Posted by: John Colby | Tuesday May 21 2019

Sandy’s Chemo – day 147 of 147

Sandy’s Chemo – day 147 of 147

Sandy’s been to the hospital today at the end of the last of the severe chemotherapies. We’d just shaken hands and sat down, then he said “Do you want the good news?”

“Yes, please.”

“The scan shows you’re stable.”

The feeling of relief was overwhelming. Sandy’s face lit up. I was nearly in tears.

That aside, we have to go through some more processes. Sandy’s slightly anaemic, so we have blood tests Friday, Blood Transfusion Saturday and more next week to make sure.

So the most encouraging news we could have hoped for.

It was up early, breakfast, meds, dogs walked and set off by 08:30

Then the foregoing.

On the way home stopped off to get Sandy some sewing magazines and then to Sainsbury’s for coffee (iced latte for Sandy) and a large hazelnut for me. I needed it! And cakes. Sandy needed the sugar and I just needed cakes!

Home, lunch and Sandy fell asleep on the sofa. It’s the relief from hearing the news – she was on edge. I was working (with K9 help). Managed to get the shade right and can work on the MacBook on the terrace. Plenty of updates to install while I was having lunch. Scruffs dog alternately down the garden, at my feet and learning to type. Kerry retreated to her bed and snored, sometimes not so gently and woke herself up.

Music playing while I’m outside, Arianna Savall – Peiwoh – mostly harp. Precisely the right timbre to accompany the mood whilst marking dissertations. No neighbours around so I wasn’t disturbing them. Change not having to wear headphones.

On Facebook today someone asked “what was the best thing that happened to you in 2019?” This was my reply.

Best Thing in 2019 was today, being told that my wife’s last scan for multiple cancers for which she’s been undergoing rather gruelling chemotherapy since before Christmas, showed that she was stable. She’ll never be free of it but at the moment it’s under control. She’ll still be having three weekly booster chemo, but we now have something of a future. Before Christmas the prognosis without treatment was for a maximum of three months, but now the wonderful staff of the NHS have bought her more time.

A nurse came into the consultation this morning and mentioned that they’d been reading the blog on occasion. And if they read this, we really do think you’re wonderful, all of you.

I’m now reminded of the Mountain Lion, Gorilla and Kale story that Faye, a friend, sent me some months ago. Find it on Day 44.

Marking is going. Going to be finished sometime. Then next it’s more marking. That’s the glamorous life of an academic. And what makes it worthwhile is when you find something that is good and you want to leap up and down because, yes, they’ve got it!

What, in hindsight, really made my day yesterday was while I was helping a group of (first year) students. One asked if I’d be teaching them next year. When I said that I might be and mentioned a module. The reply that they’d enjoy suffering me again was incredibly heartening. Hopefully I’ll be able to live up to their expectations.

Sandy didn’t do much this afternoon. She’s a lot more relaxed. She has a future.

Just found some birdsong tracks on my iTunes. Wonder if I should play then ==m and confuse the hell out of the local wildlife?

Supper. Sandy fish pie. Dogs, succulent lamb. Me, raiding the fridge to see what’s there.

Verdict. Pass on all fronts for all, except the dogs think that they should have had ours as well as theirs.

Raiding the fridge for deserts, Sandy, melon, me, strawberries, dogs – licking the cream bowls.

[21:00] Meds.

We’re up early in the morning. Chemo starts at 9.

The title of this blog says 147 of 147. That’s the number of intense chemo treatment days. Today we’re on day 154 of the medical assisted journey, and my thoughts are that I’ll continue from there, so I’ll be boring anyone who care to read this in the future. It ain’t over yet, by a long chalk.

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Posted by: John Colby | Monday May 20 2019

Sandy’s Chemo – day 146 of 147

Sandy’s Chemo – day 146 of 147

Early up – blood test. Sandy will have breakfast after she comes back as it’s a fasting test.

Toast, get lunch, feed dogs, dogs appropriate part of breakfast, dogs appropriate part of lunch. So far, normal day.

Blood test, visit co-op for Sandy, dogs walked, meds.

Then me off to work. Reasonably straightforward journey.

Today I stationed myself in the coffee pod to meet students. All but one of those that had booked turned up, but several who hadn’t booked also came. And then came the surprise. Student did not realise that bees were responsible for pollination, and that unless plants are pollinated then they don’t produce, and that if bees go extinct then humans will follow then in four years. I could not believe that this was not a known. Somehow we have to educate on sustainability and let them know what it really means.

