Sunday, 21 December 2008

Part 16 - Like A Balding Dome

Infuriatingly, a few weeks ago I titled one of my blog entries ‘Dancer, Prancer, Vomit and a Chest Infection’. It’s only now, when I’m desperately trying to think of another fun title which incorporates both the festive season and cancer, that it appears glaringly obvious that both Dancer and Prancer rhyme with cancer and that I inexplicably spurned this golden opportunity. This has left me with a pauper’s choice of pun options, so much so that at one point I had ‘Feeling Elfier’ in unjustifiably large, bold and proud lettering at the top of this page. So, after growing increasingly furious with my seemingly diminishing creative powers, I’ve decided to scrap a Christmas-themed blog for one with a more extensive scope for lexical horseplay.

Due to the last month being peppered with annoying infections and other minor illnesses, I’ve enforced a temporary reclusion upon myself. This is because I can’t receive my treatment when I’m ill which, in turn, drags it out longer than is strictly necessary - thus potentially ruining my social plans upon my recovery which have been meticulously calculated to coincide with the rebirth of my hair. However, luckily, two of these events are Bob Dylan concerts where a chromed head is somewhat of an expectation. The last time I saw him I honestly remember pointing out that I was one of the few audience members that wasn’t currently balding - an observation which has now taken on what is, in my opinion, an excessive amount of irony. My life is like a hilarious sitcom, except one where young men get potentially life-threatening diseases and do literally nothing remotely entertaining or interesting with their time.

Long-term Cancerous Capers readers might remember that my mother abused my illness to get two free VIP tickets for me and her to see Dylan Moran earlier in the year. This sparked off an absolute terror within me that I was going to be dragged backstage for a heart-warming local press photo opportunity where I’d probably have to vastly exaggerate how much I liked Dylan Moran, and he’d have to pretend he enjoys meeting ill people even though the vast majority of them are clearly intolerable. Bob Dylan is another matter altogether, however. I would down three undiluted pints of chemotherapy just to share one moment of eye contact with the man and, considering that merely typing that has just made me feel exceptionally ill, I do not say that lightly.

This leaves me in somewhat of a moral quandary. Is it acceptable for me to attempt to contact the man himself and inform him that his concerts will play a significant role in my reintegration to normal health, secretly harbouring the hope that he’ll bring me backstage to share drĂ´le anecdotes and shower me with rare gifts like a big Jewish Santa Claus? I think he’d be quite pleased to know that he’s provided a bit of a light at the end of a young man’s cancerous tunnel, but it may also make my own personal hero think that I’m either an opportunistic little rascal or a man who has decided to lie about having cancer in a sinister plot to try trick him into a meeting.

There is also the risk that I may hate Bob Dylan at that point as chemotherapy has turned me against many of my absolute favourite things due to association. If I experience something such as a song or a foodstuff when I’m hooked up to my treatment it is likely that I will never be able to experience the same thing ever again without feeling exquisitely ill. These things so far include Terry Wogan‘s face, gammon steak and the works of Maryhill troubadour Donovan. If Bob Dylan were to fall into this list of things there is every chance that I could be sick right on his head if I were ever to actually meet him, which would probably be the low point in both of our lives.

However, despite these perils that I face, I think I’ll send an email and see what happens. Even if I just get a reply from someone who may or may not know Bob Dylan telling me to leave him alone I’d mark that down as a small honour and a personal victory.

By the way, ‘Like a Balding Dome’ sounds a bit like ‘Like a Rolling Stone’ - perhaps Dylan’s most well-known song - and from thence the humour arose. Do you see?

Anyway, merry Christmas cancer fans.

