Chris Calder

Have you ever heard anyone say, “I’m glad I had cancer?” Probably not, but I can truly say that if I had not been diagnosed with cancer, my life would not have taken the course that it did.

My wife and I retired from England to central France, where we bought an old house with an adjacent derelict cottage. Modernizing the house and renovating the cottage to make it suitable for holiday renting was the aim, and we achieved it within a year. As we settled into an active, healthy lifestyle, we looked forward to enjoying our tranquil rural life for years to come. But just when we thought that life couldn’t be better, the bombshell dropped. I was diagnosed with bladder cancer.

Tests indicated a problem and I was sent to see a surgeon. He explained that I would need an endoscopy to establish the size and location of the tumor, followed by a course of chemotherapy. If the cancer had seeded, after the chemo I would need a second procedure to remove my bladder. The surgeon was frank; exactly what I preferred.

“It is cancer,” he said, “a very aggressive type.” While I was still reeling from hearing that, he added, “but we will beat it, together.”

After a few moments’ thought, I asked, “What will happen if I skip the chemo?”

He shrugged. “You’ll die.”

I wanted the truth, so I had no problem with his candor. “OK,” I said, “let’s get on with it.”

Following the first operation, I was recuperating in hospital, spending my time reading and thinking. Watching television wasn’t an option because at the time my command of the French language was, frankly, awful. During my idle thinking time I had the germ of an idea for a novel, based loosely on some of the more interesting and arguably bizarre incidents that I had experienced in my working life.

During the following months the structure of the story began to take shape. My chemo sessions were carried out as an outpatient at a large hospital and getting there, being treated and getting home again took up a whole day. Much of that involved hanging around, so I had plenty of time to keep working on the story.

A week after completing the chemo I was back in hospital for the major operation and spent two weeks in recovery. I had the time and the motivation to flesh out the story and a few months later my novel Payback was published. Since then have written two more; not bad for a septuagenarian! Thanks to the skills of dedicated medical staff I am now am completely clear of cancer and enjoying life pursuing my new career.

If you are a senior, stay positive and don’t let cancer scare you. I am living proof that it can be beaten, at any age.

Tell Your Story. Whether you’re a patient, survivor, caregiver, or loved one touched by cancer, your story can have an enormous impact. You can provide hope and inspiration to someone who has recently been diagnosed with cancer or a patient undergoing therapy.