Brought to Book

Still no word back from the hospital concerning the results of my recent PET scan, so I’ve got my head down and I’m writing hard in an effort to distract my imagination, and stop myself from worrying.

Although, I’m not sure why. Kirsty tells me not to worry about things all the time, but she simply doesn’t understand that worrying works!

A good 99% of the things I worry about never happen!

I worry in order to keep everyone else safe.

You’re welcome.

So, while I wait for that call from the hospital…

Many of you will know that I began this blog when I was first diagnosed with inoperable, stage four throat cancer in March 2016. Once I’d been through my courses of radiotherapy and chemotherapy, and survived the resulting after-effects, I adapted the blog as a book called Tommy V Cancer.

Tommy V Cancer brought my story right up to date, and included tons of extra material written especially for the ebook and paperback release that hadn’t been on the blog.

One of my favourite parts of the book is the incredible cover art, created by the legend that is Nigel Parkinson. Among many other strings to his bow, Nigel is the artist behind Dennis and Gnasher in the Beano, and I really couldn’t have wished for a better cover.

Here it is in all its glory…

Please don’t forget that you can order your copy of Tommy V Cancer by using one of these links…

UK: http://amzn.eu/0vO6kfd   US: http://a.co/8gHhwpJ   OZ & NZ: http://amzn.to/2uEQeIC

BUT, if you work for the NHS in ANY capacity, please send me a message, and I’ll send you the ebook version for free.

When I discovered the cancer had returned, and announced it online, I decided to relaunch this blog and considered the possibility of adapting the second part of my story into a new book – Tommy V Cancer: Round Two.

And just look at what Nigel has drawn for that…

I’m SO thrilled with this cover! Not only does it feature me giving cancer another good going over, it shows me as I look now – slimmer, and with a trim beard! Plus – and make of this what you will – the main background shade, teal, is my favourite colour!

I’ll be able to share further details as and when I know them, but it will be happening at some stage. Tommy V Cancer: Round Two will be available as both an ebook and a paperback.

Tommy

Chemo Brain

There’s a strange, little-talked-about side effect of chemotherapy that many of those suffering from it swear is a real thing, although other patients and even some doctors insist isn’t genuine.

Chemo brain.

The effect of chemo brain is that you begin to lose chunks of your memory after having undergone a course of chemotherapy. And I’m here to tell you it is absolutely, positively a real consequence of the treatment.

Ever since having my chemo in 2016, I’ve struggled to remember more and more of my childhood and years as a young adult. I’ve received numerous get-well messages from people claiming they went to school with me, but I simply don’t recognise them or their names. Family events and holidays have seemingly been wiped from my brain, and I find myself looking at old photographs from an outsider’s point of view – even though I’m in them with friends and family members.

This memory loss isn’t restricted to older events, either. Very frequently, Kirsty will bring up something she says we have been discussing recently, only for me to have absolutely no recollection of it. Plus, if I ask for something – for example, a request for what I think I can manage for dinner – I now often ask again an hour or so later, having completely forgotten I’d previously brought up the subject.

And this isn’t just the usual memory getting worse as you get older. I’m losing entire years, and whole people at a time.

If it wasn’t so scary, it would be funny.

I could get away with all sorts of things!

“No, Kirsty – I’d remember if I ordered every single Doctor Who DVD available on Amazon and a life-sized, gold-plated, Dalek-shaped storage unit to keep them all in, wouldn’t I?”

But, of course, losing memories isn’t really the comical situation me and decades of comedy sketch writers have tried to make it. It’s frightening, especially as you know the situation is likely to worsen over time.

And yet, some people still insist chemo brain isn’t a genuine after effect.

They claim that pumping your body with poison in order to kill cells – both healthy and cancerous – somehow doesn’t affect the cells in your brain.

Not sure how that works. Unless, of course, the pouches of chemotherapy drugs are given a damn good talking to before they’re released for use on cancer patients…

“Now, listen here, chaps. We’ve been getting reports in of some of you blighters attacking cells in the old grey matter, and it has to stop. I’m looking at you, Jenkins! The patient you flooded last Wednesday can’t remember where he left his car keys, his sister’s address or any useable synonyms for the word ‘fluffy’ and it’s driving him crazy. It’s jankers for you, old bean, and no mistake.”

So, yes – chemo brain is real.

And it doesn’t just make you forget things. Sometimes it does something even worse.

