A personal story from Lee, about his journey with prostate cancer

As promised for those that want to know, an account of my journey from beginning to the present day of my Prostate cancer.

Where confidentiality is necessary, I’ll censor wording and use pseudonyms. This may take a while to read, and for the benefit of those who want to or need to know, I’ll give as much detail as possible. However, it’s important to note that symptoms, side effects, treatment and responses to treatment, can be very different for everyone. Even the cell type and aggression will vary. So remember that I’m writing my journey and I only want to share it for you to understand what I’ve gone through, especially, as statistically, 1 in 6 men will at some point in their life also do so. It usually, but not always, develops in men over 50. I was younger, and although we don’t know exactly when it started, we’re guessing it was in my mid 40’s. Many who die with prostate cancer don’t actually die of prostate cancer. Only 3% of those diagnosed will die from it and is one of the most treatable cancers there are.

      I don’t know what caused my cancer. My life has been quite stressful, over the years. So, that is a possibility. I did wonder if getting drunk every Thursday at “whittling club” might have been a contributing factor, but after doing some research, I discovered that men who drink excessively are actually less likely to develop prostate cancer. That’s not a good enough reason to do so though, as excessive drinking will harm most other organs –  so please don’t be tempted. Red meats and processed foods can also be a contributory factors. So living with my wonderful wife Clea, who has been a vegetarian forever, and has been vegan these last few years, may have helped slow the progression of the tumour I had. I’m not vegan or vegetarian, but I don’t eat meat or dairy very often.

      Perhaps it’s relevant that I’ve suffered from IBS for probably 12 or 13 years? The trigger was the breakdown of my past marriage and subsequent divorce. Since then, any stressful situation would trigger the symptoms I had, which mainly would be loose stools and flatulence. At this time, it was never diagnosed and my symptoms were put down to stress. No medication or treatment was prescribed until 4 years later,  after a colonoscopy in 2014, when I was advised by my GP to avoid food that irritated my bowel and to drink less alcohol. As time went on, I worried about it more, which meant that then, when accompanied by stresses of life, the symptoms became worse until eventually, my GP requested blood and faeces samples for testing. I took some comfort thinking that whatever was wrong would now be discovered.  

      All of the tests came back negative: no diabetes, celiac, anaemia .. cholesterol was good and there were no cancer protein markers. So great, “all clear”. No more stress, I was free to just get on with life. A good life. I’m in a great relationship with a wonderful woman who lets me do whatever I want, with, where, how and when I want. I was just then buying a woodland, which was a massive turning point in my life. I’ve discovered a new passion and creative outlet in spoon carving and green woodworking, which has lead me to host a club and meet many amazing like-minded people. Things were looking good.

      By now Clea and I had been together for about 7 years. we’d travelled together to many parts of the world and I could not envisage a future without Clea in it, so I proposed to her. We did say that we didn’t “need” to get married, so if she didn’t want to that would be fine, we’d happily carry on as we were. But happily, she said “yes”, and within a year we married and celebrated with all of our friends and family.

      There was a massive event which happened between my proposal and our marriage. An event I will always wish had never happened but over which I had no control. Late one Saturday evening in November 2017 my phone rang… it was my son, Liam. It was very unusual for him to be calling me late in the evening. We’re talking about 12 o’clock at night, so I knew something was wrong. Bless him, he could hardly speak, and when he did, he told me his mum was dead. I didn’t ask anything, I simply got in the car and raced to him as quickly as I could so to try to console him the best I could. His mum, my ex-wife, had killed herself. The details of which you needn’t know: she was mentally ill. It’s a whole other story and I’m only telling you about this because I’ll refer back to it later.

      Two years ago, I was convinced that something was wrong. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but after two doctors examined me and gave me digital examinations and told me I was fine, I still wasn’t convinced. I felt anxious to the point where a lump in my throat developed and it rarely went away.  I’d had my GP look at it a year before and he’d referred me to the ENT (ear, nose and throat) specialist, but a year later, I’d heard nothing so called my GP to find out what was going on. When looking at my file, he said that although my referral had been registered, it was never actioned, so he would refer me again. Two weeks later I called the ENT department to find out approximately when I’d see them and was told that my case wasn’t urgent, so it would probably take a year, given we’d gone into lockdown because of the COVID pandemic. I felt let down, so I called a private practice and booked myself in with a consultant for 1 week later. I did a negative lateral flow test and attended the appointment. Ten minutes later, the consultant had a camera up my nose, down my throat and I was told within 1/2 hour of arriving that I simply had a condition called “glob-us sensation” caused by stress and anxiety and which is more common in women than men. Again, no cancer, all was fine.

      However, as time passed, I still knew something was wrong and that was when I called my doctor again. By now I’d done some research of my own. While I was aware that if you look on the internet you can find a diagnosis for everything you can imagine, I knew I had some real symptoms that are associated with prostate cancer. If you want to know about these, then questions on a postcard, or PM me. One of the symptoms, however, that raised alarm bells in my head, was discomfort and lower back pain when I needed to empty my bowels which would stop immediately after doing so as if the pressure had been taken off something that shouldn’t be there. Absolutely convinced something was wrong, I requested a call back from my GP. He called the next day and told me to have my bloods taken again to test my PSA  (Prostate Specific Antigen) with the practice nurse and to wait for the results then make an appointment to see him to discuss them. When I asked my doctor about all the tests that were done previously, I was told that no test for prostate cancer had been performed because at 48, I was deemed “too young” and not to be “silly”.

      The results came back for the blood PSA test and were 10.8ng/ml. That’s 10.8 nanograms per millilitre. I did a little Google search and wished I hadn’t, as I discovered to my horror that the normal range for my age is 0.1-0.4. As you get older it usually does increase to between 1 and 3ng/ml for a 70-year-old man. So, now I am absolutely fcuking sh1tting myself and with my IBS now kicking in full bore, quite literally so. 

