I am writing and sharing with you this very last blog on “Fighting Cancer”.  The reasons for my decision to close the blog are:

Firstly, this fight may go on for weeks, months, years even, where the pace and progress can be extremely slow, which does not make for a good read.  Secondly, I feel I shared with you as much as can be shared in terms of personal insights; I was told I went too far on occasions; maybe!  Besides, I can no longer think of new aspects of fighting a major illness such as cancer that I can comment on.  In other words, I am now in danger of becoming a self-indulgent, self-pitying, attention-seeking old bore.  Some of you might think that already!

The second reason is the uncertainty of outcome of my story.  I have come to realise, when you get cancer you get yourself an enemy for life.  Even if you’re in remission, it can come back. You simply cannot win such a war, you just win individual battles.  Therefore, a blog such as mine, needs to be brought to a conclusion somehow, with the thought that the war is still going on out there.  

Finally, I am closing this blog due to our family circumstances.  We need to return to our home base in England, where we feel we can be close to each other without the long-distance travel to and from Cyprus and to bring back some degree of privacy to our lives.  We will always be grateful to the Cypriot medical profession because they truly saved my life.  However, by being home in England, we can have access to a similarly sophisticated medical expertise closer to home, which will put less strain on all of us and help us rebuild our lives. 

Having dealt with the various aspects of my illness over the last four months, there are a couple of thoughts I would like to share with you before signing off.  I hope you find them interesting and thought provoking.

In my earlier blog “Pain & Gain”, I made a reference to a different and possibly immeasurable pain I called “Psychological Pain”.  I would like to share this experience with you because I think it is an important element of my story, which may or may not have a lasting effect on me in the future; some of you might even relate to it. I experienced this strange kind of pain twice in my life and hope never to experience it again.  

At the age of 18, I was unwittingly caught in a real war zone in the Middle East which ended with me trapped in a small apartment in a building right in the middle of the two warring factions (please don’t ask me how or why I found myself in such a fix, let’s call it teenage naivety), who were well armed and determined to win at all costs, irrespective of any collateral damage.  However, for a whole week, I was trapped in darkness, ignorance and overwhelming fear. My days merged into nights and the only escape from reality was to sleep for as many hours as possible in order to escape reality; easier said than done when mortar shells are constantly exploding as vividly as if they were inside the apartment.  However, I had to live through this experience and do what I could to cope with all the horror I was feeling. By the third day, and for some strange reason, I abandoned the adult bed I had been using and climbed into an infant cot next to it.  Being around 180 cm in height, the only way to fit in the cot was to curl up and assume the foetus position.  Strangely, this seemingly uncomfortable arrangement actually gave me comfort to be able to shut out most, if not all of the external and horrifying reality being played out outside the walls of the apartment and I was able to get better quality sleep.  At that young age, I had no idea why I did what I did and why it worked for me.  My guess is that it was a visceral instinct we all have from our earliest experience of being at our safest and most content state in our mother’s womb, before we are born.

To use a cliché, history repeats itself; or almost!

After the fourth attempt at the procedure to stem the destructive leakage of bile from an un-located source in my liver, I truly hit the depths of despair.  I had little or no will to fight on. I came closest to giving up. In fact, Claire who suffered as much anguish and despair as I did, kept her feelings in check when she gave me a lecture on the need to remain positive and believing things will be resolved soon.  Around 7:00 pm, Claire began her nightly routine of setting me up for the night with my computer, iPad, drinks, diary, etc. and made sure I was as comfortable as I could be. By 7:30, we kissed and said goodnight and she returned to Limassol for a well-earned rest from yet another long and testing day for her. I turned on my iPad and selected a collection of songs to be played in ‘shuffle’ mode as I tried to drift to sleep.

Soon after, the night duty nurse came in and disturbed my attempt at sleeping, wanting to empty collection bags, take blood pressure and change drips.  In a typical hospital bed, if you are connected to multiple drips with three bags collecting horrible fluids, your movement is extremely restricted where you can only sleep on your back so, there is little or no chance of moving to one side or another, even your ability to move your legs is restricted.  Half an hour later, the same nurse appeared again, turned on all the lights and swapped drips; sleep interrupted, again and the music played on.  Unbelievably, she appeared again 20 minutes later to check on the fluid accumulation bags. This time, I asked her if she was planning on returning anytime soon; she said she would around midnight. Effectively, I had 3 hours to get some rest, which left me in a darker mood than I had experienced all day.  All the while, the shuffle music from my iPad played eclectic tracks that varied from jazz, to pop, opera, even Arabic music. I was barely aware of the songs, they were just background noise.

