August 2013; The end of the beginning or beginning of the end? Chapter 1

As many friends will know I have been writing a memoir for a few years. Its about my experience with cancer and Cannabis Oil, this is the first chapter, my lowest point in the journey. The consultant had taken away all hope and according to the government, it is illegal for anyone else to offer cancer treatment, according to the medical establishment and their scientists  if the biomedical model cant help, no one can and they are just creating false hope.

In August 2018 I was on Good Morning Britain talking about Children’s Health and the Presenter Kate Garoway sneered at me; “Why do you think you know so much more than the Doctors”. I told her my story, she may not have have believed me, but she was clearly not impressed. I realised presenters are just mouthpieces asking questions, without the knowledge to understand the significance of the answer. I post this 8 years to the day when I was first diagnosed. When I was first diagnosed they said survival rates the said survival was 80%, after surgery they found it had spread to Lymph nodes which meant Survival was 50% then in August 2013 the day this post is about survival was 0%. In April 2016 I became a cancer survivor after radio and chemotherapy. Researchers could tick the box for the first prediction. However that ticked box tells you nothing about the real story,  The terminal diagnosis, stopping chemotherapy and trying cannabis oil and the scan I had in 2018 that showed I was cancer free. I have had so much radio therapy and chemo and CT scans I am bound to get cancer again and no doubt the skeptics will be dancing on my grave the way they do on others who choose to try something different. I have waited to talk about my experience until I had gone way way beyond the medical predictions.

IF; by Rudyard Kipling
If you can keep your head when all about you;
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too.
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster,
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make a heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on!”

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

August 2013
The end of the beginning or beginning of the end?

The sound of the rush hour traffic had finished, the last patient of the day was waiting, my receptionist asked if she could go home early. I looked at the young woman sitting there, waiting for a chiropractic “doctor” to see her and thought being alone with me for thirty minutes might not be what she had planned in her day.

I asked Julie (my receptionist) to stay, as this woman looked young and might not have the life experience to enjoy my sense of humor. A Danish newspaper once described my successful coaching methods of a women’s football team with the headline, ‘A combination of Irish charm, flirting and shouting’. Those who know me would confirm little has changed, you are supposed to be “professional” as a health care practitioner and not scare your patients away, wearing a collar and tie, being rather grey is the easy option. I have always tried to introduce an element of fun to my work, some people may not like my approach, its a judgement call.

After the initial pleasantries, we sit down so I can take the patient’s medical history. “Are you taking any medications?”, I ask. “Anti depressants”, she casually replies. I barely conceal the rolling of my eyes, as I jumped to an ill informed conclusion as to why this attractive twenty one year old was on anti-depressants? A row with the boyfriend? Daddy did not buy her the latest iPhone?

My cynicism towards the pharmaceutical industry knows no bounds; For years they have been promoting pharmaceuticals over healthy lifestyle for peoples wellbeing. They are in the business of creating customers rather than cures which would send them away.

In the early eighties I was one of the pioneers of the health and fitness boom, opening in Copenhagen the first of the type of fitness centers you see everywhere today. People who jogged were called “heath freaks” back then, Jane Fonda came along and made it cool to exercise and be healthy. I was the right person, in the right place at the right time and Sweat Shop just took off in 1983. I also published Denmark’s first Health & Fitness magazine called “Pulse”. In the first issue, I covered a Danish study that showed cardiovascular exercise helped people with depression better than medications. Thirty five years on its still the drugs getting most of the attention?

Going for a twenty minute run or cycle every day will do wonders for your well-being, but nothing for the share price of blue chip pharmaceutical multi nationals. “Big Pharma” sponsors most of the “Continuing Professional Development” seminars put on for medical doctors and many of the “independent” charities advising the public on conditions like Heart Disease, Cancer, ADHD etc.