Lunch, then afternoon doing the same. I have hopes for all of those who came to see me bar one, who was on page 7 of a 200 page workbook. I could not sugar the pill for them.

Drive home, supper, dogs, then collapse in heap.

[21:30] Meds.

Over the next few days we have consultant then next smaller chemo, which will be every three weeks for the foreseeable future.

Music: going with Vaughan Williams at Gloucester again.

Need the peace it brings.

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Posted by: John Colby | Sunday May 19 2019

Sandy’s Chemo – day 145 of 147

Sandy’s Chemo – day 145 of 147

It’s that time already, according to the alarm.

[08:45] Fruit, cereal, dogs’ breakfast, toast, coffee.

[09:30] Meds.

Domestics – washing, vacuuming, dishwashing, breadmaking,

Sandy’s sewing. Somethings being started, some coming to completion. Notable absence of swearing at the sewing machine. Unusual.

Breadmaking benefited from me taking note of a change I introduced last week – slight reduction in cooking temperature, much more time than recommended in the mixer, slightly more water than the recipe. Result is a better texture, a less hard loaf.

Lunch – for Sandy salad and cheese concoction. Me? Left over curry from last night.

I now know the Romanian for “Hurry up, Dad, we want to go for a walk NOW! … NOW!”

Phonetically it’s “Woof! Woof! Woof! WoofWoofWoofWoof! Woof! Woof! WoofWoof! WOOF! … WOOF!”

Dog walk. The wheat is growing fast, as in the understorey in the woods.



Don’t know what this one is – took it as an experiment how close I could go with the phone handheld. The flower is about 8mm across.


And the dogs are disappearing along the field path.


When I got home there was a repair request from Sandy. The sprung thread snipper had departed normal operation. Fixed it with persuasion and a hammer – a small hammer.

As we had an open Amazon order I suggested that I order some more as they’re useful little things. In my innocence I asked:

“What are they called?”

“Little snippy thing.”

“No, seriously, what are they called?”

“Dunno, little snippy thing.”

“Ok, I’ll put that into the Amazon search.”

And I did. It came up with a book of the Philosophy of Snoopy. Then I noticed that the Amazon corrector had been at work, changing snippy to Snoopy, and was asking did I really want “little snippy thing”. I said yes, and amazingly the correct item turned up.

A pack of three are coming tomorrow. Little snippy things, in case you’re thinking of other things that used to come in threes.

Then fight, and I mean really fight, with a duvet cover. There must be an easier way!

Supper. Veg of the season – Jersey Royal and asparagus. Sandy fish, me roast gammon. The remainder of that for lunch tomorrow with the usual salad. My attempt to be healthy.

Early blood test tomorrow.

Work. First day of exams. Support. See how many turn up who’ve booked.

[21:30] Meds. After this one only five more doses to go at two a day.

Music tonight – Mozart Rondo from Horn concerto no 1 – with naughty Mozartian sketch notes. A find when I was looking for concerti for natural horn.

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Posted by: John Colby | Saturday May 18 2019

Sandy’s Chemo – day 144 of 147

Sandy’s Chemo – day 144 of 147

[06:00] Alarm. At this time on a Saturday? Yes, we’ve got to be at the hospital at 08:15.

Fruit, that’s all this morning, Breakfast when we come back.

Shower, dog walk, leave home at 07:25

Uneventful journey. However boy racers at any time of the day, it seems. Arrive at 07:50

After ascertaining where we had to go by asking a security person, wait, then Sandy’s called in. 08:40 finished and then find the coffee shop. Not particularly good coffee.

Home, then breakfast for real

[10:20] Meds.

Then out to the caravan to collect the battery. Need to top up its charge before fetching the van next weekend. Note that it needs a clean! The Hobbycraft for batting, but found that Sandy didn’t have the correct measurements, so I’ll be despatched on the way home one night. Then Sainsbury’s, then home.

Lunch. A dent was made in the cheese, Abergavenny goats for Sandy, Wensleydale for me, Gromit.

Then a miracle occurred. I did some gardening. Prepared a bed out front for the lavenders before they died off in their pots. This activity and result took me, the garden and the neighbours by surprise.

