Friday, 24 December 2010

Christmas Eve 2010

24th Dec 2010

I just wanted to take a moment to wish everyone a very merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
2010 has been an eventful year to say the least and I won’t be sorry to see the back of it and welcome 2011. However, that said if I hadn’t been through what I have been through then I would have missed many good things that have come out of a bad situation.
I have been lucky enough to meet so many wonderful people along the journey both face to face but also via the web. People who are battling various forms of Cancer and who are so brave and inspiring offering support to all those around them in the same predicament. And people caring for loved ones who are ill and day after day look after them with so much care and love and often under immense pressure and with less recognition than they deserve.
I remember clearly this time last year being full of so much doubt as to what the future might hold, so much uncertainty as to what life would be like post MOAS. Yet here I am a year down the line having recovered so well and having achieved so much. Back to living a normal lifestyle, running, climbing and caving again.
My journey has really shown me the importance of making the most of the time you have with family and friends and savouring them. Stop and recognise those magic moments for what they are. I recently did this when out enjoying the snow with Tracey and the children. We had found a good hill not too far from the house and were having race’s on our sledges in the snow. Tracey sat on the back with me and the girls sharing the other sledge. The air full of screams and laughter as we hurtled down the hill together. We all collapsed in a heap at the bottom, the thrill of the ride was fantastic. And we shared those moments together. Priceless.
So to all of you who might be reading this full of dread as to what’s around the corner and what the future might hold. Be encouraged by what I have achieved, hopefully you will too. We are so in debt to the experts at the hospitals all around the world who mend us when we are broken and do such a great job. I can’t thank the team at Basingstoke and North Hampshire hospital enough for all that they have done for me.
Last night I was given the best Christmas present. I was handed a cheque for another £500 made out to the hospital as a donation to our Snowdon walk we did back in August. This now takes the total raised to £5262 and means we have smashed the £5k target we set ourselves. Fantastic news!
So to you all, Have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy and healthy 2011!


Saturday, 11 December 2010

The Ten Month Anniversary of the MOAS

The 2nd December was my ten month anniversary. Ten whole months have passed since the MOAS already....where did that time go?
To think that in that short space of time I have also been lucky enough to walk the Snowdon Horseshoe, start caving again and return to running. I have been lucky.
Regarding my on-going recovery physically I’m doing really well. My weight is holding steady and I’m eating pretty much what I want. I still can’t eat big volumes and have accepted that is the way things will be from now on. If we go out for a meal then I can’t manage a starter or dessert and have to make do with just a main course so I make sure I have something really good to make up for it!
The scars are healing well and I have no pain or discomfort at all even when exercising and this was encouraging when I did my first caving trip a few weeks ago. I also plucked up the courage this week to get my scars out in public for the first time and go for a swim at the local pool. It was all fine; I don’t even think anyone noticed! Life really is returning to normal again.
I do still suffer with the mental scars though. You bury them for a while and don’t think about things for a while and then something triggers in your mind and the images all come flooding back. A week or two ago I found myself led in bed unable to sleep and running through my earliest recollections after the op and wondering if it was real or just another hallucination? I remember either Mr Cecil or Mr Moran stood at my bedside to my left. To my right a nurse busied themselves, I was aware of their presence but couldn’t tell you who it was or what they were doing. I could barely focus and only recognised the consultant by their voice as I couldn’t see properly. I remember them saying “David.....the operation went well and you are in ICU. I’m off to talk to your family now.....” I couldn’t respond as I was intubated (on a ventilator) and to be honest was completely out of it. I remember looking at the ceiling tiles in the room and they seem to come in and out of focus and swirl around. I tried to stay awake so I could see Tracey and Mum but don’t remember much after that.
I was completely out of it but remember the images as clearly in my mind today as if they only happened yesterday....I don’t think they will ever go away.
Then this week, after not thinking about things for a while it came flooding back with a vengeance. It sounds daft but there was a soap opera on the TV that showed a guy in ICU who died. The machine alarms were sounding and images of my worst hallucination came flooding back to me. It really shook me up and I don’t mind admitting it brought a few tears. It unsettled me for a while after. I still really struggle with this particular hallucination......I know that its exactly what it was but at the time it was so real that part of me still questions whether it really did happen or not? I guess it’s all part of my mind trying to process things.
Christmas is coming and we are busying ourselves with preparations for the festive season. New Years will be strange as last year with the MOAS looming it was all a bit flat to say the least. This year my first annual CT scan will be looming and I guess it’ll be at the back of all our minds. What will 2011 bring?
It’s no use worrying about it though. It’s a waste of time and energy. What will be, will be and I have to give thanks that right now at this moment in time I fell fit and well. Today I have enjoyed a great day with my girls and with a bit of luck there will be many, many more......

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Back Underground!

On Friday 19th November I did my first caving trip since the MOAS. I’d been holding back for a while, making sure that I felt well enough and fit enough to deal with the tough environment experienced in caving. It’s a sport where you use every muscle in your body with a particular focus on upper body strength. An area of my body that has undergone a huge amount of trauma in the last year.
We kept it easy and did an easy trip into Swildons Hole in Priddy on the Mendip Hills. Luckily enough we also had two novices with us who had never been caving before so all the more reason to take things easy. The plan was to take them along the “Long dry way” , down the “water rift” to the old “Forty” and then on to the “Twenty”; a twenty foot deep waterfall where the stream plunges over the edge and a caving ladder and life line is required to get down it. At this point we would see how we were feeling and either go further or turn around.
We headed down to Mendip straight from work and met at the Wessex cave club cottage at 18:30. Here we got changed and then headed for the cave. The entrance is quite dramatic where you lower yourself straight into the stream way via a manhole! Just after that there is a boulder ruckle to negotiate all of which had moved since my last visit a year ago so it was interesting to see how things had changed.
As planned we headed along the narrow crawls of the pretty long dry way. I stopped to take some movie footage only for the camera to beep at me to tell me the memory card was full so not much to show there I’m afraid. From here we headed deeper into the cave and the passage steadily grew larger. We met the stream again at the water chamber and headed along the water rift. Soon we were at the first real waterfall, a tricky 8ft climb. Again the passage grows wider and taller and as you head deeper you can hear the rumble of the Twenty growing ever closer.
We got to the top of the waterfall and stopped as planned. Mandy and Alex were doing well and felt fit enough to go on a bit further. I too felt surprisingly good with no aches or pains at all. So we rigged the pitch and gradually made our way down. First me, then Mandy, Alex, Jon, Andy and then finally Mark.
We then headed on deeper into the cave. Again the passage grows quite lofty with stalagmites, stalactites and curtains adorning the cave. We all successfully negotiated the double pots and then down the deep rift below Barnes loop; tight and tricky! We followed the stream way a bit further and then headed up onto the once beautiful Tratmans Temple where we decided was the turnaround point and stopped for a rest.

We made our way out steadily taking a detour up into the fantastic Barnes Loop to show the newbie’s the beautiful formations. Steadily we climbed our way out, Jon providing entertainment at the double Pots by falling in the pool and Mandy on the ladder by showing us how not to do it! Rather than go out the same way we came in we headed out via the wet way and it was interesting to note how the change at the entrance had diverted the stream lower down the cave.
We exited to a cool November evening, time was cracking on and we needed to be quick if we wanted to get a pint and a chilli in the Hunters Lodge Inn.
Showered and in dry clothes we soon found ourselves sat in the warm and busy pub tucking into a well earned pint and food.
I personally was really pleased with how things had gone. It was my first trip since the MOAS and I was a little nervous as to how well I’d cope. Things couldn’t have gone better. I felt fit and well and ready to make a return to caving properly. On the way home in the car I plotted my future progression back to the tougher, longer trips that we were used to and the technical aspects of SRT (Single Rope Techniques). It’s great to be back!

Saturday, 30 October 2010

A Huge Thank You!

Friday 29th October.

Today we took the bulk of the fundraising money from the Snowdon Horseshoe charity walk to Basingstoke to present to the team who looked after me whilst I was undergoing my treatment.
We had an uneventful drive up from Bristol and arrived early enough to sneak in to the restaurant for a coffee and a pain au chocolate! We made our way to C floor and met Francis and Brendan Moran in their office as agreed. A short time later a photographer from the press office arrived with her camera and we made our way to C2 ward to say hello to the staff and have some photo’s taken. For Jessica and Chloe it was the first time they had been onto the ward. They commented on how light and airy the ward is and how friendly the staff were. We said hello to the team and all remarked on how well I looked. Sally, the ward sister didn’t even recognize me until I spoke! Everyone was full of smiles and pleased to see us. They were also amazed by how much money we had raised. So far we have raised the bulk of our target of £5k. We were pleased to hand over £4,762 today and still have the Just Giving page open until November 21st and have at least another £500 pledged still to come. The ward was just as I remembered it and there was an empty bed space in the room I occupied whilst I stayed there.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has supported us and donated money to a very worthy cause. I would also like to give a very special thank you to all the team members who took part and went to the effort of raising the money and take the time to gather it in after the event; it’s not an easy task! So a huge thank you to- Jon Mason, Stephen Mason, Mark Adams, Steve Read, Dave Bates, Andy Jackson and Rhys Wickham. And also to my daughters Jessica and Chloe,to Mum and Dad and to Mum Bates who also raised money on our behalf. I would also like to give a massive pat on the back to Steve "Bumper" Treweeks and Jake who raised a significant amount of money for The Christie Hospital where Steve had his MOAS in 2007.

