Screw the tumour

Six weeks after discovering that I had an unwelcome intruder in the back of my head and three weeks after its’ removal I am feeling fine. However, the results on the nature of the tumour have not come back from the pathology lab, so we are still waiting for decisions on the treatment strategy. I expect that it will involve a combination of radiation- and chemotherapy. Not knowing is the worst bit.

To look my best for the next weeks I paid a visit to the barbers; I have been a loyal patron of the same establishment since I moved to Sweden over 38 years ago. Being so well taken care of was really good. We also had a bit of a laugh. The chosen theme was “Screw the tumour”. Enjoy the results!

Styling and photo by Igor Gällström, Domfrisörerna.

In the end I had to be sensible.

Total home makeover

We moved into our current home almost 20 years ago. Before signing the purchase agreement, we had the house checked over by a building engineer to make sure that we were getting value for money. The recommendations included improving the drainage around the house, which was considered to be high priority, and re-tiling the roof, which was considered urgent. While we did eventually get round to replacing the drainage and insulation around the cellar, we have happily ignored the recommendations concerning the roof – despite being described as urgent. That was until this Summer.

We felt that the roofing needed to be re-done including replacing the felt and battens and where necessary the underlying structure. Our insurance company had encouraged us to get the roof done by pointing out that they would not cover the cost of any damage caused by leakage. Having made the big decision about the roof, it was a simple step to deciding that the gables also needed replacing, allowing us to change the colour from dark brownish grey to something a bit more pleasant on the eye. From there the next decision was to replace the windows, which were not the most energy efficient and certainly in need of maintenance. In general, we have tried to clean the windows once a year regardless of whether or not it was needed.

Big decisions were made and we were on a roll so we, just for fun, decided to rearrange the porch with a new conservatory and as icing on the cake a built in jacuzzi. There were a few moments of concern during the process of acquiring planning permission, but I will spare you this bit as it would probably entail a ten-page rant about how the authorities meddle in the small details of everyday life for ordinary people.

The roof was first on the list. Tiles, battens and felt were removed to reveal the underlying structure in perfect condition, contrary to what we were told 20 years ago. The new roof was soon in place and looks great. Next in line were the gables. Again, all of the underlying structure was sound. This has been fully appreciated by a number of wasp colonies. If we could collect rent from the occupants, we would be quite wealthy. The new materials are now in place and look great.

At the moment, work is in progress to replace the porches, both at the front and rear of the house. Both have been demolished. Our cats, Caesar, and Maximus were not happy about this as the weather has not been so good and their shelter is gone. Also, it means that they can no longer easily reach the window to inform us when it is time to come in. The preparatory work for the new porches (I almost wrote Porsches, which would be something completely different) requires a good deal of excavating, turning the garden into a muddy quagmire, which is again not well appreciated by our cats.

The demolition stage is now completed and has been replaced by the sound of hammering as the first beams are put in place. Hopefully all of the work will be completed well before Christmas so that we can enjoy snowy evenings in the jacuzzi and drinks in the conservatory. (I used to say that the only good tory was a lavatory, but now I should extend this to a conservatory).

Watch this space for updates.

Up through the floor

Over the past couple of weeks, I have had time to think back and reflect over events from years gone by. Most of the time they are events that leave me with a smile on my face as my fond memories far outweigh the bad ones. While I share some of these memories, I would like to emphasise that I am in no way checking out, I am determined to get my three score years and ten and a good bit more! The result being that you will have to be prepared for many recollections of happenings from the past. The memory does, however, work in a not completely reliable manner so some of the memories may be a little bit muddled, some may be a combination of several events and some may be completely fabricated. I leave it to you to judge the value of each and claim artistic license as my defence.

Some years ago, not too long after my initial move to Sweden, I took a short break in the UK to visit family and friends. Being a poor (under-financed rather than sub-standard or the subject of pity) post-graduate student, I travelled by train purchasing an Inter-rail card for a fairly small amount of money. I had taken the 13:08 train from Stockholm to the Hook of Holland and from there the ferry to Harwich for further travel in England.

I had gained experience from previous trips that after 24 hours on the train a shower was definitely in order. I had also learned that the crew were generally all involved in preparing for cast off prior to departure, so I snook down into the crew quarters for a quick shower and change of clothes before leaving the dock.

