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Last Updated: Monday, 20 December 2004, 14:57 GMT
Tumour diary: Dad would swap
BBC News science and technology writer Ivan Noble was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumour in August 2002.

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

I wrote very recently about the shocking blow my cancer has inflicted upon us as it has made its third, premature reappearance.

It has come back with a dangerous vengeance at a time my family and I had allowed ourselves to begin to relax and consider enjoying an apparent remission.

I am proud to look at us a fortnight later and see that despite yet another 180 degree turnaround, we are coping.

And better than that, we are coping in spades.

These are tough times but they are happy times
My wife, as seemingly always, quietly shows the strength I cannot comprehend, but marvel at daily.

For my part, finally now a calm has set - shorn of the terror that has plagued me on and off for so long these past two and a bit years.

These are tough times, but they are happy times, and whatever the physical progress of the tumour right now, its grip on our spirits is weak.

I wish that were all I had to write this week.

Cruel tricks

It is great to find this column difficult, because it means nothing has happened and I really have to wrack my brains to think of something to write.

But life continues to play more cruel tricks.

As a fit and otherwise healthy 65-year-old, my brave and beloved father received his own cancer diagnosis a few weeks ago.

I have waited until spending time with him, and until knowing the initial outcome of his surgery, before accepting his kind offer of letting me include him in the diary this week.

When my poor wonderful mother told me what was happening, I almost found myself believing that it really was a cruel joke.

Our little girl's beloved Grandad, who with Grandma is such a corner-stone in the way we keep our lives going, had felt the hammer blow fall.

And now for him too, just as for every one of the cancer survivors, so many people in life, everything has suddenly changed for ever.

Dad's diagnosis was weeks ago, rather than months.


He was allocated a very highly recommended surgeon by the NHS in Leeds who, of course, was only one person in a great team of professionals and carers who have dealt with him for his 10 days in hospital.

Wishing for miracles is a silly waste of time in precious days
His bowel cancer was dealt with by keyhole surgery - laparoscopy.

And 10 days ago I wept with joy and relief in my wife's arms as I arrived home to an answering machine message.

Dad's kind surgeon had not made him wait days for a consultation but had phoned him immediately at home as soon as the regular medical case conference was over.

The tests on his lymph nodes were clear.

We have a real, believable hope from the surgeon that Dad's cancer was a single localised polyp and has been taken away before it had time to spread.

For lucky people caught early, these cancers can be cured.

Cure is of course the magical goal. It is a step further from management of disease, the long and hard job everyone is helping with as I struggle with the vicious little nasty dogging my brain right now.

He would swap

Only the passage of time will answer Dad's question.

He told me that he would swap cancers with me tomorrow.

I think most parents would do the same - we are at opposite ends of the cancer nasties and of course he would want it to be me with the good prognosis instead of the really awkward one.

But I don't want him to.

I have got used to my fight and I am delighted that Dad is doing so well in his.

My parents went back to Leeds after spending a few days in London to celebrate Dad's 66th birthday with us - really great fun.

Dad only got out of the hospital on 4 December, 12 days ago as I write.

Since then he and Mum have been up and back to Leeds on the train and he is indistinguishable from his pre-op state.

He has to be restrained from interpreting his "little and often" eating code as "as much as I like whenever".

Internal battle

Dad and I have had to take on cancer from within.

Mum has a husband to worry about now on top of the son she had to worry about before.

And my wife bears the double burden.

As a cancer researcher she is conducting a slow, painstaking and vital job. It is one which fascinates her but can be maddeningly puzzling and lead down blind alleys costing months or years.

Then she comes home to living with a husband fighting daily with the reality of what the disease is capable of out of a lab and inside a man's head.

It would be so lovely for us all to set cancer aside for three months and not even be able to comprehend the name.

But that is not possible and wishing for miracles is a silly waste of time in precious days.

But I believe that cancer is losing.

Cancer succumbs all the time both to the incremental improvements of science and the determination of those of us living and surviving the disease day by day.

Cancer will lose and people will win.

Send us your comments using the form at the bottom of the page.

