Here at NE1’s Game, we like to cover a variety of subjects, including mental health. This is my story, my struggle. Be kind, it’s good to talk.
There is this myth that when you’re diagnosed with cancer, people will rally around you. You see the adverts on TV of people coming together and being supportive. It all comes across very rosy. I can tell you, those images you see on your television screens couldn’t be further from the truth.
I remember my first diagnosis. It crippled me and I struggled with depression, still do, but we’ll get to that part later. At the start I had that rosy vision you see in the adverts, though after putting in two or three weeks of support, my 'friends' disappeared. It was almost as if they were scared that they could catch my cancer.
Seeing my body become weaker and not being able to do things a man in his twenties should be able to do is hard. Seeing friends leave without any warning and fearing the ones that stay will leave too, is just as tough. It’s a very lonely world, one with bright hospital lights, wires and the endless amount of nurses doing their best to make you smile.
The waiting times for treatment and the journeys there are filled with dread and loneliness. I don’t see the images on those adverts in my life - cancer is ugly and devastating, it takes a hold of your life and rips it up. Any future plans gone with the words, “I’m sorry, you’ve got cancer.” 'Sorry' is a word I hear a lot, so much so that to me it’s lost all meaning. I must hear it ten or fifteen times a week.
So here I am, lying on my bed telling you all the ugly side of cancer. When, really, I shouldn’t have to. My throat is so dry, it feels like I’ve walked through the Sahara desert. I’m weak and in pain constantly, some days I look as white as a ghost. I’m tired and despite those loyal few that have stayed by my side, I’m lonely.
You see, I wasn’t prepared to go through this again and nobody tells you how much the ache in your heart hurts. That sinking feeling you get when you hear that it’s returned.
The sound of a flushing toilet is now a constant in my house, making the vomit disappear after being scrunched over the toilet for hours. The immense struggle to get back to my feet and make my way back to bed is frustrating. My breath is minty fresh from the hundreds of times I brush my teeth a day.
The first time around, my beloved Newcastle United helped me. The games I could attend allowed me to forget for 90 minutes and I was able to feel normal again, live real life. This time around, I am living with it through a pandemic with lots of restrictions in place. There is no such escape this time around and I can’t feel normal like everyone else. I’m trapped in this weak and tired body. I look at my son and feel heartbroken that I can’t do certain things with him.
Nobody warns you about the weight change, in my case weight gain. There is no warning of the terrifying sight of watching your hard earned money disappear as quickly as those friends I talked about. The constant fear and struggle of scraping by due to reduced income, this is all part of cancer.
I feel I am being selfish when I ask, “Why me?” and I feel guilty for asking that. I feel guilty because it isn’t just me, there are so many people going through the same thing. Watching the adverts on the TV and thinking “That’s not what it’s like.”
I have my will prepared before the age of 30, I know what I want people to do at my funeral and I know what song I want to be played. I have thought about death a lot, mainly because for a number of years it has felt as if it has been staring me in the face. I look back and think what have I managed to achieve in my short time here? These thoughts aren’t me giving up, it is just the reality of the situation. If I don’t think about these things, I’m not accepting my diagnosis.
I decided to write this because we‘re living in a world filled with hate. I have accepted what I have and it has made me think about life differently. This could happen to anyone in a heartbeat. Life is short and we have to be kind to each other, ask how your friend is, say hello to a passerby - it might just make their day. We all have our own struggles in life and I’m telling you about mine. A particularly unusual and challenging thing for a man to do. So, if you can relate to this or if I’ve helped by speaking out, I’m happy I’ve been able to make a difference.
Just remember your life can be turned upside down in an instant. Make the most of your time, be kind and treasure every second you have.