My upbringing was definitely the one of taking the hard knocks, dusting yourself down and getting on with life, rather than the touchy feely approach, today’s millennials have become accustomed to. I was eight when I was sent to a Gaelic speaking boarding school in Ireland, where corporal punishment was the norm. Most children only spent a year at “Colaiste na Rinne”, learning to speak Irish, I was there for 4 years, I became an eleven year old “Fletcher” from the TV series “Porridge”. I once got twenty cracks of a leather strap on my hands from the “Beast” (“Ban on Ti” woman of the house) and refused to give her the satisfaction of me shedding a tear. I distracted myself from the pain by focusing on the ash on the cigarette in the beasts mouth as it got longer, like a worm crawling out of a hole. Would it break off before she was done?

“What have you got to be depressed about?”, I arrogantly blurt out to my patient?
“What I would give to be 20 again with my whole life ahead of me. I know what pressure is like”, I tell her.
“In 2011 I was diagnosed with rectal cancer, treated with radiotherapy, surgery and chemo. I believed I would die many times and rose above it, not once did I consider medicating the mental anguish I was feeling”.

Her eyes welled up; “my little brother died of a brain tumour last month and his twin brother is being treated for the same cancer and the radiotherapy has caused brain damage”.

It was like I had been hit by a train and bits of me are scattered all over the track; where do you start to repair the damage? Not for the first time, I had spoken without engaging my brain. I am standing in a massive hole and there is no way out, except to apologise for my appalling assumptions. I remembered the day at the Royal Marsden, they asked me to wait while a child jumped ahead of me for radiotherapy, and I realised having cancer is not the worst thing in the world, one of my children having it would be a thousand times worse.

I treated my patient; not surprisingly she never returned. And she may never know how grateful I am to her for bringing me back to earth from the permanent high I had been on since completing the marathon on the Great Wall of China, three months earlier.

My torrid affair with cancer had ended twelve months earlier during the London Olympics, the Great Wall marathon was to show everyone how amazing I was. I had beaten cancer;I felt indestructible and an ego like mine has to love being told just how courageous and inspiring I am. Then you meet this young woman and you realise that she had to have courage and just needed a little help to face an ordeal. She could have run away from it and let her parents deal with it. Courage is when you have a choice to run away, cancer patients dont have a choice so it does not matter whether we have courage or not, we just have to get on with living as best we can.

This was my second last day at work, before the family and I were heading for our summer holiday in Italy, just a few loose ends to tie up before leaving. Janette, my partner, was focused on getting the annual tax returns done for my chiropractic practice “Spinal Joint” finished before we left. I was thinking about my tennis match; victory would put me top of the league table. Before the match I had the small matter of my annual check up at the Royal Marsden. I planned to ask my consultant to sign the “Great Wall” T – shirt I was presented after completing the marathon and beating cancer and planed to make it my profile picture on Facebook.

I did not recognise the consultant, “Where is Shelia?” I ask.
“She is on annual leave” responded the consultant with the uninspiring expression on her face, like someone tasting Marmite for the first time.

“I told the scan people I was happy to have this appointment when I got back from holiday”, I said.
“We thought it was better you came in before,” she said.
“So how are you feeling Mr Lanigan?”
I had been thinking about my response for months, I would now pay homage to my ego and a smile came to my face as I take to the stage.
“Fantastic “, I say.
“I have not felt this good since my 20s. I ran ten miles yesterday in my best time ever” and then preceded to tell her about the Marathon in China, three months earlier.

done it

I like to think I am a good story teller and normally people laugh at the right moment, but not once did she crack a smile, I am thinking to myself, “miserable cow”!

I had just completed one of the hardest marathons in the world, on the Great Wall of China, 12 months after major surgery and 12 cycles of chemotherapy and she did not seem remotely interested. So I stopped talking.

After a pause she announces, “I have some bad news”.
For some reason the first thing that came into my head was that she was going to tell me my car had been clamped, because parking is always a problem in hospitals and I was always parking where I should not in the Marsden.

