I’ve not eaten meat for 20 years. I’ve not drunk alcohol or taken anything pharmaceutical that wasn’t legally prescribed to me in over five years. I’ve not smoked for nearly three years. During much of the last decade I attended gyms up to four times a week and was a keen runner, so you can probably imagine how miffed I was when I was diagnosed with cancer. Not only did it take away my health and stymie activity, it also stripped me of my insufferable smugness regarding such matters.
I read with interest today the news that the WHO has declared that processed meats have carcinogenic properties, and red meats are risky too. It hardly surprises me really, though as somebody who was struck down with the big ‘C’ who hasn’t touched any flesh in two decades (dead flesh, give over), I’m not about to tell you to stop eating meat to safeguard yourself, because I’m not really sure if that’s possible or if I’m indeed the right person to tell you whether or not you should do anything regarding your well being. It seems to me that on the whole you either get it or you don’t (cancer I mean). I’m not suggesting that you go off and chain sixty a day and drink red wine until it drips out of your ears, but you know, you might as well if you want to.
There are plenty of reasons not to eat red meat, but I would personally put contracting some kind of cancer quite low on the list. Meat production causes 15% of all carbon emissions, so if you’re serious about preserving the planet then you should think on. Also, eat enough red meat and you’ll end up with forty pounds of impacted faecal matter in your colon like film cowboy John Wayne, who was actually part cow, part man when he died. And finally, future generations will not be horrified with you like they’re horrified with everyone else who eats pig, our cute little oinky mammalian cousins. We taste just like them, you vile cannibals.
The cause of my cancer is unknown. They ruled out that it was hereditary, which I’m pleased about for my bros and for future generations. Whenever I ask at the hospital if it could be linked to my former Dionysian lifestyle, they tend to shrug insouciantly, and then tell me it’s doubtful. At that point I want to inform them just how hard I used to cane it, but it would just seem like I was showing off. [I wonder from time to time if I should share this kinda stuff in my blogs, but they do say “write like your parents are dead”. Mine both are, so I don’t have to even pretend. Now there’s a slice of luck.]
Basically you could say that me getting struck down with cancer was unlucky, but I prefer not to prescribe to the pendulum of fortune, or the whims of divination. If I was unlucky to be struck down with the disease, then I’ve been lucky to be alive at a time when so much can be done, and find myself in a place where I have an amazing team looking after me and one of the best surgeons in the world slicing me open and sewing me back together. I live with the girl of my dreams in the city I love best, and both have been great sources of inspiration throughout this whole ordeal, so if you think I’m unlucky then keep it to yourself unless you want me to punch you in the face. Life is magnificent, and it’s often difficult too; c’est la vie as they don’t say much in France. At this stage I still don’t know if I need more chemotherapy – the meeting was put back after they analysed my liver and it came up negative. Lucky. If I need more chemo then unlucky. And on it goes… It’s just stuff, and the hope is that we get through it.
The last time I saw Prof. Siksik, he warned me gravely that alcohol is prohibited, and I mustn’t drink it under any circumstances. Lucky then that I haven’t touched a drop for five years since giving myself up as a raging dipsomaniac. Although weirdly, a while after he told me and it began to sink in, I started to feel somewhat resentful that the choice had been taken away from me completely. And it has been a choice not to, up until then. A difficult choice at times, but a choice nonetheless.
It started me thinking about my (admittedly quite hands off) recovery and whether I should start working it a bit harder again. Most reformed alcoholics will tell you dramatically that if they’d continued drinking it would definitely have killed them. The fact is that in many cases that could be true, but it might well manifest itself in the most miserably prolonged suicide note in history. My old sponsor used to say, “if you go back out there, it could take you 20 years to finish yourself off.”
Now I find myself in what feels like a unique position that if I start drinking again now, it will be les rideaux immédiatement (that’s French for ‘immediately curtains’ – not sure if the idiom works over here to be honest). I probably wouldn’t see Christmas for starters (I should probably come up with a date or occasion less likely to tempt me to plough back into the whiskey). My dear brother had a friend in a similar position, who came out of hospital and cracked after about three days of going up the wall, and he started drinking cider again. Poor bugger couldn’t help himself, even faced with certain doom; his skin turned yellow and he was gone within 10 days. So when you look at it like that, the fact I’ve been monastic bombastic for so long, might have done me some good after all.Follow @jeres