Updates from October, 2011 Toggle Comment Threads | Keyboard Shortcuts

  • nbrightside 11:45 am on October 28, 2011 Permalink | Reply  

    my coping strategy 

    Being diagnosed with cancer – particularly when you are not expecting it is, err, tricky. People are different, people will have differing circumstances and levels of support available and each individual will have their own strategy for coping.

    This is how I try to cope. I’m not suggesting this is how everyone should cope or that it’s the best method of coping. I may subsequently change or refine this method in the coming months. It’s just my method of coping.

    I work as a technical consultant in IT. When I visit a customer with a difficult problem, I tend to perform a lot of research. I look at the specific issue I am investigating (obviously) but I also review all Service Requests they have opened in the last 6 months. I normally chat to the account manager and have a courtesy call to introduce myself and hear the customer describe the issues in their own words.

    It would have been very natural therefore for me to spend hours on Google researching every element of bowel cancer and devour every available resource describing every last detail of this horrible disease. However, I didn’t really do that. Occasionally I visit the excellent ‘Beating Bowel Cancer‘ web site which describes every aspect (symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, support, lifestyle, recovery) in easy to digest articles.

    However, I realised very quickly that the sheer volume of information was just overwhelming. Reading about everything and trying to absorb all that medical information simply tended to raise potential issues, pose difficult questions and introduced fear, uncertainty and doubt.

    This may surprise people but I don’t actually know what my formal diagnosis is in terms of staging. Cancer is categorised into stages 1-4 (I think) depending on how far it has spread in the body. If the doctors choose not to tell me the formal diagnosis, then I probably don’t need to know (yet).

    After a while, I decided simply to try to focus on my next, immediate hurdle. This hurdle might be trivial (consultation with a doctor) or more significant, an operation under general anaesthetic.

    So, if I was having a Port-a-Cath line inserted into my chest, I would probably read up about that specific procedure, the benefits and possible side effects and I would jot down any questions I wanted to raise with the doctor.

    When I had surmounted the hurdle, sometimes I would reward myself with a ‘day off’. Now this sounds stupid because I am signed off work completely and spend most of my day reclining on the sofa watching ‘Wanted Down Under’ and having an afternoon nap. Most people would view this as an indefinite holiday.

    However, on my ‘day off’, I would just do I wanted and I would try to devote no thought or waste any energy whatsoever on my health issues and whatever the next looming hurdle was. This lazy, do nothing strategy suited me very well.

    My wife is a nurse and has been incredibly supportive and understanding. She is able to articulate and translate some of the medical terminology and checks I am taking all my pills at the right time.

    The single best thing she did for me was on the day after I was diagnosed. She said to me:

    ‘Listen – I’m not going to follow you around this house checking up on you. I’m always here if you need me but if you want to listen to music, mess around on the computer or you just need 5 minutes to yourself, just go into the bedroom and shut the door and I’ll leave you alone’.

    Another thing I don’t do – or rather have done fleetingly – is to read blogs by other people who are blogging about their experiences with cancer.

    This may seem odd given that is precisely what I am doing but – to be honest – a lot of those blogs are bloody depressing. Some of the longer established ones also record the passing of friends and fellow bloggers who didn’t make it and that is very upsetting.

    Lots of people are battling cancer like me. However, no one has my exact diagnosis. It doesn’t matter whether 90% of people with bowel cancer recover (when caught early). It doesn’t matter if your Uncle had bowel cancer 7 years ago and made a complete recovery although obviously I am very pleased that was his personal outcome. It doesn’t matter if an email went round at work giving the funeral details of a colleague in the Edinburgh office who passed away after a long battle with cancer (although I’m desperately sorry to hear that).

    It doesn’t matter if someone with a very similar diagnosis and treatment plan to me suffered loads of side effects or no side effects during his radiotherapy treatment.

    It doesn’t matter because none of those people have exactly my symptoms, none of them have my body and none of them are being treated by the medical team responsible for overseeing my treatment.

    Without being too callous, all that matters to me is whether I recover and, to a lesser extent, how long it takes.

    • Scott Evans 12:03 pm on October 28, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      Yes the first mistake I made was to type lymphoma into Google, so that’s about as worse you can do because you are only going to see negative information or outright wrong information. It’s best to only accept what your oncologists tells you, after all they’re the expert not you!

      And as noted for your strategy on how things are dealt with… That’s going to be a work in progress 😉

    • rich 1:15 pm on October 28, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      I’m keeping a watch on your posts, as i find them many things, but depressing isn’t one of them. Mainly informative, funny at times and also inspiring. I agree what you said about how “you” deal with your particular problem, this can be applied to all of life’s problems, not just illnesses. Anyhoo, chin-up, and keep us posted on your progress, we’re all hoping you will make a speedy recovery.

    • Doug Burns 2:14 pm on October 28, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      >> It doesn’t matter because none of those people have exactly my symptoms, none of them have my body and none of them are being treated by the medical team responsible for overseeing my treatment.

      Actually, I think those are pretty wise words. Pointless getting too wrapped up in what might be or have been rather than the reality of your own situation.

