Many of you will be familiar with the series of ‘My Alarm Story’ and ‘My Love Hope Strength Story”
I invite you to read Alarm fan and LHS volunteer, Dave Spragg’s story. Dave kicked off the Alarm Story series a few years ago with his own illuminating Alarm tale. Dave has recently been diagnosed with cancer and is fighting the battle of his life. Dave is the flag bearer for all our LHS events in the UK and symbolically last year, as we all slogged up Ben Nevis, the LHS flag snapped halfway in Dave’s hands and Dave, uncharacteristically feeling unwell, was unable to make the summit, and turned back down the mountain. Amazingly he managed to lead us up Snowdon a week later when we were still oblivious to the shattering diagnosis that lay ahead.
A few weeks later, Dave was diagnosed with bowel and liver cancer. Several years ago, I invited Dave to the Gathering to ‘shadow’ Mike when Mike was struggling with his health and Dave did a sterling job, shadowing MP and taking care of him. Now it’s our turn… I’ve made Dave a special customised T shirt with ‘Spragg, Mike’s Shadow’ on the back so for all you Gatherers joining us in Llandudno on Jan 31st, if you see Spragg darting about, please send him an extra hug of love hope and strength….
Here is Dave’s latest story….
Love hope and strength,
I’VE GOT CANCER, IT HASN’T GOT ME!
So where do I start,
I am writing this story for a couple of reasons, firstly it does serve me as useful tool to put my thoughts and feelings in perspective but secondly and more importantly to hopefully show others that despite the adversity of a cancer diagnosis there is a positive and normal life out there even if the end result is unknown. I have always used the line “life is not a rehearsal so get on with it” and that has now become truly apparent in my own life..
In August this year after experiencing some discomfort around the top of the stomach I went to the doctors to get get it checked out, thinking it was just some sort of gastric complaint. The local GP did his tests and found nothing of obvious concern other than being slightly anaemic. He referred me to a gastro specialist and I made an appointment for the 31st Oct, but because it was booked online I managed to jump the queue and grab a cancellation for Sept 28. Whilst waiting for the appointment I made my annual pilgrimage to Ben Nevis Rocks, all went well for the first quarter but the second quarter to the half way point I could feel all my energy drawing away and by the time I made halfway I knew I was not fit to carry on and would have been a liability on the mountain. At this point almost as an omen the flag was blown completely in half so I made the painful decision to return to the bottom made only harder but the fact that my wife was climbing with me. I’m so glad I convinced her to carry on and top out especially in those dreadful conditions (proud of you girl). On the journey down I felt completely defeated and it was at this point that I felt that there was something definitely wrong with me of the sinister nature. I caught up with Mike and Jules and the gang in the pub and we chatted and it was here that I decided that what was ever to come my way in the future I would not let defeat consume me.
The following week Snowdon Rocks was upon us and I was determined to top out on what I have always considered my spiritual mountain (being welsh by birth). With the help of a fantastic team around me, and you know who you are and a greater understanding of my body’s limitations we managed to make the top and what a feeling of restored positivity it gave me even though I have climbed it many times before. The flag once again stood at the top of the mountain. I must also mention a thank you to all those who offered support on the Nevis climb.
So the 28th Sept found me at the Specialists and he did a quick examination found nothing obvious and immediately referred me for a CT scan, Gatroscopy and Colonoscopy. Those appointments all came through amazingly quickly and by the following Saturday all three test had been carried out, pretty speedy and impressive I thought. Having spent 28 yrs in the RAF under military medical care, I was really impressed with the speed and efficiency of the NHS.
Anyway on that Saturday although under sedation I could still see the images on the screen of the colonoscopy and noticed what I considered something “that was not quite right” Sure enough after the procedure the specialist called me into a private room with my wife whilst the kids were taken off to play and gave me the words that no one ever wants to hear, “Sir I have to inform you that you have tumour in your bowel” that was it I have cancer as a matter of fact as that. After the momentary shock of what I had just heard my head filled with a million questions all of which the specialist was unable to answer. So we left the hospital with a contact for my Colorectal Macmillan nurse for the Monday and that was that. We drove home in a complete daze, would life ever be the same?
The rest of the weekend came and went with a haze of questions and outpouring of emotions from both me and my wife. Being both practical people we wanted answers and we wanted them now. Monday arrived and I rang the nurse, at this early stage she assured me that my case was being reviewed as we spoke and that my wife and I should come back on Thursday 11th Oct to see the Colorectal Specialist.. So on that Thurs we sat down at 2.30 with the specialist and he spoke about the bowel tumour and that it was indeed malignant and then came the final blow as it were, he informed me that I had secondary cancer of the liver. There it was, we sat there in stunned silence and then from nowhere I asked him could I still drink alcohol he answered yes but looked a bit shocked but I could have done with a stiff drink there and then. (After that appt my wife and I went straight to the pub for that badly needed drink)
We then spent the next half hour discussing the diagnosis and then I asked the obvious question, was it terminal. He calmly explained at this point that it wasn’t considered terminal but that I would die of it, so clearly my next question was how long? Again he calmly replied, without treatment 6 months with treatment, statistically, 2yrs, what about surgery I asked, he said unlikely because of the damage to the liver but did say that there was a very small chance that if liver reacted well to chemo and the tumours reduced beyond expectations then the liver team may consider surgery. That was the point that it hit me, I don’t believe in statistics and there in that statement was the positivity that I craved albeit a very small percentage, and if I’m honest it welled up inside me, this incredible feeling of defiance that I was not going to let cancer take me without a fight. Cancer has no rules but then again nor do I, so bring it on!!!!!!!
