Tuesday 22 January 2013

Rog T's Cancer Blog - My Bucket List

For those of you who are regular readers and have read the previous posts on Cancer, you can skip this first paragraph.This is the latest installment in my occasional series about how I'm adjusting to living with a big C in my life.  For those of you who aren't, here's a quick summary. I'm 50 years old and I last year had a prostate biopsy following two "slightly high" PSA tests - 2.8 & 4.1. The biopsy took ten tissue samples and one of these showed a "low grade cancer" which gives me a 3+3 on the Gleason scale. I'm now on a program of active monitoring.  In early February, I got the results of the latest PSA test - down to 3.5 and an MRI scan which found absolutely nothing. My latest PSA test in August was not quite so promising, back up to 3.9, in other words the downward trend has stopped. I've no symptoms and sadly for a few people, if I'm gonna die soon, it won't be from Prostate cancer. Got the picture?

Please be warned. The next person to ask me what my bucket list is, is likely to get my fist banged straight into their eye. Well actually they are not, because I don't do violence, but they damn well should. I find the whole bucket list concept ridiculous personally. Having said that,  I did once prepare a bucket list of sorts. I found it amongst some old papers. I think I was 18 at the time. My band were doing an interview with a magazine and we were asked to prepare for it by answering a few questions and making a list of the ten things we most want to do. Perhaps more telling than my bucket list, was the bucket list of my good mate and former bassplayer Paul Hircombe. In response to their request to prepare ten things he'd like to do Paul managed three

1. Take as many drugs as possible
2. Have sex with two lesbians in a bath full of Swarfega
3. Eat a whole bunch of grapes in one go

Another question which he answered was "How old do you think you'll be when you die? Paul replied 15. He was sixteen at the time. Paul died last year from cancer of the Oesophagus. I think maybe he succeeded in the first item from his bucket list. Sadly the drugs he was taking at the end of his life, though plentiful, brought him no pleasure. They were simply there to block out the excruciating pain which he was suffering from. I discussed the list with him when we wrote it. I was a bit irritated that he wasn't taking the interview seriously. His view was that the whole thing was a load of bollocks. The journo asked him about the two lesbians in the bath full of swarfega with the glee of a dirty old man finding himself on a bus full of schoolgirls. Paul replied "It's the only thing I could think of that I haven't already done". In truth there were plenty of things he wanted to do. He just didn't want to write a list full of them and he didn't want to tell anyone. He told me that it would take the magic away from his fantasies to write them down in English, which he thought was a bit of an ugly language. Paul at the time was going out with a beautiful French girl. He thought everything sounded sexy in French. If a French woman likes something he says "Oh La La, Tres Bien". We say "yeah, its OK". It amazes me that the French have managed to preserve such a sexy language living next door to Germany, whilst us, with the channel between us took all the dullest Germanic words as the basis for our language. Paul didn't want our language to corrupt his dreams.

As I sifted through the old papers, I saw a whole raft of memories I'd forgotten about. Pauls list and mine could not have been more different. His was short sharp and misleading. Mine was long, and obvious. In some ways, it was like our respective cancers. We both got our diagnosis within the same year. Pauls killed him, mine just lurks like a death shadow over my shoulder. I have no symptoms, I feel healthier than I have done for years, but I know deep inside me, there is a lurking malign presence. I looked at my bucket list from 1981 and was horrified. Have a guess what age the 18 year old me thought I'd die at? Twenty seven. Yup, the answer trying to be terribly cool. Thats when Hendrix and Jim Morrison died. Wouldn't that be cool. Well I'm fifty now. Would it really have been so cool to have been dead for 23 years. Would it have been cool for my mother to have buried me? Would it have been cool for Clare (Mrs T to those of you who don't know us) to have had to watch me die and go to my funeral. By now, I'd have just been a faded picture she would try not to look at or think about. In truth, teenagers are terribly selfish. When we say "I hope I die before I get old" we don't think of what that really means. And when we find out we are not immortal, it is a massive shock. In truth, shortly after I did the list, I went and lived in Sweden and grew up a hell of a lot. I wonder what the list would have said had I written it a year later?

So you may ask, what was on the list?

1. Go to John O'Groats
2. Own a VW camper van
3. Own a Fender Stratocaster Guitar
4. Own a Fender Twin Reverb Amplifier
5. Buy a record I've played on in the Virgin Megastore
6. Go on tour with my band
7. Make a low budget film
8. See the Steve Miller Band in California
9. Have sex with three women at the same time
10. Eat a tin of pineapple chunks whilst the sun sets on the Millfield

So how have I got on?

