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Support: Emotional, Financial and Mental

I wanted to start this blog with a shout out to the person who has been with me through this whole journey, accompanying me on every appointment, taking on the household chores without complaining, cooking meals, giving me a hug and words of encouragement when I’m feeling down and that’s Phil, my husband. I know when we exchanged wedding vows we said, “In sickness and in health,” but when you’re young, you don’t think that will apply until much later in your married life. I know it’s hard for him to take in what’s going on but he’s dealt with it so wonderfully and I don’t think I could ever repay him.

My best friend

Support comes in many different ways, emotional, physical, mental and financial and I have been overwhelmed by the level of support I have received from family, friends, healthcare professionals, neighbours and work colleagues.

Family is an important support system and my family haven’t failed in this respect with lots of messages of support, flower deliveries, visits and even a handwritten letter through the post! It’s lovely to know that they are all thinking of me and sending me get well vibes.

Friends are another important part of this journey, whether it’s having a cup of coffee in their house, going out for a drink, going for a walk with them or just messaging words of support and checking in to make sure that I’m okay. I have one particular friend who battled breast cancer and won, she is an inspiration to me and she kept a blog about her journey…

Click picture for link to Me, You, Us and Breast Cancer blog

Apart from friends and family, there’s also the professional support from the Macmillan nurses, district nurses, consultants and organisations.

At each consultancy appointment there has been a Macmillan nurse in attendance, always there to provide information when we’re not too sure what is being said, nothing is too much trouble for them. When I was in hospital Phil went down to the shops and Hannah, a Macmillan nurse saw that he was looking distressed and immediately went over to him and had a chat with him, even though it was her lunch break.

Phil is a keen runner and has ran numerous 10K races, so he has entered himself for the Bristol 10K on 14th May, 2023 and is running to raise money for Macmillan.

Click to donate to Phil’s 10K run

There is a place called Maggie’s at Southampton General Hospital which provides free cancer support and provides all sorts of information, workshops, therapy and even financial information. We visited there before a consultant appointment and were very impressed by the work they do there. We sat down and had a chat with one of the staff, it was a very relaxed atmosphere and you could have a free cup of tea or coffee.

Whilst at Maggie’s we wanted to speak with the financial person. I am self employed and so as such am not receiving any money whilst I am having treatment, so we wanted to know what we could apply for and how we go about doing it. Unfortunately she was busy with another couple so we left our contact details being assured that she would contact us in a couple of days.

Meanwhile I set about seeing what I could claim myself and after perusing the Bowel Cancer Support Group UK, which is a great group to find help and advice, I discovered I could apply for ESA (Employment and Support Allowance) and PIP (Personal Independence Payment). I am now receiving the ESA payment, but am waiting on the decision regarding the PIP payment.

True to their word, the financial lady from Maggie’s phoned me and she asked what I had applied for, when I told her I had done the ESA and PIP she said that that was the main ones, but had I applied for the Macmillan grant? I replied that I hadn’t known about that and after asking me for my bank details she then informed me that £350 would be in my account next week! She also said that if I get refused the PIP payment then make an appointment to see her and she’ll fill out the appeal form. So I would definitely recommend a visit to Maggie’s.

Mental wellbeing is a tough one. I know that positive thinking goes a long way to help with the process, but sometimes I’m not in that headspace and the slightest thing can turn me into a blubbering wreck. But I have learned that on the good days, you need to take advantage and as I love all things creative I try to do a bit of art work, whether it’s with polymer clay, watercolour paints or just drawing. I watch YouTube videos of people creating art work and that inspires me to try myself, so the other day I made some polymer flowers, which I was quite pleased with. It made me forget about the word, Cancer, and get lost in an artistic bubble.

Polymer flowers

Of course, writing these blog posts does a lot of good for my mental health as it is quite cathartic and it reminds me that I have a lot of love and support and that I’m not alone in this battle with bowel cancer!

Coming Home for Christmas

My bed in hospital was next to the nurse’s station and one morning I heard those magical words…

"Bed Grey 6, Karen Williams, she is due for discharge today."

Of course I was excited and when the doctor’s did their rounds they confirmed the news, on the proviso that I have a CT scan and that my blood markers came back today all okay.

