Facing Facts – Blog 19

Time

This is possibly both one of the hardest and easiest blogs I have written so far. It comes from a place of both acceptance and anger but fundamentally still from my heart.

It’s no surprise I have a bee in my bonnet over the fact that my parents have smoked my whole life. Growing up in a family home full of toxic fumes. The stains on the wallpaper. The nasty odours. I won’t go on but you get my meaning. Fast track to the present day and suddenly the minuscule complaints I had as a kid are nothing in comparison to the issues now.

It’s thought that 90% of Lung Cancer patients develop it due to smoking. My dad is entitled to make his own decisions in life and is his own person. I do not control him nor can I force him to do anything he doesn’t want to do.

Smoking is an addiction and so I do appreciate that giving up is not easy. Temptations can be found everywhere and if you have done something your whole life then how can you realistically just stop?

I thought that being told that one of you has 6-12 months left to live may have inspired both my parents to have stopped. No questions, no doubts. It seems that the addiction just runs too heavy though.

My mum knows I have an issue with her smoking and this is not the first time I have mentioned this fact. A promise was made and as far as I am concerned a promise has been broken. My dad knows it’s the smoking that caused his cancer though am still not convinced he knows he is dying. He is also aware that I am not amused by the fact he continues to smoke. Would he have continued had the temptation not been around him at home – Who knows?

In fairness I was at the hospital appointment all those weeks ago when the doctors did say he could have one or two a day maximum. The doctor also said he could have a drink each night should he desire. He actually isn’t as fussed on the alcohol which is ironic as it’s not the alcohol that has caused this recent problem. It’s the smoking, the one thing he has now openly resumed. I almost preferred it when he thought he was doing it in secret. “What I don’t know doesn’t hurt” mentality. It also makes me think that the doctors know just how serious it really is and if you’re going to die then why go through the hassle of quitting and the stresses to the body this would cause. A fact that is not lost on me.

I guess what annoys me is that my parents have various friends out here. Some of whom have come close to death and as a result have given up smoking without a shadow of a doubt. Others believe that Chemo and other cancer treatments shouldn’t be given to people that continue to abuse their own bodies.

Internet searching is the worst thing you can do but fortunately on this subject most sites seem to be in agreement. Smoking is the biggest cause of cancers (not just lung cancer) – It causes 1 in 5 cancers to be precise. It also doesn’t stop there as it causes other problems including heart disease.

My mum had a basel cell carcinoma on her face that required treatment, she has had angina and heart attacks and also suffers from ongoing asthma. She smokes! Something tells me that this lifestyle choice isn’t helping her yet due to the addiction she just continues.

My dad at the end of the day is dying and we are playing the how long we can expand his life for game. Early prognosis was that he realistically has 6-12 months. Treatment is going well so who knows he may be lucky and have more time with us. It’s also not to say that this time may be zapped away from us without a second thought. It started aggressively and there is nothing to say it won’t just bounce back. The next batch of treatment after all is just to try and harness it. It’s not designed to cure him.

The funny thing is he’s now doing so well he is being considered for Radiation Therapy. Smoking during radiation therapy increases the risk of side effects, including oral mucositis (inflammation of the mouth and throat), loss of taste, xerostomia (dry mouth), weight loss, fatigue (tiredness and loss of energy), pneumonitis (inflammation of lung tissue), bone and soft tissue damage, and damaged voice quality.

Smoking through the Chemo he is currently on can increase the risk of side effects. Today my mum has started panicking as my dad has developed a cough but says it’s a side effect as he could suffer from Bronchitis. Obviously this affects the tubes that carry air to and from the lungs. I am sorry but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to tell you that this self-harm my parents are putting themselves through is the cause.

My mum thinks we argue a lot more these days. We don’t argue we just don’t necessarily see eye to eye on every subject; an idealist way of looking at it but then again the English do seek out the silver lining.

I am in the most fortunate position going. I have accepted I will lose my dad. It naturally doesn’t please me, but I get that we have the time we have been given to make memories. What I struggle with is watching both him and my mum complicate the treatment that they receive free of charge and then having to control my own feelings of bitterness towards the situation. As I say, they are their own people and can do as they please. It’s their body and their life. I just think sometimes they forget the impact that their decisions have on their loved ones. The ones that will be left to pick up the pieces. The ones that have been devastated by the news. The ones that struggle to get the time I have in order to come see him. The ones that may just miss out of this opportunity.

