Why aren’t you dead yet?


Jörn Cann wasn’t my friend. He was my doctor.

He was famous before we even met him as the doctor who had had what we’d had. ‘He knows what you’ll be going through,’ whispered my consultant.

Moments later he put his arm around me and told me we were not going to get on, on account of me being a Chelsea fan. If it is possible to fall in love when you’ve just been diagnosed with cancer, that is what happened to me.

He was the least PC person I have known. He swore, beautifully and extravagantly, at everything. He admonished me for being ‘male’ about my treatment, only to display great tenderness mere seconds later as he reassured me I was in fact ‘sailing through’ it.

The first day of my chemotherapy I saw him leap out of his chair, stride across the ward and bend his runner bean frame down to the face of a sleeping patient. ‘Have you died or something?’ he shouted. ‘Why not?’ This particular patient was known on the ward for her loquaciousness, keeping up a running commentary on every minutiae of her thinking and seeing. Once the laughter from behind the desk had died down, I could see what Jörn wanted was not to be left alone.

He held my hand, told me to fuck off, sat with me in silence.

When the (mistaken) news came of my relapse arrived it was Jörn who talked us through the implications, pretending to temper his language as he went: ‘If you’re given a shit pack of cards, those are the ones you play with.’

We found later that he had relapsed himself only the previous day.

I still saw him on the ward after my treatment had finished. We talked about football, his rock collecting expeditions, his photography.

There seemed nothing he wasn’t interested in.

The last time I saw him was in a supermarket near to the hospital. He stopped as he always did for a natter, asking after my family, our trolleys almost touching.

He had just finished another trip for some rocks, up a volcano I think he said.


  1. I never knew him. But he lives in my mind. He stuck in my mind first from your book. And here he is alive and well in your blog. I hadn’t forgotten him. Lovely to see him again.


  2. Thanks again Anthony for the reminder. I will never forget Jörn, he is so often in my thoughts. I’m still in remission, thankfully. I know “IT” will probably come back again and dread having to go back to the unit without Jörn being there. He just made it all so easier to cope with.


  3. Hi Anthony, I love this post and I have had a very good look around in general at your blog. I had a good time reading through various posts and following links. Thank you. I have recommended you for the Most Influential Blogger Award. If you want to accept, please follow this link to read more about it. http://wp.me/p4mdvX-iK All the best, Barbara


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