My porter arrived with the wheelchair to take me to the CT scan, she was a very slight woman but I think she must have been in a rush because we zoomed down the corridors, leaving doctors, nurses and patients in our wake. I clung hold of the arm rests of the wheelchair fearing for my safety and was very relieved when we made it to the scanning room intact. “Some one else will pick you up afterwards,” she informed which, which I was very relieved to hear!

I returned to my ward much more sedately and even had time to talk about the weather to my new porter.

I had my bloods done, after a lot of sighing and tapping of my arm to find a vein by the phlebotomist and the waiting game began and eventually in the afternoon they came back as fine. The nurse on the ward came with my prescriptions from the pharmacy, antibiotics in tablet form, steroids and an injection to thin my blood.

Wait, what? I was going to have to inject myself every night? I had the injection on the ward but the nurse did it for me. She showed me how to do it on a tester pad and I was okay at it, but that wasn’t going in my stomach, I was feeling very panicked about doing that every night for another two weeks.

The discharge procedure was fairly quick and soon Phil was driving me home the Thursday before Christmas. I rested when I got home, warily watching the clock as it speeded towards 8 o’clock, the time of the first injection. I disappeared in the bathroom and got the injection out, the needle wasn’t very long, so I pinched my stomach as I had been shown and injected into it, pushed the liquid inside and held it there for four seconds. It wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be and soon got into a routine of going upstairs and doing it.

MRI Scanner

Two days after being discharged I had to go for a MRI scan. As I was prepped to go into the tunnel, they asked if I wanted to listen to music as the machine was very loud, I chose what they were already listening to which was 70s soul. It seemed to take forever and it felt like being inside a washing machine. The last rumblings sounded like the final spin on a washing machine and I hoped it was the last round of x-rays, which thank goodness it was. It wasn’t until I got out of the scanner that I thought to myself, “Why didn’t I ask to listen to Abba? My favourite group of all time?” Note to self: next scan ask for Abba!

Christmas was a lovely family affair, we had two Christmases, one with Phil’s parents, our daughter, Amy and son-in-law Dave and the two grandchildren, Olivia and Harry and then another one on the 27th December with my son, Jack and his fiancée, Zoe, together with Amy and Dave and the grandchildren.

Our Two Christmases

After Christmas and New Year it was a bump back to reality with two meetings with the oncologist consultant, Professor Iveson and the surgeon, Dr. West.

Professor Iveson explained the chemotherapy treatment to me which was six treatments every two weeks, which would take three months. The chemotherapy used is called FOLOX and he told me the side affects which to expect to experience: throat spasms if I drank anything too cold, neurology affecting my fingers and feet if they got too cold, feeling hot or flushed, feeling dizzy. Luckily with this treatment I wouldn’t be losing my hair, just a general thinning of it. I would need to have a PICC line inserted which is a long thing tube which is inserted into a vein in your arm and passed through to the larger veins near your heart. I didn’t really like the sound of that, but it will negate my having to have cannulas all the time, so that was a big plus for me.

The meeting with Dr. West, the surgeon, was a bit of a shocker if I’m honest. He was very forthright and informed us that according to the CT scan it looked like the cancer had attached itself to my bladder, but on the MRI scan it showed that it might just be pushed up against it, but he wouldn’t find out until he operated what was actually going on. He told us that I would be having a new treatment called HIPEC (Hyperthermic Intraperitoneal Chemotherapy). From what we understood, it is a procedure that floods the area of the tumour with a chemotherapy solution over a 90 minute period. I have linked a video which explains it a lot better than I can!

Dr. West did tell us that we had a choice of whether to go ahead with the treatment or not, but warned us that if I opted for no chemotherapy or the operation then I would have about a year to live. So of course, we opted to have all the treatment! He did say that if the bladder was infected I may lose it and end up with two bags, one for poo and one for wee, but that’s just something I would have to live with, it’s better than the other alternative!

Both consultants stressed the need for exercise for both the chemotherapy and the operation, so I have been going out for walks with a friend, Lisa, about 3.5k twice a week and I walked the local Park Run, 5K, with another friend called Lisa and in between days I have been going out for walks by myself around our village.

