The Lockdown Diaries 9: Chemo Lad VS The World


See Someone FFS!

The purpose of coming out about cancer was to dispel some of the fears people might have about getting a diagnosis at this time. Everyone’s experience is different just as symptoms and treatments are different, but the crucial thing is to stop worrying about a nebulous ‘thing’ and get diagnosed as fast as possible. If you are not in the system no-one will be able to help you. Hospitals are divided now into two distinct sections for your protection. You’re probably safer in there than outside queuing for groceries.I go every day and my misgivings vanished on day two (not day one, that was awful).

If you think there’s something wrong, don’t prevaricate, commit to immediate action and you’ll start to feel better from the second you do so. Do not bottle it up. See someone. Tell them. Push yourself to act. Nag over.

Watch Out! Quacks About!

Thanks to COVID I can’t be prescribed painkillers as they mask the virus, so I have to rely on natural remedies, salt water and the odd Paracetemol. I was expecting morphine, hashish, valium at the very least. I was going to buy a Chinese robe and a pipe.

When you’re diagnosed with a life-threatening illness be careful who you talk to. There are energy vampires out there who live to talk about disease. Strangers have been calling me out of the blue to discuss my health – they get short shrift. One woman I met told me that chemo treatment was the highlight of her day. Well-meaning friends will push mad remedies at you. People will even try to monetise your ill-health. The Hampstead Heath Pharmacy charged me £40 for some vitamins and pain relief tablets that should have come to less than half that amount, capitalising on the pain of others. And for every useful remedy there are a dozen ludicrous quack products. Which reminds me, I forgot to pick up some tannis root.

Don’t Give Up The Day Job

I cannot read one more clickbait lockdown article by a pretend-journalist ‘feature writer’ paid for writing nonsense. I fantamasise about being paid to write features. I blog every day for free while bloody Camilla Long accepts cheques for attempting to think of something witty to say about cutting your own hair.

During bad times you need structure. My days are planned, as much as my body can allow, around specific times and goals that include several hours of work, a sleep, lunch, coffee breaks, reading and so on (it doesn’t always work; yesterday I dozed off at this keyboard). I’m writing a book I’ve not yet been commissioned for, but no matter – it’s work, and that means a plan of work, and that normalises my days. If one more person says ‘in these strange times’ I’ll go mad. They’re only strange if you make them that way. I’m reading Stefan Zweig and Giles Milton and Lawrence Wright on strange times and one thing they all prove is that there’s no such thing as normal. You might as well enjoy rolling with the punches.

Starting Tomorrow!

Lockdown either begins to lift tomorrow or doesn’t – I’m not sure even Boris de Pfeffel Johnson even knows, but garden centres are opening and the outdoor beckons, which means I can (carefully, and for short periods) take to the London streets and start reporting on the state of our fair city again. The first sign of change has been increased noise and traffic sending our nesting birds away. Nobody learns.

36 comments on “The Lockdown Diaries 9: Chemo Lad VS The World”

  1. brooke says:

    Hear, hear! I take back all the mean things I said about Dickens.

  2. Cornelia Appleyard says:

    When I realised that lockdown was coming, I stocked up on seeds and plants, not toilet paper.
    I’m lucky enough to have been able to occupy myself in the garden, but expanding the world again will be good.
    Is that lavender in a window box that I can see next to your right shoulder?

  3. Liz Thompson says:

    It looks like lavender Cornelia.
    I didn’t have to stock up for lockdown, I have more books than the local library, an awful lot of them unread. Or a chapter in, with a bookmark. Quite a few of those.
    Looking forward to your reports of the London streets Chris, not noticed much increased traffic round my bit of Leeds yet, and I can hear the birds through the window while I’m typing this. Enjoy your (careful and cautious) strolls!

  4. Really sorry to hear your news. Best wishes from me. I hope the chemo is not knocking you about too badly.

  5. snowy says:

    Go easy with the tannis root, it can do diabolical things to your abdomen.

