Some time had passed since Viv’s last diary instalment. 12 months seemed to flash by in a blink of an eye and he now found himself on a flight to New York for an emergency business meeting and finally a few moments to gather his thoughts and assess the year.
As usual that year involved many tests and check-up’s which had all come back with those two magical word ‘All Clear’. The most significant change for Viv however was the moving in to his and Avril’s dream home after 25 years of planning, 2 years of designing and a 2 year wait for planning permission. It made Viv think back to the point when the planning permission was approved as it was the exact same time that he was diagnosed with throat cancer. With the initial prognosis weighing heavily against Viv, he remembered being very reluctant to give the build the green light in fear that Avril could end up on her own with a half built house and the financial strain that would go along with it.
Avril refused to accept any negative feelings from Viv and the build went ahead as planned. Viv felt it was Avril’s positive, never say die attitude that fired him up and contributed to the eventual outcome regarding his health. If there is one thing that defines Avril it’s her determination and resolve to fight for what she believes in, in this case she believed in Viv, so we could all be sure he was going nowhere. So the following 24 months were consumed with everything that comes with building your own home. For Viv time ticked on, treatments came and went and recovery took it’s natural course.
Now, almost a year since Viv and Avril moved into their fabulous home that moment of wavering uncertainty seems like a lifetime away. Viv has embraced life more than ever during the last 12 months and has got back to doing what he simply loves – Golf, rugby and wine, probably in that order, depending on his mood of course. He has been fortunate enough to watch the Springboks win the Lions tour. He’s nipped back to Cardiff for the autumn internationals and has even improved his golf handicap, although I’d still like to see his scorecards for myself. The scorching Algarve summers force you into a golf buggy but Viv intends to pull his clubs around 18 holes once that intense heat subsides for the winter so that he can improve his overall fitness. I’m sure I will be there along side him so if he cheats I will let you know.
A rather special feature of Viv’s new house is his wine cellar and tasting room, a lifelong dream now realized and a place to enjoy with friends and colleagues alike as his rejuvenated taste buds take pleasure from the wide selection accumulated over the years. All of these blessings constantly remind Viv how far he has come and how grateful he is for each and every day that he can open his eyes and look out onto his almost completed pool. Because he knows that the next set of tests is always going to be just around that corner and the agonising wait for the results will begin once again.
The main set of tests fall in August every year, which includes the throat area as well as the chest, abdomen and prostrate. The radiotherapy treatment has caused a thinning effect on Viv’s veins which makes injections extremely tricky, particularly when trying to inject the iodine for the routine scans. It seems throughout his life Viv has gravitated towards beautiful women. Well if there was one occasion where he would have preferred not to do that it would have been during his prostrate exam. The pretty Portuguese doctor remained very professional whilst Viv remained very embarrassed. However, despite the discomfort and obvious embarrassment the results came back clear despite a small cyst on his right cheek which Viv has been told to not worry about. There was one more cyst that has been noticed on Viv’s liver, which again he was told not to worry about but Dr Julio still wanted an additional scan just to be sure. Viv would not hear the results until he returned from New York.
The radiotherapy had also resulted in Viv’s teeth and gums becoming unhealthy and disintegrating at an alarming rate. This meant initiating an intense dental hygiene routine but despite this it still looks like Viv will have to lose four teeth in his lower gum.
On Viv’s return from New York he received the results from the additional scans carried out before he left. The scans detected two lumps on the wall of Viv’s diaphragm. The clinic again believes there is no cause for concern but Dr Julio, Viv’s knight in shining armour wants to know for sure. So further tests have been scheduled for the first week of December, at which point they will know if the lumps are getting bigger or not.
So for Viv life goes on, interspersed with clinic visits, scans and agonizing waits. But that is something Viv has now accepted and will never complain about.
Gabriel Garcia Marquez, famous writer from Colombia ( familiarly known as “Gabo” in his native country), and Nobel prize winner for literature in 1982, has retired from public life for reasons of health. He has a form of cancer which is terminal. He has sent a farewell letter to his friends and it has been circulated around the Internet.
It is recommended reading because it is moving to see how one of the best and most brilliant of writers expresses himself & with sorrow. The following slides will show what he says…
My Mom had been taking the full-stalk canned style asparagus that she pureed and she took 4 tablespoons in the morning and 4 tablespoons later in the day. She did this for over a month. She is on chemo pills for Stage 3 lung cancer in the pleural area and her cancer cell count went from 386 down to 125 as of this past week. Her oncologist said she does not need to see him for 3 months.
