Thursday, 29 November 2012

Not on the trial

It was back to the Christie this morning to register on the trial. This was a drug that is being trialed at the moment that somehow cuts off the blood supply to the cancer cells. I've no idea how that works, and it doesn't matter now as I'm not eligible. My cancer was initially diagnosed as ulcerous and this trial drug has the potential to make ulcers bleed which is not good. So I'm not on the trial drug.

Which means I'm to press on with normal chemo treatment.

So pop a reminder in your diary for next Thursday 6th December, where I'll be off to the Christie for an 8 hour infusion of my first chemo treatment, followed by a 3 week supply of chemo tablets to take home with me.

I'll not blog anything until then, maybe not till Friday 7th, but you're all out there praying and thinking of me, which is very appreciated. A massive thanks to everyone on Facebook and Twitter that has sent me messages of support, and all you phoning and texting me support too. It really is keeping my spirits up, so don't stop or think I'm not appreciative.

I'm off to get some miles in on the bike before I feel like shit :)

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

The Christie

It's seems like ages ago that I was diagnosed with Stomach cancer, but in fact its only been 41 days. In that time we've had some major downs and a few little ups. My prognosis has gone from: cancer! I'm going to die! to: No, hang on, it's operable and relatively easy to beat.

Today I found out that in fact it's going to be a very hard battle. The doctor at the Christie, Dr Mansoor, spelt it out very straight and forthright. He said that surgeons have a way of looking on the bright side of things, and it's his job to set the record straight and lay the cards on the table. I've been dealt a shit hand.
My cancer is a type 3/4. 4 is the worst. It's also in my lymph nodes which makes it even worse. On a scale of survival, I'm at the bottom, something like this:

T1 95% survival
T2 65%
T3 20%
T4 4%
Lymph node spread reduces each of the above by about 20%.

I'm between T3 and T4. As you can imagine, this is a bloody shock. After dropping that little bombshell, Dr Mansoor then told me I'm eligible for a trial of a new cancer drug. He outlined the pros and cons of the trial and that there was no pressure to take part in the trial.
I'm going to take part in it.

So my next year is going something like this.
I'm back at the Christie tomorrow for confirmation of the trial involvement, I've then to have a heart and lung test and also further blood tests to ensure I'm eligible for the trial drug.
The trial drug is to be given alongside my normal regime of chemo and surgery, so that doesn't affect my chemo or surgery, it just adds to it.
I should start on chemo in around 10 days, with the first injection of chemo and the trial drug taking place over an 8 hour period on the first day. I will then take tablets of chemo over the next 3 weeks. As soon as one course of chemo is finished, I'll go back to the Christie and start all over again for 3 weeks, with no break, then once more, totalling 9 weeks of non-stop chemo and trial drugs.
I'll then get a chemo break for around 5 weeks to recover prior to the surgery. Hopefully by this time the cancer will be reduced significantly in size prior to its removal. I'll then have a further 6 - 10 week break while I heal and adapt to having no stomach etc, then start the chemo cycle all over again.
Boy am I looking forward to that fucking journey :(

I drove to the Christie this morning with a little spring in my step and a real sense of being able to beat this shitter. I knew there was going to be hair loss and feeling tired and sick and all that usual cancer bullshit you see and hear about, and I was more than ready to take all that on.
Now though, I feel I've been hit with a bloody great big hammer right across my head. It really has knocked me for six. I know I've got an amazing family behind me, and some cracking mates to help me through this, but at the time of writing, I'm scared shitless.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Happy Birthday!

45 today, hurrah :)
Thought I'd never make it since being diagnosed with cancer in some peoples eyes is an instant death sentence  Obviously that's not the case these days at all. I fully intend to beat this thing and recover fully on the other side. It's going to be a long journey though, which I've already started with various tests and meetings over the last month. There's a lot going on around cancer and the care of people with it. I've been to the excellent Beechwood centre three times now, most recently this week to be introduced to their eight week program for cancer patients. They run an excellent service where you go in from early morning and basically learn various relaxation techniques also relaxation therapies. I'm looking forward to a bit of acupuncture.
I've also been referred by my GP to the PARiS scheme run by stockport councils sports department. This enables you to get (keep) fit at your local gym with the help of a qualified instructor during the term of your treatment. Basically a personal trainer will assess your fitness, listen to your goals and tailor a workout to your personal needs. I'm back in tomorrow, Thursday, for my assessment.
Finally, today I went to the dentist. Yep, happy birthday, you've got a dental appointment :( However, after my check up today, all is well. Apparently your gums can take a bit of a beating during chemo, so the check up is to make sure they're in good condition before I start.
I'm pretty much all ready to go. I've just got to finish my course of antibiotics for a chesty cough I've picked up off the rest of the family, and we're good.

