Day 117

A day spent partly with Lesley reappraising where we are and the ways life will be different from now on. Through all that has happened over the last few months, I have grown to understand a comment made by Lesley. She said that the changes I was undergoing was not limited to me and profoundly affects her so that we should not think in terms of Mark or Lesley but on both of us as a whole (I guess Masley or Lerk!!) I can now see what she means. I owe a great debt to Lesley for helping me to recover from the operation but now it is time to consider the longer term.

We go to a garden centre a few miles away to get some plant pots. I drive Lesley’s driving school car with the dual controls. So my recovery has reached the stage of being capable of boring middle-class mediocrity! But the driving goes well, allowing for the fact that I am unfamiliar with the car. Now to arrange a service and MOT on my own car which has expired.

All this would have been unthinkable just a few weeks ago which just shows how quickly I am improving. Despite outward appearances, what is not obvious is the lack of stamina and the fact that I quickly run out of energy.

Day 116

I hear a version of Bach’s keyboard sonatas played on a harpsichord accompanied by a chamber orchestra of only 11 musicians (Freiburg Baroque Orchestra). BBC Radio 3 CD review at first played a few piano versions accompanied by symphony orchestras before playing the harpsichord version. After the anodyne, bloated and sometimes over-elaborate piano renditions the harpsichord version exploded out of my little radio speaker.  Wow! I am smitten.

The texture of the accompaniment reflects the harpsichord much more closely than on piano and it all makes sense. It appears that this is the version which customers to Zimmer’s Coffee House in Leipzig in the early part of the eighteenth century may have heard. With Bach at the harpsichord! Imagine that! That’s what I CALL live music.

I walk to the brook. I have decided to try walking longer distances again.  I appear to have suffered absolutely no ill effects. But I may still wait a few weeks before the longer walk to the farmhouse.

I go to the movies to see First Man, a biopic about Neil Armstrong. It seems a bit fragmented, which is fine for me as I know the story.  But just what people who were unfamiliar with the events would make of it, I’m not too sure. But I am pleased that I survived the experience and happy to be going out to the movies again.

I have found that Mike Leigh’s film Peterloo goes on general release on 2nd Nov but can find nowhere showing it. Typical of the bloody local multiplexes around here. It was the same as I, Daniel Blake. Anything which takes even a remotely radical view of society is avoided at all costs.

Day 115

A knock at the front door at 7:40am . It is a delivery from Fittleworth who supply my stoma equipment. Lesley actually responds faster than me and gets out of bed and down to the front door in double quick time. So this is another one I owe her.  I’m sure she is keeping a tally of all these instances! The box is large and contains all the things I need for at least a month.

Some of the stuff they supply, however, comes from the Netherlands. The question is whether the mix of deadheads and chinless posh boy wonders who seem intent on screwing up Brexit will affect what has become a crucial element of my life.

I do some gardening. The weather remains fairly warm and bright so getting out in the air is terrific. So far it has been an unusually dry and warm autumn.  It cannot last, though I remember one some time ago when it lasted almost until the end of November.  That was the year when a stray Brandi the Cat decided to move in with us.

I get a letter about my next appointment, 23rd January. Before then, however I’ll need to have blood tests and a CT scan. It seems like the medics are going to keep a very close eye on me over the next few years.

Day 114

A walk, just a short distance to the nearby park gates, but I walk more quickly than previously. Considering yesterday’s reflection on my blog entries I am moving swiftly on (no pun intended)………..

I am reading W.W. Tasker’s book Railways in the Sirhowy Valley.  The title is a bit misleading as the book is hopelessly lopsided, relying on much anecdotal evidence based on his father’s experiences working for the LNWR (London and North Western Railway) and its successor company, the LMS (London, Midland and Scottish) and illustrated with Tasker’s own photographs. He makes little mention of the Tredegar Iron and Coal Company’s (TIC) quite extensive mineral line at the top end of the valley or the interaction between the two companies. Many questions remain unanswered.

Mineral traffic in general merits only a one page mention and even then the emphasis is on mixed goods operations rather than the massive coal (and, at first, iron) transport operation. The interaction between the mainline railway and the coal company is interesting considering the sheer amount of material to be handled and the fact that they were a customer of each other.

My next reading on the subject will be to get hold of J.M. Dunn’s reflections of his career on the railways in the area – but his book is unambiguously titled as being autobiographical.

Day 113

I am working from home. Using an Instant Messaging (Skype) system I can exchange thoughts, ideas and jokes with my colleague, Ash in real time. This makes it easier and more pleasurable. In some ways I can actually get more done working from my living room when Lesley is out and all is quiet.

The acute fatigue which has bedevilled me since the operation is less of a problem tonight. The idea that it may finally be easing is a real morale booster.  So may evenings after about 7:30-8:00pm have been lost in a haze of a kind of half-life between waking and unconscious. To regain a whole part of the day will open up a range of activities once again.

