Again

Up again, unable to sleep because of the pain.

I’ve just taken some morphine (15ml, should you be interested), and that will kick in soon.  It doesn’t quite take the pain away, but numbs it enough for me to be able to function.

I had to sign the poisons book at the pharmacy when I picked up my prescription.  A month ago, the strongest thing I’d take would be soluble paracetamol with codeine.  Now I’m signing the poisons register and have a tattoo.

Cancer’s turning me into a bad boy.

But, there are limits.

Several people have recommended marijuana as a way to ease the pain and even aid recovery – either in oil or its more regular form.  But I won’t do it.

I know it’s not a powerful drug, and the stuff I’m prescribed for my high blood pressure is probably far more potent – but I’ve never taken any form of illegal drug in my life, and I don’t want to start now.

Not because of its legality.  I’m simply not interested.  Never have been, never will.  Just not my thing.

I can almost hear the critical among you ranting that I take a legal drug – in the form of alcohol – quite openly (or, at least, I did), and that’s far worse than using marijuana can ever be.

That’s probably the case.  But – not interested.

I’ve heard many, many cases of people being rewarded with powerful pain relief through its use.

Wonderful.  Still not interested.

I’m not being a snob, or a wimp, or a goody-goody, and I would never criticise anyone if they decided to use the stuff for medical or recreational purposes.

I’m just not interested.

My drink was whisky.  Single malt.  I gave up on beer several years ago as it just started to make me feel bloated and gassy.

Kirsty thinks I drank a lot, and she may be right.  Sometimes I’d have three or four glasses in an evening with ice, which can equal half a bottle.

In the cold light of day, that is a lot.  Certainly more than the government wants me to consume.  All that units per week stuff.

Why am I worrying about this?  Because it’s possible – just possible – that drinking caused my cancer.  I can never be certain that’s the case, but then I can never be certain it isn’t.

The doctors all asked if I smoke (no), have ever smoked (no).  Then ‘do you drink alcohol’ was always the third question.

When I think of a ‘heavy drinker’, I think of some of the people I used to serve when I worked behind a pub bar many years ago.  People who arrived straight from work, sat at the same position at the bar, every night, and downed one drink after another until it was closing time.

And, sometimes, they’d stay behind for a lock-in ’til two or three in the morning.

That wasn’t me.  I’ve never done that.  But it doesn’t stop me asking the question…

Did I do this to myself?

Am I directly responsible for my cancer?

As you’ll know if you’ve read the other posts here, both my parents died from cancer.  Other people in my close family have also had their own their own encounters with the disease.

That must count for something.

We’re susceptible to it.

But the thought that I caused this myself – that I’m the reason for the stress and upset and worry my family are going through right now – is horrible.

If that’s the case, then I deserve the agony of my forthcoming treatment.

Christ, that’s a dark thought.

But then, it is the middle of the bloody night again – and you know what that does when you start thinking.  What is it about the dark that makes your mind not only wander, but actively take the steps down to the unlit cellar?

Everyone else in the house is asleep.  The vast majority of the country is in the same position.  But, here and there – there are lights on in windows.  People like me, unable to sleep because of pain or worry or plain old insomnia.

All of us having our worries amplified by the dark outside.

It’s like a club.  A club that none of us wanted to join.

I wonder what the t-shirt would look like?

window

I can feel the morphine kicking in now.  Everything is turning dull.  Fuzzy.  There, but not sharp.  Like background music or one of those apps you can get so you can listen to the rain to help you fall asleep.

I’ve got one of those.  Kirsty and I use it quite frequently.  It’s really good.  You can set it to rainfall, the sound of a babbling brook, forest noises – or even the ambience of a train station or coffee shop.

White noise, they call it.

White noise in the dark night.

I worry that these posts come across as self-pitying.  Or, worse, playing on the emotions of you, dear reader.

I promise you that’s not the case.  I’m just trying to be honest about what I’m going through, and how it makes me feel.

My sister pointed out, quite correctly, that if my Mum had been around to read any of these blog entries, she’d have given me a good talking to.  She’d have told me to pull myself up by my bootstraps.  If I can’t cope with the parking situation at a hospital, then how the hell will I get through six weeks of radiotherapy?

She’s right, of course.  Now’s the time I have to be stronger than ever.  Tougher than ever.  Dwelling on what ifs, and how longs won’t do me any good at all.

I do try to be strong.  Really.  It’s just that I’m scared.

Really scared.

I can’t think of another time in my life that I’ve been so scared.

Oh, there have been moments.  Watching first my Mum, then my Dad come closer and closer to passing away.

Passing away.  I really couldn’t bring myself to type the word ‘dying’ then.  I even had to force myself in that last sentence.

There was also a time when Arran was much younger and we couldn’t find him when we went to pick him up after school.  We drove round and round, asked at reception, called his friends – but there was no sign of him.  No-one knew where he was.

We found him – forty five minutes later – outside the playground of a different school nearby.  There hadn’t been any parking spaces outside his own school that day, so he’d kept on walking until he reached somewhere with a gap where we could pull in and collect him.  He hadn’t thought that we’d need to know where he was in order to do so.

Totally innocent, but the fear you go through when you can’t find one of your kids…

That was scary.

