Seeing the World

Life has served up a fantastic opportunity to travel

It’s Time To Travel

Hi there.  I’m Dave.

I hit 50 years old in January 2018 and intend to travel while I’m able to do so.  This blog documents some of the thinking, planning and doing that goes into things, as well as sharing other events that may happen in my life.  At present, my treatment restricts me to the uk.

In November 2016, despite never having smoked, I was diagnosed with incurable lung cancer – stage four, it’s spread to the bone.  The initial treatment was a pill a day and gives a prognosis that would get me through to the middle of 2019, but it became resistant well before the end of 2017.  My chances of being among the 14% of us get to five years are probably well below that 14%.

So far I’ve visited Malta, Slovakia, Iceland, Slovenia, Montenegro and Northern Ireland.  Then New England, Chile and the USA South West.  Currently on a medical flight ban!


Roy Castle Lung Foundation in Liverpool.  People who go the extra mile to answer the questions the oncologist doesn’t know.  Well worth a donation.

2016 – An Extraordinary Year

It all happened.

I became the healthiest I’ve been as an adult. A health kick I’d started a year before saw my weight loss total 100lbs. I was walking ten miles a day in the spring months. I felt really good.

My divorce came through. While there’s a sadness about that, I felt happy within myself.

My employer of thirty years put me at risk of redundancy. I managed to cling onto a role by dropping a level to cover a maternity leave. But I knew I’d have a battle to remain employed after May 2017.

I travelled solo to Madrid which became my favourite city. I’m not really a fan of metropolis, natural wonders is more my thing, but the transport, the historic buildings and the two football stadia made me a fan. It was also where I learned the benefit of starting a city break with a free walking tour. That €10 tip was well worth it and helped me fill the time for the following days.

My son Chris joined me on a trip to Yellowstone. What a wonderful place that is. We took a loop route out of Denver through Colorado Springs, the wonderful Pagosa Springs (a place to enjoy natural hot springs), Chris slept through the magnificent Ouray and Silverton but we both got a kick out of white water rafting the Colorado River at Glenwood Springs before heading to Grand Teton, Yellowstone in all its splendour and a drive over the extraordinary Beartooth Pass.

My good health at the start of the year did take a couple of knock backs. I injured my shoulder in January after playing badminton rather enthusiastically after a thirty year break. The middle of my back suffered excruciating pain in April (the doctor prescribed Cocodamol) and my lower back gave me real grief, including sciatic leg pain, which nearly cut the Yellowstone drive short.

i utilised my employer’s BUPA and was referred for physio. While I enjoyed the Lycra clad ladies giving me some attention it didn’t work and three months later I was referred to a neurosurgeon.  It was now September.

This guy looked at my scan and said he thought I had myeloma – a form of blood cancer. This was a shock, more so the bit when I checked online and saw an average five year life expectancy. Whatever it was had eaten away at three of my verterbra, T7, L4 and L5. He recommended verterbroplasty on the L4. Basically pumping in cement to stabilise my back and hopefully reduce pain.

It did reduce pain, although I found walking over the next six weeks uncomfortable and slow. A half hour walk was now taking forty minutes. My multiple pains had, however, reduced to a single trapped nerve in my buttock. Painful, but so much better than things had been. At the same time I developed Bell’s palsy, one side of my face dropped and my eye refused to shut, even at night.  That’s a curse that has been with me over a year.

The day after my operation came another shock. A CT scan had shown up something small in my lungs. Google told me that if I had lung cancer and it had spread to the bone I had six months to live. The private oncologist I saw a week later didn’t put a time on it, but he confirmed the myeloma thought was wrong. I did have lung cancer and he referred me back to the NHS. My employer’s BUPA doesn’t cover secondary cancer. He didn’t tell me that as well as my spine my pelvis, ribs, sternum and lymph nodes were under attack too.