  6. Hear, hear from me as well. Keep up the good work and ignore Bloris Piffle whatever. There are deeper, more important things than anything most politicos, feature writers and influencers could ever comprehend.

  7. Pat says:

    Always a tonic to read your acerbic views on the world. Give my love to London streets, which I have not seen for many months. Be safe. xx

  8. Andrea Yang says:

    Here in Texas library staff have been back a week. Tomorrow we open for limited service to the public. I do have some concerns about being back in an office. We are not allowed to ask the public or even other staff to wear masks. Meanwhile positive test numbers continue to rise. The government set standards for reopening and then tossed them out with the trash. Best wishes to you and I look forward to reading your blog and next book!

  9. My mother underwent chemo some years ago and found strong ginger flavoured sweets and biscuits v helpful.

    My favourite books of yours are Paperboy and Film Freak. Any plans for a third such volume ?

    Very best wishes

  10. Jo W says:

    Looking good there Chris, although I can’t discern any visible signs of all those comestibles that have been disappearing down your cake-hole. I expected to be calling you ‘chubby chops’ by now. Tried your father’s idea of Guinness? Stout to make you stout?

  11. JanW says:

    Thank you for another entertaining and helpful post. I look forward to observations and insights on more of London ‘Chemo highlight of her day’ LOL I was told by well-meaning friends who’d never had cancer that it would be a walk in the park! Different cancers, grades of cancer etc require different treatments and if chemo is appropriate then there are many different drugs with various side effects, plus the effects are usually cumulative not to mention the impact on the body of steroids etc. Shudder. My boss was a prize vampire she spent an entire afternoon telling me about her father’s death from cancer on the day I told her my diagnosis. Take care.

  12. Brian Evans says:

    Again, another positive take from Admin. Just reading it makes me feel more cheerful about things.

    One small point though, are those Christmas decorations behind you on the above right that you still haven’t taken down?

  13. Helen Martin says:

    “They mean well” is what is always said but what is that about good intentions? I never go beyond “Have you seen the doctor?” No one really knows what another person’s experience is beyond betting that it was no fun at all. Our lockdown has only been to the extent that we are to restrict going out to solitary walks, which we are urged to take. Our Chief Medical Health Officer is quite emphatic on the need to get out in the sunshine – alone – and get some exercise. She ends her daily report with “be safe, be kind, wash your hands.” We watch her report every afternoon as a corrective to the news from elsewhere. She is calm, gentle, and firm. Her previous experience was in the ebola pandemic and other like situations so we’re lucky to have her. Be safe, be kind, wash your hands, Chris.

  14. Debra Matheney says:

    Energy vampires, great term to describe the Debby downers in life. Why can’t people just listen instead of throwing in their ten cents of unwanted doomsday comments? May we all stay safe and be kind.

  15. Peter Dixon says:

    Chris, the NHS is an astonishing organisation.

    I used to be fearful about hospitals, as are most people; they are strange environments that seem to become a bigger part of your life as you get older.

    As a graphic designer I had the job of producing annual reports for a major health trust in the early 2000’s. Part of the job involved me wearing full scrubs and taking photos of operations and surgeons at work in a documentary style. I’ve watched open heart surgery, transplants and joint replacements at first hand. When you see the attention given to a patient who is anaesthetised and under the care of a team of 8 to 10 theatre staff you understand what the NHS is all about.These people know what they are doing – usually with internal body parts that most people would shout ‘WAAGH!’ at handling and throw on the floor.

    In the past I used to be trepidatious about operations or treatment – now I say “OK, let’s go” because I know I am in the best hands and if you try to ignore it, it just gets worse.

    All the very best to you.

  16. Brian Evans says:

    Peter, the only advantage of private health care is that you are seen quicker. We are so lucky to have the NHS.

    This was also mentioned, along those lines by Chris the other day.

