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Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Quite a Social Week

This time last year I had just seen my GP and we had a conversation about the biopsies that I had had done. The results weren’t back from the biopsies, but we were aware that there was a tumour in the stomach and I was anxious to find out if the tumour was malignant or benign. My GP was not sounding to hopeful about the outcome, and I remember as I got up to leave he also stood up, moved around his desk and hugged me. I only just kept it together, but as soon as I left the surgery I spoke with my wife Leonie and then called my mum. On the phone to my mum I broke down and had to hang up. Although I hadn’t received any results, it had suddenly dawned on me that this could be the beginning of the end. That night was also the works Christmas party, and I went along. Everyone was enjoying themselves and was so happy, I put on a brave face and made it out like I was having a good time. All the time my own mortality was on my mind, I was asking myself questions like “if this is it, what do I do until the end?” My mind was on different things, and I got drunk to try and forget it. It was a difficult weekend for me and probably one of the hardest, and at this point I was even sure if I had cancer. Roll on 12 months, and I have had cancer and beaten it. What a difference a year makes. Having being told you have cancer, the whole world changes, your view on the world shifts. It is hard to put it into words but I know many people are delivered similar news and in many cases, worse news than I have got. But at the time, I remember speaking with Leonie and saying that we can’t change anything like this, it is bigger than us and what will be, will be. The most important thing is to stay strong and be positive, and more so if there are kids around. We decided that we would carry on as normal as possible for the sake of the children. I am glad we decided on this, as to them I have been a little ill, but they were never aware that this potentially has the capability to take me away. I was lucky that it was found in time to be treated and removed, and that I still here, and that I have a full life ahead of me again. It would have been devastating if it hadn’t gone this way. I am extremely happy still to be here and able to enjoy time with my family. This week has been a bit of a mixed bag of events. We visited our friend in Poulton-Le-Fylde on Friday eveing and had a walk around the town to see the lights with the children. Then we had some Christmas drinks in the evening, a bit of mulled wine. On Saturday we took all the children for a walk along the beach at Cleveleys before heading home in the afternoon. Saturday night we went out again to see all our friends. We went to the Ferret on Fylde Road and had a drink and dance, it was good to see so many of our friends out and we all enjoyed ourselves. This meant that Sunday was spent recovering. I was back at work on Monday, but on Tuesday afternoon, I had an appointment with my Oncologist and Specialist Nurse in preparation for another dose of treatment on Wednesday. This Avastin treatment is quite easy to take; it is only a IV drip for half an hour. Before treatment I went to Cop Lane School to see both Oscar and Sidney in their school play, “Children Of The World”. I was so proud of my two little boys, and they looked happy to be taking part. It is amazing how much both of them have developed since starting school, Sidney only being at school since September, and now he is writing all his own Christmas cards and having a part in the school production, completely amazing. Tonight I am going to the Rosemere Volunteers Celebratory evening at Deepdale and a few of my supporters are coming along with me. I am looking forward to a night out to celebrate all their efforts and help they have shown throughout the last year, there are so many people that I owe a great deal of thanks too for the last 12 months, I am eternally grateful to every single last one of them. This Christmas is a special one, the first one of my new life, my second chance. I will treasure these moments with my family and close friends as I am lucky to be here.

Monday, 8 December 2014

December Update

It has been a while since I typed a blog but in all honesty now I am back at work full time, it is hard to sit down for a while and have a think about what is going on. I still write for the Lancashire Evening Post on a weekly basis and this makes up the weekly updates for the blog. Generally I am feeling great, I still get the odd pain now and again or if I forget my tablets the next 12-24 hours can be a little unpleasant but I can't really complain about it and am now leading a full and active life. The boys are keeping me active too, always running around for them or with them! I am really looking forward to christmas and already the big day is creeping up on us quickly. As with any usual christmas period, the social calendar gets a little hectic too and has been filled up for some time, and we don't make it easy for ourselves as we keep adding to the calendar. After all that has happened this year I will be glad to see 2015, but at the same time, I won't forget this year to easily. I am not wishing time away but I really want to get to the 12 months since diagnosis, not for any reason other than to say its all over and done with and I can look at 2015 with a new outlook and perspective. I want to achieve a few things in my life and I have thought about this over the last year, and next year I will start to complete my bucket list. I really want to visit some places and see the world but at the same time I have some more ambitions closer to home. If there is one positive out of this, it has given me a renewed motivation. I really do have a second chance now and I want to make the most of it.

Photos From November

Hot Tub Time

As we are getting ready for Christmas at home, I am becoming busier with bits and pieces and with the seasons socialising too. I was off work last week and didn’t really get many of my planned jobs done as I was busy with appointments and the kids. I did manage to fit in a couple of gym trips though! I went to Cop Lane Christmas Fair with the boys on Thursday after school and we were treated to a few songs from the cast of Frozen, we saw Anna, Elsa and Olaf and all the kids enjoyed the evening. The next morning we were back at school for the morning assembly as Oscar had earned a merit at school for good work, it makes me feel proud that both my boys are doing well at school and times like this are special and reinforce my thoughts that they are good, smart kids. I had an appointment on Friday with my psychologist and we talk a lot about thoughts and feeling, it’s good to get things out in the open and speak with someone who is in a neutral capacity and doesn’t judge, I have support at home but sometimes it’s good to speak with someone outside of my support network. At the end of the week we received a message to tell us that our friends Laura and Lee (who were on holiday in New York) had just got engaged. They make a really good couple and it was good news to find out. The week of rest and relaxation that I had planned didn’t really work out that way but that was about to change for the weekend. Ema and Dan were visiting again and although Leonie was working they were to arrive on Saturday afternoon. In the morning we went to the St Leonards Church Christmas Fair and enjoyed the atmosphere, the boys got to see Father Christmas and both received a present, on the way home we popped into the chip shop for some lunch, then a quick tidy up for our guests to arrive. Having Ema and Dan visit us a fair few times this year has really helped and they have been great friends, I am lucky to have them around and it’s a shame that they live in Wales, but on the other hand it makes it special when they visit and something to look forward to. Ema loves the Christmas period, so our annual tradition is to go to Barton Grange and see the Christmas displays, Ema always buys some more decorations then we go for lunch at Guys and have a very festive weekend. On Sunday afternoon after Barton Grange and Guys, we dropped Oscar and Sidney off at my sisters for a sleep over, Ema and Dan were treating us to a night away in a cabin in Cheshire. We arrived at the lodge and it was a very picturesque setting with the log cabin nestled in amongst a forest of fir trees. Each lodge had its own private decking area and a hot tub. We had some food and relaxed in the hot tub and enjoyed a few drinks, when we got out we played scrabble, I had never played scrabble before and I won! We were in the hot tub on and off until after midnight and we never noticed how cold it was. Although we had to get back to pick the boys up from school on Monday, we still managed a quick dip on Monday morning before packing up and leaving. It was relaxing and fun night away – we could have stayed a lot longer, and now I want a hot tub of my own to enjoy anytime I want to. Tuesday I was back at work and although I like my job, it really doesn’t compare to lazy days spent in a hot tub and I missed my weekend away! Work is busy and we are beginning to get ready for year end. There are plenty more social occasions to enjoy though and the Christmas night out to look forward to. Next week I have my chemotherapy treatment again and although I am still recovering from surgery I feel fighting fit and ready for the festive period. I still haven’t fully accepted the fact of what I have gone through this year, yet I am glad that it is almost over. It has now been 10 months since I was diagnosed with cancer and now the treatment is coming to an end and I am clear of the tumour, the NHS have been fantastic and acted quickly to ensure everything was checked and completed properly, I couldn’t fault them on anything that I have been through this year and owe them a lot of thanks for what they have done in saving my life. I feel as though I owe a lot of people for their help, care and support; I want them all to know that what they have done is appreciated and that I will continue with my enthusiasm and thirst for life just as I did before I found out I had cancer, if I was asked what I have learnt from this experience I can easily answer with the following: I am not indestructible; you have to live life and enjoy it; never be too proud to ask for help; you can overcome anything with focus and a strong mind; and that we all need someone in our lives, family and friends alike, to share the good moments and to support you in the bad times.

