Saturday, 31 January 2009

Part 20 - Chemover and Out

Here’s the result of me being asked to write something ‘more serious’ for The Scotsman on Friday, and yet I still manage to shoe-horn the word ‘twat’ into the second sentence:

In my mundane life, weeks rarely get as exciting as this one. Not only have I had some of my writing published for the very first time, I‘ve also finally come to the end of six gruelling months of chemotherapy and, even better, I managed to get the word ‘twat’ in a national newspaper and nobody noticed.

When something as major as this takes place in your life - I’m now talking about ending chemotherapy rather than writing rude words in a newspaper - it is an ideal time to reflect on your experiences, to look to the future, and to get ludicrously drunk in celebration. I’ve found these things to be especially true in my case, as I’ve had to look over and edit six months of memories to present to you this week, complete my reapplication to university and, quite simply, drunk loads.

What I found most stark about looking over the blogs was my insistence in the earlier entries that not much was really wrong with me. If only I could warn that idiot young man of what awaited him for the next six months. Whilst I realise that my condition is relatively innocuous on the grand scale of cancer, being housebound with constant infections, nausea and debilitating fatigue is not an ideal way to spend half a year of your youth.

I’ve heard it claimed in the past that ‘cancer is a gift’ - it isn’t. A big lovely cake, that’s a gift. A tiny, fluffy, huggable kitten, that’s a gift. Catching a disease which could quite easily kill you when you’re nineteen or, at the very least, make you relentlessly vomit for six months is not a gift. Let’s just be grateful that the people who claim this haven’t applied for the post of Father Christmas at your local shopping centre.

However, having said that, it’s not all been negative. For example, it’s given me the opportunity to write in a national newspaper, reassured me that the NHS is the single greatest thing about this country despite what permanently-angry idiots who have to wait for an hour to get their broken finger looked at might think and I believe that it will make me far more appreciative of everyday, dull, yet healthy life. Also, I’ve built up quite the collection of snazzy hats.

However, the experience, whether positive or negative, is not one I’m in any hurry to repeat. I will get my latest scan results mid-February, and the hope is that it will show that all signs of cancer have vanished. This would result in in my slow rehabilitation to both normal health and normal life, climaxing in getting cathartically drunk with my friends in Glasgow who I haven’t been able to see in almost nine months. An occasion which will, no doubt, turn out to be embarrassingly emotional considering I have a tendency to declare my love to even the very weirdest of odd, sweaty strangers in the euphoric haze of Glasgow nightclubs.

However, although my treatment ended on Wednesday, this is not necessarily ‘the end’. My scan results could easily show that some cancer is still lingering and, if so, I’ll be fired right back onto a further two months of chemotherapy, or introduced to the exciting world of radiotherapy. What worries me about this is that my voice is already what I’d describe as seductively deep, and neck radiotherapy is known to meddle with this. I could easily end up speaking like a ceaseless Bruce Willis film voiceover. But, for now, it’s just a matter of impatiently waiting on the results and appreciating what will, at least, be a short holiday from cancer treatments.

If I could offer any advice to anyone currently facing serious health issues, in my vast nineteen-year-old wisdom, it would just be to stick to normality the best that you can. Don’t allow an illness to define you, if you keep doing as much of what you would usually do and enjoy doing that you can then staying positive will easily follow and your experience will be far more tolerable.

But, if you ever feel down, you could always log on to my next hilarious blog series after Cancerous Capers comes to its tedious conclusion - Healthy Hijinks, Recovery Riot or another clever alliterative name. In fact, if my all-clear celebrations in Glasgow go to plan, just come and find me at Alcoholics Anonymous.


I am inconsolable today. What’s the point in living if you can’t wake up and laugh at words that you’ve exclusively written yourself in a national publication? Anyway, many thanks to anyone who bought a copy, got in touch via email or selected it as an ideal time to criticise my appearance. I’d like to make clear that I didn’t actually perform any of those frankly embarrassing poses on purpose, that is quite literally how I sit almost all of the time and is, perhaps, due a rethink.

