Guest post: Broken. Not yet beaten.

Some beautiful writing from my beautiful wife.

We’ve been unfortunate enough to experience the pain of late or “missed” miscarriage twice this year. Waking up post-surgery for the second time in six months I felt the urge to write to try to process things. It’s raw and messy but then that’s life sometimes…

To those of you kind enough to ask how I feel:

The answer is broken: and unsure how I begin to put myself back together again this time.
The answer is guilty: for putting everyone through this again, for not appreciating what I already have, for daring to try and hope that things would be okay, for wondering what on earth is wrong with me.
The answer is angry: I’ve spent seven months of this year expectant yet lacking – twice through the anxious sicky first trimester without reaching that glow. Seven months of watching Tom gladly carrying the heavy loads, looking out for me, worrying about me, seven months of us daring to hope. All for nothing.
The answer is sadly jealous: of those healthy bumps and happy bundles, of how easy this seemed the first time round, of those enjoying this beautiful season without the taint of sadness.
The answer is empty: seven months of secretly hiding signs, planning an escape from work, seven months of daring to hope, of laughingly planning names, of dreaming such beautiful plans for you both – now dashed.
The answer is fearful: of a new year empty of these hopes, of a new year where the prospect of starting over feels like a huge mountain. Fearful of the dark places and lonely nights grief takes you, fearful of these emotions becoming the ones that define me.
The answer is weary: knowing what it’ll take to pull through this a second time, weary of the emotions, the going through the motions, the waiting for answers which might never come.
The answer is questioning: more questions, ever questions: what happened, what now, what does this mean for the future and why us? But then why not us?

And yes, the answer is doubting and shouting at God: yet determined to hold on to the hope that I have in the One who comforts and grieves with us.
The answer is completely blind to what the big picture is: but believing that one day we’ll know.
The answer is determined: to carry on, to find laughter in the tears, joy in the blessed distraction of Dylan. Determined to hold what I have more closely, to rebuild again stronger.
The answer is surrounded: by love, by care, by prayer, yet trying desperately not to feel alone.
The answer is richly blessed to have such love in my life.

So the answer is dark at present, yet pierced by light
The answer is holding on to the hope of a time when things will feel brighter
And yes, the answer is broken. But not yet beaten.

How football saved my life

I am a massive football fan and have played the game consistently for as long as I can remember, but I never thought I’d see the day I’d say it saved my life (other than to maybe ward of the sands of time from a bit of exercise now and again!)

As I said I have played the beautiful game for as long as I can remember. I started in the back garden with my brother, neighbours and even occasionally my little sister (until I broke her thumb whilst she was forced to play in goal – a story for another time). I’ve played little league, for my school, college, university digs and then Saturday and Sunday league as well as numerous 5 and 7 a-side teams over the years.

One thing I always loved was the camaraderie, particularly in those teams which centred around a newly created ‘club’ with a good ‘witty’ team name: Four-four Tooting, Ten Legs and Sons of Pitches…anyone?

One thing that pervaded the majority of the teams was the embarrassment of the dressing room, by that I mean the embarrassment of getting changed in the dressing room – this is understandable for boys and teenagers.

This didn’t change when I became a ‘man’ and played for a university team, it only changed when I started playing for the Civil Service after I’d graduated and moved to London. I’m not saying this in any homoerotic sense (not that that matters) but no one cared and everyone was perfectly comfortable changing and showering in quite often pretty cramped and cold (*cough*) facilities – we’re talking Saturday amateur football here.

‘What on earth are you going on about?’ I hear you saying.

Testicular cancer infographic

Well, when you think a recent survey suggested as many as 68% of men do not know how to check themselves for testicular cancer and more worryingly 50% would shy away from showing their GP if they discovered a lump.*

Coupled with the fact that testicular cancer is the most common cancer affecting young men in the 15 to 35 age group but if caught at an early stage men can expect a high cure rate with 98% of men disease free after one year. Yet around 60 young men will die of testicular cancer each year.

Would this be different if us men weren’t so embarrassed about visiting the doctor about our intimate parts? Having been to the doctors for varicocele previously it didn’t even cross my mind to visit my GP when I discovered a lump on my right testicle – I often wondered if things would have been slightly different if I hadn’t played for the Civil Service.

* Survey, carried out by UK male cancer charity Orchid, questioned 3,000 men aged 15 to 45.

Cancer isn’t a dirty word

26 to 30 January 2015 is Macmillan Cancer Talk Week, so I thought I would share my recent personal experience of having to deal with cancer.

Nothing can prepare you for the moment you are told ‘it’s probably cancer’ but hopefully by sharing my experience others may be encouraged to talk about theirs and help prevent the feelings of isolation many often have when impacted by cancer.

Cancer isn't a dirty word

Last year I was diagnosed with testicular cancer, initially I had an overwhelming feeling of numbness – I mean emotionally, not literally of course, though that may be a side effect for some! Once the numbness subsides, you go through a daunting myriad of emotions.

Looking back, here’s a brief summary of how I (think!) I got through it.


My personal faith, something I don’t tend to shout about, played a vital role. I always believed I wasn’t without hope, no matter what the ultimate outcome – this may sound trite now but it was my truth.

My church was brilliant both pastorally and practically – I have never eaten so well in the two weeks after surgery thanks to the endless deliveries of food.

I am blessed to be surrounded by lots of amazing family (particularly my wife) and friends – having a strong support network was essential, I didn’t go through it on my own that’s for sure.

I also have a young son, and you can’t help but be lifted out of any dark places when confronted by the humour and innocence of a 23 month old.

Distraction was vital, particularly during what felt like endless periods of waiting for test results.

Dylan, enjoying the outdoors and splashing in a puddle

Our son Dylan, taken around the day of my diagnosis – one of our approaches was to get out and do as many things as possible to distract ourselves.

My sister is a Doctor, so it was great to have really frank and honest discussions with her about what was happening. ‘If you’re going to get one cancer this is the one to get’ was her standout comment.

Ironically, given the name of this blog post I also found it very useful to heed my doctors’ advice and to think of the cancer simply as a growth which needed to be removed.


I have a dry sense of humour and trying to make people laugh is often my go-to coping mechanism. And boy does testicular cancer offer plenty of opportunities!

I think that if I’m willing to laugh about it others soon realise they can too. Potentially embarrassing or uncomfortable situations are relaxed and an open conversation can usually ensue.

The funniest moment throughout the whole experience however was as the result of what someone else said.

Me sporting a Movember moustache

A #Movember selfie, something I guess I’ll have to do every year now!

During a very serious chat with a brilliant fertility specialist who was explaining the intricacies of sperm production he uttered the immortal ‘You stop producing sperm after about three days, because of course if you didn’t your balls would be dragging along the floor’. At that precise moment we had locked eyes and both burst into fits of giggles, the type from which you think you’ll never recover. Luckily we did and the rest of the conversation had a much more relaxed feeling.

The Future

My prognosis is good – thanks to the amazing care of the NHS I won’t need chemo, I will instead have regular tests to make sure the cancer hasn’t returned.

I know my story isn’t over though, so if you want to talk and ask any questions about my experience (no matter how embarrassing) please do.

Pop ups are bad enough anyway…

….but this one beggars belief! It’s on top of my web-mail inbox (BT Yahoo for anyone wondering!) and didn’t seem to allow me to close it down, my only option was to close the browser window. I guess this is one film they really really want you to see.

Screenshot of an advert pop up

Screenshot of a pop-up advert overlaying my web-mail inbox (apologies for the redactions!)