Tired And Sick

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In the first week I have five radiotherapy sessions and it’s all going well until I catch a cold. For a few days I can’t breathe through my nose, so I have a real problem breathing at all with that mask on. Somehow, I struggle through these sessions and draw breath through my mouth with the distinct impression of being throttled into suffocation throughout the therapy. During one session with a lack of air, I feel dizzy. But I deal with the situation as calm as I can. When the mask is released from my head, I’m slow to move and manage to open my eyes as I take a deep gasp of air. Continue reading

The First One

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My wife, Michelle, comes with me to the hospital for moral support, but she won’t be able to accompany me very often as I’ve arranged the series of radiotherapy appointments to coincide with when she drops the kids off at school. I will have to go into London for these appointments alone. It’s the right thing for me, as I need to mentally prepare for these sessions. If Michelle or anyone else keeps me company, I’ll be distracted from concentrating on getting through intact and surviving cancer. I have to be strong and single-minded. I refuse to let cancer or radiotherapy rob me of independence. Continue reading

The Royal Marsden Hospital

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I have an appointment with Dr Gavaghan at The Royal Marsden and Michelle comes with me. This is a really important meeting. I heard he got his IMRT experience in the USA and then returned to England to set up a unit for this new radiotherapy treatment. He is relatively young, in his late thirties, has short brown hair, glasses and a considered, caring and intelligent manner. He begins by saying he’s read my notes and looked at all my scan results. His conclusion is there’s no need for chemotherapy. Relief hits me full on, as the little I know about that drug is it strips the patient to almost bare bones. Continue reading

Preparation

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Those days are behind me, but I’ve maintained fighting fitness through years of kickboxing. Both physical fitness and mental fortitude will be needed to push through this ordeal of cancer. I have an appointment with the ENT surgeon, Mr Hogan, who refers me to an oncologist for assessment with the parting words “See you on the other side.” I look at him and hope that’s true. Continue reading

Motivation

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As my USA trip came to an end, I flew back to England and boarded a coach to the North East in time to have one last night out. I met a few mates in the local pub and my old boss, Bob Hangdog, was sat at a table with his drinking buddies. I hadn’t seen him in about four months and he asked what new skills I’d learned. All I did was spend a summer in the sun. My mates looked at me. Continue reading

Time To Leave

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I was getting criticised in the workplace. Neither hard work nor decent college results seemed to do any good. I designed a system to pinpoint the company’s profit or loss on a contract by contract basis. Before this, they quoted on jobs and did the work without any data on margins. It was used to increase profitability. And the small department I managed completed its work accurately and on time. But I was given no credit at all. I’d had enough. Upstairs and at the back of the two-storey building, there was a small, windowless room. Shelves filled the walls with folders. I used to go there to spend time alone. Things were coming to a head. It was the end of the line. Continue reading

Encouragement

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On results day, I got three distinctions and two merits, and accepted the offer for the Oxford Polytechnic degree in business and law. I deferred the place for a year so I could save some more money. Kaz also passed and we celebrated in the Middlesbrough pubs. By the time the goodbyes were over, I was pissed and skint. I couldn’t get a taxi back to the house so I walked over to the riverside to sleep at work. It had been raining and I walked through an industrial estate along the wet streets lit by the glow of streetlamps. Continue reading

Looking Forward

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A few weeks later, we were having a house party. Rog and I hired two blokes to mind the door and deal with any trouble. Unfortunately, the party got a bit too enthusiastic and the bouncers left after only two hours. Rog and I tried to keep order. Continue reading

Fight

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The beginning of the end of my time in Northern England happened after a confrontation with a gang that had bullied Rog throughout his schooldays. Name-calling and the odd schoolboy scrap intensified into something much more sinister in adult life: Threats and violence. It was time to put a stop to it all. One Friday evening in the pub, a heated argument kicked off when one of the Bullyboys spread a rumour that he was sleeping with Rog’s girlfriend. I didn’t know if it was true, but I assumed not. Anyway, Rog was not impressed and a scuffle broke out. There were five of them against Rog, myself and a few of his student friends, but only I backed Rog up. They told us not to drink there again. Continue reading

The Sun And The Cold

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A friend had bought a house and two rooms were available to rent. Rog took one room and I got the other. Boredom mounted at work, but I was lucky to be earning, given the lack of work in the local area. Summer holidays abroad with my mates offered some light relief from everyday life. Continue reading