2018 was an interesting year here in the long grass.
In the course of those 12 months I…
- Moved out of our marital and family home of over 20 years
- Finally found a place of my own in a place of my choosing
- Built myself a working studio – almost single-handedly (though my sons had to rescue me now and then!)
- Allowed myself to be diagnosed with small-cell lymphocytic lymphoma
- Attended the wedding of one of my sons and his amazing partner.
- Exhibited my paintings & prints both in my own studio (NEOS19) and in other venues (WorM, Moray Arts Centre)
- Had some poems published and agreed a publication date for my collection – Fallen Stock
- Embarked on 6 cycles of chemotherapy.
So…much is changed. I could reflect on what I didn’t do – or maunder on about the works in progress (there are several) – but those seem important milestones for me. As you can imagine, it was a year of slow ascents and sudden falls.
I had known about the ‘lump’ in my neck before all of this. It was sitting there – swelling – but I was busy and besides, stuck as I have been for so many years, the burgeoning lump seemed like a bit of a get out clause. Maybe it would all end and I’d be free?
But I was also sleeping 15 hours a day and the night-sweats were getting tedious. I decided these symptoms were probably related to my mental health or my on-going struggle to control addiction.
Eventually, however, professional advice (a very astute dentist) prodded me to see a doctor. The doctor assured me I did NOT have Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma but referred me to the hospital anyway. The maxillo-facial consultants at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary very quickly assured me I DID have Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma – an indolent form known as Small-Cell Lymphocytic Lymphoma (SLL) or Chronic Lymphocytic Leukaemia (the terms are interchangeable).
For a while I thought I was going to die.
I was a bit miffed that my cancer was indolent – I hated the idea that anything to do with me could be seen as indolent! It is currently incurable. It’s a slow burn thing that will weaken me over years and then, like any ailing creature, something else will kill me. But, for now at least, it is not painful or disfiguring. And I realised, as I began to navigate through waiting rooms and day-units, that that was a blessing compared to many others.
I am not going to die – for a while.
Thanks to modern medical technology and the excellent health-care at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary and Dr. Grays Hospital in Elgin – both NHS and free at the point of delivery – I will, they assure me, get better for a while. Be better.
After five cycles of Fludarabine-Cyclophosphamide-Rituximab chemotherapy, my many ‘lumps’ have shrunk and two weeks out of four I feel quite well. My hair has NOT fallen out and I haven’t caught any secondary infections. The anti-emetics I have been prescribed seem to manage the nausea of the first week of each cycle. Again, I have had a fairly easy time compared to many others I now meet on a monthly basis.
That camaraderie – which is not much more than a nod, a smile and, often, a ‘Good luck!’- is important. Just as with addiction recovery groups, I think it’s important to be there – to acknowledge to yourself and others, “I am one of us. I am like you. I am mortal. I am suffering. We persevere.”
How we laughed when hospital radio played Don’t Fear the Reaper last month!
So where is this moment of disclosure going – this brief glimpse of me as I cross the path between two thickets?
This Spring I will be reborn and there will be things to do – things of my choosing, in this place of my choosing.
“I am one of us. I am like you. I am mortal. I am suffering. We persevere.”