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Beat The Beast Challenge

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Today has been a most unusual day that has seen me smiling while shopping and puffing away like Ivor the engine, but started with a shaky walk to the health centre.

I woke this morning after a good night’s sleep on my camp bed replete with the cushion bed on top. There was some concern that, as it was now quite high, I might roll off it. But there is only one way to find out and it was marvellous. I felt good on waking, apart from a slightly uncomfortable tummy, so washed and shaved, took my anti-seizure medication then went for my early morning walk. A short one today, just 0.75 miles around the old school run climbing just 44.62 feet. The walk eased the pain in my gut a little so once back in the flat I cracked straight on with breakfast. It was the usual breakfast of granola mixed with a nutty and seedy muesli, a banana chopped up, 24 blueberries and a tablespoon of flaxseed, served with coconut milk, followed by an apple and a piece of wholemeal toast with a glass of orange juice. A really good fibre load with essential minerals in the nuts, seeds and flaxseed, and vitamins provided by the 3 portions of fruit. A great way to start the day but today was mightily different. Half way through the bowl of cereal I started feeling really uncomfortable in the gut. I started feeling nauseous, shaky, hot and very, very weak, so much so that I couldn’t eat anymore. I paced around the flat not knowing what to do. I went to the loo but nothing would come out but still the pressure built in the gut until I felt as if I was going to explode. I had to get to the health centre. I needed to see someone, anyone who could help. I left the flat and as I hit the stairs found myself grabbing for the hand rail. I lowered myself slowly down the stairs my hand sliding, gripping, sliding, gripping on the handrail to help lower me down under control. I got out the doors, took a deep breath and headed for the health centre. The motion was easing some of the gases in my gut so, much like a steam engine, Ivor the engine in fact, who would procede, schuh ta ker, schuh ta ker, schuh ta ker, I was puffing along very slowly, step and fart, step and fart, step and fart, but having to stop every few steps to bend over and let out a quiet groan of pain. I wasn’t at all sure that I would make it to the health centre or indeed be able to make it across Main Street in the building stream of rush hour traffic and even considered calling for an ambulance but on I pressed, step and fart, step and fart, then sicky burp. As I reached Main Street the school traffic warden had arrived for duty. She saw me coming and stood out to stop the traffic. I had to pick up the pace which released yet more gas. Step and fart, step and fart fart, step and fart fart fart burp, and across the road I found myself leaning against a garden wall bent over in pain. I pushed on and got to the health centre far too early! I paced around under the small alcove outside the front door muttering to myself and groaning quietly while trying to send a text to Allie. I was supposed to be going to Edinburgh to meet with Allie to go to support her in her New College Carol service and prepare for a meeting with my dear friend Heather McLeod. The plan was to do some final Christmas shopping in Stirling before travelling to Edinburgh late afternoon. I really wasn’t sure whether or not I was going to get there at all. Equally I wasn’t at all sure that I would ever finish the text as my hands were shaking so much which made texting with my muckle great thumbs extremely difficult. But eventually I managed it and text sent, I paced and groaned, paced and groaned with my legs wobbling underneath me while my hands shook. The health centre receptionist arrived and let me in. The earliest appointment she had was 0930hrs. I thanked her and walked home, step and fart, step and fart, one step and one fart at a time. Some primary school children and mums were coming past me to go to school. I stopped, stood, clenched my bottom cheeks and smiled as the pressure built. Path clear I relaxed and let out a long fart like Ivor releasing steam from his tank Schuuuuuhhhhh. I bumped into Pauline and tried to be braver. The symptoms seemed to be easing a little and I nearly offered to help her sweep the pavement outside the shop but felt that that would probably be the worst thing that I could do. So instead I stopped, smiled, clenched and said hello. By the time I got home the symptoms seemed to be easing further so I went to the sink and cleared up the half eaten breakfast. Washing up done there was nothing else for it but to conduct morning prayer and ask for help. My gut was really uncomfortable but I couldn’t just wander around the flat feeling sorry for myself. So I sat at the keyboard and played my first tune. I was finding it hard to concentrate but by the third attempt it flowed nicely. I said my first prayers and morning prayer and organ practice flowed, interspersed with the occasional groan and puff of wind. I was worried, really worried. Yesterday I talked about my fear of beating the beast of a brain tumour only to succumb to a heart attack brought about by my ballooning weight. Today I was worried that this manifestation and culmination of what had been a set of different symptoms, building over time, coming together all at once in one enormously painful show, was in fact bowel cancer. I was having to go to the loo after every single meal. The stools were soft and I could see no traces of blood, but gosh my stomach was uncomfortable. No matter what I ate, my bowels would bloat and produce far too much gas. What was wrong with me?! I prayed hard for a healing. To quell the pain and send whatever it was that was troubling me away. I played a few more tunes and then it was time to go to the doctor. This time I could walk much more easily but was still uncomfortable.

