Turns out cancer has an upside

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images
Some people see cancer as a mostly negative thing that should be approached with tears and remonstrations with whatever god one blames for one’s predicament. But David Loughrey can see many positives following his diagnosis.

The other day I was late for work by a good 10 minutes.

I swanned into a newsroom where everybody was already in place at their computer and said to the chief reporter -her name is Debbie - I swanned in and I said to her this: I said, "Sorry I'm late Debbie, but CANCER!".

Then I screamed with laughter; other people laughed too, and it was generally a hilarious moment.

But the hilarity masked a more significant, perhaps profound aspect of having cancer.

At that moment in a busy workplace where punctuality is at least encouraged, if not always observed, I realised I suddenly had a significant amount of power at my disposal to behave just as I wanted.

Nobody can express the slightest dissatisfaction - even the most minimal level of annoyance - towards someone with cancer, no matter if they turn up at lunchtime and go home five minutes later complaining of mild dizziness or just leave because they're bored, precisely because they have cancer, and normal rules no longer apply.

And because I had cancer I had an awful lot of newly gained power to turn things to my advantage, just by quietly (or loudly) mentioning my medical status.

But that was not all.

I quickly began to notice a host of other positives that could be gained from the whole experience, positives not only in the social sphere, but surprisingly, in the physical realm as well.

It all starts at hospital, where suddenly a bevy of medical professionals, who clearly actually paid attention at school and worked hard at university, take an intense interest in your wellbeing and work very hard to make you better.

One can only gain a huge sense of self-importance at such a level of attention, which clearly demonstrates one's significance in the scheme of things.

And that is backed up time and again in a social setting.

All of a sudden people who don't actually like you that much, and with whom perhaps there have been little spats or fallings out in the past - or even more major squabbles or quarrels - are suddenly nice to you.

People who find you arrogant and flippant, people who view you as lazy or self-entitled or overly preoccupied with your own interests or tiresomely self-serving are all of a sudden overwhelmingly caring and thoughtful.

People talk to you gently, and think of nice things they can do for you; they send you cards and bring you flowers, or books and magazines lest you feel the need for intellectual sustenance, whether they like you or not.

They feel sympathy rather than a sense of resentful irritation at your very presence.

They regularly ask you how you are, and show not the slightest sign of boredom as you regale them with tiresome tales of medical procedures and chemotherapy, run through how you felt at each part of the last day or week, and tell them about your diet and sleep patterns.

They care about you.

And actually, that's pretty nice.

Sometimes it even brings a tear to your eye, because you realise people have such capacity to overlook your obvious flaws and act in such an overwhelmingly humane way, and you see that there is a deep well of real decency so often lost within the giddying vortex of human experience, and perhaps for a moment you feel sad for your own pettiness and jealousies and perhaps you vow to become a better person.

And you wipe the tear away quickly because you don't want anyone to see you show emotion.

So that really is a positive.

But it's not the only one.

What if I told you it was possible to lose 15kg just by lying in bed?


You bet you are!

If there's one thing the classier cancers - and I put non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in this category - know how to do, it's take the average person who remains persistently five or six kilos over their mythical and strangely unachievable target weight and lock them into a remarkable spiral of weight loss.

Of course, the five or six kilos of weight loss you thought would finally bring you the happiness you deserved (but which was always just out of reach), is only the start of a remarkable shedding of bulk.

That process exposes a jawline you haven't seen since you were 26, and strange angular cheek bones you lost touch with not long after.

You have bony hips that are uncomfortable to lie on.

You're spare, you're of gracile build; not for you the corpulent bloat of the overfed middle classes you now ruthlessly mock.

There is a gauntness you could use to turn yourself into someone more cultural looking, perhaps develop yourself into something like Leonard Cohen as he aged, or a tidier and less cadaverous version of Keith Richards.

And hell, if that isn't a good base to start an uncompromising fitness regime that takes the fragile frame you're left with and sculpts it into something divine I don't know what is.

And yes, perhaps you look like a slightly alarmed skeleton in need of a good steak and chips, but life is nothing if it's not an opportunity, and opportunities are there to be taken.

So let's go.

Actually, before you go, take a moment to enjoy one more positive from the whole cancer experience.

Before you head boldly into a new world of good vibes and weight loss, gently run your hand from your chin, up the side of your face to your ear.


And you last shaved maybe four days ago?

Does this mean your hair has stopped growing and your morning routine will just be a shower and brushing your teeth, no shaving required?

Oh hell yeah.

And this is just the icing on the cake; only having to shave once a week.

You can't get much better than that.

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