First lung op out the way!

With a week now gone since the lung surgery I thought I would post a quick update.

So with some anticipation there I was back on 'the slab':-) last Thursday. Catherine drove me in early for what ended up being a really successful day. To cut a long story short, the surgery went well and they managed to take it out using keyhole as planned (there was an outside chance they may have had to open me up however this proved not to be necessary....phew!). I was told that it maybe a 3-5 day stay, however fortunately they 'let me loose' the day after. It was great to get back into my own bed on the Friday night. Recovery has been going well with the painkillers doing their job nicely!. I was back in work on Tuesday which was great to be able to do as well.

No running yet, however I am hopeful and confident that next week I can get the trainers back on.

I have to admit that I had expected to feel very out of breath from the surgery, however so far it is feeling good...lets see what happens when I start running again!.

Surgery number 2, first week in September...bring it on!.

Back in the lungs

Unfortunately I found out last week that the cancer is back...this time in my lungs. It’s difficult to describe how I feel on being told for the third time that I will go ‘under the knife’. Sometime I joke to myself that I feel I am running out of organs for it to go:-)

Thanks to the support of everyone over the past 2.5 years, in particular my family, I can honestly say that I feel completely mentally ready to take on 'the fight' once again….third time lucky this time hopefully!.

The positives from what I have been told are that despite the fact that there are ‘deposits’ which have been picked up on both lungs (following a PET scan), they are very small and also very slow growing. What this means in practise is that they are both treatable and more importantly curable. Of course, unlike the liver which grows back, this won’t be the case for the lungs. However the fact that I already have a fairly ‘fit and healthy set’ should mean that this stands me in much better position to recover quicker. Following a meeting with my surgeon yesterday the plan is to operate late July.

The London marathon which I did back in April was another reminder of how lucky I have been throughout the past 3 years since diagnosis……the fact that I have been able to maintain my running throughout has been quite literally a ‘life saver’. I see no reason why this cannot continue following this new surgery, although of course I am mindful that it may well have some impact more directly given where it is. As I did before I intend to get myself as fit as possible beforehand and so will keep ‘racking up those miles’ in the coming weeks.

Bottom line is that I remain very positive for the prognosis following surgery and I just hope that this really will be the end of it once and for all and I can put my ‘cancer days’ behind me. Once again thank you to everyone who has so kindly donated…..just over £18k now which I am thrilled with!!!! – THANK YOU!....only £2k more to go.

Gearing up for London

With only 5 weeks to go and being mindful that I haven't posted for a while, I thought I would drop all those following me a quick update on runthroughcancer!.

From a health point of view all is good!!. I had a recent blood test and met up with Alice for the usual follow up....she told me that everything was great. "Keep doing what your doing Tom" was the message loud and clear. I will see her again in June / July after the next CT / MRI

Training has been going well and with the London marathon just round the corner it is dawning on me that my final challenge is nearly upon me:-). I did the Wokingham half marathon a couple of weeks back and the Surrey half marathon today as part of the training plan...both went well with a time of around 1hr 31mins in each. The last race prior to London is the Cardiff world half marathon in 2 weeks which I am really looking forward to...should be fun as I try (and fail) to chase Mo Farrah down:-).

I have found myself recently looking back on the cancer journey I have been on over the last 2.5 years and I am reminded of how lucky I am to be here, particularly feeling as I do. When I was in the middle of treatment I recall constantly 'thinking and living' cancer. Now that I am over a year 'post' treatment it feels good in so many ways to get back to feeling 'normal' not only physically but mentally as well. There are so many who have got me through this. Whilst having your own focus and determination is a critical factor in getting through cancer, it cannot be done without the support of others. Without my medical team, friends and family it just simply wouldn't have been possible to get through it.

The Beating Bowel Cancer team, who I am running London on behalf of are such a wonderful group of individuals who I owe such a great deal to. Their support was invaluable to me and I am committed in raising as much as I can for them so they can help others in the same way they helped me.

Thank You all to those who have already donated!. However if you haven't done so and would still like to (go on, you won't regret it!!!:-), you can by click on:

http:www.justgiving.com/runthroughcancer/

Clear CT scan!

