So when I look at my own life, you know, I have to admit, right, that I've-I've never been around a bunch of guns or violence, you know, not really. No political intrigue or a helicopter crash, right? But my life, from my own point of view, has been full of drama, right? - Ethan Hawke - Before Sunset
“I've been thinking with my guts since I was fourteen years old, and frankly speaking, between you and me, I have come to the conclusion that my guts have shit for brains.” - Nick Hornby - High Fidelity
Do you have a favourite story ? A book that you can keep coming back to? Maybe it's a classic like Dickens or Bronte or you're going back to War and Peace and the lavish BBC 1 Sunday night adaptation (I cheated and listened to the mammoth Radio 4 adaptation in a chemo induced psychosis last Christmas). Or it could be classic sci-fi, or comedy like Wodehouse, or Scandi-Noir. Whatever floats your boat its a great comfort to wrap yourself in characters you know inside out and a storyline which is familiar.
Now imagine you are locked in a room with only that book for company. There is nothing else. And you have to keep reading that story over and over. Soon the characters you love will become annoying, the narrative which flowed will become jarring, the concept of the whole thing will get you reaching for the matches. Well cancer is my book and I'm tired of reading it. Actually It's an audio book and it's being narrated by the most annoying voice in the world. In my case it's the late Rev. Ian Paisley, ex leader of the DUP, noted god-bother, homophobe, sexist, racist and with voice that would wake the dead. The voice is constant now telling me everything is wrong, and that I've failed and useless. The voice says I'm not going to be ever clear of The Cancer That Will Not Die (tm). The voice is exhausting.
To recap these last couple of weeks. After a check-up clinic where they test your tumour markers in the blood, mine came back as going up. The first thing they do is a retest, to make sure it wasn't a contaminated sample. When that came back positive, it was time to get rescanned. First off was a trip to Whitechapel and the Royal London's MRI imaging centre. This was to check no cancer had spread to my kneck or brain. You are strapped on to a moving bed and put in a head brace for around 30 minutes. The machine spins magnets around at such a rate the whole thing vibrates like German techno. The next day it was back to Barts and the PET CT centre. Here they inject you with radioactive marker, sit you in a lead lined room for an hour then put you through a CT machine for deep tissue analysis. This helps the doctors find out where specifically the cancer activity is coming from. In my case there's a nodule on my lung and a small patch on my pelvis.
So back to Clinic to find out the plan. After 15 months of treatment involving chemotherapy, surgery, high dose chemotherapy and stem cell therapy, I had a deep worry that there wasn't going to be many options left. My consultant is a sociopathic genius though and isn't going to give up that easily. So yesterday I started a course of Epirubicin and Oxaliplatin. I'm having four sessions of this chemotherapy and then I'll have about 21 days of radiotherapy. Luckily this time it will all be done as an outpatient so I can try and keep working, going to the gym and my therapy sessions. I'm so tired of having cancer being the dominate story in my life that doing *anything* else is a real blessing. It takes so much of your time up (I was in Barts for 6 hours on Tuesday and Thursday just to get ECG and Echo Heart scans).
I'm going to Mindfulness sessions to try and gain some control of the voice and not let it take over the whole of my life. It's a kind of meditation technique to become more aware of what you are thinking, so in theory you can make better choices about how you react to them. It's for cancer patients and so it's comforting to know other people are going through the same thing. My rationalist / sciency brain has difficulty with the more spiritual side of the thing. One of the two group leaders Susan brought out some Tibetan bells last week and i was really tempted to walk out. If anything smells of Dolphin sounds or Enya I'm not going to participate.
So my plans for the early part of this year have been derailed some what. But I'm determined to keep leading as much of a normal life as I can. The one thing I managed to do was go see friends and family and find out about their lives again. It was really good. I'm fortunate to know some really great people from loads of different walks of life. From scientists to comedians, actors and musicians to teachers and activists, medical specialists to TV and Radio folk. What is your story? I'm keen to hear about your latest work or creation. It's bound to be great and interesting. I want to hear other voices and perspectives, more I hate my story at the moment, and its being narrated by Ian fucking Paisley.
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Currently I'm... Listening to Savages new album...Reading the Ladybird book of Mindfulness... Watching BBC4's Music Mogals series.