Thoughts are not facts

Hello friends

I hope you are all keeping healthy and happy.

I haven’t posted on my blog again for ages, I’m not sure why but it just hasn’t felt right for me to do so.

The truth is that I am still feeling somewhat out of kilter and discombobulated (isn’t that a fabulous word)?  Physically I feel pretty good and,  as people keep telling me, I look ‘really well’ but the truth is my head is in a mess.  Maybe I haven’t  posted because I don’t want to sound miserable and I don’t want or need sympathy, it’s just the way things are at the moment.  It’s no great shakes just something I need to work through.

I really thought that once I had finished all the treatment and started to feel better physically everything would be just hunky dory and ‘back to normal’ in no time at all, but that’s not how things are. Right now I feel like I don’t know where I am and half the time I’m not even sure who I am.  Sounds crazy doesn’t it?  But that’s the nearest I can get to describing this feeling of being lost.

I am pretty emotional too and I can’t seem to keep myself on an even keel.  Sometimes I am sinking into depression for no reason that I can think of.  I don’t mean the crippling “can’t even get out of bed” type of depression, but the just the sensation of everything being flat and uninteresting.  I know it will pass and it does, but when it happens I don’t really want to have to interact with other people, and that’s tricky when I have to go to work and help to sort out other people’s problems.

I remember when I was first diagnosed with cancer the nurse told me that it was going to change me.  I had no idea what she was talking about and I think I just dismissed it. BUT now I completely understand what she meant, it’s just that I can’t really explain it to you.

I think partly it is down to confidence (or lack of it), having 8 months of treatment has certainly bashed my self esteem a bit, and I don’t feel that confident in my ability to do things as well as I used to.  There is also the uncertainty as to whether the cancer will come back or not. I always try not to worry about bad things that ‘might’ happen, because in my experience they usually don’t and worrying about them is just a waste of time, besides if they do happen you just have to deal with them anyway.  I try not to worry, but I don’t always succeed.  I think probably the longer it goes with things being OK the more assured I will feel.

I am still being creative but for some reason at the moment I don’t feel like sharing what I’m working on, and I don’t know why that is either.  I’m working on my radiotherapy mask project, which is turning into something of fairly epic proportions!  It’s still not anything like I’ve imagined or planned it to be but I think I just have to go along with it.  Rather than me trying to shape the project I just need to let it guide me where it wants to go because it’s going to go that way anyway…

I am also working on another project with a bit more ‘depth’ to it and I probably won’t share that or much of it until it’s finished either (this one could take years). What I want to do is work through something, I’ve picked a theme and I’m just seeing what ideas come to me around that theme.  Then I am going to look at some other artists who I really like and see if and how I can use their work to influence my own art.  I’m hoping that this will help me progress and grow. It think it might also be my route for re-finding myself – the ‘where’ and ‘who’ I am. Wish me luck!

I’m back at work full time now, but because it’s such a struggle I am using up all my leave from last year so I can take breaks when it gets too much.  Like for example today I couldn’t face going in because I’ve had a really crappy weekend, with a very low mood, so I contacted my manager this morning and told him I needed to take emergency leave.  Fortunately for me he is an incredibly understanding and sympathetic person so that seemed to be OK.

T is still off work and having major problems with the cardio medication, but fortunately he finally got to see a GP who understood and between them they are working things out, it’s just taking a bl**dy long time!

I did eventually get around to writing to the local hospital to explain why I insisted on staying under the care of Southampton hospital when the radiotherapy treatment finished.  The feedback I gave included the good as well as the bad things I had experienced at the local hospital.  Last week I went in to meet up with the Specialist Nurse and her manager to discuss my rather long letter of feedback.  They seemed to take it all very seriously and were very apologetic, hopefully they will use it to make improvements to the service that people receive there.  I hope so anyway.

Two good things came out of it for me one is that I am now enrolled on a Surviving Cancer Information Programme (SKIP) which starts at the end of October and I think that will help me to cope better, and in the meantime I have been referred to a psychologist for support prior to the programme starting. So hopefully things will start to improve for me soon.  I think I could probably work things out by myself over time, but I am worried that I am messing things up at work and letting people down so I think I need a bit of support to get me through this tricky bit of fully getting back into the swing of things.

The page above (completed in May of this year) is from my small journal (6″ x 9″)  and below are the before and after penwork images.

