Thursday, 27 August 2015

Fly Fisherman has a Brush with Art!

Saw Bernie, the specialist nurse at St Christopher's Hospice yesterday for my pain control check up. I showed her a graph of what my previous 24 hours had been like and she advised me to double the OxyContin pills.  I did from 8 pm and they worked effectively till 6 am when I awoke with extreme pain so I had to get up and move about.  Not due the next dose till 8 am so I took some paracetamols and some OxyNorm liquid as top up.  Then I needed something to distract me so I decided to blog. Here goes:-

I had an excellent art master called Kenneth Somers-Yeates at secondary school.  He caned me once for playing the fool when I was around 13 years old but later when I was a prefect we became good friends. He taught me a lot about perspective drawing so from time to time I dabble.

This is a fish picture I painted a long time ago of a fine spotted trout.

Whilst doing voluntary work at the London LDS Temple I painted this view of the Manor House as seen from my bedroom window.  This has been my most reproduced painting as practically everyone who has served on site has requested one.  In the end instead of giving them away I started charging a £5 donation to the Church's Perpetual Education Fund.  This has raised well over £300.

Recently at Center Parcs I painted the view out of the lodge window, not very exciting but the only place I could get comfortable enough to paint.

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Exploring Anomalies! This could be controversial?

Maybe it's an age thing or maybe I am just over hypersensitive to what is going on around me but I am amazed and even disconcerted about what I see as anomalies. 
Take for example the vast sums of money spent by local government departments in the UK in installing traffic calming solutions. The most popular of these (popular by the local governments and shock absorber manufacturers not drivers) are speed humps (which more poetically were known as "sleeping policemen"). Why go to the trouble, cost and effort of installing these when letting a random scattering of deep potholes develop, renders the same traffic calming effect for free?
For me another anomaly occurs at dances or discos. Why do people attend dances and disco? Well certainly to dance or at least to jig about, but mainly to meet and get to know other people. Does this happen? Yes, but the efficiency of the process is severely inhibited. What inhibits the process? The "disc jockey"! How do they do it?  By playing the music so loud it is impossible to hold a conversation. This explains why at a noisy disco you see so many people in the corridors or even the car park so they can talk. Sadly it is a self defeating cycle as the DJ on seeing people moving off the dance floor turns the volume higher! Obviously DJs are not equipped to be arbiters of noise levels as the very nature of their job means they are all profoundly deaf anyway!
Years ago it came as a real shock to me when I asked my teenage children if they had enjoyed a particular event such as a friends party or church youth club meeting and they replied "Dad, it was really wicked!" Concerned as to what evil had transpired in this seemingly safe environment I would "water board" them to get to the innocent truth. This current popular use of the word wicked is another anomaly as is the use of the word "cool"! Sitting in a warm and humid chapel last Sunday I was amused by a speaker who kept telling the congregation how cool they were. On reflection maybe that was less of a concern than if he had been saying how "hot" they were!
The use of alcohol to enhance an evening's pleasure leads to the classic anomaly "it must have been a brilliant night out because my head hurts and I can't remember a thing!" I am so glad that in my autumnal years not having been fueled by alcohol I can still remember the good nights out!
Then there is the anomaly of some restaurants imposing a "service charge"! If I see that when ordering I am tempted to ask, "If we serve ourselves can we forgo the service charge?
Mention computers and anomalies and I could prattle on at infinitum. Suffice it to say that if my computerised financial transactions are so secure why is it necessary to have so many system updates and why are there daily news reports of security breaches and people's nest eggs going missing?
Now to risk getting a bit political. In the days when we were either hunters or gatherers or even multi tasking at both, everyone had to make some contribution to the survival of the tribe. Some of us are old enough to almost remember, no work, no eat. So everyone had to do their bit; kids collecting firewood, elderly people watching children and most surprisingly even teenagers working! Probably even the weak, sick or dysfunctional were expected to make some sort of contribution. No contribution, no dinner! So here today, in the so called civilised world, the anomaly is that often we actually pay people to do nothing! When we do that we deny them the satisfaction of experiencing the feeling of being needed and of a "job well done"! So what stops us helping everyone find a working role, I suggest it is mainly a lack of imagination. 
When I worked in Africa I was amazed at how some of the locals could make something to sell out of nothing.  Once I was invited to stay at the home of the architect I was working for in Lusaka, Zambia. He lived at Leopards Hill, the posh part and his estate had a swimming pool, squash court and everything else you could desire.  One of the reception rooms in the house was huge, two storeys high and was equipped like a museum. On the floor were a number of very large models, in metal, of vehicles beautifully hand crafted.  I asked the owner about them and he said that one day there was a knock on the door and a local gentleman said "Mr Andrews here is a model of your Toyota Land Cruiser I have made for you".  Andy was impressed with the size (it was at least 4 feet long) and the craftsmanship (it was all made out of recycled coke cans metal, oil drum metal etc).  Andy felt he had to buy it as it was so good.  A month later the same man appeared but this time with an equally beautiful, huge model of Andy's wife's car.  The following month it was a beautiful model of the family's tractor and so it went on until Andy pulled the plug.  I cite this because it shows an interesting use of initiative.
Well I have run out of steam now but I bet you have your own list of anomalies!

