On this week in 2008, we were exhibiting our botanical images at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show in London, supported by a willing band of volunteers who gave their time for free in return for the exhibitor's "Chelsea experience" and a print of their choice. It was hard work - up and at the showground at 7 am to carry out a security check of the stand; working hard with barely a break until after 8 pm, when we shut up shop, stumbled back to the tiny studio apartment we had rented for the week, picking up a ready meal at Waitrose in Kings Road on the way back; a bite to eat, a glass of wine then falling into bed ready for an early start the next day. But it was a great experience and we wouldn't have missed it for anything!
On this week in 2009, Steve paid a return visit to the GP as he still felt unwell a fortnight after our return from an anniversary trip to Florence. The doctor sent him to hospital for an X-ray and he was immediately passed on to consultant who told him he had fluid on his right lung. Arrangements were put in place for a pleurodesis op to drain the fluid and stick the pleura back together with talc. Little did we know then that the biopsy taken at the time would reveal mesothelioma. In fact, we were all set to continue our grown up gap year travels to Turkey, in blissful ignorance of the news we would hear just a few weeks later.
On this week in 2010, we had resumed our travels some five months after Steve had completed six cycles of chemotherapy. The side effects of the chemo had largely worn off (other than the numbness in his toes, which is still noticeable even now). We were spending a week visiting the Lake District for the first time, totally absorbed in the wonderful mountain scenery, visits to the coast and trying hard not to think about his next assessment in June.
On this week in 2011, we were still stunned by the unexpected death of our friend Andrew. I think that event brought home to us even more how precious life is, how vulnerable we all are and how important it is to make the most of the time we have. We spent the week with friends, enjoying a welcome back to the UK party for one couple, a 100th party (2 x 40th birthdays + 20 years as a couple) hosted by other friends; a trip to see the Merchant of Venice at the RSC, Stratford with our son, and walking another stretch of the London Loop long distance footpath with Sarah, another friend.
So what have we been up to this week in 2012? Out and about whenever possible! A day out at Lacock Abbey, where Fox-Talbot invented one of the early methods of photography, plus a walk around the village and a lunch at the National Trust (NT) tea room. A trip to Greys Court, another NT property, with wonderful gardens and a maze, as well as (you guessed it) another NT tea room.....
Yesterday we were out again for lunch, this time in another wonderful garden belonging to our friends Richard and Mary, who know from personal experience how it feels to ride the emotional roller coaster of a cancer diagnosis and the debilitating side effects of chemotherapy. But we were all feeling well and looking healthy, and I doubt whether anyone catching a glimpse of this happy group sharing a wonderful meal al fresco would ever guess what two of the party had been through and the effect it had on their loved ones. Somehow we have managed to put that behind us to focus on the here and now.
So much for the past, and making the most of the present. As for the future, I'm not going to try second guess where we will be this time next year. That's far too far ahead in time. We still tend to limit our future horizons to Steve's three monthly hospital assessments, and resist the temptation to look far beyond that date, other than in the most general terms.
The next assessment is beginning to loom large in my mind at least. Somehow, Steve manages to stay calm (or at least appears to). However, with another work trip to Guernsey, a house-warming in Bury St Edmunds, a get-together with my cousin, tickets for a Royal Photographic Society event in Bath, a visit to family in Bristol and maybe a hot air balloon ride to fit in before then - not to mention any Jubilee celebrations we happen to find ourselves in the midst of - I'm hoping we will be too busy enjoying the here and now to get stressed about the future.
Wherever you are and whatever you are dong, have fun and enjoy the summer while it lasts!