Several years ago, I had a man seeking asparagus for a friend who had cancer. He gave me a photocopied copy of an article,entitled,
`Asparagus for cancer’ printed in Cancer News Journal, December 1979.
I will share it here, just as it was shared with me:
‘I am a biochemist,and have specialized in the relation of diet to health for over 50 years..Several years ago, I learned of the discovery of Richard R. Vensal, D.D.S. that asparagus might cure cancer.
Since then, I have worked with him on his project. We have accumulated a number of favorable case histories. Here are a few examples:
Case No. 1, A man with an almost hopeless case of Hodgkin’s disease (cancer of the lymph glands) who was completely incapacitated. Within 1 year of starting the asparagus therapy, his doctors were unable to detect any signs of cancer, and he was back on a schedule of strenuous exercise.
Case No. 2, a successful businessman 68 years old who suffered from cancer of the bladder for 16 years. After years of medical treatments, including radiation without improvement, he went on asparagus. Within 3 months, examinations revealed that his bladder tumor had disappeared and that his kidneys were normal.
Case No.. 3, a man who had lung cancer. On March 5th 1971, he was put on the operating table where they found lung cancer so widely spread that it was inoperable. The surgeon sewed him up and declared his case hopeless. On April 5th he heard about the asparagus therapy and immediately started taking it. By August, x-ray pictures revealed that all signs of the cancer had disappeared..
He is back20at his regular business routine.
Case No. 4, a woman who was troubled for a number of years with skin cancer. She finally developed different skin cancers which were diagnosed by the acting specialist as advanced. Within 3 months after starting on asparagus, her skin specialist said that her skin looked fine and no more skin lesions. This woman reported that the asparagus therapy also cured her kidney disease, which started in 1949. She had over 10 operations for kidney stones, and was receiving government disability payments for an inoperable, terminal, kidney condition. She attributes the cure of this kidney trouble entirely to the asparagus.
I was not surprised at this result, as `The elements of materia medica’, edited in 1854 by a Professor at the University of Pennsylvania, stated that asparagus was used as a popular remedy for kidney stones. He even referred to experiments, in 1739, on the power of asparagus in dissolving stones. Note the dates!
We would have other case histories but the medical establishment has interfered with our obtaining some of the records. I am therefore appealing to readers to spread this good news and help us to gather a large number of case histories that will overwhelm the medical skeptics about this unbelievably simple and natural remedy.
For the treatment, asparagus should be cooked before using, and therefore canned asparagus is just as good as fresh.
I have corresponded with the two leading canners of asparagus, Giant and Stokely, and I am20satisfied that these brands contain no pesticides or preservatives.
Place the cooked asparagus in a blender and liquefy to make a puree, and store in the refrigerator. Give the patient 4 full tablespoons twice daily, morning and evening.
Patients usually show some improvement in from 2-4 weeks. It can be diluted with water and used as a cold or hot drink.
This suggested dosage is based on present experience, but certainly larger amounts can do no harm and may be needed in some cases.
As a biochemist I am convinced of the old saying that `what cures can prevent’. Based on this theory, my wife and I have been using asparagus puree as a beverage with our meals.
We take 2 tablespoons diluted in water to suit our taste with breakfast and with dinner. I take mine hot and my wife prefers hers cold. For years we have made it a practice to have blood surveys taken as part of our regular checkups.
The last blood survey, taken by a medical doctor who specializes in the nutritional approach to health, showed substantial improvements in all categories over the last one, and we can attribute these improvements to nothing but the asparagus drink…
As a biochemist, I have made an extensive study of all aspects of cancer, and all of the proposed cures.
As a result, I am convinced that asparagus fits in better with the latest theories about cancer. Asparagus contains a good supply of protein called histones, which are believed to be active in controlling cell growth. For that reason, I believe asparagus can be said to contain a substance that I call cell growth normalizer. That accounts for its action on cancer and in acting as a general body tonic.
In any event, regardless of theory, asparagus used as we suggest, is a harmless substance. The FDA cannot prevent you from using it and it may do you much good. It has been reported by the US National Cancer Institute, that asparagus is the highest tested food containing glutathione, which is considered one of the body’s most potent anticarcinogens and antioxidants.
