Ged Clapson
Ged Clapson

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Palliative care ... 30 March 2017

I can't help feeling that the word 'palliative' is so negative. For me, it immediately conjures up the idea that there's nothing more that can be done: it's the end of the road, you'll just have to live with it. The next stop is the hospice (maybe) and then cemetery. Being told that you're now entering the stage of 'palliative care' can feel like a death sentence. So I've just had a look at what the Marie Curie website says about it and it gives a fair amount to think about: https://tinyurl.com/hvj8krh. Yes, it does include 'caring for people who are nearing the end of life'; but it also talks about improving the quality of life, relieving pain, managing whatever treatment you're undertaking, living positively, and a whole host of other aspects. And so, as I embark upon the next stage of chemotherapy, I suppose I need to focus on those.

 

I've only had one dose of Carboplatin & Paclitaxel so far and have yet to experience any nasty side effects (except tiredness but that could've been simply hanging around the Trevor Howell Day Unit for several hours yesterday). But I know the effects are accumulative, so who knows what lies ahead? It's the start of the tunnel and I'm still aiming to see the light at the end of it. I am still hoping and praying that, by the time treatment finishes, I will feel relatively fit and energetic enough to resume some (if not all) of the activities that I enjoyed before I was diagnosed. Am I being realistic? Or am I being an ostrich? Maybe a little of both. We'll just have to wait and see.

 

While I'm logged on and sharing my random ramblings with you, I am also very mindful however of a very dear friend of mine who's facing far more severe side effects. The chemo really has hit her for six and she's now reached the stage at which she's considering saying 'no more'. It's hard not just for herself, but also for her family who are watching her pain and discomfort and despondency. For them, there seems to be no light, only a long, dark tunnel. I feel so fortunate. And I ask you (dear reader) to offer a prayer to whoever you consider your God to be that if 'palliative' for her means the most extreme case, that it will be a peaceful and painless path.

The fat lady's not singing yet ... 4 March 2017

Yesterday, I got the news I was dreading. It wasn't totally unexpected; but it was pretty shattering nonetheless. The secondary nodules on my lungs - the Carcinomas that were first identified in my bowel in 2015 - had increased in number and grown in size. So, in just over two weeks, I am going to start another round of chemotherapy.

 

This time, the treatment will be stronger and even more invasive: a combination of Paclitaxel and Carboplatin (Taxol/Carbo) and the side effects will be even more extreme: total hair loss, utter exhaustion, very high risk of infection, possible changes to my skin and sensation in my limbs, bowel issues (how can you have both diarrhoea and constipation?) and various other nasty symptoms resulting from the toxins that will be pumped into my body over the next six months. The good news (if there is any) is that the oncologist described the increase in the nodules as 'significant but not dramatic'. Nevertheless, it seems clear that my life is going to be put on hold for most of 2017, with no guarantee of the outcome at the end of the treatment. The drugs will be administered once every three weeks over six or eight sessions at St George's Hospital in Tooting, south London.

 

I keep asking myself how I feel about the news - how I really feel - and, to be honest, I still don't know. On the one hand, I'm determined to keep fighting. The oncologist was reassuring inasmuch as he considers my overall health and positive mental attitude to be in excellent condition to start undertaking the treatment. I know it won't 'cure' the cancer; but at least it might shrink the nodules or possible just stop them growing further. In which case, I'm feeling determined to see as many more birthdays as I can after my 62nd, which is coming up on 20 March. But ultimately, I have to accept the fact that this is - in all likelihood - my death sentence: it's just a case of not knowing when, precisely, the executioner will arrive.

 

Well, until the 'fat lady' comes on stage and starts singing her final aria, I might be down but I'm not out yet. I've got more to do - places to see - people to meet - before I go. I'm dreading the side effects from the treatment and - hell, why deny it? - I'm scared of what lies ahead. But, from where I'm standing at the moment, the fat lady is still in the wings, running through her scales. She ain't singing yet!

Previous posting: 7 July 2016

I'm conscious that I've been very remiss in updating this website; but I'm also aware that several people have used it to contact me over such matters as their memories of Blair Wilson (always appreciated and enjoyed) and queries over such matters as performing Goodnight Mr Tom). So, apologies for anyone who happens to log on for up-to-date blogs. Until I'm feeling a little more energetic post-chemotherapy, these are likely to be few and far between. I could rant and rave about the result of the EU Referendum, but chose to do that on my Facebook page instead: Ged's Facebook page

 

It's now nearly 12 months since I started chemoradiotherapy for bowel cancer and subsequently metastatic nodules on my lungs. The good news is: the original treatment seems to have been successful (it cleared the bowel cancer) and the latest scans on my lungs are positive too: they've shrunk, although I know this will only be management not elimination. The side effects remain though - mainly fatigue. Many thanks to all those who've supported me with their kind wishes and prayers over this difficult period and, of course, the staff at the Royal Marsden Hospital in Sutton and St George's Hospital, Tooting.

 

Part of my recuperation should have been two weeks in Sharm el Shiekh over Christmas and the New Year; but that, of course, had to be cancelled due to the security situation around the Red Sea. Worst affected by the terrorist threats, of course, are the staff in the resort - some of the warmest, most hospitable, hard-working people I have ever met. Tourism in the region is down by about 80% and I pray that it may recover soon. I for one look forward to returning there in the not-too-distant future.

 

I also had to pull out of the Avalon Theatre Company's production of the musical play Jack the Rippper - which they staged very successfully (without me) in June 2016. Well done, gang! I hope to be back with you next year. In the meantime, below are some highlights from recent productions I've done with them - and with the Chase Theatre Group.

'If I only had a heart!' Tin Man's best known song from the Avalon production of The Wizard of Oz, June 2015.

The pompous parish secretary - Frank Pickles - in The Vicar of Dibley with the Chase Theatre Group.

And my biggest role for many years, Mr Tom with Avalon in June 2014.

But there's been other developments too, so follow this link if you are interested to read more.

From Tosca - Giacomo Puccini:

 


Diedi gioielli

della Madonna al manto,
e diedi il canto agli astri,

al ciel,
che ne ridean più belli.

 

English Translation:

 

I lived for art, I lived for love ...
I gave jewels

for the Madonna's mantle,
And songs for the stars,

in heaven,
That shone forth with greater radiance.

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