Father’s Day

Me, Mum, Dad at My Sister Josie’s Wedding, 2017

Last night I had a weird dream where I had hurt my knee. I was really worried about it as I sat in some kind of waiting room. I’m not sure if I knew how I’d hurt it in the dream, but I don’t remember that part if so. There are many blurry patches where I’ve forgotten what happened exactly, but I remembered the gist of it. The next thing that I remember is being in a doctor’s office and him feeling around my knee and asking if it hurts. All of a sudden he poked a spot which did hurt and I gasped in pain. It woke me up almost straight away. I was confused at first. I felt certain that it had really happened for a couple of seconds. Looking around me in the bedroom, I realised it was a dream. I suspiciously looked at my knee and felt a little uncertain about it. Was my dream predicting another problem with my knee? Or was my mind playing cruel tricks on me, reminding me what problems I used to consider life-altering in the past and laughing at the situation I find myself in now? If my mind is doing this, that means there is some part of my brain that is capable of doing such a thing. That would make me a bad person, wouldn’t it? It would certainly mean that part of my brain was plotting against me… although it probably was just a random memory dream.

This situation has happened to me before. I had an injury from overtraining in 2020. It happened a few months after lockdown started; I’m assuming because of the working from home and not moving around enough in the day, then running a lot in the evening. When I went to the physio at the hospital, I expected her to say that it was a knee injury – my knee hurt whenever I ran, so why would I expect anything else? As she made me do a series of exercises and activities, she smiled to herself. “I think I’ve figured it out,” she said, “it’s your hip.” Turns out that my left hip was very out of balance with my right one, meaning that my right one was much stronger than my left. It meant that my left hip was recovering slower from the runs, resulting in small changes in the way that I was stepping with my left leg whilst running. Those small changes were enough to start damaging my knee. Whilst investigating this issue, I had my first ever MRI scan. It felt a little intimidating at the time, but nothing came of it really. I just had to do strengthening exercises and have a break from running.

That winter I cycled a lot in place of running. It was during the first Covid lockdown and there wasn’t a lot of traffic around London. It was actually a lovely time to be cycling around the capital. I discovered all of the hills in the north of the city: Muswell Hill, Ally Pally and many around Hampstead. It was really fun. Then I started joining my cousin and a couple of his friends for ‘Tuesday Hills’ when the weather started to get warmer. Throughout summer, he and his friends would meet on Tuesdays to do 20 miles of tough hills around the Southeast of London, then go back to one of their houses for a BBQ and a few beers. That introduced me to the hills around Crystal Palace, Dulwich and Forest Hill, where Anna and I decided to purchase our flat in 2021. That summer had a large influence on me. I saw a lot of London that I hadn’t been to before. It influenced where Anna and I would buy our first flat ever flat, that I find myself writing this from and that we love so much.

For the first 6 months of living in the flat, I would regularly get out and train on those same hills. Despite it being the end of lockdown and the roads being busier again, it felt too convenient to not still get out on the hills around the flat. I haven’t been out since being diagnosed – I was thrown straight into treatment, and that’s been my life since really. I’m also worried about my hands as the neuropathy isn’t going from the chemotherapy. I don’t want to mess up using my breaks on the hills around London when there are cars everywhere, and there are always cars everywhere now. I’m not sure if it’s a mental block or a legitimate excuse, but I’m not ready to find out just yet.

My love of exercise comes from my dad. He’s always been obsessed with exercise and it defines a large part of his life, but not all of it. I’m going to list his passions below and then speak about them one at a time to provide some context to the best things about him on Father’s Day, here in the UK.

  1. Sweet Things
  2. Work
  3. Maintaining Bikes
  4. Exercising

1. Sweet Things

My dad has been a huge influence on me with his love of sweet things. He is the first person I witnessed putting chocolate in the freezer to stop it from melting when he eats it with his hands. I then witnessed him putting chocolate-covered digestive biscuits in the freezer, and now do that religiously too. To be honest, any snack with chocolate in/on/around goes straight into the freezer now, both in my house and in my parent’s house. It is a far superior way of eating chocolate. One area of sweet treats where my taste deviates from my dads is fruit cake. I cannot stand fruit cake. I’m not sure why, but it brings back memories of me being a kid and wanting something to eat, so eating some fruit cake from the kitchen side and feeling bitterly disappointed that it wasn’t chocolate cake. That disappointment sits on my shoulder and has never left; I now have a permanent grudge against fruit cake for not even attempting to be chocolate cake. It doesn’t even have chocolate chips in it – why would anyone bother? Nowadays I’m not too obsessed with chocolate cake, but I’m still mad at fruit cake for daring to not be chocolate cake.