As we were leaving the Dr. West appointment, he said to us, “Don’t forget you’re not alone, you’ve got a big team supporting you.” I knew what he meant, at every consultancy meeting there has been a Macmillan nurse there, in the background, but giving reassuring words when needed. Whilst in hospital I was visited by the stoma nurse, a physiotherapist, Macmillan nurses, doctors and nurses, all of which were so understanding and helpful, nothing was too much trouble. As well as the professional teams, I have had wonderful support from family, friends, Facebook groups and work colleagues, old and new. I will do a separate blog about support, as it is such an important part of this journey.

I have to admit that after the meeting with Dr. West, Phil and I went to the M&S cafe in the Southampton General Hospital and I was fighting to hold back the tears and Phil was visibly upset, it felt like we had just been told that I had cancer again. But at least now we are more readily prepared for what is going to happen in the future.

We spent the next couple of weeks visiting family: Amy and Dave and the grandkids, my brother, Frank and sister-in-law, Krys in Buckingham, visiting friends and having friends round, we even hosted a Burn’s Night, just to keep our minds off what was looming in the future.

So the next challenge was having the PICC line inserted and then the day after starting chemotherapy…. wish me luck!

Two Weeks and One Day in Hospital

(Not that I was counting!)

Waking up the next morning after my eventful night with the leaking stoma bag, I felt like I had been punched in the stomach. I wasn’t keen on looking at my stomach and so kept the blanket firmly over my tummy.

A visit from Dr West, the surgeon, during the morning rounds confirmed that the operation had gone well was welcome news and I laid back in bed contemplating what had happened in the last 24 hours.

It was a female ward and the lady opposite quickly made herself known to me and introduced herself as Christine and I thanked her for her help during the night in getting the nurse’s attention.

My course of treatment was basically antibiotics to heal the tumour which were administered through a cannula. Well, so began my love/hate relationship with cannulas, so much so that I ended up with bruises all over my hands and arms in the many attempts to get a needle in.

I was allowed a beef broth and ice cream for lunch and tea, which the beef froth I became a little addicted to, which was just as well as that was all I was allowed to drink for another few days.

There were still Covid regulations being followed so I was only allowed one visitor for an hour a day, which was obviously Phil on most days, but during my stay I did have a couple of visits from my daughter, Amy, and two friends came for a visit which definitely broke up the monotony.

A stay in hospital if you’re not in particular pain can be very boring, but you do get used to the routine of hospital life. You learn what time they wake you up to take your blood pressure: 6:00 AM, breakfast is served at 7:00 AM and the doctors do their rounds at 8:00 AM. Drug run is after that and then not too much goes on unless you have a particular professional coming to speak to you. Lunch is at 12:00 AM and then visitors can come after 2:00 PM. Dinner at 5:00 PM and then the night drug run starts at around 8:00 PM.

I had to have antibiotics three times a day and it was a time I became to dread because it wasn’t given by a drip but by a pump and because the cannula I had used a small valve it blew it out and I would then be in unbelievable pain. I must have had a new cannula every day with the same result until I begged that they give me the antibiotics orally, which I was told was not feasible.

I got myself into a state, crying and saying that I couldn’t do it any longer, when the matron turned up. She gave me a hug and asked if she could try, I shrugged and said, “You can have a go if you want to.” Well, she found a vein straight away and this cannula stayed in until I left hospital, I was a very happy patient!

Halfway through my hospital stay I moved to a lower dependency ward, although at first I wasn’t happy as I liked where I was, it ended up being much nicer.

There is a standing joke between our friends that Phil knows somebody wherever we are. It even happened a year ago, we were walking along a dock in Barbados to board a cruise ship when we hear someone call out his name – it was an ex-police officer who was now working on security on board!

Well, you can guess where this is going – there was a new lady who joined our ward and as soon as Phil walked into the ward, he said hello to her. She works in one of the units which Phil is in charge of! It was nice to have somebody to talk to, we shared our stories and gave words of encouragement when feeling a bit down. It was quite sad for me when she was discharged, but I was very pleased for her!

There were also some characters on the ward, one who decided to discharge herself the day after she had had her operation, got dressed and simply left the ward. Another one who had nightmares and hallucinations during the night and every morning asked me if I had heard the ghosts in the corridor… I didn’t.

Ghostly picture…

All the time I was painfully aware that Christmas was approaching and I definitely didn’t want to be in hospital during that time. So it was a huge relief when I was eventually discharged on 22nd December, 2022, I was going to see my family at Christmas!!

