CAT scan

8-Meet Manny the Mask

27th April 2020

It’s my first visit to the Oncology centre in Cheltenham General Hospital.
Around 20 minutes drive from home. It’s good to get out on the road during the lockdown

I’m being fitted with my mask, which will be used for all the radiotherapy sessions. Met in the reception by a very amiable and likeable chap – Liam. He explains the process to me.

And it’s amazing!..

Today’s session is purely mechanical and analytical. Preparing for the treatment. There’s a CAT scanner which today is just being used for measurement analysis (not diagnosis), a steel bed which is the same dimensions as used for the actual radio LINAC treatment and a very special perforated polymer sheet.

The polymer sheet is soaking in warm water and Liam positions me flat on my back, with between a headrest and what I’d describe as a bum stop. So that fixes my line.

The the pliable polymer sheet is places over my head and shoulders and still being pliable, is fixed by clips to the steel bed. So that will be my X and Y position for all future scans.

But now comes the magic – I have to lay perfectly still for around 15 minutes or so. In this time, as the polymer is cooling, it shrinks completely tight against my head and neck. A bit like vacuum forming, but without the vacuum suction.

Now the radiologist team can place marks on the mask, line it with lasers (these can be seen in the photo) so that I’m perfectly positioned and check against this reference scan, throughout the 30 sessions of radiology that I’ll have.

As the mask will be a companion of mine throughout and a close a copy as of me as anyone could see, it needed a name.

So please let me introduce…

Big Manny – the Mask

🙂

 

21-Cold Turkey and a CAT

All in all, I'm happy to report a pretty good month of improvement. Some the pain has gone. Well, my pain that is. I'm still a pain to my lovely suffering wife, who has to contend with my regular moans and groans!

Eating has become easier in terms of swallowing, but unfortunately my sense of taste is still minimal, which makes for a less than enjoyable eating experience. A minor issue in the big scheme of things, but a bugger to someone like me who really enjoys his food.

Of course, this has also had some 'upside' in that I've now lost aorund 33kg / 5 stones / 73lb since January of this year. I'm well happy with this - but my NHS dietician not so.

Dropped 3 dress sizes too, from 5xl to xxl. Actually, the photo from this Tuesday shows an xxl shirt - and even that's becoming a bit baggy too 🙂

Cold Turkey

As I mentioned, all the pain has subsided now - so I was preparing to ease off the morphine. I've have been quite hooked - being on a pretty high dose since mid-May.

Oh - easier said than done! I mentioned it at last months hospital meeting and they seemed pretty cool about it. 'Just ease off the dose over a while' they said. But perhaps their idea of a 'while' was a few weeks, whereas Wozzers idea was 3 days..

Oh boy oh boy, I really went cold turkey last week. I was a real mess, with the typical junkie runny nose, aching joints and mad dreams. I put up with it for a few days and was tempted to start on the morphine again. I spoke with my GP after 4 days and she said I should be over it in a couple more days - and she was quite correct. By the weekend, I was back to my normal (mad) self, instead of a drug-induced mad self.

PET/CT Scan

Yesterday I had my first scan post treatment. As they promised for September. It was a CT scan with 'contrast'

It was a full-body scan, one to check on the treatment so far and two, to check if there's any further spread of cancer. This is pretty much the main concern of every cancer patient post-initial treatment.

The procedure itself is painless. It starts with an IV/drip of saline with a mild radioactive drug, which shows areas of the body where cells are more active than normal, indicating the possibility of cancer. This is the 'contrast' bit.

CT (CAT) Scan

A CT scan is a test that uses x-rays and a computer to create detailed pictures of the inside of the body. It takes pictures from different angles. The computer puts them together to make a 3 dimensional (3D) image.

My medical team will have the scans this week  and will discuss during the next week. I'll have the results good or bad, within a couple of weeks from now. Hopefully in time for our coffee morning zoom video meetings on the 25th September. Which brings me nicely on to updating you with the details...

I'm pretty much ready for the ‘World’s Biggest Coffee Morning’ in aid of Macmillan Cancer Support, on 25th September 2020. I’m hoping to chit chat with friends, colleagues and family around the world – so I’ll be hosting the video ‘meetings’ for 12 hours (7am to 7pm UK time). Please, please join at any time that suits you.

This should allow coffee mornings in the US, coffee afternoons in the UK and Europe and Beer O’Clock for those in the Far East and down under. Hopefully you’ll all fine some time to get online with me – even if only for a few minutes. Donate the cost of a coffee or two and we’ll be eternally grateful. It all counts and all donations are going to a great cause.

 

WIN THIS UNQUE COFFEE MUG

With a thank you note and spersonally signed by Wozzer!

This Macmillan Coffee Morning mug will be posted to the winner anywhere in the world - subject of course to delivery being available. I might even put a stamp on!

All zoom visitors get one entry, and the winner will be picked by an online random generator thingy.

I’m using Zoom Video Meetings for the all-day fundraiser.

It will work on all devices (Windows, Apple, Android etc), it's FREE to use and can be downloaded in advance by clicking here

If you don't download in advance, clicking this MEETING link, should start the download automatically:
https://us04web.zoom.us/j/73794084522?pwd=TER5amVWN3FVbUdJbVZRNVhyaHBJZz09

Just say yes to the permissions it requests (use audio, video etc) and you’ll be good to go in just a few minutes. If it asks for meeting ID or Passcode they are shown here:
Meeting ID: 737 9408 4522
Passcode: 8cmAGM

Also my Macmillan donations page can be viewed by clicking this text

or this link: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/warren-garber

If you have any problems on the day, please SMS or WhatsApp to me on +44 770 82 92 274

Finally (for now), please feel free to share this post with anyone you might think would like to join-in.

