The Great Wall of China Marathon

20130518-145545.jpgWe stayed in a hotel about an hour from the Wall. So focused was I on the race I don’t even remember the name of the City, it had a population of three million and a lot of smog. The race was due to start at 7.30 in the morning when its cooler. The predicted temperature was for the day was 30° which would make running on the wall like being in the pizza with the white stone walls on either side.

Ole and I shared a room and got out kit ready before going to sleep. The  alarm went off at 4 o’clock, we were to leave the hotel at 5.30. I started the day by drinking a liter of water and ate some beetroot, which I’m told helps maintain electrolyte levels. We went down and had breakfast a light breakfast, there had been one of these pasta loading meals the evening before which I gone to, however I believe its more important to be well hydrated than stuffing my face and being weighed down by a couple of kilos of stodgy food as you run the race. My preparations for this was meticulous as anything I’ve ever done with and the athletes I have worked with over the years and I felt well prepared as we walked to the bus and sipped water all the way.

We arrived at the town of Huangyaguan  at 6.30. I felt really emotional as we got off the bus and recorded my feelings to the camera. It was an amazing feeling seeing all these athletes gathering in this little Chinese town, then you looked up the mountain and you could see the Wall stretching into the distance. We walked into the square and Klaus came running over given me a big hug, I could see the concern in his face, as he still wasn’t sure how I was going to manage to run 42 km along this terrain. This was his 3rd year as the official photographer and he had seen how the wall could  brake healthy fit  people never mind someone who is recovering from chemotherapy and had his colostomy reversed 12 months to the day.

20130518-145839.jpgAs we waited around in the square, I could feel the butterflies in my stomach, I just want to start running, unfortunately they have to have a civic reception, and a public warm-ups which seemed to go on for ever.  Eventually we were called to the start line. The runners were to go in 4 waves according to their official times . My friends were all in the 1st wave and tried to enter the start but the security prevented me from going in because they had colour-coded the numbers. Rules are there to be broken  so I waited until the official  was looking the other way and  went round the side and rolled under the railing  and joined Ole and the others ready to start the race. Checked my Garmin watch was ready to keep a record of the run and switched on my iPod. 1st song to come on was David Bowie’s 5 years, thought that must be a good omen and we were off. 

 

GWM 2013 nr _Y2Q4945The First 6 km were uphill to the Wall on gradient of 5° . Everyone when off very quickly, I had prepared well and kept with Ole’s pace, but was worried this was the adrenalin and I was running at a much faster pace than I had trained on, so I told Ole to go off on his own. I felt more confident running the way I had trained listening to my music, each song has some kind of meaning for me and takes my mind away from the pain.

 Even so I stayed with the main bunch for the first hour and was amazed how quickly I completed the first section of the Wall. Klaus had given me one of theos Go Pro video recorders to record the occasion and  my commentary was starting to exhaust me. An Austrakian girl asked if I was going to talk for the whole race, I said I was doing it for a bet that I could talk for 42 Km and a number of people came over to be “interviewed by this mad Irishman as we ran along.

Klaus had told me The Go Pro battery would lat for 5 hours but it only lasted 45 minutes and I could not throw it away. The  last thing you want you want to do while running a marathon is carry anything so when I eventually our paths crossed there are the pictures 20130518-145655.jpgof me threatening  to throw it at him.

After decending the first section of the wall we ran through the town square and headed out into the countryside and villages. Chinese people lined the roads and the kids are all giving you the high fives. Every five K’s there was a drinks station, I stopped at every one had a drink of about 30 cl of water, walked for about 50 meters and then started running again. It was about the 20 K mark Klaus appeared on a motorbike wondering what had happened to me. I had gone out so fast he had missed me and he took some pictures whikle I hurled abuse at him over his Go Pro Video that was not charged up.

 At about 27 K there was an unexpected very difficult section of the race, three Ks down a very uneven dirt track strewn with boulders. Because it was was downhill and you could build up some pace and as  my balance still wasn’t great after the chemo which caused a severe peripheral neuropathy in my hands and feet I was afraid I was going to fall over and breaking my stride  caused great pain in, but I made it .

I started running with this French girl, this was her way of recovering from a serious car accident. She began talking as many did after seeing my “cancer drove me up the Wall t Shirt” , amazing how many people have some experience of cancer and they understand why I was doing this marathon. All this stroking of my ego felt like I was floating on the road and it took my mind away from the pain in my legs.

20130518-145712.jpgThere is a section of road that after 30Ks, that you share with runners who are approaching the finish. The finishers will be wearing yellow wrist bands which they get on the final section of Wall. One of the Danes Michael ( an experienced marathon runner) comes along side me on this section of road, notices my yellow wrist band ( Livestrong) he thinks I am beating him. I told everyone later he pushed me off the road so he could pass me. He looked very relieved when he saw me head off towards the wall, while he turned towards the finish.

20130518-145612.jpgI always knew this final section of the Wall was the hardest part of the marathon. You have run 35Ks and are facing a half kilometer of steps heading up into the sky. Each of these  steps are about a foot high and you are very very tired. Before starting this climb there was a drinks station and I took a Gel with Caffeine, which on reflection was a mistake. The sugar rush made me feel sick as I started the climb and I coulkd feel my heart racing from the caffeine, I started breathing deeply to calm myself and then I would look up where I had to go and my heart would start racing again, I could not straighten my legs on each step so I was essentially crawling up the steps.  I had an idea to stop me looking up, I took out the picture of the Girls I had in my pocket and as my hands were on each step I looked at the girls on the step rather than where I was headed. Not only did this calm me, but their involvement energized me. I took one step at  a time, it took a long long time to complete this section and I remained patient event though many runners were now passing me, comforting myself with the knowledge how easy this was compared to how I felt in April 2012 going up the stairs in The Emirates Stadium after my 12th and final session of chemo.

Eventually I saw the last climb of steps and saw Klaus there taking pictures, when he saw me he started waving and  I started blubing like a baby. I knew now I was going to make it, the last 5K were down hill,  and for me I believed it also meant I was going to beat the cancer. When I got to the top Klaus did not embrace me he was too busy taking pictures of the moment and then he asked me to go back a bit so he could take some more. I laughed at the idea I would go back down to get a better picture, we were all crawling up the steps at this stage and we all found it amusing that Klaus thought we could just trot down and climb this section again.

Klaus had my I phone so he could send messages home as to how I was doing and gave me the Phone so I could records the last 5ks of the marathon. I thought this part was going to be easy, when in fact it was quite painful. I have had seven operations in my right knee have had the cruciate ligament reconstructed twice and did not bother last time I ruptured it in 2003. So when you run down hill the femur tends to slide forward on the tibia and its bloody painful. You can see me limping and wincing as I talk on the video.

Nevertheless the last  5K just flew by, in the emotion of the occasion and finally I am back on the section I ran with Michael. As I approach the finish and I’m holding the camera to record it assuming all the danes were waiting on the bus. As I turned the corner and entered the square, I heard this loud cheer, coming from these familiar faces, many I had only known for seven days.  They were all there waiting from me to come in, I can put into words how I felt at that moment, My kids are never understand why the happiest moment of my life was when Charlie George clinched the double for Arsenal against Liverpool in1971, I was 14. Ole came over and hugged me, Klaus’s motorbike , like the camera had broken down so he was not there to share the moment, but as I sat down to rest my legs, the phone rings it was Janette and the girls on Skype. Did you win Daddy asked Eloise? Yes I did, darling and you helped me do it.

