Letting Go

This morning, in fact just a short while ago, I threw my past away.

Three years of my past away to be precise.

It had been neatly (well kind of) stored in my cellar.

In this box .


Hundreds of thousands of words, hundreds of diagrams, a plethora of articles, notes too numerous count.

Now being recycled or at least in the waiting room of recycling (the green bin).

I kept hold of them because

1.They may have come in handy.

2. They showed how much work I put in.

3. They were a physical copy of three years study.

4. I couldn’t bring myself to throw them away.

But now I have. No pieces kept for sentimental purposes. Just an empty box where my degree once lay. For interested parties to rifle through and select nuggets of wisdom. I once thought my children may find them useful but that idea long faded. I have said on several occasions that despite self publishing six books, My children have never had any desire to read any of my work. I realised a few years ago that my work counts for very little with those who are still forging their own paths in life.

I ended up with a respectable 2:1. A BSc Hons in Wildlife Management and Conservation from Leeds Metropolitan University. In truth the study took place at Park Lane College in Leeds which is now Leeds City College. Indeed I believe the University is called Leeds Beckett University. Is nothing the same ?

I enjoyed my three years of study immensely. I came to university late in life and threw myself in with comparative abandon. Those were good years although the final one was more of a slog than the first two. A not uncommon experience in higher education.

I finished my degree and believed that the world of conservation or land management lay in wait for my skills and knowledge. The world of conservation particularly land management is being squeezed and shrunk because of central government cuts. Private companies use very small workforces and organisations such as the RSPB and National Trust have also felt the pinch. My completion also coincided with a life threatening illness to one of my children and then my own treatment for cancer a year later. It slipped away. I have kept my hand in although less so nowadays. I still do ecological surveys in summertime and volunteer when possible with the countryside service in Bradford.

I have worked in films and television with the civil service, in the employment service (also civil service), trained as a psychiatric nurse and worked win mental health for 15 years. These are my past. I have added my degree to that list as well. As I said in a previous post , I believe you have to be defined by what you do not what you were. They tell a story. I write because I enjoy writing. A few people also enjoy my writing and even pay for it! I don’t write because I get paid, I write because I want to.

It will feel liberating to have a space on a shelf where thousands of pieces of paper once sat. I have let them go. I still have electronic copies of my work and if ever anyone is desperate to want any, it’s there. I may return to study one day in the future. History of Art or English Literature both appeal. Study for study’s sake. So many go to university with a career outcome in mind. My adult life has taught me that however many plans you make, life takes over. This box of papers should be the beginning of a de cluttering process. To rid myself of useless history. It may help in a tiny way to live more in the now than the past.





The C Word (six years on)

I’ve recently had my annual CT Scan at the Christie Hospital in Manchester. My association with them started in 2010 when I was referred for a preventative surgical procedure.

I was both lucky and unusual.

I’d had my appendix removed in January 2010. I recovered quickly and thought no more about it until six weeks later. The surgical team called me in for an unexpected outpatients appointment. They told me that when they examined my appendix in histology they had found a mixed malignant tumour. The tumour was found in patients suffering a very rare from of cancer called Pseudo Myxonoma Peritoneii or PMP for short. I later found out that this condition occurs in only 1 in a million people.

The team in Leeds referred me to a specialist team at the Christie Hospital in Manchester ( A specialist world renowned Cancer hospital) and ordered lots of scans and tests. I was photographed, prodded and poked for a month. That I can safely say was the longest month of my life. I had my funeral music sorted, arrangements made in the event of my death arranged and was generally terrified. All the tests came back clear, with no evidence of disease or illness present. To say I was relieved is an understatement!

The surgeon recommended I carry on with my referral to The Christie.

I agreed to have preventative surgery, a procedure called HIPEC. I went in for my operation in June 2010. The operation was a relatively quick six hours. Often patients with PMP can be in surgery in excess of twelve hours. I recovered unusually quickly post surgery and was out within five days. I convalesced at home for a couple of months before resuming daily duties.

I have been subsequently scanned yearly since my operation.

This morning I found out that my most recent results are all fine and I now move to eight and ten year follow up. This is a big milestone for me. But what has the last six years shown me?

Cancer is a cruel, indiscriminate illness. It strikes down the rich and famous, the good and bad, young and old, fit and unfit. It shows no discretion. It can be slow and manageable or fast and aggressive. The great David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Lemmy from Motorhead, all recent high profile victims of cancer. Three out of four of my grandparents all suffered from cancer. My late brother in law and his second wife also cancer victims. Many friends and parents of friends have been affected by cancer. It changes the lives of all those patients and families.

I have sat in the waiting rooms at the Christie with some very sick people. I have never heard complaining, rarely seen fear in the eyes of my fellow patients. The hospital is a truly unique environment. The staff are helpful, calm and skilled at their job. My situation has always been treated with the same professionalism as other far more seriously ill people in the hospital.

My life has changed dramatically in the last six years and is continuing to evolve. I don’t fear death any more. I am relieved rather than overjoyed to be cancer free every day. I haven’t lived life to the maximum but I now intend to. I know there are loads of other chronic illnesses and conditions that can be life threatening which I may develop but that no longer worries me.

Life is precious and should be enjoyed. Cancer can materialise at any point and could whisk me off. Waiting to wonder if it will is not the way to live. Maybe after six years I can now breathe slightly easier.

We should not be afraid of Cancer. I am not afraid of it any more.

I am more afraid of loneliness, unhappiness.

Cancer hasn’t claimed me yet.