Thursday

Loving The Little Life

Walking on the Moor in 2013, taken by Nixie James-Scott.

I've struggled a little with this entry because it's about a time when I really was down, both emotionally and physically. I could tell you loads of stuff about the negative effects of chemo on my body; I could relate more stories of nurses and the hospital which might not be entirely positive … but I simply didn't want to so I avoided writing.

And it's a relief to realise that's okay. I thought I had a kind of duty to plough through the whole sorry story but I don't. If I have any duty at all it is to enjoy today.

Biggle on the Moor today.
Today, Lion the beagles and I went to Scorhill Stone Circle on Dartmoor. It was the first time I'd been there since September and it was one of my dreams once I got better and could walk again. The picture at the top shows Biggle and me walking in the autumn of 2013 near the stone circle and the second picture was taken today, in virtually the same place, looking in a different direction, on my return to this wonderful part of Dartmoor.

I managed to get pretty happy during the painful and difficult times but it did take work. A friend recently wrote to me that I could have asked to take the easy route when I asked God to clear me out and I guess that's true. But what would I have learnt? If I'd just had the miracle that I wanted I would have learnt about miracles, for sure, but how would that have made me of any use, any help to anyone else who didn't get the miracle they wanted? How much more powerful is it to say, 'I have been there. It was a long journey for me and a lot of it was very painful. Is there any way that my experience can help you?'

There were certainly many days where I was horribly upset — and in distressing amounts of pain. I'd been told that the first round of chemo would make a fairly dramatic difference — that is, a dramatic improvement. In my case it was dramatically worse which was very frightening and scared the consultant too. But that was probably a combination of my long-term lack of belief in the process and the fact that I was taking supplements which, according to some research it took me a long time to find, could and maybe did antidote the medicine in a rather painful way.

Now, as you probably know, I'm a fan of eating very healthily (but with treats) and of supplements and it's absolutely rubbish to say you can get all you need from your food if you are unwell (a VEGA test just last week showed me exactly how deficient I am in some minerals and vitamin despite taking extra - that's because of the damage to my body). But oh, please, one day, will doctors take this stuff seriously and do some research? Some vitamins are excellent for helping you through chemo. Selenium isn't. Or at least it wasn't in my case. I did ask my consultant to check for me but he didn't/couldn't/didn't see the point/whatever.

However, that's water under the bridge. Session two worked a little better and session three did show improvement. I could walk a little again, the lungs were clearing (my goodness, I was weak though!) and it all progressed steadily although I nearly always tried to do too much, go too fast and walk too far, which threw me back until I learnt the lesson.

I began to write again; started a novel about travel. Being sick and tied to the timings of district nurses, even if I had the strength to go out, I was becoming very isolated. I thought that writing about travel would lift me and inspire me but it did the opposite. It was only when I realised that I wasn't making peace with now and stopped writing about desires that I couldn't believe in that the darkness started to lift.

I had to learn to be content with the 'little life.' Sitting watching a movie on TV all afternoon because I didn't have the energy for a 'good' book. For a while that offended my arrogant 'I'm better than this' sensibilities until I realised that it had to be done — and I saw some excellent movies as well as some pretty daft ones.

I had to learn to be content with a round of the garden as my walk and watching the early evening sunsets in the winter and looking up at the stars in the evening. I'd always done both as part of my daily routine but now it was the total of my daily routine. I had to learn to rest and rest and rest again.

I was so happy when the phone went and it was a friend with details of their life; their world, because I could share in their larger life and absorb myself in it. I was so very happy that Facebook existed because it took me into the lives of my friends on there and gave me many conversations about life, the universe and everything other than illness. I will always defend Facebook to the hilt because on the worst days it was my lifeline.

I had to learn to let go of envy of others who could go to the shops even and to appreciate every morning of waking up simply because I had woken up again. Glad because of our lovely (but increasingly dirty) home because Lion was there and the beagles were there. I learnt to celebrate every single night that we managed to sleep together all night because I hadn't had to stay up half the night (steroids are bastards for keeping you agitated and awake) or hadn't been in too much pain to settle with him.

I had to learn to accept that the house was filthy because Lion was doing so much he didn't have time to clean too and I didn't have the strength.

I had to learn to love liquid morphine for the relief it brought me and the blessed sleep. And then I had to learn to love coming off it!

I had to learn that I couldn't do any weeding or I'd be in bed for two days. I learnt that I'd actually be grateful for doing weeding (which I've never liked).

I had to learn to fight only the battles I could win … which meant just the one … getting slowly better.

I can't tell you what a joy it was in February when I was able (with sit-downs every five minutes to rest) to make just one batch of orange marmalade. I felt like I'd scaled Mount Everest!

But mostly, as I began getting better, it was just peaceful to get to the next stage. No jumping for joy because it was just the next stage and there were so many 'two steps forward and one step back' times.

One of the most wonderful moments was seeing a different doctor at the hospital who said, as soon as he greeted me, 'I want you to know that I've been through this; I've had chemotherapy. I have an idea how you may be feeling. Please tell me of any and all concerns you might have. I will understand them.' And when I told him I was scared because I'd become more breathless as soon as I'd had the drain taken out of my lung, he said, with a smile, 'Of course you are more breathless. The psyche's a bastard like that, isn't it?'

How could he have made me feel so very much better if he had had the miracle that he also must have desired? I'd give him a medal if I could. His name is Dr. Veale from Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital in Exeter.

But enough of all that. Today I went walking on the moor. And I only puffed like an out-of-condition person, which I still am. And that can be remedied.



1 comment:

Barbara Patterson said...

I love you, and I am proud of you, Maggy.