Gathering the fragments together :life after Chemo
Well hesitated to write this blog ,but then thought ,maybe it will be of use to some ,or interesting -and a means of my exploring thoughts and feeling s at this point in time .
Me me me
Thats my first thought -after the op and during chemo the focus was(needed to be ) Me me me .To get through the treatment and to get better I had to marshal energy .I drew a circle around myself for protection ,and to halt an expenditure of energy on other people ,other things.Some important and others my habitual propensity to concern oneself with others ‘problems and the ‘minuatae of everyday life “(White ).
I am not alone in this .The latter takes up much of us human beings daily waking space,and some of the night too .And thats our life ,not just the exciting or anticipated events .Just the minuatae,the minute by minute taking in of life around and within.
Thats life ,but some of it had to go .Each fortnight I had the scheduled blood test ,followed by the morning of chemo .Then home with my bottle and a little rest .2 days of “normal” life ,bottle off ,and the anticipation of 10 days of relative freedom -swim,eat well ,garden ,walk ,yoga ,pray and enjoy -all the while thinking positively ,taking deep breaths to relax ,minimum of stress .Short chats with neighbours as I walked past or worked in my garden, talks with my friends.Time with family ,a closeness that had always been there now expressed more openly .Lots of hugs and warmth and laughter.Gratitude ,hope and faith .God seemed near and approachable .
As the 6 months drew towards an end apprehension also popped up its head. believed I would be Ok ,but a little bit of me had plan B in mind -saying bye, making sure that I had said to each family member how much I loved him orher,tidying up !!!,I also thought back to deaths I had attended and remembered how each person ,how gentle ,how brave ,how their life was “rounded with a sleep”(Tempest )slipping from here into a hereafter leaving their light and love behind.
I have shivers up and down my spine as I write the above .And also think on Dylan Thomas “Rage ,rage against the dying of the light “Because I wanted ,and want, to be here .
Enough.Here Iam.Not in Spain in a little village ,Quentar ,as I had planned and visualised.Not walking amongst poppies, along rivers past ancient ,sometimes crumbling but still beautiful buildings ,into churches with their suffering Christ and mother,joining in the spectacular parades and songs of Semana Santa (Holy Week).Instead of eating ,tapas ,tortillas y ensalada,sipping Spanish wine in assorted bars ,I am cooking each night ,going to early bed with a book.Different from what I held in my mind Because none of us are going anywhere ,and those poor Spaniards are suffering more than we are here .
The Easter of the Corona Virus .It looks like it will be the year of the CV.But this is not about CV.This is about me ,and maybe one of you reading this blog
So now ? It has taken 6 weeks to get back to something approximating equilibrium.There was the initial burst of joy and relief after the blood test and scan which showed up clear.Then the meeting with the colon surgeon to schedule removal of the port in shoulder and other minor medical stuff. A slight dampening of spirits as memories returned.Walks and weights again to improve muscle strength.
RECOVERY ? Yes -skin loses most of its blemishes ,blue marks and cuts ,some of the crinkle recedes.Hair stops splitting as much, though retains that thin and standing on edge look .Balance better so that Ifeel grounded not about to topple over .Not as tired so that I fall asleep after lunch with my book.
BITS FALLING AWAY ?Then ,a brief recount as don’t wish to appear ungrateful or a hypochondriac -pains in legs ,swelling in ankles ,pains in neck ,pains in jaw ,stiffness .I did not have during all the months of chemo.Slight fear.No says the doctor not bone cancer .No says the oncologist ,doesn’t sound like chemo effects.Feel like an old woman .I now have sympathy for those old people who shuffle around with mouths turned down ,disagreeable faces I’m old old old ,and its because my body is so sore ,Google google -dont !Could be prolia jab ,and due for another.Maybe its the flu or pneumonia shot ?Could be lymphoma.Could be arthritis ,exercising too hard ,not exercising enough.Stress
STRESS AND OTHER CREATURES Ha thats it .Since being free of the disease have become more involved in the activities of this household .Commonly described as an intergenerational household.Younger members ,who also require support,come and go as they please despite being told the risk to me as “age and immunity challenged.” Plus the CV has curtailed a lot of outside distractions .Am I scared ?Yes.Dead right -this virus is unpredictable, there is no routine to follow .Or rather, the routine of handwashing, not touching face ,and isolation is a deterrent but its still out there keeping individuals away from families when it strikes .This is a darkness out there Like the shape-shifters of my early East African childhood;Lions disguised as folded blankets on the top of cupboards ,or ferrets waiting silently to bite as I put my feet on the floor to run out of the room at night.There was a figure crouched outside the window with a machete poised to slice at my neck if I raised my head outside the blanket .
Now there are no parents to cry out to . The leprechaun like, gentle,warm oncologist has more serious things to deal with,like treating the people who are still having treatment in a space that has to be monitored for the spread of a virus that can kill them faster than their diagnosed illnesss.The friendly nursing staff who pepped me up each fortnight ,the friend who took me to the appointments ( and we had a catch up and lunch after) are not longer accessible The 6 months was lonely ,but a different kind of loneliness .This disease if not about me ,or even about my family -its about this city ,country ,universe
So now my fears are compounded .
COMING TOGETHER But a few days ago the stiffness receded .Not gone .But can go to bed without a scarf around neck ,pain killers ,socks ,a huge cushion to prop up both my legs.I get out of bed in the morning and move without pain .I can move my neck sideways and not cry out with the spasms.
So what happened ? I could ruminate on the possibilities .But right now will keep my fingers crossed ,keep my nose out of others’ lives and problems .i will remain calm and supportive ,LISTEN without anger or attempting to solve others problems .
I will try to be emotionally as well as socially distant .Keep walking and swimming .And start dancing again.
.THANK GOD IM ALIVE
TGIF my father used to sing on Friday -thank god its friday .To the tune of ? I can hear it in my head but can’t name tune .I will sing and dance to TGIA ( Thank God I’m Alive ).
Dancing with my father
Me Me Me -no apologies
Me before -now am slowly getting back the missing pieces Like this moon.Drawing by Zadie Roberts.
(Yoshio Nitta,Sculpture by the Sea,Cottesloe,WA ,2020)
CHAPTER 1. Loomings
Call me Ishmael. Some years ago—never mind how long precisely—having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me on shore, I thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part of the world. It is a way I have of driving off the spleen and regulating the circulation.
Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people’s hats off—then, I account it high time tozz get to sea as soon as I can.