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Friday, 28 February 2014

Chemo - Day One

It took quite a while to get to sleep last night, but I did manage to sleep.  We woke up, and I said to Leonie that Radio Two must be thinking of me as all the songs they were playing were my favourites - it turned out that it was my Ipod that was playing, not the radio - no wonder I liked all the songs.  We left for school with a shopping bag full of food for the day ahead.  On the way to the hospital I popped into work as I had forgotten ALL my chargers, Karyn had reminded me thankfully.

We arrived with about half an hour to spare and I was called through on time.  I was introduced to my nurse Mandy and a student nurse, called Chris.  Mandy was really nice, and I noticed that Chris was wearing some adidas trail trainers, I thought he may be a runner!

I was put in a chair, which was pretty awesome; legs up, legs down, long & short legs, head up, lie down, more height, less height - so many combinations, all at the touch of a button, I played all day! I was hooked up to the machine, my friend for the day, and Leonie, my mum and I all watched a DVD, which was informative.  The people on the film, produced by Rosemere, were all upbeat and positive.  First drugs in were anti sickness and steroids, quick and easy, but I was warned that I may have a stinging sensation in some private areas from the steroids, thankfully this didn't happen.  Next up 2 hours of a saline flush, to perk up my Kidneys ready for chemo. 

We had a brew, played top trumps "DC Comics", and chatted to the nurses and other patients.  My mum left after watching the DVD and would pick us up later in the afternoon.  Lunch came and I grabbed a sandwich for Leonie, I couldn't eat the wheaty goodness, so I had my picnic; crispbreads, ham, cheese with custard creams, kits kats (GF) and an apple.  I think all the staff and patients were a bit jealous, dry sandwichs and lumpy soup for them!

The next up was a chemo drug, which is the one that causes hair loss.  It is used a lot in breast cancer treatment, but my dose was small compared to theirs.  That was just a fat tube full, so it was over pretty quickly then it was the trial drug, Avastin for 90 mins.  We got to know our neighbours more in the afternoon, chatting away, my next door neighbours called themselves Mr & Mrs Rambo, Mrs Rambo was having the chemo, Mr Rambo finished his book and gave it to Leonie to read.  Everybody there was a lot older, but they were so easy to get on with.  Most were coping well with cancer and chemo from what I could tell, some were a little quieter, but the room felt happy & lighthearted rather than like a mortury!  All the people I spoke to would be there over my next session's so we will all see each other again, and it will be a little more relaxed when you know everyone, I will have them all doing the conga next time!  My trials nurse, Claire, visited a couple of times which was good to see and she went through everything again, confirming details and explaining that I would be taking drugs home; who to contact and when; what to do during the 21 day cycle.  It is a complicated plan, but I can stick to it, just a case of remembering what to take or do and when.

I finally got a chance to meet up with Macmillians, and Rachel was really helpful and straightforward with loads of good advice,  which I hadn't even thought about.  Over the day there was a lot of information to take in, and I'm glad Leonie was there, not only for her support and to help out remembering all the infomation, but her company was invaluable.  Lots of other patients came and went throughout the day, some only stayed an hour, others two.  A couple half days and a couple of us were the full day.  There are two things which we all laughed about, firstly, with all these liquid drugs going in, all of us were going to the loo a lot, even the people not on chemo were as well, from all the drinks they had!  As you can imagine, sitting in one place for 8 hours, there is boredom, and lots of free soft drinks and hot drinks were drunk by everybody.   On top of that, the total medicinal intake must have been 5-6 litres. Secondly,  beeping! When drips finished cycles, the machine's beeped continiously.  There were a fair few machines, so lots of beeping.  Also, if you moved too much, the machine stopped itself, and beeped continiously.  I was told off by Chris silently, to stop moving - to begin with it was about every half hour, but around mid afternoon it got to every couple of minutes, while I tried to get a little more comfortable.

Another chemo drug pumped in, and it was starting to get a little later, Leonie had text my mum to let her know we would be here a while longer.  I had to finish my day on another 2 hour saline flush!  In the late afternoon, Mandy came over and have me my take home bag of drugs.  10 boxes! Some early morning, some after breakfast, some at lunch,  some after tea, and some before I go to bed.  More anti sickness, steroids, chemo drug, drugs to aid bowel movements, more drugs to protect my stomach.  Luckily Mandy was really thorough and wrote dates and times on all the boxes.

I finished up about 6.15 and my mum had arrived, and soon after we left the hospital. I was fine and dandy, a little tired and achy, and hungry too!  We went back to mum's and ordered a takeaway to pick up, I drove the two minutes back home.  The boys were staying at granny and grandads so we had a quick call with them before bedtime. I couldn't eat all my takeaway but I did enjoy it and saved some for lunch.  Leonie and I watched a bit of TV, I had my drugs and we had a few phone calls and socialised with friends on line.  We went to bed, but I couldn't sleep, probably the steroids. So a late night while my body gets used to a day of drugs.  I think the total number of drugs today was 11, quite a cocktail, but who's counting, its my army of helpers to reach places I can't to beat cancer.  I keep saying I didn't do much, and I did just sit for most of the day, but it was a long time to be pumped full of drugs.  Lets see how I cope with it over the next 21 days.  I just hope it won't be too difficult.  I know I have the support if needed but my view is to take each day as it comes on its own, and carry on as normal as possible!  Bring on the fight cancer, you don't know who you have chosen this time, you don't have a chance with me!

Chemo Eve

After all the fun of Wednesday,  I worked a full day on Thursday, making sure everything was completed that needed to be, signing things off and generally completing as much as possible.  It was a pretty productive day considering.  Bet Karyn and DOK are pleased I have done some work for a change!

I had my 121 in the afternoon, and Karyn kept it as official as possible, although much of the time was spent talking about the inevitable, looming treatment that is due to start tomorrow.  Karyn has been so supportive, and her words of support are really genuine and I can guarantee that they are fully appreciated by both Leonie and myself, more so now as the nerves increase and the anxiety builds.  Not only does Karyn mother me at work (I don't have a problem with this as I am a self confessed mothers boy, as my mum would confirm if asked about it!) But Karyn is also in touch with Leonie, something which Leonie also appreciates, as they can talk honestly to each other, even if I can't, so unfortnuately I can't hide any secrets from anyone!

After taking some time to leave work (everybody was wishing me luck, I have never been so popular) I went home, picking up Sidney and Leonie on the way.  Oscar had been sent home from school as he had fallen at lunch, cutting both his knees and his nose, talk about hogging the limelight,  takes after his dad.

We had planned for Laura, Zoe and Bobby to pop over for the evening before chemo started, mainly to keep me relaxed I suppose. But I spent much of the evening on the phone, to my two sisters, brother-in-law and my mum.  My sisters, Sheila and Janette, couldn't have been better.  Janette lives miles away in Wiltshire, but I know she would be here if she could be, and she is probably more worried than me, but then again, thats the role of my twin!  Sheila, has gratefully agreed to take Sid to playgroup tomorrow, giving us a little extra time, it's the little things that help, really help!