      I was given another appointment to see my GP, which I attended a week or so later. I was again digitally examined (finger with a glove, not a hi-tech gadget) and was told it was probably just prostatitis (infection in the prostate) and given a prescription of daily antibiotics for a month. I was not in a good way. I was not sleeping well. I found myself lying awake thinking all night long one night, then would sleep well the next because I was so exhausted. But my doctor assured me I’d be ok.  I was to have another PSA test done after taking the antibiotics to see what it was and to then make an appointment to see a different doctor, as he was retiring at the end of that month. With a handshake and smile, that was the last time I saw my GP. He’d been my doctor for the better part of my entire adult life. We knew each other personally. He knew my history, both medically and personally. He knew all about the car crash I nearly died in at the age of 21 in which when I found 20 minutes after the impact I had no heartbeat or pulse. He knew about the brain damage I suffered and my ankle being rebuilt. He knew about my PTSD and lower back pain history due to the multiple fractures to my spinal column. The list goes on … which is probably why when I complained now, he thought I was being silly. I trusted this man with my life, but this time I knew he was wrong. I didn’t know how and I hoped that he’d prove me wrong.

      By now it was mid-November and I had a list of booked jobs to finish before Christmas. My back was so painful. When I needed the loo, driving became really difficult, and the next job on the books was in Cardiff. This was a high-profile customer I couldn’t let down. So with everything going on in my mind, off I went, on my own, to fit a 20K kitchen while staying in Air B&Bs so that I wouldn’t need to travel back and forth. In fairness, the chap I work for as a contracted kitchen fitter is very supportive and accommodating. He was happy to pay for the travelling, B&B, and meals while there and told me to take as long as I needed so to do a good job. He even met me there on the first day of the installation, to help lift cabinets in to place. Although, he did have a bit of a cough that made me somewhat uneasy, even after telling me that he’d had three negative lateral flow tests and we kept all the doors and windows open for airflow to be on the safe side. We carried on with the task at hand. John left me later that afternoon to let me carry on into the evening before going back to my B&B. The next day, John was admitted to the hospital and put on oxygen  – and tested positive for Covid.

      During that month I was taking antibiotics, and I noticed that my symptoms had eased. I was starting to feel quite positive. I spoke to my new GP and requested another PSA test soon after finishing my antibiotics. Bloods again were taken later that week and anxiously I waited for the results. When I called for the results, I was told by the receptionist at the practice that the bloods had a note saying simply “No action required”. I wept, I wept with such relief. Now I don’t have to tell my son who lost his mum a couple of years before that he might soon lose his dad, too. I called the practice back and asked what my PSA now was and the receptionist didn’t know, but I wanted to know –  mostly out of curiosity. So a request was made for a letter with the information I wanted to be collected the next day. I wasn’t too concerned, as no further action obviously means “normal”, right? The antibiotics had worked, the doctor was right and the infection had gone away, and all was right in the world again. This beautiful world that I’ve never taken for granted. Recovering from the near-death car crash many years ago taught me that it was simply the miracles of modern medicine, surgical practices, and the dedication of the staff, doctors and all those involved in saving my life, who quite frankly, in my mind, were angels. I’ve always felt like every day that I have the opportunity to live this wonderful life to the full, is a bonus.

      By now, we’re into November 2021 and I collect the letter with the information I requested. Here it was: Lee Burton- date of birth, address, date sample taken, date and time sample received and PSA……. 10.6! I’m confused, so I check everything again. It definitely says “no action required”,  and the dates etc. were correct. But PSA – 10.6 ng/ml?? Now, I’m floored! I immediately felt my whole world turn upside down in that split second. As I write these words I recall that moment and am going to stop writing and will pick up again tomorrow.

    Now I really start to panic. All over the news is the pandemic and how the NHS is at breaking point and people are not getting their diagnoses for cancer. The waiting times for scans and treatment are getting longer and I’ve just found out that I’ve probably got prostate cancer but have not yet been diagnosed. I don’t want my son to know until there’s something definitive to tell. Nor can I bear to tell my mother, who has already once before been told to “prepare for the worst” because when I was still on life support for three days after the car crash –  it wasn’t expected that I’d make it. Now she has already got quite a lot on her plate dealing with other things in our family, including her own health problems. So for now, I keep it to myself and get on the phone to my GP to find out what the next step is. 

      I’m referred to Oncology. That’s the department that deals with diagnosis and treatment of cancer, and after speaking to a McMillan nurse (let’s call him “Andrew”), while kitchen fitting, again with John’s help so I don’t have to do any lifting. Andrew shares my concerns and promised to call me back before he left for home that day. By 8 pm, I’d not heard back and so had resigned myself to not knowing what was going to happen. But then my phone rang and it was Andrew. He apologises for calling so late as he’d only just managed to shuffle the next day’s appointments so to accommodate one for me to see the consultant the very next day. He had even typed up an Appointment Letter for me to collect at Reception. 

      So here I am, sitting on my own in a hallway, socially distanced from everyone else, waiting to see the Oncology consultant. When I was called in I was given another digital examination and told I’d need an MRI given the symptoms I was suffering with the lower back pain I mentioned, he suggested that a bone scan also be done as soon as possible.

      We had just spent Christmas with me being paranoid about catching Covid, which would have prevented my attending any appointment or having treatment if I caught it.  Cora, my step-daughter, had been pre-Christmas celebrating in Bristol with a friend just before another lockdown, and the day after coming home, tested positive for Covid. She had to spend the week before and during the Christmas holiday on her own in our friends’ Air B&B, so as to not infect me. This was made even worse by the fact that Clea’s son, my step-son, was on his way home for Christmas from London for the first time since before the first lockdown  – well over a year before. He was arriving with his girlfriend, who planned to travel with him to Cyprus after Christmas to meet her family. While on the train to Pembrokeshire, they had a call from his housemate who’d just tested positive for Covid and thought he should let him know just in case.  Jay tested negative on Christmas Eve so he and his lovely girlfriend could spend the day with us, and Cora was quite happy where she was staying, being waited on hand and foot through the door of her B&B. 

      Still, this was a highly stressful period for us all, made altogether worse by the anxiety for me while waiting to find out the next step in my diagnosis, etc. When the New Year came, we avoided spending it with friends or family so to be sure I wouldn’t pick up Covid. Happy New Year!

      Things were starting to get quite intense in my mind. This was now all I thought about, but I wanted to keep it to myself so my family wouldn’t worry about me. But one afternoon, my sister called and asked how I was. I was standing in a supermarket and I had a meltdown and told her what was going on. I found a quiet isle and whilst sobbing, told her all about what was happening. I was so frightened that I didn’t care who saw me crying, and my sister offered me a shoulder to cry on without telling our mum what was going on. But within a couple of weeks, the letter from the hospital with the date for scans arrived on my mum’s doorstep, as I’d not changed my address on my medical records. So despite my request for correspondence to be sent to my home, my mum was about to find out what was going on. That must have been a tough pill for her to swallow, but in a calm manner, she called to tell me the letter had arrived. And, mum being mum, she had already opened it and read it to me.