As I waited in the doctors, a friend from the village walked in with his young daughter in his arms. He asked the inevitable question one asks on meeting somebody you know and hadn’t seen for a wee while, but is perhaps the last question one should ask in a doctor’s surgery. ‘Hi Archie, How are you?’ He stopped. We laughed and then, looking at his young daughter, I made the decision not to answer his question honestly. So instead, with a smile on my face I replied, ‘Fine, thank you. Yes good.’ He nodded and was then called into surgery.

Soon it was my turn and I was in with the doctor. I talked through my symptoms of pain, bloating and gas, of weakness in the legs, hot flushes and shaky hands this morning, and then discussed how there seemed to be no particular trigger. How just over time, little by little, my bowels appear to have got worse and worse. How I had made a mistake in my early days of treatment in which I dived too fast and headlong into a raw vegan diet, believing that it would heal me, only to light a fire inside the body from the shock that I had caused it and that needed a full course of little yellow pills to put out the flames. Since then however, and since the end of treatment a year ago, I have been okay until recently. Although I had been eating a high fibre diet with 7 genuine portions of fruit and vegetables each and every day, little by little, I have felt an increasing change to my bowel’s routine and comfort. So the doctor asked a number of questions to which my answers were summarised as such: That I was now having to pass stools after every single meal, that they were soft but formed, not diarrhoea, that I could see no traces of blood, only a little spotting from the piles which I have had since Chemo. That I was now very, very, very windy. The doctor listened intently and asked more questions before opting to take blood at this stage to rule out a number of possibilities. She agreed with me that the intensity of the treatment that I had sustained has made me a little more susceptible to things not working quite as they should. Certainly my lactose intolerance was caused by the treatment. My main concern however was of course bowel cancer but the doctor reassured me that we would take every step to rule out any likely causes of such symptoms. Keep eating as well as you are, but keep a diary and try and work out what food it might be that is causing you this discomfort. See if you can find a single culprit. Then it was time for taking blood. We tried the right arm first whose vein had been damaged by the intravenous drug used to bring me down off the eel seizure that was choking me in the hospital. After three attempts we moved on, but it was fascinating to watch the doctor searching for a usable vein with the needle buried deep inside the arm. I felt very little discomfort as she did. The first attempt on the left arm passed through the vein. The second attempt was a success. I wanted to exclaim, ‘there she blows’ as blood suddenly gushed into the syringe. I will get the results in the New Year so in the meantime I am going to see if I can nail down the culprit. The first sacrificial lamb is going to be the Mocha, even if made with almond milk. I am cutting those out first to see if that makes a difference. I will miss them though.

