Edinburgh Fringe

Terence Hartnett: 5 things I loved about chemo

Terence Hartnett

Last year at Fringe I did a show about testicular cancer. Four months after that show, the cancer came back in my lung. I finished my last round of chemo a month before my first Fringe preview this year. Here's a few things I loved about it!

1. I got to be high with my parents

I took marijuana edibles almost every day of chemotherapy. Not only do I enjoy the effects of marijuana, but it works! Weed cures chemo, and chemo cures cancer. So I'm not saying that weed cures cancer, but that's just because I don't want to be a guest on The Joe Rogan Experience right now.

The edibles help with the body aches and the nausea that are side effects of chemo. But most importantly, they help with the loss of appetite. Chemo makes food look odd to me. It looks incredibly unappetising. My mother would make a nice dinner and all I could think was "who the hell would put this in their body, and for what purpose?"

But when I was high around my parents, their mushy dinners became appetising and their conversation became stimulating. I could eat a whole helping of chicken casserole with cheese sauce and ask my dad what it was like when JFK was assassinated (and who he thinks really did it).

The munchies saved my life and my relationship with my parents.

Terence Hartnett

2. I got to rewatch The Wire

During normal life, you can't just rewatch The Wire. People would scoff, because I could be reading a book or watching the new show that everyone's talking about, or because I've already rewatched The Wire. But during chemo, my only job was to chill as hard as possible. I was supposed to rest and eat well and sleep as much as I could. I needed to stay hydrated and get plenty of rest.

Living life to the fullest was against my doctor's orders, and that was a relief. Almost anything that I could have done besides watch The Wire would've been detrimental to my treatment plan. I couldn't overexert myself (watch a show that I haven't seen before and don't know whether it's good or not); it would have been dangerous for my health.

Wasting time is a vital part of cancer treatment. In other words, chilling cures cancer.

Terence Hartnett

3. I got to play video games

Video games are a waste of time. And that's not always a bad thing. A lot of art is intended simply as a pleasant way to pass some time. But a painting or a film typically won't take hundreds of hours of your life to pleasantly enjoy.

I try to avoid gaming because it's a time suck. I love video games, but I can't justify using up the hours it takes to enjoy them.

Unless I'm on chemo. Then I need to burn some of the hours between doctors appointments and waiting for potentially life-changing phone calls. And video games are a worthy pyre upon which to burn that extra time.

Video games are perfect for when you are unable to achieve any real-world accomplishments, but you still need a win. Like beating Calamity Ganon after conquering hundreds of shrines and collecting dozens of silly talking seeds. Shout out to Zelda: Breath of The Wild.

Video games are a waste of time. A beautiful, engrossing, distracting, perfect waste of time.

4. I got to wear a tracksuit

Terence Hartnett

I wore the same stylish navy tracksuit almost every day of chemo. I loved it. I didn't leave the house most days and most days I would end up taking a nap in the afternoon, so why bother with fashion?

Not to say it wasn't a stylish tracksuit, it featured slim tapered joggers and a hoodie that looked worn and faded even though it was neither. I could definitely put some cool sneakers on and rock this tracksuit in a social setting. Does any of this make it better that I wore it every day and washed it once a week? No.

But, once again, chemotherapy allowed for special circumstances. I wasn't wearing this tracksuit because I had given up. It was just the opposite. I was wearing it because I was fighting. It was like a jersey that I proudly put on before entering the competitive arena. A signal to my opponent that I am serious and I came to play. And nap-hard.

5. I got to heal my body of cancer

Terence Hartnett

I loved chemo because it shrunk the tumour in my lung. I spent a lot of time dealing with this cancer. Logistically dealing with doctor's appointments, prescriptions and treatment plans, and emotionally dealing with my family, friends, girlfriend and self. But the only time the actual issue was being addressed was when I was on chemo.

When I felt pained and tired and unable to get up off the couch, when I was exhausted by a trip to the bathroom or a brief conversation with a friend, I remembered that it's because the chemo was fighting cancer inside me. Chemo is great because everything else is just waiting. Chemo was actually doing the work of making the cancer in my body small enough to be operated on and removed. Chemo is healing. I love chemo.

Fringe has so far been much more enjoyable than chemotherapy. I'm feeling healthy and my hair is growing back. My show has been selling well, which is really the best medicine.

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