Life Goes On

Well it’s now 10 months since my operation and I have been to see Mr Collins for the third time. He is still pleased with my progress except that I have now got a hernia because of the weakened stomach muscles. He is not over concerned and would prefer to wait 6 months before fixing it. He said it’s a simple job and as I have no pain or discomfort it should be no problem; however he did say that if I was unhappy to call him and he would have me in to get it fixed. I’m quite happy about that. ( link to original post  http://wp.me/p1PaHv-26  )

Mr Collins did ask me if I would be prepared, “as a survivor”, to talk to people about my cancer especially around “lollipop day” at the end of February. Of course I agreed a chance to give something back. I am quite looking forward to it. (The Oesophageal Cancer Fund  http://www.lollipopday.ie/oesophageal-cancer-fund.php)

————-OooOooO———–

We’ve had a hectic few days. Left home at 11 to take an hours trip to Galway to pick up the van before setting off to Rosslare and sailing to Pembroke well we got to Enterprise and when I went to pay with my debit card they then asked to see two utility bills. Naturally this is something I always have about my person – not! So back home to collect the bills and then back to Galway. A stupid 2 hour delay so began a rush to the docks without a break to get there just as they were loading. Still just is enough (nearly is not)

We got to Pembroke at 0045 and a short trip we arrived at our overnight accommodation and we were soon asleep

Next day we had breakfast at our usual cafe and we were on our way to Hastings to empty the house and to bring our son back to Ireland with us

All the family turned up together with boyfriends and for three days the house was a hive of industry. Woody, a  friend of Louise and Wayne, brought his van and took several trips to the Council Tip (they wouldn’t allow the bigger vans in which was stupid as they hadn’t informed us of that regulation so without Woody’s help we would have been stuck)

IMGP1006

Saul the tail lift operator

Saul the tail lift operator

IMGP1005

IMGP1004

IMGP1002

The younger ones needed a rest

The younger ones needed a rest

And that's it The end of an era Off to a new start after 4 years at Hastings

And that’s it The end of an era Off to a new start after 4 years at Hastings

After a few tearful goodbyes we set off for a leisurely trip home Stopping at Pembroke and Rosslair on the way

Turf’s Home

Well all around here is a hive of industry with the farmers working so hard and long to harvest the hay and the silage for the winter feed. At the same time they are hoping for a milder winter and spring than the last two.

Feverish activity on the bog is going on to dry and get the turf home. For so many this is the main fuel for heating and cooking so a good season is essential. Some of my turf from last year is still damp. Because of my “inconvenience” earlier this year    I am unable to get my line of turf this year but a neighbour and his grandson has offered to do all the necessary work and bring it home for me. What wonderful people

By the way a line of turf is 100 m long and 10 blocks wide

Turf Cut (Last Year) begining to dry

One line of turf cut
The turf on each side has been “footed”

There’s a saying over here “when the turf is home and the hay is set then you can go to the Galway races” well the Galway races are in mid August so it looks like there will be a good crowd there this year.

Our Australian visitors left this morning to go further south as they intend to “do” the Ring of Kerry. They said that they had enjoyed their stay here and had really explored County Mayo. They had also brought with then some glorious weather

After they left we had a leisurely breakfast and Maggie started on the preparation of the chalet for our guests who are expected to arrive after 6 o’clock, meanwhile I cut the lawn.

I have increased our flock of hens by 4. I got them really to replace those who have died (with some extra) all Rhode Island Reds. They are all at point of lay in fact 2 are laying already, small ones of course but that will improve Of course we’ve got the settling in process going on establishing the pecking order and so on.

Oops I’ve let this alone for a while. The guests arrived and the good weather stayed so all is well. Our new people are enjoying themselves and in particular the country life.They were especially fascinated by the hay harvest in the field next door.It was cut and turned and bailed (big round ones) and wrapped in black plastic all within 2 days.

I went to see my surgeon on Wednesday for a check up. He is very pleased with the way I am recovering and has said that I can now do anything I want to and can do. Great news. This time last year I wasn’t even diagnosed.

We got back and Christie and Christopher have brought home my turf and even put it into the turf store. Such a wonderful pair

I have at last finished and launched my website http://www.stjosephcottage.co.uk

Well until next time Toodle Pip

Doing Well

Well 10 weeks have gone by since the surgeon “hit me with a bus” and I’m still a bit achey but progressing. Managed to cut the lawns this week on Thunderbird 3.

The Grass was long but not now

The Grass was long but not now

I’ve got to do some running repairs on the chalet before Saturday when we have some guests coming to stay.