Doctor completed I jumped on the No.59 bus for Stirling. I had some final Christmas Shopping to do and as I went in Allie texted me to let me know that she was praying for some relief from the discomfort. As time went on however the symptoms eased considerably so, once in Stirling, I was off to go shopping but I had the most wonderful shopping experience. The city felt almost empty. Everybody was smiling and every shop that I walked into was stocked full of shop assistants who walked straight up to me, greeted me like a long lost friend, and then became my personal shopper. It was almost as if they thought that they actually knew me. I was quickly finding what I had been looking for with all this help and soon found that I had only one more shop to go into. But before I did I had to pay for my purchases in Debenhams. The lady helping me could not have been nicer as she wrapped each and every single item for me as she guided me to other areas of the store in which there were one or two items that I had been unable to find. I wanted to tell her about the challenge but felt, strangely, that she somehow sort of knew about it so I chose not to tell her. She gave me the final figure which was a little more than I had calculated in my head and was nudging the top end of my budget for the day but manageable. As I handed over my card her till buzzed. The shop assistant looked at the till and said, ‘That’s strange. Must be a multi-buy discount!’ before then shrugging her shoulders and asking me for a figure much less than she had originally quoted. She took my card and rang it through the till. What was extra odd was that I hadn’t bought a single multi-buy offer other than the 3 for 2 £1.00 bags of chocolate money. The £1.00 saved in no way accounted for the £20.00 discount the till gave me. I was now back within my budget for the day. In the next shop I was again greeted like a long lost friend but this time from somebody who had helped me before. Dave could not have been more helpful as he served customers around my queries. And then he took a phone call before giving me some good news that made my day. A mutual friend had been trying to get hold of me, could I give her a call? She had a really exciting idea that she would like my thoughts on! I really thought that I could see God’s hand at work after the difficult start to the day. He was answering my prayers from this morning in which I pleaded for healing and for a little encouragement. I felt a little more comfortable certainly but I was most certainly feeling encouraged by the shopping expedition. It was lunch time and after so much pain from a healthy breakfast I decided to follow the doctor’s orders and try and discount likely contributory foods to the bloating. If a healthy diet isn’t working, well then perhaps I should try an unhealthy diet. Revert to type. Give the body a break from high fibre, high vitamin and mineral. Instead go for anaemic so I went to McDonalds and after a medium quarter pounder with cheese meal with fries, a strawberry milkshake and an apple pie I was actually feeling quite good.

I was back on the bus for home to drop off my Christmas shopping before a sharp turn around and grabbing my suitcase and laptop. I managed to catch the same bus back as it came back through Doune after a turnaround in Callander. As I sat on the bus though I started to feel the consequences of that last meal. It wasn’t nearly as bad as this morning but certainly it was uncomfortable. Off the bus I stuck very firmly next to the bus lane to let off wind without embarrassment and once in the station wandered around the platforms to stand next to the trains as they idled noisily and smellily. The question remains as to who was noisiest or smelliest. In Edinburgh and once off the train I hung back to let the other passengers through and then let rip. Gosh it felt good but as I write this post after a supper of chicken with roast vegetables I do so in certain discomfort. McDonalds is certainly off the list with the Mocha.

Yours Aye

Archie

Thank you for joining me on my own personal journey and encouraging me to walk, cycle, climb, paddle, sport and do good deeds each day to ‘Beat the Beast’ while helping to improve the lives and life chances of so many more people through sponsorship. The Five Charities that I have selected to support are:

  1. Cancer Research UK – My Father Succumbed to Lung Cancer; a couple of friends are currently fighting cancer and I am fighting a brain tumour. Let’s Help to Beat Cancer Sooner.
  2. The Prince’s Trust – Inspiring and preparing disadvantaged Young Lives for success.
  3. British Red Cross - helping those in need around the UK and the world whoever and wherever they are.
  4. World Wide Fund for Nature - For a Living Planet and a Future Where People and Nature Thrive.
  5. Help for Heroes – Support for our Wounded and their Families. To learn more about my story that brought me to this point, how I plan to ‘Beat the Beast’, what activities I plan to do within the challenge and why, please see my welcome video on this page.

How to Sponsor Me

The Beat the Beast Challenge is self funding through my own contribution while keeping costs to a minimum with voluntary support and corporate sponsorship in kind. Therefore the entirety of every penny donated will go directly to the 5 charities listed above.

Please sponsor me by completing a standing order form either through your own personal internet banking or by completing a hard copy standing order form in your branch of your bank and then handing it in to the teller.

It is entirely up to you how much you would like to and are able to sponsor me for so do please give as much or as little as you can. Every penny will be very gratefully received.

While I hope you will encourage me to keep going by sponsoring me for every day I survive and am able to find the cognitive and physical capability to complete a day’s task designed to improve my chances of ‘Beating the Beast’ or improving the lives of others, 5 days a week, four weeks a month, for as long as ever I can. Any One off Cash contributions will be most gratefully received and distributed in exactly the same manner to the five charities as the sponsorship. Any one off donations can be made by BACS or cheque.

Thank you for having enough faith in me to sponsor me.

Yours aye

Archie