Malignant Developments

About three years ago, my Nan Jackie (being my dad’s mother) was diagnosed with lung cancer. Lung cancer is the second most common type of diagnosed cancer in the UK after breast cancer, and its instance increases significantly in smokers and ex-smokers. Nan J was a smoker for most of her life, though she gave up some five or six years back.

My Gran couldn’t tell me herself; it was my mum who made the call to me, and my Nan called an hour or so later to talk about it. I didn’t know how I felt about the whole thing, really. It’s only this year that I’ve ever experienced personal loss, when my Dadcu died, so three years ago I was certain that my family were immortal and would continue being old, curmudgeonly, but unfailingly present in my life.

Infinite, infallible, Immortal.

Infinite, infallible, Immortal.

The detection of the cancer was quite early through the cycle, because Nan J had emphysema and was x-rayed for a check up on that. The likelihood of survival in cases of cancer, especially lung cancer, increases the earlier it’s detected, so for that I am eternally grateful.

After a course of chemotherapy, the tumor was announced to be in remission, and we all stopped holding our breath. Some time went by and I stopped thinking about the cancer. Not having learned enough was my downfall here. I thought that ‘in remission’ meant ‘gone forever.’ Not the case.

I can’t think on the timescale. I’ve always found it hard to keep track of dates in my mind and so things are often not concrete for me.

Regardless of when it was, the tumor became active again. This time, it was harder. The chemotherapy alone wasn’t enough, so they put her on radiotherapy, and she lost her hair. Despite being in her sixties, Nan J still had hair like straw, yellow and wispy. There were bits of grey creeping in here and there around her ears and temples, but for the majority, still blonde. The wig she got was sleeker than her natural hair, darker but with honeyed highlights.

Eventually, the tumor faded into remission again. Presumably, her hair began to return, and the horrible effects of the cancer and the treatments faded away. I have spoken to her plenty but not seen her; the distance from Lancaster to Llanelli is substantial.

Unfortunately, cancer subverts reality and resists true elimination from a person’s body. After a few months of phonecalls which were punctuated by harsh coughing fits, it’s been confirmed again; the cancer is back.

Through the whole ordeal, Nan Jackie has been steadfastly ignoring the fact that lung cancer is the most common cause of lethality in cancer sufferers. Only around 30% of people survive for more than a year after initial diagnosis, and less than 10% survive for five years or more.*

When my Nan started losing her hair, I decided that a show of solidarity would be one of the best ways I could support her, and so I began to grow my hair. Nan Jackie might already have her wig, but there are people out there who can’t get them. The Little Princess Trust is a charity who makes real-hair wigs for children who are dealing with hairloss. At the time, the required minimum length was 10″ and by the time my hair was getting close to that, my gran was back in remission. The idea fell by the wayside.

Now though, the minimum length is 7″ which I’m sure I have. Besides, whether or not my gran is recieving treatment, there will always be a need for donations to worth-while charities.

So the long and short of it is that I’d like people to donate money to my hair-cutting effort so I can give my hair to TLPT and some donation to Cancer Research UK. I’ve made a Just Giving page, Alice’s Page, so it’s safe and secure, and I’ll be writing with more details of the actual haircut soon, but basically, here’s the info – Sponsored Hair Cut.


Sorry this post isn’t up to the standard of my usual writing; I was finding it hard to get into writing-mood but wanted to get this up sooner rather than later.


*Stats sourced from Cancer Research UK website.


Dog Hair

I got a phone call from home last night. This may not seem like anything that’s particularly remarkable to any of you, but it did shock me to see ‘Incoming call – Home’ flashing up on my screen. My parents are supportive to the very end, in a passive way. If I phone home, I get all the praise, encouragement, advice and support in the world – my Mum (cookingwithwine) in particular is truly fantastic at making me feel as if I really CAN achieve my goals. However, they are the kind of people inclined to let me get on with my own life, and are very happy that I’ve become independent and in control (to an extent) of my own life. They know I’m having problems and help me with them when I phone, but don’t push their advice down my throat – something for which I am eternally grateful.

