Saturday, 22 June 2013

The End?

It's been over three and a half weeks since I've last blogged, and Johanna is saying that people are asking how I am and what I've been up to. So I thought I'd better get you all up to date with my life so far.

As you know, after my second infusion at the Christie I was quite sick. It took a while for the meds to settle, but we eventually managed to find some anti-sickness tablets that actually worked. During that time, I didn't really get up to much, barely did any cycling or walking, and lost yet more weight. I'm down to 189lbs at the moment. That's low for me.

We managed to go to the Beechwood Ball last weekend, which was a great evening. I'm a little wary of eating out due to not being able to eat all of what's put in front of you, but the table we were on had a great group of people and I wasn't embarrassed by leaving bits of everything. The evening itself was great, but by 10pm my stomach was hurting and I'd had enough. I'm a bit of a lightweight when it comes to socialising at the moment. I'm sure that'll get better in the future.

Like I said though, I've not had the energy or inclination to get out on the bike much lately due to the chemo coming on really strong, and on top of that, towards the end of my last tablets I had an allergic reaction. This made my lips swell up and that then started to spread to my mouth. I phoned the Christie Hotline, and they said call an ambulance and get to a&e straight away. I didn't think it was that bad, but Joh came home from work and took me into hospital just to be on the safe side. We spent a few hours in the resuscitation department at Stepping Hill and was eventually released. I was told to stop taking the final few days of my tablets too, which was nice. My lips soon cleared up, but it left a question mark over whether I'd be able to continue my final infusion and tablets.

I was back at the Christie for my final infusion on Monday 17th June, and there was some discussion over whether or not to proceed with the final course. The registrar made the decision to give me the infusion, but then keep me in for observation over the next 24 hours. So that's what I did. I stayed in the Christie overnight on the monday, and as I'd had no reaction to the tablets, was allowed home on the Tuesday evening. Of course, sods law meant that not long after my lips swelled up! Back onto the hotline and I've now been told to stop taking the tablets all-together. I'm not to take any more chemo until my lips have settled, and even then, I may not have to finish the course if this keeps happening.

I can't describe how good it is to hear that I don't have to take anymore chemo. However, before I get too excited and think this is the end, I've got to bear in mind that Dr. Mansoor may well say continue with the treatment, at our next review. I really hope he doesn't because I seem to be having the same reaction everytime. Maybe they'll have to change the tablets or something? Or hopefully they'll say I've had enough and my body has done all it can to fight.

The annoying thing about the whole tablet situation is that I'm cancer free now, it's all gone, cut out along with my stomach, oesophagus and lymph nodes, but I was still taking chemo to mop up any last remains.

I just hope that it has all gone and I can now look forward to my proper recovery. I've a lot of work to do to get fit for work and back into life again.

Finally, in case you missed my twitter or facebook updates on Friday 21st June, I was invited by Richard Thomas to join him on a ride with Sir Chris Hoy. He'd won a competition via Evans Cycle Stores to ride with Sir Chris and was able to take a.n.other along as well. Big thanks once again for taking me Richard. I really did get dragged out of bed by Johanna to get ready on time. The day before I'd spent most of the day in bed I was so tired. The ride itself was only 12 miles long, but it near wiped me out! It was worth every pedal stroke though as I doubt I'll get to ride with Chris again. I even got him to sign my Wheelers top afterwards :)

See you all soon xxx

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Sick, sick, sick

Do you know that feeling you get when something makes you feel like gagging? Perhaps you're a little squeamish and something on the telly has made you gag, or you're out and about and you see something that makes you a little sick in your mouth. Well, that's how I feel all the time at the moment.
As the chemo drugs once again start to fill me up, my bodies reaction is to try to get rid by making me gag. The only problem is, there's no sick, just the motion of being sick. The slightest thing can set this off. Thinking about doing something like eating a piece of toast can make me gag, tablet taking makes me gag and so on. The relief from this all consuming sensation is in the drugs. Once administered they provide some normality from the gagging but then bring along sleepiness and lethargy with them. So perky and sick, or tired and not so sick. Top choices.
Such is the effect of chemotherapy. Far worse than any operation and so much harder to overcome. The pains from my operation are getting less everyday. I've got loads of sensation back in my shoulder and my stomach is feeling less swollen now.
This is a struggle, I'll be honest. I really wasn't looking forward to this final piece of the treatment, knowing how I felt the first time round makes it even worse. If I could stop now I would, but the doctor said that even though all the cancer has been cut out, this final dose of chemo is proven to be very beneficial.
So, onward and upward (or downward more like).

