rmc28: Photo of me shortly before starting my first half-marathon (Default)
Jodie and Renay's favourite short fiction of 2015

I've read the following from that list, all of which I would recommend:
(which implies I have a high chance of liking the rest of them)

rmc28: Photo of me shortly before starting my first half-marathon (Default)
The PINs were sent out over the weekend. Neither Tony nor I received ours (and yes, we checked the spam folder). I saw this tweet from MidAmeriCon II which says:

"If you have not received your Hugo PIN, please email hugopin (at) to check membership & email address details."

So I did, for me and Tony, and our PINs were returned remarkably quickly. We had supporting memberships in 2015 and have attending membership to 2017, either of which would have entitled us to make nominations.

I encourage anyone else in a similar position to make sure you get your PIN, just like I encourage everyone to nominate stuff they have really enjoyed from last year, whether you think you have "read widely" or not, whether you can fill every slot or not: if you loved it, nominate it.

I have a placeholder post which I'm still working on; for other recommendations you can try:

(for short fiction)
Clarkesworld short fiction, sorted into Hugo categories
Uncanny Magazine short fiction, sorted into Hugo categories
Strange Horizons reader poll for 2015

(for everything)
Nicholas Whyte's many reviews of Hugo-eligible media
Ladybusiness recommendations spreadsheet

rmc28: a folder labeled Musicals Collection next to a stack of CDs (musicals)
My ongoing obsession with Hamilton has reminded me that my general knowledge of musicals is pretty poor, although the ones I've seen I've generally enjoyed. Ebay and my hazy memory of the 1990s came to the rescue, and I now own a set of 75 instalments of "The Musicals Collection": a series of CD cast recordings with accompanying magazines giving a newbies guide to the musical, the stars, the composer(s), the context, etc.


Should keep me busy for a while (once I can stop looping Hamilton) ...

rmc28: Photo of cover of Penguin edition of Watership Down, by Richard Adams (watership)
Hazel sat on the bank in the midsummer night.

[This post is part of my Watership Down read through. You are welcome to join in at any time; please read my introduction post first.]

rmc28: Photo of me shortly before starting my first half-marathon (Default)
What I've read - short fiction
The first two episodes of The Witch Who Came In From The Cold. Cold War spies in Prague, and a different kind of struggle between competing factions of magic-users (and of course the two conflicts overlap and group people in different ways). I loved the pilot enough to subscribe to the series, and the second episode confirmed my opinion ...
A Long Cold Winter by Max Gladstone and Lindsay Smith (1/13 - free to read online)
A Voice on the Radio by Cassandra Rose Clarke (2/13 - requires payment)

Tigerskin by Kurt Hunt
Warning for harm to a child in the opening! but not quite as it seems.

The Desert Glassmaker and the Jeweler of Berevyar by Rose Lemberg
Admiring letters sent along trade routes between two different magic practitioners.

La Lune T’attend by Peter S. Beagle
Werewolves and magic and old men trying to protect their families (a bit gory in places)

Charlotte Incorporated by Rachael K. Jones
A brain in a jar who wants a better home.

Long fiction
Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen by Lois McMaster Bujold, as reviewed separately.

Stranger Things Happen by Kelly Link - an anthology of short stories by the author whose novella I liked a couple of weeks ago
The Heart is Eaten Last by Kameron Hurley - a novella for Patreon supporters, about Nyx from the Bel Dame Apocrypha books

rmc28: Photo of me shortly before starting my first half-marathon (Default)
I owe thanks to [personal profile] naath for alerting me that this was out, and "thanks" to the dratted cough I currently have for giving me several hours of insomnia to beguile last night.

I enjoyed it very much but it isn't quite what I was expecting: it is very much a story of the delights of peacetime, domesticity and science rather than the excitements of lethal politics, galactic intrigue etc.  About what you do when you've saved the Empire a few times and it doesn't need you to do that any more.

Cordelia is at the centre of it, three years a widow and beginning to think about what she wants to do next.  Being Cordelia, rather than Miles, the plot proceeds sensibly and in a measured way, rather than breakneck chaos. There's a lot of Cordelia and Jole dealing with administrative hassles on Sergyar, getting paperwork done and carving time out of busy schedules.  There's a lot of reminiscing too, seeing various major incidents of the past 40-ish years from a different point of view.  There's very little actual peril (which really threw me because based on previous Vorkosigan books I kept expecting things to escalate that didn't ...)

Everything's political, and there's definitely something about the way that stories of WAR and DEATH seem more important than stories of building, creation and family.  Of the previous Vorkosigan books, it's probably most like A Civil Campaign only without the farce (and, thankfully, nothing as excruciating as That Dinner Party).   I think the genre is "family-saga in a space opera setting".

rmc28: Photo of cover of Penguin edition of Watership Down, by Richard Adams (watership)
Human beings say, 'It never rains but it pours.'

[This post is part of my Watership Down read through. You are welcome to join in at any time; please read my introduction post first.]

rmc28: Photo of me shortly before starting my first half-marathon (Default)
What I've read
Four short stories by A.M.Dellamonica. An extract of her book A Daughter of No Nation was in Lightspeed 67, I got caught up in it and went to look for the full thing, to discover it was the second of a series, and balked at the price. So I read three short stories which are related to these novels (but I think work well as standalone stories) - it's all kind of epic fantasy in a world made up of small islands and lots of sailing trade links and piracy:

Among the Silvering Herd
The Ugly Woman of Castello di Putti
The Glass Galago

And then a fourth story about a werewolf puppy in danger in Vancouver: The Cage

Uprooted by Naomi Novik
I finally started it! Once I started, I found it hard to put down, and liked it a lot (although it gets quite gory in places, and there's a distressingly high body count towards the end) - the terrifyingly creepy Wood, and the friendship between Agnieszka and Kasia both worked well for me.

The "pilot episode" of Bookburners (serialised fiction "created by" Max Gladstone and written by him with some others) which was good enough to get me interested in reading more, though I despair at my to-read pile. 

