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still sorting life out

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It is the colder, darker part of winter. Rainy days have been and gone, now it is blue skies but bitter winds. This mix is  the setting for my usual dose of mid-winter blues. I haven't had any visitors for a while now, just a few phone calls, the ones I dislike are the ones telling me that another dear old soul from church is in hospital with a broken arm or hip or a bad dose of flu. I want to scream: " Give  me some good news." But good news is in short supply.


My daughter has been ill with a chest infection so I rescheduled my medical review as she likes to be  there to find out the  results and the Professor's conclusions. I have had all the required tests and the results must be okay or I would have been notified by now. I always used to tell Ray whatever the doctor diagnosed he had had it for a long time so why worry now? And I am applying that as advice to myself. Wherever possible I just live one day at a time now. I wake up, put my feet on the floor and wonder what the day will bring. It is the best way I can live. With the way my body works now it is not worth making plans to do things I don't have the energy or stamina to carry out.


Last week I had a tree taken down, it was beginning to lean over the house and when the winds blew strongly I was starting to worry that it would fall down across the house. The tree felling gang had a big machine that chipped the wood into sawdust and so I kept only the trunk wood which the neighbours wanted, one for his indoor fire and the other for his outdoor BBq. Wood fired BBqs are slowly returning to fashion as we start realising that we must cut household costs now to survive.


It is not all gloom and doom, I do not feel as tired as I did a month or so ago and my body seems to have adapted to the pressure stocking. I  just can't comfortably do stairs. I still have the Lymphoedema, I still have problems with the cut muscle but I am definitely stronger and better at walking now and I hop in and out of bed more or less the way I did before the lymph dissection which is a blessing. The sad thing is that again due to the Lymphoedema my travelling days are over, I cannot fly for any more than four hours. I live on an Island, I know it is bigger than Europe and Asia combined but it is still surrounded by sea (or girt by sea as our National Anthem says) and so flying is the usual way to travel.


So my plans for Spring and Summer don't include a lot of traveling. In fact I don't really have a plan at all which is most unusual for me. But that has happened in the past and some fun things happened anyway. So no sense in being sad, I need to have a positive attitude to life. Okay so that is not going to happen every day, I'll still have whiny days and blue days but I'll try to make some good even great days. I went to an 80th birthday party last Saturday and thoroughly enjoyed the day. Fun is where you make it happen.


School holidays are on now, the mid-winter break so I will get to see the three grandkids who come and stay with their Mum Pam and maybe have my daughter and family here for a day. I haven't seen them since the  end of May. Funny how you long for your kids to move closer and when they do you hardly see them. As the old saying goes: " We all have busy lives." Well Ray and I used to have them too at their age but we still made time for our parents. It is a different generation with different priorities.


Hope I don't sound too down. There is a lot of good dayvs ahead of me I am sure and when the days get longer I will be out in the garden and hopefully out with friends. When the sun is out the neighborhood is alive with kids playing, dogs barking and the usual working day noises which I do enjoy when the front door is open and the sounds filter through it. It is on those cold and gloomy days I suddenly feel that loneliness creeping up on me. So I am really looking forward to longer, warmer days to come in another six weeks or so.



I have just been to Broken Hill for a week with Trevor, it is cool and dry inland so on the sunny afternoons 

I sat on his verandah and read and I'm always happy to do that. When he and his girlfriend  were available (they are both busy doing training courses) we went places, some new, some old favourites. On my birthday we went to Silverton, a former mining town now a popular place for artists and went to a couple of galleries. There are some wonderful paintings of that wild desert country beyond the Hill. It is good to have time to just enjoy being in a place where life is so different from home.


It was my birthday and Alice's birthday while I was there, so two celebrations, mine was a nice dinner out, hers a special  afternoon tea. I haven't any unreal expectations these days so it was just good  to be with family for the day. I enjoyed my time with Alice it was nice to see the fun she has with Trevor. He plays a lot more games with her than her mother does so she has a ball while she is with him. His girlfriend has a Chocolate Labrador who is very popular with Alice, she hugs him and drags him around, I am glad she responds so well to him.


The flying was not the problem I was told it could be, it was more my fear that something would go wrong that bothered me. I know the problem of increasing the lymphoedema due to pressure  was on my mind and of course while the stocking plus the new leg wrap was supposed to prevent that happening the stiffness made  me feel less confident in my ability to climb steps, sit for a long period etc. The walk through the airport was easier than I thought it would be as I had allowed plenty of time for that. I never realised how much I took my ability to get around for granted and jhow much easier life was prior to what is really just a minor glitch in my life.


I looked at going on a trip out to one of the local opal fields, about three hours drive away on my next visit.I love opals and it is interesting country, boney and dry but with it's own special beauty. Living on the coastal strip as I do I yearn sometimes for the silence of the bush and Broken Hill gives me that feeling of isolation in the big sky country. There is something special about the sensation of seeing so many stars at night, having a different sunset every night, waking up to bright skies in the morning.


Now home to take up the routine tasks. It has been raining while I have been away so the grass is greener than when I went away, it is also colder as there is an overcast sky. So now to settle down to my winter tasks, knitting, crocheting, reading, catching up on phone calls and correspondence. Today I went to a local market, had some time at the shopping centre and then some time doing preparations for  the Lions BBQ on Monday. It is good to have a variety of things to do. Some things I have had to give up but most of my usual routine still applies.


It is good to be back and catch up with friends again, luckily nothing much happened while I was away. My other family members don't seem worried about me now things are stable healthwise. I know there will be many tests ahead of me for three to five years yet but know also I can only live my life one day at a time. And that is the same for all of us.




This afternoon I went to the Lymphoedema Clinic for the first time, I was anticipating getting some of my most pressing questions answered. I had done what everyone does, gone to Dr  Google for my answers about the relationship between lymph node dissection and lymphoedema. Most of what I found related to breast cancer but that is understandable as the breast cancer girls pioneered the use of lymph node surgery. I am very grateful for that and the surgeons who pioneered the treatment.


The girl who I saw put me through the usual paperwork, I am getting used to it now, taking them step by step through the discovery, diagnosis, surgery, recovery etc. Then there was examining the wound site, taking the measurements of both legs etc. Then she asked me could she call a colleague in and the colleague explained that I would have a new pressure stocking, measurements would be taken six monthly and on and on. I was a bit puzzled as the surgeon had said I would have the stocking at least until the end of October, so I mentioned this. The colleague laughed and said : " I don't think so, this is forever." And I burst into tears. 


The girl who had asked me the questions was dismayed and tried to calm me down. I'm sure they thought I knew this was a possibility. But I didn't. I assumed the condition would settle down and I would only be wearing the stocking for long distance traveling once October ended. I guess it is like any diagnosis, I found it af bit hard to swallow. Initially it was devastating. I thought it was a case of accepting the changes, having some physio and then a new life with a new normal. Silly me.


When the colleague has gone back to her room the original nurse Connie explained that certain factors like getting overheated, stressed, tiredness and overuse of the affected leg can cause the lymphoedema to spread. So it was safer to continue to wear a pressure stocking.  Dr Google didn't tell me that. So I now have to get used to the idea of having this condition forever. I can still take the stocking off for short periods of time, wear gym pants which will apply some pressure for swimming, walking on the beach with my grandchildren etc but a lot of normal summer pursuits will have to be carefully monitored because of the  possibility of overheating.


I know a lot of my friends will pat me and say "never mind" but I do mind. It is another body blow, another little death, the death of summer dreams. Just the thought of finding some place to change in and out of a pressure stocking near a beach kind of denies being able to do anything without prior planning. "I'll just be five minutes, well closer to an hour I'm afraid." Nothing spontaneous about that is there? Okay, I know that is the case for a lot of stroke survivors so I am lucky, but I need time to get used to the idea.


And that kind of sums up the last couple of decades, changes that I have had to get used to. And eventually I do. But not without a fight usually. Sorry as I am about my inability to adapt to every new situation. Maybe body image is still one of the issues, I want to look and feel as good as I can for my age and circumstances. I guess we all do. I know some people are able to relate to this and others will find it difficult. After all I still have the use of both my legs.


How long is forever? Nurse Connie said it is like today, tomorrow, the next day and the day after that, if I can  think of it that way it won't be so hard. Perhaps the survivors will understand that. I can in a way. I did a lot of that when I  was a full time caregiver for Ray just looking a few days ahead, not too long ahead or I couldn't adapt to the sudden changes. And we all know how suddenly life can change. Hopefully this won't be the case for me. Until the next set of tests I can pretend nothing else is going to happen can't I?


From time to time I have a melt down, at five years out from Ray's death it is not frequent but sometimes intense. Tonight I was watching a travel program and there they are, that older couple walking hand in hand along a beach and before I knew it I have tears streaming down my cheeks. Darn! I don't want to feel like this, like I am lost and alone and yes even deserted and abandoned because that's what being a widow feels like sometimes. As if that special person who like you said "till death us do part" should have been here keeping their side of the bargain.


At the end of July Ray and I would have been married 50 years. I am going to find somewhere else to be alone for a few days around then as I don't want to be here wallowing in grief. I want to feel okay without forgetting Ray but with a renewed life that is my own. I know a lot of widows and widowers  have managed to get over the death of their partner, find a new life, sometimes even a new partner and sometimes within a couple of years of the death of a spouse or partner. Why I haven't I don't know except that for me it is still su'n'ray.It was that way for 44 years and somehow the thought still lingers.


Sometimes I talk as if  Ray is still alive, I know that because a friend told me so and sometimes I am aware of that myself. Most of my stories are Ray and Sue stories. This my friend tells me will certainly put off anyone who may be interested in me. Well what am I supposed to do about that? In the first place how do I know  if a person is interested in me or not? Aussie men are famously lacking in courting skills, giving little indication of their feelings. I am very poor at judging how people feel so that combination of characteristics is unlikely to enlighten me. Also I have been told a few times that I am just like  " a big sister" to one or other of my male friends which is not a good analogy for anyone seeking a budding romance. 


So the hand holding, walking along the beach thing is never going to happen except with a young grandchild and sunsets will be seen from my verandah alone rather than the deck of a cruiser on the Rhine as part of a couple. Okay I could go on a cruise alone , walk on that beach alone, watch that sunset alone, I know that. Being alone is my speciality right now .  I dodge loneliness by filling my life with a  lot of busyness usually, that hasn't been possible recently because of the treatment after the operation and so alas once again my feelings have been able to ambush me. Hopefully I will be able to resume my busyness soon and feel stronger emotionally.


Is this a pity party for one? I suppose it is but it is also a melting moment, one of a string of them that will happen from time to time. As long as I get over it quickly I am okay, it is when the same thoughts hang around for a longer time that I am in trouble. In the blogs over the years I have seen a lot of pity parties, after all venting of thoughts, sad, angry, why-me etc is one of the purposes of blogging. Where possible I try to express an empathy with the poster, what a friend of mine would call a "feel sorry" moment. And I am sorry circumstances  have changed making the poster sad, bad, mad etc. It is not comfortable to feel that way and in the long run not healthy.


