Archive for the Malignant melanoma Category

Where’s a dermatologist, and where am I?

Posted in Cancer, Malignant melanoma, Skin cancer on July 27, 2011 by maidofmettle

The Espirito Santo entry is taking me a while to write, so I decided to skip ahead a little and share the news that I had dermatologist confirm my  apparent state of good health at present.

It’s been three months since my final visit to the hospital in Gran Canaria (though it feels a lot more!), so it was time to try and locate a dermatologist for a 3 month post-operation check-up.

Which I did, after mounting five or six shore expeditions, and one overnight sail.

Trying to find a specialist in Ponta Delgada did not go well, even though about a third of the population of the Azores live in the city. One was on holiday for a week, one was in a completely different place to the directions I’d got, another was also in a completely different place but happily a taxi driver pointed out to me that I only needed to walk for 5 minutes rather than be driven for 10 to reach that address, and another was away till January.

So I gave up on it there, and decided that I’d have another go in Angra do Heroismo on Terceira, where google suggested I’d find one. Not that I was trusting it very much now, especially not as to where to find one.

Happily that problem was solved by noticing a plaque on the wall going for a walk around the town on my first evening there, and I was able to get an appointment for a few days later.

It was a bit strange having not really been thinking about melanomas as such over the last couple of months. I’ve been being reasonably careful with the sun – trying to stay out of the sun in the middle of the day, wearing a hat, sunglasses and often long-sleeved shirts, using sun cream – but generally those are things I did anyway.

I had of course been keeping an extra watch for any signs of moles changing etc, but not with the expectation they actually would.

Going to see a doctor brought that possibility back to mind again, even as it offered the potential for reassurance that things did seem fine.

Happily, he agreed there didn’t appear to be any problems.

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Did I mention Terceira? It’s going to take me quite a while for the blog to catch up with reality even if I manage a post every couple of days, so I also thought it was about time I got around to generally sharing this link.

Where is Maid of Mettle? – this keep you fairly up to date with where I actually am, so you get something of a sneak preview.

I will try and make a separate page for it at some point soon which will make it easier to get to from the blog.

Good news, and the gig for Gambian schools

Posted in Cancer, Fitting out and maintenance, Fun, Malignant melanoma, Music, Photographs, Skin cancer with tags , on May 15, 2011 by maidofmettle

Oops. I wasn’t meaning to build any suspense about the last scan I had, I’d just forgotten about it with the excitement of the gig etc.

I’d wondered if everyone else had forgotten about it on the day itself, because the whole floor of the hospital my appointment was on seemed to be deserted. I found the department I was meant to be going to, but the doors were shut and it was dark.

Fortunately a nurse was passing a few minutes later and ushered me though the neighbouring door marked ’emergencies only’, behind which lurked another whole maze of corridors and the Hidden Waiting Room. I’d put some photos in here to break up the text but I wasn’t sure if I’d be allowed to reveal its existence.

The scan itself was fairly straightforward. Apparently my internal organs are all the normal size etc – I guess this is a backup check to the sentinel lymph node biopsy to be very sure that the cancer hadn’t spread anywhere else.

I have a final discharge note now so everything is sorted here on the hospital front, I just need to have regular check-ups with a dermatologist in the future, at least for a year or two. I’ll have to find one in the Azores, and then another when I’m back in the UK.

Speaking of long-running sagas, I have finally got my a working hotplate again and restored pumped water to the boat.

Having the hotplate fixed involved going to two different service centres, as the shop I bought it from sent me to the wrong one the first time, and unfortunately went over the Easter weekend, causing further delay. At least going to the place that did try and fix it (I think they replaced it in the end) gave an opportunity for a nice detour through the Parque Doramas.

When Jon and I visited the fountains had largely been turned off, but they seem to be working again now.

The issue with the water pump was solved surprisingly simply. The pump still hadn’t exploded, and I thought I’d better check out any other issues before taking it to pieces.

The new water filter seemed another prime suspect, and proved very definitely guilty. I can only presume that the little water that made it through was very clean indeed..

Happily the shop was very happy to accept a return in part-exchange for a different make of filter. That works fine, so now I’ve been putting vinegar solution in both tanks and rinsing them through in the hope that the water will taste reasonable.

Now, on to more exciting matters.. The Saturday after the scan was a fairly relaxing day until it was time to go and set up for the gig, although the horizon to the north was looking ominously dark, especially knowing there was a big low pressure system somewhere north-west of here.

Still, we got everything set up fine at one end of the canvas awning outside the Sailor Bar, and the soundcheck sounded good.

You can guess what happened next, can’t you?

We’d planned to open with Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door, but it was flung wide open before we began, releasing a deluge. Within a few minutes water was coming through the fabric above our heads, and we had to clear all the electrical equipment away again. While this probably made quite a spectacle, we all seem to have been too busy to photograph it.

We debated playing some songs unplugged, but it would have been hard to hear over the rain so we decided it was best to postpone and hope it was better the next day.

Sunday did dawn beautifully, and unusually remained clear all afternoon as well. It was a short trip to move all the gear from where Janice had let us keep it on Ladycat, moored near the bar.

There had been quite a few people there the previous night, but this time all the tables outside were packed. It was handy that this time we could move back to outside the cover of the awning, though the arrangements for the loudspeakers got a little more unconventional.

Paul had to fiddle with the settings a bit more this time round but it didn’t take too long to get everything sounding good again.