Hopefully see you some time on the 25th xx

22-Macmillan Coffee Morning (and Beer)

Let me start with an apology!

24 September 2020

When I started planning for the Macmillan Worlds Biggest Coffee Morning, they also set up a donations page which I could use to raise funds for the charity. Alas, for such a large and well-known charity - it appears their fundraising platorm isn't as good as it could be.

It appears it was very difficult for donors (friends / relatives) to leave their name and any note for me. Also, they could only accept payment by a card registered in the UK. Of course, that's not so easy for many of my friends / family around the world.

So it's impossible for me to personally thank anyone that has donated. And for that I sincerely apologise.

The image below shows kind donations from the last week or so. Please feel free to comment if you donated - or send me a private message on facebook or email to wozzer (at) warrengarber (dot) com

Recently received...

Justgiving for Macmillan

I have a new fundraiser page on Justgiving (the funds also go direct to Macmillan) and there are links below -or just click the image. It's ever so easy and you can leave your name and/or a message.

If you haven't already, donating even the cost of a coffee (or two), makes a difference!

So, with this post I'm ready for the ‘World’s Biggest Coffee Morning’ in aid of Macmillan Cancer Support tomorrow.

I’m hoping to chit chat with friends, colleagues and family around the world – so I’ll be hosting the video ‘meetings’ for 12 hours (7am to 7pm UK time). Please, please join at any time that suits you.

This should allow coffee mornings in the US, coffee afternoons in the UK and Europe and Beer O’Clock for those in the Far East and down under. Hopefully you’ll all fine some time to get online with me – even if only for a few minutes.

Take care and chat soon 🙂

Wozzer

 

WIN THIS UNQUE COFFEE MUG

With a thank you note and spersonally signed by Wozzer!

This Macmillan Coffee Morning mug will be posted to the winner anywhere in the world - subject of course to delivery being available. I might even put a stamp on!

All zoom visitors get one entry, and the winner will be picked by an online random generator thingy.

I’m using Zoom Video Meetings for the all-day fundraiser.

It will work on all devices (Windows, Apple, Android etc), it's FREE to use and can be downloaded in advance by clicking here

If you don't download in advance, clicking this MEETING link, should start the download automatically:
https://us04web.zoom.us/j/73794084522?pwd=TER5amVWN3FVbUdJbVZRNVhyaHBJZz09

Just say yes to the permissions it requests (use audio, video etc) and you’ll be good to go in just a few minutes. If it asks for meeting ID or Passcode they are shown here:
Meeting ID: 737 9408 4522
Passcode: 8cmAGM

Also my Macmillan donations page can be viewed by clicking this text

or this link: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/warren-garber

If you have any problems on the day, please SMS or WhatsApp to me on +44 770 82 92 274

Finally (for now), please feel free to share this post with anyone you might think would like to join-in.

Hopefully see you some time on the 25th xx

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

27-Learning new words about Cancer

30th January 2021

As they say - 'you're never too old to learn'.

And it's true. I’ve learned a new word: Scanxiety - which describes ‘the apprehension felt by people with cancer as they wait for their next scan’.

This came about by doing too much of what I shouldn’t - which is hunting around the interweb trying to find information, about things of which only give me an incomplete picture as to what's likely to happen.

Let me back up a bit. My first full scan, post treatment was done last September – and that was a very anxious wait to find out the results.

Good and bad was the outcome of that scan. Good that the throat tumour has diminished – bad that metastatic (secondary cancer) tumours had been found in a couple of locations.

They weren’t deemed ready for treatment then, but another scan was scheduled for January 2021 to see if there’s any further development.

And there is.

No matter that I try and not worry about what I can’t influence, but waiting for that next scan and the outcome, is never ever far from my thoughts. Every day.

That is definitely Scanxiety.

And so I was ever so glad to have my January PET/CT scan and the subsequent appointment to discuss the results. The scan indicates a third tumour showing in my right lung and the original two in the same lung are still developing.

It wasn’t a great shock and I’m now back under the care of my oncologist – the excellent Dr Warren Grant. He phoned me the other day to get my thoughts and to update me on his thinking.

As ever with me, it’s not yet clear-cut. I will be starting treatment again, but right now it’s not definite when, or with what. By this I mean the choice will be either Chemotherapy or the much newer Immunotherapy treatment.

This is another new word for me. Immunotherapy ' which uses substances to stimulate my own body immune system to fight the cancer'. I suppose it's too much to wish these will be ganja-type substances, but one can hope - eh?

The decision depends partly on whether my cancer would be receptive to Immunotherapy and also on the overall effect of how my body will respond to either of the drugs.

That – and the schedule for treatment will become clearer on my next appointment with Dr Grant in mid-February.

But for now, I’ll end on a lighter note because I just received my first Covid vaccination jab. I’m in ‘group 4’ because of my condition and treatments.

No surprise that Gloucestershire NHS have it well sorted. Very quick and slick at the vaccination centre and no pain either.

Although I’m sure I heard the nurse whisper under her breath that I’d just feel a little prick.

Not a new experience for Wozzer… 😊