So, I’m now three weeks through my cancer treatment.
R15/15 – C3/3
And I feel dreadful. I really do. I’d like to be able to offer some words of comfort for anyone else who is having to go through this and say that it won’t be as bad as everyone promises, but I just can’t do that.
On top of the side-effects previously mentioned, I’m now spitting up gobs of yellow/brown stringy goo – the result, I’m led to believe, of no longer producing saliva.
It’s disgusting, and has rendered me almost mute. I can’t open my mouth to talk without looking like an extra from a bad zombie movie.
And I’ve got another three weeks of this shit to come.
Which is why I’m not celebrating this milestone at all. Other people are – Kirsty, the boys, well-wishers, etc. But, all I can think of ‘if this is what it’s like after week three, what will I feel like after week five, or six?’
I’m dreading it.
Really dreading it.
But that doesn’t mean I’m giving up.
It’s not the same.
I was visited by the nutritionist on Friday, who happened to mention that I’ve reached the stage where a lot of people give up on their treatment. They simply say ‘no more’, and walk away.
Well, what she actually said was that they ‘lose’ a lot of patients at this stage of the treatment, then hastily corrected herself when she saw the expression of horror wash over my face.
But, I can’t imagine doing that, no matter how much the idea of never going back appeals to me. I’ve started down this path, and I’ll get to the end of it.
I’ve never been one for giving up.
Quite the opposite.
I was four years old when I decided I wanted to be on stage.
I remember the moment quite clearly…
I was at the wedding of my Dad’s brother Les, to his new bride, Lin. I sat at the reception, listening to the band play and seeing how much fun everyone was getting out of what they were playing and singing.
I wanted some of that for myself!
So, at the end of the next song, I approached the guy at the front and asked if I could sing with them (as you would).
Three minutes and one rousing rendition of ‘On Mother Kelly’s Doorstep‘ later, I got my first round of applause. And that was it.
From then on, if I spotted something that I wanted to do – something I thought I’d be good at doing – I went for it hook, line and sinker.
School plays, drama clubs, weekend retreats… I got into them all way before the prescribed age level and worked hard until I got better and better roles.
Then came the world of work…
I left college early to take up a position as a Bluecoat at Pontins on the Isle of Wight. This was in the company’s heyday of the mid-80s, when they had 23 different holiday parks open, and a job there was still seen as a potential stepping-stone into the entertainment business.
I spent two weeks as a general ‘Blue’, then was asked to move to run the children’s side of the programme as ‘Uncle Tommy’!
No, it didn’t sound quite that bad in 1986…
After two years on the Isle of Wight, I moved to run the kids’ programme at Pontins Barton Hall in Torquay for another two. Then, I set my sights a little further afield.
The world of cruise liners.
The way I saw it, cruise liners were floating holiday parks. It couldn’t be much of a jump to move from one to the other. So, I went down to the travel agents, picked up a handful of brochures and wrote in to the companies I liked the look of. They must all need a good children’s entertainers like me.
One of them – CTC Cruise Lines – ran cruises to both the Caribbean and Russia in the same year. I really liked the sound of them.
But, they wrote back to say they didn’t employ a children’s entertainer on board any of their ships.
So, I wrote back, saying that they should.
And I created a mini-programme of events to show just how much fun younger passengers would have if I was there to run things.
Following a trip to London for an interview, I started work on board the MV Kareliya in February 1991.
I travelled the world – including extended cruises down the Amazon River, circumnavigating Africa, and to the far north of Scandinavia to witness the midnight sun (as well as those trips to Russia and the Caribbean).
I met some wonderful people and brilliant entertainers – many of whom I’m thrilled to say I’m still in touch with today! The hilariously musical Kimika (Nick and Tina), Steve Wright (puppets), Martin Brand (vocalist), Tom and Deese Bell as Rainbow Cascade (magicians), Dave Derek (band leader), a whole stable-full of dancers and many more.
Eventually, I was promoted to onboard Entertainments Manager, staying until the company had a change of policy where the entertainment was concerned – then it was time to find something new.
A role which I spotted from the dress circle.
I went along with my Mum and Dad to see Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story at the Empire Theatre in Liverpool. It was a fantastic show, charting the life of one of the founding fathers of rock ‘n’ roll.
The culmination of the show is a 45 minute recreation of Buddy’s last concert, on the night he was destined to die with The Big Bopper and Ritchie Valens.
But, that wasn’t what interested me most.
Before the concert, the curtain was dropped and a character called the Clearlake MC came out to warm-up the audience while the concert set was built, out of sight.
I was gobsmacked.
It was as though they’d written a part just for me!
I wrote to the producers when I got home. A few weeks later, I was standing on the stage of the Victoria Palace Theatre in London, a guitar strung around my neck, ready to audition…
…for a completely different part.
They were auditioning me for the role of Murray Deutch – Buddy’s New York music promoter (the actor of which also understudied The Big Bopper).
But, that wasn’t what I wanted.
And I knew I’d only be standing on that stage one time.
So, I told the director, Paul Mills, who was auditioning me…
“This isn’t the part I’d like to audition for…”
“This is Murray Deutch.”
“I’d like to audition for the Clearlake MC.”
“I’d rather show you than tell you…”
Rifling of papers, whispering, pencil scratches.
“Can someone go and get him an MC script?”
A script was passed up to the stage, and I went for it.
Gave it all I got.
I played the MC in Buddy for a total of eight years, first at the Victoria Palace Theatre, and then the Strand Theatre in the West End. I also enjoyed six months on the national UK tour, and just under three months in the show at the Princess of Wales Theatre in Toronto.
Once again, I’m delighted to still be in touch with so many amazing people from that time – including Paul Mills, the brilliant and wise director who reluctantly agreed to let me audition for the part I wanted!
Buddy closed in March 2002, the result of falling box-office figures following the tragedy of 9/11 a few months earlier. The show still goes out on the road to tour from time to time, and I highly recommend you see it if you can.
As for me, I went into children’s theatre – moving to the north east of England where I met Kirsty – and then finally quitting the day job to write full time on 30th September 2006.
I’ve been at that for just under ten years now.
Which is why I’m not giving in with my treatment. As much as I’d love just to crawl back into bed for a week and hide myself away right now, I won’t do it.
The battle continues.
Heads up cancer. Round four.