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Authors: Chris Geiger

Tags: #Cancer, #Coping with illness, #survival stories, #inspirational, #uplifting, #health, #true life, #courage

The Cancer Survivors Club

BOOK: The Cancer Survivors Club
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About the Author

CHRIS GEIGER
won the EDF Energy Columnist of the Year Award in 2011 for his light-hearted newspaper columns raising awareness of cancer and publicising cancer charities. Chris Geiger himself had to endure two years of cancer treatment, which included a number of operations, radiotherapy, chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant before he was finally in remission.
The Cancer Survivors Club
is his latest literary project to inspire and encourage everyone touched by cancer.

www.thecancersurvivorsclub.com

A Oneworld
Book

This edition first published by Oneworld Publications,
2015
This ebook edition published by Oneworld Publications,
2015

Copyright © Chris Geiger 2013,
2015

The moral right of Chris Geiger to be identified as the Author of this work has been asserted by him in accordance with the Copyright, Designs, and Patents Act
1988

All rights reserved
Copyright under Berne Convention
A CIP record for this title is available from the British Library

ISBN 978-1-78074-726-2
ISBN 978-1-78074-727-9 (eBook)

Typesetting and eBook by
Tetragon, London

Oneworld Publications
10 Bloomsbury Street
London WC1B
3SR
England

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Contents
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Preface to the Revised Edition

Welcome to the Revised Edition of
The Cancer Survivors Club
book. This astonishing, crazy and sometimes frustrating journey started as nothing more than a self-published project, as a result of my being diagnosed with cancer many years ago. It soon became one of the best-selling cancer survival books. I'd always been convinced that, if I could get this book in the hands of anyone touched by cancer, it would offer them great support, hope and comfort. My only problem was proving that to a publisher. Within just a few months both the response from readers and book sales had exceeded my wildest dreams. Soon I was receiving an almost daily stream of messages
–
from cancer patients saying how it had encouraged them to continue and even start their treatment again, and also from other survivors sending me their courageous and inspiring stories. I soon started travelling the country, meeting patients, giving talks and appearing on regional radio stations. I was also invited to be the keynote speaker at a large European pharmaceutical conference, to talk about my survival from cancer and how data analysis provided by statistical programmers is a vital and overlooked aspect of the fight against serious diseases.

Now, thanks to the incredible generosity and power of Oneworld, who instantly recognized how beneficial this book could be to anyone touched by cancer, it is now available to a much broader audience than I would ever have been able to reach through self-publishing.

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Acknowledgements

My recovery from cancer and the creation of this book are both very similar; I would not have achieved either without
help.

Without the medical brilliance of surgeons, doctors and nurses, or the love and support of my parents, Anne and Roger, and my sister Julie, I would not be here now. I will also always be exceptionally grateful to my numerous friends who made me laugh when I wanted to cry and kept me going when I wanted to
quit.

I feel equally indebted to the loyal readers of my newspaper columns, who submitted their inspiring survival stories. The task of selecting which stories I included in this first of hopefully many editions was a time-consuming and challenging undertaking. Those who have been selected have won the storyteller's equivalent of Willy Wonka's golden ticket. That's how I think of it, like Willy Wonka inviting people to his chocolate factory; I'm privileged to welcome these people to the cancer survivors club. My job of editing and polishing the stories was made more pleasurable with the knowledge that these poignant personal accounts cannot fail to move and encourage all those who read
them.

A monumentally big thanks to Diane Mowlam, Paul Anderson and all the staff at Gravity London for their marketing expertise and designing a brilliant book cover for the first edition; I've no idea how they tolerated my endless barrage of crazy suggestions.

My thanks must also go to Christopher Streets, for taking time out of his busy schedule to write a very nice foreword at such short notice; this means a lot to
me.

I owe an extremely special and massive thanks to my terrific and beautiful wife, Catherine. She somehow demonstrated amazing patience, listening to me talk about nothing but this book for months and communicating with the contributors on my behalf. She kept me fed and watered and thankfully discouraged me from calling this book ‘Bums, Boobs and Spicy Noodles'. I'd have still been writing this
now…

Obviously, I must thank my two fluffy friends Dempsey and Sweetie, who kept me company in the middle of the night and insisted on sitting on any discarded pages that fell under my desk. Sadly, since the first edition was published, we have had to say goodbye to Sweetie, who is sorely missed.

It also goes without saying that I appreciate the opportunity Oneworld Publications has given me, in propelling this book to the next level.

Lastly, thank you to every survivor who submitted their amazing stories of courage. I'm so sorry I was unable to include them all. Thank you to my readers for their incredible support and loyalty. Please keep those tweets and emails coming!

To everyone else reading this book, it's not too late to help. If you enjoy or are inspired by these reassuring and sometimes heart-breaking experiences, please do me a small favour and recommend this
book.

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Foreword

When I was a medical student, oh so many years ago now, I remember one of my lecturers telling us an amazing fact. During an average lifetime, the body's immune system will fight and overpower at least one hundred cancers. These abnormal cells are produced as part of our natural cellular repair cycles, yet they are efficiently controlled without our awareness or recourse to medical help. In this respect, we humans are programmed to and indeed are capable of beating cancer. While this ‘mopping-up' of cancer cells occurs continuously and subconsciously, unfortunately, all too often, an individual may experience one cancer too many. It is at this point that the conscious ‘survival instinct' needs to kick in and, thus, in my mind, all patients with the diagnosis of cancer are ‘survivors'.

