The C List

For anyone who may have had their intestine and maybe other organs removed, good news in this book.

Whereas in the other camp, the only risk was to my vanity, body image and, possibly relationships. Put like that there really was no option. If having a bag could reduce the risks of me dying, then I just had to get on with it and accept it. I stress that this was two days after I had been given the diagnosis of advanced bowel cancer, and I now had just 48 hours to make my decision. (page 48)

Despite this and her, at the time, very poor prognosis, she was massively encouraging about the stoma and told me it would be fine. I would adjust quickly and easily. It was not important and would not bother me at all once I had got used to it. And as far as anyone else was concerned, I should just tell him or her to think of it like a big plaster. She had modeled for Ostomy Lifestyle (a specialist help and support charity for stomas) to help break the taboo of having a stoma and looked absolutely beautiful. The decision was made. Goodbye, flat tummy. Hello, accessories under my clothing. Unfortunately, there is still much secrecy around as to who has a colostomy bag, which you can get for Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis as well as for bowel cancer. It would be wonderful is we could break this last taboo, but for the moment I was comforted by some famous names who had shared my new plumbing desing – Napoleon Bonaparte, the Queen Mum, Fred Astaire, Bob Hope, Virginia Ironside…. (pages 48-9)

I know from my own and from friends’ experiences that the shock lasts at least three months, so take it easy on yourself and slowly adjust during this period. (page 50)

6. Your surgeon will bully you into getting better by suggesting you should be leaving to go home far earlier than told/expected. This is normal behaviour. Anger will galvanize you into getting better more quickly. (page 54)

Try and live as simply as you can. Get off the treadmill. Think of the saying by the economist Tim Jackson: ‘We spend money we don’t have on things we don’t need, to make impressions that don’t last on people we don’t care about.’ Cancer is the best excuse you will ever have of getting rid of things you don’t need and embracing the simplicity of living in the present. Taking one day at a time is all you can cope with when your future is uncertain. (page 58)

As we drove along the M40 to Oxford, the radio piled on the anxiety by informing me that Steve Jobs had passed away from cancer that very night….If he had no leverage against cancer, what hope for the rest of us with our more mediocre bargaining chips? (page 71)

As the liver can regenerate itself, surgeons can remove up to 75 per cent of the liver nowadays. The liver can regrow in as little as three months. The liver is the most common are that bowel cancer can spread to because the venous drainage of the colon is through the portal vein that drains into the liver. (page 74)

When I was really ill, all I wanted was for people to understand how I felt and to be heard. Having someone really listen and then play those fears, disappointments or that sadness back to you is a great relief. (page 79)

One of the most unjust things about the health system is the difference in level of care and equipment between the private and NHS hospitals. (page 88)

Never one to sit in a traffic jam when there is an illegal bus route he can take, my dad set off on a mission to beat the traffic. We though we had got away with it until a ticket arrived in the post a week later. (page 103)

I was totally caught out when my white blood cells stopped acting like French air traffic controllers and finally got back to work. (page 165)

My own experience, which still stains my memory, was from a cancer charity who introduced itself with a motivational ‘Hi, we are from the end of life and terminal care team.’ Friends have also reported priceless gems such as ‘I hear you want to talk about your death’ to ‘If you pay into a pension, I would not bother to continue if I were you.’ (page 166)

As they say: ‘Change is inevitable. Unless you use a vending machine.’ (page 168)

The Guardian: keep looking on the positive side and if you are disposed to worry, then focus on Third World debt or the plight of the West Bank. Get over yourself. (page 170)

It appears that, in China, it is commonplace for the oncologist to work hand in hand with a herbalist. Integrated medicine is the norm and you treat the mind as well as the body. (page 172)

I have been reminded of my reason for living, and I don’t ever intend to forget it. But for those of you still going through the worst of it, Nietzsche put it much better than me: ‘He who has a why to live can endure any how.’ I certainly have that. (page 183)

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