We were on our way back from Live 8 in Edinburgh on the train – nervous because of the attacks in London this being the 7th July 2005. But the nerves I had were not about that. After a scare in the April of that year I was going back to the doctor because there was still a lump and this time it wasn’t sore. It was just there. Sitting. And I was one letter away from that…
I knew in my heart it was cancer but saying out loud or hearing it from a professional would make it real which I didn’t want to hear at the age of 27. Cancer was something old people got not me in the prime of life with the rest of my life ahead of me. Having surfed Cancer Research’s website I read up on testicular cancer but little was going in, again because if I didn’t concede that’s what it was then I might still avoid it. I didn’t tell anyone apart from Jill and a close friend – nothing worse than ringing alarm bells with everyone if it wasn’t the worst case scenario.
It was the worst case scenario. The doctor referred me to get an ultrasound, who referred me to the consultant who told me I was in that weekend to have the problem sorted. An orchidectomy – remove the bollock and all the tubes and bits connecting it to stop the cancer spreading any further. At this point all I knew was that it was cancer; not the type or size or anything else and for a man who survives on knowledge I felt completely helpless.
Everyone reacts when you use the word “Cancer”. Some take a small step backwards to put distance between you, others make a leap forwards, some deny it’s happening to make it easier, others want to discuss it in detail. You just sit while the world turns around you – sitting at the centre of something you have no control over and can’t make any real sense of. It had happened so quickly that I wondered at times if it was actually happening. Between July 8th and September 2nd 2005 I was lost, scared, emotional – very emotional in that the slightest thing would start me crying. I was considering my own mortality and what that meant to those around me. You see that’s the thing with an invisible disease and one that doesn’t really change you physically on the outside you just get on with life – it’s everyone else around you that does the worrying and questioning. You go to the experts and they do their job – you just have to trust them and be patient.
The operation took place on the first Friday of August but it took nearly a month until I got the final piece of news. During that time I wondered what my life was going to be: childless? hopeless? ball-less? Everything carried on as normal really for a month as people went back to work and life carried on again as I waited for the news from the consultant to whether I’d need further treatment, what that would involve, if the cancer had spread what implications that would have on my life or if the good news story would happen. It was like watching a great TV show only to be left with a nail-biting cliff-hanger and four weeks to wait for the next episode.
I had an appointment to see the consultant on Friday 2nd September at 8.30am. That date and time will forever be etched in my head because it was the day the clock was reset. Jill came with me to the clinic but I told her to wait in the reception as I wanted to do this next step on my own first before anything else happened. I did this all the way through the appointments – not because I was being selfish or secretive, but I needed to have the information first before having to deal with anyone else’s questions or concerns. Once I had it straight in my head it would be easier to speak to others about it. I told her that I would only bring her through if it was bad news so she could then ask the consultant any questions she had.
For two months I had run every possible scenario through my mind about what he was about to say. From the dark and depressing to the brilliant and triumphant. Thankfully the latter happened and a weight lifted off of me and I took a deep breath able to free myself from the horrible thoughts that had been in my mind.
“All Clear” he said.
Two words that hold so much power. Because the cancer had been caught so early they decided that they would monitor me closely instead of the usual blast of radio or chemotherapy that came after this type of experience. Also I discovered that the tumour had been Teratoma cancer which is the rarer of the two types and multiplies through your body quickly – if I hadn’t gone to see the doctor again I might not be typing this blog now. He asked if anyone was with me and I said Jill was in the reception area – forgetting that I’d said the only reason we’d be through to get her was if it was bad news! She started crying as soon as she saw us, but very quickly we put her mind at ease and told her the good news. A huge sigh of relief from us both.
I said my thank yous to Dr Hutcheon and we headed off. My first phone call when I got to the car was my Dad who to this day still had the best reaction of anyone – “Thank fuck for that!” he said. For a man who isn’t known for his emotional outbursts this was a great moment. Next stop was to see Mum and tell her and then phone everyone who had been asking about me to tell them the great news. I was here to stay.
Now all me and Jill had to worry about was the wedding that was taking place tomorrow – ours.
The story wasn’t over though and on Wednesday I’ll pick it up from here, because tomorrow it’s all about the day I married my soul mate.