28-Recollections of a first year with cancer – and more!

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.

https://woz.typepad.com/wozzer/2008/07/6-spanish-authorities-attempt-to-ground-woz-tours.html

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! 😊

11 thoughts on “28-Recollections of a first year with cancer – and more!”

  1. Woz- I hope that you have started writing your book. Your experiences and the memory of them deserves to be preserved for posterity!
    Looking forward to meeting up in the summer for an elbow bump!

    It would be the sort of book that ‘once you put it down, it’s hard to pick up again’
    I’ve got heaps of material (as you know more than most people). But I need a good listener / editor to put it all together.

  2. Excellent story from the old blog!

    Unforgettable Al. That was the closest I ever came to being in the nick.
    Definitely advising you: ‘don’t do as I do….’

  3. Hi bud glad your still fighting the good fight I’ve just moved into a lovely council bungalow in Liskeard so set for life now but moving being disabled is no fun luckily I have a very good friend that helped me they say moving is one of the most stressful things to do believe me it is but you will know about that all the places you have lived I hope you will get back to your travels soon mate you know your always welcome in Cornwall you take care all the best. Roland

    Mate – would love to get down your way again. Bet it’ll be busy this year! Ping me if you are headed anywhere north of say Taunton!

  4. From Moz to Woz, you’re the legendary coelocanth, leisurely swimming the oceans of the world while swatting away life’s troubles, destined to survive eons! 🙂

    Paul – I’ve been called a few things over the (many) years. But your descriptor perfectly sums me up. I just need to work it into the title of my book – and of course the subesquent movie.

  5. annie_todd@hotmail.co.uk

    Oh Warren, so lovely to read. Travel is such a wonderful thing but I ve lost interest, you can go to one of our favourite pubs, The Anchor at Epney, so jealous, you could visit my kids. We can’t. Hey ho. Take care, glad to hear the cancer unit is still top draw xxx

    Thanks so much 🙂
    All being well I’m heading down to The Anchor on opening day – 12th April. Let your kids know xx

  6. Hi Warren good to read your latest update s. Well we’ve more in common I was a business travel agent over 35 years snd now like you still in remission from throat dancer ( tonsil ) kerp on planning we’ve an apartment over in Murcia who kniws when we will see it but a girls got to plan. Good id luck with the scans. Hazel x

    Hiya Hazel. Travel and always having a plan? Well, it sure takes one to know one! I used to get up around Murcia back in the day, would love a trip over to Spain soon x

  7. Frances Garber

    Warren you amaze me. I’m so proud of you. Am always guaranteed a good laugh with you when we speak on the phone. Never change (Bless you)
    Love Mum.

    Only a Mum could love me like that 🙂 xx

  8. Jayne Benmosche

    I just love your spunk! I remember your family’s trip in 1974. You even made a side trip to visit me in Philadelphia. Adding a bit of determination to your huge pot. Take care and well wishes.

    Ahh, that’s coming back to me now Jayne.
    These days I get to noon and forgot what I had for breakfast. I’d so love another trip to the ‘states… xx

  9. Always a delight to read your blog and catch up on wozzers world of adventure. Rember meeting up in Disney during that storm ? Keep up the fight mate with that positive attitude and I hope to see you sometime soon. Cheers Neil


    How could I forget that trip Neil. Not only a tornado warning, but also a space shuttle launch and seeing it flying over Orlando. Epic memories mate!

  10. Jeezo mate! You’re going to be racking up those airmiles when we’re all let loose!

    Mate. We need another meetup down in HCMC Quan 1. Just to be sure we saw what we saw last time!

  11. Woz, you are a very good writer. I think you have missed your calling. All these years you could have been sitting down at a computer and writing all sorts of stories, books, maybe even screenplays for movies! You’ve got the gift

    We were in Spain for a month about 90 days before the pandemic hit. Barcelona, Valencia, Alicante, Elche, Torrevieja, Madrid.

    Visited with radio friends in Barcelona and stayed with a Norwegian couple in Gran Alicant. Another one of my radio buddies.
    Also stayed with Ulla’s brother at his place in Torrevieja.
    Fun time in Spain.

    Ulla & I are hoping all goes very well with your treatments.

    73. Jay….NE2Q

    Yeah, a few people have said the same about my writing a book….
    But there’s many who hope I don’t 😉

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