Category: Cancer Experience

53. “I told you I was ill…”

Dad's last treatment

Dear friends and followers,

Sadly, my dad died on Monday, 25 July 2016 in his listening room at home surrounded by his family after his battle with cancer. As you all know he was diagnosed with an inoperable stomach cancer 9 months ago and had been receiving chemotherapy treatment.  His stomach cancer had been particularly aggressive, and after a period of improvement, it resurfaced a couple of months ago.  He began his second round of chemo at the end of June, however over the last few weeks he became too weak to continue. On Monday evening it finally defeated him and he died quite suddenly. We are all devastated.

I would like to thank you all for reading his blog and for your kind comments and words of support. Writing this blog kept him going through the tough times and was a source of comfort, knowledge and great amusement to his family, friends and followers. It demonstrated his unique sense of humour, passion for music, learning and of course family and friends. It will serve as another lasting memory for us and we hope you will pay it a visit once in a while.

We have set up a JustGiving page in his memory for people to make donations to Cancer Research UK if they wish. It can be accessed here:

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/clevercolinsconstructiveapproachtocancer

Thank you for your support.

Ellen, Richard and Elaine. xxx

 

 

Advertisements

52. Consultation as it is supposed to be

Alas Smith Jones

Note quite, I didn’t get my way!  However, once more the spirit is captured in this image from “Alas Smith and Jones” and hopefully another Dr P feels suitably anonymised.  I felt I had one of the most helpful conversations around why what was being propsed and why.  So I have had a seriously good consultation – as it should be – everytime, for everybody – though I suspect it is not.

I met with my Oncology Consultant, Dr P’s Registrar, Dr P, earlier this morning for consultation before being hooked up to my Chemo-bag – for about an hour – all sounds good yes?  Well Yes and No – as the Chinese say!  I had my body weight checked – I’m afraid down another 4Kg – to them, and this together with the analysis of blood tests put pay to commencing Chemo treatment for “you my boy” for another week until after my next consultation with Dr P.  “Gotta mind your P’s and Qs!”  It gets all a little confusing.

I’m afraid I am just too weak to tolerate more Chemo at this stage and simply could end up back on my back in hospital and feeling Shite.  I’ll now get an update next Tuesday at the Clinic, and hopefully I’ll be recovering sufficiently to return to treatment.

The upside of this short but meaningful conversation was that I go home earlier, and that apart from an extra armful or two of pinprick sized holes at the site of blood sampling I got to get more sun this afternoon.  Elaine completed assembly of the Garden tool box store – a brilliant job done.  We now await the arrival in Cupar of Daughter from her departure gate in Glasgow some three hours ago.  She’s stayng over for a few more nights with us in Ceres – hurrah!

Though we are smitten with the Alpha Romeo Guilette FTSM-2 Vecce 2:00 L Diesel 5 door Hatch back in dark Red – below in our local garage I have caste my net a little wider and hopefully with get a bargain whatever I finally can agree to buy with Elaine!  So, the negotiations have begun – watch this space.

I’m presently Giving Paul Weller’s, “Wild Wood” another blast in the main listening room (Richard’s Bedroom, but don’t tell him!).  Back to the other drawing board.  More drinks (alcohol especially), little and often – methinks I might drop the ‘little’!

Well, that’s all folks.  Bye for now.

Buggs Sign off

 

51. Consultant time

 

Alas Smith Jones

Note quite, but the spirit is captured in this image from “Alas Smith and Jones” and hopefully Dr P feels suitably anonymised

I met with my Oncology Consultant, Dr P, last Tuesday to receive his latest update and whether I am going to be in a position to continue receiving my New Chemo (Taxo).  After a run through my clinical profile (Blood tests etc) and notes from the Endoscopy as well as my dietary account of the last 4-5 days (including failed Nasogastric Tube (NGT) feeding, he concluded I was in much better shape (relative terms here!) that he anticipated, so unless something drastic happens between Tuesday and next Monday – my Chemo treatment day, then all will go as planned and I will embark on Course 2 of what is likely to be another 6 in all – hurray (I don’t know why I say these things – all Chemo course are shite!)

