Friday 30 January 2015

Should I Have Gone To Specsavers?

Exciting developments in one of the aspects of life that is most important to me: Sleep.

Last night I slept right through until an acceptable hour for the first time since I went into hospital. No waking up every two hours to go to the toilet because of the steroids; no being woken up by a nurse wanting to check my blood pressure; and no confused patients loudly shouting for a nurse at 6am. Just 8 hours of peaceful, uninterrupted kip. Finally.

After this strong start to the day I was full of motivation and decided to set about making a dent in my to-do list. However my eyesight had other ideas and was playing up from the get go which meant I couldn't focus on very much at all. I have no idea how people that need glasses manage to shave properly, I was wondering about the house with facial hair that can only be described as tramp-esque for part of the morning before I realised and was able to rectify the situation. On the subject of facial hair, I spent part of the morning contemplating how much easier life would be if I could grow a beard that befits my age as opposed to the 60% coverage I get currently. The answer: Much.

After an arms and core session (which just served to depress me due to my current abdominal issues) I went to the opticians to get a checkover and assess whether there are any signs of the tumour that should have been picked up at one of my two recent eye tests in Specsavers. Apparently the only sign that something was amiss, other than the headaches, is the fact that my optic nerves are slightly swollen. Maybe that can explain my double vision over the last few weeks.

While at the optician I had a call from an unknown number, which turned out to be someone from The Royal Marsden in London. At my mother's insistence I had asked Velindre about the benefits of a second opinion, and they had forwarded my details on. I was expecting this to just involve someone else having a look at my test results, but the doctor wants me to go in to London next week for a meeting. One thing I wasn't expecting was for him to end the call asking if I trained in Maesteg and if I knew Kerry (my judo coach). I'm starting to wonder if there's anyone that he doesn't know!

The evening took a turn for the worse when I made the decision to step on the weighing scale, and hit 74.7kg. I'd be ecstatic with this under normal conditions but as I've repeatedly mentioned, the lack of abs at the moment is making it very hard for me to be positive about all the weight gain. On that note, if one more person mentions how fat my face is looking I won't be held responsible for my actions. It'll be like a slo-mo scene from 300 as I impale them on a pointy stick. You have been warned!

Thursday 29 January 2015

Stepping Back On The Mat

The last couple of days, and indeed the next couple of weeks, have been and will be all about finding ways to fill the time before treatment starts on the 11th. I'm aware that radiotherapy might leave me feeling a bit worse for wear so I'm mainly trying to fit in as many things that might be tough to do for a couple of months. So far this has mainly comprised of going to the gym. How boring am I.

Yesterday I branched out slightly by going to Cardiff under the pretence of a shopping trip. But more realistically, as it's January and I am completely out of funds, it was just an excuse to go for a Nandos, Cookie Dough and Costa. Yesterday also marked the end of my course of steroids! I've never been more relieved, these little tablets have caused me more issues than the tumour over the last few weeks between the increased appetite, disrupted sleeping pattern and the water retention around what used to be my abdominals. I ended the day by making a list of things that I needed to get done the next day, productive or what!

Today I woke up and promptly ignored the vast majority of the aforementioned list. I'm not even the slightest bit surprised at that. I did however manage to contact the speed awareness course people and after a series of phone calls I was informed that South Wales Police will not be taking any action regarding the speeding incident, handy as I had no idea how I was going to fit a speed awareness course in amongst my radiotherapy sessions.

I've also spent the last few days slowly coming to terms with the loss of my hair. As much as I am missing having a half decent haircut (debatable I know) I have identified a number of up sides to the shaved head: Massive financial savings on the costs of shampoo, hairspray and volumising powder; significantly reduced preparation time for a night out; no worries when caught in a sudden rain shower and the tiny benefit of less hair moulting around the place during radiotherapy.

Tonight I went to my home judo club for a session instead of the gym. It's only the second time I've been on a judo mat since Glasgow and my chest has been playing up for a few days so I couldn't do everything but it was still nice to pull on my Gi and throw about for a bit. I've been thinking for a few weeks that I want to get my 5th Dan, I'll have to find a way around the time in grade requirement and sort my cardio out a bit first but hopefully I'll manage to get it sorted when my radiotherapy is done with.