I had done what my doctors thought was impossible, Ole had not needed to give me a firemans lift to finish. This plan was something we had come up with in a bar in Copenhagen 8 months previously after too many beers, it had consumed me , but I have shown the kids  they can do anything if they set their minds to it, and put in the graft. If need be they now have this video, if I am not there to make the speeches at their weddings. If my physical self is  not there during their teenage years,  hopefully they will have the video so my spirit may live on in them and my friends, the way my mother is still around 23 years after her passing.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IbU4V480xL4&list=UUvVvL1jetc0xHq35twKXWhg

I finished 1n 511th place there were over 100 people behind me

 

24 hours to go

We are staying in a “town” I have never heard of near the wall.the tell me it has a population of 3 million, but you could not see the size of the place for the smog

Day before race took it easy everybody went site seeing Ole and I just went for a walk , 3 million people and no caffes, there is an opportunity here for an entrepreneur . Still feeling jet laged but the adrenaline is starting to take over. Want to start now. The Chinese do there work outs in a park some interesting machines. One like Homer Simpsons back machine that was putting chiropractors out of business. Great to talk to the kids on Skype before they went to school. When the wake up in the morning the race will be over and hopefully I will have finished kind of weird to think while everybody in the UK is sleeping I will be running a marathon. Well the time has arrived as Robin Williams said in Dead poets Caroe diem , apologies to Latin scholars

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Copenhagen August 2012

We have just landed in Beijing It’s hard to believe its only last August we first talked about this and now we are here.its really happening. I was hoping to keep my friends informed on Facebook but its not allowed here so I will put updates on the blog, which the Chinese authorities don’t see as a threat to the system.
I have talked about how the idea came about in the Lance Armstrong post but other things happened the weekend I was in Copenhagen that made me believe my health would come back sooner rather than later.

I had gone to Copenhagen for Oles annual summer party which is always great fun and a chance to see friends I had not seen for years. Friday morning I had breakfast with Klaus before heading into town. I was intending to take the bus as Klaus had an appointment so he drove me to the bus stop. The next stop on the route was by the Lakes where I used to live in Copenhagen so I decided I would try to walk to the next stop for a dose of nostalgia. When I got there I felt good a d walked to the next stop and the next and next until i had walked about 3 kilometers and I did not feel exhausted.i walked and stood a lot that weekend Oles party went on till 5am on the Sunday went with Klaus to photograph Mark Cavendish win Danmark Rund cycle race . so as i sat in the bar telling my friends I could do this Marathon because I believed Lance Armstrong and myself were mentally stronger. i also knew i had suddenly got all this energy from somwhere and it would be a few weeks before I realised it was due to my new diet and an amino acid supplement i had started taking called Carnitine. a friend of Janetts had sent me this small study on cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy.aparently carnite makes human cells more efficient at oxidising fats, making more ATP (energy) available for use. I had started taking carnitine about a week before my trip to copenhagen and without a shadow of doubt it helped get me get over the fatigue which under normal circumstances would have made training for a Marathon impossible. I believe my training plan has worked realy well considering how little time I had to get from where I was to be able to run 26 miles, so hopefully I will be sucessfull on Saturday and how I trained will be of interest

hasI

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    Its only your hands and feet, cant be too bad.

    IMG_3192IMG_3202 IMG_3200 When I tell people I had lost all sensation in my hands and feet after chemotherapy they would often say, that’s not too bad. I suppose if you compare it to losing your eyesight or  losing a limb it doesn’t seem soo bad. But when you’re standing trying to put money in a parking meter with people standing behind you and  keep dropping the money because you cant get it in the slot, it’s a nightmare. The phone rings you know iys in your pocket but you can’t find it because you cant feel it, you cant find your keys. Once I was in a shop trying to pay for something, I knew there was only money in that pocket, I put my hands in  hoping to grab something, and each time they come out empty. I take the lining out and there’s nothing in the pockets, because the money had stuck to the back of my hand, without me feeling anything that had fallen on the floor.

    I had managed to work pretty much all through treatment, but if you can’t feel anything there isn’t much you can do as a chiropractor. It’s funny, but I don’t think I fully appreciated the skilled and technique needed to perform a chiropractic adjustment until now and not being able to feel the tension in the joint, or having the speed and control to restore movement to the joint without hurting somebody. I suppose this explains the desire of many chiropractors to start prescribing and using electrotherapy, they never developed the manual skills needed to be a successful chiropractor .

    I had some interesting banter with “Skeptics” on Twitter. They dont believe in chiropractic and have no understanding of the role of the spine and nervous system play in health and well being, its hard to believe, but I have had some of these people wishing me a painfull and horrible death, thats for another post. They believe the subluxations we correct in the spine are figments of our imaginations. So on loosing sensation in my hands, I informed  them how for a moment I thought they were right, as I could longer feel subluxations in a spine. Perhaps I had been imagining them after all, fortunately I tweeted to them, a neurologist explained to me me that this was a side effect of chemotherapy and the small nerve fibers in my hands and feet had been damaged. They hoped it would come back in time (years) but there was no medical treatment for this condition, just waiting.

    At times like this it’s great to be a chiropractor because the people you see have all been to medical doctors and heard something similar. When people have tried all the traditional  interventions, the chiropractor seeking a solution has to think outside the box. Essentially chiropractic is about restoring joint function and in doing so removing interference from nerves and allowing the body to heal itself. The debate would be around how much nerve interference does joint dysfunction cause, medics would say little, we would say enough to slow down the healing and adaptation.

    For all parts of the human body to function optimally they need to be used and when you don’t use them they deteriorate. My problem like many others was I couldn’t use my hands from much and to spend hours doing finger exercises would be mind numbing.

    The Kitchen
    The Kitchen

    When my mother was sick in the 80s she started collecting miniature furniture for a dolls house. She had so much of this by 88 as she approached the end of her life, I made this amazing Georgian house which gave her so much pleasure before she died in 1990. Mammy wanted me to look after the Dolls House after she died, however it was only in recent years, as my girls started to get older that I decided to bring the Dolls House over to the UK in 2007. As there is so much available to buy on the internet, the girls and I thought it would be fun to restore the house, but like many things I started with great enthusiasm but lost interest after a few months.  Now in June 2012 restoring the dolls house had a real purpose to it and would take hours and hours of work, its not that different from doing a real house, it has to be rewired, new doors, carpets, wallpaper and Parquet flooring in the study. However the objects are so small and delicate it would be great training for my hands and fingers. Mind you it took time and hous of fustration as I tried to thread a needle or wire a miniature plug. At one point our kind neighbor Penny Greatorex  who has been so helpful with the kids when I was struggling sent over her 14year old son Christopher to get me through a difficult phase of the renovation, when I also discovered I needed reading glasses. Apparently I have done well to get to 55 without needing glasses, but chemo has made reading small print difficult and I bought a pair for £400 at Spec savers ones that could darken in the sunlight. No one told me you could not walk around in “Oakley” reading glasses in sunshine as everything looks blurred, they are only for reading. I now know you can buy a pair of reading glasses for £10, such is life and those glasses are my worst impulse buy of all time. Nevertheless  by the time I had finished the Dolls house in December 2012, I probably had 80% of the feeling packing my fingers, I was working again and playing tennis and golf.