Thoughts before and after penwork

Take good care of yourselves my lovelies

Big love from me

AJ xxx

PS if you see adverts on my page and you don’t like them I highly recommend you start to use AdBlock.  I never see any adds on here or on FB :-)

© Janette Gregson and ajsartjournal, 2011-2015 unless otherwise stated. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Janette Gregson and ajsartjournal with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Everything works out

Everything works out


Hello friends

It’s almost a month since I wrote anything on my blog so it’s time for another update.  I hope all is well with you in your part of the universe.

Here things have settled down and we are now on a more even keel.  We are both out of our depressive moods and getting on with things.  T still has to get his medication sorted out as something is making him feel very unwell at the moment, but he’s seeing his doctor next week so hopefully she can make some changes for the better at the moment he is still on sick leave.

I have started back at work which is good.  I’m taking things slowly.  The first week I did two and for the past two weeks I’ve done 3 day weeks and I am gradually working up to being in full time work again soon.  It will be good to finally get back to normal again but at the moment I’m struggling a little with my time management.  I suppose that after 8 months of having very little to do and all the time in the world to do it in, I’ve gotten used to not doing much at all, but I’ll get back in my stride eventually.  Anyway it’s so good to feel healthy again and I’m feeling optimistic about the future.

Next week I should be working 3 days: Monday, Wednesday and Friday, but on Wednesday I have booked leave as I am travelling to London with a couple of friends to receive another national award for Ryde Social Heritage Group.  We are going to have to leave VERY early in the morning to be able to get to London by 10am and then at some point in the day I have to give a short presentation to lots of people, but I’m looking forward to it very much.  We have to leave London by mid afternoon in order to be able to get back to the Isle of Wight by early evening.  It will be a long but rewarding day and I’ll have all day Thursday to recover from the travel.

I’ve started working on a project with my radiotherapy mask.  At the moment I’m not sure how it’s going, definitely not quite as I expected. I think I just need to keep at it and see where it goes. The project involves papier mache and wheat paste and I haven’t played with those for a long time so at the least I’m enjoying the process and that’s more important to me than the end result.

Apart from that I still haven’t found much time for doing any other art so the page above was completed in my small journal in March this year, below is the before and after image:

Page 4 before and after

Stay healthy and happy and I’ll see you soon

Big love AJ :-)


© Janette Gregson and ajsartjournal, 2011-2015 unless otherwise stated. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Janette Gregson and ajsartjournal with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

More Challenges!



Hello friends!

I hope you are all doing well.  I haven’t posted in a while because I’ve been in a bad head space for a few weeks, life continues to throw challenges my way, and I haven’t been coping that well.

Soon after my last post T developed flu-like symptoms and was clearly unwell and spent much of the time in bed.

On 26 May it was my birthday, you know one of those ‘big ones’ with a big fat zero at the end.  It wasn’t the best birthday, T was very sick and although I did get a couple of visitors to be honest I really didn’t feel that sociable.

Our holiday was booked to start on 29 May and the night before I suggested to T that we cancel and stay at home instead, but he insisted he felt a little better each day and wanted us to go.  So we packed up and went as planned.

I knew that we wouldn’t be able to do much in the way of walking or activity but I thought all we had to do was chill out and take things easy.  I packed a whole bag of art supplies to keep myself occupied so it wouldn’t matter of we didn’t go out at all.

The cottage was exactly as advertised and the area – near to Lyme Regis in Dorset – is lovely.  The weather was not brilliant, in fact it was a bit chilly at times but the cottage had good heating so that wasn’t a problem.  BUT it was not a good holiday, in fact it was stressful and difficult for both of us.  T became really unwell physically and mentally and we both really struggled to cope.  We both ended up depressed and despondent and it was definitely not the rest and recuperation I had been hoping for.

Before T became unwell I was feeling a bit flat and lost as I’d come to the end of months of treatment but had no idea whether or not it has worked. I’ve joined a cancer forum online and found out that this often happens to people when they reach the end of treatment .  All the while you are being treated it feels like you are doing something about it but then it stops and you feel like you are left in limbo all on your own. So I was already feeling low and then when T became unwell it was like a double whammy and I fell apart a bit.

Over a week after arriving home things are finally slowly beginning to improve for both of us. We managed to see a local doctor earlier in the week and he told us that heart surgery can sometimes trigger depression in patients and the heart medication might be affecting the other meds T takes for his Bipolar Disorder.  It’s certainly been a rough old ride on the emotional roller-coaster recently and neither of us have dealt with it particularly well.

