I'm still here ....still kicking!

06 Sep 2012

 Sorry it's been quiet for a few days. It's not just that I've been busy reading your lovely posts but I have been feeling very rough and it has never been my intention for this to be a moan about being unwell. Let me just say, the problem is less about the cancer and more about dealing with the side-effects of the painkillers. Every time you start a new medication, there's a new side-effect. Some side-effects are worse than the main illness.

So I've been very useless and weak. But the community medical support has been tremendous from the district nurse, to the Princess Alice hospice nurse, and my wonderful GP. But most of all from family. I fear the static exercise bike has not been used much but I still intend to get pedalling. One great little tip I was given by Gerry Slade, who runs a Mesothelioma support group at Papworth Hospital is that a hand-held fan held just in front of your face is a terrific antidote to breathlessness. Something to do with the effect on the facial muscles. it really works - very good for panic attacks when you feel unable to breathe. 

On a sad note, I was very sorry to hear that the wife of my former BBC colleague, Robert Peston,has finally lost her long fight with lung cancer. My thoughts are with him and his family.

Thanks to a wonderful newsletter from another former BBC friend, Bob Prabhu, I hear about what's going inside the Beeb, with my former colleagues going through the permanent revolution of change and moving of the now sold TV Centre. Sad to think that iconic building will soon no longer house TV News. I hope. I will be well enough again to visit the new centre.

The positive sign tonight is that I started to read Lord Adonis's new book ' Education, Education, Education: Reforming England's Schools' as well as doing my judging in the O2 teachers's video competition. I had not felt up to either over the past week.

Next task: doing that guide to what makes hospital bearable/unbearable. I hope to feel up to that very soon.


Thanks for reading, thanks for your responses, and support.

User Comments

Lesley Killin - 06 Sep 2012


This weekend the boys and I are off to the Olympic Park to see Athletics on Saturday and the 7 a Side football on Sunday.

I am always reassured when reading your blog that you have such a fantastic network of support around you. Those of us who only post comments probably feel a little useless at our inability to do any more to help but I am so glad that you gain comfort from reading all our messages.

Looking forward to the hospital guide!

Love Lesley x

Claudia pettifer - 06 Sep 2012

in awe

Hi Mike
I follow your blog and I'm in awe of your strength and resilience. We never know how we will perform in adversity. I hope I would have your courage and positivity. My love and best wishes are with you. Claudia ( Michael Sparkes 'new' sister )

Aled - 06 Sep 2012

I am pleased that you have positives to help you on your path to recovery.

Your reference to the changes at the BBC struck a chord with me. There are two sides to the coin and I live in Salford which has seen the benefit of the new studios at the Quays. In time I hope that it will be staffed by people who live in the north west of England rather than the many who appear to commute from the SE.

Change is slow. I will be able to read your Guide to Hospitals with a critical eye as I have a positive experience. Others I know will differ.

Take care


Geoff Barton - 06 Sep 2012


How typical: from the midst of a tough time, Mike blogs, pays tributes to a colleague's loss, and begins reading the latest book on education.

Even in adversity he is always giving!

Another great blog, from one Mr B to another.

Rebecca Hanson - 06 Sep 2012

General Gossip

Thanks for the tip on the book Mike - ordered now.

I can't remember if I sent you a link to this teacher video once before but it is my favourite. It was created by the teachers at Cockermouth school to lift the mood of a year 11 leavers assembly after it had addressed the recent death of a student.
I hope you like it.

Cockermouth School was where I first met Michael Gove (still a hack on Any Questions in 2004) and was stunned by the juxtapostion of his finely honed skills in rhetoric and his underdeveloped understanding of people and society which had not got beyond the insight that everything will get better if we punish the baddies more. I remember hoping against hope that this man would never enter politics.....

But to give the Conservatives credit where it is due - one of them is devoting his time, money and ability to allowing free speech. This space for real discussion in the toxic world of media spin is my oxygen:

Now - how do I persuade David Laws that making Ofsted accountable to schools by obligating it to inspection and regulation law (from which it currently has an opt-out) is non-negotiable. I got an invitation to apply to Lib Dem policy committee today.... or I could organise a flash meeting at conference..... or I could set up a campaign (but I'd need help to do that.....).....