I had more blood tests on Thursday and since I haven’t been notified to the contrary, there is also an assumption that I can proceed.  So, I just have to get through the weekend intact to Monday at 10:30am.  That might be more difficult than you would think.  Just two nights ago Elaine decided to light the Chiminea in the garden and extend our patio ‘life’ there for a couple of extra hours.  Bad idea.  I tripped over a hose pipe carrying a few logs from wood store to patio and thoroughly beat up my own nose, hands, fingers and ribs/shoulder; just for fun!  Never mind, I got over it and now have a slightly more ruffled, rugged appearance – as much as a 9 stone 10 Lb can, anyway!

What else has been happening?  My appetite is very patchy.  I drive Elaine nuts because of it.  Eyes like what they anticipate or see; taste buds are less enamoured and then the disconnect starts as I have too little of too little much food on my plate.  It’s all true and very frustrating.  The hair loss is beginning to kick in big time again (I’ll get a photo before I deteriorate much further – honest!).

We had to take the Vauxhall Astra in to have its battery checked following a dash board warning- and guess what?  Yes, of course it is fine (as an almost brand new replacement from only a few months ago), but guess what – we have had to have a new Diesel Alternator fitted – the expensive kind, naturally (GBP 406:00!).  We asked what the car was worth before going ahead and we were informed – much more than that – that is, until checking a retail trade -in of course.  Now it’s only worth GBP 800:00 to them, though they could stretch GBP 1200:00 as I have now paid for the alternator replacement!  Cars – who needs them?  Though we do want the latest one we are looking at, an Alpha Romeo Guilette FTSM-2 Vecce 2:00 L Diesel 5 door Hatch back in dark Red – Tasty!  So, the negotiations have begun – watch this space.  We’ll try desperately not to become a three car owner!

 

Alpha Romeo Giullietta  1

I’m presently listening to Elbow’s (2014), “The Take Off and Landing of Everything” – subtle but just right at this time on Saturday Morning!

elbow_takeoff_album_pack_900-900x460

I have also been working through my recently update Jamie Cullum Collection, including: “The Pursuit” (2009); “Momentum” (2103) and “Interlude” (2014) – all good.

 

jamie_interlude_170px

The latter also features a duet (“Don’t let me be misunderstood”) with Gregory Porter, another of my ‘favourites’ currently (though like my wife I can’t quite like the ear muff hat – especially at hot open air park concerts like Glastonbury, or any studio venue).  Is it just us?

 

Gregory Porter 1

 

No further medical news, save that I am eating better and I’ll update you again later.

Well, that’s all folks.  Bye for now.

Buggs Sign off

50. Home life and food again

Family Photo July 2016

Family photo taken only yesterday (Saturday) morning prior to Ellen heading back to Glasgow in preparation for her trip to Shetland with Craig on Sunday evening.

Elaine Colin Patio July 2106

Elaine and I on Friday night – getting increasingly legless  – in my case, on Ensure Orange Juice based Tequila Sunrise – down at the patio – naturally!

So here we all are.  I have reached a milestone, one week from ‘throwing up’ to consumption of my first home cooked Chicken stir-fry for dinner – and no throwing up!  It has been a traumatic time but having both Richard and Ellen here for the last few days has been a real bonus.

The rain has kept us in the house most of the day today – and a good thing too – Andy Murray pulled off the win of his life this afternoon beating Toanic in three straight sets, but all hard fought.  Good on him, and what a day for British Tennis, Wheelchair victories as well as Mixed doubles with Heather Watson.

Andy Murray Wimbledon Final - Raonic

Accessed on 11 July 2016 at:http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/tennis/36758518

Heather Watson Mixed Doubles 2016

Wimbledon 2016: Heather Watson into mixed doubles final

http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/tennis/36756043

 

Lewis Hamilton Grand Priz July 2016

Lewis Hamilton Blown away by ‘fans love’.  Accessed on 11 July 2016 at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/formula1

Add to that the Lewis Hamilton’s Grand Priz win and it is almost a perfect day.

Well it will shortly, my present best friend Brad is just about to descend for a visit, a whisky and a chat, no doubt about Brexit as well as the current state of my health – he’s been away in Ireland for the last week and we are just about to catch up.  Brad has found this wonderful comparison of Brexit and an old ‘Yes Minister’ TV episode – so funny!

 

Brexit Yes Minister

The Brext vote has made this prophetic Yes, Minister video go viral.  Accessed on 11 July 2106 at http://images.radiotimes.com/namedimage/The_Brexit_vote_has_made_this_prophetic_Yes__Minister_video_go_viral.jpg?quality=85&mode=crop&width=620&height=374&404=tv&url=/uploads/images/original/111270.jpg

Quel surprise, eh?  Well yes, really.  I couldn’t have even bet against the French – but well done to the Portuguese winning the European Football Cup final.

