Wednesday, 9 November 2016

NLTTA presentation lunch, fixed gear ride and meeting the Matchstick man in the wrong trousers.

Let's have a fixed gear bike ride!

I was invited to the North Lancs Time Trial Association presentation lunch by our club chairman David Bisset with the suggestion that an early arrival by car would allow a pre lunch bike ride.
The venue was at Garstang, an obvious choice as it seems to be the natural home for North West time trial enthusiasts, it also is adjacent to the flat lanes of the Fylde, ideal for a pre event bike ride.
Yeah, let's have a fixed gear bike ride, that was my response to which Dave added a weather watch proviso. 
Sunday morning of the ride saw a bitterly cold arctic wind blowing but at least it was dry with a forecast to remain so, ideal for a fixed gear ride. A bike was selected, one of four fixed gear steeds, ready set up with a nice gear for flat or flattish lanes.
As promised Dave arrived early and off we set up the motorway to Garstang duly arriving a good three and a half hours before the main event, the lunch. Bike were dispatched from the rear of the car, wheels fitted, clothing donned. I would add here I was kitted out for a ride to the North Pole, long sleeve merino vest, long sleeve merino midlayer, long sleeve jersey topped off with a winter thermal jacket, club colours of course. Merino long johns underwear, winter tights, socks and thermal waterproof socks inside winter cycling shoes, overdressed, no, it was bloody cold, a seventy nine year old needs all the above, sometimes even for bed.
Now Dave, unlike me, a well known fixed gear nut, is not an experienced fixie rider and on setting off was distinctly nervous despite my assurances he would be ok. Eventually he gained more confidence and picked up speed to a nice cadence.
In the past after taking part in time trials on a Sunday morning in this area we would have a relaxed ride to Knott End, around ten miles distant of easy riding, until that is someone put the hammer down. No hammering this morning, just a pace to keep warm and enjoy the ride.
All was going well, Dav's new found confidence in fixed riding becoming apparent until a call from the rear requested a halt. Dave wanted to adjust his tights, it seems an out of the saddle effort coming out of a junction resulted in his tights being caught on the nose of the saddle dragging the crutch down to his knees, lycra is so stretchable. Wallace and Grommits 'Wrong Trousers' immediately came to mind with a humorous comment and smile.
Adjustment to overstretched tights completed we resumed the ride.
Arriving on the sea front the sun drenched scene before us was not as warm as it looked, the icy blast was blowing strong and we felt it after the shelter of the hedgerows of the narrow lanes.
As we reached the ferry slipway I was surprised to see an almost life size memorial of L.S.Lowry's matchstick man, and dog. It stands right at the beginning of the slipway down to the ferry boarding point and is very impressive glinting in the strong sunlight, the acrylic clear construction allows clear definition. Across the estuary Fleetwood on the opposite side is also clearly visible.

I couldn't resist the temptation to invite the matchstick man to a fixed gear ride.
As the cold began to bite, hanging around was not an option so it was back to the bikes and the return to our lunch venue.
The ride back was better than our outward venture, the wind was now in the main on our backs, immediately it felt so much warmer. Another obvious observation was the way Dave was now handling his fixed gear steed, so much more confident as could be seen by the way his pace had increased and almost but not quite being at one with his fixie. It was good to see.
Back at the car the bikes were stowed and we drove the quarter mile to the lunch venue where championship and award winners were beginning to gather.
The NLTTA had put all the silverware on an impressive display, among the historical silver were a number of new large cups, very nice.
The guest of honour, James Gullen, duly awarded the honours to worthy recipients, a fellow clarion member, Charlotte Gorman among them. Nice to see Bury clarion represented.
After an enjoyable lunch and awards ceremony it was back to Bolton in the car. Dave was very pleased with the fixed gear bike ride declaring it was the furthest fixed gear ride he had ever ridden, I think we may have a convert.   

