Sorry for the radio silence. You’d think that after several weeks of bouncing between three of the world’s top hospitals for various appointments I’d have more news, but you’d be surprised. Lots of information, plenty of progress, but not much to report. Such as it is, though…
Nutrition and evidence
When you get cancer you get a lot of unsolicited advice. I understand where it comes from – specifically from a place of love and a desire to support people. People have different approaches and love and kindness are always appreciated.
There’s a lot of bad information out there, especially about cancer. My specialist oncologist nurse has a list of trusted sites (Macmillan, sarcoma.org.uk) which hold reliable information, but they are completely overwhelmed in volume and amplitude by the hordes of well-meaning people without an evidence base to back up what they’re saying. New haircut, new treatment, nutritionThere’s a lot of bad information out there, especially about cancer. My specialist oncologist nurse has a list of trusted sites (Macmillan, sarcoma.org.uk) which hold reliable information, but they are completely overwhelmed in volume and amplitude by the hordes of well-meaning people without an evidence base to back up what they’re saying.
A lot of this information is actually harmful. Dangerous. Hypotheses presented as fact that are in fact conjured up from a range of unproven, baseless earlier theories. Often some sort of science is behind them. The worst part is that they’re often buried in with some good advice, typically things like eating plenty of leafy greens, olive oil, brown rice, and following general nutritional guidelines. An example (I’m bloody well not going to link to any of this) might be a suggestion to take large supplements of turmeric, cannabinoids, vitamin c, or whatever. Another might be a suggestion to fast for 24 hours before and after a chemotherapy treatment.
Chemotherapy is very hard on the body and your body needs fuel to help deal with it. They are literally pouring poison into your veins in the hope that it will kill cancer more than it kills you. Overdosing on anything, from turmeric to vitamin c can interfere with your body’s natural ability to absorb nutrients and block receptors. (we’re not talking about adding an extra teaspoon to your dal, we’re talking about supplements approaching a gram of turmeric several times a day)
And cancer is fucking terrifying. It’s a new growth, a mutated part of your own body that wants to eat the rest of your body. Dozens of doctors and specialists come along with treatments that make you feel awful and have side effects as long as your arm any one of which would give you pause if you weren’t potentially dying. All of this means your life becomes one big pile of uncertainty and you don’t feel in control.
The desire to feel in control is completely and utterly understandable.
Every person who gets cancer has to decide what, if any, treatment they will undertake. Some choose a naturopathic route and that works out OK for them. Some take the chemotherapy route and experience all the side effects and they die anyway.
I’ve considered the evidence and I’m going down the chemo route (with all the support, from the dieticians to the physiotherapists to the oncologists to the existentialist psychotherapist and more, that the NHS can and will give me.
So while I recognise that this route doesn’t work for everyone, I ask for any and all of you to respect the choices, however stupid and wrong you think they are, of those who have to make these choices and not foist your own values on them.
Had a bit of a wobble today when I scratched my head and pulled out a pinch of hair. Realised it was time to take back control, and not in the Brexit blue passport sense. Bought a pair of shears and gave myself the lovely new haircut you see in the attached photo.
Have had first round of chemotherapy. I feel… pretty good, actually. Despite the hair. I’m due for the second round on Friday and sort of assumed that side effects from round one were over, hence the wobble. Getting a reasonable amount of exercise, going to work around 3 days a week for around 5 hours at a time (working from home otherwise). Nesta have been incredibly supportive, from moving me onto the investments team (with a lot of fascinating opportunities to work with some really good companies – a good follow-up from my BGV days). I still get tired but it’s almost like I haven’t got a fist-sized lump of mutated me trying to kill the rest of me. Almost.
So, overall, doing well, feeling good, getting stronger, working, and enjoying every sandwich.
Glad to hear from you. Prayers and internet’s hugs coming your way.
Every sandwich Glen! Good advice for everyone. Courage!
Sage words and love the positivity with the hair, taking control.
You asked for some normalcy. I’m pretty sure no ones life is normal. I mean I now live in a house with 1 wife, 3 sparky kids, 2 burmese cats (one who attacks with the slightest of provocations), 2 goldfish, 1 au pair (because of all the previous) and a lodger.
We spend way too much time in our Wembley home thinking about food, where we’re going to travel next, and how to avoid the neighbours who are simply crazy. We have a street whatsapp which is full of people saying “Cats, they’ve literally killed all the birds around here” and others responding primly with “I wake up every morning to birdsong, that simply isn’t true.”
My youngest and middle kids are obsessed with Pokemon, and we’ve banned all screens in the house during the week. My eldest daughter (13) has started a youtube series on how to dance various KPop songs, but wisely behind a mask. I have to say, am being taught by my kids, which is great.
Life is super messy though, isn’t it. As my wife works in palliative care (all her patients die, coincidence? I think not 😉 we see the raw end, though I’ve got other friends who’ve had very poor (short time left) prognosis who are recovering well, and getting on with the next stage of their lives.
It really sounds like you’re grabbing this cancer by its horns and doing everything you can to be a survivor. Keep doing this, it’s amazing. Best of luck for Friday.
Dear Internet, stop putting so much bollocks on the internet about cancer – Glen
Howandever, I cannot imagine, that there was / is not a single barber in Brixton that couldn’t have put a nice fade in that big old skull of yours? I can imagine many words to put in that fade.
Dear G— reading this, I almost expected to read some “cup of Jesus” moment that many who have to face death have: the “what am i doing with my life??” Moment when they decide to join a monastery or a rock band. But reading your blog, it’s clear you cancer is pain in the ass, not a wake up call— you still love your job, your life, your wife, sandwiches—all of it. What a blessing. Not to diminish your dealing with cancer thing (which obviously sucks), but my first thought at the end of your article was “he’s the luckiest man alive.”
And so of course you’ll beat this thing. So proud to know you. Big love