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Thursday, 31 July 2014

Family Fun and First Run

The weather was good on Monday so we took full advantage and went on a family adventure.  We just stopped off in town to get some crocs for the kids.  When we were looking around a lady approached me and asked to shake my hand.  I accepted but then thought I should apologise as I didn't recognise her.  She stopped me and said she only knows me from reading the Lancashire Evening Post and that she has been following my story in the paper.  She wished me well and told me I was an inspiration.  This isn't the first time that I have been recognized either.  But they all say that I inspire them.  What they don't realise is that these comments really motivate me to be stronger and fitter, so I guess its a good mutual benefit for everyone.

We drove up to Brock Bottoms near Beacon Fell and parked up at the picnic site.  We got the kids in their new crocs and decided to walk up the river Brock.  I really love this little babbling river and the surrounding valley and recommend it to everyone.  It's so peaceful and pleasant.  The river isn't deep but the water is crystal clear.   We all splashed around and when we found a sunny spot, we let the boys play while Leonie and I sat on the rocks skimming stones.  It is a world away from everything else and its these types of places that let you forget about all your worries and just be in the moment. I get this a lot while I run too, thats why I love running so much.  Running keeps you healthy, completely de-stresses you and just allows you to be you.  You don't need to run quick or fast, just go out and move, be alone and get close to nature.

When we got home, I arranged to go running that night with Lisa McLoughlin, we run together alot when we need training or just company and she has helped me a lot this year.  We set out and decided that a slow 5k was in order.  We started off slow and it felt comfortable so continued.  We did walk a couple of time but did the route in just under half an hour.  Towards the end my shoulders were hurting a little but I was holding myself rigid while running.  At some points it did feel like there was a concrete block around my midriff but all in all, a successful outing.  I'm glad I could get out, as I want to have a few races towards the end of the year and see where my fitness is going into next year and the Coast to Coast training.

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Family Days

I woke up on Saturday in much better spirits, we were all on holiday together.  We didn't have any concrete plans but as the sun was out we made a picnic and headed out to Southport.  We went on the Lakeside Miniature Railway before having our picnic lunch on the park.  We went back on the train and had an ice cream and drink.  Later on we walked along the beach and tried to reach the sea.  It was a fantastic day and the boys loved it, we all had so much fun.

Everything I ate went down successfully and I felt great, and I also didn't have any problems driving either.  I was a good day all round.

Sunday started out a little fraught, the boys were a bit awkward and nothing was going our way.  We decided to take the boys out to get some fish in the afternoon and after shopping around bought a fancy fish bowl.  We have to wait to get some fish but we set up the bowl ready.  Then the boys played in the garden for the rest of the afternoon.

In the evenings we have been watching the Commonwealth Games and have been really excited to see the home nations doing really well.  We enjoy watching different sports and I even got to watch the Hungarian F1 too which was exciting.  The weekend had been fun packed and we all  enjoyed spending time together, its good to have my family around me and the boys are enough entertainment on their own.  It really was an awesome weekend and one which I will remember for a long time.

That Friday Feeling

Over the last week or so the mornings have been proving difficult.  After I wake up I have about half an hour to get myself together before I spend some time on the toilet.  This can be between half an hour to an hour and isn't too pleasant.  But once thats over and done with I'm ready for the day.

During the day and quite randomly I also get a sharp shooting pain just above my left hip (nowhere near the wound site) and it can make me double over and wince in pain.  It can last a couple of minutes or much longer.  It's like an intense stich.  Throughout the day I have the same pain but I can cope with it as it is a dull ache.  Next week I will mention it to the oncologist.

On top of this I also sometimes get a pain in my chest when I eat and have to stop for a while until it passes.  However, all these are manageable and I would much rather deal with these in the short term and not have cancer. 

This morning I got an email to tell me I had won a competition to win over £500 of running kit, coaching and a race entry in October.  I have been entering a few competitions while I have been off and was really happy to find out that I had won.  I will need to go down to Surrey for a photo shoot next week and have an interview and they want me to blog about the experience and my training up to the event, I will keep you posted.

