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Life is ever changing…….


Do you ever say “this isn’t how I expected my life to be?” I have said that so many times! When we are children we have such an idyllic outlook on life but it isn’t that simple. Life is full of complications.

I have had so many twists and turns in my life but, most recently, it was Morgan who dramatically changed my life. He is my third kidney; the result of my kidney transplant on Valentines day 2017 (Morgan the organ….get it?). I am still getting over the effects of my transplant and will be including those in my blog.

I have decided to journal my life as it takes these unexpected changes that we all experience in this journey called life.

Coming up I will be covering most aspects of my life including; slimming, crafting, ballet, theatre, walking, food, restaurants, pets, being a Grandparent, gardening, gigs, Asperger’s syndrome and my life in general.

Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Wal

Photo taken by myself. The view from Symonds Yat.

Marsh Farm……a great day out with my Grandchildren.

 

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This school holiday theme at Marsh Farm is Fairies and Dragons (with Knights too of course). A role for each of my 3 Grandchildren…..perfect!!

When my own children were young, Marsh Farm was mainly animals with a few crafts added in (for an extra fee). It was one of our go to places so we knew it well. It didn’t change much over that time.

Now I’m a Grandparent and there has been a huge change at Marsh Farm. It’s now much more entertaining for the children. A great mix of animals and shows, and the staff are fantastic!!

You need to have children with you in order to gain entry now but you can always borrow one from a neighbour (with permission of course lol).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere’s usually a themed treasure hunt where you your children can hunt for clues around the farm. They can hand their answers in at the end for a small prize so the girls get very excited about doing it.

 

 

We had a really fun day. We learnt to dance at fairy school and met a real life knight and dragon!

My eldest granddaughter has shown an interest in photography in the past so I decided to let her use my camera to take “some” photographs. She took over 300!!

Here are a few of our day that she took:

I think she did really well for a beginner! I’m very proud of her. Here she is breathing her fire.

My middle Granddaughter was picked to go onto the stage for the magic show and she loved every minute of it.

We had such a fun day as you can see here.

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If you are in the South Woodham Ferrers area I would definitely recommend a visit to Marsh Farm! There is plenty to do even on rainy days.

We coloured Fairy crowns and Knights shields. We played in the barn and had a very reasonably priced lunch there too!

We bounced, ran, climbed, played mini golf, found treasure in the sand, rode a carousel, stroked some goats and horses and all included in the entry fee! A great value day out!

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A superb Valentine’s Day meal-Midsummer House.k

So, as if he hasn’t done enough by saving my life, Darren treated me to a Valentines Day meal at Midsummer House!

 

IMG-4106Midsummer House is a beautiful Victorian villa. It looked so inviting as we approached and I felt so excited!

Our hotel was walking distance so we had a really lovely walk on Midsummer Common along the banks of the River Cam . We felt very safe, but it did get a little dark in places, as you can see from this photograph.

We are used to fine dining, and have been lucky enough to have had our photograph taken with a few celebrity chefs, so we were slightly disappointed to find that Daniel Clifford was not at the restaurant. We didn’t really expect him to be there but it would have been nice to add him to our collection lol. My favourite photo has to be of me with the legendary Ken Hom!! but we have also had our photograph taken at Le Gavroch with Michel Roux Jr (what a lovely guy!) and taken a cooking class with Cyrus Todiwala (what a wealth of knowledge that guy has!) and also with Ching He Huang (a beautiful person inside and out).

Anyway, I’m diverting!

The house was so warm and cosy. Lovely after a chilly walk. The tables looked great with lovely white, crisp, linen tablecloths.

There are 2 Tasting Menus (one being Vegetarian), which I think is a great idea. I usually have difficulty knowing what to choose if I’m left to my own devices. The menus are changed regularly.

Before our menu started, some delicious food started appearing at our table. It set the scene to what was to become a wonderful evening.

 

With our menu came a journey into the world of wines. We chose a flight to give us variety to accompany our food. A flight is a smaller glass of wine, 100ml in this case, and we enjoyed hearing the history surrounding each glass that we had. We were transported back in time, hearing about how the grapes were grown and chosen, and by whom.

 

IMG-4117We started our tasting menu with “Mushrooms, coffee, tarragon and cep foam.”

It was absolutely delicious! It was layered and had different textures; a foam, a mousse, a gel and a cream.

I adore mushrooms!

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Next was “Salad of new season onions, pear, elderberry  and onion sorbet.”

I’ve never seen onions look so beautiful! Look how pretty this plate is! This had to be my favourite dish in terms of looks.

