The C List and other stories

“When are you going to get your writing mojo back?”  I was asked from time to time as moss gathered on the inside of my blog.

The truth is after Kate’s death, every time I tried to write it just felt contrived and to be perfectly honest jabbering on about the pressures of life just didn’t seem a fitting follow up post. So I kept schtum and got on with the busy business of living.  As Barbara on twitter beautifully summed it up; “the first wish of those dying untimely is to live their dreams for them”.

So I have been doing lots of dreaming and as Kate got so much pleasure from working, I tried to do quite a lot of that too.  At times so much working that I was beginning to leak yin all over my new found yang.

But with 2 clear scans since we last spoke, I am in a good place again and I have more news.

The book that I cranked out during chemo, called The C List, got picked up by a publisher and is being released finally on the 3rd of April in the UK and the 22nd in America.  And as Kate helped me so much with this book from the first edit to being my daily muse, I feel it is only right and proper to announce it here now in her memory.

I have also been signed up to blog for The Huffington Post so there will be all manner of thoughts spilling out of me now I have got my writing mojo back (or my blah blah blah as my Spanish CEO prefers to call it!). Please feel free to suggest topics. No reasonable request turned down.

My publisher has fixed me up with more interviews for the book so if I apologise in advance, can you please put up with the odd shameless plug from time to time if I promise not to overdo it? And please, don’t just point the finger at me, spread your blame wide to Melinda Lord who challenged me on this very blog to write this book in the first place!  And Andy Blackford who forced me to write daily and supplied the title. And anyone else who told me I should write.  You only have yourselves to blame!  And no, I have never pretended to know where to put apostrophes so apologies for that too.

photo (5)

(you may have to copy and paste link for the mo as I need to do some stuff on Amazon to get the link working apparently)

Much love till next time x

Update on the giraffe sticking out the roof

In yet another shining example of the different ways people react to testing circumstances, I am thoroughly delighted with a letter I received yesterday from a firm of architects.  Regular readers may remember the pitch document to the UK’s top architects to enquire about the likelihood of getting a bananagiraffe projecting from the top of my house.

You may be forgiven for thinking this is not an indication of normal behaviour and will doubtless be met with a stern rebuff.  And yes I admit that not all architectural practices are designed with a funny bone in mind.  But we have hit gold with David Chipperfield Architects, who posses not only a fully flexible funny bone, but also a heart of gold.

Thank you sincerely from Bananagiraffes for your generosity of spirit and funds and a big thank you on behalf of beating bowel cancer as well who will I know be delighted to receive such a spontaneous donation!

What a day!

Yesterday I had the rarest of days and went for a girly lunch on my birthday at my parent’s house and it was a real super sized tonic.  As I wasn’t sure until the day whether I would be well enough, the lunch was organised with 5 seconds notice by my BF Jenny and included relatives some of which were so rare only a few sightings or news had been received from them until recently.  So it came to pass that a whole bunch of them who don’t normally feed in public together turned up and were without exception, mad as badgers.  After a few “you look better than I thought” rituals and the passing of cards bearing giraffe motives, I took a few moments out for a quick radio interview with BBC Oxford who wanted an update on the growth of a giraffe out of my roof. Then it was down to a lunch fit for a forever changing her mind cancer diva!

Jenny, I have decided is the type of person who is impossible not to love and I am sure everyone who meets her must fall under her spell and agree to anything she says.  Yesterday, she pulled together the most delicious of meals with more ease than I could display un-wrapping a supermarket sandwich, but I swear she could even feed a puppy into a blender, garnish with a sprig of parsley and ask everyone if they want seconds and we would still say “Oh yes please, she’s such a nice person you know”.

The day went so well, I didn’t even notice myself slipping down the hill of the 40’s mountain and into the next survey bracket. So…. if you want to sit and laugh for hours and forget the existence of sickness, time and space then my cousins are your man.  If, however you prefer to discuss the state of your latest tax return or your bunions, then please go and live in a different universe!

click here for the BBC OXFORD interview

Onwards and 40ft upwards

So… on with challenge 2 and we’re getting a feeling it’s not going to be as simple as it first seemed!

A search for “architects with experience building 40ft giraffes on residential properties” returned zero results in Google.

And they say you can find just about anything online?

I remember when I was young, for my homework I did a cross section drawing of a giraffe lowering it’s head to drink water, showing the leg bones squeezing the main neck artery from the heart. I wrote that if it didn’t reduce the pressure from the heart to the head, it would blow off.

The head that is.

I still have no idea how it works in a real giraffe, but we’re assuming a giraffe, real or otherwise is a highly technical piece of building that we can’t just trust to any fly-by-night architect… so we’re going for the best-of-the-best of famous award winning UK architects.

