Greetings folks! Some six years ago, I decided to visit my doctor for the first time in forty nine years, with concerns about my never ending leaky left eye that had been plaguing me for weeks. After months of fapping about with nasal sprays, carbomazine, and antibiotics, they eventually sent me for a scan almost one year after first asking them for one.
If you ever think you may need a scan, then I strongly reccomend that you simply refuse to leave the surgery or medical centre until they grant you your request. Any delay only allows the beast to grow inside you totally unhindered in the expectation that it is probably nothing serious, and certainly not worth the cost of refering you for a scan. DO NOT leave without getting a referal if you are in any doubts!
So, I think you can guess what the scan did show when I eventually got one. Within two weeks they had me in hospital to remove both my sinus and left eye, in a bid to stop the cancer spreading.
Following an eighteen hour op, I spent two weeks in HDU recovering from the surgeries to my face, as well as my thigh where they had taken bone, and my stomach, from where they took some muscle, all of which they used to reconstruct some semblance of my pitted left eye, cheek, and mouth. To ensure that not one tiny amount of cancer was hiding away behind any trenches on the battlefield that my face now resembled, they also sent me for a total of thirty radiotherapy sessions, inside my made to measure face mask.
So now I was half bald as well as monocular. It was whilst sat awaiting treatment in the radiotherapy unit one day, moping to myself about how unlucky my life had become, that I met someone who was, in one very brief encounter, going to alter my view of just what this disease had done to me, for ever.
The young girl I call my radiation angel burst through the doors opposite me in her wheelchair, like some inspirational vision from heaven. Aged about ten, she had had one leg amputated, and was completely bald, following her treatments I assumed. Only about ten eh, and theres me at 55, sat there moaning about how cruel life had been to me! When we did see each other, she gave me the biggest and best smile I have ever had, waved gently at me and said “Good luck“, before being wheeled away by a nurse. Ever since our meeting, that all too brief encounter has been, along with my own family, the source of all my inspiration in everything I try to do to face this disease head on. Learn to embrace such moments.
Every thing that happens has purpose you will discover. My radiation angel was sent along, not by god, but by fate to get me to realise that other people are in far worse predicaments than you are sonny, so get up off your sad arse and try to help them eh!
Within days, the flap they had created to cover my empty left eye socket had died following all the radiation. So what. A facelift followed. Failed for the same reason. So what. I know, lets put one of those false boob silicon bags under his forehead and pump it up for 4 months, and then use the expanded skin to fill the socket. So, there I am walking around town, the only man in Manchester with a false boob implanted on his head with a pirate eye patch over his eye. What next I wondered…The recomendation that I should contact Maggies On The Runway (MOTR) with the notion of offering my services as a potential catwalk model at this point, probably seems just as ridiculous to you now as it certainly did to me at the time.
But it did come from a good source off someone I had come to respect tremendously, even if this did turn out to be just one of Mr. Jacksons wind ups…! I first met with MOTR some four years ago, and was accepted with open arms into the most inspirational group of cancer warriors anyone could ever wish to meet. Since joining, I have now become the assistant producer of their charity fashion and gala ball. Over 3 events, we have raised over £450,000 in aid of Manchester Maggies centre, as well as the TCT, bringing together over 160 cancer affected people for an event not one of them or their friends and families will ever forget. Via my involvement with MOTR, I have also found myself able to help organise other cancer awareness events such as the award winning Facing Out portrait exhibition at Manchesters Whitworth art gallery. Watch my video here.
Who would have bet, five years back, that yours truly would end up having his ugly mug painted by Manchesters finest portrait painter and then hung up in an art gallery next to an original Van Gogh eh!
Some times I really do have to pinch myself ya know. Its all my radiation angel`s fault! Anyway, its not all been such plain sailing. After a year or so, the sight in my remaining eye dropped down in an hour to just 5 percent. So what. One year to the day that happened exactly, my sight left me for good. Beware October 13th folks! They never admit it, but methinks it was all due to all that radiation. Mind you, I know people who have had the same condition/treatment as me but without such fierce radiotherapy. Sadly, in at least one case, although their sight stayed fine in their remaining eye, that speck of cancer they left on their battlefield managed to get up and head off into other parts of their bodies, with devastating consequences. Given the choice, and despite now being totally blind, I would still recommend the full radiotherapy course to ensure nothing escapes the battle.
So, where am I up to now? My mouth has collapsed in. The roof has caved in so badly that nobody can tell a word that I say anymore, and there is a big hole in my left cheek where that false boob refused to take root after transplant from the forehead. All thanks to radiation, but like I say, thats the gamble folks. I am still on immunotherapy treatment and have even had more radiotherapy for some tiny spots they found in a scan. We think they are nothing too serious however. I reckon that my total number of treatment visits, scans, chemo, immuno, and radiation trips since my initial surgery is around 140. Not bad for someone who managed to keep away from any doctor for 49 years!
Absolutely gutted to have to cancel the MOTR 2020 Charity event. I’m sure we would have cracked the quarter million mark with this one. N’er mind, theres always next year folks. And what surprises we have in store for you my friends. Meanwhile, I still have some of my poetry calendars left over if anyone wants a freebie Crimbo gift. Months of comic/inspiring verse about life cancer and social networking! Now that there is literally nothing for me to see on the telly anymore, aside from my poetic efforts, I am also half way through writing a musical about my time in a plastics factory entitled Scraping a Living.
It seems to be going down well with all those who have had a shuftie, and I fully expect it to hit the west end around 2022, after previews in Bolton.
If not, so what. Also working my way through my urban ghost story `The Spills`, which again serves to keep me busy. I have loads of stuff on my facebook page, including many videos that I have created around MOTR, Facing Out etc, as well as loads I made for local singers and bands who support us in all we do. Making videos is the one thing that I miss most, but hey ho, ya can’t have everything can ya.
For now, take care folks. Us cancer warriors are a rare breed don’t ya know, Never let this cancer bastard drag you under. Everyone has their very own radiation angel who is waiting there above the waves with an outstretched hand ready to pull you back up to where you truly belong, in the sunshine.
All you have to do is accept what has happened to you, and then accept the hand that is offering its help in any way it can. Bern xxx
Berns Facebook page here