    • Tim Hall 9:00 pm on October 28, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      I agree. Statistics are so misleading when you are only concerned with one specific case (yourself). You can worry about everyone else as much as you want once you are sorted. 🙂



    • Bananabob 11:23 pm on October 28, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      Your last sentence “Without being too callous, all that matters to me is whether I recover and, to a lesser extent, how long it takes.” sums it all up. That is the right way to feel. I know from my experience of illness (CFS/ME for 20 years) that other people’s symptoms and treatments are not necessarily the same or what you need.

    • susan 8:48 am on May 11, 2012 Permalink | Reply

      Yup — I agree with just about all of this .. especially the wonder of the Beating Bowel Cancer site and the general depressing nature of other ppl’s cancer blogs –most really are best avoided — there are very few which I read, but yours has just entered that hallowed list cos I like your “voice” . Another guy I used to read is dead now, but even though I cried like hell when I read his last post, because he was so stoic at times I still found that uplifitng and inspiring about how to go when it is my turn ..

      This is probably the only thing I disagree with you about .. nearly 6 years into this shite I can tell you that making friends with other ppl with cancer has not been “bad” for me .. yes it is true that many of the ppl who started out with me are dead now … and many “newer” ones are in worse states .. but some sort of empathy-stasis seems to set in, so I can read it all without getting TOO emotional about it, generally .. and a few tears shed for someone else seems to help me avoid getting too sad or angry on my own behalf ..

      And, crucially, no-one has supported me better at key stressful times than fellow patients … one woman in particular whom I met through the net and who has the balls to give me clear advice when I need it. Bless you janc, btw, should you stumbel across this!

      All the best, Andy.

    • nbrightside 9:22 am on May 11, 2012 Permalink | Reply

      Hi Suze

      Yes – maybe I was a little harsh with my sweeping generalisation on all cancer bloggers. That set of bloggers and the ‘Beating Bowel Cancer’ site is just another social network (just like Twitter, Google+, Facebook or identi.ca) so it makes sense that you could and should strike up friendships with like minded folk.

      I certainly wasn’t trying to imply that ‘My blog’s better than your depressing blog’ and I’ll get through this on my own !

      However, and I am quite uncomfortable saying this, there is a wide range range of people there – terminal, mid-way, just diagnosed, not diagnosed but worried – and, maybe this is a British ‘man’ thing – I think there is an element of survivor guilt. For example, if you post some good news, it’s literally seconds before you come across someone not as well off as yourself. I also find this hard to deal with.

      All the best – Andy

  • nbrightside 10:41 am on October 28, 2011 Permalink | Reply  


    Tuesday 13 September – Ileostomy

    After my operation, the surgeon explained that he had performed an ileostomy (not a colostomy). The reason for this was that it was easier and quicker for him to expose the small intestine (as opposed to the large). This was because I was a ‘big chap’ (medical term for ‘fat bastard’) so my gut is covered by loads of fat. Harsh but fair. The benefit of this was reduced recovery time and being able to start chemotherapy quicker.

    I spent a week in hospital recuperating. The surgeon initially estimated ‘3-4 nights’ while the nurse who did the pre-op checks said ‘8-10 days’ while the insurance company authorised 5 nights accommodation (full board).

    The main problem was the stoma bag kept coming detached for various reasons; the area was still raw, tender and moist which hindered the adhesive effect. Also, the stoma was not located on the large black circle the stoma nurse had drawn on my tummy but lower down close to my belly button. This meant the bag had to attach to a fold and crease in the skin rather than a flat area.

    It didn’t seem to matter who changed the bag. Whenever I stood up or sat down, exerting pressure on that area, I was perpetually nervously checking the bag was intact and there was no tell tale leaks. Occasionally, the bag lasted 24 hours but mostly I found myself calling for assistance to change the damned thing. Initially, that need for help from a nurse, in itself is quite embarrassing although as they kept reassuring me ‘Please stop apologising – its our job’.

    When I was discharged,this frustrating problem continued and this period was probably my lowest point so far. I felt relatively strong and healthy but I could barely walk to the paper shop as I simply could not rely on the stoma bag.

    Thankfully, after two weeks at home, with some home visits from the excellent stoma nurse and experimenting with different styles of bags and accessories, we managed to nail the problem and eventually the bag was reliable and could last one or even two days before it needed changing. Better still, I chose when to change it instead of running to the bathroom clutching my tummy to avoid soiling the carpet like a newly purchased puppy.

    Friday October 7 was a big milestone for me. I had to attend a consultation with a doctor at the Royal Marsden hospital in Fulham. I took a taxi there and afterwards decided to catch the bus home.

    It may seem like a trivial thing but it just felt great to be stood at a bus stop next to normal people. None of them knew I had a stoma. No one gave me a second glance as I went upstairs. I felt like a normal person again.

    • Ed Morgan 10:53 am on October 28, 2011 Permalink | Reply


      Glad to hear that you’re keeping your morale up, people tend to think I’m being sarcastic when I say “Positive Mental Attitude!”, normally because I’m sarcastic the rest of the time, but in this case I’m being genuine.