Anyway, back to this demeaning virtual nonsense now. Not even on sodding paper…

Friday, 23 January 2009

Part 19 - Fame

This blog will be the last before I’m catapulted into the glaring spotlight of the national press. As many of you will already know, these blogs are being featured in The Scotsman from Monday to Friday of next week - there’s even going to be an interview with yours truly and giant picture of my wearied and disease-ravaged face for you all to put up on your walls. I won’t lie to you, cancer fans, there is no telling how this sudden exposure to fame will effect me and the blog. By the time that I get around to writing another I may insist upon wearing sunglasses literally all of the time, disappear in a haze of substance abuse and may or may not have been photographed attempting to seduce a selection of professional football players.

I was interviewed on Tuesday, and since the very second that they left the house I’ve become increasingly concerned that I came across as the single cancer patient in the world that the British public could find genuinely unlikable. At one point, I believe that I criticized any writing by any cancer patient in history that wasn’t me, claiming each of their painstakingly-penned works to be “self-indulgent” and “harrowing” - yeah, take that Lance Armstrong you spectacularly massive wanker!

On top of this, seemingly testing myself to see how many cancer patients I could possibly criticize in the space of two hours directly in front of a reporter from a national newspaper, I revealed that I was worried about coming across as Jade Goody character who insisted upon “whining to the press about an illness and being brave”. I don’t know why, I’ve actually found her tale quite interesting to compare and contrast with mine - especially when massive idiots surmise that her illness is just a clever trick to make people like her, as if she had purposely injected herself with loads of cancer. Perhaps I was just attempting to talk down my main competition as the media-friendly face of disease.

Then there was the altogether bizarre experience of undergoing a little modelling session in my very own front room. Initially, I had suggested that we use an older photo of me when my hair was more volumous and I didn’t look like Skeletor’s grandfather, but eventually we compromised and decided to use both. This way, I can at least make sure that the public knows that I was a once a handsome man whilst also gaining enough sympathy to make it impossible for people to tear apart my writing. It is an ideal situation.

I don’t know if any of you have undergone a photo-shoot before, I certainly wouldn’t imagine so from the look of a lot of you, but it is probably the one situation in which you are most aware of your own self-image. This heightened awareness added to the fact that my face has been ravaged by six months of intensive cancer treatment could have driven a lesser man to self-harm, but not I. I like to think that I provided an emotional journey of cancer through the medium of a wide variety of poses and expressions.

Later on, like a big child, I asked my wonderful interviewer and editor, Fiona, which celebrities she had interviewed in the past and what they were like. In an impressive list that included people such luminaries as Jamie Ross and Joan Baez, she also mentioned Hear’ Say angel Myleene Klass. This made me decide that interviews are handed out based on an elaborate attractiveness rating league table created by the shallow Scotsman staff. The cancer patient interview was evidently given to Fiona to readdress the balance that was ruined after having been allowed to talk to Myleene. And I bet she didn’t publicly lambaste every cancer patient she could possibly think of either.

Anyway, we’ll just have to wait and see how I’m presented. I can actually remember very little of what I said, but surely it will all be very witty and eloquent. Monday to Friday remember, and if you’re too lazy to pick one up I’ll obviously post the links on here.

Also, I wrote a little piece for hilarious blog site Hecklerspray about Jordan earlier today. The funniest bit of which, according to my brother, I stole directly from a TV program from a few weeks ago. Oh well, have a look:

The best outcome of this was that, when I arrogantly typed ‘Jordan’ into Newsnow, at the top of a massive list of stories about a brewing crisis in the Middle-Eastern state of Jordan was my childish headline ‘Jordan Wants To Bum Rapists’. It’s fun writing things.

P.S. If you've been brought here by a link on The Scotsman website or Hecklerspray, I can sense your disappointment. I'd direct you to much older posts when I didn't have the energy levels of an out-of-date communion wafer if you want to see better material.

