The Soundtrack of my Twenties – Sex, Drugs and Cancer

This article is a guest post written by Kieran Dellow. Normally I would put the author biography at the end of a guest post but in this case I think it is important to know a little about Kieran before reading his article.

Kieran is a clinically depressed, epileptic late twenty-something from Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, UK. When an accident at a young age brought about what would seem like the end of their world to others, he powered on and learned to become an adult at far-too-early an age. This accident caused Barretts Syndrome in his oesophagus and eventually cancerous cells began to grow! Now, without his oesophagus he fights alongside Professor Michael Griffin and his team against the injustices that are Barretts Syndrome, Oesophageal cancer and Epilepsy!

Kieran has always been passionate about music. In this article he shares with us songs from his twenties, choosing one song for every year and explaining it’s significance. He candidly shares the highs and the lows of his battle with chronic illness, his desire to be ‘normal’ and offers a refreshingly honest insight into living with a chronic illness as a man in your twenties.


2012:  Fun. – Why Am I The Only One

“I wanna feel with the seasons. I guess it makes sense ‘cause my life’s become as vapid as A night out in Los Angeles, I just wanna stay in bed”.
This was a big year for me and I feel the above quote shows how I felt. This was the year I spent four and a half month in hospital because what was supposed to be a three hour surgery turned into eleven and a half. There were so many complications that my body was practically ruined. I had a punctured lung that filled up with fluid, broken ribs and thick plastic tubes running into my chest to suck out all of the excess rubbish.
I caught pneumonia and multiple chest infections. My girlfriend at the time hung around, I think this was purely out of guilt – things started changing between us and the mood died a little – maybe this was because we didn’t have sex AS much after all of the injuries and depression I’d sustained during my time in hospital.
After I was “healthy enough” to be moved from the critical care department, I was moved into my own room which you’d think “Oh cool, why are you complaining about that?” – well. It was at the very end of the ward, so I got to speak to barely anybody. It felt to me like a beige prison.

2013: Frank Turner – Four Simple Words

This song is a bit more of an upbeat one! “I want to dance, I want to dance. I want love and lust and a smatter of romance!” Frank sings. You see, 2013 was the year I began to perk up a little. There were meetings between my mother and myself, specialist nurses and my consultant. I was back on the road to recovery and had even made up with my girlfriend. Everything was happy and the cogs were finally moving again – I wanted to dance.

2014: Travie McCoy ft. Brendon Urie – Keep on Keeping On

I know this song is about Travie and his struggles as a kid but the line “You got to keep on keepin’ on, even with the feelin’ that you’re keep losin’! You got to come back strong!” really spoke to me. This was the year I started to delve back into my depression and I become addicted to pain killers. I felt like I was letting so many people down because I wasn’t recovering as quickly as I was predicted to in 2012. I know there were complicating circumstances but it truly brought me down to a horrible level. The drugs were just a way of escaping for a while. I know it’s cowardly to run away from my problems like that but I was nowhere near strong enough to face them anymore.
“Keep on even if you feel like you’re losing. You’ve got to come back strong” was all I thought. I needed to come back to reality for the people around me; my family, my friends. Me!

2015: Frank Turner – Mittens

“I once wrote you love songs, you never fell in love. We used to fit like mittens but never like gloves!” this was the year that the girlfriend I had in 2012 left me. See I’d gone back into hospital for a while because my body began breaking down again and my health deteriorated drastically – My diaphragm herniated and caused my intestine to snake up into my chest, wrapping around my left lung and heart – I was within 5mm of losing my life. This meant I couldn’t provide what she sought at the time – a steady life, a home of our own. With the way my health was, I could barely look after myself let alone the pair of us or work properly enough to earn a solid wage to occupy my own place!
I was in hospital for two and a half solid weeks and despite her working about 15 minutes walking distance and finishing 30 minutes before visiting time began, I saw her twice – once she came with her brother and her sister-in-law. All I wanted at the time was to be alone with her and feel her embrace but it was just clunky and awkward!

2016: Chris Farron – Human Being

This song has a hypothetical one-to-one in which one of the participants mentions that “these parties aren’t for us” before asking “why do we keep showing up?” the singer, using his own experience replies with “they help make me feel human when I’m not!”
The chorus belts out “I just wanna be a human being!” and I feel this too – people pussyfoot around me or I rarely get invited somewhere because people expect me to say I can’t for some medical reason or if they do ask me it’ll be Sod’s law 8 times out of 10 meaning I actually can’t go because I’m feeling like shit, or I’ve had a seizure that absolutely saps me of the energy left in my body! I DO just wanna be a human being – I want the social life of others.

2017: Paramore – Fake Happy

I think the title gives this away but it’s a song all about hiding your sadness around other people. Hiding how much you hate the world while you’re dealing with your shit because when you tell someone your problem, they’ll figure out a way to turn it against you! The best thing to do is ask “If I smile through my teeth will you believe me?”

2018: Hellions – X (Mwah)

“I’ll never call this a living when it’s all so rote and unhappy!” is a line that sticks with me from this song because it sums up my 20s. Being in and out of hospital was a constant in my youth but I got on with it because I was naive to it all – as an adult it all started to make sense and it became serious. My twenties were “rote and unhappy” because I couldn’t do a lot – I couldn’t play football like I used to, I couldn’t play fight properly with my nieces and I couldn’t pick up or cuddle my god-children – it was a truly horrible time.
This time wasn’t a living to me, it was simply existing. Pain, weakness, fatigue, isolation – that’s not living, that’s no life a 20-something kid should suffer through. After all, your twenties are supposed to be some of the best years of your life. So this song sings to me real loud (Pun unintended – or – punintended).