'I walked out of the house to where my van was parked. I put three massive dents in the side of it'

Read an extract from Tai Woffinden’s ‘Raw Speed’.

Tai Woffinden (file pic).
Tai Woffinden (file pic).
Image: EMPICS Sport

THE FOLLOWING PASSAGE is an extract from ‘Raw Speed’ by Tai Woffinden. 

What the fuck do you get as a Christmas present for someone who only has weeks to live?

What do you get your best friend, the person you love more than anyone else in the world?

What can you buy for someone who had given up everything for you?

What can you get your dying dad for his last Christmas?

I’ve never been good at thinking of what to get at the best of times. But this was different. The doctors had told us that Dad’s cancer was terminal. He was only 47 and that’s no age.

The funny thing was he was meant to die before Christmas (2009), so what do you buy your dad?

You don’t want to upset him, so you can’t really buy him something that he can use in the future.

I’m shit with presents anyway, I always buy funny or jokey stuff.

I must have spent weeks and weeks trying to think of something that he’d like. It was no good thinking of something that would last, it wasn’t as if he wanted something to keep for years.

In the end I thought of something that I knew he would enjoy. My dad used to smoke weed, not heavy but he used to. He didn’t drink, so when he used to go out to the pub where his mates were, they would be drinking and he’d go out, have a little joint and go back in.

So I bought him some weed, some Rizlas, a grinder to grind up his weed, a lighter and his favourite sweets – they were called milk bottles– so when he was stoned he could eat them all.

That was the present I bought him and I parcelled each thing up individually and put that in a parcel, then that in a parcel, and that in a parcel. So he opened the shoebox and there was his Rizlas on top of the next box that was inside of that, and then he opened that and there was something else on top of that.

He went through and through and through, and he’s saying, ‘What the fuck is this?’ Dad was diagnosed with cancer of the pancreas in the February or March of 2009 and I will never forget him telling us the dreadful news.

He sat me down in a room and said: ‘I need to tell you something, I’ve got cancer and I can’t stop it.’

That was all, and that was, like, a big blow. He told me in the bedroom, I walked downstairs, and out of the house to where my van was parked. I put three massive dents in the side of it then walked down the road, composed myself and came back, trying not to show any emotion at all.

I broke my knuckle on the side of the van and then the season started, like a week later.

Actually, I was lucky that I’d got to spend a year with him. It’s not like he had a car crash and he was gone, so that was cool because we had that time together. He came everywhere with me, to every meeting he could.

We had never really said that we loved each other but, after he told me about the cancer, it was like every single day. I told him I loved him and he said he loved me. It just changes something.

uk-2019-monster-energy-fim-speedway-of-nations-race-off-2 Tai Woffinden of Great Britain in action. Source: SIPA USA/PA Images

They said that he would just fall asleep and that would be it. But it was the complete opposite of that, nothing like what they said it would be. He was sat down talking to me and having a cup of coffee. Everything was sweet, no drama. He sat up in his bed and he had his oxygen blowing in his nose, just as if nothing was wrong at all.

And then he’s saying, ‘Get me my pants, I feel sick.’ And he was sick. He weed, he pooed and then he just started screaming. His body just shut down, like everything disappeared from it. It just chucked everything out. And then he started calling, ‘Help me, help me, help me.’

We had two nurses to help look after him and we tried calling them. We couldn’t get hold of them. All was confusion. Then we called an ambulance. My mum’s sister came, she’s a nurse. Then the ambulance arrived.

The ambulance crew refused to give him painkillers but this is like half an hour now, forty minutes, he’s been screaming for me and Mum to help him.

We couldn’t do anything, so we’re just holding his hand and cuddling him trying to make him comfortable, and he’s screaming, ‘Help me, help me. Sue, Sue, Sue. Tai, Tai, help me.’

The ambulance reached the hospital and rushed him in. They couldn’t find the vein, they seemed to spend fucking ages trying to do that and he was still screaming, screaming. They put some gear into it and then that calmed himown. They got him up to the ward, then he started screaming again so I went out and got the nurse.

