The English language translation of Behemoth frontman Adam "Nergal" Darski's highly anticipated autobiography, Confessions of a Heretic, is finally seeing the light of day on March 19th. The book is presented as a question and answer and was written with Mark Eglinton,and Krzysztof Azarewicz & Piotr Weltrowski. Learn more about the book here, and pre-order it here in advance of its March 19 release via Jawbone Press. All pre-orders will be signed by Nergal.
We are super lucky to be able to present to you an exclusive excerpt from the book, no doubt one of the most intense moments in Nergal's life… the moment Nergal found out he has leukaemia.
What did the doctor say when he saw you?
‘Please undress, take the blood test, and then we’ll X-ray your lungs.’ Standard procedures. But he obviously noticed that I had problems breathing, because he offered me additional oxygen.
Did he tell you to stay?
Yes, for three days I had various tests and examinations.
Did the doctors indicate what the problem might be?
No. They didn’t want to upset me, I suppose. But I learned about their suspicions by accident.
I saw the message that was sent to Dorota. It touched upon three possible options. I have to admit that this message gave me chills, even though the first option it mentioned didn’t seem too bad.
Tuberculosis was first on the list. Two or three months in the hospital, and then I could go home. I thought that wasn’t the worst possible scenario. But then it got worse, because the doctors said it could also be lymphangioma or HIV. When I saw these last three letters I felt weak. Suddenly, flashing before my eyes like a twisted highlight reel, were all the sexual encounters of the last few years. There were quite a few, too, but as far as I could remember, I was always careful. I don’t think I had ever had a random sexual encounter without protection. Anyway, there was only one thought in my head: ‘Be anything but not HIV.’
When did you hear the final diagnosis?
After three days I was moved to another hospital, to the haematology ward of the Medical Academy in Gdańsk. They didn’t tell me directly that it was a tumour, but there was evidence enough for me to draw a few conclusions of my own. They did a few more tests, and finally a doctor showed up at my bedside.
‘You have leukaemia.’
That’s exactly what he said. Nothing more. He just gave me my results. I waited until he left and then I burst into tears. Dorota was with me, and she also cried. It lasted a while—maybe two or three minutes. There was this huge, overwhelming feeling of debility.
Did you even know what leukaemia was?
I had no idea. I mean, I knew vaguely that it existed, and I knew that it was serious, maybe even terminal, but that was all I knew. So I wiped away the tears, picked up the phone, and started calling all the doctors I knew. The question was short and to the point: ‘What is leukaemia, and how do I fight it?’
I quickly realised that I was in for a few months of serious battle.
How did you start it?
I’m sure it sounds strange, but I asked Dorota’s brother to bring me an electric shaving machine. I decided that if I was to go into a battle, I needed a battle haircut. I shaved my hair; I only left a stripe in the middle. I was ready. I could begin to study my enemy.
What exactly did you find out?
That it was lymphoblastic leukaemia: very aggressive, but easier to defeat than myeloid leukaemia. It didn’t attack me from a position of hiding; it showed itself right away.
Did you beat yourself up about not having gone to the hospital earlier?
It was only a matter of a few weeks. Besides, I asked the doctors if an earlier visit would have changed anything and they said no, even though my condition was relatively serious. I’m guessing that without immediate medical intervention, I would have lived maybe another month or two. There was about half a litre of water in my lungs. That’s what was causing all the breathing problems.
How did it get there?
Sometimes water gathers in the lungs. Of course, not usually in such volume, but it does get there. And from there it’s filtered away. In my lungs, there was something—as it later turned out, a bloated tumour—that was stopping it. So they put a drain in me.
I now had a hole in the side of my body. Like Jesus. The difference was that they didn’t do it to me with a spear but with a special tube. For two days, gross red-yellowish liquid drained through it into a glass jar beside my bed.
Today when I look in the mirror, I see that scar—and two others from the central venous-line insertion—and I smile to myself. I give thanks to these wounds. They’re my stigmata. The scar from the drain reminds me of my first victorious battle. When the water was drained out of my lungs, I could breathe easily for the first time in many days. I felt stronger, and I could keep fighting.
Did you finally tell your parents about everything?
I called my dad first. I told him the story in great detail and I asked him to prepare my mother. Irena is a very sensitive person—sometimes I think her psyche is like that of a little girl.
What was her reaction?
It was wonderful. When my parents showed up at my bedside, they really surprised me. There was no drama in their behaviour. After all, I didn’t need their crying; I just needed their support. And that’s exactly what they gave me. They were very mature in their reaction.
When we talked about the time prior to your diagnosis, you were very tense. Now, when we talk about being in hospital, you seem relaxed. That’s surprising.
It mirrors the state of my mind at that time. When I got to know my enemy, I stopped panicking and cooled down. Diagnosis was a blow, but the numbness and doubt didn’t last long. I knew that I had a challenge. When you go through a dark forest and you know that there is something hiding in the dark, you start panicking. But when you see your enemy in the light, you focus on strategy, on how you will play it. I like fighting and playing, so I treated my sickness as a challenge, like a game of chess.
Pre-order the book here.