I had my routine 3 monthly check up with the colorectal surgeon last week. Nothing amazing, everything ok. I’d had a scan a few weeks previous, and no nasty surprises. We’re now almost 12 months since the primary tumour was removed so I brought up the subject of side effects and damage caused by the original op. I had a faint hope in the back of my mind that over time some of the damage would begin repairing itself. The tumour was deeply embedded into the tissue and muscle surrounding it, and I knew that the surgeon had some difficulty in removing it, and that some of the nerves in the area had been damaged during the procedure. This was no surprise to me, I had signed the consent form listing all the possible side effects and they had all been carefully explained to me before the operation. It now seems there is little chance of any improvement, and what I’ve got I’m stuck with. For some reason I found this quite depressing. It really did make me take stock of things. In the overall picture it was a small price to pay, the alternative was that I’d more than likely not be here now to write this, but all the same, the news had quite a sobering effect on me.
I don’t get depressed easily or often. Peeved might be a better description, life’s too short for depression, but when I do feel down it’s usually spending money that I turn to. I stopped in Stockport on the way home, parking under my favourite viaduct. in the world. That might be a slight over statement, there are far many more picturesque viaducts around the country, but this one acts as a gateway to home when I return to Manchester from a long journey. Certainly, it looks better at night when it’s lit up, and it’s hardly noticeable when you’re travelling over it, but it’s still a massive feat of engineering. I’ve tried many time to get the perfect photograph, but it seems I’d have to stand in the fast lane of the M60 to achieve this. Somehow before parking I managed to end up in the bus station, blocked in by two double deckers, the drivers of which refused to move the six inches necessary to allow me to exit and head for the car park. I’ve driven through Stockport many times, been to out of town retail parks, restaurants, the wonderfully named Purple Turtle musical instrument shop, and of course more recently the enthralling hat museum, but never shopped in the town centre. Considering the amount I spent it’s probably a good thing that I haven’t discovered it before now. Firstly I headed to Debenham’s, where I hunted down a man purse (leather coin holder) that Lewis had convinced me I didn’t need a few weeks earlier. I had decided otherwise due to the discomfort of getting my hands in my jeans pockets. Happy with my £10 purchase I browsed the spring men’s designer collection and discovered an extortionately expensive jacket .. Far too expensive though, don’t be stupid ! I browsed a bit more, and this time found a pair of brown leather shoes I had been looking for, for ages. Not at that price though, even though they were exquisitely made. Fifty quid more expensive than the jacket, so no way I could justify the expense. I strolled around the store a bit more, sulking at my self imposed embargo on the shoes. The jackets were still there, it wouldn’t harm if I tried one one, even if it meant stripping off the hat, scarf, gloves, winter coat and a jumper. Mmmmmm…..fitted well too, perfectly in fact. I hadn’t bought the shoes after all, and you can never have enough jackets, can you? And I’ve only got….about a dozen. That was it then, carrier bag in hand, I avoided passing the shoes as I headed out of the store. The Jeans store opposite happened to have a sale on. Two pairs for £25 can’t be bad. Then the shoe shop, not the brown leather one I wanted, but a couple of pairs at a bargain price. Primark too ! Socks, more shoes and a shirt. HMV, I relieved another closing store of their diminishing stock. By now I’d brought the average price of all the items I had bought to an acceptable level, so the jacket wasn’t that expensive after all. Struggling with the carrier bags I made my way back to the car before I could do any more damage to my bank account. Making sure I avoided the bus station, I headed the wrong way round the motorway. Of course it was in an area where there were no junctions allowing you to turn back on yourself.
