Sunday, December 25, 2011

With love at Christmas

Merry Christmas to you all. Thank you for sharing my life on this blog.

Friday, December 23, 2011

He helps

Morpheus loves to sit and watch me as I'm working. If I'm not careful, he sneaks on to the table and will sit on whatever I happen to be gluing or colouring. So I have to keep an eye on him.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Traditions at Christmas

As we grow up, families change, and somehow old traditions aren't quite the same any more. Christmas is a hard time for us all but this year we have been doing a few more things that I hope will become traditions - like baking.

Monday, December 19, 2011


How could I forget? I know I am posting my pages way behind schedule, but I can't believe I left this one out.

I think I was saving it for a special post all of its own. Because I'm pretty pleased with this self-portrait illustration. Not a bad representation (and in fact it's exactly what I am wearing right now). Last year's self-portrait page was quite miserable, really, so it's lovely to do something positive.

Journalling Christmas

Behind the scenes, I've been working away on my Christmas journal. I've never done a book in this format before and I really love it. The space for writing is just about the right size, and I'm finding that as I go on, I'm getting more and more creative with the pages. It's also giving me the chance to practice a few techniques that I might not use on a normal scrapbook page.

Day 5: counting down. Mindy bought me an advent calendar! What a sweetie.

Day 6: I'm pretty sure that last year I moaned about moving house at this time of year, as well. It's not my fault! But every move I've ever made has been in either November, December or January. Last year felt like a real anti-Christmas because I couldn't be bothered to decorate a house I was leaving. This year, I feel much more 'at home' and have really enjoyed making my house beautiful for the season.

Day 7: Traditionally a day for creating a to-do list of all the things that still have to be done before the big day. But yes, this year I'm feeling pretty smug. Because I thought I was going to be either in hospital or recuperating from my surgery, I made sure that I had done almost everything before I went in (yes that was pretty stressful). So when the surgery turned out to be much easier than I was expecting, and the stay in hospital much shorter than I was dreading, it meant I got to come home and relax because pretty much everything is done.

I'm using a mix of hand lettering and stickers in this journal, whatever I feel like at the time. I used to do lots of calligraphy and hand-drawn letters (anyone who went to middle school with me will remember the lessons in how to draw perfect bubble letters). I think my discovery of scrapbooking products and the multitude of stamps, letter stickers and chipboard alphabets made me feel that my lettering wasn't quite up to scratch. I like how it works in this journal, though, and it's great to have a space to play.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Just like that, it was gone

I mentioned a couple of posts back that I had been preparing for my fourth surgery on 1 December. Was that really two and a half weeks ago?

My first surgery was on 20 December 2009. I had been admitted as an emergency after the tumour that was almost completely blocking my bowel decided to finish the job, and block it completely. There are no words that can tell you how much pain I was in at this time. It was painful to eat, to move, to do anything...excruciating pain that left me doubled up in pain and in tears. I had been in so much pain for the previous few months, and this felt like the peak of agony. I was expecting to have an ileostomy when they did the main surgery to remove my tumour, but that wasn't planned for another six months. When the surgeon suggested doing the ileostomy early, to give me a chance to get through the chemotherapy and to give my bowel a rest, my first reaction was relief. At last.

The surgery did not go well, and the surgeons had to do it again. 2009 was the Christmas I spent in hospital. Having something like an ileostomy is so strange that it is very hard to know how to deal with it mentally. It had been explained to me beforehand, but it wasn't until the nurse came round to mark my tummy that I fully understood what it was - and I was horrified. A piece of my bowel poking out of my tummy? Could it be any worse?

And yet...despite the mental somersaults required to get my head around biggest feeling was relief. The relief of being able to eat. The relief of not being in constant pain. The relief of not spending all my time being sick. Throughout the chemotherapy that followed, and the radiotherapy after that...I could only be grateful for what I had, rather than hating my stoma for what it was. Since then, I think I've coped pretty well with life as an ostomist. You see, I even got a label. There are societies and online forums full of people to talk to. I got a special nurse at the hospital. I got into a routine with washing/changing my bag, I found things I was comfortable to wear, and discovered that I could eat pretty much anything without any problems.

Two and a half weeks ago, I went back to hospital to have my ileostomy closed. This was my third date for surgery, but the first time I felt even able to do it. No-one was able to tell me what it would be like - 'every patient is different'. I was very scared, and perfectly willing to live with a stoma for the rest of my life. Why change something that works, right? The thing that changed my mind, ultimately, was that I developed a hernia around my stoma, which was starting to cause a lot of painful problems. The surgery would fix that as I might as well go for it and try the closure. If it really didn't work, my surgeon promised he would give me an ileostomy again.

After having something for two years, it is very hard to adjust to it being gone. I keep stroking my tummy to check - and remembering that it's gone. Every time I go to the bathroom, I go to empty the bag - and then remember that it's gone. It is a very strange feeling. I have had two years of fighting cancer, and my stoma was in some ways a label, a badge of courage. Proof of what I have been through and the effect it has had on my life. Losing it in some ways feels a little bit like being cut adrift. I am not fighting cancer any more. I am living a life after cancer. I spent two years waiting for this moment and now that I'm here - I hardly know what to do.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

More to say than I realised

This journal is just under 6x8 inches, and when I got it I wondered if I'd have enough to say to fill in each page.

To get me started (and because I hate a blank book) I went through and painted some borders and backgrounds on some of the pages. Not having a definite 'plan' makes me slightly nervous, so if I can just go for it and get something on the page it makes me feel better. Even if I cover it up with paper later.

We haven't had any snow this year - yet. This time last year everywhere was white, but we've had an unusually mild winter so far. The cold has kicked in now, though - I've even had to put the winter duvet on the bed.

Last year, I made my Christmas cards and everyone was suitably impressed. The thing with that was - I made them before I went back to work. This year, I knew I would be back at work full time (although I didn't know I would be going for surgery) so I went shopping in the January sales and bought some lovely cards to use instead. Then I volunteered to help with making the cards that Gran will be sending. Colouring, cuttting, sticking....card making is not my favourite thing to do. My friends will still be getting the shop-bought cards!

When I went slap-happy with the paint, I didn't do every page. This is one of the ones I left, and I just trimmed some paper to make a border top and bottom, and added one of the toppers I've used on Gran's cards. I don't think I need to worry about not having enough to write!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Catching up

How many years does it take before something becomes a tradition?

I first did Journal Your Christmas in 2007, and it's strange to look at all the changes in my life since then. Last year's album is pretty special, and is currently sitting on the table beside me. Fun to flick through.

I wasn't sure if I would manage it this year. The last few weeks have been quite hectic as I prepared for my fourth (and hopefully final) bout of surgery on 1 December. The surgery went really well, and I was home much quicker than I expected to be. I now have a few weeks off work to recover, so I guess I have no excuse for not doing another Christmas journal, right?

This year I decided to do a sort-of art journal - no photos, just writing and drawing and maybe some illustrations if I felt like it. I chose a simple sketchbook, grabbed a few scraps of Christmas paper, and now I'm catching up. It feels really special to be facing the season on my way to completely full health. It's been a long time coming.