On this particular occasion the weather forecast was for strong winds reaching gale force. I therefore ensured that I got to the restaurant as quickly as possible. On arriving and taking my seat in an almost empty restaurant the waiter immediately informed me that there would be no soup served during the voyage. I ordered a pint of bitter and a simple pie and two veg meal. The beer arrived in two half filled pint glasses and the journey began. The boat lurched from side to side while I with good appetite ate my dinner. When I was done I asked for the bill, but was told that it was on the house as they were impressed that I ate at all considering the weather.

On reaching Harwich I proceeded to Reading vis London. I must admit that I was a bit sea-sick once back on terra firma. In Reading I was met at the station by my old college friends, Debbie and Tim, in their Triumph Spitfire – a lovely car, which they let me drive a little bit the next day. Debbie and Tim have owned a number of properties over the years. One thing that they have all had in common is that they, in one way or another, quickly resemble a building site. The house that they lived in at this particular time was their prototype. When we arrived at the house, I felt that the grime of travel was still present so I retired to the shower. Just as I was about to step into the shower a hand appeared through a hole in the bathroom floor presenting me with a very welcome beer. That’s what I call service! In return, I could use some of the newly redundant piping in a novel and entertaining manner.

Photo by Tim (or Debbie)

No longer in stitches

I was at the hospital, earlier today, to have the stitches/staples removed from my head. I was more afraid of this procedure than of the actual operation. I think that is due to being able to relate more to the smaller scale of intrusion that the removal of stitches entails.

The nurse was very gentle and the whole procedure took just a few minutes. The staples have been replaced by a couple of band-aids. They should be painful when the time comes for their removal. Due to the risk of causing skin irritation or infection, I am prohibited from washing my hair until Friday. Not a good situation for those around me.

Back to normal

It has been a real pleasure to enjoy the most simple of things, like being at home over the weekend.

Yesterday, the whole family was together so we got to relax and play together. I really recommend ticket to ride as a fun yet challenging game. Yesterday we played the North America version, which is a bit simpler in terms of rules, but requires a more strategic approach. We also have the Europe version, which is fun to play. One rule is that the person who has visited most of the destinations on the map gets to start. This means that I always get to go first. This, according to me, is a disadvantage as I have never won a game.

I also got to spend some time playing with Felix who seems to appreciate his Taid’s sense of humour. (Taid = Granddad in Welsh)

Home on leave

After a week on the neurosurgery ward, I have been allowed home over the weekend. The staff at the hospital have been fantastic and really looked after me far better than I deserve, but it is so much better to come home and be with my family.

When I went in on Sunday evening the weather was still slightly warm as if Summer was making a last effort to stay a bit longer. When I came into the fresh air this afternoon, there was a nip in the air confirming that it is definitely Autumn. The mountain ash in our garden is making the most of the weather showing majestic colours.

I discussed a number of do’s and don’ts with the hospital staff: I am not allowed to lift any heavy objects; I interpret this as meaning no vacuum cleaning etc. Unfortunately playing the euphonium is included among the don’ts. The recorder should be ok. Running is out, but walks and shorter bike rides are allowed. I think that the hospital staff have a slightly different definition of “shorter” when considering bike rides, so I will take it a bit easy for a while.

Hospital food is far better than reputation would suggest, but after five days it is a joy to get into our own kitchen. Today’s dinner was beef with roasted veggies, simple cooking but so good. I even found an improvement on apple juice to drink.

The weekend will be dedicated to taking it easy and just being with family. We will probably take in some fresh air on a walk or two.

I have to be back in the hospital on Tuesday to remove the stitches (staples) from my head. Until then, I am not allowed to remove the bandage or wash my hair. I imagine that it will be pretty gross by Tuesday.

You’ll never walk alone

But Oh, didn’t he ramble (Jelly Roll Morton)

We have started a small collection towards research at Hjärnfonden, the Swedish charity for brain research, hoping to contribute 10 000 kr to their cause. This may only be a small sum of money in comparison with the huge needs in developing effective treatment strategies for the different types of tumours that can affect the brain, we believe that the symbolic value of this support is significant. Bitte thought long and hard to find a theme for our collection and landed upon “You’ll never walk alone”, as she felt that this phrase has great significance for me and captures the essence of my life philosophy. I hope that I can do some justice to this and give a little background in this article.

