Thursday, 14 March 2019

This couldn’t happen to me, I’m invincible! - by Stuart Brown

I’d spent my first 30 years of life, as many do, with a sense of invincibility which I’ve since learned is really something to be treasured. At 27, I’d met the girl of my dreams, travelled all around Australia with her for 5 months, returned to the UK and bought a house together and we both got good jobs. Life was amazing during that time. I’d popped the question and we were doing up our new house and planning our wedding and honeymoon.

we were married in the June, we had an incredible adventure ahead of us.....

The year was 2006, we were married in the June, we had an incredible adventure in Malaysia for a honeymoon and I’d saved enough money to take my new wife to Barcelona as a treat for her 30th birthday in September. Whilst out there, enjoying the sights, tastes and culture of the city, we both agreed this time of our life was simply perfect. However, on our last evening there, my wife, who we joke about having a bit of sixth sense, suddenly broke down in tears but she couldn’t explain why. All she could do to explain it was that it just felt like an incredible sadness. It was completely out of the blue, and it left us both feeling something on the horizon wasn’t right.

We’d decided it was time to start a family but after 4 months of trying we didn’t have any success. One weekend, I was invited to play a round of golf with a mate of mine and half way round we got talking about another mate of ours who had been diagnosed with testicular cancer in his late 30s after a year of tests trying to work out why he and his partner couldn’t conceive. It sparked me into action – the events in Barcelona were still heavy in my mind and I was starting to have a real feeling that “perhaps someone is trying to tell me something here”.

I got home and felt compelled to do a self-check. I looked up on line what you’re supposed to feel and after a few minutes of feeling all sorts of things down there, I was pretty sure I could feel a small ball bearing type lump on my right testicle. The colour drained from my face as I panicked about what it might be – this couldn’t happen to me, I’m invincible….

I plucked up the courage to share my feelings and fear with my wife and we both agreed I’d make an appointment with the doctor straight away. On the day of the appointment, I was so nervous and uncomfortable that I shrivelled up like a prune and it was impossible for the doctor to feel what I was feeling. As a precaution he put me on some antibiotics but after that didn’t remove the lump, he sent me for an ultra sound at Frimley Park Hospital.

Another uncomfortable and nervous wait followed that test but I knew something was wrong from the face of the Urologist doing the test. He looked concerned and my fear was confirmed a day later when I was asked to come in to talk to him about the results.

“I’m sorry to say but you have cancer”

The words “I’m sorry to say but you have cancer” are as bad as people say. You panic, you think inevitable doom and you stop listening to anything they are saying. My wife broke down but I just sat there in disbelief and shock. I was diagnosed with a Stage 1, Seminoma (which is a type of testicular cancer). 80% of my testicle was now a cancerous tumour and I would need an orchiectomy (removal of the testicle) and then some chemotherapy as they were worried that it had spread to some nodes in my abdomen. We went home, we cried, we spoke to family and our amazing new world collapsed.

Image result for NHS

Click on this link for infomration on Testicular Cancer &how to check yourself. 


The next day, the Urologist rang and said that they had a cancellation and that they could operate on me the next morning. To be honest, the fear of having the operation and losing some of my man hood, wasn’t there. I just wanted this horrible cancer removed from my body and as quickly as possible. I was grateful to the Urologist team for finding some time for me as I know some have to suffer weeks of uncertainty whilst they wait for an operation. I can tell you, you just want the thing out as soon as possible.

Image result for Why?

The first few weeks post operation were about recovery and getting my body ready for chemotherapy. There was laughter in between the quiet moments alone where I would cry a lot and get very angry with life. Why me? Was it that our life was too perfect before and I needed to be brought down to earth a bit? These thoughts are irrational and superstitious but very real. On a more positive note, most of my scruples about my body had disappeared, along with any dignity I ever had! I had to freeze my sperm as I was likely to be sterile after chemo and that meant lots of embarrassing trips to Guildford Hospital to “do the deed”.

I recovered pretty quickly from the operation and so when chemo came along a month after my operation, I had got myself mentally ready to get myself through it. It was as people say, pretty awful. It wasn’t a particularly nasty type but it left me feeling like I had the flu and all I could taste was metal for weeks. My mum sent me some mental wellbeing cd’s which I would play to chill me out and stop me from thinking too much of impending doom and panicking about it. The big question was what were these nodes in my abdomen? Had it spread there?

