London, the city that keeps me alive more ways than one

My first memory of London; I am 11 years of age and in London with my Mum and Dad, we are passing a lamppost with ER printed on. Dad says “Biscuits look at that Elizabeth Reigns, you work hard sweetheart and you can be a boss too” My folks always gave me the encouragement and love needed to go forward in life. They helped me feel safe and secure. In 2012 I took the train with my hubby to London, this time not for a holiday but to see the expert Professor Caplin at The Royal Free. Despite needing diagnostic tests and treatment for incurable stage 4 neuroendocrine cancer and carcinoid syndrome Steve and I found time to explore new avenues. See museums, art galleries, The Tower, take in a show. One thing I am most certain of London, the city that keeps me alive more ways than one is my most favourite city.

Since 2012 I have been and continue to travel up and down the train tracks between Edinburgh and London. Had countless appointments with the Prof, attending clinics, grateful for but not particularly enjoying gallium pet scans, various treatments, glowing like the Readybrek kid, setting of alarms here there and everywhere, and many many blood samples on ice and some taken in special light conditions and immediately put in a Black bag. So tired that when I escape from the delightful cancer team we go to the West End show – We Will Rock You. A musical I have wanted to see for some time, the first half I sit, smile and sing along, the second I sleep right through, with the audience loving the show, singing at the top of their voices. The staff at the UCL Hospital and The Royal Free in London have been outstanding and for that I thank them from the bottom of my heart.

The last year we have had a year of corona, crisis and challenges. But let us not forget that the breakthrough of the vaccine has allowed us to start to come out of lockdown and find some sort of normality, try our best to get back to work, start socialising and enjoy life.

Steve and I in London with the Fatboy

July 2021 we decided not to go to London tandem but to go with my sister Hazel and her husband Alan. The boys rode the Harley-Davidson® motorcycles down and Hazel and I took the train first class from Edinburgh to London Kings Cross. I have always wanted to ride pillion over Tower Bridge. As well as having a fabulous 4 days Finally got my wish. Riding over Tower Bridge was as good as I expected, it was very busy, both lanes used, cyclists going as fast as us. Beautiful red double deckers travelling along with smiling faces looking over the Thames. Black cabs going no where fast. All of us sitting in the two lanes travelling along at 10 miles per hour, superb for me as a pillion taking in the view, people watching, loving the sights. Gathering my thoughts.

We crammed in what we wanted to do, Steve and I have done lots before including The Tower, The British Museum, various parks and lots more. This trip was to be relaxing, however there were a few places we wanted to tick the boxes. Namely Ace Cafe, The Bike Shed and Warrs Harley-Davidson®

Alan and Hazel

very popular arrival at Ace Cafe

Inside Ace Cafe

A selfie at Ace Cafe

Friday morning we gathered our bearings had a doddle around on foot, enjoyed some squares such as Russell and Tavistock Square, walked through St James’s Park, had lunch at The Hard Rock Cafe, Picaddily Circus, saw some of the sights on foot and then took a taxi back to the hotel looking forward to Friday night on the bikes.

We teamed up with our Sena Communication kits and rode the Harley’s up to Ace Cafe on Friday night. Friday night is bike night. Oh boy what a fabulous evening it was. There were car park Marshalls when we arrived, 20 minutes later I could see why. The entire car park was full of bikes. I’ve got to say anyone we spoke to was so welcoming and friendly. We first off hooked up with 4 young lads with Harleys. They don’t belong any Chapter, just friends riding their bikes. Went into the cafe for a cola and a scout around the shop. Came out and if possible it was busier than before. A familiar Harley fist bump came my way from Gerry; a member of The III Rivers Chapter, there were two members together, they welcomed us into their abode; great guys. Looking out onto the road there were motorcyclists doing wheelies up and down the road, burning tyres. Revving their engines, screaming up and down. So loud, vibrant and exciting. Gosh it makes a girl’s heart fair beat. One of the highlights of the evening was the calm Great Dane in the sidecar, sitting watching all going on taking in everything. What an unforgettable night.

Saturday we took the bikes for a tour of London, did what I’ve always wanted and rode over Tower Bridge, drove through Marble Arch, passed St James Park, Covent Garden. We followed our Harley-Davidson® noses to London’s Dealership Warrs. The Dealership is fabulous, as well as great bikes, superb range of accessories and clothing, they have a museum including Evel Kineval’s bike. Not to mention their very helpful outstanding staff; Holly and Edwardo. They sponsor the HOG Chapter Chelsea and Fulham. We met a lovely Chelsea and Fulham Chapter member at Warrs : Steve. He came with us for a tourist ride round London. Then the five of us went to the amazing Bike Shed, terrific experience from start to finish. As we arrived we were shown where to park, the great think is you can ride the bikes right in and ride passed tables as folks have a drink. Undercover safe parking, so secure you can leave your helmet on the seat of your bike. The staff warmly greeted us, we were an hour early, she asked if we could be fitted in would be like an earlier table – hell yes! We toddled the dozen steps to the shop, treated ourselves to a t shirt and some patches for our cuts, had a good look round, amazing bikes. There is a barber shop too.
Our table was ready and the food did not disappoint.

