I have had several e-mails over the last few weeks pointing out that I have not updated my blog. I have to admit that I have been slightly distracted by economic events and the resultant stock market turmoil around the world. However, I really appreciate that so many people care enough to want to know how I am.
In September I went back to The London Clinic to have a reversal. My original operation involved part of my bowel being removed. To allow this to heal I had to have an ileostomy bag fitted (similar to a colostomy bag but fitted to a different part of the bowel) which involves making an opening or stoma in my stomach just to the left of my belly button. This operation was to close this and effectively reconnect my internal pipe work which had been diverted into the bag.
I did not really talk about the bag when I had it. It is not something you do talk about and, to be honest, I did not like it. It was an alien part of my body that somehow seemed to dominate me. That said, it allowed me to have an operation that removed the cancer and for that, I will always be grateful. However, I was looking forward to having the bag removed and life getting back to normal, or at least as close to normal as it is going to be at the moment.
In the last 40 years I have only spent one night in hospital and that was to have my wisdom teeth removed. In June I had spent 15 days in one ward, a large amount of that time in significant pain. It was strange to be back in the same ward again, seeing the nurse’s sisters and other staff. It was particularly good to see my physiotherapist who has, I hope, become a friend through all this. This time, the operation went well and within a few days I was back at home. If you have not used something for 3 months it takes a bit of getting used to and my bowel is no exception. In fact my surgeon says that it will take 18 months to 2 years before everything is really functioning properly again. Already my diet has pretty much reverted to normal although I am not eating as many curries and when I do they are milder.
Is that the end of my treatment? Well very nearly. The good news is that my bowel is free from cancer. The bad news is that the doctors have no way of knowing whether the rest of me is. So, I have to continue to take oral chemotherapy until January next year. How does this make me feel? Well, I am either great or exhausted. There seems to be little in between. So, I have adopted a southern European lifestyle. I am going to work 3 or 4 days a week but leave around 2 o’clock. I come home and have a sleep for 2 or 3 hours and I can then just about cope. Chemotherapy is a funny thing. Normally, you feel unwell and take your medicine and it makes you feel better. With chemotherapy it is the opposite, you feel fine and then when you take your medicine you feel unwell!! I take my pills twice a day for 2 weeks and then I have a week off. During that week I start to feel a bit stronger each day – I am still tired but a bit less than the day before. Then, I have to start again. I dread the Thursday when I have to start poisoning my body again. I know it is logical but I still hate to do it.
So, apart from being tired I am doing well. My blog has been about my journey this year and that journey is coming to an end with the best possible result. I have nearly reached my destination and have decided to make this the last entry on my blog. When I get to the stage where I am not spending all my free time sleeping I will try and start working on the rest of my web site. In the meantime I want to thank you all for all your support this year.
It is now less than 3 weeks to go to my next (and hopefully final) operation. I feel that I have spent most of this year wishing my life away – thinking about the next appointment, test or operation. This operation is known as a reversal and should be much smaller than my previous operation. I expect to be in hospital for 3 to 5 days and then at home for one or two weeks. I can’t say I am not nervous and am obviously hoping that the complications I experienced last time do not repeat. However, once it is finished life will start to get back to normal. If nothing else, I am looking forward to being able to eat what I want to eat and being able to sit on the toilet and read a newspaper.
The jokes and pictures have been slowing down but I have received a great picture from Mike Weathrall King (one of the organiser of the Exmouth Rotary Kite Festival). The Question that accompanies this picture is this. For what reason is the Police Officer pulling these people over?
The answer is at the bottom of this blog entry.
Moving on, how am I? As you all know the oral chemotherapy does makes me tired. I think when I restarted the drugs the idea of being tired for the next 6 months rather upset me. I subsequently came across an old Chinese proverb that I rather like ‘'A gem cannot be perfected without friction, nor a person without trials". So, I see these challenges as part of my route to perfection!! This road I travel is not necessarily an easy one but the support I have got has been incredible. It comes in many different forms. A text, a phone call, an e-mail or a visit all mean a huge amount to me. One of my more literate friends is an artist, author, traveller and kite enthusiast is Tal Streeter. If you have never read any of his books then I would encourage you to try and get hold of some of them. The best source is The Drachen Foundation. Here is a essay written by Tal which meant a lot to me:
The Path of Least Resistance and the Trick
In the sky, among the clouds. A kite at rest. Still. A child's kite. On the ground, a child holding the kite string tightly, eyes turned upward, scanning the sky, the kite's place there.