The money raised for Basingstoke Hospital will help go towards fitting out a new family room on C2 ward. It will be somewhere where patients and family can meet on the ward in a friendly and relaxed environment and save patients having to leave the ward to see their loved ones at a time when they often feel unwell. It will also help with infection control and be somewhere carers can relax at a time when they are under a lot of stress whilst loved ones are in surgery.
Whilst talking with Brendan Moran he showed me his waiting list of patients who require treatment at the hospital and already the schedule extends into the New Year with others still to have dates confirmed. Sadly it appears that PMP is becoming more common, with Mr Moran saying that the frequency had increased to 2-3 people per million per year. All the more reason to keep supporting the team that work so hard to help people like me. The team here work long hours and it isn’t uncommon to see Brendan, Tom and the team on the ward at 07:00 and still there at 23:00 (that certainly was the case on the day of my surgery). I can’t thank them enough.
So with this in mind we will continue to support them as long as we can.......plans are already in place to do more fundraising in various ways next year including a main event in the summer. Let’s see if we can’t beat this year’s total? In the mean time I will open another Just Giving page to run in the background allowing anyone who wishes to donate.

Once again, thank you all so much for your support, people like me need you.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

8 Month anniversary- tell tale signs?

Saturday 2nd October was my 8 month anniversary. My recovery continues to go well and I am getting back to my normal routines. I have spent the last month working on the garden pond project and doing one day per weekend digging or the building work that goes with it. Saturday I finally got around to putting in the liner. One day is enough though as its been pretty tough work and I ache quite a bit afterwards.
I have been blighted by a couple of colds which has meant that my running hasn't progressed quite as quickly as I would have hoped. I'm still running around 3.5miles but struggling to do two runs a week at the moment which is pretty frustrating. Its also affected my plans to go caving in much the same way but I hope to get out towards the end of October. No point in rushing these things.
Other than that my general health is pretty good. The scarring is healing well and I don't really suffer with too many aches and pains. My bowel has gradually settled down and there are less visits to the toilet each day! I still find that I get tired and my stamina isn't where it was prior to the operation I get home from work each night and I'm pretty wiped out.
My weight continues to hold steady and over all I'm pleased with the way things are going. I have recently received my invite to go to the local GP and have my annual influenza vaccination but have yet to receive my appointment for my CT scan at Basingstoke.

I have been thinking allot recently about my history and whether there were any tell tale signs that things were not as they should have been? I have always suffered with my stomach in one way or another and wonder if it's been related?
My earliest memory of stomach related problems is when I spent a night or two in hospital at the age of around eight years or so. I had been suffering with stomach pain and was admitted with a "grumbling appendix". I spent a couple of days in the children's ward and gradually improved and they decided not to operate. I really wish that they had now as it would have saved me all this trouble!
Later into my teens I started to suffer with more problems. I would often wake in the night with terrible stomach cramps that would last for some time before I ended up in the bath room using the toilet and often being sick. This would last for a couple of hours and then would ease and I would end up sleeping for nearly 24hrs. The family doctor at the time diagnosed it as "abdominal Migraine". These episodes lasted for most of my adolescent life on and off but gradually got better and less frequent.
However I was always left with the problem that should I get excited or nervous it usually affected my stomach and I'd end up needing the toilet. My bowel seemed very sensitive to my mental state. Again I would suffer with cramps and would need to find a toilet.

Some years ago I visited a palmist. A friend of my father in laws but someone I had never met. He was a nice chap and seemed completely honest and didn't push for answers through loaded questions. He simply looked at your hands and told you about yourself. He didn't predict the future as he didn't believe in it but could advise you on medical treatments and ailments. I always remember that he told me to "be careful with my stomach and to stay away from spicy food" somehow he knew that I experienced problems in that area even though I had never told him about the problem. It was the first time we had met.

No so long before my appendix perforated I again had been suffering with some pain on the right hand side. The doctor at the time sent me for a scan of the gall bladder as he felt it might be gall stones and of course that came back clear. I hind sight, with this being so close to the appendix perforating I'm sure this was related in some way.

So were these early tell tale signs that all was not well....? I'm not sure really but it's worth making a note of. Perhaps others have suffered in a similar way?

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Tuesday 14th September 2010

So here it is 14th September, my 37th birthday and 1st post MOAS. I feel like it should feel more important bearing in mind what I have been through this last year but if I'm honest it just feels like any other day. Perhaps thats a product of my current well being and good health.
Physically I'm continueing to improve although still not quite up to full speed and if I'm honest I wonder if I'll ever fully recover the high level of fitness I had prior to the op. I'm back to running now and going twice a week. I have improved in terms of speed and am up to 8 minute miles but only over a short distance at the moment. The most I have run distance wise is about three and a half miles but this ia also quite a hilly route and is a good challenge. In the next two weeks if all continues to go well then I will step it up to the four mile mark and throw in some more hills to build my stregth. As I start to push a bit harder I get various aches and pains. These tend to be centred around my core muscle groups as these have taken such a hammering. I get a feeling of bruising underneath the rib cage on the right side, not sure what it is but the only time I had any discomfort after the MOAS was a chest drain on that side that was in too far and had to be pulled out a bit. Whether its related or not I dont know? I have also found my lower back muscles are weak. They have had a good work out though recently as I have been digging out a garden pond!
My weight is pretty constant now and I'm probably a stone and a half lighter than I was. I havent found any restrictions regarding food and can and do eat just about anything. I have tried to start to impliment a healthy regime again ensuring I get my 5 a day and eating plenty of wholegrain too. This will hopefully not only compliment my running and training but help to protect my immune system throughout the winter months. In terms of colds I do seem to be picking them up more regularly than before. I'm on my second now and supping a Lemsip as I type! This I'm sure must be down to the lack of a spleen and I continue to take my antibiotics daily.

I have my first annual CT scan looming. It's planned for some time in October and is on my mind more and more. It'll be a tough few weeks awaiting the results, thats for sure. I do find myself contemplating what the future might hold more and more lately. How long have I got? Will the PMP return and if so when? In my mind I have set targets. If I can get the Mortgage paid off then great,the family will be OK financially. If I see my girls get married then that will be brilliant! If I see my grandkids then that would be fantastic!! Beyond that I really am not sure.... Just recently I am aware of a number of fellow sufferers that have lost their battle with PMP and I think thats what has made me contemplate things too. The constant reminder that this thing does kill. Its a reality check and to a certain extent keeps you real. Make the most of now,make the most of today, enjoy those around you and celebrate life.

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

The Snowdon Horseshoe Fundraiser

In the week leading up to the walk the final arrangements had been made, kit sorted out, car sharing arranged and the final team put together.
The final team consisted of-
Walking for Basingstoke and North Hampshire Hospital-
David Mason
Stephen Mason
Jon Mason
Mark Adams
Andy Jackson
Dave Bates
Steve Read
Rhys Wickham

Walking for The Christie(Manchester)-
Steve Treweeks
Jake Treweeks (13yrs)

Friday 20th August.
Jon, Mark, Stephen and I all travelled up together. Luckily Mark had the use of a people carrier for the weekend that meant there was far more space for the masses of kit that we all took. The weather in Bristol was overcast but warm, the odd shower creeping through but otherwise OK. Traffic was slow and we ended up having to take a detour due to congestion as people made their way to the "V" festival. We stopped at one point to stretch our legs and have a wander around Sainsbury's to get some shopping for the weekend, lunch and of course a beer or two!
After a short break we soon hit the road again and gradually found ourself entering the rolling Snowdonia countryside. As we got closer to Snowdon the weather changed and we hit heavy rain. My heart sank.
The rain continued to pour as we made our way through Betsey Coed and then took the turning for the Llanberis Pass. The mountain stream at the side of the road was in spate and silver slivers of water tumbled down the steep mountainside to emerge at the bottom as rushing waterfalls. The walk was going to be a nightmare if the weather was like this.

Then, as we entered Llanberis the roads suddenly dried up and people were walking around in T-shirts. Apparently it had been dry there all day whilst only a mile up the Pass the rain poured. We found the campsite up a small turning off the main road. The lane rose steeply through fields occupied by other campers and we made our way to reception to book in. It was now around 17:00hrs and we had been on the road for 5hrs! We found the flattest ground we could and set up the tents and got ourselves comfy.