Back in July I had a CT scan where Alice noticed something very small on my left lung. She explained at the time that the only way of being sure whether this was the return of the cancer was to wait for another 4 months to see if it grew. It has been a fairly worrying period of time on the one hand, although I must say on the other hand I have had lots to keep me distracted...new job, marathon training, Catherine and the boys.

Anyway, I have just had 'that' scan and the news is that it is all clear!....phew. She has put it down to a very small nodule which has probably always been there. Apparently we all have them:-). I have an MRI (liver) on Friday which I am confident will be ok, particularly as the latest blood tests were all good.

I know it is often said that those who are the closest to the person who is actually going through the cancer treatment itself, are often forgotten and can suffer just as much. As I continue to reflect on what I have been through over the last 2 years (second anniversary being next Saturday) it is a moment for me to say just how incredible my wife Catherine has been throughout everything...without her support particularly in the 'post treatment' phase, I honestly don't think I would be in the place I am today.

Once we get the MRI out the way next week, I think a big family holiday is a must!...particularly for Catherine and the boys who haven't been away for a proper break for a long time now.

Berlin marathon!

As I sit in the departure lounge here at Berlin airport I have some time to reflect on what was a wonderful weekend!!. I can't say that the marathon was an easy experience this time round:-), however I loved it nonetheless. The atmosphere was terrific with around 40,000 other competitors taking part. The organisation as you can imagine (from the Germans!) was second to none!. A good friend of mine, Andy, was kind enough to support me (literally!) for the run...here we are at end standing beneath the Brandenburg gate!. For the record we both clocked times which we were both happy with (3 hrs 29 mins for me and 3 hrs 39 mins for Andy).

I remain blown away by everyone's generosity in not only the donations they have made to my just giving page but also for the supportive and encouraging words I have had throughout my whole 'cancer journey' whether during or after treatment. THANK YOU ALL SO MUCH!.

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So next focus is the London marathon next April, to complete the full challenge....bring it on!!!

Been a while!

As its been some time now since I posted anything on 'runthroughcancer', I wanted to take the opportunity to get those who have been following me ‘up to speed’ a bit with how everything has been going. I also want to thank you many of you for your ongoing support in my mission to raise £20k for beating bowel cancer!.

It’s been a fairly eventful last few months, with a number of CT and MRI scans, a job change, as well as plenty of training in the run up to the Berlin marathon on the 27th September!. I have always wanted to be as honest as possible when it has come to posting my real thoughts on 'runthroughcancer' and so I will try to stay true to this now if I can. I feel it's important to explain to those who are unfortunate enough to have to go through a similar 'cancer journey' that the effects of treatment can still be with you, even after the chemo itself has finished. The most important thing to remember is that it's perfectly normal and something that you WILL come out of and ultimately get through…I can vouch for that. Mentally it has been a roller-coaster ride since the chemo stopped with many strange and unexpected feelings. I kept asking myself the question, surely after being through what I had been through during the past 14 months I should feeling elated that it's all over.

However after a few weeks of it finishing I have to admit struggling a bit to readjust to daily life. I still can't put my finger on why these feelings came on, however I am told that in a way it's a little like 'post-traumatic stress' with a sudden realisation that all the physical and mental fighting that you have gone through is suddenly over. I'm sure (and would completely understand) many of those reading this may find it difficult to understand what I am saying…......looking from the ‘outside in’ I can totally see how this may be. It's a really strange feeling coming to the end of such a long period of treatment by such a dedicated and caring medical team. Having been looked after so well for in excess of a year, everything then suddenly stops and you are a 'free man' again.

I am pleased to say that those tougher days are well and truly behind me now and I am very much looking forward to the future with a great deal of optimism. Physically and mentally I feel great and have been the using the chance particularly over the past month (while I have been taking a break from work prior to the new job), to really get stuck into the marathon training. Throughout August I have managed to clock up around 370km (if you include a 20 miler I am hoping to do tomorrow) and since chemo finished a total of 1,135 km. I can’t deny that I am still feeling some of the effects of the chemo with tired / heavy legs on some runs, although would also say that its definitely getting easier with time.....overall I really can’t complain. I have also really enjoyed the past few weeks to spend plenty of time with the family and in particularly having lots of fun with the boys during the school holidays!

