Prepare to die, doctors told me. But they were wrong

Andy Goode describes how facing up to death changed him for ever

"You need to prepare to die," Andy Goode was told in May 2010. And so that's what he did. Having been diagnosed as being in the late stages of pancreatic cancer – one of the fastest killing cancers – he expected a few months at best. After that, he knew that his wife and nine-year-old daughter would have to face a future without him. He felt angry, shocked and, at times, desperate.

But he didn't die. And he didn't have cancer. In short, they got it wrong. To say he's as fit as a fiddle would be a bit of an exaggeration, but he is back at work, leads a busy social life and was healthy enough to recently cycle 320 miles for charity.

So what it's like to be handed the gift of life on a plate after six months of believing you're a dead man walking? Not as terrific as you might think, according to Goode.

In fact, the consultant who told him the good news stared at him in disbelief and said: "You must be the unhappiest-looking person that I've ever told is going to live."

Goode, now 49, says: "It was coming up to Christmas and Kate, my wife, was elated – absolutely ecstatic. But I just felt numb. I don't think it was a trust thing or even a belief thing – I just couldn't get my head round the transition from focusing on dying to living."

Things didn't improve. That is to say, while he went from strength to strength physically, Goode's emotional state only got worse. He started to suffer from both depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), regularly shouting at his family that he wished he had died.

"It sounds awful," he says. "It was awful. But I meant it. The whole experience messed with my head. I came through it and now have an entirely new attitude towards life, but it took quite some time."

Goode's tale begins one afternoon around Easter 2010, when he'd just finished redecorating his daughter Rachel's bedroom.

"I was just rewarding myself with a can of Guinness when I got this awful pain in my chest," he says. "I assumed I'd pulled a muscle from moving furniture. I went to my GP, who said I probably had a straightforward chest injury that would take six weeks to heal, but the pain just got worse. Even when I had to take a week off work, the doctors kept dismissing me." When Andy returned to work, one of his colleagues said: "A week off sick, eh? You look tanned."

It turned out he was jaundiced – even his eyes were yellow. Finally, the doctors started investigating. The consultant radiologist was the one to break the news that he had a large tumour on his pancreas.

"I ran out and broke down in the car park," Goode says. "I was in bits, thinking about how I'd never see a cloud or tree again. Meanwhile, the radiologist warned Kate that she'd have to be stronger than ever over the next few months."

It was the doctor that Goode saw later that day who told him he should prepare to die. "That's when Kate broke down."

But it was Rachel, then aged eight, about whom Goode was most worried. "We are so close. We share the same humour – quick and dry," he says. "It's part of our bond and I guess you could say she brings the child out in me. We high-five quite a lot as we wind mummy up. What on earth would she do without me?"

Andy remembers what he said to Rachel almost word for word. "It's not the kind of conversation you forget. It's the worst conversation anyone can possibly have. We called her downstairs, sat on the sofa and I asked her if she knew what cancer was. She asked me if I was going to die. There were lots of tears."

Goode's health deteriorated fast. "I lost weight rapidly and the jaundice caused unbearable itching. I was awake 22 hours a day doing nothing but scratching. I had to cut my nails right down so I didn't bleed, but I had calluses on the end of every finger. Rachel stayed with friends because home wasn't a good place to be and Kate, who is a nurse, just focused on making me as comfortable as possible."

There was one hope – a major surgical operation called the Whipple procedure. "But even that carried huge risks and they wouldn't do it while I was still jaundiced. I stayed focused on staying around for Rachel's birthday at the end of July. If I died after that, so be it."

He did make it. "But I was in and out of hospital and to be honest, that time is a complete blur," he says. "At times, I just wanted to get on with dying and other times, I wanted to fight back."

That Autumn, he and his wife were given some hope. "First, I was told the cancer looked atypical – as in, the wrong shape. Next, my weight stabilised. I looked and felt better and various tests indicated I was becoming increasingly healthy. Then, shortly before Christmas, I got the news there was never any cancer and I wasn't going to die."

