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Monday, 31 March 2014

Productive Day

Both of us had a lie in on Saturday as the boys were staying at Sheilas.  We got up around 9.30 am and went to get the boys just after 10.  The boys had been good and we had a brew with my sister.  Sheila has been great picking up the boys and looking after them, sometimes at short notice too.  I dropped them all home and went to get my hired hand for the day, Lee, who was up to visit Laura.  Laura works Saturdays so he was free to give me a hand, he is a sparky by trade but is used to working building sites - a BBQ will be built this summer.

First up was to pick some bricks up from Deepdale, we got a boot load and dropped them back at my house and stopped off for lunch.  After a pit stop we went to Hutton to get some more bricks from Lauras mums.  After dropping these back at home, it was a few trips to my parents for flags.  One more call out for sand and we were ready to start laying the flags.

We only managed to lay 8 flags from the 12 but, it looks good so far!  I am really chuffed and Lee was awesome, as I carried a couple of bricks and trowled sand while he did all the heavy lifting.  It was a very productive day and I kept Lee well watered with some larger that we had left as I can't drink it.  It was good to be outside for the day and Leonie said I'm a bit hyperactive for about 24 hours after Chemo.  It looks like I caught the sun and I am feeling great, albeit fidgety and tired at the same time!

Leonie was off today so she was able to look after the boys while Lee and I sorted out the base of the BBQ.  Laura came over after finishing work to pick up Lee and we got the boys fed and bathed before going to bed.  We had an awesome tea, home made pizza.  I love making my own pizzas and put loads of veg and meat on; today we even had three cheese pizza as well.

After watching some TV, we went to bed early, but  I find it difficult to sleep after Chemo, so I lay in bed awake, and think about things.  I think about being able to run and cycle again, also other things like future holidays with Leonie and the boys and having fun with them.  I want to give the boys so much variety and let them grow up believing that anything is possible!  You just have to have the right motivation and will, and you can achieve anything.

Sunday, 30 March 2014

Inspired Chemo

Friday was Chemo session two, and I was strangely looking forward to it, it is good to know that the Chemo is attacking the cancer, but it also has a really good social aspect to it as well.  I get to talk to other people in a similar situation and the nurses also make it fun.

We dropped the boys off at my sisters, she was looking after them and they were excited to be staying over at Amelia, Lotties and Evies house.  My mum drove us to the hospital and we went to hand in the entry forms that I had collected from work for the Rosemere Walk in the Dark at the charity office.  They too are very friendly and as soon as I walked in they recognised me from last week.  They had the cutting from the paper and also had read the blog.  We had a chat about a few events and a couple of ideas and then we had to leave for my Chemo appointment.

We went upstairs and were shown into a side room, there was an old lady in there, but I wanted to be in the main ward so I could chat with some others.  Leonie asked if we could and they made the arrangements so I could have a chair.  We went in and saw Jo, Chris and Mandie.  We were sat in the corner and Jo was excited to tell us about a visit they had the day before, Steve Davies, the snooker player.  She showed us the photos as I was hooked up, and I was told my blood had raised from 0.5 to 1.3, so I could have the chemo.

We settled down and a few laughs with everyone.  We were told that one of the patients who was due in shortly was a prisoner but he would be escorted and handcuffed, what were we due to expect?  We read some magazines and then he arrived, he looked quite frail and was in his mid sixties, he didn't look to be in a good way.  During the day he was continually sick, but very quiet about it and the two guards sat with him all day.

In the late morning Claire Serle came to see us and we talked through the symptoms and plan; we are looking at mid June to late July for the surgery if all goes to plan.  Once I finish the Chemo I would have a break from between 6-10 weeks.  This would work perfectly for Leonie and myself so we can celebrate our 8 year wedding anniversary with our annual BBQ, which will be early June, our anniversary is the 9th June so we would normally celebrate the following weekend.

After lunch a man brought in a baby and the nurses all got excited.  I was told that she was the newborn of one of the patients.  Emma came in shortly afterwards and was talking to the nurses and taking photos, she introduced herself and asked if I was writing the blog.  She sat down with me for about 30-45 minutes and we exchanged stories.  Emma was so full of life and showed a lot of strength.  At around 14 weeks pregnant she was diagnosed with bowel cancer and was advised to terminate the pregnancy, but she wanted to have the child.  Within a month when she was around 25 weeks pregnancy she got engaged, married, started Chemo and gave birth.  Erin was born premature, but like her mum was a fighter.  Born at just 1lb 10oz she has never left hospital but after 5 months is showing resilience (now over 8lb) and is going home soon with just oxygen to help to continue to develop her lungs.  Emma continues with Chemo and has not missed a session.  We talked for a while and could relate to each other, I hope to keep in contact as she is my inspiration.  Having a child is hard work, but to do that under the circumstances she found herself in is phenomenal!  And Erin is the miracle baby.  I would say Steve Davies is a good visitor (it was arranged for him to come and visit Emma and Erin), but I think meeting these two was much more inspiring.

I finished Chemo around half 4 and my mum was due to pick us up, but she hadn't arrived when we left so I called her, she was stuck in traffic as there had been an accident on the main by-pass to Preston from Penwortham, so I called Lisa who was still at work and she happily agreed to drop us back home, which was very helpful,  it turned out my mum had travelled about 2 miles in an hour!

At home we had a take away and got comfortable on the sofa.  As like last time, I am full of colour, like I have been in the sun and gone a little red, and already my voice has gone slightly horse.  We went to bed early but it wasn't until after midnight that I fell asleep, it's the steroids that keep me awake.  Luckily the boys were staying over so we could have a lie in on Saturday morning.

Saturday, 29 March 2014

Speedy Week

This week has gone by in a blur.  On Monday I was in work as usual and I knew that the story would be in the paper again with my first column.  I was so excited.  On my lunch I popped out to buy a copy and there it was, page 19 of the Lancashire Evening Post, but with my name spelt wrong! I got some stick for that one and promptly emailed my contact to ask them to have it changed for the Thursday column, which I also sent in to them, along with some photos. 

