There’s nothing I like less than being beaten by something. Firstly, as you may well know, I’m an athlete. Losing is just awful. It’s painful. So when I’ve had a blog written, proofread and ready to post for the past week or so, I really don’t like having the point of that blog undermined. You see, if you’d read my last post, you’ll know that I was at a quandary. I needed to decide as to whether I should take preventative chemotherapy for the cancer that had just been cut out or whether to wait and hope it didn’t return. The reason I say that this has all been undermined, sadly, is that the cancer has spread.

Last week, I developed a throbbing backache which I was sure hadn’t come from training. It felt very much like a sack full of sticklebricks was being slowly forced into my left kidney by an impatient child attempting to understand the process of osmosis with a hammer. I knew this wasn’t good as it was the one thing I kept being asked by my oncologist when he was trying to establish how severe my cancer was in the first place. Then over the weekend in a wild gesticulation of storytelling brilliance* (*flapping about excitedly) I skimmed a lump on my neck, just above my shoulder blade. On its own, simply a swollen gland perhaps but I knew this was where a lymph node sat and combined with the backache I resigned myself to the fact that I was probably facing a recurrence. Well I say that, what I actually suggested to my friend at the time was that it was probably the beginnings of the same issue undergone by Richard E Grant in How to Get Ahead in Advertising and that a more straight-talking Leo was ready to burst out of my neck.

So it turns out that there were some little cancer cells kicking around in my system and they’ve decided to find a new home in my lymphatic system and my lungs. I called my Oncologist on Monday and he ordered me straight in to see him followed by a blood test and CT Scan. They all showed that despite being given the all clear only 3 weeks before with only 25% chance of a return, I had already managed to find new homes for the cheeky little chaps. How hospitable of me. So not only am I an able sportsman, musician, artistic, academic – sorry you get the idea – but, as it turns out, I’m also bloody good at cancer.

The more eagle-eyed readers will have spotted that the title of this blog isn’t a macabre spin on my recent attitude towards death or cancer but an anagram of ‘Chemotherapy‘. So now the decision has been made. Or rather it’s been taken away from me. I am due to start 3 doses of ‘VIP chemo‘ next week. This isn’t my final attempt at getting any kind of special treatment but an alternative treatment to the standard ‘BEP’ Chemotherapy that is given to most testicular cancer sufferers. The main reason for this is that, despite the fact it is quite a bit more toxic and has worse side effects, it should leave me with no lung damage which one of the ingredients of ‘BEP’ is prone to. They will each take 21 days and involve an initial 5 days in hospital. During this time I’ll have the three different toxic chemicals pumped into my system before being sent home to let them take hold of my immune system, eradicate most of my protective white blood cells and then allow me a week to recuperate before the cycle starts over. So in total I’ll be ‘in treatment’ for 63 days before I am able to attempt any sort of recovery. It’s an odd feeling. In fact feeling is probably the wrong word. Knowing that the treatment itself will be more troubling than the issue it’s attempting to cure. But I am led to believe it’s extremely effective and I know many people have to endure way worse. I am, however, expecting it to be hellish.

I should quickly return to the part many of you have asked me about since the last post. That being, the results of my super-funstravaganza poll. They are thus:

To all those 'Boobs' out there, you're lucky this was Anonymous.

I can’t say I’m hugely surprised by the results. I think that most people have naturally looked to eradicate the issue immediately, and I didn’t expect anyone to appreciate how much I want to succeed in my sport. Therefore, I had originally decided with my Oncologist that I would take my chances and hope the cancer didn’t recur. Now, for all those smug little smirkingtons out there ready to say “I told you so”, I will add that I’ve since been told that the speed at which the cancer has returned would have meant that the single ‘preventative’ dose would not have been enough. See? I’m THAT good at cancer. So THERE!

Probably the hardest part of this all is the fact that I have to snuff out the flickering embers of hope I had for having any success in my athletics this season and I am having to come to terms with the, now growing, possibility that I won’t get another chance ever. No one knows how badly you’ll be affected by the treatment and how many of the side effects will remain with you, but I have to focus on staying alive first and kicking the living shit out of my sport afterwards. It was pretty heart-breaking to have to put away my athletics kit for the season as early as June, despite the fact I was breaking my personal bests with every outing. I had even just spent almost £500 on new specialist footwear. But I am now even more determined to train harder than I thought possible in order to find the success I am seeking. Many of you may point to Lance Armstrong and the fact he won the Tour de France twice after his surgery and chemotherapy but then he was 25 when that happened. A relative youngster in the sport. And a sport in which it’s possible to continue on later into your 30s given the non-reliance on fast-twitch muscle fibres (the first to lose their effectiveness in age), but I am 32 already. By the time I’m recovered fully (if that happens at all) I’ll be on my way to 34. This is an age almost no athlete, and certainly no Decathlete really continues through, irrespective of a body riddled with cancer.

Anyway, I’ve been alright about it. I’ve started preparing myself by reading up as much as possible. I’ve got my pessimistic expectations on DEFCON 10 so that I am not surprised by how awful it is. Interestingly I have found a huge amount of supportive and detailed information on the Macmillan Cancer website‘s Forum. I was however a little taken aback by one of the threads regarding remedies for particular side effects. Having asked a relatively straight-forward question about what whether there was an effective alternative to avoid the revolting Bonjela for expected sore gums, I got the very sharp reply “For God’s sake just try some, ginger!”. Slightly offended that someone had chosen this forum for name-calling, how could she know, if my profile picture was black and white, that in *SOME LIGHT* my hair has flecks of red (shut up)? The penny finally dropped that the sentence contained an errant comma and that one of the best thing for this ailment is ginger – the root.

So yes, I’m a sore loser. It’s hard-wired into my competitive psyche. When I mentioned what had happened to fellow multi-eventer turned 400m runner, Olympic Medallist Kelly Sotherton her response was that I’d come back lighter and more aerodynamic for my aerobic training. Now I know she’s joking (you were, right Kelly?) but it goes a long way to giving an indication of just how single-minded you need to be. It’s not that as athletes we are in denial, more that there is no room for negativity. There’ll always be others more than happy to provide that. Success requires an unfaltering, bloody-minded, blinkered belligerence. After all, no one else is going to get up and run repeatedly up a snow-covered hill at 9am on a Saturday morning in winter.

To give you an idea of the joys we athletes endure, this past year I ran so hard that on the final ‘rep’ of my session, I reached the top and threw up a pile of virtually undigested Cheerios. So far, so standard for those of us used to heavy lactic training in winter. What I wasn’t expecting was a passing walker to lose control of her Yorkshire Terrier who circled me a few times before diving in and lapping up said breakfast with glee. On its own, already quite the image. Imagine then when you are feeling as ill as I already was how this might appear to someone hunched over, gasping for air only inches away from the feverish inhalation of sloppy cereal and bile. This scene only improves when I tell you that it only resulted in me somehow finding a little more inside and ejecting another bilious, biscuity cocktail all over the little cretin’s back. Seeing the owner’s horrified face was about the only time I managed a smile that day.

So you’ll appreciate  that what drives me in training will also drive me through this. I didn’t like being beaten to the last blog post by my this latest recurrence. I don’t like being beaten in sport. But I certainly won’t be beaten by the cancer.

Now, where’s that ginger…