22 December 2009 – One Snowy Day (Cancer and Me 2)

30th July 2015 1 By Andy Burrows

This phase of my life all started in December 2009. I was (and still am at the time of writing) a self-employed Interim Manager, specialising in business financial management, and I had been out of work since the beginning of April, had maxed the credit cards, borrowed money from my business (that I need to pay the tax bill) and sold the better of our two family cars. Right at the end of the November, having reached a point of near desperation, I agreed to take an interim role further afield than I would normally consider, and at a lower pay rate. So in December 2009 I was relishing the opportunity to work and get paid again, but I was nervous about having to stay away from home two or three nights a week.

Physically I felt fine initially, but as the month progressed I became increasingly aware of discomfort just below my ribs. On one or two occasions that discomfort became pain that took my breath away, like an awful stitch in my side.

By Monday December 21st I had decided it was bad enough to make an appointment with my doctor. That was significant for me, because, like most males, I don’t normally like to bother the GP with anything. I was in the office – it was a Monday – and I had to own up to my boss that I wasn’t feeling great. The reason I felt I had to own up was that I’d nodded off in an in-house Financial Reporting course that our auditors had specially prepared for the qualified accountants in the business. I know that at least one or two people had noticed, but I hadn’t admitted to anyone that it was because I tended to get lightheaded when my stomach was feeling particularly bad.

There was talk of heavy snow, and I had the day off the next day, so given my distance from home I was encouraged to leave the office early. Then the train was delayed and I stood on the platform at Watford as it started to snow heavily. I couldn’t see much outside the trains in the dark, but there didn’t look to be much snow as I passed through Farnborough and Fleet nearly two hours after leaving the office. But by the time the train reached Basingstoke it was evident that the snow was very deep and still falling hard.

My stomach was still hurting, but as I trudged from the station to my car I realized that I wasn’t going to be able to drive home. I saw a number of stranded cars, and there were traffic jams on each major junction I walked past on my way to the car. So I decided to walk home. It took me over two hours and it was well past 9pm when I got through the door. I was fine though. I can’t say I was freezing, and my aching stomach wasn’t that bad.

My appointment with the GP was the next day, the Tuesday, as I had the day off anyway for my daughter’s 7th birthday. Given that most of the roads were blocked with snow, I walked over to the surgery, making my way through the crisp snow – in my wellies rather than work shoes this time – but it only took about half an hour or so to get there.

The doctor told me that I had ‘excess acid’ in my stomach, probably caused by the stress of starting a new job after the stress of unemployment, etc. He prescribed me some Omeprazol pills and said I would feel noticeably better well within a week. I admit I was sceptical, because it didn’t feel like it could be that simple. But I didn’t have any reason to argue, so I thought I’d give the pills a try.

Well, within two days, going back to work in Watford and staying there overnight on the Wednesday, it was clear to me that the pills were doing nothing whatsoever. I did some late night Christmas shopping on one of the evenings and had to find a bench to sit down on, feeling faint and in a lot of pain. I went home early in the afternoon on Christmas Eve trying to put a brave face on, so as not to spoil Christmas.