The week in radio: Richard Bacon's uplifting broadcast from the cancer ward

 

"Hear the inspiring story of the man with terminal cancer who achieved his goal as a magician and comedian," went the blurb for Richard Bacon's show on BBC Radio 5 Live. Oh God, I thought. Must we? You see, I had imagined, in a cynical moment, a kind of queasy Bucket List-style scenario in which a pale-faced man in surgical gowns and smothered in tubing is wheeled on to a stage in order to pull a rabbit out of a hat for the last time as the audience howl in tear-stained approval, possibly with choirs of angels looking on.

But, of course, it wasn't like that. This is because cancer isn't like a bad Hollywood movie script and even when Steve Evans was at his chirpiest – and, for a man whose only certainty is that his tumour is going to finish him off, he is ridiculously, relentlessly chirpy – the uphill struggle of a life spent at the mercy of the medical profession and your own failing body, was clear.

Evans has stomach cancer that is inoperable. He is currently in palliative care, which means the doctors in charge of him are there to make his remaining months as comfortable as they can be. A year ago, Evans asked doctors to see if they could keep him alive for 12 months until 5 September, when he was due to compere a convention for the International Brotherhood of Magicians (yes, such a thing exists) in Buxton, Derbyshire.

Five months ago he called Richard Bacon's show and talked about his treatment, his life expectancy and his ever-changing definition of hope. Such was his ability to articulate his experience – without rage or self-pity but cold, hard facts – that, a few weeks later, Bacon upped sticks and went to Evans's home in Wolverhampton, broadcasting from his back yard.

This week brought an update of sorts, letting Bacon's now emotionally invested listeners know that, yes, Evans had made it to Buxton. In fact, he had taken half of Bacon's production team with him and agreed to be interviewed after the show, knackered but still chipper. "It's a hard job at the moment keeping this body going," he said, revealing that he was having difficulties with his blood, his bone marrow and his ability to eat.

On Monday, he was in Wolverhampton's New Cross hospital having a transfusion to help fix the problem of his low blood count, but, incredibly, he was still keen to talk to Bacon from his hospital bed.

He talked a lot about his "journey" and the "humbling" care shown to him by doctors and nurses and how he was "blessed" to have his friends and family, and only once allowed the horror of his situation to bubble over, declaring "cancer is just appalling". He could, it has to be said, waffle on a bit and, somewhat surprisingly, Bacon let him, overlooking the opportunity to ask more searching questions about his immediate future, about how his family were coping and his treatment within an institution under political and financial fire.

Meanwhile, you sensed that the fact of Evans's participation on a national radio show was providing a psychological boost and his joie de vivre depended, to an extent, on his moment in the limelight. But even with this uncomfortable knowledge, the presence of this dying man on an afternoon radio show was oddly joyful. And as anyone has has a terminal illness, or who has cared for someone with a terminal illness knows, there is rarely much in the way of joy.

twitter.com/FionaSturges

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Chvrches lead singer Lauren Mayberry in the band's new video 'Leave a Trace'

music
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Home on the raunch: George Bisset (Aneurin Barnard), Lady Seymour Worsley (Natalie Dormer) and Richard Worsley (Shaun Evans)

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers

Strictly
Arts and Entertainment
NWA biopic Straight Outta Compton

film
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dormer as Margaery Tyrell and Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
New book 'The Rabbit Who Wants To Fall Asleep' by Carl-Johan Forssen Ehrlin

books
Arts and Entertainment
Calvi is not afraid of exploring the deep stuff: loneliness, anxiety, identity, reinvention
music
Arts and Entertainment
Edinburgh solo performers Neil James and Jessica Sherr
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
If a deal to buy tBeats, founded by hip-hop star Dr Dre (pictured) and music producer Jimmy Iovine went through, it would be Apple’s biggest ever acquisition

album review
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith is joining The Voice as a new coach

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Dowton Abbey has been pulling in 'telly tourists', who are visiting Highclere House in Berkshire

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Patriot games: Vic Reeves featured in ‘Very British Problems’
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Summer nights: ‘Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp’
TVBut what do we Brits really know about them?
Arts and Entertainment
Dr Michael Mosley is a game presenter

TV review
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    A groundbreaking study of 'Britain's Atlantis' long buried at the bottom of the North Sea could revolutionise how we see our prehistoric past

    Britain's Atlantis

    Scientific study beneath North Sea could revolutionise how we see the past
    The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember,' says Starkey

    The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember'

    David Starkey's assessment
    Oliver Sacks said his life has been 'an enormous privilege and adventure'

    'An enormous privilege and adventure'

    Oliver Sacks writing about his life
    'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

    'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

    The Rock's Chief Minister hits back at Spanish government's 'lies'
    Britain is still addicted to 'dirty coal'

    Britain still addicted to 'dirty' coal

    Biggest energy suppliers are more dependent on fossil fuel than a decade ago
    Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

    Orthorexia nervosa

    How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
    Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

    Lady Chatterley’s Lover

    Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
    Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

    Set a pest to catch a pest

    Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests
    Mexico: A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life

    The dark side of Mexico

    A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life
    Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde. Don't tell other victims it was theirs

    Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde

    Please don't tell other victims it was theirs
    A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

    A nap a day could save your life

    A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
    If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

    If men are so obsessed by sex...

    ...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
    The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

    Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

    The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
    The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

    Rolling in the deep

    The bathing machine is back but with a difference
    Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

    Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

    Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935