I am overjoyed, quite literally, to announce an anniversary. Today marks TWO YEARS minus one testicle, but more importantly, minus CANCER. Two years, CANCER FREE!
Unlike many cancer victims, I didn't have an almighty battle with the 'Big C'. I'm not brave, or 'a fighter'. What I am is incredibly bloody lucky. There are so many people who struggle with cancer, people who, quite literally, fight for their lives. Sometimes, sadly, it is a battle they will lose.
As I write this, I cannot help but reflect on my dear friend, John. Simply thinking of him is making me cry. John was the same age as me. I first met him when at school, when we were 11. For 30 odd years, we remained dear friends. And, boy, were some of those years odd! He was a loveable rogue. An 'Arthur Daley type' character. As kids, we got into a fair amount of trouble! Nothing criminal, but it's safe to say we were, as my parents would call us, "a right pair". I saw him through his depression, and he, equally, supported me through mine.
John lost his life on the 29th April 2011. Busy lives meant we didn't see each other as often as we liked, or as often as we should have. The first I learned of his death was courtesy of the obits in the local paper. He went from a strong, healthy (albeit as unfit and out of shape as me!) guy to a few lines in a newspaper within the space of THREE WEEKS. Pancreatic cancer took a good, kind, healthy young man, and decimated him, to the point of death. And I fucking miss him. Every bloody day. I never saw him in the hospice. I had no idea he was ill. I think, while I wish I could have said goodbye, and told him how much I loved him as a friend, I'm glad. I'll always remember the cheeky rogue as opposed to a husk of a man lying in a bed, unable to recognise me due to the copious amount of painkillers I understand he was receiving. I'll always remember John, my mate. My friend.
I never, for one moment, imagined that, two years later, I would be on the receiving end of my own cancer diagnosis. Didn't fucking see that one coming! I've blogged about that extensively, here. As my previous post attests, I got, if there is such a thing, the "best form of cancer". I got an easy one. Bollock out, cancer gone. No chemo, no radiotherapy. Just intensive monitoring. Nothing more. I was in no pain, and aside from a hilariously large bollock, could barely tell I had a disease as pernicious and indiscriminate as cancer.
I have no deities, no gods, to thank. I have a healthy dose of bloody good luck, an extraordinary health care system, the NHS, without which I wouldn't be writing this today, a loving, supportive family, who reassured me, kept me sane, aided my post-operative recuperation, and still, to this day, care about every blood test, every CT scan, every part of the small journey I am still on. My journey is, and for two years, has been, painless, straightforward, even mercifully easy. I can live with the lack of a testicle. Fuck it. I can LIVE. Period.
Every day forward means the likelihood of my cancer returning diminishes. I am under no illusion that I'm "home free", however after two years, my odds are pretty good. The average odds of a man getting testicular cancer is around 1 in 400. My odds are, at this stage, 1 in 200. I don't play the odds. I just take each day as it comes. Life is a lottery; a game of poker in which you play the hand you are given, like it or not. There are no reshuffles, no "do overs" and dwelling on what may or may not happen in the future is futile. What I can do, however, is continue to self examine my remaining, lonely little testicle regularly. Complacency isn't an option when you've had testicular cancer. And this is the point.. It isn't an option when you HAVEN'T. I am in a position now where I can, and do, frequently urge men to check their nuts. If you are male, go and check yours. PLEASE. It takes 30 seconds. 30 seconds which can save your life. 30 seconds which can spare you the adjuvant therapies associated with cancer. 30 seconds. Is that too long for peace of mind? It may seem to some that I never shut the fuck up about self examination. You're right. I don't. And I won't. If, one day, just ONE person stumbles upon my tweets and has a fiddle. I've done something good. If, and I hope it never happens, anyone finds anything irregular and seeks advice, as a result of my tweets, THEY have done something amazing. They have probably just saved their own life. Or given themselves peace of mind.
Throughout my time with cancer, and in the following two years, the support, kindness and well wishes I have received on Twitter have been extraordinary. To every single person, from the bottom of my heart, I genuinely thank you. I am fortunate. I am not in a position to say "I couldn't have made it without you", thankfully. You have, however, made the journey a hell of lot easier, and simply knowing that people care, people whom I have never met, will take the time to ask "how are you" or say "congratulations" when a milestone is reached, is an extraordinary feeling. The kindness of strangers becomes the comfort of friends.
In closing, I turn my thoughts back to John. For you, my old mucker, you incorrigible bastard (!), I'll live every fucking day striving to be a better person. You'll never read this. That particular "pleasure" has been robbed from you. I hope you knew just how bloody special you were. I'm damn sure I'll never forget you. Not a day goes by that I don't think of you. Now, I can do so with a chuckle, thinking of some of the antics we got up to! There is still sadness, but equally, there is gratitude for a friendship which lasted for decades. You have given me a better awareness of my own mortality. That is a gift as precious as your friendship. It is a gift I promise not to take for granted. I love you bro, and I miss you so fucking much.
Lastly, and I make no apology for repeating myself. For the love of sanity, self examine! Don't do it for me. Don't do it out of a sense of obligation because some of this post is a little sad. Do it for YOU. You have one life, and, assuming you are male, one pair of bollocks. Be kind to them. They might just save your life,
Dedicated to the memory of John Forgeard