Thursday, January 25, 2018

Coming to America

My bucket list includes the Great American Road Trip by motorcycle, this being a follow-up to the 2012 epic with Beloved Wife.

Unfortunately, bone cancer (or more specifically my oncologist) has forbidden the use of large motorcycles for the near future. Fundamentally, lack of bone mass and basic body strength makes it too difficult for me to wheel a big bike around. That actually riding it would be no problem is of little relevance when you consider what happens at red traffic lights, gas stations, and overnight stops.

Actually, it came to pass a couple of days ago that I had to move my Kawasaki from the front yard to the side of the Crumbling Villa so it would be parked in a less inconvenient spot. Just wheeling it about five metres was pushing the limit of what I could manage.

None of this has stopped me planning a summer of touring the USA. The overriding assumption has to be that I'll be fit enough to ride every day for a month or so. I floated the idea on a Kawasaki Concours/1400GTR Facebook group with a basic request for opinions on options:-

  • Rent a bike commercially.  Probably at $100 a day, I'd be looking at $3000 or so. It'd not be a Concours, but someone suggested I should go large and rent a Gold Wing.
  • Buy a used one, ride it, sell it.  I'd doubtless have to get my brother-in-law to own the thing because I'm not a US resident, but assuming say $6000 purchase price, it should be easy to sell at less than $3000 loss.
  • Ship my own bike to the US and then back again.  I have no idea what this would cost, nor what administrative hoops I'd have to jump through. But if UAE-registered Ferraris can spend summer in Knightsbridge, the principle is at least feasible. I've asked a shipper for cost and details.

Responses from the Facebook group where overwhelmingly positive, with offers of help, temporary accommodation, and one guy even offering to lend me his bike. "Get yourself to Texas with a license and insurance."

There were also many messages of support regarding the cancer. It seems surprising how many people have been or are are going through similar to me. This trip, if I can pull it off, might conceivably turn into a "Route 66 Defiant Cancer-Surviving Old Gits tour"

Back to Dubai and reality for a moment, and a note that I disgraced myself with Beloved Wife's Vespa yesterday. For the first time ever in my life, I dropped a motorcycle away from myself while attempting to put it on the centre stand, and fell over on top of it. Angry and embarrassed, I now have an exceptionally painful shoulder. The scooter's fine, but the incident serves to illustrate that I am currently in no fit state to be aboard anything heavy.


Friday, January 12, 2018


Is it a bird? Is it a plane?
It's Captain Caprine!!
Radiotherapy has been prescribed, and I'm halfway through ten sessions. I'm having a break because it's the weekend. The basic idea is that x-rays are beamed into my lumbar spine and pelvis to zap the cancer cells therein and reduce the pain. There are no nerves actually inside the bones, but the surfaces are covered in nerves and, as this is where muscles are attached, I get bone pain that feels like pulled muscles. The radiation is helping.

There is a thread on Facebook about this with many friends making comments about how being blasted with electromagnetic radiation will turn me into a superhero, or possibly a super-villain.

As I lay supine with heavy machinery whirling around me like some demonically-possessed fairground ride, it occurred that I might resemble some pharaoh.I was wearing the little paper apron preserving a little modesty, and my arms were crossed in the perfect place for the crook and flail. I guess I should also have had one of those stripy head-cloths and maybe a couple of Bangles...

However, unlike the pharaoh in the Iron Maiden song, I have no intention of being a Slave to the Power of Death any time soon.


Monday, January 08, 2018

The final curtain?

I don’t think so. But I never expected to be writing this either.

TL;DR - I went to the doctor with backache and came out with cancer.

Being a bit middle-aged, and a bit overweight, I took it upon myself to go to a clinic and, in September, received a very clean bill of health.

And I was, with slightly elevated hubris, pleased not to be dying of something out of the Tropical Diseases House of Horrors.

That was September. By October I was getting persistent aches in my right shoulder and my lower back that weren’t getting any better. They got inconveniently worse in November, and a few days of not sitting down over the Formula 1 weekend didn’t help.By the time of my trip to Munich in early December the backache especially was becoming no fun at all. Indeed, when my transfer at Istanbul included an unscheduled trip over a flight of stairs, I was in extreme pain.

So back to the clinic in December.

“A few years ago I had an issue with my left shoulder that was treated and basically cured with microsurgery by a specialist orthopaedic surgeon. Can you check the other shoulder please? And by the way, my lower back is a bit ouchie as well.”

Two x-rays later confirmed no obvious cause, so I was scheduled for a MRI scan of my shoulder. After ten days, my medical insurance decided to approve the MRI and on 12th December I was back in the orthopaedic clinic with almost no shoulder pain but crippling back pain.

“I can see bone marrow infiltration on your MRI, and you need a lower spine MRI. I also need loads of blood tests to eliminate multiple myeloma.”

My back pain got so bad after that. Following a tortured night of no sleep I went back to the clinic, another doctor told me to go to the Emergency Room and to get admitted to the oncology department.

So I did, and suddenly had a week in hospital. This was to put me in the same building as the CT and MRI machines and a load of pain-relief chemicals not normally available even with a prescription.

Every test was the same story: “We are awaiting approval from your medical insurance.” From getting admitted to all drugs, tests, procedures, consultations. A tearful Beloved Wife must have spent hours on the phone to the insurance company.

And after a week and the last (I thought) test, I was discharged with a big bag of pills and a bill for the last night in hospital “Because you should have left yesterday and our tardy approval of your last MRI had nothing to do with staying an additional night.”

Mr Mystery Illness now called for the endoscopy and colonoscopy. Can I have the endoscopy first, please? Especially if you’re going to use the same tube.” A stomach ulcer was discovered and biopsy taken.

Dear reader, you can see where this is going. And on Christmas Eve that is where it went.

I did not have the extremely nasty multiple myeloma, a horrible cancer with a typical prognosis of a five-year survival probability around 50%.

My stomach ulcer is no such thing. It’s Stage IV stomach cancer. This has quietly jumped to my skeleton and has been attacking and weakening my bones for an unknown time.

Making ‘Caucasian Male, 54’ the star of some future dusty medical paper, metastasis from stomach to bone without touching the liver, kidneys, pancreas, etc., is apparently unusual and therefore very interesting to the medical profession.

Bone and bone-marrow cancer as extensively as I have it is incurable. My oncologist will not be drawn to a prognosis. The ever-helpful Dr Google says that the likelihood of five-year survival is less than ten per cent. This is a number that I intend to beat.

And so the therapy started in early 2018. As at today, I’ve had a port fitted in my shoulder to facilitate administration of chemotherapy. One session down and it made me very tired for several days. I’ve had two radiation therapy sessions so far of a course of ten. I have managed to get access to some really very powerful pain relief so that I can nearly function normally.

Life is nearly normal, and with the anti-pain drugs I appear healthy and fully functional. Apart from the life-threatening cancer, of course.

More anon. I am very far from giving up.


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