To begin at the beginning ?
Well I have been procrastinating.Successfully avoiding publicly blogging about my Cancer journey.For nearly 5 months.
Even a title is problematic.There are so many Blogs by “cancer survivors”,and the implied context usually about a battle between chemo and wellness.I read many of them ,and thanks heaps those people who are braver than me-I have found a lot of information ,and some fun ,positivity and inspiration from you.In my usual fashion I have also constructed reservations and questions :
Questions,reservations and explanations
Successive entries describe chemotherapy as a poison entering the body.Most people who have spoken to me about chemo have commented on this poison aspect -that the chemical given is making its destructive way through my body, killing off the” good “as well as the “bad”(deceased) cells .(In my case fluorocracil is the major component of the modified bowel cancer adjuvant,Folfox 6 .Modified to contain leucovorin and oxaliplatin )
Although this is correct, the chemo weakens the body,interfering with good as well as bad cells in its task to eliminate any cancer particles,I don’t find the image very helpful.I need to see that drug as more than an enemy -as the liquid drips down through the tube attached to my shoulder port and then disperses itself throughout my body I need to visualise some brightness Perhaps a light of sorts that is moving through blood and bone to restore and heal .
Then there is a reluctance to describe oneself in any terms denoting illness/possible death /unsightliness /disabilty.The”cancer surviver”term avoids the victim nomenclature ,but also creates an unmitigated image of battle and heroism.as if individual strength and cleverness can outwit this monster.As if we are in charge of our own destinies ,sometimes there is the implication that we have brought the illness on ourselves,if capable of ridding ourselves of the disease then surely we are capable of attracting it ? .There is the Fate one too .God or Fate or an agency that exists outside ourselves has willed our path through life. Equally i don’t like the”touched by …” Would prefer being touched by an Angel or magic.Am very curmudgeonly really .
If I am being truthful, this chemo has also knocked my head around, so that the words are harder to find and my ability to focus for longer periods has diminished.As the chemo has progressed ,nearly 5 months now,I have become tireder physically and mentally. I also ramble more ,talk more ,and presumably write less clearly.More of this later in another blog.
In addition, the constant interruptions with appointments ,exercise classes ,and emergent obsessions take away from writing time.Self belief,meaning, identity have shifted as physical and mental being fluctuates .My focus is on being alive ,staying alive ,getting through each day.
Obsessions ?I think some are related to staying alive and hoping Like gardening (who would have thought -me and gardening? ) At least 3 hours a day planting ,watering,Creating little offerings: words ,flowers and plants in house ,cuttings growing, building small piles of shells and stones,exporing. I am grounding myself in this earth ,this life. I am searching harder than ever for life’s essence,spending time on soul
In addition who will read this ? Who do I write for ,and why ? So many questions ,as there are throughout life.
No -Just starting midway
So now after this long preamble I am starting not at the beginning nor near the end nor really in the middle.Just starting somewhere where I happened to do some jotting down while on one of my chemo visits .
“Today a lot more people.All the seats in reception filled.And all the seats in the consultants waiting room.Are we all waiting for chemo?
My spirits sink on entering the corridor labelled “Cancer Centre”,and halt as a person on the trolley, trolley,oxygen mask strapped to face ,numerous wires strapped to body, nurses running alongside holding various tubes and breathing apparatus ,relative or friend loping alongside, whizzes past .Off to theatre. Spirits plummet.
Into the Cancer Centre waiting room .My chemotherapy appointment is for 9 am.I wait,and for once have to wait for a longish time as the room is full ,every seat occupied .All ages ,young to older like me ,some with frames and hobbling and helped along to the chemo space ahead, some red ,burnt faces or patchy skin, some overweight ,others fit looking with no apparent mark of the cancer .
I can’t help but start to look and label, and think about where I fit and what my own outcome might be longterm.Ironically the old labels are applied -“pretty ‘”young/old”overweight/fit /unfit”,”a pain/boring/interesting”Yet these are people some of whom are like me wondering,hoping,praying,struggling to contend with pretty awful stuff. Skin lesions,nausea,weight gain or loss,no tastebuds -more of that later.The point is that even in this situation I revert to making ordinary, mostly unkind judgements.Perhaps its a way of retaining normality ,and therefore wellness.
Much worse is labelling in terms of the imagined severity of the illness :
This woman has lost her hair-that one too.How does she look ? I find my mind moving to “if /when it happens to me-that is how I want to look’?I focus on a youngish woman with a bright scarf around her head, hooped earrings ,slim build and smiling.We smile at each other and I want to tell her how bright and lovely she looks,.Then realise how far I’m sinking into the cancer,sifting through the appearances attached to an illness ,or at least a health aberration .
Alive and Smiling
Stop! Stop!Take 5 breaths in .Hold,Breathe out.Imagine the golden light enveloping me from top to toe. I turn my head away from the chemo waiting group ,look sharp left and watch the sliding door . I have now been sitting here for nearly an hour.I catch myself inventing a story around each person as they leave consultants office and slide open the glass doors.Wonder what particular cancer each person has ,or what news has been received .Some people emerging from the consulting rooms and walking through the sliding doors into the main reception area look as they did before,just ordinarily OK .Others look in pain ,or miserable.I wonder if their normal state of being is misery or grumpiness?
Then,brightness ,a joyful man, comes through the sliding door into the main reception area.Beaming smile. He shares his good news with all of us:
“Hey I’m going to be alive this time next year”
We all smile .