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Thursday, October 09, 2014

The Royal Free Hospital

"Happiness is a choice. Your circumstances can affect it but ultimately you are the one who decides your happiness." ~Unknown

  We rose early Tuesday and walked up the towpath from NB Val through Leighton Buzzard, across a green park, and strolled into the train station where Les bought our off-peak tickets (travel allowed only during non-high impact times--in other words after the poor rats have made the morning and evening race-commute.)
   I noted in my diary that it was exactly a year ago to the day that Les began Radiotherapy without which Mr. H refused to operate to remove the cancerous rectal mass as he said radiotherapy was required prior to surgery to shrink the tumor. Radiotherapy which--and I quote directly from notes taken at the meeting with Dr. J--the Oncologist at Mount Vernon, who said, "the short course Radiotherapy will not shrink anything but it will assure that the cancer does not return to the bowel or metastasize."
   The train traveled quickly past villages and towns we know well from our travels on our boat until it arrived at London's Euston station which was a first for me. 
   This trip to the Royal Free Hospital to meet the liver specialist was also a dry run for me to suss out the station and the bus for future daily expeditions.
Passengers wait for platform numbers to post on reader boards.
The key I think is not to allow one's self to become too overwhelmed by the size of the station and the sheer numbers of people pouring on and off trains and out into the London streets. (Later that evening waiting for the train on our return leg, it was barely controlled chaos as hordes of workers heading out of London packed the main floor of the terminal, scanning the fifteen or so reader boards looking for the train which would take them home; which train line was arriving--London Midland or Virgin--which ones ran straight through, which ones stopped at every town, what time each was due to arrive in Euston Station and which platform from which each would leave. Platforms usually are not announced until the last possible second.

   A canceled train meant the next one would be jammed to the rafters, as happened to us. As soon as a platform number was announced travelers shot off like fish traveling in shoals--first one way then another--as they raced to a platform to find a seat before there weren't any. As night falls every mother's brother's sister's cousin's son and daughter is seeking a way out of London.)
   Les showed me where the cash point (ATM)  and the toilets were and we left via a side exit to Eversholt street where we walked about 500 feet and stood waiting for the 168 bus--which was of course--diverted due to road works that began October 6th and will run until the 17th. This rather large diversion means the 168--which is scheduled to arrive every 6-10 minutes--is running on average thirty minutes late.
   This put paid to Les' brilliant idea of arriving early and walking up to Hampstead Heath to eat our homemade picnic lunch in the quiet of nature.  Instead we sat on the wall of the hospital facing Pond Street, people watching in the brilliant sunlight; specifically we enjoyed two groups of primary school children, walking two-by-two, holding hands as their minders led and followed.
The wall where in front of the RFH where we dined Al Fresco.
   The kids were full of joy about going on a field trip and so cute in their matching gray sweat pants and sweatshirts. They jiggle-jogged along the sidewalk like a large segmented caterpillar, only to pile into one another as the lead minder stopped suddenly every now and then to count heads. Their innocent joy was infectious.
   This was the third time now that we've eaten lunch wherever we could find a spot in a busy town for various reasons. I told Les he was going to have to stop spoiling me with all these romantic Al Fresco dining opportunities for fear they might go to my head!
RFH check-in kiosks.
   In the main lobby of the Royal Free Hospital the automatic check in machines are a world away from the ones at Watford General Hospital; like comparing an Ipad with a 1983 Apple Mac computer--remember the boxy gray units? Les' details came up in a trice and his appointment was confirmed with instructions for us to proceed to the first floor waiting room two.
   Professor D.--a liver specialist, instructor (this is a teaching hospital) and surgeon was right on time. We met with him and his nurse assistant. I took detailed notes as I always do for all Les' appointments. Professor D. took Les' general health history, examined Les (strong heart, good clear lungs, no liver enlargement or tenderness) and proceeded to tell us about Les' scan which showed 2 lesions on the right section of his liver. In his opinion they are doubtless rectal cancer cells which typically travel to the liver, since all the blood in our body sweeps through and is cleansed by our liver every 14 minutes and it travels from the bowels to the liver.  Professor D. said removing thirty percent of Les' liver on the right side (which automatically includes the gall bladder which is hooked into the liver there) offers Les "a very good chance of a cure, although there are no guarantees." Ah yes how well we know...
   "What about chemotherapy?" the Professor asked.
   "I'm not interested in chemo," replied Les. 
   "Have you spoken with an Oncologist?"
   "Yes, Dr. J. at Mount Vernon."
   We mentioned we live on a narrow boat and continuously cruised and the Professor's face cracked into a lovely smile. 
   "Well then," he said in his Scottish accent, "We'll do the surgery aboard your boat. You've got a dining table, yeah? And some rum?" We laughed and nodded in the affirmative. "All right then we'll call it a day trip."  With that Professor D. left us with his nurse assistant to fill us in on some of the details.
   Les goes in next week for a pre-op and fitness appointment. The surgery will be scheduled sometime between then and November 2nd. It will take place at the RFH in London. Les will be on the operating table for 5-6 hours so with pre-surgery and post-op recovery it means I'll be waiting there all day. After recovery he will spend the first 24 hours in Intensive care and then move to a specialist floor. Recovery in hospital takes 7-10 days if all goes well (no infections) and then he will come home to recover further for another three months.
   So far the services received to date from the RFH have been good. Quick appointments, kept on time, and quick follow-up directly by phone.