As a former caregiver a lot of my friends look to me for comfort and advice. I feel that I am expected to be sympathetic and considerate. On one hand that is exactly what I do, try to comfort others,  to make a difference, to help alleviate their pain. Acting in this way is part of my Christian upbringing, I was taught to treat people the way I would like to be treated. In another way I can see the value in allowing people to experience their own pain. I know the value of that myself but only in retrospect. I wish we do could get the wisdom without the pain.  


It is unwise to assume we have the power to change the way people feel from the people in our own family to the person we talk to in the mall. The fact is that the stranger may be more willing to take our advice than those who know us well. Familiarity breeds contempt we were told. So our nearest and dearest may not be pleased by us giving our advice and even tell us so. I stopped hitting my head on that particular brick wall long ago. But there still remains the fact that when I need  advice and we do all need advice at some stage I guess I just have to be wise in who I ask. And I need to remember that a lot of advice is well meaning even if it does not exactly fit the case and be glad the person who gives me the advice likes me enough to be there for me.


I had my operation to remove my lymph nodes on the left side of my trunk seven weeks ago, now I am finally healing. With my usual routine unavailable I was glad I found a few new things to do.  I also had a lot of visitors, some of whom had never been to my house before. I  am not a very tidy person and was a bit worried that some of my friends might judge  me on that. I soon realised that most of the people I call my friends love me just the way I am, a very comforting thought.


One of the ways I kept busy was a form of pruning where I just cut what I could reach without bending or stretching, I figure I can go back later and cut back the rest. A friend came on Saturdays and watered the garden for me. I wanted to tidy up inside so found one way was just sweeping everything off cupboards and then putting back only what I needed to, leaving more space. It wasn't really productive time but nor was it wasted. And it has certainly made me appreciate the flexibility I think of as"normal".


I had community nurses come to dress my wounds so enjoyed a few minutes chat with them and with the women who came to do some domestic chores. Going through this period has made me more aware that it is okay to accept help when I need it. I am in a community that considers anyone over 70 "elderly" so help is available for a price. And accepting that reduces the strain on my daughter and the worry the boys feel because they cannot be here to help.


Since my diagnosis with melanoma in August last year I have talked to a lot of people about my case and melanoma in general. Like the support we find here among those experiencing strokes those who have experienced melanoma love to share their experiences. Everyone has a story, some are happy with a good outcome, some are sad. Many people are interested in my experience because our beautiful sunny climate makes melanoma a common occurrence. Some of them understand the implications others still have the head-in-sand approach. Some of the nurses took photos to show a partner the consequences of not going to the Skin Clinic. I am useful as a bad example!


I picked up two of the ladies I take to church this morning, I am slowly getting back into routine. One is coming up to her 101st birthday in May, I love her way of enjoying life. She is still living in her own home and manages most of the tasks of everyday living. The other lady is in her nineties and legally blind but manages with some help. They are from a tough generation having come through the Depression and second World War. My third lady is on hospital unfortunately.


The school holidays are in another week and I will have Trevor and Alice here for six days. I am so looking forward to the visit but aware I will have to have to pace myself as I will not be back to my fully energetic self and five year olds are a little demanding. Hopefully the weather will still be mild enough to enjoy being outside a lot of the time. There will be opportunities to get together with the other cousins too.


So plenty look forward to in the weeks ahead. I just have to stay well enough to enjoy it.



My blog has been since 2006 a partial record of my life, fiirst as a caregiver and now as a widow I have never worried about what I wrote or who read it as it is a personal journal but one that might always resonate with others. Sometimes it is like a holiday journal, it may be about my family or what is happening in my life, I don't think it matters.  The benefits have been that I have had a way of recording what is happening from a personal point of view.


I am now 70 and for the past 8 months on a different journey as the result of finding a dark spot on my left leg had become a melanoma I climbed onto the medical merry-go-round It is a hard  thing to suddenly discover you have a malignant melanoma and has resulted in having three operations  so far. I am still recovering from the last one. I just spent a week in hospital and it was not a good experience as my local hospital that is an ever growing complex does not seem to be able to cope with what I need doing. 


It seems sometimes as if we do not keep up with all the new knowledge and try to substitute technology for teaching and so fall behind. The hospital was rolling out a new scheme to computerized the medication input so nurses were all looking at screens not patients. Which meant that call bells went unanswered and everything else took second place. I must say that although I am still not confident that the infection has gone I am glad to be home. At least here I can set my own hours, eat my own food and it is quiet enough to think my own thoughts.


So I have decided that as soon as I am able to drive again I need to plan some different activities. I missed out on most of the summer activities and several parties I would have loved to attend. I haven't visited my son in Broken Hill since last July or seen any of the grandkids since Christmas. I feel as if my whole life has been consumed by medical matters, so many tests and xrays and scans, blood tests and interviews. I need some leisure and pleasure time now.  I know there will be more tests as I am in several studies now but I don't want my life filled with that


I have once again really appreciated the friends who have shown their concern and offered help.  Not that they're able to help in the way  I need but the fact that they offered. My daughter and daughter-in-law have been great transporting me from test to test and Shirley has organized a lot of my care. The recovery goes on. Hopefully no more time in hospital, I would like to have time to enjoy autumn and the warmth of the sun will help me to heal. I have to stay in my house for at least another week.


So what have  I learned from all of this? As usual that life is uncertain, that at some stages life seems to be passing me by. But that's never the truth is it ? We learn something from every event we go through, that we have so many opportunities to see our lives from a different angle and even something that may allow us to make life changes. I met women who have suffered greatly yet are still ready to laugh at life. I find that very inspiring. I hope that I can act as bravely as they do in my turn.


I know not everyone finds a sickness like cancer or stroke easy to cope with but it certainly brings out the best in some people and I am happy to know so many in my own life. The  WAGS group are still my best supporters. I owe so much to them. I wonder how someone who is already looking after a spouse, partner, son or daughter can still find time to reach out to others. But that's what happens. And I am very thankful for that. In time I will endeavour to repay them or play it forward.



And back again

I'm back home again after five days in hospital. I still have a lot of healing to do but it is nice to be home. I had a good sleep last night, the first in a week, it is great to be back in my own bed again. I wasn't in the Melanoma Unit this time so learned a lot about other forms of cancer. Whenever I feel sorry for myself I need to remember there are a lot of suffering people in the world dealing with whatever life has thrown at them as well as they can and be glad I have the power to overcome, to change and be positive. No "poor me" sessions.


Thanks to all who have supported me through this, it is good to know I have that backup when my spirit feels faint hearted. I can be brave when there are people around but on my own not so much. I know that a lot of you can relate to that. It is great that I have Shirley here today but tomorrow I will be on my own again I will have some support from community nurses who will know what my treatment is all about as it is similar to what the breast cancer girls go through. I am so grateful for all the research that has evolved into the treatments available now.


On a brighter note it is raining again after a long dry period so no worries about the garden. Funny thing is three people watered it on Saturday, my friend Cate, my next door neighbour Brett and lastly my daughter Shirley, so it had good care. I love growing fresh herbs I hate the plastic taste of hospital food, with no herbs or flavourings it is just bland and unappetising. I eat it only so I can heal, certainly not for any other reason. But at least now I am home again I have choices. I did a lot of cooking in the weeks before the surgery so have a lot of food I can heat and eat.


Because of the rain today it feels like autumn, nice after the heat but I hope there's more warm weather to come, I feel as if I have missed out on the best of the best summer has to offer. But March can be a good month and April too so all is not lost. And once I regain my health I can take on the world again. Or that is what I feel right now. The reality may be different.


I have a preset appointment for a four week check up. I have volunteered for a couple of research projects so hopefully the results may help others. I have always believed in paying it forward.  We all benefit from what others have been through as we know from the stroke journey. I'm guessing going through a journey with cancer is somewhat similar. Whether my life will go back to the way it was before I don't know. I do know that whatever happens I will always be grateful for the support of friends.








Today was another two medical tests, one more to come on Monday and then a week without - me time. Church events start up this week too. Coffee and Playtime on Friday morning so it will be good to hear what the little ones have been up to through the holidays. I have seen several of the families shopping through the Christmas period so have not entirely lost contact. There may be some new families too as some of the little ones leave to go to school or preschool, others come to take their place.


Five of my grandkids go back to school this week, Alice starts school next week. It will be a strange feeling for Trev who has built his own routine around her preschool days. I have seen all the grandkids except Alice over the summer holidays and feel very lucky. Trev is going to do some training to assist people with disabilities. He has wanted to do this for some time but the course hasn't been  offered before so this is a great opportunity for him to change into a line of work with more opportunities.


Because of the holidays and the hot weather a few of the outdoor jobs have been neglected so I have been out arrmed with a broom attacking spider webs. Spiders have thrived in the hot dry weather and multiplied. I am for saying " live and let live" until you they drape their web along my pathway and then it's "spider  be gone". A little rain would be good to brighten n the gardens too, unfortunately my herbs died from the heat and it is too far into summer to plant more now.


I have had a lot of phone calls  from friends and colleagues wondering if  and when I will be back to "normal". In other words when I will be resuming my usual duties in the church.  It is a kind of acknowledgement that I do a lot of small tasks no-one else takes responsibility for. Many organisations find the same problem when a key worker is sick or unavailable. We are all different with different skills and so are missed when the unexpected takes us off the job. As a witty friend said to me: " how can we miss you if you don't go away?" Therefore the test is what happens when you are away.


I have had a lot of time to think about my life since the cancer diagnosis, and have come to the conclusion that the only way to spend my time is the way I have been doing it for many years, one day at a time. It is the way we all need to live. For me there is no other way as I don't know what lies ahead. It is the way I lived when I was Ray's caregiver and still seems the best way to live. Maybe one day I will start making plans again, who knows? For now I am relearning the value of simple things , sunshine, scenery, laughter, friendship, things I have sometimes taken for granted.


Thanks to all who have posted kind thoughts and prayers on my Facebook page. It is good to have that back up  I know what struggles a lot of you have and yet you can still find time to think of me. Thank you, thank you, thank you.





Mixed news

It is a little hard to write this blog for many reasons.  One is that I don't have a working computer and am typing this with one finger on a tablet, another is that I am not feeling good about life right now. I went for my four months check up today and by the way the radiologist spoke all is not well. So I go for more tests next week.  I just hate it when a medical professional pats my hand and calls me "dear" as that usually means there are problems ahead.

I had a good Christmas with five of my grandchildren together with my daughter, son-in-law, his brother and mother, my fomer daughter-in-law  and several others together for what turned into a real feast.  I had seen Trevor and Alice a couple of weeks before so although  they were not with us they were by no means forgotten.  I miss Ray at every family event but I know Craig's mum was also missing her Don so felt somewhat for her too. It was good to be in lively company and enjoy family time.

I think in a way as time goes by I miss Ray more when our families get together. I understand now why  some families put out an empty chair at special family events as it fllllelt to me as if there should have been an acknowledgement that the two grandfathers were missing. I think Craig's mum felt that way too.  It seems  sometimes as if part of me is missing and it makes happiness seem like something that used to happen rather than something that happens now.

Is life still good? Yes it is. My word for this year is NEW and that is because it is NEW every morning, and whatever is happening in my life I want to go on feeling that way.  I mean to turn what could seem scary into something exciting.  I want to go on enjoying life. Today may have been scary in a way but tomorrow the sky may be blue and good news of some sort may brighten my day.

