Saturday, 19 November 2011

What's the chances of that?

Lance looking at his 7th
Tour de France trophy
So much for my 'rare' cancer. I've only gone and contracted the same bloody tumor as the chemo world's poster boy. It's like turning up to the Oscars in the same dress as Angelina Jolie. Or something.

Lance Armstrong is the greatest cyclist in history, and an inspiration to millions. He won the Tour de France a record 7 times - 7 in years in succession - after beating Choriocarcinoma. He was in a much worse state than me. Apparently the doctors gave Lance PIV chemotherapy for his 60% mix of Chorio, rather than PEB for my 95%, due to potential side-effects on his lung capacity.

I've learned that 'side-effects' are such a prominent part of cancer treatment that the term is misleading.

I've always had a high metabolic rate, burning up food and energy faster than most, and so I'm rattling through various new side-effects faster than you can say 'paracetomol'. Yesterday I had teenage spots, sores and cold sores; deafness followed by tinnitus; loss of appetite then hunger and heartburn; extreme lethargy and insomnia; and, after morning tea, I developed paranoid hallucinations and diarrhoea (a messy combination).

Then, in the afternoon, I lost my voice for 3 hours, developed an inexplicable fear of pointy things and glass, and one of my teeth broke in half and interrupted my enjoyment of a Marmite sandwich. What's left of my hair is due to fall out the day after tomorrow.

We were having a laugh about it with today's nurse. She was showing Moniek how to clean my pipe (please, remember that children read the comments you write) but reckons my rapid-fire approach to side-effects is the best one. Her attitude was 'well, you're gonna get X so you might as well have it done with and move onto Y, because Z is coming next week'.

I only have to put up with the side-effects; the nurses have to treat them. Is the side-effect serious enough to warrant another medication, or will that create yet another side-effect? Many medicines inter-react with each other, and so medical staff are continually evaluating, compromising, adjusting and refining their treatment of every patient. My hat goes off to them (taking some hair with it).

Cancer and its intended cures are hard on the body, but much harder on the mind. Some people talk about an 'emotional rollercoaster', but that's bullshit. You choose to get on a rollercoaster, the ride lasts a short and predictable time, it loops the same loops, and your chances of death are infinitesimally small. The psychological impact of cancer and chemotherapy is more like Russian roulette.

Remember the scene from 'The Deerhunter'? Apparently, today at 7pm, my gun has 1 bullet and 9 empty barrels. Others have much worse odds. It's 'will I, won't I?' every time the doctor walks into the bamboo hut and reveals a new piece of information. Being so tired and confused from all the pills and their side-effects, it's impossible to remain objective or maintain perspective about what's being discussed. It's pure mental torture.

Me looking at Trev's arse for the 7th lap
Dr Karmen has been well impressed with my ability to withstand industrial-grade PEB. There's no doubt that my Tour de Pokhara physical condition going into chemotherapy has been a major contributing factor to my resilience and rapid improvement (so far). But, in my experience, psychological condition and attitude play an even greater part. I'll read Lance's book to pick up some motivational tips for next time I have to pick up the revolver. I hope it's not all 'woooh-yeah- alright dude' septic style.

Move over Lance, because I plan to end up on Dr Karmen's office pinboard too. It's jam packed full of photos of her beaming survivors. I daren't look in her bin.

My nurses are absolutely wonderful. They have such compassion, respect and dedication for all their patients; every one of which has a different gun to their head, a different personal story, and a different state of mind. Moniek and I were heartbroken today; a pretty girl in a funky knitted hat was in the chemo chair next to my bed. She couldn't have been more than 15 years old. The energy and optimism our nurses create in the clinic, day in day out, through all the tragedy is truly inspirational. Today's tune is dedicated to them with huge respect.

It's also for Lance. He got back on his bike; I'm going to get back on my motorcycle. I doubt I'll become 7 times world champion, though. I can't even catch Trev on a track day.

Grab a tissue. This time you'll need it to wipe away dancing sweat rather than tears:


  1. As the Northern Ireland bikers say 'KEEP HER LIT!'

  2. Mate, you don't want to catch me I spend more time on the grass next to the track!!

    Can't wait to hook up on the bikes again ;-)

    You may not make World cycling champion but if there was a World Championships for "top bloke" you'd be stood on top of that podium!!

  3. Are they mixing a bit of the old 'wizz' in with the PEB today Rick? Today's entry is like Spuds interview! I don't know much about motor bikes but you were annoyingly fast on a 'proper' bike ( Ian may argue that one?) I remember chasing you two across Germany and holland on a bike with no brakes! - Lance proudly refers to himself as Juan Pelota! What's the Nepal equivalent?
    Hang in there bro!

  4. My future sister-in-law thought Lance Armstrong was the first man on the moon (but don't ever tell her I ts you that!). You may not be able to live up to that achievement either, but in my eyes you're amazing in many, many other ways. Woooh-yeah!!!!

  5. Hi Rick, greetings from Northern Ireland. You probably don’t remember me, Ronnie, or my wife Sandra, but we are long time friends of your Mum and Dad (Sandra and you Mum go back to the year dot) The last time I saw you, you and Elaine ( as young teenagers) sat in our house in Larne and didn’t say a word, how you both have changed, you have both turned into two wonderful unique adults. I‘m looking forward to Elaine and Matts wedding and catching up with you there, I don’t know if you’re musical but Matt is trying to form an evening band (should be interesting, I think your Dad is trying to learn all the words of his party piece). There are lots of people in Larne following your blogs and wishing you well. As all your fellow bloggers are suggesting tunes may I add my two pence worth and suggest a song my brother liked when he was going through the same situation as yourself: Apologies to your rocker followers but it is John Denvers : Somedays are diamonds and somedays are stone. And could I finish with a gaelic blessing which is meant from the heart.:
    “May the road rise up to meet you, may the wind be ever at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face and the rain fall softly on your fields. And until we meet again, May God hold you in the hollow of his hand.”

  6. Des & Rick, the Denmark / Germany / Netherlands trip was immense. I seem to recall another nasty illness befalling Rick, a touch of 'German knee'. I still maintain to this day it was due to the embarrassment of not being able to keep up with the Flyer from Consett as the pace being set was fearsome. I do recall the RnR at the end & the 'cake' incident in the Pink Floyd cafe. Hmmm

    Trev, looking forward to riding out on the motorbikes too. Still have the unfeasibly reliable ZX6, so I'll probably be joining Rick looking at your ar5e or you on the lawn.

    Keep up the fine recovery Mr M.

  7. Hey Ian, I still 'dine out' on the Pink Floyd story!

    I swear by Tena for Men