Then cook. Sandy had specified what she wanted but the bought stuff didn’t live up to the occasion. I made myself a curry.

[21:40] Meds.

Trying to find Sandy something that is marginally tasty and will stay down is a bit of a challenge. We have the consultant on Tuesday so I’ll make sure she asks him then.  She’s OK with fish and cheese, but that’s a bit limited in the taste arena. Without the correct energy input she’s not finding it easy to do the things she likes.

But this came this week.


Music tonight – English Baroque Music for Trumpet & Organ, Jerimiah Clarke, William Boyce, Henry Purcell, John Stanley, Robert Valentine, A bit (very?) pedestrian (molto maestoso without the majesty) and very heavy, lacks fluidity. Prefer the liveliness of someone like Alison Balsom.

Far less pedestrian is Alison Balsom, Italian Concertos. Pace and liveliness and not sending you to sleep.

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Posted by: John Colby | Friday May 17 2019

Sandy’s Chemo – day 143 of 147

Sandy’s Chemo – day 143 of 147

[07:00] Fruit, cereal. Get lunch, share with dogs, get toast, share with dogs, and that’s after their dog food.

Dog walk.

[08:45] Meds.

Off to work. 27 miles in 39 minutes according to the sat nav.

Coffee! And another update from the wondrous (discuss) MSOffice.

Got the first draft of the book synopsis for colleague review, and then it was the support session prior to the submission next week. Some turned up, those that didn’t need to. Monday sees the final support session.

On the way home was shopping. This time I’d made a list, and nearly stuck to it.

Home, shopping away, supper, Sandy, dogs, me (I know my place) (and they got some of mine). Sandy found the curry she’d chosen overly warm, and her stomach objected.

[21:30] Meds.

Tomorrow it’s up early to go for the heart scan. Leave home by 07:30.

Music: Samuel Scheidt (1587-1654)- Ludi Musici by L’Achéron & François Joubert-Caillet

Many years ago (this story was told to me about 35 years ago) there was a music shop run by a lovely old lady. She had as her assistant a young and very diffident lad who at the time of the story must have been about seventeen. The person who, told me the story said that he’s gone in to ask for some music by the featured composer tonight. William was in one of the storerooms above.

“William,” she called up the stairs, ‘Could you please bring me down the Scheidt box.”


“William,” she called again up the stairs, ‘Bring me down the Scheidt box.”

Silence, again.

“William, I shan’t ask again. I need the Scheidt box.”

William sheepishly appeared clutching the waste paper basket.

And with that …

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Posted by: John Colby | Thursday May 16 2019

Sandy’s Chemo – day 142 of 147

Sandy’s Chemo – day 142 of 147

[07:00] Fruit, Cereal, Toast, Coffee, nagging dogs, who had their breakfast, some of mine, and some of my lunch.

Walk dogs.

[08:30] Meds.

Sandy’s feeling better this morning.

Off to work I jolly well go. A5, M42. M6. A38(M) all clear so quick journey in. Off for coffee and the usual update from MSOffice. I use Office 2019 and am on the Fast Insider Build programme, so it’s once or twice a week.

Email from a student seeking help. Checked and discovered that they’d downloaded nothing for the module that would have got them working much earlier. Said so in an email. Have heard nothing back.

That said, found out that a few students have submitted a week early. Checked and it’s good.

Back to take Sandy to docs – blocked ear so the TV has recently been turned up a bit. Tonight the volume’s much diminished.

She’d been sewing today – being quite creative and productive. This treatment hasn’t diminished her desire to create nor her requirement for material. Things are coming off the end of the production line. She has, however, requested that I don’t bu=y any more until she’s reduced the output pile.

Supper, Sandy asked for something that sounded good but wasn’t.

[21:30] Meds.

Tomorrow I have a support tutorial. I expect that some of the people I see will be panicking because they’re just realised that they shouldn’t have left it until the last minute. The temptation to say “I told you so” will be strong. But I will resist.

Music tonight is George Butterworth’s Fantasia for Orchestra.

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Posted by: John Colby | Wednesday May 15 2019

Sandy’s Chemo – day 141 of 147

Sandy’s Chemo – day 141 of 147

“Woof!” Said the dog. “OK, I’m up” said the sleepy voice. “Woof! Woof” said the dog. “Stop nagging,” said the sleepy voice. “Woof!” as they went out.

