Friday, 27 April 2012

Chemo Choices

27th April

At last yesterday was the first eye to eye contact for a consultation with the cancer specialists at Weston Park. The waiting room was full of people of various ages some with wigs or hats covering treatment induced baldness and others looking reasonably healthy, just like me. When you know what to look for you can even see some with their own Bob pouch.
Most were awaiting blood tests (to see if they are well enough for chemo the following day) and the rest awaiting a consultation.
Once in the consultation room the specialist nurse and Doctor explained the histology results noting the small amount of cancer found in one of the 27 lymph nodes and how in my case the benefit of chemotherapy on any residual cancer would outweigh the side effects caused by the drugs used in the treatment. After all the stuff is poison.
The drugs that they were recommending for my type of Colorectal Cancer are Oxaliplatin plus another drug called 5FU. The combination is called FOLFOX6. The Oxaliplatin is taken intravenously over 2 hours and the 5FU can be taken either in tablet form over 2 weeks with 1 week rest or intravenously over 48 hours. All have expected side effects of sickness, tiredness, and a low immunity to infection for which a cold could be life threatening. In addition there maybe tingling in feet and hands which is painful when touching cold objects so it looks like warm beer from now on. The tablets has one side effect that probably will not suit Bob (my illiostomy) like diarrhoea which will burn my peristomal skin and another that causes hands and feet to dry out and crack.
I'm opting for the intravenous option which will take place every 2 weeks for 12 sessions. The down side to this is that I will need a cannula line into a large vein (PICC Line) which will remain in place for the duration
Surprisingly the treatment only decreases the chance of cancer returning by 15% but every little helps. So its next Thursday for my blood test and Friday to start giving the Big C a kicking. I just hope my body can handle the full course.
I've already lost 3 kilos so really need to eat well in the run up to each session.
To add to our woes we have water gushing out of the ground near our boundary fence which is flooding our neighbours garden so I've had to buy a pump so as to pump the water to one of our drains. The additional stress of this minor emergency took its toll on me with a flair of temper as I tried to in vain to stop the leak with anything that I could stuff in  the hole. I'm afraid that acting like a man possessed by a mad man not only upset the wife but the neighbours too. We just need for it to stop raining for a couple of days so we can get it fixed.

As you can see this is a picture of our Sue near the leak. If Only!

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

One Month On

18th April
It's been just over 4 weeks since my operation and although I'm healing well I had a really bad night on Sunday with huge stomach cramps which was either related to doing too much the day before or a disagreement with something that I ate. Lesson learnt, I opted to do nothing for the next 3 days and watch carefully what I was eating
With hopes of a stage 1 / 2 cancer being dashed during my histology consultation, it has taken a few days for it to sink in that stage 3 is a much more serious condition since cancer cells have entered the blood stream having affected my lymphatic system.
To see what I am up against I've been doing a bit of research on the Macmillan support web site on stage 3 cancer and the types of chemo that I'm likely to undergo including possible side effects some of which are not very nice however it depends on the person as to tolerance levels. Stats for survival beyond 5 years dramatically reduce from stage 2 (70%) to stage 3 (40%) so it is important that I give this my all to make sure that I'm one of the 4 in 10.

The waiting for an appointment for chemotherapy is stressful because I just want to get the whole thing underway as quickly as possible. I have decided to try and push things along myself so on Wednesday I checked with Mr Brown's secretary and she has confirmed that a letter has been sent to Weston Park Hospital with a referral and today I have phoned Weston Park twice to get things moving.
Once I'm there I have a list of questions to ask to cross check my research including the possibility of returning back to work whilst treatment is underway.
The Joanne the Stoma nurse came yesterday and was impressed with the way that Bob was looking. Bob's reaction to the praise was embarrassing, squirting his mess into the basin of water. The nurse just called him a "Little Tinker". I'm afraid he just hasn't learnt any manners yet.
More good news is that my cousin who is critically ill has been woken after nearly 3 weeks in intensive care having made a little improvement - let's hope it carries on.
Oh and we won the quiz last night. must be because we had Col and Kev on our side.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Histology Results

12th April

I'm pretty conscious that this blog may look like attention seeking and I have pondered what people may think to the point of considering deleting it, wondering that going public was damaging my standing and respect as a senior manager. My reasons are such that I'm wanting to be informative on a condition that affect thousands each year and also I thought it might be a way of communicating my progress to all those who have have supported me, which is shown in the amount of visitors, emails and get well cards. I'm truly humbled so thanks to everyone. I also want to show that I'm up beat and in a frame of mind that is not not wanting tea and sympathy but just to get back to enjoying life.
I've just returned back from the Halamshire Hospital after a consultation with Mr Brown's Registrar, the name of the lady I cannot remember. Steve Brown is currently on a well earned vacation skiing with his family in Canada.

Checks on my abdomen all seem fine, including a feel at Bob's pouch noting that the consistency of the contents feels nice and thick. Err that must be the liquorice that my sister Val bought me.

Now for the results.

