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David Norcross, his story

Dave Norcross’ Story

My story starts over six years ago. I have always been a freckly person, fair skinned and liable to burn even under cloudy days. I would often get sunburnt on holiday, not on purpose but you know, to get that bit of a tan!

So over 7 years ago I had a particular freckle on my leg that changed a bit. My wife had always been on at me to have it checked out, but you know, us men we don’t want to trouble anyone, least of all take time off work as I was then part of a company that I was directing. I left it and probably a year later on the beach on holiday, I scratched the thing and it bled. My wife says “Now will you get it seen to”!!

On return from Holiday I arranged the doctor’s appointment and they referred me to the Dermatology Department at Ormskirk Hospital. They confirmed that they would arrange for a sample to be taken and a biopsy done on it. It would be treated locally in the minor procedures room and I would be sent the appointment.

Some time later I went back for this and then awaited the results. It’s all a bit of a blur now and lost in time but I do remember thinking “well it’s only a bit of a skin defect”.

I got the results and they said it was a malignant melanoma and needed to be removed.

I remember being on my own when this news was broken to me, so many people in the room and so much to take in and forget. Advice, never go on your own for results. This wasn’t my wife being heartless –  It was me saying “don’t worry you don’t need to be with me”! It was me being big headed, no worries here.

I would be referred to St Helens and Knowsley NHS Trust and eventually received an appointment to attend there and have the thing excised under a local anaesthetic in Theatre.  Nine stitches in the shin and some time off work.

By this time I had moved to a new job and had been there about twelve months nearly.

I work as a design engineer mainly working with the NHS and designing anything from Operating Theatres, CT Scan rooms, MRi rooms, A&E, work with Macmillan Cancer on some of their buildings up and down the country but mainly in the North West. Little did I know that I would likely be a patient (a regular one at that) in some of the building types I design.

Whilst I was off work (as I couldn’t drive with the stitches in) I was allowed to work from home with e mails and drawings issued to and fro in the good old post system.

The hospital did inform me that if the excision and further biopsy proved positive, I would possibly need more surgery for a wider excision but they would discuss that nearer the time. Was I bothered?  not really. My boss was undergoing cancer treatment for bone cancer. His was far more serious than mine and all other types of cancer are more serious than this. Let’s face it you can’t die from this can you, it’s all treatable!!

Well, the results came back and they were not good. It needed a wider excision a skin graft and they would also do a sentinel lymph node test and remove another cyst from my arm, another lump.

Surgery was booked about this time five years ago. I was admitted as a day patient into Whiston Hospital with the plastic surgery team. All was fully explained to me and apart from no bed when I got to the hospital and probably being the last on the list, all went well.

The most uncomfortable experience was the gamma camera: four injections in the shin to trace the lymph node in the groin. On return to the waiting area I was taken then to the ward where the bed was available and probably five mins later dressed and ready for theatre. Next thing I remember after the anaesthetic took me out, was being awoken in recovery wondering where I was.

Taken back to the ward  I was offered food, that was good I was starving! Once I was able to use the toilet I was allowed to be collected and taken home. I had stitches in the arm where the cyst was taken out, some in the groin area where the lymph node was removed, a patch on my left thigh where the graft was taken from which i was told would stay on until it fell off (the patch that is, not my leg) and then the grafted site, heavily dressed but now full of blood!! Panic!! No, they just changed it. I went to the toilet after this and then eventually got dressed and went home. I was home for about 9pm that night and told to rest up with the leg up for a week only to get up to go to the bathroom.  I did as I was told as it needed to for the graft to take.

I had to go to the dressing clinic on a regular basis over the next few weeks. The first one I think was probably Christmas eve where my wife came with me while they re-dressed it. She is very brave, well she is a qualified first aider!! I did not want to look. They took it off and what I didn’t realise is that there was a packing stitched to my leg over the graft which they removed and then inspected. All was good, no infection and they were happy with how it was healing. The nurse went for some warm water to wash it. My wife burst into tears. Oh my word I didn’t realise how deep that would be. I still didn’t look. The laugh is that as time went on after dressing removal, we could use the indent in the leg to place the wine glass in!  

On 24th December, Mr Brackely rang me late in the afternoon to confirm that all the melanoma had gone. The main site was clear, the lymph node was OK and the cyst was nothing at all, just some fatty tissue. He did this to keep me at ease over Christmas as my return appointment was January so the worry was over. I put the phone down and cried my eyes out. He had taken the time to ring me and explain, what a great guy.

What I do remember is the taking of pain killers, the most pain I had was after getting up in the morning and placing my foot on the floor and the pain as the blood rushed down to me feet. I would often end up in tears for a few minutes and then it would pass

I am a Christian person so my faith and belief is important to me and the family and when I explained this to my family and friends they were so grateful that prayer had been answered.

Well that was five years or so ago.