My heart sank...

After 3 weeks, the Urologist called me and gave me the sad news that they were sufficiently worried about my abdomen that they wanted to give me another dose of chemo. My heart sank, it had been hard enough and now they wanted to do it all over again. I was inspired though by reading other people’s stories who had gone through far worse and thought if they can do it, then I can too.

I was determined to get through that and to “live”

That afternoon, my wife had been keeping a little secret from me about “being a few days late”. She had bought a pregnancy test and we sat and waited for the result. When it showed “positive”, we simply couldn’t believe it - it was like an amazing weight had been lifted. We’d literally had a small window of opportunity to fall pregnant between the orchiectomy and chemo starting and by a miracle my trusty remaining testicle had come up trumps! I no longer cared about the upcoming second round of chemo, I was determined to get through that and to “live” for my new son or daughter.  

man sitting in front of table with sliced citrus fruitThat second round was tough but at the end of it, the result of my CT scan showed that those nodes in my abdomen were just “me” and that my bloods showed no cancer present. I was so relieved but despite that I knew the cancer had taken an effect on my mental health. I went on doing the “bloke” thing and denying it for months and months. It was ”manageable” until I nearly lost my wife and son in child birth. I couldn’t believe, after everything we’d been through, and the miracle of his creation, that that would be the outcome. It was a close shave and, whilst relieved, I was now getting increasingly angry, especially as my cancer testing went on intensively for years after my initial diagnosis.

My anger used to peak before a blood test or CT scan which was 3 to 4 times a year. I would panic, irrationally, thinking that the cancer would return. My wife also suffered, notably with post-natal depression after the traumatic birth of our son Harry so life was tough, and I was struggling to cope.

I was not a nice person to be around when I had these dark thoughts

I don’t know what sparked me to ask for help – I think I recognised that I was not a nice person to be around when I had these dark thoughts and that they were increasing to the point I was worried about the outcome of leaving it be. I went to the GP and he got me some counselling. At first I thought it was waste of time and that it wasn’t giving me the answers I needed to my anger and frustration. I was really confused about my faith in God – He had been my rock during chemo but had also left me feeling guilty about not going to Church (I never have really, my faith is more spiritual) but in my mind it was almost like a “I helped you so you now need to come and worship me”. I was scared that if I didn’t, my cancer would return.

“Stuart, sh*t happens, deal with it. Take control of your guilt, enjoy what you have and get on with your life”

Eventually the counsellor just said “Stuart, sh*t happens, deal with it. Take control of your guilt, enjoy what you have and get on with your life”. It was the shakeup I needed – 12 years on, I still have the odd dark moment, as people do, but I’ve learnt to deal with it better. I do feel vulnerable but no more than any other 42 year old and my trusty left testicle even managed to produce another bouncing boy so I’m now running around after both my sons. Life is a journey, I’m sure there’ll be more hurdles, but at least I live in the hope that I can pull myself out of those dark places by opening up to my friends and family and seeking help when I need it.

By Stuart Brown

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Comfortably Numb - by Mike Stevenson

I remember waking on New Years Day 2012 with a level of excitement that I’d not known for years simply because finally, it was our turn to host the Olympics, something I’d been hoping for and dreaming of since I watched my first Olympics on a black and white TV in 1968.  That may be a very shallow sounding introduction to my experience of depression but it goes some way to showing the kind of man I used to be, full of hope, excitable, impulsive, emotional, you get the picture….

