Other ramblings

6-Is this just a cut price cancer?

18th April 2020

It’s around week 4 of the UK lockdown. Feels like month 4 for many, but for Wozzer there’s lots to prepare for. And of course if there’s anyone nerdy enough to sit researching things, it is he!

I’ll need online deliveries of shopping for sure. A friend told me that Sainsbury’s were prioritising the ‘old and sick’ Well, really I didn’t think I was either – but I might be both.

Sure enough, on the Sainsbury’s website, just register with my email and lo and behold… Sorry, came the reply – you’re not on the Coronavirus Vulnerable list.

OMG – but I’m old and sick.

So, a bit more web research brought me here at the official government website to register

Half a dozen or so cancer types listed… cancer with chemo (nope); cancer of the blood (nope); radical radiotherapy (definitely not it’s in Gloucestershire, so hardly radical); stem cell (nope).

Bummer, my tonsil cancer doesn’t qualify.

Is there another way? I hunt a bit more and check about Aldi delivery. No problems or restrictions for Tonsil cancer listed, just pay £23.99 online and have a box of food delivered.

Simple as. Save money – especially for budget cancer patients 🙂

 

 

11-Love all

4th May 2020

Nope – that’s not a tennis result and certainly not the fight result.

It was just me and my own thoughts up and out of bed at 5.30 am this morning. I couldn’t really get sleep last night – sat up watching telly till around 1.30 – and here I am on the long walk from the dressing room to the ring.

Yep, the crowds are cheering me and shouting amazing notes of support. My team in the corner are all well experienced with me 100%, so no doubts there – none.

But jeez, this has now hit me – here, right now for the first time really. A proper life-changing day.

I’m going to a specialist unit for cancer treatment – my cancer. Not to visit mates of mine that have been through this in the past.

Of course, all the prior month build-up, tests, procedures, doctors meetings – blog posts and musing have been published on line. People, friends, acquaintances from my wonderings around the world have made contact – some I haven’t been in touch with, in years. It’s a warm feeling.

But now today – it’s real.

I’m not scared, my faith in the medics and family is all the trust I need – but I still get emotional and have a little cry to myself.

But I’m not feeling sorry for myself either – I fear more for my dearest and closest that need my support too. I’m a husband and father and a step-father, and no matter what’s happened along the way – there are responsibilities that are always there.

Cancer. It’s such an emotive word.

But really in this day and age, the knowledge, drugs, technology and care are so much more advanced. The odds are on my side. Let’s face it – we all go in the end, one way or another.

I used to drive 35,000 miles a year over 12 years in one job. More chance of a fatal on the M6 or the foggy M62, I used to reckon.

Crossing Monivong Boulevard by Central Market in Phnom Penh was another life-threatening act – every time!

And perhaps the way I always envisaged (and nearly did) die, was in a real sleazy bar in downtown Saigon. Now that would have been cool…

So that’s all off my chest and I’m feeling much better for it.

Climbing up into the ring now. Just hope I don’t trip over the bloody ropes and knock myself out, before I throw a punch 😉

Love to you all x

23-What a day!

My Macmillan Coffee Morning 25th September 2020

It was astonishing, astounding, surprising, breathtaking (literally), awesome, phenomenal, extraordinary, incredible, unbelievable, wonderful, marvellous...

Yep - it was a pretty good day!!

My thanks to everyone that joined-in on Zoom video throughout the almost 13 hours that I was online. And to all of you that kindly donated... Well, you contributed towards a total donation of 1300 GBP / 1675 USD.

To put this in perspective, this would pay for a Macmillan Support Worker, helping people with cancer for almost 2 weeks. I've been a direct beneficiary of this support, so I'm humbled at the response from you all.

On the day, I started at 7am here in the UK and soon enough has some past work colleagues (also great friends) now living in New Zealand. Soon enough Australian friends were on line - followed by Asia, Europe and finally the USA. There were 28 people (well more including couples) from 10 countries. Some I hadn't seen since perhaps 2010, when in Cambodia. Some were more recent friends, including some of my Macmillan team - thanks Sarah and Olly for dropping by!

It was truly heart-warming to not only catch up again, but to know everyone took the time and trouble to join me and reminisce.

I must make a special mention to Dally in the Philippines, who had the unknowing misfortune to buy a ticket on the Mekong Express overland coach from Saigon to Siem Reap. A journey that takes around 14 hours. That in itself is bad enough, but finding that Wozzer was in the next seat for the whole trip...

And so the day went on and I loved it all. I really can’t thank everyone enough.

