Huddersfield-born Nadio Granata is a chef turned marketing, PR and publishing guru who now lives on a house boat on the Thames. Earlier this year he was diagnosed with throat cancer. He’s charted his cancer journey to help others with a warts and all blog. If easily offended please look away now. Nadio has been given the all-clear and this is his final blog. Probably.
I am writing to you from the side of a swimming pool in Estepona whilst on a short holiday. I have made it. My cancer is no more.
This means I am writing from your future because, please God, you will make it to here too.
A cancer diagnosis does not have to be a death sentence
My clock, like yours, has ticked away. Tick tock, tick tock, tick … from finding that first frightening symptom, in my case, a small lump in my neck, to awaiting the results of my final scan, some six months later.
Here’s where you’re going … be prepared, it’s a tough m**********r of a journey but, please God, you’ll make it!
Day 1: You will not be in control of your time. You will be sucked into a whirlwind of appointments both with your medical team and your family and friends.
Everyone will want a piece of you … and it’s up to you what you give to them.
You might give them everything… chapter and verse, in the (mainly misguided) hope that they will travel the journey with you. You may choose, on the other hand, to be more private, play it down, not impose on anyone.
There’s no right or wrong. Dealing with cancer is not a competition.
Information will be thrown at you, from all angles and no doubt always with good intention. Latin medical terms dating back to the days of Romulus and Remus will baffle you. I know. I studied Latin at school and there was never ever any mention of the words ‘cancer’, ‘shite’, ‘bastard’ or similar in any of our classes.
Your treatment plans will be compared amongst your network of ever-increasing fellow sufferers. Everyone knows a cancer case. Everyone has a different story. Me included. This is mine. Take it or leave it. I don’t give a damn. I survived cancer. That’s all that matters right now. Sorry, but with survival comes a deeper resolve. You’re either with me, or you don’t matter anymore. Life is far too precious to carry passengers.
Your appetite will disappear and the weight will drop off you. A 5kg loss in one week is not unusual. I lost nearly 30 kilos in 10 weeks, and that is not exceptional. Yes. I was a fatty and now I am not. Another positive to come out of this!
Your emotions will run wild. You will never escape the feeling that you might not survive and therefore if, like me, you are not ready to accept this ‘inconvenience’, you will have moments of regrets, anger and frustrations but most of all, cling on to hope. It’s a life-saver. I know. It worked for me.
Your business will suffer. Dealing with cancer is expensive. If you are employed and you have even the basic healthcare plan, you should not have much to worry about.
If, like me, you are self-employed, rebuilding a post-Covid business too late to qualify for furlough or other benefits, money matters will add to the stress. Anxiety is a killer. Do not let it in.
And cut off anyone who is likely to exasperate you. You do not NEED them right now. No matter how gorgeous they might be in normal life. This life you live is no longer normal. Adios to bad friends.
Your treatments will hurt. The morphine may take away the pain but that only leaves you drowsy and prolongs the recovery stage.
Accept the pain and face it head on or you will take so much longer to recover. Being consumed with morphine makes for a more impressive story in the boozer. A bit like a fisherman boasting about their prized catch, but the reality is that you need to keep this disease contained. Do not let it dominate your life.
It’s not about how much morphine you were on but how quickly you get your life back on track
The injuries you suffer will be many and varied. Innocuous things like a chapped lip or a mouth ulcer can grow into a volcanic-like eruption and leave you incapacitated for days or weeks.
I had 32 symptoms at the last count and every bastard one of them hurt, some more than others … but then they go away. Slowly, but they do. I’m now down to just four or five and a husky, sore voice.
You’ll feel lonely. I had no partner to turn to during my treatment and that was tough. I loved her but, evidently, she not me. I blame myself for that. And lockdown. And cabin fever. Looking back, the cancer must have played it’s evil part too. Let’s move on …
But, tbh, there were many times when you would not wish a loved one to witness the pain and misery you go through. You’ll be back on the dance floor soon enough.
A short interlude without a loved one makes you stronger, more than anything it makes you ever more determined to get it right the next time! If there is ever going to be a next time.
But nobody walks in your shoes, ever, so those footsteps are yours alone. You walk alone.
Most of all … you will feel lucky. Lucky to survive, to tell the tail and to make up for all those times you lost. Lucky because no one takes you for granted anymore and you certainly take NOTHING for granted.
And lucky because people like the Macmillan and NHS and others have rallied around you and given you another chance.
I recently told an absolute stranger in the gym I had received some good news. He asked if I’d won the Lottery. I said it was better than that. Much better.
Live. Life. Love.
Smell the roses. Taste the coffee. Embrace the sunset. Cuddle those loved ones. Reach for the sky. Live again but this time with purpose. Life matters. You matter. The planet matters. Be more human. #AgeofHuman #BeMoreMandy
I cannot finish off my story without some apologies. So many people have tapped me on the shoulder or pinged me a message of support. Too many to mention here, but thank you.
And thank you to Veronica Murray who wrote that amazing poem, cancer should not mess with Mr G unless it wants its teeth kicking in.
Some have taken offence with my tone or the facts as I remember them … to you, I will say this. This is about ME. Not you. My interpretation of the facts are exactly as I see them and should you wish to contest them, well, put some effort into writing your own blog. That’s your prerogative and this is mine.
Thanks too to my Sherpas who have lent me their belts, walked the Thames path, taken my calls at silly o’clock and even laid down beside me when all felt lost. I was offered so much generosity. So much it fills me with tears even now as I write this. You know who you are.
There’s some truly beautiful people in our lives… none less so than my children and I include their partners in this… and, of course, my niece to whom I have grown even closer than before.
To one incredible woman I especially say this, wow. Thank you. Your friendship is far more than I deserve. I will forever be indebted to you.
And to the guy who came out in his car to find me in Netherton that Sunday night. I pretended to know you, but I didn’t. I’m sorry. Who are you?
And my final call is to someone I wish to dedicate this blog to.
As the song goes, “You’re in my heart, you’re in my soul. You’ll be my friend when I grow old…”
But the fact is you won’t. Your cancer, unlike mine, is terminal and I will grow old without you. I’m not yet sure if I can forgive you for that. But I guess I’ll just have to.
READ MORE: Find all Nadio’s previous blogs HERE