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The Iron Man and the secret he hid in his garden shed

The mug of tea was warm in my hand as I stood in a pensioner’s shed, surrounded by cannabis plants. The ramshackle grow-house was completed by an electric fan, an extension lead, and a few lights. This surreal scene had become a regular occurrence over the past two years, since I first met Michael Thatcher.

A cancer-sufferer for over a decade, he’d recently been told his illness was stage four – terminal. It began in his prostate, spread to his bones, and had finally reached his spine. At 75 years of age, the prognosis was bleak. But Michael didn’t want to know.

I’ve always been terrified of cancer, to the point of hypochondria. Every time I feel the slightest twinge, find a lump, or see a mole, I start making plans for chemo. I think about cancer so much, I’ll probably give myself cancer – just by worrying about it all the time.

But unlike me, Michael Thatcher didn’t seem to worry about cancer at all – and he was riddled with it. Our first meeting was exactly two years ago. I had been offered a distribution deal for a documentary. I was told about this retired businessman who lived out the road that I should talk to before I signed anything.

He didn’t look like a businessman. The room he brought me into was full of his paintings, prints and sculptures. His face was long and thin, and he spoke slowly and deliberately like a man with no tolerance for nonsense. His accent was a strange posh-English/midlands-Irish hybrid.

He pored over my paperwork and suggested a few changes. He talked about his illness, and his theories on the pharmaceutical industry. He gave me a book of his poetry. He drank several cups of tea. But he never mentioned what he had growing out in that shed . . .

A few weeks later, I met him again, and this time he let me in on his secret. He said he wanted to make a film. He wanted to show the world there were alternatives to the pharmaceutical industry. He wanted to give people hope where no hope existed. He said he felt duty-bound. Then he drank some more tea.

I didn’t know what to think. Was this just a scared old man, frantically battling his looming mortality? Or was this a man who thought he had the answer? He certainly wasn’t your typical stoner.

By Nicky Larkin
Read the full story at independent.ie

‘The Iron Man – the Michael Thatcher Story’ premieres as part of the OFFline Film Festival on October 8, see facebook.com/MichaelThatcherFilm for details

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