Week Off

I was looking forward to Thursday evening and it really didn’t disappoint. I had been invited to go and see The Jesus and Mary Chain at Manchester Academy with my brother in law, David. He has always been into music and was my main influence when I also became interested in music, in fact Dave bought me my first alternative album, Pulp. Since then I have developed my own musical tastes, but I owe it to Dave for starting me on the journey. The Jesus and Mary Chain were mainly active during 80s and 90s so I don’t remember them the first time around, but they reformed and are touring their album PyschoCandy. The gig was awesome and I really enjoyed it, the band were on top form and the gig was loud. I was back in work on Friday after a late night getting back from Manchester. It was my last day in the office before taking a week off on annual leave. I handed over some pieces of work to the team and was excited to have some time off. On Saturday I was down at the gym again. As I have been a few times now, I find that it is getting a little easier so will probably increase the circuit over the next few weeks. I want to be able to feel the benefits of the workout. In the afternoon my sister, Sheila, dropped off her three girls, Amelia, Lottie and Evie as she was out for the night. We were looking after the girls overnight and as a treat we took them to 9th Penwortham Scout Hut to watch a film (How to train your Dragon 2) which was being shown to raise some money for the scout troop. While all the kids were watching the film we popped round to see my mum and catch up. It was a lazy morning on Sunday as we got the kids ready and Sheila popped over to pick them up. In the afternoon I watched the final Formula 1 from Abu Dhabi and was please that Lewis Hamilton won the Championship. In the afternoon the water went off and it made me think about how lucky we are and what we take for granted. The water wasn’t off for long but those couple of hours where we were stuck saw us having to adapt, we struggled and thought that this is definitely a first world complaint when a lot of people around the world don’t have access to clean water. This week I have spent a lot of time doing things around the house, planting some raspberries and repotting some indoor plants. I have been enjoying doing the school run with the boys and also been swimming with Leonie on Monday. I have been going to the gym for a workout each day but decided to take a day off on Wednesday. It’s nice to be off and have some lazy time after the busy few weeks. I have even managed to start the Christmas shopping as well, and I have noticed that I have generally been more active than when I am usually at work, but perhaps this is walking to school and back each day. I am looking forward to this weekend as we have Ema and Dan visiting again and we will be getting into the Christmas spirit by going to Barton Grange, and getting some ideas for decorations. It has become an annual tradition over the last few years and it is something to look forward to. This year we have an added bonus for the weekend as we are going away to Chester for the night on Sunday and having a night in a lodge with a hot tub. It is really something to look forward to and will be a good start to the Christmas period.

Gym and Treatment

On Friday at work we had organised a Bake Off to raise money for Children in Need, we also had a dress up day with the theme being “Superheroes”. I wore a Spiderman costume and also was lucky enough that some people made Gluten Free cakes, so I was able to enjoy a Victoria Sponge cake in the shape of Pudsey. The Bake Off competition was a success and from selling the cakes we raised lots of money for Pudsey and Children in Need. The weekend was another busy time for the family. As it was Oscar’s birthday last week we had planned a joint party with his best friend, Ben and himself on Saturday. This meant we invited his whole class from school as well as cousins and other friends. In total we had 35 children. The party was in the church hall at St Leonard’s, and we had a bouncy castle, games, music and face painting. All the kids loved it and we had a great time. The two boys, Oscar and Ben, were very lucky and received lots of presents which took most of Sunday to open and play with. It was an excellent family weekend with lots of fun and laughter, a good memory for years to come, I’m sure. Sunday morning I was back in the gym and took my time completing my circuit training but pushed myself so I had a proper workout, I am really enjoying going to the gym. It is tiring and hard work but I like training and keeping fit. I am now recognising a few faces and a nod of the head and a quick hello takes your mind off the fact that you are pushing hard. Although my muscles ache from the weight training I can already feel the benefits of the gym circuits and soon will be able to push harder. On the back of this my appetite has increased and I have started to put weight back on, almost near my original weight from back in January at the time of my diagnosis. This is a real boost as I can see changes in my body and having the muscles come back from having a bit of a lean time over the last year. I tend to hit the gym early in the morning so it gives me a boost for the day, it’s a good way to start the day and in the past I tended to workout (run, cycle or row) late at night once we had put the children to bed, but now I am more inclined to work out in the morning so I am at the gym before 7am and I don’t know why I didn’t do this previously as I get my evenings to spend with my family, instead of being out pounding the pavements. I will continue with the morning training sessions as this is working really well. At work I have been doing half days this week as I have appointments in the afternoon. On Monday I went to Vine House on Cromwell Road which is a cancer support charity. Leonie came along too and it was a good session where they introduced themselves and the services that they offer. We discussed how the children were coping, as well as how we have handled the past year. It was good to talk to them and we learnt a lot but were able to get a lot out and it was an open discussion which we both appreciated. On Tuesday I went to see my Oncologist and Nurse, Dr Mitchell and Claire. It is always good to see them, and especially so as we didn’t catch up before my last treatment. In a way I will miss these sessions, we have built a good relationship and get along well; they put their patients at ease and are really helpful with treating any side effects. It’s a very open and honest which it has to be so we talk about everything that is going on. They are pleased with how I am coping and surprised at how well I have recovered from surgery and how I manage the chemo and the after effects. I popped into the Rosemere office too while I was there and had a catch up with the charity team, who are all so friendly and approachable. While I was with Dr Mitchell and Claire there was a point where I was a little shocked when Dr Mitchell said that there are on three more sessions of chemo after this week. It seems as though the whole year has gone so quickly. In some ways it doesn’t seem like that long ago that I was in a room with the surgeon and Leonie, being told I had cancer. It is a very vivid memory, one that will never leave me and sometimes I find it hard to comprehend what has actually happened throughout this year, I also don’t want to forget it as it is a big event in my life, not defining my life but something that changed me massively, in terms of physically and mentally. Sometimes I stop and think for a minute, and it is pretty strange to think I have overcome cancer and now have no stomach. I was back at the hospital on Wednesday and went to see the nurses in the Upper GI unit as it had been a while since I last saw them. I am due to see the officially with Mr Ball, the surgeon, at the end of December, but it was great to see them and catch up. I then went to have my treatment in Rosemere. All the nurses are genuinely happy to see you when you go in. It isn’t something to fear as they make it so welcoming, again something else I will miss once the treatment finishes. Over the past year my life has changed quite a bit but I have made some new friends and had so many memories – although it has been a difficult year, it’s one that I won’t forget.

Oscar Turns 6!