Steve T then rang to say that he and Jake were about half to three quarter's of an hour away so we decided to head down to the village for some dinner. By the time we sorted ourselves out and walked down the lane Steve and Jake were just coming up in the car so we stopped for a quick chat and agreed to meet them after dinner back at the campsite. We headed on down into the village and found Pete's Eat's. A well known walkers and climbers cafe that served up good sized portions of grub at cheap rates. And luckily for us served beer!
Whilst we were sat eating Dave B then rang to say that he and Steve R were only about half an hour away. We arranged to meet them at the campsite and help put up the tents and get a brew on and a fire lit. Andy and Rhys were joining us in the morning.
We finished our meals and took a steady walk back to the campsite to find Steve and Dave already there and tent up! Steve and Jake were also now all set up and after a trip to the Chinese returned with their dinner. So we put on a brew and got the fire going. It was a mild night with clear sky's full of stars and the odd cloud skittering through on the brisk wind.
We sat and chatted, discussing the plans for the following morning opting to catch the 08:40 Sherpa bus up to Pen Y Pass where we would meet Andy and Rhys.The rest of the night was spent with the usual banter and ribbing and everyone straining their necks to look at shooting stars racing across the night sky. It was a perfect start, everyone had arrived without issue and was now ready for the long day ahead. The last of us climbed into our sleeping bags about midnight after the last of the logs on the fire had burned away and conscious of the 06:30 start to get breakfast on in time to meet the Sherpa bus.

Saturday 21st August-The day of the walk!

I awoke at 06:00 after a fitful nights sleep. There was a fairly noisy group that had arrived at around 02:30 and the wind had got up a bit at times. I got dresses and emerged out of my tent to find sheep grazing in the field. The sun was not quite up and over the mountains as yet although it was quite light. I trekked off to the toilets to have a wash and clean my teeth. When I got back Mark was also awake and there was rustling noises coming from the other firmly zipped up tents! I quickly got a brew on and we started organizing breakfast.
The sun broke over the mountain opposite to reveal clear skies and a warm day as the bacon and sausages sizzled on the stoves. We started with cereals and tea and then tucked into bacon and sausage sandwiches ensuring we cooked enough for dinner on the mountain too.

Time was ticking and I soon found myself "faffing" around trying to sort my kit out for the day and pack up the breakfast stuff in a most disorganised fashion! Rhys rang to say that they were about half an hour away after a very early start to get to us and should be on time to meet us at 09:00 as arranged. Another sigh of relief! We headed down the lane to the village all kitted up about 08:20. Andy then rang to advise that they had parked further down the pass as Pen Y pass was full.This worked out perfectly as they actually got on the same bus as us as it made its way slowly up the steep and winding pass to the drop off point. The team was complete. On the way up I handed out a couple of small posters I had done advertising our charity walk that could easily be tucked underneath the elastic on the back of the ruck sacks, they looked great and even prompted some people to hand over some cash on the way around the walk so well worth the effort.
We arrived at Pen Y Pass and even here the difference in temperature was noticeable even with the sun shining. We stopped to use the loo's and take some group photo's. A stop to look at the weather forecast and a quick chat with the mountain rangers office soon revealed that Crib Gogh was getting battered with 50mph winds. We were advised not to do it especially as it was our first time up there and the ridge is pretty exposed in places. I was a little disappointed but that was soon dispelled when we got going on the Pyg Track.
The path starts by winding its way through the mountains directly behind the car park and is immediately quite rocky with some large steps.The start of the impressive Crib Goch(923m) looms to the right. The track then bears slightly to the left and you soon find yourself in the bowl of the Snowdon Horseshoe with the waters of Llyn Llydaw beneath you, Y-Lliwedd (898m)dominates the skyline opposite who's steep cliffs plunge down to the lakeside and Snowdon (1085m) itself sits menacingly round to your right its summit draped in cloud.

The track is lined with rocks and climbs steadily towards Snowdon. It was pretty busy already with people making their way both up and back down the track. We immediately reached for our camera's and snapped away at the view's. The sun was shining with the occasional cloud moving through and not too hot. Perfect walking weather.
We walked for an hour and a half or so and then found a quiet grassy ledge to stop for a brew and a bite to eat. It was off the main path and commanded magnificent views of Y Lliwedd on the opposite side of the Horseshoe. Its steep craggy sides silhouetted against the sky line.

We soon found ourselves on the path again, as we climbed higher over streams cascading down from the Crib Gogh summit the temperature dropped and we were soon entering the cloud base. Visibility reduced and the air took on a cold,damp feel. Further up the track we stopped to look at a post on the edge of the track that had coins pushed into it from its base to its top. Penny's, five and ten pence piece's, Euro's and all other manner of currency wedged into the wood.

The track wound higher and higher towards Snowdons summit and we soon found ourselves at the start of the "zig,zags" a winding steep section of the path that leads to the col between Crib Gogh and Snowdon itself. The top was in sight now but the path was very steep. Suddenly there was the whoosh of steam as the steam train made its way to the Snowdon summit cafe straining to push the passenger laden carriages,puffing its way up the mountain just out of sight. We stopped again for a brief rest and munched on Jelly Babies.
We made the final push to the top of the track and immediately felt the effects of the cold wind blowing across the ridge line. The track beared around to the left and climbed further. Finally and with great relief we soon found ourselves at the foot of the busy summit cairn,perched on the top of a 20ft high outcrop of rock. We made our way to the top and jostled for space around the cairn. Perched precariously on the top we posed for photo's proudly holding the posters I had made.

We didn't hang around long and soon made our way into the warmth of the crowded summit cafe. Here we stopped for 3/4hr or so for a break and a hot drink. We decided not to do lunch here and instead find a quiet spot further along the loop out of the cloud base where we could all sit in comfort. A quick look at the O/S map and compass pointed us in the direction of the next path.No one in the group had walked this section and it was completely new.
We took a right out of the door of the cafe and followed a steep path down for 100m or so before swinging left down a steep scree slope.Here the path became very steep and less defined. We picked our way down the steep slope through the mist and cloud,placing each foot carefully. Suddenly about half way down the cloud parted and we were treated to cracking views of the way ahead and the jagged ridge of Y Lliwedd. Everyone stopped and reached for their camera's. Next there was a yelp as Dave spotted his rucksack tumbling down the steep scree slope beneath us! "My bag!". The bag kept rolling getting closer and closer to the cliffs that dropped away below. Luckily the bag was undone and was dumping its contents as it rolled. This had the effect of slowing the bag down until it finally stopped just short of the drop off. Some very careful traversing on Dave and Steve's part soon retrieved the bag and its contents and they returned safely to the path much to my relief. From this point Dave was nick named "mountain man!".
We continued to pick our way carefully down the path, Dave hanging onto his bag tightly. Finally we reached the col between Snowdon and Y Lliwedd.Here we found a quiet corner and tucked into the sausage and bacon sandwiches and cups of tea from the flasks.

A nearby rock perched on others provided the perfect spot for yet more photo's. We looked on at Y Lliwedd ahead of us. The path peeled off the main route and disappeared between the rocks as it rose steeply up towards the pointed summit, steep cliffs falling hundreds of feet away to the left. This would test the nerve of those of us that suffer with vertigo!
We took the left hand fork in the path and started the steep climb up to the summit of Y Lliwedd. An easier path wound its way around to the less steep right hand side of the peak disappearing and then reappearing between the huge slabs of rock. The path snaked its way around the mountain and we soon found ourselves facing two options, an easier climb around to the right or a short exposed climb up a rock face on the left with the cliffs plunging away beneath us to the grey, cold waters far below us. It wasn't technically difficult but tested your nerves a bit as there was little room for error. It was exciting and challenging, this was what it was all about!

A short section of further climbing and we were soon on the summit ridge with fantastic views all around us. For the first time the cloud had parted from Snowdon's summit and we could see the tiny, ant like silhouettes of people on its summit. It was breathtaking. We picked our way along the ridge. Taking things carefully and avoiding the huge holes that appeared on our left from time to time. The path slowly began to descend from the final peak in the Horseshoe and made its way down towards the lake and that busy Miners path far below.
By this time some of the guys had gotten further ahead threatening a stop for a swim in Llyn Llydaw's icy waters! Dave, Steve, Jake and I had stopped for a breather at Jake's request as his bag was rubbing his back. I could see the guys were now at the lake side quite some way below us and there was definitely the glint of sunlight on flesh!"Are you guys really going for it?" I called over the radio.
"Sure are" Andy replied.
"Steve,Rhys and Jon and Stephen"
"Are they going swimming?" suddenly piped up Jake from the rock he was perched on.
"Yep" I replied.
And quicker than you'd believe Jake shouldered his pack and shot off down the path!
"Well I guess his back isn't that sore!" I joked to Steve.
We watched as he streaked his way down the mountain to meet with the others at the lake side.Suddenly the radio crackled again.
"Hello it's Jake"
"Hello Jake" I replied.
"Can you ask Dad if I can go swimming" he asked?
" I was waiting for this" replied Steve. "Yeah,OK!"
"Your Dad says yes" I relayed the message and he was soon stripping off to join the others in the water.
We arrived not long after to find Steve,Stephen,Jon and Rhys swimming in the water with other walkers spectating from the path with chins on their chests!

