Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Soup for the soul

Soup is one of those foods that can be many things to many people. It can be zingy and thin from the orient or it can be thick and warming from oop north or it can be the cosseting blanket that is heinz cream of tomato.

I like soup for all the variety it brings but also it's a simple pleasure, nowt complicated just soup, kind of like me. It does what it says on the tin.

Soup for the soul (ingredients may vary)

1 x Amazing wife
2 x Incredible kids
Wonderful Family
2 x Christmas shows
2 x Christmas discos
1 x Visit to school (my work)
20 x teenage lads (yes really)
Numerous colleagues
Loads of friends
Hugs (as many as can be fitted into the day)
1 x blog with a daft title
1 x Christmas panto
1 x It's a wonderful life at the cinema
A good pinch of snow and cold weather

Mix well and season to taste!

As you may have read before the Christmas wishes my head wasn't a lovely place to be, it still has it's shadows and they are as dark as ever but they're fewer than before. They have diminished because of the experiences I had just before Christmas. As a working parent you don't often get chance to go to the kids Christmas fairs or their assemblies or even just pick them up on their last day of term. I got all of this this year and I can confirm that while it was loud and the carols weren't always in tune it was brilliant. Seeing their faces in their tea towels and tinsel as they went up and sang their bit was magical. The excitement of the Christmas disco and friends coming to meet up and have tea. (not the incredibly tired and grumpy children we had the next day though!)

I love our kids, they make me laugh, they've made me cry too (Carys just after my vasectomy!) but 95 percent of the time they're a joy. This year they've been so good, accepting my lack of hair, energy and health with grace and a lack of fuss. Their faces on the last day were pictures of relief, happiness, excitement and tiredness. They have both worked so hard and are doing so well at school, it's very easy to be proud of them.

I decided to make some brownies for work, partly because my head is busier than it has been and being creative is good for me. But also partly to say a little thank you to some amazing people who have been so supportive to me over the last seven months. I thought about going in on the last day but decided not to. The last day of school is for the people who have been there working through whatever management or the kids throw at them. I didn't want to be reminded that I hadn't been there for so long, plus I wasn't sure I had the emotional energy to cope with lots of people in one place.

As I walked in to work one of the groups I was teaching saw me and promptly left their lesson! As I came in through the door I was greeted by the majority of the group, all wishing me well and saying hello and just being really kind. Some of these kids are not the easiest in the world to get on with and I know that some had come to see me as a way to get out of their lesson but the majority were there wish me well. It took me aback, the warmth of the greeting, the hand shakes, the high five and the pats on the back. I didn't stay long as I knew the emotions wouldn't cope for long and crying is possibly not what they expect me to do!

The rest of the visit was similar, kids saying hello and being excited to see me. Staff giving me hugs and smiles and just being so welcoming. I don't know what I expected but the warmth shown to me was overwhelming and will keep me going for a long long time. Seeing Belinda was tops too, it was great to be able to say thank you for her little comments on this blog. Seeing friends and colleagues who's lives are changing and moving on. Pregnancy or marriage or promotion but looking happy and properly contented. Catching up with Mrs Knowles, Chris has one of those laughs that if you could bottle it would stop wars and bring world peace. She sent me a card very early on telling me to think of her laugh, it was one of the many support mechanisms that kept me going through chemo. It's always good to be able to give Judith a hug too, as my first point of contact if I ring into school she often gets bad news before anyone else, good news too but it's always easier giving good news!

Wendy and I had the fortune to have a kid free night, thank you ma n pa, so we trotted off to town to the Showroom which is a small independent cinema that shows off the beaten path films. Having been for a meal in town we went and watch It's a wonderful life, a lovely Frank Capra film about a business man who does the right thing and never seems to gain from it. It all goes wrong for him and he contemplates ending his life when an angel is sent to save him. In the end he is reminded how loved he is and how many friends he has and it is these friends that give him wealth, not financial but a wealth way more important and rare than money. It was wonderful, funnily enough, to sit there and immerse ourselves in something so sentimental but so close to our hearts. Yes we've had an interesting year and hopefully we'll never have another like it, but we have so many really good friends and such supportive family that it has to be a silver lining to a heck of a cloud!

Walking back through town with my beautiful wife I couldn't help feeling lucky. I have found such friendship from some amazing people and great support from family, this could be enough to make me feel lucky. But the slender little hand that was in mine that night as we walked through the glistening streets of Sheffield reminded me so much of how lucky I am. To meet your soul mate is one thing but to have the fortune to marry her and have a family with her is something I will cherish forever.

I've had one of the best Christmas' ever and to share it with the people I love was so much more than mere words can express.

Soup for the soul is a dish best served hot, in a big dish with crusty bread and a glass of water. It'll warm you from the bottom of your feet to the ends of your fingers and right through your very being. You'll know when it hits the spot..........

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas

I hope everyone has a wonderful time with friends and family. Thank you for the support and the many many cards we've received.

I have all that I need and all that I want and I feel like the luckiest man alive.

Health (working on it), wealth (family and friends are my wealth) and happiness (if the girls make it to 7 am then I'll be happy, very surprised, but happy) to all.

Merry Christmas.

Love from Nick.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


Yes it's panto time again, as traditions go it's it's only been going a few years but how long to make a tradition? We round up the family and some friends and head off to the Lyceum in Sheffield for the afternoon showing of whatever. Sometimes the actors and acting is good, sometimes they're not. To be honest it doesn't matter, what matters is mad Geoff turning up in his bright red stetson (with white feather trim), riding the Supertram getting all sorts of funny looks, Shelly turning up and bringing food and cheer, Mum and dad and their slippers and Viv and Dave and their kids.

The tram ride is a always interesting with Geoff, I remember him tap dancing upside down on the ceiling but that's another story. Geoff looks more like santa than many shops santa's and is friendlier than them too. He laughs the loudest and the longest at the panto and although you have to translate Sheffieldish into Wigan it's a joy to see a grown man shouting HE'S BEHIND YOU at the top of his voice.

It's usually mum's birthday panto weekend so everyone comes back to ours and has food and chat and fun (hopefully). This year was no different except for the addition of a nintendo wii game thing, seeing mother virtual hoola hooping after a couple of glasses of wine was priceless!

This year for me was hard though, the tiredness side effect was kicking in about half five and emotionally I felt like I had demons creeping up behind me and my heart was screaming THEY'RE BEHIND YOU.

Demons come in different shapes and sizes for different people. For me they come in the shape of is this the last panto I'll go to, will the radio therapy have worked, will I remember how to teach when I go back, will I go back, will my fitness come back, how would Wend cope if this journey isn't over, how much more can my girls take, what if, what if, what if............

Logically none of the above questions can be answered without more evidence and therefore they're not worth worrying about. But when I'm tired and fed up and haven't the emotional or physical energy to keep up appearances they weigh heavy on the heart and I wonder if or when it'll break.

Monday, December 7, 2009

The umbilical cord

Has been cut. No more treatment. Nothing more until the 7th of January, only possibly side effects from the radiotherapy. The treatment continues to work for a couple of weeks after the actual being zapped.

It feels really weird now, sat at home on my own (all say aaar!) the kids are at school and Wendy is at work. If I hadn't been asleep all morning I would feel like a real slacker. I didn't sleep well last night but even so I have a feeling the radiotherapy is starting to have an effect on my stamina. If that's the only thing it effects then I'll be happy.

We had a good weekend, Viv and Dave invited us to go the the Santa Special at the Peak railway at Darley Dale. Now anyone who knows me will probably recognise that I'm not really a big one for the commercial side of Christmas and going to somewhere like Meadowhell to see santa fills me with dread but this was great. The Peak rail only runs from Rowsley to Matlock and is run mainly by volunteers and enthusiasts. I have the utmost admiration for people who have found something to dedicate their lives to, it may not be my thing but they do a great job and I love the engineering of a hulking great steam engine.

The volunteers have put on a great service, you get a short train ride on which they have entertainers singing and playing or doing magic or bringing drinks and mince pies. It's not polished and it's not corporate and it's brilliant because of that.

