Saturday, 20 April 2019

Bronze Anniversary

Good Friday is very significant to me. Not because of Christianity, I’m a lapsed Quaker. Nor because of the Belfast Agreement, although I did campaign for a ‘Yes’ vote in 1998. But because, on Good Friday 2011, I was diagnosed with stage 3 cancer of the kidney. I’d spent the night on a trolley in Casualty and I’d just been wheeled back to the ward from a scan. A junior doctor pulled the curtains around the bed and told me straight. Everything seemed to close in around me. I gulped and said nothing. D’you have any questions? He said. Well, what’s going to happen? I said. I’ll ask the consultant to come and speak to you, he said. I nodded, absently. He left abruptly. I was a small wounded creature in the huge universe and I was sure I was going to die.

Many of the readers of this blog are familiar with the remainder of this story. Suffice it to say, I then had a series of operations leading up to a very major one. I was given a poor prognosis, but I did survive beyond the first two years. Then I met my dearest T. At four years I had a metastatic recurrence and more surgery, which was unsuccessful in removing the entire tumour. A year later I had surgery again, which did remove the regrown tumour. At six years I had another major operation to repair my left diaphragm and lung which were damaged in the 2011 surgery. Since then I have been thankfully been free of cancer and healthy.

The eight year anniversary is ‘bronze’. This is the medal typically given to the third place competitor. However, the Bronze Age (2500-800 BC), was a time when Britain was one of the most important places in Europe and when the Stonehenge that we can see now was completed. We had relatively large supplies of tin, the vital resource which, mixed with copper, produced bronze (the hardest metal that was then known to man). And this gives rise to one of the dominant theories about the purpose of Stonehenge, that it was a great gathering place for trade, festivals and other communal events. Indeed, recent gene studies have shown that there was an enormous influx of people from the continent to the British Isles during this period and since then we have been thoroughly European.

Looking back on the past eight years, it feels that I’ve done much better than third place. But, survival, along with my current health and happiness with my dearest T, are all the prizes I would wish for.

Tuesday, 2 April 2019

Scar Therapy

I’ve often thought I could be a body double for a pirate. I don’t have a parrot, a deep tan or a six-pack, but I do have the accent and plenty of scars: one running the full length of my torso at the midline, one running across my right side below the ribs and another running from the middle of my back around my left side between the ribs. I have literally hundreds of internal and external stitches. After the long struggle of recovery and recuperation from surgery I was left in chronic pain. I did seek treatment from different physiotherapists, without success. In the end, I’d reluctantly come to accept my post-operative pain as the price of survival. Then, four months ago, I began a course of scar therapy at Action Cancer and I’m delighted to say that the results have been remarkable.

At first, the therapy seemed rather odd. There were no oils or lotions used and little traditional massage. The therapy consisted of repeated tapping, stroking and pressing of the tissues around the scars. Suzanne, the therapist, would spend about half an hour doing this around one particular scar, then move on to another. She had strong, nimble fingers and was very hardworking.

The purpose of the scar therapy is to stimulate the circulation and the lymphatic and nervous systems to promote renewed healing, increase mobility and improve tissue health. I must admit I was sceptical at first, but by the third treatment I noticed a definite lowering in my pain levels and its distribution in the two scars that she had been working on. And this improvement continued.

Because I have such extensive scarring (significantly more than the average client) I was given an extra set of three sessions. By the final treatment I found that I had much improved mobility in my right side and I was almost pain free. I had also regained feeling in the large area of skin below the incision that had been lost since the surgery over two years previously. The progress on my left side was significant too, with pain levels being much reduced, but not quite as comprehensively.

Suzanne is an excellent therapist: very skilled and most effective. She has been treating clients with chronic pain for fifteen years. The therapy, an initial six sessions, was offered free of charge. This is a great resource provided by Action Cancer. I was so grateful for the progress made that I gave a substantial donation. I don’t look any less a pirate, but I might now be limber enough to board a ship on the high seas with a cutlass between my teeth.