Monday, 26 September 2016

Be Prepared (NLTTA 25 Mile time trial)
Last time trial of the season coming up, be prepared. In the run up I dutifully watched my diet, being careful not to exclude 'Warbies' giant crumpets, a month long carbohydrate loading should suffice.
The NLTTA graciously complied with members wishes by organising, as a closing event to the season, a twenty five mile time trial, thereby pleasing those who can't get enough and those still looking for a personal best. Me, I just enter to get my name on the start sheet upholding the honour of the club, after all as affiliate members of the NLTTA it is only right that Bolton clarion should participate.
Preparation, the name of the game.
Not really looking forward to an excruciating 25 miles of self flagellation, I prepared myself in the week before to thinking about training, but then only thinking. Watching the 'doctors' programmes on the beeb, there is a lot to be said for just relaxing and going through with an event in your mind. Does it work? My research indicates it does not, however I shall continue with my research.
At the very day before the event some kind person Twittered that due to road works the twenty five was now reduced to a ten mile event. I don't know who twittered but I send them a kiss, after all ten mile of self flagellation is preferable to twenty five of them. Commiserations to those looking to winning their club championship 25 and those with the final throw of the dice looking for a season end PB.
Ten or twenty five made no difference whatsoever to my start time, I would still have to be up in the dark at around five am, load up the car, check the tyres find the computer that suddenly has gone missing. As I'm still wearing the heart rate strap from the day before I won't forget that.
Go to bed, set the alarm for 5am, toss and turn wondering if I'll oversleep, not much chance of that, so I thought. Twice I looked at my watch, good god it's only 3.20. second time, bloody hell it's six o'clock, I late. Stupid radio controlled alarm clock, or is it just stupid me.
A rush down stairs, a dash back up again for race attire, vest, socks, jersey, shorts. My prepared porridge from the night before in the microwave would have to wait, instead I grabbed a couple of gels from the fridge, they have been in and out of the fridge that often I'm afraid to look at the sell by date.
The grove is deathly silent and dark as I disturb the peace loading up the car, also my movement is bringing on and off the security light with each visit to the car. I reluctantly leave my warm up turbo trainer, I may not even have time to set it up, anyway I'll probably be in a lather when I get there.
Satisfied all is ready to go it's in the car and head for the motorway, sighing with relief that at last I am underway.
Five miles up the motorway heading for Garstang and it dawns on me I have left home without my wallet, shit, no bus pass if the car breaks down, such is my confidence in my latest banger, no identification, what if I arrive at the hospital as an unknown DOA!
Suppressing my fears I relax, que sera sera, onward and upward.
I arrive at the event HQ thankful now for the early start, the bogs are not too busy, morning ablutions had been on hold long enough. The newly furnished toilet facilities at Kirkland hall are impressive though the bog compartment is quite tiny, the guy inside as I waited had quite a struggle using it as a wardrobe for changing.
Signed on, number pinned on, I along with fellow clarion lads, Andy Horner, Dave Owen, William Cocker are ready to make our way to the start.
As part of my preparation I am mindful of weather for the event so I peruse the local forecast day by day leading to the final off time. White clouds with a bit of sun peaking out were a constant each time I looked. The dark grey skies above were not what the doctor ordered.
I made my a couple of miles or so to the start, the bit of drizzle I felt as I threw my leg over the bike turned to a deluge by the time I was on station. It was with great relief that the start line was adjacent to a large shop canopy, already crowded with cyclists, timekeepers and volunteer pushers off.
One by one the eleven keen competitors were pushed off at the regular one minute intervals, all eleven heading into the heavy downpour. Fortune favours the brave, at my level of fitness I can only be described as brave, or if you want to be unkind, mad!
The ten miles were somewhat of an anticlimax, I rode at my usual pace, surprised only at being passed by four competitors instead of the usual cavalcade, surprised also not to be passed by Andy Horner, he had the excuse that he started eight minutes after me.
I shouted my number, as required, at the time keeper on the finish line, I shouted loud, very loud a good two seconds before I finished hoping the shock would cause an hovering thumb to jab as I shouted.
As I slowed pain shot through my right leg, at the same time William rode up beside me, 'I couldn't quite catch you' he said pleasing me no end. I just had to carry on riding in an easy gear to try and ease the troublesome right leg that had been no trouble at all during the ride. A couple of miles up and down the A6 pedalling easily seemed to do the trick so back at the car I could swing a leg over to dismount, unlike last year when I had to let the bike drop to the floor, unable to lift a leg.
So what was my reward for my pains, well for a start I was inside my veterans standard time, not by a lot, but inside nonetheless, point 00000008 mph off twenty miles per hour. At 79 next month I am happy at that.
I must comment on a guy I spotted inside the hall. He wasn't a cyclist as such, obviously hadn't been in the event, wearing a once bright green dayglow jacket that had not seen a washing machine in the last twenty years. With an affable smile on his face he helped himself to the snacks available to the competitors, a huge plateful of sandwiches and cakes and proceeded outside with them. A minute later he was back stuffing biscuits and cakes into the paper serviettes then exiting with his haul. My curiosity aroused I ventured out to see him departing on a ladies shopping bike with shopping bag swinging from the bars.

Monday, 1 August 2016

B group ride to Lets Eat at Dones Green, pumped up and pumped.