Both the boys have now finished school and nursery and this was our first full day together.  To help out the in laws were coming over for the afternoon and we had planned to go out for lunch.   We went to the local pub and I ordered a light bite gammon.  I began my meal and after about a third needed to rush to the bathroom.   I felt like being sick but couldn't.   I could feel a blockage but I couldn't shift it.  As I have no stomach I find it hard to be sick, but my mouth floods with saliva, so much that my mouth fills within seconds, I guess this is me being sick nowadays.

I went back to the table and spent the next 20 minutes running back and forth to the bathroom to try and shift the blockage but nothing worked.  I decided to go back home and asked the in laws to bring the kids back when they were ready.   On the way home I had to stop a few times to empty my mouth of saliva - it was horrible and continued for another half an hour once I got home.

Everybody arrived back home and the boys rode their bikes outside showing off to granny and grandad.  The rest of the day I needed to relax, I hadn't eaten anything all day and I felt very weak and shaky.  Friday really was the worst day by far, but tomorrow would be better as Leonie was on holiday and we would all be together.

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Sidney Turns Four

The week started off quietly,  it was just me and Sidney on Monday and we got my bikes out and cleaned them up and did a little maintenance,  I even managed a 5 minute turbo trainer session before needing a sit down. 

Tuesday I drove Sidney to nursey, my first time driving since the operation and it went well.  Looking back over my shoulder is a bit of a struggle but overall driving was good.  I had got my independance back and won't need to rely on others for lifts (although having people helping out over the last couple of weeks has been appreciated).

On Wednesday it was Sidney's 4th birthday.   We took Oscar to school for his last day before going to pick up Sidney's bike.  He had wanted a builder bike for months and when we got home and the bike had been built we could hardly get him off it, he loved it.  We picked up Oscar from school, the last time of the shool year and we started to get ready for the party.

We were having a BBQ for his birthday with family and friends.   It was a good evening and Sidney was spoilt with loads of presents, lego, clothes, superhero stuff, a bit of everything really.  It was a tiring day and we finished it off with a drink or two while watching the opening ceremony of the commonwealth games.

Thursday was Sidney's last day at nursery, so Oscar and I had the day together.  After a slow and relaxing morning, in the afternoon,  Oscar rode his bike around while I had a walk.   Both the boys are loving riding their bikes, watch out Brownlee brothers, in 15-20 years it will be the Clark brothers at the games!  This was  even more evident when Sidney got home and the two of them were racing each other up and down the road on their bikes for hours,  I love watching them enjoying themselves, it puts a big smile on my face and im thinking that this summer holiday will be awesome together.

Ironkids Weekend

On Saturday it wasn't very nice weather wise,  continuous drizzle but the boys were really excited to be taking part in the IronKids race in Bolton.

John came to pick us all up and he drove us to Bolton town centre.   We arrived and parked up and the rain got a whole lot heavier.   We went to the start area and Oscar was running first.  Leonie ran with him and he was super quick and  finished with a big smile on his face.

Last year both the boys were amongst the youngest kids taking part and many of them were carried by the parents for some of the route, and in some cases all of it.  The run is 500m.  As a pushy dad I refused to carry them and told them that they had to run the distance themselves - and they did, although they both finished near the back of their races, I was so proud as they completed the race on their own.

This year was no different.   I ran with Sidney,  and although he was slow to begin with,  I told him to run faster, and he did, leaving me well and truely behind him.  In the last 100m he began to tire, but I encouraged him to continue
  He finished the race and ran straight into the tent to get out of the rain.  Again I was proud of my two boys! 

I had also run for the first time since my operation,  500m and I got beaten by a 3 year old and was knackered.   The boys collected their medals and Sidney met the Mayor of Bolton too.

After the race we came back home and I needed a lie down, it will take me a while to get back to full fitness.  In the evening Leonie’s family came over and we had a takeaway.  The boys cousin,  Thomas, stayed over too which the boys enjoyed.

Sunday we celebrated Sidney's 4th birthday with Leonie’s family and had a picnic at home, he opened up some presents and it was a good weekend, especially as we had Leonie with us for the whole weekend (she usually works on Saturday's).

