General status update
Chemo Demons – all temporarily absent, due to the one-week delay before FEC4. A brief semblance of normality has returned. They’re all off doing God knows what, but will doubtless be back tomorrow to get a good night’s sleep before going back on duty forFEC4
Anxiety level (1-10): Out in the sunshine today, all seemed well with the world, and was; but in 2 days’ time…
State of mind: When I think about going back to the chemo ward on Thursday, my stomach turns over. It is an actual physical sensation, brought on just by visualising the chemo ward, the machines and the tubes, and the plastic bags of chemo drugs. I shudder, internally and externally.
It’s 3.30 pm, and I am walking in the sunshine on the Thames towpath, somewhere between Hammersmith Bridge and Barnes Bridge. It’s an improbably beautiful day, and it feels as if I’ve been let out of prison. Today, for pretty much the first time since I started chemotherapy treatment 70 odd days ago, I feel – well, utterly normal.
The one week delay before my next chemo treatment, Fec4, has meant that the toxins have had time to wash out of my system: there is no nausea, no toxic stomach, no weakness and fatigue. If, as the French surgeon René Leriche wrote : “Health is life lived in the silence of the organs”, then today my body has produced a reasonable facsimile, at least, of health. I’ve got over the virus, and my neutrophils are presumably back in fighting form, because today I felt strong enough to walk down to the river, and then along the towpath for half a mile or so towards Barnes.
It’s a beautiful day – an incandescently beautiful day – with a clear blue sky and sunshine that feels warm on your face. It’s a day that says spring is nearly here, that the natural world is waking up after its long winter sleep, and there is a throng of people relishing its blueness and brightness down by the river: rowers, runners, cyclists, walkers, people pushing buggies or walking their dogs, crowds of people sitting at tables outside the riverside pubs, lovers entwined on a secluded bench. I am more happy than I can say to be amongst them.
Last year, I used to walk along this towpath from Hammersmith to Barnes Bridge and back every day; it’s the one place in this busy part of West London where the space, the light, the trees, the birds and the water allow you to forget that you are in the heart of one of the world’s great cities. Today, I am exhilarated to be out here again: it’s such a long time since I’ve felt this normal, and been able to walk this far. I’m tiring, but instead of turning and heading for home I stop and sit down on a bench for a while, to savour the sunlight, the air and the freedom.
I close my eyes and feel the warmth of the sun on my face, and the touch of a gentle breeze from the river rippling through my hair. One of the techniques said to be useful for dealing with the stress of cancer is mindfulness, living in the moment, and in one sense that is exactly what I am doing now, focusing on the pleasurable sensations evoked by the sun and the breeze.
But living in the moment can only extend so far, today: another part of my consciousness is trying to soak up and retain these sensory pleasures, and the glitter of the light on the water, and the pair of swans I watch making a stately progress down the river. I am trying to imprint all these things on my brain, so that when I’m in the chemo ward again on Thursday, going back into my chemical prison, listening to the clicks and gurgles as the poisons are pumped into my veins, and knowing that the silence of my body is about to end, I will be able to close my eyes and transport myself back to this bench, feel the sun warming my skin, the breeze ruffling my hair, and watch the slow, graceful glide of the swans downstream.