The kids have a special ticket which entitles them to a gift from 'Santa' and he comes along and sits with them and has a chat. It wasn't forced or uncomfortable but it was fun and enjoyable and yes Carys has been a good girl!

We all went back to mum and dad's after for tea but Georgia had been suffering with a flu/cold/tonsils/sore throat so Wendy and I took her home and left Carys to be brought home later by dad. As it happened I'd run out of energy as well so I got sent to bed to recharge before going out for a curry with the biking crowd.

As we walked into the pub I recognised a group of people sat in the corner. It was another group of friends that I sometimes ride with and they were going to the same curry house! It was great to see them especially as one of them has recently been diagnosed as having cancer! Luckily it's one the consultants are confident they can remove using surgery, unfortunately this involves cutting his head open! Dave is a great bloke and is fit and strong from biking and this will stand him in good stead for the operation. It's going to be scary and different and stressful, especially this close to christmas but he has some great friends around him and wonderful missus so he will be well supported. Cheers Dave, hope all goes well this week and the surgeon has neat sewing!

The curry was fantastic, 21 and a bit people turned up. The bit was Lois who is a couple of months old and behaved better than the rest of us! These were people who had traveled from as far afield as Bristol and Scotland, Hillsborough and Totley! It was for me a perfect night, just enough beer, plenty of banter and fine fine curry.

Now it's about sorting me out, getting fit, getting my work stuff in order, getting my head round going back to work and shouting at some kids. Getting back to being as normal as I ever manage.......The hair is back, the beard is back I just need the all clear then I'll be back. It's going to be odd not having treatment and managing my time, I must set myself a routine and stick to it because otherwise I'll drive myself daft(er).

Monday, November 30, 2009

Nearly the end (treatment not me!)

Treatment is going really well, I have a little burning in my throat which means swallowing can be uncomfortable, burping is weird and a hot cuppa is a bit of a no no at the moment. I feel a bit tired but then my body is being blasted by a multi thousand pound sunbed every day so a I guess it's going to take a bit out of me.

I had a bit of a hiccup on the first Sunday though, we'd had a chilled morning taking the girls climbing and going to a local farm shop for stewing steak. A headache had started to kick in when we were trawling round Sainsbury's which wasn't unusual, thank goodness for internet shopping (even though Wendy does it all!). As we got home I had become very sensitive to light and the headache was localised over my left eye, it kind of felt like the front of my head wanted to blow off. Normally if this happens a couple of paracetamol and a darkened room sort me out. Two hours later and I was scared, there was no position that felt comfortable. Wend came to check on me and we decided that as the tears running down my face weren't of happiness we'd phone Weston Park.

Whether it was the radiotherapy or just a migraine I have no idea but I've never thrown up with a migraine before. Weston park wanted me to go to Northern General A and E department so they could scan my head........the thought had gone through my mind as it had Wendy's. It's one thing having a headache from hell but to think that there's an extra lump somewhere just piled pressure on that I couldn't explain, other than I was in need of some different underwear.

Northern General is a huge hospital with thousands of people there at any one time. A and E was quiet and my time in the waiting room short as I was shown through to a little private room. I have no complaints with the NHS! The doctor who saw me was a nice young man, how old do I sound, who spent quite a bit of time on his hair and plenty of money on his watch but he had an easy manner about him. He went through various questions, some over and over, others a bit daft (any foreign holidays this year), having been told what this year consisted of! He also tested my physical ability and compared both sides of my body. His hands on my arms and I had to push him away, well he must have been all of 11 stone wet through so he got pushed.....Then he wanted me to lift my legs when he pressed down, he got lifted..... Then he asked me to squeeze his fingers but he'd learnt something as he didn't want me to squeeze as hard as possible! I apologised when his knuckles clicked!

As time passed and the industrial pain killers the nurse gave me kicked in the pain wore off, as more time passed I was moved to the CDU, Clinical Decision Unit, how the flipping heck are the going to make a decision if they haven't scanned me yet! About 45 minutes later I'd had a scan and they'd found nothing unusual but they had found a brain so I now have proof!!!! Ten minutes later I could go home. Physically and emotionally drained but well. The roller coaster had scared me and Wendy and mum and dad. The fact is I wouldn't have gone to the hospital if I'd had migraine before having cancer. The damn thing's messing with my head and I won't let it. Perhaps it caught me off guard and the radiotherapy had lowered that guard but my head's better now so bring on whatever as I'm ready.

Look at them thar hills!
(click the picture for a bigger version)

Part of the reason for being ready is walking home from the hospital, I take it steady and I only do it if I feel up to it but I look at the hills and think about riding my bike in the woods and over the moors and through the boggy bits.

The other reason is my amazing support network. My amazing wife without whom I have no idea where I'd be, mum and dad for being great parents, my close friends and the wonderful friends I have made at work.

I called in today to see the Boss and drop off a sick note, to me it's only right that I keep work up to date with where I am. They have been brilliant with me so far and to me it's a two way street. It's always a bit of a lottery calling at school as people may be teaching or on courses but I got to see some of the most important people today. I was blessed with hugs galore and kind words, sincere words too. It was a real lift but the icing on the cake was the number of kids who welcomed me and asked when I was back. I felt like I belonged, I no longer look weird (well comparatively speaking), I want to be back teaching. I want this to be over for me but also for my family and friends, it's tiring for them and I am so lucky to have so many wonderful people putting so much energy into helping me.

Thank you.

Friday, November 20, 2009


I will try to make this post as long as it takes for me to have radiotherapy, while I appreciate that other people will have longer this is my story so this is what I experience.

"Nicholas Hart" comes the call, put down the 3 year old National Geographic, amazing pictures but very American.

"Can I just check a couple of details with you? Your date of birth and the first line of your address please"

"If you could take off your t-shirt and lay down on here and we'll move you into position" At this point I apologise for being a bit bigger than the average bear and wish inwardly that I wasn't my current 17 and a bit stone.

And that's about all the conversation you have really, there's the odd nicety now that I've been a few times but they are busy and with a great number of patients to see.

I can see the laser lines on my body in the reflection of the zapper (probably got a boxford 5002 serial number but I don't know it), I can also see the grading that is projected onto my chest. They move me about, a twist here and a nudge there. They call out numbers to each other and then draw crosses on my chest in pen. They measure the distance from my chin to my chest, hope Bruce Forsyth doesn't have to go through this. The zapper disappears under me and the read out more numbers. Then they leave the room, and I'm all alone with my thoughts, hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of machinery and the Shadows playing in the background!

Something that sounds like an angry mosquito happens behind me for maybe 20 seconds. I hear the door open, the staff come in, move the zapper to above me and leave again. Another mosquito sound and the door opens and the staff come in. I put my top on and leave. As the meerkat on the telly says, simples!

That's it. Probably 5 minutes all told even with shoving me around. So far I've had no sensation, I have a bit of a sore throat and am a bit tired but other than that I feel right as rain. Whether that'll continue I have no idea, I seem to think I felt ok after the first chemo. Radiotherapy may hurt but at least I haven't got drugs coursing round me and there's no reason for my hair to fall out again.

A semi-pants weekend (not big sweaty pants just pants that don't feel right)

Well it wasn't the best, there was nothing particularly wrong with it just that my head was a shed.

Whether it was because the new treatment would start on Monday and I'm not a big fan of change or whether it was my feelings about the whole cancer situation I couldn't put my finger on it but I was a bear with a sore head most of Saturday.

Wendy is incredible as I may have pointed out a couple of times before. But on a rainy Saturday when Georgia and I are couped up in the house we get twitchy and cabin fever and start being at each other. One will say something or prod or poke at the other and then we have an argument and fall out about it. I hold my hands up and say I do this and it's not a parenting trait I'm proud of and it's something that I try not to do but Saturday was one of those days and Wendy knew it.

"Go on get your bikes out and go for a ride, I'll do some baking with Carys! We didn't need telling twice, I got the bikes out of the cellar and George went and got changed. We swapped a tyre, Georgia's first time so we went through the whole process and she did the majority, only the bits requiring brute force and ignorance did she leave for me. So we were mucky before we left, and boy were we mucky when we returned. George had a couple of offs but got back up and smeared the mud off herself onto the grass. Grinning like fools we rode for a mile or so through puddles and streams and along roads. Giggling to ourselves watching other like minded fools jumping in puddles and having a whale of a time.

