A Message From Babette

8th May 2021

Babette Bluett-Duncan

Director

It’s been a while… I wasn’t able to be settled enough to sit down and write. So for the past 5 to 6 weeks I have been experiencing new pains, and that, funnily, took me aback… I had just not prepared myself for pain… I hadn’t put pain in my personal computer…

So, navigating it all has been and still is a learning curve. Caught between the advice of Arcadia, who are holistic and “de pointe” as we say in French, ie Vanguard and rather ahead of “the competition”, and the local oncology department, I was confronted with thoughts like “beggars can’t be choosers” or “one cannot challenge a consultant’s opinion”. So discussions with nurses, back and forth, acceptance of chemotherapy as Arcadia confirmed the drug I was offered, Capecitabine, was a good drug, but he would recommend it at ¼ of the dose that most oncologists tend to prescribe. Hopes that (for a while) that my local oncologist was actually going to prescribe the same dose, hopes that the 2 schools were in harmony, and that I wouldn’t have to feel like piggy in the middle, were then dashed. I was utterly gutted and demoralised when being invited to pick up my prescription and drugs at the chemo suite at my local East Surrey hospital. Arriving there and being confronted with the most infantilising nurse ever (high pitch voice, talked as if I was a 5 year old, not listening to me, and eventually giving me the drug and prescription which showed a dose 4 times higher than I had accepted in my head). All this happened over the course of many weeks.

Then my visible tumours as I call them, a patch of red, inflamed, sensitive area on my chest wall, turned angrier, and 1 of them began to bleed. A bit worrying at first, a bit of a oops moment, but the whole thing is not painful, and is contained by putting dressings on it, and I am not squeamish, so all ok. Then things got better when I was put in touch with St Catherine’s hospice Palliative Care. Another Oops moment at first, talking about a hospice, and about palliative care made me feel catapulted into the realm of being 85 not 61, and about to pack up not to have another year or so… But, past the shock, past the idea, (funny the power of preconception…) the people I spoke to on the phone or met in person are the opposite of the Chemo suite staff, not infantilising, very respectful, calm, in the here and now, and wanting to help me, my way. And above all for me, taking me as a whole, not dismissive of Arcadia and what it means to me and how it helped me, and still helps me. It made me reflect even more on the psychology of the staff of the chemo suite. I remember nearly 3 years ago going to the same suite to get some chemo, and having a weird experience of first being overly welcomed, invited to be getting special treatment by one of nurses (even more so when she had understood that my friend Helen who had accompanied me and I were both psychotherapists!) to then be told off because I was acting in the way she had invited me to act initially… Maybe it is really difficult to work in an area where most of your patients “die on you”… Maybe that is why the staff need to go to a “Happy Place”… I prefer ‘Sad Reality’ to ‘Fake Happy’ myself, but we are all different. And although I do not share these views, it matters to me that I find a positive reason why someone is acting in a way that I find offensive. And to finish, I can say this now because I had time to reflect on the experience, and on strategies to protect myself should I need to go back to the suite, but when it happened, I was offended and taken aback, and that made me cross, and I spoke my mind… I am pretty sure that I am known in that department as a “very difficult patient”.

Anyhow back to my reality of 3 weeks ago now, I went back home with my prescription of 4000mg of the drug, and started to take only 1000mg of it. I am now in a new small battle, where Henning, the Arcadia doctor, is suggesting that I get some low dose radiotherapy together with my low dose chemo, but the oncologist here sees it differently. There is another clinic not far from Arcadia that does radiotherapy together with Heat treatment that I did have when I was there before, it seems very advanced, very vanguard again, I am excited at the thought… So do I think of going back to Germany? I certainly spent all my available income plus some significant donations from my French family members on the last trip. Do I take a new mortgage to fund the new trip? Will someone offer to start a crowdfunding page for this new round? I am not on the breadline so who am I to ask anyone to participate to funding my next treatment? Should I just accept what is locally available?