I’ve witnessed my dad eat half a victoria sponge cake in a single morning before 9am. I came downstairs feeling a little hazy from the chemotherapy a few months ago. My mum had baked a cake the evening before for dad’s birthday, but it had been baked too late for anyone to eat any of it that evening. I thought I’d have a laugh and see how much he had eaten that morning as I waited for the kettle to boil, allowing me to make my coffee. To my dismay, half the cake had gone. The only people in the house were me, Anna and my mum. My mum was still in bed and Anna had been with me the whole time. There was no doubt who had eaten all that cake. Dad the cake mad lad. He has an unparalleled stamina for eating sweet, sugary things; he will forever be remembered for it by everyone that knows him.

2. Work

Part of the reason that my dad has such a stamina for eating sweet things is that they are quick and easy to consume. Why is that valuable to my dad? Because he only ever has 3 minutes maximum to spare between meetings. The man boasts about how many hours he works as if it is a badge of honour. He once told me a story about how he had not used hardly any of his annual leave one year. HR sent him an email telling him he needs to take more leave, reminding him that it is necessary to get a break to stay mentally sane (not their exact words). Dad’s rebuke to this was to suggest that he gifts his annual leave to his PA at the time; HR (obviously) disagreed and said that it was not even possible to do such a thing.

What HR probably didn’t realise was that work does seem to keep my dad mentally sane. Everyone thinks their parents have the answers to everything, I know this to be true, but I do think my dad could give a good answer to anything. He has a very analytical mind and enjoys solving problems. It is the reason he agonises over the cryptic crosswords in every newspaper, every week. Sometimes he likes to humiliate me by asking me one of the questions; inevitably, I tell him I don’t know, and he tells me how ‘easy’ it is before explaining the most insane, inexplicable pathway to get to the answer. The experience always leaves me more confused as to why anyone would ever enjoy doing them, and probably leaves him feeling even smugger about how much he genuinely does.

There is another thing that his work demonstrates – his commitment. Not only through the amount of hours he puts in, but also the amount of time he has spent working on the railway. It is a true passion of his and he knows the workings of railways through and through. I know that people say it is a generational thing, with my generation’s parents spending much longer in a job than we tend to, but I really believe he would do it all the same if he could go back. He loves it. His colleagues love him, and last year he was given an award for championing women in the company. My dad simply likes people who care; you don’t need to meet any specification outside of that. If you care, are willing to learn and are enthusiastic about what you do, he will ensure that he makes time for you and will do everything in his power to champion your success.

3. Maintaining Bikes

Linked to my dad’s love of work is his love of bikes. He’s a civil engineer by trade but has mostly switched the practical application of the trade from maintaining railways to maintaining bikes. Typical of him, he cannot half-arse it as a mere ‘hobby’. It is a lifestyle. You will regularly find him on a Saturday morning sat at his laptop, watching detailed videos on how to replace x part on a bike. He will then discuss at length with you the problem he is trying to solve, how he managed to get a critical tool to help solve the issue, and how he got that tool off eBay for 50% of the price. I’m not sure why he enjoys saving money when it comes to bikes as it is not something he enjoys in every other area of his life. He pays around £160 a month for Sky subscriptions, yet only watches approximately 5 programmes, 3 of which are on the same channel, which is available on Freeview anyway. Sky must wonder when he is going to sober up and start demanding his money back, but there doesn’t seem to be a risk of that any time soon.

My dad spent a few months working on a bike belonging to a colleague of his. After hearing her talk about her bike being broken, he offered to take a look at it. It was his project for months. He was incredibly excited about it, spending lots of his own money ordering new and better parts for it, and at least quadrupling its total value. When he handed it back, he mentioned nothing about the money, time or effort that had gone into it. It is a perfect representation of many of the things that make my dad great – his want to help people, his ability to grasp a problem with both hands and tackle it with ingenuity, and a genuine disregard for money (I assume this is what it is, as he never spends his money on himself, yet finds ways to spend it on everyone else, even his colleagues).

