A few days later and the chemo side effects are declined. The neuropathy isn’t a serious problem, just a sharp twinge every so often. There is some nausea, but the anti-emetics seem to work. Tiredness too, as in hard to get up and moving in the morning. But all containable.

Chemo is truly a blunt instrument. I came across a quote from the film critic Joel Siegel who fought colon cancer for over a decade (he died in 2007) – he said chemo is like “beating a dog with a stick to kill fleas.” It’s understandable that people give up on it; the cure being worse than the illness. It’s tragic when it is the only option available, as it was for someone I learnt today has died from her cancer.

The only philosopher I follow on Twitter (@alaindebotton) has a short review in today’s Independent in praise of the La Rochefoucauld maxims. These are written by a French nobleman and writer, François VI, duc de La Rochefoucauld, prince de Marcillac, who lived from 1613-1680.

There are around 562 maxims in total, each separately numbered. Here are a couple of examples:

“Philosophy easily triumphs over past ills and ills to come, but present ills triumph over philosophy.”


“Preserving your health by too strict a diet is a tedious illness.”


“We promise according to our hopes and perform according to our fears.”

and perhaps my favourite:

L’esprit est toujours la dupe du coeur. (“The mind is always the dupe of the heart.”)

As Alain puts it “There’s a widespread view that when someone is sad, what they most need is cheerfulness. But in truth, what they need is a dose of pessimism so powerful that their own problems will come to seem minor in comparison.”

You will be disgusted but not surprised that I am cooking fine meals and drinking (a fine Cote de Rousillion earlier this week, an as-yet untried Italian Pinot Nero for tonight). Oh yes, in moderation!!!

The US Marines have a slogan “Pain is weakness leaving the body“. I’m not at that level of courage I’m afraid. I can only take my distraction in music, thought and a glass.

I will listen to Max Richter – Written On Sky as I sip that Pinot Nero, and think of those less lucky than I.