Monday, 30 August 2010

One Month On

"It's four in the morning and once more the dawning
Just woke up the wanting in me"

And after only a month living with the C word what I want more than anything is to be free of its grip on my life. I am fully aware that so far my short journey down this long and winding road has been relatively easy. Apart from the initial feeling of devastation when told the gruesome news I have only had to deal with the routine inconveniences of  several outpatient's appointments for those diagnostic procedures carried out so far; and none of those caused me any undue distress (apart from laying stock still for 40 minutes in a CT scanner with an arthritic shoulder whingeing in my ear). Even the degree of dysphagia is managable with no more than a couple of paracetamol to ease the discomfort when aggrevated by swallowing or when discordantly influenced by the power of the music of the night. Now half way through this bank holiday weekend, with life carrying on much as normal; enjoying long walks with my dog; collecting edible mushrooms on fungi forays;

Chaka, my 5 year old Ridgeback 

Ceps for a Lasagne
watching the tri-nations rugby (the Boks finally won a match against the Wallabies) and wineing and dining with friends and family either out or at home, especially when I am the one showing off my culinary skills, my thoughts return once more to what lays ahead.

The emotional turmoil is not quite such plain sailing and I owe so much to those around me for the support and help in keeping a balance in my head and in my understanding*.

Whilst currently waiting for the outcome of last Thursday's PET scan, which I presume will determine whether or not my condition is operable, I begin to wonder at just what stage it will kick in that my body has beem invaded by billions of malignant organisms hell bent on prematurely ending this normal life in a painful and indignant manner. The accounts of fellow sufferers, survivors and their carers bring stark reminders that everybody's experience of the highs and lows vary greatly and with vastly differing extremes. When my battle does begin in earnest I will have gained enormous succour by learning from the trials and tribulations of their individual journeys and the demonstrations of incredible courage in the face of heart-rending adversity. The advice they've given and the attitude they've displayed has been and will continue to be  invaluable to me in dealing with whatever lays in wait and I take this opportunity to thank them all and wish them well.

Signing off with one particular thought in mind thanks to Carole "'s about just not accepting that those little blighters will end my life. They can and will change my life but I'm not going to accept that they'll kill me." And with that I am not entirely free from the grip but it's a damned sight weaker!

*read new anecdote 'What a load of crap!'

Monday, 23 August 2010

He's got the whole world in his hands.......

Sunday lunch at The Ferry, Cookham with Jennie and Geraldine
Today Geraldine and I celebrate our 7th anniversary and as usual on these occasions I am up in the early hours of the morning designing and printng my own greetings card, but never has it been so difficult to find rhe right words. At last the tears are flowing and it makes it bloody impossible to see what I am doing.  Using a photo of 'David Star' a variety of rose she bought me for our garden, and reference to my own star 'Big Red' for which she bought the registration when we first met, I finally settled on the following wording:

to My darling Geraldine.
No matter what the future holds
take courage from understanding
I will always be shining so brightly
to guide you in your firmament.
With all my fondest love,
now and forever,
'Big Red'

P.S. I awoke to find someone had planted 'Copper' anniversary mushrooms in my garden:

Friday, 20 August 2010

The good news is that the bad news could be worse.

Back in the Crown and Cushion, Minley after my appointment with Mr Singh at Frimley Park this morning it was noted that for the first time in recent history I was unable to finish the wild mushroom tagliatelle that I had ordered for lunch. My lack of appetite was not so much caused by the discomfort of swallowing but more a result of trying to digest the information I had just received. The data from the CT scan and the Endoscopic Ultrasound confirmed a significantly long (10cm) tumour in the tissue of the esophagus and also affected lymph nodes. This alone would have meant a combination of chemo and surgery to be a possible course of treatment for this primary invasion, but the CT scan also registered something in the lungs the likes of which the equipment used so far was unable to determine. Therefore it would be necessary to await the outcome of an imminent PET scan before introducing the possibility of a secondary tumor into the equation. If that proves to be the case then I understand surgery is not an option and the cancer would have to be managed by means of chemo- and radiotherapy.

Luckily as my liver appeared to be unaffected I had no hesitation in ordering a second pint of Bishop's Finger whilst at the same time raising another digit or two in the direction of all infernal cancers!

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Consultant's Clinic Appointment

Following Tuesday's sucessful ESU procedure at Frimley Park Hospital I arranged to visit my daughter for lunch yesterday. William, aged 4 and Ellen, aged 7, were keen to show granddad their tree climbing skills:

While I was over at Windsor messages concerning the next appointment were being transmitted not only between Mary, the Nurse Specialist and my wife but also between Gill, the consultant's secretary and home: One advising differently from the other. Finally today Gill confirmed that I would in fact see Mr Singh at an outpatient's appointment tomorrow at 11.30. Gathering from what Mary told Geraldine, I can also expect to have the following procedures within the next couple of weeks:

1. A PET scan at The Royal Surrey, Guildford, probably next week, in order to check if the cancer has spread to other areas.
2. Staging Laparoscopy (keyhole surgery under anaesthetic) at Frimley Park, probably the week after next, so that they can inspect the areas around the stomach, liver and lymph nodes
3. CPX (Cardio-pulmanory exercise) to make sure I am fit enough for surgery.

Apparently none of these appointments have resulted from anything showing up from previous tests - just the process following its due course.

It was also reassuring to learn that I have been assigned to Mary's care for the next five years, including regular check ups until signed off, which means I can look forward to drawing my old age pension after all; unless of course the government moves the goalposts.

By way of an aside I have noticed, during my walks with Chaka, that the woodland floor is dotted with the bright white stems and varying coloured caps of toadstools (Russula fungi) and other mushrooms; so autumn is on it's way folks!  

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Lunch Date

Today I had a lunch date at Frimley with a bunch of nurses. My booking was for noon but having arrived early I was very disappointed by the service as after promptly taking my order I had to wait nearly 4 hours before being shown to the table only to discover the menu consisted of one item; an Endoscopic Ultrasound probe, and the ambience of the Interventional Radiology Unit theatre left something to be desired. Luckily the assembled company was amicable and attentive. Moreover there were no adverse after effects.

Seriously folks  it was another essential stop off down the line and apart from having far too much time to contemplate my navel and monitor the comings and goings in the ward of the Day Surgery Unit it was a routine operation which passed uneventfully under the welcome euphoria of heavy sedation. It gave me the opportunity to meet with my consultant surgeon who was perfectly satisfied with both my knowledge of the impending procedure and my understanding of its raison d'etre in conjunction with the other diagnostic tests recently carried out. Understandably he could not furnish me with any more details during this encounter but did reassure me that a follow up appointment would be either on Friday or sometime next week.

Monday, 16 August 2010


The most frightening journey of my life began at around midday on Thursday, 29 July 2010 when I was told I had cancer of the oesophagus. Since that day I have been recording events, emotions and thoughts in an MS Word document on my computer. Now with the encouragement of newly found friends on the Cancer Research UK forum I have decided to publish this diary in the form of a blog.

I have yet to work out how to include here what I have already written* but until then I will press on with my latest musings from today:

It has probably been the worst night so far in that, for the first time, any sleep at all was hard found with the result that I finally got up at 3.30, made a cup of tea and opened up the link to Blogger that I had been given elswhere. Progress is slow but I am gradually getting the hang of it. 

After a pleasant Sunday it took me by surprise that my thoughts throughout the night centred on not knowing how long I had left to live, (but there again do any of us really know the answer to that question? I guess the odds on me reaching four score and ten, as predicted by more than one seaside fortune teller, have just lengthened somewhat!). Facing the prospect of death didn't scare me but the ravages and pain likely to be caused by this wretched disease and its treatments terrify me. Did I really want to endure it all and more to the point did I want my loved ones to witness my suffering any longer than necessary. On popping another couple of paracetamol to ease the discomfort which builds during the night I consoled myself with realising there are perks to this situation: Dunking ginger nuts in my coffee is no longer frowned upon and the scolding now is much less severe when, on route to my mouth, an over sloppy portion falls on the carpet. Also it seems that, earlier, during intimacy following a much needed cuddle, the onset of viagra support has been postponed for the time being. (Just possibly thoughts of what I might be missing gave rise to the darker emotions later)

So in the cold light of dawn some semblance of  peace of mind and harmony are temporarily restored.