It has been another busy week; I seem to have so much going on the moment but I like to be kept busy. At the weekend I took the boys to the first heat of the Rosemere Cake Off at Kingsfold Community Centre. The boys loved the tombola and the other little games that they could play, it helped having my father in law to look after them while we judged the cakes. There were some excellent entries; very professional. Unfortunately, being a Coeliac I was unable to taste most of them, but there were Gluten Free entries too. I met some nice people as well; the prospective South Ribble MP, Seema Kennedy. She was very pleasant and we had a good chat. I also met a lady who had herself beaten oesophageal cancer some years ago and had experienced some similar symptoms as me. It was good to chat with her and she provided some very useful information too. After a coffee morning the winners of the cake off were announced and they will be heading to the Grand Final which will be held in February at Deepdale Football Ground. Overall it was an excellent event and it raised much needed funds for Rosemere. On Sunday it was Oscar’s 6th Birthday. We let him open his presents before going to the cinema to watch the book of life which I was surprised at how good it was for a kid’s film. In the afternoon we had the family over to celebrate and Oscar was spoilt with so many presents; lots of Lego which I spent the afternoon building. He really enjoyed his birthday and we all enjoyed it with him. It seems like only a short time ago that Oscar was born and I remember the day so well, I was so proud to become a father for the first time and filled with so much happiness to have a little boy. Over the six years, Oscar has grown up to be a well-mannered and intelligent little boys and he is so playful but at the same time likes to be serious about what he does and he is a little bit of a perfectionist which is good as he tries until he gets it right in everything he attempts. I was up early on Monday morning as I had my gym induction at 8am as part of the “Activity For Life” scheme which is run by the NHS Fit Squad. The instructor listened to what my goals were and developed a training circuit to meet my needs but try and push me so that my fitness would improve. Then she took me through the circuit and as a person who hasn’t been to the gym a lot (I’m more just a pavement pounder runner) found it a real workout but lots of fun. I left the gym and went straight to work but going to the gym in the morning really set me up for the day, although my legs were feeling slightly tired climbing the stairs at work in the afternoon. Work is really busy at the moment and there are a lot of changes happening and sometimes it’s hard to keep up, in the evenings I do feel tired but I know that I am getting back to full fitness and it will take some time, this won’t stop me though, I aim to be stronger and fitter than before my operation to prove that cancer shouldn’t stop you and can be a springboard to a better you. With this new motivation I am determined to get to the gym as much as possible and I went back on Wednesday morning before work again. As the weather worsens over the winter and the dark nights are here to stay for a few months, I feel as though going to the gym will be a good bed rock to start running again properly in the spring time when the weather improves. The work out on Wednesday was tough but the people in Penwortham Leisure centre are really friendly and are easy to chat to while working out to keep your mind off the struggle! This weekend will be another busy one as we have family coming to stay and Oscar’s birthday party where we have invited his whole class from school. The next week I have a few appointments and more of the Avastin treatment, it’s easy to forget that I am still receiving chemo, but the battle continues.

Winter Wonderland

If last week was good this week was even better. The avastin treatment went well last week and on Thursday we went to see Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles at the cinema as a treat for the boys. I had an appointment with the psychologist on Friday and that was really good and I feel as though I can be honest with her. At the weekend we spent time with the boys before dropping them off at the grandparents on Saturday afternoon. Ema and Dan were visiting again, but tonight the four of us, along with Laura and Lee, were going to the Winter Wonderland organised by Emma Grandisons friends. The charity event was to raise money for two charities, Rosemere Cancer Foundation and the Neo-Natal Unit at Royal Preston. It was a formal evening and we all dressed up and had some champagne before going out. It was an excellent night and the venue was dressed up. We had some delicious food, before the Raffle and Charity Auction. The event raised almost £10,000 and we had a great night; while the drinks flowed we danced and laughed the evening away. While I was there I managed to have a quick chat with Emma. She is doing fantastically well considering the treatment she is currently undergoing. I also got to speak to another friend I have made through Emma and Chemo, Sharon. She had some fantastic news; she had been told that she was in remission. This is great news, another friend beating cancer! The following day, after having a full cooked breakfast we went to Barton Grange to meet the grandparents and collect the boys. While there we bought some new plants and food. We had a nice afternoon and in the evening I went to church for the All Souls Memorial Service. My mum, dad and Sister were also there and we remembered my grandparents and brother. I thought about David, my brother who died over 8 years ago and although it is very different to what has happened recently, I consider that I was very lucky in being diagnosed early and having the right treatment. On the other hand, David was unlucky in not being diagnosed with Pneumonia early, and his treatment began too late. It is unfortunate and he is missed by all of us. After having a week off for half term, I started back at work full time on Monday and I feel glad that I can now finally do a full day and week at work. It’s busy with a big project but I like it and prefer it this way, rather than not having anything to focus on. As part of the Sports and Social committee we started planning the diary for next year and I thought about actually how close to the end of the year we are and looking back at this whirlwind of a year, it just seems to have been so quick, it has passed by much quicker than I thought it would do back in January when I was diagnosed. I honestly thought it would be a long, tough road, but for me personally it has been relatively smooth and flat. There have been bumps along the way, but I would say I have coped pretty well with them all. It has now over 9 months since my diagnosis and almost 5 months since my surgery and it feels as though it has happened to someone else. Probably next year it will hit me that it all happened to me but at the moment it hasn’t really sunk in. On Tuesday night I went to the Ferret on Fylde Road with my brother in law, Dave, and my friend, Rob. We went to see a blues artist called Bob Log III. He is incredible on the guitar and his performance is not like anything else. He is a one man band and his performance is unbelievable. I ended on stage with him and it was a really good night. This was followed up by another good night on Wednesday when we went to see the firework display at Pear Tree Park in Penwortham. The boys loved it and it was a good display for Guy Fawkes Night. I also went to an appointment with the Fit & Quit Squad and it was really good, I like to plan for the future and with the help of the Fit Squad and the psychologist I will hopefully be fitter and stronger than before.

Friday, 31 October 2014

Photos From October

Part two - Run, fun at Pendle and more!

Photos From October

Part one - Preston Comic-Con

Time To Reflect

It's been nine months since I found out I had Cancer, and although I don't really like using the term - it's been quite a journey. When looking back at the last 9 months myself and my family have been through a lot. From my world being ripped apart when Mr Ball said that the tumour was malignent to having Chemotherapy start almost immediately in a whirlwind of February after having investigative day surgery and numerous appointments. Then followed a major operation to remove what I thought would be an integral organ for eating and digestion (but what do I know) and then more Chemotherapy. In some ways it's like it hasn't happened to me, obviously I know I have been through it, I still feel it everyday, everytime I eat, but it seems like so much has happened I can't take it all in and it seems like so much has happened that it simply can't be true. Am I in denial? Surely all of this can't have happened to me! It is so strange that it has happened, and I am glad I have written the blog to remind me of all I have gone through. All of this year has been a blur and I seem to have come out of it relatively well and unscathed (Ok I have a huge scar across my abdomen, but thats the only noticlable difference) If you look at me you wouldn't know what I have been through and also that I have no stomach - NO STOMACH, how crazy is that!! I went to the local shop today and saw a friend who said I looked great, in fact most people I see say the same thing, which is quite an ego boost, but in reality I look no different and if you didn't know me, you wouldn't know any different. If people ask if having cancer has changed me in any way, I would say so. I don't dwell on the insignificant things that used to wind me up. I can't stand people worrying about things that can't be changed. I was stood at the bus stop the other week and people were complaining that the bus was late. It was late by about a minute, but why worry about this or let it get under your skin, there are bigger problems out there. Such a first world problem. So what if you are 2 minutes late. I have also learnt to appreciate the stuff that really matters, family and friends. As long as you have people in your life that care for you, and that you care about, then you should be happy. So yeah, I have learnt not to fret about the stupid things but care for the important people more, appreciate what you have and do the best with it, it may not last long and the world could end tomorrow. But live in the moment and enjoy what you are given. So cliched but true.