So, back to some more music.  I really am falling for Glasgow as hotbed of artists as well as venue to see everything else I like.  Here’s an old (Carol Kidd) and a new favourite (Christie O’Donnell).

 

Carol Kidd 1

I picked up a second hand version of Carol Kidd Live sings Cole Porter with Brian Kelloch recorded at Billy Lowe & Le Monde Hotel, Edinburgh on 5/6th August 2013 – bloody marvellous!

And here is Christie playing in Glasgow Buchannan Square:

Christie O'Donnell 1

Accessed on 11 July 2016 at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7g5FGKsoLZ8

He’s definitely going to be big – in my view – get his 4 track CD if you can when you see him in Glasgow or Perth or many of the other Scottish places you see him singing both covers and his own songs (Like the above original).

 

No more medical news, save that I am eating better and I’ll update you again later.

Well, that’s all folks.  Bye for now.

Buggs Sign off

 

49.Tubes, Pumps and Infusions

Tubes Pumps Overall

It has been yet nearly another week since I was forced to contact my Nursing staff to enquire about anything I can do to improve my quality of life, following commencing my new chemo treatment.  Quel surprise!  They rushed me to the Cancer 32 Ward as soon as possible to assess and then monitor me, at least overnight.  They guessed, and were right, that I was dehydrated and were very concerned about my lack of eating, emesis and sharp weight loss (who wasn’t?).  So, Elaine duly drove me across to Ninewells and we hung around for the what seems always to be inordinate amounts of time waiting for things to happen, but they do eventually and then I get over my preciousness.  It is tricky though and I also do feel, particularly for partners, loved ones etc that also have to do the waiting stint simply because of being the accompanying person.

Quel surprise, eh?  Not really.  But at least this gives me a chance for a quick doff of the hat to the French football team getting to the European Cup 2016 final against Portugal, the latter lucky so and so’s, though they did manage to outplay Wales at the end – just one step too far, but well done Wales.  Looking forward to the final!

Wales Football Euro 2016

I am also looking forward to Sunday’s, as well as Murray’s Wimbledon Tennis final too now!).

Andy Murray Wimbledon Semi-Final Berdych

Wimbledon 2016: Andy Murray beats Tomas Berdych  and will now plays Milos Raonic in final after he knocked out Federer!

Sport is looking up in The UK.  Not just England Rugby Union (in Australia particularly) though The World Under 20s Championship was another English Rugby bonus!

England Rugby Australia U20 WCRU

The English U20 Junior World Cup winners after their Victory over Ireland – more stars for the future?

So, back to the plot!

I saw Dr P and he recommended re-hydration immediately, blood tests and then endoscopy to be scheduled as soon as…  The latter turned out not to be until Wednesday morning but I was immediately put on an infusion pump with saline and glucose, followed by saline drip for the next three days, as it turns out!  Depending upon the outcome of endoscopy I might have had to have a stent inserted into my stomach to widen it to allow food to pass through – it was currently getting blocked, and hence my being sick, apparently!  In the end the endoscopy was not as bad as previously as I was sedated, throat numbed with spray and a kindly bunch of folk waiting on.  I awoke in my hospital bed back in the ward with a tube up my nose and down via oesophagus, stomach and duodenum to my jejunum, the second third of the small intestine (the final bit is the ileum – c’mon, keep up!).

By now the decision had been made to feed me parenterally so that I get stronger to manage the Chemo, Steroids, anti-nausea, morphine, co-codamol, omeprazole and uncle Tom Cobley ‘an’ll sorts of pills they were throwing at me.  Interesting!  The nurses had trouble with the parenteral pump infuser from the beginning.  They eventually replaced it and set me off overnight with an infusion of, you guessed, Ensure milky drink (minus flavour – you don’t get it anyway!) at a rate of about 100 ml per hour.  Even 10 hours later only about 20 ml had been delivered.  Now recall this is my now main source of nourishment!  My saline infusions have caused me to require 4x urinal container emptyings overnight.  So all in all, I was having a fabulous time!  I decided to pull the plug on the catheter up my nose etc and try to make do with eating/drinking liquids little and often as before.  I had managed a yoghurt, some vegetable broth and here now was consuming some porridge, so not a bad plan I thought.