So after a bit of socialising, an early night, in preparation for Chemo Day tomorrow,  something to look forward too!

Thursday, 27 February 2014

Above Average

Today has been a good day.  First we dropped off the boys with my mum, then we made our way to Manchester, a road trip, just me and Leonie.  Its very rare its just the two of us, so it was good to have some time to ourselves. The journey to Mancheter got a little scary at one point as a women pulled out in front of me TWICE!  Leonie was a little worried but I soon got past her shaking my head as I overtook, I was completly in the right!

We arrived in Manchester with about 20 minutes spare and across the road, Leonie saw one of her favourite shops, so as a treat and completely sacrificing my health, we went into Greggs.  I had an orange juice which was the only thing that could be trusted, Leonie got herself a coffee.  Before finding out I was coeliac, I use to love a bean and cheese pastie, now going into Greggs is like dicing with death!  Leonie wanted to get me a gift card, but I politely declined her offer.

We had our drinks and went into the hospital.  The reception to the Andrology lab is one end of a corridor.  I went through on my own while Leonie waited in the corridor reception.  I sat down and the nurse, Justine, confirmed my details and asked if anyone was with me, I told her my wife was waiting,  Justine explained it would take a while to fill in the paperwork so she could come in and it would also be good for her to hear all the legal stuff so she could understand.  I went back through and called Leonie, her face was shock, she probably thought I was needing her help!  After about 40 minutes filling in all the documents and signing things like "do I agree to be contacted if my sample was chosen to be used for teaching purposes?", Leonie went back into the reception and I was taken through to a room.  I emerged with my sample and as  instructed I coyly handed it over to nurse.  We decided to wait to hear the results of whether is was a good sample to freeze, just in case; I didn't want to come back again before Friday.   They told us it would be a half an hour wait, 15 minutes later we were called back through!

It was a very good sample and Justine explained that it was above average on all counts, quantity, quality and volume.  More than enough actual specimens to freeze, normally no more than 10, but 14 were available from the sample provided.  Usually only about 30%-50% were living in each sample (ie good swimmers) but I hit a healthy 75%.  An average sample would have around 24 million per 1ml, I provided 59 million, a little overcrowded I suspect.  Good job we stopped at two kids, we could of had twins next, just like my parents. My dad explained later that it was inherited, the super fertility!

On the way home, both Leonie and I joked about my super sperm, and then I started to sing my new anthem, the song from the Lego Movie (go watch it!). We picked up Sid and went home for some cock-a-leeki soup!  I went into work with a skip in my step and a smug look over my face, I walked into a round of applause and some cheeky comments, I didn't go red at all!  I was very productive at work and tied up some jobs I really needed to do, which kept me happy. 

We had a quick tea as the Lancashire Evening Post photographer was coming over.  When she arrived she looked a bit wild, but she was really friendly and took loads of shots.  She was quick and very quirky, and she loved my DVD collection!

As far as things go at the moment, a pretty good day, and as my mum said earlier, a bit of a morale booster!

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

My Mind is Swimming

So much going on in my little head right now.  I had quite a few calls today from various people to arrange this week.  First up, my trip to Manchester.  All the people at work find this hilarious, I don't help matters but the best effort was my gift from Karyn, see the picture below.  At least I have a gluten free lunch ready for me after my hard work tomorrow morning!

My trip to Manchester tomorrow is to bank my sperm, as chemo has a tendancy to make people infertile.  Joanne, who called me to let me know about the appointment stressed that she booked me in for the first available appointment, so if there are any problems tomorrow, I could always return on Thursday if needed to - what are they expecting from me?  This whole process brings into stark realisation that I will probably not be able to father children again without making a few phones calls to get my stuff back from someone else.  I never thought I would in that position.  I never considered having the snip anyway, probably something for the future, but that would be my decision.  The decision has been taken out of my hands,  but at least I get the chance to keep some I suppose.

Leonie and I were talking about Friday and I am really nervous about the unknown and I know that its gonna be different, I really don't know how I will re-act.  I keep saying to myself "just get on with it", but what if I can't?  Leonie asked if I was more nervous when she gave birth, yeah I suppose in some ways, but that circumstance I had someway of controlling, and I was nervous, sure thing, but in a happy and excited mood, this fills me with trepidation!  Of course, come Saturday or next week, I will probably look back at this and think what was all the fuss about, thanks to the positive thoughts of Zoe!  And that goes to everyone else too, its still really comforting and quite humbling to feel (and know) that I have support from so many people, thanks everyone!

I was thinking about cutting my hair,  normally I would shave it myself, number 4 all over and think about cutting it again when the back gets curly! Simple rules for a standard hair cut!  I have a bit of a fear of my hair loss, I know it will grow back, but I just have realise that I will have an impending bald head anyway, regardless of chemo, it is going anyway, so no great loss! Lets hope it is sunny this year so I can get a tanned head!

Monday, 24 February 2014

Eager Anticipation

Back to normal this week, Oscar back at school, Sidney back at Nursery and Leonie and I back at work after the half term break.  Over the past 10 months I have been using a pretty rubbish phone, but Amy, who I sit next to has just got a new phone, so she gave me her old samsung, I was so happy, a phone that works.  I had quite a productive morning, but I was getting impatient, it has nearly been a week since I heard anything.  They did mention that it could be two weeks before I heard anything, but I cant wait that long.

Shortly after lunch, my phone rang.  I grabbed it and ran out to answer it.  It was LEP, to organise the photographs for the article, all exciting but not the call I expected.  I decided to call them, I couldn't wait any longer.  I tried Rosemere first, but no-one answered.   I then called the nurses and spoke to Alana, who was shocked that I hadn't been called.  She told me she would call me back after making a call.  A few minutes later, I got the call.  She told me I was starting chemo on Friday at 10am.

It feels like a whole weight has been lifted off my shoulders, but replaced with another weight thats even bigger.  Last week I wanted to get started as soon as possible and practically was inviting the chemo start, now I dont want it start.  I called Leonie and my mum to let them know, then I spoke to Karyn, who put it all into context for me; its the start of the road to recovery, I have to start at some point, and I am better getting started now.

I have never known nerves like this.  I spoke to my friend Ian again for a while and although I am due to start chemo this week, he made it like something to look forward to as we joked about what was about to begin.  We told the guys in the team, to keep them updated, and all they could focus on was the fact I was going to have to spend an afternoon going to Manchester, which was a good distraction.

I got home and life returned to normal, its good how the children force you back to reality and don't let you dwell on anything for too long.  Leonie and I had a chat about some practicalities about the impending chemo, what we would do with the kids.  We also looked at the dates where things were likely to happen, planning out our year with weddings, anniversaries and birthdays, and how it all ties in with my treatment.

