Happy January

Well Happy New Year everyone, or it’s probably Happy January now that all the festivities are long over and well behind us. I hope you all had a wonderful time and enjoyed a rest with some quiet family time.

For me, a New Year always brings thoughts of what may lie ahead and wondering what may be in store both for me and my family. A whole new fresh year waiting in front of you can feel so exciting.

We enjoyed a lovely December and Christmas and that’s partly because there were total zero hospital stays. Anyone who has been following my blog over the years will know that December or Christmas seems to guarantee a bed in hospital for me at some point. This has happened ever since I was diagnosed with Pulmonary Hypertension and continued on after my transplant except for the second year after my transplant. Eight out of the nine last December’s has been marred by this, so this year I can safely say two out of ten have now been hospital free and I am so pleased and relieved about this. Hopefully this is a sign the pattern is being broken. I hope so.

It has meant that I’ve had a strong start to the New Year, so I’ve been trying hard to keep as active as I can. It can be difficult with lungs that function at less then fifty per cent, but in colder weather it can be even harder, especially if there is a cold wind. I’ve been trying to get outside as much as I can though and walk at my own pace as far as I can manage. I see my walking as vital to keeping my heart and lungs as healthy and stable as they can be, so keep pushing this within my limits. We’ve had some beautiful January days and it’s always uplifting and good for the soul to see some sunshine and go for a walk outdoors.

We were in the Lake District in early January and were blessed with a couple of days of beautiful sunshine. We were able to get out and about with the cameras, taking lots of photos and enjoying all the magnificent views and some lovely walks. It was bitter cold, but it can feel refreshing and invigorating to wrap up warm and cosy and just go with whatever the weather is doing. The weather is also an excuse to warm up and rest with a hot coffee in cosy cafes and eat warm comforting food in a pub with a roaring log fire!

And New Year resolutions? I know many people use the start of the year to make resolutions. This year, I haven’t bothered, that doesn’t mean I don’t care about things and have lost interest or anything or don’t want to try anything new; in fact it’s the total opposite. I just want to keep on doing all I’ve been doing, which involves spending time with my family, catching up with friends, travelling and visiting places old and new, continuing our work with the Papworth Transplant Support Group and the hospital and keeping up my photography, reading, writing and working on my second book. The list is probably endless and being mum and grandma is a big priority for me nowadays, so not much point in adding New Year resolutions to my list of ‘to dos’.

We have lots planned over the next few months – it’s always great to have lovely things to look forward to. Before January ends we have Burns Night and Freddie’s second birthday celebrations, yes he’s going to be two very soon. Where has the time gone? Then we have more birthday celebrations and a family wedding in February. March is a huge month and life will change again as ‘grand baby’ number two is expected. Life feels very busy, busy, busy and seems set to continue so, which is just how I like it.

I was back at Transplant clinic last week, I managed to go the whole two months without needing to phone up and visit clinic, which has been a first in a very long time. We were all pleased with this, my consultant included. Everything is looking fairly stable and my consultant decided that my ‘winter’ anti-biotic nebulisers should become a permanant part of my daily meds rather than just for winter. It’s a way of keeping the incurable pneumonia in my lungs at bay and it does seem to be helping so far. I’m happy with that and very pleased things are relatively stable. I have to go back in another two months and they are arranging a few extra tests just to investigate the breathlessness further and ensure they are on top of things.

I think that’s all my January news so far, it’s been a little while since I’ve posted as I decided to have a little break over the festive period and cut back on the social media for a while. I hope you’ve all had a good start to the New Year and have lots of things planned and to look forward to.

Thanks for reading as always and Happy January to you all…

A Favourite View

We were lucky enough to spend a few days in the Lake District earlier last week and amongst some very rainy, wet and cold days we were fortunate to enjoy some glorious winter sunshine. We decided to drive up to the Western Lakes and spend some time exploring around Coniston Water.

I say ‘explore’ but it is a favourite area of ours, probably my most favourite spot, so we know it quite well. Whatever time of year we visit, the views are always stunning. When we arrived on this particular day, the views took our breath away though. It was a still morning and the waters were calm, the sky very blue and the bright winter sunshine was reaching through the bare trees casting both light and shadows at tbe same time. The reflections of the mountains and trees in the blue and black pools of water were amazing.

