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A year later

Hello there.

It’s 3rd January 2014 – exactly a year since our beloved Ben died.

To mark the day, and to celebrate Ben’s legacy – his excellent blog, I thought I would add a new post about what this past year has held for me, Saskia and our family.

Life for Saskia and I

It’s still hard to believe that Ben has really gone and that I won’t ever again be able to squeeze his hand or give him a hug or mess up his hair like I used to. I can imagine him vividly though and often do – and I smile to myself and to my ‘spirit of Ben’ which is always with me.

Surprisingly for me, this year has contained more joy than sadness. I expected the weight of grief to come hard, to feel pain and sadness in great waves – for weeks, for months, for years. But instead it’s been a happy year – sad at times but mostly happy. It’s a fact that’s been been hard to come to terms with and I worried about it a lot at the beginning, feeling guilty that I wasn’t suffering as much as I should be. After a lot of reflection, and talking to good friends, and some counselling too, I’ve come to accept that it’s OK to be a happy widow – enough to ‘confess’ it in public like this, though the guilt gremlin does still haunt me from time to time.

Above all else, the reason for my happiness is Saskia. She is such a bundle of absolute joy, and with her around there simply isn’t space or time to get down and feel miserable. I aim to be a happy and playful parent for her sake, and she makes that job so easy! Here’s a fabulous picture that for me sums up the fun and adventure that life with Saskia has been this year…

Saskia and I loving life - Red Sea, Oct 2013

Saskia and I loving life – Red Sea, Oct 2013

If I imagine life without Sas then it really would have been a very bleak year indeed. I am so lucky to have her. And not just her…my friends and family have been AMAZING in their support and generosity.

Saskia’s own journey as her mind develops and little by little she has little shifts in understanding about what has happened to her Daddy is both moving and fascinating. She was only 16 months old when Ben died and too young to understand – this year she has thrived and showed no signs of suffering thankfully. Sadness may come for her in time as her understanding grows, but for now she’s doing fine.

My own blog – ‘These Widows Shoes’

Inspired by Ben, I decided back in May to have a stab at writing my own blog about life as a widow. For a long time I kept it to myself and just a few friends, but recently I’ve been brave and invited Facebook friends to view it – and now all of you reading this too. I’d love you to have a look and pass it on to your friends if you like it. It’s mostly reflections on widowhood, with a lot about Saskia’s journey too. It’s called ‘These Widow’s Shoes’ and you can visit it by clicking here.

Widows shoes.png

‘These Widow’s Shoes’ Home Page

‘Me and My Unwelcome Visitors’ Lives On

Ben’s blog still gets lots of visits every day. It has been visited from 86 countries to date and has had over 32,000 hits. One thing that I am delighted about is that it has gone right up the Google rankings, appearing second in the list for the search terms ‘melanoma blog’ whereas a year ago it would have been nowhere to be seen. I’ve been tweaking it here and there, and getting other sites to list it (see this one for example) and it seems to be working! From time to time I get comments on there from people whose lives have been touched by melanoma and who have found reading Ben’s words a help. What an amazing achievement Benj – I’m so proud of you!

One of the changes I’ve made to the blog is the addition of a Twitter feed (see the top right column of the home page). Under the username @melanomablogger, I’ve been using it partly to publicise the blog, but also more recently to share information and raise awareness about melanoma. This was something that Ben had started to do himself with his The Enemy page and I’m sure if he’d survived he’d be busy doing this himself. If you’re into the Twitter thing, please follow me and help me spread the message – if you’re not, maybe this is the moment!

A major plan involving Ben’s blog that I am sorry to say I’ve been very slow at getting on with is getting it published in book form. I got started on this back in the summer but somehow I got a bit overwhelmed with it and had to take a step back. But a new year has brought new resolve – I will get it done (with the help of some family and friends who have offered various services) and hopefully in the not too distant future I’ll be able to announce it’s publication on here and you can all order your copy!

Celebrating Ben’s Life

Since the funeral I have been determined to turn negatives into positives whenever I can. One example of this was in June when we had a ‘Raising a Pint to Ben’ get together at the Wimborne Folk Festival. Ben loved the festival – it was a part of his youth and an event that he proudly introduced me to when we first started going out together. I’d already decided to go with a few friends from Kent for my birthday when I realised we should use the event as a good excuse to bring together Ben’s family (young and old) and friends (old and new) to remember and celebrate his life. It was a gorgeous sunny day – Ben’s heart would have swelled with love and pride to see us all there together. Here we all are….

Family, young and old. Friends, new and old. All raising a glass to Ben at the Wimborne Folk Festival - June 2013

Raising a pint to Ben at the Wimborne Folk Festival – June 2013

It was Ben himself who set the precedent for positivity, as his blog testifies and as was reiterated many times during the funeral service. It has moved and inspired a great many people – many of whom barely knew Ben in his lifetime. One such person was my very good friend Pete Gold, who I met at university and then shared a house in London with for a couple of years.  I was really touched that he made the effort to come to the funeral (as did many of my old friends), despite the fact that I’d hardly seen him for years. It was lovely to catch up briefly, but again the months went by without seeing each other and it wasn’t until October that we finally managed to organise a get together. Not long before we were due to set off home after a weekend visiting Pete’s family, Pete shyly informed me that he’d composed a song in memory of Ben and would I like to hear it. I was so moved that he’d done such a thing that I think I was weeping before he even had a chance to play it to me! The music and words are just stunning – it’s called ‘Live Forever’ and is a 4-part choral piece (forgive me if I’ve described that crudely Pete, I’ve no idea if that’s the proper terminology!). Pete has recorded it with his local choir, The Rickmansworth Players Choir, and we are planning to get together early this year to somehow release the recording as a single so that it is available to buy, with the proceeds going to charity. So watch this space – I’ll let you know via the blog and Facebook when it’s available.

The Burial Ground

The beautiful Woodland Burial Ground where Ben is buried has played an important part in our lives this year. For me it has become a pilgrimage that I make every few months when I am visiting Ben’s family in Wiltshire and Dorset. From Ben’s Mum’s house, where I usually stay, it’s a 45 minute drive over sweeping hills and fields, up and down lonely narrow lanes, through sun-dappled woods – it’s just lovely. It’s one of the rare opportunities for me to be alone with my thoughts and it’s such a perfect way to frame my visits to see Ben. After spending some time at Ben’s grave I like to walk around the site, finding a bench at the top of the hill where I can look down over the burial ground, across to The Horns pub and the countryside beyond. I often take my journal and spend an hour or so reflecting and ‘chatting’ to myself and to Ben. It’s bliss – I feel so close to him there and so full of love and gratitude that he came into my life.

The burial ground and the Horns Pub have become a meeting place for the family as a whole. His aunties who live nearby visit weekly and keep the grave looking lovely, always covered in fresh flowers. Various family members meet there, and when Saskia and I are visiting we often get the family together for a meal and to visit Ben…


Arranging and planting flowers in the sunshine – September 2013

During the year we decided that we wanted a rowan tree to be planted on Ben’s grave. It’s a colorful tree, with blossom in the spring, berries in the summer and red leaves in the autumn. We hope it’ll be home to lots of wildlife and will offer us a lot of comfort when we visit during the seasons. The tree is very young and obviously bare now in the winter…


But in years to come it will hopefully be as stunning as this one…

A mature Rowan tree

A mature Rowan tree

We also finally found the right words to put on the plaque, which was put up in October…


The plaque which stands just in front of Ben’s tree

The quotation is from a Red Hot Chilli Peppers song, ‘Venice Queen’. I was stumped for ages as to a quote that would be personal to Ben and yet also fitting for this context. After hoping that it would just ‘come to me’ for months, I realised it wasn’t going to happen I sat down to start wading through Ben’s albums to find the right words. Ben must have been helping out somehow because the first album I looked at – ‘By the Way’ by the Chilli Peppers, a really important album for Ben, gave me what I was looking for. Besides the fact that Ben loved the sea, and surfing, the deeper sentiment here couldn’t be more perfect. Every day Ben influences me in positive ways, but the waves have travelled so much further – across the world via his blog, and into beautiful, timeless notes through Pete’s music.

