'But you look so well!' It was a shocked response I have become used too. If the illness of a person is judged on their appearance, then I generally haven't fitted the criteria. It doesn't matter that I have incurable cancer, to many people, there is almost a sense of disappointment that I don't look like I'm on my death bed.
Let's face it, men are rubbish at talking seriously about their health. Other than sporadically airing my own health-related neuroses, my own previous form on serious cancer talk is questionable. Other than a mere cursory chat to a friend about his mother's breast cancer diagnosis, it's probably zero.
I am going to be upfront about this. Cancer is a great way to weed out the duffs. To sift the men from the boys. It really reveals what type of partner you have and the true nature of your relationship. Granted, it might be a little radical as a strategy of choice. But as I had always been a bit of a beacon for dysfunctional men, I am more than a little happy with my experiment!
At times, I confess to feeling more than a little guilty; Guilty for surviving when so many others who were diagnosed after me, and who were younger than I, have since died. Guilty for going on about the cancer long after the drama of treatment has finished. Guilty for not always remembering to be thankful and seize the day. And guilty for all the trouble and worry I put my loved ones through.
This is why the Saatchi Medical Innovation Bill is so important. This bill will give doctors the opportunity to consider new drugs or techniques that could go on to save the lives of people like me. People who at the moment are written off as incurable, where the best I am offered is a comfortable quality of (shortened) life.
If you've never been on a chemo ward, you'd be forgiven for thinking it would be full of people hooked up to machines, looking thin, grey, exhausted. And to a degree, you'd be right. We are all hooked up to machines. However, what you perhaps don't expect is the inspiration, comradeship, hope and laughter that spills from the room.
I am regularly the youngest patient on my ward, often by a good 30 years, frequently mistaken for a daughter, even a grand-daughter. This was commented upon by a radiotherapist during my five weeks of radiotherapy who welcomed me into the room with 'well, it does make a pleasant change to have a young, pert bottom to manoeuvre on to the bed!'