Sunday, 1 June 2014


    My first blog started with the sentence " I was diagnosed with cancer two and a half months ago."
So this - my last cancer post  - will start with the sentence:
 " I was diagnosed without cancer two and a half months ago." (not strictly true but I have finished all the treatment) 

   There, that rounds it off in a neat and orderly fashion  - I like things to be neat and orderly  - I rarely achieve anything neat and orderly myself but I so admire those that do!

    But PLEASE do not de -blog me or un-friend me or whatever it is you do - there are plenty more blogs to come - just not about cancer anymore!

   My oncologist told me that after the treatment I would probably need to time to reflect quietly upon everything. 
     To be honest I am not a great one for reflecting quietly. If I have done something well then the moment I start reflecting on how good it was I can hear my Grandmother's voice saying:
'Pride comes before a fall'.... and immediately I have to stop reflecting. 
    On the other hand if I have done something stupid then there is even less reason to reflect  - frankly if I have made a complete tit of myself then I like to move on swiftly and forget about it -  and hope that others do the same!

    Having said all that - I would like to reflect quietly for a moment.
I would like to reflect on all those who have not been as lucky as me in their journey with cancer.

Tragically we all know someone - maybe several - who didn't make it and because of that the world is a much sadder place.

     You know me well enough by now to know that I usually end by raising a glass and I see no reason to change...
I would like to raise a glass to all those who lost their battle against this bastard disease and wherever they are let's hope that they are also raising a glass.


Monday, 3 March 2014


    Driving through the vineyards on my way to radio therapy the other day it occurred to me that my life has been similar to that of a vine recently - no stay with me here  - it will start to make sense I promise.
    For example, last year at roughly the same time as the leaves were falling and the vines were being stripped bare of their plump grapes I too was being stripped bare of my outer covering.
    Whilst the vines shrank and lay dormant throughout the winter, so too did I, crawling under the duvet for hours on end. As the workers nurtured the vines -  my team of nurses nurtured me.

    The vines were fed nutrients from the soil and I was pumped full of poison - OK I never said this was a perfect allegory - but they both had the same goal in end - to keep us healthy and alive.

   And it worked - as Spring approaches and the new tendrils on the vine reach towards the sun so too do the new tendrils on the top of my head.
    I said to my husband that I felt like I was being reborn.
    "What as?" He asked.
    "If I came back as a wine." I persevered. "How would you describe me?"
    He replied without hesitation. "Complex."

    But it is true - like the vines I can feel the energy and strength begin to flow back into me, and like the vines I am hopeful that 2014 will be a vintage year.

   I am being reborn and I'm coming back to life - full bodied and fruity with a slight hint of acidity and a lingering aftertaste.


Wednesday, 29 January 2014


    I am suffering from multiple personality disorder.
    This is not due to the drugs but due to my wigs. This self diagnosis occurred the other day when I was deciding which wig to wear to the Monday morning market.
    They are hanging on our bedroom wall and as I looked at them swaying softly in the breeze I realised that I had attributed them all with totally different personalities.
    I could be pretty in pink, freakish in flame red, smoulder in smoky brown, be predatory in platinum, whimsical in waves, or... I could go on .... the wigs are numerous and the choice is vast.
    Losing you hair is hideous and I never want it to happen ever again but that said it does give you a bizarre sense of freedom. You become a blank canvas, a clean fabric ready for some new oil paints.
    I have never regretted my decision to have several wacky wigs rather than one sensible hairpiece. Not everyone gets the chance to start all over - I have been sporting roughly the same boring hairstyle since my teens - so instead of bemoaning the fact that I was going to go bald I determined to have some fun with it.
    I did go to to a wig shop in Bordeaux and spent a pleasant morning trying out several looks but frankly the idea of a genuine human hair wig gives me the jitters - something about stepping into dead men's shoes and all  that - I know of course that is not the case but it still feels a touch creepy added to which they are hugely expensive.
    Wearing various wigs and scarves gives you permission to project a new personality and I've loved exploring certain facets of my character that to be honest I never really knew existed. Perhaps they were best left undisturbed - but too late now.
    It's all to easy to fall into the trap of behaving as you think others want you to behave. There are various traits which for various reasons have become hidden over the years and discovering them once again is fun.
    Maybe that is what lured me to the stage all those years ago. I love dressing up and I love becoming someone else, but with acting you have a script to work from, now with my wigs I can write my own script - it's not exactly Shakespeare but hey!
    I am not suggesting that we lay ourselves bare - heaven forbid - what a terrifying thought. Clearly there are some traits which have remained under wraps for a reason and should stay that way. The world does not need to see them. 
    But what I AM saying is that sometimes it is healthy to be a little less predictable, to take a risk and behave out of character. It gives us a chance to learn something new, something unexpected about ourselves.
    I always thought I knew myself pretty well but actually what I've learnt is that I don't know myself quite as well as I imagined and it has been rather intriguing - I hope it continues.
    My hair is slowly growing back. It is very dark with hints of white but any anxieties I may have of resembling a young badger are alleviated by the joy and relief of once more seeing a natural covering on my head.
    But.... I am not yet prepared to let go of my multiple personalities - I intend to keep them for a while and bring them out when least expected.
You have been warned!