That's me for the next few weeks now, according to my calculations I should be finally off the chemo by the 9th July.

Later xx

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Day 13 - The past week

Well, that was an interesting week. As you're no doubt aware, I had some trouble with sickness after starting  this last bout of chemo. All seems to have settled down though this last week and I've picked up considerably from last week. I just had a small bout of sickness this evening which was as much due to not taking all the meds as anything. I can take six tablets a day, by tea time, I'd only had 2. My bad. Lesson learnt.

With my improved health, relatively, it was time to get back on the bike. However, the weather had other ideas and meant a couple of sessions at home on the turbo trainer were a better place to start back than on the open road or trail. I didn't mind, as it was prudent to test my legs after the week before doing nothing at all. By Thursday, I was on one and out on the open road, probably overdoing it a bit by climbing all the way to the top of Mellor via Glossop Road and Gun/Shiloh Road. Gorgeous views up there:

Legs were tired after that ride, but it was so worth the struggle to get to the top. While I was up there, I managed to see the Lancaster Memorial Flight over Chapel en le Frith, and then watch it head for Derwent Dam. Awesome. Wouldn't of seen that in the flesh sat on the sofa (although I did watch it on BBC local news later)
I was out again on Friday, this time a nice flat route accompanied by Jon from the Polocini cafe. Steady pace but a bit further, 22.8 miles to be exact. After doing nothing for a while, that was quite a leap. Still, as always, nothing ventured and so on. 
Saturday and Joh and I had plans to cycle again in the afternoon, but the weather once again transpired against us. Joh doesn't like riding in the rain, then again, who does? So we used the time we had, children free, for other means. 

I must add at this point that it's been a while since we've spent some quality adult time with each other. I was actually getting a bit worried about my own ability to perform as there'd been no stirring in that department for a good few weeks. I've been worried that my libido was in some way broken. We'd discussed this at length but it always came down to me. No pressure, just when I was ready. Well, I was ready Saturday. Hallelujah. 

Joh was pleased. 

Not in any way a celebration of what we'd finally been up to that afternoon, but we decided to go out for a nice meal on the Saturday night. Oddfellows in Mellor is a fine restaurant  We'd been before and were very impressed, as we were this time. I toyed with the idea of going for a starter then a main, but was so glad I just had the main, an 8oz t-bone steak, duck fat chips and peppercorn sauce. Bloody delicious. Although not quite as nice as the steak we had in Belgium. 
It looked like this: 

and I looked like this as I finished eating the lot! 

Can you tell how much weight I've lost yet? I'm down to 205lbs now. More meals like that will keep me on an even keel though hopefully. 

So that was a week in the life of Chris the chemo taker. Only around 53 days of chemo tablets to go and 2 more infusions. No worries. 

More bike riding tomorrow, see you out there xx

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Day Seven - Not quite going to plan

I do apologise, as I said I'd try to keep this blog going on a daily basis and have so far failed miserably. In my defense though, since my infusion on Monday, it's been a shit week. I was hoping that this final bout of chemo would go like the first one, ie: first and second sessions quite easy, soaking in nicely with no major side effects, and the final session being the worse, with all the sickness and fatigue in the last 20 days. That's not what's happening. From the outset the fatigue is there already. My energy levels are really low. The feeling of sickness is quite pronounced. I'm off instant coffee again, food is a struggle and the urge to retch at the slightest thing out of the ordinary is ever present.
That all came to a head on Saturday when I spent most of the day in bed, hardly ate anything and just generally felt rough. Joh called the Christie hotline and asked if there was anything we could do to alleviate the sickness, and they recommended changing the anti-sickness tablets I was taking. So off Joh went to the doctors on saturday afternoon to pick up my new medication.
Now that seems to have done the trick for now. I've felt well enough today to eat 3 meals and a little bit of snacking in between, and even managed a half serving of pasta carbonara at the italian in romiley this evening.
It must seem odd to a waiter when this 6 foot 1 inch bloke orders a half portion of food off the menu.