As always I enjoyed my time in the big city. Our final evening after packing and getting organised we ventured round to quiet Bloomsbury for a cocktail.

Steve, Hazel and Alan at London Eye

Steve and I in St James’s Park

Warrs

Fist Bump

A Trip To Royal Free In London in April

I had an appointment with the big cheese in London:  Professor Martyn Caplin.  He runs a neuroendocrine tumour clinic at The Royal Free hospital.   He is highly specialised in his field.  And people are referred from many different countries,and travel great distances to see him.  My mere 400 miles, is starters orders for some.  I have a lot of faith in our Prof Caplin.  He is very thorough, takes time to listen to what you have to say.  And most importantly remembers you are a human being and have feelings.   I know when I go down to see him I will most likely be seen later than my appointment time.  This is because he gives every patient the time they need and deserve.

For my appointment in April I need to get myself organised. Firstly we need to book a hotel for a night before and a night after the hospital.  I’m not your average human than can just jump fly down to the smoke, get seen at at the hospital and then travel back.  I tried it once.  It took over a month to recover from the exhaustion.  Premier Inn Booked.  Now time to sort the train tickets out.  It’s great that you can book everything online.  Train booked, and we can get the tickets at the station right up to the day we travel.  Cases are packed.  Lots to go in my case, feed pump, giving sets, feed, dressings, creams, medicines, clothes, etc.  Nurse has been to change my dressing,etc.  dogs are looking at the cases suspiciously.

There has been a slight hiccup with the dogs boarding.  They were scheduled to go stay together with Sally whilst we were in London.  Sally has Buddy and Bella’s son Harley.  The week before we are due to go, Bella goes into season.  Both Bella and Buddy only have one thing on their mind and it’s not walkies.  We have to put plan B into action.  Our friends, Louise & Keith look after Bella and Sally look after Buddy.    For both our dogs this is the first time they have stayed away from home.  Anytime we have ever been away one of our sons have looked after the dogs.  This was a big deal for both the dogs and Steve & I.   I have to say both dogs were looked after impeccably.  They were walked several times per day, played with.  And when we came home we could tell although they were very happy to see us they had enjoyed their time away.

Our train journey was eventful.  We met a very gutsy lady and her 7 year old son.  They travelled from York to London every Sunday.  The young lad attended Great Ormand Street Hospital for an injection.  He was under a trial drug scheme.  He has muscular dystrophy.  We chatted, shared stories, laughed.

When we got to the hospital we used the self check in.  Before I could take a seat in the busy waiting room the nurse called my name.  We walked down the corridor and into the room.   She took my weight. she said.  The Prof wants to see you, if you just take a seat along this end.  Steve and I parked our bums on the seats and waited on Prof Caplin calling me.

Fifty minutes passed my appointment time the familiar gent calls my name.  Prof Caplin kindly waits till both Steve and myself are in the consulting room.  We take a seat.   There is a lot to discuss.  Since I saw him last I’ve had my gastrostomy tube fitted, been hospitalised several times with sepsis/infections, had feeds, cream and meds changed.   After we talk, he helps me up onto his couch, he examines my belly and has a good look at the peg site.  Listens to my chest, feels my neck, under my armpits.  He says  quite a lot of granulation there.  The general all round site and your skin is healing well but you do have a long way to go yet.   I take a seat back beside Steve.  Prof mentions my last 5HIAA test was elevated. The result was 175.  A tad higher than he would like.  He says he would like me to get a scan.  Steve pipes up,  will that be a gallium scan.  The prof immediately answers us,  I can organise that for you, no problem.  You will only wait a few weeks on the scan.  I will book it now whilst you are here.   He then goes into the drawer in his desk and takes out a card and hand it to me.  This is the number for our specialist nurses.  Once you have had the scan and the result is in the nurse will phone you and discuss the results with you.  And what happens next.
We were back home in Scotland three days later.  Two days after  we arrived home the telephone rang, it was the nuclear medicine department of The Royal Free Hospital in London.  My scan was in eleven days time.  Certainly cannot complain about the quality of the service I am getting.