    ScanWorking on the House was also a very emotional experience as there were so many reminders of my mother love for the project, for example when I replaced the carpets it was strange to see where she had written on the floor is what each room should be and how it should be laid out. She had been the last person to touch that “floor” space, I felt very close to her as I worked on the house and would feel her spirit and strength in August 2012 when I would have the CT scan twelve months after my surgery to remove the tumour  see if there were any signs of the cancer remaining in my body and somehow I did not feel worried.IMG_2432IMG_2379

    I can deal with fear, not sure about angry husbands

    IMG_4058End of June we went for a few days to Center Parks with the kids. Its a kind of middle class Butlins, with lots of sports activities and swimming facilities, which are help full in getting feeling back into my hands and feet.

    One of the awful things about cancer, is that any old ache or pain can be a reminder accompanied by the sinking feeling in your stomach before reality sets in. On the way down we stopped for petrol and I went in to pay, then Isabelle came into use the toilet and came over to me in the que. Whats that on your lip she asks? I put my hand on my mouth and there is a smear of blood. I send Isabelle back to the car and  I go into the toilet, cant see anything on my lip, I clear my throat, there is blood in my spit. Shit! The cancer has spread to my lungs, Ok stay calm, I wont say anything to Janette until the weekend is over, I walk over to the car,  this is the end, I dont want to go to Centre Parks anymore, I just want to go home. I open the door and get in. Your noes is bleeding says Janette, I put my hand to my nose, I was having a minor nose bleed that had gone back in my throat first.

    Anyway there are lots of activities to do in Centre Parks and I intended walking and swimming a lot. I was in the “lagoon” playing with the kids and this vision appears at the entrance in an orange bikini. She was absolutely gorgeous with an hour glass figure, one of the kids splashed me to get my attention and the woman had disappeared. Later the kids wanted to go on the “rapids” slide, I declined opting for the less active “landscaped” groto like jacuzzi, as my stomach was still tender after the colostomy reversal and told them to meet me there when they were finished.

    There were a lot of people in the jacuzzi and I was looking for somewhere to sit. There she was again the girl in the orange bikini right in front of me. Her bikini top like two buoys floating on the bubbling water and as luck would have it the only place to sit was beside her. I tried not to stare too much and close my mouth as I sat down beside her, praying my balance would not let me down and I would topple over. The corner of my eye could not resist a peek at her cleavage as I let myself down on the seat beside her. I was thinking,  as I have kissed the “Blarney Stone”, I should engage her in conversation while waiting for the kids.

    What do you think you are doing? she shouts. How could she have noticed the corner of my eye, I thought! She jumps up and I notice my arm and hand rise with her, as it  has been resting on her thigh, not the seat. She pushes it away aggressively . I am sorry! I say, I have a peripheral neuropathy and did not realise my hand was on your leg. To which she responded I have a pervs on my leg and realised, as she got out before I had time to show her my scars. I have always maintained nothing embarrasses me, but as I had to sit there waiting for the kids to come and get me, I wanted to be sucked down the plughole. In addition I was terrified the woman was  going to come back with a husband. Then when the kids do arrive, the heads start shaking again, assuming I must be a terrible father.  Never saw her again, she may have run out of the place after that.

    I am getting stronger and fitter from the swimming, but I will have to do something to speed up the return of fine movement and sensation in my fingers and feet, perhaps my mothers Dolls House might have a solution.

     

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    Me and Lance Armstrong

     

    LIVESTRONGIMG_3100Perhaps now is the time to tell readers about my relationship with Lance and the role he played in getting me to run the Great Wall Marathon. When I was first diagnosed. A number of people suggested I read Lance Armstrong’s book “it’s not About the Bike” . In 1993  Lance Armstrong was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer and the book talks about his treatment and recovery and how he goes on to win the Tour de France.

    The book starts with Armstrong going straight into the debilitating symptoms he experienced and how his “victory” against cancer was his “greatest triumph”,  greater than winning 7 Tour de France races. I stopped reading, “Superman” could not be my role model, how could I a normal human possibly hope to get over cancer when this was “his greatest victory”, I would find another way.

    I wrote earlier in the blog, my biggest fear was I would never laugh again. Perhaps I was fortunate to have young children and on telling them I was ill and had to go into hospital I was asked if I was going to die. To which I responded “I hope not but we all die sometime”; to which my youngest daughter asked “if you die daddy can I have your lap top”, from that moment I knew life could be normal again and I had not lost my sense of humor.

    You soon realise the world does not stop turning because you have been diagnosed with this awful disease, you just have to get on with it, shit happens!  You have a choice, do you want to live like an ill person or look at the treatment as an inconvenience to every day life. I am a very competitive person and one of the frustrating aspects of treatment particularly chemotherapy is how it leaves you physically drained and unable to do basic activity never mind competitive sport. You try to walk hundred meters and it’s like having bags of cement strapped to your legs. I wanted to exercise play tennis and golf but simply did not have the energy. I often thought about Lance Armstrong just completing the Tour de France post therapy and it seemed an extraordinary achievement. So while in France I gave the book another try and immediately recognized the place we had been to and he had come out the other end in one piece and so would I. We became kindred spirits.

    I was amazed how my experience of cancer treatment was so similar to Armstrongs and how we’d coped with having the disease. The only thing that mattered to us was survival, that’s all I focused on for 12 months, my own survival. I was oblivious to the feelings of others, avoided making friends with other cancer patients because it might suck some of my energy which was reserved exclusively for myself and my kids. I was barely moved by the death of my father in October 2011 or the tragic death Janetts brother-in-law, the important thing was that, I was still alive

    Later in the summer (August 2012) while I was on a trip to Copenhagen ( which I will go into on another posting) the allegations about Lance Armstrong taking performance enhancing drugs were being confirmed by his teammates. As I sat with friends in a bar this was the main topic of conversation. “No Way”! said I. I was 101% certain he was clean. Anyone who has been to the place Lance and I have been is just mentally stronger, was my rational.

    Now these friends are people involved in elite sport and one  is friends with cyclists who have ridden on the tour . 99% of them took drugs he says , are you seriously saying they greatest cyclist ever was the only one that was clean? Yes says I, and fueled by a few beers, I said I would prove it. Hows that, they asked? One of the Guys Klaus Sletting had earlier shown us pictures of The Great Wall Marathon he had taken for The Sunday Times (The header of the Blog). I will do that marathon , I say slugging back another beer.  Bearing in mind Klaus and Ole had spend the previous few days driving me around Copenhagen because I could not walk very far, my offer caused a certain amount of amusement,  readers may find this cruel. However when you dish out the piss taking as I do, I have to be able to take it and close friends have never spared me, cancer or not, another thing which has helped enormously through this experience.

    So when are you going to do this they say between laughs, “Next year “ say I, after necking the beer one more time. That’s only 8 months away says Klaus barely able to conceal his amusement, the others laughed some more. I slowly drank the rest of the beer to give me time to think. Not sure if it was the beer or Lance Armstrong that had me thinking that I could do anything but I was doing it in 8 months. The  “how” I would worry about when I had sobered up.  

    Armstrong’s confessions to Ophra Winfrey, was a real shock to me, but in another way, it showed him as  a mere mortal, like the rest of us. Watching him speak  to Ophra brought it all back, my determination to survive, the win at all costs that kept me focused and sustained me through the disease.