The next 10 days was a blur of MRI, PET scans and various test and visits with my Oncologist who works at the Christie in Manchester, one of the best research centres in the world, so I know that I am I good hands. On the personal front every feeling that there is came and went, what about us? the kids? the house? financial security? You name it we thought it, needless to say that without going into details, all that has been dealt with and I know that whenever I go my family and house are financially secure and that it a very comforting feeling knowing that is in place as I can now forget about it and get on with living and the fight ahead. Just on a personal note I intend to honour my families feelings and thoughts by having them remain private as they too have their own battles. But just to say my wife is my rock and an amazing individual who picks me up when I fall and I who love with totality, my children are my life blood and reason enough to fight like hell to beat this disease, my 8 yr old knows exactly what I have and I am so proud of his love and maturity, my three old knows I am poorly and need regular medicine and loves me unconditionally just like a 3yr does. What else do I need to keep me strong and positive?
So we move to the 4th of November, my 49th birthday and I am once again sat in font of my oncologist and this time for the first time I am given something positive. After all the extra scans and test it has shown that my bowel tumour is still contained with the bowel so as it stands it is operable, which means if the liver plays ball we could in the future with the right set of circumstances find that both sets of tumours are operable and that is a great step fwd from the original diagnosis. The fight and resolve just got stronger. I was also given a date at which I would have my Hickman line fitted which is a permanent intravenous line that feeds the drugs straight into the neck vein and exits from the right side of my chest, sounds horrible but when fitted I won’t even know it’s there. You can also draw blood straight from it so it saves a whole round of needles every time I come for treatment. That Friday, the 8th I had the line fitted. And relatively painless as it is it did feel a bit like stuffing a chicken and I did bruise a tad. But it could not have been that bad as we left hospital and my wife tortured me even more by making me go shopping at John Lewis, nobody should have to endure that.
So 5 weeks from the first Gastro appointment (11nov) I sit in the Macmillan lounge waiting for my first cycle of chemo not knowing what to expect. I am now writing this story whilst I sit in my chair receiving my 3rd cycle of treatment. I have my treatment every fortnight on a Monday for six months (12 cycles) and I have an extra drug in pump form which is connected to me when I leave until the Wednesday evening when the district nurse comes out to my house and removes it and cleans my line. I am truly blessed when it come to side effects, that is to say I have experienced very little apart from my tired days, the Friday and Saturday after my treatment. I lead a perfectly NORMAL life doing all the things I always did but just listening to my body a bit more.
So that is the story so far, I don’t know what the future holds because it is unwritten but I do know that a positive attitude is the only way to live life and deal with the diagnosis of cancer. I am no longer afraid of what is front of me and I have never asked “why me” I can’t change the past so why waste your energy, but I can help mould my own future. It transpires that I may have had the bowel tumour for up to four years previously with no symptoms presenting themselves, I stood no chance but hey shit happens, the future is what I live for.
I am also truly blessed with the army of friends and family out there giving me love and support and positive vibes. We have dubbed it Team Spragg because it not just me that is affected but all those who know me are also affected in some way so we all have our own battles to conquer, but as a team we can achieve the impossible. I have already mentioned my family but I also wish to thank the rest of you out there, no names but you know who you are, you are are all special individuals and I couldn’t have got this far without your Love Hope and Strength, may it long continue. I will however mention Mike and Jules, I can never tell them how much of an inspiration they have been and continue to be. Many hours we have all spoken about both our situations but never did I think 30 years ago when I listened to Declaration did I think I would every be sat on a tour bus talking to Mike about our Chemo regimes. And yes Mike the drugs do work!
If you want to get an idea of how I feel at the moment then list listen to the Alarm’s, Without a Fight, that is my mantra and it lifts my spirit every time I hear it. There are bad times but thankfully they are few and far between and short lived.
Well that’s about it for now, I intend to do and update every fortnight or so just to keep people updated and my first step is a check CT scan at the end of January to see how the chemo is working? I must apologise for those who know me and are finding out by reading this but it is exhausting telling the story over and over again, so forgive me.
I am really looking fwd to seeing all the crowd at the Gathering in Jan and am happy to talk about my illness in detail over a beer if it serves to help anyone and indeed beforehand on any of the social media if that helps.
I’ll have to spellcheck this now because I need to get it to Jules and as soon as I have finished my chemo tonight I am on a train to London with LHS to the Britain Against Cancer Conference tomorrow, in Westminster no less.. So let’s all Get on The List and can’t wait till we get our first UK match, it could be you. No apologies for the unashamed LHS/Delete Blood Cancer plug.
Love Hope Strength