We even managed a relaxing drink before getting going without attracting a downpour…

..and so off we went. The stage wasn’t usually quite this crowded, but the bar stayed very full, though the wind probably carried the sound a long way down the seafront!

After the first set we had a break while Neil (who’d come along to the last couple of rehearsals) played Jailhouse Rock and accompanied the owner of the bar singing Sitting On The Dock Of The Bay to great applause.

It was particularly impressive since Pepe had a cigarette in one hand and the lyrics in the other- possibly fortunate they didn’t catch fire half way through!

Dangerous Dave kindly acted as cameraman for the night as well as being a part-time roadie.  Here’s a clip of Sloop John B, with it’s famous harmonica duet introduction.

The final count showed we’d raised over 16o Euros, which I’m told will fund about 2/3 of the cost of a primary school in the Gambia. Support for primary schools there can make a huge difference to people’s lives as only secondary schools are state-funded, and kids need to have primary schooling to take advantage of it.

And we had a very good time as well.

Besides that, and with the intensive rehearsals period out of the way, I’ve been doing a lot of other stuff on the boat, but having finally got the stage of putting all the tools away I need to get the hot melt glue gun back out to fix the memory card of my camera. So that will have to wait, since it would be exceedingly dull without any pictures.

I’ve been able to pinch some off other people from last weekend, when a group of us went on an outing to a Chinese restaurant on Las Canteras beach.

The setting is very nice and 6.50 Euros for all you can eat with an excellent selection of food, including dessert, is very good indeed, contributing to a lovely evening.

Good news

Posted in Cancer, Malignant melanoma, Photographs, Skin cancer on March 31, 2011 by maidofmettle

Thursday morning

I’m writing this bit now because while hindsight might be of some assistance when it comes to dry factual accuracy, it probably doesn’t make a post particularly interesting.

This week has felt a bit flat really – but largely a combination of going back to living on my own again and starting with getting on with work on the boat again having had several weeks off. The thought of getting results back is really just a background irritation which I suspect doesn’t help my concentration, although I’m not always sure how much can be blamed on that when it comes to some jobs.

It really doesn’t feel like I’ve got that much done.

But I do need to remind myself that as well as scraping and sanding wood I’ve done some necessary shopping (food and sandpaper), started cleaning the water tank and done some washing, and that my leg did get noticeably more painful after sanding for a while, so I don’t want to try and do everything all at once.

So, here we go again, more sitting around in the waiting room to come. I suppose I’m probably optimistic – if the melanoma had been any thinner when it was originally removed they wouldn’t have considered it necessary to check the lymph node at all.

But then the doctor didn’t think the mole was a melanoma in the first place, so I’m certainly not making any assumptions, though I’ve been getting on with stuff on the boat with the idea that I will be able to leave soon.

Thursday afternoon

Well, that went much better than last week. I got called through from the main waiting area at the time of my appointment rather than 1 1/2 hours after it like last week (sorry Jon), though I did then get left in an office on my own for 5 minutes.

And the news was good – no remaining cancer in the leg, and no signs of it in the sentinel lymph node, which is the first place it would be likely to spread to, and would have required further surgery.

So I’ll need to arrange a couple more check-ups with dermatologists over the next 6 months or longer, but that should hopefully be it – fantastic news!

I will emphasise again the importance of identifying something like this early on though, because it can spread to other internal organs very quickly if given a chance.

This is probably the best summary of symptoms to be concerned about that I’ve seen:
http://www.cancerhelp.org.uk/type/melanoma/about/melanoma-symptoms


On a related note
, Chris and Caroline are going to be doing a charity bike ride raising money for Cancer Research UK and the British Heart Foundation.

Caroline
and Chris

 

 

They’ll be cycling the full length of the Kennet and Avon canal eastwards from Bath, and then continuing along the Kennet to Reading, making a full distance of 87 miles (140 km) over one weekend.

It’ll be on the Royal Wedding weekend (I’ll pretend I know when that is) – not sure what the particular significance of that is, except that hopefully their Majesties will have booked the weather. Rain or shine, 87 miles sounds pretty impressive to me, so please consider sponsoring them.

Their website is at: https://www.justgiving.com/teams/cyclingkennetandavon

Not much new to report, but lots of carnival photos

Posted in Cancer, Fun, Malignant melanoma, Photographs, Skin cancer with tags on March 29, 2011 by maidofmettle

Well, I didn’t get any very bad news last Thursday. From that you have probably deduced that I didn’t really get any news, other than another appointment to go back again this Thursday.

Frustrating.

Still, at least it’s either a delay in getting the results back, which not much can be done about, or else no news is probably good news – if I am to need another operation it would be fairly urgent, so hopefully they would be ringing me up as soon as they knew. Fingers crossed…

I had a fantastic time with Jon last week, but am having issues retrieving photos from my memory card, so I’ll leave off saying much more about it till I can put some illustrations in.

That does give me a chance to catch up on the main carnival parade of a few weeks ago – I’ve been wondering when I’d sneak that in!

The weather that afternoon did not look promising…

Thankfully it had eased by the time we heard the parade coming and went up to see it, but the carnival queens must still have been pretty chilly.

The clowns were probably glad it wasn’t a hot afternoon though, and with those shoes they’d probably have been fine even if the road flooded.

These chaps would probably have been ok as well, in fact a good flood would have cushioned them nicely if they fell over.

