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Saturday, 28 June 2014

There Is No Place Like Home

After leaving hospital on Thursday,  we went to pick up Leonie from work.  On the way we stopped at McDonald's and I got a large fries, my favourite,  unfortunately though I couldn't finish them.  We went into to see Leonie as a surprise and she, along with her colleagues were surprised to see me.

We got home and the boys were waiting for us with grandad,  it was good to see them and be home.  In the evening our friends; Laura,  Zoe and Lisa came over and we all had a few laughs and a catch up.

I decided to sleep in our spare room for a few days until I had recovered more; I didn't want to be kicked in the stomach by the boys accidentally if they came into bed during the night!  I got a reasonable nights sleep but woke up every couple of hours expecting a nurse to take my obs; it didn't happen!

Friday I had the day to myself,  Leonie was working,  the boys at school and playgroup, so I took the chance to catch up on TV that I had missed while in hospital.   I didn't get dressed and just relaxed all day.  Leonie picked up the boys on her way home and we enjoyed an evening relaxing even more before having a further restful night.

It is so much better being back home with my family and being in my own home, I can relax and concentrate on getting back fit and healthy.

Last Days in Hospital

The last couple of days have been drawn out.  I have felt really good and just wanted to get home and relax.  I also knew that this wouldn't happen until I had been eating well for at least 24 hours and everybody had signed me off (doctor, surgeon, dietician and physio).

They wanted to send me home yesterday, and I would have probably gone as well until Leonie made the point that I had only eaten one meal and she would have preferred me to eat a few more meals to ensure there were no complications.

I also have to remember that I was in intensive care less than 6 days ago.  Throughout my stay though I have felt great, but I have been helped so much by the medical teams and also spurred on by all the support I have received. 

I have made some friends too, some nurses and some patients; listening to Dougie and David talk makes me smile,  hearing the stories that they talk about.  David left hospital yesterday, it will be a while for Dougie and I hope he makes a good recovery.

For breakfast yesterday (my first meal as it was) there was a mix up in the kitchen regarding my Coeliac diet so I ended up with Bacon and Eggs with a few slices of GF toast.   I gave it a good go and ate about half of it.  The whole ward was pretty jealous of my breakfast,  some of the staff too!  It was good to be able to eat and the hospital food isn't too bad at all.

During the day I have been happy to read magazines and papers that people have brought for me, and in the evening I tend to watch a movie on a DVD player that I have borrowed.   I have been doing some puzzles too.

My day in hospital is regular; wake up between 6-6.30 and have some medication.  Get out of bed and wash/dress while the nurses change my bed.  The cleaners then come in to wash the beds and mop the floors.   Breakfast is between 8-9, during which time the ward doctors visit.  Over the rest of the morning, specialists visit (surgeons, physios and dieticians).  Lunch is served between 12-1 and more medications straight after.  At 2.30 we have visitors until 4, then a quick nap until tea at 5 with meds again and further visitors at 6-8.  Medications again around 9 and lights out at 10.30.

Yesterday I was told I could go home today, so we arranged that my mum would pick me up around 4.30pm.  However,  today they needed the bed so around 10am I was dressed and had moved my belongings to the family room.   I waited in there all day and watched either news or Wimbledon.   At 2.30 I had my last visitors,  Luke and David from work.   They made me laugh so much my wound began to hurt,  but it was great to see them.   My mum arrived and I said my goodbyes to the staff.

Unbelievably I was leaving hospital within 7 days of having major surgery.   My stomach had been removed, a total gastrectomy.   In some way it is bewildering how the human body recovers so quickly after such invasive procedures.   I am really happy to be getting home and I just hope that everything continues to be such plain sailing.

Tuesday, 24 June 2014


Waking early seems to be my thing in hospital, and today I was rewarded for it to.   I saw the doctor who advised to  up my drinking to 60ml an hour and I could also have half a cup of tea.  She also said to remove the epidural and manage the pain with paracetamol and dihydroclordine.  I went for a walk to the end of the ward and thought about coming off the epidural, in all honesty I was worried it was too much too soon.

Later in the morning they came round and removed the epidural, which when looking at it, is very small.  They then removed the catherter.   This was such a relief and gave me so much more freedom.  I celebrated with a walk to the end of the ward.

David was moved off the bay to another further down the ward and we visit each other for a chat.  Dougie took a bad turn and was diagnosed with a chest infection,  I hope he perks up soon, he deserves a break.

My mum and dad visited in the afternoon slot and brought me a card and balloon,  it was at this point that I noticed the glorious weather outside and became immediately jealous.   I again walked to the end of the ward,  but with no epidural it has become more of a shuffle.

Inbetween my visitors the nurses came and took my bandages off.  This is the first time I had seen the full scar, 27 staples.  I was anxious to see Leonie for late visiting and show her the scar.  They haven't recovered the scar, but they sprayed it with a plastic.

Leonie and her mum visited and I showed them my neat new scar, I think it looks really good.  After they left I read for a while before dropping off to sleep.  The pain, although I am much more aware of it now, can be managed with the paracetamol,  which amazes me.  Another busy day on Ward 11.

Monday, 23 June 2014

Day 3 #nostomach

It's hard to stay asleep long on the ward, the blinds are thin so let in the sun and it's a hive of activity.  Another early morning wash, dress and walk.  Today I went to the end of the ward and back (about 100m) unaided, I surprised myself.

