Thursday 5 February 2015

So much hatred, misunderstanding and fear....

I'm pretty sure no one follows this blog any longer... But today requires a post.
This digital diary became a place of solace after Amanda's passing. I opened my heart to share with those who chose to read.  Many people who had suffered similar losses felt supported by my musings.  They went on to contact me directly or shared via comments.

Many of Amanda's friends and family followed each and every post on this blog, they read words written by Amanda and words written by me; my points of view surrounding the situation and our love for one another.

Whilst in Hospice Amanda said I should write a book on her life.  I told her I didn't know everything in her life.  'You met me when I was 24 she laughed.'  I told her I could only write what she had shared with me, and what I knew from the time we had spent together..... I promised I'd try.

So whilst travelling I spent many months making the blog readable.  I removed names and  corrected spelling and grammatical errors.  It was my way of processing Amanda having been taken by cancer.  I wondered would this format be publishable, as Amanda suggested.  Maybe it would sell enough to raise a few quid for the Penny Brohn Centre in Bristol who had been so kind and offered such great support to us during 2011.

Just over one year had passed since Amanda's passing and life seemed more bearable.  I was helping a friend out serving posh pancakes in a field in Port St Mary.  Between meditation and yoga I wanted to keep physically busy. I bumped in to girl who, regardless of my shaggy, unkempt appearance seemed to like me.  During our introduction she mentioned my wedding rings....I explained how and why.  She didn't run off, and seemed lovely.  I felt awkward about spending time with her as I was still in love with Amanda.  It was strange, somehow I felt like I was cheating?  I stalled and stalled.  I refused to go out in public with her for fear of judgement from those who like me, held tightly on to the memory of Amanda.  No doubt the judges would expect me to grieve for many years to come.... as expected I continue to do.  This girl was incredibly understanding of my reluctance to be involved with anyone, to be seen to feel shame in sharing my time with another when my wife had passed so recently.... She put up with my constant weeping and sobbing.  She faced the pictures in my wallet, on my computer and walls (which all remain).... More so she faced what was going on in my heart and mind..... she faced someone who would always be there on a pedestal, someone she would have to learn to live with if she wanted to spend time with me.  Every life experience I cited, every wise word seemed to come with 'Amanda said....' or 'Amanda did....'  it's not easy having someone who is no longer with us.... This interaction has made me aware of my loss of romanticism, and the carefree-ness that Amanda and I shared in our relationship.
So when I feared judgment were they just in my head?  Friends who loved both Amanda and I seemed pleased that I was sharing my time with someone so understanding and caring..... Did they judge?  If they did it was well hidden..... I have found that choosing to spend more quiet intimate time with another human being does not soothe the loss of a soul mate.... but having people around us who care and love us makes our lives more bearable.  This goes for friends, family and even strangers who at times can care more than those who should be closest to you.  Like all who lost Amanda I continue to grieve regardless of who is in my life.  I continue to cry and wonder when the crying and pain will finish.  Maybe it won't.  If it doesn't that's fine.  If it does that's fine too.  People don't want to be around miserable people.  That's the way it is.  As humans we can wallow in the loss of loved ones or we accept the fact that until we die, everyone we know around us will die.  Some of those we will love more than others and some will depart far earlier and more unexpectedly like our lovely Amanda.  I want to smile again.  And I want the smile to be genuine.  I want people around me to smile.  What else is life for if not to enjoy and share love?

Yesterday after submitting my manuscript for the blog I was offered a publishing deal.  There was quite a bit of up front cash required so I shared the news on Facebook, and inquired if anyone knew how one goes about funding such a project.  Are there grant schemes?  Much advice and congratulations followed.  This meant a lot.  This story was after all a story of love, support, devotion whilst aiming to highlight the shortfalls in cancer treatment in the UK.  It is an important story.....
But then between the kind remarks and support came negativity, anger and misunderstanding.
Suddenly I was being accused of wrong doing.....
Why would you?
How could you?
You don't care you wouldn't have 'moved on' so fast if you cared!
You're a vile man!
You're looking to profiteer from Amanda's death...... and so on.....
The last three are incorrect.
The first two can be answered by the paragraphs earlier in this post.  The Lump is still a live blog it can be read online, if not a bit repetitive and grammatically incorrect here and there.  All I'm intending to do is take it to paper in an attempt to meet my late wife's requests and raise money for a charity she totally loved.

The private and personal attacks I've suffered since the 'Publishing and Funding' post on Facebook has been harsh and unprovoked.  It was made clear over a year ago that 'The Lump' was going to become a book if any publishers were interested.  There were plenty of posts and comments to support this, and all I received was encouragement..... Now even though nothing has changed bar the fact that the story has been recognised as something others could relate to, therefore is worth publishing a torrent of negativity and abuse has come my way.

The blog was Amanda's idea, the book was Amanda's idea.  For those that can't stomach this I don't really understand what I can do for you.  The blog was a choice.  Log in and follow if you like.  The same can be said of the book.  It is not my intention to force it down anyone's throat.  The choice will be yours to purchase and read.  There need be not further anger regarding Amanda's passing nor me plodding on trying to do things she wanted done.  I'm even looking at making cards she started to design.  I live with sadness everyday.  Those who feel the need judge me go ahead.  But then remember to take the time to turn your focus upon yourself and see why there are such deep seated issues not only regarding the story of Mark & Amanda, but also your hatred for me and misunderstanding of this time in your lives.

Wednesday 20 August 2014

12 months? Unbelievable.... But True....

Lovely Amanda..
One year ago... at 2am tonight our lovely Amanda left her beautiful little shell behind.... We were all left torn apart... Does it really seem like a year to you all? No... Not me either...
Although I am acknowledging this date, it is a long stretch from the dates I feel happy to remember such as our anniversary in a few days or Amanda's birthday... I'll acknowledge this day because of the huge loss left in all our hearts on that Tuesday night.... The huge loss we all still nurse.
For me it's the same as every other day. I go to bed at night and I lie thinking about Amanda. I wake in the morning and I think about Amanda. During the day she'll flit in to my head on numerous occasions, but life continues on around my thoughts, and Amanda continues on around my life.

Those of you who followed will have noticed how serendipitous events, kind and generous people and great experiences marked my path. Was this because what Amanda gave me whilst she was with me was a belief that people are good?  To judge no one and just share loving kindness with all you meet?  Was her energy influencing what happened or what I 'attracted' to myself?
On a number of occasions I came very close to boarding a plane home, my emotions were all over the place.  I was filled with tears on a daily basis, but I knew I would remain trapped within my own emotional tangle if I couldn't find a way to live with Amanda no longer being here. I've read many books, I've listened to the opinions of others, I've took on board great wisdom from empathetic people with similar experiences.... I suppose to sum it all up, I've shared.

Amanda's 'Selfie' Before Selfies were considered fashionable...
As I've said before, Amanda will continue to be with us all, in our hearts and minds. In words she said, in smiles, in laughter, in a touch, a hug, a cuddle or a kiss.... Her empathetic listening style, her willingness to totally immerse herself in the troubles of others, totally undistracted by all that went on around her, totally focused on that person... Just beautiful. She will continue to live on as we live on. No longer is she physical, she is now energy within each of us. Does this doesn't soften the sense of loss, maybe not, but at least there's a knowing her legend continues.

