31 March 2021
Well, what a year it’s been for me since last March.
Actually, I guess the same can be said for everyone and there must be unthinkable grief for so many families who have lost loved ones through the pandemic.
It's a year to this day that I popped into my local hospital to ask if someone could have a look at my sore throat.
Sure, my year has been life-changing, but I’m still here. Over 120,000 went into hospital in the UK with maybe little more than a cough and never came out.
So yes, even with all my ills, I count myself as one of the lucky ones. I say that because the treatment and medications I’ve been on notwithstanding, I’m still here to tell the tale and enjoy life as it is.
Looking back over the past 12 months (and it’s hard to believe it’s just on a year), I can say I’ve had more than my fair share of ups and downs.
From the first examination of my throat and waiting for confirmation of cancer; through the prepping for and subsequent tough radiotherapy treatment; to the long recovery from that treatment (still ongoing) and of course the amazing support from not only family, but also friends and colleagues around the world, and especially so for all the teams that have taken care of me at Gloucester Royal Hospital and the Oncology unit in Cheltenham – again I thank you all and appreciate it - more than I can say.
Paradoxically, my throat cancer seems to be clear. Technically it's 5 years of clear scans required to make that statement - but it doesn't feel too bad right now. Speaking; eating and drinking is improving in small, but positive steps. Dry mouth will be an ongoing issue because of treatment damage to my saliva glands.
And I have this horrible-looking lump under my chin, which is Lymphedema. I did have cancer in lymph nodes in my throat and these were also treated by radiotherapy. I think 'treated' in this case means irreparably damaged.
It’s more of a cosmetic issue than medically dangerous. Massaging the swelling does reduce it for a while, but the fluid build-up always returns. But believe me, at my age – I need all the cosmetic help possible 😉
This leaves me very much working through the mental side of coping with incurable tumours and preparing for the next cycles of chemo or immunotherapy or whatever. I’m trying to readjust to dealing with scan results in 3 months chunks.
So currently there's a further full scan due in May and then another discussion with Dr Grant to consider the treatment options and prognosis.
Mind you, I'm planning for quite a few 3 months chunks yet!
Although for me – the man who almost always has a plan – honestly, it’s a bit of a bummer.
But – there’s also been a bright side to always look at 😉
I got to thinking about being known as ‘a man always with a plan’. Sure, for the past 10 years I’ve been a travel consultant, planning trips and tours for visitors to Cambodia, Vietnam, and Laos. I’m so lucky really. Travel has been such a passion for me – and it was a dream to live in Cambodia while extensively traveling those countries - and get paid to do it.
But it started way before that – my very first time on a plane was a Laker Airways DC10 ‘Skytrain’ from London to New York, with my parents and brothers around 1974 or 1975. I was about 18 years old.
If ever there was one man to thank for introducing long-haul travel to the masses, it must be Sir Freddie Laker.
Since then, I’ve always been planning a trip somewhere for someone – family, friends, or workmates. Whether to Devon or Florida with family, Nice or Amsterdam with workmates and friends, or my own adventures in many countries.
So much so, some had given me the moniker ‘Woz Tours’.
I fondly remember in early 2008 planning a side-trip for a couple of Aussies – Wendy and Phil, who I hadn’t actually met – we did everything on Skype and email between Queensland (where they lived) and Spain, where I was living at the time.
But when we did meet at Malaga Airport – oh my, it was an unforgettable time – with a suitably crazy story, which I recounted from my first attempt at writing a blog back then and which amazingly is still live online.
In a nutshell, I was already booked to stay with Wendy and Phil in Proserpine, Queensland in late 2008.
I’d already joined the Couchsurfing community. It was like a forerunner of AirB&B, but with a much more social emphasis. No money changed hands – one could be hosted for free and indeed was expected to host others. It was fantastic back in the day.
Wendy and Phil were ‘Couchsurfing hosts’, who were traveling to Europe in mid-2008. So I invited them to stay with me for a few days on the Costa del Sol, which was prior to me staying with them.
What a blast we had. Among lots of beers, tapas and live music gigs, the UEFA Euro championships were on – Spain won the tournament, beating Germany 1-0 and the whole country – football mad at the best of times, went absolutely crazy! (that is NOT me in the picture!)
They, like so many other people that I’ve met over the years left part of their hearts in mine. Wendy unfortunately succumbed to cancer some years ago, but she and Phil still bring a wide smile to my face whenever I think of them.
Which is often.
But back to today – with it seems the world waiting to travel, I for sure am already planning my next trip to S E Asia. I'm just waiting for the politicians and scientists to let me fly again.
I’m ready for some Mee Cha (fried noodles) in Cambodia and a good many glasses of Bia 333 in Saigon.
Both are easy on the throat – strictly for medicinal purposes of course! 😊