The Oxford Mail has kindly given me this fresh opportunity to again contribute a regular monthly column about the everyday challenges of living with an incurable cancer.
I am keen to do this for a number of reasons, the main one being that since my diagnosis in 2007 I have lost far too many good friends, fellow patients, and not least my own wife, to this terrible disease which is now likely to affect one in two of us and if I can offer any support or advice to families then I will try my best to do so.
It gives me the opportunity to share with other patients the all important need to remain positive, to ask questions, and to seek out the best and most appropriate and timely treatments.
Your consultant will not mind if you wish to seek a second opinion regarding treatment as there may be better or more appropriate skills available in another part of the country.
A lot has happened since my last column in February 2011, when I was then celebrating my recent award of an MBE for service to cancer patients.
I was honoured to receive the award which I accepted on behalf of all those people we lost who were denied drugs.
I am pleased to say that following our campaign David Cameron was inspired to introduce the Cancer Drugs Fund on becoming Prime Minister, and now some 35,000 patients have free access to life extending drugs.
Cancer can be a most terrifying ride, with many highs and lows, and like many others I have had my share, but I guess that’s life.
The most devastating event of all was the loss of my wife Jan in October 2011 to a rare form of breast cancer.
She went through a mastectomy and two years of harsh chemotherapy treatment which proved to be ineffective in the end. It is difficult to put into words the immense sense of loss we all felt, as Jan was at the very centre of our family life and had spent so much of her time caring for me.
She was a very special person who was always willing to help those less fortunate than her with a ready smile and a reassuring hug for many of the patients we later came to know.
We had been married for some 40 years and all the family had expected me to go first, especially as I had been diagnosed way back in 2007.
So I am now back to living on my own once more which was a bit of a shock at first from a practical point of view as I was useless in the kitchen having relied on Jan’s tasty home cooked meals.
Shall we just say it has been a steep learning curve but I’m getting there?
A lot has happened in these three years including: a house move to Eynsham, marriage of my daughter, death of my wife, nominated by PM to carry the Olympic Torch in Woodstock, arrival of our lovely granddaughter who is the apple of my eye, various talks to schools on the theme of Perseverance, a trip to No.10 to seek PM’s agreement for a further £15m for radiotherapy treatment, providing ongoing help and support for patients with various cancer types, and finally successful treatment for 34 brain tumours and recent confirmation that at present I have no cancer in my brain that needs treatment!
I feel good and strong and as soon as the painful tumour in my spine is treated then I will be better able to continue with patient support and to lobby the powers that be for continued improvements in cancer patient outcomes as we still lag behind many other countries in cancer survival rates which remains a conundrum which may be down to poor/late diagnosis.
So, I decided to give this column a more relevant title as it does seem to me now that I am setting out again on a new adventure, but this time having to do so as a single person once again.
I’m pleased to say that I am lucky enough to have many true friends who have stuck by me through thick and thin.
Their close friendship and prayers have been invaluable to me and I sincerely thank them all. I have really fallen on my feet since moving to Eynsham.
I have never lived in such a friendly and convenient village which has everything.
I am further encouraged by new friends, neighbours, and fellow members of St Leonard’s who have welcomed me warmly into the church family. I have no doubt that their ongoing prayers together with the skills of my excellent medical team have enabled me to keep on keeping on.
Some of the issues I will be writing over the next few weeks include: Disastrous U-turn by NHS England regarding the proposed and fully funded Gamma Knife Centre in Oxford which has now been axed as reported in the press last week. Media unable to determine the reason behind this.
Return of “Post Code Lottery” despite promises.
Recent leaked report of patients being treated on radiotherapy machines over 10 years old. How can we be sure this has not damaged internal organs by exposure to less accurate beam?
So, I hope you will join me in the coming weeks on this new journey.