In Limbo – Blog 29

Future

It’s interesting as when I look to write these blogs I do tend to try and give context to how my family or I are feeling. It’s when I then look into this further that I gain a deeper appreciation for the over use of words or definitions that can occur.

My Dad completed his Radiotherapy treatment yesterday. Since his diagnosis back in June he has undergone 18 sessions of Chemotherapy and 25 sessions of Radiotherapy. The list of side effects were endless that he could endure yet somehow he has fought on bravely with thankfully the fewest side effects taking their hold.

He lost his hair quite early on, and suffered one major period of sickness but this soon faded. During his Radiotherapy he also lost just 1kg in weight. If anything the cure of the Psoriasis still outweighs any negative side effect seen or experienced. His family and friends have all gone through their own battles too with anger, frustration, resentment, hope, joy and impatience to name a few all trying to steal the limelight from time to time.

Having completed the main Radiotherapy treatment we were then expecting for my Dad to have 3 weeks of treatment to his head due to the natural progression of the Lung Cancer. However this has changed now and the treatment is on hold. We are not sure why, or for how long though we must wait to hear from the local hospital to assess when this may commence.

All we do know is that the CT Scan on the 4th December and results appointment on the 14th December remain in place. The other Radiotherapy session, may happen before, during, after this date or not at all. All it does really is to leave you ‘In Limbo’.

The true definition of In Limbo though is to ‘be in a state of being neglected and immobile, with no prospect of movement to a better place’. This isn’t necessarily true for us, as my Dad is looking to the next 4 years. Whilst life may seem to be on hold, this is the key point in time to start living and looking as far to the future as we can whilst living each day to its full potential.

I know my family feel trapped sometimes in Spain as they are isolated from their friends back home in England. This does make it tough on occasions. Personally though the quality of life they can have still whilst living in Spain is phenomenal. My Dad worked all his life and finally owns his own Castle. They even have a ‘Branco’ which acts as a moat sometimes. Lol. I do get that they will move back to England when possible and my Dad is keen to make sure his wife, my Mum is set up for her future and feels as secure and as happy as she can be.

Rather than living life In Limbo though I’d just say….live for today and value what we all have.

Looking ahead to 2019 – Blog 28

Make things happen

80% initial radiotherapy treatment complete meaning Dad just has 1 week left to go. Well kind of, as he will then face a further 3 weeks of treatment to the head.

What we do now know though is that it’s highly likely they will give him a two week breather between finishing this course of treatment next Friday before commencing the next 3 week block.

This obviously has massively impacted my families hopes of returning to see people in the UK this side of 2015. What is now happening though is that my Mum and Alan will return for a shortened period of time to collect the essentials and recharge their batteries. I know for my mum that seeing her brother David will most likely be or should be high on the agenda. Even if time is short, I’m pretty sure they will steal a coffee and a hug together. My Dad though will miss out on the opportunity to see people and whilst he pretends to not be bothered, we all know deep down he his.

The biggest issue has been finding flights that worked for everyone as my Dad can’t really be left on his own and as he can’t drive during treatment, someone would need to take him to the hospital when the new course starts. Therefore we will now be heading over on the 21st November to switch places with Mum & Alan and try to replicate the sterling care they have been giving my Dad these past few months.

As ever though my Dads birthday raised a bit of an awkward conversation as my Mum could have missed it if she was over here in the UK. As far as my Dad is concerned he is not bothered in the slightest. For my Mum though not being there on this day which could be his last birthday with us could have lasting painful memories.

My Mum got me to talk to my Dad on Skype and he asked me if I honestly thought it would be his last birthday. Finding the right balance of being realistic without destroying all hope was difficult though I did tell him based on what we have been told and now know it was unlikely that he would see another birthday; though this wasn’t to say he wouldn’t make it and I hope he proves us wrong. His reply was simple, this won’t be his last and he will get to 75 – that’s in November 2019. Fair play is all I can say and I hope he is around for as long as possible.

Flight wise though we compromised and my Mum & Alan will be back with him on the evening of the 27th. It may be for just a couple of hours as they will arrive late on but I firmly believe that had she not been there on the day the decision would have major ripples for years to come…

The jokes are back – Blog 27

Beat

We returned to Valencia yesterday and planned to meet up with the family in Alzira for an hour or so before going to the hospital for my Dads Radiotherapy session which fortunately for us had been moved to seemingly fall in line with our flight time. I say fortunately as it meant we were present for the consultation that had also been scheduled in for the same day; the first proper one since the Radiotherapy sessions started over 3 weeks ago.

Everyone looked well, especially my Dad which was good to say. He is taking to this treatment thing incredibly well, despite the lengthy journeys 5 days a week and the threat of a million side effects always looming in the background. Impressively the main side effect is still just him feeling tired every so often. At the end of the day he’s no longer a spring chicken (sorry Dad), and so a little more frequent tiredness was always going to catch up with him at some point.

