Share this article Share I tell her the new truth harshly because I am nervous, and she almost physically recoils, as though punched in the stomach. I phone my daughter Georgia in Manchester and she is stunned, unable to take in the information. Gail takes the phone and leaves the room to talk to her. We drive home in silence. Gail is distant; she sees the contours of her life shifting in front of her.
I have let her down. I am going to be open and honest with people about what has happened, reaching out to them rather than trying to do it alone. I need help, but I also have to give help. I had a vision of a dark road leading to a light' I started phoning and the calls went well. I felt immediately lifted by the affection I received. I thought, if only I had known they liked me so much before I got ill.
The first call was to my younger daughter, Grace, at university in Oxford. I said we would come and see her that evening. I did not want to tell her the news over the phone. I told her that it was serious, but I wanted to speak to her face to face. It was not perfect, but it was the best that I could do. I called Downing Street, something I had once done often, but which rarely happened now. The telephonist was kind, sensing something was wrong. The next day I was due to make a presentation to Gordon Brown on public perceptions of him based on some polling I had done.
I told someone in his office that I would be unable to do it because I had been diagnosed with cancer. Within minutes Gordon phoned back, his deep, gravelly voice betraying genuine concern.
This was the first of many calls he would make. The presentation went ahead without me: That was how the day went, calling and being called. Part of me enjoyed being the centre of attention, and while wary of this, I was prepared to use it to help get me through. At about six we drove to Oxford. Grace was standing confidently outside her college, looking cool and contained. I said straight away that I had serious cancer and her response was typical: I was very sad to leave her.
Gail and I drove back without speaking much. So the first day with cancer ended. As the result of much research and consultation, Philip Gould has opted for treatment in the U.
He is told he has a 75 per cent chance of survival. In December , nearly two years after his initial diagnosis, he is given the all-clear by the Royal Marsden and resumes his career as a pollster, political strategist and the vice-chairman of Freud Communications.
As Gail and I walked into the cold midwinter evening we felt we had done it. Now statistics were on my side. It was all going to be OK. The General Election was coming up and I was determined to contribute to it. I felt this was the time for people like me to stand up and be counted. But Gail was worried. She hated my involvement in politics, believing that it had been the root cause of my cancer. She wrote me a note begging me to slow down. At the centre of it all is politics, which is such a destructive force.
It nearly killed you once. This time it was harder. I was not depressed, or in despair or even deflated. Recurrence is a very different thing from the original diagnosis. My immediate response to being told I had cancer had been that I would battle through and win. I had a vision of a dark road leading to a light.
But the diagnosis of recurrence had a very different effect — the road ahead just collapsed, and I was left effectively with nothing, just the kind of fuzzy picture you get if your television stops working. I had dinner with Tony Blair. I was not so much low as lost; I could see no way through. Why had it happened? The first diagnosis I understood: I got cancer as others did and I fought it, with as much determination as I could muster. I had taken every pill, undergone every treatment, done everything required of me, got through the crucial two-year mark and still it had returned.
Why had it come back? Tony paused for a second and said slowly: You may have changed, but not by enough, now you have to go on to a higher spiritual level still. You have to use this recurrence to find your real purpose in life.
My only regret is that it will end soon' I called Murray Brennan, who had performed the operation. With some courage he said he believed he may have adopted the wrong strategy, and as a consequence had left too much of the stomach in, where he believed the cancer cells may have lain dormant.
He was saying he had not been radical enough. I admired his honesty. Gail groaned quietly, not with sadness but with suppressed rage at the unfairness of it all.
In effect, the British surgeons had been right: But this could be said only with hindsight. The decision had been taken totally on its merits and the responsibility was all mine. Philip Gould learns that his chances of survival have decreased. We spent Christmas out of London in the snow. Just us and the kids.
There was no hiding here, we all knew the situation. The family was under strain, but we were close. My relationship with my children was deepening all the time. We implicitly decided to bring the future forward, to compress ten years or so into one. The kids sucked me dry. Georgia wanted to know all about the way I thought.
How did I develop a concept? What were my values? Why did I believe what I believed? Grace wanted hard, usable, practical advice. She asked me to write down every likely eventuality that might befall her and supply a satisfactory answer. Facing the possibility of my departure, she wanted a handbook for life. With the children, all this was in a way easier than it might have been.
It is in the nature of things that children outlive their parents. Philip, Gail and daughter Grace in For Gail it was different. She did not want intensity, or purpose, or accelerated living, she wanted quiet and normality — not the future brought forward, but the present extended.
She had always envisaged a future free from work where we would just potter around, grow old as companions. We had known each other so long that we had created a shared world. Pottering around in later life seems the easiest thing to achieve. But now it was something I simply could not guarantee. This was the hardest thing to bear. I am going to die. My death is inevitable and is likely to come within the next few weeks, perhaps even within the next few days. There is no way to avoid it.
I am going to die soon. But as long as I keep telling myself that and do not seek to evade it, I am in the right place. The awareness of death that I had throughout my life was, I see now, an illusion.
Even when the doctors said there was a 25 per cent chance I would die, then a 60 per cent chance, there was always an escape.