Adjusting to life with a stoma bag

I could faintly hear a voice saying, “Wake up Karen, wake up,” and as I opened my eyes I could see I was in the recovery room. “Everything went well,” I was reassured, “and now we’re taking you back to the ward.” I nodded, feeling my eyes close once again.

Once we were back on the ward I could tell that I was hooked up to all kinds of machines and I felt like I had been punched in the stomach. It was around nine o’clock and so I fell back into a sleep.

I woke up in the middle of the night, something wasn’t right, I felt down my right side, it was sodden, well everything was, my gown and my sheets were drenched. I thought the worst, “I’m bleeding out,” and I looked for the alarm button but couldn’t find it. Luckily, the lady opposite me was up out of her bed and so I asked her to fetch somebody for me, which she duly did.

Two nurses came, one was a huge man, they took one look at me and gasped. On closer inspection they discovered that my stoma bag hadn’t been closed at the bottom and so all the waste was going straight through. So the male nurse gathered me up in his arms, (yes, he was that strong!) and sat me down next to the bed while the other nurse stripped the bed.

I was past caring as the male nurse wiped me down, carefully avoiding all the tubes and changed my gown, I just stood obediently half asleep, waiting to be lifted back in bed.

The next morning the stoma nurse visited me. I hadn’t really looked at the bag and to be honest, I wasn’t sure that I wanted to and when I told her about the leaking stoma bag she said, “Well, that’s a great introduction to having one!” She showed me how to empty it into a bowl while I was laying in bed and said she’d be back in a couple of days to show me how to change the bag. I wasn’t really looking forward to that, but I knew it was something I would have to get used to.

As the days went on I became more confident in handling the stoma bag, I still had to empty it in a bowl, so that the nurses could record the flow and sometimes it made me feel a bit queasy but overall it was okay.

The stoma nurse showed me how to change the bag, which entailed measuring the stoma and cutting a hole to fit it, cleaning it, cleaning the skin around it and putting it on so that it sat nicely on your stomach. It does feel good when you have a new bag on. (I never thought I’d say that!)

I spent the next two weeks in hospital (which I will go into more detail in a separate blog) and during that time me and my stoma got to know each other a little better each day. I was on a low fibre diet and things like sweeetcorn, peas, skins on potatoes, skins on fruits, nuts, seeds, spicy food, are all a total no no. The menu at the hospital was:

I was discharged by the stoma nurses after seeing them three times and showing I could change a bag by myself and it became routine emptying it, day and night.

I was given a bag of supplies provided by a company called Fittleworth, which are of no cost, so you just telephone them when you need some more supplies. There are lots of different stoma bags available, so if you can’t get on with one, there’s always another to try. I was having trouble with red skin around the stoma, so they changed the bag to a more raised one and that is much better.

So, when I was discharged from the hospital, me and my stoma went home, did it go well? You’ll find out in my next blog about Life At Home With A Stoma Bag…

An Unplanned Operation

In the days following the colonoscopy, I began to feel unwell, having trouble going to the toilet, feeling very tired and having to drink all the time.

We went to a Carol Service in Winchester Cathedral but I missed most of it as I was sat on the toilet in the deep bowels (!) of the cathedral. I let Phil run wild with the Christmas decorations, putting up decorations that I normally left in the boxes, but I was too tired to argue and just laid on the settee watching him, biting my tongue.

I missed Christmas events because I simply felt too poorly to go and would lay in bed after I’d finished my work (I work from home) and take an hours nap, but still feel tired when I woke up.

I went for a CT scan, where they had the usual problem of inserting a cannula in my arm, my veins don’t like it and magically disappear at the sight of a needle! That went okay, the feeling of having wet yourself at one point during the scan sure felt weird!

Then the symptoms stepped up a notch, I felt extraordinary tired, I felt hot, I felt cold, I uncontrollably shivered, even though I was under the duvet fully clothed with a jumper on. Once I was tempted to phone for an ambulance, but I had an appointment with the consultant the next day so I decided that I would tell him instead.

We arrived for the consultation and everything seemed to be going well until I mentioned the pain in my stomach and the feverish symptoms and the consultant decided that I needed an emergency CT scan to see what was going on.