It didn’t quite come to that though, and occasionally the rain even stopped, enabling Bethany to turn the umbrella into a sweet harvester (they were hurled down at us from most of the floats).

All the floats had a big crowd of people dancing along behind them – even the one with the rather smoky-looking (and ineffective!) afterburner.

As it got dark the floats started looking even more spectacular.

Though it did start raining again..

The parade went on for several hours, and the post-parade party was only just getting going at around midnight.

It didn’t look like the rain (probably the full month’s average) had dampened things down much, not that we stayed out that late.

Recap over, roll on Thursday, and hopefully some results this time!

In the meantime I’m gradually getting used to being on my own again, and trying to resume all the jobs I’d been neglecting after the operation, from paintwork and varnishing to making new things.

It’s been quite relaxing in some ways knowing I wouldn’t be able to leave for a while – now the time when I’ll hopefully be able to seems be be approaching quite fast, and quite ominously.

The aftermath, an unexpected gift, gatherings and the Extreme Super Moon

Posted in Cancer, Fun, Malignant melanoma, Photographs, Skin cancer with tags on March 19, 2011 by maidofmettle

Well, the sentinel lymph node was definitely removed. Apparently the discharge note was unfortunately incomplete, describing the problems but not making the resolution clear. Mistakes are obviously inevitable, but the impact is definitely exacerbated when you don’t speak the language and are being discharged on a Saturday when there are no doctors around.

That said, it does irritate me that they didn’t tell me after the operation on Friday…. never mind. So, it was a bit frustrating waiting to find out what had happened over the weekend, especially as it certainly wasn’t as easy to keep myself busy this side of the operation.

That said, changing dressings and injecting myself with a drug to prevent blood clots was quite a distraction. Changing the dressings was a pretty horrible experience the first time I did it, but it got easier – I got used to it, and the injuries got slightly better (though some of the bruising got more colourful).

The injections were a different story. Apologies to anyone who dislikes needles for the following picture, but I hate the things too and I had to stick one of these into me six days running, always doubting whether I’d actually manage to finish the job.

It was especially disturbing whenever the resistance of the skin changed as I slid it in….urgh, and what have I hit?

It took quite a few days for me to start getting at all comfortable walking around – a combination of the pain reducing and getting more confident in the stitches. None of the cuts were more than a few inches long, but having one at the top of the calf, one at the top of the thigh and one in the groin meant pretty much every movement of that leg was restricted.

In fact me hobbling around evidently presented such a picture that a Mystery Lady gave me the gift of this nifty zimmerframe-cum-shopping-trolley device while I was out (I think my first foray from the pontoon in several days).

Not sure about style points but good for helping get some exercise without screwing up too many muscles compensating for awkward movement – that ends up being half the problem after a while.

We’ve tried to work out who it could have been that gave it to me, but with no luck so far using the clues we have.. If I do know her, I’m still very grateful, even if her mystique will be slightly lessened!

Still, things improved, and I moved back onto Maid on Wednesday – not the best night’s sleep but actually the most comfortable for a while, not even requiring painkillers.

My leg is generally much better now, though it sometimes aches pretty fiercely. Movement is feeling reasonably free again, and I managed a little row yesterday as well as being able to walk about twice as far as a couple of days ago without needing breaks, or prompting unknown people, possibly strangers, to give me mobility aids.

Maid seemed to have been doing pretty well on her own, though I did add some plastic chafe protection to stop the lines mooring the front of the boat from rubbing through paint.

It’s been nice to be so close to many of my friends here in the new berth. That evening we ended up having a spontaneous gathering on the pontoon – rapidly growing from myself, Mike and Dave, to this:

and then to this

Additional entertainment was provided by an unusual variation on olives – the first two which had been sticking out for the vinegar had both Daves gasping, but the rest were very nice

and by Scabby and Tigre

Hang on. Are they all watching us again?

Rumours that Scabby was observed leaving gherkins on neighbouring boats are surely greatly exaggerated. But just in case, she’s gone to a new home at the south of the island as Mike and Caroline are going back to England shortly.

I’ve also had a very nice meal with Brian, Sue and their son Steve, and my former neighbour Simon.

Sue, Steve and Brian

Simon and I

We do have one mystery to clear up – are people outside Wales familiar with cheese and potato pie? It’s very tasty, but I can’t remember having heard of it before, though apparently it’s a ubiquitous pub food there.

Not to be outdone by Steve and Sue’s cooking, Simon made some very tasty coffees for afters.

 

Another thing that doesn’t require a great mobility is stargazing, and when you get chilly (I’ve found if my left leg gets cold at the moment it stops working almost completely) you can even stand looking out of the boat’s hatch, just like on night watches.

I was prompted to last night by the much-discussed Extreme Super Moon – not sure it appeared dramatically closer than usual, but certainly quite big and clear, and something to discuss with friends doing the same thing back home.

The media coverage of it is also quite entertaining, from the claims of impending doom to the dismissal of them as ‘conspiracy theories’. I’m not convinced that anyone is alleging the moon is a malevolent entity creating conspiracies..

On the subject of natural disasters, the events in Japan are pretty frightening – not sure I have much more to say on the subject from my little boat in the Canaries, except posting a link to the British Red Cross appeal site ( http://www.redcross.org.uk/Donate-Now/Make-a-single-donation/Japan-Tsunami-Appeal ), but it certainly puts my issues hobbling around the marina in a different perspective.

