Saturday, May 30, 2009

The longest week and this weeks trail

My trusty steed
The week following the biopsy was disappointing and stressful. It just so happened that there was a bank holiday the weekend following the biospy so the labs wouldn't be able to work their magic on the chunks of furball I'd donated.

It's truly amazing how time and stress go hand in hand, time slows down and stress levels rise. I was trying to keep a level head and a level voice when teaching and talking to colleagues at school. It was easier teaching, kids are a great leveller, be they your own or just ones you come into contact with. There were a couple of moments though were I nearly lost my composure, one of my form was suffering with a cold and being a bit melodramatic stated she was dying, me being me asked her to do it quietly. Another was a conversation with a very able young man, they are there and they do exist but they are few and far between. I had entered a small team into a competition for CAD (computer aided design) use. Unfortunately given the probability I'd be off for some time I decided to withdraw the entry. Telling him was really hard and the hardest thing was not telling him entirely why. I told him when I knew more then I'd tell him.

Friends are so important when living through a saga like this. Mark said he'd taken the day off and we could go for a ride to help my head. Riding has been a saviour of mine for some time, it's helped me get fitter, helped me meet some of the best friends a person could meet and it saved me from the depths of depression a couple of years ago. Part of the joy is the natural endorphins coursing through the veins, part is the physical satisfaction of reaching the top with the knowledge that you've earned your next down hill. But the best two bits are riding down a tricky, steep, technical section without crashing or making too many mistakes but then talking it through with your riding partner. We rode up from Marks and gained a lot of height quickly, not good for my breathing but hey we'd be at the top sooner. We started the cliff and there a naddgery little move over a stream which I had failed at several times and had a real ghost about. This time I rode it, first time, no dabs or wavers just rode it like I knew I could but hadn't done. Whether it was the new forks I'd been obsessing over for a year or two or whether my head needed small successes especially today I don't know. I was so happy to conquer a little obstacle that I was still smiling when I found I'd got a flat tyre!

We rode along the cliff and did some new trails mark had been on, finding new trails is just such a bonus it can't be described easily. Especially when they have such sweet sections like 'this weeks trail', they all have names and some are descriptive of the trail style others come from beer fueled sessions (Marylin Monroe, Missing Link, Mini Cliff, Tree stump, Branchline, Sniper, Rocky bob, Prince Phillip, Aussie rules). Doing a new trail and riding the majority of it is one of the best feelings in the world for me, not like sex in anyway shape or form but really good.

We called in to Marks for tea and medals and a just to chat. It had been the best tonic for what was to come. It had been a normal time, believe me, normal in this situation is to be cherished.

Going to the hospital to find out what the prognosis was going to be was a hell of a drive. It's only twenty minutes but boy did it feel longer. Waiting in the waiting room was weird, a lot of people there, were they there to get good news or bad. Who know's, what will my news be?

Friday, May 29, 2009

NGH Staff

Now obviously this blog is my account and my experience but the care I received was excellent, from the post biopsy tea and toast (being starved from midnight, let me tell you it was the best tea and medals ever) to the porters who cheerfully pushed my and my morrisons bed up and down the corridors, mostly sideways.

I want to say a bit of a sorry, one of the porters was chatting as we were on the way down to the ward and he said "A bit young to be on here aren't you mate?" now normally I don't respond to being called mate but I was fairly chilled having had a successful procedure carried out without any major bleeding or collapsing lungs. "Well when you get told you've got cancer you go where you're told", I hadn't meant it to come out so hard or with such finality but I guess it must have done as he recoiled a little and apologised immediately. If I meet him again with the advantage of hindsight I'll say sorry, he wasn't to know and he was after all making conversation.

So it was bed, confined to bed for the rest of the day. Just incase my lung did collapse or any cuts decided to bleed. It's ok, Wendy arranged the rucksack of stuff so I could reach it from my bed the nurse set my bed up so that I was comfortable and hey presto sorted. Life of luxury.......til it came time to pee. I didn't press the call button as I wasn't desperate but then an orderly came by so I asked him what the story was, stating I was confined to the bed. He checked and then found my a chamber pot, well kind of, more like a carafe of wine that had been flattened on one side. Ok so this is easy just aim and fi....... wo there if I fill this, which I felt quite capable of doing, it's all going to pool next to my backside. All this because of the fancy bed which now has my arse lower than my legs! Comfort at the price of practicality. So I utch myself up the bed trying not to put any strain on anything that could collapse or bleed, bit further, bit further, oh come on hurry up. There that'll have to do, oooooooohhhh that feels good, so good, oops hows the level doing..... oh we're going to be ok. And relax, well that's a wait off. 20 minutes later it was like being down town again, fatal first pee, can't stop going now. Shuffle utch, shuffle utch and relax.

I was glad I went when I did though as next stop was for a chest xray to check that everything was still intact and that I could go home. Come on the results, home time, chilling with Wend and our girls. Absence makes the heart grow fonder.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

CT Guided Biopsy part 4! Last one hopefully!

