Remembering ‘The Bob Garratt’ – Blog 63

_DSC4604.jpg

The UK memorial for Dad will be held on Friday March 17th at The Parish Church of Saint Peter, Main Street, Awsworth, Nottingham, NG16 2QU. The service will commence at 15:00.

Afterwards there will be a gathering at The Crown Inn where we will have the opportunity to celebrate and remember his life and what he meant to us all. The Crown Inn, is just 100m away from the Parish Church.

My Dad was a much loved man and this was evident following his Cremation here in Spain on March 1st. A number of friends and family attended the service and the day was a fitting tribute and send off for one of life’s true gems.

This will now be the final blog I write on behalf of Dad. It started as an opportunity to not only keep friends and family informed about Dad’s progress but also to add to the information available out there for families who find themselves in similar situations.

What I hadn’t accounted for, was the level of support it would give us back. The love, loyalty, understanding and compassion that friends, family and total strangers have shown us has been overwhelming. All of which has helped us walk down the unknown path together.

In a world that is so often consumed with war and hatred, I have been honoured and blessed to be part of a story that has contained strength, courage, love and resilience. Cancer took my Dad’s life, but his spirit will live on forever more.

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank just a few of the people that have been there for my Dad. There are dozens more though these particular people have helped more than I can perhaps every truly convey:

Jim & Val Jordan: My Dad had nothing but love and respect for you both. He loved you both dearly. He would have been proud of the service you gave him on March 1st. I know I am. Despite it being brought forward 50 years.

Tom Rigg: There are not enough words I can find to express the sheer gratitude for the support and love you have provided my Dad and family. Without you, this situation would have been unbearable. Eres una Estrella. Gracias.

Gloria Brook: You have done more than you may very well know. Your compassion and understanding has helped us navigate the unknown in a more clear, positive and grounded manner. Thank you.

For those that attend next Friday, I look forward to seeing you.

Thank you & God bless you all xxxx

P.S.

Two cannibals eating a clown, one turned to the other and said: “Does this taste funny to you?”

I have a gravel path in my garden while my neighbour’s is concrete. I think mine wins on aggregate.

Two snowmen in a field – one says to the other “Can you smell carrots?

xxxx

 

 

Rubbing Salt in the Wound – Blog 50

20161230_173024

I have mixed feelings for having had Dad home for Christmas. Whilst his presence on the morning of Christmas Day was undoubtedly a good thing, his overall health was suffering due to the sodium tablets he was taking.

He had begun to show signs of dehydration, though this was known to be a side effect of not being able to have much fluid. I do however, have faith and confidence that the Oncologist knew what was going to happen and partly this was why a home visit had been scheduled five days after going home. This meant that any concerns could be addressed and sure enough, the day after the home visit, when the results were known, we were informed that Dad needed to return to hospital.

The most unexpected result was that his sodium levels had all but returned to normal with the blood tests revealing it to be at 134mEq/l with the normal range being between 135-145. Therefore, the sodium tablets had done the trick. Unfortunately, just to rub salt into the wound, dehydration had started to cause Renal Failure with his kidneys starting to malfunction and give way.

His Creatinin levels had reached 6.7mg/dl with normal levels being between 0.6-1.10. Creatinin is a waste by-product that is filtered through the kidneys via the blood. The Urea levels were also way to high with his results being 156mg/dl with normal range being between 10-50. Urea is produced in the liver then passed and filtered through the kidneys until being released via urination.

Returning to the Hospital (Lluis Alcanyes), we reported directly to the A&E department where Dad was pretty much seen straightaway and taken into the Emergency Observation Ward; he was put on four drips. One drip was an Isotonic Saline solution, another containing Bicarbonate Soda, another with Sodium Chloride and the final containing a Paracetamol solution for the pain.

