Over the years one notices how people always speak in hushed tones when cancer is referred to, and even the word itself is often avoided and euphemisms – even obvious ones like, “The Big C” are used. Sure enough when the enormity of such a diagnosis sinks in, then one realises just how life changing ‘living with cancer’ is.

Five weeks after my initial diagnosis and one week post-surgery it still hasn’t really sunk in as to what exactly is happening. I’ve had my fist experience of attending clinics in hospitals and having to wait in functional – but dreary – NHS waiting rooms; my first experience of being prodded and poked and peered at by a variety of health practioners; my fist experience of being an in-patient and really being reliant on the care and attention of complete strangers – even for those most intimate of functions! My first experience of having surgery and all that goes with post-operative care and follow up. It’s a whole new world for me and as the Good Book says, “The eyes of the blind are opened, and the ears of the death unstopped…” I have seen and heard things these past few weeks that nominally I had seen and heard before, but never actually taken on board.

Of course I knew that up and down the land there are thousands and thousands of people who are ill, bed-bound; pain-filled; frightened and anxious and facing their own demise. Of course I knew that. But I didn’t know it! The enormity of it had never really sunk in before. I had seen but not seen, heard but not heard. But now I have – even if only peripherally – entered into that world.

I remember the first time I went SCUBA diving (since you ask, it was in the Caribbean…) and was amazed at what I saw. It truly was a new world. It was just inches below the oceans on which I had sailed though my entire Royal Navy career. It was a world that was always with me – just below the surface, marginally out of sight – nonetheless real – but beyond my vision and experience. But when I donned the kit and took the trouble to look, just below the surface a magical, beautiful, colour-filled world teeming with life opened up before my very eyes – and it was glorious and amazing and I wondered at why, as a sailor, I had never before realised what was all around me.

It’s the same now, being for the first time in my life – ill, and quite seriously ill – and entering into that world of the sick and injured and the world of the dedicated and professional health-care operatives. And there’s more – because it is also a world filled with family and friends who love and care for one. I am fortunate enough to have a great family – not just my immediate family but cousins and second-generation cousins and in-laws; I also have a wide circle of friends and acquaintances and professional colleagues. And just like being blasé about what lies beneath the ocean’s waves, or what goes on in the NHS, one can often take family and friends for granted too. Well no longer!!! My goodness, my wider family have been with me all the way so far and chums have been coming out of the woodwork these past few weeks, and –dear readers (!!) – I can’t even begin to tell you what a difference it makes to know how many people are willing to stretch out their hand and walk that extra mile along the road. It is encouraging; strengthening; confidence-boosting; hope-giving and life-sparking. I never knew that before. Now I do.

Never give up on your friends and family who stand in need. Don’t give up on me! We’ve a few miles more to walk before this thing is conquered – but conquered it will be.

Comments on this entry:

  1. Glad to see you back and in fine fettle old chap. Very lovely moving words there, if I may say so. Any entry that fails to sign off with a good slug of mother’s ruin is not to be sniffed at.
    However, being from a teetotalling household myself, I can, for once at least, join you in the last paragraph.
    Good luck and have a very merry one!

    — Eddie · Friday 19 December, 2008 · #

  2. Happy Christmas Graeme and Fiona, and keep up the battling and positive outlook Graeme. Thinking of you all.

    — Kate Murchie (Peta's schoolfriend!) · Tuesday 23 December, 2008 · #