Stone Roses fan Thomas Chadwick tells how the Manchester band’s music became a life-line after he was diagnosed with teenage cancer.
On the snowy morning of the 9 February 2009 I woke up to go to college, later that night I went to sleep in a hospital bed wondering if I’d see the next.
I collapsed that morning with breathing difficulties caused by swollen organs that were crushing my windpipe. After being rushed to hospital it was confirmed I had an aggressive form of cancer. It was life threatening.
That week I was rushed in to hospital on Monday, and had an emergency biopsy and sent straight into intensive care on Tuesday. Wednesday I was transferred to a haematology ward after being diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, which is essentially blood cancer, and on Thursday I was told that I would have to be on chemotherapy for three-and-a-half years. On Friday, I had to go to Manchester’s Christie Hospital to deposit sperm in case I was left permanently infertile by the effects of my treatment.
It’s fair to say that was the most earth-shattering week of my life. Being told that for the next three-and-a-half years, if I was lucky enough to live that long, I’d be on chemotherapy and everything else in my life would have to go on hold. I had to think about things I’d never thought of before, what if I could never be a father?
What happened in that period of time changed me and my life forever.
As I started chemotherapy I found myself lost, lying in a bed thinking about life and death, thinking about people, and thinking about the bleak future. I was a very active teenager before, I had played competitive football since I was four-years-old and participated in many other sports. I loved the outdoors and spent nearly every day I could out in the fields with my friends. Now I was confined to a bed, not even my own. That in itself was torture, which added to the stress of not knowing if I was terminally ill.
Fortunately, after a few rounds of chemotherapy my swellings had shrunk and I was able to stand up and walk. After a few weeks I was even able to leave the ward for a few hours to occupy my mind, as long as I wouldn’t put myself in danger of harmful germs due to my poor immune system.
One day I got into my Dad’s car, it was the first time I’d left the hospital since my diagnosis, and it felt like I was going on holiday. As always in my Dad’s car the CD player flashed on, a song called ‘This Is The One’ chimed from the speakers and something hit me. The song played all through the short journey back to my house. As we drove I was looking at everything I had seen for the past 16 years as a completely different person. For some reason the song seemed to portray my whole life before and who I would become after my illness. I had listened to it before but now it sounded so different, and I sat up and took notice of it. In a way it was a representation of life – when you sit up and take notice it can be so different, from mundane to euphoric, from nothing to something.
I had always liked music but had never immersed myself in it. I knew that ‘This Is The One’ was a song by The Stone Roses. Back in the hospital I lay down with my iPod and played other tracks. Listening to the band’s music became a daily routine. I would listen to the first album several times a day. It was my self-prescription. It was an obsession.
Throughout my treatment I had a ritual of listening to ‘I Am The Resurrection’ before every procedure, before every time a doctor would do the rounds, every time I got nervous, every time I got lonely. ‘Waterfall’ took me through the summer and ‘I Wanna Be Adored’ through the winter.
My friends had all gone off to university or got jobs, I was still lying there unsure of my own mortality, music was there to fill the void.
As the months passed I learned to immerse myself in all types of music, each song for a different need. I went through a spell of listening to ‘depressing’ music because that was me, that was how I felt and I wanted something to help me feel that was normal. ‘Street Spirit’ by Radiohead, ‘The Drugs Don’t Work’ by the Verve, ‘How Soon Is Now’ by The Smiths and ‘This Is A Low’ by Blur.
After a year of intense treatment, blood and bone marrow tests showed that the amount of cancer in my blood had decreased. I was still very ill but the chances of me surviving looked good.
The remainder of my treatment dragged on, not a day went by when I didn’t listen to the whole debut album. My appearance changed all the time due to the treatment, but feelings towards those songs remained the same.
Near the end of my treatment I developed avascular necrosis in my left hip, which was caused by the steroids. I had to have my hip replaced which meant I would never be able to play competitive football again. I went in to the operation and lying awake while my hip was being removed I sang, ‘I Am The Resurrection’ over and over in my mind. It seemed to help more than morphine.
On the day of my very last chemotherapy I woke up in the same bed I had woken up in the day I was rushed into hospital. I walked downstairs and saw a note left by my Dad before he went to work. It read: ‘This Is The One’. The previous three-and-half-years flooded my mind, I couldn’t and still can’t comprehend what happened. I had my last oral and intravenous chemotherapy in August 2012, wearing a Stone Roses t-shirt, of course.
Music didn’t cure my cancer but it definitely helped, along with the fantastic support of my family and tremendous work from doctors and nurses. I am now fortunate enough to say that I am cured of leukaemia.
I recently graduated with a degree in Music Journalism and Broadcasting and am now pursuing a career in music.
I remember listening to The Stone Roses’ ‘This is The One’ the first night I spent in my university halls thinking about how times had changed, for the better.
The emotions the song conjures to this day are unexplainable, so much so I decided to get those four words tattooed on my wrist, stencilled from the note left for me by my Dad. I also got to see the song live as part of The Stone Roses comeback tour. Not only did music help me through my worst times, but also my best.