It was dark.
And not just ‘absence of light’ dark. It was as though someone had thrown the darkness over me, smothering me in the inability to see. Or even think.
I was aware that there were people nearby. I couldn’t tell what they were saying (their voices seemed to be coming from many miles away), but I could tell that they were agitated.
They sounded worried about something.
Then, one of the voices broke through…
“Thomas. Thomas, can you hear me?”
“Yes,” I replied.
“Can you open your eyes, Thomas?”
I tried, but couldn’t, and told my fellow converser as much.
“OK,” he said. “Do you know where you are right now?”
This one gave me pause to think for a moment. “No,” I admitted. “I don’t know where I am.”
“Thomas, you’re in A&E.”
I think I actually chuckled then. “No, I’m not!” I said. “Why would I be in A&E?”
And that was it. The voice faded away to mix with the general hubbub and chatter of background noise. The conversation was, apparently, over.
I didn’t find out until later, but it was around this time that doctors took Kirsty, my wife, to one side to tell her that the prognosis wasn’t good.
I had, apparently, fallen out of bed in the early hours of the morning and Kirsty had been unable to wake me up. First one, then two ambulance crews were called to carry me downstairs to the gleaming yellow chariot that was to speed me to first A&E and then the Intensive Care Unit at Blackburn Hospital.
At that point, the doctor told Kirsty, I had approximately two hours of life left.
Two hours. I’m so glad I didn’t know that.
My blood pressure had plummeted to dangerously low levels. The oxygen in my bloodstream was at 35%. I was seriously ill, unconscious, and dying.
The doctors considered putting me into a medically induced coma and ventilating me – hesitating only because they were uncertain that I would ever come out of it.
Eventually, after giving me regular small doses of medication to try to raise my blood pressure, I started to stabilise and the threat to life reduced to the point where I could be left in the care of ICU nurses.
Not that I knew anything about this.
I regained consciousness several hours later, and found myself in an unfamiliar bed, linked up to any number of drips, monitors and other flashing, beeping machines and other sci-fi looking paraphernalia.
For some reason, I believed I was in a factory, overseeing the production of golden robots.
Hey, they’re my hallucinations!
I became aware of someone else in the room. It was a nurse. She helped me to have a sip of water, and told me where I was. It wasn’t until later in the day that I was told why I was here…
I had double pneumonia and sepsis. And it had almost killed me.
Kirsty arrived back at the hospital that afternoon, having had to nip home to see to our sons, Arran and Sam. I called her closer and half-croaked, half-whispered to her…
“I think I’m in the intensive care unit.”
“Yes,” she said, her eyes flooding with tears. “Yes, you are.”
“And, I think I might be very ill this time…”
I can still feel the hug she gave me.
Of course, that all happened back in the summer. I’m writing about it now because I don’t want to forget anything this dreadful year has thrown at me.
If you remember, I used to blog about my cancer and treatment on a regular basis – until I was so ill that I just couldn’t manage it any more.
But now, I’m back. Ready to blog about my experiences again – that is, if anyone wants to hear it anymore.
I won’t hold it against you if you don’t!
I spent a week in ICU after the doctors and nurses saved my life, followed by another month on the main hospital wards. I did manage to give a handful of updates via Facebook, but it wasn’t the same.
So, I intend to fill in the blanks and tell you what you missed. Partly here on the blog, and partly in the ebook version I’ll be putting together in the new year.
I just didn’t want 2016 to end without speaking to you again!
If you’re new here, take a few moments to scan back through the easier entries in the blog. That will take you right from my diagnosis (now nine months ago!), to part way through my chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
That’s when I became too ill to keep up with the blog.
Since then, I’ve been battling the side effects of that treatment – and I’m still not back to anything like full health. I’ll explain more in subsequent posts but, at the time of writing, I still can’t speak properly or eat anything more solid than thin, watery soup (and even that hurts!)
The good news is that my cancer is still in remission! I have some worries there, which I’ll post about another day, but for now, I’m happy to be able to type that!
I’m getting back to work very slowly – although I can’t sit up at my computer for long periods of time, so it’s slow going. I’m trying to catch up with writing, but keep missing deadlines as I have a habit of not admitting how unwell I still am.
“Yes, I can do that by that date! No problem!”
But, I often can’t.
I need to be more honest with my agent, my editors, and family.
I need to be more honest with myself.
Obviously, visiting schools is still completely out of the question.
The support and help I’ve received from family, friends and even strangers has been overwhelming. And you still can help by clicking on one of the buttons at the top right of this page.
Click the PayPal button to make a one-off donation, or the Patreon button to receive exclusive written content each month in return for your ongoing support.
Or, you can simply tell your friends and family about this blog. Send them the link so they can read about my experiences for themselves. Share it on Facebook, Twitter and other social media. The more visitors I can get, the better.
With Christmas all but upon us, any help you are able to offer would be very gratefully received.
But that’s not why I’m back.
I’m back because, frankly, I missed talking to you. I missed telling you how I was feeling, what the hospital teams were doing, and how the treatment affected me.
Because if I can help just one fellow sufferer, and put their mind at rest about what they’re about to go through, then all of this will have been worthwhile.
Is there anything in particular you want to hear about? Tell me in the comments thread below
I look forward to hearing from you.