I was admitted to a hospital bed to wait for my CT scan, it was about 7 PM at this time. We decided it was best for Phil to go home because who knew what time I would be taken down, so he left waiting for the call to come and collect me.

I went down for my second CT scan and then had to wait for the result.

I was told that the tumour had perforated and that was why I was in a lot of pain, I was to be transferred to the Surgical Unit and prepared for an operation. I was moved to the new ward at 2 AM, dozing on and off until the morning.

I was visited by the consultant, who I know now was Mr West and he explained to me what he was going to do. He was going to give me a stoma bag so that the poo will bypass the tumour and not infect it more, then they were going to pump me full of antibiotics.

I had a visit from a stoma nurse who marked on my stomach where the stoma was going to be placed, she explained what it did, but I didn’t really take it all in. Hannah, the Macmillan nurse came and spoke with me, but again, I can’t remember much about what was said.

Unbeknown to me, the consultant had phoned Phil and told him to come over to the hospital to see me before I went down for the operation as it was pretty serious, they didn’t know what they were going to find whilst operating.

After seeing Phil and putting those delightful stockings on, I was taken down to the theatre, I was shaking, not from a fever this time, but from nerves. The operating staff were lovely, making me relax before I drifted off…

The Colonoscopy

The day before the colonoscopy I had to take some laxatives to clear my bowels, not that there was much in them as I hadn’t had much to eat in the previous few days. The Screening Programme sent me a package containing sachets of Klean prep to be taken at 9 AM, midday, 3 PM and 6PM with one litre of water.

I managed to force down the first lot, but at midday the thought of drinking another litre was frankly vomit inducing. But, I tried and every mouthful came back up much quicker than it went down. This wasn’t gonna happen, so I phoned the Screening Programme to explain what was going on. The lady informed me that there was another product I could try which was called MoviPrep and that it was more palatable than Klean, not a lot, but a bit. I was willing to try anything at this point and so she said she would bring it round to my house, which was unbelievably kind of her.

So, after some advice to dilute it with a juice (not blackcurrant) and drink it through a straw, I powered through and managed to complete the course of treatment.

The next day I arrived at Southampton General Hospital, said goodbye to Phil and ventured up to the Endoscopy Department. After filling in a questionnaire about my health (I had already gone through this via a telephone call a couple of days before), I was led into a room.

After signing a waiver in case anything went wrong, a cannula was inserted and I was taken to the treatment room.

I think it struck me there and then when I was laying on the treatment table that this could be serious. They asked if I would like to watch what was happening and I said that I would, so they moved the screen closer to me.

I watched and all seemed to be going well until I noticed a change in the atmosphere, things got a little serious and they moved the screen further from me, I guessed things weren’t as straightforward as I’d hoped.

After the colonoscopy I was taken to a recovery ward where one of nurses said to me that the doctor would like to speak with me and my husband about his findings. I knew then why this was and I laid in the bed staring blankly in front of me, dreading the moment when I saw the doctor.

We were led into a small room where the doctor, the lady from the screening programme and a Macmillan nurse were waiting for us. My heart sank as I saw the Macmillan nurse, confirming what my suspicions were. The doctor pulled no punches, he told us they had found a tumour and he had done this job long enough to know that it was cancer. They were sending off a biopsy but he was going to go ahead and get things in motion as there was no point in waiting for the result of the biopsy.

The doctor and the lady from the screening programme left and we were sat with the Macmillan nurse, I looked at Phil who was in tears and I started to cry as well, we couldn’t believe it was happening.

The Macmillan nurse was super supportive, explaining next steps and handing us some brochures, reassuring us and answering any questions we had.

We left the hospital in a bit of a daze, knowing that the hardest part was still to come – telling our children and family and friends what we had just found out.

The very beginning…

I have thought long and hard about writing this blog about what has happened to me in the last six weeks, to be honest it seems like I’m talking about somebody else, it’s all still a bit surreal.

I spoke to friends and family who all encouraged me to share my experiences in the hope that it might help somebody else who is going through the same tough time as I am.

I can remember the very first time I was in terrible pain, my stomach felt like there were knives inside carving me up. It was the afternoon of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee Bank Holiday, I was in tears with the pain and so we went to a walk-in clinic, but typically as I waited to see the doctor the pain subsided. When the doctor examined me he couldn’t find anything wrong, put it down to a virus and prescribed me some diarrhoea sachets.

