Doing My Bit!

Hello lovely people!

Some of you may know that back in March I suffered from a spinal fluid leak. It is believed that it was as a result of a particularly hard-core sports massage, during which, something in my neck was ruptured and I started to leak Cerebrospinal Fluid (CSF).

CSF protects our brains by keeping them in a cushioned or buoyant state. A leak can occur as a result of a trauma – in some cases something as seemingly trivial as a golf swing, a violent cough or a sneeze, a twist or a stretch, – or as a result of surgery or an epidural or spinal tap. They can also occur spontaneously.

The result of this ‘leak’ was that my brain was no longer supported and was displaced – basically my brain ‘sagged’ to where it shouldn’t be sitting. Paul and I joked about me having a ‘saggy brain’ but humour aside, it’s been a pretty turbulent few months. This condition can cause all sorts of neurological symptoms, the main one being the most SEVERE AND HORRENDOUS AND DEBILITATING HEADACHE THAT IS ONLY RELIEVED BY LYING DOWN. (In capitals because this is the major defining symptom of this condition – spreading awareness and all that!).

Yes, ok, some of us would give anything for a lie down for an extended period, but I wouldn’t wish this on anyone. Really. I have given birth, naturally, twice, and I can honestly say that was relaxing in comparison to a low CSF pressure headache. After all, my brain was basically bumping against the top of my spine and stretching all the nerves around it at the same time. To top it off, other symptoms can include:

Nausea; Vomiting; Dizziness; Double Vision / blurry vision and pain behind / in eyes; Neck and Back Pain; Tinnitus and pressure in the ears / hearing loss; Sinus pressure; Facial numbness; Cognitive decline.

Pretty sh*t really when you have to function – you have a life to lead, responsibilities, a job to do, children to look after… and you can’t get out of bed. It’s not necessarily a life threatening condition (but it can be) and not necessarily a lifelong condition (but it can be), but it’s very much under diagnosed. I was repeatedly told that I had a sinus infection, a migraine, a tension headache: ‘Mrs Walker, why don’t you go for a run to relax?’…’Eeerrrrm, because I’m currently crawling to the toilet because the pain in my head is so severe when I stand up’…. etc. I’ve always broadcasted my support for the NHS, and I stand by that. But this condition is rare and it needs to be known about so that it can be recognised and treated quickly and appropriately!

While I’m being so honest, I’ll tell you that this experience has shaken me to the core. BUT, I seem to have been one of the lucky ones. My ‘leak’ appears to have healed itself. I’ve been left with some lingering symptoms which I’m waiting for a further brain MRI to suss out and also a deep, nagging anxiety that ‘THAT headache might come back’. I’ve cancelled numerous commitments over the last few months, I didn’t work for weeks and I was a crap Mummy, I’ve let people down, I haven’t been great to be around, I’ve stopped running and my life has slowed down considerably – those who know how busy and active I was previously will pay testament to that. However, I seem to be one of the lucky ones. For some people and for different reasons, these leaks don’t heal spontaneously, and ongoing and increasing invasive surgical procedures are needed. And because this condition is rare, appropriate treatment often isn’t available in the UK and many –  too many – need to travel to the States to receive the treatment they need at HUGE cost.

If you’d like to know more or to donate to the CSF Leak charity that is in the process of being launched to raise awareness and funds to support those suffering, the link is:

http://www.csfleak.info/

This charity is in the process of being set up by a couple from Scotland – Cerian and David – and others, for a very good reason.

David is like us – a young, active guy, living life to the full. Until his CSF Leak struck whilst kayaking in the Scottish highlands. After 2 years of this nightmare agony, David is currently in the States receiving treatment from a CSF Leak specialist. David has been through two major spinal operations over the last month, yet his and Cerian’s strength and positivity is unrelenting.

So. I’m writing this blog to raise awareness of this horrible, debilitating condition, but also to highlight David and Cerian’s on-going journey to find a resolution and to return to the normality that so many of us take for granted. I always thought I was grateful for my health, for my fortunate life. And then my CSF leak struck and I realised how much I really did take for granted.

