A short time after my diagnosis, in some crazy attempt to make sense of my feelings and emotions, that at the time were all over the place, I began to write a diary. I thought I might be able to look back at it in the future and make some sense of what was happening to me. Worst case scenario, well I would have something to leave behind…
I think I managed to write every day for about a week. I was so very angry and frustrated at what was happening to me, to us as a couple and to my family as a whole, that I stuffed it in the back of a cupboard, where it has remained ever since.
Around 6 months after my surgery, I received a message from a great bunch of guys I know based overseas. Again, they tried to convince me to put pen to paper. They said I had great story to share and that it would help others going through the same. I wasn’t so convinced. I mean, it’s not like I’d lost limbs to an IED or anything. Why would anyone want to hear what I had to say? They were persistent and told me that not everyone does what they do, and that ordinary people need someone ordinary to relate to. So, to stop them nagging, one quiet afternoon in my studio I started typing…
Once again, my literary efforts soon came crashing down around me, as I ended up in floods of tears before the first draft of the first chapter was finished. It really wasn’t the cathartic experience I’d hoped it would be, as I relived every single detail and emotion. I was a blubbering wreck, totally overwhelmed by the flashbacks from that dark time. I clicked delete.
2019 was a strange year, full of so many ups and downs, highs and crashing lows. I lost some good friends, which affected me greatly; by contrast, I climbed the highest mountain in North Africa. Again, I felt I needed an outlet, and having been asked to speak at a number of events, in my head, my story was beginning to unfold.
As we headed into the new year, I was full of determination that it was going to be the most awesome year ever. I had convinced Danielle Gibbons (former goalkeeper for LFC ladies team, and fellow acoustic neuroma sufferer and BANA ambassador) that she wanted to run a 100km ultra marathon with me in the Lake District, I had switched to a high fat, low carb, ketogenic diet and fasted intermittently in an attempt to shift the brain fog I’d been suffering from (I think it’s helped), and I’d enlisted the help of a coach – someone who actually knows what he’s doing when it comes to training. Within weeks I was beginning to see progress I never thought possible.
Then came the pandemic, and lockdown. I watched on as studio bookings were cancelled, tuition sessions came to an abrupt halt and all of a sudden all I had left was my training. Having this consistency kept me sane.
I started applying for jobs and asked a good friend to help me write my CV. She offered to help but added, “I really think you should be writing a book and giving talks though…”
It’s strange how life pans out sometimes don’t you think? With that I put pen to paper once more and the words flowed. Some chapters were far easier to write than others. I wondered if some chapters should be written at all, I mean, writing about brain tumours isn’t exactly a fairytale. I talked it through with friends and we came to the consensus that to appreciate the highs, you have to appreciate the lows. And there were real lows.
So, it is finally finished. The timing made a huge difference, as this time around I really enjoyed not only the writing process, but looking into the publishing side of things too.
I have been totally open and honest; it’s not all comfortable reading, but I’d like to think the overall message is that with grit and determination we can have our old normal, or an even better new one. I’d like to think it provides others with just the tiniest glimmer of hope that I so badly needed, yet struggled to find, when I was diagnosed.
My other hope, is that medical professionals will gain some insight into the minds of those who have received a life threatening/life changing diagnosis. I have been so fortunate in the care and understanding I have received from my GP and Salford Royal Hospital, but very often this is not the case.
There are so many aspects of our diagnosis that I hope to write about in the future, and so much more I hope to do in order to raise awareness of brain tumours and hidden disabilities, an often forgotten aspect. I’m quite sure it won’t be too much longer until I take to the keyboard once again!
Officially launching on 1st October 2020, Sickbed To Summits: The Story of Triumph over Adversity is now available in paperback and for Kindle, from Amazon.
I’m currently working on my next writing project, How We Rise, but I need your support. You can find out more here.