|attractive boy: hi i'm famous|
|attractive boy: hi i'm gay|
|attractive boy: hi i'm a douchebag|
|attractive boy: hi i'm twice your age|
|attractive boy: hi i have a girlfriend|
|attractive boy: hi i don't like you back|
|attractive boy: hi i live on the other side of the planet|
|attractive boy: hi i don't know that you exist|
|attractive boy: hi i'm a fictional character|
“Young and pretty with a soul of pure steel, Jane Hammond (Natalie Portman) is a good girl married to one of the worst baddies in town. When her husband Bill turns against his own gang, the vicious Bishop Boys, and returns home barely alive with eight bullets in his…
Today is my birthday. I am thirty.
Earlier this year, I discovered a film called Third Star, after finding an actor I had been impressed with was in it alongside another actor I considered myself a fan of. The film, for those of you who don’t already know, is about a twenty-nine year old man who is dying of cancer. On his birthday, he departs for a the Pembrokeshire coast, with his three closest friends, to take one last trip to his favourite place on Earth - Barafundle Bay.
I fell in love with the film, its characters and its cast instantly. It was beautiful, funny, full of realism and when it ended I cried inconsolably. The ultimate truth or lesson of the story is best encapsulated in two narrative lines, spoken by James at the beginning and ending of the film - that his death will not be his tragedy, but that of the people who love him and will lose him from their lives; and that after his death, his loved ones should remember that they were loved by him and that they made his life a happy one, and that there is no tragedy in that.
Around the time I discovered the film, I found that I had an enormous growth in my abdomen (occupying around half of it) - around the size and shape of the oval kind of honeydew melon, or as the doctor described it, ‘a twenty-week foetus.’ It was a form of cyst which is created when the ovary spontaneously decides to create a bunch of cells without the half of the information which would turn it into a baby. They can create teeth, sweatglands, skin - most commonly, hair - and literally any kind of cell the human body is able to produce. Including cancer.
On 8th June, I was sent to hospital to have the growth removed as a priority, as it had grown abnormally large and was affecting my other organs and leaving me in some discomfort.
I went on my own, as I don’t really have any contact with my family - not at all, for eleven years, in my mother’s case; rarely, in my father’s case, as he lives in Glasgow with my stepmum and half-siblings, and I live in Brighton, on the South Coast of England. I am not close enough to anyone else my family that they would visit or want to be notified.
When I got there, I went through a series of question and answer sessions with doctors and anaesthetists, during which I had to explain my pro-human extinction stance, which means I do not accept blood products, life support or any kind of life-extending treatment beyond basic surgery. Repeatedly, I tried to explain that it was not a religious decision and that I was not a Jehovah’s Witness. Still, it was put on my forms that it was because I am pagan (most of you will realise this is bollocks).
On this day, I was unworried. I packed, I went; in a non-fatalistic sense, I was unconcerned as to whether I would wake up, because I was prepared for the possibility and saw that in all likelihood, if I didn’t wake up I’d be the last to know.
When I came to, I found that the surgery had gone well. As someone with a lifelong interest in the paranormal, I admit to being mildly disappointed at not having an opportunity to get some answers.
I was taken to a ward where the nurse treated me like shit, so I discharged myself and called my friend, Faye, who came to pick me up a day earlier than expected, and took me home to my friend/housemate, Julie. Between them they took care of me.
Faye - who is the only person I know who didn’t cry at Third Star and identifies herself as being most like Miles - admitted that earlier that day it had suddenly hit her that I would be made unconscious for my operation, and that she had been genuinely shaken by the realisation.
That statement, beyond anything else, made me realise for the first time in many, many years, that I actually do have some people in my life who genuinely, honestly give a shit. I have long lived under the impression that most people - even the ones close to me - only really have a passing interest, and didn’t consider it an issue. Just a fact that I accepted. I have always been fiercely, fiercely independent.
