Gonzo from the Muppets signed my will

We were in a pub this weekend, and I turned to a fine old school friend with the solemn words: “Before you get too drunk, I wondered if you’d just sign a few things for me.”

I handed him my will, as well as a copy of my ‘advanced decision’ – a legal document which instructs doctors what treatment they should give, or not give, to extend (or not) my life when (in my opinion) my life is pretty well over.

MWith documents duly witnessed, fifteen minutes later we were standing outside the pub: he dressed as Gonzo from the Muppets, and me in full Ghostbusters getup.

We were off to a fancy dress party for which the theme was anything beginning with the letters G or V, those being the first letters of our hosts’ names who were celebrating their 10th wedding anniversary.

My wife, under no pressure from me at all, went as Victoria Pendleton.

The rush for Gonzo’s signature at the bottom of my documents came because I’m about to have a brain biopsy.

On Thursday, as long as a more urgent case doesn’t bump me down the list, I’ll be going under the knife or the drill. They don’t quite know which yet.

My surgeon will either create a small borehole through my skull, into which a computer guided needle will seek out the nastiest bit of my brain tumour and take a sample.

Or he will open up a tiny trap door in my head, and cut away a little slither of the tumour to get a representative sample.

The idea is two fold. First, to confirm what my neurologist suspects: that the tumour is turning malignant. Second, to discover – if it is malignant – exactly which type of malignant tumour it has become.

That’ll help the doctors plan any treatment I need, and to decide on its urgency. I’ve also asked them to analyse the genetic markers of the tumour, and to pass any spare material from the biopsy to their research colleagues over the road.

The operation should be relatively straight forward, but it is brain surgery after all.

The very slight risk of death is a given for any operation, but particularly so on the brain. But it also seems as if the most relevant parts of my tumour have taken residence in the most hard to reach parts of it. That adds complications.

There’s a 1 to 3% chance I’ll come out with permanent speech and motor function impairment, and a larger chance I’ll have these things only temporarily (weeks or months).

But with any luck, I’ll be discharged from hospital on Friday with little more than a scar, a bandage and a slight headache to show for my troubles.

If I’m able to post here, or my wife is able to, we’ll let you know how it all went.

I may be being slightly blasé about my impending appointment on the operating table.

That’s only because I have now have had time to digest it. Because I have spent time with my kids, and they’ve promised to play nurses for me when I come home. Because I’ve been over and over scenarios with my wife until we’re almost bored of talking about it.

And because I’ve ridden over 110 miles in the last three days – so have had lots of time to think – and there are more miles planned before I go into hospital on Wednesday afternoon.

Of course it is serious. Of course it is scary. But it is also unavoidable.

Without a biopsy, I can’t find out what my treatment options are. It doesn’t feel like another inevitable step in my decline. It’s more like a rubbish thing I don’t want to do, and am kinda keen to get out the way.

photoI normally feel that way about fancy dress parties actually. Especially those at which my costume is silly rather than stylish, and I can’t drink a drop of alcohol because of my drugs. But actually, I had immense fun this weekend, and I stayed up far later than I have in over a year.

When I did eventually leave, Gonzo was still in full swing. It looked likely he’d stay that way for many more drunken hours to come.


Thank you to all those who donated to my friend Richard’s 200 length swim on Friday in aid of The Brain Tumour Charity. At last look, he’d raised just shy of £1,000, which is incredible.

(He came to the party as a goalkeeper, since you asked. I guess coming as olympic swimming champion Goodhew (Duncan) and wearing only a pair of Speedos, might have rendered him a little too exposed.)

There’s still time to help Richard hit that £1,000 mark by making a small donation at https://www.justgiving.com/paul-rich-5km-swim/

I hope you will.


  1. So glad you’ve been out enjoying the cycling, my new surly cross check frame arrived on friday I took it into town to get sprayed deep lilac on saturday. I am reasonably confident I now have every hand picked component including some nice posh velo orange bits. I shall send you some photos in the next 10 days to distract you during your recovery.

    I found a laptop and lots of films an essential time filler for hospital but I do wish I’d chatted more with the fellow patients and found out more about their tumours and conditions. The day I left a big smiley Jewish fellow arrived and he was talking to loads of people and being lovely and outgoing and curious and it made me wish I had done the same. You’re in good hands at Queens Square, and the nurses were pretty dam good when I was there too.

    Here’s looking forward to answers and recovery.

  2. Great to hear you let your hair down on the weekend. Nothing like a good belly laugh and fun times with friends. I’ll be thinking of you and your family on Thursday. Sending positive vibes and thoughts your way. Best wishes to you.

  3. You have kept yourself remarkably fit with all your cycling, you’ve had a lot of fun and laughter over the weekend and you are a positive person so you have given yourself the best possible chance of coming through the biopsy well – you could do no more.

    Wishing you the very best Gideon – I hope if and when I have to have a biopsy on my tumour I can approach it with your fortitude. x

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