My way of letting off steam!

Gay and Ageing – Now

now

My first partner had a tattoo. If you had known him you would have been surprised – it happened as the result of a drunken night out when he was doing his national service. He hated the sight of it but it was there every time he happened to look at his arm – the fact of its mere existence just wouldn’t go away. You could have tried to assure him, in good faith, that it made him look butch, but that wouldn’t have changed the situation!

Cancer is like that. Even when you’ve been told that they’ve got rid of it, the fact of it remains in your mind and it just won’t budge and, like it or not, each time you are reminded of having had it there is the added reminder that it might come back today, or tomorrow or sometime. It’s a bastard, that cancer!

Despair? Be like Shakespeare’s Richard II and ‘Lets talk of graves, of worms, and epitaphs… Let us sit upon the ground and tell sad stories of the death of kings’? You can if you want to, but it doesn’t have to be like that. Here’s my take on it all.

For me the secret is to focus on the ‘now’ of existence.

At first, that meant using diversionary tactics. Letting something command your attention as a way of combatting your anxiety, and your fear of the future. That seemed a good idea to me and so off I went for a 5 week course  on,

wait for it,

on ‘Scandinavian Film and Television’. That should be good for a laugh, surely!

After a couple of weeks of viewing a world almost solely in black and white;  of concluding that Scandinavian society is wholly consumed by having to solve gruesome murders; of trying to accept that there is no valid cinema outside of Scandinavia; and of trying to convince myself that the Scandinavian welfare state is the best thing since sliced bread; I almost finally came to the conclusion that having cancer might be a viable alternative after all. However what I did learn from it all was that this activity, or any other, wasn’t actually a way of forgetting reality but was actually a valid way of living now. I discovered that learning, making, walking, singing, writing was not the alternative to having a meaningful life, or just using up time, but was actually the real stuff of living. Now I’m into researching family history and when Mr Cancer rears his ugly face he will get a gruff ‘f – off!’ because I’m too busy now!

Again, living in the ‘now’ brings its own rules about status, possessions, and regarding the future and the past. It is tempting to lapse into ‘I used to be’ in one’s conversation as a way of keeping what status is left in your own stuff of living. But everyone who embraces and holds on to that approach is likely, sooner or later, to end up demeaned and by-passed. Far better to let what you are now be your reason for existence. Learn that where you are loved  and are respected by those who matter, it is for what you are now, rather than for some way back role in seemingly another world.  I acknowledge it not to be easy to live like that, but all should be warned, nothing is forever.

In the gay world, and in other world’s too, our possessions are becoming the key to what we see as the good life and, to be honest, how comfortable they do make us feel. But in pursuing them our futures have become mapped out and determined as we strive to keep and better what we have. Living in the ‘now’ takes away much of that striving as we focus simply on having enough and that being sufficient.

I want to thank Mr. Cancer for teaching me something else about living in the ‘now’. Initially I focussed on what I might not be able to do in the future; a simple phone call to a travel insurer confirmed that within a minute or so. But learning how to respond to an idea, an urge, a desire, now, without planning, foresight and not leaving it till later, is the real stuff of enjoyment and satisfaction. So keep your suitcase packed; go and catch the train to wherever; if you can afford it, get it, whatever ‘it’ may be; and let doing it now be the focus of your life.

Finally, because you are the centre of this new way of living, and your needs and your life matter most, learn also to say to others ‘not now’. With love, possibly sometimes with regret, and possibly even at the expense of other’s justifiable requests, let your ‘now’ come first. There will be moments when that rule will have to be relaxed, and perhaps even when others requests will enable you better to live better in the ‘now’, but, without others giving you the permission to do so, you have the inalienable right to smile and say ‘not now’.

So who do you think you are kidding Mr. Cancer, when you think that life is done? You have unwittingly provided a key to living which is rich beyond measure – thanks.

