No 21 on the List for Living

21) Hold an exhibition of my cow photographs

For as long as I can remember I’ve loved taking photographs of cattle. Growing up on a farm in Gloucestershire meant they were always in the fields around us. With a gentle and curious nature, I think they are wonderful animals.

I’d always fancied having an exhibition of my pictures but never thought much more about it until I came up with my List for Living. My friend Gill, who runs the Garden Tea Rooms in Worcestershire offered to display my work. Over coffee, cake and chemo, we planned the exhibition – ‘Have I got MOOs for you’.

Many of the images that I selected were taken while I was going through cancer treatment. There are not only cows in my collection but also plenty of steers. In other words both girls and boys.

Taking pictures of these big, beautiful beasts has helped to get my through the difficult times. Over the past couple of years my parents have looked after me as I recovered from major surgery and relentless chemo. Being in the countryside was a tonic in itself, plus taking photos of the cattle over the garden fence took my mind off things.

Now once again I’m trying to recuperate from chemo. I’m still ridiculously exhausted but putting this together has given me something lovely to focus on while not moving far from the sofa.

The exhibition opened this weekend. It was good to feel nervous about something which didn’t involve blood tests or scans. We arrived early in the morning to get it ready. There were 15 pictures to put on display. This is my favourite, it features a pair of cheeky brothers.

I should say that it was my friend Rache who worked out how to put up the hooks on the walls. That nervous excitement meant I wasn’t much use. She also took these photographs of my photographs. Really all I did was stand back and decide where to put them!

It was a great feeling, such a sense of satisfaction, to finally see my pictures on the walls in their own exhibition. With the cattle grazing around us, there was only one thing left to do and that was to celebrate with a cream tea.

‘Have I got MOOS for you’ runs until the end of the month at the Garden Tea Rooms which is next to Witley Court in Great Witley, Worcestershire.

http://www.witleytearooms.co.uk

Special thanks to Gill Edmonds – Making People Happy With Cake!

Dog days of chemo

When you’re being treated for cancer you’re prepared for it to be horrendous and scary. What no one tells you is just how boring it will be.

But at least I have Sasha the dog.

Most days are pretty much the same. I try to spend as long as I can out of bed. I sit in a comfy armchair in the living room while Sasha curls up in a chair next to me.

She is able to go outside in the garden or run around in the surrounding fields but she prefers to stay with me. Together we watch daytime TV.

Sasha is a very happy dog. She enjoys snoozing and when she’s awake she likes walks and wagging her tail. The thing is she doesn’t do much but that’s why she’s great. I never quite realised how important Sasha would be during my battle to beat this killer diesase. She’s my silent constant companion. With her, life isn’t quite so dull.

My family and friends have been brilliant during all this but I can ask Sasha the questions that no one really knows the answers to. Why did I get cancer again? Why is life so unfair? When will I stop being so exhausted? Shall we watch another Jeremy Kyle show?

Sasha looks at me with her brown eyes. I take it to mean, stop worrying. But she could just be wondering if it’s lunchtime yet.

No matter how I’m feeling I try to have a tiny walk everyday. The reward for making it outside is on the other side of the garden fence.

Some of my dad’s cattle graze in the field. These young boys are an inquisitive and friendly bunch. As we sit on the lawn and watch them, they like to come over to say hello.   

It’s so peaceful. The only sound is made by the animals. They help to take my mind off things. It’s a lovely way to pass the time and you can’t help but feel calm. I know that I’m very lucky to be able to recuperate here.

I can only walk for a few minutes at a time. After my brief burst of activity I need a long rest so it’s back to the living room.

The past week has been tough. The pain has been awful but mostly it’s been all about the tiredness. It’s like suddenly being hit with a very big sleeping stick. I have no choice but to give in. It feels almost as if I’m fainting. A few days ago I woke up from one of these deep sleeps and I was so drained that it took me an hour before I had the energy to have a drink from a glass of water that was right next to me.

Today has been a good day. The side effects of my last chemo are finally starting to fade but I know that the better I feel, the more bored I get.

It can often seem like you’re adrift in an ocean of illness with months of the same stretching out in front of you. But Sasha the dog and the cattle in the field are showing me how to be more content with a much slower pace of life.