Probably something you would fully expect coming from me, but I say this with even more conviction than when I was actually going through treatment…..’without running as a focus for me throughout not only the main 14 months of cancer treatment, but also importantly the ‘post treatment’ period afterwards, I wouldn't have got through it….that I am sure of’. I continue to have some wonderful contact with those who I have met through ‘runthroughcancer’ and remain inspired by their stories and courage….you all know who you are!.

For those of you who have already donated, I cannot thank you enough for your support!. If you would still like to please do on this link, thank you!…

http://www.justgiving.com/runthroughcancer

I cannot promise an amazing time in Berlin as I will be just pleased to finish it if I’m honest, however I can assure you I will give it my best shot!. I have a good friend of mine, Andy, who is also coming along to run as well in aid of beating bowel cancer which I am thrilled about. Just 4 weeks to go!..... BRINGEN SIE ES AUF!!!

2015 Surrey Half Marathon

In my last post I mentioned that a dedicated team of 4 from my work were planning on running the Surrey half marathon today......well they did it!!...and what an amazing job they did too!. Lou, Lauren, Jon and Zoe all smashed the 13.1 mile course in around 1hr 45mins!!. They have all been such wonderful supporters to not only me but also in my charity efforts. As I write this post, I can see the total is now sitting at a staggering £10k!!!! (a large proportion of this is down to them).

I consider myself to be so lucky to have such a wonderful team of supporters around me....thank-you so much for everything you have done for me and the team at beating bowel cancer!. Now go and have a well deserved drink!

Both Jack and I were there to see them all off at the start and then cheer them back across the finishing line again!. Jack also did the kids 2k race coming in at position 14 in his age category!. He loved every minute of it crossing the line with a very smiley (and exhausted looking!) face.

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MRI scan ‘all clear’!

Another milestone has been and gone today and I am pleased to be able to report its 'all good'!. I had a follow up MRI scan on my liver today which has fortunately turned out to be all clear with no signs of a cancer return. It was great to see and speak with Merv (my liver surgeon) once again as I hadn't seen him since just after the surgery in July / August. He was pleased with how well I had responded 'post surgery' as well as through the chemo regime which was great to hear. My liver has now fully grown back and is doing its job nicely once again!.It will be another 6 months before we meet again for another MRI scan.

In the meantime I will see Alice next Wednesday to discuss a CT scan which will cover the whole of my body just as a check that there is nothing that has spread anywhere else (this will probably be in a couple of weeks)....the way I feel at the moment I would be very surprised. My strength is definitely starting to come back and the running is feeling pretty good at the moment. It's fair to say that my hands and feet are still a little problematic with little feeling in the soles of my feet in particular, however the good news is that it doesn't stop me running which is the main thing!.

I'm all focused now on my first half marathon race next month (Silverstone half) which I cant wait for!. A good friend of mine has also agreed to do it with me which will be great.....all of course in aid of beating bowel cancer!

I am also delighted that 4 of my work colleagues are running the Surrey half marathon on the 8th March on behalf of 'runthroughcancer / beating bowel cancer'!. They have all been training really hard and are 'well set' for the day. Their fund raising efforts have also been fantastic and hugely helped in pushing the total up (now stands at just under £9.4k!). Thank-you Lou, Jon, Lauren and Zoe so much....Jack and I will be there to cheer you all on!!!

Final hit of chemo!!

As I sit here with the final dose of chemo being administered I have so many mixed feelings. Of course my primary thought is one of huge relief!. Its been ‘one hell of a ride’ over the last 14 months and it’s great to now be ‘on the other side’ again. I can now hopefully move on with my life, cancer free!!.

Since the start of 2015 as I began to focus on the ‘finishing line’, I have had many periods of reflection. I have been surprised, but also really pleased, that I can draw on plenty of positives from ‘my cancer journey’. Lots of the ‘anticipations’ that I had around things like dealing with a permanent colostomy, coping with surgery and chemo were so much worse that the actual events themselves. Of course I wouldn’t say any of them were ‘easy' to deal with, however tackling everyone of them with a ‘I’m going to get through this’ mind set has definitely been the key for me. I don’t know why, but even thinking back to when I took that first chemo tablet back on the 6th January 2014 and whilst being very nervous at the time, there was still a voice in my head telling me that ‘you will get through this’.

