Full Q&A with Former Beatson Patient Stephen McLaughlin
2nd Apr 2016
In 2017, former Beatson patient Stephen will embark on gruelling three day trek across the Arctic for Beatson Cancer Charity – we caught up with Stephen on his experience in hospital and his upcoming challenge.
Q. Hi Stephen, thanks for coming in today. Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your involvement with the Beatson?
"I’m Stephen McLaughlin, I’m 27 and Mechanical Design Engineer from Larkhall. I was diagnosed with testicular cancer in the autumn of 2014, where I attended the Beatson for six weeks – it was surreal experience that passed very quickly."
Q. What were the services like you experienced at the Beatson?
"I used the Wellbeing Centre every day and my family and friends visited at nights. It was a great escape. I would go there for about an hour each day and got my hair cut by Ian (BCC Hairdresser), then my brother would come in and watch the football with me in the cinema room."
Q. The charity services must have really helped then?
"It was the best way to make the experience as normal as possible, rather than lying in bed for four or five days straight.
I was put in a room with other guys and I heard all of the different experiences and felt fortunate. It was hard to talk like that all day, so the Wellbeing Centre was good to get away. Being with other patients, you could see it helping each other after being able to use the Centre.
You don’t know where the charity money goes until you experience it. You need people to know the Wellbeing Centre is there."
Q. What was the impact of the staff and their support during your treatment?
"I didn’t meet one negative person – everyone had a smile on their face and were very positive. Even patients spoke so positively.
Just all the staff in the Beatson were 100% positive – everyone from NHS to Beatson Cancer Charity staff, especially the centre assistants who were great to my friends and family. It really made such a difference – they were so bubbly! It was also great that visitors are offered stuff in the centre [teas, coffees etc.]."
Q. How about your recovery, what was that like? How did you cope after it all?
"In terms of my recovery, I was back to work within a week of finishing treatment. It took a while, but in my company I wasn’t the only person affected by cancer. A lot of people have been sharing their experiences with me.
Another family member was going through the experience at the same time as well.
I want to encourage people to check themselves – the best case is it’s nothing. I would advise everyone to get checked if they suspect something. One of the guys in my room was at the next stage in his cancer – if I hadn’t got checked so early, that could have been me.
The nurse told me that they highest percentage of guys affected are young and fit – so it’s almost like it’s just your luck.
I didn’t want to talk about it at the time or afterwards, even with friends and family. It was my first year of marriage too – our first anniversary was right in the middle of it all. But I guess there’s never a good time! [Laughs]"
Q. So why did you decide to sign up for the Arctic Trek then?
"I’ve always wanted to give back to the Beatson – it’s only when looking back that I realise how much they did for me. I’ve been keeping an eye out for a challenge so when this came up, I went along to the information evening. My brother did Tough Mudder in aid of Beatson Cancer Charity and in support of me which I was really touched by."
Q. What are you most looking forward to about the challenge?
"I probably look forward to thought of crossing the finish line! [laughs] – it’s good that they do something to mark the end." (Play Bagpipes)
Q. How’s the training going? Got any plans to get yourself ready?
"It was a real challenge to get my fitness and stamina back. I signed up for the gym after the information night and I play football once a week. I will do more walking and maybe a half marathon this year.
I realise how hard this challenge might be – the weather conditions could change and it could go one of many ways."
Q. Why do you think other people should fundraise for Beatson Cancer Charity?
"People should sign up because the money that gets raised is spent in so many good ways. My specialist nurse (Nicola) was funded by Beatson Cancer Charity and I was astounded when I found that out. As well as the centre, staff posts and research that are also funded by the charity."
Q. How did Nicola help you?
"Nicola was really good, she was so informative. She gave me options and told me the experience of others to help me make my decisions. I was shocked that her post wasn’t NHS funded. The charity is needed to support these kind of roles. More people are getting cancer so you would think there would be more."
Q. It’s so vital to have people aware of what we do and we are so grateful that you want to fundraise for us. Hopefully by taking part you will encourage more people to support The Beatson.
"Exactly, the more people that are aware of where the money goes, the more they will be inclined to take part. People can do something as a personal challenge or if they have a connection. Those that don’t might do it if they know what great things go on in the hospital. It’s so important that people can hear what the money is going towards – like seeing the CEO David Welch on STV news the other night, it all makes a difference."
We truly appreciate Stephen coming into talk to us about his experience at The Beatson and his upcoming challenge to the Arctic. We will be following Stephen's progress closely as he prepares for his challenge in 2017. You can show you support to Stephen by visiting his JustGiving Page or by giving him a follow on twitter. If you have been inspired by Stephen's story, why don’t you take on a fundraising challenge for a loved one or even just to support this amazing work.