Off to the airport shortly to meet Jon who’s coming out to visit for a week : ) Woo-hoo!

The operation

Posted in Cancer, Malignant melanoma, Skin cancer on March 14, 2011 by maidofmettle

So, I went into the hospital again on Thursday. As luck would have it, this time I didn’t have a room to myself, making disturbed sleep more regular. My companion was perfectly nice in daylight hours, but rather prone to moaning in the early hours of the morning.

Still, Friday arrived pretty quickly. I’d wondered if I could really have been correct about them seeming to forget about the lymph node part the previous time. Well, it seems pretty certain now – I had definitely been taken to the operating theatre first before they realised they’d skipped a bit.

Anyway, this time I (and my bed) did get taken to the nuclear medicine place at 0800. They put the tracing stuff in – four injections around the site of the melanoma, which had been numbed beforehand, and then used some kind of gamma ray detector to see where it had gone in the lymphatic system. The first scan didn’t show anything up so I went back to bed for a while before getting called back in again.

This time it was much clearer- you could see a line leading to a clear dot on the screen where a lymph node was filtering out the radioactive tracer. They’re clustered in groups but this one is described as the ‘sentinel’ as it’s the first one affected by the tracer (and any cancer cells that have made it that far).

So if it’s fine, the rest are probably fine, and if it’s not then it’s safest to take all the lymph nodes in that area out, and possibly carry out further treatment beyond that.

That’s pretty drastic though, hence the most common procedure now is to identify the sentinel node, remove it for testing and then only take the rest out if necessary. So there was a bit of zooming in with the scanner and looking from different angles and a final poke with a marker pen before I got wheeled back up to my room to wait for the operating theatre to be ready.

The man who wheeled me down again seemed in quite a hurry, dashing round the bed trolley to open doors and summoning multiple lifts at once to grab the quickest. Quite fun for both of us, and a good distraction from the impending operation.

When I was parked outside the theatre the two anaesthetists came out and asked a few questions. They then mentioned it was a possible option to have an injection into my back (epidural), knocking me out from the waist down rather than completely unconscious as I’d expected. My initial reaction was definitely not wanting any needles (did I mention I don’t like them?) in my spine..

Then I thought about it a bit more and decided that being rendered completely unconscious is probably not great for you either, and it did seem like an interesting idea to be awake for it. I talked to the anaesthetists a bit more and they seemed to think the epidural was probably the best plan, with less chance of nasty after-effects, so I changed my mind.

I did wonder if it was a good idea when I got uncovered and realised how cold it felt in the operating theatre. At least the benefit of an injection in your back is that you never see the needle – it was hard enough to keep still without shivering, let alone worrying about that. In the event it was surprisingly painless – a small injection first to numb the area, and then the main one.

Although I was conscious I don’t actually remember that much about the operation after that. They put a curtain up so I couldn’t see what was happening – at the time I quite wanted to though I’m not so sure about it now.

So my main memories of the rest of the time in the operating theatre consist of one flap of the curtain occasionally falling in my face and people having to remove it. Oddly, I don’t remember hearing anything either, except people occasionally checking I was OK.

When it was done I went to a recovery ward where they blew hot air under the bedcovers. It was wonderful. I’d have happily stayed there a long time if I hadn’t been expecting visitors to my room upstairs, so I was quite relieved when I could eventually manage some movement of my lower body and they sent me back up.

It was lucky Petra and her daughter Marjolein were running later than they’d planned – I hadn’t been back long before they came in, and it was great to see them, and then Paul and Hilary, who came a while later.

So the evening was very good, but the night less so. The blue control panel could make the bed do all kinds of tricks, but didn’t necessarily make it comfortable. The actual cuts weren’t really the problem, just backache – probably from the epidural compounded by the limits on posture due to the cuts.

So I was quite glad when the morning came around, even if I did then have to wait quite a while longer to get my discharge paper – in fact I ended up having lunch there, having done some more reading and admired the view from the windows.

As well as getting me out of there, the discharge paper was handy for trying to clear up one mystery – why I had three cuts in me; in the leg for the melanoma, in the groin for the lymph node, and one more in the groin for luck?

Having read it, I’m quite glad I couldn’t see or hear anything during the operation. It seems I would have witnessed something like the following (well, assuming my Spanish was better anyway).

*looks for marker pen blob*
*cuts*
Hmm, quite hard to see the sentinel node. I think it’s behind that wibbly bit there.
*pokes*
No, there’s something in the way
Try the other side
*pokes*
Maybe you should just hack straight through to it?
That usually causes more problems than it solves. I’ll have another go.
*rummages*
No, that does seem impossible. Let’s just close it up and take a different one.
*stitches*
*cuts*
Ah, that’s better. This one should be fine, right?
Yep. Anyway, if we don’t mention it today we’ll all be at home when he finds out about it tomorrow.

Or that’s my impression anyway. With it being a Saturday when I found out, I couldn’t really get any more information that day. Consequently I was quite irritated that it hadn’t been mentioned the previous day – though I guess that does suggest it’s probably fine.

Still, it does worry me – as I understand it the point of testing the sentinel node is that it’s the most likely one to have been affected. So if another one is fine, I would guess it’s not as certain that the lymph node as fine as it would be the other way around.

