Music and info from Producer Indus Rush aka Stephen Whitby.

A Singer with Throat Cancer, Part 1 

Dec 1 2016 Sometime in late September 2016, on a Sunday afternoon, my eldest son, who doesn’t live with us anymore, dropped by the house and remarked, “Dad, your voice has changed!”. Now, ordinarily I wouldn’t have heard the comment, but I had thought I’d noticed it too, and by the way, had I not started to have difficulty swallowing? I decided I had, and made a mental note to go to the doctors in the morning.  

Tat previous week, I’d been working on a new song called “Follow My Star”, which I loved, and was totally involved in recording all the parts in my usual fluent manner, until I got to the vocals. I thought i had written a really difficult melody line, and that that was the reason for my struggle, but it turned out to be something a lot more sinister.  

The following Friday I found myself on my back in the Day Surgery Unit at  Dumfries & Galloway Royal Infirmary waiting for a general anaesthetic, preparing for the surgeon to take a biopsy from my throat. I had gone to the doctors at the beginning of the week, who in turn sent me to an Ear Nose and Throat specialist at DGRI , and who diagnosed, after sticking the “thing” up my nose to look at my throat, that I had a growth in my voice box! She immediately arranged to have a biopsy done the next day! So here I was in Day Surgery.  

Now, the initial consult with Ms Botsma at the DGRI had gone from bad to worse, but not really from the shock of it all, but from the “thing”. The “thing”, which does not even deserve a capitol letter, was in fact an endoscope, which Ms Botsma put up my nose in order to see my throat. She didn’t give me the old “now this won’t hurt at all” routine, but told me in no uncertain terms that she was an expert in being gentle with the “thing”, and that I could trust her completely.   

I immediately considered the damage to my nasal passages all that cocaine would have caused in a previous stage of adulthood, and braced myself for immense pain. However, she was good to her word, and my fears abated, as she carefully and smoothly placed the scope up my nose. I was, however, glad when it was over, and hoped I would never see the “thing” again.   

Having had my dismissal from Ms Botsma, I was then sent to have a CT scan. This was a horrible experience as well, as during the scan they inject iodine into the bloodstream to be able to view blood flow clearly. There is a horrible warming sensation when the scan is taken, as the iodine is propelled through your veins, and a feeling not unlike claustrophobia overtakes your mind. I was glad when that was over, I can tell you.  

Back to the Friday, I suddenly I woke up in a recovery ward, drowsy and confused, and I slowly came back to full consciousness, realising that it was all over. I had a bit of a sore throat, and was offered water at regular intervals. Evidently, on coming out of theatre, Ms Botsma had been to see me, and given me a full rundown of what she had done. I couldn’t remember even seeing her. One of the very kind nurses was good enough to repeat Ms Botsma’s message and so I knew that I would have to wait a couple of weeks for the test results of my biopsy.  

The appointment on the Thursday two weeks later, was attended with the knowledge that I had cancer of the throat. I knew it in my inner self and I didn’t need anyone to tell me, but, the Consultant from Greece insisted in going into more detail about the area of the cancer cells, how they may have spread if I hadn’t come when I did, and what the plan was to be. To my horror, his immediate plan was to stick the “thing” up my nose again, it seemed everyone was going to want a look at my growth! He was nowhere near as gentle as Ms Botsma, and I immediately resented her being on holidays, which I’m sure she surely deserved, but, hey! this guy was not as delicate as her by any stretch of the imagination!   

Having wiped the water from my eyes and regained a certain amount of dignity and composure, I was ushered into a room with the Head & Neck nurse, and with another doctor, a younger man, who assure me it was okay to have a drink, in moderation, for which I was really grateful! as I was beginning to think I needed one really badly! it was at this point they told me I would be sent up to Edinburgh, to the Western General Hospital, to see a cancer specialist, who would discuss my treatment and the side affects, and go over the preparation. They also prepared me with books, leaflets and information about what to expect, and how the preparation of a patient prior to treatment was important.  

Upon arrival in Edinburgh, even the carpark attendant was pleasant to me! I was offered a parking space only meters from where I need to be for my appointment, for which I had driven two and a half hours for. I was kept waiting for another two and a half hours until I would get my appointment.  

This appointment with my Doctor at the Cancer Unit in Edinburgh went well up until he wanted to put the “thing” in my head again. This time I was introduced to a new meaning of the word “pain” , which the surgeon benevolently handed out with his heavy handed manner, from a standing position directly in front of me. I couldn’t help wondering if it was something to do with the fact that I’d got his nationality wrong, calling him Pakistani instead of Indian. God knows I was grateful the cricket hadn’t started yet, as India were due to host England in November, in the near future, and any mention of it may possibly have prompted even more discomfort. I say this lightheartedly, as he was a fine gentleman, and he discussed the pro’s and con’s of surgery and radiology with me. to allow Chemo and Radiology as opposed to Surgery, due to my occupation as a producer and singer, was important to me, and fortunately he agreed this would be the best course for me to take. He knew I would need my voice to continue working, and so suggested we try to limit damage by going down that particular route. The surgical removal of my voice box would have done me in.  

Furthermore, I was then briefed on two more medical procedures I would have to go through before my treatment would start. This would be the removal of all my teeth, and the insertion of a PEG, a feeding device inserted into the stomach. The first of these procedures happened on Friday the 4th November 2016. I went in to DGRI Day Surgery unit at 8am with a head full of teeth, and came out at 3pm with an empty mouth, and a very rubbery sensation, as the flesh of my lower face flopped about, searching for something to grip to. As the numbness of the General anaesthetic wore off, the aching and pain of the extraction and the subsequent stitching, began, and the nurses were quick to give some full strength Paracetamol on a drip, which kicked in almost instantly.   