It’s a bit of a shame that the medical profession seems to treat symptoms but not the ‘whole person’ in retrospect it’s pretty obvious that heart problems are going to trigger a bipolar episode but we had nothing in place to deal with it when it did.  I just wish I was better at dealing with it, but when T is in that big black hole of depression, even though I know it’s not personal, I can’t help but feel alone and depressed too.

So, anyway I didn’t get to do any art while we were away apart from the lettering on the page above.  The atmosphere was just too tense and not conducive to being creative. I tried really hard to put into practice all those things I know about being mindful, not listening to the thoughts going round and round in my head and just deciding to be happy. Writing that quote in my journal was a message to myself that I don’t have to be defeated by the stuff life throws at me. A few times I was successful and managed to lift my mood, but most of the time, despite my best endeavours, I felt defeated and despondent.  Clearly I need to practice a lot more!

While we were on holiday I went out a couple of times on my own and I discovered a fantastic cafe in Bridport called the Soulshine Cafe  there is a lovely vibe there and I found it just at a time when I really needed some sunshine for my soul.  I also saw a fantastic exhibition at Bridport Arts Centre by the A Level students of Colfox and Beaminster School.  It was really good, so much talent!  I spent ages there looking at the art and browsing through the students’ sketchbooks and then had a long conversation with the lady who was volunteering at the exhibition.

On the Monday after we returned from holiday I went on my own to see the Oncologist at Southampton Hospital.  He examined me and asked me some questions about how I was and said things ‘look OK’.  After a bit of a discussion about whether or not I should return to the local hospital he made me an appointment to see him again at Southampton in 3 months time.  Before that I will need to have another CT scan and on the day I’ll have a blood test, so hopefully I’ll find out more then.  At the moment it seems we are playing the ‘wait and see’ game.

I am so pleased that all the treatment is over now. Physically I feel good and I’m not overly worried about my health at present. I know it’s early days yet but I’m really hoping that it’s all over now.  Next week I will be starting my phased return to work after almost 8 months sick leave and I’m looking forward to getting some normality back into my life. I am a bit anxious because I’ve been away from the work environment for such a long time, but my employers have been very understanding and my colleagues have been keeping in contact with me, it will be fine and fun once I get back into it, all I have to do is ‘get up, dress up and show up’ and start getting on with the rest of my life now.

The page above is in my small journal and here is what it looked like before the penwork:


That’s all for now, take good care of yourselves, and I promise I will work on improving my mood before I post again.

Big love AJ xxx :-)

And here is a video of another old journal :-)


© Janette Gregson and ajsartjournal, 2011-2015 unless otherwise stated. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Janette Gregson and ajsartjournal with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.



Ups and Downs and Ups!

My poster made at Gonzo Design Workshop

Hello friends, I hope all is good with you.

More health issues but not me this time!

Life definitely gets weird at times, at least it does for me.  Just as I was beginning to feel a bit better and my mood was lifting after the month of radiotherapy T ended up in hospital! From Monday 11 May until Friday 15 May he was in the acute ward of coronary care unit at the local hospital.  Then on Friday morning he was sent over to QA Hospital on the mainland and later that day he had an angioplasty.  He came home on Saturday 16 May.

He was awake and watched the operation on a screen while it was happening and the doctor explained what he was doing.  I had no idea that any of this was possible.  When I thought of heart surgery before I imagined something really major resulting in a big cut to the chest and lots of stitches, but the only wound he had was the cut in his wrist where they fed in the wire up his artery and into his heart.  If you are interested you can see a similar operation here, it’s fascinating!

All the while he was in hospital he was pain free but pretty bored so he was pleased to get home again.

While T was in hospital I had plenty to keep me occupied: looking after the garden and greenhouse and keeping his precious vegetable seedlings alive, making sure the cats where fed and cared for, keeping the house clean and tidy, feeding myself and visiting the hospital once or often twice a day.  For some reason he didn’t want anyone else to visit him apart from me.  I also decided to repaint the walls and ceiling in the dining room before he came home.  It’s exactly the same colour as it was before only it looks a bit fresher now.   I also washed the floor, rug, curtains and blinds and put them back.  I didn’t really feel too anxious about him being in hospital because he was pain free and actually looked quite healthy while he was there, but I just wanted to keep myself busy while he was away.

Now he is home I am helping him to sort out the garden so he doesn’t get  too tired, his chest is still a bit bruised and he is on loads and loads of new medication at the moment which is slowing him down and sometimes affecting his mood.  Still I think we are doing OK at the moment.

Anyway it looks like we are still going to be able to get away for our short break, but we will be forced to take things very easy as I don’t think he will be able to walk very far.

A Treat for me!