Shortly after the doctor visited me and agreed that the NG tube should be removed and I could start drinking 30ml an hour,  not much but a start.  The nurse extracted the NG tube (about 60cm) and I have never felt such relief. 

When my afternoon visitors arrived (Leonie, the boys and Janette) they said that I looked a lot perkier,  and I felt it too.  I walked to the end of the ward again with the boys, it was good to be moving much more freely now.  I was fully aware that it was pain free due to epidural,  and they had talked about this being removed over the next couple of days and that made me anxious,  at the moment I was happy to have no pain.

During the visit I played some games with Oscar and then he read to me, Sidney coloured in some pictures.  Whatever they do though makes me smile, and I think I'm the luckiest guy in the world to have these two little characters in my life.

The afternoon was slow but we had a chat on the ward, David, Dougie and myself while Mohammad slept.  The nurses, students and assistants are all really good and attentive, and they join in for a natter too.  I have made a few friends, Edward and Tom, Pat, Hannah, Becca and Donna.  Edward and Tom like sports, Pat has a lot of stories to tell, Hannah likes comics and Becca and Donna are good for a chat and couldn't help enough.

My evening visit began with Shelia, Dave and the three girls.  I have never been quizzed so much.  Evie looked a bit shocked and was the most intrigued.   They brought me a card and a green loom band.  Sheila and Dave were pleased to see me so well.  Karyn came to visit too and while she was here she updated me about the gossip from work and there was an awesome photo opportunity for her too.  My mum and dad came for a while too and it is good to see them,  I think they were pretty impressed with my determination and recovery so far.  At the end of a busy day I was able to walk them to the end of the ward and say goodnight before settling down in bed for the night.

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Ward 11 - Royal Preston Hospital

#nostomach #nocancer

I was up and washed quite early for a holiday (sic) and I managed to wash and dress myself.  Shortly afterwards I walked (shuffled) with assistance about 30 metres.  I was over the moon and really happy.  This really did set me up for the day.  However, after about an hour sat in my chair I had to have some help getting back into bed as I was getting weary.

It was also Dougie's birthday today and it is unfortunate that he has to spend his birthday in hospital, but as we keep saying to each other, we are recovering and we will all walk out of here.

I spoke to Leonie, Janette and mum on the phone and gave them all an update about my walking news.  The doctors also did a ward visit and agreed to have the NG bag removed, but the tube would stay for a further 24 hours.  Shortly after I had a surprise visitor.  Janette blagged her way in to the ward to visit outside of visiting hours.  It was so good to see her, she was the one who I had been missing from seeing before the operation, so we had a good catch up.

Janette left around lunch time and it wasn't long before she came back with Leonie and the boys.  When I saw Oscar and Sidney it brought a tear to my eye, it was so good to see my two best mates again!  They brought me a DVD player and some films but at the moment, my day is pretty full reading the magazines, books and papers I seem to be collecting.

Louise and Rose Bee also had come to visit and it was a full house over on our ward.  It was great to feel normal again for a few hours and have family and friends visit.  Sitting on a hospital bed for hours can be very boring, luckily me David and Dougie chat.  Stephen had left our ward and we were joined by the Master Deep Sleeper himself, Mohammad.  He was the same guy from ICU and when he slept it not only sounded like a train, it felt like one too, and he sleeps for about 22 hours a day.

In the evening Leonie, my mum and Janette came to visit.   I had quite a few visitors throughout Saturday and was feeling pretty worn out.   I needed to sleep and was fortunate to get some ear plugs and face mask.  I fell asleep in a good mood, ok I didn't have a stomach any longer but I also didn't have cancer, back of the net!

Saturday, 21 June 2014

CCU To Ward 11

After a pretty terrible night and some serious lack of sleep due to a moaning, wailing and loud snoring neighbour I was fully awake with the sun.

During the night I had some drip into my canula (possibly magnesium) that really did cause some pain and swelling in my forearm so they moved the drip pretty quickly to the central line and it was much more comfortable, the pain disappeared and the swelling in my arm went down.  As I hadn't really experienced any pain up until this point, the most distressing part was not being able to move at my legs at all.  I could wiggle my toes but had no feeling or movement from the ribs downwards.

I had to be moved upwards on the bed by the nurses and I felt weak.  However, the main thing was that the cancer had been removed.  In the morning Leonie and her dad came to visit me and that perked me up a bit, a little later I had more visitors, my mum, Sheila and Dave.  I think Sheila was a little apprehensive about seeing me, but I was doing well and felt good considering I had had a major operation less than 24 hours ago.

I wasn't feeling hungry but I was still nil by mouth and I was thirsty, I was dreaming of a milkshake.   I had an NG (nasalgastric) tube in and this was quite irritable.   Every time I swallowed I had a pain at the back of the throat. 

The nurses were doing a fantastic job, and Fiona was great.  Chris Ball, my surgeon, came to see me and told me that the operation went as well as it could have and that there were no problems.   He even hoped that I could leave CCU sometime today.  I also saw his colleague Mr Ward who agreed I was doing well.  After a good morning my arterial line and central line came out and I had a bed bath.  With the help of the physios I made it from one bed to another before being taken up to ward 11 which would be my home for foreseeable future.  I had some pals on the ward, David; Dougie and Stephen.   I also had a good view of Preston.

