Monday, 31 December 2012

Bob's Farewell Finally Confirmed

At 3 o'clock today I had a call from the surgical consultant's secretary to offer me a date for Bob's reversal operation. 10th January it is then. So it's just a case of returning to work on Wednesday for a week and keeping away from any bugs that may scupper the plan. The other good news that I received over Christmas was that Helen (My PICC nurse pal from Weston Park) will be taking up a position at NGH (bad news for Weston Park though- she's the best) so I'll get to meet up with her at some point on one of my visits

Graham and Carol of the Parish Oven who made it all happen
Last night we had a bit of a belated birthday bash at the Parish Oven where I invited some of the people who have supported me over the past year. The purpose of the evening was to thank everyone for their support and not particularly to raise money, but if we could then that was fine. I wish that I could have invited more however there was only limited room. It was a good evening which I hope everyone enjoyed. We had a proper quiz, some pie and peas followed by a game of "Play Your Cards Right" and managed to raise in excess of £300 for Weston Park Hospital Charity which will be doubled by HSBC through the Parish Oven. Everyone who won put the money back into the pot for the charity. I also received £125 in birthday donations which we will  send to the Cavendish Cancer Care which is where I underwent hypnotherapy
So its a big Thank You to everyone including Graham and Carol of the Parish Oven for making the evening a huge success
You can see the pictures from the evening by following the link - unfortunately some folks had gone home before I thought of getting the camera out.
Birthday Bash Photos
John Swinglehurst has written an Ode to Bob which is posted below

Bob's been working for Dale
In this he never did fail
Now he's done all his work
Which he never did shirk
Time to go home, never to reappear
So that Dale can use his own rear
Goodbye and thank you old Bob

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Pre Op Assessment

I was back at NGH yesterday for a Pre Op Assessment prior to my illeostomy reversal. My health in general looks good with the exception of putting 2 kg on since March. I still have no date for my operation but it should not be too long after new year. I'm also still waiting for a date for a full body scan which I believe should happen 9 months after diagnosis to see if any cancer cells have migrated elsewhere
So it looks like Bob has had a reprieve and will see it through Christmas and into the New Year. Anyway his farewell party will go ahead on the 30th of December
Me on my first kayak trip since my diagnosis

This week I've been using up my annual holidays and it is good to have time off whilst I'm feeling well, so I've been walking locally and even had a day out kayaking in minus 5 temperatures on the River Idle with my mate Dave Wright.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Getting Back to Normal

Sunday 9th December
Top of Fairbrook
It has been a couple of months now since my last chemo session and I'm feeling something like my old self with the exception of my nerve endings and balance problems. I'm getting a little further with my running and yesterday Graham and I had a short notice jaunt up Kinder Scout which is a hill / mountain in the Peak district. Surprisingly there was a lot more snow up there than we though and you would think that I would still have some small level of sympathy owing to me, wouldn't you? But NO he allowed me to break trail through knee deep snow on the ascent to the top. I mean How Selfish Can One Be?
I was aware that I had some muscle wastage from the months of inactivity but this was the first time I had felt its effect as the snow collapsed on each step.
Graham near the Downfall
Once at the top we had an epic crossing the plateau to Kinder Downfall again wading through snow drifts and negotiating the deep peat groughs which is problematic even in the summer. It was good to be out enjoying the alpine like scenery. I just love Kinder Scout.
Knowing just how arduous and energy sapping this kind of walking was we decided to return  the same way following our own footprints. Back at the car, although I had had enough I was pleased in the way that I had shaped up.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Charity Gig No2

Phil, Mum and Me
 Sunday 2nd December
Over the last few weeks I feel that my progress has slowed or even gone backwards, whether or not it is due to going back to work too soon is up for debate but my energy levels are low and my nervous system just isn't getting back to normal. Over the past month I''m also more unsteady on my feet, almost falling over in the dark when I get up during the night and especially in the shower when I wash my hair with my eyes closed.
Since I'm going to have to wait a while for my reversal operation it is time to make an effort to speed up the process of getting the chemo drugs out of my system and to make a start getting a modest level of fitness back by doing a bit of running.. I don't know if there is any scientific evidence to support my theory that exercise can flush out the drugs but what the heck, does it matter so long as I feel it's working? Anyway I have made a start by going out for a short run after work including a longer run Saturday morning . Having done a couple of half marathons and run regularly in the past I was shocked just how weak my legs were and how out of breath I became having to run / walk the short distances. Even so I feel much better for it, being more alert, less tired. My new Nike Air Pegasus 28 trail shoes feel and look the business even though my body doesn't. We will see if my stamina improves over the coming weeks at a rate that I am happy with bearing in mind that that after the operation I will be dormant for a few more weeks.
Chris, Phil, Me and Ian

Last night I went to another charity gig organised by my sister Kay. The gig was at the Innings pub in Worksop and playing was Sheffield based band  Mahogany Newt.  The pub was packed with family and friends, some of which I hadn't seen for donkey's years. Thanks to the efforts of Kay and my other sister Cheryl the night raised over £2500 for Weston Park Cancer Charity.


Sunday, 25 November 2012

One Step Forward, Two Steps back

Sunday 25th
I have just returned home from a short weekend in Langdale to attend an FRCC Committee meeting. There has been so much rain this year that the hillsides are hemorrhaging water at an incredible rate. It was good to catch up with old club friends and to meet a few members that I didn't know.  The weather was not good and the high tops had a dusting of snow so not wanting to hold anyone up on a big walk I walked along Mickleden Beck alone, my legs feeling like lead weights. I enjoyed strolling along the riverside at my own pace, taking time out for drinks and snacks.
One of the problems being with so many people in the same place is finding the opportunity and privacy to tend to Bob's pouch including cleaning and changing so I was glad to be heading back home this morning for the privacy and comforts of our own home.
Stones in Mickleden Beck
Just to update folks on my recovery and reversal situation, I seem to have taken a few backward steps since returning back to work 2 weeks ago. I feel more lethargic  tired and the nerve endings in my fingers don't seem to be improving like they were when I was off. I just wish that I could have had a bit more time recovering prior to going back however everyone comments that I look so well that no one would ever know the trauma and treatment that I had been through.
I have had a letter from NGH noting that my Gastrofin test was normal and I have a date of 18th of December for a Pre Operative assessment. So will I get my Op before the new year? Who knows.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Evidence of Chemo Past

Sunday 11th November
We have just come back from a 5 day break at Hunstanton, staying in the Golden lion Hotel, where we had plenty of fresh air and mile after mile of walking beside the sea. I just love the seaside even when it is cool and breezy, which it was.

It has been 4 weeks to the day since my last 5FU canister finished and although I have been getting better by the day for the first couple of weeks progress has since slowed down considerably. The nerve issues that I have (Peripheral Neuropathy) relating to finger numbness, and taste still remain and any recent improvement is barely noticeable. 
Since I have been discharged from WPH I have had to do a bit of research myself to look into my most recent side effects. It looks like I have developed a rare case Lhermitte's Phenomenon (an electric-shock sensation shooting down my spine to my feet with neck flexion) this seems to be a  result of the Oxaliplatin infusions. Further reading suggests that symptoms may take up to 9 months to resolve.

My finger nails are showing a record of the chemotherapy treatment sessions just like the rings on a tree stump. Obviously this is due to the nail bed cell destruction after each cytotoxic hit.