A kite, any kite, but now this kite, this child's kite in the sky unmoving. A point of stillness in the vast heavens. "Stillness:" something even the masters of flight, our fine feathered friends with their rapturous, unparalleled airborne pyrotechnics, find difficult to achieve. Only a slight ripple on the kite's paper skin, a sign of the wind's breath, holds the kite aloft. This kite, its long thin line of string stretching back down to earth, gripped tightly in the child's hand, in the child's mind, imagining the wind's breath, perched there, riding on the kite's back, looking down, wide-eyed at the fabulously new perspective, astride a kite, reaching out to embrace the earth.
In the child's mind, the kite and its passenger a still point far off in the sky
Clouds drawing slowly closer. the kite leans to the left, dipping, its passenger holding on tight, it speeds across the heavens, then comes back to rest once again, a still point in the ocean sky.
The wind once again breathing lightly, rippling the kite's skin and that of the child, holding them aloft ever so gently.
Below, infinitely small, a child shakes the string, sending messages from the earth up to its twin and from there, passed on out through the distant sky.
A child's imagination notwithstanding, the kite follows the path chosen by nature, pulling from an arc into a straight line, tracing the path of least resistance, tracking the paths laid down by ocean currents and smaller tributaries of air. The excess and frugality of nature, at once frighteningly excessive and spare: the child's kite, perchance on the side of the spare, on the side of conservation of energy as in science, as in philosophy, the evidence of "Ockham's razor," the law of parsimony," the "path of least resistance:"
The evidence of stillness described by science, governed by the "law of inertia."
A child---in their imagination, riding on the back of a kite; on the earth, running across a meadow, jumping over weeds and imaginary obstacles; hopping, one foot on a curb, the other in the gutter of a city street; at the kitchen table eating a piece of toast---not by the laws of man's physics; not by laws at all; seeing everything fresh, as if by magic, the way of nature, the simplicity of kites in the newness of a child's mind: kites, the sky, hopping, skipping and breakfast toast. All magic. All enchantment.
There's the trick.
The Drachen Foundation Journal Winter 2003-4. “From a book in progress, Measuring the Sky,” This version marks the occasion of the author’s seventy-fourth birthday, August 1, 2008. Although there are earlier versions of this writing, this, “perchance,” is a final cut.
Used by permission. © Tal Streeter 2008
Why do I fly kites? Maybe it’s because I don’t want to be governed by the laws of man’s physics. Of course, it might be because I have never really grown up. I search for, and find the magic and enchantment that Tal talks of.
When I was first diagnosed with cancer I sat down and worked
out a calendar for the year. I calculated the time for treatment plus the time for the
operation and then a few months to recover.
This bought me to the end of August.
From that day I have aimed to be at Bristol Kite Festival which this
year is the last weekend in August. I
have been commentating at Bristol for many years and I look forward to it from
one year to the next. One of the reasons that I got upset when I
restarted the chemotherapy was that I did not know whether I would be able to
do Bristol. In fact, the timing has
worked up well and I stop my current course of pills next Monday and will be ‘clean’
for Bristol. I can’t wait to see
P.S. The reason that the policeman pulled over the motorcyclist is, of course, because she’s not wearing a helmet!!
It is now five weeks since I left hospital and seven weeks since the operation. When I left hospital I found it hard to walk more than 100 yds, was on an extremely restrictive diet and got incredibly tired. Now I can walk 1 to 2 miles a day, am on a restrictive diet and just get quite tired. There is definite progress.
I saw my surgeon last week and he was very happy with progress. If things keep going like this I can have the second operation (or ‘reversal’) in September. This involves a return to hospital and a stay of 3 to 5 days followed by a week’s recovery. I can’t wait.