What I'll read next
Probably the pilot of The Witch Who Came In From The Cold.

rmc28: (family)
Today's consultant appointment confirmed that I seem to be cancer-free[1], and I am now formally in follow-up.

I will have bone marrow tests every three months for the next three years, and I'll continue to see my consultant in clinic, I think on the same frequency (the next one is 3 months from now anyway).

[1] the definitive all-clear comes from a PCR test on a sample which looks for a faulty gene called PML/RARA which is a distinctive feature of APL; that test result hasn't come back and the consultant says that "it will trickle in eventually" but every single other sign points to me being all clear.

rmc28: Photo of me shortly before starting my first half-marathon (Default)
I managed to take N to nursery by bike 4 out of 5 days this week. On Friday, we were running later than usual, and I had a nutrition course to get to at the Maggie's Wallace centre at the hospital at 10. There was no way I would get there on time by bus, so I was slightly courageous and cycled it. I went very slowly when compared to Before Cancer, and got very wet but I had time on arrival to change clothes and tweet a humblebrag before the course started.

I got home again in the afternoon without major incident, though I was very tired, and I spent a good part of Saturday afternoon in bed resting. This left me in good shape to cycle up to Girton for Matthew's singstar party which was most excellent fun. Cycling home about 1am was rather lovely - I pointed the bike homeward and didn't rush, and it was well above freezing so I didn't even need gloves.

The only downside was that the cycle ride woke me back up without wearing me out enough to sleep, so I accidentally started looking up Hamilton videos on YouTube following [livejournal.com profile] siderea's very helpful review explaining what all the fuss is about. The official cast recording isn't available on YouTube from the UK (sigh) but enough unofficial videos were available to convince me to buy the cast recording. I got as far as The Room Where It Happens before turning it off so I might actually sleep. (Actually, for other UK people, the video of Lin-Manuel Miranda performing the opening song at the White House in 2009 is available and that pretty nearly sold me all by itself.)

rmc28: Photo of cover of Penguin edition of Watership Down, by Richard Adams (watership)
Rabbits (says Mr Lockley) are like human beings in many ways.

[This post is part of my Watership Down read through. You are welcome to join in at any time; please read my introduction post first.]
rmc28: Photo of me shortly before starting my first half-marathon (Default)
What I've read
Binti by Nnedi Okorafor
One of the Tor.com novellas, I read a review and bought and read it on impulse. I couldn't put it down and stayed awake a bit too late last night to finish it. Binti is brilliant at maths, on her way to take up a place at the best university in the galaxy (against the wishes of her family), making friends with other new students ... and then things go horribly wrong.

The Tomato Thief by Ursula Vernon
Another story about the wonderful Grandma Harken in Jackalope Wives (and if you haven't read that, please do, it's excellent). I particularly love the description of the railways and their magic, but mostly I'm there for Grandma Harken and her grumpy, no time-for-this-nonsense approach to sorting out messes.

Maiden, Hunter, Beast by Kat Howard
A unicorn hunt story that I was gripped and surprised by.

Beacon 23: Little Noises by Hugh Howey
An exciting adventure set on a space beacon; a tale about being alone and lonely and making mistakes.

The Queen's Reason by Richard Parks
A rather self-aware fairy tale; a bit meta; with an ending I loved.

The Surfer by Kelly Link
A reprint novella in Lightspeed 67 which I enjoyed: a teenage boy in a plane-load of people quarantined with a flu scare; the people dynamics and the future geopolitics are shown really well, even if the boy Dorn is somewhat self-centred and oblivious and would rather be playing soccer.

What I'm reading now: the non-fiction parts of Lightspeed 67

Books acquired this week: Binti, as discussed above

What I'll read next:
I've got as far as loading Uprooted onto my phone, so I "just" need to set aside some novel-length reading time for it.

rmc28: Photo of me shortly before starting my first half-marathon (Default)
detail of exercise/capacity )
1. I was not nearly as grateful for my fitness level before getting ill as I would be if I had it now.
2. My body does respond well to increasing activity by increasing fitness, now as much as before.
2a. So long as I remember to adjust plans and take rest in response to tiredness/reaching limits.
3. Migraine-management has been such good practice for 2a.

rmc28: Photo of cover of Penguin edition of Watership Down, by Richard Adams (watership)
The night you left the warren, the Owsla were turned out to look for you.

[This post is part of my Watership Down read through. You are welcome to join in at any time; please read my introduction post first.]

rmc28: Photo of me shortly before starting my first half-marathon (Default)
What I've read:
Everybody Loves Charles by Bao Shu
A really plausibly creepy novella taking celebrity culture and life-logging to a logical conclusion

Old Paint by Megan Lindholm
A heartwarming family tale about a self-driving car in the 2030s.

Folding Beijing by Hao Jingfang
The politics is unsubtle but I really loved the imagery of the giant city folding itself up and unfolding a different area for portions of each day.

Find a Way Home by Paul Cornell
Alien first contact with some enterprising twelve-year-olds and a really good teacher.

What I'm reading now: nothing

Books acquired this week:

These Pricy Thakur Girls by Anuja Chauhan. I've read it before thanks to [personal profile] deepad's Anuja Chauhan reading challenge, but it finally turned up on Abebooks at a price I was willing to pay for a copy of my own. The House That BJ Built, which I definitely read in hospital this summer but seem not to have mentioned even in passing on here, is a story about (different people in) the same family about 30 years later.

V is for Vengeance by Sue Grafton. I read it from the library a while ago but wanted my own copy; I have the whole series from A-W in paperback now, and X will be out in paperback in August this year.

Truthseeker by C.E. Murphy. I have fallen behind on my collecting of everything C.E. Murphy writes in the last few years, so I was glad to seize the opportunity to get this.

In addition, Tony bought Uprooted by Naomi Novik which lots of people have been enthusiastic about.

What I'm reading next:
One or more of the new arrivals above. And more short fiction. Uncanny Magazine and Clarkesworld Magazine have both produced helpful lists of the original short fiction each published last year, categorised into length categories as used by the Hugos:
rmc28: Photo of cover of Penguin edition of Watership Down, by Richard Adams (watership)
In the Sandleford warren, Holly had been a rabbit of consequence.

