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Calm After The Storm? Of course not!

It's been a while since I updated this blog and that's because of a combination of apathy and waiting for something upbeat to share. The former is still lurking and the latter, sadly elusive... When I completed my treatment I expected to have euphoria and an instant return of energy and a decline in pain - sadly those hopes were dashed and, even 3 months on, I am struggling with the side effects, both physically and emotionally. My personal situation has had a huge impact on how I am feeling, as the saga of selling my cottage and moving permanently to by near my son in Chichester progressed into complete collapse. Now, on the first day of 2024, I find myself back in North Wales, not where I hoped to be this time last year. With all the terrible conflict and humanitarian distress in the world, I feel guilty bemoaning the fact that I have a roof over my head, good friends and family and safety and security, but everything is relative and I feel unstable and cast adrift from the life I envisaged. So what am I doing about my malaise? Those who know me well will credit me with huge reserves of resilience and determination, so I am drawing on those strengths and reframing my situation. The image above is representative of one benefit of moving back to the cottage - I have my art studio set up again and my therapy is, once again, playing with paint! One thing not to be underestimated is the joy and solace of creativity. I knew when I was nearing the point in my #BloodyCancer journey that I would need chemotherapy that I would need something to sustain me and give me a purpose, other than staying alive - art is my escape and a way to express how I am feeling. The process of selecting the substrate, colour palette and technique and envisioning an end result helps me to cope with the pain, fatigue and solitude. Seeing something emerge which is true to my vision is exciting and very satisfying - when others appreciate it too, I feel energised and connected. The painting above is called 'Beat of the Drum' and it was snapped up by a long-term collector of my art. Spending time in my studio has been one of the major ways in which I have reframed my response to the failure of moving home - I count my blessings that I have such a space.

Once I had seized the benefits of having my studio again, I set to work on giving my body the best chance of recovery, as trying to achieve big life goals is nigh-on impossible with poor health. One of the very distressing side effects of the treatment has been a dramatic loss of Folic Acid, which has resulted in terrible peripheral neuropathy in my extremities. My toes are now permanently numb and my fingertips have lost most of their sensation (which makes fine brushwork a real faff!). It is not possible to reverse these side effects, but my GP prescribed daily Folic Acid and B12 tablets to stabilise and slow down the progression and it's working. Some days I stumble and fumble badly enough to decide to get myself a personal alarm, so that, if I fall and cannot get up, help will be on its way - this will give me and Charlie some peace of mind at least. My pain management regime is making the long-bone pain bearable (just about anyway) and my appetite is stable enough for me to eat at least one decent meal a day - whether I am well enough to face an hour in the kitchen preparing fresh food is a different matter, so when I have a rare moment of motivation, I batch cook something tasty and that means I always have something healthy in the freezer which I can microwave. When one has to contend with any chronic illness, making hay (or Cornish Pasties!) while the figurative sun shines is imperative. When I was first diagnosed with leukaemia, I was told that I would have between 5 and 10 years to live and, in April, I will have exceeded expectations, but that milestone date will be bittersweet, as from 14th of that month, I will feel like I am living on borrowed time. The impact of that could go one of two ways: either spur me on to make the most of every day (what my head and heart want me to do), or feel scared and defeated (what my body wants of me). Of course, I will do everything I can to survive and thrive, drawing on the former, but I know from the last year that this will not be without a struggle, as the latter once again gathers its lymphocyte troops and attacks me to the point of requiring my second-line treatment. My hope has to be that the progression of my cancer is as slow as possible and regular active monitoring (or the terribly named medical term of being on Watch and Wait - more like Wait and Worry!) by the Haematology Team will ensure the progression is tracked.

In every blog post to date, I have ended on a positive and this one will be no exception! Despite failing to move into my new home on the South Coast and finding myself once again so far from Charlie, I wasn't alone over the festive period. Indeed, I had one of the best Christmases in my 59 years! Charlie and his partner, Ioan, made the long trip up to spend 5 days with me, as did my sister, Jane. With adrenaline and the love of family proving to be the best pain relief, I enjoyed every second and will cherish the memories for ever. New Year's Eve was a quite different experience - I spent it alone, with a movie and homemade Bailey's cheesecake (do ask for the recipe, it's absolutely delicious and dangerously moreish!) for company. However, I was content to have time to reflect and plan for an exciting 2024. I've stopped making resolutions because I invariably disappoint myself, so instead, I have a mind map of goals. Not dissimilar to last year, it involves selling my cottage, buying a new home in Chichester, being close to Charlie, managing my health and continuing to develop my art practice. It feels rather like Groundhog Day, but I'm a very stubborn woman and I am determined to end my days where I want to be, with whom I want to be with and doing what I want to do. I've not got many of the resources I once took for granted, but I do have optimism and courage and that's enough for me.

Wishing you all a special year ahead in which you achieve your dreams, smile a great deal, have fun adventures and enjoy good health. The painting on the right (Bird of Paradise) is one I loved creating and which is now in the home of a friend who deserved a reason to smile each morning, having re-shaped her life to escape a difficult relationship. It symbolises joy and the flow of life, something we all need to pursue with vigour, because without it, life is tough and, although at times that is to be expected, we mostly have the capacity to find that joy and go with the flow with a smile on our faces! Happy 2024, folks!

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Lynn Harris
Lynn Harris
Jan 01

Thanks for posting some of your paintings Angela - they are amazing! When we worked together I had no idea you had that hidden talent. It seems crass to wish you a Happy New Year with everything you are facing. But I do wish you success in selling your cottage so you can be near to Charlie. Much love, Lynn xx

Jan 01
Replying to

Thank you so much, Lynn! I have always done some form of art or being creative, it's a shame I didn't pursue it as a career, but I am happy enough to indulge myself in the twilight of my life. I am feeling much more optimistic after writing this blog post, as I read it back to myself and it all makes sense. The blog is as much as a personal diary as it is to share what life with cancer is like, to help others. I wish you a very fulfilling, happy and successful 2024 and thank you for keeping in touch, Angela xx


About Me


Hi, I'm Angela, also known as 'Space Angel ‘, on Twitter and 'Snakey' to my family (both monikers require a long story to explain!). I'm 58 and the proud mum of Charlie, my 26-year-old son. I live alone in my cottage in Llanrhaeadr Ym Mochnant, a beautiful village in the Tanat Valley in North Wales, and the location of the tallest waterfall in Wales.


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