In the evenings we have been catching up on some TV, not doing much but I have been quite tired.  I have thought about the upcoming surgery, my biggest fear is the immediate time after the surgey, as I won't be able to eat initially and I will probably lose some weight, which would be bad news as there isn't much of me now.  I intend to bulk up as much as possible.  When I went for the initial surgery in early Feb I saw a dietician who said I should aim for 57 kilos (I work in stone so this means nothing to me) but last time I was weighed at the hospital I had surpased this target.  This can only be a good thing, and I have plenty of postive comments about how good I look, my skin colour has improved, no more pale grey.  They say you blossom in pregnancy, but I seem to blossoming in chemo!

Tuesday and Wednesday went by in a blur, but after work on Wednesday I went to pick up some bricks to start to build what is fast becoming nicknamed "The Reclaimed BBQ".  I like this idea, and it should work out ok.  On Wednesday evening, the MD of the company I used to work for, contacted me and offered an unused and free BBQ base, its all coming together.

Thursday was my last day in work this week as it is the delayed chemo from last week tomorrow.  Chemo number two, lets hope I get it administered tomorrow as I don't want to be hanging around weeks inbetween.  I have been getting on with quite a few bits of work, but it's getting more difficult as the team is small and with sickness and holidays, my work is mounting up, but I do enjoy it and I think that it will all get done at somepoint, my peers and colleagues have been great, not putting any pressure on, but at the same time I don't want it to be an excuse, so the customers still are demanding as always.

My second column for the LEP is due in today so again I popped out and bought a copy.  This time I featured on page 18, but still with my name spelt wrong.  It's getting annoying now, and as anyone who knows me, spelling my name wrong is one of my pet hates, how hard can it be to spell RIC CLARK?  Everyone who reads the article says it is a good read, honestly written.  David, who is Karyn's boss at work always brings me back down to earth with a bump, it's not meant to be hurtful, but some of his comments are funny and true. Like the fact my column featured inbetween two stories, one about dog poo and the other about the bad smells coming from a chicken factory, nice.  Mondays article was above another story with the word mortality in the title.  In the paper that day there was another story about a women being treated at Rosemere and she was 27, reading other stories like this is inspirational to me, and it's good to know that I'm  not alone.

When I got home, me and Leonie always have a catch up about our days, I don't think she understands what I do, in fact amongst all my friends and family, everyone calls me Chandler from Friends as no-one knows what I do, so I am a "transponder".  In my job we use loads of acronyms and abbreviations, I said somethig about BI, and Leonie asked what it meant, so I asked her to guess what it meant.  She came up with a few ideas; information, insurance, in-head, in-brain etc etc.  Oscar, our 5 year old, walked into the kitchen and stopped to say "it means Intelligence, mummy" before turning to walk out and go and play on the games console.  We called him back and I asked him how he knew, his answer was that it was on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, but he didn't know what it meant, he does now!!

When I left work, I made sure I had everyone's money and entry forms for the Rosemere Walk in the Dark.  It will be on the 26th April and its a 10 mile walk from Chorley to Preston, you can join in by going to www.rosemere.org.uk, you will find loads of info and events on the website.  You can also sponsor us as a group (so far about 20 people have signed up with us to do it), donate by going to
www.justgiving.com/HRServices-Rosemere.

Tomorrow is chemo session two, so an early night ready for the long day tomorrow.  I am all prepared and ready to go.

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Welsh Visit for the Weekend

Welsh Visit for the Weekend The weekend started off a bit differently from what I had expected, firstly we woke up earlier than expected as the boys were in bed with us, which wasn't planned.  They were due to stop at Granny and Granddads, but as the chemo was cancelled we wanted them back home.  We got up and dressed and took the boys out for a walk in the sun as it is my brother’s anniversary on the 22nd March, so we walked to his grave.  We visit it sometimes as it is near the park that the boys like to go and play at, but as we arrived the weather turned and it was a rush back and unfortunately no park fun for the boys.  Instead we marched them home in windy and wet conditions.

When we got home, we warmed up and planned a day of cleaning.  I helped out intermittently but Leonie cleared up and I vacuumed while playing on the PS3 with the boys; Oscar is still determined to get another game and his Lego obsession is relentless.  Leonie even had time to dye her hair a dark red which suits her and looks good!  We were due to have Ema and Dan to stay over.  Both of them have been great and we keep in touch every couple of days.  Ema is really supportive and fiercely loyal, Dan is entertaining and surreal.  They arrived about6pm and Leonie was just finishing some bits up.  I'm kind of glad that I didn't have the chemo as I get to spend some fun times with these guys.  As we put the boys to bed, they both cooked an awesome lasagne for us all.  We ate and then drank and just sat chatting and laughing.  It was late as we went to bed, we all had had a few drinks and it was a good night.

We woke in the morning while Ema and Dan stayed in bed a little longer, the boys had their breakfast.  Sid was due at his friend’s birthday party, I took Leonie and Sid while Ema and Dan cooked us a chicken roast dinner.  When we got back we ate like kings and Leonie made a GF apple crumble.  Ema and Dan left and we just relaxed in the afternoon. 

It was a really good weekend, relaxing and I was able to take my mind off things.  It all seems a little unreal, as I feel like this is happening to someone else and not me.  The most annoying thing about the treatment and side affects is finding short hairs in your food, as my hair keeps falling out, I feel a little trepidation having a shower as I tend to spend more time washing my body to remove the stray hairs, rather than washing myself!  But if that’s all I have to worry about then so be it, this is minimal to what could be happening, listening to other peoples stories, so I count myself lucky.

Monday, 24 March 2014

Frustrating Friday

I woke up early in anticipation of the second chemo day.  I had a shower amd we dropped the boys at my sisters as she was dropping them off at school/nursery for us.  We arrived early at the hospital so went to the Rosemere Foundation Charity office.  We met Rita who was enthusiastic and offered to pass on my details to the fundraiser for my area as they cover all of Lancashire and South Cumbria.  I handed in our entry forms for the Walk in the Dark (sponsor us at www.justgiving.com/HRServices-Rosemere, thanks)

I was called up to the ward and saw the student nurse Chris and also an old mutual friend, Joanna, who is also a nurse on the ward.  I was shown to my chair and began to get comfortable.  Jo mentioned that my bloods came back with a low white cell count, so she needed to take another sample and wait for the results, which would take about 45 minutes.   I sat back in the chair as she took my blood and started off the IV machine to give me the saline while we waited for the results.

