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Last Updated: Thursday, 5 December, 2002, 10:53 GMT
Tumour Diary: Reasons to be cheerful
BBC News Online Science and Technology writer Ivan Noble was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumour in August.

He has been charting his progress in a weekly column.

Here he describes beginning another round of chemotherapy and looking back on the last three months.


I began my second course of chemotherapy just before sitting down to write this.

Just as last time, I have to take four very serious looking tablets each day for the next five days, together with some tiny tablets which will stop me feeling sick.

Round three is due to start on New Year's Day and round four, provisionally the last, at the end of January.

During the gaps I hope that the drugs are mopping up any bits of the tumour that did not succumb to the radiotherapy I had at the beginning of my treatment.

I will not know whether it has all worked well until I have a brain scan some time in the New Year.

Tests and checks

Each chemotherapy round starts with a visit to my briskly cheery cancer specialist, who checks that my immune system is capable of withstanding another round of treatment.

This time, as always, he had words of encouragement, and even though I know that I will be pretty tired by the weekend, I am in very good spirits.

Beginning the second round has made realise how much time has gone by and how much I have been able to enjoy since I first had the shocking news at the end of August.

I have had a struggle to remain positive, but there have been many things which have helped in that struggle.

Last week's wedding was of course a huge highlight and I still find myself grinning inwardly about it, but seeing so much more of my family and so many good friends has also been a massive help.

Quiet support

People have reacted in different ways as I have told them about my tumour but the ones who have been the most help have been those who have quietly stepped up the frequency with which we meet and talk but have otherwise carried on as normal.

I have seen my daughter grow in confidence, learn to stand by herself and to speak her first words.

Now we are making plans for her first Christmas.

And the great mercy I have enjoyed has been that I have suffered no symptoms from the tumour, other than the problems with my eyesight that I have had all year.

I can walk around the city, take the underground, and feel like a normal person.

I am so glad that all that has been possible and I am very optimistic about what I might be able to enjoy in the future.

Oriental regime

This week I also finally managed to organise myself a tai chi lesson, though when the tutor arrived, it turned out that I am learning chi gong, which, in my ignorance, I think is a less physical and more health-oriented variant of the discipline.

I have a routine to do twice a day and though it is early days yet, I really feel it helps to make me relax and to clear my head.

I have not been brave enough to do the routines outside yet, partly because of the rain, but principally for fear of what the neighbours might say.

I am going to try to keep up the exercises right through the week of tiredness and, in the meantime, before the chemotherapy side effects kick in properly, I am going to go out and enjoy the first of what I hope will be several Christmas parties.

Your e-mails to Ivan

It sounds almost crass to say that your column is "inspirational". I, like so many other readers, look forward to reading of your experiences. My father was diagnosed with prostate cancer last year. At the time I hoped that it would serve as a wake-up call for him to really appreciate life. I sense that this is what has happened with you. A simple tube ride, or a walk around rainy London can take on a whole new meaning. Maybe this is a lesson we can all learn - and take some comfort from: Life is about experience, not the amount of time it lasts.... At the risk of sounding Benny Hill-esque, it's not the length - it's the quality that counts! May that wonderful grin from your wedding photo continue to light up your, your family's and our lives!
Guy Smith, Brazil

You're winning - well done!
Peets, UK

I lighted all the candles in Hanukkah thinking of you and a friend who is going through the same situation. God bless you... and don't worry you will see your daughter grow and you will share her happiness...
Estrella Azulay, Venezuela

Stay warm! Glad and happy for you. Hold on.
The Red, Russia

All hypochondriacs should be made to read your column
Philip, England
All hypochondriacs should be made to read your column - they whinge about such minor matters and you're are so positive about something that matters.
Philip, England

Hey Ivan. I'm a fellow cancer patient now having survived two years after lung cancer. I don't know about the future either but I do know how important my family and friends are to me. Just as I now love everything I once took for granted. It makes me happy to know you have love there inside your own home. Never quit Ivan. Never surrender.
Wil Lane, Canada

I keep bits of your comments in my memory, you are part of my friendship now. I hope to be able to react more appropriately when someone we know has cancer.
Anne-Marie, Canada

It's great that you're doing qigong! T'ai chi is a form of qigong/chi gong, and you WILL get benefits from doing the exercises. But if you're too tired or weak to do them physically, you can get nearly the same benefits by doing them mentally. The mind is our most powerful ally.
Lynne, USA

It was great to see your enormous grin on the wedding pic. Thank you for sharing your highs and lows with us.
Ann Smith, UK

My mother is about to embark on her second bout of chemo and we're all finding it hard to stay optimistic. I find it helpful to read your column - I'm glad to hear that just having friends and family around and being normal is the most supportive thing! Congratulations on your recent nuptials! Lang may yer lum reek - as they say in this part of the world. (Long may your chimney smoke!)
Ruth, Scotland

I thought I would have to put up with a lot of kaftans and incense
Peter Jordan
Hong Kong
I had treatment for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and have been visiting a Chi Gong master here in Hong Kong. I was interested in what you said about exercises, because all I am required to do is to sit bolt upright for nearly an hour, while they work their magic. I have breathing exercises, lying down and will also be given some words to chant when I am having treatment. Not so happy about that one, but I'll try it. I was put off approaching such people in Britain was because I thought I would have to put up with a lot of kaftans and incense but they are very sincere and they keep the mysticism to a manageable minimum.
Peter Jordan Hong Kong

My mother and grandmother both had malignant brain tumours and went through radiotherapy and the chemo you are talking about. Something that really, really helped my Mum was a herbal drink called Essiac Tea, available from a charity called the Clouds Trust in Liss in Hampshire. Or from most health food shops. My Mum wrote poems called Tumour Humour throughout her illness and that is why your diary caught my eye!
Tracy White, UK