    • Scott Evans 11:07 am on October 28, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      This time last year my wife had emergency surgery for a bowel resection. As part of the preop from the nurse (who also drew pretty black circles) filled us in on all of the possibilities of what to expect post op. I was actually quite horrified for the first time! I wasn’t to sure how the wife was going to handle that she may have (all be it temporary) a colostomy. The first thing I did once she was brought up to the ward was to check for a bag (or 2) and I was so relieved when she didn’t have any.

      Really it should not have mattered weather there was a bag or not, I suppose I was in a bit of a panic cause I did get a strange look from the nurse as I was rifling through the bedding to look at the wound site!

      So consider where you were a few months back… And where you are now, it’s going to be a slow walk, but you are going to make it through all this…

      • nbrightside 11:50 am on October 28, 2011 Permalink | Reply

        Scott – You’ve really been through the mill. Glad your wife came through her problems.

        To be honest, if I was offered the chance to emerge from all this solely with a colostomy bag strapped to my waist for the rest of my life, I’d take that option immediately.

    • Ruben H 12:00 am on October 30, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      Keep up the good work Andy. All the best for a timely and full recovery.

    • michellewalkerxe 5:42 am on August 29, 2013 Permalink | Reply

      Dear, Thanks for sharing your personal experience with us. Your information is really very beneficial for me because I am a nursing student of third semester. Our class is learning regarding the
      ileostomy surgery. It was totally new topic for me . but your site has given me very helpful ideas to care of my patients who are suffering such kind of diseases. Thanks again.

  • nbrightside 10:25 am on October 19, 2011 Permalink | Reply  

    Colostomy Whoopee Bags 

    Hello Dragons

    I am asking for a £50,000 investment in return for 15% equity in my company – ‘Colostomy Whoopee Bags’R’Us’.

    [Theo Paphitis raises an eyebrow while Peter Jones adjusts his immaculate red tie]

    The colostomy bag market is massive with worldwide revenues of $84 million in 2010 and a massive, unexplored niche…

    [Hilary Devey frowns – health investments are notoriously risky but everyone loves a good news story]

    The problem with colostomy bags is they deny a man a fundamental human right – the right to produce an audible fart.

    Let me explain – I have a colostomy bag which works perfectly but it tends to fill up with gas so the fully inflated bag can resemble Christopher Biggins’ face or one of those novelty hot air balloons you see near Bristol.

    [Duncan Bannatyne impatiently raps his fingers over his wad of money]

    Although there is a small vent intended to slowly release the air, this doesn’t work very well and this major problem isn’t even mentioned in the ‘Living With Your Colostomy’ booklets. Never mind ‘Sexual Relations and Intimacy’ – what about farts ?

    So, in answer to the desperate pleas of men everywhere, ladies and gentlemen, I give to you – the ‘Colostomy Whoopee Bag’ ! This accessory simply attaches to the existing vent and allows the owner to discharge the bag while producing a realistic farting noise. The duration and volume can also be adjusted using these buttons.

    18p to make in India. Sell for £7.99. Already secured a lucrative contract with the NHS. Any questions ?

    Deborah Meaden interjects – ‘Frankly, this is a shit idea and I find the whole concept quite distasteful’. Duncan though is thinking ahead – ‘What about expansion ? What about diversification ? What about year 3 revenues ?’

    Oh I’ve already thought of that – we are currently prototyping a ‘Colosto-stylo-o-phone” for the musically minded and trying to get Rolf Harris on board.

    Also, for the larger man from north of the border, we are running clinical field trials evaluating ‘Colosto-bagpipes. This is an untapped market – quite literally’.

    Duncan has heard enough – ‘That’s brilliant. I’ve heard enough. I’ll offer you all the money. But for 40% of your shitty little company’.

    • Robert 10:56 am on October 19, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      I’d buy one.

    • Scott Evans 12:09 pm on October 19, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      You’re a funny bastard! 😀

    • David Marsden 12:11 pm on October 19, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      Clearly also an important Human Rights issue re: freedom of expression.

    • John E. Bredehoft 12:23 pm on October 19, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      Sorry, I’m not investing. I don’t want to be left holding the bag if all the air gets lost from the investment.

    • Bananabob 10:24 pm on October 19, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      I think you have missed your market. The bags full of gas could be sold to Toyota to power the next generation Prius.

    • crofty 4:14 am on October 20, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      maybe you could has celebrity look a likely bags , you example of christopher biggins . My favourite would be 5 scale model of eric pickles MP (constituency of Brentwood and Ongar)

      • nbrightside 11:13 am on October 20, 2011 Permalink | Reply

        Even better, you get to slowly squeeze the last living breath out of Eric Pickles MP – daily.

