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Last Updated: Monday, 22 March, 2004, 17:21 GMT
Tumour diary: Facing facts
By Ivan Noble
BBC News Online science writer

BBC News Online science and technology writer Ivan Noble was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumour in August 2002.

Since his diagnosis, he has been sharing his experiences in an online diary.

Things are getting harder.

My brain scan this week was very encouraging in the short term.

It showed that although my tumour is still there and active, there is space at the moment for it to grow.

I breathed a sigh of relief as I heard because I knew it meant that I could relax for a couple of weeks.

I need another craniotomy like I need a hole in the head.
My next appointment is just before Easter as I start another cycle of chemotherapy.

It would be wonderful if the chemo could halt the tumour for a while, a significant while even.

And even if it does not, I could have yet another operation to reduce the size of the tumour.

That would be a worry but at least finally a chance to roll out my "I need another craniotomy like I need a hole in the head" joke.

I need a miracle

But I have now faced up to the fact that I am fighting for time.

Miracles do happen, but by definition extremely rarely, and without one this tumour is going to kill me sooner or later.

I can talk about my death practically and rationally.
Everything is uncertain now and I am as positive and keen to fight on as ever, but I would be deceiving everyone if I did not face up to the truth.

My immediate battle is to see the birth of my son, due in July.

The tumour is such an aggressive one that getting to July in any fit state to participate is a big fight.

I am ready for it but I also have had to start preparing myself for what will happen if I lose.

I put off thinking about dying for as long as I could and I really did not allow it into my thinking until my tumour removal operation in November 2003.

While I was still in hospital, my favourite nurse asked me something along the lines of whether I was worried about anything.

He was meaning whether I was comfortable and had any pain but I flippantly answered "dying of cancer".

He took the question seriously and said some very sensitive and helpful things but it was still a shock and made me think for the first time that it was something for which I had to prepare.

Four months later the process is much further on.

Rational approach

I can talk about my death practically and rationally.

If at times I panic about it, the panic passes and I know how to deal with it and get back on track.

I can cry about it and I can laugh about it and accepting its inevitability has made me feel stronger, less afraid and more in control.

The time ahead is an entirely uncertain one, but most of the time I am happy and full of ideas of what we can do with our time.

Soon I will be leaving for another week in the Scottish Highlands with my wife, daughter and some friends.

As long as we can we will be fitting the treats in between the medical appointments and, I hope, creating memories that will last long after I have gone.

And for as long as I can I will still be writing this diary .

It has always been part of fighting the tumour.

I started it to make something positive out of a calamity and for me it has preserved a link to a job I was proud of doing.

Welcome support

All the fantastic e-mails have been a great boost and they continue to be.

I am lucky to be able to have such a project.

One final thing about terminal illness: Sometimes when people mention advanced cancer they use that term.

It is not one I accept for myself yet.

I will accept it only when my doctors, friends and family have run out of ideas and I cannot fight any more.

There is so much we have left to do in whatever time we manage to steal from this thing.

So I am going downstairs to make a coffee and to continue to steal shamelessly for as long as I can.

Send your comments to Ivan.


Your comments

Thank you for your courage and the words that help us all. I sit here with a heart monitor because something went funny 8 weeks ago. Then it was weird blood, and a poor liver check. Surely Liver Cancer, said the MD's. Now, 6 weeks later. Nothing wrong! I have tasted the seeds of Mortality and dodged a bullet. Thinking about Death is OK. It does happen ( to most of us!) Be prepared. Leave as few messes as you can so that the survivors may go forward. And Trust in your Angels. Have Fun, Love
Loraine, USA

Please do not lose heart, even though the next few weeks will be hard
Lyn Hewitt-Jones, Bournemouth, Dorset
I admire your strength & courage in the face of what must seem like overwhelming trials - please do not lose heart, even though the next few weeks will be hard. Just think of July, and a small, shouting baby and all you have to look forward to with your family. God bless.
Lyn Hewitt-Jones, Bournemouth, Dorset