But this…  This is different.  This is like a constant buzzing noise at the back of my head.  And even if I manage to tune that out, every now and again…

WHAM!

It all comes back to me.

Hey Tommy – you’ve got cancer!

It’s that word, isn’t it?

That bastard word.

I’m a writer; I know how powerful words can be.  But, that one…

It’s a killer.  In more ways than one.

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9 Comments


  1. Oh, Tommy.

    You don’t come across as self-pitying in these blog posts: you sound raw and honest. Revealing yourself in a very brave way. I’ve found it hard reading, but am glad I’m reading along with you.

    There’s no point in worrying about what might have caused your illness: it won’t let you go back in time and undo anything; and you didn’t drink with the intention of causing your family pain, so why beat yourself up about it now?

    Keep on keeping on. You’re doing well, and have so many people walking beside and behind you, cheering you on. Take heart, lovely.

    Reply

  2. You are not being weak because you had a meltdown – the phrase “the straw that broke the camel’s back” is true. You have had so much to put up with and the parking problem was your last straw.

    As for you somehow being responsible for your condition – rubbish! We all know stories of the person who got lung cancer who never smoked or drank, and the guy who lived to 90 on 40 a day. Cancer’s a truly vile disease and sometimes it’s just a throw of the dice as to who gets it and who doesn’t. There is no way you can or should blame yourself for being ill. One thing that does seem true tho is that it always seems to happen to the good people – and you certainly fit in that category.

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  3. Hi, Tommy. I just found your posts through your James Cordon request. I hope he retweets, but if everyone does what I did – result!! I’ve now read all the other things you’ve posted, and I know nobody can understand till they’ve been there, and nobody wishes it on anyone else. We all have to be stoic, dig our heels in and just get on with the battle to win the war. No help when you feel like the troops have all left you, but if they have, theyre just on a break, and you’re never really alone. I’m getting over an MS relapse, and I know sometimes you have to have a rant and shout, and then let it go with a good big bawling cry. When its done, battle face back on and head down and keep going (*_*) Been there in the middle of the night, same as countless others, but turn the page of life and move on to the next chapter. Its gonna be a hell of a story, and everyone’s different.
    Keep us posted, we’re all here with you in the fight xx

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  4. Tommy, let me tell you one thing for absolute certain: you do NOT deserve what you’re going through at the moment. You do NOT. Please repeat that as often as you need to to banish that thought.

    People blame themselves all the time for medical situations. Women blame themselves for miscarriages, parents blame themselves for things that happen to their children, people with illnesses look for causes and often find them in themselves or perfectly normal things they did. Cancer comes from loads of causes, rarely just one thing but a combination of factors over most of which you have no more control than you have control over the air you breathe as you walk through a shopping centre. So, banish those thoughts: they are not logical, not helpful and not kind to yourself! But they are very easy thoughts to have in the middle of the night when you’re in pain, I know.

    Reply

  5. I remember when my mum was diagnosed, my step-mum who became my mum – I already lost the first one – careless, anyway, I remember when my mum was diagnosed and they told us. I was ten maybe? And I couldn’t believe what they were saying, I honestly thought cancer didn’t exist on our country, it was a foreign thing, a thing of the past, like TB and cholera and typhoid…yep, that word is laced with venom.

    Tommy, there is no point dwelling on where it might have come from, we all do dumb things: drink too much, drive too fast, work to hard…stuff happens. Sometimes it does, what matters is now and you are doing everything you can, no one can ask more of a person x

    Reply

  6. Thanks for posting this and all your other blog posts. I hope that sharing is helping you. I am sure it helps others. My daughter takes morphine for an ongoing condition so it was useful to me to know what kind of effect is has, besides the pain numbing one.

    Reply

  7. Sorry to hear you have cancer Tommy.

    I will be forcing lots of small children to read your books.

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  8. It’s absolutely not your fault, Tommy; you have nothing to feel guilty about. Mammals are always getting cancer, on the cellular level. We count on our immune systems to nab those aberrant cells, and they do a bang-up job for a good long while for most people. And then they miss one. If we all lived long enough, we’d all get cancer. We all have incredibly complex combinations of risk factors, but the bigger picture is that it’s a result of the mammalian metabolism and that there’s a whole lot of random chance involved on the “when” part. It’s nothing more than terrible luck that it’s happened to you at this moment.

    Reply

  9. Hello Tommy. My take:
    Cancer is Satan’s curse on man. To defeat, turn to God. Pray Our Father. That’s what Jesus taught his disciples. In the morning and in the evening. Pray it alone, quietly. Or in a church. Believe in the Almighty. He can wrest you back from Satan’s clutches.
    Or pray like Muhammad taught his followers: turn towards Mecca, 5x a day (that must be in Arabic). God/Allah is one, and Jesus and Muhammad are His prophets.
    You are certainly not a wimp. We all appreciate your honesty in detailing your fight. Keep it up. Pray, prostrate, supplicate. Satan might just withdraw, cursing.
    Of course, I do not mean that you should stop therapy. Continue with it. But doctors are clueless about cancer and are just going through the motions.
    Good luck and may the Almighty hear you out.

    Reply

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