Anthony Bowles feeling happy.
                                                                       B group ride to Dones Green
I went down to the town hall for the 9 am meet, at nine I was on my own.No one at the town hall so I set off to Four lane ends, a picking up point for others on that side of town. Approaching the secondary meet I saw Peter Moore already there and just in front of me, Brian Timms. 
On the way up noticed my back tyre felt a little soft so I took the brief stop to put a bit more air in. Try as I might I could not get any air into the tyre, rather the pump was letting air out. Puncture I thought, spare tube inserted I began to pump away, again same result. Whilst pumping was taking place Peter Lane arrived, like me he had been suffering a very bad cold, three cheers for the B group and the easy Cheshire ride.
On learning that Dee Hall was meeting us at Howe Bridge down the hill, Peter Lanevolunteered to ride down to meet her as we continued to try and get some air in my back tyre. Peter Moore's mini pump came to the rescue, both mine and Brian Timm's large frame pumps failing to inflate. Pumped up we were off, finally.
Approaching Leigh Peter Lane was heading back to us, no sign of Dee, after a did she didn't she conflab we just had to resume the ride anyway, off we went.
A surprisingly buffeting wind made itself felt as we made our way to Hollins Green, our obligatory toilet stop but the sun was shining and the cool start to the day gave way to welcome warmth. Peter Moore bade us farewell here leaving just three of us to continue to Dones Green.
It was a pleasant ride through the lanes and all was going well until about eight miles from our destination Brian suffered a flat. We pulled up outside a farmhouse and Brian did a quick innertube change while Pete went to find a handy hedgerow. Meanwhile a friendly cat wandered between our legs looking for a stroke or two as Brian was busy with the repair. Repair done, wheel back in, newly pumped up tyre rapidly deflates, the cat is delighted, more attention guaranteed.
Brian does another quick tube change, fine but this time his large pump is troublesome, refuses to inflate. Peter Lane, like Peter Moore has a mini pump and after 299 strokes enough air is in the tyre, enough to get us to the cafe at least. A good bye to the friendly cat and we are off again pleasantly aware that if you have to have punctures then a nice sunny day is the time to have them.
We reach the lane with our cafe stop in view, a mere half mile away, another shout, 'Puncture'. Brian's misfortune continues as we hit a rough patch of road with several potholes, this time he suffers snakebite. Snakebite is when hitting a pothole the innertube is trapped against the wheel rim giving the two holes instead of one.
Brian is becoming an expert at removing wheels and putting them back, he could well do the job of service at the tour de France at this rate.
Double puncture double trouble, Brian's last replacement tube turns out to be already punctured, here's where club riding come in handy. Peter Lane hands Brian one of his spare tubes, and the mini pump, another 299 strokes and we are at the door of the cafe.
Usually on a day like today the place is crammed with cyclists and motorists, unusually there is no queue and we are served at once.
Of the three other cyclists there, one is an old friend, Cyril Wynne of Stretford Wheelers, a legend of time trialling at 84 and still riding them. Recently his name had been linked to a semi pro team but when I asked him about turning pro he informed me it was a mistake.
Well fed we start the return home opting for a slight deviation to our trip, we would go via Great Budworth, the village had hit the headlines recently accusing cyclists of bad behaviour, not us guv. We left the village as we had found it, still nice and picturesque.
Broomedge, Warburton Bridge then back into Hollins Green where we took a break, Pete went up the road a way for a natural break as me and Brian soaked up the sun awhile.
Dam Lane came and went and as we entered Holcroft lane the troublesome gusty wind vented itself on us, it's a long time since the four mile drag was such a struggle, notorious as it is.
Brian complained of tired legs by the time we reached Leigh, he wasn't on his own, my cold had left me with the same complaint but I didn't say, well you don't do you.
Once home I investigated my non pumping pump and discovered that it was in fact a pump that someone had swapped, I was flabbergasted. The housing for the washer seal that Peter Lane and myself couldn't budge had in fact had thread sealant inside, a fact I found as I removed it with a pair of grips. Brian's pump, the same as mine had an easily removable seal. I had my pump from new and never put thread seal near it. Another thing I found was the locking device that locks the pump onto the valve was almost adrift, the pin holding it in place was almost completely out, once back in place the pump worked faultlessly. Another indicator of some hamfisted work was there were thread sealant traces on the pump handle, unfortunately, no fingerprints. So there we have it, a day of pumped up hilarity on a super sunny bike ride with the B group. Brian is visiting Geoff Smith's bike shop tomorrow for new inner tubes!

Sunday, 17 July 2016

Bolton Clarion Members Blog and Forum: Prostate cancer and me.

Bolton Clarion Members Blog and Forum: Prostate cancer and me.: The Prostate and me. It all began with a tripartite statement by three leading politicians of the day, Blair, Kennedy and Howard urgin...

Saturday, 9 July 2016

Prostate cancer and me.

The Prostate and me.

It all began with a tripartite statement by three leading politicians of the day, Blair, Kennedy and Howard urging men to get their prostate checked. Leading medical experts declared prostate cancer was a a major killer of men of a certain age group, I was in that group.
An appointment with my GP led to a scan at my local infirmary, Bolton Royal. To my surprise my next door neighbour was also present though he was experiencing already prostate problems, an enlarged one I learned.
For myself I was simply going as advised by our political peers, nothing like being sure you are in good health.

It was this visit that enlightened me to the fact that I did not empty my bladder on relieving myself, a scan showing clearly this after the 'flow test'.
The urology doctor expressed his opinion that my flow rate was adequate but I would at some later date need treatment but did not comment on my enlarged bladder.
Shortly after this appointment the infirmary was closed, razed to the ground and everyone, (staff) moved to the newly named Royal Bolton Hospital, previously known as Townleys hospital. Incidentally, Townleys was the place of my birth, 1937.

My next door neighbour was treated successfully at this time with a tube fitted inside the prostate allowing urine to flow freely, pressure from the swelling had been restricting his flow rate.

Some twelve years later after further prostate cancer awareness was again publicised via tv I again obtained a urology appointment via my GP. To my surprise there was no record of my previous visit, the consultant also expressed surprise, 'are you sure it was me you saw'. Well after being subjected to the white latex glove finger examination the first time I was not likely to forget who conducted the operation.
Again my flow rate was deemed acceptable, the twelve year gap between the consultations was in doubt, not by me though, records could have been lost due to the transfer to the new hospital.

Now in my early seventies I again was being seen by the urology department at my local hospital due to my concern now about my urinary flow rate being inconsistent and not due to follow up procedures.
Another white latex glove inspection found an enlarged prostate that required investigation via biopsies and an appointment was arranged.
The day of the operation arrived and I duly presented myself to the urology department. First job was the paperwork induction where the first humorous side of my prostate tale begins. Name, address, birthday etc, then 'do you know what you are in for' questioned the efficient nurse, 'a rough time apparently' was my laconic reply. Another young lady collapsed over her desk at my response and my inquisitor also had to gather herself to continue. I was to be treated to a local anaesthetic and some discomfort during the taking of twelve biopsies followed by painkillers etc. 1
Did I say, 'a rough time apparently' the description was not near enough, days and weeks of agony followed, only in hindsight do I realise I must have had an infection. The operation was not in itself painful, the description of 'some discomfort' was accurate, the local anaesthetic working it's magic. I was told not to ride my bike for a few weeks, for a few weeks I was unable. I must point out here that I am a committed cyclist dedicated to all aspects, pleasure, a bit of competition time trials, but mostly for pleasure and keep fit.
Fully recovered I resumed my normal life, well normal for me that is.