All these questions have certainly kept me busy in the last few weeks. I am now more settled, have found a new painkiller to deal with new chest pains that have appeared 10 days ago, and Henning is also sending me a new drug which had been trialled in America some years back. It’s the only drug so far that has any effect on the Triple Negative cancer, and there is currently a team in New York who is re-trialling the same drug. So I am looking forward to getting it. In the meantime Andrew has organised stuff in our kitchen/dining room so that I can put some fabrics out, the sewing machine, and even a small ironing board and iron to enable me to be with the family and sew. On that note, for the last 12 or so years, since I learnt to do patchwork, I have regularly made a baby quilt for any child that was born to the extended family members, and to friends and neighbours. And I was always going to make some for my grandchildren… Now there aren’t any of these in the pipeline but it matters not. I am now starting to make a quilt for the future poppets. And unless our children end up with twins, these baby quilts are re-usable from 1 child to the next, (as Rebecca whom I met when she was our rep for Le Creuset and now lives in her native New Zealand was recently reminding me). So this is 1 of the first projects I am putting my slow energies to. Another project/s is that I asked the Universe to send me people I could help, either with my sourdough/bread/cooking cap head on, or my psychotherapist one, and my prayers have been answered with projects where I can say when I feel tired, but that give me great joy as I simply just LOVE passing on any knowledge I have. I am in fact specifically excited to find ways to help anyone individually. I mean to put my brain to What does this person want/need? What is their psychology/barriers to learning? What can I say/find to help them have access to receiving help? I really love doing it, and Andrew very kindly often verbalises that I am good at it. So, yes thank you the Universe for sending me small projects. And I suppose I am putting it out there to you today, if you know of anyone that wants help with bread making, I am happy to do doorstep advice to begin with, and possibly more. And if you know of any good cause/person who wants a bit of help in life coaching/better understanding of oneself, then I am more than happy to do at least the first few sessions free of charge, because it helps me.

So that is where I am at. My lovely husband and 3 young adults are more than ever supportive, and attentive to me and this body of mine which is fighting peacefully the changes in it. I am more settled now having accepted this new place where I don’t do much, and there is something quite relaxing somehow to accept that I will not be cured from this Triple Negative cancer, and yet there is also hope through Arcadia et al that I might last a bit longer around you all… One day at a time, that is all I can do, one day at a time.

As before I love to read any thoughts you want to share, and the emails I receive lift me up and touch me, and give me a wonderful feeling of being a bit useful which I cherish. Just be aware that I do not have a lot of energy, and cannot promise I will answer everyone, and indeed there are about 10 people on my list of un-answered emails.

Wishing you a peaceful day.

Babette

babette@artoflivingcookshop.co.uk

PS: I went to see the oncologist today and we have agreed that I will take twice the dose of chemo. That is still half of what she initially recommended, but twice what I have been doing. If what I have been doing so far has stopped the spread of the metastases, what we are hoping with upping the dose is for the open wounds to cure somehow, for it to stop me needed some dressing on it. So I am at peace with that. I will observe what happens.

But the reason for this PS is that on our return, Andrew and I drove by Horley where there is a Lidl, and we stopped as I had Cognac on my Lidl list. Cognac I use a fair bit in cooking, either to deglaze the pan where I cook bacon and then chicken for my Chicken Caesar Salad (before then adding mayonnaise and grated parmesan); or I put some in when I slow cook pork belly to make rillettes, a French Pulled Pork type pâté which, together with many of you who have lived in France for a while, I am very partial to, but have to make my own as they haven’t yet crossed the channel; or as an addition to the pan when I roast a chicken; or finally as a final “liaison” or thickener for any casserole that lacks umff, by mixing some cornflour in cognac and adding it slowly to the casserole after it is cooked. so Cognac, I use a lot of. And call me cheap, or call me ingenuous, but the cheap cognac does the trick for me in cooking and so I was delighted when I found out that Lidl sells some. Today the bottle was just over £10, I can justify Cognac usage on an weekly basis at that price.

But also today, Lidl was selling Dry Porcini Mushrooms. At £1.69 for 30g, ie just over £55 a kilo it is a steal, but above all, I opened the pack as soon as I was back home, and the mushrooms in there, unlike some other packets from some other suppliers I tried over the years, are all proper Porcini -or Ceps as we call them in France-, and also some decent size bits, like when I dry my own, not the bits that look like sweepings in some other makes. For those of you who are not so familiar with Porcini, the King of the Forest as some call it, the reason for their fame is that on drying, Porcini develop a level of aroma and scent which is very potent and extremely palatably umami in cooking. Use them either as they come, ie re-hydrate them in boiling water, let them soak a bit, then either as, or cut up small, use in any risotto, together with the precious liquid. You can also blitz the dried mushrooms into a powder which you then add very easily to any dish without needing to pre-soak. I highly recommend having some dried Porcini in your larder. I usually forage mine, ie hardly ever buy any, but at that price, and good quality, I bought 3 packs myself, and thought to pass on the tip. If that appeals to you, run to your nearest Lidl because it is part of their “one off” promotions. The cognac is there all year round.

Happy cooking!

Babette

Covid-19 Update

Andrew Bluett-Duncan

Director, Art of Living cookshop

Disclaimer: this information is correct at the time of publishing 06/07/2020, our situation will be under continuous review. 

  • Art of Living's Reigate and Cobham shops are now open Tuesday to Saturday from 10am to 3.00pm.


    At the entrance of the shops, we have a unit that I built with sanitiser and we are encouraging you to use it, especially if you want to touch things in the shop. This also applies to people wearing gloves. 

    We are all wearing visors, which is a great find (thank you Em) because they are far more pleasant to wear than masks, and enable us to be facing you without the 2 metre distance, and above all they allow us to be understood by customers and colleagues alike. I have built a screen in front of the tills and these are working well. We also have more sanitiser there.

    We are still allowing only 3 customers in the shop at any one time. If you come in as a couple, we would ask you to stay together if there are other people in the shop. 

    We’ll be asking you to pay by card if possible and the floor is marked out to give you a guide on distancing.

    Our website shop remains open, alive and kicking.

    Kind regards

    Andrew
    Andrew Bluett-Duncan
    Director 

Coronavirus (COVID-19)

We are pleased to say that we are operational, our website is open for you to place orders and we are dispatching at an unprecedented rate. Our incredible warehouse team have been working non stop to make sure we can still pick, pack and dispatch your orders as quickly as possible. As with most companies, we are operating with fewer staff than we normally would be, so we hope you understand that it may take a little longer than usual to answer your phone calls and respond to your emails.
Thank you in advance for your patience and understanding.


To make sure we can answer all customer queries as quickly as possible, please consider the following Frequently Asked Questions before contacting us:


When should I expect my order?
We are currently asking customer to refrain from calling us to chase up delivery dates for orders. This allows us to prioritise actually getting your goods out for delivery. Unfortunately we are not able to answer telephone queries at this time, though you can leave a voicemail message for us. This may, at times, mean that our response times are a little slower than usual but we would ask that you bear with us. We would like to apologise for any inconvenience, but please rest assured that all customer enquiries will be dealt with.

Our warehouse team is working hard to make sure that most products are dispatched within our standard lead time and many items are going out much quicker. Some items do have longer lead times due to our suppliers also working with fewer staff and taking longer to deliver to us.

Depending on whether you gave us your email address or mobile number when you placed your order, we will email or text you once items are dispatched and on the way. Your order confirmation will give you a 'worst case scenario' delivery date.

Why have we suspended taking telephone orders?
We are currently unable to take orders over the phone and so we ask all customers to visit https://aolcookshop.co.uk/ to place orders.

I received my order, but it was incomplete.

We do sometimes part ship orders to ensure the products arrive as quickly as possible. So if you receive a delivery and think something is missing, please check the delivery note as this will let you know what should be in the parcel and if there is anything to follow in future deliveries.

