For those of you who are regular readers and have read the previous posts, you can skip this first paragraph.This is the latest installment in my occasional series about how I'm adjusting to living with a big C in my life. For those of you who aren't, here's a quick summary. I'm 49 years old and I recently had a prostate biopsy following two "slightly high" PSA tests - 2.8 & 4.1. The biopsy took ten tissue samples and one of these showed a "low grade cancer" which gives me a 3+3 on the Gleason scale. I'm now on a program of active monitoring. I've no symptoms and sadly for a few people, if I'm gonna die soon, it won't be from Prostate cancer. Got the picture?
Be calm. Don't Panic. Friends who read the previous blog in the series expressed some concern that I wasn't coping with all of this. I am. Don't worry. I am angry about many aspects, but hey I'm angry about many things. Progess. It seems like I'm in good company. Today I found Nile Rodgers cancer blog - http://nilerodgers.com/blogs - Just reading this made me feel good. It validated the reason I write this. His blog helped me. Maybe my blog will help someone. Now I'd never claim to be in the same league as Nile Rodgers as a musician, but to me he is a brother in many ways (Nope I've never actually met him). Anyone who co wrote "We are family" sits at the top table at my party. Nile understands a groove. He gets music in a way few of us do. When I hear a Nile Rodgers song, I hear quality on every level. He is part of the soundtrack to my life.
Does it surprise me that he's a top guy and is blogging his personal struggle? Not at all. We all have our crosses to bear in life. It's how we deal with them and face the challenge that matters. Today I received the sad news that former headmaster of my old school - FCHS - Stephen Szemerenyi has passed away from the dreaded disease. Stephen took over the school after I left. When I walked out of the doors, tail between my legs in 1978, I vowed never to go back. I said that I'd never send a child of mine there. Stephen took over in 1983 and by the time he left, the school was transformed. In 2010, I went back for an old boys dinner for the 1st time. In September my son started there. Steve transformed the school. He is a great loss. Here is the letter that the school sent out today, which sums up what a great job he did. I endorse every sentence of this.
We are saddened to have to inform you that Stephen Szemerenyi, Headteacher at Finchley Catholic High School between 1983 and 1999, passed away on New Year’s Day, following a short illness.
All those who have the interests of the school at heart have reason to be grateful for the service that Steve gave as Headteacher. When he took over the reins the school was in a difficult position and bore little resemblance to the thriving community that exists today. The school was heavily undersubscribed, academic performance was lack lustre and the site consisted of a stock of poorly maintained buildings, some of which were virtually derelict. It would be no exaggeration to suggest that at that point the long term future of the school was far from secure.
Through a combination of hard work, moral certainty and strength of character he led the school through a very turbulent period in its history. He had a strong commitment to Catholic comprehensive education and proved to be an outstanding advocate for the school, making sure that its interests were promoted at both diocesan and local authority levels. He was also something of a pioneer, overseeing the first collaborative arrangement with St Michael’s and seizing the opportunities made available through LMS and Grant Maintained status. Ably assisted by the talented leadership team that he put together and the Governors that he worked alongside, Steve started to rebuild the reputation and standing of the school. There was no quick fix. It was a long haul that demanded tenacity, commitment and attention to detail. These he displayed in abundance and the fortunes of the school began to improve. By the time that he retired in 1999, the foundations for the school that exists today were very much in place.
In retirement, Steve remained closely involved in the world of education as a writer and consultant. He was also heavily involved in the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) and represented that body at national level. In 2009 he received an OBE in the New Year’s Honours List for services to education. Please remember Steve and his family in your prayers. A Memorial Mass will be arranged in due course and an invitation extended to all parts of the school community.
Seamus McKenna Jane Inzani,
Headteacher Chair of Governors
My condolences go out to Jan his widow, who is a good friend and the family. He will be missed. Cancer is a terrible disease. My prayers today go out for Steve's family in their loss and Nile Rodgers in his fight. That is all I can do for them, I hope it helps.
Stephen Szemerenyi RIP