Sunday, 31 October 2010

TW 3

No! November!

No sun--no moon!
No morn--no noon!
No dawn--no dusk--no proper time of day--
No sky--no earthly view--
No distance looking blue--
No road--no street--no "t'other side this way"--
No end to any Row--
No indications where the Crescents go--
No top to any steeple--
No recognitions of familiar people--
No courtesies for showing 'em--
No knowing 'em!
No traveling at all--no locomotion--
No inkling of the way--no notion--
"No go" by land or ocean--
No mail--no post--
No news from any foreign coast--
No Park, no Ring, no afternoon gentility--
No company--no nobility--
No warmth, no cheerfulness, no healthful ease,
No comfortable feel in any member--
No shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees,
No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds--

It's nice to be able to post a picture that contradicts Thomas Hood's poem and my usual feelings about this time of year which have taken on a much more optimistic outlook since learning to live with cancer.

A Blog post title which may not be familiar to the younger readers and in my case I've use a little bit of poetic licence to say "That Was The Week(end) That Was!" and also a bit more licentiousness to show you first how it finished this evening when after returning home at around fourish, the clocks having gone backwards and it being very dark by five, the late Halloween visitors arrived at our door in their droves. What a pleasant surprise I got when our new neighbours put in an appearance: It was definitely a case of..................................
'Trick orTREAT'!!!

Fortunately we restocked our fruit for juicing supplies from a lovely farm shop in Hamble before heading home this afternoon, so in true Coronation Street tradition, according to Eileen Grimshaw, we 'oldies' gave the kiddies the healthy option of fruit rather than sweeties. I couldn't possibly say in polite company what I would have liked to give the witch in the striped hosiery but rest assured sweeties wouldn't have been the only treat on offer! Far too much excitement to end three days of fun and games, so I am retiring to bed early and will update the rest of the weekend's news later.
(these photos are posted without captions to allow 'click' to enlarge)

Nothing to do with Halloween, and no mask or make-up involved, this is my portrait after a cycle of chemo; well maybe a slight exaggeration but certainly feels this way, especially after 2nd bout, so a bit apprehensive about this Wednesday's 3rd cycle :

The weekend away was almost perfect. On Friday afternoon, a bit later than planned, Geraldine, Chaka and I made our way down the M3 to The Southampton Hilton hotel. Having arranged for Gary to stay at our house and dog sit, I phoned the hotel at the last minute and discovered they were 'small dog friendly' so Chaka being small compared to a Great Dane, I decided he could come with us. He was an instant hit with the staff, primarily because of his proud looks, gentle nature and exceptionally good behaviour when staying in such establishments. It's a pity the same can't be said for me! Our room was equipped with new Yap Roventa Cage Mat, a drinking bowl and a large Bonio chew. (Unfortunately, after such a good first impression, the Hilton standards went rapidly down hill from there on in, but I am not going to dwell as it didn't spoil our break)

One size fits all!
It had been our intention to have dinner at So'ton Quay in a restaurant recommended by Dr Sam, Jennie's very good friend from the days when she did her master's degree and clinical research work in the city, however neither I nor the Hotel could contact the La Regata to book a table so after a slightly harrowing journey in wet weather rush hour we decided to eat in the Hilton restaurant: An unmitigated disaster which resulted in the whole bill being cancelled at the end of our stay. I am waiting for feed back from the General Manager in response to written complaint to the Duty Manager about this and the poor standard of our room in general. There were some very good aspects about our stay: The easy access to the gardens for Chaka and the Leisure Centre Pool for me to use morning and evening, the 'all you can eat' breakfast and the friendly, helpful staff fighting a losing battle against poor senior management practices .

Fine figure of a mobile toxic waste recycler

The weather was kind to us on Saturday and we headed for Exbury Gardens and the amazing splashes of colour of the autumn leaves and a fun packed ride on the Ghost Train (I will need a whole photo album for this visit alone!)

Failed to see why they looked so concerned??.....I was not wearing a scary costume, mask or make-up!

Friday, 29 October 2010

Pack up the babies, grab the old ladies and everyone go..........

.......with Geraldine and I on a long weekend break to Southampton to celebrate my 62nd birthday which is actually on Wednesday, when I join the lovely nurses at St Lukes for round three of Real 3!

We are staying for two nights at the Hilton Hotel courtesy of BaeSytems, and having dispensation to take our 'big' dog we are looking forward to exploring haunts old and new such as Exbury Gardens, Lepe Country Park and the New Forest, where we have provisionally planned to take our friends Moyra and Sheila out for an early dinner at The Three Tuns, Bransgore. I say provisionally as Moyra, who with Sheila, runs Willys Well, our favourite B&B is undergoing her fouth week of both radio- and chemotherapy for recently diagnosed lung cancer, and may not be feeling up to it. Knowing how spirited she is I am sure it wiil be all right on the night!

With a couple of overnight bags and all Chaka's praphernalia to pack, I bid you au revoir and see you on our return on Monday, hopefully with just a few photos of autumn leaves :O)

David's Star still budding and blooming in my garden!

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

"All I need is the air that I breathe............."

