agree that this has been an unusual year.  It has been a difficult time for everyone at some time and we have all be faced some sort of challenge and uncertainty.  I don’t think anyone thought we would still be facing these kind of restrictions in 2021.  Covid-19 has dominated our lives and health.   The NHS and the care staff have taken good care of us since the start. They are dedicated and like true troopers put patients before themselves, work long hours; doing their best to make us feel as comfortable and secure in these strange and difficult circumstances.

From my personal experience my team of medics all the way through this pandemic have been ultimate superstars. My net specialist emails in between appointments to check up on me, make sure how I am doing. My nurses come in to my home changing my dressings, changing the water in my gastrostomy tube weekly, administer my octreotide treatment at home fortnightly, change my entire gastrostomy tube every 8 weeks (however due to problems such as infections, burst balloons, etc its been happening after 5 weeks, 1 week, 3 weeks). My nurses will also come to my home if I have any problems. They are wonderful; my net specialist telephoned me last week when he was on the phone he commended the nurses and said the work they did and how well they looked after me, helping keep the amount of infections down and most certainly assisted in keeping me out of the hospital. The amazing supportive Community Enteral Nutrition Team (CENT) call me regularly. Usually Kat or Marion visit me every two months. They weigh me, check on my peg feed and we discuss how my feeding regime is going. We talk about my quality of life, what is going on with my appointments, my body and everything thats going on in my life. They are very supportive and always at the end of a phone. I can pick up the phone and give them a call any day, if they can’t pick it up and talk to me when I call. Their secretary June will answer, take a message and one of them will call me back, chat with me and sort out any problem that may be going on. They report to my dedicated Net specialist (The Prof), my hard working GI consultant, who works hand in hand with the Prof, and my GP. Letting them know if anything needs changed, such as my frequency of feed, etc. Remember my GI consultant, he is the chap who did the creative drawing when he kindly saw me bang in the middle of covid restrictions and did a wee procedure when my gastrostomy tube fell further into my intestines than it should have. He has to have sense he has labradors.

For some people this will have been a long and lonely year. For others it will have gone quickly and nothing much will have changed other than the physical restrictions, such as supermarkets, going from one district to another, closure of shops, establishments, etc. This time last year I was looking forward to going to Dunedin Chapter’s AGM meeting and annual dance; this is the Harley-Davidson® club that my husband and I belong to. The AGM was actually the last meeting we all got together for an official meeting. Now that the vaccine is getting rolled out, you never know…………. I miss the blether, the friendships, get togethers. However, right now its for our own good, and we have to wait until the appropriate time. A while longer to make sure we are safe is better in the long run. So in the meantime be content with sharing a conversation on social media or a text, email and most definitely a natter on the phone. When director of Dunedin Chapter Scotland HOG® #9083, Stewart Willox phones me and says I won’t keep you Elizabeth, and we are still blethering 20 minutes later. I’m sure the poor chap’s ears are bleeding.

I have been very fortunate over the last year and would like to says thanks to the folks that have kept me going, I wrote an earlier post on being thankful for my smartphone and posts being grateful of support during this pandemic. However, I would like to echo this and let everyone know I more than appreciate the texts (yes minister friend Janice, even the early morning Prayers), WhatsApp’s, emails, social media messages; every piece of contact helps prevent the feeling of loneliness, it makes me appreciate what I have – a circle of human beings around me that care. I so love the photos I receive in texts of my grandchildren, it brightens my life and lightens my heart. Marion and Tony send me the most beautiful photos of Luna, she was born in lockdown, we were privileged to see her Christmas Day and have only seen her via technology since, thank goodness for gadgets. We have round robin texts between Tony, Stuart, Marion, Laura and Myself; all checking in, keeping up with the news and sharing photographs. Pre lockdown both my sons were at our house regularly and our home filled with laughter and cheer. Now our lads call regularly, they FaceTime with the kids which is fabulous, I get time to talk to the boys and chat away with the babes. Nearly 5 year old granddaughter Alexandra loves chatting away at anytime. See how they are developing, here all their news. Never tire of hearing their news, listening to Tony telling of his uni work, and whats going on in the world of government policy at Edinburgh University , or chatting with Stuart as he drives home from a hard shift at the hospital where we talk about all sorts. My sister Hazel and I text message each other every day just to check in. We blether on the phone often, and its never a short phone call. My friend, Jen, we met on the first day at university in Edinburgh when we were both 18. We’ve been firm friends since. We chat every Friday morning at length. I so enjoy these calls and have to admit they help keep me sane.

