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‘Some good friends disappeared from my life’


I sometimes think that a cancer diagnosis hits those around you even harder than it hits the sufferer.

I was 61, fit, and had run an ultra-marathon in the Lake District three months before I was diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer. When I was referred to a gastroenterologist after a few months of bloating and indigestion I thought at worst I might be suffering from a touch of ITB. I was told by the doctor there were “no red flags” but let’s carry out a colonoscopy “to be sure”. A blockage was found, biopsy’s taken and fortunately my wife, Judy, was coming to pick me up so the doctor waited to explain that he thought it was cancer and what would happen next.

Support is essential

From that moment you start to understand just how important support is. We were both in a bit of a daze and over the following week we waited for the results. Judy, despite being in shock herself, helped to keep my spirits up and at this stage I said very little to friends and colleagues as I didn’t want to worry them. My two adult children quickly came to visit. The results came back as cancerous, and a scan showed another tumour beyond the one the scope had seen. I was booked for a right hemicolectomy which was carried out and it was discovered that it had spread to lymph nodes as well. Six months of chemotherapy followed. I was and still am always keen to tell people my story, not for sympathy but to encourage others to get checked if they have any symptoms.TONY QUOTE 1

My work colleagues were fantasticTONY RUNNING WITH DOG

During this time, I encountered a huge range of reactions from friends and relatives. Some straight away offered support, there were get well cards and presents. Others ignored it completely and carried on as if nothing was happening. Many said, “we can’t believe it, you’ve always stayed fit and eaten well”. Old friends appeared out of the woodwork, and it was great to be supported by people I hadn’t heard from in years. My colleagues from work were fantastic sending thoughtful gifts and even organising for Judy and I to attend the office Christmas party online with a meal being delivered to our door. Two friends in particular made lots of time just to come out walking with me and are now having to suffer me trying to drag them out for slow runs in our local forest.

Some people just couldn't deal with my diagnosis

What I really didn’t expect was some good friends of many years who I had spent a lot of time with simply disappeared out of my life. Some people said, “they obviously weren’t real friends” and initially I agreed, but I now try and be a bit more charitable. I think they probably couldn’t deal with the thought of someone they knew so well having a life-threatening disease or didn’t know what to say. And although in general almost all of my work colleagues were amazing, one or two seemed to be thinking, “that’s it, Tony’s done for”. To be fair that may just be my perception as sadly we have lost a few much-loved members of my team over the years. As it was, apart from the five days I spent in hospital, I managed to continue working throughout my treatment.

TONY QUOTE 3TONY AND FAMILYCancer has made me more thoughtful when it comes to considering what people are going through in their lives and I’m incredibly grateful to all those who have shown me such empathy, compassion, and kindness as I travel my own cancer journey. I’m now in remission and generally a positive person but scanxiety is real and I’m lucky my friends and relatives continue to put up with my ramblings when regular checks come round.

Tony, 63, lives in Norfolk, and is married with two adult children and a very cute grandson, who will soon be 2. He was diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer following a colonoscopy in late 2021, and had surgery and six months of chemotherapy.

He works for a large equine charity and used to love riding horses. He likes to walk, run silly distances, and is aiming for a 50-mile run/walk competition in the Lake District in July 2024.


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