The mental aspects of going through cancer are enormous. I have literally been given a new lease of life. I feel different as the weight of illness lifts. I enjoy the small things more, like the feeling of raindrops on my face and the morning sunlight shining through the branches of trees. After enduring a sustained period of sickness, I savour being able to go for a run, eat a salad or just drink water. I am happy to be alive.
Soon after I get the all-clear, I meet up with a trader I used to advise and he begins the conversation.
“So, let’s get this out of the way. Are you feeling better? Good. Now, are you over all that post-cancer bullshit that life is amazing?”
It’s difficult to know how to answer that question.
I pause. “Err, I’m not sure if you ever really get over nearly dying.”
The trader goes on to talk about how fantastic life is for him. He has just been awarded a massive bonus. He admits that he realises I have “Had a shit time lately” but life is treating him “Tremendously well.” I should have said the first thing that came into my head, which was ‘Fuck you.’ But I internalised it.
The fact is my perspective has shifted. The significance of Michelle and the kids has been magnified and the triviality of work is clear despite the inherent self-importance, urgency and pressure.
I see my GP about the after-effects of my cancer treatment and he mentions I’m an “Interesting case.” He asks how I am feeling.
“There are a few issues after the radiotherapy. Tiredness, a blocked tear duct, sinus headaches, things like that. But they are pretty minor considering what could have happened.”
“Your case is an unbelievable one. I’m not sure if you’re unlucky or lucky. You’re unlucky to get nasal cancer, of course, but so lucky to get through it.”
“I think I’m lucky because Mr Hogan said this type of cancer usually gets diagnosed when the tumour is so advanced that nothing can be done.”
“That’s what I mean. Your situation is just incredible because I’ve never heard of nasal cancer ever getting caught this early.” He looks me in the eye. “Ever.” I leave the surgery on a high.
A few months later, we all go to see Mr Hogan for a check-up on the kids. I look normal again now; my hair has grown back and the radiation burns on my face have healed. He greets us in the Clementine-Churchill Hospital waiting room and talks to me on the way to his room. This is the same walk we did before he gave me the bad news. He asks how I am and about the care I am receiving from The Royal Marsden Hospital.
“You’re a very lucky boy. It’s good to see you alive,” he says, smiling. Life is good.