There’s another reason that maintaining bikes is so important to him: he loves to ride them.

4. Exercising

My dad has always been incredibly into exercise; he’s also always been very good at it. When he was younger, he boasts that he used to run over 100 miles a week on average. You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who thinks that is a good idea anymore, but at the time “you tried to run as much as you could, as hard as you could,” according to him (the exact wording may be incorrect but the general message is spot on).

He told me a story about how he was involved in a run on a 400m track once. The race distance was 100km, which is a ridiculous distance to be running around a track. There were various houses which backed onto it, and one gentleman was apparently outside gardening, watching them run. After a while, he got confused about why they were still running. “Why are you running around the track for hours,” he shouted to my dad as he ran last. My dad had to do a full lap before he could answer. “We’re running 100kms on it,” he replied as he ran past again. Dad proceeded to do another lap before being in earshot of the man again. “Are you fucking mental?” The man shouted back as my dad made his way past again; that was his response even after having 400m worth of time to contemplate his response. I don’t blame him – it is totally fucking mental to run that distance on a 400m track.

As he got into his 30s, the hundreds of miles he was running a month started catching up with him and he developed various injuries. Cycling took over from there. He’s been on various trips to Europe to tackle some of the most notorious climbs, once taking my brother Greg with him. I was meant to go too, but was starting a new job and told I needed to join that week to join a training course; I wish I’d put my foot down and refused now – memories could have been made that would be far more valuable than any job. That job did teach me a lot, though, so it had its own value. I met many friends for life there as well as growing a lot as a person. Without it, I can’t confidently say that I’d be responding to this diagnosis in the way I am.

I know that things are hard at the minute for both of my parents. It must be surreal to have raised a son, investing so much time, energy and love into something for so many years, to watch it potentially end in front of their eyes. Feeling the excitement of every achievement with them, watching them become a teenager, young adult, going to university, getting their first job; hurting with them when things don’t work out, celebrating with them when it does. In Lord of the Rings, there is a quote which goes something like ‘No parent should bury their child’. No parent should have to bury their child; it isn’t right. The world doesn’t work by the parameters of our perceived morality, though. People have to bury their children all the time, sometimes in horrendous circumstances. Here, in London, there are always stabbings in the news. Just a week ago in Forest Hill, a helicopter had to land in the park next to our flat to transport a boy to the hospital who had been stabbed in the neck. Luckily, he survived. He is 17 years old. His loved ones would have got a call to inform them at some point – where is the morality in that situation? There isn’t any.

In March 2021, Sarah Everard was lured into a car by a man, convinced to do so by the sight of his police badge. Unfortunately, that off-duty police officer had sinister intentions for Sarah, who only realised so too late to try and save herself. Her body was found days later in Kent. It turned out that the off-duty police officer was Wayne Couzens. He had told her that she was being arrested for breaching lockdown restrictions, showing just how evil this man was. He was preying on the fear of the day and how could Sarah say no to a police badge as a law-abiding citizen? It’s absolutely despicable.

The advantage of having cancer is that I get a period of time where I know that I possess something that may kill me, and so do my family. If we look past the awful parts of it, that’s actually an amazing opportunity to be afforded. Whilst I’m still healthy and able, I want to enjoy my time with my family and friends.

I’ve said before in the blog that I used to have a crippling fear of watching my parents suffer. It kept me up at night when I was about 10 and the fear gripped me. Now I have an opportunity to show them that you don’t need to suffer through these situations; you can face them with relentless strength. I still cry, I still get scared, I still feel angry sometimes. I just try to let none of it consume me for longer than it needs to. My life is amazing no matter when it comes to an end; I’m not going to waste a second more than I have to on being sad, angry or depressed because of a situation that was totally out of my control. My dad has been positive throughout this process – seeing every next step as progress and unrelenting in his determination that the only outcome is recovery. Upon hearing the news of the surgery, he seemed different; there wasn’t a voice of positivity, an uplifting perspective that this surgery was necessary and amazing, in its own way. It may not be exactly what we wanted to hear, that the tumour was likely to be fully removed, but it’s something. There’s still a chance that this happens anyway. no matter how small. Even if that chance is 0.000001%, it’s still more worthy of our time and effort to believe that this will happen over a more bleak alternative.