We were the only people there, so very different from the crowds and the heat of summer. During the hot summer, the meadows here were full of families picnicking and the lake was busy with kayacks, canoes and swimmers. The small car park was packed full to the brim with cars. On this day there was nothing but peace. We were able to quietly amble around and soak up the views, Ted ran safely off lead and explored the meadows and splashed in the water.

I couldn’t quite make my mind up, ‘When was this place at its most loveliest?’ When you are swimming or kayaking in the lake, in the heat of summer, the skies blue with large fluffy clouds hovering over the mountain tops or on this peaceful, crisp winter day, which offered nature at its most magnificent and calm?

Here’s to November

We start November and I feel that cringe deep inside about those long, cold winter months ahead and those shorter days and longer nights. I also have that fear of more bugs and hospital, which seem to have become a bit of a winter tradition in my life as much as Christmas is. As we move nearer to winter time, I find myself needing some motivation and inspiration to conjure up of all those good things about these darker months.

On the health front, I’ve had my flu jab and I’m on preventative measures to help my lungs over winter. I’m at clinic for checks every few weeks. I’m trying to keep fit, rest, eat well and avoid the bugs where I can. I know I’m as prepared and ready as can be, so it’s just a case of one step at a time and taking each day as it comes and fingers crossed to stay in good health.

As for the rest, the start of November has been such a pleasant surprise. It has been very cold compared to the milder temperatures we’ve had recently, but some of the days have been so glorious and sunny that we’ve wrapped up warm and been out and about in the countryside. We’ve been enjoying all what remains of the stunning autumn scenery – those golden trees and leaves against brilliant blue skies and fluffy, high clouds.

It’s scenes like this that have reminded me that the winter months can be just as much fun as those of summer and have me thinking of all the positive things to look forward to.

It’s lovely to dig out those warm winter coats and woollies, those snuggly scarves, hats and gloves in anticipation of cold, crisp walks with our dog, Ted. Those walks on a Sunday while a roast is cooking in the oven. The warm house and delicious smells when you return.

If you don’t want to cook, a country pub with a roaring log fire is hard to beat. I remember walking into a pub high up in the hills on our way back from Christmas shopping in Bowness last year. We were the first to arrive at lunch time and were given a huge welcome and told to sit by the fire – it was a perishing cold day. They piled more logs on the stove for us and we warmed ourselves while we waited for a delicious hot lunch.

Then there’s preparing hearty winter dishes for dinner, cosy dinners by candlelight and cosy nights by the fire with the curtains all drawn. The dog by my feet – or more often than not snuggled up beside me. Soft cosy clothes, socks and slippers. A cold and dark night is a great excuse to wrap up under a blanket in favourite chair and read or indulge in watching a box set or two. Of course, scented candles are a complete ‘must’ and that’s after a long pampering soak in a hot bath.

Then there are the glorious sunrises and sunsets to enjoy – the sunrises are late enough to catch a glimpse of when you wake up on a winter morning and the sun sets nice and early and well before bed time. Then the excitement of waking up to fogs, mists, heavy frost or snow – not so exciting if you have to go to work or travel – but beautiful if you can watch from inside and go about your day without the hazards to worry about.

Then there’s the glamour and glitz of ‘Strictly’ – now a recognised winter staple – the sparkly costumes, the fabulous dancing as we move through Halloween, Bonfire Night and towards Christmas.

Christmas – it’s probably the biggest most excitable thing looming as we step into November. November is the time I usually finish off buying all the presents and start the wrapping in readiness for December. I love a Winter Market or a Christmas Market. We’ve even managed to visit one already last week at Holker Hall and it was such a perfect sunny day – beautiful stalls with an assortment of wonderful goodies, warming pit fires, a live jazz band and delicious hot food and drinks.

I love the build up to Christmas – the anticipation, the preparations and then the actual festivities and day itself. Christmas shopping, Christmas carols, Christmas concerts and Christmas parties.

