My life had been going nowhere. Until I was diagnosed with cancer.
12 June 1995. On his twenty-eighth birthday, Raz Shaw was a directionless gambling addict doing a telesales job that was eating up every trace of what soul he had left. The next day he would be diagnosed with stage 4 sclerosing mediastinal non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma of the large cell type.
As he tells it, cancer saved his life. He was given the all-clear in March 1996, and stopped gambling for good that April. After a year away recuperating, he turned his back on the highly paid job that had devoured him and re-assimilated himself into the world of theatre that had once made him feel so alive.
It took him a long time to realise quite how much these recoveries were bound up with one another – now he is ready to tell his story.
Death and the Elephant is a memoir of living through and beyond illness and addiction. Blessed with the ability to find humour even in life’s darkest moments, Raz charts his struggles with irreverence and unflinching perspective. This is his story, but it’s also a universal one – an honest, funny, sometimes raw, and often inappropriate glimpse into the mind of a young man dealing with a life-threatening illness in the only way he knows how: by laughing in its face.
Raz Shaw has been a theatre director for over twenty years: he was in the middle of rehearsing for his first ever professional production when he was diagnosed with cancer. He has directed plays in an array of theatres and locations from the South Bank to Salisbury to South Sudan. His work has ranged from new plays to the classics and everything in between, and he has recently directed a production of the Pulitzer Prize-winning play Wit by Margaret Edson starring Julie Hesmondhalgh. He has also made the first of what he hopes will be a series of podcasts called Cancer Talk.