You can read the rest of the ‘Venice Queen’ lyrics and watch a live version of the song by clicking here (our bit comes in at 6:29)


The waves that Ben made have also inspired many people to raise money for different charities related to Ben’s story. At the beginning of the year my brother David did the Tough Guy challenge raising £679 for Pilgrims Hospices and £840 for Cancer Research UK.

Dave doing his 'Tough Guy' pose

Dave doing his ‘Tough Guy’ pose – January 2013

In February Ben’s school friend Tanya, and her friend Sofia completed their 24 hour spin challenge – they covered the distance from their gym in Bournemouth to Pilgrims Hospice in Kent and back again – twice! They raised £1,269 for Pilgrims Hospices.

Tanya and Sofia spinning their way from Canterbury to Bournemouth and back in 24 hours

Tanya and Sofia spinning their way from Canterbury to Bournemouth and back (twice!) in 24 hours

Then in June Ben’s Mum, Delia, and two aunties, Claire and Maria, did the Race for Life, jogging (and a little bit of walking!) 5k along Bournemouth beach. They raised £461 for Cancer Research UK.

Maria, Delia and Claire looking over the sea from Bournemouth Pier after finishing the Race for Life - June 2013

Maria, Delia and Claire looking over the sea from Bournemouth Pier after finishing the Race for Life – June 2013

Ben’s cousin Michaela also did the Race for Life, running 10k in London, and raising £145 for Cancer Research UK.

Michaela and Georgina at Hyde Park after the Race for Life 10k - July 2013

Michaela and Georgina at Hyde Park after the Race for Life 10k – July 2013

In August, a friend of Ben’s from university, Kathryn, did the 100 mile London-Surrey cycle ride, raising an amazing £1,755 for Cancer Research UK.

Kathryn Daniels

Kathryn after completing the 100k London-Surrey bike ride

Also in August, Ben’s Grandad Ken sadly died. Ben’s Dad kindly suggested that the donations at the funeral be in aid of Pilgrims Hospices – we raised another £369 for this brilliant charity thanks to Ken’s friends and family.

Ken Edge

Kenneth John Edge

Then in September, on what would have been Ben and I’s 5th wedding anniversary, a team of Ben’s friends and I did a 10k Moonlight Walk along the Kent coast in aid of Pilgrims Hospices – together we raised £3,272!

The Moonlight Walkers team - Sept 2013

The Moonlight Walkers team – Sept 2013

Finally, to round the year off my ever-creative colleague from English in Action, Jacqui Miller, raised £75 for Pilgrims Hospices by selling Magic Reindeer Food!

Quite an amazing catalogue of achievement hey? And we’re not stopping there! Our next fundraising efforts will be this month, in collaboration with Ben’s favourite local pub, The Phoenix in Faversham. If you live anywhere near us, and fancy a pub quiz please join us on the 6th and/or 20th of January to show off your general knowledge and help raise money for Pilgrims Hospices.

Ben’s Facebook page

One last thing is that I just wanted to remind you all is that Ben’s Facebook page is still there for any of us to post thoughts, memories, photos or messages. Today would be a good day to post something if you feel inspired. Unfortunately this is only accessible to people who were already FB friends with Ben, although anyone can post comments on the blog at any time, or on my FB page if you like.

So there we are. I miss him so very much, and yet I feel he was such a force for good in my life that even though he’s gone he still makes me happy. I wish every one a very happy and healthy 2014!!


Filed under Other News, Saskia News

New Page – ‘Guest Articles’

Just to let you all know I have added a new page to the blog, entitled ‘Guest Articles’.