     I recently read David Walsh’s brilliant book Seven Deadly Sins – My Pursuit of Lance Armstrong which provides the story how this determined Irish journalist knew what anybody with a limited knowledge of cycling should have known, Armstrong was doping.  Walsh pursed the story for many years despite all the grief he got and was awarded the honor of Journalist of the year for 2012, for the years of work he put into exposing Armstrong.

    David Walsh raises the question that Armstrong used his cancer and the Livestrong Foundation that he started as a buffer, to protect him from the awkward question many wanted to ask? This may very well be true, but we are where we are and the Livestrong foundation is now the leading cancer organization in the world and worthy of support and why all the yellow on the website and why I wear their t shirts when I train.

    David Walsh tells a funny story in his book, about how he and a colleague ordered pizza to their room at a very frustrating time during their pursuit of Armstrong. The delivery boy was wearing a yellow Livestrong wrist band and for a laugh they wanted to test how much he loved the band or a tip. The boy wanted  the tip, but it got me thinking about the yellow wrist band which has become an international symbol of surviving cancer. For me is also represents the determination of guys like David Walsh, or cancer survivors like David Servan Schreiber and Lance Armstrong, hopefully in four years time, I will describe myself as a survivor.  After finishing  Seven Deadly Sins, I bough a yellow wrist band and will wear it as long as I am cancer free and would encourage others, to advertise the fact there is quality  life after cancer diagnosis.  

    The suggestion is that people like me should feel betrayed because Armstrong seems to be  an unpleasant individual, who lied, cheated and bullied people to maintain the veneer he had cover himself with. My view is that the only people who should feel angry with Armstrong are “clean” cyclists who were beaten by him. I did not admire Armstrong because he was a good cyclist, I admired the way he dealt with his diagnosis and showed there was life after cancer, so I don’t feel betrayed at all.

    Like Armstrong, I am prepared to do what ever it takes to keep cancer from infesting my body again. I suspect its this very same attitude that made Armstrong such a successful cyclist. There is a moment in Armstrongs own  book which perhaps sums up what i have got from him. He describes cycling up a steep hill and feeling really tired, he looks over at his main rival Jan Ulrik who is also very tired and  breathing hard. Armstrong  is wondering if he can keep this pace up for much longer. Suddenly it occurs to him that the tiredness he feels now, is nothing compares the tiredness he felt on days during chemotherapy and this is easy compared to those dark days. With that he left Ulrik in his trail and went on to win the stage.

     There in Copenhagen I was  tiring after being on my feet for more than half hour, but I decided there would be more to my future than just being a cancer survivor .I wanted  to do something remarkable, something I could not have done before the diagnosis. Looking at Klaus’s pictures that night in Copenhagen, I had  found something,  not just any old marathon, one of the hardest marathons in the word, a marathon which goes across the great Wall of China up and down hills which  takes the elite people nearly 4 hours to complete.

    When I’m running up the hill approaching the wall on May 18 I will be thinking of  two diametrically opposed determined individuals; David Walsh and Lance Armstrong who have provided so much to inspire  me. As I pass those who stop to have a rest, I will   thank Lance for motivating me to take on this challenge and David Walsh for never giving up, when it would have been to his advantage to do so. There is more to life than simply surviving, life is  about quality not just the quantity.

     

    My Recovery gets some speed on my Tour de France

    IMG_0595The longest march starts with the first step and up until France, they had been baby steps. Probably the first big improvement in my physical condition that would lead to the Great Wall of China happened during my ten days in France. On holiday sitting in doors watching TV because you are tired, is not an option, you have to do things especially with three young girls.

    On June 31st we headed for France, I love France and we try and have a week there every year. Our 1st stop would be the Cathedral town of Reims, poor Janette had to do all the driving as I couldn’t drive. I couldn’t feel the pedals, so if my feet were on the clutch I couldn’t feel the “bite” to change gears, or I would think my foot was on the gas and it would be the brake. It was dark when we arrived in Reims the plan was to break the journey there and just sleep in an inexpensive Hotel. Then have a look around Reims in the morning and then head off for Ile d’Oleron. Jeannette had found this hotel on the Internet which was very reasonably priced, there are called F1 Hotel, when you are just passing through you don’t want to spend much money on a hotel. The problem was there was no toilets in the room you had to go down the corridor to use the toilet and shower, under normal circumstances this would not be such a big deal but when you often have to get up five times during the night to poo, it’s a bit of a pain in the arse (no pun intended). The children have since christened the place “The F word Hotel” .

    The next day we spent quite a few hours walking around old cobbled streets and visited the Catheral, we try to bring up our children as good atheists, however Isabelle lit a Candle, according to Molly to ask God to help me get better.

    This was the longest I’d been on my fees in 6 months. I was really pleased with myself,, I did stop for a few coffees, I was tired but I knew I was getting better thank heaven for Crocs, during this time my feet were swollen and the skin dry and cracking and as I had no feeling easily infected. My Green Crocs were so comfortable and for four months thats all I would ever wear on my feet, except when I was on a horse.

     

    An academic will look at the evidence and conclude there is nothing more that can be done for a patient. A good clinician has the ability to think outside the box to find a solution for a problem. So while this was a holiday it was also going to be an intensive part of my rehabilitation. I had great difficulty walking because of the lack of feeling in my feet and poor proprioception. My balance was poor, you can see a bit of me walking at the start of the video below and the wide stance I have to use.

    IMG_3988This meant to do intensive cardiovascular exercise it would have to be in a swimming pool as you don’t have the fear of falling and you can go flat out in the water to raise your pulse level to the required rate. The house we rented in France had a pool however swimming doesn’t do a great deal for balance and strength. The previous year I had learned to “surf” but as it now took me about 30 seconds to get up from a chair, it was not going to happen on a surf board, so I chose to do horse riding, I also went swimming in the sea which was very therapeutics. Told a couple of girls I was an undercover cop and had been shot in a drug bust which passed an hour of sunbathing. 

    As a kid I was a good horse rider, could ride horses bareback, in fact I broke my arm when I was 7 falling off a donkey, so every day in France the kids and I went horse riding and the improvements was extraordinary by the end of the week.

    In fact my children has shown such promise I thought it would be fun to take them out on a trek before we headed back to England. 20 min into the ride Janette’s horse got spooked reared up and threw her to the ground, this freaked Isabella and Molly, especially Isabelle who was terrified, so we had to her horse on a lead. I’m trying to calm them down and take her mind off her fear by asking her to pose for the camera, which she was finding irritating but I think got her mind off Janette being thrown. The funny thing is Eloise the youngest, who when riding the previous year had fallen off Shetland pony that had bolted was very relaxed about the whole thing. I was probably the one most scarred because I had got off the horse when Janette had fallen to help her and as there was now no steps to help me get back on the horse, I had to use every bit of energy to do it, so I was exhausted sitting on the horse and I knew if my horse took off, I didn’t have the strength in my hands to hold it or the strength in my legs to stay on, hence the poor quality of video. Now you know mostly silly video you see on TV have been set up because when disaster strikes, the last thing you do is keep recording, if you’re concerned about  your family members who may have hurt themselves

    Getting active again on a horse

     

    The week in France was a great success, I had managed to train hard and felt a lot stronger as we came back to England. I remember we turned on the radio at Dover as it was being  announced at a a press conference that the football match between England and Holland was cancelled because of the rioting on the streets of London and they were considering bringing the military with plastic bullets on to the streets. It  was as though we had come back to a war zone. 