So there you are, in a weird room, laid on a moving bed that you have no control over, your head in a dirty great big polo and everyone around you is wearing some sort of body armour. I could feel my self getting tense and thought this is bloody silly but how do I chill myself out and relax? Then I was aware of the number of people in the room at the same time, I could see about 8 but Wendy told me after there were at least 11 in and out of the scan room. This brought it home to me, these people are trying to prolong if not save my life. They are putting themselves at some risk because of the emissions from the scanner to try and help me. They don't know me from Adam but there they are, yes it's their job but they could have been a milkman or something less risky.

Weird as this thought was it settled me and just calmed me enough to get into a good head space.

"Can you tell me everything you're doing please? I don't mind what you're doing just tell me everything please." I have a simple way of coping with procedures, if I know whats coming and why it's going to happen (the mechanics of the process) then I can cope with it. It all stems from a witch of a dentist I had when I was a kid. She'd hold the syringe behind her back and then jab you when you were expecting a bit of a flossing! She was evil and not even a very good dentist but there we go, can't tar them all with the same brush!

First was probably the most painful bit. Four long Cotton buds taped together were then taped to my chest. They were evenly spaced and placed on my chest pointing from my head to my toes. Then I went into the scanner, there'll be a lot of this, this allowed them to determine where the incision needed to be. They could use the ribs for the position height ways and then the cotton buds for the distance across. Once happy they marked the exact position with a permanent marker and pulled off the cotton buds. Ooooh not good, not as bad as the ECG pads but there's even less hair on my chest now and it's in weird bald patterns like I have a small mower that I trim it with.

Then the cold bit. To clean the area they used a liquid which must have had a high alcohol content, not because I drank it but from the way it evaporated. Cor blimey it was like the Saundersfoot charity swim all over again.

Now come the needles. Firstly the local anaesthetic, just a scratch into the skin, not very deep. Then the good stuff, the deeper anaesthetic, ooh that's deep, should it go all the way through......surely it must be there by now. "I wish you'd told me you were going to leave that in" how I didn't say what I was thinking which was along the lines of: what the f**k are you doing you've left the needle bit in me, aaargh it's bust, is he completely stupid? "Oh I'm very sorry, I'm going to leave that in you, sorry I should have said." Too effing right you should have said but hey we're all human. He'd left the needle in so he could attach a second syringe which had even more anaesthetic in and pumped that into my chest cavity.

"Just show Mr Hart the biopsy tool and operate it so he know's what it sounds like please" There were two people doing the actual biopsy, one (Mr Bull I think) was the senior of the two he was guiding and training the other guy who's name has gone. Mr Bull had registered my annoyance at the needle incident and was makign sure nothing happened further into the procedure. I'm glad they operated the mechanism before it went into me as it went with a real good click, nearly a bang but not quite. So they thread the tool into my chest and are trying to position it best they can. "Into the scanner please and hold there. Right back out again and a bit deeper." Mr Bull was holding the tool with a massive pair of tongues, you know the sort you use for turning bangers on a bbq but made of stainless and costing way more than the average bbq. This way he could see the screen of the scanner and where the biopsy grabber (must be a better name for it but I'm not sur eof one) was in relation to the furball. "Right in a little further and then we're going to take the biopsy." BANG, ok so the click I'd heard earlier was magnified within my body and although probably no louder to the ear of a bystander to me it was like a little firework going off in my chest. "Ok that's great, lets take another one while we're here so the lab has plenty to go at." So they repeat the whole positioning process again and take another biopsy.

Then as quickly as they had started it was done, "Well done Mr Hart, we've got two good biopsy's for them to work at and everything went well." Everyone within the scanner room appeared relieved and relaxation and humour crept into the conversation again.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

CT Guided Biopsy part 3

Wendy had arrived having taken the girls to school, she'd decided and I was happy with the decision that she'd be there most of the day to keep me company. It made life much easier and was just a reassurance as the biopsy process was going to be exciting at best and downright effing dangerous at worst.

Due to the position of my furball they have to pass through a little bit of the outer lung wall, as they do this there maybe a chance that air gets in and collapses my lung.........nice. Then once they are through my lung they will be really close to the main arteries around my heart, so if they nick one then I have a really good chance of a 'significant' bleed.

The porters at NGH are great, I guess they learn on the job (so to speak) how to interact with people and patients. They have a wicked sense of humour, well the ones I met did and a terrific sense of direction. I think there are people walking around Northern General who could have left years ago.....lost in the enormity of the place. "Worse than bloody Morrison's this one" I felt really bad for the guys who'd come to take me up for the biopsy. 16 stone of lump laid on a bed which in a past life was a supermarket trolley. "Sorry lads I feel like a fraud. I'll walk if you want." "No lad you stay where you are, we just do what we're told. I reckon you should do the same" Wendy laughed at this, there's a definite hierarchy in our house, when we had fish I was below them in the pecking order. Everyone say aaaawww.!

