It’s been far too long since my last post, and there’s much to bring up to date – that is if I’ve got any readers left. I’ve longed to write, but just haven’t had the energy. I switch on the computer, open a new Word page… and end up playing Freecell instead. It’s not that I can’t be bothered – I care very much – but I’ve felt very tired for 3 years now.
In early 2014 I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. I had an operation, plenty of chemotherapy, all the usual, to which I’m told I responded well, and they gave me about 10 years or so. I was – and am – in no pain. I’m now on a maintenance drug infusion every three weeks.
However I had to stop work eventually purely because of the tiredness, and blood analyses kept throwing up that there was something else, and 2 years or so later they found I had NASH Cirrhosis, a non-alcohol related disease of the liver, probably a consequence of diabetes, but totally separate from the cancer (so far). The prognosis was far worse, and it seems likely – they say – that I won’t see another Christmas; it isn’t curable and I’m not eligible for a transplant because of the other co-morbidity.
I get a build-up of fluid inside (ascites) which needs draining every few weeks, a procedure which requires me to attend Bristol’s most overworked hospital, the Bristol Royal Infirmary, situated downtown, with appalling parking facilities. Door-to door it’s a 12 hour long day, and I’m very fortunate that my sister travels up from Dorchester each time to keep me company, call taxis, keep me fed and watered, and so on. My brother-in-law tackles any jobs around the house I'm no good at because I get giddy, and helps me fill out long forms about my pension. My neighbours all deserve medals too. They get the washing machine going, the washing-up done, bring me shopping, drive me to appointments since I’ve stopped driving, and pop in regularly for a chat and to see how I am.
Nausea is my biggest bugbear, and sometimes drugs make little difference. Weight has come off me dramatically from the shoulders up, the rest looks much the same because of the ascites.
I’ve been trying to put my affairs in order, but it’s a never-ending list of chores to do, and progress is slow. As far as this blog is concerned, I’ve asked my niece Veronica to update it when I no longer can. Mentally I feel reasonably upbeat, and stopped taking anti depressants a few months ago because I want my brain to stay sharp, whatever state it’s in. Last December I thought I didn’t have long, but I feel alright at the moment – you never can tell.
All in all I feel philosophical about it – one has to die of something, and there are plenty of people in the medical profession who are doing their best to keep me comfortable. I’ll be 64 in June, not a bad age to reach. I don’t mind talking or writing about this; my way of dealing with it is not to keep it to myself.
I can’t help but wonder about the hereafter – will I see John again? The family who have gone before me? Or will I be reborn, another chance to get it right this time – a sort of Groundhog Day? The most difficult concept of all to grasp is that it’s none of the above and one just ceases to be.
I have only two real sadnesses which overwhelm me sometimes – the fact that I will never return to Argentina, where I was born and lived till I was 20.
The other is that despite the wonderful kindnesses shown to me every day, I’m dealing with this alone. Except for my beloved companion, my 16 year old cat Banjo, who knows there’s something wrong and sticks to me like glue, I miss not being in a loving relationship where every fear can be discussed and there are ups as well as downs to make life worth living. I wish I had had children.
Anyway, enough of the glums. I’ve got at least three stories to tell if I have the time, and I plan to start with selections of letters written by my Uncle David to his family at home in Buenos Aires, describing his RAF training during World War II in Canada and the Orkney Islands in northern Scotland, until 1943 when he was killed while flying his Spitfire.
(PS I notice my counter re-set itself to zero recently – all those hard earned visits…)
Photo Finish - Digital