The date of my surgery for cancer, providing there’s no delays, is Thursday. I’m saying providing there’s no delay like someone who didn’t get the exploratory stuff deferred three times. I originally went to my doctor with suspicions at the start of October, last year.
I’m beginning to feel unwell now. I’m not sure if I have an infection, so I’m taking Sodium Citrate, or if it’s pain as the cancer eats into the muscle or what. The MRI scan showed that things were not as bad as they might be so I am having the surgery at the local hospital rather than the one in the next town with the specialist equipment. Last week I went shopping in another adjoining town for new pyjamas. Like everyone I sleep in a rather scruffy mismatch. It makes you wonder if nurses think everyone has new pyjamas in much the same way as the Queen thinks the world smells of new paint. I the end I got two bottoms and two tops which are actually vests. The matching tops had short sleeves which I couldn’t remove because of the metal arm. I can do long sleeves because you can hold the cuff with your good hand and tug and I can do sleeveless by putting my good arm back down the arm hole but you can forget short sleeves, I just cannot escape from them. Paradoxically this was the first shopping trip for me since the break and likely to be the last for a while. I got a new dressing gown online cheaply.
Life has been made more complex by everything that preceded. For five years our house quietly disintegrated while I maintained my mother’s house and garden. One of the problems is our bathroom, well over thirty years old with a shower over a bath and black mould everywhere. I’ve been advised that climbing into a bath will rip my stitches and leave me with a bath full of my intestines. I have already seen my intestines. When I was having our son by C section they took them out of me and piled them on the table, removed the baby, powdered the intestines and shoved them back in again, where they all sorted themselves out. In terms of seeing your own intestines, like someone hanged, drawn and quartered, once is quite sufficient. So I got in contact with the builder and plumbers, consulted them and then put plans off when I suspected I was ill. The builder did email back even though he was lying on a beach in the sunshine. Nice work in January if you can get it. The plumber, who has looked after my idiosyncratic heating for 30 years, was fantastic, he said he could do a makeover for half of the bathroom so I could come out of hospital to a shower tray, which, at an inch high. is eminently step-over able. So we took ourselves off to the bathroom showroom and chose the lot in two goes. The showroom emailed the plumber, all was ordered, then the builder emailed to say it was going to take two weeks to get the window made and wished me good luck with the surgery.
Many phone calls later I think it is going to go ahead while I am in hospital. The hospital will not say how long I will be there, sometime between two days and longer than a week is their best guess. Builders and plumbers do not enjoy such fluid timescales. At present the builder has been encouraged by me to make a hole in the wall for the window at a later date, filling the hole with something so as not to cause car crashes on the main road outside as I flit in and out of the shower encumbered with catheters, drains and drips, all of which I have been promised I will be sent home with. Will I be dealing with these in black mould over a bath full of intestines or on a building site?
Oh it’s all going terribly well.
Then there is the reaction of people to the news. 33 years ago when I had cancer people crossed the road to avoid speaking to me because they didn’t know what to say. This time the OH has known what to say – in the mornings, ratty, he has been vicious. First time he was ordering little pricking sticks for the machine to monitor his diabetes, suddenly thinking he should keep an eye on his health. He was talking the doctor round to giving them to him for free, put the phone down and said to me, ‘At least I’m looking after my health, I don’t have cancer!’ The second time I asked him to put the dishes he had put in the sink into the dishwasher and was shouted at that having cancer didn’t give me the right to criticise him. I was heading out for the clothes line with the washing at the time and found myself outside with watering eyes. Must have been the wind. On the plus side I can finally get my arm up to hang the washing on the second top line. I may lose this ability post operatively if I cannot exercise.
Oh it’s all going terribly well.
I am so torn between losing bits of myself I was attached to and wanting someone just to cut off the grotty bits. At school I had a friend with whom I shared a birthday. We called ourselves twins. She had a hysterectomy at the Christmas we were 49 but died a few weeks after our 50th, six weeks from diagnosis that it was ovarian cancer after all. 16 years on they don’t mess about, any murmur of anything untoward in the reproductive region and they will take the lot away, whoosh. Well you know, four months of NHS trying to fit all the surgeries in not enough time, so more of a delayed whoosh really. Not that I’m not grateful. I am. 100 years ago I would have been dead as a doornail. Though to be fair 100 years ago I’d have died, aged 8, of appendicitis. 66 years ago if I hadn’t been given away with green shield stamps, I’d have been shipped off from the orphanage to be slave labour in Australia and probably been dead long since. I am grateful for my life.
Nevertheless a thing such as this concentrates the mind wonderfully. If I recover I will be mainly writing the book. I have done sample bits and quite a bit of artwork and a ton of plotting. Like life, if it is going to be interesting, the plot comes first. What will happen next? Will the heroine be left in a building site with a hole in the wall so that passers by can watch her grappling with her intestines? Will she conk out under the third general anaesthetic in six months? Will the OH ever see things the way the writer sees them? Will the solicitors ever ever ever be finished? (The accountants have actually submitted my mother’s return to HMRC so I might not be sued off the face of the earth by the government, which is always nice.)
If art holds the mirror up to life, you cannot possibly overdo the twists and turns in the plot. As the great Sam Goldwyn advised: Start with an earthquake and build to a crisis. That pretty much defines my life so far. This time the heroine will be the heroine, unlike the last novel I wrote where the baddy dominated everything and everyone. Now who could that possibly have been reflecting? This time the heroine, acting under unavoidable difficulties heaped upon her as a result of an obligation that she didn’t ask for, and trying to save some slaves she has found, will suffer and struggle and fight back bravely against overwhelming odds including the imminent threat of death and………
…..I haven’t written the ending yet. At present, in my head, most of the main characters are swirling away in a flood, clinging to floating artefacts from a museum.
I will be writing in my head as I go under and hopefully as I came out of it and recuperate. The thing I’ve enjoyed most in my life has been writing. I’d never have done it if you hadn’t joined in and read it.
What happens next?