Fear Has Lost its Grip on Me
By Ali Hull
Cancer survivor Michael explains why he’s no longer afraid.
When Michael Bushby was first told that his cancer treatment hadn’t worked, and he would need stronger chemotherapy for theincurable stage four cancer in his chest, spleen, neck, bone marrow and stomach, he panicked. After drinking a lot of alcohol, he locked himself in his garage, beer in hand, with a rope – ready to hang himself.
His family saved him. ‘If you don’t open this door, we’ll call the police’ shouted his wife, Maria, and his daughters, Helen and Jennifer, joined in.
‘I was angry with God. But I will never forget hearing the voices of my wife and daughters. I came outside the garage and surrendered my life completely to God. I said to him that whatever life I have left, take it and use it for your glory.’
After three sessions of strong chemotherapy, followed by a week in isolation for an infection, Michael was told his ‘incurable’ cancer was in complete remission. And it has left him unafraid of it returning, because of his faith: ‘God works together for the good of those who love him. I now support others with cancer.’
Michael is a regional director of Christian Vision for Men, involved in chaplaincy work and drives trains for a living. He invites anyone suffering with a serious illness, who wants encouragement, to get in touch with him (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Riding the rails
Q: You work as a train driver – was this a childhood dream?
I’ve been so blessed in my careers because every little boy wants to be a train driver, policeman or fireman. I’ve been able to tick two of these boxes, because during the 1980s I served as a police constable in north London and soon after returning to my home town of Gateshead, I took up a position with a local rail network. Two years later, I applied to become a train driver.
Q: Was that a difficult process?
The training was rock hard and much tougher than the police training I did at Hendon College. It’s important that you remain focused because a lapse in concentration can have a negative impact on performance. There are a multitude of things that can go wrong if you take your eye off the ball, especially when travelling at full line speed.’
Q: Like sailing through a station without stopping, or going into a dangerous situation?
Incidents of this nature can have damaging consequences on a driver’s career and could potentially result in a driver being removed from the role. It takes two years to fully qualify as a train driver and even then, all qualified drivers receive yearly training and assessment so it’s important for a driver to take responsibility for maintaining competencies.’
Q: And is being a train driver all it is cracked up to be?
I love what I do because I get to travel through towns, cities, coast and rural areas. I always tell my mates I have the best view from my office window because I am surrounded by God’s beauty and creation. I see the seasons change, dawn break, the sunset. I observe nature and wildlife. I see birds, rabbits , squirrels and other species. Railway embankments seem to be great places for foxes because you don’t have to travel too far before you stumble across a group.
Q: It isn’t all wildlife watching though…
Getting behind the controls during rush hour is a big responsibility because packed trains can easily hold over five hundred commuters. I always pray for God to lead me when I get behind the controls. I also drive engineering trains, works locomotives. When I’m not driving trains, I put on my other cap of traincrew instructor and assessor.
Q: What about when you are not at work?
Serving as a city centre chaplain in Newcastle is very special. I don’t preach, I simply take the good news with me . There is so much need out there in the workplace. I can get alongside and stand with people by being available to listen and support. I find most people just need to release their troubles to a confidential listening ear, that’s why God gave us two ears and one mouth because we’re supposed to listen twice as much as we talk!
Q: Have you had training in helping with their mental health?
I have made good use of my spare time, through completing a mental health awareness training course, which has been put together by world leading academics and GPs to consider ways to look after your mental health and support others in need. The training covers strategies to optimise mental wellbeing, boost resilience and increase productivity, spot the warning signs of poor mental health, help others who are struggling and what to do in a mental health crisis.
Q: Lockdown has brought its own challenges to men?
I have noticed that the pandemic has had a bad effect on men’s mental health. Unemployment and social isolation, combined with ingrained ideas about masculinity, can cause difficulty for men, who tend to hang on to their emotions and are the least likely to speak up and seek help. The strain of living under lockdown is putting people at higher risk of suicide, which is the single biggest killer of men under the age of 45. In recent years, roughly 75 per cent of all suicides in the UK were men. I receive regular phone calls from men , who tell me they have been feeling low and anxious during lockdown and some of these blokes aren’t your typical candidates for depression. I so desperately want to tell these men that they can find hope in Jesus.