Gamesmaker at London 2012

I suppose really there are two ways to look at what happened next, there is the way that I remember and the way that my lovely wife, Sue remembers.  Sue is a far more reliable witness than me so in reading this, even I would give more credibility to her version of events than my own.  You see, the big difference is that Sue said she saw my depression or some big emotional crash coming a mile off but in my version it happened almost overnight.  I’d been chosen to be a Gamesmaker at London 2012, that’s really just a helper but they trained us and gave us a uniform and they put me in charge of herding a press posse around.  As with most things in life, I threw myself into it, heart and soul, determined that I’d do my best to show off London and our amazing country in the best possible light.  There is a danger with that kind of behaviour though because when the party’s over, it leaves a vacuum that needs to be filled with something just as good or you have to go through a big low.  It’s a similar kind of feeling to coming back from a really good holiday or, as I’m also told by a former addict, the downer when the drug starts to wear off.  So Sue saw all this and knew it was bound to happen.  I should have said at the outset that I’m not going to give you all the gory details, there’s too much hurt, bitterness, regret, resentment, sorrow, anger and tears that runs like a ribbon through the whole saga but for now let’s just leave it how Sue saw it.

For my part, I remember waking up one day in 2013 and just not being able to function, I couldn’t think straight anymore, I was tired, I was angry with the people I worked for, I was disillusioned with the church I attended and decided that life was just too difficult.  Some years previously, I had worked in occupational health and I remember one of our doctors telling me about his pint pot theory, it goes something like this: Imagine your life is a pint pot, we fill it with all kinds of things including family, leisure, work, plans, ambitions, travel, worries of all kinds, caring for others, friends and the list goes on.  Eventually, for some people, the pint pot overflows, we try and fit so much in that we reach the point where nothing else will go in and we find ourselves unable to cope with life.  The first reaction in most cases is to blame work and the thought process goes that by staying away from work, the pint pot will be less full and then coping would be easier.  This made so much sense to me through the fog of confusion that used to be my brain that it became the option I chose.

 I’m not and never was religious

I realised of course that something wasn’t right, just a few days earlier, I’d stood up in my church and promised to stand up for the people in the church who found life a struggle, for those who had a battle to fight but had no allies, for the poor and for the weak.  I went further, I asked other men to join me and we stood with our arms around each others shoulders like an international rugby team singing their national anthem and knew that together we were strong enough to take on the world.  I’m not sure who’s going to read this, if you are a person with no faith, you probably haven’t even got this far, you may have uttered ‘religious nutter’ as you hit the back button but if you have got this far, don’t give up just yet.  I’m not and never was religious, I do have a faith but during my depression it was as meaningless to me as the dust under the chair I’m looking at as I type this.  My faith was at the point where I couldn’t believe that I used to believe in anything at all and anyone that believed in anything was to be both scorned and pitied.  It should now be said for those of you that do have a faith, that I was of course locked in a battle for my soul but I didn’t care who won or who was fighting for me.  I didn’t want friends, if they came to the door, I pretended I was out, I wanted to see nobody, I wanted to be invisible but more than that, I just didn’t want to carry on.

Staying off work didn’t do me a lot of good, it wasn’t the silver bullet I was hoping it might be and the more I thought about it, a bullet seemed like a good idea or maybe a rope….
I made two vows to myself after admitting to myself that something wasn’t right, firstly, I would make sure that I got out of bed every day and secondly I would wash and dress.  Having fulfilled these two promises I could then get on with just existing in the black hole that closed in around me more and more each day.  I used to be a passionate kind of guy, I’d laugh easily, crack jokes, cry at sad movies, and always encourage those around me to be the best that they could be but that man had disappeared somewhere, dead, buried and forgotten.  Hope had gone, there was no future and I despised the present and refused to believe I’d had a past.  I was living in each moment and each moment was black and empty.

I felt like laughing out loud, low mood?? Low mood??

Because somewhere deep inside I knew that my wife loved me, I went along with her advice and saw a doctor, Sue came with me because I wasn’t taking anything in and I would have interpreted whatever the doc said to my own ends anyway.  Having done the test (the name of which escapes me but I think it was either Zung, Hamilton or Beck), I was diagnosed with Low Mood.  For the first time in weeks I felt like laughing out loud, low mood?? Low mood??  What kind of nondescript, banal, irrelevant diagnosis was that? I didn’t have a ‘mood’ condition, I was suicidal and even if it was a mood thing it wasn’t low it was in the bottom of a bottomless pit.  If it’s possible to heap despair upon despair then that diagnosis did it and I was prescribed with anti-depressants and recommended for a course in cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), not to be confused with the motor bike test.  To this day, I’m not sure if the drugs did any good and eventually I took myself off them with no side effects and no noticeable change of mood.  The CBT however was a different story, at least the second round where I had one to one sessions with a psychotherapist was but firstly I had to go to a group session.  I hated it and walked out before the first session finished, the second session was no better and I vowed not to go back.  Questions like ‘how do you feel?’ have no relevance when you have no feelings and when I was asked how I would feel if I knew that my friends were avoiding me my answer was ‘total relief’.  Apparently I was supposed to be distraught and have a desire to change but the truth is that I couldn’t give a damn.

