Hard Times


The procedure each time I went for a radiotherapy session involved collecting my file before going to the waiting area. I sat down with the others and a silent resignation to our fate. Flicking through my notes, I was met with indecipherable medical terminology. I am not sure if the doctors told me the stage of cancer I have. If they did, I was too dazed or messed up to take it in.

I look up the statistics for survival rates and it is scary reading. The five-year survival rate for nasal cancer is about 5%. Fuck!! But the prognosis improves if the cancer is diagnosed early. This is tempered with a warning as patients react differently to cancer and the treatment no matter what stage a tumour is detected. I was told I had a good chance of survival. But I could still die and here I am – weak, bed-ridden and getting worse. I decide to stop reading the internet and concentrate on fighting the cancer.

I am dragged to a dark place. Michelle is doing everything she can for me and the kids try to play and make me smile, but I feel distant. At best, I am half-awake. Nothing feels real. Weakness is consuming me and it is an effort to even sit up in bed. In between bouts of nausea, I try to fix my mind on getting through this. My recollections are hazy around here, the conversations are muffled, my eyes are blurred and I cannot take much in.

I make it alone to an appointment with Dr Gavaghan at The Royal Marsden Hospital and talk about how things are going. I am surprised when he is still upbeat about my progress. He explains I have radiation somnia, which would explain the weariness and vomiting. This is unusual, but treatable. He puts me on a second course of steroids combined with antibiotics. I have no recollection of getting to the hospital or back. The steroids have little effect so, a month later, I am on a third course of steroids.

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