    I went to see the chiropractor the following day  and my balance had improved and I was now being tested on a slightly unstable surface. Still no sensation in my hands and feet but I knew I was making progress and my Cooper test had increased another 200 meters to 1900 m

     

    One of the problems during chemotherapy was a difficulty in eating healthy food, you have to chew a lot and sometimes it tastes rather bland. It was easier to eat things like biscuits, crisps and chocolate hence the fact I had put on so much weight. Now in France I would start my healthy eating. The fruit and veg sections in the French supermarkets are just divine, you can smell the produce at the entrance and it was a great place to start my healthy eating plan. That big guy you see in the picture weighing 101Kilo and as I write this in April 2013, is a much smaller guy, I weigh 85K , it was in 1996, I last weighed 85k, I intend to go back to 84 when I was 80k as young people rarely get cancer. Viva la France. France was also where Lance Armstrong won his seven “Tour de France’s” after recovering from cancer and finally I got to read “Its all about the Bike.

    The end of the beginning

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    18th of May 2012 I have my colostomy reversed

    No doubt one day, we will all reach a point in our lives best described as the “beginning of the end”, many times I worried that time had arrived for me. Now I am confident of having many more years, I see the cancer part of my life as the beginning of a journey that drew to a close in May 2012 having started in March 2011

    The beginning of May 2012 was one of the hardest period of my life. The chemotherapy had finished in mid-April, I had been so looking forward to this day, as I expected to start getting better from this date and I was just deteriorating. I had lost all feeling in my hands and feet, I had worked all through treatment except for 5 weeks post surgery and now because I could not feel anything, I could not practice chiropractic.

    On May 3 I made an appointment with my oncologist Sheila Rau. I was not happy, as the way I felt was completely unexpected. Nobody had told me that this could be one of the side effects of chemotherapy, they had mentioned tingling in my fingers, tiredness but nothing like how I felt now, I could not even button my shirt or tie  shoelaces.

    At the meeting Sheila told me it was something that happens to about 20% of patients and it could take 18 months or  years to get feeling back, sometimes it did not come back at all and there was nothing that could be done for it. She tried to encourage me by telling me how well I had done with the treatment and to be patient. I went home and looked for information on the Internet, it was terrible. Cancer people on forums had never got the feeling back, constant pain all sorts of terrible stories. For the 1st time since the colonoscopy in March 2011 I  cried. I felt very sorry for myself, I was cancer free but what about quality of life, No work, Tennis, and my willy was only good for weeing.

    When Jannette came home from work she saw how upset I was and we talked about it and she asked, what would you do if you were your own patient. I thought of all the people I had helped over the years whose doctors had said you will just have to live with it. I was certain, The chiropractor in me could help me the patient. I would exercise, I knew that was the key, I had exercised all through treatment, but half way through chemotherapy I had no energy. Fatigue does not even begin to describe the feeling, its like having two bags of cement tied to your legs as you try to walk. Interestingly I recently discussed this with Emeritus Professor Edzard Ernst on his blog, he believes patients are wasting their money going to complementary (CAM) practitioners for fatigue during cancer treatment. I think he may have been trying to wind me up last week as he also announced that  Cancer patients who use CAM die sooner Last April Ernst described an elderly man with terminal cancer who decided he did not want the trauma of chemotherapy as  “victim of CAM”. If there is one thing I have learned the last couple of years is that cancer treatment is not an exact science, you do a lot of finger crossing.

    After talking for a while, Janette and I went outside and walked  around the block 3 times and I felt  better for it. Some years before I had done the Carrick course in chiropractic neurology, I got in touch with a chiropractor in Ealing Johan Jeronomous and asked for an appointment to be assessed and have treatment so I could measure my improvement as I went along.

    7th of May was a bank holiday and I went to the gym to do a Cooper test on a treadmill. Basically a Cooper test is a measurement of how far you can get walking or running in 12 min. I had done one just before I started treatment and right up to the point during chemo when  I no longer had any energy. I had remained between 2200 m in 2400 m during treatment, now I was down as 1420 m on this test post chemo and I weighed 101 Kilos.  I also lifted a few light weights and swam 2 lengths of the pool, I was completly exhausted and had to rest most of the next day.

    Went to the chiropractor on the Tuesday he measured my sensory, motor, autonomic function and reflexes and put me on the balance machine to see how long I could hold on a static platform (about 20 seconds). On 10 May as my luck would have it I had another gout attack, which prevented me walking, I’ve been getting these every month since started chemo and the only thing that seemed to relieve the pain was to powerful anti-inflammatory Declafennec which I did not want to take but the pain was too much. I had read an article about drinking concentrated cherry juice (Cherry Active) and thought I would try it and to my amazement in 2 days it took the edge off their pain, I have been drinking it since and have-not had another attack of gout in 12 months. The public is warned this is only anecdotal evidence not science,  and no doubt the lifestyle change which began here has had an impact.

     

    On 17 May I went into the new Victoria Hospital to have my colostomy reversed. As bad as cancer treatment was the colostomy bag was the worst part of the whole experience. It taught me how people can get used to anything no matter how horrible, so I was really looking forward to having my ass back.October 2011 007

    My excellent surgeon Ian Bloom performed the surgery on May the 18th 2012.  I follow the same routiene as always. I tell the anesthetist to warn me 10 seconds before I go to sleep, so that when I go out there last thought in my head are the children.

    Everything went well, the kids come to see me and I just have to wait for my arsehole to start working again. I went out into the hospital Garden to exercise and there are all these benches dedicated to people who loved the garden and died in the hospital. I thought how cool it would be to have a bench dedicated to a survivor and hopefully on May 18th 2016 the New Victoria Hospital will get a New Bench when I will be five years clear.

    My ass started working again at 14.00, on the Saturday and over the next 15 hours I must have gone to the toilet 60 times. My rectum is now smaller because of the surgery so can not store much poo and was extremely sensitive as it hadn’t been used for 9 months. So every teaspoon of poo that reached my rectum made me want to go and I could not tell whether it was a fart or poo, when I went to bed I was getting up every 10 min, and this went on till 5 in the morning.

    Believe me anything is better than the bag and gradually over the weeks it normalizes. Although my stools are very narrow due to the surgery, spicy food can be risky, fortunately I have had no accidents which surprised the surgeon at the follow-up a few weeks later, so either i am lucky, or made many good lifestyle decisions during treatment

    Every day after getting out of the hospital, I went to the Excel leisure center and walked and jogged on the treadmill and swam. When I did the next Coopers tests on the 29th of May I had improved by 200 m and although I had no feeling in my hands and feet, my balance tests where improving. For the 1st time since finishing chemotherapy there was light at the end of the tunnel.

    Rx for Health: A Daily Dose of Exercise!

    AerobicsThere is an increasing awareness in health care of the relationship between Exercise and wellbeing. Last year at a conference I met Dean Ornish who I later found out was Steve Jobs doctor. He did a study and found people who did 30 minutes cardiovascular  exercise every day were less likely to get many chronic illnesses like cancer or have the cancer return, in fact considering chemotherapy a=increased my chances by only 15%. From everything I have read, I can confidently say exercise and nutrition are  the most effective drugs on the market and the reason we dont know more about this. Is profits come before people in a capitalist market economy.

