January to July 2012
Well . . . what a year so far.
I will tell the story chronologically without too much drama and fuss.
To continue on the theme of Hepatitis C which was how I left it at the end of my account of 2011, the new drug, Telaprevir, proved to have (for me at least) horrendous side effects but I persisted with it as it seemed to be working. I spent much of the time analysing pain which is, after all, merely an interpretation of how the body is, and attempted to reinterpret it as something positive and transient which seemed to increase my pain threshold. I was heartened to hear that Olympic athletes do something similar in their training to push themselves beyond what they could normally tolerate in terms of endurance and stamina etc.
Despite this I dragged myself to Brighton on the 23rd January to help complete the mixes of the Ska Orchestra album (How selfless, a 'martyr to the cause' etc. etc.) By March the course of Telaprevir was over and the side effects subsided so that I could resume more or less normal activities. On the 31st I attended a ceremony at the Barbican in which I was awarded my degree which was great fun – I could do my Groucho Marx interpretation afterwards before I had to hand back the mortar board and gown. I am finally qualified! I bought an OU Watermans fountain pen to celebrate and I can heartily recommend these to any fountain pen enthusiast.
On the 27th April I enrolled on a Life Drawing course at the City Lit. Again – like the Sketch Book course I took a few years ago - this was hugely invaluable and enjoyable. Like music, drawing engages you completely; you feel at one with the planet and in touch with something that feels like your true essence; everyone should do it.
In the meantime we decided that the Ska Orchestra needed two more vocal tracks to balance the instrumentals already recorded. We slammed these down on the 4th May (Ali Baba and Broadway Jungle) again in Brighton because we had a gig up the road at the Prince Albert (which also went very well). Returned on the Sunday after putting the finishing touches on these – they sound great!
On the 25th May I attended the Royal Free Hospital and was told that I had developed liver cancer. I was a little surprised at how sanguine I was about this and took a positive attitude which seems to me to be the only way to react; you know: love, life, death . . . it's all part of the same thing. I was told that a transplant would be the best way forward so I agreed; everything depended on how long I would be on the waiting list – not to put too fine a point on it, if the wait was too long then it really would be the Long Goodbye. On June 17th I entered hospital for a week of tests to see if I was an appropriate candidate for a transplant; happily I passed the audition.
I then went down to The Ship on Wardour Street (a historic rock & roll pub little changed since the sixties) to meet Richard England of Cadiz Music. He agreed that we would release Midnight in Havana as a CD and on Vinyl which is a particular thrill. We toasted this with a large glass of red wine (for him) and a lemonade and black-current (for me). By the end of the meeting I had entirely forgotten I was ill!
So . . . I was put on the transplant list on the weekend of the 7th and 8th of July and prepared for what I assumed would be a long wait for a donated organ to become available. Miraculously on the night of the 9th I was called to hospital; they were checking the suitability of a liver. As I was prepped and waiting in a room off the transplant ward an Irish guy spied me through the half open door – it was about 3 a.m. - and poked his head round and said:
'Now there's nothing to worry about. All they do is slice you open . . . and take your organs when you aren't looking.' He cackled hysterically and I could hear his laughter resounding down the corridor as he disappeared – I've not seen him since.
Unfortunately the liver proved unsuitable. However I was called back the following night – they had another one! Apparently there were only two of us on the waiting list of my size which is apparently important. I was operated on for 8 hours and was in intensive care for a further day. So far the transplant has proved to be successful and the whole experience has transformed my life. After such an event you embrace life completely and it is as if the colour and senses have been somehow boosted. If it wasn't so risky I would recommend the experience to everyone. So much of what we deal with is absolute bullshit and this helps you get your priorities right. A big thank you to the transplantation team at The Royal Free (and all the staff and nurses – superb!). And it was great – and, for me slightly surreal – to see the tribute given to the NHS at the opening ceremony of the Olympics. The NHS is one of the glories of our country and needs to be protected. And a huge thank you too, to all my friends who have rallied round and helped: I'm speechless!
So now six months of rehabilitation, and (hopefully) I'll be ready in the late Autumn (or early Spring) to release Midnight in Havana and re-embark on that good ship called the future. The sun has finally come out but – right now – I feel I could stand in the middle of a field, drenched to the bone enjoying a huge thunderstorm . . . as they say: it's all part of life!