During the 1970’s a friend of the family (and brother of my Godfather, keep up!), Jeffrey Bernard wrote a column for the Spectator. So frequently was he absent (mostly through booze-addled carousing in Soho) that in place of his column, the editor would simply write ‘Jeffery Barnard is unwell’. This phrase grew in infamy when it became the title of a play about his life starring Peter O’Toole. Now I should start out by saying that my absenteeism has not been down to booze, nor has it been down to death and I would most certainly hope that my blog wouldn’t be described as “suicide note in weekly instalments” as Jeff’s column was, but I have, frustratingly, been unwell.

Days before the hair dropped out. Definitely not an excuse to woo you with kitten.

The last we spoke, I had skipped through my first dose of chemotherapy with very few issues. I’d even managed to get back to training before the second bout started. Things looked very easy. The first fallout (excuse the pun) was with my hair.  I had been secretly hoping that the extent of my Chemmomunity would extend to this as well and I’d be able to keep the floppy fuss of fluff I call a haircut. Sadly, this was not the case. I first noticed a few strands come out at training almost exactly when my oncologist had predicted. I didn’t think too much of it as it wasn’t really enough to concern me. By the next day I’d noticed a few more on my pillow at night. And by my next training session, I went to show my coach that it was coming out and pulled way more than I had expected clean off my head. At this stage, I wondered whether much more than a gust of wind would leave me looking like someone had thrown a handful of hay at a sticky egg, and so did the rest of my training indoors. So I headed home with a friend who had promised to help clipper it off. When I say ‘help’ she had also said that it was highly likely that she would cry throughout the whole process rendering it traumatic AND emotional. As it turned out, there wasn’t the slightest sign of either (more than a mild disappointment). And the best bit was that I didn’t look as much like a terrified marble as I had expected.

The dent on my head is actually a 'bulge'. Too MUCH brain you see.

The next dose of chemo was a little worse but I was still almost fully recovered a few days, and again I was out training before my third dose was due to start. But then, I crashed. Now when I say that “Leo Barker is Unwell” I didn’t really mean so much physically but what few braincells had been left intact by the treatment decided to fill my mind with a fusty fog of fart, fear and failure. For a while this was put on hold as I spent the week in hospital experiencing a level of nausea akin to letting Jeremy Kyle tongue your gag reflex to infinity whilst being forced to listen to the ‘Go Compare‘ opera hummungotwat singing his catchphrase to you. In your bed. Forever. But once I was free of this again, my brain flicked me the most almighty V-sign, decided to turn itself inside out and pissed itself. Every little issue I experienced was now magnified to galactic levels. And so I retreated into my room for days where I obviously wasn’t going to sit over-analysing every angle of every negative thought*. (*This is a lie). This really isn’t like me. Those that know me will know I am spectacular mix of sneering cynicism and delusional, delirious, hedonistic positivity. But more than anything I need to try and find humour in anything and everything. This, however, was not a funny period.

But in the past couple of weeks, I’ve started training again and that’s made the world of difference. It fills my day, keeps me entertained by friends and floods my body with addictive endorphins. Obviously, this is one of the first steps to completely getting my life back. Which has been the worst part of all of this. The feeling that I’ve had it all hijacked. So I have now regained perspective on the events of the past few months that had contributed to my brain melting into a puddle of grief-gravy.

"I'm going to lick your throat".

Anyway the point of this much-hurried scribble of sickening self-indulgence is that today I have a CT scan. Now, although my blood was not showing any abnormal tumour markers a week or so ago (the signs that there is still cancer somewhere in my system), there is the chance that it has returned and is sitting back in my lymph nodes. Apparently the chance is around 5%. This wouldn’t normally be anything to worry me, but I have felt a dull ache in a few of the places it was previously spotted (collar bone, shoulder and lower back). Nothing like as bad as it was when the lymph nodes swelled up before but enough for me to know that my main concern this time won’t be about whether the injection given during the scan is going to be nearly as arousing as last time!

I won’t go into the repercussions of a the cancer returning as it’s pointless now. So instead, I’m going to go to training, run my bollock off, joke with friends then go to find out whether I can make the title of the next post “Leo Barker is Well”. Very well indeed thank you very much.