After surviving a life-threatening illness and enduring a long period of rehabilitation, Rod Evers vowed to fulfill a long-held ambition.
The former Brighouse man, who was diagnosed with lympathic cancer and underwent intensive chemotherapy, decided to have a go at stand-up comedy after being given the all-clear.
“Being so ill completely changed my outlook on life. It made me determined to give comedy a try,” he said.
Rob, aged 45, grew up in Brighouse and went to Rastrick Grammar School, now Rastrick High School. Now living in Kent and working in London, he began to feel ill in 2008.
“I was having night sweats and fever, had no appetite and no energy. I went to the GP’s a few times but no-one seemed to know what was wrong. Then I started getting severe pains in my kidneys - it was so bad that I took myself to hospital at one point but was sent home with painkillers.”
A week later, Rob was back at A & E, this time on the point of collapse. His kidneys were failing, he was losing lucidity and was seriously ill.
“This time I was admitted to hospital and didn’t wake up for four weeks.”
Rob had lymphatic cancer and was also diagnosed with hemophagocytic syndrome, a rare and potentially fatal virus. He underwent a tracheotomy and was kept in isolation in Maidstone Hospital.
“To be fair to the doctors I’ve since been told that these conditions are quite hard to diagnose and, despite all the to-ing and fro-ing to the GP and A &E, I really cannot fault the care I received. The intensive care nurses and doctors were amazing and Dr Gale, who was in charge of my care, made a lot of vital decisions in a difficult situation. Without the NHS team I know I wouldn’t be alive today - no question.
“It was very scary time but it was much more difficult for my parents , Bob and Anne, and sister who came down to be near the hospital. I was blissfully unaware of what was going on most of the time because I was out of it on morphine.
“I had some very vivid and terrifying morphine dreams - I was convinced that some of the tings I dreamed about had really happened to me!”
Eventually, thanks to a last-ditch combination of extensive chemotherapy and large doses of antibiotics, Rob turned to a corner - but there was still a long way to go. The prolonged period in hospital had left him weak and barely able to move unaided.
“I was so weak I could hardly lift my hand off the bed. I had to learn to walk again.”
Even when he left hospital Rob was on 12 different types of medication and had to inject himself daily with blood-thinning agents. He was off work for 13 months, gradually returning to his job in printing and publishing as he regained his strength and mobility.
“It seems a strange thing to say but in some ways it was the best time of my life. I was coming up to my 40th birthday so I went on a trip with the Jubilee Sailing Trust on board the Tenacious, the largest wooden tall sailing ship in the world, and I decided to pursue my interest in comedy.”
Rob, who had always enjoyed performing and being on the stage, began working on a comedy routine and became part of a comedy group, Sketchup. The group took their act to the Edinburgh Fringe and comedy festivals in Leicester and Brighton as well as performing on the alternative comedy circuit in London. In December he appeared on the Stand Up for Labour comedy bill at Brighouse Civic Hall.
“I’m interested in character-based comedy and in writing and performing sketches. I really admire Steve Coogan for the way he has incorporated all sorts of acting and comedy into his career.
“I just talk about the things that aggravate me or the little things that annoy or amuse me on a daily basis.”
Rob admits he gets nervous before solo comedy gigs. “It can be nerve-wracking but then I think, well I’ve overcome cancer so I can overcome that!”