Death’s a bummer

Charles Cowling

I am indebted to Nurse Myra over at Gimcrack Hospital (where the nurses are pretty and the doctors are pissed) for telling me about JBS Haldane (1892-1964). Nurse Myra does a fine line in rare people, most of them bonkers, and JBS Haldane is an outstanding specimen. Find out more at the Usual Suspect.

In 1964 Haldane was found to have bowel cancer and, after surgery, wrote this plucky poem.

Cancer’s a Funny Thing

I wish I had the voice of Homer

To sing of rectal carcinoma,

Which kills a lot more chaps, in fact,

Than were bumped off when Troy was sacked.

Yet, thanks to modern surgeon’s skills,

It can be killed before it kills

Upon a scientific basis

In nineteen out of twenty cases.

I noticed I was passing blood

(Only a few drops, not a flood).

So pausing on my homeward way

From Tallahassee to Bombay

I asked a doctor, now my friend,

To peer into my hinder end,

To prove or to disprove the rumour

That I had a malignant tumour.

The microscope returned the answer

That I had certainly got cancer,

So I was wheeled into the theatre

Where holes were made to make me better.

A third much smaller hole is meant

To function as a ventral vent:

So now I am like two-faced Janus

The only god who sees his anus.

I’ll swear, without the risk of perjury,

It was a snappy bit of surgery.

My rectum is a serious loss to me,

But I’ve a very neat colostomy,

And hope, as soon as I am able,

To make it keep a fixed time-table.

So do not wait for aches and pains

To have a surgeon mend your drains;

If he says “cancer” you’re a dunce

Unless you have it out at once,

For if you wait it’s sure to swell,

And may have progeny as well.

My final word, before I’m done,

Is “Cancer can be rather fun”.

Thanks to the nurses and Nye Bevan

The NHS is quite like heaven

Provided one confronts the tumour

With a sufficient sense of humour.

Haldane died shortly after writing this.

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X.Piry
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Wonderful stuff!

I hope that we can all greet bad news with the same humour and practicality.

nursemyra
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He was an amazing man wasn’t he?