Just before we came through the door George asked me if she could rub the mud off her hands on to her face to make it look worse. I said she could, it didn't add much to be honest but it was great watching Wend's face as we squelched through the door. Tea and medals were the order of the day, well hot chocolate and biscuits.

The weather is no longer something I chunter at, it's just something that makes me glad to be alive. Ok so when the rain water is trickling down your back and there is only one place it'll end up, it's not particularly pleasant, but I'm alive to feel it so that's good enough for me.

To see Georgia's face grinning from ear to ear covered in mud and dripping wet through just makes me happy. You know the happiness that sit's inside you like a crackling log fire on a cold winters night. It sits and burns and makes every fibre of your body feel warm and calm. B*gger drugs this is what makes me feel well.

Sunday was a weird day. Mum had invited us and Viv, Dave, Daisy and Lola to their house for lunch. It was to be a birthday lunch for her mum my Granma, which was a lovely idea. Granma lives in a home now and has good days and bad days but today was a great day for her. She was with it and only repeated herself a couple of times, hey I do it and I think I come from a long line of repeaters........so no worries there. She got everyone's name right and although she was a little confused at who belonged to who there were three kids screaming round and Lola who's still a babe in arms.

I'd spent the morning in my cellar, I don't have a shed but a cellar is much warmer! Putting up racking which mum and dad had bought me for my birthday and Christmas. I'd got into the flow and had lost track of time so when Wend called saying I needed to get changed it was a bit of a shock. It also kicked me emotionally, I didn't want to see anyone, I didn't want to talk to anyone. If Wendy had brought me sandwiches I'd have stayed in the cellar all day, except for calls of nature. (note to self: research putting in downstairs loo) So it was a somewhat begrudging Nick that entered the fray that day.

Do you know what? It wasn't as bad as I'd thought it was going to be. Gran, like I say was on top form and the kids were great. Then I went, why I don't know but I felt like I was about to lose it. As there were some people outside I got up and went out, dad passed me something to put in the car which I took without registering and put it in the car. And there I sat with the boot lid open holding a rugby ball tears streaming down my face.

What if radiotherapy doesn't f*cking work? Well, what if it doesn't? round and round these questions went and I had the reason for my mood. Chemo had been a treatment which should have, could have sorted the cancer out and radiotherapy was to be a possible back up plan. Well hello, can I have another back up plan please?

It was dad that found me there, still crying, still holding the rugby ball, still looking for answers. It was dad that accepted my state and stayed with me and talked through it. No answers came but the cloud moved, taking with it some of the darkness. Thanks dad.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A fab weekend

It's a really long way to Wales.

This was a big trip for us. For Wendy it was an emotional trip as her dad was getting married, for me it was the first time I'd been away from home for ages (other than staying at the Weston Park Hilton.....). The girls thought it was a big trip too as they got to take time off school!

We broke the journey down at Brian and Eve's near Shrewsbury (say shrew not shrow). Brian has been a family friend of Wendy's family since way back when and is a top bloke. He and Eve have a small holding and sometimes do the market in Shrewsbury, Brian does pickles and Eve does cakes and jams (conserves for the trading standards unit apparently) and they spend time working hard and then travelling in their motorhome. They are two of the most welcoming people I've ever met and I spent a great deal of time that evening putting the world to rights with Brian.

It was a welcome stop, I'd driven to Shrewsbury in the summer but then dad had driven home. The break allowed me to recharge my batteries and have a more leisurely trip to Anita and Jasons.

That soup is SO hot!

We stopped off at Nant Yr Arian at the top of the mountains before Aberystwyth for the loo and some lunch. On a nice day you can see for miles and there are dozens of red kites flying around the mountain and woods. This day it wasn't fit for feathers, flippers yes, feathers no. Anyhow we had a lovely lunch in a very quiet (as you can see above) but very lovely cafe. George is obviously on a growth spurt as she finished her sausage butty and then finished her sisters soup too! That'll mean more growth spurt shoe shopping then!

Blow damn you blow.....

Wendy apologised as we drove down the mountain, saying it wasn't a brilliant birthday for me. It was though, it was a superb birthday. I'd woken up, which was a good start, to my girls singing happy birthday and then spent the rest of the day with them. The rest of the day was, in my eyes, just as good. After arriving at Anita and Jasons we started unloading the car as the dog was going apoplectic in her box. Stella is a gorgeous little springer spaniel and is a little highly strung, she's seen us loads of times but was having a fit about us being there. I started building the fire in the wood burner and Wendy put the kettle on. These were obviously not the movements of burglars as Stella came out and curled up on the sofa with us!

Llys Y Fran Young Farmers Bonfire

Now being born on the 5th of November has meant that my life has always included fireworks, of the chemical kind. Whether it was the weird little smelly indoor type that looked like a weird pile of rabbit droppings or sitting in the back of my dad's car handing them out. Best explain that one, we weren't dealing fireworks, dad was on the parent friends thing at junior school and organised the firework display. So for a kid like me it was great sorting through hundreds of fireworks and then packing them in the back of dad's Rover SD1. On the night I'd sit in the back and hand them out in the right order to the people setting them off, I had one of the best seats in the house and as long as none of the fireworks came my way all would be well..........heaven only knows what would, could have happened but hey we're here now to tell the tale.

So as we were in Wales on bonfire night we had to find a local event, Llys Y Fran is a local reservoir and the young farmers group had organised a fire and fireworks. Two quid to get in and a huuuuuuge fire and 20 or 30 minutes of fireworks was great value. The weather was great, other than being a bit windy it was dry and not too cold. Yes the photo above shows Carys in ear defenders, funny how the one who makes the most noise in our house doesn't like the sudden bangs of fireworks!

Beautiful ladies

Wendy and Anita spent the morning getting sorted for the Wedding, with hair and make up being done and then lunch with their dad Bill. Carys was in seventh heaven as she went to the hairdressers too and had french plaits done but then got to see all the make up and stuff that hairdressers use. As you can tell I'm not a big one for the whole shebang but Wendy and Anita both looked beautiful with their full outfits. Georgia also wore a dress for the majority of the day and looked like a lovely young lady, not sure we'll get a repeat anytime soon mind!

My beautiful and amazing family

Wendy's mum passed away nearly nine years ago this December from a complication of her MS. Bill had been caring for her for many many years before that and doing a brilliant job of it too, I have always had the up most respect for the way that he managed and the way that it was always family first. His life has changed beyond belief since meeting Bron, he's more adventurous with food, he's traveled to Italy and Australia and he's living his life. He and Bron suit each other, they make each other happy and they obviously love one another.

The happy couple.

The service was lovely, touching and emotional. It was a brilliant day with love and happiness being the focus, in my mind it was the perfect ceremony for Bill and Bron, the people who matter were there and supporting them.

I raise my glass to the bride and groom.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Goose fat and my first tattoo!

It was a weird floaty walk that carried me downstairs to the CT scanning reception. I had to check on my footing going down the stairs, the same stairs that I could hardly walk up or down during chemo were now easy.

The waiting room in scanning reception has some great magazines and feels light and airy, which considering that it's subterranean is quite a feat. Wendy set off for home to start spreading the news, there was no point in her waiting with me and Anita and the boys had come up so it was right for her to spend time with them.

I was feeling like I'd been given another chance and that everything was going perfectly today, even the scan I had didn't need any injections, so I thought.

When you get called through by one of the nurses part of you is nervous but part is just excited to get started. Having had so many scans on this journey they hold very little interest for me now but this was a little different. This scan is the one that allows the radiotherapy team to plan how and where they are going to zap me so it has to be really accurate. This means they measure where you are and how your head is held and they also mark on you so they can line the machine up time and again.

