I am not sure how it is possible that my year in Oxford was both the best year of my life and the worst. But as we jet out of UK airspace and I think back over all that has happened, that really is the best way to sum it up. To Oxford and all my wonderful new friends -- I will miss you. If I can just survive this and die a little old lady I will not be angry about my big scar; losing my hair; having my ovaries, uterus, and lots of other parts removed; entering (medical) menopause 10 years early; the trials of chemo; and missing 6 months of European travel (I know, first world problem). Even with all those challenges, the love and support showered on me by dozens of new friends and the charms of Oxford made it a wonderful year. [...]
Michelle Kendall - Journal
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With only one week until we leave Oxford I am compiling a list of things I will miss and things I, well, won't miss.
I will miss.....the newcomers club and all my amazing friends who come from all corners of the world. I am so grateful to all of them for helping me get through this year! I will miss you. [...]
We are back from 4 days of walking on the Cotswold Way. Thank you, Andrew at Hikes and Bikes, for arranging our luggage transfer, taxis, and hotels. It was a lovely walk, full of quintessential British quaintness. There is something so empowering about waking up in one town and walking all day to arrive in another town. I love long distance walking! This trip was a celebration of my survival; 6 months ago I had a 7-hour operation at Churchill Hospital. Drs.Tozzi, Roux, Angelelli, Nicum, and the gyn-oncology team saved my life. Without their care, and the wonderful team of oncology nurses who gave me chemotherapy, I would likely already be dead. I am grateful every moment for the time they have given me -- a few more trips around the sun, more days to love my amazing husband and family, more time to give to others in need and another season to explore this amazing planet. And I am so grateful for everyone at the NHS for saving my life. Words fail me: what can I say but thank you. [...]
Thank you for all the encouraging emails! I appreciate each and every one of you who helps me along. Thank you.
You would be hard pressed to find a town that is more pleasant or interesting to walk than Oxford. Without a car, we live like medieval peasants, traveling on foot two or three miles from home. It is a small sphere, but what an amazing little city it is! Here is a bird's eye view of Oxford. Since I got my Fitbit last October (thanks, Mom and Jim, for the best birthday present ever) I have walked 1,615 miles, mostly here in Ox. Just for fun...more oxford pictures. It is not just the scenic countryside that makes walking in the UK great, but most importantly the amazing and generous right of way laws that protect over 140,000 miles of public footpaths in England and Wales. In Scotland, you don't even need to keep to a path, you can tramp about almost anywhere!! It is a walkers paradise and I will miss this most of all. [...]
It's August, and everyone needs a vacation, right? I have been away from the blog for 6 weeks! The past two weeks, quite a few people have emailed me asking how I am doing, so I figured I should get back to it and post. Today I am writing from Maggies Cancer Center. It's a fabulous homey place right next to Churchill Hospital with the most amazing staff that welcomes us with tea and tissues every time we come in. They have cozy Scandinavian furniture and floor-to-ceiling windows that let light and the calming views of the surrounding trees flood in. Later today I have my post chemo CT scan. We will have the results of this scan, and more blood work, on Sept 5th, my last UK oncology appointment. I came to Maggie's 5 hours early to have plenty of time for getting a blog post up. [...]
I didn't register in time for this "Race for Life," so instead we went to cheer the runners and walkers. I wrote a big "Thank You" in lipstick across my belly. I got hugs and flowers and it was great to feel hopeful. We went to the Oxford Trust NHS tent, and I told them, thanks for saving my life and had a big cry. I'm feeling grateful for all the people who have dedicated their careers to cancer research. [...]
Thank you, Sally and Bob, for our fun family week adventuring on the Cornish Coast. We walked, birded, ate Cornish pasties, walked some more, rode the Looe Valley train, visited small harbors and villages, explored big stone circles and ancient stone castles, took a boat ride, walked the beach and tidepooled, explored "Eden" Botanic Gardens and generally had a grand time. Possibly the best news of the week was that Bruce got a paper accepted to Science -- way to go hubster!! [...]
After three days of walking, we took a well-deserved "mileage break" and went car touring. We ventured into the thick fog of the Bodmin Moor, an area recognized as a World Heritage Site which honors the history and importance of mining. We saw a lot of rocks -- Rocks in 3 big circles, Neolithic rocks piled into a burial chamber, abandoned mineral mines, and rocks that look like, well, I'll let you use your imagination..... [...]
I have been so busy, it's been hard to find time to write. Bruce's parents arrived a week ago and after a few busy days in Oxford, including my 4th chemo session, we headed out for a week of hiking in Cornwall. We are staying in the tiny cliff-side town of Downderry. When I rented the house, I was expecting to spend my days sitting in the sunroom reading and recuperating from chemo. But I don't feel worse being active, and with my candle burning at both ends, I am feeling restless and ambitious. So we are walking day sections of the South West Coast Path, at 630 miles long, the longest distance hiking path in the UK. We have hiked two sections, each about 6 miles: Downderry to Port Wrinkle and Looe to Polperro. Polperro just might be the most quaint harbor town I have seen, complete with a storm gate to close its tiny harbor from the sea. We hiked one way and took a boat back to our car, making a fun round trip. We also hiked along the Looe Valley Train line and got to flag the train down to get picked up and returned to our car. It makes for fun hiking! [...]
Yesterday we said goodbye to Allison Moehlis, another friend whose travel was funded by the "Cancer Warrior Treasure Chest." Thank you again, Sally and Bob!! Allison brought us a burst of California positivity. She spent the week with us, scrubbing and massaging my feet, doing errands, and generally keeping my spirits up. Allison is a rare friend, one who would fly halfway around the world and spend a week asking me, "how can I help you today?" She even offered to shave her head with me! I was the reluctant one, hoping I have enough hair -- however thin -- to make it through one more chemo round before I need to go bald. But her most amazing gift is dedicating her upcoming Ironman Triathalon to ME! She writes about her athletic training for the online news site, Santa Barbara Noozhawk. I will let her article stand as today's blog post. [...]
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