Until my treatment starts in just under two weeks I (hopefully) won't have much to report, but there are a few things I've been researching over the last few days plus a few topics that have cropped up I will address, so I will try to keep the posts coming every couple of days if possible even if there isn't too much going on with me personally. For now, I'm going to eat some cake, drink a hot chocolate and go to bed. Yep, I'm that crazy.

A photo posted by Jamie MacDonald (@thejamiemac) on

Tuesday 27 January 2015

The Man in the Plastic Mask

Up bright and early, I was dressed and on the road to Velindre Hospital by 08:30. Today I was booked in to have my radiotherapy mask fitted and a quick CT scan to help prepare for the treatment I will be having.

The biggest downside to being in Velindre as opposed to the Heath is the lack of a Starbucks, I'm thinking of leading a campaign to get a Costa coffee put in the lobby... I could've murdered a Mocha Latte and blueberry muffin this morning but was stuck with a sugar-loaded regular latte and a pack of custard creams. Lovely.

When I was called through to the mould room I was laid on a table and had a warm mesh placed over my head where it was moulded to the contours of my face. I had to stay still for ten minutes to wait for the mould to set while my dad and the staff in the room chatted about/to me, not an easy feat I assure you. Feeling a bit like a spare part in a GCSE art class I lay there trying desperately to ignore the itch that had appeared on my nose within seconds of the mask being laid on my face and waited for the ten minutes to finish.

After the mask had set I was taken around to the CT scanner to give it a test drive! Looking a bit like I was taking part in a budget recreation of the Darth Vader scene in Star Wars III I was clipped into the scanner by my mask and quickly had a brain scan taken to be used in the preparations for my treatment. I was then told that my treatment will be starting on the 11th Feb with a preparatory appointment the day before, so only 15 days to go! The doctor in charge of my treatment also appeared and we discussed the benefits of getting a second opinion on the biopsy results and I asked her about any potential issues if I was to do some judo over the next few months. Turns out I'm allowed to do as much judo as I want, although apparently I shouldn't go lining up any international competitions. Spoil sport.

After giving some more blood samples I was free to go. In and out within an hour isn't too shabby. This meant I had plenty of time to get home and squeeze in a haircut before the gym! I've been a bit nervous about getting my head shaved because as I've said before, I think I'll look a prat without my hair. But as I don't really have much choice I lined up a trip to get my hair strategically removed. I'm currently sat here with a number two all over feeling like I've lost a close friend, but I've been assured it doesn't look as bad as I'd anticipated. Although I'm pretty sure my glasses no longer suit my bald head, so that's £270 well spent.

I decided mid-gym session that I want to remain as shredded as possible throughout treatment and will endeavour to finish my treatment as the most in-shape cancer patient in the country. Not sure exactly how I'll measure this but it'll help to have a goal when I'm looking for excuses to bail on a gym session during my treatment. On the up side, from what I've seen the majority of cancer patients are elderly so I should be facing minimal competition. On the down side, this will make it even more embarrassing if I don't manage it.

Here I am, all bald and stuff:

Monday 26 January 2015

Au Revoir, Exeter

First of all I am pleased to announce that this post (and hopefully the next few that follow it) will be less depressing than the last couple. Fingers crossed for no more bad news to kill the light hearted buzz!

The start of this week is dedicated to sorting my act out and getting myself in order, ready to start treatment over the next few weeks. The item on top of my to-do list was arranging everything in Exeter that still needed to be arranged, primarily moving out of my house. So, with this in mind we arranged to visit my Aunty who lives an hour from Exeter and my brother, father and myself headed out of Wales on Sunday evening.

Roughly two hours later we were approaching Yeovil (where my aunty lives and we would be staying the night) and a thought occurred to me. I had left something fairly important in Wales... My house keys. This could turn out to be a significant spanner in the works if I couldn't get hold of the landlord in the morning, especially as he was travelling to Paris at some point that day, but it was too late to turn around so we continued to my Aunty's house. Now my dad handled this news surprisingly well, one of the small benefits to this cancer being that he is far less likely to kick off when I do something stupid. You've got to take those silver linings where you can get them.

