♫ September♫

 

 

IMG_0322Walking through the City in that lovely early evening autumnal light and feeling very calm and peaceful.

I ran into someone at a conference this afternoon who greeted me with a kiss and said ‘You look great – you’ve lost weight, haven’t you?  What’s your secret?’  I smiled and said that I had indeed lost weight, and that I was feeling great and that my secret was cancer.’ It’s a tough one.  Do I just smile and say nothing?  Do I lie and say exercise and eating well?  I don’t want to shock people and I don’t want people to feel sorry for me.   I took the view that I should just be open and honest but make a big deal of the fact that I am feeling well now.

Back to my autumnal stroll – once again, I feel like I am in a bubble looking out on the world. Unlike last November when I was feeling shocked and scared because I had cancer and I felt different than all of those healthy people around me, this time I feel a sense of nothing can touch me because I am alive and feeling happy and grateful to be feeling well.  I feel like nothing can upset me; everything else pales in comparison to the joy of being alive and experiencing life.  It’s a powerful feeling and I really want to hold onto it and use it for good.  Annoyances at work, minor inconveniences, letdowns, disappointments, disagreements, and so on – so what?

Last week I visited Venice for the first time, and in the morning I got up early and went for a 5 mile run along the Grand Canal.  I watched the sun rising with ELO’s ‘I’m Alive’ playing through my headphones as a soundtrack and it was positively life affirming.  A big entry in the Gratitude Journal on my return!

Life is good and I will remain in this positive bubble as long as I can…

Dock of the bay

Brenda Sailfest

Early on in the Intensive Care Unit I urged Brenda to picture us in Canada six months hence. Time flies and we’re currently enjoying our home from home in Nova Scotia. Here is our Wonder Woman, looking fab (despite protesting she had no make up on), dropping Teddy and India off at the Lunenburg 2017 Sailfest this morning.

 

 

 

Mr Blue Sky

There has been no need to update the blog lately as we have seen so many of you in person. It has been great to celebrate Brenda’s ‘Not her birthday’, Canada Day and ‘Brenda’s actual birthday’ with so many friends and the odd relation (odd – meant in the kindest way. Soon we will catch up with the folks in sunny (you hear that Canada…sunny) Nova Scotia and the celebrations can all start again.

This evening we have been to Teddy’s second gig at the Grey Lady in Tunbridge Wells. Brenda and I both agree that watching, listening and willing him on has been one of the most stressful parts of parenting we’ve experienced. I’ve attached the raw footage of ‘Blue Skies’ written by Teddy with an eye to the last six months. Rather touchingly India burst into tears when she learned this and listened to it again. It is a lovely tribute to Brenda and quite catchy, too.

 

Driving in my car

 

IMG_0338As part of my recovery I had planned a trip down to Provence to stay with friends Rony and Grant. Having ticked that off the list and the children back at school I had a meeting with my Surgeon today.

Trend and I made the trip back to Basingstoke today for my second check-in with my surgeon. I was prepared with a list of questions and was keen to show him that I was fit, healthy and positive, and to get a ‘star patient’ rating from him.

All went well. I asked him for a description of the surgery as I now feel far enough away from it to be interested. He explained very briefly what they had done in slightly less technical terms than the letter that he had sent post-op and both Trend and I were once again amazed at how much was taken out of me. I was also surprised to hear that my stomach lining will not all grow back but that I can happily live without it. I asked a few more questions about the hot chemo treatment and the blood transfusions and was assured that it was all very much as expected for such a major surgery and that unless I was planning to become a surgeon, I didn’t need to know any more details. And, given that he does several of these surgeries each week and has probably done more than anyone in the world, I can accept that.

I was surprised to be reminded that yesterday was the 6-month anniversary of the surgery – time flies when you spend half of it on opiates! He thought that my scar was healing well he was pleased to hear that I am up to 10K in my running. I asked if there were any limitations in terms of sports or activities and he said ‘no’ – I’m fine to do all the things that I could do pre-surgery.