To pass the time we laughed and joked with Chris, Jo and another patient as the ward wasn't full, Chris was going to a fancy dress party as a frog, as it was jungle themed.  Thanks to google for providing important info in his research for the role of a frog!

The time passed quickly and the bloods came back unaltered from the previous days sample.  Jo explained that they would expect the count to be around 1.5, and that they would administer the chemo with a count above 1, but my results were around 0.5.  She went onto say that if I were to have chemo with my current levels, it would likely kill me, so she recommeded that I don't have the chemo today and it be postponed for a week to allow my body to recover!  I agreed.  Apparantly this is a common occurance and the guy next to me had had two chemo sessions delayed for the same reason.   Claire came up to instruct me to take it easy this week and told me that I wouldn't be recieving any drugs to take home.

We left the ward a little frustrated as I feel fine within myself and we were geared up to go, had organised time off work, a sleepover for the boys and general childcare, now we had to re-do all of this for next week.  We joked that it's an inconvenience, but its better to be alive with an inconvenience,  than not be alive at all.

Leonie had received some vouchers for her birthday in Januray for the Walled Garden at Barton Grange.  We always tended to go here for our wedding anniversary,  but then life took over and we haven't been for a while.  Its a nice little restaurant, very quaint.  Leonie had a risotto and I had chicken, all locally produced.  Over half the menu was GF, which was surprising.  After a pleasant and relaxing lunch we went to get some shopping before heading home to wait for the boys.   I think everything caught up with me, and I fell asleep (as did Leonie) for a couple of hours.

In the evening we watched Sports Relief.   The things people do for charity, for example Davina Mcall, reminded me of my swim and where all this began, but her challenge was really inpirstional.  I love things like this, it spurs me on to better things, I want to do another big challenge, I hope I get a chance to do another challenge and we are starting to plan the next one for next year hopefully.

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Generosity

I have never seen such generosity from people.  I have been going into work everyday, business as usual and have been trying to get people signed up for the Rosemere Walk In The Dark (http://www.rosemere.org.uk/index.php/community-events/345-ready-steady-glow) on the 26th April.  As I was sat at my desk, a guy, Stuart Bennie, who works downstairs to me came and handed me a cheque for the charity.  It was for quite a sum of money amd I was completely lost for words, it was overwhelming the generosity of the Stuart, thanks.

So far about 10 people have signed up to do the walk with me and we have raised over £200 so far, you can sponsor us at JustGiving, search for "HRServices-Rosemere".  Thank you to everyone who has already donated, your generosity is outstanding.

After lunch, I found another gift on my desk, some GF cookies from Michelle (another good friend at work who is heavily pregnant).  I think people are turning into feeders, ensuring that I am well fed.  I don't mind at all, in fact I quite like eating and enjoy cookies, cakes and sweets - if people are wanting to feed me, I am happy to oblige, as long as I don't end up fat!

After work I was given a package from Anne and Gordon, it was filled with GF treats, crumpets and chocolate bars, ginger cakes and a good luck card for Friday (chemo day two).  Everybody has been so fantatsic and helpful in their own ways, signing up to walk from Chorley to Preston, donating to the Rosemere charity, helping with the kids or just being there as a good ear for both of us, Leonie and me.

Thursday I went into work as usual and I got everything as up to date as possible, ready just in case I need some time off after tomorrows chemo session.  In the evening, as usual, Laura and Zoe came over.  I look forward to Thursday night and having them over, its become a highlight of the week!  We just have fun together and talk rubbish but its also good to keep up with them.  We used to live next door to Laura and we lived in each others back yards, and Zoe was just down the road.  They were good times and we always had fun, mainly fuelled by alcohol, but a good time to remember, we called ourselves the SRM!

Tomorrow is day two of chemo, another day in the hospital, and well on the way with treatment.  I haven't been too bad, but Dr Mitchell did warn it could be worse.  I hope that it continues like it is, I can cope with this so far.  I am pretty much prepared for tomorrow, wonder what this cycle will bring?

Saturday, 22 March 2014

An Audience with...

Yesterday I was given a GF lemon drizzle cake.  I love cake and have always had a sweet tooth.  I used to work closely with Janet Thomas, but now we are working in different teams.  As I got to my desk, I found a large package wrapped in tin foil with a note on top.  Janet had baked me the cake and it really was good, you wouldn't be able to tell that it was GF, it was so moist, unlike other GF cakes which tend to be dry and basically fall apart.  If I had the money I would employ her as my cake baker!

The weeks are tending to drag a little, it seems ages ago that I was last at the hospital for chemo.  Today I was due back for an appointment with my oncologist, Dr Mitchell.  Both Leonie and I arrived in plenty of time, and sat in the waiting room.  I still look around and only see older people, I am always the youngest patient there.  We were called through and went to sit in the consultation room.  It seemed that a crowd of doctors and nurses walked in, there were only 4, but with Leonie and I in the small room, Janette (upper GI nurse) sat on the bed, Dr Mitchell and Claire (trials nurse) sat in front of us and another nurse stood.  It was like I was presenting to them, or being interviewed and all of them were hanging off my every word.  It was quite funny as all of them were so supportive and excited to see how well I was, but at the same time empathetic and sorry to hear I had some symptoms.   Dr Mitchell was pleased I had put on weight and was happy to tell me that all the signs were good.  They were all surprised to learn I was still at work, so I decided not to tell them that I had been out running.

All in all I was really happy with the whole chemo treatment so far, and from what they were saying, they were too, bring on the rest of the treatment, then the surgery to get rid of it, then I can move on from this and get on with the rest of my life.

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

Leonie would not normally work on a Monday, but as it is chemo week, she has swapped her days so she can come with me on Friday.  This meant that Sid was at playgroup then Granny was picking him up for the afternoon, and Oscar was at school.  I asked Karyn if I could leave early to pick up the boys after school, she told me it wouldn't be a problem.