I don't know how far ahead I can plan life but I still need to make the most of this summer.  I have plenty  of gardening to do, the elephant still needs painting, and there is so much to do in the house.  I have friends to see locally and further afield so I need to go on enjoying what I can.  The diagnosis may not be as bad as I am thinking right now. Time to put my Big Girl pants on and keep on going.

I know a lot of people are much worse of than I am and really at 70 I have plenty of good memories to look back on so why am I worrying?  I guess because I am human, and will always love life and want to live with health and wellness .  But if that is not the next part of the journey so be it.





With love.

Seems as if time has flown since I last blogged and now we are just a few days short of Christmas, so only one thing to do. Wish you all the best for the days ahead, a peaceful and joyous time with family and friends. May the year ahead be one  of progress and new  opportunities. Bless you in all you do.




It was the WAGS Christmas party today, my second favorite party.  I missed a couple of parties last weekend as I was out at Broken Hill with my younger son Trevor. I wanted to be there that weekend as it was his birthday on Monday 27th. As he is a long way away from friends and family he loves it when  I can be there and it was his access time to his five year old Alice too so we had a ball.  We took Alice to Playtime at the local Salvation Army, to please her we went to see the movie "My Little Pony", he got tickets for us all to go to a small circus, we went swimming in the local pool and did a lot of  reading books, playing games etc all at five year old level.  I really enjoyed my time out there away from the humidity of the coast.  One of the highlights was a freak rain event, high winds and flooding rain for about ten minutes, then gentle rain for another twenty minutes and it was all over.  The rain water drains quickly into the red desert soil so the effect is very short lasting.


The highlight of the WAGS Christmas party for me is the dancing. I sat with one of my long term friends an ex-nurse called Robyn who had a slight stroke eight years ago.  She deals with life bravely and I do admire her, she is a widow like me and occasionally we do things together. She has a small farm and has cows and calves, she came today from trying to help a neighbour with a young cow who was calving and unfortunately the cow died as did the calf so she was quite sad when she arrived at the party. One of the things we do every year is dance with Robin, who is in his mid-fifties has had a stroke leaving him with a useless hand and a leg in a brace.  Robin loves to dance so we get him on the dance floor and dance around him.  The smile on his face goes from ear to ear and the other men say: "Good on you mate, two lovely ladies to dance with." and the grin widens. It has become part of the ritual so I will hate it when he can no longer get up on the dance floor.


Each year we lose people from the group as we do from this site, some because the stroke damage is magnified by the ageing process and they no longer have the stamina, some because they take up new interests and have clashing demands on their time and some just stop contacting and we don't know what has happened to them.  It is sad to make friends and then lose them as the years pass. But it is always fun and we find a lot to laugh at, in fact we were making so much noise today that a couple of others came over to see what the hilarity was about. One of the younger women at our table wore a dress that was too low so she cut out a V piece from a gold Christmas card and tucked it into the top of her dress.  We all got so much fun out of the ensuing adjustments with all the women contributing their advice that we were almost hysterical with laughter.  She is both a stroke survivor and a cancer survivor with a lovely and loving personality so took it all as a compliment which of course it was as well as an accolade to the person she is.


I am blessed with my friends.  Some I have had for a long time, since I was in primary school, some are more recent. I appreciate them for the gifts they bring into my life, for the love and laughter, support and care they show towards me.  A couple of women who had battled cancer came over to talk to me about the tests I have this month to see the specialist next month to find out if the melanoma has spread to other organs.  They outlined some of their own battle with cancer and gave me encouragement in what I have to do.  Both are caregivers so still have a stroke surviving partner to care for so I am blessed to not have to do that as well. I do look back on my life sometimes and see where I have come from and the strengths I have gained from those experiences so no doubt this is the same, I will meet people and learn new things because of what I am now and who I am now.


The Christmas party season is upon us, the Spring rains are finally here even though we declare it summer from the 1st of December it is still acting like September. We had to run for our cars through the rain this afternoon. I spent half an hour watering my neighbor's pot plants and garden this morning so now I feel as if that was time wasted.  He will be away till after Christmas, he and his girlfriend/partner are spending Christmas with friends in Germany and having a week in England before they comes home so it is an ongoing process, looking after his house.  He no longer has a cat so that is one problem I no longer have. I am selling raffle tickets in my local shopping centre once a week as my contribution to Lions fundraising, I don't mind as I often encounter people who are acquaintances or old neighbours that I have not seen for a long time and have time to catch up. And there is the other Lion I am on with to talk to. Many of our members are showing signs of ageing now and often have to ask customers to repeat details because of their hearing problems. It isn't embarrassing, it is just life.


My oldest grandson Christopher turns 18 next Friday so there is to be a family dinner with a few of his friends to celebrate the occasion.  It is another milestone.  My daughter told her Dad when he had his strokes in Bendigo in 1999 :  "You have to get better Dad, you are going to be a grandfather."  And happily he lived to see all of his six grandchildren, although only the first three months of Alice's life so she doesn't remember him. Life is always that mixture of happy and sad isn't it?






I have just been on the WAGS Women's Weekend.  I can say we laughed and cried, told of our journey, played silly games, ate together, played together and danced with wild abandon on Saturday night and had so much fun.  The pink boa in the photo is a tribute to Terry who was her daughter's caregiver and sadly died this year.  I was sad, as we all were, to recall those who were not with us for so many reasons. I have been going to this weekend since 2007, some years I have only gone on the Saturday night, some I have gone for the whole weekend as i did this weekend. Each year is different with unexpected events living in our memories.  Sometimes the caregiver is called home as something has happened to the survivor, some years there is a family crisis of another kind, this year one of our ladies became ill and had to go home to recuperate.


I have watched them age and they have done the same with me. They supported me during my recent recovery after the melanoma operation as they supported me after Ray died. They are caring women and I love them all.  We are not the same, but we are all on the stroke journey.  I am no longer a caregiver but I can still encourage them in their caregiving roles. Life for all of us is influenced by the stroke event.  There is no "them and us" we realise we are all in this together and the more we support each other the stronger we become. We are not noticeably caregivers and survivors but  all strong and supportive women.   It is incredible what we have shared over those last ten years since I have been involved with them.


This year I roomed with another widow, our stories are very different but we both know the meaning of loss and grief.  We both know how to scope with whatever life dishes up to us now.  We both have had our moments of fear, anger and feeling we were losing it.  We talked almost right through the first 24 hours, I guess we both needed to unburden to someone who knew what we had gone through going from caregiver to widow. We know there are things you can tell another widow that your friends who are members of a couple will not understand. It was a good experience for me. Of course I also talked to a lot of others there, some I only rarely see.  One of the girls who has only joined us a couple of times after becoming a member several years ago said she was so proud to say she had been away on a weekend with 20 of her best friends, I think we all felt the same way.


Apart from that life goes on much the same as usual for November, church, social days, nursing home visits,meetings etc. I did a hospital visit today.  It was my turn to be "treasurer" at the Lions Club BBQ this morning, tomorrow I am selling tickets in our local shopping centre (mall) in our Lions Club Christmas Stocking.  There is planning to do for the  Christmas gatherings and I'm looking out the Christmas cards to send as not everyone is on Facebook or email particularly older friends.  I guess it is the same for most people.  We are making up Christmas hampers at church for those who are less fortunate and still going on with the weekly services and other events.  I am visiting my daughter for a few days next week.  Always good to spend some time with my families.


My left leg is still painful sometimes, mostly when I spend too much time on my feet.  Of course now we have humid days now it is getting closer to summer too and that doesn't help as my leg swells. I may have to go to a local Lymphodema Clinic to find out more about that. My friends remind me that it takes time to heal, I know that but am impatient to get back to full fitness again.  It was a joy to find I can still dance but because of muscle damage cannot spin around successfully so I am doing slower moves.  Who cares as long as I can dance in time to the music? It is such a blessing to be able to do almost all that I could do before.  Of course my age slows me down somewhat but I can laugh at the mistakes i make and my inabilities as well as my absurdities hopefully make my friends laugh too. As the song says:  "Be a clown, be a clown, all the world loves a clown."


women's weekend.jpg


Looking forward again

Today I went to the Stroke Recovery group WAGS that Ray and I used to go to, I don't always attend the monthly meetings and today one of the members came late and slipped into the seat beside me and said:  "I am so glad you are here today I take so much strength from you."  This girl has just been diagnosed with a recurrence of cancer so I know she is going through a bad time.  She always seems happy but I know it is not always as it seems and she is struggling.  We have had long talks from time to time so  know she finds it hard sometimes to make sense of life, she has had a stroke and now her cancer is back.  It must seems very unfair to her.


She has visited me several times during my convalescence and we have had some good conversations so I hope that has helped. She brings her small dog Daisy and I enjoy Daisy's visit too, she is a happy little dog. I wrote years back in one of my blogs : " Who cares for the caregiver?''  and the answer depends on what you are looking for.  For me in the last eight weeks after the operation my help has come from friends, my church group and members of the Stroke Recovery Group, caregivers and stroke survivors alike, have all been thoughtful and contributed in some way to my well being. From many the flowers and cards were so lovely and some of the less mobile people phoned me as well. It is another example of “if you want something done ask a busy person” as all of those who helped me ARE busy people, but they are also generous people with good hearts.

I know now if you have been a caregiver you will go on being so in some way.  With long term caregivers who lose their partner once past the grief you will find ways of making a contribution in your own way.  I am a born volunteer so it was not hard to find an outlet for my caring instincts. The pastoral care work in the church is one outlet for this, the nursing homes visits another.  I have the Lions Club projects like the BBQs and other fundraisers to help with too. But you don't have to make a formal commitment or join an organisation to be a caring person, that person on the bus seat might need a listening ear and that young woman with the baby might need some motherly advice or just someone to admire her baby.  Opportunity is not something you need to seek, it simply comes your way and you can use it. 

Every few months I sit around and have a "woe is me day" a day when I wonder what life is all about, what I am doing with my life etc.  This is not as often as when I was first widowed but the triggers are always there to set me off.  This week I got a couple of nice compliments and that helped me see life from a different perspective.  One was in one of the nursing homes I visit, one of the nurses told me she loves it when I visit one of the people there as "it really brightens her up".  I love to visit my ladies but sometimes it is just another chore so it is nice to hear it is appreciated. There is always bad news to make us feel sad, I went to another funeral this week,which is hard when it is an old friend of many years standing. So some good news or having someone pay me a nice compliment can help make my day and make what I do seem worthwhile again.

I know from Ray's time in a nursing home that some people have very few visitors and so a visit from someone like me fills a gap.  It is sad in a way but the life that we lead in our old age is often  sad. Once you go into a nursing home so much of your old life has to be left behind and it is hard to see a good future ahead of you  An old friend of mine who is going blind has recently moved out of her home of many years and into a nursing home.  She said to me yesterday:  "I wonder what there is left to live for." and I understand that statement.  She knew she was no longer coping living alone, even with help so she made the decision herself.  She is in her mid-90s. She said her daughter is good to her and visits frequently and that makes her happy.  She has settled into her new environment but still misses her old home very much.  


