A visit to Deans Court, St Andrews, on a good day during a visit from Ian and Marilyn from the USA in May 2016 – more below.
What can I say, it comes and goes, hurrah! However, it goes and comes, boohoo! I am afraid despite great predictions of the regress of my stomach cancer following chemotherapy, and cessation of treatment, only 2-3 months down the line yes, it has returned. I had a great 6-8 weeks when I was eating well again and putting on weight but that all started to reverse about 3-4 weeks ago. I first noticed pain in my stomach again, then back ache and a gradual loss of being able to eat my double breakfasts, elevenses’ toast and treacle, lunch, snacks in the afternoon and then burgers etc from the barbeque. Oh the life of Riley – even for a short time!
However, I contacted my consultant Dr P and he arranged a load of blood tests, including blood calcium and phosphate levels to check for potential bone disease. Everything was normal but my symptoms were worsening and so he agreed to request a CT scan which duly was arranged within a week thanks to a cancellation at Perth Hospital. The results were back within days and I met with Dr P about 10 days ago. The scan revealed that the stomach cancer had become active again though not as bad as before or even as bad as my third scan, so he also concluded that I was probably experiencing reduced gastric emptying (inflammation, thickening and weakening of the wall, whatever – but not helpful!). So, back to Chemo, but not combo this time, and definitely not EOX as my cancer would now be tolerant to it since I had not managed the 6 – 12 months off treatment, as Dr P expected.
I had my first in-patient (Ninewells, Dundee) intravenous administration of my new Chemo (Taxo) only three days ago. That is the good news, Chemo once every three weeks, and no horrible oral stuff between times. I will get the usual side effects (hair loss, bone marrow damage, peripheral neuropathy, sickness, diarrhoea or both) but hey I am aware of all those and have coping strategies. I have also been given a lot of steroids and anti-nausea medication to reduce inflammation and stimulate appetite and – not that I have noticed!
Well, the first treatment has been interesting, I vomited almost immediately my (very) small portion of chicken, mushrooms and pasta in tomato pesto sauce which I had for my evening meal and was duly retching for the next three hours before retiring to bed – not a good start! However, I have felt a little better since and am now discovering a coping routine – all food and drinks to be as near to drinks as possible (soups, milkshakes, ice-cream) taken little and often – not ideal but a man has to do what a man has to do. I’m coping, folks and if you don’t mind the gory details I’ll continue to update you.
Meantime, what else has been happening? The garden and my suntan are flourishing.
Elaine caught me out here at the new patio in the sunny (not this afternoon!) spot in the garden.
We had to cancel (with no refunds) our planned trip to Italy (Milan, Rome, Breccia, Milan) which was due to commence only last Tuesday. Now that was disappointing. We still hope to go camping in Knight Stainforth, in the Yorkshire Dales (22 – 29 July) but hey I’m a sun-worshipper, it’s not the same!
During my good spell we managed some fabulous stuff. My oldest best friend Ian (from Bradford Uni days) and his wife, Marilyn, came to stay with us in Ceres for 4 days, and I was still very perky at that time we had some great meals both at home and in restaurants. We showed them around the East Neuk (Elie, Pittenweem, Anstruther, Crail) on a road trip and had Fish and Chips at the famous Anstruther (pronounced Ainster!) Fisheries (probably the best little fish and chip shop in the world – and quite near the (probably) best olde worlde sweet shop in the world. Well, I could get midget gems; Marilyn bought smarties and Elaine got some chocolate fudge creams – all excellent and a return to childhood for all of us. I also treated Marilyn to some Edinburgh rock, a novelty as it crumbles more like sherbert in your mouth rather than breaking your molars and/or incisors as rock is supposed to do.
Ian and Marilyn at Sterling Castle – May 2016
We had a great trip to Sterling Castle and finished off with a guided tour around St Andrews culminating in a Steak pie and chips lunch in the Central bar before driving Ian and Marilyn to Cupar for their train to Edinburgh, flight to London and then back to San Diego for a well-earned rest.
Ian and Marilyn at the 18th green of the St Andrews Old Course.
What else? We were fortunate to get tickets to see both (well, all three actually) the Dixie Chicks (SSEC Hydro) and Bonnie Rait (Royal Concert Hall) in Concert in Glasgow.
Dixie Chicks from their Tour web site: Accessed 30 June at:
That latter was more intimate and we were only 10 rows from the stage and so, preferable in my view. Bonnie is amazing at 67 and a blues/country rock combined with her own and other musician’s ballads was just what we needed.
Bonnie Raitt appearing on Jools Holland just after her Glasgow concert: Accessed 30 June 2016 at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GhFGrGV_-lY
Coincidences do happen, and so who should I bump into at the interval whilst having a beer and queuing for the loo, none other than my fellow brother-in arms stomach cancer patient from Ninewells, N’s wife. We didn’t recognise each other at first but once the penny dropped we spoke. I said that I had emailed N a few days ago but hadn’t received a reply yet. At this point N’s wife dissolved into tears and told me that N’s funeral had just taken place the day before. I was gobsmacked and felt like an idiot for mentioning email but we chatted for a while. It turns out that his stomach cancer had spread to his vertebrae and ultimately wasn’t treatable. He ended up on morphine only and she is naturally devastated. I expressed my sorrow, but words just seem inadequate.
So, you can now probably guess why I was concerned about back pain when my cancer returned. Well, the CT scan revealed nothing and whist I don’t have a definitive diagnosis yet I’ll remain on guard. The other thing the CT scan revealed was that I now have two (at least) metastatic cancer deposits in my liver. Dr P said he wasn’t worried about these, as the liver has a lot of excess and reserve capacity, but I am! I’ll be exploring further courses of action. For example, it might be possible to give me localised radiotherapy (Proton Beam springs to my mind) since they can’t or won’t contemplate abdominal surgery for me because of the risks of exacerbating growth and spread of residual tumour cells as the healing process kicks in after surgery due to flooding of the body with various growth factors. Watch this space. It is early days yet and we are hoping for another good outcome.
What final consolations have I? Well England beat the Aussies 3-0 in the recent Rugby Union test series down under in Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney.
That Eddy Jones (another Aussie of course) has worked miracles with essentially the same squad of players that Stuart Lancaster had recruited. What does that tell us? England also won the Home Nations Grand Slam, so that makes 9 games, 9 wins – some start. Pity the World Cup is three more years away, but then we still have yet to really test ourselves against New Zealand, the undisputed World Champs and leading ranked team. Bring it on, I say, England are playing really exciting stuff when they can and battling it out when they have to, all part of the Jones flexible rugby plan.
Well, that’s all folks. Bye for now.