Thursday, June 24, 2021

Death Becomes Him

A few weeks ago I called my doctor because I was having difficulties swallowing food. She was concerned enough to book me a gastroscopy. 

If I thought trouble swallowing food was unpleasant, I quickly realised a gastroscopy is even more so! Though the doctor and nurses were very positive before the examination once the camera was sliding down my throat the doctor muttered a loud "Oh no!" and, at that point, I knew bad times lay ahead.

After the procedure he explained to me I had a tumour in my throat and he arranged for a CT scan to see how far it had spread. 

The CT scan would show it has spread to my lymph nodes but was still within the relatively treatable range of cancers (though cancer of the oesophagus, which is what I've got, is one of the more dangerous sorts even at the earliest identifiable stage). 

So I got a referral to Guys and St Thomas' hospital trust to perform a PET scan and a staging laparoscopy. 

That's where I was this Monday (after a truly awful night in the most uncomfortable prison cell/hospital hotel I've ever experienced). After the PET scan at St Thomas', I headed to Guys for a pre-surgery assessment. When I was there my nurse called to say my surgery had been cancelled, which had been scheduled for Tuesday, and I was free to go home. 

Wednesday came and I headed back up to London with Jim for a meeting with a doctor to discuss my PET scan results. After an initial trauma of discovering I'm 1cm shorter than I thought (202cm it seems!), we sat down with the doctor who was already talking in a soothing (and thus worrying tone). He informed us that my cancer had already spread well beyond my oesophagus and into my bones at several points around my body. My surgery was cancelled as my cancer is thus incurable. 

I always prepare for the worst so I wasn't actually that surprised (I'd been reading some studies as to why laparoscopies get cancelled so I sort of knew this was going to be a "really bad news" chat). However, it was still a bit of a blow to discover my expiry date has been moved forward dramatically and I'm now entering "end of life" care. 

I'm not as devastated as I'd imagined. My main concerns as my care enters this final phase is being able to eat a bit more normally if possible and being able to sleep (trapped wind is a serious issue for me right now, probably from a mixture of the tumour extending into my stomach and the difficulty eating/drinking). 

It all seems a bit surreal, especially as my most difficult symptom so far is trapped wind! But the last chapter of my life has begun. At least I get the privilege of knowing that it has and doing what I can to make it as nice an ending to my story as possible. 

So, Dear Constant Reader, that's my latest update. I'll try not to let this be the final one though. 

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Jae In The Days Of The Virus 9/10

Yesterday was the first day of the lockdown.

I stepped out of the house for my first ever state-sanctioned dog walk (one per day!) at 6.30am expecting the village and surrounding roads to be a scene of blissful peace and quiet.

I was quite wrong. The lane outside my house and the main road into the village was very busy with cars. All of which seemed to be travelling well above the speed limit.

The village itself was just as "busy" (i.e. a few people about) as usual with the normal newspaper buyers coming out of their houses and walking down to the post office.

Cars and vans were parked, as usual, on yellow lines so the workers could pop into the bakery.

I was pleased to get home to some actual peace and quiet.

Jim had bought Roku device for the TV and we are now subscribed to Disney+. That should help us through the coming weeks!

This morning I left the house at the same time as the day before but things were very different. Traffic was below normal levels. Everywhere was quiet. I saw only one person in the whole village (a jogger on his state-sanctioned jog). The fish and chip shop had a sign in the window that they had closed down (I saw on Facebook last night they had been giving their stock away free the day before). There was a sign way out from the door of the butchers by the main road saying "Please observe social distancing rules." The bakers, the magnet to every white-van man in the local area, was closed, display shelves empty in the window and the parking bays in front empty. The post office had a sign outside limiting the number of people inside to 4. And on the way home one of the cottages we pass had put up a slightly off-kilter "Keep Calm and Carry On" poster ("Keep Calm and Stay Home" would've been more appropriate!).