Back On Track

I have had an awesome week this week. At the weekend our very good friends Ema and Dan visited again and we all went to the first ever Comic-Con at Preston’s Guildhall. It was very busy which goes to show that there is a thirst for this type of event and I hope that it will continue and grow bigger over the next few years. The kids, Oscar and Sidney, loved dressing up as Batman and Spiderman. They also liked meeting Storm Troopers, Batman and Bane and had their photos taken with all the heroes. It was a really good family day out and something that we would definitely do again. In the evening we had more friends over to celebrate my birthday and the end of Chemotherapy. My birthday was last month but I was still undergoing treatment so couldn’t celebrate how I wanted to, so there was a lot of drinking and we all had fun. The kids stayed over at my mum and dads, leaving us to relax and enjoy ourselves. Sunday was a relaxing day where we played monopoly, which the kids have to win, but it was good to spend time with them, especially as we missed them over night. As it is half term my twin sister, Janette, is up visiting from Wiltshire with her two children, Arthur and Alice. Unfortunately I had to go into work on Monday for a meeting even though I had booked the week off. I was happy to go in and found it very productive and informative so I was glad I went, I even had a gluten free lunch ordered for me which was nice and very thoughtful. Going into work meant I missed Janette on Monday, but we made up for this on Tuesday and took them all to Barley in East Lancashire and the Pendle Sculpture Trail. Although it was a bit wet, we still enjoyed ourselves and the kids love finding the sculptures and the witches plaques. We explained the story to them and made it interesting which isn’t hard considering its Halloween later this week, we just fed their imagination. I then cooked my signature dish of Sweet Chili Duck, Sweet and Sour Chicken and Egg Fried Rice for the entire family in the evening and I was provided with a few compliments too. As Janette is also interested in keeping fit, she offered to take me out for my first run on Wednesday morning. I was nervous to go running again, only the second time since my operation in June. I was apprehensive about it, but went through my “getting ready” routine which helped put me at ease a little. I warmed up on my way to meeting Janette and was thinking about how cold it was. This was soon pushed out of my mind as we ran together and we warmed up. It was only a short run of 5k (about 3 miles) but I was so happy about running again, I could have gone further. This has now spurred me on to run more frequently and ease myself back to full fitness. This is compounded with my new gadget which I got for my birthday, a health and fitness tracker. I look a bit silly wearing two watches, one on each wrist, but I am interested in my own health and I love the data I get back (yes I am a geek). All this pushes me to go further, run harder and go longer. I hope that this is now the case and that I back with a training head, working for a massive goal next year. I feel as though I am now over the Cancer and my body is responding well. I still get tired and my fingers are numb, but I want to do more and see what my body is capable off again. The efforts of Ben Ashworth (@chemodadruns) running 7 marathons in 7 months while undergoing Chemotherapy really astounds me, how did he do it? My hat goes off to him, but this drives me to better fitness. I still have a lot to look forward to in the next couple of weeks; this weekend is the Winter Wonderland in aid of Rosemere and Neo-Natal Unit and organised by the friends of Emma Grandison who is battling Bowel Cancer, she is a real fighter. I am really looking forward to this event as it will be a formal night out and we can all dress up. The week later is Rosemere’s Cake Off at Kingsfold Community Centre, where I will be a judge. Although I won’t be able to eat them I will judge on appearance. These events will all raise much needed funds for Rosemere Cancer Foundation and the details can be found on their website. With so much to look forward to I forget that I still have treatment for the trial drug, which is easy enough but still the apprehension remains as it means taking toxic drugs to kill any remaining cancer lurking around, but it’s for the best and at the moment I really can’t complain, as I feel great!

Stand Up To Cancer

This week I feel that my life is back on track and more normal. I am back at work almost full time and it is going well. Over the weekend we had some friends over to stay, Gemma and Sam and their two kids Jessica and Jack. On Sunday we went to the Christening of Elliott, the first child to some friends Michelle and Nicholas. It was a really good weekend overall but I needed to have a long nap on both Saturday and Sunday. The only noticeable difference is my energy levels and numbness in my fingers and toes, both of which are to be expected. I also have a lingering cold which I can’t shift, probably due to a weakened immune system – none of this I can really complain about considering what some people go through. After watching “Stand Up To Cancer” on Friday on TV, it really hit home how much Cancer really affects people, I really do consider myself one of the lucky ones. In reality, although we have struggled at some points over the last year, I always knew that I could beat this and had that in the back of my mind throughout the whole treatment. Others don’t have that luxury and I don’t think I would be able to cope if my diagnosis was terminal. My thoughts were with the people that I have met at Rosemere during treatment who have been diagnosed as terminal; what they have to go through and the treatment, knowing that it is an extension (in some cases) to a date they have been given. It must really blow their world apart and it must be difficult to deal with. These feelings were compounded when I learnt about Lynda Bellingham who had hoped to see Christmas but sadly succumbed to her cancer battle at the weekend. It shows that cancer really does affect everyone in some way and no matter how far you may feel distanced from it, the chances are that one day you will be affected in some way or another. “Stand Up To Cancer” also provided a hopeful message though, that the chances of survival from most cancers is now better than it has been previously and that there is so much research into the causes and treatment that people in the future will have a better and longer life through their treatment and hopefully have the chance to have a life after cancer like myself. I am one of the lucky ones but hopefully with the trial that I am currently going through, this will help people in the future, I feel that probably due to my age, health and fitness, I was probably the right person to go through this, so that I could help people, and that hopefully what the doctors learn from my cancer and the effects of the drugs I have been given they will understand that others that follow will also overcome cancer. The only way to beat cancer long term is the research that goes into it, and unfortunately this costs lots of money and takes time. Rosemere Cancer Foundation do a great job at raising funds for this research to continue and they do so much in and around Lancashire and South Cumbria, not only to raise funds, but also to raise awareness. I know many people who dedicate a lot of time and effort to help in this area. Although I am a Coeliac and cannot eat most cakes and treats (something which I miss immensely) I was asked to be a judge of the “Rosemere Cake Off”, which is a charity event to raise funds for Rosemere. I was delighted to be asked and jumped at the chance to be a visual judge (although I am secretly hoping for some Gluten Free entries as well). The “Cake Off” takes place on November 8th at Kingsfold Community Centre (details can be found on the Rosemere website) and is looking for entries in different categories, so this is an invitation to anyone who considers themselves to be able to make a good looking and tasty cake to come along and enter the competition. I will report back in a few weeks with the verdicts and winners. This week has been a good week and hope that these weeks continue, my only wish is to feel more energetic but as my doctors have said – this will take time and as a positive person, I think of this as something to look forward to rather than being upset that I can’t yet go for a run.

Boiler Breakdown

We started off on Friday in a cold house with no hot water or heating which was a struggle with two young kids. Luckily, John Denby, was due on Friday to fit the new boiler and get us warm again. I had to work so I let them in and let them do their thing while I went to work. I arrived back in the early afternoon and found that they had almost fitted the new boiler and although they had to come back on Monday to finish off the job they left us over the weekend with heating and hot water. It was good as you could really tell the difference almost immediately. They had flushed out the system as well so all the system worked really efficiently, fully warm radiators was bliss. On Friday evening I had arranged a meal out with work and a few drinks afterwards to celebrate the end of my Chemotherapy treatment. I really enjoyed the night out and ate well and drank probably a little too much, we went dancing and carried on drinking after the meal, and I finally I got home around 4am, after a thoroughly good night out. Saturday was spent with the boys and recovering from the night before. It was good to spend time as a family and we also managed to get a few jobs done around the house. On Saturday it was Leonie’s turn to have a night out, so she went to stay at a friends in Poulton-Le-Fylde and have a girly night. This meant I could catch up on the sport on TV. On Sunday I got the boys up and we walked to St Leonard’s church, Penwortham for the harvest festival and Church Parade, Oscar was excited fort his first parade and was dressed in his uniform. After lunch we had a TV day and I watched the Formula and England match, it was good to relax after a busy week. The weeks are suddenly filling up with things to do and now I am back at work almost full time, I am finding my life pretty full again, although it is tiring getting back into the swing of things. Sometimes I forget what I have been through as I carry on as I was before and life continues. Being pragmatic about the whole illness has helped, but sometimes you need to stand back and think about what has happened, and I still find it a little shocking. John Denby came back on Monday to finish off and tidy up the boiler. I worked from home and got a lot of work done in my home made office, using the kids Lego table as a desk! Tuesday I was back in work and my workload is increasing and keeping me busy, I am now doing 5 days at 5 hours a day, so I am now almost working full time, less than four months after major surgery and having my stomach removed – it has been quite a challenge but at the moment I am really enjoying this period. Most of the symptoms have faded or gone completely and I feel optimistic about the future. I still haven’t found the motivation to get back into running and cycling and this has been my biggest issue over the last few weeks, however on Wednesday I was booked into see a psychologist at the hospital to help with my motivation and worries that I have at the moment. Dr Ridley is specialised in dealing the problems that cancer patients experience so hopefully with her guidance I can start on the path to getting fit again. I feel physically capable to do it but I have some fears that I would like to overcome first, and hopefully Dr Ridley will be able to help me conquer them over the next few sessions. I will then be able to focus on some ideas planned for next year in terms of sporting activities.

