Sunday, 28 July 2013

Time to set that challenge....

It's now been two weeks since Ray had his aortic aneurism repair and its been a tough couple of weeks both mentally and physically.  We've had amazing support and help from our friends around us and I really can't thank them enough for being around, helping in any way they possibly can even if its just with a hug or a cup of tea. Xxx

I've always been a great believer of turning a negative into a positive and our situation at the moment has been no different. Things could have been so different if Ray had thrown the AAA screening appointment in the bin! I would've been nowhere else than by his side, helping him and nursing him back to health, he is not just my other half but the other half of me! I love him more than anything and would go to the end of the earth for him.

I'm thrilled to say he is now home and recovering remarkably well relaxing in front of the TV.  We have been joking that if he carries on watching cookery and chef programmes it won't be long until he is a three star Mitchelin Chef! *** Lol.  

The situation has however left me feeling in need of helping others as well as showing Ray just how much I love him. The best way I know to show him just how much and to celebrate his being home  is to set myself the challenge of my life and at the same time raise much needed funds for BHF for ongoing research and help - without which Ray wouldn't have been screened and be here to tell his tale!

My mind worked overtime, what could do? How could I push myself further than I had ever done? I'm set to run GNR in September, could I incorporate the start or finish point?  A half marathon is 13.1 miles which is 21.1k. Could I maybe add onto it?

Ray got his diagnosis 7 weeks ago and GNR is in 7 weeks time so I've set myself the challenge..........

Between the 1st August up to and including GNR on the 15th September I plan to run 300k!!  Yes 300k, that's over 186 miles!!

I know it is going to be tough but surely it's not classed as a challenge if its not challenging? What I do know is I'm determined, I love my husband and I want to prove just how much.

I will be mapping my kilometres on my gps and logging them as I go for all to see. I've set up a JustGiving page for BHF ( and also an events page on Facebook for my friends to keep them informed and help me if they can.

The support I've had just in the couple of hours I've set my challenge is once again colossal and proves just what friendhsip, love and help we have out there.  I'm truly humbled. THANK YOU xxx

So let's clock up them k's :)

Much love


Sunday, 14 July 2013

13th July 2013 - T minus 0 days!

For 5 1/2 weeks we have lived the nightmare of finding out Ray has an aortic aneurism that needs repair. He's had appointment after appointment, including X-rays, scans of his body to check his blood tracking, fitness tests and general well being examinations. His body is like a pin cushion and my heart has been heavy for him for what he's had to endure. He's never really been ill and the last time he had surgery was when he was 7 having a tonsillectomy!! 

I have every faith in our surgeon Ian Chetter and his team but I've lived this nightmare before in 2008 when Dad went in for the same operation.  The look on my Dads face and hearing his words as mum and I left him at the hospital haunts me anyway but it seems to have been on repeat in my head for the last 2 weeks.  Please somebody take it away and let me rest!! I keep having to tell myself we're under different circumstances - Ray is fit, otherwise healthy and all his fitness and wellbeing tests have come back with flying colours, he has to pull through this op, he has too, he hasn't an option, I'm not ready to lose him yet. 

Today is the day I have to drive him to the hospital for his corrective surgery. My eyes won't stop leaking and my hands are shaking on the steering wheel. I'm trying to be strong, trying to encourage and tell him everything will be OK yet my heart is breaking and I'm absolutely petrified I won't be driving him home. Petrified in case things don't go to plan.  

Surgery is scheduled for 11:00am after having been delayed from 9 and we're sat in his room waiting. Amy has booked him in and I've unpacked his bag and placed his lucky teddy on his bedside table.  The teddy that Benji made him when he was going away with Andy on challenge 66 (we recorded things in his arms and legs so he only has to press his foot to hear Benji say goodnight God bless Daddy or a hand to hear me wish him good luck).  So everything is set, he has his sexy gown on, his beautiful stockings to prevent DVT and we're sat waiting to sign consent forms, and waiting, and waiting. It's 10:55 and they're still not signed, what's happening?

At 11:50 his surgeon Ian Chetter came into the room to say they were all set and ready to roll, he'd asked another consultant surgeon colleague of his to help and ran through the op again - but all of a sudden we have a complication!?!  It seems that the feed to his left kidney is incorporated within the  aneurism so not only would he have to have that repaired he would also have to have a renal graft put into the repair which ups the risks and now were talking possibly dialysis. Woah... Stop the bus where did this come from?  I suppose that's what the pre op test are for and they know what they are doing and he has assured us he can sew! We were in his hands now, the roller coaster had started and there's no getting off until the end.  In hindsight its probably the best thing they could do telling us about that now as we haven't really got tome to worry about it. 

