Some background

Hi, I’m Iain. I’ve been through some tough times, and they’re not over yet, but I’ve learnt to listen to God. I have to!

The Good ‘Ol Days before April 2011

Almost 10 years ago, April 2011, my world inexorably transformed into a delightful succulent fruit – it went pear-shaped. I remember the ENT Consultant’s voice, “I’m sorry Commander, but you have squamous cell carcinoma”. I also remember my first thought “Squamous?! That’s surely a made-up word!”. But it wasn’t and the voyage began. The medics offered a ‘robust’ treatment package – they were right. I started as a brave sailor, and finished a wreck. Because naso-pharyngeal cancer is in the middle of the head and very close to all sorts of important paraphernalia, they don’t operate, they just hit you very hard with some heavy-duty chemo and radiotherapy. I had no idea what to expect, but I learnt after the first 5-day drip session of chemo that I needed to face reality. I didn’t like it, but when everything’s going down the pan, you gotta wake up and smell the vomit. I lost 2 stone, my hair went on holiday and after 4 months treatment I was reduced to shell.

However, the cancer was gone and I started to think about recovery.

Finally, at my insistence, in January 12, I went back to work part time. But from day one, things started to re-mould into the pear shape. My right eye stopped moving, I reversed into a parked car, headaches, more and more difficulty swallowing, numbness around my head and face.

Back in hospital the world started to close in on me. Eyesight went totally from my right eye and mostly from my left, swallowing stopped and I started speaking in a new language . My weight fell to 9 stone, communication became almost impossible as I shrunk physically, mentally and emotionally, humiliated and crushed. I felt trapped and isolated in a small compartment, even smaller than an Engineer’s cabin in a T42 Destroyer, and I bolted the doors from the inside. I found that I could only focus on myself, my ability to look outwards disappeared.

We could only guess what was going on – brain cancer was medics favourite with very short life expectancy. The small compartment shrunk further and took on the shape of a coffin. I used to fall asleep wondering whether I’d wake up.

Frustrated, frightened and feeble, I just wanted to go home, and after 2 months I did with a death sentence hanging over me.

The Not so Good ‘Ol Days…..

But the medics were wrong. The cause was nerve damage from the intense 7 week radiotherapy package. Robust treatment got rid of my cancer, but also a few other bits and pieces too. I make light of it now, but it was a very frightening experience. Although I did have some fun:

  • getting a naso-gastric (NG) tube down my nose, throat and oesophagus to pump food in to mmy stomach. Except it went into my lung!
  • Electric shock to check out my nervous system – ‘will it hurt?’ I asked. “Depends on how you define pain” was the answer. It hurt.
  • fitting another NG tube as I managed to step on the 1st one and pull it out. Stuck a camera up one nostril and the tube up the other. How grateful I was for 2 nostrils!
  • finally fitting the stomach tube – 3 inches long straight through my non-existent belly into the stomach. Despite semi-sedation and local anaesthetic, I have never felt such pain.

talking of fun, so many things I loved to do but took for granted have gone – sport, socialising, eating and drinking, driving, being independent, singing, speaking/communication.

Ten years later, 3 elements of my life stand clearly as the bedrock of my survival:

  • Faith – the long-term faith I’d held but didn’t always need, suddenly became utterly central to my existence. My Heavenly Father will not let me go, and He wants me to write – that’s why I’m here!
  • Family – my wife and daughters stood right by my side all the way through despite their own pain. Still standing at my side today, plus 2 wonderful granddaughters.
  • Friends – those who showed  compassion that led to action. So many of them, I couldn’t do it alone.