I have had no news or results from my tests over a week ago so it is not likely that I will admitted next week for a reversal so even though I'm not quite ready I have had to make a decision to return back to work in order to bank some more sick time which will be needed later. This must be a typical scenario for many cancer sufferers who have to provide for the family whilst recovering from major operations or intensive radio or chemotherapy.

Tuesday AM Update 04.00
I arrived home yesterday from work totally whacked so I was in bed by 8.30 pm waking again at 01.30. Sleep eluded me for the rest of the night with my mind on overdrive from the previous day at work. Add  to this tending to Bob's pouch and snoring noises emanating from somewhere in the room, it is hardly surprising that I failed to drop back off. Even the relaxation techniques learnt weeks ago did not work simply because I could not concentrate for long enough on the techniques without flashbacks to the overwhelming amount of problems that were awaiting to  be uncovered upon my return to work. It is difficult to sleep when confrontations are inevitable since the scenarios conjured up stress me even more. It is just a vicious circle so what else is there to do but get up and try to put some structure to resolving these issues. Surprisingly I have known more stressful and upsetting times in my life but not for such an extended period of time.

Friday, 2 November 2012

Violated Again

I attended the Northern General Hospital today for a water soluble contrast enema and X Ray (Gastrografin) to check out my internal plumbing and surgical  joints (Anastomosis) for leaks. I wasn't looking forward to it however it is the next stage in the route to normality. I cannot say that I am getting used to being violated by having things pushed up arse but if it must be done then I much prefer it to be a woman rather than a bloke performing the task. Laying on my side on the X Ray bed, knees up I prepared for the tube insertion. "Please try to relax" as my backside twitched like a rabbit's nose. The sensation of the liquid being pumped in was uncomfortable and slightly painful in between body rotations to capture all angles of my large colon. Everything looked fine to me as I studied the screen, however the pipework appeared pretty straight compared to diagrams that I have seen. I was Just at bursting point when she drained the fluid out. Since there was still quite a lot of residual fluid left in my colon It was good to know that I could control myself as I gowned back up and visited the loo to relieve most of what was remaining. The consultant radiologist warned me that the fluid did have properties that would make me want to visit the toilet frequently throughout the day .
Back at home I have had what feels like a stomach upset which I feel will not go away until I'm fully empty.
So it is a case waiting for an appointment to see the consultant for the results and hopefully a date for a reversal.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Stanage Pole Dancing

I have had a fairly active week and I'm feeling better by the day although I still have not quite got over the finger numbness plus about a week ago I developed a strange nerve related side effect where if I move my head quickly I feel a shock type sensation in my feet. I still tire quickly and occasionally feel sick.
Stanage Edge

Sunday I went to support my niece Emily in the Worksop Half Marathon as well as watch my brother's grandson (Kieran) in the Fun Run. Both did fantastically well completing their races in style. I was so envious and wished I could have been a part of it again.

Monday - Wednesday In a drive to get fitter both Sue and I went for hour long "power walks" either at Clumber Park or beside the Chesterfield Canal.
Graham Pole Dancing - Stanage Pole

Thursday - I went out with Graham to the Peak, Starting at Stanage Edge walking to Stanage Pole, Redmires Reservoir , Over the Halam Moors to the Head Stone, crossing the A57 and walking around the perimeter of Furnace Hill, Moscar Lodge and back over Stanage Edge. All in All 20km. I was totally knackered and It was a good job  I had my walking poles. I could have done with a shorter walk however I wasn't going to wimp out on Graham's original planned route. I could imagine the banter on the quiz night "We had to cut it short cos Dale was tired" " - No Way so I said "If we are out for a walk then we are out for a walk old lad" " Let's Crack On"
Graham climbing onto the Head Stone

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Charity Gig

Sunday 27th October
I was out last night at Firth Park WMC with my siblings, family and friends for a charity gig in aid of Weston Park. My sister Kay and her partner had organised the event which raised in excess of £2000. Playing was a local rock band called Coyote plus a support band. Both were good and we all had an excellent night.
My Bro Phil, Me and my sister Val

Sally and Sis Cheryl 

Big Al and Bro in Law Rich
Sis In Law Diane and Phil
Friends Rachel and Julie

Sorry Kay no pic of you for some reason

So how am I feeling 2 weeks after the final chemo cycle? Well I'm still shattered even though I'm sleeping well. I had a day in the White Peak with Graham, John and Dave on Thursday walking from Youlgreave  to Robin Hood's Stride, Elton and Middleton and even on the smallest of hills I was getting out of breath. But what you expect after 6 months of chemotherapy? To be as fit as a fiddle?
Nine Stone Close Nr Robin Hood's Stride

Another bit of good news is that I have had an appointment through for next Friday to attend the Northern General to check out my internal plumbing for leaks prior to a stoma reversal. This is the next target

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Philosophical Reflections

The Chemotherapy treatment is complete and I'm awaiting an appointment to see my surgical consultant at the NGH to get a stoma reversal. This is the next objective in my quest to put Humpty Dumpty together again, however I still have to get over the side effects from 6 months worth of cytotoxic drugs. It's been another tough session to get over but it is the last one and I have shaped up pretty well considering.
The word Journey is so overused nowadays when people describe either an American rock band or a series of experiences or stages that aims to some sort of preconceived conclusion but at present it is the best word to sum up this roller-coaster ride.
Up to now I'm happy with the way that I have handled the whole ordeal however time will tell in the months or years to come whether I will have the mental strength to cope with the uncertainty of a terminal illness. I'm hoping that I will just get on with life, making the most of any free time and make a full recovery. What I am frightened of is that if the worst come to the worst, that I won't take it like a man and crumble with the thought of an early end..
My approach, right or wrong has been to concentrate on the immediate, impending targets, however small. For example this could just be an operation, an appointment for chemotherapy or a day in between chemotherapy when I start to feel better, not that I had to do anything for that but it was a step closer to the goal and something that I didn't have to go through again well not for that session anyway. All are milestones that I don't have to pass again.
 I associate the process akin to climbing a big mountaineering route where we firstly gather as much information as possible, prepare mentally, get to the base of the route then take one pitch at a time with its associated difficulties prior to tackling or even thinking about the next pitch. This approach avoids crumbling under the combined stress of thinking of the expedition as a whole, therefore the climb is split into a series of smaller goals, not just one big objective. Eat an Elephant, one small piece at a time.
I also think that it is also not worth wasting time, energy and sleep worrying about things that you cannot do anything about so it is best to package these fears up and lock them away in some box in the corner of your mind until the time comes, or not to deal with them. I do however do a quick check to see if they are still there before quickly closing the lid. I think that it is best not to deny that these demons exist otherwise I won't be prepared to tackle them when the time comes. Some would say that this is an inability to come to terms with the facts and possible negative outcomes , I would say it is living for today.
I constantly try to draw upon the positives like I remember the time of the diagnosis when my consultant stated that it would have been "A different story if I had left it another year!" and the fact that I don't believe that my symptoms were associated with the tumour, so I'm really lucky in an unlucky way.
To say that there is a 1 in 3 chance of developing cancer the I'm glad its me and not any other of my nearest and dearest. Let's hope I'm the only sacrificial lamb and the one that got away.

Monday, 15 October 2012

Where and What Now?

