My white blood cells are deserters!

This is no time to go to sleep!

Good and bad news. Due to start chemo 2nd cycle tomorrow and face the picket line, but after seeing my oncologist this afternoon, my white blood cell count is too low to continue.

This means I have a week off to try and get the little deserters to come back and fight. I am feeling really tired and thought this was normal service, but apparently not. Means I need injections to stimulate the white blood cells which comes with a new set of side effects including bone pain. Poor body not coping well with chemo, in the words of my upbeat oncologist “If I continue with treatment this week, I could kill you!”. So, books, TV and lots of rest for me this week and back in next Wednesday for another try.

lol x

Radio Ga Ga

First challenge done, radio interview completed!  If you have 15 mins of your life you  feel like chucking away, you can listen to the audio clip below. Live radio certainly brings out the verbally incontinent side of me and I sound like a proper hooray henry! Apologies to Mr Soonawalla (my Liver Surgeon) for any suggestions he sliced me open like a melon and thanks to the nice people at Radio Cherwell, Jill from Oxford Radcliffe Hospitals fundraising team and any poor inpatients who didn’t try to electrocute themselves during the broadcast.

Please don’t frighten the horses

My very first challenge days after I was diagnosed was given to me by my best friend Jenny.  Knowing that Lois and I would donate a kidney for the chance of seeing the Spanish Riding School, she had lovingly booked a couple of tickets for their first London Tour in 5 years.  I remember thinking it was a daunting 3 months in the future and I couldn’t be sure how I would be feeling or whether my mum, who has hippophobia would have to go in my place.  Thankfully for both of us that was not the case.

So after banking a load of sleep and taking an industrial supply of bacterial hand wipes and a promise to wear my ‘Michael Jackson eat your heart out’ mask, I set off with Lois, determined to avoid the great unwashed!

It worked a treat as miraculously we appeared to re-enact the parting of the red sea wherever we went.   We were warned the horses were easily spooked and no flash photography was allowed, which like all good citizens, we ignored. So I figured if the horses could put up with red flashes going off around the arena, my terrorist mask was the least of their problems.

Look into my eyes...

The nobility of the horses and riders brings a lump to your throat and once they filled the arena with the regal sound of the Overture to Suite No.1 in F Major from Handel’s Water Music, I was a gonna! I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. Thank you Jenny.

And to complete a wonderful day, Super Dad and Super Mum were waiting outside to drive us back home!  This happily coincided with a rush to Wembley for the X Factor quarter final results so traffic was beginning to resemble a Beijing Expressway. Never one to sit in a traffic jam when there is an illegal bus route he can take, My Dad set off on a mission to beat the traffic.   The next bit in the family script is for my mother to give him a good ticking off which of course she didn’t disappoint!

I am back home now and hungry as a horse watching Tim wrestle with 3 separate meals.  Stew for Joseph, Spinach and egg curry for me and vegetarian sausages for Lois.  Yummy.

p.s. Yes Hippophobia is a fear of horses.  Totally unfair of me as my mum has had to conquer this fear after taking on my horsey duties and accompanying Lois to the stables.  No mean feat when Welly (the pony) is less than gentlemanly and liable to put the willys up anyone!

Has anyone tried hot elderflower tea?

This is a post about the increasing number of smaller hoops a 6 feet 4 Tim has to jump through daily to appease a health obsessed me on a mission to rid my body of cancer!

It all starts in the morning with a bowl of porridge (organic whole oats of course, no microwave allowed) and blueberries.  Tim picked up this trick from Bruce Forsyth who credits his longevity to porridge and precisely 12 blueberries each morning.  But as Tim is an artist, naturally my porridge comes with a new design each morning which is quite a feat to complete before the porridge goes cold and I throw it all over him!  I also get a nice cup of tea with rice milk as I am dairy free (ish). 

This is a Mondrian, yes?

This might seem reasonably easy to you, but when we now have a dozen water bottles delivered daily by my Mum or Dad as they have a fancy water filter which takes out the bad stuff and puts back in the good stuff, this is by no means a easy task.  We have red and white wine, perrier, elderflower and any bottle my Dad has recycled to fill up with healthy water, so it’s a bit of game in our house remembering the true contents of the bottles.  However, this morning the system went wrong when the bottle Tim emptied into the kettle was in fact elderflower which I can tell you from experience does not taste nice boiled and served up as tea!

In case you don’t already know all the cooking in this house is done by Tim.  He has installed a sensor on me and if I as much as make a move towards the kitchen, he appears from nowhere and gently guides me away from the cooker.

