Test Run

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This would be tough. I need to be robust to get through cancer. My thoughts drift to when I was nineteen. My elder brother, Marky, saw an article in the local newspaper entitled “Teessiders Can Take It” in bold letters. It was a recruitment drive for the local Parachute Regiment battalion – part of the Army Reserve (formerly known as the TA). Continue reading

Dig Deep

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I check in and fill out some forms. This is my first experience of a cancer hospital and it’s really depressing. There’s a pungent smell of disinfectant and floor polish. All the other patients in the waiting room are twenty to thirty years older than me. Some look in quite good shape, but one woman looks frail, wearing a trademark cancer headscarf. Her eyes are drawn and she hobbles in, leaning on her husband. No one gives her a second glance and I realise this is not out of the ordinary around here. Eventually, I’m called to another waiting area and pass the refectory on the way. I look in the windows and see groups of people huddled around tables filled with hot drinks. Some people appear normal, but there are the inevitable bald patients, the deathly pale and others with an intravenous drip on a stand. I make a mental note that cancer hospital canteens don’t look much of a laugh, so I’ll stay away from those places. Continue reading

A Calm Rage

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My next appointment is at Mount Vernon Hospital, in Northwood, for PET and CT scans. They will illustrate body tissues and show the cancer in more definition. These scans are key to determining a survival rate as they can show the stage of cancer. I eat nothing for at least the recommended six hours before the appointment time, but am allowed to drink a little water. Continue reading

Boo Hoo

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A few days after the surgery, I’m in bed at home. My discharge from hospital is all a bit hazy, but I’m definitely home. Michelle has a night out pencilled into her diary and, for obvious reasons, she doesn’t want to go out. I tell her I’m alright. I feel fucking awful, but she deserves time to unwind a bit. She agrees to meet her friends, reluctantly. But she wants me to call her if I feel unwell. Michelle leaves and I have pain shooting through the middle of my head. I can taste chemicals and blood. I should check on the kids, who are asleep in the rooms next to ours, but can’t get up. My head’s pounding, the room is spinning and I feel sick. And I’ve already taken the maximum pain relief and other meds allowed. Continue reading

Results

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The consultant loads the scans on his computer and takes some time to review them. I’m studying his face and panicking. After an agonisingly long time, he turns to me. Continue reading

Bye Bye Tumour

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Later that day, I think about the shock of being told I have cancer and the best possible result of my scans. For a bad situation, it doesn’t get any better than this. I’m lucky. Then I think about something that stays at the forefront of my mind for a long time. It’s better that I have cancer and not Michelle or the kids. Forty-two is not too old for a clash with cancer. And I’m best placed to deal with this – fit, strong and pig-headed enough to be convinced I’ll get through. Anyway, I really wouldn’t know how to handle it if someone I loved got this terrifying illness. I’m up for the fight. Continue reading

Scans

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After brief snatches of sleep, it takes a moment for me to recall where I am. Sluggish, I recognise my surroundings. The house we’d recently moved to. My wife, Michelle sleeping beside me. Our bedroom would have to be redecorated. Thinking about the past was good as far as it went. But I needed to instil a fearless frame of mind. Continue reading

Getting Off The Track

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A few days later, I had a meeting with the course tutor and received a roasting for producing a sub-standard essay. She was right, of course, because my essay was rubbish. She ordered me to read the set texts again and produce better work. I took it on the chin, left the room, went slowly down the stairwell surrounded by wooden panelling and onto the pathway outside. It was a breezy November morning as I walked, the imposing History building to my right and walled gardens to the left. A few students mingled around the benches. Others sat on a low wall. Continue reading

A Tale Of Two Plates

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The reality of my financial situation soon kicked in. I didn’t have any money of my own. My parents gave enough for rent, bills and food, but nothing to socialise with. I was eighteen, living away from home for the first time and going out was high on my list of things to do. I could have tried to get a part-time job, but was struggling enough with the studies. Continue reading