Jake however was paralysed with the cold at only knee deep.
"I'm getting out" he shivered.
"Oh no your not" called Jon " No man points for only going in knee deep" he laughed.
Jake gave in to the pier pressure and launched himself into the water!
We hung around for a bit whilst the guys got themselves out and dried before picking up the now well worn and busy miners path. The track was easy,the end in sight and we all chatted about the events of the day. Finally the Pen Y Pass car park came into view and there was the Sherpa bus sat waiting for us.Perfect timing!

We all crammed into the top deck of the bus and chatted and looked at some of the photo's on the camera's as we made our way back down the pass. Andy, Rhys and Mark got off at the stop for Andy's car and Mark showed them the way to the camp site. The rest of us got off the bus and made our way up the steep lane to our tents. Legs aching and weary but content in an excellent day out.
When we arrived at the camp Andy's tent was up and the stoves were soon fired up and kettles boiling. The beer was cracked open and we sat back and rested in the sun supping on a well earned beer. Gradually we headed off to the showers and got changed ready for the night ahead.
Steve T's family also arrived that afternoon and we met them back at the campsite. It was great to finally meet Tracey and the rest of the family.
Once all were ready we headed back down to Pete's Eats for dinner and a pint or two. We all crammed around a couple of tables and tucked in.
When finished we made our way back to the command grabbed a couple of bags of wood for the fire. It was soon burning well and we all sat around having a beer. Dave announced that he had a bottle of champagne for us to celebrate with and it was passed to me to do the honours. We had no glasses and had to pass the bottle around but it was great!

The night was more overcast and cooler, we were glad of the extra fire wood to keep us warm. Gradually the team dwindled as people made their way to their sleeping bags, Rhys curled up in front of the fire weary but warm! Around midnight we all decided to go to bed.

Sunday 22nd Aug

We arose to yet another nice day. Steadily we all got up and put the kettle on. We washed and had some breakfast and got dressed. The next task was to pack up camp. All the bags were packed and the tents folded and stashed away. The gear was crammed into the cars and finally everything was packed away and ready for the journey home.
First we headed to Pete's Eats for the final time to treat ourselves to a full English breakfast. The walk to the village was a painful affair for most of us as the aching muscles we called upon to work once again. On the way back Jon flatly refused to climb the steep hill back to the campsite instead asking Mark and I to pick him up at the bottom of the lane!
We said our goodbye's to Steve and his family and climbed back into the cars ready for the long journey home.
A couple of hours later I had a text from Steve commenting on what a great weekend it was and with a picture attached of Jake fast asleep in the car! I smiled to myself and wondered if he was dreaming of climbing mountains and swimming in the clear waters of a mountain lake. Part of me hoped that we had ignited a spark somewhere inside of him and given him a taste of the outdoors that he would carry with him in the future and not get stuck in the rut that other kids do with their Playstation's, X boxes and Nintendo DS's. We'd achieved a great weekends walk,had fun and raised a substantial amount of money for both Basingstoke and Manchester hospitals PMP fund. But hopefully also given Jake a great adventure with the boys!

You can do a Google Earth Flyby of the route we took by clicking here-

Snowdon Horseshoe

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Starting to exercise again

Over the last few weeks I have really started to feel well again. The tenderness from around the stoma reversal site has gone away and I'm really starting to feel strong again. So I have taken that as a sign that its probably ok to start doing some proper exercise.

Initially I started with just some light work on the exercise bike. Next I have started to add in some weight training although I'm using very light weights and doing lots of reps. I'm also using free weights, the idea being that this should also start to work my core muscle groups without hitting them hard with things like crunches or sit ups which I feel would be just too much at the moment.

Last weekend we did our first "proper" walk over tough terrain in preparation for the Snowdon Horseshoe fundraiser. We did about seven miles in awful conditions on Pen Y Fan and you can read the full and eventful account on my separate Snowdon Horseshoe fundraising Blog (the link is listed in the useful links section).

This weekend I vowed to tackle a tree stump in the back garden that needed digging out. I had been particularly wary about doing this as it would put the core muscles under quite a bit of pressure. So I vowed to start it and see how I got on. Typically the tree stump that "was from an old palm and only has a ball root that wouldn't take much digging out!" went down much deeper than I expected. In fact at the end of an afternoons digging I was now in a three foot deep hole and the root was still going! Luckily we plan to put a fishpond in its place so the soil I dig out was deposited around the garden and the pond project is now officially underway!
I have to say though that I thoroughly enjoyed doing it. I had no aches or pains and no discomfort whatsoever. In fact it gave me confidence and backed up the feeling I have had of being stronger and ready to get back to some sort of proper training regime.

So yesterday I went for my first "run" since the MOAS. The last time I ran was the last week in January and I did about 4 1/2 miles on a lunch hour. I remember it clearly as at the time I did wonder if I was ever going to be able to do it again.
It felt great to be finally pulling on the running gear again and I did smile to myself as I laced up my running shoes. I decided to take things easy though and had planned to run "The Rut" as I had previously nicknamed the route. It was called "The Rut" as its the easiest of all the routes we run on a lunch hour and lots of people would just do that run as it was so easy and didn't push them. I hated it and wouldn't run it, but that was then and it was with some irony that I found myself planning to do this route to get back into my running again! The route is a dead flat featureless three mile loop and not particularly inspiring but more than enough for me at the moment.
The weather was hot (24 deg) and humidity was high. I was also just getting over my first cold minus my spleen and was still a little bunged up but my theory was the run should help clear the muck off my chest. Jerry ran with me to make sure I didn't keel over along the way and we just took things easy. It felt good to be out pounding the streets again. It didn't take long for me to realise just how out of shape I am at the moment and my pace really started to slow and my breathing difficult but I pushed on. The area I really seemed to notice it was my lungs, I felt that I couldn't get a good lungful of air in. The heat, humidity and my cold couldn't of helped but it was clear that my lung capacity had shrunk. This will return with time and exercise though and I'm just going to have to be patient. I felt like the new boy starting all over again.
We pressed on and soon met the only small climbs over the motorway bridges that bring us back into sunny Avonmouth!I was determined to run these climbs as hills are usually my strength and I really enjoy them. However they were a real struggle today and I wouldn't let myself stop until I was at the top but stop I did and walked for a short way cussing myself at every step. I soon got going again and managed to maintain a slow pace all the way back in.
I warmed down a little frustrated with myself at such a poor performance compared to where I had been before the MOAS but Jerry reminded me at what I had been through and it made me feel a little better. It was good to get out though and I enjoyed every minute of it and cant wait to go again later this week.

The only side effects that I have felt a day later other than the obvious aching legs is that below my rib cage on both sides I feel bruised. This again could be down to the battering that my core muscles got over the last few months but also could be a side effect of the surgery itself.

I am determined to take things slowly though and not push myself. I dont want to pick up any injuries between now and the Snowdon walk as there is a lot riding on that now. In a way its a good thing as it will have the effect of holding me back a bit to begin with and just taking things easy. But at the moment the future looks good again in terms of getting back into the things I enjoy. Learning to run again will be a challenge but I'm a stone and a half lighter and that can only help! And once I get Snowdon out of the way I can plan my return to caving.......

Thursday, 22 July 2010

How the children coped.....

I have to say that I am proud of the way that my children coped with fact that I had cancer. Not only the fact that I was very ill and that worry that I may die but all the subsiquent disruption they had in their lives whilst both Tracey and I were away in Basingstoke. In the end they did very well and showed just how strong kids are, their school work didnt suffer and they didnt appear to have been too traumatized by what they had been through. So I wanted to share with you how we approached the whole subject in the hope it may help. I realize that every family is different and each will deal with things in their own way but hopefully we can provide just a few ideas that anyone in the same predicament can consider.

Breaking the news.....
This was probably the hardest thing to do as at this point we were still very traumatised ourselves and our knowledge of the condition and the treatment that I was to undergo was very small. Initially in the first few days we just told them that Dad wasnt well and tried to have our conversations when they were not in the room. Inevitably this lead to conversations having to be cut short and bits being overheard. It didnt take us long to realise that they were not stupid and needed to know the truth. I know my eldest (13) had a good idea what was going on already and had even discussed it with her school freinds. So we decided they needed to know the truth. We sat and told them everything we could and read some great books that we were given by MacMillan together. I will never forget sat reading "When Mum or Dad has Cancer by Ann Couldrick" to the children on the sofa. Jess under one arm Chloe under the other. It covered every eventuality and there were a lot of tears that night but at least they were prepared for every outcome. That I felt was important.

