On the 8th February, my brother went for the last chemotherapy session of his course of treatment before his PET scan, which was scheduled for 27th February. The PET scan would show if things had got better or worse, and therefore determine if he would need more treatment in the future. PET stands for Positron Emission Tomography, whatever the fuck that means. Basically, doctors can use it to see how body tissues are working, as well as what they look like. It’s pretty impressive really, as it can:
- Show up a cancer
- Find out the stage of a cancer
- Show whether a lump is cancer or not
- Show whether a cancer has spread to other parts of the body
- Show how well cancer drug treatment is working
When he told me he had his PET scan coming up, I felt a mixture of emotions:
Worry – What if the chemo had not helped at all? What if things had got worse?
Excitement – On the other hand, he could get the all clear.
Nerves – For my brother mainly. I knew that he’d have various endings playing out in his head.
Pain – I’d been holding in a poo for too long and was desperate for the toilet.
The chemo session on the 8th was uneventful, which meant our visits to the hospital ward didn’t really go out with a bang. After the eventful incidents of chemotherapy sessions past, we were slightly disappointed, but also relieved that it was over, for the time being at least. We spoke briefly about the upcoming scan;
“How you feeling about everything, mate?” I asked.
“Nothing else? You’re just ‘alright’ about it?”
“Yeah. I just hope you’ll finish the blog soon”.
“Course I will. Whatever happens”.
“What do you mean by that?! I suppose it will make a more dramatic ending if I die?”
“Hahahaa, no, I didn’t mean that at all”.
HOSPITAL LUNCH FOR CANCER PATIENT RATING: N/A – He skipped it again. I couldn’t even tempt him. “Go on, get something so I can photograph it for the blog” I begged. “No way”, he replied, stubbornly.
HOSPITAL LUNCH FOR GUEST RATING: 3/5 – I had a coffee and a packet of salt and vinegar Hula Hoops. Can’t really have any complaints about that.
DAY HIGHLIGHT: The sense of ‘this could actually be the last time we have to come here for treatment’ as we left the ward.
DAY LOWLIGHT: The other cancer patients didn’t provide us with any sort of entertainment
JONJO SHELVEY WATCH: 9/10. My brother won’t take his hat off. Ever. He’s like Matt Cardle, but with a beanie hat instead of a crappy military cap. And my brother is almost bald, instead of having hair like a matted pubic wig.
The 2 week wait between the chemo session and the PET scan seemed to drag. My brother, his head now resembling a hardboiled egg that had been dipped in honey and rolled across a barber’s floor, remained calm though, as he had since his whole ‘cancer thing’ came about. The scan was in Oxford on a Monday night.
“Do you want me to come?” I knew it wouldn’t be a long visit, just a case of get to the hospital, quick scan, and go, but felt I should offer at least.
“You can if you want. It’s on a Monday night though at quarter to six”.
“Oooh. Quarter to six. That might be an issue”.
“Think you’ll be at work still?”
“No, football training starts at 7pm. I don’t really want to miss that do I?!”
“Haha! You’re putting football over cancer!”
“I was joking!”
“I’m joking too. Honestly, I’ll be fine. You’ll struggle to make it at that time from work anyway”.
In hindsight, I should have gone with him. It pissed it down with rain all training session. I could have been sat in warm hospital ward, continuously refreshing Twitter and Facebook on my phone instead.
I phoned my brother that evening;
“How did it go?”
“Nothing else? It just went ‘alright’?”
A sense of déjà vu swept over me.
“And when do we get the results from the scan?”
The wait between the PET scan and the 22nd March was a strange one. One part of me desperately wanted to know the results so we could perhaps reach a conclusion to my brother’s treatment, but at the same time I didn’t want the date to come around in case we were told something I didn’t want to hear. A peculiar mix. Again, my brother said little about how he was feeling, and for once I didn’t bother trying to get anything out of him. There was nothing we could do now other than wait. I kept thinking positive thoughts in my head, but again, I didn’t want to get my hopes up too much or appear too confident for fear of jinxing it (as if my thoughts would have any impact on the results of the scan! It’s weird how people think sometimes).
Eventually the morning of Friday 22nd March came around.
I met my brother at his house. I was extremely nervous, so fuck knows how he must have been feeling.
