Metastatic cancer

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! 😊

30-What’s best for cancer recovery – Bloody Mary’s or Morphine?

23 Sept 2021

I have to say that since my last blog post back in July – I’ve had a quite enjoyable summer!

I did receive my old-age pensioner bus pass and as if to prove I’m more than qualified for one, I promptly forgot and lost it somewhere – and never even used the dammed thing.

I think the gods are telling me that even though I’ve reached the ‘age’ – I really shouldn’t have one!

So I reckon I’ll remain bus pass-less for the time being.

My 66th birthday on July 22nd was spent in London, on a glorious sunny day.

It started as all great days should, with an amazingly good Bloody Mary for breakfast at Dishoom in Covent Garden. Dishoom is a very stylish Bombay-styled Indian restaurant, with a twist. It serves both fusion and traditional breakfasts - as well as all-day dining.

This was followed by some splendid wine and tapas with daughter Rachel at a riverside eatery by Battersea Power Station (what a change from my days when I lived in London in the 60’s and 70’s).

Finishing up with a night-time Thanes Clipper boat ride through the west end; city and docklands to my hotel that evening – it was a truly magnificent day.

Remembering back to last year’s birthday outing, when I fell off a bike during a family bicycle ride, being full of morphine at that time didn’t help, although to be fair, I didn’t feel much pain. This year’s dulling of pain by vodka and tomato juice was quite tasty, but sometimes I do miss morphine for the high 😉

Also remembering back to September of last year, I thoroughly enjoyed the all-day Zoom video calls from friends and family around the world in aid of the Macmillan Cancer charity and its ‘World’s Biggest Coffee morning’ fundraiser. It was in the middle of Covid lockdowns and restrictions, so having people for coffee and baking cakes was out of the question.

Honestly this year, the thought of me baking cakes is equally out of the question!

But taking over the mantle for 2021 my is my lovely daughter Verity, who is opening her house tomorrow morning (24th September) and baking cakes to raise funds. This is her link – not sure if she can post cakes out, but feel free to ask!

As for me – progress continues with my throat and I’m eating much better now. Mouth isn’t so dry these days and that helps enormously.

Although to be fair, even stage 3 throat cancer was unlikely to stop me eating and talking for too long!

Right now though, there’s no new news on my secondary cancer, but I have a further CAT scan and meeting with the other, proper Dr Wozzer in a few weeks’ time, so I’ll update my blog following that.

In the meantime, wherever you are in the world – do take good care of yourselves in these uncertain times. x

31-Big balls are not aways desirable

1st December 2021

Well, it was always coming, but a bit of a shock just the same. I’ve had a nagging pain in my back for a good couple of months or so. Not a lower back muscular pain and certainly not a sports injury!

I flagged this up at my recent meeting with my Oncologist – the ever-professional Dr Warren Grant. He did say that secondary tumours in the lung sometimes show few symptoms and for those that do, a low ‘nagging’ pain is not uncommon.

So, definitely time for a new CT scan to see what’s developed since my previous scan back in May, when the tumours were still relatively small.

The results of the scan came back last week and yep, it was a bit of a shock – to me, at least.

Metastatic (secondary) tumour development in right lung

Jan 2021 May 2021 Nov 2021 About the size of…
Tom 17mm 20mm 55mm Snooker / Pool ball
Dick 14mm 15mm 36mm Ping Pong / Squash ball
Harry 7mm 11mm 29mm Lollypop candy

I say ‘to me’ because Dr Wozzer indicated that these sizes are not too bad, when considering the overall size of a lung.

“Oh really?” I thought.

Anyway, he decided that now is a good time to begin treatments. The plan is for some ‘palliative radiotherapy’ now and most likely to follow with some cycles of chemotherapy in the new year.

So a couple of days, ago I was back to the Oncology Centre in Cheltenham, for a pre-treatment scan and some body mark-up.

Felt a bit strange (and disappointing) to be walking back in there nearly 18 months after the throat radiotherapy.

In another respect, a feeling of familiarity: The same receptionist greeted me with a ‘Hi Warren’ - obviously remembering me (or at least remembering the tin of biscuits I left back then).

And the radiologist doing the prep work was the ever-friendly William – who is always bright and cheerful and became a good ‘mate’ during the hard weeks of treatment back in May / June 2020.

Will took me through the procedure which was a quick scan to see the tumour locations and then a tiny ink tattoo on my chest, which defines the ‘reference point’ that will be used when aiming the radiation treatment.

I’ve known all year this treatment was coming – and I’m ever so glad that Dr Grant held off until mow. It’s allowed me a good summer and autumn to get around and see family and friends.

Equally I’m now relieved that treatment is commencing. Larry the Lump was well beaten – and remains so.

I also know that Larry's sons - Tommy the Tumour, Dick and Harry have been gearing up all year for a fight and I’ll be taking them on next week, with the first bout of palliative radiotherapy.

I'm scheduled for five treatments (known as 'fractions') on w/c 6th December.
More from me soon after x