I was born in London during the Blitz. Because of my father’s drinking, we were brought up in poverty – mum never had enough to feed us, and our playground was the streets of London. I had a hard upbringing – my father was very strict, very Victorian. His philosophy was ‘Men don’t feel pain, men don’t cry, men don’t lose.’ I grew up a very angry young man, and a hard man.
Half a life later, after a failed marriage, I met my current wife, who completely turned me around. Now I’m 68, and the opposite of what I was then. But I still had this problem with my masculinity – I didn’t show emotion, I wouldn’t show pain, to an extreme. My pride and self-respect were paramount to me – that’s how I grew up.
I was a very fit man. I never went to the doctor. I had nothing to do with hospitals.
One day at work in 2004, I’d been feeling under the weather, nothing drastic. I went for a wee, and it was all blood and clots. It scared me to death, like something out of a horror film. But I had no pain. Still I thought I better have this checked. So I went to the doctor, who sent me to the hospital. They said I had a tumour in my bladder – and said ‘we can sort that out, we can remove that’. I thought great. But no-one sat me down and explained it all to me – they gave me all these leaflets and books and stuff.
After the first TURBT operation to remove the tumour, when they said the tumour was cancerous, it was a shock. I knew no-one with cancer, and knew nothing about it. All I thought was ‘that’s a death sentence, I’m going to die’. But after a while I thought to myself, ‘Hang on – I’m not having it. I’m not giving up. I’ve got too much to live for’. And that’s what I’ve been doing ever since. My surgeon, Hugh Mostafid, said to me if I didn’t stop smoking I’d be dead in six years – that was seven years ago.
So then 6 years later – many TURBT procedures later, where they scrape the tumours out, about two a year – my bladder was in such a state, it had to go. Towards the end, Trona Campbell, my specialist nurse, did sit me down and say, ‘Something’s got to be done about your bladder’. She sat down with me for a while and went through it with me, which I’m grateful for. So in September 2010 they removed my bladder and prostate. My bladder was in such a state it was stuck to the bowel, so it damaged the bowel getting the tumour out. I ended up with two bags. Last year was the worst year of my life, because of what I’ve been through.
When I’d come out of hospital and been home for a while, they told me that the cancer had spread to my lungs, so I needed chemo. That was another whole ball game – nasty stuff with side effects. I’ve never had pain from cancer – only from the procedures, which is strange. After the chemo, they said it hadn’t worked, there was nothing else they could do. It was terrible. So I asked ‘How long have I got?’ She said ‘Well, months rather than years’. I said ‘I’m not having that – I’m going to prove you wrong’. She said ‘That’s a good attitude, the right attitude’.
I’ve found that since being diagnosed, talking to different people, that there’s this barrier, like a wall, where people won’t talk about it – even patients. A lot of them are so scared, and I can understand why, but it’s wrong. You need to talk about it. I’ve never had an in-depth conversation with anyone about this, even from the medical side. As far as I’m concerned, the medical profession can do no wrong – they are an amazing bunch of people, I won’t have a word said against them. But sometimes they’re so busy, I think they lose the point of the patient needing to know more. Sit down and talk with them, don’t leave them to go onto the net. My son went online and scared himself to death because half of it’s out of date. And that’s what a lot of people will do. They won’t talk about it – even carers and family don’t know what to say. It’s up to the patient to bring it out and talk to people.
I went into work and told my boss I had to resign. He threw back my resignation – he’s been fantastic. My company, Skilz, have just been amazing, specially my boss Richard. They’ve kept me on – I work part-time. But when I walked in, there was an air of silence, I said ‘don’t start feeling sorry for me – you’ll kill me. You need to be positive and fight this with me’. We all take the mickey – and laugh at cancer – especially me. But Laurence Olivier’s got nothing on me. It’s my way of educating them. Everybody should bring it out into the open.
Cancer is a disgusting disease – there’s a lot of people suffering. I met a man in a similar position to me online, on the Macmillan forum. We talked openly about everything. We sit on each other’s shoulder through the hard times – we’ve become best mates over two years. I went to Scotland to meet him recently for the first time, and now we’re even closer. We clicked because we were both musicians.
We all need people for support. If you involve other people, maybe who’ve had similar experiences, you can support each other through the tough times. Just chatting about it. Asking how they are. It’s very hard for families, especially your children. My daughter was in denial when I told her. My son scared himself to death online, so I had a chat with him, but we don’t have open discussions about it. When I got this last diagnosis, he was just waiting for me to drop dead, so I tell him ‘I’m not going anywhere. Look at me’. My daughter packed her job in and got another closer to home to be nearer to me – she thought I was going to die that week. But she had to admit ‘You do look well’.
We’ve come to terms with it – and now we make light-hearted of it, discussing what I want played at my funeral – rock and roll, heavy metal – rejoicing my life, not mourning my death basically.
The problem is, how much do you want to know? I’ve got a Macmillan nurse, and I said I didn’t want to know the detail, I’d rather face it one step at a time. It’s hard to decide how much you want to know – I don’t want to know what’s coming in some ways. But I’m still here now and I just want to get people talking about it.
I would like to thank the surgeons and staff at the hospitals – Mr Mostafid at Basingstoke and Mr Shah at the Royal Berkshire Hospital. The staff and nurses have been great – I love them all.’
Interview with Mr Jay Kane, July 2011.
It is with great sadness that Pelican reports news of the death of Jay on 14 September 2011.
Sarah Crane, Pelican CEO, remembers Jay as “a wonderful character and a charming gentleman. We are so grateful that he shared his experience with us and I know patients reading the website will appreciate his candid writing. Our thoughts at Pelican are with Jay’s family. He was such a nice man. I know he will be missed.”