My delivery tracking shows my items have been delivered but I haven’t got them.
Our carriers are currently operating “Contact free” deliveries. If you receive confirmation that something has been delivered but haven’t received it, it’s worth checking around your property or in your designated safe place before contacting us.

Do you have plenty of stock?
In short, yes we do! We are constantly ordering more stock so that we can not only continue to fulfil orders as they are placed, but also reduce the amount of time you have to wait. However, a number of our suppliers have gone from delivering to us in 24 – 48 hours to 10 - 14 days and this, along with a spike in demand means that some items may be delayed, or temporarily unavailable.

I have another question or problem

We would like to assure you that we continue to be here if you need us. Like most of our customers, many of our staff are spending the vast majority of their time at home and we realise that cooking and baking are becoming a sanctuary. We are committed to making sure we do everything we can to continue to supply you with the best quality products at great value.

Please email info@artoflivingcookshop.co.uk.

Thank you for your continued custom and for your support and patience at this challenging time.

We really appreciate it and wish you all health and best wishes.

The Art of Living Team




 

12 comments

  • NoreenMay 12, 2021

    Hi Babette. Thanks so much for the update. You are an amazing person to be able to put things down so calmly, which I doubt I could do in similar circumstances. The St Catherine’s people are absolutely wonderful, as I found out when my husband was ill. I hope that the medicine being sent to you from Germany will prove to be of help and soon. When you feel like it, I wonder whether you might feel like posting a picture or two of your quilt(s) – it would be lovely to see, either as a work in progress for the little one to come whenever, or one that you have made for members of your family already. Very best wishes, Noreen

  • Tracey May 08, 2021

    Sorry to read things have been so ‘up & down’ for you. Sending some Reiki healing hugs to you.
    Warmest regards
    X

  • PatMay 08, 2021

    Hello Babbette. Your blog is wonderfully honest and refreshing. I could feel my hackles rising re the infantile treatment you received! It reminded me of an incident that happened to me when I was in another Surrey hospital for a hysterectomy aged 33. During the pre-op chat the anaesthetist was called to the phone leaving my notes on the bed. Being curious, I had a look! I was appalled and furious to find the words ‘ this woman asks too many questions ‘ written in red ink and capital letters. Amazingly I managed to talk quietly to the anaesthetist, expressing my disgust. I was also ‘brave’ enough to confront the consultant, saying it was rude, demeaning and disrespectful – my body, my absolute right to question what was going to be done and why! He did apologise and treated me a little more deferentially. So yes, you may now have the reputation of being ‘a difficult patient’ but it’s your body, you have a right to be treated with respect and most importantly to be listened to! Don’t change!!

  • PatMay 08, 2021

    Hi Babette! Thank you so much for your latest update. It is good to hear from you and know that you are finding the way to move amongst satisfying actions at home. I was angry to hear of the attitude of the East Surrey Oncology department, I thought that we had progressed beyond that now, very disappointing. Maybe they are all very tired given the past year, but that is still no excuse.
    I must tell you how amazing the introduction of two bamboo Joseph Joseph cutlery organisers have been! I almost feel that my 38 year old kitchen has been renewed, and even my daughter approves! I read Andrew’s email every week and am often filled with longing for the latest thing, but to no avail.
    I am a useless seamstress so I am full of admiration and approval of the quilt projects, they will be loved for many years in the future.

  • Eleanor LinesMay 08, 2021

    Hi Babette, thank you for your acuity. Your visits to East Surrey Hospital oncology remind me of my mother’s experience. 25 years ago, welcoming her as Barbara; 5 years later as Mrs Lines; she felt the difference keenly and you remind me how much this training is needed. I sit here, having just moved to Wiltshire, enjoying my Riedel wine glass set ( house-present to myself ) and remembering how wonderful it was when The Art of Living arrived in Reigate, while I was still living there and at school! It brought style and joy to the High Street, and still does! Good luck with your quilts, great idea! And with everything.

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