Nearly seven years ago when I wasn’t sure whether or not I’d get out of hospital alive after my brain haemorrhage, and then nearly three years ago when Sarah was diagnosed with breast cancer, I’d never have imagined that it would end up like this. I was invited to be a guest on the Jamie Owen Show on BBC Radio Wales. This was broadcast live today. They were all such wonderful people and we had a great chat – I think. Sorry about my unprofessional umming and aahing from time to time, but in my defence I have got nine pieces of metal in my head keeping me alive.
I’m not ashamed to admit that I was very nervous. I’d been suffering so much anxiety on the run up to the broadcast that on Wednesday night I dreamt that Jamie was attacking me with an inflatable hammer – I didn’t tell him that though. There were two other people in the studio and Sarah also came in and was sitting behind me during interview. What nobody could see, of course, were the looks of horror on everyone’s faces as I was explaining things in graphic detail, which was making me laugh!
Thank you Jamie Owen, Tony O’Shaughnessy (producer), Kate and everyone else (including security staff) who made it a wonderful experience.
Here is the link. Fast forward to 45 minutes if you’d like to hear the ten minute interview:
Today, Sarah had an appointment at Velindre Cancer Hospital, Cardiff. It’s not a place that people like to have to visit, although during a particularly rough chemotherapy experience she once told me, “I must be ill, I like it here!” However, today was no such visit. Having been given the all clear about a year ago, the only reason she needs to go there now is because she signed up for a clinical trial of a new method of administering radiotherapy. A batch of patients were to receive the usual 15 doses over a three week period, while another batch were to receive a “fast track” higher dosage of five administered over just one week. The differences in the two groups are to be compared over the course of ten years. Sarah was randomly elected to be a part of the first group, so there were no changes to the treatment that she had originally expected to receive. While the medical staff were taking pictures, she was chatting to a nurse about the progress she had made and the positive impact that breast cancer has had on her life. After the removal of the lymph nodes under the left arm, she suffered lymphedema in the early stages. She explained to the nurse how she has managed to reverse the lymphedema. The nurse was amazed and called her a legend, saying that after 16 years in the profession she had never seen anyone who had reversed it. I know little about this and the likelihood of achieving this, but what I do know is that’s she has changed her diet, exercises regularly by dancing two or three times per week, and we treated ourselves to a multi-gym to help her recover from her treatment. We also bought a stand-on vibro-plate for the lymphedema, which has been a godsend. All of these, plus a refusal to give in, have contributed to my wife becoming a “legend”.
A couple of miles from the hospital is the BBC Wales studios. We used this opportunity to do a “dry run” to locate exactly where I need to go on Sunday. You see, I’ve been invited as a guest to chat to Jamie Owen about how we have both faced grave illnesses and turned our lives around for the better. I hope also to have the opportunity to promote my book I’M NEVER ILL (A journey through brain surgery and beyond…) which explains how I survived a brain haemorrhage and subsequent brain surgery, then returned to work just three months later.
I feel an enormous sense of pride over our achievements, but also an infinite sense gratitude towards our magnificent British National Health Service.
It’s two years since my wife, Sarah, finished her treatment for breast cancer. Since then, we have driven across America, learned 1950s-style dancing up to a presentable (intermediate) standard, and self-published our book (I wrote it, she pressed the send button), all while working full-time. It’s a privilege to still be alive in this modern digital world with all it has to offer. We have both been able to survive grave illnesses as a result of modern medical technology, we have the means to share our experiences with others though social media and I was able to reach level 750 on Candy Crush before I gave it up a year ago. Well, maybe the last bit wasn’t the most impressive of achievements, but it was an invaluable piece of mindless respite from the stresses of nursing her through chemotherapy and the soul-destroying proofreading of our book.
Had Sarah not had an early diagnosis, things would have been much different. It is only because she had the presence of mind to go to get her lump checked with no hesitation that she was able to get a diagnosis and treatment before her cancer had the chance to spread. With something so serious, burying your head in the sand is not an option. Her cancer had already gone out through the front door, down the garden path and was just opening the garden gate when it was stopped in its tracks. If it had been allowed to go walkabouts, our life as we know it now would not exist.
If you have any doubts about any lumps or suggestions of cancer, don’t delay. Even if you have to go through the gruelling treatment of chemotherapy, it is so much easier when you know that your prognosis is good. We now live a fabulous life together, all because of the fact that she acted in time and that we have such a wonderful National Health Service.
Throughout the month of January, I set up a competition on Goodreads (an international online book reading community) to give away ten free, signed copies of my book to the winners. 168 people entered, and the successful entrants were informed on 1st February. I have now despatched the copies. After reading the book, the winners are encouraged to write a review. For me, reviews are the way forward for sales.
I opted to restrict the competition to UK readers only, but next time I do this I may make it worldwide or even just target one or two different countries at a time, such as the USA and Canada. I have to be careful of postage costs. I saw a similar competition by another author who made it available worldwide, with only ONE copy up for grabs. There were over 3,000 entrants. Either he is more popular than me (quite likely), or this is the expected response if you make the competition open worldwide. Someone from India made an enquiry about how to get hold of my book after she was unable to enter the competition because she was not a UK resident. I also need to consider the fact that India has the second highest number of English speaking people in the world, second only to the USA. There are simply so many avenues that I can pursue. It could be full-time occupation. As yet, I cannot give up the day job. One more small step in the right direction though.