It makes you remember.

Long-forgotten conversations come rushing back as if they only took place yesterday. They become fixed in place and almost impossible to shift from your thoughts.

Which is exactly what happened to me last night.

I remembered something my dad had once said and, as a result, I didn’t sleep a wink.

I should first explain that my dad – who died from prostate cancer that had spread to his bones a few years back – was not a religious person at all. Unlike my mum, he didn’t believe in any of religion’s great promises, instead focusing on how to be a good and kind human being during your brief time in this world, and teaching me, my brother and my sister how to do just that.

When I was 15 years old his dad – my granddad – Thomas Donbavand, died. There’s a loooong history of the use of Thomas as a name in the family. As well as it being my name, Thomas was my dad’s middle name, and I gave it to Sam as a middle name as well.

My granddad suffered his second heart attack while playing chess one evening with my cousin, and that was it.

Game over.

I was out that evening, playing with a school guitar group at an event at Runshaw College in Leyland, the town where we then lived. We (Damien, Martin, Julien and I) had a great time with that little group, playing twangy instrumentals and covers of songs by The Shadows at various school gatherings.

And, for some unspecified reason, we all turned up to this ‘gig’ at Runshaw College dressed the same in black shirts and silver ties.

We looked like a supermarket own-brand mob family.

Anyhoo, we played our songs and then our teacher dropped each of us off at home. I was surprised when, as I slid my key into the lock on the front door, it opened from the inside. There was my mum, looking serious. She simply said “Ssshhh! Your granddad’s just died.”

I only knew one of my grandfathers, so I instantly knew who she meant.

Everyone was in the living room. My dad, in tears, was on the phone to his brother, breaking the bad news. This was the first family death I’d ever really been aware of. Some of my mum’s family in Ireland had passed away, but we hadn’t been close.

Certainly not as close as my brother, sister and I were to my nan and granddad.

I remember sitting on the couch next to my sister, Sue, feeling terrible for my dad yet somehow unable to cry myself. It wasn’t as if what had happened hadn’t hit home – I felt winded, and just couldn’t muster the energy required to cry at that moment.

After 20 minutes or so, I went up to bed.

In the following days, preparations were made for my granddad’s funeral. And that’s when my dad said the sentence that popped up inside my mind last night and refused to leave. About his own dad, he said…

“I hope he doesn’t know he’s dead, because he’ll be worried about all the upset he’s caused.”

I remember being stunned by the concept, especially as it came from my non-religious dad, who didn’t believe people went to heaven – or anywhere else – after death.

Did my granddad know he was dead?

And that’s what kept me awake last night.

I’m still waiting for the results of my PET scan. Still waiting to find out if the returned cancer is restricted to a single tumour in my left lung, or if it has spread elsewhere.

Still waiting to find out if this is it.

And that’s what kept me up all night.

My biggest fear now the cancer is back is how my immediate family will react and cope if and when I pass on. Due to his Asperger’s and inability to handle the news of my cancer diagnosis, I’m worried in particular about Sam.

No matter how old he will be when it happens, he will struggle to deal with the situation.

And, thanks to chemo brain bringing back a snippet from a conversation I’d had with my dad in 1982, I spent all night terrified that I will know when I’m dead and be aware of exactly how hard he, Arran and Kirsty have taken the news.

And I won’t be able to do anything at all about it.

I don’t mind admitting I spent part of the night in tears.

Cancer’s a right bastard.

Glowing Nowhere

This morning I had my PET scan at Royal Preston Hospital, and there were a few surprises along the way…

The weather for my drive to Preston was abysmal, and even worse after I’d found somewhere to park. While walking toward the hospital, a particularly powerful blast of wind almost swept me off my feet resulting in…

A) Kirsty briefly appearing to be flying a kite in the shape of a terrified, screaming writer, and

B) Said writer wondering whether the Munchkins would be waiting to meet him when he eventually landed in Oz.*

The entrance to the PET scanning department is, coincidentally, the entrance to Rosemere Cancer Centre – the unit where I’d undergone my courses of radiotherapy and chemotherapy in 2016.

It wasn’t good to be back.

After signing in, I was taken to a room containing a hospital bed, a chair and a jug of water. But this wasn’t your bog-standard, common or garden hospital room.

Oh no…

This room was lead lined.

