Monthly Archives: May 2015

“Black Wednesday”

imageWriting this on the train on the way back from London following Julie’s final visit to the Royal Marsden it’s difficult to describe my feelings following the last 15 months.  Dealing with the ups and downs of chemotherapy, the incessant worry while awaiting scan results would appear to be at an end.

Last week we were given the news that there was nothing more that could be thrown at the cancer which would produce a positive result.  Julie and I came out of the Marsden full of apprehension. Not because the news was bad, we’ve been expecting the worst since we were told Julie’s disease was incurable but we had to somehow tell our three grown up children they are going to lose their mum at some stage. I rehearsed by phoning Julie’s dad, he was certainly devastated but held it together.

After the news while walking along the Cromwell Road, Julie was hit by a car while on the pavement,  a wing mirror had clipped her arm, I ran after it but couldn’t catch it.  I got back to her and she was in tears. ” I hate this, I just want to f—–g stand here and scream!”  I just held her for a minute before we continued into the Natural History for lunch.  We sat at a table and I tried to comprehend how Julie was feeling, although I did all the eating, I knew somehow she was sorting her mind.

I had just published my latest Blog about one of my pet subjects, obesity.  We talked about it, Ju gave me the usual lecture about being blunt and to the point and we continued our game of fat watching and boy there was some subject matter wandering the halls of the Museum that Wednesday!  I had just finished my sandwich and a woman came over and asked if we had finished. “Yeah” I answered “Just give us a minute”. She decided to hover.  “I hate this, having to stand over someone” she whined.  The husband appeared.  “Let me clear the table and you can have it” Julie, always the pinnacle of politeness said.  “Come on, come on time’s moving on” The idiot husband attempted to joke.  Enough’s enough!  “You’re not wrong, my wife has just been told she may only have three months to live!” I snap, daring him to continue!  “Surely not?” he was clearly embarrassed.  I had my coat on and started to walk away when I heard Julie’s voice.  “Yes it’s true, I’ve cancer. I’m sorry, it is very raw at the moment!”  Mr and Mrs Pushy went quiet and suddenly I felt embarrassed.  Not embarrassed because for what I said to the couple but embarrassed because for the first time in 40 years, Julie felt she had to apologise for me.

We walked into the gardens of the museum and I apologised to Julie for putting her in the position where she thought my actions needed defending, she held my hand tighter.

After finding a bench to sit on we started to discuss our options.  Did we wait until we arrived back at home then tell our family? Did we want to do this over the phone?   Who to tell first?  They are all adults we decided and this is a time to be an adult.  After much conversation we came to a decision.  I would speak to Simon, our son-in-law first then he could break the news to Leah, then they could speak to Hannah and Nathan.

I made the call to Simon while standing by “the tree that is older than the dinosaurs”, he was clearly upset but as usual he was calm and listened and made suggestions.  I felt a little calmer after talking to Si but something still nagged at my mind.  Julie and I continued our walk up Exhibition Road then took a left past The Royal Albert Hall and back to the hotel for dinner.  All the way we held hands and talked and talked, almost as though we had just met again.

Once back in our room I told Julie what was on my mind.  I had made a promise to Nathan to keep him informed whatever.  “I’m gonna call Nathan, Julie, I made him a promise and don’t want to break it.  He’s a man and an adult and will be able to handle it! He’s working but the guys will support him.”  I made one of the most difficult calls I’ve ever make.  The anger in my son’s voice was there and I knew there was nothing else I wanted but to give him a hug like I used to when he was hurting as a child, but of course he was seventy miles away.

That Wednesday evening was full of mixed emotion, we spoke to Leah, Hannah and Nathan again then Julie’s older brother, each time just as hard.

To Be Continued……

Thanks for Reading 🙂

Obesity it’s actually called FAT!!!

This post is not aimed at anyone who is obese through illness!!

Finally the director of NHS England has come out to say exactly what we’ve always known.  Fat parents have fat kids!