Off to Galway tomorrow to see the dietitian and we will call in to the lodge to see those wonderful people there

Getting there

Well so far so good. Went to se the surgeon last week and he is very pleased with his work. He told me that the cancer was confined to 2 layers of the oesophagus (there are 3 layers) so that was good news. He also said that there were 3 nodes affected two of which had been killed off bt the chemotherapy and one which was active however that was removed during the operation. In short all the cancer has been removed.

I am still feeling a little sore on my back and chest but even that is improving. I have a little problem with the eating and drinking so I have to keep to the little and often methods as my stomach has been stretched to replace my oesophagus so in effect is smaller.

Another side effect is my diabetes has improved and I have stopped taking one of my tablets because my blood sugar got very low (2) . Mr Collins (surgeon) said that this often happens and occasionally the need for diabetic medication goes (fingers crossed). He has advised me to see my GP to re-evaluate my medication.

Now all my pipes and tubes have been removed I can begin to live normally but I still am a little weak and I have lost quite a bit of weight (4 stone) so it’s exercise and eating and new trousers.

Maggie won’t let me do some of the things I want to get on with like fix the satellite dish on the chalet, plant the rhubarb, build a new chicken coop and run, you know little jobs well perhaps (she is right, maybe next week)

Till the next time

Toodles.

Onwards And Upwards

Well a month has passed since the operation and every day I seem to improve a little. Yes I am still living on pain killers but then the internal brusing is still coming out but after the lengthly surgery it’s only to be expected.

I have lost quite a bit of weight (on the surface I needed to) but on the down side I have become weaker and I am having to exercise each day to try to get my strength back. It’s going to take a while but it will come together in the end. I’m hoping to have a holiday towards the autumn and also to go to England to see my wonderful supportive children and grandchildren (I also want to see my great grandaughter)

I am being looked after by my wonderful Maggie ad I must say also that my cousin Pete has shown himself to be more than a relative but as a true friend. I can’t thank him enough.

The Worst Time of my Life

I’m Afraid it’s Cancer!

Ok, so the title of this post is not the nicest of all, but I have learned not to hide from it. You see I was having a little trouble swallowing so I phoned the Medical Centre to make an appointment. The following morning I was sat chatting to Jimmy my Doctor. He thought it was an infection and prescribed some antibiotics but he also decided to refer me to the local general hospital “just to make sure”

A couple of weeks later I was being seen by a Dr at the hospital and arrangements were made for me to have an endoscope examination. I was also due to have a C.T. scan which I had the following day. (It should have been on the same day but they gave me something to eat [I’m diabetic] so as I was not starving therefore I couldn’t have the C.T. scan that morning). The Dr. told me that he had discovered a “growth” and a sample had been sent to the laboratory for analysis.

A few days later whilst driving home from a shopping trip I had the most chilling telephone call of all. “We’ve had the results of the tests and it is cancer of the oesophagus and an appointment has been made for you to see the consultant at the University Hospital Galway next Wednesday”! I was shattered. I got home and cried my eyes out. Then I decided that it was not going to beat me. I was going to be positive, I was not going to hide from it I was going to be open about it and use the word “cancer” and not dignify it with the euphemisms often used (the big C). I also made up my mind NOT EVER to ask “How long have I got?” because normally we just don’t know, so why change things? My lovely wife became my strength, my rock, and a shoulder to cry on. She never faltered and was always there for me.

To be honest I began to wonder what sort of treatment I would get over here and if it would be a good idea to return to the U.K. and the N.H.S. that I believe in. I need not have worried. I first of all was referred to a Consultant Surgeon in Galway where the whole problem was explained bluntly and unemotionally I was then sent to a private clinic for a whole body P.E.T. / C.T. scan (found out later that this scan costs €1,500) I then had to go to Dublin for an ultrasonic endoscope, I was seen by a Radiology Consultant and a Chemotherapy Consultant, had another CT scan and was tattooed for treatment and so began 6 weeks of radio therapy (daily) and weekly chemotherapy. (I was told that tests in Germany have shown that those that have the chemotherapy and radiation therapy before the surgery get a better result than doing it the other way round.)

The results of the tests showed that the cancer was only in 7 cm of oesophagus and nowhere else in the body. It was completely contained and had not invaded anywhere else. The surgeon said that it had probably been there for years and may have been the result of smoking or possibly my job (fireman) as smoke is smoke and all smoke is carcinogenic

We travelled daily to Galway for the first 2 weeks but I was advised that after 2 weeks the chemo would kick in and I would become more and more tired. They were right! We had been offered accommodation at a lodge courtesy of the Irish Cancer Society. We could have stayed for the whole 6 weeks but I decided that someone else may benefit from those first 2 weeks.