This gave me a brief glimpse of things to come. My radiographer, John, explained that the solution they would be feeding into my veins was a form of radioactive glucose. Yep, I was to be pumped full of nuclear sugar, and Kirsty would have to leave when that happened so as not to affect her with my mere  plutonium-heavy presence.

He gave me a gown to wear (I was almost able to stay fully dressed, but my jogging bottoms had metal eyelets for the cord around the waist which were likely to pin me to the scanner like a cheap fridge magnet, so a hospital gown it had to be).

Then John went to get the main course, and returned with a syringe contained inside a lead box. I really wanted the interior of the box to glow a bright yellow when he opened it, but that wasn’t the case.

However, I did get the next best thing…

The syringe itself was encased in a slightly larger syringe – also made out of lead!

So, the stuff they were about to inject into me was in a lead walled syringe, transported inside a lead box, for a procedure happening inside a lead lined room.

My sense of self-preservation was busy starting fires and screaming at me to incapacitate this guy with the lead box and make a break for it.

However, I stayed. As you can see here…

John explained that, once I’d had the radioactive glucose injected into me, I would be left alone for an hour to allow the stuff to spread throughout my entire body.

Result! I had a book with me, and my phone in case I wanted to check messages…

But John confiscated both of those.

Why?

You’re unlikely to believe the reason. I certainly didn’t think he was being serious at first.

If I was to read, the radioactivity would flood my eyes. If I spoke, it would build up in my mouth and throat. Type, and I’d get nuclear fingers.

So, he lowered the lights, covered me with a blanket, and practically ran from the room as if he’d just realised he was waist deep in green sludge inside a plague pit in Chernobyl.

Leaving me to lie there for an hour on what I’m claiming to be the most uncomfortable hospital bed/reclining chair known to man.

I couldn’t sleep, so having a quick nap was out. And John’s explanation about how the radioactive glucose was attracted to active parts of my body made me too scared to think in case I accidentally morphed my brain into some kind of bulging, telepathic mound of pulsing flesh.

Eventually, I was collected and taken to the scanner room. The PET scanner looked similar to the CT scanner I’d been examined with just before Christmas, only with a much longer bench.

But that wasn’t the first thing that caught my eye.

The thing I first noticed upon entering this sparse, clinically clean medical chamber was the wide selection of biscuits on a table next to the door.

Yes, biscuits.

Everything from digestives to chocolate chip cookies and beyond.

I glanced at the unexpected treats, and then to the radiographer, expecting some sort of explanation.

But got nothing. The biscuits simply weren’t mentioned.

Trying to push them from my mind (but not too hard, just in case my skull exploded), I was instructed to lie on the bench with my arms crossed over my stomach. I then had a blanket laid over me (the same one from my lead-lined boredom box) and, over that, wide velcro straps were used to secure me in place.

For the next 25 minutes, I was passed back and forth through the magnetic doughnut part of the scanner – and then it was all over.

I was given the items of clothing I’d removed earlier and, on my way out through the door, asked to choose a small packet of biscuits.

There was a reason for them to be there, after all! But, what was that reason? Was someone watching closely via a hidden camera, noting whether I showed a preference for Bourbons over Custard Creams? Or where they waiting for me to pick the Rich Tea, at which the wall would slide back and I would be welcomed into a secret society of radioactive superheroes, each of whom had also made the ‘correct’ biscuit decision.

I’d probably be Bulging Brain Boy due to all the thinking I did in the leaded lair about how I have to stop thinking this minute. Don’t think, damnit! Gah! Now you’re thinking about thinking.

Still, Bulging Brain Boy could prove to be a useful addition to the League of PET Scanees. I’d be able to crack secret codes and clues left behind by evil villains intent on world domination.

I’d have to leave the bringing bad guys to justice bit to the other heroes, however. I doubt the fact that I’d struggle to lift my vast, unwieldy forehead from the keyboard of my computer would prove to be particularly useful in a battle scenario.

Unless, of course, I was hoping the criminals would laugh themselves into a stupor when some glowing, large-headed guy shows up with QWERTYUIOP branded backwards across his face.

Where was I…?

Oh, yes – biscuits.

Disappointingly, the biscuits were simply to eat while I had a cup of tea to begin the process of flushing the atomic lava from my system. Although, I was forbidden to use the toilet in the building’s reception area, or indeed any public toilet until my radioactivity faded away around eight hours later.

