Jeremy Mansfield – Surviving, Standing Up and Doing Good
For radio and television personality, Jeremy Mansfield, his cancer journey started on a Easter weekend when he and his wife came back from a relaxing break in the Seychelles. “We had sushi and after I got out of a hot shower I said to Jacqui it’s quite cold. With a puzzled look she said it wasn’t cold, but I was freezing,” says Jeremy. Thinking it might have been the sushi, he went to bed sweating while shivering of the cold. When the symptoms didn’t go away they went to Sunninghill hospital where the doctor performed a lumbar puncture to test for meningitis.
After what Jeremy calls “sheer agony”, the first and second tests came back clear. “The cocktail of drugs sent me to planet Zoid for two days. More tests came back and I was brought back from my cocktail heaven and hit the earth hard with a white blood cell transfusion that latest for three days. I knew what it was, but even knowing I burst into tears when the oncologist confirmed that it was cancer.” Jeremy was diagnosed with Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia.
“That was a terrible moment,” he says. “People get their heads in the wrong space at that moment. You have to force yourself to put your head in another space. I said to myself, right, you’ve got cancer, now – how are you going to get rid of it?” On the third day, busy with his sixth treatment, he felt miserable and nauseous and said to Jacqui: “Call the doctor, take this drip out and let this thing take its course.” Knowing this pattern all too well, the oncologist came down on him like a ton of bricks. “I understood then that people diagnosed with cancer get to a point where they don’t want to fight and that it was a part of the journey. That moment was the turning point for me.”
Jeremy tells it was a battle and that the impact on his family and work was hard, but that he realised he was fortunate to get treatment. “This was something that I needed to fight and beat. Your state of mind plays a big part in your healing and cleansing process. The bigger problem was that I had to make an announcement of my diagnosis – for me it was a very public illness. People in shopping centres, strangers, would walk up to me, put their arms around me and cry about their granny who died of cancer. That made it extremely difficult for me and my family.”
Jeremy says he wouldn’t have gotten through this without Jacqui and advises husbands and wives to be as supportive as they possibly can. “Their support is vital. You also need to have a focus, something that forces you to think of something else besides the cancer. I found it in my work. It was a 3-weeks-on, 1-week-treatment scenario, and there were times when it got worse and I physically couldn’t do as much as I wanted to, but I had that focus.”
“I learned from this experience that nursing staff in the oncology wards are the nicest people on earth,” he says. “The way they deal with people is remarkable. They see patients from small to tall and are this wonderful combination of nurses, mothers and psychologists. I have the utmost respect for them.”
As someone who does a lot for charity, Jeremy’s message to survivors out there is clear: “You survived. Stand up. You have the chance to look at the world differently. You have the chance to look at life and know you are still a part of it and can do good.”