My weight seems to be holding steady around the 208lb mark at the moment. My fitness has taken a real tumble though in the last week. Today was the first time I've been out for a walk all week. Time to do something about that I think. The sooner I start trying to get fit again, the easier it will be in the long run.

So, there you have it. Progress so far. I'm not promising any more daily updates, but I will update when I feel the need to let you know how it's going.

Take care xx

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Day Three - Surgeon appointment

So far this course of chemo is not going so well. I'm unable to take the tablets out of the blister packs at the moment without feeling sick and starting to gag. Joh kindly prepares my tablets for me in that case and it's just down to me to swallow them without bringing them back up.

Hopefully that'll settle down as my body and mind get used to taking them all over again.

In the meantime, I was at Stepping Hill today to see Dr Ducadt who performed my surgery. Just a checkup. All's well and he's happy with my recovery so far. That's good news.

After that, I popped over to see Stacey, who looks like she's about to pop. Between the pair of us, struggling with our stomach pains, we looked a right sight :) Take care Stacey, nearly there x

Home and to bed this afternoon. Joh did tea, kids tidied up.

Short and sweet x

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Day two - Here we go again!

6 weeks and 3 days post operation and I'm ready, according to the doctors, to receive my last round of chemotherapy treatment. Personally, I beg to differ, but what do I know.
I'm nowhere near 100% at the moment, I'm still taking regular pain medication as my back still hurts, but by far the worst pain without medication is from my stomach. If left without medication for any period of time, I get an acute stabbing pain just above my belly button, inside my stomach, ouch!

Eating wise though I'm doing quite well. Lots of people ask what can I or can't I eat. Well, I can eat anything you lot can eat with your posh stomachs and all. Not having one only means that I eat a lot less of it before getting full. I also don't get hungry. The stuff that was around my stomach telling my brain that it was empty has gone, obviously, so there's nothing to tell my brain to eat. However, I'm eating small snacks around every 2-3 hours or so, with the occasional bigger meal at tea time. That seems to be doing the trick for now. I am still learning my limits though. If I eat too much, I get a very bloated "stomach" which can be quite painful. Also, my journeys to the toilet have still not settled down yet. Sometimes it's like shitting through the eye of a needle, sometimes it's solid. Hopefully that'll settle down soon.

I've got 21 days of chemo tablets to take now. Then another 10 hour infusion, then the tablets again, then the infusion again followed by my final 21 days of tablets. By that time I'll be well worn out I think and I'm really not looking forward to it at all.
I reckon I'm going to struggle to keep this blog going on a daily basis, but I'll try my best.
In the meantime, thanks once again for all the words of encouragement on FaceBook and Twitter, it's nice to know you lot are thinking of me.

See you soon xx

Monday, 22 April 2013

Two weeks on, four weeks post op

It's been 4 weeks and 3 days since my operation now. In the last week, the infected scar on my back has nearly cleared up, and I'm down to a small dressing on one section of it. I'm still being visited by the district nurse, but now only every other day.
As you may have noticed on FB & Twitter, I've been back on the bike, albeit only on the turbo trainer kindly loaned to me by Richard, but at least my legs are spinning a little.
I've only done 2 sessions of 30 minutes so far, but it's a start. I'm beginning to get a little frustrated about not being able to go out on the bike for real, but I'm aware that if I push too hard I could end up doing myself some damage as my internal wounds heal. 
I'm still in some considerable pain, and am taking regular liquid morphine around every 4 hours a day. I'm sleeping so much better at night though, with the past weekend being the best nights sleep I've had for ages, almost sleeping all the way through the night. The only problem with that is that I miss my medication in the middle of the night and wake up with some rather acute pain. Swings and roundabouts I guess. 