At midnight last night after 7 months of travelling I arrived back at my parents home.
Today I visited Amanda's bench with lilies and a bouquet from my folks. I sat for an hour with the warm sun on my face.  A pair of black Choughs (pronounced Chuff) with their bright curved beaks soared nearby making their distinctive namesake call.  Warblers flitted in the gorse and seals sung their melancholy song in the distance.  I don't think Amanda's bench could be anywhere more beautiful.  On my way back home I visited the cemetery where the majority of Amanda's ashes lie with her much loved Grandma who also died of cancer at a young age... In addition to words written for Amanda's Grandma, the new inscription on the new headstone reads, 'Amanda Jo Boyd Loving Wife, Mother, Sister and Daughter.' Seeing the words on a headstone really does bring it home.... On a headstone....Thank you to Colleen, Aunty Linda & Uncle Norman for getting the new headstone which marks Amanda's physical resting place with her Grandma.

Tonight I'll be drifting around the south of the island.... I'll be out and about at 2am.... Maybe the skies will clear and I'll watch meteors burning across the sky whilst I sit on Amanda's bench.  If the wind is in the right direction, or has dropped away I will scatter the remainder of her ashes from the bench.

I pray Amanda is having a wonderful time in some heavenly dimension or a new reincarnated body... What body wouldn't want that beautiful soul she possessed, that soul she made grow and grow, leading it through this physical and mental test we know as life?

Thanks again to everyone for the past 12 months. And I do mean everyone. When my heart and mind were tested there was reason. I learned strength and forgiveness, but not before a sense of regret and deep sadness. I learned that most do not mean to hurt with words, but when negative words are uttered or written regret does follow. Everyone who crossed my path, who lent an ear, who comforted me when teary explosions intervened at seemingly inappropriate moments, those who offered kindness and generosity, thank you all so much. 

Monday 2 June 2014

1st June 2014 - Still Roaming...

Has this bout of travelling helped soften the pain suffered by beautiful Amanda being taken so early in her life by cancer?  No.  No it hasn't.   My faith in the kindness of human beings as a whole has been bolstered.  It wasn't restored as I'd never believed anything different.
I just want Amanda to be here with me enjoying herself.  Enjoying life.  She had reached such a happy content point in her journey.  She was so full of love and kindness, she'd reached a place where at long last she felt truly happy.  This had taken time and effort on her behalf.  Choosing to be with someone who loved her unconditionally helped.
I continue to read spiritual books.  Maybe they help.  Maybe they don't.  But I know one thing for certain, Amanda would have had me reading them.  She had me reading them to her at night.  She also wanted me to enjoy them, to be open to their prose.  I was.  And I am.  I do enjoy this type of literature.
Sometimes I feel they hint toward leaving the past behind.  Forgetting about the past.  Or at least letting it go.... I suppose it's letting it go, rather than forgetting about it.  Learning to control attachment to the past.  Which is probably wise.  It's wise but I fight it.  I am attached to the past.  I am still attached to Amanda, to my love, my best friend, my wife.
I continue to aim towards living in the here and now.  Being present to what is on offer and what I can give back.  I practice this rigorously.  But my longing to be with Amanda still lingers deep in my heart and soul.
When we did experience difficult times she often talked about 'setting me free'.  It used to annoy me.  I'd tell her it wasn't her choice to keep or free me.  I loved her it was my choice to be there with her.  My romantic shackles were self selected.  They fitted well and I loved them.  I never felt trapped or encumbered by our relationship.  I loved it.... As I type this post at 9.15pm in Homer Alaska, a beautiful huge bald headed eagle glides past the patio window set against the back drop of a deep blue sky and snow capped mountains.  Sounds good doesn't it.  A few years ago it would have blown my mind.
Without the 'sharing' part, it's just something I see, register and share with you.

I will return to the Isle of Man for the anniversary of Amanda's passing.  I long for her to be here, as we all do.  Robyn her daughter, her family and friends..... We all long for Amanda's cheeky smile to light up the room, or her ever 'willing to listen' ears to be there to share our emotions and feelings.  We can still do this.  I do.
I don't want to focus on the date that Amanda's life ended.  I would rather have my focus placed on her birthday or our anniversary.... But even these dates are just dates.... I suppose what I am doing is selecting certain days to acknowledge the great times we shared, but I do that every day in my head.  I suppose there's no protocol as to how we celebrate Amanda's time with us.... So with that in mind I'll just roll with it.

I go on wandering and wondering, as do we all.



Sunday 4 May 2014

Seeing Love in my Daydreams.....

I sit where ever I'm sat.... I look out the window where ever I am and I imagine Amanda sitting, walking or pottering.  I can see her... It feels like she's there.  I smile briefly then remember she is not here with me any longer, but for my heart and mind.  Then the sadness cracks open my heart and mind, the fissure reaches deep in to belly and I feel lost without my wonderful, loving lady.  I feel no where.  And at times over recent months that's where I am physically as well as mentally, absolutely no where.
Don't get me wrong I smile I have fun I even try to make others smile, but the shallowness of these sensations cannot pierce the deep longing I have to hold my wife, to make her smile and laugh, to see her roll her eyes at me as I do something silly..... or something brave, courageous or kind to impress her....
Amanda has been gone a mere 8 months and 12 days.... It's a drop in the ocean of life, unless life is as short as Amanda's was of course, then it's more than a drop.... But it feels like a drop.

Her passing will always be as vivid as the weeks before her body gave up and the night her heart finally let her rest.  These are heart wrenching memories we all share.  Memories like these never fade.... But then I must remember neither will the memories Amanda and I created ourselves through choice.  Our not so average everyday spent together.  Our beautiful trips away on holiday together or with friends, our adventures travelling Asia.... Our love, our shared life.  From the initial complexities of Amanda's life in her early thirties to a transition of peace, laughter and beauty.  How beautiful our life became, how tragic our life became.

Oh Amanda how I love you so so much.

I've changed the music on the blog to a song called Mirrorball by Elbow.  I used to think of Amanda when she was with me when I heard this song.  It's meanings have changed, but it still applies to our lives, but just in a different way now.

I hope to find her one day.... In another life.... I can only hope.

Sunday 16 March 2014

Still Travelling, Still Missing......

As I travel through India with Amanda in my heart and mind, resting my weary head in pokey little rooms where my little shrine of images are placed as soon as I'm settled, I continue to muse over the many questions regarding life and death.
I seem to feel more emotional whilst travelling between destinations, these emotions more often than not end up in tears. I think these travelling times were where we relied on one another. Our strengths and weaknesses covering one another. In addition to the support there was always the smiling eyes, laughter, talk and touch..... All with a woman who wanted to spend the rest of her life with me, and me with her. I continue to remind myself how lucky we both were to find one another and to fight for one another from when we first met until 'death did us part.'
I'm still with Amanda, it's obvious to everyone I meet. I think that due to this relationship any girls who travel with me for a short time feel safe, one girl Gemma, thought Amanda was still with me. She thought I'd left her back in the UK.

I don't want to bore you with the focus on my feelings. They are unimportant, they are nothing compared to Amanda's life being cut short. I choose, well we all choose our feelings. To feel sad is a choice, it's not something forced upon us by a situation. It's in our minds. Most of us do not realise this simple fact of life. We only think negatively if we choose to do so, we can end up feeling depressed due to a loss of mental control, a loss of presence and awareness. It's up to us where we place our focus. I feel sad because I choose to feel sad. I often think of the great times that make me smile. That made us both really smile.
I continue to ponder the theories of destiny and reincarnation.
A few months ago I considered the suggestions which allude to our paths of destiny having already been mapped out. Not to say we have no real choices in life that allow us to determine our own path through life, rather we are on a wide track which travels through a dense forest, off this track there are many trails to choose from, these choices/paths determine what events we experience along our journey. This life starts with birth and ends with death.
But now I question this theory.