“Cool. Let’s go then. Can we turn this shit off though?”
“I like Radio 1”.
“Ok, ok, leave it on then. Let’s just get there. Who is this twat?”
“He’s making me want to run the car over my own head”.
We set off in my brother’s car, the journey itself only takes about 20 minutes normally but there had been an accident on one of the main roads which delayed us slightly.
“I knew we should have gone the back way instead of taking this road”, I said when we came towards a tailback of cars.
“Someone put on Facebook that there had been an accident”.
We came to a stop. The traffic was at a standstill. I got my phone and showed my brother the status update. “Look”.
“The sentence doesn’t even make sense. Why has she put a kiss after it?”
“I don’t know? Shall I comment on it?
“You should have put something like that when you got diagnosed with cancer. Or put a ‘LOL’ at the end. ‘Just found out I’ve got cancer x’; they would have loved that on Facebook”.
“Imagine if Hitler had have released a telegram or something before the war which said, ‘Just going to invade Poland x’. It doesn’t sound so bad with that kiss on the end”.
We got to Wycombe hospital at just gone half 9, still in plenty of time for my brother’s blood test which was at 9.45am. He had to take a numbered ticket and wait for his turn like people do at a deli counter.
“Get me some Billy Bear ham while you’re up there”.
Once the blood test was done, we had to go up to the 5th floor, to the chemo ward where my brother would meet with the consultant and find out the results from the PET scan. We stood silently in the lift. I’ll be honest, I was shitting myself. The doors opened and we both simultaneously took a deep breath, looked at each other, and smiled slightly, before making our way to the ward reception. We were told by the receptionist to take a seat and that the consultant would come and get my brother shortly.
“You going to come in?” he asked me.
“No. I’ll wait here, mate”.
“Yeah, you go in. I’ll wait here. Unless you really want me in there?”
“I think I’ll be fine”.
“I’ll wait here then”.
Within a couple of minutes, the consultant came out of his office and asked my brother to go through with him. This was it.
I sat outside the room, heart thumping, praying that he’d get the results that everyone wanted (apart from the people who hate him, obviously. Not that there are any, I don’t think. Maybe a couple, I’m not sure). I stared at the floor, resting my head between my two hands, and waited. Different scenarios, with both good and not so good endings, played out in my head, even though I didn’t really want them to. I tried to stop them. I tried to think of other things, but couldn’t. ‘Hurry the fuck up’ I thought to myself. In fact, I think I may have actually whispered it.
Time slowed down. I looked at my phone. It had only been 2 minutes but had felt like maybe 5 and half. Or 5 minutes, 45 seconds. Something like that.
Just as I began to think that I should have perhaps gone in with him so that I knew what was going on, the door opened and out walked my brother. I looked at him, but his face gave nothing away. He saw me looking and turned towards the receptionist.
“Oi!”. It was quite a forceful ‘oi’; I hadn’t meant for it to come out so loud. My brother looked back at me again.
“What are you doing?” I asked.
“I need to book in with the receptionist”.
“What for? What happened? What did he say? Is everything ok?”
A small smile formed across my brother’s lips and he nodded his head slowly.
“The all clear?” I asked enthusiastically.
His small smile turned into a beaming one across his face. That was all I needed from him, he didn’t need to say anything. A feeling of elation filled my body, and I’m not joking when I say that it was up there with holding my kids for the first time when they were born. It was also one big fuck-off sized relief. I wanted to give him a hug, but he was stood at reception still, his back to me, occasionally looking round, and grinning like a ‘just heard great news but you can’t hug me because I’m over here feeling all happy’ wanker.
“What are you doing?”
“I need to book in for a check-up in 6 months time”.
“Just hurry up!”
Finally, he got his appointment booked and he came over to where I was sat.
“What did he say then?”
“Basically, I’m all clear”. I could tell how happy he was. I was finding it hard to speak because I was worried my voice would crack and tears of happiness would come out. Gay.
I mustered a, “FUCKING GET IN!”
We walked out of the hospital and I congratulated my brother with a sort of awkward pat on the back, which was almost a hug but not quite.
“Well done, mate”.
“It must be a massive relief? I can’t believe it! It’s amazing isn’t it? How do you feel?”
“I dunno really?! Good! It feels weird. Do you want to go shopping for a bit?”