Your comments

I am full of admiration for you and the inspiration you have provided through your courage
Dot, UK
Words fail me Ivan. I am struggling with huge problems myself and reading your diaries just makes me feel I'm not alone. We're all part of the one humanity with all its horrors, unfairness, hope, love, inadequacy, courage and helplessness. We're all in there together - thank you so much for sharing your life with us - I am full of admiration for you and the inspiration you have provided through your courage.
Dot, UK

Even in the face of having to deal with your father's cancer, you are gracious, considerate and not bitter. I remember clearly even now, the feelings of anger dealing with my mother's breast cancer last year, without remotely going through what you are. I am so pleased you have learnt to conquer fear - an amazing achievement.
Emma Jones, UK

Ivan I have identified with so many of your entries and as a cancer survivor I have refused to let cancer change me in anyway. Cancer will lose and you will win just by achieving that.
Neil, South Wales

I often read back some of your diary entries when I am at a low to give me hope for the future
Julie Williams, UK
I have a husband who is battling skin cancer, and we also have two small (ish) children. I sometimes find it very hard to look to any kind of a future and always think we have been dealt a cruel blow. You on the other hand, seem to deal with it with such bravery and dignity and you truly are an inspiration to me and I often read back some of your diary entries when I am at a low to give me hope for the future. Thank you.
Julie Williams, UK

Dear Ivan, I marvel at the beauty in your words at such a terrible time. Your strength and the strength of your family and friends shines through in everything you write. I always read your dispatches, but have never commented before. Today I just felt I had to send love and good wishes to you all. Cancer touches so many of our lives - my own boys' Grandad is starting his third year of battle and, like yours, his experience has many ups and downs. God bless and keep going.
Tanya Houston, UK

Ivan, I have read your diary from the beginning. Your courage is overwhelming and a lesson to us all, ever more so in this last entry. My thoughts are with you and your family, have a wonderful Christmas together & I trust the New Year will be more pleasant for us all. Take care.
Cindy, UK

I have such admiration for the courage that you and your family display. The heartfelt and selfless comments relating to understanding your parents' and wife's positions and your unwillingness to allow the cancer to lead to a negative outlook are amazing. Mind over matter has to be help in keeping this demon at bay. Good luck with your continued fight, and good luck to your dad as well.
Derek Cooper, England

As people don't like talking about bowels, such cancers are often missed until it is too late
Geoff Hughes, UK
I wish both you and your father both well. You father's bowel cancer is indeed a potentially curable cancer. I had major surgery for this two years ago and was quoted a 92% 5-year likelihood of survival. Recent tests have shown no sign of recurrence. It is very strange that, as people don't like talking about bowels, such cancers are often missed until it is too late and they have spread into areas which prove fatal. In the last two years I have been pleasantly surprised to find how many fellow survivors of bowel cancer there are. Best wishes to you both!
Geoff Hughes, UK

I continue to be humbled by this courageous account.
Adam Tulk, England

May you all have a wonderful Christmas and, whatever 2005 throws at you, may you continue to find the strength and sprit that you have found in 2004.
Jan, UK

My prayers are with you all - how lucky you are to have two very brave and strong ladies in your life. Much love to your whole family.
Alison, UK

Strength and courage beat cancer
Lisa Hall, Cheltenham, UK
I wish a truly deserving family a magical Christmas and a wonderful new year - whatever it may bring. Strength and courage beat cancer and Ivan I really hope that you and your dear Dad have enough to do just that. With very best wishes.
Lisa Hall, Cheltenham, UK

You and your father are so brave. As long as you and your family keep up with the positive attitude, you will beat anything. I wish you all the best for Christmas and the coming new year
Felicity Clayton, England

I started reading Ivan's diary a month or so ago. It made me put my life in to perspective. Such a brave and inspirational person he is. I am so sorry to hear the current turn of events.
Dan C, London, UK

Ivan, I am so pleased you have found peace within yourself instead of panic, and this will give you added strength to fight the cancer. Fate has now dealt you a "double whammy", but you have the heart of a lion, the spirit of a fighter, and the soul of a kind, loving family man. Your countless friends around the world continue to send their love and support to you and your family. May you all have a wonderful Christmas.
Colin, UK

Each case is an individual story, but from one story a lot of strength can be gained
Emma, UK
To talk about the day to day battle with cancer is really important, as this is what the sufferers have to live with, the day to day highs and lows. I think your story is very inspirational, especially as cancer is something that touches millions. Each case is an individual story, but from one story a lot of strength can be gained.
Emma, UK

