Welsh Author John Gardner shares his experience of battling pancreatic cancer – literally, one word at a time.
Today is not just another day. Yesterday I finished editing the draft of my book. So today, I’m freewheeling, wandering what to do next.
I started my book in March 2014, or so the copyright informs me, whilst living in Ecuador. My wife was away visiting her ailing mother, so to fill my time I decided to write – but what to write about?
My pet preoccupation at the time (and now) was a growing helplessness in the face of global warming, worldwide famine, homelessness, pollution and government orchestrated genocide – whilst the World looked on. As a private individual, I could do nothing – but as a character in my book I could make a big difference. So I sat down and started to write.
I started with a notebook to rough out my ideas and to establish a timeline of events, and everything moved on from there. Pretty soon my notebook was cluttered with information, which meant looking back instead of moving forward. So I transferred all the clutter to my laptop.
Next came the outline, fifty chapters split into three parts. I typed endlessly whilst researching in equal measure, until the first draft was finished; to be abandoned for a year due lack of funds to pay for the editing and marketing. Still I’d completed the first step to being an author.
My wife and I spent the New Year of 2017 with our extended family in the Galapagos Islands, totally unaware that 2017 was going to be a bad year for me.
In March of that year, I developed a severe attack of jaundice resulting in hospitalisation to discover the cause.
After three weeks of tests and internal examinations, the consensus of opinion was probably a form of pancreatic obstruction around its head. Consternation followed; what was this nameless obstruction?
Further detailed internal examinations followed to view this inaccessible organ. Best guess was that the indistinguishable smudge they focused on, was probably a tumour.
What followed was another week of stabilising my blood through transfusions and antibiotics. No affordable treatment was offered, and I was advised (confidentially) to go to Miami for the best treatment possible. Without medical insurance this was impossible. So we flew to London instead and continued treatment at Guys Hospital, Southwark.
Even with all my Ecuadorian notes, the examinations continued afresh. Yes, they decided, there was a suggestion of a tumour, but inoperable due to closeness of a pancreatic artery. What followed was months of chemotherapy, which ravaged my body and eventually my kidneys.
So after a year I elected to stop all treatment, and invasive examinations, to live a peaceful existence and continue writing. Since then, every day is a remarkable gift and today is no exception as I view the trees from my balcony and reflect on being able to complete my book during that challenging period of my life.
So today is not just another day – my freewheeling days are over as I pick up pen to write…
About the author
John Gardner was born and grew up in South Wales where the early part of his adult life was spent in managerial posts in the construction industry. He then went on to become a senior lecturer in the same industry, studying for his MA. (Educ.& Tng) at the University of Wales, Cardiff.
John’s first book, “The Sacrifice”, is currently pending publication.