Over the weekend I started to get used to eating without teeth. Discovering soups and softer foods I had never really thought about before was now the order of the day. I was determined to enjoy eating, so I was at the beginning of a learning curve on that front. It was also a challenge trying to speak clearly too.  

On Monday 7th November I went in for the PEG insertion, for which I would be sedated, as opposed to having a General Anaesthetic. This went fairly smoothly, but there‘s a lot to learn about the management of the device, to clean it, and keep it clear of blockages etc. It was fairly sore for about a week, but it has now began to settle down, and I’ve become use to it. I am to use the PEG for putting food in my stomach when my throat becomes too sore to swallow after three or four weeks of Radiology.  

The final part of my preparation was the making of my mask, which would hold my head still whilst the radiography was being administered. This was done in Edinburgh. After the mask had been moulded to the shape and contours of my face and head, I was enticed into the CT scan room so they could line up the positions the waves would be aimed at on the mask, and into my throat. Again, I felt trapped and panicky as the iodine rushed through my veins, but it wasn’t as bad as the first time back at DGRI.  

I am now waiting for the treatment to start on the 21st of November 2016. The way things have progressed has been fast and with professionalism and although to some it may seem I’ve made light of it all, I cannot express my gratitude and my admiration enough to all the fine people involved so far, some of whom I’ve mentioned, and some of whom I have not, as apart from mentioning them publicly, they are also too numerous to mention. These include the back up staff who have helped with physiotherapeutic exercises for the mouth and tongue, and the Dietetics team. So, thank you to all of you.   

I may post again later once treatment starts, but if i lose my mental strength, I may not. So hopefully……………….to be continued………

A Singer with Throat Cancer, Part 2 

Dec 1 2016 Monday 21st Nov and up early to get to the hospital transport up to Edinburgh Western General Cancer Unit… after a lot of hanging about waiting for other patients to hop on the Cancer Bus, we finally set off and I must say the trip was fairly straightforward and comfortable.   

There are no Radiotherapy machines in Dumfries & Galloway Royal Infirmary as the population is not large enough in the area. So all patients for this particular treatment are sent to Glasgow or Edinburgh. Strangely enough they do have chemotherapy in Dumfries GRI, but not the radio.  

Anyhow, upon arriving in Edinburgh I was told to wait in the day room on ward 3 to await a bed. I had a large case with me about overhead locker size, no, maybe too big for that. In it were iPad, kindle, chargers and medication. As well as other clothing items, 3 pairs socks, undies, a jumper and towel and dressing gown. I almost packed toothpaste and toothbrush but remembered at the last minute I had no goddamned teeth any more! Still getting used to that!  

The day room was busy and there were people lying around also waiting for rooms. Some of them hooked up to their chemo machines, which are small box like devices which pump the chemo drugs, suspended in bags from the hooks on top of some tall rods which are part of the whole mobile trolley which the other kit is attached too. There is an interval led pulse of sound as the pump works every 10 seconds or so. Others in the room were relatives, husbands and daughters, of the patients, and then there were some others like me, waiting for beds, with bags and suitcases everywhere you looked. It was rather like a modern day station waiting room, but warmer. I was the last bed allocation of the day, at 7 pm, and of course at this time I was totally alone.  

At 13.35 I was to go down to the radiotherapy stations downstairs for my first session. I arranged for a neighbour in the day room to look after my suitcase, and hoped he’d still be there when I got back, after all, I was in Edinburgh, and I’ve watch “Train spotting” twice.  

Everyone was very welcoming at LA4 , the radiotherapy station where I would be treated. After a 30 minute wait I was ushered in to the room with the long flat bed in it, and told to take my top off, and lie on the bed. I was then told of the procedure and how long it would take. They moved me to the correct positions with the help of lasers and markings, and then they placed the mask over my head. The mask was then attached to the bed with plastic screws, and I was totally immobilised. The girls managing me and the machine then went out of the room, assuring me they would have full site of me from the control room, and if anything was wrong, just to raise my arm. But you don’t do you!? I was already uncomfortable, but I knew that if I held up proceedings this would not get done and I would probably have to go through it again. Suddenly the sounds started up. I immediately started panicking inside my head and even forgot about my one to six counting down with my breathing. My gills, or where they would be if I were a fish, started pulsating violently, or seemed to be, as the machine around me burst into life. Then my arms and even my right knee started to have a will of their own and started to twitch. I prayed that the girls in the control room would not have seen me flinching, and wouldn’t stop the process. Luckily they hadn’t. I started to remember my wife’s instructions, instructions based on a Buddhist meditation method from her native Thailand: breath slowly in and out, 1 to 6! One, two, three, four, five, six, seven…..eighteen…! I suddenly realised I’d overshot and charged back to one! All this time the noises from the machinery seemed to be getting more and more violent, and at last I eventually heard a long buzzing sound which sounded like the blasting machine, delivering the waves of radiotherapy.   

And they were right, I couldn’t feel a thing. I counted the seconds of the blasts with my breathing, and it measured 23 for the first and 25 for the second. 5 seconds later, the young lady appeared and removed my mask! My God, what an awful experience.   

The ladies assured me that was the worst of it and from now on the sessions would be quicker and less stressful. Easy for them to say! I hurried back up to the ward day room to await my bed allocation.  

My bed was by the window in a four bed ward, or room rather. My cell mates were all in a fairly bad way, hooked up to chemo machines and looking totally ill. This immediately scared me, as I wondered if I would be looking and feeling like they were after my treatment started. Now and again one or two of them would start spluttering and coughing up blood, groaning, and then lie down again, gropingly trying to replace their cardboard spittoons on their bedside tables.  

