Monday 23 November 2015

A Very Happy Birthday To Me

This weekend I was back in Velindre for the all important, and much anticipated, MRI results. Based on every other set of results I've had over the last eleven months I was all but resigned to more bad news but, as my mother and brother both wanted to come to this appointment with me and my father, I was hoping that I would be proved wrong.

Before thinking too much about that however I had something else to deal with: My 25th Birthday. On Thursday I officially hit the half way point in my journey to my 50th Birthday Party, which those of you who have been reading the blog for a while will remember I declared I would be attending regardless of Timmy's best efforts. Not wanting to risk being hungover for Velindre early on the Friday I opted for a quiet family meal on the day, followed by drinks on the Saturday as it was pointed out to me that regardless of Friday's results I was highly likely to fancy a good drink by then.

So, back to Thursday, we headed to Cardiff for food but had to change our plans slightly as it was also Beaujolais Day and as such our initial choice of restaurant was only serving a set menu. Thankfully TGI Friday is a solid safe bet and we managed to get a really nice meal in there without needed a booking. Another benefit was the fact that it is in St David's Centre, right by the Apple Store which gave me the opportunity to utilise the grant I had received off the Rob George Foundation specifically to buy an iPad. I opted for the Air 2, which will be handy for allowing me to blog while travelling without having to take my MacBook. Fed, watered and fully apple'd out we headed home to attempt to get some sleep before the trip back to Cardiff in the morning.

Friday came and the four of us made that far too familiar journey to Velindre Cancer Centre, ready to discover what effect, if any, the 10 months of treatment had had on Timmy the Tumour. Upon arrival I had bloods taken as per usual and settled in the waiting room, relieved for a change to know that I wouldn't be going home with the collection of chemo tablets and sickness medicines that make up the worlds worst party bag.

We were called through to the consultation room and discussed the usual wellbeing questions before getting down to business. "I'm going to start by telling you that it has shrunk". Words I wasn't expecting to hear at all. I'm not exactly sure what the next few sentences were because I was still focusing on that belter of a word: "shrunk". Suddenly all of that chemo didn't seem so bad, it had had its desired effect and reduced the mass of the tumour.

The doctor then got my scans up for me to see and I found out that the tumour had shrunk from around 32mm to just under 29mm, a 10% shrinkage. As you can see from the scans below, not only has the tumour (the dark grey bit with measurements next to it) shrunk, but the trapped fluid (the four black bits) has almost completely drained.

January Scan (left) November Scan (right)
After some time had been allowed for this news to settle in I was told that we would still require a few scans before any decision was made about ongoing treatment and the next scan will be before I embark on my travels, with the subsequent scan on my return. It is likely that the next treatment option will be chemotherapy in the form of an IV drip combined with tablets or a clinical trial if one should become available.

Having absorbed as much information as I possibly could in that one appointment we left the hospital and in spite of myself I broke out into a massive smile. It's amazing how different I felt compared to the first appointment I had in that building all those months ago. I realised that it also presented me with an opportunity. I had declared on January 1st that my New Year's Resolution was going to be learning to smile in a photo, unfortunately I was diagnosed five days later which has meant minimal smiles ever since. As this smile seemed unlikely to move any time soon I took my chance and completed my resolution with a month to spare.

Who Says I Can't Smile For A Photo














Tuesday 10 November 2015

A Blinding Weekend Build-Up To My MRI

It is Tuesday evening and I'm just about recovering from a long, tiring but thoroughly enjoyable weekend. It all began on Friday when I attended an event aiming to raise money for the Cardiff Brain Tumour Research that I wrote about in a blog post here.

The event had been organised by a group of my best friends with the local community helping by donating prizes for the raffle, contributing to the entertainment and of course by purchasing tickets to attend the event. It kicked off at 7:30pm with a local dance group 'Funk Force' performing a couple of routines. They also kindly donated to the fundraising efforts after the entertainment had finished. Following on from the dancers a local band 'Hot Squash' performed two sets which everyone really enjoyed and sang along to. This also roughly marked the point at which I caved and gave up on my plan of staying alcohol free for the entire night. Only a couple of drinks though, I decided. After all refusing drinks off too many people would be rude wouldn't it! By the time the band finished and the DJ's started I had long forgotten my no alcohol plan and had also won a bottle of whiskey and a bottle of wine in the raffle. Although in fairness those bottles did more damage to my family than to me, as I'm thankfully not a massive fan of either.

A Few Beers Into The Fundraiser
When the entertainment was finished we moved on to the pub around the corner which is where, unsurprisingly, memories become much more sparse and fuzzy. Based on my phone records I got home at about half 4 and retreated to my bed, ready to wake up four hours later to begin the next part of my weekend.

Saturday morning rolled around and I rose feeling slightly worse for wear, but knowing that I needed to be in Cardiff by 10:30 to catch the MegaBus to London. My brother and I boarded the bus and headed for the back row with the intention of sleeping through the entire journey, sadly it turns out a denim jacket is less than ideal when used as a make shift pillow for napping on a 4 hour bus journey.

Upon arrival in London we navigated our way through the underground and overground to find Deptford station and our host for the weekend. (Sidebar: I was overly excited at being able to use Apple Pay on all London transport instead of actually having to buy a ticket. So much easier.) After a shower, and change of attire, we headed out for food and in to Victoria again for the main reason we had travelled to London while nursing horrific hangovers. Wicked.

We had brilliant seats at the front of the Dress Circle and, due to the aforementioned hangovers, avoided alcohol for the entire performance. It was a brilliant performance by the cast and well worth the time spent being sick into a bus toilet sink on the M4.

Wicked and the Apollo Victoria

This weekend of distractions proved to be brilliant at keeping my mind occupied and away from my plan for Monday, which involved returning to Velindre for my first MRI scan since treatment began, all those months ago. Now due to my years of judo I have a higher than average level of familiarity with these machines, and as such I have developed my own procedure for dealing with them. For the uninitiated, these scans can take around half hour and involve you lying still in one position while the machine intermittently whirs and clicks around you. I stumbled across the perfect way to get through this when I unjured my wrist a few years ago: Be hungover. Turn up to the appointment having had very little sleep after a night out and you'll sleep through the scan, no matter what position you're placed in. I don't see the NHS recommending this approach any time soon but for me it works every time.

Sadly though, my busy weekend meant I was in no state to be getting wasted on the Sunday so instead relied on sleep deprivation alone. This didn't quite have the same effect as my usual procedure and I was therefore awake for the scan trying to ignore the itch on my nose that began as soon as I was inside and lasted for the entire half hour stint. One of the ladies that was operating the machine did mention to me that she read my blog so for her and anyone else at Velindre who may be reading this: Hey! You're all awesome!

Having been removed from the machine I collected all of my metal objects and headed home to await the results. I will receive them on November 20th, the day after my birthday. Here's hoping for a belated present in the form of some good news.





Wednesday 28 October 2015

Judo - The Helpful Way

I've been meaning to write a blog about judo and the impact it has had, not only since my diagnosis, but also the overall influence it has had on my life since I first started in Maesteg Sport Centre aged 11. As today is "World Judo Day" I can think of no better occasion for it's publication, so here goes.

As I've mentioned, I started judo whilst still at primary school. As a class we visited the local sport centre to trial all of the sports clubs they had on offer. Only one of those clubs let us throw our classmates into crash mats, so, unsurprisingly, that was the one that got our attention. That evening half a dozen of us turned up to Maesteg Judo Club's beginner class. After a couple of weeks the numbers dwindled and, of the original six, only my brother and I remained. Fourteen years, countless uchi-komi drills and 263 wins by ippon later I have graded to the level of 3rd Dan (third level black belt for the uninitiated) and represented wales at 3 Commonwealth Championships as well as the Glasgow Commonwealth Games in 2014.