After settling into my new home, my mother in law came to visit as well as my mum and dad.  All were pleased to see me and were impressed by my progress.  Within 24 hours I had had my tumour and stomach removed and moved from intensive care onto the ward.   I was feeling great and had some good ward buddies too.  I was introduced to the new nursing team and fell asleep.  The day had been long and I was tired.

19th June 2014

I went done to anesthetic at 11.15 am.  First thing to be done was the canula, which I never find to be a problem and today was no different.  However, by the time I had the arterial line in I was shaking quite badly with nerves, so they gave me some drugs to calm me down.

The arterial line was painful and the needle alone was a couple of inches long.  I was sat up on the bed for all of this as I was also being prepared for the epidural which goes into the back.  I don't actually remember the epidural going in, but the last thing I do remember was the time being 12.15.

I woke up around 5pm and was in and out of consciousness for an hour before I fully came round.  I don't remember much of the next two hours, but I do know I was in recovery and waiting for a space in the Critical Care Unit or ICU.  When I was finally transferred at around 8pm I was lucky enough to have a window slot.

I was introduced to my nurse Fiona and she was really good, however shortly after it was all change as the night shift came on, my new nurse was Caroline who was also very nice.

Leonie and my mum came to visit me and were a little shocked at how well I was doing, I even managed a few jokes.  It was time for them to leave as I entered a pretty sleepless night, not because of pain but more my next door neighbour who was either snoring really loudly or moaning and wailing -great!

Thursday, 19 June 2014

The Big Op

I didn't get much sleep last night and was awake for my obs to be taken and to have my last pre-load drink.   I had a quick shower and changed into my gown.

Boy am I nervous, but soon I will go down and get my epidural and then into theater for 3-4 hours.  I will wake up today no only without a stomach but without cancer.  I am shaking a little and keep needing the loo, I just want to get it started then I can see Leonie and my mum.

I spoke to the people I needed to this morning and it is good to have so many people wishing me luck.  A strange thought is that people will be reading the LEP column as I am having my stomach taken out.

I have just met the ward sister, Louise,  she is very nice and is looking forward to having superman back in a dew days!

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

The Last Days of Having a Stomach

The last couple of days have been pretty good and I have been happy.  Monday was just another day at work and I handed over my work to various people.  On the way home I got the tyre fixed on my car.  At home we spent time as a family, just the four of us, and I loved it.

Tuesday was my last day at work and I was going to get a few last bits completed and say my goodbyes, I wouldn't be working again for at least 12 weeks.  At lunch Karyn asked me for a quick meeting and I was ambushed.

The whole office had come to wish me well, I was presented with some gifts and a huge card that everyone had signed.  I found it all overwhelming and emotional.  I thanked them all and had a tear or two and manged to drop my glasses while wiping them away.  They were all so generous and kind, I never expected so much support!  In the afternoon I dressed in my new spiderman onesie before heading around the office to say as many goodbyes as possible.  Everyone was fantastic and offered so many kind words, it took me about 20 minutes just to leave!

My mum came over in the evening so Leonie and I could have a meal out, my last BIG meal.  We went to Duk Pond in town, we had never eaten there before.  I had Strawberry Steak and it was literally steak cooked in red wine and strawberries; it was delicious.  The evening was good, it was nice to talk openly with Leonie and not be interrupted;  we both admitted we were a little worried,  but then again it is major sugery.  We agreed that being practical about the situation had helped, but also all the support from family and friends had be awesome.  I also admitted that whatever happened,  the last week had been great and I jad never been happier,  I have had my family and friends around me and I have fun.

After dropping Oscar off at school on Wednesday,  we made our way to Sheila's to wish her happy birthday, after a nice brew and a good bit of GF cake we went home and I packed.  We had a quick bite to eat before picking up my mum and then dropping off Sidney at Grannys, it was a bit of a whirlwind morning.  We made our way to Ward 3 and my obs were taken, unfortunately my bed wasn't quite ready so they asked me to come back at four.   We had a coffee and some chips at Booths and saw Anne, so she joined us.  Afterwards Leonie and I walked around the hospital together in the sun,  it was a pleasant afternoon. 

We went up to Ward 11, where I was to stay the night.   I had been given my own room with a view over Preston.  Leonie and my mum stayed for a short while before going to get yhe boys after I had settled in.  The nurses visited to again take my obs and give me my socks.  I was also visited by the anethetist and the doctor, both of whom were great.  In the evening I led on my bed and watched the World Cup.

I managed to speak to the boys and say goodnight to them, they were a little confused.  I spoke to my sisters and watched the day turn to night.  In less than 24 hours I will have no stomach,  but more impotantly the tumour will also be gone and I will be on the road to recovery.

The last week has been great, it couldn't have been any better. I am happy and content and look forward to waking up afterwards.  Thank you to everyone who has wished me well, I will see you all shortly once the tumour has gone.  LOVE YOU ALL!

Monday, 16 June 2014

Anniversary BBQ

The weekend was almost here and on Friday it was a good day at work. Now the world cup has started, it was Football Shirt Friday. I wore an England top and everyone was full of good spirits in anticipation to Saturdays England game against Italy. I even got away with wearing shorts too! For lunch we were having a Jacobs Join, but unfortunately most of I couldn’t eat as it had gluten, I was Ok though and got a bag of popcorn as well as some nice cheeses and coconut macaroons. I even got a present from Emily who is on maternity leave and came in to visit.