By the way if anyone who reads this blog lives near Brighton I'm on the scrounge for a place to stay for a couple of nights - oh and possible the use of a photocopier!

stevie pattison-dick - 06 Sep 2012

catch up

Mike - your hospital guide will be a really good read, but I am sorry you are having to go through all this to do the research - you are too thorough! there's a book which became a must-read a while ago called If Disney Ran Your Hospital - expect yours will succeed this! i had a conversation with Richard Rodgers and some students designing hospitals years ago about the strip lighting in hospital corridors being too harsh on the eyes if you were on a guerney and it was clear that none of them had "done the patient journey" - so a patients' eye view will be interesting.

Say when you are ready for visitors, as I will down in Kingston soon - unless you are back down in the west country!

All the best

Take care

alan cunningham - 07 Sep 2012

the Beeb

Hi Mike. I found myself playing tennis for most of the morning yesterday with Graham Morland (cheerful ex BBC hockey colleague of yours). You will probably understand better than most why he was so disappointed by our winning!

Thinking of you all,

Alan + Andrea

Sarah Huggins - 07 Sep 2012

still kicking and pain killers

So good to see your latest post Mike, and to hear of your plans and intentions. Not so good to read that you are feeling rough and so unwell.

If you would like any contributions in the way of comments about what makes hospital bearable/unbearable I would love to send some your way. My experiences over the last year or so of cancer include Reading, Kingston, The London Clinic, The New Vic & Parkside and of course our dear sweet Marsden and the Horder Ward. My only bad experience on Horder was when they suddenly tried to move me to a different ward asking me to pack my things .. hurry, hurry - it was a nightmare and I'm afraid I cried and kicked up a fuss. Needless to say I didn't get moved in the end other than to a different room on Horder which was lovely. However, my pills and painkillers and myself were forgotten in the process and things went rather wrong for a while and later that night the retina tore in my left eye. When the blackness came down I thought I was dying and became very stressed. I've been told by the eye doctors that it was a complete coincidence but I feel differently, I think it was a mixture of stress and side effects of the steroids/stomach meds. So from radiation table at the Marsden straight on to laser eye surgery at the Western Eye (oh, and THAT was another hospital experience!) last week, and back to the Marsden. It was all so surreal as it took place in a Morphine/Dex haze and is a whole other story.

Turning to side effects - I can really sympathise there. I have had terrible problems with Dexamethasone (steroids) and lansoprazole (the latter I took myself off 4 days ago realising that it was causing me severe stomach pains/oesophageal spasms, bloating, etc etc). I seem to be doing ok on slow release morphine now (60 mg x 2 per day). As mentioned, I think the problem with my eyes is to do with the drugs after researching on the internet. I am still seeing black dots everywhere, vision is deteriorating daily in my left eye and there is black bluriness. Sometimes black things appear to descend from somewhere deep inside my forehead. It has all been rather frightening. One eye doctor (out of many) has told me that I might be a Dexamethasone 'responder' .... hmmmm. My blood sugar has also been all over the place with it (another possible implication for my eyes) and I've been told that it looks like it's given me at least one stomach ulcer and finally there is the swelling legs from the Dex.

My pain, I'm glad to say, is well under control with morphine, diazepam, lorazapam, paracetamol - they seem to be working well together. Lorazapam sedates me when I get worried and seems to stop the rigid spasms and growing football in my back. Since leaving the Marsden, I have been handed over to the Trinity Hospice but have yet to hear from them ... I have chased once and have got a little stressed about it as I am hoping they will be able to start to decrease the morphine.

I look forward to your next posts and look forward to hearing more about your various projects. Wishing you wellness and good things, Sarah.

Mike writes: oh Sarah that sounded horrndous and frightening. Yes all patient's eye views welcome.

Alban Thurston - 07 Sep 2012

The circle is - still - unbroken

Don Miguel el Panificator:

Well done with the pain-killer juggling. In my case, vodka, gin & tequila are the best combination - no rattle from pills, no unsightly tubes.. Still, you couldn't be righter, about cures being worse than the curse.