The biopsy following the operation shows that the cancer had effectively been wiped out by the radiotherapy. That said, there are no guarantees that the cancer did not spread prior to this. So, last week, I started 6 months of oral chemotherapy. I knew this was likely to happen although I was surprised that it was going to be for so long. That said, anything that can reduce the chance of recurrence must be a good thing. There are many possible side effects but I suppose the one I am most worried about is fatigue. At the moment it is very hot and humid so I think everyone is feeling tired. I have found that I have fallen asleep a couple of times in the last few days. I can’t tell whether it is the chemotherapy or the heat – time will tell.
I have started doing some work from home and this is definitely a good thing. Many of the things that I wanted to do whilst recovering have not happened. These include learning Italian; learning how to type; updating the web site and there are a lot of books still on the ‘to read’ pile. I have to accept what everyone told me that I have just not had the energy. That said, I am obviously delighted that things are moving in the right direction.
Throughout the last 6 months I have been bowled over by the help and support of my consultant colorectal surgeon, Richard Cohen, who splits his time between the London Clinic where I saw him and University College Hospital, one of the biggest teaching hospitals in London. It forms part of the UCLH Trust which, in combination with University College is one of the largest centres for biomedical research in Europe. I have decided to try and raise money for UCLH Charitable Fund 1002 which funds continuing research into colorectal disorders and also supports education for training of surgeons. Bowel cancer alone affects one in 18 people in the UK and about 50 people die from it each day. But people do not like talking about bottoms so research in this field lags behind some of the more mainstream cancers.
Avril Baker who organises Bristol Kite Festival has kindly agreed that I can auction a kite with the proceeds going towards the above charity. I have decided to donate a revolution style kite (Photo to Follow) made by Robert Trépanier. Robert is one of the top kite artists in the world and his kites are highly sought after. It is the 20th anniversary of Revolution kites this year and many Revolution kiteflyers are expected in Bristol.
How you can help?
Many people have asked how they can help and here is your chance. To try and increase the amount of money raised I came up with the idea of a sponsored kite auction. As an example, you might say that you would donate 10% of the final auction price. If 9 other people did the same then the money raised would be double the price that the kite sold for. I hope that this will encourage people to bid more and create a virtuous circle. If you want to be involved then please drop me an e-mail letting me know the amount you are happy to donate either a percentage of the sale price or as a fixed amount. Every pledge, no matter how big or small, is gratefully received. If you do want to apply a maximum to your percentage pledge then you can. Alternatively you can pledge a fixed amount. Drop me an e-mail if you can help.
As readers of my blog will know I went into hospital to have my tumour and part of my bowel removed on Tuesday June 10th. That first day was not for the operation but preparation. The medical team take control of what you eat (nothing) and what you drink (clear fluids). They also give you some fairly dramatic drugs that, put simply, ensure your inside is as clean as possible.
The operation was scheduled for around 5.00 p.m. on Wednesday. I don’t remember much about the day except that I seemed to spend the whole day waiting. A bit like a 12 hour transit in an airport. I remember virtually nothing about from after the operation except for seeing Natalie in the recovery room – on the whole serious drugs kept me blissfully unaware of anything.
The operation was a success and initially recovery seemed to be going well. By midday on Thursday I was out of intensive care and back to my room. On Saturday I had my first light meal. Saturday turned out to be a turning point and things started to deteriorate from there. I wouldn’t eat again for over a week. My catheter was removed on Saturday morning but had to replaced at 2.00 a.m. on Sunday. Over the coming days the number of tubes connected to me and the drugs prescribed seemed to steadily increase.
The bowel is a strange organ. When touched, as in an operation, it closes down. It takes its own time to restart. My bowel was taking a long time to restart and so it acted as blockage. Like a hosepipe with a kink the pressure started to build up and so did the pain.