“The results of your scan are not good”, she says.
She is waiting for me to say something else, but I am am trying to remain calm. Every time I had gone to get results from a consultant, I had brought my friend Rich Parkin, to take notes, as it allowed me to focus on the questions I wanted to ask and remain relaxed and if there is anybody you want beside you in a crisis while everybody else is losing their heads, it is Rich.

Assimilating complex health information being presented, may make you emotional and you only have 15 minutes with the consultant so it’s important to have your questions right and written down so you don’t forget any, while getting someone else to focus on the answers.

I was here to boast about my Marathon, not to ask questions about her “news”. I could not think of one question about her “news”

After another pause and this one seemed like an eternity, she continues; “Your cancer has returned, has spread and is incurable”, I am sure my mouth was open but there were no words coming out.

I have been trained to read x rays. When I first saw my rectal tumour
on the screen during the colonoscopy in 2011, my main concern was to see images which would show if the tumour had metastasised to my liver or found another hiding place in my anatomy.

“It’s spread to my liver”? I say with an air of confidence, trying to show the consultant, I wanted details and knew my stuff. No! she says.
Shit! Cancer spreading to my brain had always been a huge fear. “Is it in my brain”?.
” No, it’s not in your brain” she says “Its in lymph nodes around the aorta”. I had always assumed lymph nodes could be surgically removed and although serious not necessary terminal, but surgery in this area is too dangerous to perform: surgeons call this anatomical region “Tigerland”; too dangerous for surgeons to go there.

“How many lymph nodes are affected?”. Her answer annoyed me,
“They are not tennis balls”; she says and hands me the CT report to read.
Every organ I would have considered at risk is listed as clear, then the next paragraph leads with the word “unfortunately” and your heart bumps and you get the knot in you stomach.

It was like that moment at the start of “Hunger Games”; when Katnis
and Peter are eagerly seeking survival advice from Hamish; He looked at them with pity; “Embrace the probability of your imminent death and know in your heart, there is absolutely nothing I can do to save you”. So why are you here asks Katnis ? “The Refreshments”! answers Hamish as he takes another slurp from his whiskey!

My cancer had spread to some lymph nodes I had never even heard of, around the aorta and were 15 mm in size. I must have stayed in bed the morning we had the lecture on lymphatic drainage of the pelvis at university.

I did not understand how this could be terminal. Lymph node spread is stage 3 not stage 4. My primary tumour was found in my rectum on the first of April 2011 and had spread to only one lymph node. I was told I was “lucky” it had been caught early. The tumour and a few lymph nodes had been removed and I had received 12 cycles of chemo to prevent cellular spread. And now this medical version of Hamish was not helping me understand, why average life expectancy was only 22 months with more chemotherapy? Definitely not a solution to my problem.

To be fair, the consultant looked young and I suspect she had not played the “grim reaper” to anyone since her school play, and who was I to critic a clinician’s bed side manner after my performance the previous day.

I can’t remember much more about the meeting, I was in shock as I left, how could I have been terminally ill while running that marathon? Then I thought of my patient and how in a strange way she had prepared me for this awful news and had brought my feet back to earth. I began thinking that I am still lucky it’s me and not one of my girls, never mind both of them. Then the phone rang, it was Janette, “how did it go”?
“Not very good. The cancer is back and they say it is incurable, they have given me twenty two months”, say I.

“That’s not funny”, she says in an exasperated tone; “how did it go?”

I start laughing; “It’s true! Twenty two months is all you have to put up with me for”.
“Stop it, you are not funny” she says, “what happened?”
“I told you” and laugh thinking back to the reactions when I told people I had cancer on April Fool’s Day 2011.

“Stop it now, swear on the girls life”? I did and there was a pause at the end of the line. “What are you going to say to the girls?” she asked, who were waiting for me at their grandparents. I said I would wait until you are there and will pick them up after my tennis match.

“You are going to play tennis?” she asked incredulously.

