Tag Archives: cancer

Can you hear me mother?


I have just discovered I have a second cousin I knew nothing about. He lives in Ireland on the west coast I think, which is somewhere I have wanted to visit ever since I watched Ryan`s Daughter, it is such beautiful countryside and coast.  Looking at his posts on Facebook, it has been interesting to see that although we have led entirely different lives, our politics are definitely on the same page.  So I`m nicking all his posts, as you do, thanks Paul.

Going to visit Ireland is on my bucket list. Having survived the dreaded banana last year, I can`t wait now to retire and start seeing some of the places I have always wanted to travel to.  Especially as life delivered me a bit of a blow yesterday. It all started so innocently……..

I went to get my ears checked at hospital. I`​ve had to wear hearing aids for a year or so as my colleagues had made so many jokes out of my misunderstanding stuff they had said to me, here`s an example;

Colleague: “Would you like a cup of tea?”

Me: “Tuesday at ten thirty.”

The doctor checked my ear. He wasn`t gifted in being pleasant or engaging, actually I have encountered paving slabs with more people skills so when the words slipped out from his tongue, I was somewhat unprepared.  “I need you to have a brain scan,” he said. I enquired why. “Because there may be something going on in your brain that is placing pressure on your middle ear and creating the feeling of your ear being blocked.”

“Like a tumour?”

“Yes, it`s very rare but we cannot rule it out.”

Now this man was unaware of my recent experience, so I said, “I had cancer last year.” I don`t even know why I told him to be honest because all he said was, “What kind?” and I said, “Breast cancer,” and he said, “Oh.” Then he told me I would have to wait 6 to 8 weeks for an MRI scan.

I drove home feeling absolutely shattered. I stopped at Aldi and bought a gigantic steak, (I haven`t eaten meat in weeks, I am sorry cow) and a bottle of wine and went home and got quietly plastered.

In the new light of Saturday I went to see my brother Al, who has also been deaf for a long time. He had the exact same experience a number of years ago and had to wait months for his scan so he put it all into perspective for me, thanks Al.  But it has led me to pondering life, the universe and everything again and realising how tenuous it all is and as Alan Rickman commented shortly before his recent death, “we are but a moment in the chair.” So yes, I am going to Ireland and yes I am going back to India and yes I am going to return to Oz and say hello to Darwin again and yes I am going to spend every day in the present moment and cherish it.  None of us can predict what is going to happen as last night`s events in London – awful, awful stuff, so clearly demonstrate.

So second cousin Paul, put the kettle on, get me some of that seaweed that tastes like bacon would you please and see you in the not too distant future.  What?  Pardon?

Tuesday at ten thirty I think………..




Taking back the power.


I`ve been feeling rather emotional this past week, a bit weepy, a bit low and not really registering why. Then it struck me this morning as I was walking with my dog, it will be a year on Wednesday since I was diagnosed with cancer, so the light bulb came on.

In my case, after my treatment had finished and the doctor spoke to me those lovely words, “you have the all clear,” for a brief, heady few days, I felt an incredible high. It didn`t last and as I gradually came back down to earth I realised that cancer never really leaves us. I have a long way to go (five years) before I can relax a little and know I am in remission and even then, it may return. I feel sad because cancer has impacted on me so massively, I have spent so much time trying to manage my feelings, remain positive, productive, engaged with the people who I love, I don`t think I`ve given myself time to mourn the loss of who I was before this diagnosis and feel the feelings of sadness and rage for how much cancer has taken from me.

Well here`s the thing cancer; I`m taking it back.

Yesterday I was reading a post my daughter had put up on social media, I think she put it up there for me to see because it was all about those people who feel selfish when they are coping with an awfulness in their life, after all, there are so many people out there who have it so much worse. This describes exactly how I feel, it`s as though surviving cancer so far somehow means I have less right to my myriad of feelings because at least I am still here to tell the tale. The piece goes on to say, “don’t buy into it, because it’s nonsense. It doesn’t matter if someone else had it ‘worse.’ Every person who experiences a trauma deserves to get the attention and care they need to heal from it.”