I am thinking about the purpose of this blog. It started out life as a record of my experience being diagnosed with bladder cancer. Then, following the bladder removal operation I could detail how I handled the turbulent weeks and months at the start of the long period of recovery.  Now that I am entering the latter stages of recuperation I going to need things beyond how much of the lawns I’ve mowed and how far I’ve walked. I may even need to rethink my habit of titling the entries as the number of days since the cancer diagnosis. Transition periods are always tricky.

Day 112

I spend part of the day continuing to work on the model railway baseboard structure. Just the leg supporting stays to secure and I can test it out. Hopefully it will be stable as it will be quite tall but not very wide.  It may need some extra support.

6:30pm University Hospital, Coventry, Consulting Area 4.  An appointment with consultant. As I wait I feel the stress building.  Finally I am called in by one of the urology nurses I first me before the operation in August. The consultant  tells me that cancer was found in other tissue they removed during the operation. But as it was taken out and no cancer was found in the lymph nodes this is actually excellent news. The relief is tremendous, no chemotherapy is required and my next appointment will be in 3 months.

7:45pm Green Party meeting. Due to the agenda I am able to make little contribution to proceeding which is not a big problem for me. Nevertheless, by 8:30 I am starting to feel fatigued so I make an excuse and Lesley brings me home.

I come home and listen to the second half of the Wales v Ireland football commentary on the BBC Radio Wales website. A 1-0 victory for Wales.  Hurrah!

Day 111

The luxury of an almost uninterrupted night’s sleep. I don’t really wake up until 8am rather than the more usual 5:30-6:00am. Hopefully this marks another step forward in my recovery.

A walk to the bridge over the railway line, a round trip distance of about a quarter of a mile from my home. This is a good compromise allowing me to walk quite quickly without requiring a lot of stamina.

I am working on the model railway baseboards. I need to go back to complete some basic work on the structure of the model railway which I did not get a chance to finish before the operation. One of the downsides of my operation moving from the end of August to the 19th. Set against the upsides, however……!!

I start working from home by testing out and downloading from the company servers materials I need for a current project. It takes an age with a relatively slow Broadband speed where I live. But eventually it completes and I am ready to go tomorrow. Amazingly the authoring software I need works flawlessly. It’ll not last.

I start to actively plan to go to the movies.  A few practical issues to resolve before next weekend, but nothing insurmountable.

Day 110

Eight Weeks since my bladder removal operation.

We go to the recycling centre to dump off the old mattresses and take some old batteries, bulbs and a few other dead items. We go in the early afternoon and incredibly there is no queue.  We park up, dump off the mattresses and are home in double quick time. Maybe everyone goes on Sunday morning!

Steve my boss emails me with some ideas for starting to work from home. It is a continuation of a project I had to abandon when my operation took place.  This is good for me as I will start work slowly on something I am familiar with.

I make a few phone calls to catch up with friends.

In a now rare occurrence I suffer a bag leak. I knew there was a weakness at one point but I did not think it was significant. Turns out it was! I have learned something.

My friend Phil tells me about the release of Mike Leigh’s Peterloo which is apparently imminent. The film recounts the appalling events of August 1819 when a protest by ordinary people rallying to hear speeches in support of greater democracy and poverty alleviation were charged by the local yeomanry resulting in the death and mutilation of protesters.  It was commemorated in one of poet Percy Bysshe Shelley’s most famous poems Mask of Anarchy. A great read.

Day 109

I am at the point where I can think about driving again. As the medics said when I asked them some weeks ago, it is as much about my psychological state as my physical state. How capable do I feel, how alert do I feel, can I be confident of reacting quickly in an emergency? I’ll ask Lesley if I can go out in her driving school car which has dual controls.

As a professional she should be able to decide whether I am ready or not.  It is now almost two months since I last drove so I anticipate being a bit rusty. After that I need to arrange an MOT for my car which has now expired.

The Newport Dragons are playing in Rumania so no coverage of the game. This is not too much of a problem as the game is likely to be one sided with the Dragons actually holding the upper hand for a change. On the other hand, that may have been a novelty!

I’ve decided to give up on the emails today and think about other things. Pointless emails just annoy people anyway!

There is still no discharge from my drain and I am cautiously optimistic that this time it will heal without further issue. That will be another little post-op irritation out of the way.

Day 108

A walk – this time the Main Street loop around the village.  I do this faster than before (a whole 24 secs!) so the heart rate and breathing get a bit of a work out.  I am happy making my system work a little harder as long as I do not go for too long and start to hit my stamina. At some point I shall start to try my longer walks again – maybe next weekend.

My legs are feeling definitely stronger and I am able to stride out now rather than simply shuffling along. I had forgotten what such a feeling was like, and it helps build confidence as well. One thing this operation has done for me; made me appreciate many simple things which we take for granted!

The drain has dried up and the wound is healing over nicely again. This is great news and may indeed be tied up with feeling better generally. Lesley helps me by redressing the area, but it is possible it’ll not be required. But as it reopened I am taking no chances.

More emails announcing to the world that I am still alive. Though it may just be that some of the recipients may wish otherwise! What a gloomy thought. Oh well, a more positive thought will be along any moment.