My last canister emptied a couple of hours early last night so disconnected it myself and flushed the line out. It is hard to believe that it is 6 months since I started out on this chemotherapy journey, it has gone so quickly.
This morning I'm wide awake and up at 4.00 am so catch up with Merlin on iPlayer. I can already feel weakness creeping into my muscles and even though I'm struggling to sleep I feel absolutely shattered. Prior to my morning shower I'm glad that this is the last time that I will need to wear my waterproof plastic sleeve to protect my PICC dressing and I won't be sorry to see the back of it however I'm increasing aware that I will miss the relationships built up with the nursing staff bat WPH especially Helen and Rachel.
In the waiting room Helen winks and calls me in to remove the line which takes all of 30 seconds including noting the slight resistance caused by the kink that caused so many problems. She said that I should rest and give it a few days before I decided to "Go out and save the World". As I have already said she has a way with words that puts things into perspective. With my arm cleaned up and the PICC entry dressed I'm ready to go but before that I hug and kiss both Helen and Rachel and thank them for everything.  On the way out there is a mixed feeling of relief that the chemo is over and sadness that I will miss the support and friendships developed whilst I have been there.
Back at home the phone has not stopped ringing with friends and family checking up to see how I am.  I have no intentions of moving my arse from the settee for the next few days, not until I'm feeling half right anyway.
So what Now? Well I'm waiting for an appointment at the Northern General for follow up monitoring and Stoma reversal. Helen did say that she knew the support nurses who would be looking after me there and would pre-warn them that I would be coming. Is that a compliment?
Tuesday Update
Had 12 hours in bed last night with maybe 9 hours sleep so felt reasonably refreshed when I got up at 09.45. My arm has already healed where the central line entered so It was good to get a shower and wash it properly however it is somewhat red and irritated from the months of being covered up with a dressing.
The refreshed feeling did not last very long and the transition hits you like a brick wall when you attempt to string moves together, like pegging the washing out, not much I know but it feels like an hours worth of digging. I cannot wait until I can taste food again, my finger numbness has gone but most of all feeling good enough just to get a reasonable walk in the fresh air.

Friday, 12 October 2012

Twelfth and final Session

At Last - I've made it! Another Milestone and a step closer to normality. The last 6 months has flown by, where has it all gone? Where has the summer gone or did it come at all?
Arriving at WPH 1/2 hour early gave Sue and I a chance to catch up with Lorna in the waiting room. She gave us some great news that her Tumour markers had dropped dramatically over the last few weeks since she was following the guidelines from the book that I had given her ("Anti Cancer - A new Way Of Life". For the sake of 14 quid It's the best thing that I have done in ages and even if it is not directly linked, the positive mental boost will pay dividends. Anyway in the treatment suite we got to sit together to chat more.
There was no Dave (the Housekeeper) this week so we were tea-less for most of the day, relying on the WRVS canteen on the ground floor.The nurses today were run off their feet with drip pump alarms sounding  all of the time. Lesley, the Sister in charge was especially under pressure to keep all the plates spinning. For her it was a case of leading by example.
When it came to my turn the trick of cranking my arm worked again to get the line to flush and draw back blood so the whole session went without a hitch.
I'm pleased to say that I have achieved the goal of 12 treatments even though both Helen and Sue thought I maybe ought to miss the final session because of the side effects building up beyond what they thought was acceptable. "Be Bold and Mighty Forces Will Come to Your Aid" (King) You just don't achieve anything worthwhile by stopping short on your expectations. If my body  could not physically take it then fair enough but this has never brought me to the point where I had doubts whether I could carry on.
At home I'm already feeling weary - so will the steroids prevent me sleeping again tonight?
I have an appointment on Monday to get my PICC line removed when I will finally say goodbye to all the nurses that have looked after me. They are all beautiful both on the inside and out but I will miss 2 or 3 of them in particular. It will be difficult to make my transformation into the 'Mad Shagger' for the appointment whilst I'm mid session but a wet shave, plenty of moisturiser, a decent hair brush and some aftershave might go someway towards it.
I have had so many phone calls and visits from friends and family over the past months that it is overwhelming - Looks like the birthday party is on for December to thank everyone for their support.

Saturday AM Update
Managed about 11 pm until 2 am I did try to get back to sleep using some of the techniques learnt last week however the steroids are too powerful for my busy mind to overcome so decided to cut to the chase and get up. Then after catching up with Horizon and The Sky at Night on iplayer (Patrick Moore looked and sounded worse than I do) I got back in bed at about 5.20 am. Today I'm going with Sue over to Bolsterstone, which is a village next to Stocksbridge so she can have a day dancing. Since Hairy Arsed Climbers Don't Dance I will be returning home and picking her up later tonight.

Thursday, 11 October 2012


Thursday Morning 11th October
Yesterday I was at the Cavendish Center for my hypnotherapy session with Vanessa. Sue thought that there was no way that she would ever put me under because I would not let her. Resting in the recliner with my feet up, mood music playing in the background the work began setting the scene. I decided that I had to give it my best shot. Then she began but not like the stereotypical hypnotist that most people think of like "look into my eyes, not around the eyes, but into the eyes" but in a whispering soothing voice

"I want you to listen for the noises outside the house, maybe the traffic
Now inside the the house, all houses have their own noises
Now in the room, maybe you can hear your partner breathing?" (Don't you mean SNORING?)
I almost began to giggle but managed to restrain myself. Once into it her voice began to relax me, feeding all sorts of comforting cozy thoughts. I felt totally relaxed almost dozing off however I can do this any afternoon of the week on our sofa or even laid out on the Peak District heather on a windless day but was this the trick? Just think I'm on Kinder Scout on a sunny breathless day - yep, that's the picture.
Then just like Little Britain's Kenny Craig 3 2 1 your back in the room.
I felt slightly light headed but no different than after my afternoon nap, anyway another session is booked.
I don't have problems getting to sleep initially but wake after about 4 hours to tend to Bob. The problem is getting back to sleep once I have woken so last night I tried some of the techniques and managed to drift off after about 20 mins - So did it work? - we will see when I have got the next session's steroids out of my system. No amount of relaxation therapy will make me sleep when I'm on those.

Today It's my blood test but I have a feeling that I will only get half my drugs this time since my fingers are still numb from the last session and another dose of Oxaliplatin could cause irreversible nerve damage (or has it already done this?) plus it is also the drug that causes my platelet levels to plummet. So will I get all, half  (5FU) or nothing?

Thursday Evening Update
Just got back from my last consultation with the Oncologist and I'm on for my 12th and final session  with a platelet count of 98. Looks like I have winged it again and long may it last. I mentioned the finger numbness however he felt that this was OK. Whilst having my blood test Helen had a few words with Sue about the mental anguish and the feeling of helplessness that some patients suffer when the chemo is over and it becomes a waiting game to see if the dreaded disease has been eradicated  I suppose for some every day may be spent with an overwhelming feeling of paranoia and constantly in fear, with every twinge, ache and pain spelling doom. For me personally I have other milestones to overcome before that point when I feel that everything that can be done has been done. At least I won't regret not having the full 12 doses.