On the Tuesday evening (one week after being admitted) my consultant surgeon must have been concerned as he called in a medical physician for a second opinion. Within 2 hours and at 9 o’clock in the evening this second consultant arrived. I started to get worried as this must have meant that the request had been urgent. After examining me he sent for an ultrasound and returned to see me again at 11.00 p.m. The next few days saw numerous tests, X-Rays and consultations. However, the prognosis was consistent, that the bowel would start when it was ready and until then we must hold our course. The patient must be patient. As you know the patient is not patient!! This could take a week or two or more. Meanwhile I was on a self administered morphine intravenous drip to allow me to control the pain.
On the Thursday they started to be concerned about my nutrition. Under local anaesthetic they put a needle in me allowing a special nutrional soup to be fed in me bypassing the digestive system. It was only when they took this ‘needle’ out that I saw that it was around 6 inches long!
By Friday 20 June things started to turn. Everyone was cautious but the bowel seemed to be starting to work. On The Saturday they disconnected my morphine (for the second time) and I have not taken a painkiller since. On the Sunday I was told that I should be out by the end of the coming week. On the Monday, at around 4.00 they took me of my nutrional supplement and for the first time for 12 days I was free of tubes. My wonderful physiotherapist took me outside for the first time. It has truly shown me how much we undervalue our freedom. Being outside and breathing fresh London air (sic) was fantastic.
On Tuesday my consultant told me that he thought I could go home the next day and indeed on Wednesday, 2 weeks after my operation I returned home. Over the next few months I will slowly rebuild my strength. My appetite is recovering quickly although there are significant restrictions on my diet which make life quiet difficult (although Natalie is doing brilliantly). I get very tired but this was predicted so is not a cause for concern.
The best news, I saved to last. The biopsy tests also came back last Wednesday. I am completely free from cancer. The radiotherapy had worked really well and my tumour had disappeared and the lymph nodes which were removed had no trace of cancer. I am truly a lucky man.
After two weeks in the London Clinic I want to thank publicly the many, many people who looked after me. My surgeon Mr Richard Cohen comes top of the list but so does the physician Dr Paul Glynne, and Stoma Nurse Liz Cheshire. Thanks also to my physiotherapist and everybody in the radiotherapy and ultrasound departments. Last, but not least, there were a huge number of staff on the 3rd floor who looked after me including of course the nurses, sisters, catering staff, cleaners and porters.
It is some time since my last blog. The good news is that we have been very busy – the bad news is that I now have lots to say.
Natalie and I had an incredibly relaxing holiday in Greece. We rented a small villa in a small town called Vamos near Chania in Western Crete. If you want sun and warmth in May, in Europe I doubt you could do better. For 3 days we sat by the pool and for another 3 days we sat on the beach. One day we were incredibly energetic and went for a drive. Crete is a beautiful island and at times you could have been mistaken for being in South Africa or New Zealand. The reason for the holiday was to relax and we managed this brilliantly until we arrived at the airport to come home. Monarch had had problems with a plane in Egypt and needed to send a plane to get 350 poor tourists home. They decided to use the plane that was coming to ship us home. Even thought they have nearly 2 days notice they planned absolutely nothing. The result was a complete shambles. Instead of leaving Crete at 6 o’clock in the afternoon we left at 2.40 the next morning. We will never ever ever fly Monarch again. Our tour company realised that Monarch was not going to step up to the mark and so chartered a bus to take their clients to a nearby beach. There they provided towels and a bar tab. They laid on a great meal at a local tavern and made sure the food was plentiful and the wine was flowing. Definitely they did everything the can to keep us happy and I could therefore not recommend Simpsons' highly enough.
We returned to a wet cold England 5 days before my birthday. At the last minute we decided to go up to Bedford kite festival. We had been due to spend the weekend in Exmouth at a festival arranged by the local Rotarians but had to cancel this when I got diagnosed with cancer. Bedford was going to allow me to spend my birthday flying kites. Unfortunately there was no wind at all on either day. The kite flyers tried hard to put on a display but it was tough conditions. That said, I spend most of my time at kite festivals commentating so it was nice to have a chance to chat with friends from around the UK, Europe, America and New Zealand. The kiting community has given me a huge amount of support over the last few months and it was nice to see many of our friends. The strange think about my treatment so far is that I don’t look any different to normal. My hair is still there (what little I have) and indeed, after a week in Greece I look quite tanned. Was I really ill at all?
