What Happens Next...
I finally escaped the clutches of The Conquest Hospital last Wednesday evening (thanks, in no small part, to my friend Simon Aylett who provided me with an excellent escape kit in a small box marked "Top Secret" containing, among other things, a very convincing disguise, a roll of fake bank notes, some balloons of various shapes and sizes, a polystyrene Spitfire and a small pot of goo which makes an amusing fart noise when you prod it – all invaluable).
I was kept in for 15 days in all, and I have to say that, while it was in no way fun, I was looked after immaculately throughout by a team of efficient, caring, kind, knowledgeable nurses, registrars, junior doctors and surgeons of many differing and wonderful nationalities. They were brilliant and were duly rewarded with 30 locally handmade fairy cakes shortly after my departure.
I was on intravenous antibiotics for 10 days, a saline drip for 12 days and the TPN intravenous food for 13 days, all of which went into me via something called a Picc Line which, in itself, is worth a mention (look away now, squeamish people). A Picc Line is inserted into one’s right arm just below the bicep (or former bicep in my case) by a clever chap who knows what he is doing. It goes into a vein, I’m not clever enough to tell you which, and is then pushed up the arm, across the chest and stops just above the heart. Bloody clever. You don’t really feel a thing once it’s in the arm but having it removed was admittedly a fairly weird experience.
I have lost 15kg (over 2 stone) since last summer, 7kg of which fell away over the last three weeks so when I emerged from the clutches of the hospital, I looked really quite emaciated. Since getting home, however, I have already put on 2kg and am working hard to put on more. Aside from that, I've suffered surprisingly few side effects really – my intestines are beginning to function normally again but I am suffering a minor ailment in the form of Palmar Plantar or “hand-foot syndrome” wherein all the skin on the palms of my hands and soles of my feet has decided to take leave. Moderately unpleasant but it will pass, I am told. It is a common side effect of chemo.
Anyway, I am now home which is wonderful. It is astonishing how unwittingly starved of nature and normality one becomes after 15 days in a beige box. The journey home was spent with me marvelling and gibbering on almost without cease at how green, lush and wonderful the Sussex countryside suddenly looked to my colour-deprived eyes. On arrival at home, I spent a good half-hour just sitting in the garden, appreciating the peace, the lack of machines that go ping, the blue sky, the horses and sheep, the unadulterated nature surrounding our modest little home. It really was blissful.
So, enough wittering, what’s the plan, I hear you ask. Well, no more chemo for a start. The single cycle that I underwent did good things to the tumour and, according to my amazing oncologist, shrunk it “substantially”. But given the damage it also did to the rest of me, they are not prepared to risk any further potential calamity. Instead, we are diving into the world of radiotherapy with an initial appointment this Thursday at the Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton where they will measure me up and paint a target on me, ready for the first zapping hopefully a week or so thereafter. I will then need to attend said hospital every week day for 5½ weeks which involves a 90 minute drive each way each day – a bore, to say the least, but a necessary bore.
Thereafter, the plan is still vague for various reasons – at their multidisciplinary meeting last Friday, the team looking after me concluded that they are still not 100% certain that the cancer has spread to my liver. I will therefore be having a PET scan hopefully later this week which should tell them definitively where the cancer has spread to, if it has spread beyond the bowel. For the time being, I am assuming that the original diagnosis is correct - that it has indeed spread to the liver. And on that basis, the plan is to remove the relevant section of my liver shortly after the course of radiotherapy comes to an end. I will then be given time to recover before the main event – removal of the bowel tumour, assuming the radiotherapy has shrunk it further still to make the operation viable.
So there remain quite a few question marks, but all that means is that the path is not set in stone, we must take each day and each revelation as it comes. The oncologists words were that my case is “complicated, but by no means insurmountable” or words to that effect, so here at base camp we remain defiantly optimistic and simply look forward to the day when the all-clear is given, whenever that may be.
And finally another HUGE shout out to my amazing wife who continues to look after me beautifully as I recuperate at home and remains as solid as a rock for her withered husband – fortunately for her I am getting stronger and more independent by the day, but thank you Bekky May for your exceptional generosity and kindness. You are so much more than I deserve.
Huge love to you all – I’ll keep you posted. x