      Once I was in the system, things happened very quickly. Alarm bells sounded because of my age. I kept hearing how “unusual” it was to have this illness at just over 50 years old. I had the MRI scan within the week. That was quite an experience. On arrival, I was asked all kinds of questions about my health and did I have a pacemaker or any metal work in my body. With the car crash, I wasn’t entirely sure. There had been a lot of surgeries to rebuild my ankle, and there were pins and a plate put in along with wire. Most of which I later had removed but couldn’t be sure. I was asked to get changed into a robe then entered the room that the MRI scanner was in and told if there was metal in me we’d know by now as the magnetic field on the scanner is so strong it would pull and I’d feel it. The scan took about 20 minutes and although very noisy, didn’t bother me in the slightest.

      A few days after that was the bone scan –  this was a bit more strange. I had to go to the hospital in the late afternoon, a few hours before my appointment, to be injected with a radioactive tracer that came in a lead casket to protect the nurse giving it to me. I was told to then go home for a few hours and avoid pregnant women and small children! During this time you need to be active as the tracer is absorbed by your skeletal structure to maintain and rebuild your bones. It is then visible in a 3D image taken during the scan. This was obviously another appointment created solely for me because when I went back to the hospital for the scan, it was like a ghost town. There was just me and the operator who’d been there since about 8 am. This lady had waited for me to have my scan before she finished her shift for the day. The scan took about 40 minutes. I thanked the operative for staying in for me and left for home.

      Then I just had to wait for results and an appointment to find out what the next step would be and while doing so got on with life and work. I had to remember to do no heavy lifting, which means,  apparently, no more than about 10 kilos. This is quite a difficult thing to manage when you’re a self-employed carpenter who fits kitchens. I’m used to handling cabinets and appliances that can weigh almost as much as I do (around 80 kilos), fearing if I overdo it there’s a possibility of aggravating and spreading the cancer in my spine. By now John, the chap who owns the bespoke kitchen furniture company, is on-site with me more often than not. Meaning, now he has to do his admin, run the business, reply to emails and enquiries that he’d usually be doing from the showroom during the day, at home in the evening after running around like a blue-arsed fly with me all day. And the days he can’t be with me, I only do the tasks that don’t involve lifting, or my step-father joins me for the day. Which, as it turns out, quickly becomes quite enjoyable. Dave is very easy company and we quite quickly get into a routine where my new apprentice and I are getting the job done well and quickly with plenty of banter. He often would arrive with lunch sent in from mum. Failing that, we’d head out in his camper van in search of a chippy, then a place to park with a view to enjoy our lunch.

      At around this time, my other project in development was my woodland. The Milkwood Project originally was going to be where I would run day courses in spoon carving and other greenwood activities for the paying punter. Eventually, I planned to run longer workshops on stool or chair making. However, I very quickly realised the need for therapeutic activities to help and support people struggling with mental health, illness, living in solitude, depression, anxiety, grief or isolation because of lockdown. The need for what I was offering, soon started to gather momentum. I had a meeting with the organisers of a local charity to discuss what I had to offer and to plan small groups to come to spend the day with me every Thursday, at my woodland to chat around the fire, to learn not just how to carve a spoon, but also how to sharpen the tools needed to do so and to eat lunch around the fire. I wanted to give everyone the opportunity to share and talk about themselves while enjoying and appreciating the habitat we were in. The crackle of the fire, the birds chirping around us, and the wind and sun … and sometimes the rain in on the leaves of the trees were all potent remedies. Often we’d have a talking circle when each of us would take turns holding a talking stick.  It was quite moving to what the effect of how being listened to and acknowledged in a safe place, had on the participants.  The gratitude offered to me was humbling, and I returned that gratitude with the assurance that all those who came to my workshop were helping me realise my dream and by doing so, were helping me. 

      This place that I built using only hand tools for this purpose and these people coming and using this space for its intended use, gave me the energy to keep going in the wind and rain. The space we were using was next to the workshop I’d built and was made of 28 Sitka spruce trees that were about 8 meters tall and probably only 100 – 150mm in diameter at the base, but still cut by hand and then extracted on my own using a strap and dragged anything from 200 – 500 meters, then I’d strip the bark off using a drawer knife. Those poles I used to make A-frames that would support an 8-meter by 16-meter clear tarpaulin. Every bit was done on my own, less than a year before when we went into the first lockdown. To be able to host groups here on Thursdays, here in this space I had purposefully created, made it all worth it.

      In January of this year, rather ironically, one of the chaps who started coming to the woods on a Thursday, had been diagnosed the year before with prostate cancer. Steve was introduced to me and he quickly started talking openly about what he was going through. Having heard from me about my pending diagnosis, he was keen to talk about it. Steve is very open to discussing the symptoms, treatment, medication and side effects. Himself having a physics background has a good understanding of the process and terminology and is more than happy to share. Steve has a blog that he updates regularly. You can find it here, if you’re interested go to

      It was around this time the results from my scans came in. I had another appointment with a consultant at the hospital to discuss the results. The bone scan was all clear. It did show some degradation at the base of my spine, probably onset earlier than usual because of the injuries sustained in the car crash many years before, but no cancer. That was a huge relief. If it had gone there, things would have been very different. But the MRI did show a large tumour in my prostate which may no longer be capsulated. Large! What was large? I did’t know what to think or even know how large a prostate is. If you had a lump on the back of your hand the size of a pea you’d probably think it was quite large! I later found out from a printout of my medical records, that it was about 4 cm, which is almost the size of the entire prostate. So yes – it was quite large. The tumour was not situated just inside but was quite possibly breaching the organ and spreading to seminal vessels. So the consultant wanted me back for a biopsy as soon as possible, which happened later that same week. Again, being “in” the system, things really were happening quickly. It is a little scary but also reassuring.

