Days to remember

40 year old Ian chose a special weekend break with his close friends after being diagnosed with cancer.

" At last something good had come out of all this. "

Ian, (40), living with cancer

I was a normal(ish!) 39 year old man, I worked all week and I spent time with my friends and my partner at weekends. Planned holidays, went to the theatre you know had a nice time. I moved back to Manchester a couple of years back so that I could spend more time with my family - my Mum and Dad plus I was lucky enough to have two Granddads still with us, two brothers and seven nieces and nephews. Not to mention friends that I had grown up with and we were all still in touch. Maybe that was fate telling me to come home, who knows.

I enjoyed socialising and having a drink, I changed jobs to try and get a better career. Then I noticed a lump, a lump where you shouldn’t have a lump. I went to the doctors, they sent me to the clinic, and the clinic sent me back…..”It’s nothing to worry about” they’d say “here’s some cream”.  After a year I was referred and the consultant said “we’ll remove the lump, though it will be tested to make sure. But don’t worry.” I thought “it’ll never happen to me, it won’t be serious.” Five days later I was called into the hospital, the appointment took ages as there was a delay, I’d even told my partner “don’t come its probably just routine”.

“We did tests, and I’ll just say it, the lump was cancerous and you’ll have to start treatment for cancer.” “What?" Then it all goes blurry and I didn’t really hear anything.

A month later I have a tube in my arm and I’m laying on a hard bed with no one in the room because of the radiation, Every day for six weeks, the tube  comes out and there’s no more visits to that room. I can hardly walk, someone else has to do my cleaning (though they never do it right).

After that I felt much closer to my partner, family and friends, as I questioned everything in my life. They felt more important, the memories felt more important, spending the time with them was more important.

The doctors and nurses were amazing, they kept me upbeat and showed genuine compassion and concern, and it was them who told me about Willow and what they did. I’d never heard of Willow before and was unsure whether I’d qualify, I was nearly 40 and what should I do, there’s more deserving people than me that would benefit. Though I think after it all, I was as deserving as anybody else that has to go through that trauma, and that’s what my friends would say! You can be as brave as you like on the outside, but the person on the inside needs comfort too.

So after finding out about Willow, I was thinking what can I do, what can I look forward to, it was difficult. I’d been lucky enough to go to shows, I’ve been to London and other places, I wanted a different memory, what would have made the best memories I thought to myself? After someone suggesting a getaway in the Lake District, I thought it’s only a 90 minute drive, I’m not sure what I’ll be like after my recovery period but it’ll be something to hold onto, to look forward to, to give me focus.

I wanted my close friends and partner to stay in a little cottage with a lake view, so even if it rained (it was the Lakes in March so was highly likely!), we would still have an amazing view. I wanted us to be away from the hustle and bustle of our daily lives, where we could interact and not be disturbed, to love each other’s company and re-connect as friends. Something we don’t get to do often. I wanted laughs and drinks, and to be away from all the things that reminded me of the hospital journeys, the sitting in front of the TV because I had no choice. Away from the places we’d spent with tears in our eyes and heavy hearts wondering too much about what may happen. I thought this is too much to ask for? Willow can only say no, what do I have to lose, and what did I have to lose?

They didn’t say no, they said yes, they said yes! And more than that we could have the cottage that was big enough for eight for four days. I never expected that, ever. I was so excited at this thought; I sent the invites out almost immediately, no-one could believe that it was the gift from Willow. At last I had something good to come out of all this. Something I could put my efforts into and think to myself, I’ll be ok, I have to be, I want to be. I could feel it getting closer and my friends would comment on how excited they were which just made it more intense. I couldn’t wait!

We went, we saw, we laughed so hard my sides hurt, it was fantastic! I’ll always remember the days of the treatment like everyone does and who knows what the future may put in my way, but along with that I’ll always remember the gift that Willow gave me too. Those memories of the days in the lakes with my crazy friends, and they didn’t just give me the memories, they also gave them to Steve, Darren, Sarah & Simon, Stuart, Helen and Marc. It made a massive impact on us as a friendship group, making us that little bit stronger, to love each other a little bit more and to never take each other for granted.

They were all there for me when I needed them, and I know all of those memories are there for them when they’ll need me.