The coolest thing I’ll ever own! #cancerperk

The other day, whilst in the MRI machine, I had the most fantastic idea for a piece of artwork that I wanted to create – something personal and that I could use on those ‘shitty days’ as a bit of a motivator.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I present my MRI images!

As Kostas, a very good work friend, just said “thank God you didn’t have prostate cancer!”

I have to say, I knew it was an unusual request from the start, however a huge thanks to my medical team at The Christie Hospital for providing me with these images and continuing to be awesome.

I know this is like overshare to the extreme, but at least I didn’t use one of those flaming’ ‘selfie sticks’!!!

During my time in radiotherapy, I saw worse, including a teenage girl who was taking scrapbook pictures heavily posed for on the radiotherapy machines, and many people choose to keep what I’m now terming a ‘death mask’, again from radiotherapy, after the hospital no longer has a use for it.

I’m really enjoying the newfound sense of creativity that I seem to have discovered after my cancer diagnosis, and that, when coupled with my personality, will always relate in creations from outside of the box, hopefully for many many years to come!

The day that I had £250,000 sat in my kitchen drawers…

… and before ANYONE starts, this is not a brag post!

As regular readers are likely aware, I was diagnosed with brain cancer (a Grade 4, Chang Stage 0, Medullablastoma) at the start of the year, what I really wanted to speak about, given the relative ‘newness’ of it, is critical illness insurance.

No, I’m not a sales man, but fortunately for me, work ‘force’ us to opt in to this along with life insurance, and so, in for a penny, in for a pound, I paid the premium to bump up payout from £100k to £250k – costing only £8 total a month – though I do appreciate not everyone has ‘a spare couple-of-quid’. With the Nation’s health being as it is, the unfortunate truth of it is that you, or someone you know, will likely end up with a ‘critical illness’. It’s really not a ‘wait and see’ thing in my opinion.

That decision has absolutely turned my life around and made the last few months post-diagnosis so much easier, especially when it has taken the Government nearly 6 months to arrange a PIP Assessment for me (it came through today – I applied in June 2014) – were I not lucky with having such generous employers, I would have hated to be flung to the benefits people in the condition that I was in post-surgery/radiotherapy.

I have to say, it wasn’t something Max and I particularly dwelled on, we dutifully filled out the forms, and I got the surprise of my life when, out of the blue, the postman knocked with a special delivery letter for me. Now, Max and I had been wondering what scale they would use to assess me and were only expecting a small percentage – I swear I nearly fainted when I opened the envelope and, plain and unceremonious as you like, there was a cheque with my name on for the full £250,000.

It had been a running joke that we’d get the insurance before a more firm idea of my condition became apparent, and we’d always joked that anything graded above £150,000 was probably ‘oh fuck’/’fancy funeral’ money, ha! Fortunately as many of you will be aware, I’m taking everything day by day at the moment with ‘no residual disease’.

So, I’m on the phone to Max, I tell him and he goes silent – I’ve never encountered him doing that before – we were both so shocked. I swear, that day, had the cancer not bumped me off, the shock would have got me. I hid the cheque in the kitchen drawer, as if ninjas were going to break in at any moment!!!

A few days later, after establishing that I could pay that sum of money in to my current account (I did toy with a ‘black’ account), I got myself all nicely suited and booted for the occasion of paying the cheque in. I decided to go to a branch near my work as it’s like the ‘business area’, and Max accompanied. When I walked in to the bank I was practically shaking. We waited at the welcome podium and a staff member rocked up, and when we said “Hi, we have a large value cheque to cash“, instead of getting us to sit with the branch manager in their office, as we expected, we unceremoniously got told to join the normal counter line. Once we handed the cheque to the cashier, she didn’t even bat an eyelid. Either good training, or professional insensitivity to money (I’m in accounting, I move millions from around the World each day, and it’s all just numbers to me). We were in and out in two minutes. I’m not gonna lie, it was a bit deflating!!

Contrast this to the lady in the same branch a few weeks later when I went in to arrange a CHAPS payment, she went mental! Whooping and asking all kinds of questions at the public counter (and not just the anti-fraud ones) “Wow, that’s a lot of money, do you have a good job?”, Me, “Insurance settlement“, She, “Jesus, what got broken?” Me, deadpan, “I did, Brain Cancer”; for a second she froze, shocked, and then with a big grin boomed “well at least you’re alright now and youse is all richy rich”. haha!

At this moment in time, I appear to have ‘won’ – I got the money and the ‘no current sign of disease’ – could change in a few years, may be gone forever, could get hit by a bus tomorrow. I’ve made peace with that a long time ago.

