There’s always someone who’s worse off than yourself…

Yours truly having the operation to remove my thyroid.

Yours truly having the operation to remove my thyroid.

I wasn’t the least bit surprised when the consultant explained to me that I had cancer.

It was my mum who spotted the innocuous-looking lump on my neck last July.

Since then, at every stage of testing, when each one of the experts said that the chances of me having thyroid cancer were very small, I somehow managed to make the cut. I have been in that small percentage.

However, being told the results of the biopsy still felt like an out-of-body experience.

“Now I know what it is I can beat it,” I remember telling myself as I walked back to my car. “I’ll be fine.”

Then I drove home from the hospital, rang my gaffer at The Sentinel, sat down on the settee with our Yorkshire Terrier and wept.

I’m not embarrassed to admit that, at 36, I had myself dead and buried.

Thus I resolved to get my affairs in order. My priority was to make sure that my family were financially secure.

I very quickly did what I should have done years ago and went out and bought a DIY last will and testament kit.

Worldly possessions distributed? Check.

Funeral arrangements sorted? Check.

I spent every minute I could with my children because I figured I was living on borrowed time.

I found it hard to look at my girls without wanting to burst into tears. I just wanted to see them grow up.

To say sleep was hard to come by would be an understatement. My brain didn’t want to shut down.

Colleagues quickly realised I wasn’t just using up the time in lieu we hacks accrue for working daft hours. I didn’t try to keep the illness a secret. I couldn’t see the point.

In contrast, I steadfastly refused to talk about the cancer with my nearest and dearest beyond the occasional ‘I’m fine’.

If this was the beginning of the end I was determined I didn’t want to be remembered as the bloke who spent his last months mithering and being a burden to those around him.

At least that’s the theory. In reality I continue to worry my loved ones to death by bottling it up.

I had umpteen sets of tests and two operations.

Then I saw the consultant who was to oversee the forthcoming radiotherapy.

Like all his predecessors, the doctor spoke reassuringly, almost nonchalantly, about my treatment.

I wanted to shout at him that I was really scared – that it was a huge deal. Couldn’t he look a bit more, well… bothered?

But he’d been here hundreds, probably thousands, of times before. What to me seemed like the end of the world was, for him, just another pre-op appointment.

Then he said it: “Cancer isn’t what it used to be, you know.”

And suddenly the penny dropped. Before that comment, I had this notion that I was slugging it out with the cancer. It was a fight I had to win because I desperately didn’t want to leave my family and friends. It was me against the cancer. Simple.

But it wasn’t. It never had been. In the blue corner it was me, my family and friends, my colleagues and some wonderful NHS staff.

In the red corner was the cancer.

Suddenly I fancied the odds.

I thought about all the amazing and inspiring stories I had written and read over the years. About the Women Fighting For Herceptin and their remarkable triumph over not just cancer, but the establishment that had conspired to deprive them of hope.

I adopted the ‘there’s always someone worse off than yourself’ philosophy and suddenly I felt so much better.

I’m not out of the woods yet… but I think I can see the tree-line.

Cancer isn’t what it used to be, you know.


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