So top off and lay down on the carbon fibre bed (bet Jenson Button hasn't got one of those!), which in an air conditioned room is pretty flipping cold, glad it was just a top off job! The senior scanning blokey comes in and looks at me and looks at the scanner and says "Sorry we'll have to use the other one", other what I'm thinking, "You're not going to fit through this scanner". Cheeky blighter, I know I've put on weight but that's a bit harsh. "It's your shoulders, they're too wide, the other scanner is bigger." Oh ok my shoulders that's better, "You could get some goose fat or something", why I said it I have no idea but I did. Nope they didn't get any goose fat, nor did they laugh, I'll not give up the day job then!

Top back on and through to another (much) bigger scanner. Top off and lay down on another cold carbon fibre bed. Then came the measuring, from my chin to my chest and then they used a laser to line my head and spine up. Out come the marked pens and I feel like one of those boxes with a cut here line to get the save 5p coupon. I wondered if they were permanent marker but they're not so then comes the ink and the needle and ow, my first tattoo, ow, my second tattoo and ooh you little.........., my third tattoo. They're not exciting like a skull or anything they're just dots so they can line me up reliably and accurately every time.

The man from radiotherapy, he say YES

Not that there was much pressure on the consultation yesterday but for me it could have been the beginning of the end. Having been told on Tuesday that Radiotherapy was only a possibility was like taking a safety net out from under me. It clarified my mind, gone were all the thoughts of going to Sweden for Charlie and V's wedding, the wondering if my girls grow up happy and contented, how Wendy would be and if I could stay as a ghost and protect them!

I don't think I've been close to death, I have a healthy respect for it as you're dead for a really long time, but I don't feel scared of it. I do feel scared of leaving people though and not seeing them or holding them close. Important people, family and friends. Listening to their laughs and conversations or seeing their faces as they tell stories about their day. I feel scared of leaving the world as well, I love the feeling of the sun or the wind or the rain or the mist or the snow on my face. The feeling of the early morning air filling your lungs as you cycle to work on a crisp and cold autumn morning, how it hurts but then becomes the norm and it wakes you better than any coffee ever ground. Seeing the leaves turn in the autumn and then reappear in the spring.

We have amazing lives, an amazing world to live in and I felt like I was going to miss it. Then Dr Thanvi said there shouldn't be a problem with giving me radiotherapy. I'm sorry can you just run that by us a again.........Radiotherapy is good to go, Houston we no longer have a problem. I started to smile and Wendy just looked like a ten ton weight had risen from her shoulders. We went through the side effects, 1 percent increase chance of cancer in about 20 years time, hey if I get 20 more years then that's a huge bonus. The way I was feeling that morning if he'd said 5 years more then I'd have taken that so 20 well lets just say I bought a lottery ticket!

You know sometimes when you meet a person you're going to get on with and Dr Thanvi is one of those people. Straight talking and immune to my jokes (amazing as that sounds), he showed us my PET scan and where the furballs are. He went through how they are going to zap the little bar stewards and how it may effect my lungs but as I'm young and healthy, I like him all the more for that, it should have minimal effect on other tissues. He also asked if I could have a scan done there and then which he organised and it felt like we were doing something again, we were starting a new chapter. Rather than it being the beginning of the end it was the beginning of a new start.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A great nights sleep

That's what I had last night, don't ask me why but I slept better than I had for a week. Wendy didn't, understandably.

Last night I went over to a neighbours to explain that I wouldn't be working on the allotment. This morning we talked it through and I came to the conclusion that I'm alive and therefore I'm going to live it.

So today has gone. The numbness is less numb. The head is a little clearer and doesn't hurt as much. The heart still feels like it's breaking but then there is so much emotion weighing on tomorrows meeting with the radiographer.

Talking to Charlie on skype this morning was hard, so hard, he like so many people expected good news. The news that the radio therapy is only a possible takes some explaining and it hurts every time I explain it. Part of my head was wondering when, if, I see him again, whether we get to go to his wedding next year. If we'll ever ride together again and eat curry and drink beer and talk bikes and b*ll*cks. The other part was thinking about getting my head straight and getting to the point where I get on with living life.

The rest of the day has been kind of normal, playing with the girls and learning how to set up a Wii. Chatting to Gareth and sorting out for the allotment day tomorrow, fixing a sensor for the light in the conservatory and I even went out on my bike. Normal is good, normal is keeping me sane at the moment.

At the start of yesterday I was starting to worry about going back to work, getting my lesson sorted and trying to think of names and timings. Now I'm not stressing about work, to be honest I don't feel very stressed at all and I understand why. Work is something that I can control, I can be good or rubbish and that option lays in my hands. My furball is not under my control, it's just something that is happening regardless of my actions. So there's b*gger all point in getting stressed about it.

Lets see what tomorrow brings.......

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

What a crock o' sh*t

cancer 1 chemo 0

However you look at it today was pants. The tumours are still alive. The chemo has had the effect of reducing their size and probably slowing their progress but it hasn't killed them. A*se biscuits.

So the next step is to have a consultation with the radiographer and see if radio therapy is possible. I say possible because they dropped a showbiz bombshell today, radio therapy may not be possible if it will cause too much damage to the lungs. So something that had been in the back of my mind a bit of a reserve measure but pretty much a keeper has now disintegrated into a possibility. Tops.

So the roller coaster continues to duck and dive, from the high of the last couple of weeks when I've felt brilliant to today when we had to tell the girls that it's not worked as we'd hoped. I had kept it together until then, it's difficult sharing your emotions with your wife when there's standing room only on the bus.........

I nearly cried on the drive over to mum and dads, how do you phrase it, what do you say, do you say anything at all? Our girls are amazing and are product of love, honesty and laughter. They have been so strong through this, they laugh and chat and take the mickey out of my grey/white hairs. They beat me up and they wind me up but they are so full of life and their souls are so innocent that they shouldn't have to have crappy news. But the honesty has to keep going and so on the floor of mum and dad's kitchen we had a family cry. Georgia understands more than Carys but she also bottles more up so it's so important that we keep her fully informed. There's been times when she's overheard something and then worried herself about it. So it was so important to tell her the truth.

The treatment hasn't worked and now I have to have some more.

The more it's said the more it sinks in to my skull so it was a little easier explaining to mum and dad. I also put in the details about the radiotherapy and the ifs, buts and maybes surrounding it.

I have an appointment on Thursday to see the radiographer. I asked if it could be another day as I'd booked a brush cutter to get started on the allotment with Rich, a friend with whom we're sharing an allotment. My consultant still remembers me shifting a ton of pea gravel the day before my first chemo so wonders if I'm at all sane..........answers on a postcard to that one.

All this is sh*t but the worst thing is the look in Wendy's eyes. The disappointment and the fear of seeing me go through something else, another treatment with unknown side effects. The wonder of whether the next treatment works or not. For me it's easy, I go they tell me what to do, they pump drugs into me or fry me or whatever is coming next and I go home and get looked after by my amazing family. But Wendy is the one the only one who sees everything I go through. She's the only one who really knows me as I am now and how to help or cheer up this lump of hair and gristle. But who helps her? (Wendy says lots of people!) I wish she didn't have to go through this. Not many options though so I'll stop being moody and crap and get on with getting on.

See what Thursday brings.

Monday, October 26, 2009

I've trimmed my beard!

For the first time in ages I needed to trim my beard. I'm taking it as a good sign.

The past couple of weeks have been such a waiting game, waiting for the scan and now waiting for tomorrow for the results. It's been a busy (comparatively speaking) couple of weeks. I've had more energy, day by day and my head is back to it's busy self. I've been making phone calls, they were hard before as I'd get tired after five minutes and then it was an effort not to show the person that I wasn't always listening!

I called in to school again which was good but weird, I guess I'll now a little better tomorrow how long it'll be before I'm back. It's going to be an interesting exercise in pacing myself when I do go back, relearning all my lessons and the timings, remembering names (kids and staff alike) and having enough energy to do all of the above!

