It seems cancer and I go back a long way to the point now that even just hearing the word freaks me out.
You’re probably wondering why I have had cancer twice in my life. I was 7 when I was diagnosed with a Wilms’ tumour which is cancer of the kidney. I had experienced pains in my side for quite a few months but never really told anyone about it and then one night I went for a wee and blood came out instead. This totally freaked me out as I didn’t recall eating any beetroots or drinking any Ribena that night.
I was stage four when the the docs found it so it had spread and I had to have some pretty nasty chemo and radiotherapy before and after they removed my right kidney.
Why did I get cancer as a 7 year old? I think I was just unlucky. A little cell in my body went bad and decided to turn a few others bad too. Kidney removed and treatment done, the Trout lived to see another 23 years! My doctor at the time and the person who helped save my life was a guy called Dr Alan Craft. He is now Professor Sir Alan Craft and is also the chairman of the Scouts. When I told Alan what I was doing he absolutely loved it and has worked closely with me on my trip which is absolutely amazing!
Bowel cancer as a 30 year old was a completely different story. For about a year I felt more and more tired. I seemed to get knackered just walking up the stairs to work which was only one floor!
Something clearly wasn’t right and being the hypochondriac that I am I pestered the doctors to find out why I was feeling like this. After some blood tests the docs found out I had an iron deficiency and when Iron tablets didn’t seem to work. The wonderful Dr Hannah Cohen at UCLH organised every single test going and after a very unpleasant Colonoscopy the docs found out why my iron was so low. They found a 10cm long tumour in my large bowel which had been bleeding for a long time causing my iron levels to drop through blood loss. A week before the procedure I had only my third symptom which was blood in my stool or as I like to call it poo. I was diagnosed with Dukes B bowel cancer which meant the tumour hadn’t penetrated the bowel wall yet.
Transverse Colon removed and a few rounds of chemotherapy later and once again the Trout lived on.
Afterwards though, I suffered with Post Traumatic Stress disorder which I knew nothing about. Some just said I was depressed but I really wasn’t. I was so grateful to be well again but I just couldn’t stop thinking about cancer. I stressed so much I developed eczema on my face and body and suffered from insomnia. I tried lots of therapy which did help to a certain extent but I still struggled. It wasn’t until I decided that I would go travelling and see the world that I began to feel better. Since planning this trip and working on my website, my life has completely transformed. I sleep well now, my eczema has cleared up and I’m now excited and not scared about the future. Having something to look forward to was my way of coming through the dark times.
So back to that question about why I’ve had cancer twice. The docs reckon that perhaps my bowel was caught in the radiation field when I had my radiotherapy as a 7 year old. Back in 1987 radiotherapy wasn’t as accurate as it is today so a larger area ended up getting zapped. My bowel as a result may have received a higher dose than it really needed and as a result a cell or two may have become damaged and turned into a tumour.
When I was 21 I got Deep Vein Thrombosis, again believed to have been caused by the radiotherapy messing up my veins in my abdomen.
Just so you know this doesn’t mean this will happen to you if you had treatment back then. When I was in hospital this time round I was Mr Case Study for the doctors so clearly I was not something they saw everyday.
My aim now is to try and make my body a cancer hating machine by eating and living well. Trying to avoid stress if I can which is a nightmare when you think as much as I do and trying to enjoy everyday. Will it come back…who knows but if it does I’m going to kick its ass again!
My Top Tips for cancer survival
When I was ill this time round I asked a ridiculous amount of questions. Hopefully these answers might help you if you are currently kicking cancers butt.
How do you cope with the effect of treatment?
When I was having chemo I did three things to help alleviate the symptoms which included sore hands and feet, mouth ulcers, nausea and fatigue.
- Eat and drink well – I ate and drank lots of vegetables and other healthy foods. When you eat well you feel well. Your body responds to all the goodness in natural foods and it will also strengthen your immune system to combat any other viruses that might be knocking around. Keep hydrated and flush toxins out of your body.
- Exercise – Get out there and go for a walk even when you feel really rough. Try and walk to a park or by the river and you will feel so much better than sitting in bed or on the couch. I used to walk along the river in Richmond which made me feel so much better. Don’t overdo it though.
- Visualisation – Think of something that makes you feel good. Your mind is the most powerful tool in the body and if you can give it the sensation that it is experiencing something nice then it will react and horrible feelings won’t feel as bad. I’m a big tennis fan and when I was having really bad periods of pain I would imagine winning Wimbledon. My winning shot would be a power shot straight down the line past Rafa Nadal. The crowd goes wild!!!! Try it honestly works!
- Keep your hands and feet moisturised which will help with the burning.
- Use anti-septic mouthwash to alleviate the symptoms of mouth ulcers.
How long do you feel rubbish for after chemo or an operation?
This is a tough one because I suffered with Post Traumatic Stress disorder and wasn’t sleeping so I always felt rubbish. The experts say it can last up to a year until the toxins (chemo) are out of your body but it depends really. If you eat well, exercise and flush these toxins out then you could be laughing after about 6 months.