Thank you for sharing your experiences with us, to be able to speak honestly about fighting cancer is an admirable thing. I lost a great friend to cervical cancer at the age of 26, and six months later it's still hard to comprehend, but your courage is inspiring and has helped to ease my worries about the past year. Thank You. :)
Stacey, New Zealand

Ivan, I can only echo what everyone has written, and pray that this latest batch of chemo will do so much more than you dare to hope for, and that not only will you be able to celebrate the birth of your son in July, but that there will also be a shining ray of hope. I am awed at your bravery and courage and will be thinking of you in my lovely former homeland in Scotland, and hope that you will find serenity and peacefulness there. I will keep you in my prayers and close to my heart.
Hilda Seftor, United States of America

Just reading your diary really makes me appreciate how lucky the vast majority of us are in being fully fit and healthy and how life should be there to be lived and enjoyed given no-one knows how long or short any of us have left on this planet. Good luck with your fight and I hope you see your unborn son come into the world.
Matthew, England

As a nurse, I have seen a positive outlook accomplish good things for patients
Cathy, USA
As a nurse, I have seen a positive outlook accomplish good things for patients. With your attitude, and good medical care, the goal of seeing your son born in July, you may well be able to be there to greet the little fellow! I haven't read your thoughts on spirituality. If you are comfortable with God, and have great faith, that is an immeasurable asset, as well. Not only is there the reassurance and comfort now, but there is no worry for your future. Rest well, eat well, and enjoy your trip to Scotland. May God hold you in the palm of his hand!
Cathy, USA

Dear Ivan,
Your latest entry has really struck to the core and I wanted to send you a quote that I received today which I feel echoes what I hear you say: "Life may not be the party we asked for,
but as long as we're here, we might as well dance. "
And that is exactly what you are doing. Keep on dancing friend. Eliza
Eliza, USA

I am a retired physician/surgeon. I practiced general medicine and surgery from 1948 to 1988 in a small town in Georgia, and had many experiences with cancer patients. Your diary would have been a big help in their acceptance of the situation and fighting the battle. Thank you for it.
Mac Martin, USA

You can make it to any goal you choose if you keep believing in yourself
Jackie, UK
Ivan, you are an amazing and inspirational man. I would compare your diary to a great work of art, it will continue to live on forever in people's memories. But don't give up yet, you still have so much to give and receive. Keep fighting and remember you are not alone, we are all behind you. You can make it to any goal you choose if you keep believing in yourself. xx
Jackie, UK

Good luck to you, I mean that with all my heart and soul mate. Have fun in my beautiful country, some evocative scenery to be seen. I thoroughly recommend a trip to Lunan Bay, even on the coldest wettest days when I'm miserable I feel positive and alive after being to the sea and feeling the sea air in my lungs, hearing the waves roll in. Just keep chipping away man, long may you go on. I've just read all your diaries in one go, and they are an amazing source of inspiration, so positive, you are an amazing person. Best wishes to you
John Phillip, Scotland

Ivan, I have followed your diary since the beginning, as have many. Your open and candid thoughts about the cancer you've been inflicted with have been an inspiration to us all. As a nurse, I just wanted to say that whatever happens in the future, your diary should be used by nursing students around the world to understand there is a person behind the patient. You also show that we are all special, everyone has loves, lives, and people who care about us. If we all were able to look at our neighbours in those terms I think conflict would be very hard to justify.
Stuart, ex-pat in Australia

Miracles happen when you least expect them
Larry, USA
Ivan: I am inspired by your words, and I want you to know that I will be thinking about you. I, too have faced this kind of situation, when almost five years ago to this date was told that I would most likely need a heart and lung transplant, but the problem would be surviving the 17 months until a donor could be found. I want you to know that miracles do occur, and to never give up. I know I am living proof of that, and I'll do my best to pray for you and your miracle. Please do not give up. Miracles happen when you least expect them. Best of luck, and know that you have friends who are praying for you every day.
Larry, USA

Once again your words inspire but sadden me. I try to imagine what it must feel like preparing to say goodbye when life around you is so abundant... I feel like a coward when I put these thoughts to the back of my mind... god bless you sir and your young family.
martin, UK

