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Monday, June 18, 2018

The Wool Anniversary

"As long as I live, you will live, as long as I live, you will be remembered, as l live, you will be loved." ~Anonymous

Our wedding day, Kamiak Butte, Washington
     The 18th of June is our Seventh wedding anniversary; my second without Les. Time does not dull the pain of his death. The necessary demands of life cause it to recede into the background while one grapples with the activities of daily living. The moment I think of Les and our life together, memories rush over me and the pain of my loss returns with a force that bites deep and takes my breath away. This is the other side of the coin of what it means to truly love someone and give them your heart. 
     I am struck by the depth of love in Les' eyes as he looks back at me when I took these pictures and now, nearly sixteen months after his death, I sometimes find myself caught in a memory-moment. A piece of music will come on the radio and suddenly Les is here like a hologram, doing his crazy little dance he used to do for me, or someone on telly will make a statement and I can hear Les' voice clearly in my mind replying sarcastically. Occasionally on the news coverage of a football match a team makes a goal and I hear Les exclaiming excitedly, "Go on boy, get it in! Yes!!!" Sometimes in the very still small hours of those countless nights when I cannot sleep, I hear Les say, "I love you Jaqueline Marie Almdale Biggs."

Taken on the back of NB Valerie in May 2011 during my pre-wedding visit.
Les showing me the ruins of the motte and bailey at Berkhamstead, May 2011.
Dancing at our wedding reception at Chrisi and Keith Kincaid's farm, Pullman, WA July 2011.
Les relaxing on the back deck of Cloudhouse--our home in Pullman, Washington. June 2011.
Les and our Grandson Connor at Laird Park, August 2011. We took a picnic and spent the day with family, swimming in the river under the hot summer sun.
Les reveling in his catch on a never to be forgotten boating trip on the Snake River in Washington with friends Roger and Joe, August 2011.
Les posing with the statue of the Station Master in some small Washington State town. We were on our way to Seattle for a three day honeymoon before flying back to England and NB Valerie.
Les trying out our friend Karen's Segway, Pullman, Washington, August 2011. Wearing her flowered helmet was part of the deal!
Cheeky Les at the tiller in March 2012 on our way to Llangollen.
Les waiting for me at Burland on the Llangollen canal in 2012. I was returning from a walk to the Burland country Store for a Saturday paper and the best pies we ever ate.
The Bluebird of Happiness stretching his wings as we hiked to the ruins of Valle Crucis Abbey near Llangollen, March 2012.
Les in paroxysms of delight over a freshly baked chocolate Kahlua cake, May 2012.
Les giving me a mock-sexy pose on the Audlem Flight,Spring 2012.
The quintessential Englishman with his brolly, on the grounds of Dunham Massey Estate, Bridgewater canal, July 2012.
One of the countess times we stopped to score wood along our travels.
Les loved chopping wood. It gave him a great sense of accomplishment and appealed to his deep sense of thrift--accumulating a winter heat source for nothing more than a few hours labor. I loved helping him stack the wood on the roof, bark upwards, in neat sections to dry in the summer sun.
At our daughter Sparky's apartment in Portland, Oregon, November 2012. Our daughter Jesse in the background decorating cupcakes for her sister's wedding the next day.
Daughter-in-law Kelli, MOBs, daughter Sparky, FOBs, November 2012.
Les and his girls after the wedding, November 2012.
Les warm and cozy in his new LL Bean down jacket, on the shore of Lake Pend Oreille, Sandpoint, Idaho, November 2012.
Bliss! Portland, Oregon, November 2012.
Teaching Les the joy of playing in the snow, January 2013, Blisworth.
Wakey-wakey baby! Les before his morning tea, 2012.
I love this picture! Les having a moment, April 2013 moored up above Walthamstead Lock, the Lea and Stort navigation.

My boys (Les and son Kevin) cleaning up after a spaghetti lunch with family aboard NB Valerie, March 2014.
Les posing on the Lapworth flight, September 2015. It took me 10 months after his liver surgery to get him back to this fit state.
My baby making kissy lips at a kissing gate on the Wendover Arm, 2015.
Les was always happiest at the tiller of our boat, cruising through life at 2 MPH.
Look at the love in his eyes...Granddad with Kiernan and Kiera, Campbell Park, 2015.
Granddad in a happy moment, August 2016, at Cowroast, with our grandsons Teo and Battu.
Les, our grandson Jack, daughter-in-law Bev, and me, Cowroast, August 2016.
Me and my shadow, always.