You could see a change in him after just an hour though we had been informed that we needed to wait to see a specialist as there were concerns regards the overall kidney condition and they were not sure what line of treatment, if any could be taken. A few hours passed by and he was then transferred to a ward to receive continued observation and the required drips to help the kidneys effectively ‘reboot’. If this failed, then, and only then could dialysis be looked at as an option. Therefore, having returned to hospital on Wednesday we were looking at a discharge date of New Year’s Eve. This is clearly depending on what happened over the course of these 3 days.

The first night was the worst with him experiencing crippling pain. Fortunately, this eased once he ‘demanded’ to have the urethra tube removed at 2:30am. He described the pain as worse than giving birth. I am not going to broach the ‘man vs woman’ pain argument. All I will say is that Dad does not feel pain easily.

The test results we received on Thursday morning were promising. Whilst he was still severely dehydrated, with the nurses now pushing him to drink as much water as possible, the Creatinin levels had improved going from 6.7 to 4.4. This effectively showed that the kidneys may just at this stage ‘reboot’ as hoped.

Psychologically he is not in too bad a place, though still struggles to grasp what is really going on. He has however, had a word with his immune system’s army, including, Jim, Simon, Spartacus, Florence, Marie and Gibbo and informed them all to get their act in order. Errrr…… don’t ask!

Friday (today) had its own complications with his drips not being able to be administered. Basically, he fiddles with the wires which in turn, causes the drips to stop working properly. It then causes the blood to flow back up through the tube and stops it working altogether. This itself would not be so bad, however as his body is slowly giving up it is becoming increasingly more difficult for them to find suitable veins to administer the drips through.

The results we received showed a further improvement with the Creatinin level now being at 2.5 mg/dl and the Doctor felt that the results should be back to normal in the morning. She was also almost happy to let him come home today though was fearful that he would not continue to drink the required amount of water. This time he is now back to minimum 2 litres of water per day with a Mediterranean diet to be followed. Basically, healthy food and no crap.

We now find ourselves in quite a vicious cycle. Should Dad be allowed home tomorrow as planned, the worry is that the Cancer is now so advanced that the sodium levels will nose dive as they did just two weeks ago. If this happens then no cancer treatment including chemo or immunotherapy can be discussed. Treatment would then have to be given to fix the sodium levels which in turn, would more than likely, cause renal complications again. This does not even take into consideration the fact the cancer is continuing to grow and travel through the blood.

It has already been suggested, and we do have to be realistic about this, that there will only be so many times these ‘top-up’ treatments can be given. It is highly unlikely, even at this stage that he will ever advance to Chemo or Immunotherapy treatment stages. The thought of him being allowed home tomorrow, only adds to these concerns. Whilst he does seem almost ready it’s just impossible for us to know how he will react and what will happen next. It also does not help that he is a big kid when it comes to drinking water and makes drinking 2 litres of the stuff seem like he is being tortured. Suggestions on a postcard greatly appreciated.

The hope is that when home, he will have enough energy to at least go out and see the local sites, if nothing else.

The best thing about it is that we will also be getting some visitors over the coming few days. David is making a return on New Year’s Eve, Steven and Nicola will be appearing on the 2nd January and Dad’s two sisters; Margaret and Glenda as well as his niece Belinda will be making an appearance on the 4th January. At time of publication, these will all be surprise visits to give him a boost and encourage him that life is worth fighting for.

The last few weeks have been tough. Dad has been tearful, emotional, has not seen the point in going on and struggled with pains, dizziness, nausea, headaches, confusion and major fatigue. Regardless though we will be seeing him into 2017.

Happy New Year everyone. Love from The Bob Garratt & Co xxx

A Rollercoaster Ride that Ends on a High! – Blog 46

roller

The results are in and Dad has been informed that his Cancer has stopped growing and that he is in remission.

I’m actually finding this blog quite hard to write as the news is fantastic as, I’m sure anyone reading this blog will be over-joyed to hear the news that, my Dad, who 15 months ago was diagnosed with terminal Stage 4 Lung Cancer is now in remission.