Later on my sister, Janette,  called and saying things out loud to people really makes it real, I went to bed and fell asleep saying to myself that I will beat this, and chemo is just the start of the process.

Everything is Awesome!

Early Saturday morning the boys came into our bed, it was about 5.15am.  We went back to sleep but still woke up early and all had a cuddle.  The boys asked what we were planning to do that day, so we explained about the church fair.  Leonie told them that it was to raise money for the hospital to help daddy get better.  Oscar immediately said he wanted to help and raise lots of money to help people (chip off the old block).  Sidney went further and said he could help daddy get better, he had "doctor things to help daddy get better!"

We went to the church and played a few games for the boys, and they won plenty of sweets and chocolates.  It was so busy, which is really good, but there were people everywhere in the hall.  We spoke briefly to Norma, Steve's wife, and she was happy to see so many people out.  All the stall attendants had the Rosemere t-shirts, showing their support, some had been affected by cancer much like Norma.  Norma is such a positive person, its hard not be infected by her bubbly nature, she is like a whirlwind, but a good one, so happy with life!

We dropped my mum off at my sisters and came home for some lunch.  Leonie's mum and dad, Amanda, Paul and their boys all came over; our boys love seeing and playing with their two.  It was a relaxed afternoon.  In the evening we watched a bit of TV and chilled out.

On Sunday morning it was a slow start, but I was excited.  We were planning to take the boys on their first ever cinema trip to see the Lego Movie.  Oscar, Sid and myself all love lego, and batman, and a film of this would be great, also the added excitement of their first trip.  We were the first ones there and the cinema was almost empty.  The boys loved it, but I think both me and Leonie were the most excited!  After the film we did a bit of shopping and then chores and then playstation in the afternoon, along with homework for the kids.  I fell asleep in the bath, its getting a regular occurrence this, better get used to it a bit I suppose. 

Our friends, Zoe and Laura came over and the boys were a little giddy, but good going to bed.  Zoe and Laura have been great since we found out and its good to just simply chew the fat with them and catch up on the weeks events, we all get along so well that its nice to talk and put the world to rights sometimes!

Another week at work and I should find out about the chemo.  I need to go to Manchester for a trip, but chemo is looming!  The more I think about it the more nervous I get.  All this week, I have wanted to get started on the treatmemt, but I really don't know what to expect.  Its this unknowing I don't like.  All my challenges that I have undertaken, I have known the risks, but also known more or less how my body would react.  I have trained for it; running, cycling and dismally swimming, but I know how to run!  This is unknown territory and I don't know what to expect.  I have great support in my friends and family and we can beat this, this is just another challenge!

Friday, 21 February 2014

How to be a Patient Patient

Since the little let down on Tuesday,  I have just been ticking over as normal.  I have been going to work as normal and doing slightly shorter days, everything has been as normal as could be.  Earlier in the week  Karyn my boss asked if she could have a quick word.  She handed me a little "medal"  and she asked if I could keep it with me during treatment, I took it from her and she mentioned that her mother had given it to her for me, I tucked it into my watch strap and will have it with me wherever I go.

During the day I received an email from a friend at work, Carla, and she told me I could put it on here.  Its really nice to recieve messages like this and this is just one of many I have had, letters, emails, messages and texts:

Hi Ric,

Just reading your blog 'the trial' - I cant seem to reply on there as I'm not tecnologicalised!

Thought I'd tell you a little (almost related) story...

32 years ago a special lady found out her baby was born with terminal wilmstumour (kidney cancer). They were told there was little hope but could try a 'trial' medication called 'chemotherapy', today, that baby lives in my house, eats my food and regularly farts on my sofa!

I thank god every day for the trial and for my John! He is the longest surviving patient of wilms tumour and although the side effects were bad (we now have to have IVF to have children) I would not/could not be without him, and thanks to a 'trial'... I dont have to be!

Feel free to add this to your blog if appropriate or just keep it to yourself, its up to you!

Love you lots sugar tits! xxx

On Wednesday my mate Rob came over in the evening and we had a few drinks, we watched a pretty appalling BRIT Awards and I realised that I am really out of touch with current music, and I thought that it was also quite poor that the majority of performing artists were actually American!

After a good nights sleep, I went to work as normal again on Thursday and missed a call from MacMillans.  I really want to speak to them about a few concerns I have, so I left a message to organise meeting them.   At work, and also at Leonie's work, a few people have shown an interest in the Walk in the Dark for Rosemere, so hopefully we should have quite a gang of us walking to raise money for the cancer centre and it really does show support.

In other news, my plasters have come off my surgical wounds, check out the photo below for the scar pictures. Over the last couple of days, I have found myself putting the cancer to the back of my mind and getting on with things, however, this does have the added interruptive thoughts of cancer, for example, I could be sat at my desk at work and then I suddenly remember about the big C and it stops me in my tracks as a rush of emotions come over me; fear, anxiety, guilt, confusion, shock (still) and then the same question pops up, the "why me?"  Something which I will never find the answer too I suppose, but that doesn't stop me thinking it!  Being at work really helps to take my mind off things and gives me something else to focus on.

On Thursday evening we had Leonie's family over and had a takeaway.  Oscar and Sid love playing with their cousin, Thomas, and so he stayed over night.  The boys all played happily together while all the adults had a catch up.  I spent some time talking to my brother in law, Paul.  He has offered a lot of advice from some personal experiences he has been through.  He has had a positive outlook to things that have been going on, and I commend him for that, but the advice he has offered was one of the reasons I started writing this blog.

The boys were good going to bed and then Leonie and I chilled and and caught up on some tv.  On Fridays the boys all got up early together but left us alone, I got up as Leonie is still on holiday (half term) and got ready for work.  I went in and it was relaxed.  A colleague, Mike, has just had a baby and he brought Joshua in; I probably sat holding him for about half an hour while we chatted.  I left work early hoping to get to see Macmillans in the afternoon, but when I went to pick Leonie up from her mum's I fell asleep on the sofa, I needed the nap!

Leonie woke me up and we went to be interviewed for the LEP, it was good fun, but I get a bit embarrassed when people say words like inspirational, the journalist was nice and it was a little wierd telling someone the full story.  We weren't at the paper long before getting back to have some tea and pick up the boys from Leonie's mum.  Tomorow we are going to a Rosemere fundraising event which has been arranged by a family friend, Norma, who lost her husband, Steve, to cancer a couple of years ago.  Steve was the Group Scout Leader for 9th Penwortham, where I attended beavers, cubs, scouts and  ventures and then both me and Leonie spent some time as leaders to the scouts.  Steve was a good man and worked hard to enrich so many lives, so tomorrow may be emotional.