When we got home we played “world cup” with the boys, basically we chose a country and it was two versus two. We won a cricket bat (instead of the world cup) for the first team to score three goals. It was so much fun and the boys loved it, and they also did a bit of geography too. In the evening we did a lot of tidying up ready for our guests at the weekend.

The following morning was much the same as the previous night, tidying and getting ready for the BBQ. It started off really bright in the morning but as the day went on the clouds came in; fortunately it was dry all day. Around lunch Ema and Dan arrived from Wales and I took Dan for a quick shopping trip for a few final bits. While we were there Dan was mistaken for David Beckham, a regular occurrence!

We started off with a glass or two of Bucks Fizz before anyone else arrived, I picked up Stacy and Luke from the station and when I arrived back there were quite a few arrived already. We had loads of fun and a lot of people arrived during the day probably around 30 plus plenty of kids, the BBQs did well. It was good to see so many people and have a good gathering before my operation. The party continued through to the football; we watched the England game and I was a little drunk, we enjoyed the game but England lost 2-1. I went to bed late and fully dressed.

Ema, Dan, Gemma, Sam and kids and Stacy all stayed over so we were looked after in the morning with everyone pitching in, we had breakfast, got the kids up tidied up all pretty well. Later in the morning Paul even helped change my tyre on the car as I found a screw in the wheel when I took the bins out. This made us a little late for Sheila’s birthday meal, but it was soon forgotten about as we enjoyed a meal for her celebration. Sheila’s birthday is on Wednesday, but that’s the day I go into hospital so went for a big family meal to San Marco. They were very accommodating for the three coeliac’s; my mum, Sheila and myself. It was fathers day too so my dad got some cards from us and its funny that I see my dad in me quite a bit. As we left Ann gave me a little bag. I was given a card and some bags of sweets as well as a nice little gift. The card read on the front “Be Bold, Be Brave, Be You” and I will remember this over the next week.

As it was fathers day we went to see Leonie’s dad as well and had a brew while Oscar did his homework. Leonie is staying with them on Thursday while the boys stay at Sheila’s and I recover from my operation. In the evening we watched a bit of football and went to bed early.

I struggled to sleep and had a bad night. I was thinking of the next couple of weeks and how daunting it is. I have to admit I am a little scared and apprehensive. The operation doesn’t bother me too much but thinking about the period soon after, I wonder how difficult it will be, with a couple of days “Nil by Mouth” and then the learning to eat and control my diet afterwards. I stayed awake a long time thinking and worrying myself about what it will be like before finally getting to sleep.It was a good weekend and had been a lot of my focus over the past few weeks, but now I have the operation looming and I just hope it all goes well. We have planned what the boys are doing and when Leonie can come and visit. I need to be around people and I want Leonie and my family to be with me and come to visit when possible. All of my family have been really great and they are all pitching in with the kids and helping Leonie. I only have a couple more sleeps before going into hospital, but then they will have the cancer out and I need to concentrate on my recovery.

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Pre-Op Assessment

The day started with us taking Oscar to school and I popped in to let them know I will be going into hospital next week and to keep an eye on Oscar.  We then went for a quick shop for the BBQ food, I had an hour before my appointment at the hospital.  I dropped off Leonie and Sid at home and went to my appointment on my own.

I was in the waiting room when Claire Searle popped in to see me.  As the Pre-op was running behind, she did my obs (blood pressure/heart rate/temperature/height and weight) before I went in to meet Maria.  She was such a lovely nurse.  She asked a few questions then took a few swabs before telling me that I would now need to have an ECG done before seeing the Pre-op sister.  

The ECG was done very quickly, and without much of a wait, the nurse even said it was the most normal heart beat she had seen in a while.  I was given an envelope to take back to the Pre-op assessment and I waited to see the sister.

Sarah was also a very nice lady, who was a little upset as most of the information she had, had already been given to me by Jeanette the upper GI nurse.  She then went through my medical history in depth, asking lots of questions.  As it was now nearly lunch time she offered me a lunch voucher for the hospital restaurant.  

I went in and asked which were gluten free (there wasn't much choice) but I chose to have a salmon and onion fritater, I've never had this and quite enjoyed it.  For pudding I had peach and strawberry jelly with cream and it was all washed down with a nice cup of tea.  So far my day had been good and I sat on the hill outside the hospital in the sun for a while before my next appointment, I was really looking forward to the bike test.

After lunch I went back in and sat for a while in the waiting room.  A few people came and went and a doctor came in and the receptionist pointed at me, the doctor looked at me and shook her head, before disappearing again.  A few minutes later she came back, and I was again pointed out by the receptionist.  The doctor walked over and called my name, she was surprised that I answered and then asked if I would follow her.  On the short walk she told me she was surprised to see a young and healthy looking patient and that the bike test may not work as it was set up for weaker people.  I was sat down next to the bike and a two further consultants (one male, one female) explained that as I looked fit and healthy, they would put me on the toughest setting to try and get a reading.  I had to do some breathing into the machine to get a normal reading before getting on the bike.  Once on the bike with the mask strapped around my head, I was plugged into a heart monitor, similar to the earlier ECG.  They told me that I had to keep a cadence of 60 (I usually ride at 90) and that I couldn't talk throughout the test.