  17. admin says:

    That’s not lavender this year – something much bigger and not as nice.
    The decorations are left over from Easter, when friends sent over a box of eggs and bunnies.

  18. Kim Froggatt says:

    Only a few things really upset me (cruelty to animals and children, bad grammar and uneducated, rich, entitled people who think they can buy their way into top jobs), but, I have added something else to said list during this time of quarantine in Spain. The SEWTLEDATT’s (Self Entitled Who Think Lockdown Exercises Don’t Apply To Them).

    It is hard for me to contain my anger about these people and I have to say after spending eight weeks in complete lockdown, going only to the supermarket once each week, my mind is doing loops about this. So much so, now the restrictions on movement have been eased, I find myself wanting to isolate myself further and for longer. As a consequence, yesterday morning, when we all had the first opportunity for freedom of movement since March I4th, I decided to stay at home to keep away from everyone who had rushed out of the door at the first chance. How can anyone believe there is a difference in the situation from one second before midnight to midnight itself………..??

    My upset is anger really and I don’t feel it so much for me, although I would not want to catch COVID 19, but, for those people at the greatest risk from the virus (my husband being one of these) and all the people who are vulnerable with pre-existing conditions. The complete disregard of the spread of an illness that might not affect a lot of people but most certainly will kill some people, has made me look at many folks in a whole different light. I’m not sure when I will mix and mingle again (if ever)! My worldview has been completely changed by this experience. This huge movement in my thinking has surprised me enormously.

    Having said all of this, as always, Mr Chemo Lad, you made me laugh out loud with the name Boris de Pfeffel Johnson. Thank goodness I wasn’t drinking at the time and didn’t choke again!!

    Mwhaa! Hugs!

  19. Richard Nordquist says:

    Thanks for the nag, Chemo Lad. I needed it. Roll on!

  20. Ian Luck says:

    I was cycling to work yesterday, and I was hailed, loudly by a rather posh sounding, large lady in walking gear, who had a similarly attired man with her – they even had those spring loaded trekking sticks. I couldn’t go anywhere, as I had to wait to cross a road. She approached, and said:
    “We’re out walking. Where can we find an hotel or somewhere to stay?’
    “You’re joking,” I said . “The country is on lockdown, because of the Covid-19 pandemic.” When I said this, she actually laughed.
    “Oh, that’s nothing. All a fuss about nothing. It’s a little people thing.”
    That made me furious. “There is nothing open, and nowhere will take you in. I suggest you go back from wherever you came from, immediately. If it didn’t make me late for work, I would call the police, and have you arrested. It will kill you as surely as it kills ‘little’ people, you horrible old cow.” And I went to work. A bit further up the road, a man I knew slightly, waved at me and asked if I’d seen the nutters in camping gear, who had been annoying people. Yes, I had. SEWTLEDATT. That’s what they were.

  21. Ed DesCamp says:

    @ Ian – at least those two idiots aren’t running a country (that we know of). Helen is lucky to be where she is.

  22. admin says:

    Ah the Little People. There’s a woman I’ve known for decades, charming, funny, a survivor of a virulent cancer, who married a professional sportsman and overnight became the most intolerant person I know. Staying in endless sports hotels, she regards everyone as either ‘one of us’ or ‘staff’ – ‘the little people’. I rarely fall out with people on ideological grounds but I’ve had to cut her off.
    I thought about this; Having once met her cold, social climbing parents I can see how this surfaced. But although I understand I can’t forgive.

  23. David Ronaldson says:

    Since my recent cancer diagnosis I’ve had various “friends” telling me things like “My Dad lived for nearly 5 years with that” (Whopee!) and helpful advice like “Go off sick now; they won’t sack you” (I’m enjoying working from home). What I really need is an atmospheric bar to sit in, self-indulgently necking whisky like a run-down PI.