So it was just another day at the office, or so I thought.  I had a couple of meetings, and kept popping back to my desk.  Wherever I went, I found short hairs everywhere.  I didn't think where they were coming from until the early afternoon, when I scratched my chin and a few whiskers fell onto my desk.  I suddenly realised that it must be my beard.  I went to the bathroom and rubbed my beard, loads of whiskers fell out, then I rubbed my hair and a few came out. I dared not touch my hair/beard until I was back home.  I finished up at work about 2.30 so I could get to school in time, it was a bit stressful at work as we are a small team.  The two guys holding it all together, Mike and Matt, are doing a sterling job in pretty dire times, and keeping us treading water as a team, Thanks Guys!

When I got home, I decided to have a nice soak in the bath.  I washed my hair and relaxed.  I noticed lots of hair in the water and it was worse when I emptied the water.  I text Leonie to tell her.  When she got home I showed her and we agreed that a shave was in order.  I usually cut my own hair and do a number 4 all over then shave my stubble, I got a pretty damn good pair of clippers!  So I shaved it all as I would, although the beard went completely.  It didn't look any different to normal which was good, but I suspect it may all come off at some point.

I was saying to Leonie only a couple of days ago that the cancer and chemo didn't seem real as I feel ok, in fact feel good, and people have commented on how well I look, but now loosing some hair it does feel real for the first time properly.  It's strange that 17 days after chemo started, it only now feels like it's changing me, doing something!  I'm not upset about loosing my hair at all, it was on its way out anyway, I may as well get used to it as my hair line has been going backwards for sometime, this has just increased the rate I suppose, and anyway Leonie said she prefers it short!

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Weekend Fun

Saturday was my first day looking after the boys on my own for a month and a half.  I always have the boys on my own on a Saturday, we call it Daddy Day!  Today was relaxed, we watched a movie in the morning, then we played with some Lego and did some painting, before having a go on the playstation playing Batman Lego.  Oscar loves playing on the computer, I told him that if he completes this game, he can get another one.  So naturally he is now obsessed with completing the game, currently he is about half way through.

In the late afternoon, my mum popped over for a brew, and we had nice chat.  Leonie came home and I cooked risotto, one of my favourites to make and eat, the boys are getting better at introducing more stuff into their "spicy rice", so it's getting easier to make it.

Leonie was due on a night out, so we had a quick catch up and I watched a bit of TV before having a early night.  I was knackered after having a good, energetic lads day, I love having the boys for a day, just the three of us.  Both the boys are my best mates, we get on so well and I can't wait until we can go for days out on our bikes or days in the lakes.  I would love it to have action lads when they grow up.

Sunday I woke up early, it was the start of the F1 season.  I was going round to Ray and Dawns house for breakfast and to watch the race.  I was knocking on their door at 5:45 am, the lights were out and I was sure the clocks hadn't gone forward or done something weird.  Shortly, Ray answered and apologised, he had fallen back to sleep, I felt really bad, but then again I had brought gluten free sausages and maple syrup.  We sat down and began watching the race.  About 5 laps in and the sky go was buffering, it did so for the majority of the race, but we watched it.  I love F1, and I like a fast paced life in general; I love running fast, driving fast, anything as long as its fast!  Over the next couple of months I expect things to slow down, I'm not entirely sure how I will cope, this is probably the most worrying thing for me at the moment.  We enjoyed our breakfast and everyone was complementary of the GF sausages. 

I was home just after 9 and then out again to go to church.  It is my brothers anniversary on the 22nd, so my mum asks for him to be included in the rememberance prayers.  David died 8 years ago, and I miss my older brother.  He was very stubborn, a Clark trait, but he was his own person. Although we were pals, I had only really gotten to know him in our adult lives.  He had made his mistakes, but we all do.  He was becoming a good friend and a closer brother, albeit in his own particular way.

After the service, we had a brew and chatted to a few people, a lot were asking how I was, and I saw some old faces from when I was younger, along with plenty of familiar ones.  My family have been attending the church at St Leonards for longer than I have been here, so we know a lot of people, and a lot of people are aware of our family.

In the afternoon, I had planned to get some bricks to start building the BBQ, but instead we had a nice unexpected visit from our friend Louise and her daughter Rose.  Louise even brought her running kit, she wanted to have a jog out with me, and her thoughts were that if I had cancer and was going through chemo and putting on weight she could keep up with me, but I showed her that it doesn't stop me, and it would take more than that to beat me; as my friend Stacy knows, I would need to be eating gluten as well!  Our guests stayed for tea, and I enjoyed our run out, again it just lifts me, psycologically.  Keep up with your normal life and you don't get down,  just keep going as normal as possible - take control and understand this is just another day like any other!

In the evening I was pretty tired after a busy weeekend, we watched a bit of TV and went to bed early.  That's over two weeks completed of chemo and its going well without any real problems.

Saturday, 15 March 2014

Charity

I have just set up
a Charity Page on Just Giving (www.justgiving.com/teams/HRServices-Rosemere). I hope to raise some money for the centre where I am being treated - Rosemere Cancer Foundation at Royal Preston Hospital.

Click on the link above to make a donation or you can text to make a donation (text "HRSR80 £5" to 70070) - all the details are on the page.  I will keep it updated.

My first event will be a Walk in Dark, an event organised by Rosemere themselves.  Its a 13 miles walk from Chorley Hospital to Preston Hospital in April.  Come and join in if you want! 

Midweek Celebrations

Wednesday was just another day in the office, just getting on with things.  It's good to keep my mind occupied, mainly so I don't overthink the whole thing and dwell on it.  Also it's good to know that you have people to talk to if I need too, but most of my colleagues at work keep everything lighthearted.  In fact, as I have made light of the situation myself it puts other people at ease.  I tend to break the ice with a bad joke, I don't want people to be sorry for me or feel uncomfortable, but just to be normal, sure people will ask questions and I will answer them.   Working through the chemo treatment is definitely helping me.

In the evening we went to my brother-in-laws to celebrate his birthday.  The kids, as always, played together while all the adults chatted.  Anne (Dave's mum) always makes me laugh and she is a good, kind person, Anne was very complementary of the blog and newspaper article.  Loads of people have been, which makes me happy, considering this is just my journal. 

We had some cake (gluten free lemon slice for my mum, Sheila and I - yep we are all coeliacs) and tea, then it was time to drag the boys away, which is always difficult when they are having fun with their cousins, tempers flared and tantrums played out, which continued on the journey home and through to bedtime, kids have a way of keeping you focused on reality.  They are generally very well behaved but they do have their moments.