Yesterday (May 20) I decided to give myself a treat and had a day trip to London see an exhibition by artist David Shillinglaw and attend a ‘Gonzo Design Workshop’ run by him at Morgan in Clerkenwell.  I had a great day and it was lovely to meet David.  He is very inclusive, welcoming and chatty as well as being a sensational artist.  After being quite nervous in the beginning I soon felt at ease and at home. In the workshop we made posters either about ourselves or about something we wanted to protest about. The materials we had to use were Design magazines, scissors, glue sticks, tissue paper and marker pens.  I was in my element and it was fun to just play around.  I nearly always create my art on my own and there is a whole new dynamic when you create with other people.

The image above is the poster I made about me :-) and here are a couple of pictures from the day.

Workbench at Gonzo Design Workshop

Workbench at Gonzo Design workshop with David Shillinglaw at Morgan Furniture London. Finished posters hanging in background/


David Shillinglaw and Me!

After months of being ‘chemo’ bald my hair is finally beginning to grow back!

Here is a video of the workshop:

Today I must admit I am feeling tired, but it’s worth it to have had a fun day yesterday.

Take care of yourselves and I’ll see you again soon.

Big love

AJ xxx

© Janette Gregson and ajsartjournal, 2015 unless otherwise stated. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Janette Gregson and ajsartjournal with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.



Hello friends

I’ve been away from my blog again for a while so I hope you are all doing well.  What a lot has happened since I was last here!

My health

During the last couple of weeks of radiotherapy treatment I was getting quite tired and often went to bed as soon as I got home, apart from that I didn’t feel too bad although the inside of mouth was sore a lot of the time.  The final treatment was on 29 April.  I thought I would feel euphoric at reaching the end of treatment, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.  After the treatment ended the sores in my mouth became worse, my tongue felt like a piece of old carpet, I lost all sense of taste and eating was very difficult.  For a few days I suffered from what I assume was depression.  I was still functioning and being creative but I became even more introverted than usual and very emotional.  Thankfully things are now beginning to get better, my mouth is no longer sore and my taste is gradually coming back (I had no idea how difficult it would be to eat when there was no taste).  I’ve got a red mark on my face where the beams targeted the mandible in my jaw bone and I look like I’ve just been slapped, but that doesn’t hurt, it just looks a bit odd.

I do have this strange sense of being left in limbo though.  The last 6 months have been really difficult, but I have no idea if the treatment has worked or not.  I don’t go back to Southampton hospital until 8 June and I’m not sure what they will be able to tell me then as I have no scan or blood test scheduled before then.  The oncologist I saw at Southampton did tell me that after that appointment in June all subsequent appointments would be at my local hospital.  I was horrified and told him I didn’t want to go back there as I was so unhappy with the way I was treated.  We are going to talk about my concerns when I see him in June.

The face mask

At the end of my treatment I was given the mask to bring home, I also asked if I could have the ‘dreaded’ gob-stopper, they thought that was an unusual request but gave it to me anyway along with the piece of thick pink wax which was helping to protect my skin.

I think it needs to be turned into a piece of art eventually.  I’m not sure what I could do with the gob-stopper and the wax so I might just hide them inside so I will know they are there even if no-one else does.


Once I start to feel better physically I’m sure my low mood will improve as I generally work on the principle that if I feel OK then I am OK.

The death of a friend

cheesybitsThe friend we visited at the Hospice on 29 March sadly passed away on 15 April he was at his sister’s house and surrounded by his family when he died.  We attended his funeral on 27 April (2 days before I finished the radiotherapy treatment).  We were not very close friends and we hadn’t seen him for a few years before we visited him at the hospice, but he was part of our history. Back in the 1980s he played in the same band as my husband. He was an absolute giant of a man with a cutting sense of humour, but he was always lovely to me and I liked him a lot.

I think his death really brought home to me that people don’t always beat cancer and that probably has contributed to my anxiety and low mood at the moment.

Rest in Peace Dave “Cheesybits” Bowater and thanks for some great memories.

The earthquake in Nepal

Durbar-Square-KathmanduOn 25 April there was a massive earthquake in Nepal, a poor country where life is normally hard for the people.  The devastation caused by this earthquake has left 8,413 people dead, 17,576 injured, 260 still missing and many thousands of people homeless.

We spent time in Nepal in the early 1970s, it is a stunningly beautiful country and the people are welcoming and generous.  It breaks my heart that the people are suffering with this devastation now and I’m giving what I can to the relief fund.