It’ll be a 10-way pitch situation, so we’ve put together a request for designs (which we’ll upload later).

May the best architect (with no previous experience of building 40ft giraffes on residential properties) win.

[Guest blogged from David, Rachel’s brother, as she’s suffering a fair bit from the 3rd chemo & too sick to post but wanted to get the challenge started.]

(By the way – for the giraffe homework I got an ‘A’, my only ‘A’ ever… until my teacher asked how I knew that was the reason the head didn’t blow-off… and I confessed that I’d made it up as it seemed possible. She immediately marked it down to a ‘D’… in-front of my face! I must have been about 10 at the time and it put me off homework forever after.)

Chemo round 3 – NOT!

Those of you who know me will nod enthusiastically when I say I have a lifelong obsession with arriving anywhere late.  But even I was disappointed with myself when I was sent home again today from the chemo ward and told to return next week when my white blood cells are up to the job in hand!

Yes, I am afraid I am neutropenic again. It’s becoming such as regular event that I don’t even need to check the spelling. See, another unexpected benefit, new vocabulary to help me win at scrabble!

It would be charitable to say it didn’t hurt too much when the deputy vampires tried 3 times unsuccessfully to get blood out of my portacath this morning when doing the normal checks to my blood levels prior to starting chemo (sadly my favourite vampire, Dr Needles is having a nice long lie in until the 3rd Jan).  But after an hour or so plugged into the saline drip, the results came back with red ink all over them and a note to try harder and I was hurried out of my chair before the stampede of patients could take part in what has become a regular game of musical chairs.

There is evidence mounting to suggest that my neutrophils (these are the white blood cells that foreign bodies usually run into first) are pacifists and are no more interested in fighting these cancer cells than I am in going to the Boxing Day sales and would rather sit on the sofa with a nice cup of tea.  So in addition to the bone marrow injections I now enjoy to encourage activity, I can add selenium and resbid tablets, 2 cups of green tea a day, a partridge in a pear tree plus a diet so high in protein that I expect to get automatic membership to the WBF shortly! 

But looking for positives, I have a week off to spend with the kids before they go back to School feeling relatively normal.  Then I need a serious word with my oncologist to decide on the path of lesser risk; delaying each cycle for another week or reducing this early on to chemo for cowards? I think even he will relent from his usual “see how it goes” response and dream up some new delicious sounding chemicals to test drive, and I would have to be an idiot to refuse an offer like that wouldn’t I?

This all leaves me a week to concentrate on starting my challenge number 2, putting bowel cancer on the map by applying for planning permission for an enormous giraffe sticking out of my roof.  If anyone has any ideas or drawings to submit, please send them to  I only have the shark in oxford for inspiration so far!

The kindness of strangers

When bits of ‘non-me’ started growing out of control and needed removing, I had no idea this illness would lead me to a bunch of people whose daily motivation is truly beyond me. People who find reserves of kindness and generosity of time when everyone else is flying around at increasing speeds in preparation for the annual 24 hour shutdown. is a non profit local music society led by Tom Van Kaenel whose aim is to help and heal through music. These hopeful noters and friends gave up every lunchtime this week to perform carols in The Churchill Hospital in aid of Beating Bowel Cancer. This is even more remarkable as I only had the pleasure of meeting Tom recently and I am sure these volunteers all had charities that were closer to their hearts.  But their heartfelt singing not only gave a very necessary lift to the patients (one of them I remembered from my stay who unfortunately was still enjoying the Churchill’s hospitality), visitors and staff, but encouraged people to donate a massive £500.00 to Beating Bowel Cancer.   I do find this amazing and I can only conclude that from my experience the more austere our circumstances and depressing the news is, the more this is countered and exceeded by the growing pool of kindness, positivity and generosity.

Felicia (and Esme) from Hopeful Notes handing over £500.00 cheque

Hopeful Notes singing this lunchtime with their honorary new member!

And to end 2011 on a positive (or hopeful!) note, we also raised £200.00 from last Friday’s Bananagiraffes piano ‘concert’.  Massive thanks to all involved again and especially Lauren, Lois and Joseph for collecting on the day and afterwards around the village.

YouTube has been invaded by bananagiraffes

I am now the lucky recipient of not 1 but 2 youtube videos!

First one by Lauren Pettitt age 13 and pretty fantastic it is too! I think there is part 2 coming soon.  She also took all the photographs of the day, quite a few are on her movie and some more are on the bananagiraffes facebook page.


Second one by Tom Van Kaenel (age …no I can’t do that)from  huge thanks for all the support on the day.