cancer blog photography cheltenham gloucestershire testicular cancer story

Photography Fighting Cancer – Part 4

It was all going a little too well!

When I last signed off I had had by far the best two days since starting chemotherapy. I had managed to take the dogs out for a couple of sunrise walks where we saw a lovely deer, and I even met my nephew from school to celebrate his 9th birthday. All these things tired me out much more than normal, but I was able to do them and was just so so grateful to not feel ill.

cancer blog photography cheltenham gloucestershire testicular cancer story 18

That night my hair started to fall out. I knew this would happen and wasn’t concerned or upset by it, so the plan was the next morning to nip down the barbers and shave it all off. I woke up around 5am and was really severely sick. Not really sure what caused it, we wonder if it was food poisoning as after being sick I felt ok again. I then went and had the full Phil Mitchel to avoid blocking every drain in the house and covering my pillow with hair. I’ll let you decide if it’s more The Rock or Humpty Dumpty in effect!

cancer blog photography cheltenham gloucestershire testicular cancer story 3

When I came back I felt much worse, and was really REALLY sick. Today was also my final chemo treatment so I had a midday appointment to prescribe the chemo to be administered at 4pm. I felt terrible when we arrived, and I seemingly looking it too as one of the volunteers who help out around oncology got me immediately in front of the specialist despite him running 20 mins late and without us even asking! They immediately admitted me and suspected I had picked up some sort of virus which under normal circumstances would be unpleasant, but in my position with a much lower immune system could be very serious indeed. My temp was 39 and blood test showed that I was Neutropenic, which in a basic explanation (due to my ability to describe not your inability to understand) is an abnormally low white blood cell count. Fluids and antibiotics would hopefully see the temp and bloods return to a safe level within 48hrs.

After a very unpleasant 24hrs my temp returned to normal and I felt much better. My white blood cells were still low, but after another 24hrs they were happy for me to go home. I felt good, for about 3 hours and then went downhill badly again. Fortunately, this lasted only for about 4 hours, and by the morning I was feeling OK again. But another scare just to remind me that I’m not out the woods yet!

Whilst this was going on pretty much my entire family was hit by the same bug to a lesser or greater degree. Wife, son, mother, father, mother in law, sister, brother in law, niece & nephews! I sit here a week on almost amused by how ridiculous that situation was, but it wasn’t funny at the time. Especially as I was of no practical use, and in fact needed a bit of a hand, and all the hands who are usually there were busy holding a toilet, holding someone’s hair back or cleaning up!

A week has since passed from the last time I left hospital, and the week has seen a steady and very welcome improvement. I no longer feel sick, my reliance on napping is reducing, and my only real issue is a constant headache which after everything else iv been through, I can put up with! My main objective has been to avoid contact with everyone for fear of catching something again whilst my immune system is really low, but it does mean I have been able to get out and walk the dogs a little, and I even snuck out for a couple of hours to take the photo above of Broadway Tower. I love night photography. There is something about shooting in the dark at a bizarre time of day that’s quite special. There is never anyone else doing it too, which adds to the feeling you’re capturing something unique. The picture below is probably my favourite night photo I have taken so far. It is of Trevose Head lighthouse in Cornwall. I had to scale a fairly high rock face in the pitch black to get it, and the headline of “lunatic photography kills himself scaling cliff” did cross my mind half way up as I questioned my own sanity!

cancer blog photography cheltenham gloucestershire testicular cancer story 5

One revealing bit of data which very clearly documents how poorly/well I’ve been, is my Apple Health App, which unknown to me is always recording how far I travel in a day.  A look at the graph below quite clearly shows the ups and downs I have experienced! Perhaps we shouldn’t make any employers aware of this feature!

One thing I have been able to commit a bit of time to in the last week or so despite being more pushed for time than I’d like thanks to being out of action, is preparing for exhibiting at the Bride & Groom Show at Cheltenham town hall in January. I think for most people when choosing a wedding photographer they are as much buying into you as a person as in the images they see on your website, that’s where recommendations or meeting in the flesh at events like this are so helpful spreading the word! Come and say hello if you’re going!

cancer blog photography cheltenham gloucestershire testicular cancer story 20
93cancer blog photography cheltenham gloucestershire testicular cancer story 20

Throughout the last 4 month rollercoaster it has been great having this blog to put a bit of time into that isn’t too draining but also enjoyable and rewarding. I would like to thank everyone who has continued to read it and especially those who have messaged me with such kind words of support. It really makes a difference. A welcome side effect has been the support my family have received from their friends who have also read it, and they truly deserve that support as to see a loved one suffer, and you be completely unable to make it stop, must be a horrible position to be in. I hope I don’t put you all through too many more!

This will hopefully be my last blog for the foreseeable future on my experience with cancer. Although I will possibly do an update if there are any interesting observations on the NHS, and follow up experiences over the next 12 months. Please keep checking back though, as I will continue to post on photographs I have taken, and of course weddings I shoot in 2017.

I will sign off by saying – Men, check your balls every month. Women – nag your partner to check their balls every month. It could save a life.

Best wishes


Posted by Lee Hawley


Hi Lee,
What a journey you’ve been on – talk about a roller coaster ride!
So sorry to hear you were so poorly – and that your whole family was too -these things never happen at a good time but that’s taking the p***! Thank goodness you’re all ok now in time for Christmas – such a special time for you and Kim to share with your lovely little boy, Milo – kids are what make Christmas – even when they’re grown up like mine are lol!
I wish you every success with your future photography opportunities and a very Merry Christmas but most of all I wish you a fabulously healthy New Year, every year!
Thanks for sharing your story. xx

Thank you sue, glad you’ve enjoyed reading it. It’s been cathartic to write, so nice to hear others have got something out of it.

Hi Lee
Maintaining a positive mental attitude makes a huge difference and you are certainly doing that.
I wish you a speedy recovery and we are thinking of you.

Thanks Martyn, much appreciated.