We headed into the town centre to have a look around the shops, ringing and texting various people the news on the way. Neither of us could take the smile off our faces. I, personally felt like the happiest man alive, so I can only just begin to imagine what my brother felt like. It was all quite surreal. I wanted to tell everyone and anyone that walked past us the news. My brother and I kept looking at each other, all happy. We must have looked like a gay couple in the early stages of a relationship, before the hate had crept in.
We wandered about for a bit, without any real purpose, half-heartedly looking at clothes and planning what we were going to do in the evening. My brother’s phone was ringing and buzzing non-stop, understandably.
“Shall we just go back home and then go to the pub for a couple?” I suggested.
And that’s what we did. Over a couple of pints we read the text and Facebook messages he’d received, saying congratulations, as well checking my Twitter feed for more of the same. It was incredible the amount of tweets I actually received. My brother read every single one and couldn’t believe the support (Thank you so much to everyone).
I got home at about 3pm in the end, mentally exhausted but delighted, and excited about going out to celebrate the news in the evening. I ran upstairs and gave my missus and kids a hug, then went downstairs to charge my phone as the battery had died from near constant use.
As I sat down, it was the first time I’d truly thought, ‘Fuck me, he actually had cancer. Bloody hell’. It was followed by ‘It’s actually all over now’ and then a brief ‘FUCKING HELL, PHEW’.
I sat in silence; smiling, thinking. As soon as my phone had enough battery, I went and read the further tweets and Facebook messages I’d received. I then proceeded to have a little cry. I’m not ashamed to admit that. It was a happy cry; a good cry. I was just completely overwhelmed. The messages that both my brother and I were receiving, as well as my brother’s status in which he’d thanked me for the support, just choked me up and I couldn’t hold it in. My girlfriend shouted down the stairs to me, “Are you going to come up?”. I could only reply with; “I’M HAVING A LITTLE CRY, ALRIGHT?”. She left me to it.
We went out that evening and celebrated in the best way possible; by getting absolutely wankered. It was a fantastic night; so many people came out and everyone was in a great mood. And best of all, my brother didn’t have cancer anymore.
Fuck you, cancer.
So, that’s it, I suppose. Aside from a check-up every six months (moving to yearly eventually), there is not much else to report on now. Apologies to anyone reading who hoped it would have a more dramatic ending. I was going to revamp the ending slightly and have my brother and I standing in the pouring rain, hugging, with people all around us hi-fiving the shit out of one another, but that would be a bit unbelievable.
I just want to repeat something that I mentioned right at the very start of this blog. If you are worried about a lump anywhere on your body, please, please get it looked at. There is nothing to be ashamed of, and in 99.9% of cases, nothing to worry about. But please, just make sure you do, because the earlier you catch cancer, the higher the chances are of treating it successfully.
Going through this whole experience with my brother has changed my outlook on a lot of things. That might sound clichéd but it’s true. I mentioned before that it’s made me want to ‘give something back’ and that is what I plan to do over the course of the next year, hopefully raising money for cancer charities as well as the actual ward at Wycombe hospital that treated my brother. I’ll announce things in due course on the blog.
My brother has already signed up to do a half marathon in September; you can sponsor him here: http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/RoryNish
Also, I plan to turn this blog into a eBook, and stick in on Amazon or somewhere like that. The problem with Amazon is that I can’t put it up for free which is what I was hoping to do, I was planning on asking for a small contribution on the above link if you did download it and enjoy it. I can sell it for £1.49 on there, of which Amazon would take 49p and I can give the rest to Cancer Research. If anyone has any suggestions, please let me know.
Finally, I just want to thank anyone who has taken the time to follow my brother’s journey on this blog. When I started writing it I obviously had no idea how it would end, I just wanted to try and raise a bit of awareness, and I hope I’ve done that. Thanks to those people, mainly complete strangers, who tweeted us words of support and encouragement, as well as kind words about this blog. We read every single one and it meant a hell of a lot. A special thanks to our friends and family for their continued support (and for occasionally asking how I was), and of course a HUGE THANK YOU to all the staff at the High Wycomber Hosptial Sunrise Cancer Ward. You’re all absolute stars.
I will let you all know when the eBook is available, should you be interested in getting it for your Kindle, or indeed the Kindle app.
Thanks, all x