Saturday, 13 December 2008

Part Fifteen - A Kick in the Follicles

You’ll be pleased to know that I’m feeling much more like my usual self this week. However, you should bear in mind that my usual self is a young man with cancer who has been undergoing chemotherapy for four entire months so this news isn’t as thrilling as you may imagine. I’ve been forced into almost complete reclusion for the last three weeks due to me containing about as much energy as a dehydrated stick of celery. Consequently, I lack a fun story to tell you from my week as I’ve basically just been waking up at 4pm every day, eating lots of oatcakes and watching David Starkey’s Monarchy. I could use this blog to detail at length why Richard the Lionheart was such a shit, but you may be more interested in an update of my hair.

My current style can only be described as a detritus. It coped wonderfully well until about a month ago, but then I started to wake up every single morning with a kilogram of hair attached to my generously vaselined lips. Before you cast small-minded judgement upon me for using a product renowned as an anal sex aid on my mouth, you should be aware of both quite how dehydrated chemotherapy makes you and just how fabulous it makes my lips look. I took a number of measures to try and make my hair remain intact which mainly involved using a range of different shampoos, just incase it was actually my choice of hair product that was making my hair fall out and not the four months of intensive cancer treatment. One of these bottles has the motto “There’s more to life than hair, but it’s a start!” on the back which, many a day, I read in floods of tears as my hair disappeared down the plughole. Fuck you, Aussie Shampoo.

I’m not bald, but I do look very much like a Barbie doll that a toddler has maniacally attacked with a pair of scissors. I’m now put in a position where I need to decide whether I should bother to keep the hair that I have or just get rid of it. The problem is that a bald head is to a cancer patient what the yellow Star of David was to Jews in Nazi Germany. That could possibly be construed as wildly offensive as I’m essentially likening an entire religion to a terrible disease whilst also throwing in a flippant mention of the Nazi holocaust, but I mean that it’s a form of instant identification. With my wisps of hair coming out from underneath my hat, I’m still reasonably confident that I can swagger around town in the cunning guise of an entirely healthy man. However, I definitely need to shave it at some point or I’ll have two very different lengths of ridiculous hair when what I have lost begins to grow back. Also, my new hair could end up being a completely different colour to my original hair so, if I don’t shave it, I could end up looking like a very shit and low-budget Batman villain.

On the bright side, three weeks of incessant vomiting and unprecedented fatigue has brought my weight right back down to what it was before I started treatment. I’ve lost about seven kilograms but, worryingly, I don’t actually look physically different. Perhaps all of my vital organs have just withered and halved in size. I am once again a svelte and graceful eleven-and-a-half stone man though, and that’s all that matters. Why Bella magazine haven’t shared the ‘cancer combined with a massive chest infection’ diet with their legions of seemingly obese readers I will never know.

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That picture is perhaps only funny to me as only I know how much time and effort I put into it, and yet it still looks like I did it with my feet.

Make sure you pick up your copy of the Glasgow Guardian at some point during the week, Glasgow cancer fans. My inaugural column has been published and you’ll find it on page four of the Insight section. I refused to send them a picture of me due to my diminishing appearance so they decided to use a picture of a spiky heart monitor on a red cross background instead. This seems a bit dramatic to me, and may make people mistakenly think that my current life is a constant string of thrilling medical sagas like a never-ending episode of ER. Little does the student populous know that I actually just spend most of my time watching endless Deal or No Deal repeats in my pants.

Finally, what’s the bet that at least seven people have bought me this for Christmas?

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Sunday, 7 December 2008

Part Fourteen - Dancer, Prancer, Vomit and a Chest Infection


The last fortnight can only be described as an interminable nightmare. After spending a vast proportion of my recent time boastfully lauding it over other cancer patients due to me feeling tip-top, the Cancer Fairy finally took it upon himself to mercilessly beat me into the ground with his giant stick of misery. A few of you may have noticed that I couldn’t even expend the energy to write a blog last week, but I’ve finally managed to haul my laptop open through fear that people might assume that I’ve actually died. The good news is that I’m still very much alive. The bad news is that I’ve barely been able to stand up for twenty seconds without becoming nonsensically out of breath and I currently feel like I’m pregnant with pure, unadulterated evil.