Most of the useful things I have learned about dealing with people and adversity in life, I leaned from competitive team sport, camaraderie, dealing with disappointment, not always getting what you deserve, remaining calm in a crisis. My secondary school was arguably the best Gaelic football school in Ireland in the early 70s, we won the colleges All Ireland in 1973 and were in the final again in 74. Every single day most boys played hurling and football, like our life depended on it. I had a bad temper when I was 11, there is only so many fights you can have with guys, bigger than you and you have to learn to take a hit with dignity although modern soccer seems to encourage the dramatic reaction in children to the smallest injury.

My grandfather Richard Lanigan was a member of the Tipperary team, playing Dublin in Croke Park on Bloody Sunday 1920, his team mate and best friend Mike Hogan was murdered by British soldiers (Black and Tans) during the game along with 12 spectators. The soldiers just opened up on the crowd (Gaelic Football was a Nationalist sport), as retribution for the murder of British spies in Dublin that morning. This atrocity “radicalised” the entire Tipperary football team and was arguable the last straw for Irish nationalists regarding British Rule in Ireland. Grandad knew the value of friendship and loyalty. He often talked about his bond with his teammates who joined the IRA to avenge their friend in the “War of Independence” and how the subsequent Irish Civil War ripped those friendships apart, something that saddened him to his dying day and why I knew friendships and family are my most valuable possessions.

There is no hiding place in individual sports, tennis and golf, require even greater mental strength to succeed. You are usually alone and many of the battles are with ones own self belief and their ability to cope under pressure. Now I was facing the ultimate pressure an individual has to face; death!

Sports commentators speak of a “pressure”; a putt to win the Rider Cup; a Penalty shoot out in the world Cup Final, serving to win Wimbledon. All situations where the athlete is on their own, what I would give for that pressure over the pressure I was now felling after hearing this news. Bill Shankley former manager of Liverpool is often quoted “Football is more important than life or death”, its not, it only seems so in those that are mentally weak and cant cope with the physiological response (fight of flight) that stress causes.

My son Frederick spent his formative years in Denmark and then Norway. He was a big tennis talent, the youngest men’s national tennis champion in Norway aged sixteen. He could have been a top hundred tennis player, unfortunately he did not quiet have that type of insular mentality required for an unforgiving sport like tennis. Mentally, Frederick was more suited to team sport and did well playing professional football for Braatvag in Norway and captaining the team.

While Frederik was playing on the “Futures” tennis circuit, when he was home we would play “handicap” games just hitting (I could not return his service) up to 30 points. I would get five points for each rally I won, he would get one point, he would usually get to 30 first. Then I got it into his head he had never beaten me to zero, he was finished. Even Roger Federer might mis-hit one shot out of 30 rallies, but he would put the miss hit out of his head immediately and focus on the next point, This was hard for Frederik and many professional sports men.

Now Frederik wanted to beat me to zero and with that came pressure. He would get to 20 – 0 and then make a small mistake and I am laughing at the other end of the court. His concentration goes and he makes another mistake and another, after that I won most of our games.

Friends thought I was cruel, I was just teaching him how it is in elite sport and how a small bit of the pressure would affect him in his professional life. After Frederik stopped on the tennis circuit, he beat me a number of times to zero, even though I had become a much better player. Tennis was no longer his career, just fun making the old man run around and he performed way better when pressure was removed.

Being able to deal with pressure is the key to success, in sport business, and relationships. Ask someone to walk along a narrow length of wood on the ground, they will do it easily, put it twenty feet up in the air and the fear of falling becomes a new factor in the challenge and most will fail due to the added pressure.

Now I had the opportunity to show Frederik what I meant by mental strength. I was going to play my tennis match as planned and win. I phoned Frederik in Norway to tell him what the doctor had said; the emotion in his voice got my tears flowing. The Grim reaper had visited Frederiks house the previous year and took his seventeen year old sister and his step father within weeks of each other. His mental strength was much stronger than I had given him credit for and now he was being strong for me. When I was first diagnosed in 2011, some people would get very upset, he knew how uncomfortable crying made me feel, I have rarely felt sorry for myself and the last thing I want is pity, shit happens, people die and you get on with your life and win tennis or tiddlywinks matches.

