The 4th July 2006 seems like a life time ago now for Viv. While a nation celebrated it’s day of independence Viv had just received the results from numerous tests that confirmed his worst fears – he had cancer, the road ahead was long and fraught with uncertainty and self doubt.
Looking back over the numerous diary entries and images Viv was awash with memories of the life changing experience that threatened to take exactly that. One of the main things he couldn’t help notice, along with the rest of us was just how much weight he had lost. Ok, that was polite, more like how curvaceous he was before the treatment. Viv had put a lot of work into his belly over the years! So to see his side profile image go from a capital “D” to a slight “I” in a matter of months was a sight to behold. If ever there was a silver lining to the treatment then perhaps the weight loss was it.
For Viv there will always be resounding recollections of the first time he placed the treatment mask on his face, the severe radiation burns on his throat and how his love for food faded as the radiotherapy destroyed his appetite. His most prominent memory however related to the support he received from his staff, family and most of all the woman that was by his side during every minute of the 7 week treatment period, his wife Avril. Viv would openly admit that he is a workaholic and as one of his staff I like to believe that his sheer love for his company and employees was an instrumental factor during his radiotherapy. Where most would have sat at home and rested, Viv as usual was the first to arrive at the office and the last to leave. By doing this we were able to interact with him as normal and share the odd joke along the way. That joke usually involved Viv’s increasingly baggier trousers but the fact that he was there to laugh along with us hopefully made it that bit easier for him.
Luckily for Viv the 7 weeks of treatment seemed to pass quickly and on the 26th of September 2006 one chapter ended and another began. For Viv this was a day to start a new life as the all clear was given. As we fast forward a year the first anniversary of his joyous news came and went without too much fuss although Viv couldn’t help feel a mixture of emotions including joy, relief and an overwhelming sense of gratitude. One thing that did play heavily on his mind however was how little progress he thought he’d made. Having worked for Viv for over 5 years now I am only too aware of how impatient he can be. In a work environment this is not necessarily a bad thing. He wants something done, we get it done as quickly as possible and everyone is happy. Unfortunately Viv’s patience for his own recovery was in the same vein and everyone had to remind him that it could take up to another year before he feels the way he did before his illness.
One noticeable improvement has been the progression from a strict soup diet to now pretty much anything on the menu. As long as there is a healthy dose of sauce to moisten up the dish Viv can enjoy it. What’s most pleasing though is that chilli and wine are back in his life and oh my how they missed each other. Although both are still in very strict moderation Viv welcomed them back like grandkids he hadn’t seen for a while – with open arms but told them to behave themselves for a little while longer. With his well trained palate ever improving Viv can now savour life’s little pleasures once again such as his beloved London Pride, particularly if he’s on a Rugby trip and Wales win.
So normality is slowly but surely returning to Viv’s life and as things settle down he is able to step back from himself and look at how the experience he has been through has changed him. He has always been an emotional man and it is understandable now that he is even more so. Although he himself may feel embarrassed when he cries at the opening of an envelope, at the same time when someone is so close to death and comes out smiling on the other side it really makes them appreciate the smaller things in life. Viv’s whole demeanour has changed and his attitude and approach is a lot calmer than in previous years. He has always had that typical fiery South African temperament and in many ways it has worked for him. It’s a relief to see that he now realises that it’s important to slow down, enjoy life and know that the hard work is done and let those around him carry that torch for him.
He takes nothing for granted now, he knows things could have been so different so he’s more determined than ever to live out the rest of his life doing the things he loves, watching the rugby, enjoying a glass of wine, playing golf with his buddies, kissing his wife and breathing sweet air.