Mike's #Decembeard campaign for Bowel Cancer UK

Growing facial hair for charitable donations

Mike is raising money for the Bowel Cancer UK, a charity funding research and helping to raise awareness about the disease. He is doing this through the medium of facial hair. All of his facial hair, mind you; none of this limited to his upper lip hair business. This is a major effort, and he started working on it #Decembeard 2018. He also has stage IV bowel cancer. And for some reason he has started this paragraph in the third person.

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Decembeard 2019 updates

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Rockstar Beard — Kickoff Video

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I should probably put a link to the original Nickelback version: https://youtu.be/_1hgVcNzvzY

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Beard colouring; reaching the £1000 mark

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...Previously on Mike's #Decembeard campaign

About this time 2017 year I got a touch of bowel cancer. I started to notice when my IBS and piles started to play up and I caught what I thought was one of the start of term seasonal bugs. Things got serious when I had to abort a work trip to the big smoke and was out of breath climbing the stairs at home (just the single flight). I was waiting for one of those, you know, non-urgent, two-three week turnaround GP appointments at the time—not the GP's fault just the climate and the slow on-set of symptoms—But escalated to the next available appointment (unfamiliar surgery but it did their job.) A blood test and the results came in during the middle of the night, they tried to call me then (which I missed; phone on silent.) A peripatetic doctor called round in the morning to tell me the results: haemoglobin levels were rock bottom and I needed to go to A&E ASAP where I was admitted poked, prodded and received iron and a couple of blood transfusions. That didn't tell us what was wrong but started the investigation. About a week later a colonoscopy found a tumour; 2 weeks later a CT scan showed how big it was; a week later and I was on the table having a subtotal colectomy and splenectomy.

Stage IIb went to Stage IV in six months despite best standard adjuvant chemotherapy and precipitated yet another crisis and a change of treatment. This new regimen worked fairly well for between 6 and 9 months a couple of the tumours in my liver started to grow wise to the treatment or evolve a resilience to the treatment, and in March I changed onto yet another treatment.

Next...

I am now on treatment option 3 of 4 (option 4 being mostly a control measure). Option 3 is immunotherapy and is less well tested, yet has shown great promise so far for me. I started this in March and for the first few tentative months between CT scans and the only info I had was how I was feeling—no obvious change there—and the liver damage markers in my bloods spiking. On the basis of those markers I thought things were rapidly going south. It turned out that the spike was probably the new immunotherapy getting its teeth into the situation. My next CT scan showed that my tumour burden and extent had significantly reduced; so much so that one of the research Doctors called me up as soon as the results were in... tumour burden, it turned out was down by about 50%.

So where are we now? I still feel well, and my last CT scan shows a further reduction in size and extent, so things are still going in the right direction I think. I understand that there is still too much cancer, too many tumours to risk operating. I understand that operating is the current gold standard in stage 4 bowel cancer treatment where only the liver is involved. I am hopeful that we will get there yet. Other options have been discussed: various sorts of ablation. But as the immunotherapy is still working and there are still too many tumours, we have not yet resorted to these.

So why am I doing this #Decembeard thing? Well the same reason as last year... I think mainly because I might have been carrying this tumour round for a couple of years. It was big when they got it out. So for me it's an awareness campaign. I understand that young <55 year old folk getting bowel cancers is more common than you might think, there are genetic links that increase this especially if there's a family history of Endometrial, and/or Colon cancer. Keep your eyes open for the symptoms and if there's a direct history, make sure your GP knows, it could save your life. I'm 44 now by the way (and still counting.)

The reason for supporting Bowel Cancer UK is to help them to fund research and the outreach. With bowel cancer as with many cancers the earlier the diagnosis the better the prognosis; bowel cancer is unfortunately hard to diagnose. So while early detection saves lives, where that is still not possible, advances in treatments are also delivering better outcomes. I was too late for early diagnosis and my life now looks towards those recent and ongoing advances in medicine.

Thanks for reading. Enjoy and share my silly video and if possible, put a few pennies in the collection box for Bowel Cancer UK

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Thanks,

Mike

PS. You can also find the Rockstar Beard video on Vimeo, from where I believe you can even download it if you wish! Or on Instagram if you prefer your videos smaller and in portrait mode.