I have to say saying goodbye and good luck but then watching the man I love most in the world walk out of the room and down for surgery has to go down as one of the most heartbreaking things I've had to do and watch.  After he left I closed the door and broke my heart. I cried like I'd never cried before. Please God and Dad and Charlotte and Elsie and Harry and Lou watch over him and bring him back to me, I'm really not ready for you to take him way from me yet, we've too much love to give each other, too much of a life to lead, too many plans we need to fulfill. I composed myself and headed for the door to come home to see our gorgeous little boy. 

Sat in reception was my best friend Jeanie and her husband Mel to offer their support and she gave me the biggest hug imaginable. I wasn't expecting to see them but God I needed that hug and I can never thank her enough for it. She is precious and knows me better than I know myself sometimes. I have to say at this point that the support network we have is absolutely unbelievable and I can't thank everyone enough.  We've had texts, calls, visits and cards which have all done him (and me) the world of good. It's amazing when someone tells you how crap you are as a friend you believe them until something like this happens and you actually realise how gifted you are to have so many wonderful people in your life who do actually care. We've learned that we should start listening to them more and not the odd one who really couldn't give a hoot but pays lip service anyway!

We'd been told his op would be 3hrs so the waiting game began. Jeanie came home with me in my car closely followed by Mel and Ricky and we got home to find more support. Not just Jonathan and his girlfriend Katie (Rays son who lives in Newcastle had come down to see his Dad and offer his help and support)  but Rory, Elly and Poppy had come and one of my best friends Katy were also here for me.  We all spent the day outside, chatting, reminiscing and keeping busy replying to texts from my friends wanting updates . I spent most of it pacing (I do believe there maybe a moat around the house now!) I couldn't settle, felt sick and cried a lot (no change there then!). 

My phone was a hotline, texts coming from every corner of the UK and even the world with words of love, support, hugs, strength and feeling, it was in abundance, much needed and much much appreciated. My sister in law has text me every day without fail and today was no different assuring me she was there for me every step of the way. I am blessed to have her in my life but I really wish she lived closer sometimes. 

After 5 long hours we got the news we had been waiting for! Ray was out of surgery, recovering in ICU and ticking all the boxes..........YES!!!!!! 

Relief, love, thanks and every other emotion ran through me, he was out of surgery and OK. Thank you thank you thank you Mr Chetter, your wonderful team and everyone.  The first hurdle was done, roll on 7pm when i could pop and see him. 

I didn't know what to expect when I walked into ICU. Would he be asleep? awake? groggy?  I did know he would have tubes coming out of every orifice and I wasn't wrong. In his arm, up his nose, neck, tummy and any other place available! I turned to see where he was and saw a little wave. Oh my god! He was not not awake but aware! I could have ran over to him and squeezed him so tight, but that would've hurt!.  He was awake, chatty, recalling tales of his anaesthetist and assuring us that everything had gone well and to plan and that he was a model patient with perfectly sewn up insides!!! 

It was the best 10 minutes being able to see him and chat and I left for  home on a much lighter cloud than we'd arrived on that morning ready to send out that all important message letting everyone know he was OK, he was out and recovery had began. 

I arrived home to the largest glass of wine being handed to me and like many of our dear friends and relative s raised our glasses to a very important man in our lives... Ray Birch xxx

Monday, 1 July 2013

When life turns on its heel!

With training for the Edinburgh Moonwalk well under our belts we were slowing down for the weekend of the marathon. Bras were sewn (and lit up), outfits were ready and bags almost packed. 

Ray and I were due to complete our 4th Moonwalk only this time we would be walking as a team of 8 . The team consisted of myself and Ray, 'Roomies' Jane and Katy (who completed the London Moonwalk last year).  Jonathan and Katie along with  my cousin Rory and his wife Elly had never walked a marathon before but their training had been relentless so we were prepped and ready to go. In just 4 days time on the 8th June we would be walking 26.2 miles for Walk the Walk, 

The Wednesday before (5th) Ray went off for a routine AAA scan planning on being just 20 minutes. On his return over an hour later our lives were turned upside down.  He had been informed that he had an aortic aneurism and mapped at 5.8cm he would need to visit the surgeon. His first question, in true Ray style was, "but I'm walking a marathon on Saturday night!" . . . An appointment was made with the surgeon on the next day, Thursday morning. 