It shows how little there was for George Webster to commentate about that he covered the singing of happy birthday to me over the PA. In fact it was sung 3 times, firstly in English, then in Italian (thank you Jayne and Ludivoco) and finally in Indonesian. A magical birthday. Thank you to everyone.
After Bedford Peter Lynn came and spent the week with us. Peter and his family have been a huge support over the last few months. Katrina and Sarah Lynn seem to have a knack of sending me very funny items that hit my in-box just as I need something to cheer me up. I feel like an honorary member of the Lynn family and that, I can tell you, is a very nice feeling. Robert Lynn and his partner Jane came on Tuesday evening and it was great to get to know them a bit. Robert is a smart and amusing guy – a chip off the old block as you might say. The week passed quickly and that was a good thing.
And so, before you know it is the week-end before my operation. It is some 3 ½ months since I was diagnosed. I have had some lows but a lot of highs. Support from Natalie, my family, friends, work colleagues, clients and business contacts has been superb – I can’t thank everyone by name here and I can’t thank everyone enough. It has kept me positive about the days, weeks and months ahead. I go into hospital on Tuesday and the operation is Wednesday afternoon. I am told that I will spend 7 – 10 days in hospital and then another couple of months recuperating at home. I will continue to need support and more bottom related jokes so don’t stop now.
A few months ago I set up this blog and told friends all over the world my news. I have been inspired and energised by the support and comments that Natalie and I have received from around the world. The first person to reply was an old kiting friend from Denver, Jeff Cain.
Now Jeff is a quite incredible guy. He used to make amazing kites. If I remember correctly he made a huge reproduction of one of Bell’s (that is Alexander Graham Bell) tetrahedral kites. Over time he moved from kites to biplanes. To non kiteflyers this may seem strange but Jeff’s progress mirrors the whole development of flight where inventors, including the Wright brothers moved from flying kites to developing man lifting kites.
In 2000 Jeff was asked to fly his biplane at a fair. Unfortunately his biplane needed servicing and so he borrowed one from a friend. Something went wrong and the plane crashed. Jeff is a doctor and was able to guide his rescuers as what to do and what not to do. Whilst this probably saved his life he did lose one of his legs and significantly damaged his other one. When we heard this we tried to phone Jeff and were told that he was out cycling. He was not going to let a minor problem like losing a leg stop him. We spent the day skiing with him on a holiday in Brekenridge and he skied better than any of us. I can remember him describing his prosthetic leg as his good leg and his real leg as his ‘bad one’.
Well, when he heard my new he sent me the attached picture. It seems that Jeff has since lost his bad leg and now has two good ones! He is definitely a man who sees opportunities and not obstacles. He wrote a lovely message which included the following lovely sentence: There are many in the world (including me) that count the chance to stand on a beach or a ski hill with you and Natalie as one of our good fortunes.
I feel Natalie and I are blessed to have freinds around the world like Jeff.
Despite all the pain that Jeff must have gone though, as you can see from this below he can still laugh at himself.
TOP TEN GOOD THINGS ABOUT NOT HAVING FEET
- Never worry about athlete’s foot again
- Your height can finally match your weight.
- Think of all the time you’ll save never having to trim your toenails.
- Your spouse will never again complain about your cold feet in bed.
- Look like you dance with two left feet? It could be true.
- For Gen Xers: Tattoos go away easily, and Piercings are now comfortable.
- Take off your shoes, never a word about embarrassing foot odour.
- Tuxedo shoes too tight? Just jam em on.
- Splinters? What splinters?
- Two weeks vacation. One pair of socks.
Compared to what Jeff has gone through I have got off lightly. I have not yet come up with the top ten things about having cancer but I am working on it. Idea welcome. Whenever I feel depressed I think of Jeff on his surfboard and smile – then I think of him on holiday for 2 weeks with just one pair of socks and then maybe I think of Kipling
If you can meet with Triumph and
And treat those two impostors just the same; .......