    • crofty 6:29 am on October 20, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      i was reading early about the workers at foxconn making apple stuff in china and how they only got 10 minute comfort break. I was just thinking you could be selling it too nice foxconn management as an aid too productivity , none of the workers will need too leave the production line. The main think i was thinking of was all the workers doing the company via your device and will become an some good PR for them when its leaked on to youtube showing how happy the work force are and how down with the kids they are doing some tacky cover version of justin bieber or something that fitting too shitting themselves.

      here is article from guardian – http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/oct/14/environment-home-mobile-phones-laptops

      viral video of fashion of this Filipino, Philippines “Dancing Inmates” from Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center (CPDRC),

    • Becky Newborough 10:11 am on October 20, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      Classic post – well done for seeing the funny side to your illness and for making me smile 🙂

  • nbrightside 8:20 am on October 18, 2011 Permalink | Reply  

    Bag It Up 

    Tuesday 13 September

    In order to isolate my bowel from further infection and expedite the chemotherapy treatment, my consultant booked me in for a colostomy operation. A specialist stoma nurse introduced herself and explained about the operation and outlined the practical aspects of living with a colostomy. Unfortunately, she chose to bring along a horror DVD showing how ordinary people cope with a stoma and resume their lives as a parachute instructor. My wife (herself a district nurse) was fascinated and watched intently, asking relevant questions. Inevitably, I started to feel a little weak – not particularly because the DVD was graphic but because, all of a sudden, it just dawned on me that this was happening to me. Not a smiling, happy face on a video but me – within a few hours.

    After the traditional questions and checks, I was put to sleep by an anethatist’s assistant who seemed determined to extract my entire life history before the drugs kicked in (‘Ooh – Warwick University – that sounds lovely. Took the wife down Leamington Spa once. And then, when you left college, what did you do then ?’) and woke up in the recovery room.

    I was now bombarded by a bewildering variety of nursing staff, entering my room to take my blood pressure and vital signs at very regular intervals. They even woke me up, every half hour, during the night to tell me ‘Oh yes – that’s normal, that’s good’.

    After some hesitation, I peeked under my gown to see what they had actually done to me. Not much – I just had an empty, flesh coloured bag attached to my belly button.

    The next morning, a nurse performed the checks yet again and announced – ‘Right – you’re going to need to pass some water’. ‘Oh – come on. There’s no rush, I’m here all week and anyway, ‘Helicopter Heroes’ has just started…’ ‘No – we need to get you mobile as soon as possible to help your recovery and you really need to pass some urine’.

    I managed to get a stay of execution by 15 minutes and asked if she could help me as my bottom hurt and my stomach obviously was still very tender. I slowly summoned my strength and positioned my legs towards the edge of the bed. I paused for breath and rested. The nurse nodded and encouraged me to rise – slowly. I stood upright – not too bad, my legs still work and I managed to walk across to the loo. The nurse passed me a small trombone made out of reinforced, recycled cardboard. ‘Here – you need to pass water into this and we will measure the output’. My mind was fully occupied with the 8 feet journey to the toilet but I dutifully took the receptacle.

    I stood up by the loo, poised over her precious cardboard receptacle. Nothing happened. I looked around at my surroundings; the Emergency Call button, the sharps bin, the disinfectant, the shower. Still, nothing happened. Despite drinking a lot of water, nothing was going to happen either.

    I put the empty receptacle down and started on the epic journey back to the sanctuary of my bed. Suddenly, I felt a little giddy and increasingly hot and sweaty. The nurse helpfully brought a chair over, sat me down and immediately took my vital signs again. Before I could ask for my customary cup of cold water, she (unhelpfully) left the room saying ‘Don’t worry. We can try again later’.

    I felt quite faint now and, just as I wondered whether a resting pulse rate of 48 was normal (normal for Usain Bolt perhaps but not for me), thankfully, my wife chose that very moment to walk in with another more helpful nurse and help me back into bed.

    • Scott Evans 12:10 pm on October 18, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      Well done! As it takes a lot of courage to tackle the task of that first passing of urine after any procedure, I panicked when I passed some blood after the day surgery to place the port in me! To only be told that the chemotherapy was the culprit! So I was given a course of pills and all was good.

      Now those cardboard bottles are not too bad! Cause at one stage all fluids were being measured with me. They had run out of the cardboard type and I’d been given a metal one, well you can imagine to my surprise when in the early hours of the morning I got a rather rude awakening when the end of my appendage happened to make contact with the cold stainless surgical steel bottle!

      So you can expect to have a little bit of fun with all of this, after all the nursing staff deals with this on a daily basis so to them it’s not a problem. It’s only that you’re used to being fully capable of dealing with yourself and accepting help is at first embarrassing for you!

      Great to hear that things are progressing… 🙂

  • nbrightside 10:05 am on October 13, 2011 Permalink | Reply  

    inverting the glass 

    Although people tell me I am tolerable company with a decent sense of humour, that normally is when I’m in a hostelry holding on to the emotional crutch of a pint of beer (or Grolsch) in my hand. I have rather a dry, cynical, biting British sense of humour.

    However, I am sure that, to the people closest to me, I can come across as a grumpy old man. I tend to moan about my commute into work, other car drivers, that ridiculous second half display by Arsenal last night, elements of my job etc. I simply am not genetically engineered to be a relentlessly positive full-time optimist. Once, I surprised my parents by declaring ‘Oh God – no. I am definitely a `glass half empty` man’.

    As soon as I received my (preliminary) cancer diagnosis, I immediately decided this ‘glass half empty’ would rapidly have to be inverted and I would have to re-invent myself not as a relentless, ‘power of positive thinking’ evangelist but simply to look for the positives (rather than the negative) elements of any story or situation that presented itself.

