“My Voice” by Ian Broughall

Ian Broughall and his wife

It was on the 13th of June 1985, and I had made a brief appointment with Doctor Dixon in The Brighton Hill GP Surgery (it is funny how clear all of this still is). Just to have a quick chat.

I made the first appointment at 9 a.m., because I had a very important business meeting at my company in Basingstoke.

I had made the appointment because I had a swelling in my left testicle, which I had put down to being a hernia, as I had been moving furniture around the previous weekend.

It became clear, very early in my appointment with Doctor Dixon, that my business meeting was actually, not that important, and that I had much more compelling appointment at The Basingstoke Hospital.

I had been admitted to a hospital ward before lunch, and was told that I would be operated on first thing the following morning (did anyone mention NHS waiting lists).

I remember very clearly the night before – because everything had happened so quick – and it seemed only a few minutes ago that I was going to see my doctor, and then go to meeting – now I had been all checked in – and would be in an operating theatre in less that 24 hours after my “quick chat” with my GP !!

I remember the date very clearly – it was my 28th birthday !!!!!

I had a disturbed night, unsurprisingly, and was woken early, had a shave, which was not done by me, nor was it in the normal facial area, then off to theatre to sleep

I awoke sometime after lunch.  I was not in pain, I did not feel any different.  The surgeon came to say hello, and to tell me that he had cut out a malignant tumour, and with it, my left testicle (glad that I had kids already).

Now the hard part – I had to go home to face the family who would all tell me that “everything was going to be OK”.  I had to wait a week for the result to come back from Birmingham University (where my bits were sent to) and I remember the phone call as if it was yesterday – all the family were sat in the front room and I was on the phone – about to discover my future – or even if I had one…

Well, “everything was not OK”.  The cancer had spread – and that I needed to start a dose of chemotherapy as soon as possible – like tomorrow!!!!

The whole telephone conversation was a bit of a blur – but all through my chemotherapy – I remembered an (off the cuff) remark that the surgeon said – at the end of the call he said – don’t worry – all will be fine…. (not OK – but fine)

The chemotherapy now seems just to be a bad dream – but a bad dream it remains.  I can remember when I sat in my car in Portsmouth, and combed my hair – and almost all of it came away in the comb.  I remember being bald – and all the fun with the NHS wigs, and of course, the barber, who had to try to make look human

My primary location was at The Royal South Hants Hospital in Southampton, which overlooked one of HM Prisons – but – who were actually the prisoners ?  The most painful memories were when the needle was injected into the top of my wrist every three weeks – and then it stayed there for a week, whilst platinum and other things were pumped into me.  To this day, I am not sure what they all were – but they seemed to have worked.

I remember the two “Chemo Nurses” who used to inject the ‘stuff’ into me, and then stay with me whilst it made it’s way around my body – and then, ultimately, made me as sick as a pig for endless hours.  The nurses, every last one of them were angels, who fell in love with every boy who came in, and we, in turn fell in love with them.  The nurses got the short straw, because we used to break their hearts – usually by dying, and just not being strong enough to beat the disease.  But the nurses never learnt – another boy came in, and they fell in love again, and again.

One thing that chemotherapy gives you is a routine. One week in hospital, two weeks at home recovering, and by the time you feel a bit better – back you go into hospital for yet another bash….

This routine went on and on for an eternity, or so it felt, but in the new year (1986) I started to go for scans to see if the ‘markers’ were moving, or getting smaller, or whatever.  This made a small change to the routine, but it really just meant more time in hospital, and time to raise your hopes, only for them to be dashed again and again.

I remember that it was in the spring (1986) that I was told that everything was looking good. It was Professor Whitehouse who told me that I was almost “repaired” but just to make sure – I could have one more dose of chemo – oh happy days.

Everything else was a bit of an anti-climax after I was given the all clear – almost a year to the day – which meant that it was going to be my birthday again – now this year would definitely be better than last 1985.

There were four of us who were in our ward, James, David, Alan and me.  I will never forget the other three, because they were three guys who broke the nurses heart…

Ian Broughall
Another survivor