Here’s some reading about CSF Leaks in the media:

http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/health/sufferers-of-rare-spinal-disorder-to-launch-charity-after-michelle-watt-tragedy.131075242

http://www.today.com/id/9546086/ns/today-entertainment/t/george-clooney-considered-killing-himself/#.VZpZ1FVVhHw

http://www.ross-shirejournal.co.uk/News/Plea-for-USA-treatment-to-be-offered-in-Britain-as-Ross-man-recovers-from-second-surgery-15072015.htm

And here’s the link to David and Cerian’s page if you’d like to follow their story:

https://www.facebook.com/findandfixdavidbaldwinscsfleak

And finally, an interesting clip about CSF Leaks:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i1Ena01hL7g&feature=youtu.be

Thank you again for reading. I promise a more cheery blog next time!

Polly

xxx

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#Littleloves: Cuckoos, cards and perfume.

I haven’t posted for a couple of weeks, I’ve been so busy with half term, working and life! Can’t quite believe that we’re into June already. Eek! So, without further ado, I’m linking up with Butwhymummywhy again this week to share my #littleloves.

Read: 

I’ve just finished reading ‘I Let You Go’ which is the choice for our book club this month. I usually approach crime / detective / psychological thrillers with great caution as I often feel disappointed on some level – often they’re not believable enough or end up being a bit naff (obviously I’m reading the wrong ones!) But I love, love, loved this one. I don’t want to say too much for fear of saying TOO much, other than that I wholeheartedly recommend this book – it will keep you gripped and awake into the early hours (just one more chapter…) At the very end it was interesting to read about the author’s background and motivation for writing it.

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Watched: 

We’ve also just finished watching the second series of ‘Broadchurch’. I’d heard mixed reviews about this drama and entered into it with a very open mind. The very first episode made quite uncomfortable viewing but I’m glad we stuck with it. However – watching ‘Broadchurch’ and reading ‘I Let you Go’ in tandem is not advisable, there were a few parallels, in particular the setting of the stunning British coast and it was hard not to imagine one when reading / watching the other.

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Wore: 

I’m loving this perfume at the moment! It’s very floral and spring-like and I’m sticking with it until summer officially arrives!

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Heard: 

The cuckoo! Ok this was last week but every year since I was a child I listen out for it and the sound of the cuckoo always makes me smile.

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Sticking with the perfume theme, Elodee is well and truly in the ‘perfume making stage’. She loves collecting up flowers and petals to mix together to find out what scent they make – unfortunately the dominant smell tends to be Cow Parsley, but she’s enjoying the process and also finding out about the different flowers that we see when we’re out and about.

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We’ve also stumbled upon a fun new activity – personalised children’s birthday cards! This originally came about because I’d completely forgotten to buy a card and we hastily made one from the bits and bobs in my craft box, but E took such great pride in making something for a friend that it has now become a bit of a pre-party tradition!

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And finally….

We’re off to Peppa Pig World this weekend! Wish us luck : )

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Thank you for reading xx

littleloves

If you enjoyed this, why not head over to Amazon and check out my children’s book:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1906954801

You can also check out my book news and latest artworks at:

www.facebook.com/pollymwalker

and

Twitter: @pollymwalker

 

 

 

Animals, Ninjas and Singing… My #littleloves

Hello! I can’t believe it’s Friday again already. Life is finally returning to ‘normal’ for me now. I’m feeling so much better each day and I’ve been doing a lot more. My week has been much more varied than in the previous couple of months! I’m linking up with Morgana at Butwhymummywhy again this week to share my #littleloves. Here goes….

Read:

I SHOULD be reading ‘Suite Francaise’ for book club at the moment but I’ve been really struggling to get into it. My thoughts keep drifting off and I’ve started from scratch twice now. I’m hoping the weekend will give me some renewed focus! In the meantime, I’ve taken a diversion and have been reading ‘My Family and Other Animals’ by Gerald Durrell. This book retells the life of Gerald’s family on the Greek island of Corfu. I remember watching the BBC series as a child back in the 80s and being fascinated by the rich flora and fauna that he encounters during his adventures on the island. It has made me want to go bug hunting!

My_Family_and_Other_Animals_BookWatched:

The girls are really into Ninja Warrior UK… so much so, that we have made it a bit of an event in our house on a Saturday evening – they’re allowed to stay up ‘late’ to watch it if they’ve behaved themselves! I love it too… it takes me back to the days of watching Gladiators on a Saturday afternoon! They especially love watching the women compete, they take note of their name and then cheer for them as they make their way through the course. A few days ago we were at the park and mid-climb, Paige suddenly exclaimed ‘I am a Ninja Warrior aren’t I mama?!’ Such a funny thing to hear from a 3 year old!