Terrific idea about your hospital guide. (Less than evident that today's bureaucrats & accountants are all blessed with the humanity of greats like Sir Ludwig Guttmann) Still, like all your army of friends, dude, it's great to have you back in with us in your family, and doing a little less primary research.

sukey firth - 07 Sep 2012

got a great book for you

You saying how much you're enjoying some book... I'm producing Loose Ends at the moment (this Sat and next - both great line-ups if you care to listen) and I've got a book come in I think you'll love. Email me the address where to send it. Lots of love, Sukey

Sheila Dainton - 07 Sep 2012

Thinking of you

Sorry you're having such a rough time, Mike. You are always so positive but, once in a while, even you are allowed to complain. In a way it's good to know that you can share these things.

It's reassuring to hear that you feel well supported - and I particularly liked mention of your 'wonderful GP'. These things can make such a difference.

A pleasant nip in the air this morning. Definitely back-to-school weather. With barely a dry day towards the end of August it looks like sunshine all the way - or at least for the next week or so. And still those back-to-school dreams (can't find the register, late for playground duty, the flat roof's leaking - again)'though I haven't been in the classroom for well over 20 years. Strange how some things stick.

With warmest wishes

Ronnie MacFarlane - 07 Sep 2012

New Medication

Even when you're down, you still manage to get some positives in your writing Mike.
I'm so sorry that the "relief" is worse than the disease. If Mike Baker can't exercise then he's definitely feeling poorly.
I hope you pull through this bad patch soon. I can just picture you on your bike. Maybe you should listen to audio books instead of trying to read. Might be easier for you, and might help you on that bike when you are able to get back on it.
Wishing you all the best Mike, love Ronnie.

penny - 07 Sep 2012


Hello Mike

This week I am in Glasgow and deep in the East End of the city! I'm working on an exhibition and publication developed from conversations between Medical Consultants from the Western General and Graduate Fine Artists from Glasgow School of Art. There are many similarities in the discussions I have had with both the Consultants and the Artists. Rigour of and need for continual research,focus of practice, belief in the importance of empowerment, benefits of holistic thinking around a subject, person or illness, all that we believe in. The project has been commissioned by 'Art in Hospitals' and yesterday there was something extraordinarily uplifting in observing a patient on renal dialysis working with a Visual Artist on a piece of work whilst hooked up! A very positive way to spend the 6 or so hours. It made me think of how Artists could work on the chemo units. I see Reka creating the brightest colours and images!What an enlightened group of Consultants, each a specialist in their own field and each equally open to the importance of art in medical care. The project is funded by the Wellcome Foundation, one of many amazing inititatives promoting the relationship between science and art.

The Paralympics provoke wonderful questions about disability don't they? Excitement, respect and passion more relevant than any misguided notions of sentimentality. No one is talking about the athletes as 'battling with disability' in the way we are sometimes in danger of being labelled as 'battling cancer' or even worse 'cancer patients!'So, carry on your enlightened blog Mike whatever the effort. It's really through your style of writing that attitudes will change.

Warmest wishes and stay strong.

Penny x

Mike writes: penny this sounds like another fabulous project. I was just telling mr doctor from the Princess Alice Hospice in Esher all about The Ride and the film she was v interested.

Warwick Mansell - 07 Sep 2012


Mike,I'm really sorry to hear about things becoming tougher in recent weeks, but encouraged as ever by your thoughts and plans. Alison Peacock "tweeted" a few days ago that you are an inspiration to us all, which is true, and the recognition this amazing blog is getting is very well deserved.

Looking forward to further updates, including - possibly - on education reform!


Alison Peacock - 07 Sep 2012

A passion for learning

I love the thought that you feeling well enough to carry on your lifelong passion for learning more about education. Your blog is an education to all of us and gives a painful insight into all that you are enduring but in a way that reminds us about everything that is important. Thank you.

Fergus Walsh - 07 Sep 2012

leaving TVC

Hi Mike
Just thought I'd say hi from TVC on our last day here....the movers have been and gone and the office is looking empty..after 22 years at TVC I'm heading back to BH, although TV bulletins are not coming until March so if I need to edit anything I will have to be here...
Anyway just to say I'm thinking of you and very best wishes.

