Terrence Gets In A Bind

“A heart attack was just the start of my problems.”

Terrence Jones was the victim of a bad Japanese knotweed infestation which caused a chain reaction of health issues, we’ll let him explain in his own words…

“My Father wa a great fan of gardening. It wasn’t the pride of a well tended flower bed that he enjoyed, or the smell of fresh-cut grass on a Sunday that he loved, it were the closeness with nature he appreciated; the satisfaction of nurturing life, an ecosystem, in his back garden. There was nothing he loved more than spending entire summer days in his garden on his hands and knees, with dirt under his nails and his prints caked with soil. I’d like to say that I inherited a similar passion when I took ownership of the house, but I never became attached to the garden in the same way.

Despite my indifference towards the green space behind my house, I owe it my life. 

Stress is a funny thing. One minute your body might be humming along nicely, your heart beating regularly; the next minute, for one reason or another, your pulse could be racing and your mind could be running over itself desperately trying to figure out what’s happened to it. For many people that’s what stress is: a small burst of frightened energy, a lightning storm of emotion that is over as soon as it began. For me it was something a little more tiring.

I used to manage a supermarket before my incident. It wasn’t a job that I’d planned on getting into. I’d been a car salesman in the 90s and a good one at that, but the recession hit me hard and I soon found that I was on my arse. Retail was one of the few industries that were still hiring so I slipped right into a supervisory role and soon found myself climbing the ranks in order to get to where I needed.

I’d thought that I’d be prepared for the job, after all I was moving from a role where I was solely responsible for my income to one where I suddenly had hundreds of people working underneath me. I soon found out that keeping all those people happy and motivated was my new role, which proved to be a little trickier than I thought it would be. This wasn’t a job that I could simply leave at the supermarket, it was one that followed me home. The job called me up and demanded my time, it forced me to review payslips and rotas, it could wake me up at any time and could pull me back in whenever it pleased. Soon it was all I thought about, that is until I discovered a Japanese knotweed infestation in my back garden.

It wasn’t the infestation that destroyed me, it was the cost to remove Japanese knotweed that gave me the heart attack.

That heart attack put me in the hospital for a month. The stress of the ordeal had knocked me flat out, but it had given the doctors a chance to give me an MRI scan.

I could thank the recession for saving my life, or I could thank the supermarket and its teeming ant-farm of workers, or I could thank my Father. He loved that garden and the thought of it being destroyed effected me more than I thought it would.

Claire’s Uneasy Discovery

There’s a forgotten demographic group in the UK that are more susceptible to long-term illnesses than others: single parents.

They work long hours; they are by and large financially self-sufficient and they are one of the most susceptible groups to slow-growing forms of cancer.

Claire Rothschild was juggling two part-time jobs and the care of two young children whilst a cancer was growing inside her, but why was it allowed the time to grow?

“When you’re raising kids by yourself you simply don’t have the time for these kinds of thoughts. When I split from my partner I didn’t have the luxury of having the kind of support network that other single mothers did. My parents passed away when I was a teenager, so I suppose you could say that I learned to support myself from a very young age. When I made the transition to single parenthood I found it easy to slip back into that state of independence – of course, it meant that I let a few signs fall under the radar.”

Kidney Cancer (otherwise known as renal cancer) is a condition that is rare in people under 50. It usually affects adults aged 60 and upwards, especially those who have lived unhealthy lifestyles, which is why Claire was surprised to have received the diagnosis from her doctor in 2016. Renal cancer is a slow-burning disease, it takes a long time to develop and spread, but that doesn’t make it any less serious than any other type of cancer.

“I felt so silly when the doctor told me what it was. I’d put off going to the GP for so long, inventing excuse after excuse: I had shopping to do, the kids needed looking after, it wouldn’t fit in with work. If I’d just faced up the fact that I was unwell I would got this diagnosis much sooner and been able to tackle this disease much quicker. But I did what a lot of people did and simply put it out of my mind.”

There are around 2 million single parents living in the UK many of whom, just like Claire, will be putting off seeing their doctor because they either don’t have the time or are scared about how a bad diagnosis could effect their life. A life-threatening or intensive illness can be an incredibly difficult thing for a single parent to face, especially when they don’t have a strong support network to guide them:

“I remember being so totally, completely frightened. Frightened that I wouldn’t be able to look after my children, that they might be taken away from me, most of all frightened that I might not live to see them grow up. Thankfully, I was helped significantly by a number of social groups and charities, which made the recovery process a lot easier than I thought it would be.”

Long-running charities such as Gingerbread and Family Lives exist to help single parents deal with the numerous challenges that they face. Charitable grants, educational courses and support groups exist to relieve single parents of stress, giving them a much needed emotional outlet.

Gerald’s Near Miss

At the age of 55, Gerald Manson from Wolverhampton had considered himself rather lucky in life.

Gerald Manson, a gardener from Wolverhampton, had thought his life was charmed until he found a rather nasty surprise when he lifted up his shirt at work.

“I’d never been ill a day in my life, never taken a day off sick and still had all my teeth – I always thought I was lucky!”

Having a physical vocation is what Gerald attributes his excellent health to. Since the age of 15 he has worked as a gardener/labourer, a role that often involves a lot of moving around and often long days spent outside breathing the fresh air.

“My job’s really varied, its what I love about being a gardener. One day I could be laying down a blanket of turf, the next day I could be fitting a series of garden fencing panels. I love doing DIY and gardening, so getting hired for these kinds of jobs is an absolute God send.”

After 40 years of working outside, at the age of 55 Gerald is still going although a recent run in with a melanoma did briefly stop him in his tracks:

“I’m not a small bloke, I drink a few pints each week and I probably eat a few too many chips so I suppose I’d always ran the risk of getting some kind of illness, but had always been lucky enough to avoid it. If I ever expected to get ill, it was through my bad habits rather than anything else.”

Melanoma, otherwise know as skin cancer, is one of the most common forms of cancers in the UK. Signs to look out for are any changes in colour or shape of existing moles, but for the unaware these kinds of cancer can easily go unnoticed. In Gerald’s case it took a particularly observant off-duty GP to notice that there was something the matter.

“I don’t usually take my shirt off whilst I’m working out of professional courtesy, but last summer there were a couple of scorchers that I had to work through where it truly felt like the only way to cool down. I’d been fitting some fences for a client on this particular day and assuming they’d popped out for a spell, I took the opportunity to pop my shirt off.”

Half-way through the job, Gerald was stopped by his client who had come out to offer him a drink but had been stopped in her tracks by the formations of abnormally shaped moles on his back.

“She asked me if they’d always been like that and I had to ask her what she was talking about. Don’t get me wrong I give my back a good scrubbing each night, but I never really get a good look at it. Soon she had me lie down on the floor so she could take photos to send to her colleagues. Within seconds she had replies confirming her initial theory, I had a huge collection of melanomas on my back and they needed.”

This kind of chance diagnosis does not happen very often, so Gerald can count himself lucky. Thankfully, he completed his treatment successfully and is now back where he belongs: in someone’s garden!