    For example, as I walked out of the hospital and slumped in my car seat, I could have thought ‘Cancer. 48 years old. Fucking hell, I need to check the life insurance policy and update my will – I’m dead’.

    Instead, I tried to breathe deeply and focus on the Doctor’s words – ‘You have a serious problem. It’s going to be a long, hard slog and it will takes months (not weeks) but you’re going to come through this’.

    I also understood what the consultant meant when, minutes earlier, he’d told me ‘You are walking out of here today, just the same man you walked in’.

    I think what he meant was ‘Hours earlier, I was working on my computer, walking, talking, eating, drinking, laughing, popping out for a paper, procrastinating on work’ and when I returned minutes later, I would still be capable of all of the above. I wasn’t compelled to take to my bed, curl up and wallow in self-pity for 72 hours.

    Of course, the other reason the glass has to be inverted is not for me – but for my friends and immediate family. In  fact, that was the other necessary change – from being a selfish bastard to one with a little more empathy and kindness.

    It rapidly struck me that all eyes would be focused intently on me for the next few days (at least). Every twinge, every grimace, every frown, every smile, every joke would be unwittingly analysed – ‘Are you OK ?’ ‘Do you want anything ?’ How could I possibly urge and expect my children to carry on with life, school and everything ‘as normal’ if I was confided to bed emerging only for sustenance with bloodshot eyes and a face like a long weekend.

    • Ruben H 10:24 am on October 13, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      So what you are saying is… er that it’s your round? Fill it to the brim with your finest. Just don’t keep filling the glass or you will end up with those bloodshot eyes
      Not quite sure where I’m going with that shallow metaphor…

      • nbrightside 10:27 am on October 13, 2011 Permalink | Reply

        You’re a cheap date – half a pint of shandy or skipping out of the round entirely. No deep message – just live for today !

    • Scott Evans 10:40 am on October 13, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      Hi Andy, mate I’ve been in that very place you have just described, the only difference being, I was only 30. That was 2006 and well here it’s 2011 and I’m still here! (to some that’s a bad thing!)

      I know that I keep saying that all will be ok, not an easy journey but ok… Can I just say that if you feel at any point you can’t cope with all that is going on BLOODY TALK to family or to professional help. This was one of my biggest mistakes throughout my treatment!

      • nbrightside 10:45 am on October 13, 2011 Permalink | Reply

        Scott – thanks for your continued input and support. As you have been thorough a similar process, your thoughts and advice are particularly relevant and useful.

        Yeah – I was (am ?) a classic emotionally retarded British bloke who kept most things to himself, bottled everything up before finally exploding. That is also something that had to change and I will write about in due course.

    • Tim Hall 12:38 pm on October 13, 2011 Permalink | Reply


      As much as you want to put on a brave an positive face for the family, you have really got to focus on what *you* need to get through this. I said this to both my Sister and Sister-In-Law. Fuck everyone else. Be selfish and deal with the fallout when it is over.

      As Scott said, speak to someone. If you are worried about speaking to your family, speak to your GP, a Councillor or a MacMillan Nurse etc. There are people you can moan and bitch at that aren’t your family. You will need to do this, so be prepared in advance. Writing about it helps also. I know you are doing this here, but there may be stuff you are not willing to share, but you should write it down somewhere anyway. Writing has a way of ordering your thoughts much better than talking. My Sister-In-Law used to email one of her friends that was outside the immediate family circle. She always said it helped.

      Having twice been one of the family watching all this happen I can say that some of your family will probably take it harder than you. Don’t let them drag you down with them. It’s up to them to deal with their shit, not to burden you with it. This is one of the occasions where you don’t need to play the hero (in my opinion).

      Thinking of you.


    • Matthew Davidson 1:47 pm on October 13, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      I feel sorry for optimists; they must be constantly disappointed. We pessimists however are occasionally (but often enough) pleasantly surprised.

      I was just yesterday reassured by my psychologist that what I had assumed to be my relentlessly miserable and unappealing personality was actually refreshingly honest, amusing, and clearly entirely without malice. The smug over-paid bastard.

      So the only advice I can give you is to remember that no matter how positive you have to be in your personal life, there is a wider world to consider, and it’s rubbish. Especially at difficult times like these, your friends and family are relying on you to tell them that practically all popular music is awful, and it’s never been much better, rocket is a noxious weed, not a salad vegetable, and the problem with Arsenal is that they always try to walk it in.

      When you’re over this, Ruben and I will be pestering you to come out for a holiday in Sawtell. You’ll love it. It’s dreadful on so many levels.


      • nbrightside 2:07 pm on October 13, 2011 Permalink | Reply

        Ah – a man after my own heart. ‘The smug over-paid bastard’ – LOL.

        Don’t worry – planning for my holiday in Sawtell is already underway. I have the accommodation booked – Ruben’s beach hut. When I explained we are a family of 4, he shrugged and said ‘Well – it’s a quite a big beach hut’.

