2013 was the year of new beginnings…

I can’t believe that it’s almost a month since 2014 started… my life never seems to stop lately but this time last year I saw things very differently.  I started the new year off with an operation… one that I’d had to keep cancelling for seven months to ensure I could do the annual charity ball in November for the Yorkshire Kidney Research Fund who I worked for.  Nerves and feeling ill meant we’d had a quiet Christmas and New Year and finally the day arrived and on 14 January 2013, with a dusting of snow on the ground, Mr C took me to St James’s Hospital in Leeds.  The anesthetist was lovely and said he’d look after me but just needed to mention I could die due to my BMI… I then had to go back to the busy waiting room and tell Mr C this news!  Poor Mr C was then left worrying for a few hours before we were reunited on the ward.  All my panicking about a general anesthetic wasn’t needed, I had no side affects and just a little bit of pain but had to stay in overnight… the first of many sleepless nights to come.  Getting over my op wasn’t easy, I didn’t sleep much, had to be rushed back to hospital with a suspected DVT, my scars got worse before they got better and I generally felt horrible.  Relationships weren’t good with my employers and life couldn’t have looked much worse.

Mr C was amazing, snow kept falling and therefore visitors were few and far between but Mr C made sure I was fed and watered and that he went to work the days he could get the car off the drive!  I watched all the Ugly Betty DVD’s and thanks to my friend Clair I made a good start on Desperate Housewives and Twin Peaks was watched on an evening with Mr C.  This was a time when I realised who my real friends were and that it was about quality friendships not quantity, this involved a huge cull on facebook and I started writing real letters to my true friends.

Back to work and the decision to look for a new job was made, a big decision after being a part of such an amazing charity for almost 6 years.  I also decided I was going to look for a full time job, something I’d not done since before I’d had the Curly One almost 21 years before.  I decided the through living room/dining room needed decorating so I did it… Mr C came home from work one day and found I’d started and before he knew it I’d done it!  I was shattered after but felt chuffed at doing such a good job.

I was still befriending my old chap Arthur through Pudsey Live at Home, he was tired and struggling with life at almost 93.  We chatted about life and what was in the papers, he was disgusted with all the murder and rape talked about in the news and in the paper.  He was more up to date on current affairs than I was and his daily paper was his only constant contact with the world outside.  He so missed June his wife and it was hard seeing someone so lonely, all he wanted was to be with his one true love.  I kept joking that the Boss had turned two pages one day so he was stuck with me visiting him for a bit longer.

Clandestine Cake Club and the friends I’ve met through cake club really have been amazing throughout 2012 and 2013.  A huge thank you to my cake club lovelies, you make me smile and help me to believe in myself!   Twelve events were held during 2013 so I’ve now held 24 events in total!  Wow I never expected that to happen but I have loved every minute and am busy arranging events for 2014 at the moment.  We had fun at local cafes, pubs, my house, a HobbyCraft store and even on a barge on the canal, anywhere that would have us!  Themes included… Love, Love, Love – All You Need Is Cake, World Book Night (I was a book giver giving out copies of Casino Royale by Ian Fleming!), Mocktails and Cocktails, Ahoy Me Hearties!, Superheroes!, Yorkshire Day, Harvest Savoury Cakes, Crafty Cakes and Dr Who (celebrating the 50th anniversary episode in November).  So all in all a very busy cake fuelled year!

The Clandestine Cake Club book hit bookshops in February and we were all very excited.  My family recipe for Overnight Tea Loaf made the book and Sainsburys and Yorkshire Tea both printed this recipe during the year so hopefully lots of my tea loaves have been baked and eaten worldwide!

I joined Pudsey WI but didn’t get to go to many meetings due to ill health.  I helped my friend Julie to set up Sassy Divas in Bramley and I’m so proud to see her take it from strength to strength, perhaps the WI isn’t quite right for some of us amazing crafty cake baking ladies out there!  I helped at the Pudsey Live at Home fayres throughout the year baking lots of goodies then helping to sell them on the day, a charity that really does mean a lot to me.

The sad news was when my old chap died in July, his cancer had finally beaten his body, so sad to see him in the last weeks but the best part was he was in a care home and was looked after 24/7. It would have been very sad if he’d have died at home alone.  His death hit me hard but he’s always told me to be strong and not be pushed around.  I never got to tell him that I’d got a new job but I know he’ll be very glad that I’m no longer stuffing thousands of envelopes 2 or 3 times a year!  I won’t forget you Mr Barker!

Not many concerts, Jack Johnson at The Lowry in Salford was amazing and it was great to see the Kaiser Chiefs back to full strength at the new Leeds Arena.  Mr C finally got me and the Curly One to a Barenaked Ladies gig at the o2 in Leeds, well worth seeing if you have chance.  Wicked and The Pitmen Painters were both amazing at the theatre, apparently I’m a bit biased when it comes to Wicked, having seen it ten times with another ticket already purchased for June 2014 in Leeds!