The problem arose around this time last week when I was diagnosed with a chest infection. I had been feeling a tad below par for about a week before this and I had considered phoning up my ward to tell them that exact fact. However, I’m never quite certain how bad I have to feel to phone up a ward that deals almost exclusively in chemotherapy without fear of being greeted with derision. As a general rule, chemotherapy patients aren’t as happy-go-lucky and effervescent as you may assume. If I had phoned up to tell them that I felt “a tad below par” it may have been pointed out that I had been having intensive cancer treatment for about four months, and then I might have felt a bit silly. So, having allowed my fear of very slight social embarrassment to exacerbate my condition for a few days, I awoke with a raging temperature and was hurried along to Perth Royal Infirmary.

I wasn’t particularly worried about this, I had been told to expect all manner of infections here and there due to the fact that I currently have the immune system of a small HIV positive insect. However, there’s something about having six visibly concerned medical professionals gathered around you that makes you question what they know that you don’t. After much deliberation, they decided that I’d need to spend at least two nights getting constant antibiotics through a drip at Ninewells Hospital. This news whipped up scant enthusiasm within me. I had been to Ninewells a few times before and each visit appears to be more emotionally crippling than the last. If I’m not getting told that I have cancer, I’m visiting dying relatives, getting my neck sliced open or ejaculating into a tiny pot in a cold, lonely room. If something goes wrong in my life, Ninewells almost always rears its ugly head as the grim setting. It is to me as the Fuhrerbunker is to Adolf Hitler.

Arriving at Ninewells’ haematology unit, I couldn’t help but notice that there was a tantalising selection of whisky, gin and other spirits on a tray next to the massive TV. I don’t know why Dundonian cancer patients require a minibar but I felt comforted by the fact that, if my boredom was to reach dangerous levels, I could always get off my mash and stomp around the corridors after midnight - most likely wearing nothing but a vast array of medical paraphernalia as a giant, funny hat. After 20 full minutes of fantasising exclusively about this possibility, I was ushered through to a small room by a young female doctor who looked uncannily like Geri Halliwell to learn my grim fate. “Can I come?” asked my Mother, at which point Doctor Spice looked at me and whispered “Do you know her?” - evidently thinking that she was an insane drifter woman desperate to latch onto a complete stranger’s medical consultation.

Bracing myself to be told that one and a half of my lungs had fallen off, the Doctor tapped me on the chest a few times, made me breathe a bit and then shooed me away home with a big sack of drugs to keep me happy. I didn’t quite know how to react - what had she missed that my Perth doctors were so gravely concerned about? Also, whilst it was obviously a relief that I didn’t have to spend the night in the same room as four terminally ill and incontinent old men, I couldn’t help but feel slightly aggrieved that the decision to stick a giant needle in the back of my hand in preparation for intravenous antibiotics had proven to be overenthusiastically premature. Anyway, I removed such trivial matters from my head and skipped away home once again reassured that I am, in fact, indestructible.

In hindsight, I actually think that a night or two in hospital may have been preferable to this fortnight of utter misery caused by the unholy alliance of antibiotic tablets and chemotherapy. I’ve felt preposterously ill, all the while waking up to people’s Facebook status updates about how terribly rough they were feeling because they threw caution to the wind and had an extra Apple Sourz the previous night. I would have crawled through a tunnel woven together from shards of glass, out-turned salt and vinegar crisp packets and pig faeces to have experienced just five minutes of a glorious hangover this week. You people don’t know you’re born.

Anyway, happily, my tyrannical antibiotics regime ended today. I felt that I should explain my Cancerous Capers absence before Paul McCartneyesque rumours started flying about regarding my mortality. I should return to my usual bubbly self within a few days, and I’ll attempt to create a slightly funnier entry for next week when I’m not one sudden movement away from explosively vomiting.

Take care, cancer fans.