While the NHS might not have wifi on the wards like the private hospital did, they do seem to have a relatively efficient cancer programme. A biopsy of my lymph node revealed a genetic mutation in my cancer and my new oncologist prescribed afatinib. The joyous side effects of diarrhoea, rash and acne remained a few weeks later, albeit less severe, seemed a small price to pay for an extra couple of years life.

Indeed, six days into this treatment, I became pain free. That last pinched nerve had been driving me mad but it just disappeared. I’d been taking a mix of four pain relief drugs which were suddenly not needed. My forty minute walk became half an hour again. I was still less stable than I had been, but felt quite excited. Maybe coincidence, maybe the afatinib had zapped something unpleasant. Sooner or later the drug will stop working but, at that point in time, I like it.

With a sick note issued to the end of January I saw the likelihood of finding a new role with my employer before redundancy kicked in at the end of May diminish. The desire to put myself through the interview process wasn’t there. And then it struck me. I could travel once I’m not working. Indeed, I should start the travel pretty soon because if I’ve only got a couple of years and some of that time will see me deteriorate then the sooner the better.

I decided to embrace the idea of redundancy, which would include a substantial pay-off. The idea of travelling on a sick note didn’t sit comfortably with me. So I emailed my union leader to enquire about the likelihood of garden leave for my three month notice period March to May. He made enquiries and said I’d hear from my line manager after Christmas.

Suddenly I’ve gone from wanting to get back to work to wanting to get on a plane to wherever. 2017 is now a year of opportunity. Perhaps my only opportunity to see more of the planet.


Featured post

The Funeral

Following my dad’s passing on the 18th July, we can now announce arrangements for his funeral.

The funeral will take place at Oldham Crematorium (in Hollinwood) at 11am on Friday 10th August. Anyone is welcome to come and pay their respects.

The address is:

Oldham Crematorium Within Hollinwood Cemetery
Hollinwood Cemetery, Roman Rd, Oldham OL8 3LU

We ask that people wear an item of royal blue , or an Oldham Athletic or Stockport County shirt.

We request that, in lieu of flowers, people make a donation to Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation. Either addressed to:

G. Barlow and Sons Ltd., 17-19, Union Street West, Oldham. OL8 1DQ.

or to his Just Giving site

The wake will then take place at the Milan Bar, with the room available as long as is needed.

The address for the wake is:

Milan Bar
13 Elliott St, Lees, Oldham OL4 3DY



My Dad: A Thank You

At around 2:30am on Wednesday 18th of July my dad, Dave, passed away peacefully in his sleep.

He spent his final days in hospital surrounded by his family, friends and other loved ones – he laughed and smiled and said goodbye to us all in his way. Even in his final days, he never lost his sense of humour or cheeky grin and fought on as long as he could to soak up every moment he could manage.

On behalf of him and the family, I’d like to extend my thanks to everyone that has read his blog. From the amusement of the hooker in London to the sadness of his pain and low points, he throughly enjoyed sharing his experiences with you. Your comments and support never failed to lift him up and the support network it allowed him to form helped him battle on for this long. You made him feel like a superstar.

Today is a sad day, but we are happy that dad is at peace now. He had the best last days he could ask for and passed away without pain or suffering.

We will announce funeral arrangements once they have been made via his Facebook page.

Thanks for reading,

Dave’s family (written by Chris)

When Your Body Gives You Up

The green pyjamas of Huddersfield Royal Infirmary.  I’ve replaced mine with my own gear.  The Pink Floyd cricket tee shirt out shines local provision.

But that’s a reminder that I’m stuck.  Partly by fate of ill health.  It’s fair to say the desire of the hospital staff to clean me has increased.  Because at present I lack the capacity to cleanse myself.  A serious and hopefully reversible deterioration.

So I have been cleaned intimately by NHS strangers.  They were damned humerous and made the experience easy despite my feeling deeply embarrassed by the necessary situation.