Wednesday, 1 January 2014


    Last year I was diagnosed with chemotherapy and have been undergoing cancer for the last five months.
    They have given me lots of side effects but they don't help with the drugs.
The doctor just says relax and he will take me easy.

    I hope that 2014 brings me all that you wish for yourself and more.

Goose your cook well, may your desire be truth and never let your full cup half empty.

I wish you a bright and phosphorus New Year.

Chins up - bottom, bottom.

Janie XXX

Tuesday, 17 December 2013


    Next year I am going to come back as a dog. I am not talking death and reincarnation here - or at least I hope not - just a new attitude to life.
    Sugar and stress are bad for cancer. I know this from one of the many self help books I ordered when first diagnosed. I was determined to be the most knowledgeable and healthy cancer patient the world has ever known - most of  these books lie untouched in their Amazon boxes but occasionally I get one out and dust it down and this is how I know about sugar and stress.
    The former I am not too worried about - I don't eat much chocolate and everyone knows that the sugar found in wine is good for you - don't argue with me - I live in one of the most famous wine producing areas in the world and that's the buzz around here.
    But stress - now I do worry about stress. I worry a lot, I worry about everything. I inherited it from my Father, I could have inherited many of his wonderful qualities but I ended up with the worry gene.
    But all that is going to be a thing of the past.
"Think of someone you admire...." I read in my copy of' 'How To De-stress in Thirty Days' - or in my case - 'How To Get Distressed after Thirty Pages.'
    "...think of someone you admire, think of how they cope and try to emulate them...'
 This required some serious thought - I got up to make a coffee and was just debating the merits of Mandela versus Mother Teresa when I spotted our dog basking in the sunshine outside. His long limbs were stretched out, his head nicely cushioned on a bed of freshly swept leaves, a slumbering, shaggy mass of perfect contentment. His name is Rory and he's a large, gentle, bearded beast. I smiled and then it suddenly hit me... this was who I should be copying.
    Sod Mandela and Mother Teresa, I had the perfect example of how to live a stress free life lying right there in front of me. The more I thought about it the more sense it made.
    Rory can lie for hours doing nothing whereas I can barely last five minutes. I was brought up to believe that one should always be doing something. The motto in our house went something like this;
"Make hay whilst the early bird catches the worm and Jack's idle hands make him a dull boy."
    I've sort of rolled them together but you get the general gist.
Right I thought - no time like the present and grabbing a large wooly jumper and an unopened copy of 'Meditation Made Easy' I made my way outside.
    I lay on the lounger with Rory on the ground beside me, opened the book and followed the instructions. I exhaled and invited calm into my entire being. I cleared my upper mind of troublesome thoughts. To be honest I never knew I had a lower mind let alone an upper one but you live and learn. After about five minutes one of the troublesome thoughts flew back into my mind and lest I forget it I decided to get up and write it down in one of my never ending lists. I sat up but was immediately struck in the chest by a large paw.
    Rory clearly had other ideas. His huge brown eyes gazed at me steadily until I gave in and curling back into my wooly layers settled down to enjoy the warm winter sun.
    My husband came out half a hour later to find me still dozing. He was stunned.
"Part of my new regime." I explained. "I'm going to be serene and calm. I'm never going to panic or worry again. When I go to bed I am actually going to sleep and I'll wake up ready to face the day with tranquility." He kissed me and said. "Sounds like you're going to be on sedatives for the rest of your life."
    Rory does not spend all his time doing nothing. Sometimes he is overtaken by a wonderful exuberance and runs around the garden leaping over chairs and rolling in the grass. He bounds into the river, regardless of the weather, for no other reason than that it makes him very happy. In fact he is one of the happiest beings I know.
   I too will not sit doing nothing all day, I may not bound into the river but I may roll in the grass if the mood comes upon me - which it might. Of course we need to be busy, we have a business to run and I have another book to write. But I will most definitely take some time each day to be bone idle.
    Having cancer has changed me, it's a life threatening disease and it would be weird if it hadn't.
It has taught me a few lessons. Family and friends have always meant a great deal to me but these last few months have heightened their importance. I have always enjoyed life - on many occasions maybe too much - but this disease has taught me to cherish the moment.
    I'm not going to spend all day cherishing each and every moment - that would be silly and take a very long time -  but I do have a tendency to rush through things and I am guilty of thinking too much about tomorrow.
   Rory doesn't think about tomorrow; 
'It Is Now and I Am Here' - that is his motto and mine from now on.
    And on that note I am going to fill a large glass with something vaguely alcoholic and propose a toast.
    "To my four legged friend, thank you for being by my side, thank you for never failing to lift my spirits, thank you for loving me and thank you for showing me the way forward....
Ladies & Gentlemen... I give you RORY."