Yours is the Earth and everything
that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man, my son!
Jeff – your a man! Thank you for your inspiration and support.
Every year we go to a kite festival in Cervia. It is a strange experience which is hard to describe to anyone who has not been. Most kite festivals are geared around the spectators. There is generally a programme and the idea is for the kiteflyers to entertain the public. Cervia seems to be different; the focus is the kite flyers and kite makers. There is no programme and no obligation on anyone. You fly because you want to. Being in Italy, when you are not flying, you are drinking, eating or just spending time with friends. It is more of a retreat for kite flyers than a festival. That is why every year kite flyers travel to this little Italian seaside resort from the various corners of the world. We are lucky it is just a Ryan Air flight. This year, we have been unable to goto Cervia. I felt that I wanted to go to Italy more than normal, so I really missed it.
One of the highlights of Cervia each year is goto dinner at Gianluca’s parents flat. Gianluca’s parents live in an incredible flat overlooking a historic canal. Every year they open their arms and hearts to friends of Gianluca from around the world. Gianluca’s beautiful mother is an incredible cook whose cuisine is worth a Michelin star. As we could not make it this year dinner was a small one with only 17 people! Gianluca has kindly sent me a picture of the evening and tells me that everyone is saying "salute" to me!!!
He goes onto say that ‘In Italy we say that if someone thinks about a person, that person will hear whistling his ear.....well, I think it's better for you to wear a headphone!!!Everyone here was thinking of you!’
Well I was thinking of you all and look forward to a
Limoncello with you all next year and drinking a toast to kites and friends.
Some twelve years ago, Natalie, her sister Paula and I decided that we should give Natalie and Paula’s parents a dog for Christmas. Initially we went to Battersea dogs home which is the largest rescue home in the UK. Before we were allowed to see the dogs we had to watch a video and about how we should treat a rescue dog. I remember being told that you had to make sure they had a space to themselves, somewhere to rest or sleep that was their area not yours, definitely not in your bedroom. It was a depressing place with huge numbers of dogs that had been mistreated and were, at best, depressed as a result. We could not find a dog. Later on Natalie and Paula went to a rescue home in the South West and fell for a tiny little mut. At the time they both wore a perfume called Issey Miyake and for some reason they decided to name the dog after a perfume, however given that Paula can’t spell it was written Izzy.
Paula brought Izzy upto London before Xmas. The first night we found a space for Izzy in the kitchen and left her comfortable when we went to bed. As soon as we got to the top of the stairs poor little Izzy started to cry. I went downstairs and calmed her down. Once she was comfortable I left her and went back upstairs. The same thing happened again. So, what should I do. If we left Izzy alone then she would cry all night and keep our neighbours awake but we must not let her sleep in our bedroom. The only solution was for me to get my sleeping bag and sleep with her on the kitchen floor. Izzy never forgot this and whilst Izzy love all the family she seemed to love me a bit more. Over the years since I used to look forward to my girlie coming to stay. She would wait for me in the evening by the front door and when she saw me her whole body would start shaking with excitement. Natalie used to joke that she was my second love and Izzy my first.
Izzy was always full of energy. She love going ‘walkies’ and would bound around Highgate Woods or Hampstead Heath looking for squirrels or digging for moles. Suddenly last week she was not well. Natalie’s parents took her to the emergency hospital where they scanned her and found that she had liquid under her heart. They removed the fluid and kept her in. On Wednesday she had a scan and was diagnosed with cancer. She had a tumour in her heart which had spread to her lungs. She came home on Wednesday and passed away on Friday morning.
Izzy was part of the family. She gave and received a huge amount of love. We will all miss her. The fact that she died of cancer has shaken everyone so much.
The good news is that last week I finally finished my radiotherapy. The staff at 81 Harley Street looked after me fantastically and I am eternally grateful to all of them for making a tough experience bearable. Now the next stage is my operation in early June. To be honest I can’t wait. The waiting is the worse thing.