The onion sorbet was really unusual and lovely. I’ve only ever had fruit sorbet before.

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Midsummer House has a signature dish which has never been off their menu;

“Seared sea scallop, Granny Smith apple,celeriac & truffle puree”

Again beautifully presented and absolutely divine to eat.

 

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“Crispy suckling pig belly, glazed cheek, carrot and ginger.”

Sweet from the carrot, crispy from the pig belly and soft from the melt in the mouth cheek. This was a gorgeous plate of food in more ways than one.

 

Next was one of my favourites; IMG-4130

“Roasted monkfish, Cornish crab, cauliflower yuzu puree, preserved lemon.”

It was topped with kale which added colour to the dish.

By now I’m wondering just how many varieties of plate are in the kitchen! I would have loved to have had a tour.

 
IMG-4131“Anjou pigeon, Hoisin leg, salad of salt baked beetroot, walnut and blue cheese” was beautifully presented.

At home I don’t eat beetroot even though we grow it. I’m never too keen on the earthy taste but I needn’t have worried as this dish was delicious.

This dish was my favourite.

Now we were on desserts and next was a shot of “Pousse cafe.” I didn’t take a photograph of this one as we were asked if we wanted to guess what was in it. I got a little too excited with that and got right into it!! I’m not sure if I’m remembering all the ingredients but it was lovely and sweet and definitely different, consisting of  Maple syrup, Jack Daniels foam, chives, black pepper and maybe some ingredients I’m not remembering!

Next came some magic!! Who doesn’t like to watch something made at the table? This was called “Lemon posset, olive oil cake, mint, black olive tuile.” It transformed the plate we had in front of us by giving it a unique topping. All the flavours are hitting my taste buds as I type!

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This would have been a good finale to our meal but there was more! Look at the next dish! Looking at the two photographs I think I should have taken them both at the same distance but as this is my own review I guess I will learn for the future!

This dessert is “Coriander white chocolate dome, coconut and mango, Jasmine rice.” It was beautiful to look at and eat and was a great palate cleanser to finish the meal.

But it wasn’t the end!! We had doughnuts!! Now who doesn’t like doughnuts!!

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Darren had his full anaesthetic and operation the evening before our meal and I could see he was tiring and a little uncomfortable by this stage of the evening so we decided not to have a cheese course.

I’m sure the cheese board would have looked so inviting but there was a chocolate display!!! What a choice we had!!

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We had an amazing time at Midsummer House. I had booked a table for Darren’s birthday in 2015 but unfortunately had complications with my kidney disease and was hospitalised for 2 weeks. My consultant was working towards getting me out of hospital in time but it wasn’t to be. He had high hopes right up until the morning before but I was just too ill. I have a lovely (!) photo of how I was but this blog post of such prettiness isn’t the place for it. It turned out to be anaphylaxis due to a medication I was on but it wasn’t easily diagnosed as it was such an unusual thing to be allergic to!

With Darren having his operation just the evening before, we were cutting it very fine this time too!

For those who love fine dining this restaurant is definitely a place to visit and Cambridge is a great town with so many things to do.

I must add that I don’t agree with phones at the table and my phone was only whipped out for 2 seconds to take a photograph and then placed back on the stool next to me.

We had a wonderful stay and one of our best Valentine’s Days together. It’s high up there with the kidney transplant of 2017 in any case lol. I count my blessings that I am finally off a renal diet (or this meal would have been impossible) and am living life to the full again thanks to Darren giving me his kidney, Morgan.

I’ll drink to that!! Cheers!!!

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Valentines Day…….the perfect gift……life!

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This was the Kidney Care UK tweet February 2017.

It was such an exciting, nerve-racking, and for me, a very guilt ridden time. I was worried something would go wrong for Darren.

My wonderful husband had married me when I was a very healthy, young (!) woman. I was now extremely sick and on dialysis and in need of a transplant. He offered to donate to me.

I feel I need to explain that my Mum also had kidney disease and Darren had never known her to be healthy. I literally met him as my Mum started dialysis. He saw where this disease can take a person.

He adores me. It’s more adoration than I’ve ever known and far more than I feel I deserve that’s for sure! I love him too of course lol.

