It was in April 2004, at a visit to Mr Sharpe, the ENT Consultant at William Harvey Hospital, that he told me the results, of the biopsy that he had taken previously, of the tumour growing in my throat. Even before he spoke, I could tell by his expression that it was going to be bad news, and Theresa his clinic nurse, stood by my chair with her hand on my shoulder, and her face looked so serious, as if she was on the verge of tears. I had known Theresa for many years as the clinic nurse in the cardiac departments, with my replacement Metallic Aortic heart valve, and the pacemaker.
"I'm afraid the results are not good," he said, looking straight into my eyes, in trying to assess my reaction to bad news. He said gently, "You have Spindle Cell Cancer, which has entwined itself around your vocal cords in the larynx. You told me when I took the biopsy that you wanted the truth, and nothing should be kept back from you. It is quite advanced with a large tumour. There is a chance that we can stop the tumour growing by radio therapy, because in a few weeks it will block your airways, but surgery will almost certainly have to be done to remove the cancerous tumour. I have made arrangements for you to attend Canterbury Oncology Unit tomorrow, to have a face mask ( head restraint) to be moulded, which has to be bolted to the table when laser treatment is given."
That treatment at Canterbury lasted one week, but had no effect, and I had three days to prepare for the big operation. No one spoke of non-survival, but I had made many enquiries as to my chances, and knew with my other complications that the odds were against me.
So I tried to put my finances in order, to make my passing less difficult for poor Tilly my wife, who would have to try and cope with officialdom in all its dreadful forms. I was self employed, so one of the things I did, was to ask the inland revenue tax inspector to accept my returns six months in advance. I received a letter back within days, from the top man, saying how sorry he was to hear my news, and appreciated what I was doing.
He himself had looked at my file, going back several years, and told me that I did not owe anything, but that in fact I had been overcharged in previous years and he sent me a cheque. This I felt could not be possible, as I had always been meticulous in tax matters and most careful in my records.
I survived three operations in a matter of weeks, and slowly recovered and learnt at first to live without a voice, and the case of the kind tax man was forgotten. It was five years later when I graduated at University, that another student, over drinks afterwards, was telling a story about some sadistic tax inspector, when I spoke in their defence, and of the kind man who had helped me at a most difficult time.
As I told them of his kindness, a lady said, "I am friends with his wife. I was at their home, when he came from work with your file, and your letter which had obviously affected him. What we didn't know, is that the day before, he had been diagnosed as having lung cancer, and it was a few days before he told his wife. He died about two months after that.