(Oh how I wish again for a head of hair the like's of which Graham Nash is sporting, and I also prefer the Simply Red cover of this song, but it 'belongs' to the Hollies ~ so named after the one and only Buddy, and Christmas ~ and a memorable era for me)

After that I think the best way of bringing my blog up to date is by copying a message I sent today in reply to Crystal, fellow oesophageal cancer survivor and Internet friend from the MacMillan forum, who personally and untiringly shows compassion and concern for all of us who are lucky enough to have made her acquaintance. She is far too modest to accept such praise and anyway probably will not recognise this missive because the original of which, before being run through Bloggers spell checker, was so full of  typos ;o)  :

"Hello my dear friend Crystal

I have been so very busy not only enjoying my full and hectic lifestyle but also managing these various side effects. You note I don't mention 'Goliath' and for good reason too; he seems to have temporarily given up the fight and gone AWOL, sulking somewhere I know not where. That is to say the gullet has opened up to the extent that I am eating almost normally and with the dietary regime that I'm  following the pounds are piling on again (nearly back to 16st from 15 3 which was two down from the start) The paralysed vocal chord, said to be untreatable, has cured itself almost and all painkilling meds are at present being used so sparingly as to be almost redundant. It's not all plain sailing as although I am still off the Xeloda the effects of PP and mouth ulceration are still giving cause for concern and I am grateful for your advice. Last evening I resorted to good old fashioned gargling with salt water before retiring for an early night (back awake and on the computer again now at 01.55)  and that appears to have been efficacious. As is it I'm now here dunking my nuts in ginger and lemon tea as usual, if you'll excuse the expression, my feet are smothered in E45 and I am contemplating calling in the chiropodist earlier rather than later for a second appointment.

Anyway lovely lady, enough of me for now, you can catch up on my blog as this message will be at the core of my next entry to be started soon, how are you getting along in solving the problems of your own life's great perplexities. I hope the trials and  tribulations are balanced in your favour. If anyone deserves a break it has to be your turn soon.

Harvey and one or two selected people have my direct contact details and as yet no one has felt inclined to use them except in wishing me well and just keeping in touch, but I am willing to talk to anyone that thinks I may have some relevant experience of what they are combating in their own lives as long as they realise I don't have many of the answers to their woes and certainly no miracle cures to perform. I do have a pair of very broad shoulders, which as reported earlier seem to be expanding daily, and a very empathetic listening ear - just the one, Mutt and Jeff in the other LOL.

Keeping abreast with the few that I regularly follow on blogs, here and on CR UK seems to be the one area where I'm failing the task and that makes me sad, and so with that please accept my apology for an abrupt 'au revoir' and know that like those still to be contacted there is always a place for you in my befogged, chemically misted mind and more importantly in my heart. I am so conscious of the fact that, even with the close attention of family, friends and my team which remains unstinting, the mutual support from fellow sufferers and carers here and elsewhere is essential to my elevated state of mind and consequentially my chances of giving Goliath and his henchmen a thoroughly good kicking before I finally go down at the end of this epic marathon battle, which, as things stand at the moment , looks to be a long way off.

Looking forward to a long weekend away with Geraldine, staying in the Southampton Hilton; a lunch with many of my local friends and family at the Crown and  Cushion,  Minley on Tuesday and finally to a real birthday treat on the day itself: My third cycle on the Real 3 trial at St Luke's Cancer Center, Guildford on Wednesday. They did kindly offer to switch dates but I couldn't think of a nicer bunch of people to celebrate my 62nd with than those dedicated angels on the Chilworth Suite whose cheerfulness day in and day out, amongst all our anguish, keeps me sane and determined.

Lots of love and light. Hugs and kisses.


I am dumbfounded by just how well I am. In the past, by my nature, I would  be very loathe to say 'It all sounds to good  to be true and can't possibly last'. Now with Goliath in a state of submission, I know he will be back to finish his campaign, but in the meantime I will make the most of my new found wellbeing by enjoying a 'normal' life whilst summoning up more strength, energy and determination to face his next onslaught: When, where and how that may arise is immaterial at present as my experience so far puts me in good stead to tackle most of the worst aspects of what may or may not lay ahead waiting in ambush.
Tuesday's second trip down the M4 to Sherston in Wiltshire to visit Ian and Annete was another most enjoyable day out especially as Ian is bearing up well under the onslaught of both chemo and radiotherapy and a reduced level of morphine based pain relief. You'll all be so pleased to know we now share similar bowel habits which make high wire balancing artistes out of us or should that be circus clowns! Accompanied by Jennie and my grandchildren, I left Yately at about 10.30 and, would you believe it, headed for The Compass Inn at Tormarton, only to discover mine host, Paul Monyard, was swanning off in the sunshine of Cape Town for a couple of weeks, leaving the running of the esatblishment in the more than capable hands of his own son Rupert, assisted in part by Ian's son Francis. Our plans to visit either the Cotswold Country Life and Water Park or the Westonbirt Arboretum were scuppered by the inclement weather which also made driving down the motorway very tiresome in more ways than one and I was only too relieved pull into the pub car park happy in the knowledge that Jennie had already volunteered to drive on the way home. So, after enjoying a couple of pints of ale from both the Box Steam Brewery (est: 2004) and Butcombe's (brewing since 1978) and lunch of rarebit style field mushrooms followed by poached smoked haddock on a bed of mustard mash washed down with a half bottle of Klein Constantia 2008 (took the other half to Ian's to finish; but never did!), we covered the remaining few miles up the road towards Malmesbury and the Crouch household.

By the way my daughter, grandchildren and Chaka ate heartily too and they all behaved impeccably which says a lot for my daughter. This of course relates to how well she has raised William and Ellen and not to the fact that her usual behaviour in pubs tends towards the outrageous! (trust you know I'm just joking about our lovely daughter, Valerie).

It was lovely to see Clare and Molly at home on a visit from Merseyside and Ellen and William were so enthralled by the one year old toddler that we nearly had another passenger on the way home.

Molly again was equally enamoured with Chaka. After various styles of coffee prepared Dulce Gusto (One of this year's Xmas present buying nightmares banished into happy oblivion - No, Jennie, despite it sounding like an Italian sports car, doesn't want a Latte Macchiato, but does now want the machine which makes one. Watch out 'ebay' here we come!) rounds of cheese and ham sandwiches with home cured pickled onions Ian and I adjourned somewhere in the labyrinth of his Cotswold Manor House, where I made repairs to the framed photo of Clare which I took on her wedding day.