 

 

 

Thinking about Caravaggio

 

Over the centuries there are few painters who have portrayed human reactions so realistically as Caravaggio does. His use of light is central to all his work and in his time that was innovative, though not totally unique. His figures are real, not surprisingly so when his models had been plucked out of the streets and were required to simply to be themselves. Later they might be surprised to discover that they had been transformed into St. Peter, Judas, and even Jesus himself. These were rough trade types who knew enough of life for the experience to be deeply etched in their faces and therefore worthy of being immortalised by the artist. They are fearful, passionate, yet also simple people, used to a world where craftiness, deceit, violence and even murder were the stuff of life and their looks and reactions are uniquely used by Caravaggio to convey incidents in the Gospel story in a startlingly realistic way and amazingly he gets the situation right every time.

However in spite of such skill, personally, I have never found that his work creates any sense of religious devotion in me. I am amazed by the validity of the reactions portrayed in his work such as the look on the faces in ‘The Call of Matthew’; the face of the jailer looking at the head of the executed John the Baptist; and the responses of the disciples recognising Jesus in both of the ‘Emmaus’ paintings. Caravaggio’s patrons would surely have been well satisfied that their devotion deepened as they gazed at their purchase. But for me those feelings of devotion simply don’t happen. In the ‘Emmaus’ paintings, for exampled, as you see the disciples suddenly recognising Jesus in the breaking of bread, it might be expected that the viewer might respond in kind with such words as ‘My Lord and my God!’, but for me it is enough that the paintings are powerful in being just a portrayal of two old men shocked at their recognition of a lost friend/relative and producing the sort of response like ‘well bugger me, if it isn’t our Albert!’

The current exhibition at the National Gallery, ‘Beyond Caravaggio’ confirmed those feelings not just in the few works of his on display (there are just six, three of which could have been seen in the Gallery, free of charge, only weeks beforehand) but also in the quite worthy examples of later artists who were deeply influenced by him. I have a feeling about Caravaggio and his followers, however, that had they been painting during a more secular time in history and thus freed from the shackles of Christian patronage, that one can only begin to imagine what further wonders he and they could have produced.

In the final room of the exhibition, Caravaggio’s magnificence is displayed in all its glory. What a privilege to have the loan from the Nelson Atkins Museum in Kansas City, of his John the Baptist. The work, a large canvass, is wonderful, but again the subject is ultimately of no significance and there is no need to talk about religious responses. Instead, in this masterpiece, we are confronted by a dark, brooding, pensive, stoic, muscular young man. His head lowered slightly, and his face, in part shadow, turned slightly towards the viewer. His tangled hair over his brow, and his naked body swathed in brilliant scarlet. He is sensuous and majestic in turns and screams out to the viewer ‘dont you dare ignore me’. Just stand and take in the powerful image of this young man. By doing so you have experienced the wonder of Caravaggio and that picture alone has been worth the price of your ticket.

 

michelangelo_merisi_da_caravaggio_-_st-_john_the_baptist_-_wga04155

caravaggio-emmaus-750pix

 My talk was one of the keynote talks at the LGBTQ Health Summit in Canterbury Kent UK in September 2012

LGBT HEALTH SUMMIT

I have just 5 minutes to talk about 42 years of being gay in Kent, and I have time only to make a few stops in the journey, but I start with an important event before coming to Kent.

In 1968, for the very first time, I said to someone ‘I’m a homosexual’ (I didn’t know the word ‘gay’), and a five ton weight just fell from my shoulders, and that weight has never returned.

 In 1971 my first partner David and I went to see the manager of the Halifax in Canterbury  to apply for a joint mortgage. He was totally flummoxed by such a request and said ‘But what happens if you two split up?’  ‘Dont you ask heterosexual couples the same question?’ I asked. ‘Oh he said, I hadn’t thought of it like that’.

