I had a very active youth, and then spent 17 years in the army. Then I got into the business world, and took up running marathons. This April, when preparing for another marathon, I found I could hardly run at all. I gave myself a week’s break and the same thing happened. I knew all was not right. I had a busy week, so decided when that was over I’d call the doctor.
He was a new doctor. I had seen the previous doctor a year previously about a pain to the left of my chest but he didn't think there was anything wrong. This time, the new doctor asked for a blood test.
It was 6.30 Friday evening and the telephone went. It was my doctor. He said I was very anaemic. I was losing blood but from where? I told him that I coughed up blood a few weeks ago but it wasn't much so didn't think too much about it and then remembered that my stools were black. He said I should go to hospital as there is something seriously wrong. I persuaded him to leave it until Monday. Then I had a blood transfusion I felt fantastic afterwards but had to have iron tablets to assist the red cell count.
I was still working but my doctor organised an endoscopy for me at Kettering hospital. This took place within a few weeks. The nurse said that I had an ulcer in my stomach. I felt relieved as I thought it would be sorted out very quickly.
I was told to come back in 8 weeks to see if the ulcer had disappeared, and they gave me a set of tablets. So I went home with iron tablets, anti ulcer tablets, and salt tablets as my salt was low.
8 weeks passed and I had heard nothing. I called the doctors and told them I should be having another endoscopy. They had forgotten, and then arranged for the second one to be done. This time the camera was down in my stomach for what seemed ages. The ulcer was still there. The nurse told me I would have to up my dose but I told her that I was already on the maximum. She then decided that I would need to have an urgent CT scan. After the scan I was told that it might be weeks before the results came in.
We had a very good Help for Heroes evening raising £2000 in September, in preparation for my next run. However, later that month I had a letter from Leicester Royal Infirmary General surgeon. They wanted me to go for a meeting 3pm on a Friday. I feared the worst but I had still not been diagnosed with anything. I also received a letter from a consultant in Kettering hospital who wanted me for an appointment on the same Friday around 11am. I went alone to Kettering hospital and saw the consultant. He explained that I had a GIST which was growing in the wall of my stomach and drew pictures etc. He gave me the Macmillan card and asked if I wanted to see them in the next office. It didn't sink in at this point. He mentioned that I would have a to take some chemo tablets and that I would need surgery. I finished there and went straight to Leicester Royal Infirmary for my meeting with the general surgeon. I felt like crying like a baby on my way to my car but held back making light humour with myself saying I would need a hat to cover my bald head of I lose my hair. The meeting went on for an hour and a half and I met with 5 people who discussed the tumour and the surgeon explained what he would do.
My operation, which lasted 8 hours, took place on the 30th November 2009 on a Monday morning. After a day in recovery, I was in a ward wired up to the hilt and with over 30 staples pinned down the front of my stomach. I was not allowed to eat or drink until the Friday.
The surgeon visited me and said he was sorry but he couldn't remove the GIST via keyhole surgery and had to make the cut. It was the size of a golf ball, and a biopsy showed it was active with a good chance of it returning. He said he had removed 80% of my stomach. I left hospital on the Sunday and spent time at home.
I took Glivec tablets for 12 months. I still had to take iron tablets and salt tablets, and initially tramadol to ease the pain.
The first year I had blood tests every month and appointments with my consultant, moving to 3 monthly and now 6 monthly, complete with CT scans. I returned to work on the 30th March, having had issues with my then employer about being off work, and I also started my training again, as the marathon was in late 2010. I did the run and have since done another for Help for Heroes in October 2012.
So far things have been fine with no issues etc and results of CT scans have been clear.
I am not taking any medicine and things are going very well.
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