From Ultra Highs to the Lowest of Lows

Well that didn’t go to plan, the idea of this blog was to describe how wonderful and hard my most recent event was, little did we know.

My 2021 had been a good year, fittest I had been, personal bests in the local 5km races, really good outings in a couple of duathlons and training had gone really well for my 100km Ultra. I had settled in at my new job at Sainsbury’s my colleagues giving a wonderful boost, and was enjoying the most consistent mental health period for years, what could possibly go wrong.

So July 10th had arrived, we had arrived at the starting point for the Race to the Stones, both John and I a little nervous but ready for what lay ahead over the the next two days. My only major worry was the calorific intake and how I could get 3000 calories in, my food pipe unfortunately had closed to the extent that I could only consume liquids, made up of soup and my special shakes. My wonderful dietitian in Worcester had supplied me with a collection of 250ml bottles of fortisips(high calorific shakes) and was to drink 5 a day during the ultra to give me 2000 calories, giving the balance to be made up of energy gels – all sorted.

Our wave start time was 8.10, and bang on time we were off in the drizzle, heading through a wooded area towards the first hill and onto the Ridgeway. The mix of people on the run was staggering, and the general humour and friendliness was invigorating, we started at a good steady pace heading for the first pit stop after 10km. Unfortunately by this stage I had tried my plan for nutrition, with my first bottle of fruits of the forest milkshake, however even though I had tried it before this didn’t go well making me feel extremely sick. So for the remaining two days I completed the remaining 90km on 8 gels and two pots of porridge and copious amounts of flat coke and sweet tea.

The first day went amazingly well with us smashing our previous personal best by over an hour, the only slight issue was that I had forgotten my device for covering the hole in my neck whilst in the shower. There followed an extremely careful shower and a visit to the food tent for more bloody sweet tea, the legs had held up well and was feeling extremely good for the next day, so an early night in the tent called as we were off at 6 the next morning. No need for an alarm as I was woken by Mr Knobhead who seemed to think 4am was a good time to start packing, anyway following this I had a pot of porridge and another sweet tea. We set off at 6am aiming to get a good start, things went well until the 70km when John’s Achilles heal decided to tear and my right foot decided to explode into 7 blisters 🤯 Following a the next feed stop it was decided John should stop and following being strapped I continued to hobble on, the next 20km flew by, the only issue being downhills where it pushed my toes into the front of my shoe. At 90km I felt a strange presence along side me, I looked to see a grinning John heal strapped and high on ibuprofen gels, the next 10km flew by and we were soon at the staggeringly unremarkable Avebury stones, we had completed the 100km, two years after becoming the quiet silent one.

Following the race there were two days of self isolation to be followed by a routine food pipe stretch to allow me to eat normal food again, what could possibly go wrong 😂 Arriving at Worcester hospital at 7.30, was shown to my bed space by Meg and given the necessary attire and alluring compression socks, which were surprisingly perfect for my extremely sore legs. There then followed a a short intermission whilst I awaited the theatre to become free during which time my consultant Charlie explained the possible downsides of the procedure, the worst of which was perforating the oesophagus wall, however this was highly unlikely only a 0.8% chance – no worries.

So at 11.30 I was delivered to theatre prep, where I met the consultant anaesthetists whom I knew from my previous visits, there was also a junior who had just started, Andy the chief gave me the nod and the fun began – wrong date of birth, no knowledge of my signature always good fun and very relaxing. Cannula fitted,  anaesthetic pumped and off to the world of nod, two hours later and awoke as dozy as ever with a shocker of a sore throat, my doctor came round to check on me explaining how well it had gone. It took longer than usual due to not being able to find the top of my oesophagus, apparently owing to my anatomy and the fact that my food pipe had constricted to about 3mm, once found he had stretched it to about 36mm. After an hour in recovery I was moved to the head and neck ward to continue coming round, about an hour later it was explained that I could try a couple of sips of water.