Arrived at the tennis club, it was a beautiful summers day and everybody was going about their business as normal. You sort of want the world to stop turning to absorb this traumatic news you have had but of course it does not.

I start my warm up, my knees was still creaking a bit from the Marathon in May. I take my warm up very seriously and probably look like Federer until I start playing. My opponent in the tennis had not won one match in the league, and as soon as we started hitting, I could see he was basically shit. I won the toss and proceeded to serve, he got lucky on one mishit return and I won the first game to fifteen and we changed sides, I walked to the other side like a peacock showing off his beautiful feathers, I was probably 20 years older than this guy and I was going to show him no mercy. I got into the ready position to receive his service.

My opponent wound up to serve, he hits the first one limply into the net as I wait for the second in the hot sun, I was consumed with the most horrendous feeling of being cold, that made the hair stand up on the back of my neck, I could see the goose bumps on my arms. A voice spoke to me “You are going to die, you are not not going to see your girls grow up”. I did not notice the second serve land, I saw my opponent move to the other side of the court, shouting fifteen; love.

I was now in this parallel universe which I can only describe like a time I almost drowned as a child in a rip currents in Genoa. In an instance I was swept out to sea, I was a strong swimmer and the harder I fought against it the weaker I became and was starting to go under when the life guard got to me.
My opponents serve made it over the net, but my legs and arms had turned to jelly, my return was out. Thirty love. I wanted to show Frederik how strong I was, but I had nothing, there onj the court I had started to die, this was my future I was just going to disintegrate and there was nothing anybody could do to help me. I lost the set 6 – 1.

At the change over my opponent is feeling really pleased with himself and asks me about the other opponents I had beaten in our league. This was slow torture and I could take no more;
“Can’t play any more”! I say “I have to go”.

Why? he asks, sensing I was about ruin the high point of his tennis career. No doubt expecting some sort of excuse, and not wishing to disappoint him; I blurt out dramatically;

“I have just been told that I only have months left to live and I can’t do this any more. The look on his face was priceless, I was half tempted to continue as I was certain he could not have handled mentally, what he now knew about me. Its such a strange feeling one side of your brain in such turmoil and the other side wanting to take the piss out of this man who I had never met before. But I knew I had cracked and the purpose of me being there was to show Frederik how strong I was mentally and I had failed. We all have our breaking point and I just wanted to go home to be with my girls.

Cancer was now in control of me and the bravado I showed in the first game was temporary. I was believed I was falling apart, the tennis match was a perfect analagy for what was about to happen in my life and the kids were going to see it. I sobbed as I drove to pick up the girls. I was feeling sorry for myself, I could not even beat this guy never mind cancer. As McGreggor would say in Dads Army, ‘I was “doooooomed’. I was pathetic and as often happened in my cancer journey it was my young children who helped me get a grip.

I picked up the girls from Janette’s parents, she had told her parents about “the news”, I could see the sadness in their eyes, there was no need for words. We get into the car and Isabelle who was extremely mature for a ten year old asks; “what did the doctors say”? I have never hidden anything from the kids, death is the end of the cycle of life and it is daft to think you can protect children from it. It’s just unfortunate when they are so young, that they are going to have to deal with it like everybody else. In my opinion, the longer they have to get used to the idea, the easier it will be when the time comes as it will for everyone.

“We will talk about it when mammy comes home”, I say; Like a dog with a bone she won’t let go and repeats the question, I fob her off again and she states: “the cancer is back isn’t it”?. I say wait until mammy gets home we will talk about it then.
She repeats: The cancer is back isnt it”?
“Yes”! say I
“Are you going to die”?