That declaration by the nurse, did not help me go to sleep and my brain went into negative overdrive like I never experienced before. My overwhelming thought was that I would be permanently attached to drainage bags and I would be institutionalized in a hospital or clinic somewhere or another;  I would be dependent on people; I would be in constant pain that can only be alleviated with pain killers; others’ interest in me would begin to fade as they have their lives to live; visitors would arrange amongst themselves a schedule to share the inconvenience of visiting me on Sunday afternoons.  On and on these negative thoughts overwhelmed my conscience.

That evening, I was not really suffering any physical pain per se, I was suffering a psychological pain that cannot be medicated except with sedatives or heavy drugs that allow me to escape reality.  Then a strange and disturbing feeling began to form. I felt that my very soul had started to assume the foetus position as though to make up for my physical inability to do so in my restricted movement in bed.  All of a sudden, my experience from 40+ years back in that apartment came flooding back; and tears of self-pity just poured out of me.  That was my life’s nadir.

Then, one of my angels moved in to action in the most bizarre and unexpected way!

 Out of the iPad came on a song I had known for many years and always liked without really knowing why or thinking too closely about the lyrics.  However, this time I listened to the words of this 5+ minutes song and it seemed to me it was written for me that night to help me climb out of the depths of hell I was in.  

The first third of the song assured me I was not the only one who goes through bad times; the second third promised better times ahead; and the third part urged me to hold on and fight.  From tears of despair a few minutes earlier, I was now weeping with optimism and renewed determination to fight on to the bitter end. I then fell asleep until midnight. When the nurse completed her duties, I played that song many times over and each time it re-energised me a little more.

What was that song?  Some of you will be familiar with it but others may not have heard of it. Either way, I urge you to at least read the lyrics below but, I would love you to listen to it using the link below. The song is called “Everybody Hurts” by R.E.M.

A good version of the song on YouTube can be found via this link:



When your day is long
And the night
The night is yours alone
When you’re sure you’ve had enough
Of this life
Well hang on
Don’t let yourself go
‘Cause everybody cries
And everybody hurts sometimes

Sometimes everything is wrong
Now it’s time to sing along
When your day is night alone (hold on)
(Hold on) if you feel like letting go (hold on)
If you think you’ve had too much
Of this life
Well, hang on

‘Cause everybody hurts
Take comfort in your friends
Everybody hurts
Don’t throw your hand
Oh, no
Don’t throw your hand
If you feel like you’re alone
No, no, no, you’re not alone

If you’re on your own
In this life
The days and nights are long
When you think you’ve had too much
Of this life
To hang on

Well, everybody hurts sometimes
Everybody cries
And everybody hurts sometimes
And everybody hurts sometimes
So, hold on, hold on
Hold on, hold on
Hold on, hold on
Hold on, hold on

Everybody hurts

You are not alone

I practically listen to this song on daily basis now and I never tire of it.

The final thought I would like to share with you is this: Sooner or later, every family must deal with tragedy of some kind. With my own family, I am glad it happened to me and nobody else like my wife, my child, grandchild, or sibling.  There are hundreds of thousands, if not millions of families who deal with such matters on any given day.  My family happens to be just one of them.  I am proud of and love them dearly.  But, we are a typical, not exceptional family who came together in our hour of darkness.  So far, we have coped and we will continue to cope to the bitter or sweet end.

With every fiber in my body I hope you and your family never have to go through our experience. However, rest assured you too will work your way up to facing your challenges and fight the good fight.  I was flattered with so many undeserved adjectives like, brave, hero, role model, etc. I know ‘me’ and I am here to tell you it’s all nonsense!  I cannot say for sure every human being is like that but, I am convinced the majority are. We are all human and we have a strong survival instinct that drives us to safety.

As I mentioned earlier, our story is still unfolding, and I am clinging on to a proverb, hoping it will come true for my family and me, by the 17thCentury historian / theologian Thomas Fuller who wrote:

The darkest hour is just before the dawn

For the last time, thank you for reading this blog and for all your remarks and comments, which were mostly flattering and certainly undeserved, I truly appreciate your readership and recommendations to others.

I wish you all happy and healthy lives.

Mufid Sukkar – December 2018