1. Go to John O'Groats - Went there in 1987, a long way to go, not much to do, but glad I did it
2. Own a VW camper van - Bought one in 1994 - thing was an unreliable rustbucket, but fun
3. Own a Fender Stratocaster Guitar - Bought one in 1984 and still love it
4. Own a Fender Twin Reverb Amplifier - Bough one in 1994, piece of crap, took it back demoralised
5. Buy a record I've played on in the Virgin Megastore - Did it in 1982
6. Go on tour with my band - Did it in 1981
7. Make a low budget film - Did it (twice) in 2012
8. See the Steve Miller Band in California - Did it in 2008
9. Have sex with three women at the same time - Sadly not even come close to this one !
10. Eat a tin of pineapple chunks whilst the sun sets on the Millfield - Strangely, the easiest of all - Unfullfilled

Now what is odd is that I've done eight out of ten. Perhaps the easiest one (no 10) is the one I've not done. I'd  completely forgotten my need to go to John O'Groats. The reason for this is that my brother had hitchhiked there and so I thought it was a cool place to go. The answer that intrigue me is number nine. In hindsight, I think Paul was taking the piss out of my reply with his number 2 choice, and probably rightly so. In truth I'm not 100% sure that it was an honest choice, I just thought it was a rock and roll thing to say. For an eighteen year old bloke, it would be something to brag about, and if it ever had happened I am sure I would have thoroughly enjoyed it, but was it something I ever fantasised about? I don't think so. In truth, my idea of a night of passion has always been far more intimate and sensual than a situation involving a mini orgy. I am sure that in truth I'd have preferred a gothic castle, a big open fire, a bearskin rug, a bottle of champagne with Debbie Harry. I wouldn't need her two ugly sisters to complete the fantasy. Now when I was eighteen, I definately wouldn't have said that. It would have sounded far too dull and un "rock and roll".

Having ticked off eight of the ten, established that the ninth wasn't an honest choice, that leaves choice ten. You may wonder why that made the list. Well when I was a kid, pineapple chunks to me were the best thing in the world. I wanted to call the band "Pineapple Chunks". The rest of the band overruled me, and we settled on the False Dots.Watching the sun go down on the Millfield, is something I've always loved. It has romantic connotations for me. In a strange sort of a way, I've always felt that if I actually went to the Millfield and watched the sun set whilst eating pineapple chunks, then there would really be nothing left at all in the Universe to fulfill my soul. I would have to just curl up and die. But then again, I've completed my bucket list (apart from the one that we've established was really a lie), so I can go and eat my chunks and pass on anytime I like.

Well that would be the case, if I hadn't found some reasons to live in the intervening 32 years. I've found lots of reasons to live actually. Having found that I may have a nasty little warped bit of my DNA that wants to kill me, I've realised that the last thing I want to do is consider my own mortality, and draw up a stupid list. In fact the only reason I drew up the stupid bloody list when I was 18 was because I thought I was a God. I thought I was immortal. I thought no one and nothing could touch me. I had youth and vibrance and I took it for granted. People who've read the various dyslexia blogs I've written may be confused. Well at the age of 18 I was actually very happy. I had come through a bad time at school and I was confident. I had ultimate faith in my band and I had the confidence of invincibility that teenagers have, when they know Mummy and Daddy are there to pick up the pieces. For all my bluff and bluster, three years later, when I had a major health crisis, I was back home being looked after by Mummy and Daddy and playing the spoilt brat.

The truth is that having cancer cells in my body has made me think very long and very hard about life. Whilst four years ago I'd have simply dismissed that scrap of paper as teenage silliness, I now sit and analyse it. I try and work out my motivations. Some are easy, such as the guitar, amp and van. What troubles me is not what is on the list, but what isn't. You see, the whole thing was totally selfish. There was not the slightest acknowledgement of anyone or anything else. The three women I wanted sex with were simply anonymous shadows in my mind. I didn't want to go anywhere or do anything with friends, or make anyone else happy. It was all about glorification of objects simply for the sake of it. Perhaps the biggest reason for not wanting to buy into the concept of a bucket list, is by definition it is selfish. I hope I'm a lot less selfish a person now. I hope that having cancer cells withing my body has in some small way facilitated the process. The last proper conversation I had with Paul before he passed away, he said that "cancer is a bastard, there is nothing good about it". I'm not in his dire position. If I found out tomorrow I was, maybe I would re-evaluate again. As it stands this morning at 1am as I write this, I think for me personally, I have got something. I have got my soul back. I have confronted the things about me which I don't like and realised I am in some ways a very selfish person. Realising that and realising that I don't like that gives me the opportunity to change that and to try and make amends. Last week, I met up with someone for breakfast. As we talked, he suddenly apologised because the first time we spoke, he'd been rude to me. He was worried that I'd been offended and felt the need to make amends. As it was, I remembered the incident and wasn't offended, because he'd simply been honest about his feelings at the time. By discussing what happened, we were both able to move on. I have realised that I have a hell of a lot of things to do before I can fully move on. But as the saying goes, today is the first day of the rest of my life


concernedcarer said...

I wonder what you would have done with such wisdom at the age of 18 years? I wonder what we would all do with such wisdom at 18 years?

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