Off the mat judo has enabled me to reap many benefits that I would have otherwise have never enjoyed:
  • Travel - Through judo I have been lucky enough to go to many countries that I would have otherwise never been able to visit (often getting time off school to do so, a brilliant perk at the time). From Holland to Mauritius I have travelled fairly extensively, even if the majority of the time is spent in budget hotels and sport centres. 
  • Fitness - I had taken for granted the fact that training for judo means you never have to actively train abs. They just exist. The high volume of core exercise that is inherent in judo, coupled with the benefits of having a good muscle:fat ratio means that the majority of judo players stay shredded without really giving it much thought. As an extension to that, since finishing as a full time athlete in 2014 I have realised just how easy it is to stay in shape when you're training three times a day anyway compared to when you work all day and have to train in the night!
  • Social - One aspect that I didn't fully appreciate until this year, but it is an excellent way to meet people from all sorts of places and backgrounds. For an individual combat sport there is a large amount of respect, even amongst those in the same category. 
Since being diagnosed in January I have been repeatedly surprised by the ways in which the judo community have rallied around and attempted to help, as well as the unexpected benefits that stem from my participation in the sport.

Although obviously not a benefit exclusive to judoka (judo players), my level of fitness at the time of diagnosis meant that doctors were able to go ahead with a full-strength treatment plan, without worrying too much about the effect it would have on my general health. Further to this the first surprising benefit came when I asked for a second opinion and was referred to the leading brain tumour specialist at the Royal Marsden, who it turns out has children who are keen judoka and had in fact been sat in line with my mat, watching me in Glasgow.

After being transferred to the Heath Hospital in Cardiff for my operation I received a great deal of visitors both friends and family. Who was the first non-relative to arrive at the hospital to see me? One of the judo boys. When I got home to convalesce, who was at my door within hours? My judo coach. As part of the many well wishes I had sent to me I had not only my close friends from judo but also messages from people I'd fought against throughout my teens and hadn't seen since. I can't imagine many sports can compete with that level of camaraderie, especially when the sport in question involves such direct, physical, one-on-one competition.

When I had recovered from surgery and came home there was a massive amount of help and support given by the judo community, from the lowest level right through to the international governing body. I attended my club's annual presentation to present some of the trophies and was profoundly moved to find I had been voted "Player's Player" by the club's competitive players; I was contacted by the medical staff at Sport Wales to inform me that if there was anything they could do to help I need only ask; Welsh Judo conducted fund raising at the National Championships to help fund my bucket list; a number of friends I've made through judo have fund raised either towards my bucket list or towards my chosen charities; and I even had a donation from the IJF themselves along with the offer to arrange my time at the Kodokan.

More indirectly my participation in judo at a fairly high level has meant that my story has been of interest to media outlets, which has given me an opportunity to not only raise money for my planned travels but also draw attention to the issue of Brain Cancer in young adults and the associated charities. 

So I suppose the Cliffs Notes version of this post would be this: When the going is good judo keeps you fit, confident, well travelled, disciplined and with clearly visible abdominals. When things start to go south the community rallies around and looks after it's own. I'm not sure if many other sports can so confidently boast that as a selling point, so if you haven't already, as British Judo have been saying recently, #ThrowYourselfIntoJudo.

A photo posted by Jamie MacDonald (@thejamiemac) on

Wednesday 30 September 2015

And That's The Last Of The Chemo (For Now)

Since last Friday I have had the joy of being back on chemo. Although this does tire me out slightly, dry my skin up and weaken my stomach for a few days I was happy to put up with that knowing it would be my last dose.

So, as of yesterday I have officially finished my initial plan of treatment. This has comprised of 30 sessions of radiotherapy, 30 days of chemotherapy and spanned a total of 33 weeks. Reflecting on this time as a whole I can draw a few conclusions about these methods of treating cancer (at least related to my own personal experience):
  • Radiotherapy is worse than chemo - Based on everything I had heard in the media etc I always assumed that chemotherapy was horrendous, whereas I had heard little said about the effects of radiotherapy so naturally assumed it was less noteworthy. In reality I found that I would be up almost every night following radiotherapy being sick and, as I've mentioned countless times, my hair fell out at the site of treatment. Chemotherapy however has had minimal impact on my general wellbeing and has been kind enough to allow me to keep my newly regrown hair.
  • You get a good rest - Both methods of treatment are spread out periodically (at least in my case) which allows you to attempt to lead a normal life in your "off weeks". Further to this the oncologists are not strict with the timetable for treatment which allows you to move treatment around to allow you to fit in even more normality. I have personally managed to travel abroad or do something at home almost every month by planning my events to be at the furthest possible point from treatment.
  • You will be tired - It is unavoidable really. Both methods of treatment will make you tire easily. I noticed that during treatment even a half hour gym session was making me tired enough that I'd be tempted to go for a nap. To make things worse your appetite reducing means you have to make a concerted effort to take in enough food to fuel your day, especially if you plan on training at all.
  • Tastebuds turn on you - I've always been a fussy eater, but there are a few staples that I have always been able to rely on. Chief amongst these are chicken and chocolate (not together though, I'm not that weird). Unfortunately the combination of a change in my tastebuds and the increased sensitivity of my stomach means that for much of the last 6 months I haven't been able to smell chicken without retching and eating chocolate provokes a similar response.
For those of you who have been reading this blog from the beginning you may remember I declared that I would attempt to train through my treatment in order to claim the title of Most Shredded Cancer Patient (admittedly to be awarded to myself, by myself). For anyone that is interested, and actually for those who are not even remotely interested, here is the comparison between the day before I started treatment and the day after I finished. There is a grand total of 33 weeks between the first and second photos during which time I have gone bald and regrown my hair, lost ten kilos and regained two and, much to my dismay, lost a fair bit of abdominal definition.

A photo posted by Jamie MacDonald (@thejamiemac) on
Now that my treatment is over I will finally be having my first scan since my diagnosis in January. This will be in six weeks and won't be able to tell us an awful lot about how successful the treatment has been, but it will start to form an ongoing picture as it is combined with future scans.

I am under no illusions that this has been my final treatment but am hopeful that it has had some positive impact on the tumour. Should the tumour continue to be problematic and not halt it's growth my oncologist will be looking towards clinical trials and more chemotherapy as a course of treatment. Personally if the last eight months of treatment haven't proved to be successful I will be investigating alternate measures that could compliment and medically prescribed options.

But before all of this I feel that I need a large alcoholic beverage as soon as possible to celebrate the end of this batch of treatment. Cheers!


Friday 4 September 2015

Scalp Wars V: The Follicles Strike Back

From a cancer perspective there hasn't been much to report over the last few weeks, which I'm taking as a positive. I've been continuing with my monthly doses of chemo and only have one left now (scheduled for late September). Following this I'll have a 6 week gap before I have my first scan since my initial scans at the start of the year. 

This scan won't be able to tell us much however, apparently it's quite likely that it will look bad due to the ongoing effects of the chemoradiation, it will be used more as a starting point to allow a bigger picture to be created through combining it with future scans. 

As for the treatment itself I'm now pretty used to the effects of the chemo and as long as I rest up over the course of the 5 days of tablets I'm good to train or whatever I want within a day or two of finishing the course. 

On one extremely positive note I have today had my first trip to the hairdressers since January that hasn't involved shaving my head. Thankfully my hair is growing back all over now and without any noticeable changes in colour or thickness. I'm aware that there is potential for the chemotherapy to make it fall out again but I'm choosing to optimistically stay "scalp half full" and just believe that it will continue to grow from here. 

People tend to underestimate the benefits of being able to feel confident in your appearance when ill and the how much not looking like a cancer patient can in many ways help you to not feel like one either. I suppose this is one of the reasons I've been forcing myself to keep on training (the other being pure, unashamed vanity I suppose).