      The biopsy for prostate cancer is a procedure that mechanically takes tissue samples that then can be examined under the microscope to determine cell type, if it is malignant or benign, and if the former,  how aggressive i.e., how quickly it will grow and spread. There are two possible entry points used to get to the prostate, one is an incision made in the perineum and the other is the back passage. I’ve heard some horror stories from a friend who had this done just a few months earlier. He said it was very uncomfortable and quite painful. But knowing that if you relax and offer no resistance, then things are usually easier.  So when the probe was inserted I just relaxed as much as possible. I was told that a local anaesthetic would be injected into the wall of my colon, and then the instrument would pass through it to get to my prostate where a number of samples would be taken from the targeted area as reviewed on my MRI. When the actual samples were being taken, it felt like as described to me by the nurse who accompanied the consultant  – like being flicked with a little elastic band. I relaxed, and 14 samples were taken without me feeling any pain and very little discomfort. The nurse assisting was a German chap and he and the consultant, while chatting with me, had a little banter about which cars are better, with the nurse putting up a strong argument in favour of his VW. The conversation proved to be the distracting entertainment I needed.  Moments later it was all over and I was getting dressed. The nurse asked how I felt, to which I replied “fine”,  and he added, to my amusement, how glad he was that I enjoyed it all and to please come again soon. Brilliant. In my opinion, it takes a very special type of person to do his job, as you can imagine! As with all the staff involved, I’m humbled. 

      After the biopsy, I’m asked to pass water before leaving to make sure everything is working and told not to be surprised if there’s a little blood  – which there was. But even after being warned, it was disturbing to see it. There are other “things” that also happen immediately thereafter,  and that for a while, I found a little disturbing – details of which I will spare you. Pretty graphic stuff. If you are a glutton for punishment, ask me if you’d like to know specifically.

      The samples taken are sent to a laboratory and now I wait. Steve, from my woodland group, tells me that it could take a couple of weeks for the result. He calls this waiting period the “golden zone”.  You have to just get on with things. You don’t know what’s happening until the next appointment and worrying about it is a waste of time. It’s even more than just a waste of time – worrying can compromise your immune system and makes things worse. No amount of worrying will change the outcome. This is easy to say, but not quite so easy to do. But it is critical to live in the moment and enjoy the sunshine, enjoy the feeling of rain on your skin, keep yourself occupied with your day-to-day life and not take anything for granted. When we manage to do this, one learns a new appreciation for everything good and bad by comparison. This is a beautiful world full of amazing and wonderful people. I’d drive to my woodland or to work through villages and landscapes and notice the way light came through clouds and fell on the fields. Or if on the coast, I’d suddenly appreciated how the waves crashed over the rocks and the birds floated through the air. Often I’d have to stop driving or whatever I was doing, and cry, because I was so moved by the beauty of the world around me as I considered my own mortality, once again, since that car crash.  I was intent on remembering all the life I had been given to live since the age of 19… that “extra” time. Had I not appreciated it enough? Is that why I was in the same place again? I think of all the things I’ve done and experienced, good and bad, that made me who I am now. I’ve no regrets. Maybe if I thought about it there would be something here and there I might consider changing if I could, but I can’t, so why bother thinking about it other than to learn from your mistakes?

      This golden zone soon passed and the next appointment letter arrived. I have been summoned in four days to see my Urology consultant. Mask-wearing is still legally compulsory and Clea came with me for my diagnosis. I admit that I am clinging to the possibility and hope of the tumour being benign, but I feel like I’m ready for anything and resigned to the fact that one way or another, surgery will be necessary to have a tumour removed. After waiting for what felt like the inevitable eternity but which was only about three-quarters of an hour, we’re called in. The consultant introduced himself and confirmed my name and date of birth. He read to us the notes made during their team meeting of 12 people in which my case was discussed. He put my notes down and turned to me, sitting forward on the edge of his seat. I already know what’s coming….. “Mr Burton, I’m terribly sorry, out of the 14 samples taken of your biopsy, 13 were positive for cancer”. I turned to Clea, who as I have, is also welling up. The consultant tells me about the findings, cell type …  etc. and that he is of the opinion that it is no longer encapsulated, so surgery is not an option. This was when I asked what might have caused my cancer, as the only cancer I was aware of in my family was my grandfather’s lung cancer (which in fact, could have been secondary and may have started with his prostate). Although he smoked his entire adult life – so, unlikely. He told me prostate cancer feeds on testosterone. He suggested that I must have high testosterone because I took to it to grow muscle while weight training, for example. But I’ve never used weights, let alone taken anything to promote muscle growth. I told him that, and his reply was simply that to develop my illness at my age was very unlucky. He then told me that when my case was discussed at the meeting, it was decided that radiotherapy would be the right treatment for me and assured me that it would eliminate the disease. He suggested that after hormone therapy to reduce the size of the tumour, a course of 20 doses of radiation 5 days a week for 4 consecutive weeks should do the trick. I’m given a prescription for Bicalutamide, an oral hormone tablet which will mask the testosterone in my body with almost immediate effect.  This would be followed up with a hormone injection a week later, which will stop my body from even producing testosterone. Radiotherapy would begin in 3 to 4 months’ time. I asked what about surgery, and the consultant said he was sorry but it was “too late” for that. I felt a pulse of anger as I think about all the times I asked for tests to be done when I started having symptoms years before, and I remind myself that no matter how much I want to, I can’t change the past, and we leave. When we got to the car, Clea held me while I wept like a small child who’d just dropped their ice cream, powerless, helpless and more scared than I remember ever being before. Once again Clea, this wonderful person who is by my side, held me, telling me I’m going to be ok. Eventually, I manage to pull myself together and we get moving. As we pull off, I just want to go to my woods, but I know I should go to see my mum. I don’t want to have to tell her the news, but must. After collecting the prescribed medication … that’s where we go.

      The side effects of hormone therapy vary in severity from person to person, and some hormones in different ways to others. They can lead to depression and anxiety, and weight gain and can make your self-esteem even lower than it already is at a time you’re told you have a disease that’s potentially life-threatening. Some people can actually feel suicidal, any feelings you have before starting the therapy are greatly exaggerated. Other side effects include the total loss of libido and the ability to maintain, or even get a rise, if you know what I mean (ED)?! This also is a kick in the proverbial guts and affects some people’s mental well-being more or less than others. There are ways around it and there is a lot of help available in the form of daily, or what one might call “event” medication. This, and the need to use apparatus to assure ability later, is also quite highly recommended. As with many things in life as they – use it or lose it. Another side effect of bicalutamide in males is the growth of breasts, which become very sensitive. And of course, there are medications to help combat that side effect, but they, too, then have their side effects. I decided to just get on with it and see what happened. Other side effects are bone thinning, known as osteoporosis, muscle fatigue and loss … the list goes on. If you want to know more, just ask a professional or surf the internet. Although beware those online self-appointed medical experts – your McMillan nurse is probably the first person to ask. These people are amazing, don’t be shy as they’re there to help any way they can with the knowledge and the experience to do so. There is nothing they haven’t heard or seen before. Personally, I think these people are angels and deserve more credit than is possible to give. I know they’re just doing their job, but again it takes a special sort of person to do this – and they are not in it just for the money!     