    We walked hand-in-hand from the bus stop on Euston and Tottenham Court Road reveling in the beauty of London on a fall afternoon, strolling into the
Les snaps a selfie of our reflection in a window on a busy London street.
British Library for a mooch around the Folio Society Gallery on the floor just up from the main desk at the entry. The exhibits there are always free. This time it is "Enduring War: Grief, Grit and Humour." I was shocked to discover that Britain had been directly bombed in WWI by German zeppelins. This country has been attacked and bombed in two world wars and still it endures.

I could live in the British Library! This view is from our table across the street.
The sunset skyline of St. Pancras station rising behind the British Library.
Dear Sir waits for our vegetarian pizza to arrive as we sit and enjoy the view.
   We stopped outside under one of the large, white umbrellas covering the lunch tables so Les could take the next round of 27 pills he swallows daily now as part of a regimen to keep his weight and health up for surgery and change his blood chemistry so his body is no longer a willing and welcome place for caner to reside, for we know that the word "cure" as used by medical professionals must be translated to say "you may live for five years," five being the magic number chosen by researchers who found they could not realistically follow up on cancer patients past the five year mark.
   Chemo, radiation, and surgery do not cure cancer. Cytotoxic cancer treatments destroy cells--good and bad--with the hope the patient will survive the treatment and the disease will hibernate in remission. Surgery removes the diseased portions of the body. None "cure" cancer.
   We hope this was caught in time for us to reverse Les' body chemistry so that cancer can no longer continue to grow and flourish inside him and his immune system will grow healthy enough to stand guard once more.
   We are so very thankful for everyone's hopeful, positive thoughts and prayers on his and our behalf and the unwavering support we've been offered by our families and our community on the cut.
   We are thankful for each other and this glorious life of freedom and peace lived as continuous cruisers. We really appreciate Canal & River Trust officers working with us during this difficult time. (And I personally am thankful this operation is not taking place at Watford General.)


Tom and Jan said...

Continue to stay positive guys and make it happen!

Unknown said...

Your photograph of Les speaks volumes not only about him but you too Jaq. If all goes according to plan Les shall endure and triumph this as well. Been there, done that. And I agree the outside additives of radiation, chemo and similar only keep the cancer at bay, it does nothing to destroy it. Best not feed the "C".

Anonymous said...

Wow .. if it wasn't all about ugly C you'd think you two were lovers on a tour of London...and of course the library. Well the fact is it ISN'T all about ugly C ... you two are about love, and life and laughter and joy. Keep on keeping on.

Karen B

Arthur said...

Great to see the surgeon has a sense of humour! Reminds me of the one treating our Helen - he said he just 'whipped out the bad bits first time in - next time, I have to make sure I get all the plumbing right when I put you back together again!' All our best wishes - stay strong and confound the evil..

