Some truths about the ‘cancer survival gap’ in Scotland

Macmillan have released figures which show there’s a cancer survival gap between poorer and wealthier parts of Scotland. That’s a pretty damning statistic and one that any government has to work to solve because a person shouldn’t be at risk of dying because they live in a poor area or are poor themselves.

I’ve just been told I’m in remission after discovering I had cancer last year when I was still living in Bristol. I now live in Dennistoun in the East End of Glasgow as I spend some time recovering and recuperating. Dennistoun is by no means a desperately poor area, but it wasn’t as wealthy as where I lived in Bristol on the Gloucester Road or even Stokes Croft. It’s an area going through gentrification due to it’s close vicinity to Strathclyde University and the city centre (five minutes car/bus, 15-20 minutes walk) and a pretty cheap rental market (a 2-bed flat is as cheap as £500 p/m), relatively cheap houses/flats to buy in an area increasingly becoming full of Hipsters, young professionals and students. What though has this to do with Macmillan’s findings?

There’s a quote from the article linked at the start of this blog and I’ll highlight it here.

Health inequality is closely linked to income inequality

I’ve had a few physio sessions to help with my stroke recovery (its been a year since I had a stroke) in Shettleston health centre. This is Shettleston.

1423993_shettleston_in_glasgow

It is a poor area that’s been left to rot. It’s also ‘famous’ for having a desperately low life expectancy  but it is slowly improving. It isn’t ‘poor and edgy’ in a contrived way that say, Stokes Croft in Bristol is, but it’s just poor and edgy.

So here’s a couple of truths that’s dawned on me since returning last year and undergoing cancer treatment and stroke recovery.Poverty kills people. Having to deal with a potentially life-threatening illness is a full time job in itself, and if your support structure is weak, or you simply live in a poor area that hasn’t got a good local butcher or fishmonger, and you can’t work anyhow, then it becomes an additional struggle on top of your daily struggle. I’ve seen the sort of poverty in the East End of Glasgow that I thought no longer existed in the UK and it should shame us all that people live in such conditions but we’re also very good at screening this sort of poverty out.

Here’s the big one though; if you’ve suffered generational poverty and never seen your life get better and your basic human self-respect has been whittled down to nothing then you won’t put in the same fight as say, I did. I’ve lived in a nice wealthy city for 17 years. I’ve been lucky enough to have my life saved by some brilliant doctors and nurses at the Bristol Royal Infirmary, and I’ve got enough to live for, to fight for, to make me want to go through what has been an awful year. But what if I was say, living in a poor area resigned to my fate? You may think people don’t fight and won’t give up but I’ve seen it since returning to Glasgow. It shocked me into a realisation of just how lucky I’ve been in life that I can still walk with some pride in me. I’ve seen people crushed by the weight of their lives so they’re giving up before the fight has started.

That quote, Health inequality is closely linked to income inequality is important. If people don’t have the same chances in life, then they won’t get the same chances when they’re fighting for that life, and if you’re used to losing then what’s the point? This shouldn’t be a party political issue and I don’t care for the SNP and Labour throwing jibes at each other. I do think independence is something that may, and should help, but the fact is people have to be taught how to live. They need chances. You shouldn’t have a larger chance of dying because you’ve got a postcode in an area where poverty is rife? We need to make a better world for all, and whether or not we agree on how to get there, there’s an urgency here. I said this is generational and it is. Children born just over a mile from where I’m typing this now won’t live as long as I have because of where they were born. That isn’t right and to make things better it means people from all sides have to confront hard facts and that won’t be easy.

