David Collyer collaborates with Cancer Research Wales on a photography project

When I was diagnosed with bladder cancer in June 2020, I had no idea where the journey would take me, what the future held. Basically, I didn’t know if I would be here to write this article.

Fortunately, however, I am, and it has given me the opportunity to collaborate with Cancer Research Wales on an exciting project, which I hope will show people living with cancer in Wales in a new light. and will give hope to those who may be at the start of their journey.

My professional life is divided between two areas. I am an NHS Operative Practitioner, a clinical role which allows me to work alongside an anesthetist during surgery.

Self-portrait of David Collyer

Until the cancer kicked in, I worked during the first wave of Covid-19 as part of the emergency intubation team at a hospital in South Wales, as well as any surgery for emergency and against cancer that was to take place during this period.

My second job is photography, something I’ve done since I was a teenager, but have taken it much more seriously in recent years. In December I was named Documentary Photographer of the Year 2021 by the Royal Photographic Society, for the work I did watching a theater crew during the first wave.

Uncomfortable with the NHS Heroes rhetoric, I turned the camera to ourselves and captured the rough and the smooth, the comedy and the heartbreak, the dark humor and the focus of life and death that it takes to do a very demanding job in times of adversity.

The National Wales: Images of Nevill Hall Hospital in Abergavenny at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic by David CollyerImages of Nevill Hall Hospital in Abergavenny at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic by David Collyer

Before the first wave, I had tentatively started filming a project loosely titled Life goes onlooking at people who have been diagnosed with cancer, but are determined not to be defined by that diagnosis.

Covid paid for that, and then ironically I became the subject of my own project when I was diagnosed myself, I started blogging about my own personal battle with cancer.

Through the power of social media, Cancer Research Wales saw my blog and my photographs, and contacted me. The purpose of the blog was twofold.

First, it served as a catharsis, but second, I wanted it to break taboos. Middle-aged men are, rightly or wrongly, not particularly known for their ability to manage their emotions or take care of their health. I figured if I could help just one person by writing about my experience in a brutally honest but also funny way, then my experience wouldn’t be wasted.

After the removal of three tumors during two procedures and regular check-ups, I am currently cured, and have been for a year. There’s a good chance he’ll come back, but maybe he won’t. We will cross this bridge when we get there.

I don’t look or act like the stereotypical image the public has of a cancer patient, and that’s ultimately where this article leads. I will be shooting a project about cancer patients in Wales, who, like me, are not defined by their diagnosis. It’s going to be a celebration of who we are as people and examining what drives us.

Yes, I am a cancer patient, but that comes far down the list of things I am. I’m a partner, a father, a photographer, a decidedly average guitarist, a music lover, a clothing obsessive, a book collector, and sometimes I have to go to the hospital and let someone else do the work. of the camera. I won’t go into details, but there is only one way to the bladder, and I’m sure you don’t need me to spell it!

I’m sure I’m not the only one feeling this, so if these values ​​and attitude resonate with you, you think your story could offer hope to others, and you would like to be part of this project, please get in touch.

You can see some of David’s photography on his website.

If you are interested in taking part in David’s project, please share your story here or contact Cancer Research Wales on 02921 850252.

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Michael E. Marquez