We then made sure that they knew what was going to happen when both Tracey and I went up to Basingstoke for my MOAS. We had arranged for my Aunt to come and stay at the house with the children. That way they would be in their usual surroundings,with their toys and freinds nearby and it would limit the dissruption they were already experiencing with both Mum and Dad not being there. We also gave them jobs to do whist we were away so they could help out in their own way. I have to say I think they had a great time in the end, getting involved with preparing meals, doing the cleaning and generally helping to run the house. And as you can imagine they were pretty spoilt along the way with visitors coming in and out and treating them!

We also made sure that we asked them if they had any questions about what was going to happen at regular intervals. Usually this was met with a "no" but it opened the way for them to be able to feel that they could approach us about anything and more often or not the questions would come when you least expected it, sat eating a meal together or watching TV. Completely unprompted and out of the blue but that was a good thing, just what we wanted. We also taught them that it was OK to cry if they felt upset and not to worry about upsetting mum or dad as holding these emotions in was a bad thing and they needed to be let out.

Whist Tracey and I were away we had planned to do a daily video call with them using Skype however we couldnt use the broadband at the hospital on the netbook and a Dongle wasnt fast enough. So we made sure we phoned them every night and kept in touch using e-mails. Initially I wasnt well enough to make the calls and Tracey kept them up to date with progress. However I remember very well the first time that I called them, the squeels of delight when they heard my voice even roused Ron in the bed opposite me!
They also made the trip to Basingstoke every weekend. Initially they just visited Tracey at the flat as I was not well enough and then later on I was able to meet them off of the ward in communal areas.

So to summarise, the lessons we learnt were-
1. Be honest, kids are not stupid, they know when things are not right. Tell them the truth (within reason) so they dont worry and feel that they cant talk to you.
2. Try to limit the dissruption as much as possible. Keep them in their normal routine.
3. Encourage them to ask questions and share your emotions together.
4. Dont be afraid to seek support and advice from people like MacMillan or Cancer reasearch.
5.Offer them all the love and support you can. Dont forget that they are there because you are so busy dealing with your own emotions.

We wouldnt have been able to get the children through this without all the help and support we recieved from our family and freinds. So a big thank you to Mum and Dad, Auntie Joyce, my brother Stephen and his wife Lisa, Auntie Tina and Uncle Paul and everyone else who helped out along the way.

Friday, 2 July 2010

Friday 2nd July-MOAS Five Month Anniversary.

I went for a walk at lunch time today. I've been back to work three weeks and it had been a very busy morning. I'd got into work early to finish my board report, answered the numerous e-mails and telephone calls and done two meetings already. It was now 1 pm and I needed to get out and get some air and clear my head.
As I was walking it dawned on me that exactly five months ago to the day I was in the operating theatre. In fact, I'd been there for six hours already and had another six hours to go. I imagined the scene in the theatre.Today all around me people went about their daily business, whizzing around in their cars, hurrying here and rushing there, just as they would have on that day five months ago. Oblivious to what was happening to people like me up and down the country in the numerous hospitals and operating theatre's. We all take life for granted.

My recovery continues to go well. I was given the all clear by the nurse this week and no longer have to do the twice weekly visits to the surgery to have the stoma closure wound checked. Its healed up nicely.
I have also been given the all clear to start some light exercise. I have started using the exercise bike and intend to slowly increase the time on the bike and the resistance settings. I can also do some light weights to try and re build some of the muscle wastage that was lost whilst in hospital. I have also promised to take the girls swimming in the next couple of weeks. All good cardio and light impact.
I also have been doing plenty of walking in preparation for our fundraising walk up Snowdon and have a 10 mile walk in the Brecon Beacons planned for the 18th July. The fundraising is going very well and we hope to make a sizable donation to Basingstoke and Northampsire Hospital PMP fund.
I still get the odd aches and pains. The area around the stoma site can be tender especially when doing my shoes up. From time to time my lower back will ache and there are other odd niggles from but nothing I cant live with.
I have finally started putting some weight on too which can only be a good sign that the body is starting to recover.
Eating is now pretty much back to normal and my portion size's have increased (I guess that's why the weight is going on, coupled with my reduced exercise routine).
I still get a little more tired than I used to and again that's probably the recovery from the op and the lack of exercise.
Mentally I'm doing OK. There are odd days now when I don't think about the PMP but these are still few and far between. Last week I heard on the forum that one of my fellow PMP sufferers sadly lost his battle with the disease. He was about my age and had a wife and young family and had kept himself fit and healthy. The MOAS had not gone so well and there had been complications yet he battled on for months. The news shook me. I do hear this type of news on the forum occasionally but for some reason this one really got to me. Images of my hallucinations came flooding back to me as clear as when they happened.I felt down for a couple of days. Its so unfair that I could get through this relatively easily and this person should loose their battle.

Tonight I soaked in the bath, relaxing. I looked at my watch it was about 7pm. This time five months ago I was just coming out of theatre and being transferred to the intensive care unit.
I washed and went to get that strange blue fluff out of my belly button and stopped........oh yeah, I aint got one! I smiled to myself.....old habits die hard!

Sunday, 13 June 2010

Who cares for our carers?

Throughout all of this blog so far I have talked about me and my experiences. But now that I'm recovering well and there is less to report my mind has turned to other aspects of the effects of having cancer.
I have been very lucky throughout all that I have been through in the way that I have had a very strong support group around me. Tracey never left my bedside throughout (except when she had a bout of sickness and couldn't come),my parents who supported us throughout,my aunt who dropped everything and came to stay with the kids whilst we were in hospital, my friends who really showed how special they are when the chips were down and even my employer who also supported me throughout.
Very often when people visited us they would ask how I was and how I was doing but only a few would ask Tracey.
I can only imagine the immense pressure that she was under throughout this whole experience when most of the attention focused on me. From the point that we first found out I know she was devastated but we both adjusted with time and came to terms with what was happening. Always with a brave face she has been there with words of comfort when I was down.
On the day of the MOAS it must have been awful knowing that such major surgery was being carried out and that the outcome wasn't certain Tracey sat and waited patiently for the calls from the surgeon with updates on progress. Finally after 12hrs of surgery and a few more whist I was settled in ICU she was allowed in to see me. It must have been both a relief but also awful to see me in such a state. Tubes and pipes coming out of me everywhere and ranks of machinery keeping me alive. I understand the visit was about 23:30 and only brief. I can only imagine how she felt at the time.
I know from talking to her that through those first few days she watched the machines and monitors like a hawk. Every time I was turned over in bed my heart rate climbed and blood pressure rose this would worry her and she would not take her eyes off the machines until I was settled and they began to return to normal.
I'm not the best patient when I'm ill. I can become quite introvert and conversation is difficult often we just sat in silence but happy in each others company.I would also get frustrated when I became uncomfortable in bed and it seemed to take ages for the nurses to get help to turn me over. More often than not I complained to Tracey and asked her to do it but of course she couldn't do it, it needed trained staff to move all the drains and tubes. She must have felt helpless.
Throughout all of this she was also separated from our children which I knew also upset her. Stuck between looking after me and the children I know at times she felt torn even though we knew they were both in good hands.
When We finally got home of course it was relief and some of the pressure was lifted but new ones were added. Now there was no nurses around to help us and in the first few days it was difficult adjusting. Tracey struggled to sleep as she listened to my every movement worried that something may be wrong.
When I finally started taking walks it was Tracey at my side, holding my arm,holding my hand. Later on as I grew stronger and started walking on my own there was always a text asking if I was OK? Showing that whilst I was recovering well she still worried about me.
And now I'm back to work she still watches me like a hawk, looking for signs that I might be overdoing things....
But now that I have recovered well and we are returning back to normal I know that there is still one thing on her mind........the future. What does it hold for us? Will we have to go through it again?
The yearly scans will be difficult times.

I am so lucky that I have such a strong and loving wife who has been there for me throughout. No one should have to be put under that sort of pressure or deal with the issues that Tracey has had to over this last year.
But the reality is that this goes on every day and that there are thousands of other people supporting cancer patients, wives, husbands, mothers and fathers and children. Putting on a brave face, offering support, keeping strong and then crying into their pillows at night.
We need to not forget that they need support as all too often they are the unsung heroes who quietly get on with things while us patients get all the attention.

So I want to say thank you Tracey for everything, for loving me and supporting me through this terrible time. I love you, you're the best xx

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Getting back to normality...

Its now nearly a month since the stoma reversal operation and things are slowly returning to normal.
I'm feeling well but am being a little held back by the wound from the operation. Its healing well but taking its time due to the nature of it. Its a round, open wound that heals from the inside out and this is whats taking the time. The nurse is changing the dressings on a Monday and Thursday and insists that all is going very well and that I'm doing very well. I anticipate it being at least another three weeks yet though.
This means that I still cant really get back into the exercise routine in any real meaningful way so in the meantime I just have to be patient. I am walking regularly with a pack for added resistance and am going to get the exercise bike out and have a few gentle goes on that to do some easy cardio. Once the wound heals I hope to start some light weights again. I'm ever midful of the fact that I have arranged the sponsored Snowdon walk and have to get fit for this but at the same time have to get fit sensibly and not overdo things and set myself back and jepourdise the walk.

