My life – an update

I’ve not updated since June and so this is a much longer blog than usual, in fact one of the longest I think I’ve ever written, so apologies for that. But it’s been a very eventful year, so if you do want to know what I’ve been up to, do get yourself a cup of tea and buckle up for a long read!

My last blog post was in June. I’d had a great couple of weeks at An Talla Dearg at Eilean Iarmain Hotel on the Isle of Skye and then, as is so often the case, experienced a few weeks of low creative energy. Then I went and dog sat for my daughter so she and her partner could have a well earned holiday and explored the outskirts of Glasgow, then I enjoyed spending time with both my children this summer when they came to visit us.

In August I painted and made cards and Christmas decorations and started to get ready for an Open Studios event, due to take place at the end of September in my area, with plans to attend some Christmas craft fairs, to submit work to several exhibitions and to reopen my Etsy shop in October. I also continued to be involved in a community garden project and planned to run a 4 week botanical art session at the Howard Doris Centre, a wonderful local community facility. It was great to be so involved with local volunteers, beginning to grow some vegetables and gather feedback to work towards creating community growing spaces.

We worked together to hold a Harvest Festival event, to celebrate a successful six month long pilot project, where we swapped plants, shopped at a pop up with Blythswood, collected for a foodbank and ate home baking.

Then I got a stomach ache

First of all I thought it was an IBS or Diverticular flare-up, but it didn’t go away after five days I was still in pain and then it got worse.

My GP was fantastic and, when the pain became really bad, he and our lovely locum, who used to work at an A&E Department gave me an intrevenous pain killer and arranged for me to be admitted to the surgical ward at my nearest hospital, Raigmore in Inverness. Within an hour of me arriving they discovered that I had very high levels of infection in my liver and had started me on broad spectrum antibiotics in order to reduce the infection and diagnosed me with probable Colitis. They sent me for a CT scan at 8 o’clock that (Saturday) night and then, just after midnight they sent me for another scan and I began to realise that something was really wrong.

By 8.30 am the next morning. I had been futher diagnosed with a very large sarcoma (tumour) and the bottom had fallen out of my world.

I will never forget having to ring my husband and tell him and my mother and sister. Nick had the job of telling our children, his brother and our friends. I will never forget how awful we felt and how scary it all was.

This is the bit when I stop the narrative to give a an explanation of where I live and the special circumstances that are particular to those of us who live in the Highlands.

Our local surgery is excellent, outstanding, I cannot praise them highly enough. They are our first port of call and they have never let us (as a family or as a village) down. Raigmore is also excellent. I had my babies there 30 years ago, I’ve had previous Cancer screenings and been taken there as an emergency with internal bleeding after a car accident 20 years ago, but it is 60 miles away on mostly country roads, some of which are single track. There is an air ambulance service for those who are major emergencies and there is always the possibility, if a diagnosis is a complex one (which mine was), that a patient might be transferred to Aberdeen or Glasgow or Edinburgh.

That weekend, I didn’t know if that would happen to me, certainly, if the antibiotics hadn’t worked I would have probably been transferred. But they did work and I was sent home and travelled back and forth over the next few weeks for tests, scans and a biopsy.

The sort of Sarcoma that I apparently had is very rare, so there is no dedicated team at Raigmore and we knew really early on that I would have to go to Glasgow for an operation.

Then, for the next few months all we could do was wait.

The Sarcoma was confirmed to be pretty large, approximately 20cms, but apparently Sarcomas tend to be very slow growing and mine had probably been there for several years and it had only been found because it had finally become large enough to impact my stomach and colon and started to interfere with digestion. It therefore wasn’t as urgent as it might have been if it had been a more aggressive form of Cancer.

Then came the best news that we’d had for weeks. The tumour was low grade and almost certainly benign. I would still need a major operation, I would still need to go to Glasgow for that, but things did not seem as bleak or as uncertain as they had been.