      About half an hour after leaving the hospital, having been given my diagnosis, we arrived at my mum’s house knowing what I had to tell her was going to rock her world. I knew before she would say it, that she would say “I wish I could take it away from you”.  I’m not sure, but given the choice, I’d be willing to be the one fighting, as my body is younger and fitter than hers. Also … she doesn’t have a prostate, so I’m not sure how that could work! My thinking was that I’ve got this and it’s got to be dealt with, so, be strong and keep a stiff upper lip and all that. I’ll keep my cool so mum needn’t worry any more than necessary and in I went. But the moment I saw my mum, I melted, I couldn’t hold it together while she held me as her little boy. I sobbed “ I’m sorry mum, I have cancer”. David, my step dad poured me a large scotch and we sat down. After talking a little and pulling myself back together we decided to call a friend’s private consultant for another opinion on what he thought would be the right course of action. Unfortunately, he was overseas, so I sent an email explaining the situation. Within 20 minutes he replied, telling me he was back in the country in a few days and once his secretary got the chance, they would arrange an appointment for me the day he returned. Ok, so now I’m feeling more positive. I’ll see this consultant who comes highly recommended and see what he has to say.

      In the meantime, I get back to work fitting kitchens with John and David’s help when needed and continued taking small groups of people on Thursdays in my woodland at the Milkwood Project  – now registered at Company House and with the Inland Revenue as a Community Interest Company, very much run like a charity. I won a bid that I had help with applying for, to obtain funding from The National Lottery Community Fund. This paid for tooling, the facilities for people with limited mobility, and workspace with vehicular and wheelchair access, along with insurance and funding to start paying tutors and other expenses such as my own time hosting the activities. With the help, we started building the various needed spaces, which everyone enjoyed. We had a great sense of achievement and inclusion, of community. Very quickly Steve became a regular attendee on Thursday, so we’d talk to one another about what we were both going through. 

      The following week, I attended an appointment with the Urology consultant who I’d contacted a few days before. We introduced ourselves to one another and having read my notes before my arrival, we quickly got on with discussing what he thought would be the best plan of action. Let’s call this consultant “Morris”. Morris agreed that surgery probably wasn’t the way forward, but Proton Beam Therapy was. This was similar to radiation therapy, but more targeted and more intense, meaning fewer visits would be needed. In Morris’s opinion this would be more effective, and with the use of a spacer, would be less likely to cause damage to nerves and to my colon. A spacer is a gel injected between the prostate and colon which will create a gap and barrier thus helping protect my colon which is already not in great shape due to IBS and mild haemorrhoids. The spacer is injected a week or so prior to therapy and would dissipate a few months later, so again, would mean further surgery would not be required. The procedure for the spacer would be 8K, and the proton beam therapy about another 40K, give or take a few. After another digital examination, I thanked Morris for his time and I leave with the intention of telling him what I’d like to do once I’ve made the decision.

      That’s a lot of money, but if needed, I could raise it. I’d rather use the money to put down on a house but what good is a house if I’m dead? After talking to family and friends, once more I’m blown away by the kindness of the humans around me. I have offers from family members and even one from a chap that I’ve not known for long but with whom I have connected. He offers to pay for the treatment so that when this is over, Clea and I can carry on with our lives and buy a house. He said he didn’t have children and would give me the money as I’m a “decent bloke” and he’d be happy to help. I thanked him and said there wouldn’t be a need as I’ve already been offered help from more than one family member. And once again, I’m moved and humbled by the warmth and generosity of yet another fellow human.

      It was quite amazing how often people would offer advice about what they believed was the best thing I could do – the best remedies and treatments. I know this was from a good place, one of love and care, but very soon I felt that if I followed all of the suggestions given to me … I would have time for little else! I was offered everything from diet advice, supplements and sound healing, to concoctions and alternative remedies to be administered indefinitely. Often it felt rude to not take the advice, and as a case in point, I started to lose sleep thinking about if I should use a remedy that, when researched, appeared to have no proof of effectiveness. It was probably harmless but unlikely to be successful in treating my condition. I had one friend of whom I’m very fond, who practically begged me not to go down the route of what he believed to be the “dark art of chopping and slicing”. Telling me he had proof that it didn’t work and a more successful method was to administer a blend of root and spice powders in capsules simultaneously, one orally and the other as a suppository. This method he used himself for his own self-diagnosed prostate cancer, declaring disbelief in medical practices, including biopsies, etc. Some things offered were backed up with the suggestion of benefits but not substantiated enough for me to have the confidence to invest the kind of belief that I was willing to take a chance with my life, so I soon respectfully stopped listening to any advice with a declaration that my choice was made and that was it. I must add that one suggestion which did help greatly with heartburn caused by the medication was Aloe Vera Juice taken daily – 40ml

      I started taking my oral hormone tablets, but after talking to other men I knew who were going through this, I discovered that most of them had had a PSMA PET scan. Something I’d not been offered and wondered why? This is a scan that takes quite a long time and is done before having hormone injections. Usually, it’s done straight away, so hormone treatment can then be given to stop the cancer from growing etc. Now, I’m due to have the injection within a week and want to know why it’s not been offered. You can only have a PSMA PET (Prostate-specific antigen positron emission tomography) scan once on the NHS, but my way of thinking is surely, that I need it sooner, not later. So I called my key worker/McMillan nurse and we talk about the options. She assured me we’ve time on my side now I’ve started taking the bicalutamide. We decide to up my dose from 50mg to 150mg, to be on the safe side, while she asks my consultant to have my case reviewed with the hope a PSMA PET scan will be part of that review. No injection –  because once that’s done the scan won’t work. Obviously, the side effects are about to get pretty intense, but I understand it’s for the best so I’ll not complain. She spoke to my consultant who apparently wrote a very lovely letter to a surgeon at the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff. A couple of weeks later I get an appointment with a Urology surgeon who specialises in Robotic Assisted Laparoscopic Radical Prostatectomy.