[This post is part of my Watership Down read through. You are welcome to join in at any time; please read my introduction post first.]

rmc28: Photo of me shortly before starting my first half-marathon (Default)
Yesterday was not so much fun.  The site where my line was removed is a bit bruised and sore, and it's just where Nico likes to lovingly headbutt me when he leaps in for cuddles.

In addition, I went for a smear test, and had to abandon it as too painful. We'll try again in another 6 weeks (as far ahead as the GP booking system goes), and if that fails, there's a specialist gynae clinic I can go to.
cut for smear test detail )

This week with children back to nursery and school, and Tony back to work, we have been working on the daily and weekly routine.  In my head I call it "practising for work".  I've been trying to get up and get the children ready as though I were going to work; and in the evenings I've been collecting Charles and preparing supper as though I'd just got back from work, so it's ready when Nico and Tony get back from nursery.  In between time I'm resting or studying or getting health work done.

We're trying out planning the weekday evening meals on Sunday, aiming for something a) I can cook b) everyone will eat c) different each evening.  Previously we used to rely on Tony to figure something out each evening when he gets home.  Tony is a much better cook, but I can do basic stuff, and would like to practice and improve.

So far the evenings are going better than the mornings, but this morning I did achieve me+children ready early enough that I could take Nico to nursery.  This was also my first bike ride since July.  I had no problems at all with the mechanics of cycling - the bakfiets is as delightful and familiar to ride as ever - but by the time I got back I needed to sit down for a nice long rest.
rmc28: Photo of me shortly before starting my first half-marathon (Default)
What I've read
The One That Got Away by Victoria Alexander, Liz Carlyle, Eloisa James & Cathy Maxwell
A collection of four Regency romance novellas that I got because I was being completionist about Eloisa James and the library didn't have it.  I probably liked the James the best, but none of them were very memorable; neither were any of them terrible, and they were just right for tired me at the start of the year.  It also was a book off my to-read pile before I managed to buy any more, which almost never happens.

Lotus Face and the Fox by Nghi Vo
A beautiful little short story with a tiny hint of fantasy.

The Spy Who Never Grew Up by Sarah Rees Brennan
A novelette imagining Peter Pan and one of Wendy's descendants, with a seasoning of Fleming; I found it by turns funny, silly, and creepy (a bit like the original then).

Telling the Bees by T. Kingfisher
"There was a girl who died every morning, and it would not have been a problem except that she kept bees."  That's the opening line to this very short but lovely fantasy story.

What I'm reading now
Does the OU textbook on marketing count? I am not enjoying this section of the module very much but the deadline loometh.

What I'll read next
More short fiction - it's a lot easier to read the odd one here or there than a novel-length book.

rmc28: Photo of me shortly before starting my first half-marathon (Default)
Possibly I exaggerate, but I am very happy today.

I arrived at the day unit to be told that if my blood tests came back ok, I could have my line out today.  So I hung around for about 90 minutes and was then given the go-ahead to go down to Vascular Access.  I had to hang around a bit there too, but then it was about 20 minutes of minor surgery and boom, no more central tunnelling line.

From tomorrow, I can shower as normal!  No more having to muck about taping plastic over a dressing and contorting myself to keep water off it.  I should be fully healed up in 7-10 days. I will be able to go swimming!  I can consider exercising!

My line is out, my blood results are fine, so I no longer need to go in to the day unit.  I said goodbye and thank you to the staff there as I left - they are the nicest people I hope I don't have to see again.  I don't have to go to the hospital again until my appointment with my consultant towards the end of the month.  It is like a whole bunch of normality got returned to me all at once.

I have been grinning in the goofiest way since leaving Vascular Access.  Such a good day.

rmc28: Photo of cover of Penguin edition of Watership Down, by Richard Adams (watership)
The holes certainly were rough - 'Just right for a bunch of vagabonds like us' said Bigwig - but the exhausted and those who wander in strange country are not particular about their quarters.

[This post is part of my Watership Down read through. You are welcome to join in at any time; please read my introduction post first.]

rmc28: Photo of me shortly before starting my first half-marathon (Default)
Having a working immune system is great.  My cough is nearly gone and today I went on several buses, and to a place inhabited by large numbers of children, and I might do something similar tomorrow. 

Louise and I took the children by bus to the Funky Fun House; normally I do this by bike but that didn't seem sensible yet.  It's two buses with one change on the edge of the city centre and a short walk at each end.  The children were mostly cooperative and sensible on the journeys, and clearly enjoyed hurtling around at the play barn for hours until I declared time to come home before we got caught in the rain.

Cambridge buses are much less stressful to use if you are in no particular hurry to be anywhere; the long tailback on the way home due to cars queueing for the Grafton Centre was merely a bit dull, and at least we were warm and dry.

When we got home, Nico spent over an hour being entranced by CBeebies Stargazers, which delighted me by having Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock co-presenting.

Louise goes home tomorrow morning; the children and I have a vague plan to do the long bus ride to Cheeky Monkeys once she has departed.

rmc28: Photo of me shortly before starting my first half-marathon (Default)
I liked:

Yuanyuan's Bubbles by Liu Cixin
I find Liu's style a little hard to get into, but I did find myself thinking about this story for a while afterward. Yuanyuan's playful attraction to bubbles and other ephemeral fun is contrasted with her father's sober hardworking approach to life, and yet may be more useful than either realises.

Union by Tamsin Muir
This is really creepy stuff, with body horror at the edge of my tolerance for such things, but had me gripped right to the end.

Daddy's World by Walter Jon Williams
This is also creepy-for-me but good, this time nudging up against my tolerance for poor treatment of children by parents; I nearly gave up near the beginning but am glad I stuck it out to find out the deeper plot lurking underneath.

