My stoma story by Dec Brennan. Rocking in the face of cancer.

It was the 26th of May 2018. I was referred to the Stoke Royal Hospital to the Colorectal Department. I thought I was suffering from a severe case of haemorrhoids. But deep down, I knew it wasn’t. I’d just put my head in the sand for 12 months and hoped it would go away.

I’d been dreading the appointment and being a bit shy, the embarrassment of the examination. Then came the news. Just two minutes in, the consultant diagnosed Bowel Cancer. She told me in a matter of fact way, which to me, eased the blow a little.

She then called my wife into the room and told her. I’ve always been very grateful for that, because I’m not sure I could have said the word ‘cancer’.

A testing time.

I was told to go home, have a beer or three and see what the scans, colonoscopy and blood tests revealed. Within half an hour of getting home, the phone didn’t stop ringing. The hospital called to confirm appointments. I didn’t have time to dwell on the news, they were to start within a week.

Our daughter was away for the weekend with friends, so we decided to hold off telling her until the Monday. Breaking the news was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.

All the tests were completed, and the Bowel Cancer diagnosis was confirmed.

The next part was the treatment plan. Which thankfully all went smoothly. Radiotherapy for 28 days, oral chemotherapy for 38 days then a break for a few weeks until the dreaded day of the operation to have my stoma installed.

Here comes Johnny!

For the majority of my life, I have been a professional musician. In the months before diagnosis, I’d got back in touch with an old band mate from 30 years previous - Johnny. His father had passed away and he asked me to play at the funeral, which I did.

He said he’d written a song about his dad and asked if we could record it in my home studio. We shared it on YouTube for his family to watch and listen. He then told me he’d written more, and we started making plans to record those too. A few days later, I had my diagnosis.

Johnny being Johnny, said “I don’t work on Tuesdays, so I’ll come to yours and we will get some tunes done, it’ll take your mind off stuff!” And it did. We had been writing and recording for a couple of weeks when Johnny called one evening. “You’d better make room in that cancer ward mate - I’ve got testicular cancer.”

Now that’s why I call therapy.

Every Tuesday and any other day was spent writing and recording music until the end result was a full CD of songs. We got it produced and launched the CD at a great local venue in Stoke called the Glebe, with all monies raised donated to the UHNM Charity (University Hospitals North Midlands) in recognition of their life-saving work.

Despite it being the worst time of our lives, it was also the best. We both had a great time working on the music and rocking in the face of cancer!

Looking forward.

It’s been 2 years now since my operation and the first time I was introduced to Donald. I think most of us have a name for our stomas. I cheekily named mine Donald because I trump in it!

I’ve had my ups and downs. Felt guilty surviving when others I know have passed away from the same illness. And when a friend’s young son died due to Leukaemia. But I no longer wear my ‘this is what a cancer survivor looks like’ T-shirt anymore.

It’s time to move on and help others by sharing my experiences. Once things are back to normal after Covid-19, I hope to volunteer in some way.

In the meantime, we’re recording a new CD this year to raise more cash for the UHNM Charity. Even coronavirus can’t stop the music!
Keep on rocking,


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