9.12.2004. Tomorrow is the last day of my current round of radiotherapy treatments. It has been a long haul. I have had to attend every weekday for eight weeks, getting up before seven, leaving home before half past, so that I am on the machine for 8.30. It has helped that a circle of friends has acted as volunteer drivers, so that the journeys have been neither too tedious, nor too tiring. It is as they say, at times like this, that you find out who your real friends are. It’s all too easy in life to take the soft option, so anyone prepared to get up early doors, do a 46 mile round trip, and risk getting caught up in the inevitable delays that occur regularly on treatment machines, just so that they can help out a mate, deserves every credit, and my heartfelt thanks go to them all. So what now? It is an uncertain future, no more so for me than for many, though of course nothing focuses the mind like an illness that will, almost inevitably, shorten my life considerably. You are able to think about your own mortality, to realise what is important, and to try and make sure that all the things that might be left unsaid are said to the people that matter. That is one reason for this post, but more of that later. When I started the Dear Diary threads, over two years ago now, it was following a deeply disturbing meeting with a consultant oncologist at St James’ in Leeds. This man, who I had never met before, nor since for that matter, sat and told me that treatment was being withdrawn, as the illness was now so far advanced that it was unlikely that anything would stop the progress of the spread of the disease, leading ultimately and inevitably to my death. “How long?” say I. “No less than a year” says he. His answer was, of course, quite open-ended. He could have meant thirteen months, he could have meant ten years. Anyway I have managed to prove him right, and it is now two years and two months since that meeting. Fortunately (or unfortunately depending on your point of view) I have other treatment options, and my surgical team in Birmingham, led by Robert Grimer MB, BS, FRCS(Eng), FRCS(Edin) (yes Windy there is a God), took an alternate view. Rather than sitting back and letting the disease take over, a more radical approach was taken. So rather than no treatment I have had masses of treatment. Five major surgical procedures, and 75 radiotherapy sessions to be exact. Altogether I will have received 165 blasts of radiotherapy to five different areas. As I write this, I feel quite tired. Perhaps the guy in Leeds, mindful of the debilitating effect of the treatment, was simply trying to give me quality of life rather than quantity. I am absolutely certain that he meant me no harm. On Monday I have an appointment to see Mr Grimer, this time in Leeds. After eight years of tripping up and down the M6 he has finally confessed that he does a quarterly surgery at St James’, and would I prefer to see him there? What will he have to say to me? Who knows? It would be nice to think that, for a few months at least, I will be free of treatment, or the imminent onset of treatment, but that might be wildly optimistic. It is, he says, a clinic primarily for children and “the odd special case.” Sums me up perfectly in my opinion, though I would dispute that I am a special case. A recurring theme in conversations with so many is that I am ‘brave’ and people wonder how I cope. Well I am not brave, and you cope because the alternative is too awful to consider, and you do so in a fashion no better or worse than most people would, put in the same situation. I am, at any given time, much more likely to be bitter, envious, depressed, hysterical, optimistic, frightened, resentful, stoical, realistic, resigned, pessimistic but never ever brave. I can be, and am quite often, bloody minded and awkward, and as the Staff Nurse in Leeds General Infirmary opined last year “Stephen displays Attitude”. I cannot tell you how proud I was to hear that. Anyway this post started with reference to friendship and loyalty, and the value of those qualities. I always tried to draw some sort of analogy between my treatment and the ongoing situation at our beloved Oakwell in previous Dear Diary posts. Perhaps now, equally if not more so than before, the club and it’s management needs us to be loyal. Just as my own recovery is somewhat fragile, the club is in a far from healthy position at present, though the outlook is undoubtedly one that can be viewed with some degree of optimism. The foundations are being put down that should see us return to some sort of competitiveness, hopefully in the none too distant future. No matter how you view Paul Hart, as a man and a manager, he does deserve our support for what he is trying to achieve. If he fails then so be it, but, as my mother used to say “Give him chance to fall over before you start picking him up.” Less than 40 games is not enough time to give a realistic assessment of the man or his tactics. Even the most hardened ‘Hart Attacker’ must realise that one of the fundamental problems that the club has had in recent years in constant chopping and changing at the top. So a plea -give the management a chance, stay loyal, and remember the club will travel further and more quickly with you carrying them along, rather than having try to make progress with you on their backs all the time. Different opinions can be healthy, and nobody should object to constructive criticism, but keep it sensible, and cut out the personal abuse. I referred earlier to not leaving things unsaid, and that is one of the main reasons for this post. To thank all those who have supported me and helped raise my spirits in the last couple of years. Your kindness and good wishes have helped me through difficult times, and my faith in the generosity of spirit, kindness and humour of people from Barnsley has been reinforced times over, never more so than recently with the Big Lills, Laura and the cystinosis appeal. I wonder how many more soccer bulletin boards would have responded in such a generous and totally spontaneous way. Errm – None? Yep that sounds about right. Unique is an overused word, but I feel that this board is just that, a one off, special, different from the rest. A bit like Barnsley itself. This is the last Dear Diary post, but given that I haven’t done one for over a year that will come as no surprise. I did want to do a last one though, for no other reason than to thank you all officially for your support in the past. I have met a few of you in person, and none have disappointed, and it would be nice to think that I will have the chance to meet a few more in the future. I rarely post now, and that is probably how it will stay, for the foreseeable future at least. That’s not dummy throwing, just a reflection on how I feel right now. I still read almost every thread that is posted, but the mood has changed on the BBS, and you have to feel that what you have to say is relevant, otherwise why bother? There seems to be a much more confrontational air now, and I don’t really feel up to arguing. So thanks again, good luck to everybody. Have a wonderful Christmas and a very Happy New Year, and remember – a football club is for life, not just for the Premiership.