I enjoyed my time at the Stroke Recovery group meeting today. It is only a week now until our WAGS Women's Weekend so most of the women were talking about that. We had a Podiatrist as guest speaker and he explained how a good orthotic in the form of a shoe insert can correct gait. Unfortunately it is all very expensive but I wished that those sort of orthotics had been available when Ray was first relearning to walk as I could see they might have helped keep his left foot straighter. Walking was always a struggle for him and he had so many falls, some of them requiring hospitalisation. The AFO helped to counteract the foot drop but maybe with an orthotic shoe insert as well he might have had less of a struggle. It is all academic now after all it is five years since he passed away.  But we can't help thinking of what might have been.


November is always a busy month for me and my calendar is full of squiggled reminders of where I have to be on what days. I can be a bit muddle headed with all the activity so strive to remember if I have to take a cake, or give a talk, or arrive early to set up in all the places I have to go. It is the start of the Lions Club Christmas Stocking ticket sales on the 13th and of course all the usual activities plus a few end-of-year activities so I have to keep an eye on my diary. Am I pleased to be doing all of this, yes I believe I am. I have had a health scare and the repercussions of that will last a while but life has to go on and I have to be able to enjoy it. I seem to be walking better now, I walked down a set of steep stairs with ease today so the muscles are starting to build up again.  I may not be the Dancing Diva this year at the Women's Weekend but I do intent to enjoy myself. 


I was talking to the church secretary today about the operation, my recovery and why I see life differently now.  I have filled in a series of forms to continue as a Lay Minister in my church but still have some misgivings about going back to doing all the work I was dong prior to the melanoma diagnosis.  An operation of any kind is a watershed, a time when once again we are brought up against our own vulnerability.  It has certainly been that way for me.  I hear of a lot of people who have had the same thing and made a full recovery and others who have had a serious operation and then developed more melanomas or other forms of cancer that have finalised their lives. It reminds me of the same kind of stories we were regaled with when Ray had the strokes, someone's brother-in-law always had a miraculous recovery or someone's father-in-law had a similar stroke and it was the end of him!


I am counting my blessings chief of which is the many friends I have accumulated over the years.  Some of course drifted away after Ray stroked and we both left work, me to look after him.  Some of our then friends drifted away after he died but I now have some that I can identify as my friends.  There are the widows some of them former caregivers like me, the old friends from the groups I belonged to while we were on the stroke journey and some from my past who have slowly appeared back in my life.  Of course I do have more time to get out and about now so it is easier to meet up with people locally.  I am that older lady sitting drinking coffee with a friend or friends in the middle section of the food hall in Bateau Bay Square.  It is easy for me to do that it is only about ten minutes drive from home..  But we all know that freedom comes at a price, I have freedom but I also have loneliness.  That feeling that when I come inside and shut the door there is only me here.  And on the days I don't go out there is a chance that I will speak to no-one all day, the cross a widow has to bear. But at least I am able to drive and get about more now.


I have a greater respect for the people I meet who have leg ulcers or something similar that keeps them bed-bound and for all of those older ladies and gentlemen who I have visited in nursing homes over the years who never go out any more.  I guess there are certain experiences you have to have to feel the impact of them.  This is just one more to add to my list.  It is a hard way to do it though.  I now often hesitate to answer posts by stroke survivors as I can't say I know how they feel, I don't.  I still answer some posts by caregivers but my experience is fading now and I still see the big picture but the minutae of every day living with a stroke survivor that is blurring now into an overview of what it felt like to be too busy, not have time to think, have too few moments to myself.  I can still write to other caregivers about that.  I am still welcome in my real time Stroke Recovery group not so much for what I say or what I share but for the fact that I have time to listen and sometimes that is all someone needs - to feel they have been heard.


We all live in a world of minor tragedies, all around us people have serious illnesses, old people die, younger people lose their jobs or their homes, suffer financial problems, divorces etc.  I went to a funeral on Tuesday and met up with two ladies I had not seen for ten years or more.  In an hour or so of sitting together over afternoon tea we tried to catch up on all the news of family and friends.  I came home a little shell shocked as of course it was births, deaths and marriages, scandals and "shocking" news.  I guess if I'd kept in closer touch I would have heard it all anyway but I would have had time to accustom myself to events that I could not do in an hour, so that had a real impact. We swore to see each other soon and maybe we will and maybe we won't but it was nice to catch up.  Some of my "lost" friends I really miss as we were friends at certain significant periods in each others' lives.  We were  young Mums together, or worked together, were in the background in the Scouting movement or one of the many organisations Ray and I belonged to over any years.Now when I am alone more than ever I hark back to the good times in my life and those special people I shared them with. I would like to catch up with some of them and see if they still remember, before it is too late and we all have dementia...lol.


I am back into gardening, we have had a little rain and I have supplemented it with my watering can.  I have tomato plants blooming, herbs almost big enough to pick and some seedlings I have just planted out.  Unfortunately I have not been able to dig over an area I hoped to plant out this year so it will be a next Spring job.  I have learned over the five years since Ray died that I cannot do all the work he and I used to do together.  Prior to his strokes he was the back yard man I did the work on the inside  of the house.  Outside I was the gardener but he dug the holes, he kept the lawns nice and did the edging.  I do have a lawn mowing man, have had a string of them since 1999 when Ray had the major strokes, they do the mowing and the edging but there is still a lot left for me to do. Since the operation that has been neglected so there is a lot to do before the heat of summer comes and dries everything out .  I am still tired more quickly so am pacing myself and not worrying too much ( well I am worrying but trying not to if you know what I mean).


The way my thinking has changed is that I try to stay in the moment more. I am trying not to think about the future but enjoy the present.  I am not sure what the future holds but know that the years fly so fast at my age it probably doesn't matter that much now.  Christmas is coming, the decorations are appearing in the shops, the toy sections expanding, the cash registers starting to ring with the grandparent sales, we always used to start our shopping in October when the grandchildren were small now it is just money in a card except for Alice the five year old who still enjoys toys. And I no longer have a Christmas list.  The things I need you cannot put in a Christmas stocking.  I need peace, not peace on earth, although that would be nice, but personal peace. I need love, the love of family and good friends and I need joy, the joy that makes living worth while.  My word for this year has been "ENJOY" I haven't a word for next year yet but it will have to be a practical one. Maybe during the run up to Christmas I will find an appropriate one.  It is good to be able to think a little way ahead but I am thinking that there may be a lot of changes in my way of life , I hope I will be able to deal with them.


Some of my friends are still flitting around Australia or around the world.  I no longer envy them, without a partner to enjoy travelling with my travelling is to visit family and friends.  I still remember the Hawaii trip to meet up with Sarah, that was a special highlight of 2017 for me.  There have been the short stays with my daughter and her family and the trips I have taken out to Broken Hill to visit Trevor and Alice to remember with a smile too.  I will do another trip to Broken Hill before Christmas. I don't plan to do any new activities, swimming is out for this season except for maybe a walk in the surf. It would not be good to go out and get myself knocked around in rough surf conditions so maybe a visit to a friend's pool will suffice. I need to take some "me time", thinking time. I have told so many people to do that over the years on here.  And caregivers still need that reminder from time to time.  A moment or two to put down the burden of care so many of them carry.  I just have to take time to make sure my ideas are maturing.  I've always said that everyone plans for retirement, no-one plans for old age, maybe it is time for me to do just that.




After six weeks of convalescence, seven weeks  since the operation I am finally out and about again. As the surgeon said might happen I do have some swelling in my left leg if I stay on it too long but at least I can drive somewhere, walk around for a while and then rest, which means I can do my own shopping, meet a friend for coffee or go to church again. I really do empathise now with people who do not have that ability to get around. It is not a good life for someone who has been active, I guess I could live that way if I had to. I have greater empathy for all those I meet in nursing homes with restricted mobility too.


Do you have “Piecrust friends”? I now know I do. I adopted this expression for those friends who ring me and say “We must do lunch.” or “ I'll come and get you one of these days and we'll go for a drive” or “How would you like to go out one day soon?” and then never follow up on it. That has happened to me quite a bit during my convalescence. I use the term piecrust from an old saying of my Dad's: “Promises are like piecrusts, made to be broken.” Maybe they didn't think of what they said as a promise just some happy thought? But for me isolated at home they seemed like a ray of hope and then turned into broken promises.


I have just sent out 18 thank you cards, to the people who did contact me by phone or email, those who sent me cards and letters, brought flowers or meals and supported me in my time of need. I had a lot of texts on my mobile (cell) even when I was in hospital and it made a lot of difference to the way I felt about life. I don't have Facebook on my phone but found a lot of wishes for my recovery on Facebook when I got home. I do so appreciate the thoughtfulness of those who express care and support when I really feel alone, one of the downsides of being a widow. And even now I still have those fair weather friends who assume all is well and never bother to get in touch except for a Christmas card.


I don't get a lot of letters now, letter writing seems to have gone out of fashion but I usually write some letters this time of the year updating our family news rather than send off a Christmas card with sad news. And there is always some bad news, we all suffer the loss of old friends, people no longer the couple as we used to know through ill health and other sad events. September/October here is the peak time for deaths and for births, I always enjoy seeing my friends post pictures of their latest grandchild or in some cases great grandchildren. My good news is that my grandson Christopher has just been elected school Captain for his final year of high school. We do five years of high school here and then it is work or University the following year. And I have just had a visit from my Adelaide grandchildren for a day so that is good too.


I have been signed off by the community nurses now. They have been wonderful coming three times a week to dress the wound. My graft is solid and although it will take many more months to look or feel anything like flesh it is considered “healed”. So I can walk about and drive and all would be well except I am so darned tired. I would say that the four weeks I sat down with my leg up contributed to that as I surely lost muscle in that time. Now I have to do a lot of upper body exercise as I am still in some pain and cannot really exercise my legs that much. I am hopeful of being allowed to swim when summer comes. I did have some help with housework during my convalescence which has been handy but I feel now it is time for me to get back to whatever the new normal turns out to be.


The weather has been changeable, most of last month was very cold at night but some days recently have been hot and humid already. It was wonderful that some of those were in the school's Spring break. My Adelaide grandchildren have been able to swim in the local pool, walking distance from the apartment their mother lives in now. The state of my garden is precarious as we haven't had much rain this Spring. There has been no sudden rush of Spring flowers unfortunately and although the orange tree blossomed it did not set fruit. The more common garden plants like geraniums seem to be flourishing but the ferns hate the dry and even the bromiliads are showing signs of stress with many trumpets browning off. I love my garden so hate to see this happening. It is a disaster for local farmers of course,while just a minor nuisance for me.


So now I need to slowly get back into life, for a while it may be a little restricted and probably less exciting than before. I am 70 so have lived a good long life, with many happy memories I just need to maybe slow down a bit. Everybody says they are pleased to see me back attending the organisations I belong to. But I do hope no-one is too disappointed if I do less in the church now.  I really need to pace myself more but have no intention of putting everything aside as I love to be out among my pleasant acquaintances and friends again.  I will just be less of a social butterfly. Of course our lives get busier from now on  as we do the run down towards Christmas and there is much to do.  I just need to remind myself that it isn't me who has to do it all.


