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

Hypnotised?

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.