Why would our life expectancy increase steadily as it has over the years with more of us surviving child birth plus improvements in water quality and medical developments (surgery). Why would destiny a type of timeless 'magical' predetermination of all our lives allow itself to be influenced by human modernisation? Why would 'Destiny' adhere to the modernisation of human evolution? If 'Destiny' exists I would assume it is a more powerful force than everything invented or improved by humans? Do you see where I'm coming from?
I'm not sure we were set to be born and expire at a predetermined age according to the laws of destiny or 'The Gods'. The simple fact that we are tending to experience slightly longer lives muddles this theory for me.
Cancer, diabetes, stroke and various heart conditions seem to have replaced the old diseases that man managed to eradicate or at least control, such as small pox, typhoid and tuberculosis. Whilst cancer, diabetes and heart problems exist there will be a continued culling of the young and old.

I always end up thinking that somehow I could have saved Amanda, that she could still be here, laughing, smiling and being. But I'll never know, as I won't get the chance.

It will never matter that others believe we did all we could. Or the ones that believe she made the wrong choices, even though they know little of the actual results and failure of conventional treatment. The five percent success rate in certain cancers associated with chemotherapy could simply be down to genes, placebo effect, nutrition, mental disposition or something greater. Who knows? This could also be said for the alternative success rates.
Maybe this 'something greater' is 'Destiny'.

In all the years I knew Amanda I don't think I ever failed her. I saved her, protected her, loved her and nurtured her, as she did me. We made each another laugh, smile and cry. We brought joy to one another. Our intense love and commitment enhanced our lives.
Could I really have saved Amanda this time? I believe somehow I could..... Maybe this is something I need to work on. No matter what I believe, a chain of events conspired to take this beautiful woman away. No amount of grief or 'what ifs' will bring her back.
I truly hope there is something bigger and better after this life, or that reincarnation really occurs..... I don't have faith.... But I do have hope..... and while we have hope there is always a chance.

Travels are still difficult, I miss Amanda so much, but there's nothing I can actually do about this missing, this longing, this aching. I continue to experience the series of events we know as life. I aim to find enjoyment and peace, to give love and kindness where ever I can. That's it really.

Wednesday 19 February 2014

Amanda my Spirit Guide & Yoga Nidra in Gokarna

With Valentine's Day out of the way and the big smoke of Pune almost a distant memory I am now enjoy some deep mind time at Shankar Prasad, Yoga and Meditation Ashram in Gokarna.
This is the place we raised the money for at Amanda's funeral.  It funded the children's natural playground and part of the development of the little pre schooL which is located on site.

I have been getting deep with guided visualisations through Yoga Nidra.
I am the third day in participating in a 5 day advanced Yoga Nidra course, which is all about getting deep with your subconscious or if not the subconscious, a place of stillness where the mind can help you apply your full focus on the things that you desire most.  Yoga Nidra can be very useful in building self confidence and self esteem to addressing insomnia, phobias or emotional hang ups.
The guided Yoga Nidra nearly always encompasses a specific aim or desire, something you long or hope to have in your life.  This could be from health for yourself, your family, wealth or success in your chosen role in life.  You visualise a spirit guide to take you on your chosen type of Yoga Nidra.  This can be someone or thing such as deity, a God, a famous person from the past whom you respect or/and love, or indeed a lost loved one.
Each day as you would expect my 'spirit' or subconscious guide tends to be (what I mean by this is 'always is') Amanda.  She can also be represented by the emotions and memories that arise that i am trying to deal with.  Either way I get to be with my beloved Amanda in my mind.  Not just as a passing thought, but as single one point focus, deep visualisation, all whilst under a very relaxed meditative state.
One of the stages of Yoga Nidra is to visualise energy travelling through the single parts of the body, starting at the thumb of the right hand then working through the right hand side of the body, then the left, then the front and back..  This sensation or visualisation  can be made easier through using various mental techniques.  I like to imagine Amanda giving me a slow and gentle Thai Massage.  It works perfectly.  I can visualise (imagine) her smiling, massaging, whilst simultaneously commenting on the the Swami's guided Yoga Nidra as we she works through.  It brings a contented smile to my face.
Inevitably at some point, as I lie there, due to the nature of Yoga Nidra, where you go mentally and Amanda no longer being here, tears well up and spill out from the corners of my eyes in to my hair.  As I said, I feel this is an inevitable process due to the memories that are housed in my mind.  Missing someone intensely, creates longing, a sense of loss, a sense of never again.

There are some wonderfully sensitive people here at Shankar Prasad in Gokarna.  One such person is Marion.  She is a German lady.  She was lay on the mat next to mine during our second Yoga Nidra, she said afterwards she could feel an intense wave of sadness coming from me during the process.  Later Marion spotted me sat alone, tucked up beside a big haystack, drying myself out.  She brought me over a little purple flower, 'For an angel' she said.  Very sweet indeed.  Later that evening I was looking at my pictures of Amanda, and she came and sat beside me.  She sat chatting with me, showing great empathy as I proceeded to put her through my full 'Amanda Photograph Album'.  How kind of her to sit and allow me to share.  I even got the impression she enjoyed it.  Images full of love, laughter and fun.  She had many questions which maintained my assumed level of interest.  A truly lovely lady.

Another English lady who arrived yesterday for three days, told me about her own experience of loss.  Just over twenty years ago she had been in a relationship for 3 years.  During this time, she had gotten married, had a child and become a widow.  Her daughter was only 15 months old when her husband headed out to work on his bicycle.  That was the last time she spoke to him.  He was knocked off his bicycle by a police car and died in hospital a few hours later.  I wondered was this better or worse process of losing someone. I quickly realised there is no 'better' way to lose.  This lovely lady never got to say goodbye forever, but nor did Robyn or I.  Even with all the time I spent by Amanda's side caring and loving I never expected her to die.  So we never said goodbye, she just slipped in to a non communicative state, then in to unconsciousness due to the river of morphine which was constantly being pumped in to her body.  All of us who loved and cared for Amanda also had to watch  her suffering much discomfort for many months.  Maybe disappearing and having a quick exit from this dimension is the way forward for everyone.  But I doubt it makes it any easier for those left behind.  The same gaping explodes through the heart and soul and steadfastly remains by love lost.  Slow death, fast death, this hole is no smaller, it's no shallower.

After today's third Yoga Nidra the lovely English lady approached me with an knowing and empathetic smile.  I think she had a experienced a similar process today.  Her spiritual guide and support coming from her deceased partner, her loss being the same.  She told me you never forget and that there will always be a hole, but you learn to live with the loss.  I think I knew this already.  I don't ever want to forget, I don't think anyone who has loved fully and lost that love ever wants to let go of their beautiful memories.   Amanda was such an influence on me I will always feel proud to quote her, and use her non judgmental behaviour, generosity and kindness as a perfect example of how to share and care for others, from family and friends to total strangers in need.

