So I’ve heard those words ” You have cancer ” ………….. then a pause from the Nurse. And then came the ” BUT!” But its not serious” , she said. Now I had not left my story at the point last week, deliberately to make light of the situation and or make people think I was being flippant , it was just a case of me trying to show an absolute total and utter relief after that initial second I thought I had a serious condition. My relief was palpable especially when I got a full explanation. I was told that it was common for a man of my age to have abnormal areas of their prostrate, as they found, but an abnormality that in all likelihood would not get any worse. So with careful monitoring I should have a clean bill of health in that area for several years to come. The relief was even greater because I had convinced myself that I did have something serious and had allowed it to become worse by ignoring the symptoms for years and playing Russian Roulette with myself! All the worry and concern I had stored up disappeared that day and it was all down to the gee up I received from attending the Foundation.

So ive been going to the Foundation for 6 weeks or so and I return to tell everybody the good news. On this occasion a few new members were sitting around the table. As you will probably notice from everything ive written about the Foundation so far that a big emphasis is placed on “Talking!” I suppose its obvious to assume the Foundation called the 2 hour session ” Team Talk ” , following the ” Its Good To Talk ” mantra . At this session a lady attended , I won’t mention her name, for confidentiality reasons, other than to call her “K” but she shared her story about problems with alcohol.

I began to think if the Foundation Posters scattered around East Cleveland are attracting people like myself and “K” who had faced a lot of demons in the past and present and wanted somewhere to go and just “Talk.” I say this because its virtually impossible to get ” Counselling ” from anywhere !!!! The irony is my Doctor and Psychiatrist emphasised I badly needed Counselling or Talking Therapy and both gave me contact details for countless providers in Cleveland , only to find that there was a minimum of 9 months waiting time to see anybody. So upon discovering I could go and “Talk” at the Foundation, thats exactly what I did.

Over the coming weeks I shared a lot of personal things round a table and also listened to other people’s problems. I suppose as I said earlier , it was akin to a Counselling session but without a trained Counsellor. Just talking and unloading my thoughts helped me and at this point I want to give praise to one person who I believed actually listened , showed some empathy and understood. That person was Charlie Bell. Charlie Bell who played for Middlesbrough FC in the late 1970’s. Charlie was about the fourth Foundation worker to grace the facility in Skinningrove. On two separate occasions I divulged a fair bit of my personal past experiences and Charlie actually looked concerned when I was telling a particular story from years ago. Now what helped me was that he not only listened but the fact he looked concerned and made me think he was actually listening and empathizing. When I notice that reaction I actually feel as though with that concern, somebody cares, and if somebody cares then I actually feel better inside for sharing my problems. I’ve have many occasions where I’ve opened up, discussed very personal things in search of concern or empathy only to find the person or persons’ supposedly listening look totally detached or even disinterested. Imagine how that makes you feel .

16 years ago I did get several Professional Counselling Sessions . Before id completed all the sessions the fully qualified Counsellor called me “Don Quixote.” I thought.” That old man on a horse who lived in Spain, why is he calling me that?” I went home and studied Don Quixote a bit more. I came to the conclusion that the Counsellor thought I was a fantasist and what I was telling him wasn’t true ! The thing was what I’d been telling him for several months was 100% true and factual , but he was doing what everybody was doing at that time and that was not believing me! In all honesty what had happened to me near that period and what I was saying probably seemed pretty unbelievable but it was all true! When you are finding that you are suffering and you seek out help and tell the truth only to be disbelieved and basically labelled a Fantasist, by God do you feel hurt, bewildered and even worse than before you asked for help.

Reluctantly I went back for another Counselling session and as I thought the Counsellor intimated that he did not believe what I was saying and that I was causing my own problems by pursuing actions for no good reason. I found that very hurtful because it was the direct opposite of the truth, so I got up and walked out !
To this very day I cannot believe that the Counsellor got that opinion of me and that he placed that label on me. Surely Counsellors are supposed to be 100% impartial and non-judgemental?