After an evening of eating and catching up with my Aunty and Uncle we were up early to start the drive to Exeter, where I would have to speak very nicely to the letting agents in the hope they would let me into my house. Luckily the fact that I've got a hole in my head gets me a bit of leeway when it comes to forgetting things so I was confident we would manage to find a way in.

Arriving in Exeter just before 11am I went to see the letting agent and explained that I had been a bit of a tool and left my keys 100 miles away in the valleys, luckily they had spares and were able to let me in the house. Unluckily they had given me the spare key for my room when I moved in, so it was in Wales and of no use to anybody. I was starting to realise how Frodo Baggins felt last time he tried to take something back where it came from, there's just always something unexpected there to balls up your plans.

Just as we were weighing up the pros and cons of dismantling the door frame/breaking the door down/calling a locksmith/enlisting a wizard we had a call back to say that the landlord was still in the country and able to come and unlock the door. Finally, some luck. So after a pit stop in a local cafe for a custard slice we gained access to my room. By this time it was gone midday and I still had a list of things to do in Exeter, so my brother was lucky enough to draw the task of packing up and cleaning my room while I was otherwise engaged.

First on the list was a visit to my office. The company I have been working for since September (MSM Software) have been outstanding over the last few weeks, with everything from making sure I had no worries about sick pay to offering to help me with moving out of my house, so I came prepared with Welsh Cakes for the team. Although I could sense the disappointment that they weren't my gran's home made ones, they were well received, cakes do make the world go round at MSM! As well as this I have been having regular messages of support from many at the company as well as a get well card and gift which I couldn't be more thankful for. I can't think of many companies where the CEO will spend a load of his free time messaging you well wishes and then send you a bottle of his favourite red wine to keep your spirits (and blood alcohol level) up.

Following on from my visit to the office I decided to return to the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital where I had been treated initially to say thanks to those that had been involved in my care with a few small gifts of cookies and chocolates. I realised at this point I was basically spending my day as a cut-price, carbohydrate Santa Clause.

I didn't see anyone I recognised in A&E (not really a surprise given the nature of the ward) but on the Acute Medical Unit I bumped into a couple of the staff that had been around during my long day of waiting a couple of weeks ago. I was surprised initially that they remembered me at all, then even more so when I found out that they had been following my progress on this blog (Hi guys!). Hopefully they enjoyed the cookies I left behind, because I really am thankful for everything they did for me in Exeter and they were brilliant at keeping me calm and positive the entire time I was in there.

So my gifts were given, thanks had been said, work meeting had been held, all that was left was a nice pub meal in Exeter and the journey home. Sadly we didn't have time to go into town as time was getting on and we had to be back in time to squeeze a chest session in before the gym closed at 8. Priorities!

It's strange to be officially moved out of my house and into my parents place, but as-per my new "silver linings" attitude I'm focussing on the positives, which at this moment is mainly the abundance of home made chips.

Friday 23 January 2015

Red Sky In The Morning...

Today was my first day at Velindre Hospital in Cardiff, the plan was to see the cancer specialist and get some specifics regarding my treatment plan and the tumour itself.

We set off just after 8am and headed up the M4 into a foggy pink sunrise, quite a nice scene to drive to all things considered. Although not massively into portents of the future I now feel that the adage "red sky in morning, shepherds warning" may have been particularly apt today.

At Velindre I was taken in to see the consultant who would be in charge of my care and recounted the last few weeks for her so that she had a complete picture of how events have unfolded. She then asked exactly what I had been told regarding the tumour and asked if I was the type of person who preferred to know all the details or the type who liked to know the bare basics. I am definitely of the ilk that prefers to have all of the facts available to me and told her such.

Then she started to talk. Some went in, some did not. But certain words smashed into me like cinder blocks to the face. Words like "incurable" and "prognosis" being the most reeling of the bunch. Despite everything that has happened over the last few weeks I was not prepared for her to tell me that the cancer is incurable, that it will be the tumour that shortens and eventually ends my life, and that based on the current data available to her she would estimate I have between 3 and 5 years to live.