I bet however he hadn’t bargained on me turning the house into a never ending edition of ‘ready steady cook’ with my ever changing and increasingly complex dietary requirements.  Here’s a flavour of the challenges Tim has been given these last few months:

  1. Pre diagnosis –  the” I think I have IBS diet”
  2. Post diagnosis  – the no red meat, sugar or dairy product diet (see colon cancer stats on western versus african/eastern diets for proof!)
  3. Post colon surgery – the low residue diet to allow bowel to heal for 1 month, followed by high residue a month later.  5 small meals a day please
  4. Post liver surgery – the homemade hearty vegetarian soup as a meal diet
  5. Recovery and present day diet – vegetarian bordering on vegan plus for extra fun cross referred with the anti cancer diet and the alkalizing diet with a healthy dose of mucilaginous food (okra, parsley, ginger, linseed and fenugreek seeds).

Now you still might think that sounds pretty fair to me. But factor in 2 children, one of which is a confirmed meat eater. The other insists on baking cakes at the exact time dinner is being prepared which necessitates her darting inbetween TIm’s legs to get to the cooker and tipping flour over every surface, and your blood pressure might start to rise?

Aha, but it doesn’t end there.  The high tech cooker hob has decided to pack up which means all meals for a week now need to be cooked on a 2 ring calor gas cooker.  (No microwaves please after a swiss food scientist called Dr Hans-Urich Hertel discovered that eating microwave food can potentially cause changes in the blood associated with disease… I could go on).

And finally, coordinate the arrival of 3 separate meals with my pill regime; chemo tablets need to be taken with food at 8 hourly intervals.  And relax.  Oh no, sorry you can’t, you have ironing now to do on account of me still not being able to lift anything heavier than a kettle. 

High maintenance, me?

I am in more trouble than I thought

Of all the things I’m pretty lame at, playing the piano is possibly the most outstanding.

My particular dread is also playing in front of anyone. Especially my piano teacher local musician Ronnie Teape who plays so naturally I am both mesmorised and paralysed at the same time, resulting in an resolute refusal to play a single note.  In much the same way as my previously gobby mouth snaps shut the very instant someone says “right, any questions” after a corporate presentation, my former fidgety fingers also freeze on the spot the minute Ronnie says “you have a go now”.

And no I am not being falsely modest.  I can more readily accept a wallop around the head with a blunt object than a well meaning compliment, so please do not try to reassure me.

If you have ever had the dream that you are dressed in your underwear in a supermarket and the sudden realisation hits you that you are about to be horribly embarrassed in public, you will have some notion of what’s currently going on inside my head.

Still, at least it is fulfilling its promise of distracting me from the side effects of chemo. 

So if I do manage to hit all the right notes in the right order at the right time in 3 or so weeks, I would get yourself a few of those magical piano lessons from Ronnie ‘cos heaven knows what else I can blame it on.

p.s. I have a bone to pick with the medical profession.  Since when has a week been made up of 6 days?  I was ‘sold’ this chemo lark as a 2 weeks on 1 week off offer!   And by my reckoning that’s 7 days.  So as my 14 days of chemo tablets finally complete this evening, I am going to have to break it to my white blood cells that they only have 6 days leave from fighting on the front to get themselves fit again and ready for battle when I go back in hospital on the 30th November.  I am in marketing and that claim would NEVER have got past our legal department!

I have to confess I may have overdone things..

I have taken to this positive mind/body thing so enthusiastically that I have literally convinced myself in the last few days that I am as fit and well as the next man (unless of course the next man is Jack Lemmon in the Odd Couple).  My memory has also colluded in this farce and downplayed any knowledge of past surgeries or chemo drips.  In fact my old surgery sites (bowel and liver) have taken on the air of elder statesmen who scoff at the little chemo upstart and tell him in their day they practically let the surgeon rip me open whilst on nothing more than paracetamol.

This is obviously how the human brain is wired to cope. Just ask any women who has given birth more than once.  But this lack of memory and denial from my brain doesn’t help my poor physical body who has just about had enough of this and is staging flash daytime sleep attacks.  In fact I am periously close to becoming narcoleptic.

And if that isn’t enough you can add schizophrenic to the list.  There is the sensible me which went through the surgery and the bad days of chemo and takes care of all the pain stuff.  And there is the silly me which does the challenges and writing.  The problem is the silly me doesn’t know when to stop and the sensible me has to tell it off frequently.

Goodnight. x