During these five years I have been under the local eyes of the Dermatology Department at Ormskirk Hospital and have numerous little items taken from me an biopsied, some cases of Bowens etc and all been very well looked after. One plus point I got from this was the free prescriptions card for five years which expired in October this year! Well it’s renewed now!!

The leg will / may swell on some occasions and the hairs never grow back there!! That’s my modelling career over. The numbness in the leg is also there in part and would often be a bit of a standing joke in the house at parties to see if I could detect anyone feeling my leg!!

So some months ago a lump developed on my right leg under the skin, in fact, 2 small lumps together. The wife says again, go and see the doctor.  I put it off I had already had some time off due to a heart issue with a low pulse rate and ending up in Resus in A&E. Thankfully that’s all OK now and just under review in eleven months time

I went to the doctor, explained that I still had contact with dermatology so they said they would fax them with a request to see me. Some weeks went by and nothing came through. I had my general appointment booked for 16th October 2018 so that was now only 2 weeks away. I chased them and they said don’t worry see you on 16th. I should have really gone direct to them as they told me when I saw them. I had not done this as I was never looking for lumps under the skin other than lymph node prodding in the groin, armpits and neck.

They looked and obviously mentioned it was a little odd but would put all the wheels in motion, NOW. Blood tests there and then and they even scraped me in straight away for a biopsy and then they would arrange the Ultrasound scan of the site. On my way home I got the call with a cancellation appointment on 18th October. They said they would ring me with the results but I did mention to them I was on Holiday 22nd to 24th October so if it was during this time here was a number.

On return from holiday I rang them and they said they thought I was on holiday all week and hadn’t realised. They asked me to go in and see them. I said, “well not good news then?”  The secretary could not answer of course, but I knew what was coming, I thought!!

I can’t remember the day now but when I went in with my wife they explained that the melanoma had possibly come back again and needed to be dealt with. They were going to send me for a CT scan of my torso, chest, abdomen and groin. This would be a contrast scan (injection of dye into the veins).This happened on 6th November 2018.

I was then being referred across to the St Helens and Whiston team again for possible surgery but this would be read with the CT Scan

Had panic set in. No not yet. Let’s face it “this is only skin cancer isn’t it, it can’t kill you?”

I was seen on 10th November at Whiston Hospital by the surgery team and told that the CT scan on the groin area had not really picked up what they wanted and that whilst surgery was pencilled in for 17th December to remove the lump from my leg, they really wanted to see the finer detail of the lymph nodes in the right groin so that would be an Ultrasound with FNA. (Fine needle aspiration). Well don’t worry all we do moving forward is keep removing bits!!

They did detect some nodes on my lungs but apparently most people will have this, just means I will be scanned in 6 months time again

I already had my next appointment with Dermatology at Ormskirk for 14th November but as I already had the results I saw no point but we went along anyway as we had some questions. Ie what stage was this. “Stage 4 Metatatic Melanoma” . Ok well that’s OK I felt re-assured by the fact that they were still seeing patients in clinic who had this / had had this.

On the way home we went to Tesco and on return to the car park got a call from St Helens Skin Cancer team, Rachael was her name. “There are two of us in the department”,t she says, “ (she refers to herself as Posh Rachael) and my general contact will be “scouse” Rachael. We will get on well I am sure. She mentions that they want to get me back in for the groin scan and check the lymph nodes as they have now zoomed in to the CT scan a little more and can see some “bits” that need to be looked at more. I didn’t expect this. I am now preparing for bigger surgery I feel, but don’t worry, loads of people have this done I’m not the only one!

15th November I had my cardiology appointment that confirmed my heart was OK and that they would see me in twelve months time. I explained the impending surgery and he said no problem with that and the surgical team could contact him to confirm this.

My story is now more date specific as up to a week or so ago I started to write down day by day experiences until now.

27th November 2018. Today is ultrasound scan day with FNA (Fine needle aspiration). We leave the house in plenty of time to get to St Helen’s hospital for 9am. There is plenty of traffic towards the East Lancs that delays us but we are still on time. Lorna (my Wife) always says I leave too early but honestly…I don’t like to be late! (despite what others may say).

This is an odd appointment…it’s in the breast unit…very strange

Anyway we wait and wait and eventually I am called through at 9.30am. I actually don’t feel too bad about this today, not exactly looking forward to it but not too scared about it either. I am conscious that I have to be in Bolton later that morning but it looks like the 11am meeting is going out of the window! (I work a lot with the NHS as noted before.-  this is for meetings and site inspections on one of three jobs I am doing there) Not to worry. Anyway Lorna asks me if I want her to come in with me, I sort of stumble say no, then ask the Nurse who says she needs to stay in the waiting room, good job really!

