30th Jan 17

It is now nearly eleven years since the awful day I was diagnosed with the big ‘C’. Where have the years gone? Am I the same person? Whereto from here? All those questions have been asked by many in my position. So, it’s now time to post about those things and more to bring my story up to date.

This exercise is one for which I have not been ready until now. The experiences I have had in the last five years obviously have impacted in my lifestyle and, more importantly, that of my wife, my carer and, my little champion. Had it not been for her caring, love, understanding, fighting spirit and patience, life would have been very difficult. In fact it would not have been worthwhile.

I also owe a great deal to two groups of people I will describe further a little later and other individuals who have given me the strength and motivation to work through the issues confronting me from the disease and the subsequent treatment.

A few things happened, mostly prompted by my wife, to set our lives on a slightly different course. Understanding that Gail needed to extend her outside interests, she joined the local over 50’s Table Tennis Club and it became a great part of her, and my life. Among the members she found a number of new, close friends and as, they became my friends too, it had a very positive effect on me. The same must be said for her old card playing group who were there for her when it really mattered, we are deeply indebted to them.

At Gail’s insistence I dragged myself along to a meeting of the General Cancer Support Group. I was quite sure I did not need it and felt very uncomfortable when approaching the meeting venue. I shyly walked in to be greeted by a terrific bunch of people, both cancer people and carers. I’m not unused to speaking in public but I was as nervous as a kitten when it was my turn to speak about my story. Anyway, I let it all go while they listened quietly and attentively. The group were gracious to me when I finished. I can honestly say that meeting with those people completely changed my outlook for the better. Here I had new friends who understood what I had gone through and made me realise that I was not the only one to be attacked by cancer. After all this time I am still a very proud member of the group and I try to treat new members as, I was, at first.

As an outcome of my group involvement I was appointed as a Consumer Representative to the wonderful Mid North Coast Cancer Institute, where although still feeling my way, I hope to contribute to patient welfare and understanding. The Institute has welcomed me and it is very clear that it is a bunch of very professional and hardworking group of people working in a stressful environment. The centre itself is state of the art, could use more staff and, as you would expect, underfunded.

Not long after joining the Cancer Support Group, I decided to join The Coffs Seniors Computer Club to see if I may be able to help as a tutor. As it turned out the tutor of the ‘Apple’ class was leaving that day so I settled in almost straight away. I have been doing that ever since and enjoying learning more about the sometimes complex modern technology. Have absolutely no idea of how to build computers and I am far from being a ‘techie’ but I slowly cottoned on to how to use them. That club has been wonderful for me for the friendship and the feeling that comes with helping people.

Over the whole time since I was told I had cancer I have wondered about the depression which hits most of us, and how to deal with it. My depression was pretty deep to the stage I could not speak to Gail without crying and had to write her notes even about the most simple things. I felt my life was over or at least, what was left was not worth worrying about. Between my wife and a great GP they were able to convince me that is WAS depression and could be treated. Once I admitted it and took a low dosage of medication there was a rapid improvement in my general wellbeing. I was able to look at life in a positive way and ‘SMELL THE ROSES’. I was back to enjoying life for what it is. I learned to adjust to the after effects of the disease and the subsequent treatment. Some people are surprised when I tell them that I have not had a knife and fork meal for over eleven years. I don’t make saliva so I have to carry a water bottle with me at all times. Although I’m not too good at dinner parties, life is not all bad.