I then began and I concentrated on the numbers before me, trying to keep to 60.  It was easy to begin with, and I wasn't really trying, then after a few minutes she increased the resistance, this went on for what seemed ages and she asked if I wanted to stop.  I nodded yes as I was snow struggling to maintain a cadence of 60, although I was still riding within the range which was above a cadence of 55 and below 65.

She took of my mask and I was sweating, she asked me to cool down on the bike while she gathered the results.  When I sat down she went through the results.  She explained that they would see an average of 8-11, while 17 was excellent - I hit 34!  She told me that if I had continued for another minute I would have beat the bike and I wouldn't have got a result.  She finished with telling me that I was close to an elite athlete.  The female consultant called over the male consultant and she asked him to guess the result, he guessed 25, when she told him, he walked out muttering (I think I beat his score!!)

She took me back to the Pre-op room and asked for the results to be printed before telling me I could go.  Emma was in chemo today so I went over to see her.  We had a chat about the operation and she told me how she was doing in Chemo.  We had a few laughs and I was there for over an hour before realising the time and getting home.  Sid had had his first induction day at school and he told me he enjoyed it and was looking forward to next week where he would go for the induction on his own (Leonie was with him today).  The boys were being a little awkward so we got them bathed and into bed pretty sharpish before we settled down to watch the first game of the world cup.  In a week from today my stomach will have been removed.  I had a rum and thought about it.  The nerves are increasing, not so much for the operation, but the time after the operation, especially within the Intensive Care Unit.  Once I am out of there it will be a pretty straight forward recovery, and my time in ICU will only be two to three days, I am hoping I can get up to the ward as soon as possible and then I can enjoy my recovery, when I get home, I can then enjoy it on my own terms.

8 Years

We celebrated our 8th years of being married on Monday and although I worked, when I got home we had a nice meal that Leonie had made, slow cooked ham joint for me which was perfect.  As normal we got the boys to bed then we had a few drinks to celebrate, the big celebration will be at the weekend, when we have our annual BBQ.  The weather wasn't looking to good however.  The last eight years with Leonie have been great, we have had some awesome holidays with family and friends, or just by ourselves.  We have moved house and had two little dudes, Oscar and Sidney, it really couldn't have been more perfect, that was until January.

Although this cancer has been a bit of a struggle at times, Leonie has been my best friend, but more importantly my rock.  I wouldn't have been the person I am today without her, and certainly wouldn't have been coping so well if I wasn't with her.  Not only has been supporting me, but she manages everything so well, she is my own personal Wonder Women, I now know how Steve Trevor feels (geek alert!)

Apart from the last 6 months though, Leonie has been a great partner and back at university, our friends used to say that I was the male version of Leonie, and that she was the female version of me, we couldn't be better matched, and I love her so much. I am looking forward to the weekend so we can celebrate with everyone (almost) that we care about, and it usually a good get together anyway.

Tuesday and Wednesday I was at work.  On Tuesday there was the most awful thunderstorm that I have seen for some time, the car park flooded and I had to climb into my car through the back door.  When we got home, the garden was like a swamp at the back, and the front was also flooded.  If it continued throughout the week we would probably need to cancel the BBQ, out of the 7 years we have had the BBQ, only one of the years it rained, all the other times it has been glorious sunshine, I had hoped this year it would be the same, but today it didn't seem likely.

Wednesday brought back some better weather and it did dry up enough to mow the lawn, but it was still damp.  In the evening we tidied up the garden before relaxing and watching the final episode of season three of Breaking Bad, as my friend Rob said, it was epic and I can't wait for season four, but this will probably be after my operation.

In one week I will be in hospital enjoying my stay on the eve of my operation.  On Wednesday I had a chat with Luke at work and although I don't want to think too much about it, there is a slim possibility that I may not leave hospital and he wanted to make sure that the family, Leonie, Oscar and Sidney, would be ok.  This stark realisation made me think about this possibility, I hope that in 8 days time I wake up with no stomach as planned and then I can begin my recovery, but if I don't then I am sure that family and friends will help Leonie and the boys, financially they will be ok as we have insurance in place, but I do worry about this, and it was good to speak to Luke about it as I can't/don't want to speak to Leonie about it.  It upsets me a little and these thoughts are being pushed to the back of my mind while I concentrate on making this week count.

Tomorrow I have my pre-op assessment and I am sure that my fitness will not be questioned, but the tests will let us know how my body will be able to cope, and I am quite looking forward to it secretly.