Driving next week

Due to he surgery I had five weeks ago and the subsequent infection I have been unable to use the car for the past five weeks.  I was told I could drive if I had an emergency but it was unwise to do so before the graft was in a stable state.  So for the past five weeks it has been mostly spent sitting or laying with feet raised.  Then on Friday the community nurse told me the graft  was healing at last and here I am, almost able to resume the life I had prior to the surgery.  I say almost as there will still be a lot of things I can't do, excess bending and stretching, swimming, staying on my feet for a long period of time, tackling large numbers of stairs among them.  I hope to go to church tomorrow and to meetings next week.  As long as I have the chance to stop and rest instead of constant activity I should be fine.  I will go to the Lions BBQ on Monday week if I am fit enough by then as I am sure the other Lions will take my place when I need to stop for a while..


This has all been a learning curve for me.  I do a lot of hospital visiting and I have over time visited a lot of ladies sitting with bandaged legs due to ulcers or skin grafts and not even thought about the patience that recovery requires.  After all aren't they retired and have all the time in the world now?  Well I will not be so thoughtless in future but see if I can provide puzzles, reading materials or something similar to help them pass the time, because time sure goes slowly when you have to have bed rest or sit in a chair most of the time. It is a temporary disability but often under resourced, the need for support overlooked.  I have had a lot of people offer help but only a few have followed through and come for a visit, sent flowers or made regular phone calls.  As usual it is the loving people from Ray's Stroke Recovery group, those people who have taken time out of their own busy schedules to keep in touch with me, who have had the most compassion.  We as caregivers ourselves know what is required to care for others.  I am so grateful to them.


My daughter Shirley and her husband and children came down to visit me for a couple of days this week.  It was good to have company and time to spend with the grandchildren.  Chris will lead his school council this coming year, a real honour and one with responsibilities so I heard all about that from him.  My grand daughter and I spent an afternoon competing in simple games on the Nintendo Wii and giggling hopelessly when we made mistakes, as a teen she is usually a bit less enthusiastic for my company so I was glad of her response.  My daughter and son-in-law did some cooking and it was great to sit down to meals with them.  I do so miss the family life we once had and feel sometimes as a widow that I have little to offer in that respect.  It does make a difference when Mum and Dad turns into just Mum, a woman on her own.  I don't know why it should, it just does.


I have been lucky in that I have had some friends come for a visit or to pick me up to take me somewhere, without that I would have gone stir crazy.  I am unaccustomed to being at home for any length of time and do not like the enforced leisure.  It is quiet in the neighbourhood because despite the children being home from school on the Spring break families opposite and either side of me have been away for the week so it has been much quieter than usual. Having my grandchildren here made up for that. I sometimes complain that I don't see enough of them but have appreciated how in this time of my need Shirley has taken time out of her busy life to support me.  I know she has so much to do to run a busy Salvation Army Corps but she has put that aside and has really been there for me. My boys have been in communication by phone so I have been well supported in that way. I do still miss them all living close by though, it is one of he downsides of living in a country where people are so mobile and can, for various reasons, move so far away.


One of the good things to come out of this is that I have been recontacted by some former friends I hadn't heard of for some time.  It is part of the problem of them thinking:  "good old Sue, she can always cope with whatever is thrown at her", so I think the thought that I have had an encounter with cancer, which of course melanoma is, has taken them aback and hence the contact. Sadly I have missed a couple of funerals of church members but there was nothing I could do about that.  Life is what happens when we are busy making other plans - to quote John Lennon. Whatever happens the cycle of birth and death will go on. With that said a girlfriend/cousin I usually stay with in England rang me today to ask when I am coming back to England so maybe I will put another trip to England back on my wish list.  


We always say that in this sort of situation we find out who our friends are but I don't think that is necessarily true in my case.  At my age many of my older friends are no longer driving far from home so of course they can phone but not visit.  It is some of the locals who have stepped up and made sure I am okay. I appreciate all they have done for me and hope not to return the favour but instead pay it forward as I am able to.  We all need help from time to time so I am sure an opportunity will arise. I don't intend to go back to full time duties at the church or in the community until I am quite sure I have the stamina to tackle the tasks.  I guess all of this whole process has been a bit of a shock to me but none of us are bullet proof, we have the stroke journey to convince us of that.  I am hopeful given a few more months of recuperation to be able to say:  "all's well that ends well." 




On the 23rd of August my life took a dramatic turn.  I had had a small mole behind my left  knee, I had it checked out a couple of times over the years but it was assessed as harmless.  Years went by with my time taken up as caregiver to Ray and then as a widow and I filled my life with busyness, trivial in itself but filling an otherwise empty life.  I ignored the little spot as it grew bigger and suddenly I realised it had really changed and so I went to my GP who referred me to the local Skin Cancer and Skin Care Clinic.   One of the doctors there took the large spot off under local anesthetic and sent it away for analysis. Four days later I was called back to the Skin Cancer Clinic and told I had appointments in one of the  major Sydney hospitals to see a surgeon, one of the best in Australia in Melanoma surgery. So a couple of days later I was in there being checked out and the following day I was in hospital.


This time I did the right thing and called my daughter Shirley.  She came down and took over, taking me down to the hospital, coming back home to get what I needed when the operation was scheduled for the next day. With the previous operation the surgery took an hour and  I was sent home with dozens of stitches which I had to care for myself.  The second operation, this time to make a large margin around the original site and to do a skin graft took much longer and was followed by six days of bed rest, antibiotics and all kinds of care. I finally came home last Wednesday.  To say I was shaken by all of this is an understatement. I had been avoiding doctors and the medical merry-go-round having had so much of it in the years I looked after Ray and now I have a ticket to ride in my own name. I had always considered myself healthy and then this small part of me proved otherwise.


Dear caregivers, let me be a warning to you, do not neglect your own health while caring for a loved one, your life is important too.  Have all your health checks as they need to be done. Believe me the pain of not doing so is not worth it.  I will be three weeks not able to drive because of the site of the graft behind my left knee and then 6-8 weeks before I can resume normal activities.  That is a lot of things to be eliminated from my usually busy life and it has given me a lot of time to think about what I need to do, not just for now but into the future. I have to return to the hospital in four months time and have four monthly reviews for two years to eliminate any other occurrences and check the activities of nearby lymph nodes.  It will be a long time to clear me of future happenings and then of course like the general community I could still have other health problems.


I am glad to be home and back on my computer thanks to my daughter Shirley who has set me up well with space to put my feet up as instructed.  She has improvised a tray table and a laptop connection. So I will able to be in contact with friends via my computer,  landline and mobile so hope to return all the good wishes that have been sent to me. It is a blow that I am not allowed to drive for a while but there will be plenty of handicraft to keep me busy. And plenty of books to read too. Thanks to all those who contacted me via Facebook and sent me their prayers and best wishes. A dear friend from my Stroke Recovery group has taken to bringing me meals and others from the group have sent flowers and cards, rang me or dropped by.  I am so pleased to be supported by so many strong women who already have their hands full caring for another loved person in their lives.  They are a good example of the saying : "If you want something done ask a busy person" and I didn't even have to ask, they knew what was needed.


My boys have been supporting me by phone and text, they are both too far away to help but they have also been in contact with Shirley to support her too. Trevor of course wanted me to go straight to Broken Hill where he said he would take me to the local hospital to have my dressing changed etc but really at this stage even the couple of hours sitting on a plane would do me in.  I do have some help coming too as a domestic worker will come twice a week to do housework and a community nurse will come three times a week to dress the wounds, essential with a graft that has to be monitored.  I will give up wearing knee length shorts and find a suitable longer pant to cover where the graft was through the summer months.  Swimming will be okay as long as I cover up as soon as I return to the beach.  Dancing as an exercise has to be postponed until full healing takes place so I will hand over my Dancing Diva trophy at the next Women's Weekend in November.


As usual the lesson learned was that so many people are worse off than we are but still we do have to be vigilant about our own health.  Not fair to burden our kids more than we need to.  I have tried to maintain my independence but this episode was a reminder that I am ageing, over 70 now, and I need to be mindful of what is ahead of me.  My daughter said she will bring her two teenage children down in the next school holiday which is only three weeks away and they will help me with the sorting out and decluttering.  I still have books and toys left over from their own growing up years and they will have a better idea of how much of that I need to keep for Alice and Shirley and I will go through drawers and cupboards.  I have been given a reminder of my own mortality and i need to take heed of that and have some contingency plans in place.


Of course this is not the end of my life, just a reminder that there is an end and this may have been a lucky escape caught just in time or it may not.  I have my faith and my church and I have so many good friends, interesting acquaintances and well wishers to keep me going.  The 8th of September would have been Ray's 75th birthday and I got a bit sad and wistful then, thinking how different it would have been if he had been with me, alive and well.  But if he had been an invalid and depended on me still that would have been an entirely different scenario.  As it is I only have myself to take care of and intend from now on to do a better job of it.


On Saturday I went to the Combined Stroke Groups morning tea. I have stepped back from the Stroke Recovery group that Ray and I belonged to “WAGS” in the last six months but got a reminder email from one of my friends who belongs to that group and then a phone call to ask why I was neglecting to meet up with my good friends there. So I decided to go back to meet up with them again and was glad I did. Friends from all the different parts of our life are a gift and I should never stop being thankful for that group of people.


The guest speaker was a Professor of Neurology and he talked about the various methods of rehabilitation and how the type of rehabilitation a stroke survivor needs is reviewed in a stroke unit and ideally a program tailored to that individual. I don't need to tell you all that the theory is marvellous but the application of that method outside of teaching hospitals is less likely to happen. He spoke until the time was up so luckily no-one could tell him their ideas on that subject as I think some of the replies may have been harsh, particularly from those who had had a very different experience during their own recovery.


It was good to see so many friends I had made there, sad to think that some have passed on or are now in nursing homes and unable to attend. Time moves on, I have been a member of that group since 2006 so a lot has happened to them and to me in that time. It is sad to see some of the older caregivers struggling now with the caring role. I know how much the last few years of looking after Ray exhausted me so can empathise with them. Just being a part of that group is a boost to them, the men still go to Scallywags ( lunch and a chat) once a fortnight and the Carers monthly lunch group still gather.  Unfortunately I can't go to that as it is on the same Saturday as our Market day at church.


I have been trying to meet up with my 83 year old friend who looks after her son at least once a week and at least chat to her for a while. She is really slowing down now and showing her age and I feel for her as sooner or later her son will have to go into care and that will break her heart. But for a lot of people like my friend there isn't a lot of support from other family members so little relief from the caregiver role. Her other son looks after his wife who has cancer so he is not unwilling but unable to help as much as he would like to. Her daughter lives in another state and does come to see her two or three times a year but that is nowhere near enough.


I went out to Broken Hill to visit Trevor for ten days and came back home last Tuesday.  The first four days Alice was with us and then we had a few days at home.Trevor worked a few hours most of those days. I have had many trips now to Broken Hill so there is not much I haven't seen there. I always enjoy walking a few houses up and seeing the shingle-back lizards at the home of a lady who volunteers for WIRES, one of the organisations that helps injured wild life. Shingle-backs are slow so an easy target on the open road. She had over 30 adults and many young lizards in her back yard. She said she is not allowed to release them until mid-August as they sleep most of winter and then she has to make sure they are eating before releasing them.