So 2 years ago, on Valentines Day, we went down to surgery and Darren saved my life. He always tells people it was cheaper than roses lol

This Valentines Day we will be celebrating at Midsummer House for a wonderful meal. We had booked once for 2015 but I was ill in hospital and wasn’t allowed to leave. With Darren having further surgery at 4pm yesterday we were cutting a bit fine this year too!! but we are both survivers with a strong and positive attitude and so today we are off to Cambridge. I’m so looking forward to it. This year hasn’t started off the best but having a transplant 2 years ago changed my life for the better overnight and for that I can never thank my Husband enough. I treasure Morgan, my third kidney, he has enabled me to start living without my body being toxic all the time!

I hope everyone enjoys their day and remember, you don’t have to be in a relationship to give yourself love on Valentines Day! You are amazing…..always remember that!!

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I will be doing plenty of blogging about kidney disease, kidney diets, AV Fistulas, dialysis and transplant so please comment if you have a specific question or subject you would like me to cover.

Testicular Cancer-diagnosis day

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When you marry your partner you usually vow to look after them in sickness and in health, but you never really think about what that might mean (unless they are already ill). You are just full of love and hope and look forward to a long and happy life together.

I never expected to become so sick that I had to take one of my husbands kidneys from him! He’s always been the strong one so I never expected him to be ill either.

 

These recent events have been very stressful and exhausting for both of us (exhausting for me mainly due to the fact that my husband has needed to sleep on his back and seems to be going for gold in the snoring category!!).

Suddenly we had been thrown into a world we couldn’t control, and reliant on people we didn’t know and a testicular tumour that even the experts didn’t recognise. We have also been blessed with wonderful friends who have checked up on us both and prayed for us each day. You certainly know who your friends are when something like this happens!

Last night we went to see the consultant for the final diagnosis. I’m relieved to say that nothing sinister was found. We had obviously hoped for this result and we can finally breath! We still have a way to go as Darren still has an open wound from the emergency surgery. We are going back to the hospital daily for the packing material (seaweed would you believe?!!) and dressing to be changed. The wound is deep and the consultant has suggested that he stitches it up next week. It will mean another anaesthetic (more worry) but it will heal a lot more quickly than leaving it to heal upwards.

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So, this “young” couple, pictured here years ago, full of dreams and hopes can stop worrying for a while……..about cancer at least.

If anyone feels a lump or feels unwell we both urge you to get checked out without delay.

 

Testicular cancer-update……things took an unexpected turn! (as life does……)

Darren had his first check up on Monday. He was feeling extremely tired and looked very pale. His check up went well and all looked good. He mentioned that he felt uncomfortable and had some pain and was given a prescription for antibiotics to take only if he had a raised temperature.

Over the next few days he felt worse and we rang for some advise. His temperature was normal and the wound clean so we were told the tiredness and some pain was to be expected and not to worry. I even bought a new thermometer in case our thermometer wasn’t working but it was all normal. We thought he looked worse than he should have but equally we thought it was normal to be like it.

Yesterday, Darren was shivering uncontrollably and was in a whole heap of pain. He became really emotional and unable to cope with himself. I rang his hospital ward and they suggested I took him to our GP. Luckily they gave us an appointment for that morning. The GP could feel a swelling under the wound in his groin so he sent us back to the hospital.

After a CT scan, blood tests etc it was discovered that he had a bad infection there and needed immediate surgery. It all happened so quickly. His temperature shot up to 39.5° C and the surgical team were called. Literally within the hour he was signing consent forms and being whisked away to theatre.

IMG-4014As I looked down the long corridor I had the immediate thought that my whole life was being whisked away from me in such a sudden and unexpected way. Darren was suddenly so poorly, and there was a mention of sepsis, and the fact that he may be transferred to a different hospital after the operation if he went more downhill. It was all very frightening. The picture here summed up exactly how I was feeling right at that moment and I felt compelled to take it. It wasn’t intentional that I was behind him at that moment. We had said goodbye in his room. It had been a long, worrying, day and I just needed to distract myself by going for a walk and grabbing a sandwich to eat while I waited for news (as I was feeling a bit unwell myself from not eating since the morning). It was 6.30pm by then.

He was about to turn the corner and disappear from my life……and I knew that if it turned out to be sepsis it could potentially be very serious indeed. The walls felt like they were closing in and it all begun to hit me.

The surgeon came to see me and told me that the infection was very bad but they had flushed it all out and now he had an open wound, which would take a few weeks to heal upwards. It will need to be redressed every day and at the moment he is on IV antibiotics. He can possibly go home tomorrow if all is ok.

He looked so much brighter immediately after his surgery and today he looks better still.

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I have my crazy man back!!

We are still awaiting his results from his removed testicle. Our appointment for that is on 7th. No other dramas can happen now so we are still expecting the best results! x

 

Snuffle mat for your dog. Step-by-step instructions on how I made this lovely enrichment toy.