The building in the image is one of the historic buildings in Durbar Square Kathmandu now destroyed.  That is sad but right now it’s the people who need our help.

Other news

On 2 May a royal baby was born and apparently the ‘whole’ country celebrated.  I’m not sure I did celebrate though, I mean I am pleased for them as a family but it’s just another baby and I’m sure there were lots born that day throughout the UK.

Then yesterday we had an election, perhaps you heard about it?  I’m just too pissed off to talk about it really.  Things are about to get even tougher for the poor and disadvantaged of this country and it does not make me proud to be British today.

Right, that’s got all that off my chest so now for something cheerful and positive :-)


I’ve booked our accommodation and the ferry for our holiday at the end of May and I’m just looking forward to getting away and having a break for a few days before I start my return to work.  I won’t even mind if it rains for the whole week because I’m just going to be chilling out.

The artwork

The page above is a page from my Tikis and Totems journal which I did last week, here’s what it looked like with just the collage:

I cheated with this one and I downloaded a totem pole from the internet, it was a colouring sheet for children to colour, I cut all the different parts from collage instead of colouring it in and then did loads of penwork over the top.


That’s all for now folks, sorry this was a long one.

Stay well and happy.

Big love

AJ :-)



© Janette Gregson and ajsartjournal, 2015 unless otherwise stated. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Janette Gregson and ajsartjournal with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.






Time for Tea!

Teatem Pole

Hello friends!

I hope all is good with you, we are currently enjoying some lovely spring weather here, a bit of sunshine and warmth makes everything look and feel pretty good.  It probably won’t last so I’m making the most of it while I can.

I’m now a third of the way through the radiotherapy treatment and I can’t wait for it to be over.  I think my head must be expanding because I swear that mask gets tighter every day!  I really hate being encased in it, but I’m a good patient so I don’t make any fuss about it, I try and keep calm while it’s on and breathe a mighty sigh of relief when they come and release me from it.  Still I’m sure it’s worth it and it will soon be over.

This is another page from my Tikis and Totems journal.  I decided to do something completely different and I made a Teatem Pole instead of a Totem Pole.  I’m British and we are famous for our tea drinking so I think it’s appropriate that we have a Teatem Pole to honour our heritage :-)

I didn’t do too much penwork on this page, here is the before and after images:

Teatem Pole before and after

Take good care of yourselves and I’ll see you soon.

Big love AJ :-)


© Janette Gregson and ajsartjournal, 2015 unless otherwise stated. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Janette Gregson and ajsartjournal with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.



Hello friends!

How are you doing?  I am doing well and all is good here.

The page above is the first page inside my Tikis and Totems Journal inspired by the Artstronauts Club.  You have to be a member of the club to see the full contents of the website, but it’s not expensive to join and it’s mega-value for money :-)

I have started with the radiotherapy treatment now, I’ve had three sessions so far and now I’ve got the weekend off.  Next week I have 5 sessions, then the week after 4 sessions and in the final week 3 sessions.  Each session takes about 20 minutes, but I am away from home for several hours, because of the travel and the inevitable waiting around, but that’s OK.  I am doodling at every chance I get :-)

Having the face mask on is REALLY claustrophobic and I have to concentrate on my breathing (and silent chanting) to stay calm.  It’s just about bearable because I know that it will soon finish, but it’s definitely not pleasant.  That mask fits my face REALLY tight.

I have had so much time off work that I am finally going from full pay to half pay this month. That’s a bit of a blow but fortunately I do have savings so we will be able to manage until I get back to work.  It must be really difficult for people who don’t get sick pay, who are self-employed or who don’t have savings.  Dealing with cancer is difficult enough as it is without having to worry about money as well.  I am so lucky that I don’t have to worry about our finances at the moment.

It looks now like I will be returning to work in the second week in June but we are going to get away for a week before that.  I have booked us a self contained chalet on a hillside somewhere on the south coast of England and not too far away from home, for the first week of June,  I’m really looking forward to a week off-line and away from normal life before I start my gentle and phased return to work.   We don’t really have anything planned just a week away with just the two of us.  Luckily a good friend is coming to house/cat sit for us so The Boys will be looked after while we are away.

I am guessing that even when I return to work I will still be monitored to see if I am and remain clear of the cancer, but I feel pretty good so I don’t think I have too much to worry about on that front.  I am looking forward to getting a normal life back though, it’s been pretty tough this last 6 months.

Here is my page with just collage compared to finished page:

Page 1 before andafter


Have a good week and I’ll see you soon.