Sideways through one corridor, in to the barriers up another, reverse into the lift and all breath in. Round the houses and we're there, on the way we've discussed the weather (obviously), the new wing of the hospital, the porters progress towards emigrating and the number of points you get for knocking over a consultant or another porter!

I was back in the CT scanning waiting area, this time I was one of the ones taking up space on a trolley, not wandering in in my civvies and reading a magazine. These little holding areas are amazing, you get to see all sorts of people the young and the old the scared and the brave. all walks of life. Illness is a great leveller, a little like war or extreme loss, none of us know how we'll react given a certain situation.

Observations, blood pressure, oxygen saturation and pulse were all taken regularly from being on the ward to being in the CT scanning room. "Lay on you back Mr. Hart" "Call me Nick please" "Ok and your head this end please. Arms onto your front and hold them still please." Getting comfortable when your having needles dug around your chest was going to be key the the success of the procedure and to my well being. As I was introduced to the consultant and some of his team they moved me into the scanner. When I had been in the time before I'd gone in feet first, this time head first the design of the bed meant my arms slipped and were no longer supported. I was petrified that because I'd moved I may have messed up some part of the scan. As it happened it was fine but no where near as comfortable as before the movement.

CT Guided Biopsy part 2

As the sun was setting and the car park was filling, visiting time, I saw Wend and dad arrive. Although it had only been a couple of hours it was so good to see her again, just a reassuringly normal person in all this surreal madness that is going on around me.

It was difficult for dad but he was subtle about giving us time together before they left, I guess it's the parent-child thing next to the husband and wife thing. I must thank him one day.

Then it was just me and Harry Potter with a bag of giant buttons and a post it note from Wend saying I love you which she had stuck to a magazine she'd bought for me. It's amazing how a little yellow post it note with three small words on it can reduce a lump of yorkshire to tears. 

Settling down for the night was hard, obviously there is the weird surroundings, but I couldn't find the light switch anywhere! Typical isn't it, nice new rooms with all mod cons but no bloody light switch!

About midnight I was aware of someone in the room, not a scene from a thriller movie but a nurse posting a nil by mouth poster on the side of my bed. NIL BY MOUTH! B*llocks. Anyone who knows me will testify that I'm not worth knowing without food. Someone had mentioned it earlier but I'd not really registered it, I guess my head was fairly busy. Next thing I know the lights are off and it was seven in the morning.

"What breakfast do you want love? Cooked English or cereal and toast?" There was no need to tell me about the cooked breakfast it was the smell that had woken me. "Thank you but I'm nil by mouth" the sign was next to the bed and the domestics stood at the door to ask what you wanted so they couldn't see the sign. "Oh sorry love, I'll move that sign for you" from the side of the bed to the end of the bed, now the problem was that the angle of the end of the bed to the door was such that you still couldn't see the flipping thing. "Do you want tea or coffee love?" "I'M NIL BY MOUTH" through gritted teeth, I stopped myself shouting but it was a close run thing. Now my senses were heightened I could smell food and drink everywhere. I brushed my teeth and resisted drinking the water or eating the toothpaste. Everytime I went in the bag Wendy had sorted for me I could smell the giant buttons. I reverted to looking at my magazines as they had the least food content in them.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

CT Guided Biopsy part 1

Computed Tomography. Basically it's a big x-ray machine which takes slices through the body and then shows any solids in varying shades of grey. White is bone and then black is a void (Lungs with air in) and the clever peeps at NGH could tell from the shades of grey where there is an abnormality.

A CT guided biopsy is where the very clever people insert a little grabber into the lump and then press a lever. The lever releases the claws and it grabs some of the lump, a biopsy. Now given the position of my lump, just above my heart next to my left lung, the whole idea of shoving a dirty great needle through and hitting the right bit is daunting to say the least.

Now when someone says to me you need to spend the night in hospital, I think buggeration, not going to be with Wend tonight then, hot wards, old people, crap food, no fresh air and sharing a bathroom. Wend on the other hand decides I need some pyjamas, a magazine and maybe some refreshments!

Off to the Northern we go, mum driving with Hart family junior in the car, we decided that the girls should be part of this journey as they are our life. Hadfield is a new block on the site, fresh ideas and fresh design. Blow me down I end up with a private room, private shower and a window that opens! There's artwork on the walls and space, an overiding sense of space, oh and really friendly staff!

I get settled in and the girls pop in to see me, not meant to but we wanted them to see I'd be alright and where I'd be overnight. Them reassured off they went with nanny and played in the courtyard at the front. Wendy stayed a little while but then left to sort the girls tea out and get them to bed and she'd come over later with dad. 

So it's student doctor time and I win one who has hands like they're made of ice, cold's not the word. Anyway he wanted to do a full run through and as far as I'm concerned he needs to learn. He had a great manner about him and as with anyone learning checked and double checked but made notes and was very thorough. It passed an hour or so.