It was already dark outside so I had no idea what lay beyond the drawn curtains. I imagined an industrial looking roof with steam rushing out as the great cogs that turned the hospital wheels kept rolling on through the night. I started to unpack my case only to find that I had no pyjamas with me, so I had to change into a t-shirt and a pair of underpants and cover myself with a dressing gown. The sheet and blanket on the bed were quite flimsy, and being used to a duvet at home, I felt that it would be uncomfortable.   

All this time as I was getting ready, the nurses were coming by, asking for medication details, checking I was me by repeatedly asking for date of birth and address. They seemed to be totally on the ball, and I could see they were really efficient. There was a TV in the room, but it was off, so I tried to open the kindle and start reading “The Book Thief”, which was totally the wrong thing to read upon entering hospital with a room full of very sick people. It turned out the narrator of the story is Death himself!  

By this time I was totally anxious and my head was swimming, but thank god for my tech, I was able to communicate with my wife and son, and my other son in Dundee. He promised to come and see me with a surprise guest the next day early afternoon, so I was encouraged by that to a point, and my wife, Mel, was going to come on Wednesday to take me shopping in Princes Street to get some Jammies (pyjamas). That night there were awful sounds coming from all over the room, there were beepers going off every time one of the chemo machines went wrong, so the night was awful, and I was constantly awakened. One poor soul was snoring 2 tone, which was very, very intrusive in ones half slumber.   

On the last of these awakenings I was so scared of what was going to happen to me I couldn’t get back to sleep, and the thought of my second days radiotherapy was doing my head in. Luckily for me my mother had given me some earplugs to take with me, as she had been through a six week stay in this hospital as well, so she knew I would need them. I put them in and eventually the comforting arms of sleep embraced me, and I awoke to a new day at 7am.  

The curtains drawn, I looked out of the window to see the rocky tower of Edinburgh Castle guarding the city below, along side the rugged “Arthur’s Seat”, the large hill of rock bursting out of the city boundary like a giant wart. A view any of the tourists to this city would have a paid a pretty penny for. This cheered me up no end, and after breakfast I felt a bit better, but I still had the radiotherapy thing on my mind. In the night in my thoughts, I even considered checking out of this whole treatment and go to an alternative treatment like Graviola Leaf or Marijuana Oil, which one of my friends recommended highly. Evidently, if you don’t survive, at least you go with a smile on your face! I decided I was made of better stuff, and made the decision to give modern medicine a chance. I asked the doctor to prescribe me a drug to calm me down for the radiotherapy, but not so much so that I could not find my way up to the ward after the treatment. The doctor gave his consent, and now, after 3 sessions, I’m happy to report things are a lot better; Very happy.  

Well my son came in the afternoon and stayed 2 and a half hours, and brought a good mutual friend along with him from Perth, a town between Dundee and Edinburgh. This was a great visit for me and a real pick me up. The day was now a good one, and it got better with the evening meal, and the recovery of a couple of the guys from their deep sleep under chemotherapy, so conversation was now possible. Small talk between new comrades can be a help sometimes, and this was definitely one of those times.  

The next day in the morning the 3rd member of our small family awoke and told us about his hallucinations he’d actually been enjoying in his slumber. It turned out he was an ex guitar player from bands back in the 60’s and we spent some time discussing stratocasters, and Vox AC 30 valve amps, and Marshall 100 watt stacks! Great therapy for me!  

In the late morning Mel arrived and off we went to the city, to Princes Street, where we looked around the German Christmas market, and the fun fair. We then went over to the shops, had a look round a few of them, and then ended up in a massive Marks and Spensives (as my wife lovingly calls it in her witty Thai humour). I bought my jammies and several pairs of underwear in case things got messy at the hospital later on.  

I got her back on the train to Lockerbie at 6.15 and I caught the bus back to the hospital. I got back there in 15 mins, but the doors were all locked! I couldn’t get in! I looked on the map board for a clue, but there was nothing on there to signify a night entrance. I did a walk around to the main entrance and found a way in there, but it had taken me a while to find my way back to the ward. I think they were just about to put out a search party, or a posse more like.  

During the day, prior to going out, I had changed wards. I had been removed from the chemo ward and placed down in assessment, which did not seem as nice, nor as efficient. It turned out one of my buddies from upstairs came too, so there was a friendly face. Only one other fella in this room, and he’s a friendly guy, ex engineer, and airplane mechanic, so we had a good chat about the past.  

Here I am on the fourth day now, and looking forward to going home for the weekend. Then, back again on Monday.  

This blog hasn’t been so amusing as part 1 for obvious reasons. As I get deeper into it, it may get more depressing, but I’ll do my best to keep a bit of humour in here, as it’s really good for me too, isn’t it! God Bless…

A Singer with Throat Cancer, Part 3 

I’m in my Space Ship. I’m in the horizontal position, and I’ve got my helmet on. I’m concentrating as the start sequence has just begun, and the control panel is rotating about my head. It comes to rest right in front of my line of sight, straight in front of me. I can now see the Buddha outline on the panel of it. Just as we’re about to lift off, the ground crew come back into my capsule. Something’s wrong, and we’re waiting on the tech guys to come in and clear the fault. He eventually does, and we prepare again. No go. It’s really gone pear shaped, this take off. Abandon the capsule and make towards LA2, the reserve ship, which we hope is able to do the job, even though it’s an older model. Await the preparations of LA2, and eventually climb aboard.  

