Captain Chemo files flight plan for Mondovi.

This day last week, I will confess I was in no fit state to file my nails, never mind a flight plan. Last week I was nearing the end of my 2 week ‘break’ from my Chometherapy. Let me tell you, I suffered during that period, hands up, no contest. Was it cold turkey?, perhaps the remanence of that list of drips (pun intended) of residual chemo in my body, worming it’s way out? Very possible !

Roll back just the last 7-8 days and it was just a weird and most unpleasant influence on my mind. I can only describe it as if somebody got a can of chemo spray (if it ever existed) and sprayed it like air freshener inside my mind. The fragrance of the day was one of toxic thoughts. Yes, more tears came out at night. Although in reality far from it re the amazing care and love I am constantly and welcomingly receive, I felt alone, very alone. There was room for only one person within this toxic spray in my mind and it was me. That of course can trigger other thoughts, the ones that can take you down and look into an abyss. You see, these are EASY thoughts for my mind (and your’s too by the way) to conjur up. Once again, I refocus on the professional class’s I am so lucky to receive and indeed attend in the Gary Kelly Cancer Support Centre. That beacon of light then offers up one flash, then another, and another, Oh look, there is one more bright flash. Things begin to improve !!!.

With the phsyicogical side of things being attended by my training I RECEIVE at the Gary Kelly Support class’s, I knew there had to be a physical balance to adhere to and that there was. I can testify to you now that most of all last week I woke for my breakfast and then immediately fell back into a deep sleep. I slept all day EVERY DAY for MOST of that day, and the next, and the next. Alison would waken me for my meds and meals, but my appetite just wasn’t there. Soups and custard were the order of the day, they were the least thing to annoy this horrible nausea feeling that felt it was a good idea to invade my stomach space and indeed keep my messed up mind company, how horrible, how fuc&ed up !!. In the back of my mind, I knew I had a brave plan to get out to Mondovi and fly St. Pio. If last week was this week, I knew there was not a snowballs chance of this happening.

With the accepting and taking of the non-stop all day and all night sleeps, I figured I had to just run with this. Prey to St.Pio for guidance and see how things develop. So here we are now, where all the planning and jigsaw manouering of the past 3-4 weeks is about to be put into practise. I was in the Bon Secours hospital yesterday (Tuesday), where my oncology team were fully briefed on my intentions and together we formed a plan but more importantly, started to swing it into action. My bloods were checked, they were UP but the plan was to HOLD the chem, which we did. So rather than infusing me with the chemotherapy, I got infused with a large drip of fluids to hydrate my body and give it a boost. Along with that, my oncology team has prescribed extra meds in the guise of specific steroids, all to boost, to charge, so this adventure can be enjoyed.

So the plan is to get to Dublin airport this evening (Wednesday) circa 1800hrs where I have a wheelchair booked to wheel me to the plane for a short hop accross the Irish Sea and land in Bristol airport, which ironically is located within the rolling vales and greens of Lullsgate, nestled not far from the Mendip Hills. My pillow tonight will be under the friendship of my friend Andy (Sir Andrew of Blagdon), the same Andy who flew over for my public talk I gave in my local pastoral centre here in Dunshaughlin in July. A lunchtime (Thursday) departure the next day from Bristol Airport will see a course set for NICE in France. We have a hire car awaiting us there that will bring us along the coastal hugging scenic twists and turns to Mondovi, Northern Italy where the St. Pio Hot Air Balloon awaits us.

Myself and Andy are flying balloons circa the same amount of time and between us, we operate, fly and maintain the St. Pio Hot Air Balloon in Mondovi. This type of ‘offshore’ ballooning is not for everyone. It requires a big effort with dogged discipline, to both maintain and keep the balloon over there. So not only do we commit to that, but we must own and keep insured a whole seperate balloon retrieve system out there. This involves a full roadworthy 4 x 4 with balloon trailer etc all ready to rock when we arrive with all necessary paperwork in place, which keeps the local laws of the land happy and in place.  Accompanying tweedle dum and tweedel dee will be a 3rd balloon pilot and good friend of myself and Andy’s, UK based Capt. Brian Workman. Brian has been busy flying balloons for over 30 years, has been out with G-PPIO before in Mondovi and is a tremendous asset to our team. So with over 65 years ballooning experience between us, we’d like to think that we have these adventures well under control, whilst at the same time making very sure that the F-word called FUN is welcomed aboard with open arms and indeed practiced often. 

Every competent balloon team needs good crew and we won’t be let down in that area either. With Somerset based Darren, a  regular to Mondovi with the Team, along with Guy and Lauren, the latter who holds a nursing qualification, the St. Pio Balloon Team should be in safe hands. When we arrive, we have Gianfranco, Giorgio and Sabina as our agents on the ground to assist with anything that may require an Italian flavour to it. Local competitive ballooning champion and authorised (CAA) Balloon inspector Paolo Oggioni will be on hand to give St. Pio it’s eagerly awaited annual C of A (Certificate of Airworthiness). Very similar to a cars NCT /MOT which is legal obligation that’s makes sure we only fly a SAFE Hot Air Balloon. 

All going well, the whole team will leave Mondovi on Monday next. I’m on that ticket too, but I have to be so mindful that I am still seriously ill and in a foreign country. To help compensate for this measure, I have a standby flight, fully booked and paid for and boarding card printed. This golden ticket can fly me direct and non-stop from Italy back to Dublin on the Saturday night. This latter type of planning was and is vital for this type of trip. 

So fingers and toes crossed all will go according to plan. 

See you in the air...

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