Arthur & Jen

MikeW said...

All the best from the geriatrics at Cowroast-and don't forget if transport is needed we will even drive into that there London if there's a bit of that Jaq cake going.

Nb Yarwood said...

What's it going to be then, the Royal Free or the dinette?
Very best wishes both of you we will be rooting for you.
Joe and Lesley

Marilyn, nb Waka Huia said...

Professor D sounds like a good sound man, J&L, so fingers crossed things will be well. What with Prof D and Witch J on Patient L's case, Patient L is quids in for a long healthy life - he may rattle like the maracas but we'll still love him (as long as he improves his rhythm). And he'll be fine without a gall bladder, esp as he'll be eating far less fat and won't really need it at all!
Loved the selfie, by the way, and your description of the concourse at Euston is exactly as I remember it when I was there recently - quite overwhelming, eh?
Love and biggs hugs, M&D

Anonymous said...

Hello yous two. I am within train distance of the royal free Jaq, Les has my mobile number, please do let me know when he is able to receive bog standard visitors like me and I will make the effort to visit as I am half way there via work anyway. I am narrow boating for a week during half term as I am taking my grandchildren and my daughter and son in law on their first narrow boating experience (not Christines, but she needs a break)I would love to see you both, not that I like the circumstances. Take care. Lots of love Carol BV

jercher said...

Hello Dear Ones! Finally a doctor who speaks your language and actually has a sense of humor. I thought that was against the rules! Do you trust it when things appear to be going smoothly? We are certainly hoping the smooth sailing continues - you are such a good team - I mean really, when has a couple ever looked cuter or more in love?
We are sending positive vibes your way and looking forward to celebrating your victory over Mr. C.
Love and great big hugs,
Jer and Bear

Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

Yes Tom and Jan--that is our plan. Thank you for your support and encouragement.

Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

Darling Bryce,
this is an ugly club to be a member of but since you are, we know you know the reality of these issues. Wish you lived nearby so I could keep you under my wing too. Still we do pretty good long distance, yeah?
Les and I blessed indeed to have each other and every miraculous day together.
Love JaqXXX

Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

You got that absolutely right girlfriend. Les and I are so much bigger than cancer. So often when someone get a C. diagnosis they are overwhelmed with fear--of the disease, the treatment and impending death. Right then and there they stop living and begin dying in reality. We are alive!! Gloriously in love with one another and this fabulous, amazing, beautiful world! We are blessed with good, loving, caring friends and family all over this planet. Les is now if solid, professional medical hands. We have a lot to celebrate. We met four ago on the 17th of this month!!
Love JaqXXX

Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

Arthur and Jen,
We love a crackin' good sense of humor (or humour) and know it is some of the best medicine available.

Thank you for your encouragement and support. Sending good thoughts for long term healing for Helen and hugs to you both.
Jaq and LesXX

Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

Hi Mike!
Thank you indeed for the offer. I purchased the bits for one of those "Jaq cakes" last week and there will be one with your name on it! Our best to all the wonderful Cow Roast crew. We will no doubt be seeing you all soon.

Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

Joe and Lesley,
Well I am game for dining table but I think Les has decided to opt for the hospital--it is his liver after all!

Thank you both for your love, encouragement and good wishes.
Jaq and LesXX
(I Knew we were in good hand when I heard the professor's Scottish accent!)

Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

You are totally correct on all points. Les always wanted to learn to play a musical instrument. Now that he rattles with all the supplements he takes, he can become a part of the rhythm section!!
Love and hugs to you a Dave,
Jaq and LesXX

Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

Hi Carol,
I will be sure to get you number form Les and keep you posted on visiting hours, etc. We would both love to see you.

Enjoy our half term cruise. Lucky grand kids to have you for a Nan!!
Love JaqXX

Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

Hi Bear,
I do trust it when things go smoothly as long as I know which way the flow is going--if you know what I mean! This time we do indeed have a crackin' good professional on the job.

Thanks to you and Jer for being a a part of our team to "Kick Cancer's Ass!"
Love and hugs,
Jaq and LesXXX

NB Valerie & Steam Train by Les Biggs

NB Valerie & Steam Train by Les Biggs