I was 13 when I had a benign brain tumour removed and to be honest I tend to forget it ever happened. After eight years, the part of the tumour that was left in my head appears to just be sitting there. The only problem that I have is that I can no longer feel in my right hand. A minor issue seeing as it was a 50/50 chance of survival, and they thought I would be paralysed. I guess what I am saying is, there is hope. Hang on in there.
Chrissie Peel, UK

Ivan, your column is always the first thing I read on the BBC News site. You're an inspiration.
Paul, UK

I've now had two brain tumours - one removed by surgery, and one blasted with radiotherapy. We've been told that there is a likelihood that it will come back a third time, but I've decided I'm not going to be a statistic! All I can say is to keep embracing life, look at all the complementary treatment that offers support, and don't look back, just forward. You too can be that figure at the far end of the parabola!
Kate Moore, UK

When you get the all clear, I will pick up a spider as a tribute
Emma, UK
I started reading your column last week and realised this morning that it was time for the next instalment. I immediately felt dreadful for thinking of it that way since this is in fact your life and not EastEnders. I wanted to say that I wish with every fibre of my being that your treatment is successful. I feel humbled by your bravery - I can't even face spiders with that kind of resolve! When you get the all clear, I will pick up a spider as a tribute. Not much, but something to aim for :o) YOU CAN DO IT IVAN!!
Emma, UK

My boyfriend's mother has been diagnosed with breast cancer. Many people have told her how they are praying for her, etc but these same people have not made an effort to spend more time with her, and have not carried on as normal, which is distressing to her! Perhaps the best support you can give is just to carry on like usual but increase one's presence and time spent together.
Liz, USA

We are praying for your recovery from the Montana Rockies. Love and peace to you. Namaste.
Bill Barfknecht, USA

Having seen my mother have a cancer and recover, I stay well clear of anything to do with the disease. This column I can't stay away from. It's very important to read for me. I wish Ivan a wonderful Xmas with his family and I hope modern medicine will cure him as it has my mother.
Teddy Boddy, Netherlands

I was very interested to see your comment on taking the Underground. I find it an incredibly strange feeling taking the tube back home from hospital directly after having a chemo session. I find myself looking around the tube at the sullen faces of people on their daily grind back home from work and find my self smiling, just glad to be amongst them. If only they knew! Normality is one of the more positive 'drugs' that help me get through treatment. Keep your head up when on the tube and smile to yourself, even if it is only inwardly.
Ed Rutherford, London, England

I want her to shout at you when she's a teenager
Martin, Wales
I am so angry that this should happen to you. Angry that it should happen to anyone. I wish you and your family the very best. It sounds like your daughter has a brave Dad. I want her to be able to shout at you when she's a teenager. I'll be thinking of you this Christmas.
Martin, Wales

You inspire me, enjoy your daughter, she is at a magical age.
Terry Newcombe, UK

You would have to be insane to be taking exercise of any form in the garden at this time of year! Take care and have a great time at your parties Mr Popular!
Mel, London

A positive attitude is everything. I also understand that pineapple chunks help to alleviate feelings of nausea and improve the appetite!
Chris Rayner, UK

I'm not sure why but you help me feel a bit better about life
Mel Morris, UK
This may sound daft to you, but whenever I see one of your articles listed on the front page I think 'hurrah'. I enjoy reading your columns, I'm not sure why but I do - maybe you just help me to feel a bit better about life, fellow human beings everything. Anyway for all the happiness you have given me - I send it back to you in the hope it may help you in some strange way. Oh and congratulations to you and the 'missus' too!
Mel Morris, UK

My grandfather was diagnosed with a brain tumour and underwent treatment. Ten years later and a two-year trip around the world, he walked into his surgeon's office to be greeted by "Mr Tobitt, I didn't know you were still alive!" At over 70 my grandfather felt he still had a lot to live for - you have even more ahead.
Michael, Australia

Well done for being so positive. I suffer from schizophrenia and find it difficult to remain positive. Reading your diary has really helped me!!
Claire Valin, UK

I think of you often during the week and race home from work on Thursdays to see how you are doing. Don't worry about the neighbours! Just go out, do your chi gong and enjoy, enjoy, enjoy!
Rebecca, US

I read your column every Thursday during my English class. It is one of the things that make me come to this class. :) It must be odd to have absolute strangers following your life so closely, but it is very interesting. I know that you don't buy into the religion thing, but I think that there is more to life than what we can see. And religion is more than rules. God deeply cares about you, Ivan. He is someone who will never leave you, He accepts you the way you are, imperfections and all. Give Him a chance. He may surprise you.
Kari , USA

Your columns are great! I have felt inspired and tried to learn from you, appreciating the good things we see every day and not worrying too much about the future. I'm wishing you good luck and good spirits!
Claudia, UK

Congratulations - having recently got married myself, I know how much hard work it is to organise! Congratulations also on finding true love - a rare thing indeed.
Katy, UK

Oh the emotions you put us through!
Ruthie, UK
Oh the emotions you put us through! Congratulations on the wedding and all the best for a happy future with your family. xxx
Ruthie, UK

I've been avidly reading your diary for some time now and it's helped me cope with the cancers my loved ones are suffering from. Great to hear you being so cheerful today - a real encouragement to everyone, whatever our problems.
Sue, UK

I am still sending you healing twice a day every day. God bless mate and take peace in the fact there are so many of us out here rooting for you and your loved ones. XXX
Sam, UK

I hope you start to feel better soon. There are few things worse than feeling nauseous. Enjoy your Christmas parties!
Mary Duffy, UK

It's great to see you are still in a positive mood. Friends and family are always the ones who get us through the toughest of times.
Rebecca, England

Well done... I am always thinking about you... really the best of luck.
Tom Draper, UK




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