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Testing, Testing, Heartbeat, Heartbeat

On Monday morning I had been booked in for two appointments at the hospital; an Echocardiogram and a Spirometry test.  I got to the hospital and went to the Cardio Respiritory department.  I was taken into a room and hooked up to the echocardiogram machine.  Three stickers were stuck on my chest and wired to the machine.  The nurse put the "wand" in the gel and then carried out an ultrasound on my heart, firstly on the chest, next at the side of the ribs, onto the admomen and then finally on the throat.  I remember hearing the heart beats of my two sons, when we had the ultrasounds during the pregnancies.  It reminded me of a wobble board, a deep whoop, whoop, whoop.

The rhythm is really soothing and I closed my eyes, the room was darkened and the whole experience was so relaxing.  I could also see my heart working on the screen, really clearly.  The screen, albeit a black and white image like an ultrasound, showed the blood in colour, blue and red, deoxygenated and oxygenated.  It was good to see and I was glad to know I had a heart.  To me, it all looked fine, and the nurse didn't seem concerned.

Next up was the spirometry test and I was instructed to go to the chest clinic and given directions.  I had my hospital map and set out.  I managed to get myself lost and had to ask directions several times, but got to the clinic eventually.  I booked in and sat in the waiting area, waiting.  I sat for quite a while and nobody was called through. A man joked that he would be waiting all day, and nobody would get seen, I was called through first a couple of minutes later.

The spirometry test was one I thought that would be easy, but it was tough work.  I held a mouthpiece in my mouth and breathed through my mouth normally to get a base reading, then it was breathe in and out for as long as possible, not too difficult, but it hadn't even started yet.  The test was to breathe in as fast, long and hard as possible, and then out as fast and hard and as long as possible.  The man who was recording it, kept asking for me to repeat it over and over, I was exhausted, but he got a reading he was happy with, he was shouting it out "longer, faster, harder", like he was auditioning for Daft Punk.

After my Monday tests I went to work and normality resumed.  In the evening we went to my sisters for tea and the boys were staying over for a sleep over, while we all watched a movie and had a drink, it was a nice evening and time to forget about everything.  When I got home and in bed, I started to feel anxious and excited about the next days appointments, I would be finding out when chemo would be starting and signing the consent forms.  We woke up, and for a change the boys hadn't crept into our bed during the night, it was nice just me and Leonie.  I got up to go to work and put in half a day before coming home to have some lunch before the afternoons appointments; audiology and oncology.  We left in plenty of time as my appointment was at the time of visiting hours and the car park gets full.  We arrived with half an hour to spare and took our time walking through the hospital to the audiology appointment.  I was gettig excited for the next appointment though.  We were seen early at audiology, testing my hearing. I had the headphones on and different frequencies were played in each ear alternatively, then the same noises were played but with background noise in the opposite ear, I really had to concentrate through the test but it wasn't anyhing too difficult.

We had finished the test before I was even due to go in, meaning we had over an hour before my next appointment.  As it was a nice day we walked around the entire hospital grounds and even saw the North West Air Ambulance land and a patient taken into the hospital.  We sat down in the Rosemere Cancer Centre half an hour before we were due, and the board stated that Dr Micthell was running on time.  I provided a sample and then my obs taken as per usual.  I was aksed if I wanted to take part in the ST03 trial and I agreed, Dr Mitchell looked quite excited at the prospect.  I got copies of all the documents and then she advised that she hadn't received the results from the echocardiogram and the ECG.  she couldnt plan the start of chemo without these, so she would chase them up.  She told me the next contact would be from St Mary's in Manchester so I could bank and then I would receive a call from her team to plan the start of chemo within the next two weeks.  I was getting quite anxious as I was under the impression that I would be starting this week, so I explained this to them.  They were apologetic but said they needed all the results in place before they could begin, but they were ready to go.  Dr Mitchell said she would pencil it in as soon as possible and I told her I wanted to get started as soon as possible.

We left the hospital and I was a little deflated, I was excited going into the appoitnemnt and came out with no new information and still in limbo.  I needed to let out a little frustration.  Luckily I had planned to go running in the evenig with Lisa, so I changed and out we went.  This is the first time I had run since the surgery and it felt great.  We ran around the 9.40 min/mile, so it wasn't fast, but steady and we ran for over 10k, it felt good.  During the run we talked about the "Walk in The Dark" for Rosemere and how we both wanted to do the 13 mile walk.  When I got home, Leonie had had the same idea and published a link to it on facebook, looks like we are all, going to walking in the dark.

Sunday, 16 February 2014

The Trial Continues

On Saturday morning we had a lazy start to the day.  I had planned to go for a walk part way around the Guild Wheel with a couple of guys from work, Brett and Ray.  When I was in training for the ultra run, Ray really helped me in my training by riding with me while I ran and ran ... and ran.  That summer I ran the Guild Wheel twice, 22 miles, and Ray was with me all the way on both occasions offering up words of support while riding his bike, I always thought that he was a good training partner, sitting back when he wanted to, leaving me to my own devices, running, but he was also there to push me on when needed.  He completed the ultra distance with me and Ian, as support on his bike.  That was a day I would never never forget, Ian and I running; Ray, Rob, David, Anthony, Neil, Mike and Lee on their bikes, and I couldn't forget the support from Karyn, Stuart, Maz and Mohammed in the cars.  A fantastic day, and we will experience more great days like his one in the future.  Anyway, to get back to Saturday,  we decided not to go out due to the awful weather.  Britain has been battered by the winter storms and today was looking no different, so we decided to put off the walk for another, drier day, and this meant a lazy morning with the family staying in our PJs for most of the morning.

We were due to have some visitors this weekend, namely my twin sister (no, we're not identical, the clue to that is that we are different genders) who lives in Wiltshire, and Leonie's best friends from back in Reading, Becca and her fiancee Ian.  Janette made it up, but unfortunately due to the weather Becca and Ian couldn't make it.  I picked up Janette from my mums and we went to the supermarket together, before making it back for lunch at ours.  After lunch we all went over to my mums, before I nipped out on my own to see my other sister, Sheila, and brother in law, Dave.  Sheila is a practice nurse and Dave used to work in Pathology at the hospital but is now a lecturer at the university on something sciencey I don't understand.

The reason I went over was to show them the information I was given the previous day regarding the trial.  I had read it through and it all seems pretty straight forward, but I wanted a professionals view, it helps to have someone that knows a thing or two and both She and Dave had been pretty good at providing straight up information and stats about stomach cancer.  Dave had seen the drug previously about five years ago and had been involved in part of an earlier study back when he worked at the hospital.  He showed me some videos and internet articles.  He advised that I should go for the trial, so this really set my mind at ease.  He did say that some of the side affects could be severe, but the chances are minimal, but I should be aware of these.  Having Dave's knowledge is pretty handy, although, his layman's explanation still lost me at some points!