Another good thing to come out has been the impact on my children. Maybe an odd thing to say, but I genuinely feel that both Jack and Ollie have benefited in some way having to go through this with their Dad. I have been immensely proud of how they have tackled it and hope that in their future life’s when they experience tough times (not even necessarily health related), they can draw on this experience to get them through it. Jack, in particularly given his age has been a little gem throughout it all. He has wanted to be really involved in the charity fund raising ever since this has been set up and I can see that helping others is something which he really thrives on and loves to do.

Cancer is ultimately a very personal experience, however drawing on the positive energies that I have felt from the numerous people I have met along the way has been such a help for me. The medical staff that have so fantastically looked after me are quite frankly some of the most wonderful people in the world in my eyes!. Their compassion, expertise, and general caring nature has been a privilege to be around. I cannot thank them enough for everything they have done for me and my family!.

Catherine (my wife) has been absolutely fantastic throughout the year. I am mindful that it has been very tough on her in so many ways. Having to cope with the boys…not just during those periods when I was out of action and couldn’t practically help in the weeks post surgery, but also supporting them with all the questions that they would ask about what Daddy was going through. She has been so supportive to me and really allowed me to ‘lead’ when it has come to talking about the cancer treatment – there were times when I wanted to talk about it and others when I really didn’t and she understood that. Whilst it was a bit challenging at the start:-)!, she came to completely accepting my need to run during chemo, understanding how important it was for me. Thank-you Catherine, I couldn't have done it without you!! X

The rest of the family have also been there for me every step of the way and I really cant think of a time where I was ever on my own. I have been fortunate in that not only where they there for me emotionally, but also on a practical / medical sense as well. Mum, being a retired radiographer, and Hannah (Sister), working for Pfizer, meant that every time I had a question about my treatment I had them to really help me out!. Thank you all so much for absolutely everything!.

My close friends have also been there to offer their support which I am so grateful for. Thank-you all very much…you know who you all are. I am aware that at times it can be very difficult for those looking in from the outside, not knowing often what to say or do. However I can say that looking from the inside out, that all you really need to know is that people are there and care about what you are going through.

I have also learn’t a lot about myself over the year. On many occasions I have literally had to talk to myself during those moments where others may not have been around. Particularly after the surgeries I almost saw my body as somehow ‘separate’. I often now look down at my scar and say to myself….”well done body, you got me through this” – thanks mate, I owe you one. Rather than it being a negative reminder of what I went through, I see it as positive……me and my body went through it together and came out the other side stronger.

I would like to think that I had a clear and concise message to anyone having to go through a similar course of treatment as me. However I’m not sure there is a ‘one size fits all’ message as cancer treatment is a very personal experience which I think you have to find your own way of dealing with. That said, remaining positive I am convinced has to be the one overriding factor. Not easy I know, but once you have taken the time to reflect on whatever bad news you have been told, then try if you can to ‘take stock’ in your own mind and look at from a different, more positive angle. I remember when I was told that realistically I would end up with a permanent colostomy as a result of the surgery. Initially this was devastating news and I really did honestly struggle with the whole idea of it. However after realising that actually I could (and would) continue to run and essentially carry on as normal made all the difference. Speaking to those who had been through the same experience also made a massive difference and made it feel far more real and manageable. I would say that trying to seek those people out through support groups / social media sites was a really good move as well. Dwelling too long on negative thoughts (which will inevitably slip into your mind) simply wont get you or those close to you anywhere.

You will have crap days where you will start to question yourself and wonder whether actually you’ll get through it. Talking to yourself during this (for me at least) was something that really helped. I convinced myself that I would survive and get back to running and living a normal life again. Just accept it knowing that the next day wont be as bad.

Also using humour to get you through the bad times can really help as well. They often say laughter is the best medicine…at times for me this was definitely the case!

Staying as active as you can throughout your treatment can play a key role in your treatment. Even if you weren’t that active before being diagnosed, there is no reason why you cant start during treatment. I was fortunate in that running was a key part of my life before cancer came along, however even if I hadn’t been a runner I would like to think that I would have turned to it.

Whilst I cannot hide the fact that there will probably always be (or at least for a period of time) that nagging feeling that the cancer may come back, I guess this just comes with the territory and is something that I will just have to deal with. Many people I have spoken to have said that finishing a long course of cancer treatment can affect you in some strange ways. Some actually say they miss the regularity of going into hospital – not the treatment itself, but more just the fact that they know that they are being regularly checked and also that a relationship is built up over time with those caring for them.