I was feeling a whole lot better by the end of the weekend compared to the previous week.   Things were looking up for me.  I was getting over my conjunctivitis and cold sores and felt much stronger too.  I don't mind admitting that during the previous week I had been feeling very sorry for myself, but having an event like the IronKids really helped me to come around and appreciate having my wife and boys around me, Oscar and Sidney make me so proud every day and Leonie has put up with a lot recently,  in affect looking after three kids.  I appreciate everything she has done for me, she still refuses to let me do anything and waits on me so much, making sure I am ok and over worrying about me - but I wouldn't have it any other way.

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Why Does it Always Begin With C?

Waking up on Monday was difficult.  Not only did I wake up exhausted and with a headache,  but I couldn't open my right eye.  After bathing it, I realised it was weaping and was swelling.  Not only this but I was getting a couple of cold sores.  I called the doctor and got an early appointment.

Dr Ravi told me that I had conjunctivitis and was concerned that I may have Neutropenic Sepsis.  He took some blood samples and told me he would check these and call me back if there were any problems.  I was instructed to bath my eye regularly with hot water and get plenty of rest. 

In the afternoon, I stayed on the sofa watching TV with Sid and had some cuddles.  Sid cuddles really nicely when he wants too and today was a good cuddling day, just what I needed.  My eye and mouth become progressively worse over the day and we went to bed early.

Tuesday started as Monday did, but my eye was so much worse, almost at the point where I couldn't see out of it and I looked as though I had been boxing.  On top of this, my mouth was in some serious pain as my lips had swelled along with my nose with a nice covering of cold sores and I had mouth ulcers too.  I called the doctor again and I got another appointment.   This time he was shocked to see how badly the infections had taken hold so quickly.  He joked that instead of a 24 hour call back he would put me down for a 12 hour call back as I seemed to like infections.  He prescribed me antibiotics, eye drops and aciclovir (more medication).  luckily although my blood showed signs of infection, I hadn't gone neutropenic, however if it got any worse I would need to go to hospital for IV antibiotics.  I got home and sorted out my tablets and settled down to watch TV for the day.  I caught up on the TDF while drifting in and out of sleep, I had a very restful day.  My mouth was in so much pain I struggled to eat throughout the day and drank through a straw.

This was probably my lowest day so far,  not only did I feel terrible,  I was in pain, poor vision from a gammy eye and I really wanted to hide away from everyone.  People who suffer from cold sores can probably agree with me that they are not pleasant.  They hurt, really hurt.  Combine these with a swollen and weaping eye and mouth ulcers - this is not my prettiest day.

Wednesday was much the same but I managed to have a bath.  I don't have any energy or motivation to do anything.  I rarely get dressed.  I've barely been able to eat and live off Ensure drinks, milk and blackcurrant juice - this week so far has been hard and it has nothing to do with having no stomach or cancer.

The best bit of this week is the help I have had from my mum and John, they have both been great.  Along with Leonie, she always has a way of putting things into perspective and bringing me back to reality.

Weird Weekend

Waking up on Saturday I felt awful; like I was full of the flu.  I was being picked up with the boys to go to Sidney's sports day and end of year play.  It was hot, very hot.  We dropped Sid off before going to my in-laws.  We walked to the park to watch the races and Sid did very well after an initial stall of not doing the first race.  My only problem was that there was no shelter from the bright sun and I was baking.  Oscar even got to run in a race too.

After the sports day we went back to nursery and had a drink and something to eat before watching Sid take part in his end of year play.  He sang and danced his heart out and it was awesome to see him perform; something he loves doing anyway.  He sang along to Olly Murs, Katy Perry and the Frozan song, which is now his new favourite.

During this time I was progressively feeling worse,  so when we left we all went straight back to our house and had something to eat,  before I went to bed for a couple of hours.

When Leonie got home the in-laws left after looking after Oz and Sid for the afternoon.  The nurse popped in to give me my injection and then Ema and Dan arrived.  It was a different night than the usual ones we have with them, we chatted loads and were way more civilised.  We had an Indian takeaway and I had a couple of ciders.   I enjoy their company and they have been really supportive and great friends throughout.

