My stomach sometimes cramps my style

toilet-sign-wall-of-china
Seriously!

When planning to walk Hadrian’s Wall in the north of England in 2014, I carried out a number of risk assessments (as all good Project Managers do!).  In true ‘Donald Rumsfeld style’, I considered all the ‘known unknowns’ and the ‘unknown unknowns’ 🙂  Anybody who doesn’t is either reckless or supremely confident (the latter can sometimes be the same as the former……).

As a Cancer patient, there were some issues I had to consider which might not have made the list for most walkers covering this sort of distance and this type of terrain.  One of the issues I occasionally experience is stomach cramps, not that frequent but problematic and quite painful when they occur.  If you’ve had abdominal surgery, you might be having to deal with issue. Many NET Cancer patients also suffer these cramps due to something called ‘Carcinoid Syndrome’. This syndrome has symptoms including (amongst others):

  • Flushing
  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhoea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Wheezing
  • Fast heart rate
  • Dizziness due to blood pressure that may go up or down – this can be triggered by having an anaesthetic.

For me, it was mainly the flushing – in fact this was instrumental in confirming my diagnosis. However, in hindsight some other issues might have been masked by routine/’run of the mill’ illnesses a couple of years prior to being diagnosed with Cancer.

I’m not particularly ‘syndromic’ at the moment due to my monthly treatment and debulking surgery.  However, I do occasionally have to deal with ‘stomach cramps’ (a term which tends to mean the whole abdominal area). Fortunately, they are not that frequent.  I might not have a stomach cramp for weeks and then suffer a couple of times in a single week.  Consequently, after each attack, I study my activities, my medicine and my diet trying to figure out if there is anything I can avoid to prevent this happening.  I now maintain a daily diary to assist.  Footnote from 2018, I don’t seem to have them as regular as I used to. 

I think most people will have experienced stomach cramps at some point in their lives and those who have will agree it’s not nice. I’ve had some really painful episodes in the last 2 years and as is usually the case, it’s helped by visiting the toilet/bathroom. Getting there can be painful as I sometimes find movement exacerbates the pain with the worst attacks.

You can now see why I listed this as a key risk in walking the 84 miles of Hadrian’s Wall! You might be excused for thinking there shouldn’t be a problem with all that countryside available? Add the openness of the area; add the constant stream of walkers in both directions and the sum = not much privacy!  As an ex-soldier and a male, I’m used to using ‘natural’ toilets or at best temporary structures.  I ‘googled’ to check the availability of toilets along Hadrian’s Wall to find they are few and far between.

I do have a special card which I keep in my wallet but it’s not much use out in the hills! I’ve actually never had to use this card ‘in anger’ but I came very close to using it on Day 5 of this 6 day walk.  I was suffering quite a lot of pain for a good mile or so on the outskirts of Carlisle which was semi-urban. I walked past a dozen houses but my pride would not let me use the card – silly boy!  There was no way I was going to do a ‘Paula Radcliffe’. Things were coming to a head as we approached a bridge with a small copse over a tributary of the River Eden.  At last some cover!

NPF Toilet Card Back

Thanks for reading

Ronny

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Author: Ronny Allan

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