Thursday 6 August 2015

A Farewell to Cardiff University

Over the last few weeks my activities have largely centred around Cardiff University. So much so I think I've spent more time there in the last month than I did this time last year as an actual student.

First up was my graduation. Even though I finished my degree last year I was unable to attend the ceremony due to being stuck in a crap training camp in Poland, so the university kindly allowed me to attend this year's ceremony instead. It was a pretty big deal for me to finally don the cap and gown as between a year in industry, repeating a year so I could switch universities and missing my own graduation it has taken me a grand total of six years to make the transition from Jamie MacDonald Fresher to Jamie MacDonald BSc (Hons).

In my head I always imagined the graduation ceremony to be like playing cricket in school: The vast majority of people involved just looking on bored while one person at a time actually gets to take part in the activity. While in many ways it was just like that, the ceremony itself only lasted an hour and a half from start to finish and from your seat it was possible to subtly snapchat as much as you wanted, so all in all there are very few complaints from me. Apart from the hat. The hat (or mortarboard if we're being technical about this) is the most annoying part of the "cap and gown" ensemble, due to the fact that it is a nightmare to put on. This won't be an issue if you let the professionals do it for you and then leave it well alone, I however decided to remove it for a while mid-ceremony and then spent the rest of the day trying to get the thing back on. Thankfully I managed to walk across the stage with my head still enough not to tip the precariously balanced hat off my head and onto the floor in front of the watching crowd.

Now, I've said that the event itself only took one hour and a half, which is fairly quick and definitely faster than expected. However, it could have been cut down to an hour I believe, with one simple omission: Middle names. I myself have two middle names (Keith & Warren) but when filling in the form online just put down Jamie MacDonald as my full name. If everyone else had followed suit we would've all been done and in the pub a good 30 minutes earlier.

Big praise has to go to the Ede & Ravenscroft photographer. He became the first person in over a decade to successfully get a photo of me smiling. Which is lucky because I couldn't really blue steel the crap out of my graduation photo, especially when it also included our first ever family photograph!



Having officially left Cardiff University through the form of my graduation I was back within days for a tour of the University's cancer research facilities in the European Cancer Stem Cell Research Institute. I have been looking into ways to directly contribute to research as opposed to donating to charities as this way I hope to get the maximum benefit per £ by cutting out the administration costs incurred by charities who fund this research.

As part of the tour I was given an explanation of the goals of the institute as well as the theories behind what they are doing there. Put simply they believe tumours are made up of two distinct types of cell: One which drives the tumour to move and grow; and another which makes up the main bulk of the tumour. Currently drugs are deemed successful or not based on the overall impact they have on the size of the tumour, however the researchers believe the impact on the driving cells is more important when it comes to halting the tumour and as a result many potentially successful drugs may have been discarded. Therefore they are testing previously discarded treatments as well as newly developed ones to see the effects they have on these specific types of cell.

I was also given a look at the advanced equipment the institute uses which enables them to do things such as separating individual cells for analysis, growing organs and tumours from stem cells and monitoring these organs and tumours with laser powered microscopes.

One of the most interesting possibilities that this research allows is for treatments to be tailored specifically to a patient. This process would involve taking a small sample of cells from the tumour and using that to grow an exact replica in the lab. This could then be treated and monitored to work out what the best approach would be for a patient's specific tumour. This approach could also be used to test any possible adverse effects the treatment could have on the affected organ to reduce the chance of unexpected side effects while maximising the impact on the tumour cells.

Wednesday 15 July 2015

Travel Insurance, Does It Have To Be So Expensive? Apparently Not

I've moaned on several occasions about the extortionate prices companies charge to provide travel insurance to those with pre existing medical conditions, as an example I recently priced up 5 days in Barcelona and was quoted £1,800+ even though I am probably more likely to break a bone than I am to have a problem related to my condition. This ridiculous price was not only from your generic travel insurance companies but it was reflected across the so called "specialist" insurers that should theoretically offer better prices.

Based on this price and quotations from one insurer I was expecting to pay upward of £5,000 to insure my travels.

This was until one evening a couple of weeks ago when someone shared a Facebook status written by a woman who has previously had cancer and had had similar experiences price wise, being quoted around £2,500 for a 10 day trip to Santorini. In the post however she mentioned finding another company called InsuranceWith through a friend at work who quoted her an astounding £23 for the same trip. I had never heard of these people before but with quotes that good they had to be worth a phone call.

I was prepared to be denied insurance or given inflated prices due to the fact I still have cancer whereas the woman that shared the status was a few years clear but still I phoned them the following morning and enquired about insurance for my trip to Japan and Australia next year. Firstly the woman on the phone was friendly and helpful (vital as I can't stand chatting to moody idiots on the phone), secondly the prices I was quoted were far from what I had experienced elsewhere.

The following quotes were given to cover my trip to Australia via Japan:

Both quotes are based on a 93 day duration (3 months) for worldwide cover excluding America & Canada.

Cover TypeBackPacker CoverLong Trip Cover
Medical Cover£1m£2m
Item Cover£500£1500
Regular Excess£75£75
Condition Specific Excess£300£300
Price£297.57£298.63

This is obviously far better than the prices I've been quoted in the past and the prices shown on all the comparison websites.

While on the phone I enquired as to why I hadn't heard of them before this Facebook status popped up, and they said that they had little to no marketing budget (I would assume mostly due to the fact that they are the only company I've found that doesn't exploit those with serious medical conditions) and relied on referrals for business. Hopefully this post will  help others who've struggled to find travel insurance to get a reasonable quote as well as introducing the company to an audience that otherwise may never have discovered them otherwise.

Tuesday 7 July 2015

A Little Trip To Sonar

That's mostly due to nothing much happening medically and as it would take Tolkein to make a few tablets for 5 out of every 28 days sound interesting I haven't bothered posting,  however I've finally got a few things worth writing about, so here goes:

A couple of weeks ago I went over to London with a few of the boys, initially planning on watching the Foo Fighters at Wembley. However, Dave Grohl stubbed his toe or something and they cancelled the show. Not to be deterred we headed up anyway and just replaced the gig with a night out in the capital. The only problem with that plan was the fact that we were a group of 4 men and as such a lot of places didn't want to let us in , worried that we would ruin their penis:vagina ratio. We ended up spending the majority of the night in Be At One in SoHo going through a variety of mojitos until the early hours when my tiredness finally hit me and I called it a night and headed back to our apartment.

Funnily enough a night of rum turned out to be the first night in over a week that I didn't need sleeping tablets to get to sleep. Just as well really as I had to be up early to catch a train from Brentford (where we were staying) to Gatwick, ready to catch my flight to Barcelona.

And so, nursing a hangover I started my train/plane/taxi journey from Urban Villa Brentford to Hesperia Tower Barcelona. A slight change in weather was anticipated. In preparation for this sun I had brought with me two snapbacks to protect my bald head, unfortunately I left roughly 50% of these in my taxi from the airport to the hotel.

I was also under orders from my doctor to not allow myself to get overtired as it can increase the risk of seizures. Having just spent the best part of the day travelling with a hangover this meant that if I wanted to go to Sonar Festival in the night I would be needing a significant disco nap first.

This nap, combined with the Red Bull tent at Sonar kept me going through the first night in Barca and awake long enough to see the sun rise over the warehouse that was hosting the festival.

Being in Barcelona we of course made time to visit Barcelona's football stadium, The Nou Camp, for a tour of the stadium and a brief break from the Spanish sun. Following on from the tour we headed back to the hotel to get food and squeeze in more disco naps before heading out in the night once again.

