Thursday 12 May 2022
In January 2021, Stephen was diagnosed with his third separate primary cancer on his lymph node. Weekly visits to Maggie's helped him talk about his thoughts and feelings. Here, he shares why he took part in Nottingham's Culture Crawl to "do his bit".
Without Maggie’s, I wouldn’t be as confident, capable, or forward-looking. I have confidence where I might have doubted. I know I can do this, where I might otherwise have worried. It started when I went to my GP with a lump in my breast in January 2020.
I was put on new medication for three months, but that made no difference, so I was referred to the Breast Institute at Nottingham City hospital.
In June, following an ultrasound and biopsy, I received a phone call from the oncologist to say I was in the early stages of breast cancer as a 66-year-old man. At the time, I was sitting at home, on my own.
This became the first of three separate primary cancer diagnoses I received within a year.
In the autumn of 2020, I was diagnosed with cancer on my liver, following an abnormality found in a scan. And then, in January 2021 I was also diagnosed with cancer on my lymph gland (node).
It’s fair to say that this period of my life has had a lot of ups and downs.
The difficulty for me came in having to accept the fact that I had those cancers.
You just don’t think it’s going to happen to you, and then it does, and for me, not once, not twice, but three times.
I often thought “When’s it going to end?” and “How much more of this was I going to have to take?” But I was seen to quickly, effectively and very well.
Less than 1% of breast cancers are in men, so it was a surprise, but I did have an inkling.
I struggled at times with not having anyone to talk to, especially when the chemotherapy left me feeling quite poorly and run down.
Thankfully, my son and two wonderful daughters supported and understood me throughout, and helped keep our wonderful family going strong together.
I didn’t know how I would cope practically for a while, living on my own in a three-bedroom house.
It’s not long since my wife died after a protracted period of illness. And now my illness and treatment meant that I couldn’t look after myself, couldn’t bathe myself, or shower myself.
The occupational health nurses were fantastic, and my daughters have also cared for and looked after me. I don’t know where I would have been without them.
I’ve got a lot of care and attention from home as well: we’re a close-knit family unit. We talk about things together, and we don’t hide things.
There’s a history of cancer in our family. My mum was one of ten children, nine of whom all died from different types of cancer.
My cousins, their children, and their children have been diagnosed with it. It’s rife in the family.
Since my diagnosis, my son and both daughters have tested positive for the BRCA-2 gene, and are now having preventative surgery, while my son will be monitored as well.
Although these were hard decisions, we know that they’re the right decisions.
I don’t think I’d be where I am now without Maggie’s. I’ve been going at least once a week.
To me, it’s like a second family. At the Men’s Group, we’re all in the same boat and share our thoughts and our feelings.
We talk about cancer and not the Big C; we don’t let it become scary and we talk about it together.
I have a wonderful family, but there’s only so much you can talk to your family about. With Maggie’s, you can go beyond, and take the burden off your family.
Susie, who runs the group, is caring, knowledgeable, and second to none.
I’ve been to sleep workshops, and stress workshops. It’s all very well presented and managed.
Between the four staff, there are over 100 years of cancer nursing experience there. It’s extraordinary.
"I’ve done – and will continue to do my bit – Culture Crawl, Christmas Fair, tea & sandwich sales – because I’m passionate about Maggie’s, and I want others to access the support I’ve had."
For me, taking part in Culture Crawl was fun, rewarding, and interesting.
It was taxing at times because of my fitness, but I kept going because I didn’t want to not finish.
I did it with my two sisters and my niece. They loved it - they’d done it previously - and then we did it all together.
As a combined family, we raised almost £1,000, which was amazing.
I’d describe Culture Crawl as easy-going, at your own pace and fun. You have a laugh, and there are treats along the way. The marshalls are supportive, and it was overall brilliant.
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