 

 

43750736_2120272644650687_8412334082242904064_nWe have a beautiful puppy called Millie. She is a cross between a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and a Toy Poodle; more commonly known these days as a Cavapoo, (although I always feel a bit pretentious saying that). She was born on 17th August 2018 and is a very hyperactive puppy. I chose the Dogs Trust for her 5 week training course and it was there we were introduced to snuffle mats. I believe the staff and/or volunteers make these for the rescue dogs, so if anyone has spare fleece they can donate it’s worth giving them a call. Millie absolutely loved hers and took time to snuffle out her treats (small cubes of cheese) instead of trying to bounce over to everyone else! (it was getting a little embarrassing lol).

 

If anyone visits us at home Millie just gets very excited to see them and won’t leave them alone (we are still working on that) and we are finding that we can distract her better by using a snuffle mat. It’s an enrichment toy and keeps her physically and mentally stimulated even when we don’t have visitors.

The idea is to hide treats among the fleece strips and your dog can sniff out the food/treats. It’s good for fast feeders too. Anyone with a rescue dog, who has had to fight for their food in the past, knows that it never actually leaves them so this mat slows the feeding up as you can use it for feeding too (dry food only obviously).

YOUR DOG MUST ALWAYS BE SUPERVISED WHEN USING THE MAT SO THAT THEY DON’T START EATING THE FLEECE.

With puppies you might need to wait until the chewing stage is over.

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To begin with you need an anti-fatigue mat with holes. I used the Easimat Interlocking rubber mat with holes and I cut and trimmed it to make 9 mats measuring 12″x12″ (well actually my husband Darren thought I looked very dangerous with the knife and so he did it for me!).

 

 

I plan to make more but if you only need one then you should be able to pick one mat up easily at your local hardware store.

I researched carefully about the measurement of the strips of fleece, but after making the first one too wide and dense for the treats (I couldn’t hide them very easily and Millie found them too quickly), I decided on 1″ wide by 11″ long, but this doesn’t agree with how I have seen others make them, so I guess you need to make your own decision on that. Either way your dog will love it! With the pattern, I decided to do predominantly pink. For the 64 holes I needed 210 strips of fleece. I used 56 each in grey and lime green and 98 strips in pink. It’s a lot of cutting and I wanted mine to be straight so I trimmed them to tidy them up. I’m a bit of a perfectionist!

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First; Push a strip of fleece through the first two holes and tie your fleece in a single knot. Push the next strip of fleece through the second and third holes and continue this across the row. Then do one more row the same. I kept mine all with the top (fluffy) side down so that the underside of the mat was all the same. The top will show all sides so that doesn’t matter.

 

 

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Next add the next colour the other way so that you are forming a square pattern. Just do those 2 rows to start with as it makes it easier to work the pattern as you add more fleece.

 

 

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThen add your diagonal strips. I found it easier putting the first lot of strips in a cross shape to keep them out-of-the-way but I might be being a bit too fussy! Again, just use single knots. Do this across the row and then add one more row (starting with the first colour (grey) and once that row is done continue, one row at a time, until its completed.

 

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Check the back as you go. Keep it nice and neat as one of the first thing people do when looking at something is turn it upside down and look at the bottom! (it’s true lol).

 

 

Now for the fun to begin! Sprinkle a few treats on top of the mat so that your dog gets used to the idea. Gradually start with the hiding. For Millie it took no time at all to get used to the idea and now she snuffles away to her heart’s content. I use small cubes of cheese and small pieces of chopped up cocktail sausage mainly but any treat that your dog is used to will be fine.

I am now looking at other enrichment toys as she loves this one so much!

Have fun creating this and please leave me some feedback on how you get on x

What do you do if you start losing your hair?

Hair loss is quite devastating. I don’t think it makes a difference if you are a male or female. It all depends on how you feel about your hair and, if short hair, or no hair, suits you. For me, I always think I have a rather manly face if I have very short hair so when my hair started coming out in clumps I was so worried.

hair3 To begin with, my hair loss didn’t notice as it seemed to come out quite evenly, and I was pretty confident that, although it became very thin, it would just start to grow again and never notice. I was wrong! It then started coming out around my hairline and I had very definite bald patches. I was horrified! I started asking people in the waiting room at the post transplant clinic about their hair loss, and it was a common feature among all the people I spoke to. It’s great that when you have been through a common series of treatments, everyone knows exactly what you have been through and no subject is off-limits when it comes to talking. In fact I had the waiting room laughing out loud one time with my beard growth stories! It’s funny how you can lose hair on your head yet grow a fantastic beard that would rival Father Christmas!  No-one had a definitive answer as to what to do but as it’s growing now I thought I would share some of the things I did.