I was told the results of the PET scan will take up to a week to arrive with my oncologist. I’ve got my fingers crossed for the news to be as good as it can. As far as I’m aware, no-one on the other side of the glass pointed at the monitor screaming “Jesus H Christ! What the fonk is that thing!” before leaping head first through the fourth floor window.

So, that’s something.

I’ll let you know how I get on.

Tommy

* I LOVE The Wizard of Oz! A classic movie about two women fighting over a pair of shoes.

The Secret Life of PET

The hospital called late yesterday (well, someone from the hospital called; I can’t imagine the building itself stepping out of the office to make a call).

Ahem

Someone from the hospital called yesterday to say a PET scan has been arranged for me at 9.15am tomorrow (Wednesday) in Preston. The venue is relevant as the Rosemere Centre at Royal Preston Hospital was where I went every day for six weeks to have my radiotherapy treatment, staying all day on Wednesdays to cram in five hours of chemo as well.

So, Preston – here I come. Again.

I’ll admit I didn’t know exactly what a PET scan was, so I looked it up. It transpires that PET stands for positron-emission tomography.

Tomography! The art of photographing people called Tom! Or, more specifically, their emissions.

(That small joke reminds me of an evening in college when my friends and I had enjoyed a take-away curry, imbibed one or two delicious beverages, and then someone produced a lighter. I won’t say any more than that – other than, if you ever think of doing something similar, make sure you have a wet flannel and a tube of Germoline to hand.)

So, positron-emission tomography, eh?

I still have no idea what it is.

However, there are rules I have to follow – and these are GENUINE instructions I’ve been given…

  • I’m not allowed anything to eat or drink for six hours before the scan. Yeah, I was expecting something like that. So, no cup of tea until after my appointment is over. It’ll be tough.
  • I’m forbidden to undertake any strenuous exercise for a full 24 hours before the scan. What? Awww, that’s SO disappointing. Sigh! Go on then…

And, my favourite instruction of them all…

  • Do not mix with young children for several hours following the scan. What?! Is this procedure likely to turn me into a creepy bloke who owns a van with ‘FREE SWEETS’ scrawled across the side and the promise of puppies to play with? Even if that happens temporarily, it’s not something I’m altogether happy about.

So, I did what I did before, and looked up the reason for the warning. The result is both amazing, and astounding. I’ll paste it here, word for word…

As a precaution, you may be advised to avoid prolonged close contact with
pregnant women, 
babies or young children for a few hours after a PET scan,
as you’ll be slightly radioactive during this time.

Did you spot it? I’ll be SLIGHTLY RADIOACTIVE!

How cool is that?!

Finally, this is my opportunity to become a super-villain, even if only for a few hours.

I wonder if Ikea do self-assembly evil lairs?

Joking aside (although not the part about becoming a super-villain, that’s no joke), I’m a little nervous about the scan. They’ll be checking my body from top to toe, looking for any other anomalies that might suggest the cancer has spread further than just to one of my lungs.

I’ve got everything crossed that it hasn’t and will, of course, report back afterwards.

On another topic, I want to say a HUGE THANK YOU to everyone who has been kind enough to donate to the Just Giving page I was encouraged to set up. Knowing that I will be able to support my family while going through another round of treatment has lifted such a weight from my shoulders, and I’m eternally grateful.

I also like to say THANK YOU to the incredible artist, Nigel Parkinson for this new image, which I’m using at the top of this very page (and every other). He’s pictured me just as I look now, kicking off round two of my fight with cancer.

Nigel is, of course, an amazing illustrator and the artist behind Dennis and Gnasher in the Beano! Check out more of his work here: http://nigelparkinsoncartoons.blogspot.co.uk/

I showed Kirsty and the boys when it arrived yesterday, and received this comment from Sam…

“You look like you do in real life; like you really need a bit of a fat tummy.”

I told him I’d work on it.

Tommy

School Stuff

OK, this one’s going to be a bit of a rant, so please click away if you’d rather not witness me losing my shit over what happened this morning.

I’m angry.

Really f***ing angry!

As you may be aware, my son Sam (now 11) didn’t take my original diagnosis with cancer, treatment or subsequent month-long stay in hospital due to double pneumonia and sepsis very well at all. He has Asperger’s Syndrome, and struggles to cope with any kind of change. And this was the biggest change his life had ever seen.

He was devastated by the entire situation. His only experience with cancer was that both of my parents had died from the disease. My dad – his granddad – just over a year before I was diagnosed. He didn’t know that cancer patients could survive.