Sunday, 18 January 2009

Part 18 - Hospi Tall Tales

Hospitals are giant, awful misery magnets. Like big sick moths to a dettol-endrenched flame, thousands of ill and unhappy people can barely help themselves from turning up to these hubs of doom and gloom, desperate to discuss the worst thing about their lives with anyone unfortunate enough to find themselves trapped in a conversation with them. Usually me, your favourite cancer-stricken blogger, forced to smile and nod as a 93 year old man tells me about his dry back skin.

Yesterday in chemotherapy as I took a short break from my Arrested Development DVD - I had become worried that laughing at something that no one else could either see or hear in such a quiet room would cause people think that my diagnosis had finally hit me and had kick-started a nervous breakdown - I tuned in to a conversation between two old men opposite me. When I say conversation, I actually mean one man explicitly detailed his stomach-turning chemotherapy side-effects whilst another, a visibly-stunned gent, remained in a tense silence - his eyes desperately scanning the room and screaming ‘help me’.

“Sometimes I get such awful constipation that I have to take pain killers.”. What in shitting crikey do you say to that? Does he have no shame? If this happened to me I don’t think I’d even have the courage to tell my doctor, never mind amplify it throughout a massive silent room full of already slightly nauseous strangers. The context of being in hospital seems to remove any inhibitions from people about divulging deeply personal information to anonymous others that, literally anywhere else, would see them end up with a legal caution. Twenty minutes later, fourteen pairs of suspicious eyes tracked his awkward limp towards the toilet cubicle - each person starting their own mental stopwatch.

However, later on, I responded with an overly-vocal faux-pas of my very own. I was discussing various papers that had shown interest in this blog with my Mum, comparing and rating each of the staggeringly gargantuan list of two. I boldly proclaimed that, although The Scotsman is a very prestigious paper, it’s only Scotland-wide whereas The Sun is Britain-wide but for “huge idiots“. One minute later, I clocked a rather dispirited-looking old man opposite me lowering his open copy of The Sun and discreetly attempting to hide it behind his seat. I saw you old man, I saw you and instantly judged you.

I realise that that elitist little paragraph will probably be the death knell of any interest from The Sun but, as of yesterday, I care not. In somewhat ridiculous news, I discovered that it looks like I’m going to be the subject of an interview and writing five pieces for The Scotsman in a similar vein to this blog in the not-too-distant future. However, I’ve probably boastfully announced this all too prematurely in an embarrassing Neville Chamberlain ‘peace in our time’ episode, it certainly all seems far too good to be true and the details are all still very vague.

However, this hasn’t stopped me from considering listing ‘Scotsman Columnist’ as my occupation on Facebook. The only problem is that that would be a bit of a giant lie. It’s not technically a job as they’re not paying me, they’ve said that they’ll donate some money to a cancer charity of my choice instead. This was a clever move on their behalf as I now can’t really negotiate a personal fee with them without potentially denying some cancer-stricken children a slim chance of life.

I jest of course, a fee would have been a nice bonus but it would be amazing of them to show such faith in an entirely unproven writer. I’m sure it doesn’t happen too often at my age, and the experience will hopefully turn out to be more valuable than any silly money that I’d have just spent on Wham Bars and shoes. It’s going to a far more worthy cause, and they’ve given me a fantastic opportunity. Anyway, I’ll obviously keep you up-to-date with any developments of this, probably to the point of tedium, and, assuming it all goes ahead, I’ll give you plenty of warning about dates and so on if you fancy picking one up. If you do, remember to email The Scotsman and tell them that it’s probably the finest piece of literature you’ve ever read.

But isn’t it strange how things work out? If I had never been diagnosed I doubt I’d have ever even started writing for my student paper, never mind a national one. I’d say that God moved in mysterious ways but that expression has always made me imagine the Holy Father slinking across a room through the medium of an enigmatic interpretive dance or on a massive pogo-stick.

Also, speaking of the student paper, the latest edition of Glasgow Guardian is going into print this weekend and will scattered around campus during the week. Aren’t I a busy little invalid?

Anyway, as always, thanks for reading and take care cancer fans.