I found myself in Weston Park for an unscheduled stop this week as I seem to have picked up a bit of a chest infection. It was quite an emotional trip as although I didn't get any news or treatment, other than antibiotics, I got to talk with a couple of people that previously I'd just spoken to in passing. A lady who travelled in from Derbyshire every week for her chemo tablets, she'd been there when I went in for my first treatment and it was lovely to talk to her even though I found she'd be on these tablets for the rest of her life. I hope they've ordered plenty! The other conversation was a lovely couple of ladies who had been laughing their heads off at my first attempt to fill in a form for the pharmacist early on in my treatment. We met in the pharmacy again and had a good old chinwag about bread and butter pudding and teaching and life. It was just nice to be reminded that all the while we are people as well as patients.

The most emotional for me though was overheard in the waiting room. A lady was telling her heavily pregnant daughter that she wouldn't have chemo as she'd lose her hair nor would she have surgery for obvious reasons. It upset me and as if I could have had surgery to save me going through chemo then I would have and as for the hair well most of you have seen my thoughts on that. It saddened me as there was a human being not wanting to go through something that may prolong her life and give her longer with her daughter and unborn grand child because of the way she would look during treatment. I appreciate that for a lady the loss of hair is an emotional nightmare but it's not what the majority of blokes want either, it's just something that we have more chance of having to live with. Personally I never ever want to be bald again but if it happens then so be it. I hope she finds a treatment that suits her..........

It's been a brilliant couple of weeks as well, the kids are amazing and great fun. I've been getting fitter so we've been going for walks and playing more than has been possible. Mum and dad have bought me some tool racking for the cellar which is fab. I know it sounds sad but it means I can get organised and tidy things up rather than just wishing I had a cellar fairy, that probably sounds wrong, to tidy up. I've also been out with the boys for a curry and a beer, I was completely shattered the next day but it was great not being the bald weird looking one in the corner, at least I'm not bald anymore!

Tomorrow is results day, whether I sleep tonight or not is any ones guess. As for predictions, it'll be what it is, I'll either need radio therapy or not. The only thing I'm scared of is the scan showing up more than they were expecting and that the chemo hasn't been as effective as they wanted. But then that's me being dramatic and a bit stressy about things.

Like I say, it'll be what it is. Bring on tomorrow.

Friday, October 9, 2009

james brown

Has a lot to answer for really. The video is kind of how I am at the moment. I feel amazing compared to how I felt a week ago and as for a month ago I feel on top of the world. The only problem is I go at it like a wild thing (well kind of) then my stamina leaves, it doesn't just leave it f**ks off!

Anyhow, I'm loving not being on chemo, my hair is coming back which is nice. You don't realise the job hair does, especially the hair that most people don't acknowledge, I'm talking about nasal hair not what you were thinking! Nasal hair stops particles going into your nose and it also stops your nostrils sticking together! As for the hair you were thinking about, man alive I'm so glad it wasn't a really hot summer. Enough said I think.

Well we've got a date for the next scan, 23rd October is when I'll be glowing like the underneath of a chavs corsa. Results will be on the 27th, not going to stress about it as there's nothing I can do about it now.

Thursday, October 1, 2009


Who am I? What do I do now? Should I be happy, sad, emotional?

I know who I am, obviously, but for the last six months or so I've been a bloke on chemo. A regular visit for a day in the comfy electric (reclining not USA gaol style) chairs having drugs and tea and biscuits. The steroids start in the morning, four foul tasting little tablets which mess with my distance perception (no driving), up my appetite (food, need food now, no not the healthy stuff, the salty snacky fatty type stuff, high in flavour low in goodness), and boost my energy just as the chemo starts to drag it down. The blood boosting injections start the day after the steroids finish, a regular visit from the district nurse (black coffee no sugar). My mood would drop on the tuesday after the steroids finish, try to keep level for the girls and Wendy, not fair on them to be too grumpy for no apparent reason.

But that routine has suddenly been taken out from under me. I'd got used to it, as much as I hated it and love the fact that I won't be having all those drugs coursing through my failing veins. I won't be peeing Irn Bru for a day after the chemo. I won't be quite so completely knackered. I won't have to find a conversation to have with complete strangers who are going through something similar or worse than me. I won't have to watch as women have cold caps fitted to try and prevent hair loss. These caps look like the things jockey's wear and come straight from the freezer, they change the blood flow around the hair follicles hopefully stopping them falling out. I'm amazed at the pain that people will go through to maintain their hair. But I fully understand how much more important hair is to women than it is to men, loads of people say I look younger with no hair! Have chemo look younger......... But for women hair is much more than a way or keeping warm, it can be an identity in itself and I admire the determination and the suffering that the women went through to keep some normality in their life. I won't be having mum and dad coming to pick me up, mum seeing the pain and dad seeing it but trying not to acknowledge it.

All those things are familiar to me now, they have been my life, the normal bits which I write about on here have been the special times. They have been the minority, they've meant more and they have been all the more special for the simple reason that I crave them, I crave normal.

Now I have to change, I have four weeks in which to start getting back to being me. The hospital reckon it'll take six maybe ten weeks before my body recovers fully from the chemo. Then I can start getting fit again and working on being normal, so long as I don't need radio-therapy. The four weeks will take me to the results of the next PET scan, four weeks in which I can worry about the result or get on with getting on.

Monday I start getting on with getting on. I'm going to savour tomorrow. Savour the fact that I can be outside, I may go and take a picnic and just sit outside somewhere. When you're hooked up to a drip and you take it every where, toilet included, you yearn for the feel of the sun on your face or the wind in your.....oops......on your head and even the rain, the sweet rain. That sounds like a plan, cheese and pickle salad sandwich, a bag of crisps and a bottle of water and a windswept hillside somewhere. Sounds like the start of something good.

As for my emotions, well they're close to my chest. I had a cry last night, I know it was Wend's birthday and I shouldn't be sad but I was. I felt like I was luckier than I deserved to be, to have got through stage one relatively unscathed. I've had very few side effects and I know how lucky I've been, seeing people who can't eat and drink, who have sores in their mouths, who can't breath properly without tubes up their nose. If I was religious I'd thank my god, whichever I believed in, but I'm not so I'll just be grateful to who ever will listen! I'm sure I'll start crying at some piece of music or something on tv and I won't have a reason just the time will be right. Until then I'll get on with life..........and whatever that brings.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

No more chemo

Like the title says. Just got back from the hospital and have been told I'll be having no more chemo. There was some shrinkage but not a significant amount and therefore they don't think anything would be gained by giving me any more.

Plan now is to have a PET scan in a couple of weeks which will show whether the mass that is left in my chest is alive or dead. If dead then congratulations buy a lucky dip you can get on with your life, if alive then zap the furball with radio therapy until it's dead.

I feel like sleeping for a week now, just exhausted. I'm sure my emotions will get the better of me at some inopportune moment but hey that's just me.

We're not out of the woods yet but we're going in the right direction. Best go and wrap Wendy's birthday presents.


Look mum a willy

Carys pointing out the obvious, in her loudest voice.

Happy Birthday mum.

The girls returned, happy and healthy from their trip to Wales and the house sang again with love, laughter and happiness. It felt real again, being alive, surrounded by so much life.

Other than more injections and another course of antibiotics for a small throat infection the last three weeks only have three noticeable points. Another CT scan with another barium based drink, didn't taste any better than last time and the results come back today. It's one of the reasons for this post being a bit staccato, the results determine whether I have more chemo or go down the radio-therapy route, so I'm a little anxious.

The second high point was going into school. I had a day feeling really well, you know normal, so the next day when I felt great again I went in to Winterhill (where I work). I have a had so much support from people there that I wanted to see some of them and just say thank you. Along with Wendy and the girls returning from Wales the next big emotion was the girls and my friends and colleagues going back to school. It was a reminder that however I felt, I was still ill and I have a long way to go. Sometimes you get so see the people you want to but the first hurdle was I didn't want to get out of the car. I wasn't scared but I was nervous, nervous of how people would react to me, whether I'd scare any kids (not always a bad thing) and whether I'd be emotionally strong enough.

