Tag Archives: Royal Marsden

Birthday party, garden parties and The Circle of Life

imageOne week following Black Wednesday and life has become clearer to a certain extent, plans have been made for the near future and we were back in London for a “handover meeting ” with Julie’s consultant at the Royal Marsden, Charlotte Benson.  “You’ve given it all you have got!” She tells Julie in her comforting bedside manner voice, this is a voice of genuine concern and humility because she feels that she has let down this patient.  Charlotte also knows this won’t be the last time she feels this way because as a general in the army fighting cancer, she knows cancer is a formidable enemy and won’t give in lightly.

Strangely though after we’ve gone through and exhausted all questions I found myself thanking Charlotte for all she has done over the last year or so, after all it wasn’t her fault the cancer had been missed for two years by an incompetent consultant at our local hospital!  No, the team at the Marsden worked hard to try and stem the advance of the cancerous devil.  Enough said!

We had an early dinner at the hotel that evening because we had been treated to a visit to the theatre to watch The Lion King.  While we were getting dressed to go out, Julie came out with another of her now common attacks on her disease.  “This was the only f*****g dress this shitty piece of offal will let me get in to!” She said half to me but mainly to herself.  “Don’t you worry sweetie, you look good whatever you wear” was my reply with a smile and off we went.

Once sat in the Theatre, I found myself sat with a little girl to my left.  It turned out this was her first trip to see a show and she was absolutely captivated.  The irony of this encounter wasn’t lost on me, to my left a little girl who was so excited and lucky to see the vibrancy on stage for the first time and to my right, Julie who had been on stage many times as well as in the audience, knowing she might not get to attend many more performances.  The number being performed while these thoughts drifted through my mind? “The Circle of Life”…..

On the train journey back Julie announced, “I want a party!, it’s going to be my last birthday and I want a party!”  “Ok” I reply, somehow knowing there was more to come. “When would you like it?”  ” As soon as possible of course, and I’ve decided on a few other things as well!” She carried on looking out of the train window.

Once back at home our tribe start descending.  Party was the word of that evening.  The evening became night and the night became an impromptu family party, it was heart warming to be sat at the table in our garden watching Leah, Hannah and Nathan laughing and bantering the night away, a definite memory making moment of love and pride, knowing our three cubs had grown up into independent, hard working Lions and Lionesses.  🙂

One of our really good friends dropped by on the following Saturday to see Julie.  “I’m going to have a party Mel and soon as possible” Julie explained.  “Leave it to me and Michelle” We settled on a date, the 13th of June which was a week following Julie’s birthday then off tromped Mel to break ther news to our other friend, Michelle that she would be helping!  We of course (that’ll be the Royal “We” i.e. me!) would be financing the bash. 🙂

DSC_0003During this period of time, between the beginning of June and the 13th, Nathan and I started to rearrange and generally re-model our garden, not because the party was to be held at home but because Julie wanted us to create a memorial garden for her, “somewhere for family and friends can come and sit and have a drink when I’m gone” she announced prior to the operation.  Julie has a flair for design and Nathan has inherited it.  Nathan and Julie, designed, Nathan and I did the heavy work and everyone had a good time spending on this creation.  One end of the garden had become overgrown, we cleared it and laid down bark and gravel, we trimmed shrubs, and pulled weeds.  Nathan decided a well was required, we built it, Nathan added blue l.e.d. lights, we installed a further water feature and solar powered lighting.

 DSC_0105Julie came up with other little gems, such as the “Beach/sea” theme, “we do live by the sea” she told usphoto(31).  Over the last four weeks we’ve moved and added to our little garden, we’ve spent many of those nights sitting in the garden chatting, sometimes alone and sometimes with our DSC_0113family or friends who’ve dropped in.  Either way the project has given Julie much pleasure.  As for Julie’s Birthday party, that went without a hitch, Julie never got in until 3 in the morning, enjoying every minute in the company of family and a few friends, she couldn’t have everyone we know as friends because my budget couldn’t take anymore of a battering in June.