Well that’s when it all went a bit tits up, upon having the sips about a minute later I had the most excruciating pain across my chest, so severe that I was arching my back off the bed. What followed was a scene from casualty – red alarm button hit by the nurse and in the next minutes I was surrounded by about 30 doctors and nurses(I shit you not). What followed was rather alarming, I had 2 junior doctors trying to put another cannula in( apparently I said to Meg what the f… are they doing). Over the next 30 minutes I was given a rather large dose of morphine and taken for a ct scan, it appears that during the dilation my oesophagus was perforated allowing some water and crap to leak into my chest cavity. Following the results I was blue lighted to the wonderful Fawlty Toweresq QE hospital in Birmingham as they were more equipped to deal with my issue. For the next six days I was not allowed to eat in order for my   oesophagus to heal, hence over the next 5 days I lost 5.5kg, finally on the Sunday I was allowed a Jelly. I relate the QE to Fawlty Towers as during my time there I had no washes, and not once did they change my bed sheets, also on my day of freedom I was still receiving oxygen, which the doctors hadn’t noticed so in reality should have stayed in another day to be weaned off. Anyway better off at home with my own nurse 😅 what was staggering is that a week earlier I had run 100km and now couldn’t get up the stairs.

I have since found out that this was a rather serious illness and had an infection taken hold it would have a bit dodgy(50/50) but thanks to the speedy response in Worcester and on 3 lots of antibiotics immediately every thing was OK. Apparently during the emergency part I was heard to call my consultant a fu….. tw.. , I blame the morphine and luckily I have apologised and he is fine 🙂

The whole experience has been rather challenging and the loss of fitness and inability to run and cycle has been rather stressful, my family has had a lot to put up with and my wife Ann is an absolute angel, and the occasional misinterpreted comments make me smile. The support of my tri club friends is above and beyond as is the constant support of my friends at Sainsburys, the spot on crew and Jonty have been fab. My kids as ever are brilliant and thank you to my fellow grumpy old man Jon, you are a star.

I keep saying this but next year can’t be as bad, and I am planning  duathlons, triathlons and an iron-man , my swimming snorkel is being fitted on November 23rd so bring it on 💪💪

A New Year – and here we go again

So another 5 months have past since my last blog, and wow what a 5 months they have been !!

Since my last post I have had my food pipe stretched, which I have to say is quiet possibly the most uncomfortable and frankly hideous experience since radiotherapy. My food pipe had unfortunately shrunk to 8mm, hence being on a liquid diet, during the operation they managed to stretch it to a hugely impressive 34mm, 6mm wider than the normal pipeline. Wonderful I thought as I was being regaled with this information, steak dinners here we come – upon being released the following day I was dreaming of what to eat. Unfortunately my dreams were dashed, owing to my anatomy being somewhat buggered, a sump has formed in my food pipe which cannot be straightened meaning that I can only swallow foods which have been blended. Now there are two alternatives available to me, I either have proper food and chew to a consistency which is soup like or I cut out the middle man and blend it to shit 😂. Now I cannot taste or smell so food has lost a lot appeal, it is purely my fuel – however as mad as it seems I do like to have proper food unfortunately it takes me 2 hours to eat a normal meal, and it gets boring eating cold food.

I have also started working at Sainsbury’s in Hereford, and boy does it feel good – the worst thing about the hole in the neck thing is not being able to do what I did for a job, and also the thoughts will I be able to work again properly, without the fatigue limiting how much I can work. Since my issues with depression one of the overwhelming side effects has been my OCD, and now my job at Sainsbury’s satisfies these tendencies- so please if you ever visit the pop and juice aisles at Sainsbury’s in Hereford please be sure to align the bottles following your selection!!

Since my last blog I have continued training as hard as ever and am planning 2 ultra marathons, 2 marathons, 100 mile cycle and a few time trials. I hasten to add some events have been carried over from 2020 but it would be rude not to complete them, hopefully will have some company from the 2 John’s one for shorter distances and one for longer distances- a big 🙏, I will also have support from my wonderful children who I know doubt I will embarrass as usual and my cycling friends you all know who you are – I am truly blessed with my friends.

To labour a point my running and cycling has kept me sane over the last two and a half years giving me goals to aim for, the other blessing has been the people I have met on my ‘journey’, my exercise friends new and old and my new colleagues at Sainsbury’s who after a lot of worrying about going to work have treated me normally. Being treated normally is the key to recovery, being regarded as a special case really does my head in, the amusing reactions of customers keeps me smiling- one customer explained that she works with special needs people so understands what I am going through, also the colleague who presumed I was deaf as well, I did feel a little guilty for the sign language 😀

The only negative is the realisation that I am going to have a regular operation to have my food pipe stretched, 4 months after my last stretch it’s already becoming increasingly difficult to swallow larger pieces of food, so smoothies and blended lasagne here we come. In the grand scheme of things a very small inconvenience, we should all take time to think how lucky we are and take the time to help others where possible.