This time we were going to check out Barca Pacha. On the way in we enquired about tables and for a €500 minimum spend we could guarantee one. As there were 5 of us not wanting to queue at the bar all night (and me personally really wanting a seat) we went ahead with it and entered the club. Although in a place like this I'd usually prefer to be in amongst things on the dance floor I was quite glad to rest my legs and enjoy the music from a VIP table overlooking the main dance floor for a change. A few hours and a couple of bottles of vodka/disaronno later we stumbled out and headed back to Hesperia Tower.

For night number 3 we were told not to go to a club as it was the Festival of Sant Joan, the Spanish Summer Solstice festival where people would be partying on the beach. So we rocked up at the beach after a few drinks in the hotel, bought a bag of lager cans from one of the cerveza men and tried to not get blown up by the fireworks people were throwing about the beach. Following on from the beach beers (which I'm fairly sure were brewed in the guys own bathtub) we headed into one of the beachside accompanied by a couple of strange Spanish lads that had sat near us on the beach. Unfortunately for one of the boys these two lads found two spanish girls and rode off into the sunset with his freshly purchased bottle of Ciroc and possibly with another one of the boys' phones. Thankfully I was gum deep in a kebab by this point and missed the whole shebang. So the night ended rather disappointingly for half of us, and the rest of us would soon be crashing back to earth with the hangovers brought on by bathtub beer cans consumed underneath the makeshift firework display of Sant Joan.

Questionable beers on the beach for #SantJoan2015 #barceloneta #🇪🇸 #🍻

A photo posted by Jamie MacDonald (@thejamiemac) on


Much more detail than that I cannot divulge as "what goes on tour, stays on tour".

Unfortunately that rule does not reply to the tour goers themselves, and I was back in Sunny Bristol (for once this isn't sarcasm) all too soon, ready so start my next block of chemo.

Thursday 4 June 2015

A Cranial Breakthrough

When I started this blog post the title was a reference to the fact that my hair has started to grow back. Anyone that knows me will be well aware of how much my hair means to me and therefore how welcome this development was. However, before getting all the way through this I had a less welcome breakthrough when I took Piri out for a walk and head-butted a protruding tree limb, splitting my head open a bit and producing a lovely lump on top of my head. So I guess now it can have a dual meaning. Returning to the subject of my hair's regrowth I feel it should be noted that I'm not quite back to full-quiff but the hair is growing back all over now and it's the correct colour (I'd heard many stories of people's hair growing back curly and blonde for no apparent reason) so I can't complain. Maybe next time I have my head shaved it'll look even and not like I'm the only person in the world who wants to copy Mario Balotelli's hairstyle decisions.

I have also recently finished my second batch of chemo, leaving me with only 4 to go. Side effects wise I have had very few of note, they have mainly consisted of increased tiredness and patches of dry skin. I'll take that over spewing into a washing bowl every night like I was with radiotherapy. Although I would prefer it if the dry skin was in a slightly less visible place. It has decided to affect my face at the moment which is far from ideal. It could've just stuck to my leg or something where nobody would see it.

This weekend my brother, cousin and a few others are doing a sponsored cycle from Llanberis, North Wales to Cardiff so I'll be going into Cardiff on Sunday to watch them finish and feel glad that it's them and not me!

In the meantime my plan is to gym as much as possible and keep raising my body weight. I'm determined to get it back up to 70kg as quickly as possible. Hopefully before this supposed heat wave hits South Wales.

Thursday 21 May 2015

1 Down 5 To Go

I finished my first week back on chemo over two weeks ago now, and I'm glad to report that throughout there were minimal side effects. In fact, compared to the chemo/radio combo I was having before it was a real walk in the park. I became more tired and my stomach was slightly more upset than usual but nothing particularly noteworthy. For the next batch (starting on the 29th) I'm hoping to carry on with gym etc. for the entire time without any extra breaks.

As a by-product of my masses of free time I'm watching silly amounts of daytime TV (Judge Ringer and Paul O'Grady are practically my new best mates) and therefore a tonne of adverts. There is one advert in particular that I seem to notice more than I used to, the Cancer Research UK advert saying that as many people survive cancer as die from it. As promising as that sounds, when you couple that with the fact that they now say 1 in 2 people will be affected at some point in their life that means that 25% of all people will die from cancer. That's 16 out of the 64 million people currently alive in the UK. Fun fact for you all there! Not the slightest bit depressing.

To lighten the mood after that, here's a tweet from when Piri met a dog called Nando on her walk the other week:

From a non-cancer perspective the biggest update is the fact that Piri has been put on a diet due to her chubbiness and as a result is currently sat, staring at the oven because she's worked out that's where the chicken comes from.

My brother and his mates have also been making an appearance on Made In Cardiff promoting the fundraising they are doing though their page #BeatCancer. Here is their interview:



Thanks to Made in Cardiff TV for putting this together and for the exposure. Have a look at what we have been up to and will be getting up to over the coming months. If you could give it a share it would be greatly appreciated. Donate here: http://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/help-jamie-swim-with-a-blue-whale-beatcancer
Posted by BeatCancer on Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Sunday 3 May 2015

CheMoreTherapy

Before I begin I'm taking a moment to appreciate my cancer related word play in the title of this post.

*Takes Moment*

Okay, now I'll begin:

May 1st arrived and I was due back in Velindre to see the consultant about my next plan of treatment. So we headed back onto the M4, accompanied for the first time by my mother as this was the first doctors meeting that I could guarantee wouldn't be depressing as hell. 

On arrival we had a short wait for our appointment and the woman sat across from me was reading The Sun. The front page of which made me feel some actual anger about my situation for the first time. The headline in question was "I'm Eating Myself To Death" about a 65st man who eats 10,000 calories a day, has NHS care because of it and blames his situation on the death of his mother. 

This initially angers me because he's using the death of his mother as an excuse. If that were a reasonable claim the country would resemble the Axiom from Wall-E. I know the nation has an obesity problem but we're not all the weight of small cattle.


Even overlooking the fact that the NHS then has to send carers to feed the bloke (I'm assuming with a shovel and a wheelbarrow) and that he has posed for a photoshoot holding a bacon sandwich I am angered because I'm seeing this while sat in a cancer hospital waiting room, a room full of people who in many cases will have done nothing to warrant getting a life limiting disease. And here is a man who admits he is eating himself to death. If he's so keen to get off the planet he's welcome to swap with me. I'll go from 65st to shredded (albeit with a crapload of excess skin) in a few months and he can deal with a brain tumour. 

Rant over, and back to the appointment. 

I was weighed and found to be at my lightest since Glasgow. I wasn't best pleased by this, and now have my parents on a mission to force calories into me in a bid to get back to 70kg as soon as humanly possible. Following the weigh-in I gave some blood samples for the millionth time this year and went through to to see the Dr. 

As I had suspected my treatment plan will now be more chemotherapy. This will be tablets once again, but starting at double the strength of before (280mg of Temozolomide a day as opposed to 140mg) potentially rising in strength after 2 cycles if my blood counts are all good. This is to be taken for the first 5 days out of every 28 for 6 cycles.

I'm using my first month to try and judge the effects so that I can plan a bit in advance for things I want to do over the summer. So far (half way through my first 5 days of tablets) I feel the same as I did before, slightly dodgy stomach with problems eating certain things, but definitely no worse. But I'll be reserving judgement on it as a whole until the whole course is done and dusted. 

Thursday 30 April 2015

A Quick Getaway

Based on the recommendations of many people ranging from doctors to other cancer patients I spent the last couple of days before treatment begins again away from Wales, cocktail in hand in Portugal.

The trip didn't get off to the best start as it turns out the Post Office are consistently useless at everything. We made the mistake of buying a Travel Money Card off them instead of a travel agent, leading to a few days of phone calls and a card that wasn't activated in time for the holiday. Luckily I've still got a student level overdraft that could step in to provide some last minute Euros.

