by Emma Rodgers
This year, I’m thrilled to be able to be involved with #CommsCampStaysHome.
Since it started way back in 2013 in a freezing cold Birmingham in the middle of February when I was a Commscamp helper – I’ve been a co-organiser every year since then.
Apart from last year but I think I have a good enough excuse as last year Richard, my husband of 13 years and my boyfriend of 26 years since I was 18, was diagnosed with cancer.
You can imagine my disappointment to not be involved but to be fair actually getting through each day last year was a massive achievement in itself and I had very little left to give.
I remember the day of diagnosis like it was yesterday. I still get that horrible feeling in the pit of my stomach thinking about it. He’d been having pain in one of his arms and had been to the doctor three times sent away and sent away with various treatments that made no difference until it came to a head on 5 January 2019. He’d been grumpy over Christmas and if anyone knows my other half, he is generally anything but. The pain was getting too much – so we ended up in the hospital accident and emergency unit after being sent there by a doctor at our local walk-in centre. Richard had been waiting there a while when my 10 year old and I rocked up.
It started out as a bit of a giggle in the waiting room as we innocently thought he’d just pulled a muscle. Then they sent him for an x-ray and everything changed. A lovely Asian doctor came and told us the news. Unbeknownst to us, Richard had actually broken his arm but it was the next words that changed our world forever. The break had been caused by a sinister shadow which they believed to be cancer. It turned out to be a metastatic cancer spread from his kidney. Who knew?
What followed was months of distress and sadness for us and endless amounts of pain for Richard. By the time he’d had a biopsy and the various scans and test that are need for cancer investigations, his arm bone had been eroded away by a cancerous tumour. Eventually a treatment plan was put in place and weeks and months of hospital time followed. Richard got his arm bone replaced by a prosthetic which he had to learn to use again, had radiotheraphy treatment, had his kidney removed and underwent weeks of physiotherapy showing extreme bravery throughout.
We then had the devastating news that despite everything, the cancer had returned in other places including his left arm where his bone had been replaced. Richard’s only in his forties and as my soul mate for so many years, I’d always assumed we’d grow old together. But every time we were hit with more bad news, hope ebbed away. Then luckily for us and after a lot of relentless determination, we managed to get a consultation at the Christie Hospital.
The Christie in Manchester is one of the top cancer hospitals in the UK – it’s a registered charity but also one of the largest treatment centres in Europe. I’d asked for a referral while at another hospital as I knew they were one of the best in the country and also that they were at the cutting edge of new cancer treatments undertaking infinite amounts of research.
Kidney cancer unfortunately doesn’t respond to chemotherapy like other cancers so there were limited options available to us. Luckily for us after meeting one of the amazing consultants at the Christie, they decided to take Richard on as a NHS patient.
When you’re going through cancer, you rely so much on the professionals that care for you, treat you and advise you. Our new consultant radiated hope. She was honest but at the same time spoke to us in the most straightforward way. She was not only an expert in her field but she also had excellent communications skills and talked through our options in the most caring and easy- to- understand way. While she was factual, she also incited optimism and drew on stories based on experience to help get us through. She had a brilliant sense of humour putting us at ease whenever she could. In short, she is one of the best communicators I’ve ever met.
Communications were and continue to be excellent from the hospital. Whether it is phone calls or letters or other contact, you always feel that nothing is too much trouble and that stroke a chord with me and what I do for a job. Not only because it’s our lives but because when you’re having a really hard time, you want – and need – things to be simple to comprehend and for people to really be in your corner fighting for you every step of the way. And that’s what the Christie does. That’s why I think it’s a perfect fit as the nominated charity for #CommsCampStaysHome and I’m delighted that my lovely co-organisers agree.
Richard was placed on immunotherapy treatment – a treatment that had only been licenced in April in the UK a couple of months after he was diagnosed and we waited to see what next. Luckily for us, his response has been amazing and scans just before Christmas showed that his tumours have gone. He’s our very own Christmas miracle.
The treatment’s for life and every three months we have check ups and scans – the scanxiety is currently high as the MRI scans are in the next couple of weeks – and we hope and pray that long may it continue so that our lovely family unit can stay together and we can achieve that dream of growing old and grey together. No-one has a crystal ball but we take one day at a time and are forever grateful to the Christie for what they’ve done. I also know any donation you make is extremely appreciated because it helps families like mine in a way you can never truly grasp unless you’re unlucky enough to go through it yourself. And I hope truly for you and yours that you never have to but be reassured that if you do, the Christie Hospital and its excellent staff are there for you. Thanks for all your help and support.
At every commscamp event we bake cake and attendees make a donation in return for a raffle ticket. This year we’re asking attendees past and present to make a donation to the charity that Emma has suggested – The Christie. You can do that here and Emma and the rest of us would love it if we did.