IT's my 41st birthday tomorrow. So I guess it is a good birthday present to have finished radiotherapy this week, even if I will probably spend the day lying indoors eating tomato soup and conserving my energy. 

Back in 2016, the last time the tumour struck, I remember spending my birthday at Stoke Mandeville hospital because it was the first day I got out of my wheelchair and walked again. I remember walking 10m and thinking 'ok, this the last birthday I will spend this way'. Last year I cycled up the Cairngorms in the morning, watched the Scottish slalom championships and had a pizza with my mates. It was a great day.

But it is another remarkable birthday present I have received this year that I really want to talk about. It is hanging on the wall of my flat, along with my radiation mask. I took that home to remind me where I have come from.

Before my Grandad passed away, he told me ‘what’s meant for you won’t go by you, David’. More than 20 years later, I still think of that conversation. It has helped me accept my tumour, as I believe everything that has happened to me has occurred for a reason. So when I met Antonio ‘Stony’ Russo at my first radiation session, there must have been a reason for it.


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Sometimes people come into your life and you know right away that they were meant to be there. Stony, a famous abstract artist, is one of them. A Sicilian race car driver, he was on his way to a life in F1 till he crashed at over 180mph and was left in a coma fighting for his life. F1's loss was the world’s gain, though, because bringing art and music to the world is his gift. 

Stony has a brain tumour. When I mentioned our meeting in this column a few weeks ago, at that point I never knew what lay ahead and how much of an impact he would have on my life.

A year ago, before our paths had crossed, and before he even knew he had a brain tumour, he started a painting. Yet amazingly, he pretty much painted me. It is the creepiest thing ever.

He didn't realise he was painting a Scottish man. He starts with a blank canvas and then just writes what is on his mind. But at the end of this process he had painted a 'wired' Scottish man - the first and only Scottish man he has ever painted. We've often spoken about how he feels athletes are 'wired' differently from normal people. 

As soon as I saw it, I thought 'this is me'. He looked at it and thought 'you know what, that is you'. Honestly the two of us were so so freaked out by it that I came home and started reading books about physics to try to make sense of it.  

But what really moved me about the painting was the part where the word 'poison' was written with an arrow pointing right to where my tumour is. So it was all very surreal when I made a surprise trip to his studio at the weekend and stood in front of this painting thinking that looks like me only to find out that it was in fact my birthday present.


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It moved me in a way I find hard to explain. I guess if you like art it might be clear but for me it will be always a reminder to savour the time we have in a world where for all that we are more connected than ever, we are actually disconnected. If my path had never crossed with Stony’s or we had both just sat on our phones we would never have met.

One of the best ways of coping with this situation for me has been about social interactions with people, and making sure I am not just sat looking at my phone. So many of us now, it occurs to me, view life through the lens of a phone rather than through our own eyes. So this painting will go on my wall and be a reminder to me to live life to the full with a passion and a purpose.

The hall in the basement of the radiology unit has left an impression on me that will last forever. When I took the lift down for my last zapping it was like entering another world for the last time. With all the stress and havoc on the London streets above, there was a certain calming feeling on this last visit to the basement. It’s like the emotion of finishing my Alps cycle or winning in London. I wanted to cry, scream from the rooftops. I felt like a weight has been lifted.

It was like a break up - “it’s not you it’s me” - saying good bye to all the staff. These are people I have seen everyday for weeks, and now that’s it. I wasn’t even sure how to say good bye and thank you. You have hopefully saved my life. A  short chat with the doctor on what lies ahead over the next few weeks means I won’t be enjoying proper food for some time but to hear the words 'we will see you at the end of May' felt like heaven.

Waking up on Thursday felt strange. First there was the pain, then the wrenching over the toilet, followed by ‘what do I do now?’  Please, please, please, I think, those cells which have died, I pray you will never grow again. I don’t have radiation or hospital today. I might just enough energy to find a nice cafe.