I had a strange experience over the weekend: the first negative response to my public fight against cancer.

I don’t want to give the guy any further oxygen of publicity, so I won’t name him here.  Instead, for the purposes of this blog post, I’ll call him Troll (you have NO idea how many names I typed and deleted just then!)


In order to attract attention to my blog, I tweeted a handful of people I admire and asked if they would be kind enough to re-tweet the link to where I write about my battle with cancer.

The brilliant Reverend Richard Coles (formerly of The Communards, now a popular support act for God) did just that.  I got a lot of new visitors as a result.

Then, a message popped up on Twitter…

Troll: Why do people battle cancer? Do they battle heart disease? I’ve had cancer. You take the medicine – battle?

I have to admit, it took me a little by surprise.  I don’t know this guy, so why does it matter to him what I call how I deal with my illness.

So, I tweeted back…

Me: To me and my young family it is, yes.

And from there, the conversation went like this…

Troll: I took the surgery, chemo, radio – I did not “battle”.

Me: I’m delighted to hear it.  I, however, choose to battle.

Troll: I wish you well but how does the battle manifest itself other than you taking the medicine?

Me: Mental attitude, staying positive for my two scared sons, and more. Thanks for the advice, however.

Troll: Of course that’s important but it is the treatment that does the main work.

Me: I understand the process, thank you.

At this point, I decided that there was nothing to be gained by engaging with this person, and so ignored him.

However, my sister, Sue, was not impressed by his comments, and told him so…

Sue: Thanks for taking the time to belittle how my brother chooses to address HIS illness, note the emphasis on his, not yours.

Troll: I think you will find my comments were generic rather than personal.

Sue: You made it personal by taking it upon yourself to question him. If he feels like it’s a battle, then it’s a battle.

Troll: I think if you read carefully I was not questioning him but the specific concept of battle.

Sue: Then maybe address them to generic people, not in response to someone just diagnosed with cancer?

Troll: I wish you brother well: but a blog is a public forum and I, who had surgery, chemo and radio am also entitled to my opinion.

Sue: It’s your right to call however you deal with your own illness whatever you want, his to do the same. Good night.

Troll: Did I suggest otherwise? Many on Twitter seem to 2nd guess.

Sue: Well, each to their own. I get no pleasure from making a man, newly diagnosed with a scary illness, explain himself.

Troll: If you read my tweets you will see none is personal.

Sue: If that makes you feel better, you think like that. Goodnight.

And on the conversation went on…

…and continued the next day with my very good friend and admin of this very website, Barry Hutchison

Barry: The willingness to go through great hardship in the hope of staying alive is a very clear definition of “battling” IMO. I am perplexed why you’d feel the need to chime in on the statement, frankly.

Troll: Because when I had cancer there was no battle – I let the surgery,  chemo & radio do their work. Battle is tabloid speak.

Barry: But my point is, why question how someone describes their situation? Positive mindset and drive to beat illness can only help.

Troll: My question was generic rather than personal – I am not familiar with survival data on positive mind – I doubt major effect.

Barry: You say it was a generic remark, but you made it direct to someone making a personal statement about their own illness.

Troll: True but in a public forum.

Barry: So make your generic comments in a public forum, but not aimed at someone in particular. Did he aim his tweet at you directly?

Troll: It came via a RT but a blog is intended as a public forum – surely?

Barry: Forget it. Life’s too short to discuss this any further with you. Like I say, though… If, on hearing a person has cancer, my first instinct would not be to question the words they chose to describe their situation.

TrollI was not questioning that but asking why? There is a difference.

And on the thread went, round and round, until Barry very wisely gave up.

Basically, this clown was saying to me:

“You’re doing cancer wrong!  do it my way!”

Er… no thanks, fella.  I’ll decide what I decide to call the way I face my illness.  If I decide it’s a battle, then it’s a battle.  And it’s got sod all to do with you.

I have to admit to expecting one or two negative comments about the very public way in which I’m charting my fight against this terrible disease.  And I’m not in the slightest bit bothered by what this guy had to say.

The messages of support, love, prayers, help and good vibes that I receive every day FAR outweigh anything a mere Twitter troll could try to impose on my outlook.

So [NAME REDACTED] – go and boil your head!

And that sentence needed rewriting a few times, too!

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  1. You put that waaaaay more politely than I would have.


  2. Hey Tommy
    When my daughter was undergoing chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant last year, a woman got in touch with my wife on FB urging us to stop all treatment for our daughter, because, in her opinion, cancer treatment kills more people than the cancer itself.