So, this is me throwing the positivity back at you, dad, and telling you that this surgery is amazing no matter what happens. Whether it gives me a year, ten years or cures me entirely, it is amazing. Even if the worst case happens and I die in the surgery itself, it was the best opportunity we had to fight. Besides, I don’t want to be buried when I die, I want to be cremated, so there will be no parents burying any of their children in this process. There’s always a loophole if you look hard enough.

Thank you for everything, dad. We fight on.

Practice What You Preach

The family climbing Snowdon for my mum’s birthday, 2017

I preach a lot on this blog, but I do not always follow my own mantras. On Monday 31st Jan, I was cooking with my mum and Anna in the kitchen. Together, we were all preparing some food for that evening. My mum had gotten some beefburgers out of the freezer and was attempting to separate 2 that were attached together. She decided to try and do this with a knife, which is surely against all Knife Safety 101 guidelines. I wasn’t privy to exactly what happened next, I just heard a screech from behind me. Upon turning around, I saw my mum holding her left thumb, and I saw blood.

“It isn’t too bad, don’t worry,” she said as she wrapped some kitchen paper around it. Anna wasn’t convinced, and I was already panicking. “Are you sure, mum?” I asked. She lifted the kitchen roll from her hand and showed the wound. It was deep and bleeding. A lot. “You need to go to the hospital now!” I wasn’t doing a great job of being brave, staying strong, controlling what I can control, anything really. I was shitting it, to put it one way.

After some debating about whether Accident & Emergency or a drop-in centre was more appropriate, my dad took her to A&E. To our amazement, they were back after about 2 hours, which is very fast for a UK A&E department. Her thumb had bled a lot at the hospital, apparently. The wound was a ‘good bad’ scenario in the end. She hadn’t damaged any nerve endings, no ligaments were severed, and it wasn’t too close to the nail. The nurse had closed the wound using Steri-strips and then had bandaged it up. That was it. She was told to leave the bandage on until Friday, then take it off. I’d be leaving it on for at least another week I thought to myself, but I’d also faint if I looked at that wound for too long, so I’m probably not a force of reason around the issue. To my amazement, she took it off last Friday, and it has healed impressively given the wound.

So my confession is this, there was a minor emergency, and I responded like it was a major disaster. My mind was running a million scenarios – the wound would get infected as she was dealing with meat at the time, that she had irreversibly severed an important part of her thumb and would lose movement, etc., ad infinitum. It felt like the mental equivalent of doomscrolling.

It made me reflect on what I ask of my close family and friends in relation to my cancer diagnosis. I’ve said a few times that I think the situation is worse for them than for me, and I am absolutely certain that is the case now. The entire time my mum was at the hospital, and for a couple of hours after she got back, my brain was in emergency mode. It wouldn’t settle or accept that the situation was ok. I replayed what happened to her over and over in my head, pictured her in pain at A&E, felt her anguish as the nurse tried to treat it. But it was all false; my mum didn’t seem phased by any of it. It is proof that practising what you preach can be extremely difficult, especially in emotionally charged situations.

Of course, it is impossible to hold yourself to such a standard all of the time. I can think of few people I know who would respond calmly to an array of bad, stressful situations. There are some people I know that I suspect would respond with a very calm, collected approach, but I am also sure that if I looked up ‘traits of a sociopath’, these characteristics would all appear on the list. That’s how I make myself feel better about my lack of those traits, anyway.

I’ve spoken in previous blogs about how I have a tendency to be a pessimist in the face of stressful situations. It doesn’t last long, and I have managed to get much better at fighting it, but my first response to stressful situations is seldom positivity. I need the panic to wash over me before I can inject a level of measuredness in my response. After being diagnosed, I spent a week certain that I would die and thought that the task at hand was to accept this fact. The idea that I could fight to stay alive took a while to sink in and feel realistic. I needed some help from the doctors, too – I needed to hear some positive words that told me it was possible, which I eventually got from my specialist at The Christie. This is an extreme example, though, and it takes a solid mind to respond productively to such news. Especially when the news was so unexpected.

