ROCK STAR Ian Dury, known for his campaigning work on behalf of polio victims, has another battle on his hands. For the past two years he has been faced with the spectre of cancer of the colon.
Dury, 55, had a string of hits with his band, The Blockheads, in the late 70s, including "Sex and Drugs and Rock `n' Roll", "Hit Me with Your Rhythm Stick" and a series of uplifting Essex anthems celebrating the likes of Clever Trevor and Billericay Dickie
As is also well known, he contracted polio as a child, and he is now confronting this new trauma with typical bluntness. "Cancer is like getting hit by a bus over two years. It has had a strange salutary effect."
He says he first became aware he had a potential problem when he was working in LA in the autumn of 1995. "I noticed my digestion felt very strange. I thought it was jet lag but when I returned to England I read about this fashionable disease called Irritable Bowel Syndrome and my symptoms seemed to fit the bill."
However, following an exploratory colonoscopy he had an operation to remove a growth. Then last February, he learned that secondary tumours had developed in his liver. "It was only then that I thought, `F--- me, I've got cancer." I told my mate who had come with me, `I've been diagnosed old son'."
Immediately put on a course of chemotherapy, he has been following a course of treatment that is largely self-administered. Called a Hickman Line, he cheerfully pulls up his T-shirt to reveal two nozzles attached to his chest which join to a bottle of a cytotoxic drug. "I plug in from Tuesdays to Friday for 60 hours a week."
Unlike more conventional chemotherapy he says he hasn't experienced either nausea or hair loss. "I'm a Lucky Jim. for many people there is extreme pain and trauma but I'm as strong as an ox and I'm not in pain. I did ask my doctor what the worse case scenario was if it got really rampant and he said eight months. But he also said he's had patients with the same thing for eight years."
The most difficult aspect of the diagnosis has been coming to terms with the effect on his family. His two eldest children from his first marriage, Baxter and Jemima, are shattered.
There is also his second family to consider - he married Sophy, a 33 year old sculptress last month. They have two children Albert, who is one and Bill, three.
"It's difficult for them but also I'm going to miss them if I die before they're grown up."
His new album, Mr Love Pants, is released in July and he intends to tour. There is also a trip for UNICEF in his diary for September.
Colo-rectal cancers kill 19,000 Britons a year, second only to lung cancer and half as many again as breast cancer. Cancer of the colon becomes more frequent as age increases, with 95 per cent of such cancers occurring in the over-50s, with both sexes equally affected.
Gastroenterologists reckon the number of cases of cancer of the bowel could be halved if the British consumed more cereal fibre, fresh fruit and vegetables.
"It isn't all gloom", says the writer of "Reasons to be Cheerful". "I like to think I was a fully- formed human being before cancer. I've got a huge amount of faith in myself and you can be so scared of dying you don't spend the day living."
r Colon Cancer Concern, 4 Rickett Street, London SW6 1RU, has an information line and provides fact sheets on symptoms, prevention, screening, and treatment. Tel: 0171 381 4711 (Mon-Fri, 10am-4pm and 24-hour answerphone).
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