The day passed quietly with very little to report other than Jim making the most divine Lemon Love Crumble cakes. YUM.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Jae In The Days Of The Virus 8


So the Prime Minister, at 20:30 this evening, has announced lockdown. Well... he didn't say exactly that but we are in a lockdown now.

I think I'll cope alright, this is how I live anyway!

The days ahead will be interesting times indeed.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Jae In The Days Of The Virus 7

Not much to report today. The village was unusually quiet this morning. Had a rather blissful walk home up my lane without a single car going passed. Unheard of!

Another sign has appeared on the shop door saying they are limiting some items (like eggs and milk) to one per customer. Though social media tells me they will have no milk now until Tuesday!

Meanwhile out in the wider country people continue to ignore advice not to congregate. I shudder to think what that means for our death toll in two weeks time.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Jae In The Days Of The Virus 6

Not much to report today.

I've stayed, like a good boy, in self-isolation (with Jim). He's been watching Preacher on Amazon Prime. My... that is BORING.

Social media shows that in some places people are staying in and in others... they are staying out!

Coach tours are continuing. People are fleeing to their holiday homes in areas where medical coverage is more limited.

All so very foolish.

And still the moaning about stockpilers goes on despite the fact it is increasingly clear the supermarkets dropped the ball there.

Oh well. We've had plenty to eat ourselves as we're not fools and I made sure we had plenty weeks ago.

Not just an annoying boy anymore!

Friday, March 20, 2020

Jae In The Days Of The Virus 5

Despite a new policy in Tesco that customers would be limited to only 4 items, a brief trip to the one in Whitfield by Jim this morning revealed the policy was not being enforced.

Whilst a lot of people moan about stockpiling leading to shortages, I think it is becoming ever clearer that the supermarkets are failing to control purchasing in the way they should at a time like this AND that there must be supply issues underlying the empty shelves.

Incredibly embarrassing seeing pictures from elsewhere in Europe of full supermarkets. We Brits are very daft.

In fact that is further underlined by Tim Martin, owner of the Wetherspoons pub chain, going on the radio to claim there's no evidence the virus is being transmitted in pubs. Daft!

And elsewhere many people continue to ignore government advice and go about their business as normal.

All very foolish and I expect it'll be regretted.

Today the Prime Minister announced all pubs, clubs, gym, cinemas etc. must close tonight. This really will bring in a major change for everyone. Hopefully for the better in the long term for the fatality rate. 

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Jae In The Days Of The Virus 4

Tired of how busy the village has been getting, I took my dog walk even earlier than normal so the fact the village was empty isn't really very useful information.

Jim, however, did venture out of the house to get some supplies. Oh nothing too exciting but we've come into the possession of the Holy Grail of all cake recipes (a creation known as a "Marteaser Slice) but with Ocado being sold out of condensed milk he decided to go to the Co-op.

He said some things were now being "rationed" with a man in front of him trying to buy 4 2 pint bottles of milk but only being allowed one, it was very busy with elderly customers and the shelves were very much bare.

He must have made quite the sight among the panic buyers with his 12 packs of Malteasers, condensed milk and some cakes (yes why buy cake supplies it seems Jim goes for just buying cakes too!).

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Jae In The Days Of The Virus 3

If there's one way to describe how much concern the people of Eastry appear, on the surface, to have for the spread of coronavirus I think it'd be: zero fucks given.

Life really is continuing as normal. Traffic, people, business... it all seems to be running as normal. The social clubs, children's groups and church services are now all cancelled. The church remains unlocked though in case anyone thinks some prayers might help (spoilers: they won't).

Today it was announced that after Friday all schools will remain closed indefinitely except for the very vaguely worded "vulnerable children and children of necessary staff". They still need to turn up as normal on Monday so assume the buses etc. will continue.

Perhaps next week Eastry might notice the pandemic.