On a sad note, I went to Darren Mountains funeral today. The service was very nice, simple and effective. There was a great turnout from Royal Mail, friends past and present, and obviously from his Barnsley based friends and relatives. It was a very moving occasion.
Rest in peace Darren, you'll be sorely missed by everyone who knew you.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

The 28th November

The 28th November is the date I go to the Christie. After the speed of the diagnoses and further tests, I've got the feeling of being slowed to a grinding halt. It seems so long away. I know I've been lucky with the way I've been treated by all the excellent staff at both Stepping Hill and the MRI, but the Christie works to it's own timetable I guess.
So, while I wait for the blood tests and the right chemo cocktail for my particular cancer, I'm working on putting on weight and getting fit at the same time. However, that is not as easy as it sounds. Eating is getting harder, with food and now even liquids getting stuck in my gullet. Meal times are particularly frustrating, both  for me as I take ages to eat the simplest meals, and for Joh as she tries to prepare something that will go down easy. In fact, the only thing that will go down easy is cake, which is nice, oh, and custard. I'm getting sick of them already though. As for the fitness, I've done a few sessions in the gym, most notably a hard circuit training session on Monday this week, and am slowly increasing my stamina on the bike again, weather permitting. But on a number of occasions, after those exercises, I've had a quite acute pain in my chest, right at the site of the tumor  which is not good. I don't want it to stop me doing anything, but I'm aware that I have to be careful what I do. I don't want to be collapsing on the road while out cycling, or passing out in the gym during a core session!

So, everything in moderation (except cake) and taking it easy and listening to my body. In the meantime, everyone else in this house has a bad cough and a cold. Everyone sounds much sicker than me. The irony is not lost on any of us :)

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Darren Mountain

I received the very sad news yesterday that Darren had lost his fight against cancer.
I'd known Darren since working at Green Lane Mail Center. We shared a love of cycling, although he was a gravity junkie who would scare me with stories of his Sheffield woods downhill exploits, while I'd tell of my adventures across country.
Darren was a plain speaking Yorkshireman, and always spoke his mind. Never one to allow anything to slow him down or get in his way. He tackled his cancer with the same attitude. He wasn't going to let it change his life. He made all the changes he had to, moving house to be nearer his children, stopping driving and cycling, and returning to work as soon as he could and carrying on as though nothing had changed.
On his return, as his friend and line manager, I asked him what he wanted to do? Sit down on letters or flats? Less hours? Whatever suited him. Typically he opted for the "business as usual" option. Tipping bags like the old days. This eventually proved too much for him, and after a particularly bad week of not eating much and feeling poorly, Darren had a bad turn at work one night and was taken away by ambulance.
Unbelievably he was back in the next night! We sat down again and I told him this time that he was no longer tipping bags. He acknowledged that he'd been trying to do too much and settled for sorting instead.
That's the last time I saw him. The next week he was off, then I was off sick fighting my own cancer. The last I heard Darren had taken another bad turn at work, this time off for good, and never to return.
I was going to phone him today. I'd been putting it off all week for no reason. I regret not speaking to him massively.
I'll miss you Darren.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Beechwood Cancer Care Centre

As a family, we all went to Beechwood today. There were a few tears, not as many as I thought there would be actually, and we got some things sorted out. All in all it was a good thing I think. The kids need clearer signals on my mood changes, which have been quite frequent of late, and I need to know that I can trust them to do the basics, and then look around to see if they can do anything else.
I think the main problem we've got as a family at the moment is that I'm not really ill as such. If I hadn't had my Laparoscopy last week, I'd probably be back at work now, albeit in a reduced capacity. I don't look ill, in fact, with the weight I've put on recently, I look pretty healthy. I'm not limping or lost the use of any of my limbs, I'm not slurring my words or lay on the sofa slobbering, so outwardly, I'm fine.
It's all mental really at the moment, and it's weird the way it creeps up on you. One second you're sat watching TV, reading, texting, whatever, the next you're thinking of your own mortality, wondering what is going to happen when the chemo drugs hit? What will I be able to eat when I've got no stomach? Will I be able to drink beer again? Can I go for a long bike ride without stopping for a pub lunch or snack to keep me going?     and so on.

And in the meantime, life goes on as normal as we can make it. Which is another part of the problem when trying to deal with this cancer. Life is not "normal" anymore. You have to acknowledge it. Burying your head in the sand and trying to pretend it doesn't exist is pointless.
Stand up, face the fucker, say hello then beat the shit out of it with the help and support of everyone you can muster around you.