Draw for the Macmillan Coffee Mug

I screen recorded the draw, using a list of unique participants (as reported by Zoom), each with a number and an online random number generator. You can see how I did it (for transparency and fairness) in this short video.

I wish you could have all won – all are equally deserving. But one winner only for the jackpot, which goes to Phil Butterworth, now living in the USA. As it happens, Phil was (is) a great mate from our Cambodia days. He’s a helicopter pilot, used to do sightseeing flights and also some pretty cool commercial stuff too. I distinctly remember him flying with university professors to discover (and map) a completely hidden ancient city.

There’s an excellent article and video here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-29245289

I had many nights out with Phil, including one outstanding Haloween / fancy dress pub-crawl around the Old Market (Psar Chaa) area in 2010.

We knocked ideas around on one of our many man-dates, over beers and a curry. He thought I’d make a pretty good Shrek and I thought he’d make a very good policeman – and so it came to pass…

Man oh man, what a night. I had literally hundreds of tourists wanting to pose with me – mostly Korean as I remember. This allowed me to get into full character – complete with a dodgy Mike Myers Scots accent… “What’s up with you? Have ye never seen an fookin ogre on a Saturday nite in Siem Reap’??

They had no idea what I was on about 🙂

Phil also really went to the limit. Well, past it really. He obtained a full, real police uniform and stuffed all the pockets with banknotes - imitating in real-life the local corruption that goes on.

It was a real hoot - until the real police carted him off. I was terrified that they'd lock him up and forget about him (as they were prone to do in those days). As it was they relieved him of his uniform - and all his money, and he was back with us within an hour or so. Scary though !!

Back to reality...

Next week (6th October), I have my appointment to discuss the results of the PET/CT scan that was done a couple of weeks ago. Watch out for my next blog update a few days after.

Until then - take care.

Woz x

 

26-What a year that was

Friday 11th December 2020

Today is exactly 6 months since I finished radiotherapy on Friday 12th June and ‘rang that bell’. So I thought a good day to reflect back over this mad year, which is both forgettable and definitely unforgettable…

And what a year indeed.

It started for me quite normally – as with most of us I guess. January started good for bookings in the travel business and then later that month, news of the coronavirus was starting to appear. I spent most of February cancelling the majority of our guest’s bookings. And then from March on – along with everyone else in the world, trying to make sense of things.

Reading back through my blog, it was the last day of March – while the UK was in ‘Lockdown 1’ that I strolled into Gloucester Royal Hospital A&E with my (now infamous) niggling sore throat.

And here I am now.

Larry the Lump has gone – beaten and K O'd in the final round by Radical Radiotherapy, although he gave me quite a hammering along the way. But I had an amazing team in my corner - so I was more than confident all along 🙂

My recovery from the radiotherapy is still going in the right direction. But fatigue; lacking a sense of taste and issues swallowing food are constant reminders of the effects of the cancer and treatment. As is the slightly numb left ear which has some nerve damage, also as a result of the radiotherapy.

But all in all – I’m told by the medics I’m in better shape than many after just six months post-treatment. Of course, the secondary tumors that were identified, are a constant reminder that there’s still a way to go. I’ll deal with them next year and of course, it will all be dependent on what further scans show.

It's not all bad though...

I’ve lost a lot of weight – some 35kg / 77lb or 5.5 stones. In fairness it was needed because I did need to shed some blubber, but I’ve gotta say – it’s a tough diet and is not recommended at all as an aid for weight-loss 😉

Still, I’m down a good three dress sizes and getting into clothes I’ve had (literally) hanging around since 2005. They’re almost back in fashion too!

Also in September was the ‘worldwide coffee morning’ that I held on Zoom, raising funds for Macmillan Cancer Charity. I have such fond memories of that day – meeting up on video with family and friends all around the globe.

Also – avid readers of this blog may remember there was a prize winner drawn from all the people that were on zoom with me that day – and the winner is a good mate of mine - Phil Butterworth, who I’ve known since my early days in Siem Reap, Cambodia, around 10 years ago.

I had comissioned a commemorative mug from Macmillan - specially printed and then shipped to the USA, where Phil now resides. Here’s a lovely selfie as sent to me from Phil.

Enjoy it mate!

So that nicely wraps up this chapter and the final one for 2020. I’m scheduled a further PET/CT scan sometime during January 2021 and I’ll update this blog with information, when I have the results from that.

But for now on behalf of Samros, Nisa and me, we extend our sincere thanks for all your messages of support and to wish you peaceful holidays and a healthy and happy New Year, wherever you are in the world.

Take care
Woz x

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