  24. Andrew Holme says:

    First day out of lockdown, and I think all countries are having similar conversations. We have to start somewhere, and no doubt we will get many things wrong. My standard qualification when criticising the Govt. is ” thank crikey, I’m not having to sort this out..” and then I can lambast Boris, Cummings et al ( is there any way we can have information on what bollocks this Wormtongue is pouring into ‘Turds’ ears?) I can understand all sides, ie this morning Grant Shapps being asked what he’s going to do about full buses at Canning Town, and Shapps replying maybe people can walk or cycle. We’re not going to get it all right, so let’s reign back on the splenetic outrage at people trying to do a difficult job. Having said that, Dim Dom Raab made me splutter on my cornflakes on Monday when he said ‘hoorah you can go for a set or two of tennis now.” Welcome news for the single parent with three kids on the 36th floor.

  25. lyn jackson says:

    There have been no new cases of covid19 in Perthso I am not worried about going out soon. What worries us is when the borders are reopened, is it all going to start up again?
    For the many of us hoping for a less materialist world post covid19 there was the good news that the many so called influencers
    are losing thousands of followers daily.

  26. Maria says:

    Dear Chris – I have only just found your website after having fallen in love with the Bryant and May books (especially Bryant) and wanting desperately to find out more books which give some of the information that your character imparts – such joy! If you can, I would love some recommendations.
    Additionally, the site is fascinating. I also so wish you well regarding your treatment. My husband died of mesothelioma 8 years ago – this is an untreatable cancer related to asbestos exposure – he was a gas engineer and told me that, when he was an apprentice, he and his mates played with the stuff! However, he was the only person in his cohort who got the cancer. I guess that experience and my own of cancer has led me to have, perhaps, a slightly different view of thet virus. I am over 70 and therefore supposedly ‘vulnerable’ which makes me furious. I have had to temporarily give up voluntary work that I love etc. etc. because of my age and I am spitting feathers because of it . I am also totally fed up with the lock down and feel guilty at being fed up because, compared to many, I am extremely fortunate in where I live. I do live alone and that is a pain too – sorry, moaning again! I do so wish you well – chemotherapy is now so targeted and often so successful. I found the comments so interesting and valuable to read especially those I find I disagree with – it’s refreshing! I am looking forward to following your website now – such a happy discovery. I am getting boring now because I just keep wanting to repeat – I wish you well, I wish you well!!!

  27. Kim Froggatt says:

    “Dim Dom Raab” sounds like a curious bell chime to me!

  28. Helen Martin says:

    Oh, Maria, I so definitely agree with your “spitting feathers” comment. When the Board of our seniors’ “college” decided to shut down ahead of the lockdown I said that that would mean all of our students being home alone just at a time when they needed someone to talk to. We are all vulnerable be definition but we certainly don’t feel that way. We do have a few physically frail over 90 year olds, though, so I shut up fairly soon and we have lost the whole spring term. Hoping to start again in Sept. Good luck.

  29. Ian Luck says:

    People where I live are strangely intolerant of people suffering from serious illness – particularly cancer. When my mum was suffering from what would be her final bout in 2006, we noticed an odd thing – people who had visited regularly, stopped coming round. An old friend of hers travelled many miles to visit, even though she, too was very ill. However, some people about ten houses away, with whom my mum had, for many, many years, been friendly, stopped visiting, and on one occasion, as I walked with mum to the bus stop, crossed the road to avoid us, as if mum’s bone cancer was transmittable. That hurt mum more than anything, and later that day, I went up to their house, and let them know exactly how disgusted I was at their behaviour. I have not spoken to either of them since. It’s been 14 years, and that moment of ignorance still greatly annoys me. Conversely, our near neighbours did everything they could to help, with one couple actually postponing their move to their dream home in the Highlands of Scotland, until mum had died so they could be there to help my brother and me out. Astonishing kindness. And yet some never manage it.
    There are a great many astonishingly kind people here, Chris, and we all wish you well. But I’m sure you already knew that.