Despite listening to Yorkshire accents I’ve had my head in the USA touring the Pacific Coast Highway.  Yes, been there, done it before.  Unlikely to get back to be honest.  And I am still in the town of Huddersfield.  So not quite the same.  But a great reminder of trips gone by and, even if my body is thinking about giving up, I’ve actually lived a little and shared the fun.

Maybe I can become me again.  But for now hospital bed, gloved NHS washers who are exceptional people and necessary health investigators too are my essential support.  I’m feeble and a long way from being anything else.  But the memories remain.

Huddersfield Hopsital: Luxury Accomodation

I’ve been in Huddersfield Royal Infirmary for going on 3 weeks now. It’s not quite British Airways 1st Class but they feed me. Chris and Louise brought me in with a suspected infection. The infection has now cleared but I still don’t have a clue where I’ve been. In my head I’ve done a tour of the North, from Liverpool to Leeds. In reality I’ve been stuck in Huddersfield with the occasional treat of a trip to leads for radiotherapy.

Today I’ve managed to find the slippers that were lost in one of my many room moves and Chris has reminded me that Oldham have been relegated. Bugger! Although the he tells me I’m lucky to have forgotten Northampton away. I’ve no memory of it!

I keep thinking of Anglesey, Scotland and junction 22 of the m62. All places I’ve been staying at in my head. Ironically, the doctors are confused about my confusion – Oncobabe seems to think it’s due to cancer spread to the membrane around my brain.

I’m tired and confused, but at least the pain is less severe.

The Where the Hell am I Moments

It couldn’t be simpler.  Go to hospital.  Get fixed.  Go home.

Except they can’t fix me.  And one day they won’t send me home.  And hospital disorientation is driving me absolutely nuts.

It’s not just which ward.  Or which hospial.  It’s which county.  I am regularly waking up not knowing where I am, what investigation or treatment I’m in for or where I’m going next.

Lacashire or Yorkshire.  Oldham or Rochdale.  Huddersfield, Halifax or Leeds.  I’m sure there’s somewhere else I’ve visited too along the way.

Im sure there are good financial reasons for a multi-centre approach to patient treatment.  But it’s not something that works well for me.  I feel like I need a foundation for my treatment.  A simple base.  At the moment I feel bewildered by where I’m going each day, who’s going to transport me and what’s going to happen at the end of the travel.  A lack of control and understanding about the whats and wheres.  I don’t care for the whys either!

And genuine confusion about the shape of my days as I’m shoved between wards, wings and completely different towns, while stacked up with morphine and various other drugs.  I thank the patience of those who I keep asking very similar geographical questions of.  Even if I’m not quite able to keep up with all the answers.

Nil by Mouth – I Ask For Soup

Oncobabe has referred me for a brain scan.  This is a slight concern as I’m banned from driving if it shows anything unpleasant.  What will be will be.

This morning has been one of over-relaxed bladder.  Not extreme, but a pressure I should have avoided using the cardboard devices supplied on ward.  This afternoon brings a new scan.  They suspect there’s nothing new to see, but want to check anyway.  My loopiness is not normal!

Then the luscious Rachel is scheduled to appear later to entertain me.  I’ve no idea what I must be putting her through, but I’m very glad she’s there.  I’d like to feel I’m still there for a good few years yet, but it’s not looking great.

Curtains have been opening and closing all morning.  Blood pressure has been tested at alarming regularity and my presence on the planet continues to feel like a blur as the drugs numb my faculties.

Is it Thursday or Friday?  I’ve just asked for soup.  I’m nil by mouth!  Cancelled!

There’s a Nutty Woman in my Room

For the second time in recent weeks, my personal space has been invaded by a nutty woman.  It’s 3am.  My cancer is flaring up in my pelvis.  I sit up on the side of my hospital bed to ease the pressure on it and stare out of a window through the blind slats.

The door to my private room, presumably an isolation room, opens.  I don’t have the ability to swiftly spin around but as the door opened the lady involved immediately addressed me with the words “it’s time for me to go, when are you going to let me out?”.

