This day last year I was marking the end of my formal treatment for breast cancer. After surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy I was champing at the bit to ring the bell. Not in a crowing, triumphal way, but rather marking the end of nine months of what seemed, at times, like hell. That bell was ringing out ‘Thank God that’s over” it was drawing a line under the worst of the treatment and representing a moving forward. It doesn’t herald a cure, that word doesn’t readily pass the lips of the doctors, surgeons and oncologists I’ve met so far. But in my case, I remain positive that the early, speedy capture and treating of the odious little bugger I christened Boris has done the trick. If only certain human Boris’s could be similarly caught and zapped.
Ringing that bell allowed me to start to move forward, and I think I have with a vengeance. While the treatment hadn’t finished at that stage (still had the dreaded Herceptin injection every three weeks until just before Christmas) plus the joy of daily medication for five years. I had at least got back some control of my life. That in some ways creates a problem in itself. Having been pushed from pillar to post with appointments, treatment and generally feeling like death warmed up some days, having the ability to take stock and start making decisions about what you want to do can be daunting. I think having shared my experience with this blog, made it easier for me as I’d been able to get it out of my system. I hadn’t bottled things up and not dealt with things, but put my feelings and frustrations ‘out there’. So thanks to all who endured my bra buying dilemmas, my constipation, my aches, pains and rotting toenails (to be honest I think I spared you the worst of that last one!) You all made excellent therapists!!
My blog helped in other ways too, as it gave me a sense of normality and purpose. While I wasn’t able to concentrate on reading (and by default, reviewing) I did worry that my blog might fall by the wayside. I’d initially set it up to bring together my reviews that were scattered around the ether via Netgalley, Amazon and Goodreads to mention a few. Without reviews it would largely consist of my monthly book hauling posts. I’m delighted to report that whatever else was happening, I was always able to buy books. But my real saviour proved to be my Five on Friday feature. The very first one went live three days after I’d received my diagnosis. What began life as a one off Q&A has snowballed into a regular feature. While I couldn’t read I was still able to email authors, prepare and schedule posts and this gave me something positive to focus on. This feature now attracts my biggest viewing figures.
When I wrote my last ‘one year on’ update it was largely medical, concentrating on the treatments and procedures. While I can’t pretend everything in the garden is rosy, I still sniff Vaseline for Britain in an attempt to relieve my sore, bleeding (that’s literally not swearingly) nose. I still have peripheral neuropathy in my feet, my legs and knees could give an arthritic 80 year a run for their money (bad choice of phrase as running is definitely not on the cards!) and I’m a good two stone heavier than I was before this process started. However I’m also much more akin to my old self and have re-discovered my lust for life. So this time I’d like to do a round up of the more positive and enjoyable achievements in the past year, again not in a crowing way, but in a happy, thankful and appreciative one.
Visited Italy twice (Lake Garda and Sorrento area)
Visited Spain (Mallorca)
Spent two wonderful relaxing holidays in Powys.
Started Tai Chi classes along with my OH
Attended a learn to crochet course (I’d say I’m not a natural!)
Managed to produce 45 charity shoe boxes for Christmas with my friend (we had worried that last year we might have managed far less)
Have already knitted 29 beany hats for this year’s shoe boxes.
Went down to London to see the Edward Burne Jones exhibition at The Tate
Book Related Events
Went on my first (self created) Reading Retreat
Attended Gina Kirkham’s book launch event for Whisky, Tango Foxtrot in Liverpool
Made it to Harrogate for the Theakston Crime Writing Festival
Attended the Crime day of the East Riding Festival of Words in Beverley
Attended two author/blogger meet ups in Stoke
Attended a Headline Publishing event in Liverpool
Attended the Orenda Roadshow in Manchester
Blog and bookish highlights
Came second in the Bloggers Bash Awards for Most Inspirational Blog
Amazing have been nominated again this year in Bloggers Bash Awards for Best Book Blog
Acquired 536 e-books (eeek!!)
Acquired 84 tree books
Read 33 books
Achieved my most viewed blog post by miles – Privilege vs Entitlement
Posted 18 reviews
Published 34 Five on Friday features.
Published 45 other blog posts
Had over 17,000 views from over 9,000 visitors
A second Reading Retreat – (this week, so expect a blog post to follow)
A holiday to Catalunya with my friend
Hopefully attending the next author/blogger meet up in Stoke
Going to Powys for 2 weeks with my OH
Back to Harrogate for the 2019 Crime Writing Festival
I’ve got Five on Friday’s covered off (hopefully) until June
My reading is definitely improving, though the reviews are proving a little slower (I forget very quickly)
Visiting the Charles Rennie Mackintosh exhibition in Liverpool
Sorry if this feels a bit gloaty, that wasn’t the intention. I’m just very thankful and grateful to be able to get out and about again. Especially as I still can’t drive myself anywhere. Before my diagnosis Harrogate had been my first bookish event. I hadn’t attended any blogger meet ups or publisher events as I didn’t feel I had the confidence to attend things on my own. My blog, as I said before, in many ways has been my saviour, it helped keep me sane and gave me focus. In addition the support and comfort I received from authors, readers and the blogging community was immense. It made me feel accepted and I felt like a real blogger for the first time and while I’m still good at hiding I am getting better at putting myself out there. So if you’re still here at this point, thanks for all your support and apologies for the book haul posts which always end up costing you money.
I’ll leave you with a picture from the last author blogger meet up in Stoke (February 2019). This is me with author Graeme Cumming who I originally met at my very first Harrogate outing (so Boris was with me but we didn’t know him as such then). Apart from the extra weight (mine, not Graeme’s) this could easily have been taken at Harrogate way back in 2017 so that’s a fair indication that all is well on the way to being back on track as well as neatly bringing things full circle.