All this delay is not phasing me at all. I’ve had a weeks training, and I’m ready to do this without any fear or trepidation. The drugs are working wonderfully, and my imagination has swung into the fantasy world I last visited in 70’s Brixton, London, whilst under the influence of some other drug, listening to Dark Side of The Moon. I remember the large space freighter as it flew slowly over my head, it’s engines rhythmically throbbing out that beautiful pulse emitting from the Fairlight synthesiser!  

I’m so pleased I’ve conquered my fear of this therapy, and I’m also pleased I’m going home today, for the weekend. Got 2 days to prepare myself for Mondays trip back up to Edinburgh.  

LA2 is not responding well. I’ve had to call the tech guys in again. This time they fix the problem, and off we go, a standard take off and flight, and now I’m under way, whizzing along with Aldeous Huxley. See you when we get back next Monday…..

A Singer with cancer #4 

Sun, Jan 1, 2017 I'm now entering my fourth week of treatment. Things are starting to go downhill on the Throat, but the actual radiotherapy is fine. I've got used to it now and have started relationships with the other guys who come in from the city for their treatment every morning. The waiting room, which is shared by patients of LA4 and 5, is pretty busy at 08.45 in the morning. So it's become pretty standard practice to talk of the journey on the way in, the weather, and how we're all generally feeling. I'm the only resident among our wee gang. This light hearted banter is the norm for the start of the day.  

People have asked me how I'm coping with this. Well, it's by the small chat and the conversations I mention above that keep you going. You try your hardest not to think about the negative aspects of the treatment, the possible consequences etc. What I have learnt now is that it affects everyone differently, so one shouldn't take too much notice of what others tell of their ordeals, or of those who say they sailed through it like  it was a piece of cake. It is definitely not a piece of cake. The other things that get me through so far are the visits from my son and my wife, and our little ventures out to the city and the cinema etc.  

Having completed 15 sessions under the radiotherapy machine, the burning to my Throat was getting pretty serious. The mouth is constantly dry and the back of my Throat is very sore. I am constant pain killers now, taking a codeine paracetamol mix in liquid form, every four hours, and also an orally taken morphine solution every hour should I need it. Even this doesn't dampen the pain totally. I would say it reduces it to a pain level of 5 out of 10. Which is just enough.  

In the hospital things have gotten worse too. After the first two weeks, when we had to wait for our beds, and then got one later in the evening, these last two weeks have been good, in as much as we, my room buddy and I, have been given the same beds straight  away. The ward is still with four of us, but the other two far more transient. They come and go much more frequently. Ken, my room mate , the 79 year old gentleman for Port William, Wigtownshire, goes through all the introductions, our life histories and other anecdotes with these guys as they come and go, and I just lay there and bear it. After all it frees me from doing it myself, as everyone wants to know everything about you in such situations don't they? I have now decided to go out less and take advantage of the regime of care and attention of all the peripheral staff about the hospital.  

Do you recall me writing above that things had gotten bad in the hospital? The first example of this was when Ken and I were fast asleep on Thursday the 1st December. At around midnight on that evening, we were awoken by a nurse, who promptly told us to get up, get packed and get moving to another bed in another ward in the other part of the hospital. Of course we were both pretty annoyed at this interruption to our beauty sleep, so we didn't go quietly. Evidently the bed manager had decided that one of the overflow wards would be opened, and as we were off home for a weekend pass the next day, we were to spend the final night in there. There were too many people being admitted to hospital in emergency situations, and room had to be made for them. I asked why they weren't sent to the overflow wards, as disrupting our sleep was probably not good for us either. When I saw the chap come in to take my bed, I was immediately pacified, as it was obvious he needed my bed more than I did, and I was happy to let him have it. My new thoughts are, if someone needs it more than I do, I will willingly move to the second option. No worries.  

This happened again a week later, but this time it happened during the day time on Thursday, so it was not too disruptive, and of course we didn't complain. We went over to ward 15 as we had the week before. But the surprising thing was that the bed manager herself came and told us, which we thought of as quite brave. Especially in light of what happen the week before.  

This last weekend was my second son, Justin's birthday. I had been looking forward to it all week, and couldn't wait to get home and see him, and my wife Mel, and celebrate his birthday. We took him out for a meal, and then on Saturday we took him to the Pantomime, which both he and my missus both enjoyed. Unfortunately I was feeling so ill, I needed to get home at the half time break. For the two previous nights and for the next nights until mow, my neck was so sore and dry, it was very hard to keep any moisture in it and in my mouth. I found it difficult to even drink my medicines, so it was a real nightmare, and very painful. About 10 out of 10 on the pain scale. The morphine was helping big time now, and I was so pleased I had it, otherwise I would have been able to take anything by mouth. My osophicus was not working properly and so I was choking and coughing like mad. I am really concerned about this as if it doesn't recover later on, I won't be able to eat by mouth any more.  

As for eating, I was drinking with a straw with the energy drinks I had been given, in plastic yoghurt style bottles, through a straw. The got me through Saturday and Sunday and now here I am back in the hospital on Monday, explains all this to the doctors and nurses. I have been given exercises to do when I drink which will help the choking and spluttering, which is what it comes down to now. The constant choking and coughing is not helping reduce the soreness from my Throat.   

So things have got worse, and I'm told they will be more worse as I go on. Only 3 ore weeks of this left....God help me get through it...  

I don't remember if I told you before but at the beginning of all this we were just starting to redecorate our bedroom. These last 3 weekends Mel and I have been sleeping on our mantras on the sitting room floor. Mel has been busy at College, and with her jobs, but she has still managed to complete the painting and all it entails, of the bedroom. She's an incredibly resourceful and hard working lady, and has done all this for me so I can have some comfort at home as soon as possible. Our two friends, Nick and Orn, have also helped us considerably. This morning as we were leaving the house to come back to Edinburgh, the carpet layers arrived, and so now the room is complete, and Mel will start putting the furniture back in the room ready for next weekend. Let's hope I manage to get home on my 4th weekend, as I've been told it's a challenge.  