Both Sue and I are expecting the all clear including a date for the reversal of my stoma.
"You will be pleased to know that ALL the cancer has been removed and the margins on either side of the sections are clear". "However we have tested 27 lymph nodes from around the 2 sections removed and have found 1 lymph node that has been infected with cancer therefore we are recommending chemotherapy just to make sure we get anything that has got into your blood stream" The doctor also informed us that there would be no reversal while chemo was taking place since it would affect the healing process of the reversal operation. So it could be another 6 months until that time comes.
The news was not what we were wanting to hear but there was only 1 node affected and at least that is better than 2 or more. Leaving the hospital Sue was grasping my hand hard so I knew she was upset. Graham and I bantered whilst he was driving us home "There's no point in doing things by halves. If your going to have cancer then lets have the chemo too". "Its too easy just to get rid of it just like that" This reaction would sound very strange to many but knowing each other for so long and being best mates it was our way of dealing with the negatives, just as we have in tough situations whilst on a our hardest climbs. I don't think that Sue was too impressed with the light hearted comments. I feel sorry for her more than me. She is the one that will do all the worrying.
So now I'm awaiting an appointment with the Oncology Department so as to get the treatment underway.Anyway let's look on the bright side. The big positive is that last night I re-read my information pack for post operative iliostomy and it says that I can resume sexual activity as soon as I'm ready and feeling up to it, so I have just informed Sue that I'm feeling well enough NOW! There is obviously some disagreement on this for the time being and the other massive plus is that my mate Bob will be with me for a while longer. I do hope his gas production eases though.

Sunday, 8 April 2012

The Night Shift

8th April

Now that Bob has settled down he has fallen into a distinct routine. Unlike me when I used to work shifts he works hardest through the night doubling his output and expecting me to wake so as to make room for more. I don't have much choice since there would be an awful mess to clean up if I roll over. So I'm up 2 or 3 times a night to tend to him. It means that I never get a full nights sleep and the quality of sleep is not so good since I'm waking to check. Just after breakfast he has a snooze so this is when I change and clean him. My peristomal skin which is around Bob was getting pretty sore until Joanne the stoma nurse gave me some 3M Cavilon Barrier Wipes to use. Throughout the rest of the day his output is moderately constant but generally bubbling with flatus just before teatime. As you can see it's a cross between a baby and a Sunday afternoon boozer that lays around farting on the sofa.

I had a steady walk out yesterday thinking I would probably either turn around and run for home at Shireoaks train station or at the maximum make it to the seat beside the canal near the old Steetley Transport Depot. I exceeded both by making it to Turner Wood without much discomfort albeit at a very slow pace. All being well I will try to keep this up on a daily basis.

On another note - I should have been at Plas Y Brenin for a week starting today white water kayaking. The rivers will be flowing fast with all the rain yesterday and today and its set to rain most days for the rest of the week. Ah well we will try again in September or October, hopefully I'll be back to normal.

Friday, 6 April 2012

Lance Armstrong

7th April

I've been awake since around 2.00, my head full of all sorts of stuff so I'm unloading them whilst having a cup of tea. I've just realised whilst checking the date that it is 36 years to the day when I first started work. Thinking how much water has passed under the bridge, what has been achieved and all the mistakes I have made. There's not that much I regret. All in All I haven't done too bad after being the lad from Kilton who was always lighting fires, shooting guns and fighting. In fact thinking back I'm lucky to be alive after pushing that metal rod into the light bulb socket and Our Phil flicking the switch. The only damage done was a blown fuse. We got up to all sorts of tricks when we were sent to bed too early especially when the light bulb had been removed by mum.

My condition so far is that the belly skin around Bob is still a little sore, my stomach is hyper sensitive to the point that it feels like my tee shirt is made from sand paper and after sitting for a while I sometimes walk like I've shit myself. But who doesn't? On the plus side my 'Anal Charlie Horse' as refered to on an American web site (the pain inside by butt) seems to have subsided and I hope it stays that way.

My next appointment to find out my histology results is next Thursday at the Halamshire. Halamshire?? I will know for sure then whether it has all been taken away and if I need more treatment. So like Schrodnger's Cat which was neither DEAD nor ALIVE during his experiment (thanks John S for the idea) For now I both HAVE and HAVE NOT got cancer. I'm not too concerned at the moment since I'm taking each day as it comes and each obstacle in turn and besides there are loads of people worse off than me. My cousin is in currently fighting for his life in intensive care after a minor operation went badly wrong and although I have not seen him for a while it dominates our thoughts since it affects people that we care about. There is also Paddy's brother who has a brain tumor and his family who I think about a lot however I don't really know him and there are 2 women from work who are struggling with similar cancer related illnesses.

I've started to read Lance Armstrong's book yesterday which I'm storming through, to say I really struggle with with the attention span needed for reading. The whole thing just put my bit of a problem into perspective. He had Testicular cancer that had spread to his lungs and brain. In common with me his medical insurance failed him, his family and friends were totally loving and supportive and he partly made his own luck by being fit and healthy. Though I'm no athlete like he is I like to think that I have eaten sensibly and kept my self reasonably fit through my love for outdoor activities.
I'm going to start driving later today and will also try a longer walk however I will be listening to my body this time and not ignoring it when it tells me to stop.
One more cup of tea and I'm back to bed