Why has it take so long for someone in authority to take the plunge and say out loud what most of us have known for a long time? Until recently I thought I lived close to the only city and town where parents took their offspring to McDonalds and other fast food restaurants for breakfast usually in their “onesies” ( that’s the parents!).  Then go on to the supermarket and buy their roll-ups (also the parents) and chocolate bars, pizzas or chicken nuggets and pies for lunch.  imageSee what I mean? 🙂 It’s not only along the south coast you can see this but also according to my brother-in-law, prevalent in the garden of England, Royal Tonbridge Wells.    I’m all for giving the kids a treat but all too often I see kids looking like this struggling to walk along the streets.image  If their parents look like the vision in the first picture or the porkster pushing the wheel barrow. What chance do they stand?:(

Aside from the well known effects of obesity such as heart disease, increased chance of cancer,liver disease, diabetes, and stroke. There are the environmental health and safety aspects!

What health and safety aspects? Let’s deal with the environmental problems first. When you finally expire, earlier than your thinner peers, it will probably take an extra tree to build you a coffin.  It will take more gas to burn you at the crematorium and more electricity to light the crem while your family wait for your ashes. Prior to all of that you won’t fit into a normal hearse so most probably a lorry will have to be hired instead.  This of course uses diesel which is a known pollutant.

On the health and safety side, throughout your life you will expel more gas because of the vast amount of food you consume, causing people to faint while gasping for air.   Waiters in restaurants and cafés will be forced to carry your food in in pairs because the plates will be overloaded. ( on the plus side more jobs will be created). Pall bearers at your funeral will have to be doubled or a crane operator will be required to operate heavy lifting gear.  The vicar will have to stand on a pair of steps to see over your coffin while conducting the service!! 🙂

All joking aside, when I was a child in the fifties and sixties, there were people who were overweight but not so many. We walked a lot, we climbed trees, we ate healthily because our parents ate healthily.  In these days of couch potatoes, not harvesting potatoes,  most of us are probably guilty of not exercising enough.  There is though an increasing amount of us who “can’t be bothered”. So listed below are a few ideas to get a little healthier 🙂

1.   Walk your children to school

2.   Make takeaways or ready meals, a treat, not the norm.  It’s cheaper and more fun to cook your own meals and while you are cooking you aren’t thinking about snacking!

3.   If you have even a little room on your terrace, patio or garden,  plant even a single tomato plant, just growing a single piece of your own fruit or veg gives you a sense of pleasure.  (We grow quite a lot in some quite small planters)

4.   The lighter nights mean it’s time to prise your children from the TV  and video games and get them running outside, playing sport or cycling! They will get used to it, even fishing is exercise!

5.   If you can’t cook already, LEARN! Buy a Jamie Oliver cookbook, easy to follow and understand! The best way to teach your kids to eat healthily is to teach them to cook healthily! They’ll pass that on to your grandchildren and so on. ( It’s called responsible parenting)

6.   Stop smoking, it’s expensive and slows down your metabolism which in turn makes you lethargic.  Not to mention it will be a contributing factor to early death.  If you spend say 30.00 per week on tobacco products, which is 1500.00 per year, think how much fresh food you can buy.    If you smoke 20 tailor made cigarettes a day which at a cost of about 7.00 per pack, £2500.00 per year you can buy enough fresh fruit and veg for a family of four for a year!

Hope this helps!

Thanks for reading 🙂


Two weeks is a long time…….eight weeks are shorter

I haven’t written and posted since May 3rd, not because I’ve been stuck for words but we’ve been busy work wise and with all the issues that entails.

Julie is not faring well on the latest chemo.  After her latest treatment, she had to spend almost a full week in bed recovering, not so good,  not feeling well enough even to walk downstairs.  The one thing you get to find out when you are close to someone with cancer is they are not the only one.  Also, there is always someone whose battle seems harder and fortunately, there are some who make a full recovery.

A long standing client of mine, “John” has spent a good part of his later years caring for his wife who started off with breast cancer, it then spread to her jaw which she had re built but she made a full recovery.  Now John has the disease, prostrate cancer and just for good measure also in his lymph glands.  I know his wife will be there for him but life is cruel sometimes.