Well, I think I’ve found enough lovely things to think of for now to inspire and enjoy myself until January at least! What do you enjoy about the winter months?

Happy November everyone!

That Was August…

The days of August have flown so quickly. I think it’s because we’ve been so busy just enjoying life and the exceptional weather.

During the first few weeks we were away in the Lake District and then we had a week in south west Scotland. We experienced a wide range of weather from thirty degrees heat, to rain and stormy winds and then very pleasant sunny and cooler weather, which I enjoy most as I can breathe better and be more active.

We really tried to ‘pack it in’ and live those long summer days to the fullest, getting out and about from morning til dusk and visiting interesting places and catching up with family and friends.

Back home again for the rest of August, the weather continued to be good and we’ve also had a few welcome downpours after the last few hot and dry months. After turning yellow and dying back, the grass is bright green once again and the plants in the garden have sprung back to life. Many of the plants are enjoying a second flush of flowers.

Since we’ve been home, we’ve carried on enjoying the lovely summer days, catching up with friends, having days out. I’ve also managed to cram in lots of medical things, various scans and tests that have been pending that have all proved very positive and a full MOT at Transplant Clinic, which was a good one. So, all is as good as it can be on the health front.

For the first time in two years, I’d been allowed to go for three whole months without a clinic visit and I wasn’t fully convinced I’d stay the course, but I managed it and have to say that I’m feeling the best I have felt in a long time. Staying free from infection for a few months has definitely helped me get back on my feet properly at last. Summer has felt great because of this, as well as the beautiful weather we’ve had.  I’ve been pinching myself at times that I’ve actually got back to some normality and fitness after too many ups and downs with infections and hospital.

I’m optimistic now that this might continue. I’ve another three months off Transplant Clinic, although I’ve been referred back to UCLH now for the stomach fundoplication, as I’m fit and well again. This may throw a spanner in the works, but at least I’m in good enough health to go ahead with it and it needs to be done while I’m feeling fit. I’m already super-organised and have booked my flu jab, just trying to stay a step ahead of the game of battling infections.

One of the loveliest things we’ve been enjoying, has been spending time with family and in particular our little grandson Freddie. It’s been a sheer joy looking after him and taking him out and about on sunny days and just to enjoy watching him play out in the garden.

I treasure these special times with him. They are particularly poignant, as I enjoy every minute with him knowing it’s only thanks to my donor and their family that these moments have been made possible. A few years  ago, I wouldn’t have dared to dream of grandchildren.

Now we’re in September, it always was my favourite month, but with the anniversary of my transplant looming it will always be special and be held dear in my heart. It’s an emotional month for me and my family and we’re making lots of plans and looking forward to it.

Rannerdale Bluebells

Before we reach the end of May, the month of bluebells, here’s some more bluebell pictures…

Stepping into what’s known as this secret valley at Rannerdale when the bluebells are in bloom, is like stepping into the Garden of Eden or a Secret Garden. On a sunny day with the bluebells at their fullest, it’s a feast for all the senses – stunning views, heavenly scent and neverending sweeps and swathes of blue across the fells.

It’s a different scene to the one we would normally conjure up when thinking of bluebells – no shady woodlands or trees about to burst into leaf, just acres of English bluebells growing in profusion across the open valley and fells.

The bluebells have a story, according to local folklore, the bluebells are said to have sprung from the spilt blood of slain Norman warriors. The valley was a location where after the Norman invasion of 1066, Britons ambushed and defeated the Norman army at the Battle of Rannerdale. It’s difficult to imagine war raging in such a peaceful, beautiful and tranquil place.

Rannerdale Knotts is a stunning location, with bluebells aside, there are far reaching views over Crummock Water and towards Buttermere and Loweswater.

February and So Far, So Good

It’s nearing the end of February and I feel I’ve managed to do so much this year, getting out and about and trying to make up for all the lost time during the autumn months when my health wasn’t at its best.

I’ve enjoyed much precious time with family and friends, meals out and trips to the theatre and celebrating some of those annual routines on the early year calendar like Burns Night, Pancake day and Valentines Day amongst lots of other activities.We also managed to escape to the Lakes for a few days, where we enjoyed some beautiful sunshine and bright, crisp winter weather.