Being honest can sometimes be the hardest thing to do in life. I have found comfort in writing these blogs as it’s a way of not only informing people about how my great dad is doing but it’s also a way of me being able to voice my feelings in an honest and open way.

I don’t seek approval for what I say, I don’t even think I am always right. These are just my views, mostly from my heart and with just a little careful and thoughtful research put into the mix.

From the Horse’s mouth! – Blog 18

Horses Mouth

David & I arrived back at Fincalykitere last night. Dad, Mum & Alan all met us at Alicante and it was great to see them. My dad is doing well. He is tired, but this has been the only really ongoing side effect he is suffering with. He takes it easy when needed though and isn’t pushing his luck.

As you’d expect he also has a lot of questions about the next stages of treatment but knows he needs to wait for the consultation in order to find out what to expect next. For now though, Chemo continues and life is plodding on nicely.

I have to say though it’s so fab being back. One of the most touching things though was that my Dad came into see me early this morning having written a piece for the blog on Friday. I read it and it just goes to prove what I have said all along. My dad is one of the nice guys in this world!

Therefore I will end my part and leave you with words as written by ‘The Bob Garratt’:

Sitting here, 3rd day of chemo. Feel Good. Tumour 50% down. A few words to thank my wife of 40 years on September 27th. She says or thinks she is doing nothing to help me. I would not manage without her. I don’t always show it, but think the world of her. She has been hurting more than me. I will get through this for her sake and my family and friends.

Many Thanks to Colin doing these blogs. It keeps people informed. Hope this helps.

I feel that good, I might give Gloria & Roy a ring to tell them a few jokes. In fact I told myself a joke last night. I was laughing for 2 hours cos I hadn’t heard it before!

Heather & Les, can you please bring a copy of the Radio Times so that I can brush up on the next Stage, Radiotherapy.

(Think my brain’s gone now) – Hand back to Colin

Thanks for your continuous support everyone :o)

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Carpe Diem – Blog 17

Do It

So my dad has received his results and the good news is that thus far the tumour is said to have reduced in size by half. Yes that’s a 50% reduction in where we were at just 11 weeks ago. I guess this confirms just how aggressive the cancer was initially, to say that the treatment has had such a massive impact so quickly.

Whether this be down to pure chance, the right treatment combination, the positive thoughts or a combination of all three at this stage I pretty much don’t care. The main thing is that it’s working and the family couldn’t be happier.

My mum was shaking when I first spoke to her on the phone. She simply couldn’t believe that the news was what it was. My dad also sighed the biggest sigh of relief known to man when they told him the reduction size. I think finally it hit him just what is happening.

It’s what happens next I guess that make things difficult as once again we are thrown in to the path of the unknown. What we do know at this stage is that my dad will continue with chemo rounds 4, 5 & 6. Round 4 started yesterday and will complete tomorrow. He is still coping remarkably well and his spirits are high.

We are now waiting on a consultation appointment in order to assess my dad for Radiotherapy. Something we had not even considered previously as the cancer was that bad. On the face of it, this sounds good but those voices in the back of your head start working their magic. Damn those ‘What ifs”.

In essence the Lung Cancer will never go away. The whole aim of this exercise is to simply keep it at bay. The chemo has done its job in reducing the tumour significantly so that Radiotherapy can be considered. It’s not a done deal yet but without the radiotherapy then the tumour could easily re-grow back to the size it has been previously. It sounds like a no brainer but they need to ensure my dad is a suitable candidate for Radiotherapy.

Radiotherapy treatment is designed to give my dad high energy x-rays that we hope will destroy the rapidly dividing cancer cells. At what level this is given and its frequency we don’t yet know but we are told it is likely that my dad will need it for 4-5 days at a time. The only snag really being that the hospital he is currently at is unable to give this form of treatment. He will therefore be transferred to Alzira Hospital which on a good run is 30-40 minutes drive away though could take up to an hour each time. It’s quite a way to travel each day, especially if any side effects start creeping in. Then again he may be side effect free.