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Wore:

Ok, this is a bit of a rubbish one but as it’s not something I do every day so I thought I’d include it: if you didn’t see my post earlier this week, I wore an airline pilot’s hat! Find out what I was up to here….

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Heard:

Another one from the girls… lately they seem to be having an increasing amount of conversations in song! I love it. Favourite this week, again from Paigey:

‘I’m a medium candle in a medium place… lovely lovely ta da daaa’

Made:

I finally invested in a Nutri Ninja recently and have been making some fabulous concoctions – I’ve been getting very creative and naturally some have been more successful than others. I’m going to start experimenting with adding alcohol to some soon… eek! This is my favourite at the moment and it’s so simple: just a pear, a lump of ginger, some ice and a little water to blend, then top up with carbonated water. It’s like ginger beer! V refreshing and yummy even though it looks revolting!

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And finally:

A little bit of shameless self promotion now – apologies…. Now I’m up and well again, I’m back to organising school visits with my book. Whether you’re a teacher or a parent and you’re interested, I’d be delighted to hear from you!

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Thank you again for reading. Have a great weekend!

Polly x

littleloves

Facing my Fear….

Spending a day learning about spoilers, flaps, slats and ailerons whilst paying for the privilege might seem a bit of a bloomin’ nutty way to spend a large portion of the bank holiday weekend. But, if like me, you’re in the 25-30% of the population that suffers from Aviophobia, you’ll probably agree that it’s money and time well spent – especially if you need, or want, to travel.

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Whilst I can’t pinpoint an exact event or reason for the onset of my fear, I can tell you categorically that it’s not a learned behaviour – my parents both loved flying. All the messages I received in my childhood about air travel were positive ones. Yet I still found myself in my late teens so gripped by fear 38,000 feet above the Atlantic Ocean that I didn’t leave my seat for 8 hours, refused to look out of the window and literally pleaded with the gods that the end would be quick and painless when we inevitably plummeted out of the sky into the watery depths below. I couldn’t quite believe it when I stepped out into the gleaming sunshine at the other end following our smooth flight. We’d ACTUALLY touched down without incident – this time I’d obviously been lucky.

Crazy? Irrational? Stupid?! Probably. But I was still very sacred and I was planning a gap year. I desperately wanted to travel – my desire to explore far-flung shores somehow overshadowed my fear of flying, but the sight of a jetliner continued to fill me with adrenalin and make my palms clammy from the safety of the ground, I realised it was a battle that I needed to fight head on.

So, back in 1997 I attended a ‘Fly without Fear’ course at Heathrow, run by experienced pilots, crew and psychologists. While there were no promises I’d be ‘cured’, there were definite guarantees I’d come away educated and informed about the phenomenon of flying: how a plane actually gets off the ground, why it’s wings won’t fall off, why turbulence isn’t actually dangerous; I’d hear a detailed breakdown of the rigorous training every pilot must endure before taking charge of, well…our lives. I learnt a plethora of relaxation techniques, as well as the reasons why we develop fears, how we fuel them, and how we can manage them. The climax of the day was the opportunity for a regular commercial aircraft full of nervous (some downright petrified) flyers to practice everything they’d learnt during an hour-long flight, whilst receiving a running commentary from the flight deck about the various noises and sensations we were experiencing during the different stages of the flight. We visited the cockpit and received oodles of reassurance and encouragement from the patient, calm crew. It was fascinating.

In the years that followed, the utter fear I’d previously experienced when airborne reduced to minimal. I flew into Hong Kong’s Kai Tak airport, weaving between skyscrapers whilst peering at residents hanging out their washing. I sky dived from a tiny plane at 10,000ft and took a 16 seater propeller plane into the mountains where we landed on a short, sloping airstrip at an elevation of 2,845m with a gradient of 11.7%. I’ve flown to a remote island in the Indian Ocean where we landed on sand and flown through the infamous air currents bouncing off the Rock of Gibraltar, as well as some other crazy weathers in flight; I was completely surprised at how mesmerising it was to look down over an electric storm illuminating the clouds below rather than feeling that the end was nigh… Experiences that left me exhilarated and feeling more alive than ever, and far from afraid.