11pm arrived on Saturday and I grabbed my bag and set off to pick up my brother from work in Cardiff for the drive to Gatwick. We had decided that, to save money, we wouldn't have any luggage go into the hold and would just take backpacks. A good idea in theory, because how much room do 3 nights worth of clothes really take up. This brilliant plan soon backfired though when we got to the hotel and I had to spend over €40 buying suncream and shower gel as we couldn't bring any in our bags. On the subject of shower gel, if you every find yourself trying to work out which one to buy in a foreign country, hope your judgement is better than mine. I picked wrong and we spent 4 days showering with conditioner. On the plus side my head was really smooth by the last day!

Sunbathing wise the first two days were a bit of a write off, as the weather was either overcast or raining. This did give us a chance to make a bit of a dent in our bottle of Peach Ciroc though, so you wont hear too many complaints about that. We spent these first two nights having a look at what the strip had to offer. The first thing we noticed as we walked up (other than how depressing it is to see so many people working PR in their 50s) was the amount of venues named after places in Ibiza. We went past a Cafe Mambo, a Savannah, a PaTcha (yes, with a T, but it did have the cherries) and even saw a sign for a Space around one corner. So, after a surprisingly good Strawberry Daiquiri in Cafe Mambo we sampled a few of the busier looking venues and topped the evening off with a doner kebab and chips of even more surprising quality.

Whilst walking around the strip one of the aforementioned aged PRs tried to get us to pay a visit to a 5D cinema. We declined when he was unable to answer my question as to what the 5 dimensions were. I'm still mystified now.

On the third day the sun finally made an appearance. So to the pool we headed, equipped with factor 50 for my head and factor 2 oil for the rest of us. This turned out to be our next error in judgement, as after a few hours poolside we would resemble the freshest of salmon, so much so I had to retire my red shorts for fear of clashing with my own clothes.

For our final night in Albufeira we decided to try out the bars in the Old Town instead of the strip. This meant walking past a KFC so naturally that was the choice for dinner that night. I had my hopes up for a San Antonio style meal (for anyone that hasn't sampled it, you need to. Hands down the best KFC I've eaten in my 24 years) I was sadly disappointed however and we moved on with our night, well, after a quick change for me due to denim not really going well with sunburn.

On the final day we decided to get involved with the hotel crazy golf course for a quick half hour of fun. Some hope, it was one of the most stressful experiences of my life. I swear the course was designed by some James Bond villain to drive holidaygoers crazy. We finished up with the PGA worthy scores of 82 and 64 over par. In hindsight we should've played on a day when we could've had a drink afterwards to settle the nerves.

After that we made the standard trip to the tobacconist for gifts for the parents and waited for our transfers. 10 hours later, I was home to a very excited pup and straight into bed. We took very few photos while we were out there, and frankly neither of us is particularly happy with our current shape, so here's a photo of us in work last year, crudely superimposed onto a photo of the beach instead.


Tomorrow morning I'm back in Velindre to find out the details of my next batch of treatment. Hopefully it'll enable me to be fit enough to get myself back in shape and feeling good more often than not, but we'll see.

Friday 24 April 2015

Game On

As I've mentioned before, my brother and some friends are taking part in 11 challenges over 11 months in order to raise money and awareness. This month's challenge was in the form of a 6-a-side football tournament on Sunday held in Cardiff Uni's Talybont Sports Village (thanks to Paul from the Cardiff Uni High Performance Sport Programme, of which I used to be a member, for sorting the grounds for it). There were over two dozen teams entered and the weather was looking decent, so I decided to go along to watch, and was joined by my parents and the pup.

I arrived midway through the group stages to hear whispers of "watch them, they'll take you out". Unsurprisingly these warnings turned out to be about the Welsh Judo Academy team. In their defence most of them get their football these days from warm up dojo football where the rules aren't enforced quite as strictly, especially the physical contact rules.

As well as Welsh Judo there were 5 teams from Llangynwyd Rangers who I played for as a kid, a team of the organisers from my brother's house, a group of my mates from home had a team, a few of the bars from Cardiff were entered and a couple of under 16s local teams were about doing far too well against the teams of adults (although a few were on the cans all day so they had n excuse).

I decided not to play myself, partly because my eyesight problems are ruining my coordination and partly because it wouldn't be fair to unleash my many years of experience as a left back/sub on the other teams.

At the end of the day Llan Rangers donated money as well as a Real Madrid kit signed by Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo, which has had nearly as many visitors as the pup in the few days since.



Thanks also go to Rob Matthews for coming down and taking photos, there are some crackers. Ill put a link up here when they get published.

All in all it was a really good day, and the boys organised it really well, even if the halls residents were complaining about the background music interrupting their revision (terrible excuses for freshers if you ask me). The day wasn't over after the football though, as there was an afterparty organised in Lab22 (thanks to Tani for that!) in the evening which I would attend, despite my recent issues with alcohol.

At Lab I had a couple of Amaretto Sours and noticed the eyesight problem kicking in straight away, but I powered through and made a discovery. After 1 drink my eyesight goes a bit crazy, after 6/7 drinks it evens out again. So in future I will be avoiding a casual pint and will just have to commit to being Out Out if I'm going anywhere near alcohol. Problem solved!

6 hours of drinking and chatting later we headed back to my brother's house for a kip. I woke up with a slight hangover but no headache once again. I'm starting to think my surgeon has magically removed my ability to get real hangovers, good lad.

Thursday 16 April 2015

Sun's Out...

I ended my last blog post by saying that I'd booked a few days away for the end of the month to hopefully finish off my recovery before treatment starts again in May. What I didn't mention is that the 7 weeks of not training have made this into a bit of a deadline. We fly on the 26th of April, meaning I have little time to get myself into an acceptable shape to be walking around topless for a few days (and hopefully good enough to distract from the terrible scenes on top of my head).

With this in mind I'm now back in the gym at least 4 times a week (the doctors also recommend a bit of exercise to speed up recovery, but that's less important I feel). I'm still tiring easily however, meaning that my gym sessions are ridiculously soft and unlikely to contribute massively to the mission to get back in the shape I was in over Christmas.

This gyming has also coincided with uncharacteristically nice weather in the valleys, which has got me tempted to sunbathe. The issue with that is due to my hair loss I'm the only 24 year old I know who isn't allowed out in the sun until his mother rubs factor 50 into his scalp. If there's anything likely to make me less enthused to go for a sunbathe it's that!

In addition to starting to train a bit I've also started to build up some semblance of a social life again with trips to the pub quiz and the odd adventurous outing into Cardiff. The most recent of which involved taking Piri for a walk around Roath Lake. Walks with her take about 4 times as long as usual, not because of her stumpy legs and habit to investigate something every few yards, but because of her ability to make friends with someone new every 2 minutes. Guess that's to be expected with such a tiny and cute pup though.

Recovery wise I've now stopped taking my sickness tablets as to be honest I'm sick of taking tablets every day. Thankfully it hasn't had much effect on my stomach, if anything it's been better and I'm able to eat full meals now which wasn't happening a few weeks ago. The only thing I have had trouble with is alcohol. I had my first alcoholic beverage a few nights ago (only a Kopparberg) and about half way through I noticed my eyesight start to fade as my eyes struggled to focus, so I'm laying off for a while but there's next to no chance of me going on a holiday and not sinking a few beers.

There's a couple of things going on at the end of the week that I'm planning on attending, one of which will pretty much require me to have a drink or 5, so we'll see how that goes. If it comes to it I think I'll just have to drink until beer goggles balance out the eye problems and I'm seeing straight again.

Friday 3 April 2015

The Cost Of Cancer

It's been just over a week since my treatment ended and I'm slowly starting to feel human again. I've even been out and about over the last few days to the pub quiz, the local spoons and Cardiff for an afternoon, although I haven't braved a pint yet as I think I've probably given my liver enough of a tuning over the last few weeks. I'm aiming to complete a gym session of some description on Monday though to start reversing the muscle loss that has occurred over the last 7 weeks, but as I have until May 1st to do so I'm not really hoping for much.