Wednesday, 27 November 2013


    I stood under the brightest star imaginable the other night. It was about four in the morning and if it hadn't been for the fact that I was scantily clad I would have whistled for the dog and together we would have followed it to Bethlehem. It was also the only star in the sky - no word of a lie.
    A few days later I came downstairs to find a blackbird in our hallway. Showing no fear it put its head to one side, looked at me with beady eyes and hopped out of the door. The resemblance to my Great Aunt Mildred was uncanny.
    I can only assume that the back door had been blown open by the wind but I would like to point something out, our back door is wrought iron, it is very heavy and on the day in question there was only a light breeze. In my mind there was no doubt, they were both signs.
    As a young child I was always seeing signs and making bargains with the big man - if you make me pass my Maths' homework then I promise I will be good  - that sort of thing. I never ever passed my Maths' homework and therefore never ever saw the necessity to fulfil my part of the bargain!
    I told my husband about my signs. He gave me 'that look' - the one which he has recently developed and which says "There's no harm in humouring her, she's on massive medication and not thinking straight, just smile and wave boys, smile and wave."
    During my next chemotherapy session however, something happened that convinced me that I was right.
    They have recently changed my drugs. This means I get to wear a 'cold cap.' Back in September when the heat was intolerable I would have killed for a'cold cap' but sadly it wasn't an option then. Now however, now that I'm bald and the temperature has plummeted I have no choice.
    The cold cap is actually a helmet filled with a freezing heavy viscous fluid. It is used to promote hair growth once the chemotherapy treatment has finished. I became alarmed when nurse Audrey started to wrap the same thing around my ankles and wrists but she hastened to assure me that it was to stop my nails from discolouring. To complete the whole ensemble I have an eye mask for my lashes and brows.
    Nurse Audrey stepped back to admire her handiwork, patted my shoulder and disappeared. My husband also chose that moment to go for a coffee and I was left alone in my own private Alaska.
    I couldn't move, I couldn't see, I was freezing cold and I soon became overwhelmingly claustrophobic and scared. I reached blindly for the call button but succeeded only in dislodging my cold cap. The heavy fluid slowly flowed to the left hand side and settled in a solid mass. I honestly thought my neck was going to break.
    Then the door opened, soft footsteps approached the bed and strong gentle hands moved me back into position. My mask slipped slightly and I quickly caught sight of a tall man in a white coat. In silence he placed a stethoscope on my heart, held my hand briefly and then was gone.
    I spent the next fifty minutes wrapped in a cocoon of warmth and serenity dreaming of polar bear cubs and brown paper packages tied up with string.
    Nurse Audrey said that she was almost sure that there were no male nurses in the day hospital that morning. She and my husband exchanged glances before giving me 'that look.'
    Sighing with exasperation I reached over to the table to reclaim my jewellery and suddenly everything fell into place. Glinting on the bedside table was a sliver 'guardian angel charm bracelet' that my sister in law had sent a few weeks previously. I slid it onto my arm smiling to myself.
    I knew I hadn't been mistaken. I knew I had seen the signs.
    You see I do believe in angels and I believe in fairies, I believe that my husband is a saint (sometimes) and I have never doubted the existence of Santa Claus, most especially at this time of year.
    I believe... well actually I'll let Audrey Hepburn finish this blog - she hits the nail right on the head.
" I believe in pink. I believe that laughing is the best calorie burner. I believe in kissing, kissing a lot. I believe in being strong when everything seems to be going wrong. I believe that happy girls are the prettiest. I believe that tomorrow is another day and I believe in miracles." 