I was recently contacted by a fellow blogger from the U.S., requesting permission to write an article for the blog, sharing his six years experience as a husband and carer to a cancer patient.

His wife was diagnosed with a rare and dangerous form of cancer called mesothelioma, a diagnosis which normally carries with it a life expectancy of less than a year. Six years on, and following treatment, she is alive and well.

So I have created this ‘Guest Articles’ page, to allow others who have been through, or are going through, a similar situation to share the benefit of their wisdom and experience.

If anyone wishes to write anything for this page, please contact me via the comments section of the new page.

Leave a comment

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Thank You!

Just another quick post from me to say lots of huge thank yous to all of you who donated to the the Moonlight Walk. I’d love to write to you all individually – and I might yet when I get the time – but in the meantime I hope you won’t mind a group thank you. I’d especially like to say thanks to the people who don’t know Ben and I very well or haven’t seen us in years  – it’s really generous of you to give of your hard earned cash for our cause.

I’d also like to thank Janine and Lizzie for making the walk such a jolly experience and for getting their friends and families in on the fundraising. Lizzie should have a special fanfare of her own for completing the walk while being thirty-four weeks pregnant – what a woman!

Lizzie, me and Janine – showing off our medals

I’m just blown away by how much we’ve raised – £1,565 at the last count – amazing! Last time I can remember collecting money for charity was when I was dragging a battered sponsor form around, pestering friends’ mums and neighbours for their 50p’s for the school fun run (making me sound very old and rather slack on the fundraising for that matter) so raising this much money with a bare minimum of pestering has come as quite a shock. Thank you all very very much.

Pilgrims really is a great cause – we were there again yesterday visiting the doctor  – unlike the rushed appointments with the doctors in London where you always feel like you have to speak as quickly as possible to squeeze everything in, we have relaxed half hour plus appointments where we can talk calmly and in detail about all the things that the high powered consultants would probably find a bit dull anyway (but are so important for us) like fatigue, sleeplessness, pain relief etc. We count ourselves as very fortunate indeed at the moment with the team of doctors looking after Ben between St Georges’s, Canterbury Hospital and Pilgrims. And fortunate to have so many good friends and family to support us – all of you.

Thanks again.


P.S. Really not nagging (honest!) but if you’d been meaning to donate to the Moonlight Walk but hadn’t got round to it, you still can (until November I think) – just go to


Filed under Other News

£1,000 and counting…

Hi folks – Sally here…

Whoopeeee! The total donations for my Moonlight Walk on Friday in aid of Pilgrims Hospices has reached the £1,000 target and is still going up!

I really didn’t think we’d get to a thousand pounds so quickly. Thank you SO much to all you lovely people who have donated so generously. If anyone would still like to donate, there’s plenty of time yet. Here’s the link again –

A couple of my good friends will be joining me – Janine and Lizzie (30-something weeks pregnant – go girl!). I’ll let you know how it goes.

Thanks again – you’ve made Ben and I very proud to have such generous family and friends.



Filed under Other News

Sally’s Moonlight Walk

Still not a post about Saskia I’m afraid (I am working on it!).

This post is about Sally – who is a bit like Saskia, only bigger, and less prone to de-alphabetisising (made up word, it’s my blog, deal with it) my CDs – there are other differences, but those are the main ones.

So anyway, to get to the point…

On Friday 21st September Sally will be taking part in a ten kilometer ‘Moonlight Walk’, to raise money for Pilgrims Hospices.

Pilgrims Hospices is a charity based in East Kent, providing palliative care and other services to people in the local area, free of charge. They have three hospices in the area; Canterbury, Ashford and Thanet.

Now prior to being diagnosed back in February, my sole interaction with the word ‘hospice’ was from a conversation in the TV comedy ‘Peep Show’, that went like this…

Jeremy – “Mum rang to say my uncle Ray is a bit ill”

Mark – “Is it serious?”

