Friday, 29 March 2013

The Last Year

Mum was diagnosed with bowel cancer almost exactly a year ago. During the last year she underwent chemotherapy and radiotherapy at Mount Vernon hospital followed by an operation to remove the tumour at Wexham Park hospital in September 2012. The biopsy of the tumour that was removed showed that the treatment prior to surgery had made the tumour benign, which was good news.

All through the treatment for the bowel we had been made aware that there was a nodule on her left lung, which had shrunk with the chemo and radiotherapy. As soon as the bowel surgery was over attention was switched to this nodule and in January mum went into Harefield hospital to have the tumour removed. The bad news was that the scans prior to the operation showed up more nodules on both lungs, which meant she had to under go another operation on the right lung in March, six week after the left lung was operated on.

So as at April 2013 mum has had both operations making it a total of 3 major operations in 6 months. She has now had two follow up appointments and the news is very good. First she saw the lung surgeon and all the nodules they removed in the 2nd operation were non cancerous, which basically meant they only removed the one cancerous nodule from her lungs in 2 operations and that was the one that showed up in the early stages of the bowel treatment, which they removed in the first lung operation along with some non cancerous nodules. The lung surgeon was really pleased with mum and discharged her from her care. Next she saw the oncologist who was also really pleased, and has told her that no more treatment is planned. She has to go back for a CT scan in June and if that one is clear they won't do another one for a further 6 months. He played it straight and said that he couldn't guarantee that the cancer wouldn't reappear, but as things stand she is clear and able to totally pick up her life again. So today was really the news we have been hoping we would get for the last year, and I am having a celebratory beer as I type this :)

It has been an incredibly tough year for mum, with her whole life being put on hold. She has missed her part time job hugely and the people she works with. She hasn't been able to do as much with her horse as she would like, and holiday plans have been put on hold. But most of all she has had to endure the side effects of the chemo and radiotherapy, the post op trauma associated with removal of part of the bowel and the post op discomfort of the 2 lung operations. She has rarely complained and seems more worried about being a burden on others during this time. She has been truly inspirational.

As for me a year ago I had no intention of writing a book, in fact I knew precious little about bowel cancer. I am still not quite sure why I decided to do the book, but it has been one of the most positive and rewarding experiences of my life. I was very lucky to have Jo editing the book as with her help it became something a bit more than just one man's ramblings! The support for the book so far has been amazing from family, friends and an extraordinary number of people who I have not met. I cannot thank the cancer community enough, not just the Beating Bowel Cancer charity for its support, but the numerous individuals many of whom are going through their own cancer battles. Yet they still make time to support me and this venture at every stage. The whole experience has at times made me feel very humble, and no matter how hard life gets I have to remind myself that there are many people facing up to and fighting much bigger battles than me. Where the book goes from here I do not know. I am determined to keep pushing it, although the marketing and sales side has proved a massive challenge. How to find and engage the mass wider audience? If I can solve that then I am sure I will reach my target of 1000 sales :)

Please please please buy the book. You will not only be contributing to a worthy charity, but helping to raise bowel cancer awareness which is vitally important...

Monday, 25 March 2013

The Hard Graft Starts Here

After the first few months of selling copies of the book to family, friends and a particularly warm bowel cancer contingent on twitter, sales of the book have slowed down considerably in recent weeks. Of course there are only so many family and friends to sell the book too, and likewise on twitter the amazingly supportive bowel cancer crowd has only so many followers you can target. In fact I am amazed that I haven't come in for a bit of grief with all my repetitive tweets on twitter!

And so as Easter approaches and the book having been on sale for 5 months the hard graft begins. I still stand by aiming for my original target of 1000 copies, which would in theory raise £1000 for the Beating Bowel Cancer charity. With sales standing at 166 after 5 months the odds are probably not in my favour of achieving this. What I need to do is find a way to target and connect with a new audience who can identify with both the cause and the book. Over the last 5 months my faith in human nature has been completely restored as the kindness and genuine support for the book has been fantastic, and it certainly makes the effort of doing it all worthwhile. On the weekend just gone at a reunion dinner a guy came up to me and handed over £20 to go into the justgiving pot. I find it interesting that the justgiving page has raised the same amount of money for the charity as the book has, and they seem to go well together...

And yet with all the endless tweeting, blogging and shameless book plugging the main focus for me remains my mum. Following on from surgery last September to remove the cancerous section from her bowel, she then had surgery to remove a nodule from her left lung in January. The bad news at that time was scans then showed up more nodules on her right lung meaning an additional operation in March. This has meant she has undergone 3 major operations in 6 months which is pretty intense for anyone let alone a senior citizen! Yet she doesn't complain, has taken everything that has been thrown at her with dignity and a steely determination to do everything she can to beat the disease. She is totally inspiring! All she wants two do is to pick up her life again and get back to some normality. Hopefully fingers crossed she is not too far away from that point now. The results from the first operation showed one nodule to be cancerous, which we had expected as it had been there all along, and all the rest were non-cancerous. We haven't had the results on the right lung yet, but just hoped the nodules they removed all turn out to be non-cancerous.

I will continue to put in the hard work into this fundraising book for as long as it takes, and for anyone who has already bought the book I really am ever so grateful. To all others please do whatever you can to support the book as the book's fortunes can change with just one sale.