To be honest, I don’t really know all that much about cancer.

I know that it affects a lot more of us than we probably realise, and having watched documentaries like the BBC’s Children Fighting Cancer series, I also know a little about some of the treatment process etc.

But I dare say that should I be told right now that I was about to face the same challenges that millions of other cancer sufferers have faced, then I would be ill-prepared to do so. Hopefully, that day will never come for me but statistically speaking there’s probably a fairly good chance that it will happen at some point in my life so perhaps it’s time for me to do a little background research now.

Often with things we are scared of, finding out more information actually allays those fears a little. I see it as there being two different kinds of fear - firstly fear of the unknown and secondly fear of the known. Cancer normally settles into the first category as there are so many myths and old wives tales about diseases like this, for example watching the Children Fighting Cancer programmes I was surprised at how high the survival rate was amongst children which actually made me a little less apprehensive about the whole thing.

When people are ill however, ignorance is often bliss and they put off going to the doctor for as long as possible - which is obviously the worst thing you can do. I would imagine there are very few cases of these things “just going away” on their own.

People’s attitudes to visiting the doctor baffle me at times. If you are ill with a particular disease then you have it whether you know it or not, but some people think that the doctor actually gives them the disease when they go to visit. I don’t know if statistics actually bear this out, but it appears to me that a lot of people who are dodging along relatively happily trying to convince themselves that they are fine, actually go downhill very quickly once they find out that they have cancer (or another life-threatening disease).

If ever there was a case for mind over matter then this is surely it - as soon as your mind gives in and accepts that you are in fact ill, then your body just seems to give up.

Thankfully not everyone reacts like this, and there are people alive today who are defying the odds of surviving - which should surely give hope and inspiration to the rest of us. Being told you are ill doesn’t and shouldn’t really affect you - you were ill before you went to the doctor, so simply finding out the name of the disease should have no affect on your wellbeing. Obviously it’s easy for me to say this as I sit here relatively healthy (as far as I know), and I have no idea how I would react in that situation, but hopefully calmness would rule out.

A few years ago I actually went to the doctor after developing discomfort when swallowing. The doctor was a little baffled and tried various sprays and drops to see if perhaps there was something blocking the passageway which could be broken up but nothing seemed to work. After a couple of visits, I was sent for x-rays and they also performed a barium swallow to see if they could track the liquid as it went down, but everything looked normal.

The next step was to go into hospital, where they were to insert a camera down the throat for a proper look at what was going on. I set off to the hospital (which is 50 miles away), expecting to just have the camera stuck down my throat and then to be allowed home again but I ended up staying overnight. While I was there I had more x-rays, another barium swallow, ultrasound scans of my neck and chest followed by a CAT scan of that area as well - it was a nightmare as they would tell me not to swallow when they were about to take the images, and it’s incredibly hard not to do! Because it’s a reflex action which happens without you thinking about it, as soon as someone mentions it then you become conscious of it and it’s really hard to just lie still!

After all this, I was a little concerned that when I got home I would be glowing in the dark, but still they pressed on with other tests.

During all of this, I was never scared or nervous about what the outcome may be. I’ve had some illnesses in my life, though nothing serious, so my attitude towards doctors has always been that I’ve felt ill, gone to see him, he’s given me a prescription, I’ve taken the pills and then got better as a result - so even though this time I had to go to the hospital, I still expected the same result.

I sometimes think I have a child’s perspective on things - I mostly seem to think in quite simplistic terms, black and white. All through life, I’ve never really been scared of being ill - in fact at primary school I can remember actually wanting to be ill as everyone else in my class was having a week off having contracted mumps! I wasn’t quite so happy when I did eventually get them and was in agony for a week though!

Back at the hospital, the doctor came round to give me a little chat about the operation and what he was expecting to find. I hadn’t really given it any thought as to what may be the problem, but whatever it was I was confident that I could overcome it. I wouldn’t say that I feel invincible, just that I’m confident of beating whatever comes my way - in fact, if someone close to me is ill then I’d much rather it was me who was ill than them simply because I’m sure I could get over whatever it is.

The doctor at the hospital knocked my confidence a bit though. He said that they were going to give me a general anaesthetic, and then have a good look right down the oesophagus to see what the problem was. The thing which got me thinking though was when he asked me to sign a consent form prior to the operation, which basically said that I agreed to them operating on me but also that if they found a lump obstructing things then I consented to it’s removal so that they could carry out a biopsy. The thinking behind this was that he wanted to be prepared should they find something - no point in waking me up just to sign a bit of paper, only for me to then have to go back under for it’s removal.

Only then did I think I may be seriously ill, which worried me a bit - but not as much as you might think. On waking up after the operation, my throat was extremely sore - so much so that I was sure he had found something the size of a football in there and had removed it with a chainsaw. I had to wait a couple of hours before he made his rounds and I was put out of my misery - they had in fact found nothing, the sore throat was simply because the camera had scratched and cut the lining of my oesophagus and it would take a few days to heal.

Basically, the pipe down which my food and drink travels has a twist in it which influences the way things travel down it. Because of the kink, things can’t flow as freely or quickly as they should normally which is why I had noticed a bit of a change.

Unfortunately, although the doctors had found out what was wrong, there was to be no prescription and no tablets to make me better - it was just the way I am, and probably always will be.

Having to sign that form though, opened my eyes to how close we all are to cancer. There can’t be many people in the country who haven’t thought they have it, actually have had it, or who have a close relative who has had it. The big problem I think is that it takes so many forms and affects so many different parts of the body that to term it all with a single word doesn’t help people’s perception of the disease. Cancer of one part of the body is much more cureable than another for example, so is it fair to just have the one name to cover them all?

As you will have noticed the site has turned pink for October and throughout this month I will be trying to find out more about the disease, to educate myself mainly but if I find anything interesting then I will post it here too.