So I rang Macmillan Cancer Care (love, love, love them) and they told me that they are working jointly with Relate to offer people who have had cancer some free counselling sessions. You may think of Relate as working with people who have a troubled marriage (they used to be called Marriage Guidance, do you remember?) However, Relate recognises that cancer affects all of our relationships including the one we have with our self. So I`ve booked me in for some `me` time with Relate and an opportunity to work my way through some of this shitty stuff that`s stopping me from getting on with my life in the present. I am looking forward to it and to letting go of some of this negativity, it is so unlike me.

And to my friends and family who are fighting to keep their head above the waves, not waving but feeling like they are drowning. I will get back to me and then I can give you that hand up once again as so many have offered to me over this past, really difficult year.

I would like to end on a high note so here you are, it`s a  middle C.


Yes we have no bananas!


It`s no secret, I`ve told most of my family and close friends, I had a couple of biopsies earlier this week for small lumps in my left breast, undetected by me yet discovered by a mammogram, I get the results next Monday. DON`T EVER FORGET TO GO FOR YOUR MAMMOGRAM LADIES!  Very important.

My mum had breast cancer and so did my gran` so it`s been in the back of my mind that I might also get it one day although several nurses have told me over the years that I am at no more significant risk than any other member of the population.  Honestly, I have always found that hard to believe and I`m still going to ask for genetic counselling I think, to satisfy my curiosity.

So in a strange way, I felt almost a sense of relief when I was shown my mammogram because now at last I can face it, whatever it is and deal with it. I know it might be nothing at all to worry about but I have seen the ultra sound and I`m one third of a nurse so I`m pretty sure what the results will be.  I`m only facing what thousands of women in the UK and millions all over the world face every day, united in sisterhood and occasionally, brotherhood as men can get breast cancer too.

If I have cancer then I have decided to rename it banana. In my mind this disempowers it and anyway, it makes me smile.  No offence bananas.

Some members of my family (you know who you are) have already begun singing to me;  “All my life, I`ve been a-kissing, your right breast `cos the left one`s missing…. “   which my mother also put up with when she was first diagnosed at around the same age as me. Mum continued to live out her life, minus one breast (“I was so disappointed Helen, I`ve only lost two pounds!”) irreverently, with much laughter and always surrounded by good friends and family who loved her very much so if it`s not very good news and I find out I`ve got banana, I s`pect I shall do the same. As my dear mum used to say to me, I have no intention of popping off just yet.

So – all prayers are welcome here. Any crass comments or politically incorrect jokes will not be found at all offensive, I could do with a laugh. Fingers crossed and I`ll keep you posted.



Sweet and Poetic Memories of my Sister.


This morning I received a lovely surprise in the post.  A large box filled with memories of my wonderful sister Sue, who very sadly died far too early on from lung cancer in 2007.  My sister was 60 when she died and the cancer was brought on by her life time habit of heavy smoking.  When Sue met Mandy who became her civil partner, Mandy objected so much to the smoking, Sue was banished to the garden shed where she festooned the walls with posters of Clint Eastwood and installed a comfy armchair.  There she and I would sit and Sue would smoke and we would chat and look at her very beautiful and rather eccentric garden. There was a large monkey puzzle tree in the garden and so my sister hung lots of toy monkeys purchased from local charity shops, up there in the top branches where they would swing around in the breeze and look down at us, grinning.  Another was gaily hung with sparkling CD`s, a sort of alternative Christmas tree.  Everywhere on the ground you would stumble upon small ceramic animals, hedgehogs, birds, gnomes and fairies.   The garden was filled with flowers of so many varieties; it was a burst of vivid and gorgeous colour wherever you looked and secrets hidden in every corner.

Shortly before my sister died we were talking about smoking and Sue turned to me and said, “Do you know Hel, in spite of it all I can honestly say there isn`t one cigarette I haven`t thoroughly enjoyed.”  Those of us who still miss her so much, could hardly disagree but I`d much rather she were still here.

My sister`s things were posted to me by my niece Sarah.  They had been a while coming to me because in spite of also being diagnosed with a usually much more aggressive type of cancer, Mandy had survived my sister by this much time. Sadly Mandy died too, earlier this year and now the house will be put up for sale.   Times change and all is well.