One year ago I nearly died but I got over it thanks to the NHS

On the 19th February 2016 I had a stroke. That was a Friday, and it was at work. I thought it was a hot flush because you know, you don’t think a stroke as anything like a hot flush as from film and TV you think you’ll agonisingly clutch your side and you slip just out of shot as dramatic music plays in the background…

Yet the soap opera drama never seemed to stop. The ‘mass’ on my neck with contributed to my stroke (it was ‘bouncing on my jugular’ as one doctor put it) turned out to be papillary thyroid cancer, and last May I underwent an eight-hour operation to remove the tumour as well as the lymph nodes around it that it was safe to do so. Then I had a slipped disc partly brought on by the shift in my body that happened after my stroke, but added onto the stress I was undergoing thanks to the stroke recovery, the fact I was still working. My employer at the time acted in a manner where they were offering paper-thin support, barring my line manager and a few individuals. As a company they fucked up with two individuals in particular who are quite frankly, more interested in making themselves look good than the welfare of their employees. That added to the stress of worrying about dying while dealing with the imminent death of my father meant that 2016 was a bastard of a year that felt like this…

death-star-explosion-o

But on the 19th February 2017 I’m still alive having moved from Bristol to Glasgow in November last year to recuperate, recover and decide what to do next. Earlier this month my consultant told me I’m in remission thanks mainly to the superb work NHS staff in Bristol did in moving fast enough to act as the stroke brought to light my cancer at an early enough stage before it riddled my body so they took it out and when I finished my radiotherapy at the start of this month the chances of it returning are so small I no longer need to worry about it though I will have regular checks.

There’s a lot of bullshit being said about the NHS. It is under pressure, and several decades of both the Tories and Labour privatising it, or at least, opening it up for private exploitation while starving it of funding means it gets the sort of relentlessly negative stories we see on the news 24/7 yet for me, it saved me. The transition from NHS England to NHS Scotland was smooth beyond belief and my stroke recovery is now in the hands of a very capable physio who gets exactly what I want to get better. The irony is that a year on after from having not one, but two life-threatening incidents I’m coming out of this in better nick than I was going into it. I renewed my passport last January just before the stroke and looking at my passport picture I see a sick, unwell man. Looking at me now I feel healthier, although I still have bad days however good days are outnumbering them now though the boredom is creeping in which is far better than worrying about dying.

In less than a year my life has nearly ended, I’ve had major surgery, radiotherapy, a stroke, relearned how to write again and walk, moved cities and I’m still here. As for what’s next that’s something that’s going to become clear over the next month or so but I can’t thank the NHS enough for making sure I’m still here.

So, what’s next?

What I thought of Invincible #133

invincible133

Robert Kirkman’s Invincible is a comic I’ve dabbled with over the years and this issue isn’t just ridiculously cheap in order to celebrate Image Comics 25th anniversary, but it starts a new story arc which effectively acts as a sort-of jumping on point just for when Image promise that at the end of this 12-issue run then Invincible is over.

This issue starts almost wordlessly with a funeral. Kirkman likes to have long stretches of his work that are without any word balloons so the reader has to follow the narrative through the panels instead.It can be a massively effective technique and Kirkman does it well so when the silence breaks it’s normally to add an impact.

invincible133-1

We get an idea of what has been lost, and the conflicts (because superhero comics are all about conflicts) arising from them.

invincible133-2

Kirkman makes sure the reader is brought up to speed in exposition worthy of Stan Lee.

invincible133-3

And we get an idea of all the relationships of the main characters in the comic.

invincible133-4

There’s a mission to be carried out. A wedding and vows are made to enact revenge and we get the big story that’s going to crack on over the next 11 issues til the series ends. This isn’t anything hugely original (there’s been a touch of Steve Rude and Steven Grant’s Nexus throughout Invincible) but this is well told superheroics with a science fiction setting. It’s a good read, but as a jumping on point it’s a bit bittersweet with so few issues left to go, but then again it will make people go off and buy the trade paperbacks.

 

What I thought of The Dregs #1

thedregs

The synopsis for this new title from publisher Black Mask goes like this:

A gentrified city. Its homeless population restricted to six square blocks called The Dregs. When people start disappearing, a drug-addled homeless man obsessed with detective fiction becomes addicted to solving the mystery. Equal parts Raymond Chandler and Don Quixote set in a thriving metropolis that literally cannibalizes the homeless, The Dregs is the first homeless meta noir ever made.