It's been difficult to write part 4, so I hope I can summon the strength to write part 5.

A Singer with cancer #5 

Well folks, I've got past another couple of weeks. At some cost though. Last week was getting bad and I was beginning to feel a lot more pain in my Throat where the radiography treatment has been doing its burning. Fortunately I was stopped from having the last 2 days treatment last week, as the doctors decided I had lost too much weight, about 10 Kgs since I came in, so now there was a danger of the mask slipping and the accuracy of the radio waves were being questioned. They thought if they continued with the same radiotherapy plan, I would possibly damage the top of my spine. This meant that I would have to take 2 days off Radiotherapy and start again on the Monday in order to finish the treatment within the time frame. I also had to have the markers and stickers replaced and repositioned on the mask, in order for the new plan of radiography to work. I would then have to have 2 sessions on certain days so I would finish between the time frame laid out for the treatment, as it turns out, it has to be completed within a time frame.  

So I guess that all sounds rather straightforward and easy, n'est ce pas? But no , it wasn't. I had my last Chemotherapy, the second of only Two, on the Thursday, and then they announced with no warning they wanted me to check out, go home, or bugger off more like it.  

Now for these folk who live in Edinburgh that's not necessarily a problem, but for someone like me, it's a little more complicated, and time consuming.  

The nurses try to find some kind of hospital transport to take me home in, but to no avail, and so I would be stuck up here at the hospital for another night, and , as it turned out as usual, they need every bed they can get.  

As Melanie is not confident enough to drive on the motorways and in Edinburgh, her coming to get me in the car was out of the question. Instead she decided to drive to Lockerbie, park, and get the train up to Edinburgh. An easy trip, and a fast one getting up here, but going back was another matter.  

I could have gone on my own, you say, but I'm sorry, apart from being slightly under the weather, I have also got all these boxes of foods which I have to feed myself through the night, so I don't lose any more weight. Then there was also the stand and the cables, and the machine itself. Then I had all my medication, which weighs a ton in itself, my cloths, my tech, and my suitcase. Now, getting all this in a 29 bus down to Waverley Station was going to be difficult for me, or even for someone else who's younger and fitter.....Oh, that's right! I have a wife! Just remembered Melanie. At that very moment the phone rings and the love of my life is on the other end saying she's on her way from Lockerbie on the train to give me a hand with the journey and the luggage.   

At this stage I go back to the nurse and tell her the latest developments, and she starts to arrange for my discharge letters to be drawn up and my medication and foods to be gathered prior to my departure.  

The train back to Lockerbie is at 18.13, but I know we're not going to make it. No particular reason, just something called Sod's law or "Fate"! Sure enough, we get everything ready, all papers sorted, and we may leave. It's about 17.30. We make a beeline for the main road, decide to get a Taxi instead of a bus, and then we stand on the road for about 20 mins waiting for one, slowly cussing under our breaths while we wait.  

Eventually a Taxi does stop, and so we climb on with all our kit, and off we go. We get to the station with about 2mins to spare, but there are so many people in the station at that time of day. We didn't make it, so we found a coffee shop and installed ourselves in it for an hour and a half until the next train at 20.15. We managed to get on that one and got back to Lockerbie at about 21.15 and arrived at home at 22.00.  What a nightmare! We were well and truly knackered when we got home, but I still had to go through all my medication and set up my night feed. That took about 40 mins. too.  

The great thing about going home this weekend was that there was a newly made bedroom to sleep in. Mel has finished her decorating Jones and it's all finished. The room looks great and it's airy and spacious. Lots of room to set up my medication cabinets and so on. I had a couple of good nights sleep this time round, but the food front was not as good. I set up my feeds well, and they went according to plan, but during the day I had no feeling to drink anything at all, or eat anything at all for that matter. With my taste buds deadened, all remnants of appetite have disappeared. Anything I put in my mouth tastes like cardboard, or even worse. In fact, as far as I can imagine it, probably the latter. The only thing that doesn't change taste is the Milk. Milk is still lovely, but hard to swallow all the same, but I just keep at it all day.  

Returning yesterday to hospital wasn't great, but it eventually became bearable when they put me in a new ward, ward 4 this time. The staff here are very efficient and everything's going well. I met my doctor today on the stairs on my way down to Radiotherapy, and told me these next 4 weeks, the last 2 before treatment, and the first 2 once treatment has finished, will be the worst of all, but then recovery. He assured me recovery would be good.  

Another great thing that happened today was the receipt of a video from 3 old work mates of mine, wishing me a speedy recovery and good strength and so on. What a great surprise, and well put together by the editor! So, Phil, Wendy, and Barry, thanks a lot for that, that's very kind and thoughtful of you, and especially the video touch, it was nice to see you in the flesh, so to speak. I'll try and send one back to you all with a little bit of Steveiness attached!  

There's not a lot to do in hospital as you all know, so I spend my time composing and editing, so I've just completed a little video of the German Christmas Fair here in Edinburgh which Mel shot with the iPhone one evening when the sky was a beautiful crimson. I wrote a little piece of music for it called "Red Sky". It's an electronic instrumental.  

It saddened me to learn of the attack on Berlin's Christmas Fair last night, and I gladly dedicate this wee video and track to the victims and survivors, and their families who are going through emotional hell at this moment. God Bless them.  


