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Today I am overwhelmed

Today I am overwhelmed.
I get dozens of calls, messages and “check-ins” every day. Food gets dropped off at our house, as if by magic. Music, clothes and books have all made their way to me, unexpectedly but always incredibly thoughtful and massively appreciated.


Today I am overwhelmed, but in a good way.
It is as if everyone’s kindness is creating defensive shield around me, cushioning me from the bad stuff and energising me to produce more of the good stuff. (I can assure you I am trying my best to do my part.)


Today I am genuinely grateful and humbled.
Thank you, thank you, thank you from the deepest corner of my heart and soul. Know that I genuinely appreciate each and every word, message, gesture sent my way. It is truly overwhelming. But the good kind.

With all of you in my corner, it’s so much easier to come out swinging in the next round.


Hair today, gone tomorrow

First things first. This is not a post blindly bitching about my hair falling out because of the chemotherapy. I always knew it was going to happen so I guess you can say I was prepared. What I was not prepared for is how frustratingly random this kind of hair loss actually is.

I thought I was be clever by shaving my head before the inevitable happens, so I shaved just after the first treatment. (I was being proactive, ten points to Slytherin!) I had to shave again after the second treatment and am probably heading for another shave soon.

Not that I am not losing hair.

My eyelashes were some of the first to jump ship. I have to contend with regularly finding them in the basin (fine) or sometimes in my food (less fine). No late goth phases for me at this advanced age as manscara is now firmly out of the question. A small mercy, if you ask me.

I can report that the hair on my scalp are finally thinning out as are my body hair. There seems to be no particular rhyme or reason to it. Some disappear here, some disappear there without any regard for symmetry or aesthetics. I won’t say too much except that it’s odd. Believe me.

I am left wondering if it would not be better if everything just dropped off in one shot. Bam! Done! Thank you for playing. Collect your hair again once you’re better. Please keep the receipt. Terms and conditions apply.

Of course hair you do not want seem unperturbed by this random culling of their kin. My facial hair still grows fast and still requires shaving regularly, a ritual I loathe and always leave until it’s too late and way too much effort. In a cruel twist, this hair now grows both quickly and patchily.

The fine hair in my ears and nose (a delightful side-effect of being post 40) also seem to not have received the memo that we’re right in the middle of chemotherapy and that all hair need to evacuate until further notice. Unshaken they forge ahead, bending against the tide.

So here I am with patchy body hair, half a beard and a mostly shaven scalp. Hair loss is fine, but is it too much to ask that it happens in a way that makes sense?

Alopecia is indeed a cruel mistress.


Introducing the all-new, all-powerful CKO!

After getting my routine chemo yesterday I got, as they say KNOCKED THE FUCK OUT! 

Fuck side effects, I had fever attacks, the shakes, cold shivers, blistering pins and needles in my fingertips, insane hallucinations, grogginess, overwhelming fatigue and was unstable on my feet. Thanks to the cortisone, however, I could not sleep either. I was man down. Proper.

I therefore humbly submit that fighting speak be updated to include the CKO or Chemo Knock Out, a term that can share ringside relevance with TKO (Technical Knock Out) or the old skool favourite, the KO (or KNOCK OUT!).

So respect where it’s due, round 3 goes to chemo. Son of a bitch hurt me real damn good. But like slugs in a shotgun, my chemo has 12 rounds in total and a CKO does not stop the fight my friends. The fight stops when one of us is dead. Two men enter, one man leaves. These are the rules of the Thunderdome.

And I have no intention of losing.


Going to pieces in a Burger King

It was a crazy day. Busy at work, roadworks messing up the highway and then the usual agonising struggle to find parking at the hospital. (All insignificant irritations, in retrospect.)

What started as a pain in my left shoulder a week ago turned into something “abnormal” that needed to be investigated. Although I first dismissed the pain as muscle strain, I guess I knew instinctively that something was off. I rarely break a sweat in gym and my 100% desk job hardly puts serious strain on those muscles, let’s be honest.

While massaging my neck and shoulder in bumper-to-bumper traffic on the N1 soon after, I felt a bump just below my clavicle. The bump turned out to be a swollen lymph node, which needed a biopsy for testing. The doctors also ran a load of scans and tests to see if there were any other swollen nodes in my body.

Today was Results Day, and we sat down anxiously to get the low-down from the doctor…

“It’s lymphoma,” he says and immediately continues describing what it is and how it works, what the best treatment is, what happens next, what my chances are, how long it lasts, how it works, how bad, how good, on and on and on. Stats and data wash over me, drowning out my thoughts, leaving my mouth dry and hurting my chest. I try and remember some of it while I focus very hard on not losing my grip.

I can’t die now.

I am a proud daddy to a beautiful little girl who’s almost two. I am a partner to an incredible, supportive and loving woman. I am a son to the most amazing parents. I am an older brother to two fantastic sisters. I am a friend to so many wonderful people. I love life. I love my life.

I don’t want to die.

“I don’t want to die,” I say to A as we wait for the lift afterwards. “You’re not going to die,” she says firmly. “You heard what the doctor said.” She reaches for me, but I turn away, afraid I will fall apart at her touch, at the overwhelming love and kindness shown in this awful moment.

Turns out I chose “one of the best cancers” to get (lucky me!) as it has an 80% recovery rate with ABVD, a specific regimen of chemotherapy applied for at least six months. Could have been worse, I guess, although it’s hard to see the silver lining at this moment.

We discuss my diagnosis as we head home, making a quick pit stop at the local Burger King as we’re both starving and need to rush home to pick up our daughter for her doctor’s appointment. (So much for a healthy eating plan…)

The Burger King is out of ketchup, which at the time I find wonderfully ironic but we settle in nonetheless, ready to inhale our generic and tasteless burgers while discussing the topic of the day, cancer. Cancer cancer fucking cancer, arriving at the party late with no ketchup and ready to fuck up everyone’s night.

We talk softly among ourselves and joke about the place and the food in the way couples do, but inside I am positively raging. I am mad as hell. I am pissed off. Fuck cancer. Honestly. I am livid. But more than that, I am sad. So terribly sad. I feel helpless, frustrated, anxious, depressed, freaked out, scared and stressed out. This. Is. Such. Fucking. Bullshit. Why me? Why now? Why us? Why this? Why? Why? Why?

Again A reaches for me.

“Please don’t,” I say, my voice thick with emotion. “I can’t… I don’t want to go to pieces in… in a Burger King.”

I look up and our eyes meet. It takes a split second and then our spontaneous laughter catches us by surprise and dials the moment right down. The tears are there, but they’re good tears. We can do this. I can do this. We’re going to be okay. I am going to be okay.


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