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).