The news is tremendous but I guess Cancer is one of those things that just takes you by surprise and slaps you in the face a little. The remission does not mean that the Cancer is gone. It does however mean that it has stopped growing, is currently inactive and is causing no undue complications to my Dad or his health.

Has my Dad beat Cancer? Not sure if the answer to this is a straight Yes or No. What my Dad has shown though is that with courage, strength and oodles of support from family and friends, Cancer can be fought and doesn’t always have to have to have an unhappy ending.

When telling me the news, my Mum tried to get in on the ‘Dad Joke’ act though failed miserably (in mine and my Dad’s opinion). She told me about when ‘Paddy & Murphy’ took a ride on a large Rollercoaster. Paddy turned to Murphy and asked what would happen if they fell out. Murphy responded simply saying it wouldn’t happen as they had been friends for a long time……

I’m sorry, I know it’s a terrible joke but it did link nicely to the last 15 months in terms of the Rollercoaster ride my Dad has been on. Through it all though his jokes have remained strong, his strength has continued to grow and he can now take a well-earned rest from treatment and live life without regular hospital or doctors’ appointments.

One thing I will add at this stage is how amazing the Spanish doctors and all their support staff have been at both Xativa and Alzira Hospitals. My Dad’s treatment has gone like clockwork and the empathy, compassion and support that has been shown will never be forgotten. A big Thank You seems a little underwhelming for people that have helped my Dad still be with us now. Even had the outcome been different thus far, I could not be any more grateful for the life changing treatment my Dad has received.

The next stage in terms of an update will be a follow up appointment scheduled for December. This means 3 months with no appointments, no treatments, no side effects and minimal tablets to take.

Prior to this though, the most important event is a pre-planned visit to the wrinklies this coming Thursday. Plus, now he is in remission I won’t feel so bad when I beat him at Tri-nominoes, Table Football, Chess, Draughts, Scattergories – well any game to be fair. I think pretty much he’s bottom of the Espana Family Games Leaderboard – challenge laid down ;o)

Finally, this will be my last blog on behalf of my Dad for a while. Naturally I will provide an update as and when, though would like to thank everyone through your messages, support and encouragement for making the last 15 months much easier to cope with than it otherwise may have been. I’ve been humbled by the support you have shown my Dad, my Mum, my family and myself. The last 15 months should be a grey period in our lives yet somehow through all the good that has been shown it’s possibly been lighter than most other periods I have known.

Love, Hope & Positivity – Blog 43

Blog 42 Image

Twelve months ago I wrote that my Dad had the biggest battle of his life to face due to his fight against Cancer. What I hadn’t appreciated at the time was that in actual fact, Cancer had its’ own battle having picked a fight against my Dad!

Having received his tests results this week I am pleased to say that the results are extremely promising. The combination of treatment and care that my Dad has received thus far, as well as his own sheer determination seems to be working.

A year ago he was given a prognosis that could have meant that rather than me writing a blog based on hope and positivity, I could have been saying something rather different….. The thing is, this was only ever an average prognosis based on the severity of his Lung Cancer diagnosis. The doctors did say that he should not concern himself with figures, instead just take each day as it came. It’s difficult however, not to have focused on a potential end date.

The Cancer itself has reduced to around half of its already previously reduced size. Without getting lost in exact amounts, we are looking at it now being approximately ¼ of its original size. This is without doubt TREMENDOUS news. The other great thing is that, it has also not spread anywhere else and importantly there are no signs of a spread to the brain.

I guess it’s quite pertinent that the EU referendum is just around the corner. Without the Speed, Love, Dedication, Compassion, Patience and Care of the Spanish health system, the chances are my Dad may not have been with us anymore. I’m not wanting to make this a political statement though arguably thanks to our presence in the EU, my Dad is alive today.

