Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Last day (2) or so long, fair well, Auf wiedersehen, goodbye

February 14 1983-February 13 2013.

That's it today I have completed 30 years, 16 years with Kent Fire Brigade and 14 years with London Fire Brigade. My time in the Fire service has been, in roughly equal portions, challenging, hilariously funny and humbling. Along the way I have made some great friends who I will stay in touch with (not least because they owe me money!). I consider it to have been a privilege to been part of this organisation and to have served the community for so long. 

My only regret is that I wished I looked cooler in uniform.

I have returned all the accoutrements that went with my rank, the only thing I have to do now is get the siren taken out of my car; much to the disappointment of the kids. This and the blue light may have proved handy in traffic in the future but the potential resulting penalty for being caught with it probably isn't worth the few extra minutes saved on any journey.

This entry will be my last as my sojourn through cancer treatment conveniently coincides with the end of my Fire service career, allowing me to wrap up both in one neat package. On the recovery front I continue to feel better, the scar where my stoma was has healed remarkably well, I've decided to tell people that this is  where I was "nipped" by a shark whilst surfing. No one outside the family (and anybody who reads this blog) will know the truth. I still, occasionally, feel uncomfortable in my bowel but this is receding and seems to be worse if I push myself physically but I'm still only 3 weeks out of surgery so to grumble seems a little trite. 
I feel I can tentatively say that I am out of the woods with regard to suffering with cancer and that the treatment has been successful. I hope, in some way, that this blog has been of interest/support/reassurance to anyone in a similar predicament to me, on that note I would direct said people to Cameron Von St. James' Face book page his wife, Heather, has overcome an even more fearful form of cancer and may prove inspirational to fellow cancer sufferers. I genuinely feel that there needs to be a more positive public approach to and awareness of cancer treatment, for many there is life after being diagnosed and treated. This may necessitate a paradigm shift but it doesn't mean the end of all things.

And so to thank yous; Primarily to Stella, when I faltered she has always been there to  carry me, indeed, she is truly my 'rock' without her and the support of a loving family this episode would have been bleak in the extreme.
To: Mr. Charles Bailey, Consultant colorectal surgeon with Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS trust.
      Bronwyn Tetley & Frances Chalklin, colorectal nurses.
      Maggs, Cathy, Kirsty & Judy, stoma nurses
      Dr. Jeff Summers Consultant clinical oncologist Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS trust.
      All the staff of LA5 and 6 radio therapy unit.
      All the staff on Charles Dickens, Pye Oliver and Lord North wards at Maidstone hospital.
     Mr. Mark Gudgeon, Consultant colorectal surgeon with Frimley Park hospital.
     All the nursing staff at Frimley Park hospital.
     Dr. Cathryn Lay, GP Amhurst medical practice.
Thanks to all these people Stella, the family at large and me are looking forward to a very much brighter future.
I am now about to enter a phase of follow up check ups which will continue for the next 5 years and then on until I'm 75, very reassuring. It probably goes without saying but I am definitely an advocate of the National Health Service.

Over and out.

Thursday, 31 January 2013

A week on

The pain and soreness has subsided massively in the last few days. My trips to the toilet are becoming more regular although last evening was uncomfortable for a while feeling like I urgently needed the toilet constantly over a period of about 3 hours. I liken this phase to getting into a rowing boat, initially its unstable and feels like it'll capsize but once you start to row the boat becomes more stable and controllable. Whilst in hospital the colorectal nurse explained the need to relearn control of my bowels and that it would take a little time. That said I am amazed at how good I generally feel, I have to remind myself not to pick up anything heavier than kettle, a handy excuse for doing nothing but relaxing.
I am currently trying on all the clothes that I couldn't wear with my 'bag', its like discovering a new wardrobe! Although I seem to have put on frightening amount of weight in the last 18 months I can still squeeze into my jeans so I won't need to go through the "are you sure the size is right on these ?"  conversation.
My GP has signed me off sick for a month from today which essentially means I won't return to work, later this week we will ceremonially dispose of 30 years of accumulated tee shirts, shirts, trousers, socks, belts and associated work detritus.  

Monday, 28 January 2013

Conventional toilet habits

Wiping your bottom! What's that about?
Stella picked me up from hospital on Saturday, which was nice as it was Martha's birthday so I could join in the celebration. Writing this today (Monday) I almost feel back to normal the pain from the operation has subsided considerably, I am , however, using paracetamol and ibuprofen fairly liberally but I genuinely feel more comfortable than I thought I would. I went the get the surgical wound redressed today and that looks fine if a little puckered, I'm to go back to the local surgery on Friday to have it checked again and was told to look out for signs of infection although it looks and feels fine. I 'm going to be left with a reasonably impressive dueling scar when all is healed.
The night after the operation I experienced unbelievably uncomfortable wind which kept me up most the night my consultant asked about it when I saw him the next day telling me it is common after a reversal and akin to a baby getting gripe. That passed and slowly my 'movements' have been returning to the more conventional, relearning something that you have done for the best part of 50 years is harder than I thought but even that seems to be improving rapidly.
As an aside I had a shower this morning, my first in 18 months where I didn't have to 'project plan' the whole process with regard to removing and replacing the colostomy bag. I felt at quite a loss with the extra time I had!

Stella and I have got to get away when this is all finished.

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Looking good!

Here's John the morning after surgery. I'm not sure I'll let him get away with shorts, socks and sandals once he's out. He's being allowed to drink freely and is being fed on very high calorie Ensure drinks at the moment along with jelly, ice-cream and soup. More solid foods will be gradually re-introduced.

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

The Longest Day (written by Stella)

I started writing a very long, boring account of our day but to cut a long story short....John's op took place at about 5pm this afternoon. All went well. When I phoned the ward at 8.15pm I was told he was  up on the ward and was feeling nauseous. I sent my love. Nothing more I could do. Thank God it's all over. Over and out. Stella

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Last day 1

This week saw the last time I will wear this uniform, gloves optional. I will be in hospital this week, weather permitting, and will probably be sick until my actual last duty day. It all seems like it rushing up on me and Stella now, some tidying up administration to do this Monday and Tuesday and hospital early Wednesday morning.

Friday, 11 January 2013

New Year rush

Received written confirmation of my pre-op date and the operation date yesterday, 16th and 23rd January  respectively, in the words of Will Smith and Martin Lawrence "This shit just got real!". Although in truth it's been real for quite some time.

What with the operation, three birthdays coming up and imminent retirement this part of the year, generally a quiet time, seems manic at the moment. We have also decided to buy the lease car I have had for the past 3 years, it has proved to be all the family car we need, although we still have a hankering for another old VW bus (we've had two)I think that is just the 'Hippy' in both of us.

We are becoming quite the theatre goers, we have booked tickets to see Much ado about nothing at the Old Vic for later in the year. This is significant because I have held off making commitments too far into the future, I think this is a sign of my renewed optimism.