Big love AJ :-) xxx



© Janette Gregson and ajsartjournal, 2015 unless otherwise stated. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Janette Gregson and ajsartjournal with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Move the Universe

Move the Universe


Hello friends

I hope things are good with you, I’m feeling good at the moment (because I’m between treatment) and feel like I am achieving some things.  I got signed off work for another two months which will allow me to have the radiotherapy treatment and give me time to recover before starting back at work (hopefully) in June.

I sent off one of the ‘give away’ packs to Sanje Sofar this week but I’m still waiting to hear from Lucydragon and Isisimaginings so I don’t know where to send their packs too.  If either of you read this please see my last post and let me know your snail-mail address so I can send you your packs.

My computer screen died earlier in the week, at first I thought it was the computer itself but eventually I worked out it was just the screen.  T tried to fix it for me but was unsuccessful so I went out and bought a new one.  I love it, it’s a bigger screen than I had before and everything looks much better now :-)

Today we went to the local hospice to visit a friend.  I have never been there before and was a bit anxious about it.  Obviously he has been very unwell but things were not quite as bad as we had possibly expected. Although still not good. He was dressed and up and in remarkably good spirits. He is hoping to be able to go home again soon so that’s good. I’m glad we went because we haven’t seen this friend in a long while and it was good to reconnect and hopefully let him know that we care.

I have to go back to the local hospital this coming week to see a consultant in the Maxillo Facial unit.  That’s where I had the biopsy taken and was given my diagnosis before being transferred to the Haematology Department.  The two consultants I saw in MaxFax were both very nice so I don’t have any concerns about going back to see them this week, I’m just not sure why they want to see me again but I’ll find out when I get there.  While I’m at the hospital I will also try and find out if there is any help with the cost of travelling over the mainland for 17 days for the radiotherapy treatment.

The page above is from my new small journal and this is what it looked like before the penwork:

Before and After

And if you have 8 minutes to spare here is another video of an early journal:

Well that’s all for now folks see you soon

Big love AJ :-) xxx




Love is the Flower, And the Winners are…

Love is the flower


Hello friends

I hope all is good with you and as promised today I’ve made the draw to see who will be the recipients of my packs of paper and craft stuff.

I wrote all the names on pieces of paper and put them all into my ‘beany hat’ that I’ve been wearing at home for the last several months (ever since my hair fell out about two weeks after starting the chemo therapy).  My hair is beginning to grow back now but there is still not enough of it for me to go out without some sort of head covering, but I’m looking forward to the day when I can go out without a hat.  Anyway I digress, I put all the names into the hat and drew out three pieces of paper.  So the winners are….. (imagine drum roll here) …


Sanje Sofar



Congratulations! If you could let me know your mail addresses I’ll get your pack off in the post this week. You can email your address to me at subagua@gmail.com  (the first word is subaGua, i.e. a G not a Q, but in lowercase)  I don’t normally check this email box as I generally tend to use it for people who I think will spam me with lots of stuff I don’t want or need, but if you send me your address to that email address and then leave me note below in the comments I will be sure to check so I can post you your goodies.

Today has been a lovely sunny day and I did some gardening, well actually T did some gardening and I held some posts while he banged them into the ground with a big sledge hammer.  I also mowed the weed patch that has a few blades of grass in it and pretends to be a lawn and dug up some weeds from the borders.  That’s not proper gardening but the front garden does look a bit better now.  We used to just have a lawn and borders in the front garden but I’m really not good at looking after lawns (and that is my job) and, as T was always saying he didn’t have enough room to grow all the vegetables he wanted to grow, I persuaded him to put some raised veg beds in the front.  I foolishly thought this would mean all the grass would be eliminated and I would no longer have to mow it.  But now on the rare occasions when I do get the lawn mower out I have to cut around the raised beds, it’s awkward.  Still at least I got some fresh air and exercise today so I mustn’t complain.

Last week I went to Southampton Hospital to have my mask made.  That was an experience!  First of all I had to have the mouth piece made that will hold my mouth open. It was a tube (for breathing through) wrapped in some sort of gum which almost filled up my mouth. I had to put it in my mouth and bite into the gum to make an impression, then wait until it hardened.  While this was going on they soaked this hard plastic sheet that would become my mask in a hot water bath.  I had to lay on the bed thing while they got me in exactly the right position. Then when I was correctly aligned they laid this hot but not unbearable plastic over my face and clipped it to the board behind my head, then they moulded the whole thing to the contours of my face.  There is a mouth hole in the mask so I can breath through it, but no eye holes.  The plastic is opaque so once it’s on my face I can ‘t see a thing.  Fortunately they spoke to me all the time telling me what they were doing so I felt reassured.  Once the mask was contoured to my face they put ice packs on it, so it went from being quite warm to being very cold which hardened the plastic and eventually they took it off.  It probably only took about 20 minutes.  It was weird but just about bearable.