Last Chemo

I have been looking forward to this week for a long time as it the last week of Chemotherapy medication. The number of tablets that I have to take daily will dramatically reduce, as I won’t have to have the Chemotherapy tablets; from now on it will just be the supplements to help with digestion and nutrition which are all much more manageable. The week has been pretty good with a family filled weekend where my wife’s sister and family came to visit. On the Saturday we were due to take part in the rearranged Rosemere Cross Bay Walk which was to walk across Morcambe Bay from Lancashire to Cumbria, unfortunately this was cancelled yet again on Friday due to safety reasons. In part I was quite happy with this as the last week I have felt much colder than usual and having to walk through water would have probably caused me to take a couple of steps backwards in regards to my recovery. I went to see my oncologist on Friday and I was weighed again and although I am eating plenty and keeping it down much better, I still continue to lose weight and am nearing my lowest weight again, which was 7 ½ stone back in September/October last year when I was experiencing the worst symptoms of my Coeliac Disease. I am quite a thin person anyway, but my weight is usually around 8 ½ stone, so I am losing a couple of pounds each fortnight. This is slightly worrying and I am trying to eat more to manage to maintain my weight, but only time will tell. Hopefully as I finish Chemotherapy this week, my appetite will stabilise and a more normal diet can be eaten. The weekend continued in a good vein and as it was pleasant on Sunday (although a little chilly) we went to Blackpool Zoo with Leonie’s sister and my parent in laws. It was a good day and all the kids loved seeing all the animals. Oscar has a project at school to learn about endangered animals and going to the zoo he leant a lot which will help him with his homework. We saw the tiger cubs and they were very playful, and I like seeing the big cats, the lions were also on form and we managed to see them up close. The orang-utans were good to watch as well. We also sat and watched an impressive sea lion show where the performed lots of tricks for us and the kids found them funny. It reminded me of our honeymoon when we went to the Dominican Republic and enjoyed a similar show at the water park, but that time we were able to sit with the sea lions and their personalities showed through as they gave us each a hug and a very fishy kiss. This week I have increased the number of days at work and I am back doing four days as part of my phased return. The work is piling up and we have a lot going on the moment so it is good that I am spending more time at work, although it can be tiresome. I am still napping in the late afternoon when I can. Unfortunately a good week suddenly turned bad when the boiler packed in on Monday night, so we are currently living in a cold house with no hot water. We have a small electric heater to keep us warm but now the temperature has dropped, we are really noticing the difference. I am having trouble staying warm, even at work, so it has been a bit of a struggle. Cuddling up to the boys has been good as they don’t notice the lack the heat and are like little hot water bottles. We had a local Gas Engineer come out on Wednesday and he has agreed to fit a new boiler for us within a week, as he said the 20 year old boiler would need several parts to work and it would probably be cheaper to have a new one, so we are now waiting in a cold house for the work to start. Wednesday I went back to hospital to continue my Avastin treatment; this is the trial drug which I will continue to have via and IV drip until the end of January. This is nowhere near as long as having a full chemotherapy session, and will only be a half hour session every three weeks. As the chemotherapy treatment has now finished, this will continue and I am now almost all done with the cancer treatment as a whole which is fantastic news. Although the last couple of months has been a struggle with managing the symptoms, I hope I will see an improvement in myself over the next couple of week and I will be able to start training again by running and cycling. I am looking forward to getting back out there, but need to make sure that my body can cope and that I fuel myself right before I head out. Within the next couple of weeks I hope to be back running, even if it is a short distance, but I am excited about getting fit again.

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Trip to Blackpool Zoo

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Friday, 3 October 2014

Photos From the Last Couple of Weeks

Birthday Weekend and Visit to Vine House

After the last couple of weeks of feeling a little low and having to cope with the side effects of Chemotherapy, this week I have seen and felt an improvement. Perhaps it was the fact that I was looking forward to my birthday on Saturday and I was able to spend time with my family and friends and relax, or perhaps I was just recovering from the side effects I had been experiencing but either way I was feeling much better, both mentally and physically. At the weekend we had some visits from my parents and my sister to wish me happy birthday; it was good just to sit and spend time with them. In the late afternoon, our friends from Wales (Ema and Dan) arrived as did some other close friends. We had planned to have a few drinks and have a mini party, we will celebrate again next month when my treatment has finished. It was a good night and it was the first time I had gotten drunk since our wedding anniversary in early June. The drunkenness came on really quickly and I could feel the change, however, I sobered up just as quick and even woke without a hangover at 8.30am on Sunday and spent the majority of the morning on my own as everyone slept in to recover from the night before. Everyone had enjoyed themselves and I felt great, it was a really good night. I was tired on Sunday so we didn’t do much. On Monday I was back at work and this week I am increasing my hours, so I am now working 12 hours over three days. Granted I am tired after being at work but this extra hour a day makes all the difference and I can seem to get more done. Since being back at work I am slowly getting back into the swing of things and re-learning some of the work as having three months off I have forgotten some stuff – but people have been great and really supportive. I had been invited to a Cancer Care group at Vine House in Preston on the Tuesday, so after running a few errands in the morning I went there for the afternoon. I haven’t been there before and I was impressed by the services that they offer and the support that they are able to give. There was a presentation to begin with, then I could book to speak to the individuals who were “pedalling their wears”. I spoke to as many that I thought would benefit me, this included NHS Fit Squad; Preston City Council Active Team; NHS Psychology Team; NHS Nutrition and Dieticians and Complementary Treatments including massages. Everybody was really pleasant and had worked within medicine or had been affected by cancer, so they were understanding and empathetic, which goes a long way, I really enjoyed the afternoon and it was an eye opener as to what support is available, Vine House offer a good service to those affected by cancer, not only the individual themselves but also their support network, family and friends. I will definitely be going back to take advantage of what they offer. In the evening we went to 9th Penwortham Beavers to watch Oscar get invested into the group, he was so excited and I was proud of him as he had learned the Beaver promise and was almost shouting it out with pride when he was invested, it was a special moment and reminded me of my time with 9th Penwortham, from Beavers all the way through to being a leader at the Scout Troop, I hope he enjoys his time there as much as I did. Apart from the fatigue, which I am still affected by, I feel much better this week, and I feel upbeat about the next couple of weeks. From the information I received at Vine House, it put my mind at ease. This weekend I will be walking the Rosemere Cross Bay Walk which has been re-scheduled from September, hopefully it will go ahead, I am looking challenge. You are still able to sponsor our efforts at www.justgiving.com/crossbay14

Tough Week and X-Rays

During my chemotherapy treatment last week I had a visit from a dietician, Carloyn Clark. We discussed how my eating was going and what we could do to maintain my weight as I had lost a couple of kilos over the last couple of months. I have a bit of a problem keeping food down while eating and sometimes it comes back up which is never pleasant. She was worried that the internal wound may have not healed correctly between the oesophagus and intestine. So she told me should would book me in for a Barium Swallow X-ray; this would check the join and how I was digesting food in the initial phase; but she was pleased with my overall current condition The chemotherapy is really starting to take it’s toll on me and I am finding it so much harder than any previous treatment. However saying this, last weeks treatment was the last full chemotherapy session that I would have to do so the end is now in sight, and I keep this in mind to get me through the tougher days. The next two days following chemotherapy were tough. I was exhausted and feeling sick. I lost my appetite and wasn’t in the best frame of mind; I felt sorry for myself and had no motivation to do anything so I stayed in and watched TV while the boys were at school and Leonie was at work. It was a difficult couple of days. By the weekend I did feel slightly better so decided to do something and began to redecorate the kitchen, starting by painting the woodwork, which in my current state took me three days to complete, it was really slow going but at least I was doing something and felt a little more motivated to get up and achieve something. The sickness and strange tastes were still present and I was wasn’t eating much but I wanted to just get over this first week after chemotherapy as I know this is always the worst part. Monday I was back at work for a couple of hours and I had a good chat with Karyn. We talked openly she does worry about me and wants me to be comfortable and healthy, I began to get emotional, but Karyn is a good person and talking with her helped a lot. The Barium Swallow X-Ray was booked for Tuesday morning and although I knew in the back of my mind it wasn’t and invasive procedure I felt nervous for some reason. I was taken into the X-Ray room and the procedure was explained to me and I was asked to get into the machine. I stood up and had to swallow a very thick, chalky drink several times while they recorded the swallowing on the X-Ray. It wasn’t too pleasant but manageable. After this I had a different drink which was very fizzy and caused a lot of wind, this wasn’t helped by the fact that the machine was now moving from a standing position to being led down. Again the recording was taken. I was able to see the video of the X-Ray afterwards and the doctor explained what was happening. It was really interesting to see, but he did mention that about 2/3rds of the swallows were going into a dead end of the oesophagus. It is quite hard to explain but they were stating in situ and when I swallowed again this was causing a blockage and forcing itself back up. He told me that the wound had healed well and that the action that was occurring was mechanical and he would not know what could be done to ease this, but he would send his findings back to Mr Ball, the surgeon. This was good and bad news in my eyes, I was healing well but there is a small problem which may never be fixed and I would need to manage this by eating much slower and being more careful when eating. I went home in a better mood and was relived that X-Ray was over, although it wasn’t that bad after all, but I don’t know what would need to be done in the future. At the moment I am feeling a little better, it is taking longer to get back to normal and get over the exhaustion and I sometimes feel overwhelmed with what has happened over the last 9 months as I take stock and look back at the journey so far. It’s almost over and I need to start looking to the future and remember that I will have beaten cancer.

