At some point in your life you will have been in a cupboard or a room or a wardrobe with no source of light and no concept of distance. Absolute pitch-black darkness that is as deep as it is claustrophobic and as vast as it is enveloping. For the past two weeks I have been in this proverbial wardrobe with my wife and it’s been a pretty horrible experience but today our eyes finally started to adjust and we could see the cracks of light seeping in through the cracks in the woodwork. Up until now it’s been all coat hangers in the eyes and questions like “what material is this?” and “When did you by a velour playsuit….Roland?”. But today the phone rang and there was something which, to our massively dilated pupils, looked a little like good news but don’t say it too loudly, you might scare it off.
Back in the real world (we haven’t really been in a wardrobe in case you were worried), what actually happened was that my oncologist called and offered the possibility of a way forward. There are still no clinical trials on offer at Derriford, the Royal Marsden or Christie’s due to ongoing Coronavirus efforts so the next option would appear to be returning to the world of Radiotherapy with the intention of shrinking the tumour that has set up home on my pancreas like some kind of squatter with a ghetto blaster and a UB40 greatest hits compilation (the worst kind of squatter). At present, the tumour has grown to a size of roughly 13x7x7cm which is roughly the same size as double cassette including the case and as much as I love my music I could really do without that growing in to a double CD or a bloody gatefold 12” concept album.
So, back I head to the laser table to have my pancreas zapped on a daily basis, probably some new tiny tattoos and a whole lot of feeling a little bit less than ideal. The added challenge to this level of the cancer game is that is that each time I go in to the hospital for treatment I’m going to have to run the Corona-gauntlet of trying to not pick up any infection while my immune system is jeopardised by the ongoing and aforementioned lasering. I’m considering getting some sort of Radiotherapy Onesie to wear for treatment which I can change in and out of in the hospital car park to avoid infection coming home with me – and to look a little bit sexy when I saunter in the Radiotherapy suite.
This news has given me some focus, a purpose which has been missing these last few weeks and that is a huge relief because, well, you wouldn’t like me without a purpose (you might not like me anyway, I’ve never ruled out the possibility of people tuning in to this blog just to find out when I shuffle off my mortal coil). Distraction tactics over the past fortnight have included gardening (lots), eating (too much), not drinking (just don’t fancy it), making dioramas with my large collection of Smurfs and desperately trying to order food online. I have played numerous games with my son, dispensed hundreds of bubbles from the front garden for no good reason, sighed at regular intervals and cried – boy have I cried. But then there have been moments of laughter and the laughter starts to outweigh the crying like goodies beating baddies in some last hurrah of a battle.
The adult part of me has been writing a will (essentially I’ve left everything to Anneka Rice but only if she can find it during the one hour immediately following my death using nothing but a helicopter and a series of obscure clues otherwise it all reverts to my wife and children), putting together a memory box for my little boy (initially this was just photos of me in various states of inebriation but I’ve managed to find some more meaningful items now), sorting out my finances so as not to leave a mess behind me and just generally trying to stay fit and well so that all of this will become laughably premature. I’m not particularly great at the whole ‘being an adult’ thing but it has been mildly reassuring to have something relatively positive to focus on with the idea of providing for my family in my absence being some kind of comfort. I’ve also made plans for some sort of a plaque and a flower patch in the local memorial gardens which means I’ll be close to the sea and in earshot of the pub so if you’re playing there and I’m not by the bar then turn the volume up a bit, will you?
One interesting aspect of all of this, of course, is that all of this is being played out in the new world order of Coronavirus which makes things both easier and more difficult. On the plus side, I’ve had nothing but time to spend with my wife and kids, a delivery of potatoes or mystery doughnuts feels like winning the lottery (not the full jackpot but at least 4 numbers) and the love via social media has been truly comforting in a way that is very hard to either fathom or explain. I’ve had recommendations for medicinal cannabis variations, advice from people who’ve been through similar with family members and contacts with medical experts that I wouldn’t have had access to were it not for the personal friendships I’ve built up over the years. All this from the comfort and beauty of my coastal home with seagulls squawking overhead and an overtly positive playlist looping on Spotify. If I’m going to go out, then I’m going out in a pretty idyllic place surrounded by people I love so it could be a whole lot worse.
So, here we are. Radiotherapy this way comes (Covid-19 or no Covid-19), there’s then the option of something a little more experimental but I’ll hold on to those details for now if you don’t mind and finally the challenge of preparing myself and the rest of the family the worst case scenario (e.g. Anneka Rice solving all the clues in an hour and turfing them out of the family home whilst rifling mercilessly through my extensive music collection). For now, I just wake up every day and run through a checklist of potential ailments (has my pancreas exploded? Do I have a dry cough? Have any of my legs fallen off? Any? That should be either probably) which, assuming everything is OK then leads to the standard blood test, two insulin shots, six tablets and remembering to get dressed even though nobody outside my house will see me for a good while yet. All the time wondering which one of the C words will burst through the wardrobe doors first – cancer, coronavirus or cure.
Or Columbo. I only mention the diminutive detective because I have to mention “one last thing”. A few months ago, a friend and I came up with the idea of doing a podcast called ‘It’s Your Funeral’ and, a few weeks ago, we finally got around to recording it in his garage. The idea is to discuss what you want from your funeral and death experience with a bit of humour, some music and the breaking down of a few taboos around the one thing the binds us all together. It seemed a little too ‘on the money’ two weeks ago but having had a listen I think it actually helps so have a listen and see what you think. All being well we might do some more episodes but, unfortunately, we only have one microphone and it’s in Simon’s garage so, for now, we’ll wait.