Today one of the younger students was upset by the way the Swami spoke to her.  This lovely Israeli girl is aware of her own personal troubles, but wants to deal with them.  To become a better human being. Like so many of us.  But in this instance there seems to be a clash.  Today I saw her leaving a class in tears.  I left her for a few minutes then went and sat with her as she sobbed.  She told me her troubles with the Swami.  The Swami has a tendency at times to be a little regimental and domineering, but the girl has a also has a little rebel in her.  This is where the clash arises I feel. She briefly disclosed some of her personal problems.  I briefly ran through Amanda's life story, stating how the tragedy and suffering she experienced had turned her in to a determined, strong willed, love filled soul.  I hope her story inspired this girl.  I advised her not to run away, but to be strong and front up to the situation.  Give it another 24 hours and see what happens.  This is what she is doing.  Hopefully it will work out.  If not at least she has tried.

I have been helping in the kitchen with Sudha, the cook.  Amanda loved Sudha, they were always giggling and smiling, neither one able to speak or understand the other's language.  They managed to communicate through hand gestures and chalk drawings.  They still talked to one another in their own languages it's difficult not to when trying to communicate.  I'm doing the same thing with Sudha now.
Yesterday when I was working on the laptop, Sudha came and sat beside me.  I brought up pictures from when we were here last year.  Sudha took many photo's on her mobile of the images on the screen.... Then she wanted to see more and more.  I of course happily obliged.  She took mobile phone pictures of the photo's of our wedding, big smiley photo's of Amanda, all sorts of holiday shots.  It was really sweet to see Sudha wanting these pictures of Amanda.  Very touching.


It's good for me here.  But in a few days I'll move on.

Love to you all.


Thursday 13 February 2014

Valentine's Eve

Valentine's eve, I knew it would sneak up eventually. Its just a date. So far there's been 176 dates. I don't think it will be noticeable here in India. But it's still resides in my heart and mind. It travels with me like all dates, like Amanda does in my heart.

Amanda in one of her shirt designs for her degree course and one of our Venetian Mask from our Honeymoon.
She looks beautiful!

Amanda and I didn't really buy in to the commercial side of Valentine's, but I always ended up planning something romantic for her, for us.
It always involved making at least one card the day before. More often than not it was two, one funny and one romantic with a rhyme or poem, reminding her how much I loved her. She never really needed reminding....she knew how loved and adored she was. It was something we shared regularly. Not just the words 'Love You' in passing, but really holding one another's eyes, looking deep within. Sometimes those three little words weren't even required. The feeling was deeper and more intense than any spoken word could match. Go sit and look in to the eyes of your partner for one full minute this evening..... Stay until you feel the love pouring out. It's beautiful.
Amanda would also allow her craft skills to come out, and I'd receive a hand made card, sometimes slightly recycled, one she'd kept from the year before and reworked, ha ha! Whatever it was it always made me smile, and what ever she wrote always moved me. She chose her words beautifully and carefully. That was Amanda.

So here I am in Pune, near Mumbai. I'm sat over looking the city from the 8th floor of The Meridien Hotel. Titch, here on business, has been kind enough to allow me to use his room for writing. I've been working for 7 hours straight, writing travel articles then submitting them to various papers, magazines and websites hoping for that lucky break. Amanda would tell me to keep at it, have faith, if you believe you will succeed that's exactly what happens, she'd assure me. She would remove my hesitancy and fear replacing it with self belief. Amanad was great at instilling positivity within others.

Tomorrow there'll be no cards and cuddles in the morning.
There'll be no finer than normal home cooked romance filled meal for two.
There'll just be me.
It's been like that for some time now.

Valentine's Day, a valuable commercial ruse, can be used as a gentle reminder to refocus on what so many of us take for granted each day. Someone to share with, someone who we cherish, someone who cherishes us. Someone we want to share everything with, someone we want to spend as much time with as we can. Someone so special we wouldn't think twice about laying our own life on the line to save theirs. But remember it should just be a reminder.... Every day with your partner is precious, a joy to behold. So behold each day, treasure every moment. The ups the downs, the laughter, the tears. One day hopefully many many years from now there will come a time where it will be just one of you remembering, reminiscing about the touch of a hand, the caress of a face. The warm breath on your neck. That gentle whisper, the spoken word, or the cheeky giggle.
There'll be tears with these memories. Some will be sad, but some may be warm tears, ones that are generated from the memories of smiles, laughter, giggles and fun. This evening there have been both. My eyes are currently rest in a misty purgatory between the sadness of my wife no longer walking with us all here on earth and those beautiful memories created from our time shared together.

Love with all your heart and all your worth, be courageous and free. There is nothing to fear when love is true and whole. You are blessed.

Keep well.



Friday 7 February 2014

More Questions & Dreams....

Why am I here in India? What am I doing? What's the point?
I have no real conclusive answer to any of these questions, they are just a hand full of questions I continue to pose to myself every quiet moment... Like when I lie my head down at night, or sip a chai during the day.
Tracking back over the places Amanda wanted to visit, places I wanted to be because she was there. She's not there now, but I still yearn to visit these places to simply feel her energy, a connection, just knowing they were places she sought answers, solace and peace. Places we shared troubles, smiles and love. Maybe it's as simple as that, maybe there are no answers. Maybe I'm just trying to find ways to continue my relationship with my wife, desperate to find her in physical places she no longer resides. 

Outdoor Shower at Nilitangham

But just maybe being in these places allows my memories to be more vivid, almost real, touchable, smell-able and taste-able. Maybe this journey is simply allowing me to process our last few months of freedom together. Again, I don't know.

Clearing the paths at Nilitangham.

I miss Amanda daily, even in my best efforts to immerse myself in an activity I have a great passion for such as photography, I still finish the day deflated.... However much of a positive spin I try to apply to gee myself up, Yes there is joy, it is there, it's just so inferior to what I used to know.
I think the fact I brought no fishing gear along with me suggested that this was to be more of a journey of discovery and self exploration than fun, adventure and joviality. I should have seen the signs when the fishing gear looked longingly at me as I pondered over whether it would accompany me on this trip or not. It was always the first thing to be packed in the past. It was what I would leave out to make room for the fishing gear, not the other way around. Clothes usually, that's what I usually left behind. For heaven's sake even Amanda built a promise in to her wedding vows that she would never stop me fishing.... She always yearned to have a passion for a hobby or interest like I had with my fishing. She never understood my obsession with sitting by water waiting patiently to see if any fish actually existed in the nearby wetness, but she always appreciated the passion I had for it. Where has that passion gone? Did it die with my wife? I had it before I knew her, and all the while we shared our lives together.... Can it just disappear? I don't think that passion has suddenly been transferred to another interest, as I just don't feel it in anything I do..... I get close with the photography, but much of the time I do it hoping it will please others in what they see. Fishing was just for me. Being at one with nature. Sitting patiently. Sitting still. Being fully present. Maybe this is where my true meditation always lay?

I was lying in bed an hour ago... It was only seven thirty, but sleep had evaded capture most of the previous night, and tonight my mind is racing, now it's 1.30am. I decided to meditate. Allow my mind to clear and become still, sat on my bed in the full lotus position, focused on slow, controlled continuous breathing. I then decided to carry out a Vipassana style meditation, a 'loving kindness' meditation. I focused on all those who loved Amanda, trying to empathise with their loss, trying to understand their sadness. I started with Robyn, then Colleen.... and that's as far as I got, because my focus shifted to the night Amanda passed away, and Colleen and I cried and held one another as we stood by her peacefully still body.... I started to cry, and my meditation was complete. I had no desire to continue....