    Where I went to boarding school in Ireland (Gormanston College) we had fantastic exercise facilities, a swimming pool, athletics track, 9 hole golf course, squash courts/handball alleys and about 15 football pitches every day you were doing exercise. Our football team was the best in Ireland and in Senior we trained every day like professionals would except we trained after class. My problem was I loved the competitiveness of sport and the banter with team mates and exercise for exercise sake tended to bore me.

    Nevertheless In 1983 having moved to Denmark as Jane Fonda was taking off in the States. I opened Scandinavia’s first “Aerobic Centre” and it took off. We called it “Sweat Shop” . One of the greatest pleasures in life is to have had a really heard training session, given your all and relax in the showers afterwards. The majority of women had never had that experience and I knew it would be a huge success and it was. At our peak we had three studios packed with people, sweating so the mirrors fogged up and you would have to mop the floors after a class.  In peak hours you would have to book weeks in advance.

    I also published Denmarks first Health and Fitness Magazine called “Pulse”. I remember doing an article on a study done in a mental health hospital, which compared two groups with depression. One was treated with drugs and the other with 20 minutes cardiovascular exercise the improvement with the exercise group was staggering, unfortunately no one is making money from exercise so it does not get the promotion it deserves.

    I originally trained as a PE teacher, not realising few schools had the facilities we had in Gormanston. My first teaching practice was an inner city school. Half hour bus drive to nearest playing fields on wet days there could be three classes in the gym and the only activity we could do was have a quiz, so its hardy surprising children are not exercising enough and obesity is increasingly becoming a problem in our society. So to be told May is Exercise in Medicine month is encouraging. Now we just got to get money into schools so the facilities are there for children to develop a love of physical activity.

    Health advocates and public officials around the world are getting it, with growing movements on six continents. In the U.S., with alarming increases in chronic diseases and consternation over health care costs, many see the Exercise is Medicine® initiative as part of the solution.

    That philosophy is the seed for Exercise is Medicine Month, observed during National Physical Fitness and Sports Month. During May, communities throughout the U.S. will hold activities that recognize that physical activity and exercise – shown to help prevent and treat more than 40 chronic diseases – should be part of everyone’s health care plan. Since 2008, Exercise is Medicine Month has been proclaimed by mayors, governors, Congress and the President. Individuals and organizations of all kinds, from youth groups to universities, churches, fitness centers, corporations and hospitals, hold events aimed at keeping people active and healthy ………………click link to read on

    Rx for Health: A Daily Dose of Exercise!.

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    Informing the children

    IMG_1837When my mother had cancer it became central in my sisters life and I was determined that my cancer would not dominate my childrens lives. How I was going to do this I had no idea and decided I would wait until I had the results of the tests before telling the children anything.

    It was Sunday evening, I arrived home after my hypnotherapy session with Julie and Janette was getting children ready for bed. I was feeling so much better in myself and relaxed as I had been thinking of Popey stories on the way home. This would be a good way of breaking it to the children and I would see what was on U Tube. When you have children things never turn out as planned.

    I was reading a bed time story to the children and Isabelle noticed I was wearing my grannies medal and she asked why?. Taken  aback, I blurted out that I was not well and would be going into hospital soon for an operation and I wanted everyone I loved close to me. Are you going to die Molly asked?

    Two days before I had taken them to my good friend and mentor Professor Theo MacDonalds eco funeral, a true celebration of Theo’s extraordinary life and they had enjoyed the day.  However I was taken a back by the bluntness of Mollys question and amused, then again she is a Lanigan. “I hope not” ; I answered, but “everyone is going to die  sometime” was my response. Isabelle became quiet excited “who could we invite to Daddys funeral and the proceeded to compile their guest list; Sean, Dan, Frederik, Nan, Grandad Colin, Grand Dad Peter. Perhaps not he has cancer and might be dead by then Molly noted ( my dad would die later in the year in October). Janette walked in horrified at what she was hearing and I could only laugh.

    Before going to sleep, Molly asked  (as some months previously I had promised Isabella my Grannies medal when I died) if she could she have my “Grumpy Old Man” mug if I died. I repeated I was not planning on dying but if it did happen I would be delighted for her to have my mug. After turning the lights out Eloise (aged 5) came out of the bedroom to ask if she could have my laptop if I died. She was very excited about this turn in events she would have a lap top and approached Janette next day, with her plan for Frederik to come home permanently to take my place. Molly and Isabelle thought it was a great idea to have Frederik become their new Daddy however they were not happy with Eloise getting a laptop when they were only getting a medal and a mug. Janette said I better talk to them.

    Fortunately they decided they  would rather have me alive and well than  have a laptop, however I think a DS could persuade Eloise otherwise. These conversations were of great comfort, the kids were my greatest worry and if the worst happened it would not be easy for them, the would be prepared and I would see what I could do to remained part of their lives in the worst case scenario.

    Telling Frederik was hard and was one of only two occasions when I have cried during this the other was the last episode of the Big C series 1 which is for another blog posting. Frederik is 24 and his 15 year old sister has Leukaemia so its been a hard year from him. . I dont remember what I said, the word tumor came out and I started blubbing, he probably would not have believed me without the tears. He was very strong and I felt proud and knew he would be there for the girls were I to die and would be a great big brother father figure to them, that was the last time I worried about dying.

    I write this post on June 12th  three months after this event and looking back now I can say I have not laughed as much as I have in April, May and June, in many years. I am very lucky to have the family and friends that I have. I dont fear death or whoever the future holds getting old is a privilege and as a society we should look after those that achieve it. Its not quantity of life thats important its quality of that life.

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    If the mind is not right, the body wont heal.

    popey_thumb.jpgI rang Julie that morning. My heart sank when I heard her voice, it was obvious she was unwell, those sounds when people had a cold Th becomes a DA. I told her about the colonoscopy and the tumour and how much worse cancer was than a cold.

    She was so kind and agreed to see me that evening. If I was a Christian it would be easy. I could pray to God seeking divine intervention and if I had enough faith in him I would not need to worry, he would take care of everything. You see worry can protect you from danger, however over a prolonged period the adrenalin and cortisol released from the adrenal glands will suppress immune function exhaust you and you will become ill, if you are not already, so getting your head right is the first phase of healing. It even has a name for it “psychoneuroimmuneology”

    I had to sort out my head, my  problem was I stopped believing in God  in my early teens, after been told by my Granny God would strike me down for misbehaving, I did not behave and he didn’t and I was sent to boarding school.

    My mother was an atheist, but it was my Granny who brought up my sister Eleanor and I. Granny went to 9 o clock mass every day and my mother left her sort out our relationship with God. In 1960 Granny had been hit by a car and went to Lourdes in France, which she believed healed her and she spent spent the rest of her life thanking Mary and Jesus for the miracle. In her house their were pictures of the “Sacred Heart of Jesus”, Mary the Pope and of course no Irish home was complete without a picture of JF Kennedy.

