By 2020 half of the UK population will develop cancer in their lifetime according to Cancer Research, but something that isn’t widely discussed is life after cancer. By Amie Filcher
Cancer survival rates are at an all time high at 50 per cent, opposed to half this number 40 years ago. And currently there are two million people in the UK either living with or have survived cancer, according to the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CPS). Many will struggle to get back into work.
40-year-old Clint Nicholls is a two-time cancer survivor who is currently living this reality. According to the CPS cancer survivors are 1.4 times more likely to be unemployed. Clint says: “You think to yourself, yes I’ve survived and that’s fantastic but I’ve got all these barriers here. Even getting back into work for cancer survivors is very hard.”
In 2000, at the age of 25, Clint was diagnosed with non-hodgkin lymphoma, which is a type of blood cancer. It starts in the lymph glands and attacks the immune system. “It was in my neck, they took it out and I ended up having four weeks of radiotherapy,” recalls Clint. After this he was given the all clear and told by his doctor there was a chance the cancer could return.
Then at the beginning of January 2011 Clint started experiencing pains in his stomach and chest. Doctors thought he had kidney stones and he was given medication to help. His pain was rapidly getting worse over the following weeks and he underwent a series of tests. On 12 March, Clint was admitted to hospital after turning jaundice, which is when a person starts to turn yellow due to liver failure.
His cancer had returned and at an aggressive rate after a CT scan revealed the cancer had spread to his stomach, spleen, pancreas and liver. He was diagnosed with stage 4B cancer, the highest level a person can reach.
He lost a lot of weight and became very weak over the course of days and weeks but doctors would try chemotherapy but with little chance of surviving. A month later he started chemotherapy. He was administered one of the strongest chemo treatments.
He defeated his cancer despite odds stacked against him and was now on the road to rehabilitation. “With fighting for your life and now having won that fight, you’re now fighting your body back to normal fitness,” Clint recalls his doctor telling him if his fitness was not recovered within a year after his chemotherapy he may never get it back.
Now two years down the line Clint is trying to get his life back to normal and despite going on hundreds of interviews, has had no success securing a job. He said, “when people say get on with life it’s very hard to. You try getting back into work, you can’t. You can’t get a mortgage because you can’t get life insurance.”
Like many other cancer survivors he is also struggling with chemo fatigue, which is uncontrollable tiredness and chemo brain, which means he forgets things regularly like object names, such as a spoon. However, regular exercise and meditation are helping with both of these. He is still determined and says, “no one is going to stop me getting my life back, not even cancer.”