That evening,  although I have probably taken more tablets in the last two weeks than the rest of my life put together, I almost forgot to take my medication.  It was after 10pm that I remembered.  My tooth ache hadn't eased since Friday, but the pain was manageable - until now!  I have to eat before taking my chemo tablets, so I was having a banana, and found it difficult to firstly open my mouth, and secondly to chew, a banana!  I looked in my book and checked if I should ring oncology.  It was advised that I should call them, but decided that I would do it first thing in the morning, as I was getting tired and it was getting late.  It took me a while to get to sleep, but finally sleep took over.

Music Matters

Music is important to me, I enjoy listening to music and music helps me through crisis times or enhances everyday experiences.  My favourite bands are Radiohead, Mogwai and Slint.  I really like Mogwai and I always go back to Mogwai in times of distress for some reason, Mogwai are my safety blanket.

Eight years ago my brother died of pneumonia at the age of 29.  Just before he died, Mogwai had released an album, Mr Beast.  One particular song on that album I played almost on repeat for several weeks after David's death; it helped me through that difficult time.  The song is Friend of the Night and I recommend it to anyone, no words, just music - I urge you to listen and loose yourself in the music.

In January this year, Mogwai released another album, Rave Tapes.  At the end of January, we went to see Mogwai at Bridgewater Hall in Manchester, another great gig (I have seen them about 7/8 times). I really quite like one song in particular on the new album, it's called Remurdered.  The gig was on the Monday, as I found out about my cancer on the Friday.  This song has helped me through this time. I class Mogwai as my favourite band, for these reasons, they have helped me through two quite difficult times.  Now I am listening to Remurdered on repeat.

I did a full day at work on Friday and for a couple of reasons it was quite an exciting day.  Firstly I confirmed with the Lancashire Evening Post about a regular weekly column, focussed on health, fitness and well being.  I also get to promote any charitable events during the period that I write the column.  Secondly, my boss was pretty pleased with a piece of work I have been doing over the last week or so and hopefully we can start to implement it soon.  Lastly, I went to a gig with Dave at the Continetal in Preston.  The band were called Labasheeda (from Amsterdam) and they were supported by a local(ish) band India Mill.  India Mill were good, but one or two songs sounded a little to similar to U2, which was a disappointment as I don't like U2.  Labasheeda were promoted as sounding like Slint and Sonic Youth, and that is a good assessment of them, they were really good, I enjoyed the gig, both bands were good, but Labasheeda were right up my street.

It was relaxing to get out for a night and socialise.  It took my mind off things and I felt normal, the only thing missing was Leonie, otherwise a good night out.  I got home pretty late and was knackered.  Tomorrow I have the boys on my own for the first time since finding out about the cancer, lets hope I'm on form and the boys are well behaved.

Thrush Thursday

After posting about my lack of symptoms, I knew I was tempting fate.  On Thursday I woke up and the pain in my tooth was incredible.  So much so that it was difficult to open my mouth.  Leonie inspected it and said it looked a little like thrush in the back of my mouth; Oscar had had oral thrush as a baby and when I looked in the mirror and saw the whiteness of the gum, I agreed with Leonie's diagnosis,  we joke that by the end of this, we will both be professional medical practitioners!

I called the oncology helpline and as it was out of hours (7.30), I was directed to the cover line.  The lady was really helpful, instructing me to book an appointment with my GP, and even advising which drugs and sundries to request.  After 8am I called the doctors and was offered an appointment at 10.40, but after she took my name I was given a 9.40 appointment,  silver linings, I get fast-tracked.  I let Karyn know I would be late for work and dropped Sid at my mums while I went to get checked out.

I was due to see Dr Chikhalikar, not Dr Ravi.  Dr Chick has been at the GPs as long as I can remember.  When I went in he told me he was sorry to hear about the cancer, but that he was reading the blog.  He told me that it was good and that other patients should be more positive as it goes a long way to helping mental attitudes but also to good health too.  I think sometimes people underestimate the power of a positive outlook, I know I don't.  If you look at life with a positive eye, then you can achieve anything.  I have known some people who don't see anything positively, or struggle to anyway, and this in turn leads to unhappiness.  I believe you make your own happiness, you are the controller of your own emotions.  For example, I haven't let cancer get me down, it has just made me more determined to achieve things I dreamed of previously.   Now I know how precious life is, so now I want to do as much as possible with mine, if I fail in some aspects, I fail, but as batmans dad said, "why do we fall, Bruce? To learn how to pick ourselves up again!"

Dr Chick checked my mouth, and he confirmed it was oral thrush. He pescribed me some amoxicillin, mouth wash and nystan oral suspension which is cherry flavoured and quite nice.  More tablets to take but almost instantly I felt a relief of the pain.  I picked up Sid, then dropped him at nursery on my way to work, and managed to be at my desk by 11.  Another day, another appointment done.  The pain eased quite a bit throughout the day, but it didn't disappear altogether. 

In the evening I was feeling much better, so I organised to go out for a run with Lisa.  I have been running years, and Lisa is one of the people I sometimes run with.  She is training for the Great North Run, so it was good to get out with a purpose.  We didn't go far, about 7k, and we jogged round at a slower pace than normal.  This is my first run since starting chemo and I could tell.  My calves were tiring quickly.  The run itself probably gave me a mental boost.  When I got back, I was tired but happy and I had a feeling that I could take on the world.

Running for me is more than just a healthy activity.   It gives me a psychological lift.  I always feel better after a run, no matter what the distance, a sprint to the shops or a marathon.   During a run, I may curse and wonder why I'm doing it, but afterwards I think how lucky I am to be able to run and I feel great!  Others have also felt the benefits.  My birthday falls around the time of the Preston 5k and 10k so a couple of years ago I asked my friends to sign up for one of them.  Some did and some continue to run, Stacy for example is taking on her first marathon  this year in London, she is running strong and I wish her luck as she tackles the distance, quite a feat for anyone - I hope she enjoys it and continues to run afterwards (running is quite addictive!)

The run really did drag me out of a bit of lull, not that I was upset or depressed, I suppose I was bored, and Leonie always says that I am better after a run, maybe it's my route out of boredom and a great reliever of stress.