Monday, 9 June 2014


My working week was pretty straight forward, albeit busy. We have been working on a project to improve the efficiencies of the team and it is due to be rolled out soon, the week I am due to go to hospital for my operation, so the pressure is on to get all the work completed. On Tuesday evening Zoe came over again and she promised to come and visit me while I recover, I don’t doubt this as both Laura and Zoe have been visiting a lot while I have known about my cancer. Wednesday evening, after our Sunday afternoon in the garden, spurred me on to try and finish laying the four flags in front of the BBQ, unfortunately I only managed to get three laid, leaving one sole flag that I must get down, but the whole area is looking so much better than it was just a couple of months ago. When I look at the garden to how it was when we bought the house, it has changed dramatically, and I have a lot of people who have helped in the process, but I have more plans and it upsets me a little that I couldn’t get it all done so I can just sit back and enjoy it while I recover. It is, however, good to get the majority of it done. I know when I am sat in the garden over the summer that I will be planning what I can do next. While I was at work on Thursday I missed a call from Jeanette (Upper GI) and I tried calling back, they wanted me to go in on Friday morning to discuss the surgery with Chris Ball. It was Chris who had told me about the cancer way back in January (it seems so long ago now) and he was the surgeon who would carry out the operation to remove my stomach, and the cancer. When I got home I had a message on our land line, the appointment was for 9am the next day. After a few quick calls we had arranged to go and sorted the kids out as well as letting work know. Then we relaxed for the evening while it dawned on me that in 2 weeks time I would be waking up from surgery without a stomach. On Friday morning we made our way up to ward 11 at a little before 9.00 and were shown into the family room on the ward. Ward 11 is a specialist Upper GI ward at Royal Preston Hospital. Shortly after arriving, Jeanette came in to advise that Chris would be with us in about 15 minutes as he was just reading through my notes. Myself and Leonie were joking about and it felt like the time back in January when we were laughing and having fun while waiting to meet Chris for the first time, and then we found out I had cancer and my world changed. Chris walked in and asked how I was and then told me he was pleased with my progress and that the results from Monday (the breast scan) had come back fine. He was very informative and went into all the details of what would happen and when. He told us all about the surgery and the recovery and what to expect every day for the first couple of weeks. I wasn’t worried about the surgery, but more about the recovery, and Chris was able to answer all our questions and put my mind at ease. We were with him for about an hour while we discussed the next few weeks. I was told that the whole stomach would be removed and that all the surrounding tissue and lymph nodes would also be taken. This is to reduce the chance of the cancer returning. He also advised us of the risks associated with the surgery and went through the details and how I could help in reducing any problems after surgery, it was a lot of information to take in but I’m glad he went into so much detail. The statistics surrounding the surgery are a worry but he told me that he would normally be carrying out this operation on much older people and that he would not expect any problems with the surgery or recovery. I was previously told that I would be in hospital for 10-14 days, but he was optimistic this would be reduced to 7-9 days for my case. He also told me that on the day I am admitted (the day before surgery) I would meet him again and also see the anaesthetist, the same guy who had covered my earlier operation back in February. He was very re-assuring and was happy to tell me that he had carried out the operation many times before; it was a straight forward three and an half hour operation, although he did say it is major operation and that I should take my time to recover. After he left, Jeanette went through some further details about the Intensive Care Unit and the ward and all the pipes that I would see coming out of me and what they all did, no stone was left unturned and all aspects of what would happen were covered by either Chris or Jeanette. We were then given a tour of the ward and introduced to some of the nurses. I also got to meet the dietician, Richard, and he seemed like a really nice guy (as did all the nurses on the ward). I was given some booklets and leaflets to read along with a diary or what I was expected to do each day and also a blank diary to record everything for the first couple of weeks. I dropped Leonie off at work before going to work myself. I sat with Luke for a while discussing some work but also mainly my meeting at the hospital. In the afternoon I spoke with David O’Keeffe (Karyn’s manager, as Karyn is on holiday this week) and it was a relaxed day compared to the rest of the week at work. In the evening my mum and dad popped over and I told them all the meeting and Leonie went out with Zoe for some drinks so I spoke to both my sisters about all the information I had received and I couldn’t stop thinking that it’s now less than 2 weeks away. On Saturday I had planned to take the boys pond dipping, but it rained so hard so we had a lazy morning before going shopping with my mum in the afternoon. We went back to my mums for a brew before getting home and having a takeaway with Oscar and Sidney and watching the final of Britain’s Got Talent. The boys love the programme and it was good to have some family time. Sunday was brighter and Leonie was working so in the morning I laid the last flag and did some weeding in the garden while the boys played. In the afternoon my sister and her family came over and we built Sidney’s new bed while all the kids played together. In the evening we watched some TV and relaxed after a busy day, ready for work and school on Monday. I only have 6 days left at work and it is a little scary knowing it is now so close, but I remain positive that it will all be fine and I will be itching to get going afterwards and move on from this. Meeting the surgeon and discussing everything in so much detail, lets me know what I can and can’t do (or won’t be able to do). It makes me determined to come back from this stronger and fitter. It will be a massive change to deal with, a changed way I consume food and drink, but if I can get this right, then there should be nothing I can’t do. I will lead a normal life once I get over the surgery and I intend to do so. I was given some information by Jeanette about a support group if I needed it, but reading the documents shows that a normal life can be achieved after such a major change and I will hold onto this thought when its tough going in a couple of weeks. One aspect I am upset about is not being able to see Oscar and Sidney for a few days. I don’t want them to see me with pipes and tubes coming out of me everywhere (and I am glad that they won’t be coming to visit me in intensive care), but I want them to visit me on the ward, mainly to show them that I am ok. I have chatted with them both to let them know I won’t be here for a couple of weeks, and to help me afterwards. They have both been superstars and understand that I will be poorly for some time. I worry for Leonie too, she will have to run the house and sort the kids out by herself, as well as looking after me. I should be moving well once I leave hospital but it will be difficult and tiring, but she has been so strong throughout the whole thing since we found out. I can’t understand how she has kept it altogether, if the shoe was on the other foot, I’m not sure I would cope. With me, I know myself and can deal with it, but if it were Leonie, the person I love, who was in this situation I would be scared for her. That goes for the boys too, I don’t want to see them in the same situation as me, and it would break me! With this in mind, I think of my family, my mum and dad and sisters and although I know I can get through this and come out the other side, it makes me think of what they are going through as well. I just hope it all goes smoothly and next year we can look back at this and see how it has changed us all and made us all stronger.