Bolton Abbey and Chemo Round 6 - The Final Session

Over the weekend we wanted to take the boys out and as it was a nice day we decided to take them to Bolton Abbey. We thought that after our trip out to Pendle the week before that Oscar and Sidney would enjoy a walk along the river and around the ruins of the abbey. We took a picnic with us and drove over to Skipton. We had lunch when we arrived and had a look around the shop before walking along the river. The area around Bolton Abbey is really beautiful and the kids enjoyed throwing stones into the river. Oscar wanted to cross the river via the stepping stones and he made it half way across before he struggled to reach the next stone and I had to rescue him! We then walked along the river and the boys enjoyed the obstacles on the "welly walk". We took our time walking and then crossed over the river and had an ice cream before making our way back to the abbey and having a wander around the ruins. It was a really good day out and all the family enjoyed the trip out. We will definitely go back and we found a campsite near by so thought we would go back to camp next year. On Monday the boys were both in school full time and I went to work again. I enjoy work and really appreciate being back as I think I was getting a bit crazy staying at home! Going to work gets me out and about and I get to see people as well. At work I managed to get some work that I could take home with me and this gives me something to focus on for the next couple of months. I'm not due in work for the rest of the week as it is my last chemotherapy session this week. This is a major milestone as its the end of the major treatment. I will still have the trial drug until the end of January but this week is the last time I will be spending all day at Rosemere. I went to see my oncologist and we went through the symptoms that I had experienced since my last chemotherapy. I have had numb fingers and been a little dizzy and sometimes I lose focus. All these have been new symptoms so we spent a bit of time discussing them. Dr Mitchell said it may be that I am anaemic or that I need vitamin B12 so they asked me to do a blood test and they would check all my levels. They also tested my blood pressure which is on the low side, this isn't a problem as they would be more concerned if it was too high. We had a good chat with the nurse as well. Claire is really pleased with my progress and is happy that I have done so well and that I am able to go back to work. She encourages me and this motivates me in my recovery. As it is my last chemo session on Wednesday, we decided to celebrate with a meal out on Tuesday evening. We went to our local indian, Shampan, and enjoyed a meal, just the two of us. I couldn't quite finish my meal but gave it a good go and enjoyed what I could manage. On Wednesday we went to Rosemere for my final full session. The bloods had come back and they couldn't have been any better. They showed I had enough B12 and that I wasn't anaemic and all other results were good. They had also screened for bowel cancer and this had come back negative. We were good to go for my last session so I was hooked up and given my treatment, another milestone passed.

Pendle Walk and Back To Work

At the weekend we were due to complete the Cross Bay Walk in aid of Rosemere Cancer Foundation; this was an 8 mile walk across Morcambe Bay. Unfortunately we had word on Friday that it was too dangerous to go out on the sands from the Queens Guide, Cedric Robinson. The walk had been cancelled. I was really excited about completing the challenge as were my wife Leonie, my parents and my father in law. The walk has been rearranged for the 4th October and I really hope that we can complete it then. Thanks to all the people that have sponsored us so far, and if you would like to sponsor us for the event you can do so via the following web page; www.justgiving.com/crossbay14/ Saturday was a bit of a wash out but we took the boys out for a while and strolled around Preston Docks. I used to use the docks as a training run and run laps around the basin which is 2.5k. It is a good place to run and I like the docks, especially at night with the lights shimmering off the water and the views over to Preston City Centre. I went out into town on Saturday evening for a few drinks with work colleagues, this was my first night out since my operation and I was a little nervous about going out, but after a drink or two I relaxed and began to enjoy myself. I wasn’t out for long and caught the bus home, although I didn’t drink much I didn’t get drunk and I am still not sure if I will be able to get drunk again as some doctors say I will get drunk quicker (this has not happened) and some say I will be unable to get drunk, the jury is still out on this one. As the weather improved on Sunday we took the opportunity to go out for the day and we aimed for Pendle. We had looked up the area and found a Witches Sculpture Trail starting in the small village of Barley. We parked up and found a picnic park where we had our packed lunch before heading out on the trail. The views across to Pendle Hill were stunning and were made even better with the sun shining on us. The trail was perfect for the boys and we had to try and find bats, owls and broomsticks. It was a really good trail and kept the boys entertained without tiring them out, it was a perfect family day and we all really enjoyed it, finishing off the day with an ice cream from the little shop back in Barley. I was due back at work on Monday; it has been agreed between HR, my oncologist, my manager and myself that I would complete a phased return over 6 weeks. I was due to work 3 hours and after taking some time to get logged in and say hello to everyone, it was time to leave and get back home. It was tiring but good to see everyone. I went back home and had a nap in the afternoon after having something to eat. I am due to do 3 days a week and gradually build it up over the 6 week period until I am back full time. They have been great at work to help me get back into work, really understanding and they really couldn’t do enough for me, for which I am grateful. As I was back at home on Tuesday, my parents decided to come over for the morning and help out with the garden. It was another nice day and it was good to be outdoors again. This was pretty tiring again so I took plenty of breaks but we got a lot done and the garden is looking much better. The boys are well into school now and they both love it. Sidney is still only doing half days at the moment but as of next week will be full time. Oscar has also joined 9th Penwortham Beaver Colony. His first night was Tuesday and before going he was really excited, but as we walked up to the Scout hut he began shaking with nerves. We made sure he was OK and the leaders, Liz and Margaret were really good with him. We popped in for a chat with my sister while he had his first night at Beavers, before going back to pick him up. He really enjoyed himself and can’t wait to go back. I went to 9th Penwortham Beavers, Cubs, Scouts and Ventures before finally becoming a Leader at the Scout Troop. I finished because of us having children; I really enjoyed the Scout movement and it taught me a lot so I am very happy that Oscar likes it too and hope that Sidney will enjoy going as well. I was back at work for half a day on Wednesday and again found it tiring, but I think having the phased return will help me get into the swing of things again and help build up my strength too. It will be good to see how I am able to increase my strength over the next few months and how it will affect my diet; now I am doing more and more each day, I am finding myself eating more and being more hungry, managing my food intake while I increase activities will have to be one of main focus points over this next period of recovery as I have lost weight since my operation, not much, but I don’t want to lose anymore.

Catch Up

I know I haven't blogged for a while so to get you all up to date I will post the articles I have written weekly for the Lancashire Evening Post over the last couple of weeks. The past month has been quite busy, a few family weekends and a tough round of Chemotherapy as well as my birthday, but I am now nearly at the end of the Chemo treatment and I feel much more positive. Its odd to think that less than 9 months ago I was diagnosed with Stomach Cancer, and less than four months ago I had the tumour removed by surgery and now I am back at work (albeit on a phased return). The Chemo has taken its toll on my body since surgery and I feel fatiuged almost all the time. It has been so much harder to deal with and this in turn has brought about some low moods and a big blow to my motivation. I have also found it frustrating to not be able to do simple daily tasks and I feel a great urge to go out running, but at the same time I know running is a bad idea just now, but I do miss pounding the pavements and clocking up miles. Anyway, I will post the last couple of weeks and hope you enjoy catching up!!