Sunday, June 03, 2018

Why I have Been Quiet for Awhile

"The more serious the illness, the more important it is for you to fight back, mobilizing all your resources--spiritual, emotional, intellectual and physical." ~Norman Cousins, American political journalist, professor, world peace advocate, author (Anatomy of an Illness).

     I have been seriously ill for months now, waiting for an "immediate referral" for a colonoscopy and CT scan which finally was scheduled after two and half months. My symptoms were so eerily like the ones Les had for six months before he went in for a diagnosis that I have been sick with worry about the possibility of colorectal cancer. I am still waiting for biopsy results but the main diagnosis is Crohn's Disease and a return of Diverticulitis, which I was originally diagnosed with in 2008, requiring the removal of most of my descending colon and a bowel resection. After a diagnosis of Ovarian cancer in 2008, I was diagnosed in 2009 with stage III metastasized ovarian cancer and then Sarcoidosis--an Auto Immune disease which can manifest as acute or chronic. I have the chronic version. So of course I did what I always do then faced with life altering events; research. As someone who is allergic to more than a dozen well known and prescribed pharmaceutical drugs, such as Paracetamol, NSAIDS, Betalactans, Glycosides, and Gentamycin among many others, and for whom ingesting Antibiotics is a sentence in hell with side effects occurring in 48 hours that most people only experience after taking the drugs for 8-14 days, I learned to engage in rigorous research before agreeing to take any medicines or undergoing any treatments. I chose an alternative treatment for cancer called Gerson therapy and it worked. I delved into the depths of learning about Auto Immune diseases (AI) and discovered that as of 2009 there were sixty four known AI diseases and they are all treated the same way: massive doses of the cytotoxic chemotherapy drug Methotrexate and corticosteroids such as Prednisone, neither of which offers any cure for the sum total of sixty four AI diseases. They offer only momentary relief and come at a great price in terms of quality of life and long term survival. According to an article in the New England Journal of Medicine , titled Methotrexate for the Treatment of Crohn's Disease, "Patients treated with corticosteroids continue to have both complications of the disease and chronic toxicity from the therapy."4-7 (NEJM 02/02/1995; accessed online 06/03/2018). So Methotrexate is used to wean patients off Prednisone, somewhat like using Methadone to wean addicts off of Heroin. Neither drug provides a cure and often slows an illness down only for a short term if at all and the side effects of both are truly horrendous as far as I am concerned. Prednisone offers these life altering side effects: liver toxicity, neuropathy, optic neuritis, massive weight gain, dark facial hair growth in females, muscle wasting and weakness, trouble healing, fractures, moon face (common in cancer patients receiving steroids. Les developed it in the months before his death), abnormal fa deposits around the face, head and neck, adrenal insufficiency, heart failure, neutropenia which can lead to Sepsis, Inflammatory bowel disease (why use it to try and dampen an IBD such as Crohn's then?????), immuno-supression leading to chronic infections, and the list goes on. Methotrexate side effects are bloody vomit, joint pain, sores in the mouth and on the lips, blurred vision, shortness of breath, yellow eyes and skin, boils and acne, pericarditis, painful psioratic skin lesions, pancreatitis, neutropenia, Herpes, Pneumonia, Sepsis, osteoporosis, vertigo, Lymphoma, Leukemia...and the list continues. 
     So why are these pharmaceutical drugs prescribed for the host of varying AI diseases? Because no one knows what causes the onset of an AI disease. All that is really known is that for some reason the host's immune system refuses to shut off and rest. Instead it attacks the host body and causes an AI response. The other item my research uncovered the fact that if one develops an initial AI disease, one is six times more likely to develop a second or third AI disease than the general population will develop an initial AI disease.
      So what you may ask, Is Crohn's Disease? It is an attack by one's immune system on the intestines and colon causing massive inflammation, swelling, bleeding and serpiginous ulcers that creep across the tissues causing pus formation and necrosis (tissue death). This inflammation can often reach the rectum and cause terrible fissures and bleeding hemorrhoids. When one's digestive system is under such an attack it can no longer provide adequate nutrition, hence the reason my hair has been falling out by handfuls and I've had a white coating on my tongue that no amount of brushing will remove and why I have felt utterly exhausted. I usually cannot sleep for more than five hours at a time and I have been this way since I was a small child. I now find myself sleeping four hours at a whack, waking up to try and do a few things, after which I have to lie down again and sleep. When the digestive system stops functioning and we keep putting food inside it, the results are excruciatingly painful. I have not been able to eat any solid foods since May 7th when I ended up in the A&E for six hours after which I was told there was nothing they could do for me. I was prescribed codeine for the pain and sent home. I have lost over a stone in weight and dropped almost two clothing sizes.

