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.