The great thing about being in Hadfield apart from being a private room was the big window out of which I could watch the world go by. It looked so nice that I ventured out and had a walk in the grounds. Having worked at NGH many many moons ago it was weird being back and seeing how different the place was. I was away with my thoughts when a gorgeous harley thundered by, the chrome gleamed in the late afternoon sun and the walls vibrated as the thunder resonated around the buildings. Stuff this, I have way too much I want to do, I want one of those bikes. I want to set car alarms off with the sound of my exhaust (on my motorbike not MY exhaust). I want to ride off into the sunset with my gorgeous wife sat behind me. I have so much to live for I'm not going to let this furball mess with my plans.

Work n wednesday

Going to work the next day was hard, not from a  point of view of physically hard but mentally it was a challenge.

Only a few people had known where I was going and for why, Judith was shocked and upset when I told her. Perhaps it brings back memories of friends or family but it shocked me how someone reacted who I would class as a colleague. The boss was next on the list, he's not one for many words but he was reassuring, sympathetic and humourous upon hearing the news. It was exactly what I needed, it scares me when I think that the one job that I really love could slip away due to ill health, but the conversation was positive without being soppy.

My head of department needed to know, in my mind anyway. Ian is a really nice bloke but he's busy, damn busy so it was catching him early to break the news. It's a sh*t conversation to have with someone as it put's the other person so ill at ease having broken the news to them. Ian like many was shocked and surprised but offered his sympathy and instantly his support. This has made my life so much easier as Ian's support could be as little as a conversation or as much, as would be needed today, to cover for me when I have another emergency phone call.

"You've got to go in this afternoon." "But the CT guided biopsy is tomorrow" "I know but they've phoned up and they want to sign you in and get you to stop overnight" I was glad that we'd agreed that the hospital could get in touch with Wendy, not only did it mean I didn't have any urgent phone calls direct while I was teaching but also it took the edge off the urgency of the call.

Ian was brilliant, "go and see Judith and sort it out with her to get someone to cover the lesson, I'll set the work for you and then you can get off home." It's this sort of thing that I needed and I value, it just takes the pressure off an already busy head.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Furballs, Ginsters and third testicles

What are friends for? Mark was in France on holiday so it was a phone call to him. I wanted to talk to him face to face like I had when the lump was first found. Over a cup of tea in the same room, both of us able to read the body language of the other. Not to be, doing a small tour of the d-day landing beaches Mark was audibly shocked at the news. His dad passed way from cancer so it's a weird conversation to have, me wanting to be sensitive to his feelings but also wanting to off load the daddy of all bad news. He took it on the chin and we talked, best we could at that distance about a life changing situation, before his battery went flat. Modern technology!

Later that evening I skyped Charlie in New Zealand. He had been in touch over email and the odd text but it turned out he'd been talking about it with Mark. "Bugger so it's not a furball then?" (Option number two was a Ginsters pasty or a third testicle, probably best not to ask!) having spat my tea out over the laptop and laughed harder than I had for a couple of weeks I recovered and went through the day's events. The thing about my friends is they are who they are and they don't have any facade about them. Ronseal friends I guess, you get what it says on the tin. "We've been talking about your bike, we think we've sorted out who's having which bits from it when you're gone!" "Don't forget there'll be a death tax for the widow" shouts Wend. "Oi, I'm still here and I plan to be around for a good while longer ta very much." 

Perhaps this'll offend some but for me it keeps me sane, it's my humour and my coping strategy and so far it's stood me in good stead........

Friday, May 15, 2009

5 and 7, what do you say?

They need the truth.

Just not the whole truth. The hardest conversation we had was with the girls, we'd seen Georgia's teacher at school and explained what was going on. But how do we tell the girls. What do you say? We have limited knowledge of what's going on at thtis stage, it may be this that or the other.

We tell the girls the truth. Daddy has a lump in my chest and the doctors are trying to find out what it is. Daddy may need to go into hosptial for tests or treatment. Daddy may need to have some very special medicine which may make him poorly before it makes him better.

We don't tell them what's going through both our minds but has remained unsaid. They don't need to know that.

We cry, all of us, we cry because we're family, because we're going through something scary and going through something unknown. We cry until we're done, just a family going through a rough time.

It feels good, really good, I hate secrets and am not good at keeping them so the girls knowing the truth is a relief a great relief. Mum always said crying releases different chemicals whether it be happy crying or sad crying. Either way it's a release of emotion which is needed.

Don't shake that bucket at me.......

Having dropped the bombshell at mum and dad's we went home via the supermarket. I was having great difficulty walking into the shop as I had a completely irrational rage at people walking past smoking. I know that my cancer isn't anything to do with smoking but it was a simple anger thing, I wanted to be angry at something and the little white sticks were my target.

Shopping doen and we're heading out of the shop and there's a good hearted and well meaning guy collecting for a cancer charity! I felt it better to say nothing than to ask for the contents of his bucket!

It's just so weird, everywhere Wendy and I looked there was a sign for cancer care, adverts on the tv showing macmillan cancer support. I didn't ask for this, I don't want reminding about it. I DON'T WANT CANCER.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Cancer, Lord Voldemort, say them out loud.

