At the precise time that I write this Blog, exactly three years ago a wonderful surgeon was hard at work performing surely one of the most onerous jobs on the planet, one where the stakes are always, just always, life and death.
That day, 5 October 2010, he was busy leading a complex seven-hour operation on a cancer patient, removing his stomach, spleen and no fewer than 69 lymph nodes.
His name was Mr Aamir Khan (above). His patient was me. Apart from those seven hours, I remember that day better than any other in my life. I remember the insufferably tense delay in the Royal Marsden Hospital reception, awaiting the final call to surgery. I remember the long walk down to the preparation room, the abject feeling of loneliness, of complete and utter isolation. I remember as a grown man wanting my mother, long since passed. I remember thinking that there was not one thing anyone who cared for me could do. It was just me.
I remember being crouched over in the foetal position, half naked, while they tried to find the right spot in my back in which to place the epidural. I remember worrying for a moment, pathetically, more about my fear of needles than what lay ahead.
I remember waking up late in the evening, conscious of where I was but fearing that I had a thrombosis in my left leg, which I could not feel at all. I remember craving a cold beer and a hearty steak. Both would have to wait a while.
Much has happened since that far off October day and evening. But as any member of the cancer survival club will tell you, every subsequent anniversary is a moment for celebration and reflection. Celebration that one is still alive, reflection about those who did not make it. Life is a lottery and the scourge that is cancer still holds most of the tickets.
Once one gets to the five-year mark, one becomes a statistic of sorts in certain studies, which define survival ratios in terms of those who have lived five years or more after initial diagnosis. Just two to go then.
Later this month I will go back to the Royal Marsden. Twice actually. The first time to have my six-monthly check-up, a gladiatorial experience (it can only be thumbs up or thumbs down, there is no middle ground in verdict terms) that one would dearly love to avoid but cannot. And secondly (with Moodie International Switzerland President Jaclyn Wampler) to meet one of the two men who saved my life, oncologist Professor David Cunningham (the other was Mr Khan), and an executive in charge of fund-raising for cancer research at the hospital.
I’m hoping that The Moodie Report Foundation will be able to make a sizeable donation to help this wonderful institution save further lives as they saved mine.
For now, I’ll crack open a fine bottle of Craggy Range Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough in godzone country of New Zealand (kindly given to me during last week’s FAB conference by the great MMI/Emirates Leisure Retail team who run the wonderful Le Clos wine shop at Dubai International Airport. And, how about this, they even engraved it.) and toast turning three for the second time in my life. Then I’ll raise my glass again to so many others who were not so fortunate.