The doctors were worried I might not be getting enough calories etc to be able to continue Chemo treatment etc at the next round, but I insisted and asked that I could go home as soon as possible, for nothing else so that at least I could shower, shave and shite – in privacy!  They all agreed and I have now at least slept in my own bed for the last three nights.  Nurse M has been marvellous throughout.  She removed my jejunal catheter (it turned out to have a kink in it which caused the blockage!), finalised paperwork and arranged for district nurses to help change my steroid and anti-nausea infusion pump syringes over the course of the weekend.  The best bit?  She also recommended making Tequila Sunrise using my orange-flavoured Ensure drink; and topping off creamy Ensures with sherry, brandy or whisky to stimulate taste buds and appetite simultaneously.  All drinks have been a success, and I am now feeling quite a bit better, and eating at least somewhat, though cautiously so as not to overload my poor shrivelled stomach that is now described as: “a massive ulcerated tumour in mid-body of stomach causing hourglass wasting effect and further two similar looking ulcers in distal stomach.  Regurgitation is likely due to pathological gastric anatomy and reduced motility”.

So basically my stomach is gubbed! And for good measure, I also have severe candida oesophagitis though no oesophageal involvement with tumour, so I started a course of anti-fungal antibiotics this morning (Saturday) – Fluconazole for 5 days.  Happy days!

Nurses arrive in the next hour or two so I’ll sign off.

Well, that’s all folks.  Bye for now.

Buggs Sign off

48.One week down the line

 

Cancer Research UK Logo 2

 

It has been almost one week now since my first intravenous infusion with my second line, single drug regime defence Chemo (Docetaxel).  Docetaxel is one of the taxane type drugs that were originally developed from the yew tree. That’s interesting, I like the idea of a ‘natural herbal’ origin for this drug!  Docetaxel is a man-made drug that was first made from yew tree needles. It is also known by its brand name, Taxotere®, and is sometimes referred to the abbreviated, Taxo. It is used to treat Breast cancer, Lung cancer, Head and neck cancer, Prostate cancer as well as my Stomach cancer.

Cancer Research UK

Taxo works by inhibiting cell division, thus stopping the cancer cells from separating into 2 new cells, and blocking cancer growth.

Read more at http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/cancers-in-general/treatment/cancer-drugs/docetaxel#vxYluHKbbpTMEr5x.99

So how goes it?  It has been shite: I have lost another 18 Llbs, have no appetite, I constantly feel full and even drinking those ‘wonderful’ Ensure drinks makes me rift and regurgitate.

 

ensure stawberry drink

So, after misery for a week, I’ll be contacting my Nursing staff to enquire about anything I can do to improve my quality of life, though I suspect there’ll not be much to recommend, as it is still early days.  But I’m impatient.

I don’t get hypersensitive to the cold or touching metal/cold surfaces, so there is at least one silver lining in my cloud.  However, I’m still here and grateful for every bit of sunshine that hits the Kingdom of Fife, especially those spots in our garden I have been developing and nurturing as my ‘Mediterranean’ retreat, complete with (hopefully now recovering) Bougainvillea plants growing on the corner patio.  Lots of slightly sunny photos below.

Dearest daughter Ellen stayed with us again this weekend (two in a row – now that her School has retired for the summer).  Last Thursday she passed her car driving test with flying colours, but thousands of pounds of driving lessons to the bad (or good?).  Anyway, it’s done, though she did start when she was 18.

L-plates driving test passed

Image accessed on 4 July 2016 at: https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=pass+driving+test+images&client=firefox-b&biw=1366&bih=595&tbm=isch&imgil=pa1YhumydBxhhM%253A%253BvmLZ23FkzqvZdM%253Bhttp%25253A%25252F%25252Fwww.victoriawardhypnotherapy.com%25252Fhypnosis-hypnotherapy-pass-driving-test-colchester%25252F&source=iu&pf=m&fir=pa1YhumydBxhhM%253A%252CvmLZ23FkzqvZdM%252C_&usg=__Fk9N3E0HBhURshu2euUG5XcGYFo%3D

As promised here are some latest photos of the garden:

 

Well, that’s all folks.  Bye for now.

Buggs Sign off

47. Recent trips and lots else

Ian Colin Deans Court 2016 1

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.

