Wednesday 16 Nov 2022
The first time I was diagnosed with cancer was 23 years ago. At the time I worked as a lorry driver. I loved it; it was a big part of me.
Cancer kept me in hospital for 18 months. While I was in hospital there was one bizarre but amazing bonus.
I got together with a nurse who was looking after me and we had a son together.
I went back to work and life went on. Then, one day in 2018, I noticed my throat felt strange.
Next, my appetite disappeared and I started losing hair on my leg.
I went to the GP who sent me straight for an endoscopy. I was diagnosed with an upper GI cancer. You could literally have knocked me over.
My first thought was ‘How am I going to tell my son?’ He was 18 and it was the worst and the hardest thing I've ever done.
I began monthly doses of chemotherapy but managed to keep working. I felt I had to keep going until I was stopped.
Next was a brutal operation. It took away 80% of my stomach and a third of my oesophagus.
It has been three and a half years since the surgery, but it could take five years to fully get over.
The one thing that kept me going was getting back to work. I was rushing to get back quickly. But, when I started chemo again, it destroyed me. It left me with a lot of problems I’m still learning to adjust to and I was really down and depressed.
I’m still not working. I miss it, but my surgeon told me that if I went back to working on lorries, it would damage my health. That felt horrible to hear.
The biggest difference between my first and second cancers is the help I found after treatment. This time was an eye-opener in the right way.
I was very hesitant about coming to Maggie’s when my nurses suggested it.
When you’re a lorry driver, the stereotype is that you’re a macho man. Drinking, smoking, big and broad with hard edges. I was still grasping at that.
But the first time I walked in I was swept off my feet with the openness and the welcome. I was surprised to find I enjoyed having help.
The counselling I have had at Maggie’s has done me a lot of good. It helped me realise I don’t need the macho stereotype of a man and I’ve let it go in a really good way.
Before, I worked 80-hour weeks, living in the lorry and when I got home all I wanted was to go to the pub.
Thanks to Maggie’s, I’m completely different. I enjoy being this person a lot more than the person I was. The new-found time I’ve got on my hands, I use to help people like my neighbour and my son.
My relationship with my son used to be very strained. I’d have him every weekend and I’d usually just take him to the pub. As he got older, that really took its toll on our relationship.
But things have got much better and now I wouldn’t put that in jeopardy.
Going back on the lorries was supposed to be the ending to all of this. Or at least, I thought it was an ending. Instead, other doors have opened.
I still miss it but I don’t want to go back to it anymore.
Cancer took a lot away from me but it gave me things too. The first time, it gave me my son. The second time, it gave me 'me'. It stopped me from being a person I didn’t like very much.
Some people in the upper GI support group at Maggie’s are just beginning their treatment journey; some are ten years down the line.
Those people give me a lot of hope and confidence, and I represent that to others in that group too.
Helping them out makes me feel better too. It’s a very hard journey and anything I can do to help others get over some of the fear is a good thing.
There can be a male stubbornness, thinking that you have to be a harder kind of person, that stops us from reaching out for help. My life is better because I lost my pride and reached out.
I still miss work, and some days are still awfully hard. But I do feel glad that of this journey and coming to Maggie’s has helped me significantly. I’ve learnt there are many different things I can do with my life now.
If this shows others that they can get the help they need, that’s what I want – I'll talk forever and a day if it helps somebody.
If you or someone you love has cancer, Maggie’s is here with you.
To find your nearest Maggie's centre, enter your postcode or town below.
Stay up to date with our news and fundraising by signing up for our newsletter.Sign up