THE political debate went out of the window when I read CT Riley’s letter headlined “Public apology” (HAS, May 18).

It is a reminder of how devastating critical illness can be.

The date of that letter is a significant one for me, for it was on May 18, 2011, when I had surgery for cancer in Newcastle’s Freeman Hospital.

A few hours after surgery, I phoned a friend to tell him that I was waiting for the nurse to tell me that I would be feeling a little sore, so that I could reply “why did they leave it in there?”

The operation was on the same day as the Europa League final, which was played in Dublin, and I watched the match live on TV in hospital.

I was diagnosed with cancer in early December 2010 when aged 46, and I would not return to work until Hallowe’en in 2011.

Until I was diagnosed, I thought of cancer as an illness which happens to other people.

The nurses in the Freeman Hospital were wonderful, and I remember when I repeated something I had seen on The Apprentice on the ward. Lord Sugar had called a contestant a loose cannon, and then said to her “you’re fired”. One of the nurses burst out laughing when I told the ward about that.

For several months in 2011 I wrote a lot of letters to Hear All Sides. This was in the period when I was no longer dazed by the chemotherapy, but still off sick from work which meant I had time on my hands.

My first outing following surgery was an event at Chester-le-Street railway station nine days after the operation. I went there to meet friends from the Labour Party, and The Northern Echo were present there as well.

The experiences of anyone who has been seriously ill reminds us that we must preserve our NHS. I used to think that it couldn’t happen to me.

Jeremy Whiting, Great Lumley.