Anyway it’s into the small rooms with the ultrasound machine and two nurses. I only need to partly undress while I lie on the couch and then they start the scan of the groin area. The lady doing the scan is very clear and shows me the results as I ask loads of questions…well a few…”how many lymph nodes do you have…what do they do” yes it’s probably the nerves kicking in but I also have some banter with them also. She says she will tell me as it is and as she sees it without me having to wait for it all next Tuesday. Here we have one normal one, one borderline one and one abnormal one. She needs to do the FNA on the abnormal one so it’s time for the spray on anaesthetic as opposed to another needle. They prepare the needle and then she says to the other member of staff that maybe she needs a 2.5” needle to make sure she gets to it! What!! Anyway it’s the usual, you will feel a small sharp prick and in the needle goes and then it’s wriggled around to get to the node to extract some fluid. That’s a good one she says as it flowed quite well. Not too sure what that means but at least she got enough to place onto the slides to send to the lab for analysis. Now the second nurse applies the pressure to the area where the needle is removed from to stop it bleeding. It’s all fine.

She then scans the lump under the arm. No concerns here it’s just a cyst she thinks that can easily be extracted. I ask her what the outcome of the abnormality is. It’s obviously “infected” or whatever the word is and needs dealing with. It’s now a waiting game to see what it’s infected with and how they will deal with it. It needs sorting but how…I have my suspicions.

I come out and pick up Lorna. “How did it go?” , I say “it’s Ok just abnormal and needs dealing with, we will find out next week”.

Off to the parking machine now and drive back home on the way I ring work to pass on the message to Bolton that I’m going to be late and then a quick trip into Tesco with Lorna for some shopping.

A quick pit stop at home and then we are off again. Let’s keep busy…but i’m not quite as focussed today. I arrive at the Bolton A&E meeting which is in full flow after a nightmare trying to park again. It’s back row seating only but eventually I’m given a place at the table. The meeting becomes confrontational, I am getting fed up with this now as these issues all seem to compound others. Anyway after this meeting it’s another one on another job, followed by another, more tea and then a site visit.

Once I get back to the car I am feeling really tired and its dark and wet coming home. I speak to Pauline (my sister) to tell her some news. Lorna had already texted her but as time goes on the more I speak about the issues the better it is.

By the time I get home I appear to have developed a full blown cold. I was looking forward to going to Cuan’s for Bible study but that’s not a good plan to infect others.

Lorna my wife is out tonight with friends so  I decide to take myself to bed. Did I sleep, did I heck as like. In my mind I am deciding to take off a few days. I feel a bit of a fraud as this shouldn’t be a big issue but it’s just me.

Wednesday 28th November

I wake up normal ish time and tell Lorna I’m not going to work. Today would have been a trip to Wythenshawe hospital to collate more data for the air handling upgrade job but I was going with Rob (my colleague) anyway so it’s in good hands. I text him to tell him he’s on his own or he can take someone else from the office, ultimately there is no one else available.

I decide to e mail my boss and the HR lady (his sister)with the news to date. Steve (my boss) tells me to take as much time as necessary.

I am just conscious that I am letting others down as it’s a trip to Hull tomorrow to go over the  job we have on in Hastings, but I am really not up for it. I have a cough, runny nose and am tired.  “Is tiredness part of what I’ve got?”….I decide to look it up and download some Macmillan brochures. That maybe a mistake.!

I try and focus on what I need to put together for Hull on the basis that I am going but knowing full well that I’m not. At least they will all have the information needed.  I put together what I need for others to take with them so as not to leave them in the lurch!

I do spend most of the day on e mails and thinking.

It’s Boys Brigade at the cinema tonight (I am one of the officers in 4th Southport Boys Brigade) but I’m not going due to the timing anyway

Well I decide to ring the skin clinic at Whiston to speak to one of the Rachaels. The secretary explains that they are in clinic today until 6 / 6.30 so it might be tomorrow when they ring. Not a problem I just want to know more so I look on line.

I look at the abnormal lymph node diagnosis and it looks like if the cancer has spread here then the whole lot needs to be removed from the respective part of the groin, a 3 to 5 day stop in hospital and a drain bag fitted. Pleasant!  There may be some other treatment to take place also, presumably to stop it spreading any further? Who knows?  I will find out Tuesday next week.

I download the Macmillan appointment app. “My Organiser”. I write down the items to ask one of which is lymphoedema. This is a side effect after Lymph node removal. Another side effect.

Lorna gets me some Day Nurse tablets to help the cold

Thursday 29th November

Sleep was not good again last night but it is improving I am sure but I wake with a headache behind the left eye which during the day moves to the right eye and then becomes horrible, so much so that by 5pm I am lying down in front of the telly and eventually go to bed for an hour or so and Lorna wakes me a 6.30 for tea. This is not good, I need to be stronger.

I spend a lot of time today on e mails and putting together a work plan for my bosses to tell them where I am up to for when I go off.

More Day nurse today but it’s not working.

