Thursday, 25 January 2018

From Living The Dream to Living The Nightmare

Thursday 12th October 2017 is a date that will always be etched in our minds. The day our world stopped turning.
Jeff had been called in for tests following routine bowel screening but as he had no symptoms, was feeling really well, fit, not losing any weight etc. All the signs were that he was in the 90% who get called in on a false positive. How wrong you can be.
We were told that day that he had a tumour in his Sigmoid Colon and that it was almost certainly cancer. They had taken biopsies to check. He would be operated on within 62 days to remove part of the bowel including the tumour and would have a CT scan in the meantime to determine the extent of the cancer. We put those 62 days to the best use we could, walked as much as we could to get as fit as possible for his op; went racing at every opportunity and tried to fill our time with anything other than worry (easy to say). The CT scan took place and showed that the tumour was confined within the bowel - biopsy had confirmed that it was cancer.
November 21st was admission day and the op was performed the following day. 5 hours in theatre and another 5 in recovery. I can honestly say they were the longest 10 hours of my life. The op went well but unfortunately the recovery didn't. By day 3 (when in theory they would have been starting to think about discharging him the next day) he had been unable to eat or drink and things didn't seem to be doing what they should. He was horrendously bloated and extremely uncomfortable. This theme continued with him getting weaker and worse each day, and then on the Monday night (day 5) he started to run a fever.
Intravenous antibiotics started immediately and he was whisked off for an emergency CT scan that morning. We had been warned that there were quite a few possible complications with the surgery, most of them had something like less than 5% probability. The CT scan showed that he had a few:
Paralytic Illeus   (nothing was passing from his stomach through into his bowel, which was why he                                    was so bloated and why he couldn't eat or drink anything).
Pneumonia         (because his stomach was so distended, his lungs had not had room to function                                        properly).
Anastomatic Leak  (the join in his bowel had not quite sealed and was leaking gas into his abdomen                                      - this was the most scary as it potentially meant the op would need repeating)
Infection in the Join (for obvious reasons the bowel is an area that is prone to infection and the leak                                         had probably led to this)

So immediately a nasogastric tube was inserted and the contents of his stomach were drained - this drain then had to stay in place and it was nil by mouth (although he hadn't really taken anything for days as he had felt so crap and bloated) for the next 5 days. This allowed the bowel to rest and along with IV antibiotics was the best hope of the leak healing without further surgery. To watch the man you love being so poorly when he had walked into hospital as fit as a flea to all intents and purpose was so very hard, but it was nothing to what he was going though.

After 5 days of nil by mouth and IV meds, his bloods were showing signs that things were improving so he was allowed to start sipping at liquids and swallowing tiny amounts of soft food - it's the first time I've bought baby food in my life. The euphoria when the first few sips and swallows didn't reappear via the drainage tube was immense.His gut had started to work. He was finally making progress. The following day the tube was removed and he came off the drip that had been keeping him alive for the last 12 days. He could now eat proper (soft) food, albeit tiny amounts.

Monday 4th December, he was finally allowed home. He was weak, sore, tired, bloated and over a stone and a half lighter than he was when he went in, but he was home. The first couple of weeks at home were very difficult but we were both just so pleased that he was on the mend and at home. Christmas didn't happen in our lives but by New Year, Jeff was strong enough for us to join our friends for a couple of hours at the start of the evening.

Since then it has been a question of gradual recovery. As his appetite has increased, so has his weight and gently walking a little further each day has helped regain some strength too.

Through all of this Jeff has remained cheerful - even though there were dark moments when getting out of hospital at all was beginning to look doubtful - and has never complained.As I type this, 9 weeks and a day after the op, I am so proud of him for his positive attitude, his strength and determination and the fact that today for the first time it felt like we might, one day, get back to what we consider normality.Just a mile up and a mile back, but what an astounding achievement.

Our world is turning again. Slower than before for now but it's definitely turning. We feel so lucky. Lucky that we have NHS screening; Lucky that we had the most amazing Consultant. 14 days in hospital and he was there for every single one of them. Saturdays, Sundays; often he would visit Jeff 3 times a day. Always first thing in the morning (before 8am many times) and still be there at 7 in the evening. Sareth Avula, our Knight in shining Armour.
So if you've made it all the way through this post, well done and I hope if nothing else you will take one lesson from our experience. National Screening saves lives. Never; Ever throw your Poo sticks on the fire.

Monday, 20 November 2017

Short Interlude

We have some very big bridges to cross so it is unlikely that I will be posting anything new for the foreseeable future, so here's a couple of pics from a short dog walk on morning last week

Thursday, 9 November 2017

Round Sheffield PIke

We planned to do a walk involving Sheffield Pike, but other than our parking place, we hadn't really got any fixed idea what the route would be

Ullswater from the way up to Seldom Seen

We stood by the cottages for quite a while watching 3 reds chasing each other away from a feeder

Seldom Seen

If you look closely there are 2 reds in this picture. One on a branch immediately above the apex of the roof and the other, flashing it's white belly on the wall by the trunk of the tree

On with the walk - the hanging valley of Glencoyne is just out of view

Onwards and upwards. It's been a while since Jay has joined us for a walk but today at last we have found a date which suits us all!