I know myself, though, and I know that the way I responded to the situation with my mum was very ‘me’. I’m really not sure how I would deal with a family member or close friend being diagnosed with cancer like I have. It makes me respect all of those around me who are doing such an incredible job, of which there truly are too many to start listing by name. The support comes from all angles, including from people who only know me through social media and the blog. I have met amazing people and receive uplifting, wondering comments daily through the blog, Twitter and the Just Giving page for the Run 40 Campaign. But the real support, the nitty-gritty support where I have to be spoken down from awful places or propped up after a hard day, can only come from those around you. It can be tough to reach out and say exactly how you are feeling to those people who are so close to you, though.

That is where the blog is strangely helpful. Sometimes, I catch myself off guard with the things I write in these posts. Sometimes I will throw myself at them, feeling that I know exactly what the message needs to be and just write it. It happened most recently with the World Cancer Day post. After running 5K and obsessively thinking about the fact that it was World Cancer Day, I felt that I had essentially written it in my head. All I had to do was get home, shower, open up my laptop and write. The rest was history. I barely thought about a single word in the post and it all just came together.

In other posts, however, I don’t really know what I am going to say; I just know that I am feeling a certain way. On these days, the posts can take several twists and turns. In these posts, I realise more about what is bothering me than if I had not written at all. By writing, I allow myself to explore some of the parts of my subconscious that I perhaps don’t allow myself to access so regularly and readily without the blog. It does concern me, though, as I regularly see my mum crying as she reads the posts, or I will receive messages after releasing a post asking if I am Ok. It can be hard to strike a balance. I want to get across the positive feeling, the mental athletics and the ‘better’ sides of the cancer experience, but it also feels important to capture those other, more authentic moments of hardship.

What I can say is that I have had many comments from close friends and family who say the blog is very ‘me’ and reads as such. This is something I really am proud of. The inception of the idea for the blog came from quite a bleak place, really. I was lying in the hospital bed the night after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. It was late – probably 3am, 4am. I was contemplating the emergency procedure that I needed to have in about 12 hours to install a stent in my bile duct. I was terrified of the cancer diagnosis that I had been informed of only 8 hours prior. As I said earlier in this post, I was quite certain my task was to deal with my own mortality at this stage.

Visiting Slovakia with friends, 2017

Suddenly, I felt obsessed with my legacy, not in an egotistical fashion, but in a far more human sense. I felt sure that I would die of cancer during this period at the hospital, just after diagnosis. I wasn’t sure when, but I felt like the doctors had little hope for me, and I wasn’t in a position to start fashioning any myself at this point. I was in shock. I wanted to do something that would harbour a piece of the true essence of me for my family and friends. I’m not the sort of person who would feel confident enough to vlog – I hate my voice, my mannerisms, and it would come off very disingenuous. I decided that writing was the most effective way of leaving a piece of myself to those who cared enough to read. I hoped that it would allow them to get into my head, to hear my voice again and relive the things that make me ‘me’. Every time I get told that the blog has my humour, voice, etc., I feel I am fulfilling that brief. It feels good.

As I develop in my diagnosis and manage to piece together more hope for survival, I find myself desiring that the blog serves more of a purpose than just this. It seems to be helping people for a multitude of reasons. This, of course, makes me feel extremely fulfilled and happy too. The fact that it extends beyond just my family and friends consuming these words is a wonderful thing, and I hope whatever currently interests you in the content continues to be a pull.

But, to bring this back to my original point… The situation with my mum has really proved to me what an amazing job all of my close friends and family are doing in dealing with the diagnosis. For all the support, love and unfaltering determination that you all show, you make me learn so much more about myself and my ability to fight through the difficulties of this situation. I am only the way I am because of all of you, so every compliment to my character is directly attributable back to you all. Though I am glad to not be finding out how I would respond to any close family or friends receiving a cancer diagnosis, I really hope that the way that I am coping with it offers you some solace, no matter what happens in the end.

Some of the Godley’s together in London, 2018

The Gift That Keeps on Giving

Another chemotherapy treatment day rolled around yesterday. That meant another 6:45am alarm, 4.5 hours in the hospital on a Saturday and more baked goods for the nurses. Yesterday I made them chocolate chip banana bread. I’ll save that material for the next Chemotherapy Diaries post though, thank you; I’m collecting ammunition for it with every second that passes. But this isn’t a blog based on chemo complaints. This post has a more positive topic: thankfulness.