That's my plan. Hope you can all stay with me till I've beaten this shit.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Good news, but hold the bubbly

Had a lovely ride out this morning. Headed along a route that normally takes me around one and a half hours at a good pace, but took me over two hours today. I wasn't rushing, just taking it easy, but my heart rate was higher than the faster time, and my average speed was way slower. It just goes to show how soon you lose any fitness you've gained. I've been working hard to increase my average speeds and improve my climbing, and watching all that slip away at the moment is frustrating. On the flipside of that though is the fact that I'm riding around with the shitty cancer inside me, I've just had keyhole surgery, and I'm putting on weight nicely ahead of my chemo.

Which brings me nicely to today's hospital visit. Back to Stepping Hill to see Dr Decadt and the results of my PET scan and a final decision on my treatment path. The PET scan, you'll remember if you've been reading this blog, was to find out if the cancer has spread anywhere else. My PET scan says NO, the cancer hasn't spread anywhere else, which is PRETTY AMAZING NEWS! So, treatment:
CHEMO first to reduce the size of the tumour, this should start within the next 2 weeks. This will last around 2 months, and if successful, should reduce the tumour to the point that surgery will be easier.
There is a small risk that the chemo wont do anything to the tumour, or even make it worse, in which case we'd go straight to:
SURGERY, which will remove pretty much all of my oesophagus and some of my stomach, then turn the remainder of my stomach into an oesophagus, which will mean quite a radical change in my diet after that point.
To be fair, I'm pretty scared about that. I thought about the surgery bit last night, and I was quite upset by it. Still, I'm not facing this alone, and I'm in very good hands with Dr Decadt.
In the meantime, there are no more tests, HURRAH!, and I can eat all the shit I've been putting off for the last 2 years, my jeans are already getting tighter.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Driving again

Relief. I'm finally back behind the wheel of my own car, although it has developed a leak and I'm having to wear my wellies inside the car :(
Nothing to report on the battlefront today. Results of last nights scan wont be with us until Wednesday or maybe even Thursday, so no point worrying about that for now. Chance to have a semi normal day.
Spot of shopping to start. Popped into stockport with the intention of buying Halo4, but ended up with 5 blue ray discs for £30. Bargain.
Four Lions
In Bruges
Then off to Cheadle bikes for a copy of Rouleur, the worlds greatest cycle racing reportage magazine.
Finally to Mud Crab Cafe and Diner in Didsbury.
Where I faced this:
The excessive amount of sauce and mustard was my attempt to enable me to eat it without it getting stuck in my gullet. It didn't work. It's times like this that are really frustrating. Here's what happens: I'll take a few chips, coat them in sauce and mustard, chew, chew a bit more, then swallow. All seems fine, so I'll do the same again, take a small drink, then a few more. At this point, my gullet is full, and nothing is dropping into my stomach, so even drinking something to help it go down, makes it worse. All I can do is stop eating and start hoping that the food will eventually pass into my stomach. In today's case, it didn't. The only way I can then eat again is to empty my gullet of the food that is stuck there. So it's off to the toilet, close the door, fingers tickling the back of my throat, tears in my eyes, sick the contents of my gullet down the toilet, rinse and wash and back to the table to start again. 
This time I avoided the chips. The burger was bloody gorgeous! I started a lot slower this time. (Joh told me later that the waitress had come by while I was in the toilet asking if everything was ok?) 
After I'd finished the burger, and not had another chip, I ordered the cheesecake. Funnily enough, that went down no problem. The McMillan nurse did say to get fatter on puddings :) 
I'd highly recommend that diner, we'll be going back for sure. 
After that, we went off to the cheese hamlet in Didsbury, for a spot of Wenslydale Blue and STRONG CHEDDAR. 
Then to Freeride in Disley to collect my mtb, which has had a service and geometry fitting. 
Home and relax. Spot of cheese, radio on, reading Rouleur, coffee. 
Driving Isaac to rugby training later then an early night I think. 
It's been a long day today, or at least it feels like it. I think yesterdays ride and PET scan took it out of me. Felt tired all day today. It's taking me longer to recover from exercise, that's for sure. I am getting older though, 45 on the 21st! 

Monday, 5 November 2012

Doctor manhatten

Another day and for now, my final test. Just being driven back from my PET scan by Johanna. I'm currently radioactive. Glowing in the dark on bonfire night. Kudos :)
The test went fine, I'll know the results on Wednesday.

Had a great ride on my new road bike today. First road ride in about a month actually. Probably went to far @ 26 miles, but what the heck. Worse part was being nil by mouth and only able to drink water since 11:30 this morning.

Quiche is waiting.

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Losing weight and getting fat

Two years ago I made the decision to actually lose weight and hopefully get faster on my bike. This was brought about by cycling with Dai and watching as his fitness and speed on the bike came quickly up to my own, and then briefly matched and passed me. I wasn't having any of that! So I set about doing something about it. Having a smartphone helped a lot, as there are a raft of apps out there to help you lose weight and get fitter. The one I chose at the time was the Livestrong calorie tracker app, and a website that outlined a core workout on a weekly basis. Using those two, I started tracking my calorie input, and doing regular core exercises at home. Combined, I quickly lost weight and began to feel the benefit of the core workout every week. Over time, I've not been very regular with the core workout, but I have kept up the calorie counting, much to the sometime annoyance of the family as I work out the calorie count at mealtimes. I've allowed myself 2300 calories a day. I know some of my work colleagues will disagree, but I do have quite a physical job, and with my regular exercise regime, can sometimes get through over 4000 calories a day. Obviously, if you're burning that much, you have to put it back, otherwise you'll lose weight. So, don't put it all back and you do indeed lose weight. My starting weight was around 18 stone 2 years ago, and I was just over 14 stone when diagnosed with cancer, so its been working a treat. I've been getting a bit quicker on the bike as well :)
Now, in the last few months, I noticed a 3-4 lb drop in my weight that couldn't be down to doing more exercises or eating less, but I didn't pick up on it at the time. In hindsight, that was probably a warning sign that something was amiss. My weight had settled around the 207lb mark, and wasn't budging.
Until now.
I've now to put on weight, and quickly. I'm in for a course of chemo in the next week or so, which by all accounts will knock my appetite for six, make me feel sick and sap all my energy. So I'll not feel like eating or exercising. Not what I want to hear. However, I'm looking on all my past weight loss and fitness gain as the means to fighting and beating this cancer. Here's me thinking I was training just to get faster on the bike, when in actual fact I was training to beat this cancer. I'm fit enough now to take it on and beat it.

So, after a few days of rest after my Laparoscopy, I've been back to the gym today to start to regain my lost fitness from the past few weeks of tests and probing. My calorie intake is up to 3200 a day to gain weight, and I'm counting the days when I can get out on my new bike and start climbing hills again.
I'm not letting this crap stop me doing what I love. Bring it on.

Friday, 2 November 2012

Decisions and driving me mad.

Another day, another Doctors meeting to discuss my results and eventual treatment. After discussions this morning the MDT team are going with Chemo and then surgery. There is concern that my tumour is bleeding into my stomach, and Chemo could aggravate that. If it gets worse during the therapy, then there's the option to stop the chemo and go straight to surgery instead.
I've still got to have my PET scan on monday next week, which will hopefully give us a better picture of how the cancer is located in my body. Then there's another MDT team meeting the following wednesday, followed by a meeting with me, then off to Christies to start my chemo. Can't wait.

Joh and I went over to the Beechwood Centre today and had a lovely chat with a counselor. We'll be going back next week once I know for sure what the treatment regime is going to be. In the meantime, I had a go at Joh's driving. I've never been a good passenger at the best of times, and as I can't drive anywhere at the moment, Joh is doing all the running around. I am most grateful for this, but I've got to learn to keep my mouth shut and stop criticizing her skills behind the wheel.

Meanwhile, the Cannondale is back with me :) New tape, new stem, same handlebar. Geometry set up for a more upright position to start with, as my stomach is not up to cycling just yet. Gave it a polish when I got home, so she's all ready to go when I am.

Time for a rest. Brothers coming round this evening. Only the 2nd visitor I've had since going sick.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Had some pretty amazingly good news today. Nothing to do with my health mind, this is bike related. much more important :)
Back at the beginning of October, I put my road bike into my LBS for a new stem and handlebar to be fitted after I'd had a bike fitting there. There was also a new chainset to put on. While they were sorting all that out, they discovered 2 cracks in the frame, bummer! I took the bike back to Evans in Manchester and they sent it to Cannondale UK to assess the cracks and see if they'd replace the frame under warranty. I got a call back a couple of weeks later from Evans saying that they would indeed replace the frame, under warranty and FOC, but for an extra £250, I could have the HI-MOD version of the frame, which is essentially the pro bike. I wasn't bothered about getting the top of the range, just that I'd be in possession of a road bike again, god I missed it, so waited until they called to say the bike was in. 
So yesterday, not only did I get the good news that my cancer was smaller and less mobile than at first thought, I also got a call from Evans saying my bike was in and ready for collection, Double bastard good!

Joh went to collect it today, and to both the shops and my surprise, Cannondale had gone and sent the HI-MOD version of the bike FOC. I couldn't believe it. That really cheered me up after the shitty week I've had. 
We dropped it off at Freeride in Disley later today for the new longer stem and wider bar to go on, new chain and chainset and new bar tape. She'll be ready to ride by weekend, which is a pity cause I won't. I'm still sporting a sore stomach from my operation on Tuesday, which makes me look like I've been in a drive by shooting :) 
Hopefully I'll get a little potter out on the bike next week, before the chemo starts.