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Trip to Bolton Abbey

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Thursday, 11 September 2014

Good Days to Get Things Done

Leonie had booked a couple of days of while the boys started school and on Thursday and Friday the weather was good so we spent time in the garden while the boys were in school tidying up the garden, weeding, cutting the grass and cutting back the bushes.  We managed to get a lot done while the kids were in school,  it's amazing what you can achieve when you don't have to pander to every whim and wish of two young children!

Doing some physical activity, although it wasn't much, took it out of me and I nap a lot in the late afternoon/early evening but at least I am managing to do something during the day.  It was also pretty nice to spend some time with Leonie, just the two of us, even if it was time spent doing chores.

On Friday, Emma, Ian and Erin visited for a brew and we sat in the garden and chatted over a brew.   It was good to catch up as we hadn't seen each other for a while.  We also paid for our Winter Wonderland tickets.   It is a night out in November in aid of Emmas two chosen charities; Rosemere Cancer Foundation and the Neonatal Unit at Royal Preston Hospital.   We are looking forward to a good night out.

In the evening we got our things together for the Morcambe Cross Bay Walk on aid of Rosemere which we were due to take part in the following day.  Unfortunately we got a text later on cancelling the walk due to safety reasons. 

Back to School

Oscar was starting in year 1 this year and Sidney was going to school for the first time and going into reception class.  It was a bit manic in the morning getting them ready and although Sid was only going for the afternoon session he was excited to get his uniform on too.

We all walked to school and Oscar was getting excited to be back at school, but when we got there he started to cry as he didn't know where to go but once he was ushered in he was fine and happy to see his friends.

The three of us walked home and had a relaxing morning and lunch before Leonie and Sid went back to school with Sid.  Unlike Oscar he couldn't wait to get into school and Leonie didn't even get a wave from him.  I had a phone interview with Occupational Health about a phased return to work.  It was a bit confusing as the women didn't want to listen to me and told me I couldn't return to work until February next year.  To clear things up we went to work to talk to Karyn, my boss, and organise things between us and we argeed a phased return beginning on Monday 8th September.

We made it back to school to pick up our boys after their first day and they both really enjoyed going to school.

It seems so strange having two boys at school now, 6 years ago we hadn't planned the kids, they just happened.  But I wouldn't change it for the world,  I love my family and although the kids can be hard work sometimes they are great kids and this is what keeps me going through the more difficult times.

Monday, 8 September 2014

On The Up

I started to feel better on Monday but still had the metallic taste for everything that I ate, although I had started to get my appetite back.  It was also the last full day I would spend with the kids before their summer holiday finished.   They were due back at school on Wednesday but I had an appointment with my surgeon on Tuesday.

My mum went with me to the appointment while my sister looked after Oscar and Sidney.  We arrived at the hospital at 11.30 and were told there was at least an hours delay so we went for lunch in the hospital cafe, Charters.   I had chips and beans and some milk as I wasn't sure if any of the meals were gluten free.  After lunch we went back to the clinic and waited a bit longer.   While we waited my weight was taken, 52kg, so I had lost 3kg from my original weight.

When we went in to see Mr Ball and the specialist nurse Jeanette, they were very pleased with my progress and the healing of the wound.   We discussed some of my symptoms and many of them were related to the chemo treatment rather than the fact I have no stomach.  They advised that I should stop taking some of the medication to help with digestion.   They also mentioned that some of the symptoms would ease over time and that it would be about a year before it all settles down fully.  I told them about the lack of feeeling under the scar and Mr Ball said that it should return over time but there is a possibility that it may never return.

We went back to my sisters and had a drink while the kids played before getting home for tea.  It was a good day and I felt a whole load better in myself too.  By the end of Tuesday even the metallic taste had disappeared too, I felt more positive from speaking with the surgeon.

Looking For Witches

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Sunday, 7 September 2014

So Much Support and Visits

The first couple of days after chemo are really tough going this time around.  It really takes it out of me and fatigue is probably the hardest to deal with, especially as I am usually quite active.  I find this aspect hard to deal with and its gets me a little low.  Along with this my taste buds change for about 5 days and everything tastes metallic and so it's hard to stomach (sic) food and I lose my appetite.

Luckily I have a lot of support with the boys when Leonie is at work so Thursday and Friday immediately after treatment I slept a lot trying to get over the chemo.  My parents in law came over to take the kids out while I caught up on sleep on Thursday as I only manage to sleep about 4 hours at night due to the steroids.

Leonie was off on Friday so we spent time together as a family but it was a difficult day and I found myself being sick for the first time due to chemo and it wasn't very pleasant.  Late on Friday afternoon our friend Lousie came over to help out too and she brought with her Rose, her daughter and her new dog Boo.  We had a good evening together and we always have a laugh with Lou.

On Saturday morning I was able to sleep again as Lou looked after the kids and I only got dressed around midday.  We were expecting the newlyweds Becca and Ian to visit from Reading.  We went to their wedding in May and hadn't seen them since.  Lou was still here when they arrived and she stayed a short while to meet Becca and Ian. 

Once Lou had gone, our guests wanted to take the boys out so we grabbed a football and took them to the park.  Ian and I played football with the kids but I only managed about 5 minutes before I stepped out and chatted with Becca; Ian did a sterling effort with Oscar and Sid but the boys won the game by about 10 goals, although the rules were constantly changed by Oscar throughout the game.  On the way back home Becca treated the kids to some treats from the shop.

In the evening I cooked my now famous Chinese; sweet chili duck and sweet and sour prawns and followed it up with another Eton Mess.   We had a few drinks and we saw the wedding photos before playing a game of monopoly;  I'm not really competitive but I won quite convincingly.  The following day Ian wanted to go for a run as the following week he had Maidenhead Half Marathon.  I desperately wanted to run with him but settled on riding my bike.  We did around 4 miles and in hindsight I am glad I went on my bike.

For lunch we took Becca and Ian to Guys and they enjoyed the food and quaintness of the hamlet, its quintessentially British.  We finished off the day by teaching Oscar and Sid how to play monopoly before letting them watch the previous nights X-Factor; both the boys like Simon Cowell, not my influence.

It was a difficult couple of days but with the visitors it had been a lot of fun too.  Even though it's hard to get through the first few days after chemo it makes  it easier to take when you have family and friends around you.  I also keep reminding myself that I am lucky that I don't have really bad symptoms when some people are really suffering,  my thinking is that there is always someone worse off than yourself and I do consider myself lucky.

Monday, 1 September 2014

Chemo Round 5 - Almost Done

It seems strange but I am becoming more apprehensive about having chemo.  I think this is because I know it will take a lot out of me and the illness that I feel after the treatment.   After a early night we were up and ready when my mum came over to look after the boys while Leonie and I went to hospital.

We arrived and as usual were shown up to the chemo ward.  The nurse, Mandy, told me that she would need another blood sample as my count from the previous day was a little low,  1.3 compared to the preferred 1.5.  After taking a sample and hooking me up for hydration while we waited the results,  my trails nurse, Claire and Damon, senior chemo nurse took the decision to go ahead with the chemo anyway and the treatment started.

It is such a long day and it is hard to keep upbeat for such a long period, especially when there are people in the ward who are obviously suffering from the side affects of chemo.  This time we kept ourselves a little more reserved and I read a magazine and we played played cards quietly too.

In some ways the treatment is wearing me down a little and I am finding it harder to look for the positives when I feel "under the weather", but the nurses do an amazing job and keep reminding me that I only have one more session to go and then I can put all this behind me and get on.  They have been great, everyone who I have met in the NHS have been so supportive and couldn't do enough for me, and for that I am thankful.

After an arduous day of chemo and a few naps throughout the day it was time to get home and see the boys.   On the way I had to pick up some more prescriptions and then it was time to relax at home and prepare for the inevitable symptoms to come on.