Ian showed me the exquisite pale yellow evening top which he has crocheted for Annette. A toast to each other with a couple of large Bells and few racing tips under my belt and it was time for our return journey to Northeast Hampshire, and on to Berkshire for the Saunders family. With me clutching a gift of boxes of neigh on antique cigarette cards (how's that for irony) we made our farewells and hit the still wet, spray drenched roads back to home.

The other good news is that I am still breathing that air; more strongly than ever and have every intention of doing so for quite some time:

New Zealand here we come!

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

David Yarnall, RIP

Another brave soul called David regrettably and rather suddenly lost his own battle with oesophageal cancer recently and passed away before I had the pleasure of meeting him. I would like to take this opportunity to pass on my condolences to his daughter and my good friend Anna Burns, who, with her little spaniel Coco share many a Minley walk and the odd lunch with me and Chaka.

Chaka, Anna, Coco, Tom and Mel on a beautiful October morning by Minley Manor

Yesterday on a walk in glorious October sunshine, the warmth of which was matched only by their winning smiles, I met Anna, accompanied by her brother Tom and his girlfriend, over on a visit from Australia in order to attend David's funeral in Walsall on Friday.

In wishing Anna and her family all strength and peace in the knowledge that David was loved today, yesterday and forever more, I quote my own adaption of the following words:

♥Your daughter will hold your hand for a little while, but will hold your heart for eternity.♥



Friday, 22 October 2010

"Christmas is coming...........

..........and I'm NOT getting fat,
Please put more Cholesterol in the old man's hat!"
(a double helping of cream, a full fat yogurt and gallons of Baileys as well) I need to maintain weight and strength!

This photo was taken on a second visit to The Crown and Cushion at Minley on Thursday, but more of that later as we say TGIF I will fill in the gaps relating to recent events, happenings and other ghost stories: As the bar was empty ('onest guv I swear on Peggy Mitchell's life!) I am puzzled as to where the lady, in the mirror sitting with her back to us, came from ??????? (see Anecdotes for more details)

At 11.30 pm on Sunday evening I awoke in bed, having been to sleep for 4 hours after a very busy and thoroughly enjoyable weekend, to register the first signs that Goliath, who had gone AWOL since Friady because he was sulking about being out manoeuvered on both fronts; both pain and soreness, had sneaked back home with his tail between his legs and was wimpering out side the cat flap ! The big jessy couldn't finally stand the pace when Thursday's marathon session left him in bed on friday morning nursing a hangover the likes of which left him completely helpless, while I on the other hand was up and at 'em, rearing to get the party started again. So as sit here having taken a rare dose of meds (and that includes Xeloda from which am having a temporay rest- more about that later), dunking my 'nuts in my tea and with my pampered feet up, on the dining room table stretcher bars, after smoothering them in E45 cream -  'Calm down dear, it's only a foot fetish fantasy!' as Michael Winner would say, I try and recall the events of the previous week in order to tease and titillate my readers.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

SOS - "Save Our 'Soles" !

Tonight's TV supper of Goan Fish Curry à la Waitrose was prepared for me by my loving wife Geraldine; a dab hand with the microwave (She's gonna kill me for that, and at this minute is now probably fronting up Goliath in the queue) To quickly make amends I will have to admit to the fact that we both know her skilled use of the absorption method of cooking tonight's accompanying rice, produces a far lighter and fluffier result than my 'boil-it-to-smithereens-in-a-full-pan-of-water-for-10-mins' quick fix. And the whole meal was very, very tasty. Before sitting down, actually at the table for the first time in ages because sofa slumping is now off menu in the interests of easier digestion - take heed folks!, I had a long bath and soaked my aching body. After which, and having already built an 'iglü' in my mouth, I liberally coated various parts of my anatomy with; dermatological  E45 cream (feet), Tesco After Sun 'soother' (face and neck - and in mid October too; that can't be bad), and finally I had Vera up my bottom!!! Now before you all start jumping to conclusions and wagging fingers in protest about me having deviant sexual proclivities regarding the use of strap-ons (which immediately puts me in mind of the Lavelle girls Anne Summers' parties from which I was always excluded - can't imagine why, other than they were 'hen' and I suppose it would have cramped their lascivious antics), I hastily point out that the Vera in question is of the 'Aloe' variety rather than the 'Hello' variant. So it would seem that the next phase is for me to suffer my variation on the theme of a 'plague of boils': Goliath naturally lost the  intial pain skirmish and is now throwing soreness into the ring! 