Charles Hessey - 07 Sep 2012


Hi Mike - I know you got to the Olympic Stadium and enjoyed a big day out. Well, Andy took me along on Thursday and I was absolutely amazed. It was just such fun as everyone enjoyed the sun and the wall of sound following any Brit around the track was wonderful. Linking to Education was a) the question as to how many school kids were present on a school day and then the fun at b) how many teachers. What really struck me though was how many groups of special needs school pupil parties with hard working teachers were present. A real joy to see their faces as the excitement carried up into the stands and who knows which ones will use it as the spur to take part in their own Olympiad in the future. Chas

Sarah swain - 07 Sep 2012


Hi mike, just wanted to say hello, as I also won a Lung Cancer Journalsm Award a few months ago like you. My dad died from lung cancer so I wrote about that for the Evening Times here in Glasgow. I hope you are having a good day today and I am glad you have so much support around you. Thinking of you. Sarah

John Duunford - 08 Sep 2012

Education then and now

Great to read your blog, as always, but very sorry to hear that things are difficult. Side effects are always so frustrating and seem like one step back when you are trying to take one step forward.
At the start of term, 30 years since I started as head of Durham Johnston, I have been reflecting on education then and now, much of that time spent listening to one Mike Baker compress the latest mad education policy wheeze into the brevity and depth of a good TV report. It's a very different world for heads now. I've blogged on this at http://bit.ly/QmERhe.
You've reminded me to order Andrew Adonis's new book.
Good luck - and keep blogging!

Sarah Huggins - 08 Sep 2012

what makes hospitals bearable/unbearable

Excellent ... I will put something together and keep an eye out on how you are progressing. Hope today finds you in good spirits, Sarah

Allison Allen - 08 Sep 2012

keeping going

As ever Mike, you are an inspiration. I'm looking forward to you guide - what a great idea! And looking at Adonis's book takes some effort.

I'm in awe of your motivation and determination.

Good luck

Beverley Perin - 09 Sep 2012


Reading and wishing you increased strength soonest. I read your education comments and too am about to begin Adonis book. Hoping you find equilibrium and the breathing gets easier.

Andy Day - 09 Sep 2012

Hope it soon improves

Hi Mike,

Really sorry to hear you've been through it over the last week with such ropey side-effects. Hope they settle down soon as your body adjusts to new medications. As a johnny-cum-lately to your cancer blog after you mentioned it in an Education Guardian piece a few weeks ago, I spent part of the last week of the summer holiday catching up on your previous blogs (procrastination won the day over writing new GSCE units). Just wanted to say that your daughter's photos of spoons are stunning, both as images in their own right and the evocative layers of history they bear witness to. I had the same response when our son did an Arts Foundation course - being amazed at how he caused us to look at things in a new way and being surprised that this person has their own unique perspective of viewing and interpreting the world. Maybe that's when we can feel we've done a successful job as parents - by nurturing a creativity and independence that ends up teaching us something new. Maybe it's what all successful teaching should aspire to. Hope she finds some satisfying work. It's tough out there and young people need all the solid grounding they can get from home and family. But it's clear you and your wife provide that in bucket-loads. So while you may be feeling weak - never 'useless'.

Hope the night sweats have reduced and that you are able to get restful sleep once more. All good wishes.


Mike writes: thanks for lovely comments about my daughter's photography.

Steve McCormack - 09 Sep 2012

BBC escapees committee


Just caught up with the last month or so's blogs, (sorry it's carried worsening news) my favourite analogy being the Clint Dempsey reference when you crossed from the Marsden to the Brompton. I visited a friend of mine about 20 years ago when he made exactly the same over-the-road transfer.

Can it be 20 years since we releative youngsters moved from BH to TVC? And now they're moving back!

But the really important question is what happens when TV News play Radio News in the London Sunday morning football league? (Anyone know?) You were our (Radio's) Chopper Baker at left back, if I remember rightly.