Not much was said for the rest of the journey, this had been on the cards since 2011 and even though I had been given the all clear, cancer never leaves you. We don’t get headaches like everyone else, your first thought is “brain tumour”.

We got home, Molly disappeared, she was in her room crying, not a lot I could say until Janette got home from work. When children are upset you tell them its’ going to be all right but I could not lie; It was not going to be alright. I was going to die and they would have to cope without me and that’s why I left her to it, until she was ready to come down and talk.

I considered the fact, there must be advantages of knowing in advance and 22 months was only an average for an average person, there must be some hope, so I went on the internet to “Medline” and looked up metastasis to periaortic lymh nodes. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing. According to the medical literature in 2013 no one had survived 4 years, I was well and truly fucked. I clung on to one hope, my usual consultant Shelia Rau would be back the following week and would call me, perhaps they had mixed up my scan with someone else’s and she would tell me it was all a mistake.
Every stage of my cancer experience I had documented on FB but now I just did not know what to say. I had given many people hope that you could beat cancer. People would contact me all the time, I was never comfortable with this, I did not want to get too involved in anybody else’s journey, nevertheless it felt good to be put on this pedestal and was not going to be pleasant falling off the height I had placed myself. I was not this unique fearless individual, I was just like everybody else and was going to die a horrible death. I decided only to tell a few close friends for the time being.

The first friend I called was John Costelloe, I had known John since we were 11. In 1969, we shared a dormitory in Gormanston College Secondary School. John became one of Ireland’s leading environmental scientists and he was a minefield of information about cancer, having had radical neck dissection ten years previously, from stage 3 throat cancer. John’s experience taught me that cancer treatment was as much about luck as the competence of the consultant in charge of your care.

John was the toughest man you ever encountered on a football or hurling field and won all Ireland medals at schools, University and inter county minor for Kilkenny.

For five years we trained together at school and I never came out on top of a challenge with him, he was far too quick and far too strong, sometimes he would let me get to the ball first in training so he could batter me and everyone would laugh, I was not blessed with the speed to get away; today “snowflakes” might call it bullying. I believe it was character building, John was daring me to tackle him and in the manner of Robert the Bruce I was up for the challenge.

I would referred to John as “Neanderthal man” and at university he grew this big bushy beard to look the part. Aged 22 John chose to focus on his science career rather than sport. I couldn’t believe it, I wanted so much to have the athletic ability he had and he was not bothered and now committed to saving the planet’s oceans.

The neck surgery he had for his cancer in 2005 had condemned John to a life of constant shoulder and neck pain pain and a dry mouth as radiotherapy had destroyed his saliva glands. When you have had cancer, hearing that it has come back in someone you know is a major blow, as it is a reminder of just how vulnerable we all are to the “Emperor of all Maladies”. John was silent on the line after hearing my news, I said “I am finally going to beat you in a race”, and we laughed; little did we know the race was not over, as as we spoke an aggressive tumour was growing in John’s brain, which would be discovered in twelve months’ time…..

I then called Richard Parkin, ever since I was first diagnosed, I took Richard (a PE teacher) with me for scan results, but not this time, he was his usual stoic self. I am not superstitious but I was kicking myself for not bringing him to the meeting with the consultant, I would never make that mistake again.

Rob Trew a chiropractic colleague made me laugh when we spoke. He tells me how that afternoon, he had lunch with a friend who had just been diagnosed with cancer. He had shared my “inspirational story” and now he would have to call his friend and say; “forget it, it’s a mistake he is going to die after all”. When you hear devastating news, you wonder how you will ever laugh again, the passing of my mother, the original diagnosis and its surprisingly how quickly humans can adapt to heartbreak when they have good people around them.