So I’ve been waiting over the weekend to find out more about that. Dave and Taryna had very kindly offered to take me in on Heymede, which is definitely proving worthwhile – with a big bunk I can just about make myself comfortable overnight using lots of cushions, and it’s good not to be on my own at the moment.

My lovely wide guest bunk – though it appears to be occupied..

Me after reclaiming the bunk from Scabby (Mike and Caroline’s frequently roaming cat)

(you can almost see my get well card from Dave, Sarah, Bryn and Bethany on CAPE behind my head)

Though I wouldn’t really be on my own anyway – there are plenty of other people I know on boats on this pontoon which is very nice for company while I can’t get out much. Especially as they can’t either at the moment as it keeps tipping it down with rain! MuahahahahAHAHAHA!

EDIT – no more information on the lymph node issue – I called the hospital and it seems they got some tissue from the area, but it’s not necessarily clear whether it would definitely have the sentinel lymph node in it or not. I’m still assuming it’s probably ok or they’d have told me about it on the Friday.

In, out, in, out, just do the scanning and cut it out!

Posted in Cancer, Fun, Malignant melanoma, Music, Photographs, Skin cancer with tags on March 10, 2011 by maidofmettle

I was rather surprised to be told that I needed to go into hospital on the Tuesday evening to be ready for the operation – inconvenient, but it seemed reassuring that I’d have a bed and be very definitely in the system.

I was rather surprised to find that I got my own room

And a man with a shaver to prepare for the operation..

Hmm, this is strange. Should I have asked him to do the other one to match?

answer with hindsight – probably best not, rasps horribly when wearing trousers..

I hadn’t eaten before I got to the hospital as I hadn’t been told when I needed to stop – I was presuming I could get some there if need be. However, the canteen had looked ominously shut as I entered the ground floor, so being told I could eat and drink until midnight was more of a frustration than a relief.

Until a little while later, when a lady with a food trolley knocked on my door. I bet no-one has ever looked so excited to get Spanish hospital food. She must think English cuisine is really terrible..

This was pretty good – some vegetable soup and bread to go with it, and a chunky omelette with some vegetables. I ate it quite quickly though as my next mission was to find somewhere to watch the Arsenal game – as luck would have it the TV in my room was broken.

I eventually found a common room type thing upstairs to see the second half – a decent game that would probably have got even better towards the end if not for a very strange sending-off. Shame about the result.

I didn’t sleep that well – but not from worrying, I think just an unfamiliar bed and background noise. In fact generally not knowing what was going to happen next made for quite an adventure. I certainly didn’t expect the big plot twist to come, even though there was some nice foreshadowing.

A few days ago I’d got a bit confused about when the injection of the tracer to find the right lymph node to remove for examination was happening. Those with good memories will recall that in fact they’d just taken blood out for a blood test, and the other stuff was to be done on the day of the operation.

This week, it would appear that the hospital staff got confused. To paraphrase the charming but unfortunate waiter who served us in a restaurant on Porto Santo, two bad things happened…

One, they seemed to wheel me down to the operating theatre before someone presumably pointed out that they still hadn’t done the tracing and so didn’t know which lymph node they should be removing. So I went all the way back up to my room again, and sat around a bit more.

And two, they couldn’t actually do the lymph node tracing that day, so they discharged me again, hopefully to have the operation on Friday. That won’t be too bad if it happens, but I really don’t want to be waiting over another weekend.

Still, after that it turned into a very good day. There was a bit of rushing around the marina to make sure no-one went to visit me in hospital later that afternoon, which led to some very nice bonuses to not being in hospital.

As I was rowing along the far side of the marina I almost collided with an anchor chain stretching very unusually far out into the water. It wasn’t hard to recognise the boat it was mooring, and the name is printed big enough the photo doesn’t really need a caption.

We’d first met Elida in Cartagena last February while making our way out of the Mediterranean, and enjoyed a very nice few days with them, and especially Caroline’s birthday party (https://maidofmettle.wordpress.com/2010/02/10/cartagena-cartageeena-ahh-carta).

We had seen the boat again in Gibraltar on their way back to Sweden, but they only stopped for fuel and we didn’t get to meet them. They were only in the marina here for a few hours again, so I was extremely happy to be able to meet them. And another surprising coincidence – our friend Tindra, who first introduced us to the rest of the ship’s crew in Cartagena, was aboard, but flying back to Sweden a few hours later.

I helped Tindra and Natha (another friend who was on Elida before) with cooking – it’s quite a task making lunch for at least 20 people! Once again their food was delicious.

After that I had to leap in the dinghy to go and practise a little harmonica before the main music session on ‘Pax Nostrum’ later on. Again it was a very good evening, though with it having been a very long day I made it home at a relatively sensible hour. I played harmonica on a few songs – I’m slowly getting the hang of ‘Dirty Old Town’, though ‘Sloop John B’ remains very very tricky.

Alli and Dave

Derrick, Hilary and Sarah

I am definitely struggling to stay ahead of breaking news. I have just got a phone call to say that I am going back in to the hospital this evening..

But before that, I wanted to make it easier to get on and off Maid – climbing over the bow isn’t easy, and climbing over the stern means a long gangplank which can be a bit tricky. I’ll be staying with Dave and Taryna on their boat for a few days after the operation, but obviously it will be good to be able to get on and off my boat as easily as possible.

Derrick and Alli left to have their boat loaded onto a cargo ship bound for Genoa this morning, and their berth looked ideal.

