I think that it was the late and great comedian Spike Milligan who famously had carved on his tombstone, the immortal lines. ‘See I told You I Did Not Feel Well”. I always found Spike extremely funny and had read all his books and poems by the age of about 14, he had a unique sense of the sublime and could see humour in life when many others could not. However, as with all great comedy there is always a touch of genius and madness, Shakespeare alluded to it frequently.
So, just what has that got to do with anything I hear you ask? Well let me put this into context if I may my dear reader chum. Yesterday I was asked at a conference if I might share my experience of living with cancer since being diagnosed On Friday 12th of September 2018, so I did. My logic was based on the series of blogs that I have written on my Enso Shotokan Karate Club website, the idea was to try and de-mystify the reality of living with level 4A bowel cancer. Before I got cancer I had assumed that in most cases that was it, you were a gonner. However, once I was catapulted into that world without any warning or time to actually worry, or even think about it, actually it was not as bad as I thought.
So, as I stood there before friends and colleagues I decided that I would tell them what I had discovered about being a cancer patient, and life beyond it, in my case 8 months on when actually in all probability I should actually be dead and buried. However, as the old saying goes news of my demise is greatly exaggerated, the other thinking behind my chat was to persuade people not to ignore symptoms and if in doubt make sure you act. Early diagnosise is crucial in increasing your chances of defeating this cruel and truly indiscriminate killer. I also wanted them to understand that such an experience allows you to see the best of human kindness, and the gift of living day by day, when you have nearly lost that right.
So, that was what I did, I gave a warts and all account of the reality about what happens when you get bowel cancer. It started with the major life saving operation to remove a massive tumour from my abdomen that had grown so big it actually exploded before it got found. By rights the cancer cells should then have been transported via the lymph glands to all other major organs, 99 times out of 100 that is what happens. So, that was miracle number 1. Miracle number 2 was the fact that had the CT scan not taken place and the tumour continued to grow after another 4 weeks it would have been to late and I would have been dead before Xmas 2018. Ironically I was not going to bother having the CT scan as I was supposed to be in London judging the UK Bus awards, I have someone very special to thank for that.
So, as I pointed out when you get cancer you get certain things, these include in my case 26 stitches, a storma bag to replace your bum so you can poo into a bag. Sounds horrid and at first it is, but you just get used to it, after all it keeps you alive. I also showed my bus chums a special London Bus decorated storma bag that Yvi got me, that went down well with my bus loving mates. I also showed them the Picc line that I had inserted into the vein of my right arm when I started chemotherapy. What was unexpected was that one or two members were nearly sick on the spot, as they found it all too queasy. It never even occurred to me in truth. I also showed them the special public toilet access card that you can show members of the public patiently queueing to use the loo, that you get given by the NHS. Truth be told I am far too English to ever use such a card in anger as it were. After all the thought of pushing into a queue fills me with dread, let alone a queue for the WC, that goes against all my principles of English politeness and social middle clas nonesense.
I also talked about the vital importance of keeping a positive and focused attitude even when things looked grim, as they did for me when my chemo stoped working, not once but twice and I was informed that there was a risk that if the cancer grew they could not stop it. This meant palliative care, until such time as the lovely nurse said that nature will take its course. Quite honestly that makes you stop and think, but irrespective I never once waivered in my belief that I will beat this. I quoted the mantra from my Karate Sensei Shihan Cyril Cummins 8th dan Dan who said ‘Never Give Up, Never Give In”. He did not and neither will I.
At the end I spoke to a number of people who told me that they would either get checked themselves, or maybe even better, get loved ones who they were concerned about to get checked. Prevention it is said is always better than cure, and that is so true. In conclusion I quoted none other than Spock from Star Trek, and urged them to live long and prosper, as quite honestly that is what I intend to do. Onwards and Upwards dear chums, after all what is a little bit of cancer amongst friends!.