Twelve months later I began to suspect something going amiss, not sure how I came to that conclusion but after a visit to my GP it transpired I had not had a post op consultation following the biopsies, ie no results.
A brief interview to address why no post op revealed there should have been one around four weeks after the said op. My remark that I could have been dead due to no follow up was met by a deadpan 'well you're not are you'.
This remark really hit a hot spot, I'm not really prone to losing it but this time I really did. After counting to ten to control myself, which I managed, I left the hospital with much on my mind. A remark from a close friend about the hospital signs, abuse of staff will not be tolerated, brought a bit of humour back to me. Perhaps abuse of patients sign would also be appropriate.
Enquiries led to the fact that as thirteen months had passed since the biopsy affair I was no longer considered a urology patient, at this the anger at the system rose again, this time I was determined to put this right. Outcome after an almighty row was I was back in the system and looking forward to another dose of biopsies, no doubt that would keep me quiet.
This time I was treated to first class assessment, a scan in the big scanner and before I received the result I was in for the second set of biopsies.
My appointment was brought forward on the day, I suspected the doctor was in a hurry having spotted his rucksack in the corner. Proof of his hurry lay in the fact that the local injection had not kicked in at the first attempt of snatching a bit of my prostate. Expecting the same mere 'discomfort' of the first visit it was like a bolt of lightning hitting the prostate, the sudden shock leading to a mighty howl of pain from me. A quick apology from the doctor and an extension of time before the next attempt to allow the local to begin it's magic. Thankfully when the operation resumed all was well, though my nervousness had increased a thousand fold.
Operation over, I reflected on the pre op comment by the doctor on my inquiry of the scan result, 'it would seem everything is ok'.