In the evening, Janette came over and we had a few drinks and a good old catch up.  It was good to see Janette, as usually she comes up with her family (she also has two young kids, Arthur amd Alice) but she came up on her own for this visit, which was appreciated as we could spend some time together without the constant interruption of children.  Today was a good day, the boys were great and I saw all of my family at some point or other, absolutly fantastic.

On Sunday,  we had yet another lazy morning, then went to my mum and dads with a chicken and we all had a roast chicken dinner; I watched Everton beat Swansea in the FA cup.  As the weather had improved we all had an afternoon walk to my brothers grave.  My brother David died almost 8 years ago from pneumonia, it was a difficult time for us all as he was only 29 years old and a pretty fit young guy.  Our two boys like to walk to the grave to see Uncle David, it's a nice walk and also near the park.  Me, Leonie, Oscar and Sid, Janette, my mum and dad, Sheila, Dave and their three girls, Amelia, Lottie and Evie all set out as the Penwortham massive.  On the way back, we stopped at the park and went on the swings and climbing frames.  It was cold but sunny, it was a  perfect day, I felt like a kid again and I was with my whole family!

When we got home I had my first bath since the operation last week, and I just led there and soaked up a truely great weekend, if only every day could be like these two days, it's days like this that make you forget about things, and you really appreciate what you have; a loving, caring, close family that ralleys around you and sticks together when the going gets tough.  Apart from talking about the trial with She and Dave, and Janette asking questions, I probably would have forgotten I had cancer, thats why I have really enjoyed this weekend and probably what's been most important, family is normality.

The Trial

Friday was just another day in the office, as well as Valentines day.  Leonie went off to work and I went into work too.  The team, Rob in particular, now thought it funny to start giving me some work.  I had quite a productive day, getting things sorted ready for when I was going to be in chemo.  I have created a little project for myself and I let Karyn know my plans.

All in all, nothing unsuspecting was happening, until I received another call from the hosiptal.  This time it was a nurse from oncology, Claire Searle.  She wanted me to come in as soon as possible to discuss a clinical trial.  I told her I would be in later in the afternoon.  I went to tell Karyn they wanted me to go in to discuss a trial and she told me to leave when I needed to.  I really cannot express how special Karyn has been, so supportive and compassionate,  she is always there with words of wisdom and I guess, outside of my family, she has been my rock during this situation.

I left work shortly after 3pm, and got to the hospital.  I went into Rosemere Cancer Centre, which I guess over the next couple of months could become a second home.  At reception, they were expecting me.  Claire came down to meet me and she introduced me to another nurse, Sheila.  Its strange as my two sisters are Sheila and Janette, and two of the many nurses who will be with me during the treatment are Sheila (oncology) and Jeanette (upper GI), it helps that I don't have to remeber too many names, it's also good to have some familiarity as well, even if it is just a name; another upper GI nurse is Karen, and my boss at work is also Karyn, both of whom are really supportive.  Dr Mitchell was also there.

We sat down and they explained that they needed me in today as legally I had to have at least 24 hours to make a decision about taking part in the trial.  They fully explained what the clinical trial involves, these were a little confusing, loads of information like stopping VEGF, in conjunction with chemo, randomised samples, more tests.  Dr Mitchell went onto explain the side affects of the drug that they intend to use, Avastin, which is essentially the trial.  These side affects are pretty scary.

As part of the trial, called ST03 (check out the drug, Avastin, and the trial by putting it in a google search, there is loads of information, news articles and videos on line), I am required to have more tests, heart, lungs, protein and hearing, all pre chemo, and then these will be checked and monitored throughout the chemo.  More scans, possibly more injections, but overall more monitoring.  If I am randomly chosen to take part, if I agree, the Avastin medication will then be administered throughout chemo and after for another 18 weeks.  It was a lot to take in, but the team gave me a lot of information to read through before I make the decision on Tuesday.

I went home and explained what I knew to Leonie, I decided not read through it until Saturday, after all it was Valentines day.  We had a curry, and put on Memoirs of a Geisha, a film that I really enjoy, traditional Japenese culture and a nice looking women, alongside my wife, it was a good night, which ended a good week.

Happy Days

On Thursday I decided to go back to work.  I dropped Leonie and Oscar off at school on my way to nursery, where I dropped off Sidney before going back to work.  I had a box full of food and I was ready to get back into a routine.

I spent the rest of the morning reading and replying to emails.  Around about lunch time a colleague approached me and told me of his fight with cancer.  You read so many stories about how cancer takes people away, and this really does scare you, but on the flipside, there are so many people who have fought cancer and won, I will be one of these, I intend to beat this and come out the other end a much stronger person.

In the afternoon, I went to a meeting and another colleague was shocked to see me at work.  After the intial questions she asked how I was feeling, my response was that I felt lucky.  Lucky not because I have cancer, but lucky that I went to the doctors and they diagnosed the cancer (hopefully in the early stages) giving me a fighting chance to beat it.  During a meeting I had a missed call, so I called them straight back when I was free.  It was Alana from Upper GI at the hospital.  She told me that she wouldn't normally give these updates over the phone, but advised that the biposies taken a week ago had come back clear, meaning the cancer hadn't spread, it was contained.  She also said that the chemo treatment would probably start next week once all the forms had been signed on tuesday when I was due to meet Dr Mitchell again.

I text Leonie then was walking around the office with a beaming smile, this was the best possible outcome that could have happened.  Karyn saw me and she could tell I had had "the call" and called me over, I told her and she was just as happy as me, she told me to go home and let my family know.  When I arrived home, I called my mum and sisters with the news, everybody was really happy, and I was still bouncing off the ceilings!

I got the boys ready for bed and then Zoe and Laura came over before Leonie arrived home.   We celebrated with a drink or two and the good news began to sink in, I went to bed with a big smile on my face that night.

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Dead Arms

5This is now the fifh time I have tried to write this blog entry, the battery ran out and then my fat fingers happened, it doesn't help that the page back button is right next to the space bar (must make note for future reference).  Lets hope this version is as good, if not better, than the previous four versions...

On Wednesday morning it started with a trip to the GP for my pnemococcal vaccination.  This was advised by Dr Sharma, a coeliac doctor at the hospital.  The nurse at the GPs was a little reluctant to give it to me, but as soon as I mentioned my cancer, I think she would have given me anything I asked for.  Having another "noodle" (Sid's name for needles) isn't a problem, as I am now a professional blood giver after he last couple of weeks.  The nurse mentioned that I may have a sore arm as a side affect, something I brushed aside as I was more concermed about making my next appointment at the hospital across town.

