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.