Despite the initial shock and awe of the op I left the hospital and unlocked my bike, yes I had travelled by bike, and cycled home painlessly. I had worked out that the anaesthetic would still be working for some time after the op.
Something magic must have occurred, post op nothing like my first visit experience happened, indeed it was like a miracle, no pain, no bleeding, almost as if I had never had biopsies removed, I was back on my bike as if I had never been to the hospital.
For a while, life was blissful. 2
Be very wary of feeling blissful, such feelings can be misleading, in my case very much so.
Within a week I was summoned back to the hospital, ah I thought, my complaints about my forgotten post op had been listened to.
I was greeted by a nurse initially, 'are you on your own?' was the opening, as I live alone it seemed a pointless question, later I knew why.
I was ushered into the consultant's room where the consultant was pouring over my records. I sat awaiting the outcome in silence, quietly confident of a positive result, after all had I not recovered well after the biopsy episode.
The consultant looked up and spoke, 'your biopsies reveal you have cancer of the prostate'. My mind went into overdrive, panic if you like but I sat there stunned into silence. 'are you on your own?' now I truly understood the question and why.
The interview continued with an explanation of what programme of treatment may be followed, I would be the main factor in this as the choice of treatment would be mine and mine alone.
Before any of the options for treatment were discussed it was pointed out to me that at my age, seventy one, it was only the fact that I was biologically younger due to my fitness from cycling that I was being given choice of treatment. Well at least that was a bonus, though at the time I wasn't thinking that way.
Apart from the declaration of 'Cancer', for a while everything was in a fog, clear thinking was out of the question, I needed room for thought.
Consultations with doctors as to my preference of treatment followed soon after, one did not go well when I was told, 'you have 45% growth on one side of your prostate, it is slow growing'. This remark fed my anger at the way things had gone, my missed post op, the delay in a return to treatment. My remark to the consultant that since my first biopsies had been found to be benign a mere thirteen months or so, I found that rate of growth 'galloping'. He was taken aback, perhaps surprised at being questioned by a mere patient. He quickly pointed out that the first biopsies may have completely missed the tumour, somehow I strongly doubted that suggestion. I have always been of the opinion that the first operation was so painful, so bloody, so long lasting due to what could only have been an infection that it was a contributory factor.
Options, where to next? Well I could opt for surgical removal of the prostate, a course of radiotherapy, freeze then remove the tumour, a new technique then, a nuclear implant or simply watch and wait.
The truly amazing thing here is that all the doctors seem to dismiss prostate cancer as serious, all simply stating if the cancer don't get you something else will, why then the publicity about the second biggest killer of men and the need for early diagnosis.
Moving on.
I decided after being given the menu, that I would opt for the radiotherapy treatment, in my case 37 consecutive treatments with the exception of Saturdays and Sundays, seven and a half weeks virtually. Nothing has seemed to stretch into the future so far since I was condemned to two years National Service at her Majesty's pleasure. The treatment would be at the famous Christie institute, a round trip of forty miles daily.
Not to worry, I qualified for the daily ambulance service, most of which is carried out brilliantly by a volunteer service. 3
Ambulance service, now there's something that would seem to be simple and straight forward, me being me soon brought problems here.
The day of my first treatment of radiotherapy dawned and soon feelings I had been suppressing with relaxation thoughts, pit of the stomach butterflies, intense worry about treatment success, all came to the fore in a torrent.
This brush with cancer was now my third encounter, the first being the traumatic news my son, at the tender age of seventeen, was diagnosed with Hodgkins disease, a lymphatic cancer. Fortunately he had been treated at the Christie successfully.
The second encounter with cancer was with my partner, Amy, a very difficult thirteen months that started with high hopes that slowly and painfully diminished, breast cancer can be such a cruel affliction. The loss of Amy is a sore experience that I still suffer from eleven years later.
So here I was, day one of the prescribed thirty seven treatments in front of me, being picked up by the ambulance service. I was not alone on the bus like pick up, four or five other patients from the district were soon on board. A chatty driver was soon engaging everyone, some who were all too eager to respond did so whilst I uttered the occasional yes and no. I was in my own world, in my own thoughts. Being positive is a paramount requirement for patients and I was determined, having seen both sides of the coin, to be as positive as possible in my 'close encounter of the third kind', pardon the pun.
After my first treatment by the highly professional staff, mainly nurses, in the designated radiotherapy machine room, I reflected on the wonderful machines and their ability to pinpoint precise areas from all angles.
First treatment over, a painless experience, I was then in the waiting room for transport back home. I now found out that the ambulance service only returns to Bolton when the last fellow patient to be treated is discharged. As I was an early treatment patient this meant that arriving back home could be late afternoon, late could also be very late. I listened to my fellow travellers experiences, some of which were very negative.
I must point out here that being a fit cyclist, a regular committed club cyclist, the idea of hanging around for long periods of inactivity did not go down well.
Living where I live, less than half a mile from my local rail station, I was soon contemplating alternative travel arrangements, this after getting a telling off after my first return home. I was unaware that we had to log in at the reception desk after treatment to see who would be requiring transport home again. I had not booked in, apparently causing concern as to my whereabouts, this led to a phone call being received in the evening explaining the procedure and the difficulties I had unwittingly caused. Later I would again unwittingly, it has to be said, be the cause of costing the NHS thousands of pounds.
During my periods of waiting for return transport I wandered around the Christie frequenting the charity shop, the cafe that served patients through donations, the volunteers who make themselves available are truly wonderful. Just outside the main entrance are bus stops, by looking at the times destinations etc the thought entered my head, why hang around after treatment, a two stop journey by bus and train and I can be home in no time. 
Combining my bus pass with the possibility of the two stop return home after treatment became impossible to resist and gave it a try but to avoid the problem I encountered after day one, ie not informing transport where I was, I duly reported to the desk. That's fine, ok, we'll book you out.
Wow, a frequent bus service down to Oxford road rail station was completed in minutes, a walk of a couple of hundred yards and I was in the station. A frequent rail service back to Bolton also meant I could be home in less than an hour after treatment. I was liberated not regimented.
All went well for a week or so then I had my first run in with a jobsworth.
The cheerful chap on the transport booking desk was missing, his place taken by a young lady who turned out to be the transport manageress. Peering at the computer screen on my advice that transport would not be required, she then dumbfounded me with, 'do you realise you are costing the NHS hundreds of pounds by not returning using the ambulance service'. It was the officious tenor of her voice that took me aback more than anything else. The next statement took away the surprise, 'if you continue to make your own way home we will withdraw the ambulance service altogether'. The surprise was replaced by a rising anger whilst counting slowly to ten helped to resist the temptation of a confrontational reply.
My feelings were very mixed as I considered the event, anger and frustration that I, at seventy two years old, was being addressed like a naughty school kid by someone who was little more than a naughty school kid did not go down well. To speak to a cancer patient who has a little more to worry about than how he gets home in such a manner was to my mind nothing short of disgraceful. As an employee of a charitable institute to be so uncharitable was anathema to me.
Being pig headed and stupid I continued to make my own way home after treatment, after all wasn't it a good thing that a bit of self reliance in a challenging situation was a positive outcome.
At my next weekly appointment with the consultant I expressed my concerns about losing the ambulance service, after all, my treatment time was geared to the ambulance arrival time. 'Don't worry, let me know if anything happens' was the confident reply.
The wonderful girls and ladies in the treatment rooms seemed to know what was going on in the background and indicated to me I may lose the ambulance service, this could have been due to a naughty letter found on the car park being attributed to me.
After this I was withdrawn from the transport scheme, and the marvellous young nurses altered my appointments to a time a little later, usually between 11 am and 12 am. This presented me with no problems regarding either going from home or returning, in fact it was an improvement as I was self reliant.
On informing the doctor, who must have been made aware of my run in with transport, at my next appointment simply waved his hand and would not be drawn, a very different attitude to my previous session with him.
Well one thing was for sure, I was no longer wasting NHS money on transport.