Please spread the news… the most unselfish act one can ever do is paying forward all the kindness one has received, even to the most undeserved person.
There are some experiences in life that will forever be imprinted in a persons mind. They exist in ones memory as significant moments in time that whether good or bad will never be forgotten. Everybody has them, especially Viv when his mind journeys back to the 4th of July 2006 and the announcement that he had cancer of the throat. He considered marking this day with a diary entry until Avril reminded him that although that day will never be forgotten, the feeling and emotions that were experienced should not re-surface unnecessarily.
Two years on and it is now the time to truly celebrate. It was on the 27th of September 2006 that Viv walked out of the clinic after having his last treatment. Considerably skinnier and weaker than 8 weeks prior but relieved that the gruelling treatment period had come to a close. The quarterly examinations consisting of scans, X rays and intrusive camera procedures continued and on every occasion Dr Caba was happy with the results. The good Doctors big smile was an image Viv started to fall in love with as he knew what it meant.
By September 2007 Dr Caba felt confident enough to announce to Viv that in his opinion the disease was beaten. He could not see any trace of it anywhere. Now as we move forward another year and come up to date the loveable Dr Caba still upholds Viv’s all clear status and has reduced check up visits to twice a year.
Physically Viv is looking and feeling great. He is slightly slimmer than before his treatment period through his own choice. There are a few things however that as a result of the treatment will never go back to the way they were, which Viv is learning to accept. He still struggles with producing saliva so he is constantly armed with at least one bottle of water. It is improving – 6 months ago he would need 8 bottles to get round 18 holes of golf, now only 6 are required and he tells me his golf has improved, something I will need to see for myself.
The constant coughing and choking, especially in the morning has reduced considerably much to the relief of Avril. Viv’s taste-buds have found their feet once again although certain drinks such as Iced Tea still don’t go down like they use to. The skin is still so sensitive in his mouth that a heavy cough or sneeze can result in blood vessels rupturing causing a strong taste of blood in the mouth. Viv’s throat and neck are extremely sensitive to sun and heat rash is a common occurrence on his chest. Since finishing the treatment dental hygiene has been a major concern for Viv. Keeping the inside of his mouth clean and free of any foods is essential. Due to not being able to generate the sufficient amount of saliva and natural acids there is risk of tooth decay and gum problems.
One of Viv’s personal pleasures is now firmly back in his life – the taste of wine. He can now fully appreciate a fine Chardonnay and his fabulous wine collection is growing by the day. Beer is back on the menu also and he likes nothing better than to kick back after 18 holes with an ice cold Cristal in his hand. Nowadays however he likes to take it easy and accepts that keeping up with his young friends & employees is probably not a good idea. Although stronger than most, Viv has come to terms with the fact his physical strength is lacking slightly. Carrying heavy objects can be a struggle mainly due to breathing issues brought on from lack of saliva. This still doesn’t stop him trying though, he’s always the first to grab a box or lift a crate.
It’s extremely apparent that the whole experience has affected Viv on a mental level. He now tends to keep his emotions right at the surface and he won’t mind me saying that it doesn’t take much for the tears to start falling. Even a soppy chick flick will open those tear ducts and it’s just something that Viv can do nothing about. In a way he’s valuing the smaller things in life a great deal more than before and more importantly – appreciating them for what they are. He is now far more tolerant of people and difficult situations. Anyone that has known Viv for a long time knows that his fiery temperament and sometimes explosive personality are traits that many know him best for. He now takes his time to calmly assess every situation and respond in a laid back, calculated manner.
So what has Viv learnt from all of this? How has it change him as a Husband / Father / Son / Boss and ultimately as a man? Many people go their whole lives without fully appreciating not just the special moments, but every moment. Sometimes it takes something as terrible as cancer for a person to wake up. We are all guilty of it. We go about our daily lives until one day when we are 60 years of age we say ‘I wish I would have done this’ or ‘I wish I had tried that’. By then it’s too late. Viv has come out the other side of this ordeal a changed man. He now savours every experience. He is grateful for every sun rise and every sunset. He wants others who find themselves in the same situation as he found himself in to know that there is hope, there is every chance that with loved ones by your side and a desire to never give up, you can win. Viv was never going to let it be a death sentence, don’t let it be for you.