Please take care and see you all soon 👌👍🏻💪🏼

Forgive me it’s been 5 months since my last blog

So what’s happened since April, it’s been an interesting period in everyone’s world, not least the devastating consequences of a world pandemic. I think everyone has been affected in one way or another whether the loss of a loved one or the disruption to a normal way of living – lets hope we all learn valuable lessons which we don’t forget.

So how’s the neck piercing and other lumps, well the lump in my neck turned out to be the remaining half of my thyroid which rotated 180 degrees and turns out is under active, hence the excessive fatigue and sweating, at this point I should point out that I don’t wear a bandana when running for a cool look, but to keep the sweat out of my eyes 🥵 The other issue which has developed is my issue with swallowing food, having had some x-rays it appears that my food pipe has narrowed to the size of a small straw and to the extent where I can only eat blended food, soup or special shakes. I am booked for an operation on Sept 9th to have my food pipe stretched, apparently once stretched I should hopefully be able to talk a bit louder as well – Sorry everyone 🤬

For me COVID has taken my dad, he had been in a care home ever since I was diagnosed with Cancer, and luckily owing to his dementia he never knew I had a laryngectomy. My dad was my hero in every way from his working life to his family life I have always looked to him for guidance, his quest for helping others was an inspiration and over 30 years he raised in excess of a million pounds for the local hospital. In all the time through childhood and adulthood I never heard him argue with my mum, I never heard him swear, they truly broke the mould with Peter Andrews, my only sadness was that I didn’t see him after Christmas owing to illness on both our parts and then lockdown.

Unfortunately due to COVID I have also been made redundant, having worked for Fatboys for 3 years I can honestly say they have been some of the most enjoyable in my working life. It would not be too extreme to say the people working there have helped my recovery massively over the last 2 years, their support from has been amazing and I will miss my days there.

During my recent travails I have constantly bleated on about my exercise and how it has helped with my recovery, without the Tri Club sessions and my Saturday social cycle rides I would have really struggled. The people involved in these groups have treated me normally which believe me helps so much – through my wonderful SLT (speech and language therapist) at Worcester I have also been in contact with Sam another laryngectomee. Sam had his neck piercing when he was very young and some 20 years ago, our conversations during our cycle rides have been enjoyable and have helped over the recent months. Oh and just to bleat on a bit more mileage to date since operation stands at 979 miles run and 1,387 cycled happy days 😴

Difference a year makes 😀😀

So nearly up to date, a day to go till my throat is stretched and I can eat proper food again maybe even meat😊 A couple of things to end with I recently visited a pharmacy to collect my shakes, as per usual I had my base plate and filter on show. After asking for my prescription by holding my baseplate as usual the pharmacist asked if I had a sore throat, after a stunned silence I replied no I don’t have a throat, to which she turned away to retrieve my shakes. Upon return she then asked if I paid for my prescriptions(reasonable question) I replied no I am exempt, to which the then asked if it was a medical exemption – was it me ? 😂😂

Last thing to sum up the last 2 years, due to COVID prior to operations the patients have been asked to self isolate for 14 days, a pain but totally understandable. My self isolation started on the 26th August, unfortunately Gabby’s 18th birthday was on the 28th so that meant a deliveroo, also on the 30th a good friends birthday cycle in the Elan Valley – what a pisser but necessary. However on my 10th day of self isolation I received a letter telling me due to changes being made to the system for operations, isolation would only need to be for three days.

Happy days, speak to you soon with a stretched throat and a steak dinner, thank you for reading.

500 miles for a vulnerable soul !!

So what’s been happening in the last two months – lumps, pandemics, biopsies, MRI’s, half marathons so generally pretty quiet. The covid 19 has had the effect of my vulnerable soul being under house arrest by my wife – only allowed out for one hours exercise per day, the other hours are spent in the laundry or the garden😀 Being serious Ann my wife is a Junior Sister on the intensive unit at Hereford Hospital and has been a little busy – the rest of the brood have bad backs from the bowing and curtsying we have to do when she enters a room.