Even though I explained the treatment to him, and assured him that I was going to be OK, he simply couldn’t cope. He began to struggle with anxiety and had frequent panic attacks. In addition, he began to suffer with migraine headaches and was often hit by bouts of sickness and diarrhea.

We’ve since found out that, due to his Asperger’s, his anxiety manifests as physical pain and illness.

Day after day, Sam struggled to cope. He would shake uncontrollably, burst into tears without warning, and hug me tightly, not wanting to let go. Every time I coughed, he was convinced my time was up. He wouldn’t let me walk as far as the bathroom without holding my hand. He lost sleep every single night.

One of the biggest issues was school. This was something we’d not experienced before. Sam loves school; he’s extremely high-functioning and likes nothing more than learning new facts and information. He spends a lot of his spare time at home researching topics he finds interesting, and teaching himself how to understand and explore new things.

Suddenly, everything changed. He became convinced that, if he went to school, I wouldn’t be there any more when he got home. This made his anxiety worse, which made him very unwell. His legs began to hurt to the point where he struggled to walk. As a result, he had more time off school than would normally have been the case.

We knew this was a problem, and so did his school.

The school Sam attends is fantastic. He’s been there since his first day of Reception, and is now in Year 6. Teachers and fellow pupils love his quirky character, and he excels in all his subjects. So, it wasn’t as if my cancer was the excuse he’d been waiting for in order to have extra time off sick.

Kirsty and I worked with the school (I’m a governor there, focusing on literacy) to help Sam as much as possible. They arranged for a counsellor to come in and talk to him, allowed him to take time out to sit quietly if he found he needed a break, and the teachers even helped out by picking him up from home in the morning and dropping him off after school if I wasn’t well enough to drive him in.

It seemed to work, and his attendance began to improve. But, it wasn’t enough for the local education authority. And so, we were encouraged to engage in TAF (Team Around the Family) meetings to see what could be done to help us further.

An educational psychologist came in to work with Sam (she was the one who explained about his anxiety manifesting as physical symptoms), and we continued to help him overcome his fear about what I was going through.

I may have been cancer-free by now, but it was still affecting Sam’s anxiousness.

Since then, we’ve continued to work with the school and, while Sam still has occasional relapses, his panic attacks are fewer and with more time between. He continues to excel in his lessons. He was the only pupil from his year group to pass the 11 Plus entrance exam for the local grammar school. And, he was voted to become the school’s Head Boy by his fellow students.

Things are gradually getting back to normal.

He did, however, have a couple of days off last week thanks to my new diagnosis causing him to panic all over again. Thankfully, we made some good progress over the weekend, and he’s back in school today.

So, why am I so angry?

I’m angry because, after driving Sam to school this morning, Kirsty didn’t reappear after dropping him off inside. In fact, she didn’t come out for a full 45 minutes.

It turns out she had been ambushed by the local education authority’s attendance officer who, according to what Kirsty has told me, isn’t sympathetic to our situation at all. I won’t go into too much detail as there are likely to be follow-up meetings, but here are the highlights…

  • We shouldn’t have told Sam that I had been diagnosed with cancer. Excuse my French, but bollocks! He’s smart. He would have worked out something was wrong very quickly indeed, particularly when I started to have daily radiotherapy sessions and spent an entire day each week at hospital undergoing chemo.
  • Other children she has dealt with were back in school the day after one of their parents had died. Hooray for them. Were they autistic? Were they in school because the surviving parent had a lot to deal with but no-one around who could help with childcare? Don’t try to guilt-trip us with that.
  • We should have a doctor’s note for each of Sam’s absences. We can go one better than that. We can give you a list of all the times he’s seen the child counsellor and educational psychologist who have been helping him develop coping techniques for his ongoing anxiety. Or discuss his recent appointments with the paediatrician where we’ve explored extra strategies for his Asperger’s.
  • We should have taken him to the doctor for the problems he’s had with pains in his legs. We have, and we were referred to a podiatrist where there’s currently an 18-week waiting list to be seen. His first appointment is this Thursday. We suspect he’ll be fitted for special insoles in his shoes to help ease the pain in his tendons, as that’s what happened with his older brother, Arran.
  • We should have just gone out and bought him some insoles. They’re not just standard off-the-shelf insoles, you muppet! The ones Arran had were specially moulded for his feet and, if Sam is prescribed them, his will be, too.
  • Do you know what a migraine really is? No, we don’t – even though Kirsty suffers from them and the fact that they run on her side of the family. We just know that Sam has violent headaches that cause flashing lights and result in him vomiting. He has to lie in a dark room when he has one.
  • Have you tried giving him Calpol for his headaches? No, we don’t believe in science or medicine. Instead, we sacrifice an asthmatic kitten and smear his forehead with its blood before dancing naked in a circle around his bed while singing the theme song from Teletubbies backwards.
  • It’s probably just because Sam doesn’t like school, and doesn’t want to come in. Oh yeah… I wish we’d thought of that. That explains him working at a level several years above his actual age and being the only child in his year to pass the 11 Plus exam. It’s so obvious now.
  • You need to be able to prove there is a genuine reason for Sam having time off school. Er… does cancer count?