We enjoyed a few trips as usual.  Our first one of the year in March when we went to Surrey, Kew Gardens and then the Curly One met us and we went to the Harry Potter Studios in North London.  Love time out with both my boys and not something that happens as much now the Curly One is at Uni.  Fun was had at Doncaster Races and then our annual Ladies Day at Ripon Races, we only make small bets and for me it’s more about the people watching… Doncaster in March was interesting with many ladies wearing summer dresses and bad fake tans while I was wrapped up in my big winter coat!  Trips to Newcastle happen quite frequently so we can visit the Curly One at Uni and a trip to the dog racing in Newcastle was an interesting night for us all!  I had a couple of lovely spa trips to Centreparcs with my lovely friend in May and then with my mum in November.  Highly recommend the spa at the Sherwood Forest park and the two day breaks they have. A lovely afternoon tea on the Wensleydale Railway with Mr C one Sunday afternoon and lots more afternoon teas throughout the year with friends at Cafes and Hotels. A trip to London in June for Mr C’s birthday which included sleeping in a room overlooking Wembley Stadium and a trip to the top of The Shard.  Mr C spent most of the time working out where football and cricket grounds were! A trip to Liverpool involved post boxes and gave me the quest of finding a missing Queen Victoria Penfold pillar box… I helped Liverpool City Council to find it and with help from Liverpool Uni and English Heritage it will soon be back in situ and back as a working pillar box!  I’m sure I’ll have more to tell about this in 2014! A lovely treat for my birthday was staying over at the Crab and Lobster in North Yorkshire, then a week’s holiday in Newcastle and Scotland which included lunch at The Kitchin in Leith and tea on the Royal Yacht Britannia.  The food at The Kitchin (One Michelin Star) was amazing, food on a totally different level to anything I’d ever tasted before.  To actually meet Tom Kitchin and talk to him made this meal even more fantastic.  Moments like this are for scrapbooking in our brain! Then a month later I treated Mr C to a meal at The Waterside Inn in Bray (Three Michelin Stars)… well after we tried to walk into the kitchen entrance!  What a wonderful afternoon, sat at Table Two in the window overlooking The Thames.  The service was amazing and the food and whole event of this meal was just out of this world.  Somewhere I’d wanted to eat since I was quiet young so to get there was the best feeling ever. This won’t be our last trip to Bray to eat out.  The next day we had a lovely day in Windsor and finally got to visit Windsor Castle. We weren’t having any more trips in 2013 but following a meal out with a friend I decided I’d take the boys away for Christmas.  Not sure they thought this was the best idea at the time, but I can honestly say that we all had the most wonderful chilled out Christmas.  We stayed at a lovely cottage in Belford, Northumbria after collecting the Curly One from Newcastle.  Time out with those you love really does mean a lot.  Lots more post boxes on these trips and I finally joined up to The Letter Box Study Group, if you thought I was addicted to post boxes, you should talk to some of my fellow members!

Job interviews started coming in and I had the job offer I wanted in June and then in July I started working full time for Leeds Mind, another charity and one who does amazing work with people struggling with their mental health, the team I’m in help people get back into  employment or help them retain employment due to their mental health problems.   A great team to be part of and hopefully somewhere I’ll be working for many years.

During the year my health had never been right.  My gallbladder op should have made a huge difference but it didn’t.  Lots of other things started happening, pains that had been explained by my gallstones became worse and more frequent.  I was tired but couldn’t sleep.  My mobility got worse and I struggled to walk.  I had many, many blood tests but nothing showed up.  There was mention of muscularskeletal pain, through researching that I came across mention of fibromyalgia.  Blood tests ruled out arthritis.  My gp didn’t want to diagnose fibromyalgia but following the trigger/tender point tests that was the only answer and in August 2013 my life was thrown upside down and back to front with this diagnosis, confirmed in October by a Rheumatologist.  The last few months of the year have been hard, I’m still working full time despite the fact people say I can’t.  I don’t like being told I can’t and through learning to pace myself, pain medication and physiotherapy things are getting easier.  Life will never be the same again.  I can’t walk very far before becoming tired or starting with painful muscle spasms, if I have to walk more than 10-20 metres I need to have a walking stick with me. Our lovely trip to Windsor Castle in October was hard and I actually ended up in a wheelchair which poor Mr C had to push me around in all day.  I don’t want to stop doing things I enjoy but I need to remember I have limitations so life has to be looked at differently.  We can’t just go out, we have to plan where we can park or where Mr C needs to drop me.  I can’t enjoy the cinema or the theatre because I fall asleep (as was proved at Wicked in November).  I can’t travel far to visit friends as I get tired when driving by myself and can’t always drive when I start with muscle spasms in my feet and hands.  There’s a lot I can’t do, or struggle to do but if I dwelled on that life would be pretty naf.  Got to look at what I can do, I can smile, I can be happy and I can enjoy time with family and friends.  I couldn’t bake or crochet for a while but that’s got easier and helps me to relax.  Cake Club is a brilliant way to keep me busy and then I still love chatting to everyone at the events.  I still want to be me, to feel useful and to do nice things for other people and as long as I pace myself and don’t try and do too much I should be able to do that.  People still keep asking how long I’ll feel off it for or tell me I’ll soon feel better, but I won’t, this is probably with me for life now.  After a lot of soul searching it’s less raw and that means I can start to move on but it doesn’t mean I’ll be running up the stairs or walking miles again.  Making the most of what we have is so important which is why we went away at Christmas, so that me and the boys could have time out away from the madness of the world.  The good news is it isn’t degenerative, I’m hoping that it won’t get any worse and I do feel that it hasn’t got any worse since December, so with medication, pacing and physiotherapy exercises I hope I can keep enjoying life at a level that doesn’t tire me too much but doesn’t stop me having fun either! In a way I have to mourn the old me, and hold dear the memories of things I’ve done, but in turn I need to become the new me, the one who’s got fibromyalgia but who won’t let it stop her enjoying life, having fun and building new memories!

So a year of new beginnings… a new job and a new me!  Here’s to 2014 and whatever it holds for us all!

Me and the boys having fun Christmas Day 2013 on Bamburgh Beach!

2013-12-25 13.03.54

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