There is method in my madness, possibly. JK Rowling hit a chord when she said that not saying something adds to the mystery and fear that could be produced by that mystique.

Walking the long walk up to my mum in her new green house I made my mind up. Be me, say it as it is.

"It's cancer." Possibly, with hind sight, hello would have a better start to the conversation. "It's not fair, it's not bloody fair." It came through sobs that only a mother can produce given news like that.

It was a real shame that the builder working on their house came round the corner at that moment, he froze, barrow in hand. Just not that sure about what to do, carry on with the task or retreat to the comfort of his transit. Dad made the decision easier as he'd just appeared and gave him the rest of the afternoon off.

Tea, tissues and talk, that was the order of the afternoon. Going through all the details that were so raw and fresh in our minds was a kind of therapy in itself. We'd talked in the car on the way over but saying it out loud in a factual way was helpful as I had missed bits so Wendy could correct me or vice versa.

We covered a lot of information in a short period of time. Or that's how it felt, whether we were repeating bits or what i'm not sure. It felt good talking about it, kind of like writing this blog, getting it all out there. 

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

"it'll be summat or nothing"

Great words from Judith, she's kind of black and white but can be really supportive in a time of need. Judith is the lady who sorts out cover for teachers who are off ill or on courses. I had gone to see her on Monday to remind her about my absence for the Tuesday when I'd be going to the Northern again to find out the results of my CT scan. Setting work again for students who I want to be honest with but they don't need anymore stress than they're already under. Setting work again for students who need instruction that very few people can give. I don't want to have time off. I don't want to go to the hospital again. I feel fine maybe I dreamed I had a lump in my chest, maybe the GP's got the wrong person. Maybe......maybe........maybe......

Maybe not, "Ah Nicholas, yes i have your notes here." At any point when visiting the NHS the receptionist knows your name and has you notes to hand you know either of two things, it's a really good receptionist, or you've got something really interestingly wrong with you.

"Can I just check some of your details please? Date of birth, 05-11-1949?"
"Nope, I may feeling 60 some days but I'm not there yet!"
"You're under Dr. Bradfield at your GP's?"
"Nope, never heard of them!"

It's going well this, what with trying to find somewhere to park the car at the Northern during visiting hours (fat chance), the receptionist looking out for me and now my details being wrong my blood pressure was a little higher than normal.

Weight and measuring done we only have to wait a couple of minutes before Dr.Pizarda calls us through. A very softly spoken gentleman he makes pleasantries and then gets down to business. He walks us through the CT scan image which he has on his screen, showing us the lungs and the wind pipe, the spine and the ribcage. Then he shows us a large grey area just above my heart just to the left of centre. Some of this mass is normal but not much, this area here is the abnormality.

The conversation is a bit of a blur as I'm interested in the technicalities of the scan and the size and shape of my lungs. I was taking in some of the information but it was like being really drunk when you're young, you're trying to be cool but also trying really hard to get the bar order right. At no time was the word benign mentioned, I'm guessing from the size, the shape and the position of the mass it didn't present as a benign lump. B*gger, first option out the window then.

Clarification has come with time and talking the consultation through with Wend. Dr.Pizarda gave three basic options, a Lymphoma (his number one choice), a teratoma (left over from the embryotic stage and something to do with testicles, what it'd be doing in my chest I have no idea) or Lung cancer. Lung cancer was a long shot as my lungs were really clear but it was an option anyway.

I thanked him for talking us through the scan images and turned to Wend to see tears streaming down her face. My mind must have a self preservation society going on as it didn't upset me, it was just a fact. We left the doctors office and had an almighty hug, one of those where you just want to be one, where you just hold each other so tight that you may just melt into one.

Through to reception and Wendy went straight out to get some air while I tried to sort out getting some bloods taken. "Well you'll have to go across the road love, the nurse over there will take them for you. I'll just do your notes." The receptionist was very nice and that was what she'd been asked to do. The ladies behind her had noticed Wendy outside and there was some nudging going on, I thought it rude but then they came up trumps. "Hang on a minute, we can do the bloods here, save you going anywhere else love." One of the staff had used her head and her heart and found we could get the bloods done there and then in the quiet of the chest clinic surroundings. 

It was such a relief not have to go anywhere else, it's just the little things that help when you're head is spinning. For this reason I'll say a public thank you to the ladies who were working in chest clinic that day, they made a difficult day less difficult.

The dream job

My wonderful wife with graffiti on her face.

While all this fuss was going on with me my wonderful wife was preparing herself for her dream job. She'd done a PowerPoint which she'd practised in front of me and Shelley, bought a new suit which she looks great in. She's spoken to people doing the job in different hospitals up and down the country to get the best knowledge she could about how to pitch herself and what questions she may face.

I was so proud of her for going for it, being determined and confident in the knowledge she was capable of filling the role.

Work was work that day, I just wanted to know how she'd done. She'd been working in the morning then got changed and went straight to the interview.