Into the hanging valley

Looking back down into the valley as we make our way up the side of Sheffield Pike. By now we had made our minds up that our decent would be along the balcony path on the other side of the valley

Until we got to Nick Head when we had a sudden change of mind and went down to Greenside mines instead

we'd had 3 Squirrels at Seldom Seen and now we had 3  (noisy) Grouse at Greenside

This contrail caught my eye

Looking down Glenridding beck to the village

Lunch on the way down

We joined the newly named Ullswater Way to follow the lake shore back to the car. 

Time for a quick swim - this is the very spot where Breeze learnt to swim a little over 5 years ago!

A very smart new bridge on the newly named path. Which leads us nicely back to the car
Just short of 6.5 miles and back to the car with the whole afternoon to do other things!

Thursday, 2 November 2017

Good Old Gowbarrow

We are trying to get out as much as we can at the moment but with things to do this afternoon we decided to give Gowbarrow a visit this morning. A lovely little fell, close to home but also handy to pop straight into Penrith afterwards if we are cutting it a bit fine.

Blencathra catches the sun in the distance

Approaching the summit

Puppy Love

Breeze can't bare to look at my trousers!

This path now forms part of the new Ullswater Way. Great for tourism, but I am afraid the path has suffered badly as a result. it is badly in need of repair. Being antisocial, this will also have made this area even more popular than it was before, so the days of quiet walks around here are probably over

We had gone past the bench as there was someone on it, but they left just as we were looking for an alternative spot for our lunch. Breeze didn't hesitate to lay claim to it, her Dad is coming back to join us too. It is her favourite bench after all

Time to go - not that way Breeze

One last pose on Her Seat

A small herd of Fell ponies have taken up residence in the field opposite the car park.
The day was getting better and better and in a way it was a shame we had done it this morning not this afternoon. That said, we had managed a lovely 4.5 miles and for the first half, seen very few people. The lakeside path and wood around Aira Force were incredibly busy though. We can only assume it is still half term somewhere!

Wednesday, 1 November 2017


Seeing people whinging about all their little problems on something like a blog does nothing for me so I am not about to join in. We all have difficult times, that's life. Just believe me when I tell you that at the moment, we feel we have the right to do just what the heck we like.
Wednesday morning is normally pilates with our friend and instructor Fi. It has done us both no end of good for a number of years now and we do our best not to miss any sessions. Today was different.

We walk in this valley all the time, rarely taking pictures. Today I took just a few whilst we had a quick coffee in the sheepfold which we made the turning point on our walk. An hour out and an hour back.

Through the square window

erm, excuse me?

A spaniel with a wiggly bottom admiring the view

Our cafe as we set off back the way we came

Driving home after a very therapeutic couple of hours in one of our favourite places
So Fi, we are really sorry we missed class this week, but we know you understand and we'll see you next week ;-)

Friday, 27 October 2017

Great Lingy and High Pike from Caldback Common

The best autumn day this year so far sees us back in familiar territory again. We have a rough plan of what we will do today, but nothing fixed. So long as we get a decent walk and enjoy it, nothing else matters.

Heading down Dale beck

Beautiful day, the sun is in our eyes a lot this morning, but we're not complaining.

Lone Rowan on Silver Gill

Crossing Silver Gill

We find ourselves using 'proper' paths less and less on these Northern fells. It's a great way to avoid all the summit baggers and half term holiday makers! We had half a plan to go up Roughton Gill (seen here), but we've been up there before and decided to take a new route today. We went up Todd Gill instead. No path, just bits of sheep trods here and there.

Bit bright for taking photos ahead!

A bit of respite from the bright sun in our eyes as we walk in shadow for a while. There are lovely clear cascades all the way up here

Sorry about the shadow!

And again!

 At the top of Todd Gill we emerge onto Great Lingy Hill. As it's lunch time, it would be rude not to.......... so we head over towards Lingy Hut

The Eden valley was under the cloud when we left home this morning, it looks like it still is now. Bet Jay will be wishing she had come with us!!

Too nice to sit inside today, so we bring the bench out and have lunch in style

Snoozing in the sunshine (Breeze, not me)

As we were leaving Lingy Hut, cloud had started to blow in from the west

and by the time we reached High Pike we were surrounded. It was obviously just low cloud blowing through and wasn't going to last, but the temperature dropped by a good few degrees.

By the time we had dropped down into the start of Potts Gill we were back in the sunshine again

Goofy Spaniel and a Rowan tree in Potts Gill

Looking back up Potts Gill as we near the Cumbria way.
From here it was just a short step along the Cumbria way back to the car at Fellside. Around 7.5 miles all told. We did see a few folk today - but only when we were on the Cumbria way around the summits. Not bad for school holiday time!