Monday, 8 October 2012

Busy Week Ahead

Monday 8th October
It has taken a few extra days to get over this session, not that I really get over it fully. Even though I'm feeling fine doing nothing I know that any proper exertion will leave me knackered and drained. The worst side effects this time, apart from the lethargy have been numb finger ends. Today I have been to the Cavendish Cancer Care centre to see the Medical Herbalist for dietary advice. I have put as bit of weight on which has concerned me and I'm already thinking about gradually starting to get fit in 3 or 4 weeks time, when I'm picking up, so I've been looking for a really good pair of trainers with plenty of cushioning for my poor old knees. Anyway it looks like I'm eating too many carbohydrates (which converts to sugars) that is causing me to snack so the advice was to reduce pasta, bread and rice etc and increase protein intake with nuts, meat, oily fish and pulses, so reducing the sugar highs and lows. She also wanted to see me eat more veg but Bob will have to work hard to cope with more fibre.
Wednesday I'm back there to see the hypnotherapist for relaxation tuition then Weston Park on Thursday (Last Blood Test?) and Friday for my last Chemo session (with any luck).
My old mate Steve D completes his course of radiotherapy tomorrow so I wish him loads of luck.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Only a Few Words to Say

Thursday Evening - Almost a week on from being poisoned for the 11th time
Not much to say except as dart commentator,Sid Waddell might say "There's Only ONE Word For it TIRED and ROUGH"
Just to lay it on for the sympathy vote - not that I'm attention seeking, my Arms and legs are like a rag doll's, staggered and almost fell over twice today. To top it off I've had to give the quiz night a miss - What is it coming to?
Will tomorrow be any better?
You bet
Friday Update
Managed about 10 hours kip last night in between getting up for a couple of hot orange drinks and dozing to Dark Side of the Moon. Once awake I consciously took stock of how I felt, a bit like waking from a coma and checking if I had all my arms, legs and if they moved. A quick scratch of the testicles and I knew I was feeling better than of late since when I have been rough I haven't even bothered if I had any.
Spent most of the day busy doing nothing which included watching a movie with my little girl. Sue changed my PICC dressing for the final time tonight and made a good job of it too but it is nice that we are starting to count down events that will see an end to the treatment and bring us all a step closer to normality.

Friday, 28 September 2012

Session 11 by the Skin of my Teeth

I have felt reasonably well from Monday on considering, so I have been into work a couple of times to sort out a few things that was playing on my mind. Now that is done I can settle down (maybe)
2 weeks from now I will be on my last cycle then its a case of getting over the build up of toxins prior to a stoma reversal hopefully in November. It is not until now that you realise how much support you receive  from the nurses at WPH. Angels indeed. I understand that others who are in greater need than myself need access to these special people, but I have had a lot more than my fair share of attention from at least two of them. So what will I feel like when the chemo is over and their help is no longer there?
Thursday 27th September
Prior to my Blood Test Sue and I attended the Cavendish Cancer Support Centre for a counselling assessment. It’s Sue that needs counselling not me - she is the one that has to sit back helplessly whilst I feel that I'm doing something about it. The main reason for the appointment was not for counselling but to get some hypnotherapy in order to help me get back to sleep once I had woken during the night however when asked about other concerns I noted that I was unhappy with the amount of weight I was putting on. It's my sweet tooth. The outcome was that I left with appointments to see a herbal dietitian and a hypnotherapist just prior to my 12th and final treatment. The morning appointment at the Cavendish Centre meant that we had a fair amount of time to kill before my appointment at WPH so opted to get the blood test out of the way then have some lunch hoping that the results would be back before the consultation. Blood test done we settled down with a coffee and scone and upon the last mouth full I was called in for my consultation.
The Oncologist was obviously concerned that my continued low platelet count may mean not completing the full course on all of the drugs notably the Oxaliplatin which affects platelet production with the risk outweighing the benefit at this late stage.  I have set my stall out for 12 full blown sessions so I'm not interested in packing up now even though he quite clearly stated that "Chemotherapy Can Kill You"

 Anyway the blood results had not come back yet. He carried on to say that after my final cycle he would contact my specialist surgeon's secretary to to hand my case back over, then hopefully My stoma reversal would get under way 4 to 6 weeks later followed by a full body scan in December. Hopefully it will be "Happy Christmas - everything looks Fine " For now anyway.
Back home as expected a phone call confirmed that the platelets were a little low again and that I needed to be back at 08.30 for another blood test. With my "Glass Half Full" attitude I never doubt that I'll achieve the magic 100 but in an attempt to remedy the situation later that that night I had 2 pints of medicinal Guinness at the Parish Oven - We didn't win the quiz even with 32 points.

Friday 28th September and PICC Problems Again
Up at the crack of sparrow (05.30) and in WPH for 08.10. Dressing changed but there is no joy on the flush or blood draw back until I crank my arm to get it working then I'm back to the waiting room until the results come through. Launa (the young lady who I sat next to last time for treatment) came into the waiting room  with her husband and sat opposite for a chat. I handed over my copy of the Anti Cancer book that I had read hoping that it would give her some ideas of how to improve her condition.
 2 hours later - BINGO - platelet count 103 - Yippee - GET IN, obviously the Guinness did the trick.
Rachel , the ward Sister set up the drip but there's still a problem getting the drugs to pump in so it's a case of bending my arm again and holding it out to one side - I'm conscious that everyone will think I'm gay with such an unusual pose but every time I straighten my arm the pump sounds an occlusion (Whilst no one was looking I craftily reset the pump myself). 2 hours in this awkward pose seemed more like 3 but it is a case of grin and bear just to get through it. Helen called to check out this recurring, unusual problem but felt that we could manage the situation at this late stage without any interference to the line. She remained with me to administer the 5FU and to connect the canister even though it is not her job. Special treatment? - You bet - not only that but I got a peck on the cheek as I was leaving from my other fave nurse Rachel - just in case this was the last time that she would look after me.
ONLY 1 MORE TO GO and I think that in time my hair will come back thick and darker than before - No Grey - as if by magic.Life on the bottle

Sunday 30th AM Update - LIFE ON THE BOTTLE

It was a long Friday Night on the bottle having just 3 hours sleep and being fully alert throughout Saturday so I thought that Saturday night would be better - But not really having  just 4 hours sleep. But what's new. It  maybe a sub conscious thing not being able to settle back down after tending to Bob's pouch because that is what I expect so therefore I don't even try. The strange thing is that I don't mind since it gives me some quality time alone, either blogging, writing or surfing the web.
The good news is that changing my tablets seems to be doing the trick to stop me feeling sick.
I'm now on 1 x 20mg Omeprazole at night and 1 x 30mg of Lansoprazole during the day. Both do similar things by reducing stomach acid build up that causes irritation and acid reflux (heartburn). If they work this well for the whole of next week then I'll be a very happy bunny.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Eight Green Bottles

Tuesday 18th September
As expected at the beginning of the treatment the toxic accumulation of the cytotoxic drugs was predicted to gradually build up towards the end but in my case it feels like a train crash. From Sunday onward I have felt very tired, sick and lethargic. Miserable springs to mind. I have hammered the Donperidone (anti sickness tablets) almost to overdose and persist in keeping food down by closing my eyes and swallowing deeply and repeatedly. I have also had problems focusing my eyes today which does not bode well for an accurate assessment during my annual eye test tomorrow.
All I can do now is rest up but with the weather now feeling autumnal I really would like to make the best of the outdoors before winter sets in. Since I have already had several conversations with Helen (and Graham) on the subject of taking it easy and not risking setbacks, will common sense or my ego win?
The end is now in sight but I'm not looking forward to the last 2 sessions if it continues to be as bad as this.
I counted up the empty 5FU canisters yesterday just to make sure I had not miscounted the sessions. Eight bottles in all - WHAT - Only EIGHT - are well then it dawned on me - the first was session done in hospital as an inpatient and the second was disconnected and disposed of in hospital on the day ward - PHEW
We have just had some lovely braising steak with mash and veg for dinner (my favourite meat) but it was a shame that I could not fully taste it. I'm now starting to miss some of the more delicate flavours, only temporary though I hope.
On the positive side Bob seems to have settled down a little, He has shrunk back in size (not fully mind you) and I've managed to get the soreness under control but after such a late, big dinner he will be working overtime tonight.

