Dear Carl


I debated with myself for the last few weeks whether or not to post this. At first it was going to be a personal letter sent to the club but then I thought why not share it with everybody else. There’s a little bit too much of ‘my’ crap in it, my illness. But sometimes the only way you make sense of something like Cancer is by utilising other peoples experiences, which are all different at the end of the day. Some may think the whole ‘kwan’ thing is flippant and out of context but the more I think about it the whole idea of Kwan was what got me through the worst of times. Any way it’s here and done….it’s not entertainment but ya know…i took most of the swear words out and that’s really all the editing I’ve done.

Dear Carl,

What a load of shit eh? That moment they tell you that inside that body you have been looking after all these years is a whole bundle of Cancer bollocks. What goes through the mind? In those few seconds and minutes after? All the bad things, all the good things, and they are still talking but we are only half listening. All the fears we had of ‘that’ illness are playing through your head like a really shit film. But you know this so I won’t dwell on it only to say ‘fuck’ and ‘what the fuck’. Fuck. You’re one of us…when you’re defending the Southbank goal and the play is up the other end it’s like you are watching it with us…that’s how important you are to me and everybody else. You in trouble bruv? You want us to kick off? How the fuck do we find this illness and smash the fuck out of it when we can’t even see it?

I have history with Cancer. I actually died from Cancer. Weird isn’t it? In New Cross Hospital on the 20th March 2010. Intensive care unit. I had been rushed in by ambulance two days before with stomach pains and a massive infection, a deadly infection I suppose. They said I wouldn’t survive an exploratory operation to find out what that big lump was on my Colon. But they did and I didn’t. The Cancer had eaten through my gut and for a week I had been evacuating what was in my bowel through a massive tear in the gut wall. After the operation about 3am my blood pressure went ballistic and my heart stopped. By chance my Nurse Grace grabbed a passing Dr and he went into his training and brought me back, stabbed a whole load of needles in my neck, pumped more drugs in and I was back on the pitch. I’m not going to wax on about the operations and the treatments after. It’s gone and in the past.

But what about after diagnosis? I was alone, that much I knew. Despite the well wishers and the friends, the family and the phone calls. Alone because quite simply it is our battle. It’s a personal one. Cancer is an opponent with no fucking honour. It’s a back stabber in the alley, it’s the thief who steals in the dead of night, it is not an honourable opponent. So how did I look at it? This thing that has made everybody I love shed tears on my Hospital bed. Easy. I had some honour, a little bit any way. I was a good guy, I mean fair enough I’ve done some daft things but overall I was a good guy, like you. Why should good guys have to suffer? Questions bowl through your mind about the validity of the whole shebang but it’s all wasted energy, questioning it, energy needed for battle. I looked at it like that, a fight with the Bully at school, he’s bigger than us, hands like a joint of pork, big thick head, haircut like the council had fucking strimmed it, you know the type. But we always get him in the end, we always find him at his most vulnerable, we always defeat the bully, always. Carl? Cancer has a shit trim and shit two stripe shoes.

So as a man of honour and a ‘good bloke’ what are you supposed to do now faced with such a despicable enemy? Easy mate. Carry on with your life as if nothing had happened. Eat the same stuff, do the same things you always did. How much of a thought do we give Cancer? Fucking none at all mate. Forget it. Let the Doctors and the Nurses do their thing. Do the scans, the blood tests they want. Let them be empirical and quantitative, measure the blood cells and the T-cells and whatever they want. We shouldn’t allow one negative thought to enter our head because it’s like worrying over the bully at school, the unpaid bill, the rattle under the bonnet of your car. Pointless. You see the day they told you that you had Cancer was the day you started to beat it. Cancer hates nothing more than ignoring it totally.

Two months after my initial operation I was at Wednesfield Plaza skatepark with a colostomy bag and the chemo shakes. Skating around gently among the other lunatics. I would slip away behind the quarter pipe to puke every ten minutes. Later on I would fall over and squash the bag at my belly and the shit would cover my trousers. Dudes ran around me with wet wipes and paper towels they had got from the local cafe. Love totally.

Carl. In the future there are going to be some bad times when it’s going to be hard to lift your arm to get hold of that glass of water you want on the bedside table. Cancer has a voice and it wheezes on at you all day and night but fuck that shit. Fuck it right up. Ignore it. Put the TV on or babble at somebody about crap. Anything to shut that annoying little wanker up. Because what it says doesn’t make any sense at all. the same as the whole idea of it as an illness. We destroy it with laughter and carrying on doing the same shit we do every day. We know that there will come a day when you find Cancer lacking, when you have it on the back foot and the more you love and laugh the smaller that bully gets, in fact he crouches down under your laughter curling up into a ball that gets smaller and smaller until its just a speck and then boom it just fucks off out of the whole Ikeme world.

