Dear Friends and Family,
I’m sorry I haven’t posted for SEVEN months – I’ll never make a good blogger! I had written a post in March which shared my experiences of the NHS (good and bad). But, then that seemed totally inappropriate with the onslaught of Covid-19. Anyway, I hope you’re all keeping well.
Today – 1st August 2020 – marks the halfway point between my surgery and the desired five-year ‘sign-off’. I’m feeling well, symptom-free and extremely grateful to be alive.
My two-year appointment was affected by Covid. It was supposed to be a 20-minute face-to-face catch up with my consultant; but it ended up being six minutes on the telephone and it was a couple of months overdue. My consultant simply confirmed that I’m not in the Covid ‘high risk’ group and my tests have all been encouraging. My CEA blood test was ‘below 1’ and I couldn’t want for better than that (the normal range is anything less than 2.5 ng/ml).
While my physical healing has been good, there is still mental healing that is needed and that’s taking time. But, on this note, the change of scene that has come with moving to Cornwall has certainly helped me, as well as my family.
We moved to Cornwall a year ago. In many ways, it’s offered the perfect escape from the challenges of the previous years. A fresh start is just what the doctor ordered! Although, we do miss our friends and family, of course.
Thinking too much about negative things can cause paralysing anxiety. To combat this, positive distractions are needed – the more the better! For me, one of the things that has positively distracted my mind (aside from work and family) has been family tree research. Living in Cornwall, this is the perfect location for that, as it’s where my dad’s family is from and the new Kresen Kernow records office in Redruth is such a nice place to sit and work (before Covid forced it to close!). Imagining the past and learning from it has been great.
It’s also been wonderful living by the sea. Staring at the horizon with an uninterrupted view feels strangely good for the soul, as is the sound of water. The water has also been a part of countless good family times (boating, kayaking, paddle boarding, swimming, sight-seeing). Also, my kids really enjoy school here (well, they did before lock down!) and my wife has felt very welcomed by a lovely group of mums. We’ve also re-connected with a couple of families we knew from 10+ years ago and that’s made us feel very at home.
Our current challenge is finding a home of our own and so far we’ve had three sales fall through, which has caused a lot of stress and heartache. Unfortunately we’ve consistently fallen for traditional family homes that are owned by people in our parents’ generation (baby boomers) and it seems there is a struggle for that generation to down-size. We waited 18 months for one lady to be unable to find anywhere she liked (she accepted our offer before we moved here).
On this note, if you haven’t seen Unprecedented on BBC iPlayer then Episode 3 is an interesting watch (if you can tolerate the bad language!).
To own a home is an utter privilege. Hopefully we’ll be back on the property ladder again soon; although, the government’s latest stamp duty tax cut for multi-home owners certainly hasn’t helped the situation for people wanting to make their only home in places like Cornwall.
MY FRIEND SIMON
On a final note, I’d like to mention my friend Simon H.
Simon was a dad I knew from my kids’ old school and we had a lot in common – both had girls in the same class, both young (ish), both redheads, both Christians. But we had something else in common. He was diagnosed with bowel cancer just a few months after me and, bizzarely, he was also diagnosed with Serrated Polyposis Syndrome.
Simon’s cancer was caught later than mine. It was a frustratingly familiar young bowel cancer story. He went to the GP and hospital several times before he was taken seriously and he ended up having unplanned/emergency surgery. Unfortunately, by then the cancer had spread from a tumour his large intestine through to several lymph nodes. He endured six months of gruelling chemo in the hope of stopping it from forming tumours in other organs.
Amazingly, Simon had a CT scan in January this year and messaged me with elation saying it was ‘ALL CLEAR’!
But, in March, Simon was feeling very unwell again and a further CT scan showed tumours had formed in multiple organs – including his liver, lungs and kidneys. The chemo had failed, he’d endured several horrible months and now his immune system was compromised. Covid-19 had arrived in the UK and no further treatment option could be offered to him. He was ‘shielded’ in a local hospice where his friends and family – including his wife and children – were not allowed to visit him.
Simon died in the hospice in April. His final message to me was “I can sleep much better here as it is so much calmer and quieter. A place of healing I think”.
Life is totally crap sometimes.
For a little more of Simon’s story, in his own words (much better than mine), his short blog is still available here.
I share this to raise awareness of the fact that many cancer patients and their families have suffered irreparably during this recent crisis. I think that families should be allowed to choose to be with their loved ones during their final hours, days and weeks. Is that such a controversial thought?