A Singer with cancer #6 

Sun, Jan 1, 2017 The end of last weeks radiotherapy couldn't come fast enough, so I was really glad to get home on Friday afternoon. As usual my wife kept me waiting at the hospital, as the phone nor the text messaging had not gotten through to her. That leads me to a whinge that I've had for a few weeks now.....  

I was looking for a new mobile phone service provider, and I found one called LIFE, which was very cheap, and operated on the EE  network, which is one of the the best coverages in the U.K., so I thought it was the way to go. After many happy months, LIFE announce  that they are selling their network to Plusnet, who have terrible coverage in Scotland. So on my journey south from Edinburgh to Dumfries via Biggar, I was not able to get through to my dear wife. Well not until we entered Dumfries, but of course by then , it was already too late. Mel was already seeking shopping therapy, and my pick up from the hospital was put on the back burner.  

Some time later we got home and I gradually got myself settled in to bedroom and sitting room, and got all my drugs and foods placed at convenient storage points near to where I was going to be. Friday evening as I was taking my final medications , I had my first sickness attack. Just as I was about to hook my feeding tube up to myself, this sudden rush from my stomach came rushing up like a freight train and I only just made it to the toilet on time. Then followed succeeding waves of cramped wretches , each time totally dry., and incredibly painful , as my burnt, dry inner necks' surfaces scrape against each other. Luckily these did no last so long, so I was able to get to sleep after a while, as I was very tired from the journey etc.  

Saturday was going to be a day of finishing off for Christmas the following day, bringing the presents under the tree, finish packing some of them, and labelling them. However, before any of these tasks could start, I had to go through the same procedure as the night before.  

This time it was a lot more violent and painful than before. I had missed taking my drip feed the night before, so there was nothing in my stomach to bring up. I decided to call the NH help line to get a second opinion about starting the drip feed again, and after two or three hours, I decided to start the drip feed again. I did half of it in the morning and then then saved the rest till later on in the early evening. That night we went to be a little bit later as we had to wait for the kids to be asleep, as I had to part to play in a ritual where I had to drink a glass of whiskey and eat a couple of Scottish wheat biscuits. As I was feeling ill Mel managed to persuade Justin, that Santa , or Father Christmas, as we know him, is no longer allowed to drink and drive his sleigh as he flies around giving his presents out. Luckily, the whiskey was replaced with a glass of milk and the oat crackers by chocolate whole meal biscuits. It didn't really matter though as in the end it was mother Christmas who ate and drank the wee gift for Santa, as nothing would pass these lips of mine.  

Mel had prepared Christmas days dinner to an extent where she would just have to peel a few potatoes for boiling and eventual roasting. Pretty much everything else was ready to be roasted, boiled, and stirred all at once. The turkey went in first, with a 2.5 hour cooking time, and after the boiling of the spuds, they would join the Turkey in its own baking tray to roast alongside the Turkey and the carrots and the turnips. Only the peas would boil on their own, and the gravy of course. Other condiments, such as salt and pepper, mint for the peas, and bread sauce, and last but not least Yorkshire Puddings, would be made as separate items once the rest of the cooking was all under way.  

Now, I don't know if you ever tried watching 4 people, gollop down a Christmas dinner, and you're not allowed to touch any of it? Well, let me tell you, it, a nightmarish situation to be in. Even if I could knock up an appetite, I still wouldn't be able to eat it.....any of it. A very frustrating situation, as after all, I could still smell each and every aroma coming from those turkey plates and vegetable bowls. Not a situation I would wish to repeat. Not forgetting of course that there were also several bottles of nice wine on the table, which worsened the situation. In the end , I had to leave the room and wait for them in the sitting room where we would open presents etc, to and from each other, and chat about what was going on in our lives.I found out from James, my eldest that he would be lining up an airline job by July, once his seniority moved him up the list of instructor pilots. He is now 5th in line, and 1'is already gone, and over the nest few months, the others will move up to Flybe based in GLasgow, which is where he will probably end up. The partner airline is called something easily forgettable, but evidently not to the islanders and Highlanders. This is good news for me as, I'm determined to see James reach the ambition he had as a 9 year old back in Koh Samui.  

The following day , Monday, felt very much like a Sunday, as we just spent the day tidying up the kitchen and the sitting room. I spent the day watching Woking FC get beat by Arch rivals, Aldershot 4  -  0, and then watched a Chelsea win their game as well, to plant them firmly on top of the premier league.    

I was starting to feel woozy again, and so I suddenly felt like getting back to the Hospital. So Wednesday arrived and by lunchtime I was up a the hospital again. I eventually game them all the news which touched me over the weekend,   

As my main doctor was not on duty today, it was left to junior doctors to decide what to do. The worst news was that they assumed I had an infection, so an anti biotic, which would interfere with my return home arrangements for Friday.  

So I have 24 hours remaining in hospital, a suspect infection, and nasty burning sores about my neck from where my radiotherapy is working. I am also now looking a fairly professional pilot too if you look at the accompanying photographs. I am heaving and wretching a very dry Throat, which is very, very sore.   

I'm quite stoned at the moment too as good doctor has raised my dosage of morphine to 100grms per 24 hours per day. So any bad grammar or spring can be put down to that...  

More to come next week, so stay in touch.

A Singer with cancer #7 

A Singer with Throat Cancer #7  

Well, its been a while since i put pen to paper, reason being I’ve just been too damned ill. The final days of practical radiotherapy treatment were traumatic in as much as I never knew if I was going to have to move wards, wait for a bed for a day, or what. but as it turned out that bit went fairly well, with a minimum of fuss about bed spaces. Those last 3 days went fine, and finally, on the 30th December, I made my way back to Dumfries and home for the last time. 

