A Thespiantastic Couple of Weeks


There have been a rash of tests these last few weeks. It was thought that I might have Pernicious Anaemia triggered perhaps by my chemotherapy damaging my body’s ability to produce the Intrinsic Protein critical for the absorption of vitamin B12 into the blood stream.

I have also had some new symptoms which stood out among the many tied to my Neurological Dysfunction that were more likely, in combination, to be highlighting a problem with my prostate.

I have also had further heart pain which I thought was due, once again, to my Neurological Dysfunction but my doctor wanted to be sure.

So blood tests and an ECG later we were able to confirm that I do not have Pernicious Anaemia, that my symptoms were most likely down to my Neurological Dysfunction. We were able to confirm that my heart is fine, that my heart pain was most likely down to my Neurological Dysfunction. However we were not able to rule out Prostate Cancer. The markers in the blood were slightly raised. An internal examination appeared to show a normal prostate, but further tests have been ordered to be sure. The hope is that the raised markers were triggered by an unrelated test involving two catheters and my riding of my bicycle for a distance shortly before the bloods were taken. I will of course keep you posted.

There has also been a rash of wonderfully dramatic moments. Firstly I could not get to my daughter Heather’s school show but was able to make it to the dress rehearsal, so was able to surprise Heather as the curtains drew back on Dunblane High’s rendition of Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories set to a wonderfully musical score. Heather danced and sang beautifully surrounded by wonderful imaginative costumes creating a menagerie of animals with great voices. This was shortly followed by my son James’ performance as Danny in McLaren High School’s Grease The Musical. It was sensational. James was able to sing and act brilliantly and even dance a form of dance that bore no resemblance to Dad dancing. He was supported by an equally brilliant Sandy and a whole host of students who sang and danced beautifully throughout, with the whole production supported by an equally brilliant band of pupils and teachers providing the musical accompaniment. Both shows brought tears to my eyes and inspired me greatly for my own performance to come, albeit without song and dance.

My Mother, Sally, sister Isla, and brother-in-law Rob came up with their boys, Archie and William, to watch the shows but also to spend some time with Allie and I in Scotland. It was a delight to see them and I delighted in chasing my nephews around the flat when they arrived. Unfortunately they brought with them a cold but having finished Radiotherapy and Chemotherapy nearly four years ago I didn’t give it a second thought. The following day we took them for a walk up Arthur’s Seat in wonderful weather and frolicked with them in the foothills in glorious sunshine. But the following day I started to feel the effects of the cold to the point at which, a further 3 days later, on the dress rehearsal for my own show with the Acting Out Drama School I had little voice. I was to deliver a 10 minute introduction to this, my challenge to beat my beast, before then delivering a 5 minute monologue of an Austrian cavalry captain, Adolf, whose friends had been duped, by his wife, into believing Adolf was mad, so had him committed to an asylum, for his own safety, which then drove Adolf mad. Within my 5 minute rant I was required to howl like a wolf twice, yet I was almost unable to speak in anything other than a whisper. During the dress rehearsal I spoke my part very gently and concentrated on being in the right place at the right time in support to the other monologues being delivered by the rest of the cast. My wolf howls were like the cautious squeaks of a mouse and I went home hoping and praying that a further good night’s sleep would see me fit enough to deliver the performance at full whack.

Figurative Drama Mask

Allie nurtured me with rest, Lemsips and good food. I drifted off to sleep mid prayer and woke on the morning of the show not perfect, but good enough. The show was most certainly going to go on. I spent the day going over and over the lines in my head. I had a part that required me to rant about “the very unconsciousness of the instinctive dishonesty of women”, and I was uncomfortable about such lines because I would have, shortly before delivering my monologue, told my story and asked the audience, many of whom would of course be women, after tugging on their heart strings about my struggle and desire to get strong enough to sustain myself in employment, to give generously for the Disasters Emergency Committee. So I had secured permission to use the following lines right at the very end of my introduction.

“Before I go, I would like to stress that what you will see and hear in my monologue are not in any way my thoughts or words, and neither do I condone them. They are the words of the playwright August Strindberg, given to me by my director from the Acting Out Drama School, John Mitchell to challenge me, to stretch me as an actor. Yet, if I manage to convince you that I believe every word in every fibre of my being, then I will be greatly reassured because it will mean that I really can act and give me real hope for my future.”

The night arrived and after exhaustive final rehearsals I was set to give the intro. Sadly there was a glitch with the costumes so I delivered the 10 minute intro almost word perfectly dressed in nothing more than my stripped ‘R Whites lemonade’ pyjamas, a nightcap and slippers with my miniature medals pinned to my chest. The final lines were well received and I took my place to be mentally and emotionally tortured in the asylum by my former housekeeper, and nurse to the children who assisted my wife in her conspiracy, before forcing me into a strait jacket which was actually my inside out dressing gown. She then left me sat on a chair, twitching and trembling from fear, madness and frustration for two thirds of the show, before it was my turn to release my frustration in my plea for clemency from what I imagined to be the medical review board of the Asylum. I ranted around the stage and amongst the audience in as mad a manner as I could muster. The words flowed, the first wolf’s howl came hauntingly and then as I gave my final desperate plea to the board at the end of my 5 minutes, the tears flowed on cue, my voice broke and I sat back in my mad chair to die a broken man. I had to sit motionless as a dead madman in a strait jacket, choking back the post-cold coughs that I so desperately wanted to release after such an energetic performance, manging to cough as motionlessly as I could, into the collar of my dressing gown strait jacket during the applause between monologues, while the remaining monologues flowed around me before finally coming together, all 12 of the cast in the centre of the stage, to decry my treatment before the lights dropped, the single spot fell on me for me to stir and deliver my final mad wolf’s howl. I managed to perform almost faultlessly the 15 minutes I had been given to perform. I was exhilarated and loved every second of the applause from the 30 or so Mums, Dads, Spouses and Girlfriends as we took the bows together at the front of the stage.

As I collected donations from the retiring audience the encouraging comments flowed and I became increasingly confident of my next step.
You will of course remember that the brain tumour, the treatment and each and every one of the more severe epileptic seizures has left me brain damaged and diagnosed with Neurological Dysfunction and SMART syndrome.

You will remember that I have been told by my neurologist that I will never recover the neurological and cognitive function that I once had, that as far as future employment was concerned, I should aspire to nothing more than volunteering in a shop for an hour a week.

Just So Stories

I have been told by my Oncologist that this rare type of Glioma (Grade 3 Anaplastic Oligodendroglioma) that I have, has a nasty habit of returning. That it is impossible to rid my brain of every single tumour cell, and that it only takes one cell to be the catalyst for its return. That they do not know what the trigger is for the regrowth but expect it at some point in each and every case such as mine. That it is not possible to ever be completely rid of my tumour. That it is most likely that I will die because of the tumour, rather than despite it.

So knowing that I am locked in a vicious, perpetual, cyclic battle with the brain tumour that can only ever end in one way, the temptation to throw the towel in, curl up into a ball on the mattress, pull up the duvet, and wait for the lights to go out is strong. Yet I continue to fight for life, a productive life.
Yet, I have had to surrender my driving licence, my safety boat licence, my gun licence and been advised not to use power tools. I cannot concentrate on any task at a desk for any longer than 40 minutes without becoming overwhelmed and having my sight, speech, hearing, balance and motor function switched off by my damaged brain. Allie fears for my safety nearly every time I try to cook something for us at home. I have even been found hanging on to my trolley as an anchor having become overwhelmed and robbed of my sight, speech, hearing, balance and motor function by my damaged brain within the complex and frantically busy supermarket shopping aisles. So my options for future employment look dim.

But I have discovered that I can learn lines and I can walk and talk. I know of no form of employment that would pay me to just to walk and talk. However, to see my slow and steady improvement in my cognitive and neurological function, helped enormously by all my acting training though the Acting Out Drama School in Edinburgh and the Royal Conservatoire in Glasgow, has given me a sense of hope for my future. Fundraising for the Disasters Emergency Committee gives me a purpose.

So while I continue to follow my balanced daily lifestyle (link to balanced daily lifestyle ready reckoner please) to try to prevent my brain tumour from ever returning and while I spend the next few months continuing to work hard through the mediums of Golf, Music, Dance, Drama, Writing and Juggling to continue to retrain and strengthen my brain for future employment, I will also be focusing on developing my Voice Reel, Show Reel, CV and finding an agent to see if I cannot make the impossible possible once again and find work on the stage, screen or airwaves as an actor.

In the meantime, you will remember that there are one billion, 500 million people whose very lives are at risk from climate change related natural disaster; that there are 65 million active current accounts in the UK. That if I can convince just 1% of those account holders to challenge me, through their sponsorship of £1 per month, to beat my beast of neurological dysfunction, to try to prevent my brain tumour from ever returning as expected and if it does to beat it back again, then I can raise £650,000 per month for the Disasters Emergency Committee so help to build up their war chest in preparation for a rapid life-saving emergency response to the next disaster.

I have managed to amass only 29 sponsors so far. Please sponsor me. All the details on how to sponsor me can be found on my website at www.beatthebeastchallenge.co.uk/sponsor-archie

Thank you

Yours aye