In his darkest moments, Spike played the Ariana Grande song “Breathin” on repeat, and in her words “just kept breathing.”
The lyrics sang by the global popstar helped him to focus, meditate, and dance, as cancer invaded his mind and body.
“I was so weak, I couldn’t walk up a flight of stairs and found it difficult getting out of the bath without help,” he recalls.
“I didn’t recognize myself in the mirror as I’d put on four stone - the side effects of medication. I had insomnia and was hallucinating. I was in a dark place.
Then I heard this song, by Ariana Grande, and the words described perfectly how I felt. For the first time in months, I wanted to move, be me again, and I just focused on breathing, the most basic of things I could do, to sustain my life.”
On Christmas Eve, 2018, Spike, 47, a husband, and dad-of-two from Cardiff, was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer with a secondary brain tumour.
Super fit, in the prime of his life, and a never smoker, it was an unimaginable diagnosis. His medical team called it “unusual.”
A week earlier, Spike thought he had a trapped nerve, now he was being told he had six to 12 months to live.
Spike’s initial symptoms were vague: “I had an ache in my right shoulder that wouldn’t go away. I went to the doctor, and she thought it was muscular, nothing alarming. It continued, so I went back to the same doctor, increasingly frustrated the ache wasn’t going away. It had started to affect my lifestyle and mood.
On the third appointment, my doctor referred me for scan. I’d seen the same one, I made sure of that, so I wouldn’t have to go over old ground. I think she saw a pattern, and my changing demeanor, so referred me for a routine scan.”
Minutes into the CT scan, Spike was told there was an abnormality on his brain. Admitted immediately to hospital, he was told he wouldn’t be going home that night.
“I went through A & E and had to wait for a bed", he said. “When I was on the ward, I was told I would be having a series of scans, different types of scans, to establish what was wrong. I was given little information, hadn’t heard the word cancer mentioned once, and I was feeling angry.
I couldn’t understand what I was doing there. I was fit and strong, with a heart rate of 44 beats per minute, and relatively young.
I needed to find some gravity, plant my feet on the floor again, and understand what the hell was going on with me.”
Sat beside his wife Louise, the diagnosis that followed was crushing, both their worlds falling apart.
Spike had two cancerous tumours, one on his right lung and the other on the brain. He was told he needed urgent life-extending treatment.
Discharged, he was booked in the day after Boxing Day for a Craniotomy, a major op to treat the brain tumour, followed by targeted radiotherapy and chemotherapy.
Still in shock, Spike and Louise rallied to make Christmas Day special for their children – Tyler, seven, and five-year-old Tilly – who were unaware dad was so sick. Meanwhile, Spike’s mind was racing.
“Having lung cancer made no sense to me. My consultant told me the shoulder ache was due to the brain tumour affecting me neurologically. As for the lung tumour, I was living quite normally, no breathlessness at all.
I’ve a history of persistent chest infections that were treated with a double dosage of antibiotics, but chest X-rays always came back clear. Thinking back, I also felt more fatigued in 2018, but I just put that down to being an active, busy person with a young family.