Ivan, your courage and inspiration radiates through to us all. I have experienced these kind of illness and I truly believe when we do have to go, which will happen to us all, we will all meet up with our loved ones on the other side. When the lord wants us, he will take us when he is ready. Be well my friend and be strong for the family.
Pete the Greek, UK

Ivan, Keep stealing the days because they will turn into weeks, months and years. Good luck for the future and enjoy your holiday.
Brian, UK

Your words are vital and your time with your loved ones even more so
Sean, Scotland
It may be of small comfort but you are inspiring people out there and they're all with you. Enjoy the majesty of the Highlands - I left London some 9 years ago and am still in awe of the splendour of Glencoe and the stillness of Rannoch Mor. Your words are vital and your time with your loved ones even more so.
Sean, Scotland

Dear Ivan: Thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings so openly. It must be very encouraging for other cancer patients to see your determination to continue for as long as possible with your friends and family. I admire your courage in the face of this disease. After 6 years fighting against tumours in my own body, it helps to hear another person's story. My desire too is to 'live' for as long as possible. My hope and prayer is that you will know peace in your heart whatever happens.
David Bracey, UK

You are a shining example of seizing the day and living every moment to its fullest. Until the reality of death becomes real, most of us drift through life and waste so much. Thank you for helping me realise that I too must take time to enjoy what I have and that I should offer help to those who need it more than me. Ivan, may you have your miracle...
Paul Benwell, UK

Your attitude in this fight is inspirational. Good luck with achieving both your short-term and long-term goals. Good gag by the way........made me chuckle.
Kev, England

You bring a clarity and honesty to a subject which so many of us avoid
Marian, UK
Ivan: I am regularly moved by your diaries and this instalment is no exception. You bring a clarity and honesty to a subject which so many of us avoid and keep 'buried'. Your son (and daughter) will have the knowledge that their father is a very special person with many talents - not least enormous courage.
Marian, UK

Scotland should be great, especially the Highlands! Have a great time with your family.
Rex, England

Ivan, enjoy your highland break and remember that there's a huge group of us rooting for that miracle with you.
Catherine H, UK

I am sure that there are many people reading your experiences and thinking how lucky they are not to be in your position. I just hope that some of them realise that every one of us is in the same position as you, but we don't have the same understanding of the amount of time we have left. Your diary gives me a stark realisation that I need to use the time I have left RIGHT NOW. Thank you so much for that, without your honesty and acceptance, I may never have realised.
Jim, UK

Have a wonderful time in the Scottish Highlands
Anna, UK
Keep fighting Ivan - you will make it to see the birth of your son and be able to enjoy the miracle that is life. Your friends and family are with you every step of the way. For the moment though, have a wonderful time in the Scottish Highlands and concentrate on creating memories which will be treasured forever. Good luck.
Anna, UK

My best friend passed away at the age of 32, just before he was due to get married to his fiancée. He was a fantastic person who I miss everyday. I read your diaries every week, they help me remember the fantastic times my friend had during his illness. The fact that you are able to rationally cope and still spend quality time with those that you love is fantastic, those memories do go on forever. Good luck.
Rob Jacks, England

Ivan: Thank you for sharing your journey with me - I know it's a cliché for me to say this, but reading this article helps me understand the purpose of my life. From just a regular bloke, regular job, two kids etc. Good luck.
Mark Edwards, UK

Humour in the face of adversity shows an awful lot about a person. I really hope you can steal enough time to see the birth of your grandchildren. Good luck.
Bryn Roberts, Yorkshire, UK

Dear Ivan: Reading your diary always makes me feel very humble. We all have worries in our lives but reading your column always makes me realise how lucky I really am. I wonder if I could display your fortitude if I was in your position. The very best of luck to you. I am sure all your readers will be praying for that miracle.
Sarah Bathie, UK

Your diary is an inspiration to us all. Good luck in your fight.
Richard Fletcher, Manchester, England

I sat at my desk this morning, read your diary and tried not to cry - there needs to be more people in the world as brave as you. I have read your diary since day one. Words fail. You are an amazingly courageous person
Becky, UK

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