As I can now drive without any pain, I drove myself to the hospital.  I arrived early and had chance to read part of a magazine before being ushered into see the dietician.  She was a very nice, young, blonde, Irish doctor.  We discussed my current situation and she praised my positive outlook all things considered.  She was pleased that I had had my vaccinations, arranged my pescriptions for iron and vitamin D and also that I had already started my coeliac diet.  I think she was a little put out that I "had left her nothig to do", but then she was pleased to find she could advise me about increasing my calcium, and almost jumping out her chair when I asked I she could pescribe it as increasing my intake during this period could be difficult (I need to double my daily intake).  Its funny that you would not expect to go and see a dietician with he outcome and advice to eat more and more fequently.  I did ask about my weight and energy levels but she said these would be monitored and reviewed once I had been on the coeliac diet a little longer, but again she was shocked and pleased that during all of this I had managed to put on a kilo!  She told me to go back and see her in three months, not a problem, and that was that.

The afternoon was a little more relaxed, the Lancashire Evening Post called to ask if I could be interviewed, they had read the blog and found it inspriational, but I see it as me just writing things down that I do or think about, if people find it inspirational well thats a bonus.  What I find inspirational is the amount of people who have offered support,  shown that they care.  This is inspiraional for me during my fight against cancer, and makes me more determined, so in a way we all help each other.  I will take this with me, into the next phase of my life.  To be more supportive and caring toward the people I love.  I hope not to be so judgemental aswell as you don't know what is going on with people unless you speak with them, and sometimes not even then, unless you are like me, someone who likes to talk.  I want people to be able to open up, people should listen and sometimes, thats all that is needed.  Someone said to me that cancer changes you to become a better person, more caring, I hope so!

In the evening on Wednesday our friend Louise came over with her daughter and the kids played while she cooked Leonie and me an awesome dinner, Louise can come back anytime!  It was good to catch up as we hadn't seen her since the news broke.  During the day my arm had progressively got more sore, until the point when we went to bed and I could hardly lift my arm, point taken listen to the nurse!

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Growing Old

Yesterday was very relaxing and I got to have my first shower since last weeks operation.  Since last Thursday I have been washing in the bathroom sink, which isn't the best, but yesterday I managed to get in the shower and my god I had missed it.  I stood there and it seemed like washing away so many troubles, how therapeutic!  It is truely amazing the power of a shower (I love it how the Welsh would say that, elongating the vowels, just imagine that!).  I was now able to change my dressings and have a look at my new scars, or so I thought, but a couple more days waiting and the big reveal would happen.

Then after my extended stay in the shower my boss came over for a visit.  She brought with her a card signed by loads of my colleagues,  a bunch of flowers for Leonie and some Superman socks to match my dressing gown.  All of this put a smile on my face, and it was good to catch up.  The afternoon was filled with watching the winter Olympics curling, never the most entertaining of sports!

Today was a bit more action packed.  After getting the boys ready for school and nursery, my mum drove both me and Sidney to Fulwood,  where we dropped Sid at nursery.  We then went to work and my mum left me, while I simply intended to say hi to a couple of folks.  I arrived about 10am, when I walked in Karen on reception told me how everyone had been reading my blog, I wanted the ground to swallow me up as I felt a little embarrassed, but to you all who are reading it, thank you, please continue to do so and leave a message to say hi if you want.

I had a quick catch up with the team, checking to see if everyone was alright and all was well, then a chat with Karyn.  I wanted to see HR, and managed to squeeze this in before lunch.  I then checked through my drawers, as I knew there were some things I needed to pick up.  After seeing a few more guys and people offering their support, I was starting to become emotional with everybodies kind words.  A quick bite to eat before my friend Ian came over for a chat.  Ian and I ran 32 miles from BBC Manchester (Salford) to Fulwood for charity a couple of years back and we were joking, although we both knew we fully intend to do this, about running coast to coast when I was fit again.  I also knew that Ian too had been diagnosed with cancer some years earlier. Soon the conversation turned to cancer and we ended up having a really good chat about it for some time (most of the afternoon).  I didn't expect to be at work so long, but it was really good to talk to my friends at work, but also even better to speak with Ian who had been through somethig similar and could openly speak about it with me and vice versa.  I really wasn't prepared for the amount of support and to see how people really cared, or how cancer had touched so many people either directly, family members or friends, and I was happy to hear so many positive stories, although some were not so positive, but I took something away from each one, and it makes you want to fight so much harder for each and every one of them, not just for yourself.

I was dropped off home just after 3pm (almost a full day at work) and then walked over to my sisters house to pick up Oscar, and we chatted for some time, about what was going on and our parents,  who we both worry about, cancer doesn't just affect one person, it affects so many more, and although people are concerned about me, I in turn am concerned about my wife, kids, mum and dad and all of my family.

When Oscar and I got home, I just had time to put tea on before, Leonie and Sid arrived, normality resumed until probably the most unfortunate part of my day.  I checked myself in the bathroom mirror and thought I had missed a rather large whisker when I shaved, upon pulling it I noticed it wasn't from my cheek, but my ear, this now really does mean I'm getting old ...

Sunday, 9 February 2014

Rollercoasters

This weekend started off pretty down but last night our friends Gemma and Sam visited and stayed over.  We had a drink together, talked and laughed and it really lifted the spirits and was good for the soul.

Today, Leonie had to work, but more friends were on their way to come and help and provide company.  The house was soon filled with a load of Welsh people as Ema and Dan arrived.  We all simply just sat and chatted for the morning and early afternoon, enjoying each others company.  It was good to feel normal again.  The shopping got done, the kitchen floor was mopped, the children looked after, lunch was made, living room was tidied and the pots were washed, and I didn't lift a finger; all done by my very good friends.  We watched our football teams do not so well, but it didn't matter as it was good to be in the company of the people you hold close.

The kids enjoyed having someone over to play with and it really took the pressure off.  On top of all this, Leonie's friend from work popped over with her partner and fixed our bath tap, so the boys had a bath tonight, instead of showering, meaning that both me and Leonie get to shower alone for the first time in a long while.  I can also have long soak when the stiches have healed, how I have missed having a nice long bath!

Having friends like these, especially Ema, Dan, Gemma and Sam really does mean a lot.  It goes to show that having people around you that love and care for you, support you and appreciate you for who you are goes a hell of a long way to make your happiness.  When you feel low, these are the people you need, your family too, but that's for the next couple of weekends as they get to come and visit.  I always have my mum close, I appreciate that.  My family and friends generosity,  kindness, empathy (in their special ways) and support has no limits, and for that I am completely indebted to you all, these are the people that will help me fight this battle, whether near or far, I will beat this cancer,  I will do it for you!

For everyone who has shown that they care by sending messages of support, thank you.  I'm ready for this and it will not beat me.  I need to remember I have your support and backing.  People have contacted me directly or through friends to offer help; a friend sent a book in the post which made me laugh so much I had to put it down as my stiches were sore.  Its these little things that help you get through these battles.  As we waved Ema and Dan goodbye, we realised they had left a card.  They had written that we were "bestest buds" and that they "love you loads", it made me cry with happiness, something I hadn't done since my kids were born, and in these most difficult times, I wouldn't have thought this possible!