 In 1972 about 30 of us were the local branch of the Campaign for Homosexual Equality though we didn’t dare call ourselves that, and at our Christmas dinner called ourselves ‘The Canterbury Debating Society’. We met at the Friends Meeting House in Canterbury and at some meetings the caretaker used to cover the floor with the most pungent polish so that our eyes smarted and watered.  When I complained he said ‘if you don’t like it then you can go elsewhere and take the rest of your filthy sodomites with you’. You don’t let bigots get you down.

 In 1980 a group of us formed the East Kent Friend telephone helpline. We bought a phone installed it in the bedroom of a friend’s flat in Canterbury and activated the line every Tuesday evening. We were terrified someone would find out where we were and vandalise the flat and had been advised that technically we were not legal and that the police could arrest us for promoting indecency. But we continued and over the years of Friend it is amazing how many callers were helped because of that line.

 In the mid 1980s the terror of AIDS arrived. Deaths were described as brain tumours, or cancer or heart attacks, but deep down we knew that  AIDS was the cause of death. When in Kent, a Buddy system was created for those with the disease, refreshingly we were not short of volunteers. I pay tribute to my Buddy, Jerry, a lovely man. He was terrified of his condition being known and refused to register with a GP in Ashford where he lived, in case people got to know about him; after all some people had been burned out of their homes. I shall never forget that phone call from him one Monday at 8 when he said ‘Roger can you come over, I’ve gone blind’. Fear was endemic in those days, and at his funeral the undertakers were purposely not told of his condition; the cremation was scheduled the last of the day and the dreaded words AIDS and gay were not even whispered .

 In the 1990s gay teachers like me had Section 28 strung round our necks. For political reasons we had been forbidden to teach or say anything about homosexuality to our pupils, and I feel that I need to apologise to my gay students of those days when I did not offer the kind of support they deserved as they coped with their emerging sexuality.  Even when section 28 was repealed the leader of Kent County Council declared that Kent would have its own version! But he failed.

 From the late 1990s a brave new world came into being for us LGBT people, one I thought I would never live to see and for me it is wonderful. Civil registration, laws outlawing discrimination all have reinforced my pride at being a gay man. Sitting in a Kent LGBT/Police liaison committee chaired by a deputy chief constable who happened to have once been a pupil of mine was a strangely liberating  experience. And here having a health summit with an official welcome from the mayor of Canterbury is surely a sign that our world is changing.

 And where do we go now? Well it is obvious that issues about our status, security, health and well being remain and it remains true that the price of our freedom must be eternal vigilance. Laws do not quickly change hearts and minds. This Summit addresses many concerns except, may I say, in one respect insufficiently. Recent research about Kent suggests that 100% of us LGBT people will die! Did you know? Also there are more of us over 65 than 16 or under and so the LGBT community is getting older like the population at large and we have important and unique needs too. I still believe in the idea of community, for us LGBT people, and that must involve respect, concern and care for all whatever the age.

 Significantly, in his book ‘You’re Looking Very Well – The Surprising Nature of Getting Old’  Lewis Wolpert  gives evidence that younger people who have a negative view of old age actually die younger.  So please be a community and care for us oldies too – you might gain a few more years as a result.

I wish the summit well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yesterday a squirrel sat in the road who, as I trundled towards him, was clearly daring me to do the ultimate thing and run him over. I didn’t. I stopped.  We looked at each other and then he ran, victoriously onto the bank.

On two separate Thursdays, I passed schools where I saw 16 and 18 year olds in clearly carefully considered clothes, together or sometimes stoically alone, walking the pathways to the entrance lobbies to receive their examination results. From one school there emerged a boy, with the most incredible smile on his face. There’s no feeling like success, is there?

And so everyday, for three weeks, my drive to Canterbury has consisted of different and memorable experiences which have had the delightful effect of diverting me from the tedium of the journey. A journey which ended invariably in the same parking spot, and  a short walk to my destination. Yes, you guessed it. Its the Oncology Department. ‘Cancers R Us’!

On my first visit there was a huge feeling of dread as I pushed open the doors to this new and forbidding world, but there was also a  defiant, sort of gladiatorial feeling in me too, wanting me to shout, ‘those of us about to die, salute you!’.

It was all unnecessary. Where were the harridan receptionists who I was prepared to suggest lent me their broomsticks? Where was the endless waiting? Where were the situations to complain about?  What were these people thought they were doing with their friendly welcomes? Their smiles? Their bowls of Quality Street chocolates.  And the gentle apology that my appointment tomorrow might be just 5 minutes later than scheduled? Whatever next! This was all too disarming for words.

I took my seat. Got out my trusty ipad and prepared to achieve a thorough reading of my downloaded newspaper. No such luck. My name was called before I had got through the headlines. That’s not good enough! What do hospitals think they are doing taking away an old man’s right to read the whole of his newspaper before his daily treatment begins!

This department, like so many, is staffed by the United Nations. Mostly young; friendly and helpful; and desperate to pronounce my name correctly too, though sometimes failing badly. But I felt safe.

I put on the gown specially provided for my radiotherapy. Not exactly Armani, and more like 1950s clothing for breastfeeding women, but, hey, rainbow tops will surely come, one day!

I looked around and took it in. This was surely the sort of place where Frankenstein did his business. Where wires would be stuck to my body. Where there would be whirrings, and electrical shortings, and with thunder and lightning to go with them. Where, as a result, my body would be so full of nuclear fission that I would glow in the dark. Where my partner would be able to stick wires on me in order to boil a kettle.

Some pulling of me then took place until I was clearly in the correct position. Some inaudible numbers spoken and agreed upon. A brief look at my body and then the words, ‘Be back soon’. My God! Was I, semi naked, laying in a vulnerable, not to say S & M like posture, going to be there until they were back from lunch?

I lay there but soon it all started. The machine trundle into action. It did a 180 degree journey around me and part of it, while above me, moved in a circular fashion too. There were different noises, a green light and, it made me think, given a different situation and mindset, there were all the makings of a pretty demanding theme park ride too. But in fact, the situation was a doddle. The staff returned, made sure I was dressed properly for my public, and sent away with the words ‘See you tomorrow’.

Last Thursday, after 3 weeks, the receptionist took my attendance sheet. Smiled. Drew a tick on it; put a smiley face below it;  wrote 10/10 for attendance on the sheet and I went on my merry way. Has it worked? Am I free? Who knows. But I know that they have tried, and will continue to try, and what I am required to do in response is to grasp each day and to live it. Focussing my life not on the ‘then’, or the ‘when’ but the ‘now’

Not a bad maxim for all of us, eh?.

 

 

CHAPTER 1

You know how it is when you’re sitting in the beautifully warm sunshine of an Atlantic island, and at the end of December too! Your mind plays its usual tricks and your past, present and future all move around your brain inconsequentionally.  People, seemingly long forgotten, suddenly appear; events nag their way into the memory producing a cocktail of smiles, feelings of sadness and guilt; and coupled with it all is that priceless feeling of well being . The sun’s rays do their trick and you feel so relaxed as you smooth your body blending together its mixture of sun tan oil and sweat. It has been like that for 10 years now and I happily tell myself that I am lucky, so, so lucky to be here on the island, and may it always be so.

This afternoon as I  rub my chest and gently tweek my nipples, on my right side I feel something unusual. Just a small piece of a flower blown off a shrub by the wind, no doubt. I  close my eyes and continue with the serendipity. A minute goes by and I brush myself but feel it again. It is different, and this time, there is no doubt – it is real. There it is, beneath my right nipple, something distinct, hard and not moving.

I remembered the same feeling on a November day some 18 years before. I had been listening to a radio programme broadcast during breast cancer awareness week. ‘Men get it too’ the announcer said. I felt myself then, and sure enough, there it was, a small lump. Panic! Total fear! But actually, after diagnosis, all was well. It was a fatty lump and was removed, and I never heard about it again afterwards. This time, however, there was something different about it.