She'd done all that while worrying about me. I didn't care about whether the job was hers or not, I was and still am so proud of her for doing it, a lesser person wouldn't have turned up let alone do a days shift and then an interview.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Princess Carys is 5 part three!

Me and my monkeys

The public birthday over, now for the private one. This is the bit I love the most, just being at home with my girls, drinking a cup of tea watching someone opening their presents. Carys is very good at the whole present thing so long as she can get a finger into the present she can tear her way in. Fortunately for Carys, Georgia has the dexterity of a very dextrous thing so any presents Carys couldn't force her way into she passes to George so she can start it off for her.

They are wonderful kids and I know i'm bias but when you watch them playing and sharing brand new toys you realise as a parent you're doing something right.

The birthday girl wanted to try out her new roller skates and who are we to disagree so it's pack up the girls, a pair of roller skates (pink and white and sparkley) a bike, the camera and some drinks and off to Bakewell we go.

Bakewell in the sun is a magical place, add in a great family and the stress melts away. Every now and again you have a reminder of reality and the thoughts running through your mind. These thoughts come from the strangest places. I took the photo below because it made me think of my future and where Wend and i will be when we're old and grey. Sat on a bench watching the river run by seems a nice place to me.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Princess Carys is 5 part two

The brithday girl exiting stage right!

Cake, check. Food, (way more food than we need) check. Party bags, check. Knife for cutting the cake, check. Candles, check. Aunty Shelly, check. Party girl in clean outfit, check. Everyone else, check. 

Ring ring, ring ring, "Hello, it's geoffrey" aka Mad Geoff for his love of outfits (western), singing (anything anywhere), dancing (tap on the ceiling of a tram on a night out) and general merriment. "I'm just going to call and drop off Carys' present." "But Geoff we're not going to be there as we're going to leave for the party now." Geoff (Wendy's cousin and god mother's husband) never did have a great sense of timing. "But Nick will tell you how to get there, Geoff's coming from Wigan just to drop off Carys' present can you tell him how to get to the party." Now my Yorkshire accent varies but Geoff's Wigan one doesn't, describing the road numbers and the local pronunciations leads to laughter and misunderstanding. But, for the first time since I've been part of the family Geoff gets to the location of the party before everyone else!

We all eventually get there, Carys arrives with Aunty Shelly waving royally out of the back of the car feeling very grand. We set up the party table and then watch anxiously as any parent does when their child is hoping for a good turn out for the other guests to arrive. It was hardest for me when Aunty Viv arrives with Daisy, I had decided to stick to my resolve and not to tell her until I knew more and her holiday was over. Fortunately I was busy with welcoming people, policing the food table and helping Wend who was directing the operation!

My little sister Viv with Lady Daisy.

Party goes to plan, Wendy gets compliments on her cheesecake which she passes on to Dawn the originator of the recipe. There's food left over which for us is a good sign, if there's no food left then there wasn't enough food! Everyone leaves and one of the grand parents says that he enjoyed the party too! 

Once we were home and the girls were in bed it was reward time, beer and curry oh and a bit of ironing. We know how to live it up we do!

A good, normal day, was had and although the thought on is this the last birthday party I'll see flickered through my mind i dismissed it and got on with my life and my family's life.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Princess Carys is 5 part one.

The birthday girl in her new spangly roller skates and spangly pink pads!
She likes pink does Carys.

The time just before a Princess' birthday is stressful for any parent, let alone parents who are thinking what's this lump then.

I'm at work and I've changed the way my phone works now, instead of the school setting where the phone is on but makes no noise nor does it vibrate, I now have it on vibrate only. It's ok but half way through a discussion about 3d CAD is not the best place for my leg to start vibrating. It vibrates 3 short times for a text and several times for a call (just accept I know and don't ask yourself how or why), so that's two texts and one call i've missed in the past three minutes something is up. Now the receptionist is at the door, "can you phone your wife urgently?", excellent blood pressure goes up even more than this group of year 9's send it. Fortunately for me cousin Debbie is in with the class as it has a couple of characters in it. Yes she's my real cousin and i'll tell you that story later on. She's a heart of gold and offers to look after the class but I can't leave her with them on her own, I'm sure she'd be fine but from an insurance point of view, oh I'm turning into such a teacher. I ask her to get my head of department which she does so I can phone home. Ian has been brilliant about this and more supportive than I'd hoped for and he agrees to watch my lesson while I make the call.

"You've got a CT scan this afternoon" Wend sounds factural but excited in a worried kind of way. Heart rate goes up, they're pushing me through the system then, good they don't see me as a lost cause. Bring it on.

School were and have been fantastic about this all. I have kept them up to date with all the information I know and they have been supportive and never questioned things like this short notice. I inform the school what's happening and they organise cover for my lessons, I feel so weird walking out of there before the final bell goes. It feels surreal (this word will pop up time and again) as I go and get in the car, one of my favourite year 10's shouts over "Where you going then sir?" "home". He accepts the answer but he's intelligent enough to know when not to ask anymore.

