I now have CT scans about every six months to see if there are any signs of the cancer returning. These are at The Royal Marsden Hospital and I do my usual walk from the tube station listening to music and turn right onto Fulham Road, cross over and head towards the hospital. On the left are some shops and I always look at the street corner where I used to vomit before going into the radiotherapy sessions. My experiences there are drilled into my brain. But I take reassurance from how far I have come since those times. Continue reading

Hospital Again And Again


Appointments at The Royal Marsden Hospital alternate between Dr Gavaghan and Mr Harker, and extend from a monthly basis to every six weeks, then to two months and eventually four-month intervals. I go to each appointment with an immense nervousness in the pit of my stomach because it is a check-up to see if the cancer has returned. The routine includes the doctors looking into my throat and externally checking my neck and face. Then it is the nasendoscopy, which involves me sat down facing the doctor wearing a circular head mirror to reflect light into my nasal passage. Local anaesthetic is sprayed up my nose and the 30cm tube inserted into a nostril. A few sniffs and often a swallow so it is into the nasal cavity and down my throat for a good look. I keep my eyes shut for this procedure and concentrate on staying still without retching, so it is over quicker. Continue reading

Back To Work


I have to at least try the proposed quick return to work. Michelle, Lucy and Jack rely on me financially. I do not feel ready for this. Physically, I may look like anyone else but, mentally, I am not sure. It might all go wrong and maybe I cannot handle it. But I will never know if I don’t give it a go. Continue reading

Greatest Asset


It is nearing the end of my sickness certificate, so I brace myself for going back to work. I practice walking to the train station and am in a right state the first time I make it to the entrance at the top of a small hill. I lean against a wall, completely out of breath, and realise this will take some time. I do this slowly a few times a week and eventually manage to get there without looking like I am about to have a heart attack. The time soon comes for me to contact human resources at work and I arrange a meeting. I have had near radio silence from work, apart from keeping in touch with a few friends there. I meet with human resources and they are keen on my return to work. Continue reading

All Coming Together


It’s as if the all-clear is a catalyst for everything else to fall into place. My ears start to make cracking sounds and I discover if I hold my nose and blow, my ears clear for brief periods of time. Slowly but surely, my hearing returns to normal and my eyesight becomes sharper. Also, the patch on the back of my head goes from being smooth to having some fluffy down on it. Soon the hair thickens and then grows back. The new hair is a darker colour and looks like a target on my head, but I cannot have everything. I spend the following alternate months with consultations between Dr Gavaghan and Mr Harker at The Royal Marsden Hospital. I’m nervous each and every time, but they consistently give me a clean bill of health. The results of CT scans are equally good and I can start to think about the future. Continue reading

Result Time


The big day arrives. I have a Wednesday appointment at 3:30 p.m. with Mr Harker to hear his post-operative opinion about the cancer. If the radiotherapy has worked, the cancer will be gone; if it has not worked, I would have to face the “Potentially horrific” consequences I had been warned about. Continue reading

Emergency Cord


By the time my bed is wheeled back to the room, I have been away for over three hours and Michelle is looking worried. It was supposed to be a minor operation, but the pain is far worse than the other operations. I settle down and ebb in and out of sleep with bandaging strapped under my nose. When I wake up properly, it is late afternoon and I’m feeling sick. The nurses try to get me to eat something but it is no good. My stats are regularly taken and the results are well below normal. Different coloured pills are brought in for me. A decision has to be taken and the nurse does not want to risk sending me home, so I’m in for the night. I talk with Michelle for a while and she has to get back for the kids, who have been with their grandparents all day. I am feeling too unwell for company anyway so it is best if Michelle goes back to reassure the kids I’m okay. Continue reading

Taking The Pain


In the anaesthetic area outside the operating theatre, I chat with the nurse and anaesthetist for a few minutes until he prepares the drugs and begins to load me up. This is a much gentler anaesthetic than before and I look up at the clock above the door to the operating theatre. It’s coming up to 11 a.m. as the drugs hit the back of my throat. I cough and drift away. Continue reading

Getting Used To Out Of The Ordinary


The time has come for another operation to my head. This is operation number five. The others have taken a lot out of me. For the first one, I was standing tall. Now I am on my knees. But I’m up for this. I have never shied away from anything. Continue reading

Attempting Normality


I hear a familiar voice through the haze. It’s Michelle and she has a hand on my shoulder and says it’s time to get ready to go to The Royal Marsden Hospital. My latest appointment is the monthly clinic I attend to check on my progress. Sluggish, I get up. In the bathroom, I stand in the shower and try to wash away the tiredness. It doesn’t work. I walk to the tube station and am on automatic all the way to the hospital. Continue reading