THE MORNING AFTER THE NIGHT BEFORE.
It was the very early hours of a Sunday morning. The air was exceptionally warm for early June, warning of the scorcher to come later that summer. A steady breeze carried the triumphant chants of late night revellers returning from the area’s numerous bars and clubs and the shrill of a distant siren answering the call of another emergency. In a quiet apartment complex just up from Islington not much was moving, even the 24hr security guard had dozed off in his little room. Above the din of silence a low, almost inhuman groan could be heard. Listening closer you could just about believe that the sound might turn out to be that of a male. Even closer and jumbled words become apparent, like the rantings of a madman clearly in pain. It is nearly 3am and something or someone is clearly awake in the apartments known as Red Square (right colour, wrong shape), and all is not well (said Rhubarb to Custard – sorry couldn’t resist). Listening still closer, you can hear that the screams are emanating from a bathroom … “SHIT, FUCKITY SHIT SHIT- OH MY GOOD LORD LET IT BE OVER! This is taking the piss – I am never going to eat Singapore Noodles again”.
Who is this unfortunate? This tortured soul (well arse anyway!)? … My name is Mark Davies and at that time I’m thirty-one years old. It’s the 1st of June and I am on the bog again for the third time that night, dropping off a load of very angry kids at a very small pool. Let me give you some background on our presently encamped hero. I’m of average height, five foot ten-ish, admittedly a tad over weight at just under fifteen stone – I much prefer the phrase ‘compact’ to fat. I did smoke, only about ten to fifteen a day, though this obviously doesn’t include when going out for a drink when that can easily double. In terms of drink I think roughly ten to fifteen pints a week should cover it. I had also been known to have the odd toke of the occasional ‘herbal’ cigarette. My major problem was eating the wrong foods at the wrong times, and that’s due mainly to the long hours that I’d work, like a large number of people who work in the city. My life style was not the best in the world and hadn’t been for quite some time. I went to university in Bournemouth – good beach. After graduating in 1995 I stayed on in Bournemouth and pretty much continued the student lifestyle, whilst working in various service industries and pursuing my own retail concept, which unfortunately I never got the financial backing for. At the end of 1997 I realised that if I continued the way I was going I would never get out of the rather drunken rut that I had found myself in, so I upped and left everything, and moved to London. I stayed with friends until I started with a direct sales company and quickly got promoted to assistant management. One of the downsides of promotion was that I spent the next three to four years racing around the country, running offices for other people, whilst working twelve to fourteen hours a day, and living in shared company houses with up to eight to ten people at a time. This was not a major problem in itself, however it did result in my having a minor heart scare in the summer of 2000 after my office in Portsmouth was closed due to organisational product changes. I was given the responsibility of developing a new product range in the London area in February 2001. I have never worked so hard in my life, although this led to the setting up of my own company the following October and meeting my current girlfriend Rachel who lives with myself and another work mate, things were rather hectic. In a nutshell, for the best part of a decade I hadn’t really been treating my body as a temple, but much more like a bus shelter.
At the time this story starts I am running a small sales office in East London and things are not ‘hunky dory’ to say the least. The previous weekend had been our organisation’s R&R weekend in Koz. Whilst it was a giggle, I found it all a bit false having to be ultra-positive when things were not. It had been a hectic 6-8 months. I had opened a second office in Glasgow, sending a very young but talented assistant manager to run it. Unfortunately by February, due to supplier problems again and forever changing products, I had to leave my London office under the care of another manager to go and give her a hand. This again wasn’t a problem; Glasgow rocks! However, the living out of hotels whilst working 14hrs a day was hardly conducive to healthy stress free living. I spent about 2 months flying up and down from London to Glasgow, and during this time the office in London suffered and I got more and more stressed and increasingly tired. By the end of April I took the decision to close Glasgow and consolidate the London base. This little venture had cost me over £30,000, which was most of the savings in the company, I shrugged it off, saying: “Well hey, I’ve never had £30,000 to lose before”. Post heart scare I had forced myself to chill out a bit more. I had to change my general outlook on life and realised that I could not do everything myself and started to undertake things with a more measured approach, such as the way I dealt with problems and my expenditure of time and effort. I realised that there are two types of problems:
(1)-things you can do something about, and
(2)-things you can’t.