I wasn’t really prepared for the next 6 weeks. I was at home, yes, fairly comfortable in my blue armchair, but the radiotherapy continued to work for the next 6 weeks. because of this there was a lot of pain, a lot of phlegm being produced, and a lot of choking and spluttering. Sometimes, if I had not gargled with my Sodium Bicarbonate, I would start wrenching, but just from the lung and lower neck area. It was painful. I was also hooking myself up to the drip feed every night, and this would continue for a couple of months more. I felt pretty lousy all this time as my Morphine dosage was 100 mg per day. So I was sitting in this blue armchair I now called home, and was usually in a complete daze. My mother came over to sit with me most days, which was great as i had company, and it became really important to me to have company all the time. Sitting in a morphine induced daze all day on your own is no fun I can tell you. My mother and I had lots of chats about things we’d seen and done together over the years of my childhood, so a lot of memories were discussed which we may never have had time to speak of. I would have been alone through this nightmare if not for her, so I am really grateful to her for that. In the evening my wife would return from work or study, and of course my son Justin also returned from school at 4 o’clock. 

It’s about time I mentioned my wife. She has been iconic in her support and her work efforts to keep us all in fiscal safety whilst all this is going on. Mel’s week starts off on a Monday where she has to go and clean 3 houses, returning home at about 6pm. Tuesday is work placement for 4 hours, and then another clean for 3 hours, getting home at 6pm. Once home the laundry gets done, and hung in the house in the spare room, and this procedure continues throughout the week until Friday evening when it all gets ironed ready for Saturday’s Holiday House Lets cleans. I’ll explain that all in a minute. Of course she somehow finds time to feed herself and Justin on all these days as well. Wednesday is another day where she goes to clean a couple of houses for some older folk, and then Thursday and Friday it’s College until midday Friday. Fridays and Saturdays we have a house cleaning business. Of course, now I’m off sick she has to do it alone, which is okay as its not that busy during the winter. February onwards it gradually starts to pick up. So now she’s found a couple of girls to come and help her. In our area there are many holiday houses one can let for a week at a time, from Friday to Friday, or Saturday to Saturday. Each week there is a window between 10 and 3 where the houses have to be cleaned and have their linen changed. Mel has a few of these houses, so in the summer months we are really busy. We do the laundry for these houses as well. So, it’s plain to see why I’m alone during the week, and why my mum comes over to keep me company. 

After about 5 weeks of this haziness and continued radiotherapy, I started to feel a little better. Everything started to move in a more positive direction. The phlegm had reduced a lot in my throat, most of the exterior swelling had gone down, and I was getting more good days than bad. I decided to start reducing my Morphine at this stage, so I did it in weekly increments of cutting the dosage by 50%. When I got down to 40 mg per day I cut it of completely, and as a result went through Cold Turkey for a couple of days. When one of my nurses visited me she told me to go back on it and continue reducing by 50% every couple of days. I didn’t realise 40 mg was such a large dosage, but I would n’t recommend just stopping to anyone….a very unpleasant experience.  

I was feeling a lot better by now, so I started to do a little more composing and some experimental recording of new ideas for my new album, which is only half complete. However, this too was interrupted by my WiFi going wrong and becoming intermittent. I had to abandon any recording projects for a while until I could sort that out. 

After 7 weeks I was off the morphine for good, and I was feeling a lot better. On the 14th Feb, Valentines Day, I was summoned to Edinburgh to see my ENT doctor. I became a little nervous the previous few days as I was worried about the endoscope again, the “thing” from the first chapter of this blog. I wasn’t at all nervous about the result of my visit, if the tumour had gone or not, no, i was only worried about the “thing”. We drove up to Edinburgh and arrived 40 minutes before my appointment time. To our shock and disbelief, we were summoned in straight away, and told to wait for the doctor in a room full of Doctors things, but NO Endoscope!! Rejoicing thoughts went through my head and I said to Mel that I couldn’t see one, and how pleasing that was. The doctor arrived within minutes and asked me how I felt and how things were going. I gave him a quick update whilst he felt my neck with his fingers, which he followed up with a wooden spatula  on my tongue and said say Ahhh and so on! Then, he announced that he was just going to another room for a minute to get an endoscope. Of course my world crumbled at that point, as I tried to mentally prepare for the pain which was about to follow as he pushed that thing up my nose. 

However, when he returned the events that followed were much less painful or uncomfortable than ever before. Upon his return with the endoscope I protested to the doctor that I was allergic to the damned things and that I had been subjected to nasal rape by his colleague, the Oncologist. He poo poohed this remark by telling me he was an ENT specialist who used the “thing” at least 4 times an hour during his working day, and that he was an expert in inflicting no pain nor discomfort whilst using the tool. And, to my relief, he was right. He was able to announce that the tumour was gone, and that I would have to come back every 6 weeks for continued monitoring of the throat, for a year, and then every 4 months for the second year. As we left the doctors room and headed back to the car, Mel was in tears, as she tried to phone my Mum and tell her the good news. I however, was not so excited as I still had to go and have a scan in  Dumfries in 6 weeks time, and then keep coming back for the endoscope every 6 weeks. I suppose I really couldn’t believe I had been cured. 

I’m tempted to go into a narrative about the pro’s and con’s of my treatment, or indeed any treatment. I’ve since come across people who have just given up with treatment and decided to enjoy their lives to the full and see how far they can make it. I’m not going to, but I’m relieved and grateful, grateful to everyone at Dumfries who moved things along so quickly, grateful to the great radiologists  who made things better for me, the nurses in the wards, and the dieticians and therapists who have guided me through this. The emphasis now is recovery, and more importantly, how to eat again, and get my throat working again, and get my taste buds back to normal. There’s still a way to go….

