“There’s no easy way to tell you this but….”

Hi, i’m Martin. Nice to see you again. I’ve got cancer.

Sorry to throw that at you before we’ve shaken hands and sat down but i haven’t yet found a better way to tell people and it’s easier once it’s out there. Otherwise we’re going to have some wonderfully British chit-chat and then, well it’s still going to be just as awkward. There’s no easy way to tell you it is there?

So what are we doing here? Well, in truth I’m not sure. It has been 8 days since life changed for me and my family. It’ll be 1 more day until we know how much it has changed. Each of these days has been a spectacular series of cliches. Numbness, anger, disbelief, anxiety. All mixed in with the mundane acts of every day life continuing – yes, your life might’ve been turned upside down by cancer but that new Ikea furniture isn’t going to build itself is it? More than anything though I’ve just been so sad. Does that sound too banal? Maybe. I know lots of words but i think that’s the one. Sad. Just so sad that this has happened to me, has happened to my wife, has happened to my children and has happened to my family and friends. This sadness has been so overwhelming I need to put it somewhere. This is where I’m putting it.

Beyond being sad the last 8 days have mainly been functional. Calls with nurses. Appointment bookings. Scans. Blood tests. Calls with HR. None of this really matters, I’ll tell you later. But what it all adds up to is that we know I have bowel cancer but don’t know until later this week what the full diagnosis is and what the future holds. There are so many unknowns. Such a wide range of possibilities. I’ve worried that if I tell anyone just yet they’ll ask questions I don’t have answers to and, though meaning well, just remind me how anxious I currently am. So I’ve told very few people. If you’re reading this just after I told you I hope you understand why I waited.

Those I’ve told have been perfect. I could not have asked more from my wife and mum. Nor could I have asked more of the colleague who’s lived with cancer for a decade who I called out of the blue and in a bit of a state. Couldn’t have asked more of the two people from school I’ve not spoken to in 20 years but who’ve both had bowel cancer. The phone notifications when you replied meant more than you’ll known. And i couldn’t have asked more of my oldest friends I called and told. You made a horrible call into something life affirming. I am incredibly grateful to everyone. It gives me strength to know that I’m not alone and that whatever the future holds you’ll be there with me.

Where next? Well we’ll walk in that room and find out. It’s as though last week on an overcast morning in Hemel Hempstead I was convicted of a crime I did not commit. This week, on what i presume will be an equally grey and ordinary day, we’ll find out the sentence. No chance to make my case. No leniency for good behaviour. No appeals.

And so here we are. If you’ll humour a sentimental young fool for a while I’ll tell you my story. I can’t tell you where it will go. I can’t promise you it will be a happy story, it probably won’t be. I can’t promise you there’ll be a happy ending but I hope there will be, and you can hope with me.

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