This visit we did go to a few Art Galleries. There was a n exhibition of works by Outback Artists at the Regional Art Gallery and I really enjoyed that. I was surprised that the “receptionist” had a blue tee shirt and old paint speckled trousers on but he pointed out which exhibits he was sure we would want to see. He was right and I really enjoyed the diversity of paintings of the wonderful red soil and brilliant blue skies in so many different styles. Afterwards he told us he was actually the installer and the receptionist had gone home to prepare for the special opening that night. We were lucky to be there on that day I think.


Then we drove down to Adelaide, a seven hour drive from Broken Hill. I wanted to go and visit my older son and his partner and family there as his partner has had what was at first called a series of Tias and then a small stroke. She has recovered quite well with the exception of some slowness of thought, massive fatigue issues and a real loss of confidence. She walks like an old lady now (her words) although she is in her early 40s and I can see she is upset because after three months she knew she still didn't have the energy to go back to full time work and so lost her job. We did talk a little about my experience with Ray with strokes and I hope that helped. Not much more I can do for them being so far away except keep in touch.


It is still wintery here but I can tell by the longer days and the frantic activities of the birds that Spring is now not far away.  That is something to be happy about.


Oh winter woes are upon us, we are expecting the coldest weekend of the year this coming weekend.  It must be true it was on Facebook!  Seriously there has been a debate about rising price of heating a home and how a lot of older people are scrimping on heating because of high power bills.  I admit to be one of them  I sit at night with a rug over my knees, I make them anyway so have a lot on hand.  I have a hot water bottle to warm my bed up, old fashioned I know but it does the job, extra blankets and a quilt keep me warm.  It is not a problem for me to live this way as I have always been in a situation where you opened doors and windows to keep cool in summer and closed them to keep warm in winter.  No snow here though there was a sheen of frost this morning, first time for a few years. Because i am close to a beach the warmer temps usually make frost hard to form so it must be colder than usual.


I can't say I do winter happily.  I don't heat my house unless I have visitors so I walk around in layers of clothes and  looking like a penguin.  Not a good look but as I am alone does it matter?  I spend a lot of extra time in the shopping centre as it is not pleasant on the beach and going for a walk with the wind blowing is uncomfortable so I walk the mall.  In doing so I meet up with a lot of people I don't see in summer when we are all scattered to various activities.  Yesterday I met two people who I knew in the 80s and have seen very little of since as they moved away.  Both had come back to family events, fortunately neither to funerals which is the main reason people come back home from the warmer north in winter.  Of course a lot of my contemporaries are turning 70 this year so there are a few people visiting to celebrate an "O" birthday.


I didn't hear from any of my children this week which led a friend and I to have one of those macabre discussions about how long our bodies may lies undisturbed after we die.  Just the kind of conversation to have over a cup of coffee!  But those topics are often in the news this time of the year.  I do ask my daughter to make sure she contacts me ( or I her) at least once  a week but she and her family have been up with her husband's mother for a few days so didn't remember to ring me.  Her m-in-law had a fall a week ago reaching up to get something out of a cupboard so they were a bit worried, but all is well and she is fine after the fall. She is almost blind but knows where everything is in her own house so manages fairly well.  I  think the time will come when that is not the case but have to say the two brothers do make sure between them that she is called every few days.


I also worry about older folk at the church who didn't appear on the previous Sunday, of course not all come regularly so I only ring if they have been away for a few weeks as I don't want them to think I am harassing them.  Some of them I also catch up with in the local shopping centre as the older ones particularly may have a carer each fortnight who brings them shopping as part of a socialization program. The retirement village people have weekly buses for the same purpose.  I can meet old friends that way too if I shop on Thursdays. The world of the widow is a small one I find, plenty to keep busy us but not a lot of companionship unless you seek it out. Which of course I do. I am lucky I have a few people I can have coffee with regularly. I do advise people who tell me they are lonely to do the same although I know that is not everyone's idea of how to fill their days.


For people who have cared for someone long term as I did with Ray so many of our friendships broke down when we could no longer do what our friends wanted us to.  Ray and I missed out on so many engagement parties, weddings etc because they were held at venues without lifts, with little hole-in-the-corner bathrooms that couldn't be accessed from a wheelchair, where the venue was not disabled friendly, like one family who said they didn't invite us to the wedding because it was on a boat!.  I would rather they had invited us as at least we could have waited on the wharf to wish the young couple well. I sometime see old friends who say that their daughter or son has been married ten years or more and look at me with a guilty look suddenly remembering that we weren't invited to the happy event.  Nothing I can do about that as it is all water under the bridge now, so to speak.


.And so filling the days is what I do. Keeping myself busy can build up though and so I resigned from a couple of jobs I have been doing for a long time in the church. I no longer want to do days that are too long and leave me still tired the next day.  That is not what i want this part of my life to be about.  I have had plenty of those days in the past.  The rainbow scarf I knitted for a friend has been handed over and she was very pleased with it.   I am making another version for myself, yes, some people could get the wrong impression but if it goes with an outfit who cares?  I think as I have aged I am less eager to be seen in a "good light", I don't mind if something  I do is seen as being a little controversial or open to discussion.  As a church person I am following someone who did the same, left himself open to discussion.  The Way of the Cross is like that. Hopefully is is also comforting and brings peace to people.  I did preach on that last Sunday.


I caught up with an old friend on Monday, we met at a cafe near a railway station as he is without a car on his visit to the coast.  It is good to catch up with a person who is non-judgemental, can hold a reasonable conversation and knows me well enough not to have to explain every sentence we exchange, someone I feel at home with.  Ray and I used to go on picnics with him and his grandsons, one of whom is autistic.  It was great to catch up on their current doings.  He lives with his daughter now. We can both picture J walking over Ray across the bench he was sitting on on his way to a place he was focused on.  Ray of course yelped out and the boy looked down and said:  "Sorry" and continued his journey.  Life is full of incidents like that, serious at the time but something to laugh at when we look back on them. And this friend knows what it is to have someone special with a disability and so was a great support to me.  His grandkids called us Uncle and Aunty and it was great to know that one of them is to be married soon. We live in a big country and often have friends too far away to visit often but still often in our thoughts.


So the decision this morning is whether to stay home to do some housework and some extra cooking for the freezer or whether to dress up warmly and go out for a coffee.  Which do you think I should do?


One of the church ladies has just gone into the same nursing facility as Ray was in.  I knew I had to visit her but thought it would be okay as it is now so long since Ray died there.  I went into the facility this morning but she had gone out on a little bus trip (she is at hostel level so able to walk etc) so I missed out on seeing her this visit.  The secretary said she would leave a note to say I visited.  I found it more difficult than I thought as while I was walking through the facility with another staff member all the staff looked at me hesitatingly and one or two asked if they knew me.  Of course this meant telling them that my husband Ray had been there in 2011 and 2012 until he died.  I didn't think about that aspect of the visiting and so it came as a shock to me.  I went outside as soon as I could feeling so deeply sad again. It will get easier the more I visit, I know that from visiting people in the facility where Mum was, but it was like revisiting an old and painful episode in my life today.


I went to my daughter's last weekend and had some time with her as we went to an ordination at Newcastle Cathedral where a friend of mine was being ordained a deacon.  Shirley didn't go in uniform but I did introduce her as a Captain in the Salvation Army to those who I mixed with in the 90s. It is amazing seeing people 20 years on, I guess they saw me as I saw them, 20 years older but still recognizable as the friends they had been back then.  Some of them I see on Facebook so not all were unfamiliar. In a way it was like a school reunion.  Unfortunately as it was at night, and a very cold night at that, we didn't linger. I would have liked to have spent time with some of the people I was close to and do the "what have you been doing since..." that you have an opportunity to do at school reunions. The college I attended to do my Diploma in Theology is now close so no reunions are possible there now.


Staying with my daughter is good as I catch up with the doings of her two children.  It is winter school holidays and really a time to relax and catch up on sleep for my grandson and to catch up with old and previously loved TV programs for my grand daughter.  They always hire a "Granma" movie, thought I am not sure "Monster-in'law" would have been my choice.  I have an idea my son in law just liked the title! We had a couple of lunches out and on Saturday a walk around that part of Newcastle that was affected by the earthquake many years ago. It was a reminder to me that it is possible to have something like an earthquake happen and then rebuild even if the rebuilding is a slow and painful process.  I guess that is one of the things I am learning through widowhood.


Just lately I have been doing a lot of listening to people, in the church and in other organisations I belong to.  I think people are always waiting for someone to make the right responses so they can tell their story.  In this age when families are so widely spread and the family unit of grandparents, uncles , aunts, cousins and siblings all living close by is over it is harder for people to find someone to listen to their life story. I have the time and the training so it is not a problem for me as long as I don't take their pain on board, as I sometime find myself doing. Sometimes the stories of loss and loneliness, frustration and confusion are too similar to what I have experienced in my own life and I need to back gently away from them.  I have the skills to do this but do not always catch myself in time and so I come away with some of their sadness. It was easier when I was a telephone counselor as then I could simply finish the call, hang up and make myself a cup of tea before the next sad call came in.  


My younger son is having some problems so I talk to him fairly frequently again.  It is nothing major, his employer, the owner of the cleaning company he works for, looks like handing over the business to her son and he is not the manager she is.  Life is precarious in a small city that has lost it's industry and now the many unemployed are competing for a smaller and smaller pool of jobs.  He is afraid that if he loses the work he has things will get really tough for him. I understand that fear as it happened to Ray a couple of times in our younger days. Thank goodness my mother had taught me to budget well and somehow we always got through the hard times. On my next visit I will see if he needs anything I can help with.  Like me he often has no-one to discuss things with now and that leaves him worrying more than he needs to. He knows he can also call on his sister for advice which is good. She does budgeting as part of her welfare work.


Apart from that my life simply goes on as usual. I have got over the "is this all there is to life?" feeling and now know that what I have is enough. I was talking to a person at the nursing home who was visiting his far-too-young wife who is almost in a catatonic state now and he said:  "I have all these dreams of what I will do after all of this is over."  I wanted to tell him that I was like that too and none of my life had worked out the way I envisioned it but I didn't.  I guess we all need to find our future path in our own way and in our own time.


uncertain times

Sometimes I really wonder what life is all about.  I think I watch too many newscasts on television, there not being a lot of interest to watch in mid-winter here.  In this age bad news travels fast and bad news from all over the world hits our TV screens especially in the late news which I often watch before I go to bed.  Events like the fire in London where so many people died because of bad building materials, local traffic accidents due to wet conditions and constant news of strife and shootings in the Middle East all seem to add to my angst.  I am not really a nervous person but the miscellaenity of killings and the worsening world events seems to impact on my life from time to time.  I have plenty to think about just within my family circle and among the folks I know and my prayer calendar is always full but still what happens in the world impacts on me whether I like it or not.


