Monday, 31 January 2011

Week of weeks.


Finally arrived; my week of weeks, the first staging post on my journey into illness or recovery. Which will it be? On the 25th I will know.

Set out my shiny new artist's diary for the weeks ahead; playful weekends, films, meetings, enjoyable trips, but more chemotherapy might cut into that plan and wreck it.

I feel much better since I went to Maggie’s last week, what ever they did it worked. On my mobile my mother’s asked, “Well, what did they do?” She was really curious. It is no great mystery. They just provided some breathing exercises, a group of people, and then an intelligent, experienced listener.

Now that I'm calmer, the old question arises – just what am I going to do with the rest of my life? A friend asked me this last night and it was painful. I didn’t have an answer. Shall I be bold and make plans, or just tread water for the next ten years?

My life has changed so suddenly. Once I was scrabbling around for work, looking for a man, wondering how to advance myself as a painter, now all that has been wiped out and I mainly think about food, like the survivor from a death camp or an open boat. But this is what you are supposed to do as a cancer survivor, they even have a name for it – “mindful eating.”

I now lead a life of quinoa and green tea, in which every mouthful is considered. Today at a nutrition class we were advised to chew each mouthful thirty five times. I remember my grandparents insisted on twenty. Mindfulness and emotionalism, that’s new too. Almost anything can turn my eyes into pools of water, from babies being baptised to vague memories of dogs being sent into space.

There is the blood test tomorrow, then the dreaded result the day after. In my head I hear the doctors deliver the bad news in their detached, even voices. As if I am taking part in a film, I survey their faces as they say, “I am sorry. It has come back. There is something there.” They tell me that the quisling body which I now fear has let me down again.

I used to have the blood tests in a very blasé mood, with no idea that the blood, showing the CA125 was the key indicator of ovarian cancer returning. I didn’t enjoy them as my veins hurt and my main interest centred on the phlebotomist whom I thought was an insolent little tick.

Now I realise that despite his glib manner, every day he was sees women holding out their arms to him shaking with despair. Like them, the whole focus of my life is now on this blood test.

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