Steven Blows The Whistle On Cancer
With the Weston Park Cancer Charity takeover at Barnsley FC right around the corner, Steven is sharing his cancer journey.
When Steven Murphy discovered a lump in his neck at the age of 56, he had no way of knowing that his symptoms might be linked to a cancer diagnosis.
“The only symptom I detected was a small lump in my neck,” Says Steven.
“I booked an appointment with my GP, who performed a number of blood tests, which came back normal. So I was then sent to see an ENT specialist, who on examination said: it’s secondary cancer.
“A number of x-rays and scans followed, but I just could not believe it was cancer. It doesn’t run in our family, so it didn’t seem real and I tried extremely hard to keep myself preoccupied whilst waiting for the final results.”
Following confirmation of his diagnosis, Steven’s treatment began with 35 sessions of intense radiotherapy at Weston Park Cancer Centre, together with two rounds of chemotherapy. But before treatment could begin, Steven was faced with the prospect of having both his tonsils and six corresponding teeth removed.
Steven was then fitted with a PEG, to allow nutrition, fluids and medications to be put directly into the stomach following treatment, bypassing the mouth and oesophagus.
“The primary cancer was in my tonsil and I had secondaries in my neck. My (long) chemotherapy sessions took place intravenously and overnight and the seven weeks of radiotherapy was horrendously uncomfortable.
“They made you a mask which covered your face and shoulders. This was put on every time and it fixed you to the bed, so you couldn’t move your head, in order for the radiotherapy to ‘blast’ you in the correct place.”
Once Steven’s treatment ended late last year, he was sent home to begin his recovery journey, which was not an easy task:
“My neck was like raw meat and I was very weak after losing two and half stone. Eating still involved the majority of food going through the PEG for the initial six weeks, until my throat healed and I had to gradually attempt to reintroduce blended food back into my diet.”
Feeling good about yourself during cancer treatment can be challenging, especially as your body goes through physical changes; such as skin changes, loss of hair, eyebrows and eyelashes, which can all be particularly difficult to cope with – as Steven knows all too well:
“I was tired – all the time – and the skin on my neck was badly burnt on the back of the radiotherapy treatment. The chemo caused me to become very sick and unwell, too.
“For the last 16 days of my treatment I was an inpatient, as travelling to and from hospital for treatment was making me very ill and tired. I could not eat at this point, so all food went through my PEG (these are special liquid meals packed full of calories) and I was also hooked up to a drip for fluids.”
In the wake of his diagnosis, Steven attended a Look Good Feel Better Men’s Skin Fitness Workshop’s at the Weston Park Cancer Information and Support Centre, where he participated in a one hour Men’s MOT, which included hair, beard, skin and sun care advice, as well as shaving advice from Savills Barbers.
Steven also accessed the Weston Park Cancer Information and Support Centre for support and advice both at diagnosis and beyond.
“Everyone at Weston Park Charity and Weston Park Cancer Support Centre have been amazing – not only to myself, but my family, too.
“It is always good to talk about everything that’s going on through your journey as it really does help you see that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
“There are too many people to thank by name, but you all know who you are; family, friends and everyone at Weston Park.
“Many new relationships were made on this journey, which is one positive I took from the exhausting experience.”
Steven rang the end of treatment bell, which is funded by Weston Park Cancer Charity in December 2018 and has since been able to begin to make precious memories with his family and friends, and he has even been able to watch his grandsons play rugby for the first time.
“I cannot work at present and riding my motor bike is definitely out of the question, due to lack of strength and fatigue, so I have started watching my grandsons play rugby.
“Holidays and outings with my wife and friends were a big thing for us, too and I hope that as my recovery progresses, we will be able to spend even more quality time together.”
And that’s not all. As a thank you for the care, support and treatment Steven received at Weston Park, his son, Carl is taking on a number of fundraising challenges in support of Weston Park Cancer Charity:
“As a family we all attended Steven’s last session of radiotherapy and it was a privilege to see him ring the end of treatment bell. Due to his character and enthusiasm throughout his treatment, he had quite a crowd, too.
“Following Steven’s diagnosis and the support that both Weston Park Cancer Charity and Weston Park Cancer Information and Support Centre have given him – and all the family – throughout his journey, I wanted to try and give something back.
“Over the next 12 months I have a target of £10,000 in mind. We kick started this with an auction and race night in April, where we raised in excess of £5000 and my son, Ciaran raised £1000 by braving the shave. He’s always looked up to his grandad and now he’s even got hair like him.
“Over the coming months we will be holding a big charity raffle and football match, and I will once again take on the Yorkshire Marathon in October. Watch this space!”
If you would like to get involved in any way or if you would like more information about Carl’s fundraising endeavors, please contact: [email protected]
Carl and his son, Ciaran are life-long Barnsley supporters and Ciaran will be in attendance at Saturday’s fixture against Blackpool FC. You will also spot Carl and Stevens’ wife, Kate bucket collecting around the concourse, helping to raise vital funds and awareness in support of the services funded by Weston Park Cancer Charity.
The fantastic relationship between Barnsley FC and Weston Park means that as this year alone, more people than ever before are set to face a cancer diagnosis, Weston Park Cancer Charity can be there to provide practical help to those in need, emotional support to those in despair and enhanced care for those who need it most.