You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘Paul Kingsnorth’ tag.

Went to Oncology in late July to hear the results from the CT scan I had many weeks before that. Short summary is there was no good news. It’s still progressive, which is bad, but then there’s nothing new or catastrophic to report either. Most of my tumours are increasing in size. For example, the largest area of soft tissue on my upper left lung went from 37mm to 46mm and continues to obstruct the left upper lobe. It’s pushing against my left pulmonary artery and I must hope that it doesn’t push through to trigger the La Traviata outcome. There is more soft tissue in the pelvic area, in something called the presacral space, which tends to cause pain in the lower back and hips.

Also on the agenda was my suitability for the drug trial. The genetic screening result came back negative – I’m not in the 20% minority and don’t have the right wrong gene. Therefore there’s no place for me on the amusingly-named “STARTRK” trial, and I won’t be boldly going anywhere.

One interesting revelation was I could still opt for more chemotherapy, if I so desired. I said that I didn’t think I wanted to do so. I now regard chemo like the “dead cat bounce” they talk about in stock markets. The poison kills enough cells and pauses growth to make a short term impact, but it isn’t lasting. It may even provoke my over-eager genetic triggers to produce even more cancerous cells as a response. I left enough wiggle room so the consultant could tell me what a fool I was, and that it was best for me, but generally he agreed that my decision was “right for me”.

At least the Thoracic Park adventure continues. I was there just after for a spot of injecting, cutting and general vacuuming of the lung tissues. They’d left it a while since my last visit, and I think they’d forgotten me until I reminded them. But they did a tidy, neat job, and I’m better for it. Unlike the Piss Factory, who seem to have finished with me now, without so much as a farewell night out.

So, where does this leave me, Doc? I’m a bit of a conundrum to them. When I first appeared on their horizon in 2009 I was something of a classic “type 4” – advanced cancer, diagnosed late, wonky stem cells, poor prognosis, etc. But (with their help and treatment) I’m turning into more of a “type 2” where the decline is of the slower variety. Just another reminder that any specific cancer is really many different forms of disease hitting the same organ, and any cure has very many targets to pursue, with all the excitement and frustration that entails. They can’t do very much, but at the same time not much is going badly. Remember I’m supposed to be on a “two years, probably not five” countdown and that timer started 20 months ago. I have to say I don’t feel like I’ve used up >80% of the allotted time. Maybe it feels more like the 33% option.

This is clearly a good thing. The longer, the better. But at the same time there is no certainty. I’ve just read Paul Kingsnorth’s novel “Beast” about a would-be hermit, alone on the moor and probably unhinged, who stalks and/or is stalked by a mysterious big cat (very Beast of Bodmin). There’s a sentence in it that makes me think of cancer: “I am in the presence of something that does not know time“. Michael Faber’s short book of poems “Undying” tries to make sense of it all while watching his wife Eva die from cancer over a six-year period. He calls it “a harmony of dark biology“. On the one hand, more time is good. On the other hand, who doesn’t want to wake from a nightmare where you are being stalked by the dark beast? To quote Umberto Eco: “is this not a death undying?“. Yet I know that I am definitely no Tithonus, doomed to get older without ever dying.

I am fairly sanguine about it all. I am equally concerned about putting some vivification back into my life. We went away twice in July, which can be a big deal for me and my personal medical supplies mobile apothecary. It all went pretty well. I connected with as much of the wildness in man and nature as I wanted. The pleasures required are small and simple – a type of bird or butterfly will do it. Maybe my role now is just to get on with it, smile a bit, and not be too much of a cancer bore. “To be a rock and not to roll”, as the song says. You’d think that under the circumstances one would want to gorge on life’s pleasures before time runs out, to take in all the sapori e saperi that is to be had. But the appetite is weak.

Meanwhile, the Exterminating Angel smiles, and moves along.

There must be something I can dream tonight” sings Patti Smith in “Elegie”, her tribute initially to the memory of Jimi Hendrix and then later on to the memories of everyone she has known who has died. All the friends who can’t be with her today.

The writers of sad and sombre elégies for those that have died from cancer have had a busy time of it in the past month or two. A roll call in the style of Patti would include: Lemmy, David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Terry Wogan, Umberto Eco. I lie in bed listening to the news of their deaths on Radio 4 and I wonder how others hear it when the word “cancer” gets mentioned. You wonder if other people try to decode the hidden messages: “following a short illness”, “long and brave struggle”, “short battle”, and so on. Whether they try to map those shorthand codes onto cancer types such as Liver or Pancreatic. Or is it all too much for them to cogitate? Just another reminder of the arbitrary cruelty. Another horror story of a fatal shark attack in what should have been a tropical paradise. I suspect as much.