You can see from this photo how far back the bald patch went. It was both sides so no hairgood for a cover up as a middle parting doesn’t suit me. Unfortunately I didn’t take a photo of the bald patches as I was far too embarrassed.

At first I tried taking supplements. I took Biotin tablets and a general “skin, hair & nails” supplement. When you have any illness you need to check with your GP/consultant that any supplements you take don’t interfere with your medication. I also used Watermans Grow Me® shampoo and conditioner. I loved the smell of it and it left my hair beautifully soft! After a couple of months my hair still had no visible signs of growth. Looking back now I realise that it was probably far too close to the trauma of surgery and the 36 tablets/capsules of medication I was taking a day at that time. My body needed time to recover.

I continued having my hair coloured but changed to non bleach products and instead of every 6 weeks I moved to 8-10 weekly visits to my hairdresser. I’m lucky to have a hairdresser who understands what I’ve been through and why my hair is like it is. She helped advise me into cutting it shorter, putting in more layers, and colouring in such a way that my hair looked fuller than it was. Some might question why I continued with colour. Well to be honest I had researched on what other people did and I didn’t see a vast difference and, although I work from home now, I wasn’t at the time and was more on show than I am now.

The next treatment I tried was to crush Biotin tablets and add to coconut oil and rub into my hair. I left it overnight and shampooed and conditioned as usual in the morning. Again, this left my hair beautifully soft and made me feel much better and I started to see some growth.  I was still on the supplements. For any treatment I think you have to persevere for at least 6 weeks.

I asked my consultant what I could do to speed up the process and he suggested REGAINE®   for women. It’s a foam which you apply once a day. The problem I found was that it needed to be applied to the scalp and not the hair and I found it very difficult to do with a foam. It states that once you start using it, and see hair growth, you need to continue using it or the benefits will be lost. I was also worried about toxicity. I’m not saying it was toxic but I need to be very careful with anything entering my blood stream as it can damage Morgan, my transplanted kidney. I used it for a while and I feel it helped but as I didn’t plan to use it forever I decided to stop.

More lately I have been using OGX®  Biotin and Collagen Shampoo and conditioner. It’s available from most supermarkets which makes it more easily accessible. I have come off all supplements now.

My hair is now growing and is stronger. I will never know if it’s just time I needed or if anything I did worked but I’m glad I tried them all.

I have what most people after hair loss have……the new hair has come back wavy! I can now see that I lost hair all over my head. I have a little Mohican going on at my crown (great huh?). I already had a cows lick hairline so with the new hairline growth I now have a very sticky out wavy bit! My wonderful hairdresser, Chloe, has taught me how to use hairgrips to hold this wavy part of my hair out-of-the-way so it looks better.  Simply take a small strand of it and twist it, incorporate a little more (like you would with a plait) until you have it all and then put the hair grip in facing towards your hairline. Like this…..

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I think it covers that patch well! I’m sure it can be done neater than I do it but it still looks great!

So now I feel that I’m finally out the other side. It’s taken nearly 2 years. I must admit than when you go for a transplant you are not warned about the many side effects that it carries. I guess the gift of life is far more important, and it’s really insignificant given the larger picture. I feel that everyone thinks that a transplant is a cure (it isn’t, it’s another form of treatment) so it’s assumed that I am now better and so they wouldn’t expect any side effects. If I mention my hair loss to anyone the usual answer is “but you look so much better in yourself so don’t worry”. I do worry though……I think most people do.

If your hair loss is greater than mine then it’s worth getting a good wig. Go to a proper wig maker and then get it styled properly so you get the best look. These days wigs are great and a lot of people use them as fashion accessories so no one will even think about it. I found a great fb page called Hair Necessity. It’s aimed at women with alopecia. The lady that runs that page, Rebecca, is inspirational! If you are looking for comfort and inspiration then it’s a great place to start even if you are a man.

As for me. This is my hair now. I still need to grow it out more to stop my wavy bits (it’s been straightened in this photo) but, I finally have reached a point where I’m happy with it. This is mostly thanks to Chloe at Hair L’Amour.

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I’m off to sort out my beard now so I’ll catch up later…….if you have any ideas or help for myself or others going through this then don’t forget to leave a comment. It would be lovely to hear from you x