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One of the great things about the SMP was that it was more personal, not so professional and mechanical. The course wasn’t negative at all and there is a way forward. We all accept what’s going on, but it was put over in a positive way.

I’m still going down that corridor but it’s not so dark. It’s fairly light and you meet people who are going the same way. You’re not on your own.In the beginning it’s terrifying. It’s the unknown. The doctors know what they’re talking about and I don’t. They were talking behind my back and I said to the bloke, ‘Look you’re terrifying me, what’s going on?’ He didn’t do anything wrong. It’s just that they deal with it all the time and when you don’t know you start painting pictures in your mind about what they’re talking about. It’s a dark passage way at times.

Sometimes I’ve said, ‘What are you saying, what’s going to happen to me?’ because there’s such a negative aspect. They might say, ‘Have you had night symptoms yet?’ I say no and they say, ‘Well you should have had them.’ Well I haven’t and I tell them, ‘Look, can you tell me what’s going on here?’ I have got used to that now because you realise that it’s a professional thing; there is not a lot of time so I do accept and understand but one of the great things about the SMP was that it was more personal, not so professional and mechanical.

The course wasn’t negative at all and there is a way forward. We all accept what’s going on but it was put over in a positive way. It made me feel much better about where I go next. I got more understanding of what I can do. It ain’t over, that’s the point. And that meant a lot to me. I was frightened to death of this business, I really was. It was a hard transition from saying no I haven’t got it, you are talking a load of old rubbish, to yes there is something wrong and I’m not quite sure how to cope with it. And that course helped me a lot.

I met people who deal with it and do fine. I’m still going down that corridor but it’s not so dark. It’s fairly light and you meet people who are going the same way. You’re not on your own. There are people out there, the same as you, and they’re doing well, that’s the good bit. The bit that worked was the positivity of the course. It changed my outlook from being an ill man who didn’t know where he was going – you might be at work and get a bit chesty, and think oh God, is this it? But now I have spoken to people who have got it, who have the same concerns as I do. They taught us how to use the puffers better and what the colours meant and what I’m doing to myself when I take them. That was excellent because I hadn’t got a clue, not a clue.

I didn’t do the last week because I was going to Hadrian’s Wall. I thoroughly enjoyed it. There were a couple of times where I just said to my mates, ‘You carry on and I’ll see you in a minute’ because I needed a puff. I didn’t feel so awkward about it, trying to keep up with them. If I slow down I just say, ‘You carry on and I’ll see you in a minute’ and it worked fine. I caught up with them at another point and we all enjoyed it. I have an idea now of the things I could come up against and how I can deal with them. It’s not a problem.

You are in control of it. We’re talking about that tunnel with the lights on. If you think to yourself, ‘I won’t keep up’ then it’s dark, but then you say, ‘Well, I don’t think I can go that far. I will see you back at the hotel’ and it’s no shame or disgrace.