I wrote the book on surviving cancer

My diary was a solace during treatment, but my ambition to publish and help other sufferers was postponed until now, says Chris Geiger

WHEN I was diagnosed with cancer, I scoured shops for books by survivors. Most were ghost-written for film stars and described their celebrity lifestyles rather than their cancer treatment.

The night before I was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, I watched a film about Bob Champion, a jump jockey who beat cancer and later won the Grand National. The film was based on Champion’s book, Champion’s Story, which inspired me to fight the disease and write a book.

I had two years of treatment: operations, radiotherapy, chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant. I chanted daily “If Bob Champion can do it, so can I”, along with many unrepeatable things.

Having a target, being positive, and writing every day got me through. I wrote a diary, recording my thoughts, feelings and treatment.

Within weeks of completing my treatment, I was back at work, as if the previous two years hadn’t happened. Ideas of writing a cancer survival book were purposely forgotten, because every time I relived events I smelt those disinfected hospital wards, tasted the chemotherapy or pictured the faces of those patients who weren’t as lucky as me. Recollection made me physically sick!.

The nightmare of cancer never left my mind: I worried the disease would return. The smallest ache or pain and I’d be convinced I’d relapsed. Each time, my doctor listened patiently. Eventually, my fear subsided, yet cancer remained at the forefront of my mind.

I have only one properly functioning lung, many scars and a struggling immune system; but that’s a small price to pay. I’m sure the chemotherapy also killed my ‘lazy’ gene or ‘sleep’ gene, as well as destroying the tumour. I now can’t do things by halves, can’t sit around doing nothing, can’t waste a moment of this life I’ve saved.

During the increasing years I’ve been in remission, I’ve spoken with many newly diagnosed cancer sufferers. In 2009, I was talking with a patient who said it was “inspirational” to speak to a “normal” person, a survivor given three months to live who was alive 20 years later. Then I remembered wanting to read stories of other ‘normal’ cancer survivors, for encouragement and guidance for myself and my family. So began my campaign to create awareness and help patients and their families.

You might remember my article in the Irish Examiner on World Cancer Day, in which I received a Guinness world record for ‘most published newspaper article’. I appealed for readers to send me their survival stores.

So now I’m announcing the release of The Cancer Survivors’ Club, a book with an excellent mix of stories, from the most common cancer to the rarest. Some of the cancers described are brain, bowel, breast, pancreatic, testicular, leukaemia, nasal, and my own, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Also included in the book are a number of my cheerful columns, which include a humorous account of a prostate examination and the dangers of getting sunburnt on a crowded beach.

My hope and dream is that cancer sufferers, their families, and friends will gain strength and encouragement from the stories within this book.

The Cancer Survivors’ Club provides sufferers with a distraction from the worries of daily treatment, by encouraging them to think about life once they’ve become a survivor and kicked the disease.

One of the ways is for patients to start writing their story while still receiving treatment, detailing their experiences.

I hope I’ll soon be receiving new inspirational stories from readers, which I can include in future editions and increase the number of members in my cancer survivors’ club. For everyone else reading this, I hope you’ll find it a damn good read and are left feeling positive.

Thank you to every survivor who submitted their amazing stories of courage. I’m so sorry I was unable to include them all. Finally, thank you, also, every reader, for your incredible support and loyalty. Please keep those tweets and emails coming.

* The Cancer Survivors’ Club is available from all major online and independent bookstores. For more information, visit www.TheCancerSurvivorsClub.com



Breaking Stories

As Nadiya Hussain opens up about anxiety: 7 ways to feel better after a panic attack

Ask a counsellor: Did I make a mistake becoming a mum?

Café with appetite for change at UCC

Making Cents: Claim tax refunds now, have money before Christmas

More From The Irish Examiner