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Harder to Deal With Chemo

After going into hospital with a high temperature the next couple of days were more a case of getting back on track.  The day at hospital on the IV antibiotics had really taken its toll on me and kind of knocked me for six.

I spent the following days sleeping trying to restore some energy but I found it difficult.   On Friday I woke up to find I was getting another eye infection and some more cold sores, so a quick call to the doctors for some more medication and I was out to pick up some more eye drops.  It looked as though I had been boxing and my eye really swelled but the infection didn't take hold like the last time, but it was still sore.

On Saturday evening we had been invited to an evening wedding reception.   It was good to have plans and try to make a social occasion.   I had dropped the boys off at the grandparents for the night and Leonie and I had the night off.  The evening started with a few abdominal pains for me but we were soon on track for getting to Barton Grange.

We had a good night out, I didn't drink but we had fun and I even made an appearance on the dance floor.  Unfortunately the food wasn't gluten free for the majority so I literally ended up with a plate of carvery meat finished off with a big bag of sweets.

The next day we were meeting the grandparents at the Ribble Steam Railway to have a look at the museum and have a ride on the train.  It was a good day out and it was fun to see the boys enjoying themselves.

Monday was spent building up my energy to get ready for chemo which was to be on Wednesday.   In the evening we went to Pizza Hut with the boys and when we got home we had some ice bucket challenges to complete.  Leonie did hers and we had also planned that she would also do mine, especially as I had been in hospital last week and was due to have chemo.  But just as I was getting ready to start filming my video, I had some severe abdominal pains again but much worse than before.  After an hour of struggling with the pain it passed as quickly as it had started and Leonie was able to complete her second ice bucket challenge on my behalf, and she did a great job of both of them.

I had my oncology appointment on Tuesday to check everything was going well.  I like having these meetings, as it gives me a chance to catch up with my doctor and nurses and go through any symptoms that I have as well as how I am coping with the treatment generally.  Another reason I like the appointments is the fact that they all think I'm doing really well and a boost like this does wonders to helping through chemo, especially when it comes from the professionals.   To finish off my day I popped into the blood clinic to provide a sample to check I am ok to have chemo the following day.

I quickly went to work where I offered to do a quick job for them as they were struggling to get it done and I went to get the boys before an early night ready for the next day in hospital.

Friday, 22 August 2014

That Was Unexpected

Leonie was up and out early on Wednesday so she could have her theory test.  Before she left I told her that I was cold but was happy that I had two hot water bottles next to me in bed; Oscar and Sidney.

After she left we got up and went down for breakfast.  I didn't feel too good and took my temperature,  it was 38.6 degrees.   I took my medication and had some breakfast but I was shivering uncontrollably.   Leonie called shortly afterwards to tell me she had passed her driving theory test and I told her about my temperature and shivers, she decided to rush home.

When she arrived back,  I took my temperature again and it was still high so I called oncology who told me to come in as soon as possible.   I arranged for my mum to drive me as I was unable to with my shivering.

When we got to Rosemere,  we went up to the day unit and I was shown into a room by my nurse for the day, Liz.  She took my obs and started her work; she took some blood to grow some cultures and then started me on a IV antibiotic drip.

Within about half an hour I started to feel much better.   Liz continued to take my obs during the morning.   I began with a heart rate of 112 and blood pressure over 130, by the time I left my obs had dropped to a heart rate of 73 (normally I'm around 50-60) and blood pressure of 115 which was more normal.  My temperature also fell to around 37 degrees.

While I was having my IV a doctor came to see me and prodded and poked about my abdomen,  some of the scar tissue was still sore so it hurt a little but he couldn't find any signs of infection.   My bloods came back normal too.  They would put the spike in temperature down to either infection or Neutropenic Sepsis; if it was the latter I would need to stay in over night so it wasn't looking good.  I called Leonie to let her know.

As the day went on I got so much better and responded well to the treatment so with no signs of it being caused by infection or going Neutropenic they decided to let me go home; but not without two courses of antibiotics!

We got home about half 3 and everybody had rallied around.  My mum for taking me to hospital,  Leonie’s mum coming over to look after the kids, in laws were organised to look after the boys the following day to give me a break and get some rest and most importantly Leonie for looking after me and taking it all in her stride.

I had started the day in a bad way but by the end of the day I was feeling so much better, granted I was absolutely knackered but everything was under control.  It was scary to go through the experience and without an explanation as to why it happened.  I know that my immune system is low after chemo but I had got an infection.  Perhaps it's my body saying enough is enough and giving itself a break from fighting the chemo.  It actually really took a lot out of me and I was planning to rest up as much as possible over the next few days, so I won't be running this week at least.

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Lego Days

My mornings are pretty slow at the moment, we have some cuddles while Leonie gets ready for work.  We get up when she leaves and I take some tablets.  I can't eat for half an hour so we watch cartoons together; Mondays choice was Lego Ninjago.  I make breakfast for the boys and then I have mine followed by more tablets.  We get washed and dressed, by which time its usually past 10. 

Today we decided to make lego models.  We have loads of sets which are now all broken up, so while the boys played and built crazy spaceships and houses I tried to get some pieces together to build a set - this took most of my day, minus a few breaks to feed the kids and get them drinks and I still didn't get all the pieces.  The kids imagination runs wild when you give them free reign with building - I love to see their weird creations.  Later on Oscar wanted to play lego batman, I didn't argue so I could have a go too!

Tuesday we had planned to go out with Jacqueline, my mother in law for lunch and we went to Barton Grange garden centre.  I had a nice fish pie but was still hungry so had some ice cream as well.  I bought Leonie a cactus and the boys were treated to some more lego which were quickly built with excitement when we got back.

We stayed for a takeaway at the in laws, after I had picked up Leonie from work and we got off home quickly so Leonie could revise one last time before her test the next morning.  She didn't feel too confident about the hazard part but her practice tests at home had been good, I had faith in her to pass.

The last couple of days I had felt good and mentioned to Leonie that I was considering running again soon.  My teeth were still hurting a little but I hadn't had any other problems; I have my eating under contol, just plenty of rest.  So I thought if I could try to fit in a 5k run sometime soon, I should be able to do it and get back into it slowly.  I do miss running.

The Welsh Invade

I called the doctor when I got up on Saturday about my painful mouth and got a prescription for some medication.  I had to drive to Euxton to pick it up so combined that with a quick shopping trip to get a few bits.  I treated the boys to a present of a lego plane for being so well behaved over the last couple of weeks, they really have been great and not pushed to far.

Once we were home I settled down for an afternoon of football as the Premier League started today.  Everton were playing away to Leicester and I hoped we could start the season with a win, all was going well with Everton winning 2-1 until Leicester got an equaliser in the 86th minute, gutted!

Shortly afterwards Gemma, Sam, Jessica and Jack arrived and they were soon followed by Ema and Dan.  We had planned to make a Chinese for everyone.  I really miss Chinese takeaways.  I can't eat them as they have soy sauce which I can't eat on my Coeliac diet.  I had bought some GF soy sauce and duck.  My sous chef, Sam, and I did a good job and we had shredded duck with sweet chilli sauce, prawns and duck with sweet and sour and all with egg fried rice, I loved it as did everyone else.  This was followed up with my version of an Eton Mess, delicious.

We had a few drinks and played a few games, an angry version of pictionary - girls v boys,  I think the boys won and we didn't cheat!

After a cooked breakfast Gemma and Sam left to see some family so we took Ema and Dan to Owd Nells to have lunch, my choice was a little spicy but very nice, vegetable Thai curry.  We then changed a flat tyre on Ema and Dans car as a screw had found its way into the tread and then sent them on their way home as we went to get a couple more fish for our tank.  This takes our fish school to 9.

Later in the afternoon we chilled out after a busy couple of days and Leonie began her revision for her driving theory test for later in the week.

My tooth was still hurting and it was painful to eat.  The days are still tiring for me and sometimes its hard work looking after the kids but at least I'm on the mend, even if its a slow process, it's better than the alternative and I have to keep reminding myself of this when I have a bad day.