Anyway, Mike, all the best in your, and your body's, current fight. You're in my thoughts.



Anne Kealy - 09 Sep 2012

Hi Mike

Hi Mike,
I suspect your blog belies, in your lovely positive way, what you are going through. Here's hoping that you more comfortable and sending you our love. We are watching this wonderfully crazy closing paralympic ceremony. I do hope you are enjoying it as well.
Love Anne and Tom xxx

Carol Wilson - 10 Sep 2012

Hospital guide

Further to the email I sent you earlier I wanted to say that I really look forward to hearing your views on what makes hospitals bearable/unbearable and I hope I can share them with medical and nursing colleagues here in Edinburgh.

I saw that you mentioned that you have never smoked. My mum never had either. People seemed reluctant to believe that she didn't smoke - perhaps as they wanted a reason to reassure themselves that it could never happen to them. It felt like she might have received more sympathy from some if they hadn't perceived it as a lifestyle cancer. I'm glad you have lots of support around you to cancel out any clumsy words you may have heard along the way if mum's experience was anything to go by.

Many thanks again for everything that you have done and continue to do.


Mandy Baker - 11 Sep 2012

Listen, if you feel up to attempting Lord Adonis's book, you've got reserves of inner strength the rest of us can only dream of! I hope you're feeling a bit better soon x

Jane Peel - 11 Sep 2012

Mike, I've just been catching up with your blogs. As usual I end up reading about 10 at a time. I'm so sorry you've been feeling awful and have had to spend so much time sampling London's hospitals lately. The last time I saw you at the Moroccan restaurant with the other "oldies" you were preparing for your bike ride and I'm glad you managed to do and "enjoy" it before you began to feel rough. I hope you manage to get on that static bike soon. Don't worry about the Sky subscription. I'm about to stop mine, so that'll cancel yours out! All the best. Love Jane x

Amanda Hale - 12 Sep 2012

Hang on in there

Dear Mike

I never fail to be inspired by your indominatable and unfailing postivity in the face of adversity. I love the fact that you always have a project on the go in the midst of all the rubbish you are going through.

I agree that family is everything. We have just returned from a week in Greece 'en famille' and the benefit of being warmed by the sun, lounging around by the pool, exploring stunning mountain scenery and having long dinners where we talked about everything under the sun cannot be underestimated. When I'm feeling stressed, I conjure up those images and can almost feel the sun on my back.

I'm holding a positive image in my mind for you too, imagining you at home with your family, doing everyday family stuff and feeling well. Hold that thought Mike.

Keep hanging on in there and good luck with everything. Many people are making this journey with you and thank you for your generosity of spirit that enables you to bring honesty, comfort and hope to so many.

Best wishes


Sylvia King - 12 Sep 2012

In my thoughts

Mike, as an ex teacher who still mills around the education world I have followed and admired your work for many years. I have been following your blog and willing you along since you started this awful journey. I am sure there are many, like me, who read and just don't know what to say, so say nothing. I would like you to know that I am thinking of you.

Your blog is inspiring and thought provoking and is really helping me in supporting a dear friend who is in a similar position.

With all best wishes, Sylvia

Jonathan Stewart - 12 Sep 2012

Hang in there my friend

I think it may have been Churchill who said something to the effect that "If you're going through hell, keep going".
You're an inspiration, Mike. Your blogs and our brief correspondence to date has only served to prove what strength you have drawn from within and through such adversity.
All of us in the 14-19 Team in Surrey have some experience of the chaos and darkness of the big C and we send you our very best wishes.

Rebecca Hanson - 13 Sep 2012

Yesterday's blog doesn't seem to be working

Hi Mike,

I got a notification at 6:28pm yesterday that you'd updated your blog but I don't seem to be able to access the new post. There has sometimes been a delay between notifications and blog going live before but I can't remember it being more than an hour. Anyway if you're wondering why people haven't responded - there seems to be a glitch.

Meanwhile my Adonis book has just arrived. I noticed
you're quoted as saying on the back about Adonis that you've never met anyone with more enthusiasm and zeal for change.....

Was that a pre-Govian quote?

fiona - 13 Sep 2012

Our wonderful inspirational Mike Baker!

