Welcome back sports fans, the bases are loaded and we’re entering the fourth quarter with everything to play for. I feel like that’s something that might realistically be said by an American sports reporter but I’m not sure which sport. Maybe swimming. Anyway, the point is, today was the fourth and final round of treatment which is worth commentating on in either an American accent or any other. Much as with the other treatments, it was a case of wrapping up, turning up and sitting up straight in the waiting room. This was followed by the slight variation of being put in a private room for a change – I think they’ve twigged that I’m listening to all the conversations around me so they’re protecting the other patients now. Oh, and a reclining chair that had been placed too close to the wall causing me to travel half way across the room when I pressed the recline button.
The big difference with number four is the context. In the last three weeks, another c word has been dominating the world as coronavirus or Covid-19 has become the most talked about thing on the planet. Now, I don’t want you thinking I’ve turned in to a panic buying survivalist with bunker tendencies and normally I’d be keeping tabs on things but generally keeping my distance. The difference in 2020 is that, thanks to the other c word (no, not that one) I am now one of the higher risk people in the world (statistically speaking) and so I approached the hospital with a little more trepidation than normal. In fact, I donned a full Lycra one-piece, free-climbed up the outside of the hospital and then abseiled down the inside of one of the incinerator chimneys just to avoid the cluster of coughing people gathered between the entrance and Warrens bakery. This is, of course, utter nonsense (anyone who has seen the footage of me attempting to use a rope swing in Mexico will know I lack the upper body strength for starters) but I did take the most English of precautions – I subtly raised my scarf up over my mouth and nose. Take that, pandemic.
Three different hand sanitisers and a flight of stairs later, I was set up in my special room being visited by my key worker with the results of my latest blood test. It seems my recently overactive thyroid has burnt itself out and is now, well, underactive – as my friend Adam would say, this is very on-brand for Roland Monger. An underactive thyroid basically means a further dip in energy (great), putting on weight (double-great) and an increasingly messed-up metabolism (you get the pattern). There is a pill for this, of course, but that takes my daily prescription up to 6 pills, four injections and four tiny but VERY sharp finger stabbings to test my blood as well as a hug from my wife (don’t tell her that’s not on the doctor’s prescription, she doesn’t suspect a thing). Anyway, for now I get to have 6 weeks without treatment to give my body a chance to recalibrate but during that time I’ll have a CT scan just to see what’s occurring and how my cancer has reacted to my immune system which now resembles the Rock, I presume.
Aside from all the physical shenanigans, I wanted to address something else with this blog entry something that has been playing on my mind a little. I get a lot of great comments from people on reading my meanderings, lots of support and plenty of superlatives like ‘brave’, ‘positive’ and ‘inspirational’ which is all lovely but it is only part of the story. You see, there are days, most days in fact, when I feel sorry for myself, a bit angry at my situation, desperately sad for my little boy or just plain depressed. Some of this is down to the thyroid issue, some of it is because of the treatment and some of it is just mental health stuff caused by having cancer but all of it weighs heavily on my mind throughout everything I do.
For example, in and around all the appointments and consultations I still have to go to Lidl sometimes to pick up toilet roll, today I went to B&M to get one of those giant bags of tea (like, 1000 bags not one massive tea bag, I’m not mad) and two weeks ago I spent a thrilling half hour in Clarks buying school shoes (again, for school children, not for me – still not mad). For large parts of those mundane activities, my life is no different to how it was pre-diagnosis but there are moments – unexpected instances – where everything stops for a few seconds and I get this wave of, well, that’s the thing; I don’t know what to call it. In my head, it’s pre-grief of my own death which gets triggered by literally any story, film or song where the father has left or died, any time I see any milestone father’n’son artefacts (bike, football, shaving equipment, pint – it’s a minefield out there people) or any point that sends my mind off on a tangent to ‘what if I wasn’t here for this’ world (like Disney World but just without Mickey Mouse for some inexplicable reason). “But Roland”, I hear you cry, “what do you do to quiet these voices in your head?”. Well, I keep busy. Hella busy.
I’m not doing your standard anti-cancer stuff though, oh no. No marathons or taking up triathlons for me, that’s far too passé. No, instead I’m trying to be an attentive husband, play an active roll in raising four kids and do up a crumbling house. I’m getting as close as I can to working a full-time job, my other blog (Listen With Monger, check it out) just sauntered past the half a million clicks mark and just this week I recorded the first episode of my first podcast with a good friend – it’s about funerals but in no way as bleak as that sounds. Throw in keeping up with friends, family and a semi-professional career in playing Xbox football and, well, there is no rest for the cancerous. This, however, is not a healthy thing so it bothers me when people say I’m inspiring them or a positive influence – I take the compliment, sure, but really I’m just coping in the only way I know how. Stay busy, don’t stop to think too much about what might or might not happen and keep distracting yourself with new shiny things like that TV series you never got to watch or the thrill of selling old junk on eBay. Oooh, a penny….
So, my advice for this entry would be to look within for your own inspiration and your own coping mechanisms. What works for one will be wholly inappropriate for another and what keeps me distracted from my own self would be the very idea of hell to a marathon runner. I have had to learn, however, that my body is not overly happy with what my brain wants to do to keep distracted so I’ve been ‘resting’ which is just THE WORST. The plan now, therefore, is to spend three weeks getting back to zero, take all the meds and then I’ve got three weeks to be actually properly active before bloody ‘rest’ comes back on the agenda again. Still, I know what I’ll be watching when I rest as I have taken the advice of my podcast buddy and started watching the excellent ‘Inside No. 9’ which is just fabulous albeit slightly unsettling when you watch three episodes and then leave your ward to realise you’ve been in private room number 9 the whole time. I’ll be back when I’ve had a scan but for now I’m off to have a cry in B&Q because of a bucket or something.