No

So, I’m now three weeks through my cancer treatment.

R15/15 – C3/3

Half way.

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.

It’s horrible.

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.

MV Kareliya

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…

“Excuse me?”

“Yes?”

“This isn’t the part I’d like to audition for…”

Brief silence.

“What?”

“This is Murray Deutch.”

“Yes.”

“I’d like to audition for the Clearlake MC.”

More silence.

“Why?”

“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.

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21 Comments


  1. I can’t imagine how much you must be dreading the next three weeks, but think about how amazing it’s going to feel as you get up from that final session. You’re feeling the side effects of the treatment, but that bastard cancer is getting the full-force, laser-targeted impact of it. Imagine how it must be feeling right now, desperately trying to hold on as you nuke it out of existence.

    Stay strong, my friend. So proud of how far you’ve come, and with you every step of the journey.

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  2. Tommy you cheeky tyke! You clearly have sound training in not giving in – I love that you don’t take no for an answer! Thinking of you x

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  3. Fight it Tommy – come so far now, no turning back!

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  4. Absolutely fascinating to read about the things you have done and seen along your journey through life Tommy. So many amazing times and experiences to keep you going through all this crap you are experiencing right now. When it all gets too much close your eyes and relive the sights, sounds and experiences to escape to brighter times. Sending hugs and positive vibes X Julie x

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  5. You certainly are a man who goes after what you want and good health is next on the list. Good luck with it, if perseverance is needed then you got that in spades. Good luck Tommy x

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  6. Go for it Tommy , you can do this . Halfway is a big milestone .Its crap that you are feeling so rough but you can do this . Stay strong . Three weeks ago you couldn’t imagine getting this far . The same length of time to go . It’s the countdown to you getting better .

    Keep strong x

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  7. Great post! What a wonderful adventure. I did laugh at how your Uncle Tommy “didn’t sound quite that bad in 1986.”

    All the best and keep on keeping on!

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  8. You are showing your true strength now, Tommy. Don’t give up! We are all rooting for you. And we’ll have a month long celebration of you to look forward to when you finish.

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  9. Sue and I are lucky enough to know that your blog post is the watered down version of how determined you actually were and are, you forgot to include the hundreds of demo tapes recorded at northlands to get into radio, the letters written on inflated balloons that were then deflated and sent so the recipient had to blow the balloon up to read your cv and letter, I was lucky enough to work alongside you and see hundreds of your Clearlake performances, learning the banjo and harmonica for parts in buddy, seeing the impact of the rejection letters for scripts sent to Hollywood but still keeping going. How many people write one book in their lifetime let alone 94 published ones, and how many scripts??!!. The languages you learned the results for exams, mum and dad taught us how to fight but you made the fight your own. I don’t need to tell you to keep going because I know you know this is the most important process you’ll go through. Very very proud of you tommy, speak later if you can. XxX

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  10. Can’t even begin to imagine the hell you’re going through. Glad to see you’re not losing an ounce of your fighting spirit, though. Keep on slugging, Tommy. We’re all cheering you on.

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  11. Baz said it better there than I ever could. You’re halfway through and you’ve tackled it with dignity, humour and balls. I can’t imagine how it must feel every day to go through it but I feel like we’re all with you and I hope that will help you kick this thing right in the danglies. Big love, fella xx

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  12. What a fascinating read, and what a brave, brave soul you are, Tommy. After you’ve done, and all owing to your own determination and talent, this is not going to beat you. What’s happening to you now sounds horrible beyond words, but you are facing it with true courage. Keep going, we are all behind you – and to be equally truthful, we are all hoping it will never happen to us. If it does…. Well, I hope I would be able to be half as brave, yet somehow I doubt it.

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  13. We know you won’t give up Tom, you’ve always been your own worst critic and never quite accepted the talent you are. Buy your biggest talent by far is your determination. Never giving up, giving it your all Whether it’s an audition for Pontins, that you were convinced you’d messed up, dying your hair black for authenticity to be Elvis, or hiding under a bed in Towyn and being determined no one would find you. We’ve been through some crap times as a family and for 2 of those times, the worst of times, we’ve had to be strong and determined, you’ve done that, you sat there even though every part of your body is telling you to run away, yet the determination to stay and be there for the 2 unbelievably strong people who made us all who we are, needed us. I may not say it often enough, but I’m proud of everything you have done, but I’m most proud now, this is the moment I know how strong you are, cancer didn’t stand a chance with you Tom, head down, plough on, destroy it. Love you. Xxxx

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  14. You have a lot to fight for, and I’m sure you’ll do it. I’m in awe. Heaps of good wishes. Courage, mon brave!

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  15. What a fascinating and inspiring read. I’ve always wondered what it must be like working and living on a cruiseliner. You’re determination is a force to be reckoned with, and any opposing force clearly has a fight on its hands! Keep fighting & writing, Tommy. You’re getting through this!

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  16. Just another note of good wishes from another of your army of supporters. You’re over half way through now. Just keep your head down and keep going.
    I remember the kids’ reaction when you came to speak at our school so clearly. “You should do stand up Tommy!” They thought you were amazing. Lots of them are now in Year 11, about to do GCSEs, but they still remember Scream Street!
    You will be back doing school visits sooner than you think and all this will be a memory.
    Huge respect to you. You are a top fighter.
    All the best for the rest of this week and the next two. We’re all behind you.

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  17. Tommy, we simply cant tell you how in complete awe we are with you, the way youre dealing with and coping with this dreadful part of your life.
    As you did in your amazing and varied career, youre going to keep going and never take no for an answer!
    Keep going ‘Wobblebottom’.
    Seeing the photo of the Kareliya was lovely. Crikey that ship could tell a few stories couldnt it?
    Lots of love, support and well wishes coming your way Tommy, from Nick & Tina Xxxooxxx

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  18. ‘Ello Scouse Git,

    Catching up on your posts. You amaze me. I can tell from your writing that you’re feeling the worst you’ve ever felt, physically, yet your spirit jumps off the screen, undiminished. I’ve never experienced anything like it. To say it is inspiring doesn’t really cut it. But that’ll have to do.

    I either forgot or didn’t know your Buddy audition story. I can picture it quite clearly (of course I can). Murray Deutsch??? What a waste that would’ve been. And I’m so glad that amongst my Buddy memorabilia is a digitized cassette of my last show, which features your lovely send-off speech to me. What a night. What a time.

    I am so glad you are taking on this condition with the same energy and commitment you’ve brought to everything you wrote about above. I wish I could give something other than these heartfelt words on a screen. I hope my own spirit comes across similarly and gives you a lift.

    Sending much love and good wishes. Keep fighting. I know you will. You always have.

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  19. What a fascinating career you’ve had. thank you for letting us read about it, and I hope there are years and years of new adventures left to come.

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