Over the last two months I have unfortunately developed a lump on my neck next to my piercing-my consultant ‘Sultry’ is unsure what it is but might be my partial thyroid having rotated, hopefully not another bloody cancer. So March and April has been filled with scans and biopsies-just waiting for definitive results, when taking the biopsy with a big f…-off needle they are having trouble getting enough cells as the lump is next to my carotid artery 😂😂 So fingers crossed.

Since my last blog I have reached the milestone of running 500 Miles since my laryngectomy in July, I have loved every minute(well nearly every one) – it has given me the drive and goals to get well. The last two events The Oulton Park Half and the Ady Watts Half have been two of the most memorable events so far, the Oulton because it was memories of my childhood watching motor racing and also my mum, sister and Gabs watched me run, and the Ady Watts because I ran with two people Stephen and Claire, just chatting and didn’t give a stuff about times.

I can truly say that my family apart, exercise and the people involved in my exercise have been one of the reasons I have recovered so quickly. The current lockdown has made me realise how much I miss the weekly park runs and chats with Jon and Scotty over coffee, the Hereford Triathlon Club weekly run session where people have treated me normally and made me feel comfortable. The lockdown has given us the blessing of being a family of 5 again and given the opportunity of going cycling with my eldest Josh – I had forgotten how it feels to be left behind on every ride😂

One of the most staggering effects of the lockdown is that I have become my youngest son Tom’s de facto teacher, which for those people who know me is one of the biggest jokes going. However wait one minute, it is working and all homework is done on time and there are no tantrums from me at all-who would have thought!!

To finish I thought I would just finish with a pro’s and con’s list for having a laryngectomy:

Pro’s

  • Wifey lets me buy loads of stuff for running and cycling – because it helps😎🏃‍♂️🤪
  • Can make people feel very uncomfortable(I obviously don’t as it’s not in my nature)😂😂😂
  • Don’t get out of breath 🤐
  • Don’t have to purchase a face mask😷
  • Pretend to not be able to talk😎🗣
  • Not able to smell mine or other peoples farts👌🙏
  • Free prescriptions for life🏥
  • Excused to go to bed at anytime due to fatigue😂

Con’s

  • Can’t surf or swim with my kids🏄🏼🏄🏼‍♂️🏄🏼‍♀️
  • No taste at all – miss favourite foods, Asparagus, marmite🌭🍺
  • Am now a bloody vegetarian as can’t swallow meat🤬
  • Can’t smell cooking, wife’s perfume👃🏼
  • Can’t snot rocket or spit👃🏼
  • Can’t breathe when doing high intensity exercise(zone 4)🚵🏼
  • Takes me so long to eat, that my food goes cold😨😱
  • Can’t eat burgers from McDonald’s only bloody fillet of fish🍔
  • If I bend down to soon after eating, it all comes out🤮😂

Thanks for reading hope you all stay safe ❤️❤️

Here’s to 2020, let’s hope it’s a little less complicated 😎😎

So that’s six months since my discharge from hospital, my word it’s flown and I have come along way in learning to manage my modifications. It has proved to be a six months of extremes which our whole family has managed, and we have all had to become more open and tolerant. Sorry that’s a bit deep, basically they’ve all had to learn to put up with me and my mood swings !!

Over the last six months I have concentrated on my fitness and developed a series of goals to aim for, which are running and cycling based. This has given me a positive purpose, and this has been an absolute sure reason why my recovery has happened so quickly. Also the support and encouragement from those around you, to me it sounds like a simple effective method of recovering from an illness, in USA and Australia it’s prescribed.

Anyway since my last blog, Christmas has happened, I’m a year older, left Europe and I still can’t whistle. Christmas was bitter sweet as Ann had to work Xmas day and Boxing Day, I got to go back to my roots and visit my Mum, Dad, Sister and family. My dad is in a local care home so a little bitter sweet seeing him there, but still had a twinkle in his eye and still thinks I have a sore throat😀 My Mum on the other hand is still with it, but I’m sure she thinks I’m deaf as well as mute as she continues to shout at me😂 It was nice having the various generations together and it was a lovely break from the regular routine of stoma care.

As time passes I am becoming more adept at the routines I need to follow, the only negative recently has been the trouble in finding a baseplate(holder for a filter that sticks to skin around the hole in my neck) that sticks but does not irritate the shit out of my skin. Fingers crossed as I write this, it appears I may have found one, this makes talking easier and also is a lot more comfortable than the bibs. This month has also been good as I have met another member of the hole in the neck gang – Sam a larger than life character who has had his piercing for 20 yrs. The insights gained through just chatting to someone who knows what it’s like has been invaluable, and gave me a lot of confidence in what I have been doing(thanks Mim you are a star).

