Friday, 30 September 2016

A sombre moment

I’ve been in rather sombre mood since our return from France – hardly that surprising in view of our medical news. But now the time has come to tell you a little about our holidays. I thought I would start by telling about the sombre part of our holiday, which gave us cause to stop & think, & still has an impact on our consciousness.

One of our first trips away from Annecy was to the Plateau des Glières, followed on the next day to the Nécropole Nationale des Glières & the Musée de la Résistance en Haute-Savoie. In both cases the activities of the French Resistance were described & commemorated.

The Plateau des Glières is the site of where so many Resistance fighters hid out during the Second World War. It was also the area prepared to receive plane-loads of armaments, medicines etc. from Britain to help them in that resistance. Eventually, in 1944, after Vichy security forces had failed to do so, the Germans sent in a force of 10,000 soldiers to try to wipe out the 465 besieged resistance members. Needless to say, many of the Frenchmen were killed. Now, a huge commemorative monument, a V for victory, stands in their memory.

The tale of those who resisted

V for victory

The plateau itself is a beautiful spot. Many hikers were clearly preparing for walks around the area. The most amazing thing was the constant tinkle of cowbells. I thought when we were in Austria last year, I would have the songs of “The Sound of Music” in my ears, but no, it was here, that I heard Julie Andrews singing “The hills are alive with the sound of music.” They were indeed.

The following day we went on to the Nécropole Nationale. Here the bodies of those who had died on that plateau, were brought & buried after the war.

Necropole National des Glieres

Just one young man
We have never visited any war graves. It is sobering to see so many graves of so many young people. It brings home the cost of war so more graphically than the war memorials we have in this country. We just have names on a list, no doubt these people were important to those who knew them, but now they seem remote. These graves for so many people just teenagers/early 20s made you realise just how many were killed, what a price they’d had to pay.
The Musee de la Resistance en Haute-Savie (Morette)

We then went into the Resistance museum. Here we were shown a film, fortunately subtitled in English, which gave you a fuller context. Life on that plateau must have been harsh. You saw the men disappearing thigh deep in the winter snows, trying to move the weaponry to safer ground, men wearing little more than socks on their feet. Food & medicine was also in short supply, though morale was high. As young men attained manhood they were given the option of joining the Vichy security forces or being sent to Germany to do war work. Many disappeared instead to the plateau to fight the Germans instead. Anyone so much as suspected of helping & abetting the resistance forces were killed – whole families, children as well. Those few who survived the battle of 1944 & were subsequently captured, were sent off to the concentration camps of Belsen etc. to starve to death.

The thing that surprised me, is that it hadn’t occurred to me is that all this had happened so far south in France, in what was then Vichy France. I’ve watched numerous war movies featuring the resistance & yet I somehow placed it happening much further north.

The other thing is that it explains why there still is a lot of anti-German feeling in this area. Is it surprising when so many people must have had their family members - parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins - killed, tortured, sent to concentration camps. It is still within easy living memory. My father was in the Navy during the war. One uncle was in a prisoner of war camp for much of the time. Others fought. Fortunately none were killed, the worst injury being a broken toe. How much harder it would have been if they had been brutally killed as these people were.

Thursday, 29 September 2016

Fresh food at last

We finally got to the supermarket yesterday. It’s wonderful to have fresh veg & fruit in at last. We’ve been existing on what was in the freezer since our return. It is with a certain degree of joy that, this morning, I got down to making a Bolognese sauce, full of mushrooms & tomatoes as well as the minced beef, to have with spaghetti & garlic bread this evening.

The fruit is the 5 beautifully red apples from our tree. We’re really thrilled by them. The baby tree was planted a couple of years ago. Last year it didn’t fruit, still settling in to its new environment I think. This year there are 5 apples. Next year? Who knows?

While we were in France, the apples seem to have doubled in size as well as getting ever redder. Yesterday I noticed one had dropped, landing in the divide between branches. I tried the others. They all came off easily in my hands so should be ripe. They’re eaters so I’m looking forward to trying them.

The activities since we have been home have overshadowed our holidays, but I promise I will get around to writing about them. At the moment all I’m going to say is we spent 10 days in Annecy in a hotel beside the lake of that name, followed by a week in Chamonix under the shadow of Mont Blanc, the highest peak in the Alps.


Lake Annecy

Chamonix with Mont Blanc behind

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

The results

The news is as feared. I do have breast cancer.

We were at the hospital for 4 hours yesterday. First I was given the results of the previous biopsy. It is cancer. It is a Grade 3 tumour, which is the most aggressive form. I will need an operation to remove it. However, they needed further tests to determine how far it has spread. There are several cysts in my breast that may also be cancerous. At the moment the lymph glands look good so hopefully the cancer hasn’t spread to other parts of my body. A few sentinel nodes will be removed during the operation & checked.

So after this news we then waited until I had another ultrasound, further biopsies taken (from the cysts this time), a piece of titanium inserted to mark the spot & another mammogram taken just to check the titanium marker was in the right spot.

Now I wait another week for the results. Hopefully by then we will know whether I will need just a small piece of my breast removed or the whole lot. I will also be given an appointment to meet the surgeon & his specialist nurse who will be available at all times to give me any practical information or just emotional support I need throughout the process. The op will probably take place in Kendal.

Meanwhile I’ve been given an enormous wodge of reading matter, most of which seems irrelevant until we know the sort of op I will need, & what further treatment – radiotherapy, chemotherapy, hormonal, drugs – I may require after the op. Some of the info is just superfluous for me e.g. claiming benefits, as I already get as many benefits as I can because of my existing disability.

So now we wait, yet again. I’m grateful that we did have such a good holiday to set us up for the ordeal ahead.

I suppose I’ve lived most of my life with cancer lurking in the background. My gran, who lived with us at the time, died of throat cancer when I was about 7. My mother died of pancreatic cancer. Various uncles, aunts & cousins have all had cancer.

My mother knew cancer was common in our family & stressed on me from an early age, if ever there are tests for cancer in the future, take them. I’m glad I did. It was only by having a smear test that I discovered I had cervical cancer in 2000. I duly had a hysterectomy & have been clear ever since.

This time, I’ve only discovered the cancer due to taking up the offer of a mammogram. It’s not that I feel unwell. Hopefully this time, too, it’s been found early enough for my chances of survival to be good. We’ll see.