Jeremy – “Dunno, he’s gone into the hospice, so I guess he’s being looked after”

Mark – “Hospice? You know what a hospice is don’t you?”

Jeremy – “Like a hospital, but nicer?”

Mark – “A hospice is where people go who are terminally ill”

Jeremy – “Oh right, Mum said he was… what you said. I’m sure he’ll be fine, he’s not a quitter”

Mark – “Well I have to say, probably not mate”

So based on this (and knowing that Peep Show is the best and most accurate source of information for most things) I associated the word ‘hospice’ purely with a place people go to die when they are terminally ill. So I wasn’t particularly excited when we were put in touch with the Canterbury Pilgrims Hospice.

However, since that moment we have discovered that they offer a whole range of services, not just ‘end of life’ care. They have been a great support to us over the last six months or so, in many different ways. I won’t write in detail here, as Sally has already explained in more depth on her ‘JustGiving’ page, which can be found by clicking on the following link…

So yes, now I finally get to the point, this is a post asking for money!

Sally has set herself the ambitious target of raising one thousand pounds – if anyone would like to help Sally towards her target, then all donations (however big or small) are gratefully received. Following the support that we have received from Pilgrims, we both believe it is a worthy, and somewhat undervalued, cause.

Thanks to all.


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A melting pot of news…

So I thought I’d post again to update you on everything I didn’t manage to fit into Monday’s post (which is quite a lot!).

Firstly then, an update on how I am feeling – not too bad thanks. The radiotherapy certainly seems to have had a positive impact on the brain situation – I’ve not really had any head aches or pressure since the treatment. I have reduced my steroids to half the original dose, and stopped taking codeine about a week ago (leaving me just taking paracetamol in terms of pain relief for my back). Cutting down on the steroids has had a positive impact in terms of reducing my appetite (back down from six meals a day to a paltry three!), and reduced considerably the profuse sweating (a bonus for everyone who has to come near me). The plan is I gradually keep reducing the dose until, hopefully, I can come off them entirely.

Unfortunately I still have the excess weight gained during my rabid, non-stop eating phase while on the higher dose. I have generally put on weight, but another effect of the steroids is that it tends to collect in certain areas – for example round the cheeks and neck, which means I now have an almost perfectly spherical face. I have also developed a ‘hump’ on the back of the neck. This is all part of ‘Cushing’s syndrome’, which occurs as a result of prolonged excessive exposure to the hormone cortisol (i.e. the steroids). I didn’t realise I had a hump, until reading aloud the symptoms of Cushing’s syndrome from Wikipedia – at which point Sally confirmed that, yes, indeed I did have a little camel hump. Only unlike for a camel it serves no useful purpose for me, not even as a small makeshift pillow for hospital waiting rooms.

In addition to my round face, I have lost my hair due to the radiotherapy. They said it might fall out, or thin, or do nothing (covering all bases there then). It started to fall out Tuesday last week – thinking it might just thin a bit, I tried to just get all the loose hair out in the shower. Putting wax in it after my shower resulted in very hairy palms. Wednesday I did the same, and tried again on Thursday – only that time there wasn’t an end to the loose hair, it didn’t stop coming out. As we were off to the Marsden I had to make the best of what was left – but I did look a bit mangy, complete with bald patches that merged with other bald patches throughout the day. So Friday morning we went at it with clippers and a razor, and took the lot off.

I am quite enjoying my new look – partly due to novelty value (probably not something I would have tried otherwise), and partly because I now have more reason to make use of a fine and varied collection of hats (not so much to hide it, more to protect my newly exposed scalp from the newly exposed sun). I do still find myself slapping shampoo on my head in the shower, before remembering that it’s no longer necessary.

The shaved head in conjunction with the round face does mean I now bear a striking likeness to the full moon. For a small fee I am currently available for any lunar-themed kids parties or events.