And, best of all…

  • We’re considering taking you to court, which will result in a prison sentence. Really? Is that a prison sentence for the cancer patient or his full-time carer? Actually, you know what? Do it. Go for it. Let me get up and have my say in front of someone who doesn’t think we’re simply scum who can’t be arsed to take our son to school because it’s not important.

OK, calm down, Tommy. Getting irate isn’t going to do you any good at all. Especially with someone who had already made her mind up about the entire situation before even meeting us. Kirsty says the attendance officer was shocked to hear that Sam did well at school and had been made Head Boy.

Yeah, I’ll bet she was.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to hit things with my walking stick.

Oh, and I have to find a little cat with a chesty cough…

An Interjection from Tommy’s Mate Barry

Hello! I’m Tommy’s mate, Barry (one of his mates, I mean – he’s not a sad loner with only one friend. I’m sure he’d want me to make that clear.)

Back in the darkest days of Tommy’s first cancer battle, I popped up from time to time to keep you posted on how he was doing in hospital. I’m happy to report that I’m not here for that reason today, but I am here for something important.

After much prodding and encouragement from me and those other friends I mentioned above (who are definitely real and not imaginary), Tommy has reluctantly agreed to start a crowdfunding campaign to help him pay his bills. That first cancer battle pretty much crippled him and his family financially, and he was just starting to get back on his feet when cancer kicked them out from under him again. Then probably ran away laughing. The bastard.

Tommy has worked hard all his life to support himself and his family, and hates the idea of asking for charity. I, on the other hand, have no hesitation in asking you to lend your support for one of the kindest, funniest, shortest men I know. We’re trying to raise £10,000 so Tommy can face this battle without any financial worries to weigh him down. A lot of amazing people have already given generously, and we’d love it if you were able to lend a hand, too.

If you can’t, don’t worry, but it’s free to share the link, and that would be really useful. If you can afford to give something – anything – then I know how much Tommy would appreciate it, and what a difference you’d be making to his life, and the life of his family.

You can find the donation page here. The total is listed in pounds, but you can pay in any currency.

Thank you in advance for your support.

Best wishes,

Barry

Scan The Man

Hannah, the lovely Macmillan Cancer nurse attached to the ENT department at Blackburn Hospital, called today to say that doctors had held a meeting about little ol’ me and my new bff cancer pal – the upshot of which is that I’m being called in very soon for further tests, including but not limited to…

Another CT scan – full body this time, just to check the evil bastard that is Cancer 2.0 hasn’t set up shop anywhere else.

Peak flow test – to see how, if at all, the tumour is affecting my ability to breathe.

Bronchoscopy (not yet confirmed) – there’s nothing like having a camera shoved down your throat and into your lungs to pass the time of day. This time, the doctors will also use a claw attached to the camera in order to tear off a piece of the tumour to test/juggle/eat/submit for the Turner Prize.

I underwent this particular test whilst still in hospital in mid 2016. Since then, however, my trismus (lockjaw) has worsened to a point where I can no longer open my mouth wide enough for the camera to pass through. Hannah explained they’d probably go in through my nose, in that case. Phew! Glad I’m not going to miss out on that bucket of joy.

Of course, I’m now worried in case I catch a cold and am so bunged up they have to go in via my arse instead. I fully understand this does happen all the time in yer actual colonoscopy, but I imagine the journey from ring to lung is a little more complex. Unless they install some sort of internal GPS first (Shatnav? Anyone? Anyone?), I suspect they would have to pull over somewhere to ask for directions.