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Who is the angel who tried to help?

Last Thursday having been told they were giving me a break from the chemo I had a good day on Friday and even managed to visit Ann and Bill our favourite neighbours. I was feeling so much better I started thinking about Rosalind and I going away for a break. On Saturday having failed to get a new batch of 12 hour pain killer tablets ordered off the surgery website I took the empty OxyContin packet to the surgery, fortunately only 200 metres away and a lady in the office said she would order it for me.

So I had to switch to the short term OxyNorm liquid pain relief. Things started to go downhill from there on. I felt unwell during Saturday night but on Sunday morning I decided to go to Church as Rosalind was giving the closing 20 minute talk in Sacrament meeting and I wanted to support her. Also Ann and Bill were coming. Rosalind's talk was excellent but as I was poorly Ann and Bill took me home afterwards.

We had invited Alejandro and his daughter Camila to lunch on Sunday so we could get to know them better and also to help them on the job development front. After lunch we invited them to do the Church's "Career Choices Questionnaire" which they managed well with some help from Google Translate! Their mother tongue is Spanish. After Rosalind and I had analysed their results we helped them with the career selection process. By this time I was feeling grim so I left Ros to finish off and I retired to bed.

To cut a long story short over the next days I developed diarrhoea and vomiting which coupled with the pain from the cancer has made life pretty miserable. The surgery managed to prescribe more liquid pain relief by mistake but a couple of telephone calls sorted that and eventually I got the OxyContin pills.

Our church Stake President Chris Turner, and his wife Sue visited us on Tuesday evening and Ros had invited them to dinner. I joined them, unshaven and in my PJ's and managed a bit of dinner. We had a lovely chat but then I had to bail out feeling really unwell.

I then had more vomiting and severe "Ghandi's Revenge" so Wednesday was lousy but with two highlights. The first was that my daughter-in-law Debbie emailed out the link to the family photos the professional photographer had taken at Center Parcs and they were brilliant!

The second highlight was an anonymous parcel from Amazon containing an electronic pain suppression device called a Tens!  Having read the instructions and experiencing some shoulder pain, I decided to try it out.  I think I must have put the electrodes in the wrong place because it amplified rather than inhibited the pain.  Still I will experiment because it obviously has an effect.  Sadly about 20 minutes after the experiment I was throwing up the tomato soup and banana I had eaten earlier.  I don't think the device caused that. 

The question remains "who is the nice angel who sent me the Tens device"? I would like to thank them for thinking of me and trying to help in a practical way. If it was you please let me know so I can thank you?

Monday, 17 August 2015

Pain and more pain!

I am writing this in an effort to distract myself from the pain I am not enjoying. I used to think that when it came to pain I was "Mr Tough Guy"!  Sometimes when asked at the dentist, prior to a drill session, if I wanted an injection I would say "No, just get on with it"!  Then I felt I had coped OK with pain after my large hernia op and when I had the TURP procedure.  My shoulder rotator cuff operation was a whole new ball game, that really hurt!  Once the pain blocker injection wore off it was hell, but as the days slipped by things improved and 3 months later I was glad I had the op.

Currently I am suffering three types of physical pain (please don't feel obliged to read on). The cancer in my right lung means that it hurts a bit like I have broken several ribs. This pain is always there but if I keep still and don't try to breath deeply it becomes bearable and I can get to sleep. 

The "killer diller" pain (I have no idea where that expression came from) is one that has developed in intensity over the months I have been ill. It started as an irritating pain over my right shoulder and down my arm. Sometimes it would go away for a few days, hurrah! Sadly recently it has increased in intensity and as well as affecting my shoulder has moved down into high level in my back. 

So what have I done in order to fight back? Well I rigorously follow the recommended pain control regime suggested by Bernie the nurse at St Christopher's Hospice. This involves 2 paracetamol tablets 4 times a day at 4 hourly intervals, plus a 10 mg OxyContin tablet twice a day (8am and 8pm) this is the 12 hour dose. Then as top up I have 5 ml of OxyNorm in liquid form if the other stuff is not coping. They are both oxycodone hydrochlorides.  Sadly at the moment I am not coping!  I have also tried lying, sitting and standing in every conceivable position (except on my head, although that has been tempting) to relieve the pain.  Hot shower water directed at my back helps for a while.  A heated bean bag filled with wheat (I think) masks some pain if it is hot enough.

The third type of pain I experience is from the urinary catheter I still have fitted. This was fitted some months ago as the morphine I was on for pain relief was inhibiting my water works from functioning. The catheter does its job but it does painfully irritate my penis forcing me to wriggle or walk about to release the pain.