Saturday, I had volunteered to shake a bucket in aid of the BBC Radio Manchester/The Christie appeal to raise money for a mobile chemotherapy unit. I’ve had a guilty feeling for some time that I’m not giving anything back to the many institutions and organisations that have directly and indirectly helped me during my encounter with cancer. I’ve thought about running marathons. There, I’ve thought about it. No matter how much I admire those that regularly tread the 26 or so miles, quite often under adverse medical conditions or handicaps, I have to be honest, I’m no more likely to run a marathon now than I was decades ago when I sat in bed watching in admiration as the first London Marathon took place. So let’s rule that one out now, once and for all. Zip wires, desert treks ? Maybe sometime in the future, I don’t think my body is up to it at the moment. I could bake cakes I suppose, a coffee morning? I’m good at eating cakes and I drink enough coffee to sustain the GDP of Columbia by myself, but as a more gentile start I decided to give some of my time by shaking a bucket to collect much needed cash for those organisations that have supported me. It might be the easy option, but someone’s got to do it, and as it turned out, I was the only volunteer for the collection that took place alongside BBC Radio Manchester’s broadcast from Ashton Market on Saturday. I was surprised at the number of people willing to reach into their pockets and purses (including man purses) to donate pennies and pounds to the cause. What didn’t surprise me was the number of people who had told me how their lives had been touched by cancer, or those who spoke so highly of The Christie. Three hours later and my bucket was heavy and my arm aching. I’m not sure it didn’t do my internal scarring much good either as I’ve been noticeably more uncomfortable since then, but surely a small price to pay. Just how much I collected I don’t know, I’ll be dropping it off at The Christie later this week, but however little, every penny counts.
I should have left Ashton on a high, but two events clouded what was otherwise an inspirational morning. Firstly, as I headed for my car, I was approached by Nick Griffin who was in the area trying to spread his vile politics. He tried to engage me in conversation, surrounded by a clan of supporters that seem to have been borrowed from The Jeremy Kyle Show. The more he tried to engage me, the faster the expletives came out of my mouth. I’m somewhat ashamed at this, but it demonstrates the level of contempt I hold for his views. The second event was arriving back at my car, to find a parking violation notice affixed to my windscreen. Bloody hell, the second in as many weeks ! I had overstayed my pre-purchased time by 8 minutes. The ticket informed me that I had been observed for 1 minute, just sixty seconds from the exact time that my permit had expired. Obviously the warden had been loitering waiting for my ticket to expire, yet considering that it might have taken him another couple of minutes to process the contravention notice and stick it on my windscreen,he or she was nowhere to be seen. Thankyou, Tameside Council.
Monday brought my weekly appointment with the district nurse. The wound from my chest drain is still not healing, and so we tried an inadine dressing in an attempt to speed up the healing process. I know all of the DN’s now, and so we always find something to chat about as she goes through the process of flushing my line. Half way through I pointed out that she had forgotten to draw blood through my line before beginning the flushing procedure. This is done to ensure there is no blockage in the line. As much as she protested that she should ‘start again’ I assured her it would be OK, the flushing fluid and anticoagulants were going in fine, and as I was back at The Christie in a few days time when it would be done again, any (unlikely) problems could be dealt with then. I drove home through the snow, and just as my lunch of cheese on toast began sizzling under the grill, my mobile rang. The DN had panicked and called The Christie 24 hour hotline, who had advised her that it should all be done again. Another trip back to the health centre ! As it turned out it was perhaps a good thing, as by the time I returned the inadine dressing was stinging like hell. I’d had them before without problems, but this one was certainly hurting more than I wanted to put up with. So the dressing was changed, line flushed (correctly this time) and I was on my way back home again.
Apart from a particularly nasty, upset digestive system at the beginning of this week my recovery from surgery just 4 weeks ago has been rapid. From feeling so tired and helpless just a week or so ago, I’m now feeling much stronger, so much so that I now feel ready for the next stage of lung surgery. I’m not in any great hurry to embark on this, but I’m well aware that the time for recovery from what will be open surgery this time, will encroach on preparations for Glastonbury. Today marks the spring equinox, and by the time of the next one I’ll be in a field in Somerset along with another hundred thousand or so for the biggest party on the planet. Just 97 days now until the gates open, and I’ll be in that queue at 8 o’clock in the morning to claim my small patch of grass to erect a tent alongside my friends. I don’t care that another deluge of snow is forecast for the weekend, spring is in the air, the evenings are getting lighter and there are many green shoots appearing in my garden. Just one operation stands in my way now, considerably less than the last time I sat in the sacred fields. Somehow I feel this years festival is going to be extra special, and I hope to have one less item to carry with me – CANCER.