I also found interesting the essay by Cat Rambo about whether people "should" read the SF classics, and why.
rmc28: Photo of me shortly before starting my first half-marathon (Default)
Novel (40,000+ words)

Novella (17,500-40,000 words)

Novellette (7,500 - 17,500 words)

Short Story (<7,500 words)

Related Work

Graphic Story

Dramatic presentation, long form

Dramatic presentation, short form

Editor, short form

Editor, long form

Professional artist
Galen Dara - cover of Lightspeed 68
Julie Dillon - cover of Clarkesworld 112
Priscilla Kim - cover of Uncanny Magazine Eight




Fan writer

Fan artist

John W Campbell
rmc28: (books2010)
Read as much of Hugo-suggestions list as possible before nominations deadline
Buy ebook for preference, and only when about to read
Read ebook magazines in the month they arrive
1 on, 3 off for physical books
1 on, 2 off for ebooks

Extra rules:
Free comics already in Marvel/Comixology don't count in or out, but new comics do
Ebooks of books already read don't count in or out
Until Hugo nomination deadline, SF ebook magazines from 2015 count towards ebooks off

Hugo-suggestions reading (strikethrough means read)
  1. Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho
  2. Uprooted by Naomi Novik
  3. The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge
  4. The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers
  5. The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps by Kai Ashante Wilson
  6. The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin
  7. The House of Shattered Wings by Aliette de Bodard
  8. Last First Snow by Max Gladstone
  9. The Shepherd’s Crown by Terry Pratchett
  10. Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear
  11. Black Wolves by Kate Elliott
  12. Shadowshaper by Daniel José Older
  13. Silver on the Road by Laura Anne Gilman

Ebook magazines / serialised fiction
  1. Uncanny Magazine Issue Eight (January/February 2016)
  2. Real Social Skills December 2015
  3. Clarkesworld January 2016 (Issue 112)
  4. Lightspeed January 2016 (Issue 68)
  5. Badge, Book and Candle by Max Gladstone (Bookburners, Season One, 1/16)
  6. Strange Horizons January 2016
  7. Clarkesworld February 2016 (Issue 113)
  8. Lightspeed February 2016 (Issue 69)
  9. A Long Cold Winter by Max Gladstone & Lindsay Smith (The Witch Who Came In From The Cold, Season One, 1/13)
  10. A Voice on the Radio by Cassandra Rose Clarke (TWWCIFTC, Season One, 2/13)

Physical books on
  1. Truthseeker by C.E. Murphy

Physical books off
  1. The One That Got Away by Victoria Alexander, Liz Carlyle, Eloisa James & Cathy Maxwell

Ebooks on
  1. Uprooted by Naomi Novik
  2. Binti by Nnedi Okorafor
  3. Stranger Things Happen by Kelly Link
  4. The Heart is Eaten Last by Kameron Hurley
  5. Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen by Lois McMaster Bujold

Ebooks off
  1. Binti by Nnedi Okorafor
  2. Lightspeed December 2015 (Issue 67)
  3. Strange Horizons December 2015
  4. Uprooted by Naomi Novik
  5. Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen by Lois McMaster Bujold

rmc28: Photo of me shortly before starting my first half-marathon (Default)
My blood cell counts are nearly back to normal (neutrophils have been since last week, platelets are now, haemoglobin is very nearly there), so I asked about scheduling removal of my line. Apparently the day unit nurses can't book this but the Macmillan specialist nurse can, only she's not in this week.  Anyway, they will email her to ask her to book it when she's back.

I still have a stupid persistent cough from the bug I caught from the children two weeks ago.  I don't actually feel especially ill - if anything I have more energy right now than I've had since before the Evil Blue chemo cycle - but it is annoying and frequent.  I'm sleeping sitting up and still getting woken during the night.  The doctor took a listen to my chest and sent me for an xray.  She said neither showed anything but she's giving me a week of antibiotics to be on the safe side.

The main business of today's appointment was another bone marrow biopsy.  It was the least painful yet, but it was clearly hard work for the doctor.  She said it might need repeating, but they'd see if they could get what they need first and let me know if not.

I'm back again next week for line management and blood tests and will chase the line removal if it hasn't been arranged.  It's nice only going in once a week, and I guess once the line is out I won't even need to go that often.

I really want to get on a bike again now my platelets are back in the normal range, but the nurses advise not until the cough goes away.  Sigh. 
rmc28: Photo of me shortly before starting my first half-marathon (Default)
I have:

  • a number of ebook vouchers to spend

  • the ability to nominate for the 2016 Hugo awards (when nominations open next month)

  • a list of SFF books published in 2015 that I've gained the impression I would appreciate

  • not much time to read from now on

I think it highly unlikely I'll get through the list below before nominations close, so please help me prioritise it by voting for your top three recommendations.

Open to: Registered Users, detailed results viewable to: All, participants: 20

Which of these books should I get and read before Hugo nominations close?

View Answers

Black Wolves by Kate Elliott
3 (15.0%)

The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin
4 (20.0%)

The House of Shattered Wings by Aliette de Bodard
3 (15.0%)

Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear
2 (10.0%)

Last First Snow by Max Gladstone
4 (20.0%)

The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers
4 (20.0%)

Of Noble Family by Mary Robinette Kowal
2 (10.0%)

Shadowshaper by Daniel José Older
1 (5.0%)

The Shepherd’s Crown by Terry Pratchett
4 (20.0%)

Silver on the Road by Laura Anne Gilman
0 (0.0%)

The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps by Kai Ashante Wilson
0 (0.0%)

Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho
11 (55.0%)

Uprooted by Naomi Novik
8 (40.0%)

Something else - see comments
1 (5.0%)

rmc28: Photo of cover of Penguin edition of Watership Down, by Richard Adams (watership)
It was evening of the following day.

[personal profile] nwhyte reminded me of my long abandoned read-through project, and after a bit of thought I've decided to try to finish it off. My plan is to do one chapter a week, posting Friday evening or Saturday morning.

Previously we made it through chapters 1-17, the whole of Part I - The Journey, which took us from Sandleford Warren to Cowslip's warren. (I've just skimmed through those chapters to remind myself what occurred.) This is the first chapter of Part II - On Watership Down.