I dreamed of Amanda a couple of nights ago, a long involved dream.....
I had been wearing my little elm ashes pendant on my wrist for a couple of weeks, as my little neck lace had perished due to the constant humidity. The day before yesterday I visited my friends at the Bamboo Centre in Auroville and sat with one of the ladies on the floor.  She was making bamboo trinkets. I asked her if she could find me some cord that I could use to make a new neck lace. Ten minutes later Amanda's ashes were hanging securely around my neck settled back against my heart.
That night was the night I dreamed about her.
Sadly it was all based around her final days and nights. It was all very real, but the location was different. We were in hospital rather than her sister's home.... It was sad to relive again... Everything was so vivid, so emotional, so real. I woke actually holding the pendant tightly in my hand. I felt very sad indeed. Dreams can have such impact. Having not had such a dream since Amanda passed away I forgot how much real emotion they can invoke.  Dreams can totally displace you again.

Amanda's time here with us all was special. So many of us learned from her in her latter years, so many respected her, some simply appreciated her physical beauty, some her emotional, generous, kind and non judgemental mind, most who knew her appreciated all these qualities

I constantlyI always think Amanda would have made a great old lady.... wise, witty and kind. Full of adventurous stories for her nieces and possible grandchildren, and maybe in previous lives she was, and maybe in future lives she will be again. I don't think any of us are being selfish wishing that she had been that wise, witty and kind old lady in this life, so we could witness, share and enjoy her words, stories, smiles and naughty little laugh. I'd do anything to see those big beautiful eyes with 80 year old wrinkles around them, her silvery hair tied up in a roll or bun and her gentle soul kindly smiling out on the world. We would be sharing a big pot of ginger tea whilst I read her a story from her chosen book of the moment..... I know this is not being present. Nor is it reminiscing.... This is simply known as dreaming.....   

Friday 31 January 2014

Miss Amanda So Much - Sad and Confused Day.....

What if all I'm good for now is thinking about my beautiful wife, constantly focused on our great highs and our little lows, on the most wondrous of loves, on her struggle over her final months.... This is all I feel good for. It's all I can focus on. It's all I want to focus on. I don't want 'the healing' to start, I don't need to be healed.... I don't need to be part of a healing process. I just want to hold Amanda in my arms, her head lay on my chest.... This can't happen I know, but letting go isn't going to happen either.... So where on earth does that leave me I wonder? Where does it leave anyone who has lost someone so beloved to them? How do they cope? I simply can't understand. It's far harder here, away from friends and family who love me, and who I love dearly. I was hoping this time alone would help. Maybe it will or maybe it's just a waste of time. All I know is that my heart and mind ache, full of Amanda. Every minute of every day.... I don't see how I will ever miss her less. I don't want to miss her less. But I don't want to hold on to the pain that makes everyone else miserable around me either.  I know what I should be doing, what I'd have expected from Amanda had it been the other way around. But I know only too well she would have been in a similar if not worse state emotionally. I tried to do things that felt right to celebrate Amanda's life, photo albums, blogs a beautiful hand engraved bench, but none of these things mean anything do they? Amanda isn't here..... It's lovely and easy for people to say 'Amanda will always be with you', and nice things like that, but I can't see her beauty in the flesh, I can't touch her face, hold her snugly as I kiss her, I can't hear her voice, her laugh.... I can't look in to her beautiful eyes. There's a lot of 'I can''ts' isn't there? This is what makes me very weak.

I should be focused on what I have in life, what we all have. Yet here I am focused on Amanda not being here. All my focus is concentrated in this den of self pity and sadness. Longing for something that can never be. I read Amanda's cards that she gave to me over the years and my cards to her. A card from 2012 said, 'I hope I get better for you, for us both, so we can live our dreams together'. When I think about that it makes me so sad. There was so much more for Amanda, so many experiences.... So much love and sharing.... So many things she would have loved to see.... Seeing Robyn grow up, get married, have kids, then all the things she would have done with me or on her own.... Sighhhhhhh....
I've cried a lot this afternoon. It's becoming standard. Eventually I'll dehydrate, and they'll find a crispy dried out Boyd.

I still have so many questions. A lot are to do with the medications used in providing pain relief for cancer. The super heavy ones they save especially for cancer patients. I suppose it's like the chemo and radiation. They are saved for cancer patients because the doctors, nurses and specialists don't hold out too much hope for them. Their life expectancy is less than that of people the same age who are not suffering (or have not officially been diagnosed) with cancer.  The heavy side affects of all these 'treatments' even of the pain relief causes serious damage to the liver and kidneys..... Once this starts to happen in a weakened body with a weakened immune system things seem to be downhill.
I continue to read the experience of others who have suffered or are suffering cancer. Those who have researched their treatments and understand them. Understand the risks. Those who choose conventional well known 'halting' treatments and those who take a punt on alternative courses of treatment for halting or full healing. I still support Amanda fully in her choices. We met people who these treatments worked for. In fact after 8 months of Gerson Therapy Amanda was in great shape, all her bloods, her liver and kidney function were all perfect. This is where you wonder what if she'd been able to stick it out for 18 months or 2 years?  But I will always be left to wonder.  Ours is not to force others against their will, for it is their life, their own experience  Would the same result have come about anyway, which ever method Amanda had chosen?  Maybe this young age was destined to be her end?  I continue to question this over and over.  If this were the case and she had felt forced to do chemotherapy by all who have no knowledge of this treatment, just the assumption that it is standard practice for cancer patients, the standard protocol, it would have simply meant she would have missed out on travelling SE Asia and India, learning more about Buddhism, life and death. Finding her own heart and mind in the process. We'll never know because all any of us get is one shot at this particular life, then hopefully some more shots in another incarnation.... and that's where I hope to meet my love again.... But then I also think it won't really matter because I won't remember her anyway. I may have met Amanda many times over the millenia according to the reincarnation theorists.... and I didn't remember her this time.... Maybe that's what makes it so special and wonderful.

I'm going to watch the peacocks come home to roost.

Night night x

Next day:
Feeling a little better again, things planned.  People to see.....
Questions continue to be fired at my subconscious mind..... Maybe they always will.

Tuesday 28 January 2014

Visiting our last place in India together..... What would Amanda be doing now?

The journey from Varkala went as perfectly as an Indian journey can ever hope to go.  Maybe I was being assisted by my beautiful spirit guide, maybe the universe was taking pity, maybe it was all just chance that it went so swimmingly, but what I do know is that I was wanting to go there.  I was being drawn to Auroville.  Before I left some suggested going to places we had last been together would simply be torturing myself, but I hoped for something different.  I decided to take a chance and see what would happen to my heart and mind.

As I took the dirt track out to Nillitangham, the little forest getaway that was our home for the final couple of weeks of our cut short Indian adventure, I felt a strange home coming.  I mean, it was strange.  Especially as we had only stayed here for two weeks.  I arrived at Nillitangham, chatted with Ambre, the French lady that runs this small settlement of 'buildings' and for the first night agreed that I could sleep in my tent under the stars, until the little hobbit house was free.  The double one Amanda and I stayed in was already in use.

I wandered around the dusty sand pathways amongst the mango trees, bushes and flowers.   I remembered how much Amanda wanted to remain here in this quaint Garden of Eden that provided us with fresh fruit to eat and beautiful birds, animals and insects to watch and listen to.

I hooked my little laminated wallet pictures of Amanda and I on the inside of my mesh tent.  I wouldn't need the fly sheet, there would be no rain.  I could just lie looking at the stars and dream of Amanda.