Rachael rings me from the Clinic and we talk about the tiredness and sickness. Tiredness she reckons can be due to the stress and number of scans I have had. I should not feel sick but maybe that’s part of the cold.

She does say we will see her next week in clinic and she’s looking forward to meeting us. We joke over man flu. I ask her the worst case scenario on the scan which is as I have noted already PLUS when I come out I will still have a drain fitted until spaghetti junction sorts itself out! This sound gross but I suppose we will just have to cross that bridge when we come to it. She does tell me not to worry as we are painting the worst picture and this may not be the case. It all depends on the Histology Report. They will discuss my case in their MDT meeting on Tuesday morning and then see me in clinic in the afternoon.

Overall a better night’s sleep tonight even if I do get up twice in the night

I really don’t know how my issues are affecting others in the family I have just told them that if they are concerned that they need to talk about it. Let’s face it, I’m not dying am I. This is just treatment for what I have…this disease…It is classed a Stage IV melanoma as it’s spread, how far…well we just have to wait until Tuesday to find out.

Friday 30th November

Today is an upbeat day. Andrew (my son) rang this morning as school was shut so asked if we should go out for lunch. Anyway that became brunch as someone was due at 1pm to service the boiler

We had some good chats over church as we walked the dogs before going to Bill Rimmers. Church does seem to have some issues at the moment,  it make you wonder why we go at all. We do go however to listen to what God has to say to us. The Bible tells us of the early Church issues and “Man” issues which we seem to have here. The Church needs to re-focus itself and concentrate on the Gospel message

Over breakfast we chatted about this again and work.

Fewer e mails today and I am trying not to make the problem e mails become an issue. At this stage all issues seem big issues but if you sit back and review then it’s not as big a problem as we think.

Just feeling a lot better today, the head is clear and although my vision appears not to be 100% it’s OK. I did appear to sleep better last night.

Spoke to Chris in the office today who asked how things were. Work and the staff I know at Bolton are all asking how I am. I tell them I have to be positive. Well you do really.

It’s now only four days until I see the consultant and the Clinic to see what the outcome of the results from Tuesday is. I’m wishing my life away really but as Lorna said live each day as it comes and don’t worry about it.

Managed to focus on some work today and complete the small tasks I needed to do and prepare for a day at Bolton on Monday doing inspections etc.

Robert (the service engineer) came later this afternoon to service the boiler, clean bill of health. He’s also been to Mum and Dad (Who are 91 and live at home in Liverpool) and sorted out their toilet flush downstairs.. Phew, that’s good now it’s fixed. He’s just got to come back to our shower to sort out the leak from it that we have had for the last 12 months! How much water have we wasted!

We have the weekend to look forward to. Taking Andrew tomorrow for his Christmas present. Tonight it’s up to Preston to take Emily football training.  It’s another rugby match tomorrow for Matthew (my other son) and I think he wants us to go and watch him. Then it’s another home game for Emily at the JMO on Sunday at 2pm against Brighouse.

Emily (my daughter) came home and reminds me of her dentist appointment on Monday afternoon. I have mucked this up as I’m planning on being in Bolton all day with the last meeting at 2pm. Well that’s another one to sort out on Monday morning!

Tonight Lorna and I took Emily to football training, the idea was to see if there were any sports centres with swimming pools near to training. We found DW Centres and also found that if you became members there then you could also use other DW Fitness centres. Result. The one at Preston has an 18metre pool and Gym. We were shown round by Izak?? Great salesman and a full introduction to what membership gave you. Not worth it for me at present however Lorna can join and take me along every Friday…or any other friend on a Friday for 52 weeks of the year. It seems to be a no brainer. Classes are all free. Southport has a pool also and classes and also a sports shop. £20 membership fee and then if you use it 24 times in 12 weeks then you get the £20 back. In addition you get money off vouchers to use in store. The centre is reasonably empty which apparently is typical for a Friday night. Let’s face it, how many people want to use the gym on a Friday night as opposed to going out?

Anyway it’s £32 /month but it looks good and the changing facilities are great. We join…well Lorna does anyway.

We get to football to pick up Emily and well she is about as encouraging to Lorna as…well I don’t know what. I despair sometime. Even before we left the house tonight and we mentioned that we had her Christmas present (which wasn’t football boots) she made some sarcastic comment. Flipping typical. Well lets hope she is grateful for what she gets!

Saturday 1st December

Only 24 days to Christmas and sixteen days to the operation all being well.

We pick up Andrew and go to Evans cycles in Preston to sort out his Christmas present, a cycling helmet. The we look at bikes again for Lorna, finally I think we know what may suit the bill, that looks like a birthday present idea.

When we get home it’s a quick egg on toast and cup of tea and then it’s pleasing to see that Emily returns from her driving lesson with a new instructor and happy. Never mind, I’m sure it won’t last.