[07:00] Fruit, croissant. Dog food. Nothing yet for me – have to deliver the car to the garage. Long job so get there early.

Back from the garage, toast, coffee, working from home as can’t get in ‘cos the car’s ….

Dogs out, and back.

[08:45] Meds.

Then it’s marking dissertations.

More coffee. Essential.

Lunch. Sandy can’t stand the smell or tast of meat at the moment, Fish is Ok, so’s cheese, and vegetables. She’s trying anything she might taste

One of those was a vegetarian duck dish. She didn’t want it so I had it. Big mistake – glad it was me, not Sandy. Suffice to say I spent the afternoon flitting ‘twixt desk and loo. Seems that vegetables are fine, vegetarian stuff that’s supposed to taste like meat but doesn’t is the problem. She’s sticking with vegetable, fish and cheese dishes from now on.

So the afternoon for me wasn’t. And I know that certain things are staying OFF the shopping list.

The car came back half done. The electrics still remain – the incorrect instructions had been supplied.

Supper was a careful affair for me.

[21:30] Meds.

Sandy’s been sewing. I’ve been told to “Shhh!” many times as the large sewing machine has been put to good use. Cushion covers for the caravan have been on the menu. I’ve been asked to approve. There’s been a lot less swearing from that side of the  room as this machine’s self-threading. She did sleep for a while this afternoon as for some reason last night she didn’t sleep very well. And that’s without the dog nipping up and jumping on her.

Music tonight was YouTube. I vary between iTunes and YouTube. Coming up on my YouTube feed was this.

The real music was more Hesperion XXI with the talented and very recognisable percussionist Pedro Estevan, going back in time to the truly medieval.

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Posted by: John Colby | Tuesday May 14 2019

Sandy’s Chemo – day 140 of 147

Sandy’s Chemo – day 140 of 147

Work day – up very much post lark.

[07:15] Fruit, croissant (fed up with cereal,) toast, dog food. Make lunch. Share lunch ingredients with dogs.

Dog walk. Warm – took jacket bou didn’t really need it.

[08:45] Meds

Off to work – red bits on motorways on Apple Maps, so took different route. Rather pleasant going along the ridge, which is the watershed between the Severn and Trent systems. Windows down, Radio 3 playing Parsifal as the Playlist. Every morning at 9:30 There is a bit of ‘follow that’ Parsifal, Wagner’s last opera, is another on the Arthurian theme, along with Tristan and Isolde. The follow that gives listeners chance to suggest another piece that fits. My suggestion, fitting the Arthurian theme, this morning was The Knights of the Round Table from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. I knew they wouldn’t broadcast it, but said that it would be an earworm for them.

Work – I went in for a student who didn’t show. Sorted by other means.

Just after lunch a fire drill. I just hope that when in work students take more responsibility for their own safety and realise that delaying getting out of the building for whatever reason is normally seen as gross misconduct and they can be fired for it. My ‘command’ voice was used.

Plenty of sorting today and getting things agreed. Working form homme tomorrow so the agreeds are going to be put into action.

On the way home tonight collected Sandy’s sewing machine – she’s now a happy bunny again. When I passed over the M42 it was stationary in  both directions. Twenty years ago I was doing that trek daily, but is was never as bad. Shows how traffic’s increased. Home via back routes. Lovely evening to enjoy the drive.

Sandy tried some Quorn chicken – an oxymoron if ever there was one. She was not impressed, and when I tasted it neither was I. So I tried it on the dogs. Scruffs spat it out. At the moment it’s taking up fridge room, but soon won’t be.

Supper, dogs, and then sit down to write.

Book discussion today with several people. I must now get on with the poster so that staff can critique it. The book is a ‘how to’ of producing charts on Excel. The poster illustrates those charts, and I’m asking for comments on what I’ve missed and what people will use. I hope that they’ll give me feedback. I can then go to a publisher with some substance behind me.

But that’s after the marking’s done.

Music: Jordi Savall, Ferran Savall, Arianna Savall, Esperion XXI – Folías de España, – Canarios – Improvisation, Lachrimae Caravaggio, Tarantela. Said I liked the Baroque.

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Posted by: John Colby | Monday May 13 2019

Sandy’s Chemo – day 139 of 147

Sandy’s Chemo – day 139 of 147

Work day – waking up with eyes closed. Organic hot water bottle has been active and I’ve had a wash.