Colin Suntan Garden Patio

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 Marylin 2016 1

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 Marylin 2016 2

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 1

Dixie Chicks from their Tour web site:  Accessed 30 June at:

http://www.ticketmaster.co.uk/Dixie-Chicks-tickets/artist/758656

 

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 1

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.

England Rugby Australia 2016 1

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.

Buggs Sign off

 

46. Progress: what is it?

What can I say, doesn’t time fly?  I apologise to any of you who have been wondering what has happened to me in the last 6-8 weeks, but at least now I can report that I am alive and kicking! As I have become twitchy particularly in the last few days as a few of you have sent enquiry emails directly to me – checking on my health – I have resurrected my blog activity.

Last Blog 45

Sorry about neglecting my blog but I think I exhausted myself previously!  Also, the weather has improved here and I have been spending a lot of my time catching up with gardening and house maintenance and enjoying relaxing in the sun on the two new patios I have had completed.  My builder, Ian and his, team completed work on the second patio site outside our backdoor, and this now gives us three places to catch le sol at key meal times: kitchen patio – breakfast; old patio – lunch; and new corner patio – dinner and drinks around the new chiminea!

Since my last blog entry I am very well (still, I hope, since last week).  I saw my consultant last week after coming off Chemo altogether a month ago and following a final CT scan two weeks ago.  My various Tumours have shrunk again, including disappearance altogether of the metastasis in my left adrenal gland, and are quiescent so he has suggested I might have a period of at least six months, maybe a year, before possible return of cancer re-growth – all good news.  I still have an upset stomach, but Dr P thinks this is just inflammation as the mucosa of the stomach continues to repair itself, so the only medication I now take is the proton pump inhibitor (PPI), Omeprazole.  It was interesting ditching all the other medications, including morphine.  I suspect I had a mild case of Delirium Tremens (DTs) for a couple of weeks as I didn’t phase out anything slowly – naughty me!  I had a few really bad days with shivers, feeling frozen and really irritable during the night –  with consequent poor sleep.

It is (was) 7:00am and I have just finished breakfast, a return to Porridge plus Weetabix, my potential cancer cure!  I had a (Ready?!) break from the Weetabix element for the last month, instead, substituting mixed nuts (brazil, cashew, walnut, hazelnut and almond) and a hand-crafted collection of dried fruits (sultanas, raisins, apricots, banana, prunes, dates and figs).  As the weeks have elapsed my appetite has improved daily and I am now on follow-up toast with treacle and more coffee.  My weight is finally shifting – though more slowly than I’d like and I am still two and a half stones lighter than pre-cancer.  However, my face (and head hair, though it is even whiter than before) is returning and I am looking less like Extra-Terrestrial (ET)!

ET

I have decided to try and limit the length of my blog entries and maybe continue to be less frequent too, so, though we have had a few interesting trips to report, I’ll save that for next time.

Well, that’s all folks.  Bye for now.

Buggs Sign off

45. (E)-Learning Gurus: what’s in the name?

Folks, since I last posted a blog not much or even less has happened (to me) unless you count another half day of diarrhoea. So, here I am faced with a blank word document and not a lot of inspiration… Signs off for two hours!

Pigs Snoozing accessed at http://www.123rf.com/photo_20241459_young-piglets-snoozing.html on 22 February 2016

Pigs snoozing

Hi, I’m back again and 1. It is actually 6 hours later, and 2. I now have a vague plan based on a conversation with Elaine at tea-break and following a quick squizz (a crafty look) at my LinkedIn recent viewers.  So, there you have it: wait long enough; and take two random facts gathered inadvertently and put them together, and hey presto, an apparently inspired blog theme is born. I hate to admit it but this is and always has been (to date) my grand strategy anyway. You’ll have to wait a little longer for revelation of the connection to my blog title, sorry!

So, here goes. I attempted to reverse my role with Elaine, as her carer, following returning to Ceres after aborting our Yorkshire visit, in doing whatever I can to help and support her. Now, I admit this is not a lot to make her convalescence more bearable while the Amoxicillin antibiotics kick in and do their stuff. This is not cos I can’t or won’t but I’ve learnt, after 40 years, that there’s very little I do that is not wrong; and everything that I don’t do – inevitably- that I should have done, though it would not be right either, even if I had done it!). She’s still coughing a lot, and even debating whether she can face her Jazzercise Class tonight, so clearly, she must still be on death’s door!

