Although I would not recommend anyone to develop cancer, the one redeeming feature of my illness is that I have found a strength I never thought I was capable of possessing.
Sometimes when I heard or read of cancer I tried to visualise how I would cope, but never believing deep down that I could.
On my first visit to the E.N.T department of Odstock Hospital I was told that I had some nodules in my throat and they would like me to have a biopsy. This word suggested to me that they would be looking for cancer but I did not dwell on it and I was not worried enough to stop smoking.
When I went to the hospital two weeks later I was told that the tests proved positive and yet the locum doctor did not mention the word cancer. I had to ask him if it was and he said yes. The next week I started a six week course of radiotherapy at Southampton Hospital for five days a week. This meant an hour's car journey each way and perhaps two hours wait for what was one minute actual treatment.
I did not respond too well as my throat was burnt twice and I had to rest for a week on two occasions.
Three months after treatment I was told that it had not worked and I would need an operation to remove my voice box.
Mr. George Todd the surgeon was very honest and kind. He told me that as far as he could see it would be straightforward and he did not visualise any complications, but as it was a four hour major operation things could go wrong. I was pleased to be told the facts and this gave me confidence in the surgeon.
On my drive home from the hospital my mind was in a whirl, but I had no signs of panic. When I got indoors and told my wife the news all the pent up emotion exploded and I burst into tears, which caused my wife to do the same.
After about thirty seconds everything seemed clear to me and I knew what I must do. I don't know what happened to me during that short period but I am forever grateful that it did.
I accepted I had cancer and that I could possibly die, but that I had no control over the fact. The main thing for me to do was to carry on as normal as possible except that I had to make sure my wife did not have any problems about carrying on living after my death.
As I had been the breadwinner I had dealt with all our finances so I had to sit down with her and explain all about insurances, where the policies were, and all the little details of life that she had not had any dealings with.
I had to wait about two weeks to go into hospital so we spent a week in Jersey and I tried to live my life on a daily basis, which makes it so much easier.
On May 5th, 1988 at 8:30 a.m., I was taken to the theatre and I remember lying in the room next to the theatre and Mr. Todd came in too see me and told me that although he would see me in theatre in a few minutes, I would not see him. I then told him that when they stopped for coffee during the operation, please do not wake me as I would not want one.
My very last thought was that I now had no control over what was happening to me.
When I woke up very drowsy in the intensive care room next to the theatre it was the worst moment of my life. I had tubes coming out of my body at various places. I was on a drip on one side and blood transfusion the other. My throat was too sore to allow me to swallow and it felt as if I could not breathe. The nurse was using a suction tube to clear the mucus from the hole in my neck and then wiped out the saliva from my mouth.
This was the first time that I believed I was dying because the operation had gone wrong.
The time by the clock was about 6 p.m. and I remember vividly my wife being allowed in to see me and I was able to give the thumbs up sign. The relief on her face was a tonic to me and although I remained in a daze for the rest of the night, I no longer thought of death but visualised what life was going to be like without a voice.
I was taken back to the ward at 8 a.m. the following morning and was given a fantastic welcome back by the staff. They had even put a big notice on the side ward that I was in to welcome me back. I had 24 hour nursing for the next two days and the caring, understanding and tolerance of the nurses and doctors was wonderful. I am full of admiration for the special qualities that people have who are dealing with cancer patients. Not just nursing staff alone but such people as physiotherapists, speech therapists and even admin staff in the clinic.
I left hospital after nineteen days and I was very lucky when I left I had been able to teach myself to talk enough to be understood without any artificial aids.
The surgeon told me on leaving that if I had any problems that I could go to the clinic or ward at any time and I would get seen to. This was not an idle promise because I had a couple of small problems during the first year and took advantage of his advice.
I had not been home long before I realised that the strain on the families of cancer patients is greater that that of the patient who's having the treatment. I am pleased to say that there are now organisations for families to get help during this stressful time.
On reflection I can see what a hard time I had for the first year or so in coming to terms with people's attitude to recovering cancer patients.
1. It is incredible that in this day and age that there are still people who believe they can catch cancer.
2. People are frightened to talk to us because they want to steer clear of a situation which might mean they have to mention CANCER in front of us.
3. Cancer is something other people catch, so we don't need to worry about doing things like smoking, which they say causes cancer.
4. If we don't talk about cancer we most probably won't get it.
5. If we suspect anything is wrong with us don't go to the doctor who might confirm that it is cancer.
These are attitudes that I found I had to deal with and not being of a very tolerant nature I found it hard going for a while. Eventually I accepted that I had to come to terms with other people's feelings and live my life to the best of my ability.
There are many humorous sides as well. I have told the surgeon that he is one of the only few people who can slit a persons throat and get paid for it instead of going to prison. I also tell people that they may have taken my voice box but they will not stop me from talking.
It is very amusing to see people's faces on a cold day when they see what appears to be steam coming from out of my neck.
Today I believe that every day is a bonus. When I wake up in the morning it does not matter what the weather is, I feel grateful to be alive. Of course this does not stop me from having a moan if it is wet or cold and windy. Life has been given to me to live to the full and every day is the first day of the rest of my life. I also get great strength from mixing with other people who have disabilities and seeing how they cope with life and enjoy it.
Being a recovering cancer patient does not give me the right to expect any more from life than anyone else, neither does it give me the right to feel sorry for myself.
Because of cancer I have had the honour and privilege of being able to be part of Linda's great fund raising effort, which is proof that the determination to succeed will win through against all odds.
One day at a time I hope I can continue to help raise funds to enable research to find an answer to this illness and also help in any way with other sufferers.
TED'S NEXT ADVENTURE
A couple of years after I finished my run around the UK, Eric Leclezio contacted me saying he had lost a leg to cancer and wanted to cycle around Great Britain to raise money for cancer research. He needed a backup driver and I really wanted the job, but I was now in full time employment and still recovering from the expense of my run around the UK, so I was in no position to help. I therefore gave him Ted Rayner's phone number and Ted immediately offered his services.
During training for the cycle ride Eric had problems with his artificial leg, so he made the decision to use a wheelchair instead. He completed a 2700 mile route around Great Britain and he and Ted raised £55,500. It was truly a remarkable achievement and because of their efforts they received an award from Her Majesty the Queen in 1993.
Eric Leclezio, Ted Rayner and Her Majesty the Queen.
Ted and Her Majesty the Queen.