After that I had to go and have a CT scan with the mouth piece in and mask on again. The scan didn’t take long.  Definitely not the most pleasant experience but I will have to go through this every time I have the radiotherapy and I will be able to cope with it.

I also got my schedule for radiotherapy which starts on April 8 and finishes on April 29. So for most of April I’ll be travelling across the water on a daily basis (except weekends) to have the treatment.  I guess that will be good practice for getting back into the routine of getting up for work every day.

I’ll be recuperating for most of May and hopefully finally starting my phased return to work in June.  That’s my plan anyway unless something else crops up in the meantime.

Also I am hoping we can get away for a short holiday at the beginning of June just because I think we both deserve it.  We just have to try and work out how the cats will be looked after while we are away and book up somewhere to stay.

The page above is from my new small journal and I thought I’d show you how it changes between the collage and when I’ve added all the penwork:

Collage                                                                                          Penwork

Collage & Penwork comparison


That’s just about all my news for now.  I hope you are all well and happy and, if you are in this part of the world, enjoying the beginnings of Spring.

See you all soon

Big love

AJ xxx

A Give-Away and an Update – the journey continues…

Live, Love, Laugh

Hello friends

The page above is the front cover of my 16-page Teesha Moore inspired journal.

An apology

First off an apology, I am sorry but I omitted something from my last post.  A little while ago I was contacted by Jenny of This Rosy Life blog asking if I’d like to participate in a blog hop.  I really was not up to it at the time so I declined the invitation, but nevertheless Jenny still mentioned me and my blog in her post  here.   Jenny is an amazing collage artist and I am really impressed because she uses lots of flower images in her work, I’ve always found flowers to be quite difficult to use in collage.  If you have a few minutes to spare why not pop over to Jenny’s blog, have a look at some cool art and say Hi to her?  This Rosy Life.

The Give Away

I promised recently that once I had finished the chemo therapy I would have a ‘Give Away’ to celebrate that milestone.  I have made up 3 packs of art supplies that I no longer want or need.  All three are similar and look something like this:

Give Away Pack

There are collage sheets, papers, some stamps, embellishments, bits of maps and printed papers in each pack.  It looks like there is money too, but the £20 and £50 notes are actually printed on serviettes and are NOT genuine currency :-)

Each pack will also include one of the small journals I made from a pile of scrap papers:

New Journals

If you would like to win one of these packs please leave a comment below and I will pick three random winners on Sunday 22 March.  It doesn’t matter where you live as I’m prepared to post to anywhere worldwide and I’ll mark the package as a gift with low monetary value so you shouldn’t have to pay any import tax if you receive one.

Update on my health and the continuing journey

I had the last round of chemo on 24 February *Happy Dance*, I’m so glad that part is over. I’ve been feeling pretty good since then, so good in fact that I thought perhaps that was the only treatment I needed and I even began to think about returning to work next month.

I’ve been spending a lot of time still de-cluttering my room, I’ve made several trips to the local municipal tip and donated loads of stuff to a local charity shop.  Making up the scrap books from the 10 years worth of local magazines took me about 2 weeks and it was a really boring task, but I got there eventually and now I just have a neat little pile of scrap books instead of a huge plastic box full of magazines. The more I’ve got rid of stuff the easier it has become and it no longer feels quite so oppressive in my room.  I still reckon I could get rid of at least 50% of the stuff that’s left but for now I’m taking a break from de-cluttering and concentrating more on creating art.

Because I thought I’d be going back to work soon I collaged one of the small journals I made.  I needed something small to fit into my handbag and carry around with me with a few pens so I can journal whenever I get a few spare moments.  That will still come in useful but I won’t be needing it as soon as I thought I would as it doesn’t look like I’ll be going back to work any time soon.