The biggest shock today was to have a text from Lynn Hunter to tell us that John McCourt is in Hospital after suffering a heart attack on Thursday. I only spoke to him on Monday and he was talking about being 60 next year and working where he is at for 41 years! A bit of a downer to start the day.

We watch the rugby match and Tarleton slaughter the opposition. Not much action for Matty today as most of the game switches to the opposite side of the field. A swift drink after the match..Lorna has Gin and Tonic then we went our merry way home via Morrison’s to get some shopping and tea. But before that we have a trip to Matalan to take the clothes back and DW to check it out. It’s bigger than Preston and the pool is 25m. All looks OK and Lorna I think is looking forward to her new challenge. We have found her new swimming costume but she wants to leave this until next year.

Before tea Matty hoovers the house after much persuasion. We actually all have tea together tonight expect for Emily who’s at work again.

Then after tea Matty goes out to watch the boxing at 4am….daft as a brush. Then lets get the ironing done and sit down and relax.

Vision is not brilliant today and Lorna tells me off again for not going the opticians. I tell her that was only the other week. Oops wrong again it was more like three weeks or so ago. Time flies by but Tuesday can’t come soon enough.

Sunday 2nd December

Off to Church for the 11.00hrs service. Emily has the offer to go and watch Southport Vs Tranmere with Laura and Bob but train times don’t fit with church. We give her the option but thankfully she chooses church which does please us. Why she would want to at this moment in time with the atmosphere as it is I don’t know, but we all sit together and then chat at the end to a number of people. Cuan gives me a book to read leading up to advent. This will be my night time reading now.

We fly home to throw down some lunch and off then to see Lorna’s Mum in hospital (She has dementia and lives in a care home. She had a fall the other day and broke her hip). Pat (Lorna’s sister)is there also. Lorna’s Mum appears a little better and does manage to string together some sensible comments.

I’m glad I’m not in this hospital, it’s grubby and the view out…well I’m not surprised people don’t recover quickly!

We fly back home and then prepare for tea. After which we relax before the BB Battalion meeting at 2015hrs. This eventually finishes at nearly 2200hrs. I’m knackered. Time for bed now. Work tomorrow and sort out the disaster I created on Friday arranging meetings at the wrong time!!

Monday 3rd December

My it’s grim this morning. I was awake twice last night but I’m not too bad this morning. Lets crack on with it. Usual routine and then use my contact lenses for the first time in a few days. Vision could be better but they settle in after 20 mins or so…normally.

Send some early e mails to re-arrange the day, which whilst I get to Bolton are accepted by all so a result.

I need coffee this morning as the brain is tired.

A quick chat with the staff before I leave and they wish me well for tomorrow and ask for me to tell them the results once I know. I’m back on Wednesday anyway

Emily is disappointed after the visit to the Orthodontist as apparently these braces need to be in place for another twelve months. Not good as she can’t join up until they are off. I am sure we can sort this after the next appointment.

We come home and walk the dogs and then I do some catch up work.

Lorna is at the gym tonight for the first session.

Tuesday 4th December

D day today. Meeting with the surgeon this afternoon at 2.40pm with Lorna coming along as well.

This morning however it’s up to the Walton Centre to do a quick inspection on the pipe replacement job. All is going well. I do the inspection and type and issue the report once I return to home. Speak with Louis on site and we talk about finishing for Christmas. He asks when I finish and I tell him that my date is the 17th December due to the operation. (Well I didn’t know that was going to change until the afternoon!). Louis is married and has 2 children, 3 and 5 so their house will be a excited house this Christmas. Mum however works in the Hospital and is working Christmas Day and Boxing Day!

Anyway I decide to walk the dogs before lunch and they are a pain. As I walk up the landfill they decide to stroll over the long grass. I have to trundle back and Evie lies down and rolls in horrible mud! Oh dear me. Now I have to wash her when I get home and hose her down. She’s not happy but it needs doing, she stinks!

A swift lunch and then it’s time to go. A little later that we wanted but it’s my fault. It’s reasonably quiet in the car as we drive along and by the time we reach the M57 it’s the usual. Lorna is asleep!

Anyway we check in and wait. We are not too long and Mr Brackley appears and calls us in. He re-introduces himself to us both and sit’s us down and then explains the status. We stop at the last scan where I tell him that I had been told there was some abnormality there and he confirms that the Histology results have come back and the melanoma has spread there also, as suspected. Then he drops a bit of a bombshell. “Well we have decided not to do the operation yet until we carry out some more scans”?? What!! They have now re-examined my CT scan and found that whilst the right underarm is just a cyst, there is now something suspicious in the left armpit. They do have a technical word for it but I can’t remember it.

He does a good inspection by hand (Fine figure of a man he says!) Lorna must be laughing but she is behind the curtain! He thinks he can feel something there and now they have to re-scan this before making a decision on the right pathway.

