Fri. May 31st, 2024

The moment you are told you have cancer might not be the obvious experience to look to for laughs. But for Gareth Honeybone, finding the humour in his diagnosis has been a cathartic way of coming to terms with the devastating news. And he has been mining his health journey for material for his stand-up comedy act ever since.

“I’ve always been funny in quite a dry way,” says Gareth, 28. “Even during my treatment I’d say things that people found funny, though slightly strange. I suppose it’s my coping mechanism.”

Gareth is well versed in being on both sides of the desk when it comes to breaking bad news to patients. When he’s not performing at comedy clubs, he’s a junior maxillofacial surgeon at the Northern General Hospital in Sheffield.

“At work I’m on the wards, in surgery or seeing patients in my clinic, many of whom may have mouth cancer,” he says. “Then, only a few hours after leaving hospital, I’m trying to make an audience laugh about my own cancer experience. It’s quite a contrast.”

Gareth can trace his journey to the comedy circuit to an unlikely starting point. In 2016, he was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, a lifelong inflammatory bowel condition with symptoms that include pain, weight loss and urgently needing the toilet.

In November 2022, while having a regular blood test to monitor his Crohn’s, doctors found a liver abnormality caused by a blocked bile duct. This turned out to be a rare chronic disease called primary sclerosing cholangitis, in which the body’s own immune system attacks the bile ducts which connect the organs in the digestive system.

As Gareth’s condition worsened, he became yellow with jaundice. So in February last year he underwent what he describes as his “big operation”. During six hours of surgery, his bile duct, gall bladder and lymph nodes, along with other tissue and veins, were all removed before his bowel was rerouted. “My doctors suspected the bile duct blockage was caused by a cancerous tumour, so as a precaution they took everything out,” says Gareth. “It was only later, once everything had been examined, that cancer was confirmed.”

Gareth was diagnosed with cholangiocarcinoma (CCA) – also known as bile duct cancer – which is extremely aggressive and has a has a poor mortality rate of 97.4 per cent. If caught early, surgery is a potential cure. Following his surgery, he had six months of chemotherapy. Despite the gruelling treatment, he was back at work by July.

It was while recovering that Gareth stepped out of his usual comfort zone. He signed up for an eight-week beginner’s stand-up comedy course taught by a professional comedian. It led to him appearing on stage at Sheffield’s Leadmill nightclub for a charity fundraising gig. “I’ve always enjoyed watching stand-up but had never performed before except in school plays,” he says. In the weeks before the gig in December about 20 comedy students who had stuck with the course were encouraged to write one-liners, develop their stage act and hone their material.

“We met up once a week at a pub,” he says. “My stage persona was a more exaggerated version of myself talking about what had happened. I did material about my Crohn’s and cancer, but as a patient, rather than a doctor. “I opened my act asking the audience about any bad Christmas presents they’d had, before saying my worst had been cancer.

“I hit it straight away, rather than easing it into my routine, but there were laughs and that line set me up for the rest of my act. I was pleased with how it went and enough people I trusted said it was good. My biggest worry was remembering my eight minutes of material.

“My family and friends came to support me. I’m not someone who swears much, so my parents said afterwards they were surprised to see me swearing on stage. I explained it was part of the performance to make the gags work better.”

Amongst the newbie comics playing to the 200-strong audience, Gareth was the top fundraiser, collecting more than £1,300 for the Alan Morement Memorial Fund (AMMF), the CCA charity. He has since been booked at venues across the country, including Manchester’s renowned Frog and Bucket where Johnny Vegas was once compere and where John Bishop did his first gig. “People often remind me that Adam Kay and Harry Hill were both doctors who later became successful comedians,” says Gareth, who has had all-clear after his successful cancer treatment. “Most of my colleagues don’t even know I do stand-up when I’m not seeing patients. I like to keep it separate – my comedy is definitely just a hobby for now.”

By admin

Related Post

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *