Is there anything funny about having bowel cancer?

Well – yes, actually. Given that even talking about toilet functions is a pretty dodgy subject, the fact that – after my operation – I’m essentially carrying a bag of shit around in a bag at my waist wherever I go can, sometimes, require explanation.

I’ve remarked on the smell before (and that’s despite the best modern filter technology can do). I know that as a good Viking I should ‘love the smell of my own fart’ but Vikings didn’t have stomas and didn’t have that smell in their nostrils 24 hours a day. And stomas being what stomas are, an inappropriate fart emanating from my lower belly can be misconstrued…

So it’s fightback time.

Over the last few months I’ve ordered a small wardrobe of custom clothing – partly for practical reasons (I need a loose, elasticated waistband on my trousers, for example, so jogging pants are good). And partly to boost my own morale. Hence my first choice of t-shirt. (And later a hoodie with the same message in a slightly different layout.)

This one came ready-made from a company called Spreadshirt and it’s actually a direct quote from an early Icelandic saga – Volsunga SagaUnusually for a saga this one isn’t about the family affairs of early Viking settlers. It’s the legend of Sigurd the Volsung, the dragon-slayer – and I can’t think of a more apt comparison. The symbol below it is the vegvisir symbol which 19th-century romanticism claimed as a ‘Viking compass’. It probably isn’t, but it works for me, as it perfectly symbolises my current journey into the unknown. The letters around that symbol are those of the runic alphabet, the futhark – and you’ll find graffiti written in it in all kinds of unexpected places, including Hagia Sofia in Istanbul. As for the font, I liked it so much that I found it online and adopted it for this website.

Once I’d had my diagnosis, I felt I needed a target for my inevitable anger and disgust. Those who know me well will understand my reasons for t-shirt number 2. The con-job that was Brexit is finally being talked about in a sensible way, by reasonable people, despite the True Believers who seem unable to face the reality of their mistake. Boris Johnson, whose campaign for Brexit divided the nation, capitalised on the worst instincts of otherwise reasonable people, and created a country I barely recognise as my own, was so immersed in this damaging nonsense that our best and earliest chances to deal with Covid were squandered. When it did become clear what was going on, the choices he and his government made led to the deaths of tens of thousands of vulnerable people in care homes. And I did get a little tired of a man taking personal credit for the excellent work of other people, on vaccines in particular – especially when details of his own appalling behaviour emerged later on. So – with apologies to Boris fans – my tumour became known as Boris. And this was how I celebrated that fact…

As my hair began to fall out (thank you, chemotherapy) I felt I needed a beanie to cover what would soon become a distressingly hairless scalp. As a Jamaican friend of Rosemary’s put it so well, ‘every spoil is a style’, and much as I cherished my abundant locks I can still look good without them. So I ordered a custom beanie with the website logo so perfectly created for me by the very talented Darren Guiheen of DL Design. And here it is…

Thinking about that a bit more, I felt that a third t-shirt pointing to this website might be in order. And my excellent wife Rosemary provided the necessary lift to it with her own line in bowel cancer humour on the back… 

What next? I don’t know. But it’ll be fun thinking something up…