Now you might detect from my jaunty style (if you think it is!) that I am in a good mood. This is not my vicious streak kicking in because of the above, rather it is because it gives me great pleasure that I can finally report that my new builder, Ian, turned up this morning at 08:00am with two of his helpers to commence work laying our new patio in the one corner of the garden still seeking an anal retentive, OCD’s attention – that’s me, not Ian, by the way! They have made great progress in the finest, sunniest even if coldest day for about 2 months. They left at 15:00pm to complete another ongoing job elsewhere in Ceres, and to let some of their work ‘set’ overnight.

I took advantage of a spare bucket-full of lime mortar and set about a few random holes in the rest of my garden wall to match the newly pointed area where once an ancient pig sty adjoined my wall. Did you know that people in Scotland (and other parts of the UK, I presume?) used to keep pigs for food in their back gardens at least at around the time our house was built (1798). I’m not sure when this practice stopped, but I didn’t inherit any pigs or a larder-full of pork, bacon or even pork-scratchings!

Anyway, I removed the remnants of the pig-sty during my own excavations and recall that all of this made me think about our house’s title, “The Old Manse”. Manse means vicar’s house, and that is what this abode was. There was a now long-gone church across the street from us to which the “The Old Manse” was attached. There were several churches in the village but now only one and, by the way, a new Manse, simply called, “The Manse”. I imagine you have guessed, we each get the other’s mail and push through leaflets occasionally.

Ok, so where is the connection to the title do I hear you say? Frankly, there isn’t a strong one, so what follows is rather one of my ‘secondary’s’ or diversions -but here’s a tenuous connection. The duplication of Manse in the titles of the two houses (ours being one of them) and confusion it may cause got me thinking about names and naming – and how powerful it is. One of the additional links in the cohort linked to one of my ‘viewers’ in LinkedIn turned out to be no other than Randy Swing, a fellow academic of higher education. Randy is American and this name or rather his nickname abbreviation is commonly used in the USA. I have not met Randy, but I do l know of his highly reputable work.

However, I also know and have met (I invited Curt to give a plenary session on blended learning at Deakin University, Melbourne, Australia) another of my heroes, Curt Bonk, also an American. Well, we UK citizens probably are not very familiar with many Randys or Curts, and combined with those surnames, we English speakers, though I suspect the rest of the English-speaking world, including the-English as a second (or third, or fourth or whatever-th) language speakers will no doubt have been smiling since you encountered Randy’s second name let alone Curt’s!

So, this did get me reflecting on fame and a name. Perhaps there’s even more to it than the obvious show-biz crafted names for Cliff Richard (Harry Rodger Webb), Elton John (Reggie (Reginald  Kenneth) Dwight) and Sting (Gordon Matthew Thomas Sumner). Perhaps a jaunty name in academia also confers an advantage. In my own previous discipline, Biomedical Science, Hamburger and Salmon were a famous pair of names in Cancer Research, Prof or Dr Brain’s, I suspect, are more common in the Medical field than in others. So, by extrapolation those who “make it” in the field of higher education research and practice may do so because they happen to have a name that carries kudos based upon sexual innuendo.

I’d ask you now to look at the three profiles that follow and tell me who you think would become famous. More importantly, to what should I change my name in order to improve my visibility and ultimately become famous?

Curt Bonk

Curt Bonk 1Curtis J. Bonk, Ph.D. Curt is Professor at Indiana University teaching psychology and technology courses. Curt is affiliated with the cognitive sciences program and is adjunct in the School of Informatics at IU. He founded SurveyShare, Inc. in 2003 which he sold in 2010. In addition, he has been founder and president of CourseShare, LLC since 1999.

Professor Bonk firmly believes in distance learning since he is a product of it. Dr. Bonk has been filmed in Dallas for a STARLINK program on blended learning, the Web 2.0, and best practices for teaching online. Curt is a popular conference speaker with several books in the area of emerging technologies for learning (see also Amazon author profile). He is currently conducting research in the field of self-directed open learning environments, online motivation, and Extreme Learning.

Accessed at http://mypage.iu.edu/~cjbonk/ on 22 February 2016.

Randy Swing

Randy SwingRandy Swing is currently Executive Director at Association for Institutional Research, Tallahassee, Florida Area, Education Management. The following Biography is Taken from a 2012 conference key note description, and is only illustrative: Published on Mar 5, 2013: Closing Keynote: New England Conference for Student Success, UMass Amherst, September 21, 2012. Accessed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hq_i_hjhm3Y   0n 22 February 2016.