So with a seamless link it brings me on to the point of today's title: Yes indeed to the question of saving my 'soles. Sole A) as you will have absolutely no hesitation in guessing by its positioning in the alphabet if nothing else, is that much mentioned derriere of mine which is at the root cause of most of my recent discomfort, and as a constant topic of conversation needs no further elaboration. Sole B) however is a much more serious matter and has only entered the fray in the last 48 hours. Knowing from briefings that there was every good chance my feet were going to be in the firing line eventually, I took, if you remember some little time back, the initial precaution of booking a home visit session with a chiropodist. Because I do not have a love affair with my feet and have only ever paid them scant attention in the past and because they now, in view of a serious threat (and I don't exaggerate), they needed  more in the way of TLC than TCP. So it has come to pass with the relatively sudden onset and well defined symptoms of Palmar-Plantar Erythrodysesthesiamar, or as Goliath would call it, through his complete lack of basic intelligence, Hand-Foot Syndrome. For all our sakes, I will pander to the factor of  his common lowest denominator status, because I can't pronounce it anyway. With a history of Spina Bifida, and a couple of nasty operations as a child to straighten my feet out at one stage, lurking in the background I am finding it extremely difficult not to take this condition very, very seriously. There are two good reasons for this: Namely the fact that though not deformed, my slightly misshapen feet contain a number of enhanced pressure areas which are now beginning to showing their vulnerability, and I cannot start to contemplate a degree of disability which would deprive me of my most relaxing pastime; that of walking Chaka in the local countryside. Panic was averted by a swift phone call to Sarah Oakes, my Clinical Nurse Specialist on the research team, who reaffirmed what I had already learned from the literature, viz, "Your Guide to Xeloda (capecitabine) in combination with chemotherapy for advanced oesophagel cancer". To that end it can be easily treated when caught early and the important thing is to hit it fast with whatever precautions and remedies exist, and also be aware that, on the trial treatment levels of the relevant chemical intake can be adjusted. Also beneficial to my emotional stability is trying not to dwell on the perceived strategies for overcoming the difficulties should it prevail - as ever that aspect is always easier said than done. Though on the plus side the thought of rushing around the Minley Estate on a rugged, off-road quad bike type of disability vehicle quite appealing as long as Chaka runs along side rather than typical to his character wanting to bum a lift!

In summary I need to acknowledge that the stakes weighed up against me in the form of the side effects from the ever more cumulative amount of  toxins, are becoming not only more numerous but also more intense. But are we down heartened? Of course we bloody well are! but not for long remembering today's visit from Karen, the Patient and Family Adviser from The Phyllis Tuckwell Hospice who amongst other kind gestures sorted my applications for DLAand a Blue Badge. So it looks like I can afford NZ next year after all and, into he bargain, I get a reserved parking lot into which I can throw up after a match and a night on the piss with my brother and the other England rugby supporters. I went straight down to the post office's photo booth for the mug shot which now resembles a 'wanted' poster, and then enjoyed a shortish, by my standards, brisk, chill walk under bright blue skis and radiant sunshine (hence the earlier reference to sun lotions). Managed to, apparently, lose yet another mobile phone while photographing fungi, but that's another long story and i need some rest soon. So I may have a few more problems to deal with, but on the whole it's been another good day. And let's face it a sore arse and painful, cracking feet pale into insignificance when I think about poor Suzanne, an old friend of the family in more ways than one, who, into her 80's with lung cancer, is in Northwick Park Hospital today having her leg amputated. I wish I knew the appropriate Jewish term of sympathy, but my thoughts are with her regardless.

Tomorrow I have an acupuncture session at St Lukes to 'look forward to' -  do I really need more needles sticking in me? And Geraldine, having been sent home from work sick today went to bed feeling well enough to contemplate keeping her simultaneous appointment for more reflexology. If Julie fancies a foray we may well have lunch at the C&C and a stroll through the woods afterwards.

It's not just tomorrow's weather forecast that's looking good! So do as I do and just smile even though feeling a little sorry for myself

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Caught between two stools!

Good morning folks!

On this bright crisp, sunny day under clear blue skies  I am again making no apologies for continuing in the same vein because now at 09.15 I am safely back in the sanctuary of my own home ready to relate  the salient tale of this morning's derring do dos!

Before Chaka  and I head out to meet up with the gang at "Hazels", Minley I wanted to tell you that as after the Laxido had begun to work half-heartedly yesterday and, moreover, as I was adamant about making the most of this day's fine  weather, I decided on taking Geraldine to work. On reaching the  front door I was suddenly wracked by stomach cramps and had to offload Chaka, camera and car keys onto an already burdened Gerry and make a dash for the loo where the inevitable deluge occurred. Popping a quick Immodium and clutching the remains of the toilet roll I headed back out to the car. Trying desperately to hide the naked loo roll from the gaze of the passing school children and their parents, who must have been seriously considering an application for a change of schooling for their kiddywinks in light of the suddenly unsavoury local population explosion. I must get one of those knitted ballet dancer loo roll cosies to disguise the fact, or perhaps pinch one of Caroline's new socks to stuff into.

On our way to Farnborough, with me concentrating extra hard through the power of mind over some very dubious matter, on a quick drop off and head home for anotherr turnout before my walk, G asked to stop at Morrisons en route!!!!!!! Gritting my teeth and realising our lives were now very much more about readjustment and compromise because in this instance G needed some cough mixture and medicine for the hacking cough she has now developed. Thankfully with misson successfully and uneventfully accomplished, and my tale told, I am now off on my way out into the sunshine again. Catch you all later and may we all have a good day!

It is now half past one and I have just returned home from lunch at the Crown & Cushion: A full fat latté beside me and a full and satisfied tummy make for a very relaxed feeling. It is still a lovely day out there and the desire to stay sitting outside the pub in the sunshine with a third pint was quite tempting but the idea of a good afternoon's rest while feeling so well was the overriding factor in the decision making process which lead me home.

Earlier I met up with Fiona, Caroline and Jeanette for an hour and a half  in Minley Wood walking our dogs; a gentle leisurely stroll full of good humoured ribaldry, expect nothing less from Jet, and the odd quip about my new coiffure or more appropriately the lack of it, as only Caroline had seen me since I was clipped on Saturday and the comparison with Chaka was established not only apertaining to colour and  length but also the capability of frequently sheeding.