I needn't have worried, I had a lovely welcome from everyone I saw, the kids and the staff. I saw people who send me text's every now and again just to see how I'm doing. People who ring me up and just chat (cheers Dennis), people who post on here sometimes and people who write me letters. I brought one woman to tears, not the first time I might add, but in a good way (she assures me). I had smiles and waves off kids and plenty of hugs from staff. Although it made me nervous about germs and the like the physical contact and the emotional support that a hug gives far outweighed any worries. I had a good chat with the boss, about this that and the other and I was made to feel welcome. Which sometimes when I look at photos of myself I'm surprised that people look past me now and see the me that they knew.

The other high is that it's Wendy's birthday tomorrow so we had a day out to Chatsworth. Sotheby's have a load of sculptures there at the moment and we took a picnic and met mum and dad there for a glorious few hours walking round. I took the low route with dad as I was tired but the girls went off exploring and found more of the installations. It was a glorious time and the high point for me was the ample couple, just a very clever piece of casting. Then in the evening Wendy and I went to Artisan at Crosspool. Mum and dad had the kids overnight which was superb, even so we were home for 9 to watch the Strictly come dancing we'd taped earlier! I felt quite adventurous (I don't as a rule like fish) so started with scallops on pork belly and then had baked cod on a crab risotto for mains. They were both delicious and the head waiter was brilliant in advising about what may be less safe for me to eat, so thank you to them.

Right going to get some lunch now and then go and find out the results of the scan. To be honest I have no idea what I want the results to say, other than they're growing back (that'd be bad). More chemo means less scar tissue possibly, but more likelihood of a baggy heart, to go with my baggy belly. No more chemo means more scar tissue staying in me and the possible start of radio-therapy. Who knows. Go with the flow.

Friday, September 25, 2009

The worst week that was......

Firstly an apology, I've not posted anything for a while and the simple reason is I've not understood how to write this post. So sorry for not posting and sorry if this doesn't flow very well.

After my stint in hospital and then the worst chemo I've had I was pretty shattered, just tired of the process, of the drugs, the feeling pants, looking like a warmed over turd and being tired and a bit ratty all the time.

Our anniversary was wonderful, a glimmer of normality in a starless night, it was the start of up. Cancer for me and everyone who knows me is a roller coaster full of ups downs and round and round. The problem is it's like the old coaster at Alton Towers which ran in the dark, you have no idea which way is next.

The day after our anniversary meal dad took the girls and Wend to Shrewsbury station (I'll explain in a minute) and I stayed at home waiting for the district nurse to come and give me a blood boosting injection. Wendy and the girls were going to Anita's for a well deserved holiday and a bit of normality. The idea behind Shrewsbury (say shrew not shrow) was it's kind of half way and it was a whole lot cheaper than going all the way. Also changing trains in Birmingham new street with two small children and a case which she could probably fit it was not Wendy's idea of fun! Mine either.

I was hoping to go with them in the car to the station but I knew it'd be an emotional farewell, the nurse coming to give me an injection was a cowards way out of the public show of emotion. So I did it on the street instead! I knew they'd have a great time, playing with the dog and the cousins and going to the beach and just having a change of scenery would be so important for them all, especially for Wend.

Wendy is an incredible human being, not big in stature but massive in heart and determination. It is her that has picked me up so many times when I have fallen, mentally and physically. It's her that gives me the strength to carry on, to be me.

I was a weird teenager, I was known as Roger Hart's son or Viv Hart's brother. Now the reference to dad is fair but to be known throughout secondary school by your younger sisters brother was frustrating. Whether it was because I loved the infernal combustion engine more than football or I didn't wear the right clothes or what I have no idea but I wasn't a happy person at school. Leaving school gave me new friends but I still hung around with the old crowd which did nothing for my development.

Years passed and I saw the friends for what they were, not friends at all but a group of people who would never change. They'd drink in the same pub, live in the same area, support the same teams and their kids would do the same. So the cycle continues.

I didn't know what I wanted but I knew I didn't want the same as them. So by accident more than design I went looking for something different. I found a different group of people, who turned out to be the same but with different labels and different faces but the same blinkered outlook on life. It was fun for a while but kind of empty, getting drunk, going home (alone) and then doing the same thing the next night.

Then Wend came along, a true breath of fresh air, a young lady who'd grown up in the country and had moved to Sheffield to follow her dream of being a paediatric nurse. She was adaptable, determined and downright stubborn at times. I knew I'd met my future, two months after meeting I asked her to marry me, I don't think anyone expected it but I didn't care. If I let this person go I knew that I'd regret it for the rest of my life.

Yes we've had good days and bad and we've said the odd cross word to each other but it's because I love her. I love the way that we end up laughing at inappropriate things, the way that she's so honest, how stubborn she can be (especially with water fights, just don't. I did warn you!), how when it's cold she disappears into one of my jumpers and curls up on the sofa with a cup of tea. So many reasons, yet she is the one person that sees the real me all the time. The me that is hurting, that is tired to the point of exhausted, that shouts at his kids for no reason other than I can't think of what words to use to explain what I really mean, the one who has such bad farts they wake him up in the middle of the night (I blame the anti-biotics Wend would probably say different). You know she see the warts and she still loves me. She's amazing.

And for a week she's in Wales.

I spent a couple of nights at mum and dad's being looked after which was lovely. I spent an afternoon and evening round at Mark and Jills which was great just talking bikes and stuff and having my tea cooked for me. All the while the injections carried on and I spoke to the girls and Wend every day, sometimes twice or more.

I coped, I found that my head went into a weird coping mode. I had little emotion that week, I had a good cry one night when I missed everyone but other than that I found I was preoccupied with the Injections. They were to boost my white blood cells, which they did, a side effect which I'd got myself wound up about was bone pain. Mmmm bone pain, must be good if the mention it in the leaflet, I wonder when that'll kick in, if at all.

2:30am OH MY G*D, what the f***ing hell is going on....move, come on fatty move. Movement made the pain go a little, so I moved. All over the bed, upside down, crouching, stretching, bending, hanging over one side then hanging over two, stood up, squatting. Walking helped a bit more so around and around the bedroom I went. Went to the loo, difficult to get it all in the toilet when your pelvis feels like it's being crushed with metal clamp. Bend down to clean up, oh that's so not a good position to be in, I hope I don't bang my head and get stuck like this. Ooh you little F****r, must read the side effects, miss the bottom stair and jar my back, great. Read, come on eyes focus, right bone pain may be treated with normal pain killers. Right then pain killers it is, I can't believe they'll do much but I have nothing else to try. 2 paracetamol, not touching it, 2 brufen, 20 minutes later and I was asleep, not soundly but I was comfortable, ish.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

A bit of up and a whole load of love.

The weekend came and went, I was in a better mood by the Sunday, still pretty wiped out but in a better frame of mind.

Monday our Viv had her second baby by ceasarian, baby Lola came into the world happy and healthy and with a full head of hair. Dave (my brother in law) was in attendance for as much as he was allowed to be and then the electronic notification started whizzing around the world. As much as I wanted to go with Wend and the girls to visit I was scared of going out and on a purely selfish basis I wanted to save myself for that night.

You see Tuesday was our wedding anniversary. Nine years, a tip for singletons reading this, get married in a year which is memorable and easy to do the maths, we got married in 2000 which makes life for a simpleton like me much easier! In those nine years there have been births and deaths, job changes, redundancies, retraining, working away, arguments, laughter and a whole load of love.

I met Wendy through a blind date arranged by a wonderful friend. Gwyn was my boss at the time and had suddenly exclaimed one day that she knew the perfect woman for me, not bad considering we'd only worked together for a couple of months and then it was only a 12 hour shift on Saturdays! To say I was sceptical was an understatement, I'd never been particularly lucky in finding the right person, I guess I wasn't actually sure of what or who I was looking for. As blind dates go it was interesting to say the least. We went out as a group from work and although Gwyn had described Wendy to me I'd never seen a picture so when the person Gwyn described walked into the pub I nearly walked out. She was, well, er, putting it politely, not my type, possibly not anyones type! I'm sure she was a nice enough person but not my cup of tea.

I was wondering where Gwyn was as I thought they'd have come together but there was no sign and then they walked in. Now that was more like it, not the tallest person in the world but everything in the right place and cetainly not hard on the eyes, even before the beer goggles had kicked in.

