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 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.