ANNIE CONSTANTINOU writes hilariously and movingly about the side effects of being on steroids as she battles the ‘C-Word’

I have had thrust upon me a clarity of mind. Mostly owing to a strong daily dose of steroids and, I guess, with facing my own mortality. It feels strange which is not my natural default button.

But now, solutions to virtually every situation, problem or challenge seem blindingly and immediately obvious. And the urge to impart them to whomever is willing to listen is overwhelming. So, here I go.

Tasks at crazy o’clock

Steroids make you wired. I function on the ‘laid back, plump and sunny’ spectrum. It has always centred me and feels completely natural – so much so that anything other feels weird.

Hard for some folk to understand, but there it is. Since I’ve been put on steroids I have become what I have seen described (and have always secretly envied) as a high functioning adult.

So I guess you could describe my new spectrum as ‘wired, plump and sunny’. Quite good, really, and it’s very productive indeed. I really didn’t appreciate that there was a 6am each day – always thought that time was just in the pm.

Friends who have experienced steroids have described to me a few tasks which they have undertaken at stupid times of day and night. Boiling every tea towel in the house at 3am, roasting a leg of lamb at 4am, cleaning kitchen cupboards at 5am, planting tulip bulbs by torchlight at 4am. Crazy o’clock indeed!

Updating things

I decided one morning at 4am that the kitchen crockery and cutlery were in urgent need of replacing in a more contemporary style. I was feeling old fashioned. By 6am suitable and inexpensive replacements had been ordered. Our two nieces who were setting up flat benefitted from our old stuff which they termed as ‘cool’ and ‘vintage’. So, a green and win, win situation all round.

Decided that we must have new, on-trend napkins, too. Ordered an hour later. Immediacy is a big thing for me right now, so the Waitrose click & collect system works fine. There’s no need to go near a shop – some things never change – and I can order from John Lewis online and the products are there the very next day at my local Waitrose. Brilliant concept. Would suit me just fine if there was no other shop on earth than John Lewis. There, I’ve said it.

Two days later as I lay awake at 3am. I decided that we absolutely must have 4.5 tog duck down summer duvet to replace the cheap, sweaty synthetic one which has just come out of its hibernation, owing to the unseasonably warm April weather. Ordered at 7am, collected the very next day.

Another blinding flash at 4am one morning last week — I must paint my late mother’s dark wood dressing table in colours drawn from Neapolitan ice cream i.e. pale chocolate, mint green, pale blue and pale pink. Not sure how the fourth colour crept in — have never see pale blue ice cream. Was that in Bridget Jones, or was it blue soup?

In case you think me weird and overly obsessed with ice cream (a distinct possibility as I have been scoffing hither-to illegal Magnums recently), it’s good to say at this point that these colours feature in the bedroom curtains. And they are not on the replacement/update list.

But first I had to make a sketch detailing which drawer fronts, surrounds, uprights, mirror frame, top and legs were to be painted in which colour. You can only imagine the possible combinations – but no problem, owing to my new found clarity of vision I was able to decide pretty much straight away – no changes of mind. Three days later, all done with three coats of paint (also bought online) and I’m very happy with the outcome.


Nicky has not said much other than that extremely useful get-me-out-of-a-corner word, “interesting!” She is being extremely accommodating to my new status and has even commented: “So, is this what’s it’s been like living with me for the past 20 years?” As for me, wouldn’t dream of replying to this one, thus demonstrating that I have retained a little of my old diplomacy.

Lifestyle changes

I have a massive urge to clear out all our crap. Right now. And simplify life.

“We all have so many things,” I keep banging on to anyone who will listen. “Just so much rubbish. We hardly use even a quarter of it, so why keep it?”

All non-required clothing has gone to charity shops, apart from the much-worn items, which went to the clothes bank in the recycling centre. A question for those of you who are frequent visitors to your local recycling centre – Why are the clothes-bank bins always stuffed to the gunnels and unable to take more into their impossible-to-operate shutter doors (even for a high-functioning adult).

So, a dilemma; what to do with my bag of clothes. Leave it by side of bin and trust they will deal with it? Of course, I had to check with the site personnel – and thankfully, they did deal with it.

Next thought: shall I do a car-boot sale for stuff which might make a bob or two? Why not. Shall investigate. Can put the money towards a trip somewhere.

Advice — life and business

I have a deep seated urge to give advice on a multitude of business and life issues. There seem to be no brakes on my tongue. I am dispensing advice to friends, colleagues and clients who know these things and who are much more astute business professionals than me. Somehow I’m absolutely certain they will benefit from my ‘wise’ words. Apparently, some say they have. Or are they just being kind? Who knows, but I feel happy and satisfied to have spread my largesse.

Loving someone

This is schmaltzy, but I think it bears saying (yet more indispensable advice from the steroid department). Nicky and I have said ‘I love you’ virtually every day for 20 years, so when we say it now, we both know that it has nothing to do with my current health scenario. So, if you love someone, tell them whenever you feel like it. And if that’s every day, then that’s just fine.

Living on Page One

I‘ve always wanted to live on page one. No, not in the newspapers, God forbid! My page one is on a road map. Right down in the tip of south western Cornwall where one reportedly can find Piskeys and Dragons. Sadly, Aiden Turner is ‘twixt his shooting schedule. Even we can see the attraction. Anyway, back to the real reasons for going: Cornwall’s art, and crafts communities, picturesque harbours, sandy beaches and rugged coastlines have always attracted me and those who know me well will have listened to my “when we live in a Seaside Cottage” tales ad nauseum.

Much as it really pissed me off to have had to cancel our trip to California in June (we were so looking forward to sharing time with very dear pals) it raised my spirits enormously when another pal came up with a perfect harbour-front cottage to rent in Mousehole. So, we get to live on page one for week starting in a few days’ time.

Flights and feathers

Around 5:30 each morning during this lovely spring, I’ve been woken by our noisy Canadian neighbours. Canadians are not generally known as being noisy folk, but these dudes really take the biscuit. They swoop in all clack-clack and feathers after a night on the town. Goodness knows where they go – rumour has it that there’s a place called ‘The Goose Step’ round the corner from the Fat Cock and Swan (no, really, some Monmouth business person actually thought this was a good name for a wine bar).

They, the Canadian Geese, cannot really be held to account for the unfortunate name of their own hang-out. In any event, this morning they were late arriving back to the ponds next door. They flapped in very noisily around 5:50am and, I have to say, there were more than a few dodgy landings owing to mistiming of undercarriage retraction. I suppose there must have been a lock-in last night at ‘The Goose Step’.

Annie Constantinou lost her battle with cancer on 7 September 2015, just three months after writing this article.