I'm in an Unexpected Ultra-endurance Event

See on my hospital travels. Dropped on the floor. Probably next to the elbows cupboard

See on my hospital travels. Dropped on the floor. Probably next to the elbows cupboard


I’ve been tired for a very long time now. It didn’t seem out of the ordinary. Last year I worked hard and I ran thousands of kilometres. I was tired some days. Others, much less so. Who wouldn’t a bit tired, though?

Since the turn of the year, I’ve been working even harder and longer hours. I often don’t stop until 10 or 11 at night. And I’ll work at least part of my weekend. Occasionally all of it. I have often struggled for work. Now I had plenty of it and I embraced it all.

I was running a lot less. I was finding it hard to motivate myself, so I eased back—running when I wanted to rather than to a fixed plan. A friend said they’d sponsor my entry in to a race and I signed up for a 58k race later this year to kickstart my motivation. Nevertheless, I still found it difficult to get out the door. I was tired even before I began. But I have learned some mind games to trick me into going anyway.

Then, one run not so long ago, I had to stop after 100 metres or so. I couldn’t get enough breath in. I walked back to the house, confused. Maybe I needed a proper break from work and running?

Three days later, the same thing happened again. And I knew I had a problem beyond fatigue.

I went to the doctor two days later, 2nd May. The last time I was outside of the hospital. He told me he could hear that my right lung wasn’t taking in air properly. He gave me a letter for the A&E department a Cork University Hospital and said I must deliver it myself.

I did.

On the way, I convinced myself through what non-medical people around me were saying, backed up by the wise, moderate and sensible people of the internet, that I had a collapsed lung.

I moved through A&E quickly enough, by the highly trained staff seemed to be having trouble finding my self-diagnosed collapsed lung. Maybe I should help them out by telling them what the problem was?

By the end of the day, I had been delivered into the hands of the Acute Medical Assessment Unit, where I spent the night. This is where I began my apprenticeship in turning devices off. It’s also where I realised my lungs were fine. My heart too.

The next day, I was moved to the Medical Short Stay Unit. In doing so, I passed through a magical barrier. Now I was a full patient. I had a bracelet that said so.

On Friday 4th May, I had a CT scan, followed fairly soon afterwards by a meeting with the MSSU doctor overseeing my case. He told me that I had a 9cm growth in my mediastinum (which runs down the centre of your chest) and that the team were inclined to think was “not benign”.

Imagine everyone you love is standing on the tip of a rocky outcrop over a deep ravine. Everything that is meaningful to you in life is on that precarious ledge. You are standing nearby, but on solid ground. Suddenly, the ledge cracks and everything and everyone that means the most to you vanishes into the jaws of the ravine. In a split second, you have lost it all.

Anne says I took the news calmly. Inside I was screaming. A long, silent anguished scream.

Over the next seven days, I had a series of CT scans and x-rays, and more needles put into my body than I care to remember or relive.

The outcome: I have high-grade (wouldn't settle for less) non-Hodgkins (I'll have my own, thanks) lymphoma type B, which comes in many flavours. We'll find out which. I have named my guest Hercule. That's a more manageable name.

After nine days on the bustling MSSU ward (22 beds, excluding the equipment store I stayed in for my first night on this ward), I was moved to a smaller ward in the oncology/radiology part of the hospital. That’s where I am now. It’s a much calmer environment. Although last night the five other lads had Eurovision on the TV full blast, instead of watching the original Predator with Arnie on the other channel.

That was last night.

I will have a lumbar puncture and bone marrow biopsy today. The results will determine my treatment plan, which will start at the end of this week and continue for four months.

Meanwhile, my body is being prepped so it can deal with what’s coming.

I was looking for an endurance challenge for 2018.

I’m already in it.

If you'd like to receive a more detailed account of my tussle with Hercule, maybe you'd like to sign up for the Roger v Hercule newsletter here: Roger v Hercule.

Roger Overall