On a daily basis, suicide was at the forefront of my mind

On a daily basis, suicide was at the forefront of my mind and I looked up scores of references to ‘painless suicide’, it would seem that I wasn’t as far gone that I was willing to endure suffering to rid myself of the blackness.  One thing that I learned is that there is no such thing as painless suicide, someone always feel pain even if it’s not the person who takes their own life.  Someone has to find the body, friends and relatives will grieve and question themselves, colleagues will ask why they didn’t do more and the list goes on.  Having decided that I’d rather die anyway I chose my tree on my regular dog walk and kept the rope in the boot of the car.  It went much further than that but even now I can’t go back and relate it without it setting me back and I owe it to a lot of people not to do that.  I was asked if writing my thoughts is a cathartic process and the answer is a very assertive ‘NO’.  It doesn’t help me at all and it takes me back to the time when when my whole personality changed not temporarily but for good.  I am not the man I was in so many ways, I can enjoy things now and I have rediscovered what love is but the intense highs and lows of life are gone, whereas my life during my depression was in black and white it is now best described as three of the seven colours of the rainbow, the red and orange are missing at the beginning and the indo and violet are gone from the end.  I was reminded recently that every photo that I took during my depression was in black and white, that was never a conscious decision but it says something about what I was seeing at that time.

So the good news?

So the good news? Yes there is some!  I’m still alive and I can enjoy lots of things in life, I’m learning new skills and have gone back to work full time after retirement age but to be honest, part of that is because I don’t want to be alone with my thoughts.  I love spending time with Sue and we make each other laugh out loud every day.  We’ve both learned to sail and will be cruising around the Ionian later this year, I’m conscious that there are lots of ropes on a boat but I’m past those thoughts now.

I’m only here because people loved me through my illness....

I’m only here because people loved me through my illness and the NHS gave me someone who really understood what was needed to take me apart and put the pieces back in the right order, I’ll admit that a couple of the pieces may have been kicked under the table but there is a passing resemblance to the old Mike still breathing and occasionally still hopeful for a full recovery.  If you’re reading this and are going through that long black tunnel, my words might have little meaning but please put two minute aside every day to think about what you might do when you get better.  Ask for help from the NHS, the one to one thing worked for me and there are some amazing people whose whole life is dedicated to getting you thinking about who you used to be or better still, who you can be.

Oh, and the title, Comfortably Numb?

Oh, and the title, Comfortably Numb?  A song by Pink Floyd and the two words I used to say when people asked me how I was feeling.  I found that they didn’t bother me any more after that reply.

By Mike Stevenson

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Tuesday, 5 March 2019

Rejection and fighting back - by Anonymous

Rejection can come from relationships, family, friends, work, religion etc.
As a musical theatre performer, I deal with rejection on a daily basis. Rejection is a part of my day to day life, you could say rejection is a close friend to me, I see him often, sometimes when I don't want to see him and sometimes I welcome him in with open arms (strange I know). 
Rejection is a part of my job
grayscale photo of man holding his arm
Now rejection is a part of my job and that’s something I’ve had to get used too. I go to auditions for big west end shows weekly and will give it everything in a routine, my body dripping with sweat and extremely fatigued. Fighting against another 30 boys in the room for maybe one job, to be told “Thanks, that’s all we need for today”. It’s tough.

Going on to a personal level, I have felt rejection from relationships that broke me so much it changed my view of life and how I saw the world which is pretty intense, sometimes the world can be a dark place and when you find that, that one special person also doesn’t want you… its damaging.