There is not a lot of good news these days.  As you get older news of babies being expected in the family and more exciting things like engagements and weddings seem to diminish and deaths seem to proliferate.  Of course the fact that I do so many hospital and nursing home visits also impacts as the deterioration in the ones I visit is more noticeable in winter too.  We all get paler and catch small viruses that make us cough and  that makes us appear less healthy. Today we had a celebration lunch at church and I picked up one of the people I visit at hostel level.  M is able to get into my car and so I promised to take her to the lunch.  I think she is deteriorating too although she is under 60 as she mainly associates now with much older people and that is reflected in her limited topics of conversation. We often do become like the people we associate with.  That is one of the reasons I decided to invite her to the lunch today, to help her to catch up with some of her old friends as I thought this might give her something else to think about and a new topic of conversation.


On returning her to her accommodation I decided to visit another lady whose visit I had not done this month.  She was half asleep but one of the nurses woke her up to have her afternoon tea and asked me if I would hold the cup and help her drink it so she (the nurse) could go on and help someone else.  All of a sudden it felt like I was dealing with Mum again and a sadness filled me,  I told myself that what I was doing was just helping someone out and it was not something i should be sad about and the sadness slowly lifted.  To me it was a sign that I am still vulnerable because I have not as yet completed the mourning process  - and maybe I never will.  Perhaps there will always be some things I associate in a negative way with the death of Mum or of Ray. When that happens I have to tell myself it is not the same and just keep on doing what I am doing.


I had another two lunches out last week with some widowed friends who wanted to help me celebrate my birthday.  It is so nice to be made a fuss of.  I really miss my family at special times, particularly the way they used to make an event of special birthdays like the "O" Birthdays. And of course I also miss the excitement and  all the hustle and bustle that visiting family members bring with them.  We did manage to get some of us together last Christmas but that is such a busy time of the year I would prefer them to visit me either for Mother's Day or for my birthday. Of course I can suggest it for next year and see what happens. It is part of the loneliness of being a widow that makes me feel this way I think.  If I still lived in England I would of course have cousins  and other close family members to celebrate with as well.  I do envy people with family living  close by.


On the plus side I had a phone call from my son Trevor and grand daughter Alice from Broken Hill on Saturday morning.  Alice who is five now plays soccer on Saturdays, they do not play a full game just spend a half hour on the field and this Saturday she had the award from the coach for "extraordinary effort" and she announced in a solemn voice that she was "the best in the whole world". Not that she is proud of herself...lol.  It is little things like that that make my life worthwhile. When the other grandchildren were a similar age they lived close by so I could enjoy their little triumphs, attend Grandparent's Day or Education Week events at their schools and feel a part of their lives. Luckily Trevor does keep me up to date with Alice and her doings and I do get to talk to her on the phone for a short time most weeks.  It is such a shame such a distance lies between us. One of my grandsons in Adelaide has a birthday next week and the best I can do is to send money to him in a card when I would much rather be able to give him a present. 


The wet winter weather is getting to me and I know I will be glad when we pass the Winter Solstice and the days start to slowly get longer again. The wet weather is also isolating and we had a poor church attendance today as some of the members are sick with the viruses that are going around.  I sometimes give them a ring after a week or two to make sure they are okay.  One funeral next week, someone I don't know well and I will see if going to the funeral fits in with the other things I have to do.  I can't do everything.  I think sometimes when I reread a blog like this it sounds as if I lead a sad life but I don't , there is always fun and laughter at the functions I attend especially Friday Coffee Morning as we have the Playtime kids there and those little folk always keep me amused with their vitality and their childish charm. And the Friday Soup and Roll lunch with a few new and  different people in attendance means different conversations and I enjoyed that very much too.


I know others locally must also feel the same loneliness and isolation that I feel some times so in a way that makes it seem ordinary and commonplace and just something I have to learn to overcome. We all have to be grown ups and endure what cannot be changed.  I am lucky I have good basic accommodation, the car to go out in, and that is how I have go on to build companionship into my life. Counting my blessing rather than looking at what I have lost or what might have been.








Sometimes when I watch the news I know how well off I am, but sometimes I want more out of life than I currently have. I know compared to others I have many blessings but from time to time I still want more than I have. I have just read an article about lowering your expectations of life, from time to time I know we all have to do that.  I will be 70 on Sunday and I think those "O" Birthdays make you think about life, where you are now and where you want to be.  I am good at over analyzing life, always have been, so I have to make a conscious effort not to do that.  That way I get to sleep at night instead of laying in bed thinking "what if this, what if that". I think as a woman on her own, at my age and with my family scattered all over the place it is inevitable to feel lonely, to feel isolated and sometimes a little disappointed in life but that is because I did start off with high expectations of what it meant to be retired.  And of course Ray featured in all of that.


So I need to go back to taking one day at a time, not expecting too much and enjoying whatever comes my way.  I need to have an attitude of gratitude as we used to say. Not easy for me to do that as of course I realise time is running out, that good body I used to have has aged and I am slower getting around so I did want to do some traveling before I get too old to do so. The travel company I use keeps sending me information on cheap flights but again it would be planning for one and most probably visiting relations who I saw two years ago.  I am not sure I want to go back to England again, certainly not this year anyway.  I may still do it, but with winter closing in ( we have a cold wind blowing here today) I am not so inclined to leave my home. I don't want to go on long drives alone, however scenic they might be, I don't want to cruise alone, basically leave home for any length of time to see the Pacific Islands or anywhere else right now. I get the feeling this isn't my time for traveling.  I will probably buck up from this but the travel posters in the booking offices don't seem to have an attraction for me.  Maybe that is just winter talking and come Spring I will change my mind again.


I know  I need to drop the "poor me" attitude which leads back to me grieving for what might have been and instead I need to make the most of the time I have. I need to cling to things that are enduring, solid, made to last.  Things that in time I can pass on to others. It is good to have things to pass on, whether it is the wisdom born of pain that we share here, the family history stories that I share with my children, the  things I have learned over a lifetime some of which I share with other widows.  I also need to declutter my house, how many mugs does a woman living on her own need? I need to pass on to others things I no longer use or need. Whether it is second hand or not, if it is usable it needs to be passed on to someone else who can use it.  We live in a throw away society and even though we know that is not sustainable we go on using resources thinking that they will never run out. We are encouraged these days to recylcle rather than send things to landfill and I need to see what I have that can be re-used.


I think in this stage of my widowhood I am looking for the key to a new world. I don't know what that would look like.  It might look like downsizing, a lot of people seem to be doing that.  I have older friends from Lions and the other groups I belong to who are doing that right now.  Packing up their large four bedroom houses and transferring into two bedroom houses on one floor that they can live in even if they become disabled by age or other circumstances. Some of them are moving closer to family, others settling for a retirement village close to where they live now. Of course some of them are in their 80s and are already disabled in some way and this is a necessity now but others are still active and see a retirement village as somewhere they can use as a base for their travels so that would be what I would think too.  Without pets and other things holding me back like my hundreds of plants in pots to be watered I could be away more often.  No-one wants to come home to dead plants which is what I did last time I was away for more than ten days. My next door neighbour does keep an eye on my house but watering pot plants is not his strong point. 


This is the house that Ray built onto all those years ago.  It probably has more sentimental value than actual value.  I wonder if I will resent having to give it up.  I said when Ray died that I would be out of here within two years and maybe I should have been but here I am still in the familiar setting that we raised our kids in. When I look around I see the wear and tear of many years, faded carpet, wals that could use a coat of paint.  The handyman who came in to fix the light switches said it seemed a very 60s house and that is true.  I don't really have the energy or the incentive to do anything about that.  What worries me is that sometimes I wonder if I am keeping it this way in case the family come home.  I know that will seem a strange thought to some of you but some will understand that way of thinking.  The toys are still here from the grandchildren growing up, the beds are still here in case some of the family members or friends from the past need to be put up for the night, yet I have few visitors. When I look around it is in some ways as if the decades have not passed.  So leaving here would be like leaving family history markers.  I just hate the thought.


I get over all of this by keeping busy.  I have a head cold at the moment so I am staying home for a few days.  Doing that of course gives me too much time to think so I will make sure I go out somewhere tomorrow.  It is nice to spend some time in the garden or out on the front verandah but too much time alone is never good for me. I can read or watch old movies, I have knitting to do as a friend has given me wool to knit her a scarf but all the time I am unoccupied I sit thinking, thinking thinking. And not always in a constructive way.  This is when I most miss the company of my family and my old close friends, those who knew me best.  Now the couple friends are off on yet another trip around Australia or leaving to go to warmer climes further north and I am feeling left out of all of that.  It is as I am always saying a couples world, only a few older folk travel alone, with the distances we travel here in Australia it is safer that way.


I don't know what the key to the future is so all I can do is what I have been doing which is to take life as it comes, one day at a time. I am so luck to have found this site and others where I have made friends and companions for the journey. Anything that brings us together with others is a blessing. But if I live a day at a time and count my blessings I am not doing too badly.  I still have food on the table, the roof over my head and a warm bed to sleep in and extra covers to pile on as the temperature drops like it did last night.  Okay, I do not have all I want but mostly have what I need.  I have a lot to be thankful for. Thanks to the Blog Community and those who post on the Forums for reminding me of that.




Each week I do certain things, visit my old ladies, catch up with friends over coffee, do some housework, some gardening, maybe have some time reading in the sun. Officially I have days off from the church work Monday and Wednesday but that really is a fallacy. We are trying to set up a lunch group on Fridays to follow the Coffee Morning, a soup and a roll lunch for some of our church people but also people who come to us for welfare. So three Wednesdays in a row I have attended one of those meetings. Of course there is a roster and looks like my name was all over it...sigh. But then it is an outreach program to our community and I can see the benefits of those. The community around the church neighbourhood is a working class community but many are poorly paid and in the position of paying off a house or paying rent so their level of income often leaves a short fall as far as buying food goes, so we do a food handout on Fridays. A bag of food which is probably enough just to tide a family over for the weekend, nothing more.


It has got me thinking about the significance of food in our lives. When I was doing my Lifeline training (Lifeline is a Suicide Counselling Service) as a telephone counselor as part of the training course we had to describe ourselves in various ways. What would you be if you were a flower, or a dog or a house. That sort of thing. Our answers and descriptions told the trainers a lot about how we saw ourselves. It seemed odd at the time but the 80s were like that, we were supposed to be conscious of how we appeared to others. I was thinking about that today as I talked to a friend who asked: “How do you see yourself now?” I think I mumbled something about being a senior citizen, a widow, a church worker etc. If I had to write down now what I would describe myself as as a food I would have to toss up between a fruit salad and an Irish stew.


Why am I a fruit salad?  Because a fruit salad is a mixture of fruits, sweet and sour, fresh and bright and nourishing.  My life is like that sometimes, a bit of everything but hopefully nurturing and refreshing and bringing something enjoyable into people's lives. Instead of sugar and spice and all things nice I think we do need a bit of tartness in our lives too, the zing of lemon and the lingering aftertaste of passion fruit, and I can be both of those. I guess because I am English as well as Australian I am polite and people pleasing but also truthful and honest and that can be seen as sharp sometimes, like that touch of lemon you find as a contrast to the sweetness of strawberries and peaches. Anyway that is why I think I am like a fruit salad.