So where are we, well I have just completed the first leg of my 12 events in twelve months – The Pilgrims Challenge, 33 miles from Farnham to Reigate on the North Downs Way, 3,500 feet of climbing over Boxhill and Reigate Hill. Still struggle to believe I did it, six months to the day I left hospital, I certainly would have struggled on the day had it not been for a certain Mr Collyer thank you and for one last time sorry I slowed you down😀🙏 Also big thank you to Rory for the training plans and witty repartee- you have created a monster.

My month of March is a very busy one with a half marathon at the wonderful Oulton Park racing circuit where I spent many happy days with my dad, followed by a cycle sportive in Stratford-upon-Avon near where I work. Through completing these events I am attempting to raise £1,000 for Cancer Research so please if you can donate it would be very much appreciated, the main events are in June with a 100 mile cycle and July with a 100 km Ultra Marathon.

http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/RichardAndrews20

Thank you for reading

Cyprus; The Reality of Cleaning and Finding my Voice

So the time has come again for another blog, the last three weeks have quite possibly been the best and the worst of the last eighteen months. Let me expand:

Just when you think things are settling down, life does like to send a curve ball, this time it was Ann’s mum who had been in a care home since July, suddenly died😩 Mags had lived with us for three years and despite the rather crowded nature had become a loved addition to our household. I will always remember her as a wonderfully kind person who never had a bad word to say about anyone, the biggest compliment I can pay her is that Ann reminds me of her everyday, I miss her stories and watching Poirot, Foyles War and Midsummer Murders(I never thought that would happen). Margaret is now with her beloved Roy and may she rest in peace🙏

Following the shocking news of Mags the holiday to Cyprus eventually happened having been cancelled due to Laryngectomy and then the Thomas Cook events so the Andrews family had their first holiday in foreign climes. Paphos was and is an awesome place and we will visit again – everything was good from hotel to the weather to the chosen activities. A perfect place to recuperate – running every morning on the coastal trail, visiting some wonderful places and just chilling with the clan. However, it also was a trial of the ‘Black Dog’ , I loved watching the kids enjoying the water but it also brought it thumping home that I couldn’t take part with them. To say I had a few down moments would be an understatement I especially missed the scuba diving and the Water Park, but the process of being ‘down’ has forced me to face facts – things will be different, I am still here with a wonderfully supportive family.

The hardest part of my battle is the routines I now need to follow on a twice daily basis, my day starts with a nebuliser when I first awake this is to ensure the secretions are kept as fluid as possible to stop blockages this takes 20 minutes. This is then followed by cleaning my neck piercing of all the gunk collected overnight and then the insertion of a laryngectomy tube to ensure the hole in my neck does not close up. All in all it takes 45 minutes twice a day, I am grateful to be still here but the cleaning certainly is a pain in the arse, but hey gets me up early😂

Since my last blog I am now a laryngectomee with a voice, I had further follow up surgery on Nov 19th when a hole for the speaking was drilled and a further visit on the 22nd when the actual speaking valve was pushed into the hole !! Once again the team at Worcester were fabulous from the nurses on the head and neck ward to my two valve fitters Mim and Catherine(they are my nurse specialists). Upon returning to the ward from the operating theatre I was presented by the wonderful nursing staff holding a banner welcoming me back. The most impressive thing about my voice is that as well as looking like George Clooney I now sound like him as well.

Since the removal of my voice box in July the support of family and friends has been truly inspiring-people on Facebook and LinkedIn some of whom I have never met, sending lovely messages to all of you my heartfelt thanks. Since having the op funny occurrences have also kept me going, my Parkrun buddy Jonathon and I have had several wonderful conversations over a cappuccino-one of which was about my wife travelling to Stoke, Jon suddenly looked very concerned- he thought I had said Ann had a Stroke. I also had a run in with a traffic warden, I had pulled over to pick up my daughter at 5.30 on an empty street, a traffic warden tapped on my window and started to explain that I was in a no parking zone – he was looking for a response so I decided to lift my bib covering my neck piercing as a means of explanation – at this point he apologised and disappeared 😂😂 Another one that springs to mind is at the recent Croft Castle Cross Country I decided to wear a skin hugging base layer on my top half as it was freezing – a good idea for two laps, unfortunately as it got damp when I breathed the material was getting sucked into my neck piercing preventing me from breathing.