One of the significant side-effects of having cancer that is not listed on the NHS website is the incredible opportunity to see the best in human beings come out constantly and unrelentingly. I find myself humbled time and time again by the actions of others. This is another post, similar to my Friends & Family post, where my only goal is to highlight the amazing things people have done for me and give thanks. I’m only covering a select group of scenarios here, but I have plenty. I plan to slowly drop these things into other blog posts over time. “A steady flow of content, how irresistible,” I think to myself, stroking my black cat and cackling to the sky. I will name drop everyone one day, in one way or another.

The first thing I woke up to yesterday morning, doing my usual scan of Twitter and WordPress in bed, was this post from Dr. Eric Perry recommending my blog to his 33K+ followers. I was truly bowled over by the gesture. His blog is far more advanced than mine, both in form and purpose. His articles are written eloquently, always have a fantastic central theme, and contain well-researched information to support the points. It is an excellent self-help blog, and I am so honoured to have my blog featured within its work. To everyone who has joined Ebb and Flow from that recommendation, welcome, and I hope it lives up to the expectations set by Dr. Eric. I’ve already received touching comments from many of you, and it made my treatment day feel so special and joyous, 2 words I usually don’t associate with the chemotherapy ward.

The next person in the firing line is my cousin Anna. Unfortunately, she lives in Europe, so I seldom see her or her talented children. They play various instruments among the 3 of them. After a family wedding in Germany that I could not attend, my family returned home full of praise for her children’s instrumental skill after they performed there. Upon reading one of my Chemotherapy Diaries posts where I had complained about my hands cramping (as they are now) because of the drugs, she sent me a little gift. The below fingerless gloves arrived with a lovely note inside, telling me that they were to help alleviate the cramping when writing. I wear them often and they not only help the cramping by warming up my hands, but have a similar effect on my heart. What a beautiful gesture. Thank you so much, Anna.

A more general thank you next to an exceptional person in my life. Her name is Daniella, but everyone knows her as Dee. She insists that it is spelt ‘D’, but I cannot fathom something so ridiculous. D is a letter and something you try to avoid getting in an exam in school, not a name. In all seriousness, Dee has supported me so much throughout the 6 years I’ve known her, though more than ever since the hospital visits started. There are few people I find myself speaking so openly to. She is the first person I cried to when I was first diagnosed with a cancerous tumour. I had managed to keep it together with my fiance Anna, choosing a display of strength over vulnerability. Within 2 minutes of speaking to Dee, I just collapsed. With every supportive text, weekend visit and comforting word, she has been a pillar in my life that has withstood so much stress, emotion and pain. I love her dearly, and I will try my very best to be there for her in the same capacity that she has been there for me.

My best friend Luke is to thank next. I hope he doesn’t mind me saying, but he has had his own fair share of battles with mental health. When I was living and working in the US, I spent nights worrying about him and speaking to him as often as possible. I always wondered how vulnerable he was, how things were going for him and if he was managing to win his battles. It was hard being so far from a friend you knew was suffering. He has a wonderful girlfriend and seems better at managing these days, or so I hope. I can’t say, though, because he somewhat selfishly always speaks to me about my situation, asking how I’m feeling and providing a reasonable voice when I feel worried. All this, as well as making me laugh more than anyone I know (my fiance Anna is close second here; she won’t appreciate being second, though). Every time I see him, I cry with laughter at least once. The positive effect on my ability to fight cannot be understated. He’s been my best friend since we were both in school, and his intelligence, wit and enormous heart continue to surprise me every day.

Finally, my fiance Anna. She has had a good amount of air time in this blog but it is mostly in passing, during The Road to Diagnosis series and in other places. We only met 2 years ago. If the Covid pandemic had not occurred, I would have still been living and working in Philadelphia, US, and I almost definitely would not have met her. We met during lockdown 1, and within 3 months were looking at properties to buy together in London. When you know, you really do know. I thought it was a cliche but I’ve felt it. Meeting Anna has proved to me that sometimes things are fated to happen. If I hadn’t met her, I don’t know how I would be dealing with my cancer diagnosis. That isn’t to discredit the role of friends, family, and everyone else, but Anna is constant support for me in a way that only someone you love can be. She teaches me so much every day through her kindness, her ability to laugh at everything and how she can wear pyjamas during every work call; it’s quite impressive how little she dresses for work these days. I can’t wait to see what our lives bring us and she’s one of the main reasons I’m fighting this cancer with the force I am – I cannot stand missing all of the things she’s going to do in her life, and I refuse to not be part of them.

