The Cancer Club

April 3, 2014
Eamonn
The Cancer Club

When I started this website it was supposed to be about diverse and interesting articles on intellectual topics that generated passionate but respectful debate; but what have you got? A series of articles that blather on about the life and times of a terminally ill twat. Before I report myself to the Trading Standards Authority for misrepresentation, that is still the intention. I continue to work on other non cancer related articles I hope will turn into something interesting.

However, what has become clear from the response from readers is that there is an appetite for an insight into my unwanted illness, it’s prognosis, and my unhinged mind. I acknowledge that appetite may be amuse bouche sized, and may be from an infinitesimal percentage of the population of the human race; but it exists, I have the time and inclination, and they always say write about what you know.

It is also the case that when writing my initial articles relating to my illness and prognosis that they were written with a certain audience in mind; that is to say family and friends to whom it might help communicate my feelings, and also to provide the benefit of my experience to anyone else unfortunate enough to find themselves in a similar position in an attempt to save them suffering similar pains unnecessarily .

Through friend’s recommendations, the website’s audience has widened to include people I have never met or even heard of, like a cancer themed Pyramid scheme. Some of these people contacted me to say they were going through comparable experiences and, though the writing was not specifically aimed at them as people with cancer, that they had enjoyed reading my articles and found my approach entertaining, if not useful in a community that is stereotypically sad and sensitively safe.

Over the last two years I have stubbornly entrenched my position of not engaging with the cancer community anymore than I have to. I go to the doctor, I take my medication, I discuss with my wife about what is going on; but I have always done so without joining support groups or chatting with fellow ‘sufferers’. I don’t want to sit around drinking stewed tea discussing which bit of me hurts and what type of chemo is worse, blah, blah, blah. I have enough of it in my life without dealing it out like a cancerous croupier or encumbering myself with anyone else’s baggage. So for those of you under the misapprehension of me as being a decent sympathetic person, now you know the truth. I’m a selfish arsehole. This was my thinking anyway, and while this may well still be true, in retrospect I suspect it has a lot more to do with fear. Do I want avoid witnessing first hand my future demise through others; promoting my positivity instead? Am I running to life, or away from death?

My insecurities and failings as a human being notwithstanding, having being contacted by others with cancer and being given this feedback, I made a decision to go to the websites of several cancer charities and simply say to them, “Hi, this is who I am. This is what I have been doing, and if you are interested in linking these articles or my site then please feel free.” I didn’t expect there would be any official takers especially considering my less than neutral tone on some traditionally sensitive topics, but to the contrary, several of them engaged and linked articles or included my story in newsletters.

In building these bridges I also found myself for the first time engaging in the communities of both Cancer Research and the MacMillan websites, and it has been a real eye-opener for me. It has been a reminder that despite my poor prognosis, I am still in relatively good shape compared to some (today anyway, and that is the only day I can worry about), and that through good luck or judgement there are several daily struggles I am not having to fight that many others do.

It has made me realise that the people with the least ‘hope’ are often the most extraordinary people. The support and sense of humour that these ‘Incurables’ in particular (as they are classed) provide each other is astonishing.

Incurable. This was a new term for me. I wasn’t sure if it was just the latest sensitive semantics in a politically correct world. Was I nominally termed incurable now? Or still terminal? But no, apparently there is a difference in that incurable means the cancer can be managed if not cured with current medical treatments, but that there is no imminent fatal prognosis. In some ways that sounds even worse to me, but my perspective got pretty warped the day someone said I have a terminal illness, which I still do.

One of the benefits of communicating with people in the same doomed lifeboat is that you are on a level playing field. It’s not so much that they can empathise with you, it’s that they don’t sympathise in that same well intentioned, but sometimes patronising way that the rest of the world can. It’s similar to the mutual perspective parents have. People without kids just don’t understand what it is like until they make that socially suicidal step themselves.

Having said all these positive things about coming into contact with so many fantastic, wonderful people through the cancer community, it also proved another point. Just like in any other walk of life, a small minority are bloody arseholes (I don’t mean the ones with colon cancer), and some might argue I am living proof of that. Cancer doesn’t care if you’re a wanker. I considered specifically venting my frustrations publicly, but decided it’s classier to just walk away, give a person the benefit of the doubt, and you know what they say about life being too short.