I am a proud man of faith and hold it close to my heart but even in a place I call safe it has shown rejection. Being a gay man and a man of faith isn’t exactly idealistic in the eyes of the church and with many evangelists around the world proclaiming that all gays will burn in the flames of hell, well, you could say that’s a slap of rejection from a community that claim to love and accept all. This is not to say I feel rejection from God/Christ himself this is a strict view on some of the community members of some churches worldwide. 

Let’s get real here

So, after venting my guts up about my previous rejections. I want to make one thing clear…

The definition of Rejection according to Google is: 

"the dismissing or refusing of a proposal, idea, etc.”

The idea of dismissing an idea or closing a door as such has always taught me that ( and I know its super cliché ) when one door closes another door opens. I have found that rejection not only has made my skin so tough that a spear couldn’t break through these dragons’ scales but that I am ready to face my next challenge in this world and can feel myself become stronger and stronger each day.  

Rejection isn't a closing of an opportunity and I can tell you right now, hand on heart… each rejection has a lesson, a new opportunity or a gift to be given. It is not the end, it is never the end. It’s the beginning of something.

Going back to each of my previous vents… here is the outcome of each of those rejections..

  • I was rejected from a UK Tour of my dream musical show because I was told I was “Too Skinny” - I am now in the best shape possible and have just finished being a part of the Original Cast of Hairspray for Royal Caribbean.
  • I was rejected from a partner who told me “I was too emotional and dramatic” - I am now talking to a decent person who accepts my over thinking and have good hopes for the future.
  • A Christian couple told me that I must renounce my homosexuality to be closer to God - I am now learning so much about God and my faith that I can accept myself without feeling condemned by the words of imperfect people.
Everyone is scientifically, individually, emotionally and physically unique 

These are just a few examples of how rejection has an opportunity for great things in my life and I urge you to keep pushing through the “No’s”. Everyone is scientifically, individually, emotionally and physically unique and we are given these opportunities each day, take each opportunity, don’t live in fear of failure. Failure is a necessary tool and a mandatory requirement for strength and success.

Push through, Be kind to others and Be kind to yourself.

By Anonymous 


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Wednesday, 27 February 2019

When the rug got pulled out from under me - by Anonymous

I was asked by a friend to write something about my life, I didn’t really know why they were interested. I’ve been through a divorce, with kids involved, I struggled with it, I got through it, why does anyone want to know about my struggles? But my friend was insistent. What I’ve written is a personal account of what I felt at the time, if you ask the others involved you’d likely get a different perspective, but this is my story as I lived it and the struggle I had.

I was married to a wife I loved, we had two young boys whom we loved.

I was married to a wife I loved, we had two young boys whom we loved. I had secure a job, it paid okay, I sort of enjoyed it, as a result we just about had enough money to live on, a mortgage but no other debts. I was doing okay, I was providing for my family. My wife and I would argue, we weren’t as close, nor physical as we’d been before the kids were born, there were problems and tensions between us, but I guessed that’s what happens in marriages, it would get better, I was doing okay. From the outside it probably looked good, if you’d have asked me I’d have said it was good.

the veneer of ‘truth’ was stripped away

Then the rug got pulled out from under me and the veneer of ‘truth’ was stripped away. My wife wanted to separate, wanted a divorce. All the emotions and practicalities overwhelmed me, I’d failed, I was no good, I hadn’t done okay. I felt numb. And that was just the first night.

Over the next weeks the numbness was penetrated by the practicalities and pain; I was going to have to leave the house that I was paying for, where would I live? I would have to leave behind the boys I was raising, I had to admit I’d failed, the world would see I had been living a lie, I couldn’t sort this out.And then the real hurt kicked in. My wife admitted to seeing another man, he was providing what she needed (although I was still paying the mortgage and putting the kids to bed most nights), that made me feel I really wasn’t any good, I was useless, I’d been cast aside.

My life was now a complete train wreck, and I HURT

Suicide now there’s an option, that would stop the hurt, the pain, the shame, it was a way out. But no, words from a young boy, “Daddy I don’t like it when you cry, I love you”, that young boy, who had no idea what was going on in my head at that moment in time, he silenced that call to the “way out”. But the hurt and pain and hopelessness were still there. And to top it off we were now in debt, my wife admitted to over spending on ‘things’. My life was now a complete train wreck, and I HURT.