A few days later my doctor phoned me up, he did sound concerned and told me that if I had the pain again to go and see him straight away, this did worry me a little but as I wasn’t in pain anymore I forgot all about it.

Skip forward three months and we are going on a cruise in America. I wasn’t feeling that great, I had a stomach ache and found myself sitting on the toilet far more frequently that I ever did before. My poo varied from healthy to slimy to containing some blood, but I put it down to stress: preparing for the holiday, getting work done before we went, etc.

I can remember that whilst we were on the plane the stomach pain got worse, I couldn’t face any food and couldn’t concentrate on watching a film or reading a book. For the first three days of the holiday I wasn’t feeling good, sticking to bland food (such a waste with the wonderful food that was on offer), but I felt it would be better for me.

Then the pain stopped and I started to eat the lovely food and I put it down to being able to relax on the ship and taking it easy.

Once home, there was a bowel cancer screening kit waiting for me, I wondered if this was a sign, of course I had Googled my symptoms and also the symptoms of bowel cancer, but I never for one moment thought that was what I had, thinking it would be IBS or maybe even piles.

So I duly did my sample, noting that there was blood in the poo and thinking to myself, “That’s a good one to send them, hopefully they’ll tell me what’s wrong.”

About a week later I got a letter from the Bowel Cancer Screening Programme to say that my kit result showed that further tests were needed. I had to have a colonoscopy to detect if it was bowel cancer or not, or whether it was polyps which would be removed during the colonoscopy.

I had the date of my colonoscopy: 22nd November, 2022, to say I was nervous is an understatement.

End of an Era – The Walking Dead

Wow – I cannot believe that the FINAL episode of The Walking Dead is upon us. I remember watching the very first episode some ten years ago on the recommendation of a friend and it fast became my favourite TV series of all time.

I even got my husband into it and when I watched the first episode (again) with him, I felt jealous that he was able to watch all the episodes for the first time.

My favourite episodes

Days Gone By – Season 1, Episode 1

I have lost count of the amount of times I have watched this episode. It really is the perfect start to the Walking Dead, from the little girl walker, to meeting Morgan, our first encounter with a herd and the epic ending of Rick being trapped in the tank and the immortal words from Glen: “Hey you! Dumbass! Yeah, you in the tank. Cozy in there?”

It also gave us the iconic image of Rick riding horseback into Atlanta.

Better Angels – Season 2, Episode 12

An episode that highlights the fact that you do not need to be bitten to turn into a walker. When they find Randall and he has turned, they cannot find any bitemarks or scratches and of course, when Rick kills Shane with a knife, he reanimates and it is up to Carl to shoot him and put him down, unfortunately this draws the attention of a nearby herd…

Hard hitting episode with the demise of Shane, but there is also a heart warming scene between Rick and Carl about morality as Carl is feeling guilty about causing the death of Dale. Rick comforts Carl telling him that death is always inevitable and there is no way to prepare for it.

Killer Within – Season 3, Episode 4

An episode that saw us losing two main characters: T-Dog and Lori.

The prison is overrun by walkers as somebody has broken the latch on the front gate of the prison and then to add to their misery, the prison alarm is set off, attracting more walkers.

T-Dog is bitten on the shoulder and he then heroically holds off the walkers to save Carol, but ends up being eaten alive. His body is found torn apart and ravaged.

Meanwhile, Lori goes into labour and Maggie has to do a Casarean. Lori dies during this procedure and Carl has to put his mother down before she turns, by shooting her in the head. Rick searched for Lori, hears a baby crying and when he sees that Lori is not with Carl, he assumes the worst and breaks down.

The Grove – Season 4, Episode 14

An episode that concentrated on the complex behaviour of Lizzie, whose obsession with the walkers was at best odd. She thought it was okay to kill people so they could live on as walkers and she kills Mika to prove her point, almost doing the same to Judith.

Carol and Tyreese decide that Lizzie is a danger and Carol has to put her down, saying the infamous line, “Just look at the flowers, Lizzie.”

No Sanctuary – Season 5, Episode 1

At the end of Season 4, they are at the cannibal capital of the world, Terminus being held prisoner in a train car, but we have faith when Rick states, “They’re going to feel pretty stupid when they find out they’re screwing with the wrong people!”

