Center Parcs, liquid food challenge and the snuggly duvet.  

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Out of season Center Parcs is slightly cheaper than a good hotel so for my 50th we set off for Longleat and their Executive Apartments! Although close to the centre of the action it was still a good 10 minutes’ walk to the Aqua-thingy but it didn’t stop Michael wanting to swim the first evening. After a nap to recover from the driving we packed our swimmies and set off to the pool. Girding our loins we navigated our way through the unisex changing rooms, narrowly avoided having a group wee in the gents (glasses were in my locker by this point!) and headed for the heated outdoor pool. It was magical; the trees were lit with a million fairy lights and the steam from the pool drifted across the forest. Mike wore a kayaking top to prevent any damage to Audrey which worked really well. We bobbed in the warm water until our heads began to freeze and an elderly man who had probably left his glasses in his locker too energetically squeezed my thigh.

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Unaccustomed to any form of exercise we headed back to our apartment on the slow and breezy land-train and got heckled along the way by a four year old who shouted, “Haha! Slowest train ever!” A grown up in our carriage leant out and shouted back, “Yeah; but at least we’re ON the train!”

cp train

(Image from Trip Advisor)

I joined Mike in his liquid only diet, buying 24 Slimefast shakes (Tesco Deal!) as I could do with losing a few stone. The first day went well; I actually looked forward to having my Café Latte shake for breakfast. The second day went almost as well with Chunky Chocolate added to the menu (wasn’t chunky) but by evening I began to feel really sick. My stomach churned as I tossed and turned in bed and for breakfast I could only face an actual hot coffee. Even now, as I write about this trauma, the nausea is rising. I lost half a stone in four days but I wouldn’t recommend this as an enjoyable weight-loss regime. (If anyone wants some free Slimefast Shakes I have a load hidden in a drawer in the kitchen but you’ll have to come and get them in because the sight of them makes me barf).

The highlight of the trip was the bed linen. Mike is forever complaining that I hog the duvet with cutting comments such as “Is it on the floor your side?” interrupting my pre-sleep state of relaxation. The linen at Center Parcs was crisp, cool, white and covered a snuggly, Super King duvet. So on my birthday we did what any married couple escaping from their noisy family did; we hit the web in a quest to track down the best set of bed linen in the world! I listed elegant ivory and duck-egg blue covers and pin-striped V&A bedding sets.

linen

(Not our room.)

Being a generous person, I let Mike choose. This is what we got:

fox

(Also not our room.)

The Super King duvet actually does touch the floor either side leaving plenty spare to go round Mike’s sleeping form on his foam wedge.

Returning home to a broken toilet and faulty central heating system didn’t take anything away from the break we had in the beautiful forest of Longleat. Accessibility for tired legs isn’t great with a few areas only available if yours work. The Plaza and Venue both had loads of stairs and little curvy pathways but there is a lift if you can find it. Little motorised trucks can be requested if you have mobility problems but have to be booked well in advance and are on a first-come-first-served basis. I think if we went again we might look into a portable electric scooter for flexibility. It will do me good to jog after Mike; maybe I’ll lose another 7 lb.

Will it blend?

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Good news! – On Thursday my Speech and Language Therapist (SALT) tried me out on thickened fluids again.  She said my swallow may have temporarily got weak if I had a chest infection but when I bounce back it is good to keep eating and drinking whatever I can or the muscles will waste away.

I started with thickened squash and had red soup for lunch (tomato soup – a bit of a lunchtime tradition in our house).

So Audrey’s gone part time!

It was sooo nice to get back or real food!

I can now work through the blended meals in the freezer that we bought from Wiltshire Farm Foods and Oakhouse Foods before I had problems.

On Friday morning I realised the cough had gone too!  Whether swallowing food has cleared something I don’t know but I’m happy!

So I’m now eating real food and drinking again and topping up with feeds down the PEG, so there’s no pressure to have to eat, but to be honest I prefer it; all those flavours..

Apparently the internet is all about sharing meals you’ve had recently, so here are some of mine..

Frozen blended food warmed up in the microwave..

Bolognese with potato and veg

Sticky toffee pudding and custard

My beautiful assistant blending bolognese and pasta:

Chicken Casserole

Before

After blending

Very similar to Dexter’s food !

Oh.. and hula hoops..

For some reason, although they are not strictly blended or soft food they go down well, and I was craving them. I did my own test soon after I was told I could eat again. What was that thing I learned at work? “It’s easier to seek forgiveness than it is to get permission.” (Quote from Grace Hopper)

The dietitian came round yesterday and said I had to eat “naughty foods”; full fat milk, high fat puddings, have sugar on everything – basically get the calories in. I get the feeling she loves her job. You spend your whole life being careful about what you eat, watching your weight and then some healthcare professional tells you to throw all that thinking out the window and enjoy eating again!

She gave some really good ideas of what will blend well, things to avoid and ideas for meals so I can just blend what the family are eating. It’s much less hassle.

Will it blend?
The title of this blog posting is an homage to the boys favourite YouTube channel, where a guy tries to blend different things.. e.g. mobile phones, bricks, glow sticks, marbles..

So life is looking good at the moment… the cough has gone and I have loved getting back into eating and all those lovely flavours. Social stuff is easier. I can drink latte and on Saturday I’m going round to a friend’s for a Burns night; they have a blender lined up for me!