We had a pub crawl which coincided with another groups pub crawl. I ended up being a bit of a tart and dancing with a woman from the other group in Roxy's. Gwyn came up to me and told me I was going to lose Wend if I carried on carrying on. Something in my beer drenched mind decided to stop the dancing and go and find Wendy. She was at the bar buying me a drink, not too bad I thought, but then she explained that she was only buying it for me as I'd bought her one earlier and she didn't want to owe me anything!

We got talking and talking and talking and talking. Until about half four in the morning on Gwyn's sofa in the middle of the manor estate in Sheffield. Yes it was just talking. As the beer was wearing off I realised the time and called a taxi, I had to be at work (for Gwyneth) in an hour and a half. B*gger!

For the next two weeks I had no contact with Wend as she'd gone home to Wales and Gwyn wouldn't give me her number. I thought that I'd been in love before but those two weeks made me realise that I hadn't. Nothing felt like the yearning I felt, I just wanted to see her, see if she was real, see if she liked me just to be with her again.

I proposed after two months and although my dad had to come down off the ceiling and Wendy's dad thought I was gay, we both finished our courses before getting married and we've been together ever since.

To say that we've some stories would be an understatement, we've had good times and bad but we've been honest with each other and that along with our love and a fair amount of laughter has pulled us through.

The love that I felt all those years ago that convinced me to share my life with someone else has just grown and my admiration for the blonde bombshell I married has multiplied many times over. When we started courting I wanted to wrap Wend up in cotton wool and protect her from everything. I soon found out that Wend is not one to hold back with her thoughts and she didn't want wrapping up. It's this strength that she has that has pulled us through so much. She is so dedicated as a parent and so strong as a wife that I thank Gwyn every day for introducing us. (In my mind, I think she'd get fed up with all the phone calls).

We'd booked Mum to baby sit, cheers mum, so off we trotted into Sheffield for a pint and a curry. Well it ended up being a couple of halves of strawberry beer at Platillo's in Leopold Square and then a superb curry at Aagrah, underneath Platillo's. I remember many years ago driving past a curry house with an elephant outside, turns out this was one of the first of the Aagrah chain of restaurants. We had a fabulous meal and I managed two thirds of my pint before it all got a bit much. Steadily we reached the tram and made it home, twenty past seven, dirty stop outs we are! The girls were still up and it was still light and I guess it was the shortest baby sitting in history but I was done.

I'd had a fabulous time with my stunning wife, it was the night I wanted but given the circumstances it was a darn site better than it might have been.

Thank you Gwyn.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

A lot more down (I hope this is the bottom)

Sunday came and went, the old boys on the ward were a good laugh the banter floed freely and my spirits rose although my energy levels were still in my boots.

Wendy and the girls came to visit as did mum and dad, as the person being visited it's lovely to see these people and obviously seeing Wend and the girls is magic but it's also hard. It reminds you of what you're missing and of a place you'd rather be, that's not to say I didn't want visitors it was just where my head was.

I was confident that I'd be going home that evening, how wrong could you be. Three day's later I was leaving, it had taken that long to get my blood well enough for me to fight infections as and when they came along. The neutropenic situation basically means that part of my white blood cells, the neutrofil, were at a critically low level. This meant fighting something as simple as a common cold could have become life threatening! That'd be rubbish wouldn't it, at the funeral, "well he beat cancer but a cold got him!"

I came out of hospital feeling lucky, two of the guy's on the ward had terminal lung cancer, a woman I got chatting to had two tumors removed from her brain but they'd come back and so it went on. As far as I can see I have a damn good chance of beating this and getting back to being as normal as I ever am, so I'm lucky.

I should have been having chemo the next day but they didn't think I'd be up to it so it got put back to Friday. I rested and rested and rested and waited for my next dose of poison. Chemo is one of those things you go through, you exist through it, my existence on that friday was pitiful. I hadn't got much left energy wise or emotionally and it showed. Usually I can chat to the nurses or other patients but this time I chatted a little and buried myself in my magazines and books. A friend, unlucky Steve (long story) who had visited me while in hospital, had leant me the second of Lance Armstrong's books. Both are worth a read even if you don't like cycling they're well written and show humour and humility along with the desire to win at everything be it cycling or cancer he wants to win everything he does. Every now and again a line of the book would provoke the odd tear, it'd be a shared experience. Some famous bloke in Texas with some big bloke in Sheffield, sharing fears, highs lows sentiments, a love of bikes through the pages of a book. The second book talks about being a survivor and how hard it is, how getting the balance of living life like you've been giving a second chance but also being the person you were before cancer. It's fascinating from a people watching point of view but scary from where I was.

I sobbed, behind my hands, in an empty room. Watching the drugs go in and feeling like they were doing me harm not good, got me. It got me so that I couldn't think clearly, I hurt, my head hurt from all the thoughts and my chest hurt from sobbing. Sally was brilliant, there were only two nurses left on as I was the only patient and she just sat and listened and gave me a hug and was just a sympathetic human being. I guess it's part of the job but it's not something you can train for.

My drugs finished and mum and dad arrived to take me home. I think i've looked rubbish after chemo before but not as bad as that, it ended up with my crying, Kaz (the other nurse) crying and Sally wiping her eyes. I gave them both a hug and thanked them, the staff at Weston Park do an amazing job and do it in such a way that you never feel foolish or pitied just cared for.

The only thing I wanted that night was a chip butty with curry sauce and my family. Food first as I had an inkling that my lousy mood was partly fueled by a lack of food and then hopefully I'd feel better when I was with my family.

I don't remember much about that weekend, I can't imagine I was much fun to be around. I wasn't crying as much but I didn't have much to give anyone, the combination of steroids, oral anti biotics and a fresh dose of chemo probably proved to be quite a cocktail for my body to take.

The roller coaster the start of down.

I apologise for not having posted over the last couple of weeks but it's been a little bit busy in the world of Nick.

Having the girls home was fab, made the house sound right again, laughter and song and just general busy-ness. The focus would be Geogia's birthday, eight, where the flipping heck did the time go? Now it's awkward having a birthday in August when you're school age, all the people you want to invite end up going on holiday so parties aren't particularly overcrowded!

George loves pizza and so, as it was her party, pizza it would be. But not any old pizza, homemade pizza dough and homemade pizza sauce and toppings designed by George. Wendy made the dough and the sauce (complete with hidden vegetables for my benefit) and George did the toppings. It's safe to say come my birthday I'd like Wend to make more pizza's, they were fantastic and there was only a couple of pieces left over for lunch the next day.

I made it through the family party on the Friday, I'd felt better but I just put it down to being tired and having done too much.

Saturday came and George was going bowling with her friends that were not holidaying, Carys and us. That soon turned into just Wendy taking the girls down to the bowling and mum and Wend's friend Shelley meeting them there. I was in pieces, Georgie had a friend staying and what she must have thought of this big bloke sobbing into a pillow I don't know. Carys being Carys just asked straight out 'Why's daddy crying?'. I had nothing left, no energy, my get up and go had effed off!

By the evening I'd got worse and my temperature finally hit the 37.5 degree mark that constitutes a phone call, whatever time of day or night, to Weston Park. We both knew what was going to happen so Wendy phoned Mark and I got my overnight bag together, well I picked it up, as Wendy keeps it pretty sorted for times likes this.

You know you're bad when one of your best mates picks you up, looks at you and says "Yep you look shit". Not one for mincing his words Mark says it as he sees it and it's one of the reasons I love him as a friend, you know exactly where you are with him. He stayed with me for the best part of two hours while they tooks some observations and got me to swab for MRSA (one up the nose, one round the groin). It was a support that I didn't know I needed but it kept me together for the time being.

Being admitted was no hardship, I knew in my head and my heart it was the best place to be. Being jabbed several times for blood samples is also par for the course. Being woken up at half one in the morning by a very nice but very quietly spoken doctor and being told you're neutropenic was weird. Now I'm not the best at being woken up and being woken up by someone other than Wendy or mum puts me into an automatic who, what, where spin which was only stopped by the very patient sister. She was great, considering she'd stopped me spinning she allowed me to come round a bit before she put a cannular into my arm for the litre of saline and the intravenous anti-biotics that I had been prescribed.

