Cancer, when it hits you out of the blue – mid career.

This post is my way of gathering together my thoughts over the last 8 months since being diagnosed with a rare type of cancer.

So I’m a mid career, married Head of Science with three beautiful sons and a hectic life. I had slowly become more busy over the years and worked longer and longer hours, something I promised I wouldn’t do at the expense of my family and health.

So when I started feeling unwell in mid February I was too busy to take is seriously. I put my loss of appetite and stomach ache to a bug and kept telling myself it would pass. A week later and I finally see my Doctor who can’t explain it and sends me away.


3 Days before my life turned upside down.

Another week passes, I even manage to take a science trip to see the team working on the 1000mph Bloodhound car but all through the day I’m going dizzy and slumping on chairs.


I sit in front of the Doctor a week later and I’ll never forget his look when I describe passing blood in my stool.

Dr: “what are you worried it may be?”

Me: “Bowel Cancer”

Dr: “me too, go straight to hospital”

24 hours later and I’m waking up from 4 hours of surgery. I smile as the Sun shines on me in recovery, “it’s all over,  couple of weeks and I’ll be back at work and have a few weeks off in Easter”.


The surgeon visits me about 10am the next day. My wife has not yet arrived and he looks grave. He quickly explains he will return later when my wife is present as it is complicated and needs us to hear his news together. A lovely nurse called Linda stays 2 hours past the end of her shift knowing that the news is not going to be good.

“When we opened you up we found a tumour in your appendix and it has been creating a jelly like substance that has leaked into your abdomen. We have removed as much as we can but there are lots of tumours in your abdomen lining now that will keep making the jelly.”  It sounded pretty final.

You always wonder how you’ll react to the big C news. For me it was a numbness, a heavy cloud pushing down on me. As a scientist you are always looking to break a problem down and start looking for solutions, this didn’t happen to me. It was a blank wall.

I cut off the world with sedatives, ear plugs and a sleeping mask. Alone in my head the ramifications to my wife and children running through my mind. I had seen kids at school who have experienced the death of a parent. I swore this was not going to happen to my children so whatever it was going to take I would do it for them.

I think it happens to most families that live far apart that over the years you drift apart. My mum, brothers and sister all live 8 hours drive away (one in Portugal). We spoke on rare occasions, not because of any bad feeling, but as parents we got caught up in daily life. “I’ll call tomorrow”, “I keep meaning to call” the usual excuses.

Well after my news the family where all by my bedside the next day. They had read up on my condition which is called (ready for this) Pseudomyxoma Peritonei (PMP for short). Tumours of the Peritonei tissue. It turns out it’s a pretty rare condition, affecting about 1 in 250,000. Lucky me!

Within 3 days I was discharged with a 6 inch scar and a plan. It turns out that, while this is a very rare type of cancer, it had a famous patient Audrey Hepburn. Her foundation helped kick start research into this condition and now it is pretty well understood.

The next three months were some of the best I’ve ever had. My  family stayed with me on and off & we grew closer together. We spoke about everything and got to know our nephews and nieces. My children are 3, 7 & 10 and we decided to explain my condition without using the cancer word. A parent had recently died at my childrens school and we didn’t want them worrying.

Now for the good bit!

Basingstoke Hospital is one of two specialist units in Britain for treating this condition. Cutting it out isn’t enough, to really kill it off you need heated chemotherapy. So on June 16th at 7.30am I underwent 8 hours of surgery. Out went my spleen, gall bladder, peritoneum and stomach fat (yeah) and in went hot chemo for 90 minutes.

At 11 pm I woke up and my wife and brothers rushed to my side. The two things I remember are my wife saying I don’t have a colostomy bag (a big worry of mine) and my brother blowing on my face and me whispering “fag breath”…


The inside of my head for the first 3 days

Morphine. Turns out that I trip out on Morphine and most of the time it is visions of1980’s transformer cartoons . They were pretty entertaining, but after 4 days I needed it to stop so they put me on something else. Turns out the radio I was listening to for 3 days was also in my head, good stuff these drugs.

2 weeks later and I shuffled out of the Hospital with a beauty of a scar from my sternum to my lower abdomen, 40 staples and lots of small scars. My biggest worry was the reaction of the boys. The oldest glanced and looked worried, the 7 year old said “cool”!