I couldn't look at my father, I couldn't show how I was feeling. I asked a few questions about the upcoming blood tests and held it together. I closed my eyes. She described how my treatment plan involves a 6 week course of radiotherapy during which time I will also start chemotherapy. Following this I will have the tumour re-assessed and move onto a purely chemotherapy based treatment plan. The combined effects of the treatment are likely to leave me weakened but she agrees that I should try to live my life as normally as possible, nights out, gym sessions, the lot. At least this is positive, I don't know how I would have dealt with the instructions to become a lazy recluse subsisting on tablets.

After the consultation was over and arrangements had been made for me to return next week to have my radiotherapy mask fitted my dad and I left the hospital and headed home. In the car was the first time through all of this I have felt down, and I began to get a bit upset, thinking of all of the things I have yet to accomplish that now seem like impossible pipe dreams, but resolved to hold it together. If I am going to get all upset all the time how do I expect my family to be able to hold it together?

As soon as I got home I explained the situation to my mother. I sincerely hope nobody reading this ever has to explain to their own mother that they may only have a few years to live, it is one of the least pleasant experiences I can imagine. The stress of this had left me in a strange place, full of pent up confusion and aggression, so I went to the gym. I lost count of how many reps I was doing but just stood there with a bar, overhead pressing until my arms could lift no more. The best therapy is one part music, one part absent-mindedly pushing a weight towards the sky.

Today has left me with one main thought. For much of my life I have been told I can't do things: I was told I wouldn't be able to cope with the workload at Cardiff Uni, yet I received a first class honours degree; I was told not to be disappointed if I didn't get selected for the Commonwealth Games, I competed there just months after shoulder surgery. This is just one more chance to prove other people wrong. The average person may only be expected to live for half a decade at best, but I am not the average person. See you at my 50th.

Thursday 22 January 2015

My Steroid Problem

I know a lot of people look at me and say "wow, how does he maintain that massive 11 stone rig? He must be using performance enhancing substances". I can't say I blame them... I do look massive at 5'11 and 68kg . But I am now in a place where I can tell the world. Yes, I am taking steroids.

Sadly, none of them are remotely performance enhancing and they're nowhere near as fun as I thought they might be. In fact, according to google the closest side effect to anything related to performance is a "reduction in muscular strength". Great, I would be the one put on steroids that make you weaker!

When my tumour was first discovered I was told I would be put on a course of steroids (dexamethasone for those interested) to reduce the swelling around it to relieve the pressure on the brain. That makes sense, and as I've been trying to put weight on for months I was even a little happy about the warnings of increased appetite and weight gain. GAINZ 'N' STUFF.

After a couple of weeks though, I can confirm they are not all they are cracked up to be. First and foremost, they appear to have reduced the swelling in my brain and for that I am very thankful, those headaches were far from fun and I haven't had one since. They have also delivered on the subject of increased appetite, I am currently eating at the rate of a 100kg Russian who has just weighed in at the Europeans after a 3 week water diet. I'm going through shepherd's pies like they're going out of fashion, accompanying them with chips and washing it down with any dessert that can come smothered in cream.  All the while snacking on whatever chocolates/Haribo/biscuits I can get my vascular little hands on.

This might be ideal if I was still training three times a day, but I am currently managing one moderately lethargic gym session a day at best. So there is a good chance this blog post will one day soon be used as an obituary to the abdominals that I have been displaying (some might say over displaying, but that's a whole other can of worms) since the age of 13.

This ridiculous increase in calorie intake, combined with the fact my stomach was unprepared for the onslaught, has had a fairly predictable outcome. Bloating. Serious bloating. As an example, today I had Weetabix for breakfast with 4 slices of toast and a cuppa, this was my pre-gym meal and I felt pretty much normal throughout the session... I even felt fairly strong. The issues began when I got home, having built up an appetite from the gym to add to my fake appetite that was bubbling away due to the 'roids. So I had a milkshake as a recovery drink, chicken wraps at home 'cos protein and some chocolate 'cos why not. Realistically the amount of food consumed here should be able to sustain me for the evening... But I had plans to go to the cinema to see American Sniper.

