Status update

It’s been almost two weeks since the operation to remove part of my bowel and the left adrenal gland, and generally I’m feeling OK, getting a little less tired every day. Having said this, I haven’t had any exercise, other than going up and down stairs, so there’s not really been much to tire me out physically. I suspect if I went for even what I would have previously called a short walk, I would probably be pretty tired afterwards. I also have to inject myself with blood-thinning stuff once a day, which makes you quite light-headed for a while, and you really have to lie down until the effects go down a little. The scriptwriting is of course tiring, but that’s a mental thing, not physical – believe it or not, it’s very tiring inhabiting a fantasy world for a few hours at a time, no matter how much fun it is at the time.

The main reason I haven’t been out though is because I’m still not able to wear anything with a hard waistband, like jeans, as two of the keyhole surgery scars are at the bottom of my waist, underneath my stomach, and anything other than loose loungers or pyjama bottoms rubs against the scars. They’re healing, slowly but surely, but I guess it will be a while longer before they’re not irritated by close contact. That said, I intend to try a pair of trackies later, and at least take a little walk up our lane, to see how the hedgerow is progressing. The field behind us is full of glowing yellow dandelions, and I am desperate to get out and photograph them in this glorious sunshine, but that involves walking up the lane, through the gate and back down to the back of our house. I’ll give it a go, but what wouldn’t I give for a gate at the end of the garden right now!

Things seem to be behaving themselves in my newly truncated bowel, although things aren’t quite as predictably regular as before, understandably. I’m not experiencing any of the horror stories you read about on the various bowel cancer websites though, so I’m grateful for that.

I’m grateful for a whole load of things right now to be honest – I know I’ve had bowel cancer (hopefully in the past tense!), and a fairly major operation, but I can’t help thinking about the string of lucky coincidences that have got me to this point. If I hadn’t had piles, then the toilet bowl full of blood incident might not have happened, nor the subsequent blood test that showed up an area of concern in the bowel. If the self-administered enema had worked properly before the initial sigmoidoscopy then they wouldn’t have had to do a full colonoscopy, during which they found Bernard, as I called the cancerous lump. The ‘luck’ continued, in that the PET-CT scan also showed up the lump in the left adrenal gland, which meant I had to have the double operation at Southmead Hospital in Bristol, which is currently completely coronavirus free, as opposed to the ‘simpler’ bowel operation, which would have been done at Yeovil District Hospital, which isn’t. It was ironically because of the coronavirus that my operation was prioritised early, before the expected onrush of coronavirus cases. If it hadn’t been for the virus, my operation might not have happened for another month or two, giving the tumour time to grow, and potentially need chemotherapy beforehand. I haven’t yet heard definitively that I won’t need post-op chemo, but the doctors at Southmead were pretty hopeful that I wouldn’t – again, if the op had been delayed, it might have given the cancer time to spread, and thus need the chemo.

So all in all I feel extremely lucky, and very glad to be alive. I have read so many stories of others that have gone through bowel cancer and not been so lucky. OK, yes, I have seven scars on my stomach that are quite restricting right now, but they’ll go. I can’t walk the dogs yet, but I will be able to soon enough. I can’t go back to the part-time day job for at least another four weeks, as there is strictly no heavy lifting, but as that day job is in a co-op mini supermarket, I’m very thankful not to have to be on that particular front line, especially as we’re shielding my wife during her immunotherapy. I do miss my colleagues though, and the regular customers. To be fair, the manager there has been nothing but supportive during not only Julie’s cancer treatment, but also my own, as have my colleagues. I am further fortunate that the current scriptwriting job started just before the operation, which is making up for the drop in income, and actually increasing it. My thoughts are very much with all those that are still on that front line though, it’s a tough, dangerous job right now, and they are understandably very scared.

So to the amazing NHS, and to the gods of intertwined coincidences, I give you my heart-felt thanks.

10 thoughts on “Status update

  1. Dear Alastair,
    Under the circumstances you ooze positivity and I think this is your strength. I am one of life’s pessimists so I salute you and Julie and send massive love. ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Brilliant news…but then I knew you’d be fine….Ken calls it “witchcraft!”……you will continue to improve…both of you….because the world needs you both, lots of love and positivity! Valerie xx

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I had goosebumps as I read how the universe lined things up in your favor. Here’s hoping for a bit more good fortune in that you will not need chemo. My best to Julie as well. Sounds like this is not an easy time for her either. Love and a hug, your friend from the sunshine state where the beaches are all closed


  4. Thanks Kim. No, you’re right, it’s not been easy for Julie, she’s had a long hard treatment for her own cancer, and she’s still nowhere near ‘normal’, two months after the main treatment finished. She still has the remains of ulcers in her mouth, extremely sensitive skin on her neck, and depleted saliva and tongue mobility, all from the radiotherapy. It’s getting better, slowly, but she can’t eat anything like normal still, and going out in the sun is a nightmare for her. She’s been lucky too though, in a way, in that somehow she qualified for six months full sick pay, even though her current teaching contract had only started the day before she first got tentatively diagnosed, and thanks to the virus, even though she won’t be able to go back any time soon, she may well get paid salary anyway if the schools remain closed. Its no compensation of course though. But, she does have a lot more energy than she did, thankfully, and is able to take the dogs out, albeit only to the fields opposite or behind us, but that’s because of the shielding, and not because she can’t physically go any further – and we’re lucky to have the fields, also! You just have to stay positive, otherwise you’d just go mad. Lots of love, hope you’re staying sane there too! xx


  5. That’s good Alastair, keep on getting well.
    My friend next door is going into surgery next week to have bowel cancer operation.
    She doesn’t show it, but you can see that she is worried.


  6. Thanks Ian. I think I would have been more anxious if I’d had more than a day’s notice of the op, but the team at Southmead were amazing, as I’m sure they are everywhere. It is a pretty routine operation these days, but I still feel very grateful to them for the amazing job they did.


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