  30. Kim Froggatt says:

    Maria, I can’t believe you found yourself here and a fan of Christopher Fowler and Bryant and May, such a short time after I did. It’s hard to believe I had missed these wonderful books for so long.

    Where did you find them? I found book 19 on Netgalley! (Yes, I did do a review!!)

    I adore Bryant, even though May is supposed to be more of a woman’s man, Bryant is much more my kind of man.
    Although I started with Oranges and Lemons (book 19) I have just finished Seventy-Seven Clocks (book 3, having read book 1 and 2 also). I now have 7 of 19 (which is almost a Star Trek reference)!

    I blame lockdown!

    And Christopher, Chemo Lad!

  31. snowy says:

    Ian, I couldn’t work out how to fit it into a short reply, so a wrote a long ‘un and then hacked big lumps out of it.

    Your experience is sadly quite common, it’s nobodies fault, we have some how gradually lost the ability to deal with serious illness we once had*. Sometimes it is the people that are the most loving and caring that appear to be the ‘worst offenders’.

    When they hear that a friend is gravely ill they experience a grief of their own. This is not as profound as that felt by the family, but it can be significant, female friendship bonds in particular can have been formed at primary school, and continued through secondary, young adulthood, starting work at the same factory/office, being each others bridesmaids, being mothers at the same time .

    This sort of news can hit them like the loss of a sort of ‘sister’, it can knock them absolutely flat. But there may be no-one with who they can share their unhappiness, they will absolutely not want to burden the family. And so they will withdraw while they try to process the news on their own.

    Then the idea of not adding to the ‘families burden’, goes horribly awry; they are absolutely terrified of saying the wrong thing. And I do mean so seriously frightened, they avoid confronting the problem. And this just makes them feel more wretched, they feel ashamed for running away and don’t know how to put it right. [These are the ones that can only re-emerge at the funeral and spend the whole service in absolute floods. They still regret their inability to provide comfort so very much they usually cannot face going to the after-do and duck out. This again looks uncaring, but it is quite the reverse.]

    People that have been through it, been touched by it – get it; the rest are floundering about feeling useless, hopeless, worthless.

    [It is a very difficult thing to deal with and oddly it is something that social media might actually be useful for, but it a) depends on being in the right generation, or b) being ‘connected’ to the world of the internet.]

    To restate, it’s nobodies fault, it’s something we have lost the skills/knowledge/experience of how to handle it.

    [ * Footnote fans: The causes are a mixture of things, better medicine, loss of a defined etiquette, social mobility, the demise of the ‘Matriarchy’, [this is a real biggy], and even the arrival of television, but these are a discussion for another comment.]

  32. Ian Luck says:

    That’s as maybe, Snowy, but crossing the road as if we were lepers (yes, I know that it’s actually something like Hansen’s disease now) is utterly inexcusable. It reduced mum to tears and other than when dad died, and the three guys died in the Apollo 1 fire in 1967, I had never seen her cry. It killed something inside me. I have heard from other people that the same thing has happened to them or their loved one – as if there is a belief that you can, somehow catch cancer from a sufferer. People round here seem to be terrified of it. Similar to how a lot of Americans are terrified of the word ‘Died’, and will utilise any number of twee words to use instead of it.
    Snowy, what you wrote was true – but there are a lot of pig-ignorant people out there who simply DO NOT think. What these neighbours did was, and I reiterate, utterly inexcusable.

  33. Helen Martin says:

    Ian, you and Snowy are both correct, but even knowing what was possibly going on doesn’t make it any more acceptable. It’s one thing to avoid walking past the house but to actually cross the street is so cruel and self centred as to be unforgivable. Thank goodness for the other kind of person.

  34. Ed DesCamp says:

    @ David Ronaldson – as my son dealt with chemo, he had the same desire, so his wife helped him build one of cardboard boxes and a small table and chairs. Can’t hurt to try. Good luck.

  35. Alan Morgan says:

    Fuck, sorry to hear this.

  36. David Ronaldson says:

    Cheers Ed!

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