MY alarm goes off at 7am. Not another Monday morning. Surely the weekend isn’t over yet.

It isn’t long until I am back in a room I never wanted to see again. It’s a small ward with three beds and some chairs.

I am Bed 3. In some ways it doesn’t matter what or who you were before, you are now just a bed number.

This is November last year, as I go in for the surgery I need to correct a tumour in my spinal cord which has resurfaced for a fourth time. You wait, wondering “when it will be my turn?” You sense the fear in the room, take in the mixture of characters sitting here waiting for the news.

A lone Englishman sitting in the corner, reading a book, not a flicker of emotion on his face. A Turkish family, dealing with a brain tumour for the first time. Just a young man, he is lost, like a deer in headlights. I remember the feeling.

His brother and sister crying. Yet at the same time doing very well to hold it together and make sure he is okay. Laughter. Tears. Lots of love between them.

It’s like speed dating, all these people coming in and telling you stuff. You just sit there, with no idea what is going on. Who are all these people? Some you will never see again. But here they are talking about your life intensely for a few minutes and then leaving again.

The surgeon comes in to explain to the young Turkish man, she pulls the curtain back to talk with family. She speaks slowly as the sister translates. It’s heart-breaking to listen to this, yet hard not to.

I know my turn will be soon, I will be told the same things soon. It’s not easy the first time. And it doesn’t get any easier. How do you cope with the uncertainty, the anxiety? You do what you know best, read a little, sleep a little or talk with friends. For me, it helps to sit there and mentally visualize myself back on my bike or in the pool. They are the two things that set me free from all this.

I hear steps outside and my stomach drops. I feel sick but no need to panic – they weren’t for me. It’s the Turkish lad’s time. It is the most surreal experience to meet this family at their lowest moment, to share a room and the odd emphatic smile. No words needed. Just good luck my friend.

Finally, its “David Smith can you get ready? We are taking you down for scans.” So it’s into the robe and before I know it, a wheelchair. I said: “I can walk” but am told to get in the chair anyway.

I am in the MRI machine for over an hour, my whole body shaking with the vibrations. It is a horrid sensation. Just the sound of that thing makes me sick.

But this is just the warm-up. Soon it is time to face my biggest fear in life, stepping back into the neuro ward. As the door opens, it’s like your body moves into fight or flight.

I glimpse to my right and see four beds. The one by the window is empty. I desperately hope that one is mine.

I hear the words “let me show you to your bed, Mr Smith”. It is as if I am checking into a hotel. But this is no hotel. The length of my stay is uncertain. Last time I was a guest for almost five months.

As I lie back on to the bed it is so familiar, like almost climbing on to a bike. Blood clotting socks on, wrist band on and canular in. I have been here so many times before. I can almost start to feel my leg muscles disappearing again.

There is a constant noise of breathing machines, beeps, alarms and people coming and going. Thankfully the view from the window is on to a beautiful square. I sit and watch the leaves fall from the tree as birds chirp. The wind gently blowing the branches and people walking to work. Our life in here feels like it has stopped, but outside it goes on.

There is an imposing tree blowing in the autumn wind outside my window. This is no ordinary tree. It is over 200 years old and survived two world wars. How I could do with some of its strength and resilience.

There is a battle going on inside my head. I keep saying “I am not sick, I am strong”. But the environment is giving me different signals. It is telling me that I am weak and lying in this ward is a trigger to the last operations and the pain that must be stored deep inside my mind.

After two days in there, the doctor walks in. This is it, it’s time. Except it isn’t. He says “sorry we can’t get you in today, so you can eat”. It was like a winning lottery ticket. I jumped out of bed, got clothes on and escaped the hospital. Still with my hospital socks and wrist band on I went in search of some nice fresh food.

So one minute I was lying in a bed on a neuro ward, the next I was sat on the tube. Everyone looked unhappy and either grumpy or sad. I wanted to share with them what I had just left. The crazy thing is everyone on the ward was happy. Happy to be alive. Does it take something like this to wake people up?

This is just one story of a life on a neuro ward, where each bed has its own story, its own life. But trust me from here: what really matters is how you lived your life, your memories of all the fun stuff you did. That is the stuff you can hold on to.

Your friends who message you are worth more than what’s in your bank account or how many flat screen TVs you have. Don’t put dreams off till you think you’re ready. Just go out and do them.

Read David’s columns as he goes about his recovery in Herald Sport every Saturday