This side-effect of chemotherapy was a big surprise – Susan Morrison

Jack Haley as the Tin Man in 'The Wizard Of Oz. Picture: Mgm/Kobal/Shutterstock (5886294ed)
Jack Haley as the Tin Man in 'The Wizard Of Oz. Picture: Mgm/Kobal/Shutterstock (5886294ed)
Share this article
Have your say

Susan Morrison can cope with the side-effects of chemo turning her into the Tin Man from Oz but she draws the line at Quasimodo

The NHS refers to the type of chemotherapy you are on as a “regime”, a word I find faintly worrying. To me it conjures up images of Cold War dictators receiving the salute from massive military marches complete with rumbling tanks and fighter fly-pasts. Oh, hang on, that’s the Fourth of July parade in the US earlier this month.

Charles Laughton as Quasimodo in The Hunchback Of Notre Dame. Picture:  Rko/Kobal/Shutterstock (5882401s

Charles Laughton as Quasimodo in The Hunchback Of Notre Dame. Picture: Rko/Kobal/Shutterstock (5882401s

My particular regime has side-effects which took an oncologist nearly an hour to explain. Hair loss isn’t one of them, so I can still chuck my head about to get that swoosh so beloved of shampoo advert directors and Neil Oliver.

My hands and feet get pins and needles, and then, when they have gone, I turn into the Tin Man from OZ. This means that my career with the Bolshoi is clearly over, unless they want a particularly rigid performance of Swan Lake. I suppose they could balance me on a skateboard and wheel me about.

Touch wood, I’m doing fine with the official side-effects. It’s an “unofficial” one that has taken me by surprise.

I have taken to shouting at people in the street.

Last week, standing at the bus stop. A young man in construction gear unwrapped his roll and sausage and just dumped his paper in the doorway of the dentist. It’s my dentist, as it happens, and so I probably feel a sense of responsibility, or, at the very least, some measure of protectiveness towards my tooth fairy that suddenly hit Game of Thrones Level 7.

This bus stop has a bin. I pointed that out, quite politely, as it happens. He pointed out that I was an “auld hag”. Quite why young men think that telling women their age should upset them has always been a mystery to me. I’m still standing. Two cancers have tried and failed. Age is an honour, mate.

It got loud after that. Very. People in Tesco across the street turned. And by street, I mean Duke Street, which is about five minutes’ walk away.

His hi-vis jacket had a slogan on the back. I saw it as he turned to wipe his nose with his sleeve. It’s a construction company, and apparently they are “Raising the Standards”.

Clearly, not very high, if their staff like dumping litter and being abusive to older women and then behaving like sulky kids.

The very next day, different bus top, other side of the street, woman with two small kids. One, the boy, finishes his Happy Meal or whatever was in the brown bag and launches the litter into the road. It blew back, and, presumably on his mother’s sage advice to never quit, he gathered it up and chucked it again.

I was on the verge of crossing the road. Didn’t bother. Being the MC of a comedy club for years has given me the volume control of a Harrier Jump Jet. I let rip, pointing out that there is, again, a bin, this time even closer to the stop. He put it in the bin. His mum told him to. Like it was her idea.

Seriously, it’s the chemo, innit?

There is one side-effect I have become aware of and I feel I should apologise to the travellers of the Number 22 bus.

The pins and needles sometimes affect my face. Earlier this week, my whole face went wild just as I was waiting to get to the stop. I could not stop winking, right into the eyes of a young man clearly on his way to graduation. You can tell. He had scrubbed up well.

To my horror, I was gurning and twitching like Sid James in one of the later Carry On films, you know, where they got really sleazy.

My efforts to explain what was happening were sabotaged by the other side-effect. My lips went weird and my tongue became very slightly swollen, so he was now faced by a leering Mrs Quasimodo.

I straightened abruptly and stood on the foot of the woman behind me and turned to apologise but saw her expression when this vision of a chemo-induced facial exercise regime appeared before her.

She must have thought it was something out of the Exorcist. I’m sure she was trying to get out of the way before my head rotated and I projectile-vomited green goo.

Nothing for it but to get off the bus and walk the rest of the way home. Trust me, muttering to yourself and slapping your own face hardly musters a second glance in Leith.

By a bin at the Foot of The Walk stood a group of Leith’s outdoor street folks. They were gathered about, having a vital conversation over burgers and chips, surrounded by hopeful seagulls, who got not one dropped chip.

When our al fresco friends were finished, wrappers were gathered and every single one was put in the bin. Raising the standards, indeed.