    She urged us instead to treat our daughter with only natural remedies – and then proceeded to reel off a list of herbs that we should give her.

    She also insinuated that if we didn’t follow her advice then we were bad parents, and that it would be our fault if our daughter died.

    I think if that woman had been in front of me at that moment I would have happily beaten her to death with a baseball bat. Needless to say, I decided not to engage with her. People like this are single-minded to the state of derangement, and arguing with them is a complete waste of time and energy, and leads to nothing but extra stress.

    The very best of luck with your continued battle. After all that we went through last year I really feel for you, and am sending hugely positive vibes your way. By the way, our daughter has now finished her treatment and – touchwood – is well on the road to recovery. I hope by this time next year you’ll be in the same position that we are now.

    All the Best


    1. Hi Mark…

      I’d like to say I don’t believe anyone could be so cruel, but these past few weeks have really opened my eyes. I, too, am getting plenty of messages recommending natural remedies over chemo, radiotherapy, etc. Wheatgrass appears to be top of the list at the moment.

      Thankfully, I prefer to believe trained doctors and science over random strangers who send me messages out of the blue on Facebook.

      I’m delighted to hear your daughter is getting better. I wish you, her and your whole family my very best for the future. She’s an inspiration to me. If she can do it, then I can too!



  3. Far more politely. Guy seems like a bit of a callous, selfish Little Englander idiot all round though.


  4. Wow, I am so sorry to hear this. I thought there were some things even trolls were above, but I guess not. x


  5. Of course it’s a battle. Fighting any disease is by its very nature a, er, fight.

    As always, comments from trolls are a way of people trying to make themselves feel better about themselves and/or superior.


  6. Tommy, I’ve tried so many times to write something to you but I’m lost for fluffing words. You battled him, you’re battling cancer, and you’ll win. You’re you and the best way to do things is your way. Go Tommy. Xx


  7. I’m with Barry! Our lives are far too short and precious to waste time on people like that! You’re in enough pain, without having to deal with a pain in the ass like that as well . Sending lots of happy vibes your way X X x


  8. I can’t recall is I said Troll is a Right Knob. Did I? Just making sure. I also think he may be mentally ill, or at the very least stuck in a developmental stage in which, without conscious realization, he feeds off the quantity of energy he receives from his actions (words, in this case, as he is a troll who likely just sits around) rather than the quality. Not unlike the kindergartener who compulsively throws things, and pinches, precisely so he can get yelled at. Narcissism. The stuff of which tyrants are made. As you in the UK so eloquently say: BLESS.


  9. Battle…fight…struggle…use whatever word fits YOUR experience best. What Mr Troll refused to accept was that this IS your experience, and not HIS. I love a spot of pedantry and the occasional grammar-war, but you know what Mr Troll, cancer is not the venue for arguments about semantics.

    Tommy…you are a true inspiration and someone I look up to with pride and awe. Keep ignoring the morons and focus on your battle, your family and your future.

    Keep fighting the BATTLE…and count me as one of your many, many foot soldiers (can I be the radio operator?)


  10. Don’t we fight a cold and battle a fever? Jeeze there should be an all out nuclear war on cancer.


  11. Hi Tommy, been reading your battle and am disappointed but not surprised to see trolls. There’s now a book out called The History of Stupid which concludes that public debate is now pointless. Seems to be the way these days. He/she is of course wrong on every count, but such is the nature of trolls. Lots of evidence to show battling and fighting and right attitude helps against illness (and my studies started in 1993)!. Just to put a mile on your face – we had a customer ask if we stocked Cure Cancer With Carrots. We don’t. It exists as a book though. Each to their own and best ignore the fucktrumpets I say!


  12. Under the circumstances your restraint is admirable! Keep up the good work xx


  13. There’s no right way. There’s no wrong way. There’s just YOUR way. More power to your elbow, Tommy. Whatever the hell that even means!!!
    Mr Sunderland was in today after asking very fondly after you. Due to your fantastic blog I was able to give him chapter and verse about your battle. He sends his thoughts. X


  14. I think you also gave him his answer and he chose not to hear it. Weird. Not the first time I’ve heard this debate either but I think I’m with you , you may have to accept treatment but you Are s fairly key member of the team here – battling is active and empowering . The other choice is passivity …I think I’d choose to direct my rage at this beast in the same productive way you are Tommy . If I could hold your duelling swords, I would x


  15. I once felt that battle wasn’t the right term for facing Cancer until I went into treatment myself ( for ahead and neck cancer too). By the end of my six weeks of Chemo/Rad therapy I was literally on my knees and BATTLE was exactly the right term. I wish you all the best for the future.



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