      When the time came, off I went, not quite knowing what to expect. But at this point, I think the more I find out the better informed and equipped I’ll be to make the best choices. Again, a negative lateral flow is done, and for three or four months I’m being careful not to get Covid. I know it’s no secret what Mr Kanda Swamy does. If you search the internet, everything you want to know about this man is there to see. He is, without doubt, one of the best and most respected surgeons in his field. When he came to the waiting room, he asked me to follow him to the room at the hospital he was using for his consultations and he invited me to take a seat and asked if I minded the presence of his student while we had our discussion. Mr Kanda Swamy had reviewed my notes and was not convinced that the cancer had breached the prostate. He made it clear there was no guarentee of eradicating the caner and there is a strong probability of its return, but would potentialy buy me some time – so, was willing to take me in for surgery. I did not see that coming, so when offered a consent form and told about the effects and risks of the operation, even though I already knew it was probably the best thing to do, I felt as though I couldn’t make that decision right there and then. I asked Mr Kanda Swamy if I could think and call him back within 24 hours with a decision. This meant I’d have to visit his clinic again to sign the consent form. But he was fine with this and said that as soon as I let him know, he’d get me on the waiting list, which was about 3 months long. I asked about the scan I was never offered. Mr Kanda Swamy said he thought it best to keep that in the bag for a later date, because if the cancer came back, which it probably would, then I’d need it then. He explained that having the surgery gave me another strike. It meant that if it came back then I could have radiotherapy, which also can only be done once. So the surgery, even if the cancer came back, will give me longer to live. And with my head spinning, I drove home. I wanted to talk to Clea about the possible effects of the surgery, the inevitable ED because of nerve damage from the surgery, the shortening of my penis and the strong possibility of incontinence again because of nerve damage. All perfectly normal dinner topics, eh? Within 20 minutes, we decided that surgery was the answer. I called Mr Kanda Swamy’s secretary to tell her I wanted to go ahead with the surgery, and to please thank him for considering, and subsequently, offering me the surgery.

      That was it, decision made. All I’d have to do now was continue taking my triple dose bicalutamide which meant no injections, so when I stopped taking them, it would be out of my system in weeks, not months. So now I just wait… wait for the letter to come with the date of admission for the operation at The Heath, University Hospital in Cardiff. So, another golden period and I got with Life and the Milkwood Project.  

      It was a time when I discovered just how much helping others helped me. The side effects of taking bicalutamide were really starting to kick in, which I assumed meant that they were working effectively. This was confirmed by another PSA test done a couple of months later with the result at 4.2 ng/ml. I wasn’t getting the hot flushes or emotional breakdowns experienced by others, either. Having been prescribed a daily dose of Tadanafil of just 5mg/day, things downstairs worked better than for quite some time as well, which was a huge relief.  The small daily dose meant that I would still get nocturnal erections which the body does to maintain the necessary blood flow to perform when needed/wanted. I didn’t know about that and was told by my McMillan nurse who prescribed it to me when my hormone therapy dose was increased. We’d been discussing erections and performance ability with hormone therapy and she told me that it was better to have the small daily dose rather than what is known as “event medication”,  i.e., 50 or 100mg only taken 20 minutes prior to lovemaking, which is not exactly conducive to spontaneity. 

      Other side effects that affected me were muscle fatigue, occasional shortness of breath, and the growth of man boobs. I did put on a little weight, but knowing that could happen, I tried not to over-indulge. I also cut back on my alcohol intake, knowing how hormone therapy can affect liver and kidney function, that and knowing how many caloies are in a pint of ale, my body had enough to deal with without my giving it that as well. I let my hair down occasionally, but damage limitation in my mind is always better than absaloute ignorance. The growth of small breasts and the loss of body hair is because of the lack of testosterone which also starves and knocked back the cancer which is the whole point. These firm little man boobs take some getting used to and I now have much more sympathy for the ladies who get the boob sensitivity with their monthly hormone cycles – not at all pleasant. I started noticing it when carrying large objects close to my chest and once caught one of my newly acquired protrusions on the edge of a door! Also if hugging a friend with too much enthusiasm …  I’d notice. One friend thought it was amusing to pinch my nipple when I told him how sensitive they were. I almost slapped him, but I’m not the aggressive type and restrained myself. The muscle fatigue was the real tough one to get over, being as active as I am on a daily basis in both work and in the woods became a challenge. I decided to take it head-on. This was not going to beat me. While I remember, it’s worth a mention that another side effect of no testosterone is the lack of strong body odour. In the first week, I simply stopped smelling, which I took as a bonus, as did Clea.  Cup half full and every cloud………

      I’m quite the purist and take much pride in using hand tools and doing things the traditional way. By not using a generator or other tools with a combustion engine, which is noisy, dusty and uses polluting fossil fuel, I can still hear Nature living around me, as well as negating the need for PPE. It is also a great cardio-vascular workout, thus making me stronger: a win-win in that I also get huge satisfaction out of it and it will help delay the onset of the inevitable middle-aged spread (I hope). But working this way is made much harder by the onset of muscle fatigue caused by the loss of testosterone, as well as the loss of bone mass.  It’s important to keep going with exercise to help maintain both muscle and bone. For me, working in my woodland was key to keeping active, which was good for both my body and mind. I found it best not to dwell on what was going on in my body, and the best way to do that was by keeping as busy as possible. 

      So, here was the challenge. My timber rack and wood store is at the lowest point in elevation within my woodland and the place I wanted to build a roundhouse and shower/toilet block for the,  the uppermost point of the woodland and is about 500 meters uphill on an uneven steep track, then through a fairly dense mature wooded area, with approximately a 30-metre rise. Floor joists, floor boards, stud work, roof timbers and cladding were hauled up there on my shoulders, one or two pieces at a time. The muscle fatigue before even getting halfway up the track … was insane, the kind of a burning sensation I’d usually encounter after doing something strenuous for the first time when you’re making demands of muscles not used that hard before. But I’d been advised that if you can keep going then do so, that I wouldn’t be damaging myself and would help maintain the muscle density I had and so recovery would be quicker and better. With that in mind, I’d dig deep finding the strength to keep putting one foot in front of the other,  breathing long, deep breaths, knowing it was the best thing to do. Then using hand tools, until I was forced to use battery-powered tools charged via an inverter supplied through batteries charged by a solar panel, the spaces were built.

      By now friends and family members knew what I was going through. Also now, with both the diagnosis and prognosis decided, it was necessary to tell my son before he found out from somebody else. He took it well and told me he felt sure I’d be ok. That was a relief to me, the last thing I wanted was for him to worry about me. Liam started working for his current employer nearly a year before and was doing well, enjoying his job with good prospects –  he didn’t need the distraction.