Growing up, as I did, on Merseyside one has to relate to the two major forces in football which dominate local sports and much of the conversations, especially after a weekend or towards the end of a long season. In general, there seems to be a divide between the catholic population, who tend to support Everton, and the protestant population, who side with Liverpool. In my case, I sided very early on with Liverpool and have been an avid fan throughout my life, although I do have a soft spot for Wrexham FC as an acknowledgement of my Welsh background. Unfortunately, Wrexham have spent a number of years way down the league system.

Liverpool have been associated with the song “You’ll never walk alone” since the mid-1960s, when it was a hit by Gerry and the Pacemakers. The supporters would sing the song to rally their team, as heard on the Pink Floyd song Fearless, from the album Meddle.

The song is, in fact, taken from the 1945 musical, Carousel, by Rogers and Hammerstein, based on the play “Liliom” by Ferenc Molnar.

When you walk through a storm

Hold your head up high

And don’t be afraid of the dark

At the end of the storm

There’s a golden sky

And the sweet silver song of a lark

Walk on through the wind

Walk on through the rain

Though your dreams be tossed and blown

Walk on, walk on

With hope in your heart

And you’ll never walk alone You’ll never walk alone.

But context can change so much.

In 1989, Liverpool were to play a semi-final cup match against Nottingham Forest at Hillsborough Football ground in Sheffield. Due to a number of traffic incidents and congestion caused by poor planning an the part of the local authorities, supporters of both clubs were arriving late to the ground. In the confusion that followed a number of poor decisions were made which resulted in the stands becoming overfilled and caused the deaths of 96 supporters of Liverpool FC. A tragedy which could have been avoided if competent people had been in charge.

After the event the authorities covered for each other through lies and deceit, and deflected the blame onto the football supporters. It took over 25 years for the truth to finally come out. Throughout this time the people of Liverpool stuck together and supported their cause against a system that had so terribly let them down. Throughout the campaign to bring out the truth, the word “You’ll never walk alone” kept people together.

Four weeks ago, my world was turned upside down by what turned out to be a malignant brain tumour. Now after surgery, the doctors are confident that the tumour has been removed in its’ entirety and that the likelihood of me making a full recovery are good. Throughout this time, I have felt the support from those around me and this has helped me remain confident and that I will not be alone on the journey forwards.


Where did Tvanellus come from?

The short version

Way back in time, shortly after Bitte and I met, we visited Bitte’s mother, Kajsa, for the first time together. This was at Kajsas garden allottment. So properly attired and topped with a Panama hat we went off to the allottment in Husbyborg. When we arrived we found that Bittes sister, Annika, and boyfriend, Lars, were already there. Lars was wearing his legendary minimalistic swimming trunks from Yves saint Laurent – I actually have no recollection of these but go along with the story as it has become folklore.

Bitte introduced me as Chris to which Kajsa demanded to know what I was called more than Chris. To this Lars quickly replied Topher. I thereby acquired the name Topher wich naturally became adjusted and changed as required to Toph, Toff (a Swedish variation) The Toph etc.

Moving on a few decades takes us to the advent of the internet and all things digital. Being a bit slow off the mark all of the suitable names, welch., topher. etc were already taken. Looking for a suitable name for an instagram account the idea of using Toph came to the fore. However, all variations on Toph were, as mentioned, already in use. Then came the stroke of genius: There is a bird which for me symbolises the arrival of Spring at its first sighting. This bird is the Northern Lapwing, or Tofsvipa, as it is known in Swedish. So we get the Toph bit into the name and take the Linnaean Latinisation to get to Vanellus, as the latin for northern lapwing is Vanellus vanellus.

Simply add a T, for Toph, and there you have the full explantion of how we arrived at tvanellus.


Så kom Lindeman Iklädd hög hatt och på huvudet en turban

Thanks to Bitte for keeping you updated and to all of you for your warmth and support.

I have now gone through this part of my ordeal. The tumour was successfully isolated and removed during surgery which lasted for about two hours. We now wait patiently for the planned follow-up.

In the meantime, I arrived at the post-op department high on morphine and was apparently quite entertaining.

Sleeping with all the wires attached to me while at the same time worrying about stitches and a catheter was not easy especially as the alarm kept going off due to my low pulse.

I am now decoupled, decatheterised and determined to come through this in the best possible way.

I have a room with a view in the neurosugery ward.

It has come to my attention that I should explain the name tvanellus, and why You’ll never walk alone is so important. These ar subjects for posts later this week.