Autobiography to be released
AUTOBIOGRAPHY CHRONICLES IRFON’S BRAVE BATTLE AND CAMPAIGN
CANCER campaigner Irfon Williams urges those in his situation to “go and find your own answers” in a poignant and often candid autobiography finished just days before he died.
The father-of-five from Bangor, who lobbied the Welsh Government over access to drugs for cancer patients in Wales, tells readers not to accept “what the politicians and doctors tell you”, adding: “After all, everyone has the right to live.”
Mr Williams started writing Hawl i Fyw (Right to Live) in 2016 and completed the manuscript shortly before his death in May.
In the introduction, his wife Becky writes: “This is the autobiography of a loving husband, proud father and a Welshman to the core.
“It is a very personal story in which Irfon explains his cancer journey, his childhood and the influences that made my husband so brave and charismatic.
“It is a record of his life and humour, the elation and heartbreak he received as a result of the treatment, and his decision to challenge the political system in Wales at the same time as fighting cancer.
“When Irfon died on May 30 at Ysbyty Gwynedd in Bangor, it shattered my life. We were happiest when we were together and hated being apart.
“Although Irfon’s battle had been a public one, the end was very private. We were sitting together, holding hands, when he took his last breath.”
Mr Williams was diagnosed with advanced bowel cancer in January 2014, when nagging worries about weight loss and crippling stomach pains he’d suffered over Christmas were confirmed by doctors at Ysbyty Gwynedd.
He married Mrs Williams almost immediately after the diagnosis but, instead of a honeymoon, it was three months of chemotherapy and organising his #teamirfon fundraising campaign.
“The charitable work gave me a positive focus which I enjoyed very much,” he writes.
Later, as his fight with cancer progressed, Irfon visited schools and other organisations to speak about his experience. He writes that he was having problems with his colostomy bag at the time and was prone to breaking wind without warning.
“One time it happened in a lift at a hotel in Cardiff when there was a young couple with me,” he writes.
“They must have thought I was born in a pig sty. Another time, the colostomy bag burst while I was out with friends, causing a mess, and I had to go home and change.
“Al Prys (a friend) has the knack of seeing the funny side of everything, and sent a message to everyone revealing I was the party pooper.” By summer 2014, Mr Williams was i in Aintree hospital in Liverpool, having treatment to remove two tumours.
He explains in the book that he was in a room with three other men, and he and another m man were very ill.
“An elderly man was opposite me and next to him was a young man, Craig, who was homeless, and Nigel, who was undergoing extensive treatment,” writes Mr W Williams.
“I thought there was an odd colour to me because of the jaundice, but Craig and Nigel w were bright yellow.
“Craig was a character, a real S Scouser, and never still.
“He would say the weirdest t things totally unexpectedly to make us laugh. One morning, while having breakfast, he said: ‘Look at us, we’re like a ward full of Minions!’
“He asked me if I had started medication to stop drinking and, when I explained my problem, he began apologising and shaking my hand, obviously embarrassed he had compared our situations.”
In 2015, Mr Williams’ battle grew when he was refused a potentially life-prolonging cancer drug.
He lobbied and pressed the Welsh Government to end the inequality that saw English patients able to benefit from Cetuximab while Welsh patients could not.
But he had to endure the heartache of moving from his Bangor home to England to get treatment.
Celebrities, sports stars and volunteers joined the campaign to raise £70,000 for fellow cancer sufferers.
● Mr Williams’ battle is fully outlined in the book, which will be published on November 24. There will be an official book launch at Bangor Rugby Club.
● Irfon, pictured here with wife Becky. In the book’s introduction she says of Irfon: ‘He was a loving husband, proud father and a Welshman to the core.’ Inset below, Gareth Bale supported the Hawl I Fyw campaign