Last night after I had vomited twice (not sure why but was I glad I had really chewed up the bacon sandwich I had for supper) I managed to get to sleep before midnight. Sadly I woke in a lot of pain around 3am.  I put my bean bag in the microwave and heated it up and returning to bed decided to check out a couple of blogs recommended by one of nurses at the Marsden. So now I have visited Mavis Nye's blog and also looked at Mesothelioma Warriors web site. This led me on to find out about the Medical Innovations Bill that Lord Saatchi is trying to get through Parliament.

24 Jun 2015 - Lord Saatchi's Medical Innovation Bill passes first hurdle. A bill which will offer legal protection to doctors who try out innovative new techniques or drugs on patients when all else has failed is a step closer to becoming law.

I think this is a move in the right direction, it won't help me but I would not mind being a guinea pig if it helped other souls. In the meantime I battle on supported by my loving wife.

I got a bit of a surprise at my meeting with the doctor at the Marsden last Thursday.  She told me that the consultants had reviewed my case and decided to give me a break from chemo for a month. Then I would have a CT scan to see if the chemo was working and based on the findings they would decide the future course of action. So there was no chemo on the Friday and I had a goodish day.  Then on the Saturday the pain really kicked in!

A big thank you to all the people thinking of me, praying for me and contacting me, it does help. Watch this space!

Thursday, 13 August 2015

The old fisherman delves into the positive side of dying!

Who is this man? Read on!
We are all dying, but when you have been told you are on the fast track measurable in months or if you are lucky a few years it does focus the mind. In some ways this is helpful because it allows you to start putting your affairs in order. There are the practical things like making sure your wife knows the cost of running the house and what needs to be paid when and how. Then there are the things that worry your conscience, people you might have upset or offended years ago to whom you would like to apologize. So far I have apologized to two people and both have been very magnanimous in their response and have helped me feel better and I can mentally tick them off the list (it's a short list).
Being religious I do believe in miracles but I also believe in a loving Heavenly Father who has a plan for all of us and sometimes either because we don't have enough faith or because it's not part of our plan a miracle is not an option.  However, I do believe it is possible to have a miracle especially with people all over the world mentioning me in their prayers and my medical team trying their hardest.
I find the discomfort and pain can wear one down a bit so it is important to regularly top up the attitude batteries. Receiving support and encouragement from family and friends is a great help. One of the great blessings in my life is the support I get from my church and religious beliefs. When at the age of 16 I moved on from the Church of England and was baptised into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints I had no idea of the positive impact it would have on my life. Not only has it helped me "stay on the straight and narrow" but it has given me a wonderful life, wonderful wife and a wonderful family. I have also had some amazing experiences and adventures such as running a Scout Group, managing a Church farm, starting a branch of the Church in Gibraltar, taking sixty young adults from London and Paris camping on the beach in Normandy (lots of marriages came about from that). Also being a lay minister in the Church and also a school governor for twenty three years kept me out of mischief! My former employers will be asking "How did he ever find time to go to work?"
When I feel a bit low because of the pain and the inability to do things, I visit one of the Church's web sites and listen to or read a talk given by one of the Church leaders. The video link below is to a talk given by Jeffrey R Holland one of our Church leaders (pictured above) who I have met and talked to and who is an interesting and inspirational speaker. I recommend the talk to you. Please try the link and share your thoughts with me it certainly gave me a boost..
If you have trouble with the video link you could always try and have a look at the Church's main web site. For information on what we believe try

Monday, 10 August 2015

I'm dying to have a good time, and I did at Center Parcs!

When things are a bit bleak on the health front it is good to have something to look forward to. I had already planned to take all the UK based family members away to Center Parcs in August.  When we had to cancel our holiday in Seattle, because of my cancer challenge, our U.S.A-based family (Dan, Holly, Erin, Harrison, Rose and Kate) decided to come to see us and join the Family Reunion Holiday at Center Parcs in Woburn Forrest, UK.
There were 37 of us in 5 large well-appointed and equipped lodges. The weather was good and the range of activities amazing. We have, over the years, stayed at most of the Center Parcs in the UK, but with the newest at Woburn, Center Parcs have really upped their game.
Booking was easy, arriving and getting settled no problem and all the staff were most helpful. I really appreciated the comfortable beds and the ladies liked the well-equipped kitchens and the general cleanliness.
 In terms of activities there was so much to do. Let the pictures tell the story.
 Yours truly outside the glazed side to the indoor pools.
 The 4 person floats give you a terrific ride!
 The main pool with a spectacular wave machine that can knock you over.
 Rosalind and yours truly enjoying the lazy river.
 Beach and boats.
 The amazing treetop action challenge, well run and good value.
 Massive zip line across the lake!
 Twenty mums and dads at dinner.
 Little people ten pin bowling.
 Disco crazy mums!
Alan and Rosalind with all 23 grandchildren!
Yes it did cost quite a lot of money, but the relationships and memories are priceless!