My brother, a police officer, is reporting he feels ill which isn't good at all. Fingers crossed it is either nothing or it doesn't do any harm.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Jae In The Days Of The Virus 2

I nearly died this morning. No, I hadn't suddenly developed COVID-19 symptoms. I was almost run over!

It is the closest I've been to death in a few years anyway. As I wandered with the dogs back up our lane home after the regular morning walk a car came towards us. I assume he was blinded by the Sun behind us but he clearly didn't see us, staring straight ahead like a zombie. I realised he was sticking far to close to the side of the road (a sheer muddy bank at the bottom of my neighbour's garden making it impossible to move off the road at that point) and let out a high-pitched, horrified yelp as the car brushed against me. I was pulled the dogs over as far as I could but I still don't know how he didn't run over Bella. He drove serenely on, I don't think he even knew he literally hit a pedestrian with his car!

Anyway... this is my way of explaining to you that the village was today just as busy as ever. Traffic flowed, people went about their business, commuters leaving their homes for work and kids heading to the bus stops for school.

The only difference today was a new sign in the window of the shop door saying they will now offer home deliveries.

Meanwhile, the village is getting organised online in the various local groups set up to arrange assistance to others during the pandemic (i.e. dog walking, shopping etc.). 

Unfortunately, these groups all seem to quickly descend into rumours, news sharing etc. rather than their main organisational purpose. Hopefully, things will become more focussed in time. 

For now, Eastry continues pretty much as normal (though the local Sandwich Tech will be closing its Year 7 from tomorrow onwards). 

Monday, March 16, 2020

Jae In The Days Of The Virus 1

Three months ago seems like a different world.

The general election in December had set us clearly on the path to Brexit and I was saddened by that however, given our income was from America and we are quite comfortable, I wasn't scared of the coming year.

Then the news started reporting on a new virus in China. It seemed pretty awful out in Wusan (a city I hadn't even heard of before) but it was so far away and I'd lived through the SARS and Swine Flu news cycles so there was still reason to think it'd stay far away.

Jim had a pulmonary embolism (yes, another one!) in January so wasn't travelling for work like he normally would be (3 out of every 4 weeks!). His next trip was for the first week of March to his regular stop in Milan. I was planning to go with him to see Lake Como and travel up to Lugano in Switzerland.

It was not to be. As soon as I saw the news from Lombardy that COVID-19 was spreading there I turned to Jim and told him I bet his trip would be cancelled.

And it was, though Jim scoffed at the idea it should've been and even then it seemed unlikely to me that it'd spread to Milan so quickly. It'd only just arrived in Lombardy surely? Being the very cautious person I am though, in mid-February, I added a few extra tinned goods to the shopping, got a few toilet rolls in of course and Jim stocked our new large freezer in the garage up to full capacity. Not many people were doing that but as I said... I'm super cautious.

Things escalated quickly. The virus spread further and further and it soon became clear it had been here in the UK for some time.

Now the deaths in Europe are escalating. Countries shutting down. Flight routes closing. Borders being put back into use to try to slow the spread.

So, Dear Constant Reader, I thought I'd come back here to record what happens in my little corner of Kent in the coming days and weeks. With Jim's underlying conditions we've been moving into ever more seclusion. Jim's job is now at risk so he's been very stressed these last few days. This has meant he hasn't been out either however his normal devil-may-care attitude may well return and I'll need to try to persuade him he doesn't need to go out. Sigh.

Obviously, the dog walking continues and so I've been keeping up with the goings-on in the village a little.

The last few days the village had seemed significantly quieter than usual though, on Friday, some optimist put up adverts in the bus shelter for a circus in Deal opening during the last week of March.

Today the village returned to normal, as far as I can tell, the traffic was steady and there were the usual suspects going about their daily routines. The bakery is open. The Post Office continues as normal. The carers at the care home on the High Street were just turning up for their shift as always.

Monday 16th March 2020 was just another day in Eastry.