They are taken to the human slaughterhouse, where the bludgeoning and throat slitting takes place. Rick stalls for time and they hear an explosion, Carol has set off a rocket into the gas bottles. They all escape and the group reunites, where Rick and Carl are overjoyed to see that Judith is still alive. (Lump in throat time).

The Day Will Come When You Won’t Be – Season 7, Episode 1

The build up to this episode was epic, with everybody asking the question, “Who did Negan kill?” There were many theories, many suggestions, but in this episode we found out that it was Abraham and Glenn. (I do feel that in future episodes it was always about Glenn, they seemed to forget that Abraham was the first one and Glenn only got killed because Daryl kicked off!)

Negan is played brilliantly by Jeffrey Dean Morgan as the psychotic but somehow charismatic leader of the Saviors. Rick is given the choice, either cut off Carl’s arm or watch his group get shot down. But at the last second Negan tells him, “You answer to me. You provide for me,” to which Rick agrees, thus setting up the rest of the season…

The Calm Before – Season 9, Episode 15

A disguised Alpha infiltrates the Kingdom’s community fair and after selecting her victims, they go missing, to later be found with their heads on pikes. The victims include Enid, Tara and Henry. Siddiq tells the remaining people how they put up a fight, as he witnessed it and managed to escape.

So, that’s my pick, there are other episodes that I simply adore, but if I listed them all then this blog would be far too long.

There will be a Walking Dead void in my life, but we have the spin offs to enjoy, hopefully they will be just as heart wrenching, amazing and gory as the TV series!!


Tuesday, 25th October, 2022

So today is a special day – it’s Phil’s BIRTHDAY!

Today we docked at St. Maarten, which is both Dutch and French territories. We have been here before about 15 years ago when we cruised on the Queen Mary 2, but we couldn’t remember much about it. I am half Dutch, so it was of interest to me to see the Dutch side of the island.

We went up to the top deck and admired the view, one thing we did notice however, that there were lots of butterflies on the ship, we wondered if it was mating season for them or something like that?

We had booked a trip on an open top double decker bus, which will take us around the island stopping off at a fishing village, the beach where the airplanes land almost on top of your heads, a rum factory and a Dutch shop.

The tour guide and bus driver were very friendly and after a quick introduction we were on our way. There was a lovely breeze when the bus got moving, which was very welcome as it was an extremely hot day.

As we drove along the sometimes ropey roads, we noticed how friendly everyone was, stopping and waving to us, you did have to keep your wits about you however, as some of the branches of the trees on the kerbside would whip past your head.

Our first stop was a little fishing village, which coincidentally had a market that day, but as we had been remiss and not brought a cold drink with us, we searched for a cafe and bought a mango crush, which was very refreshing.

We did wander around the market, but got a bit fed up with the sellers badgering us to buy something, so we went and sat down and admired the view, it really was beautiful.

Our next stop was Maho Beach, where we were hoping to see a jumbo jet land, unfortunately we weren’t lucky, we did see a small aircraft but it wasn’t anything great. So, I have put a YouTube video below where you can see the big planes landing…

What we were hoping to see…

This sign is a BIG disclaimer…

Back on board and it was time to visit the rum factory. I’m not a great lover of rum, but once inside the factory, there were several different flavours to try, of course we had to try all of them, some of them were very alcoholic, but they were very flavourful.

Our last stop was back on the Dutch side, where we went into a shop and I was in my element as they sold Dutch liquorice. I bought a couple of packets, one for me and one for my brother, fingers crossed I don’t eat both packets before we get home!

Then it was time to get back on board the ship, when we had a quick lunch, not too much as we were going to Alice in Wonderland in the evening, and a Johnny Rocket’s milkshake and went back to the cabin.

It was Caribbean Night on board the boat, so we put on our most colourful tops and headed to Alice in Wonderland to celebrate Phil’s birthday with our friends.

This was one of the best meals we have eaten in a specialty restaurant on board any ship and we’ve eaten in most of them! I even ate a big shrimp, something I have never even been willing to try before. It was simply stunning, the waiter was very attentive, the atmosphere was very relaxed and we even had a visit from the Mad Hatter!

And Phil’s birthday celebrations didn’t stop there! We then headed to the stern of the ship to watch Hiro, the show in the aqua theatre. It was outstanding, my favourite being the two men on the high wire and their incredible routine on the low wire.