Auroville, the first of a couple of places in India that Amanda and I visited together. Some folks advised me against going to places we had been together, suggesting that I may just be torturing myself. But Auroville has lured me here.... You can read about it on the travel blog I'm doing my best to keep

Does it feel torturous? No, not torturous.... Does it evoke difficult memories? Yes.... Yes it does. Bitter sweet memories, ones that sit heavy in my heart as well as my mind.
But I continue to try and cope with my emotions. I practice yoga and meditation daily, though I know I am not committing enough time for the meditation. I'm distracted by the things I have planned for myself to do. Maintaining a blog, capturing images and small movie clips, these are all very time consuming activities..... I possibly need to find a silent retreat. 10 days with no media distraction, no contact with the outside world. Oh... I don't really know what I need to be honest... Just my wife back, but I have to be realistic....

I'm enjoying it here at Nilatangham in Auroville. The peacefulness the immersion in nature. But each day I seek a connection with the outside world, rather than bringing focus to my inner terrain, my subconscious, the ruler of my decisions, emotions and actions. I recently read that approximately 95% of our actions come about from the subconscious mind. This is due to the way we have all been conditioned throughout our lives. Parents, teachers and the Media all play roles in the shaping of us as today's social materialist human beings. Conditioning is not necessarily all bad, after all parents and teachers only want the best for us, but they have learned what they now from their parents and teachers, and so on.  So conditioning is conditioning. This conditioning subconsciously removes choice. We are totally unaware of how our subconscious effects our every decision and every action. We need to bring our subconscious to the forefront, we need to understand it, see it, feel it, recognise it, then all our thoughts, words and actions will become conscious..... fully aware of everything we think, say and do. Wouldn't that be lovely. This is what I need to recognise now.

I'm clearly avoiding immersing myself fully in to my grief about my love, my darling Amanda. Every now and again I let it happen. I sit and reminisce. The beautiful thoughts, the painful thoughts, the funny thoughts.... the painful thoughts again....
I see Amanda weeding the paths here at Nilitangham, knelt down in her purple skirt and pink vest top.... I see us sitting having breakfast as the butterflies and birds zip about us. The geckos grabbing insects from the ceiling of the little kitchen. I see us having our evening meal as the peacock struts along the dusty path before flapping loudly to reach his roost in the tree next to the dining area..... I cry as I remember how Amanda's pain became worse, and moving about became painful.  I cry when I remember her asking me, 'Am I dying?', I hugged her and said of course you're not dying.... She cried.  Amanda felt there was more wrong that what the hospital had told her.  These are the thoughts that fill me with tears.  Her face, her eyes looking deep in to mine.  

Then today as I sat looking at the golden disc covered Matrimandir, I watched us both in the distance walking around this amazing structure in awe of it's presence. I remembered us sitting beneath the Banyan Tree to the left of the Matrimandir on New Year's Eve..... Watching the candles flicker, the flames lighting the floating lotus flowers which drifted in the water filled golden discs. We watched the shadows of people coming and going..... Just me and Amanda.... We headed to the Tibetan Pavillion afterwards for the chanting, then to The Visitors Centre for their New Year's Eve buffet.  All in all it was a very special and spiritual evening.  I cry again, even harder. Sat there looking toward the golden ball as people take photo's all around me. They laugh and smile.... I wish I could have feel some of their joy. But I can't. I miss Amanda too much. All the time I wonder what would she be doing now if she was here.... Where would we be? Would we be running our little organic cafe? Would we be planning a snowboarding adventure? Would we be running yoga and meditation classes together? She would be doing something wonderful, and I would be sharing in her joy, laughter, smiles and tribulations.... We shared everything. Amanda would have loved my plan to capture a star trail image of the Matrimandir. She would have been 'the distraction' chatting to the security guy who could not resist her gentle smile and beautiful big eyes.... Whilst she asked him a question, I'd leap over the hedge and wait for everyone else to leave. I'd meet Amanda for dinner at the Visitors Centre....Though I may be locked in.  She would find me later, and we would chat through the fence.  I'd have to sleep rough for the night, Amanda would pick me up in the morning. There's the plan, but with no partner in fun and adventure my plan falls short. Having someone to share the smiles and laughter if things go wrong or go right for that matter is what makes adventures fun.... My spirit of adventure now wanders lonely .... It doesn't have as much fun, or seek as much excitement as when my little soul mate was by my side. Making Amanda smile, laugh, roll her eyes at me or feel proud of me, was everything I lived for until cancer came in to our lives almost 3 years ago.

Whilst at the Matrimandir viewing point this evening I met a German pilot on a 4 day stop over with his Lufthansa crew. They would fly out from Chennai on Thursday. We got talking, I was telling him how stunning and serene it was inside..... Of course I got on to the subject of Amanda. I ache to talk about her, tell everyone how wonderful she was, how wonderful she is..... How beautiful she is. He started off very deeply indeed, pleased to be talking about such a subject. He was a staunch believer that we all come around again, and that those who affect our lives, be it family, lovers or friends will all come together again, be it here on earth, as in reborn, reincarnation, or in another dimension..... It was lovely talking with him for those few minutes. We even exchanged email addresses. His beliefs made me feel a little better as we were ushered out for last orders at the Matrimandir viewing point.

I ambled along the dusty orange track to my motorcycle, taking in the truly stunning flower bushes. I rode slowly back to Nilitangham to watch the peacock return to it's roost in the tree by the dining area.

Sunday 12 January 2014

Amanda's Ashes.....

Today was an emotional day... As many are in fact, as those amongst you who have also lost know exactly what I mean.  But today was more so.  We had arranged to place some of Amanda's ashes in her Nan's plot at the cemetery in Malew.  At 10am I would meet Amanda's Mum, Step-dad, Sisters, Nephew his girlfriend and my Mum.

At 9.45am I picked up the heavy purple box, which had sat on my bedside table since August.  I carried it in both hands to the car.  Earlier on in the morning I set some of Amanda's ashes aside in a little intricately hand carved marble box.  It was Amanda's.  It's a stunning little thing, with wonderful patterning along with a depiction of Buddha.  These particular ashes are to be scattered at some of Amanda's favourite places here on the Isle of Man and in the UK, plus places that she would have loved, which will happen as I travel.
I pulled up on the roadside and lifted the purple box from the passengers seat.  I could see everyone waiting in the cemetery.  I felt overwhelmed and cried as I

Tuesday 31 December 2013

Christmas & New Year....

For most this is a truly wonderful time of year.... But for many it's a time where loneliness creates a deep, deep pit, the fact that it's a baubel and tinsel filled pit adds no joyous merriment for these sorrow filled souls.

Every day there is an overwhelming sense of a huge part of my being missing, but Christmas Day really did turn the knife.  At 10am (way after Santa had been around the houses) I got in to my car and set about driving to one of mine and Amanda's favourite haunts. As I drove a soft welling of emotion just below my solar plexus caused me to weep gently. The empty roads were a misty blur.. After driving here and there I was finally lead to 'The Sound' (Lands End of Mann) where Amanda's bench is to be placed, over looking the rugged sea swept coastline.  Here the light drizzle of tears turned in to a torrential downpour, with a cold front of heavy shoulder shaking thrown in for good measure.  I stood in the wind staring at the waves, I sobbed and sobbed.  Then I turned and walked back towards my car and drove home. I pulled up outside the house checked the rear view mirror for the state of my eyes (I was wearing no mascara or eye liner, so neither had run), then headed in. I spent the day with my family, chatting, eating smiling. I made a Christmas Candle Wreath for Amanda's place at the table. I tousled her favourite red and gold silk scarf around the wreath.  It was lovely.  