Green Flash departing – hopefully we’ll meet again in England this autumn

I managed to persuade the marina staff to let me move into it – normally for bigger boats but the marina is relatively empty now. I’ll be able to climb on and off the side much more easily, and there’s the added bonus that most of the people I know here are all on this pontoon.

Maid in her new berth, complete with side-ramp for easy access

So, time to go back to the hospital again.

So much to write, but actually not even time to find the right pictures

Posted in Cancer, Malignant melanoma, Skin cancer with tags on March 8, 2011 by maidofmettle

I thought I’d have more time to write this one, but I have to go in to the hospital this evening ready for the operation tomorrow. Hopefully I’ll be able to find somewhere to watch Arsenal take on Barcelona. What did you say about priorities? This is just short-term focus – one thing at a time..

So there will just have to be a teaser for stuff to be caught up on – playing the harmonica, strange South American drinks, a party on Aquamarijn, Dutch engine oil, the main parade of the carnival and fish. Oh, and some stuff about a hospital.

Maybe things will look like this after the anaesthetic?

Back soon!

The English Armada…about as successful as the Spanish one

Posted in Cancer, Cooking, Fun, Malignant melanoma, Photographs, Sailing, Skin cancer with tags , on March 5, 2011 by maidofmettle

Firstly the medical update – I was getting quite worried by last weekend about when the operation would be – a Wednesday in March, but which?

I then got a call on Monday and went in for an ECG and a blood test, which  gave some reassurance that things were happening. Well, I found that out later anyway. I’d initially thought (looking AWAY from the needle) that they were injecting the tracer substance to find the nearest lymph node, and was somewhat concerned that they didn’t seem to be going to look for it…

Then I was very happy to get a call saying the operation will be on the 9th (next Wednesday, though I don’t know what time yet) – hooray! As I’ve said before, it’s much easier knowing that things are happening fairly soon.

Now, onto the blog title and beyond…

It’s a slightly amusing fact that the people who’ve sailed hundreds or thousands of miles to get to Las Palmas rarely go out sailing from here. When you’re living aboard a boat you tend to make yourself comfortable in harbour or at anchor, and preparing to go to sea again will probably take a while. Still, Mike and Caroline had kindly offered to take a big party of friends out on their boat, and I decided to take Maid out as well to make a mini-regatta of it.

Phantom Lady – the other half of our fleet for the day

They left at around 11, and I was about to follow – wind vane self steering ready, engine running, most of the mooring ropes untied and coiled on deck – when I spotted them coming back in again. I was rather surprised to find they’d tied the boat back up and opened a bottle of wine (before midday seemed a little early), and a couple of people seemed to be sporting minor scrapes. Very strange..

I discovered they hadn’t even made it to the marina entrance when the engine went into overdrive and started gushing smoke. The ‘stop’ button didn’t stop it so Mike had to very hastily shut the fuel off while Dave put the anchor down. Having been busy preparing, I was probably about the only person who didn’t watch them get towed back into their berth…

So since nearly everyone was gathered and it was a Sunday most of us decided to go to the beach instead. We took the boules set, but most of the adults (Dave was a very notable exception, but then he is also known as ‘Dangerous’) didn’t have enough energy, and the kids had too much, so we’ll have to play another time.

Mike had a rather more productive afternoon with his diesel engine maintenance book and has happily fixed the problem. So one plan worked out!

I didn’t actually take any photos that day, but never mind, there’s always more to catch up on. It’s always interesting looking through photos a few days afterwards – both the pictures themselves, the memories, and my reactions to them.

This is probably my favourite view on the island so far – an incredibly steep cliff, then a huge gash between two great crags of rock framing the village of Tejeda on the valley floor, with even bigger ridges on the other side, and the spike of Roque Nublo sticking up in the background. It’s incredible, and the photograph really doesn’t do it justice.

Sorry photo

But just occasionally, you come across one that preserves a sight that otherwise wouldn’t have stuck in the memory as well – by isolating a small window and focusing on a particular object, it creates an image almost as memorable as the sight itself. It’s just a pity it can’t convey the warmt and the scents.

The rest of the recap seems to involve a lot of entertaining. I’d now had a couple of meals on Simon’s boat moored next door to mine, so I’d invited him, Brian and Sue (friends he met earlier on his trip who come round quite often) over for dinner in the evening on Thursday. Lemon cheesecake once again for dessert, some tortilla chips for starters, and some kind of stew with rice for the main course, and some salad made with Caroline’s Lebanese recipe – but that’s been posted already. A couple of things that haven’t:

Guacamole
One ripe avocado
Juice of up to half a lemon
Pepper
Salt
mix all that together, adding the lemon juice gradually and tasting occasionally, then keep covered until you use it. Makes more than enough for 4, probably good for 6-8.

Stew
1 large onion and an aubergine fried with a little cayenne pepper

400g stewing steak, chopped into small pieces
1 HUGE tin of chickpeas and 1 tin of tomatos
A handful of fresh parsley and some lemon juice

I’ve liked aubergines for a long while, but I’ve been using them a LOT since Simon made a very spicy side dish for a barbecue in which they were a main feature. I’ve tended to chop them pretty finely and let them largely disappear into the sauce, which is fine if you’re cooking for people who don’t like them that much but really wastes them otherwise. Fried in big chunks they have a very distinctive, almost meaty taste – well worth trying if you don’t know you dislike them.

