Saturday, 24 June 2017

Indignity bingo

Let's make no bones about it. Cancer is undignified. But can it strip us of our humour, our spirit and our self-respect? Absolutely not. So to have a laugh at cancer's expense, get out your bingo dabber, ask for complete silence in the house and join me in a game of 'Indignity Bingo'...

Eyes down. (Bingo caller voice mandatory).

For a line...
Loss of self esteem, SEVENTEEN
Unlucky for all, THIRTEEN
Head in the loo, TWENTY TWO
Endless fatigue, SEVENTY THREE
No pelvic floor, TWENTY FOUR
Sickety sick, SIXTY SIX

For two lines...
Confidence gone, number ONE
Two thin ladies, EIGHTY EIGHT
Wobbly legs ELEVEN *cue whistles*
Oncologist's orders, number NINE
Unexplained aches, SEVENTY EIGHT
Bloated face, NUMBER EIGHT

And for the full house...
Everything's sore, FORTY FOUR
Gaining weight, THIRTY EIGHT
Loss of self, number TWELVE
Just cannot sleep, TWENTY THREE
Staying alive (barely) NINETY FIVE
Can't take any more SEVENTY FOUR
Bald as a coot, SEVENTY TWO
Hickman line, THIRTY NINE
Can't leave the..... HOUSE!

This game is dedicated to all those who have faced all of cancer's myriad challenges with dignity. I am in awe of you all.


Thursday, 15 June 2017

Spot the difference

Today I went to our local hospice to visit an amazing woman from my church. She is facing cancer for the second time and is accessing their out-patient support services. They do a wonderful job in providing opportunities for cancer sufferers to spend time together and enjoy a weekly meal. They also provide counselling services and even foot massages, both of which I benefited from when I was terminally ill.

Whilst I was waiting in reception, I mentioned to the receptionist that I had featured in a TV commercial which you can watch here and brochure for the hospice and asked if there were still any copies lying around. Once prompted, remarkably, she remembered me and my hideous crocheted hat and enormous Cushing's Syndrome face.

She then called up to the publicity team to see if there were any copies of the marketing materials that featured my infamous massive head. A few minutes later, a young guy came in with two A4 sized close-ups of my face. Embarrassed, he glanced at me and apologised that he had brought a photo of the wrong person. The receptionist confirmed that it was me and we all marvelled at how much I had changed. My church friend and I guffawed for a short while as we contemplated the photos, bringing levity to an otherwise emotionally charged situation.

We marvelled at how lucky we both were, and that despite experiencing pain and loss, faith and hope prevailed. As Christians, we were united in the knowledge that God loved us both and that we had a higher purpose.

I'm going to end this post with a challenge. Spot the difference between these seemingly identical photos:


Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Life with cancer is still life

I had just composed myself after the 'One Love Manchester' concert where Ariana Grande (who I had never heard of before) comforted an emotional young member of the Parrs Wood High School choir. Then the latest ad from Macmillan Cancer Support sent me back into an emotional whirl.

Cancer advertising is really tricky to pull off. It's a perilous pursuit where the agency has to reflect the realities of cancer without causing alarm to the uninitiated. It's about being true to the experience of those with cancer, avoiding clich├ęs and trite positivity without scaring the families who are watching their loved one suffer. In my view, Macmillan Cancer Support treads this delicate line beautifully.

For those of you who haven't seen the ad, it starts with a Dad reading his young daughter a bedtime story. Then, the scene cuts to a montage of the biting reality of cancer treatment - hour upon hour in a chemo ward with a variety of poisons being pumped into your veins, violent vomiting, constant worrying, tears and even despair. It's pretty tough going, even for people like myself who are on the other side of treatment and recovery. The line (cue lump in the throat) is: 'A Dad with cancer is still a Dad' supported by the strapline: 'Life with cancer is still life. We'll help you live it.' This is a powerful insight and strikingly expressed. Bravo Macmillan, you got this just right.

I have some experience of Macmillan. They produce a range of books and leaflets that are on display in the Cancer Centre, and I've read each one, cover to cover, whilst waiting to be seen by my oncologist. Tonally they're warm and engaging, and they're really useful, providing advice on everything from dealing with work and money through to coping with the changing dynamic of family relationships. They even supply a simple recipe book to help cancer sufferers to eat well according to their needs - building strength, losing weight, gaining weight and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. They also offer the support of cancer nurses and counselling services.

Macmillan Cancer Support, an insightful and compelling campaign and a helpful service. Thank you.