Natalie has kept me busy the last two weekends and so I have not written my blog. I did not know how many people were reading the blog. I have received some lovely e-mails asking me how I am getting on and asking why I have not updated my blog. So I thought I better write an update.
Firstly, as far as my radiotherapy is concerned I am 90% the way through my treatment. I have my final session on Tuesday. Five weeks have passed incredibly quickly. The staff at the clinic have looked after me incredibly well and I am so grateful to all of them. It will be strange not to see them every day. My main side effect continues to be tiredness. The last few weeks I have been coming home after my treatment and having a nap for a couple of hours late in the afternoon. Last Monday and Tuesday I could not do, by Wednesday I was exhausted. I have learnt my lesson and will have to pace myself. It will probably be hard this week. The treatment has provided a convenient break in my day – now I have to have the self will to bunk of work early.
Throughout the postings on my blog I have thanked my friends and family for so much support over the last few months. I have not thanked my darling wife Natalie. Natalie has been my rock since we were told I had cancer. She has kept me strong when I felt weak, made me happy when I felt sad and made sure that I did what I needed to do. When, I was not able to help myself she was there to help me. I love her more than words can ever say and I want to thank her a billion times.
I am officially half way through the radiotherapy treatment. Yippppeeee.
This is apparently when the side effects start kicking in. Boooooo.
As you might imagine, a lot of people are asking me ‘How am I feeling’. This is very different from the ‘How are you’ discussed last week. This is a question of great concern. Reality is that physically I feel very little difference from normal. I am definitely more tired but that is not the end of the world. Last week I did not go back to work after my treatment and came home instead. There are some other effects but nothing I cannot cope with.
All this got me thinking about what the word ‘Cancer’ means to people. It seems that for many it is a really scary word. In fact some people can’t even bring themselves to say it. When Natalie and I first heard we decided we needed a code word. Parachute was decided with PAR being my initials, and chute a veiled reference to my bottom!!
As time has gone on I have realised that in 2008 it really is not as terrifying as everybody thinks. With the treatment I am getting there is no reason why I won’t make a full recovery. It is of course possible that the cancer can recur but on the grounds that I will have regular examinations this will spotted.
Which leaves me to believe that I am very lucky to have been born when I was and be living where I am. Alternatively as my friend Meg puts it I picked a whimpy type of cancer that a girly-girl could beat.
The jokes are come in thick and fast. Big congratulations to Sally Evans and Ray Bethell who managed to come up with jokes with rectum in them. When you read Sally’s joke about little Jonny trying renaming him Joseph and say it in a Jewish accent. I think it works much better!
Which reminds me of the rabbi walking along the beach. He sees a young boy throwing a stick out to see so that his dog can go and fetch it. The boy throws the stick really hard and the dog swims out further than is wise. A big wave comes along and engulfs the dog. He won’t let go of the stick so he takes a mouthful of salty water and starts to go under. The rabbi rushes into the sea and saves the dog. He carries the dog back to the beach but it does not look good. The rabbi gives the dog the kiss of life and suddenly the dog splutters and then comes around. The boy is amazed at this and asks ‘Are you a vet?’
“‘Vet” says the rabbi “I am bloody socking”
My niece ‘Alex’ thought it would help if I had a pet to stroke and so has leant me her guinea pig ‘Cookie’. Cookie seems to molt rather a lot so I have to wear an ancient fleece but she is great company and really enjoys playing with the computer. Enjoy the picture.
Keep the jokes coming. There is so much to be cherry about.
Last night Natalie and I went to a friend’s 40th birthday party. We knew many of the people there, some well and some that we had met at other parties or events. For them life was normal but for me, as much as I try to deny it, life is most definitely not normal. Talking to people was hard. The first thing most people say when they see each other is “how are you”. This is so standard that it hardly qualifies as a question – the response is “I am well how are you”. What do I say? Do people know my diagnosis and feel it better to ignore it or do they not know? Should I tell them or try and make small chat?
I felt that I was in a goldfish bowl but could not work out whether I was trying to stare out or was everybody staring in?
