We Are Not Friends, Hopefully.

cancer, conservatives, death, election, Labour, multiple myeloma, NHS, politics, vote, writing

I hope you are not my friend. I hope you are not even a friend of a friend of a friend. I hope I don’t know you in the slightest and that way you are not in my comfortable echo chamber, the one that replies with aligned responses when I shout on social media. Hopefully this means that you are not planning to vote Labour this Thursday.

I don’t watch the news or read current affairs online, I have a very basic knowledge of how politics works here or accross the world, I struggle to keep dates and names in my head and I wouldn’t feel confident to speak about the intricacies of Brexit (no matter how much I read up on it) or on behalf of a political party or agenda. What I can speak on is far greater than any affiliation to a political party leader, whether they are a characature of an elitist bumbling fool or a working class hero who still takes the bus, what I can speak on is the NHS and the reality of its privatisation.

I’m going to keep this short because we really don’t have time.

Below is a list of the approx converted costs for my dad’s cancer treatments if we’d had a privatised health care system in the UK based on the figures from the health care system in the USA.

£193 – Ambulance rides not involving medical intervention

£3,006 – Hospital stays per day

£8,375 – Chemotherapy per month

£2,606 – Vertebioplastry

£1,979 – MRI scan

£198 – X-ray

£400 – Hospice stay per day

£400 – £1500 – Perscription medication per month

My dad had:

2 ambulance journeys per year on average

1 hospital stay per year on average, shortest 2 days, longest 2 weeks

4 rounds of Chemotherapy

8 clinical drug trials

1 Vertebioplastry

Multiple MRI scans & X-rays

Pain medication and prescriptions

All this over 11 years.

Arriving at the rough estimate of:

TOTAL: £250,063

Oh, and not to mention mum had two knee replacements and a hip replacement during this time.

At this point why bother doing the extra math.

Now, I consider myself lucky, both my parents had good jobs and teachers pensions so as a family I imagine under a privatised healthcare system we would of had health insurance, at the cost of approx £889 a month which depending on our plan would of brought our medical bills down considerably, but still with a massive financial impact and probably a sizable amount of debt.

Imagine if, like so many of the families I have worked with in my profession, we couldn’t have afforded health insurance?

He would of been dead within 6 months.

Do not vote Conservative. Do not waste your vote on Lib Dem, do not waste your vote on Green. Do not vote for death. Vote for the NHS. And the only way to do this is to use your vote to secure the majority for Labour.

Some words about grief.

cancer, death, grief, multiple myeloma, writing

This Saturday will be two years since my dad died.

I feel compelled to write, although I am struggling to. It isn’t easy I guess.

Death is inevitable, part of our nature, and accepted as such. But it is so weird. It is the surrealist thing I have ever experienced, and also, the realist.  Me, my mum and my brother were with dad when he died. I still cannot comprehend what happened in that moment, where one minute there was a life, and the next it was gone. He was gone.

There was a body. It wasn’t my father.

If you have experienced death, seen it, you may know what I mean. But, it is not for me to say, no two experiences are the same. I cannot know what my mum or my brother experienced in those minutes. Nor them I. All I know, is it was the single most present moment of my entire life.

Writing about death is fairly easy I think. There is death in many great works of literature (and not so great). Death is explored and represented in the creative arts. It is written about in religious texts, and biological text books. It is almost, popular.

Writing about grief is not so easy. Grief is the ugly aftermath. It is not heroic, tragic or romantic. It is brutal, it is complex, it is forever.

It is also unpredictable.

In the days that followed my dads death, I danced. It was an uncontrollable urge. I would listen to music, usually through my headphones, mostly house or RnB and I would dance in my flat. Sometimes it was manic, sometimes it was weary, sometimes it was for hours at a time. It was weird. I tried not to judge it.

Grief can be private. I consider myself a very open person, those that know me would probably agree, those that really know me would definitely vouch for my honesty, particularly when it comes to my feelings. I am not afraid to feel or be vulnerable. Though this grief, this loss, is so huge, so completely incomprehensible at times, I can’t share it. I find myself locked in, unable to open up, even with my closet friends. Wanting to protect it. It is disabling and because of this, it is isolating.

My dad was sick for 11 years with a rare type of blood cancer called multiple myeloma. I had always imagined that when he died me and my family would pull together and be comforted in the shared devastation. There were moments of this, but I wasn’t prepared for how alone I would feel. We had lost the same man, but we had all lost a unique relationship, we were not experiencing the same loss, and we were not using the same coping mechanisms. In the immediate days after, my brother panelled the hallway and built a shed from scratch. Mum was either oddly hyper and chatty, or wailing. I went in to myself, unable to be around either of them. It was really hard to connect. We were all grieving in different, and at times conflicting ways. Moving around each other in a fog. Trying to keep breathing. I lost friends. I’ll never really know which ones left and which ones I pushed away.

The reason I write this, is not to make a social comment on how society conditions us to deal with (not deal with) grief, or get angry about the blatant disrespect of the 5 days compassionate leave policy (five days ffs). Nor is it to offer advice or a positive message, if you’re grieving, I can’t ease the pain. But I can hope that someone reads this, and finds even a small part of their experience reflected back. And that they might find comfort in that. I found a description of grief online last year, written by an anonymous writer. He likened the experience to that of a shipwreck with everlasting waves. It resonated with me strongly, you can read it here.

I have learnt so much in these two years. It has been the weirdest, saddest, most destructive, most progressive, ugly, beautiful journey. I have wanted to heal the world, I have wanted to end it. I have been lost, and found. And lost again, and found again.

I understand love greater. And my own strength.

Perhaps it isn’t so hard to write about grief after all. Perhaps.


(Dad writing. Corbieres, France, 2012)

*I would just like to acknowledge those people who held me. Brought me food. Sent care packages, sent flowers, sent emails, sent texts. Called. Kept calling. Still call. Took me on walks. Made me join the gym. Made me go to the gym. Danced with me. Cried with me. Listened. Thank you.