The accommodation was wonderful, beautiful twin bedded room, downstairs was a library and a sitting room and a wonderful atmosphere as everyone was in the same boat. Everyone was so open about it and it helped to accept the situation and promote a good positive attitude. To our surprise the accommodation also provided a fantastic breakfast and a good evening meal all at no cost to us.

After 4 weeks recovery from the treatment (a time that I spent sleeping and becoming very weak) I had an ultra sound examination on my heart and a lung function test. I saw the three consultants however the surgeon was reluctant to perform the surgery as I had picked up an infection in my lungs, and he wanted to get that cleared up first. I was referred to a lung specialist to get the infection cleared up as soon as possible. This was important because during the operation a lung would have to be collapsed for 1½ hours so he could get clear access to the cancerous section plus a good clear section of the oesophagus to ensure that all the cancer is removed. At this point I must say that I was very fortunate because I looked fit and well and I didn’t lose my hair. It thinned a little but it doesn’t show.

Last week (28th Feb) I went for the operation, a 6 hour job followed by a spell in Intensive Therapy Unit. I’m told that I will have pipelines to rival the layout of Clapham junction, coming out of every orifice and a few more that they make themselves.

At 9 o’ clock the Ward Manager came in and told me that the pre-booked bed in I.T.U. was available, so the pre-op procedure was started and soon I was high as a kite without a care in the world.

At 10 o’clock the surgeon arrived. He was not a happy bunny! He had been to I.T.U. to make sure about the bed and none was available! He set a deadline at mid-day for a bed to become available.

12 o’clock came and there was still no bed so I was given lunch and sent home to try again the following week (7th March) third time lucky I hope. That operating theatre was dormant for the whole day. The entire operating team were there and had to be paid. The following Thursday’s operating list had to be postponed because of my lengthily operation but they do not need an I.T.U. bed so they could have been seen instead but the notice was too short. WHAT A WASTE!!! So they will have a postponement of a week so frustrating for them!

Waiting for the operation I must say that I feel fit and well much like I felt a year ago.

The following is a diary that my dear wife kept after my admission to hospital

6.3.13

Bern was admitted this afternoon. It’s all systems go for tomorrow morning. He wasn’t so emotional this time, I think he wants it over and done with.
The surgeon will ring me tomorrow afterwards.

7.3.13

Bern went down for surgery at 8.30. I rung at 3 and still no news. Then at 4 and nothing. By 5 getting really panicky now

They said they don’t rush so we’ll just have to be patient, but that’s Irish for you. I’m not worried and the surgeon was trained at St Thomas’s in London so he’s the bees knees. He told us that if we still lived in either Kent or Sussex he would have had to go to St Thomas’s to have the op anyway

7.3.13

The surgeon Mr Collins rung me at 6.30 (10 hour surgery)and it’s all over and done with. He said he’s in recovery and awake. He will be in ICU overnight and tomorrow go to HDU. The surgeon said the growth has gone away for tests and they’ll be back in about 10 days. His main concern is the healing as his blood flow is dicky due to the diabetes. Again they will know more about the healing in 10 days. His other concern was his lungs and he said the Anaesthetist did struggle at times but if he can continue to do what physios tell him re his breathing there shouldn’t be a problem.

Just rung ICU 7pm and his nurse said he’s comfortable. The epidural is in his back not his neck. He’s got drips up including insulin. She said he’s not in pain and keeps drifting in and out. She said I can ring anytime as the phone is by his bed as it’s all 1 to 1 there.

8.3.13

I have just rung the hospital and the nurse said he’d had a good night once they’d sorted his epidural out as it wasn’t working one side. They sound a lovely bunch in there. The nurse said he’s got lots of girlfriends here. I said after 48 years I’m used to it. Then I heard dulcet tones behind an oxygen mask saying not girls WOMEN, so he’s back to his normal self.

