Making me cry

I’m reading Merlin Mann’s article about the clackity noise and the content is so good that it compels me to start writing straight away. Literally. I haven’t even finished the article and i’m starting to type.


Because he’s so good at pulling at your heartstrings when he talks about his memories of when his dad let him steer the car when he was a child, that just reading it starts to make me cry. Not cry at the story, and not really start crying right here (I’m in a hotel bar and the place is empty: even that well deserved outpouring of emotions would look strange here) but deep down in my heart, where memories reside and make the rest of me work and just do things, a little part of me is in tears.

I guess the point I’m trying (poorly) to make is that I have memories too and they make me want to cry, and laugh, and sit back and shake my head and wonder what happened. My most recurring memory of recent times is the sheer, unparalleled joy I’d get from eating a bowl of bran flakes at 7.30 in the morning.

Yes, there’s a meaning to the last sentence above. Deep, deep, meaning. The bowl of bran flakes was what I asked for every morning when I was in hospital. I’d perch on the end of my bed, wheel the tray so it was over my lap, carefully adjust my IV line and the pump so they were within reach and didn’t snag on anything, then savour every last goddamned spoonful of that little bowl. Then I’d have my single piece of toast, lightly spread with some sort of butter substitute, and sit back in bed, satisfied. Those moments of breakfast bliss were treasured, looking back, because every day I had them was another day I was alive.

There. Now I’m crying. really. just a little bit.

You’ll read countless other stories about how cancer is this thing, this disease that takes people away from us and ruins peoples’ lives and causes many others to throw off the shackles of life and just get on with that one thing they’d always wanted to do before they can’t do anything at all any more, but for me, cancer has a metric ton of connotations and memories. That’s one.


Writing about this has been really hard. Actually, I take that back, it’s been really, really hard. I wanted to just write about it, but that was almost impossible, so i started a blog, thinking that would be the best place to start writing about it, but that didn’t work either, so i thought about a hundred other ways to capture my thoughts and all of them didn’t work and then I…

…Did what I should have done right at the start and sat down to think about it. What did I want to write about? Did I actually want to do it at all? Did I want to start with a confession about the illness or give everybody the backstory then gradually build up to the real story, the story about having cancer and its effects on my life?

The hardest part about capturing my thoughts on this often exceptionally painful subject has been just getting started. Along with most chronic procrastinators, I imagined the thing already written and didn’t consider the amount of work it takes to get there. Even now, while typing this, I still struggle to see what the finished product or set of posts will look like so I’m not even going to try. This will ramble, wander about incoherently and barely get to the point but somewhere in there there is the story about how I battled cancer and won.

Except even that makes me feel like a bit of a fraud. I didn’t battle cancer and win, it kind of crept up on me. I had no idea that I had cancer until a doctor told me and by then it was too late to ‘opt out’ of the battle, I was already fighting it, I just didn’t know.

And by winning, I mean I sat back and had drugs pushed into my system. Sometimes I slept, sometimes I felt ill, all my hair fell out and I laid around in bed a lot. I got married towards the end of the treatment and that, in itself, was a little victory. But mostly I laid around a lot and then the treatment stopped and I was told I had won. I don’t really feel Iike I actually contributed to the win, it was sort of inflicted on me, much like the battle itself was.

At a subconscious level, I know I was part of the battle. I know that parts of my system were working harder than ever to beat this insidious thing that had taken residence in my body and the drugs that made me feel sick and made all my hair fall out were part of the thing that got rid of the cancer, and my body was the battleground, and without a degree of resilience and deciding to win, I could have just faded away. But now, looking back, 9 months after I was diagnosed, it’s all a bit distant and not quite real.

I knew that feeling was going to happen. All the way through my treatment, My standard refrain was “in ten years time, this will be a blip in my past: a six month period when I had cancer, and then I didn’t”. That’s true. I always knew that was how I was going to react to it, like a bruise that just fades after time and takes the clarity of memory with it.

So; here’s my refrain: My name is John Leonard. 9 months ago I was diagnosed with Stage 2c Testicular Cancer, and now I’m better. If you follow these posts and sift through the mountains of rambling, you’ll find the story of what I went through and how I felt. It’s in there somewhere, but I reckon it’ll be buried a bit deeply, because writing about this is a lot harder than I thought it would be.