Hi Mike - sorry I haven`t been in touch for a few days - trying to get my head around assessment in education - and I so know if I talked to you I would be feeling so much more knowledgeable!!! Maurice and I think of you as always, and willing you to keep fighting the fight as we know you are. Much love Fiona Maurice and Edward (ps...still loves his Buzz lightyear, wonder if your builders ever finished :) )

penny - 14 Sep 2012

sea air

just sending some sea air this morning Mike and some thoughts.. Penny and Carl x x

Reeta - 14 Sep 2012

Dear Mike, I'm not always in touch but feel as if I am through the blog. You have such a strong and cheerful spirit, it is as everyone has said an inspiration. Education and Social Affairs are now installed in the new building at BH, and it feels like a homecoming after starting my career here. But gone are the specialists' pod-like offices - remember them? - instead it's all shiny and open-plan. Hope you are able to come and see it all soon. Reeta x

Michael Makin - 14 Sep 2012

An Inspiration to us all

Dear Mike,

I've tried to post on here before, but the "migration" of our University email seems to have complicated communications with this blog. I'm now using a different email address, so I hope this post works.

Alina and I are powerfully impressed and humbled both by your fortitude and by your writing. You are often in our thoughts.

Perhaps ITFC can bring us some joy after a somewhat disappointing summer for English cricket.

With great affection and admiration, MLM

Maddie. McGowan - 14 Sep 2012

Sending strength

Oh Mike I've thought about your so much this week. Sending you strength and blessings.


Emily Selvadurai - 14 Sep 2012

Mike..You've been in my thoughts all week. I wish you lots of rest, every comfort and most of all for you to know that you are talked about fondly all the time. We were thinking of you in BH today as we went to lunch in the canteen. Its not a patch on the one in TVC. There are no puddings & no custard. We are considering going on strike over it. Lots of love Emily x

Jim Webber - 16 Sep 2012

Mike. We are both thinking of you and hoping that the latest drugs give you some respite and allow some joy.
I am sure that I will never read the Adonis book, but I did read Chris Woodhead's review in ST of 9/9/2012. It is worth a read - perhaps you can give us a balanced review on Amazon!They have not got one yet although the book seems to be selling well.
Tomorrow is my first day of teaching behind bars, following a one day induction last week. It is strange how normal everything is in the classroom - at least if you don't look to far. The good news is that the learners seem very well informed on current affairs and on football matters - it could make teaching even more enjoyable than last season!

Yoshihiro Fujii - 16 Sep 2012

against side-effects

I think you have got chemical medicine treatment combined with pedetrexed(Alimta or Lily) and cisplatin from your doctor. As you said, it has brought hard side-effects to patient. But it might be eased by taking vitamin 12, please ask your doctor.
And almost all of Mesothelioma were caused by inhaled asbestos almost 20~50 yeas ago. Can you imagine when you had inhale them? I think to find out cause of your disease will encourage you to fight with it.

best wishes


Andy Day - 16 Sep 2012

Good Result

Hi Mike,
Hope you were cheered by Fulham's boisterous Saturday. This household was able to watch MOTD with pleasure for the first time in.... a long time (14 games since a Villa win). When our son lived off Fulham Broadway we had to walk past the Chelsea ground as a match finished. Never saw such a dispirited set of supporters with blank faces streaming out with blue scarves matching their mood. Guessed they'd lost or played out an anaemic draw. Found out later they'd won 4:0. Give me the volatility of our teams any day; the shafts of sunny glory need the darker clouds to give them intensity. (Shame Ipswich couldn't m
Oake it a slam dunk weekend for you - or am I mixing my sports). Really hope the week has been easier for you and that you are due some clear skies this week.


Fiona Montague - 20 Sep 2012

Hello :)

Mike, hope you are having some rest and relief from those horrible side affects - I am now even more in your in awe of you - still struggling with sitting down after trying to cycle with Edward! Thinking of you Fiona and Maurice x

Post a comment

After posting your comment you will need to confirm it by checking your email and clicking the confirmation that will be sent to you.

Comments will appear once reviewed for appropriate content.