Speaking of exciting flavours, something I hadn’t mentioned about the walk last Tuesday was the discovery of rather a lot of wild thyme, which lead to discussion of what one might do with it, which lead to me picking some and folding an origami thyme pouch from the paper bag my lunch was in, and Carolyn and Yann coming round on Friday for lemon and thyme-flavoured chicken with Canarian potatoes and spinach.

Well, sort of. I haven’t fathomed the mystery of Canarian potatoes yet. Apparently they’re just boiled in lots of salt, but the ones served in restaurants are incredibly wrinkly, giving the skin a slightly crisp texture almost like baked potatoes. Probably I’m just using the wrong variety. I’m not sure how close my mojo sauce is to other versions in ingredients, but it’s pretty close in taste, and very easy to make, just using mojo powder (I kid you not) and bechamel.

The main recipe is very simple as well:
Lemon & thyme chicken
~400g chicken breast, thinly sliced by the butcher with a quite terrifying knife – it went through it like butter
juice of half a lemon
a small handful of thyme sprigs
olive oil
I marinaded it for a token five minutes or so in the pan, and then fried it. I think it was probably cooked within 10-15 minutes, but I kept it on longer to brown the chicken nicely. I had to drain off some of the liquid in the pan – the lemon flavour had definitely been absorbed though.

Bjorn, who organised the walk last Tuesday, joined us for the dessert

Having made a lemon cheesecake the previous evening I felt like being a little more experimental this time.

Dark chocolate and vanilla cheesecake

I’m pretty pleased, though it needs some work – I still haven’t pinned down the quantities of biscuits and butter to get a solid base, and in this case it was exacerbated by the chocolate stripe being far too solid. Of course, if it’s less solid it might get significantly harder to sculpt.

Still, I’m pretty pleased with it for a first go. Once I’ve perfected it I might have another try at the orange version I’d concocted a couple of weeks ago, which was sort of nice but bafflingly indescribable – something like eating marmalade with biscuits in it.

One I won’t be trying again is a version I made for Dave and Scott a few weeks ago, just before they headed off across the Atlantic.  We decided to make it on a Sunday when no shops were open, so had to use a lemon I acquired from a bar and the remains of their herby cream cheese. It was surprisingly tasty, but not very set (too much condensed milk trying to counteract the chives), and had an aftertaste curiously like cheese and onion crisps.

So, what have your latest culinary adventures and misadventures been?

And while we’re at it, any feedback on the blog now I’ve written a few entries? – more of this, less of that, etc.

Celebrating, walking and waiting

Posted in Cancer, Fitting out and maintenance, Fun, Malignant melanoma, Photographs, Skin cancer, Walking with tags , , , on February 27, 2011 by maidofmettle

It’s been quite a busy time…

On the first Thursday of Lent we had a late Shrove Tuesday party on Heymede (if anyone can guess why a boat might be called that Dave would be interested to know). Dave claimed to never have made pancakes before but is evidently a quick learner as well as keen – he’s now cooked about 30! – and the ones I had were extremely nice.

On Friday I went to the hospital for an examination – nothing calamitous, but I found I had to come back again the following week to see the plastic surgeon. This got me pretty worried as it sounded like it might delay everything by a week, since my next appointment was after their regular specialists’ meeting. Fortunately I was able to get confirmation that it they’d still talk about it last Tuesday rather than next, and the operation will normally be scheduled within a fortnight of then.

Saturday morning was quite productive – I washed a couple of sails and some more ropes. This makes them a lot easier to handle by getting the salt out of them – some of the mooring ropes had developed very strong ideas about how they wanted to coil.

Drying the sails

With that done I started work on the boat electrics switch panel, though I got quite distracted from my original intentions by the fact that a lot of the labels were coming unstuck from different wires – definitely best rectified before it’s too late, in the switch panel and behind the cabin sides and ceiling. It definitely helps to have refitted the boat ourselves – otherwise I think this kind of sight behind the panelling would definitely inspire panic!

That evening we went to the carnival – or one evening of it – it’s a huge event here, with festivities spread out over 3-4 weeks. This one was the final of the band competition, with groups from different villages and organisations putting on 30 minute shows. None of us were that keen on the first one, though they certainly had the crowd going, but the second band were excellent – several short songs, all fast and catchy, and what looked like a pretty good stage show from what we could see standing at the back.

The staff were giving out free bubble blowers – chaos ensues. Dave looks concerned..


Los Chacho Tu – possibly to be the first band in the main parade?

It’s a huge event – the main stage in the pictures is in Santa Catalina park which is something like 20 minutes walk from the marina, but there are going to be a couple of parades through the city, and there are lots of associated events at clubs, bars, the yacht club.

I got up again at 3am to see the end of a spectacular fireworks display – the golden finale was probably even better than the New Year’s Eve ones. Later in the morning I headed to the bus station to go up to Artenara, where I’d finished my previous walk. It’s a seemingly strange quirk of the bus timetables that there’s only an evening bus back to Las Palmas from there on a Sunday, and this time I wanted to do a longish circular walk visiting a flat plain I’d seen the previous time – the Vega de Acusa.

The village of Artenara is on the right, and the elevated plain Vega de Acusa in the far left

The journey there was quite entertaining – the bus drivers are usually a bit crazy, but that’s probably just a matter of meeting their timetable on the windy mountain roads. It had clearly ceased to be a challenge for this one, so he parked up for a few minutes at the Pinos de Galdar viewpoint and the church in Juncalillo to let everyone have a look around.