To gain confidence myself I asked him how he was truly doing and he said he is having no issues eating, no pains in the Oesophagus area; which was a highly likely side effect area and so other than avoiding spicy foods which is recommended, all meal times still look ‘normal’ and are not being mashed down for him. His hair is still very thin, though there are some very slight signs of regrowth but I wouldn’t be booking a hair appointment at this stage and the Psoriasis I mentioned before is still cured – something my Dad does wander if the medical profession should investigate more. In his mind one or more of the fluids he received in Chemo cured this fully. Something the endless creams he had previously been prescribed have been unable to control. Food for thought I guess. Away from this there is some expected redness to the skin on his chest but he is applying the cream designed for that as required which is working and things are simply plodding on nicely.

Alzira is a much bigger hospital. I guess on this occasion it brought it home just how prevalent cancer is. Last week I mentioned seeing Cancer everywhere but being in the hospital on this occasion just felt different. I went to the waiting area for those due to receive Radiotherapy. The room was FULL. Sessions only last for anything up to 10 minutes and patients were changing frequently. I also observed the waiting area for those due to see the doctor for an update. Again the room was full with yet another set of patients. This is just one hospital in the world and so many people are going through their own battles and challenges. Cancer is often seen as the ‘Big C’ and the one illness people fear. I can more than understand why. The amount of lives it touches, steals and hinders is mammoth. Much more than I think I personally appreciated before.

Even I know personally at least 5 people now facing their own challenges or having brushes with potential Cancer scares including Lung, Skin, Throat and Breast Cancers. There simply seems like no escape.

That’s why I like Cancer Research UK so much. They want to eradicate Cancer by understanding the causes not just by providing the treatment. Take away the source and understand its origins and perhaps one day we truly can beat Cancer. Unfortunately it just seems a long way off but for all those doctors, nurses and people looking to fight it then I have nothing but praise.

Back to my Dad and his Radiotherapy treatment seemed to pass by in a blink of an eye. It truly is that quick! He has some dots marked out on his chest that will never fade away. He tells me they are like tattoos in some respect and will always now be there. (They are only pen nib size). The machine uses these to help target the rays to the areas needed to help fight back the cancer. It repeats just 4 times for about 7 seconds each time. It takes longer for him to get prepared than for the treatment itself.

He comes out in good spirits and I even heard him once again chatting up one of the nurses when he thought no one could hear him….   The word ‘Quapa’ is used to tell the nurse how beautiful she is. Bob ‘the smoothie’ Garratt has returned.

Next when we attend the doctor’s appointment further down the corridor it’s a mixed review. He has gained 0.2kg. Yeah, I know this is minimal but a few weeks ago he was worried about losing weight. It is stable at least with a minor increase which the Doctor seems happy with. She also asks about how things are in general and all is promising and she looks happy. Overall she is happy with how he is coping. There is no news about the size of the cancer though – this will only become known later in December after the treatment is complete.

One thing that is clarified though, is that after the Radiotherapy is complete (10 more sessions to go) my Dad will need to have possibly a further 15 sessions done to his head. Ironically many people think my Dad is daft but this next treatment is not unfortunately to make his jokes any better. What we hadn’t appreciated at the start is that depending on the stage and type of Lung Cancer you have it can often spread to the Brain. The spread of the disease is not always visible at first and so Radiation is then given to the brain as a ‘preventative measure’. As my Dads Cancer is aggressive and is never really going away, this additional step in the treatment process will be needed. However at this stage we need to wait for a further doctor’s go-ahead as to when this will be and for how long. It is most likely to be done soon after the main Radiotherapy treatment is complete and last for an additional 3 weeks. It just seems to be a never ending saga but obviously the benefits far outweigh any negatives.

For my family though it is a bit of a blow as they had hoped to pay a visit to friends and family in the UK next month though for my Dad this is now looking less likely. The problem is until the doctor tells us when this next treatment schedule will be, no plans can be made. This however, has been a problem for a while now with all of them being stuck in Limbo Land. Life is on hold. Holidays can’t be planned and trips away keep being pushed back. It is like watching a group of caged animals at the house though. It’s difficult to ‘live’ when there are so many restrictions being placed upon your life.

The main thing to take away from all the above though is that my Dad is doing incredibly well. He looks far better than the last time we saw him and his spirits are staying high. He is pottering around more and other than sounding like a doddery old fool at times, things are fairly calm.

As promised I have also asked for some ahem ‘Classic’ jokes. Apologies in advance…These were the first three my Dad recited back to me. This time he had no trouble remembering them. Damn his treatment for being so effective.

Joke 1: Paddy and Murphy are walking down the street and Murphy falls down a manhole. Paddy asks Murphy “Is it dark down there?”

Murphy replies…”I don’t know, I can’t see……”

Joke 2: A woman’s husband nips out into the garden to get some runner beans for dinner where he unfortunately collapses and dies. A friend asks what she is possibly going to do now after the shock incident to which she simply replies…”I’ll just have to open a tin of carrots instead”.