The last year for me has been difficult I won’t deny it. I have been over the threshold approximately half a dozen times and most of those occasions have been sheer necessity. I so miss being able to ask Steve to drive me over to visit my Dad. I miss going to my support meetings with The Ann Edgar Trust; so miss seeing the friends I’ve made and the support I get out of going. So for now I’m still content with my calls and other means of communications. My daily WhatsApp messages from Louise lets me know I have a loving caring friend, Stephen cracks me up with his comical wit on WhatsApp, he sends me not only messages to ask how we are doing but jokes, photos to make me laugh; he arranges online quizzes that we take part in on zoom. Lindsay Lou messages me with photos of the kids and tales, I so miss seeing them, suddenly Glasgow feels like the other side of the world.

I’m sure you have been affected this passed year in some way. Whether its physically or mentally, we have all been touched one way or another. Family and friends are important, keeping that line of contact is much more beneficial to some than others. What I have taken from this year is, yes it has been trying, but we have to remember restrictions are put in place for our own good and to save lives. During this pandemic a great deal of people have been diagnosed with this awful virus and sadly numerous folks around the world have died from it. Receiving messages, seeing familiar faces on my silver screen, receiving cards from my sister regularly by post, chatting on the phone, sharing news or a problem or five. I realise how lucky I am to know I am loved and cared for. Next time you pick up your phone to look up your social media pages or online shop, why don’t you give your family or friend a text or better still a phone call. It is so lovely to hear a friendly voice, share a chat; find out whats been going on in YOUR family/friend’s life. If you are going to do something nice today and think of others; do a good turn, please don’t say you don’t have time, life is good and far too short. Share something nice that happened today with someone. Please Pick up the phone – Its good to talk

Santa Steve on his Harley-Davidson®

We may have differing opinions at the moment. Has the Government made the right call? Is the NHS doing a grand job? Should the kids be going to school? What really should be happening at Christmas. However, I think we can all agree to that regardless of our point of view everyone is needing a little festive cheer. Steve and I thought it would be a lovely idea to introduce to our community Santa Steve on his Harley-Davidson®

My husband and I don’t have the easiest of lives as many of my blog readers know. We have been through a lot in our nearly 55 years of life. Although the we both say we feel very lucky in life to still be in love after getting together in 1982. Absolutely blessed to live in such a fine county as East Lothian, even better that we have managed to secure a house in Boggs Holdings, Pencaitland and bring up our sons there, and now enjoy the sound of our grandchildren. The area is one of beauty and community supportive. Community spirit is important to Steve and I and we wanted to do something.

Since the start of the restrictions we haven’t been out on the Harley-Davidson® very much at all. In fact I have been at home and have only left the house on 7 occasions since April, and three of them were essential hospital visits. Steve has managed to take the bike out runs as and when social distancing allows; which has been great. We were talking about this and realised many people would be like me and would not have been out very much at all this year. Now as Christmas is approaching, children getting excited and looking forward to seeing Santa. There are many places parents cannot take their wee ones to see Santa this year due to the restrictions.

Steve and I are members of an organisation – this is the Dunedin Chapter is where many of us Harley owners get together and go runs together, etc. Seriously, a lot more to it than that. We love it. With the Chapter on Saturday Steve was going on the Santa toy run in Edinburgh – this is a charity run to drop off presents. He decided it may be a good idea to post on facebook to our local Pencaitland page would they like a drive by from Santa Steve in the afternoon after he had finished his charitable run with The Dunedin Chapter. Soon he got replies, Yes please.

I emailed the local police station, who were fantastic and called Steve right back that day. Gave him the authority to drive through the village. Bike dressed up in tinsel and lights, Steve in Santa suit. He left our home and I posted on Facebook he left. He drove through the village.

Steve was met with smiling faces and waving hands. I checked on Facebook; there were comments – where is “Santa Steve ?” “I’ve text you….” soon photos and videos were put up. And then comments of thanks.

The community spirit in the village brightened my day and lifted my heart. Thank you to all the children and adults who came out to see Santa Steve. I hope you all enjoyed Santa Steve on “Fattie Scot” : the Fatboy Harley-Davidson® dressed up in tinsel. I know he had a great time driving around the village and waving at you guys.

Merry Christmas and wishing all the best for 2021.