The vision situation hasn’t improved, and I managed (with some effort!) to get the doctors to admit that it probably now won’t. They said the steroids might help it – but once I pointed out that I have been on high dose steroids for the best part of a month, with no improvement, they admitted it was unlikely to return. Which isn’t great, but in truth if I get out of this with slightly impaired vision, I’d take that in an instant. I’m starting to learn to compensate for it and so it has been bothering me less of late.

The radiotherapy did take it out of me a bit last week – although not to the degree of ‘withering wreck’ (hopefully I am safe from having to eat those words). I didn’t feel too bad, but there was an underlying level of tiredness. This week my energy levels seem closer to normal, which is reassuring. The doctors also seemed sure that any reduced energy was due to the treatment, rather than anything more sinister.

And finally my back seems to be fairly stable at the moment, perhaps having even improved recently. I still can’t stand still in one place for a prolonged period without getting pains down the legs, but in terms of mobility I have been fairly active over the last few days, and it has given me very little grief.

So that’s enough about my physical state – what have I been up to over the last couple of weeks instead of blogging?

Well Monday last week I finally managed to get round to arranging the photography lesson (or to be more specific, ‘processing photos on Adobe Lightroom’ lesson) that I was forced to cancel on that fateful day when my head nearly exploded. A big thank you to John at White Light Photography (the same guys who did our beach photo shoot) who came round and spent two hours with me showing me how to organise and process my photos.

Armed with my newly acquired knowledge, I have been taking time to sift through my photos from the last year or so, and pick out and work on my favourites. Rather than just leave them on the computer for no-one to see, I’ve decided to set up a page to host them on Smugmug – if you want to have a look, I have added a link into the sidebar to the right of the blog, or click here >

It has been great to finally take some time to make something of these photos. They’ve been taken over the last year since I bought the camera, but they have just been sitting on the computer doing nothing, with me never having the time to play with them or try and make the most of them. I still consider myself very much a beginner photography wise, but I am enjoying the experience of learning.

We were also able to arrange for my Dad to visit last week – which was very enjoyable. We managed to coordinate it so he could come along and see Saskia swimming – she was on good swimming form too, less focused on drinking the pool water this time, more focused on being good at swimming.

On the subject of Saskia, she has finally cracked the art of crawling – first managing it a couple of weeks ago. She’s not been off everywhere as we perhaps expected – but she is now able to deliberately move around when she wants to. She will purposefully move across her play mat when she decides she wants to get to something over the other side for example (sounds like there is some kind of ‘why did Saskia cross the play mat’ joke in there somewhere – I’ll work on that for my next post). Unfortunately for Pickle this means that placing himself just beyond her reach is no longer sufficient to avoid clumps of his hair being tugged – he now has to learn to use altitude to his advantage if he wants to sleep without keeping one eye open.

And the news I know you have all been waiting for – Saskia’s sunglasses have arrived! Given the rubbish weather, today is the first real opportunity we have had to try them outdoors – and as predicted it might take a bit of getting used to before she stops trying to take them off. But here is a picture from yesterday of her doing ‘a Bono’ and inappropriately sporting sunglasses indoors – I think you will all agree she looks pretty cool (far cooler than Bono anyway).

Cooler than Bono (and actually better at writing songs)

The other big focus of the last week or so has been researching and working on our all round, integrative treatment approach. Obviously the hospitals and doctors take care of the ‘conventional’ treatment (chemotherapy, radiotherapy, pain relief, etc) – but that is just one aspect of our approach to tackling this. We have been working toward an all round plan for some time, but it’s been slow progress given hospital appointments and just trying to stay on top of every day life given all that’s going on (I never realised how much admin having cancer can actually involve!).

But we seem to have finally made a breakthrough – both in terms of research avenues bearing fruit, and actually making the changes to our lifestyle. As mentioned in my last post, the news last week has also given us the kick up the arse we needed to actually take the difficult decisions that we need to.

