What a Twelve Months that was !!

My journey with Chas and Dave

My name is Richard and I am 53, happily married to Ann for 24 years with three wonderful kids Josh(19); Gabby(16) and Tom(13).

2018 started as any other year Josh in his final year at Hartpury, Gabby in her final year of school and studying for GCSE’s and Tom becoming settled in his first year of secondary school. Ann was working as a nurse in Hereford Hospital and I had found my perfect job with Fatboys Catering in Sales & Marketing. It all seemed the perfect life employed, mortgaged, 3 kids, 2 cars and a fabulous dog – little did we know.

In December 2017 I started to have some issues with my voice-intermittently going hoarse or squeaky towards the end of the day. Having suffered from this in 2012, I believed it to be polyps on my vocal chords, so I went to see my GP who referred me to Hereford ENT for the lovely scope up the nose. 

Following the scope , nothing could be seen so was booked for a follow up in May again nothing could be seen although they could not get camera down far enough and so the the journey begins!! My swallowing gradually got worse and was only eating liquid foods and special shakes which tasted very bland.

In July, under anaesthetic I had a biopsy taken and two weeks later it was confirmed as the big C or as it became known ‘Dave’.  There then followed a myriad of CT and MRI scans and blood tests and visits to see my wonderful doctors and nurse specialist.

During this time it was made clear that I would be having 30 radiotherapy sessions and that it would be ‘brutal’ to this day though I never had the ‘why me’ I seemed to be fairly philosophical also I had the support of Ann my wife and my 3 wonderful kids.

So on September 27th the worst 3 months of my 52 years began – Dental Check; Clinical Phycologist; the fitting of ‘Chas’ my radiotherapy mask(quite literally the fitting was hideous I can say that now as I kept a brave face for Ann) and finally the fitting of my best friend for the next 3 months my stomach peg.

On October 15th it began, I had the pep talk from Mark the radiographer who I have to say despite being Welsh was an absolute star, and then I was attached to a table with Chas while a big thing circulated my head and neck – this is easy I thought! I then met Sophie who would be a constant support to myself and Ann over the coming weeks and would provide advice on eating and drinking and the inherent side effects.

Everything changed however on November 5th, the start of my fourth week – woke up feeling particularly rough more than the usual fatigue and had been very sick overnight – also realised hadn’t been to the toilet for 6 days and was looking particularly “Peaky”. Was sent to Cheltenham Hospital to be assessed overnight – was given fluids and connected to a morphine driver. The driver was connected to my arm so that was the end of driving for the next two months, and two visits a day from the wonderful district nurses to change and monitor my progress.

By now I was reliant on my stomach peg for feeding using the delightful fortisips, my weight was also on the decline down 10%, it was at this stage I had my ‘NO MORE MOMENT’ quickly diffused by my daughter.

My radiotherapy finished on November 23rd, and then the fun really began as the side effects started to build resulting in a serious dose of constipation which lasted 11 days and 5 enemas, and the skin on my neck falling off and having to wear a bright pink soothing collar.

On December 10th, I awoke feeling positively human, having felt crap for 2 months, on January 2nd joined a gym and entered a duathlon in April 2019. From January started visiting the gym daily and eventually started to run and cycle slowly getting stronger.

In April 2019 was feeling great and competed in the Hereford Duathlon with Josh and completed it without to many dramas, I then entered the Hereford 10km in May and things were looking all good.

“It will not beat me and I will not be defined by it.”

I completed the 10km, feeling a little breathless on the hills but nothing out of the ordinary, I then had a couple of days off going for my recovery run on the Wednesday 15th May – however could only manage 2km and was breathless and my throat was sore. The same week I luckily had an appointment with my consultant who scoped me, unfortunately unable to see anything due to the swelling booked me in for another biopsy. However despite being told not to, I attended RunfestRun 31st to the 2nd and managed to run walk with Gabby who was competing in her first 5km event – unfortunately I ended up in medical tent, but had a wonderful time.

The biopsy took place on June 4th and again consultant could only see a partial view of the right vocal chord so a biopsy was taken. As normal was expecting a wait of of two weeks for the results – unfortunately I was back in front of the consultant 6 days later.

The result of the meeting was the cancer was back, and this time it would require major surgery ‘A Laryngectomy’ would be done which in basic terms the removal of my voicebox. This would result in me being a neck breather and having a hole in my neck for the rest of my days, again fairly philosophical I know the end result and know what I’m fighting.

So we are now up to date I will publish a weekly blog as much for my own head and addressing my thoughts, thanks for all the support.

I have many people to thank, Kevin for being a true friend, Fel for keeping an eye on my wife; all at Fatboys – Chris a heartfelt thank you – the four-mad amigo’s James, Laura, Sole and Darren without your laughter and support I would have struggled. To all the medical peeps and facebook and friends far and wide too many to mention thank you, but most of all to my family Ann, Josh, Gabby and Tom you are my reason for fighting, thank you you have been amazing.