Monday, May 20, 2013

8 years today - A life changing day.

At 1030 on the 20th May 2005 I was told I had cancer.  I never expected to be told that it was cancer, that was never on my radar.  8 years on I am still here alive and well.  Medically I am ok.  The lack of a set of neck muscles on one side of my body can be an arse but then it is the least of my worries.  I do have to take the occasional pain killer when the neck seizes up and there is rarely a comfortable driving and seated position.  Office chairs and meetings are a physical pain as an incorrect seating position usually ends up with me having to stand to prevent spasms and the inevitable headaches.  Sports massage normally helps relieve the pressure so things are not all bad.

Another side effect of my treatment the dry mouth caused by a lack a siliva gland, so I take water with me everywhere I go and avoid very dry white wine and spicy food as it my roof of my mouth and tongue often remind how punishing the radiotherapy was.  My taste is about 80% of what it was but I can taste most things now without the fear the mercury taste lingering in my food.  I have to be careful with things like rice, crisps or anything with a sharp texture to it and quickly learnt the best way to move it from my throat is not to gulp water but dry bread. 

My partial deafness in my left ear is a pain in the arse but I still have a right one ! 

Mentally I am ok.  I still have a problem with crowds and a tad claustrophobic, but when strapped by your head to a bench for one session a day for two months has affected my sense of awareness in large public places.  I often get flashbacks, times, dates, places, people and smells.  My latest one is window washing liquid on my car brought back the smell of the hand gel in he Oncology ward.  It creeps up on you but nothing more than the summer of 2005.

I am as a fit as a 49 year old bloke can be and suspect I could be fitter, but when 15% of my muscle group are missing and my body has to make amends for this I do not do too badly as I enter my 4th full season as a rugby referee.  

In the last 8 years I have got married, divorced, returned to Devon, buried my mother, made the front of National newspapers, appeared on Radio, Refereed nearly 250 rugby matches, attended the Olympics, Driven a classic Mini to Rome, trained to be an Adult Education Teacher, raised about 6k for various charities, rebuilt one house and completely renovated my home here in Ide.   Life has not been dull and I do not think I have taken more than 5 days off work through illness (Not cancer related) in 8 years.

I have to say my goal of staying alive to see both my children get to 16 will hopefully be achieved within the next 4 years with Will 14 and 6'2 and Ellen 12 in July.  

I hope I can prove to those with mouth/head/neck cancer that life goes out after treatment, the treatment being so brutal that you are left with side effects, physical, mental and conditional but it should not stop you enjoying life and squeezing every drop out of life.  When writing this I can see the faces of the men and women that Summer who failed to come of Yeo (Oncology) Ward.  As I was often the only resident at weekends I was aware of fellow sufferers slipping away from us.  In one instance I vacated my room to allow someone to die in peace.  

Many improvements have been made in Cancer Research over the years and through charitable support one day Cancer will be beaten like many other illnesses have been, for example polio, smallpox and the advances in HIV treatment.  

Here is to the next 8 years, trebles all round.

Keep attacking.