Irfon Williams’ autobiography ‘Hawl i Fyw’ will be available in the shops before Christmas following a book launch, which will be held at Bangor Rugby Club on 24th November.
The 47-year-old father of five from Bangor, who died in May this year, fought a brave three-year battle against Bowel cancer which had spread to his liver.
Irfon started writing his autobiography, which records his cancer journey, when he was given the devastating diagnosis in January 2014.
Irfon began his autobiography by saying: “The day of January 28th 2014, was a foggy, cold grey day. The telephone call came a little after lunch, from the manager of the surgical department of the health Board.
“The doctor is ready to meet you at four o’clock this afternoon, he wants to give you the diagnosis.
“I knew she was aware of the diagnosis, so I asked her to give it to me outright, she wasn’t prepared to speak over the phone so up we went, my wife Becky and I, to her office at Ysbyty Gwynedd.
“It was quite a blurry experience walking into that office, seeing two or three people I knew on the way, I suspect they were aware of what I was about to hear. There were no niceties or long discussions, it was straight down to business.
“Irfon you have advanced bowel cancer and metastases in the liver.”
Hawl i Fyw
After being treated with chemotherapy, radiotherapy and liver surgery, the cancer returned to Irfon’s liver and it was deemed inoperable.
Second opinions from specialists at the Hammersmith Hospital in London and the Christie Centre in Manchester then pointed towards a drug called Cetuximab, which had been shown to give patients a 15% chance of full recovery and at the very least double life expectancy, Cetuximab, however, was not available to patients in Wales.
Irfon moved to England to receive the treatment, a time he described as “extremely stressful and distressing.” despite the stress of having to move to England, the treatment resulted in Irfon’s tumours shrinking drastically, allowing him to have further surgery to his liver as well as bowel surgery to remove the colorectal tumour.
The campaign ‘Hawl i Fyw’ (Fighting Chance) was set up to raise awareness and calling for an end to the ‘postcode lottery’ in relation to access to certain cancer treatments in Wales. The campaign resulted in massive public support and media coverage, with Cetuximab eventually being made available to patients in Wales.
Irfon spent six months in remission from cancer, from September 2015 to March 2016. Sadly, the cancer returned to his liver and this time had spread to his lungs and abdomen.
Much of the book focuses on the mental health side of Irfon’s journey, a subject which he felt was of the of utmost importance, having worked most of his career for the NHS in the field of Child and Adolescent Mental Health. In the book Irfon explores the coping strategies that helped him deal with his own emotions, such as anxiety and low mood, which he experienced during his illness.
Despite his own illness, Irfon also spent a huge amount of time fundraising for other’s, by launching the ‘Team Irfon’, a campaign originally aimed at raising £20,000 to support the Alaw Unit in Ysbyty Gwynedd, where Irfon received much of his treatment, the campaign eventually raised over £150,000.
A celebration of Irfon’s life
The book launch is a free event which is open to all (No Ticket Required) and will also be a celebration of Irfon’s life. Entertainment will be provided by Rhys Meirion and Elin Fflur, and actor Llion Williams who will be reading Irfon’s words.
Copies of the book will be on sale on the night by Awen Menai bookshop, the Welsh version of the book will be available in shops after the launch, with an English version of the book expected early next year.
Date: 24 November 2017
Venue: Clwb Rygbi Bangor Rugby Club