CHAPTER 2

On return home a visit to a consultant was arranged. He examined me and told me that he felt it could simply be the residue of my body’s reaction to some medication I was taking, but it was best to do some tests.

From now on my experience of diagnosis took me into a new world, and I had to get used to the fact that it was a  world which was not a man’s world. As a gay man I had not previously felt what might be called a typical heterosexual gender divide, it had not previously been an issue but now, to my surprise, it did. Even the language I used about my body took on  what I would have called a feminine aspect. What I had called my ‘chest’ now was called my ‘breast’. In the body imaging department I felt curiously out of place as I waited for my mammogram. The nurse taking the image clearly wasn’t experienced enough to cope either and she had difficulty suitably arranging a man’s body, whose nipples may have been slightly out of the ordinary, but whose breast hardly fitted a machine which was normally used to photographing something much more pendulous and flexible.

The resulting mammogram was insufficient and an ultra sound was called for, but that didn’t show much either, and a biopsy was next on the list. So with just a few bodily bits missing I prepared for another visit to the consultant. There we sat, my partner and me, two men, in a waiting room of women – a brave new world.

In he came, accompanied by a nurse. Smiles and handshakes. None of this, ‘how are you?’ business, which later I came to react to from others, quite a bit. Instead we went straight into it. ‘I thought you had the consequence of medication you were taking, but the biopsy has told me differently and I’m sorry to tell you that its breast cancer.’

‘What????’ ‘For fuck sake! I, me, doesn’t get potentially terminal illnesses! I’m here on this earth to be by the side of those who have things like that. I’m the buddy of the man with AIDS. I’m the friend who stands with the carers of those with dementia. I’m the one who conducts the funerals of those who didn’t make it. BUT I am not the one who gets the finger!!!! Hasn’t god ordained it to be like that?

Worse news was to come. A mastectomy would be necessary. Perhaps further surgery to remove lymph glands. Then perhaps radiotherapy, chemotherapy and god knows what else. Partner and I look at each other, unable to mouth what we are feeling, but at least we are together in our grim silence.

CHAPTER 3

How on earth do single people; those without partners; those alone. How do they deal with that news? How do you focus, and even move forward following such news. It’s good having someone else there with you, better than nothing, but there comes a point when you are left alone, alone to cope with such challenging news. Your friend has their own home, their own life to lead; they cant stay with you for ever. How do you deal with the solitude after they have left, when the sympathetic phone calls haven’t helped, when you wake in the middle of the night and the horrors about your future hit you.

I immediately thought of my friend David who had lived with liver cancer for well over a year. He had not lacked visitors or phone calls, but who as I now realised, nevertheless, had much more time alone to cope with his condition after his visitors had gone.

Look, folks! There is an LGBT issue here. We are many – more of us in the 45+ bracket than in the 15 – 44 bracket. We are more than likely to be living alone. Perhaps a third of us will experience cancer. Many of us will die from it. Where are the mentors, the advocates, the befrienders, the social workers and nurses, who understand our distinctiveness, even our uniqueness, and can be there by our side to see us through. In the night watches, when I awoke and considered my position, I gave thanks that I had someone I could say ‘cuddle me’ to, and I thought of those others within our LGBT community who have to face all this alone because we have not mobilised our forces/resources to serve their needs.

CHAPTER 4

I’ve always been different and so not surprisingly my cancer would have to be different too; wouldn’t it! There are only about 300 men per year who get it and I expected that this would mean being left without support, but, hooray, I was wrong. Our first meeting with the breast cancer nurse was accompanied by a superb and informative booklet on breast cancer for men and I soon gladly came to realised that I was not being treated as an honorary woman, with a women’s condition, but as a man who just happened to be amongst a very small but increasing number of other men who are succumbing to the same condition as thousands of women.

That is not to say that there are not psychological issues which may be peculiar to men . I was told that some men have real problems coping with the sheer fact of their different cancer. Perhaps even some might wish they had prostate cancer rather than breast cancer; they at least would have a ‘man’s cancer’. I noticed even within myself that when I told people I left a short gap between the ‘I have’ and the ‘breast cancer’ part of my speech. Perhaps even I felt something not quite right about having it. I was shocked after surgery by how unwilling I was to look at my new self in the mirror, and, when I eventually did it, how upset I was by the sight.

I meet people who still do not know that men can get it too, and I suspect that some might even feel that I had done something wrong, like smoking, to get it. I would love to meet other men in the same situation, but so far, I have found none. Perhaps the enormity of their burden has led them to go to ground. I wonder then if there are any other gay men with the same condition and wonder if I could even be only one in this country.

CONCLUSION

And so it has gone on. The surgery is complete and we (thank god its a ‘we’) have decided on the treatment which is best for us in our situation. From now on, every day will be a bonus day but these days will not be like the other days before the diagnosis. I’m still discovering how you think positively about the future most of the time; how you make a continuously proactive response to living ; AND how you confidently take your place within the male gay community with only one nipple!!!!!!! All things are possible, eh?

 

 

 

COMING OUT

It is over 40 years since I took my first major steps in ‘coming out’ as a gay man. Not for the carefully staged video explaining to adoring fans that I was dating another man and nor for me the consequent letters of congratulation arising from it. No, this was, and still lingers in the memory as, a major event accompanied by not a little trauma. In the space of just a few days I stood before distraught parents, an incredulous spouse, and unbelieving fellow workers, telling all of them something which obviously seemed to them, at the time, as not being far from the announcement of the imminent end of the world. For me I feared that it might indeed be the end of my world.

The years have considerably numbed that feeling. Well, at least that’s what I thought had happened until just a few months ago when I was diagnosed with breast cancer and faced two bouts of surgery, with stays in hospital. You probably don’t see any link so far in the story, so let me explain.

My ‘coming out’, like that of most LGBT people of my age was always going to be a selective process, and was accompanied by the building of defensive walls around my life, just in case I might find myself in situations where, being known as a gay man, might be a threat to my security. I had never felt that I needed to tell everyone but, once in a settled situation, I didn’t need to deny it either. All those who mattered to me knew the facts and, when I felt safe enough, in a professional and less personal situation, it didn’t require much courage to admit it there as well.

GOING IN

The days following my breast cancer diagnosis have signalled a change in those feelings. I have been so fortunate to have a loving husband with me when all this kicked off, but I hadn’t expected that now would begin a Stage Two of my coming out. I had never envisaged that there might even be something called ‘Stage One’.

To begin with I felt it necessary now to say to those dealing with my cancer care that nothing short of proactive acceptance of me and my sexuality, and of our relationship, was what we both wanted and I was clear what that acceptance might entail. It mattered to me that when the lovely cancer nurse phoned, she began by asking if it was Nigel or Roger she was speaking to, an approach so much more acceptable that simply asking ‘Can I speak to Mr. Newman, please?’. For us that was a sign of what we would call proactive acceptance.

When after my mastectomy operation, and told that I was being moved into another ward, when I asked that my partner be informed, and told that yes SHE would be told, I felt that I had to make it clear that such mistakes should never need to happen, since it should be basic in service providers training that a person’s sexual orientation should not be presumed. Having a proactive approach to inclusion means that if 5% of the adult population is LGBT and, if in one day you are dealing with perhaps 20 clients, then one must assumed that at least 1 of them might be LGB or T. In that hospital ward I was that 1 in 20; they got it wrong and it mattered to me.