    • Scott Evans 2:10 pm on October 13, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      Sounds rather like a holiday in Cardiff! 😀

    • jennie 3:15 pm on October 13, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      Came to you blog via the beating bowel cancer forum,
      An amusing but serious read, ty for sharing your journey
      wishing you and your family the very best wishes x

    • Bananabob 11:50 pm on October 13, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      I have spent a long time trying to come up with something to say that won’t sound trite. I can’t do it. All I want to say is My thoughts are with you, I wish you well, and keep focused on that top half of the glass.

    • Darce 10:56 am on October 14, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      Grumpy – you – never, take it easy brother and I, too, promise to not write a poem or turn into a drama queen like Steve love to all, Darce

      There was a young man called Priesty
      Whose discharge was terribly yeasty
      His nurse said “oh dear, I am feeling a bit queer”
      And Priesty said “that’s me off the beer”.

      My first go, it will get better or worse!! Limericks being an Irish invention – no accounting for taste, anyway back to my lesson plans – BTW – for the record – I am not a student a la Gibson’s comments, but a trainee teacher… blah blah Tory Cuts… blah blah…discipline

      Love, bovril and the beautiful game, Darce

  • nbrightside 3:56 pm on October 11, 2011 Permalink | Reply  

    pre-operation checks 

    Saturday 10 September

    Before my colostomy operation, I had to visit Kingston hospital for various medical checks. This wasn’t specific to me – every patient undergoing surgery at Kingston (and probably every other) hospital is subject to the same checks to ensure surgery, aftercare and the hospital environment are preserved.

    The checks started with a chat with a nice nurse who had been summoned in on her day off (which was only fair as I was missing ‘Football Focus’).

    The nurse was Polish and having made a full recovery from a brain tumour with the last 12 months – a fairly interesting and inspirational character herself.

    The checks consisted of:

    • Temperature
    • Pulse
    • Blood pressure
    • Height (185cm)
    • Weight (129 kilos) – yeah yeah I know – carrying that excess weight was probably a factor in me standing on those scales. Bit late for me but not for you.
    • ECG – diagnostics on heart rate and strength
    • MRSA – hospitals really don’t want an MRSA outbreak. Swabs from mouth, armpit and groin (she politely passed me the cotton wool bud for the last location)
    • Blood tests – once again, despite a tourniquet and much fist pumping, a lengthy struggle to locate a decent vein on either arm. My wife was leaning over desperately wanting to have a go and stick a needle into my elbow but once again was denied her opportunity. Instead she chatted with the nurse about mutual friends while I stood at the sink running hot water over my arm to bring some veins to the surface.
    • Urine test – despite supping water for the preceding 45 minutes, this proved problematic but eventually I managed to produce a dribble which then turned into a torrent which then threatened to overflow the provided container.

    All pre-flight checks now complete. Next fixture – Colostomy, Tuesday pm, Kingston Hospital.

    • Tim Hall 4:06 pm on October 11, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      Have a good one mate…

    • Scott Evans 5:27 pm on October 11, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      Yes I’ve had a few of these pre-op checks! Just a note on weight, I was 116kg prior to treatment and on discharge I was a measly 80kg! So expect to loose a bit. The most important thing is to eat healthy & ONLY freshly made, so no leftovers no fast food! The reason for this is critical when you are going through chemotherapy due to your immune system being not at it’s best, the smallest bug will have a bigger effect. Believe me you are doing yourself a favor by following that piece of advice! 😉

      • nbrightside 5:30 pm on October 11, 2011 Permalink | Reply

        Yes. One advantage of the ileostomy was that my diet has already been vastly improved. Little and often with no crap or alcohol. Already down to 121kg.

    • Doug Burns 10:39 am on October 12, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      One advantage … my diet has already been vastly improved. Little and often with no crap or alcohol.

      That’s a matter of opinion, pal!

  • nbrightside 3:27 pm on October 11, 2011 Permalink | Reply  

    branch not a fork 

    $ git branch pita

    People never write in and ask ‘Hey Norman – you already have an award winning blog over at http://nbrightside.com/blog so why are you recounting this adventure here and not there ?’.

    That is a perfectly valid question, particularly as I have spent months getting Drupal configured, finally settled on Markdown for all my writing needs and been fiercely critical of the WordPress user interface – specifically the ‘Add New Post’ form into which I am writing these words.

    The reasons are:

    • The content here is rather different and darker in tone and content than ‘Blog In Isolation’ which was supposed to make me laugh whereas ‘Mr. C meets Mr. C’ is more like a conventional diary of one man’s fight against a very common but horrible illness. Less laughter, more emotion.
    • I honestly didn’t think this content would be of interest to readers of ‘Blog In Isolation’ although that blog is, to all intents and purposes, while not dead – currently silent, comatose and hooked up to a life support machine.
    • I wanted to start this blog quickly. I could have used Habari, Posterous or Tumblr but this placeholder blog was here and waiting. As I once memorably said to Michael – ‘It’s just a means of getting words onto a page’.
    • WordPress is a fantastic and convenient blogging tool. Sitemaps, statistics, Google submission, WYSIWYG editor – all bundled in core.
    • I originally thought this would be a niche blog which might find more kindred spirits within the WordPress.com community than elsewhere.
    • Starting from zero and organic gardening has always appealed to me.
    • I view the next 12 months as a rather irritating (albeit necessary) diversion from my life. I intend to emerge victorious and fully resume my life . I suspect that, when I do, I will be a much nicer person, husband, son, brother and father than I was previously. And probably much thinner too.
    • Ciaran 4:00 pm on October 11, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      Only just caught up with your news, due to a holiday followed by a breakdown of the usual channels of semi-real-time communication. Consequently, it seems that all the arse jokes have already been done and I can only offer my best wishes.

