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Curing cancer gives you... cancer

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Byline InvestigationsBy Paul McMullan in Dover, England
Curing cancer gives you... cancer
He was a tabloid newsman who for 30 years lived and breathed celebrity exclusives. Now, Paul McMullan is facing the biggest drama in his own life story: cancer. Here, in the second part of a warts-and-all new column, he talks CT scans, roid rage, and the challenges of trying to get better...

I AM drugged. Stoned. Out of it. High. I am supposed to be dying of cancer and everything is hilarious.

I walk back into my bar, I own a pub, and the barmaid says: “Paul’s on drugs,” and giggles.

I didn’t just take a pill in Ibiza, I mainlined a whole bag, washed down with a mouth full of steroids. In Canterbury as it turned out - and I don’t know who Avicii is.

You see, I go slightly crazy once a week and I feel capable of anything. I cut up an armed response unit and they jumped out with sub machine guns strapped to their chests.

“Just get out of the fucking way, nice guns, shot anyone recently?”

They let me go, no ticket, nothing.

The doctors at the hospital didn’t want to let me drive home. The first time my friend drove, then I drove with him sitting in the passenger seat and he has never got in the car again.

I am an investigative guinea pig on a UK drugs trial and I have discovered we are one hell of a long way from curing cancer and the punchline is, cancer cures can often give you cancer...

A hundred and twenty on the inside in a drop top Mercedes, roof down. I mean why do people think they can hog the fast lane at 90? Going through the middle, ducking and weaving, life on the edge, close to death but really living.

Speeding tickets, I don't know, what happens to them when you are dead?

I am not suicidal; I am terminal-incurable. There’s a difference.

Pub life: The First and Last in Dover (c) Gary Browne

Back at the bar there’s a seriously grumpy Spanish coach driver asking for a receipt.

“What’s wrong with the credit card slip?”

“I must have a VAT invoice.”

“Maybe we can write something on a piece of paper for you.” The barmaid scribbles out, ‘£50 for one room.’

He looks at it: “In Spain we are in the 20th Century.”

 The rays are very dangerous. The scan picked up a hole in my leg about the size of a penny, and probably just coincidentally where I had put my mobile in my left pocket for the last 20 years.

We fall about laughing. It’s the 21st Century. He writes his details on a piece of paper and we promise to email an invoice and then promptly lose the piece of paper.

And his bus is going to get a parking ticket because we told him to park in the wrong spot. Man we are so shit at running a small hotel. 

There are three of us standing behind the bar looking for the email address tears of laughter rolling down our faces. He’d gone upstairs and banged the door.

That's me on the right in Australia thirty years ago.

They don’t tell you chemo is going to be like this.

It’s like being 22 again on the beach in Bondi doing a bong. We used to buy tubes of fluffy whip without the cream, inhale the gas then jump on our boards and hang 10, man, whoo.

Dover has no waves. Thank heavens for that.

I am 30 years older and not the bronzed muscular, Adonis I once was. I am skinny as hell. I look like a bloody junkie.

I learned today 50% of people with my cancer who die in the first year are killed by the treatment inducing heart failure and chest infections, like pleurisy. Nice.

My consultant Dr Jin Lindsay said: “We need another full body CT scan which has a small risk of secondary cancer but you have cancer already, so, er.

Bring it on. The speed at which the operators ran out of the room, at QEQM Margate gave me a hint. The rays are very dangerous. This is where I discovered I had cancer a year ago. The scan picked up a hole in my leg about the size of a penny, and probably just coincidentally where I had put my mobile in my left pocket for the last 20 years.

Professor Jamie Cavanagh at St Barts, is a jolly man and I like him. As the UK leader in his field he’s confident enough to not rule out radical alternative therapies like using the power of the mind and even cooking with turmeric.

He told me however: “The autologous stem cell transplant will probably give you leukaemia in 10 years but obviously thats not something you need worry about.”

Me before cancer.

He actually laughed.

I drove home at 130 from that one. The average survival for Myeloma is currently five years two months, and I have already had it a year.

I am an investigative guinea pig on a UK drugs trial funded by Amgen a US Pharma and I have discovered we are one hell of a long way from curing cancer and the punchline is, cancer cures can often give you cancer.

My enemy is an incredibly subtle, nuanced micro biological disease that twists and turns and mutates and will get more than half of us in the end.

Why do cells divide when a single sperm meets a single egg? We don’t know they just do and it makes a baby.

Why do cells divide and just not stop? The ancient Greeks thought the tumours resembled a crab. How do we kill the crab? We are about as close to discovering the answer as we are to discovering the meaning of life.

Cancer is life gone rogue.

Professor Cavanagh added: New drugs are being developed all the time to reduce the DNA cell damage of current drugs which can give you cancer but the stem cell transplant which, ok, may also give you another form of cancer, is currently the NHS gold standard.”

How quickly did I sign up to the American drugs trial after that but I had to have the transplant anyway, damn.

On this strangest of days, really completely off my head on proteasome inhibitors, steroids, blood thinners, gut liners and anti sickness pills, a standard chemo cocktail, I am kind of there but not there and supremely reckless. 

I simply don’t care. I provoke lots of road rage; one guy jumped out of his car and I thought shall I run him over or not? The only thing that stopped me was not wanting to go to jail. A terminal patient high on drugs is as dangerous as a CT scan.

My particular drug cocktail kills your sex drive and maybe you, but by some Viagra-style fluke it works a bit, hence the trial. If only it had been the other way round, the steroid Dexamethasone keeps you up for two days at a time. Blimey.

It’s 4am, home in Dover, unable to sleep sitting in my car looking out to sea, and the bow wake of a cross channel ferry looks amazing. 

I seriously want to catch that wave. I check my temperature 37.7. If it hits 38 I have just one hour to get to A&E for intravenous antibiotics. Neutropenic sepsis is my biggest risk, the blood cleaning cleaned out my immunity, swimming in the straights of Dover would kill me. 

I can only eat peeled fruit, no salads and everything has to be cooked or boiled for 10 minutes to kill the bacteria. I spent a month in hospital with the common cold, I am on a knife edge, on one side is death by the cure and on the other is death by cancer and if I survive long enough the cure will kill me with another form of cancer. The future is bright what’s the mobile phone jingle, the future is cancer.

A FEW FACTS: The UK government’s cancer information website states: “CT imaging involves the use of X-rays which are a form of ionising radiation. Exposure to ionising radiation is known to increase the risk of cancer but the cancer risk from one CT scan is small.” 

I am a standard patient and this is my second of three.

In 2011 the International Agency for Research on Cancer classified mobile phone use as “possibly carcinogenic to humans,” and a study in Sweden reported “statistically significant trends of increasing brain cancer risk for the total amount of mobile use and the years of use among people who began using mobiles before 20.

No one has ever looked at where you keep your mobile and certainly not associations with cancer of the leg bone.

Mobiles use lower frequency non-ionising radiation than CT scanners but the UK National Cancer Institute says this is “absorbed by tissues nearest to the antenna,” and a study showed “statistically significant associations between mobile use and cancer for certain sub groups of people.

* Read more by Paul McMullan: Kylie, cancer, karma, and me...

#paul mcmullan, #cancer, #cancer treatment

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