On 18 July 2017, my world changed forever. I lost the only man I have ever loved, my father, Douglas Sparrow. He fought his disease for five long years, endured four major operations and three years of chemotherapy.
The doctors, nurses, volunteers and all other staff at The Christie made his last years that little bit more tolerable. He was known by all and greeted with warmth every time he walked into The Christie.
Although he passed away at St. Anne's Hospice, the care he received at The Christie was second to none. They do a wonderful job in the most harrowing of circumstances and they are at the forefront of research in the oncology field.
Through my work as the owner of Didsbury-based Ideal House Share and to say thank you for The Christie's amazing work, I led a team of 13 staff members and tenants on the gruelling Total Warrior assault course in the Lake District on 5th August.
With over £3,000 raised and counting, I feel great to have been able to give something back to The Christie and would encourage other survivors of those who have been taken by cancer to do the same. It was a cathartic experience to do such a physical challenge in the wake of my father's death.
Obviously, the Total Warrior event was made all the more poignant by his sad passing, something I had not foreseen when I began to look for participants back in April.
Apart from when he was having chemotherapy, he never really appeared outwardly sick and so perhaps we were lulled into a false sense of security regarding his condition. However, the disease really accelerated from the end of May and only then was his fragility truly exposed.
One in three of us will be affected by cancer in our lifetime (and one in two of us born after 1960 will have cancer at some stage in our life). Before his eventual admission, I visited The Christie on many occasions with my father for his consultations and appointments. What struck me whilst sitting with my dad in the waiting rooms was the randomness of it all. Cancer isn't necessarily a disease that specifically targets old people; it's a disease that can strike people down at much earlier stages too. Whether it's young mothers with breast cancer, kids with Leukaemia or older smokers like my dad, cancer can devastate anyone.
One thing I did learn from my dad about cancer is that attitude plays a big factor in its treatment.
Doug took it in his stride, and within reason, it didn't stop him doing anything wanted to do. He wanted to be useful, he carried on telling his jokes and his stories and despite difficult personal circumstances outside of the disease, Doug carried on being jovial and always had a willingness to make people smile.
Those with a lust for life and inner strength will maximise the time they have left and those who are closest to the patient can provide calm through a stormy sea. I saw my father most days for the last year of his life. In that time I was lucky enough for him to see me get married and even tell him that I myself was due to become a father, this October. Although he very sadly missed out on being a grandfather by a matter of months his spirit will live on in my little boy and I promise to pour every bit of love I have in my soul into my own son. I hope that I’ll be able to give my own son as much as my dad gave me.
However, my story is just one tale in an ocean of tragedy that cancer evokes. My relationship is no more or less important than the next, only to me, my family and our friends.
But cancer will affect every family. One day it could be you having to have a tumour operated on, having chemotherapy or watching your nearest and dearest suffer. So what can we do to stop it?
We must support the vital work and research that The Christie does. I will continue to support The Christie for the rest of my life. God bless all of the staff there who treat the sick and weary and bless the work that goes on inside the hospital walls.
To anyone who is going through a similar experience as I have, my advice would be to say everything you need to say, do everything you need to do with those you love as time is but a fleeting moment for us all. I was lucky enough to heed this advice and I urge others to do the same.