Fast forward a few weeks of very shoddy healing, gaping stitches and going back to work much too soon. I was recalled to the hospital by a very peculiar letter from a doctor asking for “a chat about all this”, who told me with barely contained excitement, that pathology (who were not supposed to test my cyst at all, because of my views) had found a discrepancy. They’d roundtabled it at a doctors’ meeting. You see, inside my cyst, wrapped in a huge ball of hair, but not attached to any skin, was a lump of skin cancer. Inside my cyst, inside my ovary.
It turned out that I had, in fact, dodged the weirdest bullet in the box.
I’d like to say it was a sobering moment (I wouldn’t), but the doctor and I sat in the consultation room giggling. The oncology nurse was clearly appalled. After all, this was as serious as cancer.
What it did mean, however, was that - at twenty-nine years old, like James - my life had swerved strangely closer to the themes of the film I had so recently fallen in love with. Part of me, predictably, wonders if on some sub-conscious level I had already made that connection. I probably hadn’t.
But that brings us to now, and the pictures I have posted above. Today, I am thirty. I spent the last few days in Wales, on my own pilgrimage to Barafundle Bay and other places key to the story I love. The friends I took with me - Faye and Julie - were the ones who were there for me when I was ill. The third friend, Vicky, who shares my birthday and has been my best friend since she turned fifteen and I sixteen, and with whom I have been through some of our bleakest times, was unable to make it because of work commitments (she works for the ambulance service - clumsier people needed her). She is really my Miles and I love her dearly. I missed her, this weekend. I did, however, have my Bill and my Davy and I cannot thank them enough for everything they have done for me. Including learning to crochet, in order to make me Iron Man gloves, driving hundreds of miles while really, really poorly, and studying for a Masters in Psychology on the train so that there was time to enjoy our weekend.
We all got soaked to the skin walking back along the cliffs from Barafundle in the dark, and we never even got to light our fireworks because of the rain.
Today, though, as we travelled back from Pembrokeshire to take Faye to Newport station, we took a little detour to The Mumbles, where Adam - the actor who played Bill and co-produced the film - owns a coffee shop. He had told us on Twitter that he was working today, and we’d said that we’d pop in. When we walked in, Adam was nowhere to be seen. However, at a table tucked away near the counter, was someone else. Vaughan Sivell. The man who wrote and produced the film. To my much humbled surprise, he remembered from conversations on Twitter that today was my birthday and immediately wished me a happy one. When we’d ordered, he came over and sat with us for a chat.
He is lovely, and absolutely deserving of the respect and loyalty the film’s fans have shown.
Adam, it turned out, was surfing across the street, and grinned and waved at the window when he saw us. Unfortunately, we were so short on time in which to get Faye to her train in Newport, we didn’t have time to wait and although he hurried, by the time he made it out to the front of the cafe (presumably to catch us), we were driving past. It turned out he was tweeting us to ask if (and apologise if) he had missed us, which was incredibly sweet of him. We’re sorry that we missed him, but hopefully there will be other opportunities in future.
Seven hours after leaving Swansea (you don’t need to know the details, I promise) Julie and I finally made it back to Brighton to process everything that had taken place.
Do I feel any different? Sort of. I am now most amused by the clever use of angles and editing that the team behind Third Star used to weave a stunning and extensive landscape out of very few locations. I am also reminded that I have some absolutely brilliant friends who will do some really incredibly stupid shit because I tell them to. Except descending hills. Julie doesn’t like that. She probably has a stronger sense of self-preservation than I do.
As for the cancer… the laughing gynecologist told me that his colleagues are confident that it was an astonishing fluke, and the chances of it recurring are almost zero (you can never say never with cancer, but it seems that I’d be more likely to be eaten by a shark, and as I can’t swim, I’d say I’m fairly safe). No chemo (wouldn’t have had it), no more immediate danger.
Essentially, and at risk of sounding sentimental, I accomplished what James couldn’t, in the film, and that’s why I made the choice to go to Barafundle, this weekend. That is more moving to me than any other part of this story.
Thank you for this post. I find it very lovely.
And Happy Birthday. :)