We had many many comments including:

Superstar Steve!

Thank you so much, Lots of excited wee ones thrilled to see Santa

Even us ‘big yins’ enjoy seeing Biker Santa around the village! well done and thank you! Merry Christmas

Fabulous idea, great fun, thanks for bringing some joy round the village

Thank you so much for doing that, absolutely magical. My little one won’t stop talking about you! Really cheered us up on this bad news day

Very happy kids (and me) even though the tiny tot was a bit unsure

Thank you for visiting Huntlaw Road! My daughter was very excited to see you

Thanks to u for visiting Limekilns

Thanks very much for doing that…… highlight of our kids day (mine too if I’m honest)

You looked and sounded the biz! Thanks for making the effort Steve

My kids were delighted!!!!!!!! thank you so much

I think we were your first at The Boggs, Thanks so much the kids absolutely loved it

Thank you very much, we saw you from a far and there was mass excitement at our house!

Thank you it was brilliant, such a lovely thing to do

Thanks from Pringles Place. My kids loved it

Thank you for coming by the Green! My 5 year old daughter was DELIGHTED to see you!! Merry Christmas Santa Steve

Lovely Steve

Well done Santa! A much needed bit of cheer!

Thank you the kids were delighted, at this time anything that brings a smile to a kid’s face is well worth it

Such a lovely kind thing to do for the kids! Thanks so much Steve. Merry Christmas to you

Thank you my wee granddaughter Mia was chuffed to get fist bump at Queens Drive

Saw you from the window at old farm court & really appreciated it! You’re a star and sure all the little ones loved it. Merry Christmas

My kids at Woodhall loved it! Thank you very much

It was fab

THANK YOU

More writing and less riding

As the days are getting shorter, temperature is dropping and the amount of ideal biking days for someone like me are few and far between. I find myself having more time to sit by our beautiful open fire and being grateful that I can reflect on events over the last few months. And hopefully look forward to what the world has in store for us all as the shortest day of the year will soon be here and then the days get longer, we have a vaccine thats getting rolled out for Covid. Since April I have only been out of the house for essential visits, such as the hospital. In total, I have been out of the house a total of 9 times since April. When the restrictions were relaxed I went out with with hubby and some friends from The Dunedin Chapter, under strict social distance for a Harley-Davidson® bike ride. At the beginning of September I took the position of Editor with The Dunedin Chapter, I so enjoy writing about the motorcycles, events, editing members articles, etc. Despite the fact I love being on the Harley-Davidson® I have got to admit I have benefited from having quiet time, time for me and certainly endured More writing and less riding.

The last few months have been fairly stressful health wise. Lavita – my gastrostomy tube has been playing up. I was in utter agony with my last change. The lump on my shoulder is giving me some grief and the pain in my humerus at times is unbearable. I remember 24 years ago I was at nuclear medicine with my Dad, he wasn’t feeling well at all, and he the pain he had was eleven out of ten. The consultant said to him I can clearly see you are in a lot of pain, however you are not complaining. My Dad said to him, I just close my eyes and take myself on a journey, close out the world and try and dream it all away. It doesn’t take it all away but it helps, my Dad told him. I took this with me that day. On the days I feel I can no longer cope, I think of my Dad and his journey.

While I am on my mind journey I can relax, take time to myself. I can think about what may be in the spring. Hoping to get out on our Harley. Have the boards put on the back for my little feet for comfort for those longer rides. Get the Nikon out and take some photos of our beautiful country. As usual the medics have been looking after me; appointments that cannot be met in person have been on the telephone or video call. So I am fairly confident as and when the weather breaks and getting out and about restriction levels allow us to travel around safely I will be able to ride pillion with my hubby.

The one benefit of being at home is I have been able to write a lot more. I find pleasure in writing for myself and other companies and organisations. Working as Editor for The Dunedin Chapter Scotland HOG® #9083 I have just completed my first quarterly Newsletter. I have been humbled at the amount of caring messages from members. Lovely emails and texts saying what a great Newsletter, so kind. Working on Newsletter was hard work, working to deadlines, fitting around others, editing folks work; taking out some parts that I know they would really want in but know that I was tight for space – all in a days work for the Editor. Yes there was lots to do, it took many hours, a lot of the time it was at an hour I haven’t been used to tapping my fingers on the keyboard on my beloved Apple. However when its a subject you are passionate about, the folks sending in articles are lovely and most importantly the team you are working alongside are supportive. It makes me feel proud to be party of a warm and friendly happy Harley Family.