Sleeping in hospital on a ward is weird as I have mentioned before. You have to get used to four other blokes snoring, farting, belching and the noise of sleeping on a plastic coated mattress always takes soem getting used to. Add to that a drip in your arm which you really don't want to lay on or pull out and it makes for a less than restful night. Having said that the old boys on the ward did tell me of a previous patient who woke them up one night shouting and screaming, they awoke to find this bloke knelt on the floor with his head under a chair bum in the air with no pyjama bottoms on............

Monday, August 24, 2009

An update. Our girls are home!

As anyone who knows us will attest our family is everything. We work as a four, no more, no less so it was a hard week for Wend and I when the girls went to Wales. They went to stop with Aunty Noo and Uncle Jase and the girls favourite playthings, Ryan, Jacob and Stella the bonkers springer. Their home for the week is a little slice of heaven in wet Welsh Wales.
Shakes and cakes

Sheffield's temporary big wheel

Well they had a whale of a time, riding bikes and body boards. Running round the huge graden chasing and being chased, hide and seek and being kids. Happy and active kids.

Wend and I survived, we spoke to each other, we laughed and held hands and were a couple. A couple that continually talked about their kids, wonder what they're doing now, can we talk to them yet, will they be awake, hope they're going to the toilet regularly. But we were a couple and being just us some of the conversations were freer and more open, not snatching time when the girls were outside, nor listening for when they were on the stairs.

Anyhow Wendy's dad, Bill and his partner Bron, brought the girls home about a week after my fourth chemo. I felt good, really good. Active and alert and although I got tired I felt genuinely good for the first time in ages. Perhaps it was a sign..... Anyhow we took the girls into town and to East One for tea as a welcome home and also for Georigas birthday, a bit early but it allowed her to celebrate with Bill. Blow me down she ate most of her meal with chopsticks. Going to Wales always brings her confidence on, physically and emotionally she'd changed. I don't think it's the water but maybe.....

We then walked down into town and went on Sheffield's temporary answer to the London eye. Half the size but what an amazing view, even more amazing when Bill paid, cheers Bill. Now I'm not one for heights but since having kids I've decided they're not going to inherit my fears. So on we get, repeating the mantra "don't be sick, don't be sick, don't look down, oh fourpence halpenny, don't look down" round in my head. It'd have been a waste of a great meal.

Anyway I wasn't sick, no-one was, and we had a great time just being normal. For me being normal is where I need to be, it's a long term target, how normal well that's open to discussion but as normal as I ever get.

For a week and a half I was normal, the hair on my chin started growing back with some consistency. I was driving my car regularly, not something I do when my concentration isn't there, we were going to the shops. Not big shopping trips or anything but more than just me being ferried there and back. We even went to the pictures, twice, the second time was for Georgia's birthday proper Ice Age 3 in 3d. It was great really funny and the 3d stuff worked really well with the weird glasses on.

That evening we had Ma n Pa round and aunty Shelly called too for homemade pizza's. Wendy made the bases and everything and they were superb, way better than the supermarket ones, even the good ones.

Then I started feeling a bit pants, but it's my first borns birthday so we're going to get on with it.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Friends and Family

They're what get you through, they're the ones that keep you going when it's pants. Mark seems to cop it when I need to go to hospital, both times I've been kept in he's taken me up and both times he's been shocked at how sh*t I look. But he comes and he sits and waits with me, averts his eyes as I swab my groin for MRSA and generally talks b*ll*cks with me while they sort a bed for me.

Mum and Dad have been amazing. Without their help with the girls this summer would have been awful. They've been supportive without being intrusive which is a hard thing to do.

The Neutropeonic thing that Wend posted about was basically my blood didn't have enough soldiers in it to fight out of a wet paper bag let alone a cold. I felt cr*p, just laid on the bed Saturday before my temperature spiked forcing me to ring the hospital again.

It's still a humbling experience going to one of the wards and listening to other peoples tales. Seeing people with terminal lung cancer hacking up every five minutes and spending three hours a day on a nebuliser but still being cheerful and laughing a joking is inspirational but emotionally draining too.

So I'm home, knackered but home. Humbled by positive attitudes and just getting on with it.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

he's coming home he's coming home fatboy's coming home!

Well I'm home.

Will post more about the experience later.

(oops sorry about the earlier title!)

Sunday, August 16, 2009

The things Nick will do to avoid a sleep over!. Nick is currently an inpatient on ward 3 at Western Park Hospital. Since mid week we have known he was brewing something! By Thursday he was very ropey, but determined not to be admitted as it was Georgia's 8th birthday on Friday, he was a trooper all day , didn't make it to Georgia's bowling party and by Saturday night looked awful, had a temperature and had to go in. Georgia had a friend staying for a sleepover and I think all the giggling and pop music finished him off! So basically his blood count is out and he is neutropenic he will be having Intravenous antibiotics and daily blood tests and once they are happy with them he should be let out! As for his planned chemo session on Wednesday we don't know yet, his consultant will decide that over then next few days. Sorry it's a short post I don't have quite as much time as Nick!
Wend x

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Can I ask you a really personal question.....?


Debbies old steed

It was the third Christmas do since I started at Winterhill that I first really spoke to Debbie. I was wandering around being a nosey git and talking to people that you don't usually get time to talk to at work. It's interesting talking to different people, finding out their interests and hobbies and about their families and just getting to know a bit more about someone who you pass in the corridor most days. Sometimes it leads to a similar interest (motorbikes in this case) or sometimes it allows a link between departments that you hadn't seen or been able to use before.

Anyhow I'd plonked myself down at Debbies table and was chatting and watching the world go by. We'd talked before but not at length, Debbie is a teaching assistant who accompanies some of the more difficult students, an incredible assett to my lessons. She's one of those very patient people but unlike some she won't be messed about and you'll know very clearly when she's not happy! Debbie also works closely with the students in the centre, who are on modified timetables or go out to do more practical learning, so you often see her out in rigger boots and a Hi Viz jacket taking a group of lads out to build a wall or a path or something.

All I knew was that her son and daughter were at the school and she had a flair for art and design, I'd seen her sketching in some of my lessons. Anyway late in the evening I find she has a passion for motorbikes and travel and for workign hard as the teaching assistant job wasn't her only one.

We had a great chat and laughed at people embarrasing themselves and getting drunk and that was that. We finished for Christmas and she went and did family things in Rotherham and I did family things in Sheffield and Wales.

So the first Monday back, hmm don't like mondays but they happen every week and this year I had a couple of free periods first thing so it softened the blow considerably. Sat there working on my computer and the door opens, "Oh hello, have a nice christmas?" without looking up it was going to be the right question whoever was there......

Debbie seemed distracted but said she'd had a good one but "Can I ask you a really personal question?"...... Now it's not the usual monday morning greeting and if I wasn't happily married and had been drunk at the Christmas do then I'd be worried!

How personal could it be? It can't be that bad can it? "Yes if you want to, I may not answer it though!"

"Are you Derek Hart's son?" Now unfortunately I heard Eric Hart, so after a little clarification we came to Derek. "No, not me, why?"

"Oh I just wondered, having talked to you at Christmas I was just wondering." Debbie looked disappointed at this but not worried.
"Was his brother Roger and did he live on ******* Lane in Sheffield?"
"How did you know that?"
"He was my uncle."
"What do you mean he WAS your uncle." Debbie hadn't said why the question but now picked up and the terminology I used.
"Oh he died a couple of years ago. Why do you ask about Derek?"

"He was me dad!" Came the showbiz bombshell! Not what I was expecting in any shape or form.

It turns out uncle Derek had been a little, busy, in his past and had been sharing the love with Debbies mum. Once Debbie was more than a twinkle in an eye Derek upped and offed and went back to being less generous with his love, as far as we know!

So I started the day having three cousins on my dad's side and was to end it with four. On the phone to mum at break time, "just been talking to a cousin of ours" "Which one, Alison?" "Nope" "Paul" "Nope" "Joanne" "Nope" "Well we haven't got any more cousins." "Well we have now!"