[This post is part of my Watership Down read through. You are welcome to join in at any time; please read my introduction post first.]
rmc28: Photo of me shortly before starting my first half-marathon (Default)
This is articulating a lot of stuff I've been thinking over, especially the last month or so, about my priorities as I start getting "back to normal".

1. Health and fitness
(content note: exercise, weight, mental health)
Read more... )

2. Immediate family

The children have coped admirably with all the disruption and uncertainty, but they're both showing reaction in different ways. I want to give them lots of security and support and attention and stability. I plan to take a good look at our daily and weekly and seasonal routines with that in mind. 

I suspect some additional goals and tasks will come out of couples counselling.

3. Work

The cliché is that a brush with death provides revelation and motivation to chuck in the job and go follow a long-held dream etc.  My revelation from being ill so long is that I really like my work and I miss my job and my colleagues very much, and I want to go back as soon as I feel able.  Probably in a phased-return way so I don't go from zero to full time immediately.  Anyway, the time to start that conversation with work is probably a week or two into next year when this chemo cycle should be finished.

4. Studying

I'm studying with the OU under transitional fees and the qualification I'm working towards will be discontinued at the end of 2017. It is just possible for me to finish on time if I work hard from now until September 2017, and especially hard for the nine months Sep 16 - Jun 17. I've decided to give that plan a try but drop the workload if it's too much.   If I don't manage to complete by September 2017 much of my course credit is transferable to the replacement qualification anyway.

5. Family, friends and community

The care and support I've received while ill has been amazing and much appreciated.    I've found it too easy to let connections slide, especially when busy.  So I'm going to put some time and effort into maintaining connections (socialising, letters, emails, calls, blogs, even dratted Facebook), and into making that work part of my daily and weekly routines.

Two things notably absent from the list above:

1. Reading.

I won't stop reading entirely, it's too much part of me to read whenever I can. But studying will take up much of the time and effort I'd otherwise spend reading, and that seems a fair trade-off for now.

2. Politics

I'm finding it very hard to engage with politics at the moment: anything more than the most superficial attention to current events leaves me emotionally drained and exhausted.  Maybe that'll improve as I recover, but I don't think the five things I am choosing to prioritise will leave me much time over anyway.
rmc28: Photo of me shortly before starting my first half-marathon (Default)
1. I've taken my last dose of anti-cancer pills this morning, hopefully ever.  Nice timing.

2. Yuletide opens tomorrow.  I discovered this huge fanfic gift exchange four years ago when I was pregnant and rottenly ill with it.  One of my dwircle/LJ friends (don't even remember who!) linked to their gift .  Over the next week I found myself working through the collection as a welcome distraction and bulwark against how miserable I felt - one particular long cold train journey was made bearable by the stories I read on my little smartphone as we trundled along.

I've participated a couple of times now; not this year because for obvious reasons I didn't think I could commit to writing anything (I was right). But the amazing thing about the gift exchange is that all the stories are available to anyone to read.  I now have a little routine: I download all the fics that look interesting in the fandoms I know, and load them into my ebook library held in Calibre.  Then I browse my way through the still-anonymous fics, clicking through from the handy end link to kudos / comment / bookmark as appropriate.  I never ever finish doing this before authors are revealed (and I get emails for all the authors I'm subscribed to), but it means I can continue to read fics anonymously throughout the year.  And of course I look out for recs by others and follow those too.  It's one huge indulgent reading festival, and it starts tomorrow.

3. My children are both SO EXCITED about Christmas; I think about 90% the haul of presents under the tree, and 10% the promise of lots of indulgent food.  It's due to stop raining soon, at which point I'm dragging them to the playground to work off some of their energy.
rmc28: Photo of me shortly before starting my first half-marathon (Default)
I've only read one book in the last week or so.  I'm getting more Stuff Done, which leaves less time for reading.

Guard Wolf by Lauren Esker is the second in her Shifter Agents series.  Werewolf secret agent Avery has to find someone to look after four werewolf pups that have been abandoned, and gets help from social worker Nicole, liaison with the shifter community and a koala shifter from Australia.  What follows is mystery! adventure! danger! romance! cute puppies who are also sometimes cute children!

I really enjoyed the plottiness of this story, and the way it investigated/addressed the situation of shifters, and where they come from.  Lots of hurt/comfort too in a very lovely romance.  (I liked the first book, Handcuffed to the Bear, a lot too, this series is basically buy-when-out for me.)

Up next:
I recently got Code Name Verity and Rose Under Fire, both by Elizabeth Wein, when the latter was on Kindle daily deal, and I remembered how many people I know loved the former.  On the other hand, I expect I might get a new book or two on Friday, plus of course Yuletide opens so I might just dive headfirst into that.  This is assuming I actually have time to read much with the children at home for nearly two weeks.

rmc28: Photo of me shortly before starting my first half-marathon (Default)
I woke up this morning with no voice, thanks to the ongoing cold.  In theory I am avoiding talking, but that's going about as well in practice as you might guess if you've ever met me.

Louise arrived last night, and we both spent a good chunk of today wrapping presents, which was very pleasant, especially for not being at midnight on Christmas Eve. (have I mentioned I default to deadline-driven?)

I went out a couple of times today - in the morning to get some shopping done, and in the evening to collect Charles from his holiday childcare, and I've managed to rack up 10k steps on my fitbit for the first time since we were in Bristol the week before I got diagnosed with cancer.  That has cheered me immensely.

Now I'm resting in my room; drifting up from downstairs are the sounds of Tony and his mother attempting to put away the vast Christmas supermarket delivery.
rmc28: Photo of me shortly before starting my first half-marathon (Default)
Both Nico and Charles had days at home with a cold this week, so it was kind of inevitable that I would catch it too.  Luckily my immune system seems to be coping so far.  I was a bit paranoid, so spoke to the 24-hour helpline yesterday, who sent me to my GP, who pronounced me free of worrying noises in the lungs or swellings in the throat.  He did recommend a better thermometer, so I can monitor my temperature (the key sign that things are Going Wrong), so I bought one from Boots in between all the faffing with banks.

