My brother, Marky, agreed to drive me to college. I travelled light and only had one box of stuff in the back of his car. During the journey, we chatted and caught up with what I’d been up to in America. When we arrived in Oxford hours later, he parked and I asked directions to the accommodation office. There was a big queue of students so we got in line for the keys to my room, which took about an hour. When the paperwork was complete, there was yet another queue for directions to the various halls of residence. Marky was neither student-friendly nor the most patient person in the world. As we joined the back of another queue, he wasn’t happy. Continue reading

Leaving The Bubble


In the lull following radiotherapy, I try to concentrate on more pleasant times and thoughts float to when I visited Oxford Polytechnic for an open day. I borrowed a car and set off in the cold, early morning February darkness. Continue reading

The Last One


I arrive for the last radiotherapy session, number thirty. Only ten minutes earlier, I was leaning against a wall and throwing up. With watery eyes, I wiped my face and made my way into hospital. After a fifteen minute wait, my name is called and I put down a magazine about the latest celebrity bullshit. I walk past the other patients and into the whitewashed treatment area. Continue reading



I go into the final sessions of radiotherapy and am so unwell. Through the waves of tiredness, I stop at my favourite doorway to retch and vomit before making it into hospital and telling the radiotherapy operators I’m not okay but want the treatment anyway. It feels like torture as my head and shoulders are strapped to the bench using that green mask. The horrible blue light flashes through my head to metallic clunking sounds. The smell of steamed broccoli fills my nostrils. Continue reading

This Is My Low


I get up feeling drained and go to the bathroom for my usual morning routine, which involves flushing my PEG (the tube inserted into my stomach in case I need to be fed that way) through with water to prevent it from getting blocked up. It’s an odd sensation to have cold flushing into my stomach while everything else is warm. As I make my way back into the bedroom, I hit my foot against the bed. Pain rushes through me and I look down to see blood around my toes. Michelle helps me clean and strap it up. Continue reading

A Burning Inside


It’s a New Year’s Day and I write “The year of being healthy” in my diary. During the day, I stay in bed and watch The Great Escape. I’ve always enjoyed that film, but the title has a different meaning for me now. Continue reading

Grit My Teeth


It gets a lot more difficult from here on in. The sickness and vomiting is rampant, and my memory is hazy. The next three radiotherapy sessions take me to Christmas Eve. As a detraction from the radiation firing through my head, the operators play music. After I get dressed, I give the operators a nice bottle of wine each as a present and chat for a moment. We talk about where we’re spending Christmas and one operator asks how things are going. I had to be honest. Continue reading

Brain On Fire


I’m having weekly blood tests and fortnightly clinics with Dr Gavaghan. These tests never show any anomalies and he is positive about my progress. I reach the halfway point of the treatment. Continue reading

Tired And Sick

Post67 copy

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


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