  • nbrightside 3:18 pm on October 9, 2011 Permalink | Reply  

    addition of Contact form 

    Since I gradually disseminated news of my health issues to friends and family and decided to start documenting my adventures here, I have found all the words of shock, kindness, encouragement and support most helpful.

    To be brutally honest, I didn’t really expect a complete stranger posting ‘Sorry to hear that. Thinking of you and your family’ on a microblog to mean anything whatsoever to me. In fact, if you’d asked me a few weeks ago, I might have viewed it as trite and meaningless.

    However, now I can honestly say that any feedback is welcome. I have received thoughtful, considered words of encouragement and support via many different channels (comments on this blog, identi.ca, Google+ and for a number of people slightly closer to me – directly via email).

    Thanks to all of you – even (or especially) if you wrote ‘I don’t know what to write without sounding trite and cliched’ as that is exactly what I would be writing if I was in your shoes.

    So, if you’re keen to leave feedback or simply would prefer to privately ask me a delicate, personal question but don’t want your words published (as in a blog comment), I have added a ‘Contact’ form to this blog.

  • nbrightside 2:49 pm on October 9, 2011 Permalink | Reply  


    Friday 9 September

    Back to the specialist for the results of the biopsy and the plan of action. My wife accompanied me and later admitted she was ‘absolutely petrified’ as we sat in the waiting area. Personally, while I was a little apprehensive, I viewed this consultation as merely a confirmation of the preliminary diagnosis.

    I could see three potential outcomes:

    1. Consultant greets us with arms outstretched, exclaiming ‘I was wrong – it’s benign and can be removed next Thursday. Happy days !’ Probability < 0.1%.
    2. The biopsies and scans confirm that the lump is a malignant tumour but we can treat it. Probability 95%
    3. As above, but there is also evidence of the cancer spreading to other organs. Probability 5%

    With hindsight, there may have been another far worse option, ‘Cancer so deep rooted and widespread that can not be treated’. Anyway, I’m pretty glad that thought never entered my mind.

    I took the precaution of bringing a beaker of cold water as the consultant welcomed us into his office. He told us the news which was, as I expected, option 2. I asked about  the size of the tumour which was 7.5 cm although the consultant told me not to get ‘too hung up on this as it is the type and growth rate is what really matters in these cases’.

    I tried to imagine a 7.5 cm lump in my bowel and, not for the first time, struggled to grasp how long the tumour had been there and how on earth I had been managing to lead a completely normal life, working, playing, travelling, doing everything I normally do with no obvious symptoms.

    Anyway, the consultant stressed the importance of starting treatment (a combination of chemotherapy and radiotherapy) as soon as possible to reduce the size of the tumour.

    However, the abscess site in my bottom and the potential for infection was still a cause for concern as chemotherapy seriously compromises the body’s immune system. A pre-requisite before any cancer treatment could commence was a operation called a colostomy which would isolate my bowel area completely, require ‘exposing the colon’ and capturing what normally passes out of your bottom into a handy bag attached to my stomach.

    Now, this wasn’t a complete shock to me as the surgeon had raised the possibility earlier and I had read this was quite common on the informative ‘Beating Bowel Cancer‘ site.

    In any case, I had a disease that, if left unchecked, was going to kill me. I didn’t exactly have any choice in the matter. I preferred the surgeon being in charge. I liked the way he was decisive and made all the decisions on my behalf. I would have hated to be presented with the question – ‘Well – what do you think ? Shall we take the risk and proceed with chemo or go for the colostomy ?’

    However, I was a little taken aback when he announced ‘Yes – I can tag you on to the end of my list for surgery on Tuesday afternoon’. Tuesday – that was only 4 days away.

    He asked me if I could come to the hospital for various pre-operation checks (blood pressure, ECG, MRSA swabs, blood tests, urine sample, medical history etc) the following day, Saturday which would take around one hour. I agreed and made a mental note to record ‘Football Focus’.

    So that was it, it was confirmed, I had joined the ranks of the thousands of people who are battling cancer. Oddly, I felt strangely relieved as the news could have been worse and at least the next step was now in place.

    • Tim Hall 4:41 pm on October 9, 2011 Permalink | Reply


      Your reaction is similar to what I’ve heard from relatives. Not knowing is the hard thing. Once you know for certain you can focus on the treatment and get through it.

      The surgeons know what they are doing. Do whatever they suggest and get it sorted. Once you are back to form you will have to do some charity runs or something like that. When you do, make sure you post about it and I’ll sponsor you. 🙂

      Stay positive. Thinking of you.



