Free climbing without a rope

In my home
My steps now fragile and fearful
I’m free climbing without a rope
Descending the steep old stairs
My right hand on the bannister
On the left I have finger holds
On bookcase shelves

Fingertips grip
Hold 1:
On the edge in front of
Pigeon Feathers
Under Milk Wood
The New Black Poetry
Left foot down one step
Right foot down to the same step 

Fingertips grip
Hold 2:
On the edge in front of
Paradise Lost
On Chesil Beach
The Reprieve
Left foot down one step
Right foot down to the same step 

Fingertips grip
Hold 3:
On the edge in front of
The Cement Garden
Poems for people who don’t read poems
Repeat steps

Hold 4:
Set in Darkness
The Human Stain
Black Dogs
Invitation to a Beheading
Repeat steps

Hold 5:
The Golden Notebook
Tell me lies
Mountains of the mind
Repeat steps

Hold 6:
The Long Take
Pigs in Heaven
Any Human Heart
Drive your plough over the bones of the dead.
Repeat steps

Final hold:
Photographs of my daughters together in a photo frame fashioned as a sheep
Left foot down
Pivot body to right
Right foot down in front of left foot
Right hand grip bannister wall bracket
Left hand grip architrave
Deep breath
Left foot down the long drop of the burglar’s step
Right foot down.
Both feet down
Free climb complete
Take walking stick from where it rests against the wall

There is neither rhyme nor reason to this
Expect the fear of falling
Domestic climbing without a rope

Cancer – Side Effects

There are many things that are difficult when having treatment for cancer. Not least among these are ‘side effects’. It’s a common cry from cancer patients ‘don’t ask me about the side effects!’ The implication being that they are a nightmare. Until I had cancer I didn’t really know why they said this.

I don’t want to talk about my particular situation in detail but rather the inadequacy of the phrase ‘side effects’. The connotation of the phrase is that the effect of the treatment is peripheral to the cancer (in all its hideous varieties) when in fact it becomes central. 

I my case, I was going along pretty well with my treatment plan with tiresome (literally) side effects but I was pain free. It was then suggested that I start taking an additional cancer drug as it would provide ‘marginal gains’. After five days I knew why people said ‘don’t ask about the side effects’ – my side effects are awful. 

The side effects are now the centre of my battle with my tumour (who’s called Alowishus by the way). It’s ridiculous to say this but it feels like I’m a victim of my treatment side effects rather than the cancer itself. Is all this pain worth it?

The leaflets that come with drugs can’t predict what each patient may experience but the suggestion remains that the effects are on the side, like French fries or a green salad, and generally you’ll be fine if you avoid the shellfish.

Why not change the wording to ‘Treatment Consequences’?

Finally, it seems to me that the issue of ‘side effects’ is all part of the obfuscation that is still used, possibly with the best of intentions, to avoid the painful truths of being terminally ill. That’s for another day.

The best quality of life must remain central to cancer treatment because as ‘normal’ a life as possible hugely helps the ill person’s supporters – there is something very debilitating in seeing one’s loved ones suffer as one suffers.

Go well.

© Phil Cosker 08.06.2020

No longer shielded from Covid 19

I was diagnosed with metastatic prostate cancer on January 25th this year and have been self-isolating since the start of the pandemic. 

I had one session of chemotherapy before we halted that treatment because of the risk of having a wrecked immune system in the face of Covid19.

Since then I’ve been having oral treatment organised through the excellent Nottingham University City Hospital’s Oncology Department.

Last Friday May 29th I received two letters: one from my GP’s surgery and one from the hospital. They both said the same thing. I was now being defined as in need of shielding and accompanied with a full list of instructions and a link to the web site.

It is now Monday June 1st and I’m no longer ‘shielded’. 

I’m very happy not to be so classified. 


This trivial bureaucratic idiocy is emblematic of the total incompetence and mendaciousness of this terrible government led by Dominic Cummings and his deputy, the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson.

I am desperate to be ‘shielded’ from the both of them and their government.

© Phil Cosker 01.06.2020

A lucky escape – a true story

An article by Linda Rodriguez McRobbie in yesterday’s Guardian newspaper (Tuesday 26th May 2020) shocked me. To be more accurate the photograph on the cover of ‘The Long Read’ shocked me. It’s of a man, Paul Alexander, who “When he was six contracted polio and was paralysed for life. He is now 74, and one of the few people in the world still using an iron lung.”

I will be 74 in October and I also contracted Poliomyelitis in 1952 when, just like Paul, I was also 6. When I saw the photograph and read the headline I thought, Jesus, that could easily be me. Surprisingly, for the very first time I completely understood how terrified my, long dead, parents must have been. My legs were paralysed but I recovered their use. I suddenly remembered Mum and Dad talking abut me ending up in an iron lung and I had no idea what they were talking about. I suspect I was imagining something a knight on horseback wore to battle. 

Strangely, when I was fully recovered we never ever talked about my polio – I wish we had.

This fine article is not only about Paul but the polio pandemic that happened in the USA in 1952 locating him in the midst of our current Covid19 pandemic. But it isn’t that comparison that got to me but the fact that I had such a lucky escape. I’m not in good health; I’m being treated for advanced prostate cancer. And though this is far from good it’s such a long way from being in an iron lung for the last 68 years. 

Lucky isn’t the word for it!

There is a link to the guardian story HERE>>>


The Windrush Citizens

Hi Folks

Yesterday Amber Rudd – the UK’s Home Secretary – apologised for the treatment and distress handed out to Windrush citizens turned into victims. Thank you for that – something that never needed to happen!

Many of these victims of racism have been made poverty stricken – Mr Thompson has been denied treatment for his prostrate cancer and therefore his life has been threatened. Even if I wasn’t a prostate cancer survivor I would support him.

I just signed the petition, “Home Office: Give Albert Thompson the lifesaving cancer treatment he needs.” I think this is important. Will you sign it too?
Here’s the link:

Go well,