I was always aware that this year was going to be a big one for me and my family, and I am seeing so many important things I never thought I would live to see, and none more so than my youngest son getting married this weekend. Since my cancer diagnosis and poor prognosis in 2007, living to see 2008 was my ambition, but since then I have two grandchildren, my son has qualified as a chartered accountant and is now getting married and my wife has a big birthday later in the year. But if I think back to the many dark days I have had in the last few years, I could never have thought that I would be seeing these events.
But hope is something I never lost at any stage, it is something I have always had even when I was a young lad, and has helped guide me through life’s choppy waters. During my early years, there were many what I considered to be life changing moments, but there was only really one, which was meeting my wife! I know now that all the others were just twists and turns in a normal life that happen to most of us at some stage. I thought I was set for a relatively routine life with children, grandchildren and pension schemes, until cancer reared its ugly head. Now that really is life changing!! Despite all the stuff I was hearing, I really did believe that I could get back to living a normal life and working as I did before, logic never came into my thinking really. Then after surviving such aggressive treatment I was continually sick, with particularly my lungs and liver at risk of failure. Even at this stage I never lost hope.
After 7 years of pretty much constant treatment for an incurable disease and the after effects of it, I am now only on medication to control things. Naturally there are still issues to deal with, but minor in comparison to previous experiences. Although I am very much a different person now, this is certainly better than I could have hoped for. I have lost a lot in this period, including much of my memory, and I certainly struggle to recall parts of my life before cancer. Within the confines of a family man, I was carefree, loving my work with enough money not to have to worry too much about my future. But life has shown me what really is important, and our constant chase for money and possessions definitely isn’t.
When starting my cancer support journey I had always hoped that people would take me seriously, despite having no real plan. Although things seem to have taken their time, my work has gone much better than I could ever imagine. I give as much to this role as I can, but I have received so much in return, in terms of satisfaction from helping people. So at this stage I can say I am grateful for being here and what positive things life has given me. To see my children fulfil their ambitions and dreams, and see my grandchildren start to do the same is an incredible feeling for me.
I realise that hope is what has driven me to be the person I am, and according to my medical people my positivity has helped me through the bad times. But given the importance of it, is hope something that everyone has, are you born with it, or just acquire it as you live your life? Most people I have met do have it, but I have also met many that lost it too. What I do enjoy about my work is that my own case can give hope to others, and I am constantly contacted from around the world by people with a similar diagnosis to my own, who can see the life I am able to lead now. Nowhere was that more poignant than at my own hospital where I was giving a presentation about Stem Cell Transplants. In the audience was a man who had just been diagnosed with my disease and had come to meet me and find out more.
For myself I no longer have any great expectations, and am happy to be able to play my part as a husband, father, grandfather and friend for as long as nature will allow. I hope to continue with my work, but not to the same intensity that I have, and I would like something unrelated to cancer to fill the gap where treatment was. But I am used to life throwing ‘curved balls’ so I’m sure there will be something unexpected turn up soon! The reality is that I will always be on alert because of my disease and I will be frequently tested at the hospital so there is no escape mentally. I suppose my one main hope is that my experience has not been wasted, and being able to share with others around the world has meant that many patients and professionals are learning from it, to hopefully improve things for people following me. I have seen massive steps in progress for treatment of my disease, despite it being a rare cancer, and although slower than I would like I can see progress in the cancer support sector too.
As I have talked about above, hope has been absolutely key to helping me throughout my life and continues to today. How important has that emotion been for you? Please feel free to share your views and experiences below.