One large popcorn, a large ice blast, a tub of pic 'n' mix and multiple Iraqi head-shots later I was leaving the cinema feeling like Violet Beauregarde after plumping up. Usually this would mean I take the simple step to not eat or drink anything for a while, however I am currently under steroid mind control, and as such decided the correct course of action was to venture across to KFC and follow it all up with a burger, some fries, gravy and a drink. At least I managed to avoid eating an entire boneless banquet I suppose.

It is nearly midnight now, and I am sat at home desperately trying to avoid the fridge that contains more chicken wraps, the bowl of Haribo and chocolates to my left and the big frying pan full of home made chips that I am pretty sure are contacting me telepathically, begging to be fried. Luckily I have my first appointment in Velindre Hospital at 9am so will have to go to bed soon, where I will no doubt dream of personified cream cakes mocking me for my lack of abdominals while I lay in an awkward fetal position, attempting to comfort my overly full belly.

Fingers crossed tomorrow is the day they take me off these tablets, I don't fancy seeing 80kg by the time my radiotherapy is done.

Keeping it Normal

As part of my whole "carry on as normal" thing I decided to go up to Cardiff for the afternoon on Wednesday to see the Welsh Judo guys, and as luck would have it I awoke hangover and headache free. I was almost disappointed! I haven't had a single headache since surgery and thought I might have earned one in 'spoons. On the up side it meant I was in a fit state to get out of bed and into 'diff at a reasonable time.

My time until my appointment Friday is basically consisting of trying to find ways to exist without intense boredom, so a bit of time away from the house was all sorts of welcome. I got dropped at Sport Wales and met up with what remains of the Welsh Judo Full Time Setup, before heading into town for a Costa and Nandos. My week took a significant turn for the worse however when Nandos in Brewery 1/4 were out of creamy mash. Spicy rice just isn't the same.

Being in Cardiff also gave me an opportunity to buy myself a wooly hat (see terrible photo below) in preparation for the upcoming radiation-induced baldness. Unfortunately I can't pull off any sort of wooly hat so I have basically just spent £20 on a way to look a bit silly. Although, thinking about it I've had nights out where I've spent much more than that and looked a lot sillier, and at least this time I have something to show for it in the morning... Silver linings.

Having had a productive day of hat buying and chicken eating I headed back to Maesteg with the brother for the next phase of Operation: Carry On As Normal. The gym. I'd only trained once since all of this began so was pretty excited to have a full chest session with the blessing of my consultant. I did however have to reassure the gym owner that the chances of me dropping dead in the gym were no greater than usual and that my entry wound in my skull was equally unlikely to burst open during a tough set.

Classing that session as successful (I even woke up today with something resembling chest DOMS) we went back again for back day today. Hopefully I'll be able to keep up the training as much as possible over the coming weeks, because if I'm going to be bald I will at least need to keep some semblance of shape below the neck to make me feel a bit more positive.

I feel I should point out that I'm not vain, but do feel better when I look good.

Okay, maybe I'm a little bit vain, but a bit of pride in your appearance can't be a bad thing surely?

Fine, I'll admit vanity does factor into my life a bit... But at the end of the day I'm going to be looking like a prat with no hair so maybe this will help me on my way to not caring so much about my appearance. It's unlikely though, I'll admit that.

Wednesday 21 January 2015

Does A Tumour Need An Identity?

First of all I feel that I should begin by thanking everyone that has messaged me/shared this blog over the last couple of days. I decided to use this mainly as a way to get information out to those who had been asking without being that guy that makes Facebook all serious and deep. In the day since I posted my status I have had thousands of views, dozens of shares on both FB and Twitter and so many messages of support I don't know where to begin thanking people. I am not the most emotional of guys, but have to admit it really touched me that so many people felt what I had to say was worth reading and sharing. So in response to that I will be trying to update this blog daily if possible, as long as I have something remotely interesting to say that is.

So, I continue from where I left off.

Tuesday, as you may have read, I was confirmed to have brain cancer. On the up side I was also told that I should continue with business as usual as much as possible. Which for me meant attending the highlight event of the Maesteg Social Calendar: Wetherspoons' Opening Night.