On The Fatboy Aviemore, Scotland TITG® Mass Ride

The Essential District Nurse

Four years ago my house felt somewhat invaded with nursing staff in dark blue uniforms. Very competently carrying out essential duties. Strangers in my home fuelling me with anguish and fear. They came in every other day, assisted with my NG tube and did anything else I required. It took a while before I realised I really did benefit from my essential district nurse.

Four months in, and things were going amazing. I began to realise how much I need them. How valuable they are, not only in the physical nursing department, they are here emotionally and for my family too. The team look after me very well, if I have any sign of “going down hill” they are on the phone to dr or hospital in a flash. As was planned with my treatment plan, I went into hospital had surgery and had a gastrostomy tube fitted.

Five days later I had sepsis, spent 12 weeks in hospital. When I got home, everything was very difficult, and my goodness I was so grateful for the team of district nurses. Evelyn was the one that came the most. My skin on my tummy was red raw, I could hardly walk; to be honest everything felt like a mission. The once strangers dressed in blue had become my saviour. Nothing and I mean nothing was too much trouble. A rutland trolley was brought in to help me walk, my bed was fitted for a mattress elevator, and so much more. My tummy was awful, it bled, the skin kept falling off the dressings were soaked. No sooner were they on and they were drenched. I could see a determination in Evelyn’s eye, we are going to sort this out, she said to me. I so wanted to believe her. I was covered in dressings and looked like I had been shot. Every time the acids leaked out of the hole in my tummy and ran over the lacerations on my skin the pain was so intense. When she came in I was bent over almost falling to my knees trying to get back on to the sofa.

My nurse that became a dog with a bone didn’t stop until she got things ‘right’ for me. The correct barrier, a change in creams, additional creams and a new different dressing. All this every time they are in and what a difference.

For most folks that read my posts they will know I have two labradors, Buddy and Bella. Buddy is my special boy and Bella his wife. They love the nurses visits. As soon as the orange folder was laid out, on best behaviour both labs patiently waited for a nurse to arrive. They will sit perfectly while I get treated by the nurses. Once everything has been completed my baby labradors sit politely and get a dog treat. How happy they are. Tails wagging frantically.

December 2nd 2020 was a sad day in our household. Our ‘dog with a bone’ nurse retired. Evelyn has made a huge impression on us. She has more than helped me and always a willing ear, getting through my sepsis was one of the hardest things I have had to conquer in my life she helped me all the way. When I was in hospital with sepsis, Evelyn phoned the ward 3 times per week for the 12 weeks I was in to check up on my progress. From my husband to my granddaughter, she gave them the time of day, listened and spoke to them. Very often it was just at a time when they needed it most. This lovely nurse is now moving on to a time in her life when she should take some time selflessly for herself. Fingers crossed COVID restrictions will get better and she can get out and do all those wonderful things I wish for her in retirement. As a family unit we will miss nurse Evelyn. She went beyond her call of duty. She had a terrific memory, on sick days she would pick up the phone and ask a GP to come see me, rattle off my date of birth without looking at my folder. One day I smiled at her and asked if she knew my national insurance number; she grinned back and said now that would be telling. She bonded well with my family, was interested in neuroendocrine tumours and carcinoid syndrome. She supported greatly the wonderful support charity I have come to rely on The Ann Edgar Charitable Trust Evelyn participated in our tea party, enjoyed our fundraising music event for net cancer day. She made hundreds of Pom Pom balls to create ziggy zebra. She also was so generous when our youngest went into nursing got him a pile of books.

I know I am in good hands with the team she lead, the strangers in blue who have now became familiar ‘welcome visitors’ attending to my needs. Taking care of me and my gastrostomy, Lavita, administering my injections, doing my dressings, etc.


These hardworking nurses; predominantly now seen by Nicola and Maria make a big difference to my life. They brighten up my day, make me feel safe and secure. I trust them. If you are thinking of going into nursing or are in healthcare or nursing and thinking of working in the community, in particular going into district nursing. I can tell you how valuable and needed you would be. Walking into someone’s house for the first time isn’t always easy, just like when I had the insecurities of the first visits. A couple of visits in and it all gets so much easier. We are all scared of the unknown. That once stranger who enters my home helps alleviate any fear, and deals with more than you know.