Caring grandfather who laughed at terminal cancer by writing book 'Keeping Your Sense of Tumour' dies
Mr Blackburn, was diagnosed with cancer of the bone marrow four years agoDecided to write a humorous book about his experiences
Describes seeing in the New Year in a theatre 'though perhaps not the kind of theatre I would ideally have chosen'
Added: 'You can only get away with joking about cancer if you actually have it yourself'Brave grandfather died on Saturday
15:00 GMT, 27 September 2012
A librarian who vowed to laugh in the face of terminal cancer by writing a comedy book has lost his battle against the illness.
John Blackburn, 64, was diagnosed with multiple myeloma – cancer of the bone marrow – four years ago.
But the upbeat grandfather refused to be defeated by his illness so he wrote an autobiography called 'Keeping Your Sense of Tumour', which went on sale at Amazon.
John with wife Su just after his eBook about his cancer battle was published on Amazon. Su said her husband was 'thoughtful and selfless'
In his book, John who said he was 'a hypochondriac by profession, but a devout coward by religion,' described feeling like he was being 'marked up for target practice' as he was prepared for radiotherapy.
In another entry from when he was confined to a wheelchair John wrote: 'It had become my oft-repeated claim while in hospital that I hadn’t had a ‘drink’ since Christmas but had been legless since New Year.'
After completing his book, John’s bone marrow cancer was initially declared inactive by doctors and he was sent back home and could walk around the house unaided.
But later tests showed the myeloma was back and John had to have more treatment. He was admitted to hospital last week after becoming poorly and his condition deteriorated suddenly. He died at Royal Preston Hospital on Saturday surrounded by his family.
His wife Su of Bamber Bridge, near Preston, Lancashire said: 'I have lost a caring, thoughtful and selfless husband who faced his illness with courage and determination, but above all, his ever present sense of humour.
'As a family, we are overwhelmed by the many touching tributes we have received and we will miss John dearly.'
John began suffering from twinges in his back in 2008 just as he was about to retire from his job of 43 years as a librarian for Lancashire County Council.
The pain gradually worsened and John’s leg suddenly seized up. Investigations revealed he had a tumour on his spine and he was diagnosed with multiple myeloma.
Su and John Blackburn on John's 60th birthday, a year before he was diagnosed with cancer. He kept his sense of tumour despite undergoing several grueling treatments
Doctors were unsure whether John would ever walk again. He spent the next five months in hospital undergoing surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy.
During his illness, John had to deal with pneumonia, septic shock, chest infections and a bad case of shingles. He then spent seven months in a nursing home and was unable to stand up.
In the book, John speaks of the first time that he dropped the pun used for the book’s title into general conversation with his friends and family.
He writes: 'The silence which followed this admittedly dreadful pun you could have cut with a knife, and the sight of jaws dropping had to be seen to be believed.
'But then a smile appeared, and then another, but at least the cries of “Dad!” and “John!” when they arrived were accompanied by smiles.'
The fun loving family man also wrote of how his regular ritual of celebrating the turn of the year at a theatre in Preston had been interrupted by his surgery.
John described his experiences being treated for cancer and how doctors often used terms he didnt' understand
He joked: 'Having seen the New Year in the previous two years at a concert at the Guild Hall in Preston, we would have probably done the same again that year had it not been for my condition, yet lo and behold I was going to see 2009 in at a theatre in Preston after all, though perhaps not the kind of theatre I would ideally have chosen!'
Medical procedures in hospitals are often littered with phrases that the patient does not understand, and John’s treatment was no different.
John speaks about his visit to the hospital to be ‘marked up’ for radiotherapy.
He said: 'I seem to remember a voice saying that it was T9 but at the time this didn’t mean anything to me. I gather now that the area where they had put the metalwork in my back covered an area something like T8-T12 so, if that makes it sound like a game of Battleships, I suppose that in a way it was!'
He also speaks of himself as 'an inherently lazy person' who does not shave because 'the time he spent doing it would be far better employed staying in bed for an extra few minutes'.
During his battle with multiple myeloma, he has had to deal with pneumonia, septic shock, chest infections and a bad case of shingles. He calls the after-effects of the latter condition “the Shingle Tingle”.
He said of one doctor: 'He made me walk up and down the ward, then stuck his finger up my bum and sent me home. Well, I think he, I think he was a doctor, he was wearing a white coat and carrying a clipboard, but sometimes when I think about it I wonder.'
He recalled coming round from anaesthetic and said: 'For some reason believing I was on the set of A Question of Sport but looking from a balcony over New York’s skyline a night.'
At the time the book went on sale John said: 'Writing this book has certainly helped me with my illness. If you are scared of something, it is easier to joke about it. It is a way of escapism.
'Being a coward about anything medical, I never would have envisaged myself being able to cope with cancer, but I have done. I’m also hoping to dispel the myth that all librarians are stuffy, boring and serious.
'You can only get away with joking about cancer if you actually have it yourself.'