Now I'm more lively I've been thinking back over the financial impacts the last few months have had on me and my family, as well as the ways we've been able to get help with this. The first and perhaps most obvious impact is my inability to work, which obviously means a drastic reduction in my income. I'm currently receiving Statutory Sick Pay which is set by the government at £87.55 per week. When you couple this with the fact that my parents only receive one state pension between them it means there is very little money coming into the house each month.

Luckily the only bill I have left since moving home is around £40 a month for my phone so I'm not tied into rent or anything else expensive. Unfortunately this has proven to be expensive in other ways such as petrol to travel back and fore to treatment and an increase in all bills at my parents house due to the extra person. As an example the journey to Cardiff for treatment was costing around £60 a week, in a way it was lucky my appetite was restricting me to a few slices of bread and some cucumber a day or I would have been topping that up with vast expenses on travelling snacks as well.

Fortunately I had been saving roughly 10% of my wages since I started work and as such had a bit of a cushion that meant I didn't have to worry much about finances throughout this. As well as this, charities such as Macmillan and Clic Sargent are able to provide some financial assistance to cover these extra costs. The main advantage of these charity cheques is that I was able to pay for petrol etc out of that money and hold onto the majority of my savings.

To summarise, I'm ridiculously glad I was sensible enough to save some money for a rainy day 'cos it's pretty much been pissing down since January 6th, but even if I hadn't there is plenty of help available from charities as well as the many people that have donated money to help us through, for which I'll be eternally grateful.

Now I'm into my gap between treatments I have been able to use that savings money to follow the instructions I've had from many people who have been through this before: "Get away for a few days as soon as you feel fit enough". So with this in mind I've managed to book 4 days in Portugal towards the end of the month for my brother and I. The only issue is going to be keeping my ridiculous half bald head covered up for the duration (well that and the fact it's bound to rain knowing my luck recently).

Sunday 29 March 2015

Part 1, Done.

As of Thursday evening I have officially finished my initial course of treatment. I'm now in a position to reflect on the treatment and the effects of it. I've mentioned before how I started feeling sick pretty much instantly, and for the most part that was the only side effect I was dealing with. However, I have sustained a fair bit of hair loss and towards the end I started to develop an itchy rash on my arms and legs as well as patches of burned skin behind my ears. For the most part this was caused by the radiotherapy, but the rash is likely down to the antibiotics I've been taking.

Unfortunately all of this combined means I look like an angry egg with skin problems (see evidence below). I'm also unable to grow more than 60% of a beard which means the only hair I've got on my head at the moment is my eyebrows. It may be the medication talking but I've started thinking about styling my eyebrows to make up for the inability to style anything else. So far the only styles I can come up with are 'traditional' and 'spiked', and I don't think society is ready for the second one, so I might just have to wait for my hair to grow back.

A photo posted by Jamie MacDonald (@thejamiemac) on

On the subject of finishing treatment I'm not completely sure what my next steps will be. I know I have an appointment with my consultant on May 1st where we will discuss the ongoing plan and this will probably consist of a further 6 months of chemotherapy, but this could change depending on how I have responded to what I've had so far.

From a body weight perspective I have dropped to 67kg, while not great I'm still failing my fighting weight so I'll count that as a win. It's definitely better than the puffy faced, steroid induced 74kg I faced a few weeks back!

Over the last few weeks it has been my Father's 70th, my Brother's 23rd and Mother's Day. Although I haven't been in the best shape to do much for these days it has been nice to have a chance to give a bit back to the people that have done the most for me over the last few months. Luckily being pretty much house bound and boring has meant I haven't dipped into my sick pay so could spend a bit on presents for them.

Now I'm off to teach the pup to sit with Happy Feet on in the background. I'm so rock and roll sometimes it hurts.

Saturday 14 March 2015

The Home Straight

As of today I only have one full week of treatment left! Next week I have a full week and the following week I have until Thursday and then I'm done with this stint of radio/chemo.

I can't wait.

Either the radio or the chemo (or a combination of the two) has left me feeling sub-par for the majority of the time since I started treatment. This has been mainly through the constant nausea and occasional sickness but also just feeling tired a lot of the time. In order to combat the nausea I am on my 4th combination of sickness tablets, so it's lucky I'm finishing soon or I'd've gone through every type of anti-sickness tablet known to man.

I also realised today that if I keep going through the Friends box set at my current rate I'll be running out of episodes before treatment finishes. So I'm going to venture out for the rugby this afternoon in an attempt to reduce my FCR (Friends Consumption Rate). Hopefully the nausea will stay away for a few hours so I can successfully manage a couple of hours out of the house that doesn't involve Velindre.

I'll end this short post with a question, when you have a shaved head featuring completely bald patches, do you use body wash on your head or stick to shampoo? One of life's great unanswerables.

Monday 2 March 2015

Hump Week

This week marks the half way point in my treatment. On Wednesday I have my 15th radiotherapy session and will only have 15 left to do. I wish I could say it gets easier to deal with as the weeks go on but at the moment I can't. Since last Sunday I haven't had what I would class as  'good day' until today, even with the extended weekend I was given due to a Friday off while the machines had maintenance. Having said that the 'bad days' aren't exactly terrible, I just feel a bit under the weather, almost as if I am at the tail end of a hangover all the time.

The biggest problem is still my reduced and varying appetite. I almost never fancy food, even when I'm hungry, and in the moments I can face food I never know what will make my stomach turn as it changes from day to day. On the grand scheme of things though I'll take an indecisive appetite and a dodgy stomach.

This has meant that I wasn't feeling a night out over the weekend for the rugby and that in general I've felt a bit crap, although today I woke up feeling bright and ready to do things, I'm starting to think my mood just mirrors the weather as today was one of the rare days where we had some sunshine in the Valleys.

Today I had a field of vision test ready for my appointment with the Opthalmologist this week as well as a radiotherapy appointment and a treatment review so probably for the best that I was having an up day. After 10 minutes of staring at flashing lights it was confirmed that my field of vision is okay and I was off to Velindre for treatment. Just once it would be nice to actually fail a medical test so that I actually had a reason to be in and out of these hospitals all the time.

In my review the Radiologist suggested that it might be beneficial to move the time I take my sickness tablets closer to the time I take my chemo and hope that this helps with the sickness, so I'll be trying it tonight and fingers crossed it provides some relief.

As a post scriptum I was catching up with MSM today and it was mentioned that they are recruiting 5 new graduates this year so I will give it a quick plug here on the off chance that there are any computing graduates reading this and are looking for work next year. I can't fault them as a company and they have been brilliant throughout the time I have been 'sick', and the insurance they have for long term illness is really going to be a life saver over the next few months. You can read more about the vacancies (that range from developer through to sales) here: http://www.msmsoftware.com/about/careers/current-vacancies

Sunday 22 February 2015

Making a Deposit

I need to start this by acknowledging my shortcomings in not blogging about this sooner. As topics go there aren't many that have as much inherent potential for humour and I managed to somehow skim over it the other week. My bad.

Secondly I just need to put a disclaimer out that should you be my mother, you stop reading at this point. If I know there's a chance of you reading it then I'll never be able to write abut it fully without cringing myself out massively.

Now that is out of the way I shall begin. This post is about the trip to the bank I made Tuesday before last, however this was not a trip to Maesteg NatWest, this was a trip to the Fertility Unit's Sperm Bank in The Heath. Somewhat similar in as much as you have to wait in a queue to be seen, but different in as much as you can't withdraw any deposits you make from Cash Machines in the centre of town. Thank god.