I've been monitoring my weight for over a year, and especially so in the run up to the operation. When I was diagnosed with cancer back in October I was 208 pounds. I was advised to put on weight both to help me through the chemo and to offset the weight loss I'd have after the operation. I found it easy to put weight on during my chemo as I wasn't having any problems eating. As well as keeping the cycling going, I put weight on to the point that I weighed 238 pounds on the day before my operation. Plenty enough I thought. I could really feel the extra pounds too. I'd had to buy bigger pants, none of my t-shirts would fit properly and I felt sluggish and slow on the bike. 
I weighed myself yesterday and I'm back to 208 pounds! In only 4 weeks I've lost 30 pounds. That's some diet! :) 

I'm going to have to keep an eye on that. I can afford to lose a little more, but not too much bearing in mind I've still got another full course of chemo coming up on the 6th May.

Happy days xx

Monday, 15 April 2013

One week later - update

I've been home a week today now. Within a few days the swelling in my legs and ankles had gone down and I was beginning to feel normal again. I've had loads of rest, sleeping in chunks of at least 4 hours at a time, waking for some meds, then sleeping again.
The district nurse comes out everyday to check up on my scar, and dress the wound. That is clearing up nicely now as well, with the worse pain being everytime the dressing gets ripped off and takes a little bit more of my back hair with it! Ouch!

I've only been out for one walk last week, which was on Friday when we went down to Polocini for dinner. I felt ok walking down, but coming back was a bit of a struggle. I mean to improve on that this week, and starting today am going to make an effort to get out for a walk everyday. On top of that, Richard is kindly lending me his turbo trainer, where I'll be able to get my cycling legs working again. I've just got to be careful with my stomach, as the amount of cutting that's been done in there means without my meds, the pain is quite acute after a while.

I'm at the Christie this week as well, to see when I can start my next (last) course of Chemo. I'm really not looking forward to that, but it has to be done. As far as I'm aware, it will be the same course as I had in the first place, so 3 x 1 10 hour infusions and 21 days of chemo tablets, 66 days of chemo in total. If I had any spare energy getting over this operation, that should wipe it out completely for a while.

Plenty of time to take it slow, don't rush into anything, and get better right. If I try to rush things I'll possibly make it worse, so I'll take my time. It is frustrating, there's no denying that, but I'm cancer free now and that is the main thing.

Take care xx

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Home Baby Yeah (right, I'll stop that now)

So I last blogged on Friday 5th, by the Sunday, when Joh came to visit, I was at wits end. I lasted about 30 minutes into visiting time before the curtains came round the bed and I broke down in tears, sobbing like a fucking baby. I'd simply had enough of being in hospital, but on top of that putting a brave face on the constant pain I was in and discomfort.
Joh vowed to do all she could to get me out on the Monday, and home where I belong. She left and I was quietly hopeful that I'd be on my way home by tea time Monday.

That night, I tucked myself into bed early, put my headphones on and had a doze. I awoke around midnight with my phones still in and unplugged. I asked the ward nurse for a brew, had a piss, then went back to sleep, sat upright in as comfortable position as I could be. I awoke with a start at 4:15 in the morning, and for some reason was holding an empty cup. I thought I'd spilt it down me as all my right side was wet. I reached down into the dampness and it felt sticky, and substantially more than a small glass of water that I thought I'd poured over myself. When I switched the light on, my heart sank and the tears started flowing again. The sticky mess was where the stitches on my back had burst from the swelling that was keeping me in hospital. It was all red and mucky and I just had visions of me staying in for another week to get it sorted. I called the night nurses and they came and cleaned me up, dressed the wound and left me with a cup of tea while they called the house officer to come see. Needless to say, no-one came, and I didn't get seen until later than morning at 11:30 by my own doctor.

