As we approach Snowdon Rocks, it seemed fitting to include an updated story from LHS Volunteer & Alarm fan, Dave Spragg. As most of you know from previous posts, I met Dave through The Alarm community many years ago. When Mike’s white blood count took a turn for the worse a few years ago, I invited Dave to become Mike’s shadow at the Gathering and to keep a watchful eye on MP. Little did I realise that 9 months ago, it was our turn to become Dave’s shadow.
After climbing Ben Nevis last year, (Dave, uncharacteristically, had to turn back at the halfway point), Dave was diagnosed with bowel and liver cancer. It was a massive shock for all of us who know and love Dave. Since then, “Spraggy” has been dealing with his cancer diagnosis with such humility and bravery. Please read his updated blog which offers a clear and concise description of living with cancer and “never giving up without a fight.”
Dave will be registering all the Snowdon Trekkers on Sat and taking the train to the top to join us at the summit. I’m sure he won’t mind me suggesting that you all give him an extra dollop of Love Hope and Strength when you see him.
Thanks for reading and for all the support that flows in every day from the Alarm and LHS community.
Jules Jones Peters
My Story – Dave Spragg
This update covers the time period from late Dec 13 right up until the 16th June 2014 and it’s a collection of thoughts I thought worthy of writing down through my continuing fight with cancer.
31 Dec 2013
So here I am sat in the chemo lounge receiving my fourth cycle of treatment. It’s been a funny few weeks since my last treatment, obviously Christmas has come and gone and it was great to have all the family around and the joy on the kids faces can’t be topped. Underlying from that I have felt a strange sense of loneliness which is bizarre really. When your going through the diagnosis process you crave for normality and when you start your treatment, normality to a certain extent returns with routine and everything settles down. But because of that normality, it becomes normality for all of those around you and almost old news as it were and because initially there is so much fuss about ones own situation, the settling down is great and exactly what I wanted but strangely it brings on this feeling of loneliness and isolation. Weird!!!
I’ve also found that my intolerance to even the smallest of issues has increased dramatically and I constantly check myself as not to impinge on those about me. For those of you know me I can hear you all saying that I’m a grumpy old git anyway so no change really. I suppose really that the only consolation is that this is quite a normal result of continued treatment for cancer.
I suppose the revelation of the treatment is how the slightest little thing can turn me into an emotional car crash. Fortunately this rarely happens overall but the one thing that sticks in my mind is the Tesco’s Christmas advert, watching a family grow through three generations, through the eyes of the father with the Rod Stewart track playing in the background. I can’t even watch it now but I do know why, as clearly one of my major fears is not seeing my own children grow up and having families of there own, which is why I can’t and won’t ever give up fighting.
And finally as I write this I have just been told by the nurse that my CEA count is up, which I learn is a blood marker for Bowel Cancer which means that although the Chemo seems to be ok with the liver it may not be delivering the goods to the Bowel Cancer which is clearly worrying. So I will have an urgent CT scan and then see my Oncologist in a fortnight to see what’s what. So to say that I’m concerned is an understatement because suddenly the tranquility of normality has been shattered.
But this I cannot let destroy my positivity, there are many reason as to why this could be happening and to worry at this point without all the facts would only be counter productive.
So although the update may seem a little down at this point it is merely a cross section of thoughts and feelings that I have experienced since my last treatment. But rest assured overall I remain strong, positive and full of fight and that’s what I am going to do because there is no way my soul could let this filthy disease get me without a fight and I fully intend not to let it. There is always Love, Hope and Strength and over the last few months I have learnt that these three are very powerful tools and can indeed help you achieve great things, and that’s my goal.!!!!!!!!!!
So let’s move on a couple of weeks to mid January 2014, I am within half an hour of leaving for my CT scan and the hospital ring me to say it’s broken so they book me in for the following Thursday and then I find out my oncologist is away for 10 days, they are certainly having to wait for these results. So with some relief I finally get to see my oncologists on Monday 27 January. To be fair the results are better than I expected because of the raised blood marker. The tumours have not reduced in size but the CEA count has come down a little bit, but more importantly the cancer hasn’t spread and the tumours haven’t got bigger so I leave the appt feeling that little bit more upbeat.
Three days later I find myself heading off to join the crew for the Gathering preparations, I have always loved this event but I had the feeling that this year would be extra special. I love the role of being Mikes shadow and this extends to the whole band, a role which I feel I have been privileged in carrying out. The band as a whole have provided a huge amount of strength and positivity to me and feel blessed to be in such fine company. I don’t normally mention names because there is always one you miss but big love must go to Steve Peters, Mark Warden and Will Peters who kept a watchful over me and provided the same level of abuse that I have come to love and expect at the Gathering, love you guys!!!
Throughout the weekend I was amazed at the outpouring of love and support from old friends and new ones. It’s all your fault Jules, you shouldn’t have said stop and send some LHS to Mikes shadow if you see him darting about, I can’t remember how many times I got stopped, So when you couldn’t find me Jules you now know why. I don’t think since being diagnosed that I have felt not unsafe but so safe. I can only say thank you to all those fantastic people who took the time to offer me support it so appreciated and I take strength from it all. Big hugs must go to two very special people (you know who you are) who have been with me right from the start and have offered nothing but unstinting support and care. Your both legends. Finally I have a confession to Jules who watched over me like a caring mother hen, yes I have to admit that I probably did over do it but you know where I got that attitude from.