The last month has been by far the most difficult, due to my ongoing issues with swallowing I have decided to to become vegetarian owing to issues with swallowing meat. This is an easier decision as my sense of taste is still extremely poor, so everything really does taste like chicken. The hardest part of a laryngectomy is the relearning to swallow and learning to talk again, my sister asked me what it feels like and does it hurt – the swallowing is weird, because I am gravity fed I have to swallow food at least twice as it appears my anatomy has created a sump in my food pipe which collects food – so 2 swallows and a flush with water. The talking has been generally quite straight forward, although it has the embarrassing side effect of causing large amounts of wind-which arrives with no warning.

As a means of giving myself goals for 2020 I have decided in my wisdom and much to the concern of my wife to complete 12 events in 12 months. There will be a 50k ultra, a 100k ultra and a half marathon and to spice it up a 100 mile cycle – these will be separated by various other events. I am in the process of setting up a just giving page and any support would be much appreciated-I will surprisingly enough be raising money for a Cancer Research.

Cardiff, Work and another Neck Piercing

So another several weeks and another blog, a lot has happened since my last effort and things are moving in the right direction. Back at work two days a week(more later), 13.2 miles run in Cardiff and confirmation of another stay in Worcester Hospital, so without further ado and if you’re sitting comfortably I will begin.

So October 6th came around quicker than expected, 13.2 miles around the streets of Cardiff-my aim to get round crawl or walk, I surprised myself 2 hours and 41 minutes, the Welsh support was truly inspiring. The Half Marathon had the obvious significance of my recent battles, but not many are aware of another notable reason for running and that was my battle 8 years ago with depression and the subsequent loss of shoelaces and belt in a Cardiff police cell. The tears at the end of the race were tears of joy, relief and a really big F-U to Cancer – ‘it will not define me, only drive me forwards’. Cardiff also taught me a valuable lesson-make sure you keep in touch with those people that mean a lot, through my recent battles I have become reacquainted with a very dear friend whom I have known since I was very young-Gill thank you for the lovely post race meal and we will see you soon😘

The following Tuesday and it was time to return to work, nervous does not do how I was feeling justice – how would people react, would the neck piercing disturb, how would eating be, and would the commute to Stratford-upon-Avon finish me off ? I needn’t have worried, throughout the last 18 months Fatboys have been a constant support from Chris the MD through to the happy band of campers in the sales office, work has been a blessing. The most important factor with Cancer is normality-being treated no differently, still having the piss taken, operating under the same rules – no special treatment. A big thank you to everyone especially Laura, James and Neil whom live in the sales office and have constantly made me laugh. With regards the commute, I have used it to brush up on my audiobook listening and also my singing😀

So what does being a laryngectomee mean, well double glazing salesmen do not know what to say when you open the door to them in the middle of cleaning your neck piercing. Still trying to get used to not getting out of breath whilst exercising and also not being able to snot rocket is a real problem when on long runs/cycles. Another drawback I have found is not being able to bend down to do things/pick things up – makes me cough rather violently- also cannot lie down flat with my head flat on ground/bed – tried to do it, with the rather amusing sight of not being able to sit up again. Apparently they have whilst giving me my rather attractive neck piercing and dissection cut through all the muscles in my neck – resulting in this consequence but a positive side effect is no double chin anymore.

Now for a little moan the doctors, nurses and all support staff have been unbelievably fantastic and I will not hear a word said against the NHS, I think you all know a however is coming. However in the wonderful USA & Australia they have a concerted effort to promote exercise for cancer patients – since my recent issues I have struggled to find information about exercise for cancer patients in the UK. Since my surgery through the help of http://www.colemancoaching.co.uk and http://www.adywatts.com I have been using exercise – it has helped my mental health but also I firmly believe it has assisted in the healing process. Prior to my latest surgery as you will know, I had taken up running after Radiotherapy and again this helped me recover quicker but also I was stronger and healthier for the surgery. There have been studies carried out in USA and Australia which back this up, my question is why no studies in the UK – cancer is currently the most prevalent illness, surely we should be trying everything – I may be talking bollocks but surely it’s worth trying. – WINGE OVER 🤔