Now when you're a little stressed, as I may have been that afternoon, and you're walking round one of the biggest hospitals this little Island of ours has you need the signage to be good enough to take you to the place you want to go. Well.......NGH needs some better sign placement or the receptionist needs some training. "I'm looking for the CT scanner please" "Certainly sir, down the corridor up one floor in the lift then follow the signs" excellent follow the signs. Why i have to go up one floor using the lift I have no idea, especially as the stairs are next to the lifts. Up we go, through the doors, now for a sign (I'm not talking fire and brimstone here just plastic with lettering on). There we go PET/CT Centre, looks like the only sign with CT on it, yep lets go. 

Now I think everyone has that feeling every now and again when they're not going the right way that something is wrong. I got that feeling when I'd climbed another flight of stairs and was two minutes away from my appointment time. "Excuse me am I in the right place for the CT scanner?" "No love you need to be in x-ray for that, here i'll show you". Obviously the my face had given away the exasperation I was feeling. The one thing about people in Sheffield is if you ask for help 99 percent of the time you'll get it. The cleaner took me right to the corridor for x-ray, there sure enough was the CT scanner reception desk. "I'm sorry I'm late i went following the signs for the PET/CT Centre." "Well that's where you take you cats and dogs" came the reply, followed by hearty laughter from all parties and a hastily added apology. The signs have been up two weeks and were causing all sorts of trouble.

Having never had a CT scan before I had no idea what to expect. I had no idea that the radioactive dye was going to feel cold as it went into my veins, then feel hot as it coursed it's way through my body, then make my whole body feel like a freshly stubbed toe (you know the sharp pain then the dull ache) and then make me feel like i was weeing myself. All that while i had to control my breathing and I was being pushed in and out of a giant polo mint!

"How was that?" Wendy had stayed at home to get stuff sorted for Carys' birthday party the next day. She does an amazing job of food and party bags and baking the cake, which after a couple of pints of Newcastle Brown, I fill and then ice. Didn't look too bad either, even if I do say so myself. "Not bad, just the dye that was painful but other than that fine." More tea ensued and after icign the cake and wrapping the present we got off to bed early-ish in preparation for the party the next day.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Congratulations you may eat pie!

Cutting a long story a little shorter the GP tought that it was weird I was having chest pains and given my family history sent me off to get checked out. Now Sheffield is a good sized city but it has some of the best hospitals in England in it's boundaries. Off I trot to the Northern General, anyone who doesn't know the Northern (NGH) it used to be the work house in Sheffield and is a mass of huge buildings sprawling over a massive site in the North of Sheffield.

The NHS gets slated for lots of things but for me they couldn't have been better. Walk into x-ray, 5 minutes later i'm resting my chin on state of the art machinery and 2minutes after that I'm out and looking for the ECG room. Round the labyrinth of corridors up stairs down stairs and in. 2 minutes later I'm having pads stuck all over me, anyone who knows me will know that i'm part man part bear so the prospect of sticky pads is not filling me with love. Beep whirr the machinery goes, "I'll just check that's all we need" goes the friendly nurse. "Yes that's fine" she says as she walks back in, now how's this going to happen? Will she remove the wires then the..............ooooooooh that it's everything coming...........ow off at.......mmmmmm didn't like that bit of chest once then. Corr blimey it was worse pain than the one in my chest.

Two days later i have some bloods done by the nurse at the GP's. This I was convinced was going to show high Cholesterol and possibly the start of diabetes.

"Nick, we've got an appointment at the GP's tomorrow" Wendy never phones me at work and never with a panic in her voice. "Bl**dy hell they're making us an appointment, I'm guessing it not good news then!" But Wend didn't know, just what time and where.

For some reason the corridor at the GP's surgery wasn't working. As I took a step the door got further away, it felt like a mile rather than the 5 metres (sorry for mixing my units) it really was. We'd been called through and were coming to the door now, open the door and there's someone int here already, shut the door sharpish in embarresment. False start. Phew it was a receptionist.

"Well the results of your ECG were good and your bloods have come back as being clear too. Your choloesterol and blood sugars are normal", "You hear that Wend cholesterol is fine i can eat more pies, excellent". Not sure Dr. Hilditch was expecting that but she took it well, she was looking concerned and a little apprehensive. "It was the chest x-ray that has shown an abnormality." Abnormality, what's she on about I feel pretty good except for this breathing lark. I can kind of see her talking to me and I take in some of the information like there are a few options it could be, the headline act is it could be cancer. It could be a bit of testical...... I'll leave that one I think or it could be something left over from my embryotic stage (possibly the testical bit but it's kind of blurred now). "Within two weeks you will see a consultant at NGH and there will be a cancer specialist there as well as a precaution. I'm sorry it's not brilliant news." Dr.Hilditch did really well, enough sincerity without being simpering and enough emotion not to come across as being cold hearted.