I'd sent Joh a text that night explaining what had happened around 5am, so when she woke she called me and promised to do all she could to get it sorted as best as possible, but to be prepared for the news that I may have to stay in for a few more days. I cried again.
I really didn't want to spend another night there, and it was really beginning to get me depressed. I lay in bed all that morning waiting for the doctor, barely speaking to anyone. The day nurses were excellent, reassuring me and comforting me knowing that I was very pissed off.
Eventually the doctor turned up and was positive from the outset, saying he was glad the swelling had burst and that if I wanted to go home today he'd get it sorted straight away. Music to my ears. He started ordering the nurses around to get him this and that to put a drain on the wound and clean it all up, consulted his underlings for my latest stats, then simply said "you can go home today" and shot off to his next patient.


I called Joh straight away, who'd spent the morning on the phone to the Doctors colleagues and other nurses to ensure he knew my state of mind and came to the right decision, I have her to thank big style for getting out of there. I love you darling.

Now, reading that back seems that I hated being in the MRI, but the truth is the staff were excellent and the place itself wasn't bad, it's just the lenght of time and the fact that I didn't feel that ill as such, that I needed to stay in any longer. I was ready to come home, and fight my recovery fight here with Joh's and the kids support, rather than in there. I'd like to say a big thanks to all the staff on HDU and WARD 11 who looked after me during my stay, angels the bloody lot of you xx

Which leaves me here at home, arriving around tea time on Monday night.
The dogs went mad! Toby especially. Ellie was happy to give me a big lick all over my face, but Toby wanted to jump all over me, soft dog he is. Some restraint was called for and he eventually calmed down.

I spent the first night in my own bed in 17 days, and it was bliss. I slept till about 3 in the morning from getting my head down around 10pm, the longest I'd slept in any period in hospital, then slept through to 6, dozed, slept again till 9, breakfast in bed, egg buttie heaven, then slept again till 1pm.

Feeling totally rested, I got up, showered and Joh changed the dressing on my wound, and took a few photos of my scars in the meantime:

You can see I'm having no problems with the one on my stomach, but the one on my back is where the fluid was/is leaking from still. Even today, after being home for such a short time and properly resting, it's clearing up already. There really is no place like home.

So the fight goes on. I've got some major healing to do and it's going to be a hard slog. With Joh and the kids behind me it makes it a whole lot easier, but I think I underestimated how hard this part of the treatment was going to be. That still scares me shitless, even though I'm technically cancer free now.

Bring it on. xx

Friday, 5 April 2013

Pain baby yeah!

I was transferred onto ward 11 on Monday, where I settled in quite quickly and just waited around for the last healing processes to take effect so could go home. My breathing still wasn't right though and the doctors decided to keep me under observation in the hope it would improve on its own.
It didn't.
By Wednesday night I was no better and actually getting worse. I was originally told I'd be released on Thursday but ended up on more medication to sort my chest out.
Unfortunately, taking the meds meant having a new canula fitted.
My veins in my arms have taken a beating over the last 6 months and there's not much left of them, so finding one to inject drugs into is getting very hard.
I lost count of how many nurses tried to fit one on Thursday. Eventually a doctor managed to get a slow line in, but it wasn't to last. By 5pm it was clear that nothing was going down the line and the much needed antibiotics were not being delivered.
On top of that, my scar on my back had become enflamed and extremely painful.
So now I needed two lots of antibiotics and no canula to feed them into me. I was in pain, uncomfortable and getting a little pissed off with the pace the ward was going to solve this problem.
At changeover from lates to nights, I presumed the later would have sorted something out, not quite.
We were now waiting for a nurse to come on shift who can canula the hardest cases, and also a visit was requested by the senior house officer about my back scar.
The nurse duly arrived on shift and had a good fast working canula in straight away. The house officer never showed.

I've spent the night semi-propped up in bed getting on top of the antibiotics to clear up my chest infection, which is working, but I've had no medication for my scar all night and between my normal pain meds it's been burning like hell.
Hopefully today something will be done about that, while I'm still improving on the chest front.

Don't think I'm coming home today :(

Saturday, 30 March 2013

Operation Baby Yeah!

