Special Q&A I Stood Up To Cancer. Twice. Toby Peach
So who is Toby Peach?
My name is Toby Peach and I was the fastest sperm 270 days before the night of the 18th December 1988. Since the night of the 18th it’s been 10,164 days. That’s 243,936 hours and 3,679,200 minutes ago. With that time I’ve spent 180,000 minutes kicking a ball about. I was in Scouts for 9 years and I’ve dressed up as bandicoot once. And I was diagnosed with cancer 3,679,200 minutes ago.
What is your experience of cancer?
I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma when I was 19 and then again when I was 21. I’ve come out of the bedazzling world of being a young cancer patient and have set my sights on talking about it. Cancer now affects 1 in 2 of us directly and I expect inevitably everyone indirectly.
Do you feel like you missed out on part of your youth?
The strange thing about cancer is I had no idea what it was; before, during or after having it. This major moment in my life and I hadn’t a clue. I was fascinated by it all, the science and the history, but my fascination wasn’t just with the disease that tried to kill me, it was also the treatments that saved my life. I’d sat there and taken these drugs but that’s all I’d done; sat. Did you know cancer was just you? That the battle that everyone seems to face is actually a rebellion? Cancer is just an odd selfie. So who the hell saved me if it was just Toby VS Toby?
The Eulogy of Toby Peach is your one-man show, what made you create that?
All that research and discovery started forming a story I wanted to tell and The Eulogy of Toby Peach my solo- theatre show was made, with the question that I was posing in making it; how am I still here? From diagnosis to remission, relapse and treatment, the show takes the audience on a young man's journey with cancer in an honest, fascinating and inspiring exploration of modern science and the wonders of the human body. It was that shocking reality that ‘cancer, it’s just a terrible one man show where you play all the parts’.
There are loads of great anecdotes in the show about your time during the cancer, would you be able to share any of those with us here?
In the show I invite the audience to have some chemotherapy cocktails and to share in my Absolute Bloody Vascular Daiquiri (ABVD) with me as chemo is just that; a cocktail of chemicals. Albeit with some horrific side effects sometimes. I also share with the audience about the relationship I have with my IV Stand, affectionately named IVY. She and I blow through 8 grands worth of drugs together over a week, she shaves my head (because that’s the kind of girl she is) and we talk about death together. We even perform the Top 10 funeral songs playlist together. Interestingly, when I performed the show at Teenage Cancer Trust’s conference ‘Find Your Sense Of Tumour’ they all shared in this relationship- they’ve all had a bit of IVY.
Looking back on it now, how did the experience affect you and your confidence?
At the time it is hard to think about- you are thrown into a world of the ill- taken to this appointment, sit in this waiting room and take this drug. It's a whirlwind. When I was actually going through it I hardly thought about it- I got my bald head down and got on with what I had to do. It was only afterwards that I realised that this moment had happened. I didn’t talk about it for over 3 years- I would answer all questions with the simple and dispelling ‘I’m OK’ or ‘Yer it was fine’. Sometimes its harder on the other side of cancer.
What does Stand Up To Cancer mean to you?
I didn’t know about Stand Up To Cancer when I was growing up but I think that speaks volumes. I never thought I could get cancer. It was an old persons disease. I was completely in the dark about what it was.
Have you got any advice to young people perhaps dealing with struggles of their own?
Everyone has their own unique experience with cancer and mine may be very different to many but I know that I felt a lot more reassured and cared for because of those around me, from those nurses, doctors, friends and loved ones who were there when I needed them to be. It’s bloody tough having cancer when you’re young (I expect at any age) but having those around me and the support they can offer or that of charities like Teenage Cancer Trust, Macmillan or Trekstock can help. I found it tough to admit that.
What’s next for Toby Peach?
To find out more about Stand Up To Cancer, head over to channel4.com/su2c
For information on organisations that can provide help and support around the issues raised in this article, head over to Channel 4's Help & Support on Cancer