I called Klaus in Copenhagen another close friend from my time in Denmark who had gone to China with me for the Marathon, more laugher. Recalling his reaction the first time, I went public with my cancer diagnosis 1/4/ 2011, it had not occurred to me that it was April Fools Day. Then recalling the time we drove to Oslo while I was having chemotherapy and farted in the car after we had stopped for a McDonalds. As he opens the windows he roars; “That’s disgusting are you sick or something?”. I dryly responded; “yes, I have cancer”; how we laughed. That was an important moment for me, I had achieved what I had set out to do; I was “living well” with cancer. I was not a victim or at war with cancer, I was living my life normally and my friends did not consider me a victim of the disease.

I skyped my sister Eleanor and she gave me the usual “fuck off with your dying shit” and we had our usual banter. She is two years younger than me, my mother was always begging me to be nice to her and it just was never going to happen, Eleanor was the blotting paper for my black humour and I tormented her and her friends.

As our conversation ended she thought she had disconnected, but I could still see and hear her on my screen. She started weeping. I was deeply moved by this sight, but you would have to understand the relationship I have with Eleanor to appreciate my reaction. I laughed and started taking the piss. Eleanor is trying to pull herself together as she hears my voice again and laughs, like waves splashing the shore one is a cry the next a laugh, the more I took the piss the more we laughed. I go “Mammy said you hated me”; more laughter.

Then I called Ole Wessung the Danish entrepreneur and motivational speaker. It was Ole who came up with the idea of the free bikes you now see in all the major cities across Europe. He spent thousands designing the proto type bike (By Cycklen). I dismissed it as the stupidest idea ever; “everyone in Copenhagen has their own bike, your bikes will just be there for vandals” I told him. He stuck with his plan.

Ole had also gone to China with me to run the marathon on the Great Wall a few months previously, he does Iron man triathlons and promised everyone he would carry me around if I faltered. He tried to be upbeat and had given me all these slogans he would use at his motivational seminars. To be honest they were flying over deaf ears and he knew it. Then he said;

“Do you remember what you said to me at the end of the marathon?”
“You said this was the hardest thing you had ever done in your life”
“Yes it was”
“No it wasn’t; Says Ole;
“That was just the training for what you are about to do now”.
You are such a show off, beating stage 3 cancer was never going to be enough for you and waited until the doctors said there was no hope just to prove them wrong”

It was a nice thought for people attending Ole’s motivational seminars, but do things like that really happen in real life. It brought a smile to my face, but I was fucked. Then again no one gave Muhammad Ali a chance against George Forman in 1974; Arsenal a chance against Liverpool in 89 or Denmark in the 92 Euros.

Richard, Janette and Isabelle at back, Molly on left and Elosie

Janette and I stayed up talking until the early hours trying to formulate a plan. I had an an amazing life and done almost everything I had ever wanted to do so I would not be making a “bucket list”. Cancer made me appreciate the simple things in life like just spending quality time with people you love, some say you dont appreciate life until you have faced death I wanted to create more great memories for the kids so we would have another dream holiday this winter in the US and I set three goals for myself:

September 2015, 24 months away and to take Molly and Isabelle to secondary school
March 21st 2017 my 60th Birthday. 3 and a half years away and approaching miracle territory
September 2017 4 years and a month away; that would be going into miracle territory, no one had lived that long after spread to those lymph nodes. I would need a miracle or some magic potion if I was going to take Eloise to secondary school. I also decided if I was alive on that day I would write a book.

I tried to motivate myself with Hugh Mcllvanney’s words after that iconic moment in sport, when the ageing Muhammad Ali came up against George Forman in 1974. The experts were in no doubt, Ali had “no hope” against the ‘monster” that was World Heavy weight Boxing Champion, George Forman. Mcllvanney wrote after Ali’s win; We should have known that Muhammad Ali would not settle for any ordinary old resurrection. His had to have an additional flourish. So, having rolled away the rock, he hit George Foreman on the head with it.So as Ole said stage 3 cancer was only me rolling the rock back, now I needed to believe that I could smash the big C with it? It would be two months before I would start to feel confident.

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About Richard Lanigan

Born 1957, have 4 children. Was diagnosed with stage three rectal cancer in March 2011.

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