This time, the time of waiting, was when my husband and I came to realise how blessed we are. My children both live in the central belt, so we had somewhere to stay and my husband would not be alone while I was in hospital. We also found out how lucky we were to have such wonderful family members and friends and neighbours. We were overwhelmed with the kindness and support that we received. We tried hard to live in the moment. I worked to get as fit as possible after the colitis incident with walking and exercise with a lovely local lady who runs classes in fitness and zumba. We tried to take joy in the moment and in each other. My husband spent time with his lovely music group friends and I spent time with the garden group when I was well enough and I went out sketching with the some of my artist pals.

We didn’t have the best summer this year, it was cold and wet, unlike just about everywhere else on the planet! But the autumn was lovely and we managed to get out almost every week. Again, I felt so blessed. I have such wonderful friends and the weather and the beauty of my surroundings helped me keep positive and as fit as possible

Eventually we were given a date for the operation, 30th November 2022 and I decided that I wanted to feel a wee bit of normality before I went away. So I did my Christmas shopping and I decided to open my Etsy shop and remind myself that I am still an artist, and why I do what I do.

So for three weeks I took photos and uploaded some of the paintings that I’d done over the summer months and even made some new work and it was glorious. It was great to talk art, to wrap up wee parcels and send them off to folk and to concentrate on what I love for a week or so.

But all too quickly it was time for the operation.

I was in hospital for 9 days in the end. and away from home for two and a half weeks. We had travelled down prior to the operation and I had pre-op tests before being admitted for the operation and then, after discharge, I rested for several days before travelling home, a journey which usually takes more than five hours.

At every step of the last four months I have been supported and cared for by the NHS. Every single member of staff, without exception has been absolutely wonderful. The technicians who did the tests, the nurses and doctors and auxiliaries who cared for me. The Macmillan nurse who answered my questions. The wonderful surgeon who operated, who discussed every step with me before the operation and who came to visit when it was all over. In what was the scariest and most challenging period of my life I was incredibly blessed to be able to rely on an incredible jewel of an organisation.

I’ve been home now for just over two weeks and, four weeks after the proceedure I’m on the mend. It was indeed a very large operation but it was apparently completely successful and I have an excellent chance of staying Cancer free in the future.

But, you can’t go through an experience like that without being changed. As I have already said. I feel so very blessed to have such wonderful friends and neighbours, I am very grateful for my wonderful husband and family and so very, very grateful that the worst did not happen.

At the moment I’m too sore to make art. I do miss it, but I’m just not well enough yet. I also get very tired. I am still enjoying and finding inspiration in the art of others and if you’d like to get in touch with me please do, either through my website or through my various social media platforms – I would love to hear from you.

I am so very grateful to everyone for the care and support that I received. I am so lucky that I know I will be well again, hopefully by the spring and hopefully able to take part in the things I that I have planned.

Thanks to every one who has bought or shared my art this year. Thanks to my friends and neighbours, to my family and to the wonderful NHS for getting me through this enormous challenge. I do not yet know what will come out of this experience for me. I do know that it has changed me and really made me appreciate how very lucky I am. I look forward to returning to my studio as soon as I am able and I wish you all a good year in 2023.

10 thoughts on “My life – an update

  1. I’m so sorry that you’ve been through so much and hope that 2023 will restore you to full health. So here’s wishing for you and your loved ones a happy and healthy new year

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  2. Hi Cindie I had no idea you were ill so this makes revelatory reading. So sorry as I may have been able to help with talk if nothing else. I am here if you want to have a chat some time as the year develops. Meanwhile – every good wish to you and yours for the amazingly wonderful 2023 about to unfold Hugs and more hugs, Jean (Stewart) 07484355039

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  3. Oh Cindie, I had no clue you were going thru all of this. Im so glad your surgery was successful and you are on the mend. If you ever get bored, just call me on Whatsapp – it doesn’t matter what time it is! We need to have a Bizan reunion! 💕 Stay beautiful, my sweet friend!

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