UPDATE 12th FEBRUARY
An update about things here.
There are two things dominating my life at the moment. Bertie and Milk Diamonds.
Bertie is currently stable in his third phase of treatment, which is called interim maintenance. This means he is taking oral chemo daily and has other forms of chemo, either intravenously or through a lumbar puncture, monthly. He's also taking steroids monthly and has antibiotics every weekend.
He's not been ill since new year, which is great, and his blood levels are doing well.
Unfortunately though, all this treatment does have an impact on Bertie, and his every day life is pretty restricted. He spends his time at home with daddy, who is now off work to look after him full time, or at hospital having treatment. He goes to see his childminder for a morning a week, which he loves, but which is knackering for him.
In March he starts delayed intensification, the next phase of treatment, and he will be facing a whole new set of challenges. It's daunting for us all, but we keep going because that's what we need to do.
With all of this pressure comes the financial strain of going down to a one income household. We're really lucky that Martin's work have been as supportive as they can be, and have taken all his pay to the max. But we will still have to cope with a lot of reductions in our lives for the next few years.
So, how is Milk Diamonds in all of this? I've been back at work full time since the beginning of January, having managed to get as much as I could done before Christmas. Since then I've been working an average 45 hr week to get through orders for people made pre Christmas. It's not as fast as I'd like it to be, but I'm in my groove and can see that I'm getting through them.
I'm working in batches of 30-35 most of the time, and trying to ensure I can still give them the attention they deserve. People have been amazing at being patient, but I'm really conscious of the time things are taking. It's a hard job to rush, as any rushing does inevitably end up with cut corners and mistakes.
I hope people continue to see our jewellery as special and worth it, and I hope I can gradually cut the lead times down. It matters so much to me that we continue to be a place that offers a professional and friendly service, that's driven by a commitment to providing the best keepsakes we can.
Of course we will provide updates on specific orders if needed, and if you really need a piece for a specific and realistic time we will do our best to help with that, but please be assured that I will get to all orders placed.
Thank you so much for your continued support and patience, it means so much to us all.
November 10th 2018
I have some upsetting news to share with you. My youngest son, three year old Bertie, has been ill for a few weeks. On Wednesday 7th November we were admitted to hospital and he was diagnosed with leukaemia. Since his diagnosis we have been admitted to Bristol Children’s Hospital and have started chemotherapy. Everything is moving at a whirlwind pace and yet this is a long haul and unpredictable process.
Obviously we're completely distraught and overwhelmed but at the moment the only thing we can do is take things a day at a time. Staying strong and making sure we are here for Bertie is our priority. They tell us that Bertie's prognosis is good, and thank goodness for the NHS, who have scooped us up and are taking care of us wonderfully. We are a ball of devastation and stress and they are being so amazing with us.
All of this means that I will be away from the studio for some time. I am still the sole maker here at Milk Diamonds, so there isn’t anyone available to pick up this work. This means that all previous timescales are going to have to change, and there will be some significant delays. We have contacted all affected customers by email.
We expect to return to some form of normality in the future, so will continue to accept new orders with extended timescales. We may need to limit the number of orders we accept per month. Unfortunately, we’re not in a position to guarantee any timescales at present. What we can guarantee, is that you will be kept up to date with your order’s progress, and when it is produced, it will be made with the love and time that it deserves.
Inclusions can continue to be sent, although there will be delay with logging these. They will be safe and stored appropriately.
If you have any questions about an existing or new order, my admin assistant, Laura, will be happy to help.
Thank you for your continued support, particularly over the difficult weeks to come.
November 29th 2018
I'm back. Trying to make sense of the balls I dropped three weeks ago when Bertie was diagnosed, and fighting the urge to ring home every five minutes to see how he's doing.
At the moment I'll be concentrating on getting the batch I was partway through finished and out, as well as opening and cataloging all arrivals and sending out gift vouchers and boxes. If you have an order that has been delayed and would like a "gift to come" certificate, please do let us know by email.
Again, I'm so sorry to have totally missed Christmas deadlines, and so thankful to have such amazing and supportive customers.
It seems like a good time to let you know how Bertie is doing. He was diagnosed three weeks ago with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia (ALL) and has been receiving treatment ever since.
The treatment currently involves four different types of chemotherapy, and following a stay at Bristol Children's Hospital he has been discharged home with day hospital appointments.
He is coping brilliantly and stoically with distressing and painful treatment and side effects, most noticeably a massive increase in appetite (and weight) and reduced mobility. These are both due to some hefty steroids. He still has hair for now, but it will start to fall out soon and has now started to thin out.
Bertie has a port in place in his chest, so all his IV chemo and blood transfusions go through a line into this, something that will remain in place until the end of treatment. He is also having regular chemo into his spinal cord and bone marrow aspirations, both are done under general anaesthetic.
In just over a week he will have an important bone marrow test to see how his leukaemia is responding to treatment. Then we will have a treatment plan for the next three and a bit years. So far he has been lucky. He has a common leukaemia, he is young and early results were looking good. But I can't let down my guard and still feel nervous for the results of that biopsy.
On top of the leukaemia, we have the ever present risk of infection, and we have hospital bags packed for urgent hospital stays if we get a temperature over 38°c, which will result in a stay in isolation and IV antibiotics.
Family life now revolves around Bertie and his care. Poor Gus has had a struggle with this, but our community here in Frome has been amazing and have been making sure he is still enjoying time with friends. Martin and I take it in turns to stay with Bertie when he's in hospital, and as things settle down Martin will look after Bertie while I work at the studio.
Its been the longest and most tiring three weeks of our lives, and we have cried every day, often with sadness, but just as often with gratitude at the wonderful love and support we have around us.
Thank you all.