Last week we allowed ourselves a few expletives – being refused travel insurance and therefore having to cancel our trip to America is reason enough to get annoyed, don’t ya think? Well, we thought so too. But amidst all this there comes the occasional ray or two of sunshine that brings a smile to help balance the scales a little.
Having got over the initial “Refunds are only available in extreme circumstances” we were helped enormously by Bernadette from Customer Services at lastminute.com. She pursued the matter on our behalf, meaning that we didn’t have to go through finding the right people to talk to at British Airways or the car hire company, and we didn’t have to explain our circumstances and provide evidence to multiple departments (something we could really do without right now). She processed the whole thing for us, keeping us informed throughout. Now we just have to wait for the accounts people to catch up and cough up, hopefully by the end of the month.
It seems the world is always ready to complain when things don’t go as we would wish or expect – well, we’re doing our bit to try and redress the balance, and this is what we wrote to lastminute.com…
We feel moved to write to you in praise of our recent experience with a member of your staff.
Earlier this year we booked a very special holiday in California using lastminute.com for flights and car hire. About a month before we were due to depart I was diagnosed with inoperable pancreatic cancer and this left us with no option but to cancel the holiday as it was impossible for even specialist companies to cover us for holiday insurance.
Obviously we were distraught and very distressed at my diagnosis, but also having to cancel the very special holiday.
When we phoned your customer services Freephone number to explain our circumstances your representative, Bernadette, was so caring and so helpful. She made enquiries, asked us to send a letter via email as evidence, and proceeded to work during the next few days contacting the necessary people to ensure a swift and positive resolution for us.
We cannot praise Bernadette highly enough. She took a burden from our already overloaded shoulders. She deserves five stars, a pat on the back, a bonus, employee of the month award or whatever system you have in place to recognise excellence above and beyond expectations. Please pass on our best wishes and thanks for the help that she gave in our time of need.
There now… doesn’t that feel better? Let’s all give it a try next time we receive service that exceeds our expectations.
And it’s not just customer services – lots of people are being kind and patient and helpful too… whether it be hospital staff who somehow manage to fit us in for an appointment at very short notice… or the breakdown service mechanic giving us helpful car information (yes, first time in years we had to call on the services of Green Flag when our battery gave up the ghost)… shop assistants almost falling over themselves to ensure that all our queries were answered fully to our satisfaction… on-line/telephone sales people offering us a better discount than we had anticipated… tradesmen providing accurate and competitive quotes… and last but certainly not least…
Friends, where would we be without them? Positive and encouraging texts, emails, phone calls, letters, cards, and personal visits – some even going so far as to point out things they had found regarding alternative therapies or clinical trials or other people who might have information or experience to share with us.
Following a meeting with our specialist nurse, Dawn, we made a change to some of Jimmy’s medication and food regime (seems to be working out OK).
The appointment to see the specialist oncologist at Wansbeck hospital on Thursday 21 May gave us a lot to think about. It was very heavy stuff – palliative chemotherapy vs no chemotherapy… life expectancy with and without chemotherapy… potential benefits vs likely side effects… quality of life… pain management.
Huge decisions to make, but we don’t feel ready, we’ve not been able to fully digest everything and don’t see how we can make an informed choice right now.
Jimmy & Val (jiva)
Last week we wrote about our difficult decision to cancel existing gigs. This week we had a decision taken away from us, and there’s nothing we can do about it.
We’ve been told numerous times (and we agree) that positive thinking and outlook are beneficial when faced with difficulties… We’ve shed a few tears (hardly surprising), but we’re getting on with stuff as best as we can, and we’re keeping busy… sometimes it makes us wonder how we managed to find time to perform two or three times a week!
Back in March (is that only two months ago? Seems like years!) we booked a short holiday in America – the plan being to go back for our third visit to the Taylor Guitars factory in El Cajon, sunny California. We’d found an amazing 5-star luxury Victorian Bed and Breakfast to stay at quite close at hand (only four guest rooms, but a stunning place slightly off the beaten track) and were looking forward to just hanging out, lazing around – and in – the pool, soaking up the environment and sun with the occasional drive to places of interest and places that hold special memories for us. Idyllic!
We’d hmm’d and hah’d about whether or not we should cancel, but made our mind up to just do it – too good to miss. But no, it was not to be. Travel insurance was impossible, reputable and specialist companies not even willing or able to give us a quote. It seems that in spite of medical professionals advising us to go for it and have that dream holiday, we don’t even have choice. Well, as you can imagine, the brave and smiling faces crumpled somewhat… once off the phone Jimmy swore quite a bit (oh yes, he has been known to use the occasional expletive), wanted to punch a hole in a wall, throw something, shout and scream – but that would have been a massive amount of negative energy. So, although very disappointed, we’ve just had to put it behind us and move on.
So there was no alternative but to cancel and request refunds. The B & B shouldn’t be a problem as they have a generous cancellation policy, but lastminute.com (flights and car hire) is proving a bit more difficult. Unless insurance is taken out at the time of booking, refunds are not possible except in extreme circumstances… how much more extreme do they need us to be??? Val has been speaking with a representative called Bernadette who was obviously taken aback by our reason for needing to cancel, and she is proving very helpful – let’s hope there is a way for us to convey our thanks to her supervisor so that she can be recognised for excellent customer service.