Saturday, 8 February 2014

Sleepless Nights

Last night was awful.   I went to bed around 11.00 after an uncomfortable day with the pain hanging around from the previous days operation and I led in bed awake, thinking.

This is never good and is also not productive but once things are swimming around up there its hard to stop them.  I think last night the sheer scale and enormity of this cancer hit me.  My thoughts were mainly about my mortality and finances for the family.  I had had a call with the insurance provider during the day and I am waiting for them to call back next week, hopefully with better news.  But that with the fact that this one aspect could make my family suffer more really did shake me up last night.

At midnight, I came downstairs after not getting comfortable in bed and led on the sofa with a blanket, the thoughts remained and I lasted about an hour before making my way back upstairs.  Eventually I found sleep but not for long as I woke again at 5 am to find the two boys in our bed and I was getting pushed out, so up I got again and went to sleep in Oscar's room, surrounded by teddy bears.  Again I eventually got to sleep and woke again about 9, but felt like I couldn't face the world today.  I came downstairs and luckily the boys and my wife brought me out of my thoughts and back down to earth.  Having my family around really does help but it doesn't stop the anxiety fully.  This has been the hardest part for me so far.  Not only that, but the thought of undergoing major surgery scares me a little after Thursdays operation, as this was painful enough and they hardly did anything.

My mum and dad popped over for a brew and its good to have everyone around, and I know its stupid as I also know that my family will always be there.  But it doesn't stop me from thinking that somehow I have failed, as a husband and father.

During the day I have been really tired, the pain has subsided considerably but I have had to have a couple of naps.  My mum popped back at 4.30 to take me for the CT scan (back at the hospital again).  This is my second one now and they are painless but quite fun, although today I was not really in the mood.  The CT scan nurses were like drill sergeant's, reeling off questions and then barking instructions.  The whole thing was efficient and I was in and out within 15 minutes. The only part that took some time was to stop the flow of blood from my arm from the x-ray dye going in, the nurse had to apply a lot of pressure for some time before it stopped, I didn't mind as she had some really nice blue eyes (she wasn't good looking, but her eyes were nice) and this took my mind off my inability to clot!

Luckily, when I got back home, my friends Gemma and Sam had arrived for a pre planned visit from Wales.  It was good timing on their part as it really lifted my mood and they always provide some giggles. They have two kids as well so the house was full of fun and laughter which was really needed today.  The evening will be fun and some alcohol will be drunk.

Friday, 7 February 2014

Sexy socks and bloated bellys

Yesterday was an early start after a sleepless night.  I attended the DOSA (Day Of Surgey Admissions) ward for my staging laproscopy and gastroscopy.  I was on the ward in my gown by 7.30am and started to read a book behind the pulled curtains trying not think about the upcoming surgery.  Shortly after I was called through as the first operation of the day.  We were called in pairs and the women I went down to theatre with turned to me and said quietly "I'm glad I'm going down with superman" referring to my new dressing gown, which attracted a lot of attention throughout the day.

I went straight into prep room 3 and got onto the bed and was hooked up to machines and had the anesthetic put into my hand, I noticed my hands were shaking and realised this was the most nervous I had been so far throughout the process.  A quick look at the clock, it was 9.15am.

I woke up about 11.30 and a nurse was sat with me, it felt like I had had the best sleep ever, I was still a bit hungover from the anesthetic and the ride from one ward to the next was a blur.  As I got settled in the bay a nurse explained that I would only be released once the swelling had gone and I could pass water.  I was given a brew and a glass of water and my "ops" were taken, pulse, respiration, temperature etc.  I explained I was coeliac and had brought my own bread for toasting.  They took it away and brought it back to me, the toast took me ages to eat but I was so glad to eat after 16 hours without food.

I spent most of the afternoon drifting in and out of sleep and my mum came to pick me up with a surprise, Leonie.  The nurse was a little concerned as my stomach was still really bloated but my ops were fine.  She wouldn't discharge me until the surgeon had seen me.  This was a long wait and in the meantime, the upper GI nurse,  Karen visited and went through the notes.  She was pleased with the outcome of the surgey, something which the surgeon reiterated when he arrived.  The nodes, he explained, were the most concerning aspect beforehand, however, when he looked at them they were fine, which is really good news.  The biopsies will hopefully confirm this, but we have to wait for the results, which Karen said she would chase up early next week.  These results will also stage and grade the cancer and this will in turn determine the treatment, so a lot is riding on these results and the wait will be an anxious one.  At least I have two energetic boys to keep my mind occupied.

During the afternoon the nurse administered some more painkillers and I had a couple more brews, I was still really hungry but wasn't allowed to eat.  She kept checking my stomach to see if it had gone down any and when it had deflated a bit she asked for my opinion, as  a doctor I looked down and inspected my own stomach, and then gave my diagnosis, "it seems to be getting back to normal but I was missing my six pack!"  When I was finally discharged,  I was really relieved to know that what was previously the unknown about the lymph nodes were now no longer  a concern.

We got home and I was knackered, I tried to eat some tea, but after only two mouthfuls I was sick and couldn't face any food, although I was hungry.   I kept up with drinking liquids and had some more paracetamol but the pain across my stomach didn't go.  In the evening some friends came over and it was good to catch up, taking my mind of the pain in my stomach and listening to them.  It was a welcome distraction from everything thats been going on, and as always, inappropriate jokes soon followed which I never discourage.

I managed a full nights sleep though and this morning I am still managing the pain with paracetamol.  We decided to call in some help from Leonie's parents to look after Sid, so we could have a day to ourselves and help with the recovery, something that I think is necessary as I am struggling with my movement, but the boys have been fantastic, being really careful amd gentle to their daddy!

Now its just the wait for the results.  I really hope that these will be good news and everything is pointing in the right direction so fingers crossed!

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Pin Cushion Popularity

Today has been a day of two halves.  This morning was difficult as we (my wife, Leonie and I) read through the  library of MacMillans books we have collected over the last few days and then dug out the insurance documents, this made it all seem all the more real.  This coupled with the fact that the last couple of days have been quite exhausting, we both felt a little overwhelmed.

After that I called my GP to organise my pescriptions, for vitamin D and iron, and some more gluten free food (I'm always hungry at the moment!)

Leonie and I chatted a lot this morning and I took the decision to publish a link to the blog on facebook, the reason was two fold.  Firstly, so the news came from me in my words rather than people finding out by gossip, and nipping any chinese whispers in the bud.  Secondly, if anyone had questions,  they could ask them now rather than in two months time when I going through chemo and my response may have been a little less pleasant than my usual response.  I did not expect to get the reaction from friends (some close, some I haven't seen in years) but also from people I have never met, friends of friends, people not in my circle.  This one action and step to "go public" was probably the best thing to have happened through all of the tests, biopsies, consultations and appointments, it's truely astonishing, so a big Thank You to everyone who commented, shared and liked!!!!