The good news is that I started back to work today! Only half days to begin with and then will build it up from there. It's great to be back at the sharp end again and for me its another clear indication that I'm now well on the way to recovery.

We also had a great family day out this weekend. We took the family across to the Forest of Dean and walked the Sculpture Trail. Tracey's sister and her husband Paul (a childhood friend of mine) came too along with my two nephews Danny and Jamie. It was the first time for them and we were blessed with great weather. We had a picnic first and then did the walk. We all had a really good time, especially the kids who could run,climb, get dirty and generally have fun. It was great, I really apreciate these days now. They are so valuable and should be cherished....

Monday, 24 May 2010

The Snowdon Horseshoe Fundraiser

I'd decided whilst in hospital at Basingstoke that once I was better I was going to do some fundraising to help the hospital. To try and give some thing back.

I racked my brains to try to come up with something that I could do that would be a challenge but not out of my reach considering what I had been through and the fact that I wouldnt be as fit as I had been.
The obvious thing that sprung to mind was the descent and ascent of Titan in the Peak district. This was a caving trip that we had booked last year but was cancelled due to my appendix bursting. Realistically this would be too tough at the moment though. The cave shaft is higher than the London eye and whilst the descent may not be too much of a problem the subsiquent prusik back up would be a killer and I just wont be ready for it. Maybe next year....

I'd recently done some walking and enjoyed it. Two weeks before the MOAS me and a group of freinds had walked Corn Ddu, Pen Y Ffan and Cribbin in about a foot of snow and sub zero tempretures. It was a big change from caving but we had all enjoyed it.
Walking would be easier, all I'd have to do is decide what and where?

Some months ago I had seen countryfile or something like that where the presenter walked the Watkin path on Snowdon. It looked great. I knew that it formed part of the famous Snowdon Horseshoe a tough and challenging walk. So I started some research.
The walk itself is only about 7 1/2 -8 mile long but is very challenging. Snowdons summit is some 3560 feet above sea level (Pen Y Fan 2907 ft). There are a few routes up the mountain but the Horseshoe takes in the daunting Crib Goch traverse which is only possible to be done in the right weather conditions. The walk takes around 6-7 hours on average to do. It sounded perfect!

So with the challenge sorted I then had to work out when would be the best time? I had to consider my fitness levels and giving myself time enough to get fit for the challenge coupled with getting our best chance with the weather and of course trying to get a team together that would all be available on the same weekend?

Finally we have decided on the weekend of the 20th,21st and 22nd of August. Leaving after work on the Friday and camping at Llanberis overnight. Doing the walk on the Saturday and again staying overnight and returning Sunday.
The team so far is

David Mason
Stephen Mason
Tony Mason
Jon Mason
Andrew Jackson
Rhys Whickham
Steve Read
Scott Bates

All have agreed to help fundraise. I have also set up a seperate blog page for the walk so you can follow our progress with training and of course report back on the big day itself. Most importantly a "just giving" page has also been set up to allow donations to be made on line. Links to both pages are in the useful links section.

The money raised will be donated to the Basingstoke and Northampshire Hospitals charity and specifically the Pseudamyxoma Peritonei fund. The money will be used to help fund research into PMP that is being done in partnership with Southampton University and also to buy equipment for the specialist ward.

If you wish to donate than you can either see one of the team members listed above or of course do it on line via the "Just giving" site. All donations are gratefully recieved and will be put to good use helping sufferers of PMP and funding research into this devestating desease........Thank you!

Getting back to normal......

I've been home a couple of weeks now and am recovering well. The wound from the stoma closure is taking a while to repair itself due to the type of wound that I have. The nurse is coming every few days to re-dress it and clean it up. I anticipate it being another three weeks or so before its properly healed.

It's great to be home though and whilst I cant do everything yet due to restictions on lifting and so on I'm doing most things now. I will be glad when I can get back to some rough and tumble with the kids and take them swimming again. It'll be a while yet before I can get back to caving due to its physical nature but I have been out walking.

I have found myself thinking about PMP less in the last week or so. Sure there is not a day goes by where I dont have to tend to the dressing I have in some way but in terms of PMP its no longer the heavey weight I have been carrying around with me for the last year. We are starting to plan for the future and have some things to look forward to.

The big news is that I return to work on the 1st June. Initially just doing 1/2 days to get back into the swing of things but I hope to very quickly be back to normal and doing full days. Again another step back to normality.

On 15th of May I had an anonomous comment from a follower that really made my day. This person is a fellow PMP sufferer in the U.S.A who has been following my blog. They had their operation about the same time as me in Portland, Maine. The comments that this person made really made me happy and have made all the effort writing this blog worth while. They said that my blog had helped them and that they enjoyed reading it. Knowing that I have helped just one fellow PMP sufferer is just reward and I was touched by their comments.It's exactly why I wrote this blog and I hope it will help others too. So this is a personal and heartfelt thank you to that person for those kind words and I wish you luck with your story.

Monday, 17 May 2010

Stoma closure day +5 Weds 12th May

I awoke bright as a button this morning. The sun blazed in through the window and the ward was stuffy from being shut up all night.
" I slept well" I commented to Graham who now occupied the bed to my left.
"I know you did, I could hear you" he replied.
Apparently I had been snoring most of the night which was unusual for me unless I have had a few beers!
I felt revitalised, the muzzy, tired feeling of the day before had gone, I was in no pain and my stomach felt fine.
I sat on the bed crossed legged with the latest issues of Trail magazine and Descent when suddenly I was surrounded by the doctors! They had come early on their rounds. Both Mr. Moran and Mr. Cecil were there.
"Blimey, you look better than when I last saw you" Mr. Cecil commented.
"He was sat out front last night" replied Mr Moran.
They asked how I felt, I told them that once the N.G tube had been fitted things had started to work within hours.
"That's interesting" they said
"In future I think we should just bite the bullet and do it" Mr Moran said to Mr. Cecil giving me the impression that they had perhaps experienced something similar before.
"So go home today?" said Mr. Moran.
"Today?" I said a little surprised.
"No reason why not, your well enough" he said.
"Great!" I replied and thanked them for all they had done.
I grabbed the phone immediately and phoned Tracey. She was pleased. The next thing was to try and arrange a lift back to Bristol at such short notice. Dad was working and his weekly day off wasn't until tomorrow so we may have to stay an extra night.
After a few calls Dad decided that he would come up and pick us up after work and then he could have a full day at home tomorrow.
I tidied my stuff up and got dressed into my civvies. The nurse came again to change my dressing and gave me some extra for the district nurse to use when we got home.
I had a wander down to C2 ward to see if anyone was around who I knew just to say hello. They were all pretty busy and there were a lot of new faces there. I then stopped by Sue's office but she too was out on he rounds.
Finally the time came to leave, Dad was arriving late afternoon and the nurses wanted my bed so I decided to go back to the flat with Tracey. I said my goodbye's to the chaps on the ward and wished them all luck. It was like a mass exodus, both Albert and Colin were also leaving today, Paul was due to leave the following day, leaving Graham and Dave.
We said our goodbye's to the nurses and left them a box of chocolates as thanks and then headed down to the flat. It was good to be out. On the way I bumped in to Sarah, one of the nurses who had looked after me on C2. We chatted for a while and she remarked on how well I looked. I thanked her again for all she did for me whilst I was in her care.
Once down at the flat we made a cuppa and sat with the T.V on awaiting Dad's arrival. The T.V was full of election news that David Cameron was the new Prime Minister. Whist we sat there I noticed one of the male nurses stood outside having a cigarette. It was Vasili the nurse who looked after me for the biggest part of my stay in ICU. He'd looked after me very well and I wanted to thank him for everything he'd done for me.
"Good to see you standing up!" he said witha smile in his Romanian accent.
"How are you Vasili?" I enquired.
We chatted for a while, him telling me how things were going on ICU.
"We have good month's and bad month's" he said. "Sometimes the Pseudo patients are moved from ICU onto the ward only to come back again a week later with chest infections or other problems. It goes in fits and starts. The one thing I have noticed though in my 12 months here so far is that it's all about the patients attitude. If you go into it already admitting defeat, feeling down then you will struggle. If like you Dave, you are positive and fit and healthy you will do well. I cant believe just how much your mental attitude towards it has such a big part to play in the outcome"
I'd always thought this was the case and people always say it. But to hear it as an observation from an actual ICU nurse couldn't be any clearer. If you are going to get through this without too many problems then a positive mental attitude must be adopted. Fact.
We chatted a little longer and then I thanked him again and we said our goodbye's.
Dad arrived a little after 16:00, we had another cuppa and then loaded the car and made our way home. Isn't it just typical, the one time you really just want to get home and you get caught in traffic. A poxy hole in the ground just outside Newbury held us up for ages.
We arrived home early in the evening during a heavy shower. Chloe was at the door waiting for me and Jess in the window. It was great to see them again, I'd really missed them. I grabbed my coat and pulled it over my head and made a dash from the car to the house. I hugged the girls who were excited to see me and then hugged Mum.
They were surprised to see me in such good condition and expected me to be in a similar state as to when I came home from the MOAS I think.
It was great to be home.
Just before bed I jumped on the scales. I was down to 10 stone 11lbs. That's bang on a 2 stone weight loss since the point I was admitted in February.