Finally, for today anyway, the idea behind this blog was to keep my Dads friends and family informed about how he is doing. It’s also been about helping others going through their own experiences and showing that each person copes in different ways, be this the one with Cancer or their loved ones. There is no right or wrong way to react…. scream, shout, laugh, cry, sky-dive, write a blog – whatever your style, do what works for you.

Cancer is everywhere and is extremely unforgiving at the best of times. Things are getting better though; it may not always seem like it but I do honestly believe things are improving. The road ahead is awfully long for my Dad as well as the thousands of others out there, though if we continue to come together as we do best, when the odds are stacked against us then ‘Together – we truly can beat Cancer’.

Knowledge is Power (The War Rages on) – Blog 40

Knowledge

So the day my Dad has been waiting for arrived and let’s just say it didn’t quite get off to the start they all expected. The appointment was scheduled for roughly 12:30 but the phone rang at 8:30 asking for my Dad to come in for a further scan at 10am. It transpires that when he had the CAT scan last week the scan to his brain was missed off, so needed to be done today before all the results could be given. Fortunately, the outcome of this further scan could be assessed more or less straight away so the results news, they were waiting for, would not be delayed.

The news unfortunately was as expected though understandably not as hoped for – well not as per the miracle hoped for.

I want to say the result is that the Cancer is back. The truth of the matter is that the Cancer never actually went away. It was just lying dormant thanks to the amazing work of the last bout of Chemotherapy and Radiotherapy my Dad undertook. This dormancy period though has lapsed and the Cancer has started to re grow.

Cartoon

I want to make things clear that there are positives to draw from these results.

The Cancer may no longer be dormant but it is not as large as it was before. Therefore, the treatment received thus far has done its job tremendously. The Cancer however is fully detectable now in both lungs. It did exist in his right lung previously, it was just not as serious as the large tumour found in the other.

The brain scan today has also revealed no impact or spread of Cancer there, which can be fairly common. This again is thanks to how quick my mum and Alan acted in taking him to hospital last year; the treatment received then would have helped lessen the impact to other areas of my Dad’s body.

I’d also like to make it clear how strong my Dad continues to be. We are now a massive 10 months on from when he first got taken into hospital before the initial diagnosis of Stage 4 Lung Cancer. The statistics online are very woolly so can only be taken as a guidance. Everyone is different and it is thought that only 30% of patients diagnosed with Stage 4 Lung Cancer survive for more than 1 year; 10% are thought to survive for 5 years+.  I’m seeing this as a positive despite it sounding gloomy, especially considering how many people I have heard about on the news in this last 10 months losing their own battles in very short periods of time from being diagnosed.

I think it would be foolish to predict any amount of time my Dad may or may not have left with us. The key thing is that he is battling on and now he has the results, he can recommence a further bout of treatment. It’s also pointless trying to predict how effective this second lot of Chemo will be and if he will struggle any more or less than the first time round.

The second lot of Chemotherapy is going to commence this Wednesday! My Dad was given the option to delay this for a couple of months should he so desire, though this was against medical advice. The sooner he gets the treatment, the more effective it should be at hitting back at the Cancer cells. Personally I’d have slapped him for delaying it, but I can also appreciate his apprehension at it is technically starting all over again. My Dad was hopeful that further Chemo wouldn’t be required. One so he didn’t have to put himself back through it but also so he didn’t feel he was putting his wife through the stress of it either.

My mum though is a strong person, not that the news today hasn’t knocked her for six. The thing is she is desperate not to lose her husband whom she loves very much, so had willed the result to be what in her heart of hearts she knew it would never be.

The Chemo itself will run as it did before. 3 consecutive full days of treatment every 3 weeks. I guess the positives from this are that my Dad can see all his ‘guapa’ nurses once again – (guapa is the Spanish for beautiful).