After lunch, a quick drop off of our youngest, Sidney, at my parents before rushing to the hospital for the pre-op meeting and onto part two of the day. Tomorrow I am having the staging laproscopy, endoscopy and some other "oscopy", so the results from that will determine the stage and grade of the cancer and determine the course of treatment - fingers crossed for a good result!

Height, weight and blood pressure later, the nurse asked about my history and current medication, I came clean and said I was a smoker, 3rd day as a non smoker with the aid of nicorette patches (proud face) and so she advised for me to have an ECG as nicorette/nicotine causes your heart to race.  This ECG is where they stick loads of patches all over you, then hook each of these up to the machine to get a heart reading, there were wires EVERYWHERE!  I made some small talk with the nurse (I really can't shut up) and said how did they know what wire went where, her response was a rant about how casualty spend loads on getting the surgery scenes medically correct but they can't even do an ECG the right way, anyway, to answer my question, its all numbered!

Then another visit to have my bloods taken, I think this will now take me to double figures this year alone, to make sure of my blood type and current levels of iron and other things, all pretty standard in case I need a transfusion? Yep key hole surgery can go wrong, but I am assured that this is a very small percent.  I have no qualms about this, but its good to know every eventuality I suppose.

So a short visit to the hospital today, but lots achieved and I feel good for it, ready and prepared for tomorrow.  My mum is taking me in tomorrow as my wife is going to work for the first time since we found out, but at least most people know.  I think she is worried about being the centre of attention (I usually take that role), I hope she is ok, she is strong on the outside, but she has a squishy middle and I worry for her.  Me, I'm looking forward to tomorrow, I like things like this, and I like watching the wings bounce up and down through the window of a plane, its kind of my sadistic streak, my mind is thinking of the results though, and I am trying to not think about this until next week.  Baby steps and one day at a time!

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Will I still feel hungry?

Its been a real busy but good day, after dropping the boys off at school and nursery, we had a chat with nursery to let them know whats happening.  They are so supportive and offered to take Sid more days if needed.

One thing I have learnt from all this is that people really do care when your world comes tumbling down, you learn who loves you!

Then it was off to work to tell the guys.  My boss already knew as I told her on Friday when I found out, she couldn't do any more to help and I was glad of her support today.  I was probably more nervous about telling people today then any other day.  It may be because it is slowly sinking in, the whole circumstance I have found myself in is pretty grave (no pun intended) but it is kind of all consuming, taking up my thoughts and actions - everything now in my life is about cancer.  I am asking inane questions to myself like, if they remove my stomach, would I still feel hunger, would I still be able to burp - stupid, my mind just wanders off.

Anyway the guys came into the meeing room and luckily Karyn (my boss) did the talking, the shock on their faces made me think about what I must of looked like when the consultant told me, I just remember feeling numb, like it wasn't me.  The guys kept their composure and a few jokes were made which always makes a difficult situation easier to handle, something else which I have learnt this week!

Next came the other team leaders, I thought this would be easier, some ways it was, others not so - I don't do crying easily ...

I asked Karyn to tell a few others and made a quick, quiet exit, not normally my style.

Next up was a meeting with Oncology.  I was called in almost before I sat down, but I did notice almost all the other people sat around were old, why am I here, i'm too young for this, it felt like a morgue!

We (my wife and I) went in, and I am so happy to meet such a nice doctor who would be overseeing my treatment.  Along with the staff I have met from the Upper GI clinic, these guys will be mine over the next couple of months.  We all chatted and it seems that we are all on the same page, which is a good start, Dr Mitchell and I even bonded as we have both run the London Marathon, small world and I can always bring it back to some thing I know - running!

I must admit that everything so far has been really good, I have no complaints, I know its their job, but I can happily say they have put me at ease.  Something they did advise which hadn't really crossed my mind was banking my sperm, makes sense really, as I may not be fertile in a couple of months.  At this point in my life I am happy with my two kids, but what happens if we get through this and feel we want another and I can't, so off we went for more blood tests to make sure I can bank.

The kids will need to be checked later in life when they are late teens, early 20s, as cancer is genetic, this was probably the saddest bit of news I have heard, I can cope with this, but I don't want my boys to have to cope or be at risk in any way.  I can't leave them and I will fight for them if nothing else!

A bit of news that was really surprising was that the doctor was adamant that my smoking (about 10 a day for 14/15 years) would NOT have caused this cancer, she said it would take much longer for it to be the cause.

We went to see macmillans after that, and met a guy who had survived lung cancer, he was a real guy, a real survivor, and he was again so positive.  He showed us that there is support, not just for me (being selfish) but for my wife and family, as well as financial assistance, some things we hadn't even considered, so really helpful stuff.

I got home and felt good so went for a run, just 5.5 miles, with a couple of short walks.  It felt good to be running, and more so than ever before, it felt natural.  Yeah it was cold and dark, but it makes you think how lucky you are to be able to run, you focus and concentrate and loose yourself in the moment.  I had time away in my running bubble and I want to run as often as possible, even if it is round the block (and it may be a walk). Next year when all this is over, I will run again, but i'm not sure if I would ever feel hunger again ...

Monday, 3 February 2014

So I have Cancer!

It is Monday the 3rd February 2014 and on Friday 31st January, after months of tests for what I thought was simply coeliacs disease, I was diagnosed with stomach cancer.  Back in December 2013, there was an initial scare but the first biopsies came back as clear for a tumor that was found in the stomach.

It seems strange as only 18 months ago I completed my first ultra run, 32 miles. I have been running for years, completing everything from 5k to marathons and had recently stepped my training up to include triathlons and ultra distances - i'm 33 and fighting fit, so why me?

Ok, to tell the whole truth, I am a smoker, but this is/was my only vice, I gave up this morning!

So stomach cancer, not a good cancer to have, but I do have general health, fitness and age on my side.  This weekend has been ok, and my family and friends have been around which is good.  Today I saw my GP and got my free pescriptions (silver linings) for my coeliacs diet and also nicorette patches, need to get some vitamin D and iron sorted though.  I also booked a pnuemoccocial vaccination for next week as us coeliacs have a higher risk at catching these bugs (this is good, just when i'm getting ready for chemo!).

I also went back to school and spent some time in the headmistresses office to advise her of my current situation, just in case our oldest son who is in reception class got upset or overwhlemed.  We told both our son's, Oscar (5) and Sidney (3), but at their ages, some of it was understood, most of it not, but my god it was difficult telling them!

The rest of the week is pretty busy, onocolgy, investigative operations and the like, but tomorrow I tell my work, which i'm not looking forward to?

Its been a bit of a shock this weekend, but you have got to be realistic with these things, I have cancer, lets get on with the management of it, and get it out, then move on.  If the worst possible outcome is diagnosed after this weeks operation and staging, well so be it, but i'm not thinking of that yet, let me understand that I have cancer first before you take away my immortallity status!