I took the box to work with me to open up when I got to my office.   This was a bit of a mistake as I instantly began blarting, but happily so, happy to receive such lovely tokens of my sisters` love.   Inside were all sorts of magical things, lots of the silver rings that Sue loved so much (thank you Sarah) silver bangles, precious photographs, a beautiful trinket dish, a glass heart.  Best of all though was a book called “Hel and Sue`s Pomes.  A Collection.”  Sue and I would pen in a few of our favourite poems, sometimes ones we had written ourselves, and then send the book to each other year on year on our birthdays and every year we would add more.  I opened it up and a photograph of my daughter Becky fell out so she must have held a special place in Sue`s heart.  the memories have come flooding back to me now that I have begun reading these wonderful poems again after such a long time.

Here are a couple of my favourites:

New Every Morning.

Every day is a fresh beginning,

Listen my soul to that glad refrain.

And, spite of old sorrows

And older sinning,

Troubles forecasted

And possible pain,

Take heart with the day and begin


Susan Coolidge  1835 – 1905

Here is one that Sue wrote:

Once when I was a child

I found the skeleton of a mouse

Buried in the vinegar scented cellar

Of my father`s shop

It was ivory – intricate,

Very beautiful

I put it into a glass jar and gave it to some-one I loved.

Perhaps we spend our lives

Offering to those we love

A fragile skeleton

Enclosed in glass

If we are lucky we note

Only hairline cracks –

Thankful that the glass does not shatter –

The skeleton remains intact.

Sue Coulson.  1947 – 2007

(I think Sue must have been using poetic license there as dad`s shop didn`t have a cellar, it did have a long entry where he stored the banana crates…..  I think it must have been here that she found the mouse skeleton)

Here`s another one Sue liked:

I would live all of my life in nonchalance

And insouciance

Were it not for making a living,

Which is rather a nouciance.

Ogden Nash.   1902 – 1971

And one of mine…..

Becky`s Rhino Rap.

Her name is Becky and she`s an Inman

And she`s got more balls than a brawny bin man

She`s a lap dancer and she`s ok

She bounces her boobs in a natural way

She shakes her ass and wiggles that butt

And she gets paid for it, for pleasing nuts!

She raises a smile

And that`s not all

She`s a funky Rhino dancer

And she`s got balls!

Helen Pitt. March 2004

(Composed following a conversation with my daughter when we pondered what it would be like to become a lap dancer.  Spearmint Rhino had just opened midst a huge furore in Birmingham)

And my favourite one of mine…..

The Song of the Lovesick Octopus.

 I want you to know dear

And understand

My heart is rich with gravity

Please slip your octopus arm in here

And fill my mantel cavity.

I want to float in the surf with you

And murmer the words, “be mine”

I am slippy and slimy and wet from the sea,

Yours fishily, just give me a sign.

 I need you to do that special trick

The one where you change your hue,

And watch as the blush spreads

Along your arms

And entangle myself with you

 And can you do your shape changer bit,

And morph into something special,

A chair, a bed, a bar of soap,

Let`s have an octopus wrestle.

 I need to swim in the brine with you

It`s hopeless, I wish you could see.

Please take me to heaven,

Wrap your legs up in mine,

And make octopus love with me.

Helen Pitt.  Valentines Day 2004.


It`s hard to believe that I wrote this poem for the Australian.  Hard to believe I once loved this man, that much.     (https://anightinwithnelly.wordpress.com/2013/04/28/a-letter-to-the-australian/)

Hey ho.  Times change and all is well.

I am ever so happy to have been given these things of my sisters and will leave this blog with a comment from my darling niece:

“The little plate I`ve sent you used to live on Ma`s side of the bed.  I really love it but I`m not really a knick-knack type of person.  It may have something to do with the fact that both my parents crammed/cram as much stuff/things/artefacts/junk/collectibles and shite into and onto every available space……..”

Well I am a knick-knack type of person Sarah and thank you again so much.  You have made my day.week/month/year.       🙂