Right so, what do I intend to do about this? I've found a very good protocol called Listen To Your Gut. In 1989, Jini Patel Thompson was weak, malnourished, and wracked with pain from a serious bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease. Skeletally thin, she was unable to eat almost anything without suffering intestinal bleeding and cramping. Despite their best efforts, the medical profession was unable to help her. Jini was taking 13 pills a day, and her doctors told her that she would never be able to work, have children, or live a normal life. After years of feeling tortured by her inflammatory bowel disease, she literally decided to heal herself, or to die trying. Refusing surgery, she began a seven-year mission researching and experimenting with home remedies and natural treatments for gastrointestinal illness. Over time, Jini discovered eight key steps that nearly everyone with a colon or bowel syndrome can take in order to heal their gastrointestinal disease, and has been drug and surgery free since 1989.
These eight key steps are:
Providing bowel rest using a liquid diet for 6-8 weeks with homemade natural yogurt and Solgar Whey to Go! Whey isolate shakes, poached eggs, avocados, steamed potatoes and steel cut oatmeal.
Killing off the disease-causing bad bacteria and fungus in the gut with Oregano Oil
Re-populating the gastrointestinal tract with good bacteria with the use of (7-10 billion BFU's) probiotics
Healing intestinal inflammation and ulceration with Oregano oil, Udo's choice Oil, Ubiquinol
Resolving nutritional deficiencies with an IBS diet and Omega 3 capsules
Detoxing your living environment
Addressing the emotional factors underlying your disease
Balancing your hormones

I've read in-depth about this protocol and I have faith that this is something that will work for me. As I discover more information on diet, supplements and protocol I will post more.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Nantwich: Saturday Market