From the time that I investigate my patients' symptoms, relay the diagnosis to them and then plan a potentially gruelling treatment regimen, which may involve chemotherapy, radiotherapy and surgery, they are all fighting for survival. Many will meet this challenge head on, drawing upon both their physical and psychological strengths. I never cease to be impressed by the fortitude and positive attitude of cancer patients towards their diagnosis and treatment. I have a saying that ‘You are only as ill as you feel', and many of my patients eventually enjoy telling me about their recovery. Thankfully, most participate in walking, swimming, running and other physical exercise that places them back among their peers. This activity generates a real sense of purpose and a return to normality.

I first met Chris Geiger in the summer of 2010. I was planning a fundraising event to raise levels of fitness in patients diagnosed with oesophago-gastric cancer prior to their embarking upon treatment. His personal story, natural charisma and boundless enthusiasm resulted in that event being taken to a completely new level. Having read his newspaper columns and articles about his other ventures, I believe this book is a natural progression of his wish as a cancer ambassador to get the message out there that ‘Yes, you can beat cancer!'

I fully appreciate that cure may not be the end point for all patients with cancer, but this book tells the truly humbling tales of individuals who have beaten their cancer and thus can be considered members of ‘The Cancer Survivors Club'. Their stories can now flow to inspire a future generation of patients, friends, family members and carers to tackle the diagnosis with as positive an approach as possible.

Christopher Streets – Consultant Surgeon
The Oesophago-gastric Surgical Unit
Bristol Royal Infirmary

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Introduction

When I was first diagnosed, I spent hours scouring bookshops, desperately hunting for books written by people who had fought and survived cancer. Most of the books I found had been ghost written for film stars. The majority dedicated considerable time to mentioning their celebrity friends or the location of their next film, yet spent little or no time describing their treatment and more importantly how they survived.

Ironically, coincidently or probably luckily for me, the night before I was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma, I watched a film about Bob Champion, a jump jockey who fought and won his battle with cancer, and then amazingly went on to win the Grand National. The film was based on the book called
Champion's Story
, which he wrote with his friend Jonathan Powell. Little could Bob know that his story would create an idea to inspire me. Watching his film kept me fighting despite my diagnosis and ultimately led me to write a
book.

I had to endure two years of cancer treatment. This included a number of operations, radiotherapy, chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant before I was finally in remission. A mantra I chanted daily during my treatment was: ‘If Bob Champion can do it, so can I', along with ‘Why me?', ‘F**k cancer', and many other unrepeatable things.

I'm convinced having a target, being positive and having the distraction of writing every day got me through my treatment. I wrote a diary daily, creating a light-hearted memoir, recording my thoughts, feelings and treatment; one day I hope it will be published too! I also continued dreaming that, like Bob's, my story would be made into a
film.

Within weeks I was back at work again, trying to act as if the previous two years hadn't happened. Any ideas of writing a cancer survival book were purposely forgotten. Not because I didn't care, but every time I relived events, I instantly smelt those disinfected hospital wards, tasted the chemotherapy or pictured the faces of those poor patients who weren't as lucky as me. Each time I recalled these events, I was physically sick, ruining a good shirt and triggering those awful recurring nightmares again! So it's true what they say, time really does
heal.

The nightmare of having cancer never left my mind; I constantly worried the disease might return. Friends joked how I must have worn grooves in the roads with my endless trips to the doctor. Just the smallest ache or pain and I'd be convinced I'd relapsed. Each time my doctor listened patiently, no matter how busy he was or how distressed I sounded. Thankfully, over time my paranoia evaporated, yet the whole cancer subject remained at the forefront of my
mind.

I now have only one lung that functions properly, plenty of scars and a struggling immune system; but that's a very small price to
pay.

I'm sure the chemotherapy also killed my ‘lazy' gene or ‘sleep' gene, as well as destroying the tumour. I now can't do things by halves, can't sit around doing nothing, can't waste a moment of this life I managed to
save.

During the years I've been in remission, I've met and spoken with many newly diagnosed cancer sufferers.

I do my best to explain the things I did to deal both mentally and physically with the various treatments. I soon discovered how invigorated and inspired patients became on learning the side effects they experienced were normal. I also noticed how encouraging and useful patients found it simply to talk with a cancer survivor who understands first-hand how they are feeling. Leaving them beaming with a renewed determination is a great reward for my
time.

Back in 2009, I was talking with a patient who said it was ‘inspirational' to speak to a ‘normal' person. A survivor who'd been given just three months to live and over twenty years later is still enjoying life to the full. ‘If you can do it, I can,' they said enthusiastically, while nodding frantically.

It was then I remembered back to the time I wanted to read stories of other ‘normal' cancer survivors, for encouragement and guidance for both myself and my family. So began my personal campaign to create awareness and help patients and their families. This book is the result of one of those projects.

Other projects have included writing a newspaper article on World Cancer Day, for which I received a Guinness World Record for ‘Most Published Newspaper Article'. I also won the ‘Columnist of the Year' award, sponsored by EDF Energy, for numerous light-hearted newspaper columns, publicizing the disease and cancer charities. I was fortunate to write for dozens of local and national newspapers. I've included some of these columns for your amusement along with my Guinness World Record feature. Sadly, I didn't have room for them all; another book idea perhaps?

My hope is that cancer sufferers, and their families and friends, will gain strength and encouragement from the stories within this book. Ultimately, I hope I'll soon be receiving new inspirational stories from readers that I can include in future editions and increase the number of members in my cancer survivors
club.

For everyone else reading this, I hope you find it a damn good read and are left feeling positive. Remember, however frustrating life can be at times, nothing is more important than your health.

One last thing: should the final part of my dream come true and my memoir is published and made into a film one day, like Bob Champion's, can I ask that Keira Knightley play my first girlfriend, Emily Blunt my second girlfriend, Cameron Diaz play Day Ward Sister, Jessica Alba the girl bending down under her desk and finally Dawn French play my sister!

BOOK: The Cancer Survivors Club
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