The other positive is that ‘Knowledge is Power’. Some of the stresses will be lessened this time as they will cope much better knowing how things work, where they need to be and when to be there and will understand more of what to look out for in terms of side effects etc…

It remains to be seen if my Dad’s jokes will improve as a result of further Chemo. Today when he learnt a further scan was needed to assess his brain, he quipped “Why? The answer is obvious, I don’t have one”. Love them or loathe his jokes, we would all miss them.

Brain

The one thing my Dad does need to do is to take his water intake seriously. Eight glasses of water a day is not much. I don’t care if you don’t ‘like it, just get it down your neck. I’d also add at this stage that the ‘smoking’ issue should be revisited and both my parents need to see how important the chemo is in helping give my Dad those extra valuable days. This isn’t a dig as the news today has rocked them both to the core, though I would simply like them to take the opportunity to think… ‘three’ a day may not sound much but the treatment received surely would be so much more effective with ‘none’ a day. This though is just my opinion.

Water Intake

At the end of Blog 39 I also reported that my Dad as well as Alan managed to lose the inaugural Table Football match at Plaza Mayor. The losing streak unfortunately continued for my Dad with the loss of a game of Chess and Tri-nominoes. I guess though that is the ‘three losses’ out the way. He can now focus on winning a more important battle. Either way, he will always remain a winner in my eyes.

Power of Love- Blog 39

Rainbow

David and I returned to Spain yesterday to check in with the old folks and spend some more quality time with them.

It’s strange as just one year ago to the day we were actually spending time with them in England, having a meander through the beautiful Wollaton Park over the Easter weekend. At that stage though, none of us were aware of the war that was starting to form in my Dad’s body.

Wollaton Hall

Back to the present day and having arrived quite late last night we had a brief catch up before all retiring to bed. We had probably put too much onus on today but I guess this can’t be helped. Today was, after all, the day my Dad was due to have his long awaited CAT Scan in order to ascertain exactly where he was in his battle against Stage 4 Lung Cancer.

Waiting at the hospital felt a little strange. There were different coloured doors everywhere, all with radiation warning signs on and all for different types of cancer. The basement level 1 patient waiting area felt dark and dingy and not a happy place to be. We were all sat quite near the door that my Dad would be going through for his scan, a scan that would last no more than 10 minutes.

This particular door was not brightly coloured and was labelled with the abbreviation: ‘TAC’. It took us a while to fathom exactly what this sign meant though ironically reverse the letters and you get ‘CAT’ (Computerized Axial Tomography) or in Spanish – Tomografía Axial Computarizada. Pretty obvious when you see it lol.

TAC.jpg

The CAT scan itself makes use of computer-processed combinations of X-Ray images, all taken at different angles, so to produce cross sectional (tomographic) images of specific areas of the body. In my Dads case this is to review the cancer in his lungs and any spread that may have occurred to the brain.

CAT Scan

Dad is a fighter, and although you can tell he is worried, he continues to put a brave face on it. I guess the thing is, there is bugger all we can do at this stage as the result will be whatever it is.

It’s odd, the last year I have seen and been witness to many things in my family. Things like this can cause close knit relations to go one of many ways. For me and my immediate family it has bonded us together like never before. Cancer is a killer, pure and simple. Cancer doesn’t care if you are black or white, male or female, gay or straight, young or old. When it looks to stake a claim on you, it can and more often than not does have devastating consequences. Cancer tries to suck the heart from a person and slowly reduce them to nothing until it claims its prize; the ultimate mood-hoover. But I can tell you now no matter what, my Dad is a winner and isn’t letting this beat him. No matter if he has 1 week or 10 years left in him, he continues to battle on in the best way he can. His spirit is incredible and despite several knock-backs, he carries on moving forward and living for the here and now.

Mood

The CAT scan results appointment is scheduled for April 11th. I’m very much of the mind that no matter the result, my Dad and our family as well as all of his amazing friends will keep on moving forward, together, in the best way we can. As soon as I know the results I will provide a further update.