I know the NHS has a few vacancies on the books but I didn’t realise I’d been appointed to make such decisions during my tenure.

She takes a seat and starts demanding that I help her with her two heavy bags.  Sod that, I’ve travelled light and fear I’m going to struggle to carry my meagre bits and pieces home with me.

I politely said “I’m a patient and think you need to find assistance elsewhere”.  She muttered something and stayed seated for a couple of minutes.  I remained unmoved and didn’t look at her.  Eventually she left without speaking.

I seem to be attracting such situations.  But they’re certainly not a choice.

I have woken up groggy this morning but successfully made it to the bathroom.  I think my mind is clearer about where I am.  The doctor visited.  I recalled her from my September visit to the ward where she described by medical notes as making me the most unlikely man in the world to get a dose of lung cancer.  Still, she reckons they’ll discharge me this afternoon with some antibiotics.

I forgot to mention my nocturnal visitor.  I am fairly sure she was real though.


My Land of Confusion

Yesterday started well.  I woke up.  I then had a knock on my bedroom door.  Chris opened it.  A real shock because I had no recollection of him having stayed over, until I saw him.

Now I’ve certainly had memory lapses in the past, but this felt overwhelming.  Not remembering telling your son he could stay?  Weird!

In other news I’d agreed for Louise to visit me today.  Contacted her by telling her it was Saturday.  It just wasn’t.

Dave was not with it and was sharing the information well with his kids!  Even today, I’m not quite there.  It appears I had a temperature and some sort of infection. A series of nursing staff started asking me about my weeing abilities.  They’d become “unavailable ” to “run like Usain Boult or you will wet yourself”.

Regardless, I was in hospital, had company and was running a temperature.  Despite which, the bed didn’t feel in any way sweaty.

Breakfast arrived.  Porridge I think.  A trip out from Huddersfield infirmary to the hospital in Halifax to be assessed.  A suggestion that my growing confusion is down to a water infection.  Lovely.  Some IV antibiotics have since followed since my return to Huddersfield.  The body temperature has also moved up to 38.8 Celsius before subsequently reducing.  Good work antibiotics!  Pins and needles in my right leg have subsequently returned which is annoying me.

My thinking has gradually become more measured and less bizarre, so fingers crossed the amount of nonsense I’ve been thinking has reduced.  I’ve certainly suffered more jumbled thoughts in recent days.  They’re still not totally eradicated from my thinking but I’m more easily able to spot them and resist sharing them.

I still have my private ward.  I prefer it to more sociable areas and it’s easier to hear  my visitors.  I hate my one eared deafness!  I also quite enjoy the solitude option once the visitors leave.  The noise still echoes along the corridor but I feel happy in my own company while retaining the ability to talk to the outside world online.

I’m not sure what tomorrow will bring.  A CT scan is likely to help clear up any concerns about the cancer spread.  MRI and X-ray results are already outstanding.  I have found, even in hospital, the energy needed to get to and from these tests feels huge.  That’s with a porter pushing me!  I think there’s a chance they might discharge me.  But nobody has suggested this, so I’ll wait.  What a shame I no longer get £100 nightly for an NHS stay paid for by BUPA.

Ill probably sleep early again.  I’m sleeping longer most nights and while that probably isn’t a good thing I’ve not felt keeping myself awake is a good idea either.  Go with the flow.


Spaced Out

I’m not quite with it.  My ability to recall my plans for the day has become sketchy.  I can make a firm decision and within half an hour my mind has turned to mush and I have no recollection.

I don’t think it’s the drugs.  I just think my short term memory has desserted me.  Granted, it hasn’t been perfect for decades, but at the moment I can’t recall the general outline I’d put in place for the day.

This could become serious.  I was getting confused between rewriting my blog and seeing the doctor during the week.  Fortunately I avoided any potential embarrassment.  But finding a way to be a little more with it would be a good thing.


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