A lot of people expend far too much energy on the latter and not the former.
It was June and the start of our busiest time of the year and try as I might I was finding it hard to concentrate. I was always tired and just could not motivate myself, or my guys. I was going to the bathroom a lot, by that I mean at least 8-10 times a day. I was having occasional stomach cramps, which felt like my intestines were being used as a stress-ball. In addition to this I would also occasionally find a little bit of blood spotting when having a poo. I can only relate it to ‘period pains of the bum’. On top of that I had noticed, well actually my girlfriend Rachel had noticed, that I had become, shall we say, a little windy. Having managed to completely sidestep the whole leg waxing, moisturising 90’s man thing, I wasn’t unduly worried by the odd unintentional gaseous outburst. In all fairness though, by this time I had seriously gone past the odd ‘expulsion’ to full on “anal Tourette’s.” These symptoms had been going on for at least six to eight weeks, but when you’re running round like a headless chicken the tendency is to ignore them. It was probably just a bit of food poisoning or it could have been just stress related; eating too late can also cause these problems. There is never a good time to have time off when you have responsibilities. You know the deal, when you’re ‘hot’ everyone is your friend, and when you’re not well – we’ll do lunch. So anyway, the point of this little tirade is that, I was tired, yes. Having an affair with the bathroom suit, maybe, but I ‘Didn’t have a Scooby’ that there was actually anything wrong with me. However, after another eventful Saturday night/Sunday morning in pain on the loo, I thought it was high time I got myself down the docs, at some juncture anyway. Sunday came and went, and I felt so ropey that I didn’t even want the rest of the Chinese for breakfast, which is serious in my book (bi-product of spending too long at University). As usual by the evening I was feeling fine again and I’d put the previous nights rear-ended fireworks down as extra chillies on the noodles and nothing more. Come Monday morning June 2nd my stomach had settled down but I just couldn’t get motivated and decided to throw what turned out to be the most important sickie in my life, and took myself off to the doctors. Funny really how life works out isn’t it? If I had not been completely knackered and rung in; if I had not ignored the usual arm-twisting and guilt complexes about being a bad example, blah-blah-blah! I might not be writing this at all.
So, I manage to blag my way into the local surgery and see a lovely lady called Doctor Young. And this is where the fun starts! I had no idea what was up with me; in fact I was pretty sure that there was nothing wrong in the slightest. I’d been working too hard, eating rubbish at all the wrong times and was under a lot of stress as I’d just been told that I wasn’t able to take wages anymore and had to generate my income directly from personal sales; oh joy! I was convinced that at the absolute worst I might have a small ulcer. Doctor Young listened to my tale of woe (had to lay it on thick so I didn’t look like a big girl’s blouse).
The symptoms were as follows:
- Increased toilet activity,
- Random stomach cramps,
- Slight weight loss (which considering the amount of time on the bog is not surprising),
- Always feeling tired/unable to get motivated, and a
- Minimal amount of blood – sometimes.
The good doctor listened, felt my lower stomach, which was nice, and out of the blue suggested that I should see a specialist. Cool, I thought. That’s got to be worth another day off at least, a real live specialist. As you can tell I was pretty blasé about the whole thing. This is why Dr. Young deserves a lot of praise, because all joking aside she could well have saved my life by being so professional and on the ball, although she did have cold hands. And so the good doctor and I parted company and I went back to work as normal and all but forgot about the up-coming appointment. A couple of weeks later a letter arrived confirming an appointment with a Dr. Ballinger at Homerton Hospital in Hackney on June 24th. Throughout this time I cannot stress enough that I did not have the faintest of ideas as to what was wrong and continued along my own little path, completely oblivious to the ‘Tumour’ that was growing inside. As far as I was concerned I just had the shits.