By January, Goode was back at work and everyone who knew him was overjoyed, none more so than Rachel and Kate. "I, however, was a misery," Goode says. "Maybe I finally processed the enormity of what I'd been through or maybe I needed a reason to understand why other people I'd met had died but I hadn't. Either way, my temper was so short that even if my porridge was too hot, it could tip me over the edge. I would regularly shout that I wished I was dead, including in front of Rachel, who, not surprisingly, wound up needing counselling."

It was counselling that was to save Goode, too. "I was only offered phone counselling by the NHS, even when I got a diagnosis of PTSD and severe depression. Ridiculous when you think of it. But fortunately for me, there was something about it that brought me to my senses and slowly but surely, I began to appreciate life."

A year on, Goode says he could not appreciate life more if he tried. "I truly understand how short life can be, so now if I want to do something, I just do it. Whereas I used to sit at home a lot, I think we do something every weekend – concerts, see friends, go surfing, go to comedy shows – you name it. I'm more honest with people, too. My friends are dear to me but conversely, if someone doesn't get on with me, I tend to think, 'If you don't want to be around me, then don't be'."

While Goode says he hasn't "found God" exactly, he is more open to the idea of religion now. He's also experienced a newfound empathy for the terminally ill, especially those with pancreatic cancer. "I was lucky but pancreatic cancer remains the fifth biggest killer in the UK, yet it has the lowest survival rates of all the cancers," he says. "So earlier this year, I got fit and cycled from London to Paris to raise money for the charity Pancreatic Cancer UK and Pancreatic Cancer Research Fund. It was a tremendous experience and I've already signed up to do another one."

Goode still has no conclusive diagnosis. "I am being treated for inflammation of the pancreas, otherwise known as pancreatitis, and it seems to work. That's all I know. I've given up the cigarettes and hardly drink, and I'm on a diet. All I can hope is that I'll remain healthy."

News
Alan Bennett has criticised the “repellent” reality shows which dominate our screens
tvBut he does like Stewart Lee
Life and Style
The Google Doodle celebrating the start of the first day of autumn, 2014.
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
Sport
David Moyes and Louis van Gaal
football
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
News
i100
Life and Style
Vote with your wallet: the app can help shoppers feel more informed about items on sale
lifeNew app reveals political leanings of food companies
News
Former Governor of Alaska Sarah Palin, left, with her daughter, Bristol
newsShe's 'proud' of eldest daughter, who 'punched host in the face'
Sport
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
rugby
Arts and Entertainment
Salmond told a Scottish television chat show in 2001that he would also sit in front of a mirror and say things like,
tvCelebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Life and Style
Carol O'Brien, whose son Rob suffered many years of depression
healthOne mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of Dark Side of the Moon
musicCan 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition? See for yourself
Life and Style
food + drink
News
Rob Merrick's Lobby Journalists were playing Ed Balls' Labour Party MPs. The match is an annual event which takes place ahead of the opening of the party conference
newsRob Merrick insistes 'Ed will be hurting much more than me'
News
A cabin crew member photographed the devastation after one flight
news
Voices
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Pharmaceutical Computer System Validation Specialist

    £300 - £350 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Pharmaceutical Computer ...

    High Level Teaching Assistant (HTLA)

    £70 - £90 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Higher Level Teaching Assist...

    Teaching Assistant

    £50 - £80 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Randstad Education is the UK...

    Senior Java Developer - API's / Webservices - XML, XSLT

    £400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is currently ...

    Day In a Page

    Secret politics of the weekly shop

    The politics of the weekly shop

    New app reveals political leanings of food companies
    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
    Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

    Beware Wet Paint

    The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
    A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

    Not That Kind of Girl:

    A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

    In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

    Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
    Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

    Model mother

    Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
    Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

    Apple still the coolest brand

    Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits