Down

It’s 3.15pm, and I’ve just got out of bed.

I tried to get up earlier – several times – but I just couldn’t do it.  I couldn’t face it.  The enormity of what I’m about to go through hit me in the night and I just sank into a black hole of worry.

How will I cope with the impending treatment?  What will happen if the treatment isn’t successful?  Will this leave me susceptible to another attack in years to come?

Most of you won’t know that – in addition to my asthma and now the cancer, I also suffer from clinical depression.  I’ve been on anti-depressants for years now, and they’re working well.

Or, at least, they were.

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When I saw my doctor the other day, she assured me that this wasn’t a death sentence.  But, she did discuss the danger of the cancer spreading further from its current location.  If it goes lower, it could attack my larynx – and that could result in surgery that would render me mute.

If it goes higher, it approaches my brain.

She said I’m lucky it has developed exactly where it is.

I don’t feel lucky.

I spent most of the night running worst case scenarios through my mind.  How Kirsty and the boys would cope without me.  Worrying that they would have to move house.  That could mean Sam moving to a new school and Arran to a different college.  I’d hate that to happen.  They’re so happy where they are now.

I told Kirsty that I want her to meet someone else.  Someone who can look after them all.  Better than I can right now.

Shit.  Crying now.  Sorry.

know this is my depression kicking in, and that I can’t let it.  If I start spiralling down, I’ll lose the fight inside me.  I’ll lose my anger at this thing and my resolve to beat it.

My mum used to call it my bounce.  When I was low, she used to tell me to get my bounce back.

I wish I could talk to her now.  My Dad, too.  I’m terrified of going through this without them.  But, I’ll have to.

I was an adult when I lost my parents to cancer and it tore me apart, both times.  How will the boys cope if they lose me?  They’re just kids.

I’m not a religious man.  I used to be, but not any more.

I was brought up a catholic.  In my teens, I was really into it.  I played guitar at folk mass each week, and was part of a religious group at school.  As I grew up, my beliefs began to melt away – but there was always something there.  In the background.

Until my mum died.

I lost it all that day.  As if someone had flipped a switch.

Click.  Gone.  Forever.

Don’t get me wrong.  I don’t preach atheism to my kids.  I engage in discussions with them about religion, and I’ve told them that I believe that Grandma and Granddad are looking down at them from Heaven.

But I know I’ll never look down on them that way.  And that hurts.

I’ve just read back over this post so far.  Man, it’s dark.  Quite a difference after two days of funny hat pictures.  Sorry about that.

Looking back, I think I knew I was teetering on the edge of a black hole and I probably tried my best to sound cheerful.

I could do that now; pretend that everything is hunky dory – but that’s not what this blog is about. I promised I would be 100% open and honest, and that’s what I’m trying to do.

Cancer plus depression does not equal happy Tommy.

Please understand – I’m not trying to make you feel sorry for me.  If it was up to me, I’d probably just stay in bed and not post anything today. But I started this blog to chart my battle against this disease, and that means writing on the bad days as well as the good.

I know it could be worse.  I know they’ve caught the cancer in time to treat it, at least for now.

I know it’s not going to kill me.  Yet.

And that scares me, too.

How stupid does that sound?

I know I’m going to be ill.  Very ill.  But I’ll still have to find a way to provide for my family.  I’m terrified I’m going to let them down, more than I already have.

There – that’s the depression talking again.  Bastard.

I’d better sign off now before you all click away and never come back.  I’ll try to make tomorrow’s update a little more positive.

If I can.

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33 Comments


  1. A deeply felt post, Tommy. Don’t force positiveness. Just be you. And no one’s gonna walk away and not come back.

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  2. Just one point, your Mom and Dad are right there. You said it yourself, your mom would tell you to get your bounce back.

    Talk to them as though they’re in the room. Listen to what you know they would say to you. They spent their lifetimes with you, teaching and sharing with you. You carry them with you, sit and be with them.

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  3. Sending you huge loves xxxx Imagine us all holding your hands, supporting you while you get your bounce back xxx

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  4. No danger of the ‘going away’ part, Tommy, from any of us (I’ll be so bold as to speak on behalf of lots of total strangers, *ahem*). You promised to write, we promised to read, comment, support. The best (?) thing is for you to voice your feelings. Get them down. Problem shared and all that. Of course it won’t cure you but it will in its own way help. Bloody hell you are perfectly entitled to feel this way. It won’t be the last time, but know this WE ARE HERE!

    Now go back under that duvet and think of some more amazing hats for a good day.