Then there’s been just very simple things to enjoy such as walks in the park with Ted, looking after my grandson Freddie and having him stay over and just seeing and enjoying those first signs of springs – the first snowdrops pushing through and bloooming and now crocuses and early flowering daffodils.

It feels lovely to be well enough again to do so many things both ordinary and special ones and I always feel a new appreciation in the times when my health feels better, especially after the difficult runs.

There’s been more hospital too – my clinics are still monthly, which have gone well and I’m pleased my transplant team are keeping a close eye on me after all the problems with infection and the big changes in my medication. All three of my immunosuppression drugs were halved in dose, which has made me feel much better and brighter and some of the horrible side effects that come with them have begun to recede. That’s been an unexpected bonus, as I’d just become used to living with them over last year.

I still managed to pick up another infection at the beginning of this month though, but luckily going to clinic regularly, we managed to nip it in the bud with another course of antibiotics. It’s a huge improvement over the continuous infections before Christmas. They also did extra heart tests at clinic to make sure there aren’t any new problems there that may be contributing to my breathlessness. Luckily, these were all satisfactory, so the big focus is still on trying to make my lungs stronger.

To this end, I’ve been managing to keep up the exercise regime and have successfully increased my daily walking  It doesn’t come easy, as I become breathless if I walk at a ‘normal’ pace and if I try and sustain my walking. I try and choose walks that are reasonably flat and that have benches or cafes somewhere along the route to rest and get my breath back.

Over a day though, it can be surprising how much you can do if you try and move around regularly and add in a short walk, obviously pacing it out in between resting. Not having the oxygen running through your lungs efficiently can make you very tired, so rest is as important as the exercise to me. I’ve also been keeping up the yoga, just gentle stretching, bending and breathing exercises together with following a programme of exercises for Pulmonary Rehabilitation.

I do think that the exercising together with my drug changes has made a big difference to my fitness and I feel much stronger for it. Last week I was at the University College Hospital London, to start the process again for the Fundoplication operation. It’s a stomach operation I need to prevent further rejection and damage to my lungs and unfortunately it had to be cancelled several times due to me being too unwell. I’ve another visit for a pre-op assessment yet and then fingers crossed, the surgery should go ahead and I’ll be able to put this behind me soon and hopefully carry on getting stronger and even improve my lung function a little more.

These first months of the year have gone well. So far, so good…

Photos below taken at Brockhole Visitor Centre, by Lake Windermere on our recent visit to the Lake District

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Flooding Estuary

With all my health problems this winter it had meant we hadn’t been able to visit the Lake District for a good few months and we’d had to cancel some visits in autumn and over Christmas. When we visited at long last the other week, when we arrived near Milnthorpe and drove past the River Bela, as always I looked over the dry stone walls to see how high the river was.

It was extemely high, reaching the tops of the river bank and spilling over. The following morning there were actually warnings locally not to venture out on the estuary footpaths or down by the coastal path at Arnside, as tidal surges were expected to cause more high waters and flooding. Our neighbour told us, the river and estuary area had been flooded at least three times since we’d last visited.

The Rivers Bela and Kent estuaries meet and join the sea in Morecambe Bay. The last big flood in Milnthorpe was after Storm Desmond in 2015, when houses near the river and the football and cricket ground were flooded. People near the river were preparing for the worst again piling up the sand bags to protect their properties and moving furniture upstairs.

The river and estuary landscapes look so different in flood. The River Bela had lost all its boundaries as it merged with the sea and River Kent. The estuary itself looked like another huge Lake District lake, especially with the Lake District mountains in the back drop. There are usually big pools of water and stretches of sand and sand banks with flocks of interesting birds feeding: on this day just stretches of neverending and unsettled waters.

A drive further around the coast to Sandside was almost inaccessible with sea water lashing and blowing across the main road in the blustery and wild wind. Then the following day, the river had calmed down and you could distinguish it from the estuary once more. Overnight and at low tide, the water in the estuary had receded back to safer levels and there were only sand deposits on the road marking the hazards of the day before.

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