“The band is just fantastic, that is really what I think, Oh, and by the way, which one's Pink?”
I’ve been back at work now for a couple of months and its really not been at all bad. My GP suggested easing my way back into work so she has written me a “fit note” that suggests I work just three days a week. Working three days a week really is far more civilised, I tend to ensure I am more productive to make up for the reduction in hours and I seem to get almost as much done each week. Once again my employers are being incredibly understanding. They obviously had to bring in an additional manager to cover for me whilst I was out, and now that I’m back she’s still taking a lot of the heaving lifting for me. She’s attending all of the weekly meetings that I used to, and writing a lot of the reports and managing the teams day to day activities leaving me free to concentrate on the more strategic aspects of my role. This plays to my strengths too and its rather nice to have the time away from meetings to rework and structure the strategy of the large amount of upcoming work. Nice as it is to be working three days a week, I can’ get away with that indefinitely. The plan is therefore for me to work part time up until Christmas while I continue taking my chemotherapy and managing the side effects. After Christmas my oncologist plans to put me on a chemotherapy break, and I plan to return to work full time in January. The length of my chemotherapy break will be dependant on how well I do off the drugs, as soon as the cancer shows any signs of growing again I will need to go straight back on it. I should however easily manage three to six months on a break and there’s a possibility I could remain chemo-free for a year. My target is therefore to remain off the chemotherapy completely in 2017 and get a full year of work in. That’s my hope at least, and it doesn’t seem that unreasonable.
For now though I have a series of long weekends (thanks to my three-day week), which is handy because I have a few things planned as a result of when I decided I needed to get off my arse and do a few more things a few months back. It’s also nearly my birthday again and I’m determined to make a better fist of my 50th than my disastrous 49th. I’ve therefore got a shit load of fun stuff planned.
First up is one of those posh train journeys with the full silver service dinner. We board at Swindon, smartly attired and ready for a days pampering. We’re heading up to York and then on to Castle Howard for a guided shufty around the old place. Our fellow passengers however don’t seem to have made much of an effort. Tori is a bit like Lucy Worsley – she takes every opportunity to dress up in some fancy clothes when she can. We’re served a full English breakfast as we slowly pull out of Swindon and head North. An endless supply of cakes, tea, coffee and bucks fizzes appear each time we clear the table and it seems rude not to try an make the effort to tidy things up a bit. The train plods along slowly through the Midlands and we are told that there is a fault on the engine that means we will need to change engines at Derby. The slow progress means that we will miss our connecting coach to Castle Howard and will have to make do with an afternoon out in York instead. By the time we arrive at York it turns out that I’m actually having a pretty bad day and my chemotherapy side effects seem to be ganging up on me. At York I can make it no further than the Railway Museum and I have to spend much of the time just sat in the café due to the amount of pain I am in. We have a roast turkey dinner with all the trimmings planned for the way home, and I manage to make an attempt on the turkey before spending the rest of the return journey in the toilet. It’s rather frustrating to be sat in the toilet all the way home when we’ve booked such plush and opulent seats in the premier dinning carriage.
Next up is a few more meals to celebrate my upcoming 50th birthday. We head over to Bath for the day for a look around the Christmas market and a meal with my friend Colin and his family. The day after that my Mother comes to visit and takes us for a pub meal in the next village. The day after that and my friend James has arranged a meal out and a theatre trip in Southampton. James has arranged for a load of friends from London and Winchester Skeptics to turn up laden with gifts and we have a lovely meal followed by a trip to theatre to see Fantastic Mr. Fox. Fortunately, my bowels are behaving themselves slightly better than they were on the way back from York so I managed to remain in my seat for the performance. Just.
Our final excursion the following weekend is a trip to Christmas market in Lille with our friends Lorraine and Anthony. I manage to keep my bowels under control for most of the weekend affording us enough time to explore the city and its eating establishments.
When we get home from Lille there is a suspicious looking package waiting for me on my doorstep. I pick it up and turn it over for clues as I walk into the house with it. It’s about A3 sized, padded, and has been addressed by hand. I tear into the package and am completely bemused by the pair of drumsticks within. The drumsticks have some writing on them and there is also a hand written card that reads:
“Hi Crispian, My friend Aoife, who is a friend of Milton asked me to send you a pair of medicinal drumsticks! Wishing you all the very best, Nick Mason”
|Me proudly displaying my new drumsticks.|
WTF! The drummer from Pink Floyd has personally sent me a pair of his drumsticks, and wished me all the best. If you have been reading this blog in it’s entirety you probably may well have picked up a hint as to the fact that I am a massive Pink Floyd fan. I’ve had some very nice birthday presents this year but I’m afraid getting a signed pair of drumsticks from Nick Mason himself eclipses them all.
I’m due to stop taking my chemotherapy on the 28th December after I’ve seen Doctor Wheater to confirm that it is OK to do so. After spending an embarrassingly long time on the toilet at my cousin’s house on Boxing Day morning (We finally made it back home to Cornwall for Christmas this year), I decide it’s time to pull the plug on the pazopanib. When I see Dr. Wheater a few days later, he confirms that I am now ready to start my planned chemotherapy break. I don’t bother letting him know that I actually stopped two days ago anyway.
After finally having the New Years Eve party that never actually happened last year, I head back to fulltime employment at the beginning of January. I can feel the fog of the side effects gently slipping away day by day and I’m hopeful that 2017 is going to be a big improvement on 2016. I decide to try and be a bit more active at work and set out on a lunch time walk to ensure I get a break from the office and a little bit of light exercise. I track my exercise progress on my new Apple Watch and notice that a brief forty-five minute stroll through the woods is enough to complete about ¾ of my green exercise circle. The following day I notice that the exact same walk completes a little more than ¾ ‘s of my exercise circle. Indeed, each day I seem to be completing a little bit more of my green circle suggesting that I have had to put in more energy to complete the exact same walk. By the end of the week I’m easily completing a full circle and feeling quite breathless at the end of it too. Things get steadily worse in the second week back at work and I’m now really struggling to complete my lunchtime walk, and I need five minutes to get my breathe back after climbing a single flights of stairs too. I ring my oncologist for a chat and he suggests its far too early for the cancer to start growing back and that I should visit my GP, get and X-ray, and perhaps a course of antibiotics just in case I have a chest infection. I visit my GP and she too seems sure its just a chest infection and prescribes me some antibiotics. Surely its just an infection and not the cancer aggressively growing back as soon as I have stopped my chemotherapy treatment?
Notes to readers: The last 3 blogposts have covered a period between September 2016 and January 2017. During this time things were going pretty well (apart from the chemotherapy side effects). I want to continue writing in chronological order and not miss any bits out, however as the last paragraph alludes to, things started to go down hill quite quickly at the end of January and have been worse still in the last month. I am hoping that my health will prevail enough in order to allow me to continue writing and to bring you completely up to date with my situation. Bear with.