 I did a bit of pastoral counselling this afternoon.  I met an old couple from church ( he is also in my Lions Club) and she is going through a bad patch with many small ills that the doctor's say are beyond anything they can do something about.  She is very depressed about the way that is impacting on her life. I guess it is a build up of many small breakdowns of bodily organs, illnesses she has been able to  overcome before but her body is not coping now. She was almost in tears as she told me about them. I hate to see my good older friends deteriorate but it is inevitable.  This lady has given a lot to the community through one of our leading Women's organisations and it is sad she can no longer contribute in the way she had previously. She is helping to run a convention for the organisation locally and says she is overtiring herself. Of course I do see myself in that situation in the future. At the end of our chat she told me how glad she was that we had met today.


Why do i think I am like an Irish stew?  Well an Irish stew is what my mother would serve up in the days when we were poor.  We were poor because we came to Australia from England with very little, were paying off a block of land and trying to build a house on it at the same time.  Dad had some savings and with that he built the house to lock up stage so we moved into a house without internal walls, just sheets spread around for privacy.  Mum grew vegetables and Dad worked and they bought cheap cuts of meat and a sack of locally grown potatoes and with those two as the main ingredients Mum made an Irish stew.  It was warm and nourishing and filled us up. Of course my ancestors were Irish on my Dad's side so I guess we loved that traditional Irish dish. It was something that reminded Dad of his own childhood.  I think those connections are what made me as I am, all the people who influenced me for the sake of good over many generations.  So I relate to the Irish stew as being an ancestral dish and a part of my heritage.


Ray was a meat and potato person too for  some of the same reasons but he had a step father who was a fisherman so he was definitely fish and mashed potatoes. He also worked in the Fish Market as a Fisheries Inspector so he was a good fish cook as the Inspectors at the Fish Markets would cook their lunch in a small kitchenette and teach each other new recipes.  Funny how you think of things like that sometimes.  He actually taught me to cook fish in a lot of different ways, and make gourmet meals of calamari and lobster and crabs which he bought when they were cheap at the Markets.  Being on my own I hardly cook these days but fish and a sauce is easy to prepare so still features in my weekly diet. I loved oysters and his last district was an oyster district so got my fill of them there.  Ray often took me with him when visiting oyster farmers and I would "taste" their oysters and hazard a guess at where they came from. I was pretty accurate (well I knew where they had leases) and got a reputation as somewhat of an expert. So maybe I am a bit like oyster soup too.


Sometimes it helps to sit down and think of who we are, what our purpose is in life is at this stage of our lives and whether we think we are using what we have in the right way.  I know here there are many calls about charity, I get my share of those, and I would love to give money to every charity that rings me but I can't.  Through Lions I help to raise money with our BBQs and Christmas Stocking and other fund raisers.  In my church I help out in many ways.  With my other commitments I do the same, not always as much as I would like to do but what I can.  I know as I age I will not be able to do all I do now, talking to my old friend today was a warning to me.  I know some who read this will be mourning the life that was, the skills they have lost and be wondering what they can do now.  I want to say a smile can make a difference to someone's day and a kind word can ease someone's pain and if that is all I can do later on in my life it will have to be enough.




I guess some people wonder why I still post on this site, after all my husband Ray died in September 2012 so I ceased to be a caregiver way back then.  Well, the answer is because I have made friends here, friends who gave me their support during the long battle Ray waged with strokes, TIAs, fits and seizures and supported me after he died.  Some whose journeys I have followed since I joined in 2005 or whose supporter I have become in all the years between then and now. When I first started as a chat host I was told people come here for support and then leave when they feel strong enough to stop posting here.  That I have found to be true, but some remain on the site to go on encouraging others.  I remain one of those people. The people on Strokenet were good for me when I first came on here looking for support and I hope in some small way the comments I make help others.


I also post on a widow site so do my grieving blogs there.  Here I do blogs that are more reflective and outline what my life is like overall.  For some of you that is not useful but I know for some of my friends who read the blogs it is simply a way of continuing the journey we have been on together. Now I am a widow and on my own most of the time of course different issues arise, loneliness, difficulty in facing a world in which I am the one who has to make the decisions alone, not being part of a couple.  I find,from observing my friends of a similar age that  ageing alone is quite different from ageing as part of a couple or in a close family support situation.  My family were good in the last couple of years of Ray's illness and stayed close to be near if there was an emergency but then he died and they felt free to move on as they wanted to knowing that "good old Mum always seems to cope on her own". If only they realised that is not true all of the time!


And so I am more reliant on others to help, even if it is only as a listening ear or an occasional helping hand. At first this was hard to do and I simply let everything fall apart, too busy recovering from the deaths of Mum and Ray to do anything, four years later I am looking at the damage wind and weather and ageing has inflicted on my house and deciding what to do about it. I can do little or much.  I live in an area where a lot of older homes are being knocked down by their new owners and replaced by more modern dwellings and I suppose that will happen to my home when it is sold. It is a horrible thought but it is the trend in beachside suburbs, buy an older home on a decent sized block of land, rent it out for a while then bulldoze it and build a large family home on the site.This is a strange idea for me as I am a "make do" kind of person but I see it happening all the time.


So what has that got to do with friendships you ask?  well who you are friends with depends somewhat on where you live and people who move often find they have left their friends behind, particularly as we often have friends older than ourselves who also move off to somewhere more suitable for retirement living.  One solution is to use the electronic media to keep in touch, email, Facebook and for those who do them Skype, Twitter etc.  But my older friends often don't do any of those.  So it is down to phone calls and letter writing to keep on touch. When I send a letter I pray as I post it that the person I am sending it to will answer my letter. Just recently a few of my lady friends got together and sent a bouquet of flowers to an old friend for her 90th birthday, that wonderful woman then rang each person who had signed her card to thank them for their precious gift of friendship.  That was a lesson to me in old fashioned good manners.  When someone does something nice for us it is up to us to be appreciative and to say thank you.


I always say I have been blessed with good friends.  I know some people say we only ever have a handful of friends but I do not find that to be true, I seem to have a circle of friends.  Sometimes I don't see someone I consider a friend for a while but when he or she does come back into my life it is such a blessing.  I am meeting up with people who were friends in my youth who are now moving back to the coast as they retire.  It is great to see them and catch up with their news but sometimes that is the extent of the reunion, they have friends who are now more important to them than I am and that is fair enough.  In other cases I seem to lose friends for no reason I can work out, maybe it is something I said or didn't say, something I did or didn't do, something I am, like "too churchy", I have heard that one a few times.  And then beyond explanations someone will come into my life and become that friend i need right then. Bringing to life that saying:  "A friend in need (our time of need) is a friend indeed.".


Today I went to lunch with an old friend, the one who's mother's funeral I did 16 months ago.  I had only seen him twice since then.  It was marvelous to catch up with his family's news as they were people I grew up with.  I saw some of them at his mother's funeral but am unlikely to see any of them again.  It was good to hear about his son and daughter and their families.  When he hugged me goodbye that was special too as few people hug me these days.  I know it will probably be a year or so before i see him again, maybe I will get an occasional phone call, nothing more.  We have different lives, different lifestyles.  But we are still friends. What is it about the kind of friendship that survives time apart?  I can't give you an answer to that except to say I am glad I still have those kind of friends.  Another couple I have been friends with for more than fifty years I see once a month when we go out for dinner, others who I have known for twenty years or more I have coffee with when we see each other and take the opportunity to catch up.  When I was a full-time caregiver I often didn't have time to do that so I am grateful I do now. I do love to reconnect with former friends too.


And I am glad of those friendship I have from my days as a caregiver, on here, on another dementia site, on Facebook and other sites as well as from the various groups I have been involved in simply because I was looking for caring people to share my thoughts with or give and receive support. I was sitting with a friend in the shopping centre a couple of days ago.  Another friend of hers came by and asked how we became friends, we looked at each other in confusion and really didn't have an answer.  I think I met her in a meeting some ten years or more  ago, one for general support for carers as she has an adult child who is in a nursing home now but was still in her care back in those days.  So friendships can be accidental, born of a common situation you find yourself in. You find friends in the most extraordinary situations.  All I can really say is -  I am blessed with my friends.



This is really only a domestic update. Autumn is here, shorter days, and just lately much colder nights. The sun is still warming but is strong for a shorter time so I love to spend time in the garden when I can. As usual there is much to do, just the usual jobs like repotting, weeding, resettling plants to maximise sunlight to keep them going through winter so there will be blooms in Spring. The weeds are still growing after all the rain we had in March and April so still a lot of maintenance. With the wetter soil conditions there is a chance of frost this winter, something that rarely occurs now.


I have just had a good weekend spending time with my daughter and her family, it is always great to catch up with the grandkids and their doings. I had a full day course for the church on Child Safety in a nearby suburb so I was there most of Saturday. By staying for a couple of nights I still had plenty of time with the family. I find that although the grandchildren seem eager to talk to me what is said is all said at the last possible time, so late Sunday afternoon. The conversation with my grandson was about school and his commitments there and with my grand daughter about her coming party ( she turns 13 on Wednesday). If I am lucky I also have some time to talk to my daughter.


I enjoy the fact that when I am away from home I don't have to cook, it is someone else's job. My son in law did a BBQ on Saturday night, it is great to smell a BBQ cooking, really make you appreciate the good fortune we have in our country with a ready supply of quality meat. I appreciate it more because now I am home alone that doesn't happen here. Just sitting around the table with the family laughing and talking together is a real treat for me. It is also sad in a way as it reminds me that Ray was a great BBQ cook and we had a lot of good times not only with family but with various gatherings of friends prior to his strokes.


But now it is meetings week, so I have reports to write, information to take in. When outside the sun in shining, the birds are singing and I would rather get out in the garden. But there is always work to do in the church. For the uninitiated there are just a handful of workers in any church and however many sit in the pews on Sundays that always applies. I love the work I do but sometimes I just keep adding a job here and there until I reach overload. This year I am trying not to do that. But I did volunteer to help with Welfare again this year at our Parish Council meeting today. This is because of course our good volunteers are getting older, less able to do the many tasks they did previously so those who are left step up to fill the positions. It is the same in all organisations unfortunately.


I am still trying to live out each day to the standard of my word for the year “enjoy”. Some days it is easy but others it is hard to see where that fits in, so a cup of tea on the verandah watching a fly past of parrots, the riot of flowers in a garden I walk past, a friend sending a message on Facebook or by email is what lifts my spirits. It is better to remember what life used to be like when I was a 24/7 caregiver compared to what it is now and relish the freedom I have now. We all live lives where things could be better but they could also be a good deal worse so that has to be in the forefront of my mind. My pity parties are few now as I have so much to be thankful for.


My little next door neighbour,who is aged five and just started at Big School is earning pocket money and one of the things be does now, with the help of his father, is put my bins out. The children over there call me Nanny Sue and so this is his “good deed for the week”. It is good to have neighbours who like you. My neighbour on the top side just invited me in for scones next Sunday afternoon, he makes lovely scones, crisp on the outside, soft on the inside, it is a great treat. I would much rather have that than a fashionable High Tea in some restaurant. I think I am reverting to the country ways I lived in as a child, a simpler way of life, now. For me it is one of the advantages of growing older.