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  5. Very honest post today Tommy. I’m one of a million people shouting ‘COME ON MATE YOU CAN BEAT THIS TWATTY THING’ (some may be shouting more eloquently than me) sending all the positive thoughts we have to you. Hoping tomorrow is a better day for you. Keep writing. We’ll keep reading. Xxx

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    1. Everyone has down days Tommy even though we arent fighting that devil illness like you BUT we are here for you Tommy reading your blog and sending loving thoughts and healing to you and maybe tomorrow will be a better day for you. Think of that day in future when gp says you have the all clear and there will be the biggest celebration. Xx

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  6. Write as much as you need to, Tommy. We will never click away. Even those of us who only know you online will be here to read and listen and comment if it helps. You can beat this, pal. I too suffer from depression on and off and I know that the black dog only needs the smell of a bone to rear back into life. Now he’s got a humdinger of a worrybone to waggle, so let him do his work and leave. You’ll emerge stronger.

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  7. We’ve all felt like this, Tommy, at various points in our lives. You never know what is hiding behind someone’s smile, do you? The whole point of this blog is for you to be completely honest about what you are going through. You are being. This will help someone later who is giving similar news to yours, as they’ll see they are not alone.
    Fight on. We are all here for you.

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  8. No need to make the next post happy if you don’t feel it. This blog is about getting your thoughts and feelings down on paper as it were, isn’t it?

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  9. It’s difficult to know what to say, can only empathise and support. Having said that, my facile tuppence worth would be to remember that there will be good days and bad days and not to beat yourself up over the bad days. No-one could be expected to suffer cancer without the fears and worries you are experiencing and they, too, are part of the process. While it is important to try and maintain a positive state of mind, as you’ve been doing, you are very much allowed to be human, with all that entails.

    Take care.
    x

    .

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  10. Hiya Tommy – there are so many of us struggling with anxiety or depression and you know that it comes on AND GOES! Some days will be easier than others and you have legitimate reasons to be anxious at present. Do not judge yourself at all – I guess you just have to go with the flow for a while until you get back on your feet. Acknowledge the hard times & allow yourself a rest so you can sieze the days when you feel strong enough to fight hard!! Sending positive vibes. Xxx

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  11. One day at a time Tommy – you will get through this!

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  12. Oh Tommy, I feel for you, as do all the people who will read your blog.
    It’s a horrible time, but it’s not horrible that you are strong enough to write the truth. Stay strong. May the black dog leave you alone soon xxx

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  13. Tommy you don’t have to apologise, never do that, we are your friends and we want to be with you through good and bad times. That black dog can be a bugger but it would be surprising if he hadn’t paid you a visit at the moment. Sending all the love in the world to you and your family xx

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  14. Lest you think this post is scaring me off, it is not. Reading you in my mountain home, six hours behind, on the first day of spring, 2016, and trying to put into words some kind of energy that’ll travel the distance and hit you like a hug. The depression is, indeed, a fucker (been there), and while I hate that it vexes you, I am glad you recognize it for what it is. I hope this finds you released from it at least a little bit, if not completely.

    Clearly, your writing voice, through which you’ve created a rich, rewarding life, is powerful enough to guide you through the narrows of despair, when perspective temporarily abandons you. Like so much of what makes up you, that is deeply inspiring.

    Back in Buddy days, I recall we would walk in your flat and, upon seeing the answering machine light not blinking, we would cry, “NO MATES!” and sob pathetically, then laugh. It was funny because we knew we did, in fact, have mates, and I think we somehow knew that in the shrouded years ahead, come what may, we would always have mates to help see us through whatever life threw at us, or whatever we ill-advisedly sought out. The good and the bad. That has proven true.

    I am proud to post here, as one of many who love you, distance and time be damned. Fight on, mate.

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  15. Oh Tommy, I’m so sorry you’re having to go through all this. Personally cancer seems like one of the scariest things in this world, early 20s and I’ve already had one scare, terrified to think of all those what ifs. I’ve lost a loved one or two to cancer, and seen loved ones battle depression and it’s awful, but I suppose all I can say in hopes of comforting is that these are the bad days. Not all days are going to be bad, and the the further you make it the more you’ll look back on those bad days and be happy that you made it. I already know some who weren’t so lucky. But there are going to be some good days, and knowing your nutty sense of humour a good many of those good days are going to be great.
    As you go through this I can’t recommend enough that you be sure to talk to people, counsellors, family, friends, even us fans. The more you learn ways to be strong the more others will too. Plus as the charities say, no one should face this alone.

    You’ve got all of us behind you. x

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  16. I am over awed by the sheer honesty of your posts, I have lost loved ones to cancer and to see the other side of the battle is truly humbling. It’s all very well to tell others to stay positive, but it’s not as easy as that, I really hope all your fears do not come to pass, you are an inspiration and a very very brave man. I may not know you personally but you have my utmost respect.

