WITHOUT the NHS, I would be dead.
I am only alive today thanks to the wonderful people working tirelessly every day for our health service.
There's that saying: 'Behind every great man, there's a great woman'.
Well, behind every stage 4 cancer patient there is a kick ass team of medics and support staff.
The Sun has launched its annual Who Cares Wins health awards – your chance to give our NHS heroes the recognition they deserve.
So what better time for me to say a big "thank you" to my guardian angels?
There's no one doctor, surgeon or nurse keeping me alive.
It's a team effort, from the receptionist to the porter calming me down en route to my scans, to the nurses holding my hand through chemo and the surgeons who operate on me.
Each and every one of them is keeping me alive. Without them I wouldn't be here, and I wouldn't have a clue how to face my new life, with cancer.
To them it's their job, to me their work means the whole world. It takes a team to keep me alive, they are my NHS heroes
So, thank you to them all, for taking my hands in the darkest of times and giving me hope.
Yes, it's laced with my heartbreaking reality – that this disease will likely kill me – but I have nothing, without hope.
I'm so grateful to my team for everything they do – however small, or seemingly insignificant.
To me, everything they do is significant. You are all my heroes – and a shining example of why we should all be proud of our NHS.
Let me tell you about some of them…
My heroic radiologist
Dr Nicos Fotiardis is amazing! He's operated on me more than anyone has.
Over the course of three ops he's removed six tumours from my lungs and three from my liver.
He's seen my scream in panic, cry with fear and weird the strangest things while drugged up on the operating table.
He's the man whose job it is to blast my tumours, as and when they appear.
He's a radiologist and specialises in ablation – which uses high frequency microwaves through a needle that's guided by CT scans.
Whenever a new tumour pops up, I pray it can be ablated so Dr Fotiardis can get his hands on it.
He cares. He knows my cancer incredibly well and he goes through my scans with the finest of tooth-combs, checking for any new growths.
He joked when my lungs collapsed during one op that I'm making his stats plummet.
Thank you for keeping me alive.
My heroic junior sister
Niamh O'Beirne is a junior sister at The Royal Marsden.
She was the first nurse to look after me during my first ever round of chemo – and many more since.
I, like lots of patients, suffer anxiety and panic attacks, nervous crying and general fits of rage – often storming out of the unit when I need to run away.
Sometimes, it can be a fine line between panic attack and allergic reaction to my treatment, so I never underestimate seeing a familiar face.
I spend about a fifth of my week at The Marsden so it feels a bit like home, two-and-a-half years after I was diagnosed with stage 4 bowel cancer.
Don't get me wrong, I don't love being there. But if I have to be treated anywhere, I would also choose The Marsden.
When a team knows you, like mine do, they know how to calm you down, manage your nerves and help you through.
Niamh is a huge part of that. Thank you for all you do.
My heroic pain consultant
Dr Matt Brown is my pain consultant at The Marsden.
When I was first referred to the pain team, I honestly thought it was the end, nothing more could be done for me.
I thought managing pain only happened in a palliative care setting – so before you die.
And I only thought pain meant throbbing pain, like a banging headache.
I was wrong on all counts.
I first met Matt after a year of "nuclear" chemo left me with agonising neuropathy.
I’d lost the felling in my fingers and toes and I was almost numb to my knees. It’s a common side effect – but one that severely affected my quality of life.
I couldn’t do up buttons, I could hardly put on my own shoes and I was taking daily painkillers.
I made it clear I didn't want to be overloaded with drugs, and Matt listened.
He looked for another way, and tried acupuncture to literally bring my hands back to life.
I remember seeing my feet sweat for the first time in months, as he activated the sweat glands with needles. I honestly cried with joy.
It meant I could start exercising again because my pain wasn't as bad, and with careful training I learned to run again.
Exercise is vital to me, it's a way of coping with the mental side of cancer. Matt helped me get that back – I'll be forever grateful.
My heroic clinical nurse specialists
Toni and Rose are my clinical nurse specialists – these ladies are gold.
They work really closely with my oncologist and the team to make sure I get the best care possible.
In many cases they are the first point of contact for patients dealing with side effects, wanting to know the plan of action.
They are a constant shoulder for me to cry on.
I love seeing them, they walk around the hospital with huge smiles on their beautiful faces.
I often get a double cuddle, the best relief when you're in the middle of more treatment.
Aside from the smiles and hugs, the best thing about these two is just how much they care.
Toni sits in with me on all my consultations. She's been there through the good and bad news.
I remember her being sad when we found out my cancer had spread to my liver, and her joy calling me the next day to say I could be operated on.
I remember her desperately calling me, she could hardly contain her excitement, when some scan results came in.
They showed my first line of treatment had stopped my cancer in its tracks.
She knew she couldn't tell me the news, because my oncologist wanted to share it, but her tone and desperation that I get in ASAP told me everything I needed to know.
Toni and Rose remind me just how invested my whole team is in my journey.
To them it's their job, to me it means the whole world. Thank you ladies xx
My heroic anaesthetist
Dr Torsten Beutlhauser is my consultant anaesthetist.
I hate being knocked out – it scares me more than the op itself.
But Torsten and his team have an incredible knack of calming me down, and putting me to sleep.
They have heard me say the strangest things as I’m coming round, yet never bat an eyelid.
I've had lots of general anaesthetics, but every time Torsten talks me through it – reminding me it's just like lots of G&Ts.
He's the most calming presence, and I'm eternally grateful to him. Thank you for always being there when I wake up.
My heroic PA
Jodie McLaren is a wonder woman.
Oncologists are busy people, none more so than mine who is in demand all over the place.
So it often takes people like Jodie – a medical PA – to track them down.
That, and protect him from my 101 questions at 3am.
She's always there, at the end of the phone for me. Thank you!
My heroic CyberKnife team
I’ve been lucky to have Cyber knife twice now. It’s an highly targeted type of radio therapy delivered over a much shorter time frame than regular radiotherapy.
Punita Shah, senior radiographer, has really supported me through my last treatment course.
My main side effect is feeling really sick, and she was just there to reassure me.
She put my mind at rest, helped calm me down and got me through what felt like one of my darkest days.
Thank you, I couldn't have done it without you.
My heroic Royal Marsden
There are too many people at the Royal Marsden to thank each one here and now.
There's Paras the pharmacist who is constantly reading up on the latest research into my drugs.
There's my oncologist David who told me my cancer had spread and was now stage 4 – and followed it up with, "we'll throw the kitchen sink and some at it".
And Jena on the day unit, another of those calm and reassuring angels on my shoulder week in, week out.
The Marsden is a haven, a sacred place and a treasure trove of NHS heroes.
From the bottom of my heart, thank you – to each and everyone of you. You are the reason I am still alive, and you are the reason I continue to have hope.
You'll never know what that means, but thank you.
Now, nominate your NHS heroes
So, please show your thanks too. Please nominate the NHS heroes who have made a difference to your life.
It could be the paramedic who rushed to your aid, the surgeon who skillfully put you back together, the midwife who held your hand, or your quick-thinking GP.
It might be the selfless hospice volunteer, or a carer you can't live without.
It could be a charity you're passionate about, a porter who showed you kindness, anyone who made a difference to you.
We've all been touched by the NHS at some point in our lives.
I hope you don't ever have to come to rely on them like I have, but if you do be grateful we have an army of NHS heroes who dedicate their lives to ours.
FILL OUT THE FORM BELOW
WHO CARES WINS: THE CATEGORIES
WE want you to nominate the selfless medics, researchers and volunteers who have made a difference to your life.
The categories are:
- Best Doctor – a GP, junior doctor or consultant
- Best Midwife
- Best Neonatal Specialist – a team or an individual
- Best Nurse
- Ultimate Lifesaver – a paramedic, ambulance worker, medic or member of the public who stepped in to save a life, it can be a one-off emergency or a life-time service award
- Groundbreaking Pioneer or Discovery – researcher, scientist, team or inventor who has made a medical breakthrough
- Best Health Charity
- Unsung Hero – volunteers, carers and healthcare assistants – anyone who has given up their time to help at a hospital, charity, hospice to make a difference
- Young Hero – any hero under the age of 18
- Mental Health Hero
- The Christina Newbury Memorial Award – this is a special recognition award for anyone working in health who doesn't fit in another category. It could be a team, individual, manager or campaigner who has gone above and beyond the call of duty
FILL OUT THIS FORM TO ENTER YOUR NHS HEROES
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