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!