I woke quite early and went out to open the chicken run and the greenhouse. I felt ok, but a little bit sick, and as on so many other mornings recently, I took a dose of Metoclopramide. When Pia got up, we sat on the sofa to finish watching a film that we’d started the night before.
It was raining quite a lot outside. Despite that, we decided to have a walk into town to get a couple of things. We were almost ready to leave the house on a couple of occasions, when I started to feel bad and had to lie down. When we finally got going, I was a bit slow and unsteady, but I coped ok. We were out for almost two hours in total and I was exhausted when we got home. Like the day before, I lay down and snoozed for a couple of hours.
For dinner we decided to try something new. We made butternut squash falafels with a herb and chilli zhoug sauce. We made some rice and salad to go with that. Pia also baked some oat and raisin muffins. I was getting quite worn out while cooking and I had to keep leaning on the bench or sitting down every so often. It was nice to eventually settle down to eat.
I felt ok waking up in the morning. However, when I got out of bed and leaned forward to pick something up from the floor, I had a sudden and unusual pain in the centre-left area my chest, radiating up towards my left shoulder. I’d not felt anything quite like that before and was initially distressing. It eased up after a bit, but for a short while I found that I could recreate the pain, to a degree, by making a similar movement. I was breathing fine and didn’t feel notably bad in any other way. I decided to take it pretty easy all day and to call my oncology team’s emergency number if the issue persisted. Fortunately it didn’t.
It was a lovely sunny day outside, warm but not too hot. We let all three chickens out into the garden. The Cochins stuck together and mooched around pecking at things. At one point we noticed one of them peck a bumble bee straight from a plant. Later, one of them had found a large worm. I sat on the ground for a while watching them. They came close to me a few times but were not quite brave enough to eat from my hand. Lucy chased them every now and then, showing that she’s in charge.
Our greenhouse gets a bit shady during the second half of the afternoon, so we took some of the potted plants out into the open to soak up some sun for a few hours. We also needed to attend to a few of them, notably tomatoes and cucumbers, that were not holding to their stakes very well. Pia also planted a few trays of seeds to get started, including beetroot and beans. Once they’ve germinated and reached a reasonable size, we’ll transfer them to the garden.
For dinner we wanted to make Gallo Pinto, or rice and beans, Costa Rican style. When we visited Costa Rica in 2006, this was served as part of almost every meal and it is delicious. The secret ingredient is a sauce called Salsa Lizano. This is not really available outside of Costa Rica and even if it was, some of the ingredients on the label can be a bit off-putting (MSG, etc.). We found a recipe online that attempts to make something equivalent to Salsa Lizano, but with fresh ingredients, so we tried that. We boiled some black beans, that had been soaked overnight, and cooked some rice. We then combined them with celery, red pepper, garlic, onion and our sauce. It came out nice! It wasn’t exactly like we remembered, but it was pretty good. I think we’ll need to return to Costa Rica to experience the authentic flavour again, but at least we have a good home made alternative.
I didn’t get any more of the morning’s chest pain during the day. I still had a heavy feeling in the chest and a cough, which had persisted for weeks, which I presumed to be due to Bleomycin, but that was different. My breathing was all fine and I’d taken it easy enough during the day that I’d not worn myself out too much, so all in all I felt that I was doing ok.
I was feeling quite good on Saturday morning, as I had been on Friday. After we got up and ready, we headed out and started driving to the chicken breeder’s place. They live in a village called Baltonsborough, near Glastonbury, which was beautiful to drive through.
The breeders were very knowledgeable when it came to keeping chickens and they were able to give us a lot of advice. They had birds of a number of different breeds available for purchase, each with their own characteristics. After much deliberation we decided to take two white Cochin hens.