We’re now into July, how are things now?  Well since that “Black Wednesday”, Nathan and I have tried to go for lunch with Julie every Friday.  Leah and Hannah come in to see their Mum as often as their lives allow and I’ve been spending as much time as possible with Julie, only leaving her when absolutely neccessary.  Her Meds have been modified during the last 24 hours to try to stem the pain but this, at the moment is fighting a losing battle.  However, we remain hopeful, after all how much pain and for how long is a woman, even one as stong as Julie able to withstand the onslaught?  To see the woman who you’ve known and loved for forty years crying in the middle of the night, not because she has life shortening cancer but due to the sheer physical pain she is having to endure hurts.  Knowing there is nothing I can do except try and comfort her as she fights just isn’t enough!  I want to take this vicious disease out of her body, punch it in the face and give it a bloody good kicking!!

Hopefully, the new Meds will kick in sooner rather than later.

Thanks for reading and keep your fingers crossed 🙂

To be continued…..

 

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. http://www.floydslaski.co.uk/images/RMH_big.jpg

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 hehttp://www.sarcoma.org.uk/sarcomaukfile/upload/IanJudson.jpgad 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 🙂

Julie’s struggle

Since we were last at the Marsden, this most recent bout of chemotherapy really seems to be taking its toll on Julie.  Although she looks well,  she is in nearly constant pain/discomfort and only rests intermittently.  Her appetite is sporadic but when she eats she eats. Lucky she has the “Happy Juice” as she calls her morphine! Still, off to the RM again tomorrow ready for Wednesday’s round of drugs.

Wish her luck!

Thanks for reading 🙂

 

 

Lethal Weapon 5

photo 1(8)Back to London today for Julie’s next scan in the middle of the day tomorrow, I’ve forgotten how brutal you have to be here just to be able to get around.  Victoria Station (picture left) was quite quiet today, but on the way from the platform I managed to run over at least one arrogant looking business man who looked me straight in the eye and refused to move.  Don’t try and play chicken with a man who doesn’t give a s****, you’ll lose every time, mister. My next encounter was with a very tall man, he seemed to deliberately try and walk over me, a shoulder barge dealt with him!  I might be only 5’8″ (the same height as Mel Gibson) but like the famous actor, without the looks, I am a force to be reckoned with when carrying a weapon.  Mel carries a glock, I wield an armour-plated suitcase.

The next obstacle is always getting on the tube.  The tube is always busy no matter what.  Today’s surprise, a bunch of our European cousins had tried to get through the barriers with suitcases big enough to carry a whole Harrods full of towels to the beach and guess what, one of then got stuck, causing an almighty jam. IMG_4580(1) I of course, as you can see,  prefer to carry the light machine gunners version, thus being able to nimbly slip past the enemy only to encounter more of the blighters at the bottom of the steps.  Yikes! Think quickly, ” Mind Your Backs!” I roar like a panzer tank at full speed,  worked though.

Onward up the platform only to encounter a bunch of people filling the area in front of me, here we go, “excuse me please” no reply or movement, two sets of hurty ankles then.  Ha Ha Ha.  Then I realise,  Julie is filming …..


Finally we get to Earls Court and the warm welcome at the Premier Innphoto(12).  The view is from the top floor,  generally we are on the other side of the building which overlooks the road but I think I prefer this, overlooking the tube and Earls Court Exhibition Centre.

Anyway I digress, Julie and I go out for a little lunch down on Earls Court Roadphoto 3(6) at the local Greggs.  I’m sat there drinking my coffee, Julie said she’d like to go to the local Boots, I usually go with her but she seems fit enough and off she trots, happy to be out on her own.  Twenty or so minutes later I spot her across the road and decide a picture would be in order.  No, I mean Noooo.  A bit of shopping in a London Boots and she’s turned into a diva.  Luckily,  I spotted the star trying to sneak across the road while hiding behind a bloke.  The arrow marks the spotphoto 1(9).  I caught up with the elusive Mrs Atkins however around the next bend, after taking a few shots then being made to only publish one of her choosing we, I mean she insisted I use this onephoto 3(5) She’s a tyke!!!! Here’s a couple more pics as you can see not a bad area to stay in.  Thanks for reading 🙂IMG_4585IMG_4586IMG_4584

Double blood transfusion for Julie ….

Double blood transfusion for Julie on top of her chemo session – I took myself off to the museums for the afternoon on Julie’s advice (she wanted a particular art book!) as she was at the Royal Marsden from 8am until 8pm! A long session, glad we stayed overnight again …

By the time we reached the hotel, Julie was dead on her feet.  She managed to stay awake just long enough to eat but nearly nodded off between courses!