Of all the talk of positivity and hope, I owe so much to the actions of others. I do not stay positive every second of every day, and I don’t expect myself to be. Suffering alone is tough. The hard miles come during the sleepless nights, the nausea-laced days and when the ruthless nature of the cancer is more prominent in my mind than the possibility of survival. Small actions of kindness, a handwritten card, some gloves, unannounced flowers, all represent another human’s empathy and want to contribute to something otherwise out of their control. It isn’t about the present; it’s about the human spirit they represent. The text messages, comments on the blog and random exchanges on Twitter. They all contribute to a feeling that I am not alone in this.

To close this post, I encourage you to invest in the people around you. Whatever your support network consists of, nurture it. Life is unpredictable and changing. Without the help of others, we are far less capable of coping with the curveballs it throws at us. Something that I am changing my opinion on is social media. Twitter is allowing me to seek out other pancreatic cancer patients, survivors and experts that I would not have connected with otherwise. Their many posts, interviews and articles are a wealth of knowledge, encouragement and support. Used in the right way, it can be a museum of information tailored to your needs. I will post a link to the blog’s Twitter account below. Please follow if you so wish by clicking on the Twitter icon. It’s another growing support network in my struggle, and I look forward to seeing where it takes me.

Merry Christmas and Thank You!

And another year slips by in what feels like the blink of an eye…

This Christmas is feeling a little different for me in a few ways. Usually, I would have spent Christmas Eve having a few more drinks than the average night with my family and friends. In past years this has resulted in me struggling to eat my Christmas Dinner or, in particularly bad years, stopping me from enjoying a single second of Christmas Day. I can’t say that I feel disappointed about this change. I still had friends over yesterday though, and they had some drinks with my family. I just enjoyed the company, and they are always great company!

Finch waited until everyone was there before walking into the room with 2 wrapped presents and a card. Everyone was smiling and I was trying to figure out what sort of smile it was. Were they happy because they knew the presents were that good? Have they done something else that I was going to struggle to accept? Or were those smiles in fact smirks? Is this going to be at my expense? I was told to unwrap the presents in the order they were handed to me, including the card in the middle.

The first present was a book. ‘Everybody Writes’ by Ann Handley, a book about improving your writing. “So the first present was incredibly thoughtful,” I thought to myself. I read the card next – “To Dan and Anna. We have put something together which will hopefully help put a smile on your faces if future dates/appointments begin to become a little overwhelming”. My interest was well and truly peaked, but it seemed another undeniably thoughtful present based on the message. I unwrapped the last present and found it was a calendar with the picture from the surprise engagement meal on it; I used this picture in my Friends & Family post. What I didn’t know at the time was that this picture was a ploy. It was a façade placed there only to naively draw me in. What followed was me flipping page by page through the calendar to various levels of laughter, surprise and a peppering of disgust. Seeing as they gave me this calendar to hang in my house, I don’t think they will have a problem with me posting it here. Flick through at your own risk, there’s some disturbing content to say the least. It really is undeniably thoughtful though, and it will definitely put a smile on my face no matter what appointments I am having to mark inside it.

I also wanted to add a couple of honourable mentions. Firstly, to Lucy Giannasi for making me the amazing ‘Ebb and Flow’ card. I love it so much and it is so beautifully done! Next, to the group of friends that are self-named ‘The Turks’. I met Dan Sayek at Arcadis when I used to work there, and he’s been a very close friend ever since. Lucky for me, Dan Sayek comes with a whole catalogue of other friends that he knows from Turkey. They all live in London and are amazingly intelligent, thoughtful and interesting people. Not only have they made the 3 hour journey from London to visit me recently, but they then sent a Christmas Hamper to Anna and I to say thank you. What they were thanking me for I am not sure, all I did was cook them some spaghetti and let them look after my dog. I am so grateful for them and all the support that they are providing to me.

