Hello my friends,
I hope you are all enjoying the best of times as the holiday season approaches.
I have some very difficult news to share with you. Last Thursday on the 8th December, I was diagnosed as having cancer. I have been told by my consultant, Dr. E that I have Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL). The good news is that although my illness is not curable, it is treatable and, in the words of Dr. E, it is a disease I will probably die with, rather than of.
Obviously, this has come as a massive shock to me and my family, especially as it is almost ten years to the day that I was originally diagnosed with cancer (Non Hodgkins Lymphoma). In 1995, no one really knew what had happened to me and how I had come to be ‘cured’. Now, with the breaking of the DNA code and the huge leaps in ‘understanding cancer’, that have happened since, I now know far more about my situation. Ten years ago, it seems that my own immune system supressed the cancer and I was able to go into ‘remission’ for ten years. (A ‘good deal’, according to Dr. E!).
Today, modern science has unlocked some of the dark secrets of cancer. The one thing about me that is different today from ten years ago, is that my white blood count is extremely high. A normal reading would be between 5 and 10. My count last Thursday was 482! This was the main indicator for my particular form of cancer – CLL (which is almost exactly the same as Non Hodgkins Lymphoma). The team at my local Hospital / North Wales Cancer Centre have been absolutely amazing. I have received only the best, in terms of treatment, care, reassurance and honesty. Last Friday, they sent me to Ysbyty Gwynedd Hospital in Bangor for a treatment known as Leukapharesis. I was wired up to a machine and my blood was drained off a litre at a time, separated by a centrifugal force and put back into me, minus the white blood. It was a long and arduous procedure lasting over four hours (and not without a considerable amount of discomfort!), but it has brought my white blood count down to 380.
On Monday, I was back at the Cancer Centre to see Dr. E who had arranged for me to have a biopsy under general anaesthetic on Wednesday. The Biopsy is to confirm Dr. E’s diagnosis of CLL and to rule out any other form of cancer such as Mantle Cell Lymphoma. The biopsy was performed by Dr. Z, who successfully removed an enlarged lymph node from my neck. (The other good news is that I was out in time to see Man Utd v Wigan on T.V. that evening!).
At the hospital during the afternoon, I was again visited by Dr. E, who indicated to me that with my cancer being at CLL Stage 1, he feels I should begin a course of chemotherapy starting next Friday the 22nd December. He has also told me, that, subject to my response, he should be able to work the chemotherapy around my desire to perform at The Gathering in January. I am starting out on the mildest form of chemotherapy and providing it is timed correctly, I should be in an ‘up’ part of my cycle and therefore fit enough to perform.
I want to reassure all of you that I will be fighting this fight with every ounce of energy I can muster. I have my wife Jules, and son Dylan beside me and they are reason enough to live for. They have both been incredible. Jules has embarked on a virtual degree course this weekend. She has asked Dr. E a million questions and has searched the web, devouring information to enable us both to deal with the shock of this life-changing situation.
Be reassured, my outlook for the future is still the same as for any healthy person of my age. The only difference is that now I have to learn how to live with cancer. If I respond well to the chemotherapy, I can hopefully put the cancer into remission for another ten years or even longer. That is the only uncertainty, how long will my body keep the cancer at bay before having to start all over again? My immune system will never be the same as it once was. From now on, I have to be vigilant at all times and protect myself against infection. The biggest threat to my life is not from cancer but from infection. A common cold that, if not treated immediately, could turn nasty and become pneumonia. This is the mantra that has been drilled into me by the medical team – to protect myself against illness.
I know all of this will be a massive shock to you but I want you to stay positive and focused. Life is for the living. The Gathering is going to be extremely special this year and ironically, the new album could not be more aptly titled. ‘Under Attack’ has taken on new meaning for me, my family and the band. I believe it is the best album I have ever had the pleasure of recording. Some of the songs came to me on my iPod whilst I was in hospital and they gave me a big lift. I am so looking forward to next year because of the music, you would not believe. I will still be able to make music and perform concerts (although I think it’s safe to say I won’t be traveling abroad until I have got this thing under control and there may be two bald guys in the band come January!!!!!!). I also hope to take a full role in the promotion of the single and album.
At times like this you need your family and friends around you and as you are all part of my family, I aim to keep you as informed as possible. I’ll be running a detailed diary on the website and keep you posted with regular updates. I will be trying to live my life as normally as possible and I have to say that I feel incredibly positive about the future. I will see you all at The Gathering or at a show in the U.K. Until then, keep me in your thoughts, you will be in mine.
Love and life,
December 15th 2005