The first two sentences of the pitch intrigued me. The latter two less so.

From the off the comic makes clear exactly what’s going on in the city of Vancouver and what’s going on with the homeless population.

thedregs1

They’re being slaughtered for meat.

thedregs2

In the city of the future meat is at a premium so with the homeless being disposable the solution to the problems of feeding a city is to turn the homeless into food. In terms of allegory and political point The Dregs isn’t exactly subtle in terms of dealing with the harsh reality of gentrification.

thedregs3

There then follows a mystery to find out why homeless people are vanishing and the comic becomes a noir-ish mystery.

thedregs4

The Dregs is a surprising good, as well as original book, or at least trying to do something different rather than just rehash old ideas. This is helped by a fine artistic style that steps away from traditional American comic art and feels more European, which is in fact quite pleasing to see. This is trying to be different, as well as political and the creators should be applauded for coming up with this interesting new comic.

Godzilla in Love

godzilllainlove

I always wanted to write a romantic comedy called Godzilla in Love which would feature Godzilla (metaphor for the nuclear bomb and large Japanese monster famous for smashing up Tokyo and being played by men in rubber suits) falling in love with the girl of his dreams, only to be thwarted by the massive differences in scales, Godzilla’s lack of observable genitalia and the fact he fell in love with a vegan while Godzilla would do anything for love, but he’d not give up eating buildings full of meaty people.

Sadly it never developed beyond this initial idea and I don’t think anyone barring myself would want to watch a film where a foppish Hugh Grant-esque radioactive monster sings Partridge Family songs to the girl of his dreams while raining down radioactive fire on Notting Hill. Though radioactive fire raining down on Notting Hill might at least cull the media class down a notch or two.

This all comes to mind as today is Valentine’s Day; the one day where men of all ages fight to the death in Lidl trying to get the last bunch of lilting lilies for their partner. You’ve not lived til you’ve seen someone beaten to death with a Findus roast beef frozen dinner for two and a bottle of £0.99 cava, and today is the day where dreams are barely lived up to and card manufacturers end up choking to death on Everest-sized piles of cocaine.

So today cast a thought for all those Godzilla’s out there with their city smashing antics and lack of discernable genitalia.They need love too. Perhaps one day I’ll get my shit together and write about it?

The closest thing we have to a documentary about Action

Action is the legendary British comic that was essentially the precursor of 2000AD thus cementing its history as one of the most influential comics ever published in the UK. With 2000AD being 40 this year, and Action celebrating its 40th anniversary last year we’re getting further and further away from an important piece of comics history.

Imagine then my joy at stumbling across a number of videos on You Tube with interviews from Jack Adrian, Ramon Sola and Pat Mills. It looks as if an Action documentary was being made but these tantalising wee snippets are all we have of it which is a shame as it really is a piece of comics history which needed documenting like this.With Titan Comics publishing new Hook Jaw comics it seems relevant to document this now for the next generations. I’ve included in this blog all the clips I could find but if anyone finds or knows more feel free to point it out on the comments.

At this time of strife, we can all agree Piers Morgan is a cock

Donald Trump in the White House. A hard Brexit coming. The rise of the far right across Europe. We are truly in hard days as we wade our way through a variety of bastards and pricks, but step forth Piers Morgan, the biggest prick of them all to proclaim himself as the man who will stand up for racist, bigots and the sort of people that would paint swastikas on doors for a laugh.

piersmogancock

To be fair it isn’t a revelation that Piers Morgan is a cock. Those of us who have had to see the wee shite on British media for years realised it the moment he opened his mouth or hacked his first phone. However this new phase of arseholery is about him being at the centre of attention as Donald Trump’s familiar.This is the man who tells people to ‘get over it’ and then spends days whining about Ewan McGregor refusing to appear on TV with him, or indeed, anyone who’s managed to get through his paper-thin skin just as comedian Jim Jeffries did.

So as we enter the dark times remember that what unites us all is that Piers Morgan is someone who is the biggest cock you’ll ever see in your life. That will keep us all warm as the lights go out across the world…