Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Chemo Sunday


Sunday following chemo is my worst day. Four days after chemo seems to be the worst day for slumping down.

Nothing much is expected of you on a Sunday, but it has always been my special day, which I liked to fill with fine food and high activity, and of course it is a notoriously long day, so oddly elasticated that I’m surprised Einstein never commented on it.

I forced myself out of bed to attend St Michael’s Church at 10am. I felt a kind of jittery nervousness, something about being among people, being part of a group, having to show myself.

It was a “Family Mass,” even though most families seemed to be on holiday and it swept swiftly along, enlivened by a witty sermon from Sarah Lenton, one of our ministers who is also author of a book called, Backstage at the Opera.

Then at the Mass something went wrong and I didn’t get any bread. The woman holding the chalice forced me to take it even though I was indicating with my hands that I was waiting for the bread. She gave me a tiny sip of wine and moved on. I felt devastated. Back in the pew I whispered to the woman next to me, “I didn’t get any bread. That’s terrible, a terrible omen isn’t it?”

“Not at all,” she said sensibly. “It doesn’t mean anything. There was a problem with the servers today.”

She had tuned in instinctively to the omens game and was reassuring, but I went home feeling disgruntled.

I longed for company at home but at the same time didn’t want to see anyone. By 1pm my head felt like my foot, sore and throbbing. The tingling in the soles and fingers had shifted to my scalp. Then came the aching joints and fingers and a horrid taste in my mouth like cheap, burnt coffee.

I started on the annual tax returns, not a very good idea as the tax year, running from April to April always befuddles me at the best of times. Maisie wouldn’t eat her food and kept disturbing me, and I felt myself becoming exasperated.

I did not risk trying to phone the Virgin Broadband people to try to establish what I actually pay, having long ago lost track – any contact with them and their endless number options and musical sound tracks would definitely lead to tears and screams. Then came short sharp fizzing flushes up my arms, stabbing pains around my ribs and my energy drained away.

Too tired for lunch and unable to taste anything anyway, I lay on my bed, bored but weak. What I needed was a cool bed and a perpetually cool, crisp pillow.

But feeling comfortable even for a few moments immediately leads to sleep, and I can’t listen to anything or read anything for more than a few moments. Started re-reading an old novel, so old that it is heavily stained, its been through two floods in my flat and is falling to pieces in my hands and should have a public health notice put on it. Read about a page, fell asleep and immediately saw a man in a Fedora holding a gun pointing towards me. I wasn’t too scared just a bit dismayed, wondering how to respond but I am getting used to these unpleasant people appearing, threatening, or offering me something slyly erotic which I can’t bear to see.

Awake again I tried to focus on the old book but drifted off into another dingy, dirty sleep.

I am a stranger to myself, hot, sweating, full of bitter thoughts, full of Paclitaxel, derived from the bitter bark of the Pacific yew tree. The names and faces of people who have let me down, not supported me, disappeared from my life because of this illness, flicker back and forth, all the kind, unexpectedly generous people forgotten. By 5pm a beautiful Sunday has been soaked in acid and chucked away.

On these chemo-Sundays the torpor drifts into evening where there is a brief attempt to rally to do something, then nightfall, which is worse. Waiting for the murderous, sexy phantoms to descend I lie in bed listened to music, a new support I have recently discovered.

I never used to bother much about music, I couldn’t get a purchase on what it was saying, but now I realise how it can wrench the spirit up where words are useless. In fact when you feel ill, words can seem like bullets or stinging insects, they can drive you crazy, but on chemo-Sunday you can lie there listening to Mahler and be saved as you float away down stream.

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