Joe Got Cancer!


My name is Joe Hague I’m 37 and I live in the vibrant seaside town of Brighton UK. I’m the proud father of an amazing little boy Artemus, who is 19 months old and brings a boundless amount of daily joy to me, and his mother Nicola. I’ve dedicated much of my life to the arts, and have had a varied journey performing around the world as a Juggler. I’ve worked in music, photography, film and many other hair-brained creative endeavours! Some might call me a renaissance man!

This is me and my boy Arte!

In September 2017 I was devastatingly diagnosed with advanced Bowel Cancer. I had been showing symptoms from the start of the year, however my doctors failed to acknowledge the potential danger of the big ‘C’ even though all the red flag symptoms were increasingly present. After eight months of complaining I finally managed to get a colonoscopy procedure that revealed a large tumour in my intestine. Within three weeks I underwent many tests and was admitted for major surgery to remove the complete right side of my Colon. The remarkable surgical team at the Royal Sussex County Hospital did an amazing job to remove the tumour in one piece. I was very fortunate to have the operation at this time, as my surgeon said that the intestine was right on the edge of rupturing. Post analysis showed that the tumour had spread to a nearby lymph node and into the surrounding blood vessels, putting me in the category of Stage T4…The worst!
Following five weeks of surgical recovery, I have now started an intensive three-month process of Chemotherapy treatment. This is a vital process but unfortunately is a pretty brutal thing to go through, with many nasty side effects. After my first Chemo’ session I sat wrapped up on our sofa, shakily holding back the nausea as my right eye fluctuated in and out of blindness. I started to think of how I could bring some positivity to the experience, and possibly do some good in the process.....So I came up with this!

Healing, Art, Awareness, Perception and Humour!

Of my final five hospital Chemo’ sessions, I'm organising a series of comedic/satirical photo-shoots that are taken during my treatments. The aim is to bring further awareness to Cancer, its treatment and the rough times that people go through after being diagnosed. I plan to turn these photographic portraits into a series of greeting cards and prints. I aim to use the project to also generate some income for the cancer charity Macmillan in the process.

Cancer is an earth shattering illness to be diagnosed with. It changes everything. Diagnosis is a rollercoaster of emotional overload that slowly evens out as more information of your condition is revealed. The treatments are daunting, and the recovery is painful. It is difficult to keep a consistent positive outlook when bombarded with 'very' scary statistics, however positivity is a key part to dealing with such an illness. My belief is that humour is the great diffuser of stress and tension and can help briefly bring a respite to traumatic events. This is what I hope to achieve with these portraits.

The Portraits!

The idea is to show Chemotherapy treatment, to challenge the perception of Cancer and raise awareness of the difficulties and questions that those diagnosed face. Many of the current accepted treatments are aggressive and will hopefully one day be superseded by less invasive means. But for now, they are saving lives!
My intention is to create interesting and humorous images that could be the perfect pick me up to send to a friend!

My treatment will continue into February 2018, so I will be updating the portraits over this period.

Photo Session No1 - Chemotherapy No2

Title - 'The Risk'

With this image I wanted to make reference to the desperate struggles that the UK health service is undergoing, and the potential dangers to patients due to the current Governments aggressive austerity measures. In addition to this, a nod to the uncertainty that patients face when going in for new and daunting treatments. 

Featured in this pic’ is yours truly, and my wonderful specialist nurse Anna. She has been amazing and jumped at the chance to be part of my little project, a true heroine! 

Photo Session No2 - Chemotherapy No3

Title - Why Me?

This portrait was shot on 21 December 2017 four days before my 38th birthday on Christmas day. I chose to feature Jesus in this image partly as a connection to the run up to Christmas, but more importantly to highlight the following:

One of the main questions that keeps coming back is, why me? It is a question that is often impossible to answer in relation to Bowel Cancer. I have sought to find a reason but my surgeon who removed the tumour and post analysis hasn’t provided an answer. My Oncologist has concluded it’s just a twist of fate! Jesus often represents purity, divinity and suffering. Cancer is indiscriminate and it can effect anyone at any time, so I chose Jesus as a reference to this and how unfair the process can feel. The disease is a mental minefield, whilst I am not religious I think that it would challenge the beliefs of even the most faithful. It also draws on the debates between faith and science. 

