The Big C Recapitulation.

I found these excerpts from an earlier blog, written not long after my cancer operation on the 2nd July 2015.

Thursday the 7th of August

It has been a bit of a whirlwind these last two months or so; so much to process and much to learn. June 2nd they found seven polyps, I said to the GP that as I had seven tickets in the cancer lottery at odds of 10:1 per polyp, there was a good chance I would win. He didn’t like my analysis and was a little shocked. June 10th a strange man stuck a big black colonoscope up my arse and through the haze of barbiturates he said “tumour”. I looked at the screen and there it was, markedly different from the now eleven polyps. He said that from his experience he was 97% sure that it was cancer. I watched him excise the polyps and take biopsies of the tumour.

In the recovery room the nurses were all a bit weird, they did not know what to say or do. I had to tell the wife. In the step down room there were others there. I said the word tumour and the place fell silent. One CT scan and an inconclusive biopsy later, I was back for yet another thing up my arse. Measure twice cut once; is the old adage. I got my second internal tattoos. July the 2nd on a hot night to the light of a full moon they cut it out along with 38 lymph nodes. And now I am here back on the farm, a member of the Big C club.

I am not back to full strength yet. If I do exercise the next day I am tired. My brain and my language is functioning OK. My plumbing and sewerage works, though the latter now has idiosyncrasy. How I yearn for a curry but the pipes can’t cope with that yet.

I was never afraid of death and I still am not. This is not bravado talking. When you have seen what I have seen, there is no fear of death; not so keen on more operations, a stoma and chemo though. For now though it is wait and see. Watch the pan for any blood and at Christmas the chimney sweep will again look up my chimney, the CAT scan will cut my body into slices and the Gods of the interdisciplinary team will decree.

It is strange to watch people’s faces as you say the magic word of doom. You can’t unsay it. It is out there. It causes a lot of fear. You can almost see; “But for the grace of God there go I” run across a screen on their foreheads. Those who have been a bit shitty to you blush a little internally. If you listen to the wind you can hear the jungle drums of gossip. “Well I never. He did drink and smoke you know! Tut, tut, tut…” Are not people just great?

It occurred to me that having a Big C could be used for manipulation and attention seeking. I made a little vow to myself not to do this. I did not want to have to deal with other people’s drama. It is funny how so very many people make your cancer all about them.

Life has no doubt changed for me and the wife. In fact it is still changing. I am not yet clear how I want to use the rest of this life. I don’t have the obligatory, perhaps inane, bucket list. I have already had quite a few adventures and travelled widely, by the age of 13 I had 160,000 air miles, back when air miles were harder to come by. The world now is so brim full of health and safety and you have to sign a chit before you can fart. How did we get here, to this and the mind-set which pervades?

If it comes back I have thought of Dignitas or running away to join the Peshmerga. I don’t know how I will be or what I will think. I can take my consciousness out of the body at will, but you cannot break the laws of karma. When your time is up, it is up and not before. I guess wait and see how this pans out is all that I can do for now.

I do have a sense of needing to move and a vague feeling that chapters of life need closing. The trouble is there are other actors in those chapters and you cannot simply stand on the book to close the chapter when others are keeping it open. They have unfinished business even if they do not acknowledge this. I can sense this at a distance. It is not my move in the game of life in this respect.

I have a strange hankering for mountains and rivers. I do not want another cold dank British winter. I will need a revenue stream wherever we go. It does not need to be big. These are the only parameters which spring to mind.

Only once did self-pity get the better of me. A syringe of oral morphine soon fixed that as I drifted off in reverie. Death could be a release for me for I am often unwelcome and I am a source of friction to others. The world has not always been kind to me. That sore thumb which simply will not shut up and die, I am a reminder.

But hey, I am alive and kicking.

As a result of all this my will has been rewritten and my tax return submitted early. I even have a free prescription voucher now, yippee!

People are so very scared, so unreal. I am not made of porcelain, never have been, never will be. In fact I am likely to be even more forthright than before. The vestiges of fear are perhaps dissected under the pathologist’s knife. Cancer is not taboo to me, it is, so it seems, to others.

There is no fatted calf waiting for the Prodigal, this I have learned in spades. There is no way back to the life I had once. All that awaits is resentment and suspicion. To jettison that which people hold dear is the ultimate betrayal. Yet did not Siddhartha also leave the palace and Thoreau, did he not say;

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practise resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms.”

Well what do you do when you have left the palace and wandered in the woods? What next?

As sure as sixpence you belong among the madding crowd even less.

This is not my first brush with death, that happened when I was 11. I never felt his breath on my neck this time, I heard his footsteps down the corridor but I wasn’t yet in his diary. He had an appointment elsewhere and had to dash. No doubt we will meet again some day.

So I am in a sort of limbo, an in between state. It is all rather odd even timeless. There is no real sense of life before the Big C and as yet no sight of a future. There is only now. Each second seems somehow dilated as if the elastic of time has been stretched. I wonder if it will ever ping back or whether it is stuck like this.

I guess I am an even stranger fish than I was before, though looking at me you would not know. My fifty year old vehicle looks much like all the others, you would not know my exhuast is faulty at first sight.

Devoid of ambition, alive and wondering what else lies ahead. What shall I do with the rest of the time on my clock? I sure as hell don’t know today….

Monday the 10th of August

Today is one of those sleepy drowsy days. I am napping on and off. Last night I had a Chinese takeaway and today I am paying the price; a bit glued up down there.

About five weeks since a nice man sliced me open and took out a piece of colon. The sciences of soft wet matter, biology and medicine, have advanced. Half a century ago I would be five weeks closer to the grave. The stricturing tumour would be closing the diameter of my colon and my appetite would be waning. Perhaps it would have broken through the colon wall and into the lymph nodes. After that, well it would probably only be a matter of time. There is a part of me that wonders if I have interfered with karma.

There is a sense of other worldliness to me. I go into town and watch the townsfolk go about their business, urgent on their ‘phones and tutting the children. Snippets of conversation float by and I hear the gripes, the cunning plans and the gossip.

I discussed telling others about this. I live pretty much as a recluse and it seemed a bit odd to contact people out of the blue; “Hi remember me? I just got a cancer diagnosis.” So I haven’t done this (with one exception). Someone emailed me a week ago, I told them and nothing; no reply, no “how are you?”. Another wanted only to argue with me.

In the ether I can sense people with temporal power of varying degree talking about me. {I was not always a recluse}. The gossip goes on. What to do? They may even still be watching me and what I say or do, the sick bastards. Of course this could all be paranoia.

That world, their world is now so very alien to me. It is a case of same planet, different worlds.

That chapter started again over two years ago when I was stupid enough to apply for a job back in technology and science. When will I learn? I can’t undo that nor whatever is in motion now. It will run its course. I opened up Pandora’s box.

Around those campfires, how people like to sit and gossip and those jungle drums, they beat of a jungle night.

Me I am powerless. Here in my hut I regain and do not have any clue what the world will now turn out to be. There is no oracle or scrying glass to foretell and I am not strong enough for a vision quest.

For now I must simply wait and doze.

Since the anaesthetic my dreams have been all over the place and what remained of my memories have faded. This stillness of now, is utter. It is only punctuated by the sound of the farm and the rare passing car.

Now, that is what there is, now and a whole lot of it.

Thursday the 13th of August

We cannot claim that the ally is a moth as we ordinarily know moths. Nonetheless, moths are the heralds of eternity, and because of this they carry on their wings the gold dust of eternity. This is the way in which it has been set up by power.

Today it rains and the sky stomach rumbles, waiting for dinner. The rain ebbs and flows and boy does it feel good. In town and out here, the cold water drops through my linen shirt had me scurrying. To have your hair washed in such a way brings a smile and not a grimace. I love the rain as only a child of the desert can. For I was once scorched there.

This afternoon a gentle tear rolled down my face as I remember the kindness of the two young nurses in the recovery room. I am not used to so much of that.

Last night the ally came and we watched Perseids in the night sky. To lay on the grass and then in the cloud window before the storm, they came. It is good out here, for England that is, not too much light pollution. The skies are not quite so big as those of the Australian desert or the African bush. They are big enough.

When I awoke after five hours surgery in the recovery room, things were a bit of a blur. I was off my face still. I had three cannulae and a catheter, two veins and an artery. There was an arterial pressure transducer and a sleeve. I had two inflating stockings pulsing on my legs. After everyone was gone I was there with the others. I drifted in and out unable to sleep like everyone else. A soft-spoken Czech nurse was looking after me. She sat close doing some paperwork and from time to time we spoke as she gave me more IV morphine. Everyone else seemed to be sleeping. It was a United Nations ward, at least among the staff. We spoke of many things in those wee small hours.

She handed over to a young Kenyan nurse in the morning. And that African alternation in her words had me back in the garden with Spider and Tembo. I was sitting with them playing the stone game as they held court for the young men. I was always allowed to be with them. I passed many an hour there and was more native than the rest of my family. I was back with Maasai witch doctor who offered me a place to stay in his village and for as long as I wanted. That rhythm of life had me. Unless you have experienced it, you will never know the directness. There are words and there is communication beyond words.

She bathed my back and made me do my front. She asked me what I did and I told her. I said that I did not know what to do next. She said that I could write a book. And then she said as if I was stupid and it was very obvious; “You impart knowledge!” . It was almost a command.

When I stood for the physio to check me over I could see the concern in her eyes that I might fall. That nonverbal communication was clear enough. Less than twelve hours after the operation the physio discharged me. A little later I was handed over to the private single room. The young nurse hugged me, kissed me on the cheek and said that my name was now in the prayer box. Prayers would be said for me. I thanked her.

Strange, that I am welling up as I write this. How often it is that acts of kindness from a stranger are profound.

Given how weird the days after the operation were, there is a part of me that wonders if something else happened in theatre, something nobody has mentioned to me. Anaesthesia and meditation do not mix well, I know this from another operation I had. This time it has been a whole different kettle of fish. When I got to the private rooms, the look on the nurse’s faces when they relayed that I had already been discharged by physio was to be beheld. There was a sense of something secret to which I could not put my finger; I was a hot potato.

I don’t feel very spud-u-like today, rather slightly tearful. There is a tenderness in that water and a sadness at what people do to each other. My heart feels full, it is the soft swell of compassion. I wonder when and if people will stop being so silly and nasty to each other. Don’t they realise that time runs like desert sand in the clock of life. Why all this damn posturing?

And now the rain has fallen, there is the sound of a passing car and a puddle; such an evocative call. It is the human swish of life, always in a hurry, never pausing to tarry. The world is in a rush and life is for granted. And there goes another one…..