    • Ruben H 11:29 pm on October 9, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      Thanks Andy, I have started and then stopped writing a few responses to your posts. I stopped because I felt anything I had to say as a relative stranger would sound, ‘trite and clichéd’. Of course now that you have given me the go ahead I’ll hit the reply button with incautious abandon.

      I like Tim’s thinking, charity runs etc… but why just you? Perhaps we can get a team of us together for the London Brighton Bike ride or The Milk Run. Feel free to ignore me, I sometimes prattle on.

      You can be sure that over here in Sawtell, Australia we shall be wishing you all the best for a successful operation and a speedy recovery.

      • Tim Hall 7:48 pm on October 10, 2011 Permalink | Reply

        Bike ride? The thought of Andy on a bike with his current bum-related issues sounded like something out of a Viz cartoon. Made me smile. Am I going to hell?



    • Martin English 7:02 am on October 10, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      > I agreed and made a mental note to record ‘Football Focus’.
      Good to see you are thinking about the important stuff. It’s Monday afternoon here (about 5AM UK time, I think), and I thought I’d remind you to set the PVR before going off to hospital tomorrow.

    • Michael C. Harris 6:12 am on October 11, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      I recall seeing a photo of him on a camel once. Perhaps AndyC’s camel ride across the UK?

      • nbrightside 2:59 pm on October 11, 2011 Permalink | Reply

        It was a horse (not a camel). That’s an urban myth that has taken firm hold with all my family and friends.

        Listen – sitting on my arse is unlikely to feature on any of my charitable endeavours once I emerge victorious.

        In any case, these events need a good deal of prior planning from the relevant authorities so here’s my tentative timetable

        May 2012 – Present Manchester United captain, Nemanja Vidic with the European Cup in Munich.
        July 2012 – Headlining in the music tent at Hook Norton Festival of Fine Ales.
        August 2012 – Opening the London Olympiad.
        August 2012 – Introducing ‘I Am Not Left Handed’ at Glastonbury.
        September 2012 – Swimming around the coast of England, Wales and Scotland (pending David Walliams’ agreement)
        September 2012 – Embarking on tour of 92 football league grounds.

        You can give generously now and claim the gift aid at http://justgiving.pita.com. Thanks.

    • Tim Hall 3:53 pm on October 11, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      I can only consider sponsoring you if you complete all events in the allotted timescale. I was thinking maybe 20 pence per event… 🙂

    • Steve 4:49 pm on October 12, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      Andy, interesting what you wrote there about knowing rather than the uncertainty. My Mum has just been diagnosed with breast cancer and since her diagnosis she has been so matter of fact about it all. I think she ‘knew’ the moment she felt the lump (her mother had the same illness in her later years) and the doctor merely confirmed her own diagnosis but the way she talks about it is, to me, remarkably undramatic.
      I imagine I would be composing poems and being a proper drama queen. If you’d like me to compose a poem for you…
      There was an old hurler called Andy,
      who these days could only drink shandy

  • nbrightside 12:09 pm on October 7, 2011 Permalink | Reply  

    Bottoms Up 

    This blog has been pretty heavy going but I knew this adventure would unveil some lighter moments and apparently, there is scientific evidence that laughter is beneficial for everyone.

    On Wednesday, I had an appointment with an oncologist (cancer specialist) to discuss chemotherapy. After listening to my medical history, she (for it was a lady) said ‘Right – now I’m going to examine you so just hop up onto the couch’.

    The consulting room was pretty full – me, the wife, the oncologist and two nurses.

    A nurse in a dark blue uniform (sister ?) accompanied me to the couch in case I needed a helping hand. I didn’t, and as I was familiar with the drill, I hopped up, laid down facing the wall and lowered my tracksuit and boxers and pulled my knees up towards my chest.

    A slight pause – come on, get on with it. Get the gloves on and just do it.

    ‘Oh Mr. Brightside. You misunderstood. This morning I only want to feel your tummy and listen to your chest.’

    I rapidly pulled up my clothing and rolled over onto my back. The nurse had a neutral expression but I broke the silence with ‘God – I’m awfully sorry. I’m sure you could have done without that. Especially so soon after breakfast’ which gave everyone a laugh.

    • Ed Morgan 12:13 pm on October 7, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      I just had a little snigger at my desk… I bet that was awkward.

    • nbrightside 12:19 pm on October 7, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      Not really. It’s rapidly become apparent to me these doctors and nurses have seen it all, at least, 1,000 times before 🙂

    • oracledoug.com 4:35 am on October 8, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      Ha ha ha … nice one.

      I’ve always found that in the rich tapestry of life (yep, it’s going to be 100% cliches from me from now on!) and it’s ups and downs, we all have real moments of humour.

      … and tears, and sadness and fear.

      Hope we can get beers in soon (unless that’s now banned or something), you stick in there and this all works out ok in the end.

      Thoughts to you and the entire Brightside family ….

    • Tim Hall 5:46 am on October 8, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      Just got back from Open World and started to catch up on my blogs. Wow. Fingers crossed for you mate.



      PS. Please don’t assume I want to see your ass when we meet. 🙂

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