After bidding farewell to the girls I parked up just along the road in the pub car park and as it wasn't yet open went in search of Trumpet Chantrelles across the road in Hawley Woods after a tip of from Julie Campbell, leader of the local 'Shrooms Fungus Group. my search was in vain so Ireturend to claim the best seat in the sunshine and order a pint of Guinness and To Pad Som from the specials menu and a bowl of chips for Chaka. He asaidit wa sa perfect choice and I am inclined to agree with him: The grilled Cod loin in tamarind and chili sauce with sticky jasmine rice accompanied by wilted spinach was ideal for me and Chaka barked approval of the fries, especially as he had a dessert of pork and crispy  duck scratchings from Julie the Land lady too. Having cleared my plate a pint of Bishops Finger ensured nothing else stuck in my gullet and on settling the very reasonable bill I headed on up the road back to Yateley to check out what record I had captured on camera of a most pleasant morning.

The icing on the cake today was laying on the front door mat where upon, after the postman's delivery was a jiffy bag which I discovered contained a disc from Ian Crouch with images of the photos taken at Sherston last Tuesday (See the now updated blog page for that day now fully illustrated). I was also delighted to see alongside it the delivery of  the copy of Lisa Scott's (shents) book "Keep Yer Hair On", which on first cursory inspection looks fabulous, and I know already I'm going to be reluctant to eventually, after reading it, donate it to The Fountian Centre as originally intended.

What a very special day this is turning out to be.

Monday, 18 October 2010

When the going gets tough..........

.........the tough remind themselves that they are a lot better off than many others and stop whining and get on with life as best they can under the circumstances!

I'm not pretending it's been as easy to recoup from the second cycle of Real 3 toxins infused into me last Wednesday in a manner a little removed from the first run through, but if I am honest I still don't have much to carp about other than a very obvious lowering of energy levels and, until today, a chronic lack of any reasonable bowel movement which may have also been responsible for the sharp pain across my ribs under my right shoulder blade and other abdominal discomfort normally associated with such malfunction, but that in turn is pure speculation on my part. So as I sit here updating the blog, waiting for the appointed time to take anothe 3 x 500gm dose of Xeloda and thinking anecdotally back to days long ago when dalliances with a buxom WRAF officer who anagramatically, with a small modicum of poeticc licence thrown in, would oft prompt the passionate outpouring of  "O Xelda, O Xelda" (though not sure if  even I am brave enough to recount it here: But what bitter irony it conjures up of just desserts), I can report that spirits are high. Use of painkillers and anti-emetics is  minimal; in distinct contrast to the volume of Laxido and  fresh juices, not to mention a bag of  Pontefract Cakes (liquorice sweets), consumed in an effort to shift the blockage. As this looks like becoming a regular pattern after every bout I will do my utmost to spare you further unsavoury details especially at times when evening meals are likely in preparation unless there is a significant variation on the theme. However as it is the one factor currently causing most discomfort and distress it warrants a mention now.

Lunch at The Wheatsheaf, Virginia Water

Sunday saw a bright day dawn after an enjoyable previous evening cooking for and entertaining guests, so though still feeling the strain and lack of get up and go brought about by Wednesday's events and the aforementioned aftermath consequences I got up and went........... with Geraldine, in the direction of Virginia Water, just down the road into Surrey, where I had arranged to meet my daughter for lunch. The plan was that we would walk Chaka part way round the lake while Jennie and Andy ran the full circuit before meeting up for a pub lunch. As it happened, and I just can't get away from the subject, I was forced to stay in close proximity of our second choice hostlery (The Wheatsheaf as oppsosed to the fully booked  Rose and Olive Branch) as the rumbling echos from my tummy announced that the Laxido was proving efficaceous in a somewhat reluctant and stuttering fashion. Sidestepping any further repercussions we negotiated a pleasant and hearty al fresco repast. Amongst the many other matters discussed were the demise of Wolverhampton Wanderers playing ability in their previous day's drawn game against West Ham (excuse me while I smoother a yawn - just joking Andy!) and the possibility of crossing the channel to Honfleur under the auspices of Andy's ocean sailing tutelage. (Fully focussed on that prospect). One other topic of conversation, linked to the fact that my barnet was now sporting a very accurate impression of a baby's bath brush, was my story regarding the King of Shaves mens' toiletries company whose shaving and hair gear I was habitually using. Through contact via Facebook on the 14th October, in order to let them know, with reasons, why it was that I was going to be, temporarily, an ex-customer, it had transpired that a delivery of complimentary shower and face products from their latest Farady and Kielder ranges had been delivered in the post two days later. All carried out on the personal instructions of Will King himself; proving him to be not only a caring and compassionate man, but also a marketing genius!

Geraldine and I headed home via Longacres Nusery at Bagshot to pick up some cat food whilst our lunch companions made their way back to Windsor get on with some gardening  prior to heading for Hammersmith for a Stereophonics gig. Eventually, on leaping out of the car and after sprinting around the green and along the path to our front door (here we go again Geronimo!) I finally settled down in front of the TV and blearily  watched Leicester Tigers bury Llanelli Scarlets in a onesided Heineken Cup rugby match. Geraldine retired to bed for an early night in an attempt to allay the earlier onset of sinus and head aches (More than likely caused by my constipation!)

Whirling Dervishes - Barney and Chaka

Today, after a faltering start and I'll say no more, turned out to be one of the precious rest days interruptted only by a morning visit from Caroline, and susequently a pleasant walk in Minley Wood with our pooches, and a brief visit from James who mowed the front and back lawns for me. Relaxed, and finally relieved, I whiled away the remainder of the day editing photos a fog of noxious wind.

You didn't really think I had at last dropped the subject did you?

Friday, 15 October 2010

Ding, Ding. Seconds away.........Round Two!