The story behind "Nowhere to Run to".  

Hi everybody. First of all , Happy Holidays to all of you, wherever you are in the world and whatever your creed. As it's Christmas here in the UK, we have a tradition of giving presents to each other, being generous, and eating a lot. So. as I can't really give anything else to so many friends and people out there, I am offering a free download on the website for anyone to download for free. It's a song tracing my movements from a 12 year old boy living in Pakistan to my eventual arrival in Thailand at the age of 34! Of course in the song, using poetic license, it all takes place over a few days! Anyway, I particularly like the lyrics of the song, and really like the guitar solo played by Steve Baker, and the Piano parts played by Matt Gest. I hope you enjoy them too. Go to the home page of to get a copy for yourself.

Trip to California 

My son and I recently went to San Diego for a real quick visit, to check out the city, see some friends, and take loads of pictures of the area. As you can see from the picture above we went as far north as Encinitas, where we went to Swarmi's, met some Surf Dudes and hung out for a while. One thing that did surprise me was the temperature of the water. It was so cold! I was kind of expecting nice warm water for some reason...I guess it's coz we always associate California with sunshine and heat.

Whilst in San Diego itself we signed up for the hop on hop off trolley tour which covers a distance of 25 miles around San Diego and Coronado City. We hopped on and off and we saw a lot, but were unable to do all the things we could of done, due to time restraints, like visit the famous San Diego zoo etc. However, one of the things we did see was a market especially for Veterans, guys who had fought for their country, and now it seems, forgotten by it. I know there are some mental problems too but not everyone, surely?! I was shocked to see the sorry state some of the vets were in, and I salute those volunteers and donors who give these guys something to help make their lives a little better. I was also quite surprised by seeing a lot of Homeless folk on the streets around our hotel in Downtown San Diego and in Encinitas. Obviously I don't know any background here, but all the same it was sad to see so many folks living on the street.

Coronado City had no such problems of course. It has been widely hailed as the most expensive place to live in the US. Some of the houses were beautiful, and were obviously designed along European and English lines.

The beach in Coronado was great. Wide and plenty of room for everyone, but no Homeless people in sight. We didn't stay here too long, as we had somewhere else to see, and lets face it, if you've lived on a beach for most of your life, you're not going to quibble over a couple of hours doing something else.

I guess the highlight of our trip was the day we went up to Encinitas and met some old buddies, Eric, Jay and Careeb, all native Californians, and guys who could show us round the old haunts they'd hung out in in the teenage years. As well as Encinitas, we visited La Jolla, Del Mar, Solana Beach, Torrey Pines and Shelter Island. So we had a great visit and look forward to our next trip over there, when hopefully, we can stay longer and see more, and do some surfing! I know I got a lot of influence whilst I was there, so expect a song to come out of that trip fairly soon!

My Beatles Pilgrimage 

A Dutch tv journalist friend of mine, Lex van Moorsel, came over for a visit in October, so we decided to take a trip to Liverpool. We wanted to see a couple of things there, such as the Football grounds, the centre of the city, and of course, being musicians and Beatles music fans, the historical places relating to the Beatles. T
he city itself was fantastic, a really different Liverpool to the one I remember from when I used to stay with a girlfriend in Walton. There was an abundance of restaurants, wine bars and garden pubs in the centre of town, and a harbour area which was looking great too. We went to Liverpool FC to pay our respects to the Hillsboro' victims, and then set off to find the Cavern.

Having eventually found the Cavern Club in the city cenThe Cavern as a tourist trap.tre,  we realised that the Cavern had now become a total tourist trap, and that there were organised tours doing the Beatles tour around the sites of interest in Liverpool. They wanted money to let you in to the Cavern (which was not even the original by the way!) because it was so dark and busy in there, we decided against going in. the best part about it really was a statue of John Lennon leaning on the wall in the street opposite the entrance to the cavern. We then hit the road for some other Beatlemaniahistory and found (with the help of Google) Penny Lane, Strawberry fields, and the houses of John Lennon and Paul McCartney. My friend Lex was disappointed that his whole concept of Lennon and McCartney was shattered! He thought they were working class heroes, like the song. Unfortunately, John's Aunties house was a superb semi detached 
John Lennon
suburban 3 or 4 bedroom house in a very affluent area of the city, and Paul's house was not much shabbier, but was open to public tours etc, so we didn't stick around long. Someone has kept the gates to Strawberry Field care home for wayward boys painted red, and looking good! There are some nice pieces of graffiti that the council authorities have left there from over the years, such as "Love you John" and similar. Of course, the home itself no longer exists.

John Lennon's Auntie's house.

As for Penny Lane, well, what a lovely looking road! Well, one end of it at least. The other end is okay too, with the remnants of an old village like community still there, and still with a bit of life about the place. Imagine having Penny Lane, Liverpool L18 as your address!
Liverpool 18 is yer postcode or zip...Quite an eye opener I would imagine, and your mail would always get opened first when sending out! I can vividly remember when I was at school, and Hello Goodbye, Strawberry Fields and Penny Lane came out. I remember hiding under the bedclothes with the Radio (a light blue Dansette) listening to the Beatles and the Stones, the Small Faces, and hoping not to get caught by my Dad, who would come patrolling to see if me and my bro were asleep! We were listening to Fab 208, Radio Luxembourg. It was the very beginning of my interest in Pop music, the beginning of everything music to my ears.
So, in the end, we had a great day out in the City of Music and I got to say I wouldn't mind going back to live there again. It's obviously still got a lot of culture and has cleaned itself up big time.