Went into hospital on Thursday 21st march to claim a bed for my op the following day. I'd spent the week eating whatever I wanted and had a few beers. We were told straight away that there was no bed available that night. I could stay in the travel lodge over the road, or go home and have a final meal there. Chinese on the way home? Why not. Nill by mouth didn't kick in till 2am so I had plenty of timeto eat any final treats. Chinese, beer and a couple of chocs did the trick.
Slept well. Up at 5am to get to the MRI for 7. Easy. Traffic was quiet.
Booked in, had a little delay with the spelling of my name, chritopher!, then we were good to go.
Joh walked down to theatre with me and kissed me goodbye and good luck at the door. Tears were shed, hugs and kising all round.

The anesthetiser went to work, tubing me up and prepping me for the various drugs and chemicals about to go in and come out.
Lay down on the bed, start counting down from 20. 19,18,17,16

Woke up in ICU. Joh was beside me holding my hand. She told me they'd taken all my stomach out, a third of my oesophagus, removed my lower right rib and made a stomach out of the join between oesophagus and upper bowl.
I felt a bit rough.
Eventually I was moved to the HDU where I've been till today.
This is a specialist unit where patients need high dependency care. 1 nurse to 2 patients in my case. I'd had an epidural fitted for my pain relief, with button access to increase the dose if I needed to. That came in handy. Joh and the kids came to see me on the Saturday but I was well out of it. Spaced!
After a few days of the epidural, it was time to move on to others as that's not supposed to be in too long.
Removing any of the many tubes coming out of me the last few days hasn't been any problem. Removing the drug associated with that feed was though.
When that came out, I was in agony. The epidural had been hiding a very painful and irritated left lung that was now restricting my breathing. Damn that really hurt bad. I spent the next few days in agony. In the search for replacement meds, a drug was finally found that nearly did the trick.
Unfortunately I was on a very strong dose and couldn't stay on that for too long. The key was to remove all my lung drains and reduce my physical pain.
This was finally completed on Friday, my final, of three drains, came out, and the central line into my jugular was also removed.
All I've got left is a catheter, a feeding line directly into my stomach and a canular on my hand. Easy.
I'm not on any solids, as I'm only allowed liquids through my mouth atm.
I'm not on any antibiotics as I've no infections to fight.
I'm healing well.
I'll be out on the bike as soon as I safely can.
A big thanks to everyone who's visited, and anyone else who wants to come along, get in touch with joh or myself to coordinate.
I should be going down to a ward today.
Hope to see you all soon

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Belgium Baby Yeah!

I told you on the last update that we were headed to Belgium over the weekend, well, we made it, and here's our little story in pictures:

It's a long drive down to Dover, I've done it a couple of times before with my car buddies heading for the Swiss Alps and the Nurburgring, so it's essential to get an early start to avoid rush hour traffic, or head off around midday to limit your time losses. We were on the road for around 1pm, which should have given us plenty of time for the ferry.

Richard was driving us, and a top job he did too.

John and Richard getting friendly at the stop for services on the way down.

We finally made it over to France after hitting bad traffic and missing our original ferry crossing. Fortunately we got a later ferry at no cost on the way out, it was not quite the same on the way back.
We stayed the night in the cheapest hotel Al could find, which was fine for a quick nights sleep. Onwards to Nokerne in the morning.

Once in Belgium, we headed straight for Oudenaarde which we used for our base for the next two days. Working out of Richards van meant we didn't have to go from the hotel to get to the good cobbles.

Bikes were assembled, kit was put on and we headed on our first epic ride of the weekend to........

.....the museum cafe, and breakfast. Come on, give us a break, we'd had nothing to eat since the night before, and breakfast in the hotel we stayed in was bread and coffee.

The cafe was excellent, and we all had the same cheese and ham toasties. A perfect start to the day, washed down with white coffee.

A few more shirts than at Polocini, or maybe just a bit more wall space to show them all.

Chill out area to watch your favourite shows on tv while drinking coffee or Belgium beer.

The first time we were there, the place was very quiet, it was to get a bit busier on subsequent visits.

John and Al carbo loading for the day ahead.

Finally, we were on the road, or to be more accurate  the converted railway line.
As a warm up for the day ahead, this was perfect countryside to start off with.

Nice easy pace. It was a wet start, and a little chilly, but what the hell, we're in Belgium, you don't want sunshine do you?