Oncology called me back today just to check on things, which was nice of them.

I have spent much of today playing with my household accounts software and trying a new structure that is actually more like wot proper double-entry bookkeeping should look like.  This has made me happier than it might sound.

Tony and Charles went to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens which was enlivened by an evacuation of the Leisure Park in the middle.  It seems to have been a success. I am hoping to have recovered a sensible immune system before the film leaves cinemas.
rmc28: Photo of me shortly before starting my first half-marathon (Default)
I got my passport reissued in the right name in May, but didn't immediately sort out my driving licence or bank accounts, and then I got ill.  Back in November, I managed to get hold of a bunch of the necessary forms. Today  I had to go into town for a checkup at the GP, so I decided to traipse round the relevant banks while I was there.

I went to three different bank branches.  In two of them, the member of staff I dealt with said "oh, that's unusual, we normally expect a deed poll or a marriage/divorce certificate, but if you have your passport in the right name, that's clearly your name, we'll just change it."  In the third, the member of staff insisted I needed a deed poll or some other name-change document, suggested that passports weren't a good way to authenticate names because they didn't get updated very often, and told me to calm down when I invited them to check the issue date of the passport. 

Yes, there was a gender split between the first two and the last one and I bet you can guess which way round it was.

Thankfully the obstructive bank clerk decided to bog off to the back office and get advice, and my form will be sent off to "HQ" with a certified copy of my passport, which is what I was trying to achieve in the first place.

(The driving licence form just needs posting, because it includes consent for them to look up my details in the passport database.)
rmc28: Photo of me shortly before starting my first half-marathon (Default)
Things I have achieved in the last few days:
  • Helsinki 2017 memberships for the family (and continued associated nerdery about travel plans)
  • caught up accounts / paid bills
  • Maggie's Wallace visit and course bookings
  • supermarket delivery on Tuesday to cover this week and not-Christmas meal with mum and stepdad
  • contacted favourite plumber re collection of little jobs that need doing
  • researched patio awnings / canopies
  • opportunistically signed up next-door's window cleaner (OMG we can SEE through the windows)
  • thoroughly culled worn-out, ill-fitting, or not-quite-my-taste clothes (4 bags for charity shop, 3 for textile recycling)
  • ordered experimental new pillows
Things I have not achieved in the last few days:
  • any OU study at all, argh
  • wrapping presents
  • writing/sending Christmas cards

(Yes, after a rough few days at the start of the chemo cycle, I am feeling pleasantly more energetic, please please let this last.)
rmc28: Photo of me shortly before starting my first half-marathon (Default)
Yesterday I found my way to the Maggie's Wallace centre at the hospital, which is based in one of the residential blocks. They were recommended to me by [personal profile] andrewducker, and [personal profile] ceb brought me a leaflet about them when I was first admitted, but it was only this week I managed to remember to go while I had energy and some spare time.

Everyone there seemed very friendly and kind, and the lounge is quiet and pleasant to sit in. I got swiftly taken in hand by a member of staff who gave me a friendly welcome and very pleasantly and efficiently assessed my situation and needs, and provided appropriate suggestions of ways they could help me. She was also very keen on evidence-based interventions, to which I responded "music to my heart".

I've got Tony and I on a waiting list for couples counselling. Not because we're in trouble now, but because we've been through something stressful and scary that has radically affected my ability to contribute to our shared responsibilities, and that's the kind of thing that can lead to trouble if not addressed. They do also offer individual counselling and I will probably take up some of that too, later.

I also signed up for two courses:
  • a six-session course for people completing cancer treatment titled "What Next" which will run sometime early next year, dates tbc
  • a three-session course on nutrition in January: 2 big group sessions and a 1:1 with a nutritionist for individual advice. I suspect most of it will not be news to me, but I could probably use some individual advice on how to fuel returning to the kind of activity levels I had before spending 4+ months mostly in bed.
It's a really calm and welcoming place, and I'm glad I made the time to go.

rmc28: Photo of me shortly before starting my first half-marathon (Default)
I particularly liked:

Wooden Feathers by Ursula Vernon
A story about a woodcarver and her mysterious regular customer. I really loved Sarah, who opens the story improvising fixes to her mistakes, and has a very believable reaction to the eventual 'reveal' of magic. The story made me cry. It's also about creativity and learning and fear and risk. Highly recommended.

Love Will Tear Us Apart by Alaya Dawn Johnson
It's a zombie story, and a little bit too gory/icky for me, but done really well.

and the poem Aboard the Transport Tesoro by Lisa M. Bradley
(I find it even harder to write about why I like poems than I do about short stories, so I'm not even trying here.)

And I quite liked:

A Call to Arms for Deceased Authors’ Rights by Karin Tidbeck
A spooky idea, nicely done.

Interlingua by Yoon Ha Lee
Loved the set up, not sure about the ending

The Call of the Sad Whelkfins by Annalee Flower Horne and Natalie Lurhs
An essay on Joanna Russ's How to Suppress Women's Writing using Ancillary Justice for an example

rmc28: (books2010)
The Annihilation Score by Charles Stross

I really enjoyed this instalment in the Laundry Files universe.  It was funny and pointed and clever, as usual, and it was being all those things about superheroes and politics and startups.  (so basically me-catnip).  I also really liked seeing things from Mo's point of view; I think that fond as I am of Bob, it refreshes the series a bit to have someone else pick up the narration.  Also, no one who wanted something like success would give Bob the job Mo gets in this book.   And I really liked the scenes between Mo and Mhari, and to a lesser extent Mo and Ramona.

There are some really worrying threads left unresolved by the end though, so I rather nervously await the next book in the series.

Once Upon a Marquess by Courtney Milan

This is the first book of a planned series of historical romances (The Worth Saga).  Courtney Milan is always good and I enjoyed it very much, especially the clockwork and the swearing on waterfowl, and the stroppy teenager in the house.  Milan is really good at interweaving plot, emotion and history to deliver happy endings, and this is no exception.

