Today is my C day. The marking of a diagnosis precisely nine years ago that turned my life and that of my family upside down.
“I can confirm that you have stomach cancer.”
Wallop. You’ve pretty much known it, of course, from all the symptoms, all the tests. But then you’re staring it straight in the eyes (I always personalised the disease, derided it as a bully that had to be stood up to – in an odd way it seemed to equalise what is so often a one-sided fight). I remember the Gastroenterologist Dr Marcus Harbord’s room, his expression, his words. “Have I got a shot at this?” I asked of my survival chances. “You’ve got a shot.” No false hope, no dressing up the prospects. The battle starts now.
Nine years on and I am ‘still vertical’ as my dear travel retail industry friend Richard Ashworth who sadly succumbed to the same disease used to put it. I shall drink, as I always do on this day, a bottle of Mount Difficulty (Pinot Noir) from my native New Zealand to celebrate survival and remember those like Richard who didn’t make it. On the day of my diagnosis, 9 June 2010, both the provenance and the name of the wine seemed singularly appropriate.
I will toast the memory of men and women such as Richard Ashworth, Duncan Lawley, Ray Martin, Anthony Chalhoub, Paul Pasternak, John Sankey, John Gentzbourger, Marc Gentzbourger, Jeremy Tan, André de Bausset, Jacky Pacquet, Hilde Van Den Eede, Philip Morris, Fraser Dunlop, Jo Raskin, David Lye, Patrick Moran, Lori Watson, Sylvie Fiers and many others, including dearly loved partners and relatives of members of The Moodie Davitt Report team, who lost their respective battles against this foul disease.
As I write from my small Paris hotel room on this special day, I think of all those individuals, many now long since passed, and the help they gave me during the nascent stages of a career that is now in its twilight days. Cancer is not only a bully but an undiscerning one. There is nothing fair about its choices or its impact. Its treatment can often be as harsh as the disease itself. It takes too many, too soon, too horribly.
I have been lucky. I recall the evening of 19 January 2011 that my then 10-year old son Ali creakily played Beethoven’s Ode to Joy to me on his school violin to mark the end of my chemotherapy treatment and the real start of the journey back to some form of normalisation. He has now grown to be a wonderful young man and I have been blessed to watch that happen and all my amazing kids’ lives be shaped. Tonight I will not only savour the Mount Difficulty but remember all those it has claimed.