Written by: Cyrus Todiwala OBE
Dear Hospitality friends
As one that has never stopped working nearly fifteen hours a day since 1976 and, thinking that I am OK, my recent escapade with the dreaded Prostate Cancer was a rude awakening.
January 2020 our Grade Two star listed building came under new ownership and at once we started to have issues with the new landlord who told us that, under no circumstances will they be willing to extend our lease.
Upon stating that we were whilst still in India on holiday subjected to some sixty five different notices of non conformity and lease commitment failure etc. Very good ploy no doubt but scary and nerve wracking besides, a failure to have the finance to battle against a Giant. After loosing a lot of cash an agreement was reached and we could remain until the new year, but then hand over the building full stop.
Whilst all of this was going on I had this nagging doubt that I needed to get my Prostate checked. Our very dear friend and the legend of a chef Andrew Bennet was also suffering at this time as was another very dear chef friend Philip Corrick of the Royal Automobile Club and several others I learnt later plus other men not associated with the industry.
I did have my prostate checked physically previously and the doctor was a bit reluctant to get me tested again, but ran another physical test just the same, but there was no detection there. However I did insist stating that I did have few symptoms but it was nagging at me. I did not suffer from and still don’t frequent urinating at night but other changes were happening & I wanted this off my mind.
The doctor then told me that if a full test is done and if there is any detection then I should be prepared to go the full length. At which I said that if there is something then naturally I will be prepared.
A PSA test was done and the results showed a very high curve and I was summoned immediately and asked to go for an MRI. All this was happening in February whilst in one part of the world this dreaded Covid was emerging and news of a pandemic was reaching out to us here but no one took as much notice then.
The MRI scan showed a dark patch and at once Biopsy tests were booked. (painful, uncomfortable and irritable I must say especially when its just a surface anaesthetic)
Several Biopsies were taken and thereafter I was summoned to see the consultant very quickly.
I was then informed that I had stage four prostate cancer and that I was very lucky and was just months away from a rupture. Several options were given and we took advise for a few senior doctor friends as went and it was decided that I need to be operated and the prostate removed.
By this time it was the 20th of March. An urgent date was set and I was lucky to be the second last patient to be operated by Mr Prasanna Sooriyakumaran when all hospitals were shut down on the 24th of March.
My prostate was removed and all signs of any cancer were apparently removed as told to me post operation by Mr Prasanna. Later tests have shown that it is very much in control and there is extremely low detection.
I was just lucky let’s put it that way, later few months down the line our dear Friend Mr Andrew Bennett lost his battle to the cancer at a relatively very young age.
Now the reasons! For some reason we in the industry don’t think that we are invincible but we do not think that you should get yourself tested, simply because you are feeling fine and good and strong. My symptoms were at least three years old and I was not taking things seriously simply because work took over our lives. Kept blaming myself for not doing this or that, but still not making changes and not getting fully tested whilst still suffering.
I know that many like me do ignore minor health issues and we feel perfectly fine but inside a little devil may be growing and festering. This represents for both men and women, until something explodes inside and many a times it is too late and many a times it leaves us badly tainted and weakened. Covid in some way gave me a chance to recoup too but, we had so many worries and so many battles to fight it was like a living nightmare for us and a plethora of thoughts abbot the how why and when for our business which we had so nurtured over all these years, to be snatched away and destroyed giving back nothing.
We of course will never forget 2020 as the year when so much happened so quickly to us and wanted to destroy us completely, but that is not going to happen, our motto is different. From the destruction of a successful business after twenty five years to net zero, to a pandemic that wreaked havoc in all our lives and a health scare that could have gone either way. I am still not ok as I ignore my exercises and get told off all the time and know full well that I need to concentrate on my health too. But many years of being a workaholic has set in too many bad habits unfortunately. We still have a mountain to climb from re-establishing the business in a strange new location, to creating a buzz all over again and attracting a new clientele and getting the place up and running on a shoe string budget, if that. What we have is a huge reputation and a strong following and we hope that we can rise to the occasion once again.
But my sincere advise to everyone who is still fit and able and still working mad hours or staying really busy, is to give yourself some respite and get yourself tested. Yes it may be difficult to get everything done snappy on the NHS but for those who may have insurance as well, this cannot be ignored. You owe that to yourself. No one else does and can.
I came close very close and I was lucky, perhaps to tell my tale and to share my story. After we reopen and show some success perhaps I shall have another story to tell, but this time it is health and its all our health I am referring to.
So, what have I done
I have requested my surgeon to do a short write up for me that I can share with the industry. He is one of the leading lights in UK today and has immense experience and therefore will speak out the truth for us.
Do please read and digest. It is and can be embarrassing but the health and well-being of my colleagues in the industry are more dear to me and therefore I share my story knowing full well that it my conjure up many imaginations in the minds of many and yes I do suffer that burden, but I am alive today to tell the tale and I am still working as madly as I was before and aiming to do a lot more where and when I can.
Cyrus Todiwala OBE