The first cobbles of the day. God knows where this is, I'm sure Al will know, or I could pour over my Strava file and see if I can work out where it is, but suffice it to say, it was bumpy! Very bumpy.

But bloody great to be there, in Belgium, riding cobbles that the greats of cycling have ridden over throughout history.


As well as the cobbles, and the great company, the countryside itself was actually quite nice too. They're big on churches in Belgium, bit like our small towns and villages really. Very picturesque.

During the course of the weekend, I got plenty of practise taking pictures of the group riding off in the distance. With my current condition, I'm crap on anything that goes uphill, so they kindly waited for me at every opportunity. Big thanks chaps.

More cobbles, and this time a lot steeper. Certainly steep enough to have me walking it anyway.

Here's Rich showing us how it's done. Showoff :)

Cobbles as far as the eye can see, and a climb too! Perfect :)

By this time, John was truly embracing the concept of the cobbles, and was telling us all, constantly, how much he loved them. :)

Richard and John off the front again.

 Finally on our route, we made it to the infamous Koppenberg.
Do you know Swiss Hill in Alderley Edge? Imagine that, longer, steeper and much more slippy. Lovely.

Look, there's the boys off up ahead again :)

Although Al did go back down for another try, and managed to get less of a distance than his first attempt.

Walking. That's what you do on the Koppenberg. Believe me, this thing is a killer of a climb. It's only short when you compare it to say, cat&fiddle or long hill, but the steepness and severity of the cobbles really take it out of you.

To see the Pros cycling up here in the classics, really gives you a renewed respect for their power and ability. I'll be watching the classics with a keen eye on their technique for future trips to Belgium.

Al trying to lift his ridiculously heavy Cannondale Caad 10. He nearly fell over here cause it was so heavy! :)

Group photo on the Koppenberg.

Me, Rich, Al, John & Richard.

After all those cobbles and climbs, where else are we going to go?

Beer and risetarte of course.

Went down very well I can tell you.

We were back at the museum coffee shop, and it was a little busier.

Still great service, atmosphere and food (beer) though.

Tired, happy and a little pissed :)

You did this Al, massive thanks for this trip.

Here's a great shot of John, very happy, telling us all to raise our glasses to the wonderful cobbles that he's enjoyed so much. Cheers John. :)

Al's just pleased he didn't get too lost today. I'm sure he did, he just made it look like he knew where he was going. :)

Hang on though, the day is not over yet!

What is the staple diet of all Belgium's?

Frites and Mayo of course. Rich goes for a double helping there, he's a hungry boy :)

Richard tucks in. This was a medium portion!

We should of ordered small. No-one finished the chips & mayo. Very filling and delicious.

Time to return back to the B&B in Nokerne. Time to unpack, get settled in and shower and change for upcoming dinner.

This is not how Stefan, the B&B owner envisaged us storing our muddy & wet cycling kit. He didn't complain though. Top bloke.


All the restaurants in Nokerne were booked up (2), so we went a bit further afield for a gorgeous place a few villages away.

The prices were a bit steep..........

........but the steak was "to die for"

A few more beers at the bar next door to the restaurant and finally off to bed. What a great first full day in Belgium. Loved every minute of it.
And so to Sunday, more of the same? Yes please.

Oh dear. Not what you want to see in the morning on a cycling break.

Still, getting our priorities right, we first headed to the beer warehouse to stock up on essential supplies.

Camp pose Al :)

Beer packed away, and it's back on the road. Rain, sleet & snow, all within the first hour or so. Perfect Belgium weather. This place just wouldn't be the same if the sun was shining.

Richard plodding along trying to warm up for the day ahead, while keeping me company for a while.


Windmill & Cyclist.

Not much sign of the rain easing off just yet, but it was set to get better later in the day.

We were heading for the Muur today, and stopped off at this famous roundabout, with its cyclist sculpture, on the way.

You can just make out John holding his bike aloft, shouting "MY TREK IS HEAVIER THAN THIS SCULPTURE YOU KNOW"

yes John, we know :)

Nearly at the Muur, in Geraadsbergen. Lovely town. Brutal little climb.