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Catch Up

It’s been a while (I apologise), and I thought that over the last couple of weeks its been quite normal, however on reflection its been a bit of a roller coaster. I really didn’t think that people would be that interested either in my normal everyday day life, but after speaking to people they have questioned why I stopped writing. Its not that I have stopped, its just I haven’t had much to say but, I now have plenty to say so here goes. Towards the end of my last cycle of Chemo I felt fantastic, in the last week the Monday and Tuesday were great. I went to work as normal and in the evenings Leonie I just watched Breaking Bad, I love the show, but don’t worry the similarity stops at cancer (I won’t be cooking meth!). I also started tweeting a bit. I had an account for DC Fitness Planning, a sideline that I started and never followed through with due to the obvious circumstances that happened. The twitter handle is @DCFitPlan. I have been tweeting quite a lot and will continue to do so, so follow if you want. On Tuesday evening Emma and I were texting and she told me about a friend who she had made that had quickly gone down hill in her condition and had sadly passed away, she was younger than me and that scared me a little. Wednesday I was again back to work and it was busy too, the team have been fantastic throughout and I owe them a lot. I finished Chemo on the Thursday and I felt excited, no more tablets for a while. We were busy at work planning for the Gluten Free Friday, I left early in the afternoon to go and visit Emma at Rosemere, she was having a full day of chemo so I went at 3pm and stayed a couple of hours. When I arrived she was playing board games with Ian, her husband and Carl and his wife. We talked about everyday things, it was good to see her happy. Friday was Gluten Free day at work as it was National Gluten Free week so we had Gluten Free treats (Haribo and Crunchies) and we made a trip to a Gluten Free bakery to get some pies for lunch. There was also a Gluten Free bake off and the cakes were later sold to raise funds for Rosemere. In the afternoon Luke and I did some presentations and that ended a busy week. At the weekend, Leonie was working on the Saturday so I took the boys to a birthday party and then we played in the local park, it was a warm and sunny day. In the early evening Ema, Dan, Gemma, Sam and the family came over, the kids all had fun and then we had fun drinking and laughing (a good medicine). Perhaps we drank a little too much, but when we get together we all have so much fun. Sam and Dan even had an “Egg Roulette” competition which Dan won. On the Sunday morning Gemma wanted to go for a run so we did a 7 mile route. What inspired me was that Gemma may go slow, but she doesn’t give up, she is one determined runner. It was a hot day so we took it easy. In the afternoon we were joined by Laura and tried out the new BBQ; with a few tweaks it works well. Then we just relaxed in the garden for the afternoon. The following week was just another week as normal. On Monday morning I went back to Cop Lane School to watch Oscar in his first School Sports day. I even got to join in and it brought back so many memories of being there myself as a kid. Oscar’s team won the day (but I’m not competitive). In the afternoon, I went back to hospital for another CT Scan to see how the Cancer had reacted to the Chemo treatment. I wouldn’t get the results straight away and they would call me later in the week to let me know. In the evening I noticed I had a small lump under my right nipple and I began to worry about it. I spoke to Leonie about it and we decided that I would call the oncology team tomorrow and book an appointment with my GP. I worked on Tuesday and Wednesday. During Tuesday I rang my GP, Dr Ravi and booked an appointment for the next day. I also called the oncology team and they told me that there was probably nothing to worry about but they would refer me to the Breast Clinic. Wednesday morning I attended the appointment with Dr Ravi and he had a look and a good feel, he told me that it was probably a blocked duct that had been caused by the Chemo drugs but he also advised that I should get it checked out with the Breast clinic. I then went to work and in the evening was parents evening at Cop Lane for Sidney, We chatted to the teachers who mainly discussed how good Oscar was, but it was meant to be a info evening for new parents. We also spoke to Chris Teague (School Governor) and Miss Carter (Head Teacher) who both asked how I was and it was nice for them to take time out to speak to us. On the Friday we travelled down south to stay overnight at Leonie’s sisters. Normally the drive would be easy for me to do, but now it really tired me out driving the distance. On Saturday we had a slow morning before leaving the kids with Amanda and Paul and went to Becca and Ian’s wedding. Becca is a really good friend of Leonie and I get on really well with Ian. We met with another Becca and Ian and enjoyed the wedding. During the photo’s I went to congratulate the newlyweds and Becca broke down saying that she was happy for me to be able to make it to the wedding. I had to reassure her that I was fine and that I wouldn’t have missed her big day. The meal was fantastic and mine was all Gluten Free (specially made for me, I am privileged!) We checked into the hotel as we were staying overnight (without kids) meaning we could let our hair down and enjoy the evening. Everybody I spoke to only had good wishes for me, some complained that I hadn’t written the blog for a while. The first dance was awesome; they had prepared a medley of songs and a full dance routine. The evening was full of dancing (to the live band) and drinking and we were the last one’s to go to bed. In the morning we got up the same time as normal, it’s hard to get up at any other time, and we made our way down to breakfast and I had two cooked breakfasts as I was so hungry. We made our way back to Amanda and Pauls and in the