But, you know, it hasn’t all been bad – we’ve had the pleasure of visiting Mike and Hazel for wine and cheese and assorted snacks… a lovely evening, many thanks for the invite. And Hazel does make exceedingly good ginger wine (Jimmy’s preferred tipple as he’s off the alcohol right now). Steve and Carol (Fool’s Gold) popped in for a coffee as they were in the area on Friday, we had a good natter, a laugh or two and generally put the world of acoustic music to rights (again). And on Saturday evening we headed off to Seaton Delaval Arts Centre to see “A Parcel For Mr Smith” – a one-hander single act play from the Cloud Nine Theatre Company… Dylan Mortimer was very good, but the dummy stole the show when it teetered and fell over (completely unplanned) at the end!
And to cap it all, Val’s new tee-shirts arrived from America. Lovely designs with gorgeous cats on them.
Life is good, *&^%$ annoying sometimes, but definitely %&*#@ good…
We’re now officially on the local district nursing services register – they’ll pop in occasionally to check how we’re doing and will always be available at the end of the phone line to answer questions and try and resolve any issues we might have.
We have an appointment to see a specialist oncologist at Wansbeck hospital on Thursday 21 May about possible therapy options, immediately followed by Jimmy having another CT scan to take a closer look at his insides.
Jimmy & Val (jiva)
This has been the darkest and most difficult week in the history of jiva.
Due to Jimmy’s ongoing health issues we took the very difficult decision to cancel all current bookings and not to actively pursue further bookings. In fact we received two phone calls on Friday where Val had the difficult task of saying thank you for the offer of a booking, but then explaining why we couldn’t in all honesty accept them. We can’t run the risk of not being well enough to perform and not knowing future treatment timescales, and there’s no way we would want to have to cancel at short notice and cause disappointment and inconvenience. So, there really is no other option for now.
Are we over-reacting? Should we plough on in spite of everything? We’re doing our best to be considerate to other people, and if that means saying no, then so be it. That doesn’t mean we’re going to turn the lights off, pull up the drawbridge, barricade the doors, and keep the world out. No way.
And through the darkness there have been some lighter moments – the highlight was when the postman delivered an unexpected parcel. We had absolutely no idea what it could possibly be, or who it was from. On opening the box we found two polystyrene packages each containing a tea/coffee mug in purple with messages printed in white. As Jimmy looked at the first he began to cry, literally… whopping great sobs. Val clung to Jimmy and together we sobbed and laughed so much our sides ached as we took the packaging off the second one. Anyone looking through the window would have been totally confused as to what was going on. We really must congratulate Andy and Cath Pritchard for bringing such joyous smiles to our faces – you guys are awesome!
Other news? Well, let’s see… we kerbed the car while parking and somehow managed to tear a chunk out of the sidewall of the front nearside tyre and, after disappointing responses (and a non-response) to requests for prices, we limped our trusty Honda Jazz along to the local KwikFit and were soon back on the road with two new tyres and alignment etc all sorted… there was a General Election (and no, we didn’t stay up all night watching the results come in)… we had a new shower fitted in the bathroom – all working wonderfully well again… we tidied, swept and hosed down our block-paved yard, and there’s an electrician coming around to give us a quote/estimate for a new security light in that very yard and also for a new internal light fitting. Hardly exciting, or the stuff of dreams, but nonetheless part and parcel of everyday life in general.
Life is good, dark and difficult sometimes, but still good… and precious.
We now have the results from Jimmy’s scan of Thursday 30th April. The news is not good, not good at all… they have confirmed that the cancer is inoperable. But we’re prepared (at least as prepared as is humanly possible) to face bad news together. And again this week we’ve received many generous and supportive messages, tweets, emails and phone calls – many thanks to one and all.
Next step is referral to an oncology specialist to look at therapy options (eg chemotherapy) and explore and discuss the potential benefits and possible side effects. Out of these discussions will come more difficult decisions.
Jimmy & Val (jiva)
Last week we wrote how the previous week had passed by in the blink of an eye, and this past week has been quite the opposite – so much time spent waiting… and not a single gig to perform, a very unnatural jiva week. Mind you, it’s just as well as we’ve had two hospital appointments, one hospital procedure, a solicitor’s appointment and there’s a plumber on his way this afternoon (yes a Sunday on a bank holiday weekend!).
The highlight of the week was driving over to Hexham to spend the evening with someone whose friendship stretches back across a few decades – we don’t see each other that often, but that makes the time we do spend together all the more special. A meal, a few beers (not for Jimmy though – [a] he was driving and [b] he’s not allowed alcohol with his current medication), much reminiscing, the occasional tear, re-evaluation of what’s really important in life… one could not ask more of an evening or of friends. Thanks, Alistair!
We’ve received many generous and supportive messages, tweets, emails and phone calls – it helps enormously and we are very grateful to one and all. Thank you, thank you.
On Monday 27th April we had an appointment with a specialist to discuss the current situation, and to explain to us about the next step. Basically this just confirmed what we already know and gave us the opportunity to ask questions… none of the answers were particularly encouraging, it was very much a “wait until we have full results back from the scan and biopsies, and in the meantime, soldier on and keep coping”… hmmm.
On Thursday 30th Jimmy had an Endoscopic Ultrasound Scan where they put a tube down his throat and wiggled it about a bit to get to where they wanted it inside him, and then they did a scan from the inside and took some tissue samples. He was sedated for this, and remembers nothing from lying down and turning onto his left side through until they took the tube back out. After an NHS cup of tea and beef sandwich ‘on the house’ he was discharged and Val drove us home again. Strange how a day spent in the hospital felt like a day off from the regular regime of painkillers and snoozes at home.
On Friday 1st May we had a GP appointment (slotted in at short notice due to the efforts of our MacMillan Nurse). All that came out of that was an increase in the strength of prescribed painkillers… hmmm.
Tough times ahead, and more waiting – hopefully we should know more by mid May.
Jimmy & Val (jiva)