Speaking of arses… I have several friends who have been badgering* me to set up a Just Giving page through which to raise funds to help support my family while I’m off having a jolly time with good old Henry Tumour over the coming weeks and months.

I really didn’t want to do this at first as, despite appearances, I’m actually quite a proud sort who hates the idea of asking for charity. But then these ‘friends’ pointed out that I’m not asking for me, and that anything raised will be to help Kirsty and the boys.

Damn them and their sensible logic!

So, I caved in and did it.

Here’s the link to my new page at Just Giving. And I won’t say any more than that about it.

https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/tommydonbavand

Right, I’d better go and practice lying on a bench while someone slides me back and forth through a revolving magnet the size of a small car.

Tommy

* The concept of ‘badgering’ someone has always intrigued me. Can you repeat the process with other woodland creatures, does it have to be a badger? I suppose you can ‘outfox’ someone, and I’ve known people who ‘rabbit’ on all the time. You can also ‘squirrel’ away money and ‘weasel’ out of an awkward situation. I’ve never seen anyone act suspiciously with a vole, however. Well, apart from one one time…

Round Two

I have lung cancer.

Yep. Just under two years since I was diagnosed with inoperable, stage four throat cancer I’ve been told the nasty bastard is back again.

Back for round two.

As you may have read in the previous post, I had a CT scan two days before Christmas after my oncologist found a new lump in my jaw.

My face, earlier today. Bet you can’t guess which side has the big, horrible lump…

I went back to see him on Tuesday (16th Jan) to get the results.

Thankfully, the lump in my jaw isn’t cancer. It’s simply a deterioration of my already existing lymphedema. I begin new treatment for that at the end of the month.

However…

Mr Morar went on to say there was something else we needed to discuss.

And, it wasn’t good news.

The CT scan had picked up a tumour growing in my left lung. A tumour that has never been there before.

The cancer has returned, and spread to my lungs.

Mr Morar has now referred me to a chest cancer specialist, and I’m waiting for an appointment to see him. He will likely take a biopsy in order to discover exactly what type of cancer is in there, and how bad it is. From there, it’s back into treatment – possibly surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy, or all three.

We’re back to square one, when I still haven’t fully recovered from the first attack.

Cara, the nutritionist, has advised me to try to put as much weight on as possible in the coming days and weeks so that I’ll be strong enough to endure this new round of knifey-laser-poison-juice.

Shit.

I can’t really explain how I feel; I not really certain myself yet. I’m scared, yes, but not for me. I’m scared for Kirsty, Sam and Arran (for new visitors, my wife and sons). I was an adult when I lost my parents. I can’t imagine what that would be like for a child.

I can’t do that to them.

Please don’t make me do that, cancer.

Both of my parents died as a result of cancer. My dad died in 2015 from prostate cancer that had spread to his bones. My mum passed away ten years earlier. From lung cancer.

I don’t smoke, and never have. Just so you know.

After Mr Morar had told me that the Big C had come scuttling back for a rematch, Kirsty and I were taken into a side-room by Hannah, the new Macmillan nurse attached to the ENT department. She wanted to make sure I was OK before we left.

I wasn’t sure if I was OK. I’m still not.

I know we talked for a while, although I’m not sure exactly what we discussed. I do remember that I apologised to Kirsty because I would have to put her through this all over again.

She told me not to be daft.

In the car on the way home I told her that, no matter what the outcome of this new battle, I was grateful that I’d been able to meet her, Sam and Arran. They’re the three most important people in my life, and I love them more than words can say.

I always will.

Here we go. Here come the tears. It’s been quite a while since I’ve cried while writing something.

Although I cry pretty regularly when reading – especially if I’m slogging my way through a new book by Barry Hutchison! 😉

Actually, joking aside (and I sort of was…), I’m due to be attending an indie author convention just outside London at the beginning of February – where Barry will take over as my carer for the weekend.

I hope I’m still able to go. I’ve really been looking forward to that.

I had to tell Arran and Sam the cancer was back. That wasn’t much fun. I did try to make it sound as positive as possible, though…

“Hey, guess what? I get to kick cancer up the arse again!”

I had to tell them. Arran had already asked why I was suddenly going to extra hospital appointments, and it wouldn’t have been long before Sam worked out something was wrong.

I didn’t want to lie to them.