We saw the surgeon and after more scans the aneurism was recored at 6.2cm needing urgent surgery which is planned for 13th July. He was told under no circumstances to do the marathon, in fact to do not much at all, he needed to reduce stress and watch his blood pressure until his surgery.  Our lives had been sent in turmoil and everything seemed to be happening in slow motion, what was happening to us??

I can't really remember the next couple of days it was a complete blur. I know we cried a lot, we talked a lot, we hugged a lot and we cried even more. We had friends calling, texting, ringing, and popping in, the amount of love and support we have is truly amazing. 

Off we went to Edinburgh for what was to be a very emotional weekend. Ray put his outfit on and walked with us to the big pink tent but then left us after about an hour to do our job. He went to the apartment and read and watched telly keeping in contact all night. 

I'm sure he won't mind me quoting the text he sent us all just before we set off on our journey. It will hopefully give you insight into why he is so precious and why I love him so much :-

"My dearest Ellie and Moonwalking buddies - Wow, what an emotional rollercoaster. 
My  real regret is that I will not be there to help you through the tough miles that you have in front  of you; nor to share in the mutual encouragement and support that makes US what we are!! 
Anyone of you can imagine how I feel at the moment so I will dwell on that no more . . . . coz  I know that within a few hours I will be with you all again and able to share in your euphoria, pride and elation ( and relief!) at having completed another milestone challenge and adding another medal to your collection. 
As I hugged each one of you tonight (yep, even you Rory LOL)  I tried hard to pass onto you a little bit of me; my resolve, energy and commitment for you to carry with you over the next 8 hours or so. So when things get really tough (about the 18 / 19 mile mark or so ) and your resolve is failing and your legs and feet are hurting beyond belief, just dig deep and find that extra  spark and inspiration to take you better to the finish. Just do that for ME; just do it for the dear friends and family that we have lost . . . . . but most importantly DO IT FOR YOU!!!
Ellie - I love you the Universe, and my dearest friends, I love you too!!
So go for it FOLLIES and I look forward to cheering you over the finish line in the morning. 
Love you all. 

PS Text me when your about ready to start. XX

Sent from my iPhone"

We set off on our emotional rollercoaster and stomped home in 8hrs. Another amazing, amazing achievement helping each other and doing what we do best, working as a team. 

You have a lot of thinking time in 8hrs!!

I am looking at the positives! Ray is fit,  otherwise healthy and younger than my Dad. Medicine has improved even in the last 5 yrs. operations like these are almost routine nowadays. So why am I so frightened of losing the most important thing in my life?  5 years ago I lost my Dad to the same condition, it's driving me insane. Aaaarrrrgggghhhh!!!!

How could life be so cruel?! Why was this happening to us? How can you tell someone you love them so much you need to take away their anguish, their pain, their suffering and their hurt? The one thing that has happened is that our rolls have been reversed. For the 10 years we have been together Ray has been my rock and done everything he can for me, now it's time for him to lean on me. It's time for me to be his rock and although we keep having the odd meltdown we're doing OK. As our good friend Andy said to me "time to pull up those big girls pants Ellie!" Oh believe me they're big!! I have big shoes to fill. 

My challenges for the time being  have been put on hold, I have more important things happening in my live at the moment although I am keeping up with my training.  

Next years Edinburgh Moonwalk however will be a big event for us. Ray WILL get his medal and we seem to have an army of people walking over the finish line with us. With promises of walking (so far!!) we have our Roomies Katy and Jane, Jonathan and Katie,  Elly, Jane, Christine and Steve, Tammy and knee permitting Jeanie. 
Rory and Anna will be walking too but they have taken up the awesome challenge of doing over the moon - 2 marathons back to back -  56.4 miles!! For all that I would adore to do it with them my challenge is to help Ray next year, although that doesn't stop me training with them and  I'm looking forward clocking up the miles.  It's certainly times like these you realise what team work and friendship is all about. We're looking forward to getting Ray back on the road again. 

We have a rocky road ahead but I'd like to thank everyone for their help and encouragement, we really are blessed to have such special people around us. 

Much love