Saturday, 6 December 2014

All Lights Reversed

Welcome to my new blog!

I’m going to be doing something a bit different from hereon in and I felt it needed to have its own space - so, a companion blog! This will probably be my main focus over the next couple of months but I don't intend to abandon the original blog if I can help it.

I had to think long and hard about committing to this. The fact is that it’s not necessarily going to be a popular decision. Given the somewhat divisive nature of the new topic, if I’m too flippant or humorous there will be those who feel I’m undermining the subject and not taking it seriously enough. If I’m too serious, no doubt I’ll be “moaning”. And no matter what I do there will always be those who think anyone who blogs about their health has a pathological need for attention. I can’t really do anything about any of that.

However, as with what I was doing here before, I think I might be able to create something helpful. Unlike Fibromyalgia, said new subject is likely to have greater resonance with a wider audience. Another factor was that the natural (if unintended) precursor to all this, How to Train Your Health Scare, has been one of my most popular posts in a number of months.

The new and potentially divisive topic? That would be cancer.

(Image from

The culmination of the tests I was waiting for when I wrote my last entry was that I've been diagnosed with primary parotid gland cancer. I understand from further reading that this is actually rather rare - Macmillan Cancer Support estimate only 550 new cases in the UK each year, which isn't many at all in the grand scheme of things.

For those unfamiliar (and so was I), the parotid gland is the saliva gland in your cheek at the back of your jaw. You have one on either side, and I’m currently not speaking to my right one. You could say I’m a little miffed with it.

As with many cancers, there is no known cause for parotid gland cancer. There are risk factors but I don’t fit any of them so there’s little point in illustrating them. It’s actually considered an older person’s cancer – most patients are in their 50’s or 60’s – so I’m something of an oddity being only 25.

There are other oddities, one being that it’s actually reasonably hard to get a 100% concrete diagnosis due to the location of the tumour with this type of cancer. The diagnosis in my case has come from ultrasound and MRI scans and also the behaviour of the tumour itself. Where benign tumours of the saliva glands grow over years and years, mine grew in less than three weeks before suddenly stopping. I’m informed by my consultant the growth has only ceased because the tumour has exhausted its blood supply and therefore the centre is dying. This is also one of the reasons it’s difficult to get a definitive diagnosis from a biopsy – the chances are you’re going to be sampling quite a bit of dead (and therefore useless) tissue in the circumstances.

The current situation is that everything is being booked and sorted out on the assumption the diagnosis is correct. In the “highly unlikely” (the consultant’s words) event that they discover the tumour is actually benign then everything just gets cancelled, and some sort of massive party is probably in order. In my mind this seems preferable to waiting around for the results of every foreseeable test and ending up weeks or months down the line but likely no further forward. I suppose the much more short-winded sentiment is “better safe than sorry”.

My partner works for Macmillan, so it's where I'm getting a lot of my own research from and therefore I can recommend their website as both informative and helpful)

Given that according to Macmillan’s predictions by 2020 almost one in every two people (47%) in the UK will get cancer in their lifetimes, it seems a good use of my time to document this period in as much as I can as it’s a subject that may well be relevant to a lot of people. I may not be a stranger to blogging about illness, but I won’t lie: this is a much scarier undertaking. 

I probably won’t be updating as regularly as I did before, as I won’t always have anything new to say and I would hazard a guess that there will be times ahead when I don’t want to say anything at all. However, I firmly believe this is worth a try.

So, watch this space for updates. If you think you’d be interested in reading this new material and want to be kept updated of new posts, you can find The Retired Bridgeburner on Facebook here, and on Twitter with my handle @bookofthefallen.

Wishing you all many spoons xxx

PS. Yes, in the tradition of me and my health, it has a nickname. We're calling it Joffrey, because rather likeits namesake it's a little sh*t that deserves everything it has coming to it.

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