The Association for Institutional Research (AIR) provides professional development and support for 4,000 members from 1,500 colleges and universities in using data for planning, managing and operating postsecondary institutions. He is a frequent speaker at national and international conferences, workshop leader, and author of books and articles on assessment, institutional research, and student success. Prior to joining AIR he was senior scholar and co-director at the Policy Center on the First Year of College and held leadership positions at Appalachian State University. He holds a Ph.D. from the University of Georgia.

He was Co-Director of the Policy Center on the First Year of College, located in Brevard, North Carolina. He develops assessment strategies and instruments for improving the first college year. He served on the development teams for Your First College Year (YFCY), a post-test of UCLA’s annual freshman survey and the First-Year Initiative (FYI), a national benchmarking study of first-year seminars. Randy moderates the First-Year Assessment Listserv; and served as editor of Proving and Improving: Strategies for Assessing the First College Year. He also serves as Fellow at the National Resource Center on The First-Year Experience and Students in Transition at the University of South Carolina. Until 1999, Dr. Swing held leadership positions at Appalachian State University in assessment, advising, orientation, and first-year seminar. Time Magazine named Appalachian a 2001 “College of the Year” for outstanding service to first year students.

 

 

 

Colin Mason

Colin Portrait

Colin Mason, Ph.D., M.Sc., B.Sc., G.C.E., is a distance learner, creator and provider of distance learning resources and experiences but is entirely committed to the need for meaningful encounters face-to-face. These apparently contradictory positions can be resolved if the term blended learning is brought in to play. Dr Mason may be termed an (aspiring) guru of one of the many definitions of blended learning, in this case: learning facilitated via a mix of distance – online mostly – and seminar room, face-to-face meetings such as required by Team-Based-Learning, TBL™ for demonstration of both formative and summative applied learning assessment strategies.

Now, no matter how excellent I make my own abbreviated (albeit) academic profile regarding distance or blended learning, Colin or Mason for that matter does not seem to have the right ring to it. What might?

Well, that’s all folks. Bye for now.

Buggs Sign off

44. Bad news, Worse news, Worst news!

Well, I am not the only one who can get ill. This is the bad news.   We were due to spend a week in Yorkshire this week but Elaine has been struck down by the actually, really serious “dreaded lurgy” (Lurgy– an ​illness or ​disease, ​especially one that is not ​serious:He’s got the ​dreaded lurgy.” Definition of lurgy from the Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary & Thesaurus © Cambridge University Press).

The Goon Show - Lurgi

Accessed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WPHpYRgD4fU on 17 February 2016

The term originates from an episode of the 1950s radio comedy “The Goon Show” in which an epidemic of “The Dreaded Lurgi” was said to be about to sweep across Britain. It turned out that the lurgi was in fact a fictitious disease created by brass instrument makers who had claimed that no brass band player had ever died of the lurgi (thereby increasing sales hugely). “The Goon Show” was an anarchic and surreal radio comedy series that starred Peter Sellers, Spike Milligan and Harry Secombe. It was written by Spike Milligan and Eric Sykes. by mammon_the_source August 03, 2009

In this case Elaine’s condition has been completely debilitating, and though we set off on our sojourn on Sunday, following her birthday on Saturday and travelled to Ellen’s flat in Glasgow we finally acceded to illness winning, and came home to Ceres on Tuesday afternoon. We had planned our “Thelma and Louise – style” road trip that was to take us via Glasgow to Newcastle, Malham, Bradford, Bingley, Burley-in-Warfedale and Ilkley, and home again, seeing as many relatives and friends as we could during the whirlwind visit. Sadly, it will be postponed, perhaps until a similar time in my next cycle of Chemo. That damned Cancer – is always a factor in any forward planning. This is the worse news!

I am just coming through the first week blues period (for me anyway) and having had my couple of steroid-supported good days on days 1 and 2 after the Combo Chemo Cocktail I succumbed to the now-third time repeated pattern of nausea and loss of appetite characteristically appearing sometime on days 4-7. Day seven, yesterday, was not good.

Apart from me having to do the driving as Elaine was not even well enough to share it, I then felt lousy all afternoon and was eventually struck down by own version of the dreaded lurgy – diarrhoea! This isn’t the worst news! I could barely leave the vicinity of our downstairs loo for more than 3 minutes, or dice with death and risk brown trousers syndrome, if I did. Fortunately, this episode lasted only 4 hours! I recovered sufficiently by 9:00pm to be able to have my second bowl of porridge for the day.