Final part of this blog, and its an update – my appointment for my latest surgery has been set as November 19th to have my speaking valve fitted. This will be memorable for two reasons one is that I will hopefully be able to talk again ‘whoop whoop’, and the second is that it is my eldest son Josh’s birthday😩Hopefully I will only be in for one night, but will not hold my breath(sorry I can’t) – this second piercing will mean a little valve can be fitted between my windpipe and my oesophagus(food pipe), and will mean I can talk again and stop annoying everyone by tapping them to get attention😂

That’s me done, hopefully the next time I write my blog I will be able to speak again – thank you and goodnight❤️❤️💪🏼

3 Months and Counting

Well it’s all about anniversaries, my last blog celebrated a year since being diagnosed, this blog celebrates 12 weeks since my voice box was removed and I became a Laryngectomee. Wow how time flys when you’ve had your throat cut and lose your voice, and two of your senses(taste and smell)😀 and it continues to be an ever changing, life affirming series of events.

Over the last month I have been pushing the boundaries, sometimes to far and have had to pause but it is the only way I know, the quote above sums up the recent weeks very succinctly (just ask my long suffering wife of 24 years – shit now that is an anniversary 👰🏼🎊).

The last month has also shown me the true value of friendship, the support we have received has been truly inspiring – I always said social media was a waste of time – well the comments I have received over the last 12 months have blown me away and have fuelled my recovery.

Cancer in whatever form it takes is debilitating, whether physically or mentally and what I have learned over the last twelve months is to value and fight for every minute we have. Also try and face the illness with an attitude of hope and look for the positives – since surgery I no longer have a double chin; I can no longer get out of breath; free prescriptions for life, I mean come on what could be better👌 People find this attitude to be a little flippant, I am sorry but positivity is the only weapon we have to fight this terrible illness.

I have also in the last week had my first official follow-up with my surgeon, and everything is looking good and will be revisiting my friends on the head and neck ward in November to have another operation to fit my speech valve. Basically it is a non return valve fitted between my food pipe and wind pipe, this should allow me to direct breath so as to be able to speak again👏🏻. I had a test run at the hospital where they shoved a rubber tube up my nose and connected the other end to my stoma and bugger me I could talk. To say it surprised Ann and I would be an understatement, and just to annoy her one of my first words was ‘fuck’, after 18 months I could here my proper voice with an accent.

I am also in the last week of training for the Cardiff Half Marathon, and have received the invaluable support and help of Rory Coleman in preparing. I met Rory at RunfestRun in May just after the Cancer had returned when Gabby and I sat in on a talk by someone who had run over 1,000 marathons, it blew me away as he told of his battles with serious illness and his single mindedness to return stronger. I went up after the talk to pass on my thoughts and ask advice – the response was contact me after the surgery and we will get together. The rest as they say is history, I am proud to say I am being coached by someone who has completed 15 Marathon des Sables – check out his website http://www.colemancoaching.co.uk truly inspirational.

This the first of many goals over the coming months that I am planning to achieve, Cardiff is for me, but over the next 12 months I am aiming to raise money for a variety of cancer charities through completing various events on a monthly basis. Confirmed to date are an Ultra Marathon, several duathlons, hopefully the London Marathon and many more – I will be setting up a just giving page any help would be appreciated.

Hopefully my next blog will be about how wonderful the Cardiff Half was, but if nothing else I will be seeing friends I haven’t seen for a long time and proving to myself that I can still do stuff. Anyway I need to go as Wheeler Dealers is about to start and this repeat is about a Ford Escort – I know how to live 👌👌

Cheers Rich

My Cancer Anniversary & Exercise

Well that’s been a difficult few weeks, hence the delay in writing my blog. It’s been a year since the day I was diagnosed with the big C and wow what a year, I cannot believe what we as family have endured – but I have to say it makes you stronger.

Over the recent weeks I have stepped up my exercise, this is my primary method of dealing with the cancer and the dark thoughts which accompany it, and it works – it gives a sense of purpose, and stops me wallowing in self pity. As some will know I am going to try running/walking the Cardiff Half Marathon on October 6th – I find goals and plans help me to focus on other things and takes my mind off tubes, filters, nebulisers and all the daily routines.