After an operation your body is still saying ‘what the hell was that?’ It’s a massive shock for the body to have something removed so it will take a while to get over that. I would give it a year before you start to feel like a piece of iron again (said in a Dolph Lundgren voice)
However you feel though make sure you rest and don’t worry like I did. Worry is no use or benefit to anyone….says he!:) Everyone’s body is different so it may take more time or less time to get back to normal.
What are the long-term effects of chemo?
Most people are aware that chemo can affect fertility and there are numerous other side effects like lung function and heart issues. My honest advice to you is not worry about it. If you experience any issues in the future then see the doctor but if you’re anything like me…. if you know about the problem then you think you’ve got the problem! Not good!
What should I eat?
Hit the nutrition tab at the top of the page for healthy cancer fighting food suggestions
Is there any support I can get?
You are not alone – There are lots of organisations and most things are free: –
- Penny Brohn – This is an amazing cancer centre in Bristol where you can also stay over. I took one of the free cooking classes and a meditation course there which was amazing. It’s also a lovely place to just sit around and drink tea chatting to those who may be -experiencing the same things as you which can really be helpful. Log on to there website or give them a call and order one of there packs. They are absolutely wonderful. http://www.pennybrohncancercare.org
- Macmillan – A wonderful charity which really helped me out when I was ill. They have lots of great booklets and advice so have a wee look on there website or pick up one of there many booklets in hospital. http://www.macmillan.org.uk
There is loads of help out there and once this thing gets up and running I’ll be dedicating a page to support websites, charities and forums. Please drop me Tweet with other organisations that have helped you and I’ll add them to the list.
My family and friends don’t know what to say to me? Is there any info for my family/friends?
When I look back at pictures of me as a child in hospital I no longer see myself in the pictures. Instead I’m drawn to pictures of my parents and brother. It must have been as traumatic for them as it was for me to see me like that. My poor brother who was only 13 and had to spend Christmas at the hospital and come see me all there all the time. I looked so ill and I apparently never spoke. Friends and family often need as much support as the person who is ill so make sure they have access to it. Macmillan again have great support booklets and advice for friends and family. Counseling is also available.
I am bored, I am too ill to do much and all I can think about is cancer, what do you recommend?
- Keep a blog/diary/video diary – Write down your feelings. This is so helpful and can often help release some of the things you may be worrying about
- Listen to music – I listened to so much music when I was ill. Music can make you feel so good. At the time of my treatment a song called ‘Keep your Head up’ by Ben Howard came along and I must have listened to it 10 times a day. I’m still convinced it was written especially to get me through my treatment. It definitely did! My 101 song is ‘Kings and Queens’ by 30 Seconds to Mars. Have a listen but make sure you pump it up loud! The start gives me goose bumps and gets me pumped up for the trip.
- Do something constructive for yourself – learn a language or an instrument. Keep bust to take your mind of things and have a talent at the end of it.
- Relaxation techniques – Meditation can be amazingly effective. I’m a bit rubbish at it as my mind is always racing but I plan on doing it more when I’m away. It’s so good to clear your head and get all the noise out which effects our daily life. There are some great videos on YouTube
- Movies – By far my favourite thing. I have always loved watching movies. It’s such a great form of escapism and you can get lost watching Jason Bourne or seeing Keanu Reeves jumping out of plane in Point Break. Love it!! Try not to watch things that are too serious though. Films like ‘The Road’ can have the opposite effect! Great flick but my goodness is it depressing! Also, you should watch Rocky IV everyday. Think of Ivan Drago as being cancer and you are the Italian Stallion! No one thinks Rocky can win but he does! Awesome!
- Start your very own 101 diary – what the 101 things YOU want to do when you survive?
- Get involved with charities associated with your illness. Get in touch and help out. Helping others is so great for the soul and help you believe that you are helping yourself as well by proactively doing something.
- It really is good to talk – Keeping it all in helps no one especially you. Since I started telling people what I’m doing I have found that so many people can relate to my experiences, especially the mental health side of things. Everyone has worries and those worries are all relative which means that nobody has a more severe problem than someone else. A relationship break up can often be as traumatic as being told you have cancer. Whatever affects you don’t be afraid to talk about it as you’ll find that more people than not will have experienced the same thing.
- Get involved in this website – share your experience with me and let’s think of ways we can help other people in this situation
- Read – I didn’t enjoy reading about cancer as it just kept me thinking about it. Here are a few of my favourite books:-
‘To Kill a Mocking Bird’ by Harper Lee
‘Alexander’ Trilogy by Valerio Massimo
‘The Da Vinci Code’ by Dan Brown
‘Mud Sweat and Tears’ by Bear Grylls
‘South: The Story of Shackleton’s 1914-1917 Expedition’ – Sir Ernest Shackleton
- Learn to juice – see my nutrition page to get some top tips of how to help yourself through nutrition. The whole family could be eating like this – not just you. So you will be helping anyone you live with also.