On a personal note and just to have it published – even though my Dad is a winner – he did however along with Alan manage to lose in an important event this morning – The inaugural ‘Plaza Mayor’ Table Football match against David and I. A score of 5-2 in steady weather conditions saw us take the crown and ultimately win the championship – a re-match has been scheduled for next year…..

Benidorm, 1 Year On – Blog 38

Beni 2016.JPG

In February 2015, David & I spent the day with the Spanish clan whilst on vacation in Spain. It’s really odd, as at this stage everything was ‘normal’ with no health scares or concerns to worry ourselves over. Fast track one year to March 2016 and my Dad has now undergone an intense course of Chemotherapy, Radiotherapy and countless visits to Alzira & Xativa hospitals.

There is one difference though – Alan is currently spending some essential time with his family in the UK, so on this occasion it’s just the four of us spending the day in the glorious Spanish sun.

We met up with them just after 11am and both of them looked extremely well. The stand out feature was my Dads hair, which has gone from having been fully shaved off having started to lose it during Chemo to now being fully restored and back with a vengeance. To be fair it’s in need of a good cut, but understandably he feels quite connected to having hair once again so even though it has actually had a slight trim recently, we can tell he’d prefer to have it longer and messy looking than not at all.

The picture below was taken 26 Feb 15 (again in Benidorm).

Bamm Bamm 2015.jpg

On the face of it, you can’t even tell he has been through anything given the picture of the four of us, taken just yesterday. He looks perhaps a little older. Then again he is, so this is a non-argument. He continues to potter about and do as many jobs as he can and does get out of breath much quicker but he is 72 this year so hardly unexpected.

Psychologically I think based on a brief conversation with my mum it’s taken its toll and has affected his own bionic feeling but he does still have a test in April looming in the background. It’s been confirmed now that the test will take place on April 5th with the results being available on the 11th.

It’s difficult not to play the ‘what if’ game again, but based on how well he has coped over the last 9 months, there is ‘every’ reason for him and all of us to remain optimistic and hopeful that he has a good few years left in him yet. This goes against the prognosis we were told and quite possibly against better judgement but why shouldn’t he defy the odds?

As I said before he is one of life’s good guys and we would all miss having him (and his jokes) around. I told him my elevator joke yesterday which I like as it tends to work on ‘so many levels’. He wasn’t impressed, lol. And rather than the one about the clown that got eaten but tasted funny, I told him about the time a clown opened a door for me in a restaurant which I though was a nice ‘Jester’.

Bad jokes aside we did have a great day together exploring the outdoor market, enjoying a picnic my Mum had prepared for us, as well as hopping from café to bar trying to dodge the intense 28c heat the sun was pumping out.

Last month also did him good as it was the first time he had been able to travel abroad since being diagnosed in June 2015 and he got to spend some much needed quality time with his nearest and dearest siblings. He stayed at his… ahem ‘older’ sisters house (sorry Aunty Margaret) and also got to spend an evening with both her and his other ‘younger’ sister (Aunty Glenda). Both of them were clearly relieved to get to spend this time with him and it has done the three of them the world of good. There was also a small shindig on the Sunday before they flew home and he got to see a number of other family members including his beloved nieces Belinda and Elaine and nephew Graham as well as Michael, Elaine’s youngest son (down from Sheffield especially) and Gracie, Graham’s daughter who was named after my Grandma.

Below is the picture of the Family shindig followed by one of just him and Aunty Margaret which sadly doesn’t feature Aunty Glenda as I assume she took it.

 

I think the most refreshing thing at the moment is how close my parents have become. They have been through many things in their lives together and this latest Cancer scare has clearly had a massive impact on them both. They are however, stronger than ever together and you can feel that no matter what has been thrown at them this past 9 months, they have bonded and united over it.

We will next see the clan when we take the short plane trip back to casa ‘Finca Lykitere’ during the week of his test. Whilst we won’t be around on the day of the results, I will make sure to provide an update as to where things then stand. Much Love xxx