Last (Friday) evening I started to update my blog with reference to last Wednesday's second cycle of the chemo trial but with my eyelids drooping rapidly I abandoned my efforts and made my way to bed for some much needed rest. Now back in that familiar pattern of having been awaken by the build up of pain overnight I am back at the keyboard waiting in a more comfortable upright position for the meds to kick in and also making myself feel sick chomping my way through a tin of Roses chocolates (the soft centres naturally). So collecting my thoughts now what can I tell my avid readers?

It  was certainly a different experience from the first bout in many ways, yet now, having become an old hand at it as it were, a fairly routine procedure; he says with a haughtily blazé attitude to topping up his blood stream with yet another cocktail of toxic chemicals! Armed with a big tin of chocolate biscuits for the team on the Chilworth Ward just in case the charm offensive faltered, I pitched up at the appointed hour; revised to 10.00 by telephone message on returning home from visiting Ian in the Cotswolds late the previous evening.

I digress now to explain how it has now become blatantly evident that despite having our polite request honoured to keep to the same starting time of 08.00hrs on the schedule (even though it was delayed for some hours on the first attempt for reasons now more apparent) for the sake of easy travel into Guildford and more importantly for finding available parking at the hospital, there now appears to be no way round the two main factors preventing this objective: The demand for early slots for higher priority patients (not me obviously) and the the total inability, now proved on two consecutive occasions, of the administrative network to process a request fax to pharmacy by 14.00hrs the previous day in order for the timely preparation of my chemicals; the day in fact on which I routinely have a clinic for blood tests and a debrief and checkup for suitability to proceed with the next cycle, and at which on this occasion  it was actually confirmed, before leaving at 11.00, that all was good for an early start on the following day as previously requested. As it happens we are not phased by this one jot having now organized parking permits for a slot outside a friend's office on the adjacent Science Research Park only five minutes walk from the St Lukes Cancer Centre. Sorted - travel the other side of rush hour and reserved parking! Thank you so very much Mr Dave Lavelle please take a bow and we welcome you tonight for a supper of Gordon Ramsay's Chowder Belle-Mère etc, etc.

Back to the events which unfolded on the day ward as I settled into the waiting arms of a new nursing team and a comfortable armchair. First was the decision on which arm to attack this time as the left arm and veins were still bruised and sore from the previous onslaught 3 weeks ago, but the right arm was needed for editing photos on the laptop to while away the hours and distract me from the potential discomforts of the procedure. On the advice of yet another lovely nurse called Beth who said she could find another vein in the left arm for me to shoot up (now at least I can pretend to understand the desperation of drug addicts in subjecting themselves to such abuse for the sake of their release from torment) I opted for the left again. So with catheter comfortably seated on the first attempt this time (must have got the second team out on my side last time) and with the impression that they and I had all been doing some inter-cycle training the process went off like clockwork bunging it all through in extra quick time (evidently I should not have made it so easy for them at the first rehearsal), in the midst of banter, jokes and shared common experiences of places, real ale micro breweries at Box in Wiltshire (is there a theme running through my blog I ask myself already convinced there is) and restaurants in Farnham. I even felt comfortable, taking my drip stand in tow, to use the toilet facilities on a couple of very necessary occasions (alas now a dim memory following the constipating effects of the anti emetics and steroids now since administered) a practice totally avoided during the much longer course of the first run through). Naturally having just discussed my bowel movements, and who can predict whether they be over active or non-existent, it's totally appropriate to mention a visit from dietitian arranged my team because, although I was not too concerned about my weight loss (down from over 17stone to around just under 16), they were, and felt I needed advice to build up my bulk and strengtyh again. It was obvious to me what the answer was: Get rid of this ******* cancer and let me get down to the pub for a few pints of Bishops Finger and a large T-bone and plate of chips washed down with a bottle best Meerlust Rubicon from South Africa, followed by a healthy selection from the cheese board and a large vintage port. Simples! Apparently their solution is just as simple; just lots of full fat things like milk and cream, in yogurts and my sauces. Not a great hardship to bear especially as I now have two locals that are more than happy to pander to my dietary needs and specially prepare or alter menu dishes for me, and my home cuisine was always a touch Gordon Bleu. The only problem now is finding a sympathetic bank manger - fat chance, if you will excuse the pun, to stave off bankruptcy while I balloon back up to 18 stone, or maybe I can claim a supplementary benefit on Carer's Allowance or DLA?

I hardly had time to finish the very acceptable lunch of soup, apple juice, chicken fricassee and jelly and ice cream and have a snooze before, after only 3 and a half  hours total time compared with over 7, I was being told it was time to sling my hook, and make way for the next poor bugger in the queue. Doesn't time fly when you are enjoying yourself! But the reality kicked back in as, having avoided any pain, sensation or discomfort during the infusion, especially as this time Beth kindly supplied a heated pillow on which to rest my punished arm, on taking our the catheter the effect was like shards of broken glass splinters shooting up my veins. Also having come prepared I was ready on bidding farewell to face the cold on rush of peripheral neuropathy which more noticeably effected me far more intensely and widely this time round:

Chemological warfare/Anti Peripheral Neuropathy outfit
(notice remaining wisp of forelock)
PN is All Around Me
I feel it in my fingers (and up my nose),
I feel it in my lips (and in my toes), 
That tingles all around me
And so the feeling grows
It's written on the wind
It's everywhere I go
(with apologies to the Troggs)
Love is All Around Me

The one big disappointment was not just being deprived of seeing Natalie's lovely smile on bringing me my bag of goodies from the pharmacy, but having to actually go and collect them myself. I made sure we passed by the research offices to register my sternest complaint in person but what can you do when faced with twinkling blue eyes, a blond pony tail and such a radiant smile it would be substitute therapy to conquer all cancers. Yes you're right I melted into a tongue twisted twit too embarrassed to ask for the photo opportunity it presented!

