Chapter 12: A New Job and a New Hope

“I believe everyone should have a broad picture of how the universe operates and our place in it. It is a basic human desire. And it also puts our worries in perspective.”
Stephen Hawking

My last day at Oxford University is quite an emotional one. It really has been an enjoyable and rewarding three years here, but the project is coming to an end and alas it’s the final day for quite a few of us freelancers today. The Programme Manager and the Head of Testing make an unannounced visit to my office with many of my fellow team members in tow and a brief presentation and speeches of thanks ensue. I’m genuinely touched by the incredibly kind words everybody has to offer me and quite delighted with my haul of Oxford University themed leaving presents. In fact, I’m far too delighted and emotional to actually do any more work so I spend the afternoon with my almost ex-colleagues having a final pint or two around a warming coal fire in The Victoria public house in Jericho.

My new job starts the following Monday and I try to put all thoughts of my cancer to the back of my mind and totally devote myself to my new position. The new role is as good as I had hoped, the work is interesting and suitably challenging and my new team really are an excellent bunch. After a month I have settled rather nicely into the rhythms of my new role. There’s certainly a lot of Three Letter Acronyms (TLAs) to learn in the world of Air Traffic Control (ATC). BTW there are more TLAs in ATC then when I worked on MIS, SAP, CAD or RAD systems for EDS, IBM, ICI or the MOD – WTF!

Mercifully all is progressing well with work and there is no need to bore them with my miserable tales of my recent medical incident. That doesn’t however mean that I can’t stop constantly thinking about my cancer. It is a worry like no other I have experienced in my life. I’ve worried before about people rudely parking in my parking space, about running out of milk and not being able to have a cup of tea. I’ve even worried about not finding a new job when my current contract expires. In fact, here’s a graph of some of the things I used to worry about:

Once I was diagnosed with cancer however these previous concerns paled into insignificance forcing me to recalibrate the Y-axis on my worry graph. Here’s the updated version:

The worry follows me everywhere, it’s in the toilet when I’m having a quiet dump, it's in the passenger seat of my car, it tailgates me into the office and if during the weekly management meeting I dare to stop thinking about work it immediately occupies the momentary gap in my mind. Even when I’m doing something that I would expect to block out all other thoughts, like watching the new Star Wars film that was released just before Christmas, the cancer weasels its way into my thoughts. Surely it will eventually fade, if I can get to my one year all clear then surely I’ll start to be able to more effectively put it to the back of my mind.

The upside of course with all this worrying about cancer, as you can clearly see from my updated graph, is that I no longer give a shit about the miles of tailbacks on the A34 northbound. Cancer does give you a very helpful sense of perspective.

Sooner then expected I get a letter from Salisbury General inviting me back for my first post-op scan. Good, if I can get through this first scan then that should at least start to steady my nerves. I confide my condition in my line manager, as I will need to leave work early on Wednesday to pop into the hospital. I assure him it’s just a routine scan to ensure all is well, which is perfectly true, if only I could convince myself of that.

I arrive in the Radiology waiting area in Salisbury Hospital with a roomful of fretful inpatients, also here for their CT scans. I, however, am an old hand at this malarkey, I’ve had two CT scans already and know that they are quick and painless. There’s no need for these silly people to be worrying about their CT scans, it’s the results next week they need to be worrying about. I wait for an hour and a half as each patient in turn is called to the scanner room. The waiting area gradually empties until I am the last man sitting. I’m finally called through and the radiologist recognises me from my scans before Christmas. She wishes me luck, directs me on to the scanner and requests that I drop my trousers to my knees and place my arms above my head. I acquiesce without unnecessary comment, I know how this works. As before I’m dragged into the guts of the scanner as it starts to spin up and I follow the instruction of the mesmerising voice and little icons telling me when to breathe.

As expected, no indication is given on the findings of the scan, I’ll have to wait. There is no news in the post or by telephone the following day, or the day after. In fact, there’s not even any news the following week. I’m advised that no news is good news, if there’s a problem they’ll let me know. This seems like sensible advice, but I have too much riding on the outcome to simply wait patiently. I ring Mr Campbell’s receptionist just to check that he has the results. She confirms that he has the results and that he doesn’t need to speak to me. She also confirms that he has not written any additional notes on my scan, which she says is a good sign. There’s no formal news the second week either, this is surely good news, the lack of additional notes on my scan and the fact that Mr Campbell doesn’t need to talk to me has to be good news.

Three weeks after the scan and I finally get a letter confirming that the recent CT scan shows no evidence of any cancer reoccurring. The skip in my step the next day at work may give away to the more observant co-worker that my cancer worries have reduced, albeit ever so slightly.


  1. Crispian - I am a fellow cancer sufferer. 6 years and counting. I have learned that the only way to push cancer to the back of your mind is to fill the front of your mind so full that it doesn't get a chance to invade the front of your mind.

    Every time I visit or local hospital, i go past a poster that say 'learning to live with cancer' and every time I see that post, I silently mouth back at it - 'how about the cancer learning to live with me'?

    That has always been my mantra - the cancer has to fit into my life- not the other way round!

    Hence I am now standing for parliament from my hospital bed - the cancer has invaded my spine, but there is nothing stopping me standing - or rather 'lying' (but then they all do that!) - for parliament! I'm known on Twitter as Anna Raccoon and am also a 'friend' of David Allen Green.

    You can follow my progress here:

    AndI, in turn, shall follow yours. Good luck with the new job!

  2. Life's brilliant, isn't it? I had mine fixed in 2009.

  3. Your graph is incredibly eloquent. I had a major surgery seven years ago. The surgery looked very simple and straight forward; I was in excellent physical condition and the Chief of Neurosurgery was operating. My risk of death was minimal. I still got stinking drunk the night before.