Wednesday, June 22, 2011


How to be me again.

I'm sorry for not posting for so long, so much has happened to me and to others. There's been earthquakes and tsunami, unbelievable how powerful nature can be. I can't imagine life in either New Zealand or Japan, talking to Charlie last night in Christchurch and it gives a tiny glimpse of how life can change in moments. I still have stuck in my mind the image of the tsunami hitting the coast of Japan and cars trying to change direction away from a wall of water.

I'm not sure why I stopped posting on the blog, maybe it was because I was busy trying to remember how to be the teacher I was. Maybe by talking to people I felt that I had my emotional release, more realistically I think I wanted to finish the story but I didn't know how.

Several people who have followed the blog and have emailed and texted support suggested that I should turn the blog into a book. I like the idea and started looking into it, asking friends about publishing and talking to really kind people who had all sorts of advice. I got thoroughly carried away with the idea of publishing the story and raising money for charity, maybe I should pursue it more but I need to stop the story and return to reality.

Looking back I find the last two years almost fictional, my mind is playing a wonderful but dangerous trick on me. It seems to have blanked out so much of the last two years that unless I'm talking to someone about it I forget it's happened. I guess it's a self preservation technique which works 99 percent of the time the other 1 percent memories catch me up and bite me on the bum.

Over the last few months my energy levels have increased, as has my fitness. Up to Easter I felt absolutely amazing, I had built up my attendance at work from calling in once a week to staying in a couple of hours a couple of times and then teaching a couple of hours with another teacher and then teaching on my own and progressing to the point four weeks ago when I took back my timetable fully.

At one point in time I was wondering if I'd ever get back to work let alone back to my full timetable, coming up to Spring bank half term I felt fantastic, tired but fantastic. Then I started with the odd ache and pain that I couldn't explain, upper left chest, along with an itchy back and itchy scalp. The itching is something that I ignored when I first started this journey, the pains were what took me to the gp's. Along with being tired my head started to wonder, this time last year I relapsed, the cancer came back. Fathers day last year has a photo of me looking shocking, fathers day this year has no photos of me but if there was I'd look tired but relieved. The scans were all clear, my bloods showed that my immune system is still pretty shot but that's to be expected.

Weston park are still at their best, my phone call asking if I could discuss the sensations I was having brought about a series of tests and scans all within two weeks of ringing. I can't praise them enough, they don't even think I'm a hyperchondriac either!

I think it has come at a good time, a reality check/slap across the face. I have to learn how to be me, the new me, not improved but still alive. I have had to learn to chill out at school as stressy teachers get eaten for lunch. I have to balance my physical exertion with making sure I can recharge my batteries sufficiently before the next effort. I have to exercise my brain as much as my body and most of all I have to remember how amazingly lucky I am.

I have had so much support from friends and family, far and wide. I have had letters from people who have read my ramblings, thank you Gordon yours meant so much, texts and emails. I have to move on with my life and whatever path that takes me down or up! I love my life, honestly there is no luckier person on the planet. I've never written a diary before and whether I write one again is up for debate. Thank you to anyone and everyone who has sat through my drivel. Most of all to my amazing wife, I love you so much and I couldn't have done the last few years without you. Thank you.

Thursday, February 3, 2011


I go on about normal too much maybe but it's what I crave and it's the normal things that we haven't been able to have.

For example picking Wendy up after work and driving to a little cafe and sitting drinking good coffee in the sunshine. Walking the dog without feeling like my legs are going to fall off, doing bits round the house (not much but starting.....), looking at school work, even thinking about going back to school. All these things which many people take for granted or don't even consider during their days, these are the things that I have craved and I'm sure many other people suffering illnesses crave their normal too.

My head is a bit up and down, I'm petrified of going back to work, it scares me more than any procedure or chemo session ever did. The only reason I can put that down to is that I have control over it, it is me and only me that can be the teacher in the classroom and it is my head and my mouth that get's information into young people, hopefully get them thinking too. When I was having a process done to me I'd accept that it'd either work or it wouldn't, regardless of my input, in this way I found I could accept the processes in a much more relaxed way.

I'm itching to get back though, there's only so many times you can look at bike bits on the internet and day time telly isn't all it's cracked up to be, I feel myself losing brain cells as I watch and I don't have that many to start with! I want to get back to being the teacher I was, not the best but I was ok and I had a good rapport with most of the kids and some of the teachers! I'll get there, I know I will it's just how long it takes and how I am in the mean time.

I've ridden my bike, I've been swimming with the girls, I've washed and hoovered the car and I feel great. Yes I still get tired, yes I still get scared when I have a cough or an ache and yes I'll probably always have that fear but the hospital don't want to see me of three months so I have to take their lead and feel confident that I'm on the road to normality again.

Walking home from school last night with the girls just made me so glad to be alive, the laughter and joy of life that we had was such a tonic. Lay on the sofa with Wend just finished my day off perfectly. Life is good, long may it last.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Up there for thinking down there for dancing

Too much thinking and not enough dancing that's my trouble. Another week and another head full of worries, oh and plenty of snot to boot!

The latter has only been presenting itself at night, in the form of coughing fits, the worse making me sick. The best waking me and Wendy up time and time again. I guess the lack of sleep took it's toll on my body but it had a deeper effect on my head, the tired body and the irrational head started thinking that it feels like it did last year when the furball came back.

I didn't have any of the other symptoms but my head thought and thought and worried and worried and all of a sudden I'm sinking into how do we tell the girls again, Wendy shouldn't have to go through this again, I don't know if I have anything left to give. So when in doubt give Weston a shout!

I left Weston feeling like a complete hyperchondriac, having had bloods done, a thorough examination and a chest xray the worst that they found was one of my blood results was one point off being perfect! The rest of my bloods were as good as a normal human being and according to the ward clerk much better than hers! My xray was clear and the examination showed nothing other than a big scared bloke with a cold.

I left with a course of antibiotics and a big piece of humble pie. As seems to be the case I meet people worse off than myself on my visits, maybe they're sent to remind me how lucky I am. The staff always reinforce the if you're worried get in touch message which made me feel better and then I thought about my blood results, nearly four months after stem cell transplant and my bloods are normal. How brilliant is my body, at replacing blood, not at dancing!

Wendy says, rightly so, that I think too much and I have too much time for thinking. I do think too much and looking back at my life the things I've talked myself out of by thinking too much is amazing, a ride on a bmx back in the day, a ride on a drunk but pretty scouser (long story chivalry prevailed), parties and life experiences which will never repeat themselves. But then I am a grown up now and riding a bmx is not so good for my back!

So the dog and I went for a big walk down Wyming brook footpath and back up the race track. It was a cracking day, cold and bright and the air I pulled into my lungs was so sharp and invigorating I couldn't help feel totally alive.

So from now on it'll be a bit less thinking and a lot more doing, not dancing, doing stuff rather than thinking about stuff. Well that's the plan anyway, I'll be scared in the future as I have been in the past but I need to keep rolling with this journey called life and it's little foibles.

It was a bit parky!

No time for sitting, it's time for doing.

I likes steel I does

20 minutes from a big city!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Shed time

I've been a right miserable git recently and I have no right to be. Christmas was superb, it was the best day ever, fun and food and love and laughter. Wendy had put on a superb spread with an incredible roast and then pecan pie for pudding. I guess it wasn't a traditional Christmas day spread but it was fabulous and it was ours.

There were days last year when it wasn't clear if I'd be around at Christmas so being well and being present was brilliant. Everyday is a blessing and recently I've lost sight of that.

We trogged on down to Wales on the 27th and for me it was a real achievement driving all the way, we stopped at Brian and Eve's which was lovely except for Bertie embarrassing himself on the side of their sofa! We'd 10 miles or so left when I was aware of a limit to my endurance, my wrists ached and my head was slowing down but soon enough we were drinking tea and laughing with Anita and Jason. I was knackered for a day afterwards but I felt like my masculinity had returned, driving has been such an important part of my life that to be able to drive to Wales was a massive tick in the return to normal box.

Jason and I had a bit of an adventure courtesy of his round table Christmas do, I thought it'd be a quiet pint and a meal in Cardigan. It turned into a quiet meal in Haverfordwest and then several less quiet pints back in Cardigan. A much bigger night than I'd expected or have had for an extremely long time, it finished with a kebab and me telling Anita how much I loved Jason and her and being in Wales. I meant it too even in the cold light of day.

We had a lovely time at Bill and Bron's even if the table was a little crowded it was great to see Bron's son Graham and family and the post dinner Just Dance 2 competition was great fun even if it wasn't the best way of settling a meal!

It was new years eve when I started feeling totally rubbish, I'd felt a little ropey the day before but put it down to the night before and probably doing too much, but now I felt rubbish and it panicked me. A phone call to Weston gave me some reassurance and a trip to Haverfordwest hospital gave me a little more, oh and a dose of tami-flu just to make sure. It was a rubbish time to go to Withybush as Wendy's mum had passed away ten years prior on that day so how she must have been feeling heaven only knows. Needless to say the evening wasn't the festivity we had all hoped for and by half ten I made my apologies and went to bed.

Welcoming the new year in had always been such a happy occasion but this year felt different to me, yes I was poorly but I felt like I had to be more respectful to the coming year. Why I don't know, maybe I felt daft for having drunk so much, my body has been through so much and it doesn't need anything else to cope with. I'm not signing the pledge or anything but I'll be more careful in future.

Getting home was to be such a simple affair, we load the car, I get in and drive home. Simple. I had nothing left, as I stood at the bottom of Anita and Jason's stairs crying I couldn't find anything in me that would safely get my family home. I didn't have the concentration nor the physical energy to drive 230 miles and all of a sudden, because of a poxy cold my masculinity dropped out of my trousers and ran and hid under a stone. To say I was grateful to Anita and Jason driving us half way and then mum and dad driving us home is an understatement, I probably didn't show much gratitude as I sulked most of the way but I'd just lost one of the biggest normal's I measure myself against and I didn't know how to find it again.

I have been focusing on the negatives ever since, the cold has me up in the night coughing which isn't the nicest but it's rubbish for Wend as she's back at work now and is understandably knackered from that. How she does it I have no idea, she's gone straight back in and it makes me wonder. I struggled doing a couple of hours here and there last year and I'll do a phased return this time too. Jason's dad has had the horrible news that his cancer is back, what the future holds only time will tell, but I've allowed that to stir up emotions and memories which have scared me again. I should really be living my life and being there to support Jase, that's where I should be.

I don't have a shed, I have a cellar. It's not big, it's not clean but it's dry and it's full of stuff. I don't expect everyone to understand, in fact I expect very few to understand but today I cleared part of my bench and threw things away. It was a cleansing of sorts, throwing out negative thoughts, worries about aches and pains. Sweeping up shavings from wood cut for turning projects, collecting my thoughts about Geoff (Jason's dad) and about me and where I am. Putting up clips to hold tools so that they are readily available when I need them, getting my priorities straight. Oh and looking at my bike, just cos I like looking at my bike. I like riding it more but looking will do for now.

Then my mind started to find all the positives, the letter from Uncle Gordon which made me and mum cry, the phone call from Wendy's dad on Christmas day that made me cry because he was nice to me, the bumping in to Sarah at the climbing works (didn't make me cry), the fabulous family times we've had over the last few weeks (with and without crying). The time I have spent with Wendy and the love and laughter we have shared. The time spent with the girls laughing and admiring their sense of being and their love of life even after all they've been through. Time spent walking the daft dog. Time just being a big hairy Yorkshire bloke with a cold. Just because I've had a stem cell transplant doesn't make me immune to coughs and colds. That's part of being normal, well as normal as I get anyhow!

Now I need to shake off this cold, start getting fit again and then get on with my life, in all it's normal glory.