At some point I was asked by a bloke I knew, but not well, if I’d like to go to the pub, told him I couldn’t afford it, I didn’t have any money. No problem I’m buying he said. It didn’t feel right, I didn’t want to owe anyone anything else, but he insisted, I went. We talked, not relationships or divorce or infidelity, the talk didn’t judge me or point out my weaknesses or what I should be doing, we talked rubbish, we talked about stupid stuff, bloke stuff, favourite film stuff, we laughed, yes I laughed and I felt normal for 90 minutes, the serious talk would come later, I felt like a human being. Stuart I will always love you for that, it was a step back from the edge.

Christmas was crap, I hadn’t moved out, why should I, it wasn’t my idea to separate, I wasn’t the one who wanted a different life, why should I give it up so she could fulfil a dream? She moved out and in with her new man.

Stuart continued to be an oasis of normality, talking rubbish and having a beer, I was still numb, hurt and without hope.

I was still numb, hurt and without hope.

I remember going food shopping with my sons in tow, being practical, putting a brave face on it and getting on with life. One of the boys accidently lost a toy behind some shelving, we couldn’t get to it, I couldn’t get his toy back, it was a tiny thing, but it was such a massive thing, the hurt and upset in his face, that fact I couldn’t make it better, I was still failing, I wanted to walkout, scream shout, cry, I hurt! The boys cried, they hurt, I was failing.

Somehow I got through the checkout paid for the food and drove to Stuart’s house, banged on the door, I was desperate. I let out all the hurt, all the pain, he listened, he put his arm around me and held me, shit this isn’t what blokes do, but it should be, having someone there to talk to, to open up too. And that wasn’t the only time. I wish I hadn’t of left it until I was so raw, so hurt before I cried out for help but I thank God there was someone there to cry out to when I did.

I found my faith

Seemingly all at the same time I found my faith in Christ and other people got involved in supporting me, I started to feel hope. With their insight and the peace that my new faith bought, I came to realise I couldn’t fix it, I couldn’t get ‘that’ life back and that gave me hope. I needed to head somewhere else so that’s what I tentatively started to fight for. I got knocked back, I was still hurting, still raw, I couldn’t do it on my own, I still needed support.

Time went on, wife moved back in, I hoped briefly it was to see if the relationship might work again… but no, perhaps a solicitor had pointed out she had very little ‘rights’ if no longer in the family home, it was another kick in the guts. So the custody battle commenced, who got the house, the kids. I got more pain and hurt, with a large side of hate and anger that grew and grew. But I vowed to myself never in front of the boys, never would I try to turn them against their mum, they still needed her. The injustice started, the cards seemed to be stacked against me, I wasn’t going to be allowed to look after my own kids!

It took 18 months and eventually I moved out of the ‘family home‘ into a house which I never thought I’d be able to afford, I had to leave the boys behind, but only for 10 days out of 14. And all the time I had blokes I could talk too, without them I wouldn’t have made it.

And all the time I had blokes I could talk too, without them I wouldn’t have made it. 

And maybe that’s what my friend wanted me to see, that I did get through it. It took time, it took effort, it took support, it took talking and friends and tears and a hug or two, it took me outside of my comfort zone, outside of what men normally do with their emotions. I didn’t grow a pair, I broke down, I had to ask for help. But in doing so I got hope back, I got a life back. By talking to one bloke I was able to lay the tracks for a new life, one in which I’m happy, content. I have a new partner who makes me happy and I know she feels the same way about me - well at least some of the time. I have two sons I see regularly and who bless me with what they are now achieving, I’m proud of them.


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Friday, 15 February 2019

Living with Parkinson’s Disease - by Matt Bourne

It was as I walked across a field near Lingfield Park Racecourse that I shook my hands to dry them, that I felt my left arm was not right, it felt kind of heavier, not shaking the like the right one. So I decided to see my GP when I got home as the trapped nerve was bugging me. It was not a surprise to me that my shoulder might be wonky, I had made my share of hits in rugby as the smallest forward in a small pack.
So about a week later I was at the doctors seeing a Locum Dr. I walked in to see her, told her about my arm feeling weird and mentioned I it shook a bit after a game. The Dr did a reflex test and a couple of other things, then she said “I am sorry, but I think you have Parkinson’s  Disease”. I was shocked and despite my efforts to be strong, I burst into tears. How could I a 30-year-old super fit, just married man have an old person’s illness?  The rest of the time with the GP is hazy. She told me she used to work with PD sufferers, so knew the symptoms and she knew who was best in her opinion to see me at hospital. This instant diagnosis was actually very good as I now know many sufferers for whom it took many years of no diagnosis. So I was lucky.