    There was a small font of holy water by the door to bless yourself with when you went out. She had a bottle of this “Holly Water” which she got from the big font at the entrance to the church. Anybody who entered or left the church dipped their fingers into this water and blessed themselves. Granny had a bottle of it at home and if you were sick you had a swig from the bottle, when we had measles,a swig. Mumps a swig. Whooping cough, a swig. Chicken pox etc. In those days you rarely saw  doctor O Brien and the only treatment I remember getting, was a swig of holy water every morning and evening while I was ill. Perhaps this is where my cynicism towards the medicalisation of childrens health has come from. From the age of seven I slept in dormitories with hundreds of other boys, and drank “holy water” that must have been contaminated with the germs of thousands of people, who had dipped their fingers in it to bless themselves, perhaps this is  why I hardly ever have colds and flu,

    In addition Granny had a saint who could solve every problem. If an animal was sick it was St Francis, If we were traveling St Christopher, as I got older she spent a lot of time chatting to St Jude the Patron saint of “lost causes”. If you lost something it was St Anthony. I was impressed the first time I asked him for help, I was about seven and had lost my catapult. Made from the branch of a tree and elastic bands. Folded paper pellets, could inflict some serious pain on the back of someones neck in class, or my sister and her friends who came to play. Thinking back I wonder if any people were blinded by these weapons. No doubt Granny could have turned to St Lucy the patron saint for the blind if I had inflicted serious damage. Anyway my night prayers to St Anthony were answered and in the morning my catapult appeared on our front lawn. It was a miracle, in fact I witnessed loads of miracles as a child. Nevertheless I soon became disillusioned, prayers did not work very well for my school spellings and as  a young teenager praying was absolutely useless for getting girls.

    stperegrineSo now  at 54, I had cancer. St Peregrine is the patron  for cancer apparently he had cancer was about to have his foot amputated prayed all night and the cancer was gone in the morning. Now this approach does have appeal however it would only work if I would give up impure thoughts at night. Would I rather be dead than celibate? I would try something else first, before making such a choice. Who else  could help me  in my hour of need besides the NHS  doctors and my mother who had been dead over 20 years?

    Julie met me about five o’clock that evening we talked for a bit about my irrational fear of dying in the next few months and how I feared I would never laugh again. I hoped she could help.

    Describing what she says and does will see very strange to many. Hypnotism  may not be the solution for everyone, but without a shadow of doubt it has been amazing for me and has helped my through this. Julie would explain what she does better than I can, basically what she got me to close my eyes and think of all the bad things I felt related to the cancer, all these bad are put in an imaginary box, I close the lid and we dump the box. Then we have another box where I pack in all the positive things in my life and things that make me happy. Julie wrote down everything, a list for me to pin  on the wall at home; Health, Nutrition, Fresh Water, Love, Laughter, Friendships, Positivity, Staying Calm, Focused, Motivated, Belief, Help, Janette and the children, Courage, Strength, Single mindedness. We had finished the list when and additional item came to me, which seemed particularly relevant, an image of  Popeye the Sailor Man eating spinach.

    In The 60s there was very little children’s TV. In Ireland RTE started at five thirty with a children’s program before the Angelus ( a call to prayer at six in the evening)  and that was  for the kids. In the summer I was out playing, in the winter  you were in and you never missed this half hour. I loved Disney characters like Tom and Jerry, there was Rin Tin Tin, Champion the Wonder Horse, Mr Ed the Talking Horse, Daithi Lacka an Irish version of Donald Duck. However my favourite character was Popeye the Sailor Man, and there seemed something symbolic in the power spinach gave him, now in my hour of need.

    I knew I needed to make changes to my lifestyle if I was going to adapt  to the  cancer cells in me, but did I have the discipline. I had had a scare  ten years previously and decided then I would change my lifestyle, it lasted like many good intentions a few month. I was too busy had other priorities, not asking myself what could be more important than health?

    When Popeye is weak and in difficulty he finds the spinach, squeezes the tin into its mouth and he becomes strong and is able to deal with all sorts of adversity, many examples on U tube. Popey was something I could relate to and is easy to focus on.

    Out of all the thoughts  I put in the box Popeye and the kids became the things that helped me move away from the darker thoughts. When I choose Popey, I had no idea whether it would work or not. Writing this now in June 2011 having finished my initial course of chemo and radiation, I can see how successful its been helping me deal with my situation.

    I have had no side effects and most importantly I have not had any sleepless nights. The first  weeks especially before I was given the results of the tests, I  thought about Popey every hour. Now its mainly  when the kids bring him up, Its fathers day as I write this and Popey features in all the kids wishes for the day. Popey has become a major part of my life and will remain, he makes me smile and reminds me how strong I have become eating my veg every day.

    The kids and I have decided to convert one of the radiation tattoo markers on my pelvis to an image of Popey when I nam finished treatment.

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    Cancer! what was I to do? My mother would know.

    Mammy-garanny-eleanor-and-me_thumb.gifI had seen the tumour on the screen, the doctors face, I did not need to wait for the biopsy. The nurse told me I would be having CT and MRI scans the following week. Their sense of urgency and my clinical knowledge left me in no doubt the biopsy results was merely a formality.

    On the drive home, I felt very philosophical I had had a great life and I’ve done more than many who will live to be a hundred. People who crave fame and riches are soon forgotten. I have no doubt my friends will remember me because I shared many of their funniest experiences. Its quality of life that matters not quantity and I had lived life to the full. What was most fun? My time in Gormanston, the 80s in Copenhagen and the girls from Sweat Shop, the 90s at the Anglo College of Chiropractic. No the best years were the noughties. I met Janette in 98, Frederik came to live with us in 2003 and soon after my three daughters Isabelle, Molly and Eloise were born. Life really did start to kick in after forty.

    I got home Janette was in our beautiful kitchen, two weeks before the builders had finished our “Grand Design” of the entire ground floor of our house in Thames Ditton. Jeannette gave me a hug, I was surprised how little emotion she was showing, I now know she was having difficulty comprehending what I had just told her and what it might mean for our family and she was doing her best to remain calm until the consultant had seen the results of all the tests and presented the prognosis.

    The kids were playing in the sitting room, as usual they ran to me, delighted to see me home. Looking at the kids was when it hit me, the price we all would pay if I dont have long to live, death of a parent  seemed such a cruel thing  to inflict on young children. I wanted to cry, my lip was trembling I managed to hold the wells in my eyes at bay. The children had never seem me crying and I had no idea what I was going to tell them.

    Like most parents I love my kids, in fact wild horses would not get me down to the pub with a group of lads lads. I did all that and more in the 80s and 90s. Now my main interest in life is having fun with my kids. Janette reckons I am the ultimate man child, 54 going on 12. I have never been motivated by money or material things, yes I like nice things, but nothing compares with having a laugh with my family, now suddenly I feared I would never laugh again, so consumed was I with the fear of the future or lack of it.

    We had evening meal watched some TV, nothing registered. We went to bed this is when it really started to sink in. I couldn’t sleep my eyes were wide open in the dark like someone had used matchsticks to prop them open. All I could hear was my heart beating rapidly at the thought of this lump in my colon. This afternoon it had looked about the size of an apricot , but as the hours passed it was growing in my imagination. Perhaps that was just the tail of it and at the other side of the colon wall was something the size of a melon.

    Perhaps I was going to go really fast, like Julia’s mother who died ten weeks after diagnose with stage 4 Colon cancer. I had no energy. Perhaps I should have recognized the signs months ago?

    I suspect now my judgment was impaired by the fact that I hadn’t eaten properly for the two days leading up to the colonoscopy, no solids the day before. I was very weak on the Friday and foolishly agreed to play tennis in Walton, I played terrible and had no energy and now saw these ,as signs I was going fast. I had been teaching an exercise class at Esporta for two years and started to feel tired doing the sit ups in December. This continued in January, a few hundred sit ups would tire most people, however I put it down to getting old, especially after loosing a couple of tennis matches to guys I felt I should have beaten.