In joining this new cancer cadre, I also faced a rather disconcerting possibility about myself. Was the reason that I had avoided talking to others with cancer previously because there was a part of me that liked being special? Do I enjoy the attention? Do I secretly like being Cancer Boy? Am I the neoplastic version of ‘Daffyd – The Only Gay in the Village’? (I am actually starting to look like Matt Lucas now too. Thank you steroids!) Even if people categorically avoid talking to me about my illness, you can be pretty sure that if I go out in a group, I will find myself being quite popular as people consider, ‘This might be the last time I see him.’

It reminded me of a brief period of my adolescence where I thought it was easier to get attention by acting like a depressed suicide risk rather than actually being socially enjoyable to be around; that would have been far too much like hard work and required personality! Of course the downside was that sympathetic attention quickly evaporated like a spill in the Sahara. If I was left with anything, hopefully it was a life lesson learned that now gives me enough self awareness to at least ask myself those difficult questions, if not enough to confidently answer them.

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7 Comments. Leave new

In our british society Cancer is a real issue – but people do not seem to talk about it publicly, in fact talking about death is not really acceptable at all. We all know somebody we have lost to the big ‘C’, I personally have lost a family member and have another one who has it. the truth is we are likely to get it ourselves.

Your open and intellectual response is very refreshing, we all know that our time will be up eventually and we also know that it will be a difficult time for all

Will we be able to deal with it as openly and eloquently as yourself ? – I doubt not !

Your strength of character is shining through !

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Hi Mike,

Actually I’m sure there are more than a few that wish I shut up about it!:-) But thanks for the compliment.

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Jeremy Allen
April 4, 2014 3:34 AM

Another nice piece matey.
As always you hit all the aspects of dealing with this crap head on,honestly and ,perhaps most importantly, amusingly.Its the humour that no doubt helps you and those around you.
These days I sit into the early hours or through the night sitting and talking to my mum who is terminal but “well” at the moment.She amazes me that she finds in her life so much to talk about and laugh about to a degree 90% of the time she just isn’t interested in the cancer?In fact she doesn’t tell most people that she has it.Its hers not theirs so she will do with it what she pleases!!!!!
Anyway keep up the good writing,enjoy the weekend coming up and continue to make those close to you smile.And those of us not so close as well of course!!
Jer

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Hi Jer,

Thanks again, I’m glad that the words mean something to someone. Next week’s piece is about the medium, rather than the subject, I don’t know how or if that is interesting to others, but I guess we’ll see.

It is a very peculiar thing being terminally ill but, at times, “well” and it sounds like your mum handles things with a great deal of dignity and integrity. That said now I have spent more time talking to people in her position, I find it less unusual than I expected. I think ordinary people often become extraordinary as their circumstances demand it.

Give her my regards and all the best.

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Russell Sheen
April 5, 2014 8:26 PM

Enjoyed reading your article ( wotsitcalled ) Can see how you thought you were the only Gay in the village then realised after joining the cancer sites that your not the only one thats been buggered.
Terminal,incurable, all the same in my book s’just that some of us have got a shorter shelf life than others. It’s a WTF situation but it makes no neverminds make the most of what you get for as long as you can. In my case it takes me all night to do what I used to do all night. 10 seconds after starting I find I have the need to look in the manual to remind me what it was I was supposed to be doing in the first place, by the time Iv’e found me glasses and the manual I mislaid whilst looking for them it’s time to get up. Was it good for you? I ask quietly as I creep downstairs very quickly so I don’t hear the answer, to start another day in paradise.

Keep on writing Bro’ and most importantly ‘Don’t make a fuss.’

Regards Russell

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Thanks Russell. That’s the best advice ever; you should be writing an agony column!

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Just found your link and WOW say it like it is huh?! Love it and keep going – it makes those other members of this exclusive club laugh and why not!! Bad enough to be dealing with it and great to hear someone else say the grunge of it. Thanks and keep it up. Diz

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