On Sunday we woke up and I felt better than the previous day.  We had a fry up and relaxed; played computer games and just enjoyed the time that Ema and Dan were there before they left.  As the afternoon drew on I began to feel worse again and my right eye began to really hurt.  We watched the world cup final and it was a great match and I was happy that Germany won.  Shortly after we went to bed after an exhausting weekend.

It's weird that you can feel on top of the world one day and the next feel that all this has been ripped away from you.  On Thursday I felt so strong and unbeatable,  two days later and I was feeling exhausted and weak.  This last week has been a real rollercoaster, and a bit of a wake up call that I should really be taking it easy, I would like to say that I have learnt my lesson, and next week I will slow down, I need to.

Rollercoaster Recovery

Last week started off not too well.  Monday and Tuesday were a struggle with eating; trying to get the balance right is difficult.  Having to eat small amounts but also enough to satisfy my hunger and need to maintain my weight is hard.

On Tuesday I went back to the hospital and saw my Coeliac dietician, Dr Sharma.  He hadn't seen me since December and was shocked to read my notes and see what I had been through over the last 6 months.   Although he was also suprised at how well I looked and also at the movement that I had gained back, only having the operation a little over two weeks ago.

He explained that he had seen this cancer before, but never in someone as young as myself; he would expect this in patients who were 70 years old and above.  We went through my notes and he showed me some pictures of the tumour from the endoscopies.  He told me that the tumour was about 3.5cm and was protruding into the lower portion of my stomach,  if left it would have blocked the passage of food.   Also he explained that it was caught just in time; another couple of months and the outcome would have been very different.  This news puts the situation into a harrowing realisation.  If I had not gone to see my GP when I did, this situation could/would have been terminal.  I cannot believe how lucky I am.

On Wednesday,  things started to look up and as it was Leonie’s last day before going back to work we took Sid for a walk.  It was a pleasant day and really nice weather, I felt optimistic that my recovery was over the worst parts and my movement had gotten a whole lot better too.

With Leonie back at work on Thursday and the boys at school and nursery I took the opportunity to go for a walk.  My intention was to go for about 2-3 miles;  2 hours later I got home having covered 6 miles in the sunshine.  I felt awesome although tired.  I got home and had a bath and drifted off to sleep.

Friday I planned to go to work to see everyone.  I was only going to pop in for an hour or so but time ticked by and before I new it I had been there for over 3 hours.  It was good to see everyone.   Everybody at work has been really supportive and it was good to catch up.  I walked over to my in-laws and we had lunch out. I felt great and was enjoying the glorious weather that we were having.

In the evening Louise and Rose came for a quick visit and we all went to Cop Lane School Fair.  The kids loved it and even got to meet the Deepdale Duck (PNEs mascot).  Even though the week hadn't started great, by the end of the week that had changed and things were looking up

Sunday, 13 July 2014

First Long Walk After the Op

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Sunday, 6 July 2014

Awesome Weekend

The sun came out for the weekend and we started off the weekend with a good cooked breakfast before filling the paddling pool for Oscar, Sidney and Rose.  They got their costumes on and enjoyed playing in the water while the sun was out.   Leonie popped out for some shopping while Louise and I watched the children. 

After lunch Louise had an appointment so we looked after Rose and as it was such a glorious day we simply sat outside soaking up the sun.  I watched a bit of TV inbetween my stints in the garden, catching up on the F1 qualifying and also the Tour de France.

In the evening we had a delicious lasagne before getting ready for bed and having an early night.  It had been a completely relaxing day, but one to remember as everybody was in a good mood and had enjoyed the weather.

Sunday was due to be busy.  We went to church as it was Amelia's confirmation; a few people came to speak to me directly to wish me luck in my recovery and also to congratulate me on how well I had already done.  It was a good service which was delivered by the Bishop of Blackburn, one of his last as he due to retire later this month.

