A simple stretch one morning over Christmas 2008 and there it was, a lump on the neck.
What do you think to yourself? Cancer? Hodgkin’s Lymphoma? A continuing battle to get rid of it? A year of chemotherapy? Four different chemotherapy regimes, two outpatient and two inpatient? Permanent lung damage from the chemo, hospitalisation due to lung damage, pneumonia and parvovirus, a dozen or so CT and PET scans, seemingly endless blood transfusions followed by seemingly endless venesections, needles after needles after needles, hair loss (twice), visits to five different hospitals? All to no effect?
Can you imagine waiting to see a doctor at the Beatson to find out whether their weekly review of patients decided to give you a stem cell transplant or not – effectively a death sentence? Then good news from the Beatson, followed by more chemo, an allogeneic stem cell transplantation, a month of desolation in the Beatson and five years of battling to feel well?
Do you think of all the people you need to thank? The person who saw fit to register with the Anthony Nolan Bone Marrow Trust. I had never even given blood, though as an active gay man the NHS never wanted it. Somebody thought about helping a stranger. Mo, one of the many nurses who, during a month long stay at the Beatson, brightened every day delivering “two and a coo” (that’s tea with two sugars and milk) and words of comfort and support. Keeping a stranger fighting the battle because she cares. The support of all the countless nurses (Julie, Zoe, Jo etc.) and doctors keeping me ticking over while my body healed and grew strong. Why? Because it was their job? Because they care for others. All that they did for a complete stranger.
All friends and neighbours of Doune who cleaned the house, sorted the garden, supplied meals and gave encouragement (Kate, Joan, Helen etc.), Mags and Robert for all the hugs, Addy for ferrying me to and from hospitals, for shopping, for helping me up the stairs to bed, for tucking me in!!!, for being THE reason I carried on?
Or do you think, damn, that lump is going to hinder my “pick up routine”, and ooh, cold cuts and sherry trifle for boxing day lunch round a cosy log fire?
For me, thinking about cold cuts and trifle won, for that day at least. The lump gets seen to when I get back home. Some worry themselves, waiting to see a doctor. Horses for courses I suppose. I believe it was that kind of attitude, and the unbelievable support and kindness of friends and specialists that helped me from 2009 to today, and gave me six more years of life, so far. More years to “cause a whole lot trouble” before the last Christmas is over and no more sherry trifle left.
This is my cancer story. Still being written as you read. Many more chapters to write. New characters to meet, new storylines, more drama, more horror, more action and adventure but, most of all, more comedy, slapstick and farce. A mix of “Carry on Matron”, “You Only Live Twice”, and “Priscilla Queen of the Desert”. Because of all that help and support, I’m trying to give back, by helping recruit people to the Anthony Nolan Bone Marrow Register and raise money for McMillan Cancer nurses. Give them a click and help save a life like mine.
Thanks to you all.
Anthony Nolan bone marrow recipient
10 November 2015