They didn’t have any painkillers that they could give him, so I had to get it from a different ward and this whole time he’s still screaming. They gave him some more and then it happened again, so I ran back out, said, ‘We need some more, he’s screaming again.’ And again, they didn’t have any, so they went down and got some more and I said, ‘Grab a few bottles.’

This had happened a couple of times now. It might have been the third time that it happened. And then, after the third time, he was chilled out for ages, but it was as if his eyes were on the back of his head and he was counting. He was going ‘Two, four, six, eight, ten. Two, four, six, eight, ten. Two, four, six, eight, ten,’ and after about an hour of that, I was like, fuck this, I’m going home – I can’t sit and listen to that the whole night.

I went home and went to sleep, set my alarm for eight o’clock, woke up at six. I never wake up before my alarm. Jumped, got up early, went back to hospital. Mum was sat there holding his hand. His brother Keith was there. Nan, his mum, was there and I walked in and sat down by him and held his hand and told him I loved him. And then he stopped breathing.

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And my mum was obviously crying. His brother said, ‘See you’ to him, my nan did too, and then Mum probably sat there for an hour. I had to say, ‘Come on, say your last goodbye. Let’s get out.’

I had to almost pull her out of the room. She would have sat there for five days. And that’s that. Dad is dead, he’s gone. Dad always tried to keep up appearances, he rarely showed how ill he was to other people, but I will never forget some of those times as that horrible illness took its hold.

And it was always stuff like him coming back from chemo and that. I don’t know if it was from the chemo or what, he said it was because he had a coffee and then he had Actimel or something, he was just being sick. It just kept coming up. It was just after the chemo. And the chemo actually made him a diabetic, and he knew, and before he actually died, he nearly died.

When my dad was sick, he’d have coffee with a few sugars, bottles of fizzy drinks and loads of ice cream. So if he’s feeling a bit shit, he’s like: ‘Get me some ice creams from the shop, Tai.’

So I’ll go get them, and a few bottles of pop, and he’d be eating and drinking all this. He’s actually making it worse and worse, turning himself diabetic because he’s piling all the sugar in.

I’d gone to Sheffield to see Ashley Birks because I spent a lot of time with Ash and Di there. Mum called me: ‘Oh Tai you’ve got to come to hospital. Your dad is not well.’

I’m thinking, Oh fuck off, he’s just feeling a bit sick. I’m not driving all the way down there. So I fell out with my mum that day. Then my dad called me up and said: ‘Tai, it’s quite serious. I need you to come and see me.’ When I got there, my mum was bawling her eyes out and she thought I was a dickhead, and Dad’s lying in hospital nearly dead. The ward that he was on was just a massive long room like four times the size of a normal room with only beds in it, and all the people in their beds were completely yellow skin and bones. And my dad is sat there, and I’m thinking, No, you’re alright.

I said: ‘Look at you compared to all the people in here. You’re fucking sweet. Don’t worry about it.’

And then they did some tests and then he had to go on the sweeteners, but he still used to have a sugar every now and then. He was like: ‘Fuck that, I’ve only got a few more months to live, I’m having some sugar.’

There are photos of him, and my mum hates it but there’s a picture of him at Swindon, crying, with his life reduced to skin and bones. I watched a Travis Pastrana video, and he said that to prepare himself for the double backflip (on a stunt motorcycle), he’d accepted the fact that he could be paralysed, he could die; he’d been through it in his head and he mentally rehearsed it all – that’s cool, that. So then after I watched that, I did the same with my dad.

When Dad got sick, I mentally rehearsed everything. He’d died in my head like a hundred times – we’d been to hospital, we’d been to the funeral place, done this, done that, all that sort of stuff. I went through it all in my head and when he actually passed away it was as if I was playing a role because I’d already been through it so many times.

I used to lie in my bed, imagine that he died and that I went to the crem and did all that, carried his coffin, spoke at his funeral. I’d been through it like two, three thousand times, so I mentally prepared myself for it. And it worked.

‘Raw Speed’ by Tai Woffinden is published by John Blake Publishing. More info here.

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