Wednesday Update
I had a reasonable night's sleep last night getting nice and cosy under our new winter quilt. makes a change from the last 2 nights when I took the hot water bottle. I may have got 9 hours which was interrupted by Bob a couple of  times, so you would think that I would be fully refreshed and feeling chippa. WRONG. Breakfast was a struggle with sickness and my arms and legs feel like lead weights with me almost falling over in town whilst crossing the road. My body wanted to move fast but my legs had other ideas. Maybe tomorrow I will turn the corner on this session.

Monday AM Update
I only began to feel better on Saturday morning after 2 decent nights sleep of about 6 hours. I have forgotten what it feels like to sleep for a full night without waking and with the exception of the quiz nights I've been in bed before 10pm every night since March. Although this has been the worst session yet when it comes to sickness and muscular tiredness, I have not had the smell of burning, nor have I had a sore mouth.
With the weather being so good on Saturday it would have been a shame to miss out on some outdoor therapy so I arranged a day out in the Peak District with Steve Donohue and Uncle Barry. Considering all the setbacks attributed to overdoing things we chose an 8 mile flat-ish walk along Baslow, Curbar and Froggat Edges, returning via White Edge. After watching climbers on Froggatt Edge we could not resist a short scramble up between the pinnacle. The views throughout the day were spectacular with all three of us enjoying the day immensely. Note the photos below
The poor forecast  for the rest of this week will encourage me to relax however I really need to go into work for a day or so to sort a few niggling issues. Going back to work again won't go down well at WPH when I go on Thursday for my blood test. Another thing that I must do is to to contact the Cavendish Centre at Weston Park to sign up for some relaxation therapy.
Curbar Edge

Looking towards Stoney Middleton

End of and Affair - an E9 climb on the far arete

Lone Tree at the end of White edge

Steve, Dale and Barry

Friday, 14 September 2012

10 Down and Flying By The Seat Of My Pants

Thursday 14th September - Blood Test Day
I  have managed to work all week which did affect me mentally, finding it difficult to get back to sleep once I had awoken to sort Bob out, usually around 02.00. I just found myself trying to solve work related problems instead of getting back to sleep so by Thursday morning I'm whacked.
Somehow I got my appointment time got mixed up so I arrived at WPH 2 hours early, but that's OK it gave the Halamshire Hospital the chance to get my blood test results back prior to the consultation. The extra free time also gave me chance to decipher my Issac Newton book a little more and a bigger window of opportunity to catch up my old mate Steve D over a coffee who was there for his radiotherapy.
Once in the consultation suite Helen came in to discuss my finger infection and my hectic sometimes idiotic lifestyle (my words - not hers)  and how it may affect a successful stoma reversal (I could feel Bob twitching at the possibility of him being condemned to a life on the outside)
I had heard that Richard the Registrar Oncologist  had become a father  since I last saw him, so my opening gambit when he came into the room was to deflect the probable news of a low platelet count by changing the subject.
"Hello - how are you doing?"
"Never mind me - How are you doing and how is the new family. I hope you are helping change the nappies?"
Both he and Helen just laughed then came the news that my platelet level was 95, just short of the magic 100.
"That's Great - Spot On, so let's crack on then tomorrow with my treatment" I said trying to control the situation.
"Well we should give you another blood test in the morning and hopefully they will come up a bit more"
 So my ploy to walk out of the room without a platelet debate failed.
We also crashed and burned later that night in the Parish Oven Quiz with the lowest score we had ever achieved - Just another sign that my turn for a lucky streak is no where in sight.

Friday 14th September - Chemo Session 10
With an appointment time of 09.00 it's an early start to miss the Sheffield rush hour traffic. I'm on time and get my dressing changed and blood sample taken but again there are problems with my PICC line. It would flush but not draw blood back. Anyway I have an hour to kill, so go for a walk into Weston Park (The Park that is and not the Hospital) The time passes slowly but when I get back I'm soon in and getting hooked up - so my blood count must be OK. The inability to draw blood back means that I have to have a 'Fluid Challenge' where by 100 mls or so of saline needs to pass through the drip machine to prove the line is clear. Helen comes by and asks the nurse what the platelet count is.  100 came the reply.
"Dale - You like Flying by the Seat of you're Pants don't you?"
Once hooked up to the Calcium Folinate and Oxaliplatin I catch up with a young lady who I have met before and who also has Bowel Cancer but which has metastased to her liver. We has a good chat comparing notes and experiences which helped the time pass more quickly.
A quick infusion of 5FU via the drip followed by my canister connection and I'm out by 3.15 pm
Back at home I'm mentally shattered and as the evening moves on and the steroids kick in I'm becoming increasingly alert.
I feel a long night is in store

Monday, 10 September 2012

Bobs becoming a real pain in the arse

Monday 10th September
Since returning from the Lakes  Bob has been a real pain. His enlargement may be due to a prolapse but we will have to wait and see if he reduces in size over the next week or so. Other than that the peristomal skin has been really sore probably due to all the leaks whilst I was away so I've tried different barrier creams, wipes and sprays to ease the stinging as well as re-sizing my pouch openings to reduce skin exposure.
My Infected finger
To add to the Bob woes I knocked my little finger last week, just breaking the skin and it became infected so I'm now on antibiotics for a week. If it wasn't for my chemo I'm sure that my own immune system would have coped easily.
I suppose that all this would lead you to think that I'm resting up but I feel pretty good at the moment so I have returned back to work for the next few days which will give Sue a break from keeping an eye on me.
Let's hope that my platelet levels are up on Thursday ready for session number 10 on Friday

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Still Climbing?

Wednesday 5th September

Derwent Water
Well I'm home after a shorter trip than planned to the Lake District. 
2 reasons for the early return, firstly I had all sorts of problems with Bob - My stoma from it swelling and bleeding then running out of ostiomy supplies to manage the problems associated with leakage and secondly after 2 days walking (and one good rock climb) I'm as weak as a kitten.
Was it worth it? - Of course it was!
I'm not expecting an easy ride with this chemo job and I don't know whether I am getting one since I have nothing to gauge it with but the sickness has been with me since last Friday almost dominating my consciousness and whilst out on the hills my finger ends have been numb. Sleep again seems to elude me and I'm totally knackered
I'm not sure why Bob my stoma has swollen but he is about 9 months old now but unlike a child I didn't expect him to get bigger and more troublesome. Maybe it is attributed to the effort of flogging up the hills for the last 2 days or the rock route but the bleeding is almost certainly due to low platelet levels. In my outdoorsy life Bob gets in the way of everything including my trousers, rucksack belt and my climbing harness and since there are no nerves hence no feeling it is easy to traumatise him. so it is unsurprising that tying to a rope and clipping climbing gear to my harness might have damaged him. Anyway now I am at home I resting up after another good talking too from Sue. I'm not the best of patients.

