Nick’s story

Nick

People come in, broken inside, but Cavendish know how to put them back together.

Nick was a very active 45 year old when he was diagnosed with cancer. He owned a printing business and was married with daughters aged 15 and 13.

In Easter of 2004, I’d felt a lump on my tongue, so I saw my GP but he only gave me treatment for a sore throat.

On the 1st June I woke up with a golfball sized lump. I went into a cold sweat. I booked an appointment for the following Monday. But all the GP did was refer me to the Hallamshire for an appointment in October. 

Fortunately, a few weeks later, I got the details of a private throat specialist who did a 10 minute operation and a biopsy. 

I received the results at 2.30pm on 12th July 2004 – I was diagnosed with a primary cancer on the back of my tongue and secondary in my neck and shoulder.

I drove home from hospital in tears

I thought about my family and kids, we were going on holiday in a few weeks. It was devastating but I thought “You’ve gotta tell them”.

As much as anything I felt angry because I thought my GP had let me down.

I didn’t feel like I had cancer – it’s a hidden enemy.

Because I was so fit and strong they suggested an extreme course of treatment: seven weeks of radiotherapy and chemotherapy. They said, “Were not going to take your tongue out, we’re going to blast the cancer off you.” 

Because the treatment was so intense, I found it very, very hard. I mean, you’re 45 and you advance very quickly to 85, and you can barely walk or go to toilet on your own. You are left with your survival instincts, just to get through the day. 

I just wanted my life back. That made me more and more determined. That drives you on. 

Months of recovery followed, and then on the 23rd of December 2004, I went to see the consultant for my results. When I saw he sent a junior doctor in, I knew I’d got the green light ‘cos he had a big smile on his face.

Soon after, I went to the Cavendish for the first time.

I’d picked up a leaflet from Weston Park Hospital and I got an appointment to see my assessor and counsellor, Anna Steele.

The first benefit you appreciate is that it’s not a hospital environment. It doesn’t smell like one. You also get the time to talk. And talking to Anna was important. She’s medically qualified with great communication skills. She’s a good listener. She knows what’s she’s doing. She drew out the root cause of my anxiety.

Without help, you can sink quite quickly.

The thing is when you start this merry-go-round of cancer unless you’re really on top of your organisation skills and you’ve got people around you with a positive attitude, you can soon go under. The paperwork alone can swamp you.

It’s easy to get demoralised. But the Cavendish is the link between the hospital and your family. They can deal with you, make you relaxed, comfortable, so you’re better at home. Without the Cavendish, there would’ve been a massive strain on my relationship.

They also sorted me out with a physio. She did wonders, even helped me eat fish and chips with a broken jaw!

In my crazy world of cancer, Cavendish was absolutely vital for me, like a ‘blood supply’.

My problems weren’t over unfortunately.

In 2008 the effects of all the chemo finally caused my jaw to fall apart. It was the start of several more years of treatment. New challenges and tough experiences but I have meet some amazing people along the way.

At one point I was told I wouldn’t be able to walk again, but I’m a tough old bugger, and since then I’ve done a few charity runs – even organised a 3K charity event myself, and set up a little charity of my own. 

What if Cavendish hadn’t been there for me? 

The primary benefit was that it refocused me. I learnt how to vent the anger that was all bottled up. I mean, 7 weeks of radiotherapy and chemo and it’s got to come out. It’s essential.

I just loved how Anna would say, “Yesterday has gone. Put it behind you. Your problems are not your fault or your wife’s. Let it go.”

I enjoy life much better now than before the cancer. 

I haven’t changed as a person, but cars…money…this and that, it doesn’t mean anything.

I enjoy every day. I never used to notice the weather or the trees. But now I get up in the morning and think to myself, ‘Welcome to another day on planet earth’.