Thirty seven consecutive sessions of radiotherapy seems an awesome amount of treatment but with a positive outlook it becomes routine and not without bouts of humour. A comment from a friend, enquiring if the radiotherapy was tiring, was met with, 'well when you turn seventy an afternoon nap is not out of the ordinary'.
To help with the inevitable bouts of waiting, at the hospital and bus and train station I took to reading books, something I had long since given up, and began to enjoy the immense pleasure of master story tellers.
A few days into enjoying my new found independence my reverie was rudely interrupted, homeward bound I found myself without my bus pass as I entered the rail station. I must have dropped it on the bus I reasoned since I had gained access on boarding, jeeze, what do I do now. It was a Thursday afternoon and I needed to get home so I paid for a ticket to Bolton where I could obtain a form for a bus pass replacement at a cost of ten pounds. This I did but on getting home I tried to access help from wherever possible but as it turned out no help was available, I was faced with a considerable time of paying fares to and from the hospital. Being on income support added to my state pension this was obviously out of the question.
Thursday night was spent restlessly pondering the answer to my immediate problem, my request for a replacement bus pass was likely to take some time, I had filled the form, enclosed the appropriate cheque (£10.00) along with an urgent plea for urgency due to my continuing radiotherapy treatment that could not be broken.
Friday morning arrived with a very early rising, I had arrived at a decision, I would make the journey on my fixed gear shopping bike. That may seem a brave move to some but remember I am a committed cyclist with heavy involvement with my cycling club, nothing like a positive outlook and overcoming the odds.
Last minute preparation for my trip into the unknown had me perusing my tattered OS map of the area I was destined for, along with an equally battered A to Z of Manchester.
Having pinpointed my exact destination, I quickly realised that the roads leading to the Christie institute were the very roads that were so familiar to me when cycling with mates from Walkden and Little Hulton on our Sunday cycling days to the Peak District.
Street names, districts, as I looked at the map didn't look like a map, I saw pictures, memories, faces of long forgotten friends, bikes whizzing along on fixed gear heading for Buxton via Long Hill, Cat and Fiddle, Wildboarclough, most of these preceded by the urban lanes of Cheadle and Stockport. The prospective journey had a feeling liken to going home.
Setting forth on my first day I was very, very grateful that the period of my treatments coincided with the long summer break of school kids, a blessing in disguise since the well known problem of school car ferrying tailbacks were thankfully absent. Many cyclists hate cars but the fact is most drivers are aware, unfortunately it only takes the odd one or two to make it seem the world is full of bad drivers.
I had no problems on day one, bar one, as I set forth on my trusty Raleigh all steel, the weather was also kind, warm and sunny. The gentle fall in gradient from Bolton to Eccles together with a gentle tail wind soon had my legs flowing effortlessly on my low fixed gear. 
The one problem I mentioned came as I crossed the swing bridge leading into Trafford Park, the once world famous industrial estate that even the might of the Luftwaffe could not destroy, well enough of that, we are now in the midst of other battles. Big surprise approaching the bridge, pipped by a bus driver, non other than fellow club member Paul Hackin, what a coincidence that was.
It was a bit of a culture shock for me, I had heard of the now famous 'Trafford Centre' and I was now on the rebuilt roads leading to it, my old tattered OS map was devoid of info on this place. I was expecting to see familiar signposts indicating 'Stretford' but non were in evidence, when in doubt, follow your nose.
A left turn at the first island and down roads that began to have a less familiar look, still no Stretford signs. Eventually just as I was feeling lost I found myself looking up at a bronze of the late great Matt Busby, I had arrived at the wrong end of Stretford, the Stretford End. I immediately knew where I was and set the wheels whirring along in the now familiar direction.
Once back on the route to the Christie my mind returned again to days of yore, cycling friends, summer days in shirts and shorts, one up man ship sprints and the dreaded 'Bonk'.
Today, flannel shirts and cord shorts with double seat have, in the main, pardon the pun, taken a back seat in favour of that wonderful material 'Lycra'. This material has given rise to the emergence of the 'MAMIL' an acronym for 'middle aged men in lycra'. This wonderful material has replaced the old cycling stuff largely but wool is fighting back as lightweight merino wool is a superb moisture wicking fabric.
I am a dedicated man of fashion, despite the almost antique steel bike, I am donned in lycra shirt and shorts along with the comfort of my Aldi Merino vest, these wool vests also have great 'pong' free properties.
I arrived at the hospital, locked up my bike taking note of another fixed wheel bike at the racks, probably a commuter not a patient I mused. I then went to the booking in transport desk and exchanged pleasantries with the duty guy whom I had got to know quite well.
Those wonderful ladies at the treatment stations, having noted my plight on travel arrangements had arranged slightly later appointments, though they could not have expected me to arrive in cycling gear. A cyclist in full lycra is not a familiar sight in the hospital corridors.
On my way out after another dose of pain free radiotherapy I came across the volunteer driver whom had delivered me on my first day of treatment. We eyed each other, me recognising him at once, he, probably thrown by the lycra dress, shorts and bike, eventually ventured, 'aren't you from Bolton?'. I smiled and gave an emphatic yes. Another question came forth, 'are you riding that, (bike) home?', well since I rode here I may as well ride home. Inwardly I was chuckling, outwardly smiling rather smugly, I felt good. The driver expressed how he had never in all his time delivering patients back and forth seen any one cycling to the Christie for radiotherapy treatment. I swung a leg over the bike and began my first return journey home by back.
The lesson learned on my first encounter with the Trafford centre was firmly etched on my mind, I knew where I had gone wrong and the lesson learned. 
The ride back through Trafford Park now a breeze, I was back on the roads of my youth, almost as if it was yesterday. Apart from the new buildings, stores etc, the actual roads remain virtually the same, even the original cycle lanes still there though traffic was certainly heavier than those way off Sunday mornings when cars were virtually non existent.
On reaching the outskirts of Worsley I received a painful reminder of Worsley Brow, the start of several uphill sections on my way home. The early morning swoops downhill would now be put in reverse. Worsley Brow itself has changed though it still goes up, but, due to the advent of motorways a large island and slip roads, the hill now has a flat bit half way up allowing a little recovery. I say a little recovery but some cars gave the need of some occasional olympic sprints. Fellow cyclists will understand this.
Arriving home I felt both relieved and self satisfied, I had done it, who needs public transport. Being Friday and my next treatment being Monday I had a couple of days to prepare mentally for the following week. Club cycling carried on as usual with the Sunday run, fellow members respectful of my predicament made little comment.
The weekend also allowed reflection on my first trip to hospital by bike and perusal of how many more days I would be cycling there, that would be dependent on the recovery of my bus pass.
The next few days were pretty good, just one day of light rain, being summer the temperature was up so being wet and cold didn't happen. I really was lucky that school holidays kept morning traffic down, also my return home being mid afternoon meant less commuter cars to deal with.
A real bonus of my enforced bike journeys was an increase in my fitness level, my trusty heavy fixed wheel shopping bike proving to be better than any gym apparatus.
Booking in and out at the transport desk was becoming a joy as the friendly guy stationed there most days asked what kind of rejuvenation treatment was being dished out. It was nice to be able to engage in jovial banter, humour is in short supply when faced with the question, is my treatment going to work, a positive outlook is essential believe me.
Eventually my replacement bus pass arrived and to my delight also my cheque along with a note expressing sentiments. Now from a company that often receives complaints rather than accolades that was great, in fact I sent an email thanking them, their charitable act to a pensioner on income guaranteed support was in stark contrast to the uncharitable actions of an employee of a world famous charitable institute, The Christie. The company were so delighted with my letter of thanks they sought my permission to publish it in their news, something I was more than pleased to allow.
Eventually I resorted rail and bus travel again, more for convenience than need as things like shopping etc were also essential components of my life. I did however on really nice days revert to cycling the 40 mile round trip for pleasure, I even began to use my lightweight fixed wheel Fuji track bike for added enjoyment.
Thirty seven consecutive treatments came to an end along with thirty seven consecutive journeys by bus rail and bike.