Once darkness fell and the stars were visibly twinkling in the night sky for the first time in over 10 days, I headed to an old derelict cafe on a nearby headland located on the South of the island.  The air was cold, clear and breezy.  I brought my camera equipment along to keep me company.  I took two 45 minute exposures of the star filled sky.... Whilst I thought about

Sunday 8 December 2013

Maybe the Final Post....

In fear of the blog becoming something we had never intended it to be, sounding like a deeply sad broken record that no longer updates you about how Amanda is getting on I think this may be the last post.  I'm pretty sure no one wants to hear me 'moaning' on about how I feel inside, about the deep irreparable ache in my heart.... and the hearts of everyone who loved Amanda.  I wake each morning look at the photographs I have mounted on the wardrobe, 'I have a brief few words' and a little morning kiss.... I do the same in the evening before I go to bed... It no doubt sounds insane to those who are yet to experience loss in their lives, but it's working for me.  I continue to read books which are aimed at coping with loss, with grieving, with understanding death as part of life..... I try to be realistic and pragmatic amidst the

Sunday 17 November 2013

2007 - 'Let's get Married'.....

This is just a little bit of a story about our wedding.....  Nothing more, nothing less.... I just wanted to write about our wedding.... I like to write about what we did together....

2007 went on to get better and better.  Whilst sitting on our friends narrow boat, slowly cruising along the canal from Fenny Compton back to Banbury, Amanda brought up marriage.  We then decided that's what we'd do!  We'd get married!  It wasn't the romantic gesture I had planned out in my mind, but most of our days were filled with so much love it didn't really matter.  'When shall we do it?'  'Well let's give people a bit of notice' she said.... It was the end of May, so we decided on the 1st September.  3 months is enough for anyone!  Surely people don't normally plan their lives that far in advance.  We were soon to find out it was only us that didn't really plan that far in advance.
Finding a suitable place was the main problem.  We wanted somewhere quaint.  Somewhere 'Ye Olde England' and somewhere affordable.  We wanted to pay for the entire gig ourselves (though in the end Mum & Dad refused to let us, but I think even they were surprised you could do an awesome wedding for less than £1,800).  Whilst out and about one day I stumbled upon a beautiful country pub called 'The Ben Johnson' in Weston on the Green, just outside Oxford.

I dropped in and got chatting to Toby the proprietor.  He was a bear of man.  Only in his early thirties, but keen as mustard to hold a wedding.  'Have you ever held a wedding reception Toby?'.  'Yes' he said with excitement in his eyes.  'We held one not so long ago... Just the one, but I'd love to hold another.'  His enthusiasm had me.  I brought Amanda to meet him, she loved him too.  The place was perfect.  We got to planning.  Next was where could we and would we be wed?  We chose Bicester Band Stand in the town of Bicester, Oxfordshire, a few miles from Weston on the Green.  An outdoor wedding!  Perfect!
Amanda set about finding a seamstress well versed in wedding dress construction.  Little did this lady know of Amanda's strict standards and impeccable attention to detail.  Had she known she'd have never taken the job.  Amanda designed her dress and told her exactly what she wanted.  Oh dear, this turned out to be such a palava.  Things seemed to keep going wrong, and the lady didn't seem to understand Amanda's needs.  But she got there eventually after many, many weeks of turmoil and hassle!

For music we hired a local band to play for an hour on the night and big bear Toby said we could sort out our own music for the day time, evening and night using an MP3 player connected up to The mighty Ben Johnson sound system.  Brilliant!
I texted everyone coming 'Please text two tunes you would love to hear during our wedding reception.  One for the afternoon and one for the dance floor'.  We had some rare selections, but only two declined.  Cliff Richard's Summer Holiday (what were you thinking Dad) and Steve O'Rourke's choice of Club Tropicana (no cheese please!).
Amanda's Mum was chief cake maker.  A talented woman!  This meant the cake would be travelling from the Isle of Man to Bicester!  A stressful time for Colleen.... Thank you again for such a beautiful cake x

The night before the big day friends and family from England, Scotland, Ireland and the Isle of Man got together for a drink or two.  I headed off early as I needed to write my speech and I'd promised Amanda I'd be in bed by midnight.  I literally didn't sleep a wink.  I rose the next morning, stood at the front door in my suit and looked at the dark looming clouds which filled the sky.  Would the rain hold off?  Whilst I tried not to be concerned with the dark sky Amanda was up at the salon drying and styling hair for the ladies of both families on her own wedding day....
Wedding Day Stylist....

Then Susie took over, sat her down and tended to her wedding hair, whilst Amanda sipped on a glass of champagne.  Amanda's hair looked absolutely beautiful.... Thank you Susie x

Amanda made it  very clear that on the day she wanted to marry 'me' as opposed to some tuxedo wearing fruit loop doing an impression of me.  She said if I wore a tie and didn't wear sandals it would be like marrying someone else.  I didn't need convincing.  Suit, fine looking open

Saturday 16 November 2013

Music.... Loss.... Carving.....

It's coming up to 1am.... I'm awake... Obviously.... I'm typing.
I've been listening to music.  Something I've avoided over recent months.  Music evokes such sweet bitter memories... Maybe just sweet memories....But they prove difficult and emotional to watch in my mind.  Is it greed, did I want more and more of these memories.... Of course.  Desire and attachment make me long for Amanda back by my side.  There needing me, there with me needing her... Each of our hands there to hold the other's.  Arms there to wrap and protect.  To squeeze and hold tight.  To love.

We loved open air gigs.... These were taken whilst
watching Doves at Delamere Forest.

Beautiful songs, lyrics and melodies fill my mind.  Constant reminders of our wonderful time together.  What more could anyone ask.  But yet I'm still filled with loss, regret and sadness.  How ungrateful can anyone be.  Some folk will never experience such love, laughter, joy,

Monday 4 November 2013

It's November.... Already....

I photographed a chap who was open water swimming in Port Erin a couple of weeks ago.  I was ambling around the rocks trying to fill time... hoping to maybe a achieve something.  I saw a lady who I assumed was his wife, and wandered down to chat with her.  We got chatting, I spoke about Amanda, then the lady told me she was also diagnosed with breast cancer only 2 weeks before Amanda had her diagnosis.  Strange isn't it.  The line of coincidences that brought me to that spot to chat with that lady.  Her lump was half the size of Amanda's at 1cm.  She had no lymph node involvement whereas Amanda did have lymph node involvement.  Her cancer was Oestrogen and HER2 positive, the same as Amanda's.  She had a bad experience with Noble's hospital from the beginning to the end... and chose for her treatment to proceed in London.  She (like we did) checked all the hospitals in the UK for the best records, the most experienced or specialised clinics, and then hunted down one of the most knowledgeable breast cancer oncologists in the country.  He told her what we'd already read.  He believed from his study cases and experience that surgery may improve survival stats by  50-60%, chemotherapy 2-3% and Herceptin maybe 20%... The gap I assume comes down to what you do next, lifestyle, environment, emotional state.... and luck.
I met this lady for a long walk this week.... Apart from trying to throw herself over the cliffs between the Chasms and Port Erin along the coastal path it was a lovely walk (she slipped off a rock on to her bum then rolled on to her front and began to fall head first.  My words were 'Come here you' (strange I know) as I leapt to grab her ankle.  All faired well, though I'm sure she will be suffering some serious bruising on her bum!  Her oncologist Justin, is a bit special.  He is involved in developing treatments, rather than simply listening to what the pharmaceutical sales force tells him what the drugs are supposed to do and how to go about administering them.  His group 'Action Against Cancer' have discovered a related gene which can interfere with current treatment regimes.... But the current treatment regimes need to change anyway.... But this guy is also supportive and compassionate.... It doesn't feel like she's just another woman with breast cancer to him.  This in itself is hugely important.  It makes her feel like she can beat the cancer.  She feels supported emotionally.  It's great to find practitioners like this.

