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The Stars of Reality TV

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Chris Vallance | 12:03 UK time, Thursday, 7 June 2007

Blogger Brian Richmond has terminal cancer. This is how he puts the situation on his blog:

I'm 45 years old, married for 19 years, father of a 7 year old boy. A freelance copywriter, I'd just recently started making inroads into the world of fiction, particularly with a story of mine winning a place in the anthology 'Next Stop Hollywood' dues out in May from St Martin's Press in NY. 2 weeks ago, I learned that I have pancreatic cancer and have, if the averages are to be believed, 6 months to a year to live. Im pain-free, sleeping well and, at the minute, trying to drain the sweetness out of every second.

Perhaps not every second. He spares some time for us. Brian is blogging. It's an important description of something society would rather ignore: our own mortality and our vulnerability, still, to terminal illness. Although the subject is grim, Brian is a skilled writer who handles the tragedy of his situation with a lightness and deftness of touch, there's plenty of humour to help coat the bitter pill:

Watched TV on the ward on Saturday night: Channel 4's 50 Movies To See Before You Die. See, if anybody should be compiling those lists, it should be me. It reminds me of an old story about Vietnam. The Vietnemese used to dig this really complex tunnels so the Americans had these guys, nicknamed tunnel rats, whose jod was to go down these things in the dark with a flashlight and a handgun. So, one day, the squad is sitting around listening to the radio and they hear Pres. Johnson's speech about the war where he says he has seen the light at the end of the tunnel.
The Tunnel rat grunts: "What the **** does that guy know about tunnels?" he asks in disgust.

Another post finds a dark humour in a hospital test result when, because of a fault, a machine prints out the result "expired". But every so often, there are events which remind us of what is at stake, and humour is impossible:

My son's school sports day. Every parent knows that, what the spring and winter equinox were to our ancient ancestors, the navitity play and sports day are for us. Of course, it has that terrible sense for me of being the last I'll attend, in all probability. Strange to think of it...made even more so by the fact that he's still ignorant of the fact that I'm dying.
I love being a dad.

Why does Brian blog? In an interview from hospital, Brian told me we all play the lottery but none of us think we'll get cancer. A glance at the statistics will tell you how common Brian's situation is, a story repeated in hospital wards up and down the country.

In 2005 cancer was responsible for more than one in three (36%) deaths in people aged under 65 years in the UK. In females under the age of 65 cancer causes 46% of deaths, while in males it is only 30%. In people under the age of 75 years, deaths from cancer outnumber deaths from diseases of the circulatory system a, including heart disease and stroke, and the respiratory system combined.

Sadly death from cancer is not unusual. Brian reminds us of this, and in doing so encourages us to do something about it. While the media obsess about so-called reality TV, stories like Brian's are too infrequently told. You won't see Brian in Heat magazine anytime soon, but his blog is "reality TV'" of the greatest importance, I encourage you to read it..


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