“There must be something I can dream tonight”, Patti Smith may have thought when she sat down to write “M Train“, her book of memories that could be subtitled “Elegy in a New York Coffee Shop”. The dream she actually got was of a laconic cowboy who tells her that “It’s not so easy writing about nothing.” I think it is a sad but fascinating book. It’s haunted by death. I worry that she is depressed, but she writes ” I slip into a light but lingering malaise. Not depression, more like a fascination for melancholia.” I like the way her stories weave through things I recognise. I’ve only ever stayed in one hotel in Tokyo, and she writes about the Hotel Okura. She talks about the avenue of plane trees on Jesus Green, which is one of the prettiest views in Cambridge. And she reminds me that I really, really need to go visit Wittgenstein’s grave, given it is less than 1/2 a mile from where I now sit and write. One for the Spring.

Just like Elvis, I’ve found a new place to dwell. I’ve started to hang out at the Urology Clinic. Or, as I like to call it (in homage to Patti Smith), The Piss Factory. It may seem like an ungrateful name, but I do mean it kindly and everything we talk about and do there involves the pissing function.

Well, the boys in the Piss Factory they made a date for me at the end of January. They gave me a spinal anaesthetic so that I felt nothing from the waist down. Then they hollowed me out so that my piss could flow again. They call it TURP, I call it re:Boredom. They chipped away a few stones while they were in there. That infection wasn’t long putting down its crystalline roots. After, the surgeon said “those bits I took out from your prostate don’t look benign to me”. But only Pathology can tell.

It’s a bit bloody and messy this gouging of the prostate so they put the catheter back in after. Three days later I’m back at the Nurse-led clinic and they remove it. “Go drink”, I’m told, “piss twice to get rid of the blood, then report back”. I sit in the waiting room next to the water cooler and drink. Then drink some more. And some more. But I just sit there, no urge at all. I report back with my failure. Ultra-sound happens. “Not enough fluid”. “Go drink some more”. But even after more lunchtime drinks and a pint sized cup of coffee it’s not happening. I’m ready to give up and report back again. I’m on the couch. It’s so hot in here, hot like Sahara. I’m in the room and the nurse says “Try one more time” offering me the plastic beaker of forlorn effort. Then I feel this sensation, a little painful but not much, and suddenly my piss flows like the Tiber and carries with it this big wad of clotted blood. I fill the beaker of hope.

But I never know when to stop, do I? It trickles and drips constantly. I’m on the pads. I put in a mental order for a bulk shipment of the Big Boi Pee Pee Pants.

They send me home from the Piss Factory with the phone number of a medical devices company sales rep and a couple of spare pads. We stop at the supermarket chemist to buy some emergency supplies. Days pass, and I make contact with the sales rep. He has to come around, it’s a personalised measurement. He leaves me with a sample. I try it and it is good. I have to get a GP prescription. Best appointment offer is +3 weeks. I go in personally. Long story short, a kind receptionist takes my case on and later that day I have a prescription to collect. But the doctor has written me up for 4 pairs of underwear ranging from small through medium to large. What does she expect is going to happen to me? Can she even be trusted to buy her own knickers? The struggle begins again with the Pharmacy. If I am lucky, and roughly 4 weeks after the great De-catherisation, I may have ample supplies. It’s not dignified sharing this with you. Or over-sharing this with you, probably. But this is the grind that grinds you down when it should be all about Mindfulness and stuff, innit, and getting your head in the right place. As Virginia Woolf once said: “I meant to write about death, but life came breaking in as usual.

In between, there was a CT scan and the results were back this week. The lumps that are blocking my prostate are cancerous. While I was considering the curious case of the cancer in the meantime, I had been wondering if this would be a new primary cancer (Prostate) or just some new metastases from the original CRC. It’s the latter, which I suppose is some small consolation.

There is better news from Thoracic Park. The cryotherapy they did has significantly reduced the size of the lesion in the trachea, and the hoovering-out of the gunk from my bronchus has helped my lung upper left lobe to regain some of its function. It means I can breathe better and I’m coughing up a lot less blood. Excellent palliative stuff, will keep me going longer.

It’s like being in the Anglo-saxon world that Paul Kingsnorth writes about in “The Wake“. The Anglo-saxon word for the body is “Banhus“, which is translatable to “bone house” in modern English. What a truly fucked-up banhus I have. The Anglo-saxon word for piss is “Hland“. You’ve read this far, so I guess my hland is your hland. But best of all is “Dustsceawung“, which means to consider the melancholy that accompanies ruin and decay. The dust sadness.