I never had the big Hollywood, “Mr Phillips, you’ve got cancer moment”. Each time there seem to be a slow inexorable drift towards a diagnosis like the grinding, shifting, descending of tectonic plates. The lump on my neck, which the GP’s at Binfield Surgery in Berkshire took it in turns to ignore, eventually led to a referral to a Haematologist in Windsor. This was after I’d casually mentioned it again during a GP consultation for tennis elbow – thank God my guitar playing was so inept that it was causing physical disfigurement as well as aural pain. Even then, the haematologist wasn’t impressed with the lump and Hodgkins wasn’t really mentioned until we got deeper into the process. The scan that followed was precautionary and the feeling at the time was that this was ‘nothing serious’.
There have been numerous moments of dark, unintentional comedy along the way. Perhaps the first was receiving a voicemail before dawn in a New York hotel room. In a nutshell the voicemail from the consultant said something like, “There’s a problem with the scan, but I’m off to Australia so see you in 3 weeks”. Well, what the hell did that mean?
There followed a CT scan, PET (I think), one unsuccessful and one successful biopsy operation at Harefield and we eventually stumbled to a diagnosis around the time of the Beijing Olympics. I say this, not because it curtailed my plans to compete, more that it’s a useful temporal landmark.
The surgeon called me at home: “It’s Hodgkins, but at least it’s not something more horrible”. “Well”, I thought, “Thank Goodness for that”. It seemed at least, pretty horrible to me at the time. And so we embarked upon our first voyage into sometimes choppy chemical seas. The first chemo was a 6 month course of ABVD, but more of that anon…