Sleeping in hospital is an odd thing because it doesn’t really happen. With the constant flow of drugs and fluids being infused and the regular need to have your blood pressure, oxygen levels and heart-rate monitored, there’s barely an hour a day when an alarm isn’t going bong or someone wants to stick a thermometer in you. Thankfully it’s in your ear otherwise you’d never sleep.
Sleeping tablets can help and offer a kind of absence rather than sleep in that you’ll often find that a few hours have passed when you think you may have been asleep but you’re not entirely sure. One thing is for sure, when you get out you never again take for granted a great night’s kip in your own bed.
My target for being released on grounds of good behaviour is about 3 weeks from now when hopefully my new immune system will have “engrafted” enough into my body to begin to provide a good defence against bugs and nasties. In preparing for the new cells, the chemotherapy and radio treatments wiped out specific immune cells and those counts are currently dropping fast. The standard measure for how vulnerable you are to infection is described as your “neutropenic state” and looks at the number of white blood cells present in your body. A normal healthy person will have between 2 and 5 units of neutrophils; at the moment I have0.32 and this will continue to drop right down to zero. At this point the new cells can start to develop with less risk of rejection as my own defence system has been wiped out and therefore can’t respond.
In a previous blog I explained how the body would release cytokine showers to decide what the new stem cells will become and in a few days this awesome process will hopefully begin in my bones and blood so that new neutrophils will develop and begin to fight off infections.
In the meantime I’m totally vulnerable hence having very few visitors, absolutely no sniffles and a fastidiously clean room – a cold for you could become a very serious infection for me and I’ve had enough of those. Some people hear the word isolation and picture all sorts of bio-hazard, Ebola suits but it’s really just a case of making sure everyone who enters the room is as clean and healthy as possible. You know I like a good fact so here’s today’s – my room has as “positive pressure air filtering system” which means the air pressure in my room is always higher than outside to ensure that all airborne contaminants are pushed outwards. That’s clever.
So if three weeks is my target, it gives me 21 days to fill and to be honest, it’s not exactly rock and roll in here. There’ll be landmark moments to report on and times, no doubt, of stress and worry but hopefully the brilliance of the medics will keep me on track and I’ll do what I’ve been doing all along and beat the odds. The record to get out is 16 days from transplant. I’m eyeing it.
In the meantime, what to do? Well here’s a challenge that took up a few hours over the last few days. Ok, it’s taken up virtually all of the last three days and driven me mad.
I’ve called it Catch 22 based on the idea of an outdated technology – the cassette tape. I’ve always loved sound equipment and, as Alison will attest, I love to have the latest gear. When I was 14 I begged to have an ALBA twin cassette stereo with graphic equaliser, 6 speakers and high speed dubbing for Christmas. It was way beyond their budget but my parents offered to buy it as long as I agreed to hand over all the other money I’d asked for from relatives. The mugs. I’m pretty sure they knew what would happen because I distinctly remember having enough cash to go out to buy some fairly massive headphones that, nestled amidst my rebellious barnet, made me look life Fozzy Bear, and a stack of TDK C90 tapes to facilitate musical piracy on a grand scale.
Every evening I would sit in front of the mighty ALBA, record button and pause pressed in tandem, determined to make a perfect recording of the radio top ten. A scene no doubt repeated the nation over with frustrated kids annoyed at their failure to stop in time to cut off the DJ announcing the next track.
The ultimate act of commitment regarding the broadening of one’s musical horizons was the creation and swapping of a mix tape – a time consuming labour of love and a skill long lost in today’s world of streaming and iTunes. A good mix tape could take a week to put together and still be open to much debate when discussing playlists in the school yard. Nowadays I can stream via Bluetooth any of the 5000 songs on my phone and listen to them through the car’s sound system – we’ve all got a radio station in our pocket which is great but where’s the fun? Where’s the challenge? 5000 songs on cassette would be bigger than a car and that’s where Catch22 comes in.
On a C90 cassette, you’d typically fit 22 tracks, 11 on each side.
An hour and a half to capture your life in music because that’s the challenge – to reduce all the music you love to just 22 tracks that define you, be they joyous, evocative or whatever. 22 tracks to define you.
Here’s my Catch22 – a labour of love – and I’ve given reasons for each track which you don't have to.
1. Whole Lotta Love – Led Zeppelin – The first song I ever heard that made me go oh, yeah!
2. She Sells Sanctuary – The Cult – One of the great intros, bridges the 70s, 80s & 90s
3. Dance Tonight – Lucy Pearl – An album given to me by one great friend that I’ve shared with so many
4. Livin’ on a Prayer – Bon Jovi – No night out or in is complete without the all-time great squawkalong
5. Vertigo – U2 – Perhaps not their best song but the greatest opening to any gig I’ve ever seen. Epic.
6. Feelin’ Groovy – Simon & Garfunkle – Memories of Dad’s record collection after mass every Sunday
7. Mumbai Theme Tune – A.R. Rahman – Watching the sunset with your best pal, beer in hand
8. Alright – Supergrass – Sums up my time at 6th form. A few scrapes, but we’re alright
9. The Riverboat Song – Ocean Colour Scene – One of the defining riffs of the 90s. Air guitar perfection.
10. I Believe in a Thing Called Love – The Darkness – Roadtrips in an old Peugeot 205, sunroof leaking
11. I’d Do Anything for Love – Meatloaf – Rock tour de force, epic video, everyone knows the words
12. Smells Like Teen Spirit – Nirvana – The definition of teen rebellion, memories of a friend
13. She’s Electric – Oasis – House parties, camping holidays and one of the best gigs I’ve ever seen
14. Suspicious Minds – Elvis – Karaoke. Nuff said.
15. Let Me Be Your Fantasy – Baby D – Raving it up at the rugby club and for years later. Classic.
16. Hide U – Kosheen – A famous tune. A little known band. Amazing live gigs with Alison. Just us.
17. The Chain – Fleetwood Mac – Discovering that the F1 theme tune is a rock classic! Must hear more!
18. Sex On Fire – Kings of Leon - Shout along, dance along, drink along modern classic
19. Gimmie Shelter – The Rolling Stones – Because you absolutely, positively have to move like Jagger
20. Nessun Dorma – Pavarotti – Italia ’90. Sport’s greatest theme. Ironically means “None shall sleep”
21. More Than Words – Extreme – It’s hard to imagine a more perfect recording of a love song
22. Fight Like Fury – Brian Dunbar – It picks me up off the canvas and hey, it is my song
So that’s my Catch22. There will be some incredulous head shaking I’m sure but when it comes down to it, I could have written a Catch100 and still been going. Even now I’m thinking, no room for Queen? Aerosmith? Is it too old school? Should there be some more dance or hip-hop?
Is this basically a longer Desert Island Disks? Yes it is. Is it cooler though? Damn right it is, so send me your Catch22s when you’re done. I’m looking forward to the number of times I wonder why I didn’t include this or that track. Just so you know, my list is 90 minutes 15 seconds long so the end of Meatloaf will have to get cut short. Doh!
Email your lists to email@example.com I may even announce the best alternative at a later date.
Nigerian Princes and Oil Sheiks looking to stash their cash need not apply.
If you've recently been diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma and have yet to receive treatment you could be eligible to take part in a new clincial trial. Read more here.