In appreciation of the young ladies dedicated treatment and their professional manner I presented them with a card with a humorous cartoon and poem, along with a token gift of lots of, as I put it, conscience free chocolates, giant bags of Maltesers. The gift was accepted gleefully with the comment it was the first ever present of it's kind.
I left a card for the young lady at the door, but I'm afraid I will not make further comment there.
So ended my adventures to and from the Christie, an experience indeed, how did it leave me, well it was certainly pain free physically but mentally the questions remained. A question I was asked, did the treatment leave you tired, apparently some patients do feel a little weary, my reply was an honest, 'well at seventy one it's not unusual to have an afternoon nap'. It's not unusual after a long bike ride either.
No further treatment during the following five years was needed though I did have separate post treatment appointments with both Christie and Urology at my local Bolton hospital. As both were a case of a blood test with interest focused on PSA readings and how I was feeling, I always felt as if I was being shortchanged. The PSA readings over the five year period had a downward trajectory, something I was told was a positive.
It was during the midst of these appointments a worrying incident had me panicking for a while.
I had my usual bowel movement one morning, (skip this bit if you like) it was normal without any pain but when I rose and turned to flush the toilet the bowl was covered all over in thick red blood, jesus, I could not even begin think what might be wrong. I had not been ailing, not been in pain, well nothing us aged beings consider out of the ordinary like backache.
Having just recently changed my doctor I rang my new surgery, no help there, the urology dept at the hospital, no help there either. Let me be clear this incident was a definite heavy haemorrhage, I was in a panic and could not engage with anyone, the best outcome was an appointment in four days time, crickey I could be dead by then.
The following morning was a repeat performance only this time the blood was more of a watery pink, but again covering the toilet.
I had been specific when ringing for assistance, descriptive verbal symptoms were relayed via phone. For four days I was in a state of anxiety and eventually arrived at the new doctors surgery. I entered the office, the doctor was sat in laid back fashion and motioned me to sit. 'And what can we do for you', in a distinctly disinterested manner, I was dumbfounded, this after all was supposedly an urgent appointment, I expected at least he would have been aware of that. I reacted heatedly, 'you are supposed to know why I am here'. He leaned forward slowly and switched on his computer, he hadn't even bothered to consult my medical record. 'Ah yes, bleeding from the rectum' again with almost disdain, this was supposedly a consultation, 'and what can we do for you'. I was enraged, such arrogance, so dismissive. I stood, said nothing and left. Some time later I had a phone call from the local practice trust apologising for the delay in my appointment, I didn't bother to reply and put down the phone rather than regret anything I might say. One thing I did do was engage my former medical practice and asked to be put back on the books of a doctor I could trust.. 
On returning to my original practice, I sought an appointment and discussed my recent problem, I was referred back to the hospital for an inspection of the colon. It turned out I had suffered slight damage to my colon, Proctitis, something new to me, was the diagnosis. More of the unknown to worry about. It was during this inspection my tongue in cheek black humour came to the fore again. When asked if I wanted to watch the inspection on the monitor camera I declined with the comment, 'no thanks, I have found that people who have caught sight of their own backside have a miserable face for the rest of their life'. I was shown a polaroid snap of the area examined but having no concept of size of area against the actual colon it meant little to me.
I was given an extra appointment with the consultant doctor from the Christie, the one who had overseen my treatment from day one. I had read up via the web, Proctitis, apparently only 5% of patients are unfortunate enough to suffer this, I began to wonder if my luck was running out.
By now I was, and still am, mistrusting of a system that hands out so little information to the patient and the 'I am the doctor you are the patient' attitude that I am not allowed to listen to my own body. A friend of mine, residing in a different authority, receives the same report after hospital treatments as his own doctor and keeps them in a file for reference when attending surgery after the event. I on the other hand only receive confirmation of appointments to attend.
I am keen to hear the opinion of the doctor frm the Christie regarding the proctitis, so much so I took along my mini Pearl corder, I want a record of the meeting. Up to now no light as been shed on the cause of the massive haemorrhage.
On entering the consulting room I am surprised to see a young lady in attendance, the doctor explains her presence and the interview begins. As I express my concern about the contracting of proctitis, having had no indication that radiotherapy may have such side effects. On this issue myself and the doctor had a disagreement, he insisting that he always, on discussing treatment to prospective patients, mentioned the chance of side effects, proctitis being a slight possibility.
My introduction of the recorder seemed to slightly alarm the doctor, I explained that as only he and I were present at my first consultation, what was said could be open to a difference of opinion. With that in mind and the fact that there was now a third party present, the young student, I said that I could now take away exactly the outcome of the interview.
What was the outcome? Well again there was the opinion that proctitis was of minor consequence, the affected area was small and there was a chance of slight bleeding if a bowel movement was on the hard side, this could have a scraping effect on the colon wall thereby removing scabbing of the wound, but with normal bowel activity this should not present a problem. Well not for the doctor, but I have to wonder how such a small area of colon can produce a massive haemorrhage I had suffered. So no answers from this interview then