All that experience did for me was make me feel worse! It made me feel more detached from people and made me more wary of human contact. I had no friends or family to unburden my thoughts to, so I had to find a Counsellor . I just felt after that experience that I was now totally on my own! I had no friends and no family to talk to, so I had to talk to a 3rd party who then made me feel worse. Sublimely 16 years ago and up until I attended the Foundation a Year a go, I’d probably chosen to keep away from people and remain an outcast from society , paradoxically for what I thought was my own sanity.

So a year ago I decided I couldn’t continue with my self-induced exile from society and consciously chose to attend the Foundation.

Ive remembered the names of the 3 Foundation members who attended within my first 6 weeks there , Mark, Lee and Jamie were their names. Id like to thank all of those for listening to me. Also for the Christmas Cards and being on the end of a phone when I was attending hospital and taking interest and concern in my health. For the previous 3 years id received two Christmas cards only, One from my Car insurer and the other from the PDSA.

Christmas comes and goes and we are now in the New Year. By now the Foundation has been going for 4 Months in East Cleveland and there are probably a hard core of 6 Users, whom I’ll refer to as the “Magnificent 6.” Only Six users bewildered and even concerned me ! There are Posters scattered all over East Cleveland and the Job Centres are promoting it, so where are everybody? I made a quip about people refusing to leave Wetherspoons, Ladbrokes or the Local Working Man’s Club. That’s 100,000 people in East Cleveland and only 6 users ? During that first 6 months all 6 of us did nothing more than talk round a table , but it is ” Team Talk .” ” Kitchen Therapy” had started by this time and there was an opportunity to attend a 6 week Kitchen Course with ” Chef ” , a ” MasterChef ” Semi-finalist at the Golf Club in Saltburn, so now there is more choices than just talking. Then Covid strikes!

I would like to thank Gary Walton and Charlie Bell for bringing me a ” Chef ” cooked meal on many occasions delivered to my door in April, May and June, it was very kind and thoughtful. As I was not seeing anybody at all for weeks on end now, I really looked forward to them showing and both would ask how I was doing .Charlie twice turned up in a Batman outfit ! If I’m truthful it looked like the one Del Boy wore in Only Fools and Horses, The Bat ears looked a bit droopy but hey he’d made the effort and im now eating a gourmet meal. It made me very humble and grateful in equal measures.

Gary set up a ” Zoom ” meeting for ” Magnificent 6″ or on occasions 3 or 4 depending on circumstances and some starting work. We would do quizzes on zoom. That 30 minutes to one hour was again the only human contact I was getting once in that week, so you can imagine I found it welcome ! Ive complimented Charlie so I want to compliment Gary and all I’m going to say is …. He’s a nice and likeable young man very suited for his position in the Foundation . We “Zoom” on and off for 3 months and the meals keep coming.

When the restrictions are lifted we start doing ” Walk and Talk ” which are just gentle strolls where we talk about anything for 2 hours! One walk helped me discover the Beach at Skinningrove which is better than Bondi! Amazingly I’ve lived in Cleveland for 40 odd years and 12 years in East Cleveland and didnt even know it was there. Now the secret is out !

So thats it and up to date. I’m still attending every week and the first year is now up, as we are about to be locked up again! Gary said today he will start ” zoom” and the quizzes again and the meals may start again.

I know I was asked to state how the Foundation has helped me and what they actually do , so I hope I have.
I know on occasions I’ve flown off at a tangent discussing many other things or been long winded in some aspects and I apologise if I’ve done too much of that. The thing is I have sought out writing as a way of reaching people and making human contact with words. I have so few options to make contact in this big world we live in, some reasons are self induced , others due to circumstance by having no friends or family. I said to Rob Nichols that writing as often been therapeutic for me and doing these pieces posted on FMTTM certainly has been . I’ve smiled, grimaced, frowned and even blubbered like a baby whilst writing these past three pieces but above all enjoyed doing them.

So thank you for reading, I’ve not used spell check or grammarly, I’ve just written and not checked anything, so if there are any errors … I don’t care !!!!


Stephen M

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