Hello, good morning to you
I came across your site when I was looking up more information about throat cancer
I am feeling really distraught at the moment as my fiance, who lives in New York, is currently undergoing treatment for throat cancer
Whilst I appreciate he is in the best place I feel so bad that I can’t be at his side and just don’t know what to do to keep upbeat and be supportive to him and his family
I know I probably have no right to contact you like this, but I am really at my wits end and I feel that I need a little support too. I spent all day yesterday crying as it was his first day of treatment (radiotherapy and his 1st session of chemo) and he stayed in hospital for the day/night
I was going to go out and be with him, but with the price of fuel etc, flights from UK are so expensive, he said, no baby, we can’t afford it, we will see each other at Christmas as arranged
I just want to be a help to him and not be a drain on him, so I am trying to be upbeat when we speak, but fall apart after I have put the phone down
Luckily I am back at work next week and get so busy I don’t have time to think about anything except work, but I sm still worried as I care and love him so much
Any ideas that may help me therefore to help him?
Thank you so very much for your time and patience
I am truly sorry to hear about your fiancé.
There is no easy solution to any of these situations. Please remember I’m not a Doctor, nor do I have any training to assist anybody at times such as this.
It is absolutely essential that he does what ever his specialists tell him to do and some. If you read through my daily diaries, I list all the things that was suggested to me and the extra things that my Wife did for me. All the vitamins, creams to protect the skin, saliva assisted jells and bucket loads of fresh carrot juice.
I can only offer you assistance from my own personal experiences. I had 8 weeks of radiotherapy but not the Chemo, so this is something I can not offer any advice on.
All I know is that your Fiancé is going to need all the love and support of his Family and friends that you can give him.
If there is any way that you can get over to the States, then I’d strongly suggest it. He does not realise just yet, but he is going to need your love and support next him in the next few weeks. Seven or eight weeks out of your life is not a long time, if it’s going to help save your Fiancés life.
Above all you have to be strong and confident in his company, reassuring and just being with him will make all the difference.
I wish I could be more constructive, but your situation is a little different to mine. My Wife was by my side every minute of the day.
What ever you do, be POSITIVE, he will make it.
My thoughts are with you all and may your God be with with you.
This is an e-mail that Viv sent to a user of this site whose Mother has been diagnosed. He felt it might be useful for anyone reading:
Thank you very much for contacting me, sorry for taking so long to reply, I’ve been away travelling/working.
I hope things are progressing well for your Mother. Today the technology is amazing and I’m quite confident your Mother, with your help and the support of friends and Family will be fine.
You DO need to read my postings from the beginning, because I do list everything that I used and experienced as they happened to me over the two months of my treatments. More importantly how my Wife helped me cope with life after the treatments.
Please remember that I am not a Doctor and that this treatment of radiotherapy does affect everybody in different ways.
Just this morning I replied to somebody about his wife’s dry mouth problems and this may be of some assistance to you and your Mother. I have pasted this response to you below. If there is anything specific that you think I maybe able to assist you with please do not hesitate to ask me.
“Please remember that I’m not a doc and can only suggest things from my own experiences. You should also consider that the radiation treatment affects everybody differently, so there does not seem to be a definitive answer to all the problems. My specialist says that there are the basic things to do and then it really is trying many different things to see what best suits you.
According to the specialists, the radiation definitely kills off the good cells that generate saliva etc. it also reduces the size of your airways passages, the size of the tubes between your ears, nose and throat. ( I now experience ear-ache when flying, especially at take-off and landing) and have to take a special nose inhaler with me on the plane.
So the problem your Wife experiences with itching throat and difficulty breathing seems to be quite common. I have something similar and water is my constant companion. In most instances I have to help the food down by taking a sip of water when swallowing. (Things have improved and this has also been supplemented by wine as well) Even though things have improved considerably for me, I still experience the odd attack of choking and coughing spasms.
I have also found it extremely helpful to try and constantly generate saliva in my mouth, which definitely helps keep the throat and airways clear. I use saliva stimulating toothpaste, mouth washes, gum gel and chewing gum. The best ones for me are the “Biotene” and “Bioextra” ranges. Biotene works best for me and they have everything from toothpaste to chewing gum. Because the radiation plays havoc with your teeth and gums, making chewing anything solid very difficult, the chewing gum is probably not that great until some time later after the treatment is completed.
Another possible solution to the saliva problem is the “Saliwell Medical System”, a device produced in Israeli. This little bag of tricks has helped me no end and I do believe that it has help stimulate my saliva glands so much so that I think that the glands are now producing some natural saliva in my mouth. It’s not the final solution but it has made all the difference to my daily way of life. A link to their site can be found on my last update, which I can definitely recommend to anybody experiencing dry mouth.”
My very best advice to you at these early stages of her treatment is to get as much advice, information and support from your own Doctor, Dentist, The Radiotherapist Specialist and the Ear, Nose & Throat Specialist. These people can tell you what precautions your Mom needs to take and what medication is available in your country, very very important is be sure that she looks after her teeth and gums.
This is a very difficult time for her, look after her and give her all the love and support you possibly can.
Let me know how things are going,
On the 22nd of November Viv went for his scheduled quarterly check up. This now familiar routine still bought with it anxiety and worry for Viv. It seemed that each visit was getting increasingly more difficult rather than easier.
As Viv’s body repaired itself, in the back of his mind he was thinking that the cancer could do the same and once again rear it’s ugly head. So as Dr Caba carried out various tests with a stern look on his face Viv tried desperately to dismiss any negative thoughts rattling around in his brain. Finally after several minutes of prodding, poking and mumbling to himself in Portuguese the good doctor sat down at his desk and gave Viv the all clear. If there was ever music to someone’s ears then this was it and understandably Viv breathed a huge sigh of relief.
That sunny day in November marked the 1 year anniversary of being cancer free for Viv with just 1 more year of check ups remaining. Although Viv’s general health was improving on a daily basis he was still concerned with his inability to produce saliva. He knew the radiation was the reason for this but dryness and irritation from his mouth and throat along with his constant need for water was starting to take it’s toll. A few weeks prior to the November check up an old buddy of Viv’s from Swaziland sent over a newspaper clipping of a new medical invention which helps people suffering from a lack of saliva. What is essentially a gum guard, this innovative piece of technology sends electronic impulses to the saliva glands to help stimulate them.
Obviously Viv was excited and very keen to find out more so got straight on the phone to the company responsible for the product – Saliwell Ltd who are based in Israel. After several discussions with the company he then had to go to the dentist so that they could make a form of his lower gum, much like a denture, this was then sent off to Israel. Some 6 weeks later Viv received a call from his dentist Isabel. She now had the device so it was time to see if it fitted in Viv’s mouth. Isabel warned Viv that there was a possibility that the device would not work due to the fact that the soft tissue around his saliva glands were almost certainly destroyed by the radiation. Undeterred Viv spent hours studying the instructions for the device and remained positive that it would work. The first time it was used Viv almost choked on the amount of saliva that had collected in his mouth. Having had a mouth and throat dryer than Ghandi’s sandal for the best part of a year Viv realised it would take some getting use to but he knew straight away the ingenious little gadget had enabled him to produce saliva again. This meant he could swallow easier and even spit on occasion, depending on which member of his staff had annoyed him the most.
Now Viv has been using the device for 10 days and is very pleased with the results. Initially Viv placed the gadget in his mouth for 10 minutes every 2 hours. Now he’s using it just 2 or 3 times a day. Any form of exercise dries up Viv’s mouth instantly so he always has a legitimate excuse to opt for the golf buggy instead of the cart. He still keeps a bottle of water in his pocket at all times more so as a kind of safety blanket but over all he has seen vast improvement. Food and wine is something Viv is really starting to appreciate again and each day it tastes better and better.
So as the year draws to a close it does so with much improvement and optimism for Viv. January will see him turn 60 years of age, a milestone that perhaps he thought he’d might not see a year or so ago. But you know what they say… life begins at 60.
Anybody interested in the Saliwell Medical System, should follow the links. I know that the saliva glands will never be the same again, but this system definitely and is well worth investigating if you’re experiencing any similar problems. Good luck.
P.S. Here’s another related article: Israeli project develops novel solution to dry mouth
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The 4th July 2006 seems like a life time ago now for Viv. While a nation celebrated it’s day of independence Viv had just received the results from numerous tests that confirmed his worst fears – he had cancer, the road ahead was long and fraught with uncertainty and self doubt.