After the service, we went back to my sisters house to celebrate not only Amelia's confirmation but also Sheila's 40th birthday.  Dave cooked on the BBQ and we again sat in the sun and enjoyed a good time spent with family and friends.  We had a few drinks and plenty of food.  Just simply sitting in the sun with good company is really enjoyable and makes me happy and content.  If only every day could be so good.

We made our way home in time to get the boys to bed and also for the nurse to visit for my fragmin injection.  In the evening I was tired so watched the sport of the day to catch up before getting myself to bed ready for another week.  The weeks are ticking by quickly and my recovery is going well.  Soon I will out and about more and before I know it I will be back at work as if nothing has happened.

Saturday, 5 July 2014

Friday Full of Firsts

In the morning Leonie and I had some time to ourselves and we did a few bits around the house and I watched F1 practice for the British Grand Prix.  My mum and Sheila popped in for brew and a bit of GF cake.  Shortly after Jacqueline and John picked up Sidney from playgroup and then we went out to our local, The Brown Hare,  for lunch.  This is the first time I had eaten out since my operation.

I decided on a Chicken, Bacon and mayo Jacket Potato.  It was really good and I made sure to eat slowly so I could enjoy all of it.  The food went down well and as I had hoped, I did enjoy the meal.

I was confident I could manage some ice cream and decided on some mango sorbet and vanilla ice cream.  What came out was different from the picture on the menu, it was about three times the size of what I imagined it would be.  I took my time and finished the dessert, but at a cost; I felt very bloated.

I decided to leave and slowly walk home and sit upright to help digestion.   It took a while until the pain subsided and then I spent the rest of the day bloated.

In the late afternoon Louise and Rose came over and we planned for them to stay over.  The nurse came to administer the Fragmin and she recognised me from the paper column.  We had a chat and she was very nice. 

We had a late tea of sausage butties and then I tried my first alcohol since my operation.   I drank it really slowly and enjoyed having my first drink, so much so I managed another 2 cans although all night I was still bloated from the massive lunch that I was still trying ti get over.

After so many laughs we went to bed.  I was happy, after having eaten well and managed to have a drink as well.  I am moving through my recovery well and am looking forward to continuing through this and ticking a few more boxes and a couple more firsts soon!  Its been 2 weeks and a day since my operation and (touch wood) all is going well.

Back to Hospital

After dropping off the boys at school and nursery,  my mum took us to Hospital.  I didn't have an appointment, but I wanted to give the Critical Care Unit and Ward 11 some "Thank You" cards.  First of all we popped into the fundraising office at Rosemere to hand in our entry forms for the Cross Bay Walk in September.  We had a good chat and they told us that the Walk in the Dark which we took part in back in April had so far raised a staggering £54,000, so thanks to everyone who has sponsored us (if you haven't yet done so, you still have time, www.justgiving.com/teams/HRServices-Rosemere).

Afterwards Leonie and my mum had  brew in the cafe while I went to visit Emma in chemo.  She is always so positive and she is also excited for this weekend as it is Erin's christening.  We had a good catch up before we left to go to the Critical Care Unit.  Unforrunately I didn't see any of the nurses who cared for me but we had a chat with some of the nurses who were there and they told us they would pass on the card and also my thanks.

Next up we went to Ward 11.  We saw the ward clerk first and she was happy to see me so well, she had made sure that all my food I received was GF while I was on the ward.  We saw the sisters and passed them my card and they were happy that I had visited.  While we were there we also popped in to Dougie and he looked a whole lot better than the previous week.  He announced to everyone that I was the "Miracle Man", only staying in for a week.  I promised him that I would keep in touch and we swapped numbers; it was great to see an improvement in his health.

It was difficult walking around the hospital as I got stopped a few times with people saying hello and asking how I was doing; again I felt like a celebrity.  We made our way home and dropped Leonie off to get a few bits from the shop.

John picked up the boys and then stayed for a brew.  We chatted and talked about plans to raise some more funds for Rosemere and my thoughts turned to the event we are planning for next year; our Coast to Coast Run.  It will take a lot of training,  but should be achievable.   On top of that John and myself talked about a cycling challenge, one which is run by a company on behalf of cancer charities, Unite & Bike against Cancer.  I would love to do a challenge like that, several days of cycling in a beautiful foreign country; I can dream!