"A good writer is always a people watcher." ~Judy Blume, American author

     I am in love with Saturday mornings. They carry a raft of meaning built up from sixty years of anticipating 4000 Saturdays; days in which the weekend beckoned like a an "olly-olly-oxen free" bellow after a week of school drudgery or a difficult and exhausting week at work.
     Before I met Les I cherished my Saturdays which always began the same way: up at 6:30 AM (this was sleeping in for me), every other Saturday I allowed myself to linger over two cups of freshly ground and perced coffee with fresh ground cinnamon in it, and the all American breakfast of fried potatoes (sliced round or half cut like steak fries, or shredded for hash browns), two slices of proper crispy brown bacon, two eggs over easy, and a slice of freshly toasted homemade bread with butter and jam. Two Saturdays a month I left right after a brisk morning walk or thirty minutes working in my garden, driving nine miles to the Moscow, Idaho Farmer's Market. I liked to get there just before the trading bell rang at 8:00 AM. I would pick up a double Irish Cream latte at Bella's drive thru, find a place to park near the market and wait on a bench until the bell rang. Then I would stroll leisurely but with purpose to my favorite stalls: I hit the bakery stall first for freshly baked cheese pockets (a delight made from leftover croissant dough tucked into a muffin tin, filled with a cream cheese, egg, sugar and vanilla mixture, and topped with various fresh fruits and berries before baking). Then I stood in line for my weekly organic greens: fabulous, fat red radishes which I cleaned and kept in a bowl of ice cold water in my fridge for a delicious crispy late night snack), beautiful fresh tomatoes of different varieties, bunches of green (spring) onions, fresh bulbs of garlic, gorgeous thin skinned English cucumbers, plump red, yellow and green bell peppers, and whatever else took my fancy: Oregon Sweet sugar snap peas nestled in their pods, earthy Yukon gold potatoes with their delicious yellow flesh and thin skins released from the cool soil only hours previously; Haricot Verts lying snugly in rows with their deep dark green tips where all the vitamins are stored, and finally in line for fresh chiles!
Les standing under the Moscow Farmer's Market sign, 2011.
     Oh how I miss the chile stall with over 200 varieties--something for everyone from Carolina Reapers, Scotch Bonnets, Habañeros, Serrano and Jalapeños, to the milder chiles which I favored: Poblanos, Anaheim, Cascabel, Pasilla, and Carmen Sweet Italians. I would sit on a bench under the large heart shaped green leaves of the Linden trees and devour a cheese pocket with my latte before taking my bags to the car for storage and then walking a few blocks to the Moscow Food Co-Op where I bought nearly everything else I required including varieties of amazing cheese and delicious organic meat and fish. I was usually home by 10:30 AM, groceries tucked away. At 12:45 PM  I was back in the car again for the four mile drive to Neill Public Library to return last week's pile of books, peruse the "new books" shelf and collect a new pile to take home. Sunday was laundry and house cleaning day, and time to finish up any left over gardening chores. The remainder of Saturday was spent at my leisure, often with music pouring from the stereo, my cats Sianna or Weeman draped across my knees, book in hand. 
     Once I married Les and moved aboard NB Valerie, Saturdays were no longer distinguished from other days in the week for the most part. Every day was a lovely, leisurely day knocking about with my Best Beloved. One thing became a constant: my need for a Saturday edition of the Daily Mail paper--not for the news of which most was garbage, but for the Telly magazine. Of all the TV magazines out there, the Daily Mail's is the largest print, most comprehensive and often included good character articles about upcoming programs/actors and a recipe section from which I garnered many of my favorite British recipes. Les delighted in getting me my Saturday paper while I tidied up the boat.  When he returned we sat and read the telly magazine together, marking every program that caught our interest. Once our weekly TV viewing was sorted we were on to other things like cruising. 
     When Les died, Saturdays changed forever. 
     It has taken me more than a year to figure out a new routine but I have it now.  I visit the nearest village town or city's Saturday market for here in Britain nearly every one of them has something going, especially in spring, summer and autumn. 
     Yesterday (this actually occurred four weeks ago) I was up early, enjoying the amazing warmth of the sun which is usually absent from British skies. Up at 6:30 AM, I washed up, dressed, opened the windows for air circulation, made a grocery list, had my coffee and a bowl of steel cut oats with whole milk, butter, dried blueberries and maple syrup, and I sorted myself out for a trip on the bus to the Nantwich Saturday Market. I arrived shortly before 9 AM as vendors were just finishing setting up their stalls. I took an outdoor table at the Nantwich Bookshop which also serves food and beverages. They are ideally located at one corner of the old village green and it is the perfect vantage point for people watching. As I sipped my latte I spotted a crow perched on the chimney of one of the buildings across the green. It too had a perfect vantage point from which to look down on the bumbling human activity with avid and avian curiosity.
     The air was fresh and warm, a spring morning at its best. The sounds of voices hummed and echoed gently in the air as vendors chatted each other up and locals began to gather to view the various stalls, stop for a cup of tea or coffee, nip into W. H. Smith's across the way for a paper, and gather in small knots of threes and fives to bid their friends and neighbors hello and catch up on the local gossip.
     A variety of folks strolled past me: elderly of all ages and dispositions, some on their own with canes in one hand and trolleys in the other, and long married couples whose gnarled hands clasped one another lovingly as they walked hand-in-hand to the market. There was the self conscious thirty-something woman on a mission--out to pick up a pint of milk all tricked out in make up, hair carefully coiffed, every bit of her appearance carefully planned; and the forty or fifty-something couples, also in "good" casual clothes making a not so subtle statement about their finances, she carrying her Stella McCartney handbag clutched close to her side. These couples do not hold hands and in fact look more like business associates than a loving husband and wife.