After an evening night cap, I think Phil had to agree that it had been a pretty special birthday.

Take a look at the video:

To see a video of what we got up to with lots more photographs and videos, take a look at the YouTube video:

And Lastly:


Monday, 24th October, 2022

Phil woke up feeling 100 percent better, we had arranged to have breakfast in the MDR with Denise and Ian at 9:00 AM, but he couldn’t wait that long as he was VERY hungry and besides he had a lot of catching up to do as he barely ate anything yesterday.

He hot-footed it to the Windjammer and came back with drinks and a couple of Danish pastries to tide him over until breakfast.

We met our friends outside the restaurant and had a waiter-served breakfast, it was a nice, civilized start to the day. I was naughty and had French toast with jam and syrup and fresh cream, while Phil had his favourite breakfast: Eggs Benedict.

We went back to the cabin and couldn’t believe how loud the music from the Carousel was, even with the patio door shut, the noise was still VERY loud. I said that he was probably relieved it wasn’t that noisy yesterday when he was ill!

We had a couple of hours to pass by as we were going to meet our friends at 12:00 noon for the napkin folding in On Air, followed by a 90s music quiz. So we decided to take a walk around The Boardwalk, we had already spied Johnny Rockets and wanted to try their milkshakes which were available on the refreshment package and there was also a sweet shop which definitely needed investigating!

In the top photo I have circled in blue our balcony, as you can see, it was right next to the carousel.

We were on Deck 8, which is the same deck as Central Park, but The Broadwalk is two decks down on Deck 6, which took me a while to get my head around as I thought they were both on the same deck!

As we entered the Broadwalk, we immediately saw why the music was so loud today – there was a Dixie band playing right underneath our balcony!

We had a look in the amusements and of course the sweet shop and then had a walk through Central Park. Phil took a video of this walk, something that a lot of people were doing during this cruise.

Walk through Central Park

It was time to go to the napkin folding demonstration – as Phil’s job, pre-Covid, involved at least 40 weddings a year, he was a dab hand at some napkin folding techniques, but forever wishing to expand his breadth of knowledge of this particular skill, we decided to give it a go.

When the instructor arrived, let’s just say he wasn’t exactly who we thought would be teaching us, I was sure I had seen him teaching line dancing earlier, we were really expecting a waiter to show us.

We were all given an instruction sheet (not the one pictured) and of course, a napkin!

Well, from the outset it was very apparent that he had no idea what he was doing, maybe because he said, “This is the first time I have ever done napkin folding, my boss just told me to come here and do this.”

Somehow, he managed to show us the first napkin folding technique, but the second one completely floored him. An American lady managed to do it and he asked her to come down to the front and show all of us how it was done! It was very funny watching him try to do it, he was laughing as much as any of us. I think he was quite thankful when it came to the end of the session and he could go back to his day job.

We stayed in On Air as there was a 90’s music quiz next, we weren’t sure if it would have mainly American hits, but we do like a quiz, so we stayed where we were.

We didn’t do too badly scoring 24 out of 30 and yes, there were some English songs, so we were quite pleased with ourselves.

There was an afternoon showing of Hairspray in the theatre, so I took Phil to see it as obviously he had missed it the day before and he enjoyed it very much.

After dinner at the MDR, we went to watch the ice show, 1977, which was about a time-travelling hero, Tempus and Her Majesty’s Crown Jewels which have been stolen on the eve of the Silver Jubilee.

The ice skating was extraordinary, especially on a smaller ice rink, it was a bit chilly though, so remember to take a jumper or cardigan to wrap up in.

From there, we went to On Air to watch Perfect Partners, a sort of Mr and Mrs show, not with questions, but with games they had to play. But the star of this show wasn’t the couples, it was the host, Carolina, she was very funny and quick witted, even when she had to deal with an overzealous lady in the audience who ran up to the front and seemed to think it was funny to lift up a dress of one of the contestants, not once, but twice?

Now it was gone midnight and after a slice of pizza, (it’s got to be done) and a cup of tea, it was time for bed. Tomorrow is a special day, it’s Phil’s birthday!

Take a look at the video:

To see a video of what we got up to with lots more photographs and videos, take a look at the YouTube video:

And Lastly: