“We live in a society exquisitely dependent on science and technology, in which hardly anyone knows anything about science and technology.”
When I started my chemotherapy treatment six weeks ago I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I didn’t expect a week of normality followed by a week in hospital and four weeks at home managing my pain and discomfort as best I can. After six weeks of it though, it’s time to go back to the Oncology Department at Southampton General and see how they think I’m getting on.
I know the procedure now when I come into the oncology centre. The coat hook next to the scales is still broken so I take my tweed jacket off before I’m called for my weigh-in. After my weight has been taken I take a ticket for my blood test and await the nurse to call me in. My veins do have a horrible tendency to collapse so the nurses often take a few attempts to get the blood out of me. My current record is seven attempts but thankfully the nurse is able to draw a suitably sized sample of blood on the second attempt today. After my mandatory tests I take a seat in the waiting room and await my consultation with Dr. Wheater. After ten minutes though I’m summoned into Dr. Killick’s office instead. Dr. Killick asks me how I’ve been getting on with my chemotherapy so I reel off my list of side effects to her. If I had been playing side-effect bingo I suspect I may have won first prize, alas there are no prizes awarded to patient who has clocked up the most side effects. I talk her through my list of miserable maladies which include: diarrhoea, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, taste disturbances, sore mouth, tumour pain, lack of energy, loss of skin pigment (everyone comments on how pale I look), bloating, flatulence, mouth ulcers, chest pain, hot flushes and changes in hair colour (my hair is now turning white). I’m not too bothered about my hair turning white though, my beard is now completely white and the roots of my hair are also coming through snowy white too. White hair is at least preferable to balding which I seem to be escaping everywhere except in my nether regions. My ball bag has completely shed it’s clock-spring cloak and is now as smooth as a silk purse. I’ve offered many people to have a stroke of my silky smooth scrotum but as yet know one has been keen to take me up on the offer. If you believed in such things, I’m sure some people might consider it lucky to stoke such a silken sack. I don’t however offer Dr. Killick the opportunity for a cheeky rub and she seems quite content to take my word for it.
Dr. Killick agrees that my list of side effects is more extreme than usual and her recommendation is to lower my daily dosage of pazopanib from 800mg to 600mg. I’m all for potentially easing my side effects but I’m a little concerned that 600mg wont be enough to combat the cancer. Dr. Killick assures me that 600mg will be enough to have an effect on the cancer and that there is often a balancing act in order to find the right dosage for each patient, and 800mg is clearly too much for me. I’m prescribed some additional 200mg tablets so I can take one 400mg tablet and one 200mg tablet from now on.
Over the next week I do seem to be getting a few more good days and the discomfort of the chemotherapy seems to be easing off somewhat although its far from disappeared completely. On the day the new iPhone 7 is available for pre-order, I’m having a good day. It would be fair to say that I am a bit of a sucker for Apple products. My first proper job back in 1984 was as a computer programmer on an Apple IIe microcomputer. Before going to college and university I’d been on a YTS (Youth Training Scheme), where I learnt to code. Like every Brit at the time I leant to program in BBC BASIC on the seminal microcomputer of the age, the BBC Micro, Model B. The BBC Micro featured a MOS Technology 6502 processor also used on the Apple IIe. When I was eventually sent on a work placement to the industrial engineering department of a large textiles plant I was able to make the Apple IIe microcomputer in the corner of the office sing, much to the delight of the departmental manager. Looking back on my code now it was pretty inefficient, Applesoft BASIC did not have the concept Boolean variables for simple true or false arguments so I used write terrible lines of code like IF PINK$ = “FLOYD” THEN GOTO 10 which not only used the dreaded GOTO statement but also wasted several bits of precious memory by using unnecessarily long strings rather than a humble pair of integers to define a simple binary condition. Despite my often inefficient code I was asked to stay on and remained in the job for three years until the factory eventually closed and I was forced back to college and then on to university. During my time at the textiles factory I was however, not especially popular with the various staff that also worked there, mainly because of one particular program I designed and wrote. I created a small database (using two 5¼ inch floppies, the computer did not have a hard drive), that stored the identification of the looms in each set and the weavers, overlookers and shift managers assigned to each set covering all three hundered and twenty three looms in the factory, across each shift for every day of the last two weeks. I didn’t have the disk space to go back more than two weeks. Every time a fault in the cloth was detected in the scanning department my program was able to trace it back to the relevant yarns, shift, loom, weaver and provide a weekly fault report that would identify trends in faults and see if they were related to specific looms, warps, wefts, weavers or overlookers. This enabled the shift managers to be more cautious of particular looms and yarns but also to retrain or reprimand the more careless staff, hence my unpopularity.
Despite being extremely fond of the Apple IIe, when I eventually went to university I abandoned Apple and, like everyone else at he time, bought a PC. It wasn’t until 2006 that I finally went back to Apple and bought myself an iMac and was instantly converted back into the fold. Being a rather enthusiastic Mac user I watched the Apple 2007 conference with great anticipation while Steve Jobs demonstrated the revolutionary new iPhone that incidentally used an ARM processor that had evolved directly from my beloved 6502 microprocessor. Keen to get my hands on the new iPhone I left London early on release day and headed to the Carphone Warehouse store in Basingstoke. I was first in the queue and can confidently claim to be the first iPhone owner in Basingstoke. If Douglas Adams had still been alive and just happened to live in Basingstoke, I’m pretty sure he would have been just ahead of me in the queue. Since then I’ve upgraded to every major new iPhone on release day.
Today is the day the new iPhone 7 is available for pre-order but for the first time ever I’m hesitant about ordering it. I’m not hesitant because I’m concerned that the new iPhone won’t be a suitable advancement on the previous model, I’m hesitant because I will need to sign up to a new two-year contract, three months after being given a life expectancy of eighteen months. They’ve never asked me in the past if I think I’m likely to die before the end of the contract so I’ll probably get away with it. What happens though if I do sign up for a new two-year contract and then die after a year? I suppose in the worst case Tori will have to either take the contract on herself or pay the appropriate fee to terminate the contract. It won’t be a problem buying herself out of the contract but it’s yet another piece of red tape for her to sort out after I die that I’d rather not lumber her with.
After much thought however I decide it’s not wise to simply stop buying things and booking holidays for the future because I might die soon. I have decided to live the rest of my life as if I’m not going to die just yet. I’m going to book some holidays and some trips and most importantly, I’ve ordered myself an iPhone 7 Plus in Jet Black with 256 gigabytes of memory. Fuck you Eighteen months life expectancy.