      Time passed, and although obviously still anxious at times, I knew it was for the best and felt lucky to have been offered a procedure that had been perfected just the last 4 or 5 years. The advantages of the robotic prostatectomy over conventional surgery were, firstly, less blood loss,  usually negating the need for blood infusion, and secondly, because done through such small incisions, the opportunity for infection is also hugely reduced. By now it was late June and I was expecting to be given a date soon for somewhere around the end of July. And on the 18th of June, while at a local music festival with friends, demonstrating bowl turning on a pole lathe, and enjoying the music, my phone rang – it was my surgeon, Mr Kanda Swamy. He wanted me to get to him as soon as possible to sign a consent form, go through the pre opp’ procedure and discuss what I needed to do in preparation for my admission to hospital for the operation on the 21st of July. That stopped me in my tracks and although I knew it was coming, that conversation made it very real. I thanked Mr Kanda Swamy for his call and found somewhere to sit and take in what was now a definitive date and which was beyond any shadow of a doubt, life-changing, in a good way.

      The only thing now that would get in the way, apart from obvious things like me having an accident or some other dramatic obstacle, was if I tested positive for Covid within the 7 to 10 days before the date given for hospital admission. Obviously, to protect the staff and patients there, it was advised I take precautions from 10 days before, such as wearing a mask when shopping, or in close proximity to others. And because my wife was to drive me to the hospital and we lived together once I’d done the arranged the PCR two days before admission, we’d both be required to self-isolate. Not made easy, as we live an approximately one and a half hour drive from Cardiff University Hospital. With a 7:30 am hospital admission, we would need to wake at 4:30 am to get there after breakfast and driving. All kinds of things go through my mind like what if the car won’t start or there’s a delay at Newport? That east-to-west M4 traffic bottleneck that occurs more often than not? So we decide to take the camper van which enables us to travel the night before and still self- isolate as much as possible. All I need the night before is the use of a toilet and shower after using the pessary to evacuate my bowel in preparation the night before. No problem. I thought.

      I called a campsite within a taxi ride from the hospital so if the van wuoldn’t start in the morning, it’s no stress or drama. I want to guarantee getting there on time. If I don’t, then I’m back on the waiting list and it’s 3 to 4 months more hormone therapy along with their side effects that are definitely best avoided if possible. However the campsite was full, so I try another which is also full, so now I look at an Air B&B with self-check-in and the only ones available are in excess of £500/night! I’m so confused and wonder what is going on? Now I decide to look further afield for campsites within 20 minutes of the hospital and find one that asked for enquiries by email and do so. The next day I have a reply apologising that there is no room as it’s the Cardiff University Graduation weekend and there are two other large gigs that weekend – which explains why everywhere is fully booked. To which I respond with a plea of desperation explaining the circumstances and declaring we need only space to park and the use of toilet and shower facilities –  no power or hard standing required. In the meantime, Clea and I are resigned to the fact that we’ll have to drive there in the morning. Thankfully the owner of the campsite took pity on the situation we’re in and agreed to allow us a grass pitch.

      It’s now the week before my hospital appointment, with one more kitchen to installhile. While cutting down small trees with the help of a friend, I break my foot, I didn’t know it was broken at the time. I only dropped a tree on it. It seemed ok. A bit painful, but I was able to carry on with what we needed to get done that day to achieve what was intended. The next day was spent with my son, helping him clear his garden. By lunchtime, I could hardly walk and went to A&E where an X-ray confirmed I had indeed broken a bone in the top of my right foot. Little wonder it became uncomfortable. I was given a moulded plastic boot held in place with Velcro and could be removed when not needed.

      I probably could have done without needing to fit a £30K kitchen the next, but with my step-father, David’s help, that’s what happened. That morning it was explained to the property owner how I was shielding so as to not get Covid because I had cancer and was having my prostate removed the following week –  so to please keep their distance. And oh, not to worry the foot in the plastic boot … Within the next four days the job was done to my usual high standard and everyone, including myself, was happy.

      Now it’s just 5 days until my operation. Clea had 3 days off work and then was given the week after to isolate with me, so we spent that time in the woodland in our shepherd’s hut. Blissfully I kept myself busy and when not busy, relaxed by a fire eating the lovely food my Clea cooked for us. We picked about 7 kilos of cherries from the tree there which still left an abundance for the creatures whose home my woodland is. Often I found myself waking in the morning to the sound of birds, or a squirrel, dropping cherries from the tree top that landed on the tin roof of our hut…something we both found mangiacal and entertaining. It was like being on holiday, and with the weather that week, it felt like paradise. But the day soon came. It was time to pack the camper for the trip later that same day to the campsite that was just 20 minute drive from the hospital.

      It’s strange how the situations we find ourselves in put so many things in perspective. How blessed I feel to be able to notice and appreciate what is an infinite number of things… little things that we’re often too busy to notice. I suppose for most of us, that’s life: working and earning money to buy the things we think need, as well as the things we actually do need… a satellite TV, a new car, the latest fashion item.

      After picking up a great takeaway meal, we get to the campsite before 6 pm –  as from that time on,  I’m “nil by mouth” with the exception of water. I’m eating what I’m calling my last supper, washed down with just one small bottle of my favourite beer. I phone my mum to let her know we’ve arrived and settled in. Then I do my 8pm pre opp’ procedure, ready for a quiet evening in the camper reading my book, “Entangled life”. An amazing book about fungi, a life form that is one of the first on our planet, evolving for longer than any other life form on the face of our planet. This will keep my mind occupied until I’m ready to sleep.  The next morning I wake in time to have a shower before Clea drives me to the hospital. The drive is the longest 20 minutes of my life. We arrive at that spot on the map in with the letter of appointment and I put on the mask they sent me in a sealed envelope that I’ve been instructed to wear upon arrival. I consider myself to be quite strong in the face of adversity but we’ve just pulled up outside what looks like the back door collection point of a laundry service. Obviously to reduce those arriving for treatment having less exposure to others. I grab my overnight bag with a book, phone charger, some snacks and an appropriste change of clothing for my journey home. I turned to Clea, kiss her, then take a deep breath and step out onto the kerb. As I turn to walk away, she pulled off. Quite a surreal experience, knowing what is going to happen within the next couple of hours.

