Hallelujah – a Phoebe Update


As many of you know, just over one year ago, my daughter was diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis…and shortly thereafter, uveitis (inflammation in the eyes…common in some children with JRA).

It has been a year of challenge and heartbreak. It has also been a year of determination, hope, change and learning.

Those of you who know me, know that I am holistic in my approach to health. Homeopathy, alternative medicine, diet and natural supplements are my first port of call.  And so, this is what I turned to  to help my daughter regain her health.

But, despite an immense expense of time and money, we never seemed to get any good news from our check-up visits.  The pressure on me to use Methotrexate, a strong immune-suppressant drug, was mounting….

FINALLY today, we had some good news. The pressure in Phoebe’s eyes are back in the normal range. And the inflammation is very, very minimal. What a massive relief. I cried, but I could have danced…and hugged Phoebe’s doctor (if he had looked at all comfortable with that. He didn’t, so I didn’t…)

What have we done to help Phoebe?

Well, firstly, Phoebe is on a what you might call a whole foods Paleo diet tailored to her. We eat lots and lots of vegetables, green juices and green smoothies, meat and a little fruit.  Occasionally we have some quinoa, millet and amaranth. We also stay away from nightshade (tomato, potato, pepper and eggplant) because they can irritate the joints. We also stay away from some eggs and a few fruit and vege that she has shown to be intolerant. All of her food is homemade, fresh and as organic as possible.

Phoebe is treated with homeopathy and food supplements, as determined by our homeopath-kinesiologist.  Phoebe also sees an osteopath and she responds well to this work. We are currently under the care of Great Ormond Street Hospital and we do use steroid eye drops twice a day (I’m hoping we’ll be able to reduce this soon.)

I don’t know where this next year will take us. But I do believe we will come back to health.

On our journey to and from Great Ormond Street today, we passed a busker with a guitar in Waterloo station.  I don’t remember what he was playing when we first went past. (Though Phoebe stopped and said she liked his music.)  On the way back, we passed just as he sang the chorus to Hallelujah.

Hallelujah indeed. Goosebumps on my arms.

And so much gratitude…

If you fancy a listen: Here you go

Vintage Summer Art Portraits

Denise-Balyoz-family-photographer-windsorIn the Windsor Great Park, the fields are beautiful. Daisies and buttercups….clover and tall grass.  And, yes, the ever-changing skies.

Stormy Summer

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Summertime is teasing us. Warm. Cool. Wind. Rain. A dash of sun…My sweater is never far away. But still…this is summer. And summer is always beautiful.

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Photographing Dads

I love photographing Dads. Yes, they usually arrive reluctantly to the session. Sometimes they admit that THIS is for their wife. They are nervous and twitchy. Deep down, they would rather be playing football…or watching football…or even mowing the grass.

But when I finally get them in front of the camera…with their child in their arms. Something magical happens. What emerges is a love…a connection…a protection….a playfulness. There is an energy so different than the energy of mum and child.

And when it is all over and the portraits are ready. I usually pretend not to notice, but the Dad’s cry too. :)

To all the dads and granddads out there….Have a wonderful day!

Denise Balyoz portraits fathers

Child Portraits – 5 month old boy

ascot photographerI think I fell just a little bit in love from the moment I first met little H. He smiled and flirted with me through most of the session. He is a wee, little man with a million expressions and a force of personality that, I suspect, will only grow.

He kept his mum and I laughing. So enjoyed photographing him.

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Sam’s Story

Sam-Dog-Denise-Balyoz-PhotographyHe came to me in an ice storm fourteen and a half years ago. He left me yesterday, on the grass in the sunshine.  In a nutshell, this was the story of Sam’s life….

For the first six months, he was with a family who neglected and mistreated him. He had no toys. He did not play. He was left outdoors in the winter with little shelter. Seemingly forgotten. So thin. His neighbour took pity on him and fed him under the fence. When she went away for Christmas, she asked her neighbour to feed her dog and the pup under the fence. Her neighbour, Lew, was my hairstylist.  Since women tell their hair stylists everything, Lew knew I was looking for a dog.

Christmas Eve, the ice storm hit. Sam was left outside in a doghouse with no door and no blankets. Lew called me. I was on my mother’s couch with fever and bronchitis and couldn’t come until the day after Christmas. I took one look and the answer was yes.  Two days later Lew brought Sam to me. He had thought about just taking him from under the fence, but in the end, Lew knocked and asked. ‘Bought the dog for my three-year old, but he doesn’t play with him.’ the man said.  Hmph.

Sam was a special dog. Scared at first and slow to trust men. Gentle, oh so gentle. His energy was calm and thoughtful. Always, in new situations he would sit back and observe. Sam never wanted to offend.  He was a healing dog and a guard dog.  He looked after me. Always.

In the end his arthritis got him. Or rather, the anti-inflammatories that he needed to control his arthritis got him. He developed gastritis and his digestive system just couldn’t recover.  He started missing meals and then stopped taking food altogether. I tried all sorts…chicken, fish, steak even. He was vomiting up the water he drank and sometimes dry-retching for an hour. It was his time and I knew it.

This weekend was beautiful, sunny and near 70. We went together on Sunday afternoon – Harry, Phoebe, Sam and I – into the park behind my house. A place we had walked a million times.We couldn’t go far, but he sniffed in the grass while Phoebe and Harry ran.