Accessed at http://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/2016/feb/09/happy-valley-recap-series-2-episode-1-scars-sheep-rustlers-and-a-serial-killer and http://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/2016/feb/16/happy-valley-recap-season-2-episode-2-blood-shiraz-all-over-rug  on 17 February 2016

Happy Valley 2

Happy Valley 1This was also just in time to watch the third episode of “Happy Valley” – a murder mystery/detective featuring Sarah Lancashire (second series) and fortunately for us, set in Yorkshire, specifically the Halifax/Bradford area. The language is perfect. “I’ll tek owt for nowt”. By the way, living in Yorkshire then Scotland sometimes makes me wonder whether my subconscious has more say than I do about my approach to money (and not wanting to spend it – unless on LPs, CDs and posh Hi-Fi to play them on). So, you’ve no doubt heard about the definition of a Scotsman, “someone with short arms and long pockets”; and a Yorkshireman, “A Scotsman with the generosity squeezed out of him!”. Apologies to those who would have preferred gender neutrality!

Speaking of music, hi-fi and guitars (I know we weren’t, actually, but I need only the slightest invitation!), I bought the most recent issue (403) of “Guitarist” monthly magazine which featured a forthcoming sale of some of Gary Moore’s enormous collection of vintage as well as contemporary guitars including, possibly, the restored Gibson Les Paul of Peter Green, his earlier mentor and good friend.

Accessed at http://www.musicradar.com/guitarist and http://www.musicradar.com/news/guitars/video-gary-moores-key-guitars-examined-633188  on 17 February 2016

Gary Moore Guitarist 1

Now only Peter himself can make the transcendent tones of songs such as, “I Loved Another Woman”, (Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac) or “Love that Burns” (Mr Wonderful), sound any better than Gary’s versions, on for example, “Blues for Greeny”.

Peter Green Fleetwood Mac Mr Wonderful

Peter Green (Playing) and the first two albums, Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac (Dustbin and dog album) and Mr Wonderful (semi-naked photo of Mick Fleetwood). Accessed at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fleetwood_Mac_%281968_album%29  and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mr.Wonderful_%28Fleetwood_Mac_album%29 on 17 February 2016.

The article, celebrating the fifth anniversary of his death, is fabulous, drawing on Gary’s own guitar technician’s recollections and his own (newly discovered interview) stories about his early career with Thin Lizzy and Peter Green’s influence upon him. For example, did you know that he would have on stage a series of guitars ready to select for particular tracks, and for each guitar there would be a back-up and a further back-up to the back-up, just in case!

So, many of these guitars have never been played on tour or on a recording. Consequently, they are not as valuable as those that have or vintage guitars such as Peter Green’s original or the 1959 Gibson Les Paul used on “Still Got the Blues”. The guitar sound is ultimately only as good as the weakest link in the chain so Gary’s awesome sound was also due to his Marshall JTM45 amp – 1989 and a Marshall Guv’nor pedal.

Accessed at http://www.gary-moore.com/1990’s.html  on 17 February 2016.

Gary Moore Montage

In summary the auction sale – some on line – so that ‘Joe Public” like me may even become an owner, perhaps of the less expensive, small stuff, anyway. No worries, I say! Though I suspect I can’t even afford the tiny stuff let alone the small stuff. This is the worst news!

Guitars like the “Peter Green refurb” will probably not be on sale at all in the first round.

Now back to my “Primary”, my latest NHS reforms paper. I have probably said this elsewhere, but I am beginning to lose track of what was blogged where, so bear with me.

Open Forum New NHS

My paper, or at least the abstract, has been accepted for the conference on the Future of the NHS 5 Year Plan. My abstract and personal details were added to the web site for the conference a couple of days ago. Here is the abstract link:

The New National Health Service (NHS) – but not as we know it!

Open Forum New NHS 2

Now this really is bad news as I must complete all editing on the paper as soon as possible. I promise then you will get your 6th part of the Harry Potter series – truly! On another positive note, I completed my fist blog job for the “Jobs.ac.uk” web site. You can read this blog at: https://blogs.jobs.ac.uk/working-abroad-in-higher-education/2016/02/12/1-recruited-antipodeans/

That’s all folks. Bye for now.

BUGS001