Friday, 2 January 2009

Part 17 - New Year’s Peeve

December 31st marked the third consecutive New Year’s Eve that I’ve missed due to my body being the harmful micro-organism equivalent to Pat Sharpe’s Fun House. I’ve had flu for the previous two years, and the one year when I finally manage to combat that I only went and got ruddy cancer instead. Lord knows what will happen next year in my increasingly dire states of annual distress, perhaps my entire body will just explode as I bellow out first verse of Auld Lang Syne.

As I sat alone on New Year’s Eve with only Jackie Bird and one million malignant cancer cells for company, I found myself in a contemplative mood. Whilst most of you were probably vomiting in a gutter, deciding whether hugging a policeman would be the funniest thing you could possibly do or pretending that fireworks are ever remotely enjoyable I considered how my life had changed in the past year and what the year ahead may bring. Most likely constantly vomiting in a gutter, hugging policemen and gasping at underwhelming fireworks due to the imminent end of what will be a half year abstinence from heavy drinking, I’d imagine.

With a mere three weeks of chemotherapy left, my reintegration into normal health will soon begin and I’ll actually have to start doing and planning things for the new year rather than my calendar consisting exclusively of the two options of ‘get poisoned’ or ‘do fuck all’. There are so many things I need to do, I just don’t know how I’m going to cope:

1. Become a fitness machine. I’ll either do this by joining the local gym or, more likely, half-heartedly play Wii Sports once a week. In the unlikely event that this doesn’t work, I will consider installing a gastric band.

2. Reacquire the skill to communicate with people who aren’t either medically trained or one million years old. This includes practicing heavy drinking alone so, when I return to Glasgow, I don’t end up stomping around naked on top of a Sauchiehall Street bin or simulating lewd acts on a traffic cone.

3. Pray to every deity there is that my hair returns as it was and not, as I gravely fear, curly. Six months of intensive chemotherapy is punishment enough for whatever sins I’ve carried out, making me look like that fanny from The Kooks after it would be a gross overstep of the line.

4. Write a concept album about my battle with cancer, possibly faking my own death in a lunge for Jeff Buckleyesque publicity.

5. Get a summer job and drag myself off of benefits. Luckily, I can now lie in interviews and claim that the fact that I’ve never had a job is down to serious health issues and not because I just preferred to watch CBBC every single day of my embarrassing farce of a life.

The biggest decision I have to make, however, regards my future education. I think that I’ve decided to restart university in a desperate attempt to regain the year of youth that’s been stolen from me from the cancer fairy, but this throws up an entirely new set of problems. Firstly, in my reapplication for student halls, do I mention my illness? What if I get put into some invalid flat surrounded by eleven people with colostomy bags, breathing apparatus and awkward limps? Also, do I mention it to my new flatmates and risk becoming known as ‘you know, Jamie, the cancer one’? It’s surely enough of a stigma being a full three years older than the majority of the people who will be staying there, I’ll most likely be excluded from all sorts of youthful high-jinks and I’ll only be approached when some young roister-doister is in need of banking advice. If you place having the reputation of an ill person on top of being the creepy old person people will go for miles to avoid me, blindly assuming that I’m exactly like Robert the Bruce’s leprosy-ridden father from Braveheart.

Away from such futuristic musings, there’s nothing much to report on the current medical front apart from the fact that I can barely go within fifty meters of an actual breathing human without picking up whatever disgusting bacteria they’re harbouring. At the medical centre last week I had to move away from a woman and her three children because they all had slight coughs. She looked very hurt, and I did consider explaining my situation but I preferred to let her believe that I found her and her entire family literally unbearable as I scuttled off to the exact opposite side of the room.

Finally, I’ve written my second column for the Glasgow Guardian and it will be in the next issue whenever it comes out - probably in the next week or two. Make sure you go out of your way to pick it up and then be disappointed that it’s more-or-less exactly the same as my third blog, just with a bit less blasphemy so I’m not burned alive.

Happy new year, cancer fans.