A group of us had already planned to go along and attempt to get some food there as well as a few drinks, so we continued with the (admittedly ambitious) plan and headed there for 7pm. Unsurprisingly we weren't able to get a table for food, so after marvelling at the splendour of the venue and wondering exactly how many weeks this place would manage look this good we left to go down the road for a curry.

Now, this is a paragraph that some may wish to skip, as it mainly involves the potential impact of general anaesthetic on the digestive system. So if you've just sat down to a large plate of food I'd recommend skipping ahead. For those of you still with me, it is at this point I feel I should mention how the paralysis of my digestive system caused by the anaesthetic had meant zero bowel movement for over a week at this point. No amount of tablet, drink or remedy had been having the slightest effect. Until, that is, we decided to have a meal at Momtaj. I won't go into masses of detail regarding the after effects of that particular Tikka Masala and the events that transpired in the back room of Momtaj, but suffice it to say that I am thinking about penning a letter to the NHS recommending that all prescriptions for laxatives be replaced with vouchers for curry and lager, effective immediately.

Feeling considerably lighter on my feet we finished off our food and headed back to the 'spoons for a few more drinks. The next couple of hours we spent drinking and laughing with everyone mercilessly ripping into one another. This being the third time we have managed to have a good night together as a group recently, a massive achievement for potentially the least organised group of people ever when it comes to making plans.

At one point it was decided that my tumour was in need of a name. After much deliberation the group settled on Timmy the Tumour, to be pronounced a la South Park (below for anyone unfamiliar). With this settled and numerous beverages consumed we all headed home, me to sleep until I felt fit, and everyone else to get up bright and early for work. At least I was winning in one way!

Tuesday 20 January 2015

The Big C. At 24. Not Ideal.

A fairly uneventful week culminated in a phone call on the evening of the 19th January from my initial ward at the Heath, asking for me to arrive at the hospital the next day to discuss the biopsy results. This was it. Glad to finally have some answers I sacked off crap TV and went to bed early with the sounds of Harold and Kumar in the background.

8am on the 20th I’m awake and getting ready to head to Cardiff. Myself and my Dad are going to meet the consultant for the results as I feel it would be easier to have this discussion with less people in the room. I am however on strict orders to report back to my mother as soon as possible.

10am I’m sat in the waiting room with an overpriced vanilla latte, being told that the Dr has been called away and will be with us in about half hour. Such a tease. Half hour of helping my Dad with a cryptic crossword it is then. Luckily my brain appears unaffected in this regard and we blast through the crossword at a decent rate, just before the Dr appears and takes us into an office for the chat.

Here he tells me that I have brain cancer. Not an ideal start to a Tuesday by any means. A grade 3 glioma (an astrocytoma to be more specific).

The treatment plan for now is that I will meet a specialist this coming Friday at Velindre Hospital in Cardiff and then go through the exact plans for radiotherapy and chemotherapy that I will need. My initial reaction is one of worry, not because of the result but because my head shape really does not facilitate a bald head. On the up side I’ve been given the go ahead to keep training as much as I feel able… So hopefully I can remain in shape to distract from how disfigured my head looks without a strong quiff perched atop of it.

My plan over the coming weeks of treatment will be to keep this blog updated with any developments, partially as it saves me posting long, tedious Facebook posts to the uninterested, but mostly because it will give me something to do that does not require masses of concentration or time. In relation to this my vision has been worse since the operation and is making it hard to concentrate on a screen for long periods. So any spelling or grammatical errors will have to be taken with a pinch of salt and the knowledge that they would never usually be permitted! 

One final note for this post is my reflection on the NHS. I have heard a lot of complaints about the way the NHS runs and about waiting lists etc. I have even complained myself when it comes to physio and treatment. But it is now exactly two weeks since I was taken into hospital at the request of NHS Direct, by NHS paramedics and assessed in an NHS A&E. I was given an initial and correct diagnosis that very day. Since then I have been treated with compassion and skill at every turn and moved across to the Hospital most suitable for me as opposed to the standard referral unit for the region. I have been operated on successfully and given every possible aspect of support in my recovery. Now I have been further referred to an NHS cancer specialist who I expect will continue to impress me in this vein. I would not like to attempt to put a figure against the cost of treatment I have received or will receive, but whatever that is I can safely say paying for it myself in an American Health Care Plan way would have been far from fun. Well done NHS, and thank you.