Here are some facts and figures from 2013 from the US based charity The National Cancer Coalition.... If you're not interested in facts and figures simply skip the next italisized paragraphs.....


The trends for breast cancer incidence and mortality have not changed since NBCC issued its Baseline Report in 2011. The overall number of women being diagnosed continues to increase as the population ages, though the rate remains constant, and mortality continues to decline slightly.
Worldwide, breast cancer accounts for nearly a quarter of all cancers in women. In 2008, there were 1.4 million women diagnosed with breast cancer and in 2010 there were 438,000 deaths from the disease globally.2 In the United States in 2013, it is estimated that more than 296,000 women and 2,240 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer, and 39,620 women and 410 men will die of the disease. That is one death every 14 minutes.

By any standard, we have not made adequate progress. Despite years of campaigns to raise awareness, ever expanding screening programs, increased fundraising efforts and more research, there has been little impact on the important outcomes in breast cancer. Breast cancer incidence and mortality have not changed significantly. In 2030, with no major changes in prevention or treatment, it is estimated that 747,802 women will die from breast cancer worldwide. In the United States, the chance of a woman developing breast cancer during her lifetime has increased from about 1 in 11 in 1975 to 1 in 8 today. US breast cancer mortality has been declining but only slightly.
In 1991, in the United States, 119 women died of breast cancer every day. This year, that number is estimated to be 108. If we continue making progress at the current rate, it could take a few centuries to end breast cancer.

These are not merely statistics, they represent millions of lives. These losses are unacceptable.

Overall incidence of breast cancer has fluctuated over the years. Recently, researchers at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) projected that the overall breast cancer incidence rate will stay the same through 2016. The median age at diagnosis remains at 61 years. Because of increased screening beginning in 1980, there has been a dramatic increase in the incidence of ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), abnormal cells contained within the milk ducts that have not spread to other parts of the body. Most of DCIS will never become cancer. However, we are not able to distinguish between the harmful kind of DCIS (that will develop into cancer) and the harmless kind; as a result, many women are treated with interventions that will not help them and could hurt them.5

Mortality & Survival
Despite fluctuations in breast cancer incidence, and dramatic increases in the use of mammography, there has only been a slow, gradual decrease in the rate of breast cancer deaths, or breast cancer mortality, over time.

Women do not die of primary breast cancer. More than 90% of breast cancer deaths are due to the spread of the disease to other parts of the body. While we want to believe we have made significant progress in saving lives, that is not the case. The incidence of women diagnosed with advanced breast cancer has not changed.

'If you want to commit time to really understanding where we are at globally with breast cancer please read the Breast Cancer Coalition's pdf, just scan over the figures from page 9 to 16 if there is too much. The above is from pages 9 and 10... If you would rather not, then please don't get bogged down in the reality of where we are at with it all.'

I read through the beautiful cards I received after Amanda's passing every now and again..... I read one a few days ago, from a lady who lost her husband in a motorcycle accident, she is a great friend of us both.  She said I had a choice, and the best one was to acknowledge what has happened, dust myself off and get on with life.  Take up every invite I get as it will help me to get out and about.... and this is what I've tried to do.  
Every Saturday my wonderful brother and sister-in-law Tina have me around for a huge three course home cooked meal.  Jess (20) & Jim (14... hmmm maybe 15), Tina's lovely children are usually there too which adds more fun and mayhem to proceedings.  Thank you all so much for Saturday evenings.  I love them.
Then a friend invited me to join them on their 33 ft sailing boat on Sunday morning for a race from Douglas to Port Soderick and back.... It was beautiful, cool and refreshing!  
Whenever Cam suggests we get out for a spot of fishing I do my damndest to be enthused, but it's not always easy....

Last night I decided to head out in to the frosty darkness to try a few new techniques with my camera equipment.  I arrived at the Chasms Cafe in total darkness at 7.15pm.... Then began.  With slow shutter photography, where you aim to catch the movement of the earth, which is reflected in the star trails on the final image, you need to occupy yourself for a an hour or more whilst the camera sits there constantly recording the planet's movments via the pin prick trails of light......
I set up the camera and then settled in to a meditation.  I was well wrapped up, the temperature was down to a chilly 5 degrees by the time I packed up at 9pm.
My initial mediation was based on bringing a light focus to the out breath, then on keeping the mind clear.  Everytime a thought dropped in it would be acknowledged then let slide away..... I did this for the first exposure of 45 minutes.

The second exposure I decided to bring my focus on to mine and Amanda's travels, beginning at Thailand we we started our adventure.  I played through 30 days of travel in my mind, aiming to remember as much as I could.  The troubles, the smiles, the hassles and the love and laughter.  It was wonderful.  I even caught myself sitting cross legged with the tiniest, gentle smile as I meditated/reflected on our wonderful experiences.  It was silent at The Chasms.  Silent and dark.  Just the stars for company....

I will go there again and think about my love.... think about our love.... and hopefully smile again.

Pink Ribbons - Pleeeeeease no.....

Amanda did the Moonwalk, which was pink....but the whole Pink Ribbon thing is just aiming to bring a bit of 'pickness/fluffiness' to a brutal disease that is killing 10's of thousands of women every year. Plus much of the money doesn't even go towards helping these women even indirectly.... Same with Cancer 'bloody' another fairly useless attempt at a cancer charity. There are literally loads of them out there, some really well established. Some which are merely business entities. There are a couple of decent ones out there. Action Against Cancer and The National Breast Cancer Coalition to name but two.... But there are so many where vast swathes of cash are invested badly. Like Cancer Research UKs British American Tobacco investment of £90 million, until it was found to be invested unethically. I know everyone doesn't have the time to investigate every 'charity' or 'research' company, but the Pink Ribbon does get the backs up of a lot of women who are actually suffering or have suffered from breast cancer. Rather than a pink ribbon, there should be a picture of woman who has just had a mastectomy, or a woman suffering throws of chemotherapy... Breast cancer is not pink nor is it pretty. I'm sure you can see where I'm coming from on this one.

The Bench....

 So I've had three full day letter carving lessons from Mr Simon Capelen. Local wood carver extraordinaire.

I've worked on pine (nice and soft - easy) and oak (tougher, harder wood - more difficult).... The Teak Root will be even harder, even more brittle and knotty, plus I won't be able to use a couple of G clamps to hold it in place.... and the surface is curved.... It's a challenge. I await my chisels to arrive... then I'll practise a little more, then I'll let loose on the bench. A few simple words from me, then a few words that would have meant something to Amanda.

I'm a little frightened of turning an 
already beautiful bench in to a scarified hunk of wood. I can guarantee whatever happens, however it looks, it will have been done with all the heart and soul.