How could I, a 30 year old super fit just married man have an old person’s illness?

I went home and decided I would not tell my wife until it was confirmed I was scared how it would affect us both and the fear of being somehow weak and it being my  fault…this plan lasted about 2 minutes before I cracked and told Suzie. After lots of tears and a trip into the world of medical websites we decided to not tell anyone other our parents and brother and sister, until the diagnosis was confirmed. This confirmation it done by elimination as the only way to confirm PD is by brain autopsy, a thing I was very much against trying. 

It took a year during which time  I played some of my most enjoyable rugby knowing it would my last season I realised I was being affected by PD as I was after the 1st league game  where I subbed and unfortunately was not in a good frame of mind when I came on as a replacement  with 20 minutes to go and was sin binned with 10 minutes to go and lucky to have been binned not red carded. My last game was a nonleague game for a mixed 1st and 2nd team squad again I was lucky as this gave me a chance  to play with my 4 best mates at the club one last time.

I also decided after my diagnosis that I would keep my condition from most people just family to know but how to tell them. I told my brother first and as usual he was great a mix of common sense and compassion in a way only he can do. Telling ny mum and dad was horrible in my head but so good once done. The love I got from my family is still as strong as ever and gives me the will to remain positive and determined to keep on doing as much as I can. The story is the same where Suzies parents and sister are concerned, I am so lucky.

“S### happens”

Telling work and friends was hard to so I kept it for a long time, I had a cryptic chat with my boss just saying I was dealing with a large issue so if I lost it then I had a good reason.  My closest friends I told Michelle (known as Dave) was so disappointed that I was not having a baby that she really made me think on that. I have found friends reactions varied, Adam just asked “are you going to die?” Nick shrugged and said “S### happens”. But some friends seem to have found it hard to accept the change in me from  action man to sluggish man. But the great majority just treat me as normal.

The response was “Nah we’ll just shout run Forrest run”

Why was I afraid to tell people? With hindsight it was daft but at the time I feared that telling people somehow weakened me and that they would treat me differently. To my friends, probably only in my head only I was the rough and tough rugby player who they looked to when they needed help or there was trouble. I certainly defended my friends when they needed it. Now I would not be that person. Of course, they treat me differently, yet the same humour and friendship still underpins the  friendships. For example, I went to see a game at the Madstad at a time when I was suffering from a festigant gait basically I would walk faster and faster until I either ran into something or I fell over. I thought best I warn Pete and Nick and ask if they could just get  in front of me and slowdown as  a brake.  The response was “Nah we’ll just shout run Forrest run”

I do go to some dark places, but I know the best thing to do is talk with someone…

Since the diagnosis over 15 years have passed  I am no longer working which gives the ability to manage my day to get the best out of it plus do things I ned to slow down the progress  yoga  and table tennis are my two-exercise program and I am definitely a better more understanding person than I would have been without PD. I do go to some dark places, but I know the best thing to do is talk with someone  it always amazes me that when I vocalise a problem it always seems to shrink.

Matt Bourne

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Friday, 8 February 2019

A place of no hope! - by Graham Foxwell

This picture may seem blank to you…..

But actually it's not!

It is a picture of a dark place, a pit of despair, a place of pain, a place of no light..... a place of no hope!

Back in early beautiful youngest daughter was critically ill in hospital, fighting for her life.

She spent the best part of 5 years in several hospitals, some of which were 30-40 miles away from where we live. And at other times when she was at home, we cared for her 24hrs day 7 days a week. There were many times we thought we were going to lose her.

Also during these 5 years, my eldest daughter went through a very difficult and toxic divorce. 

The company I worked for, were making redundancies, and my department was earmarked as ‘at risk’! 