As before, Arran has taken the news by pretending it isn’t happening and utterly refusing to talk about it. Sam, as you might expect, has taken it a lot harder. We’ve recently discovered that, due to his Asperger’s, any feelings of anxiety or panic he experiences manifest themselves as physical pain.

He’s had headaches and a sore stomach for the past two days.

Bastard cancer.

So, here we are. Standing on the starting line again. And back on this blog. I’ve received so many kind messages of support in the past couple of days. Thank you all so much. I’ve decided to relaunch this site so that I can chart my progress through treatment again. Doing so really helped me to understand what I was going through last time. Plus, several people have told me that the blog – and later, the book – helped people they know who had found themselves in a similar situation.

That’s got to be a good thing.

Speaking of the book (and this is the bit I hate writing), if you’re able to buy a copy from your local Amazon site, it really helps me and my family. Especially as I’ll have to cut back on the amount of work I can do. Again!

If you’ve already read Tommy V Cancer, please consider buying a copy for a friend or relative. Every sale makes a difference. You can find links to the book at the top right of this page.

There. Nasty, icky bit over!

Thank you so much for reading my rotten ramblings. Being able to get this stuff off my chest makes a huge difference to my state of mind.

Now I just need to get rid of the stuff in my chest as well.

Here We Go Again. Maybe.

Is it back?

Back again?

I’m about to find out.

My apologies for the lack of updates in recent weeks and months. I’ve been working hard at both getting better, and trying to write anything more than just of handful of words a day.

Both have been a struggle.

However, I may be updating this blog more frequently soon. For all the wrong reasons.

I haven’t shared this outside my immediate family so far, but I’ve decided to talk about it now in case I have to start writing about my health on a regular basis again.

haven’t told Sam and Arran as I don’t want to worry them if I can help it. Sam especially has coped very badly over the past year and a half.

So, at the risk of rebooting all the doom and gloom, here we go…

Just before Christmas, I had my regular appointment with Mr Morar, my oncologist. I’d been suffering with pain and swelling in the right side of my face, and told him as much. So, when he examined me, he paid special attention to that particular area.

And he found a lump.

A new lump.

In my face.

He arranged for me to have a CT scan as soon as possible, which happened two days before Christmas Eve. The scan was for my entire upper body – face to waist (which was also the title of my early 90s concept electro-pop album, but that’s a story for another day*).

Since then, I’ve heard nothing. Zip. Nada.

Utter silence.

I tried my hardest not to worry about this new lump over Christmas, and resolved simply to spend time with Kirsty and the boys, and to enjoy myself – which I did.

I even managed to eat a small, but extremely pleasant Christmas Dinner!

This Wednesday (10th January), I finally heard back from Mr Morar’s office. They had now received the results of my CT scan, and Mr Morar wanted to see me at his very next clinic. That’s next week, on Tuesday 16th Jan.

I had a whole week to worry about what he’s going to tell me.

I asked Kirsty to call back and request that someone from Mr Morar’s team speak to me, if not to give me the exact results, then to tell me whether I needed to prepare myself for bad news.

The answer was ‘no, that’s not possible’.

I took the ‘phone, and begged them to tell me something. Anything!

But, no.

I just have to wait.

I have to wait until Tuesday to find out whether this is simply an issue with my teeth or jaw (you may remember the ENT department’s dentist telling me that my radiotherapy will, essentially kill my jaw, but that it will take years to die).

It could be complications with my lymphedema or trismus (lockjaw).

Or, it could be that the cancer has returned to fight another day.

I won’t know for another four days from the time I’m writing this (Friday 12th January 2018).

Four days.

Doesn’t sound that long, does it?

It feels like an eternity.

Believe me, I’m trying not to worry. I really am.

But, I’m already mentally exhausted. I’m worn out by forcing myself not to think about it – which is nigh on impossible.

Don’t agree with me? OK, try this…

For the next 10 seconds, DO NOT think of a huge white bear sitting on a floating block of ice.

At all.

I mean it. DON’T think about polar bears. Don’t do it!

See?

Almost impossible.

So, that’s where I am at the moment. Waiting to find out if we’re about to embark on this tomfoolery all over again. Oh, except if that’s the case, I’m not allowed to have more radiotherapy on that side.

It’ll be chemo alone, unless surgery is possible.

And a big part of me hopes it isn’t.

Shit.

Tommy.

* Oh, good – I’m using humour while talking about cancer again. Can you tell I’m scared?