Monday, 25 October 2010

Perking up again

I need other people to give me encouragement at the moment, and as usual they do. My new friend Ann from the clinic points out that if Agerwall’s 98 per cent failure rate were true, the Garry Weston centre would be overwhelmed with patients. It is crowded but that’s because it’s in such a small, narrow space.

Conner Middelmann Whitney who wrote Zest for Life, the “anti-cancer diet” book and runs the cookery school in Toulouse, suggests I look at David Servan-Schreiber’s book, ‘Anticancer,’ which tells the story of the author’s fight with an aggressive brain tumour. His cancer was diagnosed when he was 31; he is now 49 and still in good health.

Conner says: “that he writes in great detail about all the ways in which we can improve our chances of recovering from cancer, touching on a wide range of anti-cancer factors such as diet, exercise, stress reduction, meditation etc. He talks, among others, about these dreaded survival statistics, and how they’re just that: averages, means, numbers. His point is that you can transcend statistics by following an anti-cancer lifestyle. Accused by some critics of giving cancer patients false hopes, he accuses many oncologists of giving people a feeling of ‘false hopelessness’ and thus sapping them of the energy needed to play an active part in their recovery. Maybe a useful thought to hang on to? ”

“False hopelessness” – yes! That is exactly it. The result of being clubbed over the head with raw statistics. All you can do is forget them – and try to live.

Jo at, replied to my blog and suggested cooking the “mind meal,” featured on the Mind Mental Health Web site.

On Friday 22nd I went out for the first time since I got back from Italy. I arranged to meet the friends I stood up before, while waiting for the nurses. We decided to have supper in Fortnum & Mason’s then go up Jermyn Street to the little theatre there, to see Black Bread & Cucumber, a one woman show by Caroline Blakiston, to celebrate Anton Chekhov's 150 birthday. She made history as the first British actress to play Chekhov in Russia, in Russian.

I enjoyed pottering around Fortnum’s, a thickly carpeted shop which sells groceries at unfeasibly high prices. It is strangely soothing just to move about between the stacked shelves of crystallised ginger (£20 a box) past the small chocolate Santas, (£20) and the packets of tea with accompanying silver strainers and spoons. I bought myself a 100 grammes of peanut butter fudge. The girls selling it were very pleasant, not sniffy about my little bill among people spending hundreds of pounds.

I did a bit of Christmas shopping in there, shortbread, Stilton in a jar, and ginger biscuits in elegant tins, then slipped out the back to Paxton & Whitefield which sells “exceptional cheese, since 1797,” at exceptionally inflated prices. It’s a good shop though, authentic, the stink of the cheese reaching right down Jermyn Street. They might have some of the original cheese behind the counter.

The customers always seem to be men, large ones in crombies, and young city gents who look as if they might be dining with the Camerons. It reminds me of the old El Vinos on Fleet Street, a rich but rough place with a masculine atmosphere where ladies definitely weren’t welcome. Women shoppers presumably prefer the safer less pungent climes of Waitrose.

I allowed myself a small triangle of Munster. It tastes good at the front of the mouth, melts on the tongue like chocolate but you get a strong bacterial, mouldy aroma as it hits the back of the throat. Always a good sign with cheese and cider.

The staff in there are friendly, but many of the clients are not. I said “excuse me” to a large ox like man, who looked a bit like Princess Caroline of Monaco’s husband, Ernst August, Prince of Hanover. He glared at me as if I was a fly on a bit of Gouda and ignored me for a few pointed moments before moving just a little out of the way.

While I was waiting for my friends I by passed Hatchards, the famous book shop which has hardly any drama, for Waterstones to pick up a copy of If So, Then Yes by N.F. Simpson. If you miss a play at least you can read it.

From the beginning there were some very amusing lines: Maureen Somebody said that life is like trying to put together a gigantic jigsaw puzzle by the light of a small torch in a dark room.

Geoffrey Though partially sighted.

Just what I have been feeling the last few days, about ambition, failure, unwanted change and the unknown future.

I have a different attitude to old age now, and to old people, like Simpson himself at ninety one. If they complain about their lot or about life itself I think they might have missed the point. What wouldn’t those people in the Garry Weston clinic and I give to know that we will live to be old?

The show was fascinating. We weren’t told why Caroline Blakiston decided to work not just at the Moscow Arts Theatre but in some very remote parts of Russia, but she gave a fascinating insight into life in the Soviet Union just before it gave up the ghost. She seemed to have acquired Russian easily and is obviously a very gifted woman. She came out afterwards for a brief chat. I asked her if she was going back to Russia again to work. She said there was nothing on the cards but she might. As I left she called out to me, “If I live.” Our eyes met and there seemed to be a spark of amused recognition. I wondered if there was something wrong with her too.

Next week scan on Monday, results on Wednesday, with Mr flippin it’s all going to go wrong Agerwall again. Better get used to it.

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