The Gathering was a special event this year with amazing music and I didn’t think it couldn’t get better until I got a call from a certain Mr Peters asking me to make sure I could play ‘without a fight’, that will teach me to volunteer that as my choice of what I wanted to hear played. I couldn’t find the chords anywhere on the internet and it wasn’t until Friday night after the acoustic gig that Mike wrote them down for me. I only got about 20 mins to practice the song on Saturday but my voice couldn’t find a pitch at all (benefit of chemo). I can tell you that leading up to the Saturday night there were a few involuntary bowel movements but with a quick honey and lemon, voice restored, I found myself stood on stage amongst my musical heroes and now friends. I’d be lying if it wasn’t emotional playing with the Alarm in front of a 1300 people all sending a wall of positive vibes but I’m not lying when I say I don’t seek attention but on that Saturday night I played with emotion that I haven’t felt before, not just for me but for all the people in the crowd who have got cancer, had cancer or been affected by cancer, powerful stuff I can tell you.
So all in all one hell of a weekend, for me defo the best yet and for me I’m kind of glad that the Gathering has come home to Llandudno. I love the place and it feels right to be back there, like James Stevenson said it feels like the spiritual home of the Gathering.
29 April 2014
Moving on a couple of months I am now receiving my 12th cycle, the last in the first round of treatment. So where do we stand, well the last few months have seen the chemo treatment hold the disease in check with no growth or spreading which is all good. In discussion with my oncologist it has been decided to put me onto, what is referred to as maintenance chemo, it is the same treatment as I’m getting now but will carry on until either my body can’t hack it anymore or more likely that the disease starts to grow again in which case they will try a new treatment. Meanwhile they will continue to scan me every 3mths to check progress.
I have also had one of my drugs removed from my chemo regime before it causes permanent damage to my nerve endings, however one of the side effects is numbness in the feet and fingers which at times is extremely disconcerting and uncomfortable. This really messes up my guitar playing ability, which some may say is a blessing.
The last few weeks I have felt a little unsettled and not really sure why until I realised whilst chatting with Pete and Dot (love em both) that the expectation of people my age on being diagnosed with cancer is that you either die of it or get rid of it, but that isn’t necessarily the case these days, clearly I have learnt that people can live with it rather than be cured of it for a considerable time but still have complete and fulfilled lives which I have. Once I got that straight in my head it made it all made perfect sense and for the time being that’s where I’m at, living with it until something comes along, and I believe it will, maybe not in my time, but it will.
I have to say I spent a huge amount of time on the Declaration Tour with Mike Peters and that proved to be a really enjoyable and cathartic experience. Thankyou to the huge amount of people I met along the way who offered there continued love and support you probably will never know how much it all really means to me. Everytime I receive someone’s best wishes I take a piece of that positivity and stick in my positive bank. So when people ask me how do I stay so positive, that is why, and remember, music is the medicine of the soul.
In some ways it seems incredible that 7 months has gone by since I was diagnosed, and what a bloody journey that has been I can tell you, but as I stand on the edge of the next chapter I feel fully armed with all the Love Hope Strength and positivity that I need to continue fighting this disease head on. Team Spragg, a formidable force indeed in the battle against cancer. A cautionary note is that, I have become hugely aware of the pressure placed upon those close to you, both friends and family, they too have there own battles and they also need support and relief and I may have been guilty of not realising that earlier, too absorbed in my own battle as it were. So strangely there is a need for the ‘cared for’ to become the ‘carer’ and rest assured I’m a fully aware and on top of the needs of others.
15 June 2014
Since my last entry I have suffered some fortnightly attacks of stomach cramps which are bloody painful and overall demoralising and exhaustive, fortunately we now have a pain management regime which seems to deal with the problem. I have also had a scan just to check all is well and I’m awaiting those results.
I have felt drained recently and worn out, hardly surprising after 15 straight rounds of chemo and all the cramps etc, so it was with some trepidation that I headed north for Ben Nevis rocks. This was going to possibly a tough weekend as this is where it really all started last year, and I wasn’t going to be able to climb the Ben either. But overall it was a fantastic weekend there were a couple of times when certain things bought all the rawness of last year back to the top and I’m not ashamed to say, a couple of times I was close to blubbing, but a special person was there to let me know I was never alone. Thank you and you know who you are. I think everyone enjoyed the weekend and I’m sure a bucket load of cash was raised for Love Hope Strength.
So I look fwd to Snowdon Rocks next weekend (hope to see you there) feeling fully charged and once again strong and positive having exorcised all my demons this weekend on the Ben.
Life is good and as I stand on the edge of the future I know that my cancer has been stopped dead for 9 mths now (long may it continue) and it’s all to play for, so let let the fight begin but I also know that without all of you out there I could not have got so far in such good shape.
Love Hope Strength and respect to you all.
‘Try to stop me I will carry on’