“Never do harm to anyone”

It’s almost eight months since I had surgery. I’m practically back to normal, except that I still get tired easily, the cut muscles ache when I walk too far, and the scar twinges occasionally. I’ve started to get menopause symptoms – mainly hot flushes and unpredictable mood swings. I went to the GP and we talked about HRT, but he said I was too old for that. He’s probably right, but it’s upsetting to hear it. In my head I’m still 16, and thin and pretty – none of that is true anymore. So he suggested the current fashionable default treatment for everything, anti-depressants. I was reluctant – I really don’t get on with SSRIs – but he said I should try them for a month and see if they worked.

So I got the pills, but before I took them, I looked them up online. Shit! This stuff has a list of side-effects a mile long, starting with sweating (which won’t help the hot flushes much), increased suicidal thoughts (like I really need those!) and weight gain (gee, thanks!), and ending up with electrical changes to the heart rhythm that can cause VF and sudden death. Now, as far as I know, hot flushes aren’t fatal, so I did a quick risk/benefit calculation and shoved the bloody pills in the back of the cupboard.

I’ve found an alternative treatment, a combination of lovely vitamins and minerals, plus sage to stop the hot flushes, soy extracts to mimic the hormones I don’t have anymore and green tea for – well, I don’t really know what the green tea’s for – I think they just put it in because they could. It’s simple to take, just two pills a day, with a meal. I plan to try it for a month and see if the symptoms improve. Five days in and I am feeling better. Might just be placebo effect, but what the hell – don’t knock it if it works!

In other news, I’m trying to write, but not managing to achieve much. I need to finish a new A&J story for Pro Se, and kick the second A&Z novel into shape. Dave keeps nagging me to get them done, which doesn’t help much. Frankly, at the moment, I’d rather knit.

Bev Allen: Author

One of my oldest friends has just created a new website – find it here. She writes SF too and her book, Jabin, is wonderful.

A New Dark Age

My local council, in its infinite wisdom, has decided to start replacing its streetlights with energy-saving ones, which would seem to be a good idea. So in my neighbourhood the old concrete pillars with lantern-shaped sodium lights have been removed – they felled them like trees! – and they’ve put in the new ones. These are about three to four feet taller, thin steel poles with black plastic wedges at the top and a stubby white aerial which talks to a central control. The idea is that the lights can report when a bulb goes, and can have the on/off times varied and be dimmed to save extra energy. The new streetlights are ugly. They look like the temporary lights used at music festivals or – and given the current attitude of the government towards the population, I suspect this was deliberate – like the lights around a prison stockade.

They do what it says on the tin – they light the street, mostly, except where they’re too far apart to cover the area properly. It’s a harsh, white light and it’s directed straight down. There’s no spread of light as there was with the old yellow ones, so the footpaths, car parking areas, garages and gardens are poorly lit, and some areas are even plunged into the kind of primordial darkness that monsters creep out of.

I’m an urban child – I’ve spent most of my life living in towns. I’m finding it hard to sleep in the new darkness and I miss the comforting amber sodium light. The place just doesn’t feel safe anymore. I’m glad I’m not working and don’t have to use the bus, as I wouldn’t want to walk along the footpaths in the dark. Ours is a nice neighbourhood with little trouble, but I’m predicting that the crime rate will go up, especially burglaries and thefts from cars in the inky-black parking areas.

I don’t know why I’m whingeing about this, as the council isn’t going to change its mind and give us our old streetlights back. I’m not sure it will even save energy – the council’s electricity bill might go down, but I can see a lot more lights being installed by local house-owners. I’m even considering putting in one of those motion-detector ones, which I hate, so I can see to walk down my garden path at night.

Did you see that picture NASA took of the Earth with the golden glow of cities like a magic spider’s web across the world? Next time they take the pictures, I’ll be living in one of the dark blots.

Happy New Year

Good wishes to all of you as we enter 2013. I’m not sorry to see the back of 2012, as it had some really bad stuff in it, some of which I’m still struggling with. So it goes!

If I made New Year resolutions – I gave them up years ago! – I might decide to post more often to this blog, maybe weekly, maybe more frequently, and I might start talking more about writing stuff. It probably doesn’t matter, as only a handful of people ever come here to read it. When I first had a website, back in the last century, there were webrings and communities to join to increase traffic to your site, but I haven’t discovered anything similar with blogs.

So thanks for reading this, you happy few! Have a great year.

Recovering, but slowly

I’m gradually getting over the op, still on painkillers and still pretty sore. I don’t sleep well, being forced to lie on my back, and I get up and sit at the computer in the middle of the night, just to change position. The wound’s managed to get infected on one side, so I have antibiotics to add to my daily handful of tablets.

On the up side, my consultant rang me with the preliminary histology results, which were good. I apparently had endometrial cancer at an early stage, confined to the lining and inner layer of the womb, and as that was removed, I’m probably cured. Hurrah!

Now I just need some patience to cope with being housebound for the next five weeks, and some space to relax and heal. I can’t concentrate at one thing for very long, so I’ve been reading a bit, watching TV and even doing a little writing.

Still Alive!

Back from the hospital after major surgery, a hysterectomy plus a few extra bits. One of the extras was a free tummy tuck on the NHS, which they did to make the rest of the procedure easier. I have an amazing scar across my stomach – it looks like I’ve been sawn in half or attacked by a shark! Why anyone would choose to do this just for cosmetic reasons is beyond me! Amazingly I was totally pain-free after surgery – I spent three days with an epidural that made me numb – and I’m now just on OTC painkillers, paracetamol and diclofenac. All of the staff at Addenbrooke’s Hospital were wonderful – so friendly, caring and professional. My consultant visited me every day. Even the staff who delivered the meals and brought round drinks were great – always concerned that each patient had exactly what they ordered and ready to chat to cheer us all up. Obviously the meals weren’t up to gourmet standards, but given the budget for feeding us, they did well and I enjoyed what I ate.

I’m now at home, not doing much and resting. I can manage to climb the stairs and walk around a bit in the house. Won’t be driving for four to six weeks, so there’ll be much reading, TV watching and other relaxing stuff.

Just had a visit from two of my ex-colleagues from the lab with flowers, and a delivery of gourmet chocolate brownies in the mail. Thanks to everyone for all the good wishes and love.


I’m writing this post in full-on drama queen mode, so do be aware that I may delete it later, when normal life has been resumed.

I won’t be around much on this blog and other Internet places for a week or two. I’m having surgery on Monday and I’ll be in hospital for about a week afterwards. I’m expecting a fair amount of pain and I’ll be stuck at home, as I can’t drive for about six weeks. I’ve had a lot of support and good wishes – thank you for that, all of you.

I’ve never had a general anaesthetic, so I’m pretty terrified. I’ve been coping with the wait before the op with a combination of denial and abject panic – I am such a coward! I spent a long time working in the NHS, but being at the sharp end, on the patient side, is scary. So, although I’m sure I’ll be fine, I want to say this to my family, my friends, all my old colleagues at the lab and everyone else who’s touched my life – thanks.

Before I get too maudlin, here’s a little treat, a chapter from my SF/space opera Work in Progress, Warbird.  If I do need an epitaph, I could do worse than borrow the one I wrote for Rachel* – “She loved the Earth, but dreamt of stars; now she is amongst them.”


* not  a spoiler. Rachel doesn’t die in this book, but in its unwritten sequel.