Right I’m here in the B and B. Lovely Irish couple, very friendly. Got over to ICU about 2 and went straight in. Even though I knew what to expect it’s still a shock. He looked absolutely ashen. He kept saying he felt funny. The nurse said to me go and get a cuppa and we’ll sort him out. I said is there a problem. She said his oxygen levels have really dropped low so the doctor will be to see him. They did a cardio on him whilst I was there and an x ray and everything was ok they were just concerned about the drop in oxygen levels. So I went down and had a cuppa and when I got back Olive our angel was waiting for me. She said Mr Collins wanted to have a word. I thought the worst. Mr Collins said that everything was OK now but the drain in his lung had dislodged and wasn’t draining so his lung had started to fill. He said its a horrible feeling like hes drowning but we’ve sorted it and everything is OK. Mr Collins had never seen it before and it frightened him as well. I waited about 15 min whilst they sorted him and when I went back in he was fine. His colour was back and he is fully alert and talking. He has an oxygen mask on all the time and they keep putting a nebuliser on. They are putting drugs in and taking blood all the time. He has 9 drains in. As I say he drifts but still chatty. Asking who’s been in touch, how’s the chickens etc. I left about 6 and they were going to try and get him in a chair for 10 min. They seem to think he’ll be put in HDU on Monday. In himself he is fine.

9.3.13

Today he looks much better. They didn’t get him out of bed yesterday after he scared them, plus he was too shattered.
Today he stood this morning. He is still on all the drains and drips and insulin. I went in at 2 and they said that they wanted to try and get him in a chair for a little while. They got him in his chair about 3.30 and he stuck it an hour before asking to go back to bed. When they got him back I left as I could see he’d had enough. He’s so tired. He had a bad night as they were busy in ICU and a helicopter coming in and 3 dying didn’t help. As I say he looks so much better. He’s got some colour back now. Mr Collins his surgeon came in to see him at 7.30 this morning. He has put him on a nebuliser every 2 hours which is really clearing and he’s able to bring up yuk with that. Also he’s allowed 2 sips of water every half hour.

10.3.13

Went in at 2 and left at 6. All in all I saw him for about an hour and a half as I kept being banished to the relatives’ room whilst they moved him into a chair and then did dressings. Then they couldn’t get blood from him so had to put a new line in. He is much better in colour but as the afternoon went on he was exhausted. They stood him and a few steps this morning. Then he had to do exercises. Then this afternoon they sat him in a chair for 2 hours. I know they have to do it but personally I thought it was to much seeing what he did this morning. I left at 6 and they was just going to put him back to bed. He looked shattered. Oh he sends his love to everybody.

11.3.13

After breakfast I went over to the lodge. It was quite like old times. Even though it was all new people it was still all so friendly. Stayed there till lunchtime and then had some lunch in cafe that’s run by the handicapped. Went over to see him at 2 and he looks much better. He’d asked me to get some cordial. He can now drink when he feels like it. They’ve said he can have a cup of tea tomorrow. They have taken one of his chest drains out and stopped the epidural and replaced it with Panadol and Morphine. The physio’s walked him a few steps this morning and he sat in the chair this afternoon for 2 hours. Martin his Anaesthetist came and had a good chat. I said that Mr Collins had said that Martin had had a struggle. He said it was the way Bern’s jaw is and it was difficult to get the usual airway in. He said also they had a bit of a struggle when the lung was deflated, but everything is OK now which is all that matters. He still has an oxygen mask on all the time. I am going home tomorrow.

12.3.13

Short and sweet tonight as I’m tired, but I’m home. Went to see him and Olive (Angel) met me at ICU door. My heart went in my mouth. She said don’t worry I’ve been waiting for you as he has just been transferred to HDU. She said she saw him this morning walking and doing very well. She said he will be in at least another week. When he comes out he will still have his feeding tube in and I will be taught how to change it. By the time he leaves hospital he will be on more solid food like soup etc but this tube is a food supplement. I tried to get into HDU but they were changing his dressings so I had to wait another half hour before I could get in. He’s got his own room. He looks much better and he was pleased to see Pete and Julie even though we got a slight ticking off as its only 2 visitors, so we didn’t stay long. He hasn’t had a cuppa tea yet still on water. He has just text me to say he’s having another drain removed. I’ll find out which one tomorrow.

13.3.13

I tried phoning HDU 3 times before I got any info which wasn’t much. My landline is now down so got to rely on mobile. Bern phoned me at 12 to say he may be shifted to another ward but doesn’t know where or when. He said he walked to the HDU outside door but he’d had enough. He had a chest drain removed yesterday. His medication for pain will more than likely be changed to being self administered. His nurse last night / morning he said she was like a nun, so gentle and kind even when she washed him. He’s going to ring me tonight. He hasn’t rung me tonight so I expect he’s too tired. He must be still in HDU or else they would have rung me.

