Thursday, 24 July 2014

A letter to Rt Hon Hilary Benn MP

Dear Mr Benn,
As a member of your constituency, I am writing to you to ask you to attend an important debate on 8th September 2014 that could literally change lives of patients and families affected by pancreatic cancer.  With just a three per cent survival rate, diagnosis of this disease leaves patients and families with little hope of a happy outcome.
I have wrote this very personal and public email to ask for your help Mr Benn. Personal, because at the age of 38 I was told that I have pancreatic cancer, and public, because it may encourage other MPs like yourself to also help. This is almost 2 years ago I was told I have pancreatic cancer, and during that time, I witness what this cancer can do physically and mentally. If you need any more information please read my blog, or call or email or reply below.
I was one of the lucky ones, I was able to be operated (only 10% can), sadly the cancer came back, but after two lots of six months of chemotherapy and help with private healthcare, I am keeping the cancer away to the best of my means. 
The fifth biggest cancer killer in the UK, pancreatic cancer has been little known, poorly understood and chronically underfunded for decades. 
The debate will take place between 4:30pm and 7.30pm in Westminster Hall, and the backbench committee will be discussing providing more funding and awareness for pancreatic cancer, which is set to become the UK’s fourth biggest cancer killer by 2030.
This follows a successful petition, which passed the 100,000 signature mark in April, started by Maggie Watts.
Maggie from Scunthorpe started the petition following the death of her husband Kevin, who lost his battle with pancreatic cancer in 2009 aged 48, 40 years after his mother died of the same illness.  In the 40 years between Kevin and his mother’s death, the five year survival rate of just 3% has not changed. 
The need for this debate is even more urgent following a question posed by Luciana Berger, Public Health Shadow Minister on 31st March, which highlighted a decrease in overall cancer funding of almost £19 million between 2012 and 2013.  Considering pancreatic cancer already receives a tiny proportion of cancer research funding, less than 1%, the impact of this on future pancreatic cancer research is alarming. 
At just three per cent, pancreatic cancer has the lowest survival rate of all 22 common cancers.  In comparison, 85% of breast cancer patients and 81% of prostate cancer patients will still be alive five years after diagnosis. In fact,pancreatic cancer has one of the highest incident-to-mortality rates of almost ANY disease.
The UK lags behind the rest of Europe in terms of the one-year survival rate for pancreatic cancer.  The UK average is 17 per cent, the European average is 21 per cent and the best in Europe (Belgium) is 28 per cent. 
Please help to change outcomes for pancreatic cancer patients now and the future by attending the debate.  We need as many MPs to come forward and participate in the debate. If you are considering attending, please contact Mr Nic Dakin MP via email:
Please could you also consider getting involved in the APPG Inquiry on Pancreatic Cancer Research where along with your parliamentary colleagues you can help support the inquiry into pancreatic cancer research? 
I would be happy to talk to you about this further either over the phone or in person. 
I look forward to your response and thank you in advance. 
Kindest regards,

Carl Denning

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Street dancing fairy

Well i did it! I booked what i thought was a gig, and in preparation for this, I learnt some new material, and made my way to the talent competion where the prize was two and a half grand.

It was a 'talent competion', now, when i turned up at the hotel where the audition was held, every bone in my body was just turn around and walk away, but for some strange reason i felt I had to do it due to it been booked in.

I knew it was not going to work, as soon as i joined the queue of two. There was a girl in her early 20s dressed as a fairy, when i asked what she was doing, she told me street dancing!  I am not sure what street she was living on, her look was a cross between rainbow bright and someone on smack. 

I was asked what my act was (disappearing went though my head) I told them i was trying to do a bit of comedy.  The lady (who i think was the girls mother) told me that on hospital visits to her friend she had been told she always made the ward laugh, and with that started to do a improvised routine for me, I must admit, it was better than mine, and it did cross my mind to simply steel her act.

The street dancing fairy went in to the large room.  I was asked to fill out some papers. The guy who gave me the documents told me that out of the 40 people in the auction i was the only comedian. I wish i had thought about this for longer than two seconds to realise that there was a very good reason for this. 

He told me that he loved Mrs Browns Boys (yet another sign to run for the hills) he lead me to a old Victorian ballroom, and introduced me to the table of judges all wearing there matching branded talent competion t.shirts.

It was my turn.

Just by looking at the judges I could tell we all didn't have much in common, the only common bond between us all was that at the end of the audition, we all probably could say that we had all experienced a strange experience, but for different reasons.

There was a young child sat at the table. When i get nervous when doing comedy, i swear, and i don't mean to provoke offence but sometimes it does give the joke more drama and makes the punchline more puncher, but I know it was probably not the right thing to do in front of a child. I explained that they maybe some swearing in my act, which i got told that if i get through to the shows, that children will be present so i wont be able to do that.

I can not tell you what happened next, its all a bit of a blur.  Its hard performing comedy to a wall of silence, but its even harder performing to a wall of people looking traumatised.

I knew when the main organiser put her head in her hands, the one legged dwaf joke had not gone down that well. The more horrified they looked, the more nervous I got, the more nervous I got, the more outrageous I became. They thanked me, and said they will call on wednesday to let me know either way, and just before they quickly showed me the door, I had my photo taken, was not sure if it was to use as publicity or use as evidence.