Then there is “Ann” Ann is an ex nurse, her husband had a major heart attack and died around the time she was diagnosed with cancer four years ago. Ann’s disease is in her lungs, liver and her bones.  When I first met her she explained she had been very ill and we would have to conduct our business while she sat down.  Once I had told her about Julie, we got on very well.

Ann too is a brave lady,  we always have a laugh and joke about life and the way it keeps tripping you up!  This week while I was hanging some new doors for her she told me she had a couple of  appointments at the hospital, one for some radiotherapy and another for a scan.  She got up on Wednesday  I asked her how she had got on.  “Not good, it’s got worse, no wonder I feel so rubbish!  Anyway back over today to get the results” she added.

Thursday her daughter in law told me Ann had been given no longer than eight weeks to live. Everyone went off to work, I carried on working.  A little while later Ann was up.  ” I suppose you’ve heard? She asked. “Yep, it’s a nasty little feller, that cancer, but I have to say Ann you just don’t have the look of a dying lady!” I reply. A little while later that day she went off with her son for lunch and to the garden centre.

I typed up her invoice the following day and emailed it to her around seven in the morning asking her to let me know when it would be convenient for her for me to pick up a cheque.  Within five minutes Ann had sent me a text saying ten would be good for her.

I arrived just after ten to find Ann up, about and in fine spirits.  “You my lovely are something else, I can’t believe you replied to my email so early!” I told her.  ” I know” she said “Isn’t it wonderful, they put me on steroids and I’m absolutely wired. Do you know, yesterday I actually walked around the Garden Centre.  Up until now I’ve had to have a wheelchair.  I’ve even written your cheque already!” She enthused.  We had a long chat about life, her funeral and loads of other totally meaningless rubbish before I left.

I know that Friday might be the last time I see Ann, it won’t be the last time I’m in the house because she has contracted Nathan and I to do more work, on her behalf, posthumously for her son.

On that Friday, Ann had all of a sudden been given some sort of closure to the battle she had been fighting for four years.  It was as if she’s been given permission to leave the wreck of her body and move on.   I really hope she survives longer than those short eight weeks, but only if she wants to.

As I put the final touches to this, I’m on a train, heading to London and the Royal Marsden with Julie, once more. Since last Saturday she’s been suffering a bit.  Her happy juice (morphine) has taken a bit of a battering over the last few days, we even had a conversation where Julie told me if the pain was this bad now, I was to ensure she drank plenty of happy juice so she didn’t suffer any more when she was ready.

Am I capable of following that instruction? Yes I’m capable and brave enough and will do whatever’s required to ensure she doesn’t suffer any more than she wants. Then face the consequences because at that stage, I won’t care that much about me, only Julie, Leah, Hannah and Nathan

Thanks for reading 🙂

Rebecca Ferdinand & Julie Atkins

Image result for rebecca ferdinandToday we’ve heard the terrible news Rebecca Ferdinand, pictured below with her husband Rio Ferdinand, lost her short battle with cancer.  So what has this got to do with Julie, my wife?  How are they both connected?  Here’s how.  Both Rebecca and Rio and  Julie and I both have three children.  Both Rebecca and Julie fought and in Julie’s case, is still fighting Cancer, albeit different types, but both just as deadly.  Both Rebecca was and Julie still is being treated for this life changing disease in The Royal Marsden Hospital in London.  photo(30)

The picture of Julie and I (left )was also taken before she was diagnosed and at that time we had no idea of the onslaught that was to engulf our family.

If anyone who has never been this situation tells you they know how it affects you, your family and your life in general, they don’t.  As Rio, Rebecca and their families have found out, one day you are going to work, speaking to each other normally, laughing, arguing and just living life as normal, then someone presses the button which says you have cancer.  When this happens, boy, your life changes.

It takes a little while to digest how this affects your life.  Julie and I both decided within hours how would tackle the situation.  She was told without me, at that stage when I was summoned to join her in the hospital where we  were only told “the fibroid” wasn’t a fibroid but a huge growth which (had been misdiagnosed) was cancer. We were told the diagnosing hospital couldn’t treat it successfully as they didn’t have the knowledge and duly referred to the Royal Marsden Hospital in Chelsea (below).  I say we because although Julie has the disease,  we fight it together.

