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Tim's Cancer Story | World Cancer Day

In life, we often come across individuals who demonstrate unwavering strength in the face of challenges. Today, we would like to introduce Tim, one of our Salts Advocates, for World Cancer Day. Tim is not only hugely resilient with an outstanding positive outlook, but also feels passionately about sharing his experiences to inspire and help others who have been through similar events.

This is Tim’s Cancer Story:


How was life before your diagnosis?

For 20 years before my cancer diagnosis, I lived with Ulcerative Colitis. It was a new normal to adjust where I just had to be a bit more ‘careful’ – but life was good!


At what point, leading up to diagnosis, did you think something might be wrong and that there might be something more sinister than your colitis going on? 

I was used to having flare-ups after having lived with Ulcerative Colitis for 20 years. At the start of 2019, I had a flare up that didn’t seem like a usual one, or what I was used to. The flare-up was out of control. I experienced my legs swelling, I had trouble passing water and had rectal bleeding. I knew straight away that something wasn’t right – I knew it was more, but I didn’t want to believe it.

The symptoms were so graphic and my story, like others, is why it’s so important to be aware, listen and feel your body.


What was your experience with your cancer diagnosis?

I first had a catheter fitted to help with the water retention. I then went in for a colonoscopy for them to investigate the ‘flare-up’. After that, I was taken into a little room where people we’re coming and going – but for some reason I hadn’t been seen. It later turned out they were waiting for a nurse to be present for the specialist to deliver the news. They’d said what they had seen in the colonoscopy was enough and that I had advanced bowel cancer.

In my heart of hearts, I always knew it was something bad. So, in that sense, I think the news was harder for my wife, Denise. She was sick straight into one of those hospital cardboard bowls. She was completely shocked by what we’d been told. We we’re given some time to gather our thoughts and then we’re taken out of a side door to exit the hospital. From there, the news got worse before it got better… I was told I had 12 months to live.

Telling the family was extremely difficult, we didn’t let them know about the time I had left as we still weren’t sure if it could be treated or not.


Tell us a little about your surgery & treatment experience.

I went in for my first operation on 15th July 2019 – where they constructed my Ileostomy though it still wasn’t looking good for me. By luck, there were 2 surgeons living relatively close to me who thought they might be able to help save my life. The operation was a total pelvic exenteration which is removal of a lot of parts in that region – I also lost one of my testicles.

“A complete PE involves resection of the distal sigmoid colon, rectum, and anus along with the bladder, seminal vesicles, prostate, and urethra in males” – (National Institutes of Health).

So, I went in for this surgery on 23rd August2019. Ian, one of the surgeons told me that if I didn’t wake up with 2 stoma bags attached to me, it means the operation has failed and I’d be gone by the Christmas. You can imagine the relief I felt when I woke up, moved my hands down my stomach and felt those 2 stoma bags attached to me. I’ve gone from going to work like any other person in January, to be told the devastating news of not having long to live, to then having a glimmer of hope that I might actually have another chance at life here. And here I am, 5 years later, living my life and just receiving the news this week that I am now cancer free.

Throughout all of this, I could not have done it without my Denise. In a strange sort of way, I’m so glad it was me that had the cancer, because I couldn’t have been as strong for Denise as she was for me. It was a joint effort getting through this, she’s my partner and such a massive part of my life. We’d been together for 12 years and never married – as soon as I was well enough – we finally married in the November.


Can you recall the moment you were told you were getting better/going to be okay, and how did it change your outlook on life?

The only way I can describe that feeling, when I felt those 2 bags, it was like having cataract removed and finally being able to see again. My outlook on life completely changed – it was like I had been living my entire life with blinkered vision. I suddenly opened to everything.

There is a very thin line between being here, and not being here. No one is indestructible. I do so many things with a different approach now. Before all this happened, I would have my grandson come to me and ask ‘Can you look at this Gramps’, ‘Can you do this with me Gramps’ and I would always have something more important to do in my workshop – now I drop everything and do it because time is so precious, you can’t get it back.


How is life now and do you do anything different?

This is a funny one, but my first goal when I’d come out of hospital was to walk up to a local park in my little town. It was within walking distance and Denise could get to me easily enough if I needed her. Anyway, there’s lots of squirrels in this park so I took some nuts up to feed them. This then became a routine and played a huge part in my recovery – it gave me something to get up for in the morning. It’s a safe space for me now, you know, during recovery I realised the trees there, and we’re just like trees in the sense that better times are coming. I’m even referred to as the ‘Squirrel man’ which is something I never thought I’d be called.

Small things like my car. I love my car so much and it’s quite fast. My son has asked me, why don’t you drive faster in this car! I just can’t – I’ve been given a second bite of the cherry, and I know how sweet that cherry tastes.


What do you wish more people knew about cancer?

I wish people would just reach out. If you’re going through it, reach out. Cancer is so lonely and there’s a massive amount of people prepared to help you. You’re not frowned upon.

There’s a common thing that men are supposed to ‘man up’ and now show emotions. There’s a worry for men that a lot of other blokes would just laugh at certain conversation topics – but from a man myself, we just need to all help each other and be open. Everybody hurts, everybody feels, and everybody worries. I’ve learnt this lesson through life, because of what I’ve been through, you’re not taught it in school. I’m here to spread this message and what I’ve learnt.

There’s a cancer centre meeting that I attended and they’re now looking for someone to work on it from a male’s perspective and they’ve asked me to do it. It’s because they need someone who more men can relate to and know it’s okay to speak up and talk about it. We’ll see what comes of that but I’m hopeful that it could be the start of something new.


We’d like to say a huge Thank You to Tim for sharing his Cancer Story with us.

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