Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Spare fairy godmother anyone?

Last week we spent a few days down in Kent, staying just outside of Canterbury. One thing I always associate with Kent is beautiful historic buildings and castles surrounded by moats. There seem to be a lot of examples of such buildings in that county, Scotney and Leeds Castles spring to mind. I've always thought these places looked like the ideal settings for medieval tales of swash buckling and romance or for a fairy tale. As a child I collected postcards and I recall my dad giving me a card showing Bodiam Castle (also in Kent), I didn't know such places existed outside of films. Anyway whilst travelling to Canterbury we visited another moated Kent house, Ightham Mote. This is a stunning example of a beautiful and historic building, 700 years old in parts.
One of the more curious features at Ightham Mote is the dog kennel that you can see on the right of the courtyard below (just behind the two benches), apparently it's the only grade I listed dog kennel in the country. It dates from around 1890 and originally housed 'Dido', a female St. Bernard.


Having mentioned fairy tales, if anyone has a fairy godmother they could lend me that would be appreciated. Over the last week or so I've become increasingly sure that my current chemotherapy is no longer working and that the cancer is growing again. I've continued to have increased discomfort and some pain together with constipation, fluid retention, increased fatigue and a perception that the small tumours in my skin are growing. I have a scan scheduled for tomorrow with the results due on Thursday next week. If the scan confirms that the cyclophosphamide isn't working then I face a very difficult choice. The treatment options available to me now are extremely limited, none of them really offer much hope of working and most of them are likely to cause unpleasant and potentially serious side effects. A little bit of magic from a fairy godmother might be the best hope I have of a better option presenting itself in the next week or two!
Yesterday I had some minor surgery to remove three tumours from the right side of my scalp. It was done under local anaesthetic and was painless once I'd had the initial injections to freeze the area. The procedure has made quite a mess of my head, I look like I've come second in a drunken pub brawl. I've been told that I can't wash my hair for three days so I'll be making extensive use of a hat to avoid scaring children in the meantime! The stitches come out in two weeks time and my hair will have hopefully regrown enough to begin covering the area by then too.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Ups and downs but still having fun

I've had a few ups and downs since my last post. I've been experiencing more abdominal and chest discomfort and low level pain, I've also had a couple of days when I've had more severe pain and one morning when I had extensive discomfort in my chest that made walking quite a challenge. These problems are probably caused by tumours pressing on various organs and nerves in my back, chest and stomach. I've begun taking ibuprofen regularly to try and reduce any inflammation as this should help. On a positive note when I've had problems with pain my medication has done a good job for me.
Despite these problems the last ten days or so have been really enjoyable. Katie and I have spent a lot of time with friends and family and that's been very relaxing and good fun too. A lot of this time has been spent eating, drinking and sitting in various sunny gardens which are activities that never go amiss with us!  We also spent a night in Cheltenham and enjoyed pottering around the eclectic collection of the Wilson Museum
I've found it interesting to reflect on how I've been feeling over this time. I'm sure that if I'd experienced my recent issues during a period in which we had no social activities planned I'd have found myself focusing on my symptoms, something that would have made me feel somewhat down. This makes me realise how important it is to find pleasant things to do when feeling less than well, any enjoyable distraction is to be welcomed. There are, of course, limitations to this. I know that sometimes I'll be feeling too poorly to be able to do anything other than sit on the sofa or go to bed but at present such days are thankfully very rare.  
Last week the Tour of Britain visited Bath for the start of one of its stages. Katie and I are big armchair cycling fans even though neither of us actually ride and we found a good place to watch the peloton flash past. Here are some photo's. First, this is Team Sky's Bernie Eisel, although this shot was taken near to the start of the stage he already looks to be working hard!

The leader of the race at the start of the Bath stage was Michel Kwiatkowski, here you can see him in the leader's yellow jersey.

I was hoping to get a good shot of Sir Bradley Wiggins or Mark Cavendish but I hadn't anticipated how fast the riders would flash by. On reviewing the photo's Katie spotted that I had got a chance shot of Cavendish, he's the ninth rider in this group immediately behind the first rider in a green jersey (click or double click on the image to see a larger version).


Friday, 5 September 2014

Some minor surgery

Over the last twelve months I've had a number of small tumours grow close to the surface of my skin. These have appeared in various places including my chest, under my left arm, on my right arm and on my head. For the most part these small tumours do not cause me a problem unless I accidentally bump one on something in which case they can be quite painful for a few minutes! However, the largest one on my head has made it impossible for me to sleep on my right hand side, any pressure applied to it causes significant discomfort. The tumour is large enough to be visible through my hair and will become quite unsightly if it grows much bigger. I've decided to get this tumour removed and saw a surgeon earlier this week who confirmed that it should be a routine procedure performed under local anaesthetic. I'm due to get this done in a couple of weeks time and I'm hoping I'll soon be able to sleep on my right side again.
Katie and I had a routine appointment with my oncologist yesterday. We are continuing with the cyclophosphamide until my next scan which is due towards the end of this month. I've been having a few more symptoms the last week or so in the form of abdominal and chest pain and discomfort. This has been pretty mild and hasn't stopped me from doing anything but is concerning in terms of what it may suggest about the ongoing efficacy of the current treatment. I've also continued to have difficulty sleeping so I've stopped taking melatonin to see if that helps. 
My oncologist discussed with us what we want to do next if the forthcoming scan shows the cyclophosphamide isn't working. The options that are available really are very limited now, I think I need to do some more concentrated research in the coming weeks to make sure I've identified those things that could be worth a try. My oncologist is going to consult with colleagues to see if there are any new ideas or trials that might be appropriate.
During the summer Katie and I have visited a number of gardens. I like taking photo's of flowers and Katie has a strong interest in gardening so we both enjoy these trips. Here are three shots from recent visits, the first is from the Courts Garden in Holt, Wiltshire and the second and third are from the RHS Rosemoor garden in Devon.