Peter and Pam on their route
The couple of days in the Lakes was spent with friends John Moore, Peter and Pam Shawcross and a few other members of the Fell and Rock Climbing Club. John was recovering from a broken femur / hip crown and Pam was recovering from a broken ankle so apart from Peter we were all invalids.
It was good to see them all, feeling comfortable and relaxed in their company as friends should, sharing food,wine and laughter throughout the stay.
Monday we managed a arduous walk over rough ground from one crag to another in search of a decent exploratory type rock climb. First of all we looked for a route on Sergeant Crag then decided to venture over to Lining Crag which was over in the next spur of the valley.
Once the crag came in to view both John and I agreed that the right hand edge of the crag looked like it was worth a closer inspection whilst Peter and Pam headed for the left side.

Our Route - foreshortened and steeper than it looks

I don't know what the climb was called but it was delicate, sometimes damp and dangerous with very few placements for protection however I shaped up pretty well leading the whole route.  By the time we got back to the cottage we were either limping or in my case almost staggering along the path.

Yesterday we walked over to Watendlath and along the valley to Ashness Bridge before I had to bail out and catch the bus back. After a shower and clean up I packed to go home but not before we had one of Peter's excellent currys which I enjoyed eating more than I did trying to keep it down on the way home.

Friday, 31 August 2012

Nine Down and Three to Go

Friday 21st August - Chemo Day
9 down and 3 to go? I'm not sure about that because the drug administration is only the start of the cycle with the real battle taking place during the following weeks.
After my outing in the Dark Peak almost 2 weeks ago I took a dive in my energy levels, really only picking up last Tuesday when we had a day out at the seaside town of Cleethorpes, making the most of a beautiful summer day. I enjoy Cleepies, its clean and tidy and I can watch the ships making their way up the Humber Estuary through my new binos.
Wednesday evening
I really let my hair down (what bit I  have left) on a night out with with colleagues / work friends. OK I had TOO much to drink but enjoyed it immensely. I even managed to throw up which after so many months of trying to keep it down made me feel better. I spent a long time on the clean up which sobered me up somewhat. It didn't go down well with Sue though, she's right it must be affecting my brain cells but I must say for those precious few hours of eating. drinking and banter, I felt like a normal guy, remote from the cancer label I feel that is stuck to my forehead and with Bob and his pouch hidden beneath the restaurant table. Yeh she has a lot to put up with.
Thursday -
Yesterday was Blood Test day at WPH where I met up with Steve D who was there for his first of his 30 radiotherapy sessions. These are daily (except weekends) and take about 20 mins. The meeting with Steve was short lived 10 mins at most before I was called in for my consultation. All seemed well till I got home and was advised that my Platelet level was LOW @ 91.  I needed to go back early this morning for a re-test and if they had risen above 100 I could carry on with my treatment. I left the Parish Oven quiz early just to get a little more kip.
Friday - Today
I'm at WPH for 09.30 and get more of less straight in for my blood test which is done by my fave nurse Rachel. She redressed my PICC and measured the exposed line which used to to be 3cm and is now 6cm meaning that 3cm has come out. My other fave nurse Helen who is the expert and who fitted the line came over to check it out.Whenever my dressing is removed it seems like my body tries to reject the line. When I ask if this is normal she says NO. Again it looks like in their experience I'm unique. (in other words a problem patient that is a pain in the arse)
Blood sample result come back with my platelet level at 105 so my prescription is ordered and its a long wait for the pharmacy to prepare the drugs. During the infusion I read some more of Issac Newton's biography, reading each page twice for it to sink in or until I feel sleepy. I had so much time on my hands that I also watched "Eiger Wall of Death" on the i Player. Talking to one of the regular patients who is next to me her platlet levels are 350 which is bang on the mid level of 100 - 700. I'm a little concerned that activity levels or sleep affects platelet levels however Helen assures me that there is nothing that I can do to improve or restrict platelet production, it relies upon my bone marrow's ability to manufacture them and I just happen to be one of those who is slow.
I'm late getting out and go straight to bed when I get home but the sleepiness that I felt earlier has faded and the steroids have taken over with my brain on overdrive. Its going top be a long night.

Update Saturday 06.00
I slept from about 12 till 02.00 then nothing after. My head is buzzing with thoughts and ideas all unrelated to my health but they are are gone and forgotten just as quickly as they came. A few brews and more IPlayer views got me through to 05.00 then I got up to paint an angle iron lintel in preparation for our garage side door being replaced this morning so I'm must be up by 07.00 to move cars and get the area ready for the builders. Later today I will have to get stuff ready for a few days in the Lake District with some old friends starting on Sunday afternoon so hopefully I may get some sleep tonight. At the rate my bottle is emptying it will be Monday morning before it is done so I'll disconnect and flush the line myself then.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Chemo is Not an Excuse to do Nothing

Tuesday 21st August
I cannot put my finger on it but you just cannot predict how the side effects of each session will go. My canister did not empty until sometime during Sunday night so at 04.30 I disconnected myself and got sandwiches packed. Later that morning after Sue flushed my line with saline I managed a day out in the Peak District, on Black Hill with Graham and Dave White even though I was feeling pretty rough and had not had much sleep. Normally I would have expected to feel reasonably well (for a chemo patient) directly after treatment but it was just like it was mid week at the point when I take a turn for the worse. I'm also noticing that my taste buds are taking a huge hit since I usually enjoy my picnics on route but disappointingly my cheese and pickle sandwiches tasted like lard and this was followed by a huge amount of effort to stop me vomitting. I really need a good curry or chilli con carne. I remember when Dad was on chemotherapy for Leukemia, he had similar problems with his mouth, taste, well everything - now I know what he was going through.

Don't Look at Me - Blame Chalky
The walk was only about 12 km but over rough terrain through bracken and heather which really took its toll however visiting some of the quarries and low crags in the area brought back the urge for adventure on rock.
I almost soloed a route but thought how silly that would be thinking back to what Sue said about if I had an accident whilst on chemotherapy and that I would not heal.
Back at the car my legs were like lead and I didn't even fancy a pint on the way home.
Today I have still been pushing myself to the limit, busy in the garden, doing as much as I can - Rest there is plenty of time for that when I'm in my box, hopefully many years from now.
Sue read the above blog and she thinks its killing my brain cells - as well as my blood cells