On arrival I had the first piece of good news I've had off a medical professional in weeks: I have a good sperm count and the sperm have a good mobility level. Yes lads! Due to this and the accompanying clean bill of health on the STD front I was given the green light to make my deposit to the sperm bank.

The reason I had been sent to the fertility clinic is that chemotherapy can make you infertile and as such I need to have a backup stored just in case I do prove the doctors wrong and hang around long enough for this to be a consideration. Strangely this was one thing that affected me more than I had anticipated. The realisation that through death or infertility I will in all likelihood never father a child and have a family of my own hit me a lot more that expected, I guess I had subconsciously been looking forward to coaching my kid to his/her first national title without even realising it. But I digress, back to the topic on hand and my trip to the Heath.

I was shown into a little room and given nothing but a plastic pot and some privacy. I was also pointed towards a folder in the corner that contained some "helpful material" to peruse whilst in the room. There are a number of strange and disconcerting things about this room, none of which make what you are about to do remotely easy:


  1. The only seat in the room has a layer of blue roll over it. I'm assuming as they expect there to be anywhere between 10 and 20 different bare male arses on it per day. I chose not to sit.
  2. You have time to consider. If you are out within 5 minutes it's just going to be embarrassing for everyone involved, if you take forever then at some point someone will have to come and check on you. Nobody wants that. In my opinion about 15 minutes should be a safe time to aim for.
  3. The "helpful material" that has been provided. I'm assuming the NHS doesn't have a massive proportion of it's budget allocated specifically for erotic material, and as a result you are provided with one magazine, circa 1990. If it wasn't for the invention of the iPhone and free hospital wi-fi I'd probably still be in that room today.


Having finished up and been given a talk about how long the 12 samples can be stored (10 years for free and up to 55 years of you pay, for anyone interested) I was done and on my way out of the hospital.

On the way out I began to think over the whole process, and in particular about one section of the forms I had to fill in where I could nominate one female to have access to my samples. As I don't have anyone to put in that section this presents a money making opportunity I feel. If I look at it objectively I have some quality genetic makeup (other than the cancer thing, but that's not hereditary so we're good) and a lot of people don't. So in theory I could auction off access and make a small fortune off someone who wants to give their child the best chance at being intelligent and shredded with a strong jawline (they may have to take the hit if they want modesty to be a strong quality however). Not quite sure how legal/ethical it is but we'll overlook that for now...

Saturday 21 February 2015

Finally Able To Blog Again

This is just a quick update to let everyone know I am still around and will still be writing, however throughout my treatment over the next few weeks I'll probably have to reduce the frequency, as it is fairly difficult to pen anything remotely witty/entertaining when you feel like throwing up 90% of the time. Who would have thought it eh!

I am currently experiencing a brief period of inactivity from my stomach so will endeavour to write as much as I can before it wakes up again.

Since I last wrote I have been continuing with my radiotherapy Monday-Friday and chemo every day. I feel sick at some point every day, but since the consultant changed my sickness tablets from the original Metoclopramide (may as well have been prescribed crispy M&Ms) to the new Odansetron I haven't actually been sick. So at least I'm winning on that front.

The biggest issue with the nausea is the impact it has on appetite, because the last thing you want to do if you might be sick is shovel down a load of grub. So at the moment I'm feeling pretty thankful for the pre-treatment bulking that the steroids provided as I'm now back down to around 70kg, so god knows where I would be if it wasn't for the padding I put on a few weeks ago.

Sorry this is pretty brief, but I do have to write about a few things in the near future that I missed out on last week, so hopefully I'll be continue to feel brighter each day so that I am at the point where I can do these events justice with a lengthy and slightly humorous post.

Saturday 14 February 2015

A Rough Few Days

My last blog post ended with my statement that I was headed off to the gym. That didn't exactly go to plan, I made it about 90% of the way from my house to the gym before I needed to get out of the car to projectile vomit all over the place.

The sickness had come on fairly suddenly, and thankfully I noticed it in time to avoid plastering my mates brand new focus in Wednesday's lunch. I spent the rest of the night in bed, cuddled up with a bucket, emptying what was left in my stomach. However, when I woke up the next day to leave for my treatment I was feeling ok all things considered.

Again, though, I spent Thursday and Friday nights being sick into various receptacles around the house and laying in bed. Not the most glamorous and exciting of evenings.

As I'm on both radiotherapy and chemo I'm not sure which is causing it or whether it is a combination of the two. Over the weekend I will just be on my chemo as I don't start back radiotherapy until Monday, so hopefully I'll be able to work out which treatment is the culprit.

On a slightly more positive note, Piri is loving life in the house now she has settled in. She's going to the toilet on her mat and playing fetch (sort of, she's happy to fetch what you throw but less happy about the "drop" part of the exercise) but most of all she is brilliant at cheering everybody up. It is impossible to watch a pug confusing herself over a ball that squeaks or terrorising my mother's knitting wool without a smile breaking out on your face, no matter how bad things are.


Wednesday 11 February 2015

And So The Treatment Begins

I still have the events of the weekend to write about, but feel I should catch up chronologically, so I will just dedicate this paragraph to the weekend before moving forward to today. Friday two of my mates from the days down in Plymouth Uni surprised me with a visit to Cardiff and tickets to the Wales v England game at the Millenium Stadium. The atmosphere in the stadium was electric, and after a few pints during the match we were game to carry on. We headed out into town and had a few in Maddison DC. I'd been feeling like crap since London so was glad to take my mind off the cold, and even more glad to wake up with a minimal hangover. On Saturday I attended the biggest sporting event to take place in the capital that weekend, the Welsh Judo Championships. It was a good afternoon catching up with people, but I definitely prefer receiving a medal to presenting them!

Moving on to today, I was up at the ungodly hour of 11am to get ready for yet another drive to Cardiff. Today was the first day of my treatment which would include radiotherapy and chemotherapy. However, I first had a stop at a radio station to get on with. After my BBC Radio Wales interview last week I was to do a pre-recorded interview for Capital FM today in the Red Dragon centre. Once again I am proud to say I managed to not cough or sneeze once during the interview, Jamie 2 Cold Nil!

On arrival at Velindre I was given some information about the radiotherapy and asked to sign another consent form before being told to wait in the waiting room to be collected. I was then taken into the treatment room. This feels like a good time to explain a bit about what radiotherapy entails for those who may be unaware, basically you are clipped into a machine by your face as it whirs around you shooting X-Rays at the tumour.

More technically a machine that looks a bit like the one below (just considerably less shiny) has clips that the radiotherapy mask fits into to keep you still. Then you wait for a couple of minutes at most while the machine changes position and delivers X-Rays aimed at the tumour. The machine moves about to ensure that although the tumour receives a full dose of radiation the surrounding brain cells only receive a limited amount.



Unfortunately the mask is also quite tight, which may result in leaving there covered in honeycomb shaped marks, looking not unlike a lizard. On the up side, you feel nothing during treatment and it takes hardly any time at all so I was in and out of the hospital within an hour.
Along side the radiotherapy I am undergoing chemotherapy. My chemo is in the form of tablets to be taken every day. It works by killing cells as they divide, and as cancerous cells are constantly dividing whereas the majority of other bodily cells are not it attacks them more than other cells. However this can also attack those cells that are dividing a lot such as those in hair (hence the Heston look ready for possible hair loss).

Because I am having both radiotherapy and chemotherapy at the same time my chances of side effects are obviously fairly high, however in general they take a week or two to appear. So I will end this here because I need to squeeze as much gym in as possible if I want to gain that title of Most Shredded Cancer Patient. Especially as those damn steroids ruined my start!