I have wrote some jokes about cancer, and i did think at this point, i should drop them in, if they didn't find them funny I may get the sympathy vote at least, but at the same time I was also thinking that the only one thing that could be worse about the situation i was in, is if they called me this week and said, congratulations you are through! and i would have to re-live it again!

Wednesday as been and gone, and I didn't get a call. Due to them saying that they was going to call me either way, I am slightly concerned there still in the ballroom still frozen in a state of shock.

I walked away wondering if it was me, or if it was the jokes, or if it was them? The only way was to put myself in that situation again, but this time without children and with a audience.

So on Monday I went to Beat the frog, a gong show where the aim is to survive for 5 minutes without getting voted off by the 3 chosen audience members.

The venue was in Preston and was very busy! I went early to see if I could go on first and get the hell out of there, I then found out that the venue choose when you was on, and i was on....

at the very end! 

I did nearly walk out as the acts that where on was very good! and even the ones that was voted off had stronger sets than me.

Sometimes, in social situations my face does not quite work in my favour, but for comedy! it gets me away with murder, and to be fair, I think that is what happened. I survived the 5 min ties and went on to the final, and more importantly, I enjoyed it.

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Stumbling to the next step

As I am writing this I am miles in the air! No it's not the chemo that is making me trippy again, we are flying back from Rhodes in Greece. It has been great to just get away and relax, when I say relax, I probably don't mean it in the conventional sense, I mean my type of relaxing where the day to day worries get pushed aside making more room for more exciting problems.  Problems that are man-made and purposely put there to challenge yourself, and make life even more worthwhile.

I had to get special holiday insurance, the girl went through the usual questions, it's the same kind of questions that I used to skim-read, and quickly tick a line of boxes with the word "No" next to them, sadly these days it's usually "Yes". A sigh of relief when I get to the question, are you pregnant? A question I can tick No to and reminisce on the good old days! She then asked me "Is they anything I haven't declared and not been diagnosed with yet" having a brain running on chemo, and that type of question, both don't mix well, and I still don't understand, if I haven't been diagnosed yet, then how would I know to declare it! I paid my £30 as she went through a list of terms that I can not claim for on the insurance, and when she eventually reached the end of the T and C's,  I knew I will be able to sleep at night knowing the fact that I will be covered to use my insurance only if absolutely nothing at all medically happens to me.

I am back to work tomorrow! And looking forward to it. Looking forward to seeing everyone at work and having a bit of normality again. Then the day after I get my results from my CT scan. I don't really want to even think about this right now as it does not matter how many times you sit in front of the doctor and how many times he or she as given you good or bad news, nothing makes it any easer each time you go, nothing can prepare you for the amount of anxiety. (Just got back from hospital, there are testing my bloods, but scanning the ct scans - they forgot to do it! - but the doctor said all looks ok) 

Sadly I missed my Mum dong "race for life" on Sunday, with her friends. It's not too late to sponcer! Half of the money is going to PCUK and the other to the race for life funds. (Thanks Mum x)

Since finishing chemo I now don't have a weekly cycle of sickness, this energises me and  I have noticed that there are two types of speed, mine and everyone else. I am nervous I am going to miss out on something so it is like I try living in the  priority queue of life, and I am fast-tracking as much as I can. The things that used to slow me down or stop me, those nagging questions, what happens if I fail, what will people think, will I look stupid, will people judge. Just don't seem substantial reasons to stop me doing what I want to do anymore. What happens if I fail, I fail! What will people think, who cares, will I look stupid, with a face like this how can I look any other way! Will people judge, well that's more about them than me! The only thing that makes me nervous is not having the health to do what I want to do. Insecurities can not stop me, but my health can. 

So, From tomorrow I am back to work as a web developer again Monday to Wednesday and the rest of the week concentration on my street food business. I should be getting the keys for the new kitchen this week, and I am trying to get our pulled pork wraps into shops.

A bit of a shameless plea but if you know anyone with a shop please let them know about our pulled pork wraps! 

Also, I have mentioned in my blogs before about performing stand up comedy. I used to perform amateur comedy. In all fairness I was never going to make my millions in this area, and it was leaning more on the word "amateur" than "comedy". I used to forget my jokes, I then went off subject and forget what I was talking about, and sometimes I went on stage, let nerves get so in the way, I would almost explode!  At the best of times people looked at me thinking that my act was more of an art form, and at the worse of times,  just shit! But.... Still, as I dodged the looks of the puzzled and confused audience, I still enjoyed it, so I have a gig booked in July, there is a reason for all this, but will write about this on my next blog.

The above video may offend by stuttering, bad jokes, and swearing and panicking. 

After everything, why am I putting this pressure on myself? There are moments in all of our life's that we all do things that contradict against what we categorise as "common sense". I know, right now,  that choosing to push the business and expanding and doing just more in general is one of them times especially when the future for me is so uncertain and all the doctors are telling me to rest, take it easy, there is still chemo in your body. But, sometimes there is an underline feeling, a feeling that goes against the grain of rational thinking, and in that feeling, I trust, I am not sure where those actions will lead, but I guess that underline feeling is one of wonder, which is better than dread.