You might have noticed that I am saying ‘we’ and not just ‘I’. That’s because Sally is being amazing and joining me in making many of these lifestyle changes, recognising that (particularly where diet is concerned) there’s no chance of me eating a bunch of cold salad if she is sat in front of me with lovely sausages and mash.

So what are we doing? I won’t go into all the details, but here’s the general idea…


Every day now after breakfast I am doing two brisk laps of the recreation ground behind our house, which according to my phone is 2.5km / 1.6m – usually taking me half an hour. The morning is non-negotiable – but if I get time (depending on whatever else we are doing) I am aiming to do the same in the afternoon. So far I’ve managed both mornings and afternoons the last few days. After a period of inactivity given the brain situation it’s nice to get off the sofa and get some exercise. It really does make me feel better – obviously it’s good for me physically, but also mentally in the sense that I still feel I can get up and walk three odd miles in a day, without being hindered by my back, the disease, treatments, etc. That feeling helps contribute to the whole ‘keeping positive’ thought processes.



So we are making some big changes to our diet – but sensible changes (we’re not going down the route of living on nothing but wheatgrass!). Sally has been incredible, throwing herself into online research and books about cancer and nutrition (after my CT scan Thursday she busied herself in the nutrition and food section of Waterstones, while I had a forty-five minute nap in one of their comfy armchairs – I did fully expect to get ejected from the store, given that I looked like a moon-faced hobo with half a head of hair who had just gone in for a sleep, but I was left alone). She has identified foods for us to try and reduce or eliminate, and foods for us to try and increase our intake of. Again, I’m not going to go into massive detail (because it’s probably really quite dull for the rest of you) – but essentially what we’re doing is this;

  • Dramatically increase intake of fruit and particularly veg, to eight portions a day minimum (especially raw stuff – salads, etc).
  • Incorporate juicing into our diet – by this I don’t mean fruit juices from Tesco, I mean buying a juicer and juicing raw fruit and veg as a way of getting concentrated nutrients into our diet.
  • Reduce red meat (now only allowed as a treat when eating out).
  • Reduce animal proteins in general (but not eliminate entirely – like I said, sensible approach!).
  • Dramatically reducing sugary treats and snacks (chocolate, biscuits, ice cream. etc).
  • No alcohol – this one I am doing alone. I haven’t drunk for about two months, and at a time like this I just don’t feel like it. So watching Sally have the odd glass of wine is no problem for me.



Basically this involves reducing stress and trying to incorporate relaxation techniques and times into our daily routine. So we’re being careful about over committing ourselves, simplifying things like how we managing our finances, and have started to incorporate meditation daily.

It has to be said, meditation is far harder than I thought it might be – I always thought it was easy to switch my brain off (generally if I sit still for more than ten minutes I fall asleep). But it has been proving far harder to empty my brain of thoughts than I expected. Even so, I think it is still beneficial to just stop for a period each day, and take some time to just do nothing – and as we get better at it the benefits should only increase.

This section also includes positive thinking, visualisation, and some other areas we haven’t yet explored – such as hypnotherapy, psychotherapy, and music therapy. Of those three I’m not sure if hypnotherapy is for me. Psychotherapy possibly – it has been offered, but so far this blog has pretty much been my psychotherapy, so I haven’t gone for it. That’s not to say at some point in the future I won’t. Music therapy I think I could definitely go for, being a big music fan. I used to listen to music in the car, but now I can’t drive that’s not happening anymore. For the first time in a long time I am listening to music as I type this – Guns n’ Roses. Right now I am thinking that Guns n’ Roses should definitely form a much larger part of my treatment program going forward (old Guns n’ Roses, not so much new Guns n’ Roses).


Herbs / Supplements

So there are a number of substances that have shown possible promise in fighting melanoma – sometimes in human trials, other times with lab grown cancer cells or animal trials – and many of these are available as nutritional supplements. Don’t get me wrong, we don’t expect any of these to be a sudden miracle cure, and one could spend a fortune if one wanted to on everything that had at some point been rumoured to have a benefit. But some well placed and targeted research has thrown up a few things of interest.