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Kai Tak Airport

 

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Lukla Airport

 

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Gibraltar Airport

 

 

Now we have a young family I probably fly once or twice a year and our destinations are not remote, nor are they listed as the ‘most dangerous runways in the world’. But my phobia has recently reared it’s ugly head again despite the fact that last year was recorded as being the safest aviation year on record. Regardless of the statistics, over the last eighteen months the aviophobes among us have been on a heightened alert to the horrifying and increasingly familiar news story of yet another jetliner disaster. There’s a little voice inside of me that’s started to pipe up again: ‘You see, you were right to be scared all along’….

It was on a recent flight with our daughters that I realised I needed to tackle this again. A few minor rolls of turbulence and I was so stricken with fear that I could barely string a sentence together. Desperate for them to not see, I made the walk of shame down the aircraft to the nearest air steward with whom I confided that I was feeling ‘a bit jittery’. A few reassuring words and a bit of deep breathing later and I was able to return to my seat, the girls none the wiser. But now we’ve committed to a holiday in sunny climes over the summer, I’m desperate not to have another anxious and embarrassing encounter with my high-flying demons – and most importantly, not to expose my children to them.

So, today I returned to Heathrow Airport to attend the Fear of Flying course for the second time in 20 years. I’ve come away feeling secure that my aviation knowledge is well and truly refreshed. I know what’s going on behind the scenes these days to ensure our safety whilst hurtling through the clouds at 500 mph and I’ve been reminded of how to manage when the panic rises along with the altitude. Whilst I don’t fly until the end of June, I feel confident that when I do, I’ll be in good hands.

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The course I attended today was run by Virgin and was the ‘ground only’ course. The pilot and crew were highly experienced and were prepared to answer all manner of questions about flying – even those you’d be embarrassed to ask. All the major airlines run Fly without Fear/ Flying with Confidence courses and most of them offer the option of a flight on their premium courses. If you’re like me and you’re a nervy flyer, I would recommend attending one!

Thank you again for reading.

Polly x

My #littleloves: Hands Free, Shortbread and Meditation.

Hello! Happy happy Friday to you. I’ve been trying to put a blog together for days now and have been really struggling… is that Blogger’s Block?! I’ve lurched from writing about Miley Cyrus and daughters, to the earthquake in Nepal, to my health ‘issues’, but I just can’t seem to pull it all together. It’s so much easier and nicer to write about my #littleloves for this week….

Read:

I love this site: http://www.handsfreemama.com There are so many beautiful and inspiring quotes and snippets of advice for parents. My favourite is the list of ideas of how to salvage a bad morning. We’ve all been there – the stressy dash out of the house, following by the lingering guilt for being such a nag. There are some lovely, yet simple, ideas of how to save the day! My favourite is:

If someone is grumpy, let her do something you usually do like pour the milk from a small pitcher, add the brown sugar to the oatmeal, or decorate a sticky note to put in a family member’s lunchbox or briefcase.

Heard:

Every evening I hear the tranquil sounds of Elodee’s meditation for kids CD drifting from her bedroom as she drifts off to sleep. She loves listening to this soothing relaxation journey at bedtime, and each evening she is asleep before the disc ends. Sometimes I lie with her and listen to it and find myself dozing off whilst visualising myself calmly floating through the night sky….

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Watched:

I watched the girls spend over an hour sitting on the driveway in the sunshine cleaning a huge box of Granny’s old toys. They scrubbed with cloths and old toothbrushes and soap suds and thoroughly enjoyed the task at hand! They seem to really embrace getting involved in tasks like this.

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Wore:

This beautiful feather necklace that I received on Mother’s Day. I’ve only just started wearing it though as I was ill in bed for so many weeks! I’ve also worn a great big smile after getting the best recovery plan from my neurologist: lots of lying down and caffeine for a couple more weeks! Can you believe it?! I am feeling so relieved, and incredibly grateful.

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Made:

Paigey and I made shortbread.

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It’s SO easy and absolutely delicious. A perfect cooking activity to do with a little one! This is the recipe:

4 oz soft butter

2 oz caster sugar

1 tablespoon of milk

6 oz plain flour

Sieve the flour into a bowl. Stir in the sugar, then rub the butter, flour and sugar with your fingers. Add the milk. Form a ball of dough with your fingers. Make shapes! Bake for 15 – 20 minutes until they are a pale golden colour at 350˚F / 180˚C.

And finally:

Have a wonderful early May Bank Holiday. I hope the sun shines for you!