Yesterday I had an appointment to see the oncologist at Southampton Hospital.  T and I set off at 8am and it took a couple of hours to get there.  I drove over to Cowes parked the car and took the ferry to Southampton then got a free mini bus to the hospital. It took us about half an hour to find the right department in the vast hospital and then we had a short wait before we got to meet a very lovely female doctor who asked me lots of questions about what had happened to me and seemed genuinely interested in me and my condition. She said “We recommend that you now have radiotherapy” and explained why they thought this was necessary.  Not only did she explain things, she checked that we had understood her explanation and encouraged us to ask questions.  If she was able to answer the questions she did and if she was unable to give us answers she explained why there are certain things they don’t know about my specific cancer but why they think the radiotherapy is necessary.  She explained all about what will happen next and during the treatment and what the likely side effects will be, including mouth ulcers, sore skin and the possibility that the saliva glands on that side could be damaged by the treatment and how that will be dealt with.

Next Monday I will have to go over again for another CT scan and to have the face mask made up.  The mask is necessary to ensure that they can target the area of my jaw bone while causing as little damage as possible to any other area of my face and mouth. The mask will also mean that I am unable to move my head and will hold my mouth open during treatment.  About two weeks after that the radiotherapy will commence.

I have to say it doesn’t sound like it’s going to be much fun but the treatment should be fairly quick.  I’ll have the treatment every (week) day for three weeks, the actual ‘zapping’ is only for a few minutes but the fixing of the mask and lining everything up takes a bit of time so I’m probably looking at about 20 minutes or so each day, plus what ever time I have to wait around at the hospital (for some reason there is always an element of ‘waiting around’ at hospitals) and about 4 hours travel every day.  I think I am going to be very tired at the end of this treatment, but hopefully by then I will also be in a good position to get on with my life and think about returning to work.  Most of the side effects should start to improve soon after treatment finishes.

So after this long chat with the lovely doctor we both read and then I signed the consent form and then she said, “Now I’m going to get Dr B (the boss) and he is going to come and talk to you.  During your treatment here we will both be looking after you and you will be seeing one of us at least once a week during the three weeks and we will be checking on your progress”.

Dr B must have been busy because it took a while before she came back with him.  He too was was very friendly and warm, explained things to us, checked we understood and encouraged us to ask any questions.  I told him that we were not used to being encouraged to ask questions and in fact we had both been made to feel like we were being awkward every time we asked the consultants at the local hospital any questions.  It was just so refreshing to be treated like adults for a change.  So we did ask questions and he gave us full and frank answers, then eventually I plucked up the courage to ask the one questions I really wanted the answer to, I said, “There is something else I’d like to ask you and I don’t know how you will react to this because I’ve asked two different consultants at my local hospital the same question and both times I’ve been made to feel that it is a totally unreasonable and ridiculous question to ask, but anyway here goes.  Is it possible for me to see the scans I’ve had taken and be given an explanation of what was found”?

Both doctors immediately said “Of course you can see your scans, you can see them right now, it’s not an unreasonable question, it’s something we would expect you to ask and we always show patients this information”.  Within a few minutes he called up the information on a computer screen. First of all he showed me the CT scan I had taken at the local hospital when I was first diagnosed and still had the tumour in my mouth.  The tumour was really obvious in the image.  Next he showed me the PET scan I had taken at Portsmouth hospital a few weeks later by which time the tumour had disappeared and he said “So we can see there is no tumour evident in this scan however when we get right into your jaw bone these bright areas show that there are still some cancer cells active and as you can also see here there are some large voids in the jaw bone”.  I was told that once the cancer is eliminated there is a good chance that the bone will grow back, but in all likelihood I will always have a weakness in the jaw bone and I may have dental problems in the coming years.

Dr B said “I’ll be honest with you, there is a possibility that the chemo has already dealt with the cancer, but to have this type of cancer in the location where you have it is extremely rare and it can be difficult to treat.  I want to give you the very best chance of survival that I can and that’s why we recommend this further treatment.”

I don’t know but it felt like they both really cared and although I’m not entirely happy about having the radiotherapy I also want to give myself the best chance of surviving this cancer so I’m OK about going along for the additional treatment.   And so my journey continues but I finally feel like I am being dealt with by people who care about me and are involving me in the decision making, it’s a refreshing change from how I’ve been dealt with over the past 5 months.  I hope I don’t get referred back to the local hospital when the treatment is finished because I don’t want to come under that hospital again even if it means I have to pay to travel to the mainland to be seen there.

So that’s where I am right now, probably not going back to work until the end of May, by which time I will have had more than 6 months off!  I’m fortunate that I work for a good company and they are being very understanding and caring about me too.

I hope all is good with you all, take good care of yourselves and make sure you have fun because you have no idea what could be waiting for you just around the corner.

Don’t forget to let me know if you want to be included in a chance to win one of my Give Away packs. Good Luck!

Big love from me

AJ     :-)  xxx


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