Showing posts from 2018

First Out-Of-Treatment Appointment

Last week I was back at King's Lynn Hospital, where I have been going for the past 3 or so years for my various cancer related treatments.

However this time was different. I needed to go to the regular Outpatients unit as I have now been discharged from the Hematology Unit.

I was a little unsure of myself - not quite sure where to go or what to do. It turned out I needed a blood test before my appointment, so I had to arrive early to have that done, then wait for my appointment to happen.

There were new nurses and a new doctor, so whereas I knew most people in the other unit, they were all unknown to me.

The appointment went very well. Other than the blood test all it was was a chat. We discussed timescales for when my wife and I could start trying for a third child. He also let us catch a glimpse of the longer term plan in as far as my treatment goes:

I will see him in this clinic once every 6 months for the next 5 years. Then after that I could remain seeing him once a year for…

From Blogger to Author

Today I found some time to continue a project started too long ago - although a project I feel is important.

I am in the process of writing a book about my journey of living life with faith and cancer. I hope to include some of the insights and details outlined in this blog as well as other things I did not blog about.

I am avoiding the copy-and-paste temptation from the blog, but am re-writing everything so that it fits together as one narrative.

Please pray that I am able to keep focused on this task; that I will be able to find a publisher interested in publishing it; that it will reach millions of people around the world, bringing them hope in a time of despair and light in a place of darkness.

Thank you for your continued support and for continuing to read and comment on this blog. I appreciate it.

Elevating the Conversation around Cancer

A couple of days ago, on the morning of the 5th September 2018, Rachel Bland passed away peacefully at home almost two years after being diagnosed with cancer.

She was a BBC presenter and her diagnosis prompted her to start a podcast about cancer called 'You Me and the Big C' #YouMeBigC and she also documented her journey on a blog that went on to win some awards.

I must be honest and admit that I hadn't heard of Rachel before news of her death swept across the news cycle. However, I am moved by the way in which she made use of the time she had left.

After my own diagnosis (of cancer), I am very conscious of the time I have left - although I have no idea how long that will be. Like Rachel, I too look to offer what support and comfort I can to those suffering with the disease as well as those family members around them who also suffer but in a different way. My honest and open sharing of what happened to me (as well as what has happened since) I hope will bring understandi…

Ring the Bell!

It seems I have been going through a lot of 'endings' recently, but entering into new beginnings at the same time.

A few weeks ago, I left a job I had been in for 14 years.

Yesterday saw another ending occur. I had my final top-up treatment session at hospital.

When you first hear the word 'cancer' and you feel as though the whole world is caving in around you, it is very hard to look years ahead into the future to the day when  you are cancer free and your treatment ends - and you get to walk away, pick up the pieces and to continue living this beautiful thing called life.

After walking a long road, I can now say that this particular chapter of my life has ended. A recent PET scan showed that the treatment has been successful and I am cancer-free with no trace of lymphoma in my body. Thank the Lord. Yesterday I got to say goodbye to the very dedicated and caring team of chemo nurses at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn who have been there every step of t…

Holiday Insurance for those with Cancer

Having been diagnosed with cancer in early 2016 and now have been living cancer-free for almost 2 years I am sure I am not alone in finding that getting holiday insurance cover is very expensive!

A few months ago my family and I went to the Isle of Man. Officially not part of Great Britan but still part of the UK and only a short ferry crossing away from mainland England we took the calculated risk of just insuing my wife and our two you daughters for this trip as it would cost as much as the holiday did to include me on the cover.

However, tomorrow we head for Italy for a week. I've never been to Italy before, so quite exciting.

But once again the question of travel insurance had to be faced.

Without question my wife and the girls would be covered as if they needed medical attention this is a priority. The 3 of them would cost £30 for the week.

Upon entering my details and declaring my medical history it pushed up the cost to £160. And this was oneof the cheaper quotes!


The mystery blood test

In my last post I told you about the discomfort in my side / lower back they the doctors had been investigating before giving me my penultimate top-up maintenance treatment.

Well shortly before seeing the consultant who gave me that good news, I received a mysterious automated text message on my phone from my GP surgery. It asked me to pick up some blood test forms and get some blood tests done.