Bucket listing

It is now coming up to 3 months later and here I sit. Apart from a little soreness I’m 100% my old self. I’ve had some amazing experiences, driving a Ferrari F430, meeting a celeb, taking a long promised holiday to my brothers home in Portugal and reconnecting with all my family and friends.

Will it return? Who knows. I may have Bowel cancer as well, I’ll know more at the end of the month, but now I know I can take it.

The thing I take away from this is that something as big as cancer is easier if you focus on the present, break it down into a series of steps. An injection one day, surgery the next, don’t dwell or try to look too far forward.

When you’re rushing the kids for school, stressing about work, worried about money, take a breath. Strip it back to basics, Family & Health…

Rick x


The morning of Surgery with my Wife and Brothers

Links: There is some amazing work carried out by the following people;

My brothers company that has enabled him to takeideal-homes-portugal-logo-784x392 so much time off work and support my family. If you’re moving to Portugal buy a house from him, he’s brilliant!

The first port of call when you get the diagnosis. Provides support and information.

101 things to do when you survive. A blog by a twice cancer survivor. His articles help with life after cancer.



Exactly 1 month after surgery


2 Months after Surgery in Portugal

[Quick tip] quickly set a time countdown

Lesson losing its pace? Setting a timer can get it moving again.
The quickest way is to start Siri and say “set countdown for X seconds”.
It will instantly start and means your not taking your eye off the classroom.




You can start, stop and pause it with your voice. Pressing the timer will take you through to the clock app.

Do you use this in lessons or have some classroom tips, add them to the comments below.

Keeping tabs of printing in a school with Ipads

slide_cloudThe beauty of having ipads in school is the integrated printing, but this can leave your network manager in a cold sweat. Letting students print without managing could be disastrous for your finances. We already had a system in place that deducted credit from a students account and staff had departmental accounts, I sought to roll this out to ipads as well. Luckily for us we already had half the solution by using ‘Papercut’ to run our print management for PCs.

We were already set up to use the students windows log in credentials to monitor printing, so the next step was to add a secondarweb-client-ios-authy Mac server to catch the iPad printing jobs. We had an old 2010 iMac going spare, so after installing Papercut secondary server, adding printers and pointing it at our main windows Papercut server, we were ready to go.

The final step was installing the papercut client to the students ipads. It installs as a profile and once installed they log in with their windows details. Viola, integrated site wide monitored printing for students and staff.

web-client-ios-printedSide note: We didn’t forget the android users but with each user having to be individually invited to each printer via their gmail account, we (and the students) lost interest pretty fast. How does your school deal with printing?      Let us know in the comments section below.


Pep-up your worksheets

Quick tip.
Goto google images.
Click on search tools and select colour.
Choose ‘Transparent’
The results won’t look much different, however when you paste you have an image without a background.

This means you can create great looking worksheets like the one below.


Here’s the original for Pages on Ipad/iphone.

Not letting them slip through the net.

In our science department we rotate classes between the specialist teacher. This does mean however some students can get away with persistent lack of effort or never addressing teacher feedback to improve.

We of course shared our findings and bemoaned the lack of effort by X or ‘watch out for Y’.

This year we have decided to record all the marking and photograph work using iDoceo. This time, when we change classes, all the marking/work examples and results move with the class. Already this has been hugely powerful when showing students that their work is recorded against their names and seeing long term patterns in effort and understanding.

No longer will pupils slip through the net when hopping between teachers….



I’m getting a smartwatch!

I’ve not worn a watch in over five years and was quiet happy with looking at my phone. However when you own a galaxy note you get the usual “thats a massive phone sir”. Well now its time to get all Inspector gadget and grab a smartwatch..for work of course.

I didn’t want to stump up for a google wear watch yet, they are first generation and I think a year or two will see the market mature, so I went for the cheap and cheerful K2 w100 after reading an unhealthy amount of reviews. My main use was to recieve reminders and notifications while I’m on the go teaching. This looked like overkill, but I like to modify devices and this is a great bit of kit. I’ve ordered from and hopefully will receive it in a few days.


Showbie out for Android!

showbieI’ve been a big fan of Showbie on the ipad for the last year and have happily marked work with it. This afternoon I get an email notifying me that Showbie for Android has been released. This fills a big hole in our schools BYOD policy and will allow many more students to work on their devices.


[Edit: Where the hell did it go? Looks like its web based now]