I did, however, ask what the odds are of it coming back. He reminded me that he couldn’t give me any guarantees and that I would have a scan on my 1-year anniversary and each year after up to 5 years before they could declare me ‘clear’. He said that 2/3 of his patients don’t have any further problems. My initial reaction was that 2 out 3 sounds pretty good to me. On later reflection I turned it round and realised that 33.33% have recurrence. I’m a glass half-full person, so I’m not going to dwell on that number. I’m going to mentally park myself in the 2 out of 3 camp. I’m going to keep exercising and keep making healthy smoothies with my Nutri-Ninja , and I’m going to try to do some fundraising for the Pelican Foundation Charity that drives innovation in precision surgery for these types of cancer. AND, most importantly, I’m going to continue to treat each day as the first day of the rest of my life – with lots of love and gratitude, hugs, humour and purpose.

The Sounds of Silence

Had a bit of a down day yesterday following an unpleasant early morning work-related call.  I got home mid-afternoon to find a book in the post from my cousin in Canada – ‘The History of Love’, which was a very kind gesture.  I mentally logged it for entry into my Gratitude journal later and I started to feel a bit better.  I then picked up the Guardian Review on Saturday and read an article about surgeons and, in particular, my amazing surgeon Brenda Moran.   Trend then wrote a great blogpost with various quotes from the article including one from Mr. Moran on the fact that a surgery very similar to mine was ‘very major surgery’ and a bit about what it actually entails.  My Gratitude bucket started to fill up.  I felt grateful for Mr. Moran’s decision nearly four decades ago to become a surgeon and not a vet and his decision to take on my case.  I then remembered the email exchange that I had over the weekend with Dr. Christina Arjion and how grateful I am to her for sending me for that first ultrasound.  My gratitude bucket was filling up.  And then I thought about the two visits over the weekend from my university friends from Canada and how much we had enjoyed spending time with them.  More Gratitude washed over me.   This triggered a flashback to early November before I met the amazing Mr. Moran when I looked out of the window and imagined a time when family, friends, and fresh air might no longer be available to me.   After dinner I took the Bonz for a walk without in any distractions – no phone or iPod – and I just enjoyed living in the moment, seeing, truly seeing the trees, the bluebells and the blossoms and listening to the birdsong and smelling the plants, the bonfires and the fresh cut grass.  I felt so very grateful to be alive and to be able to breathe deeply and take it all in fully.  I was truly energised by it and I felt renewed and refreshed.  I will do it again and again and I will savour that feeling and draw on it when I need it most.  It’s good to be alive. B

 

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Doctor and the Medics

An interesting article in this weekend’s Guardian Review entitled ‘Your life in their hands William Boyd on the rise of the surgeon writer’. Boyd explores what it means to work in the fraught and perilous world of the operating theatre. In it, a particular surgeon interviewed states phlegmatically.

‘Surgery is legalised assault, from one point of view. Just as you can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs, you can’t be a surgeon without cutting people open with sharp knives.’

I was particularly interested in what this surgeon had to say because he is our surgeon, or rather Brenda’s, Brendan Moran. Immediately following his introduction as a ‘world famous colorectal surgeon’ two of the surgeon writers are quoted, on what I assume, are similar procedures to the one Brenda has undergone.

‘Atul Gawande succinctly describes what is the norm: “We made a fast, deep slash down the middle of the abdomen, from rib cage to pubis. We grabbed retractors and pulled him open”.

Gabriel Weston says: “We cut the woman open from breastbone to pubis and cleared her gut out with one deep sweep.”

If her scar is anything to go by, this is what happened to Brenda.

The article continues to discuss Brendan Moran (…and Brenda, read this bit carefully and think about it.)

‘One of the major operations he performs is treat a rare cancer of the appendix, pseudomyxoma peritonei, that can involve stripping out the lining of the abdomen and other organs and then washing the abdominal cavity with a heated solution (40 degrees) of chemotherapy drugs (remember I said he was phlegmatic…) “VERY MAJOR SURGERY” Moran describes it.

Up until now we’ve described Brenda’s operation as major surgery. Now, the very guy who performed it, inserts the very. There is no doubting that Brenda’s recovery has been remarkable and her return to work speedy, if perhaps hasty. Let’s not lose sight of what has happened and consider that…fully.

Brenda Moran, I for one salute you.

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