Friday, 17 August 2012

Eight Down Four To Go

Friday 17th August
Yesterday was blood test day. You get to recognise various patients, some of whom acknowledge me with a nod or wink which in contrast ALL staff that I'm in close contact make an effort to communicate in some way. Dave - the Day Ward Support Worker came and spent his lunch break sitting with me whilst I waited for my appointment. We chatted about all sorts of things including him having similar treatment to me several years ago. It just show how this terrible disease can unite strangers and nurture friendships. Helen also spotted me waiting and also spent some quality time with me chatting. She spotted my latest reading material which is a biography of Issac Newton, a hero of mine - a bit like Graham Duckmanton (My hero for selfishness) and Andy Kirkpatrick (hero for - well being Andy Kirkpatrick). Yep I'm full of shit making out that I understand the workings behind this great man's intellect - but I'm trying.
One of the advantages of getting there early and having a late consultation is that by the .time you get to see the consultant the blood test results are back. The results of the tests were OK with my platelet level remaining stable at 95, so it has not taken a dip suggesting that (in my opinion) that if I carry on as I am then I should be on course to complete the treatment. Side effects have carried on much longer this time  (12 days in all of feeling sick) so I have been taking vitamin supplements and cod liver oil capsules plus a regular dose of Turmeric mixed with pepper and olive oil on the basis that it could help and if it doesn't then it won't hurt either.I have however stopped taking the Aspirin albeit temporarily since it reduces blood clotting which is the purpose of Platelets.
Today was another learning curve for the Sister who tended to me. Obviously I'm infamous throughout the day ward for my unusual vascular physiology relating to my PICC and she could remember me for that
reason. Anyway after cleaning and redressing the line the flush went easily but it was impossible to draw blood back so the dressing was removed and retried - It worked so it was redressed again and then hooked up to my drugs. The following 4 hours went fine however I could easily have fallen to sleep if the drip alarms from fellow patients didn't keep sounding. As usual I have been resetting my own occlusion alarms when none of the nurses are looking.
Back home and checking emails I have had a lovely mail from a mate in the Fell and Rock Climbing Club who has had similar health problems noting that he was enjoying this blog. I'm finding that the effort is worthwhile in order to keep so many friends who are scattered around the country up to date. It's just a tool (some would say just like me) that needs using wisely.
PS - We won the quiz last night,  £15 to add to the kitty and the beer was semi palatable with the exception of stinging the ulcers on my tongue. Jane the barmaid obviously missed us last week however she made up for it this week with the extra banter and a good dish full of roast potatoes left from the restaurant carvery.

Sunday Evening Update
 I only managed 3 hours sleep on Friday so I was awake for over 23 hours yesterday and still did not feel tired. It just goes to show how much the steroids affect brain behaviour with mood swings and insomnia but without them I'm advised that I would be vomiting constantly. When I did get to sleep it was short lived when I found that Bob's pouch was leaking, luckily it had not escaped on to the bed covers. Once sorted and cleaned up I had a cup of warm blackcurrant and listened to a bit of Barry White (Album - Stone Gone) on my Ipod with that deep, soothing voice gently weighting my eyes closed. My canister seemed to empty pretty quickly Saturday however since then the flow has slowed (maybe because I sleep with my arm bent and it restricts the flow) so it won't be empty till sometime tonight which means I will get disconnected in the morning. The sick feeling has been a constant unwelcome companion for the whole weekend especially after food but it is something that I just have to get over.
Our Phil has posted his JB's cook resignation on my previous post for anyone to look at and he has also sent a photo of our Emily, Diane and, Sarah before they set off on the Race For Life which is posted below (Named in order on the pic) Well Done All of you.

Friday, 10 August 2012

Quiz Team on Tour

Castle Crag Borrowdale
Buttermere from Fleetwith Pike
Wow  11 hours sleep last night? Not surprising really since I have just come back from a few days of steady walking in the Lake District with Uncle Barry and Graham. I suppose we were more like Compo, Clegg and Foggy from Last of the Summer Wine rather than Mountain Men, but the idea was really to escape the shitty time that both Barry and I are having and give everyone else in our lives a little breathing space. The pressure of life over the past 6 months has taken its toll emotionally with me hitting all sorts of problems, physically and mentally. Certain setbacks have opened up huge weaknesses in my mental armour which have left me vulnerable to the slightest emotional highs and lows. I'm aware that it is something that I need to get to grips with if I am to retain some dignity.
Anyway Graham and I had already sussed out some easyish walks that would neither kill us nor leave us thinking that we had been short changed, all of which would give fantastic panoramas of the beautiful landscape around Borrowdale and Buttermere. Staying in our Rossthwaite cottage and doing our own cooking we lived like kings for a few quid apiece but the icing on the cake is being out in the mountains just like old times. Monday we walked around Castle Crag and on to Grange, Tuesday Fleetwith Pike and Haystacks and Wednesday Rannerdale Notts and Buttermere. Tuesday  I was OK  ish on Haystacks but I knew that the Chemo would really kick in by Wednesday so as expected, even on this low fell (Rannerdale) each footstep was an effort, gasping, head pounding, chest pains and sickness. It felt like I was walking in lead boots so the rest of that afternoon was spent snoozing and relaxing besides Buttermere, watching some of the kids playing and enjoying the sunshine. I suppose Fleetwith  Pike and Haystacks was the benchmark effort of the few days for both Barry and myself and I even carried Graham’s coat on Monday. It also looks like Curry Boy (Our Phil) has got some competition for cooking duties on our next JB's after Uncle Barry voted Graham's veggie stir fry with pasta as the top dish 
Just a note to all at Pandrol, I did invite Mick MacMichael, our Parish Oven quiz captain (who was already taking time off) on our trip but he decided to give it a miss this time. Just look at what he missed
Another thing that was unusual about this few days away was the distinct lack of beer since the cottage is only 30 yards away from the Scafel Hotel. Total alcohol consumption for 3 days for 3 persons was 3 Bottles of red wine, 2 pints of Carling lager and 1 pint of Jennings bitter. We were in our pit by 10pm. What is it coming to?
Kids playing in Buttermere
with Fleetwith Pike Behind
Back at home our Sue has snaffled nearly all of my liquorice Catherine wheels, saving me just a couple which I'm enjoying the last one now and I'm taking it easy for the next few days since my nose has had a slight bleed which is a sign the my platelets are low. This bit of sunshine is doing me the world of good.

Saturday, 4 August 2012

Session No 7 - But only Just

Thursday 2nd August
I have been for my blood test today. Helen my support specialist nurse always makes a fuss of me, finding time to sit with me in the waiting room for an informal chat prior to my consultation, this is when she changes hats to become the professional that she is. I think that she is noticing some that I have highs and lows, probably due to lack of sleep and lack of free time in the outdoors. My blood results had not come back but Richard was happy that they would be OK. 
Barry, Graham and Michael picked me up for the quiz at the Parish oven. The beer did not taste so good and my tongue tingled with the cold. We always enjoy the night whatever and agreed to have a few days of steady walking in the Lake District next week.Michael chose to give it a miss
Friday 3rd August
We arrive at WPH and was looked after by Becky - there are 3 Beckys, this one is young, blond and lovely. she looked through my notes and mentioned that my platelet levels were lower that they like (95 when they like to have a reading of 100) however Richard the consultant was happy for me to go ahead and have the treatment. It all went smooth. Whilst there it gave me the chance to carry on writing the geology section to my book. How can one criticise this bunch of caring, compassionate team when they all work so hard and still maintain a smile to cheer you up.

Monday, 30 July 2012

Big Skies and Wide Eyed

Monday 30th July

It is now feeling like the big push is on. Since my last cycle 10 days ago I have had maybe  3 to 4 hours sleep per night and the fatigue is slowly catching up. When I'm alone, reading or writing I find myself dozing for what seem like 30 minutes at a time when I know they are only seconds. I have done well so far managing to get to work for a large proportion of the time however common sense it telling me that I'm getting close to the time when I need to be off until my treatment is complete. Apart from sleep deprivation I'm bruised over my arms and legs (possibly as a result of low platelet levels combined with the climbing last week) and my lips and tongue are getting blistered and ulcerated.
Another Dawn - Big Skies and wide Eyed
the view from our garden on Thurdsay at 04.15
Sue changed my PICC dressing on Saturday morning when we both witnessed my line slowly come out of the vein by 1 cm as if my body was rejecting it. All we could do was to leave it and re-dress over it.
I suppose with me being run down the question most on my mind at the moment is will my platelet count be high enough for treatment to go ahead on Friday. We'll just have to wait and see.

