My first blog of 2022 and its been a while, to be totally honest it took me a while to get over the mishaps of July 2021. To go from completing 100km to barely walking upstairs certainly messed with my head, the recovery was harder than recovering from the original laryngectomy as it was totally unexpected. Now in February I feel I am somewhere close to the fitness level I was at pre-Ultra, and that is thanks to my friends at Hereford Tri Club and there support, also Jonty for his patience in rebuilding my upper body strength.
So what’s the plan for 2022, we’ll after a brutal 2021 I thought I would have an easier year, with a half marathon, 3 triathlons, a half ironman and a 50k Ultra to round it off.
Since being diagnosed with throat cancer all I have been told is what I can’t do and how I need to be careful – what has driven me is setting goals which prove that the illness doesn’t win. I am convinced now more than ever that a positive attitude and exercise is the greatest weapon.
So entering triathlons means I have to learn to swim, the one thing I was told I would never do again – bollocks 🖕 So it came to pass on November 23rd (3 year anniversary of finishing radiotherapy) that I travelled to Royal Exeter Hospital with Ann and Gabby to be fitted with my rather wonderful special snorkel device. It wouldn’t be me if that didn’t have its own drama, got to the M4 at Newport- CLOSED no warning so a very slow detour around the sites of Newport in a traffic nightmare. Eventually got to Exeter 5 mins late, how I didn’t get a ticket is beyond me, anyway I found the relevant department and was introduced to the wonderful Clare and Zoe who are nurse specialists and are quite frankly wonderful.
The first part of the session was calming Ann down, and then teaching me how too anesthetise my trachea, thus enabling me to insert an 8cm long cuffed trachy tube into the hole in my neck to which the snorkel would be attached. Once stuffed in the hole I was shown how to inflate the cuff on the tube so that it grips my trachea and prevents water from getting in my lungs. Next was the fitting of the snorkel and getting in the pool, Gabby as usual was a star as my swimming buddy with Ann responsible for the videos.
To say I was pooing myself would be an understatement, it was the scariest and most exhilarating thing I have ever done. People ask what’s it like, well here goes when you put your head in the water you feel and hear the water entering the hole in the neck and then it goes quiet. Then the next thing is when you swim the water goes up your nose and in your mouth, as automatically you try and breath and swim how you used to, unfortunately with a laryngectomy you can’t blow out of your nose or your mouth so it has a rather troubling effect. With no sphincter at the top of my food pipe the water goes straight into my stomach and hence my bladder fills rather quickly, good job the water really doesn’t turn purple 😉
Anyway mission accomplished I can swim again, with the equipment I also got a device for swimming under water – really cool it goes from my tube in my neck to my mouth truly awesome, but what makes it even more special is that when I wear it I can smell again for the first time in 3 years. The first thing I smelt was Ann’s perfume for the first time in 3 years and then the chlorine – WOW so unexpected and truly overwhelming 😃
Now the fun begins with training for the events, running is as awesome and head clearing as ever, cycling about to start but the swimming is so so cool.
Swimming has so kindly been organised by Delia, Nicola and Nick and have no words to say how thankful I am 🙏 I turned up for my first session literally shitting myself both Ann and I didn’t sleep the night before – but we needn’t have worried the support of both Delia and Nick in the pool made it seamless and before long I had completed 2 lengths of the pool. Now after some expert tuition I can now swim 600 metres and I actually look like a swimmer well sort of – and its taken 8 sessions but I have learnt to keep my mouth shut whilst swimming. There are a couple of issues at the moment one is that the tube irritates causing me to produce lung juice causing me to cough, not usually a problem but as its connected to a long pipe, I have to get out of the pool to clear out 🤣 Hopefully this will get better, the other is building my lung capacity, the tube is 8mm in diameter and being connected to a snorkel means I have to work hard to get the oxygen in – but all in all its a joy to be swimming again.
To close off I am constantly amazed by the goodwill of the people around me, without which I certainly wouldn’t be here today so thank you. To my swimming coaches a big thanks for your patience, to Delia and Darren thank you for offering to help at the Hever Castle Gauntlet Event and thank you Darren for the offer of the loan for Harrogate – totally blown away. A big thank you also to my friends at Sainsbury’s you treat me normal and make me smile thank you 🙏
To the people who put up with me in the dark times – Ann, Josh, Gabby, Tom and Toby thank you❤❤