Joke 3: Paddy is learning to drive and so is reading the Highway Code book. He informs Murphy that in places where there is 1 yellow line that “you can’t park there at all”.

Murphy responds by asking then what 2 yellow lines mean and Paddy states that “you can’t park there at all at all”.

And breathe…. That’s the best of today’s bad bunch. Least he’s back on form and just maybe the Radiation therapy to the head may help him produce a joke that’s actually good. (Though admittedly I do like Joke 1 haha)

Written in the Stars – Blog 26

Cancer

It seems that everywhere I look these days Cancer is a big feature. Even Channel 4 are getting in on the act with ‘Stand up for Cancer’ which airs tonight.

The Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon talks of similar situations that your mind goes through when a thing you have just found out about seems to crop up everywhere. For example you want to buy a Red car and then all you can see are Red cars on the road.

For me it’s just Cancer everywhere. I read in the Costa Blanca News that Lung Cancer particularly has made a sharp rise in the area which is believed to be due to the influx of Brits and their chosen lifestyles. The Psychic Colin Fry also died very quickly of Cancer in the last few months. Seems even those with foresight aren’t immune from its power. Even Special K are supporting Cancer so our cereal shop isn’t without reminders. Fathers Day fell on June 21st this year which was the start of the Cancer star sign. The Top 4 film in the UK charts is called ‘Miss you Already’ and on Telly every other advert seems to be a Cancer survival promise or Bupa healthcare ad.

Don’t get me wrong they were probably always aired just at the moment it’s very poignant to my family’s situation. I guess in some respects it’s like horoscopes. No matter what they say you can usually twist the daily update to something to do with your own. Mine today says I should step up and get everyone together. Well I did want to publish a blog today which in turn means people will come together and read it. Coincidence or was it written in the stars? Who knows but as I’ve said before, I am a firm believer in fate if nothing else.

My Dad seems to be coping stupidly well with the Radiotherapy at present and side effects are almost a no show with just his usual tiredness etc.… I can’t help but question if this is good or bad. Are terrible side effects a sign of the radiotherapy working or is the lack of side effects equally as good news. Either way, it simply means my Dad is fighting this thing and quality of life is fortunately not being impacted as much as it potentially could have been. They also have a break from treatment this weekend with there being a couple of Bank Holidays in Spain. Friday is the ‘Day of Valencian Community’ and Monday is the National ‘Hispanic Day’. For my family it just means they can all try and relax for an extended weekend and not worry about travel and treatments. Let’s hope they make the most of it.

Treatment Update – Blog 25

One Day

One week into the 5 week Radiotherapy treatment and things seem to be quite steady and going well. My Dad has his final Chemo tomorrow and then it will be left to the Radiotherapy to do its part in the battle to hold back the Cancer as much as possible. A battle which should run until October 28th subject to no complications in the meantime.

The Doctors at Xativa hospital (where he has had his Chemo) have said how good a patient he has been. Not sure if this is down to his “style of humour”, general appreciation of women nurses or perhaps the fact as we haven’t been fully conversant with them it has also meant we have not been able to complain, as quite often the Spanish do. Either way he has a gold star from them.

One of the other good things so far is that side effects are being kept at bay and so least if they do start he will already be quite some way into the treatment schedule so should be able to see it out no problems.

I guess one of the most important things at this stage is that once the treatment is done we now have a bit more of an idea as to what to expect going forward. We now know that my Dad will have a further CT Scan on 4th December which will be to assess just how things truly look, with the appointment to discuss the results to be held 10 days later; this will also be used to scan his brain. Lung Cancer can often be found to spread to other areas of the body including the brain as well as the bone tissue and chest. The scan is designed to arm the doctors with as much information as possible to best help my Dad.

The thing is though, this particular Cancer is unbeatable. I’m not saying this to be morbid or downbeat, I’m just being 100% honest. The Chemo and Radiotherapy are designed to do their best in beating the cancer back and making it as small and easy to live with as possible. The problem being that it started very aggressively and grew in next to no time. The doctors have said that the Cancer will come back and more than likely when it does it will come back even quicker and even more aggressively than the first time.

The silver lining here though is that they have now said that he will be able to undergo more Chemo. A fact that was previously left as something that would not happen despite personally thinking that it should always have been an option. I guess what I am saying is that the Cancer is going nowhere. Fortunately though experience can also build strength and so next time, least we will all be armed with the foresight of perhaps just a few of the signs to look out for. How long this goes on for be it weeks, months or years is now frankly down to my Dads staying power.

One of the best things for them all though is that they can now finally plan a trip to the UK. The treatment has naturally been the most important thing for them but knowing that the Radiotherapy will be complete by the end of October means they can plan a trip to see friends and family – perhaps one of the best courses of treatment all of them could do with right now.

As ever they all appreciate your support as do I.