More significantly however, my stays in hospital have had a totally unexpected effect. To be honest, I have gone back into the closet, when there!!! I had thought that those days were long gone, but now here they were alive, kicking and frightening. I was appalled to find myself feeling that I was in a threatening environment. The conversations, times of visiting, and the general atmosphere, were so different from the gay culture, which I now realise had come to dominate the way I lived. So now I felt completely at sea and needing to be careful about what I said, I was anxious about the personal details I surrendered. I hardly dared mention a partner and I even found myself begging him not to kiss me when he visited me. His response, as expected, was ‘bollocks to em, I love you’ but onb his visits I could see the eyes taking it all in; sorting and codifying the resulting information. I found myself telling him that it was OK for him because he could take our lifestyle back home with him whereas I was left to deal with the consequences. I was profoundly disturbed by having these feelings and I felt guilty about them, but the fact was that there I felt and believed myself to be different. I pondered how much I would have loved to have had some ‘out’ LGBT staff around me, so that I didn’t feel so isolated and had more confidence to be me. Just someone with a ‘Me Too’ badge on them, would have helped.

SOME NEEDS

So that’s where we are at this stage of my cancer journey; always hoping that proactive responses to us and our orientation will enable creative engagement to take place; knowing that there will now be a more regular need to ‘come out’ to others as the chain of service provision progresses and with the additional fear that someone will respond in a less than satisfactory manner; and being so very grateful that, unlike the majority of LGBT people of my age group, I am not alone in facing the challenges of my condition. More of that last point perhaps in another blog.

 

 

BE A MAN!

I had a feeling that life was going to be a challenge when I told some boys at school that my favourite singer was Doris Day. Not that she wasn’t good, you understand, but really because I didn’t actually like her. It was just that I preferred Buddy Holly and I thought it was safer to say that I liked a girl singer rather than a man singer. People talk, you know.

There was the same issue with sport. I started to go and see our local, and at that time prominent, soccer team play and I loved to cheer with the rest when we were good, and I booed, with the rest, when some stupid referee gave a decision against us. I was glad that I was numbered with the fans, mostly men, and glad that my friends and parents were glad that I went too, though in reality I was never so pleased than when the game was over and I was back at home in front of a warm fire, reading a book or three, or listening to classical music.

Then there was the pub! You had to go to a pub, didn’t you! For me, however there was a different challenge because I felt I had to study closely how to be like the other men; how to hold my glass; how to stand; how to laugh loudly; and, how to pay for my round, though I regularly let myself down when I didn’t always remember what everyone had ordered, nor had the faintest knowledge about the different beers some asked for. Worse for me was that I couldn’t easily cope with drinking one whole pint of beer, let alone two, three, etc, like my mates. Not for nothing was I called ‘mini belly’ during one session. Oh the shame!

Things were similarly bad for me when we men got round to talking about fixing the car, decorating the living room, and putting up shelves. My input would sadly have been at the level of asking how you changed a light bulb, had I dared to admit it, and I tried hard, not to let myself down, when talking about a friend’s new car and seeming to be content in simply knowing what colour it was.

LEARNING TO BE ME!

Well that was then, because there was a breakthrough out of all of this. There was a Damascus Road experience (look that up, if you don’t know what I mean – there might be a book in your house called The Bible, it’s all there), and I heard was a voice inside me which said, “be who you are; don’t worry; you will be far happier being you; they can’t really destroy you; AND take heart, you are not alone”).

THE BIG ONE!

So that’s how it’s been, for many years now, and that’s how it’s going to be too, especially from this week onwards, because last Wednesday I discovered I had cancer. Are you ahead of me? Yes it isn’t, lung, or prostate, or bowel or bone, though it could eventually be any or all of those. You’ve guessed, eh? Yes its breast cancer. Just right for me, I guess.

There are about 350 of us men per year who develop it and, I am assured, the number might be growing. All of us learning in an unexpected way that cancer does not discriminate. Many of us probably coping with strange personal issues about gender. All of us, I hope, now proud to be numbered with the majority, and not afraid to be in pink.

So it’s going to be an interesting few months – watch this space; and to those men still struggling with an inner gender conflict, a piece of advice would be to buy yourself a ticket for the musical ‘Kinky Boots’ and leave taller!

 

Tag Cloud