I tell him of headaches and lack of sleep and some vision issues. That’s another scan now!

He sits us down and tells us why they don’t want to operate, not that they can’t but if anything has spread to the left side armpit then it’s likely to be immunotherapy treatment or other means and not surgical treatment!

He tells us that we will now see Rachael (remember there was posh and scouse) this one is Scouse Rachael. It looks like she is now my support worker (Cassidy is the surname). Well she is mad! We are introduced and she sits us down.

Her plan is to book the scans today. I will have an MRi scan of the head, that’s eventually booked for Friday morning at 11:15 but the other scan with FNA is to be arranged.

I will be discussed at next Tuesday’s MDT meeting again and they will have the MRi results after which they will decide if I can continue to drive! Driving is part of my job. 60 mile daily commute at best with some other days out at other sites across the North West area.

We discuss so many things and she gives us the MacMillan booklet on melanoma with the lymph node issues.

I was told off. Any changes in anything I MUST tell them. Well as men we do struggle with this. Maybe we don’t want to be seen to be weak, maybe it’s that we just don’t want to complain and put people out knowing that there are others worse off?

Anyway we discuss lymph node removal and what the implications are if they do it. Originally it would have been a four week stay in hospital, now it’s about 3 days and then you are sent home with instructions on how to change the drain bag that’s attached to you. I’m am not looking forward to this if it’s the way forward and to be honest this is the worst worry.

We talk about the alternatives and immunotherapy treatment. Anyway let’s not worry about this yet, let’s get the scans done and wait and see!

Rachael now has Lorna’s phone number as a contact. That’s good

We eventually leave, a bit drained and Lorna I can see is worried. We were not expecting that.

I had had lots of texts that morning of prayers and support, now it will be time to tell and update everyone.

When we get home the phone starts, first Pat, then I ring Pauline, Andrew was first to know.

I pick Emily up from the station and tell her on the way home, Matty is out but we need to tell him.

John McCourt rings and we have a good chat, he offers prayers and support but hey he’s only just come out of Hospital and is now signed off for two months. We both laugh about supporting each other!!

Lorna is a basket case tonight and I understand why.

We decide to watch a Christmas film. We were going to wrap presents but can’t bring ourselves to do it. I fall asleep and am sent to bed at 9 ish.

Andrew has texted me but I’m dozing off when there is some noise downstairs and Andrew and Matty appear. Probably a good job that I am in bed as Matty gets upset. He never normally shows emotion….unless we shout at him!! I need to be strong for them all

Cuan had text this morning about David and Goliath and the story for the BB tonight. I did text him back and asked him if Goliath could be a little smaller today.! Well maybe he has stayed the same size but David, this David is also the same size and WILL continue to be strong.

Work have been supportive today and told me to do what I want really

Tomorrow is a Bolton visit so quite an easy day really

It’s all a bit of a blur now but we get to 7th December and the MRi scan date. Andrew my son, takes time off work to take me. It’s at 1140 in St Helens as it as moved yesterday after a phone call. I design environments for MRi rooms to control temperature and humidity and ventilation levels and lighting. I decide to use this as an experience day. What can I get out of this that may influence what I design. It’s a contrast scan so another canula to go in. I’m not too worried about the scan. I know scanners make a noise and are slightly claustrophobic but probably I was not fully prepared for the experience.

I go into the room, the usual form filling before we go in and then the make sure of no metal bits. Look on Google and MRi scanners with disasters and you will see a cleaning machine bedded into a scanner due to the magnet power!! I am told I will be in the magnet for fifteen minutes and then brought out for the dye to be injected into me. They struggle to find my veins!! Eventually they are in and I lie down, this mask comes over my head to clip me in only after ear plugs and sponge goes around my head to keep it all still. I am given the Nurse Call pear push to press in case I panic. I can see out of the mask OK then I trundle backwards into the tunnel. Oh my word how claustrophobic is this. I am not usually bothered but this is trying to get to me. Man up I say, get on with it. If you press the button they will pull you out and then everything will go behind schedule. I think of some hymns to sing and then think of actually singing.  Well all the random noises put me off and if I sing then my head will move and face, I need to keep still. 15 mins seems a long time then I’m out to have the dye connected and then it’s back into the scanner. This time it’s only about three  to five minutes. Eventually out into the waiting room (The radiologist explains that my doctor will have the results in seven  to ten days). (I think to myself, sorry you are wrong, my team will have this for Tuesday).

They remove the canula and off we go home via the Christian Book Shop Cafe I think for lunch.

Tonight Emily has no footy training and me and Lorna are going for a swim with the new gym membership.