So when my mum phoned last night, I had to wonder why. We chatted for a little while, I told her about my new job prospects and she told me about how they spent my stepdad’s birthday. Then came the time to mention the Giraffe. It had been in the room the whole time, but we’d been purposefully ignoring it. My mum started off with ‘I’ve got something rather not nice to tell you’. This was enough in itself to chill me. Last time someone said anything like that to me was the morning of February 11th 2008, when I was on my way to the bathroom. Julian, my stepdad stopped me and told me that Bob, our family dog, ‘was no longer with us’. He’d been run over. Now, I don’t throw up. When I’m ill, or drunk or terrified, it’s just not something that I do, but I really thought that the sob that rose in my chest that day had to be more than just misery and sorrow.

So, my mum had something ‘not very nice’ to tell me. My heart started pounding and I sat down from where I’d been stood in front of the heater.

‘I’ve got something not very nice to tell you about your Nan Jackie. She’s got cancer. Lung cancer.’

I don’t know how many of you have ever looked up certain statistics relating to cancer, but about 107 people per day are diagnosed with lung cancer in the UK alone. That’s a lot of cancer. And it’s not even the most common, that being prostate in men and bowel and breast in women. But lung cancer is the most common cause of cancer death in the UK. Less that 10% of people diagnosed survive for at least five years after initial diagnosis.

So cancer is…prevalent. Common, even. I knew most of these statistics this time yesterday, before I was aware of it being in my immediate family, but it had never crossed my mind, even for a split second, that someone in my family would get it. My Dadcu is a very ill man, he has angina and all kinds of other problems, so it never occurred that another of my grandparents would be struck with an illness that is associated (at least in my mind) with death. I face, potentially, losing two members of my immediate family in the next few years.

This is a terrifying prospect to me. Until now, the worst things in this area I’ve had to deal with are the death of my great auntie Liz to breast cancer about eight years ago, and the aforementioned death of Bob. So I have no idea how something like this would affect me, were it to happen.

I guess I just thought they’d always be there. Facing mortality on a personal scale is a sobering thing.

I certainly thought that Bob would be a consistent thing all through my life. I was young when we got him, maybe about four years old. ‘Bob’ was my brother’s first word. He was a small, boisterous puppy when we adopted him. Labrador/pointer mix, black with a white stripe on his tummy. Certainly the most friendly, dopey, lovable creature you could ever hope to come across. I miss him so much, still. The photos are all that are left now, and the occasional short black hair I find amongst my thing, in between the pages of books and other places like that. I guess it’ll be the same if anyone else I value were to pass away – you’ll never stop finding things that make you think about them.

I will make them proud of me before they die.

I stood on the millennium bridge a few nights ago. My mp3 player had run out of charge, I was alone, it was late and dark and cold. It was the first time in a long time that I thought about suicide while I was actually within real potential of doing it in a long time. I was filled with a morbid curiosity – what would it be like to just jump? Would the water be as icy cold as the air, or warmer? Would it be like drifting off to death, or is it a violent way to go? If there is an afterlife, would I have to spend it wet and full of sand? how long would it take people to notice that I was gone? Clearly, I decided not to try it out just to see.

Theglaivemaster and I are ‘taking a break’ from our relationship. That’s something that I thought happened in trashy novels and soap operas, not in real life. But for us, the decision was reached not through any shouting or arguing or disagreement. It was a sensible, adult, frank and honest discussion. I shan’t delve into reasons here, but we agreed that a little bit of time and space might be what I need to turn back into myself. So that’s what we’re trying at the moment. We both came out of the talk very optimistic that we’d made the correct decision and that our relationship was clearly healthy enough to have this kind of honesty.

I think we’re both finding it much harder than we anticipated. While it’s great to be able to sleep however I like and whenever I like, I do miss the cuddling and the kissing and the little sweet intimate things that happen between couples. We’re staying good friends throughout this break, and when we’re together it’s hard not to hold his hand and other such things. None the less, we must persevere – things are difficult but usually worth it.

I want to start writing but neither ideas nor words will come to me.

Bob The Dog Rees