Featured in this portrait is ‘Baki’ my fantastic nurse for the day. Assisting with the image was my good friend Andy Deighton and my love Nicola.....and yes check out the electric Halo!!

Photo Session No3 - Chemotherapy No4

Title - 'Mortal Combat'

I wanted to bring up the questions of mortality with this portrait. I have been told that Chemotherapy will give me an extra 8 to 10% chance of survival on top of fairly loose statistics. This is not a highly effective treatment, however anything that gives me a better chance is welcomed. Bowel cancer is generally diagnosed at a much older age group, so the statistics that I have been given have a lot of variables attached. 

Many patients will go in to this treatment with the hope that it will eliminate the disease, but ultimately it is an unknown. With this in mind I decided to feature as a Mummy, representing the living dead, whilst also looking to the future. It also reflects how you feel whilst undergoing Chemo….Like a Zombie!

Featured in this pic is another fantastic member of the Sussex Cancer Centre, My nurse for the morning Rosamund. Assisting behind the lens was my love Nicola!

Photo Session No4 - Chemotherapy No5

Title - Side Effects

With this image I wanted to make reference to the side effects of Chemotherapy. There are many unpleasant physical manifestations that the treatment can cause; some standard, and some rare. I was warned at the start of this treatment that patients react differently to the medication, and what to expect was difficult to predict. I was instructed to keep a clear line of communication with my medical team regarding any changes to symptoms and side effects ….One thing that was certain from the outset is that you can be sure that it is not going to be pleasant!

Featured again are two of my wonderful nurses Baki & Sarah, with my love Nicola assisting behind the lens.

Photo Session No 5 - Chemotherapy No6

Title -  Gambling On Life

With this final image I wanted to reference the dangers that we face in the UK with the current Government, and its moves towards privatising our NHS. Every day I see more news of unbelievable charges made to the NHS for services and goods, such as the recent stories of the Boots chain selling £2 moisturiser pots for £1500 each! And Hospitals being charged up to £70 for having a single lightbulb changed!

I’m incredibly lucky to have had the medical treatment that I have had so far (minus the dealings with my GP!). If I were faced with a system similar to the USA, a system that it seems our Government is covertly trying to move us towards. I would likely be needing to find a huge sum of money to get the treatment I have required or be faced with a life of debt, or no treatment at all. Our NHS is a bastion of humanity that is under threat by an out of date ideology that imagines modern day investment style businesses to have a socially conscious side. All the evidence points to the contrary. We must do everything in our power to save our Health System.

With that said, I feel it is important to address the reality that it takes vast amounts of finance to further medical research in order to develop new and better forms of treatment. However there is a big line between progressive development and aggressive exploitation.

Featured in this Image is a great friend of mine, David Solomons! I asked him to embody the identity of an unscrupulous private health investment executive...I can assure you that he is far removed from this in reality! As always, assisted by my love Nicola.


The support I am asking for will be used to help towards the cost of the photoshoots, the printing, distribution, packaging and publishing of the cards and prints. This campaign is to fund an initial run, for which if successful, I would like to expand.

All and any donations will be hugely appreciated. You may wish to simply support my journey, or you may like to have some of the cards for yourself.

Donation Rewards:

Donations of £10 will receive a package of two cards.

Donations of £20+ will receive a package of all five greetings cards.

Donations of £100+ will receive a pack of greetings cards and a limited edition signed print. 

If you wish to donate more towards the project, you are of course more than welcome!

(Please make sure to leave your contact details for delivery).

The Future

With Cancer the future is always uncertain, but we remain optimistic and hope that I will be lucky enough to stay around to watch my little boy grow up.

If by chance money goes beyond the threshold, I would love to take my little family on a short break after my treatment finishes. I have barely been able to work or fully function as a parent for most of the year due to worsening symptoms. This has left my wonderful partner Nicola covering the brunt of our expenses: extra childcare, my care, mortgage, feeding us all, work, transportations and logistics etc. This has left us in a very tight and more stressful position. She really deserves a little R&R!

I hope my story tickles your interest, and maybe it will bring a little light to someone who is also currently struggling through difficult times. Thanks for reading and please do share through your networks. I’d love the message to get out there and spread (like pollination, not a disease!!!).  

Remember, life is precious. Get on with it!



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Joe Hague 
Brighton, South East England, United Kingdom
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