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  17. Not walking away either. Hang tight Tommy. Even in your dark days we are here. Those that have known you from school, from sea, from the West End or have come to know you through your writing. No-one expects you to be the life and soul. Womblebotton is not required! No mask, just a man that is loved and respectedxxxx

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  18. Writing this blog is the best thing you can do. You have to get all this stuff outside of your head, onto the page, so you know it’s there, you don’t need to write about it again, you don’t need to think about it again. That’s the great thing about keeping a diary or a blog – it forces you to move on and think about new things.

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  19. Tommy, I’m so sorry you’re going through so much. I’ve dealt with depression for much of my life and while I can’t possibly know what you’re going through now, I can sympathise. I’ve found CBT very helpful and you might too, but feel free to ignore that suggestion if you’d rather.

    You might not remember this but years ago, you sent one of your Barrington Stoke books to me to help encourage my youngest son to read. He has very severe dyslexia, and was really struggling at the time. Well, he loved that book, and he still loves that book. He’s fifteen now and will be taking his GCSEs this summer: while his writing will never be good his reading is far better than we ever hoped it would be, and he started reading with you and that book you were so kind to send him. You made such a difference to his life. And he still talks about you and your books now.

    I told him how ill you are and he told me that you are “very cool”. And that he hopes you get better soon. As do we all.

    Much love, lovely Tommy.

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  20. Fight this bastard, Tommy. And I will stand beside you every step of the way.

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  21. Another one here who reads and will keep reading, no matter if the post is happy or sad or angry or disgusted or…whatever. It’s allowed. It’s all allowed, and we hear you and we will keep on listening. It’s all very well to say we’re all behind you – we are – but you’re the one who has to go through this. It’s OK to rage and wail and hide. We will all be here on the bad days as well as the good x

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  22. Writing is what you do. A writer is what you are. The best writing is always honest so never be afraid of scaring away your readers with whatever you want to write, whether it’s on this or any other subject. Through your writing, this is effecting more than just you, mate.

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  23. Your honesty is amazing and humbling . Depression is terrible I think it’s very hard to understand unless you have lived with it I can only imagine how hard it must be to combine it with cancer . I hope sharing your thoughts helps you . I am sure it helps others . It’s brave to be so honest . Much love to you and your family xx

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  24. Tommy, a couple of things, and I’m going to sound hard headed and practical because, despite the pink hair, I am in fact , very practical. Firstly, I don’t know Kirsty but I’d bet my bottom dollar she doesn’t need a man to look after her. Women are amazingly resilient and can manage all sorts of incredible things when they have too. Also, she loves you, her primary focus will be on getting you better, that’s today and tomorrow not some time way down the line. You are doing all you can financially. You can do no more right now. Also, we have a welfare system. Believe it or not it does pick people up when they are in need – I’ve seen it in action. Secondly, get in touch with Macmillan, you need their support. They are excellent. You don’t have to do this on your own. Sending so many good thoughts your way xxx

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  25. Tommy, you’re allowed to feel crap about a crapulous situation. It’s scary and horrible and horrible and scary and we don’t mind you letting us know that it is. Hang in there, mate.

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  26. Hi Tommy, I lost my parents to cancer too, nursing them both – my dad at 45 and my mum at 66. I still talk to them, and I firmly believe that Dad has always been there pulling me out of tricky situations and very sad times ever since I was 18. So you can still talk to your folks and soon your bounce will return. I’m thinking of you and cheering you on all the way from Australia.

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  27. Hi Tommy,

    This is the first post I ever read on your blog, sent here by Kathryn (with the pink hair). It is very moving. And you have a new fan. I’m sorry you are struggling with these dark things. I hope you will be feeling better soon.

    The bad days are hard to face. Hope it helps to know how many people are on your side.

    Best wishes from across the Channel.

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  28. You ain’t let no one down mate and don’t forget it.x

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  29. Tommy, such honest, vivid, powerful posts. You haven’t lost your bounce, whatever you may think, because you are writing with such verve and insight and humour – that energy is still there. Nobody is going to stop reading.

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  30. Hi Tommy, full of admiration for you. Like everyone else following your journey with you, I wish there was more I could offer than mere words. My own family is and has been touched by this pain in the arse of a disease. I would strongly suggest that your down turn in mood is ‘nothing more’ than par for the course at this time and in no way a sign of weakness! You will regain your mojo soon, being brave is not lack of fear but being afraid and doing ‘it’ anyway and sharing your most intimate thoughts with us is not only brave but generous in the extreme. You WILL win this battle Tommy and be in no doubt we are ALL wishing you, love, strength and dogged determination. God bless you and yours Tommy …smash it ! xx

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  31. As you can see, no one is walking away and I doubt anyone is reading your blog just for the funny hat pics. I’m guessing most of us are thanking whatever gods we recognise that it’s not us, and praying hard that sooner rather than later it’s not you either and you’re posting your thoughts as a survivor. Since the only “help” I can give is to read/comment consider me in.

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