A Jewish man from north London who is dying of brain cancer has penned a comedy about his life since he began walking around Finchley with a headache last year, writes Stephen Oryszczuk.
In May 2014, father- of-three Adam Blain was diagnosed with Glioblastoma multiforme (“Latin for ‘get your will sorted’”).
It kick-started a journey that last month saw him put the finishing touches to a book he’ll publish through Kindle called Pear Shaped, on account of the shape and size of the piece of brain doctors removed.
Blain, 45, has a six percent chance of surviving, but is still working full-time as a lawyer, for financial reasons. “I have a family,” says the partner at law firm Pemberton Greenish. “I can’t afford to stop working.”
His three children are aged between five and 12. “The youngest is asking some really blunt questions,” says Blain. “The older one has had much more information, and wants to read the book one day. I won’t lie to them, but at the same time, I’m trying not to freak them out.”
Blain describes himself as “just a normal kind of bloke” who greeted his diagnosis “open-mouthed, gawping into space, doing that comedy slow blinking”.
He says the idea for a book came when he began scribbling down his “rambling thoughts, using black humour as the medium”. For example, his diagnosis of ‘brain cancer,’ he says, “is a bit like being told you’ve got ‘testicle rupture’ – it’s never going to be good news”.
Even before the doctors sat him down, Blain says he had a bad feeling because “they kept buying me coffees – not cheap canteen coffee, but expensive coffee shop lattes”.
The book subsequently charts the support of his family and three friends Cary, Kim and Carl, and his “exasperation about how medicalised my life became, and how quickly this happened, becoming totally subsumed into the NHS, part of the statistics on some Cabinet minister’s desk”.
Four days after diagnosis, Blain underwent a nine-hour operation, during which doctors removed a large (pear-shaped) section of brain by first cutting a hole in his skull, prompting a suggestion from his friend Carl.
“Instead of putting the missing piece of skull back, they could put in a piece of glass or toughened transparent plastic, cut to size,” says Blain. “This way, my brain could be monitored without having to open me up. In fact, why not put some tropical fish in there to make a feature of it?”
Humour has been a coping mechanism, he explains. “Take the operation, for example. It was terrifying. If you think [about] what they’re doing, you’ve got to use humour – it’s the only way you can deal with it.” He expands, saying: “Laughing at death takes the sting away. Maybe it’s a Jewish thing, I’m not sure. We have had to laugh through so many bleak situations, so I suppose Jewish humour is quite black, because of the topics it’s had to cover.”
Blain says there were no great hopes or aspirations for the book, other than to get a publishing deal and see it on the shelves of Waterstones. “It started off as something that made me laugh,” he explains.
“Then it became something that made other people laugh. It’s not part of any great mission in life to educate people. It’s just my way of coping and it may help with finances when I’m no longer around.” • Pear Shaped by Adam Blain is available on Kindle, priced £2.99