I Ate a Cockroach


People keep saying the nicest things. They say I'm brave. I'm not really.

How could I be? I don't have to endure pain. My chances of making a full recovery are good, not a certainty, but good.

Look, chemo isn't fun. Nor are the injections, the pills, the port in my chest, the endless blood taking, the 5- or 6-day hospital visits, the fatigue, the hair loss, the anxiety, the effects on my teeth, the headaches, the chest stitches. But they are nothings.

Yes, I have dips—mentally and physically. Sometimes they are deep. I know it will get harder as things go on. But I see this as a very long endurance race that I cannot abandon, regardless of how tough it gets. I need to grit this out. I need to endure, even past the point where I want to. I can bitch, moan, whine. It won't help. The oncology team aren't going to let me off. I must continue. That's my only challenge. Endure until the cure.

You want bravery?

I've shared the ward with terminal cancer patients. They have been distraught and dignified, often within the same conversation with me.

The man in the bed to my left is missing most of the lower half of his face, from the upper lip down. He barely has the remnants of a mouth. He feeds himself by injecting a beige paste into a port in his belly using a monster syringe. His speech is anguished and unintelligible. That's what he has to endure.

He smiled at me today. I can't comprehend his bravery.

I Ate a Cockroach

My tastebuds are suffering. When I finish a round of chemo, they are shot to hell. I could be chewing on a grape or a glistening grub for all they know. It's just as well my eyes are still working relatively OK, so I can check before things go into my mouth.

I ate half a cockroach once on a bus in Fiji. I was going from one end of Viti Levu to the other. I bought a savoury pastry from a street vendor, through the bus window.

I happily munched my way through it. Tasty. About halfway in, I noticed half a cockroach carcass sticking out of it. I showed it to my girlfriend (now my wife). She seemed relatively disinterested—distracted by my face. Such a handsome man. I swallowed my bite and threw the rest of the pastry out the window. No way was I going to eat the rest of that. Not with half a cockroach in it. Eugh.

A few kilometres later, it dawned on my why there was only half a cockroach in the remaining pastry. And where the other half was. I'm not very bright. Also it explained the look on the face of my girlfriend (now my wife—you have to ask 'Why?', having witnessed what she did). I remember she was captivated by my mouth in particular. (You don't want to know. I licked my lips. There may have been a cockroach leg.)

On the same journey, the bus hit a cow on a country road. The cow wasn't at all happy about it. But she did live.

Another time, in the capital Suva, a bus I was on caught fire.

Never travel with me on a bus in Fiji. Or have a bite of my street food.

Losing Things: My Daughter's Last Day at Primary School

My daughter and I created epic stories on our morning drives to her primary school.

Stories about cats called Pickled Foot, Purple Paw, Peculiar Cat and Evil Kitten. Aliens called Skeer and the Intergalactic Carnaval Monkeys. The Timekeeper of the North—what a rolling saga that was. The Cheese Pirates—we had fun with that one. And The Greatest Christmas Heist—the best story about Christmas you've never heard.

We laughed so much.

Then on 2nd May, the stories stopped. I went to hospital. I never drove my daughter to primary school again.

Her last day at the school was this week. I missed it because I was in hospital. It affected me badly, not being able to drive her that one last time, and tell one last story.

Fuck you, Hercule. I hope you die, you bastard.

If you'd like to receive a more detailed account of my tussle with Hercule, maybe you'd like to sign up for the Roger v Hercule newsletter here: Roger v Hercule.

Roger Overall