Phoebe and I went home to watch Charlotte’s Web (a special treat for her.) Sam came in to sit with us, which was unusual. Lately he had been spending most of his time in his bed. We had our dinner on a picnic blanket in the lounge, with Sam by my leg. Sunday evening, I brought him up to my room to sleep at the foot of my bed…as he used to do before the arthritis made the stairs unmanageable.  He had a peaceful night and woke to watch us in our morning routine.

Phoebe and I had talked several time about how, one day, Sam would be a fairy angel. (And Charlotte’s Web gave us even more opportunity to discuss this…) I asked Phoebe to say goodbye to Sam before she left for school.  ‘Have a nice flight, Sam.’ she said. ‘That’s for all the flying he’ll be doing.’ she said to me.

Once Phoebe was at school, I drove Sam to the meadow. The grass was tall. The buttercups in bloom. The oak trees rustled in the breeze that floated the clouds. Honestly, it couldn’t have been better.

I took Sam to Doug. Sam loved Doug. And Doug took us to his garden. It was the most beautiful gift to hold Sam in my arms, in the sun, on the grass as he went.

Needless to say, Sam leaves a crater in my heart….and in the hearts of many other friends who knew Sam. Though I have chosen to share the beginning and the end, his story is mostly what happened in between. And so a few more facts about Sam:

1. Sam was black-and-brown. A mix of part Shepherd (Alsatian) and maybe part Lab or Collie or a little of everything else.

2. When wet, Sam would get fluffy. When dry, his coat was glorious, so soft and shiny. Even to the end.

3. Sometimes Sam would smell of spices…cinnamon, nutmeg, pumpkin pie. I loved that about him.

4. Sam is American but lived 2/3rds of his life in the UK.

5. Sam trained for some of my marathons with me. His longest run: 15 miles.

6. Sam was a travelling dog. He went with me places. In NC…to the mountains, to the beach. In the UK…to Wales and Cornwall and the Lakes. Camping in Dorset and Devon. B&B’s in the Cotswolds. Sam crossed the channel on the EuroStar to France and Switzerland.  Though he loved to curl in the footwell behind my seat, I don’t think car-riding was his favourite.

7. Sam was gentle. He never grabbed. He would almost breath a treat from my hand. Food was to be tasted slowly. And best eaten if I was standing there with him. There was one exception…cat food. Sam used to steal the cat food. Any chance he got.

8. Speaking of cats, Sam lived for several years with Pooter, a gorgeous orange Tom. And with Jess, a lab-dalmation mix. He befriended a bunny, Nibbles when he went to stay at Nibbles’ house. The two of them used to run up and down the garden together. When Harry arrived, Sam was dubious. But occasionally, they would play Chew and Bite (mainly Harry biting Sam’s scruff).

9. Sam is responsible for at least two Windsor families getting dogs. (Yes, Susie? and Karen?)

10. Sam has large black freckles on his long pink tongue. He also had the softest ears imaginable.

11. Sam hated, and I do mean hated, to have his nails done. I’m afraid that was my fault as I nicked him when he was young.

12. Sam was awesome with Phoebe. He was always gentle. If a guest came to visit, Sam would unobtrusively place himself between her and them.

13. Sam lived with me in two houses and one flat on the 2nd floor. Though the flat had a rarely used lift, he knew what it was for. After one particularly long (and fun) bike ride, Sam ran the skin off his paw. (Poor boy…) When it came time to go out, he walked out the door to the lift, sat and looked at me. Message conveyed. We used the lift until his feet were better.

14. Sam’s bark was ferocious. Often I would open my door to find door-to-door salesmen standing in the street with the front gate between them and the door.  I’m afraid I never dis-abused them of the notion that Sam would EAT them.

15. When he was younger, Sam loved to play tag. He would run in circles chasing dogs, chasing people and laughing.

16. Sam hated suitcases as they meant my departure. I’m afraid he lived with me during the IT-career-travel-the-world days. But he never went into kennels. I left him once in a kennel and he didn’t wee or poop for 3 days until I returned.  After that he stayed with kind friends and dog sitters.

17. Sam loved the sofa. He knew he wasn’t supposed to be there and would never be there when I got home. But there would be an indentation and a still-warm spot on the cushion closest to the window. If I looked at him, he had the decency to look guilty.

18. Sam had a bladder of steel. Honestly, that dog could go 12-13 hours without needing a wee. And he never messed in the house. Until the end. But that, he couldn’t help.

19. Sam was a healing dog. He knew. He always knew when I was low or needed some comfort. He would nudge my hand or push his head into my lap so that I could pet his ears.

20. Sam had a few tricks. He would balance a treat on his nose until I gave him permission to flip it in the air and eat it. He would shake hands. But he never rolled over or lay on his back. I don’t think that was comfortable for him. And fetching…no…that was below Sam.

And so today is an empty day, where I miss Sam in every thing I do. I suspect that will continue for a long, long time.  We had a long chat yesterday and I sent him away with a long list of requests (one of which being to help sort Phoebe’s healing.) I also asked him to send me a sign every now and then. ‘Send me a heart.’ I said. and this morning…while walking to school, there was a playing card lying on the pavement. It was the Jack of Hearts.  Thank you Sam. With love. Always.

And if you haven’t seen the video I posted to Facebook: