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 charting his cancer journey to help others with a warts and all blog which is not for the faint-hearted.
The bell has been rung. Six long, painful and frightening weeks of daily radiotherapy sessions with two doses of chemotherapy are all behind me now … and words alone cannot express how damn good that feels!
So what was it actually like? And what next? Where do I go from here?
I have blogged in the past about my attitude towards the diagnosis and how I saw it as “a mountain to climb. It’s my mountain. My mountain alone.”
I strongly believe that conceptualisation gave me some additional resolve and focus that enabled me to deal with life in a positive, pragmatic and even joyful way.
And the reason I say this here is because I know many readers of this blog are also facing their own challenges so I say to them, find YOUR focus, be that ‘a mountain’ or ‘race’ or personification or whatever, before you set off as it helps enormously. You’ll smash it too.
READ MORE: Catch up on Nadio’s previous blogs here
My mountain started, like any other, with foothills. These are beautiful, sloping meadows like those in Heidi. As I climbed further up the mountain, the terrain became steeper, the air thinner, the challenge incrementally more difficult. More real.
I wrote previously about my preparation being woefully inadequate as I approached Base Camp and I quickly had to metaphorically reorganise certain things and swap out my inferior ‘rucksack’ for something stronger, more capable of dealing with the rigours ahead. Thank God I did.
Closing my mind to a complicated and ultimately failing relationship (note the hint of hope), narrowing my business interests to just the essentials and limiting my exposure to people who only bring positivity and joy to my life was fundamental to survival in the darkest of days. Am I being over-dramatic? No. Those days needed every ounce of resolve and not just a drop of painkiller too!
So what happens now?
My cancer journey included 31 symptoms. That’s 31 distinct injuries that I would not have experienced had I not being under treatment. I actually wrote them all down in a spreadsheet whilst in the waiting room on my last day. I then added some scores for the pain level, frequency and ‘impact’ and then a formula to rank these in order of worse to least impact. It kept me entertained for an hour or so!
It is now two weeks from ringing the bell. All my medical advisers were correct, the symptoms got worse before they got better. Much worse.
Energy levels plummeted, if that’s possible, from about 50% to 10% meaning it was difficult at times to stand up, let alone go for a walk.
Occasional coughing and spluttering turned to puking up to 20 or 30 times a day. At one point I went through a box of tissues a day, just dealing with the constant flow of excess mucus being coughed up. The daily bombardment of my neck eventually produced the inevitable. One little blister turned to two… three, four and then the whole neck from ear to ear became one big green, gooey mess.
It took hours to pluck up the strength to unstick my chin from my chest in a morning as the weeping scab had glued them together. Long, warm showers with gritted teeth and a lot of expletives (sorry neighbours!) with additional swigs of morphine helped me to get through.
Then we get to now…
Record breaking temperatures and lockdown confusion to add to the journey. The mountain, for me, has been conquered. The tumour has visibly decreased in size and in 12 more weeks I will have another MRI scan to see if all the cancer has been irradiated.
I was told in the beginning that success rates are relatively high for throat cancer and though I was stage 3, to be optimistic of a complete recovery with little or no side effects. Gulp! I try not to scrutinise those words too closely. As far as I am concerned, I’m done, it’s worked and I’m cracking on until told otherwise!
But what lies ahead? Three stone lighter, a face with even more ‘lived-in wrinkles’ and a steely determination to make up for lost time, is not a strategy. When all the doctors have gone home and the words to the blog no longer flow so freely, there’s still bills to be paid, the bins to be emptied and a life to rebuild.
I will write maybe one more blog to thank all those who have been there for me, my ‘Sherpas’ and I’ll detail some coping mechanisms I discovered for anyone who may find them useful.
Next for me is a few days up north to see my family and friends, pingdemic permitting!
Though I still cannot taste much, I am gagging for some fish and chips from Reed Street chippy at Marsh, a Merry England beef and onion sandwich, a pint at The Croppers and a bloody good kebab on the way home.
A walk over the Holmfirth hills and some live gigs, starting with watching Monotones support McFly at York Races this weekend. I’m apparently very high risk for Covid, so still wearing masks and doing daily flow tests and all that malarkey. I know, I know, I’m taking risks but I’ll argue they are worth taking. After all, isn’t life for living?