At 16.50 hrs the phone goes, my mobile is on charge in the front room and my daughter in law (Poppy) picks it up and hands it to me. It’s a mobile number I don’t have in the contacts list and I answer it just in time. “Hi”, I’m ??? can’t remember now, “I’m the radiologist who was involved with the scan, there are one or two bits on the scan we are not happy with, some “blobs”” I thought he said but I know that’s wrong and “we would like to see you again”. Oh no not another scan I thought. OK my MDT is next week so will this be another appointment to be sent over. “Well David I don’t think we need to see you back here tonight!!!” WHAT….No what is this you are trying to tell me. But I can go tomorrow (Saturday) report to A&E and you will be sorted out to see one of the Oncology Team. But it’s Saturday I thought and specialists tend to be thin on the ground at the weekend. My world has now turned upside down. I kick the sofa, (stupid I know) Lorna is just hovering outside the room as are Andrew and Poppy. I put the phone down and to be quite honest cry my eyes out. This is not the news I wanted AT ALL. My mind is in overdrive.

Eventually I pull myself together with the others who are now in panic mode. Look what affect I have now had on them.

Lorna and I decide to crack on, we ARE going to the Gym WE are going for a swim, this will not defeat me and plonk me into a corner.

As you can imagine my brain is running wild. We are at the weekend and so many things to do and we have to crack on and do them. This is now a good time I think to wrap what presents we have and write the cards over this weekend. Oh no, we have to tell people and break some news.

I do Facebook reasonably well. There are lots of friends that have been texting me, Whatsapping me, e mailing me so I speak to Lorna and say that maybe this is the best way to keep people up to date, but only after we have spoken personally to immediate family and friends, this is important. We do however understand that with some we have to send a text first as breaking bad news only results in a blubber call and the phone passed to someone else to crack on with.

From memory now –  It’s a very tough weekend and the stark reality of all this starts to hit home. On Saturday 8th December we went to A&E to then be triaged through and my case reviewed. Unfortunately, there was no one really about on the specialist team so today it was more of a paperwork and instigation day to put the wheels in motion for the right specialists to be informed for Monday morning return. It is probably the biggest waste of time of my current experience with all this as really no one knows the full details but at least they are informing relevant departments. I do ask about the bits seen on the scan in the brain and they were able to tell me that these are Likely to be metastatic Melanoma deposits one at 11mm and one at 5/5.5mm and some other smaller bits! We are in the hospital for about four hours and then leave. No need to stay in, great stuff!!

The rest of the day blurs away and I think we went to the in laws for dinner.

Stupidly I Google some information. I want to try and use reliable web sites, Macmillan, Cancer Research UK but I also come across some others that I don’t like the looks of. Life expectancy without treatment, two to three months! With treatment one to two years. Are you having a laugh, this is only Melanoma, skin cancer.

Lorna tells me off for looking, but I know she has been looking also I can see the history on here iPAD.

Sunday was a baptism service at one of our old churches and it is Matty’s Girlfriend who is being baptised. Many of the congregation we still know and they are aware of the situation via Facebook as they are able to pray for the relevant items. There are lots of hugs and some tears but we hold it together.

Our friend comes around and chats with us and stays for dinner. We watch the Greatest Showman, I love the music from this, she hasn’t seen it before. Emily and I laugh when I say this song can be played at my funeral please as the coffin is carried in, “This is me”. We laugh

Oh and by the way my favourite hymn is “When peace like a River”.

This hymn has a great story behind the writer who penned it. I decide later that week Facebook the 2nd verse lyrics, very poignant.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,

Let this blest assurance control;

That Christ has regarding my helpless estate

And shed His own blood for my soul

Unless you are a Christian this may not seem much to you but it’s very important to me and my family.  My trials are here, NOW!

Monday has to be a call to Rachael which I do as soon as possible on Monday. She calls me back, they are very good. I am inpatient and want to know ASAP but I know I’m not the only patient.

She fills me in to tell me that the scan planned for later this week may not need to happen but they will confirm after the MDT (multi Disciplinary Team) on Tuesday and there will now be another one about me at the Walton Neuro centre (Oh no, I might end up as a patient in one of my designed operating theatres…well maybe that’s a bit exciting also?)

She has sent a prescription to the doctors now to start on steroids which will be ready to collect either later today or tomorrow morning, depending upon how quick the doctor signs it off. I actually collect 11th December in the morning

She promises to ring me Tuesday to tell me more once she knows.

“Ok Rachael” I say, “I am going to ask you some loaded questions now and I understand that maybe you can’t answer all this over the phone. So tell me if what I have read is correct.

Without treatment have I only got 2 to 3 months is this correct” . “Yes it is”

“With treatment what does this extend to 1 to 2 years, is this correct?”

“Yes it is but time is moving on and this is can move to maybe 10 years”.

“Ok”  I say, “thanks I know it’s difficult.”