Pretty much spent all the money in two months (sounds horrific, and crassly reckless, doesn’t it?), however as an unmarried gay chap, it has always been important to me to make sure that everyone around me has security when I snuff it. Max and I are now mortgage free and joint owners; able to create our ‘dream house’ (with a lot of investment potential on the back of us doing it up); I’ve gotten out of the city at last, and it prompted me to make a proper and legal will. I’ve also given some back to charity, friends and relatives who I wanted to help out. The house is hopefully ‘future-proof’ in case I do relapse, and I managed to get a few bucket list items done in New York, just being sensible as we don’t know where the ride will take us, and how up to travel I may be in years to come – best to live in the now, and all that! (‘no day but today’). In terms of the charity, it was very important to me that money borne from Cancer goes back in to Cancer – bit of a no brainer really (excuse the pun!) as it benefits me and all the other people out there living with, or yet to encounter, this horrible illness.

As I say, I’m not sharing this just to brag – I haven’t told anyone (even my own family), how much the settlement was for. It’s just another ‘funny’ twist in my Cancer story that I wanted to record. As I say, I’m the lucky one, I’m the guy that got the critical illness payout and lived! (How Harry Potter of me!) Can’t guarantee it’ll always work out like that for you if you look in to a critical illness policy, but I know I’d always feel a lot more secure knowing there was a safety net should the World come crashing down (and believe me, you’re not going to want to have to get up and go to the benefits office and argue your case if you’re THAT ill). I’ve kept my policy, but would rather not ever need to claim on it again!

Merry Christmas!! (2014)

Just a quick Merry Christmas from me, and to thank you all for being part of a pretty mixed 2014.

It was the year that I was diagnosed with brain cancer, and the year I finally got over to Australia, a long held ‘bucket-list’ item. It was also the year that I bought my first house, ditched the city I call ‘home’ and moved out in to the Peak District, and I got to see Hedwig on Broadway.

I’m spending this Christmas in Bristol with Max’s family, so won’t be about much on the big day, but I do hope that all of my friends, both online and in real life, have a fantastic day and are where you want to be, with the people you want to be with and doing what you want to be doing.

I’m still very much trying to raise funds for my charity of choice, The Brain Tumour Charity – all that I’d like for Christmas is 50p, please?

Genuinely, Merry Christmas guys, and thank you once again for joining me for the ride!

MOVIE REVIEW – Paddington (2014)

It was with great amounts of horror that I saw that Paddington was being brought to the silver screen, especially with the trailer for the film showing nothing more than cheap (admittedly funny) farce.

Instead I’d like to divert your attention to the ‘proper’ International trailer, rather than the one focuses solely on Paddington in the bathroom, which is FAR more representative!

In summation: NICOLE KIDMAN!!!!!

It’s a really nice film, but I really do have to ‘squee’ a little bit over Nicole Kidman, who is great at being ‘evil’ – much better than her previous attempt as Mrs Coulter in the movie adaptation of the Phillip Pullman’s Northern Lights (Pt. 1), The Golden Compass.

Everyone else plays their character very well, and it was nice to see Hugh Bonneville as Mr Brown, outside of his usual Downton Abbey role, Lord Grantham (I’ve avoided BBC ‘Comedy’ like the plague!)

A great movie for the Christmas period and a good way of introducing kids to the Paddington books themselves.


MOVIE REVIEW: Annie (2014)

Yesterday, I braced the wind, rain and potential embarrassment as a twenty-nine year old guy on his own asking for a ticket for the movie release of Annie in a former textile town, whose heyday has long since been and gone. Just call me Gari Elliot eh?

You don’t have to look much further than your own perceptions to see that people are very hesitant to get on board with this re-imagining of the ‘classic’ story. Some sites, such as Rotten Tomatoes, sees the movie hovering around the 30% fresh mark.

I’ve always said that the biggest problem with Annie IS Annie. A mouthy little gobshite with an unrealistic view of the World, despite her claiming the ‘hard-knock life’.

In this adaptation, Quvenzhané Wallis plays Annie perfectly, and admittedly it’s incredibly hard not to get right behind her.

Dare I say it, but with Will Smith, Jada Pinkett-Smith and Jay-Z all on board behind the scenes, they’ve added some real authentic grit to the story.

Even the addition of Cameron Diaz as Miss Hannigan is nowhere near as ‘car-crash’ as you may have imagined. I love her new slant on the character and Jamie Foxx as Staxxs (Daddy Warbucks in ‘old money’) is both charming, believable and ‘current’.

A real ‘feel-good’ movie that is everything that the 1982 movie adaptation should’ve been. It’s self-satisfying without being ‘smug’, and a true urban-fairytale for the 21st Century, perhaps being held back by the shackles of perception based on the poor quality of what has gone before.

By no means is it anywhere near perfect, but hey, it’s Christmas, and sometimes I just wanna smile, dance and sing!

UK based musical theatre geek with a brain tumour!


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