The view to Las Palmas from the Mirador de Los Pinos de Galdar again – this time a slightly clearer day

I seem to post a lot of long-distance views, so here are some closer-up shots to prove that I do look at things nearer to hand (and foot) as well, though my continued survival in such a hilly place should probably count for something there.

Down and further down, but at least it’ll be cooler when coming back up later on

Still descending, but at least it’s not quite as steep


As you can see it’s looking very much like spring has come here. It might be remote but a lot of areas were surprisingly noisy – almost reminiscent of the background hum of the M25 on Reigate Hill. The cause was rather different though.

On the subject of wildife, this fella seemed very confident that he was inconspicuous like this, but was extremely shy about unfurling his beautiful red butterfly wings long enough to get a picture.

Actually, looking up can seem almost as important to safety round here as looking down at the ground. Having passed one big rock the other day that had clearly hit the road and bounced a couple of times before denting the crash barrier I didn’t like the look of this one.

It actually looked worse from the bend below it, but you’ll have to take my word for it as I didn’t hang around there

The Vega de Acusa itself is a rather strange place – it looks almost like a small English farming landscape plonked down in a land of huge ridges and lush valleys.

From a distance

and close up

There are several cave villages built into the sides of the plateau. It sounds like it was it’s own little world at one time, separate on most sides by the topography, with a rich farming community on top and lots of grain storage chambers and dwellings in the sides. Some caves apparently have old paintings in them, ranging from fertility symbols to starry skies, and quite a lot are actually still inhabited.

They must have been hard work to build, but they’re very practical here – apparently the rock keeps them at a steady 18-20 degrees throughout the year. Some kind of verandah is quite common – obviously much easier to construct, and lets you enjoy the warmth of the day.

View from inside an abandoned cave – a nice cool spot on a hot day.

Since the last bus was due quite late on I had plenty of time to relax on the way back up to Artenara, and even fiddle around with the self-timer on the camera, with mixed results.

Normally I just delete terrible photos, but this one really made me laugh. Not only does my posture look very weird (I think I must be leaning backwards slightly), but Roque Nublo is growing right out of the top of my head. How many tries would it take to deliberately achieve that? Oh, and the top right corner is obscured….

Oh dear – can anyone spot anything else wrong with it?

A bit better

Another benefit of the late return was still being on the western side of the island as the sun went down over Tenerife

Sunset from the bus – Mt. Teide in the far distance on the right

Among other things on Monday, I rowed round to visit another boat. Carolyn invited me to go to a walk with her and a group of Swedish friends on Tuesday, from Cruz de Tejeda to Artenara (yep, been there a lot lately). People with excellent memories will note that I had already walked that path once, but why not do it again? Especially in good company, and on another nice day.

Carolyn at Artenara

We passed some mountain bikers on the way. Any Reigate and Leith Hill regulars reading will be disappointed to note that they’d been driven to the top of the hill – but then again I don’t think any of us would want to go up it, especially not in all the protective clothing and padding they were wearing to try and make it down again safely!

Walking the path was much more relaxing though – it’s fairly hard work, but certainly not so much you can’t chat and enjoy the view. I discovered some new things this time as well, like the short-cut to the cave chapel at Artenara I’d had to go the long way round to visit before.

The group winding down towards the chapel

It was built (hewn?) in the 18th century, though the altar, pulpit and other furnishings (all also carved from the rock) are much more recent. The figure of the Virgin of the Little Cave was an anonymous donation (the sign outside speculates that she might have American origins), but the locals seem to have taken her very much to their hearts, and hold a big fiesta in her honour every year – especially the cyclists (she’s their patron saint).

Inside La Cuevita

Since I’ve been to Artenara so much lately I thought I should probably post a picture of the town centre before changing the subject. Actually, I just couldn’t resist the caption.

Sayonara Artenara (for at least a few days)

On Thursday it was time to go back to the hospital again – handily my appointment was later than the previous one, and this time I knew roughly how long the journey would take, so I could leave at a much more sensible time in the morning, and not sit around in the hospital for as long. I got to speak to the plastic surgeon who’ll do the operation, and ask lots of questions about recovery time etc, but still don’t have the one answer I really want, which is when the operation will actually take place.

The probable date at the moment is the 9th of March, which is right at the end of the time period I was hoping for (a fortnight from last Tuesday). But that’s not definite yet, and I may not get confirmation until the day before, though they’ll try and tell me as soon as they can, and I’ve seen on the form that the ‘high priority’ box is ticked. From the sound of it getting the anaesthetist is probably the trickiest bit – presumably they work with various surgeons throughout the day.

So, I suspect the next few days, or week or so, or whatever, are likely to be a little frustrating. At least I’ll have plenty of time to translate the explanation and consent form for the operation…

I’ll probably call the insurance company again tomorrow and try and figure out if there are any options we haven’t thought of yet, but that’s probably going to be an uphill battle unless the date is definitely put back, rather than just remaining uncertain. I’ve considered going back to the UK, but that would very likely be slower – the system sounds similar in terms of timing but I’d be taking two steps backwards (GP then referral to specialist) by going from the Spanish system to the UK one.

I suspect I will be continuing to keep myself busy…
speaking of which, there are fireworks outside.