Here I am, sitting at home feeling sorry for myself. Not because I’m another year older today, but because I’m not feeling at all well. I’m not sure whether to spare you the full details or not, but suffice to say at this stage that yesterday afternoon I started with an upset tummy and by this morning I’d managed to lose 3 lbs in weight!
Today I was due to cycle the Manchester 100 for The Christie – one of Britain’s largest cancer centres – but when my alarm went off just after 5 am I knew that there was no chance I could make it, so I went to the loo (again), rang Richard Dugdale (who I was supposed to be going with) and then got back into bed.
Of course, the weather has been perfect for cycling, but I could have predicted that!
I can’t believe how many people have sent birthday wishes via Twitter and Facebook – several also wished me good luck on the bike ride and I felt a bit of a fraud having to tell them that I was stopping in bed for most of the day! I hate that, just as I feel really awkward if anyone calls on the rare occasion when I’m out of sorts. I just want to be left alone to be honest: Val finds this very difficult to cope with, when she wants to take care of me and I don’t want to be her ‘patient’!
No, I won’t spare you the details - I ought to explain a bit more. Outside my circle of many long standing good friends and family, I guess most readers of this blog won’t know much about me. Even the bit about being a double cancer survivor seems to have gone missing from the introduction to this blog, although I could swear it was on there earlier. Well, in 1999 I was diagnosed with a bowel tumour and had to have a pancolonectomy – or in layman’s terms, a big operation involving removal of the large bowel and the creation of an ileostomy – an outlet on the body surface with a discreetly hidden pouch which collects – well, you can work the rest out for yourself. Sometimes this operation is reversible, though not in my case.
This operation is a lot more common than you might think – it’s used in the treatment of severe Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Crohn’s Disease as well as bowel tumours. I bet you probably already know a few people who have either a colostomy or an ileostomy without having any idea – after all, it’s not the kind of thing that one normally shouts from the rooftops.
But maybe we shouldn’t be so reserved and secretive. If it was more widely realised that an operation like this isn’t the end of the world, doesn’t stop you from leading an almost perfectly normal active life, then perhaps it would help. I wonder if some people needlessly put off getting their symptoms diagnosed for fear of this kind of operation – only to find, tragically, that they’ve left it too late.
Just occasionally – twice in twelve years in my case – something goes wrong. On Friday I cooked a dish of spicy lentils and rice, and ate lots of it in spite of the fact that the rice was undercooked. This led to a blocked stoma which had me in agony by yesterday afternoon, and although it cleared itself by around 4 pm, my poor insides felt – and acted - like they’d had a good going-over. Hence today’s situation.
I’ll be alright tomorrow.