My Dad was in and out of hospital with dementia, and both my wife’s Mum and Dad had a major helath scares.

I had a car accident miles from home; writing off my car and sustaining concussion from a head injury.

The Youth organisation I’d built up with colleagues over several years closed; because I was unable to put the time in to run it, and no one else was in a position to take over.

My relationship between my wife and I was put under great pressure and we found it difficult to support, care and love each other.

It was at this point when my capacity to cope and deal with all of this was lost; and I had a complete breakdown, losing touch with reality and the world around me. I shrunk back into my cave.... a pit of despare, unable to communicate or move.

You could say then, life during this period was….

pretty dark, desperate and without HOPE.

I’m sure some of you will be able to relate to this next bit too. 

But as you heard in that description, the painful events going on around me, exceeded my ability to cope. And many times, when I could take no more, and I saw what I thought was a light at the end of the tunnel?! ....It wasn’t.

It turned out to be to be a freight train coming in the opposite direction; it ran into me, knocking me of my feet, bouldering me over and over again, pushing me further and further back into this deep, dark tunnel that I found myself in.

The guilt, the blame and feelings failure where a times too much.

I never knew there could be such pain from the anxiety and the hopelessness I felt.

I am not exaggerating when I say, at times I thought my heart was going to burst out of my chest with the pain, and I thought I was going to die.

I sunk deper and deper into a black pit of depression.

I tried in vain to get myself out of this pit; but It felt like depression stood over me like an angry fighter, who had already knocked me down many, many times. And it would whisper in my ear

don’t you dare try getting up, I will just knock you down again and again and again!

My hope seemed to be slipping away.

I remember saying to someone,

how can there be hope, when clearly there is none?

You may be desperately seeking escape from, low self-esteem, a broken marriage, depression, anger, addiction, bullying, money problems, workplace problems……the list goes on.

Perhaps you’ve been suffering for months, years, or even decades; waiting for someone to pick you up, dust you off and say, "it's going to be ok".

Well; if you are in this place, or somewhere like it, I can tell you from experience……

There is hope to be found.

When we understand that the circumstances we find ourselves in may not change and we cling to hope, we then start to believe and experience life better.

We then let go of a desire to be safe and trouble free. And It is then that hope sets in and healing starts.

A great philosopher called Epictetus once said….

When we let go of the stuff causing us pain; the emotional, physical, and mental stuff.  Well-being begins to take over.

We then begin to have, peace, joy and calm in our lives…..

We find our happy place…..

Love makes a re-appearance, and you learn to love yourself……

We start to get back our patience, kindness and goodness……

We feel secure, composed and in control of our lives……

We have hope.

So, Back to my story….

Through years of pain, tears, anger, desperation and some very dark thoughts of running away and taking my own life.

I learnt to cling to the hope that was my faith and belief in a great power then my own strength. You may find hope elsewhere, but through my faith I was then able to climb out of the pit of despair I found myself in and embraced that hope.

Today, my daughter is stands restored from her illness. She is now married to a wonderful young man who had stuck by her though all of her illness. She has two beautiful daughters and a son of her own; which is miracle in itself, because the doctors said, that if she did survive this illness, she would be unlikely to be able have children. For the last few years she has been working with young people in a local youth organisation helping them with their challenging lives.

My eldest daughter is now re-married to a wonderful man and they too have a beautiful daughter and son. she is working as an oncology nurse in the local hospital. 

My dad seemed to gain a new sense of life and a partial healing from the dementia, right up to when he passed away a few years ago.

And my wife’s parents are doing pretty well too.

I know I am very lucky, and things don’t always turn out this well. And sometimes you cannot see that light at the end of tunnel because everything is so dark. 

But please understand me and believe me when I say, this is not the end for you, this is not the rest of your life, it will not always be this way…..

There is hope to be found.

Thank you for reading this and I hope you found it useful.  If you want to know more, please get in touch through the Man Shed website 


You can get in touch via the website  

welcome! Please feel free to make comments and ask questions here. All comments will be verified by The Man Shed (TMS) before they are posted. Please keep your comments clean. Those which fail our house rules may be removed. If you see a post that is inappropriate, alert us by using the "Report Abuse" link and we will act accordingly.