The last stop before leaving to drive home and collapse in an exhausted heap was to book one of my free alternative therapy sessions at the Fountain Center and one for Geraldine too: I opted for reiki and she chose reflexology for which we both returned to to Guildford the following day to carry out with, what this old sceptic considered on reappraisal to be a, resounding success. So more to follow in the shape of acupuncture, art meditation and certainly more reiki.

Not to sure whether or not my next revelation will appeal to the more delicate and innocent blossoms amongst you (do I know any such people?) But here goes: Desperate for a good nights rest I finally decided to take a sleeping draught in the form of the Zopiclone tablets my GP long since prescribed and have layed ignored ever since in the bedside cabinet.I thought this would counter the opposite effect of the one dose of Ondansetron to be taken the first evening of every new cycle: A powerful anti emetic which if taken too late could causes hyper activity over night. Well the combination had me up and down like a jack-in-the-box but not with any desire to sit at the computer and update my blog because also up and very rarely down was an almost permanent nocturnal erection. I'm not complaining too much as it was good to make yet another re-acquaintance with a long lost friend but as Geraldine had escaped to the spare room earlier on account of my restlessness, or even in anticipation of a less than gentlemanly advance on her, I both took pity on her and took my problem in hand with the result that I woke up next morning more exhausted than ever. OK girls you can wipe the smiles from your faces thinking about what a blessing you might think such occurrences are, but as any gent will tell you it ain't no laughing matter...... at least not after a trip to seventh heaven!

Undeterred and equipped with material to give the the dog walking sorority an early morning chuckle I set off with Chaka to Minley Wood on a decidedly autumnal morning, and now under a definitely unfriendly set of weather conditions, where I briefly met Caroline and Fiona and their charges, especially stir crazy Rupert who was straining at the leash to overcome being couped up for his own good, before departing for The Fountain Center. But not before agreeing to meet Caroline later for a longer session during which she wanted to introduce Chaka to yet another playful Vizsla and having been rejuvenated by the Reiki I manage another two or so hours and the dogs made another instant friendship.

Don't know where you're going Fi-Fi,
but we're going this away!

Barney, Chaka and Caroline
The week also finished on a high note as with the PN calming down somewhat, I managed yet again to the overcome all the other debilitating effects one by one except for the first signs of nausea, my fault for getting forgetful about the strict regime but readily remedied,  and the ever problematical bowel activity or more significantly the lack thereof which I just can't work out even with attempts to balance Laxido with Immodium. Even this morning, despite three sachets of laxative,  I am still  waiting for the world to drop out of my bottom  and relieve what are beginning to become the most irritating of the ill-feeling symptoms.. Sorry to dwell, and getting back to the positive, on Friday morning having taken Geraldine to work and leaving the plumber to sort out faulty pipe work around the dish washer and washing machines I headed off  to Virginia Water for lunch at the Rose and Olive Branch with Valerie, my ex-wife and still my good and supportive friend. During a short postprandial walk with Chaka we even found a rare fungi on a fallen elm branch - Rhodtus palmatus (or Wrinkled Peach) - always was, other than of course her winning smile, Valerie's most endearing feature!

Rhodotus palmatus - Wrinkled Peach (exclusively  grows on elm),
a pretty fungi becoming more rare because of dutch elm disease

Before returning to Farnborough to collect Geraldine from work and get ready for Gary's overnight stay at our house, I finally had my referral to an ENT consultant at Frimley Park Hospital to attend. The upshot of that, and a hastily arranged impromptu hearing test, was that my right vocal chords do not function any more and Geraldine's diagnosis of 'selective hearing' has been confirmed. And I now sit here on Saturday morning waiting in trepidation for the arrival of Nicky and her grade two clippers to see if she can retrieve the last vestige of my now decidedly moth eaten barnet, after which it's waiting for a Tesco delivery, and probably an emergency run to Waitrose,  for the ingredients for Dave's 'thank you' supper tonight. So it looks like I'll be chained to a hot stove for the afternoon, rather than a hot date in the woods!

The First Cut is the Deepest! (courtesy Rod Stewart)
You Wear It Well (courtesy Rod Stewart)

 'Bye for now folks......
.......the ingredients await!
Chowder belle-merè (in the raw)
"Did I really come all the way from Spain for three bowls full of fish soup and a bottle of Portuguese
 vinho verde from Tescos on special offer?" mused Dave Lavelle
The proof of the pudding as they say........and judging from some of the expressions there may have been a few magic mushrooms crept into the recipe by accident as well as cod loin, undyed haddock fillet, smoked haddock, salmon and prawns? Go on dip your....freshly baked home made wholemeal seed & grain...bread! 

'Cuz I've got a brand new combined chemo-cycle ..........

.........and I'll give it you for free!

Why another variation on the lyrics of that well known Wurzels' song should be the title of today's missive I've no idea, but I have a feeling in the murky waters of my past that Mr Crouch used to do an exceedingly fine impersonation of the lead singer; using distinctly unsavoury wordings. "Ernie (The fastest milkman in the west)" was another of his favourite renditions, and when he crooned to Frank Sinatra ballads the whole world stopped (to listen?) Yes you've guessed it by now folks that, despite my second round in the ring against Goliath on Wednesday, my old pal Ian...... "Crouch"........"Cruncher" or any other 'familar' expletive with which has been used when referring to him, was the focus of my attention this week. (And by the way the only way my chemo-cycle could be described as being new would be the contrast both in it's application and the effects it had on me, but more of that later).

