On the whole it has been a pretty terrible year, so when you are finally given some good times, you really make the most of them.
Baldy’s Blog – the blog I have been keeping throughout my treatment for leukaemia – has taken on a life of its own and led me to some pretty bizarre places.
The weirdest of all has to be last month’s journey that took it all the way from Huddersfield to Las Vegas where it won a top prize in the world’s biggest blogging competition, the Weblog Awards.
Over half a million votes were cast on a range of categories and my efforts had enough public support to secure victory in the best medical/health issues section.
The week of voting was great fun and to cap it all off with an international accolade was tremendous.
What was also pleasing is that once I was named a finalist I contacted Sly Bailey, Trinity Mirror‘s chief executive, explaining the situation and she rang me straight back.
I told her how supportive the staff at Huddersfield had been and how the blog would not have been possible without the help of two colleagues Liam McNeilis and Steve Harrison.
Because I am still too prone to infection to fly outside the UK, I asked Sly if they could go on my behalf and she readily agreed. We had a lengthy conversation and she was really good to me.
Unsurprisingly, Liam and Steve both refused to believe me until email confirmation of their flights arrived a few days later.
It would have been great to go, but I’m delighted at least someone benefited from it.
The pair did do me proud, though. They updated the blog live as the final votes were coming in and then posted a video of Steve collecting the award.
The international title adds to being named feature writer of the year at the Yorkshire Press Awards and a national title from the Guild of Health Writers.
These awards change nothing – I would swap it all tomorrow never to have been struck down with this disease, but I can’t express how great it’s been being a part of them.
Some people may joke that my head is getting big and – thanks to a ridiculously high dose course of steroids – they’d be right.
But despite this unfortunate swelling, these drugs have enabled me to eat and drink like a student again with the added bonus of not developing hangovers. So what better time to be attending these award ceremonies?
After 10 months of burned stomach linings, relentless vomiting and losing your sense of taste I can safely say I have made the most of this re-found ability.
The success of the blog has generated lots of interest from both regional and national press. I’ve found it really interesting being on the other side of the reporter’s pad.
Television has been entertaining but unbelievably time consuming – a notepad, pen and shorthand (if I can ever satisfactorily dust it down) will always be preferable.
Quite rightly this has also led to me being branded a media tart by many of my colleagues.
The reach of Baldy’s Blog has surprised me. It’s brought in thousands of extra readers to the Examiner’s website and is being read regularly in Australia, Canada, America, Malaysia, Japan and Switzerland.
I think most journalists would agree when I say we like stories that are black and white – my double all-clear should have been the end of my story, but unfortunately it’s not.
My transplant worked, and there is no sign of the leukaemia, but now my new cells have decided to attack my body.
What is very hard to make people understand is that this new condition, called chronic graft vs host disease, is potentially just as life-threatening as the cancer itself.
However, I am feeling good at the moment and I’m functioning pretty well.
I have now resumed my role as digital journalist for the Examiner. It’s great feeling like you have a purpose again and being able to contribute to the newsroom.
Even though my latest treatment only offers a 50 per cent chance of a long-term cure, if it doesn’t work then at least like I’ve gone down kicking and screaming, while fighting hard to make the best of what’s been an otherwise terrible year.