I didn’t send myself a card or buy flowers. The day went by uneventfully, without the need for celebratory mocktails.
A WhatsApp message to my mum and sister was more than sufficient… to say – hey, it was one year ago today that I began the chemo-radiotherapy phase of my treatment.
The (radiotherapy) mask is now precariously placed on top of a stack of white books (yes – I’m a colour-coder), the morning light shines through its perforated surface, and upon inspection, you’ll still find lingering traces of mascara and red lipstick. It has a peculiar gaping ghost-mouth, and meticulously positioned yellow tape, marked with lines and dots to help ensure precise alignment.
‘Phase’ – a new addition to my treatment-related phrase book – feels wholly appropriate now. I have recently had this longing feeling, for a time when things were much simpler. You might assume that I mean before I knew I had a brain tumour, but I don’t. I want to take you back to December 2016.
Jamie Oliver did his time crusading about the terrible state of hospital food – and I can agree that the meals are often found to be stingy on the nutritional front, but having said that, I unashamedly loved it. Fish and chips Friday? Yes, please. I may *well* have been the only patient in the entire hospital looking forward to meal times (and would’ve happily eaten all the leftovers) – we could have three courses twice a day (as well as breakfast) and I ate all of it! The thick school-dinner style custard, rice pudding with clotted cream, and jam sponge were some of my favourites. The process of reading out the options to each patient in the morning – from individually printed paper menus – was novel, entertaining even! I spent approximately two-thirds of my time on a rehab ward where others were sadly being fed through tubes – I ate because I was hungry (and I liked the food), but the fact that I was lucky wasn’t at all lost on me.
During the three-week stay, I found myself in transit. Before the meeting about biopsy results and decisions about ‘next-steps’. There was no going back, and yet the future remained ill-defined. I had one thing – the present and my priority was singular – ‘out there’ was someone else’s problem.
In light of this, I fired off hurried emails to the university where I studied part-time, informing them that I would be immediately postponing – I needed to learn to walk again, and so that was that. Of course, they understood.
All the energy I could muster was directed at my rehabilitation and I couldn’t wait for my physio sessions – the more the merrier!! If I was asked the day of the week l knew the answer because it was written on a whiteboard each morning – not because I ever thought about it – the details were irrelevant to my all-consuming and very important plans. I was allowed to be selfish.
From one (recent) appointment laden week to the next, I’ve found myself longing for the clarity I had back then. Just one thing.
When I was back home for good you see, I wrote back to my tutors revoking all previous messages – and vowing to get on with it. I found my idle hands awkward, desperately searching for activities that would occupy. The treatment has lasted six months longer than planned, and that’s OK – but, it was inevitable that the laser beam focus would eventually muddy.