      Looking back, now that it’s almost all over, it’s not actually that bad, I suppose it’s the fear of the future, the unknown that I have no control over but must continue with as planned. But at least I do so with the knowledge that these people, for whom this is just another day of work, are actually much more than that. They hold Life and Death in their grasp. They are some of the best in the country at what they do. I’m very aware of the fact that I couldn’t be in a better place. This is the best hospital in Wales with the best equipment and resources available. As I sit here typing, almost exactly one week to the hour since the operation, I look down at my torso.  I see just a little bruise and 5 tiny incisions. The one in the centre above my belly button is about 3 cm long. I’m told that this little hole is where the camera went in and my prostrate came out.

      When I arrived my temperature was taken and I’m asked if I have symptoms for Covid symptoms,  I was led to a waiting room where I gave my name and date of birth and where I quickly got my book out to read for the distraction. Within just a few minutes, a nurse came to the room and again asked me to follow her to another room where I was again asked my name and date of birth. I was also asked if I knew what procedure I’d been admitted for. I was tempted to say “ingrown toenail”,  but thought better than trying to be humorous on this occasion. Then an entire team including two nurses, a porter, my anaesthetist and his assistant were all introducing themselves to me, followed by my surgeon Mr Kanda Swamy. It’s all happening very quickly now. Everyone left the room and once more I’m alone with my trusty book. Within a few minutes my anaesthetist, H, returns with his assistant to escort me on foot because there’s a shortage of beds because of a combination of additional admissions due to the pandemic and the recent heat wave. H had an amazing bedside manner and kept assuring me he’d be there the whole time I was in theatre and he’d make sure I’d be ok. This stranger was responsible for keeping me alive while in theatre and as we headed off, he grabbed my pillow, telling me he’d keep hold of it for me because they were like gold dust and I’d need it later.

      The doors open to the pre opp’ preparation room where I think some are already scrubbed up and my mask is removed. All around the room were humming monitors, instruments and equipment that I’ve seen before but never for such an intrusive procedure. Straight away I was helped onto the bed and began to be strapped down, which I knew would happen as I was aware that I’d be slightly inverted …  I assume to help reduce blood flow to where incisions and cuts would be made. Now the adrenaline is starting to kick in and whereas I had been keeping a cool head and responding to polite conversation with H, now, my jaw started to wobble. The last time I remember that happening to me was the moment my son was born. H picked up on this and I told him that although I was being pretty calm on the outside I was starting to feel quite panicked. I tried to breathe slowly and deeply and H said he’d give me something now as he put the cannula in the back of my hand and oxygen mask on my face. By now my body and head were strapped down and H was leaning over me. He looked into my eyes, repeating again that he’d care for me and make sure I’d be alright. He told me to hold the mask for as long as I could and when I couldn’t hold it any longer he’d take it for me and within two deep breaths, I was gone.

What felt quite convincingly just a split second later, I’m awoken by a gentle hand on my shoulder. I opened my eyes and there was a man who asked if I’d like some fish and chips. When I looked at the tray in front of me, there’s a plate of breaded salmon, potato wedges, and broccoli, next to a bowl of chocolate fudge cake with as much cream as would fit in the bowl. I’m in a recovery room and within half an hour taken to a ward where later that night, within 6 hours of surgery I’m up and about walking the length of the ward and back again. I had read it’s beneficial to move as soon as possible and breath deeply to open the lungs to full capacity after having a general anaesthetic. That’s to help blood flow to reduce the chance of blood clots and help promote bowel movement which has a tendency to stop. Another thing during recovery is the discomfort caused by the gas. My torso was inflated with the gas needed to escape from my body. As it rises and is trapped beneath the diaphragm, it aggravates nerve endings, which transfer along the nerves to the shoulders. With a good belch, the discomfort was temporarily gone. This happened in varying degrees for a few days.

      The care and attention given on the ward left me once again, enormously humbled. No single person could be credited as the whole team working together is what ensures their success. I couldn’t sleep that night as I was so excited and relieved that this was now over, and all I had to do was get better and continue with my life. The following morning, my Kanda Swamy came to talk to me before I was discharged. He told me he felt the operation went well and was hoping to have taken all the cancer away with my prostate and was able to spare more nerves and tissue than previously anticipated. Once the biopsies had been done to the lymph nodes and seminal vessels that he’d also removed, he’d be able to tell me if I have the all-clear or if I will need further treatment. I shook his hand and thanked him for what he’d done. I knew that although this place functioned with a team, without him at its head, the surgery could not have been done.

      Two hours later I was given instructions on how to care for my catheter and shown how to inject myself with a blood thinner, which would need to be done daily for 28 days. And after thanking those on the ward, I walked with an escort, carrying my own bag, off the ward, down an elevator and to the door I came in when I arrived less than 30 hours before. I sat and waited just a few minutes for my darling wife, who’d spent the night in the camper so she could be here to pick me up for our return journey home. Admittedly I was a little tender but so glad to be on my way.

      That first night I was sore but with pain killers, I was able to sleep for four hours at a time, twice.  And every night since, I have slept better and longer than the one before. With each passing day or even a few hours, I feel a marked improvement with less pain and discomfort. Within just a couple of days, I was able to spend an afternoon at my mother’s house, chatting and relaxing, while Dave tells me he’s been busy, teasing me about his new job fitting kitchens for John at Lawrencelyons! Truly putting to practice his newly-acquired skills as a kitchen fitter.  As we sit there chatting, I have six dressings across my torso covering each set of staples where the incisions were made. He tells me I looked like I’d been shot across the middle with a machine gun. We both laughed, which for me, isn’t quite as easy but I couldn’t stop myself. Now in time, I’ll recover, I hope stronger than ever. The staples will be removed on day 10 and the catheter hopefully be removed in another two weeks. Six weeks after the operation, I’ll meet my surgeon who will have the results of the biopsy done on those parts removed during surgery to find out if the cancer had started to spread or not. Fingers crossed, and until then, with a positive mind, I’ll continue to recover and get stronger. I’m aware that there’s a possibility I’ll need more treatment, but it’s a slim chance and so far I’ve been a lucky bugger and long may that continue.

There aren’t words I can think of to thank those around me who gave support and more through this time. I’ve had help and love from so many that when I think about it, I am moved in a way I’m not sure I’ve ever experienced before. I hope all that know me and who have been involved in my life these last seven months, know how grateful I am. Especially, Clea. The one who has held me and been here for me through every moment and supported and loved me through this entire experience. I’m not sure how I could have done it without you xxx