It was exactly two years ago that I lost my great mate Ian Roper to cancer. When I heard the news I was obviously taken aback but not completely surprised. His cancer of the glands first came to my attention in the Summer of 2003 while I was working in Germany. Being the man that he was, this news came via other sources as he didn’t want people to know. As far as I was aware this shock news came and went but just as I was preparing to come to Japan late 2003 I got the devestating news that the cancer had reappeared and was in fact terminal.
Ian didn’t want to talk about it which was fair enough in my opinion as no-one likes the extra attention and constantly being asked if they’re ok.
During my last few weeks our friendship group did what we could to give him a good send-off and when I said farewell to him prior to my departure I knew in the back of my mind that it would probably be for the last time but I still lived in hope. When you’ve known someone for more than two decades its very difficult to let go but I stayed strong as the last thing he needed was me getting emotional on him and hammering it home to him that his days were numbered.
He was only 27 and had nearly always been the best at everything. The kind of person you should hate but I didn’t as it still surprised me at times how he managed to score straight ‘A’ grades throughout his GCSE’s and A-Levels when his head was in the clouds at other times. He was an all-rounder who also excelled at playing football and cricket which he participated in at various levels.
Ian was very much a modest man and certainly not big-headed and he didn’t lose any dignity in his fight against cancer never once seeming to complain or feel sorry for himself.
I guess I’ll remember him in terms of socialising at Leicester matches or in the pub. Ever keen to do something or go out he was a born leader who made my social life that much better and was naturally champion at necking his pints in an unbelievably quick time. If ever I was envious of him for anything then it is quite sad that it was for this skill rather than anything academic or sporting.
I did also admire his willingness for splashing the cash in contrast to my far more careful approach. He would often be the first to get in his rounds and the rest of his wage was frittered away without care on clothes, cd’s, video’s, dvd’s and large drinking sessions. A man who, in hindsight, thankfully enjoyed life to the full.
Humour played a major part in our friendship though others would maybe suggest that our reasons for laughing were not funny at all. Anyhow, we knew what made us chuckle and giggle and that was usually just cr*ppy anecdotes and catchphrases from yesteryear and lines from comedy programmes which he had an amazing knack of absorbing like a sponge. I often thought he was like Johnny 5 from the not-so-classic ‘Short Circuit‘ films as he instantly stored so much information into his very big brain!
In some ways he was already dead once I left England as we didn’t communicate again as he had stopped working and I was unable to send messages to his mobile. Obviously I got updates elsewhere but was just waiting for that dreaded call and when it came it was hard to take in but inevitable. By all accounts he had been suffering lots during those final stages of his life and maybe I should be thankful (as I think he was too) that I didn’t get to see him in such a state thereby not leaving my memories of what he became but of what he was.