In my case, I can definitely relate to this….certainly I will miss the familiar faces that have been so kind to me during this 6 months of chemo. They have been there to offer guidance and help in coping with the side effects and almost more importantly been there for a good laugh every fortnight when I have been going in for the chemo infusions.

This is without doubt a period of my life which has taught me a huge amount about myself. It has also been an opportunity for me to see the real good in so many people, whether they be friends / family, but also those who I didn’t know before my diagnosis. I am so glad that I took it on myself to set up this website to get some of my thoughts down (had I tried to do this retrospectively I’m sure it would read very differently as I wouldn’t have been able to draw on the real ‘raw’ feelings at the time, at each step of the journey).

I’m not sure I’m ready yet to completely ‘draw a line’ under this episode in my life as I think for a period of time it will ‘remain open’ with future scans / checks etc, however I hope that the cancer treatment itself is now over. I can now start to get my strength back and focus on being ready for the various running events I have planned (including the Silverstone half marathon next month, followed by the BUPA 10k in May, the Berlin marathon in September and then the London marathon in April 2016…..which I cannot wait for)!.

So next steps for me now are:

- MRI scan (20th February) back at the hospital where I had the liver surgery. This will hopefully be a formality and will come back ‘all clear’ in much the same way as the last CT scan.

- I will then have some surgery on the 17th March. This is as a result of a recent urologist appointment where it was picked up that following the original bowel surgery I have some scar tissue which has built up effecting the old waterworks:-). I am hoping that this surgery will solve that. In between these 2 dates I will also meet with Alice (25th February) to touch base on everything. It will be a chance to discuss when the on-going checks / scans will be over the coming months / years.

As cancer treatment can frequently mean a very long period of time (in my case 14 months), it is worth remembering that your life doesn't need to ‘go on hold’. It has been so important for me that I have not allowed the treatment to dominate during this period. For me, running, working and ‘doing the family stuff’ have been key aspects of the treatment and recovery process. Without them I know that it would have been so much more difficult for me to both physically and mentally cope.

As a final footnote on this post I am pleased to say that I just about managed to hit the 100 runs and 1,000km since this 6 month chemo started (well nearly at 99 runs and 960km!)……I am planning on going out for run number 100 on Friday when the pump comes off as a final ‘line in the sand’ on the treatment.

What a worthwhile event!

Beating bowel cancer event - Jan 2015

Today I was thrilled to be invited to a parliamentary reception at the Houses of Parliament along with the beating bowel cancer team. There were not only politicians (main speaker being John Baron MP) in attendance, but also clinicians, a number of bowel cancer patients as well as of course the beating bowel cancer team.

At the event, Beating bowel cancer stated a clear 5 year plan, to run through the whole of the next parliament to help improve awareness of bowel cancer, focusing on symptoms, diagnosis and screening. The key message being the need for earlier diagnosis. The fact is that in 90% of bowel cancer cases if caught early enough, patients can be successfully treated. Sadly the reality currently is that far too many people (both men and women, but especially men) leave it too late.

The bottom line (pardon the pun:-) is that we need to get the population of this country more comfortable talking 'bums', 'poos' and all those others words which for whatever reason people don't like to refer to. The 'stiff upper lip' us Brits are so known for, in this case needs to be broken!.

All it takes is 10 mins of your time to get checked out with your GP....the chances are that you will be told that everything is ok, however if it does turn out to be something more serious at least they can then get to work to cure you!. EARLY DIAGNOSIS IS THE BEST DIAGNOSIS"!.

I met some wonderful people today and really enjoyed being involved in such a worth while event. One of them being a fellow runner who takes marathon running to a new level!...having run 6 marathons in 6 months while still battling bowel cancer is truly inspiring!. I was fortunate enough to meet with him and his wife who talked me through their cancer journey together. A lovely couple who have clearly been 'through the mill' over the past few years. It was great to be able to talk to him about how running has helped him focus on something so positive throughout treatment. I also got some handy tips on running longer distances with a colostomy which I will definitely try out once my treatment finishes and I start upping the mileage in preparation for the Berlin marathon later this year. I am also hoping that the two of us may be able to get together and join forces for a running related challenge in the future for beating bowel cancer.

All in all a really great day!