Lazy Week

On Monday Oscar went to school as per normal and Sidney went to playgroup.   This gave me and Leonie some time together and we used the opportunity wisely by watching some Breaking Bad; Leonie says I'm getting a bit obsessed with it.  We joined up to Netflix and got the final season along with some other shows that we wanted to watch.  In the afternoon when Sidney finished at playgroup we watched Frozen.

After school finished and Oscar came home we had a visit from Louise and Rose.  We had tea all together and it was a really pleasant day.

The following day both boys were out.   Leonie took Oscar to school and then my mum drove us to take Sidney to nursery.  As we needed a few bits, Leonie and my mum went shopping while I popped into work.  I felt like a celebrity, everyone wanted to say hi and check how I was.  I really enjoyed going In to work, even if it was only for a short time, but it was good to see everyone.

In the afternoon I went to see my GP, Dr Ravi.  He was interested to hear how I was doing and I explained that I had a bit of pain in my lower abdomen that was making it uncomfortable to sleep at night, so he pescribed me some Buscopan, along with a top up of Ensure and some GF food.  We took our time walking and it was nice to be out in the sun.

The weather continued to be good on Wednesday, so the three of us (Leonie, Sidney and myself) went for a stroll around the estate and I walked the furthest so far since my operation; it was slow and tiring but I'm glad to up and about again.

The eating had so far been going quite well with only a few times where I had to take a break from a meal.  It had been a little hit and miss but I generally felt good about eating and so far I had lost about 3kg since leaving hospital which isn't bad (I was back to my original weight).  For tea on Wednesday we had vegetable and bacon risotto.   About half way through my meal I didn't feel too good and shortly afterwards I was sick.  After a while I managed to finish my tea, but this was probably my lowest point and I was thinking "this is the rest of my life" and I wasn't happy.

I managed to get over that with the highlight of the day, moving from the spare room back to my own bed.  Never underestimate the healing power of your own home or bed.  Being at home enables you to relax much more and therefore heal yourself much better, even with the stresses of having two young children around,  I wouldn't change this for the world.   Having my family around me is so much better for me.

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Staples Out

Leonie wouldn't allow me to do anything on Saturday.  I woke up after a long lie in and as it was a nice day we spent the morning in the garden.   My sister,  Sheila, and her husband Dave came over and we swapped a gas BBQ for a big slide for the boys. 

Oscar had gone to a friends birthday party so Sidney got to play on the slide for a while before we walked over to my mum's house, about quarter of a mile away.  From here she drove us to my brothers grave.  It would have been my brothers 38th birthday.   He died of pneumonia a little over 8 years ago.  After our trip to visit him, my mum dropped us at home and Oscar was dropped off and he was gushing about holding a snake at the party.

The afternoon was relaxed and was good to spend time together as a family, both the boys playing on the new slide as we sat out in the sun.

The district nurse was due again in the evening and I mentioned to her that the wound was becoming quite painful.  She inspected the wound site and made the decision to remove the staples once she had given me the fragmin injection.  I was a little apprehensive about this and the idea of having the staples removed scared me.  The nurse went to work and to be honest I didn't really feel the majority of them being removed, but some felt like I was being pinched.  After a few short minutes she told me she was all done, I looked down at my stomach and saw what looked like a long centipede; a long curving line with little feet each side of it. 

On Sunday, Leonie's family were due to visit; mum, dad, sister, brother in law, nephews, and grandad.  We had a houseful and although I didn't do anything apart from sitting in a chair all day, by the end of the day I was knackered.  It was great to see everyone but I think for me there was a lot going on.  It was the first time we had seen grandad Rex in some time and today he learned about my current condition.

It was a happy day but tiring.  Overall since leaving hospital,  although it was only a couple of days ago and it now seemed an age ago, I had slipped into home life again so easily.  Leonie refuses for me to do anything and it already seems like she does so much.

Eating is still hit and miss and lunch times seem to be the most difficult meal, but it will take time to find a good routine and diet plan that works and that I feel comfortable with, I have to remember that Rome wasn't built in a day!