They said I had a 1% chance of survival. When my surgeon told me I laughed in her face (as well as I could). I discovered people making decisions for me while I was ill but soon grabbed the whole subject with both hands. YOU make the decisions here Carl, you and you only. You tell people what you’re going to do after you have beaten it to a fucking pulp. You will be the one laughing when the cancer skitters away down the gutter back to the darkness where it belongs. Make plans, book holidays far in the future, make those plans concrete and firm in your own mind.

On this blog I talk about Kwan a lot. Kwan is important. It’s not hope it’s a concrete and tangible thing. It’s what we use to get through our day and it can also be a potent weapon. Kwan is the love in the world, it’s your kids laughing, your dog chasing it’s tail, it’s the way your partner smiles when you’ve done something stupid. It’s sunsets, the last minute winner in an important match. It’s not ‘believing’ it’s knowing. It’s not ‘faith’ either it’s ‘real’. Kwan is a plan too.

Now when you think about how many people are supporting you (and it’s all of us trust me) you have to suck up that love, pull it into you and make it a weapon to use against this arsehole of an illness. You aren’t alone at all because as you face Cancer if you take a quick glance behind you then you will see all of us too. Every ugly mush you see as you run up to the Southbank goal to take your position is fighting with you, every gap tooth pisshead, every fucking lunatic who stumbled through the subway. Every clap of the hands is a slap around the face of your Cancer. There will be songs too, sung for you and you only and out of that energy is power and that power is for you too. Listen to us and use that love to destroy this thing. Songs have power, that’s why we have Hymns and our songs should be seen in the same light.

Be a good Warrior Carl, make every blow count against this thing, this disgrace of a thing and I will be honest, you will come out of it a different man. It’s not the disease that changes you, its the battle. When everybody has gone and you’re on your bed staring at the ceiling feeling that Chemo burn remember that you have all of us and if you decide to return to playing football the day you run out on that pitch there will be tears, laughter, and songs but right now our fists are clenched, fucking Wolves ay we mate.

Big Love



It’s been a few weeks since Carl got diagnosed and I know he’s in the zone right now. Every day I think about him and say a little prayer to whatever God or Gods exist to look down and give him some strength. The wisdom of the Southbank or for any of us (for what is is), pray to the Gods but row to shore, isn’t just for the faithful. It doesn’t have to start with a prayer, perhaps it’s just a wish, an intention, or a longing. But we must also follow it up with rowing to shore, meaning, do your part, pull your trousers up, get ya tools ready. In this case it means spending five minutes clicking that link below to Steve Plants ‘Just Giving’ page.

I know you have a bit of cash somewhere and I know that you have some things you keep secret, bad things you have done in the past and I know you sometimes think about them if you wake up in the middle of the night or you’re stuck in traffic on the Bilston road. We all do bad things, and we are ashamed about them but here and now is your chance to put things a little bit right, do something good and positive. It takes five minutes of clicking things and remembering your details, that’s nothing is it? so give the link below a click, go on, do it.




11 thoughts on “Dear Carl

  1. Only just read this.
    Totally brilliant!
    I’ve had it too, not as bad as you but it was a real pain in the right tonsil.
    Over it now but lacking enough spit to aim at opposing fans – and taste (some say I never had any).
    Best to Carl!

  2. What a superb piece, written with emotion and talent. It’s felt personal for me too. I’ve had my near-death health experience, not cancer, but a little like cancer, something that stays with you, when you recover. Some residual risk, worry, that despite beating the odds and surviving, it may come back to cut short your life. Reading this, reminds me why I just try to get on with my life and enjoy it, whatever the future holds.

  3. My father died of colon cancer. He was my best friend in the world. I think about him every day of my life.

    You would have liked him. High school education, worked for minimal wage his entire life. But he was a great father to me and taught me to love life. There was always food on the table.

    Thanks for sharing, my opinion of you increases each time I read one of your blogs.

    1. Kind words Scott thank you. I’m sorry about your Dad it is a horrible disease. And I think coming out of it myself it has given me perhaps new ways to discuss things, kind of like a near death experience is a new palette to work upon. Who knows. Cheers man.