|Lion and me on a pilgrimage in Japan|
You may have noticed that there's been very little mention of my family — and very little about my friends. That's because, as Aslan said, 'I tell no one any story but his own' and revealing stuff about people I care about without their permission is off limits really. I do have a family and friends, honest!
What I will say about my family is that despite my 'weirdness' in their eyes (you should have heard the deafening silence round the lunch table when I told them I was being ordained!), they were totally supportive of my 'weird' decisions all along. And what I will say about my brother is that the moment I called, he came.
I knew I needed him in the heart of the night in hospital. I didn't know why I needed him — we've never sat in each other's pockets — but I knew that I did. And he came, and he helped immensely.
And what can I say about Lion? My dearest husband has been the rock that his birth-name of Peter describes. Every time I let go of control, he stepped up to the mark.
Control? Yes, even with all the juicing, the good food (even the raw food), I did nearly everything because I wanted to do it right. But that was part of the lesson, wasn't it? I probably ended up beating myself up to get it 'right' and beating yourself up is always counter-productive. But as soon as I couldn't garden, he did the gardening. As soon as I couldn't do the shopping, he did the shopping. As soon as I couldn't walk the dogs in the afternoons, he walked the dogs in the afternoons. As soon as I couldn't get out of bed, he did everything that was required of anyone who could get out of bed.
He's always been supportive; always been proud of the work that I do; always wanted to drive me to gigs but this was a different kind of support. He never once complained when I couldn't even cuddle because of the pain. He never once complained of all the nights I spent in the spare room. He never complained about doing the washing and the cooking and the cleaning. He got pissed off at the situation, of course, but he took it out on the brambles in the garden, never once on me. Sometimes I shudder to think what it might have been like had I still been married to the previous incumbent … but God is good and that never could have happened.
Lion was always there to listen; to hold me (carefully) when I cried and to keep the beloved dogs that I frequently couldn't handle away from me. He didn't talk much to other people; he's not built that way. He just did his thing and played a lot of Call of Duty. They used to call it the strong, silent type. Now, they'd probably give it a syndrome. Never once did he fail to kiss me when we parted or when we returned. Today, when I got in the car to drive myself to acupuncture, he ran all the way to the car for a kiss because I hadn't found him for our farewell kiss before I left (In my defence I couldn't find him and I was going to be late).
I know I did all that for Henry; it's what you do a/ for someone you love and b/ to cope. But as lymphoma is a dis-ease of the very part of the body that's supposed to look after you, it was very important for me to learn to be looked after just as much as it was important to teach my body that I would look after it too.
When I was young someone once said to me 'you're too ****** independent. You're too ****** efficient.' I had to be both because of my childhood and it was hard to be criticised for it. But your greatest strength is your greatest weakness too.
I remember an old boyfriend stepping in when a drunk man started being rude to a girl in our group at a party. He told the man where to go. The man had been just as rude to me earlier and when I asked him afterwards why he didn't step in to help me then, he said, 'You can defend yourself.'
Another time, a drunken guy at dinner said that all female journalists (I was the only female journalist there) were whores. Nothing was said by any of the people you'd have expected to support me in my defence. But when he threw a sausage at another female member of the party, he was politely escorted out of the house.
I'm not whinging here … I'm looking at my old pattern of feeling undefended. I could find dozen examples but I won't because that pattern is over. The dis-ease has sorted it. And it sorted it through Lion, my loving friends and family … and through the district nurses who came every single day for more than two months and through the doctors and the nurses at the hospital and the treatment that I had hated and feared and resisted and learnt to call a (very exacting) friend.
It sorted it through a fund set up to support people with blood cancer who provided someone to help us through the challenge of earning no money and needing to claim employment support allowance and all the shenanigans behind that.
It came through kicking out the independence and efficiency that I thought was the only way to survive. In fact, letting everyone else take the strain was the only way I could survive.
I can now be supported — and defended if necessary. So that's another step achieved. And by George, when someone now comes to me for help and/or advice (and strangely people do — and now more than ever before) then again and again I can speak from experience and understanding, those all-important words, "I have been there."
Thank you, lymphoma.