afternoon we went to the park as it was another sunny day. We get looked after at Amanda and Pauls and they can’t do enough for you but on Monday we had to tear ourselves away, but we were due to visit my twin sister in Wiltshire. We had both booked the week off so were going to do as much as possible, getting a visit to my sisters was long overdue. I hadn’t seen her for a while so it was good to catch up and talk. The kids again all played together and they all went for a walk while I had a nap to catch up on sleep. Janette is always good to talk to (although sometimes she can talk for the both of us) and it is a shame she lives so far away and we don’t see each other as often as I would like. Although it seems like a busy weekend it was good to have a few more days at Janette’s to not only break up the journey home but to let the kids play and to relax a little more. Unfortunately it was only a flying visit overnight; we spent the morning at Janette’s before we had to return home as we were due to have a sleep over for the boys and have their cousins, Amelia, Lottie and Evie. They all stayed up past their bedtime but they all had fun, although Amelia had a bad cough. On Wednesday we spent the day at home with all the kids. I popped out for my dietician’s appointment at the hospital. The doctor was really pleased with my progress with the Gluten Free diet. Since I first saw her I had put on a full stone and now weighed more than ever before, coming in at 9 stone 7 pounds. We talked about what would happen after my surgery and she told me not to worry too much and more information would be offered to me at the time while I was recovering in hospital. I also spoke to the upper GI nurses about the results from my CT scan, but they couldn’t offer much info, just that the tumour had reacted well to Chemo. They did tell me that the surgery had been provisionally booked for the 19th June and it would all be confirmed in the next few days. In the evening I went out with Rob to the Ferret to watch some bands, a bit too Emo for me, but we had a few drinks so it was a good night out. Thursday was a lazy day due to the weather so we played indoors with the boys and watched a film. I got a letter to confirm my pre-op assessment on the 12th; it’s a bike test some I’m looking forward to it. Leonie started her driving lessons in the evening. She said that she did well and I hope that she gains confidence and gets herself passed soon. Friday was a good day as were able to get in the garden; it was a sunny day. I wanted to finish the BBQ and tidy up a bit. I mowed the lawn after breakfast and the boys were playing both inside and out, its good to have them running around and listen to the stories and worlds they make up. Leonie cleaned the house and I did some bricklaying. It was a really productive day and the boys were good playing and enjoying themselves. In the evening Bobby visited and we watched England’s warm up game against Peru, they won 3-0. We don’t get to see Bobby much as he now has little Hayden who is 6 months old. On Saturday we pottered around in the morning, I had gotten my letter to confirm the Surgery on the 19th but I would need to be admitted on the18th, but that’s all it said really. After making a few calls to my mum and bother in law, Dave, we got ready to visit Stacy in Leeds. Leonie took Sid to a party before we set off. It only took an hour to drive over and I always shock myself by actually how close it is. Stacy is always a good laugh. She had bought loads of Gluten free food; I came home with a bagful. We had a few drinks and I always laugh so hard with Stacy as she is so surreal and quick witted. In the morning it was nice outdoors so we sat in the sun and played Britain’s got Talent with the boys, they perform an act and we pretend to be judges (don’t worry, we got to all do an act … several times!). On our way home we dropped Stacy at the station; she was off to see 1D, and treated the boys to a MacDonald’s. We got home and relaxed. Monday Leonie went to playgroup with both boys as a parent helper. I picked up my mum and we went to Chorley to see the Dr Saidan at the Breast Clinic. He checked them out and said he thought it may be a reaction to a drug I was taking during Chemo but it wasn’t anything to worry about; he advised us that an ultrasound would confirm it. He had seen my CT scan results already. I waited for the ultrasound which was about 5 minutes. I looked at the screen but I didn’t see much, I didn’t know what I was looking for to be honest. I went back in to see the doctor and he confirmed it was a build up of tissue, he said that if it continues there were drugs, or I could have the tissue growth removed, but he wouldn’t do anything at the moment. That left me pretty pleased and relieved. In the afternoon I called the Upper GI Unit to ask about the operation as I wanted a bit more detail. They told me they were arranging a meeting with the surgeon and me but I was going to have the whole stomach removed and that the tumour had shrunk but they didn’t say by how much. They told me about the pre-op and said they hoped I would be in hospital for 10-14 days. I would have a dietician at hospital and they would help with the diet afterwards. I called work and took the afternoon off. Laura and Lee popped over for a brew as they had booked the week off. I am feeling great but a little nervous; the operation is now a little over two weeks away. I keep joking that I hope they know which organ to remove. I would like to know how long the operation will be and am anxious to have it over and done with. This will be the worst part but after it the tumour will be gone and all that remains is the recovery (I’m not worried about that, I can be lazy for a while!) and a few more sessions of Chemo. Then its remission and I can get on with my life. This operation will be the biggest hurdle as far as I’m looking at it, then once it’s over that I can get back to normal, it may take me a while but I have the rest of my life to do it.

A Sunny Day with My Family and Friends