Another change this year is that my brother Greg won’t be here as he failed a PCR test. The labs were struggling to meet demand with PCR results this week it seemed, and it took 5 days for him to receive his. He had packed up the car with his stuff and was ready to leave Manchester as he received the positive result via text. By this point, he was convinced that the minor symptoms he had experienced the weekend before were due to the booster jab. He had done 2 hardcore cycling sessions that week since experiencing the symptoms (for those of you who know him, you will know he doesn’t do easy fitness sessions) and neither of them phased him. He was pretty sure he couldn’t do this with covid, but he did also test positive for Covid a few days after competing in the Bolton Iron Man last year; we should have known better really. Apparently us Godley’s like completing challenging events with unknown health problems – I did my last ultra marathon with cancer and Greg completed an Iron Man with covid. Luckily, his wonderful girlfriend Kate is staying with him in Manchester, so I hope they have a lovely day together and I look forward to seeing them soon.

The biggest change for me though is my diagnosis. What is strange is that Christmas was one of the first things that played on my mind when wrestling with the idea of having cancer. “I wonder how many Christmases I have left,” I sat pondering at 4am in my hospital bed one night. It really bothered me. I wondered if I would be able to enjoy any single one of them, or if the pressure I’d put on myself to enjoy them to the fullest would make the whole thing overwhelming.

I am now in a completely different headspace to then. You cannot process news like that in a week. You can’t even expect yourself to process it in a month, or 6 months, or even a year. Everyone is going to be different, and what ‘processing the news’ means for you may be very different to what it means for me. It is also influenced by the people around you, including the doctors you have. My processing came in waves, across 2 diagnoses of very different severity and with a range of differing attitudes of different doctors and nurses. It was only when I got to The Christie in Manchester that I felt like a set of doctors truly spoke to me positively about the situation, and that made a huge difference for me. Until this point, I was still processing news that felt to me was almost certainly a death sentence, something which was taking me a while and was difficult.

Another thing worth mentioning is that I have started to use Twitter to follow others experiencing cancer. Those of you who know me likely know that I have been very anti social media for a long time (Strava doesn’t count as social media – don’t even try it). For me, I realised that social media gave me a false reality that negatively affected my relationships. It was a means of feeling like I had a lot of friends and that I was involved in their lives, but actually I was passively learning about the ongoings of their life with little effort or engagement from either of us. As a result, I deleted all of my personal social media accounts and decided that any relationships I have from now on, I must make an effort to sustain. It felt good, and I have stood by that stance for 6 years. Now that I have a Twitter for the blog however, I have started seeing some different positives to social media. Twitter is helping me find people experiencing similar things to me, which is wonderfully therapeutic and encouraging. I opened the Twitter app 2 days ago to find the following tweet at the top of my feed.

The treatment plan she speaks of here is the exact same treatment plan that I am currently undergoing. Folfirinox is the same chemotherapy type that I am on, 12 sessions (2 cycles of 6 sessions) is the current plan and the aim of that chemotherapy is to allow surgeons to perform the Whipple, which is the type of surgery required to remove the tumour. I was suddenly flooded with so much positive emotion. Primarily for this woman who I did not know, but that I knew was sitting somewhere in the world right at that moment, experiencing such an incredible feat. I felt so incredibly happy for her. But it also showed me that treatment plans work and, specifically, my treatment plan has worked for someone. It is easy to say that this should have been obvious to me, but it felt different to see a random stranger write the details of the very same treatment plan as me, within a message stating that she had beat the cancer. What an amazing feeling, and it’s another example of someone sharing their message and having a profound effect on the world around them. I responded to her Tweet, and she sent me a lovely message of positivity and strength.

It is on this positive note that I will sign-off the post for today. Thank you so much for reading my blog, it means the world to me. It feels like I have been doing it for so much longer than I have, and I keep reminding myself that it is new to me every time I get cold feet about a post or feel self-conscious about things that I am writing. I’m learning a lot about writing and about myself, and it is when I am learning that I am most motivated in life, so it is helping me tremendously with my diagnosis. I hope that you have a lovely Christmas day and spend it with whoever is closest to you, exchanging gifts and eating far too much food.

Love, Dan x