When we first arrived at the Royal Marsden, we had no idea what news was about to be given to us, we had booked into a hotel, stopped on the way from Earls Court to Chelsea at a local wine bar for a drink because we were early before going into register and enter the packed outpatients waiting room.  Julie was called more or less on time or probably a little later and we were taken to an examination room.  A man, possibly about my age entered with a specialist nurse entered and introduced himself as Ian Judson, “Ian” it turned out is Professor Ian Judson, the softly spoken he of the Sarcoma Unit and one of the foremost oncologists in the world! His specialist nurse, Alison Dunlop a straight spoken Glaswegian lady with a difficult job, supporting and imparting information to mainly but not always, incurrable patients.

Professor Judson sat on the bed dangling his legs, and started speaking. “After studying the scans sent by your hospital, It’s not the nodules in your lungs which are concerning me, I think we can deal with those relatively easily but the tumours on your liver.”  I didn’t want to ask the question,  before I could gather my wits and say anything Julie asked “So you’re saying I’ve got lung and liver cancer?” The professor went on to explain the type of cancer Julie has is a Uterine Leiomyosarcoma, a rare type of cancer which form in muscle tissue.  This he went on to explain had been dealt with but because it had been left too long had spread to the liver and lungs.  I could see Julie had been taken back so I started asking the questions.

Obviously we needed some sort of prognosis. “Until we’ve done our own scans, all I can tell you is that it is incurable.  We are very good at what we do here and have access to different and more radical drugs which other hospitals don’t have” Prof Judson continued.  ” He has a way of giving bad news without making it seem like a major disaster, in fact all of the staff at The Marsden are the same. “Alison will go through the details of the first treatment we’ll try which is Doxorubicin, if this doesn’t work we’ve plenty more in our armoury.”  Plenty more was said I’m sure but that is what stuck in my head.  We shook hands and the professor left.

Alison went onto explain the side effects of the drugs and how it would be administered then reiterated how this wasn’t the only drug to use, she also said as did Ian to go home and think about all that was said before making a decision as this was a lot to absorb.  You’re telling ME !!

We went back to the hotel, discussing this monster inside Julie and how to tell Leah, Hannah and Nathan, our three children and her mum and dad.  Prior to dinner that evening over a drink Julie said to me ” I’m not giving up without a fight, this fucker’s not taking me easily!”

I’m pretty sure Rebecca and Rio probably had a similar experience to us, this beacon of light, The Royal Marsden, gives all the same treatment and the staff never give up until all avenues are exhausted and even then they continue to give pallative care.  The Ferdinands and their families will have cried together, hugged and kissed each other, made vows to one another, unfortunatley Rebecca has lost her fight, it is up to Rio to be both mother and father to his three children as they grow up missing their mum.  Ours are all grown up but as a close family it’s no less painfull.

As I write this Julie is in bed recovering after another bout of chemo, feeling and being sick and sleeping while this, her third different drug in the last 12 months does it’s stuff, hopefully.  I don’t know how much time we have left together, after being with each other for 40 years and married for 35 of those, I guess we’ve been lucky so far.

My heart goes out not only to Rio, his children and family but also to all of the many cancer sufferers who have to deal with this disease because I know how you feel.

With cancer, you get up in the morning, it’s there, you close your eyes and wake up, it’s there, whatever you do every single second of every single day, it’s there, waiting like a dragon to sneak up and when it’s ready, to eat you.  The only way to live with this monster is to accept what it’s capable of and fight.  Sometimes you feel like you are winning, other times, you are backed into a corner.  If you are lucky, the dragon’s hunger stays satisfied.  Other times as in Rebecca’s case he sneaks up behind you and feeds.

To the Royal Marsden I say this, your work is invaluable, even if sometimes the results are negative, your attitude is always positive.  Keep up the good work!

Thanks for reading 🙂