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Summer Plans

Monday and I was back at work but first I had to give some blood.  I arrived at my GPs and was due to be seen at 8.30.  I arrived early and sorted out my repeat pescription for iron and waited.  While I was sat in the room, reading some leaflets Dr Ravi came to see me, we had a nice chat and he checked I was ok before signing my pescription. Dr Ravi explained the trainee doctor was running a bit late and told me to get in touch if I had any problems, I like my GP, he is always so friendly.  The doctor arrived just after 9 and invited me to the room, her manner was very polite and reassuring, she asked why I was there so I explained about the cancer, she was shocked and apologetic.  I don't mind people apologising, it's probably something I would say, but it's not their fault, and I don't really want to hear a sorrowful tone, I always try to be upbeat, even about cancer, but sometimes it throws people, I am not apologising for my approach, it's how it get through it.  On my way home I picked up my pescription and met Leonie who had dropped off Sid and Oscar, we walked home together, before she left for her free coffee from Booths, and I left for work.

At work I started to feel ill, like I was actually going to be sick, rather than just feeling sick, so asked if I could go early as I had forgotren to take my anti sickness tablets.  I left work around 2pm and got home, took an anti sickness and had a bath; Leonie was good enough to bring me a brew, and I just led in the water and relaxed.  It was bliss and as always I had my two little visitors to check up on me.

I am thankful that no real symptoms have hit me hard yet.  So far all I have experienced is the initial loss of appetite, but this was soon replaced by a unabating hunger, hence the reason I have put on about a stone since January.   I am quite a thin person and I get jokes about this all the time, I even encourage them, but the best one was that I will have to give the boys t-shirts back as they won't fit me any more if I carry on with the weight gain. As well as this there was again an initial insomnia, however now I am getting more tired, and I am managing with the sleep I have/get but will probably need to increase my sleep soon as I am getting more tired as this process continues.  The only other symptons are a bit of toothache, but I get this every so often with my wisdom teeth; and the feeling of sickness tied in with my reverse phantom stomach/black hole, now thats a weird sympton and an even weirder feeling.

In the evening Zoe and Laura came over for our weekly catch up.  It's always good to see friends and these two are some of the best.  Always good for a giggle and always really supportive.  I told them of my plans to build a BBQ in time for June, and by the end of the night we had sorted out free bricks and some help in building it, all through the powers of facebook.  A pretty awesome result.

Tuesday and I decided to go to work as early as possible as my colleague wasn't to be in today and I wanted to see if I could do a full day.  My work pals all check on me and Karyn reminded me to check my temperature when I went a bit too red, but by 3pm I was starting to tire again, I lasted until 4pm before asking to get home.  I picked up Sid and went to my mums to get Oscar.  I had a brew and a catch up with my parents and I mentioned about my plan to build another BBQ, I had previously built one in our old house which was a success, but this new plan is a little more extravagant.  We waited for Leonie and once she arrived it was back to ours for an early night, dreaming of my new plan.  It's always good to have project on the go, unfortunately I rarely finish one before starting another, hopefully with a bit of help, I should do this one!

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

A Sunday Slice

We got up around 8.30 and Leonie asked if I could check her finger, so we unwrapped the dressing from last night and as soon as we did the blood flow returned, no arguing she was off to hospital! Paul took her while Amanda and I got the boys ready.  No sooner were they dressed it seemed and they were back, with a well dressed finger.  She has to dress it for a week and it should be fine within three weeks.  The patient becomes the doctor.

As it was warm I decided to catch some sun, top up my vitamin D.  I stood in the garden drinking in the suns rays, and it felt like I got some energy, it was fantatstic to stand there, I felt like Superman, getting his powers topped up!  To take advantage of the glorious weather we decided to take the boys to the local park.  It was a really good example of a park to be honest, small stuff for the kids, climbing frames for the school kids and then teenager swings and zip line type stuff. I enjoyed the basket swing and I am contemplating getting one, it was seriously comfy and I could lie in it for a summer of surgical recovery.

After a quick lunch it was a drive back home.  Same as the way down, John drove me, and Leonie and the boys went with Jacqueline.  We met up at Stafford services and had some tea, the boys were treated to a happy meal box and the adults had a coffee or orange juice. It was a race from the services back home, John and I won which was surprising.

We got home and I had received a card from Japan, I love these cards, they are so detailed and put our British cards to shame.  They are mostly pop up cards and are really intricate.  It was from my brother-in-laws brother, Ian, and family and wished me strength for May 5th, Japans Boys Day.  We went to bed early as we were all pretty tired after a fun weekend in the sun.  Hopefully there will be plenty more this year, the weather really does help to lift the spirits and we had had a good weekend which was helped by the glorious sunshine.

Monday, 10 March 2014

Tugging on the Thames

Saturday we woke and had a slow mornin  as the boys were all playing.  I had a shower and we left for the party.  It was Pauls 40th, he had hired a boat and we were going to tour up and down the Thames.  I had previously been on the Thames as a child on a narrow boat holiday with my family.  On that occassion, my twin, Janette, ended up in the Thames after trying to catch a duck.  Hopefully this time won't end the same way, I think 9 children were due to be on board!

It was a beautiful day, the sun was out and there was a slight breeze.  It was a glorious March Saturday.   We left the riverside at Caversham and headed towards Oxford.  The whole journey was so relaxing and tranquil.  We sat at on the front of the boat, drinkig cider and watching the Berkshire countyside slowly drift past, the boys (in fact all the children) were really good.  Sid even made a friend with Callie, a slightly older girl; he always likes an older girl!  He dragged her around the boat for the entire afternoon.  Both myself and Leonie agreed that this is what life should be all about, sat in the sun, watching the world go past, no rushing about but enjoying what the world has to offer.

