Dogmeat Dave Saved My Life

When I was diagnosed with prostate cancer, I fell into a depression which affected both my physical and mental health.

In the end, it was writing that dragged me back, and my hero arrived in the unlikely guise of Dogmeat Dave.

‘Don’t be alarmed by what I’m going to say to you.’ These are words you don’t want to hear in a cancer hospital. But strange as it may seem, I wasn’t alarmed. I was more befuddled than anything else, as I tried to absorb the news. It was like an out of body experience, floating above myself, wondering what was going on.

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Back in 2017, I was diagnosed with prostate cancer, but I didn’t want to believe it. After all, there had been no symptoms whatsoever. I’d gone to see the doctor about something else, and she’d sent me for blood tests and recommended tagging on a PSA test along with the others. When the results of the PSA test came back, any other minor complaints were forgotten. I convinced myself that the medical people had got it all wrong and there was nothing wrong with me, so I put off receiving any treatment for a good couple of years.

Eventually, I came around to the idea of having radiotherapy, so I signed up for thirty-seven daily sessions which spanned Christmas and new year. It was a bind, having to travel to Weston Park every day for treatment, but it was what it was and I buckled down and committed myself to the course. I was pleased when it was over, and apart from some side effects of the radiotherapy, I felt in good spirits.

Then came covid, and suddenly, I was shielding. I took refuge in alcohol and take-aways, piled on the weight and became more and more depressed. I lived alone, which under normal circumstances, wouldn’t bother me, but now, gradually, almost without noticing, I was sinking deeper into despair. My mental health was suffering along with my physical condition. The thing about depression is that it’s overwhelming and doesn’t allow you think straight, but I had to do something before I slipped too far.

My way out was writing. I’d write and write about all sorts of things, then bin the work. Writing was rescuing me, saving my sanity. Then I had the idea of writing a novel, and “Dogmeat Dave’s Bag” began to take shape. I purposefully left out any mention of covid, cancer or depression. I wanted it to be funny, for myself more than anyone else. By degrees, the gloom lifted and I started to eat more healthily. I lost weight and felt altogether better.

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The point of this story is to let people know that things can get better. It may not feel like that at the time, but hang on in there. Ask for help, Don’t do what I did and try to go it alone, to the point of having some thoughts that don’t bear recollection. I truly believe that Dogmeat Dave saved my life.

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