How talking about football with my doctor helped my cancer recovery

It's been five years since I was diagnosed with kidney cancer

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Exactly five years ago, I was discovered to have cancer of the kidney. In very short order, I was admitted to hospital and had the offending kidney removed. Ever since, I've had regular scans and check-ups, and thankfully I have been given the all-clear each time.

The five-year mark represents something of a watershed, and by reaching that point with a clean bill of health, the odds of my contracting the disease again are considerably reduced. Recently, I had my five-year check-up, and I've been given the nod: I'll live to see another series of Downton.

It's been a long journey to this point, and one which has left me humbly recognising my great good fortune. I've encountered some fascinating and inspirational people along the way, none more so than my specialist, the imposing figure of Professor Martin Gore at London's Royal Marsden Hospital.

I have spent more time in Professor Gore's office discussing Fulham FC's woes than I have analysing the results of my latest scan, for the simple reason that he knows what his patients want. They just want to know whether they're clear or not, and this he can deliver in a straightforward sentence. It's a binary thing.

Many times, I have been sitting in the waiting room, worrying about the results of the latest scan, and, when I'm called to his room, my nervousness is palpable. "You're fine," he'll say almost before I'm through the door. No need to sugar the pill, because the pill is in fact a jelly baby.

This extremely important news imparted with such economy and clarity, I was then stuck for something to say, and that's why we turned to football. Once, when he was running late, he sent his assistant out to tell me that I was OK, effectively making my appointment with him almost redundant.

The matter-of-fact way in which he dealt with a life-and-death situation may, to some eyes, have appeared a little insensitive, but I thought it was perfectly judged, in a give-it-to-me-straight-doc kind of way. Never mind about the cancer, what do you think has gone wrong with Fulham's back four?

Before I got used to it, his studiedly casual approach could knock me sideways. In one of our early consultations, he said that the x-ray had shown up a little shadow on my lung. "I'm sure it's nothing," said the Professor, "but we had better keep an eye on it."

I was panicked. He reassured me further. "It's highly unlikely to be anything to worry about." Me: "Just tell me what the chances are of it being serious?" Him: "I'm almost certain it's nothing."

Me, insistently: "But what are the chances?" Him: "Oh, I don't know..." he said, in a distracted, rather bored manner, "... about 50-50."

"ABOUT 50-50!!!" I responded, astonished and terrified in equal measure, "I thought you were going to say one in a thousand!"

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Anyway, he turned out to be right: it was nothing. And now I have to see Professor Gore just once a year. In some ways I'll miss seeing him more regularly. In another, more profound way, I'll be pleased never to see him again.

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