With the last round of treatment now behind me I have had a little time to reflect on things a bit....helped a lot by the fact that we have finally managed to get some family time away on holiday for the half term hols. A very close friend of mine sadly passed away recently following a long and very difficult battle with cancer. My thoughts are constantly with his family as I can only imagine how difficult things must be....I am so thankful that I had the chance to get as close as I did to Alan in recent years. He was a family friend of Mum and Dad’s who up until a few years ago I had not spent a great of time with. Then...cancer brought us together....he was a man who I took so much inspiration from.....a true fighter who despite everything never ever stop smiling. Alan was someone who did things ‘old style’ and I was fortunate enough to get proper handwritten letters from (non of that email rubbish:-). I have kept every one of them and am so glad that I have them to look back on. One of them in particular I refer to when the going gets a bit tough. It was a letter he wrote to me when I had just come out of one of my surgeries. The letter was nothing but a series of jokes!...despite everything he never lost his sense of humour and for me this epitomised my dear friend. You will never ever be forgot Alan....thankyou for helping me to get through my own cancer journey with a smile! I have managed to get a few runs in over the past few days with my calf injury finally easing up a bit (running on a hotel treadmill gym helps a lot...despite being a bit boring at least it ‘kind’ to your legs!). I continue to feel really optimistic about the next scan coming up in a few weeks and remain convinced that the radiotherapy has ‘done the job’ and I can move on once again with my life. My lungs feel good and following a small dose of shingles which I had a couple of weeks ago (side effect from the treatment), I am as good as new!.
A few weeks back in an attempt to keep a focus on the ‘end game’ with the latest round of radiotherapy treatment I entered myself into a local 10k race (this Sunday). I knew at the time that perhaps it may have been the case that I might not be feeling well enough to run it. Anyway, pleased to say that this week (where I was warned that the side effects of treatment maybe more obvious) has been a really good one!. I feel great...a bit tired but no issues with the lung that has prevented me from running or working. The leg injury that has been lingering around for a while has eased off a bit and I’ve been able to get a few training runs in. Another reminder for me that plenty of physical activity throughout and post treatment massively helps recovery time. The appointment with Alice is now in the diary for the 13th Nov. This will be where we have a general catch up and she books me in for a scan to hopefully have confirmation that I am once again ‘cancer free’....I feel very confident I am...let’s wait and see:-). In the meantime, with plenty of running and a family holiday to look forward to, its onwards and upwards!
So that’s it!....the latest treatment over. I am thrilled to have been able to once again ‘make the treatment fit around me’ rather than the other way round. Having been able to continue working and running throughout the past 3 weeks of radiotherapy has been great and exactly what I had hoped for. I am told that the side effects are likely to kick in more over the next 2 weeks as my body starts to recover and repair from the effects of this stronger round of radiotherapy. In terms of how I am feeling right now.....all really good!!. Other than a little more tired nothing more to report:-). Once again I am sure that by keeping active and running throughout has really helped. So in terms of next steps it will be back to see Alice in the next week or so for a catch up, followed by another series of scans in a couple of months to assess whether it’s worked and the cancer is gone (apparently it can take this long for the radio treatment to ‘do its job’ so scanning any earlier it not recommended). Let’s see what the next 2 weeks of recovery brings....I remain very confident that it will be fine.
With the 'half way' point just in front of me (this Wednesday), I thought I would drop a quick post out to give an update....in short everything is going really well:-). Other than being a little more tired and some very minor soreness on chest, everything is all good and I really can't complain. Whilst it's possible that the side effects may get a little more intense in the coming days / weeks, I have a good feeling that it will be ok. The team in Oxford are such a welcoming bunch. Everything is so well organised and nothing has been too much trouble. They have even managed to fix my appointments around work (early or late in the day), which I have been really grateful for...all helping to keep things 'as normal' as possible. I am reminded each time I go in just how lucky I am to be treated this time round at a hospital with such a forward thinking attitude to cancer treatment. I've managed to keep a limited amount of running up...the only reason for not being able to do what I would have ideally liked is due to a calf injury which I can't seam to shake off. A few more days rest up with some 'core strengthening work' instead and then hopefully the trainers will be back on again by the weekend. With the motivation of knowing that keeping the lungs 'active' will help me get through the treatment, it continues to remind me that running will always be 'on my side'
So I now have a plan:-)....the SABR radiotherapy treatment will kick off on the 6th Sept. It will be administered 'every other day', with the last fraction being given on the 22nd Sept. They have been kind enough to arrange for each session to be either early or late in the day...this will be great as it will mean that I can still try and keep things 'as normal as possible' coming into work still each day. Once again I have been talked through how everything will go and what the potential side effects will be. Given the fact that I have some previous experience with radiotherapy I am confident that it shouldn't be too bad. I remain incredibly optimistic that this is exactly the right treatment plan for me, and the more I speak to the team here the more reassured I am that Alice has everything in hand!. I know I often mention Alice in my update posts, however it is at times like this that I thank my lucky starts that she has been my oncologist and 'wing man!' throughout everything. Thank-you Alice...I really feel like this is a team effort and together, with the continued support from all my wonderful family and friends we will beat this bugger once and for all:-)
A good day today, where I finally found out what will happen. So, in a nutshell it will be an intensive 8 cycle radiotherapy treatment plan (over 8 days) which will start in around 4 weeks. I will have a CT planning session in a couple of weeks. I have been selected to take part in a trial / study on something called SABR (stereotactic ablative radiotherapy). This is apparently something that they want to roll out more widely on the NHS but currently only have limited funds to offer to everyone. So in that respect I am very lucky and incredibly grateful. Essentially the treatment means that the dose is more intense / focused, thereby reducing the number of sessions. I continue to feel very good physically - other than a rather annoying running injury which is forcing me to take a few days off...arrggh:-). Today has once again reminded me of what an incredible organisation the NHS is and just how forward thinking those I have been exposed to in the area of oncology are...thank god there are such amazing people like this out there doing this invaluable work - thankyou all so much!!
With a genuine mixture of sadness and joy, Catherine and I went up to Blackburn Cathedral yesterday to attend the 'service of celebration' for my good friend Ben Ashworth who died recently following a long 5 year battle with Bowel cancer. Some on you may also follow him on-line so will also know him well and what he has endured. Ben was no ordinary individual that was abundantly clear. Not only through the posts he wrote on his social media sites, but through the words he spoke. I first met Ben a few years back at a parliamentary reception at the House of Commons while I was in the middle of my own cancer treatment. I was told by the beating Bowel cancer charity team that I really should meet "this guy who loves running like you"...from the very first conversation it was very evident that this is a man who had exactly the right attitude. He was so incredibly modest about what he had been through and always fought to keep the spotlight on the charity and not on his own predicament. It would have been completely understandable to have had a least a modicum of self pity, however that simply wasn't Ben. Having been told originally that he had only months to live, he defied the odds for over 5 years. He once told me (at the London marathon last year) that he was sure that it was running and staying fit throughout the treatment which gave him this precious time with Louise and his girls. You meant so much to so many people Ben. Please rest in peace knowing that you made such a positive difference in this world my friend. Ben I miss you, but you will never ever be forgotten. Ever time I put a pair of trainers on I think of you, and like you I will never give up the fight xx
Not quite what I was hoping for following my appointment with Alice today, however definitely could have been worse. So the final upshot from the PET scan I had last week is that I have a small cancer growth in my lung (originating once again from the bowel cancer). This time, rather than being in a place where surgery is easily possible (like the last three times), it is located right in the centre of the lungs. So with that in mind, it is most likely that I will undergo radiotherapy, as surgery would probably mean having to lose a lung. Alice will meet with her supporting team, including the lung specialist to work out what the final treatment plan will be on Thursday this week. From what she said today I think it is most likely that it will start around mid-August with the treatment taking place at either Oxford or Reading. To be honest I had feared the worst in that it had spread to other organs, so as strange as it may sound, I am pretty happy it is back where it is…..or course would have been better if it wasn’t anywhere, but heah you can’t have it all eh:-). Thankyou everyone for your wonderfully positive and supportive comments which I really appreciate. I continue to feel really well and with my running back up now to around 35-40 miles a week, it will be more of the same in the build up to treatment.
Still all a little unclear, however unfortunately today's results didn’t quite give me the news I had hoping for. In a nutshell it was what I would probably call ‘good’ and ‘not so good’ news….On the plus side the CT scan itself has not picked up anything ‘new’ in the lungs. That is clearly a relief and something which I am very much clinging onto. On the ‘not so good’ side, my CEA blood result levels have come back with an abnormally high number…..36. It may well be that it is nothing to write home about, however on the other hand could indicate that the cancer is back somewhere else. The only way of knowing for sure is to have a PET scan which should give all the answers Alice needs. She wants to move on this quickly which was great to hear….I will be booked in for the PET scan back in Oxford again at some point in the next 2 weeks, with a follow up appointment to see Alice again on the 3rd July. So it’s the waiting game for now…….and in the meantime it’s more of the same, with running taking center stage as usual:-) Will update again on the 3rd July when I know more.
With a few days now since surgery I am really pleased to report that everything went to plan. As before I managed to make it just a 'one night stay' and was home with Catherine and the boys on Friday. I felt well enough to get back to work today and also have just come back from a 7 mile run which I have to say felt wonderful to be able to do...the weather was perfect for it and it was the ideal end to 'a Monday':-). Whilst I didn't get to actually speak to John after the surgery, his assistant who was there throughout the whole operation told me everything went well and they got it out with keyhole. I will be back to see John again in 10 days or so for an update which almost certainly will be followed by the usual CT scan. Given how things have gone I am so pleased we decided to press on with the surgery. Onwards and upwards!.