I always look for the positives, with regards the laryngectomy it has come in the form of not getting out of breath when exercising-believe me it is very weird, unfortunately it comes with a negative I cannot spit or snot rocket 🤔 which for you exercisers out there can understand is quite shocking. The other rather amusing sight at the gym is when going for a shower I have to wear a bib (if water goes in the hole in my neck I drown😂) I don’t think other gym people know where to look, but as with all things British nobody has said what the fuck is that😂

The ENT team at Worcester Hospital continue to be amazing (Catherine; Sarah and the wonderful Mim who continues to have to put up with my lousy sense of humour), have now had all my stitches removed, and have progressed to only having the tube in my neck every 36 hours. I now have a base plate which sticks directly to my skin around the hole in my neck to which I attach a filter, trust this thing sticks like super glue and takes 15 minutes of sheer agony to detach it from my skin.

Overall I think one of the biggest pain in the arse things about this cancer shit is all the bloody routines I have to follow – nebulisers, medication, filters, cleaning, more filters, cleaning and nebulisers and to cap it all it takes me an hour to eat a bowl of soup😂The swallowing and eating continue to be one of the biggest challenges, I think I have it sussed and then regurgitation city here I come, but I am getting better although I will never eat gherkins again😂

So exercise is my salvation, I wish everyone who struggles with illness in whatever capacity could find ‘their thing’, that takes them away from the daily grind, that gives them purpose. Running and cycling gives me freedom from worries whether that be will the cancer come back, or depressive thoughts, when exercising my head is clear and I feel chilled. I made a comment on facebook about cyclists looking miserable and not acknowledging other cyclists – please if it makes you that miserable don’t do it, when you pass another person wearing an ill fitting lycra outfit, smile and wave and think it’s not just me that looks like a pillock.

The last year has taught me the power of positive thought, I could not have imagined the horrors – the radiotherapy, looking like desperate dan and having a big hole in my neck. But here’s the thing, I am lucky I have a loving family, wonderful caring friends and I am still here fighting, yes I have bad days but the good days far out way them and I smile more than I frown. If there is a thought I can leave with people is, if you know someone who is ill – do not treat them differently – all we want is to be treated normally – the best people to copy are children there are no boundaries – if you want to know what is on my neck just ask do not stare😂😂

So enough from me for now, I hope you enjoy reading as much as I enjoy writing, and remember if you meet me I have no voice but I am not deaf so no need to shout !!

Soups, Blended Sausage & Beans and Paradise!!

So folks I have now been home for 2 weeks, and a routine has become second nature. My daily routine has been 3 nebulisers, 2 tube changes, 5 feeds through my nose and 12 meds, the major issue has been raging diarrhoea for 5 weeks and rapid muscle and fat loss.

My family have been fantastic, despite my occasional frustrated outbursts, in hospital nobody knew I had a voice, but at home I had never been without. Not being able to eat and drink has been hard the swollen face was so unexpected and the last two weeks of no food had been frustrating, as well as the lack of exercise through being too weak.

We also found out a few facts and figures, the chances of cancer returning after radiotherapy is 2%, and the chances of a leak following laryngectomy and neck dissection is 1%, I think this makes me pretty outstanding 😂

Anyway the day of my swallow test came round, despite saying otherwise I had built up my hope’s up, our trip to Cornwall depended on it in my head. My swallow test was being done in Kidderminster hospital followed by meeting my specialists in Worcester – I have to say the liquid you have to swallow is hideous and tastes nothing like orange.

By 10.30 we returned to Worcester for the results, this took a bit of time due to images, reports and doctors in theatre – eventually results were in. Everything looked ok BUT, there was a small sump where the leak had been so it was decided a liquid/one texture diet should be followed so any small bits of food would not collect in the sump. Disappointed does not sum up my initial reaction no cornish pasties, cream teas for the second holiday in a row. The previous year my throat so sore from first bout of cancer I was on liquids – but I am alive small sacrifices initially so what if its liquids we are going to be going to paradise😁

My first treat after getting my news, was my first cappuccino in 6 weeks and did it taste good, and my first meal was tomato soup. Since then I have had the following blended, scrambled egg and beans(see below), sausage and beans, lasagne, cottage pie and a multitude of soups.

The hardest part of the whole cancer experience has been the knowledge that I can’t eat my favourite holiday foods, or do one of my favourite hobbies body boarding in the wonderful cornish sea. This is compounded by not being able to exercise fully, I have on occasions been a complete pain in the arse to my family, for this I apologise and continue to work on my head and how to best deal with it all.

Thanks as ever for reading I hope you find it a little bit interesting.