Thursday, 14 November 2013


    Yesterday I went to the hairdresser to get my wig cut. Sounds surreal but I kid you not, it's amazing how quickly they grow.
    As I skipped out with my shiny new hair I was reminded of the last time I was there getting my  whole head shaved. Now that's a sentence I never thought I would hear myself say.
     It's amazing how quickly everything has happened, six months ago I had no inkling of things to come - thank God.
    And talking of things happening at speed, when your hair starts to fall, boy does it fall fast. It comes out in handfuls. Sweeping it up is a non stop operation from the moment you are awake.
    They advise you to use a sleeping cap to lessen the distress of seeing it framing the imprint of your head on the pillow in the morning. We live in South West France, it was mid September when all this was happening and it was still bloody hot. I had chosen a white muslin cap thinking it would be cool -  ('cool' as in not hot - not 'cool' as in trendy) it wasn't and as I also looked like a cast member from 'Little House on The Prairie' the cap lasted less than five minutes.
    It is of course not only from your head that your hair disappears, it departs from other areas too. I won't go into too much detail, suffice to say that as well as a sleeping cap the marvellous Macmillan's cancer website ought to consider recommending the use of sleeping knickers too.
    After several days of hair absolutely everywhere except where it should be I was ready to throw in the towel and I headed off to the hair salon to get the whole lot shaved. My normal reliable cliche of a camp hairdresser complete with tiny dog was away, so a trendy young stylist was assigned to me. Ignoring my pleas to use the clippers she attempted to fashion my few remaining clumps and I walked out looking like a cabbage patch doll.
    A few days later, accompanied by a mate for moral support, I marched back to the salon. Wiping tears of laughter from his eyes my hairdresser tried to tell me that the stylist need the practice. That much was obvious, but why? How many baldy chemotherapy clients was she likely to come across during her career? Anyway, finally out came the clippers, that is not a euphemism for anything, and I got the number 1 shave I had requested.
    Back home I went upstairs to the bathroom and l slowly took my headscarf off.  I stared back at an alien and I use that word deliberately. Forcing myself not to cry like a baby just because I looked like one I took a cleansing wipe and removed every trace of makeup and scrubbed my face clean.
    I used a magnifying mirror to examine my head and face in minute detail, manoeuvring it so that I was able to see myself from all angles. After a while I put the mirror down and stood staring at myself for a very long time. I closed my eyes and traced my face and head with my fingers like a blind person learning to recognise someone for the first time and I tried to picture 'me' in my mind's eye.
    And when I finally opened my eyes I cried. I cried like a baby, but they were tears of relief because I had done the thing I was dreading the most and it was OK. The woman staring back at me was still me, a strange me, a very different me, but definitely still me.
    I wouldn't go so far as to say it was like baring your soul but it comes a close second. Standing there without any artifice, without any adornment, no stray curl or sexy strand to soften or hide your features is actually quite liberating. The layers had been peeled away and I felt raw and vulnerable but also strangely powerful.
    And I realised another thing, I realised that I had quite a good shaped head, no lumps or bumps but smooth and nicely rounded..... like Sinead O'Connor but sadly without her voice, or indeed her amazing bone structure or her eyes, so OK not really like her at all, I'll shut up.
    Having said all that I still don't feel brave enough to face my public without any headgear and frankly I'm not sure they'd want that either.
    Now this is going to sound bizarre but to be honest I would rather wear a wig and be naked from the neck down than the other way around. Strange but true.
    I'm not sure why but the idea of stripping has always held an odd attraction for me. It doesn't run in the family, or not that I'm aware of, and it was certainly never mentioned during any careers advice at the all girls High School I attended but maybe I should have followed my instinct. I would have undoubtedly earned more money than during my acting career -  or indeed any career to date.
    I wonder if it's too late?
    I'm no 'poulet de printemps' but maybe there's a market for the more mature bald striptease act.
    I bet there is, there's a market for everything these days!

Coming soon to a town near you.... Janie Millman performing 'The Bald Truth.'