A while back you met Pete Watt in a blog post when we were lucky enough for him to agree to be an Ambassador for us. To say he’s had a turbulent time with extremely rare conditions such as hanging hip and SFT since then is very much an understatement.
However, instead of wallowing in self pity like many of us would, Pete wanted to turn the situation around and help those out there that might tread the same seldom trod path but can find no support.
Who are you and what do you do?
My name is Peter and I used to be a professional photographer. Now I mainly take photographs of people and things that interest me. So really it is now more of a serious hobby.
You’re a PoetsIN Ambassador – what does that mean to you?
Firstly, I was proud when asked to be an ambassador for PoetsIN. I wish to support this most worthwhile cause in anyway I can. I have been lacking in my ambassadorial duties of late, but I do support from afar. For me an ambassador must actively support and promote their cause whenever possible. Contribute creative ideas to expand awareness and must believe in the cause completely.
Your prison pictures were incredible. Whats happened since then?
Well that is a BIG question…. My most recent storyline goes back to 2005 when I was diagnosed with a rare brain tumour the size of a tennis ball. It is now called a Solitary Fibrous Tumour (SFT). It was successfully removed but left me with Epilepsy that I control with medication. My last Tonic Clonic Seizure was in 2007 (he says, desperately looking for some wood to touch). I have had mixed health since then, but fast forward to May 2018 when I was diagnosed with another SFT Sarcoma on my right hip. This was also a very large, aggressive and very rare tumour which had actually metastasised from my brain tumour in 2005. In July 2018 this cancerous tumour was successfully removed…. Along with most of my right hip joint. I lost 5.5 litres of blood on the operating table and almost ‘bled out’, but I survived. As so much bone was removed I am not able to have a replacement hip. This Girdlestone Procedure (aka Hanging Hip) means that I must spend the rest of my life on either crutches or using a wheelchair to mobilise. It’s a bit of a fucker to be honest. Particularly difficult was the 6 weeks of Radiotherapy in Central London I had to endure. Each day I was taken in and out of hospital on a stretcher as I could sit down for long. To date I have undertaken 81 ambulance journeys.
What impact has that had on your life and on your photography?
It’s been completely life changing to say the least. I started 2018 with a career and ended it with a carer. I not only lost a hip I also lost an ‘e’. Needless to say I have had to completely revaluate my life. How I do simple things like bathing and getting dressed. I can make a cup of tea but I can’t carry it anywhere because I am holding crutches. We have had to have the house adapted to make life easier and I was prepared to sell my camera equipment as I ‘knew’ I would never take a photograph again. Or so I thought. I did my first proper portrait at a music venue in January 2019.
We understand there isn’t much in the way of support out there for people going through this. What would you say to them?
I must start by stressing how fucking fantastic the NHS and my wife have been throughout. I lost count at 220 of the amount of NHS staff directly involved in my healthcare (that I could remember). That figure doesn’t include the countless others in research and analysis departments etc. My awesome wife has become my primary carer and accompanies me to all of my medical appointments and either drives or pushes my wheelchair so that I can actually get out of the house every once in a while. My disability has given her an excuse to talk behind my back and push me around! Haha!
Equally the physiotherapists have shown me what I am capable of and are key to my healing process. The one area where there is very little support is with my actual disability. When I was recovering in hospital, knowing the full extent of what I was dealing with, I desperately hunted for YouTube videos of somebody with a ‘Hanging Hip’ walking, or mobilising, or living, but there were none. I was desperate to seek advice from some person that had been though this procedure that could guide me along my journey…. But there was none. My procedure was so rare that most people hadn’t heard of it (including doctors) and many of my friends would ask how my leg stays in place. The irony is that I have 90% use of my right leg but I cannot walk with it unaided. I NEED crutches or a wheelchair. It still doesn’t make sense to me. When ‘walking’ with crutches I can feel my whole right leg just sort of wave about. It doesn’t lock in place because there is no joint. Only muscle and scar tissue to hold it in place. Again, I must add that there are lots of Cancer support groups and even Sarcoma groups, but not really anyone that I can talk to specifically about mobilising with this disability. So the journey continues.
Would you say you
were a Superhero?
Yes I am…. But sshhhhh….. don’t tell anyone. I can also turn invisible for 5 seconds, but only if no one is watching.
Joking aside, no I am not a superhero, not even a regular hero. I’m just a bloke with a gammy leg who has faced some challenges. Life is difficult, hard and sometimes stupid, but life is also beautiful. You just get on with it.
How are you now?
Right at this moment my arse and left leg are hurting because I am sitting in a ridiculously uncomfortable chair writing this. I tend to live my life day to day or sometimes minute by minute. My physical strength and mobility are improving slowly but I am beginning to realise the exacting impact all of these events is having on my mental wellbeing. When in hospital I wished I had died and I often still do. You know you are in a bad way when your planned method of suicide is taken away because you cant climb! I do feel very sorry for myself when I think that this is for the rest of my life, and now that my wife has returned to work my days can be incredibly lonely and somewhat boring. I burst into tears for know apparent reason and feel that my life has no meaning. BUT…. Life does goes on. It has to. I may be an invalid but I am not invalid. I am doing things I never thought I would be able to do again. I am taking photographs and being creative. I am starting to see more friends whom I deliberately kept away because I couldn’t stand the thought of seeing anyone. I am laughing again and trying to be more positive.
What do you plan to do next?
I am starting to set goals that I can achieve. Life has become a series of hazards and obstacles to overcome, but so what? I am joining my local gym to build strength (and to get me out of the house), the severity of my disability entitles me to get an adapted car so I hope to be driving again in a few months. We are planning to go on holiday to Ireland before the end of this year and I have quite a few portraits and other photographic assignments lined up that include photographing at London Fashion Week and doing a fashion shoot for a designer I know. I also intend to seek the help from a professional counsellor. I think its time. I was a Forensic Photographer with the Metropolitan Police for 24 years, so I’ve still got all of that shit to deal with. The one guarantee in life is death, so I might as well make the most of the time I have left.
Will you be working with PoetsIN soon?
YES, YES, YES. I want to get as involved as I can. Whether from a photographic perspective, or creative writing or even helping others through doing talks and presentations. I’ve got too much living to do and plenty of time on my hands, so bring it on baby!
Yes he jolly well will. Big, BIG love to Pete for telling us about his ongoing journey. I’m sure you, like we do, wish him the very best.