Unfortunately the afternoon came to an end and no-body ended up in the water.  We made our way back to Amanda and Pauls, our base for the weekend.  Leonie had arranged to meet Becca and Ian, who will be getting married later his year.  We put the boys to bed and they went to bed so quickly, they must have been shattered.  We walked to the local pub to meet Becca and Ian.  Much of he conversation was around the wedding, but Ian and I share a passion for running.  He recently completed the Reading Half Marathon in a PB time, which he dedicated to me, thanks Ian!  I tried to get him to up his distance and join me in ultra running next year when I am back fighting fit - you have to keep your goals, just some readjustments in terms of time frames!  I told him about our plans to run coast to coast, he seemed suitably impressed.  They asked a lot of questions about the chemo and cancer and I am really quite open about it so have no problems answering questions.  At the moment, it is sitting quite easily with me.  I am coping well with the chemo and I am in no pain so can get on with most daily activities, it's just a case of simply getting tired more quickly than normal, let's hope the rest of chemo is like this, if it is, bring it on, I have no problems with it.

We were dropped back and everyone was going to bed, I got ready and led in bed wondering where Leonie was.  A few minutes later she came in and asked me to help her in the bathroom.  I thought she had broken the sink or something, but when we were in the bathroom, she revealed her finger covered in blood. I asked her to wash it so I could check it and saw she had sliced her pad off her finger, she explained she was getting her toothbrush out of the washbag and caught it on a razor.  We couldn't find the missing bit of finger and I washed it again, it would not stop bleeding.  I wrapped it up as tight as possible with a gauze and wound some tape around it.  We went to bed quite late, hopefully it will be ok by the morning.

Friday, 7 March 2014

Tuesday

After a restless night, I woke up and decided I was ok for work.  Getting the boys ready, as well as myself, is getting a little harder, but then Leonie has been superb - I don't know where I would be without her.  I usually take Sidney to nursery on Tuesdays and Thursdays and today was no different.  On the way Sid and I always chat, mainly random topics, whatever goes through a 3 year olds head, and the subjects change rapidly.  I'm sure all parents can relate to this situation.  But today Sid was different, in a way he seemed concerned for me.  He started off by asking about gluten free and food I can eat/not eat.  I think it started from it being pancake day.  After a while the subject evolved into asking questions about my tummy.  I always try to be truthful with my kids, telling them straight up an answer if they ask a good question.  Sid asked if after my operation to take my tummy, would I still have skin?  I told him that of course I would.  That one question, for some reason made me cry. Here I was sat in a traffic jam in the middle of Preston on the nursery run, crying.

I gathered myself together and managed to get Sid dropped off.  I went into work and settled down for the day ready to work. The only problem was that I couldn't shake the worry and panic I was feeling, stemming from such an innocent question.  During the day, I had to have a few trips to the bathroom, just to get myself together, and I don't mind admitting that I really did struggle to keep the crying at a minimum.  I was just having a bad day, and although everybody I came across was cheery, I was not.  I emailed Leonie and told her about my bad day.  She emailed me back telling me that I was strong, stronger than most, and reminded me I had only had chemo 4 days prior and yet here I am, sat at my desk at work.

I know loads of people go through the big C battle every day.  Some struggle, but I have to remind myself that I am young, I have something worth fighting for and I do not give in.  I struggled the rest the day and Leonie was again my rock when I got home.  We cuddled,  we went to bed.  Another day done, it has been a hard day, but another ticked off.  Tomorrow is another battle and hopefully an easier one.

Unexploded Bombs

I am now 5 days into my first chemo cycle and today I woke up so much happier.  I couldn't remember when the last time I moved my bowels, but I knew that it had been over three days today, minimum.  If nothing happened today, I would be ringing the hospital.  I mentioned this to Leonie as I woke up, she was a little concerned as diarrhoea and constipation are listed as sideaffects, and when they hit triggers, you may need to be admitted to hospital.  Today was the trigger day in my mind.  I sat over my bowl of cereals and contemplated the prospect of a stay in hospital, so soon in my chemo.  I didn't contemplate too long as soon I was rushing upstairs.  A while later I came back downstairs with a beaming smile.  I felt so relieved, and light!  This one act put me in such a good mood for the rest of the day.  Off to work I went.

Karyn at work has been great, I have been doing shorter days, about 9.30-4.30, and she has been more than happy to accomodate this.  I now even have a car park space about 2 feet from the front door in case I need to leave, work have been great.  One of the other team leaders, Luke, came over and said I looked a bit red.  This had been a theme for the last couple of days.  The joke was that I probably look healthier than ever, with a nice red glow, in reality it's probably increased blood pressure making my skin flush red.  But Luke seemed more than concerned about this flush. A quick temperature check (36.7 celcius) and then some time spent outside to cool down. While we were outside, Luke said he was genuinely worried about my colour and went on to say that I was a nuclear disaster waiting to happen with all the drugs.  I found that very funny.

In the evening, it was Oscar's parent evening at school.   The teachers were so pleased with him, and this makes you happy and proud as a parent.  Our instructions from his teachers were to challenge him more with problems at home, simple maths and writing.  He loves that kind of stuff, so hopefully after my operation, when I have some time at home, we can work on building his confidence and help him reach his potential, he is such a bright lad, like his dad really (lol).  On our way out of school Miss Carter, the headmistress, came out to see us. I again felt like a celebrity, she put her arm around me and was geniuniely interested and had a sympathetic ear to my story so far, she asked some questions and then mentioned that we shouldn't worry about Oscar, they would ensure he was ok during school.  Speaking to people like this and hearing kind words really does ease my mind, especially where the kids are involved.

I continued at work on Thursday and Friday as usual on a slightly reduced day but still working.  At the moment I feel great, although the last two days I have had an unusual feeling.   It's like an opposite phantom stomach feeling. I have been so hungry (as opposed to the decreased appetite at the beginning of the week) and whatever or however much I eat I am still hungry.  It's like the food has found a black hole and its disappearing somewhere.  I thought I best check my weight, so I weighed myself and found that for the first time ever, I had breached the 9 stone barrier, I was officially the heaviest I had ever been, I have become fat, there will be no end to my misery (I know I'm far from fat, but I hope this rate of weight gain doesn't continue, mainly for the sake of my wardrobe).

Friday is always a bit more relaxed than other days at work, and I managed to leave early.  We had planned to travel south for my brother-in-laws 40th.  I had asked not to drive, so John (father-in-law) had agreed to drive me and Leonie's mum was driving Leonie and the boys. It will be good to get away for a break, hopefully I will stay fit for the weekend.  My biggest worry at the moment is that the doctors, and everything I have read, have stated that the second week of the cycle is the worst part.  I just hope that I can cope with it as easily as this week has been.  They also mentioned that the treatment is compounded, so will gradually get worse over time.  I am worried about it, but again Leonie is there on my shoulder telling me not to worry, I can beat this and will deal with it as I always deal with things, with a smile on my face, I intend to do it that way.