You may wonder why I seem to be rabbiting on about minor, minor being seemingly a doctors opinion, but I take you back to the original announcement, 'you have cancer' end of. No matter how old, or young the patient, such a pronouncement is certain to strike fear in one. That pit of the stomach feeling, the surge of adrenalin without physical movement, is unforgettable, as is the mind blowing head reeling panic.
Getting over the initial shock is slow but eventually I began to realise that to help myself a positive outlook has to be adopted, at my age, there's life in the old dog yet mantra becomes so important. What will be will be.
Cycling has always been important to me, many times it has proved to be a stress buster, and so I found myself burying myself again in the use of my bike. I suspect any form of physical activity is helpful in these circumstances, this is evident in the number of cancer victims and cancer survivors who throw themselves into charity events and good causes.
The bike is so helpful to me, a wonderful machine that can transport me easily down leafy sunlit country lanes in stress free solitude or in the company of friends riding at an easy pace chatting and socialising. The bike can also help relieve tension with a bit of competitive hard work by self inflicted pain on the road, on a turbo trainer or flat out racing. After my radiotherapy I continued to ride the track league at the Velodrome in Manchester during the winter months, retiring from track racing at seventy four, adrenalin and maximum heart rates go hand in hand in the thrill of the chase. Now at seventy eight, I still enjoy ten mile time trials, each week during summer I pit myself against my allotted age related standard time, 30 minutes and fifty eight seconds, if I can beat that I am more than happy.
I have written this article, nowadays called a 'Blog', to perhaps motivate fellow prostate sufferers get over the initial shock and awe of their diagnosis. Positive things come from positive minds though be aware negativity is the enemy but also the spur.
Humour is also a good companion, like physical exertion a good laugh is equally fulfilling, 'don't let the bastards grind you down', amen.


Monday, 21 March 2016

Hell of a route to Ribchester and two lost 'Domestiques'.

Hell of a route to Ribchester and two lost 'Domestiques'.
The B group ride today was to Ribchester, meeting this morning it was agreed we would ride via Belmont Salmesbury Bottoms and Mellor.
The ride over to was very cold, the downhills were into a freezing wind, the faster you went the colder it was. On the way we were mixed up with fast moving guys, and gals, competing in a duathlon. What a fit lot they were, as I puffed and panted up the hills they went by in a flash and even managed a greeting, a really big one came from our own Dave Owen as he moved really well past us.
As we reached the turn for Salmesbury Bottoms David Bisset pulled over and a discussion decided to carry on to the Bon Appetit , Brian Timms, complaining he did not have enough gears, had already decided to bail out and head to the cafe anyway. Eggs on toast and tea for me as a new route to Ribchester was discussed. Eventually Dave decided he needed to get the miles in looking for 100k to get one over on a friend as well as a tough hilly one to get fit and lose more weight. Mark Ainsworth was looking for an early home arrival so along with Brian decided against the ride to Ribchester. Stupidly I opted to go with Dave and John Martin especially as we had to ride back up toward Houghton Tower and back on route to Ribchester via Mellor. It was a real challenge for me as I had opted to ride the B group ride expecting a fairly relaxed easy ride, choosing to ride my heavyweight touring bike, heavy meaning 'heavy'. An appreciation of the other bikes on show meant I was the odd one out, lightweight bikes with tiny under saddle bags or none at all, aluminium, titanium and columbus tubing, I was up against it.
The climb out of Salmesbury Bottoms was steeper than ever and requiring the use of my 'granny ring', I'm sure my heavy breathing was heavier than ever as well. 
Once at the top of Mellor there was the thrill of the drop down the steep twisty lane to the main road to Whalley then another nice long freewheel down to the Ribble. 
We visited the cafe in Ribchester where Dave's diet busting continued with beans and egg on toast, this after his earlier black pudding barm, must be working as he is definitely losing weight. I, mindful of my own weight reduction plan, chose a toasted 'hot cross bun', right time of year for this.
Where to next? Dave still looking to cram the miles in opted for my suggestion of up the hill (long hill) out of Ribchester to Longridge then on to Preston. On the hill John and Dave were my trusty Domestiques and much needed, Dave did a stirling job and carried on with the pace making beyond Longridge and into Preston.
Entering Preston I skipped round a stopped bus, John and Dave didn't, a couple of sets of lights that I got through and they didn't meant I was ahead of them dropping down to the Ribble and out of Preston.
At the divergence of the A6 and the road to Belmont I awaited them convinced the A6 route agreed would be adhered to. As I waited round the island Dave and John swept along in the direction Belmont, obviously not seeing my raised arm.
I decided that as my route home had to be the A6 I carried on alone in the by now sunny afternoon with the added bonus of the still cold wind on my back. My seventy eight years old legs in deep appreciation of the wind direction allowing me to coast along in virtual comfort with the odd hill testing the legs. At home I reflect how nice it is to get home in one piece after a pretty testing ride dictated by someone who wasn't even present, Dave's competitive friend.
A good day out in good company, Spring has sprung!