     There were young mothers with children of varying ages stumbling and jumping, running and laughing, chasing the bubbles created by a bubble machine across from the bookshop at the entrance to a toy store. I spotted no less than twelve young men on their own, pushing baby strollers, out to grab a latte and perhaps a paper, or maybe they were meeting their partner at a nearby stall in the market. This always amazes me because American men do not do baby duty on their own unless under duress. In fact I don't recall ever seeing an American male on his own with a baby in a stroller or any other form of conveyance. As I looked closer I also spotted young dad's with toddlers in tow or in their arms, heading for the market stalls and a morning of unbridled bliss in the curiosity and delight their youngsters display as they engage with the vendors and clap tiny, chubby hands in surprise at all the goodies on display. One sound that is missing, thankfully is that of children crying. Perhaps it is too early in the day for that, but the general good cheer of one and all is blissful and made my latte taste all that much better. 
     There are dozen upon dozens of dogs passing by--all on leads and being gently controlled by their owners and only one makes a damned nuisance of itself barking shrilly at passing children. I saw Bassett Hounds, Beagles, a Suluki, two Greyhounds, a conceited looking Airdale terrier prancing along beside his owner, and a half score of small dogs of no particular breed. The air was filled with happy murmurs, punctuated by an occasional laugh which echoed against the cobblestoned courtyard. 
     Amongst all this human activity there is one person out of sync with the crowd; a man with ear buds in his ear talking loudly on his phone. While the old cobbled lanes which converge around the village green are pedestrianized, cars are allowed to come up if they are driven by handicapped individuals of if they are vendors loading and unloading their wares. A handicapped driver was inching along slowly behind Mr. Ear-buds-I-am-talking-here, but he of course could not hear the engine and was completely oblivious to everyone and everything around him. He was also the only person I saw in an hour of people watching, who used technology. It was such a joy to watch people interact with each other instead of their bloody phones and pads. 
Just outside the Nantwich Market Hall. 
Inside the Nantwich Farmer's Market building
View of some of the interior market stalls.
Delicious fresh fruit and veg for sale inside the market hall.
Out door market stalls set up in the old  Nantwich village square.
The Little Italian Van. 
A plethora of outdoor stalls on a sunny Saturday. 
Yummy treats!
Alderley Edge Apiaries. I get my raw honey from them.
Delicioius freshly baked breads, scones, and rolls.
Cheshire Cheesecakes!
Cheshire Pies! The traditional British fast food, filled with pork. 
Nantwich Flower Market. 
These metal clock tiles are embedded in the brick sidewalks throughout town .
This building is a fine example of the 16th century buildings that make up most of Nantwich's old village square area with a plaque of thanks to the Queen for her assistance in rebuilding the town. 
In 1583 a fire destroyed most of the Eastern side of the village. Queen Elizabeth I took a personal interest in the re-building of the town underwriting some of it with her own finances. This plaque offers the Nantwich citizen's thanks to their queen. 
The Nantwich Bookshop. I sat outside  just to the right of the sign...
...which offers tongue in cheek instruction on keeping one's dog and/or husband under control.
A Google map capture of the cobble walkway that leads from the village green and market square to the church of St. Mary on the right, across from the Indoor Market building. 
Standing on the same walkway shown in the picture above, looking back in the opposite direction. The church is on the left just out of site. The walkway veers left through the village green and the town square. 
St. Mary's church from the village green.
Nantwich bus station. The building in the background with the clock on the wall is the community library.
      Suddenly the church clock chimed the hour and it was my turn to make a foray through the market stalls. I was after fresh veg: Braeburn apples, fat, red radishes, small, knobby Blush potatoes with red skins and yellow flesh, spring onions, parsley, cucumber, lettuce, vine ripe tomatoes. I also wanted to pick up a couple of packets of Stamford brand rose incense from a  particular stall when I was waylaid by one of the cheese vendors. I stopped to try a slice of something I had never seen before: Golden Brie. It was divine!! Tiresford Farms Golden Brie melts on the tongue with a creamy top note and a strong under taste. It was more-ish and I bought a small truckle. I also stopped to purchase a low pile indoor/outdoor carpet mat for the stern area below the back stairs. I stand there in the evenings and get into my PJ's or get dressed in the mornings and my feet get cold on the bare floor so that was now sorted. One more stop for my paper at M&S because it is just around the corner from the outdoor bus station and I was ready to head home. 
     The Cheshire East Council budget cuts to the local bus routes which began April 1st, were certainly telling. On a busy Saturday morning in a vibrant market town of 17,000 people, with a canal passing right through the western edge of town, the local Arriva  84 no longer arrived every twenty or thirty minutes on its route from Crewe through Nantwich and on to Chester. Now it comes only once an hour and it is no longer a double decker either. So the line of passengers snaked out of the shelter and down the sidewalk past two other bus shelters also filled with people. When the bus finally loaded up and set off towards Chester it was rammed and people were standing in the aisles and still it picked up at three additional stops through town before passing a full bus stop of waiting folks in Acton just outside Nantwich. I was never so glad to disembark, cross the A51, walk down to the canal bridge over the LLangollen and turn off the road onto the shaded path through a tiny margin of woods which leads on to the towpath. Left under the bridge and there is NB Valerie waiting in the sun for my return. 

NB Valerie & Steam Train by Les Biggs

NB Valerie & Steam Train by Les Biggs