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Sleepless Nights, Lazy Days

On Saturday, as the boys were staying over at Grannys, both me and Leonie stayed in bed for a long time, finally getting up about 10am (even though we woke at 7am).  In total I had about 5 hours sleep so spent the morning lazing around.  Leonie had prepared me my medical breakfast of 10 tablets, to have along side my rice crispies.  I had a long bath before the boys came back, it was nice just to have a relaxing morning, the two of us, without any interruptions.   Don't get me wrong, I love my boys, but after a day of chemo it was appreciated.

My mum came over to check if we needed anything from a supermarket just as Leonie's mum was dropping of the boys.  My mum got some bits for us and as the afternoon drew on I needed to lie down, so went upstairs for a nap.  Then we had some tea and got the boys to bed before attempting to go to bed ourselves.  However, I wasn't able to sleep.  With the cocktail of drugs and a blur of a day under the influence of the drugs, I stayed wide awake until late again.

I was good, not really having any major sideaffects, heck it had only been 24 hours, but I was weary and couldn't sleep.  Tired without sleeping made me fuzzy and although I didn't do much, I just couldn't.  On Saturday particulary, I found it hard to interract fully with people for some reason, I kept myself in my head.  Sunday and Leonie was due back at work.  I was to have the boys, but my sister and mum had both offered to look after the boys.

We woke on Sunday and again I hadn't had much sleep, which is probably due to the steroids.   Leonie went to work and then my mum came over and we went into town for a little bit.  I bought myself a new picture for the hallway and we went to see mummy in work.  We all had lunch at home, before going to my sisters for the afternoon.  She kept me fed and watered and the kids all played.  We were even treated to a play written by her three girls, Amelia, Lottie and Evie, and starring all 5 of the kids.  Again it was great to have the support of my family and the kids are innocent so don't worry about you, even if the things going around your head aren't nice.  Having both Sheila and Dave with medical backgrounds is also kind of good as you get their professional take on the situation, probably something not many people get.  However, sometimes too much information can worry you more.

We went home, had some tea, the boys have been great, playing nicely and generally being well behaved.  They went to bed and we led on the sofa before attempting to sleep again.  The night was a bit easier on Sunday and although I didn't sleep all night,  I had more sleep than the previous two nights.

Back to Work - Mini Milestone

On Monday I wanted to go back to work, and went in as normal. I was stopped everywhere, everyone asking if I was Ok and checking up on me.  People may see this as bothersome, but I find so much support in this, people really do care, and that goes a long way with me.  OK, I didn't get much actual work done, but it was good to be around people, I was able to take my mind of things and it was relaxed.

I started to get messages from people in the office and also friends.  I had been made a celebrity. The story that I was interviewed for by the Lancashire Evening Post had been published.  If you haven't seen it in print, don't worry the link is here:

http://www.lep.co.uk/news/you-don-t-expect-cancer-when-you-re-a-33-year-old-runner-1-6474519

I went to the supermarket at lunch to buy a copy of the paper and I was stood in the entrance reading the story.  It brought tears to my eyes, thinking about the boys and seeing it all in print.  With the newspaper article, the start of chemo and the general feeling unwell from the drugs, things are starting to hit home, pretty hard.

I went back to work and everyone was really chuffed about the article.  It was a good story, and the pictures were good too.  A double page centre fold spread.  Leonie text me later with a picture of a sandwich board outside out local off licence.   It was a lot of attention and although the people at work know the story from the triathlon last year, there were still plenty of questions.

This year I have been to hospital loads, but last year was not without its mishaps.  I have been running for years and have done marathons, but in 2013 I thought I could go one better.  I wanted to do a triathlon and decided upon the Helvellyn tri.  This is a mile swim in open water, 38 mile ride around the lakes and then a 9 mile run up and down Helvellyn.  I knew swimming was my weakest discipline but thought that if I could get over that, the rest would be easy.  I trained all year, with open water swimming, brick sessions and so on.  However the week preceeding the tri, the temperature plummeted and the water was cold.  I entered the water nervously, I was slow but I kept going and I could see the shore line approaching.  Four hundred meters to go and I was dragged out of the water unconcious and with mild hypothermia.   My first ever DNF.  I was devestated.  I had never been beaten, I had finished everything I had tried, apart from this.

After a month of "what ifs" and "what nows", and generally feeling unwell, I went to the doctors and Dr Ravi thought I could be coeliac from my symptons, so advised I get checked.  This involves a blood test and endoscope.  The blood test confirmed coeliac but the next step is to have camera.  The endoscope was an horrific ordeal, not pain but just gross.  That one thing was pretty grim so far.

I had to wait for the results so that would take some time.  In the meantime however, I thought it would be a good idea to try and break a world record.  I do stupid things like this and the one record I had my eye on was "most t-shirts worn at once".  The record stood at 256 t-shirts.  I had enough shirts, and some help on the night in November I tried for the record.  Unfortunately, I couldn't beat 105, but I nearly collapsed trying.  It was three stone in weight with just 105, it was crushing me and I had to be cut out of the shirts pretty fast. It was a funny night, but that was the second near miss of 2013.  Then into 2014 ... sorry I digress.

After work on Monday, I went to see Dr Ravi again and we chatted, he asked about my attempt to quit smoking, and I was proud to tell him that I had not had a cigarette for 4 weeks.  I had the nicotine patches for only a week. I do confess to using a electronic cigarette, but I am now cutting down on that too, a mini milestone ticked off.  I booked in a blood test for next week, and he checked I was ok, looked at my stitches and then he prescribed me my calcium, "chewable tutti frutti" and another load of GF food.  I picked up my new items and went home to bed tired and happy, another day done, hopefully more sleep tonght.

Saturday, 1 March 2014

A Few Photos

The first photo is from when I had to have my second CTR in Royal Preston Hospital which is in South Durham, obviously!
The second is from St Marys Hospital in Manchester, thought its was pretty apt and filled me with a good spirit for the day!