“Even though I am not proud of how I look in these images, raising sarcoma awareness is essential”

Ian Randall, 45, photographer

“So the cliché goes, that when you’ve encountered something like this, you make every day count. But actually, sometimes, I feel mentally and physically drained – and that’s the truth. I started chemo on 28 December 2010, each cycle lasted for five to six days and in between cycles I was back and forth with various problems with blood infections, dehydration and needing transfusions of blood and platelets. I also had regular scans on my chest, heart and kidneys.
 

“Eventually it was decided that I needed surgery to remove three ribs and part of my lung – which sounds terrifying. Then I had three more chemo cycles, I was meant to have seven, but my body just couldn't cope. Treatment was exactly 10 months. Initially, recovery was incredibly hard as my heart and kidneys were badly damaged during post-surgery chemo. I was barely able to look after myself for a few months and that is when things got really hard.

“The countless meds made me feel like a zombie, like I was in a real-life nightmare. I had 'chemo brain' and I couldn't concentrate on TV or a book. I had to play games on my iPad such as solitaire to get my brain ticking over again. The most horrible depression set in. I couldn't see anything good from what had happened, I wished I had given up. The depression is never far away but I'm somehow dealing with it. I'm trying to take things a day at a time, sometimes an hour at a time, sometimes a song on the radio at a time.

“I was a Fire Officer, I was fit and active, full of beans and energy. They held my job open for me for 18 months but it became clear I wasn't ever going to be well enough to go back. I was devastated. Now, I can't run, go to the gym or cycle, and I can't play football with my two young sons. I used to jump out of bed and love life, now it’s just another day to get through. The old me is in there somewhere, though.

“Luckily, photography has saved my sanity. I went on a few day courses and after about a year of these, my tutor said to me "why are you on this course? you should be doing your own stuff and making money." I'm not good at taking compliments but this one changed my outlook on photography and so many things in my life.  It’s amazing that one little comment changes someone’s life so much. 

“It’s so important these portraits and stories are shared – even though I am not proud of how I look now, awareness is essential. I had never heard of sarcoma, and during my treatment I didn't know Sarcoma UK existed or that other people got sarcoma. That’s why I love to help Sarcoma UK, not only giving something back by giving up my time, that I have plenty of so it is easy, but I've made some lovely friends and as I get further past treatment finishing, I can try and help others who are going through it too. By getting them to see there is a light at the end of the tunnel, it will be hard, painful, the worst thing anyone can go through, but they will get through it. If i'd had someone that was surviving telling me that I would do it, it definitely would have made things easier.”