However, when I got to the end, I felt it was a bit unbalanced: the emotional threads had come to a resolution, but a great many plot threads were still dangling, presumably to be picked up in future books in the series.

rmc28: Photo of me shortly before starting my first half-marathon (Default)
I think I've mentioned more than once that I don't ever want to be pregnant again.  My last pregnancy was a months-long ordeal of nausea, pain, exhaustion, and increasingly limited mobility.  Well before it was over I knew I wasn't ever volunteering to go through that again.

Then I got acute leukaemia, the treatment for which is a months-long ordeal, etc etc.  Only worse.

I remember thinking, while the consultant was explaining my diagnosis and what treatment would involve, well at least I already know how to do this. I've had practice.

At least a) I didn't choose to get cancer b) no-one expects me to be happy about having cancer c) I'm allowed antinausea drugs and they mostly work. 

People sometimes talk about "fighting" cancer, but if anything my body is the battleground over which both cancer and chemotherapy rage; that metaphor doesn't really work for me as motivation.  The one I've borrowed from pregnancy is the endurance run: a long and difficult effort, some parts are worse than others, but it will end eventually and everything will be better. 

Sometimes I can think about the whole distance between me and that end; sometimes I'm just focusing on making the next step, and the next one, and the one after that.  Sometimes I'm kept going by others cheering me on, sometimes by thinking about what I'll do when it's over, sometimes by distracting myself by thinking of something else entirely.  And sometimes when none of those are helping, I fall back on stubborn determination to keep moving.

(To extend the metaphor, I'm doing a half-marathon while around me are people doing marathons and ultras, and quite a few of them will never get past their finish line, and I am really thankful that I "only" have a half-marathon to get through.)

Today I started on the last quarter of this run; it's the dangerous part where I can get fixated on the thought that it's almost over and forget that a quarter is still a long way, and I need to keep up the effort right to the end.

rmc28: Photo of me shortly before starting my first half-marathon (Default)
Yesterday's biopsy was the least bad yet: the doctor tried a slightly different location and it was much easier for her, therefore much less painful for me.  We both made notes for next time.  I had gas+air when needed, which was much less than last time, and I didn't cry at all, which means it beat all previous biopsies.

Today's clinic appointment was pretty good: the consultant hadn't seen the slides from yesterday yet, but said they wouldn't change her decisions for now.  My neutrophil levels need to come up a bit more, so I'm back at the day unit next Wednesday, and if my neutrophils are high enough then (they almost certainly will be), we'll start fourth-and-last chemotherapy.  We went through what drugs I'll need for the duration, and everything seems straightforward.

Nice news: once my blood counts are up again after this round, we can schedule removal of my tunnelling line (also known as Hickman line) without waiting to see the consultant again.  I have mixed feelings about my line: it is very ingenious! it makes all this blood-testing and IV-delivery very straightforward!  But oh my goodness I am fed up with having to look after it, and keep it dry in every shower or bath, and having to keep track of when the dressing needs changing.

I am going to enjoy showers SO MUCH once I've healed up from the line removal.  And I can work up to going swimming.  I miss swimming nearly as much as running.

Best news: the consultant wants to see me again in 7 weeks - to begin follow-up.  Magic words those!
rmc28: Photo of me shortly before starting my first half-marathon (Default)
Today's appointment confirmed that I am no longer neutropenic (white blood cell counts have bounced back up), which in turn means:

1. I can stop taking ciprofloxacin, which means I don't have to avoid drinking milk for two hours either side twice a day
2. Tomorrow I get another bone marrow biopsy (yay?) so that
3. I go to clinic on Friday and the sample from Thursday will have been processed to give my consultant meaningful information
4. I'm very likely to start fourth - and hopefully last - round of chemo next week

rmc28: Photo of me shortly before starting my first half-marathon (Default)
Yesterday I did something I haven't done in weeks: unloaded the dishwasher.  And then I had to go have a lie down to recover from it.  I am definitely well enough to really resent how much more recovery I've got ahead of me.

I managed quite a lot of shopping from my laptop yesterday: not really for the stupid Black Friday stuff, but because it was the first day I've been up to sitting up AND thinking for long enough.  Today I am trying to catch up on the household accounts and some of my email.  And then I really must try to get some study done: I negotiated an OU deadline extension as soon I went into hospital, but the extended deadline is coming up.

My next outpatient appointment is Wednesday - a whole week since the last one, it feels almost like a holiday.  I was supposed to see the consultant in clinic on Tuesday 1st, but a) it got moved because of the junior doctor's strike and b) my blood counts weren't up enough for the test that needs doing before I see the consultant again, so it'll probably get moved back again.

I've watched the Captain America: Civil War trailer a couple of times and it's possible I won't hate it? At least I should be fine to go to the cinema well before May.  I'm also planning to watch Jessica Jones once I'm less tired.  (When I'm tired I mostly don't want to watch film/TV at all, or at least only familiar things.)

rmc28: Photo of me shortly before starting my first half-marathon (Default)
I realised it's been nearly a week since I got home, and I'm fine, I've just mostly been in bed, either asleep or binge-reading fanfic.   I get up for meals, and to help get the children out in the mornings, and to fetch C from after-school care three times a week, but then I usually need to go back to bed afterwards.

I've been in to the day unit last Thursday and today, and it seems this exhaustion is normal for this stage of the chemo cycle.  (This is still the Evil Blue cycle - I've not actually had any of it for nearly 3 weeks,  but it clearly did a really thorough job on my blood cells which have fallen much farther than the previous cycle.)  When I get better, I have a biopsy to look forward to, and then the fourth and hopefully last round of chemo.

Due to lack of communication, Tony and I both bought a copy of Minions, which Charles saw in the cinema earlier this year, and adored. The four of us sat down to watch it on Saturday afternoon and it worked really well as a family film.  I don't think I want to watch it again but it was fun to watch once, especially with the children both enjoying it.

Otherwise, I'm beginning to think about When Treatment Is Over, and what normal is going to look like for the four of us when we get back there.