Thanks for all your encouraging messages and prayers.

Long term absence

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The fatigue is starting to impact me more

Before Christmas I was travelling to work 4 days a week and working from home on Wednesdays. I was coping with the 1 hour journey each way (part of “me time”) by having a 30 minute sleep at lunchtime in the first aid room and then another when I got home from work.

But over Christmas the fatigue has progressed:

  1. It feels like being on constant night shifts or jet lag
  2. When I wake up in the morning I don’t feel refreshed
  3. Concentration levels are not what they used to be, which is interesting when you’re driving
  4. I tend to take two naps in the day – an hour each
  5. When I have a “busy day” – which isn’t really that busy – I end up paying for it the next day, so I’m trying to find the level of activity that sustainable
  6. With limited energy you feel you’ve not accomplished much in a day and you have to choose what you spend it on

As a result I’ve decided to start long term sick from work, one year after the symptoms started. I need to spend my limited energy with family and friends. Luckily work is very generous in this.  One benefit of being TUPE’d between various companies over the last 16 years means I’ve picked up some good conditions that have been protected as I’ve been moved.  I never thought there was a good side to being forced to work for different companies – but it seems it has paid off now.  Now being back at Three is great – they have really looked after me in this; my management chain right up to the board have made it easy. I get the feeling someone is looking out for me.

Over the last few weeks I have missed:

  1. The work family – all the characters I work with – the good, bad and ugly. Nah – they’re all nice really!
  2. The projects – Three is quite a dynamic company always pushing ahead with projects, never a dull moment.
  3. Getting out of the house.
  4. The drive to work – an hour of forced “me” time each way – singing along to worship songs with no one able to hear.

So I’ve got to get into new routines. There is a risk I just stop and sleep all day – but I know that will be bad for my mental health.

It does feel like I imagine retirement is going to be like.

I suppose there are dangers of getting into daytime TV like Judge Judy, Jeremy Kyle and Good Morning, spending all day watching funny cat videos on YouTube or sitting watching Cbeebies all day with Dexter my grandson? Though we do like Duggee and his latest song (Click picture below to see..)

A good friend recently said she used her long term sick to get close to God, treated it like a job. I like the idea of that, chilling out with Him. We are getting a summer house for the bottom of the garden, fully insulated with power. It could be my new “office”.

I think I’ll do social visits to work, catching up with people and seeing what new crazy projects the guys are up to.

I’ve got a feeling before long Julia will go back to work, just to get out from under my feet.

If you’re in to praying, please pray I get into a sensible routine – and use my time wisely spending it with family and friends and getting closer to God. Also that I adjust to the new norm – I don’t think my identity is in the work I do – but there may be a little of it in there?

Audrey’s in Business

Having a coffee
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Over Christmas I got a chest infection along with many people. After the antibiotics were over I felt much better, energy had returned but the cough remained.  We saw the breathing physio at the Churchill Hospital, Oxford and she gave me some techniques to help make the most of my cough – this included training Julia to help by pushing on my chest at the right moment.

Julia wondered whether my swallow had deteriorated to a stage where small amounts of food or drink were getting into my lungs so on Monday we decided to try all food and drink via my PEG feeding tube – affectionately known as Audrey.  If this improved the cough then we would know.

We got in lots of Ensure – the dieticians said I would need 2 bottles 4 times a day plus 1 litre of fluid on top of that.

12 days supply of food

12 days supply of food

Breakfast

So breakfast now looks like this

Actually all meals look like that now – and I have to fit in 4 meals a day.

What have we learnt in the last 5 days of PEG feeding:

  1. Mealtimes are quite boring – you don’t realise the pleasure you get from tasting food.
  2. I used to have too many coffees a day – that has now stopped – though I do make a tepid coffee with caffeine for Audrey every so often to stop caffeine withdrawals.

    Having a coffee

    Having a coffee

  3. If you deliver the food down the tube too quickly two things happen – you burp and taste the Ensure and you get hiccups. With the first set of Ensure I was supplied with strawberry flavour which tastes horrible. For the next batch I asked for vanilla and cafe late favours; much better.
  4. If you put cold water down the tube then you get a funny feeling at the top of your chest – must be some sort of nerve thing going on as the water shouldn’t reach that high surely?
  5. The boys making toasted muffins late at night smells so tempting.
  6. So much social life revolves around food and drink – meals with friends, the odd coffee down the cafe or a pint. We will have to find alternatives.
  7. We are at Center Parcs at the moment, celebrating Julia’s 50th. Julia has said she will join me and has bought a load of Slim Fast shakes. I think she was feeling sorry for me.

    Saved a fortune not going to restaurants and cafes! Though when she wants to go for walks on her own – I suspect she’s popping into Bella Pasta for some real food.
  8. Julia says Bob Fleming (from the Fast Show) has moved in especially mornings and evenings. (Want to know who Bob Fleming is? Click the picture below)
Bob Fleming - Cough syrup

Bob Fleming – Cough syrup

If you’re into praying, please pray that my chest would remain clear and my cough would be effective.

I’m still feeling pretty positive – the chest infection was a bit of a downer but now that’s gone it’s back to normal – and we’re having a few laughs as always…