Looking back over the numerous diary entries and images Viv was awash with memories of the life changing experience that threatened to take exactly that. One of the main things he couldn’t help notice, along with the rest of us was just how much weight he had lost. Ok, that was polite, more like how curvaceous he was before the treatment. Viv had put a lot of work into his belly over the years! So to see his side profile image go from a capital “D” to a slight “I” in a matter of months was a sight to behold. If ever there was a silver lining to the treatment then perhaps the weight loss was it.
For Viv there will always be resounding recollections of the first time he placed the treatment mask on his face, the severe radiation burns on his throat and how his love for food faded as the radiotherapy destroyed his appetite. His most prominent memory however related to the support he received from his staff, family and most of all the woman that was by his side during every minute of the 7 week treatment period, his wife Avril. Viv would openly admit that he is a workaholic and as one of his staff I like to believe that his sheer love for his company and employees was an instrumental factor during his radiotherapy. Where most would have sat at home and rested, Viv as usual was the first to arrive at the office and the last to leave. By doing this we were able to interact with him as normal and share the odd joke along the way. That joke usually involved Viv’s increasingly baggier trousers but the fact that he was there to laugh along with us hopefully made it that bit easier for him.
Luckily for Viv the 7 weeks of treatment seemed to pass quickly and on the 26th of September 2006 one chapter ended and another began. For Viv this was a day to start a new life as the all clear was given. As we fast forward a year the first anniversary of his joyous news came and went without too much fuss although Viv couldn’t help feel a mixture of emotions including joy, relief and an overwhelming sense of gratitude. One thing that did play heavily on his mind however was how little progress he thought he’d made. Having worked for Viv for over 5 years now I am only too aware of how impatient he can be. In a work environment this is not necessarily a bad thing. He wants something done, we get it done as quickly as possible and everyone is happy. Unfortunately Viv’s patience for his own recovery was in the same vein and everyone had to remind him that it could take up to another year before he feels the way he did before his illness.
One noticeable improvement has been the progression from a strict soup diet to now pretty much anything on the menu. As long as there is a healthy dose of sauce to moisten up the dish Viv can enjoy it. What’s most pleasing though is that chilli and wine are back in his life and oh my how they missed each other. Although both are still in very strict moderation Viv welcomed them back like grandkids he hadn’t seen for a while – with open arms but told them to behave themselves for a little while longer. With his well trained palate ever improving Viv can now savour life’s little pleasures once again such as his beloved London Pride, particularly if he’s on a Rugby trip and Wales win.
So normality is slowly but surely returning to Viv’s life and as things settle down he is able to step back from himself and look at how the experience he has been through has changed him. He has always been an emotional man and it is understandable now that he is even more so. Although he himself may feel embarrassed when he cries at the opening of an envelope, at the same time when someone is so close to death and comes out smiling on the other side it really makes them appreciate the smaller things in life. Viv’s whole demeanour has changed and his attitude and approach is a lot calmer than in previous years. He has always had that typical fiery South African temperament and in many ways it has worked for him. It’s a relief to see that he now realises that it’s important to slow down, enjoy life and know that the hard work is done and let those around him carry that torch for him.
He takes nothing for granted now, he knows things could have been so different so he’s more determined than ever to live out the rest of his life doing the things he loves, watching the rugby, enjoying a glass of wine, playing golf with his buddies, kissing his wife and breathing sweet air.
This article explains how to deal with a lack of saliva – a very common problem with Throat Cancer sufferers.
Its my Sunday morning time. Up early with a cup of tea in the peace and quiet. Today instead of the weekly Telegraph I read your diary. My Mother and Uncle both passed away through cancer – the latter cancer of the throat like you – and even though I was a child I remember his suffering. Whilst modern medicine has enabled this disease sometimes to be overcome, it takes a special person to want to live badly enough to go through the hell of the treatment from what I can understand.
If – “God forbid’ – I am ever to face such a test, I now know who I can turn to for inspiration ! I am sure many others also are drawing strength from your example. And as I get older and the physical bits don’t work as well as they should, I hope that I can remember how lucky I am and to follow your example of living to the full. And I am sure that you gained a lot of your strength from Avril ! Isn’t it amazing how strong our ladies can be when they also have to face such a test ! Fabulous.