Blog Addition Tuesday 05.30
Yorkshire Sculpture Park

One of Henry Moore's many sculptures in the park

We had a visit to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park on Friday which is just a mile off junction 28 on the M1. What a fabulous place. Big open spaces with sculptures dotted around the park. It's free to get in but parking is £7.50. If you go take a picnic, a rug and a rucksack but most of all take your imagination.  An ideal day out for anyone and everyone including those recovering from cancer or just like me going through chemo.

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Climbing Yes - but not a Mountain

26th July

Graham leading our first route of the evening
As expected the fatigue has hit me and I have given in to a couple of days off from work but why? Is it the chemo, lack of sleep or the rock climbing on Froggatt Edge last night? Or a combo of the lot? I have been deprived of sleep for so many nights and I knew the drugs would kick in around about now but Whatever. It is not really that important but I can say that the climbing last night did me the world of good, mentally anyway.
Graham completing the last route of the evening
It has given my ego quite a boost thinking that I can actually manage a few rock routes even though it was easy graded stuff. So other than being slightly weary, having a bit of a nose bleed, a sore mouth, a painful tongue and a few bruises from last nights cragging I'm doing brilliant. Graham did his best to look after me giving me good advice not to compound my  current health problems and advised that I take it steady and not do any lead climbing but I eventually got my way on the last route of the day, managing easily. A swift beer in the Grouse completed a near perfect Outdoorsy evening with good friends. I've been wearing shorts and a tee shirt today so it has been difficult to hide any of the war wounds on my now muscle depleted body and Sue is so keen to point out that I should not be doing such daft things, not yet anyway. My plans for the rest of the weekend are to get plenty of kip and rest up just a little, but maybe, just maybe get out in the fresh air for a decent walk.
I think that Wrighty's enormous budgie smuggler bulge is just worthy of a mention  after being captured by my camera whilst packing up after climbing. Graham thought he had a bunch of bananas stuffed down the front of his pants.
Dave just be careful when you UNLEASH THE BEAST

Friday, 20 July 2012

Chemo No6 and we are Half Way There

Friday 20th June
Sue and I have just got back from WPH after chemo session No6 and guess what? EVERYTHING WENT TO PLAN - YES - COME ON - BRING IT ON. Another thing that topped my spirits up to the max was being looked after by my two fave nurses Helen and Rachel. In fact as always preparation is everything. Last week Sue and I found that If I bent my arm slightly my line flushed easily and yesterday Helen made sure the line was clear by taking my blood sample through the line, confirming that bending my arm that little bit did make the line flow a little better. Lesson learnt hopefully the mystery of the temperamental line has been solved.
In record time (for me) we were done and connected to my canister in only four and a half hours. Out in the cool open air the effects of the Oxaliplatin seemed more pronounced than recent sessions with my fingers and face tingling as we walked to the car, maybe because on this occasion there has been less time between sessions.
Chesterfield Canal near Turner Wood - the best section of the whole canal by far
Mentally I'm in good spirits since I have had time off away from the hustle and bustle of work as a result of a several days of nausea, however during that time I have managed to eat well and have pushed myself a little physically on a couple of quick paced, favourite local walks and 2 runs down the lane. In fact I enjoy the local walks so much that I'm currently working on a book mapping and describing then which during the coming weeks inspire me to get out and about collecting photos and rechecking the directions. Whether ultimately they get published is another matter altogether.
All the healthy eating does have it's down side though with all the fibre making Bob work overtime to process it so its a good job that he is also in good nick with no soreness or irritation - I think I've finally mastered looking after him but if I can pack him off before the end of the year it will be the best Christmas prezzy ever.
Finally Sod's Law - the weather this weekend is set to be good and I'm connected up to the drugs.
Helen advised me to take my steroids early than prescribed since she suspects they seem to  interfere with my sleep pattern.

Sunday Morning Update
Sleep feels futile at the moment  I was awake yesterday morning at 2 am and did not get back to sleep, getting up at 03.30. Spent most of my time reading and later went to the garden centre for more plants. Even at 11.00pm I'm still wide awake.
This morning I'm awake by 3.00am after almost vomiting several times. It's the nearest that I have actually been to being sick, so up for anti sickness tablets and then try to sleep but to no avail, having to sit up to prevent the acid reflux, so I'm up by 4.00 watching Angelina Jolie in SALT (not a bad film).
I'm still planning on going to work tomorrow however I.m beginning to see why Richard the Oncologist said that hardly anyone on my type of treatment is able to tolerate work. I am coming to the conclusion that Helen and Richard are thinking that I'm not normal. Richard laughs when I say that "If it's not hurting then it's not working" and Helen just shakes her head and smiles at my attempts of bravado followed each time with some nicely phrased sarcastic comment. Sue just looks on smiling and shaking her head. She knows me too well.
I started to read a book yesterday which we borrowed from WPH book bank, called "Its what he would have wanted" by Sean Hughes. The cover says it's a novel about secrets, sex and bad weather. My god if some of the old ladies there were to pick this one up it would give them a bit of a shock within the first short chapter. Whoo - I know I'm open minded but there are somethings that even in the steamy heat of the moment I wouldn't dare do, not that our Sue would let me - Anyway not with Bob making up the threesome.

Saturday, 14 July 2012

A Little Time Off

Saturday 14th July
A few days delay in my chemo session (Monday) has meant that I'm at my lowest  ebb this weekend however the drugs do also seem to impact on my sleep pattern during the 2 days whilst they are being injected which meant that by Wednesday I was pretty tired even though I was still spark wide awake at 4.00am
4 am Thursday Morning from our back garden
Thursday I decided to take time away from work not only because I was tired but also to get out into the fresh air and clear my head. I know that the more exercise I  get in the fresh air then the better I will feel physically and mentally so decided to get out for the day after calling to see if Graham was free.
Graham on the way up to Derwent Edge
We set off for the Peak District, parking at Fairhomes then walked up on to Derwent Edge. Although I puffed like a steam train on the ascent to the ridge it felt good to doing something constructive for body and soul. I could almost weep when I think back to the days when I was fit, running 1/2 marathons and flying up hills without any breathlessness. It seems so long ago but maybe after this cancer stuff is all done I can get at least a little of that fitness back.
Anyway once up there above the valley the walking was easy with a gentle breeze and sunshine making perfect walking conditions.
My new diet means that my usual outdoorsy snap has had to change from chocky bars, cake and coffee to fruit, nuts and green tea although my cheese and pickle sandwiches have stayed the same. Marzipan was one of my favorite energy / emergency foods so it was a bit of a shock when Graham  reminded me that it was full of sugar which isn't good but it does have almonds which are OK - so is this good enough to carry on?
Back home after the walk I'm feeling tired but good. Lets hope that my blood is good on Thursday for my 6th dose which will mean I'm half way through the chemo.
Henry Moore like rocks on Derwent Edge

Sunday 15th
I've felt pretty rough all weekend to the extent that I did not wake up until 10am this morning. My mouth has been bleeding and the sick feeling just does not go away. later in the afternoon we had a short walk to Turner Wood which was a bit of an effort, with me feeling pretty lethargic and really under the weather. My mate Graham is at Robin Hood's Bay at the minute of which I'm a little envious since I love the East Coast of Yorkshire, the fresh air and the sea. Although I love the mountains, the sea is definitely the place that's on my mind at the moment.