As you may imagine the arse fell out of my head at that point. I had been thinking why do they want to see me, what could it be? A little voice in the back of my head had said it's cancer but I had dismissed that as I had never smoked more than a handful of cigarettes (I had a Clint Eastwood cigar thing at one point when i was much younger which lasted one packet). My mum had breast cancer when i was about 14 but as far as i know there is no link between families. Could it be hayfever playing up and I don't know a lump of pollen getting stuck......... slim, kate moss slim but still a theory worth hanging on to!

Wendy had come with me to the GP's and so we were both shell shocked. After a cup of tea (it's the British thing to do) we drove over to my parents new home. Mum knew, she stood at the top of the drive and just looked at me. There has been talk in the recent years about us moving to New Zealand or Wales (no it's not a sheep thing) and my dad asked where were moving to. Mum had that look though, it's during a school day and we're there talking to them, something is up.

Over another cup of tea we explain as far as you may have read on this very cathartic (for me at least) blog. So the first of many less than cheerful conversations. "Are you going to tell Viv?" Oh bother I hadn't thought of that. Viv is my younger sister and she is going on holiday at the weekend, last time she went on holiday she had a rubbish time due to one thing and another so I decided that until we had the facts I wouldn't tell her or her husband Dave.

So now the waiting begins.

Friday, May 8, 2009

This is two weeks ago

Easter weekend, a trip to Wales. Wendy's (my wife) family are down in deepest darkest wet welsh Wales and it's a world away from our life in Sheffield. We travel the 210 miles regularly to see them for highdays and holidays. It's a lovely journey taking us through some of the beautiful countryside our island has to offer and on some of the best roads I've found.
Wendy's sister Anita, and her family are so friendly and accomodating when we call, it feels like a home from home. They have a reasonable size house set in a couple of acres of garden, if you squint you can see the sea from the bottom of the garden too. You regularly see buzzards and red kites flying overhead and it's a world away from our postage stamp garden. We love going there and the girls (Georgia and Carys) just love playing in the garden, as do I. Given that both Anita's sons are rugby mad and I used play in the dim distant past it makes for a really relaxing time.

Cricket on Newgale beach, no photoshop required, the sun really was out!

We had been having a great time, going to the beaches around Pembrokeshire and visiting family and just generally chilling out. I went to try and discover some new biking trails, found some but nowt worth writing home about, enjoyed the whole exploring thing and following a map (I can see the worth of gps for the emergency services but that's about all) and reading the land. All in all we couldn't have been happier. I'd got a bit of a tightness in my chest but put it down to sleeping funny or a bit of hayfever kicking in.

On the last day of our stay we went down to Stackpole beach which is an incredibly beautiful beach owned by the national trust. While there we watched the world go by, dug a hole, played frisby/rugby and ate our picnic. Truly a blissful time. Walking back up the beach i got really out of breath and the pain in my chest was sharper than before. Not a nice feeling but I put it down to too many of those little scotch eggs........

As always packing the car up and leaving was emotional, Wendy is leaving her family again, Georgia is leaving her favourite play things (cousins Jacob and Ryan and the dog Stella, yes named after the beer....), Carys is just bothered about bed and I'm wishing i had a massive garden with trees and a log store and a view to the sea etc etc.

4.5 hours of driving later we're home. The girls don't have shoes on and are half asleep so one on each shoulder and I carry them into the house (Georgia is 7 and Carys is 5). 3 metres from the door and I don't think I'm going to make it. The pain is back and I can't get enough oxygen into my body. I do make it and they go off to bed, mental note to self SEE THE DOCTOR.

Start from the beginning

I would describe myself as a middle of the road bloke. I have a wonderful wife and two brilliant and beautiful daughters. I work as a teacher, teaching Design and Technology to secondary school kids, I enjoy it most of time. Love it some days and hate it others, like most people in most jobs.

My family health history is not the greatest, on the life insurance forms I end up ticking yes for pretty much everything when it comes to family history. The one thing I was most scared about was heart disease. My dad had a heart attack in 1998 and then a triple by-pass and post surgery pace maker, his dad died when he was 12 from a heart attack so my dad spent his life waiting for his. I decided that I wasn't going to put my family through that so after pains in my chest while driving down the motorway Christmas 2006 I decided to do something about it.

So began a long winding road of running (started out as enthusiastic walking and progressed to 4 miles of off road jogging/running), cycling to work and mountain biking. This along with watching what I was eating and not drinking too much allowed me to lose 2 stone and feel great about myself.

My running became easier and I even thought about the Bob Graham especially after my GP recommended feet in the clouds which is a truly inspirational book about fell running. My cycling to work was getting easier and my mountain biking was better than it had ever been. Top of the world, physically I had never ever felt better, friends who hadn't seen me for a couple of years didn't recognise me and no physical challenge seemed to big. Including a new years day swim atSaundersfoot in wet Welsh Wales, cold like you've never known but hey all for a good cause......

My eldest nephew and me just before the 'swim', if we look cold well that's because it was. -3 degrees on the beach plus the windchill and there were people there in just shorts, we both had wetsuits on but boy am I glad we did.

That was then.