An important question is whether or not to take these while undergoing the conventional medical treatments, should they cause any interactions or interfere with the action of the chemotherapy or radiotherapy. So I haven’t been taking anything so far – but now I am in a period of no conventional treatment, this avenue does become an option.


So there we go – that’s an insight into our integrative approach. It is going to entail some difficult choices – personally the diet aspect is going to be the hardest for me. I have asked numerous doctors about diet, and the answer I generally get is that I should go home, and eat what I want (although with an emphasis towards a balanced diet). Which always leaves me wondering whether I really should eat that Easter egg, or leave it well alone. On the one hand you have the doctors telling you diet won’t make a difference, on the other hand there seems to be plenty of credible evidence that diet can help in your fight.

So who to believe? I’d like to believe the doctors, and just eat pizza every night followed by Easter eggs for dessert – but when the stakes are this high, I think it makes sense to hedge your bets on the eating healthily side. Let’s face it, as long as we are sensible and don’t go on any mad ‘fad’ diets, it’s not going to do me any harm – and if it does help will have been well worth it.

Right, that’s about it for today I think – thanks for reading.


Filed under Battle with Melanoma, Other News, Saskia News

New Page – ‘The Enemy’

Just to let you all know I have added a new page to the blog, entitled ‘The Enemy’.

I won’t write too much about it here – but the aim is to try and raise a bit of awareness around prevention and early diagnosis, through a combination of factual information and my own personal experience.

Melanoma is an easily preventable and, if caught early, very treatable disease – so a little bit of awareness can go a long way, and with any luck hopefully help spare other people from having to go through this ordeal themselves.

The new page can be found at the top of the blog, next to the ‘About Me’ page.

Check it out – you never know, it might just be of use to you or someone you know. If someone had shown me this page five or six years ago, there is a chance I might not be in this situation.


Filed under Other News

A little bit of admin…

A bit of a boring and functional post now I’m afraid, concerning the blog URL (web address). In summary, I have decided to get a proper URL for the blog – the new address is…

(Note – it doesn’t need ‘www.‘ – but will work with or without it)

While the initial motivation for the blog was to keep family and friends informed, it has begun to move beyond this – people have started to pass it on to other family, friends, and colleagues; and it may go on further from there.

Now this is something that I am pleased about. If in the process of writing this blog I can raise awareness of skin cancer as an easily preventable cancer, and very treatable if caught early, then this is a good thing. If as a result of reading this someone remembers to put on the sunscreen, reaches for the fake tan instead of a sunbed, or goes to the doctor to get a suspicious mole examined that little bit earlier, I will have done some good.

So to those who have shared, or want to share, this blog with anyone else, please feel free.

However, in order to protect our privacy (without wanting to get all ‘Daily Mail hysteria’ about it!) I would be grateful if going forward people could distribute the new address shown above.

The old address will continue to work – it will just redirect to the new address. For those signed up to receive e-mail updates these should continue to work as they are.

Thanks to all!

P.S. I’ll try and post something more interesting next time.

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Filed under Other News

Photography Shoot

As some of you may know, I’ve been getting into photography for almost a year now, prompted by my purchase of a semi-serious camera to take photos of Saskia. The problem with this of course is that, as the family photographer, I’m not in many of the photos.

So a few weeks ago we decided to get some family photos done by a professional photographer. Rather than go for studio shots, we thought we’d go ‘on location’ and head to Whitstable beach for our shoot.

The idea was also to get the shoot done before I started looking ragged on chemotherapy – at the time we thought I was going to be on a more caustic drug with more side effects. As it turned out I went onto the better tolerated drug, so should retain my exquisite good looks.

Anyhow, I thought I’d attach a few of our favourites to the blog, so here they are…

If anyone wants to see the rest of the photos from the shoot, or is interested in prints, let me know and I will forward the relevant details.

Thanks to Emma at White Light Photography.


Filed under Other News