At 4.10pm on Tuesday 22nd March 2016 I started a presentation about paperless admissions at the UCAS annual conference in Newport, Wales. At 5.10pm I completed the presentation to lacklustre applause and answered a few questions from some hangers on. After reporting in to my partner back home and calling the GP to get the results of my biopsy it was 6.10pm and I was being told that I had a malignant meta-static melanoma – in layman’s terms, an incurable skin cancer that put a sudden limitation on my life. This was the day the world crashed down around my ears and, as I drove home as legally fast as I could, every possible outcome came rushing through my head – from becoming a hairless, wizened Eisenhower to passing away so quickly that my 18-month old son would grow up not remembering anything about his father from first-hand experience. My brain is a horrible, horrible place to be sometimes.
It is now Saturday night in the same week and I have told pretty much every person I know – some face to face and some via the internet. The uncontrollable sobbing has subsided (mostly) and it’s hard to think much further than the next day but there’s a new normal in town and its name is Living With-Cancer (it’s a weird name, I’ll grant you that, but I’m called Roland Monger so who am I to argue?).
As you might expect, the world takes on new meaning as songs have more weight and phrases like ‘I love you’ and ‘how are you?’ frequently turn you in to a melting puddle of tears and snot. What I didn’t expect was to get violently angry at an episode of Peter Rabbit that featured Peter watching some stolen film footage that featured his now dead father set to what seemed to be a song by the Script as covered by a losing semi-finalist from the X-Factor in 2007. I also didn’t expect to get the outpouring of love and support from people that I haven’t seen in the flesh for years. Say what you like about social media but if you need a shot of goodwill and positive vibes then let all your Facebook friends know that you have a life threatening disease and see what comes flooding back at you. I’m still not sure how I managed to attract that many nice people in my 35 years but I’m not complaining.
So, now we wait and we see what the scans bring and we make plans to live whatever there is left of life. I’m avoiding Googling anything to do with the disease so as not to freak myself out but I know I’ll get the support I need when I need it from friends, family and from within my own self.
I’ll write more when it happens and I’m not expecting you to read it or enjoy it but writing it down helps me out and if someone else finds it useful then that’s a bonus. For what it’s worth, I have a lump in my thigh about the size of a hotdog roll that the doctors thought was fat but turned out to be cancer. The moral, therefore, is if you think you have a fatty lump the size of baked goods inside your body go get it checked out and, if it turns out to be shitty cancer, then know you’re not alone. On the other hand, if you have no lumps that feel like anything untoward then just contact that friend you haven’t seen for a while or put down your I-Pad and play with your kids some more – you never know when that chance might get taken away without warning.