Exactly four years ago on 31 August 2018, I was wheeled to the medical operating theatre at the American Hospital in Nicosia, Cyprus.  It was a Friday and, based on the best medical advice available, the decision to go ahead with the operation was taken on Tuesday of the same week.

To be perfectly honest, I had been feeling unwell the previous few months but, I didn’t feel so unwell to warrant a major operation however, the medical evidence was too compelling to argue with or ignore.  What helped me make the big decision was the stark choice the surgeon gave me, he said “you can postpone the decision for a while and run the risk of dying by Christmas, or you can go ahead with the operation and be back at work within 6 weeks”.

Naively, I focused on the prospect of six weeks and ignored the many, many associated risks.  I researched the matter on the Internet and was relieved to learn that the liver can lose a significant percentage of its mass but grow back to normal.  There were many risks and warnings but, I ignored them all because I preferred to focus on the positive.

I kept two people aware of my medical condition.  My wife Claire and my brother Samir who both arrived respectively from England on Wednesday, and from Jordan on Thursday.  They took me to the hospital on Thursday night.  The operation was scheduled for the following morning.  Over the last four years none of the likely positive outcomes applied and all the risks associated with liver cancer, which I chose to ignore, applied. The only negative thing that did not materialise was actual death.

With help and support of close family and friends, a handful of good medical people, as well as a very large dose of luck, I somehow managed to keep the cancer from claiming the ultimate prize of taking my life away.  There are two ways of looking at my situation and what I lost/gained from having those extra four years; the negative and the positive.

On the negative side, I have endured pain of unbelievable intensity; I have lost a significant part of my physical strength; I have aged more than 4 years; I have been told by doctors that I only had hours to live; I have lost autonomy to the extent that my normal self-reliance had disappeared; I watched my own family putting my health at the top of their priorities while going through the agony of not knowing if I was going to live or die; I discovered that some people I called friends before the operation, just disappeared into the mist of my past; I watched my beloved Manchester United transform into a useless bunch of money seeking players who could hardly win a match; I lived long enough to see this country take the stupidest decision to leave the EU because that would make the UK more independent and powerful on the world stage; and I also lived through the Covid 19 pandemic which effectively isolated me from the rest of the world for two long years.

On the positive side however, I learnt that I could endure just about any level of physical pain, knowing that I will have to endure it again, and again; I have come to terms with my physical limitations, accepted a new reality of the new me and consigned the old me to the garbage basket; I acquired the discipline of taking my many daily medications which kept my health under control and reduced the chances of being admitted to hospital ‘for observation’, thus allowing me a certain degree of autonomy; my family and I have now adjusted to the fact that my condition is part of our lives and I am no longer the top priority to the extent that everyone can focus on their own lives; having lost a few friends, I gained others who accepted my new reality and kept in regular contact; I have stopped worrying about or even expecting Manchester United to do well in my lifetime;  The UK is still in a mess and will continue to wallow in this mess until a new breed of politicians take over sometime in the future.  Above all these positives, Claire and I have never been closer, and she continues to surprise me with her optimism. Over the last four years I have been blessed to see our youngest daughter get married, our two granddaughters grow up four more years and blossom; I have welcomed our grandson to this world, and he is now approaching two years of age and delighting everyone with his funny antics.

Comparing the negatives with the positives, I am so happy to be alive, but I am ready to move on to the next life when the cancer finally wins this war as cancer always wins in the end.  My only wish is to live long enough to make sure our grandchildren acquire and retain some memory of me.  Maybe it is greedy of me to ask for this but, I cannot help it.