Stoma closure day +4 Tues 11th May

The nurses awoke us at our usual time of 06:00. I was tired from a busy night walking back and fourth to the bathroom wheeling my drip stand and holding the drain for the N.G. tube. I stayed in bed and dozed,quietly content that things were finally working as they should. I felt much better, the acidity and gastric reflux I was suffering from had gone I felt completely different.
The doctors came around about 08:30 and advised that the N.G. tube could come out and that the drip could also come out when it had finished. The timer on the stand showed another five hours yet though. I couldn't wait to be free of all the attachments and get in to the bathroom and have a nice long shower. The nurse was prompt and she came back pretty quickly after the doctors has left to remove the N.G tube. This was far easier to deal with than having it put in. The trick as with allot of these things is to just relax and go with the flow. A few seconds and it was all over with and felt so much better. You could constantly feel the tube in your throat when it was in and it was made worse when you turned your head as the tube moved. But I was free now and it felt great!
I sat in the chair at the side of the bed and waited for the drip to finish. I kept myself amused with books and the DVD player and waited patiently for the drip to empty. I found myself watching the digital countdown on the drip getting more and more excited as the time drew near for it to finish. Before long the alarm sounded to show that there was less than five minutes remaining and I notified the nurse. She arrived back not long after and removed the drip, capping off the end of the cannula. One trick I have found useful is that if you have a cannula in not being used get the nurses to put some tubigrip over the top, it stops it getting snagged on clothing and so on.
I called Tracey and we arrange to go for a walk before lunch was served. We strolled down to the foyer and sat in the chairs for a while watching the hustle and bustle of people coming and going. I headed back just before lunch, I was feeling really well and apart from the odd stomach cramp was in no pain at all. I was told I may suffer from cramps and indigestion as the bowl returned to life.
Lunch was served and this time it wasn't just a drink I was given. I had soup, jelly and ice cream. I have to say that hospital ice cream is weired stuff, it doesn't melt, just gets warm and still holds the same shape and texture. Not sure what its made from but was very welcome to someone who hadn't eaten for days.
The nurse came around in the afternoon and changed my dressing again. Shortly afterwards Tracey arrived and we sat for a while and talked with Paul next door. We went for another stroll, I had a craving for some chocolate and bought some Cadburys Giant chocolate buttons. Yum!
To help the time pass throughout the afternoon I scheduled in a number of tasks at certain times throughout. I wouldn't let myself do the said task until it was time so as to try and keep myself as busy as possible and string things out. The best thing I did was go take the long awaited shower. I started first with a shave as to have the shower first would have meant that the mirror would be steamed up making things difficult. Once shaved, I stripped and then prepared the shower. It was at this point that I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror for the first time properly since the operation and it was a poignant moment. I no longer had the stoma bag hanging from the right side of my abdomen. I felt quite choked. In its place was just a small post op dressing. I hadn't realised just how much "the bag" had affected me, I'd just blocked it out as part of the coping process and now I was free of it. It felt good, I felt almost normal again. I enjoyed that long hot shower.
I sat quietly the rest of that afternoon waiting for dinner to be served and then to see Tracey again. Tiredness was catching up with me but I couldn't sleep,there was just a glimmer of excitement that I might just be going home in the next day or so. That evening Tracey and I took a walk again, we took the stairs rather than the lifts to get some additional exercise. I'd missed the doctors on their rounds somehow as I'd assumed they might not come around as they would be busy in surgery as Tuesday is MOAS day. However we bumped into Mr. Moran on our walk, he was busy chatting to some other doctor dressed in his scrubs. He saw me and waved "your looking better"he said with a smile.
"thanks" I replied and he carried on chatting with his colleague.
I was desperate for some fresh air in my lungs so Tracey and I made our way outside of the main entrance and sat on the benches. The rain had stopped and the sun had come out and it was a nice evening, cool but refreshing after the stuffy air of the ward. We sat for half an hour, my arm around Tracey.It felt good. Mr. Moran then breezed past this time in his suit and on his way home. He tapped me on my knee as he passed.
"Good to see you looking so well" he said and kept walking.
"thanks" I replied.

Tracey and I made our way back to the ward shortly afterwards. My eyes were dry where I was so tired but still I couldn't settle down to sleep. Tracey left and I led on the bed. I grabbed my MP3 and put on some nice relaxing classical music. It felt good, I was so relaxed the music was amazing and I led there like that for over an hour just chilling to the music, feeling good, feeling relieved, contemplating what the future might hold. Was this ordeal now over?

Friday, 14 May 2010

Stoma closure day +3 Mon 10th May

I immediatly felt better today after a descent nights sleep. Again I still was only on a liquid diet so went without breakfast again today. As I was feeling ok (ish) I met Tracey in the morning and w went for a walk and sat down on some benches where we could look out on some ponds with fish in. I was still not right though,constantly shifting around as i couldnt get comfortable.
I again had a liquid lunch but I could feel things backing up again. There was still no sign of any movement and there was much interest into my bowl movement and flatus!
Tracey arrived at 14:00 as ususal and could see I was still not right and was going downhill fast. I was in constant pain, felt sick and bloated.
I called the nurse and said that I was feeling unwell and that it was not a case of if I was going to be sick but when. For that I got another antisickness jab in the bum which made me feel equally woozy again. So now I felt faint, and in discomfort. The doctors were called.
They arrived promptly and both Mr Moran and Mr Cecil were there, they could see I was suffering. I asked for the N.G tube. They were surprised. People dont generally ask for this as its not a nice proceedure. Basically the tube is fed via the nose down the throat and into the stomach where excess liquid is then drained out into a bag. All the time you are wide awake. But I was in pain, I felt awful, I needed this.
"O.K" they said "We'll do the N.G tube and insert a drip as you are getting dehydrated".
The nurse's arrived back promptly and got straight on with it thankfully whilst my mind was made up. It was horrible. I have to say it was one of my worst hospital experiences so far and was pretty sick. But the effects were immediate. I sat quiet for the next couple of hours with the curtains drawn around the bed whilst I settled from the whole experience.
Tracey came to visit me at 18:00 and by then I was feeling better although the n.g tube does irritate your throat. The sickness had eased and I was feeling a bit better. I had a quiet evening and didnt do much at at all.
Around 22:00 though things started to change, I needed the toilet. I got up quickly and made my way to the bathroom.
Celebration time! Things were starting to work! I emerged from the bathroom with a big grin and bumped straight into Moana one of the nurses.
" You been?" she said in her phillipeno accent.
"Yup" I replied smiling.
"Thats brilliant Dave,hooray"
I walked into the ward and all eyes were upon me. I said nothing just gave the thumbs up and a huge cheer went up! It was really funny. I think secretly they just all wanted a good nights sleep. They got it. It was a busy one for me though!

Stoma closure day +2 Sun 9th May

I awoke feeling much better, still getting the odd stomach cramps but not feeling quite so sick. The doctors arrived quite early. One of my consultants said that i shouldnt have been given the food and should only have been on a liquid diet until by bowels had started to move. Basically what had happened is after the operation the point where the bowel had been joined back together had obviously swelled as all wounds do after injury. This had the effect of closing the bowl temporarily until the swelling eased, in effect acting as a break. What then happened is that as I ate the food backed up in my stomach until the only way out was by vomiting. I now had to take a step backwards, only taking in liquid until my bowels started to work and then introduce food slowly.
Whilst there the doctor looked at the wound. Its a circular type wound that has a single stitch running around it like a "purse string". The centre of the wound is then left open with some gauze in it so the wound heals from the inside out and then any unwanted gunge ouzes out and is absorbed by the gauze rather than get trapped in. Over this is a small dressing. Everything was fine and the dressing was changed.
Throughout the morning I felt ok but again, taking in liquids throughout the day this seemed to back up and at 16:00 I was sick again.Afterwards of course I felt better again.
The doctor called again later and advised that if the vomiting did not settle and my bowls started to work then I would need a drip and possibly a Nasogastric tube (N.G tube).
I had a ok nights sleep but was still uncomfortable and suffering with bloating and indigestion.