[07:00] Fruit, cereal, toast, dog breakfast, make lunch – a heathy salad.

Dogs s walked.

[8:45] Meds.

Off to work via a remarkably clear A5, M42, M6 and A38(M). It’s not Sunday, is it?

Work – routine, thankfully. Solutions appear and are good.

Lecture – 30 of 71 turned up most late.

Workshop drop in – they didn’t.

Home via Sainsbury’s with a command list. Also picked up something tasty for me from the nearly date expired meat – duck in plum sauce was good. And there’s some more in the freezer.

Sandy managed to eat more today – she said she was hungry. The food in the fridge is disappearing. A few weeks ago it wouldn’t have and would still be there with me checking the expiry dates. I can only take this as a good sign.

[21:30] Meds.

When I got home today, I was shown the next quilt that Sandy’s working on. Only a simple one, she says, just a throw for the van, she says. Wow, I says. However, backing, batting and binding still need to be bought and put together. The van may become a mobile showroom for her talents.

The big all singing, all dancing, sewing machine is ready for collection from the sewing machine hospital, so a trip to collect is on the cards.

Music. Lully, Suite Alceste is the first on the playlist, next up is Charpentier’s Te Deum. Must be on a diet – the suites have diminished.

People reading regularly will not have found much in the way of popular music in my playlists. At school I played violin, graduating to ‘cello. I couldn’t afford to keep it up neither had I the talent. However singing was a cheaper alternative, so I joined various choirs and did a lot of Baroque and earlier repertoire. I found that I really liked a capella performance. However, job, travel for the job, long hours, and being away for longer periods put paid to that as there was no rehearsal time, and by the time I had the time the voice wasn’t, so now it’s listening only. I really like the precision of the music I listen to. Opera leaves me rather cold, as do Leider, so it’s choral for preference.

Tomorrow I’m going in to see a student – if they turn up. Frustration knows no bounds on occasion. The day after the car’s in for the fitting of the towbar. There was one on the car that was crunched – just more expense to keep it going and towing.

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Posted by: John Colby | Sunday May 12 2019

Sandy’s Chemo – day 138 of 147

Sandy’s Chemo – day 138 of 147

Domestics and garden today, so up and at it.

But not too early.

[08:30] Fruit, cereal, toast, dog breakfast, coffee.

Domestics, Washing, dishwashing, bread making after excavating the counter and stove. Gardening to come

[09:30] Meds.

Forgot to mention yesterday – in Sainsbury’s Sandy bought herself a drink, Orange Mango. I said it sounds like a protest chant for Donald Trump.

Lunch – Sandy decided what she wanted and I had the leftovers.

Sandy’s complaining of hay fever – told her its only trees having sex.

The morning being taken with domestics and coffee, the afternoon was taken with reducing the height of the green. It’ll never be a sward, but it’s now walkable across without getting your knees wet. That’s the front.

The back is a different story. Yesterday I said that I could see the dogs’ heads above the grass. Wrong. Those were giraffes.

Anyway the height was lessened and the grass left to dry out. More mowing is indicated, but sooner rather than leaving it  as long I did.

Then it was dog walk time. The growth in the field was very noticeable, combination of rain and warmth.


And looking back, the Entwoods are greener and the sky is just as blue.


When I got home remembered that if I wanted shirts this week I’d have to iron them. So I did.

Supper – Sandy pleased me by being able to eat all of hers. The dogs did not surprise me by begging some of mine. They won.

[21:00] Meds.

The waiting game continues. After the scan yesterday we don’t get the results until we see the consultant a week on Tuesday. And we also have the echocardiogram next Saturday morning. That’s to determine if/how much damage is being done to her heart function by the chemo, the one that’s going to continue.  Despite all this Sandy remains upbeat and is planning (or is it plotting?) what we’re going to do on holiday.

We remembered, luckily, son didn’t, that it’s their second weeding anniversary tomorrow. Thanks to Amazon they got their gift. Card’s another matter. We only remembered because I have an alert set in my diary.

My chair’s been nicked again. Different dog this time.


Tomorrow – lecture helping them to make sense of the assessment. I’ve said that it’s the only time I’m going to do this. Wonder how many will turn up?

Music: Holst, St Paul’s Suite. Then Grieg, Holberg Suite. Then Vaughan Williams, Suite for Viola and Orchestra.

So it’s a sort of three piece suite.

And with that …

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