My Mother died three years ago this month after a long battle with two inoperable brain tumours so this is a very familiar situation for me. Despite this tragedy (she was only 52), what is clear is how important the family unit is and that you should enjoy each other at all times. Also, you have to remember that life is for living so always wear a smile.
James Ritchie, UK

Dear Ivan, I hope you realise the full, profound and wonderful impact you are having on so many people who in their daily lives have found inspiration, courage, strength and peace from the way you are facing the events that befall you. So many people have found something in your writing that I believe it is almost impossible to comprehend how many lives you have touched. I offer you my congratulations for giving so much to people in this world you have never met; it is a precious thing, and you should be recognised for it. Best wishes to you.
Sarah, London, UK

There really are no words to describe how amazing your family are to share the ups and downs this horrible disease can bring. I wish your family a very happy Christmas with lots of mince pies!
Jane, Cornwall, UK

My poor sister has secondary cancer in her liver and bones but is so brave
Laraine Moore, UK
So sorry to hear you have had a recurrence. My poor sister has secondary cancer in her liver and bones but is so brave - and so are you. I hope you and your family, and your lovely dad; can have a happy and peaceful Christmas.
Laraine Moore, UK

This is the first time I've read any of Ivan's diary. I can't even comprehend what it must be like to suffer from cancer but I can say that reading the diary gives an insight into the strength Ivan must have. I believe that with most illnesses a positive attitude is what is required and with this in mind I say - keep fighting Ivan. I pray you and your family overcome this episode in your lives. God has shown mercy to your father and I'm sure he'll show you the same.
Ahmad Nawaz, England

Tears well in my eyes like you're a member of my family with more bad news. Your spirit overwhelms me at times, making me realise that there is hope out there. Keep smiling.....
Joanne, UK

Cancer will be a thing of the past one day
E. Munnelly, England
How cruel life can be! My sympathies also lie with your mother, Ivan, writing from a mother's point of view. Cancer will be a thing of the past one day, soon, I hope. I really admire your wonderful attitude and positive thinking and I truly believe that's what beats cancer.
E. Munnelly, England

Ivan, I continue to follow your inspirational story with humility and respect. I wish you and all of your family a very Merry Christmas and a peaceful and Happy New Year.
Claire, UK

'Awesome' is a word used far too often nowadays, but in this instance, it is all too applicable. I am awed by Ivan's inner strength and determination whilst fighting this illness.
Luke Underwood, UK

I, too, thought that lightening couldn't strike twice. My husband was diagnosed with cancer 1 month after my father. That was two years ago. What a journey it has been! I think you have reached the point where you can deal with anything. Nothing toughens you up like these hard times. I sense a new attitude, I hope you stay strong. Sometimes you need to really front cancer and I think this is what you are doing now. Have a wonderful Christmas.
Helen Parker, London, UK

I'm not at all religious but I'm going to say a prayer for you anyway
Darran, UK
I count my blessings every day. It's funny, I'm not at all religious, but I'm going to say a prayer for you anyway, because it's the only thing I can do. You are a real inspiration. My best wishes to you and your family, over Christmas, and for a happy New Year.
Darran, UK

Ivan, what an awful thing for you to have to deal with your father's diagnosis on top of your own continuing battle. My mum had bowel cancer 3 years ago and, like your father, was lucky to have it caught early and has made a full recovery. All the best to you and your family for Christmas and the New Year - keep fighting!
Sarah, UK

Your courage and determination is amazing. Best wishes to you and your family at Christmas and hope all is well for you for the future.
Duncan, UK

Brave men! All the best to you and your family for Christmas, New Year and beyond!
Fiona Stewart, Scotland

Ivan, I know you are right. Charities and laboratories such as Cancer Research are working day and night to make cures for illnesses that today are defined as "terminal". Maybe in the year 2200, our great-great-great-great-great grandchildren will view cancer as we view the black plague. Stay strong dude!
Tom Brownlee, UK

Ivan, very best wishes to you and your father at this time of year - your courage is immense and a true inspiration. "Cancer will lose, people will win" - what a profound and uplifting statement. Truly, well done.
Jon S, UK

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