Proper cobbles this time.

A pause halfway up the Muur, no, we didn't cycle up those steps. The road is up to the right.

Al gives it his best shot. It is very steep at this point, and gets a little better round the corner to the left. I walked this bit, Richard fell off cycling up this bit, and John fell off cycling down this bit. Rich cycled up and down without falling off. Showoff :)

The top of the Muur, with Edmond Hilary in the foreground :)

Time for food. Here's John once again smiling his little head off. He's so happy he's managed to cycle his enormously heavy TREK bicycle up the Muur.

He's also happy to be riding on cobbles again.

He loves cobbles :)

Camp pose please Al. Thanks. :)

Mushroom omelette's x 5 please, with mayo and frites. Lovely jubbly.

Back on the road, and heading back to the B&B, Al takes a slightly different route back. Taking in the last of the climbing cobbles for my trip.

You see some weird and wonderful things when travelling by bike. I spotted this bike and motorbike in the garden. The motorbike had a load of shopping in the back holder! God knows why. Quirky.

The final set of cobbles I rode on the trip. And what a set. They were long, bumpy and slightly uphill all the way. I've got to admit to seeking refuge on the pavement when I could. It's just so brutal riding on the cobbles.
John can be seen almost creaming himself at the thought of yet more cobbles. God he loves them :)

The days cycling done, it was back to the van to pack the bikes and wet kit away, quick change of footwear and head over to the cycling museum for a proper tour. Firstly the film show, and the boys get cosy. (No Rich here as he'd opted to get a few more miles in (showoff)) :)

The museum was good. Although none of it was in English, so we just guessed our way around. There was plenty to see and do though, here's a taster:


And back to the Coffee Shop, for beer. Time to catch up on Twitter Richard.

Back to the B&B and Al & Rich plan the next days early morning ride. I'd already decided to stay off the bike as I was tired after 80 miles in the last 2 days. I didn't want to spoil my trip with a bad ride.

Time to order dinner.

Pizza. Al kindly went over to the local Italian and picked up the pizza. Bloomin delicious it was too. Although I think he dropped mine off the bike on his way back :)

Stefan, our host and B&B owner. What a top bloke. His place is amazing. If you want to stay in Belgium, stay at Stefans.

Link here:

3 blokes sharing a room? Of course it's going to look a mess :)

John woke in the night thinking these two were big blokes in the room :)

The final day. Plan? Quick ride round for the fit lads, spot of chocolate shopping, head for the ferry.

Rich is up and raring to go by 07:30. With driving snow, high winds and freezing temps, I'm glad I decided to stay in for this ride.

Al was first back, a little later than planned after a broken chain and a puncture. The other three were nowhere to be seen. Al had "smashed it" back. I think the boys were a bit surprised by that :)

Eventually the boys made it back, in high spirits despite being dropped :)

John loved the last cobbles he rode today. :)

 Chocolates! Shopping done. 

Home time. 

The journey home was a little fraught to say the least. High winds, snow, freezing temps yet again. Richard got us safely out of Belgium into France were we hit the mother of all traffic jams. At least an hour wasted stuck on the motorway, or no apparent reason. When we finally made it to Dunkirk, we'd missed our 2pm crossing and got stung with a £120 surcharge to cross on the 4pm. Ironically, due to the weather, the boat was delayed on the other side in docking, so we didn't land in Dover until nearly 8pm. 
Off the boat, and the weather was worse on this side. The roads were untreated and it was carnage. Trucks and cars slipping all over the place, getting stuck and generally not being able to drive in a little bit of snow. Richard followed a rather large dumper truck out of Dover, which helped clear the road and onto the clear motorway home. The rest of the trip was uneventful. John took over driving duties later that night to complete the trip back to Polocini in Romiley. 

What a trip, what great rides, what great friends I've got. I feel so lucky to have been part of the trip. Big thanks once again to Al for organising the trip, showing us around Belgium, and introducing me to the delights of cycling in that region. I'll definitely be back, hopefully with Johanna in the near future. 

10 days till my operation, and what memories to go with. :)