All that said I am bowled over by how supportive family, friends, colleagues and acquaintances are. I keep on getting messages of support and want to thank absolutely everyone for this. It means a huge amount to Natalie and I. This week I had a card from Andrew A who I have probably not seen for 20 years. Hezz gave me details of a colleague of hers who I had never met but he had bowel cancer a few years ago and had kindly offered to help me if he could. At the moment I can’t take everyone up on their offers but it does not mean they don’t mean a lot to me.
A lot of thought has obviously gone in to the messages. Some are very funny, one of two have made me weep. All of them have been written by people with huge hearts who mean a huge amount to me.
I am now a third the way through my treatment. I am starting to feel tired but see this as a good excuse to have afternoon naps. The treatment consists of radiotherapy on a daily basis. I am also having chemotherapy although not by drip but by taking pills every morning and evening. I will continue with this till the end of April. Then in June I go into have the tumour removed. Something to look forward to!!
Someone once said that “Laughter is the shock absorber that eases the blows of life” and I think this is true. So, I have asked people to send me jokes – ideally bottom related. If I get enough then we will publish them with the proceeds going to suitable charities. Meanwhile I have put some of them on the web.
I want to thank everyone for their support and kind comments. Some of them have made me laugh and one or two have me feel like crying. I have no doubt that I am going to get through all of this with the help of my friends and family.
My friends from North America have told me to check that I am getting good medical advice. I am lucky enough to have private medicine insurance and am being treated by some of the top specialists in Harley Street. That said, my consultant says that I would get the same treatment using the same machines and similar radiologists with the National Health Service. The difference is that I don’t have to wait so long and I see the consultant more often. In his words when I do see him he spends more time with me and smiles at me more often!
The other comment was ‘see you in Cervia’. One of the more upsetting side effects of my treatment is that we will not be able to go to Cervia. So hopefully 2009. Natalie and I will miss Cervia and miss seeing you all.
In any case after today’s treatment I am 20% through my treatment.
Don’t forget that I am starting a collection of bottom related jokes – send them in. Alternatively I seem to be acquiring a number of bottom related pictures. One of the cleanest sent to me by Robert and Susan van Weers from New Zealand is shown above. Big respect to Robert for managing to combine kites and bottoms .
Where do I start?
One of the things I have learnt over the last three weeks is how to give individuals bad news. But here I am publishing my bad news to a wider audience. Possibly to people I don’t know. So, starting is harder than normal.
It was about a month ago that I went into hospital for what I thought was a normal procedure. It was not supposed to be a drama. I walked to the operating theatre (if that isn’t too grand a description). As I was talking to the doctor I was given a sedative which knocked me out. Later on the doctor reappeared and told me that he had found a tumour and it was malignant. I had cancer.
The next five days were definitely the worse of Natalie’s and my life. Five days later I had a MRI and CT scan. That afternoon I saw the doctor again and he confirmed that the cancer had not spread and was treatable.
The same doctor has since told me that it is rare for him to find someone younger than him with bowel cancer and he will do everything he can. Well the first amazing thing he did was give me this great news that the cancer was treatable. I felt that I had won the lottery. It is a great lesson in expectation management – whilst everyone I told was devastated I felt that I should celebrate that my cancer was treatable.
Since that day I have had more scans, tests and examinations that you can imagine. Last week I started radiotherapy and chemotherapy. I will have 25 sessions of radiotherapy every working day for 5 weeks or so. Chemotherapy involves drugs and fortunately I am not having these administered in huge doses through a drip but in the form of pills that I take twice a day.
Those of you who are worried about it will be pleased to hear that the chemotherapy has little effect on my hair! I was hoping that it would make it fall out and then regrow!!
In June I will have an operation to remove the growth. The only operation I have had before is to have my wisdom teeth taken out so this is quite a big deal for me. I will be in hospital for 10 days or so then at home for another six to eight weeks.
People ask “what can I do?” The answer is nothing apart from give me your support and try to make me laugh. So, search your memory for bottom related humour. Who knows if I get enough good jokes maybe I will edit a book!! If you feel inclined then send me a letter or an e-mail or sign the guest book.
If you want to know how I am getting on then keep looking at my blog.