I knew I had just had a CT scan to see what was going on with the discomfort in my side but there was no mention of further blood tests - it was a mystery. Nevertheless, not wanting to go to get my treatment but it being delayed due to me not having the extra blood test, I went ahead and had it done. Then 2 days later had my other regular blood test as usual.

The doctor was pleased by the CT scan and my treatment went ahead.

Treatment day My common problem with the cannula did not occur this time. I was sure to drink plenty of water before hand and a lovely Zimbabwean nurse put the cannula in…

Haunted by Shadows

Despite being in remission from cancer in some ways it never leaves you. It lurks like an unwanted memory, a distant shadow from the past clinging on to the present. Every now and then that shadow steps a little closer and makes itself known bringing with it doubt, worry and fear.

It stepped closer This happened to me a few days after my last top-up treatment. After my battle with cancer I have learnt to listen to my body and not to ignore it.

I noticed a discomfort in my lower left back. If after doing activity or after being on my feet all day at work, this discomfort could turn to pain. I had no idea what it was or what was the cause. So I went to the GP. They had a look, as I thought it could be a side effect of some medication I had recently been put on for a mild skin condition. They tested my kidney function as well as had a poke around my abdomen area.

The niggling thought that the general location of the discomfort was exactly where the massive tumor was located beore my che…

Step of Faith

Having had cancer has made me re-evaluate how I am living my life. For a while now I have been praying and asking God how He wants me to spend my time and earn my money. I have already been doing increasingly more for my local church, mostly behind the scenes, but up-front too.

I am trying to write a book about my experiences of living life with faith and cancer in order to help others and their families who find themselves in a similar position. However, finding the space and time to do this is extremely difficult.

I have been a primary school teacher for 15 years, 14 of which I have spent at the same school. It has been a good season of my life. I have learnt a lot, as well as taught a lot! But the time does come when it is time to move on.

So I had been praying and asking God if this was His plan for my life, that he should open a door for me to leave. Past experiences in life (in fact my last big step of faith which involved moving 1/2 way around the world) have taught me not to …

Not for the Faint-hearted

On Friday I was back in hospital for my tenth out-patient maintenance treatment. This cycle of treatments sees me receiving just one of the drugs (Retuximab) that was part of my initial chemotherapy cocktail when the cancer was being targeted. As my type of cancer can't be cured medically at present, the doctors fully expect it to return. Having this maintenance treatment every 2 months is supposed to push back the date of its return. Every treatment means it gets pushed back further and further.

I of course still pray that God will intervene and heal me completely. No returns, no come-backs! God can do it, but I'm happy to submit to His plans for me - even if it includes living with cancer.

It was only when I sat down in the treatment chair that I suddenly remembered that I had forgotten to drink lots of water in the hours leading up to my treatment. Oh no! Drinking lots of water has, in the past, helped to enlarge my veins a bit and as a result helped with the cannula going…

Balancing Act

Adjusting to living post-cancer can be a challenge in and of itself. I have found I need to find a new 'normal'. I am finding this stage of recovery a bit like walking a tight rope, a balancing act where I am constantly balancing my 'old' normal with the 'new' normal. Where I can forget all about cancer one minute and then next I will be navigating thoughts of fear and doubt.

Now that I have been in remission for over a year, cancer is  no longer all-consuming and I am freely able to think about other things.  This is fueled by the ability to do the things I used to do too - go for walks, play guitar, go back to work, do the shopping, look after the kids, etc.

In fact days and even weeks can go by where I do not think about cancer at all. This in itself brings interesting challenges because I have had cancer (and it could come back!) so I need to be aware of this. Life is no longer how it used to be. I am having to adjust to living in a new 'normal'.


The Aftermath

It has now been just over a year since I was told my cancer is in remission. However my family and I are still healing. There is an emotional and psychological impact to a trauma, such as dealing with a family member's battle with cancer, that continues to persist even when the trauma itself is apparently over.

The photo above was taken in the city of New Orleans several months after the devastating hurricane Katrina struck in 2005. It is a fantastic visual metaphor of what I am wanting to say in this post - it takes a long time to deal with the debris of a catastrophic event, even when the event itself ended some time ago.

Being Optimistic and Realistic A few months ago now my wife and I reached a point where my realism crashed into her optimism.

It was painful and tearful.

Since my remission she had been clinging on to her belief that God had healed me totally and completely. I fully believe that if God wants to do this, he can and he will (and maybe already has), but I am in t…