Wednesday, 23 February 2022


I don’t mean the Trinidadian dance. Not with my poor old back. Nor have I died and become stranded in some other world. But I am waiting for the results of my cancer surveillance scan. I had the CT scan itself in the Cancer Centre two weeks ago and since then I’ve been dangling. Despite having been in this limbo plenty of times over the past eleven years, it doesn’t get any easier. Twice a year I also have a set of surveillance blood tests. I got the latest results from my GP three weeks ago. My kidney function score was significantly lower than usual. And soon I have to get a retest. But this has given me extra material to worry about. Because I know that the most likely place that my renal cancer would recur is in my remaining kidney.   

Limbo is a state of betwixt and between; traditionally between heaven and hell. This is very relevant to me. Because I’m in a strange place that is neither cancer-free nor cancerous. Both of these options remain possible. And I can’t cancel either of them out. It’s only when I have confirmation of the scan result that my status can become settled. Normally I get a hospital letter giving me the date of an appointment with my Oncologist. This would usually arrive a week or so before the appointment. But I have no letter. That means I won’t find out my result this week and probably not next week either. So my limbo continues.

Years ago I developed a simple strategy for living with the threat of cancer. Live just one day at a time. It is easier said than done. But I’ve become a little better at it as the years have gone on. During the day, I can immerse myself in writing or cycling. Or distract myself with television or a book. But the night is much more difficult. I often find myself awake at 4am, imagining the worst. Sleep doesn’t come easy to cancer patients. Perhaps I should get up and practice some Trinidadian dance moves.

Sunday, 6 February 2022

The Old Git and the Drug Lords

I had a lovely birthday. Thank you very much for all the good wishes. I am now officially an Old Git. In common with those getting on a bit, I don’t feel I’m an older git than I was before. But the calendar doesn’t lie, unlike my memory. T has been spoiling me. After opening my cards and presents, she took me on a secret outing. We drove up to Belfast and then well beyond. After a series of turns, we followed a narrow road to the edge of a forest and parked. She had taken me to the World of Owls, the only sanctuary for birds of prey in NI.

It’s a fantastic place. And we had it to ourselves. Around sixty birds of prey live in large net enclosures in the Randalstown Forest. They have all been rescued. Many are exotic species who were bought as pets and then neglected. There were five eagle owls, several eagles and snowy owls. These birds are huge. The owner told us that several of the birds had been rescued from paramilitaries, who had been keeping them in the backyards of terraced houses. Drug lords do seem to have a fetish for exotic pets. Pablo Escobar had pet hippos. After he was arrested for cocaine trafficking, the animals escaped and now have colonized part of western Colombia.

The owner of the sanctuary is a falconer. He gave me a leather glove, tied a cord to it and put a Lanner Falcon on my hand. After a minute or so, he took its hood off. The falcon flapped his grey wings, steadied his yellow feet, gripped my hand in his black talons and gazed at me with large dark eyes. His yellow nose swept into a dark curved beak, above a cream throat and a white breast with brown bars. The falcon had settled on my hand and was keeping watch. At any moment, I expected him to take flight after a pigeon and come swooping down on it at 100mph. It was marvelous to be connected to such an intelligent and agile bird. I could see why falconry became such a popular sport with the aristocracy.

After a fine meal at The Dunadry, we drove back home through heavy rain to find an unexpected present from the NHS. An appointment for my next cancer surveillance scan. It was strangely appropriate. After all the treatment I’d had over the past eleven years, the recurrences and the bad prognoses, I should be glad to reach my big birthday. Not many people who have stage 4 cancer go on to be old gits.