Since last I posted to this blog a lot of water has passed under that bridge which Ian and I rebuilt on Tuesday. Apart from the completion of that notable combined major civil engineering and anthropological project, no I haven't tidied up a single aspect of my life as promised (but I will eventually because there's hardly any room left on this table for my laptop and I'm in great danger of incurring RSI). As planned on that fate filled day I contacted Netty, Ian's lovely wife, and finalized the visit. In consideration was not only our mutual well being, but also the negotiation of trips to our respective cancer centers in Guildford and Bath; mine for blood tests and a debrief and check up by the research team prior to Cycle Two of treatment the following day, and Ian for the paraphernalia of his check ups at the 'consent' clinic meeting with his oncology team prior to starting his radio- and chemo- treatment the following day also.

After I whistled through my appointmentsat St Luke's; joking with the phlebotomists (I thought they all had lovely bottoms!) and reassuringly with Dr Moosar and Sarah Oakes, I double checked with ground control at Sherston that it was all systems go for re-entry and we set off  to the Cotwolds at about 11.15, via a quick home stop in order to collect Chaka,  A good run down the M4 was fated by a favourable omission on my part: Having sailed past my intended exit from the motorway at junction 17 to take the back roads I realised I was approaching 18 and a suitable alternative route. Suitable in more ways than one it turned out because, in consideration of the time of day, if on schedule Ian and Annette would be soon heading home this way too so it seemed, as lunch was beckoning, it was appropriate to stop off, a stones throw from the motorway junction (that's if your using the sling shot I use against Goliath), at The Compass Inn at Tormarton, an amazing Best Western hostelry owned and managed by another mutual friend in the guise of Paul Monyard. Known to us all for many a long year since the Crouches moved to that neck of the woods on leaving the Royal Air Force to study and eventually practice dentistry in Bristol, and when in those days it was simply the best country pub in the area owned by Paul's father, Peter, it was the ideal pit stop. Fortunately mine host was all present and correctly positioned at the bar with his customary personal pewter tankard which provided me the second hereto unthought of objective; that of the opportunity to allay my trepidation about Ian's outlook on his own dreadful circumstances by quizzing Paul. I was delighted to listen to Paul's unhesitating recollection of Ian's confronting of yet another mutual friend and fellow barfly, John Edwards, and accusing him of being in some way responsible for his present condition. Somewhat taken aback, John immediately heard Ian qualify this by saying that "If you hadn't scrounged all those countless fags off me over the years you bastard........... then I would have been dead 6 months ago!" Instantly relieved by this anecdote I somehow knew my old mucker was on form.

Although the the two of them didn't make it to the pub to join us, Geraldine, Chaka and I enjoyed a very pleasant lunch, bade our farewells to Paul, by now seated on his mower attending to the many acres of lawns, and headed down the last few miles to Sherston.

(My apologies that until we receive email attachments from the Crouches, this, due to some incredibly bad management, which I'm puting down to over excitement, that resulted in me leaving home with a nearly full load of unsaved photos on my memory card and, making you believe that lightning does strike twice, Geraldine's camera sporting a flat battery,is the only shot of the day I have. Typically lack of standardisation amongst all the cameras, cards, batteries and chargers available in the Crouch household failed to save the day, but I fret not as every second of that day is etched in my mind)

On arriving we were greeted by nearly the whole family because as well as resident son Francis, staying back home for a few days were daughters Mary and Claire with each of their daughters, Charlotte, 8 months and Molly a year old the next day, both the cutest poppets you could ever imagine. (elder son John put in a welcome appearance later).

Non stop banter and joking, copious refreshment, tours of Ian's fabulous garden, photo shoots and an evening meal and gifts of fresh grown veggies (I thoughtlessly arrived with a bag of wine and beer naively not realising that Ian was already on morphine, but which did prompt a story about their visit to a recently discovered family owned brewery in Belgium, that, I believe, Netty may just conveniently have subconsciously eradicated from her memory banks for all these years) completed a truly memorable day for all involved. I would not have missed one second of it, even including, towards the end of the visit, witnessing Ian take himself off  to a private corner of his rambling old Cotswold mansion house where in great distress he was coughing up blood over his arms and the floor: This was painfully but poignantly relevant to sharing all our memories, our hopes, our dreams and now our fears for what the immediate future holds in store for both ourselves and our families.

So you see, despite that Edington (would you believe even the spellchecker even wants to put two Ds in my name) inflicted glitch in our friendship mentioned in an earlier posting, nothing has changed over the 40 years we've known each other and now we face our final journeys, like so many others we have shared, together side by side. (You were so very right Crystal so it's worth repeating that quote you sent me to remind others that it's never to late to put wrongs to right: "Friends are always friends no matter how far you have to travel back in time. If you have memories together, there is always a piece of your friendship inside your heart." --- Kellie O'Connor) . So it was that in the midst of a fond welcoming embrace and with smiles on our faces we both agree that neither of us remember the clause, in that pact we signed to ruck together and muck together, that stated we had to die of cancer together. 

There are is so much more to tell, and maybe some of it will eventually reach the anecdote's page of my blog but until then I am closing this brief but paradoxically happy chapter safe in the knowledge that it has taught me more lessons in one day than I'll ever learn in the rest of whatever life I have left.

My flood of tears was dammed back until waking the following morning; maybe we should have shared those too, but guys like Ian and me from the BBC (bad buggers corner) don't do tears do we? Well I sure do now and not always in privacy of my own pillow.

Back later to let you know how the chemo and the rest of my week went for the two good reasons: One is  that this episode needs to be exclusive and two, my eyelids are drooping and I'm liable to inadvertently delete the whole ******* lot in a sate of emotional exhaustion and that would slay me long before I got another salvo in against Goliath.

Good night, bless you all and most especially Ian Anette and family.

Signing of with all the fondset love, the biggest hugs and most positive vibes I can muster


P.S. The postman is hurrying to deliver a belated 1st birthday card to Molly.