Cochins are big and fluffy with feathers over their feet. They are quite calm and friendly and are supposed to get on well with other breeds. They can’t fly, which is good for us as they shouldn’t end up escaping over the fence if chased, as Lucy has been a few times. They will lay 3-4 eggs at most per week, which is less than Lucy, but still nice. There were other hens available who would more regularly lay 6-7 eggs per week, but we decided that the calmer personality of the Cochins would suit us best.
It had turned out to be another nice warm day. I was a little worn out when we left the breeder’s, but still feeling fairly decent. We drove home with the Cochins in a cardboard box in the back of the car.
When we got home, we repositioned the chicken coup and run, letting Lucy out to roam around the garden. We made sure that there were water and food available both inside and outside of the run. Then we introduced the Cochins to the run and closed them in, so that they could spend the rest of the day familiarising themselves with their new environment. Lucy, on the outside of the run, was quite interested in he new arrivals and strutted around looking in and making noises. It would be interesting to see how they interacted later on.
After lunch I was quite exhausted. I lay down for a while and slept for an hour or so. Although I was feeling comparatively better to how I’d been a couple of days earlier, I was still nowhere near normal. I’d had a pretty active morning. This was something that I needed to be careful about, as life was still very tiring and I didn’t want to do more than I could manage.
For dinner we decided to make a jackfruit tikka masala curry. For this, we first needed to make a marinade, so we did that and left the jackfruit to soak it up for a couple of hours.
Before we started cooking, we let Lucy into the chicken run. She immediately started asserting her dominance over the newcomers. She’d occasionally charge at them and might pluck out one of their feathers. The Cochins are quite docile and didn’t fight back. It was quite clear that Lucy would be head of the new pecking order, which was interesting given both that she is the smallest of the three and that she was always at the bottom of the pack when our previous two chickens lived with her.
We finished preparing the curry, adding some courgette and butternut squash to the recipe to make it nice and thick with lots of goodness. Once finished, we sat on the sofa to eat it. It was delicious.
I was still quite tired in the evening but refreshed from having napped during the afternoon. I’d have to make sure that I didn’t over-do it in the days to come.
I was quite tired on Thursday and took it pretty easy. I was a bit tired and sluggish on Friday as well.
I had an appointment with an oncologist on Friday morning to discuss how I was getting on with the chemo, now that I was near the end of cycle 2, and to have bloods taken to check my tumour markers and full blood count. The oncologist was quite happy with how I was getting on, on the whole, however she was a bit concerned about my cough and the heavy feeling in my chest.
Bleomycin is known to affect the lungs, but we wouldn’t want it to affect my lungs too much. She said that she would arrange for me to repeat the lung function test to see if there had been any degradation. If there was, beyond a certain amount, they would consider stopping giving me Bleomycin. As I’d taken the plunge with chemotherapy and already come this far, I didn’t really want to stop taking something that might be helping to halt the spread of cancer cells. Despite the cough, I was still able to take deep breaths quite easily, so I was fairly confident that the results of the lung function test would be close to normal.
I also asked about the stinging in my urethra. As I’d already had two urine tests which came back negative for infection, the oncologist said that it was probably just a chemo thing. Although it felt quite unbearable at times, I’d been starting to get to grips with it, trying to treat it as a sensation rather than judging it and experiencing it specifically as pain.
Once we got home in the afternoon, I went into the garden to try repotting a couple of plants, but I was quite exhausted and didn’t get very far before having to head inside for a rest. By Friday evening I’d started perking up. We had some friends coming down from London to stay the night, arriving around 8 pm. I decided that I’d get busy in the kitchen and cook some dinner to be ready for when they arrived.
I decided to make a jackfruit curry. We had a few tins of young green jackfruit, but I’d not cooked with it before. I used a recipe for a swede curry as my base and referred to a recipe for jackfruit tacos to ensure I cooked the jackfruit element of it in a suitable way. It turned out pretty well, but I think it could have used some more spices to give the jackfruit a bit more flavour. Everyone enjoyed it.
I stayed up quite late in the end, and was exhausted again by the time I got to bed.