Name

Graeme Smith

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A HOLE IN THE HEAD

Graeme N Smith, 44, a journalist for more than 20 years, latterly as Content Editor at s1, died on June 30 2013, some 18 months after he was diagnosed as suffering from glioblastoma, a form of brain tumour which is not curable. As part of his determined fight against the condition, he wrote a blog, Pure GNS, and the articles listed below demonstrate his remarkable spirit. To quote him: "No-one seems to be funny about cancer any more. I'm just putting the 'umour back into tumour."

He also decided to raise as much money as possible for the Beatson Oncology Centre in Glasgow, and you can still help. Click here

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  • I've just been cheated enough. Of about 40 or 50 years. And I want it back.

    I went to see the nice oncologists at Glasgow's Beatson cancer centre on Tuesday, hoping for my next bumper bag of harsh chemicals to keep the evil twisted part of my DNA which keeps trying to eat my brain in check.

    Instead I found out that the chemo hasn't been working.

    Despite a successful second operation in January, the poison pills have failed to stop whatever was left from growing another head and I have a recurrence roughly the size of a Brazil nut.

  • I can't say it has been one of my better fortnights, though. When I last left you I was beginning the 10-day cycle, and it seemed to be going not too badly. The dietary restrictions – quite a lot of the fun stuff, including alcohol, particularly red wine – weren't proving too much of a problem as long as I was careful. I didn't have much appetite anyway, and the anti-emetics seemed to keep the expected nausea under control.

  • I started my new chemo regime this week and, to be honest, it's not too bad. Now the surgery is out of the way and I'm a lot better after it, it was obviously time for me to have something else to keep me feeling a bit crap. And so I'm back for a wee whirl on the Chemocoaster here in the Tumourland Fun Park.

  • Whatever The Who may have sung back in the 60s; given my current condition, the sentiment "Hope I die before I get old" isn't one I'm massively keen on these days.

    Anyway, My Generation isn't on Quadrophenia, the album/rock opera the surviving half of the one-time loudest band in the world are touring when they come round in June. And as far as I'm concerned, they can skip it from the hits selection they're planning for the end. Unless they're planning on changing the words to "Look, I got old and haven't died!".

  • I've been home since Friday: lighter another chunk of brain but feeling pretty well on it; missing some hair and with the baldy patch tracked with some brutal-looking sutures to meet this season's trendy freshly-vivisectioned look, but I was never that lovely anyway.

    So that's the Good and the Ugly. As for the Mad… well, we'll come to that. It's been a hell of a week, and hospital was harder to deal with this time for a number of reasons. It's good to be back here on my couch, tired but relieved.

  • I've been here in the Southern General since this morning, during which time I've spoken to a couple of surgeons, an anaesthetist and at least one other doctor, and I've been scanned, examined, weighed (that was a bit scary) and had blood tests done.

    Most of the time has just been spent sitting around, though. That's pretty much all I need to do, now.

    Until the morning, when they'll be cutting my head open again.

  • Oddly enough, I feel pretty good about this.

    It's not just the mood-enhancing effects of the dexamethasone (my steroid of choice). I'm over that now. But since I found out on Christmas Eve that this year's pressie was some new tumour (next year, a card will be fine, thanks) I've been aware there were different ways forward from this. Now, since I went back to the Beatson on Hogmanay for a long chat with one of my oncologists, it seems I'm in line for the best one. That's very encouraging.

  • Not in a big way. Not with the full original line-up. But there's something there which wasn't when I had the last scan back in September. That's why I felt so tired for a few weeks there. It wasn't so terrible, but it left me unfocussed and too weary to work, although I felt better again once I was back on the steroids, and after I'd got over the highs and crashes they threw into the mix. I feel OK again now.

  • The one which has occupied me most recently is The Big Dipper, the rollercoaster while hurtles the lumpy thrill-seeker from the pits of fatigue to the peaks of steroid anxiety over and over again, by way of an afternoon's entertainment.

  • Either through the sleep deprivation or some sort of morphine hangover, I felt particularly disinclined to open the second door on my advent calendar – the previous day's had been in the side of my head and the choccy had been horrible. But I otherwise felt pretty good, under the circumstances.

    Now, exactly 12 months later, I feel pretty good again. Well, actually I feel slightly sick because one of the cats licked my hand while I was typing that last par and left a brown residue. Other than that, though, post shower I'm all right.

  • For a while there, it looked like America was about to become one of the others. Again.

  • I think this is a true memory. I’ve always thought it to be so, and I seem to have recalled it many times throughout my life, particularly as my birthday approaches.But whether this has refreshed it, or merely rebuilt it and I just remember my own construct, I can’t be certain.

    According to Wikipedia’s entry on childhood amnesia (the phenomenon that adults cannot remember early childhood clearly), "memories from early childhood (around age two) are susceptible to false suggestion, making them less trustworthy". A bit like Wikipedia.

  • I should perhaps add that Keats’ poem goes on to witter about bees for whom "summer has o'er-brimm'd their clammy cells". I'm not keen on the image of clammy cells o'er-brimming at the moment; what with the brain cancer and everything, I feel there's been quite enough of that sort of thing going on.

  • A year ago from Wednesday, I was sleep-dancing across the office floor, on the right side of my ribcage and with the sides of my tongue clamped between my teeth, wakening in a wheelchair to a paramedic's kind offer of air and a bewildered trip to hospital. The first of many.

  • Not entirely, I should say. But it’s not comfortable.

    Every hour or so I try to remember to get up from my desk and take a stiff-legged stroll around the office; to the kitchen, the toilet, the vending machines - any destination which has some point to it and which takes me out of view for a bit, so I don't look like I'm doing some kind of circular Boris Karloff impersonation among the islands of workstations.

  • I should have got this round of chemo last week, but my white cells were low and my consultant regarded it as “a bit gung-ho” to dole out drugs which batter the immune system while it was already punch-drunk.

  • Dear Auntie Beeb,

    Can I call you that? It’s just that I’ve known you since I was a wee boy, ever since Brian Cant was the coolest thing on the telly. It’s like we’re family.

    Anyway, you might have heard I've not been too well, recently. Just a spot of light brain cancer, nothing to worry about, but it has meant that I've been spending quite a lot of time in front of the TV. I get quite tired, you see, and it's as good a place as any to have a slump.

    But I can't say I’ve been very impressed.

  • It cheered me up immensely, though. Since no news is good news, and I hadn’t heard anything from the head doctors since my MRI at the end of June, I was pretty confident there would be nothing to report. But it was still nicely reassuring to see the scans from March and June side-by-side and note little change.

  • It's quite handy: not worth growing a glioblastoma for, but a useful thing to have.

    It's mine because the DVLA won't let me have a driving licence at the moment, for fear I should embark on another bout of side-on disco dancing, this time at the wheel.

    Since I've only had the one fit, and that nine months ago and before the tumour was cut out, I can't help feeling this is a bit over-cautious. But there it is – no more vroom-vroom for me until a year after the surgery.

  • So to speak. It was my regular three-monthly MRI, and the first which may or may not give any useful information about how the hole in the head's getting on and, more importantly, if it's still empty. The hole, I mean. Not my head.

    I've had a few of these now and they're getting almost routine.

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Graeme Smith

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