Thank you for reading.

Polly x

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If you enjoyed this, why not head over to Amazon and check out my children’s book:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1906954801

You can also check out my book news and latest artworks at:

www.facebook.com/pollymwalker

and

Twitter: @pollymwalker

Puzzles, Radios and the Wild: My Geeky #littleloves

Hello!

My horrid illness (or whatever it is!) is rumbling into its 6th week so I’ve been busy focusing on the lovely little things that are keeping me sane during this trying time! So, this week I’m linking up with butwhymummywhy to share my #littleloves….

Read:

‘Press Here’ by Herve Tullet. We LOVE this book! Bought as a gift by a dear friend, it never fails to induce squeals of delight and excitement in the girls. Think along the lines of an interactive ‘This Book Just Ate My Dog’ kind of experience in which the reader is required to tap, stroke, shake and blow the coloured dots on each page in order to trigger the next phase of the journey. A clever and original concept and one which doesn’t rely on wi-fi or a touchscreen to access!

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I’ve been doing a lot of reading recently. My favourite by far is ‘Wild’. This is an honest memoir by Cheryl Strayed who, following the death of her mother and the collapse of her marriage, embarks on a solo long distance trek across the Pacific Crest Trail. Whilst our experiences are obviously very different, it brought back memories of losing my own mother in my twenties and the peace I found when heading to the hills to hike most weekends. This is not a depressing read – whilst sad and deeply moving in places, it is inspiring, motivational and uplifting. I loved it!

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Heard:

*Geek Alert!*

My Dad came to visit last week, bringing with him his latest gadget: an ‘airband scanner’! This is a one way, hand-held radio which you can use to listen in to the communications between airline pilots and air traffic control. We live close to both Heathrow and Luton airports so there’s a great deal of chat going on in the skies above our heads. I’m a bit of a geek at heart (love maps, wish I owned a metal detector…) but even I was quite surprised at how much I’ve enjoyed eavesdropping on the passing Easyjet aircraft! The girls are utterly bemused by it…. but your children might not be if they love aeroplanes!

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Watched:

‘The Island’ with Bear Grylls. I’m not a lover of reality TV but I do love a survival programme and the unlikely candidates for this wild adventure have me hooked already!

We see 14 men and 14 women abandoned on separate remote and uninhabited desert islands in the pacific, where they film themselves and have nothing other than the clothes they arrived in and some basic tools (oh, and a satellite phone but we’ll overlook that one).

Stripped of all luxuries, the programme is pitched as being a social experiment to see if the groups can recapture their primeval instincts. With initial priorities being to find fresh water and food, to build shelter, and to start and maintain a fire in endless tropical storms and damp conditions, there has been a phenomenal amount of bumbling around. Participants are dropping out, tensions are rising, scorpions are stinging… I can’t help but second guess which individuals will make the distance and I can’t wait to see how  their characters evolve under the stresses and strains of island life as the series progresses!

Wore:

I haven’t been the most glamorous patient and have pretty much lived in my ‘comfort clothes’ for weeks now… pyjamas, trakkies, t-shirts. So, here’s something that little Elodee has been wearing now the weather in warming up. We’ve all fallen in love with it! It’s a blue jumpsuit from Monsoon:

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Now that Easter has been and gone, I am back on the tea! Hurrah! After our time apart, I can only conclude that tea is good for my soul and I need it in my life. So, I’ve been making A LOT. The simple things hey!?

I NEVER usually have time for gaming, apps etc but being laid up for so long has given me the opportunity to have a bit of a dabble. This week I’ve made my way through ‘Monument Valley’, an architectural puzzle game for iPhone and iPad. Whilst it’s quite short, the puzzles are challenging enough and the graphics are beautiful, eerie, and very MC Escher. The objective is to guide a princess called Ida through the 10 wonderfully crafted levels by manipulating the architecture around her. Optical illusions offer many surprises and had me hooked for the couple of hours it took me to complete. I was sad when it was over!

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Finally….

The upside of being poorly for so long continues to be the entertainment and the extra snuggles from my little rays of sunshine! And of course the ever patient and positive Mr W!

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Thank you for reading. See you next week!

Polly x

littleloves

If you enjoyed this, why not head over to Amazon and check out my children’s book:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1906954801

You can also check out my book news and latest artworks at:

www.facebook.com/pollymwalker

and

Twitter: @pollymwalker