14.3.13

Bern phoned me from St Gerard’s ward which he was transferred to last night. He’s in with another bloke. He had quite a disturbed night as they came to take blood tests twice. They are still washing and shaving him. Mr Collins came and saw him this morning and he may have another drain removed. He is still very wheezy and coughing.

He’s just rung me. He absolutely shattered. His sugars are very high at the moment. He’s been walking this morning and sat out all afternoon so he’s shattered. He was going to ring me later but was afraid he might fall asleep. He’s had a cup of tea and a cup of coffee, but didn’t like the coffee (first one since before Christmas) He’s had quite a few of the team come to see him including 2 medical students ( he’s an experience for them with the amount and severity of his op) He has had a foot of the oesophagus’ and the top half of his stomach removed. He hasn’t had any more drains or tubes removed

He’s just phoned and he’s had his nose tube out. He said its lovely as it was starting to hurt. Hopefully another drain out tomorrow and Mr Collins said if he continues to do as well as he is he will be allowed home early next week. Hopefully he will be allowed to have jelly and ice cream tomorrow.

15.3.13

He’s phoned twice this morning so I think he must be missing me. He’s been walking around and sitting out all morning. He’s had the team round and Olive (Angel) who is off till Tuesday. She seems to say that she wants me to learn how to change his food tube, but another nurse said some people don’t bother with it but I’d rather go with Olive (Angel) He’s also been told that physio’s will be brought in over the weekend even though its Bank Holiday.  Mr Collins is adamant that he wants Bern to walk out of the hospital when discharged rather than be brought home in an ambulance.

Phoned my friend Anne this afternoon. We got friendly whilst staying in The Lodge as she had cancer in the same place as Bern. I only spoke to her 2 weeks ago. Her husband told me she’d died 12 days ago. Absolutely gobsmacked such a lovely lady only young in her 40’s with 3 kids. Berns just rung me and he’s had the last drain removed. Only the catheter to go now. He had jelly and ice cream at lunchtime and he’s got custard for tea.

16.3.13

He phoned me lunchtime and said the Professor (part of Mr Collins team) had been to see him. His Catheter has been removed, he didn’t like that. Good job he was with it as one of the dinner ladies tried to give him a dinner (that’s how accidents happen) He said he preferred the other places as this ward is quite lapsed. He asked for jelly and ice cream. He had been walking and waiting for the physio’s. He phoned me again at 2 and if all things go to plan he will be coming home Monday.

He phoned me tonight to say as he can’t wee they have put him back on the drip.

17.3.13

He phoned this morning and he is off the drip as he’s weeing now. He’s had a Weetabix for his breakfast so it’s getting more solid. He’s waiting for Mr Collins and team come around today so hopefully he will hear the news he wants and be able to come home tomorrow.

He is not a happy bunny. Mr Collins came round and won’t let him go home until he has seen the dietician. His blood sugars are very high 15 so Mr Collins said he wants the dieticians to sort it out. He is supposed to be on soft diabetic meals. His dinner consisted of mash potato and cabbage and jelly and ice cream. He told Mr Collins the food was dire and he agreed. They are given him that sort of food and then food supplement which is piled with sugar and then putting him on an insulin drip overnight. So I don’t think the dietician will be there tomorrow as its Bank Holiday so it’s going to be Wednesday before they will let him home. As I say he’s not a happy bunny.

18.3.13

He’s just rung me, very down. He had a Weetabix but wanted to bring it back up again. He hadn’t had his lunch. The professor came round and Bern mentioned it and apparently it’s a common thing. He’s had the top half of his stomach removed so along with the foot of oesophagus, it’s stretched the stomach up. Something he’ll have to get used to. He said the Dietician won’t be around today as its Bank Holiday so it will be at least Wednesday before he comes home.

When I was nursing and meals were ordered you’d put down Diabetic, Veggie, Hindu, Jewish and the canteens would respect that. Even though its all changed and you have menu’s come round he’s written diabetic soft but they’ve not taken any notice.

Well I’ve been home now for 2 weeks and I am on the long road to recovery.

Thanks to those people who have prayed for me and wished me well and especially to my rock – Maggie

4 years later update

Well 4 months after the Operation I was told that it was a success (Dr Chris said “It’s all in the bin”) cancer all gone. I admit I did cry but tears of relief. I now spend my time at home with the chickens and two morning at the community radio as a presenter and as a co presenter. I still worry about every ache and pain as every cancer survivor does but life is good and we go on enjoying it. we have now found – Cruses wonderful.