    I kept telling myself don’t look on the internet but I couldn’t help myself, I logged on, it was horrible. No good news stories, worst-case scenarios, people dying, misery now I was really depressed and was in no doubt if I was not seriously ill now, I would be if I carried on like this for a few months but what was I to do. It would be so easy if I believed in God I thought to myself.

    Six months previously my daughter Isabelle had expressed an interest in the “miraculous” medal which I hade worn since my granny died in 1980. She had worn it since 1905. My parents split up when I was 4. My mother worked in England to pay for me and my sister Eleanor to go to the best boarding schools in Ireland. Ring College and Gormanston college. My mothers theory was if you went to school who aspired to be successful, you would also be successful. Home was my Grannys house in Carrick on Suit, Co Tipperary.

    Granny used to say when I’m dead and gone you won’t remember me, so on the day she died I put her medal and chain on and not a day has passed when I have not thought of her. Isabelles interest in the medal pleased me and I stopped wearing it after thinking I had lost it in October so one day I could pass it on to Isabelle. Now in the dark, I went to my hiding place and put granny’s medal back around my neck. I was surprised the comfort I got from it, It felt warm inside, it was comforting to feel granny close to me.

    Then I watched a video of “Phyllis McGheee – A women of substance” . Phyllis McGhee was my mother. The Irish broadcaster RTE, broadcast an interview with mother the day of her funeral in 1990. If as they say I am a courageous passionate person, then I got those characteristics from my mother. The interview was conducted a few months before she died of Colon cancer aged 55 in 1990. Her lack of fear and self pity gave me strength and focus on what I needed to do. In fact what scared me the most now was that it had taken her many months to come to terms with the fact she had cancer and might die.

    Phyllis McGhee a woman of substance Part 1 (9mins)

    I had an advantage, I had her to help me and talk me through this  and hopefully she can help others as she did in life. The videos are not of great quality, I have posted three 10 minute excerpts, here the entire interview and her political views is on U Tube.

    Part 2 (8 min)

    I  knew I had to act quickly and get my head around what I was facing as soon as possible. The dawn had broken, the children were waking. I would call Julie Sutton. She is a hypnotherapist that works at my practice. She had managed to stop me biting my nails after a life time of failure trying.

    part 3 (9 mins)
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    Whats that lump? I ask.

    staging_thumb.gifOn the 15 of March I had my appointment with the consultant at Kingston hospital. By now I was seeing small streaks of blood on my poo. Your mother had cancer in her bowel he asked. What age was she when she died? Fifty four, I said my 54th birthday was in 6 days time. The consultant examined me and decided I should have a colonoscopy. This was set for Saturday the 26th of March.

    By the time I was due for the colonoscopy I knew something was wrong, there were streaks of blood in my poo on most days and the stool had become very small and a  smelllike  you would find in an old drain. I was hoping it was something like chrons disease, but deep down I thought the most likely cause was cancer.

    I had a colonoscopy in 1998 and I was sedated throughout, I remember waking up being told everything was fine, this time I would be conscious throughout. I had not eaten any solids for 24 hours and had to take laxatives to clear my bowel for the procedure.

    The prope enters my rectum and we are watching the pictures on the screen, the walls of the rectum are smooth and pinkish, then I see what looked like a whitish lump with blood oozing from a few places, it looked about the size of a walnut. I turned to the doctor and said whats that, his eys drifted to the ceiling and he says he did not know. We will have to biopsy it. I said you are a doctor, you have seen these before what does it look like to you. “It does not look good” he said. I thanked him.

    I was taken back to the cubicle to get dressed, the nurse came in and told me I would be having an MRI and CT scan within the next week and they would let me know as soon as they found slots for me. I called Janette, she could pick me up now, how was it she asked not good I said, there is a a lump and it does not look good I told her.

    I was philosophical as I headed home, I had had a fantastic life achieved more things than I had ever dreamed of and if this was how it was to end so be it. That calmness ended as soon as I entered the house and I was overcome with fear.

    If you have concerns about bowel cancer have a colonoscopy. See the procedure on u tube and removal of a polyp when caught at the earliest stage http://youtu.be/ImtlBemZsRw

    Be aware of your usual bowel habits and changes in stool formation

    Bristol stool chart

    On March 4th I went to the doctor because for the previous few weeks my bowel habits had changed. Normally I would poo once a day  in the morning after getting up and over the last few weeks I have been going a number of times during the day and never really feeling that I had emptied my rectum.

    I rarely go to the doctor, I have had antibiotics once in 30 years for a kidney infection twelve years ago. I went twice last year because I had developed gout in 2009, it can be extremely painful and the only thing that touches the pain is the anti inflamatory diclofenac. Over the years I have had seven knee operations for ligament and cartilage but always manage it with Ice. I had gone to the doctor twice but never mentioned bowel problems in fact I felt the healthiest I had been for years thanks to playing a lot of tennis and teaching a core stability class every week.

    I told the doctor my bowel hapits had changed over the last few weeks and had noticed a touch of blood and mucus in my poo the previous day. I mentioned the comment made by Bobby Moore in the TV documentary that I had seen.

    My GP examined my abdomen and then rammed a finger up my ass. I remember when I was taught to do a breast exam at college, dont use the tips of the fingers Dr El Dars advised be professional. Obviously you dont want the patient to get the wrong idea, however this was like having a broom handle rammed up my ass, I laughed and commented; “now I remember why I choose chiropractic as a career” the GP laughed.

    The GP said he did not think there was anything to worry about but with my history better to be on the safe side he referred me to a consultant at Kingston Hospital, he wrote the letter as I sat there; “Thank you for seeing this 53 year old gentleman who has noticed a change in bowel hapit over the past 4-6 weeks, where he has been going a little more often than normal and has a feeling that he is not emptying his bowels properly. He noticed a bit of blood and mucous yesterday which was not present today. Rectal exam was normal”.

    These were my signs and symptoms I have put links to sites that provide more comprehensive lists of what to look for. Below are the main risk factors:

    • Age: As you age, your risk for colorectal cancer increases. In fact, more than 90% of those afflicted with the condition are over the age of 50, and the majority are 70 or older. This is partly due to the fact that colorectal cancer develops over a period of at least 10 years.
    • Diet and lifestyle: A number of studies show that what you eat, as well as how physically active you are, may be linked to your likelihood of developing colorectal cancer. For instance, low-fat, high-fibre diets are associated with a greatly reduced risk. Conversely, diets high in fat, calories, alcohol, and protein, and low in calcium may elevate the risk. Smoking also increases your risk of developing colorectal cancer.
    • Family history: As with many other forms of cancer, the odds of getting colorectal cancer go up if a family member, particularly a parent or sibling, has had the disease. While this may be in part to genetic factors, it may also result from living in a similar environment or adopting a similar lifestyle.
    • Polyps: Polyps are growths of tissue that can be found in the colon. These growths can be benign (non-cancerous) or they can go on to become cancerous. It has been shown that removing polyps that have been discovered by rectal exams and colonoscopies can reduce your chances of developing colorectal cancer.
    • Inflammatory bowel disease: Ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease have been associated with an increased risk of colorectal cancer.

    In April 2011 Richard Lanigan was diagnosed with stage three rectal cancer. This is his story.