I will wrap up this post now as I need to get ready for the pub. Treatment might be starting soon and I can't be wasting Steak Night at Spoons in the meantime!

Out of Hospital We Go

As the surgeon had promised the pain was considerably less than when I had my shoulder surgery in March, I wasn’t even needing paracetamol. a relief considering the drastic weight loss I had experienced with the tramadol last time around. So I just laid about in my new ward napping and playing on my phone. It was a bit like being back in freshers (just with slightly more wires hooked up reading my vital signs).

After a couple of hours I was moved over to my own room as I was the patient deemed most likely to be able to cope on my own without a nurse fluttering about 24/7.

Now this was better, room to myself with an en suite and visitors at any time. This could have potential for a few days!

However after a nap and an hour or so of visiting time my surgeon appeared for a chat. I was allowed to return home and wait there for a call to discuss the biopsy results in a week to ten days. Bad timing as I would’ve happily got used to this VIP room for a few days, but still being at home was far preferable to sitting in the Heath hooked up to monitors and blood pressure cuffs day in day out.

So after some final checks and forms I was allowed to be wheeled from the hospital and home to Maesteg. Only under the proviso that I keep a sanitary pad glued to my head at all times until the stitches had been removed. Lush.

Should Neurosurgeons be Required to take BTEC Hairdressing?

The weekend was always going to be fairly uneventful, I had accepted I was unlikely to be on Mill Lane much. My plan was just to keep myself entertained and wait for the operation to come around on Monday.

Fortunately the weekend involved quite a few visitors, some of the judo boys came around, a group of my school mates from home made the trip up, and a few other mates who live near enough by all came for a chat which kept me occupied for the best part of the weekend. Especially through Sunday evening which would have otherwise been a very tedious affair.

My brother was coming to visit around work and we managed to take control of the TV room for an evening, pity there was nothing good on TV but it was nice to be out of the hospital bed for a few hours at the very least.

It was Sunday night and 11pm before I knew it and the nurses started hinting I might need some sleep before the morning, so off I went to bed, ready for what would likely be a short lived sleep given the frequent noises coming from the beds around me. 

Sure enough, I was woken in the middle of the night by my immediate bed neighbours having circulation problems and then again by bed beeping soon after, but then again it could have been worse.

A nurse appeared just after 6am to get me prepped for the operation. First up was a shower. Luckily I was allowed to conduct this by myself and didn’t need her to join me at any point. Although she did seem to enjoy the task of putting on my compression socks… That did worry me slightly.

Having taken all the required meds and gone through various pre-op checks for consent etc I was allowed to have a small nap before operation time. Such a treat!

As I laid there trying to get a rest I was struck by the conversations some of the fellow patients were having with nurses. These men were in their 80s and some were suffering from slight delirium as well as their physical problems, and yet they were constantly polite. Very thankful for everything that was being done for them and never skipping a please or thankyou. I’ll be very happy if I am that much of a gent if I am in that situation in my later years.

At around 9:20 I was wheeled out of the ward and down to surgery. On the way I enquired about the chances my surgeon would have been through a BTEC Hair and Beauty course but was informed it was unlikely. Guess I’d just be hoping for the best with this shave job then.

The anaesthetists set me up and put me to sleep, and then I was waking up on a different Neurology ward. I have brief memories of the surgeon appearing and saying the operation went well, of nurses taking observations and of my parents making an appearance, but for the most part I just drifted out of consciousness and back in occasionally.

Luke popped around in the night and we had a chat while I ate a few chicken wraps, which was a relief as I had been worried that it would be a repeat of my last operation and I’d lose a stone due to the lack of appetite. Can’t be going back to square one with the gains* can I!

*I use the word gains in the loosest possible terms, I’m only 68kg at the best of times