15th December 2023 (day 1648 since my diagnosis): 

Find myself in an ambulance on the way to Worcestershire Royal Hospital. 45 minutes earlier I was undergoing an ECG at the medical centre as part of the investigation into my low blood pressure. I went to stand up from the couch, almost collapsed, so the health care assistant called my GP who decided the only safe place for me was hospital. Landed in the Ambulatory Care section of A&E. Only a 15-minute wait in the ambulance, so things looked good. However, the horror stories started soon after. One patient claimed to have been waiting 48 hours for a bed. A doctor came and saw me after about two hours, then another, a blood sample was taken and a canula fitted in the back of my left hand.

16th December 2023 (day 1649):

Awakened from a poor sleep at 00:30 hours. Chest x-ray has been requested. That went well, but then the plot thickened. Another doctor came and listened to my lungs, then informs me that the earlier examination had discovered a crackling noise. The crackling noise and shadow on one of my lungs, along with infection markers in my blood, had an unwanted advantage. I was found a bed very quickly in the Oncology Ward, Laurel 2, as I was half-way through a chemo cycle. The infection needed to be treated as a matter of urgency. Being sent to hospital to investigate my low blood pressure became a secondary task.

18th December 2023 (day 1651):

Spent the weekend connected to a series of antibiotic drips to overcome my chest infection. Anyone who has spent time in hospital over a weekend may remember that, apart from routine tasks, not a lot happens, as many of the diagnostic clinics are closed. This led to a mad scramble on Monday morning as I was wheeled along for an Echocardiogram, with wheelchairs and beds vying for space in the corridors. The scan was okay, indicating that my heart was not the cause of my low blood pressure.

 

19th December 2023 (day 1652):

One of life’s greatest puzzles was resolved today – did Mark have a brain? I was reading a book when a porter arrived with a wheelchair to take me for a brain scan. Later I told my brothers and friends about the scan which met with a selection of comments. Some printable, including references to looking in other places apart from my head and did they find my brain?

Had never spent more than two nights in hospital prior to this episode, but this was different. Since my diagnosis I have never considered myself to be sick. Yes, I have a life-limiting illness, but I could still get out of bed and walk around. But here other patients were really sick. Some were suffering life-changing conditions, cancer having invaded their spine or joints. One was now going to spend the remainder of his life in a wheelchair. But the most distressing thing was witnessing patients in pain. I have always been assured that, when the time came, I would not be in pain or discomfort as the end approached.

20th December 2023 (day 1653):

A day I would never want to repeat. During the junior doctors’ strike my own consultant, Lisa Capaldi, was helping on the ward during the morning doctors’ rounds. Once finished, I managed to have a chat with Lisa. It was a difficult conversation to start. I wanted Lisa to tell me what to do. I had experienced a lot of side effects with the Cabazitaxel chemotherapy, and the prospect of further cycles was daunting. I was going into the “next” cycle still suffering the side effects from the earlier cycles. With a lot of support from Lisa, I eventually made the decision myself to withdraw from chemotherapy. Sitting on the end of my bed, we joked about things and discussed the possibility of clinical trials. I have no shame in admitting I shed tears when I made my decision, effectively to reduce my life expectancy. I mentioned to Lisa that I was looking for a title for my next Supporter article. Lisa came up with, “Buy One – Get One Free.” Thank you for the title and your support, Lisa.

22nd December 2023 (day 1655):

My brother, Chris, has just driven down from Blackpool to visit me. I was equally excited to see him and the Americano and cake he brought with him. It was by this time obvious that I would not be travelling north to spend Christmas with him and my niece’s family. What I was really going to miss was the pantomime my niece had booked tickets for on Boxing Day.

 

23rd December 2023 (day 1656):

Chris had spent the night locally and managed to “rescue“ my car from outside the GP practice in Evesham and park it outside my garage. Luckily, there were no parking stickers on the windscreen.

The stay was one that I wished I had not experienced. Struggling to find peace, with one patient regularly pressing the call button requesting pain relief or hallucinating and using abusive language towards the ward staff. Another patient seemed to have missed out on life’s social niceties, using his phone on hands-free late at night once the lights had been turned off, going through his contacts list to tell everyone that he was in hospital. With such a booming voice I was convinced he did not actually need the phone.

25th December 2023 (day 1658):

I had never expected to spend what might be my last Christmas in hospital, but the chest infection was being rather troublesome. Just as my temperature and infection markers settled, there would be a temperature spike and we started again with more blood tests and antibiotics. Christmas dinner was adequate. There was even a small gift from the hospital to the patients, a rather nice touch. However, things were looking better later in the day, and, during doctors’ rounds, I was informed that, providing there were no more spikes, I would be discharged on Boxing Day.

26th December 2023 (day 1659):

The escape committee had met and patients assigned to digging the various escape tunnels. It was amazing how often we talked about escaping from hospital. The simple fact was that we were there voluntarily, but the common factor was we all looked forward to the day of discharge. I got home at about 16:00 hrs and switched on the television. It being Boxing Day, the film had to be “The Great Escape.” I had a chuckle!

11th January 2024 (day 1675):

Pottering about at home when the phone rang. A nicely-spoken lady introduced herself, saying she was calling from the Royal Marsden Hospital and offering me a appointment on Wednesday 17th January with one of Professor de Bono’s team to discuss my possible involvement in clinical trials. I was caught out initially as I was not aware that a referral had been submitted. I did, however, accept the offer.

 

17th January 2024 (day 1681):

Travelled to Sutton (south of London) on my own by train (about 4 hours depending on connections). First the blood test, then the consultation followed by an unplanned ultra-sound scan to locate a tumour site for a later biopsy. All finished, I headed home, arriving at just before 20:45.

23rd January 2024 (day 1687):

ravelled down to London and met Phil, my elder brother who lives in Devon. We travelled up to the hospital together the following day. Checked in at the clinical trials department early in the morning. Knew this was going to be a long day. First the blood tests, then paperwork which would have made a civil servant shudder. Then more blood tests and test from the more unsavoury regions. Then a CT scan, then an ultrasound guided biopsy. A break, then a full-body MRI. All packed into one day. Now the wait for the results.