A Cake for Cancer

6 Jan

Last Wednesday, we went to the cinema. A 30-something man  greeted us and allowed us a free ticket into the film of our choice. Now, this man wasn’t just a random stranger. He is the son of a long term acquaintance, whom I shall name Elle. I have seen him over the years and have hardly managed to speak to him on an informal basis. When we used to see him with his mum, it was only in passing and we barely managed to exchange more than a few words. I think the furthest we got was either an acknowledgement of the head or wave of the hand or a monosyllabic “Hello”.  Over time, we have seen him grow his hair long, cut it short, gain weight, lose weight, move home, start jobs, dress against the latest fashion and trends in his own inimitable way, verging sometimes on what others would call a “goth” or “computer nerd” look, revert to more conservative fashions and just watch him grow into a quietly confident young man.

We only gleaned information about him through his elderly, yet exceptionally active mother. She was proud that he had managed to secure a part time job in a major cinema multiplex. If you go to the cinema on a regular basis, she said, he’d let you in for free as he is allowed special staff allowances and discounts. We didn’t take her up on the offer but if her son did see us at the specified venue, he would insist we went in at his discretion. We would rather not take up the generous offer and pay our own way as I don’t believe in taking advantage of someone’s kind nature.

Anyway, last Summer, Elle informed us that her son had been poorly for some time and they didn’t know what it was. He was going to be tested soon, she said, and hopefully we’d find out. He was tested for testicular cancer and the results were positive. When Elle told us, we were shocked. We knew testicular cancer can affect men of his age, but found it difficult to comprehend how it could happen to him.

We followed his medical and health experiences through what Elle told us was happening in his life. He was having to see the Specialists and Consultants, had surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy, on medication and obviously sick leave from work. Gradually, we built up a picture of his progress. Elle informed us he was hoping to return to work soon as he was fed up of sitting at home, bored with the monotony of his routine. He just didn’t want his life to become one long session of hospital appointments and people feeling sorry for him.

We saw him on the bus a couple of weeks ago. I remembered him as being of medium build with thick dark hair. This time, he was looking softer, heavier and rounder than expected. I put this down to the side effects of the medication and treatment he received. He wore a woolly beanie hat. We spoke for about 10 minutes and he explained how he had checked himself during a shower and discovered a lump. He said he’d listened to the GP’s advice about checking balls for lumps and had gotten into a regular routine. He said he had found a lump and decided immediately to see his doctor the next day. So began the series of tests, assessment, medication and treatment. He said he wore the hat as he had lost all his hair but that was nothing to worry about as it’s only hair. He’d rather have his health back than his hair he said with a smile. Throughout our conversation he remained buoyant and optimistic. I couldn’t help but feel his hope and strength. We said our farewells and he reminded us that his  ticket offer “still stands.”

So, back at the cinema, he greeted us with a cheerful smile and said he was glad to be back at work, relieved that he was going to be on a gradual phased return to work process. I asked him if he had received a slice of the Christmas cake I had sent round to his mother. He said he didn’t like that sort of cake but preferred black forest gateaux or similar. I promised to bake one especially for him as he had been so kind and generous towards us. He laughed and said not to worry. In his approach towards us, he was friendly but still remained professional, courteous and polite in manner. He went over to a colleague to get our tickets. Another female colleague greeted him and must’ve said something to him as I overheard his reply:

” I’m okay. I’m at work. It’s not as if I’m going to die. These things can be cured you know!” He came away, smiling and handed us our tickets before seeing to the other patrons of the cinema.

As I said, I don’t really know him too well, but only through what I heard from his mother over the years. But I was so moved and touched by his bravery and courageous words, I didn’t think I had any option left but to bake him that cake I promised.

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The Learned Kat

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