In this podcast episode, the writer of numerous children’s books, including Giraffes Can’t Dance, the creator of the Purple Ronnie stickman and the humorous philosopher Edward Monkton talks to Lymphoma Action’s Anne Hook about his experience with Hodgkin lymphoma. Giles also shares with us the unusual steps he needed to take to preserve his fertility after treatment.
Giles was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma in 1988 during his last year at university, but was initially given an astounding diagnosis. 'I booked an appointment with my GP after I started experiencing symptoms including tiredness and night sweats, and noticed a lump in my neck' recalls Giles. 'I was referred to an Ear, Nose and Throat specialist who decided really quite quickly that I had grown a gill, like a fish! I became a bit of a celebrity in his clinic, because he would get his medical students to see me when I came in and feel my neck. Eventually, I did say to him that people were mentioning that it could be cancer and he reluctantly agreed to do a biopsy. This confirmed I had Hodgkin lymphoma.
Giles was due to start a course of intensive chemotherapy soon after his diagnosis, but his treatment was delayed further as he was not made aware of the potential impact of treatment on his fertility until his first chemotherapy session had started. 'I was absolutely devastated' says Giles. 'I asked if I was able to store my sperm somewhere, ready for use at a later date but the doctor was reluctant to delay my treatment any further, and he wasn’t sure where to send me to do so. I refused treatment until he agreed to look into it. In the end I was sent to an agricultural facility where they store prize bull semen!'
After Giles had finished his treatment, it was confirmed that he was infertile. Despite being told that his stored sperm would only last between three to five years, Giles and his wife went on to have their first child nine years after his sperm was stored. They then had twins a couple of years later, and after that their youngest was born. 'My youngest son was born 16 years after my sperm was first stored' says Giles. 'So basically, he is the last surviving sperm in the facility!'
Giles also received a diagnosis of colon cancer in 2017, but is now in remission. 'I do feel very privileged to still be alive' says Giles. 'I also feel privileged to be able to feel joy again which is the most remarkable gift you can have. I only ever want to write about love and happiness, and for me joy is as simple as being on the beach with my family in the sunshine.'
Listen to Lymphoma Action’s Lymphoma Voices podcast series. The series is also available on Apple and Spotify.