Tuesday 10 February 2015

Homecoming

Last Wednesday I had my first headache in weeks. This happened to coincide with my journey to London. Lucky me! So come Wednesday afternoon my dad had the pleasure of sitting on a Megabus with the worlds worst passenger. I slept the majority of the way, other than when I woke up briefly at the services to take some paracetamol. On the up side, the journey flew by for me.

My dad lived in London for about 30 years so he was happy to be home for a bit, even if it was only very briefly. So I had the arrival fully narrated due to the detailed description of the roads we were going down as the bus approached Victoria Coach Station. When we arrived we got a taxi to the hotel, which was fairly nice considering it was one of the cheapest we could find. Having said that, the lifts were big enough for roughly half a person and the breakfast did involve making a choice between warm toast and warm bacon.

That evening we went for food at a pub across the road followed by a catch up with one of my mates from when I was down in Plymouth Uni back in the day. I attempted to have a drink but half a bottle of Rekorderlig kicked my double vision off so much that I had to close one eye to cross the road, thankfully I played frogger quite a bit as a child so I was prepared for this situation.

The next morning I awoke with a horrific medical condition, some say it can be worse than the cancer. This condition was the dreaded Man Flu. I managed to drag myself out of bed and down to the aforementioned breakfast and got ready to leave the hotel for our journey across London. Roughly 45 minutes and 15 stops on the underground later we arrived at Great Portland Street Station and departed.

The London Clinic Consulting Rooms were a short walk from the station so we started the walk across to a place that was coincidentally 2 minutes down the road from the Portland Hospital where I was born. We had travelled up so that I could meet with a specialist from The Royal Marsden in order to get my second opinion.  The London Clinic was a world away from the Heath and Velindre, plush chairs and spacious, well decorated consulting rooms show the difference between private practice and the NHS.

When the consultation began we started by discussing how the doctor had wanted to see me as his son did judo, and he had even been sat next to my mat in Glasgow (thankfully we didn't discuss that day too much). Who knew judo would come in so handy one day. The next hour he went over the scans in detail, explaining why the tumour was inoperable and why it was so hard to monitor and control. The reason was basically the nature of the tumour causing it to be hard to differentiate between brain tissue and tumour tissue. We also discussed all the other issues that had been discussed at Velindre such as treatment plan and prognosis to ensure he agreed with what had been set out for me.

In summary he agreed that the tumour was of the type I had been told and that I had been given the best possible treatment plan, this news reassured my mother (who had been wanting me to get a second opinion), even if it was not what she really wanted to hear.

Following the meeting, and an agreement to catch up with the doctor at the Welsh Championships that weekend, we headed for Victoria ready for the journey home where I would prove to be the perfect travelling companion once again by sleeping awkwardly for at least 90% of the drive.

Sunday 8 February 2015

Guess Who's Back, Back Again, Jamie Mac, Tell A Friend


Think this is the longest I've gone without writing a blog post, a combination of a horrendous man flu and lots of things to do have meant I haven't had the time, or quite frankly the inclination, to sit at a screen for a prolonged period of time. So now I'm over the worst of the cold I will start going through what I've been up to, starting with Tuesday and my trip into Cardiff.

My day started with a trip to the Heath and the joys of rush hour traffic on the dual leading to the hospital. I arrived dead on 08:30, the time of my appointment. This would be ideal if the layout of the place didn't resemble that of the Crystal Maze so much, so by the time I had found the room I was looking for I was nearly 15 minutes late for my appointment. Luckily the appointment didn't involve much so I was out within the hour to grab a Starbucks before being picked up to head into Cardiff to begin my day of catch-ups.

First on the list was one of my fellow ex-full-timers, I also feel that I should mention that he squats, heavy, otherwise he might not speak to me again. Unfortunately he had parked outside the Womens Wing of the hospital which meeant I had to awkwardly navigate my way through the Gynaecology wards to find the exit. Thankfully I didn't get lost and wander into any of the investigation rooms, or I think I might have been severely scarred by the scenes.

Having navigated the Crystal Maze and the Gyneacology Ward I finally made it to the car, where we had the joy of sitting in slow moving traffic to get out of the hospital. Finally we made it to Costa for a catch up and more caffeine. I decided to follow this up with a Magic Wrap from Cardiff Uni SU, the first one in months. All about the chicken.

As a change I then went for another Costa then with the Head of Sports Performance at Cardiff Uni to discuss everything that has been happening as well as how the Uni can help with the fundraising that is being done with equipment/pitches etc.

I then went for another Costa and a walk around the shops with one of the judo boys, mainly because I needed new t-shirts to fit my 75kg steroid-induced frame. Also because I was apparently intent on being the first person to kill of a cancerous tumour purely with over-consumption of caffeine. Whilst browsing for t-shirts that were significantly less fitted than ususal I had an email from an address I didn't know. Expecting some sort of spam I opened it up and began to read.

This email however, instead of offering me discounts on solutions for erectile disfunction, was from a Finnish athlete/journalist who had been in contact with the Kakslauttanen Hotel in Finland and they had offered me accommodation to hopefully see the Northern Lights. Times like this really do restore your faith in humanity, it is really amazing that some people will do things like this for a stranger. However, walking through Cardiff late at night you are fairly likely to have that level of faith restored to its previous levels so it wont last too long I'd guess.

An Igloo at Kakslauttanen Hotel


The entire time I was in Cardiff my mother was messaging me asking how long I would be and telling me not to be late, which is strange, even when she is being paranoid about something. When I got home I went straight upstairs and was wondering why she was insisting I came down to the living room. I eventually conceded and plodded downstairs (I plod a lot now, due to my extra timber) to give my fish and chips order. When I got to the living room it was strangely full of people, so I sat in the only spare seat and wondered why everyone was staring at me. It was then I looked to my left and at what was snoozing on my mother's lap. A pug puppy!

Anyone that follows me on instagram and looks at their 'Following' page they will know how much of a big deal this is. We spent the evening looking at alliterative baby girl names and came up with nothing, until my brother had a brainwave (first time for everything) and suggested Piri, so that when we call her we'll be shouting Piri Piri down the street. If this doesn't get me a Nandos Black Card nothing will!

So say hi to Piri the Pug, the latest addition to the MacDonald household. I'd better stop writing as there is currently a small ball of fur attacking my shoe, trying her hardest to distract me. And it's working.

Monday 2 February 2015

Eating My Words, And It Shows On My Face

I said in a recent post that I might not have much to write about over the coming weeks. Well, it appears I jinxed myself with that statement.

First and foremost, I have been forced to wear my glasses a lot more as my eyesight deteriorates. I wouldn't mind this as I paid £270 for the things so any extra use is welcome. What I do mind is the fact that they suited me a lot better with a full head of hair. One haircut and I've gone from Clark Kent to Heston Bleeding Blumenthal!

With Hair (The Clark)
Without Hair (The Heston)



Since the crowdfunder page went live (and smashed through it's initial target in under a day, well done everyone!) I've been contacted by a few media representatives asking questions about the whole situation. The result of this was me giving an interview over the phone yesterday evening and having a photographer come to my parents house to take some photos. Now, as anyone that knows me will tell you, usually I'm all about having my photo taken. However, the current chubby face situation is having an effect on how photogenic I am and, as you can see from the photos, I look like a mildly irritated potato.

The resulting article has really surprised me, the online version (http://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/wales-news/heartbreaking-story-24-year-old-welsh-commonwealth-8558771) has been shared all over the place and is currently the no1 most read news article on Wales Online. It has also been in a number of newspapers that circulate around South Wales.


The amount of support and interest has really been overwhelming, and I'm hoping we can use this to help raise some money for a few good causes as well as for my little trip down under. I'll write another post when I've got some more details about exactly who we hope can benefit from the fundraising that is going on, but we're thinking at the moment it would be good to help out some smaller, brain tumour specific charities and foundations as opposed to the larger charities that (while equally deserving of support) get a lot more attention.