2015-11-17 21:35
rmc28: Photo of me shortly before starting my first half-marathon (Default)
Back in bed, but at least it's my own.  So much stuff to catch up on .... tomorrow, and maybe the rest of the week.  I have to go back in to the day unit on Thursday anyway.
rmc28: Photo of me shortly before starting my first half-marathon (Default)
I am all packed and ready to go. Tony came earlier and took my laundry away. The pharmacist has been in to check my medicine supplies. But I need blood and platelets before I can go & they haven't come up from the blood bank yet.

Anyway my lovely nurse today is keeping me updated and I have all the internet on tablet or phone so it could be far worse. (The doctor said it's nice to have patients who get better and go home, which makes me think she's got a few too many of the other kind this week.) Looks like I'll still be here at suppertime.
rmc28: Photo of me shortly before starting my first half-marathon (Default)
 My temperature has been stable for nearly two days now, and the infection marker that was really high has come down. If my temperature remains stable overnight I should be able to go home tomorrow. They may top me up with transfusions first, so it won't be first thing, but I've not got much to pack.

As usual, believe it when the discharge bag arrives and ward exit is actually achieved.
rmc28: Photo of me shortly before starting my first half-marathon (Default)
It asked me to translate "What does the fox say?"
(and I was half way through the sentence before I realised, so it was extra funny)

There is someone on this ward who shouts very loudly at intervals, from what sounds like the far end of it. I'm impressed by their lung capacity but not their doing so round the clock.  I'm still in my own room but it's not soundproof, I get to hear a lot from the kitchen across the corridor and several of the call bells including my own.  

I had a very restful weekend reading and watching fun things, and my temperature seems to have finally stabilised. I'm currently waiting for today's doctor(s) to see what else needs to happen before I can go home.
rmc28: Photo of me shortly before starting my first half-marathon (Default)
 And I had a lot of misc thoughts I was going to write up today, but then my reading page clued me in to the horrible news about Paris, and it seems too tone-deaf to write about fantasy violence when the real thing is so close.

From Cambridge I can get to Paris quicker than to much of my own country, including my mother's home town in Yorkshire and my aunt's place in Wales. Except I can't actually get to any of them right now because I'm stuck in hospital wired up to an antibiotic drip, and there is literally nothing I can do about nearby terrorism and the prospect of scary responses to it, except be upset and scared, and I've had too much of that lately.

This is why I try not to read news in hospital :-(

I think I'll go back to streaming Dr Who episodes from when I still liked it (first season with Matt Smith).

rmc28: Photo of me shortly before starting my first half-marathon (Default)
 I was hoping to get away without this happening, but I caught some kind of bug while my immunity was very low, and got admitted on Tuesday morning with a fever. They got me on IV antibiotics & paracetamol very quickly and brought the fever under control, now I just have to wait for the substitute immune system to kill whatever it is.

I'm in reasonable comfort, sleeping a lot (today's the first day I've felt up to reading or writing). I'll be in at least 3 more days but maybe only that and hopefully not much longer.

I can feel another nap coming on zzzzzz
rmc28: (bluehair)
A recent conversation (the counterparty can identify themselves if they choose):

"So what you're saying is that cancer is basically like tribbles?"

"Evil tribbles, but yes."

(We later went on to talk about whether Spock's blood was blue or green, and I couldn't remember without looking it up, which probably makes me a fake geek girl or something.)

stuff about treatment and side-effects )

rmc28: Photo of me shortly before starting my first half-marathon (Default)
Taken from [personal profile] falena :

On the nightstand: Bedside lamp, thermometer, a notebook in which I dutifully record my temperature 4 times daily, a box of tissues, and a charger for my phone.

At the theatre (or from the couch): Nothing really; I can't go out in large groups of people at the moment, but we hadn't been to see anything at the theatre for some time.  The Arts Theatre's practice of adding compulsory booking fees on top of the advertised prices annoys me.

On the small screen: Mostly children's things: Nico is very fond of The Gruffalo's Child (on DVD) and Melody (on iPlayer), and will ask for My Neighbour Totoro about once a week.  I've caught some episodes of Elementary when Louise has been watching it.  Now I apparently can concentrate for the length of an episode, I'd like to finish Daredevil season 1 before Jessica Jones starts.

In my ears: I've been listening to my running playlist on shuffle when I want to develop some get-up-and-go.  I'm still very slowly working through Un Cadavre de Trop when I want to sleep - my French comprehension is so poor that most of it just washes over me, but it gets my brain to stop spinning.  I have a whole backlog of already-bought audiobooks which I'd like to listen to before getting the Ancillary Mercy audiobook and/or rejoining Audible.

Around the house: I have ambitions to tackle the pile of paper waiting to be filed that accumulated while I was away, and to sort out the gloves, scarves and hats, but they might remain ambitions for another few weeks.  Over the back fence, builders are at work on a block of flats and quite entertaining to watch.

At work: n/a

In the kitchen: Not really my domain! Louise has been clearing out the kitchen cupboards of ancient and out-of-date food and spices.  The corner cupboard is much tidier now, and she's identified a lot of flour that needs using up.  So we'll have to turn that  into bread in the next month (the hardship).   I think we're also oversupplied with reusable takeaway containers and should have a cull.

In my closet:
I'm mostly wearing jeans / cords and assorted boring tshirts and hoodies.  The goals are: comfort, discreetly covering my line, not minding if I accidentally bleed on what I'm wearing.

In my mailbox: A couple of bank statements, a postcard from an elder cousin, and a reminder from my dentist.  In a box on my desk, a whole lot of postcards and cards from lovely people while I was in hospital.

In my cart: Most recently bought was a set of folders for tidying up the children's DVDs, and my next OU course.  Today I'm planning to send off my Fairphone to get the giant crack on the screen fixed at last.

On the calendar: Lots of visits to the hospital this week for me. Charles has a Halloween party on Friday and the gardeners are scheduled to come next week and make the garden useable again. Louise goes home towards the end of next week :(


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Rachel Coleman

February 2016

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