I put the phone down and then cry a little. I ring Lorna who is at work, she comes home and we are basket cases for a while. I explain the stark reality of what MIGHT happen. I vow to battle this. I have a faith and supporting network of people that will be praying for me

I decide to give work a miss mainly because Rachael says what did they say at the weekend about driving. I said that was not really mentioned other than to check the DVLA web site and speak to the team this week. Rachael advises me not to drive. This stuff in my head could cause a seizure!!

My word, there are so many things to put in place now. I need to line all the ducks up as they say.

Oh no, kids and family to tell now. Rachael says she will ring tomorrow (Wednesday) with any updates but crack on with the scan of the left armpit with FNA on 12th (the Wednesday at 9am. My son Andrew will take time off work and come with me.

Today I speak to Macmillan for about forty minutes and gather some information and they are really helpful, they lead me to the Melanoma UK web site and hence I am writing this today. I download the Macmillan app for appointments and medication onto my phone.

Am I worried, not now, it’s this far, who cares now if it just another little bit! Melanoma you are having a party now it’s time to be battled with. Anyway the scan is with the same radiographer as last time and we chat and again she tells me as it is. Another suspect one, she will need to use go quite deep to get the sample,” hey will that be a 6” needle” then I laugh. She jokes back and said no that they tend to bend a bit so she should get it with the normal one! Sampler taken and then off I go to the waiting room to see Andrew. How did that go, another positive Andrew!! Time to ring Lorna now, text Emily and Matty and then crack on. We drop into the Macmillan leaflet area and have a chat and pick up some leaflets.

Various texts come in over the last few days with scripture messages

“He may strengthen you with power through His spirit in your inner being”(Ephesians 3 V 16)

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46 Vs 1)

12th December is also awards evening at Boys Brigade, time to go to that also with a puppet sketch to partake in. A good break away from all things really.

13th December comes soon and Pauline and Bob come along to review some of my paperwork now. I need to put things in place for Lorna and the family.

I have booked a Pensions Wise appointment for Friday but I think we will re-arrange to 4th January now. Blimey I’m only 56, some of my small pensions mature at 60, some at 65 and then the standard at 67. It’s looking likely that i might not see any of these! Typical.

What insurance plans have we got, well a few but NONE with critical illness cover. When we took them out it was, we thought, a waste of money. We have sickness cover on the mortgage so that’s ok, only three years or so left on that anyway. Then I find the policy with a terminal illness clause, does this class as terminal. It’s all in the insurance wording. I check with the insured and decide to ask them to send me a claim form out. It does say on the “first diagnosis of a terminal illness”

We go for lunch to the pub! Glass of wine and some food. One glass does me today!!

Friday 14th I need to do some work at home, e mails, catch up on timesheets and other bits. It’s a bit of an odd day as tonight is the church men’s meal out but I want to go along. I send a text to one of the men to send out to all. Tell them not to worry about tonight, ask me anything or nothing, no sadness please tonight is party night!

Lorna comes home from work early with another migraine which she often suffers with. Into bed she goes and then the Tesco shop appears. Oh my word, where is all this going!! I still need to go out and get my Christmas jumper, Emily can’t get to footy training now and I am feeling flustered. Andrew and Poppy come round to help and eventually I shower, change and go out and we have a great meal with the men.

Today I got this confirmation via Rachael that after consultation with the Walton centre i was being referred to Clatterbridge for treatment which will be either Radiotherapy or other drug treatment but they will see me in Clinic hopefully Tuesday 18th December at 4pm but this will be confirmed on Monday. At 1100 hrs the Macmillan Nurses (Palliative Care) are coming out to see me and see how I am getting on!

Our neighbour over the road works in a solicitors so we contact her about power of attorney on me and also a will which we have never written. It is revealed that her niece has stage 4 cancer also. She is only 27! Emily goes to college with my neighbour’s son on a daily basis so it appears that they have been chatting.

My brother in law Bob has now taken away my pension stuff to review

Saturday 15th December, I have been awake since about 4.15am. I decide at 5.20am to get up and make a cuppa and just type this!!

We walk the dogs in the freezing cold wind and then go to town to sort out the bank accounts and savings that are just in my name to joint names.

We meet Emily and Matty for a coffee. We talk about a session with the Macmillan Nurses to chat with them which they agree to.

We chat about the bucket list and our / my thoughts to raise some money for Melanoma UK and Macmillan

I want to do coast to coast cycle ride. My son Andrew is up for this by Matty and Emily want to do it also. Can I / will I be able to do it. Try me, I will have a go depending on how I react. I will not give up. It’s only just started. I have not got a clue what to expect and now I’m not going to look at this until after Tuesday next when we ask loads of questions.

Matty wants to do something more challenging

Emily wants to raise awareness…sooner rather than later

Today she passed her driving Theory test and we come back and book her driving test which I promise to pay for!

 

Emily, Matty, Lorna, Poppy, Andrew and me!! (Dave)

Who now knows what is before me other than a long haul or maybe shorter. Only God knows what lies ahead of me

 

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