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  • Writer's pictureAustin Birks

Chemotherapy Treatment Number 70, Reflections On A Life Well Lived

So, today my dear chums was on reflection a landmark day, I do not know if achieving 70 doses of chemo is a lot, or a little, and if truth be told, I don’t even know if volume is important. It is not a competition, it is a slow gradual fight against death, and it is important not to pretend it is anything else. One thing that I have learned is that cancer is all consuming, it is out to get you. And even worse, it is your own body that acts as its agent, no foreign bodies are parachuted in, oh no, it uses what you already have. This is of course a type of biological anarchy and rebellion.

But, having said all of that, you also harbour from within members of the resistance, oh yes. Dad’s army is alive and kicking and the chemo harnesses all of this good stuff within its armoury, if I take a step back and begin to consider the English civil war that is waging within. Yes, it is not a covert physical battle, it is germ warfare at its most elementary level.

Interestingly, it got me thinking about something that has long since fascinated me, and that is military history. Recently, I brought a rather brilliant book from a lovely bookshop in Malvern in Worcestershire, it’s a superb book that recalls 12 expert presentations that were commissioned only a few short years ago to celebrate the final battle of the English civil war, and the final event that took place in the Royalist City of Worcester. A place where ironically the very first action of the war took place at Powick bridge in Worcestershire, just a couple of miles away from the wars conclusion.

Indeed, the lovely church at Powick has walls that still mark the cannon and musket shot on that fateful day when a platoon of Cromwell’s New Model army crossed the river in small boats and took shelter in the church. How do I know this? Well, very simple, I almost brought a house that was a very old cottage that is located next to a pub in Powick called the Red Lion. It was lovely and had a huge connection to the battle that took place really close. I have always loved old buildings and I live in one now that was built in 1775. In Powick, when the estate agent showed us around, he showed us a well in the garden, where he explained that some years ago an archaeology group had been granted permission to excavate the area as it was adjacent to a part of the battle.

What they discovered was inside the well were the remains of a large amounts of clay pipes, these were given to the soldiers who had been wounded in the battle to offer some comfort in their pain. Now, I don’t know about you but I love these stories about the gentle acts of kindness that the human condition can offer in the most adverse of calamities that mankind can inflict on each other. From orchestrated acts of mass murder on the battlefield, all carefully practiced and honed, to its ultimate aim of being a well-disciplined killing machine, to the most basic human reactions, of wanting to comfort, console, and heal.

And that my friends brings me full circle to my 70th chemotherapy treatment, where the amazing HNS continues, in spite of every adversity to work tirelessly to keep me, and all the other souls alive. Now, to be fair, you might say to me: "How can you make such a comparison between the long since gone English civil war?" And you might think it did not matter, but actually it did. Adam Smith, the second American President in the 17th century, came to Worcester, and gave a moving speech berating the locals for not realising the importance of Worcester in developing world democracy.

And for me so far I have been kept alive, the forces of the NHS have kept me and many others alive, the principles that Bevan built the NHS are directly related to Cromwell and his philosophy of equality and allowing the common man equal rights. A direct and real opposite from the principles of King Charles1st and the Lords, who had ruled the Kingdom in their way and to be fair to their advantage, Cromwell and his supporters could no longer tolerate that system, hence Civil wars and a change in leadership. Without which, by the way, I don’t believe that today I would be alive.

History is about legacy, the NHS was built upon certain principles and I am a very lucky man to be in this wonderful system, but sometimes we have to appreciate the past, to respect and thank the present. All that I can say is that I hope the good Lord will allow me another cricket score of chemo, but as we all know, no one takes anything for granted, however strength of mind, and being firm of limb, coupled with the love of those around you is a powerful force for good, so never give up, and never give in, my dear friends. And just in case you were wondering I am a fan of the royal family as well as Cromwell. I am English enough to be both, is that good or bad, don’t know, do not care, at least I’m still alive to make the wrong decisions ha, and hopefully occasionally the right ones.

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