At this stage this is all I can really tell you. The news is good. It’s much better than we probably expected though we still have a long road ahead of us.  I don’t ever underestimate though the value of each extra day we are given. Some are unlucky not to have the foresight of what may happen. My family are lucky that we can do the things we never got round to doing and say the things that often go unsaid. Just to be able to do things now is fantastic because unfortunately sometimes…..“Later becomes Never”

One of the most promising things I have read is that Lung Cancers that are inoperable don’t necessarily mean that they are incurable. This said, Lung Cancers that require a combination of Chemotherapy and Radiotherapy do tend to have a lower curable status connected with them, but if we are focusing on the silver lining, some – yes just a handful but some can be beaten. My dad is a nice guy. Maybe it’s finally time for the nice guy to win.

Quick Update – Blog 16

Jokes

Hi everyone. Just to make you all aware my dad is having the CT scan/X-ray on Tuesday morning with the results available Wednesday morning just before ‘Chemo Session 4’ is due to start.

Once I know more I will naturally provide a more in depth update of how things stand.

All things considered he continues to do well, is upbeat and positive and so is heading into the week with a good mind set and remains positive and hopeful.

Though his jokes are getting slightly worse with him still thinking he’s lost too much weight (it is stable) though in his mind he feels he will soon be known as “Skelli – Bob”!!!! This particular joke he came up with made him laugh for about 2 hours. Least someone finds his jokes funny eh…

Can Spades ever be hearts, diamonds or clubs? – Blog 15

Spade

I really don’t know where the time goes. In the last update I was talking about everyone having thoughts & prayers for my Dad for Chemo session three that was due to start, yet that’s been and gone a whole week ago.

Firstly and most importantly, my Dad is doing really well. He kept to his word and wore the anointed cloth for the duration of Chemo session three and took it off last Friday once it was over.

He’s not really suffering too much at the moment either and whilst he can get tired quicker than he used too, he is much more stable to how he was when it all first started.

We are still waiting on confirmation as to when he will be called upon to go for the biopsy to assess how things are going, but we are under the impression it will be in the next 12 days as whilst its not been done yet, Dad is meant to get the results on the 19th in order to assess the next stage of chemo and what drug combinations are needed as that will be due to start that day.

The last week has also seen a host of visitor changes for the Spanish clan. Sandra left passing the baton on to my Mums school friend Jane. Jane has never flown before so going to Spain to see my Mum & Dad was a big thing for her. Let’s just hope the weather doesn’t put her off going back as it is still blazingly warm over there. My brother and his family have also ventured over. They spent the day together on Tuesday and from what I can tell it all went well and I’m pretty sure they will visit a few more times whilst out there. That’s if their car is up to the job… ahem.

Also during the last week my Dad, Mum & Alan have seen the Doctor for a bit of a catch up and Q&A session. The Doctors in Spain are lovely and I can’t fault them other than for the fact Spanish do tend to call a Spade a Spade. What I mean by this is that my Dad told them he is going to beat this and they pretty much told him he won’t. This wasn’t done in a negative way, just the Doctors are naturally using science and medical training to assess the situation and provide my Dad with an honest prognosis.

This was why in some respects last weeks’ thoughts and prayers were so important and my Dad sincerely appreciated all the well wishes and messages you sent to him. As one of my oldest friends said, Miracles happen every day and so not to stop believing. I remain realistic and to put it bluntly know that it is more certain than not my Dad will be taken away from me. However, I do the typical thing now and consider what “last events” I will now see through but importantly ‘enjoy’ with my Dad.

Fathers Day could have been the “Last Fathers Day” I would ever get to spend with him, but I made sure we made the most of it. His wedding Anniversary to my mum is next month. They will have been married for 40 years. Will they see 41? His birthday in November, Christmas in December… the list goes on and always now there is this cloud of doubt that exists that each event could be the last.

The tumour is aggressive and the Doctors think it probably only started to grow in the last 2-3 months. It took hold very quickly and knocked him for six. The upcoming Biopsy results are crucial so that we can understand what the next steps are. Do we continue with Chemo? Is it working thus far? Are there any alternatives? Or are we blessed enough to see a true miracle occur?

I remain ever hopeful that the future will be bright for my Dad. An element of this basically comes down to the fact that no matter what the results are, be this we have weeks or we have years, the most important thing is that we make the most of the precious time we have together.

My Dad is strong and will fight until he has no fight left in him and then, will fight on regardless.