Stoma closure day +1 Sat 8th May

I had a good night, I'd been moved to the next ward down late yesterday evening and now had new room mates but had slept well and again felt ok.
In the usual manner we were awoken at 6am by the nurse doing the observations;blood pressure, o2 saturation,heart rate and temperature and then the meds round. Most of us dozed in between.
Breakfast was served at 09:00 and I had some rice crispies and toast. As people surfaced and became more with it the introductions were made. I was in a middle bed in two rows of three. To my right was a chap called Paul, an older fellow who'd been the CEO of some engineering company. He'd lost his right big toe due to diabetes. Opposite him was a chap called Colin who like to be called "Micky" owing to the fact that his surname was Finn. Opposite me was Albert, in his 90's and acutely deaf he'd sit in his chair missing out on the conversation around the ward,reading his paper with his hearing aid whistling! To my left was Terry a quiet but well spoken chap who had been in for some fairly major bowl surgery and opposite him was Dave, a captain Nemo look a like with a broad Lancashire accent. We all hit it off well.
The day rolled by slowly as they often do in hospital. Tracey couldn't meet me until 14:00 so we spoke on the phone and text each other. Dinner was served at 12:00. A mild chicken curry with rice. This was the straw that broke the camel's back. Throughout the afternoon I increasingly felt worse and worse. Stomach cramps,bloating,heartburn and pain. I felt sick. I started vomiting around 4pm and didn't stop until 4am on Sunday morning. I felt awful,in pain and tired. The night duty doctor was called and came to see me I had been given Omeprezole to help with the reflux, Cyclizine tablets. The doctor advised that if the vomiting didn't stop they may need to do some x-rays to see what was causing it. They gave me a further two anti sickness injections in my backside that made me feel really woozy and then I slept.....

Operation day.... 7th May 2010

I had a good nights sleep. I was surprised, often your nerves get the better of you the night before and op and I was also in a room with six other chaps that wasn't particularly dark or quiet. Perhaps I'm getting a little too used to this hospital life.
Again I didn't feel too nervous about the operation. It was only a small one where I was only expected to be knocked out for around and hour and a half. "A walk in the park compared to the last one" Sue had told me. I had a shower and got myself ready.
The porter turned up at 09:30, quite a bit earlier than expected so I had to ring Tracey to come up and see me off as there were now strict visiting hours in force around the hospital to reduce infection.
I walked to theatre! Tracey was with me most of the way and we stopped at the entrance to say cheerio, hug and kiss. "I wont be long" I said. I then turned and made my way with the porter into the theatre pre op rooms. A deep we go again then and focus....
In pre op I hopped onto the bed and made myself comfortable. The room was the same one as where I had my central line changed before, the bed in the middle, stainless steel tables down each side of the room with cupboards on the wall stuffed with surgical gadgets and equipment. Infront of me were two double doors into the operating theatre, one was open and I could see the operating table with the huge pivoting light above it.The door was quickly closed.
The anaesthetist started to talk me through what was happening, they removed my glasses and put them to one side. The nice thing about it is they always work quickly at this point and don't hang around keeping you waiting. I was soon fast asleep.
The next thing I knew I was in recovery, that was quick! again my memories of this are pretty sketchy but I was far more aware than any of the two other ops I'd had before. Tracey was on the ward to see me back and I was pretty sleepy for a while. I soon perked up though and remember feeling really quite well, far better that ever before. My worries about suffering from hallucinations were unfounded and I had no problem with anything like that.
As the day wore on I dipped in and out of sleep but was increasingly well. Surprisingly I was allowed onto a light diet, so I ate some soup for tea that evening (big mistake).

Stoma closure admission day.........6th May 2010

We arrived at Basingstoke at around 09:30 after an early start but thankfully uneventful journey. The next job was to once again get Tracey booked into the on site accommodation. This time rather than her own flat she shared with other people so it gave her some company.She was a little nervous being on her own but as soon as we walked in we bumped into a member of the Christies forum which helped break the ice and settle Tracey.
We the headed to Costa coffee for a bite to eat and a drink before heading for the X ray department for my 10:30 appointment. At this point I was pretty relaxed about the whole thing. I felt that nothing could be as bad as what I went through last time and I'd managed that so I could manage this.
At the X ray department they were running on time and I didn't have to wait long. I was soon called and made my way to a cubicle where I had to change into the usual hospital gown. I was then shown through to the X-ray room. It looked a pretty standard piece of kit to my untrained eye. I was expecting something slightly different given what they were doing but this wasn't the case.
The nurse explained thoroughly what would happen. The whole procedure would take less than 10 minutes. A small tube is inserted into the back end and a series of pictures taken to establish where the join has been made in surgery. The photos have to be taken at different angles so it did involve shifting around to different positions on the table. Once they were happy then the dye is injected via the tube to check for leaks, again the photos are taken from different angles and that's it, job done.
The experience certainly wasn't painful but at the same time not enjoyable! You just have to get on with it, it has to be done. You are then ushered to a bathroom to tidy yourself up and get changed. All pretty straight forward really and over fairly quickly. I was back in the waiting room by about 10:50.
Next I made my way to "C" floor Elective Surgery Admissions as I had been instructed. The nurse went through the admission papers and explained that "C2" was full and that I was to be admitted to a bed on a mixed ward on "C4". I was a little disappointed but what could I do. As we were there early they didn't need me for a while so again we were free to go off to the restaurant for some lunch for an hour.

I made my way back to the ward and was shown to my bed. I got myself settled and was soon visited by one of the doctors. She took blood and inserted a cannula in the back of my left hand. It seems that surprisingly my veins hadn't recovered properly from the last op yet and she struggled a bit. This was unusual as normally they have no problem with me as I have a pretty good cardio vascular system due to all the running and stuff.
I was also given an E.C.G. This was a bit of a strange one? So we asked, and to my surprise was told that post MOAS they has discovered that I had a small amount of fluid around my heart! I was shocked, this was the first I had heard about it. I vaguely remember having a heart scan when I was in ICU but it was all a bit blurred due to my drug induced state but I clearly remembered the lady saying that a I had a "beautiful heart" and to be honest would have been shocked at anything else again due to the fact I don't really drink, don't smoke and the sheer volume of exercise I do.
The doctor explained that the E.C.G results were fine, it was just a precaution and that the fluid around the heart post MOAS was caused by the trauma of the operation as the body often will store fluids around the body which then is re-absorbed. Phew!
Then that was that, I made myself comfortable and settled down with an episode of "Band of Brothers" on the DVD player.
I was second on the list to go down for surgery in the morning. The consultant just wanted the radiographer to check my scan results before she proceeds. I anticipate going down around about 10am. I'm nil by mouth from midnight so tuck into a pack of Jaffa cakes for supper......

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Off to Basingstoke and making tentative plans for the next adventure..

So here we go again, early tomorrow we head off to Basingstoke for yet another stay in hospital. It'll be my third in a year. Hopefully though this one will be much easier than the last one. My appointment for the water soluble enema is at 10:30 am so will mean we will have to be on the road by 07:00 to do battle with the rush hour traffic.
The aim of the scan is to inject a dye into my bowl allowing the doctors to watch the dye's progress as it travels through my system. They will be looking for any leaks in my bowl where it has not healed properly from the MOAS allowing the dye to escape into my abdominal cavity. Hopefully that wont be the case and the dye will stay within the bowl and this means its healed properly allowing the stoma closure operation to go ahead on Friday.
Once the scan is completed I then have to go up to "C" ward for admission and to get myself settled while we await the results of the scan.
I don't feel too worried about the prospect of yet another operation, third time lucky! That said I haven't slept too well in the last few nights and will probably use some chemical help tonight to ensure a good night and arrive at the hospital well rested. I'm hoping I'll be re-admitted to ward C2 where I know I'll get a peaceful nights sleep but that's not guaranteed.
The operation is far less invasive this time and only takes around 1 1/2 hrs so not too much anesthetic. I'm hoping that this will mean that I'll feel a bit better when I come around and will recover quickly. I'm keen to get back to normal now,start work again and all the other things that I enjoy and also book that holiday with the family.

I plan to do the same as when I had the MOAS and write a detailed diary whist in hospital that I can update here once I'm back home. The estimated stay in hospital is between 3-5 days so I hope by Wednesday of next week to be back home. We'll see....

In the last few days I have been up to my old tricks and planning the next big adventure. It of course relies on me making a good recovery and being strong again by the end of August as that's is when I'm planning it for. "What is it" I hear you ask?
well you'll just have to hang on a while as I'm not going to announce it properly until I'm confident that I'm well enough to do it, I don't want to tempt fate. But its going to be good and its going to be a fundraiser for the hospital and research into PMP. The plans are firming up however and a team is in the process of being put together. We know what we want to do and details are being finalised. I just have to get fit!
It's been good actually as its meant that I have had something to focus on,something to organise, and to look forward to. Watch this space.......!